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Guest Columns

‘Lord, prepare me to be ...’

April 18 2014 by Jimmy Draper

“Dear God, please ruin me!”

Doesn’t sound like a prayer any of us would say, does it? However, there is clear indication in Scripture that some Christians may actually be inviting God to do just that by their actions and attitudes.

Before we continue, we need to understand something. Those who say the Bible isn’t relevant to contemporary culture need to realize that the immorality of our world today is identical to what was present in first century Corinth. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is firmly founded on God’s truth and was written to a church in a pagan culture permeated with sensuality, violence, corruption, divisions and doctrinal heresy. 

The Corinthians were an immature body of believers, filled with divisive debates, compromise, immorality, favoritism, anger, bitterness, slander, spiritual arrogance and lawsuits. They apparently did not understand the significance of their chaotic fellowship in the eyes of the Lord. Paul reminds them in chapter three that he cannot address them as mature because they are still “fleshly.” Their behavior reflected their culture rather than spiritual maturity that would have morally distinguished them.

“Don’t you know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you?” Paul asked them in Corinthians 3:16. “If anyone ruins God’s sanctuary, God will ruin him; for God’s sanctuary is holy, and that is what you are.”

There are two Greek words for “sanctuary” in the New Testament. One defines the entire temple complex. The other, found in this text, refers to the innermost dwelling place, the Holy of Holies. Think of it; believers are the Holy of Holies for the Holy Spirit. What an awesome thought!

But here is the ignored part of these verses: “Sanctuary” is singular, but “you” is plural. Every believer is a temple of God, and that is the way we usually interpret this verse. However the church itself – the body of believers – is a temple of God. The church is holy just as individuals are holy, and God jealously guards that which is holy.

Collectively, we are God’s sanctuary. The individual who fails to act rightly toward the body of believers is guilty of rebellion against God. The verb “ruin” is repeated in Corinthians 3:17. The punishment here is not an arbitrary decision. The believer who promotes divisions, turmoil, chaos and disruption within the fellowship of the church “ruins” or desecrates the Holy of Holies of God and thus invites personal destruction from God. 

This ancient message is contemporary and tragically relevant. Our churches are surrounded by pagan culture and filled with many problems, not all of them theological. We must take personal responsibility for our actions in the fellowship of God’s sanctuary which is the church. Only then can we make a global impact on our world. If our churches are to be change agents reaching the lost instead of members-only country clubs, we must stop ruining the fellowship of the church.

Southern Baptists have taken a stand upon the truth of God’s Word. However, we find everywhere in the churches of our convention dissensions, divisions, slander, anger, bitterness and continual fighting over control and authority within the church. We are inviting ruin. 

We have a choice of two prayers: “Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary,” or, “Dear God, please ruin me!” Which are you praying?

(EDITOR’S NOTE – James T. Draper Jr. is interim president of Criswell College in Dallas, president emeritus of LifeWay Christian Resources and a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
4/18/2014 9:08:22 AM by Jimmy Draper | with 0 comments

The death of darkness

April 17 2014 by Erich Bridges

I saw my friend James at a church supper after being out of touch for several years. It was like we’d never been apart.

We talked, laughed, hugged, sang and prayed together. I met his wife for the first time and celebrated with them over the way God had healed wounds in their marriage and family. It was a great evening; we didn’t want it to end. We said goodnight, promising each other we’d meet again soon.

A few weeks later, James was dead. Chronic illness caught up with him. He hung on for days in the hospital, but his body was worn out.

This life seems so strong and sure for a season – and then it’s over. We try to escape death, delay it, appease it, fight it and deny it. “Do not go gentle into that good night,” the poet Dylan Thomas advised. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Rage all you want; death will come for you one day. But darkness, its close companion, is a choice.

“There was the true Light, which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. … But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,” the Apostle John declared of Jesus Christ (John 1:9-12, NASB). “And the Word become flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14a, NASB).

Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus Himself said, “This is the judgment, that the Light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil” (John 3:19, NASB).

Men love the darkness, but God sent His Son, the Light of the world, to rescue us from eternal darkness. By His resurrection, Christ put darkness to death. Two millennia later, however, not everyone knows the truth. That’s why missionaries and other servants of God go to places of darkness, no matter the potential cost. They bring the Light of the gospel not only through their words and actions, but by their presence.

