March 2009

Pastor’s widow points to ‘celebration day’

March 16 2009 by Martin King, Baptist Press

MARYVILLE, Ill. — Cindy Winters, widow of slain Illinois pastor Fred Winters told 1,900 people who attended his funeral that Sunday, March 8, was “celebration day” for her husband and that she refuses to harbor hatred.

“Fred and I talked so many times about how God is at work here in this church doing incredible things,” she said during Winters’ March 13 funeral at First Baptist Church in Maryville, Ill. “Nothing has changed. Our vision and purpose still remains the same.”

Winters was fatally shot while preaching at the 1,500-member Southern Baptist church east of St. Louis.

Speaking for 20 minutes during a two-hour funeral service, Cindy Winters said, “I refuse to let Satan win. ... He’s not going to steal my joy. He’s not going to steal my passion. He’s not going to steal my desire to spread God’s word. I’m not going to hate.

“And I will work to carry out the mission of this church, and I know all of you will too,” she said. “And I’m not going to survive this thing; I’m going to be a better person because of this thing.”

She quoted one of her two daughters, ages 13 and 11 years, as saying, “I want to be just like my daddy. I hope the man who did this learns to love Jesus.”

Winters refuted a note the man accused of the shooting left on his calendar labeling March 8 as “death day.” She said, “Sunday was not death day, but celebration day — the best day of Fred’s life. On Sunday, my husband did not die, but got a promotion,” as she pointed upward to heaven.

Then, the words of the theme song from the television show “The Jeffersons” — referring to “movin’ on up” — played throughout the church building as the congregation stood and applauded.

Photo by Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Cindy Winters, widow of slain Illinois pastor Fred Winters, told 1,900 people at his funeral that March 8 — the day he was killed by a gunman — was not “death day” but “celebration day” for her husband.

She told those in attendance in the 900-seat sanctuary and another 1,000 overflowing into the gymnasium as well as those viewing the service on the Internet a number of humorous stories about Winters that illustrated his reputation for being thrifty, athletic, intelligent and passionate about his ministry.

“Fred loved being a pastor. He had a pastor’s heart. When you hurt, he hurt, and when you were happy he was happy. He never got tired of being your pastor,” she told the First Baptist members attending the funeral.

Winters brother and father-in-law also spoke during the service, while three former staff members brought messages.

Bob Dickerson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Marion, Ill., who met Winters in seminary, held his Bible aloft and said, “If Fred were here, he would speak from the word of God, so that’s what I will do.”  Dickerson read from Genesis 50:20 quoting Joseph speaking to his brothers, “What you intended for harm, God intended for good to accomplish the saving of many lives.”

“Fred was intense about sharing Christ. He wanted everybody to know Jesus, and good will come if 100 people, or 1,000 people or 10,000 people, will help others find God” because of what has happened, Dickerson said.

“Evil did not take Fred Winters life because he gave it to Christ many years ago. Evil did not stop the message that Jesus saves,” Dickerson said.

Adam Cruse, pastor of First Baptist Church in Mt. Zion, Ill., another former staff member at First Baptist Maryville, said Winters “was always there for us. He was a rock for us. He cared for us. I know you are hurting and sad, but this is not a time of defeat or surrender because the mission that we shared with him is still our mission.”

The service ended with a video Winters had made several months before his death answering the question, “Why do you exist?” as a way to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the videotape, which had been on the church’s web site during the week, Winters gave the “A-B-Cs of salvation” and ended with an invitation to pray to accept Christ.

Following another presentation of the gospel by First Baptist’s minister of worship, Mark Jones, the service ended on what Jones called “a note of praise” as they sang “My Savior Lives.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — King is editor of the Illinois Baptist.)  

3/16/2009 4:28:00 AM by Martin King, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Patrick of Ireland: an evangelical hero

March 16 2009 by Gary D. Myers, Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS — It has been said that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, perhaps reflecting some mysterious urge to wear green on March 17.

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, laden with mythology and merriment, often have little to do with the historical Patrick, a missionary and early church leader. And while “Irish” revelers overlook the man behind the myth, many Christians also fail to see the importance of Patrick’s ministry.

What are evangelicals to think of Patrick? And what can be learned from his life and ministry?

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) professors Rex Butler and Jack Allen believe Patrick is worthy of evangelical attention. Approaching him from different disciplines, Butler and Allen see in Patrick methods and heart attitudes beneficial to today’s church.

Patrick used the simple clover, common in Ireland, to explain the Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The title of “Saint” and St. Patrick’s Day activities, unfortunately, have left Patrick with an image problem among evangelicals.

“As Baptists, we need to avoid calling any historical figure by the title of ‘Saint,’” said Butler, associate professor of church history and patristics at NOBTS. “It is clear from the Bible, especially Paul’s letters, that all believers are saints in the sense that we are sanctified and set apart for God.”

