September 2011

Poll: Denominations becoming less vital

September 20 2011 by David Roach, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Three-quarters of pastors with denominational affiliation believe it is vital to be part of a denomination, but a majority also believe that the importance of identifying with a denomination will diminish over the next 10 years.

That is the finding of a survey by LifeWay Research of more than 900 American Protestant pastors. The survey excluded pastors of nondenominational churches.

In response to the statement, “Personally, I consider it vital for me to be part of a denomination,” three-quarters of pastors (76 percent) agree. That includes 57 percent who strongly agree and 19 percent who somewhat agree. Ten percent somewhat disagree and 14 percent strongly disagree while 1 percent don’t know.

Similarly, three-quarters (77 percent) of pastors agree with the statement, “Our congregation considers it vital for our congregation to be part of a denomination.” Fifty percent strongly agree, 27 percent somewhat agree, 9 percent somewhat disagree and 14 percent strongly disagree. Two percent don’t know.

Messengers vote at an SBC annual meeting. A survey of pastors of all denominations found that three-quarters of them agree with the statement: “Personally, I consider it vital for me to be part of a denomination.”


Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, expressed his appreciation for the findings.

“Since denominations are a way to distinguish one’s belief and practice, it is heartening to know that most pastors still understand the need for making a clear statement doctrinally as well as to work together to do the work God has commanded,” he said.

“Therefore, I am excited to realize that a majority of pastors still understand that we can do more together than we can do apart. It is also encouraging to know that the teaching of God’s Word and its distinctive application is still important to many,” he added.

Despite the convictions of identity, however, nearly two-thirds of pastors (62 percent) believe the importance of identifying with a denomination will decline over the next decade.

Survey participants were asked, “I believe that the importance of being identified with a denomination will diminish over the next 10 years.” Twenty-eight percent of pastors strongly agree and 34 percent somewhat agree. Fifteen percent somewhat disagree, and 18 percent strongly disagree. Five percent don’t know.

“We live in a time when pastors are positive about denominations now, but are less certain about the future,” said Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. “For pastors and churches in the SBC, it reminds us that we need to teach the value of cooperation – now and in the future.”

Evangelical, educational differences

The survey results reveal that pastors who consider themselves mainline are more likely than evangelicals to agree (strongly or somewhat) that their personal membership in a denomination is important. While 85 percent of mainline pastors agree that it is vital to be part of a denomination, only 74 percent of evangelicals agree.

Education and age also affect pastors’ opinions of denominations. Those with at least a master’s degree (62 percent) are more likely to strongly agree that their personal denominational identification is vital than pastors with a bachelor’s degree (41 percent) or some college (48 percent).

Pastors ages 65 and older are more likely to strongly agree (71 percent) that their personal denominational identification is vital than those ages 55-64 (58 percent), 45-54 (55 percent) and 18-44 (48 percent).

The same groups – mainline versus evangelical, education and age – have differences in responses from pastors regarding whether their congregations consider identifying with a denomination to be important:
  • Those who consider themselves mainline (85 percent) are more likely than evangelicals (77 percent) to agree (strongly or somewhat) that their congregation considers it vital to be part of a denomination.
  • Pastors with at least a master’s degree (53 percent) and those with some college (45 percent) are more likely to strongly agree that their congregation considers denominational membership vital than pastors with a bachelor’s degree (35 percent).
  • Although age does not affect total agreement, pastors 65 and older (62 percent) are more likely to strongly agree that their church considers denominational affiliation vital than pastors ages 55-64 (48 percent), 45-54 (49 percent) or 18-44 (45 percent).
Pastors of larger churches are most likely to agree (strongly or somewhat) that the importance of denominations will diminish over the next decade. Seventy-two percent of those with churches averaging 250 or more in worship agree, compared with 62 percent of those averaging 50-99 and 53 percent of those averaging fewer than 50.

Pastors with less than a bachelor’s degree (28 percent) are more likely to strongly disagree than pastors with at least a master’s degree (14 percent) that the importance of identifying with a denomination will diminish over the next decade.

Although the majority of all age groups agree that identifying with a denomination will decrease in importance, pastors 65 and older are the most likely age bracket to strongly disagree. While 27 percent 65 and older strongly disagree, only 16 percent ages 55-64, 15 percent 45-54 and 16 percent 18-44 strongly disagree.

“Ironically, the future value of most denominations depends at least in part on the very pastors who predict their decline in influence,” said Ed Stetzer, vice president of research and ministry development at LifeWay. “The group most likely to predict denominational decline is pastors of larger churches, which is probably not surprising to most observers. Yet, it does point to the future challenge for denominational leaders.”

The poll, conducted in March 2010, surveyed 932 pastors.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is a writer and pastor in Shelbyville, Ky.)
9/20/2011 8:43:00 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Baptist volunteers needed for nationwide response

September 19 2011 by Joe Conway, Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – More than 2,000 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers are engaged in an ongoing response across North America in a dozen states. In addition, volunteers remain involved in relief work in Japan and Haiti. Because of the unprecedented number of disasters this year, SBDR leaders are signaling a need for more trained volunteers and offering ongoing training opportunities.

Training events continue to help bolster the roster of trained DR volunteers, said Mike Morgan, North American Mission Board disaster operations center manager. Twenty state conventions currently are responding to disasters.

North American Mission Board (NAMB) President Kevin Ezell asked Southern Baptists to prayerfully consider filling in the gap.

“We have faced unprecedented heat and wildfires, massive outbreaks of tornadoes, and flooding not seen in more than 100 years in the Northeast,” Ezell said. “There are active DR responses ongoing across the nation and there is still the need to go the next mile.

“I know many DR volunteers have already used up their available vacation time to minister. Southern Baptists have always given of themselves sacrificially and I know they will again. We have helped thousands of people this year and seen hundreds come to faith in Christ. Now we need the next group of trained volunteers to step up and say, ‘I will go.’”

In Texas an unusual menace is forcing the activation of hundreds of DR volunteers across the state – wildfires on a scale not seen in living memory.

“As the fire raced through the area, people came to the church. They had nowhere to go, escaping with only what was on their backs,” said Raymond Edge, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bastrop.

“One family had just settled down for a nap,” Edge recounted. “Their son came running in and said they needed to go now. The mother jumped up, they ran to the car with a wall of fire heading toward them. They drove away as fire reached their home. She did not even have time to put on shoes. They lost everything.”

Similar stories were repeated 35 times within the congregation as family after family lost everything to the wildfire. Edge, who serves as a member of NAMB’s board of trustees, has pastored the church for 15 years.

“There have been 1,554 homes destroyed in Bastrop County. The home of my chairman of deacons was destroyed,” Edge said. “Sunday School leaders, children’s leaders, so many strong leaders in our church have had their entire homes destroyed. We ask God’s people to pray for us.

