October 2017

David Platt ‘all in’ as IMB president as he accepts teaching pastor role

October 31 2017 by Brandon Pickett, SBC of Virginia

David Platt, president of the International Mission Board (IMB), says he is more excited now about leading the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) largest mission organization than ever before. At the same time, Platt is excited about serving the church where he and his family worship in a new way.

BR file photo by Dianna L. Cagle
David Platt, president of the International Mission Board, shares with emeritus missionaries during a September 2017 event at Ridgecrest Conference Center. Platt acknowledges that he is in a unique situation after taking the role as teaching pastor for McLean Bible Church, a recent addition to the Southern Baptist Convention.

According to McLean Bible Church, Platt, who began as IMB president in August 2014, was confirmed recently as the church’s teaching pastor by a 95 percent approval vote of the members.
Platt acknowledges it is a very unique situation to be in both roles. Before coming to the IMB, Platt discussed with the presidential search team how in light of the age and stage of his family and his extensive travel domestically and internationally during the week for the IMB, he would be with his family in one church on the majority of Sundays.
“Since I’m going to be a meaningful member of a church, I want to love and build up that church for God’s glory in any way I can. Obviously, it’s a unique paradigm for a church to have a teaching pastor (who is also leading the IMB) alongside a lead pastor who is providing day-to-day leadership in the church. It was extremely encouraging to see the unity of the church through a 95 percent vote saying [that they] affirm this model of church leadership for the spread of the [g]ospel not only in our local community but also around the world.”
But Platt also wants to reassure Southern Baptist churches regarding his role at IMB. “I am all in as IMB president,” he shared. “Me teaching God’s Word in the local church is not in any way indicative of a desire to do less at IMB. I am not changing anything when it comes to my commitment to the IMB.”
Platt and IMB trustees have committed to evaluate his involvement at McLean over the coming months to make sure that his commitment to the IMB remains the same.
McLean Bible Church (MBC) was started in the Metro Washington, D.C., area in 1961 as a non-denominational church. Lon Solomon began serving as MBC’s fourth pastor in 1980.
According to the MBC website, the church had 200 members when Solomon started as senior pastor. Outreach Magazine reports that the church now has an attendance of a little more than 11,000 people, worshiping in five locations around Metro D.C.
Larry Cooper, chairman of the board of elders of MBC, shared the results of the vote with the congregation last night. “Our vote ... followed several months of prayer, discussion and seeking the Lord by our elders, by our staff and by David and his trustees at the International Mission Board (IMB).”
Cooper continued, “Together with David and with all of you, we celebrate how the Lord has provided for us as we prepare to step into a new season at McLean Bible Church. Our prayer from the beginning has been that McLean Bible Church emerges as a passionate, unified and committed congregation. We are seeing evidence of that every time we gather together.”
Send City coordinator Clint Clifton shared that MBC began supporting the North American Mission Board’s Send City effort for Washington, D.C., in October 2015.
According to McLean Bible Church’s FAQ document on its website, “MBC became a cooperating church with the SBC in 2016 to more effectively engage in church planting across Metro DC.” The church also began giving through the Cooperative Program that same year.
MBC recently affiliated with the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV). So far in 2017, the church has contributed $100,000 through the SBCV to the Cooperative Program. Church planting records show that MBC is currently supporting 22 SBCV church planters through monthly support and/or church planting grants.
“McLean is a strong church with a prolific [g]ospel witness in Metro D.C. and beyond,” says Brian Autry, SBCV’s executive director. “The church has been a generous partner with a number of church plants and is partnering with Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program.”
Regarding MBC’s partnership, Platt said, “This is a picture that I want to see across North America … churches who see that partnering together through the SBC is good for the spread of the
“Hopefully it is a picture that will happen more and more as more churches see the value of partnership together in the SBC for the spread of the [g]ospel.”
Platt says his wife and family (they have four children, ages 11, 9, 7 and 4) are fully behind him taking on the mantle of teaching pastor in addition to his role as IMB president.
“I would say whereas I have been 100 percent confident the Lord has been leading us to do this, I would put my wife at about 200 percent.” Platt says he wouldn’t be doing this if he didn’t feel a definite leading from the Lord. “This seems like the wisest way to be a husband and dad and to be president of the IMB – and in the process, to love a local church for the spread of the [g]ospel to the nations.”
Autry shared, “From the time David [Platt] arrived in Virginia, while leading the IMB through major transition, he has been involved in his community and a local Southern Baptist church plant. David is a passionate voice for missions and a biblical preacher who will have the opportunity to impact many through the pulpit of McLean.”
Platt began as interim teaching pastor at MBC in February of 2017. During this tenure, he says his role at IMB has not diminished from the agreement with IMB for him to travel during the week and stay at home about 65 percent of weekends.
“I’m still traveling like I was all over the place during the week and then on the weekends. I’m traveling at least as much as I have been in the last few years, if not a little bit more.”
Platt says that for the past year, he had been feeling that he wasn’t using his role and gifts in a way that shepherds and mobilizes as many people as possible on mission.
He says that many of the ways he was motivating and encouraging believers while pastor of The Church at Brook Hills (Birmingham, Ala.) from June 2006 to August 2014 had virtually stopped. That’s when he was approached by MBC to consider serving as interim teaching pastor.
“They were going through a transition where they were transitioning from a primary teacher to a teaching team. They have a lead pastor who would be responsible for day-to-day responsibilities in the church, and they were praying for somebody to become a teaching pastor going forward who would not have those responsibilities for day-to-day leadership in the church–not a senior pastor, but a teaching pastor who would preach …about two-thirds of the Sundays, maybe a little less. And it was just, I don’t think a coincidence.”
He is not taking a salary from MBC and believes that volunteering to preach at McLean will feed his ministry at the IMB. He hopes that his sermons from MBC can be used through podcasts and other multi-lingual resources to encourage men and women here and missionaries around the world on mission.
“I think that’s one of the reasons why trustees brought me to the IMB – because as a pastor, I hope I was preaching in a way that was mobilizing people to go on mission and shepherding people to go on mission and casting vision for ‘how do we give our lives to mission?’”
Platt feels that with its current financial stability and the new emphasis on “limitless” Southern Baptists going to the mission field, the IMB’s best days are ahead.
“What I’m most excited about when I think about the last three years is the work that has been done to set us up for sending missionaries from churches across the SBC and all kinds of different pathways to the nations.”
He believes that his additional role as teaching pastor at MBC will only help. “I’m just asking how can I maximize my time with my family on many weekends for the Kingdom. How can I maximize that in a way that’s good for the broader mission of mobilizing and shepherding people to get the [g]ospel to the nations? That’s what’s driving me.”
“I just want to maximize my time as a follower of Christ in the local church, using whatever gifts He’s given me for the building up of the local church and other churches beyond that for the spread of God’s glory.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Pickett serves as SBC of Virginia associate executive director and editor of Proclaimer magazine.)

