Friday
May082015

Noah, Emma top Social Security’s list of most popular baby names for 2014

Emma and Noah are America’s most popular baby names for 2014. Emma returns to the top spot she held in 2008 and hangs out in first place with Noah. There are a few new names in the top 10 this year ­– James (a former No. 1 from the ’40s and ’50s) on the blue side and Charlotte on the pink side, her first time ever in the top 10. It makes you wonder if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge got a sneak peak at the list, since naming their baby girl Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte (which lands at No. 10) Elizabeth (which fell from the top 10 to No. 14) Diana (No. 297) of Cambridge.

Below are the top 10 boys and girls names for 2014.

Boys:  

1) Noah

2) Liam           

3) Mason

4) Jacob

5) William

6) Ethan

7) Michael

8) Alexander

9) James

10) Daniel

Girls:

­1) Emma

2) Olivia

3) Sophia

4) Isabella

5) Ava

6) Mia

7) Emily

8) Abigail

9) Madison

10) Charlotte 

The agency began compiling the baby names list in 1997, with names dating back to 1880. At the time of a child’s birth, parents supply the name to the agency when applying for a child’s Social Security card, thus making Social Security America’s source for the most popular baby names. 

Each year, the list reveals the effect of pop culture on naming trends. This year’s winners for biggest jump in popularity in the Top 1,000 are Aranza and Bode.

Aranza jumped an amazing 3,625 spots on the girls’ side to number 607, from number 4,232 in 2013. The Latin soap opera “Siempre Mi Amore” was aired on Univision from 2013 to 2015. The show featured a young lead character named Aranza, and obviously had its effect on naming trends last year.

Bode raced ahead 645 spots, from number 1,428 in 2013 to number 783 in 2014. This might have had something to do with the Winter Olympics in early 2014, where Bode Miller continued his outstanding alpine skiing career by collecting his sixth Olympic medal. Not only is he the most successful male American alpine skier of all time, he is considered by many to be an American hero.

The second fastest riser for boys was Axl, a nod to both rock legend Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses and Axl Jack Duhamel, son of Stacy Ann “Fergie” Ferguson and Josh Duhamel. For girls, Montserrat, the lead character in a very popular Latin soap opera, was number two, joined by another Monserrat (spelled just one letter differently) at number three.

Visit socialsecurity.gov to view the entire list.

Wednesday
May062015

Native Americans built association's strength

EDITOR'S NOTE: Baptist Association Emphasis is May 17-23 on the 2015 SBC Calendar.

The original Burnt Swamp Baptist Church hosted meetings that led to the formation of the Burnt Swamp Baptist Association in 1881. The association moved the structure, which has its original floor joists, to the current association office property in Pembroke, N.C. Photo by Alan Oxendine.Jim Burton
SBCLIFE

PEMBROKE, N.C. (BP) – In 1881, Burnt Swamp Baptist Association, an association of Native American Baptist churches, was established. From its humble beginnings of three churches in Robeson County, N.C. – two of which still exist – the association now includes 70 churches in 10 North Carolina counties and two neighboring states. 

Coharie, Haliwa-Saponi, Lumbee, Pee Dee, Tuscarora and Waccamaw Siouan make up the multi-tribal association's membership, which was distinctively Baptist from its beginning. 

"As far as we can tell, it's the first organization of an association set up by Indians for Indians," said Mike Cummings, a Lumbee who, since 1988, has led what may be Southern Baptists' first affinity-based association. 

Associational strength and community gave the southeastern North Carolina tribes perseverance to battle harsh realities in a segregated South. 

At its first meeting, the association appointed a Domestic Board to evangelize Native Americans and established Indian education as a core concern of its churches. The association aggressively raised money to develop elementary schools, often planting churches in the same communities where schools were built. The association also engaged in a larger effort to raise funds for a high school for Indians. 

"This was the only place we could come; (we) couldn't go to black or white meetings," Cummings said. "We were on the fringe of North Carolina Baptist life. 

"Burnt Swamp was us. That's ours. Association pride has been strong because of that factor for one thing."

Early on, Indians could vote and share the rights of other citizens, but in 1835 the North Carolina Constitutional Convention removed those rights for "free persons of color," including Native Americans. According to "The History of Burnt Swamp Baptist Association" by Tony Brewington, the association's director of missions from 1969 to 1986, this had a devastating effect on Indian communities and contributed to an extended resentment between the races. 

Mike Cummings has served full-time with the multi-tribal Burnt Swamp Baptist Association since 1988. His wife Quae (pronounced kway) has served the association in administration support since 1979. Photo by Alan Oxendine."In every community where there are Indians, they have suffered through discrimination just like blacks have," Cummings said. "I was a 10th-grader (before) Indians could go to white schools. I felt the brunt of that rigid prejudice against Indians."

In 1921, Burnt Swamp Baptist Association sought admittance into the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. From the outset, associational leaders had supported and promoted BSCNC programs, and the two groups often received and sent representatives to each other's meetings, but they had no formal relationship. 

