October 2003

Clinging to the past can sabotage the future : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

October 30 2003 by Eddie Hammett

Clinging to the past can sabotage the future : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003
Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

Clinging to the past can sabotage the future

By Eddie Hammett
"Too much entrenched traditionalism here, I'm afraid. Just mostly people who want to be comfortable, come to a social club, pay their dues and expect pastoral visitations all the time. Oh, and sing music they've known for years that is within their acceptable boundaries. I know it must make God's heart long and yearn that we would find more than this." These words from a recent e-mail reflect the angst many of our clergy are living with during these days of transition for the church.

Our culture has shifted many times over the last decades and most churches have changed very little. Somehow they believe that staying the same is being faithful. How can this be when who we are and what we are doing as the people of God has turned many of our churches into "hotels for the saints rather than a hospital for sinners"?

Now many churches are facing critical days as membership and finances are decreasing, the faithful church culture leaders are rapidly dying out, remaining leaders are increasingly afraid to take risks, membership is increasingly self-absorbed and more concerned about their comfort than fulfilling the Great Commission or the Great Commandment.

We say we believe the Bible from "cover to cover" but our behavior and values certainly do not seem to reflect that in many churches. There are some severe and crippling consequences for the church when most members and leaders decide to live in their comfort zones rather than seek to please the Heavenly Father.

Consequences of staying comfortable in church

Now I understand wanting to live inside my comfort zones. I too have personal preferences I enjoy. Where does a person's need for personal comfort end and a person's commitment to the costliness of the gospel begin? Where does one leave personal comfort and personal preferences about worship styles, hymns, pastoral visitation expectations and the way we prefer to do church to embrace the biblical mandates given to all believers "to go into all the world ...;" "to take up our cross (no comfort there) daily and follow Jesus"? Now for me that is the real question. Until our leaders and church members get to that point I'm not sure many of our churches will reach the new generation and many of our churches across this country will close their doors and become "recycled churches" turned into bookstores, restaurants or community service centers.

Will our current leaders and membership decide to preserve their comfort so much and so long that they will sabotage the future of their churches? God will use His church to accomplish His purpose - but unfortunately not every church with a steeple and a pastor is functioning as His church.

What are some consequences for the church that decides to live in comfort rather than on mission in the world?

� The community grows while membership decreases.

� The spiritually thirsty who might visit or need a church will not likely find help or a place that is open to them. We often sing the great old hymn "Just As I Am," but we really expect people to get it together and become 'like us' before they come to our churches.

� The church will lull their pastors into becoming a chaplain and one whose primary duty is to care for the membership - particularly those who are active and faithful contributors to the budget. Unfortunately, this job description doesn't have roots in the biblical call for the "equippers of the saints."

� Many pastors/clergy will become depressed, disillusioned and weary of trying to get their people to go on mission rather than expect them to become caregivers. These clergy are now leaving the church-based ministry for ministries in secular careers.

� The church's decision to stay comfortable will likely lead many members to stay immature in their faith-life.

� The church will expect their clergy/ministers to become caregivers rather than equippers and thus the membership will create unhealthy dependencies on their clergy and the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers will not be lived out.

� The church will talk about outreach and "come grow with us" but the members' inward-focused behaviors and expectations of themselves and the clergy will prevent those people outside the active membership from feeling welcomed and invited.

� Many churches that continue to live in their comfort zones will simply die out after the generation of current members die. Southern Baptists haven't been reaching people under 40 for decades and now most of our congregations are filled with senior adults who desire living in comfort zones that continue to prevent our churches from reaching a new generation.

� The lost will go unreached and our churches will turn into museums for our saints rather than mission outposts.

The dialogues and seminars I've conducted on this topic have indicated that many of our leaders and churches want to do better at fulfilling the biblical commission for the church but don't want to face the steep learning curve. They don't want to take risks. They don't want to make persons mad. They don't want to lead into the future. Most just "don't want to rock the boat." Jesus said we should cast our nets on the other side (a very uncomfortable thing for some) if we are not catching fish by the way we are currently fishing.

