October 2003

2004 budget reflects reality, priorities

October 17 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

2004 budget reflects reality, priorities | Friday, Oct. 17, 2003

Friday, Oct. 17, 2003

2004 budget reflects reality, priorities

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

When a decline in contributions to and through the Baptist State Convention (BSC) led to a series of cost-cutting moves that included the elimination of 24 staff positions as of Aug. 31, Executive Director/Treasurer Jim Royston announced that decisions were based on what was most "mission critical" to the BSC. He later qualified the statement by telling the General Board that all of the convention's ministries are crucial to its mission. Cuts were made in areas whose work could most easily be absorbed by others, he said.

Those staff reductions are reflected in the new BSC budget proposal for 2004, approved Oct. 1 by the General Board. The proposed budget is 6.3 percent below the 2003 budget, and in line with actual anticipated income for 2003. The 2003 budget called for income of $37.55 million, but the 2004 version drops to $35.18 million, the lowest total since 2000, when the budget was $34 million. Following new policies approved at last year's annual meeting, the Board also approved a budget for 2005. That budget is fractionally larger at $35.68 million, though still below the 2001 budget of $35.75 million.

The N.C. Ministries portion of the budget falls almost $2 million in 2004, from $26.27 million to $24.34 million, a drop of 7.37 percent. N.C. Ministries should also receive a slightly smaller percentage of total budget income, falling from 69.97 to 69.19 percent.

The N.C. Ministries budget consists of the BSC's 68 percent share from Plans A, B and C and its 50 percent share from Plan D, plus partnership missions funds designated in Plans B, C and D.

An analysis of budget changes for 2004 reveals economic realities, as well as some shifts in "mission critical" priorities, most of them reflecting personnel cuts that have already been made. While 2003 budget figures are presented here for comparison, the amount actually received and available for distribution in 2003 will almost certainly be less than the budgeted amount. Contributions at the end of September were running 7.79 percent under budget for the first nine months of the year.

If giving for either year should surpass budget expectations, all entities would receive additional funds in line with the budget formula.

Among the BSC's affiliated agencies and institutions, budgeted expenditures for Christian Higher Education are expected to drop 6.67 percent in 2004, from $5.25 million to $4.9 million, while funding for Christian Social Services falls 6.67 percent, from $3.62 million to $3.38 million, and BSC support for convention agencies declines 5.6 percent, from $555,000 to $523,875. Although incoming dollars may decline, the designated percentage for those entities varies only slightly from the current budget.

The "General Board Groups" category, which includes most of the BSC's staff and program money, falls 13.5 percent, from $10.61 million to $9.18 million.

The budget's "Convention Special" section, which includes funds for the Ministers' Emergency Reserve, scholarships for N.C. Baptist students attending N.C. Baptist colleges and universities, the Christian Action League, and the Baptist World Alliance, drops 12.6 percent, from $1.59 million to $1.39 million.

Two budget categories grew, both as a result of rising benefits costs. Expanded annuity funds for participating staff members in BSC churches and on the General Board staff will rise from $1.55 million to $1.73 million, or 11.75 percent. The increase is due to growth in the number of participants, along with an expected decrease in matching funds from the Southern Baptist Annuity Board.

The "Convention and General Board Operations" budget, used largely to cover meeting costs, employee benefits, contingencies and base funding for Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, is set to grow 4.9 percent, from $3.1 million to $3.23 million. Some specific items decline, but the cost of employee benefits is expected to rise $305,000 despite the elimination of 24 staff positions, mainly due to increased health insurance premiums. Many retirees, including nine staff members whose positions were recently eliminated, continue to receive health insurance benefits from the BSC.

The North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO) goal for 2004 falls to $2.3 million, from $2.6 million in 2004. The drop has a direct impact on N.C. Woman's Missionary Union (WMU) and Baptist Men, both of which are funded from the NCMO offering.

N.C. WMU's 2003 budget of $880,641 falls 13.2 percent, to $764,465. Budgeted income for Baptist Men drops 17.5 percent, from $699,217 to $576,898. The decrease for WMU and Baptist Men is based not only on a lower NCMO goal, but also on decreased percentages. WMU's percentage of the NCMO offering goes from 34.01 to 33.08 percent, while Baptist Men drops from 27.01 percent to 24.96 percent. The decrease reflects the loss of two staff positions each in WMU and Baptist Men.

The vacant position of medical/dental bus coordinator had previously been moved from Partnership Missions to Baptist Men. It was not officially eliminated, but no additional funding was provided for it.

A portion of the NCMO budget designated for Congregational Services will drop from $98,350 to $67,600. Most of that reappears in a new $40,000 item for "Pursuing Vital Ministries" (PVM).

PVM uses trained coaches to assist "a congregation's spiritual and strategic journey to discern and reach its full kingdom potential," according to information on the www.pursuingvitalministries.com Web site. The initiative, which Royston has promoted heavily as a means of assisting plateaued churches, also appears as a new item in the budget for "Administration-Convention Relationships and Budget." That section grows from $1.47 to $1.52 million, thanks mainly to a $210,700 new item for PVM. Some of the PVM funds are new, while others are being transferred from the Congregational Services group.

