May 2009

Rummage going to Bell Shoals

May 7 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Stephen Rummage, pastor of North Carolina’s largest Baptist church, will become pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., after the congregation called him May 3.

Rummage, who has shared pastoral responsibilities with Joe Brown at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte received 99.8 percent affirmation in the call and will preach his first sermon as pastor of the large church southeast of Tampa on June 28.

His final sermon at the Hickory Grove North Campus will be May 10 and at the main campus May 17.

"From the very first time we met with the committee from Bell Shoals we felt this was something the Lord had for us," Rummage said May 7. "It surprised us, because we've loved where we've been serving so much."

Contributed photo

Stephen Rummage

Bell Shoals Baptist Church has been without a senior pastor since the deadly private plane accident of Forrest Pollock outside of Asheville May 12, 2008. Forrest, 44, and his son Preston, 13, were killed. Last August the church’s pastor of music and worship, Simeon Nix, 47, died of a heart attack.

Rummage graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He holds the M. Div. with a specialization in biblical languages from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and completed the Ph. D. in preaching and theology in 1998 at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Rummage, a member of the Biblical Recorder board of directors, has served pastorates in North Carolina, Louisiana and Virginia. Before going to Hickory Grove Rummage was director of the Doctor of Ministry program and professor of preaching at Southeastern. His book, Planning Your Preaching, is used widely as a seminary and college textbook.

Rummage and his wife Michele have one son, Joshua. Mrs. Rummage is a member of North Carolina Baptists' Council on Christian Higher Education.

Bell Shoals Baptist Church, at 2102 Bell Shoals in Brandon, has a membership of 8,000. A second campus related to Bell Shoals in Gibsonton is a separate church with its own pastor, according to Rummage. A Bell Shoals news release referred to the campus as a second site.

Early in Rummage's tenure at Hickory Grove, a congregation of 16,000, he was the preaching pastor, sharing the pulpit with Brown, who retained staff oversight responsibilities. Within the past year, Rummage had assumed the staff oversight role.

5/7/2009 6:20:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments



Wedding trip shows couple need for new churches

May 7 2009 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

William and Teresa Johnson’s 6,000-mile, 16-state honeymoon trip about 10 years ago included a stop in Montana on a Sunday. When they couldn’t find a church to attend, William jokingly told Teresa that if they ran out of things to do, they could always come to Montana and start a church.

Now they’re North American missionaries, planting a church about 25 miles from where their honeymoon trip took them.

“God must have a sense of humor,” William Johnson said.

The Johnsons grew up in McDowell County in western North Carolina. William was raised in Marion; Teresa in Old Fort. They consider Burkemont Baptist Church in Morganton their home church.

The couple attended Wake Crossroads Baptist Church in Raleigh while William attended Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary from 2002-2004. They now live in Manhattan, Mont., with their two sons, Quinton, 7, and Corban, 4.

The Johnsons moved to Montana in October 2004, living and working in the community 17 months before holding their first public worship for the new church.

“It was very important to not just say, ‘Come and go to church,’ but to serve as Christ did,” William said. “That just opened doors to show genuine love.”

The strategy told locals they are important and that the Johnsons were there to stay.

Contributed photo

The Johnson family (from left; Teresa, Quinton, William and Corban) were recognized for church planting during the Southern Baptist Convention in San Antonio. See photo gallery.

William said he has tried to live by some great advice from Bill Brown, a former professor at Southeastern, who told him to focus on being pastor of the community, not just of the church.

“A lot of people refer me as pastor even though they’ve never come to the church,” he said.

The church held its first service in March 2006. The congregation first met in a senior center, then in an aerobics studio at an athletic club and is now meeting in a 6,000-square-foot building that once housed a trailer sales business.

The church was to vote May 3 on a lease to purchase option on the building, which has a 4,000-square-foot, high-ceiling room in the back and four rooms for offices in the front.

Average attendance is about 85, but more than 100 have come several times.

The Johnsons also lead a worship service at an assisted living facility each Sunday.

