Guest Columns

Building a bridge from high school to college

August 24 2016 by Morgan Owen

The phone call was one that, as a campus minister, you love to receive.
 
Reed Tallman, youth pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Elizabethton, Tenn., contacted me in July 2015 to pass along contact information for a student, Roger Clark, who was coming from his ministry to the University of Tennessee at Martin. Roger lived more than 400 miles from here. Tallman knew that the transition to college would be a huge step for Roger, and he wanted to do all he could to build a bridge for him from the high school campus to the college campus.


The transition from high school to college can be very challenging, frightening and eye-opening. So many changes take place emotionally, socially and spiritually that it can truly be a “roller coaster ride.” The college years can become a time of confusion as the budding young adult struggles with the onslaught of freedom and temptation.
 
When dealing with “Generation Z” (those born from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s), many church leaders are frustrated by the statistics that suggest eight out of 10 young adults walk away from the church in their college years.
 
Even more alarming, small country churches face the overwhelming reality that there may be no one to assume the church leadership roles in the future. For larger churches, the solution has been to hire a college minister to work directly with students to spearhead effective outreach and discipleship for such a vital population in our communities.
 
My word of advice: Don’t give up on college students.
 
I am thankful for those who played a crucial role in my college years and challenged me to seek God in all of my life-changing decisions. They did not give up on me and I encourage you – youth pastor, pastor, Sunday School teacher, parent – don’t give up on college students. No matter what your context may be, small church or large church, let’s partner together to impact the incoming class of 2016 for the Kingdom.
 
Here in my state, I am encouraged by the investment of Tennessee Baptists in our Baptist Collegiate Ministries. With support from the Cooperative Program, the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions, local Baptist associations and supporting churches, Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) are ministering on 24 Tennessee college campuses. At the BCM, students will find a community of acceptance, friendships for a lifetime, caring peers and a campus minister who wants to invest in and disciple them, opportunities to serve in leadership, and missions ventures throughout the year.
 
But what sets BCM apart from many other college ministries is the value of church involvement. Many BCM student leaders use the ministry as a bridge from the campus to the local church. By inviting new students and peers to church, students are able to be the arm of the local church to a generation that desperately needs to hear the gospel or be encouraged to return to the fellowship.
 
Down through the years, youth pastors like Reed Tallman have extended their ministry investment to those who have gone on to college. They have seen the importance, as Tallman states, to “walk with them as they prepare to transition to college.”
 
“I make a personal contact to help students get connected,” Tallman shared. “Whether it is a phone call or an email, I do what I can to connect with them. I can’t be every place where I have a former student, but what I can do is call them periodically to just touch base and see how they are doing and ask if they are plugging into college ministry and church.”
 
Tallman’s initiative paid off when it came to Roger Clark. He was involved in the BCM at Martin this past year and will be serving on the BCM leadership team for 2016-17.
 
I am encouraged by the increasing number of churches that are taking important steps to engage and invest in college students. This investment is different in each church’s setting. Some amazing ministry is being done by churches that have hired a college minister. Through one-on-one discipleship, outreach events and worship gatherings, college students are sensing that spiritual life after youth group truly does exist. I am thankful for the churches across our state that have seen the need and are taking action to do something when it comes to ministering to college students.
 
So, if you are a youth pastor, pastor, church secretary, Sunday School teacher, I encourage you to build the bridge for your teenagers entering college this fall.

  1. Contact the BCMs where your students are heading and share their information (in Tennessee, go to tnbcm.org for a listing of BCM contacts).

  2. Contact the local churches where your students are heading and share their information.

  3. Find ways to invest in college students who are staying at home.

  4. Keep in touch with your students throughout the school year, giving encouragement and guidance.

  5. Pray that there will be an increase of young adults desiring to reach their campuses for Christ.

And don’t give up on college students. They need the church!
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Morgan Owen is a Baptist Collegiate Ministries director affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention working at the University of Tennessee at Martin. This article first appeared in the TBC newsjournal Baptist and Reflector, baptistandreflector.org)
 

8/24/2016 6:48:00 AM by Morgan Owen | with 0 comments



Praise God for pastoral ‘stickers’

August 18 2016 by Nathan A. Finn

Kentucky farmer-writer Wendell Berry once gave a lecture wherein he distinguished the “boomers” from the “stickers.” Boomers are the restless, ambitious types who believe the path to prosperity is leaving home and embracing a world of innovation and big cities. Stickers, on the other hand, aspire to maintain their roots in the small towns and country places that nurtured them.
 
Berry was thinking about the future of rural farming and rural America, but his ideas cause me to think about the future of the church and pastoral ministry.

