Today’s From the States features items from:
Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)
Florida Baptist Witness
Southern Baptist Texan
‘Impacting Lostness’ plan
approved, campus ministry debated
By Shawn Hendricks
SOPHIA, N.C. (Biblical Recorder) — The Board of Directors of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) signed off on a new strategy and structure designed to plant more churches, strengthen existing ones and tackle areas of “lostness.” The board meeting was held May 21-22 at Caraway Conference Center and Camp in Sophia.
Titled “Impacting Lostness through Disciple-Making,” the five-year strategy will now go before N.C. Baptists this fall at the BSC annual meeting in Greensboro. The plan will take effect January 2014.
At the heart of the new strategy and structure is the desire to reach 5.8 million North Carolinians, who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. To help accomplish that, the strategy focuses on making more disciples and mobilizing Baptists through training and engaging more ethnic groups located in eight population centers. Read related story.
“The reality is that North Carolina Baptists have failed to reach those who are spiritually lost within the borders of our state,” shared Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC’s executive director-treasurer, in his report. “And in reality we are not making many disciples of those we are reaching.”
Board members approved the BSC’s plan with an overwhelming majority. But approval didn’t happen without nearly an hour and a half of discussion and debate – nearly all of which focused on the future of N.C’s Baptist Campus Ministry.
Under the new plan, the BSC’s Collegiate Partnerships team will work more closely with churches, part-time leaders, volunteers and associations. Together, they will develop networks to strengthen and expand campus ministry throughout the state.
The main point of contention for some N.C. Baptists has involved the BSC’s plans to no longer support full-time ministry positions on college campuses. This would eliminate nine campus ministry positions.
The nine campuses with full-time staff positions include Appalachian State University, Boone; East Carolina University, Greenville; North Carolina State University, Raleigh; University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill; UNC-Asheville, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Pembroke, and Western Carolina University, Cullowhee.
Since announcing the plan, the BSC has received numerous letters and emails from N.C. Baptists regarding campus ministry. The BSC distributed letters for board members to review during the meeting. Those letters voiced concerns that campus ministry will no longer exist or be as effective.
“I’m not going to let that happen,” said Hollifield. “I want to reach more students. I want to keep the students connected to the churches. … I have no interest in us losing the presence of Baptist Campus Ministry on these campuses.”
The strategy will have to be contextualized and based on the individual needs of each campus to be most effective, Hollifield added. He cautioned that many of the final details of the plan will not be worked out until a 2014 budget is approved in the coming months.
“It’s a new model that is in the process of being formed,” Hollifield said. “We’re going to use what model we need to use to be effective on those campuses.”
For now the BSC plans to hang on to their campus ministry facilities, some of which are old, rarely used or in need of repair. How each building is utilized in the future will depend on the specific needs of the students, Hollifield said.
One statistic that is fueling the need for change with campus ministry, Hollifield said, involves the number of college students who are leaving the Church after graduation.
“When they leave home and go away to college, more than 85 percent never return to church,” Hollifield said. “You look at these thousands upon thousands of students that are on these campuses … [and] I’m concerned that many of these students are not connecting with a local church while they are there. … I’m concerned there is a tendency to see the campus minister as their pastor, and … they don’t get connected to the church.”
Board members also raised questions and concerns regarding the number of college students who are active in campus ministry efforts.
According to a BSC report, there are around 1,000 total students involved in campus ministry at the nine schools that have a campus minister. BSC staff shared during the meeting that about 2,400 students were “reached” last year through campus ministry on more than 38 N.C. college campuses.
“That’s less than 100 people per campus,” said Phil Addison, a board member and pastor of Stony Point Baptist Church. “You’re talking about campuses that have 10,000 to 20,000 people on them. Don’t get me wrong. What’s the value of a soul? I understand that. But at the same time, we have to be realists and stewards. … Something is going to have to change. It’s got to change.”
“I personally … see [the new strategy] as a good thing. I see it as an opportunity to let other churches get involved.”
But some board members expressed skepticism about the new plan. Concerns involved manpower, logistics and an uneasiness with a new approach toward campus ministry.
