June 2011

Wright re-elected SBC president

June 15 2011 by Barbara Denman, Baptist Press

PHOENIX — Atlanta-area pastor Bryant Wright was elected to a second term as president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), defeating California pastor Wiley Drake by a vote of 2,274-102 June 14 at the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix.

Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, was nominated to a second term by David Platt, senior pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala. Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif., nominated himself.

Of the 2,384 votes cast, Wright received 95.39 percent; Drake received 4.26 percent. In nominating the SBC president for a second term, Platt said Wright “possesses a deep passion for Christ and a deep love for the local church and a deep respect for this convention of churches that he’s a part of.”

During the past year as SBC president, Platt said Wright “has graciously and faithfully served Southern Baptist churches, encouraging us to work alongside one another in the advancement of Kingdom of Christ and the accomplishment of the Great Commission.”

Platt recounted he had traveled with Wright to the Middle East two weeks earlier and saw him “come beside pastors and (International Mission Board) missionaries, caring for them, praying for them, weeping with them, standing beside them.”

“Amidst all of our talk about the Great Commission, this is a brother who is doing it. He pastors a church full of people who are passionate about spreading the Gospel both locally and globally. This is not an ‘either or’ for them. This is a ‘both and.’ The people of Johnson Ferry are active in sharing Christ all across Atlanta, baptizing hundreds of new believers this last year, ministering to urgent spiritual and physical need all across their community.

And then they are directly involved in ministries to more than 30 different countries around the world.”

As SBC president, Platt said Wright has “modeled Kingdom-minded, Christ-exalting servant leadership on behalf of Southern Baptist churches.”

In 2010, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church reported primary worship attendance of 4,133; 310 baptisms; undesignated receipts of $15,636,281; Cooperative Program contributions of $547,270; a Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions gift of $686,298; an Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions gift of $22,979; and $3,009,383 in total missions expenditures.

While the Annual Church Profile report showed slightly different numbers in certain categories, the difference may be due to the fact that Johnson Ferry reports its Annual Church Profile (ACP) information based on a Sept. 1-Aug. 31 church year, while the Georgia Baptist Convention and LifeWay reports use a Jan. 1-Dec. 31 year.

Wright has served as pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church since December 1981, when it was a mission with 20 families. Now the congregation encompasses 8,000 members and seven Sunday morning worship services with a weekly attendance of more than 4,133.

Wright has led Johnson Ferry to plant and co-sponsor 13 new churches — seven in the metro Atlanta area and six in various areas throughout the U.S. The congregation sent 1,600 members on short-term mission trips in 2010.

Wright holds a master of divinity degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and a bachelor of arts in English from the University of South Carolina in Columbia. After graduating from college, he worked for Puritan Chemical Company in Augusta., Ga., for two and a half years before enrolling in seminary.

After seminary, Wright was minister to single adults/college at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, before going to Johnson Ferry.

He and his wife Anne have three children and three grandchildren.

In nominating himself, Drake offered no additional words, succinctly placing his own name into the contest.

From 2006-07, he served as second vice president of the SBC, elected in Greensboro.

His self-nomination is not unique in SBC history. A number of years ago, Alabama evangelist Anis Shorrosh also placed his own name in nomination for SBC president.

In 2010, First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park reported via the ACP primary worship attendance of 45; 97 baptisms; no undesignated receipts; Cooperative Program contributions of $500; no gifts for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions; no gifts for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions; and $1,250 in total missions expenditures.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.)  
6/15/2011 4:34:00 AM by Barbara Denman, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Messengers approve 7 EC recommendations

June 15 2011 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

PHOENIX — Seven recommendations from the SBC Executive Committee were approved by messengers during the opening session of the SBC annual meeting June 14. Four recommendations related to the “Great Commission Resurgence” report adopted at the 2010 annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.:
  • Providing additional funding for international missions by reducing the Executive Committee’s share of Cooperative Program funding and proportionately increasing International Mission Board funding. The proposal adopted by messengers calls for reducing the Executive Committee budget share from 3.4 percent to 3.2 percent in 2011-12, with a goal of over time reducing it to 2.4 percent.
  • Adding a new Annual Church Profile reporting category called “Great Commission Giving” to highlight each church’s financial commitment to Southern Baptist mission enterprises. The recommendation also reaffirmed the Cooperative Program as “the most effective means” of missions outreach and asked churches to increase their Cooperative Program contributions by 2.5 percent of undesignated receipts by the end of the 2013 calendar year.
  • Amending the International Mission Board ministry assignment to allow the organization to “provide specialized, defined and agreed upon assistance to the North American Mission Board in assisting churches to reach unreached and underserved people groups within the United States and Canada.” The current ministry assignment focuses IMB work outside the U.S. and Canada.
  • Rewriting the North American Mission Board’s mission statement and ministry assignment. The new mission statement refocuses NAMB on partnership with churches, associations and state conventions in “mobilizing Southern Baptist as a missional force” in North America. The new ministry assignment consolidates nine points to six and rearranges its priorities. Where appointing missionaries was the first assignment, planting churches now heads the list. A previous ministry assignment on “Christian social ministries” has been merged into an assignment to assist churches “in the ministries of evangelism and making disciples.” The assignments of “communicating the Gospel ... through communication technologies” and “strengthening ... and providing services to associations” have been eliminated.
Two recommendations related to the 2011-12 budget:
  • Adopting a $186 million 2011-12 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget that increases the International Mission Board’s percentage of budget receipts from 50 percent to 50.2 percent and decreases the Executive Committee’s percentage proportionately to 3.2 percent.
  • Adopting a $7.47 million 2011-12 SBC Operating Budget that allocates $2.2 million to administration expenses and $5.26 million to operations expenses. The budget represents a reduction of more than $1.2 million over 2010-11.
The final recommendation was a response to motion made during the 2009 annual meeting, directing the Executive Committee to study greater involvement in the convention by ethnic churches and leaders. The proposal offered 10 specific points “designed to foster conscious awareness of the need to be proactive and intentional in the inclusion of individuals from all ethnic and racial identities within Southern Baptist life.”

