June 2013

Church planters meet to worship

June 19 2013 by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – Southern Baptist church planter Carlos Pulgarin isn’t accustomed to worship services without responsibilities.

At Zona Cera, his Spanish-language church plant in Vancouver, B.C., Pulgarin has to set up everything – such as the sound system, chairs and children’s ministry – before each of the church’s twice-weekly worship services.

But on Sunday, June 9, Pulgarin and 51 other Southern Baptist church planters joined together for a rare treat: a North American Mission Board (NAMB)-sponsored worship service where other believers served and fed them spiritually instead of the other way around.

“This was a very good time for me to listen to others,” Pulgarin said. “I know that other people have been preparing to share spiritual food with me. God is so good.”

The church planters came from all the geographic regions of North America and from a variety of church planting contexts including rural, urban and suburban. Many were participating in their first Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Afterward, church planters were treated to a special lunch and were presented a gift bag from NAMB.

Photo by John Swain
Erika and Josue Leon worship during a service hosted by the North American Mission Board for church planters on Sunday morning prior to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Houston.

“It’s just a wonderful time to refresh ourselves, to center ourselves on the Word and to lift up Jesus,” said Brad O’Brien, a church planter in Baltimore who was attending his first SBC. “It was a reminder that it is really about what He has done for us and His call to the city of Baltimore, where we’re [committed] for the sake of the gospel. It was a great reminder of that today.”

NAMB President Kevin Ezell preached from 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. Throughout the message he encouraged church planters not to overestimate their own abilities and not to underestimate what God can do through them.

“When you feel least effective, God is going to use you in the greatest way. Never, ever underestimate your potential effectiveness,” Ezell told the church planters. “But never, ever overestimate your ability to just manipulate something and make it happen.”

The worship service kicked off a busy week for the church planters who helped Southern Baptists connect with the North American mission field as they immersed themselves in the SBC. One of the key reasons NAMB invited the planters to the convention was to further their involvement in convention life.

“Here’s the thing about the Southern Baptist family: Because of who Christ is and what He has done, we can come together today – from different contexts, different cities and different states – we come together worshiping Jesus,” Micah Millican, NAMB’s director of church planter relations, told the planters at the worship service.

Since many of the planters at the annual meeting serve in ministry contexts with few if any Southern Baptists nearby, many appreciated the opportunity to build relationships with other church planters as well as established church pastors during the convention. Many hoped to find future partners for their church plants.

“I always see coming to the Southern Baptist Convention as a great opportunity to connect with people you may know from other areas,” said Patrick Thompson, a church planter in New York City. “That’s especially true for us now, planting a church in New York City. We look at this as a great opportunity to meet with people who may be interested in what we’re doing and may want to partner with us by providing mission teams and prayer. The SBC is great [for making] those connections.”

NAMB church planters were at the entity’s exhibit to help answer questions about church planting and to connect Southern Baptists to Send North America. Send North America is NAMB’s strategy to help churches and individuals become active in all regions of North America to lead people to faith in Jesus Christ and start new churches.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board. For more information on how to get involved in Send North America, visit namb.net/mobilize-me. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/19/2013 2:53:53 PM by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ethnic leaders affirm value of Southern Baptist diversity

June 19 2013 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – Southern Baptists of all ethnicities must join together to reach an ever-diversifying nation and the world for Christ, leaders from three ethnic advisory councils said during a panel discussion in Houston.

“It’s not a great secret that Southern Baptists were not always as ethnically diverse as we are today,” moderator Ed Stetzer said at the Executive Committee booth at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

“We’ve made remarkable progress. As a matter of fact, when news reporters do kind of a forthright, well-told story, they will hold up Southern Baptists as one of those who’ve increased ethnic diversity in our churches,” Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, said.

Even so, leadership roles throughout the convention are occupied largely by Anglos, Stetzer said. 

The panel included Paul Kim, Jerry Lepasana and Alan Chan of the Asian Advisory Council; A.B. Vines and K. Marshall Williams Sr. of the African American Advisory Council; Daniel Sanchez of the Hispanic Advisory Council; and Frank Page and Ken Weathersby of the Executive Committee. 

Nearly 10,000 of the SBC’s 46,000 churches are “ethnic in some shape, form or fashion,” making Southern Baptists by far the most ethnic convention in the nation, Page, the Executive Committee’s president, said.

Lepasana, pastor of Bible Church International in Randolph, N.J., said the Filipino congregation he leads finds great value in partnering with the Southern Baptist Convention because the Cooperative Program (CP) helped start many of the Filipino churches in the New York and New Jersey area. CP is the channel by which Southern Baptists support state, national and international missions and ministry.

Photo by Rebecca Wolford
Members of three advisory councils – African American, Hispanic and Asian – joined in a panel discussion of the significance of ethnic groups within the Southern Baptist Convention, June 10 in Houston.

“We always want to make sure that we stay connected to Southern Baptists because we feel that there’s this partnership that allows us to be able to expand the Kingdom with other Southern Baptist churches. That has been a critical partnership for us,” Lepasana said.

Vines, pastor of New Seasons Church in Spring Valley, Calif., said he believes now is the time for action among ethnic Baptists.

“We have these talks behind doors, so it’s time for us to come in the room, get at the table and talk clearly and talk truthfully,” Vines said. “... We have fears about different cultures, but those things need to be put away because Christ has evened the playing field.”

Kim, pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass., made a motion at the SBC annual meeting in 2009 that the Executive Committee study how different ethnic groups could work together in the convention. When he walks onto the convention floor, Kim said, he wonders where the ethnic groups are. 

“Southern Baptists cannot do the mission with one ethnic group,” Kim said.

Williams, pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, said the “elephant in the room is racism.”

“It’s a problem all over the nation, and if the church of the Lord Jesus Christ doesn’t stand up, this nation is doomed for hell, and I’m calling our convention to step up – black, white, red and green – because really the issue is not skin, it’s sin,” Williams said. “We need to call it what it is, that we might be able to come together as the body of Christ because Jesus is coming soon.”

