October 2016

Indiana Baptists amend church cooperation bylaw

October 19 2016 by Baptist Press staff

Indiana Baptists amended their bylaw regarding cooperating churches at the group’s annual meeting Oct. 10–11 at the Palms Conference Center in Plainfield, Ind.

Photo courtesy of SCBI
Messengers to the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana’s annual meeting elected new officers, approved a 2017 budget, and received the resignation of SCBI executive director Cecil Seagle, who will serve through Dec. 31. New officers, from to right, include Bruce Reynolds , president; Randy Forsythe, second vice president; Sandy Irick, recording secretary; and, not pictured, Roger Kinion, first vice president.

The new State Convention of Baptists in Indiana (SCBI) rule provides “a personal and proactive approach to dealing with churches that have not met the basic requirements of being a ‘cooperating church with the SCBI,’” the group reported.
Messengers to the annual meeting received the resignation of SCBI executive director Cecil Seagle, elected new officers and approved a 2017 budget. Seagle will serve through Dec. 31.
Under the amended church cooperation bylaw, approved overwhelmingly, the SCBI will make efforts to communicate with churches who have not met cooperation guidelines. Churches are considered in cooperation with the SCBI when they agree with the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, give to the Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program or the state mission offering, and submit basic statistical information to the SBC annual church profile. To that end, a team of SCBI representatives will meet with the church in question to discuss any problems and determine whether the church desires to reaffirm cooperation.
The $4,290,680 budget approved for 2017 represents a 5.7 percent increase over the 2016 amount, and is based on anticipated receipts of 56 percent in Cooperative Program funds, 21 percent from North American Mission Board, 17 percent from fees, 1 percent from LifeWay and 5 percent from other sources. The 198 messengers in attendance voted to forward 40 percent of CP receipts to the SBC for national and international causes.
Bruce Reynolds, pastor of Old Town Hill Baptist Church in Muncie, was elected the new SCBI president over fellow nominee Bob Parnell, pastor of Black Oak Baptist Church in Gary. Completing the new slate of officers are first vice president Roger Kinion, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Greenfield; second vice president Randy Forsythe, pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Portage; and recording secretary Sandy Irick, a member of Vann Avenue Baptist Church, Evansville.

Photo courtesy of SCBI
Cecil and Peggy Seagle

“Shining Through the Darkness” was Indiana Baptists’ annual meeting theme, based on Ephesians 5:8, “For you were once darkness, but now [you are] light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light…” Attendees heard team reports and celebrated Seagle’s denominational contributions, churches strengthened and planted, and salvation decisions voiced at camps.
Seagle preached his final annual meeting message from Revelation 19:11-17 on the theme of “Take Me to the King.” He spoke about current popular culture and the need for churches to “keep the focus on Jesus” and “bring a lost world to the King.”
Among those presenting special accolades to Seagle were Frank Page on behalf of the SBC Executive Committee, Guy Key on behalf of the International Mission Board, and David Cullison, SCBI Executive Board chairman and pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Evansville. Seagle had announced his resignation at the August 15 SCBI Executive Board meeting.
Resolutions Committee Chairman Bob Parnell presented a resolution in appreciation of local churches that helped host the 2016 meeting, including host congregations Gasburg Baptist Church, Plainfield Baptist Church and Hope Community Church. Others attending included 45 visitors who with messengers represented 97 of the 463 churches that cooperate with the SCBI.
The 2017 annual meeting will be held in the new worship center at Highland Lakes Baptist Camp on Oct. 9-10, 2017.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by Steve McNeil, communications team leader of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana.)

10/19/2016 8:23:40 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

NOBTS to launch Adrian Rogers Center for preaching

October 19 2016 by Gary D. Myers, NOBTS

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) trustees have approved the establishment of an Adrian Rogers Center for Expository Preaching.

Baptist Press file photo
A center focusing on expository preaching named for the late Adrian Rogers is being established by New Orleans Seminary.

