June 2011

Hopewell Baptist gives hours, dollars to missions

June 22 2011 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

Lee Pigg is often asked how it happened, or what he did to make it happen, and he never really knows exactly how to answer. 

In the past six years Hopewell Baptist Church in Monroe, where Pigg is pastor, has gone from 165 in Sunday morning worship attendance to nearly 1,000. He went from being the only staff member to now leading a staff of 11. “I remember telling my wife, ‘I think we’ll have 400 people at Hopewell one day.’ Never did I think we’d be where we are today,” Pigg said.

The population in Monroe hasn’t really increased in recent years. Situated about 20 minutes from Charlotte and Concord, Pigg said Hopewell is in the middle of nowhere, between cotton fields and cornfields. When Pigg came to Hopewell in 2002 his goal was two-fold: preach God’s Word and love the people.

“I believe that is what started to become contagious,” he said. “They started to take that as their mission.”

As people get excited about the ministry of their local church they start inviting others and bringing others with them, and that has made all the difference.

“They have seen others get excited, and that’s exciting. The leadership is excited and that has just spilled over. We see people wanting to be part of something bigger than themselves,” Pigg said.

This mentality of wanting to do something “big” has perhaps never been so apparent as in recent months, when a three-month focus on worship, discipleship and ministry resulted in 65 baptisms, 6,000 hours of ministry service and a $40,000 missions offering. About one third of the 65 baptisms represent new believers in Jesus Christ.

Hopewell Baptist Church used Ecclesiastes 4:12 to tie in different strands — worship, discipleship and ministry — to make a stronger cord for part of Find It Here emphasis.

Earlier this year, when trying to decide how the church would participate in the Find it Here Easter evangelism emphasis, Pigg decided to do more than just the Easter focus. In March he began leading the congregation through a focus on worship. In April the focus was discipleship and in May the focus was missions.

Each of the three focuses come from Hopewell’s mission statement, based on Ecclesiastes 4:12. When it came time for the May missions focus Pigg challenged every family in the church and every discipleship group to be involved in a missions outreach that month. The goal was 5,000 hours of outreach from the church in one month.

They got more than 6,000. One group hosted a neighborhood carnival. The group was able to share the gospel that day and five people prayed to receive Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. On the last Sunday in May, Hopewell received a special offering just for missions.

The $40,000 was distributed among international and local ministries, including N.C. Baptist Men disaster relief. Also benefiting was N.C. Baptist Hospital, Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute and Caraway Conference Center and Camp.

Pigg said the focus this year has helped the congregation be more intentional in thinking about how to reach out to the community. One church member asked to pray for the waitress at a local restaurant, then invited her to church. Before long, she had prayed to receive Jesus Christ and was baptized.

Hopewell is Pigg’s first pastorate. He worked 10 years in the business world and was successful, but God was calling him to something different.

A popular quote goes something like this: “Attempt something so big for God that if He doesn’t show up, you’ll look like a fool.” It’s one that Pigg takes seriously.

“We need to do something bigger than us so that there’s no way we can take credit for it. Don’t be afraid to challenge your people,” he said. “I honestly believe they are waiting on us to challenge them. I believe that’s the kind of challenge God honors.”
6/22/2011 8:11:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Church ‘on the street’ is pastors’ vision

June 22 2011 by Torie Speicher, Baptist Press

KOLKATA, India — Shiny, yellow Ambassador cabs wait in a queue and dirt-stained, homeless men sleep on benches at the airport in Kolkata. The odor of toilets permeates the baggage claim area.

Walk into the city formerly known as Calcutta and marvel at how the British colonial architecture blurs the Hindu temples into the background. The former capital of British India, Kolkata offers both traditional chai (tea), sold on the narrow street corners in disposable cups made of unglazed clay, and Subway sandwiches, consumed inside a new, glass-and-steel-structured mall.

Next to tall buildings that cost millions of dollars to build, families bathe on the street and hang their clothes on a railing to dry. Most people in Kolkata’s slums live on 80 cents a day, while billionaires live in mansions with hosts of servants.

Welcome to Kolkata — a city of drastic contrasts.

No one who comes here will leave unaffected. International worker Lonnie Tepper* points out the endless needs — economic, social, infrastructure and ecological — of this seemingly endless city of 14.3 million people.

The most important struggle, however, is for the souls of the people of Kolkata. “The greatest need of the city is for the church to boldly share about Jesus in their daily lives,” Tepper says.

Christianity is not new to Kolkata. For more than 200 years, the roots of faith have struggled to penetrate hard spiritual soil. William Carey, the father of modern missions, came to West Bengal in 1793. It was 10 years before Carey finally baptized his first convert.

Not much has changed since Carey’s time. The process of spreading the gospel is still slow. Today, international workers estimate Kolkata has more than 100 churches, with perhaps 5,000 people attending them. That means less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the people of Kolkata are believers.

A spirit of mediocrity
Kolkata pastors Upendra Basant*, Ohit Sanyal*, Vaskar Datta* and Dural Iyers* are not content with these numbers.

Basant prays against strongholds and for the church to multiply in the city, where the path to church planting has been slower than in the villages.

Sanyal explains that there seems to be a spirit of mediocrity in the churches. The pastor says he sees church members sitting back and thinking, “Let somebody else do it,” instead of responding with “Lord, here am I, send me.”

