September 2009

Project honors memory of girl killed in crash

September 25 2009 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

SHREVEPORT, La. — The parents of a girl who died this summer from injuries received in a church-bus wreck are asking 13,000 people to keep her memory alive by doing something good on Oct. 29 — which would have been her 13th birthday.

Maggie Lee Henson, one of 23 youth and adult sponsors injured when their bus from First Baptist Church in Shreveport, La., blew a tire and overturned while en route to a Passport youth camp in Georgia July 12, died Aug. 2.

Her parents, John and Jinny Henson, documented her three-week struggle for life at Blair Batson Memorial Children’s Hospital in Jackson, Miss., in a journal on a web site called  
Kelli Alamond, a member of First Baptist Church in Texarkana, Texas, didn’t know Maggie Lee personally but was touched enough by her story to start and administer a Facebook prayer group for her and others from the stricken Shreveport church.

After her death, Alamond thought about her own twin boys, who had recently turned 13, and realized that if not for the tragedy the Hensons would have been gearing up for Maggie Lee’s birthday bash. Rather than letting the occasion go unnoticed, she issued a challenge on Caring Bridge for 1,300 people to commit to performing “demonstrations of Christ’s love” in her honor on Oct. 29.

Jinny Henson loved the idea. She set up a Facebook group and sent an invitation to everyone in her address book, about 800 people.

Within 24 hours, 1,500 members had joined. That number quickly doubled, and she upped the challenge to 13,000. As of Sept. 24 when this story was written, membership in the group had grown to 8,948. Other Internet users have joined through a web site.
The theme “Maggie Lee for Good” is adapted from the song “I Have Been Changed for Good,” which was sung at her funeral service at First Baptist Church on Aug. 6. It is from Maggie Lee’s favorite Broadway musical, Wicked.

“Maggie Lee was the kind of young lady who creatively loved people,” says the Maggie Lee for Good web site. “Whether it was asking her mom to pull over and buy a hamburger for a homeless person or sticking up for a friend, she made the world a better place with her presence.”

Ideas for honoring her memory include having a Maggie Lee For Good Party, which involves inviting friends over who each bring a new toy to donate to charity. Another suggestion is simply picking up the phone to call an estranged friend, acknowledging that life is too short to bear a grudge.
Alamond, who is originally from Shreveport and has friends and family who attend First Baptist Church, was one of thousands of complete strangers who took Maggie Lee’s story to heart and wanted to do something to help.

Church-bus crash victim Maggie Lee Henson, pictured her with her Chihuahua Ellie, won’t be around to celebrate her birthday Oct. 29, but thousands of people are planning to keep her spirit alive by performing a good deed for someone in her honor.

Alamond said starting the Facebook prayer group helped ease her own restlessness, and it wound up being more of a blessing than she ever imagined. She said she was amazed at the number of people who joined the group — but what surprised her most was not the number of people who were praying for Maggie Lee to recover, but that so many were deeply affected and changed by reading about the accident.

One mother wrote to say she had been strung out on drugs for years. Reading about the Hensons’ love and concern for their daughter, she thought of her relationship with her own children and decided to turn her life around and enter drug treatment. A father decided he was working too much and didn’t spend enough time with his kids. A mother who struggled with depression realized she had much to be grateful for and for the first time began to think about the afterlife. In all, hundreds wrote to say the journal was a wake-up call for them in one way or another.

One woman wrote John Henson, who serves on the staff of the Shreveport church as associate pastor for emerging ministries, to tell him that, because of Maggie Lee, she stopped to give lunch to a homeless man she had passed up many times before.

“I am truly shocked that Maggie Lee’s story has touched people so profoundly,” Jinny Henson said. “Every day, we get e-mails about how people woke up in the middle of the night interceding for her and how God used that experience to completely change their lives. Now that she is gone, people are doing all kinds of wonderful things because of her story and that is amazing, as well.”

“It is almost as though God has raised peoples’ spiritual antennae because of this,” she said. “As wonderful as that is, I will always wish I could’ve seen my child grow up — but I guess that’s why God is so much higher than we are, because he gave his Son.”

The Hensons recently met country pop singer and songwriter Taylor Swift, who said she would be happy to be part of Maggie Lee for Good. Erin Anderson, a wedding photographer in Houston, added her support by designing a logo for Maggie Lee for Good.