The operating budget for the Hollifield Leadership Center falls 22.4 percent, from $353,286 to $273,978. When convention officials promoted the purchase of the Hollifield Center in 2000, they expressed hope that it would become self-supporting within three to five years. The 2005 budget calls for an additional 22.2 percent decline in BSC support, to $212,378. George Bullard, former director of the Hollifield Leadership Center and current associate executive director, said "this keeps Hollifield on target to require only the basic supplement provided to Caswell and Caraway conference centers by the end of 2006, its fifth full year of operation."

BSC funding for the N.C. Baptist Assembly at Caswell and Caraway Conference Center are set to fall 25 percent in 2004, from $100,000 to $75,000 each.

Funding for Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, the Council on Christian Higher Education (CCHE), and Woman's Missionary Union is listed in the budget under convention relationships. Income for Fruitland is expected to increase 2.5 percent due to the continued popularity of Plan D, which designates five percent to the school. Fruitland provides ministerial training for persons who do not have a college education. Its funding is expected to grow from $1.15 million to $1.17 million.

Following the elimination of its paid staff, the CCHE budget falls 65.25 percent. Most of the council's program funds remain intact, however, falling from $65,250 to $59,750, or 8.43 percent.

Among other General Board Groups, Business Services falls 8.38 percent, from $1.52 million to $1.39 million. Resource Development and Promotion declines 16.77 percent, from $1.15 million to $956,262, but picks up an additional $180,000 from a 0.006 deduction from all funded entities, to be used for Cooperative Giving promotion.

With the excision of its executive leadership layer and some shifting of responsibilities, funding for the Strategic Initiatives and Planning group falls 26.62 percent, from $616,780 to $452,574. Remaining staff members have been assigned to work with other groups but the funding, mostly related to information technology and services, remains separate for budget purposes.

Congregational Services dropped 13.1 percent, from $2.35 million to $2.05 million, with the biggest change coming on the Bible Teaching Reaching team, which goes from $845,407 in 2003 to $589,827 in 2004. The $285,580 drop reflects staff reductions and the shifting of some staff and program funds to the Discipleship Team.

The Council on Christian Life and Public Affairs, which functions under the Congregational Services umbrella, dropped 15.2 percent, from $604,757 to $513,087, due mainly to the layoff of its executive director.

Mission Growth Evangelism, the largest of the convention's groups, loses the most dollars for 2004, falling 19.6 percent, from $3.5 million to $2.82 million.

The brunt of the losses are being felt by Campus Ministry, which falls 28.2 percent, from $1.32 million to $949,444; Church Planting, down 18.1 percent, from $1.02 million to $832,825; and Partnership Missions, dropping 16.9 percent, from $503,651 to $418,533.

Most of the reductions reflect staff cuts that have already taken place.

Funding for the Evangelism and Church Growth team declines 3.4 percent, from $491,278 to $474,389. Anticipated expenditures for the team actually increase for the year, but increased revenues from the North American Mission Board and from conference fees hold the BSC share to slightly less than the previous year.

The budget proposal, though approved by the General Board, must still be affirmed or amended by messengers attending the Convention's annual meeting in Winston-Salem. Budget discussions are scheduled for Wednesday morning, Nov. 12.

10/17/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

'Church outside the walls' in Asheboro

October 17 2003 by Craig Byrd , Special to the Recorder

'Church outside the walls' in Asheboro | Friday, Oct. 17, 2003
  • Engineer Larry Cahoon and his wife, Patti, offer their home, hearts, fishing expertise and Sunday morning breakfasts to a more than a handful of young boys.
  • The creative impulses of Jorge Sebastian - once suspected of painting graffiti on apartment walls - now are concentrated on anti-drug messages and religious themes.
  • Harshaw Grove Baptist Church, an African-American congregation is doing missions in the New Randelman Housing Authority - even though some residents in the predominately white facility are openly hostile to people of color.
  • A group of MHMA youth attended Camp Caraway. Two made professions of faith; three rededicated their lives to Christ; and two surrendered to full-time Christian service.
  • Wendy Chriscoe, a successful computer software saleswoman, "lives for" water balloon fights and Bible studies with scores of children usually described as "at risk."
  • Elma Silva, a young widow who came to MHMA desperate for help, is now a volunteer worker helping to translate a Sunday night Bible study into English and visiting newcomers to invite them to MHMA programs in her neighborhood. She is an active member of Asheboro First Baptist with her four children, three of whom were baptized at the church.

    "Jesus told us and showed us that it's all about relationships," said Anne Willis, director and the only salaried MHMA employee. "This is intentionally and insistently sharing the love of God with hurting people who likely would never visit our sanctuaries unless we reach out first. MHMA is church outside the walls."

