May 2009

Convention throws weight behind church planting

May 5 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Chuck Register came to North Carolina to plant his life in soil that grows new churches.

Register, who taught evangelism at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and led the First Baptist Church of Gulfport, Miss., during and after Hurricane Katrina, has been the Baptist State Convention’s (BSC) executive leader for church planting and missions development since Jan. 1.

He is charged with building the fourth of the seven pillars in North Carolina Baptist Executive Director-Treasurer Milton Hollifield’s long-range plan for leading the Convention.

Church planting is North Carolina Baptists’ primary growth strategy because new churches win more people, especially more people with no previous church background.

“The principle of being able to spend the rest of my ministry on totally reaching lost people is what attracted me to North Carolina,” Register said during an interview in his office in the BSC staff building in Cary.

He was joined by church planting team leader Mark Gray.

Reaching “people groups” identified by language, geography and ethnic demographics has long been the language of international missions.

But Register said many people groups exist within North Carolina’s borders and he intends to identify them, and create a strategy to reach them.

“Church planting is a key strategy for us because it is a biblical priority,” said Hollifield.

“When we read the book of Acts it is clear that the Apostle Paul established local churches in every region and those churches, in turn, helped plant other churches.”

Register believes North Carolina Baptists will respond when they “understand the vastness of lostness in our state.”

He said there is a “healthy environment for church planting” because the pastors he’s met “want to reach lost people” and “they understand how important church planting is to that.”

Church planting team

North Carolina Baptists have five church planting consultants — Gray, and four in the field: Frank White, Amaury Santos, Ralph Garay and Pam Mungo, who was recognized as 2005 national church planting consultant of the year by the North American Mission Board.

Five others are under contract to work with specific people groups: Vijay Kumar Allampalli, Asian-Indian; Florentino Yanez, Hispanic; Phiet Nguyen, Vietnamese; Lonnie Hall, African-American; and  Bud Wrenn, Anglo.

This group led the starting of 108 new churches in 2008, and each of the fulltime consultants works with 40 or 50 people at a time who are in some stage of investigating, planning or working with a church start.

There currently are 175 churches in the funding cycle. New work is “counted” as a church start when the association where the church is located includes it in the annual associational report.

The “new church” definition is “a biblical community that seeks to fulfill the Great Commission.”

“We’re battling against the idea that you have to have a facility, or be a certain size before you are counted as a church,” Register said. “We go to the New Testament and see that a biblical community is living according to scripture, preaching the word, seeking the Father.”
Multiplication churches
“We used to focus on planting new churches,” said Gray. “Now we’re focused on planting new churches that plant new churches.”

This “multiplication churches” strategy greatly increases the likelihood that church planting will become a “movement” in North Carolina, resulting in new churches springing up almost virally. Geographic associations of Baptist churches will be important partners in the strategy.

“Our desire is to partner with associations,” Gray said, “to work hard with associations to where they’re open to a church planter.”

Historically, churches within associations could prod associational leadership to veto BSC funding for a new church within the association.

“That model is shifting,” Gray said, as the Convention begins to work also with other networks, some that are not geographically based, such as Acts 29 and the Church Planting Network, made up of aggressive church planting BSC pastors.

“The younger generation of Christ followers really has passion for church planting,” Register said. “They will form networks on their own.”

“There is a great openness to contemplate the possibility in partnering with church plants now,” Gray said. “Education precedes support and we’ve worked diligently to educate pastors and directors of missions in the state about different people groups. There was some sense in the past of ownership of a geographical area. But we’re helping people understand that in an area there might be 15 people groups” unreached by current churches.

Ethnic church plants
BSC ethnic church planting consultants Santos and Garay are “exceptional,” Register said. Santos was instrumental in starting 26 churches in 2008.

With 180 identifiable language groups in North Carolina, ethnic starts are “vitally important” to reaching the state, Register said.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Chuck Register, right, is executive leader for church planting and missions development at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Mark Gray is team leader for church planting. See photo gallery.

Last year the BSC started 27 Anglo churches, 27 Hispanic churches and 17 Asian churches.

Language churches face a host of unique difficulties. One group from a former communist area was meeting regularly together but was reluctant to become a church, Gray said, because members did not want to attract attention.

“We have to be sensitive to their cultural issues,” he said.

Newcomers are more open to the gospel before they become westernized and more self sufficient, Register said.

“Self sufficiency is anathema to the gospel,” he said. “A self-sufficient person is less willing to bow the knee to the lordship of Christ.”

As churches mature in awareness, more ethnic churches are taking responsibility to plant churches in their people groups, rather than leaving that to Anglo churches, Gray said.
Convention helps
The Convention is focusing resources on church planting and “brings a lot to the table” Register said.

According to Hollifield, “The entire Baptist State Convention staff realizes that church planting is not only the task of the church planting consultants, but that each member of our staff has a contribution to make towards church planting efforts.” Each program area resources new churches for growth and development.

