November 2009

IMB budget shortfall could affect 600 positions

November 12 2009 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

SHREVEPORT, La. — In a day of unprecedented global missions opportunity and great harvest, Southern Baptists will be forced to draw down their overseas missions force in 2010 by as many as 600 missionaries, International Mission Board (IMB) trustees were told Nov. 10.

The trustees, meeting in Shreveport, La., adopted a $317.6 million budget for 2010 and learned that $7.5 million will be needed from contingency reserves to balance the budget. That unprecedented step leaves the organization with only six weeks of available reserves in case of major unexpected expenses. The funds will be needed in 2010 because projected revenue for the year is lower than projected expenses. The 2008 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering came in $9 million short of the previous year’s receipts and $29 million short of its goal of $170 million.

BP photo

David Steverson, IMB chief financial officer, told trustees the 2010 budget anticipates $100 million in Cooperative Program funding (a decrease of $7.6 million from 2009) and calls for $175 million in Lottie Moon Christmas Offering receipts.

Because of that shortfall, IMB was forced to suspend two short-term missionary programs, send fewer long-term workers and significantly reduce all aspects of its operating expenses. One of those short-term programs, the Masters Program, is being reinstated in a format that asks new personnel to provide part of their own support package. IMB will provide support in areas such as transportation, training and housing. The Masters Program offers those age 50 and older the opportunity to serve two to three years overseas.

The drawdown in the missionary force during 2010 will be accomplished through natural attrition, completion of service, retirements and limiting appointments, not by recalling any personnel, the trustees were told.

Because economic realities are forcing IMB to retrench its efforts, the organization must deliberately plan to have fewer missionaries — with implications for a lost world that should distress Southern Baptist church members, said Gordon Fort, IMB vice president of global strategy.

“When doors are swinging open all over the world, when our work force is finding great harvest in some of the most difficult places in the world, we are drawing our force down from 5,600 to 5,000. It just shouldn’t be,” Fort told trustees. When Southern Baptists collected $11.1 billion in offering plates in 2008, according to the denomination’s Annual Church Profile, and 2.77 percent “finally arrives to support the vision of reaching a lost world, and when [Southern Baptists] are structuring ourselves in a way that guarantees we will fail in our mission, it just shouldn’t be.” (See Editor’s Note below.)

The IMB’s 2010 budget anticipates $100 million in Cooperative Program funding (a decrease of $7.6 million from 2009) and calls for $175 million in Lottie Moon Christmas Offering receipts, said David Steverson, IMB chief financial officer. The operating portion of the 2010 budget is $23.2 million less than 2009, and the total budget represents a decrease of $2.2 million. The plan includes $29 million for capital needs that will not be spent unless the Lottie Moon offering surpasses its $146 million operating budget goal.

The overseas portion of the new budget accounts for 85.3 percent of the total, while the portion for stateside administration and promotion amounts to 14.7 percent. As part of the belt tightening, benefits have been reduced for both missionaries and staff.

A statistical snapshot of work conducted in 2008 by IMB missionaries and their Baptist partners shows God continues to work in dramatic ways to push back spiritual darkness and advance His Kingdom, said Scott Holste, associate vice president for global strategy.

Among the report’s highlights:

  • Church-planting strategies were implemented among 1,159 people groups, 886 of which are unreached. Of the 93 people groups newly engaged in 2008, 77 were unreached. Of the 208 urban centers in which church-planting strategies were implemented in 2008, 164 are unreached.
  • The number of churches worldwide increased globally to 204,192 — more than twice the 95,383 reported in 2004. Church membership grew more than 390,000 to 10.7 million — an increase of about 3.4 million since 2004. Although baptisms were down worldwide by 59,956 and the number of new churches was down 2,230, the numbers still represented one person being baptized about every minute and a new church every 22 minutes.
  • While the number of individuals enrolled in residential leadership training increased by 2,607 to a total of 24,453 — an 11.9 percent annual growth rate — the number of partner home missionaries decreased by 186 (6.5 percent) and the number of partner international missionaries dropped by 128 (6.1 percent). Those declines reflect the same pressure of economically forced strategic retreat IMB is experiencing, Holste said.

Without exception, however, the gospel is eagerly received when taken to people who have never heard it, Fort said.

Mark Sauter, who along with his wife Vesta, leads work with deaf peoples worldwide for IMB, told trustees about sharing the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ with a man whose culture believes that death imprisons a person in a dark cell for eternity. For the deaf, being in darkness would mean being forever unable to use sign language to communicate with others, Sauter said.