“Our people in Kolkata need to get greedy for souls,” Sanyal stresses.

BP photo

A father mixes powdered milk for his children. Eleven family members live in this one-room home — with one bed and about two feet of walking space.

Iyers agrees wholeheartedly: “Only God’s love can change the hearts of the people. It is the message of God’s love that brings the revolution.”

These pastors say the timing has never been better for a fresh vision of discipleship. Rand Carruth*, another international worker in Kolkata, says the goal of church planting in the city is to grow ownership among Bengali believers, which will lead to churches of every tribe and tongue in West Bengal.

“If we can’t help bring the idea of the Christian faith being owned by every Kolkata believer,” Carruth says, “then the story stays the same.”

‘Take church to the street’
Church planting is about relationships and reaching beyond the drastic contrasts in this mega-city, Carruth explains. If Christians choose to work together to see a common goal, then through the church the many needs of Kolkata’s sick and dying, impoverished and destitute, abused and enslaved can be met.

Carruth’s prayer is to see churches started through ordinary people who are working regular jobs — not just pastors. Many believers see the need for this change and are stepping away from a “traditional church” mindset.

In one year, Sanyal has seen 12 house churches formed in the city — house churches focused on discipleship and growing the body of Christ in Kolkata.

“God is really moving. People are actually shifting the boundaries of the church out, just like Isaiah chapter 54 says to enlarge your tent and take away the curtains that people may see what is happening in the church,” Sanyal says. “We need to take church to the street.”

Sanyal teaches Kolkata Christians they have the power to minister to the world and encourages them to step outside the walls of the church and sit beside sinners in the streets. His friends are not all seminary-trained preachers. They represent all of the contrasts in his city — farmers, electricians, politicians, vegetable vendors, lawyers, snake catchers and rickshaw men.

“We want to tell people that God has called them to preach,” Sanyal says. “(We want them) to think, ‘I’ve got the Word, the Scriptures, the training. I am the man. I should do it.’”

*Names changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Speicher is a writer serving among South Asian peoples as a volunteer with International Mission Board.)
6/22/2011 8:06:00 AM by Torie Speicher, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Chitwood elected as Ky. exec

June 22 2011 by Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Paul Chitwood was elected as executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) by the KBC Mission Board June 2 by an 88-7 ballot vote.

Envisioning the executive’s role as “a great opportunity to be a pastor to pastors” and to be an encourager to Kentucky Baptists, Chitwood told the Western Recorder, newsjournal of the state convention, that his desire is to be “a blessing to the churches and to build them up.”

Chitwood, 41, pastor of First Baptist Church in Mount Washington, Ky., since 2003, was presented to the Mission Board by search committee chairman Paul Badgett of Pikeville.

The committee, he said, sought a candidate with the right character and chemistry as well as competence.

“We found that in Dr. Paul Harrison Chitwood,” Badgett said, noting that Chitwood has been a trustee of the International Mission Board, an assistant professor of evangelism and church growth at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and an adjunct professor at University of the Cumberlands.

A native of Jellico, Tenn., Chitwood has served as pastor of four Kentucky congregations. He also has been a convention president and first vice president, and he has served as president of the KBC Pastors’ Conference.

Prior to his election, Chitwood addressed the board briefly, sharing that one of his priorities would be church planting.

“Seeing the number of churches that are closing and actually outpacing those that are starting across the country, I think there is a great opportunity there,” he said.

Chitwood also said he sees an opportunity for relationship building and promoting greater cooperation between the convention’s staff and KBC pastors.

Another role Chitwood said he would embrace is strengthening the partnership between the convention and its universities and entities.

“Serving as a trustee for the University of Cumberlands and as a faculty member at Southern Seminary has provided some opportunities to think about the great potential for stronger partnership that lies there,” he said.

In response to a question about his theological perspective, Chitwood responded, “I am a Bible-believing Southern Baptist. I believe God’s Word is true, inerrant,” adding also that he is “perfectly comfortable” in affirming all versions of the Baptist Faith and Message.

More specifically, in regard to his views on Calvinism, Chitwood said, “I really think that that issue is needlessly a point of controversy.

“I really believe on that issue what we find in Scripture is a tension between human responsibility and human free will and the absolute sovereignty of God,” he added. “My personal theology allows for that tension.”

Of greater concern, he said, is that Kentucky Baptists allow for a difference of opinion on matters that Scripture holds in tension.

Urging Kentucky Baptists to be “a big tent convention,” Chitwood said every tent needs stakes to keep from being blown about by the wind. For him, those stakes include the Word of God, the Baptist Faith and Message, cooperation and the Great Commission, he said.

“With those four stakes, the Kentucky Baptists can be a big tent. And it can be a big tent that honors God and allows us to work together with enthusiasm,” he said.

As for his support of the Cooperative Program, Chitwood explained that at his two previous pastorates, the congregations contributed more than 20 percent of their undesignated gifts through CP. At First Baptist Mount Washington, members have embraced a plan to steadily increase CP giving to 10 percent, he said. The church currently gives approximately 8.5 percent and is moving toward 9 percent in the coming budget year.

“While there is room in our convention for anyone who is willing to cooperate at any level,” Chitwood said, “I do believe the leaders of our convention need to lead by example.”