I think there's great wisdom in this teaching of Jesus - what about you? What legacy do you want to leave? Will you be seen as one who contributed to the death of your church or one who took risks, moved from their comfort zones and helped birth the future of your church?

(EDITOR'S NOTE -Hammett is an author and leadership and congregational coach for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina [BSC]. He will be leading a breakout session Nov. 11 at the BSC annual meeting titled, "Keeping People Over 60 while Reaching People Under 40").

10/30/2003 11:00:00 PM by Eddie Hammett | with 0 comments



'Believe the best' : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

October 30 2003 by

'Believe the best' : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003
Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

'Believe the best'

Recently, presidential candidate David Hughes's proposal to change giving Plan A percentages has been critiqued as being anti-SBC. Hughes proposes that the 68 percent for BSC and the 32 percent SBC ratio be changed to 70 percent BSC and 30 percent SBC. Years ago David and I served in a great church in Baltimore with a wonderful pastor emeritus, Clyde Atkins, who taught us wisely to "believe the best" about other folks. I prefer to "believe the best" about David's intentions. All of his proposals flow from three desires: (1) a desire to strengthen the shaken finances of our state convention; (2) a desire to emphasize kingdom initiatives that unite us; and (3) a desire to include all N.C. Baptists regardless of affinity to either SBC or CBF.

Frankly, his ideas challenge moderates as much or more than anyone else - his idea of a more unified giving plan, and his call for dismantling the "political" groups in North Carolina.

Doug MurrayWilson, N.C.

10/30/2003 11:00:00 PM by | with 0 comments



Healthy disagreement vs. distortion of truth : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

October 30 2003 by

Healthy disagreement vs. distortion of truth : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003
Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

Healthy disagreement vs. distortion of truth

Someone has said, "Truth is the first casualty of war." Sadly, this adage is true in the conflict that afflicts the N.C. Baptist family. In the November 2003 issue of Conservative Record, editor Steve Hardy tramples the truth as he responded to my vision for N.C. Baptists. For example:

� Hardy called me the "Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF)/Mainstream Baptists of N.C. (MBNC) candidate." For the record, MBNC has endorsed me and CBF has not because CBF is not a political organization and makes no political endorsements.

� Hardy said my agenda will "gravely affect the relationship of the Baptist State Convention (BSCNC) and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)." For the record, my proposals do not question the existing relationship between BSCNC and SBC. A reading of my vision will reveal not one negative word about SBC. Certainly I say nothing to indicate the current relationship would change.

� Hardy said, "David Hughes, Raymond Earp and Ken Massey have taken up the mantel (sic) of the CBF/MBNC cause to take as much money as possible from the SBC missionaries and seminaries." For the record, we are proposing that the current budget formula in Plan A only be adjusted by 2 percentage points (from 68 percent for BSCNC and 32 percent for SBC to 70 percent BSCNC and 30 percent SBC) not to punish the SBC, but to provide more funding for a state convention in dire financial straits. A recent report published about the SBC said despite financial challenges"... none of the (SBC) entities are in a financial crisis at present" (Associated Press, "Southern Baptists Donations Drop," 9-26-03). The BSCNC is! This proposal is not about politics - it's about funding much-needed ministries in North Carolina.

Healthy disagreement should always be welcome among N.C. Baptists. Distortion of the truth should not.

David HughesWinston-Salem, N.C.

10/30/2003 11:00:00 PM by | with 0 comments



Let's not abandon SBC : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

October 30 2003 by

Let's not abandon SBC : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003
Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

Let's not abandon SBC

Is a vote for the Mainstream Baptist candidates a vote to abandon the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)? David Hughes, the Mainstream Baptist candidate for president of our N.C. Baptist State Convention (BSC), stated at the 2000 General Assembly of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) that he is no longer a Southern Baptist.

