June 2016

Revival, unity, reconciliation on display at SBC meeting

June 28 2016 by Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer

This year’s Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting was historic in many respects. As I have taken time to reflect on the events that took place in St. Louis, I am thankful for the strong emphasis on spiritual renewal, spiritual awakening, racial reconciliation and unity that were on display at this year’s convention.
The emphasis on revival flowed from the heart of our outgoing convention president, Dr. Ronnie Floyd. I know that Dr. Floyd is a man who is deeply devoted to prayer, and it was evident that he had spent much time before the Lord fasting, praying and listening to what God wanted him to do and say at this year’s convention.
For the second consecutive year, Dr. Floyd devoted a significant portion of the meeting program to focused prayer for spiritual awakening for the church, for our nation and for our world.
I am grateful for the leadership he gave as our SBC president.
We also witnessed something unprecedented in this year’s election of a new SBC president. Following a closely-contested election that did not yield a winner after two rounds of balloting by messengers, both candidates – Pastor J.D. Greear of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham and Pastor Steve Gaines of Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, Tenn. – both expressed their willingness to concede to the other.
After these two men spent time praying individually, as well as together, and conversing with one another about the best decision, J.D. withdrew his candidacy and encouraged messengers to support and unite behind Steve Gaines.
On Wednesday morning when Pastor Greear said these words, the audience erupted with celebrative applause indicating their appreciation for his willingness to sacrifice his run for office in 2016 in favor of a wonderful spirit of unity among the messengers.
Pastor J.D.’s actions spoke volumes about the kind of person and leader that he is, and the entire SBC saw why so many North Carolina Baptists have great respect and much appreciation for him.
At 43-years-old, J.D. is a very effective and influential pastor. He is a strong pastor-leader, an effective communicator, and he consistently preaches the truth of God’s Word. I am thankful to have him as pastor of a North Carolina Baptist church. In addition to their commitment to evangelism, disciple-making, church planting and missions, The Summit Church has also made significant strides, in recent years, in its support of missions through the Cooperative Program. In fulfillment of a missions financial growth plan adopted three years ago, The Summit is now one of the top Cooperative Program giving churches in our state convention. This congregation also invests large numbers of dollars in Southern Baptist missions through Great Commission Giving.  
This year’s annual convention meeting included a panel discussion on racial unity in America, and messengers overwhelmingly adopted a resolution condemning the display of the Confederate battle flag.
While we recognize that this flag serves as a memorial to many Southerners who bravely fought and died in the Confederate military during the Civil War, there are many other citizens in our nation who do not have that same memory or understanding. For them, the Confederate battle flag represents a symbol of atrocities that occurred during a time period in our nation’s history, and sadly, racism still exists in our country today.
Can we recognize that in the Bible, we are called upon us to set aside our preferences for the sake of the gospel, especially when they become a stumbling block to others? The Confederate flag is a stumbling block to many of our African-American brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as others who have not yet come into the family of faith. I agree with former SBC President James Merritt who said in speaking for the resolution from the convention floor that “all the Confederate flags in the world are not worth one soul of any race.”
In light of everything that took place during this year’s SBC meeting, I left St. Louis hopeful and excited about the future of our convention.
Throughout our convention’s history, there have been issues that have divided us, and some of the issues we addressed this year could have done the same. But the spirit of unity and cooperation that were on display this year underscores our longstanding belief as Southern Baptists that we can accomplish more together than we can alone.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” – Psalm 133:1 (NKJV).

6/28/2016 9:10:27 AM by Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer | with 0 comments

A place for state conventions in SBC life

June 13 2016 by Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer

State conventions serve a valuable role in the cooperative partnerships of missions and ministry life within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). In North Carolina, our purpose and our mission as a state convention is to assist member churches in fulfilling God’s mandate to evangelize and disciple the lost for His glory in local and global missions. This is how we partner together in our marching orders of fulfilling the Great Commission. Working together through voluntary relationships and combining manpower and financial resources is what has enabled the SBC to become the largest Protestant Christian mission force in our world. Individual churches cannot fulfill all the missions needs here or abroad by working alone, but we can make a difference by cooperating together.
A state convention is a group of diverse churches within a state or states that voluntarily choose to cooperate in obedience to an Acts 1:8 model for missions. The SBC has not assigned the responsibility of reaching and discipling the lost in North Carolina as a primary task to any of its entities – that is our responsibility.
There are some who may feel that the SBC would function better financially if local churches did not choose to channel their mission dollars through their state convention in supporting missions through the Cooperative Program.
I respectfully disagree.
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) is a leading convention in the financial support of SBC missions through the Cooperative Program, in addition to the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong special mission offerings.  I believe this level of support from our churches has been impacted positively because our convention staff strongly encourage North Carolina churches to support these mission offerings in their work with individual churches.   
Cooperating together, the churches of the BSC have created missions-based ministries that are not operated by the SBC, but are instead operated by our state convention. North Carolina Baptists decided that these ministries were necessary, appropriate and beneficial for our state, and therefore, they decided to cooperate together and launch, adopt, cooperate with and help fund them.
This includes the Biblical Recorder, Fruitland Baptist Bible College, Baptist Children’s Homes, N.C. Baptist Foundation, Baptist Hospital and North Carolina Baptist Men who are primarily funded by the N.C. Missions Offering. In the history of the BSC, other institutions were started or adopted by this convention and funded for a period of years. Most of them continue to work in a relationship with the BSC and our member churches, even though they no longer have to rely on financial support from this convention’s budget.
Each year, messengers from N.C. Baptist churches consider and adopt a budget that has been prepared by a budget committee made up of individuals from our churches. This means our churches determine what they want to do in continuing financial support for these ministries and also how much they want this convention to forward to the SBC in our partnership.
Some of the BSC’s 4,300 Baptist churches do not have sufficient means to carry out some aspects of missions and ministry alone. The convention acts almost as auxiliary staff for the churches, providing them vision and information about how we can help them get started in developing and conducting these ministries. This is a unique model of cooperation without control – the convention preserves the autonomy of the individual churches.
The desire of many North Carolina Baptists to receive assistance from the BSC becomes obvious when you consider how many local congregations contact the BSC for assistance or counsel. During the month of April, we received 154,354 emails. We average 5,000 incoming phone calls per month. This number does not include cell phone calls that our staff receive from church leaders. In addition, convention and entity employees drive thousands of miles each year to preach, teach and lead many meetings in N.C. Baptist churches and associations.
Some of our medium size and smaller churches do not have the means to plant churches by themselves. This convention has a church-planting and evangelism focus, and helps existing churches plant an average of one church every 4.3 days. No other church or organization has matched that statistic – it is only made possible through local convention work.
North Carolina Baptist people – whether ministers or lay leaders – can take part in convention affairs by becoming part of various committees and boards that direct the work we do. They can also represent their church as a messenger to our annual meeting and cast their vote in our decision-making process.
The convention is a great funnel, a distributor, a vehicle and network for doing missions and carrying out Christ’s mandate by partnering and cooperating together. Local churches can always turn to the convention and their local Baptist association when they need assistance. We are here to serve as strategic partners in church strengthening, church planting and church revitalization. Our commitment is to help churches advance the Kingdom of God to their fullest potential in North Carolina, North America and the world

6/13/2016 2:01:03 PM by Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer | with 0 comments