September 2015

Tour slated for Baptist ‘mother church’

September 21 2015 by Liz Tablazon, Biblical Recorder

Messengers to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) annual meeting will have a chance to visit what historians regard as the most significant landmark in North Carolina Baptist history. The Historical Committee invites participants to see the Sandy Creek Baptist Church log meeting house, which was built in 1802, on Monday, Nov. 2 at 2 p.m. The committee will offer a tour, a short lecture and a Q&A at the site at no cost.
The existing building is the third on the site and still holds the original pulpit and a few original benches. The first meeting house was built in 1762 but burned down in 1785.
The second was destroyed in a storm. Great Awakening preacher Shubal Stearns and 15 other individuals constituted themselves into what was originally Sandy Creek Separate Baptist Church in November 1755. Stearns came to the area after friends informed him of its need of evangelism. By 1758 more than 900 people were baptized. By 1771, 42 churches and 125 ministers came out of the parent church.
Don Wright, a member of the Historical Committee and First Baptist Church in Cary, said Sandy Creek became the center of the Separate Baptists in the South.


Image courtesy of the N.C. Office of Archives and History
This is believed to be the first meeting house where Sandy Creek Baptist Church was located.

“It’s from that church that Separate Baptists multiplied both of their congregations and their membership to the point that in 1771, the Baptists dominated the backcountry of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and subsequently entered Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky as the predominant religious denomination in the South,” Wright said.
Wright called Sandy Creek “the mother church of the Spirit-filled, evangelistic Baptists. Even today, Baptist theologians and Baptist leaders often describe themselves ... as being of the Sandy Creek tradition.”
According to the BSC Bylaws, the Historical Committee recommends “which historic sites, including buildings, should be properly marked and preserved when these are related to Baptist history.”
Wright said that marking preserved sites is no good unless people go to them. “As part of the preservation of sites, we’re encouraging Baptists to visit these sites to learn about them,” he said. “The more people visit and enjoy them, the easier it is to preserve that site and other sites.”
Wright hopes the visit will encourage people to be excited about Baptist history. “The current Southern Baptist church at Sandy Creek is almost finished building a new sanctuary. Although it’s old, it’s healthy, it’s glowing,” he said. “The idea that just because you’re old and historical means that you’re dull and dead – that’s not so.”
The tour group will leave from the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro at 2 p.m. and will return by 5 p.m. in time for the annual meeting’s scheduled events.
Contact Norma Jean Johnson in the BSC Business Services office at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5618.

9/21/2015 1:48:33 PM by Liz Tablazon, Biblical Recorder | with 0 comments

BSC Committee on Nominations report

September 21 2015 by BSC Communications

The Committee on Nominations is charged with the task of receiving and reviewing the numerous recommendations provided by N.C. Baptists for service on the Board of Directors and committees of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), as well as the boards of the institutions and agencies of the BSC. The committee begins its work with the recommendations sent by N.C. Baptists and only when exhausted, or in the event too few recommendations have been received for a specific place of service, the committee seeks to find candidates who meet the qualifications for service as outlined in the BSC bylaws.
The full report from the Committee on Nominations can be found on the BSC’s Annual Meeting website (, in this edition of the Biblical Recorder, on and in the Book of Reports provided to each messenger who completes their registration at the Annual Meeting.
On behalf of the committee members listed below, I want to thank each N.C. Baptist that completed and submitted a recommendation. It is not too early to begin thinking about those individuals whom you wish to recommend for consideration by the 2016 Committee on Nominations. Please continue to submit your recommendations. Your input is essential to the committee’s work and the ongoing effectiveness of the missions and ministries of the BSC.

Reginald Bakr, chair


2015 Committee on Nominations Members

Reginald Bakr, Browns Summit; Joe Cappar, Jacksonville; Noah Crowe, Robbinsville; Shelton Daniel, Rocky Mount; Ellen Day, Greensboro; Steve Frazier, Waynesville; Ken Gilbert, Cary; Becky Glynn, Pilot Mountain; Marvin Green, Rutherfordton; Ronald Hester, Bladenboro; Richard Odom, Stokesdale; Jonathan Rebsamen, Charlotte; Steve Roy, Clayton; Marc Sanders, Bear Creek; Steve Schultz, Candler; Shannon Scott, Raleigh; Hak Ung, Creedmoor; and Eddie Yount III, Taylorsville.
The Committee on Nominations report follows the BSC bylaws directive to “nominate persons for election by the Convention to the committees listed in Article I.C.1 (b) – (d) of these bylaws, such other committees as may be assigned to it, the chair of such Convention committees, the boards of trustees and directors of all institutions and agencies of the Convention, the Board, and such other nominations as may be delegated to the committee by the Convention.”
Among other considerations for nominees, the bylaws state “It is desirable that at least twenty-five percent (25%) of members nominated to all committees of the Convention, the Board, the boards of trustees and directors of the Convention’s institutions and agencies shall come from churches with a membership under four hundred (400).” This is indicated in the Committee’s report by (O) for 400 and over and by (U) for under 400 in church membership.

The bylaws further direct that, “The Committee on Nominations shall include in its report at a minimum the name, church, home town, association, occupation, and sex of each nominee, the name of the committee or board on which the nominee is to serve together with such summary information as will make clear to this Convention the diversity and breadth of representation provided by the slates of nominees.”