Many Anglo pastors don’t know an African American pastor or an Asian pastor or a Hispanic pastor, Williams said, and that must change.

Sanchez, a professor of missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, noted that many ethnic people arrived in the United States and had to adjust to a different culture and language “and have done beautifully.”

“I think by virtue of our experiences or pilgrimages as such in the assimilation process, we are in a marvelous position to be missionaries in this country and around the world,” Sanchez said. “Already we’ve adapted.”

Southern Baptists, Sanchez said, are taking the lead in integrating ethnic groups. “Many multicultural congregations now are showing people that it can be done,” he said.

Chan, a pastor at the Los Angeles-area Mandarin Baptist Church in Alhambra, agreed with Vines that Southern Baptists must seize the moment to unite in order to reach the world for Christ. He mentioned traveling recently with SBC President Fred Luter and other pastors.

The team was unique, Chan said, because there were two African American pastors, two Asian American pastors, a Hispanic pastor and an Anglo pastor.

“Wherever we went, people would look at us and wonder what in the world we were doing,” Chan said. “That’s the beautiful picture because the Great Commission asks us to make disciples of all nations. I think this is the strength of our convention. We’re not here to save the convention but to obey the Great Commission, to do what Jesus asked us to do.”

Weathersby, vice president of convention advancement at the Executive Committee, said the various ethnic groups are Southern Baptists “because of our values.” The task of reaching the nations for Christ is what unites them, he said, and “we need to be planting the seed of the gospel.”

Stetzer said, “This is a great conversation, but I think we had it last year. And I think we had it the year before. We’ve had it in different forms. ... How do we not have the same conversation 10 years from now?”

The panel identified five ways: Tell the story, better information leading to action, intentionality, relationships and cultural sensitivity.

Vines said it’s imperative to tell the whole story of Southern Baptist work as opposed to just telling what the Anglos are doing. “How about African Americans?” he said. “I’ve planted two Anglo churches. I planted a Hispanic church. The story’s got to be told on both sides of the table, and when that happens then the discussion won’t be needed because they’ll see it.” 

Sanchez noted that detailed information is being presented in advisory council meetings so that specific needs are known and specific recommendations can be made. An example of that, he said, is that the council members told Page they were concerned about a lack of education among ethnics. “Already a committee has been appointed,” Sanchez said.

Page said entities and state conventions must be intentional about hiring minorities to work on their staffs. “We now have two African Americans on our staff,” Page said of the Executive Committee, which has fewer than 30 employees.

Also, Page has been encouraging African American, Asian and Latino friends to run for SBC president. “Fred Luter should not be an anomaly,” Page said. 

Williams emphasized the importance of relationships between ethnic groups. “In the National African American Fellowship we’ve done many conferences and we’ve tried to partner with some of the state conventions to help our brothers understand what’s available through Southern Baptists,” Williams said.

Chan urged Southern Baptists to demonstrate cultural sensitivity. Stetzer, in response, said, “You’re going to have to help us. You’re going to have to say, ‘If you said it this way, it would be more inclusive, more appropriate, more helpful along the way.’“

Weathersby made the point that Southern Baptists now are eager to reach the nation’s cities, and many urban churches are ethnic. If Southern Baptists would work in partnership with those ethnic churches to reach metropolitan areas, they could save themselves some mistakes and get the Gospel out to people faster, Weathersby said.

Lepasana encouraged convention staff to empower ethnic pastors by visiting them and helping them understand how they can fill important leadership roles on the associational, state convention and national levels.

Stetzer concluded the panel discussion by telling the ethnic leaders, “We need you more than you need us.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/19/2013 2:41:14 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Surrender, stand, serve, ministers’ wives told

June 19 2013 by Shannon Baker, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – Pastor’s wife Donna Gaines challenged ministers’ wives at the 2013 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Houston to surrender their lives to God, stand by their men and use their spiritual gifts “for the sake of the gospel.”

“I pray you will so surrender to Him and be so consumed in love for Him that every waking moment, when your mind is given leisure, you will think of Him,” Gaines said at the June 11 Ministers’ Wives Luncheon. Gaines is wife of Steve Gaines, senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn.

“I know it hurts when you’re wrongly accused; I know it hurts when someone slanders your husband,” Gaines said, reminding wives they must put God first. “Run to Jesus … stand on His Word until it becomes a part of who you are.”

Photo by Bill Bangham
Donna Gaines, wife of senior pastor Steve Gaines of Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, Tenn., speaks to hundreds of ministers’ wives during the annual Ministers’ Wives Luncheon held the first day of the Southern Baptist Convention’s June 11-12 annual meeting in Houston.  

She encouraged wives to stand by their husbands.

“You can do that as the Spirit of God fills you and enables you to respect your husband and to stand by his side faithfully,” she said, urging the wives to see their husbands as the men God created them to be, even before the men have matured in their God-given roles.

“Have you spent enough time praying for your husband,” she asked, “that you know who it is He’s calling him to be?”

Gaines encouraged the women to serve.

“It’s really about service and evangelism. It’s the Great Commission,” she stressed. “God will push you out of your comfort zone, because it is there where you are totally dependent on Him.”

“God is able, if you just believe,” she said.

Luncheon president Kathy Ferguson Litton, whose husband Rick Ferguson died in a 2002 car accident, described the luncheon theme, “For the sake of the gospel,” based on 1 Corinthians 9:23, as “personal.”

“When death invaded our family, it sent me on a journey of grief and loss,” she said. “My discovery is this: that the line of the gospel held in the darkest era of my life.”

Now married to Ed Litton, pastor of First Baptist Church North Mobile in Saraland, Ala., Litton serves with the North American Mission Board’s leadership development team to support and encourage ministers’ wives. Litton said she learned while participating in an SBC denominational study that a staggering number of souls are without Christ.

