November 2010

Tenn. approves 50/50 CP split

November 24 2010 by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Baptist Convention (TBC) messengers overwhelmingly adopted a recommendation from the TBC Executive Board to begin moving toward a 50/50 distribution of Cooperative Program funds with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Messengers also welcomed new Executive Director Randy Davis, adopted a $36.5 million budget, authorized a strategic planning team, extended two missions partnerships and a missions “connection”; and approved a resolution affirming the Cooperative Program.

Attendance was up about 10 percent from last year to 1,283 messengers.

The TBC budget currently provides 60 percent of Cooperative Program receipts for Tennessee Baptist missions and ministry endeavors, while forwarding 40 percent to the Southern Baptist Convention for national and international missions and ministries. The recommendation approved by messengers begins the process of moving toward a 50/50 distribution to begin “no later than the 2012-2013 budget year and continue in a manner and over a time frame so as to enhance, not inhibit, the ministry of the TBC as well as the SBC.”

The six-part recommendation said the specific plan for achieving the desired allocation would be determined by a proposed strategic planning team. It also called on the convention’s Budget and Ministry Committee to “monitor the giving of TBC churches and the impact of adjusted percentage allocations through an appropriate subcommittee or other means.”

The 2010-11 budget of $36.5 million was approved without opposition. The budget is $500,000 higher than the budget for the past fiscal year, which ended Oct. 31. Cooperative Program receipts for the past year were $1.46 million, 4.08 percent below budget.    
11/24/2010 4:03:00 AM by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist Press | with 2 comments

Hickory Grove pastor retires

November 22 2010 by Hickory Grove Baptist Church

CHARLOTTE — Joe B. Brown, pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church for 26 years, announced on Sunday, November 21 that he will step aside from all duties as senior pastor at Hickory Grove Baptist Church on December 31, 2010.

“Under God’s leadership and guidance, I have come to realize it is time for me to step away from my beloved Hickory Grove Baptist Church” Brown said, “However, let me be clear, this is not a retirement from the calling God has placed on my life to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. If I may use an old naval term, it is a redeployment to different ports of call where I will continue to faithfully deposit His precious cargo.”

Brown recalls moving to Charlotte to begin his ministry at Hickory Grove in 1984, “The Charlotte skyline loomed large on the horizon as we came up I-77 that Saturday night, and I knew my life was changed forever.”

Joe Brown

Under Brown’s leadership, the church expanded its membership from 2,155 in 1984 to 16,827 in 2010, making Hickory Grove Baptist Church one of the largest Southern Baptist churches in the Carolinas, baptizing upwards of 8,000 since 1984.

The ministerial staff grew from four full time ministers in 1984 to 25 current full time ministers as of November 2010. The church entered into four building campaigns that expanded the church facilities to more than 120 acres and 600,000 square feet encompassing all three of its campuses that provide seven Sunday morning worship services.

Brown’s evangelical passion manifested into an award winning television ministry, “Challenge for Living,” from 1991-2010; opened the doors of Hickory Grove Baptist Christian School in the Fall of 1995 that has a current enrollment of 985 K-12 students for the 2010-2011 academic year; and pioneered Hickory Grove’s multi-campus initiative opening the church’s North Campus in 1995 and its Latin American Campus in 1998, which is currently one of the largest Latin American Baptist congregations in the state of North Carolina.

Brown’s plans include spending time with family, including his four grandchildren, traveling the world through missions, and guest speaking in various church pulpits.

“With me I take memories of miracles, of which many of you have been a part” Brown says, “You will always be in my heart and my prayer is for God’s continued blessing on your lives, and Hickory Grove Baptist Church.”

Clint Pressley was called as co-pastor in February. Pressley will fulfill all pulpit responsibilities at the main and north campuses.

For more information and to watch a video by Brown, visit
11/22/2010 5:03:00 AM by Hickory Grove Baptist Church | with 2 comments

U.S. hunger stats stable, but at record high

November 22 2010 by Whitney Jones, Religion News Service

WASHINGTON — The number of Americans struggling with hunger remained stable in 2009 despite the economic downturn, but remained at the highest recorded level, according to new federal figures.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released statistics Nov. 15 that showed one in seven American households could not buy adequate food last year due to lack of money and other resources.

