October 2011

Calvinism an issue in associational vote

October 31 2011 by Todd Deaton, Western Recorder

ISLAND, Ky. (BP) – Was a western Kentucky church denied admittance to a Baptist association because it is too Calvinistic?

Acting on a report brought by its credentials committee, the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association (DMBA) voted 104-9 at its annual meeting not to accept Pleasant Valley Community Church in Owensboro for membership.

“Our concern in the initial stages of our investigation revolved around the fact that Pleasant Valley Community Church’s confessional statement is one that (is) Calvinistic in nature. It affirms the doctrine of election and grace,” the report from the association’s credentials committee stated.

“While we know the doctrine is not heresy, we do recognize that it is vastly different than the majority of churches within the DMBA,” the associational committee noted.

But while the church’s Calvinistic views were a concern, other contributing issues emerged during the credentialing process, according to a statement from DMBA vice moderator, Eddie Duke, pastor of Panther Creek Baptist Church in Owensboro.

“Ultimately, we were not satisfied that Pleasant Valley Community Church would be sympathetic with the purpose and work of the body of the DMBA,” the committee concluded, citing “an overall lack of the key elements of cooperation found in patience, humility, kindness, compassion and gentleness.”

After the committee’s statement was heard during the Oct. 17 meeting at Island (Ky.) Baptist Church, the matter would have been concluded unless a motion to accept was made from the floor, according to DMBA moderator Tommy Webb, pastor of Buck Creek Baptist Church in Calhoun. That motion was brought by Barry Rager, pastor of Utica Baptist Church.

“In my dealings with the pastors from this church, I experienced good fellowship (and) good cooperation. These men love the Word, they preach the Gospel; ... they are taking the Gospel around the world,” Rager told the Western Recorder, newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. “I didn’t see any reason they shouldn’t be in the local association – whether their theology is Reformed or not. I thought they would be of great benefit to us.”

Also among those speaking on behalf of Pleasant Valley was Greg Faulls, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Owensboro, which made the formal recommendation in May for the congregation to join the Daviess-McLean association. While he went to the meeting prepared to express his disappointment, he had not planned to make such a motion because he felt the committee had “a pretty good pulse” of the association, Faulls told the Western Recorder.

“It just wouldn’t be worth having a disharmonious discussion when the chances of that being voted on affirmatively were so slim,” Faulls said. “It was obvious that the issue of more Reformed thinking in this church was an issue of concern.”

Though he considers himself to be “a general atonement kind of guy,” Faulls said, “I thought they would also fit” under the theological umbrella of the Baptist Faith & Message, “but apparently the association didn’t agree.”

In a statement to the Western Recorder, Jamus Edwards, pastor of Pleasant Valley Community Church, apologized for “any hurt we have caused or any evidence of impatience or haughtiness” exhibited during the application process. “We truly love the brothers of the DMBA and are thankful for their commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said.

Edwards disagreed, however, with the Calvinist label placed on the church, saying the congregation does not identify itself as such primarily because it is not “helpful in most contexts, but actually distracting and largely misunderstood, precisely like it was in this situation with the DMBA.”

As moderator and chairman of the credentials committee, Webb said he was convinced the decision concerning Pleasant Valley was “right in line” with the heartbeat of the association.

“The committee worked hard to seek God’s will about the involvement of Pleasant Valley Community Church with the DBMA,” Webb noted. “As while the doctrinal position of PVCC was of concern, we also were greatly concerned about the cooperation of PVCC with the other churches of our association. Our prayer and belief is the DMBA will continue to stand firm and strive for a spirit of love and unity.”

Pleasant Valley Community Church is a member of both the Kentucky and Southern Baptist conventions.

Edwards, referring to the church’s KBC and SBC membership and its status outside the association, said, “We are certainly hurt and disappointed that we have been able to joyfully and peacefully link arms with our Baptist brothers and sisters from across the state and the nation and yet have been refused the opportunity to partner in the Gospel with our brothers and sisters in our very own community.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Todd Deaton is editor of the Western, newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)
10/31/2011 1:40:58 PM by Todd Deaton, Western Recorder | with 2 comments



Courageous books are NYT bestsellers

October 31 2011 by Baptist Press

ALBANY, N.Y. – A pair of books based on biblical themes from the movie “Courageous” has made The New York Times’ bestseller list.
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“The Resolution for Men” by authors Stephen and Alex Kendrick is No. 10 on the newspaper’s Oct. 30 list of paperback advice books. “The Resolution for Women” by author Priscilla Shirer is No. 14. Both books are published by B&H Publishing Group.

