January 2003

Regional CBF group organizes

January 10 2003 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

Regional CBF group organizes | Friday, Jan. 10, 2003

Friday, Jan. 10, 2003

Regional CBF group organizes

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor

A group of church leaders in western North Carolina has taken the first step toward forming a regional network of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) churches.

Supporters say it's too early to say if the group will become an association that seeks affiliation with the Baptist State Convention (BSC), but a number of the churches have either pulled out of or are dissatisfied with their associations.

The motion to begin the work of forming a "Western North Carolina Cooperative Baptist Fellowship" came Jan. 6 at a monthly, informal meeting of leaders of CBF-friendly churches. The group will be "a network of churches, individuals and parties, for purposes of education, fellowship, missions and worship, in our desire to fulfill the Great Commission," according to the motion by Alan Gragg, a retired seminary and college professor and a member of First Baptist Church in Asheville.

A steering committee was formed to begin working on the project. The committee will bring a report to a meeting at Calvary Baptist Church in Asheville on Feb. 3.

Guy Sayles, pastor of Asheville's First Baptist Church, will serve as chairman of the committee. Other members are A.C. Ownbey, a layperson from First Baptist Church in Black Mountain; Joe David Fore, a retired campus minister and member of First Baptist Church in Asheville; Brian Fleming, a youth minister at First Baptist Church in Arden; Gail Coulter, pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Hendersonville; and Gragg.

Sayles said his committee will look at ways the network can serve the needs of churches.

"I can say our main interest will be in saying what we should be doing locally rather than who our partners are," he said.

Thirty-one people attended the Jan. 6 meeting at a restaurant in Asheville, according to Buddy Corbin, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Asheville and recorder for the group. Twenty-nine of those present signed a statement agreeing with the motion, he said.

Corbin said those attending the meeting discussed a synopsis of a Nov. 25 gathering at Hominy Baptist. He said 178 people from 11 churches attended that meeting.

Small groups discussing several issues reported almost unanimous interest in being part of a regional CBF body, according to Corbin's synopsis of the meeting. The groups also discussed shared ministry options and potential strengths and drawbacks to a regional group.

Corbin said that even though some of the churches represented aren't happy with the direction of their local associations, the decision at the Jan. 6 meeting "wasn't intended to be a slap at anybody."

"The formation of a regional CBF naturally grows out of a need for relationship with like-minded churches and people who are weary of Baptist infighting and simply want to go about the business of serving the Lord," he said.

Joe Yelton, pastor of Hominy Baptist Church in Candler and moderator of the Jan. 6 meeting, agreed.

"It doesn't mean these churches are all going to pull out of their associations," he said. "It doesn't mean they're mad or angry."

Yelton said he prays that in 100 years people will look back and say the Southern Baptist Convention and the CBF accomplished good things.

"To God be the glory," he said.

Yelton called the Jan. 6 decision "truly at great moment in Baptist life."

Jim Fowler, missions coordinator for CBF of North Carolina, said the move is significant.

"It's a movement of churches saying 'we want to fellowship together, we want to move forward, not backward,'" he said.

Fowler said the decision is "church-led, not CBF-led."

"This is not a top down thing," he said. "This is coming from the churches.

"We're certainly happy to see it happen."

Fowler said informal groups of CBF-friendly church leaders are also meeting in the Durham, Greenville and Wilmington areas. Some church leaders in the Laurinburg area are interested in holding similar meetings, he said.

"We're in a position where we're responding to what our churches are asking for," he said.

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

Baptist leaders examine creeds

January 6 2003 by BR Editor

Baptist leaders examine creeds | Monday, Jan. 6, 2003

Monday, Jan. 6, 2003

Baptist leaders examine creeds

Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

Recent studies have shown that the relative presence of Baptists in North Carolina is shrinking, while the percentage of Roman Catholics in the state is rising rapidly.

Some observers are alarmed by the demographic shift.

Others are concerned about trends within Baptist life that have a Catholic feel to them. Movements towards a more centralized authority and the imposition of strict doctrinal guidelines (subject to change) on denominational employees have a distinct Batholic feel to them - or Cathtist, as the case may be.

Some Baptists see the shift to denominational dogmatism as a new development, while others would argue that Baptists have always been expected to toe a defined doctrinal line. The truth is elusory because Baptists - even Southern Baptists - have never spoken with a single voice on that or most any other subject.