“There have been several attacks recently,” wrote a worker who lives in one such place. “Often the gunfire and explosions would cease, and I would think it must be over, but it would start again. I was sharply reminded that we are here to pray,” and not only pray, but to be, to love, to speak and to lift up the flaming torch of Christ amid great darkness.

On a recent plane trip, International Mission Board (IMB) president Tom Elliff struck up a conversation with a fellow passenger who asked him, “What do you do [for a living]?”

“I chase darkness,” Elliff replied.

Bewildered, the passenger inquired, “Are you in lighting?”

“In a way,” Elliff told the man.

Reflecting on the encounter, the IMB leader said, “We are indeed ‘chasers after darkness,’ looking for the black holes of sin in our world and thrusting into that darkness the Light of the glorious gospel of Christ.”

My friend James experienced darkness in his life, but when Christ filled his soul with light and salvation, he became one of the most joyful witnesses I’ve ever known. This Easter, I know James is celebrating the resurrection in the presence of the Risen One.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is an International Mission Board global correspondent.)
4/17/2014 9:21:42 AM by Erich Bridges | with 0 comments

Evangelism: an intervention

April 16 2014 by Mark Coppenger, Baptist Press

You know the scene: A troubled family member arrives at home only to find various loved ones seated in the living room. They ask him or her to sit down and hear what they have to say. One by one, they read prepared statements of love and admonition. The subject, eyes brimming with tears or flashing with indignation, endures as much as possible before caving in, pushing back or storming out.

The poor soul has bottles hidden around the house and in the flowerbed, and she can find another pint as soon as her prime stashes are blown.

Or there’s the trash addict who can’t throw anything away, even dead animals. (I was called in on a cleanup with some church members in my seminary days; we found a dead, dried out cat under matted stained clothes under stacks of newspapers in one of the closets.)

An intervention is very uncomfortable but worth it, whether the addiction is drugs or drink, clutter or cussedness. They’re ruining themselves, as those around them are grieving if not outright harmed. And they don’t much appreciate your suggestion that something is out of whack.

I know that people can come to Christ in a lot of tender ways. An immigrant wife is touched by her Christian neighbor’s shopping and language tips. A lost welder is disarmed by the warmth of a church softball team he’s been asked to join. A “singing Christmas tree” rendition of Joy to the World brings tears to the eyes of a cranky, unchurched parent who shows up to watch his high school senior perform.

But the Lord has also used Jonathan EdwardsSinners in the Hands of an Angry God and the chaste slap of a godly college girl knocking some sense into a unbelieving suitor, whose advances were unseemly, a jolt which caused him to reassess his secular worldview. Or how about Mordecai Ham’s scathing anti-alcohol parades, which salvifically grieved some drunks standing outside bars on the roadside?

God may well use a sequence of happy and scary events and items to lead an individual to Himself. (I think I once heard the late evangelism professor Roy Fish say the average was seven Gospel touches before conversion.)

So Bob may have been providentially prepped for salvation by, in order, a Vacation Bible School lesson he heard at age 8; a highway sign reading, “Prepare to Meet God”; a Jack Chick tract named Holy Joe; the stellar performance of a homeschooled spelling bee champ who thanked Jesus for helping her; five minutes of a Joel Osteen sermon; and a friend who repeated something he heard in an Alistair Begg broadcast.

Truth is, we risk looking silly when we declare, well beyond our competency and theological warrant, that all evangelistic approaches other than our own are tacky, pompous, dated, specious, trendy, dopey, sleepy, grumpy, sneezy and bashful.

That being said, there is an irreducible kernel of awkwardness and agony in conversion – repentance. I compare it to throwing up. I hate it. I fight it. (On a bucking airplane I close my eyes, turn the air full blast on my face, breathe deeply and sit very still.) I suppress it with every fiber of my being. But when it comes, oh, the relief – the blessed cooling of a sweaty brow, the relaxation of suppressed muscles.

Yes, it’s that gross, as is repentance, as we hurl up and out the poison and rot of self and sin and damnable, willful stupidity – the sort of thing you find in James 4:8-10: “Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people! Be miserable and mourn and weep. Your laughter must change to mourning and your joy to sorrow. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.”