BSC Board of Directors

   Region 1 – No vacancies
   Region 2 – Dean Harrell, Williamston Memorial (O), Williamston, South Roanoke, minister, male; Lana Hathaway, Bogue Banks (U), Pine Knoll Shores, Atlantic, lay person, female; and Marion P. Sykes Jr., Cherry Point (O), Havelock, Atlantic, lay person, male
   Region 3 – J.R. Hopson, LaGrange Park (O), Fayetteville, New South River, minister, male; and Christopher Webb, (2017 unexpired term of Chris Carroll), Mt. Elim (U), Pembroke, Burnt Swamp, minister, male
   Region 4 –Scott Allmon, Fall Creek (U), Bennett, Sandy Creek, minister, male; Sandy Baird, (2017 unexpired term of Don Cashwell), Moon’s Chapel (U), Bear Creek, Sandy Creek, lay person, female; David Richardson, Creedmoor First (O), Stem, Flat River, minister, male; and Nhiem Tran, Mount Vernon (O), Wake Forest, Raleigh, minister, male
   Region 5 – No vacancies
   Region 6 – Charles Brackett, Pitts (O), Mt. Pleasant, Cabarrus, lay person, male; George Hunnicutt, Mill Creek (U), Indian Trail, Union, minister, male; Michael Madaris, Highland (O), New London, Stanly, minister, male; Karen Walters, Roberdel (U), Rockingham, Pee Dee, lay person, female; and Curtis Williams, Brown Creek (U), Wadesboro, Anson, minister, male
   Region 7 – Billy Blakley, Salem (O), Mt. Airy, Surry, minister, male; Ron Greene, (2016 unexpired term of Byron Greene), Oak Grove (U), Newland, Avery, minister, male; and Polly Heafner, Crossnore First (O), Crossnore, Avery, lay person, female
   Region 8 – Christopher Hensley, Drury Dobbins (U), Ellenboro, Sandy Run, minister, male; and Edward Rogers, Bethel (U), Bostic, Sandy Run, minister, male
   Region 9 – Christopher Morgan, Bolens Creek (U), Burnsville, Yancey, minister, male
   Region 10 – Matthew Ledbetter, (2018 unexpired term of Joshua Blythe), Lighthouse (U), Waynesville, Tuckaseigee, minister, male

Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina

Carl Anderson, Lea Bethel (U), Leasburg, Beulah, lay person, male; Lenuel Chamberlain, Bethel (U), Yadkinville, Yadkin, lay person, male; Jim Dyer, Christ (O), Wake Forest, N.C. Miscellaneous, minister, male; Abe Elmore, Westfield (U), Dunn, Little River, lay person, male; Marcia Heckman, Crosspointe (U), Concord, Cabarrus, lay person, female; Ronnie Holman, Baton (U), Granite Falls, Caldwell, lay person, male; Gail King, Reidsville First (O), Reidsville, Dan Valley, lay person, female; Wendy Peters, Calvary (O), Winston-Salem, Pilot Mountain, lay person, female; and Stephen Shreve, Pleasant Garden (O), Pleasant Garden, Piedmont, lay person, male

Biblical Recorder

David Clary, Lake Norman (O), Cornelius, Metrolina, lay person, male; Frankie Gordon, Corinth (O), Elizabeth City, Chowan, lay person, male; Lisa Harris, Life Community (O), Greensboro, Piedmont, lay person, female; Todd Houston, Beach Road (O), Southport, Brunswick, minister, male; Marilyn Thurman, Pole Creek (O), Candler, Buncombe, lay person, female; and Keith Whitfield, (2018 unexpired term of Julian Mills), Imago Dei Church (U), Wake Forest, N.C. Miscellaneous, minister, male

North Carolina Baptist Foundation

David Ashcraft, Bethlehem (O), Raleigh, Raleigh, lay person, male; Harold Brown, Lake Norman (O), Cornelius, Metrolina, minister, male; Bobbie Furr, Trinity (O), Raleigh, Raleigh, lay person, female; Rodney Hicks, Ridgecrest (O), Durham, Yates, minister, male; Robert Howard, (2016 unexpired term of Tom Dimmock), Southport (O), Southport, Brunswick, lay person, male; and Coy Jeans Jr., Garden Creek (U), Old Fort, Blue Ridge, minister, male

North Carolina Baptist Hospital

No vacancies

Committee on Convention Meetings

Timothy Carpenter, Sardis (O), Indian Trail, Union, minister, male; Leonardo Guerrero, Fuquay-Varina Hispanic Mission (U), Fuquay-Varina, Raleigh, minister, male; David Huffines, Rocky Knoll (O), Climax, Piedmont, minister, male; John Rosal, Hispanic Mission of FBC Tarboro (U), Greenville, South Roanoke, minister, male; Simon Touprong, Vietnamese New Hope Baptist Church (U), Raleigh, Raleigh, minister, male; Ruth Warner, Saint Paul (U), Greensboro, Piedmont, lay person, female; and Brenda Hicks, chair, Beulah (U), Supply, Brunswick, lay person, female

Historical Committee

Ronnie Chaney, Union Grove (O), Asheboro, Randolph, minister, male; Curt Dean, Lawndale (O), Greensboro, Piedmont, minister, male; Ralph Justice Jr., Mount Vernon (O), Raleigh, Raleigh, lay person, male; Howard McNeill, Maple Springs (U), Seagrove, Randolph, minister, male; and Donald Wright, chair, Cary First (O), Apex, Raleigh, lay person, male

Committee on Resolutions and Memorials

Jonathan Blaylock, West Canton (O), Canton, Haywood, minister, male; Calvin Bobo, Andrews First (O), Andrews, Truett, minister, male; Kristopher Estep, Barberville (O), Waynesville, Haywood, minister, male; and Phillips McRae, Chair, Troy First (U), Troy, Montgomery, minister, male.

