Archives For Baltimore

Crossover makes a difference in host city and back at home

Uptown_Crossover

COLUMBUS – Mission volunteers from Uptown traveled to Columbus, Ohio in 2015, where they worked for two days training and encouraging local believers in prayer walking and evangelism.

The words of an old praise chorus aptly describe the effect missions can have in a local church:

“It only takes a spark to get a fire going…”

Once church members who have engaged in missions start “passing on” their experiences to their friends, it can ignite a missions fire of sorts, causing a church to look in their own neighborhood and beyond for ways they can reach more people with the gospel.

That’s how IBSA zone consultant Steven Glover describes the impact of Crossover, an annual outreach event held prior to the Southern Baptist Convention. This year’s Crossover initiative in St. Louis is planned largely for Saturday, June 11, although some projects start earlier (see planning checklist below).

Last year, Glover and his family participated in Crossover with a team from Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago. The volunteers worked with a church in urban Columbus, Ohio, to prayer walk their community and share the gospel with people they met. Glover and the team also helped train the Ohioans in prayer walking and evangelism, equipping them for the ministry they did together.

Once they got back to Chicago, they shared with the rest of the congregation what had happened in Columbus. As with any mission trip, the resulting benefits could have stopped there, Glover said.

“But if you have people who have participated in and are excited about it, they’ll continue to talk about it,” he said. That’s why the key is getting as many people involved as possible.

This year, Uptown will take a team to St. Louis to work with a church in a similar ministry setting as their own inner-city church. In Columbus, said Uptown’s missions coordinator Doug Nguyen, the church worked with “an urban congregation that ministered to Muslims and immigrants, as well as families around the neighborhood in downtown Columbus.
“And we’re looking to do the same in St. Louis.”

Uptown_Crossover_2014

BALTIMORE – Members of Uptown Baptist’s Crossover team share the gospel prior to the 2014 Southern Baptist Convention.

 
After Uptown partnered with a Baltimore church for Crossover in 2014, they were able to pray for the congregation specifically when rioting broke out in the city the next spring. “We’re all praying for them right now, for churches to really step up and be the salt and light in that community,” Nguyen told the Illinois Baptist at the time.

When mission volunteers help other Christians reach their community, they’re bearing each other’s burdens, Glover said. They’re energized by helping fulfill the Great Commission, by doing what God has called his people to do.

They’re also more likely to come back home and find ways to do the same in their own city.

“It’s a good investment,” Glover said, “because it’s an ongoing thing.” Iron sharpens iron, he said, referencing Proverbs 27:17. “Getting next to someone who has gone out and done that has such an impact.”

Crossover checklist

Making plans to join Uptown and hundreds of other churches at Crossover prior to this year’s Southern Baptist Convention? Start now by working through this checklist of questions:

Who’s going?
As you recruit volunteers for your Crossover team, think about who they are. What are their ages, ministry skills, and spiritual gifts?

View the list of Illinois Crossover projects at meba.org/crossover-st-louis- 2016, and look for those that fit your team. For example, if you have Spanish speakers in your group, consider joining Iglesia Bautista Maranatha in Granite City for prayer walking and door-to-door evangelism in their community.

Interested in sports outreach? Help Sterling Baptist Church host a 3-on-3 basketball tournament.

What time can they give?
Most Crossover projects happen the Saturday before the Convention begins—this year, that’s June 11. But some initiatives cover a longer span of time:

  • A church plant in Fairmont City needs help with a home makeover
    project June 6-11.
  • Two congregations in Hartford and East Alton are working together on a week-long canvassing project, capped off with a community block party.
  • A new church in Collinsville will utilize volunteers for community surveying and sharing the gospel on  Saturday, and then will host a preview worship service Sunday.
  • Check the full project list at meba.org for more multi-day opportunities.

What’s next?
Start thinking now about how to share your ministry experiences with the congregation back at home.

Which stories best illustrate how God worked through your team to increase your partner church’s influence and favor in their community? Did anyone accept Christ? What spiritual needs can your church pray for over the next year?