Henson said there are no words to describe “the awful process of adjusting to the loss of a child.” Little things like going to the grocery store and starting to pick up a cereal product before remembering that the only person in the house who liked it is no longer there can reduce her to tears.

“It is unnatural to bury a child, and with them you bury the parent you were to them,” she said. “So a piece of you dies, as well.”

Several people commenting on the Maggie Lee for Good web site mentioned birthdays of lost loved ones of their own.

Jinny Henson said she and her husband found it natural to express themselves throughout their ordeal.

“People have responded to John’s writing because he is honest about what people call the greatest loss a human being can suffer, losing a child,” she said. “I am a Christian speaker, as well, so I, too, have seen the value of communicating honestly where we are.”

“I think so many people have shared their burdens with us because there are so many people out there who walk around with broken hearts, even in the church,” she said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)

9/25/2009 8:18:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Southern Baptists sweep Energy Star Awards

September 25 2009 by By Staff

In an unprecedented development three of the four churches earning recognition as Energy Star Congregation Award winners for 2009 are Southern Baptist.

Usually the winners list for energy conservation consists mostly of United Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran and other typically socially active congregations. But this year churches in Arkansas, Texas and Florida that were recognized for excellence in energy efficiency and for being “great examples of financial and environmental stewardship,” according to Energy Star, which is a partnership of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Energy Star Congregation Awards “salute the thousands of congregations across the nation who are working to save energy and prevent pollution.”

This year’s winners were First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas; First Baptist Church, Springdale, Ark.; Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla., and Swarthmore Presbyterian Church in Swarthmore, Pa.

“We have never had one denomination ‘sweep’ our annual awards,” Jeff Lawson, national manager of Energy Star Small Business and Congregations Network told Jonathan Merritt, who founded the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative. “The explanation seems to be that there was extraordinary support by two Energy Star affiliated contractors, Siemens and Energy Education, Inc. who are working with Baptist churches.”

The only other Southern Baptist church to earn an Energy Star Congregation Award was Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, in 2007. That 26,000-member church was paying $2 million in annual utility costs in 2006 before the energy upgrades. They have saved over $1 million dollars in utility costs since then.

Prestonwood leadership even created a new staff position — energy education manager — to ensure consistent implementation and develop in-house green initiatives.

The recognition of Southern Baptist churches has not gone unnoticed by secular and Christian environmentalists.

“It is a great witness to the world when Southern Baptists show themselves to be leaders on energy efficient and environmental stewardship,” says Rusty Pritchard, president of the Christian environmental group Flourish. “The world is looking for spiritual leadership on these issues, and Southern Baptists are increasingly demonstrating faithfulness and common sense in this area.”

Pritchard will be speaking on these issues at a Creation Care Conference hosted by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Oct. 30-31.

“Environmental issues are on everyone’s mind, and some environmentalists are quick to criticize evangelicals for not doing much to confront those issues,” said Merritt, credited with raising the issue among Southern Baptists. “When friends, co-workers, and policymakers ask what Southern Baptists are doing to address these things, there is more to say then perhaps ever before.”

Jonathan Merritt is author of "Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet" (Faithwords, April 2010) He blogs regularly at


9/25/2009 8:13:00 AM by By Staff | with 0 comments

Non-denominational, Baptist churches among largest

September 25 2009 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — About one-fourth of the largest and one-third of the fastest-growing churches in America are Baptist, according to an annual listing compiled by LifeWay Research for Outreach Magazine.

Nearly half of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing churches are non-denominational. With attendance averaging 43,500, the largest congregation, Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, has nearly twice as many members as the next-largest, in Edmond, Okla., attended by 26,776.

“There is little question that more of the larger and fastest-growing churches are non-denominational,” said LifeWay Research President Ed Stetzer, who compiled the lists. “And, in many of the cases, even those that were denominational, they often did not say so in their name.”

Stetzer’s group is part of LifeWay Christian Resources, the Southern Baptist Convention’s publishing arm.

LifePoint Church in Smyrna, Tenn., ranked America’s 59th fastest-growing church, remains affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, even though it recently changed its name from First Baptist Church of Smyrna.

Forty-six of the nation’s largest churches (which the study defined as having  more than 5,600 members) and 47 of the fastest-growing (1,000-plus-member  congregations posting an annual numerical gain of 300 or more, and a percentage increase of at least 5 percent) are non-denominational.