Photo by Bonnie Pritchett

Doing cleanup on his first deployment as a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteer, Ray Parker is part of a feeding unit at Bastrop, Texas, preparing meals for crews battling wildfires as well as families whose homes have been destroyed or damaged. Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, said SBDR has “helped thousands of people this year and seen hundreds come to faith in Christ. Now we need the next group of trained volunteers to step up and say, ‘I will go.’”


“One of my members reminded me of something and I have been telling everyone, ‘God reminds us that He will bring beauty out of the ashes.’ We believe He will do that here,” Edge said.

Texas Forest Service spokeswoman April Saginor said the Bastrop County fire has destroyed the most homes ever in a single wildfire in Texas, eclipsing the previous record in April near Possum Kingdom Lake.

Uniquely prepared to respond, First Baptist in Bastrop has a facility tailormade for supporting a disaster response. And it sits on a major highway.

“God has blessed us with 50 acres with a 25,000–square–foot building. It was a large truck repair shop,” Edge said. “This will be the staging area for all of the DR response here.

Everyone who comes through will see Southern Baptist Disaster Relief here for as long as it takes to help people. As many as 200 volunteers are expected for this response.

“This effort could never have been undertaken without the volunteers of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief,” Edge said.

Morgan echoed Edge’s sentiment and praised the cooperation of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and Texas Baptist Men (TBM). “They are both working in a unified incident command for the Bastrop response,” Morgan said.

“The first unit from TBM arrived in the middle of the week and began feeding operations. Then an Austin Baptist Association unit arrived. Next a DR feeding kitchen from the SBTC began feeding local firefighters. That unit is now at our church,” Edge said. “We put the church buildings at their disposal. They were asked by the American Red Cross to provide food throughout the response.”

Other Texas units also have responded, including the Tarrant Baptist Association that established a feeding unit just outside of Bastrop to aid 1,000 firefighters and first–responders.

Morgan said responses continue across the country, and more will be needed as additional flooding hits Pennsylvania. Bruce Poss, NAMB’s DR coordinator, is at FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center assisting with the response.

“Penn–South Jersey already has a feeding unit serving in Hazelton,” Morgan said. “That unit was requested by the American Red Cross last Friday and was set up Saturday. A Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia feeding unit arrived on Sunday and they now have a combined capacity of 20,000 meals a day.

“Iowa has activated mud–out units in the Sioux City area and one Illinois team has arrived for service there. The ground is stable enough to allow cleanup and mud–out to begin,” Morgan said.

In Minot, N.D., mud–out operations will conclude for the winter at the end of September, Morgan said. Volunteers will be needed in the spring when work resumes.

“Our volunteers are great and have responded well. We have trainings ongoing to help put more volunteers in the field,” said Morgan, a volunteer and member of First Baptist Church in Dade City, Fla. Morgan said anyone interested in becoming a trained SBDR volunteer can contact their respective state conventions.

“Randy Creamer (a NAMB DR coordinator) is in New York conducting trainings. He also met with members of the United States Military Academy at West Point Baptist Student Union (BSU),” Morgan said.

West Point BSU director Dwain Gregory participated in the New York training, along with New York DR director Mike Flannery, who serves as the Frontier Baptist Association director of missions in Buffalo.

“When Terry Robertson, our executive director, met with Randy, he reminded him that West Point cadets volunteered in the Hurricane Katrina response,” Gregory said.

“Robertson encouraged him to contact us. Randy and Mike shared about DR efforts. There were 35 cadets there. They responded with enthusiasm.

“Cadets like to help hurting people. It can be difficult for them to get away from campus in the fall, but Randy and Mike identified an area that needs help 25 miles from campus,” Gregory said. “We hope to have a group there soon. The cadets are excited and ready to help.”

Donations to the disaster response efforts by various state Baptist conventions can be made by contacting their respective offices. To donate to NAMB’s disaster relief fund, go to namb.net and click the “donate now” button; call 1–866–407–NAMB (6262); or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368–6543. Donations can also be sent via texting “NAMBDR” to the number “40579.” A one–time donation of $10 will be added to the caller’s mobile phone bill or deducted from any prepaid balance.

N.C. Baptist Men still needs volunteers to help with Irene efforts. Visit baptistsonmission.org or contact (800) 395-5102, ext. 5599.

Send donations to North Carolina Baptist Men, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512-1107; specify “Hurricane Irene Disaster Relief” on check.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)
9/19/2011 8:03:00 AM by Joe Conway, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



IMB couples follow God, find each other

September 19 2011 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

ORLANDO, Fla. – Who says romance can’t blossom in far-flung places?

For Brent and Lisa Williams*, it began in a tropical location. But it sure wasn’t a beach or a singles’ resort.

“Deep in the jungles of Central America, we found God’s passion for the lost, and for each other,” Brent said during an appointment service for 77 new International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries at First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., Sept. 14.

Both were serving as single missionaries with another evangelical organization when they met a decade ago. They were following God individually but discovered they could serve Him even more joyfully and effectively together. Now they’re returning to missions as a couple.

“As a wife and mother of four, I eagerly accept (God’s) call,” Lisa declared. “Here am I. Send me. We are His voice proclaiming truth” to the lost.

They aren’t the only new missionary couple who found each other while pursuing a higher passion: lifting the name of Christ among the nations. Frank and Judy Bennett* were serving in different countries when they encountered each other in an Asian megacity.

“God’s miracle: We met, fell in love, returned to the U.S. three years ago and started a family,” she said.

Added her husband: “Now, we’re excited to head back to Asia, serving together to expand God’s kingdom.”

For other couples, God’s mission call has opened whole new dimensions in what it means to serve together. Kate Todd’s* husband Ronald* was an IMB staff member when he sensed the Lord’s leading to go overseas himself.

IMB photo

Don and Jane Jones of Oklahoma were reappointed as missionaries to Africa after prior service in South America. They joined many other married couples among the 77 missionaries appointed Sept. 14 at First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla. Some of the couples actually met each other overseas while serving as single missionaries. Others deepened their spiritual partnership by answering God’s call to go together.


“I thought he was crazy,” Kate admitted. “I just wanted a ‘normal’ life. But after working with missionary families in the U.S. and abroad, God showed me a ‘new normal’ and a peace about going.”

The single missionaries appointed in Orlando share the same determination to obey God as the couples do – despite the challenge of going it alone.

“Last year, living in a Haitian village devastated by the earthquake, I was asked how I could leave home and live in these conditions,” recalled Timothy Stratton.* “How could I not, when so many are hurting?” His next stop is a region of the world containing many of the largest and least-reached Muslim people groups.

Lauren Moses* served as a two-year missionary journeyman in the same region several years ago. She’s going back, she hopes, for the long term.

“Even in the very difficult days, I had the peace that comes without understanding,” Moses said. “I knew that I was completely where I needed to be ... I realized this was not just a scary foreign city, but home to Muslim women I had grown to love. I am God’s heart to these women.”

