May 2017

BSC board members hear strategy update

May 31 2017 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

Having a heart like Jesus and the eyes of a missionary are two keys to reaching the people around us who don’t know Christ.
That’s the approach that Steve Harris of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) Strategic Focus Team encouraged members of the convention’s Board of Directors to have as they seek to engage the state’s 5.8 million lost people with the gospel.
Harris was one of several BSC staff members who provided an update on the convention’s strategy of “impacting lostness through disciple-making” during the recent Board of Director’s meeting held May 22-23 at the N.C. Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell.
Harris and BSC Executive Director-Treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr. challenged board members to work in their respective regions to educate and lead others to make an impact for Christ in one of the 250 concentrated pockets of lostness across the state that have been identified by the state convention.
While lost people may be found in every community across the state, BSC research has identified concentrations of lost people that have been prioritized for engagement.
A pocket of lostness is a small geographic area where at least 70 percent of the people are unchurched.
“It’s going to be a mammoth challenge to engage each of the top 100 pockets of lostness and much more of a challenge to engage the next 150,” Harris said. “The only way this can happen is if many of our leadership within the Baptist State Convention takes ownership of this calling.”
Convention officials provided updates in several areas related to progress being made in fulfillment of the strategy and also shared some resources to equip pastors and church leaders in their efforts to impact lostness.
Harris and colleague Dan Collison introduced a web-based resource called MissionInsite to board members that can be used to access demographic and other data. MissionInsite allows church leaders to map areas in their local communities and access data related to ethnic and racial diversity, religious beliefs, population trends and more.
Harris and Collison said MissionInsite provides tools that enable pastors and church leaders to analyze their communities to help them develop strategies for gospel engagement.
Mark Gray, who leads the BSC’s Church Planting Team, shared about an event his team regularly conducts called Operation Reach. The daylong event equips pastors and church leaders to identify unreached people groups in their communities through group learning and field exploration. The goal is to help church leaders see their community in a new light and help them develop a strategy for engagement.
“Context determines strategy,” Gray said. “It takes different kinds of churches to reach different kinds of people.”
Planting new churches and strengthening existing churches are two major components of the convention’s strategy.
“In the first quarter of this year, we have seen great things happen with new churches,” Hollifield said. “This is a significant part of our evangelism in our impacting lostness strategy.”
Hollifield reported that in the first quarter of 2017, the convention has already facilitated the launch of 34 new churches in the state, which have reported more than 4,000 people in attendance. Moreover, those churches have made more than 17,000 evangelistic contacts, resulting in more than 1,000 people accepting Christ as Savior.
Brian Upshaw, team leader for the BSC’s Disciple-Making Team, shared some examples of how the convention’s church health and revitalization strategies have engaged numerous churches across the state.
“We want to make sure we focus on revitalization in relationship to the Great Commission,” Upshaw said. “Evangelism and discipleship are at the heart of church revitalization.”
Upshaw said convention staff and its team of coaches, consultants and contract workers worked with more than 1,000 individuals representing 518 churches in 2016. So far in 2017, the team has had some level of consultation with 562 people representing 150 different churches.
Hollifield also shared progress that’s been made in reaching college and university students, and how N.C. Baptist churches are partnering in missions in North America and around the world.
The vision of the convention’s Collegiate Partnerships Team is that none of North Carolina’s college campus would be left without a reproducing gospel presence. Hollifield reported that the number of campuses engaged with the gospel has grown from nine in January 2014 to 48 as of May 2017, which represents an increase of 534 percent.
Additionally, Hollifield reported that 317 N.C. Baptist churches have missions partnerships in 28 of the 32 cities identified by the North American Mission Board as “Send” cities where there is great spiritual need.
The majority of those partnerships are in four cities: New York, Baltimore, Toronto and Boston.
Other churches have international partnerships. Church leaders can learn more about about global missions opportunities through one of four vision tours scheduled for this fall and winter through the BSC’s Office of Great Commission Partnerships.
Hollifield challenged board members to educate others about the convention’s strategy and encouraged them to get involved in all that God is doing across North Carolina.
“We want to educate you about what can be done in your region of this state to help more North Carolina Baptist pastors and church people recognize the needs and opportunities around them, and learn how they can make a difference in impacting lostness in this state,” Hollifield said. “I want to challenge you to become an agent of change in your region by speaking up to others, modeling for them and leading them to get in the game to make a difference where God has put you to minister in His name.”
To learn more about the BSC strategy to impact lostness through disciple-making and the work of the Strategic Focus Team in pockets of lostness, contact Russ Conley at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5557, or

5/31/2017 9:44:59 AM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

‘Go-to’ agency commits to long-term recovery efforts

May 31 2017 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

Packed with prayer, a building dedication in Lumberton brought local and state leaders together.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Gaylon Moss, left, disaster relief coordinator for North Carolina Baptists on Mission, leads a prayer during the dedication of a facility for Hurricane Matthew recovery efforts.

