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Guest Columns

When should Southern Baptists get married?

August 20 2014 by Jon Akin & Andrew Walker, Baptist Press

Marriage trends in America have changed. Their implications are worth paying attention to because these dynamics affect our families and our churches.

Consider these statistics:

  • Fewer Americans are marrying than they once did. In 1960, 72 percent of adults over age 18 were married, compared to 51 percent in 2010.

  • The age of first marriage has gone up dramatically since the 1970s. In 2011, the average age at first marriage for men was 28.7; for women 26.5. In the 1960s, men and women were much more likely to marry in their early 20s.

  • Birthrates for cohabiting women have reached records highs, according to a new report, indicating that the decline in rates of marriage also is signaling a steady increase in non-marital childbearing that currently hovers around 40 percent nationally.

Since marriage in America has changed so much, we want to focus on one of these changes – people entering marriage at later ages – to determine what problems or risks that trend might pose to our families and churches.

Various factors influence later marriage – such things as educational attainment, income, debt and the availability of sexual activity outside of marriage due to loosening social norms. Oftentimes, the reasons given for delaying marriage seem more akin to American prosperity theology and sexual freedom than biblical wisdom. Today, more choose to delay marriage until their careers are established – what some call a “capstone” model of marriage. Statistically fewer people enter marriage at a younger age – what some call a “foundation” model of marriage.

But the question remains: When should a couple marry? Is there a precise age? What do Southern Baptists think about this issue?

To answer that, you’d have to ask Southern Baptists.

We’re a diverse denomination spanning multiethnic cultures. Here in the Nashville area, The Tennessean daily newspaper published a rather confusing article Aug. 13 that drew from interviews and quotations from the authors of this op-ed. We agreed to do the interview in order to give the perspective of what one pastor preaches in one church and what one public policy expert believes is sound social policy on marriage – not what the convention believes as a whole. We were interpreted as suggesting that Southern Baptists as a matter of convention policy ought to marry younger.

Contrary to media reports, there is no official “policy” as to when Southern Baptists should get married since we are a convention of autonomous churches. We think there are biblical wisdom principles that should influence when a couple is prepared to enter marriage, but to assume that a one-size-fits-all standard applies across the board is too heavy-handed.

Frankly, it is indeed our personal opinion that marrying earlier staves off the hormonal rush that comes with sexual temptation. Marriage is an institution that is divinely shaped to serve the needs of men and women; it isn’t a capstone to an already-built career. Sadly, we’ve known Southern Baptist parents who have counseled their children to delay marriage while turning a blind eye to their fornication in order to not jeopardize Suzy and Johnny’s education.

We do not advocate a specific age; rather, we believe that young people should make themselves “marry-able” younger. They need to push against the cultural norm that extends adolescence for an indefinite period of time and reach maturity more quickly so they can be ready for marriage sooner than the national average.

We believe this for both biblical and practical reasons.

First, God designed men and women to be married both by creation ordinance (Genesis 2) and for gospel proclamation (Ephesians 5); therefore we believe marriage serves as a foundation for life, not a capstone.

Second, singleness is a gift that God gives to some people (1 Corinthians 7) and one only has the gift of singleness if they can live a celibate life with self-control.

Third, the Bible condemns pre-marital sex as sinful and a violation of God’s design for sex in the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman for life. It is impractical and unhelpful to advise and encourage young men and women who reach sexual maturity at the age of 12 or 13 to wait 15 years before marriage and still remain pure.

Fourth, we believe that all of us are sexual sinners whether in thought or deed and need the grace of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ to forgive us and empower us to pursue God’s design in marriage.

Ultimately, there are Southern Baptists who will agree and disagree with us, which is expected given our denomination’s size and vastness. Even some in our own churches would disagree with us. The question of when a couple is ready for marriage is one that requires wisdom and discernment for each person considering marriage and, ideally, the involvement of a local church that seeks to shape and influence potential spouses in a way that prioritizes and mirrors the gospel in covenantal fidelity.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jon Akin is senior pastor of Fairview Church in Lebanon, Tenn.; Andrew Walker is director of policy studies for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/20/2014 10:32:18 AM by Jon Akin & Andrew Walker, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Join the Movement