The title “Saint,” when used by Catholic and Orthodox churches, is very technical in nature, Butler said. It refers to men and women “who exhibited extraordinary holiness and performed miracles during their lives.” These churches believe that “Saints” can intercede on behalf of people living today.

“Therefore, I refer to the hero of ‘St. Patrick’s Day’ as ‘Patrick of Ireland,’” Butler said.

Patrick was born into a Christian home in Britain, the son and grandson of clergymen. Patrick, though, exhibited only nominal Christian faith in his early years. Scholars are not certain when he was born, but many place his birth around 387 A.D.

The pagan Celtic tribes of Ireland lived in primitive conditions, worshipping nature, living off the land and frequently raiding Britain to steal supplies. In short, the tribes consisted of uncivilized barbarians. During one of their raids on the British Island, Patrick was taken captive and forced into slavery at the age of 16.

After living as a slave for six years, Patrick escaped and returned to Britain. It was during his time in Ireland that Patrick’s faith in Christ began to grow, Butler said. Shortly after returning to Britain, Patrick entered church ministry.

“Patrick’s life is a great example of how God uses adversity to draw us to Himself,” Butler said.
“Over time, he begins to have this deep conviction that God wants him to go back and take the gospel to these horrible people,” said Allen, assistant professor of church planting at NOBTS. “Patrick voluntarily goes back to Ireland and he sets about trying to convert these pagans.”
For Allen, Patrick demonstrated a number of methods that could be beneficial in reaching 21st-century Western culture, particularly the post-Christian areas of North America.

At the basic level, Patrick’s methods are similar to the current idea of “missional” living in a cross-cultural setting, Allen said. Patrick went on his mission with a “long-haul” mentality and would stay as long as it took to reach a tribe. He and his group lived among the people, learned their habits, sought to fit in without comprise and lived out their faith and ethics among the people. Gradually Patrick was able to share the gospel.

Patrick did not immediately confront the pagans about sin and overwhelm them with scriptural instruction, Allen said, and he preferred to slowly introduce the scriptures to develop a “picture of Jesus” and then tell them about repentance.

“Over time … people were converted,” Allen said. “This takes a very long time. It’s slow at first, but these conversions tend to stick.”

Allen believes a similar approach is needed to reach the United States and Canada. He points to the growing number of lost people in cities such as Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland and even Austin. People in these areas, Allen said, often are highly resistant to the Gospel and traditional evangelistic methods.

“What is getting fantastic results in Toronto and Montreal have been methods that look an awful lot like what Patrick did,” Allen said. “Our missionary goes in, lives among the people and begins to make friends. Over time (the missionary) tries to gather people and teach them who Jesus is.”

Lost North Americans share many common traits with the people Patrick encountered on the Emerald Isle so long ago, Allen said, describing post-Christian North Americans as “neo-pagans” due to their resistance to the gospel and their commitment to nature.
Reaching the neo-pagans of North America, Allen said, will require costly commitments. Christians must find a way to plant themselves among the lost for long periods of time, and these believers must live out a consistent, vibrant faith. Many of the successful missionaries in these resistant areas are bivocational — working alongside the people they’re trying to reach.

“We will not see large-scale systemic conversions unless we are willing to give this; in all honesty, we probably have to give it a decade,” Allen said. “We not only have to help people find Christ, we have to give them the tools to walk with Christ.”

For Butlers from a church historian’s perspective, Patrick’s ministry and mission methods reflect two distinct heart attitudes vital to the Christian life — forgiveness and perseverance.

“Despite the suffering he had endured in Ireland, Patrick was willing to forgive those who had held him captive,” Butler said. “He returned to evangelize Ireland.”

Forgiveness and the call of God landed Patrick in Ireland. But it was a rugged perseverance that kept him there for the long term, Butler said.

Patrick was not the first missionary to Ireland, Butler noted. Thirty years before Patrick launched his mission, a man named Palladius was commissioned as a missionary to the Emerald Isle, but Palladius soon became discouraged and moved on to Scotland.

“Patrick, however, persevered in his mission, preached the gospel throughout Ireland … and established churches and monasteries,” Butler said. “Furthermore, the Irish Christians, following Patrick’s example, left their homeland to spread the gospel in Scotland, Britain and Europe.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Myers is director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. For more information on Patrick’s methods, NOBTS faculty member Jack Allen recommends The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West … Again by George G. Hunter III.)

3/16/2009 4:26:00 AM by Gary D. Myers, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Jacksonville pastor’s journey away, home again

March 13 2009 by Douglas Baker, BSC Communications

As a boy Jason Brinker mastered the language of the church culture and became, in his own words, “a typical Southern Baptist” with an ability to play the role of a pastor’s son quite well.

