BSC Board elects 2015 officers

February 3 2015 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications & BR staff

The board of directors of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) welcomed more than 50 new members who elected officers and were challenged to be leaders in their churches by making disciples in North Carolina and beyond in their first meeting of 2015.
Perry Brindley
, director of missions for the Buncombe Baptist Association, was elected board president. He previously served as the board’s vice president. Brian Kinlaw, lead pastor of Southview Baptist Church in Hope Mills, was elected vice president of the board. Ginger Brown was re-elected as board secretary.
The meeting, held Jan. 27-28 at the Caraway Conference Center near Asheboro, allowed the new members to meet with current board members, gather with their assigned committee for the first time and participate in the selection of committee chairs.
Committee chairs oversee the work of their respective committee, and serve as members of the BSC’s executive committee (EC), which acts in behalf of the board between the three yearly meetings.
The EC also has the responsibility to review, amend and approve the budget as annually prepared by the Budget Special Committee prior to presentation to the full board in September. The budget must be adopted by the convention during the annual meeting in November.
The EC has 20 members: the two officers of the board, three officers of the BSC (president, first vice president, second vice president), the seven chairs of board committees, the chair of the Budget Committee, the chair of the Articles and Bylaws Committee, four at-large members of the board that are elected during the January meeting, the president of North Carolina Baptists on Mission and the president of the North Carolina Baptist Associational Missionaries Conference.
Newly elected committee chairs are: LeRoy Burke, Business Services; Gordon Benton, Christian Higher Education; Bob Garbett, Christian Life & Public Affairs; Boyce Porter, Christian Social Services; Bud Russell, Church Planting & Missions Partnerships; David Duarte, Communications; and Chris Hawks, Evangelism & Discipleship.


Photo by K. Allan Blume
Perry Brindley, BSC Board President, addresses the board of directors at Caraway Conference Center.

Four at-large members were elected to serve on the EC: Lawrence Clapp, senior pastor of South Elm Street Baptist Church in Greensboro; Marc Francis, lead pastor of Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Durham; John Mark Harrison, lead pastor of Apex Baptist Church; and Ken Jones, senior pastor of Lincoln Avenue Baptist Church in Lincolnton.
Convention president Timmy Blair named the Committee on Nominations: Steve Frazier, Riverside Baptist Church, Waynesville; Ron Hester, Mount Vernon Baptist Church, Fayetteville; James Horton, Rocky Hock Baptist Church, Edenton; Marvin Green, Bethany Baptist Church, Forest City; Jonathan Rebsamen, First Baptist Church, Charlotte; Don Brown, College Acres Baptist Church, Wilmington; Becky Glenn (2015 unexpired term of Sharon Hinton Smith), Westfield Baptist Church, Westfield; Steve Schultz (2016 unexpired term of Pao Ly), Pole Creek Baptist Church, Candler; Reginald Bakr, Chair, Saint Paul Baptist Church, Greensboro. Bakr is the first African American to serve as chair of the committee.
BSC’s executive director-treasurer, Milton Hollifield, recognized Michael Barrett for his three years of service as board president. “I appreciate and value the kind of man you are and the work that you do,” Hollifield said. “It has been a pleasure and a joy to work with you during this time. We thank God for you and for your love for the Lord.”
In the financial report, accounting services director Beverly Volz announced that Cooperative Program giving for 2014 totaled $28.8 million, which was approximately 4 percent less than the convention’s budget of $30 million.
Though the BSC received less funding than expected, Hollifield said “... it looks very much like we will finish the year in the black. That is a very positive thing, and we give God the praise and glory.”
Clay Warf, executive director of the North Carolina Baptist Foundation, reported that the foundation completed 2014 with $152.5 million in assets under management, which was up from $146 million at the end of 2013. During 2014 the foundation opened 40 new accounts and received $16.7 million in new gifts or gifts to existing funds. More than $9 million was distributed to ministries and charitable organizations.
LeRoy Burke, chair of the Business Services Special Committee, updated the board on several campus ministry properties owned by BSC. Burke announced the sale of the campus ministry property at the University of North Carolina at Asheville has been completed for approximately $120,000. Proceeds from the sale have been placed in reserve to help fund the collegiate partnerships ministry.
Burke also said the campus ministry property at UNC-Pembroke will be deeded to the Burnt Swamp association. Burke said the committee continues to explore the best course of action for remaining campus ministry properties around the state, including the Battle House at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Gordon Benton, chair of the Christian Higher Education Special Committee, said his committee is exploring the best way to distribute scholarship funds to students from N.C. Baptist churches attending one of the five affiliated universities in the state. His committee is working on a recommendation.
David Horton, president of Fruitland Baptist Bible College, reported that Fruitland’s winter enrollment totaled 248 students on campus, at satellite locations or online. That figure represents a record number of students enrolled at Fruitland based on available records dating back to the early 1990s. Horton also said work is under way on a new student family housing building that should be completed this spring.
Boyce Porter, chair of the Christian Social Services Special Committee, reminded board members of the volunteer workdays coming up in May at some of the Baptist Children’s Home locations around the state. More information and a schedule is available online.
Chris Hawks, chair of the Evangelism and Discipleship Committee, identified upcoming training opportunities for pastors and laity. They include the One Story Disciple-Making Conference on Feb. 23 in Clemmons, the One Day Equipping Conference on May 2 in High Point and The Story regional training events that begin Feb. 10.
Hollifield encouraged board members to give their best as they serve and to prepare spiritually for their responsibilities. He reminded the board that North Carolina Baptists are depending on them to provide good leadership in serving the churches and regions they represent.
In addition, Hollifield challenged members of the board to be advocates for the convention’s strategy of “impacting lostness through disciple-making” in their churches and associations. More information about the strategy is available on the convention’s website.
“I pray that our hearts will be broken and burdened in 2015 as never before about the spiritual needs of people and the wonderful opportunities that God has called us to fulfill,” Hollifield said. “Let’s make 2015 our greatest year yet as we continue to become the strongest force in the history of this convention for reaching people with the gospel in North Carolina, North America and throughout the nations of the world.”

