November 2017

Puerto Rican pastors ‘not forgotten’ by SBC

November 15 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The “heart and spirit of Southern Baptists” are evident as churches and leaders help Puerto Rico recover after Hurricane Maria, pastor Jorge Alvarez said Nov. 11 in San Juan.

Photo by Bobby Sena
Still rebuilding after Hurricane Maria, Southern Baptist pastors and family members in Puerto Rico praised God at an appreciation dinner held in their honor in San Juan.

Alvarez, executive director of the Convention of Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands, was among 150 local pastors and guests who attended an appreciation dinner held in their honor. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) sponsored the event. The Hispanic Baptist Pastors Alliance (HBPA) and LifeWay Christian Resources also supported the event, held at the Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel.
“I am sharing with our leadership that we have a denomination that has not forgotten us,” said Alvarez, pastor of First Baptist Church of Arecibo. “To the contrary, it has placed all their resources at our disposition, indicating the heart and spirit of Southern Baptists.”
Frank S. Page, SBC EC president and CEO, said the SBC appreciates the work of Southern Baptist pastors on the island.
“They have worked so hard and we want to give them a special time to show them that they are not alone,” Page told Baptist Press (BP). “The devastation caused by Hurricane Maria is absolutely unprecedented. We are thankful for all the work that is being done by disaster relief; however, we wanted to reach out to the pastors in a way to show our love and appreciation for them.”
EC Hispanic Relations Consultant Bobby Sena, who represented the EC at the dinner, also praised the pastors and their congregations.
“I have no doubt that out of the ashes, rubble and devastation, a new Puerto Rico church will rise up,” Sena told BP. “The pastors may have lost their homes and church building – and many of their members have become part of the Puerto Rican diaspora in the USA – but they have maintained their resolve to continue preaching, teaching and ministering, despite the conditions on the island.
“The tenacity and resilience of the pastoral leadership and their church membership are amazing,” Sena said. “I went to encourage them and came away inspired. I will never be the same again.”

Photo by Bobby Sena
Southern Baptist pastors and leaders attending an appreciation dinner for Puerto Rican pastors included, from left, Felix Cabrera, Jonathan Jerez, Alex Comesanas, Rolando Otoniel Sanchez Perez, Ramon Osorio, Bobby Sena, Junior Martinez and Xavier Torrado.

An upcoming banquet is being planned to honor pastors in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Ken Weathersby, SBC EC vice president for convention advancement, told BP that Southern Baptists are praying for fellow believers and leaders in the Caribbean.
“We want the pastors to know that they are not alone, even though they are going through difficult times in this crisis,” Weathersby told BP. “We as their fellow Southern Baptist brothers and sisters in Christ are praying for them, and we are doing everything we can to support them and provide necessary resources.
“Our churches have responded well,” Weathersby said.
Alvarez thanked Southern Baptists for their support, mentioning the EC, NAMB, Send Relief, state conventions, associations and churches.
“Despite the suffering and destruction that Hurricane Maria has inflicted on the church buildings, houses and the lives of our people, [and] the exodus of many of the church members to the USA,” Alvarez said, “the pastoral spirit is up, not down, and we are serving our communities and sharing the gospel. Our pastors continue to be faithful to their calling in the Lord’s ministry.”
HBPA President Felix Cabrera, whom Sena described as the lead planner of the event, has spent weeks helping pastors recover.
“The majority of our Southern Baptist pastors have been the hands and feet in many of our communities and towns on the island,” Cabrera said. “Week after week following the hurricane, they have provided physical food, water and medicines, but also spiritual food.
“Because of that, the Hispanic Baptist Pastors Alliance decided to dedicate and invest time in the pastors, their wives and children,” said Cabrera, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. The dinner will strengthen pastors and “help them on the long road of recovery before them,” Cabrera said.
NAMB Mobilization Leader Ramon Osorio told churches they can count on NAMB’s support during their lengthy recovery.
“I am heartbroken for the conditions under which the people of Puerto Rico have to live. I am concerned about the challenges the church in Puerto Rico faces,” Osorio said. “But I am excited for how the Lord is already moving in His church and about how Christ is being glorified and exalted by His people here.”
The event’s keynote speaker was Rolando Otoniel Sanchez Perez, pastor of the Baptist Church of Ozama in the Dominican Republic, and director of the Dominican Baptist Theological Seminary.
Among others in attendance were event moderator Xavier Torrado, pastor of Casa Rendora in Venga Baja, P.R.; event attendance mobilizer Junior Martinez, pastor of First Baptist Church of La Gracia, Yauco, P.R., and Florida church planter Alex Comesanas. Jonathan Jerez, worship leader of Central Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, led those in attendance in worship.
LifeWay Christian Resources donated gifts to Puerto Rican pastors, Sena said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

11/15/2017 7:45:39 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Officials blame arson for Vale church fire

November 14 2017 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Emergency workers responded to a two-alarm fire at Providence Baptist Church in Vale, N.C. around 2 a.m. Monday. According to local news sources, at least eight fire departments from three counties responded to the call.
When fire crews arrived at the church just southwest of Hickory, they found flames and smoke coming from the building. Investigators believe the fire started in the basement boiler room. Smoke damage extended to the worship facilities, located above the basement.