Most who observed him in Metropolis, Ill., would not have guessed a child who grasped the rudimentary doctrines of the Christian faith would ever doubt God. It began with a 3 a.m. phone call when he was almost 10 years old, with news that his brother was killed in an automobile accident.

“Honestly,” Brinker said, “right then a disconnect between me and God began. And yet, I never left the church.” His little world was mugged by a reality that the God whom he had learned so much about seemed unfair and unable to sustain his life.

“If anyone were to ask me if I was a Christian, I would quickly respond – absolutely – but I didn’t really have a relationship with Christ,” Brinker said.

At age 16 he injured his T-5 vertebrae, resulting in a full upper-body brace which became a gateway to rebellion. Prescription pain medication helped reduce back pain, but when the back pain went away “the pills also helped dull other pain as well. Only no one would have ever known it because I was professional at church,” Brinker said.
One morning he woke up in his parent’s driveway unsure of how he got there. “It was as if the Spirit of God asked me, ‘Are you tired enough yet?’” Literally overnight, Brinker traded in his dreams of being a record producer for preaching.

He cut his long hair and “put on a suit.” Using his father’s ministry contacts, Brinker (who was 19) became a sought after itinerant preacher. “I went from being a rock-n-roll disc jockey to a suit and preaching in Baptist churches all over Kentucky, Tennessee and Illinois,” he said.

He became pastor of Suwane Furnace Baptist Church and entered Mid-Continent Bible College.

“I watched preachers such as my dad, Billy Graham and even John Hagee and mimicked how they did it.”

The church grew almost overnight. The congregation continued to grow even as Brinker made his way to the Billy Graham School of Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for further theological training.

His days were long and the demands between the classroom and the pulpit took their toll. By the time he was 23 years old he was on blood pressure medication.

Brinker was challenged by Steve Ayers and church leaders at Hillvue Heights Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Ky., to go on a personal spiritual retreat for one week. The next time he met with his mentors, they asked “Who are you?” and he replied, “I am His.”

So he began shedding the image of a “typical pastor who worked to look, sound and speak just like everyone else.” At that point Brinker didn’t know exactly what would happen next. “After that experience, my personality came back, my sense of humor returned, my relationship with my wife began to change and my passions came back,” he said.

Brinker made plans to start a church in Clarksville, Tenn., and after almost a year of research in the area the door never opened. Later he received an invitation to his local association meeting where representatives from Seattle, Wash., would talk about church planting. All Brinker knew about Seattle was that it was the most unchurched city in America.

After the meeting, Brinker was contacted as to his interest to start a church in Seattle. Erwin McManus and the Mosaic Community in Los Angeles, Calif., had already agreed to be the sponsoring church. Brinker and his wife headed to Seattle and later established Harbour Pointe Church in the community of Mukilteo in 2002.

Brinker’s original core group was released to other churches because most were disgruntled members from another church. Left with three remaining core group members, the church began to grow.

“It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life,” Brinker said. “About 85 percent of those who came to Harbour Point Church did not attend church. It was about being missional and intentional everywhere in every way.” The Brinkers labored seven years at the church.

Soon, however, Brinker and his wife thought perhaps the Lord was leading them somewhere else. He went to the Tennessee Baptist Convention Web site and input data about his qualifications. He quit halfway through, thinking that no church where he might want to serve would access data about a pastor like him through this means. The data was saved to a database that would later be viewed by the pulpit committee from First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, N.C.

Brinker told the committee he “was not interested in playing religious games or coming to a church that was not concerned about reaching the lost with the gospel.” Brinker tried to derail the process, but with each meeting “the committee members became more excited about the possibility of me becoming the senior pastor here.”

With a 99 percent vote in the affirmative, a 36-year-old with a goatee assumed the pastorate of

First Baptist Church in Jacksonville November 2008. Since then the church has grown by 49.3 percent, making it one of the fastest growing churches in America. More than 1,400 people gather for worship each Sunday.

Church leaders such as Erwin McManus, Craig Groeschel, Andy Stanley, Louis Giglio, Leonard Sweet and Ed Stetzer influenced Brinker. He is a textual preacher who takes the words of the Bible as the source of his sermon and is unafraid to teach doctrine. “What I have found refreshingly unusual here is that many people know the Bible and are eager to learn more,” Brinker said. “The resistance can come when you begin to align ministry objectives and resources around Biblical values. So often in the Southern Baptist Convention there is a programmed mentality that church is to be done in some particular way even if it does not reach the unchurched.”

