Friday, October 28, 2011

An Open Letter To West Virginia Southern Baptists

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am writing today after much prayer and soul searching. I hope you will take time to read this letter through, and give prayerful consideration to what I am trying to communicate.

Next week many of us will gather at the Westview Baptist Church in Martinsburg for the Annual Meeting of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists. I look forward with great anticipation to the good preaching at the Pastor’s Conference, to the Bible Study time in each of our convention sessions, and the Saturday morning preaching of my dear brothers Dan Jividen and Robby Gallaty. Danny is well known to all West Virginia Southern Baptists, and those of you who have never heard Robby are in for a great blessing. I especially look forward to the fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ from all around the Mountain State.

Our convention agenda will take care of the usual business of approving a budget, hearing reports from state and national agencies, and elect committees and officers for the coming year. However, one of the most important issues to come before our Annual Meeting is the report of the Strategic Planning Group, which was appointed by our State Convention President, Dr. Seth Polk last year. The SPG has met several times throughout the year and have prepared a report with recommendations to our Convention. Each Pastor should have received a copy of their final report, but if not, it is available online at the Convention website,

I am writing this open letter today to sadly advise you that I will be voting “NO” on the SPG report as presented, and to urge each messenger to the Convention to prayerfully consider how you will vote.

I am writing this letter after meeting for nearly two hours with our State Convention Executive Director, Terry Harper in his office on October 20, 2011. I thank him for the time he allotted for me and another pastor to ask questions and express our concerns. Our meeting was cordial and gracious, but we have agreed to disagree.

I have read with interest over the past several months, of the updates from the SPG which Brother Seth has been kind enough to share with all of us. I have listened with an open mind to the presentations by our State Leadership at meetings with our local pastors here in Greater Huntington Association, and at the Shepherding the Shepherd Conference at Pipestem. Now, after prayer and soul searching, I just feel that I have to speak out.

Please believe me when I say that my decision is NOT about personalities, but about principle. My vote in the negative is not because I am against reaching West Virginia with the Gospel of Christ, nor is it a vote against “my fellow West Virginia Southern Baptists who have worked on this committee”.

I am the pastor of a 96 year old Southern Baptist Church which, itself, exists from a church plant in 1915. Over the years it has planted numerous Southern Baptist Churches around West Virginia, and helped plant churches in Asia. We have long given 10% of our undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program, with an additional 3% for our local Association, and other gifts to various mission projects, as well as the usual gifts to Lottie, Annie, and Ola. We have not only financially supported missions at home and abroad, but some of our members have worked as Journeymen Missionaries for IMB, one served for more than 50 years as a missionary in Gaza and the West Bank. Many have made short term international mission trips and have served in Disaster Relief efforts. We are a missional church!

I have been privileged to serve as your State Convention President for two years, and to serve on several committees and as a trustee for one of our Southern Baptists seminaries. I have worked closely with our State Executive Director and staff. In fact, I am the one who nominated Seth Polk for his second term as First Vice President of our State Convention, as well as his first term as President. Furthermore, I was scheduled to do so for his second term last year, before I was called away from the meeting at Fairlea by a death in my church. I love these men, and I have the utmost respect for them, and for every man and woman who have served so faithfully on the SPG. Many of them are dear personal friends. My vote has nothing to do with any of these dear folks.

My vote is based on a principle. A principle that defines every aspect of Baptist life – the autonomy of the local church, the local association, and the State Conventions. We believe that the only authority higher than the local church is the Lord Jesus Christ, who loved it and gave himself for it. Unfortunately, over the past few years, it is becoming more and more apparent that we are seeing a hierarchy develop in the Southern Baptist Convention, and Baptists abhor an ecclesiastical hierarchy! Some in State Convention leadership have admitted in private that the mandate we have received from the North American Mission Board is a “top down” initiative, yet none of them will say it publicly.

