November 2013

Baptists respond quickly to Midwest tornadoes

November 20 2013 by Joe Conway, North American Mission Board

WASHINGTON, Ill. – An approaching tornado interrupted worship at First Baptist Church in Washington, Ill., Nov. 17, leading Pastor Josh Monda to shepherd his congregation to shelter in the basement and ensure all were out of harm's way.
“We stepped outside, and you could see the updraft pulling into the storm,” said Monda. “We saw the tornado form and began moving through the neighborhood where we knew several of our members live.”
A church member was hospitalized with injuries from the storm. Four homes of members were destroyed and other residences were damaged as the tornado passed approximately one-quarter mile from the church, Monda said. The church building received no damage.
“We went out and started to help people. We pulled a couple of people from the wreckage of their homes and prayed with them. Some of our members tried to make it home but could not. It was a tough situation. We pray we will be able to help people, but more than that, also share the gospel,” Monda said.
The tornado that struck at approximately 11 a.m. was part of a storm system that raced across the Midwest, spawning scores of tornadoes and claiming six lives. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers responded within hours.
Illinois suffered the worst damage, with state officials confirming six deaths, including one in Washington, a farming community, and others in the small towns of Nashville, Brookport and Unionville, Ill. The storm system was reminiscent of other November multi-state tornado outbreaks.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn declared a seven-county region as a disaster area, including Tazewell County, where Washington is located. The National Weather Service initially reported a three-mile path of destruction in Washington, with damage later recorded in Indiana, Missouri and other states.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units were deployed in Illinois, Indiana and Missouri. The North American Mission Board was dispatching supplies including bottled water and roofing tarp to the area on Nov. 18.
“The SBDR network in Indiana, Illinois and Missouri is equipped, trained and prepared,” said SBDR executive director Fritz Wilson, “and they responded quickly, as soon as the storms were clearing.”
“The states are responding, as they always do, and we will assist them and provide support as they have need,” Wilson said. “That is one of the great things about working in cooperation. Just like in the Philippines, there were people [in states affected by the tornadoes] trained and ready to serve. We are supporting them and assisting with the coordination of state volunteers. Our network puts us in place before disasters ever occur.”
In all, Wilson said 12 states experienced severe weather from the system and had some damage. Illinois State Baptist Association Missions Mobilization Director Rex Alexander has been in contact with NAMB and is assessing needs.
“With the situation in Illinois, it may not be the magnitude of the typhoon or a Moore, Okla. [tornadoes], but it is significant to the people of Washington,” Wilson said. “It is important for our volunteers and leaders to be able to bring help, healing and hope in the midst of disaster. That is the beauty of the Cooperative Program and the cooperative nature of SBDR ministry.”
NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief programs.
Southern Baptists have 82,000 trained volunteers – including chaplains – and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, childcare, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
To donate to SBDR efforts, contact the Baptist convention in your state or visit Donate by phone at (866) 407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks designated “Disaster Relief” to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board)
11/20/2013 1:18:48 PM by Joe Conway, North American Mission Board | with 0 comments

Committee on nominations seeks recommendations

November 20 2013 by BSC

There are several vacancies on various board of directors/trustees that are going to be decided by the 2014 Committee on Nominations for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).
Vacancies include: Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina: 9; N.C. Baptist Hospital: 2; Biblical Recorder: 4; N.C. Baptist Foundation: 5; Committee on convention meetings: 6; Committee on resolutions and memorials: 3; and historical committee: 4.
To nominate, visit, under “About Us” click on “Committees;” click “Make a Recommendation” to download the form.
In the menu, under “Committees” click “Make a Recommendation” to go to the page with a downloadable form.
If you choose not to nominate via the website, mail forms to Committee on Nominations, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512-1107, or fax to (919) 460-7507.
The deadline is Jan. 31, 2014.
Recommendations received after the deadline will be considered the following year.
11/20/2013 1:10:43 PM by BSC | with 0 comments

Graham wants My Hope to be about gospel, not him

November 19 2013 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Billy Graham is often called the pastor to presidents, the world’s greatest evangelist and the most recognized Christian in the history of the church. So when his family held a 95th birthday celebration for the famous Southern Baptist preacher on Nov. 7, it was not surprising that Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Rupert Murdoch and other notable individuals were among the 900 guests present.
Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, called it “an extraordinary evening. Our nation owes such a debt a gratitude to this man who has stayed so consistent in his heart, in his decisions and in his message. So many parts of the evening left me moved, praising God for His grace, His love and seeing what happens when someone truly surrenders their life to fulfilling God’s plan for them.”
In Graham’s mind, the evening was not about his birthday. Neither was it about his notoriety.
His definitive focus has been the same for 75 years. He wanted others to hear the message he has preached around the world.
Harris said that in his 26 years of ministry, “I cannot recall a time of leading a congregation or speaking in a church, that I have not met someone who came to Christ or their parents came to Christ listening to Billy Graham. It’s almost unreal, but everywhere you go you find testimony after testimony of people who either attended a crusade or were watching a crusade on television when they received Christ as their personal Savior.”
Graham wanted his birthday gathering to be another event where the gospel was presented. So, his son, Franklin, played “The Cross,” the video that his team produced over the past year to launch “My Hope America.”

