June 2017

Pastors’ Conference highlights Philippians

June 13 2017 by SBC writing team

Encouraging and edifying pastors via the preaching of expository messages from the book of Philippians, the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Pastors’ Conference kicked off June 11 at the Phoenix Convention Center.
With the theme “Above Every Name,” the Sunday evening and Monday morning sessions focused on issues such as our dependence on Christ, hope and joy through adversity, finding identity in Christ, obedience, Christian unity and beholding Christ’s name and example.
Keith and Kristyn Getty lead worship throughout the Pastors’ Conference.

David Choi

Photo by Jeremy Scott
David Choi, pastor of Church of the Beloved in Chicago, speaks June 11, the first day of the Pastors’ Conference at the Phoenix Convention Center. Preaching from Philippians 1:1-11, Choi said the scriptures remind us that we can’t do anything on our own but that through God, we can accomplish anything.

In the opening message of the Pastors’ Conference, David Choi, pastor of the Church of the Beloved in Chicago, told the audience that he had been preaching for more than 20 years, beginning at the age of 19.
“My father was a perfectionist, so I tried to gain my father’s approval,” he said. “When I got to high school, I sought approval from classmates. When I became a Christian, I shifted that desire for approval to the church. I thought acceptance was connected to performance.”
Choi said that even when pastors seem like they’re godly from the outside, they all harbor sin.
“In those moments [that we sin], we are not godly, but He still proclaims us. God frees us to be honest about our sin and our hypocrisy. Your past does not define you. Christ’s past defines you. Because we are servants of Christ Jesus, we have peace that comes from Him.”
Preaching from Philippians 1:1-11, Choi said the scriptures remind us that we can’t do anything on our own but that through God, we can accomplish anything.
“Every single day of my ministry I am reminded that I have [nothing] to set before my people, because we know that we can’t, but He can. When man works, man works, but when man prays, God works. It’s not about us.”

John Onwuchekwa

Photo by Jeremy Scott
John Onwuchekwa, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Atlanta, gives a message on Philippians 1:12-26 during the opening session June 11 of the two-day Pastors’ Conference at the Phoenix Convention Center. “Despair,” he said, “doesn’t grow out of bad occurrences but out of a bad outlook.”

“The gospel loves to advance down the avenue of adversity,” John Onwuchekwa, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Atlanta, told Pastors’ Conference attendees on Sunday evening.
With Philippians 1:12-26 as his scripture, the pastor acknowledged that pastors are prone to despair because their suffering is “vigorous and vicarious.” He shared that as he set out to launch Cornerstone Church two-and-a-half years ago, several personal crises, including a failed adoption, the death of his brother and other challenges, propelled him toward despair.
“Despair,” he said, “doesn’t grow out of bad occurrences but out of a bad outlook.”
Through that adversity and the words of scripture, he learned to tether his hope for joy to “the goodness of God,” much like the apostle Paul, who, in the midst of adversity, “didn’t pray for things to change circumstantially.”
Paul penned a joyful letter to the Philippians, stating that the adversity he was enduring actually served to advance the gospel.
“You can’t stop the spread of the gospel,” said Onwuchekwa, who explained that even as Paul was chained to a prison guard, he shared the gospel.
While some people are “weary of living and fearful of dying,” Paul said, “Give me either, and I’m good.”
Circumstances in life are “inconsistent, unreliable and unpredictable,” while our Savior is “consistent, reliable and predictable,” Onwuchekwa said.
In spite of adversity, “You and I have every reason to rejoice,” he said.

Chris Davis

Photo by Jeremy Scott
Chris Davis, pastor of Groveton Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., gives a message on Philippians 1: 27-30 at the opening session of the Pastors’ Conference June 11 at the Phoenix Convention Center. Davis said Paul identified two indicators of this worthy life: unity in the gospel and courage through suffering.

Chris Davis, pastor of Groveton Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., used Paul’s words in Philippians 1:27-30 to challenge Southern Baptists to see their main identity as citizens of heaven and not as citizens of the United States.
“If Christ’s lordship does not supersede our American concerns, we will lose our testimony and we will jettison our calling – our mission to make Christ-followers of all nations,” Davis said. “This is a call for a heightened awareness that we are citizens, first and foremost of heaven, and secondly, of America. This is a call for us to evaluate ... whether we are living worthy of the Savior, who died and rose again, to purchase this citizenship for us.”
Davis said Paul identified two indicators of this worthy life: unity in the gospel and courage through suffering.
As the culture becomes more intolerant of Christians, and as the political landscape becomes more unpredictable, Davis said, Christians must radically embrace their shared identity and shared mission in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
They must do so, he said, with a spirit of boldness and without cowering in the face of every threat. When Paul was in a Philippian jail, Davis said, the salvation of the jailer came not through a complaint about a loss of rights but through the praises sung to God.
“Let us turn up the volume of our oneness of those mercifully rescued by Jesus, and let us turn down the volume of our opinions about American politicians and policies, so that our agreement about the eternal is what is prominent about us as a convention instead of our legitimate disagreement about what is only temporal,” Davis said.
“And let us be a people of courage – not spooked by marginalization or slander or being the butt of the joke on ‘Saturday Night Live’ because Christ is our king, heaven is our home, and our eternal destiny is secure.”

Jimmy Meek

Photo by Bill Bangham
Jimmy Meek, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in El Dorado, Ark., asks “What Does it Mean to be Christ,” during the morning session of the June 12 Pastors’ Conference at the Phoenix Convention Center.

Jimmy Meek, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in El Dorado, Ark., opened the Monday morning session of the conference with a sermon titled “Unity in the Gospel.”
Continuing the conference’s study of Philippians, Meek preached on Philippians 2:1-4. Meek said that “People are inherently not unified,” and that “True unity comes through the gospel.”
Christians have been reconciled to God, and it is the job of the Christian to help lost people become reconciled to God, Meeks said in reference to Paul’s words in Philippians.
“Yet, when unchurched people, when lost people look at our churches, many times they see people that can’t even be reconciled to each other,” Meeks said.
“We wonder sometimes why people aren’t flocking to our churches. It’s because people who are not reconciled to each other are not a very good advertisement of the gospel,” he said.
Meek referenced the book Tally Ho the Fox, in which Herb Hodges describes the problems that occur when hunting dogs do not do the things “they are wired to do.” Like hunting dogs, Meek said churches encounter issues when they fail to find unity in the gospel.
Meek said that when hunting dogs do things apart from what they were wired to do, they encounter the following issues: 1) They are lazy, 2) They form hierarchies that make no sense, 3) They fight about trivial things and, 4) They don’t want any new members in the pen.
Meek said that churches encounter the same issues as the hunting dogs when they do not have, “unity in the gospel.”
“What if your church was doing what it is wired to do?” Meek inquired. “They’d no longer care about trivial things; they’d no longer be sleepy or lazy; they’d no longer have that unnecessary hierarchy; they’d no longer wish they had fewer members so they could be in charge.”