Nathan A. Finn


As Southern Baptists, we have our own version of pastoral boomers and stickers. The boomers leave their small-town or rural churches, are educated in college and probably seminary, and then head off to serve churches located in the suburbs or the city center. Their prayerful desire is to make a significant gospel impact in these places of dense populations and cultural influence.
 
As a denomination, we love our pastoral boomers. They are the church planters going after the unreached and underserved. They pastor larger and/or regionally influential churches. They innovate strategies for church growth that influence other congregations. When boomers think of the Great Commission, they look to Matthew 28:18-20. God bless the gospel work these boomers are doing. May their tribe increase!
 
While I’m grateful for pastoral boomers, over the past few years I’ve found myself thinking more and more about the stickers. They also normally attend college, though seminary may or may not be in the offing. Many of them are solo pastors, perhaps even bivocational. Instead of heading to more “strategic” settings, pastoral stickers invest themselves in small-town churches and rural congregations – often close to where they were raised.
 
These sorts of churches rarely grow larger than a few hundred members because they aren’t located in population centers. They can only become as ethnically and economically diverse as their relatively homogeneous communities. Pastoral stickers rarely get invited to speak at the big conferences, and they don’t often serve in denominational leadership roles beyond their region. When they think Great Commission, their go-to verse is Acts 1:8. They want to make a gospel impact, but their vision is mostly local; you can only do so much with limited resources.
 
It seems to me that Southern Baptists sometimes act as if we think the boomers matter more for the Kingdom than the stickers. I don’t think we do it deliberately, and I don’t think anyone means anything ill toward pastoral stickers.
 
Nevertheless, there is little doubt in my mind that we celebrate the boomers more than we do the stickers. Boomers baptize lots of folks. Their churches construct beautiful buildings, sometimes in multiple locations. They lead their churches to plant other churches. Their congregations send out short-term mission teams on a regular basis.
 
Again, to be clear, I praise God for all the ways He is using boomer pastors to make disciples here, there and everywhere. But in our rush to rightly celebrate how God is blessing the boomers, let’s not forget about the stickers among us. After all, the stickers pastor the vast majority of Southern Baptist churches.
 
Pastoral work is always strategic Kingdom service, whether it takes place in the heart of the city, a booming suburb, a sleepy county seat community or out in the sticks. Every church needs a faithful shepherd, even when it’s located in a small town with a struggling economy. Every lost person needs to be reached, even when he lives off the beaten path. Every believer needs to be discipled, even when her church can sustain few formal programs. Every pastor is laboring in one of the “hard places,” every church needs to be revitalized in some way, and every community, no matter how small, needs a vibrant gospel witness.
 
Praise God for the pastoral stickers among us. They are some of God’s most faithful servants, even when their work is unrecognized outside of their communities. Join me in praying that God raises up a generation of pastoral boomers and stickers who faithfully shepherd Christ’s people in every sort of church, in every sort of place, for the glory of God and the sake of Kingdom advance.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Nathan A. Finn serves as dean of the School of Theology and Missions and professor of Christian thought and tradition at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)
 

8/18/2016 7:59:20 AM by Nathan A. Finn | with 0 comments



The evangelistic power of a family

August 17 2016 by Danny Akin

The vital role of a father and mother (grandparents included) in conveying a missional life for their children cannot be too strongly emphasized.
 
Most children look up to, admire and follow in their parents’ footsteps. What you value they will value. What you have a passion for they will have a passion for.

Danny Akin


What can we do to embed the Great Commission into the DNA of our children that they may have a lifelong passion for that which is the passion of King Jesus?
 
Some suggestions:
 
1) Be incarnational in your parenting (2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:5-11).
 
Pioneer missionary David Livingston said, “This generation can only reach this generation. But will we raise our children to effectively impact their generation for Jesus Christ?”
 
The incarnation was a manifestation of God’s redemptive love for His world. Our incarnational love for our children models God’s love and communicates our love for them. To know and love them well, we have to be with them, working hard to see life as they see life. We have to invade their world like Jesus invaded ours.
 
2) Love well your mate (Ephesians 5:25; Titus 2:4).
 
Another pioneer missionary, Adoniram Judson, wrote in a letter to his wife Ann, “If such exquisite delights as we have enjoyed ... with one another [are] allowed to sinful creatures on earth, what must the joys of heaven be?” (Marvin J. Newell, ed., “Expect Great Things: Mission Quotes That Inform and Inspire, p. 92).
 
Children should learn about God’s love for the nations by the way they see their parents love one another. They should see the gospel and the atoning work of Christ put on glorious display in an Ephesians 5 kind of way.
 
3) Spend time with your children (Deuteronomy 6:7-9).
 
The parents of Hudson Taylor believed, “At no [other] time is there greater capacity for devotion, or more pure, uncalculating ambition in the service of God” (quoted in “The Mission-Minded Child” by Ann Dunagan, preface).
 