Sometimes we hear and say that a witnessing Christian is “just one beggar telling another one where to find bread.” I’d suggest it’s more like a formerly-suicidal fellow who was talked off the ledge trying to talk a currently-suicidal fellow off the ledge. Or it is like a repentant Taliban terrorist in Gitmo going on TV to dissuade current Taliban terrorists to cut it out.

Of course, most don’t think that a law-abiding, philanthropic citizen – working the NYT crossword in Starbucks on Sunday morning, sitting across from his wife Khloe enjoying a half double decaffeinated half-caf with a twist of lemon, beside their jogger stroller bearing little Nash – is a suicidal terrorist. But he is just as we were. He’s bound for a well-deserved sinner’s hell, indifferent to the godly stewardship of his life, harming innocents along the way by his passive, aggressive and passive-aggressive defiance of the Kingdom and its gospel of grace, Khloe and Nash being his prime victims as his “spiritual leadership in the home” couples them to his downgrading train.

And so we intervene. If, that is, we love the person, are convinced of his plight and are willing to risk the alienation of affection. It doesn’t take licenses or programs or eloquence, though those can help. It simply demands compassion, courage, a firm grasp of the hard truth and, yes, a life which reflects a better way.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Coppenger is director of the Nashville extension center and professor of Christian apologetics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.)
4/16/2014 11:06:48 AM by Mark Coppenger, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

A time to remember

April 15 2014 by David Jeremiah, Baptist Press

Today in movie making, a flashback is often used to take the viewer back in the story to fill in details and supply the story’s backdrop. Cinematic flashbacks put past information into the present, keeping us on track. Cultural flashbacks do the same – remind us of simple truths worth perpetuating in the present.

It is the same with our walk with God. It is a good thing to remember the past as we move forward in victory in the present.

Power of Remembering: New Testament

To keep us on track in the present, God gives us spiritual flashbacks of information from the past that He wants us to pull into the present.

Flashbacks were more common in the Old Testament than the New. In the New Testament, the one central remembrance is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul exhorts us to remember what Jesus said on the night of His betrayal and arrest as He shared a final meal with His disciples.

“Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me,” Christ said. “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25).

For two thousand years, the Christian church has remembered the death of Jesus by celebrating the Lord’s Supper, Communion, on a regular basis.

We not only remember Jesus’ death, we remember His resurrection! Paul wrote to a young pastor named Timothy to remind Him not to forget the Resurrection. “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel” (2 Timothy 2:8).

In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, everything God had done in the Old Testament was fulfilled. Those three days in the history of the world – and especially resurrection morning, the Lord’s Day – are the most important memories the Christian can have.

Jesus Christ overcame the greatest enemy and obstacle in life – death itself. That means there is no enemy or obstacle in our lives today that we are not capable of overcoming through Christ as we trust in Him.

Power of Remembering: Old Testament

Old Testament exhortations to “remember” and “don’t forget” keep us mindful of who God is and what He’s done. The exhortations keep us mindful to use the past as a beacon for the future.

Here are seven flashbacks about God that gave Israel a backdrop for the circumstances she faced day by day. They serve you and me as well.
  • Remember God’s deliverance. “Remember this day... for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out of this place” (Exodus 13:3). Through Christ, God delivered us from sin’s enslavement (Romans 6).
  • Remember God’s holiness. One of the Ten Commandments is to remember God’s holiness one day each week: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8).
  • Remember God’s commands. It is God’s will that we, “Do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes” (Deuteronomy 8:11).
  • Remember God’s judgments. “Remember … what the Lord … did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:18). God does not wink at sin (1 Corinthians 11:29-32).
  • Remember God’s blessings. “Remember the Lord … it is He who gives you power to get wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18). Remember Him by your thankfulness and generosity in His name.
  • Remember God’s covenant. “Remember His covenant” (1 Chronicles 16:15). God’s promises are our permanent possession (Jeremiah 31:33; Luke 22:20).
  • Remember God’s works and wonders. “Remember His marvelous works” (Psalm 105:5). God created the world and everything in it, and nothing can separate you from Him (Romans 8:38-39).
Take time to remember what God has done. Flash back on that as you work and worship. Remembrances of Him help complete the storyline of your life.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God and pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif. For more information on Turning Point, visit www.DavidJeremiah.org.)
4/15/2014 10:24:56 AM by David Jeremiah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Lessons from Apollo 13

April 14 2014 by Kelly Boggs, Baptist Press

On April 11, 1970, Apollo 13 successfully launched at 2:13 p.m. Eastern Standard Time from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The space flight’s goal was to land on the surface of the moon, the third such lunar landing undertaken by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). However, Apollo 13 never reached its intended destination.