    The "outside" metaphor is borrowed from John Rogers, pastor of First Baptist and the person who dreamed the first dreams and prayed the first prayers that led to MHMA. "It's too easy for a congregation to get caught in taking care of itself," he said. "It's the spiritual equivalent of a man worried about high cholesterol spending all his time pondering what may be going on inside his arteries when his cholesterol readings would improve dramatically if he would get up, get outside and get moving."

    In 1997 Rogers' growing concern for those outside First Baptist Church's walls was focused during a "March Against Drugs" organized by Carmen Liberatore, longtime manager of Coleridge Road Apartments. As he had his private prayer-walk-within-the march, Liberatore introduced herself and began telling him of her own long-term prayer that "God would send someone to help these people - someone who loved them enough to live with them."

    Rogers replied that God had let him know that He wanted First Baptist involved at Coleridge Road Apartments.

    The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina seconded the motion with a two-year grant to provide a $12,000 annual salary and housing expenses. The plan was to get an inexperienced but committed intern.

    Instead, a veteran foreign missionary and childcare worker, Paula Settle, agreed to get the program started. She moved into a one-bedroom apartment at Coleridge Road Apartments and into the lives of the residents.

    "Those were starvation wages but Paula believed in the program so much and loves people so deeply she took it on and got it established," Rogers said. "She did a tremendous job those two years."

    When Settle took a position with the Raleigh Baptist Association in 2001, the church decided it was time to dream bigger and pray harder, and make the MHMA job a staff position. The search committee was mesmerized by Anne Willis' application. So was Rogers but he "knew there was no way she would come to Asheboro, not with her credentials."

    The recent Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary graduate had been an International Mission Board journeyman in China, and had been involved in a sports evangelism project in Sinaloa, Mexico, in addition to working for Mission Arlington, the multihousing ministry prototype operated by First Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas.

    She had a zeal for evangelism and a heart for the people MHMA was created to serve.

    "The night we interviewed her became a holy moment," Rogers said. "We all stood in a circle and each committee member expressed his or her reasons for feeling God was calling Anne to join us. Everyone was holding hands and crying."

    For her part, Willis could only wonder, "what kind of church committee is this - these people are really concerned."

    Building on a core of church volunteers but also involving other area churches (some non-Baptists), MHMA expanded to projects at five other apartment projects in Willis' first seven months as director.

    In her spare time she led a training session for other churches interested in multihousing ministry, set up a fund raising program and launched a "Girls in Sport Festival" that attracted 200 participants the first year. That program got high school tennis coach, Tommy Lewis, a member of Southern Hills Baptist Church, and former professional tennis player Kent Kinnear involved.

    "We are officially endorsed and highly recommended by the city police chief and the county sheriff as an effective means to fight the influx of crime and drugs," Willis said. "Adults who have seen how we love their kids are asking for Bible studies."

    One of Willis' favorite programs is Teen Time, a weekly program that has attracted nearly 30 teenagers from two apartment projects. "Basically we do something fun and then a Bible study about issues that are current and relevant in their lives, like the need for sexual purity, the dangers of negative peer pressure, and the fact that God loves them totally but has a plan for their lives," she said. "They can cut loose but they also have to be respectful."

    Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina recently donated $1,000 to MHMA.

    It's fulfilling work but it is hard work. The time demands on volunteers are long, and the noise and energy can stretch the nerves taunt.

    "God has some of His best people doing His will in these apartments," Willis said. "I can tell story after story of lives changed for eternity - and not just among the residents, but among the volunteers."

    First Baptist Church of Asheboro and its MHMA associates are on the move outside their walls. Their spiritual cholesterol is falling as fast as the crime rates around the apartments they serve.

  • Friday, Oct. 17, 2003

    'Church outside the walls' in Asheboro

    By Craig Byrd Special to the Recorder

    ASHEBORO - It's an all-too-real place where families are fragile, money is scarce but drugs are readily available. A place where if 911 isn't on your speed dial you must not have a phone and where racism is a thriving triple play pitting blacks against browns against whites against browns against blacks against whites.

    Welcome to the world of Multihousing Ministry of Asheboro (MHMA), a program founded and chiefly sponsored by First Baptist Church of Asheboro. It is where:

    10/17/2003 12:00:00 AM by Craig Byrd , Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments

    SEBTS president searches for new president

    October 17 2003 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

    SEBTS searches for new president | Friday, Oct. 17, 2003
  • A proven, godly leader;
  • Committed to conservative theology;
  • In agreement with the school's abstract of principles and the 2000 version of the Baptist Faith and Message;
  • Able to deal with students, faculty and staff;
  • Familiar with funding issues and donors;
  • A capable, expository preacher;
  • Courageous, visionary leadership;
  • A thorough understanding of the purpose of the seminary;
  • A heartbeat for missions and evangelism;
  • Good people skills;
  • Able to represent the school;
  • Able to recruit students;
  • Academic achievement; and
  • A supportive wife.

    "He represents the school wherever he goes, to churches and in churches to prospective donors and students," Lewis said.

    The characteristics listed by Lewis are similar to those suggested by Patterson in his last meeting with trustees in July.

