May 2010

Baptist Men take ministry to new heights

May 31 2010 by Rick Houston, Special to the Recorder

In Ephesians, Paul writes that some Christians are called to be apostles, others to be prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.

Today, still others are called to be pilots. Members of the North Carolina Baptist Men’s Aviation ministry have combined their passions for flying and Christ to touch countless lives in countless ways. There really doesn’t seem to be a job description as such … if someone needs help, the group will do everything in its power to help out. That’s borne out in what could best be described as a rather eclectic resume.

Partnering with the Angel Flight organization, fliers of the North Carolina Baptist Men’s Aviation Ministry have flown people in a number of different emergency situations. There have been trips to Haiti and areas ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. Patients and their families have been flown to and from Randleman, N.C.’s Victory Junction Gang Camp, a sprawling complex for chronically and terminally ill children.

Prayers have been prayed over – quite literally – the North and South Carolina state capitol buildings. Youngsters receive plane rides to help foster a love for aviation. At the heart of a long list of services, the N.C. Baptist Men’s Aviation ministry is a group based on passion for what it does.

Contributed photo

Bob Joyner enjoys being able to share his love of flying with serving those in need through North Carolina Baptist Men’s aviation ministry.

Bob Joyner has long loved aviation. A member of a Mooresville-based flying club that owns two four-seat, single-engine Cessna 172s, Joyner first began using his talent and interest in flying to serve others about 10 years ago. Now, he is the state coordinator for the North Carolina Baptist Men’s Aviation Ministry.     

“I really couldn’t see myself involved in anything that I really couldn’t use to serve the Lord and serve others,” Joyner says. “Anything that I did like that, I would want to ensure that I was able to do that, to use it in some way to serve. It’s just a way to use my talents, skills and gifts that God gave me to serve others.”

Obviously, flying isn’t for everyone. For Joyner, however, it’s a great way to get away from it all.

“To me, flying is exciting,” Joyner says. “It’s not something that everybody does. It’s a little bit different. When I’m by myself, when I go up, I just feel a sense of freedom. On a Friday evening, if I want to go up to just knock around and leave the work week behind, I’ll shoot an e-mail to a couple of buddies and they’ll want to go up, too. The people that are involved in the ministry, everybody has the same passion.”

Another rather unique ministry opportunity for the group amounts to a “church of the week” program.

“We fly over, maybe take a picture, get it developed and (put it in the mail) with a note on the back, ‘Prayed for you today.’”

Imagine the impact that kind of contact could make on a congregation. The wide range of ministry opportunities that it takes on is quite humbling, from fun days at a local airport with a group of children to somber trips transporting family members in the midst of crisis.

Here’s how different the missions of the North Carolina Baptist Men’s Aviation Ministry can be. A few years back, members flew local Royal Ambassador and Girls In Actions groups out of an airport in Elkin.

“We took the kids up and most of them, their churches were close enough to where we could just fly over and let them say a prayer over their church,” Joyner says. “We had real good participation that day. We spent most of the day at the airport … it was a good day.”

On the other hand, however, Joyner recalls this sad mission as one of his most memorable.

“On Labor Day (2009), I had someone who had a relative who had passed away up in Manassas, Va.,” Joyner concludes. “His son had been killed in a traffic accident, and that was his sister I was flying (home from the funeral). He was telling me how much it meant to have her there. Every (mission) is different and has different meaning, but that kind of touched me, just knowing that we helped facilitate having her there in his time of need.”
5/31/2010 6:36:00 AM by Rick Houston, Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments

Pastor found guilty of sexual battery

May 31 2010 by wire reports

A Gaston County judge found King James Baptist Church’s pastor guilty May 25 of two counts of sexual battery.

Harley Michael Keough, 73, was charged with 10 counts of sexual battery and one count of assault on a female. His sentence: a 60-day suspended sentence and 18 months probation.

Keough will also undergo a sexual offender evaluation, submit a DNA sample to the state and be added to the sexual offender registry.

Keough has been charged with 10 counts of sexual battery and one charge of assault on a female for instances that allegedly happened between 2006 and 2009. Only two of the counts were being tried at this time because they occurred on the same day.

In his defense Keough said he never inappropriately touched women at the food bank. He claimed one of his accusers was angry because she was refused food. Keough did say that he hugged one of the women, but said he did so because his church is a loving church.

While on the witness stand, Keough said that he couldn’t have done anything wrong because he has erectile dysfunction.

On May 24, several women testified against Keough. They all said the assaults happened while visiting the Bessemer City church-run food bank.

Keough’s arrest came in November 2009 after a woman complained to police. After his arrest, others began to share similar stories.  
5/31/2010 6:17:00 AM by wire reports | with 1 comments

Servant stands strong

May 31 2010 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

Mount Vernon Baptist Church on Falls of Neuse Road in Raleigh once sat in a rural part of town. The two-lane road out in front of the church didn’t seem to lead much of anywhere, and city planners said the area would never grow and the 35-member church would always be a rural church.

