October 8 2015 by
Ralph Tone, Baptist Press
If you’re a news junkie like me, you probably find at least one story a day that is so outrageous it makes your blood boil – for a second or two – until you read the next outrageous story that makes you forget your initial outrage.
Creating outrage is a good business model for most news outlets since it increases sales, page visits, likes and tweets.
But it’s not necessarily good for our souls. If we’re not careful, we can become an emotional outrage collector. Over time this can eat away at our spiritual well-being and give us a jaded worldview. It is far more beneficial to search the scriptures than meditate on mayhem.
Here are a few coping mechanisms that help me empty the emotional trash bin of media-induced negativity:
Meditate on God’s Word to get an eternal perspective. We have the means to replace outrage with inner peace. Remember what Jesus said: The world is filled with trouble and trials, but He has overcome the world. Because of His victory, we can experience peace (John 16:33).
Understand that yesterday’s outrage will fade into tomorrow’s brewing indignation. Can you even remember the headline or news story that got you so upset two days ago or even yesterday?
Of course, for those directly affected by tragedy and injustice, painful memories do not fade from one day to the next, and healing comes slowly, if at all. One person’s vague and distant headline can be an ever-present anguish for someone else. This harsh reality should ignite our prayers.
But for the vast majority of us who consume the daily media outrage on our smartphones while drinking coffee, a chronic low-grade indignation results in a certain numb detachment.
To test my theory of our ever-decreasing outrage tolerance I looked at recent front page headlines from USA Today. Here is a brief sampling of some stories from recent weeks:
Europe Facing Biggest Migrant Crisis Since WW2
Chilling – Fourth Cop Slain in 9 Days
2,000 Year-Old Temple Razed
Cold Blooded Murders on Live TV
Prison for Subway’s Jared
Kentucky Clerk Jailed, Gays to Get Licenses
Obama Secures Iran Nuke Agreement
I could go on and on cataloging the daily outrage. My point? You’ve probably forgotten these outrages and only now recall them because of being reminded.
It is fine – a good thing really – to be informed. But it is even better to be transformed by the renewing of our minds in the Word of God and prayer.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ralph Tone, on the Web at ralphtone.com, is a writer in Phoenix.)
10/8/2015 10:03:23 AM
October 7 2015 by
Brian Davis, Guest Column
Ralph Tone, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
This is the fifth article in the Biblical Recorder series about how churches can respond to potential legal difficulties following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in late July legalizing same-sex marriage. The focus of the articles has come from 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (KJV). In this installment we turn our attention to the spirit of love.
The topic of love is garnering much attention, especially as it relates to sexuality and marriage. Many proponents of same-sex marriage have made what they feel is a simple request: let those who love one another express that love in marriage. But that simple statement fails to express the fullness of love.
The Lord Jesus Christ displayed the greatest expression of love on Calvary’s cross. He said in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Our Lord then follows that statement with, “I no longer call you servants, but friends.” That message of love was handed to the church to proclaim to the world.
However, the world has declared that the church promotes hate, bigotry and intolerance. I believe it’s time for the church to take its message of love back. I’m not talking about marketing or public relations, but rather intentional and consistent demonstrations of the doctrine of love. For years now, many churches have failed to express the fullness of God’s love so we should not be surprised that the world is full of individuals that do not understand God’s love.
Let me explain: Before God called me into ministry I was a vocational agriculture teacher; specifically, I taught horticulture. As I would teach my students about photosynthesis, the process by which light fuels the creation of sugars that are used to nourish the plant, I explained the importance of the light spectrum in this process.
To teach the light spectrum I used, as countless instructors before me, an acronym – ROY G BIV. The acronym stands for the colors in the range of visible light: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. In order for plants to bear fruit, they require light across the entire range of the color spectrum. Plants that only receive light from the red-orange end of the spectrum are stunted in their growth and fail to bear fruit.
To the other extreme, plants that only receive light from the indigo-violet end of the spectrum are spindly in their growth and they also fail to bear fruit. It’s my opinion that God has created men and women in much the same way as it relates to the doctrine of love.
If a living soul is only exposed to one aspect of God’s love (like mercy or holiness), they’re often stunted in their growth and they do not bear fruit. Far too many churches lean toward one characteristic of God at the expense of another, and express an incomplete doctrine of love.
Therefore, churches must undertake some needed soul searching and ask tough questions: Why have we failed in expressing God’s love in its fullness? What must we do to disciple those in our congregations so that they understand and express the fullness of God’s love to others?
Many churches have declared that Christians “Hate the sin but love the sinner.” We have assumed there’s no gap between those statements. We’ve been wrong in that assumption.
Those two phrases are miles apart if the church is not expressing the fullness of God’s love to others. Christians must respect and value every living soul, for Christ Jesus shed His blood for every living soul to be saved.
Please do not misunderstand; respect for others does not equal condoning sin. Remember, the fullness of the doctrine of love, as revealed in Scripture, requires Christians to lift high the holy expectations of God as well as the grace and mercy of God.
In the matter of sexuality, consider this: The scriptures proclaim that the “marriage bed” is pure and undefiled (Hebrews 13:4). However, the scriptures are equally clear that God desires to cleanse and forgive living souls of “all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). This means that we should boldly declare that all sexual activity outside the bonds of marriage as expressed in scripture is out of bounds; but that God desires to forgive, to cleanse and to restore those who will admit, confess and repent of such sin.
In short, people will get things out of order regarding sexuality, but God desires to forgive and cleanse. When living souls recognize the love of their Creator and His expectations for their lives, change can take place. These truths are not limited simply to those involved in same-sex relationships, but those who have things out of order in every sexual relationship.