BSC staff also is vitally interested in the spiritual health of existing churches, which are the “key to forming and sustaining a church planting culture,” he said.

“We are finding that more North Carolina Baptist associations and their churches are catching a fresh vision of the necessity to start new churches to reach more lost people and more of them are open to helping plant new churches as they see their participation in this process as a critical component to the advance of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Hollifield said.

Anyone interested in Convention assistance in church planting goes through an assessment process. Those who pass are invited to a week-long basic training that builds a foundation. Planters receive coaching and certain funds.

The BSC will give a maximum $14,400 annually toward support initially, if the church planter raises matching funds of twice that amount. Some church planting enthusiasts criticize the BSC contribution as far too small.

Gray said, however, “Studies show that church planters involved in raising their own funds are more effective than those who are fully funded.” Fully funding a new church start “creates dependency,” he said.

“As a church planter you have to be able to sell your vision to individuals,” Register said.

Church planter Ken Tilley calls that the WOO factor, “win others over” that is an essential ingredient in church planting success.

His plant in Mebane was funded by BSC and by $80,000 annually for two years by his sponsoring church, Ebenezer Baptist. Early funding of more significant amounts enables a church to start with multiple staff members.

About half of church planters each year work another job. The BSC is currently funding 59 fulltime and 44 part-time planters. Church planters that do not request funds from the BSC still receive all the training and coaching the BSC offers.
Finding fertile soil
One strategy to open eyes to people groups in an area and the potential need for more churches is what Gray calls Operation Reach. Consultants will spend a day with a pastor, a staff member and a lay leader to reconnoiter their area. After a morning of learning, they will travel in a van and identify people groups that would not be likely to attend their church.

Those rides illustrate the need for new churches to reach those people. “That creates buy-in,” Gray said. “It’s not the state convention or director of missions that is saying, “You need a new church here, it’s themselves.”

Gray really pushes “cluster partners” for a new church plant. That would include the planter, a primary sponsoring church, several other sponsoring churches or an association to pledge support in money, resources or special events and the Convention.

The BSC process has been phenomenally successful, with a 96 percent success rate of new plants operating two years after their launch, according to Gray.

Part of that success is attributable to the assessment of potential church planters before they are ever brought on board, and then the basic training of those who are embraced.

During a weeklong basic training, planters are not told what their new church should look like.

“We help them identify the vision God has given them and develop a strategy to carry it out,” Gray said, recognizing that each new church is unique. Like medical doctors, Convention staff tries to inject each new church with a church planting gene in their DNA.

Register is “convinced God’s heart and passion is to reach and congregationalize this state.”
“We have to decide if we are going to be obedient to that heart, to that calling,” he said. “When God speaks, when He gives us a vision, are we going to be obedient to that?”

With about 4,100 churches now and about 100 new churches being sown each year, how many churches will it take to win North Carolina to Christ?

“More than we have now,” Register said. “We’re committed to planting churches until this entire state is won to the Lord.”

See related church planting stories:

5/5/2009 3:22:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 1 comments

BSC assesses candidates to determine support

May 5 2009 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

If you’re feeling called to be a church planter, you should have vision and be able to convince people to buy into it, according to an assessment used by the Baptist State Convention (BSC) when considering whether to support a potential planter.

Sixteen categories in the assessment help BSC officials determine the candidate’s likelihood of success.

The BSC also gives the assessment to the wives of potential church planters.

Visioning capacity determines if the candidate can think about the future, develop a plan of action and carry it out.

Church planters should also be able to create ownership of ministry, according to the assessment.

BSC leaders try “to determine if the potential leader has a strong desire to include others in ministry activity and has the ability to get people to buy into his vision,” the assessment says.

Ken Tilley, church planter and pastor of CrossLink Community in Mebane, calls that the WOO factor, the ability to “win others over.” The document also says the church planter needs to be “intrinsically motivated.”

BSC officials seek to find out if he is committed to excellence and an ability to persist despite adversity.

They also try to measure the candidate’s energy and stamina.

Church planting is not a task for someone not willing to “work hard and smart,” according to Tilley, who went through the evaluation process and now leads a church of more than 400.

“You have to be driven. You really have to be a go getter.

“If you’re looking for an easy road, this is not it; you probably ought to go sell vacuum cleaners.”

Other categories in the assessment are:
  • Relating to the unchurched.
BSC leaders want to know if the potential church planter can connect with people who do not attend church and if making such connections is a part of his ministry plan.

They also look to see if the person knows people outside the faith and seeks to “restore them to a right relationship with God.”
  • A cooperative and supportive spouse.
  • Building relationships; can you connect with people and be vulnerable with them?
  • Is the candidate committed to church health and does he believe church growth is a theological principle?
  • Responsive to community.
The potential church planter should be able to identify and assess the needs of the community.
  • Using the gifts of others.
BSC leaders try to determine if the candidate can assess someone’s giftedness and develop a plan based on matching those gifts with ministry needs and opportunities.
  • Flexible and adaptable.
The church planter has to be able to adapt and handle change and make tough decisions.
  • Building a cohesive group.
The candidate should be able to bring people together and get them involved in meaningful ministry.
  • Resilience.
BSC officials want to know if the potential church planter can go through setbacks without feeling defeated.