August 19 2014 by Ronnie W. Floyd, Baptist Press

I am convinced that our greatest need in America is another Great Awakening. By His grace, I pray that our Sovereign Lord will bestow such mercy upon His people and our nation that we would experience the next Great Awakening.
No great movement of God ever occurs that is not first preceded by the extraordinary prayer of God’s people.
This is why I feel compelled to ask you to Join the Movement by praying daily with me and inviting your friends and church to Join the Movement to pray along with us.
This prayer movement must be extraordinary for these four important things:
1. Great Awakening in America
A Great Awakening is a season in time when unprecedented numbers of people come to Christ in a region or all over the country. It has been more than 100 years since the last great move of God in our land. We need another Great Awakening. We must pray for it daily.
While this world is experiencing multiple crises and our own nation has a few of its own, our greatest crisis is spiritual. Each born-again, evangelical believer should be praying daily for our nation to experience a spiritual awakening. Join the Movement by praying for this, beginning today.
Personally, we each need to experience a spiritual revival. We need the mighty manifested presence of God in our lives. And the church needs to experience a spiritual revival. I spoke to this in my first press conference as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. We need the mighty manifested presence of God and His glory all over the church. When we are experiencing these moments with God, by His Sovereign grace, we pray our Lord gives our nation a Great Awakening.
2. Reach the world for Christ
Daily, we need to appeal to God to give us the resources, the people and the strategy to reach the world for Christ. This is why we need a Great Awakening in America: As Great Commission Christians and as a denomination that believes this is our last hope for this world, we need to pray daily for the world to be reached for Christ.
Each of us must find our part in reaching the world for Christ. Yes, if God wakes up America with a spiritual awakening, we will be much more prepared and ready to do all we can to reach the world for Christ. Join the Movement to pray with us daily to see the world reached for Christ. All of this begins with reaching our own town, community, village or city for Christ. Therefore, we will pray for the next Great Awakening in America and for us to reach the world for Christ, but also for ...
3. The call to Columbus, June 16-17, 2015
From my opening press conference as president, I began to issue the call to each pastor, church leader and layperson to join us in Columbus, Ohio, for our next Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, June 16-17, 2015. I appealed for the same through my first blog as president. We must begin to pray for our gathering now.
I recently visited Columbus. I was highly impressed and blessed by the city and convention arrangements; however, I was more encouraged and blessed by a luncheon with approximately 180 pastors and leaders. God is doing some major things in Columbus and after observing this for one day, NOW I KNOW why God has us in Columbus in June 2015. It is HIS place for the Southern Baptist family to meet.
Don’t miss praying daily for our annual meeting and surely don’t miss what God will do among us. Can you imagine what God may do when thousands of Southern Baptists pray daily for months in advance for the next Great Awakening, to reach the world for Christ, and our gathering in Columbus?
Get ready. Do not miss it. Join us there and even if you will not be able to attend, Join The Movement of extraordinary prayer.
4. President of the SBC, Ronnie Floyd
Humbly, I request that you pray for me daily. I have never felt more in need of prayer in my life than today. The burden upon me is heavy and the task is overwhelming. But hope is rising in me, especially when I know that people are praying for me daily.
I am doing things I have never done before and am being asked about things that are beyond me. I am also speaking more than ever and conducting interviews frequently. This is why I need you to pray for me daily.
Additionally, please ask your church to pray for me. I need God’s wisdom, understanding and power.
The four items of prayer are clear. Sign up to Join the Movement and stay informed with weekly emails.

Please sign up now! Together, we can pray in this extraordinary manner. May our Lord open the heavens! “If only You would tear the heavens open and come down....” (Isaiah 64:1).
Yours for the Great Commission, Ronnie W. Floyd
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ronnie Floyd is pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, with campuses in Springdale, Rogers and Fayetteville. He is on the Web at www.sbc.net/president’spage and at ronnniefloyd.com/blog.)

8/19/2014 10:12:28 AM by Ronnie W. Floyd, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ferguson and you

August 18 2014 by John Mark Yeats, Baptist Press

This morning started with an uncomfortable conversation with my son. On the second day of school, his personal clothing choice was a bit sloppy and involved a hoodie.

It shouldn’t have been a big deal.

But it is.

My son is an African American young man.

We talked about the tragedy over the weekend. A young black man died. According to witnesses, his hands were raised in defense. He was unarmed. Now Michael Brown’s name joins others like Trayvon Martin.

We don’t know what led up to the shooting. We might question why the officer shot Michael so many times. The reaction to the news is even worse. It’s heartbreaking to watch peaceful protest become violence in the streets. It becomes disconcerting to see the militarization of a police force trying to curb the chaos. From a distance or even on the ground, we may never understand all of the moving pieces.

As Christians, we should be praying for one simple thing: Justice. Not the type of justice that equates an eye for an eye or a life for life, but justice that is real. We need the justice Jesus brings, a justice that addresses sin appropriately, yet is bundled with mercy and forgiveness. The situation in Ferguson requires it.

Please remember: Racial tensions still exist.

In many urban and suburban environments, there is a palpable tension that sits right below the surface. It takes very little to set off a powder keg of pent-up emotion.

The argument that the racial issues marring our national history are over is false. They still exist and are often spurred forward by the web and other social media cloisters. Yes, we have an African American president and Attorney General. That does not mean racial hatred is over.

