May 2014

Group to host events to mobilize pastors

May 21 2014 by North Carolina Pastors Network

The newly formed North Carolina Pastors Network (NCPN, and its affiliate organization, the American Pastors Network (, announced its statewide initiative to inform N.C. pastors of the mission and vision of NCPN, encourage them to form area chapters to mobilize and support local pastors and advise them of critical issues facing the state and nation.
“The North Carolina Pastors Network exists for the purpose of encouraging pastors to speak the truth boldly so they can equip their congregations to be salt and light in our culture,” said NCPN President Dave Kistler.
“Our prayer is that the network we are building through NCPN will bring together biblically faithful pastors who will courageously speak truth on biblical, social, and policy issues, with the result that thousands of biblically minded believers across the state will step out and impact the culture for Christ.” 
NCPN will also be joined by several partners including Bobbie Meyer from Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, Mark Creech from the Christian Action League, Tami Fitzgerald from the North Carolina Values Coalition, John Rustin from the North Carolina Family Policy Council and Randy Wilson from Watchmen on the Wall (Family Research Council).
The three-day initiative, which will take place May 27-29, includes eight regional meetings at churches across the state:
  • Tuesday, May 27 – 9 a.m. at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, Boone; 2 p.m. at Pole Creek Baptist Church, Candler; and 6:30 p.m. at Tri-Cities Baptist Church, Conover
  • Wednesday, May 28 – 9 a.m. at First Baptist Church, Charlotte;  and 2 p.m. at Calvary Baptist Church, Winston Salem
  • Thursday, May 29 – 9 a.m. at Crossroads Fellowship, Raleigh; 2 p.m. at Village Baptist Church, Fayetteville; and 6:30 p.m. at Memorial Baptist Church, Greenville
Advance sign-ups are requested: contact Betty Cotton at or (828) 390-1964. 
5/21/2014 11:35:05 AM by North Carolina Pastors Network | with 0 comments

Strategy coordinators discovering, raising awareness

May 21 2014 by C. Walter Overman, BSC Communications

January 2014 marked the beginning of the implementation of the new five-year strategy of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC): “Impacting Lostness through Disciple-Making.” The strategy calls for churches to penetrate darkness through disciple-making in North Carolina and around the world.

In North Carolina, that involves engaging the estimated 5.8 million lost people in the state with the gospel of Jesus Christ. 
“That is a big number,” said Russ Conley, BSC team leader for the Strategic Focus Team. “It’s a hard number for me to even conceptualize.”
The strategy calls attention to lostness across the entire state. The strategy challenges churches across the entire state to engage the concentrated areas of lostness.
The Strategic Focus Team is taking a lead role in assisting churches and associations in the eight population centers of North Carolina fulfill the strategy.
The eight population centers include Asheville (Blue Ridge), Charlotte, Fayetteville, Greenville, Hickory (Unifour), Wilmington (Coastal), the Triad area (Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point) and the Triangle area (Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill).
Research has identified the eight population centers as having the most concentrated number of lost people in the state. The Strategic Focus Team is currently comprised of seven strategy coordinators who are assigned to seven of the eight population centers.
Strategy coordinators work with associational missionaries, local pastors, lay leaders, leaders of ethnic and cultural people groups and others to develop strategies to impact lostness tailored to local areas.  
“They are catalysts for the local areas and churches to hopefully motivate, equip and resource them to reach the unreached and unengaged people groups in their areas,” Conley said. “They are there to raise the flag to say ‘Here’s a group. Who will accept responsibility for reaching this group and planting the gospel and making disciples?’”

Just the beginning

Less than six months into imple-mentation, the strategy is progressing as designed. During this early phase, the coordinators are primarily in the mode of discovery. 
“We are learning a lot in terms of who is living among us and who needs the gospel,” Conley said. “Each of the population centers is progressing in its own direction and at its own pace.” The strategy coordinators are also assessing where and how churches in their areas are currently reaching the lost. 
“As the strategy coordinators are talking with people and moving throughout the population center, they are seeing instances where God is already at work,” Conley said.
The coordinators will use the data they collect during the next phase of the strategy, which is to assist in the development of comprehensive and strategic disciple-making plans based upon identified needs and priorities.
Until then, the Strategic Focus Team will continue to gather information, build relationships with pastors and associational missionaries and raise awareness of the depths of lostness and the need for disciple-making.
“We need to elevate the awareness of lostness in North Carolina, and we need to elevate the understanding of disciple-making as the means of advancing the Kingdom by pushing back lostness,” Conley said. 

A team effort

Michael Boarts, strategy coordinator for the Fayetteville population center, said he has been encouraged during his first months in the field by the willingness of everyone, including BSC colleagues, pastors and directors of missions, to work together as a team.

“From the beginning there has been a feeling of being in this together,” he said.  “Having that team spirit centered on God; I think that is what it should be.”
Boarts said that while 5.8 million lost people is an important statistic, it is just as important for every believer to understand they have a personal responsibility to engage in disciple-making.
“My challenge is for every North Carolina Baptist to count how many people they have discipled,” he said. “Too many believers have never discipled anyone.”

