Frank Page calls multi-racial association to renewed faithfulness

July 26 2016 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Churches face challenges. Those challenges arise from the surrounding community and shape the ministry of the local congregation. Each one is different. Some churches care deeply about racial reconciliation because their cities are diverse. Others are concerned about military ministry because an army base is located nearby. Still more wonder what the future of cooperative ministry will look like in their region, due to changing demographics and church attendance trends.

BR photo by Seth Brown
Frank Page called the New South River Baptist Association to renewed faithfulness during their July 19 messengers’ meeting at Sperring Memorial Baptist Church in Fayetteville, N.C.

On July 19 the New South River Baptist Association (NSRBA) held a messenger meeting at Sperring Memorial Baptist Church in Fayetteville, N.C., and in that location several issues converged. The group crowded into the sanctuary, representing an association of more than 100 churches in a racially diverse community surrounding the largest military base in the world.
Frank Page, president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, delivered the associational meeting’s sermon, calling churches to renew their faithfulness to God and hear His word to them.
“God is saying, ‘I am calling you back to my lordship,’” Page said, as he preached from Revelation 2:1-7. “He is in the middle of what’s happening in your church. … He is walking in our midst, and He is doing what the Lord does – to reprove, to convict, to convert. And, yes, He is still saving men, women, boys and girls – even now!”

Racial reconciliation

In an interview with the Biblical Recorder before the meeting, Sperring Memorial’s pastor, James Fields Jr., recounted the unique history of the church. Thirty years ago the church was a predominantly white congregation, he said. Today it’s 90 percent black. Rarely do churches survive such a transition.
“This is a church for the community,” Fields said.
In light of the recent deadly shootings involving black men and law enforcement officials, racial reconciliation has been a concern.
“We prayed for America to wake up and hear God,” he said. “Vengeance is His. He will repay. There is never a time when we should take up arms against one of our brothers or sisters, no matter what a person does. They have to answer to God.
“I teach my church that God says, ‘I will fight your battles.’ The only fight that you’re supposed fight is the fight of faith.”
Brian Kinlaw, pastor of Southview Baptist Church in Hope Mills, N.C., and president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Board of Directors, commented on the significance of the meeting, “Our convention is far more diverse than many of us realize.
Tonight we got to see there’s not simply one race represented among Southern Baptist churches in this region, across N.C. and across this convention. … the unity that we have centered in Christ moves beyond the differences that we have culturally or racially. We can show that in a tangible way in a gathering like this.”
Randy White, NSRBA’s associational missionary, led the group of church representatives in a moving time of intercessory prayer during the service. Huddled in small clusters, attendees prayed through a portion of Isaiah chapter six, asking for a renewed vision of God and pleading for peace and unity in the midst of racial unrest.
Page said before the meeting began, “It’s time for churches to realize they need to be stronger than ever before in community involvement. … Our churches need to be at the forefront with a prophetic voice and community based ministry that makes a difference.”

Military ministry

Fort Bragg, an army installation that hosts more than 50,000 active duty personnel, sits near the northern border of the NSRBA. Many ministries in the area are heavily influenced by the presence of such a high concentration of military service men and women. Fields said Sperring Memorial’s congregation is 80 percent active and retired military.
“It’s like pastoring a parade, because they come and they go,” said Page, who previously pastored in the area.
Fields holds a simple philosophy for ministering next door to Fort Bragg. “I give them the Word of God, and I love them,” he said. “That’s all I got, and that’s enough.”
When asked what churches with military focused ministries can do to serve the community, Page said, “You establish relationships as quickly and deeply as you can. There are huge stresses on the family. So, churches in any military community … need to have family ministry.”

Local cooperation

As the packed sanctuary emptied after the meeting, Kinlaw emphasized the work of local associations.
“Our cooperative work together is more crucial than ever,” he said. “As the challenges are growing, as the needs are increasing, we can do more together than we can alone.”
The Recorder asked Page if he thought the role of local associations is changing. Page answered, “Well, I don’t think it is. I know it is. This is happening not just in N.C., but around the nation.
“Some associations have unfortunately failed in their understanding that they exist to serve the church and not vice versa. There are associations however that do understand they exist for the church, and they provide a wonderful and powerful ministry.”
Page emphasized near the end of his sermon, “Friends, we are in a serious, serious situation. Our country is a mess. Black people fighting white people. White people fighting black people. … Everybody’s pointing fingers. We’re in a mess, and inside the church we’re doing no better. … It’s time to get serious about the gospel.”

7/26/2016 8:19:48 AM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

New video series explores ‘Mission of God’

July 26 2016 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

A new video-based Bible study produced by the Peoples Next Door N.C. ministry of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) aims to provide a biblical and theological foundation for reaching the nations around the world and right here at home.

