October 2010

Youth minister faces charges in Guilford County

October 25 2010 by wire reports

A youth minister at an Autryville church is facing charges in Guilford County.

Thomas L. Elliot, 40, of Roseboro, was arrested for soliciting a minor over the Internet for a sexual act and attempted indecent liberties with a minor.

The arrest Thursday (Oct. 21) was part of an undercover Internet sting by Guilford County Sheriff’s Office. According to an official with the sheriff’s office, Elliot had been under surveillance since September.

Elliot is a part-time youth minister at Autryville Baptist Church.

Officers said Elliot initiated chats with officers online. Thursday Elliot arranged to meet what he thought was a 14-year-old girl on Friday “for the purpose of a sexual act,” the official said.

The minister drove two and a half hours from Roseboro to Greensboro for the meeting.

“We set up to meet at a movie theater,” Det. Tommy Sluder Sluder said. However, after Elliott got lost, detectives changed the location of the meeting to an electronics store, where he was promptly arrested.

“He was shocked,” said Sluder of Elliott’s reaction when he opened his car door to see a swarm of detectives instead of the girl.

Elliot’s former employer at Clinton radio station said news of the arrest was surprising.

Pat Dixon at WCLN Funtime Oldies in Clinton, said the news of his arrest came as a shock.

“It is out of character for him to do something like this,” Dixon said Friday in a Sampson Independent article. “I have nothing but good things to say about him. He is one of the finest people that I have ever met.”

Dixon said Elliott, who has a wife and child, worked at the station for close to six years as on-air talent doing an afternoon radio show, where Elliott was better known as “The Fly.” 

Two years ago, Elliott left his job for the ministry “because he really loved doing it and it was something he always wanted to do,” Dixon said.

“I know he also worked another job in Fayetteville to supplement his income. I get people who still come up to me and ask what happened to his show; he was very popular here. To hear of him being arrested, is just a real shock to me.”

Elliott is being held on a $25,000 bond at Guilford County Jail. His first court appearance was Friday at 2 p.m.

Other reports say Elliot also was an announcer for a local football team. Elliot also was a volunteer youth minister at Evergreen Baptist Church before being hired at Autryville Baptist.  
10/25/2010 3:10:00 AM by wire reports | with 4 comments

Biblical Recorder editor resigns

October 22 2010 by Staff

Norman Jameson, editor of the Biblical Recorder since Aug. 1, 2007, has resigned, effective Dec. 31, 2010.


Saying his resignation was “not required, but necessary” Jameson offered to resign prior to a regularly scheduled board meeting in Charlotte Oct. 21. Board members expected their meeting to include discussion about an announced challenge to the Recorder’s Cooperative Program funding through the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina when the Convention meets Nov. 8-10.


A letter to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina Executive Director-treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr. and copied to Recorder board members threatened such action if the editor was not removed. Hollifield has no supervisory responsibility for the Recorder, which is an agency of the Baptist State Convention with a separate board.


Cooperative Program funding accounts for about 45 percent of the Biblical Recorder’s $726,500 budget in 2010.


“It seems that Mr. Jameson does not know the mindset of this predominantly biblically conservative state…enough is enough,” wrote Sandy Beck, director of missions in the Carolina Baptist Association. “If his board of directors cannot influence his lack of sensitivity, perhaps the conservative pastors and laity of this state can.”


Jameson, a Baptist journalist since 1977, said he was confident until just hours before his board meeting that the Recorder would survive such a challenge if it were to materialize. But with no such confidence expressed by the board, he offered to resign.


“The board of directors affirms Mr. Jameson’s many positive personal qualities and his excellent work for and dedication to the Biblical Recorder and to North Carolina Baptists,” said board chair Bill Flowe, a lawyer and member of First Baptist Church, Liberty. “He was gracious in his action and the board responded graciously. Mr. Jameson exhibited a confidence in God that we trust and pray God will honor.


“The editor’s job is not only to report but also to challenge readers to think in ways they otherwise might not think. This duty makes the job precarious. The perception that Mr. Jameson is not a good fit as editor with the current direction of the Convention resulted in the painful decision to make a change.”


Jameson, whose writing is regularly honored by peers in the Baptist Communicators Association, came to the Recorder following three years as executive leader for public relations at the Baptist State Convention. For 12 years he directed communications for Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, was associate editor of the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger, a public relations staffer at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and feature editor of Baptist Press, the international news agency for the Southern Baptist Convention.


For five years he consulted non-profits from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans in public relations and capital fundraising while trying to plant a church in High Point.


10/22/2010 10:35:00 AM by Staff | with 60 comments

Smaller staff, greater efficiency key to NAMB

October 22 2010 by Joe Westbury, The Christian Index

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Things will never be the same again.

And, they will be better.

That’s the sober two-edged message that newly elected North American Mission Board (NAMB) President Kevin Ezell sent to state convention partners, Alpharetta staff, and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) during his first board meeting Oct. 20.