That was 32 years ago. The two-lane road turned into a four-lane road leading to shopping malls and restaurants, and 35 members turned into more than 600. Shannon Scott is the first and only full time pastor of Mount Vernon. When he met with church leaders 32 years ago they told him their church would die soon if something did not change. Scott did not let their honesty and a seemingly unpromising situation turn him away.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Shannon Scott, center, visits at the May Baptist State Convention of North Carolina board meeting with Joel Stephens, left, and Don McCutcheon.

“Do I know God called me here? Absolutely,” Scott said. When he came the church did not have a big facility or many ministries; they didn’t really have much at all. Yet, Scott said during those early years “God was building a base of dedicated people. They came because God called them.” Scott can still look out Sunday mornings and see scattered throughout the congregation leaders who have been with him for nearly 32 years.

When Scott arrived at Mount Vernon he preached God’s word, and people came to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. When he first arrived the church had no Sunday School teachers, but after praying for laborers to be sent into the field, Sunday School teachers came. “God’s hand was on it,” Scott said. “The Lord saved us.”

Throughout the years Scott faithfully served the Lord, and the Lord has changed lives through the ministry of Mount Vernon. The church is now intentional with their evangelism efforts and people are being called out to share the gospel in areas of the world with no gospel witness. Scott continues to watch as new families come into the church and God grows them up to be leaders in the church and community.

Change did not happen overnight and at times Scott did consider leaving. When God never provided a way out Scott knew he needed to stay where he was, for God had work left for him to do. Scott encourages younger pastors not to get discouraged when life is hard, for sometimes the church needs to see that the pastor “can take a storm. Sometimes God’s people need to see if this man is going to stand up in trouble.”

Serving in one place so many years has challenged Scott to “dig personally.” “I can’t preach the same sermons I preached 10 years ago,” he said. Preaching to the same congregation week after week requires even greater Bible study and sermon preparation. “You’ve got to give them something new. You can’t live off what you’ve gotten in seminary or at a Bible conference.”  

Scott plans to continue serving the Lord many more years. “I’m ready to do whatever He wants me to do,” he said. “With God, you can’t dream big enough.”
5/31/2010 6:13:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Alexis seeks, meets neighborhood needs

May 31 2010 by BR staff and press releases

Alexis Baptist Church has responded in the past couple years with specific ministries to meet community needs that involve members “reaching out at home.”

Recognizing they are “bombarded with requests” prompted by needs created by wars, disasters, and by people suffering without basic necessities, church members decided they would no longer overlook the suffering of neighbors “in their own backyard.”

Alexis has begun an ongoing home missions project to find and meet needs of those around the church. Since they started the project last year, members have met needs “from the most basic, to the most drastic,” according to church member Rebecca Rebels.

Contributed photo

David Lanham, leader of Alexis Baptist Church’s Neighborhood Missions Ministry, wears protective gear while serving on a project.

“The Alexis family understands there are things in this life that cause reasons people cannot accomplish things on their own, whether it be from lack of money, lack of skills or lack of assistance,” said Rebels in a story provided to the Biblical Recorder

The church built a growing list of volunteers with a variety of talents who are following the Great Commission to go and tell, and they are telling and showing by going and caring. Volunteers have remodeled and repaired a kitchen, a bathroom and an entire mobile home that was damaged by renters’ dogs.

They have replaced steps, repaired decks, painted storage buildings and garages. They’ve repaired gutters and downspouts to direct water away from home foundations. 

Others have had handrails installed or entire wheelchair ramps. They have cleaned decks, built walkways, repaired roofs and installed storm windows. They have built a turtle box, a dog entrance and a bunk bed.

Together they have repaired, rebuilt and installed playground equipment, cubbies and book storage for a preschool. They have even stepped up as a well-honed, well-equipped team and built a home. 

“From the simple to the extensive, nothing has been too difficult when it comes to caring for our neighbors,” said Rebels.

“Our Lord instructed us to take care of the poor and the widows. He instructed us to minister to those in need.

“The faithful at Alexis have taken that to heart to show our neighbors the love and compassion of Jesus, our Lord and King.”

 This ongoing community care “snowballed” into a volunteer response of 80 persons for each of two Operation Inasmuch weekends this spring, said pastor Sandy Marks.
5/31/2010 6:08:00 AM by BR staff and press releases | with 0 comments

Board discusses Fruitland satellites, CP

May 28 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute will begin three satellite campuses by October President David Horton told the Baptist State Convention (BSC) board of directors May 26.