    During their meeting Oct. 14, the trustees voted unanimously to leave it to the search committee's discretion regarding how much information to provide trustees before a special called meeting to consider a candidate for president.

    Lewis said the action was taken to protect the candidate, who will likely be working somewhere else when he is considered for the SEBTS position.

    In other action, the trustees responded to a motion at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting asking that the school accept money from any Baptist. The response says the school will continue to follow SBC guidelines, but reserves the right to accept or reject any gift outside the Cooperative Program.

    "The decision to accept or reject is based on the gift's impact on the mission of the institution in light of the beliefs set forth in the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 and our effort to glorify God," the seminary statement said.

    The SEBTS trustees also held two closed meetings for a total of about an hour and a half.

    The trustees were also told that N.C. students attending the seminary's college program will get $1,800 a year under a bill recently passed by the N.C. General assembly. Students in the school pay tuition of $145 per credit hour, meaning a student taking 15 hours per semester pays $4,350 a year. That cost does not include room, food or other expenses.

    School officials said tuition at the school will likely increase next year.

  • Friday, Oct. 17, 2003

    SEBTS searches for new president

    By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor

    WAKE FOREST - Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary's (SEBTS) new president could be a pastor, an academic or a denominational employee, the head of the search committee said.

    SEBTS has been searching for a new leader since Paige Patterson left in July to become president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Patterson had led the seminary for 11 years.

    Timothy D. Lewis, who serves as chairman of the committee and the SEBTS trustees, said in an interview after the trustees meeting Oct. 14 that the committee has "substantially" narrowed its search from a list of less than 50 candidates. Lewis said it's too soon to say when a president may be named.

    "We're still seemingly far away," he said.

    Lewis said the new president will not have to be well known in Southern Baptist circles. He said the man who takes over the reins at SEBTS could come from the pastorate, an academic setting or a denominational position.

    "All of them are a little different, ... but can prepare you to be a seminary leader," he said.

    Lewis said the search committee has met three times. Committee members talked with faculty and staff members about the type of person they want as president. They also got information from the school's Board of Visitors, he said.

    The committee has developed a profile to help in the search, Lewis said. Among the qualities desired in the new president are:

    10/17/2003 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

    Planting fig trees

    October 17 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

    Planting fig trees | Friday, Oct. 17, 2003

    Friday, Oct. 17, 2003

    Planting fig trees

    By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

    I planted a fig tree in our yard this fall.

    I don't know why I had not thought of it before now, because I have always loved to eat figs fresh from the tree. When I was growing up, there was always a fig tree in the back yard. I thought everybody had one.

    I was fortunate in many ways to spend my childhood in a stable, peaceful environment embellished by a bountiful garden and a variety of fruit trees. I groused about working in the garden, but until I left for college, moving never crossed my mind.

    For most of my adult life as a student and pastor, I lived in a string of dorms, rental houses and parsonages, not the sort of environment that is conducive to planting fig trees in the yard. But, we started making payments on our own house when we moved to the Triangle area in 1988, and have been there ever since.

    It occurred to me recently that I've lived in our present house even longer than I lived in my boyhood home.

    And I decided it was time to plant some figs.

    Among the ancient Hebrews, a primary symbol of peace and prosperity was for every family to have its own grapevine and sit in the shade of its own fig tree.

    During Solomon's time, 1 Kings 5:5 tells us, "Judah and Israel lived in safety, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, all of them under their vines and fig trees." In 2 Kings 18:31 (repeated in Isa. 36:16), the scalawag Rabshekah campaigned for Israel to abandon King Hezekiah, promising that under Assyrian rule, "every one of you will eat from your own vine and your own fig tree."

    When the prophet Micah proclaimed a future era of peace for God's people, he said they would not only hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, but also they would "all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid" (Mic. 4:4).

    Likewise, the prophet Zechariah spoke of a great day of redemption for Israel, promising that "On that day, says the LORD of hosts, you shall invite each other to come under your vine and fig tree" (Zech. 3:10).

    The ability to have one's own vine and fig tree implied a time of peace and stability, for neither vines nor fig trees can be expected to produce useful fruit in a single season. It suggested that one had access to enough land for raising crops and grazing cattle, with a spot left over to plant grape vines and fig trees as a source of sweetness and shade, a place of hospitality where neighbors could share their blessings and themselves with one another.

    The beauty of the vine and the fig tree was such that the prophets also used them as a metaphor for Israel in times of faithfulness and fruitfulness. But, when God's people turned their trust to the ways of the world and failed to be faithful, the prophets spoke of fruitless times. "The vine withers, the fig tree droops," said Joel (1:12).

    Haggai spoke of a time when the vine and fig tree had not born fruit, but saw hope in the laying of a foundation for the temple, promising in God's behalf that "From this day on I will bless you" (Hag. 2:19).

    The Baptist world we currently inhabit has known so much strife and uncertainty in recent years that it hardly seems a time to be planting fig trees.