Small groups meet during the week, with some gathering at the church building and others in homes.

Backyard Bible clubs, Bible studies and community projects help the Johnsons and other members connect with area residents. They have painted the fire hall and local houses, cleaned yards and redesigned the community gazebo.

“We’ve done a lot of little things to build relationships,” Johnson said.

An outdoor ministry has helped reach men not in church or those who go to church but aren’t very involved, Johnson said.

The group meets monthly to hunt, fish or hold a rally.

Men attending the rallies watch videos, hang out, and have a 10- to 15-minute spiritual challenge usually related to the outdoors, he said.

“We hunt all day and fish or whatever, but we have Bible studies at night,” he said. “Everything has a purpose.”            

See related church planting stories:

5/7/2009 2:04:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments



NAMB’s village web site gets makeover

May 7 2009 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

It takes a “village” to plant a church. And the “village” has just undergone an extreme makeover.

Although it’s been around for a decade, the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Church Planting Village web site has been streamlined, updated and more user-friendly.

“The Church Planting Village is one of the largest web sites dedicated to church planting in the nation,” said Greg Penna, church planting consultant for NAMB and site editor. “It’s a real treasure for church planters in the U.S. and even around the world.”

Penna estimates the site generates 1 million page views per year. The new site, which went live in mid-January, is optimized for information-searching using Google. Another key change: church planters no longer need to know English to enter the site. It now is readable and navigable in eight additional languages: Spanish, Korean, French, Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Russian and Vietnamese.

German and Portuguese will be added soon. The site now is organized into three distinct areas, depending on the user:
  • church planters.
  • church partners — churches considering a church plant, launching a plant or sponsoring a new plant.
  • field partners — directors of mission or local association employees, a church planting strategist or a state convention partner.
Penna said information on people groups “has always been at least half of the site’s content, but it was interspersed in different places. Now the information is all in one place. We added a people group library so now if you search Hispanics, there will be more detailed information, say on Argentineans. It’s now very easy to find information on all people groups.”

Regardless of the site user’s area of interest, the web site includes a resource library with 22 different church planting-related topics, such as administration, assessment, church plant models, fundamentals, communications/marketing, doctrine/theology, finances/stewardship and a list of vendors for needs like web sites, buying equipment and hiring consultants.

“The new site also allows us to include audio files such as podcasts, videos and other kinds of resources,” said Penna, who worked six months on the web site renovation with a team of six members on NAMB’s church planting resource development and delivery team. “We’re also excited about new capabilities, such as webinars.”

Penna said individuals in church planting can get a free subscription to the bimonthly electronic church planting newsletter, “Planter Update.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah is a writer for NAMB.)

See related church planting stories:

5/7/2009 1:58:00 AM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Center hosts creation care symposium

May 7 2009 by Joy E. Rancatore, SEBTS Communications

Should Christians be concerned with pollution in the world’s atmosphere and oceans, extinction of thousands of species and the environmental toll of using fossil fuels?
 
John Baden, founder and chairman of the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE), and Tom Rowley, executive director of A Rocha USA, would answer with an emphatic “yes.”
 
Two days after the nation observed Earth Day, the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary hosted a symposium titled Creation Care: Practice and Issues. Baden and Rowley shared with the audience from their years of experience in the environmental arena as strong believers.
 
Bruce Little, director of the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture and professor of philosophy at Southeastern, summed up the central message of the symposium in a brief sentence: “We don’t worship nature…but we do worship the Creator.” The symposium is one result of a grant that was awarded to Southeastern in October by The Energy Foundation, in an effort to promote better care of God’s creation through increased awareness and increased opportunities to get involved.
 
Rowley’s organization, A Rocha, is a conservation organization that encourages Christians as individuals and groups to take simple, solid steps to caring for the creation around them. Founded in 1983 in Portugal, A Rocha now has a presence in 18 countries on six continents.
 
In his lecture, Rowley told listeners the most qualified people to take action in conserving creation are those who serve and obey the Creator. He said anyone can choose to campaign for conservation; but, without the understanding that conservation is both a command and a privilege ordained by God, they will not be totally committed to it.
 