Apparently Hudson Taylor’s parents took the time early in his life to instill such devotion in Hudson. At the tender age of 5, Hudson declared, “When I am a man, I mean to be a missionary to China” (Dunagan, Mission-Minded Child, preface). And, we all know the rest of the story!
 
Fathers, what kind of projection of the heavenly Father are you giving to your children through the time you invest in them?
 
4) Learn to listen to your children (James 1:19).
 
Ann Dunagan rightly notes, “Often an adult may ask a child, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ But as mission-minded parents and teachers, our typical question could have the potential of directing a child toward total obedience to God and complete surrender to His purposes. We should say, ‘Oh, I wonder what exciting plans God has prepared for your life? When you grow up, will you do whatever God wants you to do?’” (Mission-Minded Child, p. 1).
 
Hearing your children’s heart on this level may happen in regular, normal and casual conversations, but there should be nothing casual about your listening. You need to zoom in: eye to eye, ear to ear, heart to heart.
 
5) Read missionary biographies to your children (Hebrews 11).
 
There is power and inspiration in story. One of my sons named his son Judson after Adoniram Judson. Another named his son Micah Elliot, honoring the late missionary martyr Jim Elliot. Let your children draw inspiration from the heroes of the faith.
 
6) Expose your children to missionaries by having them in your home, sharing a meal with them, listening to their stories.
 
John Stam, missionary martyr in China, had parents who ran Star of Hope Mission in Paterson, N.J., while his wife Betty, also martyred, was born into a missionary family. Her four siblings all became missionaries. “All five of us children,” Betty once wrote, “expected ... to return to China as missionaries. Our parents never urged it, but it seemed the natural and right thing to do” (Mrs. Howard Taylor, “To Die Is Gain: The Triumph of John and Betty Stam,” p. 26).
 
Their story could be multiplied a thousand times over. Our lives are impacted by the people we get to know and grow to admire.
 
7) Model missional living as a life priority before your children (Matthew 28:18-20).
 
David Shibley, founder of Global Advance, well says, “God is not calling us to win the world and, in the process, lose our families. But I have known those who so enshrined family life and were so protective of ‘quality time’ that the children never saw in their parents the kind of consuming love that made their parents’ faith attractive to them. Some have lost their children, not because they weren’t at their soccer games or didn’t take family vacations, but because they never transmitted a loyalty to Jesus that went deep enough to interrupt personal preferences” (Newell, Expect Great Things, p. 91).
 
Concluding questions to consider:

  • Are you a member of a Great Commission church?
  • How often do you participate in national and international missions experiences?
  • Do you pray that your children and grandchildren become overseas missionaries?
  • Do you personally give sacrificially to missions? Do you share this information with your children?
  • Do you have a Great Commission ministry in your will and estate planning so that you will continue to play a vital role in reaching the nations after you are dead and gone?

The Great Commission is not an option to consider. It is a command to obey. Let our obedience begin but not end with those closest and dearest to us. Let it begin in our homes.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Danny Akin is president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. This article is excerpted from his message at the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood sessions in conjunction with Together for the Gospel’s mid-April biennial conference.)
 

8/17/2016 8:06:40 AM by Danny Akin | with 0 comments



Prayer for everyday life

August 16 2016 by Diana Davis

It’s more than a rhyming verse at meal times or a memorized recitation. Prayer is a powerful, personal conversation with your Father, God in heaven. Here are a few simple tips to remember to pray:

Diana Davis

First, middle and last, pray. Before your toes touch the floor each morning, pray. Pray throughout the day. As your last action before you fall asleep, pray. As the psalmist wrote, “Morning, noon, and night, I cry out in my distress, and the Lord hears my voice” (Psalm 55:17).

Stop, drop & pray. When an acquaintance shares a need or concern, stop right there. Drop what you’re doing. Take her hand and offer a prayer to God on her behalf.

Pray on your way. During everyday moments of life, talk to God. Pray for police officers, firefighters and emergency personnel as their vehicles pass by. Before you check your email messages, pray. Look for minutes when you are exercising, shopping, driving, waiting or walking.

Teach your children to pray. Pray with them regularly. Pray when your child or family has a specific need or praise. Get caught praying. Allow your children to see you and hear you pray to God.
Pray before you speak. Whether it’s to chat with a friend on the phone or teach a Bible class or talk with your hair stylist, breathe a prayer before you say a word.
Pray by name. Use your church directory or small group list to pray for church members from A to Z. Check off names with a colored pen. When you’ve prayed for the entire list, get a different color pen and begin again.

Pray for your neighbors. An awesome free app helps you pray for neighbors by name. At Pray4EveryHome.com, enter your address and email. You receive five neighbors’ names daily. Pray, click “done,” and get five more tomorrow.