Don’t wrongly hear me. There is progress. But don’t be fooled. These tensions are very much present. I have personally been called names and even had to leave a Missouri restaurant because of our unique family. Unfortunately, as a father, I must inform my sons that in many contexts, as African American young men, they will be deemed guilty until something overwhelmingly proves the opposite.

What changes this situation?

The church.

In her poignant book The New White Nationalism in America, Carol Swain argues the only hope for healing in this is the church. Where should all races come together in one place as equal before their creator? The church! Where should we find solace when chaos breaks out? In the church!

Please hear me: I am not attempting to give a trite answer here. These are complex cultural issues with a long historical presence in our nation. The conversations addressing racial issues have multiple levels and are hard to solve. That being said, no other social structure can approximate the unity a local congregation brings to a community when that spiritual body is fully living the claims of Christ. When churches sacrifice preference for the gospel, changes in their communities begin to happen. Have we already forgotten the amazing events surrounding the Jena, La., revivals? In the midst of intense racial tensions in this small Louisiana town, churches came together and the tension diffused and even led to the repentance of the chief of police for his part in escalating the tension.

But we don’t have to wait for events like this to happen. We can be proactive! We are gospel people after all! If your congregation is in an urban or suburban context, what are you doing to bring healing in your midst? Are you seeking to reach those of different races and cultural contexts? Are the racial proportions of the general populace in a five-mile radius of your congregation even remotely reflective of your membership? Instead of Sunday being the most segregated hour of the week, let’s be the true body of Christ!

As I reminded my son, Ferguson is not the last place these issues are going to arise. Next time, it could be our community. He needs to continually be mindful of how he conducts himself with authorities and others. When the heart of humanity is broken by sin, the only hope for ourselves or our community is found in the Savior.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – John Mark Yeats is Dean of the College at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.)

8/18/2014 11:59:32 AM by John Mark Yeats, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Someone tell the president: Iraqi Christians are dying

August 14 2014 by Kirsten Powers, USA Today

It’s starting to seem as if the Obama White House operates on a time delay. In the case of Iraq’s religious minorities, the results have been deadly.
On June 10, the barbaric extremists called the Islamic State captured the city of Mosul. By mid-July, they issued an edict to the Christians who remained to “convert, leave or be killed.”
The White House said nothing.
Beginning on July 22, Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., took to the House floor six times to plead for attention from the Obama administration as a genocide threatened Iraq.
Not a word from the president.
On July 24, a resolution sponsored by Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., “condemning the severe persecution (of) Christians and other ethnic and religious minority communities … in Iraq” was introduced on the floor of the House. It called for the administration to “develop and implement an immediate, coordinated and sustained humanitarian intervention.”
On Aug. 1, the House of Representatives passed a resolution sponsored by Rep. Juan Vargas, D-Calif., calling for protection of religious minorities in Iraq.
It wasn’t until Aug. 5 that the administration acknowledged the crisis in Iraq. It was done in the form of a statement, condemning attacks on religious minorities, by the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power.
By last Thursday (Aug. 7), the largely Christian towns of Qaraqosh, Tal Kayf, Bartella and Karamlesh had fallen to the Islamic State.
Finally, later that night – and two full months after the crisis began – President Obama announced airstrikes in Iraq and for the first time acknowledged that Christians are being driven from the homeland of their faith. But the Christians garnered a passing mention, while the religious minority of Yazidis seems to be what moved the president to act.
An Iraqi Christian leader lamented to me that his people would have to convert to get the administration’s attention.
The Yazidis deserve protection and humanitarian aid, but so do the Christians who number in the hundreds of thousands in Iraq. While the Yazidis received air drops of food and water, nothing has been dropped to the Christians who are homeless and in dire need of food and water. Each day that passes is a matter of life and death.
Why the indifference from the administration?
The disinterest in the suffering of Iraqi Christians has been a bipartisan travesty. During the Bush administration, nearly a million Christians fled Iraq in fear for their lives. Ironically, it was Sen. Barack Obama who sent the Bush State Department a letter in 2007 inquiring about this persecution. Incredibly, the Bush administration denied there was a problem.
Rep. Eshoo, a Chaldean Catholic whose father fled religious persecution in Iran, told me, “This issue has been viewed with a real Western eye and a lack of understanding and appreciation of who is there and how important these religious minorities are. In the case of the Christians, these are the oldest Christians in the world. They represent part of the glue for a diverse society if there is to be one there. This whole issue represents an American value of diversity and protection of minorities.”
Someone please tell the president.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kirsten Powers writes weekly for USA TODAY.)

