January 2003

Proclaiming the gospel involves risks

January 17 2003 by Jim Royston , BSC Executive Director-treasurer

Proclaiming the gospel involves risks | Friday, Jan. 17, 2003

Friday, Jan. 17, 2003

Proclaiming the gospel involves risks

By Jim Royston BSC Executive Director-treasurer

One of the major characteristics of the earliest church leaders was their willingness to preach the gospel to all people everywhere, regardless of the risks involved. This was especially amazing when you realize that virtually all of the earliest Christian leaders were orthodox Jews whose religious traditions did not encourage the conversions of "outsiders." By all accounts, they should have "kept the faith safe" and stayed within their own ranks.

The greatest challenges these early Christian leaders faced did not come from the secular Roman authorities as much as it did from the Jewish guardians of orthodoxy who were dedicated to stamping out this new "Jesus movement." The first enemy of the gospel came from within organized religion.

No New Testament character better illustrates this point of crossing cultural barriers than the life and ministry of the Apostle Peter. Peter, simply put, was a very traditional Jew; an impulsive, staunch, no-compromise follower of the Law of Moses. Peter was a laborer, a fisherman. He probably had little use for discussions on world religions or how God could reveal Himself to anyone outside the chosen people.

Then Peter met Cornelius. Cornelius is a Gentile who, according to Acts 10:1-3, was a devout man who feared God with his entire household; gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God. Cornelius summoned Peter and Peter baptized Cornelius. In this act of obedience, Peter learned something new and radical: the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Father of Jesus Christ, shows no partiality.

Showing partiality, whether racial, ethnical, national or even theological, has always been the enemy of the Christian faith. In a sense, the entire New Testament is a story of God unfolding His message to all nations. Jesus could often be found ministering to "the wrong people," like Samaritans, women, lepers, tax collectors and publicans. Some of the earliest church disputes, as reported in Acts, are over the issue of inclusiveness. How should the early church include non-Jews within its ranks - people outside the traditional faith?

Proclaiming the gospel, for most of our churches, has primarily meant baptizing our children and grandchildren. Our state grew over 20 percent during the last decade with our churches growing only around 3 to 4 percent. One high growth county added 50,000 people from 1990-2000 with the Southern Baptist churches in that area adding only 600 new members.

What has happened? Simply put, "our kind of people" are rapidly being outnumbered. And, too often, our churches have only attracted "our kind of people."

North Carolina Baptists need to become greater risk-takers. We need to move outside our comfort zones and reach into our communities with a message of hope and inclusiveness. The gospel message we proclaim should never be taken hostage to how we say it. There is no "right way" or "one way" to do worship, evangelism, missions or Christian education.

In a word, we need to develop more Peters because we are a state rapidly filling up with more Corneliuses.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
1/17/2003 12:00:00 AM by Jim Royston , BSC Executive Director-treasurer | with 0 comments



Missionaries seek restraint in comments on Islam

January 13 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Missionaries seek restraint in comments on Islam | Monday, Jan. 13, 2003

Monday, Jan. 13, 2003

Missionaries seek restraint in comments on Islam

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

A group of missionaries working through the International Mission Board (IMB) in 10 predominantly Muslim countries is asking Baptists to exercise restraint in making negative comments about Islam and its founder, Muhammad.

George Braswell, distinguished professor of missions and world religions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, released the missionaries' letter to the Biblical Recorder after his return from teaching a seminar on Islam at a location in the Middle East.

More than two dozen missionaries met with Braswell. Most of them have been on the field for almost two years and hope to continue as career missionaries. They currently serve in the Middle East, North Africa, East Africa and South Asia.

Negative statements about Islam by high-profile Southern Baptists Jerry Vines, Jerry Falwell, and Franklin Graham made headlines last year.

To express their concern, the missionaries jointly composed a letter and voted unanimously to affirm the letter and ask Braswell to help distribute it in Baptist circles.

The missionaries write about "an issue that concerns us and our families." They note that comments by Western Christians about Islam and Muhammad are highly publicized on local radio, television, and print sources in their places of service.

Such publicity increases enmity toward Christians and impacts both their work and their personal safety, the missionaries said.

"These types of comments have and can further the already heightened animosity toward Christians, more so toward Evangelicals, and even more so toward Baptists," the missionaries said. "We are not sure if you are aware of the ramifications that comments that malign Islam and Muhammad have not only on the message of the Gospel but also upon the lives of our families as we are living in the midst of already tense times."

The missionaries said they have found it more beneficial to focus on sharing Christ in love and concentrating on the message of the Gospel with their Muslim friends, rather than speaking in a degrading manner about their religion or prophet.

They appeal to other Baptists to do the same.

"We prayerfully ask you, as brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ, to focus public comments about Muslims on their need for salvation that is found only by faith in Jesus Christ. We encourage you to make comments and to live your lives in a way that will contribute positively toward the preaching of the Gospel in the lives of over a billion people who hold the religion of Islam and its prophet dearly."

Calling upon the example of Christ, the missionaries conclude "We encourage you all to reach out to the people of Islam in love and in a fashion that is consistent with the life of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Because of security concerns, the letter is signed "A Group of Southern Baptists serving in the Muslim World."

