Friday, December 13, 2013

An Interesting Map

Dr. Steve Lemke recently posted a link on Facebook to a very interesting graphic and article regarding the concentration of "Christian" denominations across the U.S.  Here is a link to the article.  The map shows a breakdown of the most dominant religions in the United States on a county by county basis.  The information was compiled from the 2010 Census.

There are many interesting things to talk about regarding this graphic.

One of the things that obviously jumps out at me is the great concentration of churches aligned with the Southern Baptist Convention in the southeastern United States.

This is one of the obvious reasons that our SBC North American Mission Board has turned their focus in church planting efforts toward some of the great metropolitan areas in the Northeast and Northwest and the West Coast.  That's not to say that the SBC churches in the Southeast are reaching everyone with the Gospel, but it is obvious that we do have a strong presence here and there is a need for evangelical work in many other areas of the US and Canada.

I live in Kentucky, which has over 2000 Southern Baptist Churches but my current place of ministry for the past eleven years is just across the Big Sandy River in my native state of West Virginia.  The Mountain State seems to be fairly evenly divided predominantly by American Baptists in the west and United Methodists in the east.  There appear to be four counties where the Church of Christ is most heavily concentrated, with a Roman Catholic presence in the northern panhandle and two counties where the SBC is in majority status.

That last fact is somewhat surprising to me since one of those counties is Wayne County, where the church I serve is located.  I would not have thought of Wayne as being predominantly Southern Baptist due to the high number of other Baptist (American, Free Will, United, Primitive and Independent types) in the mostly rural county.  However, my guess is that the statistic comes from ours, and five other SBC churches located in the more urban northern end of the county, roughly along the Ohio River in Huntington, Ceredo, and Kenova areas.

Any how, as you look over the map, you will probably find many interesting points.

When it comes to religious sports fans, I'd guess that the average Southern Baptist would most likely be a fan of the SEC or ACC.  The purple area would likely root for the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Word About Missions at Westmoreland Baptist Church

The year 2014 marks the 99th anniversary of Westmoreland Baptist Church being a spiritual presence in this community.  We were formed as a mission of the Washington Avenue Baptist Church, which later became Jefferson Avenue Baptist Church, which just a few years ago merged with Eastwood Baptist Church on East Pea Ridge in Huntington.  Of the thirteen pastors who I have found listed in the church historical documents, the average tenure was 5 ½ years.  Ralph Webb and Eddie Gandy served the church for 9 ½ years and 8 years, 4 months respectively.  It has been my honor and privilege to serve this church for the past 11 years, making me the longest tenured pastor in our 99 year history.  I am honored to fill the pulpit in the shadow of the men who have served God and this congregation for nearly a century.

Since its founding as a mission, Westmoreland Baptist Church has always been a missional congregation.  Two of our former members have served as full time vocational foreign missionaries.  Two of our present members, have served as journeyman missionaries, and scores of our members have been involved in disaster relief and other short term North American and International mission trips. There are plans in place now for our members to make mission trips to Haiti, New Orleans, and Toronto in 2014, and a tentative plan for the Philippines in early 2015. 

A number of our young men have gone out from this church over the years to serve as pastors in other congregations around the country.  One of the young men who grew up in this church is now President of Campbellsville University in Kentucky. 

We have been blessed to have begun numerous mission works, many of which are solid growing churches today.  Some of these congregations have also planted other churches.

As we begin this 99th year of our ministry here, I just wanted to share with you what we are doing right now (beside the local ministries of this church) in mission work here at Westmoreland Baptist Church.  Presently 13% of the undesignated funds we receive in our offerings are going out of our church in the form of “Great Commission Giving” to Southern Baptist mission works at home and around the world.  Here is a list of missionaries and church planters that we are financially supporting through your tithes and offerings given to Westmoreland Baptist Church:

·        The Greater Huntington Baptist Association and it’s various mission projects like World Changers and church planting

·        5 Seminary trained Southern Baptist native Church Planters in the Negros Southern Baptist Association of Churches in The Republic of the Philippines.  These church planters include the Cadiao, Agaban, Folio, Martin, and Marcelino families.