They also look at how he handled previous disappointments.
  • Exercising faith.
BSC leaders talk to the candidate about his calling and how it relates to church planting. They also discuss waiting on God on specific prayer requests.
  • Adapting to other cultures.
  • Financial responsibility.
How does the potential church planter manage resources and does he have a healthy, biblical view of stewardship?
  • Team player.
The candidate should be able to work in an environment that values team work, share responsibility and empower others to serve.

See related church planting stories:

5/5/2009 3:19:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Mother’s Day Offering brings life-changing gratitude

May 5 2009 by North Carolina Baptist Hospital

When I read the letter from Baptist Hospital I sat down and cried. The burdens we had carried were lifted and I felt such peace. My husband and I are so thankful to God and North Carolina Baptists for helping us through the Mother’s Day Offering,” said Dana Hutson of Elkin.

The Hutson’s daughter, Claira, was treated at Baptist Hospital for a severe abscess near her spine.

“She was so sick and we were very scared,” Dana said. “At first she was paralyzed from the neck down. I sat by her bed and cried. I couldn’t understand and said, ‘Why God?’ Then I just put her in God’s hands.”

Contributed photo

Claira Hutson

Physicians at Baptist were able to locate and remove the abscess.

Claira’s fever broke and soon she was on the way to recovery.

“We were so thankful and relieved,” Dana said.

Soon after returning home, the Hutsons faced new fears.

“When the hospital bill came I was worried sick,” Dana said.
“We were both working hard but still falling behind. We had too much for Medicaid and were stuck. I worried all the time about how to pay the hospital bill on top of all the other bills.”

Paul Mullen, director of church and community relations at North Carolina Baptist Hospital, said the Mother’s Day Offering is for families just like the Hutsons.

“They are responsible people caught in a painful bind of financial need,” Mullen said.
“They have too much to qualify for government assistance, but not enough to pay their hospital bills. Every dollar of every gift helps those who have nowhere to turn for assistance.”

The Hutson’s received a letter saying, ‘Your daughter’s hospital bill has been paid by compassionate and mission-minded North Carolina Baptists in the name of Jesus Christ and His love.’”

Mullen said, “Their gratitude has been life changing.”  

“The Mother’s Day Offering was an answer to our prayers,” Dana said.

“We are so thankful to God and everyone who helped us. I had felt far apart from God but now I know He’s always been there. We see more clearly what really matters, and we’ve found our way back to church. We thank North Carolina Baptists with all our hearts.”

Contributed photo

Leroy and Amy Starnes

Leroy and Amy Starnes from Taylorsville felt similar gratitude for the Mother’s Day Offering.

He nearly died in an accident and was rushed to Baptist Hospital. God’s healing hand was at work and Starnes said, “I thank God every day for saving my life.

“I drive a truck for a living and haven’t been able to go back to work yet. The bills kept coming in and it really worried us. We didn’t know how to pay the hospital bill.”

When they received help from the Mother’s Day Offering, he said, “My wife and I can’t say thank you enough to North Carolina Baptists. We can’t describe the relief.”

Amy said through tears of gratitude, “We are so thankful to God and everyone who helped us.

“We didn’t go to church much before the accident, but now we’ve started. We are so grateful.”

They now attend Oxford Memorial Baptist Church. Their story can be seen on the Mother’s Day Offering video and at

Mother’s Day Offering materials were mailed to N.C. Baptist churches.

Materials can be obtained by calling (336) 716-3027.

5/5/2009 3:16:00 AM by North Carolina Baptist Hospital | with 0 comments

Poll shows ‘nuanced’ views on homosexuality

May 5 2009 by Kevin Eckstrom, Religion News Service

A large survey on American attitudes toward homosexuality reveals a “nuanced and at times inconsistent” view on gay rights, with Americans saying states should not be forced to recognize same-sex unions, but also saying gay couples should have access to federal spousal benefits like Social Security.

The poll of more than 2,000 registered voters by Quinnipiac University found Americans torn over the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage between one man and one woman at the federal level and allows states not to recognize gay unions performed in other states.

Americans slightly support, 50 to 44 percent, the provision that allows states to not recognize gay unions, but a slim majority, 54 to 39 percent, supports federal spousal benefits.

In addition, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of Americans support the repeal of the ban on gays in the military, while half of Americans don’t see the battle for gay rights as an extension of the battle for civil rights for African Americans.

“In general, Americans tend to be more supportive when it comes to narrow equity questions, like serving in the military or collecting federal benefits,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

“But they are less accepting of more philosophical issues, such as equating gay rights with civil rights for blacks and the belief that people are born gay rather than it being a choice.”