“What we believe about the world sets the tone for how we behave,” Rowley said.
 
He said a true love for God pours over into a love for others which then pours out into – not only a concern with how poor environmental conditions will affect others – but also with a resolve to correct those issues.
 
As a result, Rowley continued, a commitment to creation care can provide Christians a wonderful opportunity to witness to others about the great power of the Creator God.
 
Baden, who began a conservation club at his school in fifth grade and has dedicated his life to studying and teaching political science, economics, environmental policy and forestry, laid out more of the nuts and bolts of how creation care should be handled by institutions.
 
He told stories of how a government agency and a private company both caused damage to the environment in order to better those institutions and supply incentives for people employed by both.
 
“If we care about creation care, we’ve got to pay attention to institutional arrangements. Good intentions will not suffice,” Baden said. “Vigilance is an essential part of (creation care).”
 
He emphasized that creation care means sustaining the earth God created.
 
“Whatever else creation care implies, it certainly implies we have a sustainable environment. At its root, sustainability is a moral obligation to those in the future. I think we have not been impoverished by our parents and grandparents; and so we have a very strong obligation not to do that to our grandchildren,” Baden said.
 
Little was encouraged by the lectures of the two speakers as well as the interaction of the audience during question and answer times.
 
“These two men bring a reasoned voice of sanity to this discussion and both help us to see what some of the foundational issues are. John Baden gave information that is not heard in most Christian gatherings on this subject, the perspective from economics, and that was balanced nicely by Tom Rowley's voice on Christian theology and ethic. It was great to see the two men interact with each others’ statements,” Little said.
 
He said Christians often get so caught up in confusion with some of the larger environmental issues that are not “clear-cut” and allow that to hinder them from doing the small, practical tasks anyone can do on a daily basis to care for creation.
 
This symposium is the first of three creation care events hosted by the Center this year. A colloquium, Perspectives in Dialogue, will be August 28 and will feature two speakers — E. Calvin Beisner and Michael Northcott. On October 30-31, a conference, A Theology of Creation Stewardship, will feature Steven Bouma-Prediger, E. David Cook, Calvin DeWitt and Rusty Pritchard.
 
 

5/7/2009 1:53:00 AM by Joy E. Rancatore, SEBTS Communications | with 0 comments



SBC’s Land calls waterboarding ‘torture’

May 7 2009 by G. Jeffrey MacDonald, Religion News Service

Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land, who helped advance the Bush administration’s agenda on a range of social issues, said May 4 that the formerly sanctioned practice of waterboarding of suspected terrorists is torture and “violates everything we stand for.”

Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, repudiated the simulated drowning techniques in an interview with Religion News Service.

According to recently released memos, federal agents under Bush waterboarded two suspected terrorists 266 times in attempts to extract information.

“I consider waterboarding torture,” Land said. “One of the definitions of torture is that it causes permanent physical harm. I can’t separate physical from psychological. And I can’t imagine that being repeatedly subjected to the feeling of drowning would not, in some cases, cause lasting psychological trauma.”

But Land also criticized President Obama for publicly releasing Bush-era documents that authorized particular interrogation techniques.

“To leave open the possibility of prosecuting men for what the Justice Department had declared was legal, I think is a horrific mistake,” Land said. “If it were to lead to trials of some sort, it would rip the country apart.”

Land’s comments come amidst ongoing public debate about what constitutes torture, whether harsh interrogation techniques result in useful information, and what should happen to Bush administration officials who advised that waterboarding was legal, not torture.

Land explained that while he supports capital punishment for convicted killers, he denounces torture in all cases because he’s compelled to honor the image of God as reflected in all human beings — even suspected terrorists. To justify waterboarding on the grounds that it helps save lives is to suggest that ends justify means, Land said, adding: “that is a very slippery slope that leads to dark and dangerous places.”

“If the end justifies the means, then where do you draw the line?”

Land said. “It’s a moveable line. It’s in pencil, not in ink. I believe there are absolutes. There are some things we must never do.”
     