Jacksonville is statistically the youngest city in the United States with Camp LeJeune (one of the largest U.S. Marine bases in the world) nearby. Brinker is careful to preach and teach the Bible in ways that provide space for the military community to find a realism about the fallen world in which they live. “We live here in a religious culture, and we are learning how to live incarnationally in this community with the gospel. We aren’t shying away from the truth of the Bible,” he said.

There is always a tension peculiar to the pastoral ministry between interests of the church and interests of the pastor. Often, the culture of modern ministry can devolve into a celebrity status of the pastor at the expense of the congregation.

Brinker is working against that. His style of change seems rooted in a deeper knowledge of the Bible becoming more of a reality in the Jacksonville community. At some point in the future, he is aware that the “newness” of his arrival will fade and the difficult work of sustaining a gospel witness over time will ensue. If his beginning is any indication, First Baptist Church of Jacksonville may never be the same.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Baker is director of public relations for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)

3/13/2009 10:17:00 AM by Douglas Baker, BSC Communications | with 1 comments

Bebber’s ministry inspires Murfreesboro church

March 13 2009 by Carla Wynn Davis, CBF Communications

Many walk the streets of Washington, D.C., with no place to call home. And, for most, it’s something they never planned or a place they’d never thought they’d be.  But life threw difficulties their way — a few bad breaks, too many medical bills, a lost job or maybe a few poor financial choices.
Some have children. Some are looking for work. Some are substance abusers. Thomasville native Eric Bebber, who works among them, believes they all have one thing in common.
“They need someone to recognize they have dignity, worth and positive contributions to offer the world,” said Bebber, on the field staff of the national Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF). “Much of my work involves bringing the homeless and church missions groups together and creating opportunities for them to build bridges, find commonality and help each other live out the kingdom of God.”
Commissioned in 2006, Bebber helps church groups meet humans needs in the nation’s capital.
He plans experiences that engage the average church member with struggling inner-city residents.
“I believe in the power of being the hands and feet of Christ,” said Bebber. “When we step outside of what we are used to, when we meet people who have different backgrounds and stories than us, then God shows us that poverty no longer is an issue — instead, it has a face and a name, and it is a beloved child of God.”
Last July, members of Murfreesboro Baptist Church served alongside Bebber for a week. When they returned home, they started a ministry in their own community called Loaves and Fishes, which once a month prepares and delivers hot, homemade soup to homebound and community members with disabilities.
“Eric challenged us to not to let our mission experience end when we left D.C.,” said Lee Canipe, the church’s pastor. “God showed us a need that fit the gifts of our small congregation. It’s been fun for me as a pastor to watch how members of the congregation who didn't go to D.C. have responded to the ministry that evolved out of that mission experience.  It may have started with a small group of folks, but now there are about 40 people involved.”
A graduate of Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology, Bebber sees the ultimate goal of this ministry as inviting individuals and churches to be “the presence of Christ in their own communities. That is where the gospel comes alive,” he said.

3/13/2009 8:59:00 AM by Carla Wynn Davis, CBF Communications | with 0 comments

Proper question not ‘ordination’ but ‘calling’

March 12 2009 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

MOUNT OLIVE — Asking whether women should be ordained to the ministry is the wrong question according to Baptist professor Curtis Freeman.

“The question is, ‘Who is being gifted in the church?’” said Freeman, professor of historical theology and director of the Baptist House of Studies at Duke Divinity School. “Where are those gifts being displayed?”

Freeman was guest lecturer at Mount Olive College’s Vivian B. Harrison Memorial Lecture March 10 with the theme, “And Your Daughters Shall Prophecy: Women’s Voices in the Church.” He also preached during the school’s chapel service that day.

Freeman said ordination doesn’t give one the gift of preaching. Ordination is instead the church recognizing that gift, he said.

“The point is the church doesn’t really call people into ministry,” he said. “We help people discern God’s call on their life.”

BR photo by Steve DeVane

Curtis Freeman talks with a woman after his lecture at Mount Olive College. Freeman is professor of historical theology and director of the Baptist House of Studies at Duke Divinity School.

The lectures included an overview of four 17th century Baptist women who wrote about their experiences. They were among nine known Baptists and 38 others who were writers in that period. In all, about 300 total prophetesses were active in England between 1640 and 1660, Freeman said.

The four Baptist women wrote at least 748 pages of material, many in pamphlets, which were cheaply reproduced and available to a wide audience.

“The pamphlet was like the 17th century Internet,” Freeman said.

Historical records indicate that the women influenced early English General and Particular Baptists, according to Freeman.

“Through their writings they surely attained an even wider audience,” he said. “Yet there was also a tension between the prophetic voices of these women, the gathered churches and the wider society that eventually refused to swallow their prophetic pill.”

Freeman said that revolutionary forces in England at the time had destabilized power and forces that “long had kept women in their place.”

