June 2012

Ezell: Bivocational pastors are SBC’s ‘Iron Men’

June 26 2012 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS – Called the “Iron Men of the SBC,” some 180 bivocational pastors and their wives from 17 states attended the third annual Bivocational Luncheon June 20, during the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in New Orleans. The luncheon was sponsored by the North American Mission Board (NAMB).

“Thank you for all you do as bivocational pastors,” said Kevin Ezell, NAMB’s president. “Not until I came to the North American Mission Board did I realize the enormity of what bivocational pastors do in North America.

“If we’re really going to penetrate the lostness of North America, it’s going to have to be with the help of bivocational pastors because there’s no way possible to completely fund missions work full time without your impact,” Ezell said.

Under its Send North America strategy, NAMB has a goal of a net gain of 5,000 new SBC congregations by 2022, a 3 percent increase in the congregation-to-population ratio for Southern Baptists. The convention loses an average of 890 churches each year.

The key to achieving this goal is to increase the number of bivocational pastors who plant new churches, Ezell said.

Ezell said NAMB’s leadership and staff want to come alongside the SBC’s bivocational ministers across the United States. According to statistics, bivocational pastors make up as many as 50 percent of the SBC pastors in southern states like Alabama and Arkansas, but they also minister in states throughout the U.S. – from Maine to California.

Photo by John Swain

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, talks with Ray Gilder, bivocational and small church national coordinator, after the NAMB Bivocational Pastors Luncheon June 20.

“We see you as a vital player in our Send North America strategy and we want to provide you with what you need,” said Ezell. “And this isn’t a one-year emphasis but a long-term commitment. We need to do a better job of providing resources for you and encouraging you along the way.”

Ezell said he got the idea of calling SBC’s bivocational pastors “Iron Men of the SBC” from outgoing NAMB board of trustees chairman Tim Dowdy, himself a triathlon athlete competing in an upcoming “Ironman” competition.

“I want to bring attention to your work across the convention,” said Dowdy, senior pastor at Eagles Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga. “You guys make an incredible difference to SBC life in reaching the nation with the gospel.

“But we need thousands of more guys to be bivocational pastors,” Dowdy said.

Ezell referenced the account in Mark 2 of the four men who lowered their paralyzed friend through the roof of a house so he could be healed by Jesus. “Those men did whatever it took to get their friend to Jesus,” Ezell said. “I believe you guys are just like those men. You do whatever it takes – when it comes to your family, your vocation and your church.”

Ezell announced a pilot program making educational opportunities available for bivocational pastors. NAMB – partnering with Union University in Jackson, Tenn. – will offer bivocational pastors a 33-hour online master’s degree in theological studies, with a limited number of scholarships being made available each year.

Nashville-based Ray Gilder, national coordinator for the SBC’s bivocational/small church leadership network, said he is pleased with the progress the network has made since the SBC annual meeting in Orlando two years ago.

“We’re growing and there’s more awareness of bivocational pastors, thanks to our partnership with NAMB,” Gilder said. “A lot of men are bivocational because of funding issues, but some are intentionally bivocational because they believe God called them to be bivocational. They have full-time careers but are also full-time pastors, although they may only receive part-time pastor’s pay.”

Gilder said 37,000 of the churches in the SBC run 125 or less in Sunday School, “so there’s a lot of bivocational churches across the country.”

“These guys are in the trenches on the front lines,” he said. “In the future, their challenge will be to serve as the role models and mentors for the young bivocational pastors to come. The young guys coming up will need to prepare and get their education up front. In the past, bivocational pastors often got called into ministry later in life and didn’t get the opportunities for the education they needed.”

Gilder also announced three upcoming conferences for bivocational pastors – an Appalachian Bivocational Celebration in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., Sept. 28-29; a national bivocational celebration at William Carey College in Hattiesburg, Miss., April 18-20, 2013; and an international bivocational conference at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., in 2014.

For more information on the National Bivocational/Small Church Leadership Network, visit bivosmallchurch.net or email Gilder at rgilder@tnbaptist.org.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mickey Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.)

Related story
NAMB, at SBC, spotlights spiritual need of North America
6/26/2012 1:05:21 PM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

N.C. Baptists help impact Hispanic outreach during Crossover

June 26 2012 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

Since April, Guillermo Soriano has been praying and thinking about Crossover 2012 in New Orleans. Crossover, an evangelistic emphasis held each year prior to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting, is coordinated by local churches, associations and the North American Mission Board.
During Crossover churches engage in a variety of events, from backyard Bible clubs to block parties, all with the intent of sharing the gospel and reaching the community.
Soriano, multicultural evangelism consultant with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), came to New Orleans in April to help equip churches for the Crossover events. He trained churches in areas such as children’s evangelism and personal evangelism strategies.
The training included breakout sessions specifically for Hispanic pastors and leaders. Soriano returned to New Orleans last week to help with additional training for Hispanic leaders, and he continued his work with the Hispanic churches in New Orleans during Crossover.
“The greatest blessing has been to see churches revived in their personal commitment to evangelism. We hope this brings a new beginning to their churches, and into their lifestyle,” he said.
Even churches hesitant about participating were challenged to join the effort.
“Pastors came later, after the training, and said they were enthused about church members getting involved,” Soriano said.

