March 7 2014 by
Rob Phillips, Baptist Press
simply is a reasonable defense of the Christian faith. The word is derived from the Greek noun apologia
and means “a defense.” Apologia
and its verb form apologeomai
are used nearly 20 times in the New Testament, often in the classic legal sense, but more importantly to describe the call of God to all believers to defend the Christian faith with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15-16).
But how is sound doctrine applied practically? Put another way, what good is Christian apologetics?
Apologetics has at least four practical applications. We may use apologetics to:
There is a positive case to be made for Christianity, and apologetics helps us get there.
The Bible, history, archaeology and other sources help establish that a real person named Jesus burst onto the scene 2,000 years ago. He claimed deity, performed miracles, spoke the truth, modeled compassion, died on a Roman cross, was buried and rose physically on the third day. His coming to earth was the most important event in human history.
Further, apologetics helps us know who God is; who we are; why there is purpose in life; how we can be restored to a right relationship with our Creator; why we can face death without fear; and what God is doing about evil in the world.
Christianity is under attack on many fronts, from moral relativists to radical Islamists to angry atheists. Many times they misrepresent Christianity, so we can go a long way in defending the faith by clarifying the Christian position on matters of faith, answering objections and clearing away difficulties.
For example, Jehovah’s Witness leaders historically have claimed that orthodox Christians worship a “freakish-looking three-headed god.” While we may not be able to convince our Jehovah’s Witness friends of the truth of the Trinity – their New World Translation of the Bible and their official publications have stripped this biblical truth from JW doctrine – we may at least provide biblical clarity.
The Bible teaches that there is one true and living God who exists as three distinct, co-equal, co-eternal persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We do not worship a three-headed god, or three separate gods, or even one God who shows up sometimes as Father, Son, or Holy Spirit. Defending the faith against mischaracterizations of Christian doctrines is an important function of apologetics.
Sometimes Christians have to go on the offensive by challenging critics to provide evidence for their unbiblical beliefs. For example, when a moral relativist boldly declares, “There is no absolute truth,” a good response is, “Are you absolutely certain about that?”
When our Muslim friends tell us that Jews and Christians have corrupted the Bible, it’s only fair to ask them how they came to that conclusion.
We have significant manuscript evidence that the scriptures have been carefully copied and faithfully preserved. Further, the Qur’an states in several places that the sacred writings of the Jews and Christians faithfully attested to the truth of Islam. If Muhammad believed the scriptures were intact in the 7th century, what happened since then to make them corrupt?
Sometimes the best defense of the Christian faith is to hold critics accountable for their unbiblical views.
Ultimately, Christian apologetics finds its greatest application as an effective means of evangelism. When we build a positive case for Christianity, defend Christianity from attacks, and challenge critics to defend their views, we can bring them to a point of commitment to Christ.
We should never coerce another person to trust in Jesus. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit (see John 16:7-11). But we should eagerly invite our unbelieving friends to receive Christ and thus pass from death unto life (John 5:24).
In his book Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions
, Gregory Koukl
writes, “It may surprise you to hear this, but I never set out to convert anyone.... I have a more modest goal, one you might consider adopting as your own. All I want to do is put a stone in someone’s shoe. I want to give him something worth thinking about, something he can’t ignore because it continues to poke at him in a good way.”
May all of us be Christian apologists that gently and respectfully place pebbles in the shoes of our lost friends.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rob Phillips is director of communications for the Missouri Baptist Convention with responsibility for leading MBC apologetics ministry in the state. This article first appeared in The Pathway (www.mbcpathway.org), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Phillips also is on the Web at www.oncedelivered.net.)
3/7/2014 11:37:29 AM
March 6 2014 by
Rob Phillips, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Once he feels its flame, a child will never doubt the candle’s heat. Likewise, the English Reformer William Tyndale
once wrote that those who “feel” their faith will stand firm in the truth of Scripture and the promises of God.
Tyndale, convinced that English men and women needed to hear God’s Word in their own language, published in 1526 the first English New Testament translated from the Greek text. Throughout the 10 years of ministry that followed, he often spoke of “feeling” – a term he used in his earliest translation of Romans 5.