2/3/2015 11:50:45 AM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications & BR staff | with 0 comments

Advocates urge IRS to clarify rules for nonprofits

February 2 2015 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

Religious and secular advocacy groups on Jan. 29 jointly called for greater clarity by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regarding nonprofits and political activity.
In a rare combined front, leaders of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), Alliance Defending Freedom, Public Citizen and the Center for American Progress met at the National Press Club to discuss ways the tax agency could better help nonprofits know what they can and cannot do under the law.
“Something needs to change,” said Dan Busby, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). “We agree that clear and brighter lines must be adopted.”


RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks
Michael Batts, who chaired a commission of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability that recommended Internal Revenue Service policy changes, speaks at the National Press Club on Jan. 29, 2015. Behind him is Ezra Reese, a member of the drafting committee of Public Citizen’s Bright Lines Project.

In 2013, a commission appointed by the ECFA issued a 91-page report recommending that clergy should be able to say “whatever they believe is appropriate” from the pulpit without fear of IRS reprisal. Current IRS rules, dating to 1954, permit clergy to address issues but prohibit candidate endorsements.
But those rules are routinely broken with little or no consequence.
Michael Batts, who chaired the ECFA’s Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations, said the IRS should hesitate to enforce some of its current rules, which could cause constitutional and public relations problems.
“The IRS itself needs an exit strategy, and churches and charities need freedom of speech and the freedom to exercise religion,” he said.
Erik Stanley, a lawyer for Alliance Defending Freedom, said IRS laws about “indirect” campaigning are too vague and the IRS is not enforcing its rules about direct campaigning. He said some 4,000 “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” pastors have self-reported to the IRS that they have talked about candidates, often supporting or opposing particular ones, during a worship service.
“There’s been no prosecutions to date,” he said, saying legislative fixes are needed for IRS policy.
The IRS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In 2013, a Treasury Department inspector general determined that the IRS used “inappropriate criteria” when questioning some applications for tax-exempt status by Tea Party and other groups. Evangelist Franklin Graham, complained when the organizations he leads – the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and Samaritan’s Purse – were audited after the BGEA ran election-related ads.
Although all the groups at the Press Club event agreed on the need for more clarity from the IRS, they differ in the specifics of how its rules should be changed.
Ezra Reese, a member of the drafting committee of Public Citizen’s Bright Lines Project, worried that some nonprofits might take advantage of rules supported by the ECFA to fund more issue-oriented ads.
“You will have a much larger amount of tax-deductible dollars influencing elections,” he said.
But differences aside, the lack of clarity is creating confusion for a range of nonprofits, said Alex DeMots, vice president and deputy general counsel for the Center for American Progress.
“It’s just bad public policy for a small charity or church or community organization to have to hire a lawyer to figure out what it can and can’t do,” he said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adelle M. Banks is production editor and a national correspondent at Religion News Service.)

2/2/2015 3:00:43 PM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Same-sex marriage will lead to moral dystopia

February 2 2015 by David Gibson, Religion News Service

A high-profile alliance of conservative Catholics and evangelical Protestants is set to issue a sweeping manifesto against gay marriage that calls same-sex unions “a graver threat” than divorce or cohabitation, one that will lead to a moral dystopia in America and the persecution of traditional believers.
“If the truth about marriage can be displaced by social and political pressure operating through the law, other truths can be set aside as well,” say the nearly 50 signers of the statement, which is to be published in the March edition of the conservative journal First Things.
“And that displacement can lead, in due course, to the coercion and persecution of those who refuse to acknowledge the state’s redefinition of marriage, which is beyond the state’s competence,” they say.


Religion News Service photo courtesy of First Things
The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, one of the leading conservative theologians in the U.S. Catholic Church, died Jan. 8 at age 72.

