June 2014

The new collegiate ministry

June 3 2014 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Baptists are discovering there is no longer just one way to do collegiate ministry on North Carolina’s 200 college and university campuses.

Kevin Seger, associate pastor of Pitts Baptist Church in Concord, said a new ministry model on the nearby University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) campus was born out of a church-wide movement.
“We’ve had several things happen in our church that brought us to the understanding that discipleship has got to happen by the church,” he said. “We believe it’s important that we create an environment of disciples, but also of disciplers.”
The church went through a series of studies that included Francis Chan’s book Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples and David Platt’s 26-week series, Follow Me. The studies led them to conclude that discipleship is done by members of the church, not just by leaders.
“At the same time, we were trying to figure out the whole collegiate ministry thing – how do we as a church get on the university campus?” he said.
Working with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) collegiate partnership consultants, the church added a university student on their staff to do collegiate ministry with a discipling model.
Chris Johnson is a UNCC student missionary through the North American Mission Board. The staff of Pitts Baptist Church supervises his ministry and is discipling him using the Francis Chan materials.
In turn Johnson is discipling two UNCC students through the 26-week study. The number of disciples on the campus multiplies as the process is repeated each semester and new believers are led to faith in Christ. The church is following the same design with men’s groups and women’s groups every week.

iStockphoto image

A few miles down the road in the town of Kannapolis an economic disaster has been converted into an impressive ministry to internationals.
About 10 years ago the town’s hallmark industry, Cannon Mills, went out of business. It was financially and emotionally devastating to the townspeople.
Tom Knight, the BSC’s regional international student consultant, said most people are not at all aware of the transformation that followed.
A university-type academic institution opened up in the old Cannon facilities and now majestically dominates the community. With a total projected cost of $1.5 billion, the North Carolina Research Campus (NCRC) has changed everything, including the ministry of local churches.
Knight said, “A lot of people in N.C. don’t even know it’s there. They are bringing in researchers from all around the world – many of them are from China.”
When it became obvious that Cannon Mills was in trouble the churches in the area began to pray about what might happen. They were concerned since so many of their members worked in the mills.
But when NCRC opened up, their direction shifted with the realization that all of these international people are their neighbors.
Knight worked with several local churches that wanted to minister to these new residents. That led to forming Bible study groups.
Then they learned that one of the researchers from China is a Christian. In partnership with the BSC he started a church plant.
Knight said there are many important components at work. There are many international students and researchers living in the area; there is the work of local churches who want to reach their new neighbors; there is the church planting partnership with BSC; and there is the collegiate international consultation team serving the association and the churches.
He said, “I was able to give the churches some ideas and model some things for them, then I pulled out and they are doing all of the work.”

ASU Campus Ministry

In North Carolina’s northwestern mountains Appalachian State University’s (ASU) student enrollment of more than 17,000 practically ties the population of its hometown, Boone. The campus ministry at ASU has been strong in recent years. It’s still thriving, but there are some marked differences.
When the BSC announced new models of campus ministry last year, much concern arose among the students and local Baptists invested in sharing the gospel with ASU students.
Leaders in the Three Forks Baptist Association (TFBA) acted quickly to insure that the ministry would stay alive. Meetings with local pastors, lay leaders, campus leaders and BSC staff resulted in a new organizational structure, new campus ministry staff, increased involvement from local churches and an energetic ministry with expanded vision.
Jonathan Yarboro was employed by the BSC for seven-and-a-half years as the ASU Baptist campus minister. Last year he resigned to become the Western regional consultant for campus ministry.
Mike Puckett is the new Baptist minister on campus. He joins Anna Kilby who has been the campus ministry’s international outreach leader for two years. “Because of Jonathan’s leadership at ASU, I came into a situation that was healthy and functioning at a high level, with solid leadership and a really good paradigm,” he said. “The biggest change is that the convention has released campus ministry to the local churches so they can be about owning campus ministry rather than just being marginally involved.”