Nathan Rose

Photo by Bill Bangham
Nathan Rose, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Liberty, Mo., preaches during the morning session of the June 12 Pastors’ Conference at the Phoenix Convention Center, using the text Philippians 2:5-11.

Turning our gaze upon Jesus’ incarnation, sacrifice on the cross, and exultation is the answer to a loss of focus in proclaiming the gospel and for the selfishness that is pervading society and our churches, explained Nathan Rose, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Liberty, Mo., during the Monday morning session.
Teaching from Philippians 2:5-11, Rose noted that there is a dangerous trend of pride and self-absorption in our churches, and that it’s leading to personal and church self-destruction as well as the hindering of gospel advancement.
“How do we combat this? The biblical solution for fixing behavior always begins with fixing our gaze on Jesus Christ. The key to cultivating humility and selflessness is contemplating the person and work of Jesus Christ.”
The first area of contemplating Christ, Rose noted, is in His incarnation – the Son of God as a human servant. Rose showed how the apostle Paul exhorted believers to emulate Jesus’ example of selflessness and always placing others as more important than Himself.
“Jesus’ entire life was characterized by giving rather than getting.... This was the very essence of His life. Jesus did not come to show off His swagger; instead, He emptied Himself by becoming a human servant. ... This is the mindset that we also ought to have. This is our paradigm for life and ministry,” Rose said.
Second, in noting that Jesus’ death on the cross was in utter obedience to the Father, Rose said it also proved His utter love for us.
“This reality proves that Jesus Christ loves you, cherishes you, accepts you ... and none of this is dependent upon you, your efforts, or how successful your ministry may or may not appear. This is the good news of the gospel.”
Rose wrapped up his message explaining that an important lesson is learned through Christ’s exaltation following His suffering: “The way to be honored and exalted by God is through the pursuit of humility and sacrificial service.” This is the key to greatness in the eyes of God.

Ryan Rice

Photo by Bill Bangham
Ryan Rice, pastor of Connect Church of Algiers in New Orleans, speaks during the morning session of the June 12 Pastors’ Conference at the Phoenix Convention Center. “Your identity is found in Christ, not in what you do for Christ,” Rice said.

Ryan Rice, pastor of Connect Church of Algiers in New Orleans, drew from Philippians 2:12-18 to encourage pastors to “live lives poured out for Jesus.”
Paul’s exhortation to the believers at Philippi to continue on in obedience to Christ is a call pastors must heed today, Rice said.
Acknowledging that ministry is difficult, Rice encouraged listeners not to give up but to press forward in “practical obedience” to God’s calling by staying focused on Christ.
“Keep plowing in the lane God has set you in,” Rice said. “Keep following wherever He has placed you. You can continue on if your eyes are set on Jesus.”
Pointing to verses 14-16, Rice said believers are called to a “shining obedience,” whereby a dark world can see Christ in their lives. Rice reminded listeners God sees and rewards faithfulness.
“Your identity is found in Christ, not in what you do for Christ,” Rice said.
Believers are called to “joyful obedience,” Rice said. He encouraged pastors to serve joyfully, as Christ served, and to remember that Jesus endured the cross.
Rice concluded by challenging listeners to follow Christ’s example and “run to the cross every morning” and “pour out your life for the gospel.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by T. Patrick Hudson, executive assistant to the president at Midwestern Seminary. With reporting by Kathie Chute, director of communications for Gateway Seminary; Margaret Colson, executive director of Baptist Communicators Association; Tim Ellsworth, associate vice president for University Communications at Union University; Caleb Yarbrough, associate editor at Arkansas Baptist News, and Marilyn Stewart, assistant director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)

6/13/2017 1:24:20 PM by SBC writing team | with 0 comments

Student missions team involved in deadly bus accident

June 13 2017 by Margaret Colson, The Alabama Baptist

Thirty-eight students and adult chaperones traveling from Huntsville, Ala., to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for a mission trip to Botswana were involved in a horrific accident June 8 that left dozens injured and killed one student.

Contributed photo
17-year-old Sarah Harmening was killed in a June 8 bus crash while traveling from Huntsville, Ala., to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for a mission trip to Botswana. The accident left dozens injured.

The church bus from Mount Zion Baptist Church flipped onto its roof on a busy Atlanta thoroughfare, claiming the life of 17-year-old Sarah Harmening.
Injured students and adults were rushed to several Atlanta-area hospitals with injuries ranging from minor to critical. Thirty-three individuals were treated at Atlanta hospitals, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
As medical personnel jumped into action, family members and friends rushed to the bedsides of their loved ones. Area ministers gathered at the hospitals, ready to offer prayer and listening ears. Even those in the hospitals’ emergency rooms for reasons unrelated to the crash expressed concern and sympathy.
Prior to the accident, some of the students were napping; others were chatting and looking at their cell phones. Harmening was reading her Bible and writing in her journal at the time of the accident.
As she read her Bible, she wrote, “So mostly I am just reminded of why I’m here and that God has called me here and He’s done so for a reason. So I know He’s going to do incredible things.”

Concern and sympathy

The accident left some questioning why the accident occurred, how God could let such a tragedy strike a group of students who were setting out to share His love.
Mostly though they prayed and sought answers about the condition of each person on the bus.
One of the first to arrive at Grady Memorial Hospital in downtown Atlanta was Terry Slay, adult education minister at Mount Zion Baptist. Holding a list of missions trip participants in one hand and his cell phone in the other hand, Slay worked feverishly to identify where individuals had been taken, what their conditions were and whether family members had yet arrived. He went back to Grady trauma rooms to pray with and encourage those injured.
At Atlanta Medical Center South, Austin McBride, student ministry intern who had been on the bus, met in a separate room with family members and friends to update them on the status of those injured. When the bus crashed, McBride reportedly helped get students off the bus, tending to their injuries until emergency responders arrived.
Within hours those with less serious injuries were released from the hospital, even as some parents were still arriving. Yet the students who were released were still desperate to know about their friends.
One young man, limping and with his arm in a sling, walked silently through the waiting room of Atlanta Medical Center South, his parents walking nearby. His eyes barely blinked; shock etched his face. He was going to be OK physically, but he wanted to head back to the trauma rooms to check on a friend.
Recent high school graduate Allison Thrasher was asleep when the bus crashed. Sitting toward the back of the bus, she crawled through a shattered window onto the pavement. Her seatmate had to be helped off the bus. Thrasher escaped with a fractured wrist and a knot on her head. She would be released from the hospital, but her mind wouldn’t release the names of her friends on the bus.
Losing her cell phone in the accident, Thrasher reached for the cellphone of her cousin, who was able to get to her side quickly. She wanted to find out anything she could about her friends.
Thrasher’s grandmother, Kathy Lankford, a member of Southside Baptist Church, was out of town when she and her husband got word of the crash. Because they were in Chattanooga, Tenn., they were able to get to Grady Memorial Hospital quickly.
Giving a big hug to her granddaughter, Lankford said, “Thank you, Lord, for keeping Allison safe.” Still she and her husband said, “Let’s pray for everyone else.”
Praying is what young Harmening wrote she was doing before, as her mother Karen shared on social media, she “went Home.”
Before losing her life, Harmening wrote in her journal, “I prayed.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Margaret Colson, a member of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, is a writer in Marietta, Ga., and executive director of Baptist Communicators Association.)