An oxygen tank exploded on the Command Module slightly less than 56 hours into the mission and a second tank failed almost immediately. NASA Mission Control was alerted to the situation when Mission Commander Jim Lovell announced, “Houston we’ve had a problem.”

Approximately 87 hours after Lovell’s understated articulation of the explosion, and 143 hours after liftoff, Apollo 13 splashed down into the azure waters of the South Pacific near the Cook Islands.

Deemed a “successful failure” by NASA, many lessons for life and leadership can be gleaned by reviewing the experiences of astronauts Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert as well as the members of Mission Control.

The most significant lesson to take away from Apollo 13 is that we must know what is most important. Just minutes after the explosion, the mission to land on the moon was scrapped by NASA. The most important element of the mission was getting the three astronauts back to earth alive.

Establishing what is most important will make all other decisions much easier, because all other decisions must support or at least be compatible with what is most important. All considerations that do not support what is most important are superfluous.

A second principle to learn from Apollo 13, which is also found in the lyrics of my high school’s fight song, is, “We are one for all and all for team.” Every member of the NASA team was important and every member was wholly dedicated to what was most important, getting the astronauts back alive.

Mission Control worked out processes to keep the astronauts alive. Then the space crew carried out the plans. The 87 hours between the explosion and splash-down were an amazing display of teamwork and a perfect illustration of the aphorism, “It is amazing what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit.”

A third lesson to take away from Apollo 13 is the necessity of doing whatever is necessary to achieve what’s most important. Innovation, creativity, adaptability and perseverance were hallmarks of both the astronauts and Mission Control.

The three astronauts abandoned the damaged Control Module for the Lunar Module (LM). The LM was only designed for two men, but the three crammed themselves into close confines. Later they performed a critical course correcting maneuver, not designed for the LM, and without instruments.

If performing difficult, unrehearsed maneuvers in cramped quarters were not enough, the astronauts operated in almost freezing conditions, lacking both proper food and sleep.

Mission Control developed new procedures and tested them in a simulator on the ground before giving them to the Apollo crew. What normally required months to produce took less than 87 hours.

Urgency fostered a new level of production. The NASA team did not have time to whine, “We can’t,” or “We’ve not tried this before,” or “I’m tired.” They pulled together and found ways, created ways, to achieve what was most important.

Another lesson is that achieving what is most important requires training, training and then more training. Of the three astronauts, only Commander Lovell had space flight experience. However, the trio had been drilled mentally and physically to the point that they did not panic when faced with a life threatening and dire situation.

One other take away from Apollo 13 is that an individual or team cannot merely go through the motions if they want to achieve what is most important; it requires complete commitment.

While you would expect the three astronauts to be committed to preserving their lives, their dedication was not enough. It required everyone at Mission Control to give their all to the point of physical and mental exhaustion.

Have you identified what is most important in your life, in your business or your organization? Once you do, you have taken the first step toward realizing it. Next assemble a team, adapt, innovate, train and commit yourself to the goal.

When Apollo 13 blasted off 44 years ago, no one associated with the mission anticipated that it would be a successful failure. But if we will learn from their experience, not only will we be able to realize success from our failures, we will also be more likely to avoid failure altogether.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s office of public affairs, and editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)
4/14/2014 9:15:27 AM by Kelly Boggs, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

The Civil Rights Act: 50 years on

April 11 2014 by Richard Land, Baptist Press

I believe the vast majority of Americans are disappointed in the degree of racial division, mistrust and misunderstanding that still plagues our society. And I further believe that disappointment and discontent stretch through all ethnic groups and generations.

In the wake of the tremendous, revolutionary victories won over institutionalized racial segregation in the 1960s, most Americans expected and hoped for far more rapid progress toward Dr. [Martin Luther] King’s dream of a nation where people were “judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Alas, while legalized racial segregation was dismantled rapidly in the wake of the 1964 Civil Rights legislation, racial prejudice has lingered like a stubbornly antibiotic-resistant virus that just refuses to die. Why? The Bible tells us that man is fallen and sinful (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:23). Thus racism is pandemic because people are always tempted to think more of themselves than they ought to think (Romans 12:3) and less of people who are different.