The number of people suffering from “food insecurity” increased only one-tenth of a percentage point from 2008, but that number is almost more than 4 percentage points higher than it was 10 years ago, and the highest since 1995.

“It could be worse,” said David Beckmann, president of the ecumenical anti-hunger group Bread for the World, in an interview with CNN. “I was struck that the numbers did not increase from the end of 2008 to the end of 2009.”

The poverty rate increased by 3.8 million people — a little more than 1 percent — during the same time frame, according to a Census Bureau report released in September.

The three largest federal nutrition programs — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps; the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children; and the National School Lunch Program — have all seen an increase in need, the USDA said.

More than half of food-insecure households participated in at least one of these assistance programs, according to the report, with SNAP showing the sharpest increase (5.3 million people) in average monthly participation.

Hunger was more prevalent in large cities than in rural areas and suburbs, and was substantially higher in black and Hispanic families.

Kevin Concannon, undersecretary for the USDA Food Nutrition and Consumer Services, said the USDA anticipates that “food security will improve as the economy improves, but in the near term, without these benefits, many families would face far more severe problems getting the nutritious food they need.”     —  
11/22/2010 4:58:00 AM by Whitney Jones, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Rangers all-star tells of ups, downs

November 22 2010 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

DALLAS — Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton told a Texas Baptist mega-church Nov. 7 that he would not have overcome the alcohol and drug addiction that nearly cost him his baseball career without God’s help.

Coming off a season in which he won the American League batting title and led the Rangers to their first World Series, Hamilton, 29, told worshippers at First Baptist Church in Dallas that the best part of his MVP-caliber year was the platform it gave him to talk about his faith in Jesus Christ.

“That’s what I enjoyed most about the entire year,” Hamilton said. “Not the awards, not going to the playoffs, going to the World Series … but it was about sharing Christ with as many news people as I could, preferably live so they can’t cut out Jesus’ name.”

Hamilton, who recounts his faith story in a 2008 book titled Beyond Belief, told the congregation he went to church on and off while growing up, but most of his interests revolved around sports. He accepted Christ after his rookie season but did not become grounded in his faith.

After injuries suffered in an automobile accident forced him out of baseball, Hamilton started hanging around tattoo parlors, where his friends introduced him to alcohol and drugs.

Photo by Keith Allison

Josh Hamilton

“It was the biggest mistake of my life,” Hamilton told worshippers.

After that, he said, he was on and off of drugs for the next three years but got suspended from baseball after failing a couple of drug tests.

He stayed clean for several months, got married and started a family before a relapse forced a separation in his marriage and a restraining order against him to keep him out of his home.

He hit bottom when his grandmother confronted him for using drugs in her house and for the first time made him understand how he was hurting people who loved him. He pulled a Bible from a closet and recommitted his life to Christ.

Hamilton said the experience brought about a complete reordering of his priorities, which before than had been exclusively about baseball.

“When I recommitted my life to Christ, the priorities made a drastic change,” he said. “It went God first, humility, family, sobriety and then baseball, if it ever happened again.”

But all that didn’t prevent another well-documented relapse when he went to Arizona to prepare for the 2009 season.

“For three weeks I stopped reading my Bible,” he said. “I stopped doing my devotions. I stopped praying. I stopped fellowshipping with my accountability partner for three weeks. And I thought I could take one drink. And that one drink led to about 20.”

Hamilton said he has to take safeguards to keep from falling off the wagon. For one thing, he doesn’t carry cash or credit cards. If he needs to buy gas for his truck, even though it is inconvenient, he calls his wife to meet him at the gas station and then returns the credit card to her after filling up his tank.

He also consciously surrounds himself with people who care about him and want the best for him.

“It’s an every day battle,” he admitted. “I’ve got to get up every morning and take my cross up. I’ve got to just wake up in the morning and tell myself with God’s help and Christ’s help I’m going to be a responsible man, husband, father today.”

His support system extended to his Ranger teammates, who rallied around him after winning the American League Division Series by dousing his head with ginger ale instead of the traditional championship celebration involving champagne.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)
11/22/2010 4:54:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

All faiths see civility problem in U.S. politics

November 22 2010 by Nicole Neroulias, Religion News Service

Whether they rally behind Fox News’ Glenn Beck to “Restore Honor” or Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart to “Restore Sanity,” Americans agree on one thing: our political system has a civility problem.