BGEA photo
Each night, as “The Cross” aired on various television stations across North America, 40 response centers were open, with volunteers from Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Focus on the Family, Liberty University and the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board taking calls from viewers.

Harris called the video presentation, “extremely powerful and effective. Billy Graham truly wanted that message of the cross to be front and center, and even led into the conversations around the table.”
Preston Parrish, vice president of My Hope America, said, “I think Thursday night, Nov. 7 at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville was, in a very real sense, Billy Graham’s own personal ‘Matthew’ event.” Named after the gospel writer, “Matthew” is the label given to those who invited friends into their homes to view “The Cross.”
“While [Graham] was the guest of honor – because it was his 95th birthday – there is a very real sense in which he was the host with many of us inviting, on his behalf, others who need to discover the grace of God in Christ for themselves,” Parrish said.
“It’s pretty cool that at 95 an evangelist would celebrate his birthday, not by just sitting at home alone with a few friends ... but he would labor for months to do his very best with all of the energy that God is still giving him to communicate the timeless gospel in a fresh way for people across the nation, beginning with those who gathered with him that night.”
Donald Wilton, pastor of First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C., where Graham is a member, worked closely with the evangelist throughout the production of “The Cross.” As his pastor, Wilton said Graham “is very used to me talking with him about every subject under the sun. So, for My Hope America everything was set up in his home in Montreat.” 
The video team worked with the two ministers for more than a year. “The team did such an incredible job. I had conversations with Mr. Graham about the cross – about the Lord Jesus Christ, about the passion of his heart concerning the love of God in Christ Jesus and the final project is what our nation is able to watch,” Wilton said.
Wilton believes there are three elements of My Hope that are particularly significant. “First, we are once again given an incredible picture of the focus of Mr. Graham’s heart, as he has shared the love of Christ with people around the world for decades,” he said.
“Everything about Mr. Graham’s life has been about the Lord Jesus Christ, and [his] deep and abiding passion for people to know about the love of God in Christ Jesus.”
Through Wilton’s weekly visits, he said he “heard Mr. Graham pour out his heart with an uncommon passion for the people of this nation that he loves so deeply. He has cried out to God that the Lord would send a true revival across America, and that people would come to know Christ and that we would turn back to the Lord.”
The second element Wilton describes “is the whole issue of the manner with which God loves us. Mr. Graham not only preaches content [of the message] concerning the love of God, but he preaches with God’s love in his heart.
“As I sat in front of Mr. Graham, preparing for My Hope, one could literally ... feel him loving people as Christ loves people. And it’s a very deep spiritual truth that blessed my own heart and challenged me in my own life and my own ministry.”
Third, Wilton talked about “the complete humility of this man. I don’t know that I have ever been around a man who demonstrates such a genuine God-given humility. Here you have Dr. Billy Graham who has been used so mightily by the Lord to touch the lives of presidents and prime ministers and kings and queens and people who many would regard as great in the eyes of man, yet Mr. Graham completely deflects everything away from himself, and he only gives the glory to God.
Parrish also highlighted the same quality in Graham, describing a unique moment at the birthday celebration. “Anybody who knows Mr. Graham will know that he is always quick to deflect attention to the Lord and to the team that has served so faithfully with him all these years,” he said.
“We’ve heard from many people that the most touching moment of the evening was when Mr. Graham – who was not scheduled to speak because the film, ‘The Cross’ [was the evening’s message] – expressed his love and appreciation to his long-time friend and companion in the work of the gospel, Cliff Barrows,” he said.
“Unrehearsed, utterly sincere, Cliff likewise, grabbed the microphone and did the same thing back. We’ve heard so many people comment about how touching that was to them – to see these two giants of the gospel – both in their nineties, still preferring one another in honor and love, showing such deep respect for one another. What a beautiful picture that was for all of us to learn from and to emulate.”
It is almost certain that My Hope is Billy Graham’s last public evangelistic event. He led his last crusade in New York in 2005. Within nine months he preached at the Franklin Graham New Orleans Festival, post Katrina. About four months later he spoke one night at the Baltimore Festival. But his physical abilities are waning.
Addressing the results of Graham’s last effort, Parrish said, “What we’re seeing in the days following Nov. 7 in North America is what we have seen in 57 countries around the world over the past decade ... while there will be some immediate flashes of response or results, consistently it takes a number of weeks to get a fuller picture of how the Lord works through this effort.
“This side of heaven we won’t have the full picture, but... we have statistics arriving throughout each day, and tracking them, analyzing them and getting an accurate read is an ongoing process,” Parrish said.
“Some time in the next few weeks Franklin will give some kind of report about what we have seen pretty clearly. It is just a little bit too early right now to say anything concrete or authoritative. ... It is very clear even at this early stage, that this is a big ‘wow’ for God’s glory and for the advance of the gospel across our nation.”
Wilton said, “We’ve already received reports of quite a number of those who came to the birthday party that gave their lives to Christ. I personally had eight people there who didn’t know the Lord, and they all gave their lives to Christ.”
Parrish recalled an interview he gave the Biblical Recorder a year ago as My Hope was launched.
“We talked about our desire and our prayer that North Carolina and N.C. Baptists in particular would be at the epicenter of this nationwide effort. I want to report back to you that N.C. churches and certainly N.C. Baptists were indeed at the epicenter of this nationwide effort.”
Across North America over 26,500 churches registered their participation in My Hope. More than 2,000 N.C. churches were involved.
Parrish said, “We are very thankful for the way the churches in Billy Graham’s home state gave themselves to this effort and indeed did lead the way.”
11/19/2013 1:42:15 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments

China’s one-child revision seen as minimal

November 19 2013 by Baptist Press, World News Service

ASHEVILLE – China announced Nov. 15 it will loosen family planning rules that limit most couples to a single child.
The revision does not go nearly far enough, said longtime critics of what is known as China’s one-child policy. Only a small percent of couples will benefit from the first change in decades to the policy, which still leaves intact a coercive system of forced sterilization and abortion.
The changes were part of a key policy document following a four-day meeting of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders. Families in which at least one parent is an only child will be allowed to have a second child. Previously, both parents had to be only children. Rural couples have been allowed two children if their first-born child was a girl.
Introduced in 1980, the CCP claims the policy prevented 400 million births and helped lift countless families out of poverty. But the strict limits have led to widespread forced abortions and sterilizations by local officials, even though Beijing officially claims such measures are illegal. Couples who flout the rules face hefty fines, seizure of their property and loss of their jobs.
In recent years – even in China – sociologists have argued the policy is creating an aging crisis by limiting the size of the young labor pool that must support the large baby boom generation as it retires. China is known for sex-selective abortion and male birth rates nearly twice that of girls in some areas.
Media outlets such as USA Today called China’s Nov. 15 announcement a “major change.” But while it’s a major development – the rural family exemption came in 1984 – only about 10 million couples in the country of 1.35 billion will now have a choice for a second child, Wang Feng, a demographer at the University of California-Irvine, told The Economist.
Human rights advocates have been hesitant to declare a major victory. Bob Fu, founder and president of ChinaAid, called the change a “positive baby step,” reflecting the CCP’s recognition of looming economic and social disaster. The change does little for human rights, though, he said. “The whole coercive system is still unchanged. Unless the whole family planning system is abolished, Chinese women and men will continue to suffer the cruelty of the forced abortion and forced sterilization,” Fu said.
A senior Chinese family planning officer also indicated that the policy change would not make much difference. Wang Pei’an, deputy director of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, told the government-controlled Xinhua News Agency that the number of couples covered by the change would not be large. He also said there was no standard timetable for implementing the revision, meaning each region would decide when to enforce it. In addition, Pei’an said regions should promote intervals between births.
“China’s population will not grow substantially in the short term,” he said.
Reggie Littlejohn, a leading opponent of China’s population control program, said in a written statement that headlines reporting China has “eased” its policy “are detrimental to sincere efforts to stop forced abortion in China, because they imply that the One Child Policy is no longer a problem. In a world laden with compassion fatigue, people are relieved to cross China’s One Child Policy off of their list of things to worry about. But we cannot do that. Let us not abandon the women of China, who continue to face forced abortion, up to the ninth month of pregnancy.”
Littlejohn is president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers.
In what is perhaps a more significant human rights development, CCP officials also plan to abolish China’s labor camp system. Also known as “re-education through labor,” the system of 50-plus years may hold critics of the Communist Party captive for up to four years without trial. Today, it is still used to bypass the justice system and has been a tool for persecuting Christian house church leaders. Fu called the announcement “a very positive step,” though “we have to wait and see if there is another similar substitute system to play the same role.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled from reports by WORLD News Service and Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode)
11/19/2013 1:37:13 PM by Baptist Press, World News Service | with 0 comments

Biblical Recorder gives prizes at convention

November 19 2013 by BR staff

At the Greensboro annual meeting, the Biblical Recorder gave away several prizes that ranged from an iPad to many items donated by LifeWay Christian Resources.
With approximately 500 entries submitted into the drawing, 10 winners were chosen. Below are the winners and their prizes:
  • BRgiveaways11-19-13.jpg

    BSC photo by Mike Creswell
    Roman Gabriel III, left, gives a Bible to Norman Sisk, second from right. Sisk and his wife Kay were on hand when Gabriel, who writes for the Biblical Recorder, was giving out prizes Nov. 12.