The new missionaries, commissioned by International Mission Board trustees during the service, will work among people groups stretched across four continents. After they spoke of their calling, IMB President Tom Elliff put their individual stories into perspective.

“God always associates our faith with our behavior,” Elliff said. “Faith is not works, but faith works. That’s what we read in the Scripture.... Read Hebrews 11, the great roll call of men and women of faith. They didn’t make (the list) because of what they thought or how they felt. They didn’t make it because they stayed someplace and nodded in assent. They’re in the roll call because they did what God said.”

It was the same with Jesus, Elliff reminded listeners. Christ didn’t stand on the outskirts of cities, pronounce a blanket healing or judgment and head for the next place. He personally went into the dirtiest, darkest and most painful places and said, “Stretch out your hand” to the leper, and “Take up your bed and walk” to the crippled man.

“These (new missionaries) are saying: ‘I’m not interested in carving out some little comfortable spot in the world and lulling myself to sleep. I am interested in going to the hardest places,’” Elliff explained.

“We talk about these unengaged, unreached people groups – 3,800 peoples in the world who, as far as we know, we’re unaware of any strategy to get boots on the ground among them to evangelize, disciple and plant a reproducing church,” Elliff said. “But what ought to excite you is that this is the last 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups in this world out of over 11,000 peoples. Friends, you don’t even have to stand on tiptoe in this church to see the end, when every language, people, tribe and nation can be gathered around the throne of God, knowing and worshipping our Lord Jesus Christ. And these folks are saying it is a Gospel for everyone in every place. They want you to know that.”

Elliff also issued an invitation to everyone listening in the audience:

“I’m going to ask every person who will embrace whatever else God says to you about world missions to come and (say) ... ‘I will join with my pastor and church leadership as God leads our church in embracing the unengaged, unreached peoples of this world,’” Elliff added “Frankly, I cannot imagine saying, ‘No, I won’t do that. I won’t join the pastor, I won’t lead the church, I will not embrace whatever else God says to me about world missions.’ “Maybe in the process of these next few moments, God is speaking to your heart and saying, ‘I have a specific task in mind. I’d like for you to go,’” Elliff continued. “You say, ‘What in the world does that mean? How does that begin?’ Well, ask one of these new missionaries. Does that mean, ‘I’m on the next jet out of Orlando’? It might. I doubt it, though. For some of you it might mean to go. For others it might mean to ‘let go,’ or help somebody else to go.... Missions is not rocket science. Just start with this: If God calls, say yes.”

As the new missionaries lined the front of the sanctuary, hundreds of people came forward. “This room has seen a lot of incredible things,” said senior pastor David Uth, who also is an International Mission Board trustee. “But there has never been an event, I believe, in the history of First Baptist Church Orlando that has greater impact on the world than what we are doing here tonight.”

*Names changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Erich Bridges is global correspondent for the International Mission Board.)
9/19/2011 7:50:00 AM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Elliff answers questions at Southwestern

September 19 2011 by Keith Collier, SWBTS

FORT WORTH, Texas — International Mission Board (IMB) president Tom Elliff chooses to spend most of his time with seminary students because he believes they represent some of God’s best tools for evangelizing, discipling and planting churches among the world’s unreached and unengaged people groups. Elliff visited Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, Aug. 30 to preach in chapel and answer questions in an evening student forum.

“I see folks like you as being bright, theologically correct, scripturally and spiritually passionate, and you need to know IMB,” Elliff told students.

“You are the answer to years of prayer and dreaming and work and planning. You are the product of that, and I just praise God for you. I have nothing to sell you on except for the fact that God wants to use you and that one great, great vehicle that you might consider is IMB.”

Elliff shared with students the nature of IMB’s task to support local churches in reaching the approximately 3,800 unengaged peoplegroups around the world. He cautioned students not to bypass theological training on their path to the mission field.

“The call to serve God is also the call to train, and I can prove that to you biblically,” Elliff said.

“Think of the Apostle Paul, and this may be your Arabia, those years where God hammers into you truths which not only change your life but also because you let them become a part of the fabric of your life, God will use you to plant healthy DNA in churches and ministries around the world.”

Elliff, who earned his master of divinity from Southwestern, also answered questions related to the primacy of the local church, the facts about limited funds and limited positions with IMB, music missions, educating people on the Cooperative program, and working with other evangelicals on the mission field.

SWBTS Photo/Ben Peacock

IMB President Tom Elliff preaches in chapel at Southwestern Seminary, Aug. 30.


With regard to the local church, Elliff stressed that IMB serves as a parachurch organization that comes alongside local churches, which he considers the only ones to whom God gave the Great Commission.

“Our emphasis right now in embracing the ends of the earth,” Elliff said, “is to turn to local churches and say, ‘Look, the idea is not for you to partner with us and just send us your money and a few people in drips and drabs every now and then. The idea of the Great Commission is for you to get involved, so will you take a look at the unengaged people of this world and begin praying and strategizing, planning, and doing everything you can before God to see that there are boots on the ground among those people sharing the Gospel, discipling and creating a multiplying church.’

“The local church is something that we dearly prize. Our strategy on the field is local church planting. If our strategy on the field is local church planting, shouldn’t our strategy back here be local church honoring. There ought to be an inextricable tie between a local church and the missionary.”

As for addressing issues with limited funds leading to limited missionary appointments, Elliff said they will not send people whom they cannot support, but he added that he prays that believers would understand the nature of giving.

“A gift is an expression and a barometer of your faith—Can I trust God? When you realize that, then you will have the exhilarating experience of God’s economy, not Ben Bernanke’s,” Elliff said.

“When Southern Baptist learn that our giving is not to be based on this world’s economy but on faithful obedience to God, then things will change.”

Additionally, he answered student questions on how they can help educate others on the value of the Cooperative Program.

“You have to (communicate) it tirelessly,” Elliff said. “And you have to do it from one generation to the next. You have to keep telling people the story of Lottie Moon, the story of Cooperative Program, the story of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

When asked if IMB will send music missionaries, Elliff replied, “We don’t send people to do music. We send people to evangelize, disciple and plant churches. Some of those people use music as their platform.” He noted that many IMB workers use platforms such as medicine, education, and trekking, but the ultimate goal is to use these to accomplish the three goals of evangelism, discipleship and church planting.

Students also asked Elliff about the level of cooperation between IMB and other evangelical groups around the world. Elliff acknowledged that Southern Baptists are not the only Christians reaching the world with the Gospel, but he also sees the need for discernment in cooperation.

“We can partner, but we cannot enter into a work that requires doctrinal compromise,” Elliff said. “We’re not going to give away primary doctrinal issues in an attempt to work with others, but at the same time we work closely with Great Commission Christians from all over the world.”