Additional initiatives also were approved during the trustees’ fall meeting to enhance the training of local church pastors and other church leaders – a Christian leadership major in the doctor of philosophy program and several enhancements to the seminary’s master of divinity program.
“Dr. Adrian Rogers is one of the most significant alumni in the history of NOBTS – well-known for a lifetime of excellent expository preaching,” President Chuck Kelley said following the trustee meeting. “This center will enhance our ability to train students and prepare them to open God’s Word and teach through great expository preaching over the years of their ministry.”
Rogers, who died in 2005 after 33 years as pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., earned the bachelor of divinity (equivalent to today’s master of divinity) at NOBTS in 1958. The longtime Memphis-area pastor and three-time Southern Baptist Convention president, launched his radio and television ministry “Love Worth Finding” in 1987. Through Love Worth Finding, millions of people were impacted through Rogers’ preaching.
Building on Rogers’ legacy of expository preaching, the new academic center will promote training and skill development for current students and pastors alike. In addition to providing leadership and promotion for the preaching degrees in the academic program (master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees with expository preaching specializations and the biblical exposition major in the doctor of philosophy program), the Rogers Center will host conferences and lectureships in expository preaching. The center also will develop preaching resources to assist local church pastors.
Led by Adam Hughes, NOBTS professor of expository preaching and dean of the chapel, the Rogers Center will officially launch in January 2017. More information about the new center is available at nobts.edu/rogerscenter.
The new Christian leadership major in the doctor of philosophy program approved by trustees during their Oct. 10 meeting is aimed at providing a Ph.D.-level learning option for the growing number of NOBTS students in master’s programs focusing on leadership, NOBTS Provost Steve Lemke said.
The 64-hour degree plan is designed to prepare students to lead in local congregations as well as teach at colleges, universities and seminaries or serve in administrative or leadership roles with the various boards, entities and commissions of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
“The area of leadership has become one of the most popular specializations among students in our doctor of ministry and doctor of educational ministry programs, and we wanted to offer this focused training in our Ph.D. program as well,” Lemke said.
Trustees approved revisions to the standard M.Div. which adjusted several courses and allowed for more options for individual students. Still an 84-hour degree, the new M.Div. moves from nine hours of free electives to 12 hours of free electives. Students are given options for two additional courses in order to better tailor their degree plan. Ultimately, Kelley hopes the revised M.Div. will better prepare students for the pastorate and for church planting.
“We are thrilled with the approval of our revised M.Div.,” Kelley said. “It truly is a pastor’s M.Div. that prepares someone for the full work of the pastor.”
In an effort to assist local church leadership training, trustees approved three new certificate training sites in Georgia: Fort Creek Baptist Church in Dearing, Ga.; Murray Baptist Association in Dalton, Ga.; and Bartow Baptist Association in Cartersville, Ga. The board voted to relocate the church leadership certificate site in Broward County, Fla., from the Church by the Glades in Coral Springs to Oasis Church in nearby Pembroke Pines.
In response to a referral from the SBC Executive Committee following the 2016 SBC annual meeting in St. Louis, the board approved a written media policy for trustee meetings and general media requests at NOBTS. The policy delineates the open meeting policy for plenary sessions of trustee meeting. The written policy reflects the longstanding practices of the NOBTS board regarding open meetings.
In his report to the trustees, Kelley announced healthy enrollment numbers for the seminary. Last year’s enrollment was the third largest in NOBTS history and the current year’s enrollment is trending slightly higher than last year’s. NOBTS also is expecting a large number of prospective students for its campus preview event later this month.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gary D. Myers is director of public relations for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)