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1/13/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



Family Bible Study for Jan. 26: The Promise of Heaven

January 10 2003 by John S. Pond, Jr. , John 14:1-4; Revelation 21:1-5; 22:1-5; John 14:2

Family Bible Study for Jan. 26: The Promise of Heaven | Friday, Jan. 10, 2003

Friday, Jan. 10, 2003

Family Bible Study for Jan. 26: The Promise of Heaven

By John S. Pond, Jr. John 14:1-4; Revelation 21:1-5; 22:1-5; John 14:2

Frederick Buechner wrote in his book, Longing for Home: "No matter how much the world shatters us to pieces, we carry inside us a vision of wholeness that we sense is our true home and that beckons to us"(p.110). The life of each person has a purpose, a goal that is best understood in the light of eternity.

We are in transition. The apostle Peter described us as pilgrims and strangers scattered in the world (1 Peter 1:1). We are looking for a place and an eternal home, and will not be satisfied until we have found it.

A place prepared by Jesus

John 14:1-4

The disciples' world was about to cascade into a morass of confusion and disbelief. They could already sense that something was not right with Jesus. He told them that He was going away, and they could not follow yet.

Their hearts were churning. Their faith and confidence tossed about like a paper cup in a massive storm. Jesus encouraged them: "Don't allow your hearts to be tossed about like waves in the wind. Keep on believing in God; keep on believing in Me!" He told them to stubbornly hold on, to trust in God and in Him regardless of what might lie ahead.

The reason to go away is to make ready a place of promise; in fact, many resting places. In the Father's home (heaven) there exist many abiding places or rooms. Someone has written that "heaven is as wide as God's heart and there is room for all!" In order to reassure His disciples, Jesus affirmed its reality; "If it were not so, I would have told you!"

If it is a certainty that Jesus is leaving, then it is just as certain that He will return. And when He returns it will be to take His followers home with him. Thus, for the believer, heaven is to be where Jesus is and to be with him forever (Barclay).

A place where everything is new

Revelation 21:1-5

Paul described the experience of salvation as "a new creation; old things passing away, all things becoming new." In the end of time, creation itself will experience a new birth.

John watches as the old dissolves and a new heaven and new earth appears.

With this new creation come new blessings. The believer will enjoy unhindered, direct and unmarred fellowship with the Lord. God will "tabernacle" with His people and remain with them.

By His constant presence, all human sorrow, tragedy and evil are left behind. Everything that formerly burdened and cursed mankind will flee from His presence. There will no longer be anything that causes tears, sadness or disappointment. Heaven is not only where Jesus is, it is also where God dwells.

It is a certainty that God's divine plan is to make everything new.

A place of serving and seeing God

Revelation 22:1-5

Jesus told His disciples that He came to bring life, more abundant life. Furthermore, He identified Himself as THE LIFE. Faith in Christ brings life eternal. With the creation of a new heaven and new earth, redeemed humanity will have perfect access to eternal and abundant life.

John was shown the miracle of eternity. He saw life-giving waters flowing from beneath the throne of God and the Lamb. This is a picture of eternal life that flows from the presence of God. On either side was the life-giving tree - a picture of the blessed, abundant life. Rather than being a medicinal tree bearing fruit to cure illnesses, it was a tree that bore health-giving, energizing fruit.

In heaven the redeemed will experience the impossible. The curse of sin will no longer contaminate the world with pain, sorrow and death. Instead, God and the Lamb will reign.

In heaven, service will no longer be arduous and toilsome. It will be blessed and invigorating for it will be as the service of priests that seek only to glorify God.

Finally, faith will give way to sight. The truly impossible will become possible. The redeemed will see God's face without being consumed by His holiness and will bear the markings of His possession upon their foreheads. They will have immediate access to God and the Lamb. The promise of Christ will come to pass: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God" (Matt. 5:8). "The supreme felicity is reached, immediate presence with God and the Lamb" (Beckwith, as quoted by A.T. Robertson).

The way is clear and plain; follow the light, not the sun or a lamp, but God Himself.

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1/10/2003 12:00:00 AM by John S. Pond, Jr. , John 14:1-4; Revelation 21:1-5; 22:1-5; John 14:2 | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for Jan. 26: Who do you say that I am?

January 10 2003 by Robbin B. Mundy , Isaiah 61:-3; Matthew 16;13-23

Formations lesson for Jan. 26: Who do you say that I am? | Friday, Jan. 10, 2003

Friday, Jan. 10, 2003

Formations lesson for Jan. 26: Who do you say that I am?

By Robbin B. Mundy Isaiah 61:-3; Matthew 16;13-23

How do you know what you believe about God? Do you know things about God or do you know God? These passages lead us to look deeper into our understanding, our serving, and our role in the future. We may find that we have gained a lot of knowledge, but put little of it to good use.

Isaiah 61:1-3

These verses do not necessarily describe a "call to servanthood", but rather they seem to define the call. Though "being called" is assumed in this passage, "accepting the call" implies a certain level of responsibility. All prophets can claim a divine call, but their mission discloses a genuine call.