If ever there was a church that had sexuality out of order, it was the church at Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV) we read: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
For the church to truly impact the world, we must take our message back and then share and express the fullness of God’s love. But we do not stop there, for Paul concludes 2 Timothy 1:7 with a final admonition. Paul reminds us that God has given us not only power and love, but a sound mind as well. In the final installment we’ll give attention to the necessity for this sound mind as it relates to the matters of sexuality and marriage.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian K. Davis is associate executive director-treasurer at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)
10/7/2015 9:25:09 AM
October 6 2015 by
Chuck Lawless, Guest Column
Brian Davis, Guest Column | with 0 comments
I seldom write a post that relates only to my denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, but this one does (though believers of many denominations could help with the needs listed in this post). I love missionaries, and many I know are now making prayerful decisions about retiring from the field. These are heart-wrenching days, and I encourage Southern Baptists to consider ways to assist these folks who’ve given their lives for the nations.
Give God a blank check. That’s been the theme of International Mission Board president, David Platt. If these missionaries are giving God a blank check and asking Him to fill in their calling, all of us need to do the same. My wife and I are praying, “Lord, we want to help retiring missionaries. Fill in the check to show us how.” I’m convinced Southern Baptist believers, local churches, institutions, entities, associations and state conventions should do the same.
Pray for the missionaries. Many are right now asking the question, “Lord, what do you want us to do?” I know many of these folks. They’re some of the godliest people I’ve ever met, and I have no doubt they want to do whatever God wants. Pray He would give them clarity – and then provide for them as they follow Him wherever He leads.
Contact the International Mission Board’s “transition team” to learn more. Several former missionaries and staff are ready to connect missionaries with churches, institutions, and people who want to assist. You can contact that team at email@example.com.
Provide housing. If you have empty missionary houses, unrented apartments or condos, or open vacation homes, make them available for some time for these missionaries.
Give up a car. Perhaps you have a seldom-used vehicle available. Or maybe you can even purchase one to donate so a returning missionary won’t need to buy an automobile.
Provide ministry jobs. Obviously, this issue is the big one. If your church or institution is seeking someone to join your staff, remember that hundreds of veteran missionaries will be available within the next several months. Don’t limit your search to stateside candidates only. In fact, you might consider waiting a few months before making a decision to see if God might connect you with a returning missionary.
Provide other jobs. Many of our personnel have skills beyond ministry-related skills, and they bring talent, experience and a Christian spirit to the room. Their very presence in your company can make a difference.
If your church is affiliated with a Christian school, reduce costs for the offspring of returning missionaries. Every tuition discount will help globally-minded parents who want their children and teens to be educated in a Christian school – and having the global perspective of these students will strengthen your school.
If your church has a counseling service, make that service available. Most transitions are difficult at some point. This one will include not only leaving people and countries that are dearly loved, but also returning to an American culture that is itself overwhelming. For some of these folks, simply having the opportunity to talk to somebody might be important.
Sacrificially give through your local church. Financial realities have led to this voluntary retirement offer. My wife and I have, I believe, given sacrificially over the years through our tithes and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Yet, have we given as sacrificially as we should have? That’s a question we are now asking.
Pray again for all of our missionaries. Even those who remain on the field will be saying “good-byes” to mentors, leaders, friends, “aunts” and “uncles.” They usually understand that heartache because of the nature of their work, but the large scale of these decisions will likely compound the anguish.
Remember that the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) is still in effect. I realize this last point sounds almost contradictory to the rest of this post, but I can’t ignore either reality: many missionaries will retire, and we’re still called to take the gospel to the nations. The God who calls us will also help us figure out how to get there.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article first appeared at Chuck Lawless’s personal blog, chucklawless.com. Visit the site and subscribe to receive new articles. Used by permission.)
10/6/2015 1:04:37 PM
October 5 2015 by
Jeff Iorg, GGBTS Communications
Chuck Lawless, Guest Column | with 0 comments
One of the hardest jobs in America today is teaching in a public school or secular private school. Besides the usual challenges, many teachers are now faced with a new mandate – eliminating references to gender in their classrooms.
Some California teachers received an instructional packet a few weeks ago which reminded them that the beginning of the school year is an “ideal time to establish the foundation of gender inclusion in your schools and classrooms.”
Teachers are encouraged to say things like:
“There are lots of ways to be a boy or girl or even something else; isn’t that great?”
“Some bodies are thought of as ‘boy’ and some thought of as ‘girl’ but that’s not true for everyone.”
“Being a boy or girl or something else is not about what you like or what you wear or your body. It’s something that each of us figures out for ourselves based on how we feel inside.”
That’s just a sample. The training packet goes into significant detail about avoiding “binary” descriptions of sexuality or gender. References to gender must eliminate any hint of a connection to anatomical features. Gender is something a person chooses, and every child (even those who aren’t “confused”) must be taught to reconsider their gender in light of who they might feel they truly are.
It’s easy to imagine a scenario where teachers will soon be reprimanded or disciplined for holding to the “shocking” position that boys and girls are different, that those differences are directly related to their birth sex and that both should be celebrated for their uniqueness. And, if someone were to take the truly “outrageous” position that God created “man” and “woman” as His perfect design – scandalous!
Believing God makes boys and girls – and we are responsible to shape them according to their creation-gender – is too important to kowtow to today’s gender-choice nonsense.