In this passage, the apostle Paul writes that we have peace with God because we are justified by faith. Moreover, by God’s grace we have hope. In fact, faith gives us hope even amid tribulation. For this reason, we should rejoice in suffering. After all, Paul writes, suffering produces perseverance, which produces “feeling.” At least, “feeling” is the term that Tyndale used to translate a Greek word, dokimen
, rendered elsewhere as “experience,” “character” or “proven character” (Romans 5:1-4).
In a note, Tyndale referred the readers of his translation to James 1:2-3, where a related Greek word, dokimion
, is used. Here, James calls believers to rejoice amid tribulation, since the “testing (dokimion
) of your faith” produces perseverance, which itself leads to complete Christian maturity. But, whereas James emphasizes the testing of faith through suffering, Paul in Romans 5 emphasizes the result – that is, the tested, refined and proven faith (or, perhaps, person of faith). He writes that such “feeling,” in turn, produces a hope that is assured by God’s love. And this love has been poured into the believer’s heart by the Holy Spirit and has been displayed by Christ’s death for sinners (Romans 5:4-11).
Christians feel their faith, therefore, when refined by the intense heat of suffering, pain and persecution.
Tyndale wrote in 1528 in his book, The Obedience of a Christian Man
: “Mark this also, if God send thee to the sea and promise to go with thee and to bring thee safe to land, he will raise up a tempest against thee, to prove whether thou wilt abide by his word, and that thou mayest feel thy faith and perceive his goodness.”
Tyndale noted, “For if it were always fair weather and thou never brought into such jeopardy whence his mercy only delivered thee, thy faith should be but a presumption and thou shouldest be ever unthankful to God and merciless unto thy neighbor.”
He added, “Tribulation for righteousness is not a blessing only, but also a gift that God giveth unto none save his special friends. … For Paul in the fifth chapter to the Romans saith, ‘Tribulation maketh feeling,’ that is, it maketh us feel the goodness of God and his help and the working of his Spirit. … Lo Christ is never strong in us, till we be weak.”
Speakers at the Missouri Baptist Convention
’s “Sowing in Tears” conference, Jan. 27-28, translated Tyndale’s message into 21st-century English. “You will suffer,” said international evangelist Sammy Tippit, who has trained pastors and proclaimed the gospel in the hardest-to-reach regions of the world.
“This is the missing message in America. … Suffering is part of the Christian life,” Tippit said. But hope only comes, he added, when we are hopeless, when our hope lies only in God.
Suffering strips from us the confidence that we may have in ourselves and in our own resources. It is at that point, when we have nothing to guide us but God’s promises, that we feel our faith. As Tyndale’s better-known contemporary, Martin Luther, once wrote, “But this is the glory of faith, simply not to know: not to know where you are going, not to know what you are doing, not to know what you must suffer, and … to follow the naked voice of God.”
By the way, Tyndale ultimately felt his faith in 1536. Latched to a stake, he was strangled and burned because he wanted people to read Scripture for themselves, in their own languages. As we seek to follow God’s call in our lives, would we also risk feeling our faith to scatter God’s Word abroad and reach people with the gospel?
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Benjamin Hawkins is associate editor of The Pathway (www.mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)
3/6/2014 10:55:29 AM
March 5 2014 by
Mike Whitehead, Baptist Press
Benjamin Hawkins | with 0 comments
“PLEASANTVILLE” – Governor Brumble stands nervously at the press conference podium at the governor’s mansion in Pleasantville, the capitol of Sunnyvale. “I want to welcome everyone here tonight,” she begins, “because our state is always welcoming.
“Welcome citizens and non-citizens. Welcome new business and old business. If someone says, ‘Thank you,’ in Sunnyvale, we always say, ‘You’re welcome.’ That’s just who we are. There is no higher priority in our state than making people feel welcome.”
“Is that a higher priority than the First Amendment?” a reporter interrupts.
“You’re welcome to ask that,” Gov. Brumble replies. “Of course, the First Amendment is important, too. We always protect religious freedom and all that stuff. But today the issue is welcoming businesses to Sunnyvale.
“And so we want to give a ‘shout out’ and a special welcome to the WWF and the Super Brawl,” the governor gushes.
“Did they really threaten to refuse to do business here,” the reporter asks, “if you signed the ‘right to refuse to do business for religious reasons’ law?”
“Well, now, the WWF has every right to refuse to do business with folks they disagree with. They are welcome to do that,” Governor Brumble notes. “But we want to assure them that they don’t need to, because we are changing our convictions to match their convictions to make them feel welcome here in Sunnyvale.”