The so called “Great Commission Resurgence” which was passed at the SBC Annual Meeting in Orlando last year was very controversial in how it was handled. Many of our WV messengers were strongly opposed to it. The issue did pass and we have been told that “The Convention has voted on this and we need to get on board”. I do not believe that the voting messengers of the SBC Churches had any idea that the leadership of NAMB would interpret this as a mandate to defund Associational Directors of Missions, BSU Campus missionaries and others, and force its program on the various State Conventions it supports. West Virginia (as a Pioneer State Convention) receives $1.2 Million from NAMB, and as a result, our leadership has taken the “cookie cutter” approach to church planting, and attempted to color it as a plan “devised for West Virginia, by West Virginians”. This is not the case. We are told that “this is all that NAMB will accept”.

There are numerous issues that have come out of this overarching issue of a hierarchy that exists with NAMB and the State Conventions it supports. I fully support NAMB’s efforts to focus on unreached areas and great metropolitan areas of North America, where SBC witness is small or non existent. Perhaps it is time that West Virginia should get off the NAMB dole and shoulder more responsibility (but that is another argument for another time).

Rather than go into any more detail here, let me say that I am not saying “vote NO just to vote No”. I am enclosing a list of concerns I shared with Brother Terry, along with my observations and suggestions as to how we could deal with this. Please look over them carefully. The State Convention Annual Meeting will not allow time for full discussion, so that is why I am sharing this with you today. I pray that you will take this in the spirit in which it has been sent, in love from a fellow WV pastor. Please allow God to lead you as to how you vote on this issue, if you are a messenger at Martinsburg.

I would be happy to discuss details with anyone who would like to talk further about this. We all want to reach WV, North America, and the world with the Gospel. However, the NAMB/SPG plan is NOT the only way that this can be accomplished. If you are not coming to Martinsburg, please pray that God will be with us, and give us wisdom in everything we do.

In His Grace,

C.J. Adkins, Pastor

Westmoreland Baptist Church

Huntington, WV

The following information contains my notes that I used to stay on target during my meeting with the Executive Director last week. I apologize that it is in note form and not narrative, but I hope those who are interested will be able to decipher them

Issues Regarding SPG Process and Final Report

The Process

Too FAST – First we were told 7 years, then 2 years, Suddenly 6 months! Why the rush?
Other states have taken up to two years to make the changes

Top Down Process (which Reeks of denominational Hierarchy) –
· Slap in face of autonomy of churches, associations, and state convention
· WVCSB is too dependent on NAMB funding
· We are a “New Work” state that is 41 years old!

* Our West Virginia SB Churches give just over $1 million through the Cooperative Fund
· Perhaps our churches would give more if they saw us being weaned off NAMB funds, and moving more to 50/50 CP Split
· We have a welfare mentality
1. WVCSB receives $1.2 million from North American Mission Board

2. $72 thousand from LifeWay
3. $51 thousand from Florida Baptist Convention ·

* yet we keep 62% CP $744,000.
· Send on 38% CP $456,000.
· Is NAMB a “Partner”? I think not. They tell us how we must use these funds
1. to keep our funding from NAMB
2. but NAMB doesn’t have any money
3. WVCSB doesn’t have any money
4. they only have what monies our autonomous churches give

Church Planting Model – Church Planting Catalyst Missionary
· Where did this model come from? It did not originate in WV!
· SPG did not come up with it. It was presented to them as to what NAMB would accept
· it is a Cookie cutter plan NOT, as reported “What was best for West Virginia”
· The only concession was getting 5 regions rather than the original 4 regions proposed
· If we vote against this, the implication is that we don’t care about reaching WV for Christ…
· Or we are voting against our fellow WBCSB brethren who worked so hard for us. I reject these statements as written in our Executive Director's column in the State Paper