Citing the urgent but inevitably painful need to set aside what is good in order to achieve what is great, Ezell cast his vision for the future of the agency which has struggled with its identify since its founding in 1997.

Trustees gathered in Los Angeles, Calif., Oct. 17-20 to hear the new president, commission missionaries, and tour area ministry sites to better understand what is occurring in a multicultural field as diverse as Southern California.

Ezell sounded a somber note about staff reductions but said the step was necessary to be more effective stewards of money Southern Baptists are channeling to the agency. At the urging of Georgia Trustee Chairman Tim Dowdy, trustees established a Vision Committee whose members will be appointed by Ezell to help him shape the agency in coming months.

Early in his comments Ezell established the mantra that being good is the enemy of being great. He expressed gratitude for NAMB’s heritage to that point in history but admitted that little is being done to effectively penetrate lostness.

“Our intent is to do it and our hearts are in the right place but not our results,” he said.

“NAMB has the primary task to assist churches, not to employ people. Therefore we have to very objectively evaluate (differentiate) what is good from what is great. We cannot sacrifice what is great so we can do many things that are average-to-good (on a scale),” he continued.  

‘Very difficult decisions’
Ezell said there would be some “very difficult decisions that he will be called on to make and he said he would call on the trustees to stand by him in eliminating some things in order to focus on the right thing.

Some of that staff reduction, which Ezell has pegged at 25 percent or about 70 positions initially, will be offset by employees who are taking advantage of an enhanced retirement package.

Last month the retirement threshold was lowered to age 55 and would have applied to about 107 employees, or nearly a third of NAMB’s Alpharetta staff. But it was recently lowered again to age 54 to help those who were interested but did not quite qualify. That increased the pool of eligible candidates to about 124, newly elected Vice President for Communications Mike Ebert explained.

Initial accounts are that about 30 individuals have accepted the retirement offer and several others are still considering the incentive. They have until Nov. 23 to make their decision for severance pay and generous medical benefits until age 65.

“We can absolutely do better,” Ezell said about helping the agency redefine its focus. “I am very excited about the years to come but we have got to bring focus to the agency and narrow the credibility gap. The younger the minister, the greater the credibility gap that we have.”

Joe Westbury/Christian Index

Early in his first report to NAMB’s trustees Kevin Ezell set the tone of radical change coming to the agency. He stated forthrightly that substantial change in staffing levels and organizational structure is on the horizon but the lostness of North America required no less.

Ezell said the agency has begun a self-audit, going through every area “very meticulously to examine everything that we do and realign the structure — not just to change it for the sake of change but to do it in the most effective way possible.”

Regarding how NAMB operates in the future through partnerships, he said “the table (of decision making) will not be small and those around it will not be few; rather, the table will be increased and the team will all be focused on our shared objectives.

“We absolutely can do this together,” he said about reaching North America through better relationships with state conventions, associations, and local churches.  

States frustrated by unknowns
The new president acknowledged that many in state conventions are concerned and frustrated by forthcoming changes, many recommended by the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Report. Most important is the seven-year phase out of the Cooperative Agreements.

“It’s a fearful time for many state conventions and they want answers. I have observed in human nature that whenever there are questions followed by empty blanks, people fill in the blanks with answers that are much worse than reality.”

Ezell said he is assuring state conventions that NAMB is committed to working with the entities.

“We absolutely want a relationship with associations and state conventions and to mobilize them even greater than in the past.

“Anytime you have 42 state conventions and NAMB and others at the table it is going to take some time. Discussions with each state convention will result in a strategy that is unique to their situation,” he added.

“As I told one state convention executive director, ‘We can still do this (negotiate the phase out and new funding options) and be friends. We may not agree but we can sit down, have a conversation, and love one another through this. The best way to accomplish our goals is to do it together and not work against each other.

“Those days (of confrontation) are over; it’s a new day and we’re going to work with people and not against them,” he stressed.  

Adding staff not necessary to reach goals
Regarding staffing levels, Ezell said it will not always be necessary to add staff to accomplish the agency’s goals. In fact, he said, some church planting groups with less than a tenth of NAMB’s purchasing power are showing themselves to be more effective.

Ezell acknowledged that income from the Cooperative Program and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering have been declining for several years and the agency needs to take that into consideration when it comes to evaluating staffing levels. But declining revenue doesn’t necessarily mean that the agency will be poised to do less in coming years.

“We are going to do the very best with every dollar that Southern Baptists send us. We are going to provide a compelling vision that will encourage them to give with even greater sacrifice. But money will not drive our efforts to reach North America for Christ; what will drive this is the passion of the church, the passion of the people.

“I’m not discouraged or feel like when we have less money that we have less resources. We just have to look at our resources as being painted in different colors than green (signifying money).” Regarding regional church planting, Ezell said that most Southern Baptists assume that mainline and established state conventions have plenty of churches, but that is not always the case.