George Hildebran Fire & Rescue photo

No injuries were reported, but investigators called the incident suspicious. Vandalism behind the church included apparent hate speech against the church near the area where the fire is believed to have started.
Photos on Twitter and Facebook showed the message “anti-gay hate group” spray-painted on the sidewalk behind the church and on the back of the building.
Ernest Richards, the church’s pastor, told the Biblical Recorder vandals might have confused the church with Providence Road Baptist Church in nearby Maiden. In 2012 that church’s pastor, Charles Worley, spoke harshly against homosexuality in a sermon. The church made national news and became a target of the LGBTQ community.
Speaking about the Providence congregation that he pastors, Richards said, “Those are great people, loving people and compassionate. There’s no hate speech in that crowd. I just believe that whoever did this was confused.
“I’m totally opposed to sin of any kind. But, we love [people], regardless of what they’ve done, we’re still going to have that compassion for people. We welcome everyone here.”
Richards said after the 2012 incident at the church in Maiden, “It was a mess for several weeks, and some were confusing our name with that other church. We had to change our phone number because of all the ugly calls we received. We’re assuming there is mistaken identity [again].”
Hours before the fire, church members dedicated more than 200 shoeboxes they had assembled for the Operation Christmas Child ministry. Richards said firefighters worked through the smoke to remove the boxes, but they were all damaged by soot and smoke. The church plans to repair or replace all of the shoeboxes before they are delivered to the Samaritan’s Purse headquarters in nearby Boone.
Monday evening, church members and neighbors in the community met to pray, vowing to be faithful to the church’s mission in the community.
Providence Baptist Church is affiliated with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and the Southern Baptist Convention.
Area news reported today (Nov. 14) that the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office ruled the fire as arson. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, deputies and the fire marshal are continuing the investigation.

11/14/2017 3:56:45 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 1 comments

Sutherland Springs: Worship resumes with call to overcome

November 14 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Pastor Frank Pomeroy’s first message to the surviving members of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, was that they must overcome darkness with the light of Christ.
Seven days after a gunman killed 26 worship attendees, Pomeroy – who was out of town during the Nov. 5 attack – delivered his message at a tent worship service blocks away from the church property. More than 500 people attended the Nov. 12 service, according to media estimates. That same day, the church building was opened as a memorial to the slain.

Screen capture from CNN
The sanctuary of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, was reopened Nov. 12 as a memorial to the 26 people killed there the previous Sunday.

Meanwhile, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) has conveyed to all 26 victims’ families Southern Baptists’ offer to cover funeral expenses. The precise combination of funding sources that will pay for each funeral is being determined by the families amid a plethora of government and private assistance offers, NAMB told Baptist Press (BP). Yet, on behalf of Southern Baptists, NAMB is prepared to cover the full cost for each victim whose loved ones desire the gift.
The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) is helping to coordinate the funeral assistance offer.
Pomeroy, whose 14-year-old daughter was among the slain, said Nov. 12 in a brief address, “We have the power to choose, and, rather than choose darkness, like [the gunman] did that day, I say we choose life,” according to CNN.
Mike Ebert, a NAMB leader who attended the service, said the sentence quoted by CNN reflects Pomeroy’s “big encouragement” in his message: “not to let one moment of evil that took place, one moment of darkness, win the day.”
A full video of the service had not been released by BP’s publication deadline.
Pomeroy “was consistently encouraging his church members and anyone else who would listen that they have a choice,” said Ebert, NAMB’s executive director of public relations, “either to allow darkness to overcome or to overcome the darkness with the light of Jesus.”
Pomeroy also spoke of life as a spiritual battle that inevitably includes wounds for anyone contending for Christ, Ebert said. The pastor stated spiritual victory, rather than comfort or safety, is the aim of God’s people.
“Victory has a price,” said Pomeroy, CNN reported.
Mitch Kolenovsky, an SBTC field ministry strategist who also attended the service, said Pomeroy “spoke to that crowd as if they were his congregation on a Sunday morning. He poured out his love for them, shared with them his commitment to the community ... He got several ovations during that time.”
At least 12 people have professed faith in Christ as a result of the shooting, Kolenovsky said.
As part of his message, Pomeroy announced First Baptist’s building would be opened as a public memorial for the dead. That evening, the public was allowed into the sanctuary, which had been emptied and painted white from floor to ceiling, according to media reports. A chair with a rose was placed in the room to honor each victim in the place his or her body was found – a pink rose for an unborn baby killed and red roses for the 25 others.
Recordings of some victims’ reading scripture and praying played on speakers.
“I want everyone that walks in there to know that the people who died lived for their Lord and Savior,” Pomeroy said according to CNN.
First Baptist has yet to make an official decision about what to do with its building going forward, Ebert said, despite media reports to the contrary. He noted Pomeroy had raised the possibility of tearing down the facility at some point in the future, but that was a personal reflection, not a statement of the church body’s decision.
Worship and Sunday School will be held on the church property next Sunday in a temporary structure, the church announced during the Nov. 12 worship service.
Media outlets and other sources have reported numerous offers to help pay for funerals and additional needs of the church and grieving families. Among offers of help, the SBTC website has provided a portal for donations to fund “the needs of the church, pastor, church members and community.”
Ebert expressed thankfulness that so many people want to help the believers in Sutherland Springs. NAMB, in coordination with the SBTC, will work through logistics of the tandem offers of funeral help.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

