Themes begin to emerge in Vision forums
    March 28 2011 by Traci DeVette Griggs, BSC Communications

    North Carolina Baptists need to work to reclaim the younger generation; churches need encouragement and training to reach out to internationals; and while church planting is arguably a priority for North Carolina Baptists, there is concern that not enough emphasis is being placed on shoring up existing churches. So far, in the first five of 14 Vision Fulfillment forums, these are the main themes emerging. However as expected, a different set of priorities surface each week as the committee moves from region to region.

    The Vision Fulfillment (VF) forums are designed to allow the VF Committee and Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) staff to hear the heart and desires of North Carolina Baptists. During the meetings, the committee makes a brief introduction and asks a few questions to get the conversation going, but the goal is to hear from pastors and church leaders about how the Convention is doing in its job of serving churches.

    Younger generations

    The forums have been a good source of education for people who might not know what the BSC can offer churches. Tadd Grandstaff, pastor of Pine Ridge Church in Haw River and member of the VF Committee, is a younger generation pastor who has seen value in these sessions. “I think it’s important to be part of these forums because I have been someone that has felt disengaged from the (Convention) in the past.” Grandstaff said he’s learned more in the last few weeks than he has in the last few years about how things operate in the Convention.

    “I really believe in the changes that the (Convention) is willing to make for the future,” Grandstaff said. “They realize that there has been a disconnect for a lot of people and they’re proactively trying to bridge that gap.”

    Speaking at the Forum in Elizabeth City, Mark Purdy with Fellowship Baptist Church said reaching younger Baptists may require that both sides work to find common ground. “It’s a change in mindset in a younger generation and how we get them to come back to where we’re at, or us change to go with them. They don’t want to sit in meetings and listen to committee reports. They want to go out and put their hands on something and see results.”

    Reaching internationals

    The importance of reaching out to internationals is a topic that often emerges in the forums. Corinth Baptist Church in Elizabeth City received assistance from the Convention to launch an outreach to an Asian population in their community. Lee Johnson with Corinth said the outreach is yielding fruit. “Six or seven months ago, we started an Asian outreach and we contacted the State Convention. Ralph Garay has been a big help. He hooked us up with some folks that helped us get it started. And we’ve had one person actually surrender his life to Jesus Christ, and they found three believers, and we look at a baptism in May here of these Chinese believers.”

    Greg Barefoot, pastor of Oakdale Baptist Church in Statesville, shared his congregation’s efforts to establish ministry to Hispanics, not as a separate ministry but as part of the congregation’s existing ministries. He would like to see the Convention assisting other churches in these kinds of efforts. “We spend a lot of time and effort planting churches to reach other people groups, and I’m not against that, but we need to invest more in incorporating other people groups into existing churches.”

    Phil Addison, pastor of Stony Point Baptist Church, spoke at the forum in Winston-Salem and suggested that some current Convention ministries seem to compete with one another.

    “When I was a church planter it was ‘target group, target group, target group’ but then I go to multicultural evangelism conferences and hear, ‘everybody, everybody, everybody.’ How does the Convention really want to do it?” Addison also shared concerns about church planting efforts for both ethnic church plants and Anglo church plants appearing to be driven by numbers more than by disciple making. “It’s got to be healthy churches begetting healthy churches. And that is not what’s taking place in the Southern Baptist Convention, much less in my community,” Addison said.  

    Strengthening churches

    During the VF Forum in Elizabeth City, Boyce Porter, pastor of Geneva Baptist Church in Camden, emphasized the importance of strengthening existing churches. “All around me, I see churches that are dying. They’re churches with great histories. They’re churches that support and give to missions through the Cooperative Program, and I’ve been placed in one of those churches. I went there four years ago. I think we had 18 people, and praise the Lord we’re running 60 and 70 now. And God has seen fit to send us some children and some youth. But, I see churches all around me that are dying. And most of the pastors are bi-vocational and they don’t have the time required of them. And I just wonder if there’s not some way that, as a Convention, we can develop teams, similar to new church plant teams, to go to these churches, to come alongside the pastor and to work to reach out into the field around them.”