“As a result of the Task Force recommendations some pastors assumed we were not going to focus on mainline states. In reality we will shift a priority of resources to the less-reached sections of the nation such as the West, Northeast, and Canada. But that does not mean we are going to disregard other areas.

“In Florida, for example, there are 18 million people but fewer churches than Kentucky or Tennessee. We will not stop planting churches in those two states, but we will need to focus on those other areas where the population needs are the greatest.”

Ezell then rhetorically asked, “Where do we go from here?”  

NAMB’s blueprint for the future
“First, we will determine NAMB’s focus, then build a strategy to support that focus, and then develop a staffing strategy.

“Everyone wants to know ‘who’ and ‘where ‘ (in this staffing scenario) but we really will not know until we have a strategy; then we will add or reduce staff according to that strategy.

“What I do know is that not all NAMB staff will need to be fulltime and based in Alpharetta. We will decentralize but new positions will not necessarily be fulltime staff. We will use pastors and others who are doing a wonderful job where they are but can advise us in our efforts. We are now living in 2010; (due to technology) you do not have to have everyone (living) in Alpharetta in order to work together.

Ezell said the agency’s focus will be mobilizing Southern Baptists for evangelism that results in church planting. He then quoted Peter Wagner, who said “The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches.”

Ezell then affirmed the agency’s dependence on the Cooperative Program and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for its livelihood.

“I have repeatedly been asked ‘Are you going to strongly support the CP and Annie Armstrong offerings?’ and my answer has always been ‘Absolutely.’

Ezell then said NAMB has “an incredible opportunity” to tap into those pastors who, like himself, had disengaged from Southern Baptist life because they saw that the system was broken.  

Regret over disengaging
“One of the things that I regret is that I disengaged from the Kentucky Baptist Convention as a pastor. Very soon the KBC will be voting to move toward a 50/50 goal with their CP giving and it will happen with no help from me.

“Years ago when I examined the system I became very frustrated and disengaged. We still gave to the Convention but I did not attend many meetings and distanced myself from it. In fact, I told a good friend, Herschel York, that he would never change that machine (the way the state convention operated). Next week at their annual meeting he will prove me wrong, and I am thankful for men like Herschel York who stayed engaged.

“I believe there are thousands of pastors who are ready to become re-engaged if we provide them with a compelling vision and show them how we are effectively using the money that they encourage their people to give to the two offerings.

In other business trustees learned of the retirements of three vice presidents — Richard Harris, vice president of missionary sending and former interim president; Harry Lewis, vice president of partnership missions and mobilization and David Meacham, vice president of associational strategies.

Harris and Lewis will remain for an undetermined amount of time in a limited role to assist state conventions in the phase-out of the Cooperative Agreements.

Trustees also created two new vice president positions. Mike Ebert, communications team leader, was elevated to vice president of communications and Clark Logan, currently with LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, was hired as vice president of ministry controls.
10/22/2010 5:43:00 AM by Joe Westbury, The Christian Index | with 8 comments

Ezell says ‘stay focused,’ ‘faithful’

October 22 2010 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

LOS ANGELES — In his first missionary commissioning sermon as the new president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), Kevin Ezell told 62 missionaries and chaplains to “stay focused and stay faithful” as they begin their new ministries throughout the United States and Canada.

About 700 people packed New Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, an African American congregation in south-central Los Angeles, for the Oct. 17 commissioning service.

The church was founded 48 years ago by Lonnie Dawson, the only pastor the church has ever known, who currently is ill and was unable to attend the service.

“As a missionary-minded church, we are delighted to share in NAMB’s missionary efforts for Kingdom-building,” Dawson said in an advance statement. During his tenure, New Mount Calvary has grown from six members to more than 3,000.

In welcoming the standing-room only audience to the commissioning service, Sonja Dawson, the pastor’s daughter, said, “When Dr. Dawson planted this church over 48 years ago, this day was only a dream. We could not have dreamed that our humble congregation would ever host such an auspicious occasion.”

Ezell told the crowd, “There is no better church from which to talk about staying focused and faithful than New Mount Calvary, where Lonnie Dawson has done it for 48 years.” Ezell, at 48, was an infant when Dawson planted the church on east El Segundo Boulevard.

Using Colossians 3 as his text, Ezell told the new missionaries and chaplains that “it’s so easy in the world we live in to get distracted by the things that are not important. It’s easy to fill your life with the good things while you push out the best things.

“The Apostle Paul told us to be on guard within and without. Missionaries, protect your time with the Lord, your families and your ministries — in that order. Remember who you’re doing this for as you begin your ministry. You’re doing it for the Lord Jesus Christ. Start well and finish well. He (Jesus) did, up until the time He said, ‘It is finished.’”

Ezell was named NAMB’s new president Sept. 14 by the Southern Baptist entity’s 56-member board of trustees who attended the commissioning service at New Mount Calvary prior to their quarterly board meeting, also held in Los Angeles.