After languishing during the 1920s, the association's petition was greatly assisted when Mary Livermore, an Anglo who worked with Native Americans, wrote a long plea that included the following: 

"They feel so isolated, and are losing their young people especially because they had asked the convention before and been refused, and the Indians resent such rebuffs." 

When the state convention approved the membership petition in 1929, Burnt Swamp received a "bittersweet" response, as Brewington described it: the association was accepted as an associate member of the convention, meaning its churches participate in BSCNC programs but their messengers could not vote. 

Though disappointed, associational leaders responded cordially to the decision. Soon, relationships with the broader Southern Baptist family began to strengthen, first through joint missions endeavors with Woman's Missionary Union and the SBC's Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board), then with the seminaries through Seminary Extension. 

A new day 

In 1999, 70 years after being initially accepted as a BSCNC associate member, Cummings was elected as the convention's president, the first Native American to hold the office, serving two and a half terms. 

"That did us a lot of good to see ourselves recognized by this convention," Cummings said of his tenure. "We were basically fringe participants for years because it was like we were going to somebody else's meeting." 

Not only did Cummings preside over the annual meetings in his role as president, he later served as BSCNC interim executive director before Milton Hollifield began his tenure in 2006. 

Cummings held those positions "not because of his ethnicity, but rather because of his ability as a leader," Hollifield said. 

"Although Mike Cummings has great pride in his Native American ethnicity and rich Indian heritage, North Carolina Baptist people looked beyond that positive attribute and recognized his love for God, his wisdom, his commitment to Kingdom building, his love for this state convention, and they believed that Brother Mike would lead with a spirit of integrity and fairness toward all ethnic and language groups in North Carolina," Hollifield said. 

The churches of Burnt Swamp Baptist Association take pride in the national leadership of former SBC President Johnny Hunt, who is a Lumbee Indian. Timmy Chavis, pastor of Bear Swamp Baptist Church in Pembroke, is chairman of the SBC Executive Committee's Multi-Ethnic Advisory Council. 

Cummings and Chavis know that Native Americans have some advantages when propagating the Gospel among their own people. As Chavis puts it, "Indigenous people need to be reached with indigenous people." 

Burnt Swamp Baptist Association is "guided by its vision to be churches in fellowship and on mission together with God," according to its website. To that end, the association began engaging in short-term mission projects in 1986 when they helped a Native American church in New Mexico with construction. The next year, a team went to South Dakota. 

Those ventures "launched us into understanding the impact we can make," Cummings said. Soon, that impact reached overseas. Mannie Mintac, a Filipino, married a Lumbee girl and, in 1993, he showed up in Cummings' office and shared the call of God in his life. "God wants me to go back and plant churches in my home," Mintac told Cummings, regarding a remote region of the Philippines with no evangelical church. 

Since 1997 when Burnt Swamp volunteers first went to the Philippines, they have built 10 churches and a school. Routinely, the association sends 10 missions teams annually to provide a variety of services, including medical missions. 

Meanwhile, they continue to minister to North America's native people, with Cummings noting, "We see our identity with these people." 

After 400 years of Anglos evangelizing Native Americans, only 10 percent have become Christians, said Emerson Falls, who serves as a Native American specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and is chairman of the SBC Fellowship of Native American Christians. 

Burnt Swamp is a story of the success of home missions as Indians were once the objects of home missions, Cummings said. A subsidy from the then-Home Mission Board to support the director of missions ended when Cummings started in 1988. 

Now, there's a new message to the North American Mission Board, which replaced HMB and two other SBC entities in 1997. 

"This association is not part of your mission field," Cummings said. "It's a part of your missions force." 

With an estimated 75 percent of Native Americans living in urban areas, Burnt Swamp is looking to turn its "missions force" to church planting there. 

Though forward-looking, the association continues a tradition that started in its earliest days. Its churches gather four times a year on the fifth Saturday of a month for preaching and singing at their Union Meeting. 

"Those guys preach like it's nobody's business," Cummings said of the Indian pastors. "Indians like to sing and get happy when they worship. You would think we were Pentecostals." 

Passionate preaching is a reflection of their theology. 

"This is a community that takes the demands of the Gospel literally," Cummings said. "Someone has to agonize in response to Gospel preaching. Almost every church here believes you have to have a come-to-Jesus meeting to be saved." 

Jim Burton is a photojournalist living in Cumming, Ga. This article first appeared in SBCLIFE, journal of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee.

Wednesday
May062015

Association's 'holy discontent' spurs renewal

EDITOR'S NOTE: Baptist Association Emphasis is May 17-23 on the 2015 SBC Calendar.

David Roach
Baptist Press

BARDSTOWN, Ky. (BP) – Ten years ago, the Nelson Baptist Association was "unhealthy and unhelpful," as pastor Matthew Spandler-Davison puts it. The central Kentucky association's 40 churches could only muster 50-60 messengers for annual meetings, and it was a strain to populate the body's 15 committees. 