“Sat., Oct. 8, 2016, is a date many people in Eastern North Carolina will never forget,” said Richard Brunson, executive director of North Carolina Baptists on Mission (NCBM), during a ceremony May 17 to dedicate a new hub for Hurricane Matthew recovery efforts. “Thousands of people were affected.”
People remember good days like wedding anniversaries and birthdays, but the dates of disasters also stick in their brains too, Brunson said.
When Hurricane Matthew hit in October, NCBM responded, first with mobile kitchens and assessment teams. They set up six feeding stations: Lumberton, Wallace, Whiteville, Fayetteville, Kinston, Rocky Mount and Greenville. They served 465,000 meals from those sites.
But, the devastation of Matthew continues. Many people are still displaced and unable to repair or find housing. While NCBM has its Red Springs Camp, getting people to Lumberton from that site was challenging and cost volunteer hours driving to and from the sites.
“Lumberton was really Ground Zero for Hurricane Matthew,” Brunson said. “This is where the most jobs are. And this is the place where we really needed something bigger.”
The 12,000-square-foot warehouse in Lumberton, which is located at 141 Avent Road, near Interstate 95, was purchased and renovated by NCBM to serve as a hub for Lumberton recovery efforts. The building can hold up to 100 volunteers inside with enough space for 50 more people staying in mobile sleeping units outside.
“God’s made this place possible,” Brunson said. “As North Carolina Baptists, a big part of our strategy is to provide a place for people to serve others in Jesus’ name, a place where we provide lodging and meals and the coordination of jobs.”
Currently, N.C. Baptists have recovery sites in Windsor, Goldsboro, Warsaw, Black River in Pender County, Lumberton and Red Springs.
John Butler, a product of Lumberton and Robeson County, said, “God has provided for this community.”
Butler, executive leader of business services for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, said that by meeting the needs of people, “it will open the door for those volunteers … to say let me tell you why I’m doing this. In the end, the greatest disaster that any person will ever face on this earth is the disaster of their life ending without a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.”
Lumberton Mayor Bruce Davis shared about the magnitude of the hurricane and the flooding it caused.
“Lumber River is not just a little, local river,” he said, naming eight counties that the river influences.
“At noon on Saturday when the river was at flood stage at 13 feet, people were worried but Sunday when it got to almost 25 feet, it was beyond worry,” Davis said. “That’s 11 feet above flood stage. You think about how much water that is.”
The river is 113 miles long. The National Weather Service said the hurricane unleashed 13.6 trillion gallons of water on the Southeast. Davis said that’s 75 percent of all the water in the Chesapeake Bay. “I know that when the Baptist men and women come into our state [emergency operations center] that we become a better EOC (emergency operations center),” said Mike Sprayberry, North Carolina emergency management director. Calling NCBM the “go-to volunteer agency in North Carolina,” he said that he is “humbled [and inspired] by what you do.”
Davis proclaimed May 17, 2017 as N.C. Baptist Men and Baptists on Mission Day in Lumberton and read the proclamation of thanks just before the ribbon cutting at the dedication of the new building.

More work

A couple of days of bad weather May 24-25 resulted in tornados and other storms leaving some damage in Davie, Iredell, Sampson, Stokes, Union and Yadkin counties. Each site is managing a work schedule. Contact

  • Courtney, Davie/Yadkin Counties – (919) 459-5661;
  • Autryville, Sampson County – (252) 624-4996;
  • King, Stokes County – (336) 394-2530;
  • Marshville, Union County, (704) 254-0271.

To volunteer for Matthew recovery efforts, visit or call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5596.  

5/31/2017 9:44:21 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments

Couple discovers new mission field at Children’s Homes

May 31 2017 by J. Blake Ragsdale, BCH Communications

Jay and Kim Smith spent 26 years sharing the gospel as missionaries in West Africa.

BCH photo
BCH is always seeking servant-minded people, like Jay and Kim Smith, to serve children, families and special needs adults through its locations across North Carolina. For more information, visit

Today, the couple continues to share Christ’s love in their new role as Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina’s (BCH) cottage parents where they care for as many as 12 girls at Mills Home in Thomasville.
“It’s still a mission field but a different mission field,” Kim explains.
Her husband agrees. “We love these girls with the love of God just as we loved the people in West Africa.”

Before the couple met, God impressed on each of them a desire to be involved with foreign missions. Not long after they married, they contacted the Southern Baptist Convention’s Foreign Mission Board, known today as the International Mission Board (IMB), to discuss their desire to serve as international missionaries.
“It was now about finding the right job match,” Kim says. “Jay received his degree in agricultural education, and we were looking for something in that field.”
In October 1990, with their second child on the way, the couple received the IMB assignment for which they had been waiting. They arrived in West Africa three months later.
On the mission field, the Smiths worked with established churches to minister at a Bible school and home craft center for girls. At the same time, the Smiths were parenting their children.
“We were learning a new language and raising little ones while doing our work,” Jay says. “We spent quite a bit of time in the village building friendships. They were getting to know our kids and we were getting to know theirs.”
After 16 years of ministering in hospitable conditions, the Smiths were assigned to a different area in the region where the gospel was unwelcome and Christians were persecuted. It forced them to use extreme caution.
“By this time, there were groups of believers native to the area who would come to us for discipleship and training. They would then go out and evangelize,” Jay explains. “We were more in the background.”
With conditions becoming increasingly dangerous, the Smiths returned to the states in 2015 for what they envisioned to be a temporary respite.
But while stateside, the IMB unexpectedly announced it was in the middle of a financial crisis and laid off hundreds of missionaries and staff members. The Smiths were given the option of retiring early.
“We weren’t ready to retire, but we prayed through it and God made it clear to us that our time with the IMB was ending,” Kim says.
The couple once again prayed. But this time, they were seeking direction for their future.
As they searched for new ministry opportunities, they came across information about Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina.
“We didn’t know anything about BCH. We had no background. We had no training,” Kim says.
“But God kept bringing us back to it,” Jay continues. “Just as He called us to international missions, it was the same way with BCH.”
The couple joined BCH in February 2016.
BCH trains all cottage parents equipping them to provide the highest-quality care for children. The Smiths underwent training in Therapeutic Crisis Intervention, the CARE (Children and Residential Experiences) practice model and participated in a three-part internal staff member orientation. In addition, they receive continuous training throughout their time as cottage parents.
The Smiths joined Robert and Diane Earley as the cottage parent team at Blackwell Cottage.
One couple lives with the girls 24 hours a day, seven days a week for two weeks and then rotate off and the other couple serves two weeks.
By April 2016, the Smiths had transitioned to their new mission field.
“The girls need God. They are up against things man can’t fix,” Kim shares.
As with the majority of the children served by BCH, the girls cannot remain with their families for a variety of reasons. Most have experienced some form of physical and emotional trauma.
“We aren’t here to replace their parents, but we want to take care of them and be there for them physically, emotionally and spiritually,”
Kim explains. “We want to help them feel safe.”
Through devotions, prayer and personal conversations, the Smiths introduce the girls to Jesus.
“It’s the same as on the international mission field – having Jesus in people’s lives helps them with what they are going through,” Jay says. “Here, the mission field is to help the girls understand who God is and for them to come to faith in Christ. There’s nothing like seeing a life change before your eyes.”
During their first year at BCH, the Smiths have witnessed several girls accept Jesus as Savior.
“We’re a family here. We had that on the mission field, and it’s one of the things that drew us here,” Jay says.  