Tell them. If you pray faithfully for your church staff, spouse, children, teachers, political leaders, etc., tell them. Send a note to remind them of your prayers.

Shower power. Make a list of people, laminate it, and post it by your shower, dressing table or computer. Pray daily through the list of your co-workers at church, pastoral leaders, family, boss, employees, neighbors, unsaved acquaintances, etc.

Pray during church. Have you ever checked your watch or counted ceiling tiles during worship? That won’t happen if you are busy praying. Pray silently for every element of the worship service.

Pray on the phone. When someone calls or texts you about a need or problem, pray. Voice a verbal prayer before you hang up or respond with a typed sentence prayer to God.

Pray when you minister to others. Delivering a casserole to a bereaved family? Making an outreach contact, homebound visit or hospital call? Say a silent prayer before you ring their doorbell, and pray aloud for them before leaving.

Pray about absolutely everything. At the Scripture instructs us, “Don’t worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for what He has done” (Philippians 4:6).
 
Pray. God is listening right now.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Davis is online at dianadavis.org. This column is a revised excerpt from her book Deacon Wives, B&H Publishing Group 2009. Her newest book, co-written with her daughter Autumn Wall, Across the Street and Around the World, New Hope Publishers, is a resource for an array of “going” ideas for churches small groups and individuals.)
 
8/16/2016 8:14:23 AM by Diana Davis | with 0 comments



Watch your speed

August 12 2016 by David Jeremiah

Henry Ford pioneered the production of cars in America but he didn’t invent the modern automobile. That honor is usually given to a German whose name is also legendary, Karl Benz. While Henry Ford’s Model-T began rolling off the assembly line in Detroit in 1908, Karl Benz’s three-wheeled car was granted a patent and produced in 1885.

David Jeremiah


I had to smile when I read this next historical tidbit: It only took three years before “the need for speed” gave birth to the speedometer, called then by its Croatian inventor, Josip Belušic, a velocimeter.
 
Why did they need to know how fast they were going just three years after the car was invented? There were no state troopers with radar guns in Croatia in 1888 and very few speeders, with the first cars puttering along at only a few miles per hour. Let’s just chalk up the invention of the speedometer to man’s inventive nature.
 
Our need to know our speed applies to many areas of life. We humans are inveterate counters. We always want to know how far, how fast and how much. But there’s one dimension of speed that is even more important than our miles per hour: the speed of our lives relative to our spiritual needs.
 
I see two kinds of speed limit signs on America’s freeways: the maximum speed and the minimum speed. Not only is it dangerous to go too fast in life, it’s also dangerous to go too slow.
 

Too fast? Slow down!

For most of us, our problem is not moving too slow for our own spiritual good. Our problem is we’re moving too fast to build our relationship with God on a daily basis.
 
When I think about how fast we are moving through life, I think about how the English Bible translator J.B. Phillips rendered Romans 12:2: “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within.” We have become full-fledged citizens of the American lifestyle where “the faster we go, the behinder we get,” as Lewis Carroll put it. We are exceeding a speed limit that produces a healthy, balanced and mature spiritual life.
 
When we take a moment to look in our spiritual rearview mirror, we see the Lord Jesus looking at our receding taillights, wondering if we’ll make time to sit and fellowship with Him tomorrow.
 
Don’t get me wrong – I know we are all busy. I certainly am, and just as you do, I have to overcome the same daily temptation to speed through my day without setting aside time for God. And it’s not just daily devotions for which we’re moving too fast. Some Christians can’t slow down long enough to attend church, meet with a home fellowship group, attend a spiritual conference or read a good Christian book that would deepen their walk with Christ.
 

Too slow? Speed up!

If some Christians are moving too fast, others are moving too slow like the sluggard in Proverbs 6:6-10.
 
They might say, “I need time to rest and plan; I’ll spend time with the Lord and attend church when my life is more organized.” Their symptoms, however, are the same as the person who is going too fast: no devotional time with God, no prayer and Bible study and no involvement with the body of Christ.
 
What is the perfect speed for a healthy and balanced spiritual life? I can’t give you a number, but I can give you signposts: joyful contentment; growth in Christlikeness; increasing knowledge of Scripture; service for Christ; a vibrant, up-to-date testimony; and fruitful, biblically-based relationships with family and friends.
 
Slow down or speed up and reach these godly goals. Check-up challenge: Look at your personal speedometer today to see how you’re spending your time. Make and take time for God.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Jeremiah is pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., and founder and host of “Turning Point for God.” For more information on Turning Point, visit DavidJeremiah.org. Used with permission.)
 

8/12/2016 11:56:16 AM by David Jeremiah | with 0 comments



Suffering & endurance

August 11 2016 by Susie Hawkins

Several years ago, our daughter and her husband traveled to California, leaving their 3-year-old Jackson and 18-month-old Julia in our care.
 