Photo by Adam Miller

Maritza, left, and Guillermo Soriano make balloon animals for children at a block party in Metairie, La. The Sorianos, from Fairview Baptist Church in Cary, N.C., came to assist Eric Gonzalez, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Hispania Emmanuel. The event was part of Crossover 2012, an evangelistic outreach throughout metro New Orleans held prior to the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting June 19-20.

Churches from all across the country participated in Crossover and worked alongside pastors like Santos Gomez.
Gomez pastors La Vina Spanish Baptist Mission Church in Kenner. During Crossover his congregation hosted a block party, which proved a great opportunity for church members to practice being intentionally evangelistic.
“We were able to see the city through different eyes,” Gomez said. “It lit a fire for people who had been complacent.”
La Vina visited 186 homes in a door-to-door witnessing effort and saw 16 people pray to receive Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. Church members were also able to meet and connect with people in the community like never before.
David Rodriguez pastors a new Hispanic church plant in Chalmette. The church expects to soon hold its first worship service, and the block party the church hosted during Crossover helped them get acquainted with the area and the people.
“Crossover helped us refocus on evangelism, and it reunited us as a community,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of people were surprised we were there.”  
That’s partly because there is no Southern Baptist work in this area.
Both Gomez and Rodriguez lived in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina, and they have both stayed, praying for opportunities to continue impacting a city that needs the gospel. Although ministry is hard, they say the opportunity for expanding God’s Kingdom is great.
“We have even more motivation to preach the gospel,” Gomez said.
New Orleans pastors are grateful for Soriano’s willingness to invest in helping them reach their communities through Crossover. “This year we were much better connected. He helped bring us together,” Gomez said.
Don McCutcheon, BSC executive leader for evangelization, said he continues to hear about the impact of Soriano and his wife, Maritza, among the Hispanic community in New Orleans. “There is powerful synergy when they are working together,” he said.
North Carolina Baptists provided the direction for the community festivals hosted by Hispanic churches during Crossover, and “had a significant part in impacting lives for Christ,” McCutcheon said.
McCutcheon also participated in Crossover, and was involved in door-to-door witnessing with a local church. One area they visited had been completely wiped out during Hurricane Katrina, and the people are still trying to rebuild.
In this community he met a woman with three children who said she wanted to know God, but just didn’t know how. McCutcheon shared the gospel with her, and she responded in faith.
“God gives the harvest,” he said.
6/26/2012 12:58:19 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Uth urges messengers to ‘see those around you’

June 25 2012 by

NEW ORLEANS (BP) – David Uth called Southern Baptists to a fresh understanding of the depth of the love of Jesus Christ, urging them to “love loud and love much because of all that He has forgiven.”

The pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando delivered the convention sermon during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in New Orleans June 19-20.

As Uth cited Luke 7:36 and following, an ensemble of actors dramatized the scripture. In the portrayal, a woman poured an alabaster jar of perfume and wept over the feet of Jesus at the home of Simon the Pharisee.

The story offers an “incredible lesson,” Uth said, about a woman with a past who was overwhelmed by the forgiveness of her sin. “Jesus had changed her life, and she had to thank Him” by her actions.

Uth emphasized the reaction of the Pharisee who asked, “Do you see this woman?”

“Simon was so wrapped up in legalism that the law was more important than people,” Uth said.

Then he asked those in attendance, “Do you see those in your life, those around you?”

He told of an earlier SBC meeting in New Orleans when he took a cab to the convention site. When the cab driver picked up a “friend” to ride along, Uth realized the woman was a prostitute and was embarrassed that other pastors might see him with her when he arrived at his destination.

“I panicked” and quickly climbed out the cab, Uth recalled. But God has since broken his heart over the incident and his refusal to share Christ’s love with her.

“I did not give a rip about her,” he said. “I was only concerned about my reputation, not her eternal destination or lifestyle.”

Photo by Kent Harville

David Uth, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Orlando, Fla., gives the convention message June 20 on the last day of the two-day Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in New Orleans.

Explaining that the costly oil poured on Jesus’ feet and letting down of the woman’s hair expressed the depth of her gratitude for His forgiveness, Uth asked, “Why are we not more extravagant in our love and more passionate for others?”

He shared two examples of how First Baptist Orlando has sought to demonstrate a passion and see others in their community.