The declaration adds that some people “are already being censured and others have lost their jobs because of their public commitment to marriage as the union of a man and a woman.”
Social conservatives have rallied around a number of cases that they say herald a gloomy future, including the recent dismissal of the fire chief in Atlanta, who had given employees a copy of his book in which he detailed his beliefs, based on his Christian faith, that homosexuality was “vile.”
Other cases include a New Mexico photographer who lost her fight to opt out of taking pictures of a same-sex wedding; bakers and florists who wanted to turn away gay customers; and an Idaho wedding chapel whose Christian owners wanted to conduct only heterosexual weddings.
This latest statement, The Two Shall Become One Flesh: Reclaiming Marriage, comes from the group Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT), a coalition formed in 1994 under the aegis of former Nixon aide Charles Colson, an evangelical, and Richard John Neuhaus, a Catholic priest.
One of their goals was to encourage the two Christian communities to overcome their historical suspicions and doctrinal differences in order to battle what they saw as a growing moral laxity in the U.S.
Neuhaus died in 2009, and Colson in 2012, but the movement has continued and in some ways has become more focused as Christian conservatives have grown increasingly united in their alarm over the sudden and spreading acceptance of gay rights, especially same-sex marriage.
Discussions on a document on same-sex marriage began in June 2013 – the same month the U.S. Supreme Court required the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages – according to Russell Reno, editor of First Things and a member of ECT.
But Reno said the members first had to agree to set aside their differences on the legitimacy of divorce and contraception, for example, and even whether marriage is a sacrament.
That enabled them to focus on the advance of gay marriage, which they say not only betrays religious tradition but, more than any other development, undermines society because “marriage is the primordial human institution, a reality that existed long before the establishment of what we now know as the state.”


RNS photo by David Jolkovski
Maggie Gallagher, co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage, says religious advocacy groups need political structures to endorse or oppose individual candidates if they want to be effective.


“(W)hat the state defines as marriage no longer embodies God’s purposes in creation,” says the 5,000-word statement, which was first reported by Baptist Press. “An easy acceptance of divorce damages marriage; widespread cohabitation devalues marriage. But so-called same-sex marriage is a graver threat, because what is now given the name of marriage in law is a parody of marriage.”
Signers of the statement include popular megachurch pastor Rick Warren and longtime gay marriage foe Maggie Gallagher, as well as prominent conservative Catholic intellectuals George Weigel and Robert George.
Timothy George, a Southern Baptist and dean of Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School; Mark Galli, editor of the evangelical magazine Christianity Today; and J.I. Packer of Regent University also endorsed the statement.
The signers say they “do not dispute the evident fact of hormonal and chromosomal irregularities, nor of different sexual attractions and desires.” But they say that in legitimating same-sex marriage, “a kind of alchemy is performed, not merely on the institution, but on human nature itself.”
“We are today urged to embrace an abstract conception of human nature that ignores the reality of our bodies. Human beings are no longer to be understood as either male or female,” it says. The result, it says, will undermine society by eliminating any moral compass except that which the state declares to be the norm, to the exclusion of all others.
The document declares that a “faithful Christian witness cannot accommodate itself to same-sex marriage,” and it suggests that believers who accept gay marriage are no longer fully Christian.
The signers themselves do not offer a detailed plan of action to counter gay marriage, which is now legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia, and pending in several others. Reno said the statement was not intended as a road map for political or judicial action, but more as a rallying cry to Christians and “to disabuse folks of the notion that we can just keep on keeping on as we have been.”
The signers raise the possibility – which has been debated among religious conservatives in recent months – that clergy could refuse to sign state marriage licenses as an act of civil disobedience.
But they conclude simply that “whatever courses of action are deemed necessary, the coming years will require careful discernment.” They say that the best strategy is for Christians themselves and others “of good will” to live lives that are faithful examples of traditional marriage. “On this basis alone can we succeed,” they say.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service.)

2/2/2015 2:37:51 PM by David Gibson, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

After escaping, former child slave blossoms under loving care

February 2 2015 by BGR news

Bornali*, 13, is the class clown at the 7 Sisters Home in northeast India. Bright and enthusiastic, she wants to grow up to be a computer engineer, a soldier and a dancer. She hungers for adventure and knowledge.
During the day, she laughs with the other girls at 7 Sisters Home, a nonprofit that rehabilitates girls from abusive backgrounds. But, at night, Bornali often has nightmares in which she dreams about her former life as a slave.
When she was roughly five years old, she was sent to work as a domestic slave.  Her file at 7 Sisters contains a copy of a document transferring ownership of Bornali away from her family to her new masters.
To the people who bought her, Bornali was nothing more than a workhorse. They forced her to clean a construction zone, wash dishes and care for children and animals, and they fed her scraps of food from other people’s plates. When she made a mistake, they punished the little girl by stripping her nearly naked and tying her to a tree so the mosquitoes could feast on her skin. They even beat her with an assortment of items: a wood block, a police rod or a pressure cooker lid. Sometimes, they tied her to a window when they beat her. Once, they tied her up in a bag.
Out of cruelty, Bornali’s owners told her that her older sister, who also worked in their house, died of tuberculosis. Bornali, however, suspected they were lying.
Then, about a year and a half ago, Bornali escaped from her masters. She took a rickshaw to a train station and hopped on one of the cars. An old man and his son noticed that she was alone and took her to the police. A child services agency picked her up and placed her at the 7 Sisters Home.
When Bornali first arrived at 7 Sisters, she was “wild.” She was stubborn and refused to follow rules. The staff believed her rebellion resulted from her life as a slave, when she had to obey any given order.
Eventually, with proper care, Bornali grew both physically and emotionally. She ate plenty of nutritious food, provided by Baptist Global Response, and shot up more than six inches. She is now one of the tallest girls living at the home. She also started studying and showed an aptitude for learning, transforming from an illiterate little girl to a high-level student. She became enthralled with the workings of electrical systems and watched intently as an electrician fixed the home’s circuit breaker. She then began to wonder what the inside of a computer looked like.
Now that Bornali has unleashed her curiosity and joy, she thrives. She still bears physical and emotional scars from her abuse, but she can live in the manner for which she was created.
Her abusers, however, are still at large. No effort has been made to apprehend them, or even file an incident report, despite 7 Sisters’ efforts.
Pray for this little girl as she grows up surrounded by the love of Christ. And ask God to grant her justice after the horrors she faced.
*Name changed
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story originated at To donate to projects like 7 Sisters Home visit