8/14/2014 9:51:22 AM by Kirsten Powers, USA Today | with 0 comments

Why we don’t cry out for awakening … and why we must

August 12 2014 by Chuck Lawless, Guest Column

Our Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president, Ronnie Floyd, has called us to pray for spiritual awakening. This call is the right one for a denomination that faces markers of decline even as we seek to determine the best steps into the future.
The fact that our president must call us to pray for awakening says something about us, however. We do not readily recognize the need for an awakening, and our track record says we seldom pray fervently for a mighty move of God. 
We can only wonder why we lack this passion. From a long-time Southern Baptist who genuinely loves our denomination, here are my thoughts about why we don’t cry out for an awakening . . . and why we must. I trust you will hear these words as both confession and concern, as I count myself among the guilty.   
We are “revivalistically numbed.” We have heard this call before. In fact, I know of no SBC president in my years of denominational service who has not in some fashion called us to our knees. Sometimes we do not hear what we need to hear because it sounds too familiar. On the other hand, the fact we are numbed is only one more indicator of our need for revival.
We are biblically forgetful. Many of us forget (or perhaps do not even know) the stories of God’s moving mightily through His people in the scriptures. How many of us recall God’s moving in Josiah in such a way that he led the Hebrews to abolish idols, restore the Temple, destroy pagan altars and return to the Word? We may remember that Nehemiah rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem, but do we also recall his people weeping, confessing and praying as they heard the Word of the Lord? We know the story of Jonah’s rebellion, but do we recollect that the entire wicked city of Nineveh turned to God as the prophet preached? When we do not remember the miraculous movings of God in the scriptures, we do not long for such movements in our lives.  
We are historically uninformed. Most of us have read little about the great awakenings that swept our young nation in the early 1700s and 1800s.
We do not know of crowds of thousands who gathered in public squares to hear the gospel, of congregations that clung to pews under the power of God, or of towns that spoke continually of spiritual matters. We know little about itinerant preachers who traveled the countryside to spread the gospel or about college students who prayed until their campuses erupted in revival. We are uninformed about prayer meetings that echoed from New York City to Europe to South Africa in the decade before the Civil War. Because we know so few stories of God’s working in the past, we give little thought to a potentially extraordinary work of God in the present. 
We are globally unaware. God is doing mighty work around the world. Believers in South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific Rim speak of non-believers turning to God in large numbers – even though doing so may cost them their lives. I have seen followers of Christ in Africa travel for days to participate in the most basic Bible study so they can teach others.
God is sending church planters to Canada, a nation with one church for every 117,000 people. The growth of the church in Cuba is staggering. Many churches do not know these stories, though, and we thus lack the passion for God to do the same on our shores.
We are comfortably worldly. Revival does not come without a cost. If God so moves in our denomination, we will dramatically learn, “God does not want partnership with us, but ownership of us.”* Foreign to us, though, are brokenness over sin, confession of wrong and gut-wrenching prayers of repentance that characterize movements of God. We are, frankly, comfortable where we are. Pleading with God to send awakening might be asking for something we do not really want if it means sacrifice and change.
We are denominationally strong. This point may seem contradictory to the beginning of this article, but that is intentional. Historically, the church has experienced awakening when a few believers get desperate for God – when they come to the end of themselves. I am not convinced the SBC is there yet, beginning with me. We have enough members and sufficient resources to make our slide into irrelevance almost imperceptible. As long as the SBC is comfortable simply being larger than others, we will not cry out for awakening. 
So, what do we do? Confess our unwillingness to pray for awakening. Teach the scriptures, reminding one another of God’s miraculous work. Punctuate lessons and sermons with stories of God’s moving in the past. Learn about and proclaim stories of God’s work around the globe in the present. Repent of our idols, including our comfort. And pray. Fervently.
We simply must pray. I must pray. Apart from the power of God, we will not make a dent in the darkness of the world.
*Leonard Ravenhill (2004-08-01). Why Revival Tarries (Kindle Location 427). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chuck Lawless is professor of evangelism and missions and vice president of graduate studies and ministry centers at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a global theological education consultant for the International Mission Board.)

