Friday
Sep122014

The Cooperative Program: Learn about it, see what it does during October

NASHVILLE (BP) – October is "Cooperative Program Emphasis Month" on the Southern Baptist Convention's calendar when churches are challenged to study the Cooperative Program – to learn about it, see what it does, pray about their part – perhaps using the "1% Challenge" video (http://vimeo.com/68820362) as a catalyst.

The 1% CP Challenge "is a succinct way to do something more – an understandable way to say, 'Yeah, we can do that,'" said Frank S. Page, SBC Executive Committee president. "It is understandable, is easily acted upon, and can be done without shifting major sections of a church's finances."

In 2012, 7 percent of cooperating Southern Baptist churches reported they had accepted the 1% CP Challenge in support of missions and ministries led by their state conventions and the SBC, according to a study by LifeWay Research for the Executive Committee, called the 2012 Cooperative Program Omnibus Survey.

In their 2012 Annual Church Profile (ACP) reports, 3,192 churches – 6.93 percent of Southern Baptist churches – showed an increase in the percentage of their missions giving through the Cooperative Program by at least 1 percent, confirming the accuracy of the LifeWay Research survey.

One tangible result of this is that the average percentage of undesignated gifts given through the Cooperative Program by Southern Baptist moved up by an encouraging one-tenth of 1 percent from the previous year (5.41 to 5.50 percent).

After many years of decline in average CP gifts from churches of about 0.20 percentage points per year, the decline leveled off in 2011 and 2012 (5.407 percent and 5.414 percent, respectively), rising slightly to last year's 5.50 percent.

The Executive Committee commissioned another survey this spring, asking church leaders the same set of questions they were asked in 2012. An additional 8 percent of pastors indicated they plan to lead their churches to accept the 1% CP Challenge in the coming year. If this trend continues, millions of additional dollars will become available for missions and ministry entities to fulfill the tasks Southern Baptists have assigned to them.

"The Cooperative Program is not a reservoir that we hold; it's money that we send through the CP to missions and ministries," Page said. "It's exciting to see new pastors, younger pastors, older pastors, ethnic pastors, Anglo pastors, say, 'You know, it's time to put more emphasis on the Cooperative Program.'"

The Cooperative Program fuels Southern Baptists' global vision for reaching the nations with the Gospel while sustaining a strong home base of ministry, reflecting the driving passion of Southern Baptists since the SBC was formed.

If every cooperating Southern Baptist church raised its contributions through the Cooperative Program by 1 percent, the resultant CP gifts would increase by almost nearly $100 million.

This would unleash the state conventions to make a greater impact on lostness in their respective states. It would give the North American Mission Board greater flexibility in its Send North America church planting and evangelism initiatives. It would allow the International Mission Board to send and maintain a larger number of missionaries on the field. It would allow SBC seminaries to explore new delivery systems for ministerial training and graduate theological education to make an even greater impact on training pastors and church leaders for effective service. It would assist the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission in its continuing mission to engage the broader culture with the claims of Christ and a biblical worldview.

Since 1925, more than $5.75 billion has been contributed through the national portion of the Cooperative Program to help fuel Southern Baptist missions and ministry causes of international missions, North American missions, theological education and moral advocacy. This is more than the combined cumulative totals of the Lottie Moon Offering since 1888 and the Annie Armstrong Offering since 1933.

Simply put, the 1% CP Challenge has the potential to be the rising tide that raises all the causes that Southern Baptist cooperating churches support. 

The Cooperative Program, as Southern Baptists' unified plan of giving, remains the fuel that drives the missions and ministries of the convention.

Friday
Sep052014

Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions Offering: Ark. Baptists give time, talent, treasure 

Disaster relief workers minister to those in crisis.EACH YEAR in September, Arkansas Baptist churches focus on Arkansas missions by giving to the Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions Offering, which the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) oversees and uses to fund Arkansas missions efforts.

The Dixie Jackson offering funds many ministries in Arkansas, including community missions, disaster relief and church planting, among many others.

But along with making monetary donations, Arkansas Baptists can give both their time and their talents to the cause of Christ. This year’s theme – Whatever I Have, Whatever He Wants: My Time, My Treasure, My Talents – is indicative of this fact.

Community missions 

Every year, Arkansas youth join together for a weekend, in-state mission trip. 

Travis McCormick, ABSC missions team member, explained that many come from small churches and may not be able to afford to travel for a week or two across the country or around the world. But they still have something to give. For one weekend, they can offer just what this year’s theme suggests – whatever they have, whatever God wants: their time, their treasure, their talents. 

While those receiving the ministry are blessed, participants doing the ministry are impacted as well.

One participant was Savannah Breyfogle. As a teenager, Breyfogle moved with her family from San Diego to Springdale. Thrown out of her comfort zone, she was slow to settle in to her new home. 

A little more than a year after moving to Arkansas, Breyfogle began to feel the nudge toward missions. She joined her youth group a few months later for a Connect weekend in Camden. There, she learned about Kaleo, which in turn presented an opportunity for her to serve as a summer missions intern in Fort Smith. 