    Still, I plant in hope. My father and I planted a tree that is an offshoot of the one behind my boyhood home, a second-generation descendant of the tree behind my great-grandmother's house. I will care for it, water it and fertilize it with manure. In time, I hope to enjoy and to share its fruit.

    I planted the tree not only because I like figs, but as a personal sign of hope in the Baptists among whom I work and live, a metaphor of my own commitment to promoting peace and understanding among the various tribes.

    I planted a fig tree in the hope that I can still be working for North Carolina Baptists in a meaningful way when the tree reaches its full fruit-bearing potential.

    And I hope others will join me.

    The nurseries couldn't keep up if we all went out and bought fig trees, but we can all cultivate mutual understanding among brothers and sisters. We can seek not only to accept but also to defend those who may not always see things as we do, but who earnestly seek to serve the same Lord. We can strive for peace in a time of strife.

    And that would be sweet.

    10/17/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

    Yellow hat fever

    October 17 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

    Yellow hat fever | Friday, Oct. 17, 2003

    Friday, Oct. 17, 2003

    Yellow hat fever

    By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

    Many children enjoy books about Curious George, a mischievous monkey who lives with an outdoorsman he knows only as "the man in the yellow hat."

    George constantly gets himself into trouble, but the man in the yellow hat is just as constant in lending aid to his simian companion.

    The books remind me of the men and women in yellow hats who faithfully lend their aid to people who face trials that are generally not of their own making.

    When hurricanes ravage trees, when floods wreck houses, when tornadoes or terrorists strike, the people in the yellow hats appear as if by magic. They cook hot meals for those who have lost homes or power. They remove trees from roofs and driveways and yards. They shovel mud and scrub walls when some affected residents are still too dazed or too overwhelmed to do the job themselves.

    Go to just about any town that has faced a disaster and you'll probably hear stories about those wonderful, helpful people in the yellow hats.

    The yellow hats, of course, are basic attire for volunteers working through relief and recovery efforts coordinated by N.C. Baptist Men.

    But the hats are worn by women as well as men.

    And under a large percentage of those hats, you are likely to find gray hair, if you find any hair at all.

    Growing older does not bring an end to one's usefulness. On average, today's retirees are far healthier and more mobile than those of earlier generations.

    Fortunately, many of them are also sold on the idea of service to others - even when it means leaving home to sleep on the floor of a host church and take showers in a gym or a portable trailer.

    One delightful aspect of my job is that I get to visit with and report on the faithful work being done by the people in the yellow hats - people who are younger and older, male and female, working and retired, well-set and barely making it, but all united by a common love for God and for others.

    I tip my own yellow cap to them all.

    10/17/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

    Family Bible Study lesson for November 2: Experiencing The Gospel's Power

    October 17 2003 by Mary Fillinger , Focal Passages: Acts 3:1-8, 11-16, 19-20

    Family Bible Study lesson for November 2: Experiencing The Gospel's Power | Friday, Oct. 17, 2003

    Friday, Oct. 17, 2003

    Family Bible Study lesson for November 2: Experiencing The Gospel's Power

    By Mary Fillinger Focal Passages: Acts 3:1-8, 11-16, 19-20

    The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples in the upper room (Acts 2) marks the birth of the church, leading to the spread of the gospel throughout the known world.

    This is still the greatest need of the church today. A Spirit filled, Spirit directed, Spirit-empowered ministry is the only thing that will meet the needs of a sin sick world. All of us need to surrender our hearts totally and completely to Jesus, to let Him fill us with His Spirit and make us what He wants us to be.

    Expecting the Unexpected Acts 3:1-8 "One day Peter and John were going to the temple to pray, at three in the afternoon ..." (v1). The Jews had two times of prayer, nine in the morning and three in the afternoon, in connection with the morning and evening daily sacrifices. It is interesting to note that the believers continued to participate in these times of prayer at the temple, even after the day of Pentecost.

    On this particular day they found a man crippled from birth at the temple gate. The grand gate was added by Herod the Great, between the court of the Gentiles and that of Israel.

    When Peter asked the man to look at them, the beggar hoped for a bountiful gift. Peter did not give the man what he wanted (money) but what he needed (a healthy strong body). Now he could work and earn his own living. To encourage the man's faith, Peter took him by the right hand and raised him. Often a little gesture of encouragement will help people in responding to the divine invitation.

    The man went into the temple courts, full of excitement, praising God for his goodness. This man had his legs and ankles strengthened. He went into the temple walking and leaping. Until that moment he had never been able to walk nor had he ever learned how. The miracle was both physical and psychological. He had a right to celebrate.

    A Good Witness Acts 3:11-16 The people in the temple courts came running to the east wall of the outer court to see what had taken place. When Peter saw he had a crowd, he began to preach. That was just like Peter. "Why are you staring at us? We didn't do anything, but God did. It was God that glorified His servant Jesus," he said. Peter was probably referring to the passage in Isaiah 52-53 about the suffering servant.

    Peter brought a very serious charge against the Jews that day: "You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer (Barabbas) be released to you." That is what every sinner does when he rejects Jesus and holds on to sin. Peter concluded by saying, "By faith in Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong." It was Jesus who healed him.

