January 2003

Asheville church defunds association

January 31 2003 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

Asheville church defunds association | Friday, Jan. 31, 2003

Friday, Jan. 31, 2003

Asheville church defunds association

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor

Asheville's First Baptist Church has voted to stop funding the association it helped start in 1885.

Guy Sayles, pastor of the church, said the church voted to "defund" the Buncombe Baptist Association, but stopped short of withdrawing completely. The vote came Jan. 8 at the church's regular business meeting.

Sayles said the church will take the $13,000 that it would have sent to the association and instead give it to a regional group of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) churches just forming in the western part of North Carolina.

The church has taken no action on possible withdrawal from the Baptist State Convention, but is keeping all its denominational relationships under "periodic review," Sayles said.

He said the church will pay the final installment of a $2,000 a year commitment to help fund a building project in the association.

"Since we made a commitment, we ought to honor it," he said.

Sayles said the church also remains open to the possibility of cooperating with the association on some other projects.

"The metaphor I've used is the door is closed, but it's not locked," he said.

Ron Kiser, the association's director of missions, changed that image slightly.

"I'd like to think the door's not entirely closed or at least we can knock and they'll still come to the door," he said.

Kiser said the association's constitution allows for the removal of a church that fails to contribute to the association, but that doesn't apply because the church is still giving money to build a ministry center.

"As far as we're concerned they're still a member in good standing," he said.

Kiser said the association's budget is more than $300,000 a year. Total annual receipts are more than $400,000.

"Certainly, were saddened by their decision not to fund us but I don't think it will adversely affect us as far as ministry goes," he said.

The church had been the association's largest contributor until several years ago, when it started decreasing its gifts to the association.

"We're far more concerned about the relationship aspect than we are the financial aspect," Kiser said.

He said he hopes the association and the church can find ways to work together.

"We're here to try to advance the kingdom, not here to take pot shots at our brothers," he said.

The church's move comes less than three months after the association adopted a report that lessens the chances of the association agreeing to fund a church that is affiliated with CBF, but not the more conservative Southern Baptist Convention. The Baptist State Convention has given local association strong say in funding for new churches.

Last year, Carolina Baptist Association effectively vetoed state funding for a church in Hendersonville that was sponsored in part by Asheville First Baptist Church and several other churches.

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1/31/2003 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments



Baptists provide care in Kinston

January 31 2003 by Tony Cartledge and Steve DeVane , BR Staff

Baptists provide care in Kinston | Friday, Jan. 31, 2003

Friday, Jan. 31, 2003

Baptists provide care in Kinston

By Tony Cartledge and Steve DeVane BR Staff

KINSTON - Baptist disaster relief crews arrived within hours and worked through the night to provide food and comfort in the aftermath of an explosion that rocked the West Pharmaceutical Services plant in Kinston on Jan. 29.

The explosion at about 1:30 p.m. and resulting fires that burned into the night killed at least three workers and injured scores of others.

Harold Burton, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church, said the blast "rocked the church." Burton ran outside, thinking a jet had crashed at the nearby airport. Seeing the cloud of smoke, he headed for the airport, only to realize that the pharmaceutical plant had blown up.

"People were coming out of the building who had been burned, and some were already on the ground," he said. Burton knelt and prayed with several of the injured.

Helicopters and ambulances began to arrive within minutes, Burton said, and rescue workers determined that a staging area was needed for all the family members and others trying to reach the plant or gain information. Burton volunteered Immanuel's facilities, less than a mile away, and soon there were nearly 500 people at the church.

Burton contacted N.C. Baptist Men's director Richard Brunson at the Baptist State Convention (BSC) offices in Cary, and disaster relief units were quickly dispatched. Beddie Tarlton, who acted as on-site coordinator, brought five crew members and supplies of food from the disaster relief warehouse in Grifton. Ashley Summerlin, pastor of Seven Springs Baptist Church and Neuse Association disaster relief team leader, brought six people and some feeding equipment.

Feeding crews set up shop in Immanuel's church kitchen and began preparing meals for families gathered at the church, and for fire and rescue workers. More than 300 meals were prepared the first day, most of them trucked to workers at the site. The local "Papa John's" franchise donated 85 pizzas, which volunteers distributed largely to crews providing news coverage of the event.