    BSC photo by Traci DeVette Griggs

    Rick Speas, left, pastor of Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, Phil Ortego, pastor of Scotts Hill Baptist Church in Wilmington, and Bobby Blanton, pastor of Lake Norman Baptist Church, Huntersville, and president of the Board of Directors for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, chat at the first Vision Fulfillment Forum Feb. 10.


    Speaking at the Winston-Salem forum, John Small, a member of Parkway Baptist Church in Greensboro who also serves as Convention legal counsel said, “If we’re going to talk about strengthening existing churches, the only way to do that is to strengthen the families that make up the churches.” Small continued that his work puts him in contact with individuals from numerous religious and non-religious backgrounds on a daily basis. As a result, he believes that some of these groups are actually doing more to strengthen families than we are as Southern Baptists. He concluded his remarks by saying, “These groups are doing it (strengthening families) without Jesus Christ. We can do it and should be doing it with Jesus Christ.”

    Miscellaneous

    Those speaking at the VF Forums have had the opportunity to voice their concerns and feedback directly to those people who are in positions to make decisions on how Cooperative Program dollars are spent in North Carolina. Participating in most of the forums are the pastors who have been elected as officers of the Convention (see www.ncbaptist.org/vf for committee members) as well as top-level staff, including Milton Hollifield, executive director-treasurer and BSC executive leaders. The forums are designed to discuss how well the Convention is implementing The Seven Pillars vision statement, but discussion can take any direction.

    When the forums are held in the extreme east or west of our state, there are invariably comments on a perception that these parts of the state are largely ignored by the BSC. Gerald Morris, director of missions for Tuckaseigee Association, said he feels small churches in the Convention are not given enough consideration, especially in the far Western part of the state. “North Carolina does not stop at Asheville. I think often the small churches are forgotten. In our association, we have five to six full-time pastors out of 36 pastors in our association.” The rest are bi-vocational. Morris said he feels that only large churches are considered successful churches.

    VF Committee Chairman Allan Blume said, “I guarantee you that none of the staff and Convention officers here tonight think that.” Blume suggested that much of the reputation of the BSC may be 10 to 15 years old.

    “This is a new day — a new Convention. It’s an exciting day,” Blume said.

    Lynn Sasser, executive leader of congregational services responded that the BSC’s emphasis is on church health and discipleship and not church growth. Approximately 90 percent of North Carolina churches have fewer than 400 in attendance in Sunday School. 

    Rob Roberts, associational missionary at Chowan Baptist Association said, “I just wanted to say, on behalf of this association, one of the things I was told when I came here two and a half years ago, is that once you cross 95, you don’t see anything from the Baptist State Convention. And I’ve discovered that not to be the case. I discovered that it’s kind of a reciprocal thing; we make an effort, y’all make an effort. And everything that I have asked the State Convention to participate in, I mean you guys have always been there to help, and I just want to say thank you on behalf of our association for the willingness of you guys to give us the resources and to provide that expertise as well.”

    In response to a question at the Franklin Forum on March 24 about requirements for new church planters, Bryon Lamb, pastor at LifeSpring Community Church in Franklin said, “They do give you an assessment (before you are qualified as a church planter) and I have never been drilled like that before. I got challenged and I challenged them back. I got trained and didn’t have to pay anything for it.”

    LifeSpring was planted in December 2010. All church planters must sign off on the Baptist Faith and Message and receive funding and oversight by a church planting consultant for two years after inception. Lamb appreciates the help. “We are forever indebted to the Cooperative Program,” he said.   There are nine more Vision Fulfillment Forums on the schedule. You can find one nearest to you by going to www.ncbaptist.org/vf. If you are unable to attend a forum but would like to have an opportunity to provide feedback, please contact members of the committee or send an email to visionfulfillment@ncbaptist.org.

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    3/28/2011 6:14:00 AM by Traci DeVette Griggs, BSC Communications | with 0 comments




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