The points included encouragements to make committee appointments and select program personalities that represent the diversity within the convention, “particularly ethnic diversity.” A failed attempt to amend the recommendation, brought by Channing Kilgore of South Whitwell Baptist Church in Whitwell, Tenn., would have replaced ethnicity with “Gospel minded” as the criterion for selecting committee appointees.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Kelly is senior writer and assistant editor for Baptist Press.)  
6/15/2011 4:31:00 AM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pastor jailed in Haiti honored at SBC

June 15 2011 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

PHOENIX — Two Southern Baptists who exemplify dedication and sacrifice were honored during the afternoon session of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting June 14.

Paul Thompson, pastor of Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho, was among 10 Baptists arrested in Haiti on Jan. 30, 2010, for allegedly not having proper documentation to take orphans to the neighboring Dominican Republic, a charge later dropped by Haitian authorities.

Photo by Katey Wright

Paul Thompson, an Idaho pastor and one of the 10 Baptists held in a Haiti jail in 2010, received a standing ovation during the Executive Committee report June 14 during the first day of the two-day Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting. Thompson was introduced by EC President Frank Page. Thompson thanked Southern Baptists for their prayers.

SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page praised Thompson as “a Cooperative Program supporting pastor” who “believes in doing missions, giving to missions, and praying for missions.”

Page called Thompson, a bivocational pastor who drives a school bus to support his family, to the platform and the audience gave him a sustained round of applause. He thanked the crowd and stated: “I have never been so proud to be a Southern Baptist as I was in the 19 days in a lonely but yet God-filled prison cell in Haiti. I bless the Lord for Southern Baptists and for ... our cooperative work together. May the name of our Lord be greatly glorified on all the earth.”

Page also called Ken Hemphill, the former national strategist for Southern Baptists’ Empowering Kingdom Growth (EKG) initiative, and read a resolution of appreciation adopted the previous day by the Executive Committee. The resolution praised Hemphill for his “outstanding and exemplary leadership” of EKG and “unflagging devotion to, and exemplary sacrifice in, advancing God’s Kingdom for His glory.”

Hemphill served Southern Baptists at the national level for 19 years, first as leader of the Center for Church Growth at the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board), then as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas before taking on the EKG role with the Executive Committee. After a warm ovation from the audience, Hemphill said, in an emotion-filled voice, it had been “a singular privilege ... to serve our Southern Baptist Convention.”

Page also introduced a brief video in which Jon Akin, pastor of Fairview Church in Lebanon, Tenn., explained why he is passionate about Southern Baptist cooperative missions. “Everything has issues. There are things that need to be dealt with and improved,” said Akin, who also is a leader in the Baptist21 mission initiative. “The reason I love the Cooperative Program is that it allows us to do church planting, theological education and international missions better than anyone else on the planet.... It allows us to do so many things — and to do them well and to do them together — better than anybody else.”

Messengers also approved three Executive Committee recommendations about future meetings dates and locations for the annual meeting: St. Louis, June 14-15, 2016; Phoenix, June 13-14, 2017; and Dallas, June 12-13, 2018.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Kelly is senior writer and assistant editor for Baptist Press.)   
6/15/2011 4:27:00 AM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Wright urges adoption of 3,800 unengaged peoples

June 15 2011 by J. Gerald Harris, Baptist Press

PHOENIX — The starting point for Southern Baptists is not the Great Commission, but “falling in love with Jesus once again,” Bryant Wright told messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting June 14.

Wright, president of the SBC and pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., likened Southern Baptists to the New Testament church of Ephesus that Jesus rebuked for having abandoned its first love.

Taking his text from Revelation 2:1-7, Wright noted that Christ began his message to the Ephesian church with words of commendation — and Wright acknowledged that Southern Baptists are doing thousands of good things at home and around the world.

“Ephesus had existed for 40 years and endured hardship in the midst of a pagan culture,” Wright said. “The Southern Baptist Convention, formed in 1845 in Augusta, Ga., has survived a civil war, two world wars, the Great Depression, the recent years of economic recession and years of abundance and great prosperity. In the past 50 years our convention has persevered in the midst of the most rapid moral and social change in the history of the American culture.”

Like the church at Ephesus, Southern Baptists have resisted and exposed false doctrine, Wright said. “Unlike other mainline denominations that have chosen to take one pro-sin position after another, Southern Baptists have stood unapologetically upon the Word of God,” he declared.

Wright continued: “Southern Baptists years ago decided that we must be faithful to the perfectly true written Word of God. In our seminaries, it is unbelievable what has happened in the last 30 years. Seeing the sound doctrine and the passion for Christ, for missions and church planting among our faculty and students, is an absolute miracle.”

After Christ affirmed the church at Ephesus, Wright noted, He offered a word of rebuke because the church had lost its first love.

“We leave our first love when other priorities begin to be bigger priorities in our lives than our relationship with Jesus,” Wright said. “I believe the No. 1 idol within the lives of our people and in the lives of our churches is materialism.

Photo by Matt Miller

Bryant Wright, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, gives a president’s address during the first session of the two-day Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting June 14-15 at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Ariz.

“Studies have shown that less than 2.5 percent of every dollar is given by evangelical Christians in America today (to missions causes). What it clearly says to us is that no matter how much our people profess that they love Jesus, they love their money more,” Wright said. “There is no way that when a person is continuing to steal from God, they can claim they love Jesus Christ.”

America’s hedonistic culture influences today’s church, and pornography is sapping the spiritual life from men in congregations, Wright asserted.

“There is also an incredible lust for the latest, up-to-date technology,” the Georgia pastor said. “To stay connected through the latest social network technology becomes the dominant focus of the lives of many people.

“We can even let good things cause us to leave our first love — our families, our work, even our ministry,” Wright continued. “I believe the major temptation for anyone who serves in Christian ministry is to begin to confuse their ministry with their relationship to Jesus Christ. Not our family, our work or our ministry is to come before Jesus Christ.”

Wright pointed out that Christ told the church at Ephesus to do three things to reclaim their first love: remember, repent and then repeat what they did in their “honeymoon” days.

“When we begin to love the Lord, we will begin to love the lost,” Wright proclaimed. “The Southern Baptist Convention was founded on two key issues — one was good and one was bad,” Wright said. “We were founded in defense of slavery. We finally apologized, but it was 150 years late. The good thing was the spread of the gospel. The Great Commission is the reason we were formed as a convention of churches.”