Other business of the board, meeting on its regular schedule at Caraway Conference Center, was routine until the closing minutes. Austin Rammell, pastor of Venture, moved that the board ask its executive committee to study the feasibility of replacing “non-priority missions items” in the Cooperative Program budget with items “we say are our priority” that are now funded primarily through the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO).

Before he made his motion Rammell apologized to BSC Executive Director-Treasurer Milton Hollifield Jr., saying “God had to grow me up some” in his four years on the board and his “passion sometimes gets ahead of me and I’ve sometimes been over critical and that can come off as arrogant.”

During his board term Rammell has often pushed in discussions for the budget to fund the priorities currently included in the North Carolina Missions Offering. He feels that will both diminish the need for special offerings and increase the eagerness of churches like his to support the Cooperative Program (CP).

The NCMO’s priority items are church planting and Baptist Men, which coordinates two of the highest profile ministries under the Convention’s umbrella: partnerships and disaster relief. If those are truly Convention priorities, Rammell reasons, they should be fully funded through the Cooperative Program and not dependent on a special offering.

“The problem is not marketing for the Cooperative Program,” Rammell said. “GenX pastors get it. The problem is CP itself … changing how we spend our money is the key, not just changing how we market how we spend our money.”

John Butler, BSC executive leader for business services, said because all entities share the rise or fall of Cooperative Program giving, the priorities in the NCMO would have received less money had they been in the CP budget last year than they received through the special offering. Board member Don Greene said such a change would require a reeducation process for everyone and “there would be chaos in all the churches” because “it takes years to do that, to reeducate everybody.”

After a clarification that the motion’s only intent is to ask the executive committee to examine the feasibility of such a move, the motion passed on a raised hand vote with many abstentions. The executive committee’s findings are due back to the board in September.  

Fruitland satellites
Horton, making his report one year after starting as president of the Bible Institute, said satellite campuses were a clear dream from his first days.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

David Phelps, left, director of missions in Atlantic Baptist Association, lobbies Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute President David Horton for a satellite campus in New Bern.

He learned when he took office that directors of missions had advocated for Fruitland satellites for years. Two hispanic satellites will open in July, one in Winston-Salem and one in Warsaw at Eastern Baptist Association. A third satellite, to open by October, will be in Union Baptist Association in Monroe.

Horton anticipates as many as five new satellites starting in 2011.

“We want to move slowly but methodically, to make sure the campuses we start will be done right to assure long-term success,” Horton said.

He anticipates costs to be just $150 per course, including textbooks.

Acknowledging the “difficult days for all of us,” Horton said, “I’m just a firm believer that we’ve got to put something out there in front of people so they have something they want to give to and be a part of … We’re gearing up to move forward. We’re not crying retreat.”  

Three soldiers in uniform received a standing ovation when they came to report on chaplaincy ministries in which North Carolina Baptists are involved.

Larry Jones, who works with military/chaplaincy ministries in BSC’s congregational services, is a colonel in the National Guard about to begin a four-month leave of absence from the BSC to direct a government funded study to determine ways faith communities can be more effectively utilized in helping soldiers deal with the stresses of returning from the battlefield.

Chaplain Capt. Tommy Watson, who just returned from Iraq, said chaplains have an opportunity to minister to the “subgroup” that is soldiers.

“We have a group of people who want to put their lives on the line, literally, to serve their country and to serve you,” Watson said. “Many are in our churches. If they’re not in your church, they’re probably in your neighborhood.”

The chaplains want to see churches rally around soldiers and soldiers’ families even those outside the church family. 

Watson said when that happens, both the military family and the church will be strengthened.

When soldiers tell him about a problem at home Watson said his best resource is always to call a church at home and ask them to go see the family.

Watson said he hears so many stories for which he has no answer other than Jesus. But churches can fill in gaps at home that will make a real difference.

Military families are real workers, Watson said. Their involvement in a local church will strengthen that church. 

“They want to get in there and do something,” he said. “They need to be invited. They’re probably not going to come to you first unless it’s like they come to me with a bank account that’s empty or a home torn apart.”  

Other reports
With CP income through April 9 percent below the same period last year, budget committee chair Steve Hardy said he anticipates a lower budget for 2011.

Cameron McGill, chairman of the social services committee, reported enthusiastically about the 125th anniversary activities of Baptist Children’s Homes, the thousands of persons receiving counseling through Baptist CareNet and of the new senior adult ministries through North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministries, which receives an average of 30 calls per day asking for help connecting to services.

“These are great days in spite of a few bumps along the road because of the ministries that are being done, and I’m thankful for that,” said McGill, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dublin.

Dana Hall, president of N.C. Baptist Men said the older of two widely used medical/dental buses is worn out and must be replaced. A new vehicle will cost as much as $400,000.

The Church Planting and Missions Development Committee reported 112 churches in the funding cycle for the first quarter of 2010.