Four out of five Americans, regardless of party or religious affiliation, think the lack of respectful discourse in our political system is a serious problem, according to a PRRI/RNS Religion News Poll released Nov. 11.

The findings echo sentiments expressed by a range of religious leaders, including Richard J. Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary and author of Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World, and Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA).

Alarmed by the 2010 campaign season, which four in 10 Americans consider more negative than past elections, Mouw, Gutow and others are calling for a kinder, gentler tone — even on hot-button topics like Islamophobia, homosexuality or abortion.

“We’ve had heated public debates before, but the level of discourse in this campaign and even following the campaign has been atrocious,” Mouw said, citing as an example Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s pledge to prevent President Obama’s reelection, as opposed to advocating for policy shifts.

“There’s a real hostility now, and Christians with very strong and more conservative convictions really don’t seem to be contributing much to a civil discourse and a calming of the heated discussions in the larger culture,” Mouw said.

In fact, white evangelicals and Republicans are less likely than other Americans to say the 2010 election’s tone was more negative than past campaigns, which PRRI research director Daniel Cox said may reflect their satisfaction with the outcome.

Mouw has another theory: evangelicals are more accustomed to inflammatory rhetoric from the pulpit, and therefore don’t see it as a problem in politics.

Other findings from the poll, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service, include:
  • One-third of white evangelicals report that the election was more positive than past elections, a figure that’s significantly higher than among white mainline Protestants (17 percent), the unaffiliated (17 percent) or Catholics (23 percent).
  • Two-thirds of Americans say that people in their local community work well to overcome differences, and more than eight in 10 Americans who attend religious services say people in their congregation work well to overcome differences.
  • Nearly 6-in-10 Americans think the country is more divided over politics today than in the past; more than four in 10 Americans said the country is more divided over religion than in the past.
  • About half of white evangelicals and black Protestants think the country is more divided over religion than it was in the past, compared to less than 40 percent of Catholics and white mainline Protestants.
  • Young adults (50 percent) are less likely than seniors (61 percent) to say Americans are more divided over politics, but more likely to say Americans are divided over religion (42 percent of young adults and 33 percent of older adults, respectively).
Americans are justifiably afraid and upset about the stagnant economy and terrorism, Gutow said, but he agreed with Mouw that 24/7 cable news channels and the blogosphere have encouraged and magnified negative, fear-based rhetoric.

In his organization’s new Statement on Civility, prompted by polarizing debate over Israel as well as domestic concerns, Jews agree to “treat others with decency and honor and to set ourselves as models for civil discourse, even when we disagree with each other.”

The JCPA pledge has collected more than 1,100 signatures in its first 11 days and will form the basis for dialogue amongst Jews and with people of other faiths. The pledge was launched Nov. 1.

“I don’t think this country, and I don’t think our community, are going to make good decisions if people can’t talk to each other rationally and pragmatically,” Gutow said. “We need to lean back, talk to each other, look each other in the eye and respect each other’s humanity.”

Calls for civility have clear religious roots. In Judaism, Talmudic study encourages back-and-forth conversation, Gutow noted. In the New Testament, Mouw said, the Apostle Peter tells Christians to express their convictions “with gentleness and reverence.”

“In the world where our Savior has not yet returned to make all things right, we’re going to have to find our way of coping in the present and trying to do as much good as we can without oppressing other people, without bearing false witness against other people,” Mouw said.  

“We have to defend the faith, that’s clear, but it says to do it with ‘gentleness and reverence.”’

The PRRI/RNS Religion News Poll was based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 5-8, after the midterm elections, with 1,022 U.S. adults. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.    
11/22/2010 4:50:00 AM by Nicole Neroulias, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Durham couple preps for Slovakia

November 19 2010 by Don Graham, Baptist Press

Excuses were flowing through Jason Palmer’s mind as quickly as the rain dripping through his tent: I won’t make enough money. I don’t know enough theology. I don’t want to live overseas. My parents will be upset. I can’t learn a new language.