Wright pointed out that the International Mission Board has identified 3,800 “unreached and unengaged” people groups that, as far as researchers know, have no church, no mission ministry, no witness for Christ. He challenged Southern Baptists to reclaim their first love by taking the gospel to those people groups.

“There is no reason why Southern Baptists cannot adopt every one of those 3,800 people groups,” Wright said. “Churches of all sizes can be a part of this effort. Churches can partner together to adopt some unreached and unengaged people group.”

Wright recalled a conversation with Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board, in which they discovered their hearts were in complete agreement about mobilizing churches to reach the remaining unreached and unengaged people groups.

“We have to make a decision. Our decision is to be a part of God’s Kingdom business or be on the sidelines,” Wright said. “With all of our resources and with all 45,000 churches, there is no reason why we cannot have a sufficient number of churches to step forward and embrace every one of the unengaged and unreached people groups.”

Wright reminded the audience that Christ warned the church at Ephesus their “lampstand would be removed” if they did not appropriately respond to the challenge placed before them. “If Southern Baptists do not respond to the challenge God has given us to reach the world, we risk having our lampstand removed,” Wright declared.

“We need to repent and get our priorities right,” Wright said. “Are we going to be on the front lines of ministry or are we going to be on the sidelines?

“God is going to find someone who is willing, and if we are not faithful to obey His Word, our lampstand will be removed. There is nothing sacred about the Southern Baptist Convention,” Wright said, “(if) the Southern Baptist Convention refuses to follow the will of God.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Harris is editor of The Christian Index, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.)
6/15/2011 4:21:00 AM by J. Gerald Harris, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Unity, cooperation pledge tops EC agenda

June 15 2011 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

PHOENIX — An affirmation of unity and cooperation among Southern Baptists and new ministry assignments for two Southern Baptist entities highlighted the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee’s agenda June 13 in Phoenix.

Pledging to “walk in unity as brothers and sisters in Christ,” Southern Baptist entity heads, state executives and ethnic fellowship leaders signed an “Affirmation of Unity and Cooperation” pledge during the meeting.

The document, to be highlighted during the Executive Committee’s June 14 report to the convention, includes five core “pledges” toward a spirit of unity. Executive Committee President Frank Page and Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright also signed it.

The document’s five core pledges are:
  • “We pledge to maintain a relationship of mutual trust, behaving ourselves trustworthily before one another and trusting one another as brothers and sisters indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God. (Ephesians 4:20-32; 2 Peter 1:3-8)
  • “We pledge to attribute the highest motives to those engaged in local church ministries and those engaged in denominational service in any level of Convention life — motives that originate within hearts truly desiring to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, whom we also serve. (1 Samuel 2:3; Matthew 7:1-5; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5.
  • “We pledge to affirm the value of cooperative ministry as the most effective and efficient means of reaching a lost world with the message of the Gospel. (Psalm 68:11; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Acts 9:31; 1 Corinthians 16:1-23)
  • “We pledge to embrace our brothers and sisters of every ethnicity, race, and language as equal partners in our collective ministries to engage all people groups with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 16:25-27; Revelation 7:9)
  • “We pledge to continue to honor and affirm proportional giving through the Cooperative Program as the most effective means of mobilizing our churches and extending our outreach as Southern Baptists, enabling us to work together to evangelize the lost people of our world locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8, 20:20-21; Romans 10:14-172 Corinthians 8:1-13; 9:1-15)”
Ministry assignments
The ministry assignment changes for the International and North American mission boards reflected “Great Commission Resurgence” recommendations adopted during the 2010 SBC annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

The International Mission Board (IMB) assignment, which will be brought before the annual meeting’s messengers June 14 for final approval, has been revised to allow the IMB to “provide specialized, defined and agreed upon assistance to the North American Mission Board in assisting churches to reach unreached and underserved people groups within the United States and Canada.” The current ministry assignment focuses IMB work outside the U.S. and Canada.

The North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) mission statement and ministry assignment, which also will be brought to the floor June 14, both have been completely rewritten. The original mission statement said the entity existed to proclaim the gospel, start churches, minister to people and assist churches. The new mission statement refocuses NAMB on partnership with churches, associations and state conventions in “mobilizing Southern Baptist as a missional force” in North America.

The proposed ministry assignment for NAMB consolidates nine points to six and rearranges its priorities. Where appointing missionaries was the first assignment, planting churches now heads the list. A previous ministry assignment on “Christian social ministries” has been merged into an assignment to assist churches “in the ministries of evangelism and making disciples.” The assignments of “communicating the gospel ... through communication technologies” and “strengthening ... and providing services to associations” have been eliminated.

The proposed new statement for the International Mission Board was adopted on a show of hands by Executive Committee members with two negative votes. The North American Mission Board statement was adopted on a voice vote with one opposing. The statements must be approved by messengers during the annual meeting before taking effect.

Other business
Executive Committee members also approved recommendations:
  • to make a loan of up to $23 million available to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for 252 new housing units in its Student Village.
  • transferring the national Empowering Kingdom Growth ministry initiative to North Greenville University in South Carolina.
  • expressing appreciation for Kenneth S. Hemphill, national strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth, for “outstanding and exemplary leadership” of EKG and “unflagging devotion to, and exemplary sacrifice in, advancing God’s Kingdom for His glory.”
  • to hold the 2017 annual meeting in Phoenix and the 2018 annual meeting in Dallas.
  • The Executive Committee also unanimously re-elected its current officers: Roger Spradlin of Bakersfield, Calif., chairman; Ernest Easley of Marietta, Ga., vice chairman; and Joe Wright of Dyersburg, Tenn., secretary.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Kelly is senior writer and assistant editor for Baptist Press. With reporting by Baptist Press associate editor Michael Foust.)  
6/15/2011 4:18:00 AM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

EC recommends changes for mission boards

June 14 2011 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

PHOENIX — The Executive Committee (EC) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) voted June 13 to recommend changes to working agreements that will allow the International Mission Board (IMB) to work directly with internationals living in the United States.