10/19/2016 8:23:11 AM by Gary D. Myers, NOBTS | with 0 comments

Artificial intelligence spawns ethical concerns

October 19 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The ethics of artificial intelligence (AI) has drawn comments from the White House and British House of Commons in recent weeks, along with a non profit organization established by Amazon, Google, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft. Now, Baptist computer scientists have called Christians to join the discussion.
Louise Perkins, professor of computer science at California Baptist University, told Baptist Press (BP) she is “quite worried” at the lack of an ethical code related to AI. The Christian worldview, she added, has much to say about how automated devices should be programmed to safeguard human flourishing.
Individuals with a Christian worldview need to be involved in designing and programing AI systems, Perkins said, to help prevent those systems from behaving in ways that violate the Bible’s ethical standards. Believers can thus employ “the mathematics or the logic we will be using to program these devices” to “infuse” a biblical worldview “into an [AI] system.”
While AI has no universally accepted definition, an Oct. 12 report by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy defines it as “a computerized system that exhibits behavior that is commonly thought of as requiring intelligence.”
Self-driving cars and AI-equipped unmanned aircraft are two examples highlighted in the report, which also notes AI applications in health care, transportation, the environment, the criminal justice system and “economic inclusion.”
Perkins noted automated manufacturing, surgery and warfare as potential applications of AI. Among the most common forms of AI on the market is the automated personal assistant on many smartphones.
The 58-page White House report states that “ethical training for AI practitioners is a necessary part” of ensuring “fairness and safety” in the use of developing technologies.
Similarly, the House of Commons’ Science and Technology Select Committee stated in an Oct. 5 report that “ongoing consideration” is needed in such areas as minimizing “bias being accidentally built into AI systems” and limiting “unwanted, or unpredictable, behaviours” by AI systems.
The Amazon/Google/Facebook/IBM/Microsoft partnership – dubbed the partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society – was announced Sept. 28 with one of its goals being publication of research “in areas such as ethics, fairness and inclusivity,” according to a press release.
Perkins said one of her ethical concerns related to AI is security. By hacking into the AI systems of a future manufacturing plant, for example, terrorists might be able to program an entire series of self-driving cars to malfunction at the same time, causing chaos on the roads. AI weapons systems also could fall prey to hackers, and AI systems that prepared food could be hacked to poison people.
Positive AI capabilities that appear to be on the horizon are “wonderful,” Perkins said. “But these things come with the ability for someone else to take control of them and use them.”
The only “non-hackable” devices available currently “are behind fences, where they are not interconnected to the real world,” Perkins said. “The devices we’re developing now are going to be interconnected to the real world.”
Perkins also noted that ethical standards will have to be programmed into AI systems involved in surgery and warfare among other applications. A robot performing surgery on a pregnant woman, for instance, could have to weigh the life of the baby relative to the life of the mother, and an AI weapon system would have to apply standards of just warfare.
Mike Brake, a former computer scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico who now serves as a student pastor, echoed some of Perkins’ concerns.
AI “is to be used to help aid and assist humans,” said Brake, student pastor at First Baptist Church in Los Alamos. “There’s definitely a great intention behind it in almost any use.”
Yet “when you have software making decisions on behalf of humanity,” Brake told BP, “you have humans who are writing that software. And humans, as we all know, are prone to error.”
Christians should not worry about robots taking over the world, Brake said. “But you do have to be aware that there is artificial intelligence, and it’s a software program that is gaining intelligence and making decisions.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

10/19/2016 8:22:31 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

N.Y. Baptists affirm marriage & gender, increase CP

October 19 2016 by Baptist Press staff

Messengers to the Baptist Convention of New York (BCNY) increased giving to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) missions and ministries for the second year in a row and discussed proposals to affirm the biblical definitions of marriage and gender in the convention’s constitution.

Photo by Cathy Meyer
SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page was among the speakers Sept. 25-27 at the Baptist Convention of New York annual meeting.

Messengers also heard addresses from SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page and Todd Starnes of Fox News during their Sept. 25-27 sessions at Word of Life Conference Center in Schroon Lake, N.Y. In addition to 90 registered messengers, 21 guests were present for a total of 35 churches represented.
Two amendments to the BCNY constitution proposed by the convention’s Executive Board dealt with the topics of gender and marriage. Both amendments will be voted on at the 2017 annual meeting.
The first, which was amended by a messenger, would deem churches “not in cooperation with the Convention” if they “act to affirm, approve, [or] endorse ... same-sex marriage, or any expression of marriage, including but not limited to civil unions, other than the uniting of one biological man and one biological woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.”
The constitution already states churches are not in cooperation if they affirm, approve or endorse “homosexual behavior.”
The second proposed amendment would add to the convention’s affirmation of the Baptist Faith and Message the statement, “We also believe that God wonderfully and immutably creates each person as male or female. These two distinct, complementary genders together reflect the image and nature of God (Gen. 1:26-27). Rejection of one’s biological sex is a rejection of the image of God within that person.”
In other business, the convention adopted a 2017 budget of $2,063,400, a decrease of 0.3 percent from the current year.
Included in the 2017 budget: $745,000 in anticipated Cooperative Program giving from BCNY churches, for 36.5 percent of the budget; $1,235,000 in anticipated funding from the North American Mission Board (NAMB); and $60,000 anticipated from LifeWay Christian Resources.
The convention will forward 28.5 percent of CP receipts to the SBC’s national and international missions and ministries, up from 27.5 percent in 2016 and 25 percent in 2015. The budget includes no shared expenses with the SBC.
Elected as the convention’s 2016-17 president was Paul Flores, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Nazaret in West New York, N.J. Also nominated was Andy Smith, associate pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Cortland, N.Y. Elected as vice president was Dan Schallmo, pastor of Summit Church in Cazenovia, N.Y. Re-elected as recording secretary was Van McClain, pastor of Grace Community Chapel in Ballston Spa, N.Y.
Daniel Lee, pastor of Compass Fellowship Church in New York City, delivered the annual sermon. Worship was led by Kevin Rogers, associate pastor of Open Arms Church in Rotterdam, N.Y.
In addition to Page and Starnes, among the meeting’s guest speakers were an International Mission Board missionary who cannot be identified for security reasons; Steve Allen of NAMB; and Greg Love of GuideStone Financial Resources.
Next year’s annual meeting will be Sept. 24-26 at Bible Church International in Randolph, N.J., with a theme of “make every effort” based on Philippians 3:12.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the staff of the Baptist Convention of New York.)