Like all grandparents, we were delighted to keep them. One of those mornings, my husband O.S. took Jackson with him to his office. Jackson sat on his lap, looking over the desk, asking questions. As O.S. was opening his mail, Jackson grabbed a letter opener and somehow the end of it struck his eye. We soon assumed his eyeball had been scratched since he wouldn’t open his eye and later in the day had a patch placed over it. Usually that type of injury heals quickly but Jackson’s eye wasn’t any better the next morning.

Susie Hawkins


My husband “happened” to see a friend at lunch, an ophthalmologist, and recounted the story. The doctor told us to go immediately to his office, which did not sound good. Two hours later we were on our way to emergency surgery at the children’s hospital for what was a very serious injury. Just the tiniest bit closer to the pupil and Jackson would have been blinded.
 
Those hours are a blur to me now – Holly and David feverishly booking flights to get home as soon as possible, the doctor and nurse calling them to get permission to operate, finding someone to help with Julia, getting admitted to the hospital, all the while dealing with our growing fears. Thankfully the surgery was a success because his eye was saved, but his lens was completely destroyed.
 
Thus began a very long road of an almost 3-year-old wearing a contact lens (with all the issues that brings) as well as “patching” almost every day for the next eight or nine years. Patching is a technique used to prevent the brain from shutting down the injured eye by placing a patch over the good eye. The surgeons said once his eye was fully developed (around age 11 or 12), a permanent lens could be implanted. However, the patching was crucial to the whole process; his future vision literally depended upon it.
 
When a child is barely 3 and his problem can’t be fully resolved until he is at least 11 – well, that seemed like an eternity. There was no quick fix. Those were long days, weeks and years with many tears, frustrations and weariness on all sides.
 
Endurance was the name of the game. But time does pass and two summers ago, Jackson had the lens surgery. We still have no words to express our thankfulness to God that it was successful and today his vision is very good.
I experienced this trial through the lens of a wife and a mother. I had such angst in seeing my husband’s grief over this accident. He was inconsolable. As a parent and especially as a grandparent, our primary instinct is to protect. How could such a freak accident occur to this child while sitting on his grandfather’s lap? As much as others and I tried to comfort him and remind him of God’s sovereignty, it was very difficult. O.S. is a strong believer, mature in his faith, to say the least. But this accident helped me realize more than ever how our brains may agree with truth, such as God’s care and control, but our emotions – remorse, guilt, self-condemnation – can lag far behind, tormenting us. I couldn’t fix that. The best I could do was sit by quietly, pray and entrust O.S. to God’s loving care.
 
As a mom, I have marveled these past years at the resourcefulness and sheer fortitude of young mothers. Truly God equips mommies for their season. I remember one particular morning when Jackson was unusually agitated, wailing, fearful of patching and not being able to see out of his injured eye. I watched as Holly swept him up, soothed him, invented some little game and quietly sang to him walking through their house, pointing out favorite toys and familiar objects. He soon settled down and forgot about the patch. How many times did I see that happen? Too many to remember. God may not remove the trial, but somehow He provides the wisdom, energy and patience to cope with it every time.
 
The accident is part of our family story, although it is primarily Jackson’s. He is growing into a fine young man and I listen carefully when he occasionally refers to the accident. How will this experience affect him in the future? All of us pray it is for God’s glory and for our maturity, trusting that God will always provide all we need.
 
Certainly, “the testing of your faith produces endurance,” as we read in Scripture. “But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:3-4).
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Susie Hawkins has been active in ministry as a pastor’s wife, teacher and volunteer and is the author of From One Ministry Wife to Another. She and her husband O.S. Hawkins, president of Guidestone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, have two children and six grandchildren. This column first appeared at Flourish, namb.net/flourish, an online community for ministers’ wives sponsored by the North American Mission Board. Used with permission.)
 

8/11/2016 8:54:59 AM by Susie Hawkins | with 0 comments



‘Lesser’ or ‘never,’ but together: Evangelicals and the American presidency

August 10 2016 by Danny Akin

Followers of Jesus find themselves in a unique and difficult situation when it comes to this year’s presidential election. Many of us see no qualified candidate for whom to vote. At present, that is my personal conviction and position, something I have been clear about on multiple occasions and through various channels. I cannot, as I currently see things, vote for either of the major party candidates. My conscience will simply not allow it, even as I consider the voting process to be a wonderful blessing and privilege we all have in America.
 
There are also faithful followers of Christ, many who are close and dear friends of mine, who feel they can (and even must) vote for a “lesser of two evils” candidate. This is because so much is at stake, particularly Supreme Court appointments. I can understand, appreciate and respect their position. This is a very difficult moment for all of us, and we should be both fair and honest about this reality.
 