Isaiah described a mission where God does the initiating and God gets the glory. The one who is called does not seek self-gain. The one who is called listens only to the "caller" and tunes out those who otherwise try to direct his or her path.

Matthew 16:13-23

Jesus is teaching in this text. He asked His disciples, who knew Him better than any of the other followers, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" Peter's response represented the deeper meaning Jesus was seeking: "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

Jesus was beginning to prepare the 12 for His final days with them. The cross was eminent. However, in order for His students to learn all they could and get to the "other side," He needed to make sure the foundation was solidly in place.

Peter got it! Jesus seized the moment and declared the confession solid - as solid as a rock.

Theologians have debated whether Peter was speaking for all the disciples or for himself alone. If he was speaking for himself, Peter declared Jesus to be the Messiah. His claim was far more than a head decision or just a heart decision - it was a decision of both.

Peter had been a good student; he had learned from a master teacher. But until the learned material was internalized and put into practice, it was useless knowledge.

Jesus recognized that Peter had come a long way in his thinking; that he had grabbed hold of the truth and had allowed the truth to permeate his being.

The Messiah was more than the human image of Jesus; the Messiah was "the Son of the living God." Jesus' response to Peter was to declare that on "that way of thinking" he would build the church, a future that would outlive all the disciples.

Like many believers, Peter accepted Jesus up to this point, but rejected the idea that the cross was necessary. Peter took Jesus aside and said, "God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you."

The necessity of it was beyond his reach. Jesus, being a wise teacher, anticipated the struggle. The information was hard to share and hard to teach, He knew it would be hard to comprehend. It would require some time.

If Peter's response to Jesus' question was on behalf of all the disciples, then we have to add more to our thinking. We must acknowledge that head and heart thinking carries with it not only responsibility for us as individuals, but it also suggests a responsibility to establish foundational thinking - living and doing for "all" who call Jesus, Lord.

Each of us is responsible for living and serving in a way that builds up the church - followers of Christ.

Furthermore, I believe that before we get too burdened by the weight of responsibility, we must see that there are possibilities. The word "responsibility" feels heavy, but the word "possibility" feels light and airy, like a fresh breeze. I believe Peter and the other disciples were catching on to the responsibility of the call as well as the possibilities for the future.

Conclusion

"Who do you say that I am?" How do you answer that question? How do you respond to it as a class, as a church? Learn from Peter; go deeper into your thinking.

Teacher, do your students gain knowledge that is stored up as information? Or, do you guide their thinking, solidify their foundation, and then lead them to engage in the possibilities of fulfilling their individual and corporate calling? What are the possibilities?

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1/10/2003 12:00:00 AM by Robbin B. Mundy , Isaiah 61:-3; Matthew 16;13-23 | with 0 comments



Any nominations from the floor?

January 10 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Any nominations from the floor? | Friday, Jan. 10, 2003

Friday, Jan. 10, 2003

Any nominations from the floor?

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

What does the future hold for the Baptist State Convention (BSC) of North Carolina? The answer, in large part, will be determined by those persons who are elected as members of the General Board and as trustees or directors of the state convention's institutions and agencies.

The time for impacting that future, for those who care, is now.

The BSC General Board's 100 or so members, along with trustees and directors of the institutions and agencies (from 16 to 48 each) serve rotating four-year terms, with one-fourth being elected annually by the convention in session.

Nominees brought to the convention are chosen by the Committee on Nominations, which begins the bulk of its work each March.

Each year, the committee solicits "nominations from the floor," by asking N.C. Baptists to recommend persons whom they believe would serve well on one of the various boards, preferably by Feb. 3.

And each year, the committee bemoans the small number of recommendations received, because they really would like to have maximum input from across the board of N.C. Baptist life.

The BSC bylaws, in fact, insist that the committee should work toward broad-spectrum representation in several categories, "assuring representation of churches of various sizes and types, a variety of professional and educational backgrounds, geographical areas, different age groups, and both lay persons and ministers" (section II.E.4.d.[3]).

Persons to be nominated should also be active church members and capable of providing stable, effective leadership, the bylaws say.

An earlier section notes that the committee should "give careful consideration to those who have been recommended" by the convention at large, and by the institutions and agencies.

Perhaps most significantly, the bylaws also instruct the committee to give careful consideration "to the fact that the trustees of each institution or agency are close to that institution or agency, have expert knowledge of its needs and possibilities, possess a deep interest and concern for the institution or agency, and know the men and women who can best serve the institution or agency" (section II.E.4.c.).

In other words, people nominated as board members for Baptist Children's Homes should be people who have a passion for children and who support that ministry. Nominees for the Baptist Retirement Homes board should be concerned about issues facing senior adults and committed to that institution's mission. Persons designated to serve the N.C. Baptist Foundation board should have a strong interest in good estate planning for the benefit of Baptist causes.

It would be ludicrous to elect college trustees who are not zealous advocates for Christian higher education and familiar with its many challenges. Likewise, it would be misguided to select directors for the Biblical Recorder who do not support its constitutional mandate "to maintain and safeguard the inalienable rights and privileges of a free press, these rights and privileges being consistent with the traditional Baptist emphasis upon the freedom, under Christ, of both the human spirit and Baptist churches" (Article IX.C.1.).