“The social spaces that opened up enabled women not just to think freely but to speak their minds freely,” he said. “Yet as the Baptist movement became organized and institutionalized many of the more egalitarian expressions of the early days dissipated.”

These and other women who spoke out were on the fringes of the early Baptist churches, Freeman said.

“Maybe these women standing on the edge see something those of us at the center of the church can’t see,” he said.

Freeman said women have found a space to share their voices during other periods of social upheaval, such as the American Revolution, the western frontier and the Equal Rights Amendment issue. He asked if churches could find a way to create such a space without waiting for culture to create it.

Freeman used the story of the first woman ordained by a Southern Baptist church to suggest three essential elements of discernment used by the church. Addie Davis was ordained by Watts Street Baptist Church in Durham on Aug. 9, 1964.

The church was “committed to the practice of calling out the called,” Freeman said. Such a call includes both inward discernment and outward confirmation, he said.

“It’s not about women in ministry,” he said. “It’s first about this principle of calling.”

The second conviction of Watts Street church was what Freeman called “openness to more light from the Word.” For many the issue of women in ministry is settled, one way or the other. But others remain searching and open.

“It’s a sense that our understanding is growing,” he said.

Freeman said Watts Street was also committed to stand together with others under the rule of Christ. An ordination council from the local association examined Davis.

“Because a local congregation stands under the immediate rule of Christ, it has the power to call its own ministers, celebrate the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and administer the keys of church discipline,” he said. “Yet no congregation is independent. It is interdependent with those who ‘walk by the same rule.’”

Freeman said this is a “hard word,” since all Baptists don’t agree.

“Sometimes I’d like it to be me and Jesus, but in the end I don’t think that’s the way it is,” he said.

The challenge of standing together will take patience and humility, Freeman said.

“It is the vector of the Baptist vision that suggests that we find our way together,” he said. “Ultimately, it is not a matter of gender or ordination, but of spiritual discernment.”

3/12/2009 11:09:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 11 comments

Wedgwood pastor to preach at grieving church

March 12 2009 by wire reports

MARYVILLE, Ill. — One week after its senior pastor was shot and killed while delivering a sermon, an Illinois church will welcome as its guest preacher March 15 one of the few pastors with a similar experience.

The web site of First Baptist Church in Maryville, Ill., said the church plans to hold its normal Sunday schedule that day. It will feature Al Meredith, pastor of Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, preaching at all three worship services.

Nearly 10 years ago a disturbed gunman walked into an evening youth rally at Wedgwood, fired more than 100 rounds from two handguns and exploded a pipe bomb. The attack killed seven and wounded seven others before the gunman took his own life.

Though Meredith was not present when the attack occurred on Sept. 15, 1999, he is one of only a few pastors with first-hand experience in coping with the aftermath of something like what happened to the Maryville congregation.

Police say Terry Sedlacek, 27, of nearby Troy, Ill., gunned down Fred Winters, a married father of two who led First Baptist Church as pastor for nearly 22 years, before stabbing himself in the throat and wounding two church members who tried to subdue him. Sedlacek faces charges of first-degree murder and aggravated battery.

In the years since the Wedgwood shooting, Meredith has spoken publicly about the impact the attack had on the Southern Baptist flock that is affiliated with both the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

An article on the Wedgwood web site said the biggest question the church had to answer was the unanswerable, “Where was God when all this happened?”

Out of that struggle came a new understanding of what it means to say, “God is sovereign.”

“He was there during the shootings,” the article says. “He comforts us today as we grieve and as we continue to recover. Through trials he brings understanding; he strengthens our faith when there can be no understanding.”

Attendance grew about 50 percent in the five years after the shooting, and the church sent out 120 members to launch a mission congregation in 2004.

Services at First Baptist Church of Maryville are scheduled at 8:15, 9:30 and 10:55 a.m. on Sundays. Meanwhile, the church is arranging for overflow parking and shuttle services from neighboring churches for the memorial service for Winters, scheduled for March 13.

Visitation will be held at the church March 12, from 2-8 p.m. Funeral services will be held at the church on March 13 at 10:30 a.m. The church is located at 7110 State Route 162 in Maryville.

The family will hold a private burial service.

The church web site said the building is getting swamped with flowers and plants, and requested that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to a trust fund being set up for Winters’ two daughters.

Information on how to give is available from the web site and a Facebook page set up for prayer for the church and Winters’ family. As of midday March 11, more than 10,000 members had joined the group.

Prayer services for First Baptist Church were scheduled Wednesday night, March 11, at United Methodist, Catholic, Disciples of Christ, Lutheran and Assembly of God churches in Maryville, coordinated by the town’s ministerial alliance.