“It is tough to know why,” Stetzer said. “We just know that it is happening.”

Twenty-four of the largest churches, meanwhile, are Baptist, and 17 of those are Southern Baptist. By comparison, three Presbyterian, one United Methodist and one Evangelical Lutheran crack the list of the 100 largest churches. Even a growing denomination like the Assemblies of God claims only five of the largest churches.

The largest Baptist congregation, Second Baptist Church in Houston, ranks No. 5 overall. Led by former Southern Baptist Convention president Ed Young, the church reported an average weekly attendance of 22,723.

Second Baptist comes in just behind North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga. Though non-denominational, North Point was started by former Southern Baptist minister Andy Stanley in 1995 and is now America’s fourth-largest church with attendance of 23,377.

Thirty-one of the fastest-growing churches are Baptist. Out of those, 21 are Southern Baptist. The fastest-growing Baptist church is Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., reporting a growth rate of 40 percent.

Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., is one of six churches showing up as both one of the largest (No. 6) and fastest-growing (No. 23) churches. The congregation is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Stetzer said the high profile of Southern Baptists on both the largest and fastest-growing lists doesn’t change his earlier observations that the SBC, as a whole, is starting to decline.

LifeWay Research projected recently unless the aging and predominantly white denomination reverses a 50-year trend of declining evangelism, its membership will decline by nearly half — from 16.2 million to 8.7 million —  by 2050.
“There are a good number of SBC megachurches on the list, but their growth does not offset the membership decline of the denomination as a whole,” Stetzer explained. “There are growing SBC churches in every size — small, medium and large. However, the net membership has dropped for two years in a row.”

That would apply even to some of the churches on the largest-churches list.  For instance, Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., was ranked the 80th-largest church, with attendance averaging 6,567. But eight years ago the church, under previous pastor Adrian Rogers, consistently averaged more than 7,500. On Sept. 13 the congregation, now led by Steve Gaines, introduced a new contemporary worship service aimed at turning around the decline.

To prepare the report, the magazine invited participation from more than 8,000 churches. The listings are based on February and March weekend attendance averages, excluding Easter.

While not a comprehensive and exhaustive list, the magazine said it went to great lengths to confirm data self-reported by pastors, staff or church officers.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)

9/25/2009 8:09:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 1 comments

10 Asheville churches build dream home

September 24 2009 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

Because North Carolina Baptists care, a Moldovan family is living in a dream house in Asheville.

A coalition of Buncombe Baptist Association churches participated in the “Building on the Dream” house project through Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity.

“Baptist churches have been extremely supportive” in both volunteers and contributions, said Betsy Warren, house sponsor coordinator for Asheville Area Habitat.

The “Building on the Dream” project was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist pastor and race relations martyr, and started in January, the month of King’s birth.

“It made sense to us to pull together some Baptist churches in the area,” Warren said.

Two big events exemplified the project’s ability to unify: a wall raising in January and a key presentation in July.

Contributed photo

Nicolae Buzulan, right, works with Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity volunteers for a wall-raising in January. Buzulan, his wife, and four children closed on the home in July after 10 Baptist churches provided the other volunteer labor on the home.

Warren said 10 churches — Arden First Baptist, Beverly Hills Baptist in Asheville, Biltmore Baptist in Arden, Ecclesia Baptist in Fairview, First Baptist of Asheville, First Baptist of Weaverville, Hominy Baptist in Candler, Inanda Baptist in Asheville, North Point Baptist in Weaverville, and Starnes Cove Baptist in Asheville — raised $25,000 to build the four bedroom home for Nicolae and Luiba Buzulan and their four children.

Nicolae works with Carolina Transportation with mostly local routes. Luiba takes care of the children. She has worked in the past but the cost of child care was too high.

His father is a pastor at a local Moldovan congregation where the family is involved. The family was renting a three-bedroom apartment in Asheville that had severe mold problems, flooding issues, leaky windows and other problems. Because of his income and the family’s size, the Buzulans did not qualify for a conventional mortgage. The new house is four bedrooms with 1,416-square-feet.

“This was special in the sense that is the dream house, connected with the life and ministry of Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Jim McCoy, pastor of First Baptist Church in Weaverville.
“There’s a group of our men that go out almost every Tuesday” to work at the site even before the dream project started.