    A True Repentance Acts 3:19-20 Repentance is often overlooked or misunderstood. However, true repentance is essential for a person to come to a saving knowledge and acceptance of Jesus as Savior and Lord. The word "repent" means to turn away from our sins and to dedicate ourselves completely to God. Without repentance, salvation is hollow and is nothing more than some nicely spoken words. Jesus is God's appointed Messiah and Savior. He came that we might have an abundant life as we repent and serve Him through faith.

    Why is there so little witnessing with power being done today? This type of witnessing can be done only by those who have the power of the Holy Spirit within their individual lives. The tragedy is that the average church has too often concentrated on programs, rather than waiting on the Lord until the Holy Spirit empowers the leaders and the people.

    There is no substitute for power, which comes through prayer. A prayerless church is a powerless church.

    10/17/2003 12:00:00 AM by Mary Fillinger , Focal Passages: Acts 3:1-8, 11-16, 19-20 | with 0 comments

    Formations Lesson for November 2: The Table Set

    October 17 2003 by John Norman Jr. , Focal Passage: Matthew 26:7-30

    Formations Lesson for November 2: The Table Set | Friday, Oct. 17, 2003

    Friday, Oct. 17, 2003

    Formations Lesson for November 2: The Table Set

    By John Norman Jr. Focal Passage: Matthew 26:7-30

    Preparing for Passover Matthew 26:17-19 The observance of Passover has always been important for those belonging to the Jewish tradition. It provides a time to remember the death angel's "passing over" the Hebrews when they readied themselves for liberation from Egypt.

    Through the preparation and sharing of the Passover meal, God's act of deliverance is remembered and passed from one generation to the next. The elements of the meal symbolize the hardship experienced by the Hebrews at the hands of the Egyptians, as well as the freedom they were given by the hand of God. The significance of Passover was equally important to Jesus.

    However, the life, death and resurrection of Christ gave new meaning to Passover, as he transformed a meal already laden with spiritual significance into a symbol of communion for His followers.

    Self-examination is Part of the Supper Matthew 26:20-25 The implementation of the Lord's Supper recorded in Matthew brings to mind that we should examine ourselves before we partake of the meal. Truly, none of us are worthy to eat at the table of the Lord. Many of us take for granted that we should receive the elements when they are passed.

    We may rationalize that we are just as good as anyone else participating in the meal or maybe even better than some of the people participating in the meal. No one wants to be Judas, but the same spirits that infiltrated him are often alive in us -greed, manipulation, jealousy. Being given the chance for self-examination allows us to search our souls for those things that separate us from God and others. It is a time to reflect and seek forgiveness.

    Christ's Death and the Forgiveness of Sin Matthew 26:26-30 "Take, eat; this is my body. Drink ... this is my blood." These words of Jesus should run cold chills down the arms of Christians to this day. When we hear these words we envision the lifeless body and spilled blood associated with the cross of Christ.

    The Romans accused the early church of cannibalism because of stories connected with the Lord's meal, but the first century Christians understood these words to refer to the forgiveness of sin found in the sacrifice of Jesus. They confessed that through the life, death and resurrection of Christ, God had taken responsibility for the sin of the world and made a way possible for the world's redemption. The Lord's Supper is a symbol of God's gracious gift of reunification between us and God.

    In the film Babette's Feast, a wayward stranger named Babette arrives in the midst of a small Christian community on the coast of Denmark. Fleeing war torn France after the loss of her husband and son, she enters the service of unmarried sisters who work diligently to keep the memory and mission of their deceased father alive. Babette learns the ways of the close community, cooking meals of fish and bread stew and worshipping with them on Sundays. When news comes that Babette has won the French lottery, she determines to prepare a meal for her friends to honor the life of the community's founder.

    As the meal takes shape, the pious community members decide to eat the meal out of courtesy to Babette, but determine not to enjoy it. When the meal is served to 12 guests sitting around a table, the feast is so delicious the gathered cannot help but enjoy themselves.

    Unbeknownst to the community, Babette served as head chef in one of France's most prestigious restaurants, and has now spent her entire winnings to serve the people she loves. In the midst of the meal, broken relationships between the community members are restored and hope returns. Through the gift of the meal and fellowship around the table, a sense of transformation springs forth anew among the group.

    When we observe the Lord's Supper, we once again enact a drama that plays itself out in the world - people starve for spiritual nourishment as well as physical sustenance. Communion should remind us that God cares for us body and soul. Christ fed the multitude with loaves and fish but also offered the crowd the bread of life. As followers of Jesus, we should minister to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness as well as those who hunger for food.

    10/17/2003 12:00:00 AM by John Norman Jr. , Focal Passage: Matthew 26:7-30 | with 0 comments

    BCH teen killed by train

    October 16 2003 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

    BCH teen killed by train | Thursday, Oct. 16, 2003

    Thursday, Oct. 16, 2003

    BCH teen killed by train

    By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor

    A 16-year-old living at a Baptist Children's Homes (BCH) of North Carolina facility was killed Oct. 14 when he was hit by a train.