Courageous teachers in classrooms across our country will ignore training like this and continue to shape a new generation of boys into men and girls into women. Let’s support them as they do.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jeff Iorg is president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, with campuses in the San Francisco Bay Area, Southern California, the Pacific Northwest, Denver and Phoenix. This column first appeared at the seminary’s president’s blog.)
10/5/2015 12:39:01 PM
October 2 2015 by
Diana Davis, Baptist Press
Jeff Iorg, GGBTS Communications | with 0 comments
Are you planning a women’s event at your church this fall – a retreat, luncheon, conference, mission project or weekly ministry? Try adding these elements to create exciting, God-honoring pizzazz:
The Buzz Factor. Generate anticipation. Give the event a great title or theme. Do excellent promotion, using social media, quality graphics, email, church website, bathroom walls, church exterior sign. For your biggest event, assign your friendliest ladies at worship exit doors to personally give both a verbal and printed invitation to each woman. Even better, give them two invitations, so they can bring a friend.
The Team Factor. Include new people of varying ages on the planning team. Our team usually consisted of five ladies – each with a specific major assignment to fit her talents, such as program, décor, publicity, tickets, table hostesses. After an initial meeting, each one recruits her own separate crew to accomplish that assignment with excellence, intentionally including new and fringe people. The event coordinator or staff leader synchronizes.
The First Impression Factor. Every detail is done “as unto the Lord.” From the moment a woman steps from her car, first impressions count. Directional signs and greeters simplify her arrival. Entry foyers are attractive and point to God. Even if she’s early, there’s a joyful atmosphere, friendly ladies and Christian background music as she arrives.
The WOW! Factor. Create the unexpected. Strive for a gasp, “Oh, you’ve got to see this!” Brainstorm your theme to make one thing very memorable. A gorgeous entry. A surprise guest. A unique decor. An amazing dessert.
The Flow Factor. Leaders use a minute-by-minute private schedule, assuring the event begins and ends precisely on time. Anyone who attends feels it was “worth her minutes.” Most announcements are printed in the program to avoid drag. Although flow is meticulously planned and implemented, the mood is relaxed, with plenty of fellowship before and afterward.
The Purpose Factor. With each event, you’re creating a church reputation for fabulous God-centered events. Plan every detail to glorify God and make Him known. It’s not a secular club or performance, so the focus isn’t on entertaining our current members or cheering planners or performers. Focus on Him. Convince church members to joyfully bring many, many unchurched friends.
The Friendship Factor. Train every church member to act as a hostess and to befriend newcomers. Enhance friendships with nametags. Assure that every guest leaves with several new friends – invitations to lunch, coffee, small group, playgroup, golf. She’ll have new FaceBook friends and emails or phone calls before the day is over. God will use those friendships to introduce her to His grace because your members are radically intentional.
The Reflection Factor. Plan ahead so ladies leave with something memorable in their hands. A separate creative team could craft handmade theme bookmarks or keepsakes to fit the theme. For a “walking with God” theme, we found tiny glass slippers that cost pennies. My little slipper still sits on my counter as a reminder. For an event with a theme of trust drawn from Luke 12:27, give each lady a lily as she leaves.
Add pizzazz and joy to your upcoming event. Ladies outside your church are waiting to be invited. They’re dying to know your Savior.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Davis, on the Web at www.dianadavis.org, is an author, columnist and ministry wife in Pensacola, Fla.)
10/2/2015 1:05:44 PM
October 1 2015 by
Chuck Fuller, Anderson University
Diana Davis, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
I’m writing in defense of the minivan. This seems self-serving since I own one (our second, actually) and seems disingenuous because I participate in the “no-swag wagon” banter that accompanies ownership.
But hear me out.
According to popular perception, a minivan says all the wrong things – the surrender of individual style, a capitulation to necessity, the loss of youth, the blandness of middle-age life – the final resignation to a decidedly uncool existence. For men, the embarrassment is heightened as the minivan announces his loss of youthful vigor, his embrace of the “dad life” and even the compromise of his essential masculinity. A minivan says, “My virility is gone. My best years are done.”
The factors involved in owning a minivan represent the progress of one’s maturity, not the regress of one’s manliness.
Middle-aged men often go to great lengths to convince their wives to spend more money on a vehicle that’s far less capable than a minivan. Take the SUV, for example. They’re heavier and supposedly tougher, but compared to a minivan, almost any SUV has less cargo space, less (and less configurable) seating, less fuel economy and fewer conveniences (like power sliding doors). Also, many current minivan models come with exceptional power and some pretty sweet perks. I’m rather familiar with a particular model that has the same engine as a police pursuit cruiser, accent-stitched leather seats and pearl-coat black paint, but I digress.
The point is that plenty of men reject the minivan simply to maintain a certain look, which is silly. Guess what, Mr. Thirty- or Forty-something married with kids: Your days of choosing a vehicle to make an impression or attract women are over – or they should be. You’re a man now, the goofy things of your youth are behind you and, if you’re honest, life is better. The big questions about career and love and marriage and children have likely been answered, and your relative stability is something to celebrate. You’ve worked to achieve it, it’s a sign of your maturity, and few things say it better than a seven-seat people mover. Your best years aren’t done. Your truly fruitful years have arrived.
Driving a minivan is a culturally subversive, even rebellious salvo against our self-absorbed milieu. Sure, it represents the loss of personal freedom and individual identity, and that’s the point. A middle-aged man still caught in his own preferences and expressing his own image is, by definition, a jerk.
