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Themes begin to emerge in Vision forums
Traci DeVette Griggs, BSC Communications
March 28, 2011
9 MIN READ TIME

Themes begin to emerge in Vision forums

Themes begin to emerge in Vision forums
Traci DeVette Griggs, BSC Communications
March 28, 2011

North Carolina Baptists need to work to reclaim the younger

generation; churches need encouragement and training to reach out to internationals;

and while church planting is arguably a priority for North Carolina Baptists,

there is concern that not enough emphasis is being placed on shoring up

existing churches. So far, in the first five of 14 Vision Fulfillment forums,

these are the main themes emerging. However as expected, a different set of

priorities surface each week as the committee moves from region to region.

The Vision Fulfillment (VF) forums are designed to allow the

VF Committee and Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC)

staff to hear the heart and desires of North Carolina Baptists. During the

meetings, the committee makes a brief introduction and asks a few questions to

get the conversation going, but the goal is to hear from pastors and church

leaders about how the Convention is doing in its job of serving churches.

Younger generations

The forums have been a good source of education for people

who might not know what the BSC can offer

churches. Tadd Grandstaff, pastor of Pine Ridge Church in Haw River and member

of the VF Committee, is a younger generation pastor who has seen value in these

sessions. “I think it’s important to be part of these forums because I have

been someone that has felt disengaged from the (Convention) in the past.”

Grandstaff said he’s learned more in the last few weeks than

he has in the last few years about how things operate in the Convention.

“I really believe in the changes that the (Convention) is

willing to make for the future,” Grandstaff said. “They realize that there

has been a disconnect for a lot of people and they’re proactively trying to

bridge that gap.”

Speaking at the Forum in Elizabeth

City, Mark Purdy with Fellowship

Baptist Church

said reaching younger Baptists may require that both sides work to find common

ground. “It’s a change in mindset in a younger generation and how we get them

to come back to where we’re at, or us change to go with them. They don’t want

to sit in meetings and listen to committee reports. They want to go out and put

their hands on something and see results.”

Reaching internationals

The importance of reaching out to internationals is a topic

that often emerges in the forums. Corinth

Baptist Church

in Elizabeth City

received assistance from the Convention to launch an outreach to an Asian

population in their community. Lee Johnson with Corinth

said the outreach is yielding fruit.

“Six or seven months ago, we started an Asian outreach and

we contacted the State Convention. Ralph Garay has been a big help. He hooked

us up with some folks that helped us get it started. And we’ve had one person

actually surrender his life to Jesus Christ, and they found three believers,

and we look at a baptism in May here of these Chinese believers.”

Greg Barefoot, pastor of Oakdale

Baptist Church

in Statesville, shared his

congregation’s efforts to establish ministry to Hispanics, not as a separate

ministry but as part of the congregation’s existing ministries. He would like

to see the Convention assisting other churches in these kinds of efforts. “We

spend a lot of time and effort planting churches to reach other people groups,

and I’m not against that, but we need to invest more in incorporating other

people groups into existing churches.”

Phil Addison, pastor of Stony

Point Baptist Church,

spoke at the forum in Winston-Salem

and suggested that some current Convention ministries seem to compete with one

another.

“When I was a church planter it was ‘target group, target

group, target group’ but then I go to multicultural evangelism conferences and

hear, ‘everybody, everybody, everybody.’ How does the Convention really want to

do it?” Addison also shared concerns about church

planting efforts for both ethnic church plants and Anglo church plants appearing

to be driven by numbers more than by disciple making. “It’s got to be healthy

churches begetting healthy churches. And that is not what’s taking place in the

Southern Baptist Convention, much less in my community,” Addison

said.

Strengthening churches

During the VF Forum in Elizabeth

City, Boyce Porter, pastor of Geneva

Baptist Church

in Camden, emphasized the

importance of strengthening existing churches. “All around me, I see churches

that are dying. They’re churches with great histories. They’re churches that

support and give to missions through the Cooperative Program, and I’ve been

placed in one of those churches. I went there four years ago. I think we had 18

people, and praise the Lord we’re running 60 and 70 now. And God has seen fit

to send us some children and some youth. But, I see churches all around me that

are dying. And most of the pastors are bi-vocational and they don’t have the

time required of them. And I just wonder if there’s not some way that, as a

Convention, we can develop teams, similar to new church plant teams, to go to

these churches, to come alongside the pastor and to work to reach out into the

field around them.”