10/31/2017 9:09:50 AM by Brandon Pickett, SBC of Virginia | with 0 comments

N.C. colleges seeing more gospel engagement

October 31 2017 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

North Carolina Baptist churches are engaging students with the gospel on one-third of the college and university campuses in the state, and North Carolina ranks among the national leaders in several key collegiate evangelistic and missions categories.
“What God has been doing through the local church in North Carolina is pretty amazing,” said Jonathan Yarboro, who leads the Collegiate Partnerships Team of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).
Yarboro gave an update on progress toward fulfilling his team’s vision of having no campus left in North Carolina without a church-led gospel movement during the September meeting of the BSC Board of Directors. Yarboro reported that 50 of North Carolina’s 148 college, community college and university campuses are now being engaged by local churches as of the end of September.
When the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina shifted its collegiate ministry strategy to focus on equipping churches to reach college campuses at the beginning of 2014, only nine campuses were being engaged with the gospel by a ministry affiliated with the Baptist state convention, Yarboro said.
With 50 campuses now being reached, that represents a 456 percent increase in engagement in less than four years, Yarboro said.
Additionally, Yarboro reported that college students from North Carolina rank in the top six states nationally in four different evangelism and discipleship categories based upon a survey conducted by LifeWay Christian Resources with all 42 Baptist state conventions across the country.
North Carolina ranked fourth in the number of students who have come to know Christ in the past year and fourth in the number of students who are being discipled in a small-group community, Yarboro said.
“These are students who have moved from death to life,” Yarboro said.
Additionally, North Carolina ranked second in the number of college students who are being mobilized for mission trips and projects during the summer months. North Carolina also ranked sixth in the number of students who are being developed as leaders and missionaries. “These are students who are being trained by their local churches,” Yarboro said.
Yarboro also praised the North Carolina churches that have embraced the call to reach college students and engage college campuses in their communities.
“It’s small churches just as much as it is large churches who are getting this done,” Yarboro said.
And while one-third of the colleges and universities in North Carolina are now being engaged by the local church, Yarboro said there’s still more work to be done.
“There are still 100 [campuses] that are left unengaged,” Yarboro said. “We need churches that are on the sidelines to get into the game. We would love to help you engage the campus nearest you.”

For more information on the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Collegiate Partnerships Team, visit nocampusleft.org.

10/31/2017 8:59:58 AM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Twin brothers, WWII veterans, joined for eternity

October 31 2017 by Mike Schueler, Baptist Press

Claude Stokes guessed he had about 15 seconds to decide how he was going to die.
It was 1944, and the 20-year-old tank commander was lying facedown in a ditch in the middle of a firefight in central Italy when he heard something sizzling. Claude looked up to see a German artillery shell sticking out of the mud about six inches from his head. Since the shell didn’t explode on impact, he had a choice: stay put to hope for a dud or run for it through a cloud of German machine gun and mortar fire.