The 2016 election is important, but it is too often divisive and open to unhealthy rhetoric. At Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, we want to pursue the loving and civil discourse for which our school has come to be known. We know that brothers and sisters in Christ can hold and express differing positions even as they love and respect one another.
As a picture of this, I have asked two of our ethics professors, Daniel Heimbach and Mark Liederbach, to share their personal positions and approaches to this timely and increasingly crucial question. They are brothers, friends, and colleagues, and they regularly show grace and respect for each other even when they have different perspectives.
 

Why evangelicals should not sit out the 2016 presidential election

Daniel Heimbach, senior professor of Christian ethics
 
The 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign season has just entered the general election period, and American evangelicals now face the repellent prospect of voting for one of the major party candidates – both of whom we think is terribly flawed and dangerous – or sitting out this election either by not voting or symbolically voting for a write-in we know has no chance. I am writing to explain why I think we must vote for one of the repellent major party candidates, and why I believe sitting it out is not what God desires. All Christians want to be Christ-like and faithful to the Word of God. But we differ sometimes on what that is. I will explain why being like Christ and following His teaching leads me to think we must not sit out this election. But I respect those who love the Word of God and reach other conclusions. The important thing is desiring to honor God and willingness to be corrected by what He says.
 
God does not call Christians only to vote for political candidates who reach minimal levels of acceptability. Rather He calls us to be a good influence within real world limits (Jeremiah 29:7), which in our case means voting for a comparatively “better” candidate over a comparatively “worse” one from among those our governing system makes available. Candidates are never sinless and some are positively wicked. But that does not make those voting for an available candidate complicit in his or her flaws.
 
Jesus paid taxes supporting the highly immoral Roman government occupying first-century Judea (Matthew 22:15-22). That did not make Jesus complicit in its failings and neither will voting for one of the available candidates in this election, even though both are flawed and dangerous.
 
I think sitting out this election is a version of the mistake Jesus warned not to make in the parable He told about a field of wheat mixed with tares (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43). In that parable Jesus addressed how Christians should live in present society, and he warned against taking an all-or-nothing approach toward bettering life in common with unbelievers. The field represents mixed society under present world limitations (Matthew 13:38). And, while God plans a perfect world to come (Matthew 13:41), He does not make Christians responsible for reaching that perfection. Rather, for now, He only wants us to be a good influence while accepting present world limitations that are far from ideal. We are wheat, not tares. But we must accept living in mixed society with them and not weed them out (Matthew 13:29-30).
 
We can strive for better candidates in the future. But in the 2016 presidential race, that process is over. Our major party candidates are selected, and now all we can do is promote or undermine which is elected.
 
Whether we vote in this election or sit it out, we must realize that whatever we do will affect the outcome. There is no option with no impact at all. Now the only way we have of influencing this election for the better is to assess which candidate is less flawed or dangerous, and then to vote for that candidate. I believe that is what Jesus expects. I believe that is what He would do in our place. And I believe that is the truest and best way to please God in this election.
 

Why evangelicals should exercise conscientious objection in the 2016 presidential election

Mark Liederbach, dean of students and professor of theology, ethics and culture
 
When it appears neither of the two candidates running for president provides a positive option, questions abound about the proper way for Christian to think about voting.
There are some who would make the case that it is better to vote for the “lesser of two evils” candidate. Otherwise the chance to advance an agenda may be lost, or more negatively stated, the opportunity to slow a decline would be wasted. Such a position is not the same as mere pragmatism, though it is possible to construe it as such. Giving the benefit of the doubt to right-minded Christians taking this position, we should understand that there is a genuine desire to honor the Lord by using the gift of a meaningful vote to promote good or limit evil.
 
On the other hand, there are those that would make the case (including myself) that there comes a time when a person’s conscience will simply not allow a vote to be cast for either candidate. This position is sometimes critiqued as a form of misguided “perfectionism” in which the voter refusing to choose one of the two leading candidates is afraid of being complicit with evil. Critics will then point out that in a fallen world everything is tainted by evil, thus a demand for such “perfectionism” is not simply unrealistic of any candidate shy of Jesus himself. When taken to its logical extreme, such an argument would make life unlivable.
 
I beg to differ.
 
While it can be argued that the “lesser of two evils” choice is sometimes necessary, such a decision assumes that only option A or B has value.  It also assumes that a clear “lesser of evils” can be determined.
 
But there is a third option, and it would be wrong to describe it as “throwing away a vote.” That third option is called “conscience.”
 
A choice to follow conscience arises when the two presented options both have such evil positions, platforms and legacies that a voter cannot in good conscience support either one. In that situation the voter can still choose to go to the polls and vote for other offices (Senate, Governor, etc.) with a clearer choice, while abstaining from voting for the particular office that offers up wretched candidates (in this case, president).
 