The issue has come into sharp focus since the 2000 revision of the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M), which states in its preamble that confessions are to be used as "instruments of doctrinal accountability." It describes the doctrines stated in the BF&M as "essential to the Baptist tradition of faith and practice" (my italics).

For all intents and purposes, that characterization makes the document a creed, and SBC agencies have imposed it as such.

Some shout "anathema!" Others say "about time!"

To shed more light on this debate that has so divided those Baptists historically affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, we offer below two guest perspectives on the subject.

Charles Deweese, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist History and Heritage Society, takes the position that Baptists are historically anti-creedal by nature and practice, and should stay that way.

James Smith, executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness and former public relations director for Southern Baptist Seminary, argues that the Baptists are intrinsically creedal and shouldn't be afraid of the word.

The essays indicate that Baptists have seen the subject differently for far longer than our lifetimes.

For most of the past century, differing points of view on various points of doctrine did not preclude cooperation in a greater mission.

Will cooperation continue to triumph over division in the century ahead? That remains an open question - and the most serious issue facing Baptists today.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
1/6/2003 12:00:00 AM by BR Editor | with 0 comments

Missionary heroes deserve honor

January 3 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Missionary heroes deserve honor | Friday, Jan. 3, 2003

Friday, Jan. 3, 2003

Missionary heroes deserve honor

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

Missionaries are my heroes.

It's been that way for some time - since I first learned about missionaries in RA's, since I first read about people like Lottie Moon and Bill Wallace, people who loved God and loved God's people more than they loved their own lives.

Enough to give up their own lives.

Missionary service is never easy. Often, it involves long separations from family and loved ones, long distances to travel, long years in language study and long days of learning a new culture.

From the beginning, it has also involved a distinct element of danger - not just the dangers of travel, which in some countries are considerable - but the danger of being seen as snooty rich Americans who think the local religion isn't good enough.

Missionaries have often been targeted for robberies because they generally have access to cars. More recently and more commonly, they have been attacked because they are seen as both American and Christian, which many in the world - to our great misfortune - see as synonymous. Both titles carry considerable baggage to those who feel that their culture, country or faith tradition is threatened by the missionaries' presence.

Missionaries know they stand a chance of being martyrs, especially in politically sensitive or unstable parts of the world, and yet they remain, held fast by love.

Such was the case with Martha Myers, William Koehn and Kathy Gariety, career missionaries to Yemen who lost their lives December 30 when a Muslim extremist gunned them down during a staff meeting at Jibla Baptist Hospital in Yemen. The gunman also wounded short term missionary Donald Caswell, who was working in the pharmacy.

The misguided murderer reportedly said he believed their murders would bring him closer to Allah, though many other Muslims were quick to insist that his actions were not in keeping with the teachings of Islam.

Myers was a missionary doctor described by friends as outspoken and headstrong, but madly in love with the people of Yemen, where she had served for 25 years.

A friend of mine remembers working with Myers, who was prone to putting on a head covering and going out after hours to visit people on all levels of society in Jibla. She was famous for driving to outlying villages to immunize children and was kidnapped once. She was known for overwhelming generosity, and reportedly gave her savings account to finance a local person's kidney transplant.

Myers' compassion for the people was unquestioned, and she had "just the perfect blend of eccentricity to be effective as a single woman doctor in the Muslim world," my friend observed.

Koehn was a quiet and committed administrator who worked long hours to keep the hospital open and sought a variety of ways for the hospital to minister in Christ's name. He was especially known for ministry to orphans, prisoners, and the poorest of the poor. A 28-year veteran of mission work, Koehn was scheduled to retire next October. Like Myers, he was so devoted to the people of Jibla that he had asked to be buried on the hospital grounds.

Local hospital employees built the coffins and lowered them into the ground. One of them said of Koehn, "This is my father, I have to do this," according to Baptist Press.

Purchasing agent Gariety was described by friends as a missionary from the soles of her feet to the crown of her head. She not only kept the hospital stocked with needed supplies, but performed other needed functions. When on stateside leave, she was tireless in gathering donations of medical supplies for the work in Yemen.

Recently, Gariety was outspoken in her criticism of the International Mission Board's plans to transfer the hospital to a local charity and to refocus the missionaries' work.