Baptist Messenger photo courtesy of Hannah Hanzel
Claude and Clyde Stokes, far right, pose for a photo with the crew of their M-10 tank following the Battle of Salerno (1943) during the Allied invasion of Italy. The tank was named the “Oklahoma Wildcat” by Claude after its original commander was wounded in battle.

Though he wasn’t yet a Christian, 73 years later Claude looks back at that day and sees providence, not coincidence. He believes God spared his life so that he could be used to help others hear the gospel during more than half-century of service as a deacon at First Baptist Church in McAlester, Okla.
“Polish workers were known for sabotaging ammunition in German factories,” Claude recounted. “Today, I thank some Polish person for making that shell a dud.” It was one of many brushes with death that Claude and his twin brother Clyde would experience during World War II.
At age 19, the Stokes brothers volunteered for the Army, trading the family farm’s tractor for an M-10 tank they nicknamed the “Oklahoma Wildcat.” Claude was the tank’s commander and Clyde its driver. A personal letter from President Roosevelt – in response to an appeal from their father – allowed Claude and Clyde to serve together throughout the war, and their adventures in the Oklahoma Wildcat made them celebrities in news dispatches from the war’s front lines.
But it was their courage on the battlefield that made them heroes.
“This one here is a Silver Star, that’s the third-highest award you can get,” Claude said matter-of-factly as he takes a visitor on a tour of the medals and war memorabilia hanging above his bed at an assisted living facility where he lives with his wife Madlyn, who wrote a 2003 book titled The Stokes Twins Ride the Oklahoma Wildcat.
The Stokes twins earned the Silver Star at the Battle of Salerno when their tank took out five German tanks, an ammunition truck, an armored half-track, a pill box and captured 180 enemy infantry. Claude was also awarded a Bronze Star for helping save the lives of fellow soldiers and a Purple Heart, having been wounded twice.
A brand-new medal also hangs there. In August, Claude and Clyde Stokes were named Chevaliers (Knights) of the Legion of Honor for their role in liberating France. Established by Napoleon, the honor is the French government’s highest decoration.
But after 93 years of life, Claude said the thing he’s most proud of can’t be hung above his bed. That’s because it’s measured in eternity – the lives impacted by the gospel during the spiritual battles he helped fight after the war – beginning with the battle for his own heart.
Claude thought he didn’t need to go to church because he was a “good guy”; he didn’t smoke or drink and took care of his family. Through conversations with a local pastor, he came to understand that it was only Christ’s death on the cross – and not Claude’s good deeds – that could wash away sins.
He was at work one day at the Naval Ammunition Depot in McAlester when he clearly heard God’s voice: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.” He had never read the verse from Matthew 3 before.
“I looked around and found there wasn’t anyone in the room but me,” Claude recalled. “I wasn’t too smart, but I was smart enough to know that God had spoken those words.” That night at a church revival service, he surrendered his life to Jesus.
In 1950, Claude became a deacon at First Baptist. For more than 36 years he taught a men’s Sunday School class, discipling more than 30 men. Taking cues from his time in the Army, Claude ran the class with military discipline. He referred to the class as an “Army company” and he was their “captain.” Any class member absent on Sunday had to report to him to be excused, or his name was put on a blackboard as AWOL (absent without leave). Claude also threatened absentees with KP duty (kitchen patrol). It was all in good fun, and the men loved it, gravitating to Claude’s passionate pursuit of Jesus.
“I have never seen anyone who could murder the King’s English and get away with it like Claude Stokes,” said Harold Worthen, a member of Claude’s Sunday School class and fellow World War II veteran. “But Claude is the best Bible teacher and scholar I have ever met.”
The change God brought about in Claude’s life was instrumental in leading Clyde to the Lord.
“Claude and I were never separated in World War II or in our lives at that time,” Clyde once said in a Veteran’s Day address. “That worried me as I began thinking: Claude was going to heaven, and I was going to hell. It took a letter from U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt to keep us together during the war, but it took God’s Son and my surrender to keep us together for eternity.”
On the battlefield, Clyde excelled at driving the Wildcat.
At First Baptist, he used those skills to drive a bus that picked up anyone who needed a ride to church. Together, Claude and Clyde also led a ministry to local nursing homes, sharing the gospel and encouraging residents for 25 years.
Today, the brothers still bear scars from the war. Clyde suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Pieces of shrapnel remain embedded in Claude’s body. His hearing was another casualty, a result of repeated blasts from the M-10’s 50mm cannon.
Above Claude’s bed, a weathered blue mechanical pencil with a chunk missing from its middle also is among the wartime memorabilia. He said it was in his shirt pocket and likely saved his life when it stopped a piece of shrapnel from a German mortar. It happened on Claude and Clyde’s last day of combat.
They began the journey back to Oklahoma the next day.
“God had a plan for us,” Claude said with a smile. “He had work to do through us – that’s the reason we survived the war.”
Read more about Claude and Clyde Stokes’ experiences before, during and after World War II in Madlyn Stokes’ book, The Stokes Twins Ride the Oklahoma Wildcat, available at Amazon.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mike Schueler directs marketing and communications for The Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma. Hannah Hanzel of the Baptist Messenger, news journal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, contributed to this story.)