6/13/2017 1:19:08 PM by Margaret Colson, The Alabama Baptist | with 0 comments

Crossover & Harvest America share timeless gospel message

June 13 2017 by Josie Bingham, NAMB

It started Friday, June 9 – the rumblings of an awakening. More than 700 voices worshiped at North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix, Ariz., kicking off the weekend’s Crossover Arizona and Harvest America events.

Photo by Kathleen Murray
Donna Gaines, front left, and her husband, Steve, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, Tenn., and president of the Southern Baptist Convention, pray with a woman in Laveen, Ariz., on Saturday, June 10, near Phoenix. The Gaineses joined 75 students and alumni from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary who had been reaching out to the city throughout the week.

The North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Crossover Arizona and Greg Laurie’s Harvest America joined forces to host a three-day evangelistic outreach involving training, street evangelism and service projects before culminating in Harvest America’s Sunday night crusade.
By the end of that evening, Harvest reported 2,904 salvation decisions at the event with another 494 indicating decisions online.
The events were held in conjunction with this year’s Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Phoenix.
“Welcome to Crossover,” said Jason Powell, pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship, during Crossover’s Friday-evening gathering. “This is for you to learn tips and tactics to tell someone else about Jesus. While we’re excited about the opportunity for 35,000 people to hear the gospel at the crusade, it’s very important we learn how to share and get out there every day.”
Powell was one of three key speakers at Crossover’s opening night of worship along with Levi Lusko, pastor of Fresh Life Church and Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship. The speakers shared testimonies, techniques and training for one-on-one evangelism that attendees could use to deliver the gospel simply and powerfully.
“You were brought to Phoenix; you were brought to Arizona; you were brought here for such a time as this,” Lusko said. “So get ready to go forth from this moment different, ready for something to happen.”
Fifty Crossover volunteers gathered June 10 to fix up Arizona homes. They repaired plumbing, cleaned houses, painted walls and landscaped yards during the “Love in Action” service project at several transitional houses owned by Dream City Church and its affiliate, Dream Center.

Photo by Adam Covington
During worship at Harvest America June 11 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., thousands of attendees heard the gospel message by California Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif.

One homeowner, Ryan Dubia and his wife Alexandra worked alongside volunteers sweating in unison in the 98-degree heat.
“Our house was a blessing,” Dubia said. “It gave me and my wife Alex a break when we got our lives together and stopped using drugs. We’ve been clean for 22 months. This house, and the opportunity to have it maintained by volunteers, is a relief for our soon-to-be family of four.”
But the day wasn’t over for Crossover participants. As the sun set, the streets of Phoenix, Glendale, Scottsdale and Ave Mesa filled with groups sharing the gospel during the “Tell Someone” evangelism portion of Crossover.
Steve Gaines, president of the SBC and pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., served alongside his wife Donna and Southwestern Baptist Theology Seminary (SWBTS) students and alumni Saturday night in Glendale. SWBTS students had hit the streets earlier in the week to begin their annual evangelism efforts in conjunction with Crossover and the SBC annual meeting. Gaines also preached at First Baptist Church in Chandler on Sunday.
“With our group, we visited over 1,000 homes,” Gaines said. “We had well over 200 gospel conversations and were out for about three to four hours. We had a great time!”
Frank S. Page, a past president of the SBC who now serves as president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, also participated in door-to-door evangelism Saturday with First Southern Baptist Church at Sahuaro Ranch Park and SWBTS students. Sunday, he preached two sermons at Mountain Ridge Church’s Arrowhead campus in Glendale.
“I was delighted to go with a group of students from Southwestern Seminary, my alma mater, in sharing the gospel,” Page said. “I did not get to lead anyone to Christ, but I did have several great gospel conversations. I have participated in Crossover for many years and love the privilege.”
The weekend’s events came to a crescendo Sunday night as approximately 38,000 gathered to hear the good news of Jesus live at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. Another 3,000 host sites joined the crusade event online.

Photo by Adam Covington
Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., shares the gospel with an audience of 38,000 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. June 11 for Harvest America. At the end of the service 2,904 people made decisions to follow Christ.

“The goal of Harvest America is to impact a nation,” Lusko said as he introduced the Sunday night event. “Everyone wants hope and is longing to have the hole inside them filled up. Everyone is clutching for meaning, and we have the answer!”
The event started with prayer for the nation and then attendees experienced a night of worship with musical artists NEEDTOBREATHE, Trip Lee, MercyMe, Jordin Sparks, Phil Wickham and Brennley Brown and heard a gospel presentation from Laurie.
Many attendees had been invited to the crusade by friends, neighbors, coworkers, family members or even strangers.
“I came to the crusade because my friend started asking me about Jesus and Harvest America was the perfect opportunity to have her hear the gospel,” Tammi Gauthier, an Arizona native, said. “The friend I brought was my daughter’s nanny. We fell out of touch for a while. Then, out of nowhere this year, she started reaching out and asking about Jesus. I’d been to a few crusades before but nothing this big. I was so happy to bring her and have her be completely immersed in worship and the Word.”
In his message, Laurie shared about the anxieties and fears most Americans live with. In Arizona, the number of suicides is significantly higher than homicides, resulting in 810 deaths annually, he said.
“We’re living in a crazy world right now,” Laurie said. “Our nation is lost in every state including Arizona. The threat of terrorism is real.
“People are scared, worried, in anxiety. But let’s have theology without apology. People are hungry for that; they’re hungry to have an honest and hopeful conversation. The last thing that God wants is any man or woman created in His own image to go to Hell. Heaven is His place for all forgiven people and all people can be forgiven at any time if they believe and receive Him into their lives. That’s the message we aimed to share during Crossover Arizona and at Harvest America – a message of hope to the nation.”
Laurie ended the evening by inviting people to the stadium floor if they wanted to begin a relationship with Christ.
“No matter what, come with your sins, come with your questions,” Laurie said to a quiet crowd. “He will take you as you are.”
The North American Mission Board is planning a similar partnership next year as the Southern Baptist Convention meets in Dallas.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Josie Bingham writes for the North American Mission Board.)