Each year, the church holds a “Queen Celebration” when the congregation seeks to minister to the city’s prostitutes, strippers and dancers by bringing them to the church, serving a meal and showering them with clothes, makeup and other gifts. The first Queen Celebration was attended by 300 women and resulted in 20 of them giving “their heart to God,” including one who continues to bring her friends to church.

The church also began “Love Orlando” to share Christ’s love throughout the Central Florida city and in one instance pledged $5 million – of which $4 million has been collected – to make a difference among the homeless population.

Uth reminded the group that all believers are recipients of God’s overwhelming forgiveness and grace, saying, “You don’t really see others until you see yourself.”

Telling of his journey to Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake where he saw children and adults lacking clothing, Uth said he had to wonder why God chose him to live in a land of abundance.

“Everything we have that is good comes by grace from the Father above,” he said.

Despite the woman’s actions in the passage, Uth told messengers, she was not the biggest sinner in the room. That instead was the Pharisee.

Concluding his sermon, Uth told of his father who served as the pastor of an Arkansas church when blacks in the community began attending. Refusing to acquiesce to members’ demands that they be asked to leave, members of the Ku Klux Klan visited him with threats. In the end, his stand cost him the pastorate.

Recalling his father’s apology for losing his church, Uth said he assured the older man, “You may have lost a church, but you have won a son.”

His father loved much, Uth said, because he had been forgiven from an earlier life addicted to gambling and alcohol. Jesus forgave him and changed his life.

“It is time to love, love loud and love much because He has forgiven much,” Uth told messengers.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.)
6/25/2012 1:54:49 PM by | with 0 comments

Church plants benefit from Crossover 2012

June 25 2012 by Mickey Noah & Tobin Perry, Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS – Edith Sampson Park near the Desire Housing Project buzzed with activity June 16 as kids from the surrounding neighborhood played on a giant slip-n-slide and munched on hot dogs. The event was one of 38 block parties hosted by Southern Baptist churches around metro New Orleans during Crossover 2012.

Crossover, coordinated by local associations and churches in partnership with the North American Mission Board, is an evangelism event that precedes the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting.

Celebration Church organized the block party in the park to support Desire Street Fellowship, its church plant located two blocks away led by pastors Richard Johnson and Oscar Brown.

“We believe God has told us to grow deep before we grow wide,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to teach the folks around us about the eternal love of God.”

His mission field is big. Before Katrina, Desire Housing Project was one of the largest in the nation with 20,000 residents. Floodwaters from Katrina inundated it, and the old “projects” are being replaced with handsome townhouses. Desire now has 6,000 to 8,000 residents, which Johnson said will grow to 16,000, a city in itself.

Hope Church, a two-year-old church plant in Metairie, La., hosted volunteers from four churches in four states – Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Maryland. Volunteers handed out invitations to a family movie night that evening and painted the dance studio that has become the church plant’s home.

Volunteers from Gilead Baptist Church in Glendale, Ky., focused on the painting efforts. Hoping to give the dance studio’s pink walls a more gender-neutral look, church planter Matt Tipton approached the studio’s owner about repainting. When the owner offered to pay for the painting to be done, Tipton was able to tell her he’d do it for free as a way to build the church’s relationship with the studio and give the worship space a new look.

For the past two years Gilead Baptist has been an important partner church for Hope Church, providing at least four teams of volunteers along with financial support. The partnership began partly because of the desire of Gilead’s pastor to engage his people in long-term work in North American missions.

“When we’ve done one-and-done mission trips, you really don’t get to see the results of that,” said Sam Hinkson, Gilead’s pastor. “I wanted our people to see a church plant grow. I also hoped it would be good for us and for them. These trips always spark great discussion about what we can do in our own community.”

Talking about some of the outreach efforts the churches had participated in throughout the week, such as inviting people to the movie night on Saturday, Tipton said he sees their efforts as “tilling the soil,” which he believes is essential in a place like New Orleans. Much of the outreach efforts were around a local magnet school, Airline Park Academy for Advanced Studies, where Tipton serves as the PTO president.

“After the mission project is over at the school this week, it isn’t over with the school,” Tipton said. “I’m still PTO president. We’re still building relationships and will continue to have groups loving on the school, loving on the people here.”

At least one New Orleans church birthed a new church campus out of Crossover 2012. A new church in Chalmette, La., had been on the heart of Horeb Spanish Baptist Mission pastor David Rodriguez since his seminary days more than a decade ago. When a meeting location at an English-speaking church in Chalmette became available, Rodriquez turned to his youth minister, who also wanted to see a Spanish-speaking church started in the Chalmette area. Horeb’s main campus is in Gretna, La.

Jose Lore, the youth minister who will pastor the new campus, works at a refinery near the church’s meeting location. For years as he traveled to work, he prayed God would help him reach the Spanish speakers in the nearby area, knowing there were no Spanish-speaking congregations for people to attend. The block party during Crossover offered Horeb an opportunity to introduce themselves to the community a week before their June 24 launch of the campus.