10/31/2017 8:56:47 AM by Mike Schueler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Union University to open R.G. Lee birthplace Nov. 11

October 31 2017 by Nathan Handley, Union University

A piece of Southern Baptist history has been moved to the campus of Union University.
On Nov. 11, the university will open the renovated birthplace of R.G. Lee, which has been moved to Union’s campus in Jackson, Tenn., from Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis.

Photo by Kristi Woody, Union University
Ernest Easley, professor of evangelism at Union University, stands outside the R.G. Lee birthplace that will open on the Union campus Nov. 11 in Jackson, Tenn.

“R.G. Lee was a leading statesman among Southern Baptists and other evangelicals during the middle years of the 20th century,” said Nathan Finn, dean of Union’s School of Theology and Missions. “Because of his ties to the Mid-South region and this university, it is fitting that his childhood home be located on the Union University campus so that younger generations can learn about the life and legacy of this important Christian leader.”
The 32-by-16-foot house was originally built in the mid-19th century in Fort Mill, S.C. Lee was born in the house on Nov. 11, 1886, to a family of sharecroppers. The opening of the home at Union will mark the 131st birthday of the renowned pastor and orator.
“Lee’s most famous sermon, ‘Payday Someday,’ might be the most famous sermon ever preached by a Southern Baptist,” Finn said. “He preached it over 1,200 times at churches and conferences all over America.”
Ernest Easley, professor of evangelism at Union, oversaw the moving and renovation of the home. This is the third time the home has been moved but Easley hopes Union will be its final resting place.
The house was moved in 1970 from its original location in South Carolina to Camp Cordova, a Baptist camp in West Tennessee. When the camp closed in the early 1990s, the house was moved to the campus of Bellevue Baptist Church, where Lee had served as the pastor for 33 years, from 1927 to 1960. During his time as pastor there, he was elected as president of the Southern Baptist Convention and served as a trustee of Union, which is affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
Easley first became aware of the house in 1998 when he visited Bellevue to meet with its former pastor, the late Adrian Rogers. The home was sitting in a fenced area behind the back parking lot of the church. When Easley joined the faculty at Union in 2015, he visited Bellevue again and saw that the home was still there and in need of renovation. He began discussions with Steve Gaines, Bellevue’s current pastor and another Union alumnus, about moving the home to Union’s campus, but he had no money to do so. Easley said a few members at Bellevue who knew Lee donated all of the money for the project.
“That’s the power of Dr. Lee’s legacy,” Easley said. “People that may have only heard him preach once still remember him. Having his home on Union’s campus will be a great way to pass on that legacy to a new generation.”
The house now sits on the edge of Union’s Jackson campus where it can be seen clearly from the Highway 45 Bypass. The exterior of the house was rebuilt after the move from new cypress lumber and hand-cut pine shingles, but the interior walls, doors, floors and ceiling joists maintain the original wood from the house as it was built in the 1800s.
The house also will contain several items on loan from Bellevue, including an original butter churn and wooden chest from the home as well as the cradle in which Lee was placed as a baby. Other furniture displayed in the home is not original but is appropriate for the time Lee would have lived there.
The opening of the home will take place at 2 p.m. Nov. 11 and include a brief presentation and a tour. While the home will remain locked most of the time, visitors can set up tours by contacting Abby Scott in the School of Theology and Missions at ascott@uu.edu or at 731-661-6587.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Nathan Handley writes for Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)

10/31/2017 8:53:57 AM by Nathan Handley, Union University | with 0 comments

Protection benefits changes announced by GuideStone

October 31 2017 by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone Financial Resources

GuideStone Financial Resources has announced changes to protection coverage offered to qualified participants in the Church Retirement Plan, the 403(b)(9) retirement plan offered exclusively to Southern Baptist churches and their staffs.

The minimum monthly contribution to their retirement account for those eligible for the benefits increases to $50 monthly, effective Jan. 1.
Disability benefits must begin before age 65 and will be limited to a payout of 60 months. Participants currently receiving benefits will not be affected.
GuideStone’s Protection Section Benefits, a unique provision not found in most other denominational pension plans nor in most secular retirement plans, currently offers qualified participants a disability benefit of up to $500 per month, along with a survivor protection benefit of up to $100,000, so long as there have been at least contributions in each of the last 12 months.
The changes in protection benefits contributions, which include increased support from GuideStone, will provide cost savings to state conventions, which can use the money in other avenues of missions and ministry.
The changes are designed to help offset costs, which are currently shared. As of Jan. 1, GuideStone will absorb 70 percent of coverage costs – up from the current 60 percent – with 30 percent to be provided by state conventions, which determine which staff positions are eligible for the benefits.
“These benefits have proven to be financial lifesavers for many of the families of the pastors at the crossroads,” GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said. “I know of no other program like it. These changes will have minimal impact on our participants, making it a program that should interest every Southern Baptist pastor and church worker.
“We believe strongly that this helps our participants prepare for their retirement years while providing a level of meaningful protection today. Every Southern Baptist pastor and church worker should consider enrolling in the plan, for these benefits alone.”
To determine if a state convention provides a particular staff member with coverage, visit GuideStone.org/SBCChurchBenefits.
Through the end of September, participants have received more than $4.6 million in disability and survivor protection benefits in 2017.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roy Hayhurst is director of denominational and public relations services for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/31/2017 8:47:17 AM by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone Financial Resources | with 0 comments