The reality of the lost was very “sobering” and “transformational,” she said. “Maybe for the first time, I really saw myself so powerfully as part of the personnel… that I had a responsibility in the Gospel advance.”

Litton told the audience of an experience with Shauna Pilgreen, a church planter’s wife in San Francisco, considered one of the hardest cities in America to reach with the gospel. After 10 people were baptized, the wife fell into her lap and sobbed uncontrollably.

“What did I see in the tears coming out of this woman? I saw sacrifice, courage, faithfulness, prayers, reckless obedience, vision, hard work, hard work and more hard work,” Litton said. “That’s why they came to San Francisco: for the sake of the gospel.”

Janet Hunt, wife First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., pastor Johnny Hunt, was honored with the 2013 Willie Turner Dawson Award, recognizing a minister’s wife for Christian character, service to others and a distinct denominational contribution beyond the local church. (See story.)

Luncheon officers, rather than buying lavish decorations for the luncheon, opted to give a donation to Courage Homes, a ministry of Baptist Global Response that provides a safe haven for girls 8-18 who have been rescued from brothel slavery.

Officers for the 2014 luncheon are president Donna Avant, wife of John Avant, senior pastor of First Baptist Concord in Knoxville, Tenn.; vice president Sherry Lee, wife of David Lee, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware in Columbia, Md.; recording secretary-treasurer Donna Conrad, wife of John Conrad, associate pastor of music and missions at New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ga., and correspondence secretary Jacqueline Anderson, wife of Robert Anderson, pastor of Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown, Md.

Priscilla Shirer of Going Beyond Ministries will be the guest speaker. The noted author and speaker is the daughter of Tony Evans, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Church in Dallas, Texas.

The theme for the luncheon, set for the Tuesday of the annual meeting in Baltimore, will be “No Fear, No Excuses: He is Able,” based on 2 Timothy 1:12.

The annual luncheon is funded by ticket sales, church and organization donations and the Nancy Sullivan Ministers’ Wives Endowment Trust Fund. Designated contributions to the endowment may be sent to the Office of the Executive Director, Florida Baptist Convention, 1230 Hendricks Avenue, Jacksonville, FL 32207.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shannon Baker is national correspondent of BaptistLIFE, the newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/19/2013 2:29:58 PM by Shannon Baker, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Janet Hunt honored as pastor’s wife

June 19 2013 by Shannon Baker, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – Janet Hunt, wife of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., senior pastor Johnny Hunt, was honored with the 2013 Willie Turner Dawson Award during the Ministers’ Wives Luncheon at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Houston.

Hunt has served alongside her husband as he has pastored four churches in their 42 years of marriage, the last 26 at First Baptist Woodstock. As she began her journey and learned the expected role of a pastor’s life, she realized, “I was not her – and still am not.”

“There is a new ‘typical pastor’s wife.’ It’s me, and it’s all of you who are sitting in here today who realize you have unique personalities and unique gifts,” Hunt said upon receiving the award. “The Lord has chosen you to use these unique gifts … for the sake of the gospel.”

The Dawson award commends a distinct denominational contribution beyond the local church and a Christian character and service to others. Hunt likened the recognition to receiving “an honorary doctorate,” even though she had not attended Bible college or seminary.

Photo by Bill Bangham
Jeana Floyd, left, wife of Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in Springdale, Ark., presents Janet Hunt with the Willie Turner Dawson Award, which recognizes a minister’s wife for making a distinct denominational contribution beyond the local church and for her Christian character and service to others. Hunt is the wife of Johnny Hunt, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga.

For the last 20 years, the Hunts have co-led the “Timothy + Barnabas School of Instruction and Encouragement,” a ministry to pastors and their wives that has grown to serve multiple cities nationally and internationally. The Hunts announced a scholarship supported by and the North American Mission Board for a minister’s wife at the luncheon to attend an upcoming “Timothy + Barnabas” conference.

Hunt directed for 17 years First Baptist Woodstock’s women’s ministry, where she developed the popular “Ladies Night Out” and helped countless churches of various denominations start women’s ministries.

Jeana Floyd, wife of Cross Church of Springdale, Ark., pastor Ronnie Floyd, presented the award while recognizing Hunt as a friend who has a healthy way of not taking ministry too seriously. Among Hunt’s interests, Floyd said, are NASCAR, geocaching and clogging.

“Something fun always happens when Janet Hunt is involved,” Floyd said, “but along with that fun and entertainment, come moments of encouragement, refreshment, support and hope.”

Floyd thanked Hunt for modeling “a minister’s wife who is a real person who loves Jesus, loves her family, and shows us that God created us to live a life of joy serving the Lord as He uniquely gifts all of us.”

Hunt, a native of Wilmington, N.C., has traveled extensively with her husband to over 20 foreign countries and has also ministered in thousands of U.S. churches.

The Hunts have two daughters, Deanna Carswell and Hollie Hixson, and four grandchildren.

The Dawson Award was established in 1963 when the ministers’ wives group posthumously honored Willie Turner Dawson, wife of J.M. Dawson, then pastor of First Baptist Church in Waco, Texas. She was a teacher and lecturer who in 1930 successfully challenged the Southern Baptist Convention to give more to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

Send nominations for the 2014 Dawson award in the form of an essay by April 15, 2014, to Mr. Donna Avant, 11704 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN 37934 or davant551@comcast.net.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shannon Baker is national correspondent of BaptistLIFE, the newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/19/2013 2:18:38 PM by Shannon Baker, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Feds release first guidelines for confronting a church shooter

