March 2010

Kellum Baptist helps community ‘Find it Here’

March 29 2010 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

On Easter Sunday, seven people will be baptized at Kellum Baptist Church — about as many as the church baptized all year long in 2009.

The difference for this congregation has been an effort to ramp up the focus on being intentionally evangelistic. Kellum Baptist was one of the first churches to sign up to participate in the statewide evangelism emphasis called Find it Here. Pastor Jody Yopp said just the name of the emphasis grabbed his attention and he thought it would spark the interest of others, too.

The Find it Here emphasis asks pastors and churches to do four things on or before Easter Sunday, April 4: pray for the salvation of non-Christian family, friends and neighbors; invite non-Christian family, friends and neighbors to Easter services; preach an evangelistic sermon and extend an evangelistic invitation Easter Sunday; and baptize new converts Easter Sunday or the following Sunday.

“I’ve been promoting it very much from the pulpit,” Yopp said. “I asked our people to just try it. To see what Easter can be like.”

The congregation got behind this effort and they are taking it seriously. About a month ago members received in the mail a letter from Yopp and an invitation card including the times of the Easter services, map to the church and the words “Find it Here.” Yopp challenged the church to invite friends, family and neighbors to church.

Since then, 10 people have joined the church and seven of them are new believers in Jesus Christ. About a month ago Yopp started the “Kellum 101” class for anyone wanting to learn more about the church or church membership, and as many as 17 have attended.

This rural community church located just north of Jacksonville has also seen its highest attendance ever in recent Sundays.

“To get to Kellum you’ve got to find Kellum,” Yopp said. “People have got to drive to us. And they are.”

The congregation is being faithful to invite and witness, and the people are coming.  

Kellum is not stopping at Easter. They plan to continue using Find it Here for special evangelism emphases on other Sundays of the year, like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. “We can use this all year long,” Yopp said, “and that’s what we intend to do.”

Easter is still a few weeks away, which means it is not too late for churches to participate in Find it Here. More than 600 churches are signed up at The web site also includes Find it Here resources such as sermon outlines, evangelism videos and prayer guides. For more information call (800) 395-5012 ext. 5557 or e-mail  
3/29/2010 5:11:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Faith leaders call for civility after attacks

March 29 2010 by Religion News Service

WASHINGTON — As Democratic lawmakers reel from violent attacks and threats, religious leaders have issued a “covenant for civility” pledging that they will pray for politicians and model respectful behavior.

“The church in the United States can offer a message of hope and reconciliation to a nation that is deeply divided by political and cultural differences,” reads the statement, signed by more than 100 Christian leaders.        

The covenant was released March 25 by the anti-poverty group Sojourners, as members of Congress who voted in favor of health care reform have faced attacks. A brick was thrown through Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter’s window in Niagara Falls, N.Y., and a gas line was cut at the home of the brother of Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Va.

Quoting the Bible, the faith leaders said political debaters should be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

In addition to the covenant, several religious groups are condemning the threats against members of Congress.

“These actions may have been tolerated in the Wild West, but have no place in the United States today,” said Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, in a separate statement.

George Cummings, co-chair of PICO National Network Steering Committee, called the violent threats and actions “deplorable and unacceptable.” Faithful America, an online community sponsored by Faith in Public Life, circulated a petition calling for members of Congress “who stood with the Tea Partiers to stand up to their threats and violence before someone gets hurt.”

Mat Staver of the conservative law firm Liberty Counsel noted that President Obama signed the reform bill 235 years to the date when orator Patrick Henry called for fighting abuses of power by the British: “Two centuries ago the people took up arms. Today the people must channel their anger through nonviolent means to change the leadership and the direction of America.”

Signatories on the civility covenant included: Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Geoffrey A. Black, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ; Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson; Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Jim Wallis, president and CEO of Sojourners; and George O. Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.     
3/29/2010 5:08:00 AM by Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Shelters in Chile yield ‘open door’ for witness

March 27 2010 by Kate Gregory, Baptist Press

TIRUA, Chile — Wiping tears from her eyes, the 21-year-old mother thanked Baptists for providing shelter for her family.