After the man heard Sauter’s witness about how he could spend eternity in a place of heavenly light, in the presence of a God who loves him — instead of being eternally imprisoned in darkness — the man said, “You know, that’s the best news anyone has ever told me. I don’t know why you Americans call it ‘Good News.’ You should call it ‘Best News.’”

Sauter’s story reflects the essence of what Southern Baptist international missions is about, Fort told trustees. Drawing back from the mission, he said, imperils not just organizational advance but the eternal destiny of human souls.

“Those who live in great darkness are seeing the Light,” Fort said. “But you know, the best news that we have is Good News, but Good News is only good when it’s received in time.”

The next trustee meeting will be Jan. 18-19 in Richmond, Va. The next missionary appointment service will be held in conjunction with a March 2010 trustee meeting in Memphis, Tenn.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Kelly, an assistant editor with Baptist Press, wrote this story for the International Mission Board. Southern Baptists’ total tithes, offerings and special gifts of $11.1 billion included such items as Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, world hunger and state missions offerings. Total undesignated receipts amounted to $9,013,807,646. Of that amount, churches retained 94 percent and contributed $548,205,099 through the Cooperative Program, of which $204,385,593 was forwarded by the states to support national causes. The CP Allocation Budget apportions 50 percent to the IMB, 22.79 to the North American Mission Board, 22.16 to theological education, 3.40 percent to facilitating ministries and 1.65 percent to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. The IMB also received $141 million through the 2008 Lottie Moon offering.)

11/12/2009 2:35:00 PM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 5 comments

Christian prison proposed in small OK town

November 9 2009 by Bobby Ross Jr., Religion News Service

OKLAHOMA CITY — A tiny town in Oklahoma is throwing its support behind a push to build a privately run, faith-based prison that would employ only Christians and attempt to rehabilitate inmates using biblical concepts.

Bill Robinson, founder of Corrections Concepts Inc., a Dallas-based nonprofit ministry, said he is living proof of how ex-criminals can become positive influences in society, with God’s help.

“God gave me this vision ... to go build a prison,” said Robinson, who was released 38 years ago and has ministered to inmates since 1985.

The town of Wakita, with 380 residents, hopes to welcome 600 more if the $42 million proposal is approved by the state Department of Corrections. A 150-acre site near the edge of town — close to the Oklahoma-Kansas state line — has been selected and the appropriate paperwork filed, Robinson said.

The facility would house men who have 12 to 30 months of their sentences remaining, he said. Prisoners would have to apply and be accepted on the conditions they would work, help subsidize their incarceration, and accept the faith-based programs and environment.

Bible study and worship would not be required of inmates, Robinson said.

Jerry Massie, spokesman for the Department of Corrections, said the state doesn’t have the funds to help support the bond-underwritten proposal, nor is he sure it can succeed if approved.

“I think it would be difficult,” Massie said. “There’s an array of needs the inmate population has: mental health problems, drug addictions. Specializing ... in a prison may be difficult.”

Oklahoma operates three correctional facilities that incorporate faith- and character-based curriculum into their educational programs, Massie said. Those have proven successful, he said, while “maintaining that separation of church and state.”

11/9/2009 2:41:00 AM by Bobby Ross Jr., Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Conservatives cheer traditional marriage victory

November 9 2009 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

Conservative Christians hailed results of Nov.3 voting, especially the defeat of gay marriage legislation in Maine.

Mathew Staver, dean of Liberty University School of Law, called the Maine decision, which overturned a same-sex marriage law enacted earlier this year, a “huge victory” for supporters of traditional marriage.

“Every time the citizens have voted on marriage, they have always sided with natural marriage and rejected same-sex marriage,” said Staver. “Maine dramatically illustrates the will of the people, and politicians should wake up and listen.”

Stand for Marriage Maine, a group that worked for the repeal of the law, was supported by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Knights of Columbus and the Maine chapter of Concerned Women of America.

Gay rights supporters were disappointed in the Maine vote.

“As is too often the case, fear and misinformation have stood in the way of justice,” said Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

Conservatives also welcomed the election of two Republican governors with ties to conservative Christian organizations: Bob McDonnell in Virginia, an alumnus of Pat Robertson’s Regent University, and Chris Christie in New Jersey, who was endorsed by FRC Action PAC, the political action committee of the Family Research Council.

“Many factors played a role in the outcome of yesterday’s elections, so it’s important not to exaggerate the religious right’s influence,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “But at the same time, Americans need to know that this movement’s leaders are still influential in American politics.”