This Plan will create a Growing State Office Staff –
· Florida Baptist Convention is reducing state staff by 55 positions.
· Under this plan we are actually growing state staff-
· Fill the Evangelism position first determined to leave vacant
· 5 new CPCM’s
1. 20% of their salaries (80% paid by NAMB)
2. six cars & travel expenses (counting evangelism position)
3. Computers & I phones
4. Health Insurance and other benefits

· Told we’re moving toward a 50/50 CP split (as funds allow)
· How will this be possible due to extra staff and expenses?
· Associations are expected to tighten belts and be self supporting
· Local churches are also facing financial difficulties, have to take on more support of Local Associations,
· Yet are asked to increase CP Giving
· Everybody is downsizing and tightening the belt except State Convention Office Staff

Collegiate Church Plants – foolish and unfeasible
· Campus missionaries are needed, but a campus church plant seems unwise.

* The Campus population is Transitory by nature
· Most on campus are very young and strapped for cash

· How will they ever support a pastor and become self supporting?

Now The SPG Report has been Pushed upon us
· If we vote against it, the implication is that we are against the Great Commission and reaching WV for Christ
· This is how we were treated in Orlando with the GCRTF report
· If we vote against it, we are painted as those who do not support “our fellow WV Southern Baptists who have worked so hard for us”
· Allowing only a small time of discussion by including it in the Friday afternoon Miscellaneous Business Session, along with Election of Officers (pres and 1 vp), Discussion of Budget, Nominating Committee Report, then Report of SPG is not sufficient time for debate
· Then voting in evening session (without discussion) right after Frank Page
· Slick video presentation will not change the facts that our state is very divided on this report
· There seems to be the False assumption that only WVSBC can evangelize WV with new church plants (while there is a huge presence of American Baptists, Independent Baptists, Free Will Baptists, and other evangelical denominations all across WV.)
· The Greatest need is for strengthened existing churches – then we will see church plants, from strong congregations
· Our Region's CPC will cover 12 counties – the job description calls for him to spend 60 percent of his time in church planting activities and 40 percent of his time to be spent in Church Strengthening. That will be tough to do since 90 percent of his time will be driving! The idea that he can effectively help strengthen churches is an insult to our intelligence!

The SPG Report

I can support three articles of the report
· #1 Church Strengthening (fully support)
· #2 Church Mobilizing (except for the collegiate church planting part)
· #4 Cooperative Program (support 100% - way past due)

I cannot support two of the articles
· #3 Church Planting (could support this with some changes especially CPCM on Page 9 and Collegiate church plants on Page 10)
· #5 Associational Relations (Cannot support at all. Reject the premise on page 12)
· could support these two with changes
If Required to vote on report as a whole – Will have to vote NO and urge others to do the same
(this was what most of us West Virginians wanted in Orlando with the GCRTF Report, and were all disappointed when we could not)


This Process Has Been Done BACKWARDS
· Forced upon us by our “partners” at NAMB
· Took cookie cutter approach
· Shove it through, apply spin and pressure to approve
· Alienation and demonization of those who disagree on principle
· THEN we are asked to pray for 8 weeks for Unity (after damage is done)
· Should have had major prayer emphasis first – then proceed

Major Objections
· Top down procedure – Denominational Hierarchy
· Calloused treatment of DOM’s and some other faithful state missionaries
· Cookie Cutter approach – yet saying this is best for WV!
· Not open to any options suggested (the only “concession” went from 4-5 regions)
· Bloating of the state office budget with extra staff, and related expenses – there by delaying moving to a 50/50 CP split (because monies may not be available)
· Implying that vote against this report is a vote against evangelizing WV and against our fellow WV Southern Baptists

Suggestions –
· Let Us Vote on report article by article
· For any article that is rejected - Re-impanel the SPG to come up with other options for our consideration (some compromise idea have already been proposed)
· Bathe the undertaking in fervent prayer
· Present new findings to State Convention annual meeting in 2012
· Explore ways to wean ourselves off the NAMB funds so they can be best spent in more unreached areas (according to their strategy)

· This exercise has been backwards from the start.
· Neither Associations nor Conventions plant churches. Healthy churches plant churches!
· Great damage has already been done to the unity of our state’s Pastors and churches in West Virginia
· Passage of this report (as is) will do irreparable damage to our unity, fellowship, and financial support of the CP in West Virginia

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I've Been To CHURCH Tonight!