Burton and the feeding crews worked through the night, and were relieved the next morning by a team of 13 from the South Roanoke Association that was led by Mike Anders, disaster relief leader for the BSC's Region Two.

Feeding crews prepared about 150 meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner on Jan. 30, and were expected to provide food services to fire and rescue personnel through the weekend.

David Leary, director of missions for the Neuse Baptist Association, also arrived on the scene quickly, and helped coordinate counseling services for employees and family members, many of whom were in shock.

Leary said some relieved family members hugged survivors who were brought to the church in buses from the scene.

"It was a real emotional thing," he said.

Leary said he was nearby when one family was told of a relative's death.

"We were trying to minister to their needs," he said.

Leary said a fund has been set up to accept donations for those impacted by the accident. Donations can be sent to the association at 176 Piney Grove Road, LaGrange, NC 28551-7700.

The massive damage at the plant reminded some in Kinston of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Leary said.

"The statement was made, 'We know how they felt in New York,'" he said.

The quick response by Baptists reminded Leary of another disaster a few years ago.

"We had gone through Floyd and because of that we were highly organized," he said.

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1/31/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony Cartledge and Steve DeVane , BR Staff | with 0 comments



General Board organizes, acts

January 31 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

General Board organizes, acts | Friday, Jan. 31, 2003

Friday, Jan. 31, 2003

General Board organizes, acts

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

The General Board of the Baptist State Convention (BSC) elected new leadership and acted on a variety of issues during its first meeting of the year, held Jan. 25-26 at Caraway Conference Center.

The board elected Leland Kerr as president and Randy White as vice president. Kerr is a former director of missions who is now a pastor, at Eastside Baptist Church in Shelby. White is a former pastor who is now a director of missions. He has served the New South River Association, surrounding the Fayetteville area since August.

Tom Crow, executive pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, nominated Kerr, calling him "a big man with a big heart who can lead us in a big way."

White was nominated by Jake Thornhill, pastor of Hunter Hills Baptist Church in Greensboro.

There were no other nominations. Kerr and White will serve only one year, since both are in the last year of their terms.

Kerr said in an interview that he considers himself a "middle-of-the-road Baptist." He said he considers himself a theological conservative, but is sympathetic with some causes typically espoused by moderates.

White, who previously served as pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Fayetteville, told the Recorder that he considers himself a "centrist conservative" with a "cooperative spirit."

"I believe you can be conservative without being obnoxious," he said.

At a meeting sponsored by Conservative Carolina Baptists in September 2001, White gave a devotion that compared the conservative cause to that of the people of Israel in Joshua 13. The people of Israel were challenged to possess the land, which implied a fight, he said.

"I'm not being vindictive," he said then. "I'm just saying this is a fight worth being in."

The General Board elected four persons from a slate of six nominees to serve as "at-large" members of the 21-member executive committee. They are Don Warren, a layman from Parkwood church in Gastonia; Doug Robinson, pastor of Cove Creek church in Sugar Grove; Wayne Hager, pastor of Calvary church in Mt. Airy; and Bob Evans, pastor of First church in Granite Falls. Nominations for the at large positions come from the floor. C.J. Bordeaux and Jake Thornhill were also nominated

The General Board approved a request from Chowan College to borrow additional funds, using endowment funds and other assets as collateral. Messengers to the BSC's annual session last November had approved a motion allowing the college to restructure an outstanding debt of about $3 million by pledging endowment funds as security.

The college needs to borrow up to $3 million more to meet its obligations through the summer, president Stanley Lott told the board. He expressed confidence that the amount would be sufficient to put the college on a sound footing. Lott said the college has instituted a number of cost-cutting measures, and expressed confidence that future revenues will be adequate to meet expenses and service the debt.

The issue was particularly thorny, since the BSC constitution and the college's documents both require the BSC's permission before the school can borrow money secured with college property or resources. Chowan's legal counsel expressed an opinion that the General Board could act for the convention on the matter, but attorneys close to the BSC declined to render a written opinion.

The executive committee recommended to the General Board a two-part motion in which the board granted approval for the loan, after declaring itself constitutionally empowered to make the decision, subject to a successful review by the BSC's constitution and bylaws committee.