He said the fulfillment of the strategy will require North Carolina Baptists to take an honest assessment of their disciple-making efforts and commit to making disciples.
“If we are not going to look and honestly admit that we’ve been failing at making disciples then we’ll never get anywhere,” he said.
“If we can get every North Carolina Baptist to be discipled and to disciple someone else, who knows what God can do with that.”
For more information about the BSC five-year strategy, visit
5/21/2014 11:17:30 AM by C. Walter Overman, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Southwestern Seminary admits its first Muslim student

May 20 2014 by Greg Horton, Religion News Service

In the first instance of its kind, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, the largest of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) schools, acknowledged it has admitted a Muslim to one of its doctoral programs.
Ghassan Nagagreh, a Palestinian Muslim, recently completed his first year of doctoral studies at the seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Nagagreh, a Sunni Muslim, has worked with the seminary since 2008 as a volunteer on an archaeological site in Israel. He is pursuing a doctorate in archaeology.
“This young man asked about the Ph.D. program, and I told him we don’t normally admit non-born-again believers to the seminary, but there is no reason we can’t,” said Paige Patterson, Southwestern’s president.

Texas Photo courtesy of Michael-David Bradford. Mrbradford [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
The BH Carroll Memorial Building Rotunda at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

Patterson said that as many as 80 people work on archaeological digs, and only about a quarter come from Southwestern, so it is not unusual to find students and volunteers from different schools and different faiths.
But Nagagreh’s presence at the school has touched off controversy within the SBC.
Wade Burleson, an Enid, Okla., pastor and former member of the SBC’s International Mission Board, posted a lengthy piece on his personal blog on Friday (May 16) accusing Patterson of ordering the administration office to admit Nagagreh in violation of the school’s charter.
Burleson, who describes himself as actively interfaith, said the issue has nothing to do with any particular person or faith but is instead a matter of principle.
“Not only do we have decisions being made secretly and by presidential fiat, we have not addressed the possible use of cooperative funds being used for the education of a practicing Muslim,” Burleson said.
Cooperative funds are collected as part of tithes and offerings at SBC churches and are used for various projects, including missions, relief work and seminary subsidies.
Nagagreh said he has had a very good experience at the seminary thus far and will return for his second year in the fall. Patterson said he agreed to admit Nagagreh because Nagagreh agreed to follow the seminary’s lifestyle covenant, which covers personal behavior such as smoking, drinking and sexual relations.
“I also thought it provided a chance for us to have an influence on his life,” Patterson said.
Meanwhile, Burleson or others may bring up the issue at the SBC’s annual convention June 10-11 in Baltimore.
“The floor of the convention is the worst place for this,” said Joel Rainey, executive director of the Mid-Maryland Baptist Association and adjunct professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
“First, we have an odd proclivity for making public arguments into arguments about people, and there is a young man whom God created at the center of this discussion,” he added. “Second, I don’t want our work with Muslims and other faith groups damaged by what might be said in the midst of this debate.”
5/20/2014 12:08:10 PM by Greg Horton, Religion News Service | with 5 comments

Crossover participants seek power in prayer

May 20 2014 by SEBTS Communications

More than 130 students and four faculty members from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) are preparing to go serve the city of Baltimore.
Crossover Baltimore is a weeklong mission (June 1-7) of intense personal witnessing in Baltimore, Md., the week prior to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting June 10-11.
Stephen Eccher, assistant professor of church history and reformation studies at Southeastern, is originally from the Baltimore area and a leader for the mission.
“Despite the governmentally subsidized external veneer of economic advancement, cultural awareness and historical preservation, Baltimore maintains a poverty-stricken reality, complete with all the trappings of such an oppressed environment,” he said.  
SEBTS students are eager to partner with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) to reach one of its 32 Send cities. According to NAMB, 2,729,110 people live in metro Baltimore and 9.9 percent are affiliated with an evangelical church.
“A city once known as one of the most dangerous cities in the nation remains trapped in its past,” Eccher said. “Into that seemingly enslaved culture, students from SEBTS are preparing to bring the freeing gospel of Jesus Christ to the city; to support church planters already laboring to advance Christ’s Kingdom.”
A highlight of the pre-trip training was an evening of prayer held on May 2. Approximately 65 students and faculty members attended the vigil.
Scott Hildreth, director of the Center for Great Commission Studies at Southeastern, said, “We have a very missional summer planned but we know that success does not depend on our skills and talent; it depends on God.”
The seminary community joined together to pray for spiritual awakening on the campus and around the world. A focus of the prayer was on students and faculty participating in the Baltimore mission trip.
“When Dr. [Alvin] Reid and I saw the number of students signing up for Crossover Baltimore, we felt compelled to do something more,” Hildreth said.
Chuck Lawless, vice-president of graduate studies and ministry centers at SEBTS, supported and attended the event. “I am deeply mindful of the fact that most seminaries do far too little in calling the community to prayer or even teaching students to pray,” he said.
Students gathered to seek the Lord for personal renewal and then to pray for their churches, city, state, nation and the lost around the world. “We long to see the Lord do something on our campus that cannot be explained by our planning, organization and effort,” Hildreth emphasized. “We are praying that this is the beginning of a spiritual awakening on our campus.”
For additional information about Crossover Baltimore, go to:
5/20/2014 11:57:43 AM by SEBTS Communications | with 0 comments