6/13/2017 1:16:47 PM by Josie Bingham, NAMB | with 0 comments

EC receives CP report, frames building sale process

June 13 2017 by David Roach & Art Toalston, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) heard a report June 12 that “escrowing, withholding [and] reducing” gifts through the Cooperative Program (CP) is “not as widespread” as thought in February when the EC’s CP Committee created a special committee to study the issue.

Photo by Matt Miller
Members of the SBC Executive Committee gather for a photo to mark the 100th anniversary of the body that carries a key role in advancing the work of the Southern Baptist Convention. The EC met June 12 meeting prior to the SBC’s June 13-14 annual meeting in Phoenix.

The EC also voted to ask the SBC for authorization to sell the SBC Building in Nashville if a favorable offer is made. The committee additionally adopted a resolution of appreciation for SBC registration secretary Jim Wells, who has completed 15 years of service and will not attend this year’s SBC annual meeting due to an ongoing battle with cancer.

CP report

The ad hoc Cooperative Program Study Committee – formed in February based on reports of churches’ escrowing or withholding CP funds over concerns related to SBC entities – said a “cooperative spirit” that “underlies the Southern Baptist Convention” has yielded healing and a renewal of cooperation in the convention, according to a verbal report by CP Committee chairman Rolland Slade.
The committee was not yet prepared to quantify its assessment of CP-related actions by churches, said Slade, pastor of Meridian Baptist Church in El Cajon, Calif. The limited number of churches that have withheld, escrowed or reduced gifts through CP have cited “various reasons – not just one entity or individual or personality.”
The 13-member study committee will issue a final report at the September EC meeting in Nashville, Slade said. That report will include data on the number of churches that have escrowed, reduced and withheld CP funds, Slade said. That data will be drawn from a survey of state Baptist convention executive directors as well as data compiled by the EC staff on contacts from individuals and churches.
Slade said in an interview the EC staff received a “frenzy” of “calls, emails [and] letters” related to CP earlier this year, “but that has tapered off over time as we all began to pray” and communicate. “We’re at a healing.”

Photo by Matt Miller
2017-2018 officers of the SBC Executive Committee are (front row) Steve Swofford of Texas, chairman of the EC’s Business and Finance Committee, and Stephen Rummage of Florida, EC chairman; (back row) Stacy Bramlett of Tennessee, secretary; Kent Choate of Oklahoma, chairman of the Administrative Committee; Roland Slade of California, chairman of the Cooperative Program Committee; and Shane Hall of Oklahoma, EC vice chairman.

The study committee was created less than a week after it was reported that Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church would escrow CP funds over “various significant positions taken by the leadership of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.” The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) released an extended statement in March “seeking unity in the Southern Baptist Convention,” and Prestonwood announced in April following an internal study that it would resume giving through CP.
Some Southern Baptists had also expressed concern over participation by the ERLC and the International Mission Board in a friend-of-the-court brief supporting a New Jersey Islamic society in a religious liberty lawsuit.

SBC Building recommendation

A process for the sale of the SBC Building was approved by the Executive Committee for recommendation to messengers at the annual meeting in Phoenix. No sale is being negotiated for the downtown Nashville facility, EC President Frank S. Page said in a Q&A for the current edition of SBC LIFE, but a process is needed in the event of an offer that merits action.
The recommendation to messengers would authorize the Executive Committee “to continue studying the advisability of a sale of the SBC Building, and to sell the property upon such terms and conditions, and at such a time, if any, as the Executive Committee may hereafter approve.”
Should a sale ever occur, the recommendation states that proceeds, after such costs as the current feasibility study, would be distributed according to agreed-upon percentages based on those in place when the building opened in the mid-1980s:

  • The EC would have a 56 percent share, including the original interests of the former Education Commission and Stewardship Commission which were closed as part of the 1990s Covenant for a New Century SBC reorganization.
  • The Council of Seminary Presidents would have a 26 percent share, encompassing the original interests of the former Historical Commission, which also was closed in the SBC reorganization, and Seminary Extension. The Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives is now operated by the seminary presidents council.
  • The ERLC would have a 14 percent share, reflecting the original interest of the former Christian Life Commission.
  • The Southern Baptist Foundation would have a 4 percent share.

The discussion of a possible sale stems from the sale of the former LifeWay Christian Resources campus across the street in November 2015 amid a building boom in Nashville. The 14.5-acre property sold for a reported $125 million. The SBC Building sits on just over three-fourths of an acre.
Page, in the Q&A, noted, “The bottom line of all of this is stewardship. If we were ever to sell the building, we would want to assure that we receive an amount that would allow us to not only relocate to a less expensive location, but also to subsidize a part of the Executive Committee ministry so we could lower our Cooperative Program allocation once again. We would love to be able to send more money to reach the lost and engage all unreached people groups for Christ.”

Wells resolution

The resolution of appreciation for Wells noted his “transformative servant leadership” and “humble, yet principled leadership style.”
Wells, who will “draw his service [as registration secretary] to a close” with the Phoenix annual meeting according to the resolution, has “served eight Southern Baptist Convention presidents, providing guidance and leadership to hundreds of presidentially-appointed SBC Credentials Committee members and Tellers of the Convention, as well as hundreds of volunteers enlisted, in consultation with each year’s local arrangements committee, to serve in the registration area.”
Wells’ ministry spans five decades and includes service as a Missouri Baptist Convention staff member, a director of missions, pastor of nine Missouri churches and an EC member, the resolution stated.
The EC “pledge[d] to intercede for Jim Wells as he faces his cancer with courage and faith, for his wife Judy as she ministers to him during this time of illness, and for the two of them as they prepare themselves for a time of temporal separation until That Day when the Lord will make all things new.”
In addition to recommending that messengers to the SBC annual meeting adopt the resolution, the EC appointed Wells’ chief assistant Don Currence of Missouri as acting registration secretary and named SBC recording secretary John Yeats to perform the recording secretary’s “platform duties.”