Indeed, the poll found that people’s views of homosexuality as a choice or inborn trait are a stark predictor of their views: two-thirds of those who think people are born gay support same-sex marriage, for example, compared to just 15 percent of those who think homosexuality is a choice.

The poll was clear in showing that gay causes are attracting increased support from Jews and Catholics and some Protestants, but evangelicals remain the most opposed to questions of gay marriage, adoption or benefits.

Three-fourths of evangelicals oppose laws to allow gay marriage; two-thirds oppose civil unions; and 62 percent oppose federal spousal benefits. More than half of evangelicals see gay marriage as a “threat to traditional marriage,” while two-thirds of Catholics, and nearly 90 percent of Jews, disagree.

The Quinnipiac poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.

5/5/2009 3:15:00 AM by Kevin Eckstrom, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Young people will stay in ‘essential churches’

May 4 2009 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

Churches can keep young people loyal by becoming important to them, say the authors of a book on how the church can be essential.

Essential churches simplify how they make disciples, deepen the content they provide members, raise expectations and multiply themselves, said Thom Rainer and his son Sam Rainer at a conference April 28 at Apex Baptist Church.

The Rainers wrote “Essential Church: Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts” based on a recent study of 1,000 people and 20 years of previous research.

BR photo by Steve DeVane

Thom Rainer talks with an "Essential Church" conference participant.

The conference was the first event other than the Baptist State Convention (BSC) annual meeting to be live-streamed over the BSC web site. BSC officials said about 45 people watched the conference over the Internet from as far away as Ohio, California and overseas. About 150 people attended in person.

Thom Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources. Sam Rainer is an associate pastor at Sarasota Baptist Church in Florida.

Sam Rainer said 70 percent of people who leave the church, drop out when they are 18 to 22 years old. About 78 percent of those who stay in church say it is important or essential to them, but less than three in 10 of those who drop out say that, he said.

“It’s a problem of urgency, and it’s a problem of mission,” he said.
Taking a break
The top reason young people give for leaving is that they simply want to take a break from church, Sam Rainer said.

“That breaks my heart,” he said. “Church, to them, was a chore.”

The second highest reason for leaving is because church members seem judgmental or hypocritical.

Other reasons include going to college, work responsibilities, moving, too busy, not feeling connected to the church, disagreeing with the church, choosing friends over the church and went to church only to please other people.

“Valid or not, it is what they perceive, and it’s what we must deal with,” Sam Rainer said.

The Rainers offered four ways churches can become essential.

First, they should have a simple, clearly defined process of discipleship.

Thom Rainer suggested aligning the church’s mission statement with that process.

Essential churches will also provide deep, relevant content.

BR photo by Steve DeVane

Sam Rainer said high expectations begin in the pulpit.

Sam Rainer said there are four myths about church dropouts — secular universities push them away; they’re planning to leave; the media is to blame; and depth and relevance are mutually exclusive.

“It’s a myth that you cannot go deep and connect with the younger generation,” he said.

Thom Rainer talked about what makes people stay in church.

“You’re going to lose a generation if you do not take them deep in God’s word,” he said.
Going deep
Three components of depth are the pastor and preaching; small groups or Sunday School; and personal devotion and Bible study, Thom Rainer said.

Essential churches raise the bar of expectations, and churches that are “nonchalant about membership” make themselves non-essential, Sam Rainer said.

Two thirds of young people who stayed in church said they could not see themselves as vibrant Christians without the church, he said, even though they knew their churches weren’t perfect.

Thom Rainer said churches can raise expectations in small groups, through the pastor and in an entry class.

About 83 percent of people who are still in church five years after joining got involved in small group.

Sam Rainer said high expectations begin in the pulpit.

“Your church does listen to you,” he told pastors. “They do put a lot of weight in what you say.”

Thom Rainer said entry point or new member classes should include information about the church and expectations of church membership.

Essential churches also multiply, according to the Rainers. Sam Rainer talked about reclaiming people who are no longer involved in church. He said church members should invite their friends and family, and the church should be tight knit.

“Our churches used to be where it all happened, good or bad,” he said. “We’ve lost that sense of community.”

Thom Rainer said statistics show that older people are much more likely to attend church than younger people.

The younger people who attend, though, are serious about Bible study and ministry, he said.

“They’re even serious about dying for the gospel if necessary,” he said. “Ladies and gentlemen, if you reach this generation, you’re reaching a missionary force.”

5/4/2009 7:43:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 1 comments

Baptist institutions honor 18 with Heritage Awards

May 4 2009 by BR staff

North Carolina Baptist agencies and institutions honored 18 for outstanding service during the annual Baptist Heritage Awards dinner April 28 at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro.

BR photo

Dr. Kenneth Locklear, a doctor in Red Springs, received a Baptist Heritage Award from the Biblical Recorder.

Each year participating organizations honor an individual or couple who has served with exemplary vigor.

The event is sponsored by the North Carolina Baptist Foundation and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

BSC President Rick Speas made reference to sports halls of fame, and said those being honored represented the North Carolina Baptist “hall of living faith.”