11/14/2017 8:15:24 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Banquet spotlights community, global discipleship

November 14 2017 by Liz Tablazon, BR Staff Writer

Guests and messengers to the annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) shared a meal with people of different cultures and ethnicities at the Heavenly Banquet Nov. 7. Attendees heard testimonies of God’s work.
Luis Tejeras, Latino campus pastor at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, shared the three pillars that establish Hickory Grove’s vision: exalt Christ, make disciples and pass the torch.

Tejeras recalled the moment he knew the church needed a transformation from attraction-centrality to gospel-centrality. He was about to baptize a man when the man confessed that he was agreeing to baptism only to appease his wife and alleviate troubles in their marriage, not in obedience to God.
“We were really fast to baptize people that were not Christians, and that changed my life forever,” Tejeras said.
Around the same time, Hickory Grove called Clint Pressley as senior pastor. Tejeras said they shared the same burden for the state of the church, and God began to change the church’s vision for the community and response to the gospel.
Elaborating on the mentorship aspect of disciple-making, Tejeras said, “I believe that the Great Commission is not optional for Christians. … We should pour our lives into every member of Christ’s church.
“We don’t count attendance every Sunday service or every Wednesday. What we count is the people that have been investing in the lives of others and people that are getting that investment.”
For the banquet’s mission focus, Zac Lyons, BSC senior consultant for Great Commission Partnerships, introduced Kambiz Saghaey, coordinator for Persian Leadership Development at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Saghaey told his story of planting churches in Iran.
After seven years pastoring in Iran, he was arrested and charged with two crimes against Islam and the government. The judge overseeing his case wanted to change his charges to apostasy and hang him. Before he could have Saghaey killed, however, the judge fell ill and died. A different judge sentenced the pastor with one-year probation and closed the case.
“God is sovereign,” Saghaey said. “God says, ‘go and make disciples.’ God will take care of us.”

Suresh Jonnalagadda, a sitar player and pastor at Indian Upstate Fellowship in Greenville, S.C., provided music, while Neal Eller, BSC team leader for church strengthening, led in singing hymns and invited participants to sing in their native languages.

11/14/2017 8:13:24 AM by Liz Tablazon, BR Staff Writer | with 0 comments

‘Anchored’ in God’s Word

November 14 2017 by Lizzy Long, BSC Communications

More than 220 women gathered together for the Embrace Women’s Ministry retreat at Caraway Conference Center and Camp near Asheboro on Oct. 27-28.
The attendees arrived to see the colorful leaves among the Uwharrie Mountains nearing the end of their beautiful life cycle. While many leaves had begun floating through the brisk fall air to the ground, the trees’ roots remained strong.

BSC photo by Joshua Barkley
“Shallow sips in God’s Word leads to scanty roots,” said Katie Orr, creator of the FOCUSed15 Bible study,  blogger and pastor’s wife.