“I want to give thanks to everyone for this shelter,” Rosa Inostroza de Santibañez said of the 10-by-20-foot structure with wood walls and a tin roof for her family in Tirua, Chile. “We are very thankful. We are going to sleep under a roof tonight and not on the ground.”

She and her family had been living in a makeshift lean-to pieced together by her husband Rodrigo after the family had to run for higher ground to escape an earthquake-induced tsunami Feb. 27.

“We didn’t know what we would have done if you hadn’t come,” Rosa said of the Chilean Baptists and volunteers from Second Baptist Church in Russellville, Ark., who delivered the shelter March 24. “We didn’t have any other options open to us.”

Early in the morning of Feb. 27, an earthquake crumbled their roof. Less than an hour later a tsunami crashed into their Pacific coast town. Rosa and Rodrigo grabbed their 2-year-old daughter while Rosa’s mother, Luz, pushed her 30-year-old wheelchair-bound daughter up a steep hill amid neighbors running and cars racing to escape the wave.

The older daughter is living with other relatives, while Luz stays with Rosa and her family on the hill. They had been sleeping in a tarp-covered enclosure just large enough to hold two twin-sized mattresses pushed together.

They’ve salvaged some of their belongings by making trips on foot up and down the hill to get dishes and blankets. At night, their young daughter, Anahís, is afraid as the cold coastal winds of Chilean autumn whip against the tarp in the dark.

Rodrigo and Rosa comfort their daughter by shining a flashlight. They have no electricity. Luz is afraid to sleep in the section of the family’s home that wasn’t damaged because aftershocks continue.

“I’m afraid that the tremors are going to get stronger instead of weaker,” she said.

Municipalities are helping families rebuild. But the need is far-reaching.

Many homes at water’s edge were swept away, strewing debris and belongings along the Tirua River that feeds into the ocean. Local authorities also are providing food at a school located at the bottom of the town’s hill.

The bread store where 20-year-old Rodrigo worked as a baker was damaged; then looters stole all the equipment. Rodrigo volunteers at the school, helping distribute food and clothing until the bread store reopens or he can find another job.

It may take families several years to rebuild, to make repairs or to add on to temporary shelters to make them more permanent, said International Mission Board missionary Trent Tomlinson. Rodrigo agreed.

“This will be our home for a while,” he said. Tomlinson realized this area’s need while he and fellow missionaries Anders Snyder and David Hines drove through it to assess damage two days after the quake.

BP photo

Bobby Biggers, left, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Russellville, Ark., and Chilean Baptist church planter Mario Barros, right, pray for a young couple beside their new home. “We pray for the Lord to continue to provide for them and show them Your mercy and Your grace,” Biggers said.

About 50 people representing churches from several denominations met in Tomlinson’s home, forming a plan to fan out and meet needs generated by the disaster.

“This is an open door,” Tomlinson said. “We’re earning the right to be heard here.”

The volunteers delivered pre-assembled shelters to four other families, including handyman Juan Gonzalez. His home — located 650 feet from the ocean — was destroyed by the tsunami while he was staying in Concepción, close to the earthquake’s epicenter. “I’m one of the fortunate ones to be able to move in (to a shelter) so quickly,” Gonzalez said.

Fisherman Manuel Arias came home from a family gathering to find his house, boat and dock destroyed.

“I was feeling desperate, not knowing what to do,” Arias said. “I almost felt like I was out of the hands of God.”

His shelter is being put together in a section of town called Nueva Esperanza (New Hope). “I’ve got new hope now to keep moving forward,” Arias said.

Mario Barros, president of Iglesia Misionera Internacional Agape (Agape International Missionary Church, an association of national Baptist congregations), met with the mayor of Tirua the day before volunteers arrived with the shelters.

“We want to be organized and be a channel of hope to those who need it,” said Barros, who works alongside Tomlinson as a church planter.