10/19/2016 8:22:00 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

Massachusetts churches sue over ‘anti-bias’ law

October 19 2016 by Bonnie Pritchett, WORLD News Service

Four Massachusetts churches and their pastors filed a preemptive lawsuit in October in an attempt to halt application of a newly amended state law requiring pastors to temper their speech and churches to allow transgender persons to use the bathroom of their choice.
In July, Massachusetts legislators amended General Law 272, known as “Crimes against Chastity, Morality, Decency and Good Order,” to add gender identity to the list of protected classes. Neither the law nor the amendment offer religious exemptions from compliance or name religious institutions as places of public accommodation. But in their interpretation of the law, the Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination (MCAD) and Attorney General Maura Healey declared “houses of worship” can be subject to the rule and its penalties if they host a “secular” event.
The law also prohibits speech that “discriminates” or “incites” discrimination, which could apply to church staff offering biblical teaching about God’s design for men, women and human sexuality.
Violators could be fined up to $2,500 and face up to one year in prison – or both.
Churches chose to challenge the law before the state revoked their right to operate according to their faith. The complaint, filed Oct. 11 by Alliance Defending Freedom, asks a U.S. District Court to stop enforcement of the law against the plaintiffs while the court battle plays out. The suit contends the law violates the plaintiffs’ rights under the U.S. Constitution’s First and 14th Amendments. Healey and three MCAD members are named as defendants.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Horizon Christian Fellowship, Swansea Abundant Life Church, House of Destiny Ministries, Faith Christian Fellowship of Haverhill, and their pastors.
The complaint, Horizon Christian Fellowship v. Williamson, argues the interpretation of the law ignores the church’s role as an institution of worship to God and service to the community. The two roles are not mutually exclusive.
“In all the churches’ activities, they are communicating their understanding of God’s truth, and refraining from communicating messages that violate the churches’ understanding of God’s truth,” the lawsuit states. “Requiring the churches to allow individuals to use the facilities reserved for the opposite biological sex contradicts the churches’ message about God’s intention and purpose for human sexuality.”
Pastors, speaking from the pulpit, a public forum, or on electronic media also could be held personally accountable to the law. Out of fear of reprisals, the pastors have begun to self-censor their speech, according to the lawsuit.
With no religious exemptions, the law that purports to protect chastity, morality, decency, and good order will be applied against churches on a case-by-case basis, according to MCAD. That, the lawsuit states, “invests in [MCAD] the power to decide which religious beliefs, practices, and doctrines of the churches regarding sex are acceptable, and which ones are not.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)

10/19/2016 8:21:24 AM by Bonnie Pritchett, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

State youth leader celebrates 15 years of ministry

October 18 2016 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

For 15 years, Merrie Johnson has coordinated summer camps at the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell, and the impact of her ministry on the youth of North Carolina is far-reaching.

BSC photo
Merrie Johnson, youth evangelism and discipleship consultant for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, celebrated her 15th anniversary this summer.