“This is the first time we’ve started something new like this at our church,” Rodriguez said. “We want to see this city won for Christ.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mickey Noah & Tobin Perry write for the North American Mission Board.)
6/25/2012 1:49:09 PM by Mickey Noah & Tobin Perry, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

WMU celebrates Jesus’ story in New Orleans

June 25 2012 by Don Graham, Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS (BP) – “The Story Lives On” – Woman’s Missionary Union’s (WMU) 2012-13 theme – took life through the words of a New Orleans pastor, an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary and others during the opening session of WMU’s June 17-18 meeting in New Orleans.

As noted by Debbie Akerman, WMU president, “The Story Lives On” focuses on the gospel’s ability to transcend generations, transforming individuals, churches, communities and nations.

Keynote speaker David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans, spoke of the lasting impact of Jesus’ story on New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Crosby painted vivid images of the devastation, and the Christ-centered love that’s fueling the city’s rebirth.

“It turned our city into a lake,” Crosby said. “Eighty percent of the footprint of the city of New Orleans was covered with water. Our church was an island in a flood for three weeks. And when I came in by helicopter 11 days after the storm, I wondered, ‘God, will it ever come back together again?’

“And then, there was a rush of wonderful love. A flood of people, thousands and hundreds of thousands, who came to help in this city that care forgot.”

Photo by Matt Miller

Piercing Word Ministry performs during the evening session June 17 of the two-day WMU Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

But such love isn’t easy to come by. Referencing the story of the Pharisee who tested Jesus in Matthew 22 (asking Christ which commandment was greatest), Crosby said it wasn’t the first commandment the religious leader struggled with but the second.

“Love the Lord your God with all you heart, soul, strength and mind. He felt he had that down, he was a devoted Jew,” Crosby said. “He went to synagogue, he said his prayers and gave his tithe. ... What troubled his conscience, why he wanted to justify himself, was the second: Love your neighbor as yourself. You might be a little like him. I think I am.”

That’s why Jesus gave believers the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, Crosby explained, “to help you and me understand what it means to love your neighbor.” And love, he said, walks into a trial.

“Love is so complicated and so difficult, it’s such a mess. It’s just easier to walk by the other side of the road. I mean, you got church work to do, meetings to attend – we’re busy people.

“Talk about washing feet? A beautiful rendition of that story – it’s going into a stranger’s house and cleaning up after the flood, and helping that poor soul deal with the fact that he brought a truck to take what he wanted to save, and [instead] he can fit it all in a 13-gallon trashcan.”

Bible storying
WMU attendees also heard about the power of Jesus’ story from Annette Hall, an International Mission Board worker who spoke about the impact of chronological Bible storying. Hall has worked for nearly 40 years with North African and Middle Eastern peoples, and ranks among IMB’s top oral evangelism experts.

“Two-thirds of the world’s people are oral communicators,” Hall said. “That means that they learn through stories or music, drama or poetry. ... If you hand them a book to read, they either can’t read it or they won’t read it.”

Hall said the process behind chronological Bible storying is simple, often using a set of 20 individual stories that move listeners through the Bible from Genesis to the second coming of Christ.

“We tell them the story, and then we have them learn the story, and then we process the story by asking some very simple questions,” Hall said. “Because they’ve learned the story, and because we use the same simple questions every time, they can reproduce this and go out to tell other people.

“We don’t teach. We want people to get the point of the story from the story – they need to discover it for themselves. If I tell them the answer, it goes into their heads but it doesn’t go into their hearts.”

Hall shared a recent success story from a Bible storying training event she led in southern Asia last year. One of Hall’s colleagues, who helped with the training, met a young woman whose family had been radically changed.

“The woman said, ‘There were some people from my village who went to a training and they learned how to tell Bible stories. And they came and they told the story for me and my family. Now I am a believer and so is my family. All of us believe in Jesus,’” Hall recounted. She added that more than 20 people in that village have been baptized as a result of chronological Bible storying.

“Chronological Bible storying is a powerful tool,” she said. “God gave it to us. He gave us a book full of stories. And all we have to do is learn to use them.”

Acteens panelists
Sunday afternoon, WMU attendees were introduced to this year’s National Acteen Panelists, young women chosen from across the United States “based on their commitment to missions and participation and leadership in their Acteens group, church, school and community,” according to WMU’s website. Acteens is WMU’s missions organization for girls in grades 7 through 12.

Mary Harper, from First Baptist Church Prattville, Ala., told WMU that she learned boldness in sharing her faith through interactions with a Korean student she met in a high school chemistry class. Harper described him as a devout atheist who would often work “page after page of physics problems that he claimed proved God did not exist.”