5/7/2009 1:51:00 AM by G. Jeffrey MacDonald, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



Chowan President Emeritus Whitaker Dies

May 6 2009 by Staff

 

Bruce Ezell Whitaker, 87, president emeritus of Chowan University died on May 5 in Raleigh.
Whitaker, who served 32 years as Chowan president, was preparing to go home after recovering from a fall April 27, but developed a breathing problem from which he did not recover.

Whitaker was honored, with his wife Esther, April 28 as the Chowan University representative for a Baptist Heritage Award, honoring persons making outstanding contributions to North Carolina Baptist life and institutions. He was not present for the award, having fallen the day before.

Contributed photo

Bruce Whitaker

He spent over four decades as an educator and administrator before retiring in 1989 and had lived in Raleigh since 2002. 

“Bruce was a dear friend and mentor to me in my own beginnings as a college president many years ago,” said current Chowan President Chris White.

 

“The campus as we know it was essentially built during his administration and when he retired in 1989, Chowan was financially solvent with no debt, had little or no deferred maintenance, and had a nationally recognized athletic program. What he and his staff were able to accomplish seems preposterous by today’s standards. He leaves behind a fantastic legacy that all of the Chowan University community can cherish.”

Roy Smith, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina during much of Whitaker's tenure, said Whitaker was "one of the most conscientious and hardest working guys I ever worked with." Whitaker had the habit of writing Smith a personal note every month, thanking Smith and North Carolina Baptists for the Cooperative Program check to Chowan.

"Bruce Whitaker championed the cause of Christian education," Smith said. "He believed it was worth everything he had to give it."

Oldest of the eight children of Fay Alvin and Oveda Ezell Whitaker, Bruce Garry Ezell Whitaker was born on a farm in western Cleveland County, June 27, 1921. He published an autobiography on his childhood remembrances in 2008, entitled “From Plough Boy to College President.”

He earned degrees from Wake Forest University (B.A., 1944) and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (B.D., 1947; Th. M., 1948; and Ph. D., 1950). He pursued additional studies in college administration and sociology at George Peabody College in Nashville, Tenn. He received honorary degrees from Campbell University (D.D., 1975) and Wake Forest University (D.L., 1987).

Ordained to the gospel ministry by Sandy Plains Baptist Church in Cleveland County in 1944, Whitaker was pastor of Smithville (1945-1949) and Wise’s Landing (1945-1947) Baptist churches in Henry County, Ky.

As an educator he taught religion or sociology at Indiana University Extension, Jeffersonville, Ind.,  Cumberland University, Lebanon, Tenn., Belmont College (now University), Nashville, Tenn., and  Shorter College, Rome, Ga.

Whitaker was named president emeritus upon his retirement from Chowan Aug. 2, 1989 and was provided an office on campus from which he compiled the archival materials he accumulated during his lengthy presidential tenure. Those materials are housed in a special collection in Whitaker Library at Chowan University.

During Whitaker’s tenure Chowan emerged from a struggling history with regional appeal to a nationally recognized two-year, church-related, liberal arts college. Student enrollment increased from less than 300 to over 1,500 at one point during his administration.

Total college assets increased from less than a million dollars to nearly $25 million. The number of students earning degrees from 1958 to 1989 far exceeded the total number of degrees conferred during the first 110 years of the college’s history.

The esteem in which he was held is reflected in a wide array of honors, recognitions, and responsibilities. Representative among these were memberships on the Advisory Executive Committee to the North Carolina Board of Higher Education, 1962-1966; Executive Committee, North Carolina Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, 1975-1978, 1982-1989; Board of Directors, American Association of Community and Junior Colleges, 1976-1982; Board of Directors, National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, 1977-1978, 1981-1989; and North Carolina State Board of Mental Health, 1966-2000.
He was president of the North Carolina Conference for Social Service, 1965-1967; Association of Southern Baptist Colleges and Schools, 1967-1968; Association of Eastern North Carolina Colleges, 1968-1969; North Carolina Foundation of Church-Related Colleges, 1972-1974; National Council of Independent Junior Colleges, 1975-1976; and North Carolina Association of Colleges and Universities, 1977-1978.