“I think what we see this allowing us to do is us — in conjunction with (the North American Mission Board), as NAMB works with state conventions and association and local churches — seeing places where there is need for additional training and additional expertise that IMB personnel who are in the states, usually on stateside assignment, would be able to be asked to go to a particular place to provide training, possibly to work alongside churches,” said Clyde Meador, executive vice president of the International Mission Board.

The motion, recommended by IMB trustees, would expand the agency’s ministry assignment beyond geographic borders to authorize “specialized, defined and agreed upon assistance to the North American Mission Board in assisting churches to reach unreached and underserved people groups within the United States and Canada.”

The change is designed to enhance cooperation between the convention’s international and North American mission boards. IMB personnel would lend expertise, for example, with a particular people group that lives both abroad and in the United States, while increasing communication between the two boards to prevent duplication of effort.

Meador, who served as interim president between Jerry Rankin’s retirement last year and the recent naming of Tom Elliff as his successor, said the IMB does not foresee assigning international missionaries in the United States.

“That is not what this is about, but what we do see is IMB personnel have certain cultural, and language and other expertise that may not be available otherwise, then this gives us a clear opportunity working in agreement and in communication with NAMB,” Meador said.

The proposal stems from a “Great Commission Resurgence” task force recommendation approved last year to entrust the IMB with “the ministry of reaching unreached and underserved people groups without regard to any geographic limitation.”

A separate recommendation by the EC would also change the ministry assignment of NAMB, consolidating nine ministry assignments into six.

NAMB leaders said some of the program areas were combined to give narrower focus, while one area, to “effectively use radio and television” is not needed because it is assumed the agency will use all forms of communication technology. That ministry assignment was given to NAMB when the former Radio and TV Commission was eliminated in a denominational restructuring in the 1990s.

NAMB sold its Family Net television network four years ago to Charles Stanley’s In Touch Ministries.
6/14/2011 4:36:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Crossover brings ‘Living Water’ to Arizona desert

June 14 2011 by Mickey Noah, Joe Conway & Tobin Perry, Baptist Press

PHOENIX – Even as scorching temperatures bumped 102 degrees in Arizona’s Urban Corridor, Southern Baptists mobilized in Crossover 2011 to bring the Living Water to people throughout the region’s parched deserts.

Some 5.2 million people live and work in the corridor, which stretches from the Phoenix metro area down to Case Grande and Tucson. Several hundred of those people are new believers in Christ following a week of community evangelism and Crossover’s Saturday events.

Phoenix was the 23rd year for Crossover, an evangelism event coordinated by the North American Mission Board, local associations and churches that precedes the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting. This marks the second time the annual meeting has converged in Phoenix, the first time in 2003.

“This past week, Arizona Baptists have truly shown their neighbors the love of Christ in action through Crossover,” said Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board. “This has been a model for how we can show people we care and then tell them why we care. It’s exciting to celebrate those who have given their lives to Christ this week.

“I’m also excited that this has been an opportunity for existing churches and some of our new church plants to gain a higher profile in the community,” Ezell added. “I’m praying all of our churches in the Phoenix and Tucson areas will benefit from Crossover and keep this momentum going long into the future.”

To share the Gospel the week of June 7 and on Saturday, Arizona Baptists used dozens of block parties, a skateboard-a-thon, bottled water distribution, painting and landscaping projects at area schools, community arts and cultural festivals, women-only events and, of course, door-to-door evangelism.

The most creative event had to be six-hour Skateboard-A-Thon, sponsored by Mountain Ridge Baptist Church in Glendale, Ariz., attended by hundreds of kids and parents on Saturday.

A 19-year-old college student and member of Mountain Ridge, Presleigh Boulos – herself an avid skateboarder – knows skateboard enthusiasts are one of the most unreached groups in any community. So she envisioned a dynamic event that could reach skateboarders with the Gospel.

“I was just hoping to grow God’s Kingdom,” Boulos said. “We had 33 kids go up there and accept Christ. That was my goal, not how many attended.”

“If the North American Mission Board and Cooperative Program giving wasn’t here, we probably couldn’t have been able to do this event, although we’ve wanted to for a long time,” said Monty Patton, pastor of Mountain Ridge Church.

BP photo

Shonn Keels, left, of Team Impact prays for a man after sharing his faith during a block party Friday, June 10 at Peart Park in Casa Grande, Ariz. The event was part of Crossover 2011, an evangelistic outreach through local churches in Phoenix held prior to the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting June 14-15 at the Phoenix Convention Center.

Arts, Cars, Mariachi
In Tucson, four SBC churches in the central part of the city hosted a Crossover community arts festival at Reid Park, with activities for children, live music, food and booths with artisans’ hand-crafted items. By noon, volunteers from Calvary Baptist Church, Rising Star Baptist, First Southern Baptist and North Swan Baptist – along with Intentional Community Evangelism (ICE) teams – had shared the Gospel scores of times, leading 12 kids to faith in Christ.

That number was on top of the 12 children and five adults who accepted Christ the night before at a Tucson car show – attended by 4,000 – hosted by the same four churches. A week-long series of cultural events, capped off by Crossover Saturday, was also a gift to Tucson from the city’s SBC churches and the Catalina Baptist Association.

“Our prayer was to strengthen our association and churches, and reintroduce Tucson to Southern Baptists, said event organizer Gary Marquez, pastor of North Swan Baptist for 24 years. Marquez’s wife, Dianna, choked back tears as she told of the 17 children who made decisions for Christ at a mariachi festival at nearby Kennedy Park earlier in the week.

In east Tucson, Sabino Road Baptist Church sponsored a landscaping project at a local school and conducted door-to-door witnessing in the area’s neighborhoods, joined by volunteers from Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

Back in the Phoenix metro area, one of the earliest Crossover events for women only, was held at the Christian Challenge Building on the campus of Arizona State University at Tempe. ASU has 3,500 international students from 140 countries.

“Ministry to international students is a big thing at Arizona State,” said Terrie Sullivan, executive director of Arizona Woman’s Missionary Union. “Our event was designed to allow international women – either students or wives of students – to practice their English and give us an opportunity to love on them and show them God’s love. Most are not Christians.”

Women from several Asian countries and Kenya spent the session getting free manicures and learning how to make necklaces and scented bath salts. Following a luncheon, they all left with scented candles – and an aroma of the Gospel.

