July 2010

ABP celebrates 20 years marked by growing pains

July 20 2010 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — July 17 marked the 20th birthday of Associated Baptist Press (ABP), an independent news service created by and for Baptists interested in a free press during a tumultuous time within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

On July 17, 1990, the SBC Executive Committee voted in a closed session to fire the two top editors of Baptist Press. The committee chairman said it was because members believed BP’s coverage was biased against conservatives who, over the course of a decade, had gained majorities on most of the convention’s boards of trustees. Those boards included the Executive Committee itself.

ABP photo

A birthday cake celebrating the news service’s 20th anniversary at a reception during the recent CBF General Assembly in Charlotte.

Upon learning he had lost his job as BP’s news editor, Dan Martin, 51, told a crowd of about 200 supporters at the Executive Committee headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., that leaders of the denomination wanted to replace the journalists at the convention’s official news service with “their own minister of information.”

“They want someone who will be a ‘spin doctor,’ who’s going to put the spin on stories the way they want them,” Martin predicted.

R.G. Puckett, editor of Biblical Recorder, news journal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, called it “a day to live in Baptist infamy.” He wrote about it on its anniversary every year until his retirement in 1998.

“Never in my many years in Baptist life have I witnessed something so un-Christian and non-Baptistic,” Puckett recalled.

Jeff Mobley, a Nashville attorney and member of the city’s First Baptist Church, followed the firings with announcement of the formation of Associated Baptist Press, a new autonomous news service to be ”guided by the highest tenet of professional journalism and the standard of Christian ethics.”

Mobley, who at the time had been practicing law for fewer than 10 years, said he was asked out of the blue to help a new Baptist entity that needed to be incorporated in Tennessee. He met with a small group of Baptist state newspaper editors and others who had set into motion weeks earlier the idea for an alternative Baptist news service.

“I can’t tell you why, but they decided that I would read the Declaration of Independence on behalf of the organization there in the auditorium of the Executive Committee building,” said Mobley, who joined ABP’s founding board of directors as legal counsel and was elected as chair in 1994.

Editors defend ‘free religious press’
The Southern Baptist Press Association, an organization of Baptists newspapers in state conventions affiliated with the SBC that 44 years earlier had been instrumental in establishing Baptist Press, immediately endorsed the concept.

A month before, at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in New Orleans, Martin and his boss, Baptist Press director Al Shackleford, were told their services would no longer be required. The men were advised to resign quietly — with severance benefits — or be fired. They chose to announce the threat June 26, 1990, in an article in Baptist Press.

The Executive Committee announced a special called meeting — the first in a quarter-century — to “consider the termination” of the editors. The state-paper editors convened an emergency meeting July 6-7 in Dallas, where they adopted a resolution decrying the attempt “to suppress a free religious press.”

Later a smaller group met informally to discuss the need for an alternative to Baptist Press. Bob Terry, at the time editor of Missouri’s Word & Way and now at the Alabama Baptist, secured Floyd Craig, who owned a communications and marketing business with his wife, Anne, to begin producing Associated Baptist Press issues beginning that fall.

Craig said he was interested because of his longtime friendship with and admiration of W.C. Fields. Long the director of Baptist Press, Fields built a reputation of excellence for the Southern Baptist news service among secular journalists — establishing BP as the nation’s best denominational news agency in modeling openness, integrity and professional journalism.

“It really was a no-brainer for us to deal with ABP,” Craig recalled. “It was a moment that the integrity of BP was destroyed after years.”

A news service is born
The inaugural issue, dated Sept. 26, 1990, announced that the first issue of ABP was being sent to about 50 outlets — mostly by fax. Craig, a veteran communicator who had worked for the SBC Christian Life Commission from 1967 to 1979 and for the governor of North Carolina before moving back to Nashville to start his own business, selected Martin as interim news director.

“For 10 years I have had the best journalism job in the Southern Baptist Convention,” Martin said after being fired from Baptist Press July 17. “Even if I had known the outcome, I would have come, because it has been a wonderful ride.”

The emotional high was short-lived. By December Craig wrote directors reporting that the results of his fund-raising efforts fell short of the amount he had billed them for hourly fees. That set off a discussion that eventually ended ABP’s relationship with Craig and Associates.

“Several of the board members felt the bills we submitted were excessive,” said Anne Craig, who worked alongside her husband as ABP’s copy editor.

“Nobody believes you when you say it took ‘X hours’ to do so-and-so,” Floyd Craig added.

Directors began looking for a full-time executive editor. They removed “interim” from Martin’s news director title, leading him to believe he was being considered for the job.

Even though he had violated their gag order, the Executive Committee still gave Martin six months of severance pay. It was about to run out, so Martin needed a job. After being told he had been too political and vocal in the SBC controversy to be editor, Martin wrote a letter to directors describing the experience as more painful than his firing the previous summer from Baptist Press.

The Warner years
The board turned to Greg Warner, electing the 36-year-old associate editor of the Florida Baptist Witness and award-winning writer as ABP’s first full-time employee, effective May 1, 1991.

“I am excited about the future of ABP with a journalist such as Greg Warner on board,” Charles Overby, the news organization’s founding board chair, said at the time. “I am impressed by his ability and attitude.”

Under Warner, ABP achieved financial stability, expanded staff and earned a good reputation among secular journalists following the SBC controversy, one of the top religion stories of the 1990s.

Warner left the job in 2008, when chronic back problems forced him into disability retirement at age 53. Last fall the organization honored Warner by naming him the first recipient of a lifetime-achievement award established in his name.

Changing times, changing audience
“ABP’s board of directors has tried over the past 10 years to find the appropriate outlet for its objective news coverage of Baptists,” said Dan Lattimore, the current chair of the ABP board. “The state Baptist papers had been the initial users of our content. However, most state Baptist papers have become controlled by fundamentalists of their conventions. It has become a much-less-viable outlet for ABP.”