The 62 new NAMB missionaries and chaplains — chaplains serving the military, corporations, the health care industry and law enforcement — will be deployed in 15 U.S. states and three Canadian provinces. They join the ranks of 5,300 NAMB missionaries and chaplains already in service throughout North America.

Wendy Tsai, a native of Taiwan, was commissioned to serve in Canada’s Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, along the southern gulf of the St. Lawrence River in southeastern Canada.

“I’ll be ministering to the growing population of Chinese immigrants there,” Tsai said. “We want to establish a Mandarin-speaking church for those Chinese immigrants who have never heard the gospel. These people are lonely and need to learn English. If we can establish the church, they will love to come and we’ll have the opportunity to reach them for Christ.”

With 1,800-plus Chinese immigrant families — averaging three members each — in the Charlottetown area, Tsai said they come because it’s cheaper to immigrate there than to Vancouver or Ontario.

The daughter of non-Christian parents, Tsai said her commissioning was a high point of her life because becoming a missionary has been her “vision and call” since she was 11 years old.

“God has made my vision come true through NAMB. I’ll stay as long as God wants me to stay. I’ll follow what He says.”

Photo by John Swain

Capt. Mike Jernigan of Fayetteville, a new North American Mission Board chaplain assigned at Fort Bragg, carries the American flag during NAMB missionary/chaplain commissioning ceremonies at New Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles Oct. 17. Jernigan, a veteran of the Afghanistan war, ministers to some 300 soldiers in the 196th Ordinance Battalion DOD, some of whom will be deployed to Afghanistan.

Mike Jernigan, 40, a captain in the U.S. Army, was commissioned as a chaplain to continue serving in the 196th Ordnance Battalion DOD at Fort Bragg.

With one 34-month tour to Afghanistan already behind him, Jernigan ministers to some 300 soldiers in his battalion at Fort Bragg, some of whom will be deployed to Afghanistan in the months ahead.

“I feel pretty strongly that soldiers need to have meaning in their lives,” said the closely cropped red-headed Jernigan, a native of Fayetteville. “I try to make them see that there’s something beyond their years on this earth, that they need to know there’s hope in Jesus Christ.

“Encouraging is a big part of what I do. I stress how they need strong relationships with fellow soldiers and with their families back home,” said Jernigan, who is the father of three children with his wife Jennifer.

Newly commissioned missionary Ray Willis’ mission field is draped by the mountains and blue skies of Billings, Mont., where he and wife Arlene serve. Willis is minister of evangelism and discipleship at Fellowship Baptist Church in Billings. His goal is to raise up a core team of people to evangelize and disciple new believers.

“As Baptists, we do a great job of putting church planters in the field and starting churches,” Willis said. “But once the church is organized, the work is only beginning. We need to grow leadership in evangelism, music and in other key areas such as Sunday School.

“Pastors can get so busy administrating that the discipling is never completed,” Willis said. “My heart and passion is to do something about that. It’s why I get up every morning.” A pastor for 42 years, Willis first came to Montana in 1977 after leading churches in Illinois and Arkansas.

Also attending and speaking at the commissioning service at New Mount Calvary were Fermin Whittaker, executive director of the California Southern Baptist Convention, and Debby Akerman, national president of the Woman’s Missionary Union.

Ezell also met with trustees while in California. See story.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)
10/22/2010 5:37:00 AM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Rankin seeks global insights at Lausanne

October 22 2010 by Wendy Lee, Baptist Press

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Jerry Rankin is maintaining a low profile. He has neither sought nor been given program time at Cape Town 2010: The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. But the recently retired president of the International Mission Board (IMB) hasn’t retired from missions.

He and wife Bobbye are among the 4,000 participants at the congress.

Rankin has been the featured speaker at hundreds of mission conferences in recent years, but most of the Christians from 198 countries at the Cape Town International Convention Center are unaware of the visionary mission leader who was at the IMB helm for 17 years.

Rankin’s attendance at the invitation-only Lausanne Congress was already locked in before he retired Aug. 1. “I hope to gain some insights to share with IMB leadership and others,” Rankin said. “There is so much happening globally that we need to be aware of.”

Southern Baptists need representation at Lausanne, Rankin said.

“The real advantage is broadening our understanding of what is going on among Christians worldwide,” Rankin said. “Networking and joining others in what they are doing is also important.... Southern Baptists are firmly grounded in the fundamentals of faith; we should contribute to these global gatherings.

“God is raising up a great Kingdom people,” Rankin added. “If we are truly committed to the Great Commission, we need to know what God is doing through others.”

The concept “hidden peoples” was first introduced by missiologist Ralph Winter at the original Lausanne congress in 1974, Rankin recalled. Reaching those hidden people — now referred to as unreached people groups — is central to Southern Baptists’ international missions strategy.