    iPad Mini – Carl Goodman, King (donated by Dennis Nunn and Every Believer A Witness)
  • Kindle Fire HD – Brian Alexander, Lexington (donated by Biblical Recorder)
  • BR logo bag with LED flashlight and Operation Christmas Child book – Denise Stetzer, Lincolnton (donated by LifeWay Christian Resources and Bookstores)
  • LifeWay logo umbrella – George Wright, Banner Elk (donated by LifeWay Christian Resources)
  • Leather Holman Christian Standard Study Bible – George Gaines, Greensboro (donated by LifeWay Christian Bookstores)
  • New King James Version Bible – Norman Sisk, Alexis (donated by LifeWay Christian Bookstores)
  • LifeWay logo bag, LifeWay throw, and LifeWay leather card case – Rick Ivey, Dallas (donated by LifeWay Christian Resources)
  • LifeWay logo bag and tumbler, Beth Moore book and 2 children’s books – Al Jarrell, Windsor (donated by LifeWay Christian Resources and Bookstores)
  • LifeWay logo bag and padfolio – Noah Crowe, Robbinsville (donated by LifeWay Christian Resources)
  • LifeWay logo bag, travel clock, tumbler and a Priscilla Shriver book – Gloria South, Lexington (donated by LifeWay Christian Resources and Bookstores)
11/19/2013 1:23:37 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments

Annual meeting highlights lostness

November 18 2013 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

Messengers to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) Annual Meeting Nov. 11-12 learned about the convention’s strategy for impacting lostness, elected officers, worshiped with multicultural choirs, changed the name of Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute and encouraged one another to make disciples.
Building on the 2012 theme, “Awaken,” messengers to the Nov. 11-12 meeting were asked to “Arise,” based on Isaiah 60:1-3. “There is … a passivity that God prefers to activity,” said Steve Corts, senior pastor of Center Grove Baptist Church in Clemmons. “It’s a passivity that comes from the realization that unless God goes first in a matter our going means nothing.” Corts, along with Larry Doyle, director of missions for Piedmont Baptist Association, spoke about the theme during the BSC’s 183rd annual meeting.
With 1,899 people gathered together at Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, the number of messengers was up from 1,605 messengers in 2012 with a total of 1,648 messengers. The number of visitors was also slightly higher than the 2012 year. There were 774 churches with registered messengers, a rise from 762 in 2012.

 BSC photo by K Brown
Part of a multiethnic choir performs Nov. 12 during the annual meeting for North Carolina Baptists.

Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer, presented a plaque to M.O. Owens for his ministry over the years. At age 100, Owens can still be found each Sunday morning preaching at his church, Parkwood Baptist Church in Gastonia, and Sunday night at his retirement home.
“I am grateful to have served Southern Baptist churches for 75 years and the privilege God has given me,” Owens said. “God has been so good to me.”


The last 10 years messengers have consistently approved increases to the Cooperative Program (CP) Mission Budget. The 2014 budget will be $30 million, a decrease of $3.5 million from the 2013 budget. It includes another one-half percent increase in CP receipts that will be sent to the Southern Baptist Convention.


Fred Luter, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, challenged messengers to return to the gospel.
“Before we talk about what it’s going to take to change America, what is it going to take to change you?” Luter said during the convention sermon. “The only hope for America is the Word of God.”
Messengers also heard from Mark Harris, outgoing BSC president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, and Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer. “We are still not desperate enough to turn back,” Harris said, referring to N.C. Baptist’s sinful lives. “We will not come before the Lord and pray until we are really desperate.”
Hollifield asked if N.C. Baptists are being effective. With 5.8 million lost people in North Carolina, Hollifield stressed the importance of the “Impacting Lostness” strategy developed by the convention. “We must create a culture in our churches, and in our personal lives, that is focused on disciple-making,” he said.


It was the first time since 2005 that two candidates for BSC president were nominated. There were also two nominees for second vice president.
With 1,082 ballots cast, 692 messengers gave 64 percent of the vote to C.J. Bordeaux, senior pastor of Gorman Baptist Church in Durham, who defeated Bobby Blanton, senior pastor of Lake Norman Baptist Church in Huntersville. Bordeaux was serving as the first vice president and replaces Mark Harris, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Charlotte, as president.
Blanton received 390 votes or 36 percent of the vote. Twenty-two ballots were spoiled and unable to be counted. Greg Mathis, senior pastor from Mud Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville, nominated Blanton, and Ed Yount, senior pastor of Woodlawn Baptist Church in Conover, nominated Bordeaux.

Timmy Blair Sr., senior pastor of Piney Grove Chapel Baptist Church in Angier, was the only candidate nominated for the office of first vice president. Messengers raised their ballots to approve his nomination. Stan Welch, pastor of West Asheville Baptist Church in Asheville, nominated Blair.

The second vice president office was decided by cast ballot. Scott Faw, senior pastor of Moon’s Chapel Baptist Church in Siler City, nominated Marc Sanders, senior pastor of Sandy Creek Baptist Church in Bear Creek. Richard Hicks nominated Cameron McGill, pastor of Dublin First Baptist Church.

With 677 ballots cast, 381 messengers voted for McGill, who defeated Sanders by 85 votes. Twenty-three ballots were spoiled and unable to be counted.


During the Board of Directors report messengers heard amendments to the BSC bylaws as well as to Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute constitution. BSC motions included changes addressing the new structure of the BSC and the name change of Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute to Fruitland Baptist Bible College. Clarifications were also made related to voting at the annual meeting. Fruitland’s changes addressed the change of its name and purpose statement. “Even with this name change, the school will continue to retain an atmosphere that encourages development of the whole person for Christian ministry,” said David Horton, Fruitland’s president.