Some voices have argued for additional qualifications, insisting that all nominees should wear a single political/theological label. Others expect the committee to balance the proportion of "moderates" and "conservatives," based on their particular belief about what the relative proportions are.

It is worth noting that the BSC's constitution and bylaws have a lot to say about potential board member qualifications in a number of areas, but one's political/theological identity is not among them.

A more difficult problem with relying on one's political/theological stance as a primary qualification is that many good N.C. Baptists - probably, a majority of them - refuse to give themselves such labels, and don't want others applying them, either. While preachers, for the most part, have become increasingly polarized, many faithful lay members - who make up the vast majority of our BSC membership - remain content to think of themselves as "Christian" and "Baptist" without adding theological or political modifiers.

While various claims are made about the moderate/conservative makeup of the General Board, for example, I have observed that most of its members appear to be faithful N.C. Baptists who vote their convictions about what is best for God's work through the BSC, and have no particular allegiance to any faction.

That is as it should be. While it is appropriate for the boards to include both "identified" conservatives and moderates along with those who reject such labels, such diversity should occur naturally among those who otherwise qualify, and not as a primary criterion for selection.

Sometime between now and Feb. 3, I hope you will give careful thought to faithful and capable Baptists that you know, women and men who are committed to the work of the BSC and its related entities. Ask if they would be willing to serve. Write your recommendations on the appropriate forms and send them to the Committee on Nominations, who will indeed appreciate the input and give careful consideration to all suggestions.

Do you care about the BSC and its future?

That future begins today.

(NOTE - Recommendation forms were included in messengers' packets at the 2002 convention, and was printed in the Dec. 14 issue of the Biblical Recorder. Additional forms (which may be duplicated) may be requested by calling the BSC at (800) 395-5102 or (919) 467-5102, ext. 104, or by downloading directly from the convention website at www.bscnc.org. Click on "Would you like to make a nomination?" and follow the prompts.)

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1/10/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



Goodbye, bike

January 10 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Goodbye, bike | Friday, Jan. 10, 2003

Friday, Jan. 10, 2003

Goodbye, bike

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

This issue of the Biblical Recorder is dated January 18, which is not a particularly significant date unless it happens to be someone's anniversary, or birthday - or death day.

The date is engraved on our family calendar for the latter reason, being nine years to the day from the cold morning our daughter Bethany fell victim to a drunk driver.

And it took me every bit of those nine years to move her bicycle from the garage.

We cleaned out Bethany's room a little less than a year after her death, and gave away stacks of clothes and toys. Most of her teddy bears and stuffed animals went into garbage bags for storage, and a dear friend turned some of her Sunday dresses into a small patchwork memory quilt.

But I couldn't let the bicycle go.

It was mostly bright orange, with splashes of purple and white tires. A vinyl pouch on the handlebars collected the stuff she found interesting, mostly rocks. She had customized it with a small tag behind the seat and colorful plastic sliders from a cereal box on the spokes.

I remember how proud she was when the training wheels came off and she made her first two-wheeled loop around the cul-de-sac, with countless others to follow.

She loved that bike, and I loved watching her ride it.

And there it sat, as I cleaned out the garage to make room for Samuel to fashion a neighborhood "clubhouse."

There it sat, with tires nearly flat, the paint fading, her dusty helmet still hanging from the handlebars by the chinstrap.

At last, it seemed, the time was right, so the bike went into the truck with the yellow bus full of Duplo blocks and the bags of clothes and other donations for Goodwill. When I carried it in, a young employee took it wordlessly and rolled it away.

I hope some little girl gets it who loves to ride and to laugh, to rattle the spokes and scratch the tires.

She won't know the bike's story, but that's OK.

It's been silent too long.

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1/10/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



'Barrier of fear' hinders ministry, Steve Sumerel says

January 10 2003 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

'Barrier of fear' hinders ministry, Steve Sumerel says | Friday, Jan. 10, 2003

Friday, Jan. 10, 2003

'Barrier of fear' hinders ministry, Steve Sumerel says

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor

Churches may unknowingly be "sending signals of exclusion" while they are trying to minister in a diverse world, a church consultant said.

Steve Sumerel, a member of the Baptist State Convention's (BSC) Christian Life team, told a breakout session at the BSC meeting in November that a lot of people are leaving churches.

"I'm not exactly sure why," he said.

Sumerel said he works with people who "by overt or covert means" feel excluded from the church. He works with people who have AIDS or HIV and people who are addicted to substances or behaviors.

Church members might be sending signals to those people that they're not welcome, Sumerel said.

"One thing we need to do is look at ourselves," he said.

Sumerel talked about the story of the leper in Matthew 8. The leper told Jesus, "If you will, you can make me clean." Sumerel said he wondered why Jesus wouldn't have healed the leper.

He found the answer at an AIDS retreat during a late-night discussion about a new drug. The conversation had a lot of energy until someone pointed out that the talk sounded like previous promises that didn't pan out and that most of them would probably be dead before the drug hit the market anyway.

Sumerel remembered the story of the leper and imagined the leper and his diseased friends initially being exciting about hearing of Jesus' healing works until someone said that Jesus sounded like previous failed healers and that He probably wouldn't heal lepers because he'd have to touch them.