He recognized that the honorees’ humility prompts them to say, “Anyone could do what I’ve done.”
“But they didn’t,” said Speas, “and you did.”

“Your contributions are making a significant impact on God’s kingdom,” he said.

  • Jacque Goodwin Burgess, by Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH). BCH President Michael Blackwell lauded Burgess’ enthusiasm as a trustee and said she attacks every task with “gusto, gumption and gratitude.” A career day care consultant she has taught 4-year-old Sunday School for 53 years.
  • Lee and Carroll Flowe, by the Baptist State Convention. The Flowes, married 59 years, traveled the country helping to build churches and lead Vacation Bible Schools. They coordinated the State Fair ministry for 17 years.
  • Kenneth Locklear, by Biblical Recorder. Locklear, a doctor in Red Springs, led a medical missions team from Burnt Swamp Association to the Philippines and arranged a life changing surgical operation for a child there.
  • Carlton and Lynell Martin, by Campbell University. The largest beef producers in North Carolina through Martins Abattoir and Wholesale Meats, the Campbell trustees are stalwarts in industry, the Clement community and Clement Baptist Church.
  • Bruce and Esther Whitaker by Chowan University. Bruce, who could not attend for health reasons, was president of Chowan for 32 years, lifting its profile and building into a significant institution in northeastern North Carolina. Esther was a popular faculty member and first lady.
  • Kenneth Ridings, by Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute. Ridings, who retired Dec. 31, taught homiletics at Fruitland for more than 40 years and was president the last 11.
  • John and Linda Godbold, by Gardner-Webb University. Gifts from Godbolds established the Godbold School of Business at Gardner-Webb, where business will be taught with commitment to Christian ethics.
  • Harold Newman, by Mars Hill College. During a distinguished medical career during which Newman was chief of surgery and chief of staff at both Cape Fear Valley Medical Center and Highsmith-Rainey Memorial Hospital he has made 22 international medical mission trips, primarily as a relief surgeon.
  • Robert Howard, by the North Carolina Baptist Foundation. Howard researches property gifts to the Baptist Foundation and was the guiding force behind the Foundation’s new church loan service.
  • J. Dewey Hobbs, by North Carolina Baptist Hospital. A high profile pastor for decades, Hobbs led Baptist Hospital’s pastoral care ministry. He was one of three co-founders of the Center for Congregational Health in 1992 to help churches manage conflict.
  • Jim Burchette, by N.C. Baptist Men. Burchette has volunteered with N.C. Baptist Men for more than 40 years, including fulltime since 2000. He has coordinated projects in Israel, Gaza, Latvia, Ukraine, Armenia and others.
  • Don and Anita Taft by Wingate University. For 45 years members of Pritchard Memorial Baptist Church in Charlotte, the Tafts have led church renewal efforts in more than 100 churches from Alaska to Vermont.
  • Lucille Yancey, by Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) of North Carolina. Since she was a member of the Girls’ Auxiliary as a child, Yancey has been involved in WMU, serving in every leadership capacity imaginable on the church, associational and state level.

5/4/2009 7:39:00 AM by BR staff | with 0 comments

Pastor survives deer encounter

May 4 2009 by Steve Huffman, Special to the Recorder

Trading Ford Baptist Church pastor Mike Motley avoided the first deer he saw while riding his motorcycle home March 31, but collided with the second and did a belly flop on asphalt at 30 miles per hour.

According to a story in the Salisbury Post, Motley, 48, was wearing a leather jacket he’d owned for 20 years. It was shredded by the asphalt, but did what it was supposed to do, leaving Motley “with a basic road rash.”

Motley resisted a trip to the hospital that night, but the next day he was in so much pain his nurse wife Sandy drove him to the hospital in Lexington, where a CT scan revealed a ruptured spleen.

During the night he’d lost 20 percent of his blood through internal bleeding.

Doctors told him he needed to go immediately to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem to have his spleen removed.

But a miraculous thing happened en route to Winston-Salem. Motley’s spleen quit bleeding. He said a doctor at Baptist gave him some encouraging news.

“Someone who knows more than I do wants you to keep your spleen,” Motley said, and paused: “He was referring to the Lord.”

Motley said his full recovery will take several months, but not a day passes that he doesn’t pause to give thanks that his injuries weren’t more severe than they were.

“I’m a believer in Jesus Christ,” Motley said. “My life is in His hands. If He was through with me, I’d be with Him in heaven.

“The fact that I’m here, that shows He’s got more for me to do.”

Motley has been minister at Trading Ford Baptist for 10 years.

The church is one of Rowan County’s fastest-growing, drawing about 350 people on a typical Sunday. A new sanctuary was completed just last year.

“The Lord has been good to us,” Motley said. “We’re very grateful.”

Motley plans to continue riding motorcycles, something he’s done since age 19.

The Bandit on which he crashed is a big 1200 cc model that he just purchased in February. Motley also kept his previous motorcycle, a Suzuki 1100 that has 67,000 miles showing on its odometer.