Despite the conservative victories, supporters of gay rights in Michigan hailed a vote in Kalamazoo, where city voters adopted an ordinance that includes gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in anti-discrimination protections. A referendum in Washington state that gives domestic partnerships many of the legal rights of married couples appears headed for approval. 

11/9/2009 2:39:00 AM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Friends eulogize father who killed family as ‘good, noble, true’

November 7 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Despite the horrific nature of his final act, the Billy Maxwell whose life was a testimony for Christ until its final moments, is not separated from God, said one of Maxwell’s closest friends at the memorial service for Maxwell, his wife and two teenage children Nov. 6 in Fayetteville.

Maxwell, within a couple hours of meeting with several friends at Snyder Memorial Baptist Church because he “wasn’t himself lately” and agreeing to get professional help, killed his wife and two children, then himself Nov. 2. Every family member was an active, engaged, exemplary member of the church.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Mourners line up at Snyder Memorial Baptist Church in Fayetteville.

Fayetteville police are investigating their own 74-minute delay in sending a response team to the Maxwell house after receiving a 911 call from there, in which the dispatcher heard a person groaning and a gunshot being fired.

Maxwell, his wife Kathy, and children Cameron and Conner were buried in the morning before the 1 p.m. memorial service. Snyder’s 850-seat sanctuary was filled to capacity by 12:20 and the long line of mourners outside the door was directed to a live feed in the fellowship hall where another 750 seats were filled, with people standing around the edge of the room.

With permission of the family’s extended family, John Cook, pastor at Snyder only since June, answered the question on everyone’s mind: “How did we get to today,” he asked solemnly. “How did a family this wonderful come to the end it did?”

Cooke said Maxwell, a commercial realtor apparently doing well financially, “seemed troubled” and “not rational” for an unspecified short period of time. He was “clearly not himself” said Cook.

Maxwell had a wide “band of brothers” in the church where he had been for decades. When on the afternoon of Nov. 2 he realized “some of his thoughts didn’t make sense” he agreed in a meeting of his friends to seek professional help.

Within hours, he and his family were dead. “He never once indicated he had any thoughts of hurting his family or himself,” Cook said.

Cook, former chief chaplain at West Point, preached from Matthew 8 where Jesus slept while a storm arose. Jesus spoke and calmed the storm. Those in the boat with Jesus asked themselves “
What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!

“We had our own storm Monday evening,” Cook said. “It was a sudden and severe storm and it about knocked us out of the ocean.”

“Death is the final enemy,” he said to a room packed with students, church and community members affected by this active, involved family. “But death does not have the final word.”

“It makes a difference who is in your boat when the storm comes,” he said.

Snyder held a prayer vigil on Tuesday evening, one night after the murders. Cook said that after the service “no one wanted to leave, to go home and be alone.” Instead small groups lingered everywhere on campus, taking comfort in the presence of others.

Each of the family members was eulogized by a close friend. George Rose, who quoted Rom. 8:37-39 to say nothing can separate Billy Maxwell from the love of God, said, “Nothing has or ever could take from me the fact that Billy Maxwell is one of the finest men I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.”

Friends for 30 years, Rose said Maxwell had a “huge heart and passion for life,” for serving others “and mentoring kids in the hope of bringing them to Christ.”

“At his core, he was infinitely good, noble and true,” Rose said. “It will be a lasting legacy of his life.”

“Billy Maxwell was not and is not separated from the love of God,” Rose said. “He is in God’s house today. Let no one here today doubt that.”

Maxwell coached youth basketball and his son Cameron was a player with high aspirations. His buddy and teammate Tyler Reitz said Cameron, “is in a better place now, playing basketball with his dad.”

Not a harsh word was spoken about Billy Maxwell. Cook quoted Maxwell’s father-in-law John Fox saying at the prayer vigil, “If anyone has reason to be angry at Billy it’s me – and I’m not.”

Because Maxwell’s action was so sudden, so dramatically unlike him and so terrible, all those close to him are attributing the action to mental illness.

Ultimately it is for the church family to wrap its arms around the survivors – and each other – and remember, as their pastor said, to look at the Savior in faith, rather than at the storm in fear.

11/7/2009 4:16:00 PM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 1 comments

More charges filed against Cale director

November 7 2009 by Bob Allen

HERTFORD, N.C. (ABP) -- Steve Carter, director of Camp Cale in northeast North Carolina, now faces additional charges, after being arrested in July and charged with two counts of sex offenses against a child. 

A grand jury in Perquimans County handed down four additional indictments Nov. 5 for Carter, 50, who directed Cale Retreat and Conference Center in Hertford, from 2002 until his arrest July 1.