Embrace women’s ministry is taking its first international mission trip — to Argentina. They plan to hold teas to host locals, prayer walk, visit in the schools and do evangelism activities.

Fifteen teams are scheduled to help Baptists in the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association this summer, including two construction teams and 13 evangelism teams.

Fruitland students will participate in an Urban Plunge in New York, as well.
5/28/2010 5:38:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Judge allows clergy housing tax case to proceed

May 28 2010 by Fernando Alfonso III, Religion News Service

A federal judge has rejected a motion filed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to dismiss a California lawsuit that challenges tax breaks ministers can receive on housing.

Section 107 of the Internal Revenue Code allows housing-related tax breaks for clergy. The tax write-offs have been permitted for ministers of all faiths since the 1950s.

In a May 21 ruling, U.S. District Judge William Shubb stated that “plaintiffs have alleged sufficient facts which, if accepted as true, ‘leave open the possibility’ that ... Section 107 goes too far in aiding and subsidizing religion by providing ministers and churches with tangible financial benefits not allowed secular employers and employees.”

The suit was filed by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, which earlier this year won a court case seeking to overturn the law that sanctions the National Day of Prayer. That case is currently on appeal.

“We have a very, very strong case,” said co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor. “This is very unconstitutional. We do not regard this as a symbolic attempt, or a shot in the dark. We have very strong facts behind us. ... Ministers of gospel should not be given a privilege that no other tax payer is given.”
5/28/2010 2:18:00 AM by Fernando Alfonso III, Religion News Service | with 5 comments

Hunt, Floyd address NAMB

May 26 2010 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Delivering the devotional to trustees of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) at their May 19 meeting in Kansas City, Mo., Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (GCRTF) chairman Ronnie Floyd said he’s “never had a greater passion than I do today to see that North America and the world have a gospel witness for Jesus Christ.”

“How long has it been since you’ve re-thought what you’re being asked to do on this board?” asked Floyd, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark. “Pause and get your heart around that. God has entrusted you with the privilege of sitting on this board and to operate as a team to develop a heart, passion and vision to reach North America with the gospel. I have a big spiritual word for that — ‘Wow!’”

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Johnny Hunt, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., also attended but did not speak at the meeting. He addressed NAMB trustees in an informal gathering the night before when he and Floyd discussed details of the recent GCRTF recommendations and took questions from trustees.

NAMB trustees elected Tim Dowdy, pastor of Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga., as the board’s new chairman. Dowdy has served for two years as the board’s first vice chairman. Elected first vice chairman: Doug Dieterly, an attorney who serves as executive pastor of Plymouth Baptist Church in Plymouth, Ind.; second vice chairman, Ric Camp, pastor of Sonrise Baptist Church in Mobile, Ala.

Photo by Mickey Noah

Tim Dowdy, center, newly elected chairman of the North American Mission Board’s trustees and pastor of Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga., congratulates Ric Camp, left, new second vice chairman of the board and pastor of Sonrise Baptist Church, Mobile, Ala., and Indiana attorney Doug Dieterly, first vice chairman of the NAMB Board. Dieterly is a member of Plymouth (Ind.) Baptist Church.

The search for a new NAMB president continues, Ted Traylor, chairman of the president search team and pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., reported.

“Although the announcement of a nominee is not imminent, the team is making progress,” Traylor said in comments after the meeting.

While Traylor’s eight-year term as a NAMB trustee expires in mid-June, trustees voted in executive session to allow him to continue to chair the search team. The extension gives Traylor a vote on the search committee, but he will not have a vote when the entire board of trustees ultimately decides on a new president of NAMB.

In addition to Traylor, other members of the NAMB president search team are trustees Tim Dowdy; Doug Dieterly; Larry Gipson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Oneonta, Ala.; Chuck Herring, senior pastor of Collierville (Tenn.) First Baptist Church; Lisa Knutsen, an elementary school teacher from Las Vegas; Mike Palmer, pastor of Salmon Valley Baptist Church and Lemhi River Cowboy Church, Salmon, Idaho; and ex-officio member Tim Patterson, outgoing NAMB trustee chairman and senior pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla.

In his remarks to the trustees, interim NAMB President Richard Harris rhetorically asked whether NAMB’s staff and trustees will face the future with faith or fear.

“NAMB’s future has been described by some — not me — as broken and which can’t be fixed,” Harris said. “I’ve heard others say NAMB is ineffective and insignificant — that NAMB has no future and has squandered its opportunities.

“The day I think those things, I’ll walk out the door. If you believe NAMB is ineffective, insignificant or has squandered opportunities — whether you’re on the staff or a trustee — you ought to resign and go home. I think NAMB has a greater future that most of us can imagine,” Harris said.

Harris said he agrees with the assessment of longtime SBC attorney Jim Guenther, who has stated that “As NAMB goes, so goes the SBC.”

