January 2002

Four cities report 169 new churches

January 5 2002 by James Dotson , North American Mission Board

Four cities report 169 new churches | Saturday, Jan. 5, 2002

Saturday, Jan. 5, 2002

Four cities report 169 new churches

By James Dotson North American Mission Board ALPHARETTA, Ga. - A total of 169 new churches have been formed and about 23,000 professions of faith have been recorded in four major U.S. cities during the first two years of the North American Mission Board's (NAMB) Strategic Focus Cities (SFC) emphasis, according to NAMB officials. Existing congregations have been energized with new members and a new passion for evangelism and ministry, they said. Student evangelism has emerged as a high priority and Southern Baptists churches are finding greater recognition and acceptance for their message of hope through Christ.

"While we are grateful for the results that God has granted, the real significance of SFC will be seen eight to 10 years from now as we are able to view the impetus created by all that was prayed over and poured into a city," said Doug Metzger, director of NAMB's SFC team. "An initiative of this magnitude has created a huge learning curve and the beneficiaries will be the cities that we involve in the future. As has been said by one of our local leaders: 'The best is yet to come.'"

"Our experience is showing that good churches can be in the same city, doing good ministry yet coming short of the 'best' in ministry," said NAMB President Robert E. (Bob) Reccord. "That springs from a strong prayer base where pastors are on their knees together and strategizing together. With a kingdom vision, an evangelistic passion and a multiplication mindset of church planting the results are speaking for themselves."

SFC represents a commitment of volunteers and other resources by Southern Baptists across the country toward introducing people in the largest cities in the United States and Canada to Christ - and helping them grow in their faith through involvement in local churches.

Phoenix and Chicago are where leaders pioneered some of the most effective strategies that have continued in other cities.

Local-church events like Vacation Bible School and block parties were used in Phoenix as part of a unified metro-wide strategy, according to city coordinator Bill Agee.

"The entire process for us was one of cooperation and facilitation," he said. "We wanted every activity to be dovetailing into something else. That gives it a synergy that is often missing from individual, disconnected events."

The result has been a renewed emphasis on cooperative prayer, excitement about planting healthy churches and strengthening existing churches through a succession of evangelistic events, he said.

A total of 34 churches were started in Phoenix with an estimated 10,000 professions of faith recorded as a result of SFC efforts, he said. The churches that participated in the SFC effort have an average growth of about 20 percent, Agee said, and baptisms have set new records each year.

"SFC has allowed us to move very quickly to a level of evangelism and soul-winning that might have taken us a decade to achieve," he said, noting that churches in 2001 have continued their efforts even without the same level of funding as 2000.

In Chicago, a combination of citywide events coupled with local church efforts have made a lasting impact on the four participating associations. Prayer events, conferences, block parties, circuses and a citywide event on the shore of Lake Michigan have resulted in nearly 7,000 professions of faith and 108 new churches.

"Strategic Focus Cities catapulted Lake County five years in our church-planting strategy and 10 years in our evangelism strategy," said Bob Ryan, director of missions for Lake County Association.

"Besides the blessing of people coming to Christ, there's a new vision for church planting," added Phil Miglioratti, who served as city coordinator for the effort. "There is a new church-planting Web site that can be a prototype for many of our associations on how to track the vision and resource church planting."

The effort also has improved the image of Southern Baptists, he said, including improved relationships with other evangelical groups who now see Southern Baptists as being leaders in church planting and evangelism.

Las Vegas and Boston also see the strong momentum of their first year of implementation continuing.

In October, an inner-city evangelism (ICE) training conference in Las Vegas resulted in 1,100 professions of faith - more than 125 each for the seven congregations that participated, according to Isaiah Mejia, a NAMB missionary and ministry evangelism coordinator for the Southern Nevada Baptist Association.

"In those five days it was just phenomenal what was done," he said.

Overall, the local SFC effort also focused on a broad array of local church events carried out under the banner of "Loving Las Vegas."

A total of 15 churches have been started thus far with more than 3,000 professions of faith.