“I now realized that if I hadn’t had to give up my home, my family and everyone who had been so close to me, I don’t believe I would be able to fully serve my Lord as I do today. I am uprooted, and not held back, and am ready to go wherever God wants me to,” said Breyfogle.

Another community missions event is the Acts 1:8 One Day Mission Trip – and it’s through this event that 90-year-old Lucille Curnutte, of Morse Mill Baptist Church in Dittmer, Mo., was able to serve despite her age, physical disabilities and fixed income. 

When Curnutte’s church decided to participate in the event, which was taking place in Harrison, she stepped out in obedience and chose to go along. God used for His glory Curnutte’s obedience, photography skills and ability to pray. 

Curnutte said God used her willingness to go to open her eyes to a world of ministry possibilities. 

“Dixie Jackson is not just about Arkansans opening their wallets once a year to financially support state missions,” said Breck Freeman, ABSC missions team member. “It’s about crossing cultural boundaries to spread the gospel. It’s about hearts being drawn to missions. And it’s about God using His people, regardless of age, to accomplish his purposes.”

Disaster relief

In a time of crisis, the sight of yellow shirts and hats can bring immediate comfort. Arkansas Baptist disaster relief (DR) teams work around the state and across the country to assist other Southern Baptist disaster relief teams and the American Red Cross. Because of their faithfulness, the Salvation Army is now also asking for their assistance. 

Disaster relief crews are made up of trained volunteers equipped to handle a variety of needs during times of crisis. Disaster relief offers feeding, recovery, communications, shower and mud out units, sending teams into areas where typically only law enforcement or the Red Cross can enter. 

Freeman explained that the need is greater than just monetary gifts – though those are also needed.  

“The DR volunteer force has long been made up of retirees,” he said. “Unfortunately, as retirement age increases, the number of volunteers available to join the program decreases. In an effort to meet those changes, the disaster relief program is changing as well, seeking out ways to involve a younger generation who can’t always take a week off at a moment’s notice to help in a crisis. 

“Some can give their time and talents, volunteering to join a unit and offer their services to minister to hurting people. Others can give financially. But everyone can offer their greatest treasure, the treasure of Jesus Christ.”

Church Planting

“The Great Commission calls us to go to all peoples with the gospel, regardless of who they are, what they look like and where they might live,” said Tim Wicker, interim team leader for the ABSC church planting team. “Arkansas is incredibly diverse, with a great variety of cultures all across the state.”

He said Arkansas Baptists are seeking ways to meet these people where they are, within their own culture.

“Church planting is crucial to Arkansas missions efforts,” said Wicker. “As Arkansas Baptists work with the International Mission Board to map out the cultural structure of our state, evidence of diversity abounds. Forty languages are spoken in Little Rock alone, and language is only one marker of cultural division.”

He said that while not everyone is called to be a church planter, there are still many ways for people to reach out to the diverse people groups living in Arkansas. Not only can Arkansas Baptists give to the Dixie Jackson offering and pray for church planters, but also they can use their time, energy and talents to minister to those around them.

Wicker said established Arkansas Baptist churches can partner with church planters to offer resources and man power to aid in their ministry, and individual Baptists can willingly surrender their time to contribute to missions projects both around the state and just down the street.

“‘Whatever I have, whatever He wants: my time, my treasure, my talents’– What does that mean for you, today?” Wicker asked.

The suggested dates for churches to participate in the Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions Offering and Week of Prayer this year are Sept. 14-21. Churches should have received Dixie Jackson offering materials in the mail by Aug. 22. For more information or to download materials, visit absc.org/dixiejackson.

Information provided by the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.

Friday
Jul182014

Arkansas Outdoor Church pastor leads by example in reaching sportsmen

Scottie Johnson (center), pastor and church planter of Outdoor Church of Arkansas in Conway, and wife Allyce, chat with members during a potluck supper held prior to their service. The church officially launched April 15. Photo by Caleb Yarbrough. Caleb Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News 

CONWAY – An Arkansas Baptist church plant, led by a pastor who could pass for a cast member on the hit reality show "Duck Dynasty," is seeking to reach people for Jesus Christ by appealing to their love of hunting and fishing.

A 2011 survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported 1.3 million people hunted, fished or participated in wildlife watching in 2011 -– spending nearly $2 billion on wildlife recreation in Arkansas.

The 1.3 million individuals mentioned in the survey included both residents of Arkansas and non-residents, with the vast majority being residents of the state.

All of these statistics point out that in Arkansas –- a mostly rural state with a population of just under 3 million -– easily more than half of the state's population either hunts, fishes or spends time participating in wildlife-related activities. 