Desiring to expand a reader base beyond its original audience of Baptist and secular newspapers, ABP launched FaithWorks, a lifestyle magazine aimed at young Christians in 1998.

While “a good quality product,” Lattimore said ABP lacked the resources to market and distribute the magazine widely enough to make it financially feasible. Directors suspended its publication in 2004.

Present and future
In 2007 Associated Baptist Press entered into a strategic partnership with three historic Baptist state newspapers in an initiative called New Voice Media. Currently the partners — ABP, the Baptist Standard of Texas, Religious Herald of Virginia and Word & Way of Missouri — share a web site design and infrastructure and collaborate on news coverage.

Long-term goals include a state-of-the-art multi-media platform including Web, print and other media — an “online gathering place for historic and progressive Baptists and other global Christians to share ideas.”

“With the increasing use of electronic media by our constituents, we feel this will provide the best outlet for the future,” Lattimore said.

In 2008 ABP hired David Wilkinson, a veteran Baptist communicator of 30 years, as executive director, separating the administration and day-to-day news operation that had been combined in Warner’s job.

Looking back
Floyd Craig said his original vision for ABP was that it would be a much larger and more influential organization than it has become, on par with Baptist Press during the W.C. Fields era as the news service of record for the secular press. With so many secular newspapers downsizing or eliminating their own religion reporting, however, Craig said a reputable Baptist news service is needed as much today as ever.

“I guess the story is sort of the day the world came tumbling down and they fired (the Baptist Press editors), there were people who rose up and did the right thing and carried on,” said Anne Craig. “That was the intent.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)
7/20/2010 7:31:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Re-enactor brings gospel to battlefield

July 20 2010 by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service

GETTYSBURG, Pa. — From his Old Testament beard down to his scuffed boots and battered Bible, Alan Farley looks the perfect picture of a Civil War chaplain.

On a dusty field five miles from where the Battle of Gettysburg was fought 147 years ago, Farley acts the part as well, thundering sermons from his home-made pulpit, praying with bedraggled soldiers, and handing out tracts with titles like “Everlasting Punishment.”

The thousands of soldiers and spectators at the Gettysburg Civil War Battle Re-enactment in early July could be forgiven for swallowing the chaplain’s performance — the tracts look aged, the religion old time.

But it is no act, says Farley, it is a divine calling.

For 26 years, Farley has driven thousands of miles, distributed millions of pages of tracts, and delivered hundreds of sermons — all for one mission: bringing Civil War re-enactors to Jesus.

“No one was reaching them,” said the 59-year-old Virginian. “They are gone every weekend and most wouldn’t darken the door of a church, ordinarily. But they need to get saved.”

Farley’s Re-enactor’s Missions for Jesus Christ combines modern means with 1860s-style evangelism to reach the estimated 50,000 Civil War enthusiasts who live to relive famous battles like Bull Run, Antietam and Shiloh year after year.

Pitching a cross-steepled tent beside the battlefields, Farley and a handful of volunteers in period dress pray with re-enactors, promote a Civil War chaplains’ museum in Lynchburg, Va., and preach as often as event organizers will allow. Farley estimates that 1,800 re-enactors have been led to Christianity through his ministry.

RNS photo courtesy Alan Farley

Alan Farley, a Civil War re-enactor preacher, brings a very contemporary gospel message to battlefield re-enactments.

One day, he hopes, he’ll see an evangelical revival like those that blazed through Confederate camps during the Civil War.

In some ways, Farley and his family are typical Christian missionaries, albeit with an unusual mission field. They live in Appomattox, Va., where Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant in 1865. But the Farleys spend 40 weeks a year away from home, crisscrossing the country in an RV that carries Alan and his wife, Faith, to scores of Civil War re-enactments and events. Often their 20-something children — both re-enactors — come along.

Fifteen churches support the Farleys through their monthly mission budgets. “Just like missionaries going to Africa, or Ireland, or wherever,” Farley said. Farley was ordained by an independent Baptist church in 1994, at, of course, a Civil War re-enactment. While many fellow re-enactors adopt a specific historical persona, Farley does not.

“I feel very strongly that if I portrayed somebody, and somebody realized I was not that person, they might think the message or gospel I’m trying to share with them is also phony,” he said.

Re-enactors spend countless hours learning to dress, shoot, and speak like Civil War soldiers. But for all their historical high-mindedness and fastidious attention to period detail, re-enactments can be bawdy affairs, with modern-day enthusiasts assuming the role of dissolute soldiers on the eve of bloody battles. Then as now, drink and gambling are the biggest vices.

At a re-enactment two decades ago in North Carolina, where Farley was playing a Confederate soldier, he read the Bible in his tent as the moon rose. It was the Book of Ezekiel, where God warns that those who do not dissuade backsliders will be held accountable.

“I said, ‘Lord, are you speaking to me about these re-enactors?”’ Farley recalled. “And the Lord said, ‘Look at them singing and carrying on around the campfire. My son died for them and no one is coming to them. If you go, I’ll give you the strength.’ From then on, my burden was for the re-enactors.”

Since re-enactments are often held on isolated farms, getting to church on Sunday and back by battle-time can be nearly impossible. Farley resolved to bring church to the men. He began with 15-minute sermons held in the shade of an oak tree between battles. At the recent Gettysburg re-enactment, Farley led two services packed with hundreds of soldiers and spectators in a tent beside the battlefield.

That’s where Williams Collins of Portland, Ind., heard him on July 4, just hours before he rushed into battle as the Color Sergeant in Pickett’s Charge. Three years ago, Collins said, Farley saved his life — eternal and temporal.

“I was going down the wrong road. He brought me back and gave me a new outlook,” he said.