Harris said the mission board’s work and purpose has not changed: to lead the Southern Baptist Convention to evangelize and congregationalize North America in order to penetrate the continent’s vast lostness, encompassing some 258 million non-believers, or three of every four North Americans.

“Ladies and gentlemen, staff and trustees, this is our watch,” Harris said. “We’re going to stand before God and give an account of the decisions we made, the faith we exercised and the directions we took. In my humble conviction, this may be the most crucial year in the history of NAMB, the staff and the trustees.

“We need to stop looking in the rearview mirror and get our eyes on where the Lord is leading. We need to commit to a new cooperation and collaboration by those in this room. We need to bring forth creative ideas — pooling the ideas of the best missiological thinkers.

“We need a new model of partnership among the national agencies, state conventions and associations — a partnership to build the Kingdom, not our kingdom. We need to work together to help churches partner and succeed in fulfilling the Great Commission. Most important, we need a fresh touch from above and to be empowered by the Holy Spirit.”

Harris highlighted the positive results of several recent NAMB initiatives:
  • the commissioning of 88 new missionaries and chaplains on May 16 at Lenexa (Kan.) Baptist Church in Lenexa, Kan. the upcoming deployment of 437 semester missionaries and 745 summer missionaries.
  • coordination of the delivery of 155,000 Buckets of Hope in Haiti, with major support from state conventions, associations and local churches. As a result of Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers and Haitian Baptists, more than 135,000 professions of faith have been recorded since the earthquake on Jan. 12; for every two DR workers, there have been two professions of faith. So far 135 new Baptist churches have been planted in Haiti since the earthquake.
  • success in the March 1-April 30 God’s Plan for Sharing (GPS) campaign, with 10,500 churches participating to distribute some 15 million “Find It Here” printed pieces.
In his financial report to the trustees, NAMB’s vice president and chief financial officer, Carlos Ferrer, announced that through April 30, overall year-to-date revenues were down 2.8 percent. Cooperative Program revenue was down 5.15 percent. Ferrer said Annie Armstrong Easter Offering revenue normally doesn’t start coming in until June. This year’s Annie Armstrong Easter Offering goal is $70 million.

In closing the meeting, newly elected chairman Tim Dowdy reminded trustees of NAMB’s primary task.

“There are 258 million lost people in North America,” Dowdy said. “I went to bed last night thinking about that number. What if it was my best friend? What if it was my dad? What if it was my mom? Let’s go to the (annual Southern Baptist) Convention and do our work in the years to come not so interested in what we have to protect but what we have to proclaim. The gospel is indeed still Good News no matter what language you speak and that’s what we’re about at the North American Mission Board.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)
5/26/2010 7:39:00 AM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

NAMB commissions 71 missionaries, 17 chaplains

May 26 2010 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

LENEXA, Kan. — Some of the stories of redemption and new beginnings seemed to have the kernel of a Hollywood movie script when 71 missionaries and 17 chaplains were commissioned by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) at Lenexa (Kan.) Baptist Church on May 16.

Steve Dighton, senior pastor of the Kansas City-area church, welcomed about 1,000 people to the service, which included special music by the church’s 130-voice choir, soloists and orchestra.

The newly commissioned missionaries and chaplains will serve in 32 states and two Canadian provinces.

Richard Harris, NAMB’s interim president who delivered the commissioning sermon, quoted the words of Jesus as recorded in John 14:12: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I’ve been doing. He will even do greater things than these because I’m going to the Father.”

“God wants every missionary and chaplain to be successful in ministry,” Harris said. “But when God gives you a vision, you need to move out. I don’t know what’s more important in your ministry than praying, ‘Lord, what is it You want to do in and through me in the coming days, months and years?’”

Harris reminded the missionaries of their heritage on a continent where, now, some 258 million people are lost without Christ — three out of four North Americans.

“Southern Baptists in churches, associations and state conventions — like the Kansas-Nebraska and Missouri conventions — have sacrificed so you can have the privilege, honor and freedom to be on the front line,” Harris said. “You’re not here just to have a good religious experience but to penetrate lostness in North America ... to make a difference between heaven and hell ... to make a difference in the Kingdom.”

Harris told the missionaries and chaplains not to live in fear but in faith.

“I feel sorry for those people who never expect great things from God. They go through life or through their ministries — which is even sadder — and never expect God to work miracles in their lives,” he said.

“Remember this as the day at the missionary and chaplain commissioning at Lenexa Baptist Church in Lenexa, Kan., when God began a new work in your life — when God set you on a journey and a mission. You’re not the same nor will you ever be the same,” he said.

“Twenty years from now, you won’t look back and be disappointed in the things you did, but in the things you didn’t do in obedience to God,” Harris said.