The motion passed, but was reconsidered when concerns were raised about whether the constitution and bylaws committee - which has not yet been appointed - could act prior to a scheduled meeting between Chowan and the two banks, who have offered the loan, subject to its being secured by endowment funds.

After considerable discussion, the General Board voted to strike the requirement of review by the constitution and bylaws committee. The motion passed, with six or seven negative votes. About 80 General Board members were present.

The board also approved a resolution asking the state legislature to restore funding for prison chaplains, and to forego future cuts in the program. The action was a response to concerns expressed by messengers at the BSC meeting in November, and was prepared by the Council on Christian Life and Public Affairs.

In another response to messenger concerns, BSC President Jerry Pereira announced appointments to a committee to study ways in which the BSC and its churches can respond if cuts in the prison chaplaincy program continue.

The executive committee reported the formation of a committee to study the relationship between the BSC and Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute. Fruitland now exists as an agency of the General Board. Though the school has a board of advisors, administrators report directly to the General Board through its executive committee.

School leaders have expressed an interest in exploring a possible shift from the General Board's governance to a direct relationship with the convention, with a board of trustees similar to those of the colleges.

An associational study committee appointed earlier by the executive committee made its final report, which was affirmed. The committee had been asked to study parameters by which the BSC might choose to enter or reject a relationship with churches wanting to form a new association. At present, there are no guidelines defining what the BSC should look for in relating to a new association. The committee floated a number of ideas during the year, but its final report contained no specific parameters for defining an association.

The report puts into writing the informal understanding currently employed, stating that "issues related to the starting of new associations will be referred to the associational development office (currently led by Lynn Sasser) for exploration and dialogue. If further action is indicated, the associational development director will make recommendations as needed."

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1/31/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



Royston says BSC at crucial point

January 31 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Royston says BSC at crucial point | Friday, Jan. 31, 2003

Friday, Jan. 31, 2003

Royston says BSC at crucial point

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

In a candid address to the General Board on Jan. 28, executive director Jim Royston said the Baptist State Convention (BSC) is facing "a most challenging, difficult time."

"We are right now in that window of determining what the future of N.C. Baptists will be," Royston said, "whether we will be the kind of folks that reach out to each other and include each other, whether we reach out to win the lost and disciple believers."

Despite the difficult economy that left the BSC 4.2 percent short of reaching its budget in 2002, Royston said the convention still received $224,000 more than the previous year, and the N.C. Missions Offering came closer to reaching its goal than in any year in recent history. Through careful stewardship, the BSC managed to keep expenses below the amount of income received, he said.

Royston said "many exciting things are happening," pointing to an increase in baptisms, growth in distance learning opportunities, a new program to provide theological education for Hispanic pastors, new resources produced by the convention staff, and success stories from several new church starts. "We have requests for $345,000 more for new church starts in 2003 than we have budgeted," Royston said.

Royston stressed the importance of finding a way "to train the next generation of financial disciples."

"I believe people who are discipled well will give - they may not support institutions such as conventions and associations as before, but I do believe they will support kingdom ministries and enterprises," Royston said.

Royston championed the BSC's "Pursuing Vital Ministries" initiative. "We believe it will revitalize the way we do ministry. We may have to talk about it for a few years for it to catch on, but I believe it will happen." Royston stressed the importance of prayer if the convention is to have a bright future.

"I believe God will use us only if we come together and make the main thing the main thing," Royston said. "We don't get any stronger by eliminating others, we don't get any stronger by finding ways to exclude. We get stronger by finding how God is working in our neighbors, and coming together in prayer and fellowship."

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1/31/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



The joys of giving

January 31 2003 by Luther Osment , N.C. Baptist Retirement Homes

The joys of giving | Friday, Jan. 31, 2003

Friday, Jan. 31, 2003

The joys of giving

By Luther Osment N.C. Baptist Retirement Homes

The 2003 N.C. Offering for Older Adults is to be gathered the week of Feb. 2 9. The offering goal is $450,000. The theme is "The Joys of Giving."

The purpose of Baptist Retirement Homes in collecting the N.C. Offering for Older Adults is not to take money from Baptist people. Rather, it is to serve Baptist churches and Baptist people by faithfully caring for needy aging saints as the Lord leads the churches to make such ministry possible.