"Jesus did touch and heal (the leper), but the biggest miracle was that Jesus was able to punch through all that religiosity and theology that said, 'This person brought it on himself,'" Sumerel said. "He had to push through the barrier of fear."

Sumerel recalled his feelings the first time someone with AIDS hugged him, the first time one of them cried and their tears got on him and the first time one of them sneezed on him.

The retreats serve a dual purpose of helping those with AIDS and serving as a "learning lab" to help people get through barriers.

"The Bible is clear, there is one body," Sumerel said. "We have to get through all these barriers to get through to unity."

There are reasons why the church must minister in a diverse world, he said.

"We do it because Christ did it," he said. "We are Christ's church, we must.

"There's a lot of folks out there who feel excluded from the church and they need the grace of the gospel desperately."

Sumerel said Christians need the blessing that comes through such ministry.

"It works both ways," he said.

People who are being excluded from churches are the type of folks that Jesus loved to be with, Sumerel said.

"It's the religious folks He really had a problem with," he said.

Sumerel said the "lone ranger approach" to ministry will not work in the changing cultural landscape of North Carolina.

"There is no 'us vs. them,'" he said. "They say to us, 'If you will, you can touch our hearts.' May we respond as Christ did."

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1/10/2003 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments



Bright ideas for churches

January 10 2003 by Mark Wingfield , Baptist Standard

Bright ideas for churches | Friday, Jan. 10, 2003
  • Who are they? When lay members of the congregation are involved in worship roles such as Scripture reading, prayer or welcoming guests, provide a two- or three-sentence biographical sketch about each one somewhere in the worship bulletin. Even in medium-sized churches, many people may not know where the person works, who they're married to or how long they've been a member.
  • Information online. Use the church's Web site to publish information about the upcoming Sunday service - who will be preaching, what the special music will be, who will be baptized.
  • Encourage them. When someone is to be baptized, invite church members who have played a role in that person's spiritual development to write notes of encouragement that can be given to the baptismal candidate that morning.
  • Why do you do it? Often, churches wrongly assume that everyone who attends worship understands why things are done the way they are and the symbolism behind everything. Use a few key phrases in the worship bulletin to give occasional explanations of the church's practices and symbolism.
  • Leave an impression. If your church operates a welcome center to greet Sunday morning visitors, prepare a flier with a list of all the available Bible study classes, the room numbers and the teacher's name and contact information. Escort the visitors to the class and introduce them to the teacher.
  • A bloomin' idea. Recycle Sunday morning floral arrangements by making smaller bouquets that can be distributed to the church's homebound members, the sick or to visitors.
  • Make contact at lunch. If you're a teacher of an adult Bible study class, get to know your class members by inviting one person to lunch each month. Through the course of a year, you will have made 12 solid contacts and strengthened the bond of the class.
  • Let them eat doughnuts. Rather than relying on individual adult Bible study classes to provide refreshments and announcements on Sunday mornings, serve doughnuts and coffee in the church lobby or some other gathering area between early church and morning Bible study. Hand out a brief flier with announcements, and encourage fellowship in the church.
  • Give mom a hand. In addition to the usual parking spaces for visitors and the handicapped, reserve spaces near the door for pregnant women and single mothers. Train greeters to help carry in diaper bags, infant seats and other items single moms wrestle with.
  • Spot the lot. If your church is located on a major road, especially in a suburban area, post a sign that says "Commuters Welcome" and encourage residents to park there for carpooling. Rather than sitting empty on weekdays, the church parking lot becomes an outreach to the community.
  • Reward unseen helpers. Ask church members to nominate individuals seen doing special things that might otherwise go unnoticed. Then once a quarter, recognize those who "got caught doing something nice."
  • Break bread together. Organize a dinner club in which single adults and couples who agree to participate are assigned to groups of eight to 10. These small groups are then encouraged to meet once a month or once every other month for dinner. After a set number of dinners, the groups are reshuffled, ensuring that over time everyone meets a wide cross-section of church members they might not otherwise have known.
  • Say thanks. Send quarterly thank-you letters to all givers from the pastor or finance committee chairman or deacon chairman. Tell about specific ministries the church accomplished during the quarter with the money. Highlight what contributions will be used for in the next quarter. These letters both express gratitude and demonstrate that church contributions make a concrete difference.
  • Stand with the candidate. As a baptismal candidate stands in the baptistry, ask those who have taught, prayed for or cared for the person in his or her spiritual journey to stand as a symbol of support for their baptism. An additional option is to ask one of those individuals to speak a few words of witness on behalf of the baptismal candidate.
  • Let'em be mum. Never fail to greet first-timers in worship, but avoid putting them on the spot by asking them to stand (or to sit while everyone else remains standing). Speak to them as "guests" rather than as visitors, and give them the option of filling out a guest card or not. Remind all guests they're not expected to contribute when the offering plates come around.
  • Bake'em welcome. Rather than visiting church prospects empty-handed, go with a baked good such as homemade cookies or bread. A simple delivery of baked goods provides a good entry point for immediate follow-up on Sunday visitors.
  • Increase lay involvement in worship. Involve laymen and laywomen, even youth, in worship by asking them to read Scripture, lead prayers or welcome guests. When everyone on the platform is a staff member, it gives laity the impression that only professional staff must lead worship.
  • Light the way for families. During the Advent season, if your church uses an Advent wreath in worship, invite a different family or single adult each week to light the candles as a part of the worship experience.