It was 1996, and Palmer, then a high school freshman, had come to Nicaragua with his youth group to raise a building for a poor, rural church near Managua. But instead of working, he’d spent the afternoon stuck inside a leaky tent, reading his Bible, while the team waited out a tropical storm parked off of Nicaragua’s coast.

It was Palmer’s first mission trip, first airplane ride and first time outside the United States. That afternoon was also the first time he understood God’s purpose for his life.

“As I was reading, I just remember hearing this small voice inside of me saying, ‘You’re going to be doing this for the rest of your life. You’re going to go out and tell others around the world about Me,’” Palmer said. “I’ll be honest, it scared me.”

Little did he know that after wrestling with that call for the next 14 years, Palmer, 29, and his wife Charity, 24, eventually would find themselves among a group of 57 new missionaries appointed by International Mission Board (IMB) trustees Nov. 10.

The Palmers and others relayed their missions calling during an appointment service that evening at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.

“I’m glad I listened to that voice and that it was persistent that long because I wonder how many other people hear that voice and just keep denying it,” said Palmer, youth minister of Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Durham. “It’s like this internal battle inside of my head; I’ve got my doubts and my fears and then I know what God has said to be true. I know I have to be obedient.”

Charity and Jason couldn’t resist the call anymore.

“If we were to stay here any longer we would be disobedient,” Jason said. “That’s not what being a Christian is.”

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Charity and Jason Palmer share a moment during a time of dedication at Calvary Baptist Church’s International Mission Board commissioning service Nov. 10 in Winston-Salem. The Palmers, who currently live in Durham, will be serving in Slovakia. See photo gallery.

Charity said it was in college when the fire started to burn for missions. She served in Louisiana with Katrina relief efforts. Her sophomore year she spent in Spain studying. It was there that Charity saw the need for Christ.

Jason plans to leave his position in December before the couple goes to the IMB training center in Richmond.

By the end of March, they should be in Slovakia, where Jason proposed to Charity.

The couple started the application process last year and because she did not want to disrupt the school year, Charity did not go back to the school where she teaches this fall.

In Bible times, people had to step into the water before the waters parted.

“The safest place is in God’s will,” Jason said, but that also involves a lot of unknowns. “It’s not easy.”

The couple will celebrate their second anniversary in December.

Looking at Durham County, there are 100 churches, Jason said, but Slovakia’s considered unreached because less than two percent of the population is evangelical.

There are only six evangelistic churches there; three of which are Baptist. All are dying.

“There’s a huge need overseas,” he said. “It’s really hard, hard soil.”

While there Jason will be working as a church planter while Charity spends time with college girls they’ve already met through previous mission trips. There are eight universities with around 70,000 students in their vicinity.

Jason and Charity have seen other friends start the process but not make it through.

“The further we got in the process the more thankful we are for Southern Baptists,” said Jason, who’s also thankful for his church.

The application process is grueling and exciting.

“You’ve only got the grace of God and that’s it,” Jason said. “It’s a humbling thing.”

To find out more about Jason and Charity, visit

The Palmers will soon leave their North Carolina home to share the gospel and start churches in Slovakia, a Central European country of 5.8 million people. The IMB’s Global Research Department estimates that less than 2 percent of its population is evangelical Christian. Other missionaries appointed that evening have North Carolina ties as well, including two couples from Calvary. But security issues require their anonymity.

For Charity’s parents Franklin and Elizabeth Lawson of Sandy Ridge Baptist Church in Hickory, it’s hard to see them go, “but we wouldn’t stand in the way of them going to share the gospel,” Elizabeth Lawson said.

Jason’s mother Rose Ann Palmer of Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Durham, remembers his mission trip to Nicaragua and how he came back changed. Palmer and her husband Donnie have tried to emphasize missions by taking family missions trips together.  

More appointments
In September, an appointment service was held at Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla. Hickory native Allison McClure was appointed along with her husband, David Brian McClure. The McClures will be serving as apprentice evangelism/church planters among European peoples. Russell Wayne II and Jennifer Elizabeth Ford were also appointed to serve among European peoples. Russell was the associate pastor of Somerset Baptist Church in Roxboro. At this Sept. 15 service, there were also four Code 3 couples and one single unit with N.C. connections that cannot be identified for security reasons.  