Voicing a word to the chaplains, he noted that “you’re going out to be in places us preachers and pastors will never be, so take the lead and boldly present the gospel.”

One of the stories a Hollywood movie could tell would focus on Stacey Smith, who was commissioned as a Mission Service Corps missionary to serve as a chaplain at the 800-inmate McPherson Women’s Prison in Newport, Ark., about 80 miles north of Little Rock.

Photo by John Swain

Stacey Smith, for 12 years one of the 800 inmates at McPherson Womens Prison in Newport, Ark., was commissioned May 16 as a chaplain at correctional facility.

It’s the same prison where Smith spent 12 years after a conviction in the 1990s for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

“I was actually sentenced to a 60-year sentence as a first-time offender,” Smith recounted in an interview. “I had a $500-a-day drug habit. Though I came from a good moral family, I had been in five drug rehab facilities.”

Though a seemingly harsh sentence for a first-time offender, Smith still believes “it was perfect for me,” explaining. If I had gotten what I deserved ... for all (the drugs) I didn’t get caught with.”

Smith served 12 years of her sentence but, with the intervention of then-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, was released in 2005.

While in prison, she accepted Christ, thanks to a NAMB-endorsed chaplain who shared the gospel with her. Two years later, she went back into the prison as a volunteer.

“I didn’t know that up ahead all along, God had planned for me to go back into the prison in regular clothes,” Smith said. “Now I’m unmarried, my children are grown and this is my life — spending 55 hours a week at McPherson. It’s not just a job.”

How do hardened women inmates — convicted of crimes ranging from forgery to murder — respond to Smith and her story of redemption?

“It brings them hope. We have an immediate connection. It helps me to encourage and share the gospel with them and allows them to hear me immediately. It reminds them that prison is not the end of the world or the end of the story ... (or) just another chapter. I just share with them that God can use anybody. Anyone can do something for the Lord. I’m just as amazed at my story as others are,” Smith said.

As did all the 88 new missionaries and chaplains during the two-hour commissioning service, Smith crossed the church’s stage to say a few words about her ministry.

Breaking with emotion as she ended her brief remarks, she received the warmest ovation of the night from a crowd clearly moved by her story.

Mission Service Corps missionary Nick Williams’ personal story of grace and forgiveness began in a dark bedroom in Cambridge, Ohio, back in 2004.

In his hands was a shotgun — the safety off — ready for him to pull the trigger. He had been a successful businessman, was “well off,” but miserable.

But instead of pulling the trigger, Williams surrendered his life to Christ.

He and wife Bethany later founded “Quiet Love,” a ministry that presents the gospel in American Sign Language to the hearing-impaired and hearing alike.

“Our goal is to spark revival regardless of whether the people can hear or not,” Williams said in an interview. “We have two deaf people in our ministry who lead people in worship and singing although they cannot hear the music at all. They sign ‘Amazing Grace’ and it’s so powerful. Everything in the room is done in darkness with black light only, which prevents distractions and allows the audience to focus on the real light of Jesus. People can’t help but pay attention,” Williams says.

With the addition of the 71 new NAMB missionaries and 17 new chaplains, NAMB now supports some 5,300 missionaries across North America and some 3,000 endorsed chaplains — not only military chaplains but also chaplains ministering in prisons, law enforcement, hospitals and other health facilities and in corporations.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)
5/26/2010 7:34:00 AM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Miley Cyrus presents parenting dilemma

May 26 2010 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As Miley Cyrus transitions from her Disney image as Hannah Montana to the teenage star of racy music videos, parents whose daughters revere her are left with a dilemma: How do they explain to their children that Miley isn’t an ideal role model? Is a talk even necessary?

Dannah Gresh and Vicki Courtney, two mothers known for their guidance of young girls, each addressed the topic on their blogs after the release of Miley’s sexually provocative video for the song “Can’t Be Tamed.”

In an open letter to Miley’s parents, Billy Ray and Tish Cyrus, Gresh acknowledged that in the past she gave Miley room to make mistakes and encouraged forgiveness. But the latest video crosses a new line.

“I wanted Miley to be the one who would say no to the money-hungry industry that turns perfectly adorable, talented young girls into common sex toys. You — her parents — were my hope,” Gresh wrote May 12 at “That’s why I’m so utterly shocked at what appears to be the parental approval you placed on Can’t Be Tamed.”

Gresh said Miley, 17, still looks to her parents for direction and said in an interview that she reasoned that the video could not possibly be too sexual because her mother was sitting on the set.

Miley even acknowledged her following, which includes hundreds of thousands of tweens, by saying, “A lot of my fans have grown with me on the show, and I think (the video) is the first step to growing up.”