Not everyone appreciates his ministry, Farley admits. Some chaplain re-enactors, turned off by his evangelism, turn tail when they see him coming. Some spectators and re-enactors turn up at his 1860s-style worship services expecting a show, only to find real conviction.  

Farley’s preaching blends past and present — he keeps 200 period sermons in boxes in the RV — but they leave no room for middle ground: you are saved, or you are not. Each service closes with an altar call.

“It’s the same message men 150 years ago were preaching,” he said. “That never changes.”

The preacher has no patience for chaplain re-enactors who dress the part but lack the passion.

“I run across men out here who portray chaplains and have the mannerisms and the dress of a Civil War chaplain down to a ‘t,”’ Farley said. “But when they preached I realized they were not genuine. They were just reading a sermon that someone else preached.”
7/20/2010 7:26:00 AM by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

BSC starts GC Partnerships office, chops budget

July 19 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

With 2010 Cooperative Program (CP) receipts 10.9 percent behind budget through six months, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) Executive Committee approved a 2011 budget proposal that is $2.1 million smaller than the current budget, and is the smallest since 1999.

Meeting July 15 in Cary, the Executive Committee also approved establishing an office of Great Commission Partnerships; heard Venture pastor Austin Rammell share his reasons for proposing a shift in priorities for the North Carolina Mission Offering (NCMO); and were asked to consider having their churches provide travel expenses to their meetings.

Directors also named Brian Woodall of the Bridge Community Church in Fayetteville to fill the unexpired term of Brett McKeithan on the Board of Directors.

The move to ask Executive Committee members to consider funding their own expenses does not indicate a budget emergency, but is simply “a matter of stewardship” to consider options as members fill out expense reimbursement forms, said budget committee chairman Steve Hardy.

Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer, said some members of the budget committee had told him “they were glad” to handle their expenses through their churches, or personally.

“Please do not feel this Convention cannot afford to do that,” he told the Executive Committee. “It is the responsibility of the Convention to pay this, and I’m glad to do it.”  

Great Commission Partnerships
Since 1996 North Carolina Baptist Men has managed both its own missions partnerships and those of the Baptist State Convention. On July 15 Executive Committee members approved formation of an office of Great Commission Partnerships, which will separate management of BSC partnerships from the direction of N.C. Baptist Men.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

From left, John Butler, executive leader for business services, Chuck Register, executive leader for missions and resource development and Milton Hollifield, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

The separation, which came at N.C. Baptist Men’s initiative, changes nothing that N.C. Baptist Men does, according to Executive Director-treasurer Richard Brunson. N.C. Baptist Men will continue everything it does and continue to look for new avenues in which to involve North Carolina Baptists in missions.

Through the newly approved Great Commission Partnership office the BSC will be involved more in missions strategy and in training pastors to be missions strategists than in specific projects, according to Chuck Register in his presentation as executive leader for church planting and missions development.

The BSC will continue its partnerships in New England, eastern Canada, metropolitan New York and among unreached people groups, Register said. Additionally, the BSC will seek to identify and to link churches that are involved in their own national and international projects with each other to help make the efforts of all more coordinated, effective and efficient.

The Great Commission terminology also resonates with the Great Commission Resurgence emphasis adopted at the Southern Baptist Convention in June.

The new office will be funded by the $370,500 in the state convention’s partnership missions budget. N.C. Baptist Men will no longer have access to those funds as they will no longer be managing the BSC partnerships.

N.C. Baptist Men is an independent auxiliary of the BSC but its staff is considered to be BSC employees. In the BSC administrative structure, it will return to the administration and convention relations group. It had been in that group prior to moving to the church planting and missions development group when it was formed with the arrival 19 months ago of Chuck Register from Gulfport, Miss.

Hollifield said that move will help N.C. Baptist Men relate more easily to all the BSC groups and to other BSC agencies and institutions.

He said Brunson has done “a wonderful, wonderful job” managing the BSC partnerships, and that N.C. Baptist Men is “doing tremendous work.” He said the division of labor in partnerships could be defined as N.C. Baptist Men’s work being more project related, while the office of Great Commission Partnerships will be more strategy oriented.

Brunson called it “different kinds of fishing” during his presentation to the Executive Committee, and said, “There’s lots of fish in the sea.”

Since 1970 when the BSC established a partnership with Baptists in Togo, N.C. Baptist Men has handled volunteer recruitment, mobilization and travel, Brunson said.

In 1994 the Convention established an office of partnership missions, led for two years by O.D. Martin. When Martin retired in 1996 Brunson was asked to direct the office.

“Many, many people have gone on mission projects,” Brunson said. “It’s changed their lives and their churches forever.”

While having both partnership areas coordinated from the same office has been a “very beneficial, win-win way of doing partnership missions,” Brunson said establishing a new “strategy driven approach” through the office of Great Commission Partnerships will “get more churches involved.”

Register said the new office would help churches “focus on unreached and underserved people groups, even in your own communities.”

He said he will be going to Moldova soon with Alan Blume of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone to explore the possibility of establishing a BSC partnership there. He’s learned that already at least four North Carolina Baptist churches are working in Moldova: Hickory Grove in Charlotte, Calvary in Winston-Salem, Englewood in Rocky Mount and Tri-City in Conover.

The change will “capitalize on the passion, experience and ministry experience of BSC personnel” and will “provide North Carolina Baptists with a holistic missions model,” said Register. He said the change also will “increase the opportunities to cooperate in projects with NAMB (North American Mission Board) and the IMB (International Mission Board).”  
7/19/2010 7:31:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Executive Committee hears Rammell on motion

July 19 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Austin Rammell, pastor of Venture in Dallas, said unless priorities change in Cooperative Program (CP) allocations, he sees a “massive decrease” coming in CP giving. 