The governor adds, “We are not going to sign that silly law that allows Sunnyvale citizens to refuse to do business with people they disagree with, based on some religious conscience – whatever that means.”
“But shouldn’t your citizens have the same rights of conscience that WWF has?” the reporter asks.
“No, no, that’s the point I want to make today. We want to assure the WWF that they are welcome. Everyone is welcome.”
“Everyone? Even people who supported the new law?” the reporter continues.
“Well, almost everyone,” Gov. Brumble stumbles. “Unless you are one of – them.” And with embarrassment, she points a nervous finger toward an anteroom that is cordoned off for the elected lawmakers who sponsored the bill.
Pleasantville’s Mayor Sludgepump steps beside the governor and says: “Let me be plain. We don’t welcome extremists here, you know, those whackos who actually think their religious beliefs have anything to do with their marketplace decisions. If they can’t get with the program, we pleasantly say: ‘Get outta town. There’s no place for the likes of you in Sunnyvale.’”
“But what about their rights of conscience?” the reporter persists. “If it’s a good thing for the WWF to act on corporate conscience, why is it a bad thing to allow mom-and-pop stores to do the same?”
“No comparison,” Sludgepump scolds. “Totally different. We’re talking the Super Brawl here. You’re ridiculous.”
“You’re welcome,” the reporter responds. “But the text of the bill I have in my hand says nothing about “right to refuse service” or “to discriminate against gays.” It simply amends our state law to align it with the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. It protects the right to assert religious conscience as a defense in a lawsuit that invokes state law, and it applies to individual and corporate persons. What’s wrong with allowing folks to assert this defense of conscience and let a judge decide?”
“Conscience-shmonscience,” Sludgepump thinks to himself. “Next thing, the bleeding-heart reporter will be worried about forcing a kosher deli to serve at a Nazi rally. Or forcing an African American photographer to video a Ku Klux Klan rally.”
“Well, I think you may be right that the bill merely follows the federal law,” the Governor Brumble bumbles, “and, as you say, the words ‘refuse to serve’ are not in the bill, but I hear there are dangerous, broad, general terms in the bill that might be stretched by the courts to cause unintended consequences. My advisers say the bill is just too broad and general to be safe.”
The reporter presses by quoting the First Amendment: ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’” The first 16 words in the Bill of Rights, the reporter notes, are “broad, general words designed to broadly protect rights of conscience.”
“Whatever,” Governor Brumble of Sunnyvale mumbles.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mike Whitehead is an attorney in Kansas City, Mo., who has fictional friends in Sunnyvale.)
3/5/2014 7:51:15 AM
March 3 2014 by
Ronnie Floyd, Baptist Press
Mike Whitehead, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
NASHVILLE – The Bible is filled with references to the prayers and fasting of God’s people. In Matthew 6, Jesus placed fasting on the same level as praying and giving. He said, “When you fast! When you pray! When you give!”
I wonder why Christians today and churches in our generation don’t place fasting on the same level as praying and giving? Jesus, by His example and His teaching, demonstrated that prayer and fasting are important and integral ingredients in the lives of His followers.
Fasting and love
One purpose of prayer and fasting is to bring our hearts to a place of being filled with a sacrificial love that results in godly attitudes in our lives. True fasting will draw us closer to God and His purposes.
Fasting and humility
I can’t explain why God has chosen prayer and fasting as the gateway to supernatural power. One thing I do know: Scripture, prayer, and fasting are the ways believers humble themselves in the sight of the Lord. When we humble ourselves, He promises to exalt and lift us up at the appropriate time (1 Peter 5:6; James 4:10). God also indicates that He will resist the proud, but give grace to the humble (James 4:6). Again, 2 Chronicles 7:14 indicates the importance of humbling ourselves before God.
Fasting and focus
Fasting brings a sharp focus to the dramatic difference between our physical and spiritual natures. Eating is one of the most fundamental things we do as physical beings. One of the most natural desires is for food. Without proper nourishment we die. By exercising our wills and depriving ourselves of food for spiritual purposes, we acknowledge our spiritual natures and honor our Creator-Father. When we deny the natural for the purpose of calling upon God to do the supernatural, He will enable and empower us to experience the supernatural.