The mark of true manliness is stewarding strength to serve others – one’s God, one’s family, one’s country, one’s community. In a sense, a minivan is a sign of such selfless strength. Instead of showing his toughness with a sparkling new F-150 or his aggressiveness with a Camaro LS1, a man’s minivan says that his second-most-expensive possession (next to his house) is directed at serving the needs of his family. The minivan is a magnificent symbol of true masculinity.
So, my fellow faithful husband and father, spurn the cultural ridicule and fire up that 6000-pound (and 300-horsepower, if you’ll shop) box of safety and convenience with your chin up and your chest out. That minivan is a manly machine.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chuck Fuller is assistant professor of Christian studies at Anderson University’s College of Christian Studies in Anderson, S.C., where this column first appeared at the college’s MinistryU Blog.)
10/1/2015 11:54:58 AM
September 30 2015 by
Keith Sanders, Southern Baptist TEXAN
Chuck Fuller, Anderson University | with 0 comments
For those of us who are parents of children with profound mental disabilities, one nagging question often lingers in our consciousness: What will happen to our child when we die?
We know that so long as we are living, our child will be loved and nurtured with the greatest of care. Once we are gone, however, our child will be dependent on those whose care, while well-intentioned, could never match that of a parent’s love.
So, we do our best not to worry about the future. We make financial plans as best we can, and make sure that our life insurance is current. We remind the siblings that one day they may be called on to be a caregiver to our special needs child. And we pray.
As a Christian and a pastor, another question lingers: What will happen to my profoundly mentally disabled child when she dies?
The question of accountability is one that Christians in general and Baptists in particular have debated for centuries. In recent years the phrase “age of accountability” has given way to the more appropriately termed “state of accountability.” This change makes room for those of all ages with childlike cognitive ability. The truth is that the Bible has very little to say about what becomes of the souls of infants and children who die and even less to say about what becomes of the souls of the mentally disabled.
Some Baptists have appealed to the natural innocence of children and the mentally disabled as grounds for their entrance into heaven. In my opinion, there are two fundamental problems with that view.
First, our experience with even very young children is that they sin. They lie. They steal. They have unjustified anger. In short, they behave like their parents.
The second, and more significant problem with the innocence view, is that it would seem to come in conflict with scripture. In Romans 5:12 the apostle Paul writes, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.”
Many Baptists have historically affirmed the concept of imputed sin. The idea is that all humanity is guilty because of our relationship with our federal head, Adam. In fact, some of the oldest Baptist confessions included overt affirmations of this doctrine. The first president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, J.P. Boyce, affirmed the doctrine of imputed sin.
Boyce wrote: “… at the very moment of birth, the presence and possession of such a nature shows that even the infant sons of Adam are born under all the penalties which befell their ancestor in the day of his sin. Actual transgression subsequently adds new guilt to guilt already existing, but does not substitute a state of guilt for one of innocence.”
So, if children and the mentally disabled are not naturally innocent but go to heaven when they die – and every Baptist I know believes that they do – what is the basis for such salvation? Many Baptists throughout our history have based the belief in the salvation of children and the mentally disabled on the mercy of God.
As Charles Spurgeon wrote, any other belief would be “utterly inconsistent with the known character of the Lord Jesus Christ.” We know that it was the Lord who said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of heaven.”
The answer that has been most satisfactory to me, the father of a profoundly mentally disabled child, is that those who die outside of the state of accountability go to heaven based on the election, redemption, regeneration and mercy provided by God in the saving work of Jesus Christ.
In short, I am much more confident of God’s mercy than I am of my children’s innocence. I know this because I know their dad, and he is a sinner in need of grace.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Sanders is pastor of First Baptist Church in Keller, Texas. This article first appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN at texanonline.net, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
9/30/2015 11:07:21 AM
September 29 2015 by
Ronnie Floyd, SBC President
Keith Sanders, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments
Last week I was in the Northeastern region of the United States. On Sept. 14, I was in Boston, giving the afternoon to meeting with pastors and leaders who are in the Greater Boston Baptist Association. After speaking briefly, I fielded their questions about the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) for over an hour.
That evening, I walked into a lecture room at the Harvard Law School, speaking to 200 students that filled the room to capacity. I had just received a tour of this historic campus that was founded in 1636 with the purpose to train ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. After having dinner in the Harvard Faculty Club, as guests of Daniel Cho and Rebekah Kim, both of whom are chaplains at Harvard and committed Southern Baptist leaders, I went to speak to these 200 students.
It was a surreal moment for Jeana and me – a boy, growing up in a Southern Baptist church of 30 to 40 people in a town of 5,000 people and a girl who was a preacher’s kid, whose mom and dad served Southern Baptist churches mostly in West Texas for 50 years.
Here we were at the Harvard Law School, walking into a lecture room filled with mostly Asian students from all over the world. Almost all were students at Harvard, but there were also a few from both MIT and Boston University.
Ronnie Floyd, SBC President
Many of them had already completed their bachelor’s degree and are working on their master’s or doctorate. Why did they want to hear me? One reason alone: prayer and spiritual awakening. When I got up to speak on “Lord, Do It in Our Generation,” their computers and iPads opened, and they vigorously took notes, even Googling historic figures I referenced along the way. We ended our time with 200 students and leaders calling out to God for the next great move of God to occur in our land, praying mostly that it would occur at Harvard.