Rammell was invited to address the Executive Committee meeting July 15 to explain issues behind his May motion that the Board of Directors study the feasibility of moving priority items funded through the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO) into the budget, and moving “non-mission and non-high priority items” out of the annual CP budget and into a “new statewide offering” that would replace the NCMO.

Rammell said his experience as a personal evangelism consultant on the Florida Baptist Convention staff for four years prompted him to say, “This doesn’t make any sense.” He said he drove the state, consuming lots of time and money to talk to small groups of people about evangelism who were already excited about evangelism.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Austin Rammell, pastor of Venture in Dallas, explained the motive behind his motion to change Cooperative Program budget priorities.

Instead, he said, with modern technology and young pastors adept at networking, churches who seek information can find it among themselves, freeing missions funds consumed in the current BSC structure for work overseas where Christians do not have the “billions of dollars” in resources that North Carolina Baptist churches enjoy.

“We’re too big,” he said of state conventions. “We’re replicating the local church on a massive level, and it costs a lot of money to do it. I’ve heard the same thing from other pastors.”

That conviction led him to recommend the elimination of many positions in Florida, he said, including his own. He resigned and came to North Carolina to pastor a church.

Rammell said marketing the Cooperative Program is not the issue, and that next generation pastors understand it just fine. “The issue is what we then do with that money and how we divide it up,” he said.

His recommendation seeks to put “what we say are our priorities” into the budget and let non-priority items fend for themselves in a special offering. If the churches do not support some area financially, “You’ll give it its democratic death,” he said.

Rammell said this is “not a young people issue. Don’t make the mistake that this is a bald headed and goateed guy issue.”

He said he’s heard similar dissatisfactions voiced by pastors in very traditional churches.  

Which items?
Budget committee chairman Steve Hardy asked Rammell to identify “non-priority” items he would move from the budget to such a special offering.

Rammell said he would begin by identifying anything that replicates the local church, or could be done better by “raising heroes and leaders out of local churches” who would pull together the resources of several churches to produce something the state convention now does.

He used as an example an annual evangelism conference, and said First Baptist and Hickory Grove churches in Charlotte “could combine with other local churches and put on an evangelism conference the state convention couldn’t compete with.”

“One of the ways you’re going to get guys like me excited about giving more to the CP is to get more money out of the state,” Rammell said, “and then to use what money stays in this state more effectively.

“That’s my motive, where I’m coming from. That’s why I made the motion.”

Executive Committee Chairman Bobby Blanton will name a committee to take up Rammell’s motion.  
7/19/2010 7:27:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 1 comments

Economy gets blame for lower BSC budget

July 16 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Cooperative Program (CP) mission receipts from North Carolina Baptist churches trail the budget by 11 percent, according to six month statistics released by Baptist State Convention (BSC) Comptroller Robert Simons.

Receipts trail the previous year’s income by 7.6 percent or $1.2 million, putting 2010 on track to be the sixth of the past eight years in which income has fallen short of the previous year.

Although BSC staff has kept expenses below income through June, the Executive Committee was warned that the margin is “razor thin” and supplement from reserves may be required by year’s end.

Performance to date prompted the 2011 budget committee to propose to the Executive Committee July 15 a budget for next year that is 6 percent, or $2.1 million, less than the current budget.

Despite the big drop in income and in budget, the 2011 budget includes a one-half percent increase in the portion of CP funds that are forwarded to the national and international ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The sixth straight year of one-half percentage point increases to the SBC will put the 2011 division at 65-35, with 35 percent going to the SBC.

“When you decrease budget and increase the SBC portion, you have to understand this is a difficult issue related to staff and it seriously impacts the money available for program,” said Steve Hardy, budget committee chair for the third straight year.

Once again, decreased allocations to the five Baptist colleges absorb the brunt of decreases in the budget that will be proposed to messengers at the annual meeting in November. The 2011 budget is the fourth and final year of a process in which the colleges gave up their Cooperative Program allocations in favor of autonomy in electing their own trustees.

The colleges will share a total decrease in Christian Higher Education of $1.2 million.

Other areas basically will need to absorb a percentage decrease that reflects the budget drop. That will cost Christian social services $175,000 in the new budget, including $125,000 from areas administered by Baptist Children’s Homes: residential care, developmentally disabled ministry and NCBAM for aging ministries. Their total drops to $2.9 million. The Baptist Hospital School of Pastoral Care is cut $50,000 to $675,000.  

Doing everything
“We have reduced the budget as low as we can go without impacting our service to churches,” John Butler, executive leader for business services said later. “We really have cut back programming expenses to the point it’s going to impact our ability to serve the churches and meet their expectations of us.”

Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer, believes the economy remains the major factor in falling income. BSC income is “a reflection of what is going on in the churches,” Hollifield said. “We still have churches that want to increase what they contribute, but they are living with results of unemployment in their members. I realize there are other factors, but that is the major factor we’re dealing with right now.”

Butler, who analyzes the numbers from many angles, said the decrease in income to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for the North American Mission Board is almost identical to the six-month report to the BSC. He said that similarity indicates the BSC drop is due overwhelmingly to personal income and giving patterns, and not to other potential drags such as politics or dissatisfaction with the Cooperative Program as a missions funding vehicle.

Referring to the two alternate giving plans eliminated in this year’s budget, Butler said, “We’ve lost less from our Plans B and C churches than I thought we would, and that’s encouraging.”

“I am still very grateful that churches are standing behind their commitment to missions and are supporting us at the level they are,” said Hollifield. “We will operate with what God provides us to work with.”

Hollifield said he is “amazed” at the “amount of work and ministry” that BSC staff are accomplishing with more limited funds. “We’re doing a lot with a lot less money,” he said. He said the question North Carolina Baptists must answer for themselves in the budgeting process in following years is, “What is important to you? What do you want to fund?”