Eddie Morgan estimated that 50 members from First Baptist Church in Asheville, helped with the project.

“When you are building a house No. 1, you really appreciate the Habitat style, in that you’re working alongside the family to really build a home,” said said the minister of missions, outreach and pastoral care. “In building a home, you’re building a sense of pride and confidence. It is particularly enjoyable to see children in those houses. It almost changes the sense of who they are to have this safe, affordable roof over their head. They can say ‘I live here.’”

FBC Asheville has been involved with Habitat since 1990. Morgan estimates the church has contributed financially to 15 houses and sent volunteers to help build 30 more, even in other states and Bolivia. They currently are working on homes in Perry County Alabama.

“One of my philosophies of mission/ministry is if you can put a face on someone in need, it changes who you are,” Morgan said. “If you put a face on poverty it changes you. There are families that want for their children what you want for your children.”

At the key presentation McCoy described the new homeowners as gracious and shared that Luiba Buzulan is a wonderful cook who prepared the Eastern European feast participants were about to enjoy.

McCoy said he has deep appreciation for Millard Fuller, Habitat’s founder, and Clarence Jordan, who was a farmer and biblical scholar in Georgia.

Their love for the dispossessed is inspiring, he said.

“We can get very busy within the walls of a congregation,” McCoy said. “(Habitat) draws us into the larger adventure of what God has for us.”

McCoy said the volunteer’s efforts “is a good leaven within the church.”

Asheville Area Habitat builds an average 17 houses a year. Warren works with individuals and groups to raise sponsorships. A full one costs $55,000.

Participating faith communities usually provide a raise-the-roof sponsorship of $25,000 and then provide all the volunteers and build a house in about six months.

9/24/2009 2:09:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 2 comments

Southern Baptists tackle physical, spiritual hunger

September 24 2009 by Meredith Day, Baptist Press

FRESNO, Calif. — On Oct. 11, Southern Baptist churches will focus on a staggering worldwide problem: more than 800 million people who suffer each day from hunger, according to recent statistics. In the United States alone, the Department of Agriculture estimates 23 million adults and 12 million children receive less than the 2,100 calories an average person needs each day to be healthy.

In California, Southern Baptists serve hungry families through 180 ministries conducted by community centers, individual congregations or associations of churches, noted Charles McClung, California Southern Baptist Convention ministry evangelism specialist. According to CSBC statistics, more than 6,000 people made professions of faith in Christ last year as a result of Southern Baptist hunger ministries.

The 40 churches of central California’s Kern County and Sequoia Baptist Associations attack the hunger problem in different ways — some have food pantries, while others institute an open-door policy, helping people when and how they can. In every case, they find that meeting spiritual needs goes hand in hand with ministering to physical needs.

“You find that people have needs and, sometimes, you can meet those needs in more ways than you thought,” said Julie Shockey, a community ministries specialist for California Baptists who works with those associations.

Sometimes churches find they are able to meet needs far larger than their own size would indicate, said Don Overstreet, a church planting strategist who works in Inland Empire Baptist Association in Riverside, Calif. Service Fellowship, a new congregation in Beaumont, Calif., feeds a crowd more than 10 times its own size every week. Overstreet said their dedication to meeting needs in their community is the reason the church chose the name “Service Fellowship” — they’re founded on a desire to make an impact where God has placed them.

Meeting both spiritual and physical needs also is a primary goal at Telegraph Baptist Center in Oakland, Calif., which helps 600 families each month — about 20 percent of whom are first-time visitors, according to director Steve Weaver. Many families aren’t able to put food on the table because of a sudden job loss or other emergency circumstance. These families, who are facing “the worst crisis of their lives,” might visit Telegraph two or three times before they get back on their feet, Weaver said.

“We get a chance to minister to them in the name of Christ, encourage them and maybe remind them of things they knew — or introduce them to things they didn’t know,” Weaver said.

At Page Street Baptist Center in San Francisco, that introduction may happen during chapel services held before the food pantry opens every week or in the relationships established when people receive help to meet their basic needs, said Eric Bergquist, Page Street’s director.

“If you help people with food, you have an audience. People want to know what you’re about, and why you do what you do.”

The center serves 400 people each week. Last year alone, they distributed more than 200,000 pounds of food. Bergquist said the weekly food pantry, meals and other service opportunities also provide a forum for discipleship, for people to learn as they work together. At Page Street, people who receive help are helping others.