Ultimately, racism will be tamed not just by the law, but by the kind of inward spiritual change wrought by the transformative power of the gospel of Christ. When it comes to racism, as well as other sins, the salt of the law can change actions, behaviors and habits but only the light of the gospel can change attitudes, beliefs and hearts.

That does not mean the salt of the law is unnecessary in the quest for racial equality and justice. While you cannot legislate morality in the sense of mandating beliefs, you can, and must, legislate against behavior when that behavior involves someone denying another person their basic rights to equality under the law merely because of their skin color or ethnic identity.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act on July 2, it is helpful to reflect on how far we have come from the dark days of segregation, not to rest on our laurels, but in order to draw inspiration for finishing the journey.

Those of us who lived through the transformative years of the Civil Rights revolution often tend to forget that the majority of Americans now alive had not yet been born when segregation was put out of its misery by civil rights legislation.

It was a different world a half-century ago and racial segregation was far more pervasive in many parts of America than young people today can ever imagine.

I was born in 1946 in Houston, Texas, already well on its way to becoming the country’s fourth-largest city. I was almost 18 when the civil rights law passed in 1964. The Houston in which I grew up (now the most racially and ethnically diverse city in the U.S.) was rigidly segregated.

I grew up in a city that was at least one-fourth black and I never met a black person my own age until I was a freshman at Princeton. I knew a lot of black people, but they were all adults – the cooks, the maids and the janitorial staff at my segregated church and public schools in my segregated neighborhood. Former heavyweight champion George Foreman grew up no more than five miles from my boyhood home, and for all intents and purposes, we might as well have been raised in different countries, if not on different continents.

I can remember segregated buses, water fountains and waiting rooms. I can remember as a boy in the mid-1950s asking my mother why black people had to sit in the back of the bus and her replying, “It’s not right, but that is just the way it is.”

The laws changed, that blatant racism in everyday American life vanished and all people of good will said “good riddance.”

Now, on the 50th anniversary of this great triumph which liberated all of us from the prison of an institutionalized racist past, let us pause a moment and celebrate just how far we have come as we simultaneously resolve to keep moving toward the goal envisioned by Jesus and the apostles and articulated so powerfully by Dr. King.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Richard Land is president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, N.C., and former president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.)
4/11/2014 10:03:33 AM by Richard Land, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

An old song made new again

April 10 2014 by Nate Adams, Baptist Press

Our youngest son, Ethan, recently mentioned to his mom and me that he had heard a couple of great new Christian songs he really liked. We asked what they were, hoping that we had been listening to enough Christian radio to perhaps recognize them.

Imagine our surprise when the songs he named were 100-year-old hymns. We couldn’t help but show our disbelief. “Have you never heard those hymns before?” we asked. “Have you not been in churches that sang either of those?”

Perhaps he had, we decided, but apparently not often, or not at a time that he remembered. As we then reviewed the churches our family attended since Ethan was born, we realized that each of those churches had a contemporary worship style, or at least a blend of contemporary music and hymns. Therefore, hymns that I know by heart, sometimes even by page number, have become almost lost treasures to my son.

Music is just one example of the things in church life that sometimes need to change or evolve over time in order to stay relevant to new generations. But as my son’s new love for old hymns illustrates, sometimes we let treasures that have lasting value slip away simply because we have not properly maintained them, or passed them along effectively.

Cooperative missions giving is one of those time-proven treasures that we risk losing in the next generation if we do not more intentionally teach its value and practice its power. As with hymns, we may be assuming that what we have known by heart will always be with us, even if we’re not rehearsing it regularly with new church leaders and members.

That’s one reason many Southern Baptist churches set aside one special Sunday in April to inform and educate their church members about the incredible, week-after-week power of our ongoing missions support system known as the Cooperative Program. This year national Cooperative Program promotion Sunday is April 13, but since that happens to fall on Palm Sunday, many churches may choose another nearby date for this emphasis.