Early the next morning, we drove three hours to Bennington, Vt., to speak in the chapel service of Northeastern Baptist College, a newly birthed college now in their third year. One of our own Executive Committee members, Mark Ballard, left a pastorate by faith, following a vision and a dream to begin a college that would equip ministers and laypeople to reach the Northeastern part of the United States for Jesus Christ. All of the capital cities of the New England states are within three hours of the college. Twenty percent of the American population lives within six and one-half hours of their campus. Most missiologists would verify that in the New England states, only 10 percent of the population would testify as fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. According to Mark Ballard, in the state of Vermont alone, that 10 percent could be lower than 2 percent of the population of that state.
Within 20 minutes of their campus is Williamstown, Mass. After having lunch with the board of trustees of the Northeastern Baptist College, we drove to Williamstown.
“We can do this, if we will.”
In 1806, there were five college students who had begun to pray twice a week for a mighty move of God to occur. The second Great Awakening had affected at least one of these five. College student Samuel Mills’ father had served as a pastor of a church that had been touched powerfully by this awakening. These five students of the Williams College in Williamstown had come together on a hot Saturday afternoon in August for their prayer meeting. They were going to discuss William Carey’s missionary manifesto, “An Enquiry Into the Obligations of Christians To Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens.”
On their way to their prayer meeting, a major rainstorm began that was filled with wind, lightning and thunder. They ran to seek shelter and noticed a large haystack, which would provide them an opportunity to seek shelter from the wind, rain, and lightning. It was in that setting after discussing Carey’s missionary manifesto they went before God in prayer.
College student Samuel Mills proposed they would go on mission to India. While three of the five agreed with Mills to focus on reaching Asia, it was Harvey Loomis who believed deeply they must focus on reaching America first.
Listen carefully: From what is now known as the great Haystack Prayer Meeting, two years later in 1808 was the formulation of a group who became known as “The Brethren.” These five young men and others focused on praying and missions. After they had graduated, in 1810 they requested that a group send them to India as missionaries. The General Association of Massachusetts formed the first official missions organization in the United States in June of 1810. It was called the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.
By the way, Adoniram Judson and his wife as well as Luther Rice were some of the first missionaries commissioned and sent across the ocean by this new mission board. It was Judson who became known as the father of Baptist foreign missions.
It all began in a prayer meeting under a haystack.
We must remember that it really all goes back to the Haystack Prayer Meeting. After praying, these five young men sang a hymn together. It was then that Samuel Mills said loudly over the rain and the wind, “We can do this, if we will!” That moment changed those men forever. Many historians would tell you that all mission organizations trace their history back to the Haystack Prayer Meeting in some way. Yes, these men turned the world upside down. And it all began in a prayer meeting under a haystack.
At the place where this meeting occurred, a monument stands today commemorating this historic God moment. At the top of that monument is the phrase, “THE FIELD IS THE WORLD.” Underneath those words is the following statement: “The Birthplace of American Foreign Missions. 1806.” It all happened from a prayer meeting.
This reminds me of the words written in Acts 4:31, “When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak God’s message with boldness.” Prayer, the power of God, evangelism, and missions all go together. We need to get ourselves back under the haystack!
Over the rain, wind, lightning and claps of thunder when Samuel Mills declared to the other four young men, “We can do this, if we will!” he saw something before anyone else saw it. He saw that THE FIELD IS THE WORLD.
What do you see?
Let me ask you, “What do you see?” Do you realize that eight different times in scripture, we read the words: “What do you see?” King Saul asked this question to a woman and seven times, God asked this question to three different prophets. He asked Jeremiah, Amos, and Zechariah, “What do you see?” He asked it to Jeremiah before God’s people went into captivity and he asked it to Zechariah after the people left captivity.
1 Samuel 28:13, “But the King said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid. What do you see?’”
King Saul was out of order talking to a medium, but Samuel spoke from the dead to him, telling him that tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. By the way, they were.
Jeremiah 1:11, “Then the word of the Lord came to me asking, ‘What do you see, Jeremiah?’”
Jeremiah 1:13, “Again the word of the Lord came to me inquiring, ‘What do you see?’”
Jeremiah 24:3, “The Lord said to me, ‘What do you see, Jeremiah?’”
All three times, Jeremiah saw exactly what God wanted him to see.
Amos 7:8, “The Lord asked me, “‘What do you see, Amos?’”
Amos saw a plumb line and God affirmed what he saw.
Zechariah 4:2, “He asked me, ‘What do you see?’”
Zechariah 5:2, “‘What do you see?” he asked me.”
Both times Zechariah saw what God wanted him to see and then God explained it to him.
Why did God ask the question: “What do you see?”
Answer: God was going to give a vision to the prophets of God about what He was going to do.
This was a simple, clear, concise, and compelling question God asked them.
I am convinced this is the question God is asking us as leaders of our convention: What do you see? More specifically He is asking us, “What do you see in the future for the Southern Baptist Convention?” This is a question of vision. Vision is seeing it before you see it! We need to see it with our spiritual eyes before we will see it through our physical eyes.
As the president of our Southern Baptist Convention, how would I answer this question: What do I see in the future for the Southern Baptist Convention? I want to share with you some of what I see. It is time to see the need to:
1. AWAKEN AMERICA
Over these past 15 months as your president, I have gone from the Atlantic to the Pacific and even across the oceans, calling for us to pray for the next Great Awakening in America in an extraordinary way. While the ideologies and worldviews of our nation collide daily and the morality and character of our nation degrade daily, we must be more than faithful to call out to God for the next Great Spiritual Awakening. While the country sorts out the politics in the present battle for the presidency of the United States of America, we need to be faithful to always remember that our ultimate hope cannot be in the White House, nor the statehouse, nor the courthouse, but only in the work of God in the church house.