Also, how might you extend the relationship with your Crossover partner church? Uptown kept in touch with Baltimore pastor Ryan Palmer, who they worked with in 2014. He visited Uptown when he was in Chicago the next year. As you plan your Crossover project, consider how it might spark a ministry partnership that goes beyond one day.

Editor’s note: The video below is from the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network.

Southern Baptist pastors are among those trying to spread hope and healing after violence broke out in Baltimore late last month. And Christians outside the city—including a mission team from Chicago who visited Baltimore last year—are praying for peace, reconciliation, and spiritual awakening.

Hundreds of people were arrested during protests over the death of 25-year-old African American Freddie Gray, who died April 19 from injuries sustained while in police custody. During rioting that broke out April 27, at least 20 police officers were injured and cars and buildings were burned. Gray’s death has since been ruled a homicide, and six police officers have been charged.

In the wake of the riots, Maryland’s governor declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard. The Orioles played an eerie afternoon game closed to fans, in fear that more riots could break out.

Things have calmed down since then, said Bob Mackey, executive director of the Baltimore Baptist Association, because starting the day after the riots, “everybody who lives in the city had to keep living in the city,” he said.

As life moved on, a group of pastors met to pray together and then went out into the city to help with the clean-up effort. Church planter Brad O’Brien was one of the pastors in the group; his church, Jesus Our Redeemer, is four miles from a CVS Pharmacy that burned during the rioting.

“We know that if the gospel can resurrect our dead hearts then it can bring hope to this community,” O’Brien told a writer for the North American Mission Board. “Our hope is not in our mayor, not in our police chief or the governor. Our hope is in Christ alone.”

Praying from Chicago
Doug Nguyen was thinking about Baltimore just before the rioting started. The missions chairman of Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago visited the city last summer during the Southern Baptist Convention, and worked with Pastor Ryan Palmer and Seventh Metro Baptist Church during the annual Crossover evangelism outreach.

Seventh Metro has historical import for Southern Baptists; it’s the church where missions pioneer Annie Armstrong was baptized.

Pastor Palmer was in Chicago the Sunday before the rioting started as part of a vision tour for those interested in helping plant churches in the city. Nguyen said they spent the day with Palmer, catching up and hearing about what was going on in Baltimore.

Rioting broke out on Monday.

“We’re all praying for them right now, for churches to really step up and be the salt and light in that community,” Nguyen said. The Seventh Metro neighborhood is not unlike their own in Uptown Chicago. In fact, the North Avenue they walked along there is similar to Chicago’s own North Avenue on the west side.

It’s an impoverished area, Nguyen said, with obvious signs of homelessness and addiction. Churches in communities like Seventh Metro’s (and Uptown’s) “depend on a lot of laborers in order to disciple the people around the neighborhood,” Nguyen said.

“There are a lot of ministry opportunities there, to help build the church. You’ve got young leadership, you’ve got evangelistic opportunities similar to what we were doing out in the streets (during Crossover).”

As the protests settled down, Palmer told Baptist Press God had protected his church, located near one of the riot zones.

“Literally, the violence was a few blocks west and a few blocks east. In both cases, you could see the steeple of our church from the locations, but they did not come into our block. They have not come into our block yet. We’re giving God praise and thanks for that.”

A way forward
Even amidst the upheaval, Bob Mackey said it was encouraging for him as a director of missions to watch God’s people partner with others in the community to respond in positive ways. He told the Illinois Baptist churches in the area were planning community block parties, “just to have some fun back in the city. In Jesus’ name, if you will.”

After the rioting, Disaster Relief volunteers provided meals for first responders, and Baptists worked together to supply groceries and other basics to areas where stores weren’t immediately accessible.

As the city moves forward, churches must respond to its complex needs, African American pastor and church planting strategist Michael Crawford told Baptist Press. He gave a four-point plan for healing in Baltimore, based on listening, understanding what goes on in inner city schools, providing healthy food sources, and prayer. Communication and relationships are key, he said, adding that African Americans need a safe place to be heard.

“The reason we are stuck is because we can’t talk about it. We get offended and then we do not hear,” he said. “The real work is listening, getting offended, offering forgiveness, and then reconciling together. That’s real!”