Arkansas bill
An Arkansas lawmaker says she will reintroduce a bill to allow concealed weapons in churches after a deadly Illinois church shooting March 8.

State Rep. Beverly Pyle (R-Cedarville) originally introduced a measure Jan. 29 to remove “any church or other house of worship” from a list of places where people licensed to carry concealed weapons are prohibited from bringing their guns.

The bill passed the Arkansas House of Representatives on a 57-42 vote Feb. 11 but then died on a voice vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee Feb. 25.

After a gunman entered the Illinois church and killed Winters with a gunshot to the heart, Pyle told Little Rock CBS affiliate KTHV Channel 11 she was making changes to the bill and planned to take it back to the committee hoping for more votes.

“I have received numerous e-mails and phone calls concerning this wanting me to bring this back, none against it,” Pyle told the TV station March 9.

The station talked to one Arkansas legislator — Sen. Hank Wilkins (D-Pine Bluff) — who indicated he might change his vote from “no” to “yes.”

“In light of the shooting yesterday I think there will be a number of legislators who will want to reconsider this,” said Wilkins, who is also a United Methodist pastor.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Information from three Associated Baptist Press stories and one Religion News Service story was used in compiling this article.)

3/12/2009 3:23:00 AM by wire reports | with 0 comments

Sanford church members serve By His Hands

March 12 2009 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

SANFORD — Having Cumnock Baptist Church volunteer the fourth Saturday every month “speaks volumes to us” at Bread of Life Ministries in Sanford.

“It’s a blessing to us,” said Bill Hicks, co-founder of the ministry. “It’s a blessing to the community.”

Each month, the By His Hands team serves at the center, which is located at an old school in Sanford. The volunteers feed about 80 shut-ins and a total of about 250 meals to people in the community.

Bread of Life was in Wanda Branch’s life before she came to Cumnock, and she is thankful the ministry is still a part of her life.

“They always want you to pray with them,” said Branch of the shut-ins. “No matter what little bit they’ve got, they invite you in and hug on you.”

Branch is one of three women who help organize the church’s efforts each month as well as cook. Recently she could be found in the church’s kitchen stirring chicken dumplings in several roasters and proud that her failing eyes tricked her into buying  hog jowl rather than bacon, the flavor she used to cook her green beans.

By her side was Judy Kikendall, another person integral to the By His Hands team.

“I just feel like if we can just touch one person …,” said Kikendall. “God wants us to help everybody.”
They face challenges each month with no hot water  and no working stoves at the ministry headquarters. They also have to juggle roasters around the building because the breakers won’t handle the load on one or two outlets. The church covers the cost of the meat, but the team relies on church members to supply the food, either the ingredients or by cooking smaller portions and combining them at the church or ministry on their Saturday morning.

One of the most inspiring moments for Kikendall was watching her pastor, Merritt Taylor, feed a young man who has a hard time controlling his hand movements.

Taylor sits with Timmy and lovingly takes his time, talking with and feeding Timmy. Kikendall said Taylor’s actions have stirred other church members to do the same. Hicks also mentioned this service and said he has begun to follow Taylor’s example.

On Cumnock’s recent Saturday effort, Hicks talked with volunteers before the serving began: “You impact people. You don’t know if they’re passing through a hundred times or if they’re just passing through. One thing in common … lives so empty.”

Hicks emphasized the value of people at the ministry and talked about why Jesus came.

“He didn’t come here for the techno stuff … He came here for the people,” he said.

Hicks said Cumnock Baptist Church is a Godsend.

“It gives some of the people hope,” he said. “It’s a blessing to know that you can count on something.”

The ministry also holds a food and clothing pantry on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well as Bible studies and counseling. Bread of Life began by meeting under a tree in 2005. Then they moved to cooking meals and feeding people in an alley. Hicks lives in neighboring Chatham County but used to stay in a boarding house across the street from the ministry.

Ever since he recommitted his life to the Lord, “It’s been on my heart to help people,” he said. “We just couldn’t sit in church and receive all this good news about what God is doing and not share it. I would bust.”

Right now, Bread of Life is Cumnock’s biggest focus, said the pastor.

“Anybody that comes in and wants a meal, we serve them,” said Taylor. “I have a heart for missions and for people to be involved in missions.”

Brenda Lantz came for her third time in February. She has been a member at Cumnock a number of years.

“It’s been a blessing as much to us as it has to the people,” said Lantz. “It’s a good idea even for young people to see.”

She said half the church comes sometimes. The ministry is likely to grow even larger if the economy continues to worsen, Lantz said.

About Cumnock
By His Hands stems from a children’s prayer: God is great; God is good, let us thank Him for our food; by His hands we are fed; Give us Lord, our daily bread.

“We didn’t like Cumnock Feeding Team,” Taylor said with a smile, so the church held a contest to name the ministry.