“I don’t expect the economy to stay where it is forever,” he said. “Eventually it will turn around.”  
7/16/2010 6:54:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 2 comments

Pastors’ compensation keeps pace with inflation

July 16 2010 by Rob Phillips, LifeWay

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Compensation for full-time Southern Baptist pastors is rising slightly faster than inflation, but the mounting cost of benefits is forcing churches to provide fewer pastors with medical insurance.

These and other findings are part of the SBC Church Compensation Study, a survey of 11,674 staff positions in Southern Baptist churches. LifeWay Research conducted the survey in cooperation with GuideStone Financial Resources and Baptist state conventions through June 2010. All the data acquired by the study has been compiled into a web-based tool that will help churches as they begin planning staff compensation packages for their 2011 budgets.

Adjusting for church size (see Methodology below), the average full-time Southern Baptist senior pastor’s compensation (salary and housing) rose 0.78 percent between 2008 and 2010. That rate of change was only slightly higher than the compounded 0.67 percent inflation rate for the same two-year period, according to figures supplied by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index.

With no adjustments for church size, compensation for other full-time staff ministers increased 3.08 percent between 2008 and 2010, while compensation for full-time office personnel increased 7.86 percent.

“Not all churches have paid non-pastoral staff, especially small churches,” explained Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research. “Churches with these positions gave larger salary increases than the average church gave their senior pastor over the last two years.”

While salary and housing compensation rose by only 0.78 percent between 2008 and 2010, the value of the entire pay package for the average full-time senior pastor rose by 6.69 percent — far outpacing inflation. That’s because churches are trying to keep pace with the rising cost of benefits.

“Difficult economic conditions have been compounded by higher costs for the same benefits the church provided in prior years,” said McConnell. “Churches have kept salary increases to a minimum, but their care for pastors is seen in increased spending on other benefits that include retirement and insurance.”

Still, the survey revealed that fewer full-time senior pastors receive medical insurance from their churches today than in 2008. Sixty-one percent of churches partially or fully pay medical insurance for their full-time senior pastors, compared to 65 percent in 2008. These reduced benefits occurred at the same time churches were being impacted by the economic downturn and as the U.S. Department of Labor indicates the cost of medical care rose 3.2 percent and 3.4 percent in 2009 and 2010 respectively. 

Ten percent of churches provide at least partial medical-insurance funding for the pastor alone, while 17 percent fund coverage for the pastor and his wife, and 33 percent supply coverage for the pastor and his family.

For senior pastors, churches fully or partially pay for the following benefits:
  • Dental insurance — 26 percent
  • Vision insurance — 11 percent
  • Life and/or accident insurance — 34 percent
  • Disability insurance — 28 percent
“Consumer prices actually fell in 2009, allowing ministers’ dollars to go a little further, but inflation has resumed in 2010, meaning churches must consider cost-of-living raises to avoid decreasing the real value of the salaries they provide their staff members,” McConnell said.  

Robert Henry, director of relationship services of GuideStone Financial Resources, commended those congregations that are trying to make sure their staff members’ compensation and benefits keep pace with inflation. “Although the economy has certainly tested the mettle of churches, many Southern Baptists have dug deeply into their pockets and supported their pastors and staff members throughout these challenging times. It’s a tribute to the faithfulness of God’s people.”

(Methodology: Southern Baptist state conventions invited each church’s staff to respond to the survey, and 11,674 completed surveys were analyzed. For the purpose of this article, senior pastor responses were weighted to account for lower response rate among smaller churches and to match the distribution of the size of SBC churches. When using the online tool, national totals may be somewhat higher than these weighted totals. Viewing the results by church size categories within the online tool minimizes this impact. When running customized reports online, error can be minimized by selecting criteria that allow for larger numbers of participants. Part-time and interim designations in the survey did not take into account the number of hours worked or other factors that may affect the comparability of these averages.)
7/16/2010 6:49:00 AM by Rob Phillips, LifeWay | with 0 comments

Evangelicals better at retaining youth

July 16 2010 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

DURHAM — Evangelical churches do a better job than mainline churches in keeping their young people in the faith, probably because they invest more money in youth ministry, says a Duke University professor who studies characteristics of American congregations.

Mark Chaves, a professor of sociology, religion and divinity and director of the National Congregations Study, said in a blog post July 8 that research from the ongoing survey about the basic characteristics of America’s congregations confirms that religious groups prioritize youth ministry differently.

Among churches that have 50 or more teenagers, Chaves said white evangelical congregations are substantially more likely than mainline Protestant churches to employ a full-time youth minister.

Fifty-nine percent of evangelical churches with 50-99 teens have a full-time youth minister, compared to only one-third of mainline churches with that many youth. In churches with more than 100 youth, the gap increases to 87 percent for evangelicals to 55 percent of mainline churches.

Chaves said mainline and evangelical Protestants do not differ much on overall programming for youth. Both are equally likely to have youth groups, teen choirs, youth speaking in worship services and to have sent teenagers to a church camp.

But those ministries “are inexpensive compared to hiring a full-time youth minister, and having a full-time youth minister surely enhances the quantity and quality of a church’s teen programming,” the researcher noted.

Chaves said that both evangelical and mainline Protestants lose many young people to “the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated,” but evangelical churches lose fewer than liberal churches lose.

He speculated that one reason might be that mainline churches place less value on keeping their teenagers in the faith.

“It is difficult to know for sure, but evangelicals’ deeper concern to reproduce the faith in their children probably leads to hiring more full-time youth ministers, which probably leads to keeping more youth in the church,” he wrote. “Evangelical churches invest more than mainline churches in youth ministries, and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this investment difference reflects a difference in the priority placed on keeping young people in the church.”