BCH is always seeking servant-minded people, like Jay and Kim Smith, to serve children, families and special needs adults through its locations across North Carolina. For more information, visit

5/31/2017 9:43:45 AM by J. Blake Ragsdale, BCH Communications | with 0 comments

Holbrook Village to honor Caswell director’s legacy

May 31 2017 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

Rick Holbrook helped transform the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell from a summer camp destination into a year-round ministry for all ages.

BSC photo by K Brown
Brian Hemphill, from left, Fort Caswell director; John Butler, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) executive leader for Business Services; Milton Hollifield, BSC executive director-treasurer; and Kathy and Rick Holbrook, celebrate Holbrook Village at Fort Caswell.

Now a section of the grounds at Fort Caswell will bear his name so future generations of visitors will remember his legacy. The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) Board of Directors voted May 22 to name a central section of the Caswell property as Holbrook Village upon a recommendation made by the BSC’s Business Services Special Committee.
State convention leaders, board members and Caswell staff recognized Holbrook and his wife, Kathy, during a reception held in their honor as part of a regularly scheduled meeting of the convention’s board meeting at Fort Caswell. During the reception, officials unveiled a sign that will mark the area designated as Holbrook Village.
Holbrook retired at the end of May after 32 years as the N.C. Baptist Assembly’s director.
“I really appreciate this,” Holbrook said. “I’m not the kind of person who likes to be in the spotlight, but I appreciate what you’ve done here and the good words that have been said about Kathy. It’s obvious that this is the kind of operation where without the support of your family, you cannot achieve anything. You can’t even keep going.”
Holbrook also expressed appreciation to all current and former Caswell staff, calling them “one big family.”
Holbrook Village will be located in a central section of the Fort Caswell property along the Atlantic Ocean where Sandpiper cottage and three other residential buildings are located. Two additional cottages are planned for the Holbrook Village site, with construction scheduled to begin in 2018.
“This is a small way to honor you and all that you have given as an outstanding visionary leader,” BSC Executive Director-Treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr. said in announcing the naming of Holbrook Village.
Since becoming the assembly’s director in 1985, Holbrook oversaw efforts that led to the construction of nine new buildings and renovations to 45 others. He also helped expand the number and types of camps, conferences, retreats and activities offered at Caswell, making the facility a popular destination throughout the year. Now, between 40,000 and 45,000 people attend activities at Caswell each year.
Holbrook’s focus was to use Caswell and the events hosted there as ministry opportunities. Since 2003, more than 6,000 individuals have made first-time professions of faith during the annual summer youth weeks, and thousands more have surrendered to a call to vocational ministry.
One of those individuals who felt a call to ministry during a trip to Caswell was Brian Hemphill, who has served alongside Holbrook in a variety of roles for the past 24 years. “It’s been an honor for me working with [Holbrook] and to have him serve as a mentor to me,” said Hemphill, who will become the next director of Caswell.
Hemphill’s life isn’t the only one that’s been touched by Holbrook.
John Butler, executive leader for the state convention’s Business Services group, said investing in other people and helping them grow is a big part of who Holbrook is.
“There’s an incredible amount of respect for Rick among the Caswell staff because he’s a great boss, and he really cares about his people,” Butler said. “People always want to tell me about how Mr. Holbrook has impacted their life.”

5/31/2017 9:42:28 AM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

New Huckabee show to ‘encourage, edify, entertain’

May 31 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Former Arkansas Governor and U.S. presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee looks for his new talk show to be a “wholesome, watchable program for the whole family.” Huckabee recently announced the fall debut of his show on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN).

TBN photo
Mike Huckabee

“Anybody who ever watched the show that I did on the FOX News Channel will be familiar with the idea of information and inspiration,” Huckabee said when he announced the show from TBN’s Jerusalem studio May 24. Huckabee was in Israel for President Donald Trump’s visit to the nation.
“It’s not so much a Christian program … but it will be a program hosted by a believer, so we’ll have a worldview that will never offend the people of faith,” Huckabee said. “It hopefully will encourage, edify and even entertain.”
Promoted simply as “Huckabee,” the hour-long show will broadcast live from the heart of downtown Nashville, Tenn., TBN Chairman Matt Crouch said from Jerusalem.
“Basically, the Huckabee show is coming back,” Crouch said, “and … it’s going to be on Trinity Broadcasting.” Crouch praised Huckabee for the success of his FOX News talk show that received top ratings airing from 2008-2015. The religious broadcasting station will schedule Huckabee in the same weekend time slot as did FOX, where the show drew 2 million viewers, half of them among 25-year-olds to 54-year-olds, TBN said.
“We are excited to add ‘Huckabee’ to our lineup at TBN,” Crouch said in a May 25th press release. “Mike has a decades-long reputation for compassionate statesmanship, solid biblical counsel and solid common-sense perspective. His is a welcome voice of wisdom, integrity and faith that America sorely needs right now.”
Nashville is the perfect home for the new show, and TBN the perfect network host, the 61-year-old Huckabee said in the press release.
“Nashville is right in the middle of America. It’s one of the fastest growing cities in the nation and a totally fun place to be. Expect some politics and current events, but if you originate in Nashville and don’t feature music, you would be run out of Nashville!” Huckabee said. “I am grateful to Matt Crouch for sharing the vision of a weekend destination on TV where we talk to newsmakers and celebrities in a civil and respectful manner as well as introduce America to some not-so-famous people whose stories remind us that the greatness of our nation is about the people who love God, raise their families and serve their neighbors.”
TBN describes Huckabee as “one of the nation’s foremost Christian and political voices.” In addition to the Huckabee television show, he hosted the syndicated radio show “The Huckabee Report” on nearly 600 radio stations in the U.S. from 2008-2015.
The leader was the 44th governor of Arkansas, serving from 1996-2007, and unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for U.S president in both 2008 and 2015. Among his numerous books are the New York Times bestsellers God, Guns, Grits and Gravy, and Do the Right Thing. Huckabee also served as a Southern Baptist pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Pine Bluff, Ark., and Beech Street First Baptist Church in Texarkana.
TBN bills itself as “the world’s largest and most watched faith-and-family broadcaster,” airing in more than 175 nations, in 14 languages and on 30 global networks.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