8/12/2014 9:48:46 AM by Chuck Lawless, Guest Column | with 0 comments

History demonstrates how American Christians should respond to the Ebola crisis

August 11 2014 by Alvin Reid, Guest Column

The outbreak of Ebola in Africa has caused the death of hundreds of people and infected hundreds more. In addition, CNN reports at least 60 healthcare workers have died in recent years from contracting the disease while caring for others.
Samaritan’s Purse made the news with their efforts to bring back two American missionaries stricken with the Ebola virus. With no known cure for the disease, its spread to cities in western Africa with international airports has caused alarm to some. Bringing two Americans into the U.S. with Ebola – although not easily contracted and easily isolated – has brought out less than kind responses. For instance, Donald Trump tweeted this: “The U.S. cannot allow EBOLA infected people back. People that go to far away places to help out are great-but must suffer the consequences!”
My point in citing Trump is not to attack him personally, for he likely represents a lot of people – including, I fear, more than a few believers – who share his concern but won’t speak it so publicly. How should believers respond? Here is an insight from the early church who advanced the gospel valiantly in the face of both persecution and plagues:*
“One should not underestimate the impact of the changed lives of unbelievers to impact a pagan culture. One of the underestimated facets of early church history concerns the massive plagues that hit the Empire. During the reign of Marcus Aurelius beginning about AD 165, a plague devastated the Empire, taking the emperor as well. Another came around AD 251 with similar effects. About 260, in his Easter letter, Dionysius wrote a tribute to the believers whose heroic efforts cost many of them their lives. Pagans tended to flee the cities during plagues, but Christians were more likely to stay and minister to the suffering: ‘Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another,’ Dionysius observed, adding, ‘Needless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy.’
“Reading this from a comfortable home in the West, I wonder if we can share in the difficulty of the persecuted church by our willingness to forsake comfort to minister to those in dire need, whether it be AIDS patients or giving ourselves more to those who suffer in our culture in illness or poverty. Dionysius would agree: ‘The best of our brothers lost their lives in this manner, a number of presbyters, deacons, and laymen winning high commendation so that death in this form, the result of great piety and strong faith, seems in every way the equal of martyrdom.’
“I fear that sometimes we in the West can feel a bit of self-pity that we do not suffer as believers do in places like Saudi Arabia and China. Of course, some relish that and pursue a prosperity gospel long on narcissism and short on sacrifice. But if Dionysius is right, there is yet a way to be valiant for Christ in any culture: seek the marginalized, the disenfranchised, those no one cares about and love them and touch them, and be Christ to them.
“Consider the example of William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army. Each Christmas, there was a tradition in London: the churches would send out representatives to the streets to invite the poor to the celebration, and thousands thronged there. Anglicans would begin by announcing, ‘All of you who are Anglicans come with us.’ Catholics would join in, ‘All who are Catholics come with us.’ The Methodist, the Lutherans and others would follow suit. When all the invitations were made, many more people milled about. At that point, William Booth would shout to the people, ‘All of you who belong to no one come with me.’”
Perhaps these missionaries who now suffer with Ebola represent better the spirit of the early church than those of us who simply post on our social media sites our worries, fears and outrage about life in the West, as if we are the ones who truly suffer. Perhaps we can look again at the lives of the witnesses who lived, loved and died before us to recover the gospel passion we too can share with them. We do not have to go to a dangerous place to contract a dangerous disease; but we can do more than applaud them or avoid them. We can, to quote Rees Howells who labored with the broken in the Welsh Revival, “If you love one, you can love many, and if you can love many, you can love all.” I pray God will give me such extravagant love.
*Excerpted from Alvin L. Reid, Evangelism Handbook: Biblical, Spiritual, Intentional, Missional (B&H, 2009).
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Alvin Reid is Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism and professor of evangelism and student ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

8/11/2014 2:37:48 PM by Alvin Reid, Guest Column | with 0 comments

WWI’s impact on Christians

August 8 2014 by Stephen Douglas Wilson, Baptist Press

July 28th marked the centennial of the beginning of the First World War (1914-1918). As indicated by the name for the conflict, the war touched nearly everyone in the world at the time.

Perhaps as many as 16 million soldiers and civilians died in the conflict, and more than 50 million people died from the 1918 influenza pandemic spawned by abysmal wartime conditions. Postwar famines in Eastern Europe and Asia also stemmed from the conflict. Four empires – the Ottoman, German, Russian and Austro-Hungarian – were toppled and replaced by a collection of smaller states. The British government gave legal recognition to the small Jewish community in Palestine with the Balfour Declaration, clearing the way for the eventual establishment of modern Israel.

In addition, postwar instability spawned a series of smaller conflicts in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The Armenian and Greek genocides began during the war. Finally, 20th century Fascism, Nazism, state Communism and Japanese militarism had roots in World War I and its immediate aftermath.

While nearly the entire world was touched by the conflict, the First World War greatly impacted the Christian community. The war made its mark on at least four aspects of the Christian experience with lasting effects.

1. The war triggered a paradigm shift in the Christian worldview and “end of time prophecy.”

For hundreds of years Christians had read the book of Revelation with its frightening images of the Apocalypse. World War I provided a firsthand look at a real-life apocalyptic world. While many Christian theologians believed the Apocalypse was more allegorical than literal, the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse seemed to come alive during the conflict and its aftermath. War, famine, disease and death occurred on a worldwide stage and on a scale that truly was unprecedented. The war and its destruction marked the beginning of a fundamental shift in the Christian worldview. After the war and over time, Christians felt less positive about their standing in the world and began to express some pessimism about world affairs. The war launched a new interest in “end of time prophecy” that peaked in the latter half of the 20th century as the new millennium neared.