  • Keep a list. Clergy and lay leaders alike can keep outreach on the front burner by maintaining a personal list of six or seven current prospects for prayer and contact. When someone on the list moves beyond the prospect stage, add another person to the list.
  • Wish a happy birthday. Send birthday cards from the pastor's office or other appropriate church leadership to all church members and children. This is a little touch with a personal impact.
  • Send an e-mail. Find new uses for e-mail as a more efficient and speedier means of communicating with church members. Bible study classes may use e-mail to communicate class news and prayer concerns. E-mail also offers a quick way to send out reminders of committee meetings or to distribute minutes or other information.
  • Be prepared. At the church welcome center, be prepared to offer more than directions to a Bible study class. Be prepared to tell how to contact a minister, what current discipleship classes are offered, what holiday activities or special programs are planned, how to join the church. Also, remember that walking into a strange church building can be confusing to a guest, so be ready with maps of church facilities.
  • Let'em eat free. Provide complimentary meal on Wednesday for first-time guests and new members. Send a coupon in the mail as a reminder.
  • Who's calling? Make sure someone is available to answer the church phone on Sunday mornings. Voice mail won't do if someone needs to get an urgent message delivered.
  • Silence the bells. Print a simple statement in the worship bulletin requesting cell phones and pagers to be turned off during worship.
  • Say hello. Enlist church members of all ages to serve as greeters on Sunday mornings. Station greeters at all primary entrances, so that everyone who enters receives a warm welcome. Don't forget that children and youth make good greeters as well, and it's a good way to model for them a welcoming spirit in the church.
  • Spread the word. Keep a supply of Bibles on hand not only in the church office but also in Bible study classrooms to give to guests who don't have one.
  • Give a boost. Church staff members frequently hear complaints and criticisms. Buck the trend by writing notes of encouragement to staff members.
  • Give'em a buzz. When parents drop off preschoolers for worship care, give them a buzzer or pager like the kind used in restaurants. That way, parents can be notified during worship if they are needed without disrupting the service. It also gives peace of mind to new parents.
  • Give a keepsake. At the time of a person's baptism, offer some small keepsake as a reminder of the day - an embroidered handkerchief that can be used in the baptistry and then kept, a candle from the baptistry given with the reminder that "you are the light of the world."
  • Write an old-fashioned note. In an era of voice mail and e-mail, a handwritten note sent through the mail makes a big impression. Use hand-written notes to express appreciation or sympathy or words of encouragement.
  • Set a standard. At the conclusion of committee meetings, set a standard and a timetable for measuring whether the objectives desired have been met. Build in from the outset the expectation that what has been discussed will be done.
  • Take the night off. At certain times in the year, designate a Family Night Off and cancel regular Wednesday evening or Sunday evening activities, with an admonition for families to spend that time together in a special activity. The church may even provide resources for a family worship or study time.
  • Publish glad tidings. Look beyond the church for opportunities for the pastor to write a column about spirituality or faith. Small-town newspapers, neighborhood magazines and other local special-interest publications often are glad to have such columns. The content should not be promotional but rather helpful, which in turn identifies the pastor and the church as resources for help.
  • Let'em ask questions. Once a quarter or so, host an "Inquirer's Lunch" for those exploring church membership. Tell participants they will be free to ask anything about Christianity, being a Baptist, the Bible or church life.
  • Make an electronic flier. Create a brief presentation about the church in PowerPoint or some other media and burn it onto CDs for distribution to prospects as a sort of electronic brochure. Include music, photos and text.
  • Bake the bread. Involve church members in baking bread to be used for the Lord's Supper. This bread will look, feel and taste much more authentic than the "Baptist chiclets" often used. Also, in keeping with Jesus' instructions that the bread symbolizes his body and the Apostle Paul's analogy that the church is the body of Christ, this "body-baked" bread takes on a stronger meaning in worship.
  • Park it. If your church parking lot is large and distant, involve deacons or other volunteers to offer valet parking for the elderly and unaccompanied women.
  • Give'em a break. Once a quarter, sponsor an adult social night. Encourage adult Bible study classes to hold fellowships on this night, and provide childcare at the church. Parents can drop off children at the church, go to a designated location for their class fellowship and return later to pick up the children at church.
  • Prime the pump. When posting a sign-up list, always have five or six names on it to start. A blank list communicates the message that no one is interested or no one plans to attend.
  • Start a curriculum library. In youth or adult Sunday School classes where members don't read their lessons, start reference libraries for the class or department rather than purchasing individual copies of literature that go unused. When questions are raised in class, encourage members to go straight to a Bible dictionary, commentary or atlas to find the answer.
  • Be a name-dropper. In church newsletters, make a conscious effort to use member's names. If people know there's a chance their name is going to be the church newsletter, they will read it.
  • Build bridges in print. Use the church newsletter to publish photos and stories about people of different generations. Highlight stories of love, service, friendship and family. This can help people find common ground and learn more about people they see but don't know.
  • Send an alert. Use e-mail to send an alert to deacons, Sunday School leaders and other interested individuals when someone goes to the hospital or dies. This rapid response can rally prayer support and personal care.
  • Encourage them. Create an opportunity for the church's older adults to visit with children who are approaching baptism. The adults may share stories of their baptism and its meaning to them through the years. Adults also may pray specifically for the child and his or her family.
  • Give a greeting. Assign church members as hosts throughout the congregation each Sunday. These hosts may be given responsibility to speak to every person who sits near them in a specific area. This will make it harder for anyone to come to church without being greeted warmly.