Rankin also observed that organizers of the Cape Town congress, in their attempt to attain diversity of participation, failed to invite “some of the key minds and mission leaders to the table.”

Of the congress’ 4,000 participants, 1,000 are from the host continent of Africa. Forty percent are in their 20s, 30s and 40s. One-third are women in leadership roles. There are 2,400 pastors, missionaries and church leaders, 1,200 scholars and academics and 600 professionals from business, government, medicine and the media.

There are only 400 participants from U.S. churches and organizations, including about a half-dozen International Mission Board workers.

Rankin expressed a personal hope for Cape Town 2010: “I want to have my own vision enlarged.” His involvement in Southern Baptist mission endeavors has been so consuming that it has not allowed much opportunity for him to attend conferences such as this, to listen and learn what other groups are doing.

But Rankin also is interested in learning about future ministry possibilities, even though he is already scheduled months in advance with speaking engagements and is authoring another book.

Bobbye Rankin — in addition to participating with her husband in the plenary sessions, table group discussions and other optional sessions — found time to slip away to the Women’s Tea Room and participate in a prayer focus on Latin America. “I am enjoying gaining a broader understanding of what other groups are doing,” she said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Lee is a freelance writer from Asia.)  
10/22/2010 5:34:00 AM by Wendy Lee, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Baptist group helps Haitian amputee soccer team

October 22 2010 by George Henson, Associated Baptist Press

DALLAS — Helping a team of amputee soccer players get to their World Cup venue might not seem like disaster relief, but Dick Talley with Texas Baptist Men (TBM) said that is exactly what it is.

“We see this as an extension of our disaster-relief ministry,” Talley said. “In Haiti, if you have (a choice between feeding) a dog and a handicapped person, you feed the dog because it has value. “How do we change the way the people of Haiti look at an amputee or handicapped person? We’re trying to do that through sport. In the eyes of the people of Haiti, we are elevating the value of these people.”

Fred Sorrells of First Baptist Church in Kingsland, Texas, worked with handicapped people in Haiti even before the Jan. 12 earthquake there swelled their numbers.

“In Haiti, to be disabled is to be castoff. The general feeling is, ‘Why don’t you just go off somewhere and die?’” he said.

Recognizing the importance of sports in Haiti, he began searching the Internet for a viable sport for people with disabilities and came across the World Amputee Soccer Association. As he began to inquire about it, Sorrells said, he essentially was told there was no way he could get a team together in time for the association’s World Cup.

Along about that time, Sorrells learned that Haiti’s national soccer team was in Texas, and he went there to see if he could enlist some help.

“I just showed up and asked if there were any Christians on the team and learned their captain was a very devout Christian,” he recalled.

Team Captain Pierre Bruny immediately was interested. Upon his return to Haiti, Bruny began visiting hospitals to invite amputees to try out for the team.

After several days of tryouts, the Haitian national amputee soccer team was selected Aug. 14. The next major hurdle involved securing birth certificates, passports and visas in a country were so many records had been destroyed, but eventually all were obtained.

Members of an amputee soccer team from Haiti practice in Frisco before journeying to international competition in Argentina.

Texas Baptist Men paid for the air transport of the team from Haiti to Dallas. FC Dallas, the city’s professional soccer team, put them up in hotel accommodations and provided meals and transportation.

Local media reported on the team, and donations began to come in, but still the team did not have the funds necessary to fly to Crespo, Argentina, for the World Cup where they would play teams from Argentina, Japan, France and Ukraine in their opening pool. In all, 14 teams are competing for the title.

Texas Baptist Men agreed to step in again when the team did not have the money for the flight.

“People are starting to donate, but not fast enough to get them to Argentina, so we are guaranteeing the tickets, and then we will reimburse as the money becomes available,” Talley said.

But he was quick to not take all the credit for the team’s getting the opportunity to play. While TBM had handled this hurdle, others had helped at other points along the way.

“There are several groups that are helping, we’re just a spoke in the wheel,” Talley said. Sorrells said he expects TBM to be fully reimbursed.

“We’re doing it as a step of faith that people will hear about this team and make a donation. We really believe we’ll be able to pay every penny of what they’ve given us back,” he said. In amputee soccer, players can only use a non-amputated limb to strike the ball. Field players must be missing some portion of a leg, and goalies must be missing some portion of an arm.

“Because some may only be missing a hand or foot while others may have lost much more of the limb, only the whole arm or leg can be used to touch the ball,” Sorrells explained.

Field players use crutches that wrap around their forearms for their mobility. For more information and video of the game, see here. There also are opportunities to contribute on the site.

“We know we are the David among the Goliaths, because we have not played an official game yet,” he said.

Sorrells’ organization, International Institute of Sport, focuses on helping the handicapped be as involved in athletic competition as they wish. He particularly is involved in the Paralympic Games and Veterans Wheelchair Games.

