March 2010

Refugees find a home in Open Arms

March 31 2010 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

WINSTON-SALEM — Jumping in the car to run an errand doesn’t seem like a big deal. Playing baseball or going to a game probably doesn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary, nor does riding an escalator or turning on the water faucet. Yet, for hundreds of Karenni refugees, these ordinary things are exactly what represents a new life and a new start.

Days when Tim and Jody Cross go to the airport are some of the days they enjoy most, for it means welcoming a new Karenni family. Sometimes they bring other Karenni with them to the airport and watch with fond amusement as the Karenni demonstrate how to get on and off the escalator and everyone holds on tight. Tim and Jody have now welcomed more than 30 Karenni families to the United States, specifically the Winston-Salem area.

The Karenni represent about nine different people groups who speak different languages and dialects in Kayah State in Burma, or Myanmar. Nearly 80,000 refugees are legally leaving the country and coming to countries such as the United States, which is now home to about 10,000 Karenni. They are coming from refugee camps, where in some cases 20,000 people live in a one-mile radius. They live in huts, where they have no running water, limited food and sickness is normal and expected.

BSC photo

Tim Cross, along with his wife Jody, work with refugees arriving in Winston-Salem.

Tim and Jody recently began ministering to their first Bhutan family. Thousands of Bhutanese refugees have lived in camps in Nepal for more than 15 years. Most Bhutanese are Hindu. Unlike the Bhutanese, most Karenni are Animists, with the second largest religion being Catholicism.

Karenni are taught to work hard and to do good things to please the spirits, so they tend to have a hard time understanding that receiving Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior is about faith and not works.

This makes it easy for the Crosses to know their mission: share the gospel. Tim and Jody are Mission Service Corps (MSC) missionaries, which means they are self-funded missionaries whose placement comes through the Mission Service Corps Office of the North American Mission Board. About 19 MSC missionaries serve in North Carolina.

In 2000, Tim and Jody went on a mission trip overseas and God so burdened their hearts for the nations that one year later they were back overseas. For about five years they worked with refugees in Belgium and for two and a half years with immigrants in London. Two years ago when they took a one-year stateside assignment, “we had no idea what God was going to do in that year. This whole ministry unfolded before our eyes,” Tim said.

With hearts still burdened for the nations, Tim and Jody realized that the nations were in fact coming to them, coming to their home in Winston-Salem. They started Open Arms Refugee Ministry and already can tell stories of lives changed. For example, just a few months ago a volunteer shared the gospel with Phar Meh, a Karenni woman who prayed to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Not long ago her husband also came to faith in Jesus Christ. After 18 years of work, colleagues have finished translating the New Testament into the Karenni language, and Tim and Jody have sent draft copies to Karenni groups in other states.

Tim and Jody do whatever they can to build relationships and have the opportunity to share the gospel. Once World Relief contacts them with the name of a new refugee family, they get to work. They see to it that the kitchen in their apartment is stocked before they arrive and they collect furniture in order to bring the family home to a furnished apartment. They help them write a resume, look for a job, drive them to doctor’s appointments, take them grocery shopping, drive them to English classes at Calvary Baptist Church (where Tim and Jody are members), participate in the Karenni worship service each Sunday at Calvary and meet with them in their homes for Bible study and prayer.

Local churches are an essential part of Open Arms. Local church volunteers work alongside Tim and Jody, and they come to “own” the ministry for themselves and make it an important part of their lives. They begin to understand that they are on mission, too.

“God has called you, whether you leave your neighborhood or not,” Jody said.

For Tim and Jody, and the churches serving with them, ministry in the neighborhood means ministry to the nations. This is where they are called to give their lives. “Every day is about being dead to yourself,” Jody said. “This is not my life; it’s His life. Keep your life constantly on the altar.”  
3/31/2010 5:24:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

3,000 attend NAMB commissioning

March 31 2010 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

WOODSTOCK, Ga. — Before 3,000 people at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga. — one of the largest crowds to ever witness a North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionary commissioning service — NAMB introduced 79 new missionaries and 16 new chaplains March 28.

The new missionaries and chaplains represented 24 states, two Canadian provinces and 23 state Baptist conventions. South Carolina alone accounted for 11 missionaries commissioned during the two-hour service.

Photo by John Swain

Steve and Nellene Carter of Lincolnton, N.C., were commissioned as Missionary Service Corps (MSC) missionaries for Vermont and New Hampshire at NAMB ceremonies on March 28. To be based in Barre, Vt., the Carters will leave their North Carolina home to spend six months of the year in Vermont to encourage pastors and to serve as “church strengtheners.” They will serve 35 churches in the Green Mountain Baptist Association serving Vermont and two churches in New Hampshire.