Out of Christ-like compassion pastors and leaders communicate the needs of dependent older adults. Out of the same compassion the people of the churches open their hearts and their pocketbooks to meet the needs of these aging saints. Many have come to know "The Joys of Giving."

Every penny that comes to Baptist Retirement Homes through the N.C. Offering for Older Adults is used to provide care for older adults who are not in position to pay the full cost of their care.

The vast majority of these dear ones have invested their lives as serving members in the life of their churches and often in vocational Christian service.

Eighty-six year old E.S. Morgan, a resident of Western North Carolina Baptist Home in Asheville, is a worthy example. Born and raised in the Forks of Ivy community of Madison County, Morgan preached his first sermon while still in high school.

Earning 15 cents an hour, he worked his way through Mars Hill College, then a two-year school, and was called to pastor Forks of Ivy Baptist Church. Recognizing the need to further his education, with a gift of $150 from the church, he completed his four-year degree at Furman University and then continued with seminary training.

For 60 years, Morgan was known for his strong preaching that marvelously blended mountain fervor, beauty of language and absolute dignity. His voice is gone now but not his love for people. Former church members know that if the phone rings on their birthdays and it seems that no one is on the other end, they shouldn't hang up. It is E.S. Morgan calling to wish them a happy birthday and to say that he is praying for them.

It is evident that E.S. Morgan feels his call to gospel ministry as keenly today as he did when that call first came to him as a teenage mountain boy.

Baptist Retirement Homes is selective in the use of the monies that come from churches.

Three major levels of care are provided by the homes. At Brookridge Retirement Community in Winston-Salem and The Gardens of Taylor Glen in Concord, independent living is the major program.

While these services meet very real needs, independent living is a life-style choice rather than an essential ministry. Even so, independent living services are financially structured to be self-supporting. No benevolent funding from the churches is used in either the development or operation of independent living services.

While independent living residents have a variety of options in relation to where and how they will live, those whose needs call for assisted living care have fewer options. Even so, Hamilton Baptist Home in Martin County and The Taylor House in Albemarle, both assisted living programs, have no financial requirements for admission or continuing care. If a person has financial resources they are to use these resources to pay for their care. If there are inadequate financial resources or no financial resources at all, care is provided nonetheless.

Older adults who need nursing care often run out of options. Almost always, the need for nursing care is immediate and essential. A major portion of the money that comes to Baptist Retirement Homes from N.C. Baptists is used where the needs are the greatest and resources the fewest - for nursing care. Baptist Retirement Homes' largest program of nursing care is at the Western North Carolina Baptist Home in Asheville.

The promise of lifetime care is an exceptional feature of the ministry of Baptist Retirement Homes. When a resident's personal resources become depleted, whatever the level of care is or comes to be, that care is given. North Carolina Baptists are the ones who enable Baptist Retirement Homes to keep that promise. The N.C. Offering for Older Adults is a primary channel for bringing dollars from caring hearts to helping hands - uniting the joy of giving with the joy of serving.

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1/31/2003 12:00:00 AM by Luther Osment , N.C. Baptist Retirement Homes | with 0 comments



Changing times and a looming question

January 31 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Changing times and a looming question | Friday, Jan. 31, 2003

Friday, Jan. 31, 2003

Changing times and a looming question

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

The land that we call home is changing.

For most of the 20th century, Baptists covered the South like ants on an abandoned picnic sandwich. Baptists dominated the religious scene with a little competition from Methodists, Presbyterians and Pentecostals, but few others to speak of.

The Baptist-led preponderance of church-goers and tee-totalers by conviction (if not by practice) kept most of the stores closed on Sundays and free of legal liquor all the other days.

But those days are gone, especially in North Carolina's corner of the South.

In some ways, the changes are a reflection of shifting values across the country, simply reflected in the local population.

In other ways, the changes are due to a population influx from north of the Mason-Dixon line and from south of the border (with Mexico, not South Carolina).

A large percentage of those new arrivals call their worship times "mass" instead of "preaching."

A recent study by the Glenmary Research Center shows that the percentage of Southern Baptists in the Triangle area - to look at one slice of North Carolina - dropped from 23.8 percent in 1971 to 13.14 percent in 2000.

Meanwhile, the percentage of Roman Catholics grew from 2.5 percent to 6.67 percent.