The new charges are for felony first-degree sex offense of a child, a Class B1 felony punishable in North Carolina by up to life in prison, and felony indecent liberties with a child, a Class F felony punishable by up to 20 years.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Johnson told the Perquimans Weekly newspaper that allegations against Carter involve three different victims. Johnson is free on $80,000 bond. No trial date has been set.

Rob Roberts, associational missionary for Chowan Baptist Association, which operates the summer youth camp in the northeastern part of the state, said Carter is on administrative leave with pay, his status since the original charges were made.

"The association is trying our best to be wise and be caring for everyone touched by this situation," Roberts said in an e-mail. We are praying for him, his family, and the children (and their families) involved in this entire situation."

Roberts said the association is praying "that the situation will be quickly and clearly resolved."
11/7/2009 4:11:00 PM by Bob Allen | with 1 comments

Warren drops Reader's Digest joint venture

November 5 2009 by Adelle Banks, Religion News Service

Megachurch Southern Baptist pastor Rick Warren and the Reader's Digest Association will stop co-publishing their quarterly magazine, the partners announced Wednesday Nov. 4.

Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in southern California, will move the magazine online.

 The partners unveiled The Purpose Driven Connection in January, a slick publication that featured spiritual guidance from Warren and a DVD for small group discussions. The annual subscription of $29.99 included special access to additional online resources.

"Our biggest discovery was learning that people prefer reading our content online rather than in print, because it is more convenient and accessible," said Warren in a statement. "When we heard the feedback and noticed subscriptions to the print magazine lagging behind Internet usage, in spite of strong retail newsstand sales, we jumped at the chance to go all digital."

Since the launch of the magazine, the number of subscribers to Warren's daily digital devotional has increased by about 100,000 to more than 400,000.

The last print edition of the magazine will be published in mid-November. In 2010, its content will be posted for free on the web site

A. Larry Ross, a spokesman for Warren, said the print magazine had only U.S. subscribers.

"From the Saddleback perspective, it's not about closing a magazine," he said. "It's about expanding the digital."

The Reader's Digest Association will refund unused print subscriptions and aid Warren's Saddleback Church in hosting the Web site through the first quarter of 2010.

"The customer satisfaction feedback was off the chart, and is the proof of a successful concept," said Alyce Alston, president of Emerging Businesses, who developed the project for RDA, in a statement.

The RDA filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August to help reduce its debt. Ross said the decision about "Purpose Driven Connection" was not related to RDA's reorganization.

11/5/2009 10:34:00 AM by Adelle Banks, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Each one a part of the body

November 4 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

What if we’ve gotten it wrong from the start?

Donnie Wiltshire, special ministries consultant with the Baptist State Convention, grows quiet near the end of a long interview in his office decorated with stacks of projects in process.

He ministers among exceptional people, those who cling to the margins of a society that feels inconvenienced by their special needs. Wiltshire leans forward and retells the story of an imprisoned John the Baptist sending two disciples to ask if Jesus is “the One who is to come.”

“Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. (Luke 7:22 NIV)

“We lose touch with our Head,” Wiltshire whispers, his eyes filling. “Jesus did not build a single thing. We have no idea how many were baptized under His ministry.

“Jesus’ response to John’s question was to say, tell John the deaf hear, the lame walk, the blind see and good news is preached to the poor.”

Self-portrait by Donnie Wiltshire

Donnie Wiltshire, special ministries consultant with the Baptist State Convention, enjoys being in the cockpit but loves ministering to the lost and needy people of this world. See video.

Wiltshire believes beyond budgets, baptisms and buildings, that if Christians became a people concerned with the proof Jesus sent back to John, “there would be such a movement of God among us because we would see people and love people for who they are and see their need for Christ.”

Wiltshire, 56, has been passionate about ministry among exceptional people since as a Royal Ambassador at age 13 he fell in love with a beautiful girl who signed the Lord’s Prayer at RA camp.

After a career that carried him to New Orleans, Texas and Memphis, for the past 10 years he has worked out that ministry in North Carolina with people who are deaf or blind, people with developmental disabilities and those with literacy needs.

People first

When describing his ministry, it is always “people” first: people who are deaf, not “deaf people.”

While ministry in this area will never fill vast auditoriums, it is important first because “Jesus cares,” Wiltshire said. Churches across the state have people who need a specific type of ministry, said Wiltshire, who knows of 113 churches with ministry to the deaf; 187 with ministry to people with developmental disabilities and close to 100 churches and associations with literacy missions.