Steve and Nellene Carter of Lincolnton, N.C., were commissioned as Missionary Service Corps (MSC) missionaries for Vermont and New Hampshire. To be based in Barre, Vt., the Carters will leave their North Carolina home to spend six months of the year in Vermont to encourage pastors and to serve as “church strengtheners” to the 35 congregations in the Green Mountain Baptist Association serving Vermont and two churches in New Hampshire.

The Carters are both retired from earlier careers — Nellene as a banker and Steve as a manager for a nuclear plant for 27 years.

“We have been to Vermont on short-term mission trips for the last six summers,” Carter said. “During those summers, we developed a heart for Vermont because it’s the least evangelized state in the nation.”

The couple is part of Macedonia Baptist Church in Lincolnton.

One newly commissioned Army chaplain, Capt. Jared Vineyard, will be deployed to Afghanistan later this summer, leaving behind his expectant wife Amanda, son Jacob and daughter Kate at Fort Campbell, Ky.

Vineyard will serve as a chaplain in the “Band of Brothers” battalion of the 101st Airborne Division, also known as the “Screaming Eagles.”

As one of seven battalion chaplains, the 30-year-old Vineyard will be pastor to 900 soldiers, part of a 4,000-soldier brigade deploying to Afghanistan in late August.

“The Army says these are your soldiers, and you become a pastor to these 900 men, most of whom are lost,” Vineyard said. “We call it a ministry of presence. When they go out in the field to train, I go out in the field with them.”

The commissioning at First Baptist Woodstock was especially sweet for Charlie and Cindy Minney, who called it “phenomenal” to be commissioned at the same Atlanta-area church where he served 11 years prior to his new assignment as an associational missionary in the Coalfields Baptist Association in Logan, W.Va.

“To be here back at home with the First Baptist Woodstock family, and to have them send us off like this, I can’t explain it in words,” Minney said.

In his new post, Minney will work with church planters to start new churches, with existing churches to accomplish specific goals, and with the associational team to develop a mission strategy for the Coalfields region.

Bill and Monaca Brisbin and Rick and Sharon Bradley, all of South Lebanon, Ohio, were all commissioned as Mission Service Corps missionaries who work with ministries at First Baptist Church, South Lebanon.

The Brisbins, for instance, have led the “Bread Basket” food ministry for the last 18 months, providing 120 families each week with bread products and emergency food boxes. Johnny Hunt, First Baptist Woodstock’s senior pastor and president of the Southern Baptist Convention, welcomed the missionaries, their families and friends, NAMB staff and others to the church for the commissioning.

“What a joy to support our NAMB missionaries, and for our own people to see that ordinary, common people of every age — senior adults, young couples, single women, single guys — all reflect the example of what we teach.” Richard Harris, interim president of NAMB in Alpharetta, Ga., challenged the new missionaries and chaplains to be driven by one simple thing: “the call of Almighty God on your life. Never leave it, never lose it, never doubt it. You will need that during the hard days to encourage you and keep you going.”

Harris told the missionaries that God will hold them “accountable for two things — equipping every church member to be a reproducing follower of Christ and sharing the Good News with every person in your Jerusalem and in your sphere of influence.”

“Some SBC churches have forgotten these two things, when you consider that 25 percent of churches baptized nobody last year. More than 61 percent of our churches baptized five or less; 79 percent baptized 10 or less; and only 251 of our bigger churches baptized 100 or more. I’m proud to say that First Baptist Woodstock was one of those,” Harris said. Harris dismissed the notion that most Baptists don’t have the gift of evangelism.

“There’s no such thing as the gift of evangelism in the Bible,” he said. “Show me where it talks about the gift of evangelism. Ephesians talks about the office of evangelist. But every believer — missionary, chaplain, pastor, church member and Sunday School member — is responsible for bringing people to faith in Christ. If you’re not fishing, you’re not following.”

Harris said three out of every four people — whether in rural areas or urban areas, where 83 percent of North Americans live — need Christ.

“Lostness” is especially pervasive in Canada, where Harris said that out of the nation’s 34 million people, only 5 percent have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Thirty-five Canadian cities with populations of more than 35,000 have no evangelistic witness. Six million French Canadians represent the largest of 587 unreached people groups in North America, Harris noted.

Also participating in the commissioning service were J. Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and Kay Miller, national president of Woman’s Missionary Union.