Her love for the people of Yemen was unquestioned.

Missionaries like these are my heroes - people who love God enough, and love God's people enough - to share that love even at the risk of their own lives.

These are people who deserve our respect, who deserve our prayers, who deserve our financial support.

They also deserve our trust, honor and admiration.

May more of us learn to love God and others as they do.

After all, that's how Jesus said others would know those who follow Him - by their love.

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1/3/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Second chances

January 3 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Second chances | Friday, Jan. 3, 2003

Friday, Jan. 3, 2003

Second chances

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

In the new year, when the calendar changes yet again ...

in the new year, when hopes are high for better days ...

in the new year, when resolutions are fresh and determination is resolute ...

in the new year, when falling short on those resolutions is as likely as writing last year's date on a check ...

in the new year, let us be thankful for grace.

For grace that reminds us, year by year, that our God is the God of second chances,

and third,

and fourth,

and more;

for grace that came to the earth with a hallelujah chorus and swirl of angel's wings;

for grace that comes to our hearts softly, never forcing entry, but always waiting.

In the new year, when yet another cleansing chance is written bold in the new numbers on our calendars,

Let us be thankful for love.

For love that forsook heaven's glory for human skin,

for love that broods over the bosom and bone of all who breathe.

In the new year, let us be thankful for hope.

For hope that puts failure behind and clings to the tomorrow,

for hope that trusts in mysteries beyond understanding,

for hope that leans into the winds of God's time

and says "Yes!"

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1/3/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for Jan. 19: The Promise of Life's Value

January 3 2003 by John S. Pond Jr. , Psalm 139: 7-16; Mark 10:13-16

Family Bible Study lesson for Jan. 19: The Promise of Life's Value | Friday, Jan. 3, 2003

Friday, Jan. 3, 2003

Family Bible Study lesson for Jan. 19: The Promise of Life's Value

By John S. Pond Jr. Psalm 139: 7-16; Mark 10:13-16

There is much discussion and pontification over the issue of life's value, whether it is over abuse and neglect, euthanasia or abortion. Lines are drawn and each individual's faith is judged by their response. There are those within the community of faith who feel the scriptures very clearly mandate a life-affirming response. Others question such interpretations, seeking other viable ways to respond with dignity and sensitivity. For still others, the militancy of both sides intimidates them into a non-responsive mode or a parroting of what they have heard.

For the believer there are two challenges: to critically examine the scriptures in order to discover a Christ-affirming response of belief (orthodoxy), and to move beyond heated rhetoric to a Christ-exalting response of action (orthopraxy).

The Spirit's presence Psalm 139:7-12 Psalm 139 is an testimony to God's omnipresence, omniscience and omnificence. In a world that leans towards a pantheistic view of reality, this psalm affirms the distinctiveness and uniqueness of the Lord. A psalm of thanksgiving, David celebrates God's saving love in the light of Israel's and his experience.

After his initial response of awe and wonder at the incredible greatness of the Lord, David contemplates His omnipresence. Like Isaiah (6:1ff), as David draws close to the Lord he discovers how very far he is from Him. In a response that is as old as the fall, his first impulse is to run from God's presence - His face. He tries to turn his back on Him and escape His leading, but God is there. He runs from the topmost height of the heavens to the nethermost depths of the underworld - the greatest span of the heavens from one horizon to the other - and God is there.

For David the thought that any place could be outside the sphere of God is unthinkable. We cannot escape from the realm of God's power. Neither darkness nor heavy distress can mask our reality from the touch of the Lord. His right hand keeps a safe and secure grip on us.

The Creator's plan Psalm 139:13-16 David recognizes God's creative and operative presence. He moves from the negative perspective of avoidance and flight to the positive perspective of God's all-embracing omnificence. Not only does God see us in the inaccessible, but He is also "the author of every detail of our being" (Derek Kidner). For a short instant David witnesses the mystery of life in the hand of his God as He knits and entwines his substance within the depths of the earth. He responds with awe, praise and reverent trust.

The Lord places a great value on each one of us. He is active in creating and protecting each person. For David, God places great importance on each individual, even as an embryo, preparing and planning his or her beginning and end (v.16). The Lord is involved in the minutest details of each person's life. The Creator of the massive complex and spectrum of creation places great significance upon even the insignificant (in our culture's view), for each is a part of that overall creation. The Lord not only brings to birth, but He sustains (Jer. 29:11-12).