Sorrells believes the Great Commission is not only in Matthew 28. It also is in Luke 14:21-23: “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.’”

“That’s what I’m trying to do — help the poor, crippled, blind and lame to know Jesus Christ,” Sorrells said.

Seven of the Haitian amputee team now are Christians. Once their World Cup experience is completed, Talley said they will be trained in water purification so that they can help in future disaster-relief efforts.

“The first casualty of a disaster is hope,” Talley said. “They’re going to be able to tell other earthquake survivors that there is hope, that there is life after an earthquake, and they are proof of it.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Henson is a staff writer for the Texas Baptist Standard.)
10/22/2010 5:31:00 AM by George Henson, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

2011 Find it Here: Change the scorecard

October 21 2010 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

The latest study from LifeWay Research calls on churches to consider what the Bible says about the purpose of the church, and once they do, to be prepared to make some drastic changes if their mission doesn’t line up with scripture.

Transformational Church, released earlier this year and co-authored by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer, suggests that too many churches across the country are working from a blueprint, or scorecard, that does not reflect the true mission of the church. Stetzer and Rainer write that the old scorecard — the one most churches use — only values the “external measures of the three Bs: bodies, budget, and buildings.”

Bad things happen when that scorecard is the only measure of church success. “As long as we use it, we will continue to be inward-focused, program-driven, and church-based in our thinking and leadership,” writes Reggie McNeal in Missional Renaissance.

According to the LifeWay study, transformational churches are churches living out their biblical purpose. They follow a scorecard that reflects the “ultimate measure of the church,” which is “to see people following Christ and living on mission … at its essence the new scorecard must measure how well we are making disciples.”

Changing the scorecard and making disciples is the focus of the 2011 Find it Here: Embracing Christ emphasis coordinated by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). Find it Here is a three-year focus on evangelism, discipleship and missions. This year launched an intentional focus on evangelism, next year focuses on discipleship, and missions is the 2012 focus.

“In Find it Here North Carolina, we want to make sure that North Carolina Baptists focus on the entirety of the Great Commission. Baptizing, teaching them to obey, and to live out a lifestyle of discipleship and missions,” said Lynn Sasser, BSC Executive Leader for Congregational Services.

Find it Here seeks to help equip believers to come alongside new believers and teach them what it means to live for Jesus Christ. “Conversion marks the beginning of an individual’s lifetime journey of following Christ,” Sasser said. “As Baptists we have always celebrated conversion and baptism, as we well should. However, it’s also true that as Baptists we have often failed in our responsibility to teach new believers to observe or to obey all that Jesus commanded us to do.”

Churches signing up to participate in Find it Here commit to:
  • praying for disciples
  • preaching on discipleship
  • teaching discipleship in classrooms and in homes
  • making disciples by participating in the 2011 Easter evangelism emphasis
  • becoming disciples by serving in the community
Churches can sign up at www.finditherenc.org. The site will also include free downloadable resources to help churches as they carry out these commitments. Resources include sermon outlines, youth devotion guides and family devotion guides.

Sasser described a disciple as one who “abides in Christ and does what Jesus did.” Sasser said discipleship comes in many contexts, such as from the pulpit, during corporate worship, Sunday School, small groups and personal study.

Discipleship is hard work because it speaks to every part of a Christian’s life — their lifestyle must be one that glorifies Christ and seeks to make Him known to others. Churches that embrace discipleship as a core value will focus on discerning their context and understanding the community in which they exist, cultivating a missionary mentality, and being intentional in building relationships and praying. 

Chuck Register, BSC Executive Leader for Church Planting and Missions Development, said discipleship is more likely to become part of a church ministry’s and focus when that church and its leadership realizes transformation is the goal. “One of the things that we must do in Baptist life is to begin to hold up to our pastors and our churches that the definition of success for ministry is life transformation,” he said. “It is helping a new believer begin to live, look like Jesus Christ. And that’s hard work. That’s life on life, iron sharpening iron.” 

Discipleship is the step that should naturally come after evangelism, so Find it Here 2011 is a great way for churches that participated in this year’s Find it Here emphasis to build on their evangelism efforts.

“The 2010 evangelism component was our first step. It was like building the foundation of a house,” said Don McCutcheon, BSC Executive Leader for Evangelization. “This doesn’t mean that we stop evangelism. It means we’re going to do this all three years. Hopefully this will become part of a church’s DNA.”

Resources will be online in early November.  
10/21/2010 10:38:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

More link Christian faith to being American

October 21 2010 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

As the U.S. has grown more diverse, more Americans believe that being a Christian is a key aspect of being “truly American,” researchers say.

Purdue University scholars found that between 1996 and 2004, Americans who saw Christian identity as a “very important” attribute of being American increased from 38 percent to 49 percent.      

Scholars said the findings, published in the fall issue of the journal Sociology of Religion, couldn’t be definitively tied to a particular event but they suspect the 9/11 attacks and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could have played a role.