In all, more than 5,300 missionaries serve with the North American Mission Board, most of them through partnerships with state Baptist conventions. In addition to the missionaries, NAMB is the endorsing entity for more than 3,400 Southern Baptist chaplains in military, hospital, professional, corporate, public safety and institutional settings.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)
3/31/2010 5:09:00 AM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Survey assesses scope of outreach in N. America

March 31 2010 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A North American Mission Board/LifeWay Research study found that while ministries across North America are reaching out to a significant portion of first-generation immigrants, much work remains to be done. Still, while evangelistic growth among these groups has been slow, the potential is promising, with immigrants from most countries considered somewhat receptive to the gospel.

NAMB contracted with LifeWay Research to conduct the online/telephone study which was completed between July 21 and Sept. 2, 2009. The scope of the project included a qualitative phase and quantitative surveys available in 20 languages to missionaries, pastors and laypeople who work among first-generation immigrants in North America. National and regional organizations and professors who teach immigrant missions and evangelism also were surveyed.

The statistics in this article focus only on responses from individuals in 74 national and regional organizations representing a variety of evangelical denominations and groups that participated. First-generation immigrants were defined in the study as residents of North America who were born in a foreign country.

“For us to be faithful in assisting our churches in the tasks of evangelism and church planting, we need an awareness of what work is underway so believers, churches, denominations and ministries can support and participate in these missions efforts here in North America,” said Richard Harris, interim president of NAMB. “We will not make significant progress in fulfilling the Great Commission in North America until we take seriously the mandate to reach more of the millions of immigrants and hundreds of people groups in our communities with the gospel.”

The 74 Christian organizations included in the study have 3,757 missionaries and church planters working among first-generation immigrants. While a few of the largest organizations have many missionaries, the median number of missionaries among these organizations is 12.

North American Mission Board photo

Jalil Dawood, a North American Mission Board missionary serving Dallas Arabic Christian Church, is among church planters reaching out to immigrants who have relocated to North America. Here, Dawood’s gestures of kindness to a woman named Hiyam reflects the heart of the Southern Baptist congregation he serves to optimize their witness for Christ.

Participating organizations report having the highest number of first-generation immigrant believers from Mexico. The next highest numbers of believers involved in their churches or ministries, in descending order, are immigrants from Haiti (a distant second), South Korea, Cuba and China.

Survey respondents were asked to indicate, by country, changes in the number of immigrants involved in the organizations over the last year. On a scale of one to five, with five representing a “10 percent or more” increase in participation and one being a “10 percent or more” decrease in participation, the mean response was 3.4 or just more than “about the same.” Only Myanmar’s, Vietnam’s and Cambodia’s immigrants average at or above “more total participants than one year ago.”

“The opportunity here is great,” said Ken Weathersby, NAMB’s vice president of church planting. “Many immigrants come from places where preaching the Gospel is illegal, but they can hear the gospel in their new home. In turn, those believers can impact their families here in North America and in their country of origin, more easily crossing language and cultural barriers (than non-native believers).”

Significantly, despite the slow growth of immigrants participating in these organizations, respondents said immigrants from most countries, overall, are considered somewhat receptive to the gospel.

Receptivity was defined as the speed and ease with which someone who hears the gospel responds with belief and repentance. Again using the five-point scale, with five being “very receptive” and one being “not receptive at all,” the mean response was 3.4.

Immigrants from Ecuador, Guatemala, Liberia, Honduras, El Salvador, Myanmar, Brazil, Costa Rica, Kenya and Mexico appear most receptive with an average response of 4.0 or higher.

Surveyed organizations currently minister to immigrants from 151 of a possible 202 countries considered in the analysis. This number includes countries such as the Vatican and Taiwan, which are not always counted among the world’s official countries.

That means that 25 percent of possible countries of origin, including nations of Europe, Africa and the South Pacific, have no organizations ministering to their immigrants in North America. Another 26 percent have only one or two national or regional organizations ministering to them.

“Things are changing in the U.S. and Canada,” said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research. “By 2050, there will be no majority race or ethnicity in the United States. Already in Toronto, the majority of residents were born outside of Canada. This is a wake-up call to the church in North America. The nations of the world are living right here, yet many are not hearing the gospel in an intentional, organized way. We can do better.”

Among countries with at least one organization ministering to immigrants in North America, many have “very few” missionaries or church planters. Countries with five or fewer missionaries include Germany, France, Italy and Poland as well as Middle Eastern, African and Eurasian countries, among others.

“Generations of believers around the world prayed that the former Soviet bloc nations would be free to hear the gospel,” Stetzer noted. “Now, as they move into our neighborhoods, few are proactively welcoming them with the Good News. We can and must do better.”