2. Postmillennialism waned among western Protestants.

In the years before World War I, western Protestants largely promoted a view of eschatology called postmillennialism. Postmillennialists believed that Christian teaching and societal reforms would foster a time of increased gospel success called the millennium prior to Christ’s return. The triumph of the gospel would usher in responsible human governments promoting peace and prosperity. Human society, postmillennialists believed, was going to improve. Postmillennialists dominated the 19th century abolition and social reform movements popular among many Christians of that century (and into the 20th century as well). Although they viewed many of the social reform movements as incomplete since they had no gospel element, even prominent Southern Baptists like B.H. Carroll endorsed postmillennialism.

As the horrors of World War I unfolded and uncertainty set in after the conflict, many Christians began to question the idea that human society would get better. Therefore, the First World War marked the beginning of postmillennialism’s decline. Some still adhered to it after the conflict, but a Second World War, the holocaust and a Cold War with the threat of nuclear destruction led most Western Christians to abandon postmillennialism. Human reform had not stemmed the collective evils of the 20th century.

3. Premillennialism started to become popular.

While the First World War began to discredit postmillennialism, the war gave new impetus to a premillennial view of the end times popularized earlier by John Nelson Darby and C.I. Scofield. Premillennialists rejected the belief that the world would get better before Christ returned. They saw in the war proof that human society without Christ was in fact getting worse. Pessimistic about human affairs, they believed that Christ would return soon to redeem the elect from an evil world. Like postmillennialists and amillennialists, premillennialists did not speak with one voice. Some premillennialists held that Christ would collect His own in a rapture before His second coming while others thought believers would have to endure a period of tribulation before Christ’s return. Yet all premillennialists believed the world’s slide into anarchy and evil would not be fully or finally reversed before Christ’s second coming. World War I seemed to offer a contemporary glimpse into the future trauma awaiting the world.

4. Evangelism to a “lost generation” increased.

According to Ernest Hemingway, the American author Gertrude Stein coined the phrase “the lost generation” to reference those who came of age during World War I. Hemingway used the term in three of his works. It proved to be an appropriate label. The war produced disillusionment and experimentation with alcohol, drugs and immorality for many young men and women. In the United States, even in an era of prohibition, the public seemed powerless to prevent the excesses of the war years and the “Jazz Age” that followed.

As Christians had done for previous generations, they reached out to the “lost generation” during and after the war. Believers rallied to support the troops with gifts and charitable donations during the conflict and fed the world’s starving masses afterward. Military chaplains addressed the spiritual needs of the troops both at home and abroad. In the United States evangelists like Billy Sunday and Mordecai Ham (a noted Southern Baptist) led “urban campaigns” to reach both servicemen and civilians for Christ. These campaigns were not new to Christian culture (D.L. Moody pioneered them in the late 1800s), but the war years stimulated their development. Evangelists continued their efforts to reach the “lost generation” well after the war. Sgt. Alvin York, who later became the most decorated American soldier of WWI, became a Christian shortly after the war’s outbreak and remained a lifelong witness to those around him.

Alongside their concern and compassion for the “lost generation,” many Christians championed social reforms to curb the temptations young men were experiencing during the war years. A popular song included the refrain, “How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm once they’ve seen Paree?” Prohibition (the 18th Amendment), sought by many Christians in the United States and passed during the war (but implemented afterward), sought to end the manufacture, distribution and sale of alcohol. Josephus Daniels, the secretary of the Navy during the war, closed down all houses of prostitution within five miles of a military base, including the famed New Orleans “red light” district of Storyville and other centers of urban vice. While these moves admittedly did little to curb the excesses of the “Jazz Age,” the urban revivals of Sunday, Ham and other evangelists during the 1920s led tens of thousands of the “lost generation” to saving faith in Christ. The urban campaigns proved to be forerunners of the mid-20th century evangelistic “crusades.”

The First World War and its aftermath have influenced Christians right up to the present time. A renewed interest in end of time prophecy, the decline of postmillennialism, the rise of premillennialism, the rise of evangelistic crusades and some of the Christian social reform movements either began, peaked or surged during the war era. What started on July 28, 1914, impacted Christians for the next 100 years.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Stephen Douglas Wilson, a former member of the SBC Executive Committee.)

8/8/2014 9:39:15 AM by Stephen Douglas Wilson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Sunday’s top priority

August 6 2014 by Diana Davis, Baptist Press

What is your priority as you arrive at church on Sunday? Is it to assure your child has two matching shoes? To lead a great small group class? Greet guests? Enjoy Christian friends?

Oh, those are all quite important, but our TOP priority must be to truly worship God. How can we do that? Try these six simple tips:

1. Anticipate. Look forward to Sunday’s worship service. Faithfully commit that time to God weekly. Pray for God to bless each person there, and to speak to you personally. Quote Psalm 69:9 NLT, “Zeal for your house consumes me.”