Honey producer José Prado from Iglesia Bautista de Cunco (Cunco Baptist Church) responded to a request Barros made on a Christian radio station for help in transporting the shelters prefabricated by volunteers in Temuco. He donated the use of his open-bed transfer truck, which he uses to transport beehives. He drove the shelters 80 miles to Tirua and helped with their construction.

“I always like to help and when I heard Mario on the radio ... I saw this as a possibility to do that,” Prado said. It took Chilean and Arkansas Baptist volunteers about three days to construct sections for five shelters.

It will take several weeks to construct the hundreds of shelters that have been requested, Tomlinson said.

Volunteer teams interested in helping can e-mail or call (615) 367-3678. Projects such as building these shelters are possible through giving to Southern Baptist relief efforts. Donations to Southern Baptist Chilean relief may be made at; click on the Chile quake response graphic.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Gregory is a writer for the International Mission Board. Updated prayer requests for Baptist relief work can be viewed at
. Information also will be updated through Twitter at #QuakeResponse. Listen to Shane Wooten, one of the volunteers from Second Baptist Church in Russellville, Ark., as he talks about his week in Chile at
3/27/2010 1:56:00 AM by Kate Gregory, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Update on Operation Inasmuch planning

March 27 2010 by David W. Crocker, Executive Director, Operation Inasmuch, Inc.

This is the fourth in a series of updates for churches participating in the Operation Inasmuch (OIAM) event all across North Carolina on April 24 and May 1.

Watch future issues of the Biblical Recorder for more.

Where you should be in your planning as of March 27
  • List of projects and project leaders should already be in hands of members
  • Launch your sign-up period. This period should begin on a Sunday but it will vary from church to church. It should begin no later than April 11.
  • Gather T-shirt sizes and quantities from volunteers as they sign up
  • Record sign-ups on master list spreadsheet
  • Plans for pre- and post-event gatherings should be 100 percent complete
  • Continue promotion throughout sign-up period
  • Plans for project leaders’ meeting (10 days prior to OIAM date)
    • Recast compelling vision for your OIAM
    • Instructions for all project leaders including purchasing/reimbursement procedures for materials used in their project
    • Provide up-to-date list of volunteers for each project leader
    • Enlist aid of project leaders in promoting participation in the pre-event gathering
Project Idea — Free for All or free yard sale
  • Have members bring usable items to church day before OIAM (probably Friday)
  • Arrange items according to type
  • Prepare staffing and assistance for “shoppers”
  • Publicize project for target group(s), i.e., Hispanic population
Register your church’s participation in the statewide Operation Inasmuch — and look for registration

Official NCOIAM T-shirts available —
Go to and click on “Resources;” download order form (deadline for orders for April 24 OIAM is April 12)

If you have photos or information about your event, send to Dianna Cagle at or call (919) 847-2127.
3/27/2010 1:50:00 AM by David W. Crocker, Executive Director, Operation Inasmuch, Inc. | with 0 comments

‘God did some amazing things’ in Vermont

March 26 2010 by Jami Becher, Baptist Press

WEST PAWLET, Vt. — They say the night is always darkest just before dawn. It certainly was a dark night for Tad and Annice Perry and others of the small remnant at the United Church of West Pawlet, Vt., when they made the difficult decision to close the doors.

“I just hated to see the church close,” Annice Perry said. “It was very hard to deal with emotionally. I just wanted to keep it going somehow, but we didn’t see any hope, so we just started praying about it.”


Nearly 1,000 miles away in Rutherfordton, N.C., dawn was breaking in the heart of a young pastor named Lyandon Warren. “It wasn’t an ah-ha moment,” he said. “God developed the desire in my heart to plant a church in West Pawlet over time.”

Members from Piney Isle Baptist Church, where Warren was serving as an associate pastor, had been to West Pawlet on a couple of mission trips.