2/2/2015 2:27:58 PM by BGR news | with 0 comments

Single and afraid, missionary finds courage to work in Amazon

February 2 2015 by Laura Fielding, IMB media

When Kathy thought about the Amazon region, all she could picture were anacondas, piranhas and jaguars. She had zero interest in living in such a place.
But after Kathy prayed for unreached people groups in the Amazon jungle for 10 years, God showed her that’s exactly where He wanted her to go – so she could reach those people with the gospel message.
God has led Kathy, a single 63-year-old missionary, through a journey of obedience and courage so she could share His love with unreached peoples in the Amazon.


When I grow up…

Kathy was raised in a Christian home, the second of four kids. “I was the most introverted,” Kathy recalls. “When people would come to our house to visit, I would run and hide behind the doors because I didn’t want to talk with them.
“But even at that, I know God had a plan for my life even when I was very young.”
Her parents were very involved in their church, First Baptist of Henryville, Indiana, and her mother was an active member of their Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU). As a four-year-old “Sunbeam,” a former WMU children’s missions education program, Kathy remembers flipping through a booklet while her teacher talked about a missionary in Africa. She could not read yet, but the photo of the missionary her teacher spoke of captured her attention.
“And here [the missionary] was, holding a stack of Bibles in her arms and she had a line of children following her, and they were going into a thatched-roof little church building,” she remembers. “And so I just pointed to that picture and I said to my teacher, ‘That’s what I want to do when I grow up.’”


IMB photo by Wilson Hunter
Kathy, an IMB missionary in the Amazon region, makes a short canoe trip to visit some local believers in the jungle. From the location where she is staying while ministering in this area, she normally walks to visit these people. But during rainy season, the river swells and some paths must be traveled by canoe.


In college, Kathy studied music, and then, still feeling God’s call to full-time ministry, eventually attended the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
During one of her first seminary classes, Kathy’s professor asked the class to write down what they wanted to do in their future – their life goal in one sentence.
“I just wrote down, well, I would like to … travel around working with small churches with their music programs,” she says. “And I kept that piece of paper with me.”


What are your needs?

After graduating from seminary, Kathy continued to feel called to serve as an international missionary. She contacted the Foreign Mission Board (now called the International Mission Board) to start the application process.
At that point, Kathy remembers her home church pastor telling her: “I don’t want you to go onto the mission field as a single.”
Kathy responded: “Yeah, well, I don’t either.”
Kathy’s pastor asked her to take some time to pray that God would give her a husband so that she could go on the mission field with a spouse. Honoring his request, Kathy took time and prayed for a month about it.
But she went back to her pastor and said, “I did pray, but what I was thinking is if I pray for God to give me a husband and at this point in my life, I don’t really need a husband – what am I going to do with him?”
Her pastor laughed. He then got serious and responded: “What you need to do then is pray that God will show you what your needs are. If you don’t think you need a husband, then what are your needs?”
And so Kathy took another month to pray again. She went back to her pastor and told him: “What God has shown me is that I need to obey Him, and He is calling me into missions. And I’m single but God knows that, and so I’m going to go.”
And he said, “Well, you have my blessing.”
As Kathy progressed to the point of choosing an overseas assignment, she was faced with looking through a list of possibilities where she might serve. With her background in music, there were many job descriptions across the world that fit her skill set.
But one in particular caught her eye. In South America, a missionary was needed to travel around working with small churches in their music programs – the same wording as her goal she had written down in seminary and carried with her all these years.
“So I just put my finger on that and I said, ‘This is it. This is where God wants me to go,’ because that’s exactly what was in my heart that I wanted to do for years,” she says.