He said that while campus ministry was strong, many local churches did not know that campus ministry existed, because they were not involved. “If a church was not deeply connected to campus ministry, they would be in the dark.”
Puckett said last year there were several associational executive committee meetings to talk about the future of campus ministry. A significant number of local pastors got involved.
Seth Norris, pastor of Perkinsville Baptist Church in Boone, led a task force of about eight members including a faculty advisor, current students, former students and local pastors. A new vision was described in a 10-page document that was taken to the full association for approval.
A new non-profit organization was formed. Although it is not owned by the association, it is linked to the association. The leaders wanted to leave the door open for churches outside of TFBA to participate.
Doctrinal standards were put in place for board members including membership in a Southern Baptist church.
“It has been very positive,” Puckett said. “The board has worked very hard to make the launch successful and to be accountable to local churches. The board members have been great cheerleaders for our ministry – supporting us through prayer and giving.
“I have been very pleased ... More churches have invested themselves financially and are involved with boots on the ground than before.”
Campus leaders say they are seeing healthy cohesion and synergy in their relationships with the churches. There were eight churches involved before the new structure. Today there are 15. “There are some strong, pre-existing church relationships,” Puckett said. “But what is really beautiful is that every single church has a different kind of impact and investment in our ministry. Some are able to be very active; some serve in smaller ways.”
Jimmy Finch is a minister who serves as a student liaison for Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone.
Puckett described Finch’s level of involvement. “He comes to the campus regularly to meet with students, he attends many of the Tuesday night worship gatherings, and he engages with students. He is committed to being in relationships with college students, caring for them and discipling them, even though it is not his primary duty in church ministry. It is super exciting to see that happen.”
Some churches are connected for the first time in the history of Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM). “Laurel Springs Baptist is one of those churches that have really gotten involved with BCM,” Puckett said. “Pastor Tim Lynch recently came to this church, and before he even arrived in town he Facebooked me and said ‘I am moving to the area, and I ... want to connect with you, and I want to help move our church toward serving with BCM ministry and being a supporter.’ He has done that.”
He said churches like Three Forks Baptist in the past only served meals to the students in weekly meetings. This year they worked with Kilby to sponsor an international event called, “Welcome to America” cookout.
“They show up with all of the burgers, hot dogs and everything needed for a big cookout,” Puckett said. “They set up in the grills and served us ... about 85 percent of the university’s international student population came to this event. The church members serve us so we can mingle with the new international students and build relationships with them. They don’t feel like they are just working the meal line or just writing a check to us. They are part of what we do.”
Puckett is also impressed with the student leadership on campus. “They are excellent, godly young men and women who come with new vision and excitement,” he said. “They are a really strong team.
"Ultimately our mission is to be a missionary hub on the ASU campus. God has given us the opportunity to specialize in reaching the biggest mission field in this mountain area.”
Personal discipleship happens in small group gatherings throughout the week. One is called “crossover groups” which helps freshmen believers adjust to college life. They transition into discipleship groups focused on training, accountability and prayer. “We want to give them space to build community, but we also want them to focus on our mission of reaching lost students,” Puckett said.
The ASU campus ministry holds central weekly gatherings. Attendance ranges from 80 to 200, depending on Boone’s changing weather and exam schedules, he said. “It can be a powerful thing if you have enough students to reach a critical mass. When I did campus ministry in Ohio it was hard to get large numbers to meet together. But because we have a healthy number gathered, it helps build students to worship together.
“We want to make it clear to our students that our Tuesday night meeting is not what BCM is all about,” Puckett added. “It is important. We want to do it well. But we are all about teaching and training students to live like missionaries on this mission field. We want them to understand that they are not just here to learn, then one day leave and serve God somewhere else. God has called them here to reach their friends around them.”

Ministry at AB Tech

A few hours south of Boone a new campus ministry is being birthed at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (AB Tech). More than 16,000 students are enrolled at the three campuses in Asheville, Enka and the Madison County campus in Marshall.
Perry Brindley is director of missions for the Buncombe Baptist Association (BBA). He said, “We’ve never seized the opportunity to have a presence on this campus, but more than a presence, we are going to have an evangelism emphasis and a disciple-making emphasis on that campus.
“I’m interested in seeing the gospel presented in all 660 square miles that make up Buncombe County,” he said. “AB Tech is a people group that needed to be engaged with the gospel through Baptist collegiate ministries supported by our state convention. Jason Speier is in phase one of moving on that campus.”
Speier is the pastor of worship and student ministry at Woodland Hills Church in North Asheville. He came to Christ out of a Roman Catholic background when a pastor prayed with him in a friend’s living room.
“I have a deep desire to reach college students – and all other ages – but I specifically want to reach students because the spiritual persuasion of college students drives culture,” Speier said. “We see the secularization of our cities and wonder why the culture is going farther and farther away from the gospel. I want to see the college culture changed.”
He wants to see area churches reach 10 percent of the students each year with the gospel, baptize them and disciple them. “We can change the whole culture of Asheville and the surrounding area,” he said.
“Because the students at AB Tech are primarily local students. ... They stay in western N.C. ... I really want to influence the overall culture, and this is going to take years.”
The first phase of the strategy consists of enlisting 100 people to serve on a prayer team to prayer walk the campus and 100 individuals to serve on a promotion team to promote evangelism and discipleship.
Two other phases implement small group disciple-making strategies over the next year.
The name of the ministry, “Campus Aflame ABTech,” comes from a book on campus revivals. Speier is motivated to reach students after reading J. Edwin Orr’s Campus Aflame: A History of Evangelical Awakenings in Collegiate Communities. Speier said, “We want to see God create lots of little gospel fires all over the campus in different groups. Another 10,000 students cycle through AB Tech every two to three years who are going to stay in our area, who are going to be in our local churches, who are going to work at the hospital, the schools and other places in our community. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and prayer, but I’m excited about it.”