Miscellaneous business

During miscellaneous business David Gasperson, pastor of Warsaw Baptist Church in Warsaw, asked for clarification about the convention’s rural strategy.
“When a new baby is born the older siblings worry about where they stand in the family. It isn’t encouraging when Mom says ‘I’ll fix dinner as soon as I feed the baby,’” Gasperson said. He pledged rural churches’ support of disaster relief and the “clarion call” to the cities in the eight population centers, but also asked the convention to not forget rural areas. “In Warsaw and a thousand crossroads communities across North Carolina we face a number of challenges,” he said, listing closing businesses and plants as well as farms that are now corporate owned entities. “I would request to all of our entities that efforts be made to clarify on an ongoing basis how the rural mission is to be continued.
Both Hollifield and Brian Davis, associate executive director-treasurer, addressed Gasperson’s concerns.
“I do not have any intention for us to neglect the rural areas of the state,” Hollifield said. “My desire is that in the rural areas we will not only be working to continue reaching people in those rural areas but my hope is that people living in the rural areas will see the eight population centers as an area of missions.”
Phil Addison, senior pastor of Stony Point Baptist Church and member of the Board of Directors, made a motion to share about the Christian Action League’s financial shortfall. Messengers approved a motion referring Addison’s motion to the Board of Directors.

“The history of the Christian Action League of North Carolina begins with the Baptist State Convention,” Addison said.
Addison said the Christian Action League had helped in his county with an alcohol referendum and had been battling for more than 10 years to pass the marriage amendment. Currently they are facing funding problems which could cause the organization to suspend its efforts. “If they had not been here for the past 10 years we would definitely be in a different society than we’re in now,” he said. “If you think it’s bad now try doing it without the Christian Action League being there on our behalf.”

Convention committee reports

Charlie Martin, chairman, brought the report from the Committee on Nominations. The report was approved. 
Albie Brice, chairman of the Historical Committee, presented the 2013 History Writing Contest award to Rick Blanton. Blanton was recognized for his book, Saint Paul Baptist Church: A Living History, written about Saint Paul Baptist in Casar. The Committee on Resolutions and Memorials directed messengers to their program book for a list of individuals to whom the 2013 annual is dedicated. Prior to the Annual Meeting, the committee received no outside resolutions for consideration. 
Next year’s annual meeting is scheduled Nov. 10-11 at Koury Convention Center in Greensboro.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael McEwen, BR content editor, and Melissa Lilley, BSC communications coordinator, contributed.)
11/18/2013 3:59:30 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments

Leaders urge messengers to ‘Arise,’ make disciples

November 18 2013 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

Arise” became the next step after “Awaken” for the 2013 Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) annual meeting Nov. 11-12 in Greensboro.
Steve Corts, senior pastor of Center Grove Baptist Church in Clemmons, and Larry Doyle, director of missions of Piedmont Baptist Association, were chosen to share a theme interpretation Nov. 12 with messengers. The 2013 theme “Arise” builds on the 2012 theme “Awaken.”
Based on Isaiah 60:1-3, Corts encouraged listeners to “rouse yourself from a posture of resting.”
This particular passage – which is both prophetic and prescriptive – “shows us that for the people of God today there are some extraordinary opportunities just waiting to be seized,” he said.
Arise, Corts said, “conveys a notion of rising for a particular purpose.” People should get up and get ready. “This is vital especially for us Baptists because we are by nature activists,” Corts said.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Steve Corts senior pastor of Center Grove Baptist Church in Clemmons, shared from his ministry experience the next step after the 2012 theme “Awaken.”

“In recent generations it seems we have become predominantly a get up and get at it kind of people. We’ve taken to saying, ‘God … we are doing some things for Your Kingdom. Why don’t you come along with us” Why don’t you come along and watch what we can do?’”
Rather than espousing our plans, strategies or methods, Corts urged messengers to shine.
“[It’s] not something we’re asked to do as much as it is something that we’re invited to have done to us,” he said.
“There is, you see, a passivity that God prefers to activity. It’s a passivity that comes from the realization that unless God goes first in a matter our going means nothing … that unless God works first, our work is for nothing.”
Corts called on people to stop cursing the darkness.
“The problem with the darkness is not the darkness. The problem is with the light that refuses to shine. When God’s people become what they’re meant to be by choosing to change and choosing to be changed, they become the change that the world around them shrouded in darkness needs to see and experience.”

Fervent prayer

As a fourth-generation pastor with more than 30 years in ministry, Corts said fervent prayer is needed. Preaching, programming, planning and strategic initiatives are pointless without fervent prayer.
Early on Corts had asked messengers to write down three things: 1) the greatest single challenge you and your family are facing right now; 2) the single greatest challenge your church is facing right now; and 3) 9.0. Near the end of his message he asked the people to stand and look at that list.
“I want you look at that number,” Corts said, “9.0 – that is the single greatest challenge Baptists in North Carolina face; nine million living in the darkness.”
As he closed he asked the people to look at their lists. Corts shared what he believes are the five most powerful words in the English language: I can’t, but You can.”
“I can’t heal my marriage. I can’t rescue that wayward son or daughter that is breaking my heart,” he said.
“I can’t get free of my past on my own, but Father God I can’t but You, You can.
“Our church is struggling; our church is hurting; our church is dead. Father I can’t, I can’t, I can’t do anything about it … but Father God I know You can.”
Laying those problems out before the Lord is the most powerful prayer one can offer, Corts said.

