Several Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) staff members shared updates related to their respective ministries during this year’s annual meeting. Following are highlights of their reports.
BR photo by Steve Cooke
Jonathan Yarboro, right, shares a story about two college students and a church with messengers to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting. Seth Norris, from left, pastors Perkinsville Baptist Church in Boone, which offered a Chinese language Sunday School class that helped Sophie Cao, second from left, grow in her faith in Christ. As a student at Appalachian State University and being from a foreign country, Sophie had never heard about the Good News of Jesus until fellow student, Savanna Wood, third from left, introduced her to God.
Baptists on Mission
More than 80 people have come to know Christ through the disaster relief ministry of Baptists on Mission (NCBM), also known as North Carolina Baptist Men, in response to hurricanes Matthew, Harvey, Irma and Maria during the past year.
Disaster relief is one of 18 different ministries and partnerships coordinated through NCBM.
“God is using these ministries to touch and change many lives,” said NCBM Executive Director Richard Brunson.
Brunson said long-term recovery efforts continue in eastern North Carolina in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.
Disaster relief volunteers also responded to Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico in the aftermaths of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria respectively, this fall.
Since the end of August, volunteers have prepared thousands of hot meals, completed dozens of recovery jobs, provided hundreds of showers to individuals and completed hundreds of loads of laundry.
These acts of service in Jesus’ name help plant seeds for the gospel, Brunson said.
Church Health and Revitalization
Church revitalization requires sacrifice and a commitment to God’s purposes rather than personal preferences, said Brian Upshaw, who leads the work of the BSC’s Church Health and Revitalization Team.
Through numerous conversations and consultations with associational leaders, pastors and churches across the state during the past two years, Upshaw and other convention leaders have identified several characteristics that exist in churches that have experienced revitalization. They include:
- An outpouring of God’s Spirit through prayer and Bible study.
- Repentance and a return to a love for Jesus Christ
- Courageous leadership that shepherds the church toward God’s mission.
- Disciples who are multiplying by making other disciples.
- Communities that are being transformed by God through the ministry of the local church.
Upshaw shared several videos that included testimonies from pastors, church staff and lay leaders who have seen God bring revitalization to their congregations. Sometimes revitalization has come from within the congregation, but in many instances, revitalization has come through one church partnering or merging with another, Upshaw.
“In most case that we have studied, revitalization comes through God bringing partners together for ministry and mission,” Upshaw said.
The 99 new churches started in North Carolina in 2016 reported more than 4,800 professions of faith, said Mark Gray, team leader of the BSC’s Church Planting Team.
BR photo by Steve Cooke
During the church strengthening update, Sammy Joo, from left, BSC senior consultant for Asian ministries, along with Simon Touprong, pastor of Vietnamese New Hope Baptist Church in Raleigh, and K’Them Nfn, pastor of Highland Christian Church in Asheboro, update messengers about their ministries.
“New churches excel at reaching new people with the gospel,” Gray said.
But church plants also need established churches to help them get started. Those churches are often called a “parent church,” a “mother church” or a “sending church,” Gray said.
People sometimes wonder if becoming a sending church has a negative effect on that congregation, Gray said. Yet citing statistics from the book Viral Churches by Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird, Gray said sending churches grow in worship attendance by 22 percent and see a 77 percent increase in missions giving within five years. Sending churches also have a greater missions focus outside the church, Gray said.
Using an analogy drawn from a parent-child relationship, Gray said church plants may not look the same or do things the same way as the sending church, but they are “worth the investment, energy and effort.”
The call to a relationship with Christ is a call to be on mission with Him, but aligning with Christ’s vision is not always easy, said Neal Eller, team leader of the BSC’s Church Strengthening Team.
Being on mission with Christ “requires us to adjust our lives to God” to allow Him to work through us to accomplish His purposes for His Kingdom, particularly when we are confronted with needs within our communities, Eller said.
Eller said that’s what happened to David Dyer, pastor of Fairplains Baptist Church in North Wilkesboro. Dyer spearheaded an effort to build an 8,000-square-foot park on the church’s property that will be open to children with special needs in the community. The park was dedicated in late October.
“Our goal with this park is not just to have another playground,” Dyer said during a video testimony. “Our goal is to provide a place where, when people come, they see Jesus.”
Sammy Joo, BSC senior consultant for Asian Ministries with the Church Strengthening Team, joined with other pastors and leaders to share how God is moving among the Montagnard population in North Carolina.
Joo’s testimony reflected just one example of the Church Strengthening Team’s mission, which Eller said is to “prepare, train, equip and resource” N.C. Baptists to “make disciples of all nations, starting in North Carolina.”
College students across North Carolina are coming to Christ greater numbers and experiencing life change in several key discipleship indicators, said Jonathan Yarboro, team leader for the BSC Collegiate Partnerships Team.
At the beginning of 2014 when the BSC implemented a new strategy that focused on equipping local churches to reach college students rather than convention-employed campus ministers, only nine of the state’s 148 campuses had a campus ministry. Today, that number is 51, which represents a 467 percent increase in less than four years, Yarboro said.
Yarboro also said that between 2005 and 2013, an average of 133 college students came to faith in Christ each year through N.C. Baptist collegiate ministry. Last year, 310 college students trusted Christ through ministries of N.C. Baptist churches, Yarboro said.
Based on data from LifeWay Christian Resources, N.C. college students have also shown marked growth several key areas, including the number of students who were disciple in groups, trained as leaders, trained in evangelism and sent out as summer missionaries, Yarboro said.
Yarboro encouraged more N.C. Baptist churches to get involved in fulfilling his team’s vision to see no campus left in North Carolina without a church-led, reproducing gospel presence.
“If no campus left is going to be a reality, we need many more churches to get off the sidelines and into the game,” Yarboro said.
Disciple-making is every believer’s responsibility, and Brian Upshaw, team leader of the BSC’s Disciple-making Team, encouraged messengers to embrace a holistic view of disciple-making that includes both evangelism and discipleship.
“Disciple-making involves both sharing the gospel with those who don’t yet know Christ, and helping those who already do know Christ to grow in their relationship with Him, and walk with Him, and learn themselves how to have gospel conversations with others,” Upshaw said. He highlighted several training and equipping opportunities available to N.C. Baptists in 2018. They include: the 2018 Disciple-Making Conference; Scorecard; Inside-Out Sunday School; and Moving from Maintenance to Multiplication, a new training designed to help believers turn everyday conversations to gospel conversations.
Upshaw also encouraged N.C. Baptists to participate in the Gospel Conversations Challenge, a nationwide effort by Southern Baptist leaders to encourage churches and their members to have 1 mission gospel conversations by June 2018. More information is available at gcchallenge.com.
To learn more about upcoming events with the BSC, visit ncbaptist.org/events or check the Opportunity Corner section in the print issue of the Biblical Recorder. The 2018 Disicple-Making Conference is on Tues., Feb. 27. Visit disciplenc.org.