9/21/2015 1:40:34 PM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Church plant aims to reach sportsmen

September 18 2015 by Mike Creswell, BSC

Tell Josh Williamson he pastors a redneck church and you won’t hurt his feelings.
He’ll most likely grin and agree with you.
But he’s very serious when he explains The Refuge JoCo, a church in Johnston County where Williamson serves as pastor, is reaching people for Christ who could not be reached by traditional churches.
The sign out front promises a “different place to worship.” For now that is two units in a rural office park north of Benson, where the corporate neighbors are a roofing company, cable TV company and a firm that makes custom four-wheelers.
Enter Refuge’s modest set of rooms and you’ll see three mounted deer head trophies and stuffed fish on the meeting room walls. “What about the duck decoys?” you may ask. Those are offering plates that double as table decorations.
The “JoCo” that is part of the church name is shorthand for Johnston County, but also used to tag local culture, accent and outlook.
The dress code could be called “relaxed sportsman.” Williamson wears a camouflage shirt, shorts and flip-flops as he leads a Sunday night service, a recently added service to their normal Thursday night meeting schedule.
Williamson explains that, when he talks about area residents who hunt and fish, he’s not talking about people pursuing hobbies.
“This area is known for its country folks and their hunting and fishing,” Williamson says. “That’s just a way of life here, as natural as you can get. But it’s not just for fun. This is how people provide food for their family.”
A lot of the more traditional churches seem to have white-collar, business-type members who work in offices, he said. “But it just seems we don't have a place. Folks like us have been overlooked or left out,” Williamson explained.
As a test, in 2013 he and seven other like-minded people began holding Bible studies, appropriately enough, in a local archery shop. Soon about 40 people were attending each week and they outgrew the shop. So they moved into the office park and Refuge was off and running.
The rooms do not have a baptistery. They baptize new believers in a nearby pond.
Refuge members focus on all outdoor activities, especially hunting and fishing, as outreach channels. Members are part of a local softball/baseball ministry that gives Williamson another venue to preach at least twice a month.
But sports-oriented does not mean old-fashioned. Williamson posts videos of his sermons and Bible studies online, where they attract upwards of 800 viewers each week.
He has even heard from people in other states who love the emphasis of sharing the gospel through a sports emphasis. Williamson has talked with the pastor of a church in Montana focused on people who love the outdoors and said, “They’re about 10 years ahead of where we hope to go. He has helped a lot with ministries that worked or failed.”
Williamson moved to Johnston County in 1996 so he could attend Campbell University. He loved the area so much he and his family stayed on after he earned a bachelor’s degree in religion and Christian ministry. He and his wife Joy, a Johnston County native, have three children.
Networking and partnering are important to Williamson. “That’s the reason we have chosen to be part of the Johnston Baptist Association, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) and to support the Southern Baptist Convention’s two mission boards – the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board,” he said, highlighting the ministries Refuge supports through its Cooperative Program (CP) giving or directly through the Johnston Association.
“We’re big supporters of these, because we believe that we can do so much more together than we can by ourselves. Anybody can be a lone wolf, but if you don’t have a support group, you're not going to be nearly as effective,” Williamson said.
Williamson is getting start-up support from the BSC Church Planting Team, which is in line with his approach to churches. North Carolina Baptists support new churches like Refuge through their financial support of missions through CP and the annual North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO). Each year, 28 percent of funds given to the NCMO go directly support the establishment of new congregations throughout North Carolina.
“Our biggest focus is Christian discipleship. We don’t want to build just one big church. We want to have discipled followers of Christ who will be ready and able to go out and help start new churches,” Williamson said.
Williamson thinks there are lots of sports-minded, rural folks like his way beyond Johnston County – across North Carolina and beyond.
He wants to reach every one of them.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael D. Creswell is senior consultant for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)

9/18/2015 1:12:44 PM by Mike Creswell, BSC | with 0 comments

IMB missionary never let anything keep her from sharing

September 18 2015 by IMB Connecting

Evelyn Harthcock never met a stranger. She was “mama” to many and her Southern drawl, hospitality and her deep love for people transcended language and culture.
The 94-year-old emeritus International Mission Board (IMB) missionary died on Sept., 18, 2015, after a battle with Alzheimer’s. Although she officially retired from the IMB, she never “retired” as a missionary. Evelyn lived out her years ministering in Thailand until the day she died. Even in the midst of her illness, she sang hymn after hymn causing doctors and nurses to ask her husband, Gary, for the meaning behind such peaceful songs.
The couple began their overseas adventures in 1985 after retiring from their jobs in North Carolina. They spent the next 40 years in six different countries – Antigua, Liberia, Mongolia, Guyana, Cambodia and Thailand – as gospel bearers, teachers, agriculture experts and authors. Evelyn transcended any barriers that existed by speaking the language of love.
Phil Wardell* fondly remembered children running beside the Harthcock’s car as it pulled into the hospital compound where they ministered in Cambodia, yelling, “Jesus has arrived!”
“They were literally Jesus to so many of these families with whom they reached out in love, sharing of their personal resources to assist with their needs,” Wardell said. “They were instrumental in leading many to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.”