By Meredith Flynn, with additional reporting from Baptist Pres

COMMENTARY | Eric Reed

Editor’s note: Leading up to the Southern Baptist Convention in Baltimore June 10-11, the staff of the Illinois Baptist will preview the annual meeting in “Baltimore Oracles,” a series of columns about SBC elections and key issues.

When there was but one candidate for SBC president, attendance at the Baltimore gathering seemed of little consequence in the outcome of the proceedings. The analysts would comment on the demographics and decline.

But now, with three candidates in the running, the convention promises a bit more of a horserace. And the headcount becomes more important.

The 2011 annual meeting in Phoenix is the lowest-attended in recent history, with only 4,814 messengers registered. Many would attribute the sad nadir to distance from the Southern-states home base – faraway conventions are rarely well attended.

And since 1985’s peak of 45,519 messengers in Dallas when Charles Stanley was elected president, there hasn’t been a political debate or theological wrestling match to draw ordinary church members in large quantities. Only the stalwarts have continued to make the annual trek, no matter how far from home the host city may be.

Attendance has declined steadily over the past two decades. When 7,484 registered in New Orleans in 2012, Fred Luter’s election as the first African American SBC president was the big draw and debate over renaming the convention received second billing. The following year, when it was thought the simmering dispute about Calvinism might boil over, only 5,103 showed up in Houston.

If the proponents of Reformed theology had put forth a candidate this year, then location and attendance could have significantly swayed a genuine two-man race. Location and attendance were big factors in Stanley’s win, when busloads of messengers from nearby states traveled to Texas to raise their ballots and secure conservative control of the denomination.

But after Southern Seminary president Al Mohler said he would nominate megachurch pastor Ronnie Floyd, it appeared there would be no duel over theology and no need to rally support from the Reformed bases near Baltimore. Convention attendance, except as a measure of personal investment,
wouldn’t be an issue.

Now, however, attendance becomes a factor with the announcement by Jared Moore that he will run against Floyd. With registration expected to be near record lows, a relative unknown running on a “small church” platform could muster a respectable showing when ballots are raised. And the late entry of Maryland pastor Dennis Kim makes every vote – cast in his home state – even more important.

It’s been a long time since the convention elected a president who wasn’t the pastor of a megachurch. Mississippi businessman Owen Cooper served two terms starting in 1973 with a win in Portland, Oregon, and only 8,871 messengers registered.

With the denomination’s recent voting history, such a dark-horse win seems unlikely. But the race for SBC president just became interesting.

COMMENTARY | Meredith Flynn

Editor’s note: Leading up to the Southern Baptist Convention in Baltimore June 10-11, the staff of the Illinois Baptist will preview the annual meeting in “Baltimore Oracles,” a series of columns about SBC elections and key issues.

Leaders of smaller Southern Baptist churches will be watching closely in June as the SBC Executive Committee considers a change to the denomination’s constitution. The article in question (Article III) governs how many voters – known as messengers – individual churches may send to the Convention’s annual meeting.

Here’s how Article III stands now:

  • Churches in friendly cooperation with the SBC can send one messenger to the annual meeting, as long as the church contributed any amount to SBC causes the previous year.
  • Additional messengers may be sent for every 250 members, or for each $250 given to Convention causes.

Under the proposed changes:

  • Churches may send a minimum of two messengers, provided they meetthe guidelines for friendly cooperation (including undesignated, financial contributions either through the Cooperative Program, toward Convention causes, or to Convention entities).
  • Additional messengers are based on contributions (one for every $6,000 or full percent of the church’s undesignated receipts, whichever results in more messengers).

Whew. What does all that math actually mean for churches? In the March issue of SBC Life, Executive Committee Chairman Ernest Easley explained the thinking behind the changes: The new version adjusts for inflation. The $250 figure was adopted 126 years ago. And the proposed wording is an opportunity to “lift up Cooperative Program as the preferred model of giving to Convention work.”

But what about smaller churches, some asked. Won’t the new giving standards make it more difficult for them to send additional messengers?

“…If the perception is that it will hurt small churches, this is DOA,” Executive Committee President Frank Page told EC members at their February meeting. “My heart is with small churches, and I don’t want anything that even seems to be in some way pejorative toward their involvement.”