While each of us need to engage in each of these arenas in a way that honors God and our commitment to Holy Scripture, our greatest hope that we can bring in this hour is for us to see God awaken America. Many of our own would declare us hopeless and doomed. But as God reminded me this past Friday morning in my time with Him, the words of Jeremiah 32:17, “Oh, Lord God! You Yourself made the heavens and earth by Your great power and with Your outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for You!”
Before the awakenings and great movements of God in the past, many times God’s people have prayed as long as a decade or more before God moved mightily among the people. Therefore, I call upon us to return to the haystack!
We need to stop being so content doing ministry without moments under the haystack. We must return to the haystack, calling out to God extraordinarily, experiencing Him supernaturally, and exploding with a robust vision and commitment to advance the gospel exponentially everywhere. We also need to …
Renew our belief and commitment to the power of God!
It has always been a mystery to me how Baptists believe in the supernatural, miraculous experience of personal conversion; but after this occurs, we operate in our own power and knowledge naturally. I call upon every Southern Baptist, including our entity leaders, state convention leaders, pastors, church leaders and our laypeople to renew our belief and commitment to the power of God!
It is past time that we repent from our sophistication and pride and get back under the haystack. It is past time that we live and lead empowered by the almighty power of the Living God!
We not only need to pursue God, entreating Him with our all daily to awaken America, but we also need to:
2. REACH THE WORLD
Where is the vision to reach our own villages, towns and cities in America? This is the world we live in now. Sometimes we conduct ourselves like a bunch of theological Universalists who believe it will all work out okay for everyone. We must begin to believe in lostness again.
People need the gospel of Jesus Christ beginning in our own villages, towns and cities. Our pastors need to be injected with a vision and strategy to reach their own villages, towns and cities.
According to missiologists, we live in a nation where three out of four people do not have a personal relationship with Christ. We live in a world with 7.275 billion people. Of these 7.275 billion people, just over 3 billion of these people are unreached. There is an additional 1.25 billion of these people who are engaged nominally. If we even come close to understanding the spiritual condition of our world and the need for the gospel, we are facing a daunting challenge.
This is why we need to return to the haystack and come out from underneath it with a renewed belief and commitment to the power of God. Without His power, the task is overwhelming. Without His power, our insufficiency is exposed to the world.
It is time we emerge from underneath the haystack again and with the vision: THE FIELD IS THE WORLD. It is time we emerge from the haystack again with convictional, God-inspired leadership that declares as Samuel Mills did in 1806: “We can do this, if we will!”
With God’s power, we can reach America’s villages, towns, and cities. With God’s power, we can reach the world, penetrating the darkness of lostness globally. The field is the world … We can do this, if we will!
Imagine with me for a moment that someone walked up to you and told you that they wanted to give you $7 billion over the next 10 years so you can do whatever it takes to reach the 7.275 billion people in the world … reaching them for Jesus Christ. You respond, “Now you are telling me that you are going to give me over the next 10 years, $7 billion to do whatever it takes to reach the 7.275 billion people around the globe?” This person says, “Yes, but I am also telling you, I have the money committed to it already. It is in the bank and I will allocate it to you annually. And, as God provides and if you are effective in reaching the world for Christ, there may be more money I give you toward this vision, perhaps another billion or so. I also want to reinforce to you that all these monies must be used for this singular purpose of doing all it takes and whatever it takes to reach the world for Christ.”
Now you are thinking, “Ronnie, you have lost it out there on the road. This would never happen.” Oh really? It has already happened and prayerfully will continue to happen. Did you know that over this past decade and hopefully in the decade to come, through the Cooperative Program, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, and the Annie Armstrong Offering for North American Missions, our 51,094 churches and congregations have given just over $7 billion?
They have entrusted just over $7 billion to our state conventions and our Southern Baptist Convention telling us just that: All this needs to go to reach the world for Jesus Christ! Whatever it takes, we trust you to allocate it where the need is greatest and it all must be allocated to the singular vision of reaching the world for Christ. They are telling us they believe that we must present the gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and make disciples of all the nations.
Listen very carefully to what I am about to say to you: Yes, our laypeople and pastors must give more personally; in fact, each of us need to practice giving no less than 10 percent of all God has entrusted to us annually, giving it through our local church. To give less is disobedience to God. God has called us to love Him, not rob Him; He has called us to be generous, not greedy. Pastors, stand in your churches and call your people to obeying God’s Word about giving the first-tenth and beyond to the Lord.
Additionally, our churches must give more collectively. Southern Baptists believe in the autonomy of the local church and cannot dictate what a church gives to the work of the Great Commission through the Cooperative Program. However, if we want to change the trajectory of bringing 600-800 missionaries home and begin aggressively deploying a new wave of missionaries, then our churches must find a way to give more money than ever before through our Cooperative Program. But state convention leaders and Southern Baptist leaders, I say to you in all honesty the following words: While tithing and generosity of our people to our churches needs to increase dramatically and our churches must learn again what it means to give sacrificially, we need to be humbled by the reality that our churches, at the pace of their giving today, are entrusting at least $7 billion to us already to truly reach the entire world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. And I personally believe when we get our heart right, our vision focused, and our leadership both strategic and optimistic, there may be another billion or more they will entrust to us in the future, IF we are truly reaching our world here in America in our own villages, towns, and cities, and advancing the gospel across the entire globe.