As IMB trustee chairman, Chitwood was a strong proponent of changing the Cooperative Program allocation formula to allow more funding to send more overseas missionaries. At last year’s KBC annual meeting, he spoke in favor of the Kentucky Great Commission Task Force’s recommendation to move toward a 50/50 split of CP receipts between the Southern Baptist Convention and the KBC.

“The decision has already been made by the Kentucky Baptist Convention with regard to the division of funds,” Chitwood told the Western Recorder. “So, now it is the responsibility of the executive director and the staff here to carry out the will of convention with regard to the percentage that will go on to SBC causes, and to be the best stewards we can of the resources that are entrusted to the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

“I think we can do that best by celebrating — not lamenting — what God is doing with Cooperative Program funds,” he said.

Chitwood will begin duties as executive director July 1.
6/22/2011 8:04:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Kathy Litton, at NAMB, to aid pastors’ wives

June 21 2011 by Carol Pipes, Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Kathy Ferguson Litton has been chosen by Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, to serve as national director of Ministry to Pastors’ Wives. Litton will be working with NAMB’s leadership development team in the area of support and encouragement for ministers’ wives.

“I’m grateful and humbled that God would call me to this task,” Litton said. “And thankful that NAMB would extend to me this opportunity. I definitely have a passion for pouring into ministers’ wives and seeing them step into their calling with passion, freedom and purpose.

“Ultimately, this role is about advancing the Gospel,” Litton said. “It’s about helping ministers and their families be effective in their ministry.”

Litton, wife of Ed Litton, pastor of First Baptist Church North Mobile in Saraland, Ala., said she looks forward to the challenge of helping NAMB minister to and get resources into the hands of ministers’ wives on a national level in the areas of encouragement, leadership and crisis care as well as the areas of education and spiritual formation.

“I think we can harness the power of the Internet through Twitter, blogs and podcasts to create an online presence to resource ministers’ wives. It’s the vastest reach we have,” Litton said. “We want to use every resource available to get into the hearts and homes of pastors’ wives.”

Litton served as director of women’s ministries for four years at Cross Church at Pinnacle Hills in Rogers, Ark., during which time she traveled extensively, speaking to women, teaching and encouraging pastors’ wives and training leaders.

Ezell said NAMB is seeking “to step up our emphasis on leadership development and ministry to pastors and their families to help prepare them for the task at hand. Kathy is a gifted communicator and a natural leader. That, in addition to her experience as a pastor’s wife, makes her the absolute, perfect fit for this particular role.

“We’ll be looking to Kathy to design and implement a national strategy to minister to pastors’ wives,” Ezell said.

Litton was married to the late Rick Ferguson, former pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Denver until his death in 2002.

“My time in Denver for 14 years is critical to this position at NAMB. The bulk of my adult ministry was spent in the West and it definitely changed my worldview, having grown up in the Midwest,” Litton said.

The idea of working with an entity focusing on church planting is a source of excitement for Litton.

“I’m very interested in getting involved in the lives of church planter wives,” she said.

Church planting was an important part of her and Ferguson’s ministry in Colorado.

“It was Rick’s goal to plant 100 churches out of Riverside. We’d planted 25 churches by the time he died in 2002,” Litton said. “That’s part of who I am, and I still have a heart for that.”

Litton was remarried in 2009 to Ed Litton who, like Kathy, lost his spouse in an automobile accident in 2007.

“My bio will always contain my marriage, life and ministry to Rick. Ed’s will always contain his marriage, life and ministry with Tammy,” Litton said, referring to Ed’s late wife. “We can no more separate Rick and Tammy from our present lives as we can cut off our arms – we easily and naturally fold that season of our lives into our present one.”

The experience of losing her husband Rick, has given her a heart for encouraging women who face unexpected challenges in life, Litton said.

“We want to walk with ministers’ wives as they face challenges, whether it’s juggling the demands of family versus church needs, juggling career and family, finding their own ministry, maintaining their own spiritual lives or how to support their husbands,” Litton said. “We want to support them in the unique role God has called them to. It’s vital that ministers’ wives receive support and care from this denomination because I believe they are critical in our desire to advance the Gospel.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Carol Pipes is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)
6/21/2011 9:23:00 AM by Carol Pipes, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Dever, Patterson engage in wide-ranging discussion

June 21 2011 by Gregory Tomlin, Baptist Press

PHOENIX – Calling themselves “men of yesterday” in the Southern Baptist Convention, 9Marks founder Mark Dever and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson told younger pastors June 13 they should heed the wisdom of previous generations that upheld biblical authority and sound doctrine.

Speaking at a “9Marks at 9” gathering following the annual SBC Pastors’ Conference, Dever said: “I didn’t invent these things. These are the things our grandparents said. They are good things to keep saying.” The 9Marks group examines and promotes regenerate church membership, scriptural authority and elder-led church polity.

Patterson, who disagrees with Dever on the issue of church elders and Reformed theology (also known as “Calvinism”), said he had been on the earth long enough to “learn something about the ebb and flow of the Christian faith.”

“Every generation will be faced with a very significant decision and you are going to experience great sorrow because of it,” Patterson said. He told of how he learned this lesson from the Downgrade Controversy in England and Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s role in leading the Baptist churches of England to a firm, scriptural footing.