    If this column sparks an idea that you would like to share, send it to Tony Cartledge, Biblical Recorder, P.O. Box 18808, Raleigh, N.C. 27619-8808 or editor@biblicalrecorder.org. Additional suggestions may be published in a later issue.

    (EDITOR'S NOTE: Wingfield is managing editor of the Baptist Standard. This list was compiled with input from Marv Knox, Dan Pryor, Robert Guffey, Tony Cartledge, Ken Camp, Johnny Pierce, Jerilynn Armstrong, Diana Garland, Phil Hester, Carolyn Shapard, David Winfrey, Charlie Warren, Trennis Henderson, Bo Prosser and Jana Pinson.)

  • Friday, Jan. 10, 2003

    Bright ideas for churches

    By Mark Wingfield Baptist Standard

    Sometimes, it's the small things that make the biggest difference. In that spirit, here's a collection of ideas used in a variety of Baptist churches that could be adapted to other locations to add sparkle, energy or a special touch to what's already being done. These are not programs to launch or philosophies to embrace. They're simply ideas that work.

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    1/10/2003 12:00:00 AM by Mark Wingfield , Baptist Standard | with 0 comments



    BSC income finishes year up, down

    January 10 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

    BSC income finishes year up, down | Friday, Jan. 10, 2003

    Friday, Jan. 10, 2003

    BSC income finishes year up, down

    By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

    The Baptist State Convention (BSC) finished on an up note to a down year with a December surge in Cooperative Missions receipts, according to Robert Simons, BSC comptroller.

    Total Cooperative Mission gifts for the year were $35.57 million, up .63 percent over the $35.34 million received in 2001, but $1.56 million, or 4.2 percent, below 2002s $37.13 million budget goals.

    Three of the four giving plans showed increases during the year, while Plan A, the source of about two-thirds of the BSC's income, was down. Plan A giving, which designates 68 percent for the BSC and 32 percent to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), dropped from $24.78 million to $23.89 million, or 3.57 percent. Plan B, which sends 10 percent to the SBC and substitutes a variety of N.C. mission and ministry projects for the balance, was up from $3.35 million to $3.45 million. Giving Plan C, identical to Plan B except that it sends 10 percent to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) instead of the SBC, was up 10.78 percent, from $2.59 million to $2.86 million.

    The largest increase was in Plan D, which sends 32 percent to the SBC and reduces the BSC allotment from 68 percent to 50 percent, designating the 18 percent difference to special N.C. mission and ministry projects. Plan D giving was up 15.72 percent from the year, from $4.64 million to $5.36 million.

    BSC Executive Director/treasurer Jim Royston said: "We celebrate the fact that giving is up during tough economic times, and that there was the traditional year-end giving surge."

    Royston said he is hopeful the economy will improve, for the sake of families and churches as well as for faster growth in convention giving.

    Despite a small budget increase for 2003 approved at the November convention - to $37.55 million - Royston said BSC staff have been instructed to plan spending for 2003 on the basis of the actual amount received in 2002.

    Recognizing that many churches are facing financial challenges, Royston said he is excited about the new materials BSC has prepared to assist churches in building a stronger financial base. One emphasis, called "Seek first the kingdom: developing giver's hearts," will debut during the first quarter. According to John Roberson, team leader for the BSC's resource and development group, the emphasis offers "a multi-phase process for developing growing financial disciples."

    The convention also offers churches a consultant-led process called "Road maps to financial discipleship," which is available now (contact Dan Euliss at deuliss@bscnc.org, [800] 395-5102 or [919] 467-5100, ext. 121.

    In designated giving for 2002, the N.C. Missions Offering was up 3.64 percent to a record $2.48 million, though still about 5 percent short of its goal.

    Pass-through contributions to N.C. WMU were up 40.74 percent to $16,837, and designated funds for theological education in North Carolina were up 46.84 percent, to $7,007. Designations to CBF-NC were up by more than 200 percent, to $49,206, while gifts to the Christian Action League dipped 1.8 percent, to $10,761.

    Most mission giving was down for the year. Gifts for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions were down 3.49 percent, from $12.28 million to $11.85 million, and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions was off slightly, from $5.68 million to $5.6 million. Gifts to CBF's Global Missions Offering dropped 17.67 percent, from $278,619 to $229,364.

    World Hunger contributions dipped from $867,659 to $842,179, or 2.93 percent.