Courageous, made by Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., was the top new movie on opening weekend and has grossed about $25 million since it opened Sept. 30.

It is the second time a book inspired by a Sherwood film has made The New York Times’ bestseller list. In 2008, the book “The Love Dare” hit No. 1 on The Times’ paperback advice list. It was featured in the film “Fireproof.”

B&H Publishing Group is the trade books arm of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.)
10/31/2011 1:33:45 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Resolution of appreciation to host city

October 31 2011 by BSC Communications

Whereas, the 181th annual session of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is meeting November 7-8, 2011 in Greensboro, North Carolina; and
Whereas, the local citizens involved in welcoming and facilitating our sessions have done so in a very caring and effective manner;
Whereas, the management and staff of the Koury Center, Sheraton Hotel, have gone the extra mile to accommodate this Convention;
Therefore, be it resolved that we, the messengers to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, meeting at the Koury Center, Sheraton Hotel in Greensboro, November 7-8, 2011, express our appreciation to the people of Greensboro, the management and staff of the Koury Center, Sheraton Hotel and to the Committee on Convention Meetings for outstanding service and kindness rendered to us during this annual meeting.

10/31/2011 1:29:20 PM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments



On Mexico border, churches counter violence with prayer

October 31 2011 by David Roach, Baptist Press

EL PASO, Texas – Testimonies from churches along the Mexican border highlight the need for ongoing prayer that God would curb Mexico’s drug violence.

A 40-day, multi-denominational prayer effort in El Paso, Texas, for the neighboring Mexican city of Juarez was followed by a reduction in murders. But increased violence in July reminded participants to persist in their intercession.

“We continue to pray for Juarez,” said Larry Wilkins, missions pastor at Cielo Vista Church, a Southern Baptist congregation that participated in the effort. “When we were going through the 40 days, there was much discussion from the pulpit and encouragement. We still have a prayer time in our services and will often lift up Juarez in our prayers.”

Meanwhile, believers in Texas’ Del Rio Uvalde Baptist Association, two hours west of San Antonio, have seen decreases in violence across the border in Acuña during three years of praying for the region.

El Paso
During the 40 days leading up to Easter, approximately 20 El Paso congregations participated in a prayer campaign for Juarez, where warring drug cartels have increased the murder rate tenfold over the past several years, topping 3,000 homicides last year and 8,600 since 2008. Some call it the murder capital of the world.

Coordinated by the nondenominational Christian ministry El Paso for Jesus, the effort involved members of a different church each day meeting on a hill overlooking Juarez and praying from noon to 1 p.m. and again from 7 to 8 p.m. that God would decrease the violence, protect commuters and change the hearts of drug cartel members perpetuating the bloodshed.
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At the U.S.-Mexico border, much of the influx of traffic from Juarez visible via Google Earth is a daily reminder of violence among warring drug cartels that has hiked the murder rate tenfold in the Mexican border city over the past several years. About 20 El Paso congregations participated in a 40-day, multi-denominational prayer initiative for Juarez earlier this year.


In June God answered their prayers: murders were down by nearly 200 in the first half of 2011. While there had already been 1,200 homicides after six months in 2010, this year’s six-month total stood at 1,037, according to Fox News.

“I love the fact that we had many people that professed Christ that were collaborating intentionally and intently on praying for our neighbors in Juarez,” Wilkins told Baptist Press. “So in that regard it was good to be a part of the grander body of Christ.”

On Cielo Vista’s day at the Juarez overlook, participants prayed silently using printed guides and then took turns praying aloud. In addition to praying on its assigned day, the church also made a point to pray for Juarez during all its worship services during the 40 days. Those prayers included interceding for members who have relatives in Juarez and for those who risk their lives to share Jesus in Mexico.

“The violence that is happening over there (in Juarez) and has been happening for several years now had gotten to such a point where we knew that only the prayer of God’s people could intercede,” Rod Smith, lead pastor of Cielo Vista Church, told the Southern Baptist TEXAN newsjournal. “It’s gotten to a point where you don’t even go across the border to witness anymore. It’s not safe. The violence is terrible.”

Despite the good news in June, the El Paso Times reported that in July murders in Juarez were at their highest level since February, with 218 dead – a statistic that reminded Cielo Vista members to continue praying for their neighboring city.

“The violence is so engrained in the culture now along the border, and particularly in Juarez,” Wilkins said. “I believe with every fiber in me that (ending the violence) will require a sovereign move of God. God will have to move to break the hold of the drug cartels.”

Coordinated prayer involving multiple congregations is “not organized” and has been “sporadic” since Easter, Wilkins said. But he expressed confidence that God would answer all requests offered according to His will.