Snow, Magic, Paint
In spite of the heat, snow was the featured attraction at the three-acre campus of Royal Palms Church – site of one of Crossover’s larger block parties – in north central Phoenix.

After a vendor ground up bags of ice to make “snow” for the rubber slide, local kids lined up to make the run on plastic sleds. The neighborhood children also enjoyed giant water slides and “bounce house” attractions.

“It’s been a wonderful week for our church,” said Charles Lord, pastor of Royal Palms, who said they were expecting up to 1,000 on Saturday. “Many people have come to know the Lord. But the block party is not the end of what we are doing, but only the beginning.” Lord says his church runs about 220 in worship and is in the center of a neighborhood with students, suburbanites and refugees from Africa and the Middle East.

Another highlight of the Royal Palms block party was Christian illusionist Robby Lashua, who did three 30-minute magic shows, wowing audiences with his jaw-dropping illusions. Only 27, Lashua has been doing magic for 19 years.

“It’s easy to weave the Gospel into my tricks,” Lashua says. “I tell the audience that everything I do is a trick that can be explained. I tell them how David Copperfield requires trucks of equipment to do his illusions. Then I compare him to Jesus, who walked around Palestine doing His miracles without the need for trucks or tricks. That’s when I tell them Jesus’ miracles were real, not magic.”

In South Phoenix, about 25 members and staff of The Puente Church, a two-year-old church plant, volunteered to paint interior walls at Maxine Bush School, despite the stifling heat.

As he neatly painted the gray trim of the principal’s door, Tim Lesher, associate pastor of The Puente’s sponsoring church – The Bridge Church – said, “we’re doing this to build relationships and meet families in the community. In south Phoenix, the best way to reach people is through the schools. We’re here to give them some hope.”

The Puente, pastored by Armando Barraza, is a three-year-old “Spanglish” church running about 120. As a Spanglish church, its goal is to reach second-generation Hispanics who embrace the Hispanic culture but prefer to speak English. “We want to be a culturally relevant church for second-gen Hispanics,” Barraza said.

‘Building Relationships’
SBC president Bryant Wright, who took in the block party at South Peoria Baptist Church northwest of Phoenix, said it was clear the church was well organized and put a lot of effort into its event.

“Crossover gives the local church an opportunity to reach out into its community in a creative way,” Wright said. “I think that’s a wonderful product of Crossover. They’re building relationships with people coming to this festival in the hopes that one day they’ll be able to share the good news about Christ.”

South Peoria Baptist didn’t have to wait long to see that happen. Not long after the block party started on Saturday morning, a mom and her three children gave their lives to Christ, led by Jeannine Carter, a member of Judson Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn., who came as a volunteer to support the outreach.

“That’s the greatest joy you can have – to know that someone is in heaven because you share the Gospel with them,” Carter said.

The church’s pastor, James Haynes, said, “VBS and block parties are the two most effective ways for our church to reach out to our community, make a difference and meet people.” For this block party, the church set up numerous inflatables and games, and served food.

Haynes believes that the evangelistic efforts during Crossover represent much of what’s good about being Southern Baptist.

“We’re cooperating Baptist churches that are Kingdom-minded, and that work together to reach our world,” Haynes said.

At Glendale’s The Church at Arrowhead, hundreds of families showed up for cool, refreshing fun at a Crossover event billed as “Summer Splash,” which featured water slides, inflatables and lots of free food.

“We put out 4,000 door hangers, sent out 2,000 cards and handed out 2,000 to 3,000 invites,” said Dennis Adams, the church’s senior pastor. “Part of it is just name recognition for us.”

Another church that used Crossover to introduce themselves to the community was The Way Fellowship, a four-year-old church plant in Glendale. The Way offered a water block party for neighborhood families.

“We hope our community feels loved,” said Scott Gourley, the church plant’s pastor. “We want them to be intrigued and inspired enough to check out why we’re doing this. Then hopefully, we’ll have an opportunity to explain that we’re disciples of Christ, that we’re loving them as He loves us, and then be able to share the Gospel.”

The Way Fellowship received substantial financial and volunteer support from Parkwood Baptist Church in Gastonia. Pastor Gourley said the partnership of Parkwood and others has been crucial to the block party’s success, since The Way only has 17 members.

In addition to the Crossover events throughout the Phoenix metro and Tucson areas, Intentional Community Evangelism (ICE) teams, organized by the North American Mission Board, spent the week of June 7 going door-to-door in metro Phoenix, Tucson and smaller towns like Casa Grande, Coolidge, Florence, Eloy, Picacho and Arizona City.

“Unofficially, we’ve recorded more than 400 professions of faith this week,” said NAMB’s ICE coordinator, Victor Benavides.

“We’ve had a great partnership with the local associations and 18 churches in 13 cities.

“We’ve had teams of 24 ICE volunteers from Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas, and Texas – along with evangelism students from New Orleans, Southwestern and Golden Gate seminaries.”

One of the volunteers was 81-year-old Hiram Acree of Duluth, Ga., who started sharing the Gospel with the Intentional Community Evangelism method in 1981. He says he’s only missed two Crossover events since they began in 1989.

Acree was unfazed by Phoenix’s triple-digit temperatures.

“I do it because the Lord gives me strength, wisdom and understanding,” Acree said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mickey Noah, Joe Conway and Tobin Perry are writers for the North American Mission Board.)
6/14/2011 3:12:00 AM by Mickey Noah, Joe Conway & Tobin Perry, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Lead in holiness, evangelism, service, pastors urged

June 14 2011 by Baptist Press

PHOENIX – Pastors must take the lead in personal holiness, evangelism and service to others if Southern Baptist churches are to be effective in reaching the world for Christ, speakers said at the 2011 Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference in its first two sessions June 12-13.

The annual conference preceding the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting was held this year at the Phoenix Convention Center and focused on the theme, “Aspire: Yearning to Join God’s Kingdom Activity.”

Speakers in the Sunday evening and Monday morning sessions included:

Peter Ndhlovu
Speaking from his experience of planting churches on Africa, Peter Ndhlovu, bishop of the Bible Gospel Church in Zambia, challenged attendees to join him in reaching the nations with the Gospel of Christ.