Evelyn and Gary Harthcock

The Harthcocks had no children of their own but they unofficially “adopted sons and daughters,” hailing from several countries, including Guatemala, Germany, China, the Philippines, Thailand, Liberia and the U.S. As many young adults chose to follow Christ, their families would abandon or persecute them as punishment. Evelyn not only discipled these young believers but loved them with a mother’s love.
When Liu Yang Lhamo went through a trying time in her life, Evelyn was there for her “adoptive daughter.”  The couple exchanged daily emails with the young Tibetan, encouraging her to stand up and fight for life.
“I love Gary and Evelyn, not only because they are my spiritual guide, but also because [of] the spirit in their heart, in their behavior,” Liu Yang said. “They would overcome every difficult[y] to serve God, no matter the bad weather, the misunderstanding [of] people, the disease they have at their old age.
“Nothing could stop Gary and Evelyn to serve God, even at their age,” Liu Yang added.
Prayer was a constant in Evelyn’s life. Pam Rusher, a former IMB worker in Mongolia and the Harthcock’s friend of 22 years, and Evelyn formed the “spoon-licking club” that consisted of the two women and their husbands. They met over breakfast to pray over the cold, Mongolian days and ready themselves for the day’s divine adventure.
“Countless ones around the world are so blessed because you have remained faithful to the calling He placed upon you both and never considered retirement an option,” Rusher wrote in a memorial note for Evelyn. “Heaven will account for the lives that will offer a deeply grateful, ‘thanks for giving to the Lord – I am a life that was, is, will be changed.”’
During her years of service in Cambodia, Evelyn invested time and energy into Buddhist monks. She became a mother figure to them as well. They loved her so much that they allowed her to touch them, despite the fact that culture dictated women could do no such thing.
“Evelyn’s hugs and birthday cakes revealed His limitless love to some Buddhist monks that chose to de-robe and surrender their lives to Jesus as Savior and Lord,” Rusher said.
The Harthcocks moved to Thailand in 1999 in their late ‘70s and continued ministering, writing books and English materials.
John Duncan, a former pastor of the Harthcocks in Thailand, remembered Evelyn never missed an opportunity to give the “Easy English” language booklets they wrote that not only taught English but did it through the lens of the gospel.
“That they had served for 40 years in missions, long past the point when others had retired and gone home, is a testimony to the ‘call of God to persevere,’” Duncan said before his own untimely death.
Evelyn was born in Colerain, N.C., on Oct. 18, 1920 to Willie and Alma White. She studied early childhood education at Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C. She married Gary in 1946.
She taught in public schools in North Carolina, Virginia and Ohio. She learned Braille and taught at the North Carolina School for the Blind, Raleigh, N.C. She also coordinated evening classes for pastors at Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, Flat Rock, N.C.
Together, the Harthcocks wrote 19 books and countless Bible lessons and tracts that have been translated into seven languages. A Southern Baptist dormitory for high school students in Chiang Mai, Thailand is named after the Harthcocks.
Evelyn’s memorial service will be at Chiang Mai Ram hospital. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the International Mission Board and/or the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in her honor.
She is survived by her husband, Gary, who lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand; one sister, Jean Finch, Raleigh, N.C.; three nieces, Debbie Mikeal, Raleigh, N.C., Jane Harthcock, Newton, Miss. and Patti Simmons, Foley, Ala.; one sister-in-law Lea Harthcock, Raymond, Miss.; two brothers-in-law, Thomas B. Harthcock Sr. and Thomas B. Harthcock Jr., both of Newton, Miss.; one nephew, Gary Harthcock, Vicksburg, Miss.; one great-nephew, Peter Mikeal, Austin, Texas; one foster daughter, Carmen Fitzsimons and her husband, Frank Fitzsimons III, Summerville, S.C., two foster granddaughters, Catherine Fitzsimons, Charleston, S.C.; Julie Crosby and her husband, Brian Crosby, Summerville, S.C.; and two foster great grandchildren, Catie Grace Crosby and Brian J. Crosby.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Carolyn Anderson, Ivy O’Neill and Susie Rain contributed to this article.)

9/18/2015 1:07:17 PM by IMB Connecting | with 0 comments

Christine Shaffer: From prison to purpose

September 18 2015 by Lisa Falknor, Arkansas Baptist News/Baptist Press

In her 32 years, Christine Shaffer has worn many labels. Pregnant at 15 and again at 17, society branded her an unwed mother. At the age of 19 – weighing a scant 98 pounds – “friends” called her a meth addict and drug dealer. And, at 23, the state of Arkansas marked her with another title: prisoner.
During her 366 days in prison, she committed her life to Christ.
This year, Aug. 3, Shaffer held an award representing her most recent title, an identifying marker to forward her graduate school dreams. Shaffer is the 2015 national $1,000 Faye Dove Scholarship Award winner.
“I cried a little when I found out I won,” she said. “It’s a big deal to be picked among everyone in the nation.”
Today, she’s a college graduate, a River Valley Christian Life Corps (RVCLC) weekly volunteer and mentor, a married mother of four and, finally, according to the county where she lives, someone without a record.


Photo taken from Facebook
Christine Shaffer (center) and her four children.