“When we came back the second year, we could really see that God was at work in the town,” Warren said. “There was more enthusiasm about Vacation Bible School. People were asking questions, they were very curious about all the activity going on at the church.”

The old church stood vacant for two years, but new life began to emerge when the Perrys met Terry Dorsett, director of missions for the Green Mountain Baptist Association, and the decision was made to turn the church over to the association for revitalization.

“I didn’t want to see the church turned into an antique store,” Tad Perry said. “So I asked Terry what would happen if this didn’t work. He said, ‘I don’t know, we’ve never had a church revitalization fail.’ So that was a real encouragement to us and prompted us to pray even more.”

A few months later, Dorsett spoke in a chapel service Warren attended. “He laid out the case for ministering in Vermont,” Warren recalled. “At the end of his message he asked the question, ‘What would keep you from serving in Vermont?’ and I couldn’t come up with a compelling answer. I knew then if God wanted me and my family there we should go.”

God confirmed the call in Kim Warren’s heart as well, and the couple pulled up their western North Carolina roots and moved away from family, friends and a strong church community to what surveys show is the least spiritual state in the United States. The Warrens came to Vermont as North American Mission Board missionaries, with Lyandon working bivocationally in dairy farming.


“The culture is a little bit different here,” Warren said. “Things are smaller and slower, so we started out by just trying to get to know people. We began a program for kids called Bible Buddies and a weekly Bible study for adults. Word began to get out that God was doing something here, and we started to see lots of new faces.”

One of those new faces was Steven Baker, a father of three, whose children attended Bible Buddies.

“I got off work about the time Bible Buddies started on Wednesdays, so I would stop by on my way home to check on the kids,” Baker said. “Pastor Warren was there on Wednesday nights, too, so it gave us an opportunity to have some good conversations. Pastor Warren built a wonderful relationship with us, and we were really anticipating the church opening.”

Mettowee Valley Church held its first service on May 6, 2007. It was scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m., and at 10:25 only six people were present.

“I didn’t think anyone was coming,” Warren said. “Within five minutes, 35 people showed up and God did some amazing things in that service.”

Several people came to know Christ, including Steven Baker and his wife. “The Lord moved on both our hearts and we gave it all to Him,” Baker said. “We were a functional family before, but now we’re functionally set up to serve the Lord.”

Since that first service, the church has continued to grow.

“The Lord has done things beyond our wildest dreams,” Annice Perry marveled. “I thought if we got 20 people we’d be doing good, and now it’s 50 to 80 or more!” “Some people may say, ‘Why invest resources in a town of only 600 people?’” Warren said. “But Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost and nine out of 10 people in Vermont don’t know Christ.

“At Mettowee Valley Church we’re passionate about getting out into the community and sharing that Jesus saves. I think that’s really what God’s looking for.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Becher is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)
3/26/2010 7:20:00 AM by Jami Becher, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Bible Drill registration now online

March 26 2010 by BSC Communications

What once required mounds of paperwork can now be done online in minutes. New in 2010 is an online registration process for Bible Drill that cuts out time spent filling out multiple forms.

Bible Drill leaders can create an account at and then register children and youth in their church for Bible Drill.

They can also use the web site to register children and youth for associational and state level drills.

Every year in January the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) sends out a mailing to nearly 800 churches across the state with registration forms and information. Deborah Robson, Bible Drill Consultant for the BSC, said moving registration online will save the BSC a considerable amount of money in printing and postage.

Robson said she has already received positive feedback from many churches about the ease of the new process.

The deadline for online registration is April 12. As this is a new process, churches may still choose to mail in registration. The deadline for churches choosing this option is April 5.

Many Bible Drill resources are already online and may be downloaded for free, such as Bible score sheets, judge tally sheets and practice drills. Bible Drill is open to students in grades 4-12. The state finalist drills are scheduled for Saturday, May 15.  