“He was so much smarter than me, but I knew that my God, the God who gave Daniel the courage to face the lion’s den, and the God who gave David the strength to overcome Goliath, would give me the words to say to persevere,” Harper said. She continued to share with her friend over the past two years, and though he has not yet made a commitment to Christ, Harper said he’s begun reading his Bible daily and attending church.

“I know that God will continue to work in his life, Harper said. “Through this experience I have learned that God calls all Christians to be missionaries, even if this simply means being willing to share His love with the people we meet in our everyday lives.”

Each of the six Acteen panelists will receive $1,000 from the Jessica Powell Loftis Scholarship for Acteens from the WMU Foundation.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Don Graham is the International Mission Board’s senior writer.)
6/25/2012 1:37:38 PM by Don Graham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

African American pastor imparts missions vision

June 25 2012 by Marie Curtis, Baptist Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Spend some time with Bill Smith and you’ll catch his vision for missions.

That’s what happened to North Buffalo Community Church in New York, a congregation Smith planted in 1994 with his wife Adrian.
Attendance averages around 100, but the church is not limited by size. Smith has instilled an urgency among the members for reaching their community and the world for Christ. They have been on mission trips to Zambia, Suriname, Burkina Faso, India and Brazil.

“I am aging gracefully and quickly, so I would like God to use our church to build leaders who have the same passion that God has for missions,” Smith said, envisioning a time “that once I’m off the scene, this idea of taking the gospel to the whole world would just explode from our church.”

BP Photo

Pastor Bill Smith, left, and church member Paul Heo, second from left, visit with friends outside Tabernacle of David Church, a Korean church plant in Buffalo that Smith’s church helps support.

Smith prays that his vision will spread to other African American churches and across racial barriers. Many people he’s met overseas assume all missionaries are white. For Smith, that’s a call for more people of color to move out of their places of comfort and respond.

“Most of the world looks like us,” the pastor said. “The people are out there calling for us to be a part of this process of bringing the Good News to them. They’ve been waiting, God’s been waiting and it’s time to wait no more.”

“Every time I’ve gone to an African nation or a place where there are African people, the people we minister to are shocked to know that there are African descendants who are missionaries,” Smith added. “They always ask the question: ‘Then where have you been?’

“Our hearts get broken because we keep facing this.”

North Buffalo Community Church, partnering with the International Mission Board (IMB), has sent a five-member volunteer team on a weeklong vision trip to Salvador, Brazil. Although they fought intense heat and swatted bugs, they gained insight into the needs of the Quilombola, a people immersed in voodoo who are descendents of runaway slaves.

Being African American is an advantage in building relationships with the Quilombola, team member Marian King said, adding, “I think people are comfortable with people who look like them.

“We visited a mother, a mother of seven, who reminded me of my mother who was also a single mother raising seven children. That touched my heart,” King said. “There was this little girl [one of the daughters]. She was close to the age I was when I accepted Christ into my life. I was able to share with her, and she accepted Christ.”

BP Photo

Quilombola people in Brazil pray with a missions team from New York’s North Buffalo Community Church. Pastor Bill Smith has instilled in the congregation an urgency for reaching their community and the world for Christ. Besides Brazil, church members have been on mission trips to Zambia, Suriname, Burkina Faso and India.

Keith Jefferson, the IMB’s African American missional church strategist and coordinator of the Brazil trip, wants to find more churches with a willingness to serve. Jefferson was a Southern Baptist missionary to the Quilombola for 16 years.

“There are great advantages for African Americans to be involved in missions,” Jefferson said. “You have 53 countries in Africa. You have countries of color, like India. You have many other countries that have color, where African Americans would have an advantage to go in and share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

“I feel that we as African Americans are like a type of sleeping giant that is awakening. Although there are many good things that are happening through African American churches with missions, there are so many other things that need to take place. We don’t have any more excuses.”

Smith agreed saying, “Our small church gets to do big things because of the way God has built into us through this thing called missions.

“All the challenges, the things that people are afraid of … they quickly drop away once you decide to follow God. One of the things I know that people believe would be a hindrance to doing missions is finances, but it has always been our experience that if we put our minds to doing missions, then God always puts the finances in place for everyone who wants to go.”

Smith’s missions vision includes ministering close to home, with North Buffalo Community Church engaging, for example, in outreach to students from different cultures at the University of Buffalo.

“We are currently preparing two young men, one going back to Korea, one going back to Thailand,” the pastor said. “We are helping them, mentoring them, getting them ready. I’d like to see God do something huge in Thailand because of what Ed is going to do and something huge in South Korea because of what Paul is going to do.”

North Buffalo’s small congregation gave more than $10,000 in 2011 and 2010 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and supports year-round missions giving.

They want to be an example for other African American churches to give generously, sacrificially and obediently.

“I would like to be a part of seeing God start a movement among our churches whereby we would join other ethnic groups … and we would do the work that God would have us to do, so that we could wrap this thing up,” Smith said. “He would have given everybody the opportunity to come to faith in Him and then would call us to His Kingdom. Jesus would come, and God would be pleased.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marie Curtis is an International Mission Board writer/editor.)