President’s address
Clyde Meador, interim IMB president, addressed the new missionaries at the appointment service, noting that they came from a myriad of personal and professional backgrounds but had now been united for a common purpose. Daniel Seagram flew Seahawk helicopters for the Navy. Other former occupations include engineer, nurse, mailman, graphic designer, kindergarten teacher, fireman and computer programmer.

“From before the day you were born, this has been His purpose, this is His plan,” Meador said. “You have been set aside, you have been consecrated. Not simply by the International Mission Board, but by the Lord God Almighty, the God of the universe. He is the one who has called you. And your task is to be a prophet to the nations. And the nations need to hear what you have to say.”

Meador spoke about the urgent need for missionaries, emphasizing the 6,600-plus unevangelized people groups around the world — as many as 1.5 billion people — most of whom have little or no access to the gospel.

“You go to destroy false beliefs. You go to destroy false idols. You go to destroy hopelessness,” Meador said. Comparing the new missionaries to the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, Meador also warned them that their work wouldn’t be easy.

“I recently read again ... through the entire Book of Jeremiah, and I cannot remember a moment when his task was easy. It was always difficult. Was he successful? He was obedient. He was faithful. That was God’s call on his life. That’s God’s call on your life,” Meador said.

Like new missionary Jason Palmer, Meador challenged those in the audience to consider the excuses they may be using to fight God’s call to take the gospel overseas in person.

“How about the rest of you here tonight?” Meador asked. “What are your reasons for saying, ‘Not me.’ “Jeremiah’s reason … was that he was ‘but a youth.’ … Your reasons might be different. … But God’s response to those reasons is simply, ‘Don’t tell Me about it. I don’t want to hear that.’ The point is not your qualifications. The point is His enabling. The point is His strength, which matches your weakness.”

The IMB honored seven of the new missionaries at a commissioning service Nov. 16 at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee. The commissioning was held in observance of the university’s 100th anniversary and in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Oklahoma Baptist Convention. The IMB’s next missionary appointment service is scheduled for March 16 at First Baptist Church in Dallas.  

In a Nov. 10 trustee meeting in Greensboro, trustees adopted a 2011 budget of $308.5 million, $9.1 million less than 2010’s budget. While many missionary positions remain unfilled, IMB trustees appointed 57 new missionaries.

“We are still sending new personnel, contrary to rumors that we sometimes hear,” said Meador, noting that the missionary force has been reduced solely by sending fewer replacement personnel when there are retirements, resignations or completed terms.

“We look forward to a day when financial support reaches the point when we can increase the number of new personnel being sent to the field each year,” Meador said.

Trustees also heard reports of spiritual victories led by Southern Baptist missionaries and Baptist partners on the field.

In 2009, IMB missionaries reported 360,876 baptisms, 29,237 new churches and 96 newly engaged people groups.

These new numbers, Meador noted, usher in a more focused approach to reporting the IMB’s missionary work.

The organization’s annual report is now separated into two reports, with the numbers cited by Meador reflecting work by IMB missionaries and those with whom they directly relate.

Trustees also received a report from 133 overseas Baptist conventions that listed 136,422 baptisms and 2,151 new churches. This report could show some overlap with the IMB report.

For the third consecutive year, IMB trustees adopted a decreased budget from the previous year’s budget.

Though the IMB pulled $7.5 million from its reserves to balance the budget last year, the trustee finance committee was committed to not repeating that move.

According to IMB officials, the mission board is sending about 30 percent fewer long-term personnel than would be sent if there were no financial constraints. The IMB still anticipates sending 300 new long-term personnel and 200 to 250 new short-term personnel in 2011.

As Cooperative Program dollars continue to slip, trustees focused on ways they also could cut costs in the stateside budget, which accounts for a little less than 15 percent of the overall budget, Fowler said. The IMB recently offered qualifying staff members in Richmond, Va., a voluntary retirement incentive to take effect by the end of 2010.

In other business, trustees heard a report of $2,063,474.46 released for hunger and general relief projects, including funds used by Baptist Global Response, a relief and development organization that partners with the IMB.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Graham is a writer for the International Mission Board. BR Assistant Managing Editor Dianna L. Cagle contributed to this report.)
11/19/2010 5:47:00 AM by Don Graham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Hunt challenges messengers to give God control

November 19 2010 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

Johnny Hunt did not shy away from hard truths in his sermon to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) annual messengers.