June 19 2013 by Lauren Markhoe, Religion News Service

WASHINGTON – For the first time, the federal government has issued written guidelines for houses of worship that are confronted with a homicidal gunman.
Vice President Joe Biden released the new rules on Tuesday (June 18), six months after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 26 dead, including 20 children.
Beyond seeking shelter and waiting for police to arrive, as many Newtown victims did, the new rules also advise adults in congregations to fight back — as a last resort — in a bid to stop the shooter. The new federal doctrine is “run, hide or fight.”
After Congress failed to pass a slew of gun safety measures in April, Biden said the executive branch is doing what it can, promising to put gun control legislation back in lawmakers’ hands, and pointing to 21 executive actions to beef up gun safety taken by the administration since Newtown.
He also unveiled three new federal guidebooks to keep institutions safe: one for schools, one for colleges and one for houses of worship.
Though shootings at churches and other houses of worship remain relatively rare, they can make inviting targets for shooters — particularly disturbed individuals — who are looking for a highly visible target to settle a grudge or make a political statement.
Last year a gunman killed six people inside a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis. In 2008, a gunman killed two congregants inside a Unitarian church in Knoxville, Tenn. In 2007, a gunman killed two people inside the New Life megachurch in Colorado Springs, Colo., before being shot and killed by an armed volunteer.
As federal officials worked with education officials in crafting new school safety rules, they also consulted clergy, Biden told a White House auditorium filled with federal officials who have worked on the issue.
“The faith leaders not only want us to talk about making schools safer,” Biden said. “They’re worried that their congregations are at risk. So they wanted to know, what should they be thinking about when someone stands up in the middle of the congregation and decides to do something similar as we saw in the schools.”
In response to their concerns, Biden said, “we gave concrete direction.”
The guidelines’ basic run-hide-fight advice is similar to that given to schools faced with active shooters: Congregants should first try to flee the scene, taking people with them but not waiting for those who refuse to leave. If flight is not possible, hide – the guidelines describe some of the best hiding places. Fighting back is a last resort.
According to the new rules, gathered in a 38-page document called “Guide for Developing High-Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship,” fighting back is advised for “adults in immediate danger,” who should:
“Consider trying to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter by using aggressive force and items in their environment, such as fire extinguishers or chairs. In a study of 41 active shooter events that ended before law enforcement arrived, the potential victims stopped the attacker themselves in 16 instances. In 13 of those cases, they physically subdued the attacker.”
The question of how best to subdue a gunman is likely to rekindle a debate within many churches, particularly in parts of the country where it is common to carry weapons: Should congregants bring guns to church?
“Each house of worship should determine, as part of its planning process, policies on the control and presence of weapons, as permitted by law,” the guidelines say.
It also says that individuals must make their own decisions about how best to respond when confronted by an active shooter.
Though the booklet was unveiled at an event on gun violence, it focuses on emergency preparedness in general, whether for a shooter, an arsonist or a hurricane. A special section focuses on “active shooter situations.”
6/19/2013 2:14:05 PM by Lauren Markhoe, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Cedarville calls White as president

June 18 2013 by Baptist Press

CEDARVILLE, Ohio – Cedarville University in Ohio has called as its 10th president Thomas White, a graduate and former staff member of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. Before accepting his new role, White was vice president for student services and communications at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

White will assume the post July 1, replacing William E. Brown who has transitioned to Cedarville’s chancellor, the school’s board of trustees has announced. Cedarville is endorsed by the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio, one of 42 state/regional conventions within the Southern Baptist Convention.

Southwestern President Paige Patterson, who recently rejoined the Cedarville board of trustees, described White as a “precious friend” and a “humble, courageous, brilliant prophet of God.”

“Cedarville will expand its influence and impact under his leadership,” Patterson said in announcing White’s resignation from Southwestern, where he also was a systematic theology professor and held other posts. “Few have ever been more prepared for the task.”

White pledged to lead Cedarville “down the familiar path of standing faithfully for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

“Over the course of the selection process, it became evident that Cedarville and I are kindred spirits,” White stated on Cedarville’s website. “My administration will emulate many of the strengths of its notable past leaders, continuing the evangelism and missionary zeal of James T. Jeremiah, the administrative ingenuity and strong leadership of Paul Dixon, and the love for students of Bill Brown.”

Since 2006, White has served as vice president for student services and communication as well as associate professor of systematic theology at Southwestern. As an administrator, he introduced new communication strategies that strengthened the brand and visibility of the institution. In his faculty appointment, White taught masters and doctoral classes, developed online graduate courses, and revamped the seminary’s evangelism program.
His first position at Southwestern was as director of leadership development in 2004 where he directed the seminary’s $20 million Riley Center for Leadership Development. Under White’s leadership, the Riley Center doubled its events, and financial revenue significantly increased for the Seminary.
Before joining Southwestern, White was the interim vice president for student services at Southeastern.

White is the co-author with Patterson of Calling Out the Called; co-author of Franchising McChurch: Feeding Our Obsession with Easy Christianity; and editor of First Freedom: The Baptist Perspective on Religious Liberty, Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches and Upon This Rock. He has contributed to various other volumes, written numerous articles and is active in social media through Facebook, Twitter and his blog at jthomaswhite.com.

White holds a Ph.D. in systematic theology, an M.Div. in pastoral track and languages from Southeastern, a B.A. in English and an associate’s degree from Anderson University in Indiana.

White was the 1993 black belt middle weight world amateur karate champion and is a member of the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame. Early in his ministry, he owned four karate schools in South Carolina and used them as mission fields, leading students to Christ and encouraging them in ministry. He has long since sold the schools.

White and his wife Joy have two young children, Rachel and Samuel. Joy White has authored a commentary on Acts and holds an M.Div. in women’s studies and a master of theology degree in systematic theology from Southeastern.

Also leaving Southwestern for Cedarville will be Jason Lee, professor of historical theology and chair of the church history department, who has accepted the position as dean of Cedarville’s new school of biblical and ministry studies. Concerning Lee, Patterson said he brings “academic insight, spiritual maturity and humor to an already great department of Bible.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Diana Chandler.) 
6/18/2013 4:52:24 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Harvest America stretches to N.C.