Chaves cited a book by University of Washington professor James Wellman, Evangelical vs. Liberal, that observes how different church cultures view youth ministry in different ways.

“For evangelicals, if children and youth are not enjoying church, it is the church’s fault and evangelical parents either find a new church or try to improve their youth ministry,” Wellman said. “For liberals, the tendency is the reverse; if youth do not find church interesting it is their problem. Evangelicals are simply more interested and invested in reproducing the faith in their children and youth and their churches reflect this priority.”

“Evangelical families emphasize religion more than mainline families do, and evangelical churches involve young people in a denser social web of youth groups, church camps, and church-based socializing, all of which increase the chances that a young person will remain in the fold as an adult,” Chaves concurred. “This is one reason that evangelical denominations have not suffered the same membership declines in recent decades that more liberal, mainline denominations have suffered.”
7/16/2010 6:47:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Camp offers children of prisoners safe haven, fun

July 15 2010 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

For many, going to camp is a rite of passage.

But for children who have a parent in prison, Camp Angel Tree offers a safe place with other children with incarcerated parents.

“The walls come down and they start to trust,” said Ashley Groce, one of the assistant directors at Camp Mundo Vista in Sophia. “I love watching the staff; you get to see their hearts being broken.”

Groce, who is serving her fifth summer at the camp, said investing in the girls’ lives makes a difference.

More than 80 girls and 70 boys were on site June 27-30 at Mundo and at Camp Caraway across the road. These camps, which are for 9-12-year-olds who have completed first through third grade, are sponsored by Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) and North Carolina Baptist Men in partnership with Prison Fellowship.

Amy Saunders, a member of Yates Baptist Church, is on staff at Camp Mundo Vista this summer. Above, Saunders poses with some of the campers she worked with in 2009 for Camp Angel Tree. She is the daughter of John Saunders, director of missions for Yates Baptist Association.  

Many volunteers make the camps possible, said Tammy Tate, Mundo’s program director. Volunteers sponsor children as well as provide transportation to and from camp.

Yates Baptist Association has been transporting children from cities within the association to and from camp. John Saunders, director of missions of Yates Baptist Association, said his church — Yates Baptist Church in Durham — has coordinated with the families the last three years.

“It is rewarding because you see the difference it has in the children’s lives,” Saunders said. “The staffs at the camps are real good with the kids. I think it is a mission opportunity to help these kids go to camp and to have a different kind of experience in their life and to see the impact that the camp has on their lives.”

One of the young men Saunders met before the children left did not want to go, but “when we went to pick him up he didn’t want to leave,” he said.

While campers pay for part of their cost, Tate said WMU-NC has money in its budget to help offset the cost, which averages $175 per camper. This money takes care of personnel, food, lodging and money for the canteen.

A special part for Tate, not just with Camp Angel Tree, is seeing the same kids come back again.

“It’s really cool to see them come back year after year excited to see what they’ve learned,” she said.

One of the favorite times for Scarlet Welborn is the extended swimming time. “I love swimming with the campers because they latch on,” said Welborn, who is the other assistant director. “It’s just awesome to see them grow.”

Welborn said she also enjoys seeing the older children show the younger campers about camp.

Volunteers are needed to transport the children to camp as well as to provide sponsorships. Each camp can host up to 120 children.

At WMU-NC, contact Cara Lynn Vogel at (866) 210-8602, ext. 205, or cvogel@wmunc.org.

At N.C. Baptist Men, contact Kecia Morgan at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5613, or kmorgan@ncbaptist.org.
7/15/2010 7:59:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Sturgis motorcycle outreach calls for volunteers

July 15 2010 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

STURGIS, S.D. — Ordinarily, Sturgis, S.D., is a charming, Western-style tourist town on the northern end of the Black Hills. People bound for sites such as Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial might even miss it, with so much else to see and do.

But the town of about 7,000 people is expected to expand exponentially — maybe to as many as 700,000 — this Aug. 9-15 for the 70th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Southern Baptists plan to be ready — and “we need your help,” said Jim Hamilton, executive director of the Dakota Baptist Convention, which for the fifth year plans to have an evangelistic outreach at the rally. “We’re expanding this year to three sites,” Hamilton said, “and that’s going to take a lot of folks willing to talk with people about the positive difference Jesus Christ has made in their lives.”

The evangelism strategy at Sturgis will include an opportunity to win a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle for anyone willing to listen to a three-minute testimony.

Each morning during the Sturgis rally, Southern Baptists provide training for volunteers on how to effectively and succinctly share their faith. By training, and then doing, and seeing the people they encounter invite Jesus into their lives, the volunteers return to their homes inspired and equipped to share their faith in their own community, said Garvon Golden, Sharing Christ strategist with the Dakota Baptist Convention and overall coordinator of the Sturgis ministry.

“We have seen this to be true in the Dakotas,” Golden said. “Baptisms have increased over the last three years, and last year we had among the largest percentage increase in baptisms in the nation. While we can’t tie this directly to our efforts in Sturgis, surely what we’re doing here is having a ripple effect back to our churches.

“One of the benefits we see here in the Dakotas is a heightened motivation to share our faith,” Golden continued. Dakota Baptists are seeing the potency of telling the story “of how Christ changed their lives.”

In addition to the evangelism tent across the street from the hugely popular Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame, a second tent is to be set up at the Harley-Davidson dealership on the edge of Rapid City, and a third in Custer, S.D., near the Crazy Horse Memorial.

New this year: a relationship-building ministry at a camp for non-Christian bikers that will involve nightly concerts of music not normally heard in staid Southern Baptist churches.

“This camp is for hardcore bikers,” Hamilton said. “We began to realize these bikers were the least likely to stop and listen to someone give their Christian testimony. ... We’re trying to make it low-key so we don’t mess up what God’s doing. ... This is about God touching people’s hearts and changing lives.”