“Roots are what anchors that tree,” said main speaker Katie Orr.
Katie Orr is the creator of the FOCUSed15 Bible study method; a prolific speaker, author and blogger; and a pastor’s wife from Harrodsburg, Kentucky.
She passionately spoke about the importance of being “Anchored” in God’s Word, which was the theme of this year’s conference, based on Psalm 1.
“Shallow sips in God’s Word lead to scanty roots,” said Orr. “When we [focus on the outside] and not on our roots – that’s how we end up being Christians for decades but babies spiritually.”
Furthermore, the women were given time to ask God to intercede on behalf of their families, trials, grief, the nations and more, rotating through different prayer stations.
While most women met with the Lord privately with their heads bowed and hearts open, others hugged and prayed over one another with tears streaming.
In between main sessions, attendees were able to choose and attend four breakout sessions among a variety of 10 topics offered, many of which were drawn from the prayer emphasis of last year’s Embrace women’s retreat. The topics included Bible study, spiritual disciplines and scripture memory on Friday and marriage, family and worry and anxiety on Saturday.
“[God has been] teaching me that it’s not me – it’s His Word,” said first-time conference attendee Jane Gravely of First Baptist Church in Rocky Mount.
Gravely said she enjoyed attending breakout sessions and the musical worship, led by pianist and vocalist Kimberly Merida of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh and violinist Tasha Via of Journey Church in Raleigh.
The women also enjoyed a time of fellowship in the evening through several events offered, including a flashlight hike around the lake, s’mores by a fire pit and board games.
With participants from more than 60 N.C. Baptist churches, Amy Faust of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Raleigh said a highlight of the conference was the fellowship with other believers from all across the state.
Faust also said how she had been encouraged to abide in God’s Word, through which fruits would naturally flow.
“Shortchanging my quiet time is starving myself,” Faust said.
This reflected Orr’s main session teaching that described an anchored woman as one who delights on God’s Word and deliberately follows His ways, yielding fruit.
“We don’t naturally float closer to God,” Orr said.
Rather, we have to fight to be close to God through obedience, Orr said, adding that we can’t attain this on our own as our hearts are wicked and only made righteous by Christ.
“The fruit of the Spirit is not something you do,” Orr said. “It’s something the Spirit does in you. What you do is nourish your roots.
“How do you nourish your roots? You read God’s Word.”
Special testimony speaker and author Esther Burroughs, who serves and directs Esther Burroughs Ministries: Treasures of the Heart, affirmed this as she held her Bible and said, “This really is the only book you need.”
After hearing Burroughs share her testimony of how God used older women to mentor her, many women who attended the conference were inspired to start praying for “an Esther Burroughs,” or an older woman, to enter their own lives and encourage them in their walk with the Lord.
The participants, ranging in ages from their early 20s to 80s, were given an additional opportunity to unite in prayer as the younger women were called to the altar to be prayed for by the older women attendees. As the younger women humbly knelt before God, the older ladies prayed wisdom over them, binding the separation of years in the everlasting Kingdom of God.
“That was powerful,” said participant Nancy Evans of the Sandy Creek Association.
Embrace Women’s Ministry senior consultant Ashley Allen and her team had been praying for moments like this for months before the conference – that God would be glorified and that women would leave with a desire to “delight in the law of the Lord” as written in Psalm 1:2.
Allen said she believed the Lord answered those prayers as she heard from women attendees and the teaching faculty that they had sensed the Lord’s presence among them and were leaving with “a desire to be in His Word and make application in their lives.”
Certainly, many left with the hope that is an anchor for the soul.

11/14/2017 8:09:42 AM by Lizzy Long, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Iran-Iraq earthquake called 2017’s deadliest yet

November 14 2017 by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press

The death toll continues to rise after the deadliest earthquake of 2017 shook the Iran-Iraq border late Nov. 12.
More than 450 people have been killed and 7,000 injured in the 7.3-magnitude quake, with major aftershocks continuing to shake the region, extending into Turkey, Kuwait, Pakistan and Lebanon, according to CNN.

Embed from Getty Images

Iran and Iraq both have started major rescue efforts.
In the meantime, Southern Baptists are sifting through reports to decide their best response for the devastated area.
“We are definitely calling for people to pray for those affected, but at this point we really don’t have an idea what the response will be like,” said Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response (BGR). “We will know more in the next few days.”
Access is an issue in some of the affected region, so it’s possible that BGR’s response might not lean on sending volunteers into the area, Palmer said.
He added that BGR has focused heavily on preparing nationals in locations worldwide to be able to respond quickly to hurting people around them.
“BGR has been around for 10 years now, and we have trained and equipped thousands of local partners who can help us respond,” Palmer said, noting that the drought situation in Africa and the Syrian refugee crisis have been long-term, ongoing efforts. “It’s great help if we can have front-line people who are already there and have survived events like this before in their area. We are constantly training and building the capacity of local partners so that when these bad times come, they are ready to respond.”
That strategy has seen success in places like Puerto Rico, where trained nationals moved into action following recent hurricanes. It also helped in Mexico City, where a devastating 7.1-magnitude earthquake killed 369 people in September.
And the area of Iran and Iraq hit by the quake is no stranger to this type of disaster – Iran, where most of the casualties have been reported, sits on a major fault line between the Arabian and Eurasian plates. In 2003, the city of Bam had the world’s most deadly earthquake this century – about 26,000 people died, according to CNN.
For more information or to give to relief efforts, visit
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is a writer based in Birmingham, Ala.)

11/14/2017 8:06:45 AM by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Embrace missions team serves Boston

November 14 2017 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

Two years ago, a group of women from North Carolina traveled to Boston to assist church planter Dane Helsing with the launch of Beacon Community Church.
Several of those women returned this fall and were amazed to see how God has been at work through the church’s ministry in reaching the community for Christ.

BSC photo
Embrace women’s ministry of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) sent a team to Boston in September. The ministry alternates years with Boston and New York to work with existing partnerships with the BSC and church planters.