June 18 2013 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

North Carolina Baptists can bring Greg Laurie into their homes or churches in September.
Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., and Harvest Orange County in Irvine, Calif., was recently part of the lineup at the Pastor’s Conference prior to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Houston.
But in September he could be streaming live to a venue near you. Laurie will be in Philadelphia Sept. 28-29 for his Harvest America crusade.
Area churches brought Laurie to Raleigh via Internet in 2012, and the screen didn’t seem to distract those who watched.
“Once he’s preaching, it didn’t matter,” said Steve Noble about last year’s event. “It’s just the Word of God and the message.”
Noble, host of Called2Action Today (c2athisweek.org/CMS/) on FM/AM radio in North Carolina’s major cities, serves as Harvest’s director of East Coast mobilization.
A member of Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Raleigh, Noble helped organize efforts when Raleigh hosted Laurie for a Harvest event in 2007. Noble’s radio show – on Monday through Friday – provides a regular platform for him to share about Harvest and other ministries promoting the gospel.
The Harvest event is a few weeks before My Hope with Billy Graham (myhopewithbillygraham.org). Noble said the two could be paired together since both are evangelistic outreach opportunities.
New believers, who make decisions during the crusade, could use the My Hope opportunity in November to share their faith with others, Noble said.

‘Hope is on the Way’

Throughout the summer, an 18-wheel mobile theater – emblazoned with “Hope is on the Way” on the side – is promoting Harvest America.

Contributed photo
Steve Noble uses his radio show Called2Action Today as a platform to spread information about ministry opportunities, including Harvest America.

The truck was parked at the SBC annual meeting and in Charlotte a few weeks ago for a couple of races.

A 27-seat theater allows participants to feel like they are attending a crusade. People can sign up to host or for more information at the truck, which will be stopping at bookstores, radio rallies and concerts.

Harvest crusades began in 1990 in Orange County, Calif. Since then, Laurie has preached to nearly 5 million people.
“It is however you want to use it,” Noble said, indicating people can participate via Internet, satellite television or a Roku device. The latter was what Noble used at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium last year.
These Harvest events offer people a “cost-effective way to reach a boatload of people,” Noble said.
The two-night event includes one night geared to a more urban audience. Sept. 28, the musical guests will be Kirk Franklin, LeCrae and Needtobreathe. The next night, MercyMe and Jeremy Camp will perform. The ministry’s Anaheim crusades drew almost 125,000 people. But the number of people viewing it online has continued to grow and in recent crusades has surpassed the physical attendance.

College site

One of the places Laurie was streamed in 2012 was at Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs.
Part of a multi-denominational, multi-ethnic effort with the Greater Cleveland County Baptist Association, the event drew around 2,000 people. More than 40 decisions were made.
“I think it’s going to be a wave of the future,” said Keith Dixon, associational missionary. “It was a good thing for the churches to get together.”
Part of the draw of using the streaming event was the versatility. Churches, organizations and even individuals can build an event around Laurie’s message, using the included music or providing your own.
For Greater Cleveland’s association, they utilized a combined choir. More than 100 people sang in the choir leading up to Laurie’s message.

Get the word out

Smaller and more rural churches have been more apt to use the streaming option because a crusade of this magnitude is unlikely to be held in their areas. “It’s not going to happen,” Noble said, indicating that Laurie or Billy Graham would not hold a crusade in a smaller city because there wouldn’t be a large enough venue. “They’d have to drive to a big city to get it.”
But he encourages those churches to go to the site and sign up to host the September event. The crusade is easy to stream live at a variety of locations – from someone’s living room, a church or a concert hall – and for a relatively low cost. Gardner-Webb’s facility was offered to the organizers for use.
Noble’s vision for Harvest America is not just for the crusade this year. He’s strategically planning a long-term campaign.
He has already communicated with many of the state offices for Baptist conventions in the south and plans to visit them to share about opportunities available to them through the ministry.
If he doesn’t recruit them this year, he wants them to come on board in 2014 or 2015. The ministry usually hosts two or  three big events each year that can be simulcast. “I like these things because they get people thinking in terms of the Kingdom,” Noble said. “It gets you outside of my church, my Sunday School class and my friends to say ‘look what’s happening all over the nation.’”
Once someone signs up, they will be walked through simple steps on Harvest’s website (harvestamerica.com) to ensure they have what they need.
6/18/2013 4:39:33 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Fighting for Christian values, N.C.’s ‘well-kept secret’ asks for help

June 18 2013 by L.A. Williams, Christian Action League

Name a topic, – alcohol and drugs, sex education, gambling, human trafficking, marriage and parenting, religious freedom, sanctity of human life – and rest assured that a bill has been filed on it in your state government. More than 1,700 have been filed this year.
Without camping out at the General Assembly, how can Christians hope to keep pace with what’s proposed, much less influence the legislative landscape?
Enter the Christian Action League of North Carolina (CAL).
Formed in 1937 by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), this non-profit organization is proclaiming the gospel in the state capital to lawmakers and bringing the Christian worldview to bear on the legislation they consider.
Initially formed by the BSC to address alcohol policy, the Interdenominational Allied Church League broadened its focus to become CAL in 1958. Since then it has addressed virtually every critical social issue imaginable.
For Mark Creech, an ordained Southern Baptist minister and the organization’s executive director for the past 14 years, the challenge is often about making connections.
“We research issues to connect lawmakers with information that will help them make better decisions,” he said. “At the same time, we help believers across the state connect with those who represent them to make sure their voices are heard.”
“Our nation is in peril today because there is a disconnect between the principles of Christianity and the principles of civil government,” he added, lamenting that some Christians have abandoned the public square, mistakenly believing that they shouldn’t be involved in politics.
He said believers should neglect neither the call to evangelize nor the admonition to be “salt” in the culture as the commands go hand in hand.
In addition to monitoring bills that are filed, – researching potential positive or negative effects and measuring how proposed laws line up with biblical principles – CAL produces informational handouts for lawmakers, and Creech testifies before committees in both the N.C. House and Senate, as well as working one-on-one with lawmakers about the merits of a bill.
“I call on [CAL] regularly for background information on bills and issues that come before the House,” said Speaker Pro Tem Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake). “CAL’s expertise is helpful in identifying the issues and the players.”
A typical day may find Creech racing from one committee meeting to another to promote a pro-life bill or to squelch the latest proposal to expand gambling. In between, he’s likely penning a newspaper editorial, networking with another non-profit on an issue of mutual concern or putting together a weekly email update to make sure Christians know what’s happening in their state capital and how they can have an impact.
In the midst of it all, he’s still ministering, making connections that he hopes lead lawmakers and others at the Capitol building closer to Christ. 
“Rev. Creech seems to arrive just when we need him most,” said Rep. Craig Horn (R-Union). “Sometimes he stops by the office, but most often I see him in the hallways, traversing the bridge between the two legislative buildings, or he stops to chat in one of the atrium lobbies – always with a smile, a warm handshake and a much-needed friendly look.