5/31/2017 9:33:33 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Church planting initiative among board highlights

May 30 2017 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

Baptist associations, church planting networks and individual churches could receive up to $10,000 in reimbursements for their investments in establishing new churches as part of a new pilot program through the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).

BSC photo by K Brown
Milton A. Hollifield, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina executive director-treasurer, talks about Richard Holbrook, who is retiring as director of Fort Caswell.

The program was announced to members of the BSC’s Board of Directors during a regularly scheduled meeting May 22-23 at the N.C. Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell.
Under the program, the BSC’s Church Planting Team will reimburse up to $5,000 to associations, networks or sending churches for their investments in new church plants. Reimbursements would apply to funds invested during the first year of a new church plant’s existence.
Associations, networks and sending churches would also be eligible for up to an additional $5,000 if a new church plant is located in one of North Carolina’s top 100 pockets of lostness that have been identified by BSC, bringing the total potential reimbursement to $10,000.
In most cases, a pocket of lostness is a small geographic area where at least 70 percent of the population is unchurched.
The program will begin July 1, and convention leaders hope to work with 30 partners during the first year. Partners must be preapproved based on criteria developed by BSC. The program will be evaluated after the first year.
The reimbursements would also require partners to reinvest funds in additional missions efforts in the state, either by supporting the second year of the church plant or by helping establish another church plant.
“This is a way that we can send people into the community to establish new churches,” said Lawrence Clapp, chair of the board’s Church Planting and Missions Partnerships Committee, in announcing the program.
While BSC does not directly support individual church planters or individual church plants, the convention does work with churches, associations and networks to help start new churches. Clapp said the new program provides a new approach to expand the convention’s support of church planting efforts.
Similar funding programs through sending churches currently exists through the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and state conventions in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, Clapp said.
Through its partnerships, the BSC has helped start about 100 new churches annually since 2007.
Those interested in the program should contact Mark Gray, who leads BSC’s Church Planting Team.
In other action, the board’s Executive Committee approved a proposal to assist Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in establishing a new ministry that will provide theological education and training to inmates serving long-term sentences within the N.C. prison system. BSC will provide SEBTS with $69,500 over five years, beginning with an initial contribution of $36,000 in 2017.
The funds will help the seminary cover capital costs associated with starting the North Carolina Field Minister Program. The program will offer inmates the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry. Graduates of the program will be designated as field ministers and appointed to ministry positons within prisons across the state. SEBTS plans to begin the program with an initial class of up to 30 inmates later this year.
“This new educational program in North Carolina aligns with our current strategy of impacting lostness through disciple-making and would enable us to help reach and minister to a population that is often overlooked and neglected,” said Milton A. Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer of the BSC.
The Board of Directors also unanimously passed a motion authorizing John Butler, executive leader for the convention’s Business Services Group, to negotiate a lease agreement with a private company to develop a solar farm on the property of Caraway Camp and Conference Center near Asheboro. If developed, the solar farm will be located on an unused section of Caraway’s property that would not be developed for use by the camp.
The board also voted unanimously to approve a motion calling for the transfer of 20 percent of the convention’s 2016 operating income over expenses to a contingency reserve fund. The transfer amount will equal $25,668.
In other business:

  • Board President Marc Francis appointed board members Ken Jones, Earl Roach and David Spray to serve on the nominating committee for Fruitland Baptist Bible College. Jones will serve as the chair of the committee, which has the responsibility of appointing three individuals to serve on Fruitland’s Board of Directors. The committee’s appointees will be presented to the BSC’s Board of Directors for approval at September’s meeting.
  • The Executive Committee approved a recommendation by the convention’s Committee on Nominations to appoint Kenneth Robinette and Nathan Sanders to the Board of the Directors for the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina. Robinette is a layperson from Rockingham First Baptist Church and will fill the 2018 unexpired term of Joan Mitchell. Sanders is a lay person from Scotts Hill Baptist Church in Wilmington and will fill the 2019 unexpired term of Wendy Peters.
  • The board approved six motions brought by the Articles and Bylaws Committee that updates language in the convention’s articles of incorporation and bylaws for consistency, establishes a new Convention Relations Special Committee to replace the former Christian Social Services Special Committee and changes the dates of the election of board officers from January to September. All proposed amendments will be voted on by messengers at the 2017 BSC annual meeting in Greensboro on Nov. 6-7. The proposed amendments will be available online for review at least 30 days prior to the annual meeting and will be published in the Biblical Recorder.
  • The board voted to name a section of the N.C. Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell as Holbrook Village in honor of longtime Caswell director Rick Holbrook. Holbrook is retiring at the end of May after 32 years of service.
  • The board heard an update from Hollifield and other convention staff members on the progress being made related to the “impacting lostness through disciple-making” strategy.