Related Story:

Collegiate ministry across the state
6/3/2014 11:16:05 AM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Great Commission Advance to beckon Baptists to ‘do more’

June 3 2014 by Rebecca Wolford, SBC LIFE/Baptist Press

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) President Frank S. Page will issue a challenge to Southern Baptists at the SBC annual meeting to “do more” to reach the world with the gospel.

Page will set forth his vision for Great Commission Advance, an initiative to increase missions involvement among individuals and churches, during his report to the convention on Tuesday afternoon, June 10, in Baltimore.

C. Ashley Clayton, EC vice president for Cooperative Program and stewardship, told SBC LIFE, journal of the Executive Committee, “In its most condensed and basic form, Great Commission Advance calls for Southern Baptists to simply ‘do more.’” Page will call on all Southern Baptists – individuals, families and churches – to sacrificially do more to advance the Great Commission “so that every person has the opportunity to hear the gospel,” Clayton said.

Page told SBC LIFE that “doing more” in the area of personal stewardship is essential to missions involvement. He will urge Southern Baptists to commit to establishing a biblical standard of giving and generosity.

Page also will encourage Southern Baptists to participate in missions at the local, state, national and international levels. For some, “doing more” may mean surrendering to God’s call to vocational ministry as a pastor, chaplain, church planter or international missionary, he said.

In addition, Page will challenge churches to increase their level of support through the Cooperative Program for Southern Baptist missions and ministries.

Since being elected EC president in 2010, Page has emphasized that the Cooperative Program is about missions and ministries, not numbers and percentages, Clayton said. Southern Baptist missions and ministries at the state, national and international levels are fueled by the Cooperative Program. Ministries like disaster relief, international missions, church planting, collegiate ministry, theological education, care for neglected children and moral advocacy are supported by dollars contributed through the Cooperative Program, he said.

One of the primary objectives of Great Commission Advance is to address the decline in Cooperative Program giving over the past two decades, Clayton said. In 1982, churches were giving an average of 10.7 percent of their undesignated receipts to cooperative missions and ministries through the Cooperative Program. That number has dropped to 5.4 percent, declining by an average of about 0.2 percent each year.

In 2012, the average percent of churches’ Cooperative Program giving held steady for the first time since the 1990s and slightly ticked upward.

The previous year, Page had announced the “1% CP Challenge,” asking churches to increase their Cooperative Program giving by one percentage point of their undesignated receipts. If every church increased their Cooperative Program giving by 1 percent, it would bring in an extra $100 million for SBC missions and ministries, Page said. If church Cooperative Program giving returned to an average of 10 percent as it was in the past, Cooperative Program receipts would reach nearly $1 billion, providing a platform for the most aggressive missions enterprise in the history of Christendom, he said.

The International Mission Board has estimated that it needs 7,000 missionaries on the field to initially reach every known unengaged, unreached people group in the world, but it currently has less than 5,000. The North American Mission Board has committed to planting 15,000 churches in 10 years. Increased Cooperative Program dollars also would keep the costs of seminary training at a minimum, making theological education more accessible to all Southern Baptists.

Page has led the Executive Committee to reduce its Cooperative Program allocation percentage from 3.4 percent in the 2010–11 fiscal year, to 3.2 percent in the 2011–12, to 2.99 percent in the current fiscal year. He plans to reduce even further in the 2015–16 fiscal year. Allocation percentages are adjusted every two years.

“We’re lowering our Cooperative Program allocation. So when you hear me beating the drum and asking for more, it’s to go to these other entities to do that which God has called them to do,” Page told the Executive Committee at its Feb. 17 meeting.

The SBC was founded on such shared values as missions, evangelism, stewardship and cooperation, Clayton said. On the basis of those values, Baptists were able to organize and develop a structure through which to accomplish their work.

Great Commission Advance is about refocusing on those values, Clayton said. “We want to elevate our values above mere background noise. When people align with and embrace the values, it will result in increased support for Cooperative Program.”

The trouble comes, Clayton said, when an organization loses sight of its core values. “Knowing the ‘why’ of an organization is vital to its success,” he said. Through Great Commission Advance, Page will remind the SBC of its core values, of why we do what we do.