Wiltshire provides training and connection to resources. We are meeting people at the point of their need and sharing Christ there,” he said.

“You can tell the goodness of a culture,” he said, “by how it treats those who are marginalized.

“The further we push them away the sadder we are as people. When the ‘unfittest’ are a valuable part of who you are as a people, then you are different from the world. That’s why I give my life in this area.”

Four areas

Wiltshire works with four distinct people group ministries.

  • Deaf

He considers Deaf a language cultural group. He works with those who are “culturally deaf” meaning their lives are defined in great part by the fact they do not hear.

Just as in a foreign nation, the gospel must be shared in their “heart language” which is primarily American Sign Language.

This group was born deaf or became deaf very early in life.

They often received a deaf school education and marry a deaf person.

Gallaudet University in Washington D.C., estimates that two to four people per thousand in the population are deaf. That would mean 16,000 to 32,000 in North Carolina.

Deaf is not “hearing impaired,” which often occurs as people age. 

Wiltshire used to wish he was deaf so he fit better into the world for which he is so passionate. Although he is very well accepted in the Deaf world, he is still a hearing person, still separated by his “extra” sense.

  • Blind and Visually Impaired

Wiltshire’s office provides an audio version of the Biblical Recorder free on audio disc, and will provide a player if necessary.

They provide very limited Braille services, and help clients locate Braille resources.

An annual spring retreat draws 30-35 to Caraway Conference Center. Volunteers help participants navigate the strange surroundings.

  • Developmental disabilities

“People first” is the byword in the disabled community.

“We are not characterized by our disabilities, we are people,” Wiltshire said.

“We are people who have a developmental disability of some kind. We need always think of people as being people and not thinking of people being parts, especially defective parts.”

The increase of diseases like ADD, ADHD and autism are beginning to affect “many, many churches,” he said.

Wiltshire will help churches overcome the “attitudinal barriers” that are the primary obstacle to ministry with developmentally disabled persons.

It is not uncommon for parents whose child suffers from one of these disabilities to be asked not to bring the child to church.

Wiltshire wants to help a church “think about the ministry opportunities and help them find ways the church can minister to these families.”

One helpful way is to develop a buddy system with a volunteer who shadows the disabled person and provides the needed extra care and attention.

Sometimes disruptions come not from a child acting out, but from his or her own sense of frustration or being over stimulated.

Nothing in North Carolina Baptist ministry with developmentally disabled persons resounds like the five “happiness retreats” held annually for persons of all ages and categories of disability.

The talent show portion seldom leaves a dry eye in the house and laughter is the most frequent sound heard all weekend.

Typically 800-900 persons, including campers, staff and chaperones attend.

“All of them can respond to the love of Christ and many can respond to the gospel message by professing faith in Christ and growing in their faith,” Wiltshire said. 

Without fail, he said, campers teach leaders “great truths about child-like faith; unconditional love; non-prejudicial acceptance of others no matter what, courage in the face of huge adversity.”

Wiltshire’s complaint about a little arthritis seems dramatically insignificant when he sees his friend with Down’s syndrome, “who has challenges I’ll never be able to understand,” who is always smiling and ready with a hug.

“We think we are whole,” Wiltshire said. “But we are missing some important things.”

  • Literacy missions

Literacy missions helps people who can speak English but can’t read or write it.

It involves tutoring children who struggle in school, and teaches English as a second language.

“These ministries are ways we can meet people at the point of their need, help them with this serious language challenge and share the love Christ,” Wiltshire said.

He emphasized it is very important that churches not “bait and switch” in literacy missions, offering to teach English only as a pretense to draw people to a classroom as a captive audience. Integrity requires they provide the service and establish the relationship.

Last year 525 tutors trained through the North American Mission Board’s literacy training system served 1,800 students. Seventy-six of them committed their lives to Christ.

Church based ministries

Wiltshire is a consultant who trains church members for these ministries. As a one-man department he is multiplying himself through the volunteer force resident in every church. It is churches that must see the human need and enlist Wiltshire to help them organize, train and meet the need.

He joined the Baptist State Convention staff in 1999, from First Baptist Church, Memphis, Tenn., where he was pastor of the Deaf congregation.

He is a graduate of Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

He earned a ThD in church history at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and planted a Deaf congregation in New Orleans which he pastored for 12 years.

He then was pastor to a Deaf congregation in Memphis for almost 10 years before coming to North Carolina.

Wiltshire has been married to Irma for 36 years and they have three children.

