The Jan. 2 edition of the Biblical Recorder (BR) outlines news highlights that defined 2015. The stories, chosen by BR staff, communicate the events that affected the lives of North Carolina Baptists and others around the world. The list includes newsworthy items from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), such as the organization of a new team at the annual meeting to serve churches across the state that will be dedicated to church health and revitalization.
Just over 1,500 messengers to the BSC annual meeting in November approved a $29.5 million budget for 2016. This budget includes a 3 percent increase to the Cooperative Program (CP), moving the total allotment from 37 to 40 percent ($11.8 million).
For the past 10 years, N.C. Baptists had increased the money allocated to CP by a half-percent each year. Convention leaders announced a new church health and revitalization team as well as Peoples Next Door N.C. to help churches discover, engage and share Christ with internationals living in their communities. They also moved one of their staff members into a strategy coordinator position to address the rising Hispanic population in the state. The Pastors’ Conference prior to the annual meeting focused on dependence on God’s Word as did President Timmy Blair’s sermon during the meeting. Lee Pigg, senior pastor of Hopewell Baptist Church in Monroe, delivered the convention sermon. “If we are not careful, we will focus more on building our churches than making disciples in His Kingdom,” he cautioned. “Jesus said in Matthew chapter 16 that it is His job to build the church, not yours.”
Pigg highlighted the need for leaders to make disciples within their church and beyond. Milton A. Hollifield Jr. also said making disciples was important. “The local church is the key for us as a convention of churches to be able to impact lostness through disciple-making,” he said.
In an effort to impact lostness across the state, N.C. Baptists have been mapping the eight largest population centers – Asheville, Hickory, Triad, Triangle, Fayetteville, Charlotte-Metro, Greenville, and Wilmington. “The mapping project is an opportunity for us to find out how much the world has moved to North Carolina, where they live, and begin to accept responsibility that the Great Commission has always started in Jerusalem and Judea,” said Steve Hardy, a BSC contract worker in the church planting and missions partnerships group. The research is revealing unreached people groups (UPG) and points of interest – any kind of ethnic establishment, such as a fabric shop, a local business, a grocery store, a mosque or an apartment complex – where ministry can be planned to reach the UPG. A People Groups Discovery and Engagement Workshop offered in the spring helped attendees learn how to conduct research on PeopleGroups.info and engage individuals through culturally appropriate questions.
Numbers compiled from Annual Church Profile reports revealed more than a 10 percent drop in baptism numbers from 2013 to 2014 for N.C. Baptist churches. The total number of believers baptized in 2014 is 18,111. That number is down from the 20,324 reported the previous year. The top 10 churches account for 19.8 percent of all N.C. baptisms with a total of 3,585.
While not exclusive to 2015, the BSC’s One Story conference in February and a training event in May highlighted discipleship. “We have undoubtedly gained momentum in the areas of disciple-making and church strengthening over the last year,” Milton A. Hollifield Jr. said at May’s board meeting. “We are leading the way in an important conversation that is about more than growing the institution of the church, but about the people of the church growing to become disciples who will share the gospel with others and make disciples.”
In April Baptists on Mission (or North Carolina Baptist Men) hosted its annual meeting. The theme focused on brokenness and healing. “[Jesus] meets their momentary need, and the next day, they come looking for more,” said David Nasser, senior vice president for spiritual development at Liberty University. “That’s when they run into the undeniable, loving, honest gospel.” Nasser, along with two other plenary speakers, urged about 1,400 participants to reflect on the grace God has shown them despite their own brokenness, and then to consider how they might reach out to others with the gospel.
As part of the BSC collegiate partnerships, research revealed that more than 120 (out of 148) schools had no gospel presence on their campuses. The BSC is focusing on the top 20 campuses where a strategic focus needs to be. Around 70 percent of all college students in the state are on community college campuses. Collegiate Partnerships wants to help local churches reach all of the campuses for Christ.
For the May BSC board meeting, directors and guests celebrated the Hollifield Hall dedication at Caraway Conference Center. Named for Wyndolyn Royster Hollifield, the auditorium cost $1.3 million and is in front of Caraway’s main lodging and administration facility. There was also the completion in 2014 of two housing buildings (named the Jim and Nancy Neil Jacumin Retreat Lodges), a classroom building and a multi-purpose building in the Awesome Children’s Outdoor Recreation and Nature Study section, and in 2011, the completion of a pastor retreat. These additions are part of the New Beginnings capital campaign.
Fruitland Baptist Bible College dedicated its new family apartments in September. The four-unit building complex was built in memory of Nancy Nell Jacumin, who died in 2014. The school also announced the establishment of the H.E. Wyatt Scholarship Fund, designed to provide financial assistance to students preparing for ministry.