“The long-held guiding principle of the SBC is as true today as when it was founded,” Clayton said. “We can do more together than we can do alone.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rebecca Wolford is communications specialist with the SBC Executive Committee. This article first appeared in the EC journal SBC LIFE, on the Web at www.SBCLIFE.net.)
6/3/2014 11:04:40 AM by Rebecca Wolford, SBC LIFE/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Mission:Dignity helps minister’s wife feel safe

June 3 2014 by GuideStone Financial Resources

Faced with a hungry child and no money, Harold Medlock had gone to several local grocers to see if they would accept the couples’ wedding rings as collateral. After hearing “no” several times, one grocer finally told him to get the food he needed and allowed him to pay later. This is just one of the hardships faced by Frances and her husband while ministering to the poorest of the poor in small churches for more than 45 years.
But things got even harder for Frances once Harold died. Having used up her small savings, Frances struggled to cover the basic necessities, but she couldn’t make ends meet.
Medlock served as pastor for 45 years in churches across Louisiana, Maryland and North Carolina. Frances worked diligently at his side; serving in many capacities – as pastors’ wives often do – in the small congregations.

GuideStone photo
Frances Medlock says Mission:Dignity has helped her to stay in her home since her husband, Harold, died in 2000.

“We were blessed to at times minister to the poorest of the poor and many times saw the great difference in many that the Lord made when they became Christians,” Frances recalled. “He loved to minister to the people and he certainly could preach.”
Sacrifices are also part of the job for most preachers. But most pastors will tell you it’s a calling from God, not a career. How much the church would pay Harold was not in the criteria for accepting a call to pastor a new congregation.
Thinking back to those long-ago days, Frances remembered, “The churches we pastored, the missions we started, were not able to pay us a living salary. So he worked a secular job plus ministering to the church. We just never had any money and there was nothing to save.”
Married more than 50 years, Frances still misses Harold every day since his passing in 2000.
Unfortunately, Harold’s death also brought new financial struggles to Frances. One of her early applications included a note, “I just can’t make ends meet. Have used most of my savings. Trying to save what I have left for burial. No matter how much I cut back I am short the end of the month.”
“Sixty percent of the people served by Mission:Dignity are widows, so it’s an important story to share with our donors,” John Ambra, director of development for Mission:Dignity, said.
“If a couple is living on mostly Social Security and has little to no retirement income or savings, a widow will often find her income cut in half when her husband dies. Without other assistance, widows are often faced with no-win choices regarding food, medicine, utilities and other needs.”
Approved for her first grant a few months after Harold’s death, Frances cannot say enough about how much Mission:Dignity means to her, “It’s just been such a blessing to me. I would not be able to stay in my home, if it weren’t for Mission:Dignity.”
The ministry also provides a way for Frances to keep serving others.
“Since my husband has been gone, I do anything and everything I can to minister to the people as individuals and give them a word of encouragement. They mean so much to me,” Frances recounted while talking about her church.
“I know that God’s arms are around me and He’s going to be with me,” Frances told us in a voice trembling with emotion.
God’s arms are around Frances – and thousands of other faithful servants – through the faithfulness of donors to the Mission:Dignity ministry whose gifts allow loyal soldiers of the cross to pay their bills and live with dignity and security.
Mission:Dignity Sunday is June 22. Mail gifts to: Mission:Dignity, GuideStone Financial Resources SBC, 2401 Cedar Springs Road, Dallas, TX 75201-1498. Visit missiondignitysbc.org.

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6/3/2014 10:42:02 AM by GuideStone Financial Resources | with 0 comments

NCBAM reaches aging adults through fire, fall prevention

June 3 2014 by Emily Rojas, BSC Communications

On May 20, the Christian Social Services Committee (CSS) of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Board of Directors (BOD) invited representatives of North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM) to conduct a fire and fall prevention training session prior to the board meeting. The training’s purpose was to show how NCBAM equips aging adults to prevent fires and injuries in their homes.
This program, developed with grants from the National Fire Protection Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a way to pass on safety training to aging adults who might be concerned about living independently. It is also a way to extend Christ-like care to a lost generation that is aging – 50 million of the 80 million baby boomers do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and churches are faced with the dilemma of how to adequately reach and care for this generation as it gets older.

NCBAM photo
Sandy Gregory shares across the state about the North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM). NCBAM helps seniors stay in their homes longer by coordinating volunteers to build ramps as well as to visit seniors, install fall prevention devices and smoke detectors and provide for caregivers.