“I’ve ridden thousands and thousands and thousands of miles,” he said. “I’m more wary now, especially when I’m riding through highly populated deer areas.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Huffman writes for the Salisbury Post.)

5/4/2009 7:38:00 AM by Steve Huffman, Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments

NCBAM awards first grant to Jacksonville church

May 4 2009 by Blake Ragsdale, BCH Communications

JACKSONVILLE — The North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM) has awarded its first grant to help Brookwood Baptist Church’s expanding ministry to senior adults in Jacksonville.

Leadership of the recently established NCBAM considers it a priority to assist a church’s efforts to develop new programs and outreach to the aging.

“We are excited about Brookwood Baptist Church’s enthusiasm and focus to grow its ministry and provide new programs to the aging population,” said Michael C. Blackwell, president of Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, the umbrella organization for NCBAM.

“We want to be a part of their expansion efforts. The church’s intentions are directly in-line with the mission of NCBAM,” said Blackwell.

BSC photo by K Brown

Brookwood Baptist Church in Jacksonville received a $10,000 grant from the North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry to aid in the church's expansion of its outreach to senior adults in the Onslow County area. The check was presented at the Baptist State Convention's building in Cary. Left to right: Roy Parker, Brookwood Baptist pastor to senior adults; David Gasperson, Brookwood Baptist pastor; Michael C. Blackwell, Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina president; and Milton A. Hollifield Jr., Baptist State Convention of North Carolina executive director-treasurer.

NCBAM grant recipients, such as churches and associations of churches, will help aging adults maintain their independence and quality of life.

The ministry focuses on providing information and referrals, on connecting the aging and their families with resources to meet needs, and on coordinating practical ministries.

A rigorous application and screening process is part of the grant process.

Brookwood Baptist, with a 15-year history of serving senior adults in Jacksonville, will use the $10,000 grant to create outreach for senior adults through its new program named “Senior-versity.”

Senior-versity will offer classes and service opportunities for aging adults across Onslow County.

Classes include short-term academic, crafts, gardening, biblical study, health and fitness and a variety of other activities. Through the new program, the church will partner with NCBAM and hopes to work in tandem with the New River Baptist Association in Jacksonville and other area churches to expand the outreach.

“We are very excited about the   partnership with  NCBAM,” said Brookwood Baptist Church senior pastor David Gasperson.

“We wish to develop new programs that will address unmet needs of seniors, or readdress the way we currently meet needs, that exhibits God’s love.”

“Senior-versity is a concept that will allow us to accomplish these goals and provide partnership opportunities with other churches in our Baptist association as well as other organizations,” Gasperson said.

This summer, the church is working with the music department at East Carolina University to conduct a 16-week research study. As many as 70 area seniors will study a musical instrument to research the effect of music training on the aging.

“The keys are addressing needs by implementing dynamic ideas and programs and then partnering with churches and organizations to undertake and enhance their own ministries,” Blackwell said. “If NCBAM can undergird more churches, such as Brookwood Baptist, we can begin building a statewide network to support and meet the needs of the aging population.”

NCBAM’s leadership is focused on efforts to expand its network of ministry. The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s executive director-treasurer Milton A. Hollifield, Jr. believes Brookwood Baptist Church is the right place to begin.

“David Gasperson and the entire congregation possess a passion and resolve to serve senior adults in need,” Hollifield said.

“This grant is a compassionate provision from the churches of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and is given in gratitude for all that this congregation has done and will do to advance senior adult ministry in the years to come.”

5/4/2009 7:33:00 AM by Blake Ragsdale, BCH Communications | with 0 comments

Joe McKeever retiring from DOM post

May 1 2009 by Jennifer Davis Rash, Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS — Kay Bennett remembers the day Joe McKeever visited a group of girls in the Up 2 Hope summer program at Baptist Friendship House in New Orleans where she serves as director.
“Joe is a person who makes everyone feel comfortable around him — even a group of girls, (most of whom) came from an abusive background,” Bennett said. “He came in, sat down with the girls, pulled out his pen and sketch pad and began to sketch the girls. One by one, he sat there and drew a caricature of each of the girls.”
But it wasn’t just the sketches that caught Bennett’s attention. It was the way McKeever got to know each of the 30 girls individually, Bennett said.
“He was present with them, never judging, only encouraging and lifting them up. He brought smiles to every one of their faces.
“He was Jesus at the well with the Samaritan women that day,” Bennett said. “He is a man God has uniquely gifted to brighten peoples’ lives with his talent and to share Jesus’ love.”
This is a story one will hear over and over and over again about McKeever, who retired as director of missions (DOM) for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans (BAGNO) April 30.
Born near Nauvoo, Ala., in 1940, McKeever spent his young adult years in Birmingham and experienced the coal fields of West Virginia as a child. He also has lived in Mississippi, North Carolina and Louisiana, specifically New Orleans, twice now.