6/25/2012 1:26:02 PM by Marie Curtis, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Panel in New Orleans shares joys of adoption, challenges church

June 22 2012 by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor

When it comes to being “doers of the Word,” Tony Merida firmly believes part of that challenge involves caring for orphans, widows and the vulnerable.
Merida, lead pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, was one of four panelists at a break-out discussion on adoption and orphan care June 20, during the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in New Orleans.
Merida and his wife, Kimberly, have five children – they adopted four from Ukraine and one from Ethiopia.
“For me it wasn’t just sad pictures that made me want to adopt kids,” said Merida, also co-author of Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel Centered Adoption and Orphan Care. “It wasn’t infertility that made me want to adopt kids. It was theology. God is a father to the fatherless.”

Merida, (center) lead pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, was one of four panelists at a break-out discussion on adoption and orphan care June 20, during the SBC’s annual meeting in New Orleans.

In addition to Merida, other panelists included Russell Moore, author of Adopted for Life and a dean and a vice president at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.; Johnny Carr, who directs church partnerships with Bethany Christian Services; and David Platt, author and pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala. The panel was sponsored by the North American Mission Board and Together for Adoption.
Matt Capps, an associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, moderated the event. Capps asked Merida to share some practical tips for how people can get involved in helping orphans and children in need.
The goal for a pastor, Merida said, is to develop a “culture of orphan care” in their congregation. To do that a pastor must also lead by example.
“Leaders must embody the vision,” he said.
“I don’t think necessarily that pastors have to adopt to embody the vision,” said Merida, pointing to Saddleback Church’s pastor Rick Warren, who hasn’t adopted but leads his church in a variety of social ministries. “But you do need to exemplify what you are talking about.”
Start with a simple plan, Merida said. Host a training seminar. Invite local experts on adoption and foster care to speak at your church. Develop relations with local foster care and with adoption services. Develop a way for the congregation to execute what is being discussed by pointing them in directions of action.
“As a pastor don’t feel like you have to have all of the answers,” he said. “Things are changing so often. Don’t underestimate the power of developing relationships with movers and shakers in your church. Start in a small way, and see what God can do with that.”
Being educated on the issue is critical, said Carr, of Bethany Christian Services. In the United States, on any given day, there’s estimated to be between 430,000 to 450,000 kids who are in and out of the foster care system. Globally, he said, there are believed to be more than 150 million “vulnerable” children who have lost one or both parents.
“We don’t need to paint the picture that [150 million] kids need to be adopted,” he said. “That’s not true. I would say millions of kids do need adoption of some sort.”
“If [Christians are] going to be leading in this movement we need to make sure we have a good grasp on that. … We do need to be educated about the reality of the orphan.”
Capps asked the panel about how adoption fits with the gospel and the mission of the church.
“Sometimes people are afraid … we’re going to get distracted from winning people to faith in Christ,” said Moore, dean of the school of theology and senior vice president of academic administration at Southern.
“When a church learns how to accommodate that kid with fetal alcohol syndrome … learns to hold that baby with AIDS … learns to bear with that woman [who is] addicted to cocaine, that same congregation is learning to bear with young believers in Christ and to disciple them,” he said.
“You’re learning to be a family together, all part of the family of God.”
Though the panel encourages everyone to get involved in some way, not everyone is called to adopt, Moore added.
“I spend a lot of my time calling on Christians not to adopt,” Moore said. “Children are not a project. Children are not a charity. Children are not something to fill some hole within your life. Children need parents who are called to be parents through everything with those children. When people adopt kids or foster kids, the story doesn’t end there. … The story begins there.”
There “are 1,000 different ways that God’s calling people to care for widows and orphans,” Moore said.
“If simply you come in with a type of cookie-cutter program, you’re going to miss some of what the Holy Spirit is doing within your congregation,” he said.
Pastors need to ask their congregations how God is calling them to care for the orphans and others in need – whether that is foster care, adoption or helping financially.
“And then see what happens,” Moore said. “Let the spirit blow wherever He will.”
Platt shared how Brook Hills helped mobilize 160 families in their congregation to respond to the needs of foster children in their own county. It began when the church invited representatives from local organizations familiar with foster care to speak to the congregation.
“That just opened my eyes to ‘wow’ … in just our county alone they need 100 plus more families, which means all these kids are in need. They’re just getting thrown around the system in really unhealthy ways,” said Platt, who adopted two of three children with wife, Heather.  
 “From that [the effort] has grown into now a city-wide emphasis where we are working with evangelical churches all across the city to address the wider need and our metro area to work together to address foster care.”
Platt added, “The reality is if we’re going to make disciples of all nations and engage unreached people, engage people groups all around the world …we’re [going to] come across a variety of fatherless, parentless children in the process, particularly in places where spiritual poverty collides with physical poverty and different social challenges,” he said.
“We have an opportunity to come around local churches around the world and say how can we together address this  … as we’re making disciples of all nations ... and we’re helping mobilize the entire body of Christ to address this crisis.”
6/22/2012 3:03:09 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Unofficial New Orleans total: 7,868 messengers

June 22 2012 by Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS – Attendance at the 2012 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting June 19-20 tallied 7,868 messengers from the nation’s 45,000 Southern Baptist churches. Official numbers will not be released until later in June. In 2001, the last time Southern Baptists gathered in New Orleans, 9,584 messengers were in attendance.