Such a decision can be good and wise because it honors the right and privilege we are granted to participate in our governing process while also having the backbone to say: “The time has come when I cannot face my Lord with a pure heart by voting for either of these candidates.”
 
In this particular election, one candidate is in the midst of likely corruption and supports an agenda that includes abortion, gender confusion, legalized euthanasia and legalized marijuana. The other has built a life on the back of gambling, pornography, bigotry, divorce, abortion and amassing a fortune by preying on the poor.
 
These two evils don’t seem to have a clear “lesser.”
 
One can support a party platform (if the voter thinks one has long-term benefits) by voting for other offices while simultaneously abstaining from voting for one of the two most wretched candidates in history.  There are times when conscientious objection grounded in an ethic of worship is the more responsible choice.  I believe this election cycle is one of those times.
 
A position that argues “Never Hillary & Never Trump” may not be popular, but it may well be the highest act of worship a Christian can offer.
 

Conclusion

I am so grateful for these two men and the gift they are to our students. My hope and prayer is that this is a model for all those who live together under the Lordship of King Jesus. We can lovingly and graciously express our views, even when we disagree, and then join hands as we continue about the business of fulfilling the Great Commission until King Jesus returns! In all of this we must remember and never forget: our hope is not and has never been in a president. It is in a King.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Danny Akin is president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. This column originally appeared on the Between the Times blog.)
 

8/10/2016 9:26:11 AM by Danny Akin | with 1 comments



Reasonable expectations for unbelievers

August 5 2016 by Ray Parascando

You made some rotten decisions prior to coming to Christ. Some of those choices included unkind words that you regret saying and reactions that were vengeful. Thankfully, God’s mercy met you where you were and lifted you up.

Ray Parascando


As your relationship with God began, so did your growth and walk toward spiritual maturity. You haven’t arrived yet, but at least you’re on the right path. This is all part of God’s grace, because even in those regretful moments before your profession of faith in Christ, God was showing you mercy.
 
The only reasonable response to such a great covering of mercy is to show that same mercy to others, especially those outside the faith who need Christ. Our immediate and lasting response should be to have reasonable expectations for unbelievers.
 
A great example of this in the Bible is Matthew. By occupation, he collected taxes for the Romans. Tax collectors in general were hated, but the disdain for Matthew was magnified because he was enforcing Roman taxation on his own people.
 
Growing up in the line of priests, Matthew had rejected the Jewish religion. But Jesus reached Matthew there in his tax collecting booth and began to give him a life beyond the hypocrisy he had seen in the religion he grew up in, and beyond his regrets and shame.
 
As the Bible recounts, Jesus took note of Matthew and said to him, “Follow Me.” After being called to follow Jesus, Matthew wasted no time. He followed Jesus and then invited his friends, who were some of the “big sinners” of the day, to meet Jesus at his home. Matthew’s actions provide clear steps we can take as well as reasonable expectations we can have for our friends who need Christ.
 
When you see the worst in people, pray for God’s best.
 
Like you, the people around you will make horrible mistakes. Some of those sins will be directly committed against you. With this in mind, expect to be let down, expect to be discouraged, expect to be offended, but don’t let that stop you from praying. You can specifically pray for God to change the heart and mind of that person toward His will.
 
When you see selfishness, pray for surrender.
 
The hurtful and damaging decisions that we make involve selfishness. This is true of you and everyone around you. Expect people to be selfish, but constantly be praying for those same people to surrender to God.
 
Matthew can be seen in both of these instances. As a tax collector he was the worst of the worst but Jesus saw God’s best.
 
As a result he surrendered and followed the Lord, then penned the beautiful Gospel of Matthew which serves as a bridge from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Based on Matthew’s example, you can have reasonable expectations for the shortcomings of others, but you can also have righteous prayers for their transformation.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ray Parascando is pastor of Crossroads Church in Staten Island, N.Y.)
 

8/5/2016 11:43:10 AM by Ray Parascando | with 0 comments



God doesn’t need to be convinced

August 4 2016 by Michael Kelley

My kids are getting wise to me.
 
It used to be that one kid or another would come to me with some ridiculous request – that we needed a family iguana, that we should move into a tiny house, that we needed to buy a limousine – you name it. I would listen to their request, then I would show them all the logical reasons why we couldn’t make it happen. Then they would either accept the explanation, or go off and throw a fit. Either way, the case was closed.

Michael Kelley


But like I said, the kids are getting wise.
 
I’ve recently observed a new tactic they’re engaged in. Instead of coming one at a time, they’ve begun to come collectively as a unit. And instead of just making the request, they come with a fully built out proposal of all the reasons why it would make perfect sense for me to do what they think they need. And it actually works. When they’ve thought it through, can make their argument, and do so together, then I find myself giving in.
 