Fasting and worship
Through fasting, we confirm the words uttered by Jesus in the face of temptation during His forty-day fast: “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Through prayer and fasting we forsake our own physical needs and the creature comforts of this world and call upon God as the Originator, Giver, Source and Sustainer of all life, especially our own. We exalt Him as our hope and salvation. True spiritual fasting will result in submission and devotion to God.
God blesses when we fast and
Fasting allows us to:
Focus on Him and honor Him. Although you will receive spiritual blessings when you fast, these are not the proper motives for fasting.
Have spiritual purposes. Although you may realize certain physical benefits, these are not the proper motives for spiritual fasting (for example, weight-loss purposes).
Humble ourselves and submit to the authority of God and His Word.
Acknowledge and repent of sin.
Deprive our natural desires and lusts to focus on the spiritual.
A final observation
Even when we honor God by praying and fasting, this does not mean that our heavenly Father will grant everything on our wish-and-whim list. God will only work and bless in ways that are consistent and in harmony with His will and purpose.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ronnie Floyd is pastor of Cross Church in Springdale, Ark. This column is excerpted from his book, The Power of Prayer and Fasting.)
3/3/2014 11:50:05 AM
February 28 2014 by
Phil Boatwright, Baptist Press
Ronnie Floyd, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – By now I’m sure you’ve heard the uproar over the $125 million Paramount Studios production of “Noah
.” The controversy appears to stem from one source, an organization known as Faith Driven Consumer, which raised concern about the film’s commercial viability if Christians don’t support it.
Faith Driven Consumer
polled Christians, asking whether they would reject the film due to a reported inclusion of an environmental message and other emphases not seen in the true biblical account. The controversy has traveled the Internet and stirred curiosity.
A lesser controversy concerns the “Son of God
” film. An extended episode from “The Bible,” a 10-segment special on the History Channel
in 2013, Son of God will run in multiplexes in at least 10 cities, with all their screens showing the religious film this evening (Feb. 27). The film opens nationwide Feb. 28 on 3000 screens.
series drew ratings that caused even studio heads to marvel. So cynics are asking, “Is this a case of producers using a strategic marketing plan merely to fill their own coffers?”
I’m not for certain what has motivated the makers of Noah or those of Son of God. But who cares?
Whatever the makers’ incentives, the fact remains that we have a production dealing with an Old Testament man of God and another theatrical release built around the Savior of the world. Seldom do we see biblical tales playing in cinema complexes otherwise occupied by crude comedies, voyeuristic romances and senseless actioneers. These two films will do something other movies in the theaters won’t ... spread the Word of God.
On a press junket last year for the TV miniseries The Bible, I spoke with Roma Downey
. She was nearly giddy concerning the production.
“Just think about all the people who don’t know the Bible,” said the former star of “Touched By An Angel
.” “We pray they will become interested in God’s Word and that believers will be reminded to make Bible study a part of their daily lives.”
After the segment from The Bible featuring the life of Jesus aired on the History Channel, another controversy arose:
“Someone made a comment that the actor who played the devil vaguely resembled our president, and suddenly the media went nuts,” Downey told The Hollywood Reporter. “The next day, when I was sure everyone would only be talking about Jesus, they were talking about Satan instead.
“It gives me great pleasure to tell you that the devil is on the cutting-room floor.... For our movie, Son of God, I wanted all of the focus to be on Jesus. I want His name to be on the lips of everyone who sees this movie, so we cast Satan out.”
Does that sound like someone who just wants to make money off this project? No. From those I’ve met who know Downey and her producer/husband Mark Burnett, the consensus is they are both devout in their faith and truly burdened for the lost.
As for the film Noah, when I first heard about the environmental theme, and knowing Tinseltown’s penchant for style over substance, I reread the account of the flood in Genesis 6-10. The knowledge of this soon-to-be released motion picture (March 28, 2014) had me reading the Bible in order to separate Hollywood fiction from biblical fact.
Will this movie get others to study God’s Word? Yes. Films such as Son of God and Noah can be stimuli for spiritual exploration to those who never studied Scripture. And these movies may renew in churchgoers an interest in Scripture.
I suspect most of my readers have seen several films about Christ, perhaps “King of Kings
,” “Jesus of Nazareth
,” “The Greatest Story Ever Told
,” or “The Passion of the Christ
.” Since The Passion of the Christ was released in 2004, a new cinematic presentation of Jesus’ earthly mission will be a first for the youngest generation of moviegoers.
