July 2012

More churches needed to reach N.C. with the gospel

July 30 2012 by Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer

Year after year I continue to be reminded of God’s great power and grace as He works through new church plants across North Carolina. In these church plants God is changing lives and doing wonderful things that can only be the result of His working.
By the end of 2011, the Baptist State Convention Church Planting Team reported 89 new church plants, which included Anglo, Hispanic, Asian and African-American churches. Other types of churches included cowboy, Montagnard, Haitian and Burmese. Our Asian church planting consultant works with 37 different language groups. There are presently more than 230 languages spoken in North Carolina. Over one-half of the churches we assist in planting speak a language other than English.
Our church planting team tells me we are well on our way to another fruitful year in church planting, and for that I give God all the praise. I thank you for supporting missions through the Cooperative Program, the Annie Armstrong Offering and the North Carolina Missions Offering in order to make church planting in North Carolina possible.
Often times I hear people ask why we need to plant churches when we already have many churches in North Carolina doing great things for the Kingdom. One reason is population growth; if we do not plant new churches, we will not reach our state’s growing population. I believe church planting is so important that I have included it as one of our Convention’s 7 Pillars for Ministry.
Tom Billings, executive director of Union Baptist Association in Houston, Texas, shared last month during a meeting with North Carolina Directors of Missions that in order to reach the unchurched population of North Carolina we need to plant a minimum of 25,815 new churches based upon these new churches averaging 200 in attendance. Mark Gray, our church planting team leader, says that new church plants reach people for the Lord at three times the rate of existing churches. Therefore, if we do not plant churches, we miss a critical opportunity to reach people with the gospel. Our prayer is that healthy church plants will multiply by planting other healthy churches. Last year our new churches reported 2,651 professions of faith, as well as 79,550 evangelistic and cultivative contacts during the year. Our church plants also report an 82 percent survivability rate over four years, making the average survivability of church plants in North Carolina higher than the national average.
Church planting is not easy, and your church can make a tremendous difference in the lives of new churches and church plants by becoming a church planting partner. There are various ways you can do this, and I invite you to visit ncbaptist.org/churchplanting to learn more. You can also contact Mark Gray at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5550, or mgray@ncbaptist.org.
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” 1 Peter 2:9
7/30/2012 2:26:27 PM by Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer | with 0 comments

Special needs ministry shows God’s love

July 16 2012 by Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer

The summer months are a busy time for your Baptist State Convention staff. During this time of year staff are spread out across the state and around the world serving on mission trips; leading, teaching and preaching during camps and retreats; and participating in events in our Baptist associations and churches.
One special event that happens each summer is the Convention’s Happiness Retreat. This year, these three-day retreats are being held four times in July at Caraway Conference Center, and once at Truett Camp. Happiness Retreat is similar to a Vacation Bible School, with times of teaching, worship, crafts, recreation and a talent show.
Happiness Retreats are unique because they are specifically designed for youth and adults with developmental disabilities. Did you know that in the United States, between six and seven million people are developmentally disabled? 
Donnie Wiltshire is our Convention staff member who oversees Happiness Retreats, as well as annual retreats for people who are blind or deaf.
God has gifted Donnie for this special ministry. He has a unique ability to care for and relate to people with disabilities. Because of his education, his experience and his passion for working with special needs people, I consider Donnie to be among the best in this field of ministry.
I also thank God for individuals like Judy Autry from the Convention staff and many other volunteers who make it possible for us to provide these ministry events. Last year, more than 800 people attended these retreats. Each year, several people with special needs accept Christ as Savior during the retreats.
About 236,000 North Carolinians are blind or visually impaired.
Only about two percent of deaf people in our state have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 
Most of our churches do not have ministries in place to reach people who are blind, deaf or developmentally disabled. Yet, it is so important that we reach out to these individuals and families. The challenges of raising children with special needs can be very overwhelming, as families experience additional financial burdens, as well as the challenge of balancing time spent with a special needs child and other children in the family.
We must remember that people who are different deserve to hear the gospel. God loves them just as much as He loves us. Jesus died for their sins, just as He did for mine. We must reach out to them with the same love we have experienced in Jesus Christ.
If your church is not doing anything to reach these individuals and their family, please pray about what you can do. Perhaps you can provide transportation to church, or maybe you can teach a class or a weekly Bible study for people with special needs. You could offer Bibles, tracts and sermons in Braille or on an audio CD.
“And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” – Matthew 25:40 NKJV
7/16/2012 1:56:01 PM by Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer | with 0 comments

A new day in the SBC

July 2 2012 by Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer

The 155th session of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is now history, yet people continue talking about those things that were accomplished.
Nearly 8,000 Southern Baptists gathered in New Orleans to share the gospel during Crossover evangelism events, listen intently to dynamic sermons, hear reports from SBC entity leaders, conduct business and elect a new SBC president.

BR photo by Shawn Hendricks

Milton A. Hollifield Jr., left, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, pauses June 20 for a photo with Fred Luter, president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Hollifield said he is excited to see the unity at the annual meeting in choosing Luter.

That which garnered the most excitement and delighted our hearts this year was the unanimous election of Fred Luter, the SBC’s first African-American president.
It is impossible to describe what a special moment it was to be in the convention hall for this historic occasion. In all my years of attending SBC annual meetings, I cannot remember another decision that appeared to elicit greater unity nor create as much exuberance as that which I witnessed Tuesday afternoon in the convention hall.
A jubilant celebration of the messengers was evident as people throughout the hall stood to their feet, applauding, cheering and many weeping. Southern Baptists were celebrating the fact that our Southern Baptist Convention had finally put behind us and moved beyond some of the darkest days in our early history when the evil atrocity of slavery was a major issue with Baptists and, sadly, racial prejudice was prevalent even within the Baptist community.
A large number of members from Franklin Avenue Baptist Church (FABC) in New Orleans where Rev. Luter serves as senior pastor gathered in one section of the convention hall in support for their pastor, a man whom they love and respect. Their bold smiles and joy conveyed a message of unity to all messengers.
Some of these FABC members would recall a street preacher and Baptist pastor from the upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans taking the helm of leadership at FABC in 1986. Originally an all white congregation, the church had dwindled to about 60 people after most of its white members moved out of the neighborhood.
Yet, God used this fireball preacher who faithfully served Him and loved people to grow FABC to more than 7,000 members by 2005, when Hurricane Katrina destroyed their church buildings. Fred Luter’s life is a testimony to how God uses His servants when they choose obedience and glorify His name.
It is my sincere hope that the election of Dr. Luter will help our African-American brothers and sisters believe with confidence that we recognize their equality and importance in the life of our national and state conventions. If we have failed to sufficiently communicate this truth, we now have an opportunity to make right the wrongs in our past.
Join me in praying that God will bless my dear friend Fred Luter this year as he leads our Southern Baptist Convention.
You will be pleased to know that earlier this year our state Committee on Convention Meetings asked Dr. Luter to bring our annual convention sermon in 2013.
He will also preach during our State Evangelism Conference in February 2013. We will be blessed by his preaching.
“Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.” Daniel 12:3
7/2/2012 4:41:53 PM by Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer | with 0 comments