“We were expecting 8,000 to 8,500,” said Don Currence, acting registration secretary for the SBC, “so it’s about what we thought we’d get with the economy the way it is. There was also a lot of interest because of who we elected as president.”

Messengers June 19 elected Fred Luter Jr., pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, as president of the SBC, marking the first time the convention has had an African American president.

Last year in Phoenix, 4,852 messengers gathered for the lowest attended annual meeting in six decades. This summer’s meeting beat that mark before the opening gavel fell on the first day.

As expected, Louisiana churches turned out in force for the meeting in their backyard; their 943 messengers represented the largest number from any state.

Jessica Barrow from First Baptist Church Longville, La., helps register Timon Keller from Suburban Baptist Church in Granite City, Ill. Keller is registering to be a messenger for the first time at the 155th Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in New Orleans.

Next year, with the convention gathering in Houston, Currence said he personally anticipates another jump in attendance.

The unofficial state-by-state messenger registration numbers are as follows: Alabama, 610; Alaska, 13; Arizona, 49; Arkansas, 248; California, 107; Colorado, 44; Connecticut, 4; Delaware, 1; Florida, 507; Georgia, 644; Hawaii, 9; Idaho, 5; Illinois, 145; Indiana, 91; Iowa, 9; Kansas, 49; Kentucky, 354; Louisiana, 943; Maine, 1; Maryland, 97; Massachusetts, 4; Michigan, 36; Minnesota, 4; Mississippi, 792; Missouri, 210; Montana, 7; Nebraska, 4; North Carolina, 445; Nevada, 34; New Hampshire, 4; New Jersey, 18; New Mexico, 41; New York, 28; Ohio, 95; Oklahoma, 203; Oregon, 1; Pennsylvania, 16; Puerto Rico 4; South Carolina, 335; Tennessee, 668; Texas, 571; Utah, 12; Vermont, 1; Virginia, 253; Washington, 6; Washington, D.C., 14; West Virginia 30; Wisconsin, 9; Wyoming, 10; other, 63.

Jim Wells, the elected registration secretary, was unable to attend the convention due to surgery for cancer. Wells said he expects to make a full recovery and attend next year’s meeting in Houston.

Wells was first elected registration secretary in 2002 and was re-elected to another term June 20. He serves as the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program missionary for strategic partnerships.

Currence is minister of administration at First Baptist Church in Ozark, Mo.

(EDITOR’S NOTE  – Brian Koonce is a staff writer for The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)
6/22/2012 1:41:10 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

First-timers reflect on their first SBC annual meeting

June 22 2012 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

Emillie Collins got to go home to enjoy her first Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting. 
Collins, a Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary student from northern Louisiana, grew up in a Baptist church and attended a Southern Baptist college. Although she knew about the Cooperative Program and Southern Baptist agencies and institutions, she said that attending this year’s SBC meeting in New Orleans gave her a much better understanding of Southern Baptists’ ministry and missions efforts.
“I was excited to learn about how we function and the forward direction of the SBC; our vision,” said Collins, who is a member of North Wake Church in Wake Forest.
Hearing testimonies from missionaries serving throughout the world helped Collins see the Cooperative Program in action.
“I always knew we gave to the Cooperative Program. But it’s important to educate our congregations on what we do and why. Education is important, especially among youth,” she said.
Collins is enrolled in a class at Southeastern that allows her to earn course credit by attending the SBC, writing reflection papers about the meeting, and participating in a one-day intensive on Southeastern’s campus prior to the SBC. The intensive reviews topics such as the history of the SBC and important topics related to the annual meeting.
Nathan Finn, Southeastern associate professor of historical theology and Baptist studies, teaches the class.
Collins appreciated SBC president Bryant Wright addressing the issue of Calvinism instead of ignoring it. “He addressed that head on. That was a good first word, and I was encouraged by that,” she said.
Collins also appreciated the opportunity messengers have to bring motions and resolutions before the Convention. “Part of our identity is that we are congregational led. We have a say. And it is important to be informed and to participate. We are allowed that responsibility and privilege,” she said.
Also in Finn’s class and attending the SBC for the first time was graduate student Daniel Anderson.
Anderson, 29, has only been in North Carolina for about a year and a half. Originally from Orlando, Fla., Anderson worked for a local marketing company before his wife got a job in New York City. Once in New York, Anderson couldn’t find a job. He ended up at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, helping with a church plant. 