Strength in weakness

In 1985, Kathy left for South America, and became immersed in her country and language school.
“I’m very much an introvert,” Kathy says. “I still am, and that’s why I say that anything that is happening in my life has totally been God, because I know that I could not do any of this by myself.”
Kathy struggled in language school – “it really hit me because I was a single, very introverted, and I was living alone on the ground floor in a small apartment,” which was next to a seedy bar where patrons openly used drugs.
“Around my apartment building was a wall with broken glass on the top, and then I had bars on my windows, and so I was afraid,” Kathy says. “I just thought, ‘This is crazy. I feel like I’m in jail.’ … And I can remember just falling on my knees and just praying, ‘God, help me through this.’”
Kathy was so shaken that she talked with her supervisor, who told her, “If Satan can get you when you’re a ‘baby’ missionary, then he’s got you and you’ll go home.”
But Kathy did not want to go home. She prayed that “God would make me strong like a lion.”
She adopted the verse 2 Corinthians 12:9: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (ESV)
“That has helped me through the years and it got me through language school, it’s knowing that God’s power was with me and that even in my weakness, He was making me strong,” Kathy said.
Soon enough, her year of language school was finished, and she moved on to her role in music. She has now been serving in South America for 30 years.
“I just feel humbled that God wants to use me, or has considered to use me in this particular region here with these particular people,” Kathy says. “I just feel honored to be a part of His work, and I want to do it in the best way that I can so that more people can hear His Word.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Story originates from where it is part of a six-story series.)

2/2/2015 2:10:50 PM by Laura Fielding, IMB media | with 0 comments

Super Bowl, Phoenix Open boost Baptist witness

January 31 2015 by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press

PHOENIX – While thousands of sports fans descend on the Phoenix area this week, Southern Baptists look to make the most of ministry opportunities as the city hosts the Super Bowl and Phoenix Open.
More than 200,000 are expected this week to watch Tiger Woods play in the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which began Jan. 29 and will wrap up on Sunday (Feb. 1). Then more than 60,000 people will pack University of Phoenix Stadium – along with thousands of other fans and media gathered throughout the area – for the Super Bowl. Thousands of football fans also were on hand at the stadium for the Pro Bowl on Jan. 25.

Enter volunteers Daryl and Julie Bennett, decked out in bright yellow shirts with the words “Trust Jesus” in red on the front. This week, the couple from Flagstaff and other Baptist volunteers traveled to Phoenix to hand out gospel material to sports fans, including pocket-size magazines featuring testimonies of pro athletes.


BP photo by Shawn Hendricks
Daryl and Julie Bennett of Flagstaff traveled to Phoenix during Super Bowl week to hand out gospel material – including pocket-size magazines featuring testimonies of pro athletes – to sports fans. 


“We have America coming here,” said Daryl Bennett, pastor of East Valley Baptist Church. The Bennetts have been handing out similar magazines at the Phoenix Open for the past several years.
“As believers we have a responsibility to take the best news in the entire world to lost people. We need to go where lost people go. We cannot do our evangelism inside four walls.”
The Bennetts helped with an evangelism effort called AzEndgame that included Arizona’s Valley Rim Baptist Association, Central Baptist Association, the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, the North American Mission Board and the Timothy Institute of Evangelism.
The initiative is described on its website as “a network and partnership between churches, ministry groups and associations across Arizona with the purpose of sharing the [Good News] of Jesus Christ while enjoying the various sporting events in Arizona.”
Together, they plan to distribute about 200,000 copies of the 16-page mini-magazines in the coming weeks and months.
On one side of the cover is pro golfer Ian Davis and on the other side is Arizona Cardinal Sam Acho. Inside, readers will find testimonies and sports trivia. Each magazine includes how one can put their trust in Jesus Christ and a phone number for more information.

Volunteers also will distribute to fans various folded cards – including ones with former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner on the front.
While some of the material may be quickly discarded, Bennett said he leaves the results up to the Holy Spirit.
“He does the convicting,” Bennett said. “We get God’s Word in their hands. They have this access 24/7 that the Holy Spirit can talk to them and when they have an event in their life He’ll remind them of this.”
Tim Knopps, who leads the Timothy Institute of Evangelism in Oklahoma City, has helped Baptists distribute these types of magazines for more than 10 Super Bowls. He said for some it comes down to that moment when someone puts God’s truth in their hands.
“All of a sudden it clicks,” Knopps said. “‘Oh this makes sense,’ and they do respond to the gospel. Even immediately.... And therefore they get involved in a local church.”
Lou DiBona, evangelism team leader for the Valley Rim Southern Baptist Association, said this week’s events aren’t just about ministry efforts in the Phoenix area.
“This is not the Phoenix Super Bowl this is the Arizona Super Bowl,” he said. “This is about how we reach people in the state.”

BP photo by Shawn Hendricks
About 200,000 copies of a 16-page mini-magazine, featuring the testimonies of pro athletes, will be distributed to sports fans during Super Bowl week and the weeks and months to follow. “As believers we have a responsibility to take the best news in the entire world to lost people,” volunteer and pastor Daryl Bennett said.  

Noting that more than 6 million people live in Arizona, DiBona said this week’s events could draw a total of about a million visitors to the Phoenix area. Most of them, he expects, will be from the state.
DiBona and the AzEndgame network also partnered with a local sex-trafficking ministry and Florida-based ministry called “Laundry of Love” earlier this month to hold an event – similar to a block party – where people in the community could get a free meal and have their laundry washed.
Dibona said Arizona is “a different crowd. It’s not the Bible Belt. You can’t just do one thing here. You have to use all the techniques to reach the people.... You have to use all of it because you have all kinds of people.”
There are more unchurched people in Arizona than people might realize, he said. “People get up on Sunday morning and don’t even think about church.
“You can’t just come out here and plant a church like you do in the Bible Belt,” he said. “That doesn’t just happen here.”
While DiBona favors relationship evangelism over distributing pocket magazines, he said, “I can walk into the community and hand these to the kids and they’ll fly. ... I’ll get rid of these in bundles.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shawn Hendricks is managing editor of Baptist Press.)