Under Johnson’s leadership, nearly 90,000 students from more than 3,500 churches have attended summer youth weeks at Fort Caswell over the past 15 years. And Johnson, who serves as the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s youth evangelism and discipleship consultant, has seen God work mightily during that time.
Of those attendees, Johnson has witnessed more than 5,700 youth trust Christ as their Savior, more than 43,000 rededicate their lives to Christ and 3,100 more who have sensed a call to vocational ministry.
“Go God,” says Johnson, which is a statement she often hails.
Yet there’s also another group of individuals who have felt the impact of Merrie’s influence on their lives and continue to do so. Those are the current and former youth weeks’ staff members who work alongside Johnson for seven weeks each summer to minister to and serve the middle and high school students that come to camp at Caswell each year.
More than 80 current and former staff members and their families held a reunion at Caswell this summer to honor Johnson and celebrate how God has worked through her life and ministry.
“We have talked over the years about having a reunion, and 15 years seemed like a good number” said Jonathan Waggett, who served as a camp staff member from 2011 to 2014 and organized the reunion weekend. “For me, this reunion is a homecoming for staff new and old to celebrate Merrie as a leader and celebrate what God has done over 15 years at Caswell.
“Merrie has greatly influenced the staff and the campers here … She’s had a tremendous impact on my life, opened many doors for me in ministry and taught me a lot about growing in the Lord.”
John Astle, who served on the worship team during some of Johnson’s early camp staffs, said Johnson has been like a second mom to him and others.
“We call her ‘Momma Merrie,’” Astle said. “She’s somebody I’ve always gone to for counsel, and is someone you can go to and celebrate the good, and cry through the bad. She’s just a special person to me.”
Johnson recognized the former staff members who came in for the reunion during the concluding youth weeks’ worship service on a Friday night. Former staff who had served on the worship team joined current staff during one of the songs. The weekend also included a Saturday morning brunch, where Johnson and the attendees shared memories from youth weeks and caught up on where life has taken them. Johnson said she was touched to see what God has done in the lives of her former staff members.
“They become a staff member while they’re in college, so I’ve been there with them as they are growing into becoming an adult,” Johnson said. “While they are here, they are really hungry to know what God’s will is for their lives. It’s been a joy and a privilege to be able to pray with them through the years and walk with them through those decisions.
“The greatest joy is seeing how they have taken the platform God has now given them to love people, show compassion and live out their faith.”
Magan Keith credits Johnson as being a great influence in her life. She grew up in Christian home and attended summer camp at Caswell as a youth. But she says it was during her time while serving as a staff member with Johnson from 2004 to 2007 where she understood what it meant to have a vibrant, daily relationship with the Lord.
“It was actually when I was serving on staff that I committed my life to the Lord,” Keith said. “When someone asks me, ‘Who is one of the most influential spiritual people in your life?’ I always say, ‘Merrie Johnson.’”
To watch video testimonies of how Merrie Johnson has impacted the lives of current and former summer youth weeks’ staff members, visit: vimeo.com/181683750.

10/18/2016 8:59:17 AM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

30 years later, association sees dream attained

October 18 2016 by Liz Tablazon, BR staff writer

Sydney and Alice Rochelle were long-time members of Lakewood Baptist Church in Durham, N.C. The couple had no children, and in the 1980s, they left half of their estate to the church. They gave the other half to the local Yates Baptist Association. For 30 years the Rochelles’ gift sustained Lakewood until the church held its final service on Easter Sunday 2014. The funds given to the association were earmarked for a potential missions center but, for three decades, were never touched.

Yates Baptist Association photo
Yates Baptist Association’s board met Sept. 22 to vote on its new director of missions. They chose Marty Childers, a former International Mission Board missionary.

Lakewood was once one of the strongest churches in the area, said Marc Francis, pastor of Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Durham and chair of the director of missions search committee for Yates Association. But in recent years, the church saw a sharp decline in attendance and membership.
Teresa Dotson, administrative coordinator for Yates, was also one of the remaining members at Lakewood. She said while there were many children coming to church, there weren’t many adults or parents regularly attending. It grew harder to reach the community.
“They realized they could not survive, and they wanted to do something positive as they closed up,” said Francis.
The church voted to offer their property to the association.
Yates, at the same time, was also experiencing a lack of funding, support and participation from local churches. Like those of other North Carolina associations, the leadership team was in the process of making decisions about the association’s future. Jeff McCarthy, senior pastor of Rose of Sharon Baptist Church in Durham, served as moderator from October 2013 to October 2015. “We were just getting by, being an association for the sake of being an association,” he said.
The leadership team chose not to close. They decided instead to continue under the leadership of John Saunders, who was then director of missions, but to reassess their purpose as an association.
Reevaluating values and priorities also meant considering the efficiency of their location. At the time, the association’s property was located on Garrett Road, in a suburban area of Durham. McCarthy had lived in Durham for more than 20 years and was familiar with how much the city had changed.
“With the population growth – it’s an international city – all the different language groups, refugees coming to the area, people moving for school or the hospital or work,” he said. “The property was nice at one time, mainly for meetings, but you never could do a lot of ministry out of there because we were too far away from people who needed the ministry,” he said.
So when Lakewood approached the association with the idea of donating their downtown property, Yates leaders had another decision to make. “I looked at it like this would be a good opportunity to accept … an opportunity to do some missions and ministry and work in the urban setting,” said McCarthy.
Before the question of accepting the property could be voted on, Saunders resigned as director of missions after 20 years of service and relocated to Virginia. The association was now in a transition period that included a new direction and new leadership. At the annual meeting in October 2014, Yates voted to receive the Lakewood property. One month later they voted to sell the Garrett Road property.
The sale made it possible to fund more missions and staff. In March 2015, instead of hiring an interim director, they called Thane Barnes as associational missions consultant. Barnes, former executive director of the Nevada Baptist Convention, guided the leadership team in envisioning and creating a fresh set of core values.