N.C. Pastor’s Conf. candidates cast vision

October 30 2017 by BR staff

Two pastors have announced their willingness to be nominated for the presidency of the 2019 North Carolina Pastor’s Conference: Chris Griggs, pastor of Denver Baptist Church, and Chip Hannah, pastor of Peace Baptist Church in Whiteville. Officers are elected two years in advance to allow flexibility in scheduling speakers.
J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, has announced his intention to nominate Griggs. Likewise, Josh Phillips, pastor of Memorial Baptist Church in Norwood, will nominate Hannah. Nominations are scheduled for 1 p.m., Monday, Nov. 6.

Chip Hannah and Chris Griggs

The Biblical Recorder sent the two potential candidates the following question to discover each one’s vision for the event, if elected:

Q: What is the most important way the pastors’ conference can encourage pastors?

Griggs: The most important way that the pastor’s conference can encourage pastors is by allowing them to have their souls nourished on the beauty and power of the gospel.
We are busy writing gospel sermons, reminding our people to trust in the gospel, sharing the gospel and working hard to carry out faithful gospel ministry. The pastor’s conference can provide a much needed opportunity for gospel ministers to have the gospel ministered to them, so that we might rejoice in singing the gospel, be refreshed in the preaching of the gospel and leave with our hearts resting in the Good News of a God who saves sinners through His Son Jesus Christ.
We all need to be reminded that our value and worth doesn’t come from how well our churches are doing, or what our statistics look like, but from our union with Christ. That’s the kind of conference that I believe would be a great encouragement to pastors.
Hannah: I want to see pastors encouraged, because I know pastors are worn down, burned out and just tired. As pastors we need encouragement from God’s Word to speak into our lives and our families’ lives.

With all we have going on in our country, I believe all pastors need an encouraging word and that needs to be in the form of all pastors being a part of the pastor’s conference. I once heard, “If we always do what we have always done, we will always get what we always got!” So, my vision is to bring more pastors together of diverse backgrounds to be one heartbeat with one cause for the work of His Kingdom!
The 2017 N.C. Pastor’s Conference will take place Nov. 5-6 in Greensboro, preceding the Baptist State Convention of N.C. annual meeting.

10/30/2017 3:48:39 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments

Looming ‘aging pastorate’ crisis spurs Young Pastors Network

October 30 2017 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Clay Smith, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Matthews, said the Young Pastors Network, a group of North Carolina church leaders under 45 years old, could help Southern Baptists avoid a looming generational crisis by encouraging younger church leaders to connect with one another and become more involved in denominational life.
The Barna Group released data earlier this year that revealed only about 14 percent of Protestant clergy are under age 40, and the number of church leaders over 65 has tripled in the last 25 years. Barna President David Kinnaman said in the report the aging pastorate is “one of the most glaring challenges facing the church today.”