1/31/2015 5:29:26 PM by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Football game shines light on city in need of gospel

January 31 2015 by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press

PHOENIX – As Southern Baptists turn their eyes to Phoenix and Super Bowl XLIX this weekend, local Southern Baptists say they’ll encounter a city in desperate need of new evangelistic churches.
According to the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Center for Missional Research, evangelicals make up only 12.6 percent of the population of the Send North America: Phoenix region. The metro area also has only one Southern Baptist church for every 19,338 people.


NAMB file photo by John Swain
Phoenix, a Send North America City, plays host to Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1. Send City Missionary Monty Patton hopes the increased focus on the city surrounding the game will spur churches to consider committing to church planting, and supporting church planters, in the city of 5.4 million. 

But in the last few years an influx of Southern Baptist church planters has begun to turn those numbers around.
When planter Jason Griffin arrived with his family of six in Phoenix in 2012, he didn’t relocate for the nice weather or the long list of leisure activities. Underneath all the fun and sun, the Griffins found a community named Surprise that needed the gospel.
“There have been a lot of people who have tried to plant here,” said Griffin, who was sent by First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga. “For whatever reason – whether it was never gaining traction or losing their support – this became like a graveyard for church plants.”
Griffin estimates that 95 percent of Surprise residents are not connected to evangelical churches.
Griffin himself started slow. Nobody showed up for the first Bible study he launched in his home a few months after his arrival. But after starting weekly worship services in January 2013, Griffin has seen Freedom Valley Church grow to an average of 120 in attendance most weeks.
“We’ve seen 15 people come to faith in Christ,” Griffin said. “I’ll tell you, the amount of work to see those 15 people come to Christ is incredible. It takes consistent relationship building, talking about the gospel and living out the gospel.”
Phoenix is one of 32 Send North America cities that have become a church planting focus since NAMB launched the strategy at the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix.
Super Bowl XLIX will be played in Glendale, which is about 30 minutes outside Phoenix. The sixth-largest city in the United States, metro Phoenix counts nearly 5.4 million people.
Monty Patton (@Phxokie), NAMB’s Send City missionary for Phoenix, said the city’s famous good weather can be a hindrance to church planting efforts.
“One of the blessings of our area is our climate, but it’s also one of our greatest hindrances,” said Patton, who planted Mountain Ridge Community Church in Glendale in 1996.
“Everybody is outside. We’re a very outdoor city and we’re very active. It’s a barrier. They do everything outside. Kids are playing softball or soccer 12 months a year. It never stops.”
To push back lostness in Phoenix, Patton said local churches will need the help and partnership of congregations elsewhere. Because the area has relatively few evangelical churches and even fewer Southern Baptist congregations, church planters in particular need to know they have the support of other churches.
“For our planters to know that they have people all over the country praying for them and adopting them as their own, that’s huge. Plus, it shows the community we’re a bigger family,” Patton said. “It shows the community that the church isn’t just an independent entity, but it’s an interdependent one.”


Monty Patton 

Patton said God has provided a great crop of church planters to the area in recent years, yet the city needs more.
“We are at a crossroads of opportunity,” Patton said. “The whole world is looking to Phoenix for the Super Bowl. Phoenix is a great city with a lot of opportunities. If we take advantage of the opportunity the Father has so graciously given us, we could really make a big impact. But if we miss this and don’t get the support – the prayer support in particular – and the teams and the planters, we’re going to miss a whole new generation in this city.”

Griffin said the challenge of reaching Phoenix stirs him to plead to God for the salvation of his city and new friends.
“I’m in it for the long haul,” Griffin said. “I’ll do whatever it takes. I’ll get a job – whatever it takes – because my passion is to reach this city for Christ.”
For more information about getting involved in Send North America: Phoenix, visit For a short video from Patton about the opportunity to pray for the city during the Super Bowl, visit
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.)

1/31/2015 5:19:19 PM by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Seattle coach ponders wins, losses for Christ

January 31 2015 by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press

PHOENIX – Going into Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup against the New England Patriots, Sherman Smith shared how victory on the football field without Jesus Christ would be, for him, a “serious waste of time.”
“I’ll never forget when I got drafted in [1976], my father told me, ‘Son, remember this, playing professional football is how you make your living but it’s not your life because it’s gonna end. You’re gonna stop playing one day and life will continue.’ I never forgot that,” the running backs coach for the Seattle Seahawks said.
Today, Smith will tell you he’s living a coach’s dream on a team that won last year’s Super Bowl against the Denver Broncos. But he said he’s thankful life isn’t all about winning and losing football games.
“If this were just about winning a football game, this is a serious waste of time,” Sherman told Baptist Press during Super Bowl Media Day (Jan. 27) at the US Airways Center in Phoenix.