Yes, we could play number games with how much more we would receive from our churches if the individual members walked in personal obedience, practicing both tithing and generosity. We could continue to play number games, talking about how much more churches ought to give and yes, we should. But let’s start where we are right now. God is entrusting at least $7 billion to us over the next decade to reach the world for Christ. All evangelical and mainline denominations and other mission ministries in America wish they could say that. Therefore, let’s be overflowing with gratitude to God, thanking our churches, but also challenging Christians to practice tithing and generosity and churches to give more now than ever before.
What if we had a renewal in teaching biblical stewardship to our people, calling them boldly to 10 percent giving through their church and move forward beyond this onto the ramp of generosity? What if we had churches give more sacrificially than ever before, starting this as soon as possible annually, and give more each year through the year 2020? And what if each state convention went to 50-50 before the end of the year of 2020 or even before the end of this year? For the state conventions at this level already, what if you increased your giving at least 1 to 2 percent through the national Cooperative Program before the end of 2020? If we did these specific things simultaneously, I submit to you that we would see a mission explosion both nationally and internationally. THE FIELD IS THE WORLD! We would be sending more missionaries across the world aggressively. Listen carefully: “We can do this, if we will!”
I really believe if you give Baptists a choice of losing 800 staff members from our churches and state conventions and Southern Baptist entities versus losing 800 missionaries from the foreign mission field, they would choose losing personnel here versus there. Therefore, what God has given to us biblically and missionally, we need to refuse to lose it financially.
Yes, we need God to awaken America. Yes, we need to reach the world for Christ. And because of these great needs, there is one more thing we must do more than ever before. We need to:
3. GATHER OUR SOUTHERN BAPTIST FAMILY IN ST. LOUIS ON JUNE 14-15, 2016
Within hours of the conclusion of our 2015 Columbus convention, shots rang out in a church in Charleston, S.C., taking the lives of nine people. Within nine days of the conclusion of our 2015 Columbus convention, the United States Supreme Court redefined marriage. When you think of all that has occurred in our nation since these two tragedies, we do not even live in the same America that existed while we were in Columbus. The entire landscape has changed.
This is why we must gather more people than we have gathered in many years to our upcoming convention in St. Louis. We need to do all we can with all we are and all we have to gather them by the thousands.
With all that is at stake in America in 2016, from the ongoing battles we face regarding religious liberty, to the approaching United States presidential election, to the reality that over 74 percent of our own churches are plateaued or declining, to the deep need for revival in the church, to the racial violence in our nation, to the tragic killing of the unborn that has now been exposed publicly, to the persecuted Christians around the world, to the tragic growing refugee crisis globally with an estimated 7.6 million displaced in Syria and northern Iraq alone over the last five years, to the depth of the lostness of the world, and to the decreasing of our own mission force across the world in this most urgent hour, we need Southern Baptists to come to St. Louis. It is time to gather the family like never before. We are in a crisis and we must come home.
I cannot and will not walk away from continuing a strong call and leading forward toward the need for the Third Great Awakening in our nation and to reach the world for Christ.
Therefore, our theme for the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention will be: “Awaken America, Reach the World.” Yes, we need to also: “AGREE … UNITE … PRAY.” The logo for our 2016 Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis is done in midnight blue, indicating the midnight hour that we find ourselves in today and the urgency to see God awaken America and reach the world! You are thinking that this is very similar to last year’s theme. You are correct. It is. I am convinced it is God’s heart for us and we must agree, unite, and pray for God to awaken America and that we will reach the world for Christ.
Our Scripture for the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention is Acts 4:31, “When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak God’s message with boldness.”
On Monday, Aug. 10, I met with approximately 200 pastors and leaders in Ferguson, Mo., for the purpose of casting the vision for our upcoming 2016 St. Louis convention. This was one day past the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown. This Monday was the very day that a state of emergency was declared in Ferguson and in all of St. Louis, but the pastors still came from across the region.
Later that afternoon, after touring the convention center, we shot a brief video that I hope each state convention, association, and SBC entity will show their trustees and others, calling them to St. Louis. Please help us. We need to show this video in every Southern Baptist church. Please help us get it out there on social networking. The call needs to be issued now all the way to June. The video and link will go on our own SBC website tonight and also on the website tonight at ronniefloyd.com.
I submit this entire presentation to you humbly. I surrender it to God fully. This is what I see. With this, I conclude. Pray for St. Louis. I will see you in St. Louis.
(EDITOR'S NOTE – Ronnie Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Cross Church in Springdale, Ark.)
9/29/2015 11:02:59 AM
September 28 2015 by
Christine Hoover, GraceCoversMe.com
Ronnie Floyd, SBC President | with 0 comments
I lived according to the goodness gospel for far too long. But God pursued me.
He used multiple people to reveal my goodness addiction and to show me both His true nature and the truth of what He had done for me at the cross. He used my husband most of all.
About a year into our marriage, Kyle and I got into a life-changing fight. I snapped at him about something trivial, and instead of snapping back, he just calmly left the room. As soon as he left, I felt ashamed. Why had I gotten so angry about something of such small consequence? Why would I choose to hurt my husband like that? With my tail between my legs, I went to him.
“I’m sorry,” I said, pleading with my eyes for him to release me of what I’d done.
“I forgive you,” he said, and he meant it. He actually smiled as he said it.
That’s it? I thought. No penance required, no pouting, no silent treatment, no dumping on of shame, nothing? It’s just forgiven that easily?
My eyes must have revealed my uncertainty because he reached out for my hand and pulled me to his lap. Then he wrapped his arms around me, looked me in the eyes and reiterated, “I forgive you. I love you, Christine.”