Clay Smith

The average age of pastors today is 54, according to the study. Smith told the Biblical Recorder why he believes that number is troubling.
“A commonly held belief,” he said, “is that a pastor’s voice is most influential in a range of 20 years – 10 above and 10 below [his current age]. If that is the case, and the average age is 54, that means the range of our influence focuses on those aged 44 to 64.”
If people under 44 are not being significantly influenced by the average pastor, that means America’s two largest population segments are being excluded: Millennials and Generation Z, in other words, anyone born after the early 1980s, according to Smith. “That is discounting the future of our country and the future of our denomination,” he said.
Smith gave five reasons why he thinks the average age of Christian leaders is rising:
First, he said, ministry is not as “attractive” as it was in previous decades. A well-known Southern Baptist pastor in his 60s told Smith recently that ministry demands are different today than they used to be. “And by different,” Smith said, “he means harder and more expansive. … A lot of younger guys are going, ‘I don’t want to deal with that, let me just go run a parachurch ministry or do something else. I don’t want the messiness of the church.’”
Smith also said many older pastors cannot retire for financial reasons, meaning there are less ministry positions available to younger church leaders.
Third, he said people have not done a good job of purposefully relating to one another across generations.
“There are some wonderful exceptions,” Smith continued, “but I don’t sense, on the whole, there is an older generation of pastors that feels it is incumbent on them to work hard to reach out to a younger generation of pastors.
“And to be honest, a lot of younger guys have not been very good about being proactive with older pastors – being intentional about going out to lunch together and learning, asking questions.”
Smith also said “delayed adolescence” may be a contributor to the aging pastorate.
In earlier generations, a pastor may have taken an initial ministry post in his early 20s. “Now, a lot of young men and women are not ‘finding themselves’ until they are 30 or so,” he explained, “so by the time their career path gets started in the church, if they go to seminary or have some sort of formal training, it may not be until their mid to late 30s before they get started.”
Lastly, Smith said cultural differences between age groups might work against intergenerational influence and involvement. “I don’t want to overstate that, but we grew up in totally different worlds,” he said, referring to Baby Boomers, or those born in the years following World War II; Generation X, born from the mid-1960s to the early ’80s; Millennials, from the early ’80s to century’s end; and Generation Z, born around 2000 and after. “There are some significant hurdles that have to be dealt with in order to bridge the gap and pull these generations together.”
Smith worried that many church and denominational leaders do not see generational concerns as important.
“We need to see this as an urgent issue,” he said. “I don’t know to what level our convention sees this as a crisis.
“I am grateful that men like Milton Hollifield [executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina] and others have been very supportive of us and this initiative. I know he sees this as a priority, and I’m sure there are other pastors and denominational leaders that do as well, but I don’t know if this is at the forefront of our statewide conversation about strategically recruiting, investing and developing the next generation of pastors.”
Smith is also troubled that many young church leaders are not familiar with Southern Baptist institutions and polity.  “We use words like association,” he said, “and a lot of younger guys don’t know what an association is. We use words like the Cooperative Program. Do they even know what the Cooperative Program is, how it got started, how it functions? We use words like Executive Committee. What do they do?”
The Young Pastors Network is hosting an event Nov. 6 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, preceding the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) annual meeting. Hollifield will serve as the main speaker for the event.
Smith said the group “wants to be part of the solution” and hopes to encourage more young church leaders to attend the yearly denominational gathering.
The second-annual young pastors’ dinner has garnered more than 100 registrants, most of whom, Smith said, would not have otherwise attended the BSC annual meeting.
“I think there is a young generation that wants to be a part of what the convention is doing, wants to have a voice and wants to contribute,” he said. “They may do it differently. It may take some training, but I think people need to see this as a glimmer of hope, and not one of doom, as it relates to the looming crisis of the aging pastorate in our nation.”

10/30/2017 3:44:33 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 3 comments

Dale Robertson leaves lasting legacy

October 30 2017 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

When Dale Robertson was thrust into the role of secretary/treasurer for the North Carolina Pastor’s Conference (PC) 25 years ago, no one wanted the job.
The previous treasurer had stepped down because he was tired of asking his church to supplement the cost for the yearly conference held before the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) annual meeting.


BR file photo
Dale Robertson, right, has seen a lot of presidents and vice presidents through his 25 years of service to the North Carolina Pastor’s Conference, including 2016 officers Brian Langley, left, who was pastor of First Baptist Church in Kure Beach at the time, and Cameron McGill, center, who is the current Baptist State Convention of North Carolina president and pastor of Dublin First Baptist Church and Lake Church.

“He said, ‘I can’t do it anymore,’” said Robertson, pastor of North Main Baptist Church in Salisbury, N.C. “Nobody wanted it. Who wants to take care of pastors’ money?”
He remembers his pastor friend, Steve Hensley, nominating him in 1992 in Winston-Salem.
Robertson, who has served North Main for 24 years, is a graduate of Wingate College (now university) with a two-year degree; Wake Forest College (now university) with a bachelor’s degree in religion and philosophy; and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he completed his master of divinity (1975) and doctor of ministry (1999) degrees.
In his 41 years in ministry, he has served in Virginia and North Carolina.
Part of the process of transitioning out of this office involves Robertson combing through Pastor’s Conference files.
He found a letter dated 1993 where the president of the North Carolina Minister’s Wives wanted monetary help with their annual conference, which is held in conjunction with the BSC annual meeting. The response letter was from the president at the time, Charles Page, denying the amount of $100 because the conference didn’t have the money to give them.
One of the draws for the conference each year remains reconnecting with old friends.
“You go back to see people that you’ve known over the years,” he said. “A lot of people go out to eat after the sessions to catch up. I know I do.”
Robertson says a key attraction each year is the encouragement pastors receive while there.
“Believe it or not, pastors love to hear the Bible preached as much as anyone … and need it preached [to them],” he said. “We need to hear it as much as the people in the pew.”
Averaging between 1,500-1,800 people each year, pastors and their wives, along with other church staff and guests come to the annual event.
Robertson has worked with a number of officers over the years.
“Every president does it differently,” he said.
Robertson’s seen many changes over the years. One addition was the Sunday night service. “That was a big change,” he said. “We’d never done that before” C.J. Bordeaux, current director of missions for Pee Dee Baptist Association, was responsible for that addition.