Discipleship deficit

Building on what Corts shared, Doyle said the discipleship deficit is “crushing the life out of the church.” After 29 years of pastoral and missionary service and now 12-and-a-half years in associational work, he said his heart continues to be broken over this deficit.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Larry Doyle, left, director of missions for Piedmont Baptist Association, expands on the “Arise” theme for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina annual meeting.

Using Matthew 28:18-20, Doyle said Baptists have been good at making other Baptists, committee members, church goers but “we are woefully lacking in making disciples who make disciples who make disciples who make disciples.”
While struggling with the issue of making more disciples, Doyle said there is a more fundamental question: How do we glorify God?
“Glorifying God is the heart and soul of everything we do as a follower of Christ,” Doyle said.
“It is the reason we exist. It is the purpose of the church. It is the filter by which we evaluate everything we do.”
Doyle asked messengers to dream with him “about something that may seem wild and crazy.
“What if in every neighborhood, in every city, in every county, in each of these neighborhoods there were a group of followers of Christ who covenanted together to be on mission as a family of missionaries? What if these family of missionaries consistently and intentionally brought glory to God by the way that they loved and witnessed to and cared for their neighbors?”
Instead of being critics and asking, “Why,” Doyle encouraged participants to be visionaries and ask, “Why not?”
Doyle and his wife have decided to be on mission in their community and they have joined with other believers to be on mission together. “That’s where we’re living out church,” Doyle said. “That’s where we are living out the Great Commission.”
Referring back to Corts’ message earlier in the day, Doyle said, “It’s not what we can do; it’s what He can do. I can’t but He can.”
11/18/2013 3:42:26 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments

M.O. Owens honored for lifetime of ministry

November 18 2013 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

At age 100 M.O. Owens Jr. has invested his life in advancing the gospel, serving Southern Baptists and serving North Carolina Baptists.
Owens came to North Carolina to pastor in 1944, and has been doing so ever since. He still preaches Sunday mornings at the church he founded in 1963, Parkwood Baptist Church in Gastonia. Owens now serves as pastor emeritus of the church. 
Describing Owens as a “living legend,” Milton A. Hollifield Jr. presented Owens with a lifetime achievement award during a special time of recognition during the recent Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) annual meeting in Greensboro. Hollifield serves as BSC executive director-treasurer.

BSC photo by K Brown
M.O. Owens, right, acknowledges the applause from messengers Nov. 12 during the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) annual meeting. Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer, presented Owens with a plaque recognizing the pastor’s ministry among North Carolina Baptists. 

“M.O. Owens Jr. is one of my great heroes. I have respected and appreciated him through the years,” Hollifield said. “I am grateful for what he has meant to us as North Carolina Baptists and to the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Owens pastored First Baptist Church in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and a church in Florida before moving to North Carolina. He served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Marion for 10 years before becoming pastor of First Baptist Church in Lenoir, where he served until he moved to Gastonia to pastor Parkwood Baptist Church.
A South Carolina native, Owens is a graduate of Furman University and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
In 1925, Owens was present with his parents at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) meeting in Memphis, Tenn. when the Cooperative Program was first adopted. Years later, he would help move the SBC, its seminaries and the BSC back to its conservative theological roots.
“I am grateful to have served Southern Baptist churches for 75 years and the privilege God has given me,” Owens said. “I am grateful for so many friends across the country. God has blessed us. God has been so good to me.”
Don Warren, a member of Parkwood, called Owens a man of integrity. “When I think of M.O. Owens I think of a man who lives his Christian life by not compromising before God and man. People see that in him and recognize that he is a follower of Jesus Christ.”
Warren is grateful for the dedicated, visionary leadership of Owens. “Every church M.O. has ever pastored has grown, and every church he pastored exceeded its budget,” he said.
Warren encouraged N.C. Baptists to follow Owens’ example of loving and treasuring God’s Word.
“The biggest thing that any pastor could learn from M.O. is to follow the Word of God without deviation, and to not make it adaptable to the trends of the day,” Warren said. “M.O. believes every single word in the Bible. He lives it. He preaches it. And that is the basis of his success.”
Jeff Long, senior pastor of Parkwood, said leaders such as Owens paved the way for the current generation, taking risks for the sake of the gospel.
“The way he treats people, the way he preaches the Word, the way he approaches life with grace and dignity - he truly is a godly man,” he said. “If you ever interact with him it’s evident from the very beginning. And it’s not age; it’s having spent a life walking with God.”
Owens has served on the BSC Board of Directors and its various committees, and also served as president of the Pastors’ Conference for two years. Owens was instrumental in the process of buying property for the N.C. Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell and for Fruitland Baptist Bible College, where he taught for a number of years. On the national level, Owens was engaged with the ministries of the Baptist Sunday School Board, Home Mission Board and Education Commission.
Throughout his ministry, Owens never strayed from his commitment and passion to tell people about the life-transforming message of the gospel.
“Just preach the gospel,” Owens said. “That’s all that matters.”
11/18/2013 3:16:08 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Ky. messengers: ‘no confidence’ in agency’s leader

November 15 2013 by Todd Deaton, Western Recorder/Baptist Press

PADUCAH, Ky. – Messengers to the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s (KBC) annual meeting voted overwhelmingly Nov. 12 to convey a vote of no confidence in the president of Sunrise Children’s Services to the agency’s board of directors.