The Mission of God is a free, six-session study that explores God’s desire to see the nations of the world come to faith in Christ and the mandate He gives to believers to go and reach them. The series is available for streaming or download at
“God’s heart is for us to reach the nations of the world with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ,” said Chuck Register, the BSC’s executive leader for church planting and missions partnerships who helped develop the series. “Across the grand narrative of scripture, God has one primary purpose – to bring glory unto Himself as the nations are reached with the gospel.”
In the video series, Mike Griffin, assistant professor of cross-cultural studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University, walks through the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, showing God’s desire to see all of the earth’s people groups come to faith in Jesus Christ.
Each video is approximately 30- to 40-minutes long and includes both biblical teaching and thought-provoking discussion and reflection questions.
The series is designed so that it can be used in a number of ways, Register said.
The series could be used as a church-wide Bible study during Sunday or Wednesday night services, or it could be used by a Sunday School class or small group. Individuals may also utilize the series for personal study.
Pastors should also find the material beneficial for personal study or as an aid in sermon preparation for messages related to God’s heart for the nations. Additional resources related to the Mission of God series, including a corresponding small group leader guide and student guides, will be released later this summer.
Register said many individuals from countries and lands that have little or no access to the gospel are now living right here in North Carolina. And while the Great Commission mandates that believers take the gospel to the ends of the earth, Register said God’s people have a tremendous opportunity to reach people here.
“What we’ve discovered in North Carolina is that the nations have now come to us,” Register said.
“As we think about God’s heart for the nations, we want to reach them wherever we find them.”
Peoples Next Door N.C. is a ministry designed to do just that – equip churches to discover, engage and disciple individuals from the unreached people groups in North Carolina.
The Mission of God video series is just one of several resources offered by Peoples Next Door N.C.
Other resources include a manual to assist individuals and churches to discover and engage people groups in their cities, articles and email newsletters that offer practical tips on engaging individuals from other backgrounds and beliefs and a prayer map of North Carolina that spotlights unreached people groups who live in different parts of the state. To learn more about Peoples Next Door N.C., visit
“Seeing and understanding God’s heart for the nations that is revealed throughout the pages of Scripture should encourage and motivate us to be on mission for Him,” Register said.

7/26/2016 8:16:18 AM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Motion well taken: Connecting Robert’s Rules to the Great Commission

July 26 2016 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

An unnamed gentleman sat low in his chair at the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in St. Louis, Mo. His event program tumbled to the floor as the churchman’s arms hung limp by his side. Soft snores communicated to nearby messengers, “The business meeting is now in session.”

Twitter photo
Amy Whitfield, from left, Craig Culbreth, Ronnie Floyd, Barry McCarty and Adam Greenway rely on Robert’s Rules of Order to keep the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting running smoothly.

The man’s sleepy demeanor symbolizes the way many Southern Baptists feel about the denomination’s deliberative process: “Can’t we get on with more exciting things, like the Great Commission?”
The Biblical Recorder interviewed four of the SBC’s current parliamentarians to see if the allegedly boring yearly procedures – along with the infamous guidebook, Robert’s Rules of Order – are a vital part of Southern Baptist life, or just dead weight.
“Not all of it is exciting,” admitted SBC Chief Parliamentarian Barry McCarty. “Some of it seems rather routine, but the fact is the annual meeting is what enables the SBC to function.
“Southern Baptists for years have fielded the largest missionary force in the world.”
The yearly parliamentary session is the “vital connection” between the churches that fund and direct missionary efforts and the entities that enable them.

“Robert’s Rules of Order helps the Southern Baptist Convention do its Great Commission work,” said McCarty.

Economic polity

Not only does parliamentary procedure have the ability to harness the energy and resources of nearly 50,000 SBC churches across the nation, said the parliamentarians, guidelines like Robert’s Rules keep the convention moving forward while providing guardrails against both tyranny and chaos.
“There will be some set of rules that govern every meeting,” McCarty said. “Even if you have a dominant chairman who says, ‘Forget the bylaws, these are my laws.’”
Organizations, especially large ones, need an objective set of standards that protect the right of the majority to make decisions and the right of the minority to be heard.
“I love the fact that our denomination is not a hierarchical denomination,” said Amy Whitfield, who was appointed in 2016 as the SBC’s first female parliamentarian. “It’s the churches that are making decisions … That is my favorite thing about how our deliberative body works.”
Adam Greenway, also appointed in 2016 as part of a newly recruited parliamentary team, echoed Whitfield’s sentiment, “We’re committed to a robust and vibrant congregationalism. … The genius of the SBC is the fact that any messenger can go to any microphone and make a motion.” Greenway developed his parliamentary skills with the Kentucky Baptist Convention for more than six years.
Craig Culbreth said, “It allows everybody’s voice to be heard, even when they’re not in the room.”
Culbreth has served as an SBC parliamentarian since 2010, but has also worked with the Florida Baptist Convention for many years, along with other state conventions and associations.
At least one well-known Baptist leader challenged the democratic ideal during the 2016 annual meeting. Paul Pressler, one of the architects of the Conservative Resurgence, raised a point of order accusing the chair of unfairly denying him the opportunity to speak to a resolution under consideration.
The chair of the meeting, then-president Ronnie Floyd, ruled the point of order “not well taken,” which means the accusation was denied and no rules violation had occurred. Greenway explained the ruling, “The system is fair … There is an electronic microphone ordering box. It is a blind system. … It is purely based on the order in which they register, and depending upon the order of precedence in what they are attempting to do, in terms of an amendment, motion or point of order.”
He added, “I would reject any sense in which there is bias or preferential treatment.”
McCarty agreed, “Every messenger has the same right as every other messenger. That’s a good thing for people to see.”
Greenway said, “Even if you don’t agree with the decisions, there should be a strong affirmation that things are done with integrity, objectivity and clarity.”
In fact, the integrity of the process was the hot button issue when the SBC first hired McCarty as a professional parliamentarian in 1986. The Conservative Resurgence drew its fair share of critics, and a number of lawsuits were filed claiming that certain organizational procedures fell outside the bounds of the convention’s governing documents. McCarty has advised SBC leaders and messengers for 30 years so that each parliamentary maneuver follows proper guidelines and takes place in accordance with the bylaws.