“We suspect that these events accentuated the connection between Christianity and American identity by reinforcing boundaries against non-Christians and people of foreign origin,” said Jeremy Brooks Straughn, co-author of the study.

“Although we can’t be certain of the underlying causes, our data clearly show diverging attitudes between American Christians and their non-Christian counterparts here in the United States.”

Researchers found that non-Christians and those with no religious affiliation overwhelmingly rejected a link between being Christian and being “truly American.”

The findings are based on an analysis of data from the General Social Survey, collected by the National Opinion Research Center, in which more than 1,000 respondents were queried in 1996 and 2004.

In a separate survey, Public Religion Research Institute found that 42 percent believe “America has always been and is currently a Christian nation.”

The survey, taken Sept. 1-14, was based on a random sample of 3,013 adults.
10/21/2010 10:36:00 AM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Gospel movements needed to transform cities

October 20 2010 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

MANHATTAN — Several years ago the “Influentials” issue of New York Magazine described Manhattan’s Redeemer Church pastor Tim Keller as one able to meet young professionals living in the city on their “own terms.”

To do this, to figure out what it means to meet this demographic on their “own terms,” Keller moved into the city. He found New Yorkers greatly value knowledge, and intellect goes a long way in connecting with them. “When you communicate in a way that touches a person’s heart culturally, you get growth,” he told New York Magazine.

Because he lives there Keller knows the culture and concerns of New Yorkers. As Keller learned about the city he quickly saw a city painted with idols.

“There is an enormously sick pressure to perform and do well and make money,” he told New York Magazine. People turn good things, like family and work, into bad things because they elevate them to a position of greater worth than their relationship with God.

While that temptation may be greater in New York, Keller said New York itself isn’t the problem, it’s the culture; a culture that values the idols. So Keller shoots straight with his church and doesn’t try to hide the truth. His sermons get to the heart of why these idols are so prominent and what New Yorkers can do about it. To a crowd full of people who came to New York to advance a career, he preaches against living just to make more money or climbing the corporate ladder of success.

Preaching with such acute honesty may not typically grow a church. But Keller wants to do more than draw a crowd — he wants a movement. He is preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and pleading with believers to see the gospel as the power of God to change lives, to change cities and to change cultures.

Keller was one of several leaders who spoke at the recent Movement Day conference about what it will take to see a gospel movement sweep across cities and change culture in cities. More than 800 pastors, church planters and ministry leaders from 34 states and 14 countries gathered for the one-day event. From church planting networks to leadership development and prayer, these leaders learned how to better reach the urban areas they serve.  

Half in 40
In the United States the 40 largest metropolitan areas represent 170 million people, or more than half the total 2000 census. The most recent issue of Foreign Policy includes its 2010 global cities index ranking, with New York taking the top spot. The rankings represent cities with “sway over what happens beyond its own borders.”  

Urban areas are the centers of culture-making, and what happens in the cities can have global consequences. To change the world, the gospel must penetrate into the depths of the cities and impact every area of life, from entertainment to business to education.

In the last 20 years in Manhattan the Christian portion of the population has tripled, moving from one percent to three percent. Twenty years ago Manhattan was home to 100 evangelical churches, and now it is home to about 200. Movement Day leaders shared that their prayer is to increase that percentage to five percent in the next 10 years. 

Gospel movements take time, but they are happening. Gospel movements are about more than one church or one mission project; the goal of a movement is to bring believers and churches together to impact a culture. While the church needs to understand culture to impact it, Keller warned Movement Day participants against “capitulating to the culture” and “adapting to worldliness.”  

Keller advised leaders wanting to make an impact to begin with a biblical, gospel theology, noting that the gospel is not about moralism and legalism, nor is it about liberalism and relativism.

Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, challenged leaders to pray for a gospel movement. Without prayer, a movement will never happen. He challenged leaders to be like Hezekiah, who in 2 Kings 19:19 prayed for God to deliver His people so that His name would be made glorious. “Are you praying ‘so that’ prayers?” Hybels asked leaders. Hybels shared that gospel movements happen by the power of the Holy Spirit so that the gospel will go forth and Jesus Christ will be known among the nations.

The Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (MNYBA) is praying for a gospel movement in New York City. Association leaders met with area pastors, current church planters and those interested in becoming church planters the day before Movement Day to dialogue about what it means to minister in New York City and how ministry can be more effective. George Russ, MNYBA Executive Director, shared that those coming to live and serve in New York must be ready to “segmentize and exegete the city.” In other words, to live in New York City means to understand the neighborhood you live in and how it is different from a neighborhood across the street.

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) is coming alongside Russ and MNYBA leaders as they create a strategy for advancing a gospel movement in one of the world’s most influential cities. Earlier this year North Carolina Baptists entered into a partnership with MNYBA, and churches in North Carolina are partnering with New York churches to help reach the city.