“Christine has gone over and above the norm,” said Mary Ramsey, state coordinator for Christian Women’s Job Corps/Christian Men’s Job Corps who presented the award.
“She’s met every goal with God’s help. She came from back here, but now she’s up here” Ramsey said, motioning first behind her and then above her head to demonstrate the progress Shaffer has made.
To Shaffer, in order to come from “back here” to “up here,” she needed her record expunged.
When she got out of jail, no one wanted to hire a felon, she said. She said one lady at a staffing agency “laid it out for me straight.” The lady laughed at her, saying, “You can’t do anything with your record.”
Still, Shaffer held on to Bible verses studied in the unlikeliest of places – the prison laundry room: “I would stay up all night in jail to read the Bible and pray while I did my work-study.”
“My life lesson I learned in prison is to lean on God,” Shaffer said.
Among the verses she read were “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) and “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
Getting her record expunged seemed impossible.
“The laws have changed,” the judge told her. “It will take five years.”
That’s what led her to the RVCLC, formerly Fort Smith Christian Women’s Job Corps.
“I thought I was looking for a career plan,” Shaffer wrote to the national Woman’s Missionary Union Faye Dove Scholarship board, “but what I found was discipleship and love.”
“The one word I always use to describe CWJC is ‘discipleship,’” said Ramsey.
The program is set up based on Christ-centered mentoring.
“Without Christ and without these women mentors teaching other women to pray and to live by His Word, CWJC would not be successful,” she said.
“We did Bible study every time we met,” said Shaffer’s mentor, Roxana King, 61. “I’d give her a goal for the week and try to help and encourage her.”
“My dream is to build a home for women transitioning out of jail,” Shaffer said. “I want to teach women life and parenting skills, to be an encourager, to give people hope.”
“I want to teach them how to live for Jesus,” she said.
Even though the judge said the expunction would take five years, with RVCLC’s help, it took five months.
“I’m well on my way,” Shaffer told the Aug. 3 crowd, smiling.
Shaffer plans to graduate in 2017 at an accredited Arkansas Christian college with a master’s degree in mental health and family counseling.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News. Lisa Falknor is northwest correspondent for the Arkansas Baptist News.)

9/18/2015 12:59:45 PM by Lisa Falknor, Arkansas Baptist News/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Prayer wave’ stirring for Rugby World Cup

September 18 2015 by Samantha Conners, IMB Connecting/Baptist Press

The roar of the crowd, the sound of men crashing into one another as they fight for the ball, the cheers and jeers of fans as teams score – it’s time for Rugby World Cup 2015. And churches in England are asking for prayer as they prepare to share the gospel with hundreds of thousands of rugby spectators.
From Sept. 18 to Oct. 31, 11 cities across England and Wales will host 48 tournament matches played by 20 teams from around the world. Team USA opposes Samoa in their first match on Sept. 20, followed by matches against Scotland on Sept. 27, South Africa on Oct. 7, and Japan on Oct. 11.
In 1845, three students at Rugby School in England published the rules for what is now known as rugby. Little did they know their schoolyard game would someday become the third most watched sporting event in the world: the Rugby World Cup (RWC).


Derek Jones/

For David Chawner, a retired Baptist pastor and rugby chaplain for 15 years, RWC is more than an exciting time to watch rugby. He sees it as an opportunity.
“Here’s a chance for us to find something which a large percentage of the population [is] interested in,” he said. “Around that, [we] can engage with them, get to know them, and also let them know there are Christians involved in the sport and it’s relevant to faith. Faith is relevant to the whole of life.”
That’s why Chawner helped pioneer Engage 2015, an initiative with a mission of “equipping churches to engage with Rugby World Cup 2015.”
“It’s important in an event like this, to try to get the message over to churches that we can meet people where they are rather than expecting them to meet us where we are,” Chawner said.
Engage 2015 offers resources to assist churches with outreach during RWC.
“What we’ve specifically done is try to come up with a range of ideas, and resources to back them up, that fit into a local church’s outreach program,” Chawner said.
He said Engage 2015 can provide videos of Christian rugby players, a sweepstakes app to encourage friendly competition, a rugby quiz, a sports-themed book of Luke’s Gospel and Acts, and prayer and events resources for any church to use.
While Engage 2015 has appeared to build a team spirit among churches in England, those helping with the effort hope to involve others throughout the world in praying for the tournament. On Sept. 17, the day before the tournament begins, Christians from every nation are encouraged to pray for the players, fans and churches in England at 8 p.m. their local time and then tweet using the hashtag #RWCPrayerWave. The prayer wave will be tracked online and can be seen at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Samantha Conners is a writer for the London Bureau of Baptist Press.)

9/18/2015 12:45:18 PM by Samantha Conners, IMB Connecting/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Public school partnerships offer unique opportunities

September 18 2015 by Nicole Kalil, Florida Baptist Witness

As churches continue to seek out new ways to connect with and impact their communities, many are discovering an overlooked mission field right in their own backyards.
It’s their neighborhood public school.
As students all over the state have been heading back to school during the past few weeks, Florida Baptists have been reaching out to serve “the least of these” in ways both big and small.
“Public schools are a mission field, and this is a way we can show Christ’s love to them,” said Jason Mole, family pastor at First Baptist Church in Kissimmee.
Mole said that his church’s work with five area schools stems from Senior Pastor Tim Wilder’s vision to make a difference in the schools around them.
All five of the schools FBC Kissimmee partners with are within three miles of the church.