Fair and orderly

Culbreth pointed to the high-profile SBC presidential election between Steve Gaines, J.D. Greear and David Crosby at the 2016 annual meeting as another example of a fair system at work. The initial vote gave way to a runoff between the top two candidates, Gaines and Greear. After the second round of votes were cast, officials were still unable to declare a winner due to a number of ballots that were incorrectly marked or submitted, preventing either candidate from achieving the requisite majority (more than half).
Debate sprang up immediately in the convention hall and on social media about the tallying procedure.
Parliamentarians and denominational legal counsel pointed to the convention’s bylaws and parliamentary procedure as the basis for how the ballots were counted. Questions about the tallies were quickly overshadowed when Greear withdrew before a third vote was taken, allowing Gaines to receive the election by acclamation.
Despite the controversy, Culbreth thought it was good for messengers to see an objective set of guidelines in action. “Thankfully there was a fair system,” he said, noting how tight the runoff vote had been. “There weren’t just good ole’ boys in the back room that said, ‘Hey, he’s close enough, we’ll give it to him.’”
The SBC annual meeting is one of the largest deliberative bodies in the world. That makes it particularly susceptible to disorder, especially because of its bottom-up polity.
“It’d be a nightmare not to have the best possible set of rules of order to conduct meetings that are that large and that complicated,” McCarty said.
He referred to Robert’s Rules as “the sound principles of a fair and orderly meeting that have long existed among English speaking peoples.”
Greenway was quick to point out, “Robert’s Rules of Order is not the Bible. It’s not on the same level of authority as the Bible, but it certainly does provide a useful service in helping us do what we do … allowing God’s people to make the decisions about our work.”
He also emphasized that “Parliamentarians don’t rule on anything. Our role is purely an advisory role. … It is the messengers’ convention, and those of us who are parliamentarians are servants of the convention.”

Roll call

Anecdotal evidence suggests that newer churches are trending away from using Robert’s Rules in their business meetings, even if they are congregational in polity.
Culbreth agreed, “The typical Baptist church doesn’t have business meetings like they used to.” This pattern could produce a future where a growing number of Baptist messengers to the annual meeting are unfamiliar with the decision making process.
The SBC parliamentarians suggested that messengers familiarize themselves with parliamentary procedure and convention bylaws.
“Engagement is about showing up,” said Whitfield, “and if you’re going to show up, you have to know what you’re showing up for. You need to educate yourself. It’s essential to staying engaged in the process.”
Though they advocated for greater knowledge and involvement, none of the interviewed parliamentarians said it was necessary to memorize Robert’s Rules. The book runs nearly 700 pages. They did, however, name a few simpler resources.
The first was McCarty’s book, A Parliamentary Guide for Church Leaders. Greenway said it should be “mandatory reading” for Southern Baptist messengers to the annual meeting. He also pointed to the “tremendous work” accomplished by the SBC Executive Committee in making the convention’s governing documents available online and through the mobile app.
Culbreth offers a three-hour class to local associations entitled, “How to Survive a Business Meeting.”
He is also available to messengers during the annual meeting to answer questions about motions and other procedures.
“I did more of that this year than I’ve done in the last five years combined,” Culbreth said, “which is a good thing because it means people are interested in trying to find out how it works.”
Whitfield said, “Knowing the process helps us to participate in it and trust it.”
Only time will tell whether messengers will become more involved in one of the largest deliberative assemblies in the world or whether the repetitious motions, reports and points of order will lull them to sleep.
The SBC parliamentarians hope to see more engagement, and a closer recognition of how Robert’s Rules is a vital tool that mobilizes people and resources for the sake of the Great Commission.  

7/26/2016 8:01:27 AM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

Fancy Finds eases transition for beloved strangers

July 26 2016 by Carol Layton, Baptist Children’s Homes

Twenty-year-old Charles Pollard knew nothing about pastoring a church. So when called to a church on its last leg in a dusty Arizona town in the late 1950s, he built the congregation by sharing the sweetest name he knew with the roughest and toughest people he could find.

BCH photo
Barbara and Charles Pollard consult with Baptist Children’s Homes staff who conducted their downsizing sale – Yvetta Smith, east regional director for North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry and Renee Gregory, director of Fancy Finds.