    Joshua James Willis was riding his bike to BCH's Mills Home in Thomasville when an Amtrak passenger train struck him at about 7:40 p.m. Willis had left a YMCA where he volunteered a short while earlier.

    Witnesses reportedly told police that Willis went around the railroad crossing arms at the Norfolk-Southern Railway tracks. Norfolk-Southern officials told the Thomasville Times that the train was going about 70 mph.

    Brenda B. Gray, BCH's executive vice president for development and communications, said police have indicated that Willis probably tried to beat the train as he crossed the tracks.

    "I'm sure he saw the lights and thought he could make it," Gray said. "He just misjudged."

    Gray said Willis, who was called "Josh" by his friends, had been with BCH for about two and a half years. He had "turned his life around" and was baptized Sept. 28, she said.

    When BCH officials went to Willis' room after the accident, they found his Bible open on a table next to his bed where he had left it after his morning devotions.

    "He was a very special young man," Gray said.

    Willis loved to play basketball and had learned how to play the guitar.

    "He was a very outgoing young man," Gray said. "He loved life."

    Willis had a great sense of humor and liked to volunteer, Gray said. "He liked being busy," she said.

    Gray said Willis had a "great day at school" the day he died. His grades had been improving and his teacher allowed him to bring his guitar and play that day as a reward.

    At the YMCA, Willis did whatever task he was told to do, Gray said.

    "He was a young man who liked to help," she said.

    BCH officials planned to hold a memorial service the evening of Oct. 19. The funeral was scheduled for Oct. 17 in Danville, Va.

    Willis was one of about 80 children at Mills Home. The others and the staff members are grieving his loss, Gray said. BCH brought in counselors to help them.

    "They're hurting, which is to be expected," she said. "We have a very close family here. We've all offered comfort and support to each other."

    Gray said the BCH family asks for the continued prayers of N.C. Baptists.

    "We have felt the power of prayer and the power that comes from a Christian community," she said. "Our hearts go out to his family as they grieve."

    Willis' death is the first for a BCH child in recent memory, Gray said. He is the third N.C. Baptist to die in a train accident in recent months.

    Ned Christy, pastor of New Home Baptist Church in Peachland, and his wife, Priscilla, were killed Aug. 22 when their car was hit by a train in Marshville.

    10/16/2003 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

    Baptist battles miss heart of issue, educator says

    October 10 2003 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

    Baptist battles miss heart of issue, educator says | Friday, Oct. 10, 2003

    Friday, Oct. 10, 2003

    Baptist battles miss heart of issue, educator says

    By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor

    ROCKY MOUNT - Both sides of the Baptist controversy have missed the "genius of what it means to be Baptist," the president of a moderate seminary said.

    Tom Graves, president of Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, spoke at the opening service of a "Baptist Heritage Conference" Oct. 3-4 at North Rocky Mount Baptist Church.

    About 60 people attended the opening session that featured Graves' sermon. About 90 attended events the next day.

    Using Jeremiah 31 as the text, Graves talked about remembering the pathway that Baptists have traveled. He asked what should be the "guideposts" for Baptists.

    Graves told the group that they had probably heard a lot about what it takes to be a "real Baptist" during the controversy.

    One side says real Baptists believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth, the subservient role of women and strong pastoral authority, he said.

    The other side holds that real Baptists emphasize freedom, the priesthood of the believer, the autonomy of the local church and the separation of church and state, he said.

    Graves said he wasn't making light of those issues.

    "It seems to me something's been lost," he said. "As we battled each other, we've forgotten what it really means to be Baptist."

    Graves called for an emphasis on a spiritual encounter that he said is "at the heart of what it means to be Baptist."

    "What's important is our relationship with Jesus Christ," he said. "That's been the genius of Baptist life."

    Graves told of preaching trips he took while on sabbatical in Zimbabwe. He and the music minister who drove him to the churches would argue heatedly about theological issues all the way to the church, he said. After they arrived, the music minister would lead the music and Graves would preach. At times, everyone present at the service would make a decision to follow Christ, he said.

    Once back in the car, the theological debates would continue, Graves said. Those disagreements didn't keep the two from worshipping together, he said.

    Graves told about a chairman of deacons coming to his office shortly after he was called to pastor a church. The man asked Graves a number of theological questions. After Graves' answered all the questions, the man said he thought Graves was OK and left after saying, "I'm glad I got to know you."

    Graves said the man knew some of the knowledge that Graves had in his head, but not what was in his heart.

    "He didn't know me," Graves said. "He knew what I believed, but he never asked about who I encountered."

    Graves called on Baptists to focus again on their relationship with Jesus.

    "The focus is on the faith experience," he said.

    Ida Mae Hays, a retired missionary to Brazil who was called Oct. 5 as pastor of Weldon Baptist Church in Weldon, led two breakout sessions and spoke during the morning service on Oct. 4. Her message was centered on her call to missions and her ministry in Brazil.