It works for them, and it works for most of us, too. Whenever someone has something we think we need – whether it’s a promotion at work, an agreement with a decision we want to make in our marriages, or even something like a restaurant choice between friends, we do well to think through what we are asking so that we can provide a convincing argument for why we are right.
 
But that philosophy is built on the assumption that the person who has what we need or want is not willing to give it to us unless we can convince them to do so. Their default answer is “no” unless we can convince them otherwise. That’s why we have to make the argument so convincing and air tight; that’s why we have to come with a fully built out plan. And that’s also why it’s so angering when that person refuses to give us what we think they should be compelled to give us.
 
How glorious, then, to see that the gospel obliterates this perspective when it comes to God.
 
How freeing to consider that God doesn’t have to be convinced to give us what we need.
 
We know that through the gospel, we are God’s beloved children. And we know that as a good Father, He does not provide for us reluctantly, but instead delights each day in giving us our daily bread, and doing more than we can even conceive. God does not need convincing. He already knows what we need, and He is going to give us just that.
 
Of course, that does not mean that God is some kind of cosmic genie, granting the selfish wishes of anyone who rubs the lamp in just the right way. It’s better than that.
 
God will not stoop so low as to be our butler; He insists upon being our Father. And as our Father, He will give us the fish we need even when we are convinced that what we need is actually a snake.
 
Because of the gospel, we can put away our arguments. We can tear up our carefully designed plans. We can think again about working up our gumption to convince God to assume a posture of generosity. And instead, we can freely come again and again to a Father who delights in being the best kind of giver.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Kelley is director of groups ministry for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention and author of Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer, and God and Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life. He is on Twitter at @michaelkelley and online at michaelkelley.co. This article first appeared on For the Church website, ftc.co, of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Used with permission.)
 

8/4/2016 8:37:02 AM by Michael Kelley | with 0 comments



‘Plow in hope’ toward the harvest

August 3 2016 by Randy C. Davis

I still own my grandfather’s large push plow. And it may sound strange, but I loved pushing it through rows of pink-eye purple-hull peas, okra, Silver King Corn and Big Boy tomatoes.


Why would I love pushing that plow through the rich soil of South Alabama under the hot sun? Two reasons: First, I dearly love my granddaddy and I loved spending as much time with him as possible. He was amazingly wise and masterfully encouraging. Second, I knew from experience our harvest would come if we were good at planting the seeds and faithful at tending the field.
 
Those sweet memories cultivate a great hope for the future when I read 1 Corinthians 9:10: “For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: he that plows should plow in hope ...
 
Between my nearly 20 years as a Tennessee pastor and six years as the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s executive director, it has been a joy to meet thousands of great pastors and ministry leaders across our state faithfully pushing the gospel plow. Many are in the midst of planting life-transforming seeds. Some are breaking up some very hard and tough ground, preparing to plant. Others are in the midst of reaping a great harvest of spiritually lost people becoming saved, baptized and set on the road of discipleship.
 
And I know why you great servants of God are doing what you faithfully do.
 
You love your Father and you have been promised a harvest. However, as you know, God doesn’t promise we’ll have easy days working in His field. Farmers deal with drought, storms, crop disease, critters that slip in and graze on their crops, and a host of other challenges. Being a cultivator of God’s people and working His fields is equally challenging. Like the diligent farmer, we must faithfully weather each season and celebrate when the harvest comes in.
 
The great news is that our all-loving and all-wise heavenly Father walks with us and encourages us each step of the way as we plow ahead. As Deuteronomy 31:8 states: “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged!
 
And He gives us the sacred and sure promise of a holy harvest, as reflected in Psalm 126:6: “He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing bringing his sheaves with him.
 
Being in ministry, especially pastoral ministry, can sometimes be exhausting. Guard yourselves. Look to the Lord and His Word to revive you. Recognize you’re in a season and pray God will send spiritual rain when you need it in the dry season. But whatever you do, dear friend, do not throw in the towel.
 
Farmers never pause mid-season because they know the goal is not to simply get seed in the ground or crops to spout up. They cultivate and nurture knowing that the objective of months of sweaty labor is get to the end of the season and bring in a harvest.
 
Pastor and fully devoted followers of Christ, planting and cultivating. Wake up to a new day knowing you’re one day closer to a harvest because you’ve faithfully tended the field. Our reality as ministers is that we will never know this side of heaven how God used us to extend His Kingdom in the lives of people. Plow in hope while looking forward to that day when our heavenly Father reveals the fruit of the harvest.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Randy C. Davis is executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.)
 

8/3/2016 9:32:55 AM by Randy C. Davis | with 0 comments



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