“We were there two years ago and helped spread the word about the launching of Beacon,” said Donna Elmore, a member of Southside Baptist Church in Greensboro. “To come back two years later and see they have about 50 adults and 30 children is amazing.”
Elmore was among a team of nine women from N.C. Baptist churches who were part of a short-term missions team to Boston, a trip organized by the Embrace women’s ministry of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). The team spent four days in Boston in late September engaged in community outreach and other ministries affiliated with Beacon Community Church, which is located in the Boston suburb of Belmont, Massachusetts.
“My family and our church loved getting to know the women from Embrace,” said Helsing, who planted Beacon Community Church in 2015. “Gospel partnership thrives through gospel friendship. When we witness church planting in the book of Acts, one truth rings loud and clear – churches are planted through a plurality of people. We are absolutely dependent upon our partners to plant and continue to sustain Beacon.”
Members of the Embrace team spent much of their time in Boston engaged in what Helsing calls “servant evangelism,” which included serving subway commuters coffee and snacks and participating in a variety of local service projects.
“Tangible acts of service in our community provide a way for us to display the very character of Jesus Christ,” Helsing said. “This helps build trust and relationships with people who may be very skeptical and suspicious of anything church related.”
Hannah Morgan, a member of Hales Chapel Baptist Church in Zebulon who was participating in her first missions trip with Embrace, said she was able to converse with a young man named Steven at a subway stop.
“We talked for 20 minutes, possibly longer,” Morgan said. “This interaction was encouraging because I was actually able to engage with someone beyond handing them a granola bar. Plus, he was genuinely interested in why I was doing what I was doing.”
In addition to serving the community through projects at a local park and senior center, team members spent time prayerwalking the community with Helsing.
“I enjoyed prayer walking with Dane,” said Ashley Newton, a member of First Baptist Church in Creedmoor. “One highlight for me was simply seeing how much Dane loves the people of Belmont and his passion for sharing the gospel with each person in the community.
“Just taking the time to walk the streets and boldly pray to God for the community was awesome.
“It’s always amazing for me to see how the Lord can use a small group of ladies to join His work that is taking place in Boston.”
The Embrace team also assisted with several needs around the church facility, which meets in a rented dance studio. The team repainted Beacon’s faded church sign, cleaned up and decorated the kids’ ministry space and performed some landscaping around the facility.
“They worked so hard,” Helsing said.
Embrace team members also served in a variety of capacities during Beacon’s Sunday morning worship service, which gave church members a needed break and enabled them to worship together as a church family.
“This was the first time in the two-year history of our church that all of our members were able to participate in our worship gathering,” Helsing said. “It was life-giving.”
Helsing said his desire is that God would use short-term mission trips in the lives of those who participate, even after the trip is over.
“There is a mutual benefit to mission teams,” Helsing said. “They encourage us as a church plant and multiply our gospel efforts in our community, but our prayer is that God would also stir the hearts of the members of the team to catch a vision for church planting in their hometown or perhaps in another city where gospel-centered churches are needed.
“We view mission teams from an overall Kingdom perspective. It’s not just about our church and our community. God can use a mission trip to ignite a fire in a person to serve in another area.”
For Paula Rogalski, a member of Second Baptist Church in Rutherfordton, September’s trip marked her fourth trip with Embrace. Rogalski said each trip has allowed her to see the spiritual needs that exist and how God wants to use her and her church to meet them.
“Each trip to the Northeast reveals to me the spiritual need that is there, as well as the partnership needs that smaller churches have,” Rogalski said. “Each time I go on one of these trips the Lord impresses on me how much He wants to reach our world with such a wonderful message of His love.
“I wish every member of our local church would participate in one of these trips.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Embrace is the women’s evangelism and discipleship ministry of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)

11/14/2017 8:02:31 AM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Hollifield: Seek fresh work of God

November 13 2017 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) Executive Director-Treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr. encouraged N.C. Baptists to seek a fresh work of God in their individual lives and in the lives of their churches.
Hollifield’s remarks came during his address to messengers at the BSC’s 187th annual meeting Nov. 7 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro.

BR photo by Steve Cooke
“We are living in a culture today that knows less and less about Jesus, when they should be hearing more and more about Him,” said Milton A. Hollifield Jr. in his Baptist State Convention of North Carolina executive director-treasurer report.

The theme of the meeting was “Return to Me” based on Zechariah 1:3 and featured a special emphasis on prayer for revival and spiritual awakening that culminated with a prayer gathering on Tuesday night.