“Jesus said, ‘Whatever you ask for in my name,’“ Wilkins said. “... Am I praying what God would have me pray? If that’s the case, then God’s going to answer.”

Del Rio Uvalde Association
Several churches in the Del Rio Uvalde Association have organized a network with Mexican congregations across the border in Acuña and Piedras Negras to facilitate prayer and financial assistance. God has used that partnership to bring about spiritual victories, said Jeff Janca, pastor of First Baptist Church in Brackettville, Texas.

“Our church, First Baptist Del Rio and a number of other churches have been praying that (violence) would be curbed,” Janca told BP. “And actually one of the prayers I was praying was that the cartels would turn on themselves, and apparently that’s what’s been happening.”

Violence, however, has not been the main focus of the prayers, Janca said. Instead, much of the intercession targets churches in Mexico, asking God to strengthen and use them, which God has answered even amid cartel violence.

In a recent meeting of border ministers, a pastor from Acuña said that before violence escalated several years ago, some Mexican congregations relied almost completely on American mission teams to do ministry in their communities. But because it has become too dangerous for American teams to cross the border, Mexican churches have been forced to mobilize their own members with renewed fervor.

“There were some Baptist churches that had become so dependent on the American churches that they weren’t doing anything for themselves,” Janca said. “They weren’t contributing financially. They weren’t doing the mission work. They weren’t doing the evangelizing. They weren’t doing the work on the buildings because they thought, ‘Well, the Americans will come in, and they’ll do it.’ Now those churches are learning that if it’s going to get done, they themselves are going to have to do it. This pastor said that’s the positive (side of drug violence).”

Janca’s congregation makes a point to pray for Mexico during Wednesday prayer meetings and supports a pastor in Acuña financially. But he cited the need for continued prayer to combat drug cartels, violence and false religion across the border.

“There have been occasions where we have focused, because of the drought, on praying for God to send not only physical rain but spiritual rain and revival upon us,” he said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is a writer and pastor in Shelbyville, Ky.)
10/31/2011 1:10:43 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



SBC name change task force holds inaugural meeting

October 28 2011 by Baptist Press

FORT WORTH, Texas – The task force appointed to study the prospect of changing the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) name held its first meeting Oct. 26 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

Convention President Bryant Wright announced the 20-member task force during the opening session of the SBC Executive Committee’s Sept. 19-20 meeting in Nashville, Tenn. The announcement prompted a lively debate across the convention about the pros and cons of making such a change.

The 16 task force members attending the Oct. 26 meeting spent “a great deal” of time in prayer, aware of the far-reaching implications a name change would have, task force chairman Jimmy Draper said in an Oct. 26 statement.

“We spent a great deal of time in prayer, believing that we need God’s guidance and divine wisdom as we seek to serve Southern Baptists in this consideration,” Draper said. “We received a review of the history of the SBC name issue and are aware of the weighty matters that have been brought to light by previous studies and considerations.”

The committee’s work centers on whether the Southern Baptist mission would be advanced by a name change, Draper added.

“We are driven by only one great question – how can Southern Baptists be most faithful in reaching people for Jesus. Our concern is not public relations, politics, positioning or personal agendas,” Draper said. “We must ask ourselves constantly if there is anything that would help us to reach more people, plant more churches, and penetrate lostness here in the United States and around the world as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission.”
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Jimmy Draper, Chairman
President Emeritus LifeWay

Draper’s statement said he appreciated “the responsible quality” of the group’s first discussion and affirmed the need for input from both rank-and-file Southern Baptists and those in positions of leadership. He said he would be contacting leaders for their input and that others can interact with the task force through a website, www.pray4sbc.com. Name change suggestions can be entered in a box that accepts up to 50 characters, while the form for submitting comments has been expanded beyond the 140-character limit originally in place.

LifeWay Christian Resources also has been asked to research the potential impact of a name change among unchurched people, Draper said.

The task force understands its charge is limited to reporting back to Wright and that no one believed the word “Baptist” should be removed from the name, Draper added.

“We also want to let Southern Baptists know that we do understand our task. We are a body appointed by the SBC president, and to him we will submit our report. We are not authorized to change the name of the convention, nor are we certain that such a change is right. We do know that it is right to ask the question, and to consider our name in light of our mission,” Draper said. “We also want Southern Baptists to know that we, as a task force, are unified in affirming that we are and will ever remain Baptist – and that name is more than a label, it is a testimony. We cannot envision a name change that would not include ‘Baptist’ in the name.”