As we embraced, the Lord whispered to my deaf heart true forgiveness and grace. I don’t keep a record of wrongs or hold your sin over your head. When you confess something to me, I forgive you. I delight in you.
God, through the book of Galatians, had begun showing me how little I truly understood of the gospel. Instead of the true gospel, I was living by what the apostle Paul called the “perverted” gospel, one of works and dead religion. My heart and mind were starting to wake up to the truth because my husband had become a pastor, and our new ministry life was shining a bright light on my self-sufficiency and attempts at self-justification. I could not meet ministry’s demands – and I certainly could not love according to bootstrap religion.
The beacon of light, simultaneously convicting and life-giving, was Galatians 5:4: “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law.” That is exactly how I felt – like an outsider standing apart from Christ, nose plastered to the glass, trying desperately to earn my belonging. At the same time, I rejected any of Christ’s advances toward me out of shame over my failures and out of my stubborn self-determination.
This passage described how I’d felt most of my Christian life: entangled, weighed down under a heavy yoke, in bondage, in debt and, most of all, as if I were estranged from Christ. It also showed me why I felt that way: my obsession with goodness had nullified Christ’s work in my life. Because I hadn’t gone His way, I was on my own.
But He eventually got to me. He showed me that I sat in a jail cell with an open door but kept putting the chains back on myself instead of running free. He walked alongside me as I discovered the futility of trying to be good by myself, and He offered to rescue me, showing me what measure of grace He had already given me at the cross and at the moment I believed.
In time I realized that He loved me, not because of what I did but because of what He did through Christ on the cross. I finally ran wildly to His grace-filled arms, done with my chains. What had always felt like duty and obligation now felt like crazy freedom.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Christine Hoover is a pastor’s wife, stay-at-home mom and writer who blogs at gracecoversme.com. She and her husband Kyle serve at Charlottesville Community Church in Charlottesville, Va. This article is adapted from her latest book, “From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel” (Baker, 2015).
9/28/2015 11:16:13 AM
September 25 2015 by
Mark Snowden, Missouri Baptist Convention
Christine Hoover, GraceCoversMe.com | with 0 comments
When I accepted Jesus as my Savior as a 7-year-old boy, I walked the aisle at the end of a revival service. Someone filled out a card with my name and address and then the pastor presented me to the church. I was voted in as a member right on the spot pending my baptism.
Churches today are taking a closer look at how they receive decisions. Individuals who may still have a lifestyle contrary to biblical teaching are being received under a form of “watch care.” They don’t have voting rights and cannot hold office, serve on committees or be approved as a Bible study teacher. In some churches, implementation of watch care may require a change to bylaws and constitutions.
Church members who serve as decision counselors are on the frontlines of these special moments and of follow-up. Good preparation is crucial. Prayer for revival and spiritual awakening saturate everything that counselors do on behalf of the church. They must know how to lead someone to faith in Christ and use their own testimony when appropriate to do so.
It is important to be sensitive and security-minded to those who come forward. “Why have you come today?” is still the best question to use to greet people making spiritual decisions with eternal consequences. Yet, a child may have come on a dare. A college student may be looking for a place to meet a godly spouse. A man may want help paying his heating bill. An older adult may want to be in a church where their children belong.
Listening is the key. My wife was a decision counselor in a church when we lived in another state. A woman came forward and the pastor nodded to Mary Leigh to accompany her to a counseling room. The married woman was crying and upset. She soon confessed to having an affair but wanted to repent. My wife had been coached to listen carefully and to arrange a meeting with one of the church staff.
Children and students should not be escorted by a man alone into a private counseling room. All a minor has to say is “he touched me” and, well, it’s over. Despite having a godly reputation, it will be instantly ruined. Counseling with parents or with a decision team partner present is always advised. A front pew can work in a pinch.
When serving with the International Mission Board, I was angered to hear when pseudo-Christian cult groups learned of an evangelistic blitz and waited like the proverbial lion. After the followers of Jesus led hundreds to Christ, the cult groups pounced on the new believers. They had small group leaders ready to invite them into their homes and begin indoctrination. When the true Christians arrived to begin follow-up, most of the “converts” had slipped into a false faith. Because of stories like this, some Christian groups have avoided evangelism until follow-up is in place.
Most churches consider the first 48 hours as the most critical time in the life of the new believer. The sooner the better, having someone meet them to begin their spiritual development is key.
After the decision is made, and made public, new believers must be intentionally discipled. They may be carrying baggage from another religious background. New believers need training in five areas: abiding with Jesus in prayer and worship; obedience beginning with baptism by immersion and stewardship; studying the Bible; loving others as part of active church life in and beyond the church; and telling others about Jesus as He commanded in the Great Commission. Conduct a review of your church’s follow-up tools to ensure effective follow-up.
A “Personal Commitment Guide” from the North American Mission Board’s evangelism team is available free to help with follow-up at NAMBstore.com. In it, you’ll see training for salvation, baptism, assurance of salvation, rededication, church membership, discipleship and Christian ministry.
We keep praying for the Lord to send workers into His harvest field (Luke 10:2). What if the new believers are the answer to our prayer? Will you be ready?
Decision counselors must have that immediate relationship that enables follow-up. Invite new believers’ parents, spouses and friends join in, too. When you reinforce the decision and the Gospel message, they also may become followers of Christ.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Snowden is the Missouri Baptist Convention’s evangelism /discipleship strategist. This article first appeared in The Pathway at www.mbcpathway.com, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)
9/25/2015 11:39:19 AM
Mark Snowden, Missouri Baptist Convention | with 0 comments