The board’s Executive Committee is scheduled to meet again July 13 at the BSC offices in Cary. The next meeting of the full Board of Directors is scheduled Sept. 25-26, at Caraway Camp and Conference Center near Asheboro.

5/30/2017 11:44:09 AM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

SEND conference calls for ‘recalibration’

May 30 2017 by Liz Tablazon, BR Staff Writer

“I wasn’t called to a place. I was called to Him. To obey was my objective, to suffer was expected, His glory was my reward.”

North American Mission Board photo
Trip Lee urged attendees of Send Conference to talk about Jesus in everyday conversations, willing to deconstruct people’s misunderstandings about Him. “The real Jesus that we see in scripture is somebody worth believing,” Lee said.

Karen Watson, an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary who was killed in 2004 while serving in the Middle East, penned those words in a letter that was only to be read in the event of her death. The letter would later inspire California-based worship leader and artist Hector Gabriel to write the song “Peoples Praise.” Gabriel performed it May 19-20 at the Send Conference in Frisco, Texas.
In the Dr. Pepper Arena, more than 4,000 church leaders, missionaries, students and families sang along, declaring, “We will go, we will go.” The song reflected the purpose of the conference, sponsored by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and IMB.
This year’s theme, “Redefine,” called attendees to grasp a clear understanding of what it means to live on mission, whether God calls them to do so at home or overseas.
Four main session speakers conveyed different aspects of what it means to redefine a life on mission. Speakers included D.A. Horton, pastor of Reach Fellowship in North Long Beach, Calif.; David Platt, IMB president; Trip Lee, hip-hop artist and pastor at Cornerstone Church in Atlanta, Ga.; and Vance Pitman, national mobilizer for NAMB.
Attendees had numerous options for breakout sessions that featured, among others, Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.; Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; Jen Wilkin, Dallas-based author and Bible teacher; and Nik Ripken, missionary and author of The Insanity of God.

Leaving and leveraging

Horton set the conference’s tone by drawing attendees’ gaze to Christ as the example of obedience. Expounding on John 17, he pointed to Jesus as the pattern for submitting to God; the only pathway to God; and the personification of God’s glory.

North American Mission Board photo
More than 4,000 church leaders, students and families came from across the country to be equipped to live on mission.

Jesus’ confidence and assurance came from engaging the accomplishment of His Father’s will, Horton explained.
“I rob myself of this confidence when I look to circumstances … taking my eyes off the Father,” he said. “Assurance in victory in Christ flees away because I have chosen to walk in disobedience, submitting myself to the sin of fear.
“The only way for us to recalibrate our hearts to be obedient to the mission that we are called to live by our Savior, is to put our eyes back on Jesus.”
Horton said the Greek word for ‘example’ means “Jesus is the one Christians are called to trace. As He suffered and endured while living on mission, we are called to trace His every move.”
Recounting the biblical story of Esther, Platt addressed a common critique of the book bearing her name. Some scholars throughout history have questioned Esther’s inclusion in the Old Testament because the book doesn’t mention God.
“The fingerprints of God are all over this book,” he said. “It’s like a divine drama with cosmic coincidences at every single turn. … You cannot write a better script than that. Do you see what the book of Esther is teaching us about history? God has got the whole thing rigged. He’s rigged it for a reason. God has a purpose: to save His people for the sake of His praise among all the peoples in the world.”
Esther’s story, Platt said, reveals that God is sovereignly orchestrating all of history for the accomplishment of His purpose, and He is sovereignly orchestrating every person’s life for the accomplishment of His purpose.
Platt emphasized that while the mission field includes front yards, workplaces and schools, God calls some to leave their jobs and go to the nations, or to leverage their jobs to go to the nations. He encouraged students not to merely quit school and go overseas, but to take their education seriously and “work hard in ways that open up doors for the spread of the gospel through your life, through your profession.” He implored retirees to “spend the last years of your life before you see your Savior’s face … introducing His name to people who’ve never even heard.”
Speaking from Romans 10, Lee urged attendees simply to talk about Jesus. “If you say something, God may save someone,” he said.
Some people may reject Jesus because they have only heard false things about Him, Lee said.
“Some people think of an easy-going Jesus who doesn’t really care about our sins, or a hateful Jesus who they think the only thing He cares about is condemning our sins,” Lee said. “The real Jesus that we see in scripture is somebody worth believing.
“Sometimes it takes conversations with people to deconstruct their understanding of who they think Jesus is, because the Jesus that they’re rejecting is not even the real Jesus. This means some of us will have to think about the misunderstandings we have about Him.”
Concluding the conference, Pitman reiterated Platt’s charge to take God’s mission personally – at work, school, home, wherever. He echoed Lee’s call to have gospel conversations within and across cultures. Pitman further reminded attendees that their lives on mission will only be empowered by the Holy Spirit, and that God can use anyone’s life to inspire and motivate others.
“When you examine the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, almost everywhere you read of somebody being used greatly for the Kingdom of God, you always find this phrase: ‘The hand of the Lord, the power of the Lord, the presence of the Lord was with them.’”
People tend to commend leaders based on their skills and expertise, Pitman said, but God empowers ordinary Christians like the church in Antioch as described in Acts 11 – people never referred to by name, but only as “them.”
“You know what we desperately need in the church of North America? We need some of ‘them’ with just the hand of God on them.”
Austin Stone Worship of Austin, Texas, led worship throughout the weekend, with Thomas Eugene Keys, III and Crowder also ministering through music.
The conference was the second of three events held in different regions around the United States. The first was in Long Beach, Calif., on Feb. 3-4. The final Send Conference this year will be July 25-26 in Orlando, Fla.