BSC photo by Melissa Lilley

Bryce Hantla, a Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary doctoral student, attended his first Southern Baptist Convention. He was the only messenger from Crossroads Fellowship’s Wake Forest campus.

Although not an easy decision, Anderson eventually decided that as much as he appreciated and respected his Presbyterian roots, he needed to serve within a denomination more closely aligned with his theological beliefs.
Remaining active in denominational life was important to Anderson. “Denominations can do more together than individuals can by themselves,” he said.
Anderson soon found himself headed to Southeastern and joining a Southern Baptist church – Imago Dei – in Raleigh. He appreciates the focus of Southern Baptists on church planting and missions.
During this year’s annual meeting Anderson enjoyed meeting other students and people his age from other states. “It hardens a resolve that I want to be part of this and link arms with them,” he said.
Anderson enjoyed his first SBC meeting and said it won’t be his last.
“I plan on being someone who comes back as much as possible. I do believe the SBC is worth fighting for because when it’s on track, and we have a unified message of missions and church planting and reaching the world with the gospel, that’s something I want to be part of. I want to make sure the foundation that was laid continues on,” he said.
Collins and Anderson both expressed gratitude for being able to see Fred Luter elected SBC president and called it the highlight of this year’s meeting.
Bryce Hantla, a Southeastern doctoral student also in New Orleans for his first SBC, said the overwhelming support messengers demonstrated for Luter was encouraging.
“That was something that met and exceeded my expectations,” he said.
He also appreciated the International Mission Board report, hearing missionary testimonies and meeting other Southern Baptists.
Although Luter’s election is a step in the right direction, Hantla hopes that the denomination will continue seeking to reflect more diversity.
“I hope to see the face of the people who come to these events change. The local church level is the most effective way to see that change,” he said. “The local church must reach out to other people groups.”
Hantla was the only messenger from his church – Crossroads Fellowship in Wake Forest – this year, as the church only recently affiliated with the SBC. Yet, he said attending the SBC has proven valuable.
“Coming to the SBC is a ground level, practical, Baptist life experience.”
6/22/2012 1:23:47 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Southeastern equipping students for local, global outreach

June 22 2012 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

In 1992, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary was in trouble. Facing an enrollment of fewer than 600 students and problems with accrediting agencies, “many were predicting our seminary would not survive,” said Danny Akin during his report to messengers June 20 of the 2012 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in New Orleans.
Akin, president of Southeastern, described what has happened since that time as a “20-year miracle story.”
“God has blessed us in incredible ways. On the campus there is the sweetest spirit because there’s a great love for the Lord Jesus Christ,” said Akin, who was elected just before his report to bring the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting sermon in 2013.
Nearly 3,000 students are now enrolled in Southeastern and graduates are serving all over the world. “God is raising up more missionaries than ever before, and more church planters to underserved areas,” Akin said. “Southeastern is a Great Commission seminary. We try to wear it on our sleeve. It’s embedded in our mission statement.”

Photo by Jeremy Scott

Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., gives a report June 20 during the last session of the two-day Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.

Several commitments, such as a passion for expository preaching, undergird the seminary’s devotion to sending out Great Commission graduates who will start and build up Great Commission churches. Akin acknowledged that although tensions exist when preaching scripture, regarding God’s sovereignty and human free will, Southeastern is passionate about getting the gospel to those who need to hear it.
“We know anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,” he said. “But they won’t be saved unless they hear the gospel. Our mission is to send people to the ends of the earth to share the gospel.”
To help equip students for ministry Southeastern offers training in many different areas, such as biblical counseling, which students now have more opportunities to study at both the undergraduate and graduate level.
Another unique endeavor is Equip, which seeks to provide students training and practical experience in a local church before they graduate.
“We believe the best theological education takes place in a partnership between a seminary and the local church. There are some things that can only be learned in the laboratory of a local church,” Akin said.
Through Equip, students are mentored by local church leaders, complete internships at local churches and participate in supervised field ministry courses. About 70 churches partner with the seminary through Equip, and Akin is praying for that number to reach 300 by 2015.
Akin also asked messengers to pray for 10 Southeastern students serving on a short-term mission trip in Sudan. Two years ago Akin and his wife also served in Sudan. Although Sudan is not an easy place to serve, the students “believe putting your life on the line for the Lord Jesus Christ is worth it,” Akin said.
Akin also spoke of Southeastern’s commitment to the Southern Baptist Convention.
“Southeastern loves the SBC,” he said. “We’re honored to serve the members of the SBC. We are accountable to you, and we take that very seriously and very gladly.”
6/22/2012 1:14:08 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

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