That controversy in 1887 centered on the authority and reliability of the Bible, which at the time was under attack from German theologians who applied an evolutionary framework to biblical studies.

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” Patterson said, recalling the Conservative Resurgence among Southern Baptists, during which the convention reclaimed its own heritage of biblical conservatism in the 1980s and ‘90s.

Decline before resurgence

Dever asked Patterson about the difference between legitimate vigilance and paranoia that sees theological enemies at every hand.

“Paranoia is a condition that exists when you are thinking about you and your pastorate,” Patterson said. Vigilance, he said, is when people think constantly about protecting the Kingdom and ensuring the Christian faith is passed from generation to generation.

“A denomination is nothing more than a reflection of what is going on in the churches,” Patterson said, noting churches have to hold and teach sound doctrine.

Dever asked Patterson to diagnose how the Southern Baptist Convention had declined in the 1940s and 1950s, indicating he believed a lack of expositional preaching caused the decline. Patterson agreed.

“There was not a lot of expositional preaching in the 1950s. In fact, W.A. Criswell experienced a fair amount of ridicule for his expositional preaching,” Patterson said. “Even though people found the Lord under topical preaching, churches became weaker and weaker in terms of knowing the content of Scripture and what the Christian faith was about.”

Patterson said this decline in doctrinal knowledge lead to “anemia” in the churches, which in turn led to a lack of discipline. Churches once published the number of instances of church discipline, but after some churches abused the process of discipline, the practice fell out of favor, he added.

“There is something to the separated, sanctified life for Christ,” Patterson said, adding that churches still need to invoke discipline when necessary. Patterson said he believes the best form of discipline is “withholding the table” from those disciplined prohibiting them from partaking of the Lord’s Supper with the remainder of the congregation.

Church membership and leadership

Dever said he thought church discipline is a less likely course of action if church members are truly regenerate. He asked Patterson if Southern Baptists had experienced problems in the past because they had not ensured those they baptized were actually born-again believers.

That was true then, Patterson said, but there are problems in modern churches as well. He noted the early church “did not baptize carelessly,” though they sometimes did baptize quickly. “I think we have done this sometimes carelessly.”

Patterson also said many churches could have almost been considered guilty of infant baptism, baptizing children as young as age 4. Many of these children grow up and leave the church or cannot remember their conversions, he said, emphasizing that churches must be sure that those who are baptized are regenerate.

“A lackadaisical policy toward baptism is a problem,” Patterson said. Without regenerate members, churches will likely have difficulty governing themselves.

That assertion prompted Dever to ask Patterson about a June 9 blog post in which James MacDonald, pastor of a non-denominational church and a voice in the Acts 29 church network, said congregational church government is not biblical. In fact, McDonald, who promotes an elder-led model, claims pastors are “crushed” as the result of democratic voting and goes on to call congregational church government “satanic.”

Dever asked Patterson if congregational government is, indeed, “satanic.” Patterson replied that this critique grows “out of a doctrine that has been abused in recent years –the priesthood of the believer.” Patterson said each believer is a priest, with the Holy Spirit indwelling the “temple” of his or her body. He noted the word used for “temple” by Paul was not a reference to the entire temple complex, but to the “Holy of Holies.” Believers must see themselves as part of the body, and not the whole or, worse, as individuals. And they must also submit themselves to the leadership of a shepherding pastor.

“Congregationalism of a sort, then,” based on a proper understanding of the priesthood of the believer, “is right theologically and it is the way God moves the people in a certain direction,” Patterson said. If the pastor is doing his job of listening to the Lord correctly, this movement should be in the direction the pastor desires based on his leading from the Lord,” he added.

Patterson said the pastor as a shepherd should be a “decisive leader.” He is a servant but “rules” over his flock. “A shepherd doesn’t counsel with the sheep, asking, ‘Where would you guys like to graze today?’”

This, however, does not mean a pastor should be a chief executive officer (CEO), Patterson said. “The first responsibility a congregation has is to call a pastor,” he said. “Once they call the pastor, they need to follow the pastor.”

During his years as pastor, Patterson said he preferred not to have regular business meetings, which lead to “exercises in carnality” and “regular fights.”

Great Commission Resurgence

Dever asked Patterson if the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) was part of, or a continuation of, the Conservative Resurgence. Patterson said he personally was not involved in the GCR and that he was not consulted on the plans or the report.

“They wanted to see the Great Commission put back in the lead position of what we do in Southern Baptist life,” he said. Dever asked Patterson if he was pleased with the fruit of the GCR.

“I can’t say I’m not pleased with it, but I can’t say that I am. I haven’t seen enough of it yet,” Patterson said.

Asked by a pastor in the audience about the future of the SBC as a “red-state denomination with red-state sensibilities in a blue-state world,” Patterson acknowledged that Southern Baptists had to change. He said the denomination must focus on urban areas, focus on universities and assume a New Testament mentality.

“We have to move Southern Baptists from being an agrarian, suburban denomination and move toward being an urban missionary force.”


Dever noted that Southern Baptists have been cooperating and should continue to cooperate on social issues and missions, but he asked Patterson to describe the positives and negatives of cooperation.

Cooperation is valuable, Patterson said, as long as it focuses on the proper subjects.