“I’m really bothered by this,” said Gerald Morris, a board member and director of missions with the Tuckaseigee Baptist Association. “That’s where I met my wife. … I did not grow up with a family that went to church on a regular basis. … That is what kept me going. … This has been thrown out there so fast.”
Sydney Stikeleather, an ex-officio board member and president of the Baptist Campus Ministry (BCM) for the state, also expressed concern about the strategy. She explained how she had felt like a rug had been “pulled out from underneath [her]” when she learned UNC-Charlotte, where she is also president of the school’s BCM, was losing its full-time campus minister.
But during and after the meeting, Stikeleather expressed optimism toward the plan.
“The main thing I took away from this meeting is that none of these people want to see campus ministry end,” she wrote in an email to campus ministry leaders across the state.
“They recognize the need of the gospel on campus, and they want to spread God’s love in the most efficient and effective way possible.”
Stikeleather appealed to fellow campus ministry leaders to get involved and work with Baptist leadership, churches and associations.
“No one understands your campus and your students better than you,” she wrote. “You are a vital part of the success of BCM in the future. … I must ask you to do one of the most difficult things us sinful, selfish, prideful human beings can do: let go and trust God. … I am excited about the future of BCM. I am excited to see churches take a stronger role in the lives of our students. I am excited to see more students in churches. More than anything, I am excited to see what God has in store for all of us.”
This article appeared in the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Shawn Hendricks is managing editor of the Biblical Recorder.
Panhandle pastors share evangelism
strategies with their peers
By Carolyn Nichols
PANAMA CITY, Fla. (Florida Baptist Witness) — Pastors from the Panhandle gathered May 6 in Panama City to become “Battle Ready” in leading their churches in evangelism.
Troy Varnum, director of missions of the Northwest Coast Baptist Association which hosted the three-hour event, said the meeting was a boost for those discouraged in the constant effort to “develop evangelism DNA” in their churches.
“A church never reaches the optimum in evangelism. There are always more people to reach,” he said.
Pastors Shelly Chandler, First Baptist Church in Bonifay, and Craig Conner, First Baptist Church in Panama City, spoke to the group and answered their peers’ questions about their churches’ evangelism efforts. They were enlisted by the Evangelism Division of the sponsoring Florida Baptist Convention because of “their unique ability in aggressively teaching, reaching, winning and baptizing lost people,” according to a promotional letter from Evangelism Lead Strategist David Burton.
Varnum said the pastors-only event encouraged interaction and transparency among the participants.
“Nobody was put on the spot, and they felt comfortable asking questions,” he said. “The take-away is that every church has challenges in evangelism—no matter how big and well-resourced.”
Chandler told the pastors of the research he has done on growth patterns at First Baptist where he has served for 10 years. The pastor put the 28 ministries of the church into 16 categories, half of which were budgeted. Chandler connected each of last year’s 62 baptisms with the ministry that brought them to the church.
“It shocked me that non-budgeted ministries were reaching more people than budgeted. Fifty-three were brought to Christ through ministries that don’t cost the church anything,” Chandler said. “What that tells me is that when we say we’d ‘love to do a ministry, but we don’t have the money,’ we aren’t trusting the Lord to provide.”
Chandler also urged his fellow pastors to avoid becoming discouraged by “number growth.” He charted his church’s “buoyancy rate,” the number of new members First Bonifay needs each year to “plateau.”
He said First Bonifay, with a Sunday attendance of 450, may baptize 50 per year. He also charted those who no longer attend: 11 discouraged new believers; 11 attending other churches; 10 deaths; 6 becoming homebound; and 12 high school graduates who move away or quit coming to church.
“All in all, your numbers not changing may be a good thing. We can’t become discouraged by numbers,” he said.
He said First Bonifay is finding ways its ministries can work together to share the Gospel with unsaved persons in Bonifay. Chandler said adding one question to the exit interviews of those leaving the church’s health clinic has helped the deacons seek prospects: “Would you like a visit from someone from the church?”
“We are to minister the love of Jesus to the least of these. The dirt on our feet will show the love we have,” he said.
Pastor Conner addressed “corporate evangelism” by showing how to develop an evangelism strategy, telling of First Panama City’s use of the FAITH evangelism strategy and how he encourages soul-winning from the pulpit.