2. Arrive early. No exceptions! You have an important appointment with the King of Kings, so don’t allow anything or anyone to make you even a split-second late.

3. Engage in the worship service. True worship is not routine. It doesn’t involve making a grocery list or checking emails. Intentionally keep your eyes and heart focused on worshipping holy God. It may help to sit near the front.

4. Participate in every part of the worship service, with joy and enthusiasm. For a Christian, worship is no spectator sport!

Stand when it’s time to stand. Worship by giving your tithe. Greet during greeting time. During Scripture reading, open your Bible, I-Pad or Bible app to follow along.

Sing every word of every song, with joy and enthusiasm, directly to God. There’s no true worship in singing words with a mechanical, artificial, business-as-usual attitude. Off-key is fine; closed lips are not.

Listen to every word that’s spoken. As announcements are made, ask God’s blessings on those events. During baptism, celebrate with the angels.

Listen expectantly to every word of the sermon. Learn. Apply God’s Word to your own life. Take sermon notes. Nod your head. Say “Amen.” Demonstrate your interest in the sermon with body language.

5. Eagerly anticipate life-changing decisions during the invitation time, praying fervently that God will change hearts and touch lives. Don’t even think about gathering your belongings or slipping out early. Your pot roast must not distract your worship of God.

6. Leave slowly and joyfully. A race to the exit seems to state, “I’ve put in my check-mark for God.” Instead, linger a moment. Keep your mind on God. Smile at a child. Meet a guest. Encourage a fellow believer.

There’s nothing humdrum about the priority of worship. And there’s a huge bonus: That worshipful heart will carry over into our actions and service to God throughout the entire week.

“You must worship God in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Davis is the author of Fresh Ideas and Deacon Wives (B&H Publishing) and wife of North American Mission Board Vice President for the South Region Steve Davis.)
8/6/2014 9:11:54 AM by Diana Davis, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SB churches must reach, baptize & disciple young adults

August 5 2014 by Ronnie Floyd, Baptist Press

I am burdened by the fact that 80 percent of our 46,125 Southern Baptist Churches reported reaching and baptizing only 0-1 young adults according to the recent Pastors’ Task Force on Southern Baptist Convention Evangelistic Impact and Declining Baptisms report released late spring. This means that 36,900 Southern Baptist Churches baptized zero to one young adult in an entire year.

When I write these words, I am overwhelmed with the burden of how much we need a mighty move of God upon our pastors, church leaders, lay people and churches that comprise the SBC. Yes, let a mighty move of God begin in me and with our church.

If this does not change, what does it mean for us?

On July 14, 2014, I released an article addressing another major problem, where 60 percent of our Southern Baptist churches did not baptize a single young person between the ages of 12-17 years old. When you combine the lack of effectiveness in reaching them with the lack of effectiveness in most of our SBC churches in reaching, baptizing and discipling young adults from ages 18-29, we must ask ourselves many serious questions. One of these questions we must ask ourselves is, ”If this does not change, what does this mean for us?”

Obviously, this means that if we continue in this mode, many of our churches are facing an aging problem that will one day threaten their long-term viability. When we are ineffectively reaching young adults between ages 18-29, we are showing our disconnectedness in the world today, but additionally our disconnectedness in days to come.

I believe the church has to reach every generation to impact its community in a great way. I see no evidence anywhere in Scripture where churches specialize in whom they reach generationally. All people are in need of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ; therefore, we must reach all people, including young adults 18-29 years of age. Are we willing to do what it takes to become all things to all people? Yes, it is hard, uncomfortable, and it takes sacrifice. But compare it to seeing a generation come alive for Christ and a world impacted. Then, the cost is small!

We cannot ignore other questions worthy of answers:

• Why are we not reaching young adults effectively?

• Is our church’s culture friendly to all generations?

• Is our message boldly biblical, delivered authentically, in the power of the Holy Spirit, saturated in the love of Christ?

• Are we willing to die to self so His power may be experienced in the next generation?

These questions could be endless, but sometime soon, preferably urgently, thousands of churches must give honest answers to these questions and make the needed changes immediately. I believe that God is able to turn this situation around.


Four ways we can reach and baptize more young adults through our churches

1. Proclaim boldly the gospel of Jesus Christ to young adults, calling them to follow Jesus unashamedly, profess their faith, and be baptized.

Young adults today are not looking for a “seeker friendly” message; they are searching for a message that is built on truth, and delivered in the right tone. They are not afraid of a bold message, in fact, they are attracted to it. When the message is delivered by someone who has their best interest in mind, especially a message that is backed up with a life and ministry that lives it out, they will respond positively. Therefore, do not think you have to dumb down the message to be relevant, as this turns them off immediately. Hold high the gospel of Jesus Christ and call them to live their lives by it, professing outwardly their faith, and being baptized publicly.