5/30/2017 11:23:44 AM by Liz Tablazon, BR Staff Writer | with 0 comments

Russell Moore: ‘Parenting is hard’

May 30 2017 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Parenting is both timeless and urgent, according to Russell Moore, as each new generation of moms and dads face age-old challenges complicated by rapidly changing cultural norms. Christians need to think carefully about how they pass on life and godliness to their children, but it won’t be easy, so Moore is asking people to trust in Christ and rely on the church.

Photo by Rocket Republic
Russell Moore delivers a plenary talk at the 2016 ERLC National Conference.

Moore, who serves as president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), spoke with the Biblical Recorder via telephone to answer questions about cultural issues related to childrearing and the upcoming ERLC national conference, “Parenting: Christ-Centered Parenting in a Complex World.”
The annual event will take place Aug. 24-26 in Nashville, Tenn., featuring key speakers such as Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family; Sally Lloyd-Jones, New York Times bestselling children’s book writer, including The Jesus Storybook Bible; Jen Wilkin, well-known writer and speaker; and Crawford Loritts, author and senior pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Ga.
Below is a lightly edited transcript of the interview.
Q: Of all the pressing issues clamoring for attention today, why did you choose to focus on parenting at this year’s ERLC national conference?
A: Largely because parenting is the No. 1 issue that I’m asked about on any given day. It applies to the whole spectrum of gospel, moral and ethical issues that we face: from technology, to gender questions, to explaining cultural issues to kids.
It’s by far the No. 1 question that we get, both from parents and from churches that are seeking to equip parents. We hear quite a bit from youth pastors and children’s ministers who are dealing with parents who feel as though they lack confidence in training up kids in a time like this.
Q: There are two things you never discuss in polite company, so the saying goes: politics and religion. But today you could add “parenting” as a third. Conversations about how to raise children can easily become heated. The term “mommy wars” is now a topic of its own because of how volatile parenting debates can be. Should churches address parenting issues as part of discipleship, or are people squabbling over mere matters of preference?
A: We should address parenting issues as part of discipleship, but we need to speak definitively where scripture speaks definitively and not speak definitively where scripture does not.
We already know how that works in other areas of discipleship. There are some things that we call out as morally wrong, but other things that we – in a Romans 14 way – leave to people’s consciences. The same thing applies to parenting.
Sometimes the heated debates that go on about parenting are really about preferences or people seeking to exalt their way of parenting over against some else’s. That’s not a Christian pattern. The Bible calls us to count others as more significant than ourselves.
We also need to recognize that parenting is hard. As one friend of mine puts it, “Parenting is not just humbling, it’s humiliating.” Even those who think they’re experts on parenting come to a point where one realizes just how difficult this is.
So, we equip families to parent without shaming or seeking to belittle them.
There are certain biblical principles that we seek to embed in one another’s hearts that might express themselves in different ways in different contexts in different families.

The way, for instance, that I do family devotions is not something I would say every family ought to do this way. What I would say is the Bible calls us to teach our children the scriptures, and teach our children the gospel, and different families will work that out in different ways.
I think we have to constantly be differentiating between clear biblical principle and prudential wisdom, where we’re not giving explicit direction but we are giving a biblical framework.
Q: Parenting is a wide-ranging topic. Will you outline some of the issues the event will cover?
A: We’ll be talking about how to rear children who see the church as their primary community and Christ as their primary identity.
I think that’s where the pre-eminent struggle is now – whether or not our children identify themselves first with the global body of Christ or with a peer group or an economic group or a consumer group. That’s one of the main issues that we’ll be dealing with.
We’ll also be talking about how to deal with prodigals: what to do with children who are wandering away from the Lord, in a way that stands by both conviction and connectedness.

And then we’ll be talking about a range of issues: how to make decisions about technology, how to raise children to understand biblical categories of male and female, how churches can equip parents who have unique situations – special needs children, children in the foster care system and others.
We recognize there are some things that every generation has been talking about, all the way back to Abraham. There are other questions, though, that our parents and grandparents never had to answer.
Q: A lot has been said in recent years about the negative impact of “screen time” on children. But older generations have lamented the effects of new technology as far back as Socrates, who claimed the newfangled written word would destroy our memory. Do you think the current hand-wringing is unwarranted, or is there truly something unique going on with today’s handheld digital devices?
A: I don’t think we have too much hand-wringing about technology. I think we don’t have enough hand-wringing on this particular issue.
Christians are often overly fearful of various things in culture, but this is one where I think Christians aren’t fearful enough. I don’t think we take seriously what actually is going on with technology, partly because it’s impossible to keep one or two steps ahead of emerging technology.
Sometimes parents think if they have a filter on their Internet at home then the technology issue is settled. That’s just not sufficient.
There’s not only the question of how to keep our children moving toward sexual purity in a “pornified” culture, but there’s also a question of what it means to be a human being.
What does it mean to have real human connectedness in a time like this? When you say that every generation has talked about technology in negative ways, that is definitely true, but many of the ways previous generations talked about technology turned out to be true.