He said a dynamic worship service will include “strong, solid Bible preaching’ and “God-honoring” music that is God-focused regardless of style.
“We want to have the kind of service that God can use for evangelism,” Conner said.
The worship service must be paired with a solid Sunday School, “the best evangelism tool in the local church,” he said. With a plethora of ideas on how to do evangelism, First Baptist “does the basics with excellence.”
Evangelism must be rooted in confidence in God’s Word, he said. Citing Acts 4:31, Genesis 15:1-6, Isaiah 55:10-11 and I Peter 1:23-25, he said the pastor must be committed to expository preaching, and each Sunday School teacher must teach God’s Word because “anything else in inferior.”
“I believe that one of our greatest needs is a revival of education in Southern Baptist churches,” Conner said.
First Panama City has used FAITH, an evangelism tool built on the Sunday School, for 13 years. Each Monday night of the year, 150 visitors in teams of three, knock on doors in Panama City.
“Nothing else is ever scheduled on Monday night. This is too important,” he said.
Conner encourages soul winners by highlighting their work in sermons and at baptisms. He often repeats accounts of Monday night evangelistic visits in his Sunday sermons, and, during a baptism, he honors those responsible for leading the new believer to the Lord.
“At First Baptist, we follow the Great Commission example. We teach the Word and then we baptize,” Conner said.
This article appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness (gofbw.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist Convention. Carolyn Nichols is a writer for the Florida Baptist Witness.
Hundreds saved at El Paso
By David Roach
EL PASO, Texas (Southern Baptist TEXAN) — More than 400 professions of faith were recorded at an evangelistic rally and strength demonstration led by a team of Christian strongmen in El Paso April 20. An additional 300 people stood up when prompted to indicate that they had prayed to receive Christ.
The rally, housed at the El Paso Coliseum, was the culminating event of a spring break campaign a month earlier in which volunteers from SBTC churches distributed evangelistic packets to 116,000 area homes. In addition to gospel tracts, the packets contained free tickets to the rally, which featured feats of strength performed by Team Impact. Between the feats of strength Team Impact members shared their personal testimonies. At the end of the rally there was a 10-minute gospel presentation and an invitation.
“The event in El Paso was a great success,” SBTC evangelism director Nathan Lorick said. “… The Saturday evening event with Team Impact was the culmination of a lot of hard work and sacrifice for the kingdom’s advancement. We are praying that God will use this event as a catalyst for many more people to come to Christ in the future.”
The week prior to the rally Team Impact held anti-bullying assemblies in El Paso public schools and invited students to attend the Saturday evening event if they wanted to see additional feats of strength. Invitation cards distributed at the assemblies were one key to the rally’s success, according to SBTC evangelism strategist Jack Harris.
“The cards didn’t say anything about God, Jesus or the church,” Harris said. “This was so that people would come to see Team Impact without having to think, ‘We’re going to see some religious thing.’ Then surprisingly they heard the gospel and with no pressure responded to it.”
After the rally the names of those registering salvation decisions were distributed among 12 SBTC pastors in El Paso for follow-up. Each person who professed faith in Christ was to be contacted by a church in their area of town, with large churches bearing a greater share of the follow-up responsibility than smaller ones.
“This is a great opportunity for the pastors and for the people in their churches to get involved and be reenergized in terms of the opportunity they have in a big city like El Paso with a population of 600,000,” Harris said. “The pastors are just very excited about what the future holds, having had this big opportunity to work together and see what God could do.”
This article appeared in the Southern Baptist Texan (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. David Roach is a freelance writer for the Texan.
EDITOR’S NOTE: From the States, published each Tuesday by Baptist Press, relays news and feature stories from state Baptist papers and other publications on initiatives by Baptist churches, associations and state conventions in evangelism, church planting and Great Commission outreach, including partnership missions. Reports about churches, associations and state conventions responding to the International Mission Board’s call to embrace the world’s 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups also are included in From the States, along with reports about church, associational and state convention initiatives in conjunction with the North American Mission Board’s call to Southern Baptist churches to broaden their efforts in starting new churches and satellite campuses. The items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.