BP photo by Shawn Hendricks 
“If this were just about winning a football game, this is a serious waste of time,” Sherman Smith, Seattle Seahawks’ running backs coach, said during Super Bowl Media Day (Jan. 27) at the US Airways Center in Phoenix. 

“But it’s bigger than that,” he said. “Absolutely, no doubt. This is about [His] glory. This is about [His] Kingdom. This is what it’s all about.”
And on the Seahawks, Smith is not alone in being vocal about his faith. Fellow Seahawks Russell Wilson, Russell Okung, Clint Gresham and fellow coach Rocky Seto all spoke about their faith in Christ on Media Day.
But for Sherman, life wasn’t always about honoring the Lord on and off the football field. Sherman shared his testimony last year in a video, “The Making of a Champion,” which also featured the testimonies of Wilson, Okung, Gresham, Chris Maragos, who now plays for the Philadelphia Eagles, and Seto.
In the video that has attracted more than 600,000 views on Youtube, Smith recalled the emptiness he once felt while playing in the NFL – and even during his college years at Miami University of Ohio.
“I was in college and had a very successful career there,” he said. “We went 33-1-1. I was the starting quarterback. People were telling me I was going to get drafted in the NFL in all that stuff. And I just remember walking around campus and just saying, ‘Man, there’s got to be more to it than this’ – a feeling of emptiness. I loved the winning but still there was something missing in my life.”
The former second-round draft pick, who went on to play eight seasons for the Seahawks as a running back, said his life began to change when he tried to console middle linebacker Ken Hutcherson, whose career had ended unexpectedly to a knee injury.
“... I walked in that locker room to comfort him and be a friend to him and he comforted me,” Smith recalled.
“He said to me ... ‘Sherm ... I’m excited to see what God has planned for my life.’ That’s what he told me, ‘I’m a Christian and nothing happens in my life that’s not filtered through God’s hands first.’ And I knew I didn’t have that confidence. I knew if that were me, my world would have fallen apart.”
Smith wanted to know more and soon put his trust in Jesus Christ.
Whether the Seattle Seahawks win or lose on Sunday, Smith said he is confident opportunities will come to share with others how Christ has changed his life.
Smith still remembers the pain of a gut-wrenching Super Bowl defeat when he was a running backs coach for the Tennessee Titans. In 2000, the Titans came up about a yard short of tying the game and going into overtime against the Rams. They lost the game 23-16. Smith recalled numerous opportunities to share how he coped with the loss.
“In Tennessee, people wanted to hear about how’d you deal with it, and winning [the Super Bowl with Seattle] people want to hear the same question,” said Smith, who has coached with the Seattle Seahawks since 2010.
“So I found really a balance between the two – the winning and the losing and having opportunities by God.”
In The Making of a Champion video Sherman shared, “The world we live in today, we get so many people telling you how you should live, what it means to be successful, what you should strive after. And I just think you have to have a desire to want to know why you are here. ... A lot of this other stuff is not as promising as everyone says but God’s Word is solid. The foundation is solid. The promises are solid. The future is solid.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shawn Hendricks is managing editor of Baptist Press.)

1/31/2015 11:30:05 AM by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Baptist college coaches weigh in on ‘deflate-gate’

January 31 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – As sports fans continue to ask questions about underinflated footballs in this year’s AFC championship game, football coaches at Baptist colleges and universities are using the controversy as an opportunity to reflect on integrity in athletics.
“Football is much like the game of life in that there are absolutes,” Louisiana College (LC) head coach Dennis Dunn told Baptist Press (BP). “The Bible is very clear that there are absolutes, but we live in a world now where those lines of absolutes have been extremely smeared in many ways and there’s a lot of gray area in people’s minds.”
In the “deflate-gate” suspicions that the New England Patriots intentionally deflated footballs in their Jan. 18 win over the Indianapolis Colts to advance to the Super Bowl, Dunn said less air pressure in ball could be “important” in a game.
NFL rules stipulate that each team provide the 12 balls it uses on offense and that each ball be inflated to a pressure between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch. Because an underinflated football may be easier to throw and catch, NFL officials are investigating charges that the Patriots intentionally or negligently underinflated their footballs.
In the NCAA’s Division III, where LC went 6-4 in 2014, rigorous ball inspection procedures before games typically prevent under-inflation, Dunn said. But he noted other ways teams sometimes attempt to break the rules.
For example, some teams commit holding infractions in a manner that referees cannot easily see by grabbing inside defenders’ pads, Dunn said. Some teams also intentionally commit “chop blocks,” where one offensive lineman holds a defender up and another blocks him below the knees in violation of the rules.
“Many times [a chop block] gets called, but more times than not it doesn’t because you don’t see it until you see it on film,” Dunn said.
Christian football players should be especially sensitive to breaking rules – even in the heat of competition – because they know God sees all sin, Dunn said.
“Sin is sin,” he said. “If they’re all going to be laid out before the Lord ... then everything that can be judged will be judged.”
Vic Shealy, head football coach at Houston Baptist University, agreed. He said teaching players to cheat on the field can contribute to poor character off the field.
“If we knowingly teach a play that specifically and intentionally violates the rules of play and our players know we are teaching that, we communicate that it’s OK to cheat because winning is more important than doing right,” Shealy told BP. “And then we begin to weaken the life lessons that football can teach young men in our society.”
Shealy’s Huskies, in HBU’s first official season of football competition, went 2-9 in the NCAA’s Division I Football Championship Subdivision during 2014. The football program launched in 2012 with Shealy as its first head coach.
One way some football teams intentionally violate the rules is by having wide receivers make contact with opposing defenders as they run pass routes to create separation that makes catching a pass easier – a maneuver that the rules call offensive pass interference, Shealy said.
But Shealy distinguished between breaking rules and utilizing rules to a team’s full advantage, as when the NFL’s Patriots line up in unusual but legal formations. Shealy also distinguished between cheating and breaking rules as a strategic maneuver with full willingness to accept the consequences, as when an offensive lineman commits holding to keep his quarterback from getting sacked or when a team intentionally commits a delay of game infraction.
Violating the rules is immoral when a coach or player does so in an attempt to gain an unfair advantage without getting caught, Shealy said.
“If we do and say things publicly that don’t honor Christ, then we are missing the mark,” Shealy said. When a Christian football player dominates his opponent but does so without malice and while abiding by the rules, the opponent “sees a snapshot of Christ dwelling in another man’s life.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.)
1/31/2015 11:20:40 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Patriot players put their faith before football