Mole’s church likes to capitalize on the fall and Christmas seasons because they offer organic opportunities to serve students, teachers and staff.
For Christmas several years ago, FBC Kissimmee bought a gift for every student at Central Avenue Elementary School. Mole said they bought, wrapped and delivered more than 800 presents.
And to get elementary students at all the schools off to a strong start last year, the church gave away 1,000 backpacks filled with the school supplies required for each grade level.
This year, church volunteers fanned out to four of the schools to serve in whatever capacity was needed, from painting and pressure washing to putting together student packets and landscaping.
Pine Grove Baptist Church in Trenton also capitalizes on opportunities that the back-to school season brings.
Emanuel Harris, worship and children’s pastor at Pine Grove, described their annual Back to School Bash and carnival that benefits students and families in Gilchrist, Dixie and Levy counties.
In its fourth year, Harris said this year’s bash was the biggest so far, with an estimated 1,000 people enjoying free hot dogs and drinks, inflatable bounce houses and water slides. One of the Levy County hospice thrift stores set up a clothes closet for those in need, and 780 backpacks full of school supplies were handed out. While parents picked up clothes and school supplies, children were offered tours of a sheriff’s office helicopter and fire trucks.
Pine Grove also helps feed students in need with a backpack filled with food for them to take home for the weekend.
Mike Reed, senior pastor of San Jose Baptist in Jacksonville, has made meeting the needs of nearby San Jose Elementary a priority for his congregation.
“God can’t work on the campus of San Jose Elementary if the members of San Jose Baptist stay on our campus,” he said.
To that end, members of San Jose Baptist, both young and old, interact with the school frequently throughout the year.
Reed said in previous years their youth ministry has gone to the school to help clean up and plant flowers. Senior adults volunteer in classrooms weekly, providing whatever support the teachers need.
Reed also encourages his members to buy a membership in the school’s PTA in order to help fund them.
Teachers at San Jose Elementary are not left out of the mix. The church makes sure to bless them with breakfast or lunch on the first day of school as well as during teacher workdays.
Jeff Litton, missions engagement coordinator at the Jacksonville Baptist Association (JBA), encourages churches in his association to forge deep relationships with the schools they serve and do more than just help with supplies once a year.
“Get to know staff, teachers, students and families,” he said. “You uncover needs as you get into deeper relationships.”
Reed said it’s important to minister to the school at critical times, like the beginning of a new school year, because it can open the door for more ministry opportunities if something traumatic happens at school or in the life of a student or faculty member.
All the churches that we spoke with for this story agree that a good relationship with the school’s principal is the entry point and first priority for any church.
With a principal’s busy schedule and many responsibilities, Reed said it can sometimes be hard for principals to be able to communicate what their needs are or even to entertain the idea of a relationship at all.
“If you go to a principal and they say they’re not ready, give them your contact information and let them know you want to serve and help,” Reed advised.
Principal Paula Smith at San Jose Elementary said in written remarks: “[The relationship] has been a huge asset for San Jose Elementary for many years and continues to provide us with many blessings! From school supplies to campus beautification and consistent volunteers and incentives, San Jose Baptist has supported our school in various aspects when or wherever there is a need!”
Harris at Pine Grove said that his church’s involvement at school has given them a “respected” voice with their local school board.
Harris said part of maintaining that healthy relationship is respecting the guidelines that the district sets out for separation of church and state.
“We’re very careful,” he said. “We review with the school board the religious liberty guidelines and what line they don’t want us to cross.”
Harris said it’s worth it to play by the school board’s rules because they want to continue to have a voice with the public school system.
“Those who are noncompliant are not asked back and they lose the opportunity,” he added.
It’s an opportunity that Kevin Jones believes churches should not squander.
Jones, assistant professor of teacher education at Boyce College, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s undergraduate school, said that he hopes churches are seeking ways to engage with neighborhood schools.
“As Christians, we are committed to share the Gospel with all people, to pray for the lost and to serve not only one another within the body of Christ or a local church, but also unbelievers,” he said.
Many churches around the state have taken advantage of the gospel opportunities on the mission field known as the public school campus.
Duval County School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti has encouraged all 160 of the schools in his district to partner with a faith based organization, which up to this point have mainly been area churches. A total of 120 of his schools already have these partnerships, and he is optimistic about more schools being positively impacted by these relationships.
“It’s unquestionable that there is a strong faith-based presence in Jacksonville, and we should leverage it to do more for our children and fill in where there are gaps,” he said.
Litton said at last count, there were at least 40 JBA churches with at least one school partner, and there could be even more.
“I would hope that there would be an increase in this type of involvement,” Jones said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness. Nicole Kalil writes for the Witness.)

9/18/2015 12:35:24 PM by Nicole Kalil, Florida Baptist Witness | with 0 comments

Abedini prayer vigils set globally 9/26

September 17 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The wife of imprisoned American pastor Saeed Abedini is on a 21-day “Daniel” fast and is organizing prayer vigils internationally Sept. 26, the third anniversary of her husband’s imprisonment in Iran for his Christian faith.
Naghmeh Abedini, in asking Christians to pray for her husband and the persecuted church, also is promoting a letter-writing campaign to ask United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to advocate for Abedini’s release when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks Sept. 28 at the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
Naghmeh Abedini will attend a prayer rally for her husband and other persecuted Christians at 7 p.m. Sept. 28 at Calvary Chapel in Old Bridge, N.J. In advance of the U.N. sessions that began Sept. 15, she addressed over 100 members of parliaments from 50 nations who held a meeting on international religious freedom in New York, urging the lawmakers to take action in their home countries to encourage her husband’s release.