One works for the State Board of Missions in Alabama; one is a missionary candidate with the International Mission Board and “the baby” is a student at Gardner-Webb University.

He has had a pilot’s license since 1972 and shares ownership of an airplane that on rare occasions he can use in his work to save hours on the road.

Planning ahead for 2010 

Blind events 

  • Baptist Fellowship Retreat — April 30-May 2, 2010 

Deaf events 

  • Deaf Youth Retreat — May 14-16, 2010 
  • Together in Christ Deaf Conference — May 14-16, 2010 
  • Deaf Interpreter’s Training Program — May 14-16, 2010 

Developmental Disability Events 

  • Western Happiness Retreat — June 4-6, 2010 
  • Happiness Retreats — July 23 - August 1, 2010 

Contact Maria Luoni at (919) 467-5100, ext. 5629, or (800) 395-5102, ext. 5629, or e-mail

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Special series — Body parts

Did you know you have a large church staff? Your gifts through the Cooperative Program support a staff resource at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina that exists to serve your church.

The Biblical Recorder continues a series — Body Parts — featuring one of your Convention staff members, and churches which has grown through that staff member’s ministry. Body Parts is inspired by 1 Cor. 12:12 — “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ” (NIV). The parts of the Baptist State Convention exist to serve you.

Visit Body Parts, a Biblical Recorder special series.
11/4/2009 5:40:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 1 comments

BSC deaf ministry important to those in field

November 4 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Daniel Johnson is pastor of the Deaf congregation of Forest Hills Baptist Church in Wilson. He was born to international missionaries in Chile and was struck deaf at age 8½ by otitis media, a fairly common middle ear infection that today is treated with simple anti-biotics. His needs prompted his parents to return to the United States and begin a new ministry.

He attended North Carolina School for the Deaf in Morganton, then a Baptist high school and Gardner-Webb University. He met Donnie Wiltshire, North Carolina Baptists’ special ministries consultant while both were students at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Wiltshire was planting and leading a Deaf congregation there. Johnson observed him in that role and saw that he was a “great leader.”

Johnson said Wiltshire “knows how to lead his congregation” and is “very fair, tender and understanding.”

Contributed photo

Daniel Johnson pastors a deaf congregation at Forest Hills Baptist Church in Wilson.

“I’m not trying to butter him up,” Johnson said through the interpreter. “But he was a very truthful person,” leading “not like a boss but by example.”

“That was one of the biggest impressions left on me, that of a pastor, leader, shepherd, role model. I apply things in my church I learned from him.”

Johnson’s degree from Gardner-Webb was in oil science. He earned an MDiv at New Orleans, and a DMin from Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School.

What it’s like Johnson does not consider himself different from other people, except for the fact that he cannot hear. He heard as a child, so he knows sounds and can speak so well people sometimes think he reads lips and do not accommodate his deafness.

Growing up he listened to radio and watched television like any “normal” guy.

“Then my normal became different,” he said. “Now I can’t hear so I have a new normal.”

He felt left out around the family dinner table because he could not keep up with multiple speakers. Then his father instituted a “one speaker at a time” policy that changed family dynamics but made Johnson feel more a part.

He still works to educate people about deafness. Some think deaf people cannot do anything, or are fragile because they do not hear. He said he has to continually fight such a “limited world view.”

“Deaf” does not completely define an unhearing person, said Johnson, who warns not to fit all deaf persons into “one size fits all.”

His doctoral project involved bringing hearing congregations to deaf worship.

“All were shocked at the differences,” he said. Hearing people began to understand why Deaf don’t just want to go to a hearing church and have the worship interpreted by sign.

Johnson preaches in sign, the heart language of Deaf. It requires no interpreter and is the native language that any missionary longs to know when working in a different culture.

Wiltshire has been “a lot of help” to Johnson and “other pastors in the state,” he said. “He personally guided me regularly when I was trying to figure out what to do. He would sit down with me, counsel and advise, not telling me what to do, but sharing.”

Michael C. Blackwell, president of Baptist Children’s Homes which offers residential care for developmentally disabled adults, said Wiltshire has been “incredibly supportive” since the first day of that ministry.

In February, Wiltshire will train Deaf pastors in the Convention’s emphasis on discipleship.

Johnson, 49, is a strategic church planter with the North American Mission Board (NAMB), he said.

While he praises God for the “amazing work God is doing in North Carolina,” he is a little concerned that NAMB is less involved in Deaf work as Deaf integrate into society.

In North Carolina, “We’re wide open,” Johnson said. There are many Deaf in the state, but the population is scattered, so “we need more outreaches.”