By providing breakfast and supper at the “clean and sober campground,” along with security services and relationship-building conversation, Dakota Baptists hope to break through barriers that will lead to evangelistic conversations. This is the first year of a five-year commitment by First Baptist Church of Custer, S.D., to open its church camp to the biker ministry.

“We felt like God wanted us to share the gospel with more people; that’s why we expanded,” Hamilton said. “On less money we expanded to more ministries, to touch more people.”

Also new this year: a playing card evangelistic tract designed by Hamilton, himself a former biker.

BP photo

Several hundred thousand motorcycle enthusiasts are expected at this year’s 70th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Part of the action on Main Street: a ministry tent sponsored by the Dakota Baptist Convention.

“Our poker chip was new last year,” Hamilton said. “It stops people dead in their tracks when you give them a poker chip. It’s one of those things they want, a souvenir. For us, it’s relevancy. They want it, and it gives us an opportunity to engage them in conversation.

“They might not make a profession of faith then, but months later, when they come across the poker chip in their things, the Holy Spirit could bring conviction to their heart,” Hamilton said. “Same thing with the playing card.”

“Poker runs” are popular in biker culture these days. These are biker runs in which the motorcyclist collects a playing card at each of five stops. At the end of the day, the biker with the best poker hand wins the pot.

“To a traditional Christian, giving a poker chip or a playing card sounds pretty sinful,” Hamilton acknowledged. “But it’s speaking the hard language of a biker. That’s relevancy.

“Many people without Christ are familiar with a poker chip and a playing card,” Hamilton continued. “Why not redesign them and use them to share the gospel?”

The poker chips on one side have “Sturgis Bike Rally 70th anniversary 2010,” and on the other, a motorcycle and cross outline, with “SturgisBikeGiveaway.com” around the edge.

The poker chips and playing cards are part of the intentional evangelism developed by Dakota Baptists that involves a five-part process — relevancy, receptivity, redemption, relationship, and reproduction, Hamilton explained.

“I think we have discovered an intentional evangelism ‘process’ that will work one-on-one or at any event where large numbers of people gather,” Hamilton said. “Its biblical base is found in John 4, where Jesus engaged the woman at the well in a conversation.”

South Carolina Baptists have been using Dakota’s intentional evangelism process for two years during its Myrtle Beach Bike Week; Florida Baptists are looking to implement it at the Daytona Bike Week next year.

“Our problem is not our message,” Hamilton said. “People are open to the gospel. ... At some point we have to stop inviting people to church and calling that evangelism, and invite them to become a follower of Jesus.

“I believe we need a national emphasis — a strategy — on intentional evangelism, on ‘sharing your story,’“ the Dakota executive director said. “In fact, I think we’re desperate for it. We as Southern Baptists have always been at our best and most effective in doing Kingdom work when we cooperate and partner together to do more for God than we could ever do alone. ... A national emphasis on intentional evangelism would not only focus us on every Christian being a missionary, it could also be the catalyst that helps us return evangelism in the local church to its rightful place.”

With beautiful scenic drives through the Black Hills, attractions like Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Custer Park, wild buffalo herds and the mining town of Deadwood, S.D., the Black Hills lure bikers, wannabes and Southern Baptist volunteers to some of the most fascinating scenery in the nation. For those interested in traveling a bit further, attractions like Devils Tower in Wyoming and the South Dakota Badlands add to the area’s appeal.

Southern Baptist ministry at Sturgis will focus not just on hardcore bikers but also the “people groups” of motorcycle enthusiasts and the people who provide support services for the week, including vendors of the 1,700 or more tent businesses catering to bikers, police officers, sheriff’s deputies, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and personnel who pick up more than half-million tons of trash tossed during the week.

“You don’t even need to come to Sturgis to have a part in the intentional evangelism,” Golden said. “We are still looking for teams that can come and share testimonies under one of the tents during the week of the rally, either in the morning, afternoon and evening shifts. We also are looking for prayer teams to prayerwalk or drive Sturgis during our 30 days of prayer for the rally, but if you can’t be here, we have three other ways you can be a part.”

Golden spoke of prayer, providing printed materials and financial support.

“You may do the Virtual Prayer Walk on www.sturgisbikegiveaway.com,” Golden said. “A booklet — 30 Days of Prayer for Sturgis — is also available. Prayer is so vitally integral to what we do here. God works through the prayers of His people, and we’re asking Him to move in a mighty way. ...

“More than 100,000 bikers will pass our booths each day during the rally,” Golden continued. “We will need biker New Testaments and tracts to distribute. Any donations toward the purchase of these items would be appreciated.”

Volunteers for the first time this year will be asked to donate $50 to offset the cost of printed materials.

“Also, we have a budget of $55,000 for the rally,” the DBC Sharing Christ strategist said. “This budget provides training, booth and vendor spot rental, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, housing, city fees, licenses, and other expenses.” Checks can be made out to the Dakota Baptist Convention, specified for “Sturgis,” and mailed to DBC-Sturgis, P.O. Box 770, Sioux Falls, SD 57101.

In the first four years of the Sturgis strategy, at least 16,777 people listened to someone give a personal testimony, and 3,753 first-time professions of faith in Jesus Christ were made. Names and contact information of those who make a profession of faith is sent each day to the Evangelism Response Center at the North American Mission Board, which redirects the information to a Southern Baptist church near the contact’s home.

“People are walking away from Sturgis with Jesus in their hearts and He is going to begin to change their life,” Hamilton said. “With this intentional evangelism, we have been obedient witnesses in a place that desperately needs it.”

Not everyone leaves with Christ as personal Lord and Savior, Hamilton acknowledged. Some say, “That was a good story” or “I’m at a different place in my life right now.”