Hunt, an N.C. native, former Southern Baptist Convention president, and pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., addressed messengers Nov. 9.

Hunt’s presence at the meeting was a visible reminder that God’s grace is great enough to sustain believers during trials.

A recent Baptist Press headline read “Hunt recounts bout with emptiness.” The article explained how Hunt, experienced a season of physical, emotional and spiritual dryness. An incredibly busy routine eventually caught up with Hunt and left him “leading on empty.”

From the start he called on North Carolina Baptists to examine their hearts and consider whether or not they truly trust God with their lives. Speaking from James 4:13-17, Hunt pointed out that James charges the people with failing to come to God and involving Him in their plans. When the Lord is not “in the mix,” something bad happens whether believers intend for it to happen or not — they become practical atheists. They start planning without seeking God’s guidance and wisdom, thinking they can do it all on their own.

The hands of God must be all over the life of a believer. Hunt said he has learned that each day he must “surrender anew to the Lord” and “acknowledge that my life and my future are in the hands of God.”

The text from James talks about people who have already made out a business plan. Hunt said the merchants, while not faulted for planning, are at fault for omitting God from their plans. “We are to allow space for Him to step in and interrupt or alter our plans,” Hunt said. “God has never shown me A to Z.”

James rebuked the people because they wanted too much control. “Woven into our heart’s fabric is the desire to have full charge,” Hunt said. “This passage views ourselves as the final authority over our lives and then living as if this were true.”

Hunt spoke to the pastors gathered in Greensboro, saying he believed the sovereign Lord has a specific place for each of them to serve. In order for pastors to know what God has in store for them they must pray and determine to follow His leading instead of setting out on their own with no regard for His guidance.

Hunt illustrated the necessity of trusting God by reading verse after verse that speaks to the brevity and uncertainty of life. James 4:14 reminds believers that nothing is certain, not even tomorrow. “Life slips through our fingers,” Hunt said. “If you’re going to do something for the Kingdom you better do it now.”

Hunt pleaded with the crowd to consider if they are doing what they know God has called them to do — no matter the consequence. He told how he recently suffered a 24-hour illness but still wanted to preach Sunday morning. Not because he felt like he should, but because God had so burdened his heart with a message that he had to preach. “Have you had the burden of God lately?” Hunt asked.

Believers ought to live with an “if the Lord wills” attitude instead of an attitude that reflects boasting and arrogance. This type of right thinking will help Christians stay focused on taking their instruction from God and not anyone else. Hunt bluntly stated that it is not the deacons or the laity who “pull my string.”

“You’ve got one focus,” he said. “We’ve got to mobilize our people to reach the nations.”

Hunt said believers defy, deny, disobey or delight in God’s will. “If we know we’re supposed to take the gospel to the nations and we don’t, we’re sinning,” he said.

“Maybe the greatest offense against the Great Commission is not what we’re doing that we need to stop doing, but what we’re not doing that we need to start doing.”

Hedonism keeps many believers from doing what they know they need to do for the cause of Christ. “We love pleasure too much,” Hunt said. “Beach houses, hobbies; we’ve got so much tied up there there’s little left over for the Kingdom of God.”   
11/19/2010 5:19:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 6 comments

WMU ‘very best friend in missions’

November 19 2010 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

When 10-year-old Nancy got a new neighbor she asked her Girls in Action (GA) leader if she could bring her new friend.

Through contact with GA, little Megan became a Christian.

“I have other friends who don’t know Jesus,” Megan said. “Can I ask them to GA?”

GA is just one way the Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) teaches about missions, supports missions, and gets involved in missions.

“Our desire is to work together, with you,” said Ruby Fulbright, executive director.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Ruby Fulbright shares about Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina Nov. 11 in a report to messengers of the Baptist State Convention annual meeting.

WMU-NC is made up of preschoolers, children, youth and adults, “not just little old, gray-haired ladies,” Fulbright said.

Volunteers and staff spent October packaging Lottie Moon Christmas Offering packets for churches who need materials.

Fulbright spoke of the consistent, fervent prayer warriors within WMU-NC.

“We are involved with our hands, with our feet and with our voice,” she said.