The survey found that first-generation immigrants from 24 countries have more than 50 missionaries or church planters in North America. Immigrant groups from Mexico, South Korea, Guatemala, China, Cuba, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and Venezuela each had more than 100 missionaries and/or church planters serving them, with Mexico leading all groups at 1,715.

Twenty-four “heart” (first) languages were tested in the survey. Spanish-speaking heart-language immigrants had the highest number of organizations serving them (55), followed by Chinese (30), Korean (25), Arabic (22) and Japanese (21).

“Believers in North America need to stop waiting for a ‘melting pot’ to impact immigrants and instead make personal efforts to engage the first-generation immigrants around them with the gospel,” Stetzer said.

Van Kicklighter, one of the leaders of NAMB’s church planting initiatives, noted: “These are people you don’t have to go overseas to reach. They are in our cities, communities and counties.”

Kicklighter, addressing a meeting of 320 church planting missionaries from 49 U.S. states, Canada and Puerto Rico, Feb. 24-27 in Atlanta, said there is a direct correlation between immigrants’ receptivity to the gospel and whether missionaries are working directly with that group, according to the research. The most effective missionaries are those that speak their heart language, understand their cultures or have spent time in their countries.

The research also showed that ministry to first-generation immigrants is most effective when ministries cooperate with each other or work across denominations, Kicklighter said. It also indicated that in working with immigrants, basic Bible studies are better than in-depth Bible studies.

Kicklighter said NAMB will use the study to help increase awareness among Southern Baptists of the growing number and diversity of immigrant groups locating in significant numbers all across North America.

“Most Southern Baptists are only vaguely aware that many of these groups are coming to North America. We are working on a strategy that will call Southern Baptists to be intentional and focus on intercessory prayer for these people groups. We believe the first step in any plan is prayer.

“Knowing who these groups are and where they are located will assist NAMB in creating strategic plans for mobilizing missionaries and church planters, who will engage in gospel sowing and church planting among these first-gen immigrants,” Kicklighter said.

LifeWay Research called and e-mailed denominations and parachurch ministries to invite them to participate in the online survey conducted between July 21 and Sept. 2, 2009. Additional versions of the survey also were administered among missionaries, professors, pastors and laypeople.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Adapted from reports by LifeWay Christian Resources and the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
3/31/2010 5:02:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Gardner-Webb receives $5 million gift

March 30 2010 by GWU

BOILING SPRINGS — Gardner-Webb University (GWU) has received its largest gift ever, $5 million from benefactors Robert and Carolyn Tucker.

The gift will go toward a new student center, scheduled for completion in 2012, which will carry the Tucker name.

“The Tucker Student Center will develop students who are leaders, who are committed to the concept of service and character, not only in their professions, but in their civic life, their family life, their church and community life,” said GWU President Frank Bonner. “It really will be the centerpiece of accomplishing that mission of preparing students for that kind of life of character and service and competence in whatever walk of life they go into.”

The Tucker Student Center will become the heart of the campus, and provide a functional atmosphere for activities and entertainment with meeting space for student organizations, conference rooms, mail facilities, student dining, campus shop, multipurpose facilities, and lounges. It will also house student offices and work space for organizations that include student government, campus ministries, leadership development, community engagement and service learning.

“The Tuckers have expressed that it’s not the bricks and mortar of the student center project that interests them, but the things that will happen inside building,” said Bonner. “They’ve expressed to me that Gardner-Webb is a great school and they appreciate all the things that we do operationally, but it’s really about the ministry, and their devotion to the mission of Gardner-Webb, ‘For God and Humanity,’ that’s been appealing to them. It is very significant that we’ve received this amount of money, yes, but more important that they have helped us strengthen Gardner-Webb’s Christian foundation.”            

Robert and Carolyn Tucker are the owners of Shoe Show, Inc. founded in 1960 in Kannapolis, which includes Shoe Show, Shoe Dept. and Burlington Shoes, has 1,106 locations in 36 states.

Carolyn Tucker shared why the family has been so supportive of the university: “I’ve seen so many instances of young people, including my daughter Lisa, who went to Gardner-Webb and they were changed by being there. Now that’s what I want to be on board with — an organization that is changing lives.”

Lisa Tucker is a 1989 graduate of Gardner-Webb and a current trustee.
3/30/2010 10:41:00 AM by GWU | with 0 comments

Volunteers swarm High Point after storm

March 30 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Buddy Bernard of Life Community Church handles the chainsaw while Bill Burch of Rose of Sharon hauls limbs during a cleanup in High Point.