“I visited the prisons and hospitals, and every Tuesday and Thursday, after the family went to bed, I visited the bars,” he said. “I built that congregation from the bars mostly. After they joined the church, I’d go out with them and teach them to witness.”
Now, at 80 years of age, Charles still remembers one convert’s unique gospel message: “Brother, do you wanna die and go to hell and fry like a sausage?”
But building a church at age 20 in a rugged western town wasn’t even Charles’ first ministry challenge. Prior to that, he began a mission to migrant workers in Arizona’s Rainbow Valley. There, he confronted child abuse, murder, alcoholism, starvation and inhumane living conditions. He had successes there, but soon realized he needed ministry training. “The migrant workers were treated terribly. Emotionally, I just couldn’t take it anymore.”
Charles and Barbara Pollard paid some dues those early years, attending college, pastoring a church, and raising two little girls in a 20-foot trailer. “I wanted more than anything in the world to be a good daddy, but I could hardly feed them. I told God, ‘These girls are yours.’ He quickly spoke back, ‘Are you sure? Are you sure they are mine?’”
Charles was learning to fully trust God with the lives of his family. Soon, he saw an ad in the paper for a plumber. He knew nothing about plumbing either – but got the job and began a trade that would see him and Barbara through college and supplement their income for many years.
The two little Pollard girls, belonging to God, did not starve. Now grandmothers themselves, they have added four grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren to the Pollard family. Many in this family serve God in unique ways all over the world – a fact that brings Charles and Barbara “no greater joy.”
Pollard eventually acquired a doctorate in ministry, but still has a warm place in his heart for the seat-of-his-pants training the Lord provided as he preached and studied in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Georgia and Texas. “Everywhere I went God performed miracles. I never went anywhere that I did not see the sweet tender hand of God.”  
Barbara Pollard also witnesses that sweet tender hand. “I see our lives as circular – with God’s hand tying the end of things back to their beginnings – showing us that His plans are purposeful and good.”
Strong Baptist connections have regularly entwined the Pollards’ circle of life. While Barbara’s Baptist heritage traces back to the 19th century, Charles became a Baptist just to get a date. “Her daddy wouldn’t let me date her unless I went to church. So I became a Baptist.”
Now, after 16 years in North Carolina, the Pollards feel called to return to New Mexico where they began their lives together – a move requiring significant downsizing. Naturally, a Baptist ministry stepped into the circle.
Barbara remembers, “Our friends at First Baptist Church Cary knew we were planning a yard sale and told us about Fancy Finds Estate Sale Service. It was a natural for us.”
Fancy Finds is a ministry outreach of Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH) where 100 percent of the proceeds from a variety of services enrich the lives of children, aging adults and families served through BCH.
While Charles and Barbara both feel God’s hand in the move, they differ in the details of downsizing. Charles is ecstatic. “It thrills me to let go of stuff. I was born in poverty and raised with nothing. It feels more comfortable to be living with less.”
Barbara’s gentle smile doesn’t wane even as she admits, “It breaks my heart. I looked at my crystal and remembered entertaining every place Charles pastored and now I’m not going to be doing that anymore. But it’s a good time to be done with it and I love that Fancy Finds is taking care of things; I would be talking people out of buying stuff!”
During the Pollard’s downsizing sale, a man they had not seen in many years stopped by to say hello and goodbye. “You’ve always been in my heart,” he told Charles. He showed Barbara a picture of his son – a young man soon headed for the mission field. Barbara last saw him when he was eight years old and one of her piano students.
“It blesses me to think of this young man going to be a missionary. This kind of thing happens all the time. People come up to Charles and tell him of the impact he had on their lives.”
Barbara thinks of herself and Charles as “beloved strangers” – having traveled from church to church throughout six states. “I believe the travel is over. We need to draw in our boundaries a bit.”
Charles is ready for a new assignment out West. “The Baptists have been dying in the city where we’ll live and I look forward to helping them grow again. Our house is a block from the church. I hope they’ll give me opportunity to share the Jesus that I love.” Barbara smiles – knowing the chances are pretty good for her beloved stranger.
Visit or call Renee Gregory at (704) 909-8223.

7/26/2016 7:52:07 AM by Carol Layton, Baptist Children’s Homes | with 0 comments

Boot Camp explores biblical, practical foundations for worship

July 26 2016 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

Pastor Phillip Reynolds has seen firsthand how transforming worship can transform a church. With his congregation at First Baptist Church of Hickory divided over worship styles and uncertain about the future direction of the church, Reynolds reached out to Kenny Lamm, senior worship consultant with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).

“One of our staff pastors had attended the regional Worship Leader Boot Camp conducted right here at our church,” Reynolds said. “Acting as host of the event, this staff pastor had participated in the boot camp and knew it was just what we needed as a church body.”
In early 2015, Lamm began meeting with First Baptist Hickory’s leadership team. A few months later, he led about 200 members of the congregation through some of the same material that’s presented in one of Lamm’s Worship Leader Boot Camps.
“That is the evening that got us to where we thought we were to where God wanted us to be,” Reynolds said.
Lamm hopes that other congregations can see God move in a similar way in churches across the state following the next Worship Leader Boot Camp, scheduled for Aug. 26-27 at Peninsula Baptist Church in Mooresville, just outside of Charlotte. The event is designed to equip worship leaders and pastors with a biblical foundation for worship, while providing practical tools and resources for churches to experience worship renewal.
“When people leave our worship experiences, we don’t want them talking about the great music or the great worship team,” Lamm said. “We want them talking about how they had a transforming encounter with the God of this universe.”
In addition to the teaching and training sessions, the boot camp includes times of worship for attendees throughout the weekend. The boot camp explores a variety of issues that impact corporate worship today and offers practical, hands-on training. All attendees at the August boot camp will receive a revised edition of Lamm’s worship leader handbook, which includes updated resources and access to other exclusive content.  
Lamm said the boot camp will emphasize moving congregations from passive spectators to active participants in worship and seeking God’s direction for worship approaches and practices in one’s specific local church context.
“It’s a great time to dream God-sized visions for your worship ministry,” Lamm said.
Early-bird registration for the event is available through Aug. 8 at a cost of $25 per person. After Aug. 8, the registration fee increases to $30. Walk-up registration on the day of the event is $40. More information about the boot camp, including online registration, is available at
Reynolds said the instruction and training offered at Worship Leader Boot Camp is valuable for worship leaders and pastors.  
“We are very thankful to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina or making this available to churches,” Reynolds said. “It has been an exciting experience for our church.”
Want to go?