In an effort to promote safety and independence among aging adults, NCBAM holds fire and fall prevention training sessions across the state and has held more than 50 sessions since the trainings began in January 2013. Typical sessions take place at senior meetings in churches or community centers.
Carol Layton, administrative and communications manager for NCBAM, said each training is divided into fire prevention and fall prevention workshops. During the sessions, regional assistants teach participants fire and fall prevention tips, such as wearing tight-fitting sleeves while cooking to prevent fires and smoothing out folds in carpeting to prevent falls.
After each session, NCBAM gives away smoke alarms provided by the Office of State Fire Marshal (OSFM). Since last January, NCBAM, in partnership with OSFM, has distributed about 10,000 smoke alarms in North Carolina with the help of more than 1,200 Baptist volunteers.
As the situation stands, however, the number of aging adults who are injured in falls or die in house fires is statistically high.
One in three adults older than 60 will not talk to a doctor after a fall, and 23 percent of all people who die in house fires in North Carolina are aging adults. Falls are also the number one reason that aging adults lose their independence.
“The idea is that if the pastors can not just hear about the training, but actually participate in the training, they’re more likely to go back to their home church and invite NCBAM to do that training within their home church,” said Wanda Dellinger, chair of the CSS. “If we know of two people among our board membership that have been impacted this week by falls, how many more are there in our churches that we don’t even know about?”
Visit www.ncbam.org, or contact Sandy Gregory at scgregory@bchfamily.org.
6/3/2014 10:35:19 AM by Emily Rojas, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

J.D. Grant: ‘Fruitland has given a lot to me’

June 2 2014 by BSC Communications

James Dillard (J.D.) Grant was honored in a celebration of his retirement from Fruitland Baptist Bible College (FBBC) on Tuesday, May 27. Grant’s association with the school began in 1970 when he came to the campus as a student.
Recalling how he was struggling to find the right school after submitting to God’s call on his life to pastoral ministry, Grant told the audience that when he first walked onto the campus of Fruitland, he knew it was where God wanted him.
He also expressed his gratitude for the role the institution has served in shaping who he is today.
“I felt the Spirit of God on this place that day,” Grant said. “I cannot say that I’ve given a lot to Fruitland, but I can say it’s given a lot to me.”
Grant retires after serving as a professor, vice-president of academic affairs and most recently as vice-president of development.
A graduate of FBBC, Grant continued his education completing his bachelor’s degree at Western Carolina University, earning a master of divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctor of education degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Fruitland photo by Ben Tackett
J.D. Grant shares about his time at Fruitland Baptist Bible College. Grant, while retiring as vice president of development, plans to continue teaching part time. He has served on the Southern Baptist Convention Committee on Committees and as a trustee for Lifeway Christian Resources.  

David Horton, president of FBBC, thanked Grant for his service while noting that Grant will continue to teach at the college.
Horton stated that he believed God has gifted Grant with the ability to touch people from across all areas of life.
“I admire the way you conduct yourself. I’ve watched how you interact with donors who had much and those that had very little,” Horton said. “But to your credit you treated all as if you were speaking to royalty.”
Horton noted that when he thinks of Grant his mind is drawn to 2 Kings 4:9, where the woman at Shunem said, upon serving the prophet Elisha, “I know that this is a holy man of God.”
Brian Davis, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) associate executive director-treasurer, reminded the gathering that the relationship between the BSC and FBBC is very strong, but has not always been so.
“Some of you may recall challenges in the [convention’s] relationship with Fruitland in the 1980s,” Davis said. “At times it even seemed that some convention leaders were working against Fruitland.”
He recalled how, after a series of decisions by the BSC’s executive committee and General Board, Fruitland supporters realized that the only way they could address these decisions would be on the floor of the BSC’s annual meeting.
“To address these issues would require a bold leader to step forward asking the messengers to direct the General Board, and its executive committee, to reconsider their actions,” Davis said “The individual who stepped forward was J.D. Grant.”
Davis said the process that followed has resulted in a change that continues to benefit FBBC and bless the students attending the school today. He also noted that the school continues to impact North Carolina Baptists in many positive ways.
“Many do not recognize that 20 percent of the churches in this state are served by Fruitland graduates. Many do not recognize that Fruitland graduates currently serve on our board of directors, as officers of the board and as officers of the convention,” Davis said. “Many do not recognize the impact that Fruitland has; but we do. It’s long overdue, but I want to thank J.D. Grant for his leadership nearly 30 years ago that continues to impact us today.”
A “friendly roast” was conducted by longtime friend and fellow professor, Greg Mathis. He shared several humorous anecdotes about Grant. However, he used the humor to draw the crowd to his main points.
“While you [J.D.] stand like King Saul, head and shoulders above us all, you remind us of King David, a man after God’s own heart,” Mathis said. 
Gifts were presented by Horton and Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC’s executive director-treasurer. Prior to his presentation, Hollifield said he was thankful for FBBC’s commitment to remain faithful to God’s Word.
“I thank God for the strong stand upon His Word that Fruitland has taken through the years, and continues to take. Fruitland holds a special place in my heart as well,” Hollifield said.
He also noted that his travels take him across the state, preaching and worshipping in different churches nearly every week. As he travels, Hollifield said he comes in contact with former students and fellow pastors that know, love and appreciate Grant.
Hollifield presented an envelope representing a financial gift for Grant’s years of full-time service to FBBC that began in 1999.
Horton also presented several gifts, including a keepsake book of letters written to Grant, a limited edition silver lapel pin and a special gift purchased through the generous donations of students, faculty and staff.
Grant responded saying, “This all makes me sound better than I am, but I appreciate all that’s been said. Fruitland is so important and important for the Kingdom.”
Grant then shared how he first came to serve at FBBC, saying, “I was president of the [Fruitland] alumni. Dr. Alex Booth and I met to talk about strengthening the school [financially], and that’s how I came to begin my work with the school; Kenneth Ridings then brought me on full time.”
He expressed appreciation and quipped, “I may have been roasted, but I’m not done.” He concluded his remarks, saying, “I have a new determination to be the very best teacher in the classroom that I can be; [I] will take every opportunity God gives to serve Him.”
In addition to his service at FBBC, Grant has served numerous local churches across western North Carolina.
6/2/2014 1:47:27 PM by BSC Communications | with 2 comments