Preaching from the theme verse of Zechariah 1:3, Hollifield emphasized the promise that God would return to His people if they return Him.
“God declares that if His people will return to Him, He will restore the fellowship that has been broken as a result of their rebellion and disobedience, and they can know refreshing blessings from God,” Hollifield said.  
Citing the temptation and tendency to drift away from God and His will for our lives, Hollifield said he believes many Christians are in need of a “fresh encounter with God.”
Hollifield highlighted five losses that Christians suffer when they are not living in fellowship and obedience to God. They include a loss of joy in Christ, a loss of vision to reach people, a loss of unity within the body of Christ, a loss of a kingdom focus and a loss of evangelistic zeal.
Hollifield shared several national and statewide statistics that showed declining baptisms in churches that affiliate with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The statistics were derived from data reported from churches as part of the Annual Church Profile (ACP).
Nationally in 2016, SBC churches reported the lowest number of baptisms since 1946, Hollifield said.
In North Carolina, churches reported nearly 18,400 baptisms in 2016, which reflected a decrease of approximately 1,500 baptisms in one year’s time. Additionally, 33 percent of churches reported zero baptisms in 2016, Hollifield said.
In 1997, N.C. Baptist churches reported the highest number of baptisms since 1975, totaling 27,511. When compared with 2016 figures, baptisms reported by N.C. Baptist churches have declined by more than 9,000 in the last 19 years, Hollifield said.
Additionally, Hollifield cited a statistic from Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, in which Rainer estimated that only 5-7 percent of SBC churches meet the definition of an “evangelistic church.”
“We are living in a culture today that knows less and less about Jesus when they should be hearing more and more about Him,” Hollifield said. “If we’ll be honest, many of us never have a gospel conversation with people who need Christ.”
Despite the declining trends in baptisms and other spiritual indicators, Hollifield offered a word of hope.
“God wants to send revival to His church,” Hollifield said. “The question I ask is, ‘Do we long to see God send revival?’”
The first step to revival is examining our hearts, confessing our sin and responding to God’s invitation to return to Him as indicated in Zechariah 1:3 and other passages of scripture, Hollifield said. “The Bible gives accounts of how God has listened to the heart cries of His people who were outside of fellowship with Him and living under His hand of judgment,” Hollifield said.
Saying that it’s been nearly 100 years since America has experienced a move of God that resulted in a widespread revival, Hollifield challenged pastors, church leaders and laity to lead their churches to seek the Lord in desperate prayer for spiritual awakening.
Hollifield shared testimonies of how God has moved in the lives of other denominations and individuals when they sought Him in prayer that also included confession and repentance.
He concluded with a reminder of God’s promise to His people in Zechariah 1:3.
‘Return to me’ was an invitation for His people to humble themselves and pray to Him and repent of sin and return to the plan that He had for them,” Hollifield said.
“If that happens, then we can see refreshing occur in our churches, in our denomination [and] in our communities.”

11/13/2017 6:03:01 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

N.C. Pastor’s Conference emphasizes ‘God’s power’

November 13 2017 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

The 2017 North Carolina Pastor’s Conference (NCPC) convened Sunday evening, Nov. 5, at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, N.C., featuring a lineup of seven speakers and a 200-voice orchestra and choir from First Baptist Church, Indian Trail. The two-day event’s theme, “I Need His Power,” wove through the fabric of sermons delivered by church leaders from across North Carolina and one from Tennessee.

BR Photo by Steve Cooke
Chip Hannah, left, was elected president of the 2019 North Carolina Pastor’s Conference while Jonathan Blaylock was elected as vice president. Hannah serves as pastor of Peace Baptist Church in Whiteville, and Blaylock, who is serving as secretary-treasurer of the group this year, is pastor of West Canton Baptist Church in Canton.

Mark Harris, 2018 Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives and initial-interim pastor at First Baptist Church in Charlotte, warned of the proverbial “pride which comes before the fall” as he described the life of King Uzziah from 2 Chronicles 26.
“The power of the presence of God in your life, which brings His blessing upon you, will always do one of two things,” Harris said. “It will either humble you and draw you closer to Him or it will cause your heart to become filled with pride, and ultimately destroy you.”
Harris claimed that individuals, churches, and even nations are subject to those principles.
“We have forgotten what made America a great nation,” Harris said. “We have forgotten what distinguished us from our neighbors to the north and our neighbors to the south.
“Can I remind you that Canada was settled by French explorers who were looking for gold? May I remind you that Mexico was settled by Spanish explorers who were looking for the very same thing, gold?
“And may I remind you that, no matter how much the revisionist historians try to rewrite American history, the truth remains, America was settled by courageous men and women who were not looking for gold, but were looking for God.”
Jerry Chaddick, pastor of Tri-City Baptist Church in Conover, preached from a well-known passage about the “Valley of Dry Bones” in Ezekiel 37.
“Isn’t it interesting?” Chaddick said. “Here are these dead bones, lifeless, devoid of life, devoid of spirit, hopeless, helpless. They can do absolutely nothing for themselves. It reminds me of something else: all of us who were dead in our trespasses and in our sin.”
He said it will take faith, obedience, the Word of God and the Spirit of God to see “life out of death” in the “regeneration of the lost,” “revival in the church,” and the “restoration of a nation.”
Greg Mathis, pastor of Mud Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville, talked about unity in local churches and how to resolve conflict.

BR Photo by Steve Cooke
James Walker, lead pastor of Lake Hills Church in Candler, preaches during the Nov. 6 morning session.