In 1985 a study funded by the Exxon Education Foundation named him as one of the nation’s 18 Most Effective College Presidents. In 1982 his service in promoting mental health was recognized by the renaming of the North Carolina Special Care Facility for Re-Education of Children in Butner as the Whitaker School.

Whitaker is survived by his wife of 62 years, Esther Adams Whitaker; two sons, Barry Eugene and wife, Becky, of Raleigh, and Garry Bruce and wife, Pam, of Winston-Salem; two granddaughters, Amy Lynn and husband, Steve Tamayo, of Buena Vista, Virginia, and Jean Ann Whitaker of Fayetteville; five sisters, Margaret Louise Wood, Myrtle Elaine Price, Betty Ruth Davis, Jean Ann Humphries, and Jessie Elizabeth Jones; one brother, John Bob Whitaker; and several nieces and nephews.

A celebration of Whitaker’s life will be conducted at 11 a.m., Saturday, May 9 at Wake Forest Baptist Church in Wake Forest, with pastor Bill Slater and current Chowan President Chris White officiating. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Bruce and Esther Whitaker Scholarship, Chowan University, 1 University Place, Murfreesboro, North Carolina 27855.

5/6/2009 4:35:00 AM by Staff | with 0 comments



Looking to God’s Grace

May 6 2009 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

It took a decade for Scott Blue to respond to the church planting vision that started when he was in seminary in the 1990s.

He admits that with shame “because it took so long.”

“Regardless of how many books you read on church planting, it’s never preparation enough for the emotional, physical, and spiritual challenges. It can almost completely paralyze you.”

He said that with no irony, even though 20 years before responding to his calling, Blue was paralyzed in a diving accident.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Scott Blue, pastor of Grace Baptist Church, maneuvers his wheelchair across the stage during a Sunday morning service. See photo gallery.

Blue, a quadriplegic, maneuvers the stage with ease at his church with his wheelchair. A ramp gives him access to the church stage, and his van has been customized so he can drive. Because he has some hand and arm mobility, Blue uses a control to drive his van and steer his wheelchair.

Church members don’t see his condition as an obstacle. The main difference is there are no handshakes from Blue. The knucklebump is the greeting you receive. He cannot open his hands, so he offers his fist for greeting.

Blue, a church planter and pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Laurinburg, is a native of the town.

A graduate of St. Andrews Presbyterian College and a missions, evangelism and church growth graduate from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., Blue also earned a doctorate in Christian preaching from Southern.

Nestled in an old shopping center amid hair and nail salons and across the parking lot from the town’s only movie theater (two screens) and an aging skating rink, Grace is sponsored by Stewartsville Baptist Church in Laurinburg, a town of more than 25,000 in southeast North Carolina. They’ve been called the “Wal-Mart church,” because they send a gift card to first-time guests or the “hot chocolate church,” because they’ve given refreshments to people during the Christmas parade the past two years.

Last summer, the church held three backyard Bible clubs in multi-unit housing communities.

“We want to show the love of Jesus in order to build bridges to share the Good News of Christ,” Blue said.

Growing church

“We’re a growing church,” Blue said. “I think we’re growing the right way.”

That way includes a clear vision, focused on reaching the unchurched.

“I know our focus is right,” said Pam Roeben, music coordinator, who has five children between the ages of 7 and 19. “We want to please God.”

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Younger people share their talents during the worship service at Grace Baptist Church. See photo gallery.

Started with a group of five families, Grace currently averages close to 80. They’ve used their flexible space for a variety of outreach activities: coffee houses, Mexican Fiesta Game Night, showing the movie Fireproof, etc.

Almost half the members are high school age and younger and they have active roles in the services, which encourages their involvement. On one February Wednesday night, they visited local businesses distributing candy and sharing the gospel.