Grandfather, granddaughter graduate together at SEBTS

June 2 2014 by Emily Blake, BR Editorial Aide

Despite instructions to hold their applause until the end of the ceremony, the audience could not resist cheering for Archie Jones Sr. as he strode across the stage.
On May 16, Jones received his master of divinity (M.Div.) degree at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) nearly 60 years after his last exam. What made the day even more unique was Jones’ granddaughter Alicia Jones, 26, walking across the stage to receive her diploma just before him.
Jones attended SEBTS from 1954-1957 and received his bachelor of divinity (B.Div.). Some years later SEBTS discontinued the B.Div. and gave graduates the opportunity to upgrade their degree after some extra coursework. Jones was made aware of the chance to convert his bachelor’s degree to an M.Div., but felt it was not the time. The prospect of graduating along with his granddaughter inspired Jones to finally take the necessary steps to convert his degree.  
The Joneses are a big family, and many of them showed up to celebrate the exciting day. After the ceremony they gathered on the seminary grounds talking, laughing and taking pictures. For Alicia the day was especially meaningful. “It means a lot because ever since a very young age, my grandpa has been someone I look up to and want to imitate,” she explained.

SEBTS photo
Archie Jones, left, and Alicia Jones received their master of divinity degrees May 16 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The senior Jones has a big impact on his family. They are quick to joke about his “Santa Clause beard” which seems to match his personality so well. His smile and unhesitant hugs are not the only thing that have multiplied in the family. He has also led them to appreciate theological education at SEBTS and a commitment to mission service.
Originally from Mocksville, he has led a very active ministry in North Carolina and in Southern Baptist life. He has pastored both Belhaven Baptist Church, Belhaven, and at Robinhood Road Baptist Church, Winston-Salem.
Jones started the Spanish Mission in Mocksville, and was also the first person appointed as director of N.C Baptist Men (now known as Baptists on Mission). Jones and his first wife Julie served with the International Mission Board (IMB) in Ecuador until she became ill, and died in 1978. Three years later Jones and his wife Caroline traveled to Chile where they spent 14 years in ministry with the IMB before retiring in 1995. Currently Jones is doing some teaching at the Birmingham Spanish Bible Institute.
Rarely alone in his efforts, Jones’s family has joined him in ministry and participation in Baptist ministry. Seven members of the Jones family have studied at SEBTS. Three family members currently hold positions with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. His wife Caroline began her ministry career working with N.C. Woman’s Mission Union (WMU), served as president of N.C. WMU when they returned to the state after their missionary service in Chile, was on staff at FBC Mocksville and later served on the staff of National WMU.
“I go on mission trips with all of my kids,” said Jones. “I’ve been on 37 volunteer trips in 17 different countries since retiring.”
Alicia added that her grandfather has been on mission trips with most of his grandchildren as well. In fact, he was on her first trip to visit the Roma people in Hungary, where she is currently engaged in ministry.
She graduated after participating in SEBTS’s 2+2 program which gives students two years of training at seminary, and then helps them to complete their degree with two years of international mission work.
Alicia plans to return to Hungary where she will coordinate volunteer teams and continue her ministry with the Roma people.
One of Alicia’s favorite ministry strategies is using oral Bible stories to teach and disciple women and children. With this approach the Bible often comes alive for them like never before. Even this is something she has in common with Jones who is known as a great story-teller as well.
“Psalm 61:5 says ‘You have given a heritage to those who fear Your name,’” said Alicia. “I tell people that’s what happened to me [I’ve been given a heritage] and it’s a blessing. At a young age I was able to understand and accept the ways of God. It’s a great example to have before me.”
6/2/2014 1:33:58 PM by Emily Blake, BR Editorial Aide | with 0 comments