Book stirs controversy in Watauga County

May 20 2014 by Rick Houston, Special to the Recorder

Despite a county board of education vote to keep author Isabel Allende’s book The House of the Spirits in a sophomore honors English class at Watauga High School in Boone, the controversy that erupted over its use may not be over according to Chastity Lesesne. She is the parent who first protested the book.
The Watauga County Board of Education voted 3-2 Feb. 27 to allow veteran teacher Mary Kent Whitaker to teach the book, which contains more than 60 graphic portrayals of sexual activity and deviancy. Lesesne, who attends Alliance Bible Fellowship, insists that she is not against having the book in the school library or its use as an alternate reading selection. But, it is required reading, forcing its volatile content on impressionable students, she said
“We’re not finished yet, and [we’re] considering legal and political recourse,” Lesesne, a local parent, wrote in an e-mail. “No decisions finalized. We are praying about next steps.”
Lesesne says that while she and other supporters were told by one board member that he hated the book and would not want his 28-year-old son to read it, he turned out to be the deciding vote in favor of The House of the Spirits.
“He voted for the book because some parents wanted their child to read it,” Lesesne said in an e-mail. “He knew what was best for his own son but did not want to do what [was] best for all the other students. Yet, this is [this] board member’s responsibility. This is now his legacy.”
The issue began when Lesesne’s son expressed concern over the book. An initial meeting with Whitaker left her with little satisfaction. While an alternate selection of Moby Dick was offered, that would likely have meant reading it outside of class and little or no in-person instruction from the teacher.
Lesesne’s son was one of six who requested an alternate – two of the students remained in the classroom; three went to the library; and one chose to sit in the hallway to read. Other options were also eventually presented, including taking the honors class online.
Still, Lesesne felt her son was being isolated from his peers in Whitaker’s classroom.
“This is the only high school in our county, and this is the only sophomore honors English class in our county,” said Lesesne, the daughter of a Baptist pastor who homeschooled her son until the current school year. “So you can’t take another class unless you chose to opt out of the honors class. There was a feeling of feeling trapped, unfairness and not a lot of choices.”
Whitaker has been a teacher and educator for 37 years, and was the Watauga County Teacher of the Year in 2010-11 and one of 16 regional finalists for the statewide honor. She was not available for comment for this story, but instead provided a copy of one of her presentations on the matter.
“I do understand … I honestly do … that as a parent, you have personal guidelines as to what you want your child exposed to at age 15 and 16,” Whitaker wrote in the presentation. “The House of the Spirits does have content that deals with rape and torture. I do understand that you do not want your son exposed to this book.
“I also understand that other parents not represented here have objections to material that you consider acceptable. We are a diverse world. As an educational community, it is impossible to anticipate every objection that might arise from a parent. Since I’ve taught [more than] 3,000 students, I’ve interacted with at least that many parents – and they are all unique.”
The presentation noted that students who chose to leave the room during discussions of The House of the Spirits were outside the classroom for an average of 20 minutes during each 90-minute class period. Whitaker’s two children graduated from Watauga High School, and she appeared proud of the education they received there.
“I love my children, and I respect them, and I still sometimes want to shield them from the harshness of the world,” Whitaker added in her presentation.
“But honestly the education they received from Watauga High School, especially from the English department, has prepared them for dealing with the world – the beauty and the harshness.”
Lesesne felt a sense of urgency over the book’s introduction into the class, and within a week’s time not only read it but lined up meetings with the school principal, vice principal and county superintendent. She went before the board of education to file a formal challenge, and that led to a three-tiered process of deciding the book’s fate.
First, the book was approved for use by a committee comprised of teachers, school officials and a student.
“I became aware at that first meeting that this was about, unfortunately, no one could hear the actual issues that I was stating, because if they did say that they agreed with my concerns, they would be going against the teacher,” Lesesne said. “It became pro-teacher, anti-teacher, about the teacher, about the school.”
Second, a group appointed by the board of education also voted to keep it.
The third, last and most recent round took place Feb. 27 at a highly charged meeting of the five-member Watauga County Board of Education. The American Civil Liberties Union organized demonstrations in support of the book, while Lesesne had her own large contingent of supporters.
“The problem we have with it is that there doesn’t seem to be any standards in play that filter out inappropriate literature in the school system,” said Molly Northern, a member of Mount Vernon Baptist in Boone. “It’s almost as if the teacher has the say-so, and she is not accountable to anybody, doesn’t have to answer to anybody. I have a huge problem with that.”
Cliff Baldwin, another Mount Vernon member, was also concerned about the influence of the equally as controversial Common Core state standards. The House of the Spirits is included as an exemplar text in Common Core Curriculum Maps for English Language Arts, a 2011 book recommended by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction as a resource for meeting those standards, but not in an appendix to the standards themselves.
“The Common Core is the gateway that’s allowing this stuff in,” Baldwin said. “I don’t study Common Core in particular, but that’s come up several times when we parents object to the material they’re expecting our kids to read. They say, ‘Well, it’s all in keeping with the Common Core.’ The fact is, they’re still my kids, and I don’t think they should be reading it.”
5/20/2014 11:45:31 AM by Rick Houston, Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments

Summit started multi-site ‘almost by accident’

May 20 2014 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

Choosing to have multiple sites was not an obvious decision for The Summit Church in Durham.
Even though the church now has eight locations in the Raleigh-Durham area, “we sort of backed into multi-site,” said J.D. Greear, lead pastor.
“We spent three years searching for property to build a much larger facility near our original location. We had actually already sold our building and begun meeting in a high school.”
Because they couldn’t find land in the area, they relocated 30 minutes away.
“We did own a small church building near our original location, and it seemed like a good idea to provide worship services there as well for people who had lived in that community for so long. So, almost by accident, we became multi-site.”
It was only after they added the services at the church building that the leaders began to realize what having multiple sites meant and might mean for the future of the church.
“We’re still learning all the time,” Greear said.
Early in his ministry at what was then known as Homestead Heights Baptist Church, Greear said he was praying for revival in Durham.