He and Wiltshire are “pushing our Deaf to do that. God has to put it on their hearts to get them motivated to go.”

The Deaf population as a whole is underemployed. Decent paying work is difficult to find, especially in communications fields. Those deaf adults who were treated as “handicapped” by parents as children are likely still dependent on those parents, Johnson said.

Johnson met his wife, Stephanie, when she was interpreting for a class at Gardner-Webb. She had just graduated from UNC Greensboro and North Carolina Deaf missionary Jerry Potter who was teaching at Gardner-Webb, said Johnson should come meet the new interpreter. They have been married almost 28 years and have three children. 

“The Deaf in our state cherish Donnie Wiltshire and his ministry is very important to us,” Johnson said. “Without his leadership and support we would not have anything.” 

(EDITOR’S NOTE — This interview was conducted via three-way phone/video conference in which the writer talked by phone to a sign language interpreter who was on a video conference call with Daniel Johnson. The writer asked questions, which the interpreter relayed to Johnson and then spoke Johnson’s signed answers to the writer. Because American Sign Language is a picture language, word for word interpretation is not possible.)

Related stories
Each one part of the body
LifeWay special needs ministry marks 30 years
Guest column: A prom to remember

Special series — Body parts

Did you know you have a large church staff? Your gifts through the Cooperative Program support a staff resource at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina that exists to serve your church.

The Biblical Recorder continues a series — Body Parts — featuring one of your Convention staff members, and churches which has grown through that staff member’s ministry. Body Parts is inspired by 1 Cor. 12:12 — “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ” (NIV). The parts of the Baptist State Convention exist to serve you.

Visit Body Parts, a Biblical Recorder special series.
11/4/2009 5:34:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 1 comments

LifeWay special needs ministry marks 30 years

November 4 2009 by Andrea Higgins, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — This fall LifeWay Christian Resources celebrates the 30th anniversary of publishing printed Sunday School lessons for special needs learners, resources that were rare prior to the late 1970s. 

“The thread of neediness and disabilities runs throughout Scripture,” Gene Nabi said as he reflected on LifeWay’s 30-year-old decision to create resources for the special needs community. Nabi, who is now retired, served as LifeWay’s second special needs ministry consultant. “Parents have a desperate need as to what kind of spiritual nurture can be given to their children.”

Originally spearheaded by Doris Monroe, the special needs ministry area of LifeWay’s church resources division has led the way in publishing leader and learner resources that encourage churches to include everyone in the Great Commission.

Photo by James Yates

Jason Reynolds, left, listens as Darlene Ponder, a volunteer in special needs ministry at Woodlands Hills Church in Asheville, shares a story with him.

LifeWay’s first dated Sunday School materials for the special needs community were released in 1979. The Sunday School Resource Kit for Teaching the Mentally Retarded was intended for use with children.

In the 1980s, however, research revealed most of the learners in special needs classes were adults. In response, the Special Education Resource Kit that LifeWay released in 1989 could be used with adults for the first time. The resources were expanded throughout the 1990s and were renamed Access in 2000.

The curriculum has been adapted as societal needs have changed. Trends in public special education continually influence the teaching strategies incorporated in updated versions of the curriculum. For instance, in the 1990s public schools emphasized mainstreaming special needs students — incorporating them into the larger educational population — and LifeWay responded by including adaptation tips for special needs children within the core children’s Sunday School resources. 

LifeWay now encourages a range of options for children with special needs, including learning buddies, separate classes and other options. In 2007, LifeWay launched “Bible Teaching for Kids: Special Buddies,” curriculum geared toward children in first through sixth grade.  

“We’ve gone from our first publication, which was all black and white text, to a multisensory curriculum filled with colorful visuals and hands-on teaching ideas,” said special needs resources editor Ellen Beene, who has been with LifeWay for 24 years.

Before discovering Access, Jo Ann Banks of Asheville, rewrote all of her materials from a regular adult lesson and created images on a flannelgraph for her adult special needs classes.

“Once I found Access, I wasn’t frustrated anymore,” Banks said.

Daphne Lyon of Garner, has a 24-year-old daughter, Kate, with Down syndrome. Lyon attended the special needs track of The Power of the Connected Sunday School Conference (aka Sunday School Week) at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville, in July.

Lyon is a member of Aversboro Road Baptist Church in Garner, which has an active special needs department that offers three classes and provides respite and activities once a month for families of children with special needs. Her church also uses the Access and Special Buddies materials published by LifeWay.