Click here for more information about Bible Drill or e-mail
3/26/2010 7:14:00 AM by BSC Communications | with 1 comments

Lily farmers race the clock toward Easter

March 26 2010 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

To the untrained eye, the graceful lilies that arrive on church altars each year on Easter Sunday are a familiar symbol of resurrection and renewal. Like poinsettias on Christmas, it just wouldn’t be Easter without them.

But for the people who get them there — on a date that shifts from year to year — getting the trumpet-shaped flowers to bloom on cue takes months of just-right gardening, mathematical deduction and extreme diligence.

“It is by far the most complicated, single thing that happens in the floricultural industry,” said William B. Miller, professor of horticulture at Cornell University.

“Valentine’s Day — same day every year. Christmas Day — same day every year. No problem. ... It’s extremely complicated and Easter lily growers really do have to keep very close track of this stuff. They have to very much manage their crop.”

Researchers like Miller have drawn up schedules for greenhouses with how-to instructions specific to the date Easter arrives in a given year, chronicling the steps once lily bulbs arrive in mid-October from bulb growers on the West Coast.

Week by week, the guidelines suggest the exact period for cooling the bulbs (six weeks), best greenhouse temperatures (somewhere in the 60s) and how long the buds should be at various points in the growing process.

Temperature is the secret to getting an Easter lily to bloom on time, said Norman White, owner of White’s Nursery and Greenhouses in Chesapeake, Va., who has grown lilies for about 40 years. 

“You have to look at the plant, decide where it is in the stage of its growth and when Easter is and you make the decision,” he said.

“Should you give it more heat or less heat, depending on the time Easter is?”

Even as the lilies go through the early cooling stage, known as “vernalization,” conditions have to be just right, said Ray Greenstreet, co-owner of Greenstreet Growers in Lothian, Md.

The lily bulb, packed in peat moss, “has to stay moist,” he said.

“It can’t be too wet or too dry.”

RNS photo courtesy White’s Nursery and Greenhouses

Easter lily bulbs arrive at White's Nursery and Greenhouses in Chesapeake, Va., in October and are tended for several months to bloom in time for Easter.

His staff does intricate leaf counts to determine how many leaves need to unfold each day before the plant flowers. “You can’t be a couple days late or a couple of days early,” he said. “You really have to follow the recipe.”

Jeff den Breejen, vice president of Ednie Flower Bulbs in Fredon, N.J., has spent part of March traveling up and down the East Coast, visiting greenhouses and inspecting the still-growing lilies that will soon be shipped to stores. 

“If they weren’t up to a certain amount of inches by that time, we told them to turn the heat up,” he said. “If they don’t make it for Easter, it’s not worth anything the week after Easter.” If the flowers arrive late, he could lose customers who wouldn’t want to order them the next time around.

Growers say Easter’s rotating spot on the calendar affects what other crops they plant in a particular year. While this year Easter is early (April 4), some are already dreading next year when it falls much later, on April 24.

“Everybody is already thinking about what in the devil are we going to do with Easter so late?” said Russell Weiss, owner of Kurt Weiss Greenhouses in Center Moriches, N.Y. “A lot of growers next year will not grow Easter plants because it’ll interfere with their spring season.”

In fact, growers say sales of the estimated 9 to 10 million Easter lilies shipped across North America each year are either static or diminishing, with some churches no longer decorating with lilies, and younger generations less interested in buying them.

The biggest numerical drop in the industry is where it all begins — at the bulb stage.

“When I first came in the business in the mid- to late’70s, there were 26 lily bulbs growers,” said Rob Miller, owner of Dahlstrom and Watt Bulb Farms of Smith River, Calif., and brother of the Cornell University researcher.

Now, Miller says, he’s one of four.

At one time, shortly after World War II when lilies were no longer imported from Japan, hundreds of bulb growers tilled the soil from Half Moon Bay, Calif., to Bellingham, Wash., where conditions are perfect for growing the flowers.

Now, according to distributors and growers, large retail chains sell lilies at lower prices and with very strict specifications, which creates greater challenges for those on the growing end of the industry.