The Savior's touch Mark 10:13-16 Jesus was indignant. In the midst of great activity, his disciples turned away small children (Luke 18:15) who were being brought to Him for blessing. The disciples were jealous of His privacy and wanted only to protect Him from needless interruptions. Jesus was meant for more important matters. He shouldn't be troubled over such unimportant trivialities. But Jesus was indignant!

Their response to this invasion showed an apparent lack of spiritual sensitivity (Wessel). Once more they misunderstood the nature of the kingdom of God. God's kingdom belongs to "such as these", that is, to those who are "unselfconscious, receptive, and content to be dependent on other's care and bounty" (Rawlinson).

Jesus' response was to not only bless the children, but to put his arms around them, to bless them fervently. The insensitive disciples were not only preventing the children from encountering Jesus, they were preventing Jesus from loving them, embracing them fervently.

Today, rather than fill the air with angry rhetoric, the church should embrace the hurting, the estranged and the forsaken. It should follow the example of God who participates in the "depths of the earth" embroidering and weaving the fragile hidden ones and Christ who warmly welcomes and authenticates the innocent ones. Now is the moment for the community of faith to be the vehicle through which the Savior's touch can be felt once more.

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1/3/2003 12:00:00 AM by John S. Pond Jr. , Psalm 139: 7-16; Mark 10:13-16 | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for Jan. 19: Male and Female

January 3 2003 by Robbin B. Mundy , Genesis 1:26-27; 2:18-25; Matthew 18:19-20

Formations lesson for Jan. 19: Male and Female | Friday, Jan. 3, 2003

Friday, Jan. 3, 2003

Formations lesson for Jan. 19: Male and Female

By Robbin B. Mundy Genesis 1:26-27; 2:18-25; Matthew 18:19-20

Creation has a rhythm about it. God speaks, there is a response, and God declares, "That's good." Day by day, God spoke into creation plant-life, sea-life, sky-life, and animal-life. But when God created humankind, the cadence changed. Things were different. God spoke, there was a response, it was declared good and then God spoke to the created subject - giving instructions. Up until this point God's creations appeared but had no specific assignment. Now there is a created subject that is in the likeness of God. The instructions were to care for the created, for each other (and ultimately for the relationship with the creator). A conversation began between God and humankind.

Created in the image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27) What does God look like? Children try to help us by offering their own illustrations. They begin an illustration, run look in a mirror and then return to their masterpiece to add the final touches.

Look into a mirror. Look long enough to see past the body parts, past the facial features, and deep into the heart of the person staring back at you. There, now you can begin to "see" what God is like. This simple exercise is not simple at all, it is transforming! God will sharpen your view so you can see the most wonderful part of creation, YOU - because you are "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14).

We are not little doll look-alikes or copies of a masterpiece. Our physical appearance probably has very little to do with figuring out God's image. When we were children we could grasp little more in this lesson than an introductory idea of being created in God's image, it was a snap-shot theology! But now that we are adults, it is our responsibility to look deeper (1 Corinthians 13:11).

Imagine for a moment that God is like the metronome in a middle school band room. The metronome provides a steady beat and the students are to listen to it, hear it, concentrate on it, feel it and even anticipate it so they can tap their foot to match it. Then they lift their instrument and begin to match the beat by playing notes. The brass, woodwinds, and percussionists feel and follow the beat. Feeling the beat comes easily for some but others have to work very hard at it. Nonetheless, with practice they learn to play on cue and complete the full sound of the band. Without each section the band would be incomplete. Without the beat, the band could never play a tune. God's plan insists on us working together.

Together and not alone (Genesis 2:18-25) Over and over in scripture we discover that God is relational. It was not good for God to be alone - so God created. The animals of the ground and birds of the air did not satisfy the desired relationship, though God said it was all good! God found satisfaction in the deeper relationship possible with the creation of humankind. Realizing the benefits of the deeper relationship, God created humankind in its most complete form, male and female.

With God (Matthew 18:19-20) Our relational God continues to find ways to assure us that we are not alone. Placed in its proper context, this very familiar passage is a response to church discipline. Just as we have been given the responsibility to guard over and care for animal and plant life, God intends us to be care-givers of all our relationships. The key to the passage is, "where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." Hear the implied warning! When dealing with the most sensitive issues congregations face - relationships, we must be certain we are gathered together in the name of the Most High and not drawn together in our own human biases. God is patient and kind. God is forgiving. God is amazing. Amazing and healing responses result when we gather in the spirit and truth of our creator.