Southern Baptists need to realize the SBC doesn’t constitute the entirety of the work of God on earth, Patterson said. Other Christians are sharing the Gospel and though they may disagree on minor points, those who believe the Bible believe in preaching Christ. This should be supported he said, just as the Anabaptists thanked God for Martin Luther but thought him “inconsistent” on a number of points. Christians can unite in evangelism, such as when Southern Baptists have participated in Billy Graham crusades, he said.

“However, when it comes to church planting, I’m going to plant Baptist churches,” Patterson said. Baptist churches are the closest to New Testament churches, he said, and Baptists have always been a “people of the Book,” “hot-hearted with compassion for people,” and a people of evangelism.

Patterson said Southern Baptists must be aware, however, that “a careless sort of ecumenism is slipping in.” Baptist doctrine cannot be softened to appease, or changed for the sake of unity.

“Don’t I epitomize that?” Dever asked.

“No, you don’t,” Patterson said. “You have not taken Baptist out of the title of your church, you practice only believer’s baptism and you are a believer’s church.”

Understanding he is able to better educate seminary students by exposing them to various points of view, Patterson said he has invited people of different denominations to speak at Southwestern. “We have to recognize that God is doing some great things among people who are not Baptists,” he said.


Many who came to the 9Marks meeting likely expected the discussion of the Reformed influence of the movement to be a serious topic for discussion. In reality, little time was devoted to it and none of the questions from the audience addressed Calvinism.

“You Calvinists scare me,” Patterson said, adding that he can always “put up with” people who hold different theological opinions, as long as they are evangelistic. Dever said likewise he was frightened when people claimed to be Calvinists but refused to evangelize.

Dever asked Patterson if he believed in the total depravity of man, the first point of Reformed theology. “If I can define it, I do,” Patterson replied.

Dever followed with a similar question about unconditional election. Again, Patterson answered that he did believe the teaching “if I can define it.”

“If you mean by unconditional election that God arbitrarily decided in eternity past to create some people to save and some people to condemn, no,” Patterson said, drawing a loud “amen” from one pastor in attendance. “See, at least one brother here agrees with me.”

Dever told the audience that Patterson indirectly “helped start” the 9Marks movement. While Dever was at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, he wanted to print a pamphlet at the seminary extolling the marks of true Baptist churches. Patterson, then president of the North Carolina seminary, at first refused because the pamphlet promoted the use of elders. Dever eventually convinced Patterson to write a letter commending the pamphlet but stating his disagreement with the use of elders.

Dever is senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and chairman of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary board of trustees.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gregory Tomlin is a writer based in Dallas.)
6/21/2011 9:12:00 AM by Gregory Tomlin, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

All Southern Baptist eyes on Luter

June 21 2011 by Bruce Nolan, Religion News Service

NEW ORLEANS — Even before the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) elected Fred Luter to national office, there was already widespread speculation that Luter is poised to become the denomination’s first African-American president.

Representatives of 16 million Southern Baptists overwhelmingly elected Luter first vice president on June 14 at their annual meeting in Phoenix.

By the time Baptists gather again next summer in Luter’s backyard, many expect the pastor of this city’s 5,000-member Franklin Avenue Baptist Church — one of the largest Southern Baptist churches in the state — to clinch the top post.

“Many of us are thinking this is the first step toward him being elected president next year,” said Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, who nominated Luter for the vice presidency.

“I haven’t talked to a person who hasn’t affirmed that, including the present president, Bryant Wright, the past president, Frank Page” and others, Akin said. “There’s tremendous interest and excitement about that.”

Luter’s election comes at a moment that the nation’s largest Protestant denomination confronts evidence that it has plateaued in numbers — even declined slightly.

Moreover, some leaders of the predominantly white, socially conservative church say they are concerned that their ranks — and especially their leaders — do not look like the nation as a whole.

In recent decades, the convention has passed 11 resolutions seeking “greater ethnic participation,” including a 1995 resolution apologizing for its past defense of slavery, but church leaders deemed that insufficient.

“There’s a sense that we’re behind the curve in the SBC, that we’re not really representative of our constituency at the level of leadership. That we need to be moving forward with more diversity,” said David Crosby of First Baptist Church in New Orleans.

Convention delegates, or “messengers,” approved a plan in Phoenix to vigorously reach out to minorities to incorporate them in meaningful leadership positions.

“We’re becoming more aware of the fact we should strive to make church on earth look like church in heaven,” Akin said in an interview.

Luter’s allies portray him as the right man for the job next year, regardless of the denomination’s explicit desire to incorporate more people of color into its leadership ranks.

“I think Fred can be elected on merit, regardless of race or color,” Akin said. “But he gives us opportunity to make a proactive statement, to say something about who we want to be.” Luter, a gifted preacher, has traveled widely in Southern Baptist circles for almost 20 years and built a solid reputation all across the convention, Crosby said.

In 2001, the last time Southern Baptists convened in New Orleans, he was given a plum preaching slot and delivered a tour-de-force sermon that roused 10,000 messengers to their feet.

Luter took over the Franklin Avenue pulpit in 1986. Formerly a white church whose congregation had left for the suburbs, it had only about 60 members and was near death. At the time, Luter was a commodities clerk, not even formally ordained. His preaching experience was in borrowed churches and street corners, including his native Lower 9th Ward. Luter was ordained and installed as pastor on the same day, he said.