That kind of lasting investment is the key to ministry evangelism, said Ken Dean, a community ministries specialist who works with three Los Angeles-area associations. Dean serves nearly 100 churches and ministries that are engaging in hunger relief efforts, reaching out to a county that is home to more than 80,000 homeless and 250,000 in need of food.

“We have to keep praying, and the people of God should give generously on every occasion,” Dean said, referring to II Corinthians 9:11. “My philosophy is meeting needs and sharing Christ. When you’re feeding someone when they’re hungry, it affords you the opportunity to share the Gospel with them.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Oct. 11 is World Hunger Sunday for Southern Baptist churches across North America. Since 1974, Southern Baptists have fought the problem of hunger through their World Hunger Fund. One hundred percent of every dollar given to the fund is used to provide food to undernourished people all over the world — 80 percent through the International Mission Board and 20 percent through the North American Mission Board. For more information on the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund, including resources for promotion of World Hunger Sunday in your church, go to Day coordinates communications with the Vision San Diego outreach of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board’s Strategic Focus Cities initiative.)

Related video
To view a new video about Ken Dean’s work in L.A. County, go to and click on “Beyond the Walls.”

9/24/2009 2:06:00 AM by Meredith Day, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Religiously conservative states = high teen births

September 24 2009 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

PHILADELPHIA — Teenage birth rates tend to be higher in states that are more religiously conservative, possibly because communities in those places discourage contraception, according to a national study.

An article in the open-access journal Reproductive Health reported a high correlation between births to teenagers and states where high percentages of the population subscribe to conservative religious views, such as, “There is only one way to interpret the teachings of my religion” or, “Scripture should be taken literally, word for word.”

 Drexel University psychiatrist Joseph Strayhorn said he and co-author Jillian Strayhorn were “astonished” by the strong correlation between teenage births and religious beliefs, even after the figures were adjusted for other factors like differing abortion rates and income levels between states.

The authors compared information on religiosity from the 2007 U.S. Religious Landscapes Survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life with teen-birth and abortion statistics that came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mississippi, where more than half of the population self-identifies as being Baptist, topped the list for both conservative religious beliefs and teen-birth rates. At the bottom of the list, New Hampshire ranked last in teen pregnancy and trailed only Vermont in religiosity.

Strayhorn said it would be a mistake to apply the statewide totals to individuals and draw a conclusion like “religious teens get pregnant more often,” but he said the findings do suggest “that religious communities in the U.S. are more successful in discouraging the use of contraception among their teenagers than they are in discouraging sexual intercourse itself.”

Strayhorn admitted that a preference for abstinence-only sex education in conservative communities is just one plausible explanation. He said one factor might be that people in more liberal states tend to delay marriage, while teen marriage is more common in the South.

Strayhorn also said that on an individual level, some teen pregnancies are desirable and that some teen parents carry out their responsibilities very well. But since studies have found children of teenage mothers tend to have higher rates of several unfavorable mental-health outcomes than other children, he said in general that “it is probably true that public policies or cultural practices that reduce the overall rate of teen births are, other things equal, desirable.”

The article is set to appear in an upcoming issue of Reproductive Health, the official journal of the Geneva Foundation for Medical Education and Research. It is also affiliated with the International Association for Maternal and Neonatal Health.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)