"The greatest impact has been in the area of unifying the churches toward a common cause," said Harry Watson, another NAMB missionary who serves as director of missions for the association. "The second greatest impact has been in establishing acceptance among the community leaders of Christians being a positive impact on their community."

"We've seen the city penetrated with the gospel," Mejia said. "We had dreamed of a day when Christianity would be seen as a viable solution for life in Las Vegas, and I believe we've made long strides toward that goal."

In Boston, community-based ministries and student evangelism efforts were among the highlights of the "Hearts for Boston" effort, according to Ignatius Meimaris, director of missions for the Greater Boston Baptist Association and co-coordinator of the SFC effort.

A total of 12 churches have been established and more than 3,000 professions of faith were recorded during the summer alone.

More than 25 student-led Christian clubs have begun in area high schools. "The Boston Plunge," a collegiate ministry event impacted both Boston residents and the students who participated.

As in other cities, the effort also served as a catalyst for new ministries and relationships with other evangelicals in the Boston area. One of the lasting legacies has been a permanent medical/dental clinic that has been established in partnership with the Salvation Army.

"The impression that has been left in the city is that we are here to stay," Meimaris said. "Southern Baptists are being recognized as a key player in what God is doing kingdom-wise with the city of Boston and surrounding areas. Hearts for Boston helped establish that and for us that is very, very important."

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
1/5/2002 12:00:00 AM by James Dotson , North American Mission Board | with 0 comments

New state insurance law impacts some churches

January 5 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

New state insurance law impacts some churches | Saturday, Jan. 5, 2002

Saturday, Jan. 5, 2002

New state insurance law impacts some churches

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor RALEIGH - The good news for church staff members who have health care insurance through the Southeastern Ministers' Association (SMA) is that they can keep their coverage despite changes in North Carolina state law. The bad news for most clients, though, is they will likely pay more. In order to keep the insurance, clients need to complete renewal paperwork by "late January" in order to meet a March 1 deadline, according to Gene Pleasants, SMA's president.

Pleasants recently advised North Carolina policy holders that, because of issues associated with the reforms, the association could no longer represent them as a single group. SMA's clients in Virginia are unaffected.

The new law, called "small group reform," has impacted churches that do not meet its requirements. For example, churches that provide insurance for the pastor but don't offer coverage to other employees who are not covered under a spouse's policy may not meet the requirement. SMA's insurance carrier, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, is no longer required to offer coverage to the churches.

Fearing a loss of coverage, SMA considered different options and then decided to seek a solution with Blue Cross/Blue Shield. The insurance company agreed to offer a plan comparable to what was previously offered.

SMA staff members are now scrambling to contact group members, answer questions and assist clients in ensuring that their comprehensive medical coverage does not lapse.

Member churches that conform to the small group reform law can choose between a variety of plans offered by Blue Cross.

The law has changed SMA's role from that of administrator of a group to an insurance broker, Pleasants said.

SMA will continue to offer dental insurance on a group basis.

More than 1,100 churches are members of the group that was formed 25 years ago. About 75 percent of those are affiliated with the Baptist State Convention, making SMA the largest health insurance provider for N.C. Baptist churches.

Small group reform was designed to make health care more accessible to all employees, to reduce qualifying restrictions, and to make health insurance portable during a transition period.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
1/5/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Philadelphia, Seattle targeted for 2002

January 5 2002 by James Dotson , North American Mission Board

Philadelphia, Seattle targeted for 2002 | Saturday, Jan. 5, 2002
  • Block parties - Whether in an inner-city park or a suburban churchyard, the concept of offering free food, fun and fellowship is an effective means for both new and existing churches to reach their communities. Volunteers are asked to work with games and food tables while church members are left free to share Christ and build relationships with the guests.
  • Vacation Bible School - Teams of workers are needed.
  • Prayerwalking - Volunteers to walk through neighborhoods and pray for the people in the homes.
  • Door-to-door canvassing - Community surveys, evangelistic visits and the simple delivery of packets of materials are necessary to provide a Christian witness and to spread the word about new churches.
  • Lay church planters and strengtheners - Volunteers to spend an extended period of time to provide leadership to new congregations.
  • World Changers - Young people to rehabilitate substandard homes and participate in community ministry efforts.
  • Cooperative ministry - Joint volunteer efforts between Southern Baptists and other evangelical ministries provide a broad range of opportunities for sharing Christ through personal witness and service.
  • Saturday, Jan. 5, 2002