The Summit Church logo. Used with permission from The Summit.

“In the midst of that prayer, I felt the Spirit of God whisper in my heart, ‘And what if I answer this prayer … and send a revival into Raleigh-Durham beyond all you’ve asked or imagined … but I choose another church through which to do it? What if that church grows, and yours stays the same?’” Greear said.
The pastor would love to be able to say he had an emphatic “Yes” for God and that he rallied behind John 3:30 (“He must increase, but I must decrease”), but the answer that bubbled up from Greear’s heart was “No.”
“Somehow ‘thy Kingdom come’ had become all jumbled up with ‘my kingdom come,’” he said. “I’ve had to learn, again and again, that many of the most important elements of ministry are also the most costly. But they’re also the most rewarding.”
Some concerns about multi-site churches turned out to be strengths for The Summit.
“We’ve found that the pastoral care and leadership is very strong because it’s local, closer to where people live and worship,” he said.
“The pastors and staff who serve at each campus have the opportunity to know the congregation and be involved in their lives.”
Greear credits this local emphasis as the reason why the church starts campuses in the local region and not in cities across the nation.
The Summit’s leadership takes unity seriously and doesn’t want to lose the sense of being one church.
“We concluded that we would lose the local flavor if our campuses spread out too far, so we limit ourselves to the [Raleigh-Durham] metropolitan area,” Greear said.
“Besides our geographical unity, we are also united around our common call to Jesus and His mission.”
The Summit only starts sites where its members already are.
“We believe God has The Summit Church here to reach and bless this area,” Greear said. Because of the central location of its sites, the church can come together like it did in the fall for a worship service at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. They also held Christmas services at the Durham Performing Arts Center.
Just because the church has multiple sites does not mean it is not involved in church planting. Since 2010, The Summit has planted churches in Denver, Tennessee, Indianapolis and Baltimore, and it plans to plant four churches this year in Washington, D.C., Wilmington and two in the Triangle.
“Planting churches and being multi-site go hand-in-hand for us,” Greear said. “The Church is God’s ‘Plan A’ for the world, and we believe all Christians are sent by Jesus to be a part of that plan.”
The church has a goal to plant 1,000 churches worldwide by 2050.
With The Summit’s help 19 churches have been planted in North America, 12 in Central and South America, 11 in South Asia, six in southern Africa, four in Central Asia, three in east Africa and one in East Asia, Western Europe and Eastern Europe.
For The Summit, moving to a multi-site church has helped its church planting vision. Greear said the church’s plants have taken a higher priority because of the congregation’s growth.
“Multiplying campuses is not the alternative to church planting, but the alternative to building an enormous building,” he said.
When looking at starting another site, Greear said they look for a person, place and people. They begin by having meetings for those interested in launching a new location.
“Once we determine that we are going to start a new campus, we’ll call a Campus Pastor to start leading even before the campus is launched,” Greear said. “He will focus on building and organizing a core group.”
The church would like to have 150-200 willing adults to be part of a new campus.
“This core group is vital as they are the ones who will serve in ministry at the new location,” he said. “Our people see this as part of their mission to reach their community, so they are really committed. Once we find a facility to meet, we’re ready to go. Well, it’s not really that simple, but those are the basic ingredients.”
Campus pastors meet weekly to discuss campus leadership, ministry ideas, vision and strategy.
“We will also go over the sermon for the coming week and what elements of worship will be common at all campuses,” Greear said.
Each campus has a team of pastors, staff and lay leaders. There is a central team “that develops excellent training and curriculum for making disciples of all ages,” Greear said.
Greear said he has found that the multi-site church “is better at developing leaders than a single-location large church.”
Some of Greear’s favorite leaders are no longer staff members he sees on Sunday.
“They are serving at one of six campuses I don’t usually get to on Sunday,” he said. “These were guys I raised up, trained and depended on. Now, as campus pastors, they have the opportunity to lead in ways they didn’t when we were all at one place. And, in their wake, new leaders have emerged at the original campus.”
Opening a new site stems from growth and building capacity. The Summit looks at adding more services but when that site is running three or four services, the leadership begins to look at starting a new campus.
“The other reason for starting a campus is to better reach people in an area where Summit members already live,” he said.
“It’s not uncommon for Christians to be willing to drive 30+ minutes to attend a church they love. But it’s unlikely the unchurched friend you just met at Starbucks is excited about a long commute on Sunday. If we are able to bring the church closer to where they live, we know it gives us an opportunity to reach a new community of people. So we will look for a location in an area from which people are already coming.”