Chain saw and cleanup teams from as far as Wilmington eased into High Point Monday following two tornadoes in Davidson County and one in nearby Guilford County that severely damaged dozens of homes and left hundreds of trees on the ground.

Meteorologists upgraded the March 28 tornado that hit High Point to F3, with top winds of 139 miles per hour.

North Carolina Baptist Men’s disaster relief site coordinator John Gore, from Thomasville, said Tuesday morning they’ve accepted 40 jobs, with other requests continuing to arrive at the coordination site at Oak View Baptist Church. Twenty-eight volunteers showed up Monday. Gore expected 45 volunteers on Tuesday and 60 Wednesday.

Given enough volunteers, he expected to finish the jobs by the end of the week.

As in any severe storm, amazing stories of survival and rescue emerge. Gore, a member of Greenwood Baptist Church, said one mobile home was lifted with the residents inside and dropped into a carp pond on Sink Lake Road. When the house disintegrated the family swam out to safety.

Volunteers are being housed overnight at Green Street Baptist Church. First Baptist Church set up in the parking lot of Community Bible Church — across the street from a heavily damaged neighborhood — to serve meals.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Adam Smith, member of Green Street Baptist Church and director of High Point University's Campus Crusade for Christ, clears limbs in a yard that lost 25 trees.

Joanna Souza, who lost 25 trees in her back yard, was grateful for the Baptist Men’s work at her house. “They just worked and worked and worked,” said Souza, who was huddled during the storm at a neighbor’s house. “They’re phenomenal.”

Souza, a member of First Methodist Church in High Point, said the Baptist Men’s response will make her “think twice” the next time her church asks for volunteers, and she will plan to join them.

Jamie Caulder, getting ready to pitch in to get a dozen trees out of his yard as three chain saws, a skid loader and limb draggers were at work, said he felt lucky compared to some other homes in his neighborhood. He had a hole in his roof, quickly covered with blue tarp of the kind that colored the rooflines of several High Point neighborhoods.

Adam Smith, a member of Green Street Baptist Church and Campus Crusade for Christ director at High Point University, was lugging limbs with a student and hoped to bring more over to help during the week.

Volunteer Bill Burch of Rose of Sharon Baptist Church in Durham lugged limbs and was glad to see the skid loader arrive. “God called us to go out and help do things,” he said. “This is one way I can contribute.”

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Site director John Gore, member of Greenwood Baptist Church in Thomasville, visits with homeowner Jamie Caulder while volunteers removed a dozen fallen trees from his yard.

3/30/2010 8:01:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Cooperative Program’s long, effective history

March 30 2010 by Will Hall, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — From the founding of the convention in 1845, Southern Baptists have united around a mission of “eliciting, combining, and directing the energies of the whole denomination in one sacred effort, for the propagation of the gospel.”

What was elusive in the early years was an organized plan to accomplish this mission.

At the outset, Southern Baptists simply adopted a “societal method” of financing the Convention’s ministries, in which persons are enlisted to contribute financially and to generate contributions from contacts in their networks of church and friend circles. Campus Crusade, Prison Fellowship, Samaritan’s Purse and Youth with a Mission are all examples of ministries which traditionally have been funded by the societal method.  

Individual effort
Employing the “societal method,” Southern Baptists launched and grew various denominational ministries and institutions and went about seeking contributions from individual congregations to sustain ongoing work. Sunday after Sunday, fundraisers from seminaries and colleges, orphanages and hospitals, mission boards and benevolent organizations fanned out among Southern Baptist churches asking the faithful for help. The most gifted orator often was the most successful in securing financial support for their entity or agency — and the constant parade of ministry representatives making direct appeals took away “pulpit time” for the local pastor to preach God’s word.

Frustration and competition were the rule.

Moreover, results created a feast and famine cycle that was bankrupting SBC cooperative ministries and consuming much of the funds being raised in the raising of the funds.  

Campaign failure
In 1919, Southern Baptists embraced a solution that fell short of its goals, but that contained key building blocks for cooperation and stability in funding.

One member was selected from each of the convention’s 14 affiliated states to form a Financial Campaign Committee to raise $75 million over five years. Quotas were set for each state, and expected proceeds were budgeted out for each SBC entity, as well as for state concerns, such as colleges, orphanages and hospitals. 

Southern Baptists pledged over $92.6 million, but the campaign ultimately failed to reach even its original goal of $75 million. It raised $58.6 million, a record amount, but Convention entities had borrowed money against the pledges and consequently were left with a huge debt. People were discouraged and the dream of “eliciting, combining, and directing the energies of the whole denomination” seemed to evaporate.  