The full text of the task force statement follows:

STATEMENT FROM Jimmy Draper

CHAIRMAN, SBC TASK FORCE TO STUDY POSSIBILITY OF NAME CHANGE FOR OUR CONVENTION

October 26, 2011

The Task Force appointed by Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright to study the possibility of changing the name of our convention met for our first meeting October 26, 2011 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Sixteen of the twenty members of the task force were in attendance, and the meeting was graciously hosted by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

We spent a great deal of time in prayer, believing that we need God’s guidance and divine wisdom as we seek to serve Southern Baptists in this consideration. We spent time in prayer, together and in small groups, and then turned to the matters at hand.

We received a review of the history of the SBC name issue and are aware of the weighty matters that have been brought to light by previous studies and considerations.

We are driven by only one great question – how can Southern Baptists be most faithful in reaching people for Jesus. Our concern is not public relations, politics, positioning or personal agendas. We must ask ourselves constantly if there is anything that would help us to reach more people, plant more churches, and penetrate lostness here in the United States and around the world as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission.

I am thankful for the responsible quality of our first discussion. The committee is representative of the Southern Baptist Convention, ranging from pastors of some of our oldest churches to those who are planting new churches far outside of the southern states. The task force is diverse in composition, but united in our singular purpose to serve all Southern Baptists in this work.

We know that we need more information. I will be writing Southern Baptist leaders ranging from the heads of our entities to the leaders of our state conventions. We will be asking all Southern Baptists to let their concerns and convictions be known. We have asked LifeWay Research (a ministry of LifeWay Christian Resources) to research the issue of our name among the very people we are trying to reach – the unreached.

We also want to let Southern Baptists know that we do understand our task. We are a body appointed by the SBC president, and to him we will submit our report. We are not authorized to change the name of the convention, nor are we certain that such a change is right. We do know that it is right to ask the question, and to consider our name in light of our mission.

We also want Southern Baptists to know that we, as a task force, are unified in affirming that we are and will ever remain Baptist – and that name is more than a label, it is a testimony. We cannot envision a name change that would not include “Baptist” in the name.

We will meet again to continue our conversation and we are eager to hear from Southern Baptists. We want to thank the hundreds of Southern Baptists who have sent us letters, emails, and other communications. Please communicate with us at pray4sbc.com.

We know that Southern Baptists are very interested in this conversation and passionate about our mission and identity. That is a sign of our health and vitality. We will report once the task force has met again.

Task Force members are:

– Michael Allen, senior pastor of Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago;

– Marshall Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C.;

– David Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn.;

– Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board;

– Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board;

– Ken Fentress, senior pastor of Montrose Baptist Church in Rockville, Md.;

– Micah Fries, lead pastor of Frederick Boulevard Baptist Church in St. Joseph, Mo.;

– Aaron Harvie, lead pastor of Riverside Community Church in Horsham, Penn.;

– Susie Hawkins, speaker, Bible study teacher and missions volunteer from Dallas;

– Fred Hewett, executive director of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention;

– Cathy Horner, Bible teacher and pastor’s wife from Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh;

– Benny Jo, pastor of HANA Korean Baptist Church in Las Vegas, Nev.;

– Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.;

– Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas;

– Bobby Sena, retired director of Hispanic resource development and equipping in the North American Mission Board’s church planting group;

– Roger Spradlin, co-senior pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif., and chairman of the SBC Executive Committee;

– John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention;

– Jay Wolf, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor and senior writer Mark Kelly.)
10/28/2011 2:00:26 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Iran officials pressure pastor to convert

October 28 2011 by Baptist Press

TEHRAN – A jailed Iranian pastor who could be put to death for his faith has been given Islamic literature and been asked to read it – a move potentially meant to trap him into a blasphemy conviction.

The American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) and Christian Solidarity Worldwide – two groups that have monitored the case for months – say that if pastor Yousef Nadarkhani reads the literature and says anything negative about Islam, he could be charged with blasphemy. Both groups say Nadarkhani has been advised not to read the literature.

“Any criticism of their contents would open the way to charges of blasphemy,” Christian Solidarity Worldwide said in a statement on its website.

The case has grown muddied in recent weeks. Although Nadarkhani was charged with blasphemy after his 2009 arrest, Iranian officials in October denied that the charge was blasphemy and instead claimed the charge was of a security nature. They even said he had run a brothel – a charge that outside groups said was false and was meant to distract the international community.

The ACLJ reported Oct. 26 that their contacts confirm Nadarkhani is still alive. He and his supporters are awaiting a decision on his fate by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“International pressure against the Iranian regime continues to mount – but it must be sustained until Pastor Youcef is released unconditionally,” ACLJ said in a statement.