Building a resource center

The association permanently moved to the Lakewood Baptist Church facilities in March 2016. Before closing, the church had opened the building to four other groups: a Hispanic congregation; Oak Church, a new church plant; a Burmese congregation; and First in Families, a nonprofit organization serving families with special needs. Yates allowed all four groups to continue using the property.
McCarthy said the use of the facility by the different churches and organizations is the whole point of steering the association toward a new direction. He describes the new location as more of an impact center, creating a model that other churches can use.
“The things we can do there and learn to do in an urban setting, we can take and try to duplicate in other churches,” McCarthy said.
“It’s more of a center where we learn how to do hands-on ministry with language groups, reaching urbanites and millennials in our city.”
The association is already seeing the advantages of networking with the other groups at the Lakewood location. This past summer a local church partnered with and helped Oak Church with Vacation Bible School. Yates is trying to be more strategic and collaborative, McCarthy said. If one group needs help for an event, “whether resources or people, then churches can go and work with them.”
“A lot of things were taking place at the same time that allowed us to do this,” McCarthy said. “Because we were proactive and taking steps necessary, God began to open other doors.”
Just last month Yates unanimously elected Marty Childers, a former International Mission Board (IMB) missionary, to serve as the new director of missions. Childers and his wife opted to take IMB’s voluntary retirement incentive last October after serving in the Americas for 27 years. He began his new role as director of missions Oct. 3.
Since relocating to the Lakewood property, Yates Association has renovated parts of the education building for office space. Selling the previous property on Garrett Road partially paid for the renovations, but there was another fund that contributed to the project: the Rochelles’ gift, earmarked for a missions center 30 years prior.
When the Rochelles left half of their estate to Lakewood, the church initially put resources toward building the education building. This past year, Yates used the other half of the Rochelles’ donation to update the very same facility.
“The people who had the vision for a Baptist center – the actual church they were a part of became the Baptist center,” said McCarthy.
Dotson, who saw both the closing of Lakewood Baptist Church’s doors and the shift in ministry at the Yates Association, couldn’t help but chuckle during a phone interview with the Biblical Recorder. “I can see how God’s hand has been in this, to see how it’s come full circle.”

10/18/2016 8:55:36 AM by Liz Tablazon, BR staff writer | with 0 comments

Hundreds of Hispanics hear missions, discipleship messages

October 18 2016 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

Nearly 400 Baptist Hispanic pastors, church planters and lay leaders gathered for two regional congresses on missions and church planting in Wilmington and the Winston-Salem area in July and August.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell
Baptists from El Salvador prepare specialty food from their country for the evening meal during the July Hispanic Congress held at Pine Valley Baptist Church in Wilmington.