Cooperative Program success
In 1923, facing desperate circumstances, the Southern Baptist Convention found itself forced to regroup. The convention commissioned M.E. Dodd of Louisiana to lead a group called the “Committee on Future Program” to come up with a solution.

Borrowing the elements of coordination, uniformity and proportionate distribution from the 75 Million Campaign, the committee focused on developing an overall strategy that would produce consistent, long-lasting results.

Two years later, in Memphis, Tenn., during the SBC annual meeting, the committee announced the “Co-Operative Program of Southern Baptists.”

The structure of the proposed Cooperative Program was remarkably simple in design:
  • Churches were to canvass their members in the fall asking for their giving pledges for the following year so that churches could set their own annual budgets.
  • Out of their respective budgets, cooperating churches were to commit a percentage to give through the Cooperative Program. That percentage of revenue would then be sent on to the state convention office on a monthly basis.
  • These combined resources would provide the budget base for state conventions which would send a portion of these Cooperative Program gifts on to the Southern Baptist Convention for a distribution which would address the needs of the national ministries proportionately. 
Though not everyone accepted the Cooperative Program at first and not all churches participate, in the very first year of its existence, Southern Baptist churches voluntarily contributed an average of nearly 11 percent of their annual budget income to this bold new integrated plan for reaching people through cooperative ministries and missions.  

The legacy continues
The simplicity and effectiveness of the Cooperative Program have continued to be its hallmarks, and now, the better part of a century after its birth, the Cooperative Program still functions essentially the same way it did in its earliest days. However, the success of the Cooperative Program has enabled the expansion of Southern Baptists’ missions and ministries at home and abroad in ways unforeseen in those early years.

The Cooperative Program sends career missionaries and church planters to a hundred nations and throughout the United States. It sends doctors and nurses to show the love of Jesus to AIDS victims in Uganda. It sends agricultural missionaries to tell Ethiopians about “Living Water” while showing them how to dig wells and plant crops. It sends volunteers to paint public schools in New York City, and repair thousands of inner-city houses all across America while providing a witness of God’s ability to transform the home. Through Cooperative Program ministries, volunteer disaster relief teams are some of the first responders to areas of weather-related or other crisis, making the Southern Baptist Convention one of the largest disaster relief organizations in the world. And in every building project, every medical outpost, every cleanup, every repair, every relocation effort, every initiative and every response of every kind, Southern Baptists take the opportunity to tell how faith in Jesus Christ can make all things new. 

Importantly, in response to God’s command to minister among believers and the lost, Southern Baptists have been obedient to employ the biblical concept of cooperation that infused New Testament churches internally (Acts 2:40-47; Acts 4:30-37) and catalyzed their joint missions (Acts 8: 4-8, 14-17), ministries (1 Corinthians 16:2; Romans 15:24-29) and doctrinal education (Colossians 4:16-17).

Today the Cooperative Program stands at a crossroads that it has faced before.

In 1924, M.E. Dodd spoke almost prophetically to the issues faced today:

“At this point our Unified Program will either break or be saved. If it should break at this point, by an under-emphasis upon the whole program and an over-emphasis upon the individual object, then we will find ourselves back where we were five years ago, with every object contending for all it can obtain, to the exclusion of other equally worthy commitments.”

In unity, Southern Baptists came together in those early years to forge the Cooperative Program.

Southern Baptists have the opportunity today to preserve and even elevate the Cooperative Program as that primary means of support and the key unifying method for showing love in action in seeking to fulfill God’s Great Commission at home and abroad. For more information and resources relating to the Cooperative Program, go to and

(EDITOR’S NOTE: April 11 is Cooperative Program Sunday in the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. This article is adapted in large part from the video, “Cooperative Program: A Sacred Effort.”)
3/30/2010 7:54:00 AM by Will Hall, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

132,000 Haiti ‘Buckets of Hope’ collected

March 30 2010 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Johnny Hudgens is one of thousands of Southern Baptists who have become involved in the “Buckets of Hope” project that has resulted in more than 132,000 buckets of food to feed earthquake victims in Haiti.

Hudgens works the night shift as a grill cook at the local Jack-in-the-Box restaurant. But he does not have a car, so he walks everywhere, including his faithful mile walk to Cornerstone Baptist Church in Corsicana, Texas.

BP photo

Each bucket contained staple items to help people in Haiti.

“Today, Johnny made that mile-long walk carrying a 30-pound, food-filled bucket,” said his pastor, Paul D. Carter. Johnny had heard Carter speak from the pulpit about the need for buckets filled with rice, beans, peanut butter, flour and other food items designed to feed a typical Haitian family of 10 for a week.