BR file photo by Steve Cooke
Bobby Welch, former Southern Baptist Convention president, was one of the preachers at the 2016 Pastor’s Conference. The event usually tries to recruit a plethora of speakers and musicians for the annual event.

The group has also added a policy that the outgoing president always leaves some money in the bank.
Mike Whitson, current pastor of First Baptist Church in Indian Trail, was the first president to leave money in the bank at the end of his term.
Presidents usually contact friends and associates in the Baptist world to garner support for the conference each year.
For many years, the conference relied solely on contributions. The Baptist State Convention has come alongside the conference and helped with mail-outs and other expenses. Three collections are taken during the meeting to help offset costs for the speakers and musicians.
When James Walker, current pastor of Lake Hills Church in Candler, was president, his church at the time, Biltmore Baptist Church in Arden, paid for the entire event. “That put us into a good position for years to come,” Robertson said. “Having some money to start the new year takes a lot of pressure off the treasurer.”
Early on, meetings of officers were held during the year to help plan the main event. With technological advances and so many demands on pastor’s time, there are fewer face-to-face meetings.
The PC nominates the president two years in advance, to allow the current office holder two years to plan ahead. Some speakers/pastors have busy schedules and plan that far in advance.
Another thing that has changed about the conference has been the music. There has been more contemporary groups in recent years.
One president jokingly nominated him to be treasurer “until Jesus comes back.”
Cameron McGill, the current BSC president and pastor of Dublin First Baptist Church, refers to Robertson as his “daddy in the ministry.”
Robertson served on McGill’s ordination council.
Lessons learned
“It is a great and solemn responsibility to be in charge of money people give to the Lord,” he said. “They give it for the cause of Christ.”
Robertson still plans to be at the event every year.
“When you’re listening to a person who is there with you live, there’s a spirit there that’s not always there when you watch it online,” he said. “A lot of our North Carolina pastors are good at inspiring and challenging the pastors because they know them … They know them and appreciate them.”
The Pastor’s Conference is a good source of inspiration, challenge and encouragement.
He’s worked with a number of pastors over the years chosen as speakers for the events.
“I’ve learned that pastors are just great guys,” Robertson said. “All of them are loving and kind. Some of these pastors of very large churches have been just as kind and humble.”
Robertson counts his service as a “great privilege.” The role has allowed him to meet “some of the brightest stars in the Southern Baptist Convention over the years.”
For Robertson, life isn’t slowing down. He will continue his pastorate as well as serving as secretary/treasurer for Operation Transformation (operation-transformation.org), a church support ministry.
Plus, he serves on the BSC historical committee. Not only is he moderating a Reformation Symposium panel just before the annual meeting, he is nominated to serve as chairman of that committee if the messengers approve him.
He’s excited about his ministry at North Main. One ministry he mentioned in his interview with the Biblical Recorder was the Appalachia care boxes. They collect items and pack boxes to distribute in eastern Kentucky.
“You get to go right in the schools,” Robertson said. “We’re able to sit down and talk about the gospel.”
Robertson and his replacement, Jonathan Blaylock, pastor of West Canton Baptist Church, have already begun discussing aspects of this role, the challenges and blessings.
“If you handle that responsibility well, you earn great respect … and that’s more valuable than the money itself,” Robertson said. “It’s just handling the money correctly and giving a good account of yourself. If you mess that up, that’s bad.”
10/30/2017 3:34:13 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments

Will you take the ‘Gospel Conversation Challenge’?

October 30 2017 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) leaders are calling on churches and their members to take part in a nationwide effort to have 1 million gospel conversations by June 2018.
The GC (Gospel Conversations) Challenge is a joint effort of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), LifeWay Christian Resources and Southern Baptist state conventions.

Churches may make a pledge toward the goal of 1 million by visiting the Gospel Conversations Challenge website at gcchallenge.com. The website also includes resources related to prayer and evangelism that are available for download.
Milton A. Hollifield Jr., who serves as executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), is among the denominational leaders across the country encouraging churches to take part in the challenge.
“Intercessory prayer and sharing the gospel are essential in changing the trend for baptism declines in Southern Baptist churches,” Hollifield said.
Baptisms in Southern Baptist churches have been declining for several years, according to data from Annual Church Profile reports that are compiled by LifeWay in cooperation with Baptist state conventions.
Nationally, baptisms reported by Southern Baptist churches declined 4.89 percent from 2015 to 2016. In North Carolina, baptisms declined by 2.9 percent during that same time period.
This past summer, NAMB President Kevin Ezell said the SBC needs a “Gospel Conversation Resurgence” if declining baptism numbers are to turn around.
“If one member from each of our 47,000 churches shares the gospel each day, it would result in over 17 million gospel conversations in a year,” Ezell told messengers at the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix. “Can you imagine what would happen if Southern Baptists had that many gospel conversations?”
The Gospel Conversations website also includes a section of brief, one-minute testimonial videos from pastors, church members and denominational leaders in which they share about a recent opportunity they had to share their faith. Individuals are also encouraged to upload their own videos to the site as well.
One of the videos includes a testimony from Hollifield about sharing the gospel with a hotel employee during a recent trip.
Josh Reed, who serves as the BSC senior consultant for adult evangelism and discipleship, said hearing stories from the videos of how others have shared their faith can make sharing the gospel less intimidating. “We can leverage stories to encourage and inspire others to share their faith,” Reed said.
Hollifield added that fulfilling the Great Commission mandate to make disciples starts with having a gospel conversation.
“Evangelism is the beginning step in making disciples, but it is not the final step,” Hollifield said. “We’ve got to place a strong emphasis on reaching lost people with the message of the gospel.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Information from Baptist Press was used in this report.)