“It is not up to us to save them,” said Buck Hill, SBC Starting Churches strategist for the Dakota convention. “It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to draw them, and then God to save them. However, we are called to spread the Good News, and that’s what we do in Sturgis.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Willoughby is managing editor of the Dakota Baptist, newsjournal of the Dakota Baptist Convention, and of the Louisiana Baptist Message, newsjournal for churches in the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)
7/15/2010 7:51:00 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

All Star pitcher anchored in Christ

July 14 2010 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

ANAHEIM, Calif. — One ... two ... three ...

As the pastor stepped to the pulpit, a young Adam Wainwright began counting.

74 ... 75 ... 76 ...

The preaching continued, and so did the counting inside Wainwright’s head.

328 ... 329 ... 330 ...

“As long as he kept talking, I would keep counting,” said Wainwright, a member of the National League team, the winner of Tuesday night’s All Star Game. “There were times when I got up almost to 1,000, which is really embarrassing. I’m so competitive, and I was so lost at the time, that going to church was a game. That was the only way that I could make myself sit through it without complaining and whining and fussing, was to make a game of it. So I made it a counting game.”

That competitive fire may not have been appropriate for the setting, as Wainwright now ashamedly admits, but it has served him well atop the mound. Over the past few years, the St. Louis Cardinals’ Wainwright has become one of the game’s most dominant pitchers. He won 19 games in 2009 and finished third in Cy Young balloting in the National League.

So far in 2010, he’s second in the league with 13 wins and a sparkling 2.11 ERA, good enough to earn his first All-Star spot in the July 13 game at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif.

The National League ended its losing streak to the American League with a 3-1 win in front of 45,408 at Angel Stadium.

BP photo by Tim Ellsworth

Adam Wright, a member of the National League All Star team, has learned that Jesus will “love us the same” win or lose.

Wainwright, while not the starting pitcher, performed well in the seventh inning, striking out Torii Hunter. Hunter said the pitcher “was a bad card to draw” on MLB.com.

Hunter, a center fielder with the L.A. Angels said Wainwright “threw nothing but curves and cutters.”

While Wainwright does compete fiercely on the diamond, he now has a different attitude when it comes to attending church and hearing the Bible preached.

He grew up in a single-parent home in Brunswick, Ga., where his mom made sure he went to church every Sunday. He heard the Word of God preached year after year, but it didn’t sink in.

“I hated going to church,” he said. “I didn’t let anybody know that, but it was the most boring thing in the world to me.”

His counting games during the sermon continued until middle school. He then started attending regular Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings, primarily because of his friends and the pretty girls who went.

“High school came, and I started to get farther and farther removed from the Christian way,” Wainwright said. “I grew up going to Vacation Bible School. I could tell you about the Bible and all the parables and the stories and all that. But to me at the time, it was really a history book and not something that was talking about a messiah.”

The Atlanta Braves drafted Wainwright in the first round of the 2000 amateur draft, and in rookie ball his first roommate was Blaine Boyer, now a relief pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks. In Boyer, Wainwright found someone who was a committed Christian and who lived a godly lifestyle. Wainwright took notice, and began talking to Boyer about why his life was different.

Boyer told Wainwright about the change that Jesus Christ had made in him, and though Wainwright admits that he was interested to hear Boyer’s story, he wasn’t willing to make that commitment to Christ himself.

About that time agents began calling Wainwright, offering their services. Wainwright was drawn to Steve Hammond, an agent from a smaller firm, but someone that Wainwright thought was a good fit for him. Hammond, also a Christian, signed Boyer as a client as well, and the two of them began tag-teaming Wainwright in their witnessing to him.

“They knew I had questions,” Wainwright said. “I was coming to them all the time with questions about eternity and how do you know you’re right, how do you know Christianity is the way and not Buddhism or Islam or any of these other ones.”

The two convinced Wainwright to attend a conference sponsored by Pro Athletes Outreach (PAO) in 2002. They told him he could leave anytime if he didn’t like it.

“OK, fine, I’ll do it,” Wainwright thought. “I might leave, but I’m going.”

The headline speaker for the conference was Joe Stowell, former president of Moody Bible Institute and now president of Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Mich. Wainwright remembers hearing Stowell talk about the relationship side of Christianity. That was something he never remembered hearing about before.

“The message had probably been given to me a lot of times before, but my ears weren’t ready to hear it,” Wainwright said. “At this particular time at PAO, my ears were finally ready to listen.”

On the second day of the conference, Wainwright repented of his sins and trusted in Jesus Christ for his salvation.

A year later, the Braves traded him to the Cardinals. He debuted with the team in 2005, and took over as the team’s closer late in the 2006 season and during the playoffs. He struck out Brandon Inge of the Detroit Tigers for the final out in the 2006 World Series.

Wainwright moved into the St. Louis rotation the following year and has been an anchor for the Cardinals ever since. His success has allowed him to earn a healthy living, which he acknowledges can be a potential pitfall for a Christian.

“Doing what we do, the reality of the money that we’re able to make and the obstacles we’re faced with — temptation-wise — are tremendous,” Wainwright said. “We’re given a platform that’s unlike many others. We’re also given more temptation than probably most others. The money side of it, Jesus said that it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get into heaven.”

That’s why Wainwright said it’s important for him to stay focused on Christ as his ultimate meaning and purpose in life.

“Without God, without Jesus in our life, it’s always going to be empty,” he said. “We’re always going to be striving to get to that next plateau, and then when we get to the top plateau, there’s nothing there.

“With Jesus in our life, He says no matter what we do, whether we fail or have the most success, He’s going to love us the same. That message, to me, is so huge for this lifestyle we’re in.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Ellsworth is director of BPSports, the sports web site of Baptist Press, and director of news and information at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)
7/14/2010 6:42:00 AM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 4 comments

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