She mentioned specific ministries, including WMU sponsored mission trips — Lebanon, New York, Raleigh, Alaska and Hawaii — and women’s build for Habitat for Humanity. Over the years WMU has cared about hunger, literacy, AIDS, child advocacy and poverty.

Fulbright went on the first poverty training where she was homeless for 30 hours, sleeping on a picnic table.

This fall the focus turned to human exploitation.

North Carolina ranks No. 4 in the exploitation of human beings especially sex trafficking, said Fulbright.

“We must put action to our belief that we and all the world belong to God,” she said. In 2009, WMU-NC grew by 9,000 members.

On Jan. 8, 2011, the organization celebrates 125 years of missions and ministry.

“Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina can be your very best friend when it comes to missions,” Fulbright said. “Call on us. We’re here to help.”
11/19/2010 5:16:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 3 comments

Ed Yount calls NC Baptists to life of prayer

November 19 2010 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

There may be many causes blamed when a failure occurs — promotion, lack of funds, the vision just wasn’t there, etc.

Or, maybe it’s because people tried to make something happen out of their own strength instead of relying on power from God. “All of our blessings as a denomination and as a state convention are prayer blessings, and all of our failures are prayer failures,” said Ed Yount during the president’s address Nov. 9 at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) annual meeting.

Yount spoke from Acts 4:31-33 and called on North Carolina Baptists to return to a life devoted to prayer. The scene in this text is one where God pours out His Holy Spirit and His followers are able to boldly proclaim the gospel. The text notes that the whole place where the disciples gathered was actually shaken. Great movements of God such as this never happen “because they are planned by men and put on a calendar. They cannot be worked up. They must be prayed down,” Yount said.

“The greatest need in our nation, in our denomination, in our state convention and in our local churches is for the people of God to put aside the sins that so easily beset us, to repent and forgive one another, and to gather together before Holy God on our knees in humility and prayer.”

In 1950 the population in America was about 151 million and the Southern Baptist Convention included 27,788 churches. Just two years ago, 44,848 churches made up the SBC. Now, in 2010, the population is about 310 million. While the population has doubled and more than 17,000 churches have been started, Southern Baptists baptized almost 34,000 less in 2008 than in 1950. In 1972, 140,000 young adults were baptized and in 2008 that number decreased to 75,000.

“Who can look at a report like that and deny that this is not a clarion call to prayer?” Yount said.

Yount gave three reasons why, based on Acts 4, God’s people are not living lives of prayer and therefore not fully living into the purpose He created them to fulfill.

First, God’s people do not encounter God because they do not recognize His presence. As more and more adopt the perspective of a secular humanist, they in essence dethrone God, deify man and “the result is a spiritual vacuum in the hearts of millions of people who are turning to idol worship and false religion,” Yount said.

When believers pray they start to encounter the holy and living God. The Greek word for prayer used in Acts 4 means to beg, or to long for. When prayer like that happens, when people put aside personal agendas and long to experience God’s presence through prayer, “something is going to happen,” Yount said.

Power comes through prayer. In Acts 4 the disciples did not pray and ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit, but because they sought God’s presence He responded in a remarkable way and gave them His Holy Spirit. This scene in Acts comes during a time of intense persecution for Jesus’ followers. Yet, they prayed for power to be able to endure and to be faithful witnesses of all they learned from Jesus.

When believers pray for God’s power they are acknowledging they cannot do anything in their own strength. This means believers surrender to God’s lordship and His sovereignty. When God is in control, nothing can thwart His plan or purpose, not even the gates of hell, as noted in Matthew 16. “Regardless of the circumstances, we belong to a cause that will not and cannot fail,” Yount said.

Yount reminded messengers that they are not in control of the ministry God has called them to or even the church they serve. “The church does not belong to you or me. It does not belong to the leaders or members. It belongs to Jesus,” Yount said. “You didn’t die for the church — Jesus died for the church.”

Not only do believers encounter God and embrace His power through prayer, but they also expand the Kingdom by realizing His purposes. “That’s our marching order,” Yount said of God’s command to expand His Kingdom.

Acts 4 describes the disciples as “giving witness” to the resurrection. Considering Jesus died on a cross to save sinners, “how can we do anything less than give witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world?” Yount asked.