“He said his arms were hurting by the time he got to the church, but Johnny wanted to make sure his ‘family’ in Haiti got their food,” Carter said. Knowing that Hudgens works only about 30 hours a week at a minimum-wage job, Carter asked him what motivated him to fill a Bucket of Hope.

“The Lord wanted me to help someone else who doesn’t have what I have. God doesn’t want me to be selfish,” Hudgens said.

That spirit is rising up among Southern Baptists — in large churches and small churches alike — from California to Texas to Georgia, as thousands of Buckets of Hope continue to be collected at state convention receiving sites.

From the collection warehouses in Jacksonville, Fla., and Shreveport, more than 132,000 Buckets of Hope will be shipped to Haiti in staggered shipments over several months.

Other states collecting Buckets of Hope include Alabama, 8,300 buckets; California, 1,100; Florida, 30,000-plus; Illinois, 1,250; Indiana, 1,000; Iowa, 300; Kentucky, 15,000; Louisiana, 7,000; Michigan, 800; Mississippi, 4,000; New Mexico, 2,438; North Carolina, 12,000; Oklahoma, 2,650; South Carolina, 6,520; Tennessee, 14,000; and Texas, 9,250.
3/30/2010 7:47:00 AM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Foundation urges giving among nonreligious

March 30 2010 by Kimberlee Hauss, Religion News Service

A new foundation in Georgia is urging atheists and secularists to donate more to charity in order to show that their generosity equals that of churchgoers — even if their checkbooks haven’t shown it thus far.

“The nonreligious are generous and compassionate, but our giving lags behind the religious,” said Dale McGowan, executive director of Foundation Beyond Belief. “It’s time for those of us who are otherwise engaged on Sunday mornings to have our own easy and regular means of giving.”

The recently formed foundation seeks to “focus, encourage and demonstrate the generosity and compassion of atheists and humanists” and also provide “a comprehensive education and support program” for nonbelieving parents, according to its web site. The foundation has good reason to be concerned — a 2000 survey by the charitable giving group Independent Sector showed that 87.5 percent of all charitable contributions come from religious donors.

That doesn’t mean atheists aren’t giving; it just means believers give more, most often to their religious congregations. In 2007, Americans gave a total of $129 billion, and nearly two-thirds of that went to some kind of religious organization, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey.

Chicago-based Cygnus Applied Research surveyed more than 17,000 U.S. charitable donors, and found that in 2008, religious donors gave an average of 16 percent more than other donors.

That’s because religious institutions — almost more than any other — teach altruism as a central tenet, said Sylvia Ronsvalle, executive vice president of Empty Tomb, a research firm in Champaign, Ill., that tracks church giving.

McGowan, a self-described secular humanist, said the nonreligious don’t lack the desire to give, just the opportunity.

“Churchgoers are passed the plate and asked to donate 52 times a year while their neighbors watch,” McGowan said. “But atheists don’t really congregate, so we’re not nudging each other in public to give to charity week after week. We don’t have systematic opportunities for generosity.”

McGowan isn’t alone in feeling nonbelievers could do better.     

“Churches and other religious groups have a centuries-old institutional advantage in that they can rally the faithful to causes at will,” said Paul Fidalgo, a spokesman for the Secular Coalition for America. “We in the secular community are building our own charity-minded communities as we speak, working to help people in need.”

Through its web site, Foundation Beyond Belief is hoping to harness the power of social media to create a virtual congregation that encourages non-churchgoers to give. Members can sign up for a monthly automated donation, and can also decide how to distribute their money among various charities.

The foundation chooses charities specializing in health, education, poverty, environment, child welfare, human rights, animal protection, peace and support for nonreligious parents. Charities are selected based on their impact and efficiency, and must not proselytize to their recipients.

Members can indicate how they want their donations spent, as well as nominate new charities to receive the funds. If members don’t like where the money is going, they can shift their donation toward a different recipient.

The group has a goal of $500,000 by the end of 2010. It also hopes to grow its membership from 250 to 4,000 members.    
3/30/2010 7:45:00 AM by Kimberlee Hauss, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Quake shifts church’s first mission in Chile

March 29 2010 by Kate Gregory, Baptist Press

TEMUCO, Chile — After adopting the Mapuche people group in Chile last fall, Second Baptist Church in Russellville, Ark., was planning to conduct first aid training during its first mission trip to the Mapuche. But following the Feb. 27 earthquake and tsunami, the church shifted gears to help build temporary shelters for displaced Chileans.

“This trip shows us to operate on God’s plan, not ours,” said Shane Wooten of Second Baptist, “because our plans fall through but God’s never does.”