I was one of three Caucasian faces in the crowd at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Ashland, KY tonight. I felt right at home as I attended night four of their Fall Revival Meeting. Several long time friends greeted me at the door, and the old memories came flooding back from years gone by. Man! Do I feel like I've been to church!

(This photo was not taken at New Hope tonight, but I can tell you that it depicts much of what the service there was like.)

Last Friday night, I ran into New Hope's Deacon James Thomas at the Ashland Tomcat Football Game at Putnam Stadium. I hadn't seen Brother Thomas in some time, and after exchanging pleasantries for a few minutes, he said, "We're going to be in revival down at the church next week. You ought to come join us", he said with his usual smile.

"I'd love to worship with you folks again" I told him. "Who's preaching?"

When he told me it would be Pastor Mosley's son in law, Rev. David Peoples, I promised him I would do my best to attend. I had heard this young man before, and I really looked forward to hearing him preach again.

Circumstances and other ministry responsibilities kept me from being able to attend until tonight. I was very tired this evening after a long day of work, and was running low on time, but was able to grab a bite to eat at home, change clothes, and make it to New Hope with five minutes to spare. I was tempted to stay home and rest, but I am glad I made the effort to go.

The service was tremendous!

I have many old friends at New Hope, as we had several joint services and fellowship revivals with them (and nearby Central Baptist) back in the late 90's when I was pastor at Ashland Baptist Church. Pastor Henry Mosley and I built a strong personal relationship with one another and we even traveled on our first short term mission trip to the Philippines together in February of 2000. We were able to work together from time to time, until I was called away to Westmoreland Baptist Church in December of 2002.

We've stayed in touch over the years, and I have even had the New Hope Choir sing for us at Westmoreland, and had Bro. Mosley preach for us. Even though our paths hadn't crossed in a while, we always remember one another in prayer and feel the warmth of the relationship God kindled in us many years ago.

I enjoyed watching the church family come together for worship tonight. It is always a blessing to see the worshippers smiling, exchanging handshakes and hugs, and just genuinely enjoying being there.

There were visitors there tonight from Pastor Peoples Church in Paris, KY and from his former pastorate in Ironton, OH. Bro. Peoples is married to the daughter of Pastor Mosley, and the whole service was just a big homecoming.

The Deacons all sat on the front row, left side. Four visiting pastors, including myself, were asked to come sit on the platform, with Pastor Mosley and Evangelist Peoples.

The piano and drums were loud, the Spirit was moving, and the worship was exuberant. Those people came to have church, and did they have it tonight!

David Peoples (pictured here) preached from Ephesians 5:20 "Now unto Him who can do exceeding, abundantly above all we can ask or think, according to the power that works in us." His message was entitled "Great Expectations" and as the old timers use to say, he really shelled the corn!

The service was lengthy, compared to what many of us are accustomed to, but no one seemed to notice the time. In fact, I didn't see a clock on the wall anywhere in the building. Now THAT is my kind of church.

I never felt out of place there (never have) and it was easy to get into the lively music, and to "scotch" for the preacher as he worked his way into a rhythmic cadence, often bringing the crowd to its feet with applause.

We could sure use some of that spirit and exuberance in many other churches today.

I'm glad I visited New Hope tonight, and got a little taste of Heaven, right there on Carter Avenue.

Word to the Wise

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Nine Years Together

Nine years ago (come November 10th) Westmoreland Baptist Church called me to serve as pastor. I cannot believe how quickly the time has passed, and how many changes have come about in those nine years.