“The consistency of the product and the profitability of handling and growing has gotten extremely tight,” Rob Miller said. “And that’s what’s contributed to the continual decrease to the number of bulb growers.”

When Miller’s brother, the Cornell horticulturalist, arrives at the First Congregational Church of Ithaca, he suspects he’s the only person in the pews who appreciates everything that went into getting the flowers to the church on time.

“They have no idea,” William Miller said of fellow worshippers. “No clue.”
3/26/2010 7:10:00 AM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 2 comments

‘Food Revolution’ sparked by church

March 26 2010 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A Southern Baptist congregation’s emphasis on health and fitness has sparked a primetime series devoted to reversing a trend in a city regarded as one of the nation’s most obese.

Jamie Oliver’s “Food Revolution” is set for a two-hour premier tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern on ABC, and First Baptist Church in Kenova, W.Va., in the Huntington area is featured throughout the six-week series.

“I started noticing all the health problems we had due to obesity. It sounds so strong, but that’s what it was,” said Steve Willis, First Baptist’s pastor, said. “We had a lot of health issues. I also started noticing when I was traveling around to other cities that people were just in a lot better shape.

“Just walking around the malls out in California and the beach area, people were in a lot better physical condition than here,” Willis told Baptist Press. “I remember saying to my wife, ‘It seems like every direction I go from home, everybody gets thinner.’”

Willis discussed the matter with the church leaders last summer and told them that even though it’s an uncomfortable issue to address, obesity is a serious problem.

“Unlike the sins of pornography and just about every sin that we commit, people that struggle with gluttony, it’s very obvious,” Willis said. “So if I start preaching about that on Sunday morning, people are going to feel singled out. We discussed for about a month how to go about this, and they didn’t really feel comfortable about it, but they agreed that the Lord put this on my heart and they agreed it probably was a problem.”

The Friday before Willis was planning to broach the subject in a sermon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study declaring Huntington the fattest city in America, with nearly half of the metro area residents classified as obese.

“So I took the report and shared with the church, ‘This is something the Lord has put on my heart for a long time. I just didn’t know how to say it,’” Willis recounted. “‘Here’s hard and fast proof that we’re the largest city in the largest region in the largest country. When I say largest, we’re the most obese.’”

Amid the negative press about Huntington that emanated from the study, a member of First Baptist Kenova called the K-LOVE radio network to report that the church was taking steps to curb the epidemic by implementing exercise programs and healthy eating lessons.

“What I did was give an invitation and say, ‘We’re going to do our own Biggest Loser here and everybody who is more than 40 pounds overweight, I want you to join and I want you to start getting in shape,’” Willis said. “‘This is what God wants you to do: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.’

“We talk a lot about the heart, soul and mind, but we don’t talk a whole lot about loving Him with all our strength,” Willis told BP. “We have these covered-dish fellowship dinners where we pile on the food, and it’s not godly. Gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins. So we needed to address that.

“So we started working out, we started eating healthier, we started doing our Wednesday evening fellowship meals a little bit healthier, and K-LOVE started running the story of what we were doing,” Willis said. “ABC picked it up, CNN picked it up, the national news wire picked it up and Jamie Oliver heard about it over in England.”

Oliver, a noted chef and media personality, had been working on a project with school lunch programs in England and called First Baptist Kenova to inquire whether he could help improve the school lunch programs in Huntington.

“I said, ‘Absolutely. We’d love to have you,’” Willis said.

A crew started filming in Huntington last fall, and they’ve wrapped up everything except the final 10 minutes of the series, the pastor said. That will happen after Easter. The show focuses on the local school cafeterias, chronicling Oliver’s efforts to introduce healthier foods and methods. “I’ve seen the shows, and the church is the common denominator that is always shown in a positive light,” Willis said. “I had a concern when they first came to town that they were going to make us look like dumb hillbillies and a bunch of condescending Baptists.