“A girl doesn’t have to and shouldn’t grow up to be what Miley portrays in Can’t Be Tamed. I’ve been on the front lines of counseling sexually broken teenage girls for 12 years, and they get broken by imitating the behavior they see in videos like this,” Gresh wrote in the letter to Miley’s parents. “The media fuels behavior, especially when a face as trusted as your daughter’s is showcased.”

Gresh said research indicates there is a link between early sexual activity and the amount of sexual imagery a child views in her formative years. The more the child sees, the greater the risk of early sexual activity.

Also, research shows that girls who are exposed to music lyrics, Internet content and picture-perfect beauty icons in their tween years tend to be more likely to struggle with eating disorders, depression and low self-esteem when they are teens, Gresh said.

“While the impact is not immediate, it comes like a stick of dynamite to blow up everything you’ve attempted to build into your daughter,” Gresh wrote on the blog. “One day you have a bright little sixth grader, and the next you have a depressed ninth grader with an eating disorder. What they feast on is what they desire to become. But they can’t be the picture perfect, dolled-up Miley. Miley isn’t even that. It’s an illusion.”

Gresh, author of the upcoming book Six Ways to Keep the Little in Your Girl, offered three pieces of advice for handling the latest Miley debacle with young girls.

First, with teenage girls only, watch the video and read the letter Gresh wrote to Miley’s parents.

“If you’ve been fueling them with the right stuff along the way, they won’t even need the letter to help them think it through. My daughter Lexi, upon seeing the video, announced her disappointment. ‘That’s just stupid!’ she said.

“Look at this as a great opportunity to talk to your daughter about her self-worth,” Gresh said. “Remind her that playing the tramp doesn’t attract the right kind of interest. Case in point, the advertising community has discovered by way of research that sex does sell, but it doesn’t sell brand.

“For example, if you use sex to sell Kleenex, viewers tend to become more interested in product (tissues) but they tend less to remember the brand of Kleenex. In general, when a girl behaves like Miley in public places, she creates interest in product (girl) and less memory of brand (insert-your-daughter’s-name-here),” she wrote.

For younger girls, rather than watching the video with them, Gresh suggests saying, “Miley decided to make a video that shows too much of her body in ways that I don’t want you to see.”

“Your 8, 9, 10-year-old should not see the video,” she said. “But she also should probably not be plugged in to the Miley Mania until Miley decides to be a better role model. So, talk to her and trust God to guide you.”

Finally, Gresh advised parents to be careful with Miley’s heart and name.

“The goal is not to boycott or vilify her. She is God’s precious creation and, just like us, will make some mistakes along the way,” Gresh wrote.

“Take this as a teachable moment to point that finger right back at yourselves as mother/daughter. In what areas of your lives are you being careless?"

Courtney, author of 5 Conversations You Must Have With Your Daughter, said that as mothers across the country are throwing out their daughters’ Hannah Montana backpacks, lunchboxes and T-shirts, Miley appears to be on the same path as Britney Spears, who sacrificed “her girlhood innocence on the sex-sells altar of fame and fortune.”

Like Gresh, Courtney advised parents to put a positive spin on a difficult subject.

“It’s OKto be disappointed over Miley’s actions,” Courtney wrote at “But rather than crucify her (in the hearing of our children), what if we instead acknowledge the video and what it represents (aka: take advantage of a teachable moment) and shift the focus to examining our own hearts and encouraging our children to do the same? 

“What if we as parents set an example to our children by stepping up and owning it when we ourselves are guilty of chasing after counterfeit gods? Now, that would be radical, wouldn’t it? And rather refreshing, I might add.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.)  
5/26/2010 7:29:00 AM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Hollifield affirms GCR Task Force Report

May 25 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

North Carolina Baptist Executive Director-Treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr., will be voting “yes” for the recommendations of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force when messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., consider them June 15.

In his first public comments on the work of the task force commissioned last year by SBC President Johnny Hunt to find ways, “Southern Baptists can work more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission,” Hollifield told members of the BSC board of directors May 25 that while some structural changes might help Southern Baptists only “a super unusual movement of God’s Spirit in our lives” will make them effective in accomplishing God’s plan.

While the administrative leader of North Carolina Baptists’ 4,300 churches has been publicly silent on the report that has dominated conversation and communications since its preliminary release in February, Hollifield said he has been sharing with task force members his input and concerns.

He expressed appreciation for the spiritual aspects of the report, because too often Southern Baptists are guilty of not practicing what they preach, he said. They have been ineffective in reaching the nations, especially "our own,” he said.

While the task force recommendations and conversation focus on pushing back lostness in the nations, Hollifield said if we lose North America there will be no resources to send missionaries to other parts of the world.

Great Commission Giving

Hollifield spoke longest in his one hour address about the task force recommendation to adopt a new giving parameter called Great Commission Giving that would “celebrate” all mission gifts from a local church. It would make the Cooperative Program simply the “primary” element of the category, instead of an exclusively recognized missions giving channel that supports all the work.