Similar shifts are being felt statewide.

During the Baptist State Convention meeting in November, Executive Director Jim Royston noted that, if trends continue, Catholics will outnumber Baptists within 10 years.

Many Baptists would join Royston in the hope that the growth of Baptist churches and their influence might wax and not wane.

A few readers of the Recorder took offense, arguing that Baptists shouldn't think they have a lock on the way to salvation.

I believe it is possible to be an effective and growing Christian within either faith tradition - and equally possible to be far removed from God, no matter what the denominational label.

I'm bothered by any religious denomination that requires its members to affirm a creed before being allowed to serve, but Baptists (Southern Baptists, at least) no longer hold the high ground on that issue.

I have serious disagreements with several important pillars of Catholic theology, but am also troubled by some elements of the newly minted, increasingly specific Southern Baptist theology.

I'm uncomfortable with the Catholic practice of effectively deifying the Virgin Mary as an object of worship. I'm equally troubled that many Baptists exalt the Bible in similar fashion.

I wish Baptists had more Mother Teresas. I wish Catholics had more Billy Grahams.

One thing Baptists and Catholics have in common, beyond their belief in God as revealed through Jesus Christ, is a commitment to missions - a conviction that the love of Christ cannot rest easy within us, but cries out for sharing.

Though mission methods differ, representatives from both traditions have proven themselves willing to take the risk of representing Christ in spite of danger - to put themselves in harm's way that others might come to know Christ's way.

Nineteen Southern Baptist missionaries have been martyred during the convention's 157 years of mission work. Twenty-five Catholic missionaries were killed in the past year alone - 10 of them in war-torn Columbia.

No single denomination is the sole possessor of "the right way" to be Christian. The body of Christ includes people who call themselves Adventists and Anglicans, Baptists and Brethren, Coptics and Catholics, Mennonites and Methodists, Pentecostals and Presbyterians, plus more non-denominational groups than you can count.

All of us would probably prefer that the other groups should look and act more like us.

Jesus just wants us all to look and act more like Him.

That's a thought worth thinking, I think.

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1/31/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



Family Bible Study lesson for Feb. 16: The Bible - Its Purpose

January 31 2003 by John S. Pond Jr. , Psalm 19:7-14; 2 Timothy 3:14-17

Family Bible Study lesson for Feb. 16: The Bible - Its Purpose | Friday, Jan. 31, 2003

Friday, Jan. 31, 2003

Family Bible Study lesson for Feb. 16: The Bible - Its Purpose

By John S. Pond Jr. Psalm 19:7-14; 2 Timothy 3:14-17

In his classic Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: "What we call our life, our troubles and our guilt is by no means the whole of reality; our life, our need, our guilt and our deliverance are there in the scriptures. Because it pleased God to act for us there, it is only there that we will be helped. Only in the Holy Scriptures do we get to know our own story."

It is through an encounter with the scriptures that we are able to discover our veracious purpose, regardless of the cultural malaise that permeates our lives. Thus, rather than relying upon our innumerable arguments from life and from experiences to justify our most crucial decisions, we must speak out of the abundance of God's word.

Perfect standard

Psalm 19:7-11

As David celebrated the reality of God, he moved from the word of creation to the word of redemption - from God's general revelation to His special revelation. In the spirit of the psalmist, Kant, the great philosopher, once observed: "Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe ... the starry heavens above and the moral law within."

David proceeded with an account similar to Psalm 119 in illuminating the significance and diversity of God's Word. It is torah, testimony, commandments and precepts. It is the criterion by which reality is defined. Verse 7 states that it is the perfect standard and "meeting-place" for God and His covenant people. It is trustworthy. As a perfect standard it is right (morally straight), pure, clean and sure.

It is life-giving, reviving the soul, making one wise, rejoicing the heart, and enlightening the eyes. It is the fear of the Lord. David stated that the very basis for what we designate as religion is living before the Lord in a proper sense of awe, reverence and obedience. By the word we are warned and encouraged. Each of us experiences the words spoken to Abraham: "I am your exceeding great reward" (Gen. 15:1)!