Steve Willis, pastor of First Baptist Church in Kenova, W.Va., and Jamie Oliver, host of ABC’s “Food Revolution,” exchange a key to the city of Huntington during a quest to improve the health of local residents.

“Usually ABC doesn’t necessarily present Baptist churches in the best light. But they assured me and there were some likeminded believers on the show that said we were going to be painted in a positive manner. Sure enough, they have, all through the show,” he said.

The film crew asked Willis to preach again his sermon addressing obesity, and part of that is included in the show.

“Then they show me working with a family in the church, some visitation I’ve been doing. One of the families that goes to the church was having some health problems due to dietary issues and a lack of exercise. Then they start focusing on that family and how we’re trying to get them healthier,” Willis said.

As the series unfolds on television, First Baptist Kenova continues to offer exercise programs and special dinners showing people how to prepare food in more healthy ways in an attempt to reach out to the community.

“We are just trying to raise awareness,” Willis said.

The pastor expressed frustration with fellow Southern Baptist pastors who are reluctant to address one of the nation’s fastest-growing problems.

“We’ll jump on every bandwagon and talk about drinking ourselves to death and smoking ourselves to death, and we’ll talk about the institution of marriage, and I agree we need to address those things,” he said. “But more people are dying and more families are being disrupted because of eating disorders — gluttony included — than these other issues. More people are dying due to complications from obesity than alcohol and tobacco use combined.

“Why isn’t the church at the forefront of this? It’s frustrating to me that nobody wants to talk about this,” Willis said.

The secular media has pummeled him with requests to talk about the issue and the week of the series premier Willis was in New York to promote the show. But he hadn’t gotten much response from fellow Christians, he said.

“God wants us to take care of our bodies,” Willis said. “As pastors, especially in Baptist churches, people see us as hypocrites when we address smoking and alcohol abuse but we don’t address issues concerning gluttony. There are a lot of people in our congregations that are severely overweight, but we don’t address it nearly as much as the other issues. And it’s killing us. It literally is killing our congregations.”

Though it’s a difficult topic to address, Willis urged pastors to pick up the mantle anyway.

“What we struggled with here ... is you have to say it with grace and people have to know that you love them when you say it,” he said. “There’s nobody out there that’s obese who doesn’t already beat themselves up over it. They need to be encouraged. They don’t need to be condemned.

“Consequently, I had to get with some leaders in our church and some people who knew something about physical fitness, and it was a godsend with Jamie Oliver coming. I didn’t know anything about nutrition, and nobody here at the church really did either. But we had to give people nutrition lessons and let them see what fatty foods were doing to them. We had to start exercise programs down here at the church,” Willis said.

“Those are the two big things: raise nutritional awareness and provide exercise opportunities. But it has to come from the pulpit.

“Romans 12:1 says, ‘Therefore I urge you to present your bodies as living sacrifices.’ When we don’t control our eating habits, we’re not presenting our body as a sacrifice. We’re more like what Paul said in Philippians where our god is our stomach.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.)
3/26/2010 7:05:00 AM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Churches should look at how they handle money

March 26 2010 by Ken Camp, Associated Baptist Press

Tough economic times may result in stronger, healthier and smarter churches and Christian ministries, according to Dan Busby, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability

In times of economic stress, contributors prioritize giving. So, local congregations and programs that provide “safety-net” assistance for people in need generally have been most successful in attracting or retaining donors, Busby noted.

In fact, the Salvation Army recently reported Americans gave a record $139 million last Christmas to its Red Kettle Campaign, which provides more than 28 million Americans with food, shelter and substance abuse treatment. 

Anecdotal evidence indicates many individual congregations have fared better than most parachurch ministries during months of recession, Busby added.

And just as tight dollars force contributors to make hard choices, economic stress also should prompt churches and Christian ministries to set priorities.

“Those that are able to redirect their focus may come out healthier than if the recession had not occurred,” he said. “Churches and ministries should focus on their core mission.”

When times are good, ministries tend to create new programs and expend energy promoting them, he noted. But when times get tough, smart ministries focus on their central purpose.