9/24/2009 2:01:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 3 comments

SBC Executive Committee handles referrals

September 24 2009 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — During the final business session of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Executive Committee’s (EC) Sept. 21-22 meeting in Nashville, Tenn., members completed the following actions:
  • approved a requested $250,000 budget for the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, which was created by a vote of messengers to the 2009 SBC annual meeting in Louisville, Ky. To date, the 23-member task force has held two meetings, in Atlanta and in Rogers, Ark., with the next meeting slated Oct. 27 in Dallas.
  • approved a request by the International Mission Board to start a new publication, CommissionStories, to replace The Commission magazine.
  • adopted a resolution of appreciation for R. Rex “Peck” Lindsay, who will retire Dec. 31 after 32 years as executive director-treasurer of the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists. The resolution, in part, noted: “During his tenure, the number of churches cooperating with the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists almost doubled, from 207 to approximately 400 churches and missions, and church membership increased by almost 50 percent.” Total giving by the two states’ Baptists, meanwhile, increased by more than 450 percent.
Regarding motions referred from the 2009 SBC annual meeting in Louisville, Ky., the Executive Committee:
  • postponed action on a proposed reallocation of the World Hunger Fund to 70 percent to the International Mission Board and 30 percent to the North American Mission Board (from the current 80-20 allocation).
  • declined to recommend adjustment of the seminary funding formula, “agreeing with previous positions taken by the Council of Seminary Presidents that while the current formula is not perfect, it is the best of all other options.”
  • declined to recommend the appointment of a task force to examine Cooperative Program (CP) giving, specifically regarding the possibility of allowing portions of CP dollars from each church to be designated to particular SBC causes. The Executive Committee stated that “such an action would undermine the continued viability of the Cooperative Program.” The EC also noted that “the Task Force on Cooperation (2000-2002) and the Cooperative Program Ad Hoc Committee (2002-2006) provided sufficient opportunities to examine this issue resulting in the definition of the Cooperative Program, which was approved during the 2007 SBC annual meeting.” The definition states: “The Cooperative Program (CP) is the unified plan of giving approved by the Southern Baptist Convention through which cooperating Southern Baptist churches give a percentage of their undesignated receipts in support of cooperative state, national, and international missions, ministries, and theological education.”
  • declined to recommend revision of trustee term provisions in the SBC constitution, such as term lengths and trustee service by members of the same church, describing the current provisions as “beneficial to the Convention.”
  • declined to recommend amending the SBC Organization Manual to require SBC entities to report actions that interpret the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 or the convention’s governing policies. The Executive Committee said a 2007 convention-adopted statement continues to be “an appropriate guide for our entities”: “The Baptist Faith and Message is not a creed, or a complete statement of our faith, nor final or infallible, nevertheless it is the only consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs approved by the Southern Baptist Convention and as such is sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the Convention.”
  • instructed its communications workgroup, in response to a request to study greater SBC involvement for ethnic churches and leaders, to work in consultation with the North American Mission Board, the Southern Baptist Language Program Leaders Fellowship and other SBC entities to examine “how ethnic churches and ethnic church leaders can be more actively involved in serving the needs of the SBC through cooperative partnership on the national level.” The Executive Committee requested that the report be presented at its June 14, 2010, meeting in Orlando, Fla.
  • declined to recommend a new United States Christian flag, known as “Beauty and Band” or “Beauty and Bands,” be the banner flag for the SBC. The Executive Committee noted that “a Christian flag already exists that is widely acknowledged and used by Christians in the United States and around the world.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston.)

9/24/2009 1:59:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Executive Committee names search group

September 23 2009 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A seven-member search committee has been named to seek a successor for Morris Chapman, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Executive Committee (EC).
Executive Committee Chairman Randall James named himself and six others to the committee. James had been authorized by a vote of the Executive Committee to name the committee after Chapman announced Sept. 21 that he will retire Sept. 30, 2010.
Joining James, a Floridian, on the presidential search committee are Executive Committee members Martha Lawley of Wyoming, Clarence J. Cooper of Mississippi, David O. Dykes of Texas, Doug Melton of Oklahoma, Jay F. Shell of Arkansas and Danny S. Sinquefield of Tennessee.
James said he hopes the committee will be able to present a nominee by next June’s SBC annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. Names submitted to the committee will be held in “the strictest of confidence,” James said, requesting that potential candidates’ names be submitted by Dec. 1.
James is an assistant pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando. He has served as Executive Committee chairman since 2008 and has been an Executive Committee member since 2003.
Lawley, the Executive Committee’s secretary and committee member since 2004, is an author and speaker and member of First Southern Baptist Church in Worland, Wyo.
Cooper is pastor of Brandon (Miss.) Baptist Church and a committee member since 2004.
Dykes is pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas, and a committee member since 2007.
Melton is pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City and a committee member since 2003.
Shell is an attorney from Batesville, Ark., and member of West Baptist Church. He has been a committee member since 2007.
Sinquefield is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Bartlett, Tenn., and president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. He became a committee member in 2009.
James said the names of nominees for president of the Executive Committee can be addressed to Presidential Search Committee c/o SBC Executive Committee, 901 Commerce St., Nashville, TN 37203, or to him at First Baptist Church, 3000 S. John Young Pkwy., Orlando, FL 32805.