January 30 2015 by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press

The New England Patriots looked all business as they stepped off the airplane in Phoenix for this weekend’s Super Bowl.
Sports commentators noted there weren’t many smiles coming from a team dogged in recent days by allegations involving under-inflated footballs in their American Football Conference (AFC) title victory Jan. 18 against the Indianapolis Colts.
Though the organization is known for its successes and “business-trip” approach to the big game, players on this season’s team shared during Media Day (Jan. 27) how winning is better when kept in proper perspective. On a team from the Northeast, outside the Bible Belt, where there are few evangelical churches, there seems to be a solid group of Patriot players who don’t shy away from sharing about their Christian faith.
Special-teams star Matthew Slater is one of those players. To a crowd of reporters at the US Airways Center, Slater acknowledged the recent controversy and negative media attention was “unfortunate.” But he noted his faith helps him keep a positive outlook.


BP Photo by Shawn Hendricks
Football is "a game that God blesses us with to use ... for His glory and His work," said Duron Harmon, a defensive back for the New England Patriots. Harmon was one of several players who shared about their faith during Super Bowl Media Day (Jan. 27).

Slater said he feels blessed to have played in the National Football League (NFL) for the Patriots the last seven seasons.


“Football is temporary,” he said. “It’s going to be over for all of us at some point. But I think when you look at a relationship with Jesus you understand you’re living for eternity and if you can’t get excited about that, I don’t know what you can get excited about.”


The four-time Pro Bowler, known for his exceptional ability to chase down punt returners, said in the NFL there are a lot of positive stories and “a lot of good men that are living for eternity ... and [we’re] just gonna keep fighting the good fight one step at a time, one day at a time.”


Patriot defensive lineman and 11-year veteran Vince Wilfork made headlines as a “Good Samaritan” Jan. 19 for helping rescue a 38-year-old woman who rolled her Jeep Wrangler in Foxboro, Mass. The accident happened only hours after Wilfork helped the Patriots win the AFC title, the Boston Herald reported.
“You treat people the way you want to be treated,” Wilfork told reporters on Media Day. “I don’t think you should get rewarded for it. I was taught all along to treat people how you would want to be treated and everything would be good. My parents taught me well.
In a separate press conference Jan. 28, Wilfork spoke about his faith and family by crediting both with helping him get to where he is today.
“That’s one of the things that I always lean on when things get rough, when things get tired,” the five-time Pro Bowler said. “... My family and faith, I would take it over football any day. ... Without them, I wouldn’t be who I am and I understand that and I cherish those moments with my family and my faith and my friends. I cherish all of that.”
Devin McCourty, the Patriot’s starting free safety, said striving to be “rooted” in God’s Word and his Christian faith gives him a “great foundation” to lean on daily. Playing in the NFL or in a Super Bowl shouldn’t define a person, he said. McCourty has played for the Patriots the last five seasons and was named to the 2011 Pro Bowl team. This season he’s made 68 tackles and intercepted two passes.
“I don’t really think anything in this game we do defines who we are as people,” he said. “It’s a blessing … It’s a great opportunity ... [to] take advantage of the opportunity but still know who you are as a person.”
McCourty spoke fondly of the team’s new chaplain, Jack Easterby, and said he counsels players to live in a way where people can see “God all over you.”
Duron Harmon, a defensive back for the past two seasons with the Patriots, referred to Christ as his “everything” and his “rock.”
“A lot of people get [their priorities] mixed up, they try to put football first,” Harmon told reporters. “But you gotta remember that football is nothing more than a game. It’s a game that God blesses us with to use ... for His glory and His work.”
Kickoff for the Super Bowl, Sunday, Feb. 1, is slated for 6:30 p.m. Eastern from the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. The game will be telecast on NBC.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shawn Hendricks is managing editor of Baptist Press.)

1/30/2015 2:35:36 PM by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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