He said that recommendation created “angst” originally but said “If the Cooperative Program remains the priority and supreme way our SBC leaders recognize church support for SBC missions, then I have no disagreement with celebrating the additional gifts that churches make to support Southern Baptist missions.”

Hollifield’s voice broke as he advocated emotionally for the Cooperative Program. North Carolina Baptist churches give below the six percent national average to missions through the Cooperative Program, he said, and he challenged them “to become a leading state convention in demonstrating that the Cooperative Program is not simply one of many good ways to support missions, it remains the single most effective way to support the multiplicity of missions and ministries that have empowered our churches to accomplish great and mighty deeds in building the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Hollifield recounted his youth in a Free Will Baptist home in which his family entertained missionaries who had to return from the field to raise their ongoing support.

“Let us really practice what we preach and take the lead in demonstrating to our Southern Baptist missionaries around the world and across North America, to the orphan and the widow in our own state, to the hungry and needy and to the lost sinner everywhere that North Carolina Baptists are individuals who pray, go and also give to support missions and I think the Cooperative Program is the greatest way to do that,” Hollifield said.

Helping next generation leaders gain the same appreciation for the positive Kingdom ministry effects of the Cooperative Program will not be accomplished by pressuring or by criticizing them for what they are not doing, Hollifield said.

Neither are next generation leaders interested in what the Cooperative Program has accomplished in the past, he said. Instead, Hollifield encouraged board members to befriend and mentor younger pastors who are “both passionate and zealous for the building of Christ’s Kingdom,” to help them understand that the Cooperative Program is the best financial vehicle for missions and ministry into the future. 

“They will only begin to support the Cooperative Program when they become convinced that CP is the best method the SBC has found to support thousands of  missionaries, build seminaries, plant churches, feed the hungry, clothe the naked and reach lost souls with the gospel,” he said.

“I am not a supporter of Cooperative Program because what it does for me or my preferred state convention,” he said. “I am a supporter of Cooperative Program because of what it does for God’s Kingdom.”

Cooperative agreements

The North American Mission Board operates through cooperative agreements with Baptist state conventions and the task force recommends those agreements be phased out over seven years to “liberate” NAMB to create and deploy a national evangelism strategy.

North Carolina Baptists share the expense of nine ministry positions with NAMB, basically on a 50-50 basis. Some smaller state conventions can only provide 10 or 20 percent of a ministry position cost. Most of these positions are in church planting and missions.

To remove funding from cooperative agreements and potentially lose the ministries they support, NAMB would need to establish a “new national strategy for which it does not possess the staff to accomplish,” Hollifield said.

Yet Hollifield would support the Baptist State Convention losing shared funding from NAMB if the money would go instead “to fund effective and strategic efforts in the underserved areas of North America.”

Hollifield said he informed one of the task force members that they have “no idea how much money” the more established conventions already put back into the underserved areas in strategic partnerships such as the one between North Carolina and the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association.

Hollifield agreed with the task force that one of the greatest harvest fields is “reaching our own young people.”

Hollifield believes the next spiritual awakening “will begin with the younger generation of believers,” and he asked, “Are we entertaining our students or equipping them to recognize God’s call upon their lives?”

The first two recommendations are “spiritual” and “clarify the motivations of the task force” he said. They include a mission statement that reflects the Great Commission, and offer a set of core values.

The task force recommendation to remove geographic restrictions so that international missionaries can work among their people group in the U.S. is fine with Hollifield, but he cautions that it not lead to the very duplications that the task force “has worked so diligently to remove.”

He is less enthusiastic for the additional one percent of Cooperative Program funds recommended for allocation to the International Mission Board to come exclusively from the budget of the SBC Executive Committee. He would like part of the additional $2 million to the IMB to come from another area of the budget.

Hollifield believes the task force report ignores a significant area of denominational service, that of church health. He “bristles” he said when he reads that “thousands of unhealthy churches simply need to die.”   

If that was the Lord’s view, he said, we would not have the pastoral letters of the New Testament, written by the Apostle Paul to help unhealthy churches.

“These epistles were written not to help those congregations die, but to help them find newness of life through obedience and faithfulness to Christ Jesus our Lord,” Hollifield said.

Ultimately, Hollifield said he will vote yes for the task force report because it met its assigned task and because once approved, the recommendations will go to the SBC Executive Committee and to the boards of the SBC entities where they will receive the study and input from Southern Baptists they deserve and require.

”I believe their work has begun a critical discussion among Southern Baptists related to numerous issues that impact our effectiveness, or lack thereof, in fulfilling the Great Commission,” Hollifield said.  


5/25/2010 6:46:00 PM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 1 comments

Displaying results 1-10 (of 58)
 |<  < 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6  >  >|