Ndhlovu, whose church has planted 286 churches in 13 African countries, preached from Matthew 24:12-14, urging pastors to fulfill the purpose God has called the church to accomplish – making disciples of all the nations.

“We have a mission, and we have to accomplish it,” Ndhlovu said. “We have to do it; now is the time, not tomorrow. We have no time to play games. We have no time to play church. We have to fulfill that which God has sent us to do.”

That mission, Ndhlovu noted, is the heartbeat of the church. He added that the Kingdom of God is bigger than individual denominations, and it is time to set aside differences and focus on the purpose of accomplishing the Great Commission.

“I believe that if together we can bury our denomination boundaries, we can bury our doctrinal problem, we can only concentrate on the Kingdom, we can win this world for Jesus because He’s about to come,” Ndhlovu said. “Today is the time. We need to declare the message of hope. People need somebody to preach the Word.”

Bob Pitman
Church planting is at the heart of Southern Baptist missions today, and that endeavor begins with individual churches, said Bob Pitman, longtime preacher and evangelist from Muscle Shoals, Ala.

Pitman tied that endeavor directly to the leadership of pastors.

“Denominations do not plant churches,” Pitman said. “Churches plant churches, and churches that plant churches are churches that are led to plant churches by their pastors.”

A major part of that leadership is preaching, Pitman said. Speaking from 2 Corinthians 4:1-5, Pitman pointed to the pastor’s mandate to preach.

“We do not have to apologize for being preachers, because that is our foremost and primary responsibility,” Pitman said. “When God calls you to be a pastor, He calls you to be a preacher.”

Pitman called on pastors to preach the Gospel as servant leaders with pure motives. “God is not interested in any personal agendas that we may push,” he said.

“God is not impressed as we climb the ladder in the denomination. The only thing that really impresses God is when we live for Jesus’ sake.”

Johnny Hunt
Pastors must first get their own lives in order and live “the Kingdom life” before they can hope to influence the lives of their church members, Johnny Hunt, immediate past president of the SBC, said in his Sunday evening address.

Photo by Bill Bangham

Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, speaks during the evening session of the 2011 SBC Pastors’ Conference June 12 at the Phoenix Convention Center. The two-day conference preceded the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting June 14-15 in Phoenix, Ariz.

Hunt, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., said that only when pastors have their lives properly ordered will the Southern Baptist Convention be successful in reaching people for Christ.

“We as the Southern Baptist Convention have had a blessed past,” Hunt said. “But I personally sense that God desires to be with us in a more mighty way in the present and in the future if we are to touch this nation, which we’re not touching as we ought, and the nations of the world.”

To achieve this “Kingdom life,” Hunt pointed to the Apostle Paul’s example in 1 Corinthians 16. First and foremost, Hunt said Paul emulated the Kingdom life by being generous with his possessions.

“We need as much, if not more, emulation as we have exhortation,” Hunt said. “We’ve learned how to say it; we’ve just got to learn how to do it. And we’ve got to do it by example and giving the people a way to follow.”

Hunt challenged pastors to give liberally and to be willing to go to the places where God directed them. He also encouraged pastors to be willing to serve as mentors to younger pastors and to glorify Jesus Christ in all they do.

Bob Roberts
Bob Roberts, senior pastor of NorthWood Church in Keller, Texas, said Christianity is declining in the West while the developing world “is exploding” with a spiritual awakening. The church’s challenge is “figuring out how to be a part of that.”

“I don’t want to just hear what He is doing in China and hear what He’s doing in India and hear what He’s doing in the Congo and hear what He’s doing with college students in Iran I want to be a part of seeing God doing something massive here,” Roberts said. “I don’t want to miss out on that.”

Reading from Colossians 4:2-6, in which Paul pleads for prayer so the Gospel may be preached and calls on his readers to walk in wisdom, Roberts said with global technology the Great Commission could be fulfilled in 10 years.

To do that, Roberts said several things are essential. Christians must “seize an open world,” must connect with the global church and must be willing to befriend Muslims. For example, he told of his budding friendship with the imam of the largest mosque in Dallas-Fort Worth.

“I love that man,” Roberts said. “I want him to know Jesus and I’m not going to give up.”

Paul Gotthardt
As he was in the midst of planting a church in Las Vegas, Paul Gotthardt, lead and founding pastor of Life Baptist Church there, told how God laid it upon his heart to plant another church with a focus on the homeless. He said the area’s homeless population was excited to have a church of their own.

Over the next two years, this church plant saw 13 come to faith in Christ, a number of the homeless reunited with their families, and several others were able to get into a local mission outreach program. And then, just as quickly as God provided the opportunity, He suddenly ended it with the police clearing out the people and bulldozing the area.

“I thought at the time, ‘Man, that was a great opportunity.’ But when I look back right now, I see it was a favorable season,” Gotthardt said. “It was open for just a specific period of time. It was a kairos moment. It was something that in that moment as I was in prayer with God, that God helped me to see a need and helped my heart to be alert.”

Speaking from Ephesians 5:15-16, Gotthardt said it’s important to be positioned correctly in ministry to be effective for Kingdom activity. Once those ministries are positioned, he noted that the best way to accomplish this is to walk in wisdom and make the most of one’s time.

“Our walk is how we live from day-to-day,” Gotthardt said. “We are to remain alert. We are not to be foolish and self-centered, but we are to walk as wise people who are acknowledging God. Whenever we’re in the habit of remaining alert, and we’re not living for self but we are acknowledging God in His purposes, we are strategically positioned at that moment to buy back some time for God and his purposes.”

Darrin Patrick
Biblical maturity leads to biblical mission and to aspirations to share the Gospel with others, according to Darrin Patrick, lead pastor of The Journey church in St. Louis, Mo., and vice president of the Acts 29 church planting network.

“God must work in us if he is to work through us. The preparation, the work, the battle is in the soil of your heart. It is a war for control.”

Preaching from Galatians 5:16-26, Patrick explained Paul’s use of fruit as a metaphor for how spiritual growth takes place. Fruit, Patrick said, grows holistically, internally, gradually and communally.

“You have to be a person that is willing to deal with their own sin as they are dealing with the sin of others,” Patrick said. “Your sin is a bigger deal than their sin. You should be more worried about your sin than that sin.”