Executive Committee’s 100th anniversary

The 100th anniversary of the Executive Committee’s founding occasioned comments by Page, who noted it was created in a unanimous vote during the six-day SBC annual meeting in New Orleans in 1917. Such occurrences, he noted, are “miraculous” in Baptist life.
The action followed arguments during the 1916 annual meeting in Hot Springs, Ark., “about the need for an executive-type committee. ... There was a large group of people who wanted to consolidate all the entities into one large body to control and promote everything as one entity. There were many who didn’t agree with that.”
A yearlong study produced the recommendation for the Executive Committee’s creation, said Page, the sixth leader of the entity, which was created with a key assignment: “To act for the convention during the interim of its meetings on matters not otherwise provided for in its plans of work.”
Page referred EC members to a Baptist Press (BP) story June 8 by BP chief national correspondent David Roach on the EC’s 100-year service, typically in behind-the-scenes fashion, in advancing the convention’s work.
The EC’s 100th anniversary will be marked by:

  • an updated edition of the Albert McClellan book The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention incorporating updated material by Augie Boto, the EC’s executive vice president, and Roger S. Oldham, vice president for convention communications and relations.
  • a special edition of SBC LIFE, the journal of the Executive Committee, marking its first 100 years.
  • a “low-key” birthday party/anniversary celebration, as Page phrased it, during the EC’s September meeting in Nashville. The EC opted for a September commemoration rather than one in Phoenix, “with so much going on” during the June 13-14 SBC annual meeting.

“The Executive Committee does not exist for and of itself,” Page said. “We are a coordinating, supporting, encouraging body. ... We exist to see the other entities of the Southern Baptist Convention do their very best work encouraging our churches to work with SBC missions and ministries.”
In other actions, the EC:
– recognized 10 members ending their terms of service: Michael W. (Mike) Routt, Colorado, 2009-2017; Wayne Robertson, Georgia, 2007-2017; Charles W. Boling, Illinois, 2007-2017; Wilma J. Booth, Illinois, 2009-2017; Timothy A. (Tim) Ohls, Kansas-Nebraska, 2009-2017; William E. (Eddie) Kinchen, Mississippi, 2009-2017; Jeff L. Paul, Missouri, 2009-2017; Bryan (Scott) Davis, North Carolina, 2009-2017; Jeffrey B. (Jeff) Watson, North Carolina, 2009-2017; and Danny S. Sinquefield, Tennessee, 2009-2017.
– heard a report from SBC President Steve Gaines, who spoke on the theme of the annual meeting – “Pray! For such a time as this,” drawn from Luke 11:1 and Esther 4:14.
“I believe with all my heart that the next few years will set the course for America for a long, long time,” Gaines said, voicing concern that his grandchildren may have to live “in a country that is so anti-Jesus that they’re having to watch every move they make. I want to see them worship in a country that is embracing Jesus again.
“If God set us on fire, if we really got fresh fire, fresh wind in our hearts ... God can use us again,” Gaines said.
In a time of prayer, Gaines interceded, “Lord, we look at our nation and we see so much sin, we see so much that is against Your Word and Your will. People are in so much bondage. They need to be set free, dear God. ... Help us to share Your gospel; help us to be about our Father’s business; help us to seek first the Kingdom of God; help us to follow You, Jesus, and be fishers of men, make disciples, baptize disciples and teach disciples.”
– selected Salt Lake City as the site for the 2025 SBC annual meeting. Southern Baptists met there for the first time in 1998. Next year’s annual meeting will be in Dallas.
– reelected both Stephen Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., to a second one-year term as chairman and Shane Hall, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, as vice chairman. Stacy Bramlett, a member of First Baptist Church in Collierville, Tenn., was elected as secretary, succeeding Becky Illingworth who had served the maximum two one-year terms.
– presented a resolution of appreciation to Mark Edlund, who will retire in July as executive director/treasurer of the Colorado Baptist General Convention after 16 years of service. The resolution was adopted during the EC’s February meeting in Nashville.
– received for review the 2017-2018 SBC Comprehensive Budget, which includes statements of income and operating budget summaries for all SBC entities.
– heard a report that EC officers have reviewed Page’s job performance and granted him a 3 percent pay raise that includes a cost of living adjustment and an increase based on merit.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

6/13/2017 1:14:09 PM by David Roach & Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

WMU celebrates ‘Defining Moments’

June 13 2017 by Myriah Snyder, Western Recorder

Around 250 Southern Baptists gathered for the opening session of the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) 2017 Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting on June 11 in Phoenix.

Photo by Van Payne
Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director and treasurer of the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU), celebrates the 20th anniversary of Christian Women’s Job Corps during the opening session of the WMU annual meeting June 11 at the Renaissance Hotel ballroom in Phoenix. The job corps trains women for life and employment.

“Every moment has a series of defining moments – moments that shape us and change and make us the person we are today,” Sandy Wisdom-Martin, newly-elected national WMU executive director said. She and Linda Cooper, national WMU president, opened the evening and shared personal and biblical “Defining Moments,” in keeping with WMU’s theme for the year. The focus for the opening night was “Redeemed.”
Throughout the evening, various others shared with attendees moments that defined them, ranging from childhood calls to salvation to adulthood calls to live a missions oriented life.
“A defining moment in our lives was when we discovered, even though where we lived was good, and life was great, we had a holy discontent inside of us. We could not sleep peacefully at night knowing that there was something more that God had for us,” said Brandi Parrish, a North American Mission Board church planter in Colorado, originally from Texas. Brandi and her husband Kelly were the highlighted missionaries for the Sunday evening session.
Brandi continued, “Not knowing what that was, we began to pray ‘yes, Lord.’ We didn’t know what we were praying yes to.” They prayed for 12 months and they saw the Lord begin to lay a foundation for them to become church planters. Previously, Kelly worked in executive sales and their only formal ministry experience was as lay leaders.
Eventually, they knew they were called to plant a church in Fort Collins, Colo. The Parrishes shared that the community in which they live has a population of more than 300,000 and over 70 percent of the people have no religious affiliation whatsoever.
“We were scared to death,” Kelly said. “We do know that God doesn’t always call the equipped, but He equips the called. When He called us, we stepped into the ‘yes Lord,’” Kelly said.
He noted, “That means getting up every day and saying ‘yes, Lord,’ whatever it is You have for me today we are going to say yes. We are going to love these people well, and we are going to do whatever it is You have for us because we believe that when we live in the ‘yes, Lord’ we see miracles with our eyes that we would never see if we did not live in the ‘yes Lord.’”

Photo by Van Payne
Kelly and Brandi Parrish, church planters with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) in Colorado, share stories of changed lives June 11 at the Woman's Missionary Union (WMU) annual meeting opening session at the Renaissance Hotel ballroom in Phoenix.