Related stories:

Pastor credits God with multiple sites
Dublin church launches new site on Easter
Biltmore leader finds multi-sites messy but worth it
Multi-site churches a growing trend in North Carolina
But in multi-site, I don't know the pastor
5/20/2014 11:13:32 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments

Huntersville pastor’s book explores transforming faith

May 20 2014 by Micheal Pardue, Book Review

The Trail of Transforming Faith: When God Calls You to Leave Everything Behind by Bobby Blanton
(2B Publishers, 2013)
Bobby Blanton, pastor of the Lake Norman Baptist Church in Huntersville, has released his first book entitled The Trail of Transforming Faith: When God Calls You to Leave Everything Behind. This book takes the reader through the faith life of the Old Testament patriarch Abraham as he journeys from obsurity in Mesopotamia to becoming the father of many nations.
Beginning at Mount Moriah, the well-known test of Abraham’s faith, Blanton takes us from Abraham’s calling to his prepartion to offer his son back to God on the side of a mountain.
Blanton’s work is a pastoral reminder of the often high cost paid by the disciple of Jesus Christ.
His personal stories capture the reader as we see Blanton’s own trail of faith woven throughout the book. He takes great care in journeying with his readers down the path Abraham took in his journey with God.

Micheal Pardue 

Starting blocks of faith

The initial chapters of The Trail of Transforming Faith explore Abraham’s call out of the land of Ur and to the land that God would later show him. Blanton shows his readers that the journey of faith has to begin with a step of trust. Abraham follows “the Voice” and at 60 years old sets out on a journey of obedience to God.
To make this journey, Blanton points out, Abraham had to put some things behind him.
He writes, “In order for God to use Abraham, He needed to separate him from the things that would pose a threat to their new relationship.” We are reminded that “the farther you’re willing to go with Him, the greater the sacrifice that is required.” There are many things that we must separate from if we are to take the journey of faith that God calls each one of His children to. Though Abraham did not have the smoothest start in his journey, God was able to use him and lead him toward the land of promise.

Tests of faith

The second part of The Trail of Transforming Faith walks us through the various tests that Abraham faces on his journey with God. From his family’s unfaithfulness, his insecurity, his inadequacies and struggles with God’s silence, Abraham does not have an easy journey.
Blanton’s insight in each one of these situations is very helpful. He shows us how Abraham’s tests of faith are common ones that we all will endure.
Abraham’s family, for example, is a source of great sorrow for him. Much of it can be contributed to his leadership deficiencies, but he is facing problems that even the most skilled leader must navigate. Even his “ill-advised detour” into Egypt, which years later seemed to be long in his past, came back to bite him in his relationship with Hagar.
Abraham, Blanton points out, was to be faithful to God even if his wife did not understand all that was happening. Abraham’s faith was tested, and he was not always up to the task.
Even in Abraham’s success, he was faced with choices – just like us – that would test his faith and determine which trails he traveled down in the future. Blanton is quick to remind us to carefully navigate those trails. He writes, “The greatest challenges to our faith will usually come not from vicious attacks, but victories; not from pain, but from popularity.” This stands as a wise warning for all Christians, but especially those of us who have the distinct privilege to lead Christ’s churches.

Walk the trail

The Trail of Transforming Faith is a good book that can encourage us as we take this trip we call faith. We often need encouragement because as Christ reminds us, the way is hard that leads to life (Matthew 7:14). It is a journey.
There are ups and downs. There may be no one who exemplified that realty more than Abraham. His trail of faith was a long and difficult one. Bobby Blanton’s book can help us learn from Abraham’s life, avoid many of the pitfalls that he did not and praise our Creator who walks with us down our trail of transforming faith.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Micheal Pardue is pastor of First Baptist Icard in Connelly Springs.)
5/20/2014 11:02:00 AM by Micheal Pardue, Book Review | with 0 comments