Facebook photo
This drawing from 9-year-old Rebekkah Abedini pleads for freedom for her father Saeed Abedini, imprisoned in Iran because of his faith in Christ.

Imprisonment is taking its toll on the 35-year-old pastor, his wife said on Facebook Sept. 16, but he was encouraged to learn of the prayer vigils today from a family member, the first visitor Iran has allowed him in two months.
“His face lit up and he was encouraged to hear that so many are praying for him. He was encouraged to know that a date that brought so much pain had become a day when Christians united together to pray for him and the persecuted church,” Naghmeh Abedini wrote. “I made sure that he was told that I had not given up the fight … for his release. That despite government shortcomings, none of us were giving up. That we were getting on our knees and praying and fasting for him each day leading up to the prayer vigil. I knew that during the short prison visits he needed to know that he was not forgotten.”
Abedini is suffering both physically and emotionally, lamenting the death of his grandmother whose funeral he could not attend, the death of a cellmate due to lack of medical treatment and the absence from his family.
“The beatings and attacks have taken their toll on Saeed and he is in constant pain every day,” his wife wrote on Facebook. “Knowing his kids are growing up without him has made the journey that much more emotional for him. He always wanted to be the dad that poured into his kids every single day of them growing up. He was the more nurturing one of the two of us and cared about each and every milestone.
“Saeed realizes that he has had to give up those things that were so dear to him for the sake of the gospel and that is the one thing that brings him comfort,” she said of her husband. “Saeed is holding onto hope that one day he will reunite with us again.”


Facebook photo
Naghmeh Abedini, wife of imprisoned American pastor Saeed Abedini, with their children Rebekkah and Jacob.

Naghmeh Abedini continues to live in their home in Boise, Idaho, with their two children, 9-year-old Rebekkah and 7-year-old Jacob.
  Prayer vigils are scheduled in all 50 states and nearly 30 foreign countries to date, according to the registration page at The Be Heard Project of the American Center for Law and Justice ( In addition to individual vigils, four opportunities are available nationwide through Facebook and teleconferencing, including a 24-hour prayer conference call at 712-775-7035, through access code 281207, from 9 p.m. Sept. 26-8 p.m. Sept. 27, Eastern Time, according to Be Heard.
“I feel led by the Lord to start another 21 days of prayer and fasting,” Naghmeh Abedini said in announcing the prayer vigil on Facebook. “The prayer and fasting will start from September 6 to September 26,” the day of the prayer vigils and the date when Saeed was imprisoned in Iran.
She has held annual prayer vigils for her husband since his arrest in 2012 while visiting family in Tehran. He was sentenced Jan. 27, 2013, to eight years in prison on charges he threatened national security by planting house churches in Iran years earlier, and had been under house arrest since July 2012.
“I will be fasting from pleasant food (Daniel 10:3 ‘I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled’),” Naghmeh Abedini said. “I plan to abstain from coffee and chocolate. You are free to abstain from food, social media, TV or skip a meal or two ... [T]he point is to spend that time in prayer.”
She is using Hebrews 12:1-2 as a scriptural anchor for the fast.
“The Lord is showing me that as we pray for Saeed and the persecuted Church and remember the ‘witnesses,’” she said, “revival can be brought into our own life and in our country.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

Related Stories:

Abedini beating intensifies calls for release
Abedini’s ‘dark day’ sparks more calls for release

9/17/2015 1:12:59 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Revitalization effort transforms dying Tennessee church

September 17 2015 by Connie Davis Bushey, Baptist & Reflector

“This is a story of coming from dying to being healthy again,” said Bill Blair at the Church Revitalization Conference: Giving Hope for Change of his journey.
Blair was referring to his experience with revitalization as pastor of Mill Creek Baptist Church, Nashville, Tenn. The conference was held Aug. 31-Sept.1 at Hermitage Hills Baptist Church by the Tennessee Baptist Convention (TBC) in partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources and Nashville Baptist Association.
Blair told folks attending a breakout session at the conference that though the historic church had started other churches including First Baptist Church of Nashville, it was down to about 40 people on Sunday mornings two years ago when he “took on the call as pastor.” Blair also was accepting his first pastorate and is bivocational.
Since then, 16 people have made professions of faith at Mill Creek Baptist, 11 have been baptized, the children and youth group has grown to about 20, and a singles ministry which has drawn as many as 40 has been started.


Photo submitted by Baptist & Reflector
Pastor Bill Blair, left, Mill Creek Baptist Church, Nashville, and his wife Jennifer visit with David Taft, pastor, First Baptist Church, Hermitage, following a breakout session of a church revitalization conference, held Aug. 31-Sept. 1.