2. Target reaching young adults with a small group Bible study.

Young adults want to be part of something that is intimate, authentic, and has a genuine sense of community. Beginning small groups in your church that can reach young adults through teaching the Word of God in this kind of environment can prove to be a great way to see many reached for Christ.

Churches must determine they are going to reach young adults. We need to get young adults into the church as well as create places to connect outside of the church. Churches also need to have places to connect and avenues for ministry for the young adults who are coming in the doors of the church.

If they have children, take the greatest care of their children. Prioritize meeting this need. Young adults with children will be attracted to a church that can care for their children. When you couple that with an effective small group Bible Study, in time, you will reach, baptize, and disciple more young adults.

Let’s not forget: Young adults reach young adults. They can energize a church and provide life in every way.

3. Churches and state conventions that have the capacity to help other churches in reaching young adults must rise up and provide assistance.

I am convinced if we are going to see this turned around, we all need to own this problem. For example, what can our church do to help other churches in reaching young adults? While we do it well at times, other times we struggle; but together, we can help one another. This is not just about the growth of our own church, but about penetrating the lostness of young adults with the gospel, and expanding the Kingdom of God.

4. Begin praying NOW for the next Great Awakening. This will turn it around quicker than anything else.

Evan Roberts was 26 years old when God raised him up to be the catalyst for the great Welsh Revival. Under the direction of the Spirit of God, he went to his home church uninvited. He told them, “I have a message for you from God.” As God opened the door for him to proclaim the message, he stated these things:

• You must confess any known sin to God and put any wrong done to others right.

• Second, you must put away any doubtful habit.

• Third, you must obey the Spirit promptly.

• Finally, you must embrace your faith in Christ publicly.

As J. Edwin Orr shared this great story through his message, ”The Role of Prayer in Spiritual Awakening”, my heart was moved as he said that within five months of this significant moment, more than 100,000 people were converted through the country. This great move of God swept into various parts of the world.

Why? Because a young adult named Evan Roberts was saved as a coal miner, called to preach, trained in ministry, and led by the Spirit of God to proclaim the message of God.


God can do more in a moment than we can do in a lifetime

May God raise up another movement of God like this, and if God so desires, even led by a young adult who will call all generations to God. This is why we must reach, baptize and disciple young adults like never before. We need a mighty spiritual awakening in the land. This will turn this tide around quicker than anything I know, while we at the same time, address our challenges strategically.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ronnie Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of the multi-campus Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.)
8/5/2014 9:03:17 AM by Ronnie Floyd, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem

August 4 2014 by Roger S. Oldham, Baptist Press

Over the years, Southern Baptists have adopted numerous resolutions affirming Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign and independent state in its ancient homeland. These have included a resolution in celebration of Israel’s 60th anniversary (2008), several resolutions condemning anti-Semitism (2003, 1981, 1972, and 1971), and a resolution encouraging the nation of Israel to embrace and affirm the principle of religious freedom (1978).

Southern Baptists have also prayed “for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6-7), affirming God’s “love for and offer of salvation in Christ to all people, including both Jewish and Palestinian people” (two resolutions, 2008 and 2002; quote from 2002).

When news broke that Israel and Hamas had begun observing an unconditional, 72-hour humanitarian truce Friday morning, Aug. 1, 2014, many hoped it would lead to lasting peace. However, within three hours after the cease-fire went into effect, the truce broke down. Clashes between Israeli forces and Hamas fighters erupted and, according to news reports, militants again began firing rockets into Israel.

On the political front, the “peace of Jerusalem” seems to be an elusive dream. But on the spiritual front, those who know the Prince of Peace have learned that peace is a gift the Lord gives (John 14:27). Peace is also a supernatural fruit of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer; as such, it is the natural expression of being filled with the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Simply put, when we experience peace with God (Romans 5:1) it introduces us to the peace of God (Philippians 4:7).

It is appropriate for followers of Christ to pray for political peace; but we pray for more. We pray that the Prince of Peace will bring His reign of peace across the land, beginning in each human heart through the redemption that is freely offered through Jesus Christ.

As you enter your private place for your personal time of solitude, Scripture and prayer (Matthew 6:6), remember to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” As you gather your household for family devotions, remember to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” As you assemble with your church for Sunday worship, remember to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”

We pray for nations (Isaiah 56:7; Psalm 2). We pray for leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-5). We pray for laborers (Matthew 9:38). We pray for the lost (Romans 10:1-4). And, interwoven through it all, we pray for peace.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roger S. “Sing” Oldham is vice president for convention communications and relations with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.)

8/4/2014 9:58:54 AM by Roger S. Oldham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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