While I’m careful about telling readers which films to support, let’s remember that in the entertainment business, the success of a production is weighed in measures of gold. If these films do well at the box office, it sends a message to media moguls that there may be further audience interest in biblical principals and perhaps biblical principles.
My advice: If you plan to see Noah or Son of God, read the stories in Scripture and study their significance. These films will cause conversation; be prepared to converse.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – In addition to writing for Baptist Press, Phil Boatwright reviews films for www.previewonline.org and is a regular contributor to “The World and Everything In It,” a weekly radio program from WORLD News Group.)
2/28/2014 9:33:56 AM
February 27 2014 by
Melissa Deming, Baptist Press
Phil Boatwright, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
PITTSBURGH, Pa. – It was through a shared meal that God first spoke to our hearts about helping plant a church in the heart of Pittsburgh.
The first time we visited our church, it wasn’t even a church yet. The pastor invited us to share a meal immediately following the service, and the entire congregation could fit around one long conference table.
The food was simple but the intimate community it afforded was not. I still remember what was prepared – potato soup, fat chunks of crunchy bacon, leafy greens and the best homemade croutons I’ve ever tasted. And the individuals weren’t just sharing bread; they were sharing life.
Shortly after joining the core group of this new plant, we began to open our small apartment for a weekly Bible study. Sometimes we shared a meal, other times I just served cookies and coffee.
On one occasion, I looked around the room at the people who had become our new family. They were sitting on stained carpet, eating from paper plates and happy as larks! No one complained about the lack of seating or the crayon swirls on the wall.
And in that moment, I realized the significance of the scriptural command to practice hospitality.
In Romans 12:10-13, Paul says: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.”
The word Paul uses for “practicing” hospitality is a Greek word that means “to strive for” or “pursue.” It has an active sense – and points to great “vigorous effort,” as noted by Alexander Strauch
in The Hospitality Commands
To give you an idea of the importance Paul attaches to the pursuit of hospitality, we are also told to “pursue”:
Righteousness (1 Timothy 6:11)
Good (1 Thessalonians 5:15)
Peace (1 Peter 3:11)
Love (1 Corinthians 14:1)
We are to strive for hospitality in the same way that we strive for righteousness. We are to “think about it, plan for it, prepare for it, pray about it, and seek opportunities to do it,” as Strauch puts it.
My husband and I entertained at our previous church. We hosted the occasional meal for our pastor. I volunteered my home for a few women’s events. But it wasn’t until I saw the connections between the gospel and the dinner table in our new church plant that I realized what a hospitable heart truly looked like.
It’s about opening your heart to others by opening your home to them. It’s about serving without grumbling. It’s about consistently putting others’ needs before your own.
God is still using hospitality to clean out my heart like a packed closet – making room for others and, most importantly, for Him. I have 5-year-old twin BOYS! If you come to my house, I can guarantee you there will be fingerprint smudges and smashed food on something. Honestly, there are times when my front doormat better reads Do Not Disturb rather than Welcome.
And I still fight the temptation to wield hospitality as an excuse to buy those new dishes I saw at Target or the lighting fixture I added to my Pinterest board the other week.
But hospitality is not about throwing the best parties or crafting the perfect tablescape; it’s a battle for the heart. God calls us to open our homes and hearts as a measure of the hospitality He has demonstrated toward us in Christ (Isaiah 25:6-9; Luke 14:16-24; Revelation 19:9).
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Melissa Deming is the founder of HiveResources.com, a missions and ministry resource site for women, and the author of “Daughters of the King: Finding Your Place in the Biblical Story.” The Deming family serves in a North American Mission Board church plant in Pittsburgh.)
2/27/2014 1:07:46 PM
February 26 2014 by
Michael Kelley, Guest Column
Melissa Deming, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
There are certain attributes of Christian character that get more press than others. While we might emphasize things like purity or peace, we might neglect others like self-control or patience.
is one of those characteristics that falls into the second category. So neglected is this attribute that many newer translations don’t even translate the beatitude “Blessed are the meek” any more.
Instead, they translate it as “humble” or “patient.” But I think there is something essential about the word meek that isn’t included in those other terms.
In Greek, the word “meek” is also used to describe animals on occasion, but animals that have been tamed.