Photo by Boyd Guy

Joe McKeever retired April 30 after five years as director of missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans, including the challenge of Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath.

The fourth of six children, McKeever was called to the ministry at West End Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1961. He earned master of theology and doctor of ministry degrees from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1967 and 1973. He and his wife Margaret have three children and eight grandchildren.
Before accepting the DOM position in New Orleans five years ago, McKeever served 14 years as pastor of First Baptist Church in Kenner, La. He previously served 12 years as pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C. He also served churches in Mississippi and near New Orleans. In Alabama, he served as pastor of Unity Baptist Church in Kimberly before he headed to seminary in the 1960s.
While most people might identify McKeever with his famous caricatures, he gained a different kind of prominence after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“I watched him provide a place for pastors, many of whom traveled long distances, to gather in the weeks and months that followed Hurricane Katrina’s devastation in New Orleans,” said Richard Leach, team leader of the North American Mission Board’s servant/ministry evangelism team.
“He is calming. Because of his character, walk with the Lord and ability to draw, he is the right man for stressful times,” Leach said. “I have observed how God uses his drawing to relieve stress and tension through seeing an element of humor in difficult situations.
“His response to the needs of pastors made it very clear why God had called him to be the director of missions for BAGNO,” Leach said.
McKeever said it was Katrina that clarified his calling to the association in New Orleans.
Though not sure why he agreed to a five-year stint as DOM at first, he said when the levees began to breach on that August day, his heart knew the answer. Esther 4:14 came to mind: “And who knoweth whether thou are come to the Kingdom for such a time as this?”
“After Katrina, they needed a pastor,” McKeever said of the 100 or so pastors he serves in the association. “(They needed) somebody who knew them and loved them, and I knew them and loved them.”
Since then, he has coordinated relief efforts and worked to build an emotional and spiritual foundation upon which the association’s scattered pastors could rebuild their churches.
In the storm’s immediate aftermath, the blog he has maintained at since 2003 became an invaluable one-stop news source for en route volunteers and displaced congregations. That blog also has helped untold followers along their own faith journeys.

James “Bo” Brown, pastor of Community Baptist Church in Maylene, Ala., said a friend sent him a devotional written by McKeever “many years ago ... and here would begin a relationship, one-sided for a while, that would shape this young minister’s life.”
“I would read every word, gaining affirmation or conviction, finding in each piece biblical truths that I desperately desired,” Brown said. “I found no puffed theology but rather words that were real, speaking of life and experiences common to us all.
“The words impacted me and still do,” he said. “I am honored to now be able to call Joe not only my mentor but my friend as well.”
Another friend of McKeever is Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, who considers McKeever “a renaissance leader among Southern Baptists.”
“Since I first became acquainted with him more than three decades ago, I have been impressed with his artistic abilities, his winsome spirit and his gifts in pastoral ministry and as a communicator of the gospel,” Lance said. “Joe is the personification of Romans 12:1–2. He has devoted his total self to serving the Lord, with every talent and gift God has provided him.”
Lance described McKeever as “a contemporary Barnabas for those of us who serve alongside him as ministers and church leaders.”
“He is more than a fellow laborer; Joe is a friend who stands with you in a time of need,” Lance said.
Mickey Caison, who leads the adult volunteer mobilization department at NAMB and has spent many weeks in the New Orleans area post-Katrina, also spoke highly of McKeever.
“Joe is a person with a very compassionate heart. He provided very strong leadership in the aftermath and recovery from Hurricane Katrina,” Caison said. “He began immediately to gather the pastors and minister to them. His working with the pastors helped sustain and develop relationships within the association and with partners all over the nation.”
In true McKeever fashion, he explains his “calling” to sketch:
“When I was 5 years old, Mom gave me and my little sister Carolyn pencil and paper and put us at the kitchen table and told us to draw,” McKeever said. “I discovered I loved to draw. The next year in the first grade, the rest of the class would gather around and watch me draw. To this day, I can outdraw any group of first-graders you’ve ever met.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Rash is managing editor of The Alabama Baptist. McKeever’s cartoons can be accessed through Baptist Press.)

5/1/2009 2:47:00 AM by Jennifer Davis Rash, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Does your church have communications plan?

May 1 2009 by Rob Phillips, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — When Illinois pastor Fred Winters was gunned down while preaching to his congregation March 8, church leaders across the country rightly began asking tough questions about security. What they may have overlooked, however, were questions about how to communicate in a crisis: Who should speak? What should they say? Why should they talk to the news media? How soon, how often and with whom should they communicate? Basically, how can a church be prepared to handle communications when the unthinkable occurs?

In a crisis, does your church know how to handle the media? See Q&A: Working with the news media.