He has been pastor at Cumnock for a little more than two years. It is his first pastorate. When he started he said the church was averaging 18 in Sunday School and about 35 for Sunday morning worship. As of February, Taylor said the numbers have jumped to 40 in Sunday School and 70 for worship.

“It’s nice to see numbers increasing, but I’m really excited about the spiritual growth,” he said.

Cumnock started in 1980 in a small building in front of a chicken plant. The building had no running water. One tradition they’ve maintained is having chili the Wednesday night before Christmas when church members go caroling.

The first sanctuary that was built seated 60 people. They moved to a multi-purpose building, where the church is currently. The sanctuary building was given to a Goldston church who had it moved.

Taylor said they are working on adding Sunday School rooms on the second level of its building.

“God’s given me a vision for a lot more,” said Taylor. “A new sanctuary is just part of it.”

Cumnock is considering helping with a worship service at Bread of Life on Sunday mornings.

The church is adding ministries for seniors and motorcyclists.

Participating in Operation InAsMuch last year helped open some doors in other areas of the community too.

“It’s not about pulling anyone away from their church,” Taylor said.

The church supports the Cooperative Program as well as missionaries in Romania and a Campus Crusade worker.

With land stretching back to Deep River, Taylor said Cumnock is poised to expand its ministry beyond what man can envision. Of course, he has ideas for the future.

He would like to see after-school tutoring, along with a food and clothing pantry and low-cost medical clinic, just to name a few things.

Located near a future highway bypass, Taylor said the area is going to grow, especially once the bypass is complete.

The women of Cumnock play a vital role.

“We’ve got some smart ladies at this church,” Taylor said. “If the men were to stay home on Sundays church would go on.”

Taylor was a student at Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute before coming to Sanford. Since January 2008 Taylor has been a full-time pastor and full-time student at Liberty University where he will graduate in May.

While at Fruitland, he attended Bat Cave Baptist Church in Hendersonville where David MacEachern was his pastor.

“When you pastor a small church you have to be a jack of all trades and willing to do some of everything,” said the pastor who has also worked as a mechanic, industrial maintenance supervisor and general handyman.

3/12/2009 3:17:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 3 comments

Veteran, Extreme Makeover need laborers

March 11 2009 by Staff

North Carolina disaster relief skilled laborers are needed Thursday all day and Friday morning to help meet a deadline for ABC television's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

Gaylon Moss, who directs North Carolina Baptist Men's disaster relief efforts and volunteer services, put out a call Wednesday for skilled labor from regions 1-6 to complete a home for a Gulf War veteran in Jamesville, east of Williamston, who is still suffering from illnesses contracted there.

Moss said all sorts of saws, nail guns and general tools will be available at the site. Extreme Makeover needs skilled labor to finish a steep metal roof and attach siding, which is a composite made to look like a log cabin. It had not been started Wednesday and is difficult to install.

The show's producers need it finished Thursday night because that's when decorators go in to do the finish work. The recipient family arrives at 1 p.m. Friday. 

The owner is a veteran with Gulf War syndrome, meaning he has MS and is in a wheel chair.  The work is high and requires great skill, Moss said.

If you can help, contact::
Harris Vaughan (919) 616-5791
Chancy Kapp (919) 271-1842
Kaye Culp (919) 614-9905


3/11/2009 3:15:00 PM by Staff | with 0 comments

West Yadkin ministry trades box for mud holes

March 11 2009 by Rick Houston, Special to the Recorder

Photo by David Cox

MUDDING — An all-terrain vehicle ministry at West Yadkin Baptist Church is reaching beyond the walls of the building.

“Thinking outside the box is a way of life at West Yadkin Baptist Church in Hamptonville and its approach to all-terrain vehicle (ATV) fans is yet another example.

The church’s outdoor nativity play — complete with camels and donkeys — is an annual tradition in and around the small Northwest North Carolina community. Every year, the church takes in hundreds of gift boxes as a collection point for Operation Christmas Child. Pastor Dennis Bell is a chaplain and first responder for the volunteer fire department.

Golfers raise funds for missions. The congregation was one of the first in the area to host an annual “Trunk or Treat” event on Halloween. There’s an after-school program, and members also headed to the Gulf Coast on three different occasions in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Now it’s outside the box and into the mud holes since the church formed Rock Solid Riders to serve those who love their ATVs.

“As far as I know, we’re unique,” Bell said. “There may be someone else doing this somewhere, but I’m unaware of anybody else doing an ATV ministry. We’re trying to reach people who three years ago would ride (ATVs), but wouldn’t ride into our parking lot on Sunday morning.

“If we spend time on the trail with them, the chances of them showing up at church on Sunday morning — whether it’s ours or somewhere else — are a lot greater.”