Patrick said that only when pastors are more concerned about their own sin can they deal appropriately with the sin of others.

“When God is doing something in you, you cannot not tell somebody about it,” Patrick said. “God must be at work in us if He is to work through us.”

Bartholomew Orr
Just as dropped phone calls result from a lost connection to a service provider, so “drops” in Christian ministry result from a lost connection to God, Bartholomew Orr, senior pastor of Brown Missionary Baptist Church in Southaven, Miss., said.

“Too many pastors in too many churches have lost contact with the Master,” Orr said. “They’re still in business, but they’re not doing His business: His gospel is not being preached and His truths are not being proclaimed.”

In a sermon from Colossians 1:24-29, Orr said that pastors drop connection with God for three main reasons: “(inadvertent) hang-ups,” “dead spots” and “shut-downs.” Hang-ups happen when the preacher forgets that he is only a servant of God, that he possesses God’s Word and that the cost of faithful ministry is suffering, Orr said.

Dead-spots happened, according to Orr, when the preacher is not in God’s will – and God’s will for the pastor is to preach, warn and teach. Preaching Christ crucified is the central message of the church, and that includes warning listeners about God’s wrath and then teaching them the implications of this message.

Shut-downs occur from an absence of power, Orr said. Just as a cell phone needs to maintain a charge from a power source, so the pastor’s power comes from a source. Orr explained that the only way for a cell phone to hold a charge consistently is to remain plugged into the power source. Such is the case for pastor as well.

“The power is not from us, but the power is from God Almighty,” Orr said. Just stay plugged in.”

Greg Matte
Preaching on Jesus’ miracle of water made to wine from John 2, Greg Matte urged pastors to be servants drawing on God’s power to turn proverbial water in their ministries to wine. Matte is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Houston.

Noting the crisis at the Cana wedding celebration when the wine ran out, Matte emphasized that servants, already tired from their duties, were tasked with the burden of filling six stone jars – each holding 20 to 30 gallons.

Following Mary’s command to “do whatever he tells you,” the servants filled the water to the brim.

“When God asks you to do something, when Jesus asks you to do something, do you do 51 percent, or do you fill it to the brim?” Matte asked. He warned pastors against a 75-percent effort in their ministry when such effort can often carry them on their talent or giftedness.

In filling it to the brim, “your heart for God will shrink” if the pastor in his weariness doesn’t rely on God to do the filling. Rely on God, Matte said, and He will enlarge the pastor’s heart.

“Church planter, you’ll never have enough money,” Matte said. “It will always feel like water. You walk with God. Missionary, it will always feel like water. You walk with God. Pastor, the sermon should always feel like you don’t have enough. You walk with God. Walk with God, and Jesus Christ will change water into wine and you’ll look back and go ‘Wow, look at what God’s done. He’s done something I could not have done. He’s brought the change.’”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Tim Ellsworth, with reporting by Jerry Pierce, T. Patrick Hudson, Frank Michael McCormack and Aaron Hanbury.)
6/14/2011 3:02:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

WMU speakers tell of ways they ‘Proclaim’

June 14 2011 by Shannon Baker, Baptist Press

PHOENIX – Missions leaders from across the nation “proclaimed” the freedom and Good News of Jesus Christ during the first two sessions of the 2011 National Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting in Phoenix.

“Proclaim!” was the theme for this year’s June 12-13 celebration based on Luke 4:18–19: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (NIV).

Tom Elliff, the International Mission Board’s (IMB) new president, and Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), brought greetings during the sessions at the Wyndham Phoenix Hotel.

Elliff used nine words to express his sentiments to WMU: “Thank you,” “We need you” and “Can I help you?”

He urged the 350 WMU attendees to encourage their church leaders to join the IMB in launching an initiative at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting to reach the 3,800 presently unengaged people groups in the world.

Ezell presented Wanda Lee, WMU executive director/treasurer, with an oversized Royal Ambassador race car to commemorate the transfer of responsibility for RAs back to WMU.

“We love RAs. They were born out of our hearts and ... now is the perfect time to welcome them back home,” Lee said.

BP photo

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), presents Royal Ambassadors and Challengers patches to Wanda Lee, executive director/treasurer of the Woman's Missionary Union (WMU), symbolizing the transfer of the missionary programs from NAMB to the WMU. The transfer took place June 13 during the 2011 National WMU Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting at the Wyndham Hotel in Phoenix, Ariz.

Representing NAMB, missionaries Louis Spears and Jan Lows shared about “proclaiming freedom in Arizona.”

Spears, a church planting strategist missionary with the Valley Rim Baptist Association in Mesa, shared about his focus on starting “tactical” churches, one of which he launched in Seyenna Vistas Mobile Home Park. This setting is one of 37 local properties where Spears hopes to start new works.

“If multi-housing communities were villages, we would be sending missionaries to them,” Spears noted, adding that 1.5 million Phoenix-area residents live in multi-housing units. He presently has two interns who have moved into one such community.

Lows, a MSC (Mission Service Corps) missionary serving as director of Life Among the Nations, the international student ministry at Arizona State University, interviewed a Chinese student who became a Christian while studying at ASU. A double Ph.D. candidate, the student now seeks a career that will enable him to share the Gospel in his atheist-heavy homeland.

“God is interested in the migration patterns of His people,” Lows said, explaining her intentional effort to “train the scholars and students with the Gospel and send them back,” where they can make a difference.

Representing the IMB, Don and Diane Combs, missionaries to European peoples, shared about outreach in Sochi, Russia, during the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics and Para-Olympics (www.engagesochi.org). Ministry partners Mark and Kellye Hook joined them in urging participants to pray and bring teams and resources to the strategic effort.

In her first presidential address, national WMU President Debby Ackerman of Myrtle Beach., S.C., interpreted this year’s theme, “Proclaim!” noting that “from Genesis to Revelation one hears the distinct sounds of holy proclamation emanating from God’s Word.”

Ackerman noted, “From beginning to end, God’s eternal purpose runs through the Scriptures ... proclaiming the name of our Lord and His eternal Gospel to all peoples of the earth.”