Conclusion Created in God's image? What does that really mean to us and for us? Humbled by the touch of the master's hand, empowered by the created order, enriched by relationships, and nurtured by the company of the Master - we are transformed into the image of God. So, maybe this would be a good time to do a little mirror gazing, just remember to stay long enough for a conversation with the Master.

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1/3/2003 12:00:00 AM by Robbin B. Mundy , Genesis 1:26-27; 2:18-25; Matthew 18:19-20 | with 0 comments

'Invest in the remnant,' Eddie Hammett says

January 3 2003 by Jimmy Allen , BR Assistant Editor

'Invest in the remnant,' Eddie Hammett says | Friday, Jan. 3, 2003

Friday, Jan. 3, 2003

'Invest in the remnant,' Eddie Hammett says

By Jimmy Allen BR Assistant Editor

Light can shine in the midst of dark chaos. Eddie Hammett saw that illumination in a relative who had suffered through a marital divorce.

At the time of the divorce, none of the local churches could help the relative who needed something but didn't know exactly what it was that he needed, Hammett said. This period of confusion lasted two years until the relative realized that little material has been written for single parents. The relative decided to birth a ministry for single dads. The first session was held this fall.

"I never knew God could do what He just did,' the relative said. "I can't believe all of the hell I went through can make so much sense now. I know now what it means to be redeemed through the mess."

The pain of divorce helped the relative discover a spiritual gift, said Hammett, who told about his relative to a group of about 200 people gathered for a breakout session at the 2002 Baptist State Convention annual meeting in Winston-Salem on Nov. 12.

One of the principles for helping people discover their spiritual gifts is to start with what Hammett called the "remnant" - those who are dissatisfied with what is and those able to see more that can be done. Church leaders may want to see all the Sunday School teachers, for example, develop their gifts, but don't wait for everyone to get excited about discovering their gifts before starting.

"Jesus preached to the multitudes, but He invested in the remnant," said Hammett, referring to the apostles. "The remnant changed the world."

A problem of the church in general has been its desire to please the majority while ignoring the remnant, he said.

"Pour your life into four, five, six people. They in turn multiply that ministry, serving as role models," he said.

When someone is going through a painful time, ask them what God may be birthing, Hammett said. These people who are remnants may be going through a "spiritual pregnancy," he said. A new baby comes through pain. The same is true for new ministries.

Other principles for discovering and discerning spiritual gifts:

� God equips. "God never calls anyone to do anything He doesn't first equip us to do," said Hammett, who noted it took him several years to understand that concept. When he did grasp its meaning, "it literally unnerved me."

� The calling is bigger. "God calls us to something bigger than we are - always," Hammett said. Hammett said he was a shy, introverted adolescent. He went to church. But it wasn't until he was in college that he began to study spiritual gifts as described in Romans 12:6-8 and Ephesians 4:11-12. "It is gift discovery and discernment (of my gifts) that helped my flower begin to bloom," he said. His mother later couldn't believe that he would talk in front of hundreds of people, something he couldn't do on his own, he said. "But scripture tells us if we plug in to Jesus, He'll provide the way."

Every believer is a minister, he said, and the call to salvation and the call to ministry is the same call. "That's a core belief system I'm not so sure we've nurtured."

Putting someone on a committee is not making disciples, he said.

Spiritual gifts can be misused, he said. Does the gift show love and does the gift unify as opposed to divide? If not, Hammett said, it is being misused.

During his years of studying churches, he has seen that they need help.

"Many, many of our churches are in serious, serious trouble and don't even know it," he said. Eighty-two percent of churches are declining, and 70 percent of U.S. residents are unchurched.

To make a difference, church leaders need to start with the remnant, he said.

Findley Edge taught at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where Hammett was one of his students. In the 1960s, Edge asked: "Can our kind of church save our kind of world?" His answer at the time was no. During one of Hammett's last discussions with Edge before the teacher died this past fall, Edge said his attitude about the church hadn't changed. "He said, 'We're in worse shape now than we were then."