Ken Massey, the Mainstream candidate for 2nd vice president, leads a church that has been listed as being in the top contributors to CBF.

Does it appear that these men can represent our SBC churches that still comprise the majority of our BSC?

Should we abandon our SBC for the sake of cooperation and unity?

Let's work together to improve our SBC the true Baptist way: Let's lift up our elected leaders and support them with our prayers and love, and let God handle it through the Holy Spirit.

Richard C. WebbRoanoke Rapids, N.C.

10/30/2003 11:00:00 PM by | with 0 comments



Modify Plan A : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

October 30 2003 by

Modify Plan A : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003
Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

Modify Plan A

The litany of proposed cuts in the 2004 BSC budget proposal is painfully long. Virtually no ministry held dear by N.C. Baptists has been spared. Scholarships for students attending state Baptist colleges and universities will be reduced. The work of the WMU and Baptist Men will be curtailed. Funds are slashed for mission outreach, Christian life and church growth. One area, however, remains untouched - the percentage of contributions sent to the Southern Baptist Convention, which remains at 32 percent in the two most popular giving plans. In a platform that deserves more recognition than it has received, state convention presidential candidate David Hughes has proposed that Plan A be converted, for a period of two years, so that 30 percent of contributions be sent to SBC, with the remaining 2 percent added to the amount staying in the state. Such a reduction is very modest in comparison to the cuts proposed in the 2004 budget, yet would represent a significant amount of money for support of our state convention's ministries. This modification of the giving ratio for Plan A, regrettable though it may be, appropriately shares the sacrifice called for in a time of declining contributions.

Our state ministries are the ones we know best. Over the years, we have volunteered our labor and expertise in these ministries, hoping and praying that they reflect who we want to be as a Baptist people. We would strengthen our stewardship by modifying Plan A to allow N.C. Baptists to direct more of our contributions to the ministries in which we have invested long and faithfully.

This proposal deserves serious consideration. Surely we do not expect N.C. Baptists to sacrifice alone when, instead, we should ask the national convention to share in the burden of these days.

Scott P. CulclasureGreensboro, N.C.

10/30/2003 11:00:00 PM by | with 0 comments



More money needs to stay in N.C. : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

October 30 2003 by

More money needs to stay in N.C. : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003
Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

More money needs to stay in N.C.

I was a bit dismayed to read in the Conservative Record that David Hughes' call for a change in giving Plan A has been transformed into a statement of opposition to the SBC. I understand Hughes' proposal as recognition that our state has taken a huge hit economically. If our churches and our state convention are going to be responsive to real needs here, then naturally more money needs to stay here. To cast this issue in purely ideological terms misses the point. The people of North Carolina don't care who runs the show; they want to know if Baptists mean it when we say: "We're here to help." Bill IrelandClemmons, N.C.
10/30/2003 11:00:00 PM by | with 0 comments



Opposition to proposed giving plan changes : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

October 30 2003 by

Opposition to proposed giving plan changes : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003
Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

Opposition to proposed giving plan changes

The proposal by David Hughes to slash the gifts from North Carolina to the Southern Baptist Convention are absolutely wrong, but at least now we know what he wants to do. North Carolina Baptists should never stand for it! The most vital mission programs we have are administered by the Southern Baptist Convention through Cooperative Program receipts and special offerings. The International Mission Board (IMB) has 5,510 missionaries under appointment serving in 154 nations of the world. They are depending upon us for support. Despite the constant carping criticism of the radical left-wing fanatics, those missionaries established 8,369 new churches last year, which brought our overseas churches to 73,904. Those churches baptized 421,436 converts last year and our overseas church membership now stands at 6.2 million. While the IMB appointed 1,032 field missionary personnel last year, they were not able to appoint all who have come forward answering God's call to missions for lack of funding. The Hughes' proposal will further damage this great work.