Nadarkhani was arrested in 2009 after complaining that his son was being taught Islam in school. He eventually was sentenced to death. Earlier this year the Iranian Supreme Court upheld the death sentence but ordered a lower court to examine whether Nadarkhani was ever a Muslim – a fact essential to determine whether he left Islam for Christianity. But that lower court in Rasht, Iran, found that although Nadarkhani was never a practicing Muslim “he remains guilty of apostasy because he has Muslim ancestry,” Christian Solidarity Worldwide, which monitors religious freedom, reported.

In late September of this year, he was given four chances to recant his faith in court and refused each time. His case then was referred to the ayatollah.

Nadarkhani’s refusal to recant his faith has inspired Christians worldwide. The ACLJ reported one of his court exchanges.

“Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?” he asked.

“To the religion of your ancestors, Islam,” the judge reportedly replied.

“I cannot,” Nadarkhani responded.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.)

10/28/2011 1:56:08 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Ezell: 55,901 SBC congregations by 2020

October 28 2011 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

PHILADELPHIA – A goal of 55,901 Southern Baptist congregations by the end of 2020 has been set by North American Mission Board (NAMB) President Kevin Ezell as part of the Send North America strategy NAMB is implementing in evangelistic church planting. The goal would mean a net gain of 5,112 SBC congregations in less than a decade – more gained than in any decade since 1900.
 
“This should be the golden age of church planting in the Southern Baptist Convention,” Ezell said during the Oct. 17-19 meeting of NAMB’s trustees in Philadelphia.
 
The growth is based on projections of new church plants, new affiliations and church deaths between 2011 and 2020. Reaching the goal would require nearly a doubling of the SBC church birth rate by the end of the 10-year period. The 55,901 “congregation” target includes new self-supporting churches as well as church-type missions which will become new churches at some point. The goal was shared in the context of a report given by Aaron Coe, vice president of mobilization at NAMB.
 
NAMB’s trustees also approved a $115 million budget for 2012, toured new ethnic church plants and – with state convention and local association leaders and church planters – celebrated groundbreaking church-planting efforts now under way in the historic “City of Brotherly Love.”
 
“This trustee meeting in Philadelphia has been good for us,” Ezell said in his presentation to the trustees. “In a lot of the places we live, there’s a high population of Southern Baptist churches. Where I live in Atlanta, there’s one stretch with nine evangelical churches in a two-mile area.
 
“Driving into Philadelphia, we saw one evangelical church. It reminds us of our priority of impacting people’s lives with the gospel. We can’t get away from that. We need to stay focused on impacting the lost with the gospel.”
 
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Photo by John Swain
North American Mission Board president Kevin Ezell speaks to NAMB trustees during the board of trustees meeting in Philadelphia, Oct. 17-19. In the background is Tim Dowdy, chairman of NAMB’s board of trustees and pastor of Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga.

Ezell’s report to trustees and many of the activities surrounding the meeting focused on Send North America, the NAMB initiative focusing on church planting – especially in North America’s largest cities and least-reached areas.
 
NAMB continues to make progress toward its goal to transition 50 percent of the mission entity’s budget to church planting, Ezell reported.
 
“In 2009, NAMB spent 28 percent of its budget on church planting. In 2011, we are spending 37 percent and, in 2012, we will spend at least 42 percent of our budget on church planting,” Ezell said. “So we are progressing rapidly toward our minimal goal of 50 percent.”
 
Year-to-date budget
In his third-quarter financial report to NAMB trustees, NAMB chief financial officer Carlos Ferrer announced year-to-date total revenues of $101 million, down about 2 percent. But Annie Armstrong Easter Offering revenues are 3.5 percent higher over the same period last year, Ferrer said.
 
Trustees approved a proposed budget of $115 million for 2012, a 5.4 percent decrease from this year’s $121.5 million budget. Ferrer said the budget decrease resulted in part from the transfer of the World Changers/Power Plant missions programs – and associated revenues – from NAMB to LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. The decrease also reflects a general belt-tightening trend at the entity, which is funded almost entirely by offerings given in Southern Baptist churches.
 
Disaster relief responsiveness
To better support Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR), trustees approved $1.5 million in NAMB 2011 under-spending for the purchase of three 18-wheelers, two smaller trucks and some pick-up trucks for deployment to future disaster sites across America. The vehicles will support state convention disaster relief efforts and will be designed toward giving Southern Baptists an almost immediate presence after a disaster.
 
“The purchase of this equipment for disaster relief is significant,” Ezell said. “We want to bring more to the table when we arrive on the scene at future disasters. This is a significant upgrade, the largest NAMB has ever done in the disaster relief area.”
 