So meekness isn’t weakness; it isn’t loss of strength. A tame animal retains all of the strength that it’s ever had, but it has learned to harness that strength. To keep it under control.
Maybe “meekness” has fallen on hard times because we have equated it with weakness.
“Meek” is synonymous with mousy; it’s someone who won’t stand up for their own rights and privileges not because of anything virtuous, but because of cowardice.
Biblical meekness, however, is nothing of the sort. It isn’t a loss of power; it’s the harnessing of power. And there is nothing weak about harnessed power.
While the Bible might not offer us a strict definition, it does offer us a picture.
There’s a story about the meekness of Abram in Genesis 13.
For a while, Abram and Lot had been traveling together, but because of the size of both of their households (many goats, wives, servants and such), the land couldn’t support them. So they came to a fork in the road.
Now in my imagination, this moment looks like a cartoon.
The road forks, and to the right the sun is shining, there’s dew on the ground, little bunnies and deer are scampering together, the grapes are as big as beachballs – you get the idea.
To the left – well, to the left there are holes in the ground, smoldering embers, dead trees and growling wolves.
That’s probably a little extreme, but there was clearly a difference in the two roads.
One road appeared to be better than the other. And Abram does something unthinkable – he gives Lot the choice:
“Then Abram said to Lot, ‘Please, let’s not have quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, since we are relatives. Isn’t the whole land before you? Separate from me: If you go to the left, I will go to the right; if you go to the right I will go to the left’
” (Genesis 13:8-9).
Lot chose the good road. The well-watered road. The easy road.
And Abram let him do it, surprisingly, since Abram, as not only the older man but also the leader of the family, had every right to take what appeared to be the better road.
The very fact that Abram asked the question must have been shocking to someone like Lot, since it should have been assumed that Abram would simply take what he wanted and leave anyone else to deal with the leftovers.
What does this have to do with meekness? I think it goes back to what we said earlier, that meekness involves harnessed power, taming emotion, and humility.
Abram voluntarily put aside his rights and preferences; he didn’t lose them – he harnessed them. In a 21st century context, one in which you have to look out for number one or nobody else will, Abram stands in stark contrast. In meekness, Abram did not worry about advancing His own cause.
Maybe that’s meekness, especially today.
It is the confidence that God is our advocate, that He will provide and care for us, and so there is no need for us to advance our own cause.
Lot advanced himself, and that effort got him right in the middle of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abram was meek, and he became the intercessor for Sodom and Gomorrah.
The meek can put aside their rights, privileges and power because they believe that if God is for them, none can be against them.
The meek have been robbed of the need to advance their own cause and status and had it replace it with confidence in the will and fatherhood of God.
They have this confidence that allows the harnessing of power because of what we find in Christ. He was described as meek.
But His meekness wasn’t from lack of power. Jesus was meek not because He was incapable, but because He voluntarily harnessed His power.
No one was taking His life from Him; out of His meekness He was allowing it to be taken.
That’s why we can give away our rights.
That’s why we can willingly take the backseat to others. That’s why we can take the cost into ourselves. It’s because we know that we don’t have to advocate for ourselves any more; we have a better advocate on our behalf.
We become meek, then as we move more deeply into the meekness of Jesus.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Kelley is director of discipleship with LifeWay Church Resources. Visit michaelkelleyministries.com where this column originally appeared; follow him on Twitter: @_MichaelKelley.)
2/26/2014 12:24:48 PM
February 24 2014 by
Jason K. Allen, Baptist Press
Michael Kelley, Guest Column | with 0 comments
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Where have all the godly men gone? These days I ponder that question with increased frequency and concern.
If the lack of godly men were only a matter of personality or ministerial preference, then little would be lost. Such is not the case, though. The church is in great need of awakening and renewal and, in the spirit of English Puritan leader Richard Baxter, its greatest need might well be godly men.
Not that long ago, “man of God” was a common and honored descriptor in the church. The phrase ranked alongside “great preacher,” “brilliant theologian” or “gifted writer” in frequency and surpassed them in value. Now, it seems as though the designation “man of God” is a largely passe referent to a bygone era of church life.
We have increased the mundane and ancillary aspects of Christian ministry, all the while cheapening its true virtues and values. In God’s economy, though, character is valued over talent, and holiness over giftedness.
Why is there a dearth of godly men? Admittedly, godliness is nearly impossible to measure, and godly men are nearly impossible to quantify. Yet, three factors seem especially to contribute to the paucity of godly men:
Many churches don’t seek men of God.