9/23/2009 10:47:00 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Rick Hughes works to make disciples

September 23 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Rick Hughes brings extensive experience from several arenas into his work for the Baptist State Convention trying to nurture a discipleship culture in North Carolina Baptist churches.

Before being recognized as small church pastor of the year in 1994 by the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board), Hughes worked four years as a paramedic and eight as a police officer. He then went into business with an entrepreneurial friend before heeding God’s call to vocational ministry.

“I saw a lot of brokenness in law enforcement,” said Hughes, 54. Dealing daily with domestic violence, drugs and alcohol abuse showed him “what sin does.”

“Being a paramedic God taught me compassion for hurting people,” said the burley Hughes, who often shaves his head, then hides it beneath a cowboy hat. “In law enforcement God taught me there were times you could not compromise, when you had to speak the truth with compassion.”

He also saw that appropriate reaction to a crisis often provides a fix, but seldom a solution. When he realized that, he was open to the solutions he could offer through ministry.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Rick Hughes uses life experience and the word of God to help church leaders live out Matthew 28:19 to "make disciples of all nations."

Hughes performs not on stages before thousands, but steadily and constantly through a humming cell phone, personal visits and social networking tools like Twitter and Face Book to connect with individuals and create networks in which they can learn from each other.

Hughes never claims to be the hub of any network wheel. Individuals learn best from peers, he says. He connects and organizes one person at a time, kind of like the discipleship model of Jesus. And under the command of Matt. 28:19, to “make disciples of all nations.”

“We’re working hard right now on the heart of the leader to help him understand the process of discipleship,” said Hughes, following a meeting of the Triad Leadership Network that met quietly in a basement classroom at Wake Forest University to learn about coaching from Bill Copper, director of Hollifield Learning Center and the author of Faith Coaching.

“We’re building a capacity to help people love God and others,” he said. “We’re also very intentional about helping people become missional – connecting people to unchurched people.”

He wants to help church leaders move small groups beyond simply meeting to becoming missional by intentionally seeking connections to unchurched others. As with good coaching style, such teaching often takes the form of appropriate questions: Are you a disciple? Who are you being discipled by? How are you discipling your family, your friends and your church?

Individually and in small groups and with tele-classes and webinars, Hughes nurtures a discipleship culture.

Time with convention
Hughes’ honor as small church pastor of the year in 1994 came while he led Cartledge Baptist Church and led to several assignments with the Baptist State Convention, including mentoring church planters for the evangelism department, directed then by current executive director-treasurer Milton Hollifield, and helping in Sunday School for now retired Robert Stewart. He is a practitioner, not just a theorist, keeping his hand in pastoral ministry as the unpaid pastor of King Cowboy Church. He attended Wingate College (now Wingate University) and is just a class away from a master’s degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

He has been married to Kathy for 35 years and they have two children: Andy, a church planter in Boone; and Stacey, a nurse in Winston-Salem, the area where Hughes grew up.

Hughes makes connections with people in everyday life. He neither looks nor acts like a preacher, rather like a man who simply is interested in people.

“We must become more gospel centered,” in our daily witness, Hughes said. “We are not offering fire insurance. I want to help people understand how the whole gospel is relevant to their lives today.”

He has an answer for those who question his lunches or Starbucks meetings with unsaved people: “If sinners offend you, you’re in the wrong place in your life,” he says. “If sin does not offend you, you’re in the wrong place in your life.”

His goal is to “lead people to become self-feeders,” to own their spiritual growth. Once people love God with all their heart, soul and mind, he said, “they can love people” and can do missional things that will “connect them to unchurched people.”

Churches that embrace the discipleship making process of learning, loving God and being missional “are going someplace” Hughes said. They make measurable progress such as members who take the next step, discernible signs of transformation or seeing a discipleship culture rise.

Many pastors realize the gap between awareness and change, but don’t know how to bridge it.

“You have to start with the people who really have a hunger for spiritual growth,” Hughes said. “Who has the passion? Every pastor knows who those people are in the church. Be very intentional in discipling them.

“You start with leaders who get it.”

Great evangelism
Hughes’ work is a part of the church health team in Congregational Services at the BSC, led by team leader Neal Eller and executive group leader Lynn Sasser. Hughes said he is excited about the current and future work of the team, which is coming out soon “with things relating to the health of the pastor and health of the church.”