This isn’t a deal where riders get together informally to roam on property a couple of miles from the church. It’s much more than that. Four or five times a year, 30 and sometimes as many as 45 riders head out into the wilderness of North Carolina, West Virginia, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The group hosts New Year’s and Easter rides, and takes part each year in local Christmas parades.

Each ride includes an opening prayer and devotional, and a decided emphasis on safety.

Participants from other far-flung parts of the Southeast have been put in touch with the group through its web site, Local Christmas parades and a booth at an off-road race also provide points of contact.

“Everybody enjoys the ride,” says David Cox, a West Yadkin member who helps oversee the group. “If they’re not a Christian or associated with a church, that’s a first step to getting them in touch with somebody that is.

“We’ve got active people (in Rock Solid Riders) that are still not involved in church, and they still ride with us.

“Hopefully, one day they’ll be involved (with a local congregation). Guys that are not associated with a church, we don’t try to beat it in their heads. We try to give them some type of association with Jesus Christ.”

At least one family joined West Yadkin because they found Rock Solid Riders to be such an attractive feature.

“There’s a lot of clubs out there, but I don’t look at (Rock Solid Riders) as that,” Cox said. “It’s not the type of bond that we have. It’s pretty much a fellowship-type deal … just getting together.

“We don’t have to pay a membership or a fee, except to ride every once in a while. There are a lot of associations with us that I didn’t think we’d have, people that are not churched. People that are churched are trying to get some people that they know to ride with us. It’s a constant contact.”

Rock Solid Riders is a ministry based on relationships, which creates avenues for outreach. In the end, that’s the goal of the church.

“David has said that this is where God wanted him to be,” Bell said. “He has a heart for what’s going on.”

“I’ve never given myself or anybody else any credit,” Cox said. “God gets all the credit for what’s happened so far. It’s been overwhelming to see what’s come about.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Houston is a writer living in Yadkinville.)

3/11/2009 10:20:00 AM by Rick Houston, Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments

N.C. Baptist associations face economic woes

March 11 2009 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

N.C. Baptist associations are facing financial trouble with one dealing with a $35,000 budget shortfall over 16 months and another falling $11,000 behind in the first five months of its budget year.

Billy Honeycutt, director of missions for the Green River Baptist Association in Rutherfordton and president of the N.C. associational missionaries organization last year, said he knows of seven or eight associations facing financial challenges.

“It is impacting all associations,” he said.

Honeycutt said his association’s budget year starts in October and ends in September.

“We’re already $11,000 behind through five months,” he said.

In looking to help manage expenses, even compensation for staff is being considered, Honeycutt said. He said he was telling church leaders that they need to meet their own obligations first but try to remember the association’s needs as well.

“It’s probably going to keep getting tighter before it loosens up,” he said.

Haywood Baptist Association in Clyde had about a $21,000 deficit in its last budget year that ran from October 2007 to September 2008, and Director of Missions Jack Sammons says the association fell behind another $14,000 in the first four months of this fiscal year. He called attention to the shortfall in an article on the front of the association’s March newsletter. He said he had gotten positive and negative feedback.

“Everybody’s shocked,” he said.

The association’s Executive Committee is scheduled to meet March 17 to discuss the issue. The Stewardship Committee is planning to ask the Executive Committee to use funds from a recent sale of property to deal with the situation. Sammons said the money from the sale was supposed to go toward a building, but that project is now on hold.

Several associational ministries continue to operate in the black because of gifts given specifically for them, according to Sammons.

“The money given to association causes is up, but it’s designated,” he said.

Some people are selective in their gifts, Sammons said.

“They give to something they can go see and touch,” he said.

Sammons said money given for the association budget in February looks better, but not significantly. The association’s financial situation needs “a whole lot of prayer,” he said

Leaders of other N.C. Baptist associations said they are watching their financial situations closely even though they are not in immediate trouble.

Bob Lowman, executive director of the Metrolina Baptist Association in Charlotte, said the association made some cuts a few years ago that are helping the budget now.

“We’re doing OK at this point, but we’re being cautious as well,” he said.

David Phelps, director of missions for the Atlantic Baptist Association in Havelock, said the association has cut some expenses.

“Right now, our finances are staying steady, but I’m not taking it for granted,” he said.

The lack of decreases might be attributed to the strength of the military in the area, Phelps said.

The association was expected to hold a meeting March 9 to discuss finances. The gathering will have the theme, “Faith vs. Fear.”

Phelps said speakers will urge Christians to take what could be a stumbling block and turn it into a stepping-stone that will serve as a witness for non-churchgoers.

“The churched and the non-churched are going through this together,” he said.

3/11/2009 10:13:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

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