But a group of local pastors began meeting, praying and dreaming about a more vibrant form of local cooperation. A decade later, 600-700 people attend the Nelson Association's annual meetings and the average church's yearly giving to the association has increased by nearly $1,000.

So what happened? 

"We just threw everything out and said, we're going to almost start over, re-launch this association," Spandler-Davison, pastor of Redeemer Fellowship Church in Bardstown, Ky., told Baptist Press. "Let's get rid of all the committees, all the leadership structure – everything's up for grabs. ... Let's instead just evaluate who our churches are, who wants to associate with each other and why they want to associate." 

An intensive study of the association's structure and the needs of its churches led in 2009 to the adoption of new bylaws, a new vision statement and a new structure consisting of three teams focused on ministries where churches saw the greatest need for local cooperation. 

The church evangelism team focuses on helping churches partner to share the Gospel and plant churches locally, across North America and internationally. The church equipping team focuses on building healthy churches through training and consultation. The church and community ministries team focuses on meeting needs locally through a crisis pregnancy center, a biblical counseling ministry and homeless ministries. 

In addition to forming ministry teams, the association streamlined its administrative ministries. 

"We said, we can do those things far better together as an association of 42 churches (now 45) than we ever could do individually," Spandler-Davison said. "... There was very little opposition because no one looked back and said, 'This old structure is worth fighting for.'" 

Stan Lowery, the director of missions who led the Nelson association through its transition, said one problem under the old structure was that about 100 people took turns serving in a host of associational positions that were not meeting churches' needs. A lack of enthusiasm among churches contributed to lackluster giving and a constant struggle to meet the budget. 

Change was sparked by a confluence of "holy discontent" and leaders willing to dialogue about a better way to impact the community, Lowery said.  

"There was kind of a holy discontent," Lowery told BP. "We were not satisfied and were looking for ways to do it better to have a bigger Kingdom impact." 

In addition to consulting with Nelson association leaders, Lowery sought advice from other associations and national ministries that help associations. The resultant recommendations for change garnered support from a diverse array of the association's leaders – in terms of age, church size and socioeconomic level. 

The recommendations also had an economic impact. 

Between 2005 and 2013, the average church's annual gift to the Nelson association increased from $1,822 to $2,727, with the total amount received from churches increasing 68 percent during the same period. The association experienced a 12.5 percent increase in its total number of churches over that time. 

Johnny Rumbough, a team leader with the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders, told BP the Nelson association represents a trend in associations across the Southern Baptist Convention. 

Directors of missions are talking "in a fresh, new way," said Rumbough, executive director of missions for the Lexington Baptist Association in South Carolina. "Most associations understand the importance of being relevant and realize that offering the programs we've offered for a long, long time is no longer the conversation we need to have. Instead, it is exactly what the Nelson association is (talking about) – being relevant to the churches, because our reason for existence is to serve those churches." 

Associations, Rumbough said, should position themselves alongside state conventions, the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board as one of four Baptist entities that help churches engage in missions. Among the tasks of associations he noted: to help congregations partner to plant churches through NAMB's Send Cities initiative and adopt unengaged, unreached people groups worldwide through the IMB. 

"A lot of DOM friends are deciding like me that we're missionaries," Rumbough said. "You've just got to get out of the office and get into the mission field and do what missionaries do." 

Associations seeking to be missional and serve churches more effectively may contact the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders to connect with other associations that can help. In addition, the Lexington association offers online training for associational leaders across the country. Currently, some 25 DOMs are involved. 

Based on the Nelson association's experience, Spandler-Davison said "the purpose of associationalism is still something worth contending for" – even in associations that aren't fulfilling that purpose well. He urged pastors who may be discouraged about their associations not to disengage, but to get involved. 

"A strong local association of baptistic churches is more critical now than ever and more viable now," Spandler-Davison said. 

Young pastors are involved, he said, in "affinity-driven networks" uniting people with similar theological convictions, "but what we don't have is relational, organic networks, which I think we're all craving – guys that can really speak into my life from a different perspective, but where we can really partner together on the ground. That's where associationalism steps in and fills that gap." 

David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.

Friday
May012015

Kentucky Derby only one day of track chaplain's year

Chris Wong prays with an employee at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) - As a chaplain, Chris Wong readily talks to people he's never met. At Churchill Downs, that can get you on TV.

After last year's Kentucky Derby, Wong struck up a conversation with a woman on the grounds. She turned out to be the wife of Steven Coburn, owner of the winning horse California Chrome, and they happened to be in the background of NBC's post-race interview.

Wong, a master of divinity student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, immediately received a text message to let him know he was on national television.

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Monday
Apr272015

April 27 tornado one year later: ‘Praising God amid the storms of life’

SHERWOOD – It was a year ago – on April 27 – when the storm came. A tornado half a mile wide tore through central Arkansas, killing more than a dozen people.

For April and Daniel Smith, it was the beginning of a personal storm. The couple lost both their sons – Cameron and Tyler – when the tornado ripped through the Vilonia area at 7:27 p.m.

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