  • What: Worship Leader Boot Camp
  • When: Friday and Saturday, Aug. 26-27
  • Where: Peninsula Baptist Church, Mooresville
  • Cost: $25 per person through Aug. 8. $30 after Aug. 8. $40 at the door.
  • Info:
7/26/2016 7:44:22 AM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

CLI finds niche in prison ministry

July 25 2016 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

When Kathleen Skaar moved to Raleigh more than 20 years ago, she and her husband, Anders, did the “proper thing:” joined a church. Both admit they did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ at the time.

Kathleen Skaar

In April 1995 Skaar attended a church-sponsored women’s retreat. The speaker invited everyone that did not know Jesus personally to pray and commit their life to Him. Skaar gave her life to Christ that day. “My life changed pretty dramatically,” she said. “I began reading the Bible and Christian books. Every time I had a question, God would bring just the right book at just the right time. So I started thinking, wouldn’t it be great if people had the advantage of reading these books?”
The seeds of a unique ministry sprouted out of that question. Christian Library International (CLI) began very small as Skaar, founder and executive director of the ministry, looked for ways to make Bible study materials accessible to fellow Christians. She founded CLI as a way to share books with patrons in a local Young Men’s Christian Association in 1996. For several years she gathered books from church groups and individuals, and made them available to individuals and Bible study groups.
Something happened in 2002 that began to redirect the ministry’s focus. “We had some extra books, and we didn’t know what we were going to do with them, so we decided to see if the prisons could use them,” Skaar explained.
Prison chaplains reacted immediately with much interest. “Everyone we talked to said, ‘You have no idea what an answer to prayer you are,’” said Skaar. “They don’t have funds for these materials, so this was a great blessing to them.”
CLI sent an increasing number of books to prison chaplains, but their staff began wondering what was happening to the books. So they began stamping each book with contact information.
“We started getting all these letters from inmates saying how God was working through a particular book or how He was working in the prison,” Skaar said. “That was a great encouragement.”  
Considering Henry Blackaby’s core statement in his book, Experiencing God, Skaar began to look “where God is working and join Him.” Applying that principle she realized God was working in the prisons.
“The Holy Spirit was working in ways far above average, so in 2006 we decided that we are a prison ministry, and we would put all of our resources in working with men and women in prisons.” Now the full strength of the ministry targets those who are incarcerated in the 5,000 prisons, jails and detention centers in the United States. CLI is currently sending materials to 1,450 correctional facilities. Some of the units have chaplains, but most do not have the resources to hire a chaplain.
CLI first operated out of the Skaar’s home, then moved to the facilities of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Raleigh. In July the ministry moved into an office building in North Raleigh. The new facility provides adequate office space, a shipping department and room for volunteers. Letters pour into the CLI office every day from prisoners across the country. Each inmate receives a hand-written letter from a ministry volunteer that includes a personal response to Bible-related questions and prayer needs.
A bulletin board in the new office is packed with letters telling the stories of more than 600 inmates who trusted Christ as their Savior last year. One prisoner said, “letters to a prisoner are gold.” Inmates know that CLI will answer every letter. No one is unimportant.
As each person is contacted Skaar said, “We can connect them to a Bible study and start discipling them.”
A video tells the story of an inmate who had a bad relationship with his son, but was able to lead his own son to Christ. “It was only because of the discipleship program that I could do that,” the inmate explained.  
“God’s Word, no matter what form, will always accomplish the purpose for which it was sent. It never returns void,” added Skaar.
CLI is supported by churches, individuals, foundations and publishers. Partners listed on their website include the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Family Christian Stores, Lifeway Christian Stores and Prison Fellowship.
Many churches support CLI through book drives, financial gifts and volunteer support. The Summit Church, Providence Baptist Church and Bay Leaf Baptist Church are some of the ministry’s strong local partners. A church in the Atlanta area gives their largest support for prison outreach.
Will Gatling, associate pastor for missions at Bay Leaf, said the church supports CLI with a monetary gift each year and through church wide collections of books, tapes and materials annually. One recent book drive yielded 3,000 books.
“We’ve had a number of people that volunteer to serve at packing parties and other ways to help CLI,” he said. “It has been a great opportunity for our people to be involved in local ministry.”
Gatling served on the original CLI board of directors about 15 years ago. He said when the organization began doing prison ministry exclusively, “It’s like the world opened up to them and the ministry began to flourish. They’ve found a niche in ministry that I don’t know if anyone else does.”
Anders Skaar is a former executive recruiter who now serves as CLI’s communications director. He joined the ministry in 2002. They are members of Crossroads Fellowship. Kathleen Skaar has a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Florida, master’s degree in business administration from Meredith College and a master of divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
CLI welcomes gently used Bibles, Christian books, CDs and DVDs from churches and individuals. Contact 4724 Hargrove Rd., Ste. 100, Raleigh, NC 27616, or (919) 790-6987. Visit the website:

7/25/2016 4:37:27 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Fire destroys historic Mount Holly church

July 25 2016 by Liz Tablazon, BR staff writer

Another North Carolina congregation is grieving after a fire destroyed the sanctuary of First Baptist Church of Mount Holly July 21.
The Mount Holly Fire Department attempted to access the fire origin but were pulled from the building when flames grew. According to the department, the roof collapsed into the sanctuary, and crews worked to contain the fire and prevent it from reaching other parts of the church campus. Firefighters stayed at the location overnight to monitor the sanctuary. No injuries were reported.
The church held a worship service July 24 at Mount Holly’s Grand Hall.
“We covet the prayers of the community and Christian brothers and sisters of all stripes, and we are overwhelmed at all those that have already sent words of support to us,” Pastor Kendell Cameron said in a statement to the Biblical Recorder. “We are especially thankful for those that have offered to share facilities with us.”
An investigation is ongoing to determine the fire’s cause and assess total damage to the campus. The sanctuary was built in 1924 and renovated in 1989. Church leaders have said they plan to rebuild the sanctuary. A cause for the fire is expected this week.
Cameron said, “We love our beautiful sanctuary, but we know ultimately that it is not First Baptist Church. First Baptist Church is the people who come to worship and who come to serve Christ together. Our hearts are indeed broken, but we will trust in the Savior who is our Rock and Redeemer to carry us through. We trust fully, and, like Abraham, we believe the Lord will provide.”
A fire July 17 destroyed Cherry Grove Baptist Church’s sanctuary in Cerro Gordo.

7/25/2016 4:30:29 PM by Liz Tablazon, BR staff writer | with 0 comments

N.C. churches respond to tragedies, racial tension

July 25 2016 by BR staff

Two black men from Louisiana and Minnesota were shot to death by police officers in early July, followed immediately by retaliatory attacks in Texas and Louisiana on law enforcement officers that killed eight and wounded many more. The series of back-to-back tragedies left the nation in shock, wondering if racial healing is possible.
The Biblical Recorder reached out to a number of North Carolina churches to discover what practical steps they have taken to help reconcile racial differences in their congregations and communities. Here are their responses:

Byron Greene


Byron Greene, senior pastor, Highland Baptist Church, Raleigh

Highland responded to the recent shootings by immediately posting passages of scripture (Matthew 5:9, 38) on social media that convey reconciliation and peace.
My message on Sunday first acknowledged the loss of all innocent life due to the shootings and the growing grief caused by the violence. I intentionally recognized our having several members of the law enforcement community, along with their families, that serve the public. I revealed their personal fear and confusion.
The heart of the morning message acknowledged the decline of society being partly due to our treatment of the church and our not being the church as instructed. We left with a call to commitment. Galatians 5:22-26 was our lead passage.
In recent days I have reached out to one of our area African-American congregations and area law enforcement officials desiring to come together for prayer and fellowship.


Gerald Hodges


Gerald Hodges, lead pastor, Westwood Baptist Church, Roxboro

Like most Southern Baptist churches in our community, Westwood is primarily a Caucasian congregation, although we do have some members who are African-American. We also have several law enforcement officers who are active members of our congregation, including our city’s Chief of Police. And the neighborhood adjacent to Westwood is a mobile home community made up predominantly of African-American families. So the events in Minnesota, Louisiana and Dallas hit close to home for many in our church family.  
We did not have to scramble to plan a response to that difficult week. God had already planned it for us. I did not need to pick out a special passage for the sermon. We are currently working our way through the book of Isaiah. In Isaiah 32, the text that Sunday, we saw that before a society can be fundamentally transformed, the people living in that society must be inwardly transformed. No human government or special interest group can bring about this change. One of our elders led in a special time of prayer for the families of all those who had lost their lives in Minnesota, Louisiana and Texas, and for those communities.   
For many years our church has worked to improve our relationship with our neighbors, believing that our call to make disciples begins right at our back door by building personal relationships and sharing the gospel with the individuals and families who live closest to us.  
In addition to our church’s efforts, officers from the Person County Sheriff’s Department organized a special community-wide prayer service. It was held at the county office building and was well attended by many local law enforcement officers, Highway Patrol, emergency responders and local citizens. Next week our Police Department will partner with a local African-American congregation to host a “Community Cookout & Conversation.” We look forward to participating in that event and pray for God to use it to bring reconciliation and healing to our community. We are praying that “the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever” (Isaiah 32:17).  

Kelly Bullard


Kelly Bullard, senior pastor, Temple Baptist Church, Fayetteville

On the Sunday morning following the events in Louisiana and Minnesota we joined together with several churches in our community for a morning prayer gathering, prior to our individual worship services. This was a sweet and emotional time of prayer and fellowship with our brothers and sisters, across ethnic and denominational lines. During our Sunday morning worship service we were privileged to have Fayetteville City Police Chief Harold Medlock worship with us. He shared briefly about the work he and his officers are doing in our city, and how our congregation can pray for and support them. We also recognized officers, fire fighters and other first responders that were present in our service. We had a time of focused prayer for these men and women, as well as their families.
In addition, I am always amazed of God’s timing as it relates to human affairs and my sermon series. I have been preaching through Ephesians this summer and I found myself on July 10 in Ephesians 3:1-12, dealing with the Paul’s explanation of the mystery of the gospel and its accessibility to both Jew and Gentile. Paul’s words in Ephesians 2-3 remind us that all barriers of division between God and man, as well as man and man, have been brought down through Jesus Christ. I challenged our congregation to live missional lives for Jesus, building bridges to all peoples, regardless of race or socio-economic status.