Given the complexity of modern ministry, many churches prioritize giftedness and experience above godliness in their candidates for ministry. Churches often look for competent administrators, capable speakers, polished people skills, a cute family and other secondary concerns before assessing the heart. Like ancient Israel, we have the propensity to look on the outward; all the while God looks on the heart.
Many ministries no longer necessitate godliness.
There may now be more distance between the minister and the congregation than ever before in the history of the church. Through the years, pastors have lived among their people (as seen in the New Testament) and by their people (parsonage). Now, everything from the size of the church to the expansion of auxiliary campuses has created distance between the pastor and his people. Moreover, video-screen pastors often have no relationship at all with their people.
An overcommitted laity does not desire personal interaction with their ministers, and overcommitted ministers have less time for personal interaction anyway. Though social media grants the appearance of personal engagement, the truth can be altogether different. The distance between the pastor and his people means there is less life-on-life engagement and less moral accountability one with another.
Ministry “peer pressure” is not toward godliness.
The “peer pressure” of ministry is oriented toward events, products, conferences and materials. It is as though the paraphernalia and garnishes of ministry have displaced the more biblical and eternal aspects, like godliness. Perhaps this is why Matthew Henry lamented some preachers who, “when in the pulpit, preaching so well that it is a pity they should ever come out; but, when out of the pulpit, living so ill that it is a pity they should ever come in.”
“Man of God” is a biblical designation granted to Old Testament giants like Moses, Samuel, David, Elijah and Elisha. In the New Testament, Timothy is the singular designee. The title was not merely honorific. It was a lofty and noble designation granted to men with lives that merited it. In the context of 1 Timothy 6, the title “man of God” is associated with action. It is found in a list of admonitions, commands and encouragements that flow both descriptively and prescriptively. Paul instructs Timothy that the man of God is known for fleeing from immorality, fighting for the faith and for following after Christlikeness. Moreover, 2 Timothy 3:15-17 links the adequacy of the man of God with the power and authority of holy Scripture.
Clearly, the New Testament prioritizes godliness in the life of the minister. The qualifications for ministry found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9 deal almost exclusively with character, with little reference to giftedness beyond the ability to teach. Thus the timeless ministerial admonition, “Beware of letting your talent gain you a ministry position that your character cannot keep you in.”
In the main, the modern church has most everything it needs – save revival. We have more conferences than ever, but fewer conversions. We have more books and blogs than ever, but fewer baptisms. We have more products and paraphernalia than ever, but little power. Indeed, we have a surplus of resources, but a deficit of revival.
Of course, revival is a work of the Holy Spirit, initiated and carried forth by God. At the same time, we cannot expect God to bless our shallowness, staleness and carnality. Perhaps revival will not arrive in the pew until it first arrives in the pulpit. It may well be that the greatest need of the church is godly men who shepherd the flock of God with holiness and grace.
Where have all the godly men gone? I am not exactly sure, but I pray God will call forth a new generation of men consecrated in heart and devoted to His glory. As the hymn of old begs, “Rise up, O men of God! The church for you doth wait, her strength unequal to her task; rise up, and make her great!”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jason K. Allen is president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.)
2/24/2014 10:51:57 AM
February 21 2014 by
Eric Geiger, Baptist Press
Jason K. Allen, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
NASHVILLE – One of my mentors, Brad Waggoner
*, noticed a major shift in church ministry in the early ‘90s when “senior pastors of churches broke up with their discipleship pastors/ministers of education and ran off with the worship pastor.”
Of course, a senior pastor does not need to choose between the two. Both the worship ministry and the discipleship ministry of a church are vitally important to the health of the church and the maturation of believers.
In many contexts, however, love for the discipleship ministries of the church has grown cold. The big gathering, with her flashing lights and carefully designed stage, has been a seductress to some.
This is tragic, because God matures His people in biblical community. The ministry of a church must be much more than a gathering on Sunday.
How do you know if your heart has left the discipleship ministries of your church? Perhaps the following questions will help.
Do you spend disproportionately more time in conversations about the weekend worship service than about the discipleship process at your church?
Do you know what is being taught in your groups or classes?
Do you treat the teaching your people receive outside of Sunday – teaching done by others – with the same concern you view “the weekend”?