Hammett spoke at Edge's funeral. Since then, he had gotten calls from people in places ranging from Asheville to Australia who wanted to tell Hammett about how that one man changed their life.

"One man can make a difference," Hammett said. "Invest in the remnant."

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1/3/2003 12:00:00 AM by Jimmy Allen , BR Assistant Editor | with 0 comments

Pastor learns gold-medal lesson

January 3 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Pastor learns gold-medal lesson | Friday, Jan. 3, 2003

Friday, Jan. 3, 2003

Pastor learns gold-medal lesson

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

MEBANE - Terry Farmer's wake-up call came as he was waking up at UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill. It was March of 2001, and an attack of atrial fibrillation had sent Farmer's heart rate to more than 200 beats per minute. As medical personnel administered intravenous solutions, an unexpectedly high blood sugar level sent the pastor of Mebane's First Baptist Church into a near-diabetic coma.

Farmer's doctors quickly diagnosed adult onset, or Type II diabetes. They predicted nothing but bad news if he did not adopt a healthier lifestyle. Farmer, who has weighed as much as 270 pounds, and who lost his left kidney to cancer five years ago, saw the proverbial handwriting on the wall, and cooperated.

He signed up for an educational program at the local hospital, and learned to be a discriminating reader of food product labels.

He began eating up to six small meals per day, rather than three big ones.

And, he began exercising, gradually building up to 90 minutes of cardiovascular exercise every day. "I run until my knees hurt," Farmer says, "then I walk."

Over a period of nine months, Farmer trimmed 90 pounds from his frame, and has kept it off for another nine months.

He also brought his diabetes under control so well that he no longer needs medication.

As a result, he feels stronger and more energetic than ever.

More importantly, perhaps, he feels better about himself.

Farmer believes his new level of fitness has made him a better pastor. "At least, it's made me a more relaxed pastor," he said. "It has allowed me to handle stress better, and without such dire consequences to my health."

Farmer admits that job stress and a lack of feeling in control used to trigger overeating. Well-meaning church members sometimes encouraged him to eat more, saying the food they offered, "had no calories," but they "actually acted as many enablers to my eating addiction," he said.

At other times, Farmer said, overeating was sparked by feelings of depression or by avoiding "the awesome responsibility to love myself as God loved me."

Now exercise offers a positive outlet for stress and frustration, and the healthier lifestyle leads to a more positive outlook on life, which translates into a more upbeat approach to ministry.

Modeling a healthy lifestyle and a positive attitude is an important aspect of ministry, Farmer says. "If you are taking care of yourself, you're sending a message to the congregation that they need to do the same thing."

Living out a positive approach to life also leads to more positive preaching and less negativity in the pulpit, Farmer says, contributing to the overall health of the church.

Determined to maintain his health and fitness, Farmer finds additional motivation through organized athletic competition. Penny Butler, a local woman known for her athleticism, encouraged Farmer to participate in the Senior Games, which are open to ages 55 and up.

Farmer competed in sectional qualifiers in Burlington and Greensboro, winning several gold and silver medals in his age group.

Last fall, he competed at the state level in Raleigh, bringing home two gold and three silver medals. Farmer won gold for the 1,500-meter race walk and teamed with Butler to take the mixed doubles table tennis title. He won silver medals for the 800 meter and 5,000 meter races, and the 5,000-meter race walk.

He's now training for regional events and for the national Senior Games, slated for June in Hampton Roads, Va.

An added bonus is that his newfound activity has opened the doors for many witnessing opportunities, Farmer said. His church recently held an educational and screening clinic for diabetes. As a result, two people were diagnosed with the disease. One of them has since lost 40 pounds, he said.

Farmer believes his demonstration of personal discipline has also empowered him in the area of leadership. "I don't have to talk about being a leader when others can see that I'm willing to pay the price," he says.

Instead of resenting the time he devotes to fitness (now down to a maintenance level of 60 minutes per day), church members have encouraged him to stick with it. "I feel very blessed that our people have responded so positively," Farmer said.

Health and fitness are not the only issues ministers face, however, and Farmer encourages all ministers to be more open with their congregations about the trouble spots in their lives. "The more open I am, the more accepting the church has become," he said. "Whatever the issue is, the pastor and the church will both become stronger as they work together."

Which sounds like a recipe for a gold medal team.

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1/3/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

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