Southern Baptists have more than 85,000 trained disaster relief volunteers and more than 1,500 units across North America, making Southern Baptists among the top three largest responders to disasters.
 
Ezell also thanked David Self, a NAMB trustee and executive pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church, following the church’s $175,000 gift to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. The entirety of that gift was forwarded to state conventions that have expended considerable resources this year on disaster relief responses.
 
Vice president’s added duties
Trustees approved additional responsibilities for Jeff Christopherson as regional vice president for the Northeast Region as well as Canada. Christopherson, 47, was appointed vice president – Canadian Region earlier this year, based in Toronto, as part of a regional restructuring by NAMB. He reports directly to Ezell.
 
Prior to coming to NAMB, Christopherson, a native Canadian, had served since 2009 as National Church Starting Team leader for the Canadian National Baptist Convention in Oakville, Ontario. He has worked as a church planter in various areas in Canada since 1995. He also served as senior pastor of First Baptist Church in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, from 1989-95.
 
Insurance revision
In line with reducing expense and shifting savings to church planting, NAMB trustees, following a lengthy discussion, adopted a motion whereby NAMB would phase out – over five years – the entity’s traditional provision of benefits to some missionary personnel who receive less than half their salary from NAMB. Over the years, NAMB has jointly funded many missionaries with state conventions and local associations and covered the cost of health insurance for some.
 
The change will primarily impact missionaries in southern states where state convention partners are the primary employer and have the most resources to pick up missionary insurance coverage. The motion is in keeping with advice from NAMB’s legal counsel and with the entity’s efforts to place more resources in under-reached and under-served areas.
 
Under the change, affected missionaries will have until January 2013 to be absorbed into other insurance programs. After that, NAMB will provide $1,000 per month, per non-missionary, to help state and associational partners with the transition, and then phase down that amount by 20 percent a year over five years.
 
“This will save $2.6 million (over five years) in the South Region alone, and all of that savings will go to church planting,” Ezell said. “We will continue to pay benefits to missionaries whose salaries we fund at a level of 50 percent or more.”
 
Ezell emphasized that NAMB would not be cutting money from state budgets in 2013 and 2014, “just shifting money to church planting. We’re just trying to add more church planters, and take care of their salaries, benefits and retirement. They have done without long enough. We’re going to take care of our church planting missionaries.”
 
Ezell said NAMB’s new regional strategy is “working exceptionally well and is helping us to better communicate with our state partners as well as our missionaries.” He took time to apologize to state convention partners who may have felt criticized by his report on church planting numbers at the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix this past June.
 
“We must establish a base of how many churches we are actually planting,” Ezell said. “Our sole intent is accuracy and consistency in the counting of new church plants. At no time in the past did I mean to imply that any state or association was being dishonest or giving us false information. Some misinterpreted that. Sometimes it was NAMB’s own fault because we didn’t ask for the right information. Maybe we always didn’t ask for the numbers to be itemized.
 
“There are 42 state conventions and all plant churches in different ways and count them differently. Some count new plants on the basis of first baptisms, and others on the basis of the first dollars given to the Cooperative Program.”
 
Ezell said NAMB is now working with all state conventions to establish a consistent, across-the-board method to count new church plants.
 
“We have to change our mindset. Church planting is not neat, not compartmentalized, not a science, not exact. But we have to pull out all the stops. We must be more creative. We must think with a Kingdom mindset.”
 
Ezell said within the Southern Baptist Convention in 1900 in America, there was one SBC church for every 3,900 people. Today, there is one SBC church for every 6,700. In Mississippi, there is one SBC congregation for every 1,400 people. In Canada, there is one congregation for every 124,000; in New Jersey, one congregation for every 76,000; and in New York, only one SBC congregation for every 60,000.
 
“Clearly, we have to do a better job,” Ezell said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mickey Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.)
10/28/2011 1:46:06 PM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Hemphill: God fed soul amid cancer battles

October 28 2011 by Yvonne Carrington, Baptist Press

(EDITOR’S NOTE: October was designated as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month 25 years ago. For information, go to www.NBCAM.org.)

RICHMOND, Va. – Paula Hemphill’s job was to look at cells through a microscope and help diagnose cancer. She never imagined she would one day be on the other side of the microscope as a patient.

She and her husband Ken were enjoying busy careers when their lives were turned upside down in 2006 – Paula began experiencing a painful mass in her right breast.

“After all those years working in cancer diagnosis, and just being aware as a woman of breast cancer, I honestly didn’t anticipate my issue being breast cancer because it hurt so bad,” Hemphill said. “I didn’t have any history in my family, no high-risk factors.”