Tommy Tapscott, KBC second vice president and associate pastor of East Bernstadt Baptist Church, brought the “no confidence” motion in Bill Smithwick, Sunrise’s president. The vote follows weeks of controversy stemming from Smithwick’s recommendation to allow homosexual employees at the Baptist-affiliated child care agency.

Although Tapscott said he was “very pleased” with the Nov. 8 decision by Sunrise’s trustees against changing the agency’s hiring practices and commended them for standing up for “biblical and Baptist principles,” he added that “the disturbing part” for him was that the recommendation had been advanced by Sunrise’s president.

Tapscott said he was “very disappointed, very let down” and left “wondering if this leadership will stand for biblical convictions” shared by Baptists across Kentucky. “I have no confidence of that to be the case,” he stated.

And while a vote of no confidence may not have any bearing on Sunrise’s current board, Tapscott said he hopes it would serve as “a strong wakeup call.” The convention’s no confidence vote is non-binding in the sense that only Sunrise’s board of trustees can dismiss its CEO and president.

Robert Franklin, pastor of Main Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, and Luke Bray, pastor of Jeffersontown Baptist Church in Louisville, both opposed Tapscott’s motion.

Pointing to Sunrise trustees’ decision to sustain its hiring practices, Franklin maintained Kentucky Baptists could trust Sunrise’s board to guide Smithwick and requested that grace be extended. Meanwhile, Bray observed that, according to the book of James, the testament to true religion is not necessarily “toeing the line” on homosexual employment, but caring for widows and orphans.

Ron Shaw, pastor of Community Baptist Church in Somerset, spoke in favor of the no-confidence motion, reminding messengers that while caring for children is important, the main goal is to uphold the gospel because that is what will deliver them. He challenged Kentucky Baptists to be personally involved in helping children who are hurting because of abuse and neglect and to share the gospel with them.

Stan Spees, a member of the Sunrise board from Lone Oak First Baptist Church in Paducah, told messengers that Smithwick’s recommendation had divided Sunrise’s trustees more than any other issue raised during his six years on its board.

Spees, one of two trustees who first brought the board’s discussions of Sunrise’s hiring practices to light, recounted events over the past four months, emphasizing opportunities when Smithwick could have changed his course but, instead, persisted. Smithwick refused to meet with the KBC’s executive director and president, sought to remove a trustee who held dissenting views and removed the trustees’ contact information from the agency’s website, preventing Kentucky Baptists from communicating further with them, Spees charged.

“If all Smithwick wants to do is care for the children’s food, clothes, housing and medical care, that can be done by a secular agency,” Spees said, implying that what differentiates Sunrise from other child care agencies is its mission of sharing the gospel with children and operating with biblical principles.

Smithwick, in his report to the convention earlier that day, told messengers, “I’m the same man that I was who stood before you the first convention [16 years ago] and the same man that stood before you the last convention.

“My scriptural beliefs about homosexuality ... and about our command to take care of orphans and to love kids and to love one another have not changed,” Smithwick stated. “I remain the same.”

Explaining that a part of his responsibilities as president is to look “down the road” to see opportunities and threats that could help or hinder Sunrise in fulfilling its mission, Smithwick recounted how he had made Sunrise’s executive board aware of how an issue with the agency’s hiring practices, he believed, could pose “a substantial threat” to its ongoing ministry.

“The full board has voted on what to do,” Smithwick said. “We will continue to do things just like we’ve done them.”

What saddens him the most, Smithwick said, is the ministry that he’s devoted 16 years of his life to could one day soon close. “And that kills me,” he said.

Following his report, Smithwick was barraged with questions from the floor.

Hershael York, pastor of Frankfort’s Buck Run Baptist Church and a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, sought assurance from Smithwick that the issue of hiring practices was settled and would not be raised again.

Smithwick replied that he could not promise that Sunrise’s board would not discuss it again, noting a possibility of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act being passed by Congress or an executive order from the president.

“When that happens ... the Commonwealth would not do business [with Sunrise],” Smithwick said. “At that point, I would have to say, are we going to continue, or are we going to change?”

Smithwick acknowledged that four of Sunrise’s employees had resigned recently over the hiring issue, but he would not divulge the count of the trustees’ secret ballot vote on the change he had proposed.

Smithwick reiterated his belief that it would be possible for Sunrise to employ homosexuals and still continue to care for children. When pressed, though, he said that someone who is “openly (homosexual), persuasive and pushy” would not be allowed to be part of Sunrise’s ministry.