Kelly said they saw the fruits of their labor with their Bible study group growing to around 80 in attendance, overflowing their home and becoming a church. “God has continued to bless. God has continued to do the miracle of bringing the dead to life and we get to be a part of that. You get to be a part of that,” he added.
In addition, a special highlight was placed on the 20th anniversary of Christian Women’s Job Corps, a “WMU dream” and a “nationally recognized program for helping women in poverty become equipped for life and employment in a Christian context,” as described by Wisdom-Martin. A brief history of the ministry was presented, as well as stories of the countless lives touched by the ministry.
Worship for the evening was led by Teresa Harmening, with special music by the Native American Praise choir. Before the general session, a reception was held to welcome Wisdom-Martin as well as a series of speed conferences.
The WMU annual meeting continues June 12 with general sessions in the morning and from 2-3, breakout sessions from 11-12 and 4-5, and a pre-screening of the documentary Mully at 6:30.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Myriah Snyder is assistant editor of the Western Recorder, westernrecorder.org, newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)

6/13/2017 1:10:53 PM by Myriah Snyder, Western Recorder | with 0 comments

‘Text is king,’ Allen says at pre-Pastors’ Conf. workshop

June 13 2017 by Alex Sibley, SWBTS

Having worked with each of this year’s Pastors’ Conference speakers earlier this spring on their preaching through the book of Philippians, David Allen noted text-driven preaching is expository preaching “as it should be done.”

Photo by Matt Miller
David Allen, dean of preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, speaks at the Text-Driven Preaching Conference June 11 at the Phoenix Convention Center.

Allen, dean of the School of Preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, led the Text-Driven Preaching Workshop June 11 as the official pre-conference workshop of the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual Pastor’s Conference in Phoenix.
“Over the years,” Allen said, “the term ‘expository preaching’ has become so elastic that it has been stretched into infinity, and all kinds of preaching fall under it.” This reality necessitated Allen’s use of a different term – text-driven preaching.
Allen said text-driven preaching is not just a type of preaching, but rather a philosophy and a method. Specifically, Allen defined text-driven preaching as “the interpretation and communication of a biblical text in a sermon that represents the substance, structure and spirit of the text.”
The substance of a text, Allen said, is “what the author is talking about” as well as “what the author is saying about what he is talking about.” The structure, meanwhile, refers to grammatical, syntactical and semantic structure; and spirit refers to both the genre and the emotive “feel” of a given text.
According to Allen, a text-driven preacher does not preach sermons; he preaches texts. A text-driven sermon, then, should meet two criteria.
First, it should be based on a text of scripture (the text is the source for the sermon, Allen said, not a resource).
Second, the sermon should expound the meaning of the text (that is, the sermon should be derived from and develop the text). Essentially, then, text-driven preaching means saying the same thing the text of scripture says.
Allen provided a brief illustration of this preaching philosophy with 1 John 2:15-17. Noting that this text contains only one imperative, Allen said the primary point of the passage is found at the beginning of verse 15: do not love the world or anything in the world. John then provides two supporting points: it is impossible to love both God and the world, and the world is passing away. The former point, Allen noted, is further supported by an additional point – namely, that the things of the world come not from God but from the world.
Allen said this outline of the text must be the outline of a text-driven sermon on this text. In other words, a text-driven sermon on 1 John 2:15-17 can only have one main point, plus two supporting points (one of which has its own supporting point).
Preaching the passage this way, Allen said, means preaching the Word of God as inspired by the Spirit of God.
All kinds of preaching – Christ-centered, doctrinal, etc. – must be rooted in text-driven preaching, Allen said. “Everything hinges on this, because the text is king,” he explained.
For additional information on text-driven preaching, as well as preaching resources including sermon structures (such as the 1 John 2:15-17 outline), visit preachingsource.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Alex Sibley serves as associate director of news and information at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

6/13/2017 9:05:14 AM by Alex Sibley, SWBTS | with 0 comments

Gaines, Page preach at Phoenix-area churches

June 13 2017 by Shannon Baker and Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Prayer and perseverance were the themes as Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Steve Gaines and SBC executive Frank Page preached at Phoenix area churches June 11 ahead of the 2017 SBC annual meeting.

Photo by Shannon Baker, BCMD
Steve Gaines, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, visits with church members at First Baptist Church in Chandler, Ariz., where he preached during the first service on June 11.

Gaines spoke at First Baptist Church in Chandler, and Page, SBC Executive Committee president and CEO, preached during two services at the Arrowhead campus of Mountain Ridge Church in Glendale.

Gaines: “Houses of Prayer”

“God has called us as individuals and churches to be ‘houses of prayer.’ And we can change the world – if we pray!” said Gaines, who also serves as senior pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn.
He reflected on the prayer life of Daniel, “a very godly man who prayed in an extremely pagan culture.” As a teen, Daniel was taken captive in Babylon and later in the Medo-Persian Empire.
“Kingdom after kingdom, Daniel stayed faithful to God,” Gaines said, noting Daniel prayed three times a day. “He was in Babylon for at least 60 years. That’s over 1,000 prayer times a year and over 60,000 over his lifetime!”
Cautioning that the Spirit of God does not fall upon prayerless people, churches and denominations, Gaines shared three ways prayer make a difference.
First, prayer moves the hand of God.
Gaines pointed to the archangel Gabriel’s words to Daniel: “The moment you began praying, a command was given” (Daniel 9:23, NLT).
The prayers of Daniel moved God, Gaines stressed, as did the prayers of Abraham, Moses, Joshua and Jesus, among others.
When Joshua was in battle, “God stopped the planet from turning,” causing the sun to stand still so Joshua could claim victory. And Jesus, he said, has constantly interceded for Christians since His ascension into heaven.
“That’s one long prayer meeting!” Gaines said, adding that the church – and even missions – was birthed through prayer. “Things happen when we pray.”
Second, prayer reveals the will of God.
“Sometimes we don’t know what we need to know to do what we need to do,” Gaines preached.
In Daniel 9:23, Gabriel told Daniel to “listen carefully so that you can understand.
“Daniel talked to God, and then God talked to Daniel,” Gaines stressed, pointing to James 4:8, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”
“Too many Christians are waiting for God to draw near to them first. If you don’t talk to God, you don’t love Him like you think you love Him,” he said.
Third, prayer blesses the heart of God.
In Daniel 9:23, Gabriel tells Daniel he is “very precious” – highly esteemed or highly desired by God.
It’s as if God looked across the kingdom and said of Daniel, “You’re the only one who is praying three times a day.”
Gaines shared about his mother, who at age 24 needed a double mastectomy to eradicate breast cancer. As she recovered from the first mastectomy, an older woman sharing her hospital room prayed all night for her to be healed.
The next day, the cancer was gone.
“You don’t have to have big muscles ... or have good health” to pray, Gaines said.
“Our denomination needs prayer, not a new program to prop us up for another year. ... We’re down in baptisms. We’re down in attendance. What we need is prayer.
“The quickest way to a solution is only as far as your knees to the floor.”