Several pastors from Central America and the Caribbean joined with North Carolina Hispanics to challenge lay leaders and pastors towards greater participation in missions and church planting. Both sessions were in Spanish.
About 130 Hispanic leaders attended the Wilmington Congress at Pine Valley Baptist Church July 29-30 and more than 230 attended the Winston-Salem Congress at the West Campus of Calvary Baptist Church in Advance Aug. 5-6.
“These sessions are focused on casting a vision for churches and mobilizing lay leaders by discovering God’s call towards church planting or missionary service. We are able to recruit future church planters through the Congresses,” said William Ortega, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) Hispanic church planting consultant and organizer of the congresses. This was the second time the congresses have been held.
About 170 Hispanic Baptist churches are now part of the BSC and represent the fastest-growing segment of the convention’s church planting ministry. The convention has helped start some 65 new Hispanic churches since 2014.
In the same time period, Hispanics made nearly 14,000 evangelistic contacts and counted more than 1,200 professions of faith. Hispanic congregations average about 40 in Sunday worship attendance, Mark Gray, team leader for the BSC’s church planting team, reported to the congress at Calvary.
Such growth is welcome, because Hispanics represent by far the biggest ethnic group in North Carolina, with numbers estimated to total between 800,000 and 1 million. That equals as much as 10 percent of the state’s total population. Hispanics now make up half the population of a number of towns in the state and now represent around 14 percent of the population in larger cities such as Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Greensboro.
The state convention also provides Hispanic leadership training and events for youth, ministries involving hundreds of Hispanics during the year. Fruitland Baptist Bible College now has a Spanish language track that enables Spanish speakers to get trained for church leadership in Spanish. Fruitland also operates several satellite centers for teaching courses in Spanish.
Adrián González, a pastor from El Salvador, spoke multiple times at both congresses on the envy, pride, jealousy, selfishness and other toxic traits that prevent Christians from fulfilling the Great Commission from God to reach the world for Christ. González was warmly received in both locations with “amens” and applause punctuating his messages.
Luis Tejera of Puerto Rico spoke on how to have a healthy church. Lester Urbina of Honduras told of his missionary work in his home country and of his plans to start a new Hispanic church in the Statesville area.
Alfredo Valencia urged the Hispanic leaders to reach not just other Hispanics but also the 154 different people groups now living in North Carolina. Hispanic church leaders can best be mobilized for such outreach through disciple making with an Acts 1:8 focus, he said.
Calvary Pastor Rob Peters urged the leaders to reach a million people for Christ. Matt Willis, Calvary’s associate pastor for missions and evangelism, said addition of new members is not enough – they must add through the process of multiplication instead. He offered free copies of Calvary’s “Los Cuatro Campos de Cultivo del Reino,” to those present to help them.
Ortega said there is a growing excitement among Hispanic Baptists in the state over events like the congresses and about the growing role Hispanic Christians are having in missions and evangelism. Hispanics also have increasingly important roles within the Baptist state convention; several Hispanic pastors have served on the convention’s Board of Directors. Greensboro pastor David Duarte currently serves on the board.
New convention resources in Spanish were premiered at the congresses: a printed piece, “Neustra Iglesia No Está Sola,” plus a new Spanish language video about Fruitland’s Hispanic ministry.

10/18/2016 8:50:30 AM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Churches & parents: Partners in disciple-making

October 18 2016 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

There’s a concept popularized by the Puritans that says every home should be a little church.

BSC photo by Chad Austin
Evette Orcutt demonstrates how she would organize and teach foundational biblical truths to children. Orcutt serves as church administrator and ministry specialist at Central Baptist Church in Wendell.

“If every home is a little church, how can we equip those families who want their homes to be a little church?” asks Cheryl Markland, childhood evangelism and discipleship consultant with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
Markland posed the question to a gathering of pastors, church staff and lay leaders at one of two recent “Building Faith-Filled Families” events sponsored by the state convention. Markland and Merrie Johnson, the state convention’s youth evangelism and discipleship consultant, co-led both events which were held
Sept. 15 at First Baptist Church Matthews and Sept. 16 at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Lumberton.
The goal of the events was to help equip churches to develop a comprehensive ministry plan in which pastors and church leaders partner with families to disciple children from birth to adulthood. Markland and Johnson led attendees in an interactive presentation and discussion that focused on creating a disciple-making culture in the local church.
Part of creating a disciple-making culture involves helping church leaders and families understand how they can work together as partners in the disciple-making process. Helping parents and grandparents understand their role as disciple makers at home is vital, Markland said, because of the amount of time they have to invest in the lives of their children and grandchildren.
To illustrate this point, Markland held up a jar that contained 168 marbles. She took three marbles out and held them up before the audience.
“There are 168 hours in a week,” Markland said. “On a good week as church leaders, we may have two or three hours (with children). We try to make those hours really count, but who has the rest?”
An effective family disciple-making strategy must be supported by pastors and other church leaders and communicated in such a way in which the congregation understands the vision. Church leaders should also align the ministries of the church with the vision, while providing training and equipping to parents.
Such a strategy is rooted in what Johnson called “next generation ministry,” which includes an intentional plan by church leaders and parents to work together in teaching and nurturing spiritual truths and spiritual growth from an early age.
Under a next generation ministry approach, preschool, children’s and student ministry leaders should work together and with parents to introduce foundational biblical truths from birth and then build upon those truths as a child grows and matures.
“When you’re rocking that baby in the nursery, you should be laying the foundation of who God is and what God’s Word says,” Johnson said.
Johnson encouraged church leaders to work within their ministries and with parents on developing goals and benchmarks that coincide with a child’s age and stage of development, keeping in mind the overarching goal of heart change and life transformation. Johnson and Markland said the booklet Growing in God’s Word: Levels of Biblical Learning, developed by LifeWay Christian Resources, is an excellent tool for church leaders and parents.
“Basically, we are trying to shape their hearts for Christ and guide them into living out their faith,” Johnson said.  
Johnson and Markland said the “Building Faith-Filled Families” events were intended to cast a vision for a holistic approach to disciple-making at home that includes and involves both the church and the family.