Wendy Hamilton’s four children began attending Grace last summer and she said they “come home with so much knowledge.” She admired how Grace got them involved in an apartment complex ministry across from the church as well as distributing food to public servants at Christmas. She praised Grace attendees as “selfless.”

Grace’s non-traditional service also drew Alan Barnhill, a volunteer firefighter. As a drummer and former band member, Barnhill’s musical preference leaned toward rock n’ roll and hard rock. Now he plays in the church band, and loves the contemporary and praise music.

Grace stresses missions and half the church last year ministered in Brazil, Uganda, Germany or Greensboro. This summer, groups will minister in Charleston, S.C., and again in Brazil. The church is decorated with flags from the countries in which they minister.
 
Obstacles
With all of Grace’s successes, Blue said church plants face some steep problems.

“There really hasn’t been a truly healthy Southern Baptist church plant in Scotland County in 20 or 30 years,” he said.

Laurinburg has high unemployment and teen pregnancy rates and a low education level.

“We’ve had at least four events that could have killed most church plants,” Blue said. “We’ve also made plenty of mistakes. We’re thankful that God got us through them.”

When Grace first started, Blue said he received nasty e-mails and was accosted about infringing on other’s territory.

“We experienced some persecution right off the bat,” he said, but “we want to work with other churches to reach people in Laurinburg.”

A self-described Type A personality, Blue and Grace’s other leaders feel they are flying by the seat of their pants sometimes. They meet monthly to try to stay ahead of constant change.

Atmosphere
“We want to be very progressive … as long as it doesn’t conflict with scripture,” Blue said. “We’re very conservative in our theology and our Baptist identity.”

The building has three rooms for children and nursery, a small kitchen, and fellowship area that bleeds into the worship area. On the outer edges of the main room is a foosball and ping-pong table. Now, they are praying for a pool table.

“We let people be themselves,” Blue said.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Pam Roeben, center, observes some of the artistic skills of the children at Grace. Roeben, who is also music coordinator at the church, was playing double duty this Sunday morning — leading music and working with the children. Many of the leaders at Grace play several roles in serving the church. See photo gallery.

Describing Grace as missional, Blue said they are “trying to apply the same concepts as missionaries in their context.”

Blue also is a visiting lecturer of religion at University of North Carolina-Pembroke, where he teaches Introduction to Religion and Introduction to New Testament.
 
In the beginning
Grace, which baptized 12 last year, started in November 2007, and Stewartsville gave $10,000 seed money. Current Stewartsville pastor Eddy Simmons, a former International Mission Board missionary, said Blue has a “great vision.”

Stewartsville committed to help Grace financially for three years, and the churches have partnered on mission trips.

“I think the Lord blesses churches that start other churches,” Simmons said.

Grace sets aside two percent of gifts in a special fund to plant a church later.

Blue hopes by year three Grace will be able to help plant another church. Members need to pray “a lot” and consider dedicating a year of their lives to seek God’s will about using them in a church plant.

“You also need a kingdom mentality,” Simmons said.

A church doesn’t have to be big to plant another. Stewartsville averages 400 on Sunday.

“It has to be a kingdom thing,” Simmons said. “You multiply better that way. The newer churches are reaching people.”
 
Seeking assistance
Still a young congregation, Grace needs help with children, the nursery, their 412 Student Ministries (after 1 Tim. 4:12: “no one should despise your youth”), and community outreach.
 
Call the church at (910) 276-6203; e-mail contact@graceinlauringburg.org or visit www.graceinlaurinburg.org.

See related church planting stories:

5/6/2009 1:41:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments



CrossLink models church planting method

May 6 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Ken Tilley had a “great situation in every imaginable way” and loved being associate pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Hillsborough.  

Then God told him to start a new church.

About four years earlier, Ebenezer pastor Earl Echols Jr. had challenged the church to plant another. No one had come forward until Tilley realized he was supposed to lead the effort.

Today an obedient Tilley leads CrossLink, a three-year-old church meeting at Gravelly Middle  School in Mebane. Baptist State Convention (BSC) church planting leadership points to Tilley, CrossLink and the nurture of Ebenezer as a church planting model.