Most large organizations, from multinational corporations to universities, have crisis communications plans, and so should churches, no matter their size. Whether yours is a mega-church with scores of staff members or a small congregation with a bivocational pastor, it’s vital to have a plan. And it begins by addressing some simple questions.
What is a crisis?
According to the Institute for Crisis Management (ICM), every crisis begins as a problem. A problem becomes a crisis when it escapes the organization before its people can control it. Based on this premise, a church may define a crisis as a significant disruption in normal activities that stimulates media coverage and public scrutiny.
What types of crises should we expect?
Crises generally fall into two categories, according to ICM. First is the sudden crisis that occurs with little warning. Examples include natural disasters such as floods or tornadoes; accidents such as food poisoning at potluck suppers; sabotage or vandalism of church property; the sudden death of a church leader; bomb threats; and injury or death on church property.
The second type is the smoldering crisis, a potentially damaging condition that is known to one or more persons. According to ICM research, 77 percent of crises are of the “smoldering” type. Examples include scandals such as embezzlement of church funds; immorality or ethical breaches; picketing of church facilities; blogging campaigns against the church or church members; even theological issues that divide congregations and expose the church to public ridicule.
How do we plan for a crisis?
First, keep in mind that a crisis communications plan is distinct from an operational plan designed to deal with church security, evacuation procedures and other emergencies, yet it should complement any church’s operational plan. Here are tips for getting started:
  • Define your crisis. State clearly and in writing the types of sudden and smoldering crises most likely to disrupt your church’s activities and stimulate media coverage and public scrutiny.
  • Recruit a crisis communications team. Identify members who can serve in key roles during a crisis. Consider appointing a director of communications who manages the team (a trusted leader in the church who is a good organizer); a spokesperson (someone comfortable addressing the news media and other external audiences); a congregational liaison who ensures church members are communicated with early and often; an administrator who handles calls to the church and manages office support; and a writer who works with the team to draft clear and consistent messages.
Other team members may be necessary such as logistics specialists to set up a news conference, secure office supplies and arrange for meals and other necessities; graphic designers; photographers; telephone operators; etc. Keep the team fairly small and identify backups for each position. Publish cell phone numbers for each team member and backup.
  • Know your audiences. List the key people with whom you must communicate in a crisis. This list might include church members, neighbors, the general public, the associational and/or state convention office, etc. Once you’ve identified who you need to reach, determine how you’ll reach them. Consider using your church website, e-mail lists, e-newsletters, telephone calls, a public address system, written or spoken statements to the news media, news conferences, etc. Assign the best delivery system for each audience; for example, church members may be reached most quickly via e-mail, website or telephone, depending on church size and organization.
  • Know your mission. What’s the mission of your church? Make sure it comes through clearly in your communications. Think about how a crisis impacts your mission, what you must do to address the crisis and how you must stay focused on your mission in a crisis.
  • Involve your congregation. Put together a simple step-by-step response plan that your crisis communications team will carry out. Make sure each member of that team, as well as your church staff, has a copy. Be sure your congregation knows you have a plan and how to alert church leaders in the event of a potential crisis. Also, make sure everyone has access to public statements during a crisis. This will enable and empower them to talk to their families, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Your members are perhaps the most effective spokespersons for the church — if they are informed, equipped and empowered. Finally, make sure they know that only designated spokespersons should speak with the news media.
  • Be specific. Here is a simple step-by-step plan:
    • Step 1 — Any church member should notify the crisis communications director immediately upon hearing of a situation or problem that may become a crisis. The director will seek to verify the information and evaluate the situation to determine whether it truly is a crisis or potential crisis.
    • Step 2 — The director activates the crisis communications team, calling or texting each member immediately.
    • Step 3 — The team meets within 30 minutes, in person or via phone, to assess the situation, prepare a short statement, develop key messages and put the right people in place.
    • Step 4 — The congregational liaison (internal) and spokesperson (external) deliver an initial statement within one hour of being notified of the crisis. Church members should have access to all information being made public and, if possible, receive that information before or at the same time it is being released to the public. Use the most appropriate delivery systems — news conference, web posting, e-mail, etc.
    • Step 5 — The team develops and delivers additional statements as more information becomes available. These are provided to church members as they are released to the public.
    • Step 6 — If the crisis is a sustained one, the team calls upon additional resources to organize shifts, arrange for catering of food, etc.
    • Step 7 — The team shuts down when it is determined the situation is no longer of media interest or public scrutiny. Other arrangements related to the church’s operational plan may still be needed — an alternative worship site if the church building has been destroyed, for example, and the crisis communications team may need to help transition to normal communications channels.
    • Step 8 — Debrief. What worked well and what didn’t? How should the crisis communications plan be improved for future preparations?
  • Practice. No plan is perfect, but practice will help improve your church’s plan. Assemble your crisis communications team once or twice a year for drills. Role play. Involve church members. Hold mock news conferences. Work the plan and adjust it.
Finally, consider media training for your crisis communications team from consultants recommended to you from reliable sources in your city or within your state Baptist convention.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Phillips is director of communications for LifeWay Christian Resources. Previously, he served on crisis communications teams for multinational corporations.)
See Q&A: Working with the news media.

5/1/2009 2:37:00 AM by Rob Phillips, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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