    News | Opinion | Children | Youth | Youth Q&A | Archive | Calendar | Email Updates | Feedback | Sunday School Lessons | Churches | Church Search | FAQ | LinksAdvertising | Mast Head | History | Staff | Classified Ads | Place An Ad In The Biblical Recorder ClassifiedsSubscribe To The Biblical RecorderChange Your Biblical Recorder Subscription AddressSend A Tar Heel Voices Letter
    1/10/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



    Missionary doctrinal statement rated top news story of 2002

    January 10 2003 by Greg Warner , Associated Baptist Press

    Missionary doctrinal statement rated top news story of 2002 | Friday, Jan. 10, 2003
  • The words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance were deemed unconstitutional;
  • A tax break for clergy housing expenses became law;
  • Kidnapped missionary Martin Burnham was killed in the Philippines; and
  • Legendary Dallas, Texas pastor W.A. Criswell died.

    On the state level, denominational politics and gambling issues dominated the year's news. Among the top stories in several state conventions:

    Alabama - Video gambling was ruled illegal after years of debate and confusion.

    Louisiana - The Louisiana Baptist Convention's executive board transferred control over the hiring and firing of associational directors from the state convention to the associations themselves.

    Although member churches in each association now control those positions, they are still funded by the state convention.

    New Mexico - In May, forest fires that spread across the Southwest caused damage to the camp owned by the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.

    Tennessee - Despite opposition by Tennessee Baptists, a referendum to allow a state-operated lottery passed.

    Virginia - In a special meeting in May, the Baptist General Association of Virginia endorsed a new strategy called Kingdom Advance.

  • Friday, Jan. 10, 2003

    Missionary doctrinal statement rated top news story of 2002

    By Greg Warner Associated Baptist Press

    JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The International Mission Board's (IMB) requirement that all 5,100 of its missionaries sign an affirmation of the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) new confession of faith was rated the top news story of 2002 by Baptist editors.

    IMB president Jerry Rankin issued the mandate in January, reversing an earlier decision. Missionaries were asked to sign an affirmation of the 2000 version of the "Baptist Faith and Message" statement or list their objections to it. Supporters said the move was necessary to assure Southern Baptists and the board's trustees that their missionaries are doctrinally sound. Opponents said the signing requirement made the confession into a creed.

    By year's end, more than 30 missionaries had resigned rather than endorse the revised faith statement. Others are waiting to hear the IMB's response to their objections. But most missionaries complied.

    In an informal survey by Associated Baptist Press, editors of Baptist newspapers overwhelmingly chose the IMB action as the top story of the year. News of the terrorist shooting of three missionaries in Yemen came too late in the year to be considered. But other denominational issues and world affairs made the list. Here's a summary:

    1. Missionary doctrine - IMB asked missionaries to affirm 2000 "Baptist Faith & Message" statement.

    2. D.C. dispute - The SBC's North American Mission Board (NAMB) decided to end the cooperative agreement with District of Columbia Baptist Convention (DCBC). NAMB, which has provided nearly $500,000 annually to the DCBC, sought to gain greater accountability from the D.C. convention. DCBC executive director Jeffrey Haggray called the proposal an "ultimatum" that violated the convention's autonomy.

    3. New Missouri convention - Moderate Baptists launched the new Baptist General Convention of Missouri in response to conservative dominance of the traditional Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC). The MBC also filed lawsuits against five agencies that severed ties with the convention.

    4. Texas Baptist mission plan - The Baptist General Convention of Texas launched a new missions network and established a "rescue" fund for IMB missionaries who resign or are fired over the issue of the 2000 "Baptist Faith and Message."

    5. Catholic sex scandal - Sex-abuse allegations among priests rocked the Roman Catholic Church, particularly in Boston, where Cardinal Bernard Law eventually resigned.

    6. Vines and Mohammed - Former SBC president Jerry Vines of Jacksonville, Fla., called Mohammed a "demon-possessed pedophile" during a June sermon before the Southern Baptist Convention, launching a storm of criticism.

    7. War - The ongoing war against Al-Qaida and possible war with Iraq heightened Christian-Muslim tensions even further.

    8. Faith-based initiatives - Legislation to authorize faith-based social initiatives failed in Congress, but President Bush later issued an executive order enacting similar provisions.

    9. BWA and CBF - The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) agreed in July to consider the moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) for membership, over the objection of Southern Baptists.

    10. Baptist Foundation of Arizona - A $217 million settlement was reached in the lawsuit against the embattled accounting firm of Arthur Andersen for its role in the collapse of the Baptist Foundation of Arizona. The collapse cost more than 13,000 investors an estimated $570 million. Criminal charges were later filed against foundation executives.

    Other prominent national stories of 2002 that received notice from editors:

    News | Opinion | Children | Youth | Youth Q&A | Archive | Calendar | Email Updates | Feedback | Sunday School Lessons | Churches | Church Search | FAQ | LinksAdvertising | Mast Head | History | Staff | Classified Ads | Place An Ad In The Biblical Recorder ClassifiedsSubscribe To The Biblical RecorderChange Your Biblical Recorder Subscription AddressSend A Tar Heel Voices Letter
    1/10/2003 12:00:00 AM by Greg Warner , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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