In May 2005 Tilley told the Ebenezer congregation of his new church vision. Eventually 42 persons, including children, joined hands to create CrossLink Community Church, where the goal is to win people to faith in Jesus and to link them to God, people and service.

Although three “preview” services were held earlier, the church started meeting regularly in April 2006 with 173 people at its first service. Today more than 400 worship regularly, a number that swelled to 618 on Easter.

The middle school offers space for a café and coffee shop on Sunday mornings. Church members are active with the school, helping to landscape it using equipment they volunteered, and by proctoring students.

Hanging out
CrossLink “believes in linking people to the cross through authentic relationships,” Tilley said during an interview in one of four office spaces the church rents in a renovated sock mill in Mebane. In one of the spaces, the staff works out physically together every day, helping them stay fit for ministry.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Ken Tilley, pastor of CrossLink Community Church, was called out of his associate pastor role at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Hillsborough to start a new church. See photo gallery.

Because Tilley believes all ministry is about relationships, he nurtures them, bringing study materials to hang out daily at the local McDonald’s and other places, and he works hard to memorize names.

While Mebane on paper is a “very religious place,” Tilley said many residents there “have religion but no relationship with Jesus.”

Trying to break through cultural religion is “in some ways harder than reaching a hard core person who knows he’s lost,” Tilley said.

Reaching those people is what new churches do best and is why it is so important to plant them, even if it seems there is a church on every corner and a new work encroaches on an existing church’s “territory.”

Tilley’s own reception by established churches in Mebane was “not very good,” he said.

He received only one response to his letter offering to meet with and buy lunch for each of the approximately 100 pastors in the area to share his vision and heart for a new work.

Tilley believes in change. “We’re always going to preach God’s word because that’s all we have, but we do believe the methodology at times must change,” he said.

CrossLink style
Tilley, 39, understands that statistically a pastor attracts persons who basically are 10 years either side of his age. CrossLink skews toward the younger side.

Typical members are college grads who dropped out of church until about age 30 when they realized they need a church community for their spiritual development and in which to raise children.

The style is contemporary, with a full band. Volunteers meet early before the two services to set up preschool and children’s ministries areas, the café, InfoLink, and the band.

The church is actively looking for property to expand its vision and ideally would like 50 acres on which to build what could become a Mebane area missions hub, with a skate park, recreation fields and a coffee shop.

CrossLink makes liberal use of yard signs pointing to “life groups” in Mebane, Graham, Hillsboro and Durham.

“It gives the impression that CrossLink is everywhere,” Tilley said.

Part of the goal is to get people to the www.lifeatthelink.org web site which is attractive enough to draw the curious.

Ebenezer provided $80,000 annually for two years, and made available other resources like a van. The BSC provided church planting funds of $14,400 the first year on a declining scale for two more years.

After three years the church budget is $430,000 and growing.

The church gives $45,000 to missions, including $21,500 budgeted for Cooperative Program.

Church planting is in the church’s own DNA and Tilley is talking with Echols about another church start in two years.

He also is active with the Church Planting Network, an informal group of BSC pastors who are committed to planting new works.

“We want to get to point where we are just spinning off new churches every couple of years,” Tilley said. “I don’t have any desire for CrossLink to become a mega mega mega church. In some ways that becomes more about an individual. I’m not that kind of leader.”

Tilley earned an engineering degree from UNC-Charlotte and a master of divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1996.

He has been married to Stephanie for 17 years and they have three girls, Madison, 10, Laikyn, 7, and Emerson, 3.

While he is a “do it yesterday” person, “she is my balance,” he said. “She is like a crock pot. It’s got to cook a little while but once she gets on board, she’s full throttle.”

See related church planting stories:

5/6/2009 1:35:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 2 comments



Volunteers about to cap Vt. project

May 6 2009 by BR staff

When the N.C. Baptist partnership with Vermont’s Green Mountain Baptist Association began in 2005, one of the first projects was to renovate “The Old Stone Church.”