Ed Tablazon


Ed Tablazon, pastor, Triad Journey Church, Winston-Salem

As a pastor of an Asian church, I am beginning to realize that when there are issues like these, we tend to do nothing. To some degree we think that this is not our issue. But the presence of second-generation immigrants both in our homes and in our church lets us see these issues in new ways. Honestly, this was the first Sunday ever that I addressed this issue from the pulpit. When things like this happen, I usually say a couple of words and pray for it, but last Sunday was a bit different. The following were thoughts I said last Sunday:
How should we respond to the painful events of the past week?

  1. Pray! Pray for healing, healing for our nation; healing for those that have been wounded in the shooting; emotional healing for those who lost loved ones and friends and others who are hurting; these events affect hundreds if not thousands of people in many ways.
  2. Know! Many of us Asians have no idea how deep and complex this issue is. From a biblical perspective, this is the impact of sin: prejudice. Sin causes us to see what is visible while the Lord sees the heart (1 Samuel 16:7), and we are all guilty of this sin. Every human being is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) regardless of the color of his skin, economic background or race. We, the first generation Asian immigrants, have little idea about the roots of racial discrimination. We need to know, or our silence and indifference make us guilty as well!
  3. Engage! Rather than quickly giving our opinion on the matter, let us begin to engage others in conversation to broaden our horizon, begin to understand the issues involved, and biblically address effective solutions for God’s glory and our good.
7/25/2016 4:14:01 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments

Financial struggle segues to church planting

July 25 2016 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

High Pointe Baptist Church was struggling financially when Juan Sanchez arrived as pastor just over 10 years ago.

Photo courtesy of Cedar Pointe Baptist Church
Members of Cedar Pointe Baptist Church, a church plant of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, gather on their launch Sunday, March 6.

Sanchez and High Pointe members decided that if God allowed the church to grow “we would no longer build auditorium space, but instead we would plant churches.”
The Austin church committed to reaching beyond its walls to ensure they were not keeping all the money for themselves and were modeling by faith sacrificial giving, Sanchez told the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
Their first church planting venture grew out of the handful of Hispanics to whom Sanchez was preaching each Sunday before the morning service. They hired someone to lead the group, and it became an independent Spanish church.
As High Pointe continued to grow, the church realized a large number of members were driving from Elgin, Cedar Park and Leander, all of which were a half-hour’s drive from the church.
“If we had people coming from those distances all the way to High Pointe, then clearly there was a need for gospel churches there,” Sanchez said. “So in order to care for our members well and plant gospel churches where our members felt there wasn’t one they could attend, we just started long-term deciding we need to plant churches where our people are coming from so they don’t have to drive so far.”
The leadership developed a church planting strategy that includes bringing someone on staff in a pastoral assistant role to learn who they are, what they’re about, how they’re structured, how they govern and what their philosophy of ministry is – “just getting to know our DNA,” Sanchez said.
In the second year, the church planting resident develops a core team of members who will agree to help start a new congregation. The team studies what it means to be a church, studies a statement of faith and church covenant, studies how to live together as a church, and studies how to develop a culture of evangelism and discipleship.

Juan Sanchez

“It’s really just equipping them to understand what this might look like and the commitments that are going to be expected of them,” Sanchez said.
In year three, they launch. In 2011, High Pointe launched Covenant Life Fellowship in Elgin, sending 30-35 people on a core team, and that church was self-sustaining by its second year.
For the church members who were driving from northwest Austin – mainly Cedar Park and Leander – High Pointe turned to Ben Wright, who had served on staff for several years as an associate pastor.
“Ben already knew our DNA, so we jumped right to year two, which was developing the core team,” Sanchez said. “The next step was planting the church. They were planted in February (2016), had their first public meetings in early March, and the Lord has really blessed them already.”
Wright, now pastor of Cedar Pointe Baptist Church in Cedar Park, said the population in that area is growing significantly as people move from around the world to Austin’s technology sector. “Church planting hasn’t even begun to keep up with that need,” he said.
The nations are coming to northwest Austin, Wright told the TEXAN, and “there’s an opportunity to reach people with the gospel who will have ways to spread that gospel back to countries that are very difficult to reach.”
Wright said he is grateful for High Pointe’s leaders “taking the risk of sending out a bunch of solid, faithful people for the sake of the gospel.” High Pointe isn’t “a rich church by any means, and I have tremendous respect for Juan leading his church to act in faith for a cause infinitely bigger than his own church’s interests.”
Sanchez compared church planting to getting married and having children. People want to wait until they’re ready, but they’ll never be ready, he said.
“If you’re waiting until you’re ready to plant a church, you’ll never plant a church,” Sanchez said. “It does require faith. It requires wisdom. You don’t want to do this foolishly. You have to count the cost.”
Part of counting the cost is financial, he said, and another part is letting go of valuable church members to start new growth.
“If we were to wait until we thought we were ready financially and leadership-wise, we would never do it,” Sanchez said. “So we have to pray about it, the church has to come to an agreement, and by faith we have to step out and do the Lord’s work.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is a writer based in Nashville, Tenn. This article first appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

7/25/2016 8:06:45 AM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Trump promises change; Baptists remain divided

July 25 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Donald Trump told Americans he would solve their country’s problems in accepting the Republican Party’s nomination for president July 21 but appeared unable to bridge the divide over his candidacy among Southern Baptists and other evangelical Christians.