Whether it’s April 13 or some other time, intentionally educating everyone in the church about Cooperative Program missions is extremely important. Church members need to understand that the Cooperative Program portion of their church budget provides foundational support for thousands of faithful Baptist missionaries, throughout North America and around the world. They need to know that hundreds of people groups in more than 150 countries are receiving the gospel through these missionaries, and that thousands of new churches are being planted as a result. Right here in North America, 900 new churches were planted last year, and coordinated ministries such as Southern Baptist Disaster Relief help place thousands of volunteers and chaplains right in the middle of people’s deepest physical and spiritual needs.

Cooperative Program giving helps make theological training at six world-class seminaries affordable for tomorrow’s pastors, church staff and missionaries. And it gives us an important voice in the culture through the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the SBC Executive Committee. Right here in Illinois, CP helps train more than 23,000 leaders each year and start 25 new churches.

There are lots of good resources at www.sbc.net to help church members understand how CP works, and, more importantly, how many lives are being transformed through it as the Great Commission is advanced. There are short videos to use in worship services or small groups and well-designed print pieces ranging from bulletin inserts to multiple-page articles.

Many of us may assume that, like a treasured hymn, the Cooperative Program will always be there, always fueling the most effective and far-reaching missionary system in history. But that will only happen if we consistently and continually teach new generations of church leaders to carry the tune.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.)
4/10/2014 9:37:27 AM by Nate Adams, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Opportunities abound to serve in Haiti

April 9 2014 by Bartley Wooten, Guest Column

On Jan. 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the Caribbean country of Haiti. Already a poverty-stricken nation, this earthquake and the dozens of aftershocks that followed catapulted the population into economic, political, social and physical collapse.
Both the earthquake itself and the disastrous effects it caused killed hundreds of thousands of Haitians. For four years now, many organizations, companies, governments and churches have continued the relief work much needed in this country.
After a recent trip there, it is difficult to express what we witnessed. We returned home a day late because our flight from Miami to Raleigh was cancelled. After sleeping in chairs and on the floor at the airport, we remembered the words of one of our Haitian team leaders, “Preaching the gospel is always hard.”
His words were certainly accurate for us. In fact, one Haitian pastor told us that the week before a group of voodoo sorcerers invaded his church and attempted to assault and kill him. But the Spirit of God prevented the lead sorcerer from touching him and the sorcerers eventually left. 
Although Haiti is a land of very real spiritual warfare, this is the moment to reach the country for Christ! Rene Romil, our team leader for Christian Faith & Action Ministries – Haiti (CFAM) and former North Carolina Baptist Men’s (Baptists on Mission) helper, said it is time to “invade Haiti with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Our team included Paul Langston, director of missions at Eastern Baptist Association; Jeff Broadwell, pastor of Green Springs Baptist Church in Parkton; Richard Weeks, pastor of Piney Grove Baptist Church in Faison; his wife Tammy; Ted Press and Bartley Wooten, pastor of Beulaville Baptist Church in Beulaville. 
We visited 11 schools and the churches with which they are associated. The team shared the gospel at most of the schools and saw 676 people make professions of faith – about 60 of those were adults. 
Each school administrator works under the authority of a local church and a pastor. Most struggle to pay the teachers’ salaries that average $75 per month. The typical school has 30-70 children in each classroom with one teacher. The schools are very basic and most students are unable to pay the $100 annual tuition.
Students sit on wooden benches side-by-side, and the teacher uses a chalkboard. The schools have very few resources. Teachers are not formally educated. There is a great need to help these teachers with more resources and training.
On top of the many churches and schools Romil and his team have planted, several new churches that have asked to come under the umbrella of CFAM. This speaks to the integrity of Romil and his team. His ministry was birthed out of his partnership with N.C. Baptist Men during the earthquake relief. Baptist Men continue to assist Romil with some expenses.
From North Carolina Paul Langston and Tammy Weeks established Hearts for Haiti, a handmade ink pen ministry. They send $1,000 monthly to support the schools.
CFAM’s mission statement says, “Our vision is to bring the gospel to the nations, which is the Great Commission. We feel that the only way the nation of Haiti will ever rise up out of physical poverty and [out of] spiritual slavery to Voodoo (satanic worship) is by introducing them to Jesus Christ.” 
They are committed to reach the rural areas of Haiti where people have no access to electricity, road, school, hospital, drinking water or church. They plant churches accompanied by schools and community clinics whose primary purpose is to spread the gospel and equip believers. The ministry focuses on making disciples and training church leaders.
There are many opportunities to pray for CFAM and be involved in the needs in Haiti. The ministry wants to build a concrete block-making facility near Arcahaie that will help provide salaries for teachers and pastors. They will need a vehicle to deliver the blocks they make. There are needs to build chicken houses in several mountain communities so the nationals can raise chickens for food and for sale. A medical clinic in Cabaret needs volunteers. Sports camps need to be staffed, construction workers are needed, and financial support is always appreciated.
For more information, call Langston at (910) 293-7077 or email dom_easternbaptist@embarqmail.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bartley Wooten is pastor of Beulaville Baptist Church in Beulaville. He also occasionally writes Sunday School lessons for the Biblical Recorder.)
4/9/2014 11:43:23 AM by Bartley Wooten, Guest Column | with 0 comments