During Elliff’s chapel sermon, he pleaded with students to have a heart for missions—not simply a verbal affirmation of its value but a burning passion to give oneself to the task. He concluded his message with an invitation for students to come forward for prayer and to signify their desire to learn more about how they help reach the 3,800 remaining unengaged people groups. In response, students trickled down the aisles of the packed auditorium to talk and pray with professors.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Keith Collier is director of news and information for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.)
9/19/2011 7:38:00 AM by Keith Collier, SWBTS | with 0 comments



Interfaith worship doubled, but still low

September 19 2011 by Piet Levy, Religion News Service

Interfaith worship services have doubled in the decade since the 9/11 attacks, according to a new study released Sept. 7, even as more than seven in 10 U.S. congregations do not associate with other faiths.

The survey by an interfaith group of researchers found that about 14 percent of U.S. congregations surveyed in 2010 engaged in a joint religious celebration with another faith tradition, up from 6.8 percent in 2000.

Interfaith community service grew nearly threefold, with 20.4 percent of congregations reporting participation in 2010, up from 7.7 percent in 2000, according to the Cooperative Congregations Studies Partnership.

After the 9/11 attacks, “Islam and Islamics’ presence in the United States (became) visible in a way that you couldn’t ignore,” said David A. Roozen, one of the report’s authors and the director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut.

National Muslim groups tried to build bridges to other faiths, who in turn “reached out in new ways to be neighborly,” he said. Reform Jewish congregations led the way, with two-thirds participating in interfaith worship and three-quarters involved in interfaith community service.

The largest percentage of interfaith-worshipping congregations (20.6 percent) was in the Northeast, which is home to a disproportionate percentage of more liberal mainline Protestant churches. About 17 percent of interfaith-worshipping congregations are in a big city or older suburb, where greater diversity makes interfaith activity more likely.

The study implies that the more liberal a congregation, the greater likelihood for interfaith activity. Approximately half of Unitarian Universalist congregations held interfaith worship services, and three in four participated in interfaith community service.

By contrast, among more conservative Southern Baptist churches, only 10 percent participated in interfaith community service, and 5 percent in interfaith worship.

The study shows most of the 11,077 congregations surveyed reported no interfaith activity, a finding that troubled C. Welton Gaddy, president of Washington-based Interfaith Alliance.

“The reality in our nation now is we have a major problem with Islamophobia, and that fear is being fed by people in large enough numbers that we need probably 10 times as many people involved in interfaith discussions and actions,” Gaddy said.

Even so, the fact that interfaith services and community projects have grown so much is something to celebrate, said Rabbi Marc Schneier, founder and president of the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.

“I’m not saying we are where we’d like to be, but the good news is the process has begun,” Schneier said. “Outreach to the Muslim community from a Jewish perspective is now becoming en vogue. ... Ten years ago, if I would have proposed anything like that, people would have thought I was from Mars.”
9/19/2011 7:36:00 AM by Piet Levy, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



‘New Church’ in N.C. rooted in Jacksonville, Fla.

September 16 2011 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

T.J. Ward, a 37-year-old church planting pastor in Winston-Salem, hasn’t had a paycheck since leaving his old church in Jacksonville, Fla., in December 2009, although he will start receiving a salary from New Church this coming January.

Over the last 18 months, he and wife, Wendy — and their two little girls have lived only on her Bank of America salary.

They traded their dream home in Jacksonville for a “starter” home in Winston-Salem.

When Ward decided to become a church planter, he had no idea where he would plant. He and Wendy just knew they would have to leave their large network of family and friends in Jacksonville behind. “We were happy where we were,” says Ward.

“We were effective in the church where we were serving. God was using us, but I felt like He was leading me toward church planting. I ignored it for six months — I was rebellious.”

But he and Wendy continued to discuss it and were willing to go anywhere.

The Wards began fasting, praying and pouring over a map of the United States.

They started examining church planting in different state conventions and associations, studied some demographics and narrowed their choice down to the Tar Heel State.

“I liked that the North Carolina convention was pushing church planting,” he recalls. After more discussions with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) staff and counsel from mentors like pastor Spike Hogan in Jacksonville, they chose Winston-Salem for their new church plant.

“God lined up the circumstances and Winston-Salem seemed to fit.”

Launched last January, New Church — that’s the name of the church — now runs in the 150’s every Sunday, meeting in a local YMCA.

Ward’s vision and the church’s name came from 2 Cor. 5:17: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.” New Church’s slogan is “It’s church ... just different.”

“At New Church, we say we want to help people who are far from God experience new life in Jesus Christ,” Ward said.

“New Church is some people’s first exposure to church. Our vision is to reach them, and people who maybe have been away from God for years.”

Since January 9, 2011, 62 people at New Church have made decisions for Christ.

Although they meet at a local “Y,” the facility lacks a pool. So Ward baptizes new believers — decked out in blue T-shirts inscribed on front with “I took the plunge at New Church” — in a horse trough.

New Church photo

T.J. Ward, pastor of New Church in Winston-Salem, a church plant sponsored by Chets Creek Church in Jacksonville, Fla., baptizes Cameron Bridges, a college student from Greensboro, who drives to New Church every Sunday to worship. Bridges was one of 33 new believers — decked out in their blue “I took the plunge at New Church” T-shirts — Ward baptized in a horse trough last Easter Sunday.


On Easter Sunday in late April, New Church drew an all-time high attendance of 244 — its goal had been 300 — and had 34 professions of faith, four over its goal.

“We’re humbled by what God is doing here,” said Ward, who spent 10 years as a teacher, vice principal and principal in Christian education before going into the ministry back in Jacksonville in 2008. “Winston-Salem is a very churched culture,” Ward says.

“A lot of people here grew up in church but have the wrong idea of what a true relationship with God is all about. We’re seeing lives completely changed and people getting plugged back into building relationships and growing in their faith. It’s been amazing.”

In addition to crediting God, Ward attributes much of New Church’s early success as a church plant to its three main sponsoring churches and their pastors who are his mentors and advisers.

The three supporting churches are Chets Creek Church in Jacksonville, Fla.; Avalon Church in McDonough, Ga.; and The Summit Church in Kernersville.

Chets Creek Church Lead Pastor Spike Hogan not only gave Ward much counsel at the outset, but “he’s been wonderful at providing encouragement along the way,” says Ward.

Hogan, highly regarded as a church planter’s church planter, came to Chets Creek as pastor in October 1999, patterning that new plant after Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in California.

Hogan was named to the North American Mission Board’s board of trustees in 2010.

New Church in Winston-Salem is only the latest church plant financially supported by Chets Creek, which also has a hand in church plants in Las Vegas and Reno, Nev., Miramar and Tallahassee Fla., and Martinsburg, W.Va. In all, Chets Creek has helped plant 13 new Southern Baptist churches since Hogan arrived 13 years ago — a new church each year.