Think, for instance, of the warnings about television that Neil Postman gave us in the 1970s and 80s. In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Postman was prophetic and really wasn’t paid attention to at the time. So, I don’t think there’s enough careful thought going into technology today.
Technology is skyrocketing in terms of speed. We don’t know what the next generation will be facing, but we know it will be even more confusing than what we’re dealing with now.
Q: Gender issues flooded our national conversation quicker than anyone expected. Many Christian parents have been caught off-guard by the need to discuss what it means to be male and female with children at a very early age. How can Christian parents address gender issues from a biblical perspective in proactive ways, rather than reacting to the latest thing their child heard on the playground?
A: Some parents are reluctant to talk about these issues for fear that they will discuss them too early, in a way that could be unsettling or confusing for their child.
My counsel to parents is to try as best you can to get to your child first with a framework for gender and sexual issues, so that the framing of these issues comes first from parents and the church before it’s confronted on the playground.
That means having wisdom about what is appropriate when. That’s often going to be unique to each child and their context.
So, for instance, in my home we homeschool our children. Our children’s primary peer group is within the church and within the neighborhood. My then-six-year-old came home and asked me about transgenderism. I asked where he heard this, and it was sitting in the dentist’s office, seeing a news report on transgenderism. He’d never heard of it.
The temptation for us as parents is to be so alarmed when asked about these things that we can give a sense of a lack of confidence to our children. If the Bible has given us everything we need for life and godliness, then we don’t have any reason to be fearful about addressing these sorts of questions.
Q: Your talk is titled “Cross Shaped Parenting.” What does that mean?
A: We can sometimes fall to a kind of prosperity gospel parenting, in which we give biblical principles along with the assumption that if we put these into place then our families will flourish with sustained happiness and blessing – in the way the world defines happiness and blessing.
The biblical picture is that, when we take up our cross and follow Christ, it applies to our parenting as well. When we become parents, we are entering into a realm of spiritual warfare. We’re dealing with the cultivating of a new generation. The principalities and powers are going to kick back against that, and they do.
My message is going to be that parenting is, in fact, difficult. In every era and in every culture, there are spiritual reasons behind that difficulty, but none the less, parenting is worth it.
Just as we see in the cross – both the beauty of God’s grace and the horror of human sin – in parenting we see a reflection of what it means to know God as Father, what it means to know church as family.
We need each other when it comes to parenting. We need to bear one another’s burdens, recognizing and knowing, if one isn’t in a difficult situation right now in parenting, one will be.
Q: Pew Research released a study last year saying young adults ages 18-34 are now more likely to be living in their parents’ home than with a spouse or partner in their own household. Do you think that’s a problem, and if so, how can parents of these young adults respond to the growing trend?
A: That’s definitely a problem, and I think there are many reasons for it.
One of those reasons is economic. We’re living in a time of great economic uncertainty and instability, especially for those who are just starting their careers. That’s especially true when they start those careers with horrifying amounts of student debt. So, I think the economic piece is one factor here, but I think there’s another piece that’s cultural and spiritual.
There are many in the emerging generation that lived through “divorce culture” as children as their parents were splitting apart. They desperately want to avoid being in that situation themselves, but the way they’re responding to that is not by committing themselves to faithful, intact, stable marriages, but by avoiding marriage altogether.
I think there’s a fear of marriage, parenting and maturity that snowballs when one doesn’t have a peer group that’s marrying and starting families. There are people who simply cannot see how they could go out on their own and “leave and cleave.”
That’s part of what the older generation of the church is here to do, to say to young men and young women, “You really can do this. You really can be faithful husbands and wives and fathers and mothers, even though you don’t feel as though you’re ready.” No one is ready. No one feels ready to take on that responsibility.
Some of our generational disconnectedness plays into that as well. It’s ironic because at one level it would seem that we have more generational connectedness because the 28-year-old is still living at home with mom and dad, but it’s actually the result of generational disconnectedness because the adult child doesn’t see how he or she could live out the sort of path that his or her parents or grandparents took.
Q: What parenting issues do you see on the horizon that Christians should be prepared for?
A: One of the issues is the overprotectiveness that we see from many parents in American culture right now. It’s combined with a kind of parental negligence.
There are some parents who are fearful of having their children play outside or ride a bicycle to the neighbor’s house but who aren’t really concerned about the media intake of their children or whether or not their children are thriving spiritually. That’s a problem.

Many of us are sheltering where we shouldn’t be sheltering and not sheltering where we should be sheltering. And it’s difficult to know the difference between those two things. Another issue is navigating how to raise children who have biblical convictions without empowering children to be Pharisees.
Different children have different points of vulnerability. Some of my children have a natural tendency to be really lax about discernment issues. Some of my other children are more like me and have a vulnerability toward being Pharisees or judgmental.
I have to figure out how to teach my children about what the Bible commands – how Jesus defines reality – without teaching them how to divide people up into the good people and the bad people, so that we have children who are actually gospel people who are on mission with Christ. That’s a difficult thing to do, and I think it’s a challenge right now for Christian parents.

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5/30/2017 11:14:07 AM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

Royce, former ERLC leader, joins Trump admin.

May 30 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Shannon Royce, a former leader at the Family Research Council (FRC) and Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), has been appointed as the Trump administration’s director of the Center for Faith-Based and Community Partnerships.

Shannon Royce

Part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the center seeks to forge government partnerships with faith-based and community organizations to address community needs. During Royce’s tenure, the center’s focus will include combating opioid addiction, childhood obesity and mental illness as well as fostering health reform, she told Baptist Press (BP).
“I am eager to work with our faith and community partners in their service and stewardship to bring help and healing in their communities,” Royce said in written comments. “In doing so, I believe our work can help HHS fulfill its mission to enhance and protect the health and wellbeing of all Americans. The faith-based and neighborhood partners are instrumental in addressing community needs and concerns in the work they do every day, serving their members and neighbors and meeting the needs of our most vulnerable citizens.”
Royce, who began her work at the center this month, served as FRC chief of staff and chief operating officer from 2015-17 and as ERLC director of government relations and legislative counsel from 1999-2003. In her work at the ERLC, she directed the commission’s Washington office.
Additionally, Royce has served as counsel to Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and as executive director of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.
The mother of a child with special needs, Royce has worked to raise awareness of mental health issues within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and beyond, including service on SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page’s Mental Health Advisory Council.
Page told BP he was “excited to hear of the appointment of Shannon Royce to” her new role at the Center for Faith-Based and Community Partnerships.
“She will do a wonderful job,” Page said in written comments. “She has served Southern Baptists in numerous ways in the past. She was the prime motivator for our mental health advisory group. Her competency and compassion will be used by God in this service to our country.”
When the Center for Faith-Based and Community Partnerships was founded in 2001, some evangelicals – including the ERLC – expressed concern that partnering with government could restrict the religious liberty of faith-based organizations. Since then, however, Southern Baptists and other evangelicals have forged successful partnerships with government in such areas as disaster-relief and responding to humanitarian crises. A key facet of those partnerships has been working with government on projects that are not exclusively faith-centered while funding evangelism and discipleship through private means.
Royce said HHS Secretary Tom Price “is eager to eliminate barriers to full and active engagement by faith-based partners, and I will work with him to accomplish this goal.”
Royce received her law degree from George Washington University. She and her husband Bill have two adult sons.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