10/30/2017 3:12:52 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Trump opioid declaration underscores ministry need

October 30 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

President Donald Trump’s declaration that America’s opioid crisis is a public health emergency came amid calls for churches to heighten their response to drug abuse as well.
The opioid crisis is a “major problem,” said Robby Gallaty, pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., and a former drug addict whose testimony has encouraged others to seek freedom in Christ. The opioid epidemic, he noted, is an opportunity “to show people that the thing they’re searching for and seeking is not found in a drug. It’s found in a man, and His name is Jesus.”
Trump’s Oct. 26 declaration of a public health emergency will allow his administration, among other actions, to expand telemedicine services for addicts in rural areas, hire temporary workers to engage the opioid crisis and use some HIV/AIDS resources for substance abuse treatment, according to a White House release.
Various federal departments and agencies, Trump said, also have been directed to use their emergency authority to address the crisis.
Critics said Trump’s declaration didn’t go far enough, the Associated Press reported, because it did not dedicate any new money to combating opioid addiction.
Trump said 175 Americans die from substance overdoses daily and cited his late brother Fred’s struggle with alcoholism as part of his impetus to address addiction.
“The federal government is aggressively fighting the opioid epidemic on all fronts,” Trump said from the White House’s East Room.
Gallaty called churches to join the battle, telling Baptist Press (BP) “sobriety without Christ is a dead-end street because you can’t break yourself free from the chains that have shackled you so long in sin.”
Churches must recognize drug addiction as a problem in their communities and offer Christ-centered recovery programs like Celebrate Recovery, Gallaty said, referencing an initiative developed by Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. Churches should refer addicts to residential treatment programs as well, Gallaty said, and discourage family members from enabling substance abuse.
To help churches join the fight against opioid addiction, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) has held extended discussions with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control about how Southern Baptists can assist addicts, the ERLC told BP.
Phillip Bethancourt, the ERLC’s executive vice president, wrote in an August 2017 article for erlc.com that “the opioid crisis is the pro-life issue evangelicals aren’t talking about.” He suggested the 2018 Evangelicals for Life conference in Washington will address the issue.
“Until evangelicals embrace the opioid epidemic as a pivotal aspect of championing a whole-life pro-life social ethic,” Bethancourt wrote, “the church will continue to overlook the crisis all around it. The Bible calls Christians to embrace a holistic view of life that defends the most vulnerable from conception to resurrection. Ministering in the midst of the opioid crisis is a key area where churches can protect human dignity.”
Some state conventions and local associations already have begun to address the crisis.
The West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists, for example, adopted a resolution last year pledging “active involvement in the effort to rid our country of drug abuse.” Trump, in announcing his emergency declaration, mentioned West Virginia as a state hit hard by opioid addiction.
The resolution, based on a 1997 Southern Baptist Convention resolution “on drug abuse,” noted that “every faithful Christian should bear a definite responsibility to achieve a successful solution” to the problem of drug abuse.
South Carolina’s Baptist Courier said in a July editorial discipleship is among the components of successful addiction recovery.
“A new life is possible” for substance addicts, Courier editor Rudy Gray wrote, “especially if it is the result of the new birth.”
“It can take an alcoholic or drug addict as long as two years to regain good thinking and decision-making abilities, but it does happen. I am convinced this is where the mission of the church in making disciples can be so vital,” wrote Gray, a volunteer counselor and teacher for the past 19 years at a residential campus for addicted men.
“Former addicts need ongoing support, and genuine disciples of Jesus never stop learning or growing spiritually. Discipleship and recovery are not mutually exclusive, but may be strategically invaluable in helping people recover from an addiction and grow into the person God promises they can be in Christ Jesus,” Gray wrote.
Among Baptist associations, the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association received a report this month on how its churches can seek social justice, including battling opioid addiction.
Drug and alcohol overdoses, the Trump administration said, are the leading cause of injury death in America.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

10/30/2017 7:30:06 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Displaying results 1-10 (of 114)
 |<  < 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10  >  >|