The North American Mission Board has more than 5,000 missionaries under appointment. They are establishing more than 1,700 new churches each year. They minister in 210 languages among 112 language groups in more than 7,000 ethnic congregations. They have more than 2,500 chaplains under endorsement who visited more than 1.5 million people last year and led 20,000 people to Christ. They have trained more than 20,000 people to work in the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief effort who served more than a million meals to disaster victims last year. They deserve our support, but the Hughes' proposal will hurt them. Let's understand what Hughes is really up to.

Robert M. TeneryMocksville, N.C.

10/30/2003 11:00:00 PM by | with 0 comments



Strong leadership needed to deal with BSC's financial crisis : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

October 30 2003 by

Strong leadership needed to deal with BSC's financial crisis : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003
Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

Strong leadership needed to deal with BSC's financial crisis

My heartfelt concern has always been for N.C. Baptists to work together in a spirit that honors Christ. This letter, which deals with an issue that's been raised about one of the candidates for convention president, will hopefully reflect this concern.

I know David Hughes well. He has demonstrated respect for and openness to all N.C. Baptists and a commitment to shared leadership. I also know and respect David Horton, confident that he shares these same commitments.

With two good pastors running, we don't need attacks on the motives of either.

What we do need is strong leadership in dealing with our state convention's difficult financial crisis. Not only were 24 positions recently eliminated in the Baptist Building, but also there are hints of the need for further terminations if our giving does not improve.

By speaking out on our financial challenges, David Hughes told me he would probably anger conservatives by recommending a change in the SBC/BSCNC formula, and he would probably anger moderates by recommending a more unified giving plan.

I had the opportunity to talk with David as he wrestled with going forward with these financial recommendations. N.C. Baptists need to know that the concerns printed in the Conservative Record - that his recommendations reveal an anti-SBC agenda and are further aimed at punishing the SBC - are not accurate.

David Hughes is not that kind of person. He is known for his integrity.

He does not have an agenda. But he does have a genuine vision for North Carolina that focuses on reaching the growing numbers of lost within our state, revitalizing our churches, regaining our financial stability, and restoring our state convention family.

Kathryn H. HamrickBoiling Springs, N.C.

10/30/2003 11:00:00 PM by | with 0 comments



Biblical Recorder:Bless her heart

October 30 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Biblical Recorder:Bless her heart

| Home | NewsOpinion | Baptist Life | OpinionFriday, Oct. 31, 2003

By Tony W. Cartledge

BR Editor

Willard Scott I am not - but when someone deserves a salute, they deserve a salute. And Aleatha Vera Kirstein deserves a salute. Aleatha, who lives at Flesher's Fairview Health Care in Fairview, will celebrate her 100th birthday on March 5.After her father was killed in a train wreck in 1906, young Aleatha lived in three different orphanages before being adopted by Mr. and Mrs. John Garren of Fairview.After graduation from Fairview High School and Asheville Normal, she taught at three schools during the 1920's, each of which combined the first seven grades in one room with a single teacher.In February 1921, Aleatha married Martin Luther Kirstein, a Baptist minister. She taught school to help support them while he attended Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute. Together, they served 11 different churches in Buncombe, Carolina and Transylvania associations until his death in October 1980.The Kirsteins had two sons (John and James) and adopted a daughter, Elsie. They must have been happy in their ministry because both sons also pursued similar callings. Son John became a Presbyterian minister. James was ordained as a Southern Baptist minister and spent his career as a Navy chaplain. Aleatha worked at Biltmore Bleacheries to help pay for their education. Elsie, now deceased, worked as an administrator for an aircraft company.Aleatha suffers from dementia now. She doesn't see or hear well, and cannot walk unassisted. Her short-term memory has all but deserted her, but she still loves visitors - especially those who come bearing jonquils or roses. According to son James, Aleatha always considered her family to be her best accomplishment. "Her own gift was an indomitable but sweet spirit," he says, "She never quit anything that mattered."Maybe that's why she's still pushing on, still talking about Jesus to all who will listen. As they used to say on Hee-Haw, "Salute!"| Home | NewsOpinion | Baptist Life |

10/30/2003 11:00:00 PM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



Biblical Recorder:How mainstream is the 'Mainstream' movement?