Standard to reveal sin

Psalm 19:12-14

The word of God is the word of redemption. It is in our experience of God's word that we encounter Him. We discover "our story" with its imperfections, its errors and secret faults. Our story is incomplete. Before God and His perfect standard, we are deficient; we are guilty of hidden and presumptuous sins. On our own we cannot always identify these faults, but His word strips away the fa�ade of self-righteousness.

Fortunately, the word not only identifies and displays those errors; it provides redemption - it discloses and delivers. Thus, our response should be simple, childlike candor and confidence. It is offering my words, the fruit of my lips (Hosea 14:2) and my thoughts, the meditations of my heart.

Standard for salvation

2 Timothy 3:14-15

Like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new and old treasures (Matt. 13:52), so we handle God's word. It is a standard and a treasure of great value.

Encouraging and challenging his son in the faith, Paul instructs Timothy to remain firmly grounded and assured in the things he has learned, recognizing their origin and significance.

Everything he had learned had its source in the holy scriptures. His life and service were a consequence of faithful people instructing him in the scriptures. It is these scriptures that make one wise for salvation "through faith which is in Christ Jesus." They are relevant for the present.

Standard for Christian growth

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Although the Bible is a work that dates back several thousand years, it is a relevant work. Its relevance is due to its origin. Paul stated that it is "God-breathed" - the result of God breathing out His word. This term paints a picture of God graciously exhaling His redemptive will into the panorama of human history.

It is relevant because it is useful. It is the standard for spiritual growth. Paul lists four tasks that it accomplishes: teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.

These terms are positive, not negative. In a world of doctrinal errors and false teachings leading to erroneous actions, the scriptures build up, fill in and set straight the "man of God."

It is relevant because it is sufficient. Phillip Towner has written, "Constant study of God's word (1 Thess. 4:6-16) equips one to do all that God requires, because it contains the knowledge of God's will." It is enough to furnish and equip every believer for every good work.

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1/31/2003 12:00:00 AM by John S. Pond Jr. , Psalm 19:7-14; 2 Timothy 3:14-17 | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for Feb. 16: Vocation - Called to Discover and Value Who I Am

January 31 2003 by Robbin B. Mundy , Joshua 17:14-18; Luke 5:7-32

Formations lesson for Feb. 16: Vocation - Called to Discover and Value Who I Am | Friday, Jan. 31, 2003

Friday, Jan. 31, 2003

Formations lesson for Feb. 16: Vocation - Called to Discover and Value Who I Am

By Robbin B. Mundy Joshua 17:14-18; Luke 5:7-32

It seems that we are never satisfied. The more we have, the more we want. This was an issue in the beginning of humankind, and it is an issue today.

Also at issue today is an overwhelming number in our society (churches) that believe they are less useful to God than most everyone else around them. This is interesting and a bit alarming. Is it any wonder that we have failed to reach the "ends of the earth" with the gospel at a time when transportation and the Internet are available?

It is true that when we focus on God, when we concern ourselves with answering His call, when we value ourselves as much as He does, then we discover our own potential for answering God's call.

Joshua 17:14-15

The tribe of Joseph questioned Joshua about the land distribution. Why, when the Lord had been so good to them were they being given some of the hardest land to manage? Did Joshua not remember that their tribe was large and had greater needs? Joshua instructed them to put their large number to good use - to clear the land. Overcome and maybe even threatened by the challenge, they failed to see their possibilities.

Joshua 17:16-18

There was another problem. A powerful tribe, the Perizzites, who had iron chariots, occupied the better portion of the land they were given. There is some debate as to whether or not iron had been developed by this time. Nevertheless, they were a challenging tribe.

Joshua instructed them to clear the land and drive out the powerful Perizzites. Again, it seems they were so overwhelmed by the task at hand that they underestimated their own abilities.

Luke 5:27-28

Jesus approached Levi and said to him, "Follow me." Notice that the scripture gives no indication of Jesus mapping out a game plan or making promises of a better earthly life or even significant changes in circumstances.

Levi responded by "believing" and "following."

Luke 5:29-32

Levi gathered his friends; many of them were tax collectors sitting around the banquet table. The Pharisees and their scribes began to complain and quiz the disciples why they should be in the company of "such as these." Jesus explained that "these" were why He had come. "Perfect" Jesus came to call the "imperfect" to follow.

There are two important points:

First, "following" God sometimes means, "leading the way." Levi (who would have made a great Baptist) threw a banquet, which gave his friends and co-workers an opportunity to meet Jesus. He opened the door so Jesus could come in.