Rainer offers advice on keeping church alive

June 2 2014 by Micheal Pardue, Book Review

Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive by Thom S. Rainer (B&H Books, May 2014)
An autopsy is an unpleasant thing. It is most often a sign that someone’s life did not end in a natural way. The necessity of an autopsy is an indication that there are questions that remain unanswered.
Christ did not intend for His churches to die. The death of the church is the result of sin and neglect. In his book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, Thom Rainer serves as a pathologist, conducting a post-mortem on churches that have died in unnatural ways.
Rainer’s dissection reveals 10 symptoms which led to the untimely demise of the houses of worship studied on his examination table. I found these observations to be beyond sobering. Toxic poisons are present at different stages of their terminal work in many of the churches I have observed. Rainer has analyzed these cancerous conditions and the disastrous effects they leave behind.

Micheal Pardue 

Most disturbing is how many of these ailments are silent killers. They often lie dormant for years. When they do surface, they often fester slowly, eating away the health of the church. Those who comprise the church are under attack from foreign invaders, and yet go through the motions with no knowledge that they are rapidly dying.
Rainer conducted his research with churches who have already succumbed to the poisons that infiltrated their body. The members, now separated from the body, are left to consider what tore them apart. Many of their symptoms are easy to recognize as the autopsy progresses.
For example, in churches that have met their doom the past was celebrated as a hero. The church’s identity was tied to the things that had once given cause for celebration. However, the fixation on the past resulted in neglect of things important for the future.
Dead churches refuse to adapt to the world around them. Many were located in communities that changed. The people who lived near the churches were different from those in the church. At the same time, church members moved away from the church to get away from the changing neighborhood. Over time, the church became deserted.
As the demographics around them changed, their budgets focused more and more away from their community. Seeing no reason to invite those in their community into the church, the congregations invested more in themselves. Their needs reigned supreme and, therefore, the work of the Great Commission was nowhere to be found. Instead of striving to live by the commission given by the Savior, the church set their sights on their own preferences. They were not focused on the work of the Kingdom.
With this mindset in place, leadership was hard to maintain and pastoral turnover was frequent. The church that died rarely prayed together. It was simply not important. Without prayer and with short-term leadership, churches who were once alive had no vision.
There was no purpose in their decisions as they simply went through the motions. While there were no wise plans for ministry, the facilities of these churches became their obsession. Some even split over minor disputes involving their facilities.
The autopsy report is definitive. Neglect and poor priorities are lethal to a church. With the examination complete, Rainer poses a question: Is there hope for dying churches? Not every church is at the same place in their decay. Therefore, Rainer offers four responses for each stage of the decline of a church. He encourages his readers with responses based on whether a church is showing signs of sickness, deeply in the throes of illness or audibly exhaling a death rattle. These responses are helpful, serving as good medicine for ill churches. I will let you read the book to discover your diagnosis and consider Rainer’s prescription.
Autopsy of a Deceased Church is a brief but terribly solemn read. My thoughts were drawn to the church I pastor. Could there be places where we are allowing a terrible poison to seep into our body? Are there areas that we have neglected and by doing so exposed ourselves to an infection that could one day cause our body to fail? Christ’s church is a living thing designed to grow and be vibrant. Autopsy of a Deceased Church serves as a good reminder that we must guard ourselves, watch our priorities and be about the work of the Kingdom. If we are not, our church may find itself on the cold slab of the autopsy table.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Micheal Pardue is pastor of First Baptist Icard, Connelly Springs.)
6/2/2014 1:21:48 PM by Micheal Pardue, Book Review | with 0 comments

Abedini threatened with more jail time due to gospel witness

June 2 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Iranian authorities are threatening to extend the prison sentence of jailed U.S. pastor Saeed Abedini because he leads people to faith in Christ everywhere he is detained, Abedini’s wife Naghmeh told Baptist Press.