The congregation grew. And although it became predominantly black, like its changing neighborhood, it kept its Southern Baptist affiliation.

Franklin Avenue numbered about 7,000 members just before Hurricane Katrina destroyed it in 2005.

In the following months, evangelical pastors around the state sent money and volunteers to help Franklin Avenue get back on its feet. It currently claims about 4,900 members, according to the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

“He’s known not only as a great preacher, but an effective pastor. He’s worked hard and people love him. He’s a model for pastors all over the convention,” Crosby said. Meantime, Luter said he is overwhelmed by the sudden attention.

Although a movement to draft him for the presidency has quietly circulated for months, he said he was approached about the vice presidency only in the past two weeks.

With the elevation to that office, he said, people are congratulating him as if the presidency were a foregone conclusion. “My head’s spinning,” he said.

“I haven’t decided what to do, but every step I take people are telling me, ‘It’s your time,”’ particularly with next year’s meeting scheduled for New Orleans, Luter said.

His congregation is in the midst of a major capital campaign to build a new church in eastern New Orleans. He said he would decide whether to seek the presidency after consulting with his church and other leaders.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Nolan writes for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. Adelle M. Banks contributed to this report.)
6/21/2011 8:51:00 AM by Bruce Nolan, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Tweets see Luter as SBC pres.

June 21 2011 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The next Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting is a year away, but several leaders already are suggesting that Fred Luter be the next SBC president. New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin and Union University President David Dockery all have used their Twitter accounts to endorse the idea, as has Russell D. Moore, dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

After Akin announced June 7 he would nominate Luter as SBC first vice president at the annual meeting in Phoenix, Moore wrote in a Tweet, “And we should elect him pres. next year in New Orleans.” The next day, Akin wrote on his Twitter account, “Praying & believing it could lead 2 more next year. Time is right!”

After Luter was elected first vice president, Dockery sent out a Tweet saying, “Good day for SBC: 1st VP Fred Luter. Hope he will be elected president next year in New Orleans!” Akin re-Tweeted Dockery’s entry and added, “Amen!” That same day, Kelley wrote on his Twitter account, “Excited Fred Luter elected First Vice President. Next year in New Orleans we need to elect him president of SBC!”

Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, is the first African American elected as first vice president of the SBC. The convention has never had an African American president.

Time magazine asked Luter about the buzz over a possible nomination. He said his wife and his church would have to be on board.

“And of course God’s lead,” he said. “I’ve told people I’m going to enjoy this year working with Dr. (Bryant) Wright, he’s a phenomenal president. I have no agenda other than that, and one thing I have never done is politic for a position.” Wright is the current SBC president.
6/21/2011 8:48:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SBC’s Committee on Nominations named

June 21 2011 by Baptist Press

PHOENIX — Seventy Southern Baptists from 35 state Baptist conventions have been named to serve on the 2011-12 SBC Committee on Nominations.

The Committee on Nominations will nominate people to serve on the SBC’s boards, commissions and committees. They will present their report to the 2012 SBC annual meeting in New Orleans.

The committee, announced during the June 14-15 SBC annual meeting in Phoenix, is made up of two people from each state convention, with at least one layperson.

An asterisk denotes the committee member is a layperson. All others are church vocational workers.

Jack Fallaw, a layperson at First Baptist Church in Charlotte, Chad Hood, associate pastor of Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Raleigh, will be the North Carolina representatives. Other states:

ALABAMA — *Ed Lawley, The Baptist Church at McAdory, McCalla; Michael G. HolcombIron, City Baptist Anniston.

ALASKA — *Kenneth Ishmael, First Baptist, Palmer; Edward C. Gregory, First Baptist, Anchorage.

ARIZONA — *Gloria Stakemiller, North Phoenix Baptist, Phoenix; *Kay Harms, First Baptistm Sierra Vista.

ARKANSAS — *Grant Rackley, First Baptist, Van Buren; Jeff Crawford, Grand Avenue Baptist, Fort Smith.

CALIFORNIA — *David Rutledge, Trinity Baptist, Livermore; Dale Garland, Hemet Valley Baptist, Hemet.

COLORADO — *Charles Green, Monument Baptist, Grand Junction; David A. Tomme, First Southern Baptist, Colorado Springs.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA — *Papu Sandhu, Capitol Hill Baptist, Washington, D.C.; *Paul Miller, Capitol Hill Baptist, Washington, D.C.

FLORIDA — *Larry Carr, Idlewild Baptist, Lutz; Craig Conner, First Baptist, Panama City.

GEORGIA — *Randall Steele, Oakwood Baptist, Chickamauga; Ben Smith, First Baptist, Adel.

HAWAII — *Steven Knight, Lahaina Baptist, Lahaina; *Donald Sprinkle, Lahaina Baptist, Lahaina.

ILLINOIS — *Mark Shipley, Roland Manor Baptist, Washington; Adron Robinson, Hillcrest Baptist, Country Club Hills.

INDIANA — *Dave Leffler, Harrison Hills Baptist, Lanesville; Roger Kinion, Calvary Baptist, Greenfield.

KANSAS/NEBRASKA — *Tom Madison, Immanuel Baptist, Wichita, Kan.; Mike Bronson, West Haven Baptist, Tonganoxie, Kan.