October 30 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Biblical Recorder:How mainstream is the 'Mainstream' movement?

| Home | NewsOpinion | Baptist Life | OpinionFriday, Oct. 31, 2003

By Tony W. Cartledge

BR Editor

The genesis and growth of the "Mainstream Baptist" movement has raised excitement in some quarters and disgust in others. What should we make of this new organization that claims to represent old Baptist principles? Some conservative observers accuse the movement of being a hypocritical political front for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF). A couple of N.C. Baptists have written the Recorder, insisting that we must expose the perceived duplicity of Mainstream leaders by pointing out how many of them also support CBF. It is certainly true, as the Recorder's coverage of the movement has made clear, that the early leadership of Mainstream Baptists of North Carolina (MBNC) has been primarily "moderate," though they have eschewed the label and have also sought to include conservatives in the movement. It is also true that those same leaders are affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and the Baptist State Convention (BSC) of North Carolina - but I haven't heard anyone accuse them of being a political front for the SBC or the BSC.One prominent North Carolina conservative leader told the World Triad Magazine (a radically conservative publication related to Bob Jones University) that the Mainstream movement is a poorly conceived attempt to return to the old days prior to the conservative makeover that has changed the public face, the internal structure, and the doctrinal statements of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). "Mainstream is downstream," he said. Readers may be surprised to know that some moderate observers also think the movement is misguided, not because of any perceived CBF connections, but precisely because Mainstreamers (at least in North Carolina) disown any link to CBF and call for leadership that avoids "fundamentalism" from the right or the left. Some CBF faithful wonder if the rhetoric might imply that CBF leaders are the leftward fringe that Mainstream wants to avoid. Mainstream leaders have been clear in stating their agenda and defining who they are. They may or may not think highly of CBF, but they uniformly dislike the increasingly rigid positioning of the SBC, and they don't want to see state conventions remade in the same image.Whether that attitude is truly the Baptist "mainstream" depends entirely on one's perspective. Mainstream leaders are convinced that the majority of Southern Baptists share their views and would support their agenda if informed of the issues. Supporters of the SBC's conservative reformation cite continued success in winning elections and increased Cooperative Program giving as evidence that the majority supports their cause. Mainstreamers point to decreasing attendance at the SBC's annual meetings as an indication that the real majority is staying home. Agreeing on the meaning of "mainstream" is like trying to agree on the meaning of "historic Baptist principles." There are at least two groups who are convinced they know the answer, and no argument or evidence will persuade them otherwise.In a sense, the debate renews a lingering issue of semantic confusion.So-called "moderates" who consider themselves to be theologically conservative have long been irked that those who are farthest to the right have taken ownership of the term "conservative" and accused all others of being "liberal," forcing those who are only slightly less conservative to adopt the wimpy-sounding "moderate" label as a way of denying that they are liberal. For a while, Baptist newspapers tried to avoid the problem by using the terms "moderate conservative" and "fundamentalist conservative," but gave it up because the terminology was just too unwieldy and because few people want to be called a "fundamentalist," even when the label fits.Now the nomenclature is on the other foot, so to speak, as those who oppose the current SBC's closed system have adopted a label with positive implications, leading some SBC faithful to deny its legitimacy and claim it for themselves.How mainstream is Mainstream? For now, the answer remains in the eye of the beholder. For the future, the answer may be measured by whether the movement succeeds or fails.Unfortunately, my perception is that the true numerical majority of Southern Baptists can still be branded with two other denominational labels: uninformed and apathetic. If that does not change, Southern Baptists will eventually find themselves, not in the mainstream, but up the creek. | Home | NewsOpinion | Baptist Life |

10/30/2003 11:00:00 PM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



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