To connect with the team and receive its e-zines and correspondence, write Sheryl Shankles at

While church planting and evangelism garners the bulk of attention and verbiage in national and state Baptist life, Hughes said the “greatest evangelization strategy a church could ever have is to make real disciples, because real disciples engage unchurched people in their lives with the gospel of Jesus Christ.” 

Related stories
1st century meets 21st in 1.21 church
Pastor moves away from programs

Special series — Body parts

Did you know you have a large church staff? Your gifts through the Cooperative Program support a staff resource at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina that exists to serve your church.

The Biblical Recorder continues a series — Body Parts — featuring one of your Convention staff members, and churches which has grown through that staff member’s ministry. Body Parts is inspired by 1 Cor. 12:12 — “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ” (NIV). The parts of the Baptist State Convention exist to serve you.

Visit Body Parts, a Biblical Recorder special series.
9/23/2009 6:49:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

1st century meets 21st in 1.21 church

September 23 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Rick Hughes knows that if you train, equip and help a church planter, with God’s grace the man will produce a healthy church.

Stephen Wagoner is a young beneficiary of Hughes’ direct investment.

“Single handedly God has used Rick to make Stephen Wagoner a more sanctified version of Stephen Wagoner,” says the 25-year-old pastor of a church named 1.21. “He’s loving and caring so much that when he recognizes where we need help he lovingly steps in as a father figure and says ‘I want to help you.’”

1.21 is a church plant that meets in downtown Winston-Salem after an earlier start in the suburbs. Wagoner is one of three pastor/elders. Two members are going through “eldership” training.

The name 1.21 means “first century truth in a 21st century culture,” according to Wagoner, who wants to bring “orthodox Christianity and unfiltered Bible truth” into the 21st century, using 21st century methods.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Stephen Wagoner

He says 1.21 exists “to spread the gospel so that lives can be changed by that gospel.”

The church has outgrown its current meeting space in the Foothills Brewing Company and is renovating a showroom and warehouse on Cherry Street formerly occupied by a lawnmower company.

1.21 has church planting at its heart and Wagoner intends the church to continue to call out elders and train them for pastoral ministry and to plant churches, “eventually working our way through the Triad, trying to saturate the whole Triad with the gospel,” he said.

The church launched in January of this year with a “missional, incarnational approach to evangelism and social justice,” Wagoner said.

“If we really believe that Jesus has done this, then that pushes us out to a grass roots kind of evangelism to where we love and serve everyone like Christ has loved and served us.,” he says. “Pastors can’t change individuals. Encouraging people to do better and try harder doesn’t work. But the gospel is different. It is news showing people that this has already happened and you get to live like it happened.”

He admits 1.21 is “not very attractional.”

People don’t flock to the church to see a show. Worship is very intentional, communion is celebrated weekly and sermons are long.

“We put high priority on expounding the scripture and we send them out every week to be on mission with the gospel,” Wagoner said.

The new facility which they hope to be in by Christmas, will be a place from which to “bless the city” as a neighborhood resource.

1.21 will host art shows, local bands, a soup kitchen, food pantry and clothes closet.

“It is working by God’s grace,” said Wagoner, son of a church planter in Dunn. His father is pastor of Central Baptist in Dunn, which he started when Wagoner was just nine months old. Today Wagner has four children of his own.

Wagoner appreciates Hughes, who is working to nurture a discipleship culture in North Carolina Baptist churches, like a father.

“He coaches me with his life,” Wagoner said. “The way he displays the gospel in his life helps me in my personal life.

“He is a good example for what I want to be when I’m a grown man. When I’m a little more seasoned I wouldn’t mind having the demeanor and the character that he does.”

Find out more about 1.21 online at

Related stories
Rick Hughes works to make disciples
Pastor moves away from programs

Special series — Body parts

Did you know you have a large church staff? Your gifts through the Cooperative Program support a staff resource at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina that exists to serve your church.

The Biblical Recorder continues a series — Body Parts — featuring one of your Convention staff members, and churches which has grown through that staff member’s ministry. Body Parts is inspired by 1 Cor. 12:12 — “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ” (NIV). The parts of the Baptist State Convention exist to serve you.

Visit Body Parts, a Biblical Recorder special series.
9/23/2009 6:45:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

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