Asked by Jonathan Carl, pastor of South Fork Baptist Church in Hodgenville, if there was anything for which he would apologize or if he now felt he had made any missteps in his handling of the issue, Smithwick responded, “Yeah, perhaps. [But] I have to say to you I felt compelled I had to bring this to the board. As a matter of fact, we had said in board meetings [that] it is not a matter of if, but when, we would be forced to face this issue.

“I know there is not a way that is palatable to this body,” Smithwick said, “but I see these kids, I see their pain and their hurt, and I just felt like we have got to do what we can do to keep serving them.”

Daryl Cornett, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hazard, inquired about ways Kentucky Baptists could come alongside Sunrise to help minister to kids if it should have to chart a course without state funding.

“You are going to, in essence, close,” Smithwick replied, explaining that a state license is required to provide congregate or foster care.

“We could still maybe have a little something” without state funding – possibly a group home that cares for six or fewer children, he said. “But the kids with the big hurts and the big pain, we wouldn’t be touching.”

Unswayed by Smithwick’s responses, convention messengers later approved a recommendation from the KBC’s committee on nominations to replace a slate of six nominees for Sunrise’s 24-member trustee board along with filling five other vacancies due to resignations from the board.

In all, messengers approved 11 new trustees to the board, including – in an unprecedented move – KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood. The KBC Mission Board, however, has encouraged all affiliated agencies and institutions to include Chitwood on their boards.

The other new trustees are Tom James, Eastwood Baptist Church, Bowling Green; Buddy Slaughter, Means Avenue Baptist Church, Hopkinsville; Rodney Cude, First Baptist Church, Smithland; William Price, First Baptist Church, Owensboro; Jenny Oldham, Severns Valley Baptist Church, Elizabethtown; Corey Abney, Florence Baptist Church, Florence; Wesley Noss, New Hope Baptist Church, Versailles; Dale Rose, First Baptist Church, Monticello; Lange Patrick, Highview Baptist Church, Louisville; and Nathan Young, Mercy Hill Baptist Church, Shepherdsville.

Smithwick was informed of the proposed nominee changes Nov. 12 immediately prior to the start of the annual meeting.

Replaced as Sunrise trustees were Thomas Adkisson, Shelbyville; Thomas Christopher, Danville; Paul Daughtery, Taylorsville; Timothy Hatfield, Belfry; Patricia Howard, Bowling Green; and Charlotte Whittaker, Beaver Dam.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Todd Deaton is editor of the Western Recorder, newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)
11/15/2013 2:24:36 PM by Todd Deaton, Western Recorder/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Humanists warn public schools over ‘Operation Christmas Child’

November 15 2013 by Kimberly Winston, Religion News Service

An organization of nonbelievers is threatening legal action against public schools that participate in an evangelical Christian charity that delivers Christmas toys to poor children.
The American Humanist Association, a national advocacy organization with 20,000 members nationwide, sent letters this week to two public elementary schools after parents complained their children were being asked to collect toys and money for Operation Christmas Child.

Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical relief organization founded by Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham. Its stated mission is “to follow the example of Christ by helping those in need and proclaiming the hope of the Gospel.”

The toys collected by Operation Christmas Child come with an invitation for recipients to accept Christianity. Since its founding in 1993, Operation Christmas Child has sent 100 million boxes of toys to poor children.

According to the humanist association, East Point Academy in West Columbia, S.C., has organized a toy drive and raised funds for the charity for at least three years. A second school, SkyView Academy in Highlands Ranch, Colo., has participated for “several years” and has acknowledged packaging 500 toy boxes in 2012.

Both schools received letters from the AHA informing them their actions are unconstitutional. The same day it received the letter, East Point Academy said it would cut its ties with the charity out of “an abundance of caution because we do not want to expend school financial resources defending a lawsuit.”

Monica Miller, legal counsel for the AHA’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center, said the schools are violating the First Amendment’s guarantee of the separation of church and state and its ban against government endorsement of religion.
“There is also a problem of a lack of transparency,” she said. “One of the parents was not aware of the Christian nature (of Operation Christmas Child) and he let his kids participate because he assumed the school would not promote religion.”

In its letter to the schools, AHA described the toys as “bribes,” and Miller said schoolchildren were also promised incentives for participation, such as pizza parties and free dress days.

Kelly Wells, a spokeswoman for the DeMoss Group, a public relations firm that represents Samaritan’s Purse, said in an email that the organization is aware that public schools participate in its annual toy drive but does not know how many are involved.

“The project is very clear in its marketing material and website that its mission is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world,” Wells wrote. “Therefore, Operation Christmas Child’s goal is to to generate participation in and through local churches and like-minded groups … Of course, any person or group is welcome to participate in packing shoebox gifts if they so choose.”

The AHA has not yet heard from the Colorado school, and Miller said the association will pursue a lawsuit if the school does not terminate its participation.
(Editor’s Note – Kimberly Winston is a freelance religion reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, The Dallas Morning News, USA Today, The Washington Post, The San Jose Mercury News and Newsweek)
11/15/2013 11:54:58 AM by Kimberly Winston, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

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