Chets Creek Church has seen tremendous growth. Starting with only 30 meeting in an elementary school, the attendance quickly climbed to 80 and in only three months, zoomed to 100.

“We set a goal to grow by 10 percent a year, and we have more than averaged that. Our other goal was to baptize 10 percent of average attendance each year,” said Hogan.

“I’m convinced that God blesses and honors initiative when it’s reasonable and realistic.”

Hogan adds that any successful church plant must start out with benchmarks on paper: what will worship attendance be, and what will it be in five years? How many small groups are needed?

What about giving and baptisms?

Chets Creek now runs 2,000 people in six services — three adult services, and services for children, middle school, and high school students.

Today, the church operates out of a new church facility on a 10-1/2-acre campus in front of the very elementary school where they launched 12 years ago.

“Our goal is to start one new church a year,” said Hogan. “We support the church plant financially for three years and sometimes extend to a fourth year if they need more help.

“Money-wise, we give them $12,000 the first year, $9,000 the second, and $6,000 in the third year. We also show them how to get funds from other sources.”

To even be considered as a Chets Creek church plant, Hogan said the church planter must do his due diligence.

“He must have specific expectations. We need to know that the pastor is truly called to plant a church. We want confirmation that the planter’s wife is on board,” Hogan said.

“We want to see a realistic but challenging five-year calendar and plan. We want a commitment to the Cooperative Program. We want to see evidence the planter has studied and prepared to plant a church. And we want to know that there is a core of members for the new church.

“It’s a mistaken idea that when you plant a new church, you have to end up with half your membership moving across town or across the country, that you give up tons of money and that the new church is going to drain you dry,” said Hogan.

“The answer is not to dump a lot of money in the church plant. It’s not about the money. It’s about leadership and surrounding yourself with good folks.”

Hogan relies heavily on Chets Creek Church’s mission pastor Chris Price to help with their church planting.

“Acts says church planting is the No. 1 church priority — presenting the gospel to the world,” says Price. “It’s the church being the church, representing Christ. Churches are the delivery agent to accomplish the Great Commission.

“If we as a church are not doing our best to replicate and multiply what God is doing and the vision He has given us, we’re missing the mark as a church.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.)
9/16/2011 8:47:00 AM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Spiritual awakening key to G.C., IMB’s Elliff says

September 16 2011 by Don Graham, Baptist Press

ORLANDO, Fla. – Either beg God for spiritual awakening or sink into irrelevance – that was the plea International Mission Board (IMB) President Tom Elliff voiced to trustees at their Sept. 13-14 meeting in Orlando, Fla.

“I see this as the critical issue facing us as Southern Baptists,” Elliff said. “The truth of the matter is that if we don’t experience spiritual awakening we will forfeit our capacity to effectively partner with others in carrying out the Great Commission.

“In this world of absolute tumult and chaos, God is giving us opportunities around the globe to share the wonderful message of the gospel of Christ that are unparalleled in the history of this world.”

The call for stateside spiritual awakening was unusual for the IMB’s president, who would normally focus his report on issues facing Southern Baptist missionaries overseas. But Elliff said God had instead placed a huge burden on my heart that couldn’t be ignored.

“(Spiritual) awakening is a missions issue, because if we don’t have an awakening in the hearts of Southern Baptists, then the pool out of which we fish for missionaries … gets smaller and smaller,” he explained. “We’ll just become another denomination that had its day and has now slipped off into irrelevancy, and when people say ‘Southern Baptist Convention,’ they will probably say it with a yawn.”

Elliff pointed out that spiritual awakening is distinctly different from spiritual revival.

BP photo

Jim Richards, left, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, presents International Mission Board (IMB) President Tom Elliff with a ceremonial check representing a $1 million gift to the IMB given out of the convention’s reserves. Richards said the money is to be used to fund future missionary deployment.


“Revival presupposes pre-existing life,” he explained. “I’m not so sure we need to be saying the things we say about the size of our convention and the number of our churches because I’ll be quite honest with you – I’m not so sure all those people we claim as members of our churches know Christ. They may know about Him, but if knowing Christ makes a difference in your lifestyle and a difference in your community, if knowing Christ drives you to periodically come for the family reunion which we call a worship service, over half of those people that we say are Southern Baptists never come to the table.

“But if we had awakening – that’s a revival of those who know Christ but it’s also a stirring and deep conviction of the Holy Spirit among those who are out there on the fringes, the kind of stirring that calls them to repent and receive Christ as their Savior. If we had an awakening in our nation, then think what Southern Baptists could do in terms of global missions, not to mention right here in this nation.”

Such an awakening, Elliff cautioned, will require a “totally different” kind of prayer, one that rests on God’s character rather than our own.

“I’m afraid that so much of our praying is a shot at getting something done by God with the thought that if He doesn’t come through we’ve got another plan. Folks, if God doesn’t come through we don’t have a plan.

“(We need to pray) like someone crying out from beneath the rubble of a building … and I’m afraid our prayers are not that desperate yet – because most of us come to the altar with two or three alternatives in our pocket.”

Elliff extended his appeal beyond trustees, asking IMB missionaries and all Southern Baptists to join him in praying weekly for the United States and the nations of the world. Elliff designated a specific 24-hour period, from sunset Sunday to sunset Monday, for Southern Baptists to join together in petitioning the Lord for spiritual awakening.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, from the time the sun went down every Sunday evening until the time the sun went down every Monday evening, that somewhere in that 24-hour period … we found time to steal away … and fall on our knees and cry out to God for spiritual awakening?” Elliff asked.

“Pray for the nation, our nation, and for the nations. That’s the prayer. … Could you not do that? Is that an impossibility? Is that too steep of a challenge, to find time in a 24-hour period to pray for the nation as well as the nations of the world? Surely we can do that.”

Other business

In addition to receiving Elliff’s challenge to pray for spiritual awakening, trustees were briefed on a draft of the 2012 budget and highlights from the 2010 annual personnel report.

They also appointed 77 new missionaries who were honored during a special appointment service Sept. 14 at First Baptist Church in Orlando.

Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), presented Elliff with a ceremonial “giant check” for $1 million, a gift given out of the SBTC’s reserves to IMB for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Richards said the money is to be used for missionary deployment and shared excitement over the SBTC’s recent decision to challenge Southern Baptist churches in Texas to embrace 1,000 of the world’s 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups.

Elliff expressed gratitude for the generosity of the Southern Baptists of Texas and for Richards’ leadership.

“This is no small thing to lead your convention to encourage 1,000 churches to engage 1,000 unengaged people groups. This money will be spent in such a fashion that it reaps eternal benefits,” Elliff said.

The next IMB trustee meeting is scheduled for Nov. 14-15 in Richmond, Va.