    Before she retired, the International Mission Board (IMB) asked Hays to rescind her ordination and title of pastor emeritus, which were both from a Brazilian church. She refused.

    IMB trustees later adopted a statement saying the organization does not recognize the ordination or title.

    In a breakout session, Hays said she received the IMB's request to sign the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) about three weeks before she retired. She said she wouldn't have signed.

    In May, the IMB fired 13 missionaries who refused the sign the document. Sixty-four others resigned or retired rather than sign.

    Gene Scarborough, pastor of North Rocky Mount Baptist Church, spoke at the Oct. 4 afternoon session of the conference. Using Genesis 11:26-32 as a text, Scarborough talked about how the church today is at "some significant halfway places."

    Scarborough talked about how Abraham's father, Terah, died at an oasis halfway to the promised land. Many people today throw up their hands in despair rather than having courage to face the future, he said.

    The church finds itself in the halfway place of institutionalism, Scarborough said. Some Baptist churches have turned their buildings into idols, he said.

    The church is also stuck at the halfway place of talking, rather than taking action, according to Scarborough.

    "All or us are sickened by the changes in Baptist life, but how many are willing to attend conventions, speak up to our congregations about the wrongs, encourage our people to be aware of the Fundamentalism which is ruling the day?" he said. "If we are to preserve our heritage, we must do more than gripe among ourselves. We must risk some church turmoil. We must encourage discussion of the issues even if church members may disagree with one another about their beliefs."

    Scarborough said talk and action combine to make people grow.

    "Talk without action only generates confusion," he said. "Do we quietly let evil reign because we might lose our retirement plan, or do we 'tell it like it is' so people realize we need to get out and vote?"

    The church is also stuck at the halfway place of indifference, Scarborough said.

    "When our career goals and dreams keep us from doing anything but that which is popular we become indifferent to the truth and the need to be involved in preserving our heritage," he said.

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

    Campbell professor serving in Iraq

    October 10 2003 by Susan Welch , Campbell Communications

    Campbell professor serving in Iraq | Friday, Oct. 10, 2003

    Friday, Oct. 10, 2003

    Campbell professor serving in Iraq

    By Susan Welch Campbell Communications

    The orphans in An Nasiriyah suffer from amoebic dysentery resulting from poor hygiene and sanitation. A dangerous stretch of gravel highway used to resupply troops must be confronted almost daily. Age-old tribal and religious differences block efforts to restore peace and provide democratic representation, and the relentless heat can reach 117 degrees in the shade.

    These are just some of the challenges facing Col. Michael Larsen, U.S. Army Reserves, on a routine basis. Larsen, who is assigned to Tallil Air Base and Convoy Support Center in southeastern Iraq, was ordered to leave his position as professor of biological sciences at Campbell University to become commander of the 171st Support Group last April. His unit supports British, Italian, Dutch and other multinational forces in five central provinces in Iraq and supplies food, water and fuel to about 500 combat troops in seven locations just below Baghdad.

    But that isn't all Larsen's unit does. They meet with local civic leaders and assist in the repair of infrastructure such as sewer, water lines, pumps and roads. They work to supply three orphanages with medicine and other necessities and help to rebuild schools and hospitals.

    "We do what needs to be done," Larsen said. "That is why our support of multinational troops is so important. If we are able to logistically support them well and insure their success, it is more likely that more coalition partners such as Turkey, India and South Korea may join the effort. Only then will it enable the U.S. to reduce its forces in Iraq."

    Convoy ambushes occur daily, especially near Baghdad, Larsen said. He has been caught in mortar attacks at Hillah and Balad, as well as a small firefight in the Fallujah area west of Baghdad.

    "Basically, the enemy, former Ba'ath party loyalists, Fedayeen and others, are terrorists fighting an unconventional war with improvised explosive devices, rocket propelled grenades, car bombs, grenades and small arms fire in ambushes," he said.

    Larsen's experience with the Iraqi people has been extremely positive, however. "The people and local leaders are kind, intelligent and hard-working," he said. "Many have vision that has been stifled for decades. Obviously, the impact of the Muslim religion is significant and cultural differences are sometimes a challenge to us as Americans, but overall, we have an excellent relationship with the Iraqi people of our area, and I see us and the coalition being successful."

    Larsen's faith in God and the prayers of family and friends have helped to strengthen his resolve. "I do see how God is working through us in this effort," he said. "Living here reminds me of how blessed we are as Americans. It also reminds me of the true costs associated with liberty. In this harsh and desolate land, I appreciate better the fragility of life and the preciousness of all humans in God's sight."

    Larsen predicts American forces will remain in Iraq between three and five years in order to defeat the terrorist factions that continue to threaten coalition forces and the Iraqi people, and to assist in rebuilding the economy and the nation that has already begun.

    "Some day the people of Iraq need to be able to answer the question, 'How are we better off today compared with life under Saddam?'" he said.

    10/10/2003 12:00:00 AM by Susan Welch , Campbell Communications | with 0 comments

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