Her gynecologist prescribed an antibiotic and ordered a mammogram and ultrasound test – both came back negative – so he recommended a wait-and-see approach. But after 10 days, Hemphill insisted on seeing a surgeon, who diagnosed her with breast cancer. Because of her medical training, she was allowed to view her own cancer cells under a microscope.

“If I’d waited three months like my (gynecologist) told me to and then come back, my prognosis could have been a lot different,” Hemphill said. “But, because I insisted on seeing a surgeon ... within six days, I had a mastectomy.”

Her children were stunned when Hemphill told them she had cancer. Kristina, one of Hemphill’s three daughters, said her mother “seemed so confident in the Lord and so full of faith that her outlook very much shaped the way that we responded to the news.” Hemphill’s chemo regimen left her exhausted and radiation caused uncomfortable burns. She lost her hair, including her eyebrows and eyelashes.
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BP photo

“Having a thankful heart is key to staying victorious in any journey like this,” said Paula Hemphill, a two-time breast cancer survivor who “pays it forward” by ministering to other cancer patients. Don’t go through the battle alone, she says; build a network of people who will offer love and support.

Julie Pierce, a breast cancer survivor and co-worker at the International Mission Board, where Hemphill had begun a new career as women’s missional strategist in 2004, offered advice on dealing with chemo and radiation. While Hemphill was going through treatment, Pierce called periodically to check on her.

“The Bible says comfort others with the comfort you have received. And Julie did that for me,” Hemphill recalled. “She told me what to expect with the chemo – she told me some things to do that would make the treatments easier.”

Pierce told Hemphill, then 56, to make sure the medical staff gave her a Popsicle or put ice in her mouth to prevent mouth sores from the chemotherapy. She also advised her to wear socks and gloves during radiation, which is administered in cold rooms.

Hemphill’s treatments ended in June 2010, and her oncologist spoke the words every cancer patient hopes to hear: “You will never have this cancer again.”

Thinking she was out of the woods, she went for her yearly mammogram that November and received startling news. She was diagnosed with breast cancer again – this time with a different cell type.

The second diagnosis was even more shocking than the first because she had opted for such aggressive treatment with the first cancer.

“Breast cancer and other cancers don’t have any rhyme or reason,” Hemphill said, noting that one in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime. “You can’t ask the ‘why’ question. It’s not a productive question. You have to ask ‘what now?’”

Since both her cancers were fast-growing, Hemphill decided to have another mastectomy. “I’ve had two breast cancers,” she told her surgeon, “I don’t want to risk a third.”

Before she had surgery, Hemphill visited Pakistan, where it is estimated that 89 percent of women with breast cancer do not survive. She talked with doctors there about breast cancer awareness and shared the techniques Pierce had suggested. This was one of many opportunities she has had to tell her story.

“From the beginning,” her daughter Kristina said, “Mom saw the experience of having cancer as another way that she could connect with women and reach out to them with an understanding of their pain.”

Her husband Ken said his wife “spent a lot of time dealing with her issues on Facebook and talking with and encouraging our daughters in the midst of (her battle).”

While many women struggle with body issues following mastectomies, Hemphill credits her husband with helping her through any insecurities.

“There’s a huge step I think you have to take in dealing with your self-image in the same way as someone who may be disfigured in a fire or in an accident,” Hemphill said. “... My husband is a wonderful support and he has been, in large part, responsible for our success in dealing with this as a married couple....”

For his part, Ken Hemphill said he learned the most important thing he could do was listen. “It’s her body and she’s dealing with it in her own way,” he said. “Just let your spouse express her fears, concerns, hopes.” And share how you feel, he added. Now, more than ever, a woman needs reassurance that she is loved and still beautiful.

Following her second surgery, Paula prepared herself for the toll cancer treatments take, both physically and emotionally.

“I’ve had two times during all these treatments where I literally felt like I could die from the nausea and the fever ... when you are literally so weak you can’t stand,” Hemphill said. “My husband would have to pick me up and put me in the bed or take me to the bathroom. I could not walk. That’s a miserable feeling.”

Keeping a sense of humor helps, Hemphill said. Her grandson was amazed one Sunday morning that her hair had miraculously grown in a matter of minutes.

“He had never seen my wig because it was so hot I didn’t wear it around the house,” Hemphill laughed. When they returned from church, she took off the wig and gave it to him to wear – much to his delight.

And who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor? The place the Hemphills moved to from Nashville – Travelers Rest, S.C.

“Isn’t that a hoot? With all the traveling we do,” Hemphill said, “when we come home, we live in Travelers Rest.” She and Ken are members of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, N.C.