(EDITOR’S NOTE­ – Don Graham is a senior writer for the International Mission Board.)
9/16/2011 7:45:00 AM by Don Graham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



LifeWay reports, Glorieta recommendation passes

September 16 2011 by Jon D. Wilke, Baptist Press

RIDGECREST – Trustees of LifeWay Christian Resources heard reports of health and progress from divisional vice presidents during their semiannual meeting on Sept. 12-13 at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina. A recommendation on the future of operations at Glorieta Conference Center in New Mexico highlighted reports of new initiatives underway to strengthen the organization during a climate of challenging economic uncertainties.

Executive relations
The impact of LifeWay employee-led mission trips was the focus of Tom Hellams, vice president of executive relations.

“Just recently, the 100th mission trip was completed with 16 employees going to Ecuador to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Hellams noted. “We celebrate the fact that for the last 14 years, we’ve recorded more than 116,000 professions of faith. The Lord has blessed this effort in manifold ways.”

Since the first team went to Kenya in 1997, LifeWay’s mission trips have included 1,329 volunteers and started 256 churches.

Finance & business services
Jerry Rhyne, vice president of the finance and business services division and LifeWay’s chief financial officer, said that a bleak economic outlook continues to impact business practices as LifeWay approaches 2012.

Rhyne brought a proposal to trustees – which was passed after open discussion – to reduce operations at Glorieta Conference Center, effective Nov. 1, 2011, to a facility offering only summer events for student groups.

Significant changes in church practices, continued rising fuel and utility costs, Glorieta’s remote location, an aging infrastructure, a volatile economy, and changes in state convention structures have combined to make financial viability increasingly difficult at Glorieta, Rhyne said.

“As a matter of fiscal stewardship, LifeWay must control costs and manage resources in order to provide biblical solutions for life to individuals and churches in the most effective way,” Rhyne said.

Rhyne asked trustees to approve a new strategy for Glorieta which would include Glorieta becoming a summer-only facility for student groups, effective Nov. 1, 2011. In 2012, Centrifuge Camps and Collegiate Week will continue as usual.

Additionally, trustees approved pursuing viable options for the disposition of the property including, but not limited to, sales to or alliances with SBC entities, state conventions and other ministries. Rhyne pointed out that LifeWay bylaws require trustee approval before any sale of all or part of campus property.

As a summer-only facility, Glorieta will reduce its staff from 23 to seven employees. During summer operations, the regular summer workforce will continue to be aided by summer staffers and volunteers. The LifeWay Christian Store on location will also cease operation, effective Nov. 1, 2011.

“Making a decision about Glorieta is difficult based on Glorieta’s rich heritage and spiritual legacy, but it’s a necessary decision for more responsible stewardship,” Rhyne said.

For a complete statement on the Glorieta action, visit GlorietaConferenceCenter.org/Statement.

Above and beyond the economic environment, Rhyne reported that LifeWay also faces challenges in areas related to employee medical insurance, budgeted salary increases, consumer credit and debit card costs, cyber insurance, the increasing cost of meeting customer expectations, and changes in church practices.

Trustees of LifeWay Christian Resources bathe their meeting in prayer before hearing from divisional vice presidents during their Sept. 12-13 sessions at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center.


“These challenges are representative of the environment in which we find ourselves,” Rhyne said. “We must continue to remind ourselves that LifeWay is a ministry funded by a business model. Therefore, as church practices and the market change, we must also be prepared to change. This may mean adjusting the way we do certain things, or stop doing some things.”

Despite the tough economy, LifeWay’s investment earnings on reserves funds and retirement fund assets surpassed every benchmark due to active management of investments.

Overall, several issues serve as potential risks to LifeWay’s performance, Rhyne said, including growing revenues in an uncertain economy, distraction of continued federal government budget negotiations/presidential election cycle, forecasting demand in the church market, uncertainty in health care cost trends, and volatility in energy costs.

On the upside, the movie “Courageous,” the new James study by Beth Moore, the growth of digital products, the inclusion of World Changers in LifeWay’s ministry operation and the growth and success of operations at the Ridgecrest Conference Center “give us great hope and encouragement for 2012,” Rhyne said.

Rhyne reported that LifeWay will wrap up 2011 slightly below budgeted expectations and has a budget for 2012 of almost $498 million.

LifeWay Christian Stores
Mark Scott, vice president of the retail division, shared with trustees his optimism for LifeWay Christian Stores during a volatile economy.

“Going through a storm is always difficult,” Scott said. “But we are successfully navigating through the storm and we are very excited about the opportunities for LifeWay Christian Stores.”

Despite challenging times in the retail market area, “marketplace opportunities continue to open up for us,” Scott reported, noting that LifeWay already is positioned as a market leader in multichannel options for consumers and churches.

“We know that digital channels are growing,” he said. “But we also know our customers are very engaged in brick-and-mortar stores. We are well-positioned to engage in the multichannel options.”

Scott said the retail division is experiencing solid results in operations and seeing ministry expansion on multiple fronts in addition to deploying innovative practices to engage new audiences.

Research & ministry development
Research and ministry development is a division that centers around one main theme: knowledge-based insights, said Ed Stetzer, vice president of the division. But that theme is rooted in God’s mission and to make His name known, he said.

Stetzer reported on the work of his division, which has grown to encompass four departments: research, ministry development, innovation and communications.

LifeWay Research continues to release relevant insights on the church and culture and continues to develop “bigger messages” for LifeWay, such as the Transformational Discipleship project, which will provide insight for the church in how people are making disciples.

“Through this study, we are helping LifeWay as a whole to know, which will help us know what to do,” Stetzer said.

Through the Transformational Small Communities studies, LifeWay Research is studying what successful small groups look like, Stetzer said. By doing this, “we want people to ask, ‘Where do we go to find out about church?’ and we want them to come to LifeWay.”

“We’re continuously encouraged that people are asking the question: ‘What does LifeWay think?’” said Stetzer, citing as example that day’s edition of USA Today quoting LifeWay Research.

Ministry Development leads a number of collaborative, cross-divisional teams to spearhead new initiatives, Stetzer reported.

“These initiatives have contributed to two major results,” he said. “We are becoming the knowledge leader that churches will turn to for understanding trends in culture and being informed of what God is doing in the church today. Secondly, we are working to position LifeWay as the ‘go-to’ resource provider to other denominations, the church planting culture and all of evangelicalism.”

Innovation, a new corporate strategy at LifeWay, was formed to create a culture of collaborative development of new ideas.

“We’re involving people at every level from every area of LifeWay and leveraging them to help encourage all employees to share their best ideas,” Stetzer explained. “Through this, we’re looking at how we can ingrain innovation into the very DNA of our organization through how we train and lead our people.”

Communications, recently moved into Stetzer’s division, has reached 786 media outlets (both traditional and social) and has offered public relations and media support for a number of areas within LifeWay.