“People look at us and they base their opinion on the Lord Jesus Christ by how we treat one another,” said Mathis.
He said there are three reasons why Christians struggle to reconcile after disputes: they are “not as spiritual as they think,” probably don’t know the Bible as well as they imagine and they have never truly understood the meaning of forgiveness.
Mathis drew from the Apostle Paul’s “Damascus Road” experience, when God asked, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He said the same principle applies in churches today.
“When we attack a brother in Christ,” said Mathis, “we’re attacking the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Speaking about “church bullies,” Mathis said, “They might be an object of your vengeance but you need to know they are a soul that Jesus died for on the cross. They are one of His children. He loves them, whether you love them or not, and you are not to push them around.”
Brandon Blair, son of 2017 NCPC President Timmy Blair and youth pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., talked about needing God’s power in student ministry, urging listeners to depend on “the presence of God” and “the Word of God,” as he preached from Mark 2:1-2.
“I’ve had many youth pastors that call, text or message me, and they say, ‘What is the best advice you can give me in student ministry?’ I can tell you what it’s not,” said the younger Blair. “It’s not skinny jeans and lattes ... These students don’t need another student. They need a man of God, who’s been in the presence of God, that’s been studying the Word of God, that will stand and preach ‘thus saith the Word of God.’”
Phil Ortego, pastor of Scotts Hill Baptist Church in Wilmington, called attendees’ attention to both “vertical” and “horizontal” relationships, speaking from the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.
He said Christians must love people “on the way,” “in the way” and those who require one to go “out of the way.”
James Walker, pastor of Lake Hills Church in Candler, urged Christians to seek persistently God’s power in their personal life. He asked three questions:

  1. Are you seeing consistent spiritual growth in your spiritual life?
  2. Are you more interested in pleasing people or pleasing God?
  3. Are you trying to bear fruit without abiding?

“None of us, at any point in our spiritual journey,” Walker said, “should ever be satisfied with where we are in that spiritual journey.”
Mike Whitson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Indian Trail, narrated stories from his life and the difficulties he has experienced, while encouraging attendees from Philippians 4:10.
“Paul says my sense of wellbeing – my significance, my esteem, the meaning of life, fulfillment – has absolutely nothing to do with what I have, but it has everything to do with who Jesus is in me,” said Whitson.
“Sometimes, men, God may be taking you through the university of adversity, and in the name of Jesus, don’t bail out until you graduate.”
President Blair, pastor of Piney Grove Chapel Baptist Church in Angier, presided over the assembly’s election procedures for 2019 NCPC officers.
Two candidates were nominated for the presidency. J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, nominated Chris Griggs, pastor of Denver Baptist Church. Josh Phillips, pastor of Memorial Baptist Church in Norwood, nominated Chip Hannah, pastor of Peace Baptist Church in Whiteville.
Blair twice called for a show of hands to determine the winner, but the results were unclear. He said no ballots were available, then asked attendees to stand upon hearing the name of their preferred candidate. After briefly consulting with Dale Robertson, 2017 NCPC secretary treasurer, Blair declared Hannah the winner.
Jason Miller, pastor of Dutch Cove Missionary Baptist Church in Canton, nominated Jonathan Blaylock, pastor of West Canton Baptist Church, for vice president. Blaylock ran unopposed.
No nominations were made for the office of secretary-treasurer for 2019. Elections for the unfilled post will take place at the 2018 meeting, Blair said.
Three officers for the 2018 NCPC were elected by acclamation in 2016: Matt Capps, senior pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, president; Chris Griggs, lead pastor of Denver Baptist Church, vice-president; and Blaylock, secretary-treasurer.

11/13/2017 5:56:35 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

BSC offices give messengers update on ministries

November 13 2017 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

Several Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) staff members shared updates related to their respective ministries during this year’s annual meeting. Following are highlights of their reports.

BR photo by Steve Cooke
Jonathan Yarboro, right, shares a story about two college students and a church with messengers to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting. Seth Norris, from left, pastors Perkinsville Baptist Church in Boone, which offered a Chinese language Sunday School class that helped Sophie Cao, second from left, grow in her faith in Christ. As a student at Appalachian State University and being from a foreign country, Sophie had never heard about the Good News of Jesus until fellow student, Savanna Wood, third from left, introduced her to God.


Baptists on Mission

More than 80 people have come to know Christ through the disaster relief ministry of Baptists on Mission (NCBM), also known as North Carolina Baptist Men, in response to hurricanes Matthew, Harvey, Irma and Maria during the past year.
Disaster relief is one of 18 different ministries and partnerships coordinated through NCBM.
“God is using these ministries to touch and change many lives,” said NCBM Executive Director Richard Brunson.
Brunson said long-term recovery efforts continue in eastern North Carolina in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.
Disaster relief volunteers also responded to Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico in the aftermaths of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria respectively, this fall.
Since the end of August, volunteers have prepared thousands of hot meals, completed dozens of recovery jobs, provided hundreds of showers to individuals and completed hundreds of loads of laundry.

These acts of service in Jesus’ name help plant seeds for the gospel, Brunson said.

Church Health and Revitalization

Church revitalization requires sacrifice and a commitment to God’s purposes rather than personal preferences, said Brian Upshaw, who leads the work of the BSC’s Church Health and Revitalization Team.

Through numerous conversations and consultations with associational leaders, pastors and churches across the state during the past two years, Upshaw and other convention leaders have identified several characteristics that exist in churches that have experienced revitalization. They include: 

  • An outpouring of God’s Spirit through prayer and Bible study.
  • Repentance and a return to a love for Jesus Christ
  • Courageous leadership that shepherds the church toward God’s mission.
  • Disciples who are multiplying by making other disciples.
  • Communities that are being transformed by God through the ministry of the local church.