·        Paul Harris and family, church planters in Barboursville - Abundant Hope Baptist Church

·        Will Basham and family, New Heights Church, Milton WV location

·        Ryan Navy and Family, New Heights Church, Huntington location

·        Jolly and Mary Jane Ampong, Church planters in Toronto, Ontario - All Nations Baptist Church

·        The “G Team” the family of a young lady who grew up in this church who are now serving as missionaries in North Africa/Middle East.  Their names and exact location must remain confidential due to security concerns.

·        We also support more than 5,000 International Missionaries and  5,000 North American Missionaries through our giving through the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention

·        Our CP giving also helps fund Six Southern Baptist Seminaries (training thousands of present and future pastors, missionaries, and other Christian workers).  Our gifts to CP are helping to keep theological education affordable to their students.  We have a personal connection with two of the SBC Seminaries at the present time. I am honored to be serving my second term as a Trustee of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and one of the young men who grew up in our church is presently studying on the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY . Through the Cooperative Program we also support the work of the \ SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

As pastor, I want to thank our people for their prayerful and financial support for our mission work here at Westmoreland Baptist Church.  I pray that we as a church will never lose sight of the very missional nature of our existence – to take the Good News of Jesus Christ around the corner, and around the world.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Remembering Gene Bennett

Tomorrow afternoon I will be called on to say a few words about my brother in law and friend, Lowell "Gene" Bennett.  Since his pastor will be actually doing the funeral message, the family has called upon me to do a brief eulogy.  It is hard to express in a few words, my feelings for my friend and brother in Christ.  It is also impossible to put into a brief memorial service, all that this dear brother experienced in more than 7 decades on the planet.

However, for those who cannot attend, and for any friends or family members who would like to have a copy of my planned remarks, I will share them with you in this forum. This is not written in "Article" form but in a form of notes for my eulogy.
Lowell “Gene” Bennett, of Ashland, Ky., was born on May 29, 1939 in Springfield, Ohio to the late Earl and Opal Dunfee Bennett. He dparted this life  on November 24, 2013 at Kings Daughters Medical Center in Ashland.  His time on Earth was 74 years, 5 months, and 26 days.
In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his wife Glenna Lucille Tagg Bennett and sisters Juanita Petrie and Virginia Wade.
He was a graduate of Windsor High School in 1957. He was a member of Princess Chapel where he served as Chairman of the board of Trustees and as an Elder.
He went on missionary trips to the Philippines, helped with disaster relief in New York City during 9-11 and to New Orleans during hurricane Katrina.

Lowell was retired from AK Steel with 36 years of service.
He is survived by his loving wife of 45 years, Violet Ann Bowling Bennett;
Three  sons,
·        Brian Bennett (Tracey) of Ashland, Ky.,
·        Glenn Bennett (Robin) of Ashland, Ky., and
·        Chris Bennett (Billie) of Argillite, Ky.;
Two daughters,
·        Gloria Stevens (Gary) of Olive Hill, Ky., and
·        Amy Reed (Scott Carpenter) of South Point, OH.;
Two sisters, Geneva Patrick of Crown City, OH. and Mary Pinkerman of Scottown, OH;
Ten Grandchildren,
·        James Stevens,
·        Shayne Bennett,
·        Evan Bennett,
·        Jesse White,
·        Shanna Bennett,
·        Sara Bennett,
·        Cody Bennett,
·        Cayden Bennett,
·        Sydney Reed and
·        Sophia Reed;
Four great grandchildren,
·        Gary Stevens,
·        Madeleine Bennett,
·        Michael Stevens and
·        Braxton White.
And a host of other family members, friends, neighbors, and church family

