Executive Committee hear positive reportsby Mike Creswell
The Executive Committee of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina heard a number of reports during its meeting Tuesday, Sept. 30, at the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell on Oak Island, but took no major actions.
Michael Barrett, committee chairman, presided over the meeting, which came just ahead of the convention’s Board of Directors meeting, which began the evening of Sept. 30. While the Board was to receive and act upon the reports and recommendations of several committees, none of these reports required Executive Committee approval.
Chris Hawks reported that so far this year, 245 pastors have taken part in the convention's conferences to promote disciple-making throughout convention churches. Training for use of "The Story" has taken place through five conferences, with two more conferences to come during October. Further, he said, training has been provided in six Asian languages.
"We are still on track to train 500 leaders this year," he said. Leading churches to make disciples is a key part of the convention's new strategy which was launched in January this year. Hawks is pastor of Second Baptist Church, Hamlet.
David Spray, pastor of Pisgah Forest Baptist Church in Pisgah Forest, near Brevard, commended the convention’s new direction in stewardship, which incorporates Christian giving into the broader field of Christian discipleship.
Lynn Sasser, executive leader of the Evangelism and Discipleship Group, introduced Spray, explaining that stewardship was moved to this new group in 2012 and is now headed by senior consultant Neal Eller.
"We have to acknowledge the reality that many Christians today are enslaved to a sea of debt they find themselves in, with lost dreams, with not a lot of hope and little joy in their lives. That's not what Jesus intended, because He said He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly," Sasser said.
Sasser said Eller has developed a stewardship strategy using resources developed by Generous Church (http://www.generouschurch.com) and began a pilot project with Greater Cleveland Baptist Association, made up of churches in and around Shelby, NC. Eller and Generous Church have held five generosity "encounter" meetings attended by 59 pastors, 20 other church staff, 16 associational directors of missions and 27 lay church leaders.
Spray said he attended two such meetings and plans to teach the materials in his church soon. "I think the generosity initiative is in the right direction we need to go in," he said.
Christian discipleship requires obedience to Jesus Christ, he said, and people will begin to become generous as they become like Jesus Christ. "I haven't found where Jesus said raise money. We talk a lot about raising money," he said, explaining that the generosity initiative is not about raising money. "It's about leading people to follow the Lord Jesus Christ," he said.
"If I follow Him, I will be generous," he said. Executive Committee members were given a generosity devotional book by Gordon McDonald, part of the Generous Church materials.
A disaster relief team of North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM) helped a church in Detroit, Michigan, get on better terms with its neighbors, reported John Gore. Gore, a lay member of Greenwood Baptist Church in Thomasville, serves on the Executive Committee because he is president of NCBM.
He said the church had tried for some time to reach out to people in the surrounding neighborhood, who are predominantly Muslim, with little success.
But after a flood struck the area, the NCBM team helped many families clean out their homes and cleared basements of mud and other debris.
"The church really improved its image with people in the community," Gore said. Area residents even began bringing food to the church to help out. "We felt that was a great thing. We helped open doors for them and we were thankful for that," he said.
Gore also told how NCBM volunteers are constructing a building for a new church called River of Life Church near the coastal town of Calabash, along the South Carolina border. More than 40 acres of land alongside U.S. Highway 17 have been given to the congregation. The church has been holding services in community centers at nearby Sunset Beach.
Cooperative Program missions receipts totaled $19,966,164 in mid-September, reported Beverly Volz, director of accounting services on the convention staff. That amount was 6.46 percent under the budgeted amount, though the convention continues to operate in the black.
Brian Davis, associate executive director-treasurer for the convention, said the convention staff is rejoicing with the amount given to the North Carolina Missions Offering. The total received as of mid-September stood at $655,153, Davis said. Since September is when most NC Baptist churches receive the offering, he said there is "great potential" to close the gap and reach the $2.1 million goal.
Davis said many churches will give to NCMO after a disaster. "What we need is not for your churches to take up an offering after a disaster, but we need you to contribute to NCMO now, so our volunteers are prepared when a disaster occurs, as opposed to waiting on a response from the churches," he said.
"If you haven't given this year, it's not too late to do so," he said.
NCMO is the major funding source for the 18 ministries of North Carolina Baptist Men and also provides about a third of the funds the convention uses to start new churches. Ten percent of NCMO funds are divided among the 78 Baptist associations across the state for local missions and ministry projects.