Collegiate ministry across the state

May 19 2014 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

North Carolina is home to more than 200 colleges and universities where 39,800 faculty are educating more than 591,000 students from every state and most countries around the world.
Evangelical Christians tend to view university campuses as greenhouses for the indoctrination of secular world views, causing churches to distance themselves from that environment. But the collegiate partnerships team of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) believes the campus is a ripe mission field. They also believe reaching those students requires a completely different strategy.
Rick Trexler, team leader for BSC’s Collegiate Partnerships, says there is some merit in the Baptist Campus Ministry (BCM) model most state conventions have followed. But the great weakness was lack of ownership by churches closest to the campuses.
“Collegiate partnerships is totally different than what Baptist Campus Ministry was. It’s a totally different concept for us,” he said. “Before, [BSC staff was] directly involved in a campus or campuses. Now we are consultants with churches, associations and networks, so that we can assist them in doing the ministry rather than being so hands-on ourselves.”
Trexler explained that the old model gave too much ownership to the state convention and the BCM groups on campus, and not enough ownership by local churches. “That’s part of the conversation we want to have with folks. The hands-on ministry is no longer at the BSC,” he added.
The new structure divides the state into three regions. Evan Blackerby is the consultant for the central region. “What’s great about this new model is that it allows for [church] ownership,” he said. He admitted the process is slow, but the collegiate team believes it is working. “We are seeing fruit through the process of relationships we have built.”
It is not something that is an overnight success, Blackerby said. “Campus ministry has been immediately measurable in the past. The numbers were easy to see. We could say, we had 50 in our campus event last night, and that’s double what we had last week.
“Now we are waiting for pastors to go back to their churches, and for associations to form a team and see what they are going to do. That takes time, but we are seeing it work,” he said. And the number of people involved has the potential to far outpace the fruit of the old model.
There has been much concern over another weakness in the old model. The BSC was able to staff less than a dozen campus ministries. That means 190 campuses had no ministry funded by N.C. Baptists. Local ownership means every campus in the state could potentially have the witness of a Baptist church.
The new collegiate team has five consultants. Trexler is not only the team leader, but covers the eastern region also. Blackerby works primarily in the central region and Jonathan Yarboro in the western part of the state. Two other key players are Tom Knight, regional international student consultant who works from the Charlotte area, and Sammy Joo, regional international student consultant who works primarily in the Triangle area.
Trexler is quick to say the regions “are not hard boundaries, because all consultants cross over to serve in all regions. The international consultants are based in two metropolitan areas, but reach to all areas where they are needed. We are a collaborative team all over the state.”
He gave an example that if churches in Greenville want help reaching the students at East Carolina University, Trexler is not the only one who will meet with church leaders. “It will be all of us at some point, because each of us comes with a different set of strengths,” he said. Team members agreed that one of the team is stronger as an “idea man,” one is a stronger analyst and one is a better communicator.
Blackerby said he talked with Hal Bilbo, associational missionary for the Stanley Baptist Association, last November at the BSC annual meeting. Bilbo was exploring ways to reach students. Blackerby began a conversation with Bilbo, but brought Knight into the discussion at the next meeting. Other consultants will likely join the conversation as it expands.
Yarboro, western regional consultant for collegiate partnerships, said, “We work with church leaders who are in turn working with college students – but not just with students. The landscape has changed for us, and we’re not just focused on the students on campus. We are trying to mobilize churches to reach entire collegiate communities. That’s no longer just 18- to 22-year-olds.
“We have neglected the community colleges. Even volunteers want to serve on what is perceived as the big campuses – actually they’re not bigger – they’re just residential. The mission field is just as great on the community colleges as it is in the residential campuses.”
Blackerby said the collegiate team learned something significant from Kelton Hinton, associational missionary at Johnston Baptist Association. “[Hinton] took a group of people and prayer-walked a community college campus. They began to look at the jobs of their church families. They saw there was a police officer in the church and the college had a ‘Basic Law Enforcement Training’ program. Pairing the two puts a chaplain from one of their churches in the training program on campus. They asked the college administration if they would like to have a chaplain, and they said, ‘absolutely.’
“Community colleges were way off of our radar,” Blackerby said. “But we’ve been able to see how community colleges are so entwined in the community. These students live in that community, work in that community, their families live there, and they stay there when they have completed their degree. That’s a game changer.”
Blackerby said we have to open our eyes to the fact that community colleges may be larger than residential universities. “While 34,000 students are at N.C. State, about 69,000 go to Wake Tech.” he said. “In the past we didn’t know how to deal with it. We looked at a community college and said, ‘they work full time, they’re going to school, they’ve got kids, they babysit ... but when Hinton showed us how to do this, we looked again at these campuses.
“We have this nurse, she is from one of our local churches, she wants to be on mission, she is a believer, she is great at discipling people, so she entered the nursing program and now leads a Bible study and has taken nursing students on medical mission trips.”
Hinton had a part-time campus minister who tried to do “the traditional BCM thing,” Blackerby said, “and the most they could gather was 10 students because of the culture of community colleges. Now under a different ministry model the work has grown to reach more people.”
“This is probably the most exciting kind of stuff we get to see.” Yarboro said. “When we sit down with a group of people, and we’re talking about collegiate ministry, and they say, ‘We really only have a couple of college students, so how can we have a college ministry?’ We turn that around and say, what if instead, you say, ‘We have two students that we have brought in front of our church, placed our hands on them and prayed for them, commissioned them and sent them to the campus as missionaries.’
“Then you don’t have two students to form a group, you have two missionaries that are sent to a campus. That’s a game changer for people. You see the lights come on in people’s eyes. Where they thought it was the convention’s job to reach the campus, now they see it is their responsibility, and they are empowered to do that.”
Church ownership is at the core of the strategy. Blackerby said, “The concept of church ownership is difficult to grasp. We have a tendency to get our hands in the church’s ministry, but we’re here to serve the churches. We want to wash their feet. For us to do anything that the churches could do on their own would be taking something out of their hands that God intends for them to have.”
“We left one strategy, model or paradigm. But we are building a new one,” Knight added. “There wasn’t one there to pick up and run with. We’re blazing a new trail.”
Blackerby said, “One of the goals of the past 365 days has been to change the conversation. It’s not about where campus ministry was; it’s about where campus ministry is going and the potential of all of the churches to be involved.”
That potential will be examined through an “idea conference” to be held Sept. 26-27 at N.C. Central University in Durham. It is called Converge365.
“We are bringing in seven people to give short presentations of collegiate ministry ideas. All of them come from different models of ministry and none of them agree,” Yarboro said. “After they make their presentations the audience gets to ask them hard questions. Then everyone is gathered in affinity groups to work out strategies.”
The collegiate team’s goal is to learn the best strategies for moving collegiate ministry forward. Yarboro added, “While we don’t all agree on methodology, we are on the same team of reaching students. All of us have the same goal. It’s all about reaching those nearly 600,000 college students in N.C.”
Contact Abby Edwards at or (800) 395-5102, ext. 5536, for more information.
5/19/2014 2:45:30 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Mapping the darkness for the mission of light