    Philadelphia, Seattle targeted for 2002

    By James Dotson North American Mission Board ALPHARETTA, Ga. - Southern Baptists in Philadelphia and Seattle are planning for a common goal in 2002: impacting their communities with the Christian gospel and seeing lives transformed. They'll do it with the help of volunteers from across the country through the North American Mission Board's (NAMB) Strategic Focus Cities (SFC) outreach efforts. "We hope that we can work together with both Southern Baptists and other evangelical groups within these cities to make an impact for the kingdom," said Gary Frost, NAMB's vice president for strategic partnerships.

    The 2002 programs in these two cities follow SFC efforts in Chicago and Phoenix in 2000 and Boston and Las Vegas in 2001 - although evangelism and church-planting efforts occur before and after the primary implementation year.

    John Eckle, city coordinator for the Embracing Seattle effort, described Seattle as largely unchurched, with little Christian influence.

    "It's an area that is so steeped in recreation and entrepreneurialism that people just don't seem to have time," Eckle said. "Their lives are so full that when they do have time they just want to get away ... from anything that might require commitment."

    There are 120 churches in the Puget Sound Baptist Association, "most of them quite small," said Eckle, who came to Embracing Seattle as a retired chief engineer for the Seattle-based Boeing Company.

    Ninety percent of the region's four million people do not attend church at all, and only 4 percent attend an evangelical congregation of any kind.

    The population also is ethnically diverse, with a particularly strong contingent of Asians and Pacific Islanders. The largest Southern Baptist church, First Baptist Church of Tacoma, is a Korean congregation. And one of the association's new churches, he said, is a mission to Native Americans sponsored by another Korean congregation.

    One of the most ambitious strategies for Embracing Seattle lies in church planting. Organizers set a goal of starting 30 new Southern Baptist Convention churches in 2001 and 26 churches had been started by mid-December.

    Plans call for 60 new churches in 2002 and another 90 in 2003. Such numbers require not only the resources made available through Embracing Seattle, he said, but also partnerships with individual churches committed to providing funding and volunteers. Prayer goals for Embracing Seattle also are ambitious, with 5,000 prayer partners being enlisted across the country. Each volunteer is assigned to pray for a different family in the Puget Sound region each day over the next year, resulting in focused prayer for each of the area's 1.5 million families.

    In Philadelphia, the existing Southern Baptist presence and primary ministry areas are predominantly African-American and urban. Anglos make up about 15 percent of the Southern Baptist churches, whereas predominantly African-American churches make up 65 percent and other languages approximately 20 percent, according to Kathy Sheldon, associate city coordinator for the Philadelphia Spirit Strategic Focus effort.

    "At the present time, we have only one Anglo congregation in Philadelphia, so there's a great need for church planting," she said.

    Plans call for starting up to 70 new churches over the next two years, including one flagship church established last year in partnership with First Baptist Church of Orlando. Keystone Community Church in the suburb of Bucks already has 300 members.

    Philadelphia is significantly less affluent than Seattle as a whole, and the ministry strategies reflect those needs. Multi-housing ministry, volunteer opportunities with a food bank and other local ministries, homeless shelters, clothing and feeding ministries, and children's ministries all will figure prominently into volunteer needs.

    As with Seattle, much of the effort also will be placed into strengthening both new and existing churches through localized events and strategies, rather than large citywide efforts.

    "We want to see people come to know the Lord, and we want it to be a lasting effect," Sheldon said.

    Sheldon also said that as Southern Baptists begin to be identified with caring for people on a large scale, Southern Baptist churches could feel the effects for years.