Page: ‘No Greater Burden’

Page used Paul’s testimony in Philippians 3:12-16 as a source of several keys to hopeful living, warning believers against common mistakes made when the difficulties of the Christian walk become apparent.

Photo by Diana Chandler
Frank S. Page, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, speaks with Sybil Lieurance, a member of Mountain Ridge Baptist Church, Arrowhead campus, in Glendale, Ariz., after he preached during the morning service.

Faced with such daily struggles, Christians tend to either fake it by pretending to be fine; force themselves into an outward, frenetic pattern of behavior without inward change, or simply give up on even trying.
“There are a lot of people that feel that way, that their life is a great burden, because what is happening is not what should happen,” Page said. “I’ve talked to many people who struggle with life. ... We often feel the standards are too high; the goals are too far out there. As a church, as a family, as an individual, we often feel that way.”
Near the end of his life when he wrote the Philippians passage, Paul offered a better way, Page said. Paul exemplified true humility by admitting he wasn’t perfect.
“Humility is the ability to see yourself as God sees you and still love yourself as God loves you,” Page said. “The church is filled with what we call people, and they’re always going to struggle.” Page backed up his comments with Romans 5:8, that God demonstrated His love by dying for the ungodly.
In addition to humility, Paul held to God’s saving grace that would make him completely Christ-like.
“Paul was saying, ‘I don’t possess the goal yet, but the goal possesses me.’ Christ who is the goal had already gotten ahold of [Paul],” Page said. “God in His goodness and His greatness has already laid hold of us.”
Paul was also committed to continued growth. Realistic expectations and reliance on God’s grace allowed Paul to press on.
“I know I’ve been defeated. I know I’ve failed. I know I’ve struggled in life,” Page paraphrased Paul, “but I’m pressing on because I know how God feels about me.”
Part of being perfected is forgetting what lies behind and making every day count toward reaching the goal, Page said.
“We live in a state of tension between the already and the not yet. I believe God not only wants us today to have an attitude of humility and say, ‘I’m not going to fake it anymore; I’m going to be honest,’” Page said. “‘But God also, I’m going to have an attitude of grace and understand what grace is, that you love me. So I don’t have to force it.’
“But it leads us to that third and that powerful initiative, that says I want to grow. I press on, Paul said.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware in Columbia, Md. Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

6/13/2017 8:39:25 AM by Shannon Baker and Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

NCBAM develops HomeMeds pilot program

June 12 2017 by Carol Layton, NCBAM Communications

With the mission to help aging adults maintain their independence, North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM) targets its programs and services on the key reasons older adults lose their independence. Medication-related problems and errors endanger the lives and well-being of a high percentage of adults over age 65 – putting them at increased risk of falls, dizziness, confusion and other side effects. 

Contributed photo
NCBAM regional directors, Debra Kuykendall, center, and Yvetta Smith, right, worked with High Country Aging Service Coordinator, Nicole Hiegl, to develop a HomeMeds pilot program in eastern North Carolina.

To reduce these risks, NCBAM partnered with HomeMeds – an evidence-based national program that addresses medication safety as well as quality of life issues. The HomeMeds partnership began in January as NCBAM’s regional directors, Yvetta Smith (east area) and Debra Kuykendall (central west area), formed a pilot program in eastern North Carolina. The HomeMeds program was started with funds donated by Rocky Hock Baptist Church in Edenton.
Rocky Hock generously donated the proceeds of its 2016 fishing tournament to NCBAM.
Seventeen volunteers from eight churches were certified in the HomeMeds program at the January training held at Rocky Hock. Another of NCBAM’s partners, Nicole Hiegl, aging service coordinator for the High Country Area Agency on Aging, trained the volunteers to implement the program.
HomeMeds volunteers visit the homes of aging adults at risk – documenting medications and recording blood pressure and pulse. A computerized assessment is created and then reviewed by a licensed pharmacist who makes any recommendations for improvement. Primary care physicians are alerted if the pharmacist notes any immediate medication interactions. There is no charge for participating in the program and confidentiality is guaranteed. Volunteers make return visits to participants to deliver lists of their medications along with letters to share with their physicians.  
While in the home, volunteers are trained to offer additional benefits from NCBAM’s Priority #1: Prevention program. Each participant receives an NCBAM Red Bag for storing all medications in one place. An NCBAM home safety assessment can also be performed which includes checking for working smoke alarms, sufficient lighting and grab bars. Participants are also informed about SHIIP (Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program) – a service of North Carolina’s Department of Insurance that helps Medicare recipients choose the most cost-effective prescription drug plan.
While NCBAM’s HomeMeds pilot program ended in May, it will be evaluated for effectiveness and sustainability. Sandy Gregory, NCBAM’s director, would like to introduce HomeMeds across the state. “Medication errors are a very serious, but preventable, problem among aging adults,” Gregory said. “With help from North Carolina Baptists, we hope to make a big difference across the state as we use this evidence-based tool to help aging adults safely remain in their own homes and enjoy improved quality of life.”
Contact Yvetta Smith at ysmith@bchfamily.org, Debra Kuykendall at dkuykendall@bchfamily.org or call (877) 506-2226. 

6/12/2017 3:16:09 PM by Carol Layton, NCBAM Communications | with 0 comments

Knowing somebody cares buoys retiree

June 12 2017 by Erich Bridges, GuideStone Financial Services

Robert Baker has learned a few things during 91 years of life and more than half a century in ministry:

  • Don’t complain about tough times or hard work. Listen, learn and trust the Lord.
  • Preach the Bible and love people.
  • Do what you’re told when God (or someone He sends into your life) tells you to do it.

“It’s all part of the call,” Robert explains.
He learned obedience early, growing up as a farm boy in Depression-era North Carolina. His father didn’t issue commands twice. There were chores to do every morning before breakfast and the mile-and-a-half walk to the school bus. 