Screen capture from

Trump closed the GOP convention in Cleveland with a nearly 75-minute speech in which he promised to restore law and order to the United States and to repair the “rigged” political system. “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it,” the New York businessman and reality TV star told Republican delegates and a national viewing audience.
“I am your voice,” Trump told viewers more than once. “I am with you. I will fight for you, and I will win for you.”
Trump, however, failed to mention abortion, traditional marriage, freedom of conscience and additional moral, social issues important to Southern Baptists and other evangelicals.
Trump’s omissions came after Republicans adopted a comprehensively pro-life, strongly conservative platform regarding moral and religious freedom issues on the first day of their convention. His speech also came less than a week after he named a social conservative, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, as his running mate.
The split among some Southern Baptist leaders on Trump continued to manifest itself before and after his acceptance speech. Some Southern Baptists and other evangelicals have supported Trump in the primaries or plan to vote for him in the general election as an alternative to Clinton.
Others, many using the hashtag #NeverTrump, say they are refusing to vote for either major party candidate. They have declared that their opposition to Trump will continue through the general election because of what they describe as his untrustworthiness on moral and religious liberty issues and offensive rhetoric.
Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and a Trump supporter, said on Twitter after the GOP nominee’s speech, “Tonight the world witnessed the @realDonaldTrump I’ve come to know. Strong. Decisive. Compassionate.”
Jeffress expressed optimism about what Southern Baptists and others will do by the November election.
“I believe you are seeing evangelical Christians coalescing around Donald Trump – primarily because of the influence the next president will have on the selection” of Supreme Court justices, Jeffress told Baptist Press in written comments.
Sen. Ted Cruz’s speech Wednesday in which he refused to endorse Trump but urged voters to follow their conscience “crystalized this binary choice we have in November between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton,” Jeffress said. “If Christians are going to do what Cruz suggested and ‘not stay home in November’ and also oppose the radical policies of Hillary Clinton, what choice do they have except to vote for Trump?”
Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, a Baptist school in Lynchburg, Va., described Trump as a “true patriot” in a convention speech prior to Trump’s.
A vote for Trump is a vote for “conservative, pro-life justices to the Supreme Court,” Falwell told delegates. A conservative’s decision either not to vote or to vote for a third-party candidate is “a de facto vote” for socially liberal presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Falwell said.
Other Southern Baptists, however, said after Trump’s speech nothing had changed for them – they still would not vote for the Republican nominee in spite of Clinton’s advocacy for abortion rights and other liberal policies.
“I have heard nothing tonight that would persuade me to change my mind & vote 4 @realDonaldTrump,” Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, tweeted. “The saddest political situation in my life.”
Denny Burk, the new president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said #NeverTrump should not be finished.
“The party belongs to him, and the GOP as we have known it is officially dead,” Burk wrote in a blog post July 21.
“If ever the country needed its statesmen to be men of courage, it is right now. ... I ask you not to make your peace with the convention’s outcome. You should actively oppose the candidate through the general election,” Burk wrote.
During his speech, Trump expressed gratitude to the “evangelical and religious community,” saying, “I’ll tell you what, the support they’ve given me – and I’m not sure I totally deserve it – has been so amazing and has had such a big reason for me being here tonight.
“They have much to contribute to our politics, yet our laws prevent you from speaking your minds from your own pulpits,” he said, referring to the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 law that bars churches and other tax-exempt organizations from endorsing political candidates.
“I am going to work very hard to repeal that language and protect free speech for all Americans,” Trump told the GOP audience.
Describing himself as “the law-and-order candidate,” Trump said things will change when he is sworn in as president Jan. 20. “[S]afety will be restored” and “Americans will finally wake up in a country where the laws of the United States are enforced,” he said.
In contrast to Clinton, he promised “to build a great border wall to stop illegal immigration, to stop the gangs and the violence, and to stop the drugs from pouring into our communities.”
Trump also called for suspension of immigration “from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism until such time as proven vetting mechanisms have been put in place.”
The Republican nominee also promised:

  • To replace the late conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia with “a person of similar views, principles and judicial philosophies.”
  • To repeal “Obamacare,” the 2010 health care law.
  • To rebuild the military.
  • To lift limitations on energy production.
  • The enforcement of all trade violations by other countries.

Another Thursday speaker, PayPal cofounder and Trump supporter Peter Thiel, told delegates, “I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all I am proud to be an American.”
Thiel also seemed to minimize the controversy over the Obama administration’s May directive requiring schools to permit transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms of their gender identity instead of their biological sex. He said, “Now we are told that the great debate is about who gets to use which bathroom. This is a distraction from our real problems. Who cares?”

7/25/2016 7:58:32 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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