Upshaw shared several videos that included testimonies from pastors, church staff and lay leaders who have seen God bring revitalization to their congregations. Sometimes revitalization has come from within the congregation, but in many instances, revitalization has come through one church partnering or merging with another, Upshaw.
“In most case that we have studied, revitalization comes through God bringing partners together for ministry and mission,” Upshaw said.

Church Planting

The 99 new churches started in North Carolina in 2016 reported more than 4,800 professions of faith, said Mark Gray, team leader of the BSC’s Church Planting Team.

BR photo by Steve Cooke
During the church strengthening update, Sammy Joo, from left, BSC senior consultant for Asian ministries, along with Simon Touprong, pastor of Vietnamese New Hope Baptist Church in Raleigh, and K’Them Nfn, pastor of Highland Christian Church in Asheboro, update messengers about their ministries.

“New churches excel at reaching new people with the gospel,” Gray said.
But church plants also need established churches to help them get started. Those churches are often called a “parent church,” a “mother church” or a “sending church,” Gray said.
People sometimes wonder if becoming a sending church has a negative effect on that congregation, Gray said. Yet citing statistics from the book Viral Churches by Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird, Gray said sending churches grow in worship attendance by 22 percent and see a 77 percent increase in missions giving within five years. Sending churches also have a greater missions focus outside the church, Gray said.
Using an analogy drawn from a parent-child relationship, Gray said church plants may not look the same or do things the same way as the sending church, but they are “worth the investment, energy and effort.”

Church Strengthening

The call to a relationship with Christ is a call to be on mission with Him, but aligning with Christ’s vision is not always easy, said Neal Eller, team leader of the BSC’s Church Strengthening Team.
Being on mission with Christ “requires us to adjust our lives to God” to allow Him to work through us to accomplish His purposes for His Kingdom, particularly when we are confronted with needs within our communities, Eller said.
Eller said that’s what happened to David Dyer, pastor of Fairplains Baptist Church in North Wilkesboro. Dyer spearheaded an effort to build an 8,000-square-foot park on the church’s property that will be open to children with special needs in the community. The park was dedicated in late October.
“Our goal with this park is not just to have another playground,” Dyer said during a video testimony. “Our goal is to provide a place where, when people come, they see Jesus.”
Sammy Joo, BSC senior consultant for Asian Ministries with the Church Strengthening Team, joined with other pastors and leaders to share how God is moving among the Montagnard population in North Carolina.
Joo’s testimony reflected just one example of the Church Strengthening Team’s mission, which Eller said is to “prepare, train, equip and resource” N.C. Baptists to “make disciples of all nations, starting in North Carolina.”

Collegiate Partnerships

College students across North Carolina are coming to Christ greater numbers and experiencing life change in several key discipleship indicators, said Jonathan Yarboro, team leader for the BSC Collegiate Partnerships Team.
At the beginning of 2014 when the BSC implemented a new strategy that focused on equipping local churches to reach college students rather than convention-employed campus ministers, only nine of the state’s 148 campuses had a campus ministry. Today, that number is 51, which represents a 467 percent increase in less than four years, Yarboro said. 
Yarboro also said that between 2005 and 2013, an average of 133 college students came to faith in Christ each year through N.C. Baptist collegiate ministry. Last year, 310 college students trusted Christ through ministries of N.C. Baptist churches, Yarboro said.
Based on data from LifeWay Christian Resources, N.C. college students have also shown marked growth several key areas, including the number of students who were disciple in groups, trained as leaders, trained in evangelism and sent out as summer missionaries, Yarboro said.
Yarboro encouraged more N.C. Baptist churches to get involved in fulfilling his team’s vision to see no campus left in North Carolina without a church-led, reproducing gospel presence.
“If no campus left is going to be a reality, we need many more churches to get off the sidelines and into the game,” Yarboro said. 


Disciple-making is every believer’s responsibility, and Brian Upshaw, team leader of the BSC’s Disciple-making Team, encouraged messengers to embrace a holistic view of disciple-making that includes both evangelism and discipleship.
“Disciple-making involves both sharing the gospel with those who don’t yet know Christ, and helping those who already do know Christ to grow in their relationship with Him, and walk with Him, and learn themselves how to have gospel conversations with others,” Upshaw said. He highlighted several training and equipping opportunities available to N.C. Baptists in 2018. They include: the 2018 Disciple-Making Conference; Scorecard; Inside-Out Sunday School; and Moving from Maintenance to Multiplication, a new training designed to help believers turn everyday conversations to gospel conversations.
Upshaw also encouraged N.C. Baptists to participate in the Gospel Conversations Challenge, a nationwide effort by Southern Baptist leaders to encourage churches and their members to have 1 mission gospel conversations by June 2018. More information is available at
To learn more about upcoming events with the BSC, visit or check the Opportunity Corner section in the print issue of the Biblical Recorder. The 2018 Disicple-Making Conference is on Tues., Feb. 27. Visit    

11/13/2017 4:10:27 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

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