JohnsonFor Scottie Johnson, Arkansas Baptist State Convention church planter and pastor of Outdoor Church of Arkansas in Conway, the need for a church to reach one of the state's largest demographics is obvious.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
May142014

Shows uses sports as ‘Crusader’ for Christ  

Stacey Hamby
Special to the ABN

Bobby Shows today outside Union Hill Baptist Church in Holts Summit, Mo.HOLTS SUMMIT, Mo. – Growing up in rural Mississippi in the 1950s and 60s, Bobby Shows of Union Hill Baptist Church in Holts Summit, Mo., never could have dreamed God would use his love of sports to spread the gospel throughout the nation and the world. Nor could he have dreamed he would have been part of a landmark basketball game that would help pave the way for racial integration in college sports. Shows is a former staff member of Park Hill Baptist Church in North Little Rock.

‘New ball game’

Shows, at 6’7, was an athletic standout in high school and during his freshman year at Mississippi State. But as a sophomore, he was benched. Devastated, he blamed God and his coach and anyone around him. “I’d get home and cry like a baby because I couldn’t play,” Shows said. “My knees began to give out on me. As I’ve looked back, I realize God was trying to talk to me.”

 

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Feb132014

Documentary examines True Love Waits

NASHVILLE (BP) – After 20 years and millions of pledge cards, has True Love Waits had a positive impact and does it still matter?

A new documentary by LifeWay Films examines the history and future of True Love Waits. The international purity movement captured the national conversation in 1994 by covering the National Mall with cards from teenagers promising to remain sexually pure.

The documentary "True Love Waits: The Complicated Struggle for Sexual Purity," traces the story from the beginning to the present day relaunch, including the lives of individuals involved. Scott Mills, executive producer of the movie and manager of LifeWay Films, said the documentary unflinchingly deals with the reality of what began as an idea sketched on a napkin and exploded as an international movement.

"Millions of teenagers of the past two decades have made commitments to stay pure," Mills said. "Many have kept those commitments and at the same time many have struggled."

"We knew from the beginning we wanted to address the criticisms as well as the successes of the True Love Waits movement," Travis Hawkins, documentary director, said. "We knew viewers would see through any spin we put on the story. We weren't afraid to have an honest conversation."

The documentary, available on DVD Feb. 15, goes back to the cultural climate before True Love Waits. Many adults in America had given up hope that teenagers could refrain from sex, according to Richard Ross, a TLW co-founder.

"It was as if the big powerful people, the people that are smart, the people that are knowledgeable, are saying teenagers are out of control," Ross said.

In the midst of this environment, Ross and Jimmy Hester, then director of student ministry at LifeWay, created True Love Waits. Immediately, they saw it take off with students at Ross' church, Tulip Grove Baptist Church in Old Hickory, Tenn.

It began to garner national headlines and amazement from many in the media. "They couldn't believe students would stand up and make statements about their beliefs about abstinence," Hester said.

To practically measure the success of TLW, Ross points to an unbroken increase in teenage sexuality from 1973 to 1993, after which it plateaued and declined for 20 years.

Hawkins said, "At the outset, I confess I thought of True Love Waits as dated and kind of irrelevant. I had no idea the kind of impact it did have."

The film also documents True Love Waits' impact in nations ravaged with AIDS.

"Before True Love Waits came to Uganda, one out of three adults was dying of AIDS," Ross said. "After True Love Waits, it's about one out of 10 or one out of 11, and the statistics are getting better by the day."

In the U.S., Susan Bohannon became a teenage spokesperson for the movement, appearing on national television shows and newspapers. At college, she struggled under the pressure of being one of the poster children for teenage virginity.

"When we conducted our initial interview with her, it was clear to me there was more to her story, but she was reluctant to share it," Hawkins said. "After a few conversations, Susan agreed to share the rest of her story. It took a lot of bravery on her part. Susan really illustrates how complicated the issue of sexual purity is."

Succumbing to the peer pressure and mocking of those around her, Bohannon had sex in college. She then felt emotionally numb and distant from God, she said.

"I felt very shameful about even trying to talk to Him or sincerely worshipping because I knew that I was so far away," she recalled, "but I wasn't sure how to get back."

To Clayton King, author of the curriculum relaunching True Love Waits, Bohannon's story exemplifies the need to return the movement to one focused on the purity found in Christ and how that plays itself out.

"I want people to know they are pure because Jesus purified them from sin, not because they have perfect behavior and have never had intercourse or looked at porn," King said. "The good news is that temptation, lust, porn, sex, shame and guilt are no match for the grace that Jesus offers us."

That resonated with Bohannon. "The message of True Love Waits is not about being a good person or being good or doing good things," she said. "The message of True Love Waits is about true love and no one displays true love better than Christ himself."

Mills hopes viewers of the documentary will be "challenged to talk to their kids about sex." He also would like to see it "build within students a desire to follow Jesus and recognize purity as a result of that relationship."

The time is right for the documentary and the message it proclaims, Hawkins said.

"Our students are facing greater challenges to their sexual purity than ever before," he said. "There's a lot of guilt and shame involved for those who have 'messed up.' It's an extremely personal issue, but it's got to be addressed."

While DVDs are available for pre-orders at LifeWay.com, customers can download a digital version now. For more information and to view a trailer for the film, visitLifeWay.com/TrueLoveWaitsFilm.