BSC photo by Traci DeVette Griggs

Rick Speas, left, pastor of Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, Phil Ortego, pastor of Scotts Hill Baptist Church in Wilmington, and Bobby Blanton, pastor of Lake Norman Baptist Church, Huntersville, and president of the Board of Directors for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, chat at the first Vision Fulfillment Forum Feb. 10.

Speaking at the Winston-Salem

forum, John Small, a member of Parkway

Baptist Church

in Greensboro who also serves as

Convention legal counsel said, “If we’re going to talk about strengthening

existing churches, the only way to do that is to strengthen the families that

make up the churches.” Small continued that his work puts him in contact with

individuals from numerous religious and non-religious backgrounds on a daily

basis. As a result, he believes that some of these groups are actually doing

more to strengthen families than we are as Southern Baptists. He concluded his

remarks by saying, “These groups are doing it (strengthening families) without

Jesus Christ. We can do it and should be doing it with Jesus Christ.”

Miscellaneous

Those speaking at the VF Forums have had the opportunity to

voice their concerns and feedback directly to those people who are in positions

to make decisions on how Cooperative Program dollars are spent in North

Carolina. Participating in most of the forums are the

pastors who have been elected as officers of

the Convention (see www.ncbaptist.org/vf

for committee members) as well as top-level staff, including Milton Hollifield,

executive director-treasurer and BSC

executive leaders. The forums are designed to discuss how well the Convention

is implementing The Seven Pillars vision statement, but discussion can take any

direction.

When the forums are held in the extreme east or west of our

state, there are invariably comments on a perception that these parts of the

state are largely ignored by the BSC. Gerald

Morris, director of missions for Tuckaseigee Association, said he feels small churches

in the Convention are not given enough consideration, especially in the far

Western part of the state. “North Carolina

does not stop at Asheville. I think

often the small churches are forgotten. In our association, we have five to six

full-time pastors out of 36 pastors in our association.” The rest are

bi-vocational. Morris said he feels that only large churches are considered

successful churches.

VF Committee Chairman Allan Blume said, “I guarantee you

that none of the staff and Convention officers

here tonight think that.” Blume suggested that much of the reputation of the BSC

may be 10 to 15 years old.

“This is a new day — a new Convention. It’s an exciting

day,” Blume said.

Lynn Sasser, executive leader of congregational services

responded that the BSC’s emphasis is on

church health and discipleship and not church growth. Approximately 90 percent

of North Carolina churches have

fewer than 400 in attendance in Sunday School.

Rob Roberts, associational missionary at Chowan Baptist

Association said, “I just wanted to say, on behalf of this association, one of

the things I was told when I came here two and a half years ago, is that once

you cross 95, you don’t see anything from the Baptist State Convention. And

I’ve discovered that not to be the case. I discovered that it’s kind of a

reciprocal thing; we make an effort, y’all make an effort. And everything that

I have asked the State Convention to participate in, I mean you guys have

always been there to help, and I just want to say thank you on behalf of our

association for the willingness of you guys to give us the resources and to

provide that expertise as well.”

In response to a question at the Franklin Forum on March 24

about requirements for new church planters, Bryon Lamb, pastor at LifeSpring

Community Church in Franklin said, “They do give you an assessment (before you

are qualified as a church planter) and I have never been drilled like that

before. I got challenged and I challenged them back. I got trained and didn’t

have to pay anything for it.”

LifeSpring was planted in December 2010. All church planters

must sign off on the Baptist Faith and Message and receive funding and

oversight by a church planting consultant for two years after inception. Lamb

appreciates the help. “We are forever indebted to the Cooperative Program,” he

said.

There are nine more Vision Fulfillment Forums on the

schedule. You can find one nearest to you by going to www.ncbaptist.org/vf. If

you are unable to attend a forum but would like to have an opportunity to provide

feedback, please contact members of the committee or send an email to [email protected].

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