Likewise, “God has purposed WMU to equip our churches to be on mission, to educate... and to be intentional supporters for our more than 10,000 missionaries. Our missions purpose has not changed in our 125 years,” Ackerman said, adding nonetheless, “We need to lessen entertainment venues and increase involvement in God’s Great Commission! And WMU does this so well!”

Jean Roberson, WMU adult resources team leader/ministry consultant, addressed “Proclaiming Freedom in Our Communities through Christian Women’s Job Corps/Christian Men’s Job Corps.”

“To be known is to be loved, and to be loved is to be known. What a perfect picture of CWJC/CMJC,” she said, emphasizing that though job and life skills are important, the ministry’s greatest influence is Bible study and relationships – “being known and knowing.”

Roberson introduced Ginger Smith, executive director of the Mission Centers of Houston, who recounted how God is setting people free in Houston through three questions that she has asked every day for the past year: 1) What if we believed God? 2) What if we really loved people? 3) What if we served others – even if we didn’t want to or wanted instead to teach them a lesson?

Sharing that she often felt “more freedom on the streets than in church,” the inner-city minister acknowledged that answering these questions has changed her practice of doing things “for” people to doing things “with” them, empowering them and teaching them ownership.

Exploring human exploitation, the current focus of WMU’s Project HELP, Smith noted examples about the human exploitation prevalent in the Houston area: cantinas offer “beer with a girl” for $13; a homeless man sells girls for $10.

Rather than rescuing victims, Smith focuses on prevention programs that educate children how to protect themselves, how to communicate when things don’t feel right around them, and how to respect one another.

“These children are seen as disposable. We have to do something,” Smith said.

In a missions focus segment, Gordon Fort, vice president of the IMB’s office of global strategy, facilitated a discussion of current mission issues as the two SBC mission boards cooperate to reach all peoples of the world. Fort, a missionary kid born in Zimbabwe to missionary parents and a former missionary in Botswana, countered rumors that the two boards were merging, but did stress that they are working together in unprecedented ways to reach people throughout the world.

“When we failed to take the Gospel to the people groups, God brought them to us,” Fort said, explaining that IMB and NAMB missionaries work stateside and internationally to reach the same people groups.

Participating with him were Lows; the Combses, who partner with a pastor whose work is among Russians in Boston, Mass.; Jason Williams* from California, and Jeremy and Kimberly*, who serve as missionaries to Middle Eastern peoples.

Also during the meeting, WMU:
  • reelected Ackerman to a second term as president, and Rosalie Hunt of Guntersville, Ala., to a third term as national WMU recording secretary.
  • introduced “Live Sent: You Are a Letter,” the 2011–12 WMU Emphasis Book published by WMU’s New Hope Publishers, written by Jason Dukes, pastor of Westpoint Church in Windermere, Fla., and New Hope’s new Web-based resource, newhopedigital.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – *Names changed due to the sensitive nature of their work. Shannon Baker is the national correspondent for Baptist Life, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.)
6/14/2011 2:51:00 AM by Shannon Baker, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ala. church blessed with overflow

June 13 2011 by Gary Hardin, Baptist Press

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — No one can accuse the members of Forest Lake Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa of letting grass grow under their feet.

Within hours of the April 27 tornado, more than 100 survivors living nearby came to the church for help. A few church members did the best they could to minister amid the destruction. That’s when the Alabama congregation sprang into action.

Only two days after the storm, Forest Lake Baptist had set up an extensive ministry center in its basement fellowship hall. For weeks, the church has been providing canned food, water, hot meals, baby supplies, clothing, bedding, cleaning supplies, books and some furniture and appliances. It has even provided pet food for animal shelters.

What makes Forest Lake’s quick response so amazing is that its facilities, located in the heart of one of the tornado’s path, suffered more than $1.5 million in damages.

But “the Lord has graciously provided,” church member Terri Hibbard said.

Photo by Gary Hardin

Earline Thornton and her son Boyce, members of Forest Lake Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, Ala., volunteer daily at the church’s disaster relief center. Though the church sustained significant tornado damage, it has been blessed with an overflow of relief supplies and is distributing those to the community.

Fellow member and ministry center volunteer Jan Anders agreed. “There is nothing we have needed that hasn’t walked through the doors when we needed it.”

In fact, God has provided in such an overwhelming way that Forest Lake has given goods to other churches and organizations.

A team of volunteers from Mississippi showed up the first week and provided 1,500 hot dog meals out of a trailer. Volunteers from Florida distributed barbecue sandwiches in the church’s parking lot.

World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse and The Salvation Army all have donated items to the ministry center.

“We’re getting supplies from people all over the country,” pastor Donnie Payne said. “A tractor-trailer rig loaded with relief items just rolled onto the church’s parking lot a few days ago. The driver came inside and said we could have everything on his truck.”

The church has received so much, in fact, that many relief items have been stored in overflow rooms.

“We’re trying to stock up for the long haul,” Payne said. “We know there will be needs for months to come.”

He said the church initially ministered to storm survivors, rescue workers, police and National Guard troops but now is reaching out to construction workers.

God also has provided volunteers. More than 200 church members have participated in Forest Lake’s disaster relief ministry.

“Our church has really come together during this time,” member Susan Kincaid said. In addition to offering relief items, members have listened to and prayed with those needing help. A table in the center of the fellowship hall stacked with Bibles bears a sign that reads, “Take one.”

Payne is quick to credit the response of University of Alabama students. “University students have risen to the occasion,” he said. “Hundreds have come by the church offering their help.”

Church member Earline Thornton, who is in her 70s, has been an inspiration for all volunteers. Even though Thornton lost her home to the tornado, she shows up every day to help in the ministry center.

Billy Gray, interim director of missions for the Tuscaloosa Baptist Association, said, “When you walk into Forest Lake’s ministry center, you think you are in a store. One half looks like a department store, and the other half looks like a grocery story. They are so organized.”

The first Sundays after the storm, Forest Lake held worship in the Baptist Campus Ministries chapel on the University of Alabama campus. For the past several Sundays, worship has been held in the church’s damaged sanctuary.

“We will rebuild,” Payne said. “But for now, our main focus is on people who need us.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Hardin is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist.)

Related story
Disaster relief continues in Tuscaloosa
6/13/2011 7:14:00 AM by Gary Hardin, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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