KENTUCKY — *J. Dudley Reaves, Bethlehem Baptist, Louisville; James Hill, Salem Baptist, Shelbyville.

LOUISIANA — *Robert H. Gatti Jr., First Baptist, Bossier City; Waylon Bailey, chair, First Baptist, Covington.

MARYLAND/DELAWARE — *Gregory Keith Corrick, Leonardtown Baptist, Leonardtown, Md.; Steve Fehrman, Southern Calvert Baptist, Lusby, Md.

MICHIGAN — *Karen Villapando, Memorial Baptist, Sterling Heights; Ron Emmerling, Westside Baptist, Flushing.

MISSISSIPPI — *Scotty Swillie, First Baptist, Vicksburg; Allen Simpson, First Baptist, Amory.

MISSOURI — *Marcy R. Carter, Covenant Baptist, Mt. Vernon; Derek A. Grigg, First Baptist, Nixa.

NEVADA — Ron Klass, College Park Baptist, Las Vegas; Tim Patton, South Reno Baptist, Reno.

NEW ENGLAND — *Ken Smith, Southcoast Community, Scarborough, Maine; David Saylor, First Baptist, Manchester, Ct.

NEW MEXICO — *Phil Downs, First Baptist, Roswell; Hilcias Barrios Iglesia Bautista Bethania Central, Albuquerque.

NEW YORK — *Peter John Garner, Northside Baptist, Liverpool; Paul M. Flores, Nazareth Baptist, West New York, N.J.

NORTHWEST — Cindy Schenewerk, Community Baptist, Winston, Ore.; Timothy D. Palmer, Tammany View Baptist, Lewiston, Idaho.

OHIO — *Sharline Sisk, North Fairfield Baptist, Hamilton; Johnathan Newman, Koinos Christian Fellowship, Troy.

OKLAHOMA — *Pat Hutchens, Eastwood Baptist, Tulsa; Russell Cook, Immanuel Baptist, Shawnee.

PENNSYLVANIA/SOUTH JERSEY — *Murray Mullins, The Journey, West Chester, Pa.; Brian Harrison, Eastshore Baptist, Harrisburg, Pa.

SOUTH CAROLINA — *Ruth McWhite, Locust Hill Baptist, Travelers Rest; *Cora B. Adams, Kilbourne Park Baptist, Columbia.

TENNESSEE — *Glenn K. Turner, First Baptist, Sevierville; Tommy Vinson, First Baptist, Collierville. TEXAS — *Carol Lewis, Houston’s First Baptist, Houston; Larry J. Sanders, Keller Springs Baptist, Carrollton.

UTAH/IDAHO — *John Gregory Morgan, Calvary Baptist, Boise, Idaho; Dan Walker, Canyons Church, Salt Lake City, Utah.

VIRGINIA — *George William Stephens, Colonial Heights Baptist, Colonial Heights; Donald R. Cockes, River Oak, Chesapeake.

WEST VIRGINIA — *Bob Boyles, Good Shepherd Baptist, Scott Depot; James H. Messenger, Faith Baptist, West Union.

WYOMING — *Ron Alexander, Boyd Avenue Baptist, Casper; Clay Alexander, Big Horn Baptist Church, Buffalo.
6/21/2011 8:45:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

In China, gov’t-run church applies pressure

June 21 2011 by John Evans, Baptist Press

BEIJING — Members of a persecuted church in China are under pressure from an unexpected source: self-proclaimed Christians.

Shouwang Church, a large, illegal house church in Beijing, is enduring its 11th week of government persecution over its repeated attempts to hold outdoor worship services in a public square. The government pressured the church out of its rented building earlier this year.

On Sunday, June 12, Chinese authorities rounded up 14 church members attempting to meet and brought them to police stations for questioning. But this interrogation, and that of the previous Sunday, brought a disturbing new twist, according to the religious freedom monitoring organization ChinaAid. In addition to police and government interrogators, the Shouwang Church members faced representatives of China’s government-approved church, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement.

“(I)n the past two Sundays, Three-Self church personnel showed up at many police stations to persuade, ‘educate’ and even rebuke the imprisoned brothers and sisters in an attempt to get them to leave Shouwang Church and join one of the Three-Self churches or to ask us to unconditionally abandon our outdoor worship,” said a Shouwang Church announcement posted by ChinaAid.

ChinaAid also quoted a Shouwang Church member who wrote that interrogators even tried to raise theological issues by discussing whether the church’s actions were biblical. “This surprised me greatly,” the Shouwang member wrote. “Perhaps this will be their approach from now on.”

In China, only churches officially registered as part of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement are considered legal. But registration places churches under the yoke of government regulations that restrict things like evangelism, Sunday School and baptizing teens and children.

Furthermore, says ChinaAid founder and president Bob Fu, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement is run by government-appointed leaders, many of whom are Communist Party members.

“(It) is nothing but a political organization with a religious uniform,” Fu said.

Shouwang Church has suffered for defying the government’s demands. Members attempting to gather for outdoor worship have been arrested for nine straight weeks: 160 the first week, about 50 the second week, approximately 40 the third week, about 30 the fourth week, 13 the fifth week, 20 the sixth week, 25 the seventh week, at least 20 the eighth week, and 14 the ninth week. It is not yet known how many were arrested Sunday, June 19. Most of the church’s 1,000 members are now under weekend house arrest, and all of its leaders have been confined to their homes for weeks. Some members have even lost their jobs or been evicted from their homes due to government pressure on employers and landlords.