Is it enough to “have groups” or do you want your groups built on the solid foundation of the Word?
A church exists to make disciples. Clearly this mission includes the worship gatherings, and it definitely goes beyond them.
Please note I am not suggesting that the weekend gatherings are not important or advocating senior pastors break up with their worship leaders. Nor am I saying discipleship does not occur in worship gatherings as the Word is taught and people are brought into the presence of Jesus.
I am, however, saying it is tragically unhealthy when the discipleship ministries of a church are minimized and neglected.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Eric Geiger is a vice president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, leading the church division. This column first appeared on his blog at EricGeiger.com. *Brad Waggoner is executive vice president of LifeWay.)
2/21/2014 10:22:14 AM
February 20 2014 by
Zach Crook, Baptist Press
Eric Geiger, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
WEATHERFORD, Texas – A cursory glance at the state of cultural morality here in America can be somewhat disheartening.
The Defense of Marriage Act has been labeled unconstitutional. A health care reform act has been passed requiring all businesses, no matter the religious beliefs of the owners, to offer employees drugs that could cause abortions. Same-sex marriage is being legalized in states all over the nation.
If we can be honest for a few moments, we can realize that we now live in a post-Christian culture. The 1950s have come and gone and they aren’t coming back. For someone like me, the pastor of a Baptist church in the Bible Belt in Texas, I hear the alarmists sound the end of Christian influence and the demise of our country.
Culturally, it seems as though Christians have “lost” the battle. What was once considered taboo is now considered normal. There is no absolute truth. One’s gender is no longer determined by physiological make-up but by choice and feeling. God’s Word doesn’t seem to have much place in the public square. Now that we stand on the other side of a failed “moral majority,” there is one question everyone is asking: “What now?”
As is often the case, we can find direction for moving forward by studying the history of those who came before us. In many ways, the English Puritans of the late 16th century were undergoing the same sense of political failure that the Religious Right is experiencing now. They had tried for decades to influence the politics of Elizabeth I and reform the Church of England and the religious state of their country.
They, much like our efforts in the 1980s and 1990s, were galvanized for a time in believing they could influence Elizabeth and the national church, only to realize that their efforts were ultimately futile. It was their response to their political shortcomings that sheds light on how a religious minority can still influence the future of a nation.
By the 1590s, the Puritans realized that they weren’t going to influence the monarchy or the leadership of the Church of England to reform. They had lost the political battle and “retreated” from London to Cambridge.
While the political scene in Washington might make it uncomfortable for a Christian to express belief in the authority and inerrancy of the Bible, it was illegal for the Puritans to separate from the Church of England and even gather for worship.
If anyone could have held a defeatist attitude toward the state of their country, it would have been them. However, while they had to admit their failure to influence the government the way they had wanted, they didn’t give up or sound the alarm. They didn’t lament the future of their nation. They simply changed their strategy.
Rather than continually trying (and failing) to influence the monarchy to bring about reform in the Church of England, they focused on educating and influencing the next generation of leaders who were studying in Cambridge.
The Puritans embraced their minority status and changed their aim. They realized that a top-down approach wasn’t working, so they switched to bottom-up. No longer focusing solely on those in power, they went about teaching biblical truth to the next generation of leaders. While presenting the power of the Gospel to university students, many were saved and developed a biblical worldview.
Many Puritans eventually separated from the Church of England and started churches that influenced theologians like John Smyth, who in turn pastored Thomas Helwys, who began the first Baptist church on English soil.
Additionally, Helwys wrote a ground-breaking work on religious liberty, “A Short Declaration on the Mystery of Iniquity,” which had lasting influence on generations of believers. He influenced greatly those who eventually helped get the Act of Toleration passed, which made it legal to worship any way you wanted in England.
It can be argued that God worked mightily among these Puritans when they stopped trying to change the government and started simply sharing biblical truth with the masses.
Like the Puritans, who is in political power shouldn’t be our greatest concern. Our greatest concern should be the sharing and spreading of God’s truth. If we do that, I believe that God can work through our prophetic minority in the same way He worked through the Puritans.
As believers, we need to continue to fight to ensure that our nation embraces religious liberty. With the freedom to share God’s Word, we should trust in its power to change.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Zach Crook is pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Weatherford, Texas, and a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
2/20/2014 12:59:43 PM
Zach Crook, Baptist Press | with 0 comments