“The materials are so good,” Lyon said. So good, in fact, Lyon said when her daughter’s Special Olympics softball competition conflicted with “High Attendance Sunday,” Lyon asked permission to do the lesson onsite during the games. The engaging and adaptable material helped her present the lesson not only to her daughter’s team but also to a team from another town that joined in and actively participated.

“I think we had the highest numbers for high attendance and the highest newcomer numbers,” Lyon said with a smile. Most programs in the church will accept any volunteer who is willing to serve, but special needs ministry is a bit different.

“Special needs is the one area where churches tend to seek only volunteers who have a specific calling to special needs ministry or who have prior experience,” said Carlton McDaniel, LifeWay’s current special needs ministry specialist. “In any other area of service, you’re expected to be untrained when you volunteer.”

In the past, few ministry resources were available to prepare people for volunteering among the special needs community. McDaniel said that has changed.

“Today there are multiple resources and training opportunities available for volunteers who want to serve in special needs ministry,” he said. “Churches have access to all the support they need to equip leaders for reaching families with special needs.

“Those old excuses are disappearing.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Higgins is a freelance writer for LifeWay who lives in North Carolina.)

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The Biblical Recorder continues a series — Body Parts — featuring one of your Convention staff members, and churches which has grown through that staff member’s ministry. Body Parts is inspired by 1 Cor. 12:12 — “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ” (NIV). The parts of the Baptist State Convention exist to serve you.

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11/4/2009 5:28:00 AM by Andrea Higgins, Baptist Press | with 2 comments

Ministry day at Reidsville ignites First Baptist

November 3 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Someone to check their teeth.

Someone to cut their hair.

Almost more than the food boxes and used clothing available to hundreds of families in Reidsville during a September “Faith, Hope and Love” ministry day by First Baptist Church, people sought dental care and a haircut.

Reidsville is in Rockingham County where unemployment reached as high as 14 percent, First Baptist conducted the ministry day intentionally on the weekend of Sept. 11, giving hope on the anniversary of the day in American life when so much hope collapsed in dust and broken steel girders.

Pastor Bill Duke said a deacon initiated the ministry day, after learning about a similar day conducted by Rich Fork Baptist Church in Thomasville. Other deacons immediately responded positively, although “with some fear and trepidation,” said Duke, pastor at Reidsville four-and -a-half years.

“When they decided to do it, they just trusted the Lord was really in this,” Duke said. “It was a great, great experience, both for the folks who received assistance and for those at church. It has spurred us on to be reminded that when you bless someone else you end up getting blessed yourself.”

Contributed photo

Many participants at the Faith, Hope and Love ministry days at First Baptist Church, Reidsville, sought a hair cut and dental care.

Duke said the ministry day prepared people for the revival meeting conducted in mid-October. He was “amazed” at the revival turnout, especially of the elderly.

Each evening began with “Dinner for a Dollar” at 6 p.m., a time when anyone could get a soup and sandwich dinner for a dollar and have an hour of fellowship around the table before evening services began. The typical crowd of 125 was three or four times the normal Wednesday crowd, Duke said.

 During the ministry day, Duke said people came from all over the county. Most of the 400 boxes of food the church had prepared were received. He said remaining boxes are being delivered to needy families the church learns about.

Christians from other area churches were involved, and the Salvation Army brought its feeding truck to provide a hot dog snack to everyone.

Special offerings in the church covered most of the $12,000 cost of the food boxes and holding the event.

“I didn’t want us going into this thinking it was something we were going to do so we could get something back,” Duke said. “Our people demonstrated that ‘I serve you in the name of Jesus’ and we shared our faith and prayed with people.”

The following day four families that had been served attended services to thank the church. One family had been homeless for two years and is just moving into a place that the church is going to help them furnish. The church already is planning to participate in the statewide Operation Inasmuch to be held next April 24 and May 1.

And from the excitement of this project, they are hoping to repeat the event next September and involve 25 to 100 other churches in the county, holding a ministry day simultaneously at sites all over, providing “caring service in the name of Christ.”

“Can you imagine what it would be like if believers came together to do a day of service in the Kingdom of God?” Duke asked. “God would be honored and people would be touched with the love of Jesus.”

At the “Faith, Hope and Love” Reidsville event, more than 400 individuals, representing twice that many family members, received food, clothing, school supplies, welcome bags, pet food and diapers. Twenty-nine received dental services, including some prescriptions, 97 received haircuts and 18 cars had their fluid levels checked.

And a church was ignited.

 “We are seeking new dreams and visions from God,” said Duke. 

11/3/2009 11:16:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

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