Financial challenges

While the halls of the legislative buildings are full of highly-paid lobbyists from the gambling and alcohol industries, abortion promoters and other businesses all trying to bend the ears of lawmakers, CAL provides a unique voice calling for decisions to be made based on God’s Word. Governed by a volunteer board of directors and with just two full-time staff members, CAL relies on some part-time and contract help to accomplish its goals.
Although the organization receives $10,000 a year from the BSC, the majority of funding comes through donations from churches and individuals, and CAL struggles to meet its monthly budget.
“The challenge is that we can’t be at the Legislature making a real difference and out soliciting financial help at the same time,” said Creech.
“We try to balance these duties as best we can, but sometimes we feel like [CAL] is a well-kept secret. It’s time people knew what we’re about and why we exist.
“We’re your lobbyist, your public policy organization, advocating for those eternal values that are important to you.”
He said if each Baptist church in N.C. would give just $100 a year, it would more than fund CAL’s current needs and secure its future. “In this difficult economy, we are now suffering for funds and deep in debt by more than $17,000 and need that $100 contribution right away.
“Otherwise, God forbid, this great work could fail. There is nowhere else we can cut our budget. We’re at a tipping point and it’s either we hear from our friends or we sink,” Creech said.
“Sending that $100 check and then putting the CAL in your budget for just the same amount the next year would certainly make us much more effective because we wouldn’t have to spend so much time fundraising. Our efforts could be focused entirely on impacting legislators and legislation for Christ, while also engaging the public from a strong Christian worldview about the significant social issues of our time.” he added.
To find out more about the Christian Action League and how you can make an impact in Raleigh and beyond, log onto www.christianactionleague.org. Donations can also be made via the organization’s website. You may also reach them at (919) 787-0606 or email office@thechristianactionleague.org. To write or send a contribution to CAL by mail, write to: Christian Action League of North Carolina, 809 Spring Forest Road, Suite 1000, Raleigh, NC 27609.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – L.A. Williams is a correspondent for CAL.)

What bills/issues are being discussed?