“Every department in the research and ministry development division centers around a theme focused on knowledge-based insights,” Stetzer added. “We are part of a conversation. As we enter into that conversation, as we create some of the conversation, our goal is to spend a lot more time bringing attention to God’s glory and His mission.”

Church resources
Louis Hanks, acting vice president of church resources, presented an overview of innovative and emerging resources under the banner Church Resources: Helping Churches Help People.

“Our curriculum helps people study and apply God’s Word,” Hanks said. “Our goal is to help churches meet the needs of people from birth to heaven. LifeWay’s strategy includes devotionals for all ages that help people to connect with God daily.” Hanks also highlighted a new curriculum line for children titled “Panoroma, The Big Picture of God’s Story,” that will be available in the fall of 2012.

Hanks said that the church resources division offers many magazines for each stage of life that help people live out their faith practically day by day. A new magazine for Boomers is slated to premier next fall.

LifeWay Men has partnered with some great friends and sports legends, he said, adding his excitement over the push to help men pursue godly leadership in the home and marketplace.

“‘Courageous’ is a heartstopper,” Hanks said. “We have a four-week Bible study available now. Pray that churches rally around this, and pray for those who go to films.”

Hanks also reported continued growth in the LifeWay Women area. Beth Moore’s new Bible study, “James — Mercy Triumphs,” is due to hit the shelves Nov. 1.

“Beth’s new Bible study is one of most important releases this year,” Hanks said. “Join us in praying that it is received by the churches and that the message the ladies hear is what God spoke to Beth.”

Other resources also are growing in popularity, Hanks said, including one by Priscilla Shirer called “SEED” and one by a new author, Tammie Head, “Duty or delight? Knowing Where you Stand with God.”

Hanks mentioned offering churches the opportunity to participate in multiple simulcasts in upcoming months including You and Your Girl with Vicki Courtney; Living Proof Live with Beth Moore; and Secret Church with David Platt.

Hanks told trustees of his excitement about the activities and synergy among the various church resources departments “which will mean providing even greater resources and assistance to the churches we serve.”

Technology
Tim Vineyard, vice president of technology and LifeWay’s chief information officer, praised his team for their hard work in an aggressive year of building new infrastructure, launching new websites, creating new mobile applications and completing a significant acquisition. “The acquisition of WORDsearch (WORDsearchBible.com) and QuickVerse (QuickVerse.com) is very important,” Vineyard said. “They bring key talent and valuable customers assets. Having been in the digital space for many years, they are well-respected among publishing leadership and authors and bring a wealth of content in a proprietary electronic format.”

Vineyard reported on the June 28 launch of a new LifeWay.com website. He shared that the world-class platform will provide LifeWay with new analytics and new capability to better meet customer needs. The new Lifeway.com includes dozens of new features, including a fresh new interface for increased usability, improved search and navigation for greater ease of use and improved account management for customers.

“Our customers have responded enthusiastically to the new site,” Vineyard said.

“Building on new infrastructure, we will be more adaptive and more agile in delivering digital solutions to the marketplace,” he said. “We want our customers to be able to purchase and use content however and whenever they like.”

Vineyard emphasized several other important strategic ventures, naming MyStudyBible.com’s content access model and the technology division’s support of live online media events such as Living Proof Live and Secret Church simulcasts.

Vineyard described continuing improvements in MyStudyBible.com, citing the availability of more Bibles, more e-books, personalization features and unique new purchase options. He also reported that the website’s collection of free Bible study content is drawing a growing number of visitors.

“The new content store with both rental and purchase options offer even more quality study resources,” Vineyard said. He also described the various personalization features, which include bookmarks, highlights and personal notes, which “are all available at no charge to registered users of MyStudyBible.com,” he said.

B&H Publishing Group
Selma Wilson, vice president of B&H Publishing Group, opened her report to the trustees with words of gratitude and presented a confident vision for the future founded on the Bible.

“One year ago, you gave me your support (in her selection to lead the division),” she said. “I am humbled and grateful. Thank you for your prayers; that makes all the difference. B&H has had a great year, and we are grateful for the favor of God in this difficult economy.”

Wilson said B&H is “firmly committed to producing Bibles and advancing our Bible strategy. It is clearly our path to the future.” She highlighted the current “Take a Fresh Look” campaign that promotes the accuracy and readability of the HCSB and challenges pastors and influencers to reconsider this modern, readable translation.

Wilson also told trustees about B&H’s bold moves into the digital revolution with their Bible strategy.

“On Oct. 1, we launch The Life Essentials Study Bible, which has over 250 hours of video content connected by QR codes,” she said. “This strategy of merging the Bible and technology puts us firmly in the digital marketplace as we advance God’s message around the world.”

Wilson noted other upcoming B&H Bible projects including a chronological Bible endorsed by David Platt that accompanies the Read the Bible for Life curriculum, mobile development for MyStudyBible.com and the Mission of God Study Bible.

Wilson also reported that B&H is “No. 1 in the Spanish Bible market. We are adding new modern Spanish Bible translations and continuing valuable partnerships with the American Bible Society and others. Our desire is to publish God’s Word in various languages and forms including iPad, Nook, Kindle and others. We want our innovative MyStudyBible.com platform to become known as the Bible place in the digital world.

“Every book we publish now has an e-book published along with it, and we are pulling in the back list as fast as we can,” Wilson said. “We now have more than 25 branded apps in marketplace today in addition to hundreds of e-books.”

B&H won several awards this year including the 2011 ECPA Bible of the Year award for the HCSB Study Bible and several top honors at the Expolit event in Miami for their Spanish-language offerings.

With the upcoming release of the Courageous movie, B&H is poised to provide complementary resources including three trade books in both English and Spanish along with a small-group study.

The CrossBooks self-publishing arm of B&H continues to gain market momentum, Wilson reported. With more than 900 titles already in the pipeline, B&H plans to add an additional 500 new titles next year. Wilson said every self-published book undergoes a theological review.

With New York Times and Association of Christian Retail bestsellers, “B&H Women is strong and getting stronger,” Wilson said.

“What makes our 100-member team of B&H so special is that we are committed to producing content that makes a difference and advances the Gospel of Jesus Christ around the world,” Wilson said.

Miscellaneous business
Montia Setzler, chairman of the LifeWay board of trustees and senior pastor at Magnolia Avenue Baptist Church in Riverside, Calif., appointed a trustee task force to study the new NIV Bible.