“Even though we get tired, our God is a God who ‘neither sleeps nor slumbers’ and ‘gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak,’” the church said. “In this race, may we not look at our weakness and fatigue but rather keep our eyes always on the Lord Jesus Christ who is the author and finisher of our faith, believing that whatever perfect work He has begun will, at his appointed time, surely bear fruit.”

Shouwang Church says that, no matter what persecution it faces, it will only exalt Jesus as Lord.

“A half-century ago, these attempts came to nothing with those of the older generation who chose imprisonment rather than give up their principles; we believe that today these attempts will also come to nothing with our generation of Christian believers.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Evans is a freelance writer.)
6/21/2011 8:43:00 AM by John Evans, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Hispanics celebrate Crossover’s results

June 21 2011 by David Raúl Lema Jr., Baptist Press

PHOENIX – Hispanics celebrated the 524 professions of faith from the Crossover 2011 evangelistic outreach during a June 12 gathering at Central High School in Phoenix.

The event, sponsored by the North American Mission Board, drew about 600 Hispanics, mostly from the local area but also from other states.

Steve Bass, NAMB’s newly appointed West Region vice president and former Arizona Southern Baptist Convention state missionary, addressed the gathering, held in conjunction with the 2011 SBC annual meeting in Phoenix.

“My dream and desire,” Bass said, “would be that Southern Baptists should catch a passion to support Hispanic work ... that we put our best in Hispanic work” – for example, Hispanic churches achieving the type of growth to build their own facilities rather than using “hand-me down” buildings donated by Anglo congregations.

Jimmy Madrid, president of the Compañerismo Central Iglesias Bautistas (CCIB/Central Fellowship of Baptist Churches) presented a plaque to Bass, lauding him as “someone that not only loves God, not only loves God’s work, but he also loves Hispanics.” Madrid, speaking on behalf of local pastors, said he is glad Bass will be NAMB’s vice president for the West but lamented the fact Bass will be missed by Arizona’s Hispanics.

Photo by John Swain.

Sixteen Hispanic Churches in Arizona that held evangelistic outreaches and block parties during Crossover 2011 ended the week June 12 with an annual Hispanic Celebration with worship at Phoenix, Ariz.’s Central High School. The celebration preceded the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting June 14-15 at the Phoenix Convention Center.

Bass chose Acts 14:21-23 as the biblical foundation for his message, challenging the Hispanic audience not to stop at this historic point to celebrate SBC initiatives toward expanding ethnic involvement, but rather “it is now time to finish this job.”

Just like the Apostle Paul on his first missionary journey, Bass noted that the goal for believers today is to “evangelize and disciple, and then you organize.” He pointed out that “we hear a lot today … about church planting and planting new churches and I think sometimes we get the order reversed.”

“Sometimes we will go out and get a leader, and then we will find a piece of property and look for a building, and we will look for a leadership team. And then we expect them to go out and make contacts and bring people in to their church,” Bass explained.

“But if you look at this passage, Paul did it just the reverse of that,” Bass noted of this instance in Scripture. “Paul got a burden for a city first and went in and evangelized first. And then he went back and returned to disciple them. There is no building, there is no professional clergy and there is no pulpit, not yet. Only the Gospel and maturing believers, and then what he does is that he starts organizing the leaders to form the new church.”

Church growth is “not a matter of money, but a matter of evangelism and discipleship,” Bass said. He concluded by emphasizing that “a missionary evangelizes, disciples and organizes in order to evangelize, and disciple, and organize.”

Fernando Amaro, the Arizona convention’s Hispanic ministry facilitator, was happy with the week of Crossover 2011 activities involving both local Hispanic Baptists and volunteers who came from as far as Florida to help. Amaro credited God for the success, “whose presence was evident from the beginning of this work.”

“God forced me to understand that prayer was absolutely indispensable,” Amaro said. The pastors met for prayer and, without any vote, four leaders were chosen for the Crossover outreach among Hispanics: Jose Moreno, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Emanuel, as coordinator of Operation Andrew; Enrique Borja, pastor of Tempe Christian Church, as prayer coordinator; Marcos Gonzalez, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Fuente de Vida, as volunteer coordinator; and Heriberto Osobampo, pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana, as evangelism and materials coordinator.

Amaro joyfully reported the results of the months of preparation, evangelization and community awareness and service events. Fourteen of 23 local Hispanic churches participated; 15 local block parties were held; 1,947 people filled out contact cards at the fiestas; 524 professions of faith were reported; 67 requests were made to be contacted by a church; and 50 decisions for rededication were made.

The event closed with a challenge from Joshua del Risco, NAMB Hispanic evangelism coordinator, who urged participants to continue the evangelistic fiesta in New Orleans at the 2012 SBC annual meeting. He prayed God would “mobilize the people in New Orleans just like it happened in Phoenix: in prayer, in unity and in evangelistic fervor and success.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Raúl Lema Jr. is a Baptist Press correspondent based in Miami.)
6/21/2011 8:14:00 AM by David Raúl Lema Jr., Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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