    "I don't really think people in Philadelphia have a clue about what Southern Baptists are," she said. "So if we can come across offering a positive influence, that will help us create a strong positive image."

    Several core ministries requiring volunteer support are foundational to Strategic Focus Cities efforts.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    1/5/2002 12:00:00 AM by James Dotson , North American Mission Board | with 0 comments

    Sept. 11 attacks year's top story

    January 5 2002 by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press

    Sept. 11 attacks year's top story | Saturday, Jan. 5, 2002

    Saturday, Jan. 5, 2002

    Sept. 11 attacks year's top story

    By Bob Allen Associated Baptist Press JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Events of Sept. 11 overshadowed denominational controversy in a ranking of the year's top news stories by Baptist journalists. Editors of Baptist newspapers rated reaction to and ministry following Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as the year's top story. Two other stories related to the attacks - debate over Islam and controversial remarks by Jerry Falwell - also made the top 10.

    Denominational turmoil in Missouri ranked second, followed by a recent dispute between a Southern Baptist mission board and the District of Columbia Baptist Convention. A controversy over homosexuality within the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship came in fourth, with President Bush's "faith-based" initiative rounding out the top five.

    Responding to an annual informal survey by Associated Baptist Press, Baptist journalists voted the following the top 10 stories of 2001:

    1. Baptists and others react to Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, seek to minister in its wake.

    2. Turmoil grips Missouri Baptist Convention. Several agencies, including the state Baptist newspaper Word & Way, adopt self-perpetuating boards. Conservatives who control the convention take steps to recover agencies by legal action, if necessary, and escrow funding for the current year. Moderate churches develop an alternative giving plan administered through the Missouri Baptist Foundation. Speculation continues that moderates are preparing to form a separate state convention.

    3. North American Mission Board (NAMB) questions its relationship with District of Columbia Baptist Convention, citing stewardship concerns about the convention's triple alignment and indifference to SBC doctrinal concerns. In response, NAMB calls for unprecedented input into decision making of an autonomous state affiliate.

    4. Cooperative Baptist Fellowship adopts a policy against funding of any organizations that promote or endorse homosexuality. Described as "welcoming but not affirming" of gays, some constituents protest the change. It is upheld, however, by wide majority at the CBF's General Assembly in July.

    5. President Bush announces and pushes "faith-based" initiatives to make it easier for religious institutions to receive federal funds for performing social services. Supporters say restrictions on religious ministries violate religious freedom. Opponents, however, say using federal funds to promote particular religious views violates the separation of church and state.

    6. Professors at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary lose their jobs rather than endorse recent changes in the Baptist Faith and Message.

    7. (Tie) Atlanta Baptist Association debates and divides over whether to keep two member churches that include homosexuals in all areas of church life. Eventually one church leaves voluntarily and the second is dismissed.

    7. (Tie) Debate over Islam results from Sept. 11. Fearing for safety of Muslim-Americans, President Bush highlights the religion's positive contributions. SBC president James Merritt urges prayer that Muslims will be converted to Christ. Evangelist Franklin Graham calls Islam an evil religion. Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler says Muslims and Christians don't worship the same god. Reaction from Muslim and interfaith groups was mixed.

    9. Jerry Falwell makes, then apologizes for, a remark on "700 Club" that Sept. 11 attacks are evidence that God has removed a protective hand over America, blaming American Civil Liberties Union and others that seek to secularize the nation. Afterward, the episode shows up in a Falwell fund-raising letter as evidence of the media being out to get Falwell.

    10. (Tie) A national "Mainstream Baptists" network begins to take shape with a February meeting. Another national gathering is being planned for 2002.

    10. (Tie) The International Mission Board says in January that, unlike other SBC entities, it won't force missionaries to agree with every detail of the Baptist Faith and Message. Later, an International Mission Board regional leader said he acted on his own in requesting workers under his authority to voluntarily endorse the document.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    1/5/2002 12:00:00 AM by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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