Fellow church member Laura Brown, a high school senior, originally planned to spend her spring break ministering in another part of the world. When that trip didn’t work out, she shifted her focus to Chile.

Peter Krupa, from Stamford Baptist Church in Connecticut, helps members of Second Baptist Church in Russellville, Ark., raise a wall of a prefab temporary shelter being assembled in Temuco, Chile, for earthquake victims. Krupa is a friend of Second Baptist Church Pastor Bobby Biggers.

“I had been praying about Chile, especially after the earthquake, looking for any opportunity to help,” Brown recounted. “When the church’s plans changed, I could step in and help because I had my passport ready.”

The volunteer team worked alongside local Baptists and Baptist partners in building temporary shelters from March 19-26.

Trent Tomlinson, an International Mission Board missionary from Alabama, and local Baptists have been scouting locations for the temporary shelters.

The shelters, called mediaguas, are 10-by-20-foot structures with wood walls and tin roofs. The volunteers cut and nail the wood to assemble the walls, which then are transported and assembled on-site.

Tomlinson, who has received 400 requests for the temporary shelters for families whose homes were destroyed or are unsafe, said it will take several weeks to build that many units.

“We can’t do everything,” he said, “but we have to do what we can,” Tomlinson said.

A team of Oklahoma Baptists is scheduled to continue the work started by the Arkansas volunteers.

During their trip to Chile, the Arkansas team was encouraged by the words of Marcela Romero, a member of a Mapuche Baptist church plant, who said that “God gives us wisdom and knowledge to keep on with the work He’s given us. The most important thing is your prayers.” The Mapuche people make up approximately 4 percent of Chile’s population.

Second Baptist adopted the Mapuche people in partnership with six other Arkansas Baptist churches: First Baptist Church in Hampton, Angel’s Way Baptist Church in Marion, Bradley Baptist Church in Bradley, First Baptist Church in Mount Ida, Third Baptist Church in Malvern and Cross Community Church in Fort Smith.

“We could not do this by ourselves,” Second Baptist pastor Bobby Biggers said. “What we would like to do is send collective teams back to Chile every three months.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Gregory is a writer for the International Mission Board. Donations to Southern Baptist Chilean relief may be made at; click on the Chile quake response graphic). Updated prayer requests can be viewed at Volunteer teams interested in assisting in Chile can e-mail
3/29/2010 5:20:00 AM by Kate Gregory, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

April 25 new deadline for nominations

March 29 2010 by BSC Communications

The Committee on Nominations of the Baptist State Convention (BSC) has extended its deadline to receive recommendations for the Board of Directors and Convention committees until April 25. The committee did not extend the deadline for recommendations to the boards of Convention institutions and agencies.

The Convention amended its bylaws in November 2009  to limit an individual’s service to a single committee or board whereas in the past individuals could serve in more than one place at one time. Therefore, it is essential that North Carolina Baptists recommend more individuals to serve on the BSC Board of Directors and Convention committees.

Vacancies for the BSC Board of Directors are as follows:

Region 1 (3 vacancies)
Region 2 (2 vacancies)
Region 3 (3 vacancies)
Region 4 (10 vacancies)
Region 5 (10 vacancies)
Region 6 (6 vacancies)
Region 7 (8 vacancies)
Region 8 (10 vacancies)
Region 9 (4 vacancies)
Region 10 (1 vacancy)

The Committee on Convention Meetings has 10 vacancies to fill. This committee is responsible for planning the annual meeting and any special meetings of the convention.

The Committee on Convention Meetings is in its first year as a newly organized group. When the Convention amended its bylaws it also reduced the number of Convention committees. The three committees that previously worked on the meetings of the Convention were: Committee on Program, Place, and Preacher; Committee on Local Arrangements; and Committee on Enrollment. These three committees have all been combined into the Committee on Convention Meetings. This new committee configuration will result in reduced expenses and increased communications for the planning of this meeting.

Three vacancies must be filled for the Committee on Resolutions and Memorials. This committee is also a result of the amended bylaws, as it combines the former Committee on Resolutions and Committee on Memorials into one committee. This committee considers recommendations for both resolutions and memorials and presents these recommendations at the annual meeting. The Historical Committee has four vacancies to fill.

The Historical Committee encourages churches to record their history, celebrate significant church anniversaries and preserve the history of the BSC.

Recommendations may be sent to Committee on Nominations, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512–1107 or completed online at or faxed to (919) 460-7507. For questions related to the recommendation process, contact Cynthia King at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5501, or  
3/29/2010 5:16:00 AM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments

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