But in multi-site, I don’t know the pastor

April 8 2014 by J.D. Greear, Guest Column

It has been nearly 10 years since The Summit Church moved to a multi-site strategy. We’ve learned a lot during that time, and continue to evaluate how this strategy is serving God, our people and our community. One of the objections I hear a lot to our multi-site strategy is this: “In a multi-site church, I don’t know the pastor (and the pastor doesn’t know me).” For those who make this objection, multi-site appears to be a hindrance to good member care. And because I believe the church is to be a family that cares deeply for its own, and that we elders will have to give an account for every member of our church, I feel deeply, and personally, the weight of this objection.
Here is the heart of my response: Why is the senior pastor the one expected to administer all the pastoral care? Doesn’t that presuppose the very “cult of personality” for which multi-site churches are often criticized? “I need to be known by my pastors” is a legitimate request. “I need to be known by that pastor because he is special” is not.
It is undeniable that large churches face pastoral issues. But so do small churches. In fact, Rodney Stark demonstrated in What Americans Really Believe megachurches had more intimacy and better pastoral care than smaller churches (p. 48-49). Stark’s research notwithstanding, however, let’s acknowledge that it is easier for people to slip in and out of a large congregation unnoticed. In fact, this is why we moved to a multi-site model as our church began to grow. It’s easier to hide in an auditorium of 5,000 than it is in an auditorium of 500.
Our people ceased to “know me” when we passed 500 people. In fact, that was the hardest ecclesiological shift for me – going to more than 500 weekly, not going multi-site! When we hit 500, I realized that I could no longer know every member in a meaningful way. And even then I was behind the curve, since a lot of research shows that pastors can’t personally pastor a congregation of more than about 200!
So in reality, the problem of the lead pastor not knowing everyone in the congregation is an issue for any church of more than 200 people. Unless you want to stay below 200, you’re going to have to adopt a “multiple elder” model, where everyone is known and pastored by an elder, though not necessarily the “lead” elder.
I think that the multi-site church may most effectively address that problem for churches of several thousand. Since the venues are smaller, it is easier for campus pastors and elder representatives to keep up with those that come. Smaller venues reduce anonymity.
It’s easier for a campus pastor to keep up with his elders, who keep up with their small group leaders, who keep up with their people, when they all see each other every week.
But still some say: “The multi-site movement fosters a cult of personality by tying everyone to one mega-teacher.” Perhaps. And unfortunately, many large church leaders seem all too willing to foster it.
But the cult of personality can exist as much in a small, single-campus church – in fact, sometimes moreso! When I pastored a small church, my congregation seemed to think that my presence was necessary for everything of spiritual significance.
I had to marry and bury everyone, and my people wanted me to resolve every problem and answer every question. I tried to teach them otherwise, and even though we had other pastors, their natural tendency was to look to me as the only “real” one. If I wasn’t there personally, it was [junior varsity].
Now that we are multi-site, however, members of the Summit are regularly exposed to other Spirit-filled pastors in our church, men to whom they can look for leadership and ministry. When our people have a question or need pastoral guidance, their first move is often toward their campus pastor, because that is a relationship in which they know and are known.
The bottom line is this: A church is not an audience, it is a community, a body and a family. And those necessitate close, intimate relationships. So, regardless of the size of our church, everyone should be known and cared for by their elders. But unless we strictly limit congregations to 200 people, we simply cannot expect that one particular person will carry the entire pastoral responsibility. And whenever the expectation arises that everyone must know that specific pastor, then we’ve elevated that pastor to an impossibly super-human role. That kind of expectation is not fair to the pastor, and it bypasses the ways in which God has gifted other elders in the church to care for his flock. The irony is that those who accuse multi-site churches of a ‘cult of personality’ are often guilty of a cult of personality themselves.
God has called churches to do two things that can sometimes compete with each other: a) take care of our local church body, and b) reach new people as fast as possible. If we lean too far toward evangelism, we risk neglecting pastoral care; if we lean too far toward pastoral care, we risk becoming insular and neglecting evangelism.
It’s so much easier to pursue just one. But we have to do both. In our judgment, the multi-site approach allows us to continue drawing unbelievers in while still being pastorally responsible for our members.
A multi-site approach can certainly be organized in a way that heightens the pastoral cult of personality and squelches other leadership. But we believe that this is due less to the structure itself and more to sinful human nature, which can lionize personality in any structure. For us, the argument comes down not on whether to do multi-site but on how to do it. And our responsibility is to use this structure in as biblical and God-honoring a way as possible.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – J.D. Greear is the lead pastor of The Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham and author of Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary and Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved. Chris Pappalardo, pastoral research assistant helped Greear with this entry which appeared March 12 on jdgreear.com.)

