N.C. plan aims to plant, strengthen churches
CARY, N.C. (BP) -- The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina's Executive Committee has approved a plan to "tear down silos," streamline the organization and better assist churches in making disciples, evangelism and church planting among people groups of every ethnicity and cultural context in the state.
The plan includes equipping churches to take ownership of collegiate ministries. It would send BSC strategy coordinators to work with churches and associations to penetrate "concentrated areas of lostness" through eight "population centers" around the state.
The new structure would eliminate 16 BSC positions -- 10 of which would come from campus ministries. But the convention also would add 11 positions, leaving a net loss of five positions. While Cooperative Program giving in North Carolina is off to a slow start -- nearly 20 percent below budget -- Milton Hollifield, BSC executive director-treasurer, said the restructuring plan is not a result of economic challenges but a genuine desire "to stop the bleeding of the loss of people [who are] being led to the Lord, but they're not being discipled."
"There's been a disconnect between evangelism and discipleship," Hollifield said in an interview.
"[Discipleship] is the mandate for every church member. ... In the large degree, we've missed it."
"We've been satisfied with some programs and some efforts," said Brian Davis, BSC executive leader, "but there's a philosophy of disciple-making that's got to pervade what we're doing."
The Executive Committee's approved the restructuring April 11. It will now go before the BSC Board of Directors in May. If approved by the board, the strategy will be presented to N.C. Baptist messengers at their annual meeting in November. The new structure would go into effect in January 2014.
Summary of recommendations
Under the proposal:
-- Brian Davis, BSC's executive leader, would become associate executive director-treasurer.
-- Eight strategy coordinators would work with churches and associations through "population centers" that have a high concentration of "lostness" -- include Asheville, Hickory, Charlotte, the Triad and Triangle areas, Fayetteville, Wilmington and Greenville. Russ Conley, senior consultant for leadership ministries, would become the strategy coordinators' team leader.
Michael Sowers, senior consultant for the office of Great Commission partnerships (GCP), would serve as a strategy coordinator for the Triad area. The senior consultant position for GCP will remain open and could be filled in the future. Frank White, senior consultant for Anglo/African American church planting, would be a strategy coordinator for the Charlotte area. His current position would be eliminated.
-- A collegiate partnerships team would be created, to be led by Rick Trexler, currently team leader for campus ministry. The campus ministry team would no longer exist under the new structure, and a newly designed team would work more closely in partnership with churches. In addition to Trexler, the team would include: Sammy Joo, who would work with international students in the Triangle area, while Tom Knight would work among international students in Charlotte. Two positions remain open for the western and eastern parts of the state.
-- A new group called evangelism and discipleship would be led by Lynn Sasser, currently executive leader of the congregational services group. The BSC congregational services group and evangelization group will no longer exist under the new structure. The new group would be divided into a disciple-making team and church strengthening team.
The proposed disciple-making team would be led by Brian Upshaw, currently team leader of the church ministry team. The new team would encompass Ashley Allen, Embrace and women's evangelism and discipleship; Merrie Johnson, youth evangelism and discipleship; Marty Dupree and Rick Hughes, both in adult evangelism and discipleship; Guillermo Soriano, Hispanic evangelism and discipleship; Cheryl Markland, childhood evangelism and discipleship; Eddie Thompson, family evangelism and discipleship.
The proposed church strengthening team would be led by Antonio Santos, currently senior consultant for Hispanic church development, and would encompass Neal Eller, senior consultant for stewardship; David Moore, senior consultant for pastoral ministries; Ken Tan, senior consultant for leadership development; Bob Foy, senior consultant for church renewal; Donnie Wiltshire, senior consultant for special ministries; Kenny Lamm, senior consultant for worship and music.
Though many of the roles mentioned will remain similar, for some they will change significantly. Of the five main groups within the convention -- administration & convention relations; business services; congregational services; church planting & missions development; and evangelization -- the plan would trim them to four, which would include the new team led by Sasser. Of the 22 ministry teams, the new plan would drop those to 18.
"It's a significant streamlining of the organization," said Davis, who chaired the committee that developed the strategy upon which Hollifield has built the new structure.
One of the most visible changes would involve equipping churches to help make more disciples on North Carolina college campuses while reducing the Baptist State Convention's presence on campuses.
Under the new structure, Trexler would lead collegiate partnerships to build a "network of churches working together" and empower them to build a presence on more campuses.
"We believe this is the best way to increase ministry on campuses," Hollifield said. "There are churches I know [that] will take the lead on this. I want ... students to be in those churches ... that are surrounding the campus."
John Butler, executive leader of business services and a member of the strategy committee, added, "Our job is going to be to provide training, leadership ... still doing some of the summer things where we offer them the missions opportunities and that type of thing."
With more than 100 campuses in North Carolina, there are many churches with a strong desire to get involved in campus ministry, Davis said.
"We've had calls from churches where they've said, 'We have a college in our town. How can you help us? How can you train us? How can you resource us?" he said. "And the response has been 'Sorry, we don't have a position that we can fund there.' That's the wrong response.
"We exist to serve the churches, to help resource, to help train them, to help prepare them. And this ... arrangement of structure allows us to do that."
Addressing the sending out of strategy coordinators through eight "population centers" to help develop strategies to get the Gospel to unreached people groups, Hollifield said in his written report for the Executive Committee, "North Carolina has changed," with more than 230 languages spoken in the state's public schools; "but there is not a Gospel witness in each of these languages."
"The convention, and I mean the convention in its fullness -- churches, associations, convention staff, auxiliary, institutions, and agencies -- must recognize that simply serving the white English speaking residents of our state is a dying proposition," Hollifield wrote.
While some may view the new strategy as a smaller version of NAMB's Send North America campaign that focuses on reaching cities, Davis said it's not the same.
"A major distinction between what we're doing and what NAMB is doing ... [is] they're focusing primarily on church planting," Davis said. "We're focusing on strengthening existing churches in those areas and planting new churches."
In recent years, Davis said some individuals have contacted the BSC looking for assistance in planting a church and needing advice on the best location.
"Our response has been, 'We're not telling you. ... You need to discern where God would have you to go,'" Davis said. "Now we're going to say we have eight areas where we are concentrating some of these efforts."
The plan will involve churches of all sizes in all areas of the state.
Hollifield noted "how much it would impact spiritually the rest of the state if we could be more effective in evangelizing and discipling those people in those [eight] areas."
"We want to help strengthen churches across the entirety of the state," Davis added. "But we [also] can't ignore where we have these concentrations. It's not either-or; it's a both-and approach."
To read the proposed Impacting Lostness Through Disciple-making strategy, click here; the proposed group structure chart within BSC, click here; and the proposed staff organizational chart, click here.
Shawn Hendricks is managing editor of the Biblical Recorder (www.BRnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.