May 19 2014 by Michael McEwen, BR Content Editor

A.W. Milne was a “one-way missionary.” This early 19th century Christian and his wife, Rachel, packed up a few belongings – not in suitcases but in coffins. Hence, “one-way missionary.”
The Milnes sailed to New Hebrides in the South Pacific where they would live 35 years with indigenous people and also die there. Like any missionary, their goal was to share the love of Christ and to offer the gospel of light in the midst of a dark world.
As a 21st century missionary in Guinea, West Africa, Keelan Cook, assistant to associate directors of North American and international missions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), was visited by a church from Virginia that came every year to do mission work among the Susu people.
Cook said, “One night by the fire, I asked a question, ‘So, there are about 10 people here, and about how much did it cost to get all of you here?’ They said somewhere between $25,000-$30,000.
“And I replied, ‘Do you realize that if you wanted to work with the Susu people, you could’ve put the same volunteers in a 15-passenger van, driven 35-40 minutes to Washington, D.C., and worked with them there with a much smaller budget?”
Cook shared that this conversation was a great paradigm shift for his visitors, and because of this experience, the church is now looking for and interacting with Susu peoples in D.C.

BR photo by Michael McEwen
Keelan Cook, assistant to associate directors of North American and international missions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, is working to map lost people groups in North Carolina and beyond.

Noting the fact that America has always been a melting pot of cultures, Cook said there has been a great shift in the past 20-25 years.
“A number of factors are in play concerning a massive explosion of a plurality of cultures, languages and people groups in American cities. Because of this shift in urban centers, it has fundamentally impacted the way we will church plant in those centers,” he said.
The burden to reach international peoples from within American borders is also a passion of Mike Dodson.
Dodson, assistant professor of church planting and evangelism and associate director of North American church planting for the Center for Great Commission studies at SEBTS, was invited three years ago to a meeting with North American urban strategists hosted by the International Mission Board (IMB).
“One of the conversations brought up [at this meeting] was that people group research is significant internationally, but on the North American side … the research was a ‘black hole.’ … My immediate thought was, ‘It doesn’t have to be that way,’” said Dodson.
In response, he has piloted a program at Southeastern called, “The Peoples Next Door: Mapping and Engaging People Groups in North America” (PND). 
This program utilizes what is called, “Narrative Mapping.” Teams spread out across America’s urban centers to interact with local businesses, shops and everyday citizens to generate a “map” of both a city’s places and its people. In looking for districts or landmarks in an area, teams naturally build relationships with people by asking simple questions about a person’s life.
From these encounters, a team creates “points of interest.” These are places connected to a specific people group that build a foundation of what becomes a people group map. Also a part of this “Narrative Mapping” process is “points of engagement.” These are neighborhoods, communities and apartment complexes where a cluster of international peoples live.
The goal for PND is to move from “points of interest” to “points of engagement,” where deeper relationships with a people group are made for the purposes of gospel proclamation, Bible studies and ultimately, church planting.
Caleb Bridges*, an independent ethno-demographic researcher for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), is helping map the areas of Raleigh-Durham, Greensboro, High Point, Winston-Salem and Charlotte. He works with associational and strategy coordinator leaders in those particular areas. The information Bridges collects is uploaded to, which is a joint project of the North American Mission Board and IMB of the Southern Baptist Convention.
A similar mapping project was piloted in 2013 called “The North Carolina Metropolitan Areas People Identification Project” (NCMapID). This is a partnership among the Metrolina and Piedmont Baptist associations and the BSC. 
NCMapID volunteers will talk with people in these metropolitan areas to try to learn who they are and where they are from. Information is then collected and entered into a database.
When the project is completed around December 2015, local churches will be able to access the people group data. The goal is to take this data and create an effective model that can be used in the other six North Carolina metropolitan areas.
“We are trying to locate where international people groups are and then attempting to mobilize local churches to begin church planting amongst these internationals,” said Bridges.
The 2010 U.S. Census reported that 74.79 percent (7.1 million) of North Carolinians live in the eight metropolitan areas of the state with 77.82 percent (1.7 million) of non-Anglo North Carolinians living in these eight areas.
Acknowledging these large numbers in need of engagement, Bridges said he is in need of “outward-focused churches rooted in the Word of God and are willing to sacrifice themselves for the Great Commission. We also want churches that are thinking long-term and not short-term. … We don’t necessarily need … professional missionaries.
“We just need believers who know the gospel and want to share it.”
Cook said mission-sending agencies such as NAMB and IMB and institutions like SEBTS are great for equipping individuals, “but … God gave the Great Commission to the local church.”
He also added that any church could do this mapping project. “It’s reproducible,” Cook said. “If you have churches in an area that care about who these people are, they can engage them with the gospel. Churches are in a position to develop real relationships through mapping that allows them to move seamlessly into church planting work.”
Legend has it that when A.W. Milne died, the villagers buried him and inscribed these words on his tombstone: “When he came there was no light. When he left there was no darkness.”
Southeastern’s “The Peoples Next Door” and the BSC’s NCMapID programs are more than tools for describing where international peoples work and live.  They’re tools designed to map the darkness for the mission of light.
To learn more information or for upcoming trainings in Southeastern’s “People’s Next Door” project, email Also, for more information about the NCMapID project, email or call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5654.