The new BSCNC Office of Great Commission Partnerships coordinates the New York partnership. This office, created to help North Carolina Baptists develop, implement and maintain an effective holistic missional strategy, also coordinates a partnership with the Baptist Convention of New England. That Convention is tasked with reaching Boston, which according to the global cities index, is the 19th most influential city in the world.

North Carolina Baptists and New York Baptists are already seeing the positive results of partnership for the sake of advancing a gospel movement. To learn how you can get involved, visit the Great Commission Partnerships web site.     
10/20/2010 10:22:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Faith ‘heresy’ wrecks lives, evangelist says

October 20 2010 by Benjamin Hawkins, Baptist Press

FORT WORTH, Texas — Proponents of the Word of Faith movement teach a heresy that wrecks the lives of many suffering Christians, evangelist Justin Peters said during a series of lectures at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“The burden that is being placed on people is almost unbearable, and it breaks my heart,” said Peters, whose cerebral palsy prompted him to embrace the Word of Faith movement as a teenager.

“I get e-mails from people from all over the world almost on a daily basis now, telling me how they or one of their loved ones have been devastated by this movement.”

Peters, who holds master of divinity and master of theology degrees from Southwestern, said the Word of Faith movement is known for its message of “health and wealth,” often called the “prosperity gospel.” Its teachers claim that no true Christian should be sick or poor, but if they find themselves in such circumstances, they will have a quick recovery. Peters said Word of Faith teachers include such notable personalities as Benny Hinn, Ken and Gloria Copeland, Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes and Joel Osteen.

“This movement does a great deal of harm to people,” Peters said in his lectures Sept. 30-31 at Southwestern’s Fort Worth, Texas, campus. “If you begin with the premise that it is always God’s will to be physically healed, and a person prays for that healing for days, weeks, months, years, sometimes for decades, but the healing does not come, then the question must be asked, ‘Whose fault is it?’”

Photo by Adam Tarleton/SWBTS

Evangelist Justin Peters, at Southwestern Seminary, speaks about the ills of the ‘prosperity gospel.’

The prosperity gospel always lays blame on the sick individual, who is thus accused of hidden sin, a lack of faith or not being saved, Peters said. This attitude, he noted, exemplifies Word of Faith proponents’ doctrine of “positive confession,” that believers can “literally speak things into existence” or make their own “realities” through their words. With words, they can manipulate faith — viewed as a force or object — to heal the sick, bring prosperity or even control the weather.

This doctrine, Peters said, resembles the secular movement called “The Secret,” which boasts the support of Oprah Winfrey. Behind it, however, are even greater heresies. According to Word of Faith teachers, Adam was created in the beginning as “an exact duplicate of God.” Christians also are “little gods,” and Jesus is not the only begotten Son of God. Also, by praying, Christians give God permission to intervene in their lives and in the world. Otherwise, God has no access to the world.

“One of the most fundamental problems of the Faith preachers,” Peters said, “is that they blur that line between God the Creator and us, His created. They demote God to make Him look more human than He is, and in turn they deify man to make us look more like God than we really are.”

While the Word of Faith movement dresses its doctrine in Christian apparel, Peters said it does not find its roots in orthodox Christianity: “The origins of the Word of Faith movement can be traced back directly to the metaphysical cults, such as Christian Science, New Age, new thought, Gnosticism, even some Kabbalah. So much of what you see on Christian television today is not Christian.”

Since the age of 16, Peters has had a deep interest in the Word of Faith movement. At that time, a family friend, influenced by the Word of Faith movement, promised Peters that he would be healed of his cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that doctors diagnosed when Peters was 1.

Unable to do many of the things most teenagers can do — like driving and playing sports — Peters latched on to the Word of Faith movement but he never found healing. Only by the grace of God and through the support of his family and church did he recover from a bout of disappointment and doubt.

“Next to my salvation, and next now to my precious wife,” Peters said, “my cerebral palsy is one of the greatest gifts that God has given me. I have come to know the Lord’s ways through my handicap that, otherwise, I would never have known. And if I have to live the rest of my life with cerebral palsy, that is fine. I have got all of eternity to live without it.”

After graduating from Mississippi State University, Peters enrolled at Southwestern. For his theology degree, he completed a thesis on Word of Faith theology, especially that of Benny Hinn. Shortly afterward, he became a staff evangelist at First Baptist Church in Vicksburg, Miss., and he began Justin Peters Ministries. Today, Peters travels to churches to teach them about the Word of Faith movement through a three-part seminar titled “A Call to Discernment.”

“I do what I do because I love the Lord, I love His Word and I love His people,” Peters said. “And I’m growing weary of seeing wolves in sheep’s clothing preying upon sick and hurting people.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Hawkins is a senior writer for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. To watch, listen to or download Justin Peters’ message at Southwestern, visit here.)
10/20/2010 10:18:00 AM by Benjamin Hawkins, Baptist Press | with 2 comments

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