At issue is a resolution passed by Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) messengers in June that calls the New International Version (NIV) 2011 Bible an “inaccurate translation” the SBC cannot recommend. The resolution criticized the NIV 2011 for its “gender neutral methods of translation.” It also said messengers “respectfully request that LifeWay” not sell the translation.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jon D. Wilke is media relations manager for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Russ Rankin is LifeWay’s manager of editorial services.)
9/16/2011 7:19:00 AM by Jon D. Wilke, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Rainer: ‘business as usual’ not an option

September 16 2011 by Micah Carter, Baptist Press

RIDGECREST – Thom S. Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, addressed trustees during their semiannual meeting with a message of hope during tough times. “Seismic changes” in church practices and the culture at large continue to provide unique challenges to LifeWay’s mission, Rainer said. “We cannot continue to just do business as usual if we expect to make a difference today.”

Bringing LifeWay to the point needed for organizational success is like retrofitting a train while moving at high speeds, he noted. “We cannot simply abandon those things that have been foundational for LifeWay’s ministry success. But we must build on those key elements, make important changes and add new measures for the future of LifeWay’s impact.

“As this economic downturn challenges so much of our operation, the great news is that God continues to bless us and use us,” Rainer said.

“It is incredible how God continues to work through LifeWay,” he told trustees. “Although we face great challenges, we embrace a greater hope. We must be agents of hope and a light in the darkness as we provide biblical solutions for individuals and churches.”

Among the many challenges facing LifeWay, Rainer emphasized:
  • The challenge of a diverse constituency with many different methodological and cultural expressions within the denominational family. “There was a day you could say ‘Southern Baptist’ and know what that meant. That day is no longer,” Rainer said. “Our greatest strength is also our greatest challenge.”
  • The current economic challenge. “Here we are in one of the toughest economies, but I’ve never been more excited about what God has done and how He has used LifeWay. This is a time of great hope.”
Rainer’s address focused not just on present challenges, but also on LifeWay’s future.

Thom S. Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, addresses trustees during their semiannual meeting, Sept. 12-13 at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center.


“The greatest days of this organization are just around the corner,” he said. “We are on the verge of doing some important things for the Kingdom that I believe are unprecedented.” In an effort to adapt to current issues, Rainer celebrated an increased focus on innovation at LifeWay and an increasingly streamlined approach to business operations.

“I am convinced that the best days of innovation, centered on biblical truth and anchored in God’s Word, lay before us,” he said.

Rainer also noted the cultural emphasis within LifeWay toward a greater customer focus. “We are already focused on our customers,” he said. “But taking our commitment to the core value of ‘customer’ means providing the right resources through the right medium at the right price. We are committed to this focus.

“We have had a tremendous history since 1891,” Rainer said. “But we have a great future as one of the largest Christian content providers in the world. God still uses LifeWay to point thousands of people to Christ each year and to transform lives for His glory. In a very real sense, our 165 stores across the nation serve as ministry outposts for Kingdom work.

“Our hope and purpose is contained in a simple vision statement: ‘As God works through us ... We will help individuals and churches by providing biblical solutions for life,’“ Rainer told trustees. “May He continue to strengthen LifeWay with a great hope, for a great task, in times of great challenge.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Micah Carter is director of communications for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
9/16/2011 7:13:00 AM by Micah Carter, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



LifeWay trustees honor Adrian Rogers’ legacy

September 16 2011 by Russ Rankin, Baptist Press

RIDGECREST – The life and legacy of Southern Baptists’ “Prince of Preachers” was honored by trustees of LifeWay Christian Resources on the first night of their semiannual meeting, Sept. 12-13 at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina.

On what would have been Adrian Rogers’ 80th birthday, Sept. 12, trustees presented a resolution to his widow Joyce Rogers and her son Steve, who serves as president of the Adrian Rogers Pastor Training Institute.

Michael Deahl, vice chairman of LifeWay’s trustees and chairman of the trustee executive committee, introduced the resolution in personal perspective:

“I moved to Dallas in 1980 as a very immature Christian,” said Deahl, an attorney at Powell, Coleman & Arnold, LLP, in Dallas. “Dr. Rogers came and preached a revival at my church and it was a time which became very instrumental in my journey of becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ.”

Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay, told trustees that adopting a resolution of appreciation recognizing the life and continuing ministry impact of Adrian Rogers – “one of the giants of Southern Baptist life – will be one of the highlights of your service as trustees.” Rainer said the void left by Rogers’ “home-going” is still large.

“Today, on what would be Adrian Rogers’ 80th birthday, we acknowledge the enormous contribution to Southern Baptist life and the evangelical world,” Rainer said.

On what would have been Adrian Rogers’ 80th birthday, Sept. 12, Thom S. Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, presents a resolution of appreciation on behalf of LifeWay trustees to Adrian Rogers’ widow Joyce and her son Steve, who serves as president of the Adrian Rogers Pastor Training Institute.


The resolution presented by Rainer highlights Rogers’ contribution to the Southern Baptist Convention as one of the leading voices for returning the convention to solid theological conservatism and for his renown as one of the foremost pulpiteers.

“I am overwhelmed with your reception and generosity,” said Joyce Rogers, adding that it was at Ridgecrest where Adrian Rogers surrendered to the ministry.

“Adrian was 16, I was 15,” she recounted. “I still remember standing by his side when he stepped out to make it public that God was calling him to preach the gospel. I knew then that one day I would be Mrs. Adrian Rogers, pastor’s wife.”

She told trustees that she felt dismay during the early days of the Conservative Resurgence when her husband, whom she called “Mr. Conviction, Courage and Compassion,” often stood alone to issue a call to biblical fidelity.

“I remember those days; the battle for the Bible,” she said. “I thought at one convention: ‘Why won’t anyone stand with Adrian?’ Now there’s an army of men and women standing for the Bible.”

Steve Rogers described his father’s desire to train and strengthen the next generation of ministers.

“He called it being in the transfer zone – where relay runners pass the baton,” Steve Rogers said. “It’s what he wanted to do in his latter years. Our idea was to take 50 men at a time – it wasn’t a large global vision – calling it ‘Three days up close and personal with Adrian Rogers.’”

Much of the initiative for the training was rooted in conversations with LifeWay and B&H Publishing Group, Steve said, noting the B&H publication “What Every Christian Ought to Know” is Adrian Rogers’ bestselling book.

In 2005, Steve said his father indicated a desire to record his training. “We videotaped it in April 2005, the next month he received the cancer report and six months after that God called him home,” Steve said.

The resulting set of tapes, edited into pastor’s training material, became the impetus for the Adrian Rogers Pastors Training Institute which “since 2007 has seen more than 20,000 pastors on five continents go through the training,” Steve said.

“I have wondered many times why Dad is in heaven and my brother (David Rogers serves as an International Mission Board missionary in Spain) and I are doing what we’re doing,” he said. “I asked God to help me do what is able to be done in my generation much like Dad did in his generation.

“Repurposing the timeless truth for today’s audience,” including for believers in countries closed to open gospel proclamation, “God has truly moved the ministry to the next generation,” Steve Rogers said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Russ Rankin is manager of editorial services for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
9/16/2011 7:09:00 AM by Russ Rankin, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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