Year in review: 7 top stories of 2017

by Chad Austin, BSCNC Communications
Thursday, December 28, 2017 | 295 days old

Before we turn the page to 2018, here's a look back at some of the top stories from 2017 from among North Carolina Baptists. To read more about these and other stories and events from the past year, visit the N.C. Baptist news feed at ncbaptist.org/news.

NC Baptists respond to major storms, other incidents
North Carolina Baptists responded to three major hurricanes and more than a dozen other natural disasters during the past year, making 2017 one of the busiest years on record for the disaster relief ministry of N.C. Baptist Men, also known as Baptists on Mission.

Thousands of N.C. Baptists volunteers traveled to Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico to assist in the recovery and rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. In Texas and Florida, volunteers provided hundreds of thousands of meals, showers and laundry to victims. In Texas, volunteers also assisted with hundreds of rebuild jobs. In Puerto Rico, volunteers assisted with water purification and cleanup efforts and plan to assist in other long-term projects.

Volunteers also responded to other events across North Carolina, which included incidents of tornados and flooding. Collectively, the Baptists on Mission disaster relief ministry responded to 18 different incidents in 2017.

Baptists on Mission also continued with the ongoing rebuild efforts in eastern North Carolina resulting from Hurricane Matthew in 2016. In May 2017, Baptists on Mission dedicated a new facility in Lumberton that will serve as a base of operations for the long-term relief efforts associated with Matthew.

Messengers adopt ‘Resolution Denouncing Racism’
Messengers from N.C. Baptist churches adopted a “Resolution Denouncing Racism” during the 2017 Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Annual Meeting held Nov. 6-7 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro.

In presenting the resolution to messengers at the meeting, Jonathan Blaylock, who served as chairman of the state convention’s Committee on Resolutions and Memorials, said, “North Carolina Baptists denounce racism in all its expressions as sin against a holy and just God.”

BSCNC Executive Director-Treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr. called the resolution a “strong statement” against racism, adding that “any form of racism is a sin against Almighty God.”

“The issue of race is not merely a cultural issue or a political issue,” Hollifield said. “It is a biblical issue, and it is a spiritual issue.”

NC Baptists emphasize prayer at Annual Meeting
“Return to Me,” based on Zechariah 1:3, was the theme of the 2017 Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Annual Meeting, which included a special emphasis on prayer for revival and spiritual awakening.

The meeting culminated with a prayer service titled “Broken Before the Throne” on Tuesday, Nov. 7, that included times of worship and prayer around the call to repent, return, restore and refresh based on Acts 3:19.

At the conclusion of the service, messengers and guests in attendance gathered around pastors and prayed for them and their churches to have a renewed focus and passion for the Lord.

Organizers of the prayer service, which included Baptist state convention leaders, pastors, directors of missions and prayer leaders from across the state, said they hoped the prayer gathering would mark the beginning of a revival across North Carolina and beyond.

Record-year in missions giving
N.C. Baptists celebrated a record year in missions giving in 2017 as churches collectively sent more than $11.7 million in financial support to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) through the Cooperative Program (CP), which marked the largest CP contribution to the SBC in state convention history.

North Carolina also led all state conventions in support of the annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, giving more than $13.6 million to international missions through the offering. North Carolina ranked second among state conventions in support of the annual Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, giving more than $6.2 million to support North American missions.

Total giving to SBC causes from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and its partnering churches exceeded $31.8 million for the SBC fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2017, which ranked third among all state convention and was the highest total in North Carolina history.

Local churches increase gospel engagement on college campuses
In September 2017, the Collegiate Partnerships Team of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) celebrated a significant milestone by reporting that 50 of North Carolina’s 148 college, community college and university campuses are now being engaged with the gospel by local Baptist churches.

When the BSCNC shifted its collegiate ministry strategy in 2014 to focus on equipping local churches to reach college campuses, only nine college campuses in the state were being engaged with the gospel by a ministry affiliated the Baptist state convention. When news of the 50th campus being engaged by a local church was announced in September, that marked a 456 percent increase in engagement in less than four years.

North Carolina also ranked among the national leaders in several evangelism, discipleship and missions categories based upon a collegiate ministry survey conducted by LifeWay Christian Resources. North Carolina ranked fourth in the number of college students who have come to know Christ the past year and fourth in the number of students who are being discipled in a small-group community.

Additionally, North Carolina ranked second in the number of college students who are being mobilized for mission trips and projects during the summer. North Carolina also ranked sixth in the number of students who are being developed as leaders and missionaries.

Students focus on life of Christ at Summer Youth Weeks
Thousands of students from across North Carolina celebrated Christmas and Easter all summer long at the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell.

The celebrations were part of the worship services and other activities that took place during this year’s summer youth weeks, sponsored by the youth evangelism and discipleship ministry of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC).

This year’s youth weeks’ theme was “Way. Truth. Life.” based on John 14:6 which says, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

Throughout the summer, God moved in the lives of more than 6,300 students from 263 different churches who attended one of the seven weeks of camp. A total of 321 students trusted Christ as Savior during youth weeks, and an additional 1,200 more rededicated their lives to Him. A little more than 100 more answered a call to full-time ministry.

Holbrook retires as Caswell director
Rick Holbrook, longtime director of the N.C. Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell, retired at the end of May after 32 years of service. Holbrook helped transform the coastal retreat and conference center from what was primarily a seasonal summer facility to a year-round destination.

Under Holbrook’s leadership, Fort Caswell experienced unprecedented growth in both facilities and number of guests. Holbrook also helped expand the number and types of camps, conferences, retreats and activities hosted at Caswell.

Throughout his tenure, Holbrook kept Caswell focused on ministry opportunities. Since 2003, more than 6,000 individuals have made first-time professions of faith during the annual summer youth weeks held at Caswell, and thousands more have surrendered to full-time vocational ministry. One of those who answered a call to ministry at Caswell as a youth was Brian Hemphill, who succeeded Holbrook as the facility’s director on June 1.

Prior to Holbrook’s retirement, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina announced that a central section of Caswell property that houses a cottage and other residential buildings would be named Holbrook Village to honor his legacy.