Second, Levi trusted God to be capable of being God through his actions. And, unless Luke's 'word count' was as restricted as mine, neither Levi nor Jesus pointed out the failings of the crowd who had gathered, but rather, they took advantage of an opportunity to become acquainted. There didn't appear to be a sermon delivered that day. Everyone was welcomed to the table with an invitation only to meet Jesus. Then the work of God could be done - thanks to Levi's willingness to do "what he could."

Conclusion

Joseph's tribe expected an easier life. And Levi took a step of pure faith - following without knowing the path - trusting that there would be a place for him.

I don't know about you, but sometimes I feel like the tribe of Joseph, feeling forgotten by God. When I finally get to the place where I can move beyond myself, I realize that God was there and sustained me even when I took my eyes off of Him.

Other times when I am on the go, I realize later that by some sense of divine leadership, I stepped forward and began following the path that seemed to be leading somewhere. And the most amazing things have happened over and over; I have discovered new gifts, new abilities, new interests, new ideas and new levels of "followship."

Where are you on the path? Are you among the tribe of Joseph or at the table feasting with Levi?

The "perfect" calls the imperfect. God sees great value in each of us - more than we see in ourselves.

Does our poor vision and lack of personal value impose limitations on God's mission? Beware of Pharisees who study and learn but fail to put their new knowledge into action.

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1/31/2003 12:00:00 AM by Robbin B. Mundy , Joshua 17:14-18; Luke 5:7-32 | with 0 comments



First church withdraws from BSC

January 24 2003 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

First church withdraws from BSC | Friday, Jan. 24, 2003

Friday, Jan. 24, 2003

First church withdraws from BSC

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor

Conservatives had controlled the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) for years before the first moderate churches started officially pulling out.

One N.C. Baptist church has decided to leave the Baptist State Convention (BSC) while an uneasy truce still holds between conservatives and moderates.

First Baptist Church of Newland sent a letter to BSC leaders after its members decided Jan. 15 to leave the organization. The church decided at the same time to pull out of the Avery Association and the SBC, effectively becoming a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) church.

Bill Jones, pastor of the church, said the congregation quit contributing money to the SBC about five years ago.

Jones said he believes the SBC's 2000 revision of the Baptist Faith and Message "eradicated the priesthood of the believer, soul competency and local church autonomy."

The church has been sending its money to the BSC's Plan C, which goes to the BSC, CBF and several other groups.

The decision at the BSC meeting in November to study Plan C convinced Jones that some in the BSC didn't want CBF churches in the BSC.

"It just looks like Plan C is going to be shot," he said.

Jones said the church holds no ill will toward the BSC or the association.

"We're just looking for a more positive atmosphere," he said

BSC Executive Director-treasurer Jim Royston said he is sad to see the church leave. Royston and Milton Hollifield, the BSC's head of missions growth evangelism and a friend of Jones, called the church.

"I certainly regret they have chosen to do this," Royston said. "I tried to encourage them to perhaps wait until later in the year before making a decision."

Many convention observers believe action taken regarding the Plan C at the BSC annual meeting in November could be crucial to the future of the BSC. Some believe more moderate churches will pull out if Plan C is removed or significantly altered.

Royston said the church is the first to officially pull out of the BSC because of the conservative-moderate controversy.

"They assured us there was no animosity toward the BSC, and that they left as friends," he said. "I told them as long as I had anything to do with it, we'd leave the light on for them."

Jones said he thinks other churches might also leave the BSC while others will be dually aligned with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina (CBF-NC). The church will now divide its missions giving between CBF, CBF-NC and a regional CBF group that is just forming in the western part of North Carolina, he said.

Jones said about 55 people attended the regular church business meeting when the vote to change the church's bylaws was taken. That's about the usual number for the church's quarterly business meeting, he said.

The church held forums on the issue each Wednesday for about a month before the vote, Jones said. No one opposed the action.

"We don't see it as something that's negative," he said. "We just want to move beyond the wrangling."