Congregations and related Christian ministries can prepare for hard times by “building margin into ministry,” Busby urged, rather than operating on a razor-thin edge.

Desperate times can lead trusting people to desperate acts, and churches in financial trouble should beware of fraudulent perpetrators of get-rich-quick scams, he recommended.

“It’s human nature to want the best deal and the best return on one’s investment. But so many times, people don’t learn from history. If it looks too good to be true, assume that it is,” he said.

In a tight economy, churches should take special precautions against embezzlement and fraud, Busby advised.

“As Christians, we often let our guard down. We’re the most trusting people. Too often, we don’t institute internal controls, segregation of duties and other basic business principles at church that we know make sense anywhere else,” he said.

While many churches spend time and money on security systems to protect themselves, they fail to put in place simple checks and balances and internal control mechanisms to guard against misuse of funds, he noted.

“Most funds that disappear from the church coffers disappear after the offering is safely in the bank account,” Busby said.

Common-sense business practices protect churches from losing their credibility, he added. When financial scandals hit a church, dollars lost to the church budget represent the least important loss, he stressed.

“The negative impact on the kingdom of God is hard to measure, as people get disenchanted with the local church,” he said.  
3/26/2010 7:01:00 AM by Ken Camp, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Spring cleaning: Mo. students invade Caraway

March 24 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

A 215-member contingent of Christian college students from Missouri descended on Caraway Conference Center and Camp the week of March 8 to clean, paint, mulch, rake, split wood, sort, organize and build trails, a Frisbee golf course and a cityscape in which to wage paint ball war.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Manhandling a wheelbarrow was not easy for these volunteers from Truman State University Campus Christian Fellowship. See photo gallery and video.

The students were from the Campus Christian Fellowship of Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo., and their service trip to North Carolina was in lieu of the kind of spring break many college students take that involves a self-absorbed week of drinking and sun bathing.

“We came here because we love the Lord and it’s fun,” said Truman student Angie Whitlatch. “We pay money to work and have no sleep, but it’s the best week of the whole school year.”

Arriving primarily in school buses after a 23-hour non-stop drive, the students set to work immediately, taking just one day off to visit the North Carolina Zoo. They also had devotions, and group worship each day.

Student organizer Courtney Perrachione said Campus Christian Fellowship solicits a work opportunity each year, but few organizations can keep a group as large as theirs busy for a week. When associate camp director Jeremy Jackson saw the request for proposal from CCF, he responded the same day.

Staff was well prepared for the invasion with equipment, materials and plans for the students to get busy and stay busy.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Apparently using only prestidigitation, a volunteer rescues a stump from the lake and rolls it up the hill to be split. See photo gallery and video.

Several of their projects will expand Caraway’s ability to attract weekend visitors, families and adult groups for fun activities. The students built tent campsites with packed sand inside a level frame; each site with a picnic table.

They built a Frisbee golf course and a cityscape in the paint ball area, greatly expanding recreational possibilities. With logging trails and an emergency road cut through the property, future opportunities exist for mountain biking.

Campers are going to be “jacked up” when they see the new offerings this year, said Caraway staffer Kenny Adcock, who is in charge of summer programs.

Students cut and lined with tree limbs an estimated three miles of trails that “open up the very, very pretty parts of this property nobody ever sees,” Caraway Director Jimmy Huffman said.

Huffman, on staff at Caraway for 10 years and director since July 2007, said he wants to refurbish the old Camp Caraway on the other side of the road in time for Caraway’s 50th anniversary in 2013. Each feature Caraway adds enhances its attractiveness and Huffman wants Baptist families and churches to utilize the marvelous asset that 950 acres of Caraway presents. It is also about to enter a $7.5 million campaign to upgrade facilities.

Call Caraway to reserve a camp site or schedule a paintball tournament or group building event on the ropes course: (336) 629-2374. Visit

About 21,000 overnight visitors utilize the property each year.

3/24/2010 6:28:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

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