(EDITOR’S NOTE – This is list of issues and bills being monitored, supported or opposed by the Christian Action League of North Carolina (CAL). CAL provided this information.)
S-657 Stop methamphetamine production
This bill would make any drug containing pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, or phenylpropanolamine a Schedule III controlled substance.
H-610 Modify requirements of in-stand beer sales
This bill will allow in-stand beer sales in venues with at least 3,000 seats during professional sports events, CAL reports.
H-532 No drinking in EMS and law enforcement vehicles
In addition to prohibiting alcohol use in these vehicles, the bill would make it a crime to drive one of these vehicles while alcohol remains in the driver’s system.
H-536 Ignition interlock required/all DWIs
This bill would require anyone convicted of an impaired driving offense to have an interlock device installed on their car’s ignition before getting a limited driving privilege.
H-813 Prohibited imitation controlled substances
This bill would deal with the manufacture, possession, sale, use and delivery of “fake drugs,” substances that are substantially similar in chemical structure to a controlled substance and purported to act like that substance.
H-702 Tourism ABC permits
This bill would create an “end run around current local option alcohol laws,” CAL reports, usurping authority from local voters in determining whether alcohol should be sold in a specific community.
H-781 Increase small brewery limits
A bid to increase the small brewery limits from 25,000 barrels to 60,000, this bill would circumvent the state’s three-tier system of alcohol sales, allowing more breweries to bypass the role of the distributor, according to CAL.
H-782 Fortified Malt Beverages Act
An attempt to keep “alcopops” out of the hands of teens, this bill would clarify the definition of a fortified malt beverage, ensure that these products are taxed properly and sold only in ABC stores.
H-829 Sale of “growlers” by certain ABC permittees
This bill would allow wine shops and anyone with an on-premise or off-premise malt beverage permit to sell malt beverages in re-sealable 64-ounce containers.
H-842 Spirituous liquor sales-distilleries
This an attempt, CAL reports, to circumvent the Alcoholic Beverage Control system, which mandates that spirits be sold only in ABC stores.
H-547 Tax & regulate sweepstakes
This bill would legitimize video sweepstakes gambling. The N.C. Supreme Court upheld the state’s sweepstakes ban in December 2012.
H-809 Game nights/nonprofit fundraisers
Under this bill organizations could have casino nights, CAL reports. These casino nights could include both gambling and alcohol, as long as the ultimate goal was to raise funds for a non-profit.
H-694 Clarify input on reproductive health/character education
This bill is an effort to restore abstinence until marriage as the expected standard for school-age children. CAL reports this bill would require parental signatures before certain instruction in reproductive health and safety could be taught in the classroom. It would also call for character education throughout the curriculum.
S-658 UNC/dormitory rules
In response to University of North Carolina’s (UNC) decision to allow so-called “gender neutral” housing, this bill would prohibit UNC from assigning members of the opposite sex to the same room, suite or apartment unless they are siblings or legally married.
H-647 Nondiscrimination in state/teacher employment
Promoted by Equality NC, this bill is aimed at adding special protections for homosexual, bisexual and transgender state employees and local boards of education employees, CAL reports.
H-429 & S-544 Nondiscrimination in state employment
This bill would give special protections to homosexual, bisexual and transgender individuals on the state payroll. It would expand the provisions of H-647.
H-944 Opportunity Scholarship Act
This bill would earmark $10 million to provide grants of up to $4,200 for some 2,000 low-income students (those who qualify for reduced price lunches) to be used at the school of the parents’ choosing. In subsequent school years, the criteria would expand to include families with an income of up to 133 percent of that allowed in the free lunch program. 
H-230S-189 Amend law defining home schools
This bill updates the definition of home schools to reflect how the schools operate today. It would allow for co-operatives and other schooling options. This bill has passed the House and Senate.
H-144 Homeschool education income tax credit
This bill would grant home school families a tax credit of $1,250 per semester for each eligible child.
S-683 Safe Harbor/victims of human trafficking
In addition to creating a “safe harbor” for victims of trafficking and minors sold into prostitution, this measure would toughen penalties for traffickers and help victims receive restitution, CAL reports.
H-221 Increase penalties for human trafficking
Among other provisions, this bill would make trafficking a Class E felony.
H-825 Minor can’t be prosecuted for prostitution
Similar to the Safe Harbor bill, this bill would prevent minors from being prosecuted for prostitution and would instead have them taken into temporary custody as abused juveniles and reported to the Department of Social Services.
H-855 Human trafficking
Similar to S-683, this bill would ensure that minors who are victims of human trafficking are treated as victims and provided with restitution.
S-518 Healthy Marriage Act
This legislation would extend the waiting period for divorce to two years, allow couples to live together during that time and require them to attend courses, either together or separately with the hope of saving the marriage.
H-711 Define Parental Rights Standard/Statutory Law
A very short but important bill, this would confirm that “the liberty of a parent to direct the upbringing, education and care of his or her child is a fundamental right.”
S-627 Study grandparent visitation rights
This bill would set up a 10-member committee to study grandparent visitation rights and child custody.
S-306 Capital punishment/amendments
This legislation repeals the controversial Racial Justice Act while confirming the rights to appeal available to convicted murderers, CAL reports. It also codifies the N.C. Supreme Court decision that medical practitioners can take part in the administration of the death penalty without fear of being censured by their professional organizations.
S-370 Respect for student prayer
This legislation would clarify student rights to pray in school, prohibit prayer officially sanctioned by schools (in accordance with the United States Constitution) and require school employees to show respect for student led prayer.
H-730 Modify religious employer exemption
In response to the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, this bills would support business owners who have moral objections to the use or provision of contraceptive drugs or devices.
S-719 Student’s organizations/rights & recognition
This bill would clarify that student organizations may determine the organization’s core functions and resolve any disputes. This would prevent colleges from demanding — in the name of non-discrimination — that organizations allow students opposed to their cause to take leadership positions within them.
H-730 Health Care Conscience Protection Act
A response to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, this bill would modify certain laws pertaining to abortion and contraceptive health insurance coverage so that health care providers could not be forced to take part in procedures that result in abortion. It includes provisions similar to those in S-498 and H-730, CAL reports.
H-735 Protect religious student groups
Similar to S-719, this bill would clarify that student organizations have the right to determine their own internal affairs, selecting leaders and members and defining their doctrines, etc. This bill has passed the House.
H-751 N.C. Religious freedom restoration
Similar to federal legislation, this bill is an attempt to ensure that the free exercise of religion is not burdened unless the state has a compelling reason to do so.
S-691 Unlawful to assist another to commit suicide
This bill would make it illegal to help someone kill himself by providing the means, participating in the act or helping plan the event.
H-716 Clarify law/prohibit sex selective abortion
This bill would fine a doctor at least $10,000 for performing or trying to perform an abortion “with knowledge or an objective reason to know” that the child’s gender is a significant factor in the pregnant woman’s seeking the abortion.
S-308 Amend Woman’s Right to Know Act
Among other provisions, this bill would require that doctors performing abortions remain on the premises and available to the patient until she leaves. It would also require the doctor to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic.
S-224 & H-360 Sunday hunting on private land
This bill would allow hunting on Sunday on land owned by the hunter or on land for which the hunter has written permission to hunt. It would overturn the state’s 144-year-old ban on hunting on the Lord’s Day.
6/18/2013 4:34:22 PM by L.A. Williams, Christian Action League | with 0 comments

Baptists share how CP fuels missions, ministries

June 18 2013 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

Missionary testimonies during the June 11-12 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) meeting in Houston, Texas, challenged messengers to do more to advance the gospel through the Cooperative Program.
“Unapologetically we promote the Cooperative Program. We believe it fuels and advances SBC ministries in a powerful way,” said Frank Page, president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee.
Page shared that this year the Executive Committee, as it did last year, reduced its Cooperative Program funding allocations so that more can be given to missions and ministries.
“We want to lower bureaucratic overhead so that more goes to reach the nations for Christ. When you talk about us giving to missions and ministries, we mean it with all our heart,” he said.
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) leadership has joined Page in support of the 1% Challenge and is asking all N.C. Baptist churches to increase Cooperative Program giving by one percent.
Since 2006 the BSC Cooperative Program budget has shifted a greater percentage of ministry dollars to the SBC for international missions, North American missions and equipping leaders through SBC seminaries.

Photo by Matt Miller
Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee (EC), leads Rosalia Razo to Christ at a block party June 8 during Crossover 2013. Page told messengers the EC reduced its Cooperative Program funding allocation again so more money can go toward missions.