The EC meets just prior to the Convention and will decide whether to bring the amendment to messengers for a vote during the meeting June 10-11.

Any debate surrounding the proposal, especially if it makes it to the convention floor, could have some bearing on the race for SBC president. Ronnie Floyd pastors a megachurch, while Jared Moore is from a smaller, rural congregation. Dennis Kim’s Maryland congregation of around 1,700 is somewhere in between.

If the conversation about messenger representation swings the momentum in favor of smaller churches or those in regions with fewer Baptists, Moore or Kim could gain some extra visibility at the Convention. If the measure doesn’t come up for a vote or passes without much debate, Floyd would remain the better known candidate with the most SBC leadership experience.

Math may make a difference when Baptists meet in Baltimore.

Previous Baltimore Oracles columns:
The Southern Baptist Convention’s new ‘traditionalists’
What a single-candidate election could mean for the SBC
Why geography matters

 

Jared Moore

Jared Moore

Update (May 20): Bennie Smith, a deacon from New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, Ky., will nominate Jared Moore for president at the SBC Annual Meeting in Baltimore.

NEWS | Kentucky pastor Jared Moore announced this week he will allow himself to be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention at the denomination’s June meeting in Baltimore. Moore, pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, Ky., currently is the SBC’s second vice president.

In a post on his blog and SBC Voices, Moore listed four reasons he’s willing to serve: He wants to serve Southern Baptists, represent rural Southern Baptists, promote unity in the SBC, and promote the Cooperative Program.

“I was saved in a rural Southern Baptist church, and I’ve primarily served rural Southern Baptists ever since,” Moore wrote. “Where I live now, the nearest gas station is 7 miles away. My church is a small church made up of about 60 people. They’re a loving, caring, godly group of people…I want to represent Southern Baptists like the ones I serve on a daily basis who may not have the opportunity to attend the convention or serve at the convention level.”

I want to represent Southern Baptists like the ones I serve on a daily basis who may not have the opportunity to attend the convention or serve at the convention level. – See more at: http://sbcvoices.com/why-i-am-allowing-myself-to-be-nominated-for-sbc-president/#sthash.M2hwtrUG.dpuf

Moore joins Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, in the election to succeed current SBC President Fred Luter. Fellow Kentucky pastor Paul Sanchez will nominate Moore, and Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, will nominate Floyd.

I was saved in a rural Southern Baptist Church, and I’ve primarily served rural Southern Baptists ever since. Where I live now, the nearest gas station is 7 miles away. My church is a small church made up of about 60 people. They’re a loving, caring, godly group of people. – See more at: http://sbcvoices.com/why-i-am-allowing-myself-to-be-nominated-for-sbc-president/#sthash.M2hwtrUG.dpuf

I was saved in a rural Southern Baptist Church, and I’ve primarily served rural Southern Baptists ever since. Where I live now, the nearest gas station is 7 miles away. My church is a small church made up of about 60 people. They’re a loving, caring, godly group of people. – See more at: http://sbcvoices.com/why-i-am-allowing-myself-to-be-nominated-for-sbc-president/#sthash.M2hwtrUG.dpuf
I was saved in a rural Southern Baptist Church, and I’ve primarily served rural Southern Baptists ever since. Where I live now, the nearest gas station is 7 miles away. My church is a small church made up of about 60 people. They’re a loving, caring, godly group of people. – See more at: http://sbcvoices.com/why-i-am-allowing-myself-to-be-nominated-for-sbc-president/#sthash.M2hwtrUG.dpuf

Ronnie_Floyd_blogCOMMENTARY | Meredith Flynn

Ronnie Floyd is the first candidate to toss his hat in the ring for the next Southern Baptist Convention president. Although, in keeping with tradition, Floyd’s nominator actually did
the tossing: Southern Seminary President Al Mohler announced last month he will nominate Floyd for the convention’s top elected post at the annual meeting in Baltimore.