Attendance has increased to about 65 on Sunday mornings, but more importantly the church is becoming healthy, Blair said.
God has answered so many prayers to lead to these early steps toward revitalization, he noted.
Sometimes it just took fresh eyes on the situation, he said. For instance, to protect the parking lot which had been damaged by big vehicles using it to turn around, the church had installed a gate. But that kept parents from parking at the church as they waited for a school bus. By recognizing necessary adjustments and opportunities to be more accessible to the community, the church has developed many ministries while forming relationships, he said.
“We’ve seen amazing answers to prayer of God doing things even before we’ve taken action steps,” he said.
The three steps toward revitalization that the church took were prayer, partnerships and perseverance, he noted.
Strategic, specific prayer is needed by a church seeking revitalization, Blair said. That may be for a teacher for a certain class, $200 for a need in the church, or a speaker. He referred to John 14:12-14 in which Jesus asked for specific requests and then promised to meet those needs.
Blair said he involved the congregation in supporting these prayer needs by adapting the Wednesday night printed prayer guide. The list of those who were ill was updated which pared it down substantially. Then the prayer guide was broadened to include other prayer needs such as North America and international needs. Needs are also shared throughout the week.
Blair said he decided to pray about worship time at the church rather than try to change it in order to attract people. Since then, a group of people have stepped forward to lead a style of worship that has drawn a positive response from the congregation, he said.
On the partnerships needed for revitalization, Blair said a partnership with First Baptist Church of Nashville helped in several ways including financially. A partnership with the TBC provided resources and funds from the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions.
The church also asked the Nashville Baptist Association for help and has received guidance from it. Blair said a struggling church should ask for help.
The church also has received assistance from Brentwood Baptist Church, Brentwood, Tenn. which sent its medical/dental mobile clinic two times to the Mill Creek community. As a result, 74 people were treated and seven people made professions of faith.
A church undergoing a revitalization must persevere, Blair said. You must have a “radical faith with realistic expectations.”
In small churches, which are the majority of Southern Baptist churches, one or two people can make a huge difference, he noted. He advised that church leaders “look for changes that don’t show up in the numbers.”
What people are talking about at church is a measure of their attitudes, he said. Is there joy in the church? Do people pray and then act like they believe their prayer will be answered?
Pastors should “equip the people you have rather than wish for the people you don’t,” he said, noting that Jesus didn’t have a “dream team” in his disciples.
Pastors should consider their church members as those that God has sent to the church. He said they should trust that God can work through anyone.
A pastor should lead the congregation to accomplish the revitalization in small steps, drop hints as to the progress being accomplished, and regularly celebrate accomplishments, he said.
“Walk with them from step to step,” he said. “You are going from a near-death experience to life.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Connie Davis Bushey is news editor of the Baptist & Reflector, at newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.)

Related Story:

Church revitalization, change addressed at conf.

9/17/2015 1:04:58 PM by Connie Davis Bushey, Baptist & Reflector | with 0 comments

Baptists among ‘top 75 religion bloggers’

September 17 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

At least 10 Southern Baptists are included on Newsmax’s list of the “top 75 religion bloggers” in America, with five appearing among the top 20.
“The Southern Baptist leaders who blog regularly have built influence, specifically in the niches they address,” said social media expert Marty Duren. “When compared to peers ... I think our leaders who have engaged are doing very well.”
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. ranked second while Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore came in fourth on the Newsmax list. The top five Southern Baptist bloggers were:

  • Mohler (2), who writes at and publishes two to five blog posts per month on theological and cultural events that are part of the news cycle.

  • Moore (4), whose blog addresses cultural, ethical and theological issues and publishes multiple times each week.

  • Thom Rainer (16), president of LifeWay Christian Resources, whose blog publishes daily and addresses issues pertaining to church life and leadership.

  • Ron Edmondson (17), pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky., who blogs daily at on leadership, family and the Christian life.

  • Denny Burk (18), professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, whose blog addresses cultural, political and biblical issues multiple times per week.

Other Southern Baptists in the top 75 included Roger Olson (41), professor of theology at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary; Trevin Wax (43), managing editor of The Gospel Project curriculum at LifeWay; James MacDonald (61), pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in the Chicago area; Beth Moore (62), women’s author and speaker; and Ed Stetzer (68), executive director of LifeWay Research.
Newsmax said “each blogger was considered through a variety of general factors including reach, popularity and cultural significance, as well as through more specific factors such as RSS membership, readership statistics, Twitter followers, and Facebook likes. Entries were filtered in order to ensure that multiple religions were represented and included, as well as various subsets of mainline denominations and sects.”
The rankings are “somewhat significant” and carry “a lot of weight with a certain range of news consumers,” said Duren, LifeWay’s manager of social media strategy. But he called the conservative news outlet’s selection criteria “subjective.”
The order of Newsmax’s list does not correspond to rankings from the analytics website, Duren said, and the purposeful inclusion of bloggers from multiple religions likely resulted in some more popular blogs’ not making the list.
“Newsmax did not hide this, to their credit,” Duren said, “and there’s nothing at all wrong with it, but it can explain why more popular blogs (even those with higher measurable rankings) did not make this particular list.”
Whether or not a Christian leader’s blog makes a rankings list, blogging is a valuable enterprise, Duren said.
“The advantages of blogging as a Christian leader are numerous,” he said. “Theology can be worked out in a public forum, devotionals can be published as frequently as desired, the cost of entry is low to nothing, and meaningful discussions about life can be hosted.
“Blogging is a viable tool to be used for discipleship, writing, apologetics, and things I haven’t thought of yet. I don’t know if there are any metrics for ‘number of people saved through reading a blog,’ but it isn’t outside possibility,” Duren said.
He concluded, “Not having a blog will not kill a person’s ministry or influence, but having a blog can greatly expand both.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

9/17/2015 12:39:22 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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