Following four years of intense, dedicated work by volunteers, the building will be dedicated May 23. But in many ways, the work of Capstone Baptist Church has just begun.

Built in 1834, the historic church in North Bennington had fallen into disrepair. After receiving a promise to renovate the facility, owners deeded the building to the association.

Contributed photo

Ed and Helen Helms

Thus began a five-year project under the direction of two dedicated couples — Bobby and Stella Austin of Alabama and Ed and Helen Helms of Lincolnton. Dozens of work teams, primarily from those two states, completely overhauled the building — after first removing tons of pigeon droppings from the attic.

Grueling work was required on the foundation and front portico, both constructed of huge granite stones.

Volunteers converted the basement, into a modern, functional ministry area with meeting space, kitchen, bathrooms and shower facilities.

Later teams began giving the beautiful old sanctuary area a much-needed face lift. Original tin ceiling tiles and the railing surrounding the pulpit area were painstakingly refinished. The church steeple was also rebuilt.

The adjacent parsonage was renovated, an important move because as the church building came back to life, there also began a new birth of the church. Having a place for a new church planter and his family to live was important.

Once a church planter was in place, Bible study efforts began in various places in town. Eventually a core group began meeting regularly at the Grace Christian School (which also served as housing and shower facility for most of the volunteer teams). Both church and building began to round into shape. Starting with a congregation of zero in 2005, the church, now known as Capstone Baptist, has more than 50 members.

Work on the building was sufficiently completed to allow occupancy in the late fall 2008. In one of the first services, led by current pastor Phil Steadman, the church was one person shy of its 110-capacity sanctuary.

Partnership director Mark Abernathy encourages N.C. Baptists to continue praying for the ministry of this congregation as they endeavor to reach out into the surrounding community.

To be involved in Vermont or other partnership ministries contact the partnership office at (800) 395-5102 x 5607 or by e-mail at mabernathy@ncbaptist.org.  

5/6/2009 1:33:00 AM by BR staff | with 1 comments



Judge: School can’t ban ‘God’ from posters

May 6 2009 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

MT. JULIET, Tenn. — In a victory for a group of five Christian parents, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction May 1 preventing a Tennessee elementary school from censoring posters advertising the popular National Day of Prayer and See You at the Pole events.
 
The order by U.S. District Judge Robert L. Echols comes days before Thursday’s National Day of Prayer observance and more than seven months after a controversy began when officials with Lakeview Elementary School in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., prevented certain posters advertising last September’s See You at the Pole to be displayed as submitted.
 
Advised by an assistant principal, who said the posters violated district policy, the parents covered up Bible verses as well as phrases such as “In God We Trust” and “God Bless America.” The assistant principal says she remembers seeing only Bible verses and not the other phrases when she told the parents that the posters couldn’t be displayed as-is.
 
The Christian legal organization Alliance Defense subsequently sued the school on behalf of the parents, claiming the school’s actions — as well as the school’s policy — violated the parents’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
 
The school’s policy requires the posters to state only the time, place, date and location of the event and also to get pre-approval from a school administrator, usually the principal or the director of schools, before a poster is displayed.
 
In his injunction order, Echols said the parents likely would succeed in a trial.
 
“Requiring the Plaintiffs to cover all religious speech on the posters under the guise of a reasonable time, place and manner restriction reflects a misunderstanding of law, with the result that the Defendants stifled religious speech, while the restrictions imposed to stifle the speech were neither reasonable nor viewpoint neutral,” Echols wrote.
 
Events such as See You at the Pole and the National Day of Prayer are non-curricular activities at the school and are led by students and their parents. The parents claimed that under the school’s policy, they would not be able to post official National Day of Prayer posters this year because the posters had the word “prayer” and also had a Bible verse, Psalm 33:22.
 
Echols’ order prevents the school from using its policy “to suppress religious speech on posters that are created by students and parents” in publicizing the two events “unless any school regulation restricting religious speech on posters is reasonable, viewpoint-neutral, and in accordance with federal law.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.)

5/6/2009 1:32:00 AM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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