Robert Baker

Milking Blackie the cow, for instance.
“She gave about a gallon,” Robert recalls with a twinkle in his eye. “Well, she didn’t give it; you had to take it.”
Those chores developed discipline – and muscles – in Robert, the seventh of 14 children. He grew stronger carrying his handicapped sister to school (she weighed about the same as the field pack he later carried during two years in the army). 
Small and wiry, he was fast, too. “I had the fastest feet in the county,” he says.
In school races, he would leave other runners half a block behind him. The quickest girl in the county, by the way, was named Ruth. She would later become Robert’s beloved wife of 64 years and the mother of their three children.
Farming didn’t work out for Robert as a young family man, so he tried his hand at shipyard work in Newport News, Va. Then he hired on at the Amoco Oil refinery in nearby York County.
“Refinery work,” he says, “was tough, interesting and dangerous.” 
The dangerous part didn’t much appeal to him as a husband and father. But he persevered and advanced on the job. “Miss Ruth” was always waiting at home with a smile – even when he came in after midnight, dirty and exhausted from another long shift.
“I had as much support as I needed from day one,” he remembers. “My darling always sent me away with a hug and a kiss. I never left home without it.”
His spiritual turning point came the day a serious fire broke out at the refinery. 
Robert helped quench it and saved the lives of a number of men on the scene. While they celebrated survival, he heard the voice of God:
“That’s what I want you to do with your life,” the voice said. “I want you to spread My Word that men may live.”
Robert knew he had been called to preach the gospel. “That fire served as the ignition point for me,” he says.
When he got home and told his wife he had been called to ministry, she sobbed softly for a while. Then she smiled and said, “I’ve been knowing that for months.”
That was 1964. The Bakers picked up and drove to Fort Worth, Texas, where he attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He went on to serve as pastor or associate pastor of five churches in North Carolina and Virginia – most recently, Spring Hill Baptist Church near his current home in Cobbs Creek, Va. 
He retired from full-time pastoring in 1994 but continued to serve in interim and pulpit supply roles. 
“It’s all part of the call,” he repeats. “I preach the Bible, and I love the folks.”
Robert still preaches from time to time, particularly at memorial services for relatives in the wider Baker clan. He also enjoys tending the garden behind his house, where he grows collards, kale and sweet potatoes. 
If the rototiller breaks down, he remembers how to use a good old-fashioned hoe. He tills the soil in the hot sun without breaking a sweat.
However, age and medical issues have slowed Robert a bit in recent years. “Miss Ruth” died several years ago.
“She’s up there now,” he says quietly, pointing toward heaven.
His children faithfully check on him, and he can handle most of his living expenses. But the “little foxes” (as he calls them) of unexpected costs creep in – needed medical prescriptions, shots and the like. 
“You don’t stop living when you retire,” he explains. “You still have the same needs.”

That’s where Mission:Dignity comes in. A monthly stipend from the ministry enables Robert to cover medical expenses – and other needs – and keep the “little foxes” at bay. After so many years of serving God and caring for people, he appreciates the tangible way Southern Baptists now care for him in his twilight years.
Mission:Dignity Sunday is June 25. It’s a day to remember and honor retired ministers, workers and their widows living on low retirement incomes. It’s also a time to give generously to help the nearly 1,800 individuals and couples assisted by the ministry. About $7 million is distributed annually, with most of the funding coming from the direct gifts of individuals, Sunday School classes and churches. Every dollar given provides well-deserved monthly grants with nothing used for operating expenses. 
GuideStone® has free bulletin inserts, promotional posters and a DVD with several brief testimonies of people assisted by Mission:Dignity. The materials are undated and can be used anytime. Order online and find additional resources at MDSunday.org.
Mission:Dignity continually reminds Robert of the love and care of his Southern Baptist family. And that gives him the energy to head out to the garden and plant some more greens.
“It’s a ministry that is often ignored,” he says. “The help is more than a dollar. It’s knowing that somebody cares.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is a freelance writer who can be reached at Erich.Bridges@gmail.com and wrote this story on assignment for Mission:Dignity.)

6/12/2017 3:01:24 PM by Erich Bridges, GuideStone Financial Services | with 0 comments

Wilkes County church to build ‘inclusive’ play park

June 12 2017 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Fairplains Baptist Church in North Wilkesboro is sending a message to their community by introducing the area’s first inclusive play park.

Contributed photo
An artist’s rendering of a future playground shows a variety of equipment to suit different children’s needs.

Pastor David Dyer said the congregation wants families with special needs children to know “there is a church that’s thinking of them and wants to show the love of Christ to them in a real, tangible way.”
Inclusive play equipment is specially designed to allow children with both physical and mental special needs to play alongside their peers, overcoming challenges posed by traditional playground equipment.
For example, the often humorous buildup of static electricity that occurs when children play on plastic slides can short-circuit cochlear implants worn by those with a hearing impairment. Also, loose playground surfacing, such as mulch, can render the space inaccessible to a child with a wheelchair or other mobility device.
The Wilkes Play Park proposed by Fairplains would offer a metal roller slide to eliminate static and poured rubber surfacing to facilitate mobility. Other features include bucket seat swings with harnesses; an accessible zip-line; and a number of sensory-rich play stations to engage visual, tactile and auditory systems.
“The goal is to have children with special needs playing alongside children without special needs,” said Dyer in a phone call with the Biblical Recorder. “Most places aren’t set up to accommodate that kind of interaction. We want those kids playing together.”
A newsletter released by the church said, “We can change the way our future citizens and leaders identify people with special needs. By embracing and celebrating different abilities, everyone can develop understanding and compassion for others like never before.”
The pastor also emphasized the project’s community focus.
“We want people to know this is not a church playground,” he said. “This is a community play park that happens to be on church property.”
The inclusive playground, along with an adjacent ADA-compliant building and outdoor seating area, will be available for birthday parties and other events by reservation at no cost. The area will be open for use seven days a week, and it will feature nighttime lighting.
Dyer said it’s the only place of its kind, not only in Wilkes County, but in the surrounding areas as well. The church wanted to meet “a real need that exists in our community,” and this is how God led them, according to Dyer.
The congregation views the project as an outreach ministry. Several panels with Bible verses and a cross will feature prominently throughout the play area.
“I don’t have to be down there for those kids and families to see the gospel,” Dyer said. 
“First, they see it in our action: we’ve done this because of Jesus. Second they see it in the actual pieces. There’s scripture everywhere in this park. The cross is literally part of the surfacing. You can’t get around it; you’ve got to go over it. All that is very intentional.”
With the financial support of the community, local businesses and other churches, Fairplains has raised more than $107,000 of the $221,000 needed to complete the project, which they hope to unveil Sept. 9.
For more information, contact Dyer at (336) 452-9221. Donations can be made online at GoFundMe.com/WilkesPlayPark or checks mailed to Fairplains Baptist Church, 141 Fairplains Church St., North Wilkesboro, NC 28659. 

6/12/2017 2:53:39 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

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