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1/24/2003 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments



Georgia editor pushed into early retirement

January 24 2003 by Mark Wingfield & Tony Cartledge , Associated Baptist Press

Georgia editor pushed into early retirement | Friday, Jan. 24, 2003

Friday, Jan. 24, 2003

Georgia editor pushed into early retirement

By Mark Wingfield & Tony Cartledge Associated Baptist Press

ATLANTA - William Neal, editor of the Christian Index for a decade, has taken early retirement, reportedly under pressure from Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention (GBC).

Neal, 55, was called to a meeting with White Jan. 16. At the same time, one of White's assistants was dispatched to the Index offices to announce to the staff that the Index offices would be closed until the following Monday, Jan. 20. According to sources, the GBC staff also confiscated computers.

Callers to the Index office the week of Jan. 20 were told that Neal was out of the office for the week.

White's office reported that neither he nor other GBC officials were available for comment to the Biblical Recorder. White released a statement to Baptist Press, however, that he and Neal had discussed Neal's retirement plans and that more news would be forthcoming after a meeting of the Index board on Jan. 25.

Meanwhile, convention sources reported that White terminated three other Index employees Jan. 20. The others dismissed were Managing Editor Greg Brett, Media Coordinator Melea Goode and Administrative Assistant Laura Boltin.

The Index, the nation's oldest Baptist newspaper, is owned by the Georgia Baptist Convention. Although located in a separate facility in Atlanta, the Index receives major funding from the state convention, and the newspaper's editor historically has been elected by the convention's Executive Committee.

A reorganization of the state convention in the mid-1990s, however, gave the executive director broad powers to hire and fire convention staff without prior action by the Executive Committee. All Index staff members are considered employees of the state convention.

Neal, who is a 28-year employee of the state convention, had been under increasing pressure from conservative leadership for several years. The Index, they contended, was not doing enough to advance the cause of the Southern Baptist Convention and of conservatives in Georgia.

In 2001, the paper's board of directors forbade Neal from publishing any announcements, advertisements or editorials relating to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. They also demanded that no mention be made of CBF in the Index except in news items "which the editor believes directly affect Georgia Baptists and/or Southern Baptists." They further required Neal to consult with the convention's executive director or other board members before publishing any item that referenced CBF.

Neal has had no direct involvement with the CBF, a group of moderate Baptists disaffected by the change of leadership in the SBC since 1979. CBF has its headquarters in Atlanta.

Neal previously worked in campus ministry, both as a local campus minister and as director of the state convention's campus ministry program. He also served as associate editor of the Index with editors Jack Harwell and Al Mohler.

Harwell, who served the paper 21 years, took early retirement in 1987 after an effort to have him fired resulted in the formation of a watchdog "review board." Harwell was threatened with termination if his writing was deemed too critical of conservatives.

Mohler became editor in 1989, leading the paper in a more conservative direction. He left in 1993 to become president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

During his tenure as editor, Neal turned around a declining circulation and expanded coverage to include a broader spectrum of Georgia Baptist life.

Neal and his staff redesigned the publication, which won overall design awards from the Baptist Communicators Association. Neal also received awards for his editorial writing and for producing E Street, a supplemental magazine.

Neal was an active member of the Association of State Baptist Papers, and was currently serving as the organization's president.

In 1997, Neal initiated a project for the Index to acquire and renovate "Pinebloom," a historic Tudor mansion that now serves as publishing offices for the Index and as worship space for two Atlanta congregations.

Neal is a graduate of Columbus College and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned both a master's degree and a doctor of ministry degree. He and his wife, Judy, are members of Smoke Rise Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, Ga.

Brett, the managing editor, came to the Index in March 2000 from the staff of Truett-McConnell College, where he had been vice president for institutional development. He previously worked for Georgia Baptist Children's Home and Family Ministries. He is a graduate of Georgia Southern University.

Goode came to the Index in 2001 from Truett-McConnell College, where she had been alumni director.

Boltin had been with the Index four months and served as the editor's secretary. She previously worked in the Georgia Baptist Convention's Cooperative Program office.

The four departures removed half the Index's staff. The four remaining staff members are Associate Editor Joe Westbury, Graphic Design Editor Kelly Matthai, Circulation Manager Beverly Tye and Business Manager Donna Ward.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - John Pierce, editor of Baptists Today, contributed to this story.)

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1/24/2003 12:00:00 AM by Mark Wingfield & Tony Cartledge , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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