More than 3.5 billion of the world’s population has never had adequate opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. According to the statistics, more than 150,000 people die every day in the world. “The sad fact is that most of them perish in a Christ-less grave, and the average Christian just doesn’t care,” Yount said.

Taking the gospel to the nations seems an impossible task, and it is apart from God’s power. “The Bible says all things are possible with God. It all begins with a return to the priority of prayer,” Yount said. “Genuine prayer before Holy God leads to passionate hearts and soul winning churches.”

“The fields are white unto harvest. It is time for us as North Carolina Baptists to expand the Kingdom by realizing His purpose and the purpose is to give witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Yount said.

Yount concluded his message by sharing an illustration used by evangelist Gypsy Smith. Smith said those wanting to see spiritual awakening must draw a circle around themselves and then cry out to God to bring revival to everything in that circle.

“That’s where it has to start,” Yount said. “It has to start today with me. It has to start today with you. It has to start with all of us.”  
11/19/2010 5:11:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 1 comments

Children’s Homes celebrates milestone

November 18 2010 by J. Blake Ragsdale, BCH Communications

The arrival of nine-year-old Mary Presson at the Thomasville Baptist Orphanage on November 11, 1885, marked the official beginning of what is known today as the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH).  

Exactly 125 years later, current and former BCH residents, staff members, North Carolina Baptists and friends gathered in Thomasville to celebrate the ministry’s “Quasquicentennial” anniversary.

“I don’t use the word ‘awesome’ very often, but this is an awesome day,” said Michael C. Blackwell, BCH’s longest-tenured president at almost 28 years. “It’s a glorious celebration and a fitting conclusion to 125 years of helping children and families in North Carolina.”

BCH photo

BCH president Michael C. Blackwell and Quasquicentennial director Jim Edminson unveil the “Child of Hope” statue, the centerpiece of the Heritage Walk and Garden. See photo gallery.

Multiple events marked the day at Mills Home, named for BCH founder John Haymes Mills. The first was a luncheon program that included the opening of a time capsule buried during BCH’s Centennial celebration in 1985. Among the items included in the capsule were a letter from then United States president Ronald Reagan, a copy of the BCH Centennial history book, a wooden craft made by a child in care, and a letter written to BCH staff, residents and friends by Blackwell, who also presided over the agency’s Centennial celebration.

Afterwards, the sanctuary at Mills Home Baptist Church overflowed with nearly 700 guests for an anniversary worship service led by BCH alumnus Milton Bliss and Quasquicentennial director Jim Edminson. Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) Executive Director-Treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr. addressed the congregation during the service affirming North Carolina Baptists’ dedication to the BCH ministry as well as Blackwell’s leadership.

“The ministry of the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina is the heart of God in action,” Hollifield proclaimed. “We affirm that after 125 years, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina continues to be committed to this partnership.”

In his remarks, Hollifield included a special message for the children in BCH’s care. “North Carolina Baptists want you to know that God loves you. We want you to grow into that wonderful and joyous person that you were meant to be.”

Blackwell preached from 1 Corinthians 13.

“These three remain: faith and hope, but the greatest of these is love,” he said.

“In all the things I have learned in my 28 years here, the greatest of all of them is the gift of love. I can, if my eyes are open, see this kind of unconditional love exhibited every day at Baptist Children’s Homes.

“I have felt it today. I felt it on Monday (Nov. 8) at the Koury Convention Center during BCH’s presentation.

“And what this year has done for me more than anything else is that it has increased my capacity to love. That, for me, is a great gift.”

The final event was the dedication of the Heritage Walk and Garden, a monument in front of the campus church built by bricks inscribed with inspirational messages from BCH staff, alumni and friends. The centerpiece is a bronze statue of a girl affectionately referred to as the “Child of Hope,” her arms raised skyward in victory.

“Reaching this historic milestone is a victory for North Carolina Baptists, our many friends who have helped sustain this ministry and the children and families we humbly serve,” Blackwell said. “But the ultimate victory belongs to God who has always been at the heart and center of every life that has been changed and restored throughout these 125 years.”
11/18/2010 7:31:00 AM by J. Blake Ragsdale, BCH Communications | with 0 comments

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