No one else has allowed his name to be brought forth so far. This unusual across-the-aisle nomination, and a potential single-candidate race, has several implications for Southern
Baptists:

1. The Calvinism debate doesn’t have to result in a hostile takeover for either camp. Mohler’s well-known and well-documented theological perspective is different from what is known of Floyd’s. In an open letter announcing the nomination, the seminary president and leading Reformed thinker lauded Floyd as a unifier. He specifically mentioned the theology talk that has dominated conversation over the past several years, pointing to Floyd as a leader who can move the SBC toward a common goal of reaching the world for Christ.

Mohler’s nomination of Floyd is likely the kind of unifying event SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page had in mind when he appointed an advisory committee to study how the two “sides” can work together.

2. The generation gap may be narrowing. Mohler has the ear of many young Baptists, as a seminary president and proponent of Reformed theology, whose adherents tend to skew younger. He is in the unique position of being able to steer 30-somethings toward active participation in Southern Baptist life, without being a 30-something himself. His nomination
of Floyd indicates he’s willing to guide young leaders away from a concentration on divisive issues and toward goals we can work on together.

3. With revival as the goal, Baptists are ready to rally around the Great Commission. Current SBC President Fred Luter made revival and spiritual awakening his platform during his two years of leadership, aiming to stem the decline in baptisms. “Fred Luter has led us so well as he has unified and inspired us,” Mohler wrote in his nomination letter. “Our next president needs to unify and inspire us for our next steps together.”

Floyd chaired the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, which presented a comprehensive strategy in 2010 to push funding to areas of the country (and world) that are less churched and often more urban. More recently, he organized two prayer gatherings to guide pastors and leaders toward personal and corporate revival.

“Pastors believe the Great Commission can be fulfilled in their generation,” Floyd blogged after the prayer meeting in Atlanta. If he’s elected in June, he’ll be charged with communicating that vision to a multigenerational, theologically diverse denomination.

Meredith Flynn is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist.

Baltimore_blogCOMMENTARY | Eric Reed

The calendar says the season is winter, and the snow bank outside your house would seem to confirm it, but there’s another we must consider: it’s SBC presidential nomination season.

Somewhere today in a church office or study, there’s a man praying about nominating his friend for the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention. And somewhere else, that possible candidate is asking God whether he should allow his friend to make that nomination public. Rarely does one nominate himself to run for SBC President. It is the work of prayerful men, considering the needs of the convention, and the qualifications of their closest friends to lead to meet the needs of the time. As with the committee that selected Paul and Barnabas (“It seemed right to the Holy Spirit and to us”), nomination is a work of the Holy Spirit and prayerful men.

It’s also a function of geography.

For example, Fred Luter was elected SBC president in his hometown, New Orleans, in 2012. Orlando’s Jim Henry presided over a convention in Orlando. And in Houston, favorite son Ed Young, Jr., was re-elected to a second term.

Consider the location of the 2014 Southern Baptist Convention. It’s in Baltimore.  Not since 1910 has the annual convention been held in Baltimore.

On the East coast, 40 miles from Washington D.C., a Baltimore convention is likely to draw a different crowd of messengers than if it were held in Texas or Florida. For one thing, there’s no “Six Flags over Baltimore” to draw the messenger who likes to pair the convention with a vacation. The serious-minded will travel to Baltimore. (Forgive us, Baltimore, if we underestimate the drawing power of crab cakes and historical sites, but without Shamu, how shall we entertain the children?)

And consider the nearest neighbors to Baltimore: the closest SBC seminaries are Southern in Louisville, Kentucky, and Southeastern in Wake Forest, North Carolina. Many of the churches in the region surrounding Baltimore have their pastors and leaders supplied by these schools. They are likely to be very well represented at the meeting in June.

While we don’t know yet who will run, we should note that it has been three years since there was a contested election for SBC president. Any match-up that pairs a Reformed candidate against one who identifies himself as a “traditionalist” – the labels used in the Calvinist theology debate of recent years—will likely test the peace loosely stitched by leaders of those camps just before the 2013 convention.

A cursory tour of the blogosphere shows no suggestion that Baltimore 2014 will be for Calvinists what Houston 1979 was for Conservatives – opportunity to bolster their leadership role in the denomination with thousands of close-by voters. But with strong centers of Reformed theology in neighboring states and many adherents in the region, Baltimore may be the best location for a Reformed candidate to mount a campaign.