If all 4,300 BSC churches accept the 1% Challenge the result would be $3.9 million additional for N.C. ministries and $2.1 million for SBC ministries.
The BSC would be able to help churches start 26 more churches each year across the state.
Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute would be able to train 41 more pastors and leaders each year. And each month 155 more children would be loved and cared for by the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina.
“We have seen firsthand the benefit of the Cooperative Program and we want to do our part to give back so that other churches can be blessed as we have been blessed,” said Patrick Fuller, pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Greensboro and chairman of the BSC Board of Directors Congregational Services Committee. “It is our job as leaders to put the Cooperative Program before our people.”
Leland Kerr has also led his congregation, Eastside Baptist Church in Shelby, to accept the 1% Challenge.
Kerr grew up a pastor’s son, graduated from a Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville and has family serving overseas as missionaries. He knows the impact and value of the Cooperative Program.
“One percent is doable for even a church with a small budget; the one percent is still part of them moving forward to help support the Cooperative Program.”
During the SBC meeting, Page called on different individuals to give testimony to the Cooperative Program at work. For example, Gregg and Donna Fort, International Mission Board missionaries who have served in Zimbabwe for 26 years, are supported through the Cooperative Program. “The Cooperative Program has assured that we are cared for and can focus on missions in Zimbabwe,” Gregg said.
The Forts have witnessed God do great things among the people of Zimbabwe, and urged Southern Baptists to send more missionaries to the international mission field. “As Jesus Christ was incarnated among us, incarnational missions is still by far the very best way to carry the message of Jesus Christ into this world,” he said.
As Southern Baptists support the Cooperative Program they support collegiate church planters like Keith and Page Wieser, who started collegiate churches on the campuses of Washington State University and the University of Idaho. What began as seven college students meeting in a coffee shop turned into 850 students meeting at two locations for worship services.
In addition to international missions and collegiate ministry, through the Cooperative Program Southern Baptists also support North American Mission Board missionaries and church planters such as Jeremy Westbrook.
Earlier this year Westbrook celebrated the four-year anniversary of Living Hope Church in Marysville, Ohio. This church baptized more than 100 people during that time.
“When you think about the Cooperative Program, I urge you, I plead with you, to think about guys like me who want to plant churches in Ohio, and across the Midwest, and from nation to nation,” he said.
Marysville is included in the greater metro area of Columbus, Ohio, which is the 15th largest city in the country.
“While I will not forget the rural and small places, we know that most people have moved to North American cities,” Page said. To learn more about the Cooperative Program and the 1% Challenge visit www.ncbaptist.org/cp.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Buddy Overman, BSC Communications, contributed to this report. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/18/2013 4:20:24 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Send North America luncheon draws 3,500

June 18 2013 by Joe Conway, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – Using dots on a timeline, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) showcased significant moments in Southern Baptist history during the Send North America luncheon June 12 at the SBC annual meeting in Houston.

With precision video mapping and a combination of digital and physical illusion, NAMB challenged the 3,500 guests to recognize that their next steps are crucial to reaching North America for Christ.

“Why are we here?” Ezell said. “Where are we going? Send North America. It is our strategy to penetrate lostness in North America and our goal is to see 15,000 churches planted in the next 10 years.”

Should the goal be met, Ezell said it would mark the greatest decade of church planting in SBC history and would be the first time in more than 100 years that the rate of church planting kept pace with the population increase.

Emphasizing the importance of significant moments in SBC history, Ezell presented Paige Patterson and Judge Paul Pressler with mementos from the platform recognizing the men’s leadership in the SBC’s Conservative Resurgence.

Photo by John Swain/NAMB
North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell welcomed guests to the Send North America luncheon held during the Pastors’ Conference prior to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Houston. Ezell encouraged participants to continue to help plant churches across North America.  

“Without the Conservative Resurgence we would not be here,” Ezell said, explaining that without the call to a return to theological foundations and biblical integrity there would be no groundwork for, or momentum to sustain, Send North America.

One symptom highlighting the need for action graphically displayed in the presentation was the growing gap in SBC church-to-population ratio. In 1900, the church-to-population ratio was 1 to 3,600. That ratio almost doubled in a century, growing to 1 to 6,100 in 2000. The rate of church planting within the SBC has not maintained pace with population growth.

As the presentation concluded, a dot representing the present moment was pulled from the digital timeline and tossed into the crowd. It represented the collective moment that Send North America hopes to help Southern Baptists seize. Guests each received dots representing their next steps in partnership with Send North America.

In a final charge to the audience, Aaron Coe called for Southern Baptists to recognize their opportunity in history. Coe, vice president for mobilization and equipping with NAMB, said the moment is now.

“Will this be a forgotten moment, or a defining moment?” Coe said. “When historians look back at this time, will they see that a massive missional shift happened, or will they not look at this moment at all? The question is, Will you seize this moment?”

After the presentation, guests placed their dots on banners representing the Send North America city or region where they will partner to support church planters. Greg Jackson, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Camden, Ohio, called the presentation “awesome.”

“It is a good thing to recognize people who came before us,” said Jackson, who led his church to plant Hope Community Church in Dayton. “It is important to remember where we have been and to make sure younger church planters recognize the relevance and importance of what transpired to bring us to where we are.”

Connie Pressley, a member of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., said her church is partnering to help church plants in Toronto and in New England.

“It was informative and inspiring,” Pressley said of the presentation. “We recognize that we have to plant churches in places that do not have a gospel presence. Where we live, you can find a church everywhere. Our hearts are broken for places that do not have churches or the opportunity to respond to the gospel.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board. To learn more about Send North America and partnering in church planting, visit namb.net/mobilize-me. A video of the presentation will be available in early August following the Send North America Conference, July 29-20, at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/18/2013 4:11:43 PM by Joe Conway, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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