It is very natural for us to cling to this body, because it is hard for us to disassociate it from the one who dwelt in it – who animated it – whom you knew and loved as:
·        Brother
·        Husband
·        Father
·        Grandfather
·        Great grandfather
·        Uncle
·        Cousin
·        Brother in law
·        Co-worker
·        Brother in Christ
·        Friend or neighbor.
Yet in reality, this body is only the worn out garment that Gene cast aside on Sunday evening  when he slipped away from us and entered into the presence of the Lord.
Gene is in the presence of the Lord today –
·        Not because he was a good guy (and he WAS a good guy – one of the best I’ve known
·        But because long ago he had trusted Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord.
·        When one has truly done that, good works will naturally follow
Ephesians 2:8-10  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.  10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
·        He leaves behind a legacy of hard work, good will, fair play, and being a friend to all.
He was my friend for 44 years and my brother in law for 42 years – but more than that – he was like the older brother I never had.
We were the guys who married the two Bowling girls, and we HAD to hang together for that reason alone.
We were treated by Burgess and Orpha like we were their very own blood sons.
We enjoyed holidays and other family get togethers for more than four decades
He was caring and unselfish with his time and talents – with family members, neighbors and friends.
I can look back over the years at many times he had helped me and Linda by doing various electrical, plumbing, and carpentry jobs around our house, whenever called upon.
I had the privilege of working with Gene on two Mission trips.  One to NYC the week after September 11, and the other was a two week mission trip to the Philippine Islands.  In both cases I watched him work diligently at whatever he was given to do – from sorting and stacking huge boxes of clothes in New York, and helping to cook thousands of meals in the KY Disaster Relief kitchen for the relief workers.  Even suffering from Gout, he made the 31 hour trip to the Philippines, and helped carry equipment, distribute Filipino language Bibles, sang and gave his testimony in many crusades and church services.  And he did it all with that typical Gene smile and homespun humor.  They loved him over there.  Please allow me to read a couple of messages that have been sent to me from some of his Filipino friends in hearing he was very ill:
Dearest Dr. C.J.
Thank you for letting us know about Bro. Gene. We're sad of knowing his poor health.
Please tell him that we are praying, missed him and love him very much." Bro.Gene, you are always in our heart. Thank you for being a part of God's ministry here in our place."
God's servants,
Pastor Roberto Martin and Family
Dear Dr.CJ
We here in the Philippines were sad about what had happened to sir Gene. We remember him through his deeds and love for the ministry here in our place. Please extend that our prayer is coming on his way through Jesus Christ. We believe that no matter what may happen God will surely reveal His miraculous touch upon Sir Gene and the Family around him.
Please let him know that we love him and will always be remembered in our prayers. Be strong and of good courage.
Sir Gene, we love you so much with the love of the Lord.
Lovingly yours
Ptr Ernel Agaban and Family
Upon learning of his passing I received these messages –
Sad yet we need to accept God's plan for Bro. Gene's life, I'll be praying that God will comfort his family and friends out there. We sincerely extend our deepest sympathy to all of you there Uncle C.J.  Thanks for keeping in touch with us here in the Philippines. My Father and Mother (Ernel & Elenita) was very sad for what happened. We'll be missing him in the ministry. He's a good son of God. I do believe that Uncle Gene is at God's side right now. God's grace will be with us coz He's not dead. He truly and deeply LOVED us. God Bless you & your family uncle.
Micah Agaban

Please extend our deepest sympathy to the Bennett family. We are praying for God's comfort to the family, friends and relatives. we will tell ptr cadiao and the bcf family. God bless  we are also praying for you ptr. C.J.
Boboy Rosales
There are several pieces of information that one finds on a tombstone or grave marker:
·        Name
·        Date of birth
·        Date of death
·        Little “-“ in between the two
·        The most important piece of information is the dash of your life.
·        What was done in those fleeting years of life
My Dad is fond of saying that a man preaches his own funeral while he is living. This is true.
I always tell my sons, (and now my grandsons) the three things:
1.      Always Do Your Best
A.   As a husband, father, and grandfather
B.   As a friend or neighbor
C.   On the job
D.   At the church – recognized as one who could be placed in positions of trust
2.     Always Do What’s Right
A.    He treated all of his children and grandchildren equal. No favorites.
B.   He hated to see someone treated unfairly
C.   He was willing to stand up for those who could not stand up for themselves
D.   He had a sense of fair play
E. And although far from perfect – in the 44 years I knew Gene, he always tried to do the right thing

3. Always Treat Others The Way You Would Like To Be Treated
In the Old Testament, Samuel records King David’s reaction to hearing the news of the death of Abner:
2 Samuel 3:38  “Then the king said to his servants, “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel?”

That is the way I feel about Gene Bennett.
I will miss him here but I look forward to seeing him again soon in a land where there will be no more sickness, no pain, no death, no parting.
I love you brother and I'll see you soon.