They are planning more trainings for churches and church leaders beginning in the spring of 2017.
“Next generation ministry is all about partnering with parents as we all do our best to raise children who will become young adults who have a passion and vision for serving God,” Johnson said.

10/18/2016 8:45:33 AM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Megan moves into the light

October 18 2016 by Blake Ragsdale, BCH Communications

Megan and her houseparents laugh as they walk together. The sun-drenched greens of the grass and trees across the Baptist Children’s Homes’ (BCH) Kennedy Home campus in Kinston reverberate their joy as they chatter.

BCH photo
Megan, left, being held by some of the girls in her house at Kennedy Home, found a fresh start at Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina. She is a freshman in college now.

“My houseparents are awesome. They are Jennifer and Blake Lewis,” the 18-year-old says. “They’ve been very supportive of me. They’ve fought a lot of battles for me since I’ve been here.”
Megan’s life today shines in bright contrast against the backdrop of a tumultuous childhood. She still wrestles with past trauma that has carved deep emotional scars. Growing up, she was exposed to a life that dragged her family into darkness. “The drugs got to be too much. The alcohol, the abuse got worse and worse,” according to Megan. “I was so young and didn’t understand a lot of what was going on. I just knew that I wasn’t going to have my dad anymore or my mom anymore.”
It all became too much. It took its toll on Megan as her family was torn apart.
“I kind of felt like I was trapped and had nowhere else to go. It was a rough time for me,” she divulges. “I kind of hit rock bottom.”
BCH became a place where Megan could rise out of the darkness and begin to heal and start the journey of overcoming her struggles and fears. She arrived at Kennedy Home Nov. 4, 2014.
She found a fresh start and a new home with the girls and houseparents at Blackwell Cottage. “The girls in the cottage are great. Living with a bunch of girls, of course, there’s going to be drama. It’s like one big family – it took a while for me to figure out they were there for me.”
Megan kept her hurts locked up tightly. She carried a great deal of anger because of her past. In her houseparents, she discovered adults who cared for her and were ready to listen. “They’re great,” she says.
“I feel like I can open up to them – and opening up is very hard for me to do.”
Kennedy Home has also played a crucial role in helping Megan grow in her relationship with God. She says that praying more has been important and things have become better.
“I got baptized on June 6 of last year,” she shares, “and that was kind of a really big deal for me.”
In high school, she flourished as a member of the school’s jazz band where her love for music grew, and she honed her ability to play the flute.
When visiting churches as part of a BCH presentation, she often shows her gratitude to North Carolina Baptists for their support by performing a beautiful rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
“The support and prayers you put into BCH and all the kids mean a lot to us,” she shared recently with a congregation. “We are able to see that there is somebody out there reaching out and making an effort to help change our lives.”
In sharing her thankfulness with friends and supporters, she also challenges them to continue offering the same hope she received to the other children and families BCH serves.
“What if we could make every child feel loved and that the things that happened in their past don’t matter?” she says. “It’s the greatest feeling in the world to know that you don’t have to go back to that.”
One of the most personal and powerful testimonies Megan shares with others is a poem she wrote before graduating high school.
“For my English class, I was asked to write a poem about where I am from,” Megan says. “Given my past, that was very hard for me. Bits of my past I don’t like to remember – but it’s made me who I am today.”

Megan has stepped confidently into a bright new day. She recently moved from Kennedy Home in eastern North Carolina to the western mountains. A freshman at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, the flutist is pursuing a degree in music education and hopes to become a band director. The teenager is thankful for the opportunity to realize that dream.
Megan knows the support and safety net she has in BCH is just as important today as it was when she first arrived at Kennedy Home two years earlier.
“I’m still growing,” she says. “There are things I struggle with every day … There are still things I go through – but I’m confident I will be successful. I think that Kennedy Home and Baptist Children’s Homes have been a big part of that.”
Megan’s story is an important part of BCH’s 2016 Annual Offering. Visit bchoffering.org to watch this year’s video “I Am” and to download resources to promote the offering. You can also watch Megan share her powerful poem by visiting bchnc.org/poembch.

10/18/2016 8:31:20 AM by Blake Ragsdale, BCH Communications | with 0 comments

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