The first two years here, I spent working hard to minister to a congregation that was hurting. The next two years, you ministered to me and Linda as we faced the diagnosis of Stage Four Colon Cancer and the resulting tests, surgeries, chemotherapy treatments, and other related procedures. I will forever be thankful for the patience, love and affection you showed us with during that very difficult time.

I have officiated at 99 funeral services since I have been your pastor. My first was Curt Maynard’s service in February of 2003 and the most recent was that of Frances Adkins about a month ago. Randy Spurgeon and Rick Weber have also assisted my by handling several other services in my place during a time of my illness or when I have been out of town. Our church has ministered to each of these families in some way during their time of loss. We have seen many of our dear loved ones depart this life, but we take comfort in the fact that they are waiting for us on the other shore.

We have been blessed to have baptized many precious souls - not nearly enough, but grounds for rejoicing, none the less. We have married numerous couples, beginning with Evelyn Looney and Robert Bentle in November 2002, up through the nuptials of Rowina Gantalao and Joseph Spurgeon last December. God has blessed us with many new babies over the past several years, and we thank God for those young families that are such an important part of our church.

We have had seasons of abundant spiritual blessings, and times of drought. There have been financial difficulties and yet God has always supplied our needs. New ministries have begun, and some have come to an end. We have received numerous new members, and have had others move away. New ministries like Upward, First Place, and TeamKid have been a blessing. My greatest yearning is for growth in numbers and in the quality of our Discipleship Ministry – especially the Sunday School component.

Many folks have been pleased with my ministry here and have been most supportive, but a few have been upset with me and moved to other churches. This is always disheartening to a shepherd, who loves each member of his flock – but it sometimes happens in the course of the life of a church.

We have remodeled the sanctuary, restructured our church organization chart, and written a new constitution. Staff members have come and gone, and I thank God for the opportunity to have worked with each of them. We are blessed to have staff members who love the Lord and love His church, and give of their talents in His service.
I have been blessed to work with the most harmonious group of Deacons here, than at any church I have ever served. None of them seek to grow a power base, all have the heart of a servant, and each has the desire to see unity and spiritual growth among our congregation.

We have supported missions at home and abroad through our gifts to Southern Baptist missions and the Cooperative Program. We attempted a church plant in Wayne, that did not bear fruit, but we have financially supported church planters in the Philippines, and sent our members there who have helped plant several churches for the Glory of God and the sake of His Kingdom.

In looking over the rich 96 year history of Westmoreland Baptist Church, I note that the average tenure of a pastor here has been 5 ½ years. If the Lord tarries His coming, and allows me to continue to serve you as pastor, I will become the longest tenured pastor at Westmoreland Baptist Church in May of next year – passing Rev. Ralph Webb who served the church from May 5, 1948 through November 10, 1957.

I am honored and humbled that God has brought me to this place of ministry, and to serve these people. If it is His will, I hope to have many more years with you. I will forever be thankful for the day that God put Kenny Adkins and me together in a golf outing and brought the conversation around to the point that WBC was without a pastor. I am thankful for the day I spoke with Terry Perdue over the phone, and he encouraged me to take a resume’ and audio tape to the late Rick Rakes at his office at “The Daily Independent”. I will always be grateful for the fact that the pastoral search committee, consisting of Rick, June Ashworth, Charley Dygert, Steve Howerton, Rachel Lackey, Sam Wellman, and Hope Smith recommended me to the church.

I thank you all for your love and prayers and thank God for these past nine years together. I am praying that God will give us even greater days ahead. I’m getting older now (as are we all) but I have never been more excited and enthused in my ministry as I have been these past few months. Fresh Wind… Fresh Fire.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Disarming the Frustration With Humor

Anyone who has flown commercially more than a few times can probably recite the pre flight safety announcements from memory. You know the ones I am talking about, seat belts, oxygen masks, disabling smoke detectors in the lavatory, etc.