“I don’t see him [witnessing] as an act of defiance,” Naghmeh Abedini said. “Knowing Saeed’s heart as a pastor, he’s seeing people in such a dark place ... on death row for murders and rapes, and just seeing people who are in prison whose future is so dark. Knowing Saeed’s heart, I know that his heart was to give them the hope that he’s found in Christ that no one can take away, even in prison.”

Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen of Iranian descent, was sentenced in early 2013 to eight years in prison for his involvement in Iran’s house church movement. Abedini used to live in Iran and was a leader of house churches before moving to America in 2005. He was arrested almost two years ago while on a trip to build an orphanage in the city of Rasht. Though the Iranian constitution officially recognizes Christianity as a minority religion, Christian converts from Islam have suffered brutal persecution at the hands of Muslim authorities.

Naghmeh Abedini and the couple’s two young children live in Idaho. They have not been allowed to speak with Saeed since he was arrested but have communicated through his family in Iran, who are permitted to visit him in prison for 20 minutes weekly.

Saeed and Naghmeh Abedini

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) reported May 20 that Saeed had been returned to prison after spending two months in a hospital to receive treatment for injuries inflicted by prison officials. He was severely beaten at the hospital before being returned to prison, ACLJ reported.

Prison guards have told Abedini that they can and will increase his jail sentence unless he stops telling fellow prisoners about Jesus, Naghmeh told BP. She said some former Muslim prisoners who placed their faith in Christ through Saeed’s witness have already received extended sentences.

Still, Saeed has said he feels compelled to keep sharing the gospel.

“Because I want to serve God, I see all of these difficulties as golden opportunities and great doors to serve,” he wrote in a letter from prison last year. “There are empty containers who are thirsty for a taste of the Living Water and we can quench their thirst by giving them Jesus Christ.”

Shortly after Abedini was sentenced, his wife began receiving calls from women in Iran who said their husbands shared a cell with Saeed and had become strangely calm, happy and joyful. Their husbands told the women it wasn’t safe to explain the reason for their transformation during family visits at the prison, but they recommended that their wives call Naghmeh.

“Early on in his imprisonment I got to talk to some of these wives and lead them to Christ because of the change they’ve seen in their husbands,” Naghmeh said. “And I told them, ‘I think Saeed has given your husband all he has, and all he has is the hope he has found in Jesus Christ.’”

One prisoner who began following Jesus told his wife, “I don’t feel like I’m in a prison anymore. I’ve been set free,” Naghmeh said.

Saeed wants to be in America with his family and gets emotional when he sees pictures of his children’s birthday parties, Naghmeh said. But he wants to share Jesus more than he wants to be free.

“He got saved from such a dark [past],” Naghmeh said of her husband, a former Muslim. “At his conversion Jesus saved him in such a radical way that he can’t deny Christ and he can’t stop sharing his faith. It’s in his DNA.”

Saeed’s legal options in Iran have been exhausted and there will not be any more opportunities to appeal his conviction, Naghmeh said. But she senses that God will intervene supernaturally and bring about Saeed’s release.

“When I pray, I do feel like it will be a miracle,” she said. “It will be a definite act of God to release him. [Iranian authorities] feel like Saeed has not learned his lesson. He continues to stand on his faith, which they wanted him to reject.”

Naghmeh asked U.S. Christians not only to pray for Saeed, but also to send their senators and congressmen brief messages requesting help for him and other persecuted Christians around the world. Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas are among those who have told Naghmeh that such emails spur elected officials to action.

Naghmeh has testified before Congress on her husband’s behalf, spoken at the United Nations and asked European nations to press for his release as a condition of trade agreements with Iran. She believes countries like Germany, with whom Iran wants to trade, stand the best chance of securing Saeed’s release.

“Money talks more than religion” with Iran, Naghmeh said. “Iran is at a very desperate point. They’re not doing very well economically. ... This is the best time to discuss human rights issues in Saeed’s case and Christian persecution with them because they want to try to work with the West.”

Naghmeh said 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 has become her favorite verse, a “jewel during this time” that reminds her of God’s purpose for allowing persecution.

Trials “are great opportunities for us to die to our flesh and see the power of God shine though,” she said. “When a room is dark and there is a light in it, automatically people go to it, so we become witnesses for Christ.”

Meanwhile another U.S. Christian, Kenneth Bae, remains imprisoned in North Korea. Bae has spent nearly two years in a labor camp and faces a 15-year sentence. He was arrested for “hostile acts” against the North Korean government while leading a tourist group, a business venture that “combined his entrepreneurial spirit with his personal convictions as a Christian,” according to freekennow.com.

At the National Prayer Breakfast in February, President Barack Obama called publicly for Iran to release Abedini and for North Korea to release Bae.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
6/2/2014 1:02:29 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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