One of the biggest challenges for female cancer patients, Hemphill said, is taking the time to rest, something she has struggled with. She and her husband have been busy in ministry for 42 years, so she had never thought much about Sabbath rest. She’s been forced now to reflect about what rest does to heal, restore and revitalize.

“We live in a culture that expects us to be connected 24/7,” Hemphill said. “I’m learning how to turn (my Blackberry) off, go to bed and not feel guilty.”

Hemphill advises cancer patients to surround themselves with a network of people who can support them and offer unconditional love.

“One of the hardest things for me in this journey is, ‘How do people perceive me?’” said Hemphill, now 62. “I am forever a breast cancer survivor. It’s a natural entree to talk about the Lord – He’s been my healer and my shepherd.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Yvonne Carrington is a writer for the International Mission Board.)
10/28/2011 1:38:36 PM by Yvonne Carrington, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



LifeWay to simulcast ‘Secret Church’

October 27 2011 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Marriage, pornography, homosexuality, same-sex “marriage,” abortion and sex-trafficking are a few of the topics that pastor and author David Platt will discuss during the next Secret Church simulcast on Friday, Nov. 4.

Secret Church events include six hours of in-depth Bible teaching and prayer for the persecuted church led by Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., and author of The New York Times bestseller Radical.

Churches, small groups and individuals around the world will participate in the November simulcast entitled “Family, Marriage, Sex and the Gospel.” LifeWay Christian Resources will simulcast Secret Church in partnership with Disciple-Making International and The Church at Brook Hills.

Secret Church was born from Platt’s experiences teaching in underground house churches throughout Asia. There, Platt experienced how Christians met in secret at great risk to their lives in order to study the Bible. This awareness sparked the desire to see that same urgency and hunger for biblical teaching in his own church.

After the first few meetings at The Church at Brook Hills, word spread about the “secret meetings” and attendance grew. A reservation system was put in place to accommodate the thousands expressing interest in attendance. Tickets for the live Secret Church gatherings have sold out in a matter of minutes.

On Good Friday in April this year, approximately 50,000 people from 1,300 churches and small groups participated in the first LifeWay simulcast to hear Platt teach on “Crucifixion, Salvation and the Glory of God.” It was simulcast into 42 states and 11 countries.

Learn more about November’s simulcast here.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by staff of LifeWay Christian Resources.)

10/27/2011 1:24:00 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Related events before, during BSC

October 27 2011 by

One of the biggest events leading up to the annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is the pastor’s conference. “Sustained by His Word,” will meet Nov. 6-7 at the Koury Convention Center before the annual meeting, which starts Nov. 7. The event begins Sunday at 6 p.m. Monday begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m. with a break for lunch. (See story.)
 

Other events

Welcome Reception – Monday, Nov. 7, at conclusion of evening session; Guilford G; for first time attendees to the annual meeting, and other messengers/guests who want to meet BSC officers and executive leadership.
 
N.C. Baptist Ministers’ Wives – Monday, Nov. 7, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.; contact: Deedee Whray, (910) 991-7184; whrayswithChrist@yahoo.com.
 
Great Commission Partnerships Missions Breakfast – Tuesday, Nov. 8, 7 a.m.-8:15 a.m.; Imperial Ballroom; speaker: George Russ, executive director, Metropolitan New York Baptist Association; register by Oct. 31; contact: Emily Compton, (800) 395-5102, ext. 5536; ecompton@ncbaptist.org.
 
Annuitant’s Breakfast – Tuesday, Nov. 8, 7 a.m.-8:15 a.m.; Grandover Ballroom; no cost; reservations required; contact: Betty Pleasant, (800) 395-5102, ext. 5595, bpleasant@ncbaptist.org.
 
Gardner-Webb University Alumni and Friends Luncheon  – Tuesday, Nov. 8, 12:15 p.m.; Grandover AB; $15 per person; reservation by Oct. 31; contact: John Bridges, (704) 406-3008, jfbridges@gardner-webb.edu.
 
Heavenly Banquet – Tuesday, Nov. 8, 12 p.m.-1:30 p.m.; Guilford G Room; speaker: Derwin Gray, former linebacker and pastor of the multicultural church, Transformation Church ; cost: $20; reservations required; contact: Kate Durham (800) 395- 5102, ext. 5628, kdurham@ncbaptist.org.
 
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Alumni Luncheon – Nov. 7; 12-1:30 p.m.; Koury Convention Center; cost: $20; speakers: Jonathan Six and Chris Allen; contact (919) 761-2177 or alumni@sebts.edu.

10/27/2011 1:13:08 PM by | with 0 comments



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