5/30/2017 11:02:41 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ride to Clyde bikers collect $32,379 for children’s homes

May 30 2017 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

Over the course of three days, 78 motorcycles traveled 460 miles in the second annual four-day Ride to Clyde and presented $32,379 to the N.C. Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH) during the annual BBQ Festival at Broyhill Home in Clyde on May 13.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell
Bikers give away candy and kazoos as they visit with children along their Ride to Clyde, an annual trip from Fort Caswell to Clyde visiting Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina sites along the way.

The amount greatly exceeded the more than $19,000 given in the inaugural Ride to Clyde last year. More riders took part this year, with some 97 bikers making the trek from the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell on Oak Island to Clyde, with stops at:

• Cameron Boys Camp in Moore County, a year-round residential wilderness ministry;

• Mills Home on the main children’s home campus in Thomasville to meet the kids, hear a testimony from a 15-year-old girl and to have a blessing of the bikers led by BCH President Michael C. Blackwell;

• Lake Junaluska for an overnight stay and time to pray and think about the experiences of the ride; and

• Broyhill Home in Clyde, a 92-acre home currently providing care for 50 children, the home’s maximum capacity.
Larry Phillips told the crowd at Broyhill Home, “We love what you’re doing. It’s our vision to share the love of Christ and make a difference in the lives of the children we come in contact with,” he said as he presented the check.
“The children’s handprints will be on the hearts of these riders forever,” he said. 
Broyhill Director Linda Morgan told the bikers that she has worked with the home for 44 years. “I got to see how God transformed a blackberry patch into a haven of hope,” Morgan said. “It’s because of people like you who give and give and give.”
Some of the bikers work all year on collecting funds for the Ride to Clyde. Top contributors this year were Jerry and Jeune Coffey, who collected more than $8,000 for the collection. They are members of Chase Baptist Church, Forest City. They held a golf tournament, served meals and did a variety of fundraising projects.
BCH constitutes one of N.C. Baptists’ biggest and most needed ministries. Each year the homes care for more than 20,000 lives impacting numerous children and families through 21 locations across the state. 

Though the children’s homes receive funding through the Cooperative Program, those funds have not kept up with BCH’s ever-growing ministry to the state’s increasing numbers of children needing care because of broken homes, abuse and many other social situations.
For more than 100 years, BCH has depended on capital campaigns, collection of food and other items needed for day-to-day living and special campaigns like the Ride to Clyde.
Riders were quick to say they were blessed more than the kids, who were delighted to be able to sit atop a huge Harley-Davison Electra Glide Ultra Classic, Honda Gold Wing or other brands of motorcycles – and happily blow the horn.
Occasional rainfall meant the bikers wore their rain suits, but the wet could not dampen the spirits of either the riders or the children who greeted them with signs, waves and squeals of happiness. “It was just such a blessing to be with the children,” said Terry McPherson, who rode his 1999 Harley Davison Road King, which already has 132,000 miles, from his home in Midland. He is a member of Hopewell Baptist Church in Monroe, a church that has a number of motorcycle enthusiasts among its membership.

Another Hopewell member is Phillip Morris, president of the Carolina Faith Riders group, who rode with his wife on their 2004 Electra Glide in the Ride to Clyde.
“It was absolutely awesome,” he said, “and we are so thankful to get to see what Baptists are doing through the children’s homes.”
Steve Starling, pastor of Freedom Biker Church in Monroe, brought eight members with him on the ride; he also took part last year. 
Starling also said that the best part of the ride was learning about the amazing ministries to children that Baptists have. Bringing members to visit the homes and meet the kids was sort of like jumping in with both feet and getting the full experience, he said.
Three riders came from Hope Community Church in Shelby, said member Dub Caldwell, one of the three. They are part of the Bikers for Christ group, which boasts more than 3,000 members across 50 states and 23 other countries. 
“What a blessing it was to meet the kids,” he said. Caldwell let one child after the other sit atop his Harley Davidson.
In a Friday night gathering beside Lake Junaluska Friday evening, the riders swapped experiences of the ride. One man came near weeping as he told how a boy at one home would not take candy, but his face just lit up when he was offered a penny with a cross cut into it.
The cross pennies are great witnessing tools, the riders agreed. One man told how a girl at Camp Duncan was given a penny and told the gospel; she immediately gave the penny to one of her friends – and told her the gospel story as well.
Judy Evans of Otto told how eager one girl was for a hug and just clung to her. Judy is wife of Baptist State Convention staffer Lester Evans, who works with associational partnerships. 
“Just call me Crash,” joked Coot Yow at the Friday night session, telling how he slid down on his motorcycle and sprained an ankle on Oak Island. But he and his wife made the ride anyway, hauling his bike on a trailer pulled by his pickup. They are members of Kinza Baptist Church in Stanfield.
The Ride to Clyde originated with Brian Davis and Rit Varriale, pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church, Shelby, as a way to share the love of Christ with children in care, raise money for the Baptist Children’s Homes and share about their ministries with riders. It also happens to be a great way for bikers to enjoy the open road for a few days.

5/30/2017 10:51:03 AM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

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