*Name Changed

5/19/2014 2:38:10 PM by Michael McEwen, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

Heisman winner Tim Brown talks faith & new book

May 19 2014 by Roman Gabriel III, BR Sports Q&A

Tim Brown played college football for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, where he became the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy. He spent 16 years with the Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders, during which he established himself as one of the National Football League’s (NFL) most prolific wide receivers. His success with the Raiders organization earned him the nickname, “Mr. Raider.”
Currently Brown is a college football analyst for ESPN, as well as a co-host on a Dallas CBS affiliate. He continues to be involved in business, Christian and charity ventures. He and his wife, Sherice, have four children.
In this interview I had the opportunity to talk to him about his new book, The Making of a Man: How Men and Boys Honor God and Live With Integrity, where Tim shares the triumphs, heartbreaks and early struggles of his journey. We also discussed the principles and priorities that made him the man he is today.
Q: Why did you decide to write The Making of a Man?
A: As I traveled around the country I had a lot of people stopping me and complimenting me on how I handled myself off the field. It got me to thinking that this didn’t just happen overnight. It was only by the grace of God that I was trying to do the right things off the field then, and continue today to try to live my life by God’s principles.

Tim Brown

I talk in the book about my early days in Los Angeles and some of the struggles I had, but I did experience a real transition in my late 20s. Since that time, I’ve tried to not put myself in bad situations. Consequently I have, to the best of my ability, lived by God’s principles.
Q: In the book, you talk a lot about those influential people in the game of football who impacted you greatly. One of them was your college coach at Notre Dame, the great Lou Holtz.
A: Lou blessed me and wrote the forward of my book. I do not want to sound like I am overstating this, but without Lou Holtz I am not a Heisman winner. When he came to Notre Dame I was on time to graduate and playing on a regular basis. I was happy with my situation at that particular time. I knew our offense would be high powered when he came, but had no idea the plans he had for me. After two days of spring ball, Lou pulled me over and asked me why I wasn’t playing more than what he had seen me play in 1986. And then said I could be the best player in the country. After two weeks of hearing I was the best in the country I started to believe it.
Q: We just had the NFL Draft. For those people out there that wonder about this life-changing experience, tell us what it is like to be a Heisman Trophy winner and be drafted to the NFL in the first round? Why is it difficult for young men to make that transition?
A: First off, your life totally changes. Six months before the draft I won the Heisman, and my name changed. I was no longer “Tim Brown,” I’m “Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown.” Then you’re put into a financial category that you’ve never dreamt of. My first check was for more than my dad had made in his 20 years of working. It is a challenge. You want to have fun and enjoy yourself, and you want to live the way God wants you to live, but there are so many things that can draw you away from that. Early on I had to struggle through some difficult things. Thankfully for me, Roman, I was very blessed to grow up in a spirit-based home and in a spirit-based church. I had been taught very well.
Q: It sounds like your upbringing and parents played a big role in keeping you on track.
A: There’s no doubt. I think the spiritual background that I received literally saved my life, especially with everything I was exposed to in college and in the first years in the NFL at Los Angeles. There’s no doubt that without being raised the way I was and having such a strong father, I could have been involved with some things that would have been very harmful to my life and career.
Q: The relationship with your father is a real focal point in your life as it is with many men. You chose to be very transparent about this in your book.
A: My father and I did not always have the strongest relationship. When I was 13-years-old my father came home after drinking, and he thought I was coming after him. He threatened to kill me, and because of that incident we went 12 years without having a decent conversation. There was no real connection. After 12 years, I asked for forgiveness and told him that I forgave him. And for the next 20 years of his life we had a great relationship. Out of that situation when I was 13 [I made] the decision to never drink alcohol. If alcohol can make a person do these things, then I will never touch it. I don’t know if I could play 17 years in the NFL and have the longevity I had if I was a guy who was out drinking and doing all that kind of stuff.
Q: Like me you are involved with a lot of great youth initiatives in Dallas and around the country. What is your advice for success to young people today?
A: First of all, the most important relationship we need to have is a relationship with Christ. It is hugely important. Actually one of the chapters in my book is about surrounding yourself with good people. You have to find people who encourage you. Thankfully I had coaches, a big brother and a pastor who were always trying to push me in the right direction. When you’re young it’s tough, because kids want to be around the cool group. They used to call me an “L7” – you put an L and a 7 together and you get a square. Thirty years later those same guys are asking me why I didn’t make them do what I did. Many of those guys are currently struggling and looking for a way through life. It’s worth it, and it certainly pays off in the end.

Click here to purchase Brown's book at Barnes and Noble
(EDITOR’S NOTE –Roman’s Sold Out Sports Talk Radio program on American Family Radio can be heard in 200 cities nationally or streaming live at He is an evangelist and motivational speaker. Visit his website:; Facebook: Roman Gabriel III fan page; connect on Twitter: romangabriel3rd. Contact at (910) 431-6483 or email:
5/19/2014 2:24:04 PM by Roman Gabriel III, BR Sports Q&A | with 0 comments

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