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Multi-site churches a growing trend in North Carolina
4/8/2014 1:40:18 PM by J.D. Greear, Guest Column | with 0 comments

The worship style Millennials want

April 4 2014 by Thom S. Rainer, Baptist Press

My son, Jess Rainer, and I recently spoke in Texas on the topic of the Millennials, America’s largest generation of nearly 79 million persons. Because we co-authored a book entitled “The Millennials,” we have had the opportunity to speak on the subject on many occasions.

We reminded this audience in Dallas of the birth dates of this generation, 1980 to 2000, and then proceeded to share our research. We had commissioned LifeWay Research to survey 1,200 of the older Millennials; the researchers did an outstanding job. We have thus been able to share incredible amounts of data and insights from these young adults.

The Question about Worship Style

As in most of our speaking settings, we allow a portion of our presentation to be a time of questions and answers. And inevitably someone will ask us about the worship style preferences of the Millennials.

Typically the context of the question emanates from a background of nearly three decades of “worship wars.” In other words, on what “side” are the Millennials? Traditional? Contemporary? Or are they somewhere on the nebulous spectrum of blended styles?

And though Jess and I did not originally ask those questions in our research, we have sufficient anecdotal evidence to respond. And our response is usually received with some surprise. The direct answer is “none of the above.”

The Three Things That Matter Most

You see, most Millennials don’t think in the old worship war paradigm. In that regard, “style” of worship is not their primary focus. Instead they seek worship services and music that have three major elements.
  1. They desire the music to have rich content. They desire to sing those songs that reflect deep biblical and theological truths. It is no accident that the hymnody of Keith and Kristyn Getty has taken the Millennials by storm. Their music reflects those deep and rich theological truths.
  2. The Millennials desire authenticity in a worship service. They can sense when congregants and worship leaders are going through the motions. And they will reject such perfunctory attitudes altogether.
  3. This large generation does want a quality worship service. But that quality must be paired with the authenticity noted above and stem from adequate preparation of the worship leaders both spiritually and in time of rehearsal. In that sense, quality worship services are possible for churches of all sizes.

The Churches They Are Attending

Millennial Christians, and a good number of seekers among their generation, are gravitating to churches where the teaching and preaching are given a high priority. They are attracted to churches whose focus is not only on the members, but on the community and the world. Inwardly focused congregations will not see many Millennials in their churches.

And you will hear Millennials speak less and less about worship style. Their focus is on theologically rich music, authenticity and quality that reflects adequate preparation in rehearsal and prayer.

But they will walk away from congregations that are still fighting about style of music, hymnals or screen projections, or choirs or praise teams. Those are not essential issues to Millennials, and they don’t desire to waste their time hearing Christians fight about such matters.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources This column first appeared on his website, www.ThomRainer.com.)
4/4/2014 10:00:55 AM by Thom S. Rainer, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

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