Today on Delta Airlines flight DL1059 from Detroit to New Orleans, we were blessed to have a chief flight attendant - a red haired girl named Angie - who added some levity to a somewhat tense situation.

The flight to the Big Easy was scheduled to leave DTW at 8:42 AM. Boarding began on time around 8:02 AM, but the routine ended from there. Due to my Silver Medallion Sky Miles status, I am beginning to get a few perks when I fly, like free checked bags, exit row and bulkhead seats, when available at no extra cost, etc. I'm nowhere near the goodies that the Gold Medallion and Priority Status folks get, but it is nice to get an upgrade here or there.

I was in a bulkhead seat on the aisle, just behind the first class part of the cabin. There were only six rows of seats between me and the open flight deck door, giving me a fairly close up view of that vital area of the plane. I noticed the large area of instrument panels, and one particular orange button that was illuminated. What caught my interest was a technician looking guy who stood between the captain and the first officer, with his head cocked to one side, studying the Little orange light. He had a manual of some type in one hand, and when he began to flick the lighted button with the fingers of his other hand, the thought occurred to me that this might not be a good sign.

Indeed, there were a stream of individuals who came into and out of the cockpit area, all of whom seemed to be focused on the little orange light. Eventually the pilot came on the PA system and informed us there was a small mechanical issue that was delaying our flight. He had every reason to believe that we would soon be underway.

That didn't happen. Eventually one of those funny looking airport tractors pulled up towing a boxlike trailer. The driver got off and uncoiled what looked like a large vacuum cleaner hose. I don't know what it was, but he attached the end of the hose to the plane, somewhere just below where we were sitting. After starting up the machine, he stood by for a long time, looking at some type of meter on the side of the trailer.

Then one of those cherry picker type vehicles came by and hoisted a couple of guys up to check out the tail section of the plane. The pilot told us the malfunction had something to do with some type of "bottle". Again it was not something that would cause the flight to be cancelled, and he assured us that we should be underway soon. Power was shut off to the plane, and the longer we sat there, the warmer it got. After nearly an hour, a flight attendant by the name of John Carlo came around offering the warm passengers cold cups of water. I was thankful for John Carlo and his merciful mission.

Finally after a parade of visitors to the flight deck and a flurry of activity around the outside of the plane, the pilot announced that we would be pulling back from the gate, momentarily. Total time on the plane - at the gate - one hour and a half. New Orleans was my final destination, but I sure felt sorry for my fellow passengers who had to make connections in the Crescent City. I hope it worked out for them.

As the power came back on, the AC kicked in, and the engines began to power up, the regular pre flight routine began.

As John Carlo and the other flight attendant took their spots at the front and midsection of the plane, Angie (the chief Flight Attendant) began to make the familiar pre flight safety announcement's, in a manner that made me literally laugh out loud!

"Ladies and gentlemen. In the unlikely event that you have not been in an automobile since 1972 our flight attendants will now demonstrate how to use a seat belt."

"Complaining, Drama, and Smoking are not allowed aboard this flight. If you feel that you must have a cigarette during this two hour and thirty minute flight, feel free to step out on the wing and enjoy your smoke."

"If this plane should lose power, pretty little lights will appear on the floor and guide you to the nearest exit - one of which may be sneaking up right behind you."

"If the cabin should depressurize, oxygen masks will magically fall down from the ceiling. Please follow these instructions. First, stop screaming and pull the oxygen mask over your face, and secure it by tightening the elastic bands on the side. Please be sure your mask is properly affixed before you help children, or other folks who may be acting like children."

"Should our flight unexpectedly turn into a CRUISE, your seat cushion will serve as a flotation device."

"As we prepare for takeoff, please stow and lock your tray, and return your seat to its upright and most uncomfortable position."

I think you get the idea...

Don't you appreciate someone who really loves their job?

I sure do!

Thanks Angie, for taking the curse off the flight and helping us, through humor, get over the frustration of the one and a half hour flight delay.