Guest Columns

Run like a girl

March 5 2015 by Terri Stovall, SWBTS

I ran, and finished, my first full marathon a few weeks ago at age 50. Over the past year, I ran several half-marathons, but the full marathon at 26.2 miles seemed daunting. I trained. I prepared. And, like a girl, I also planned my running outfit (I love running skirts!) with great care and thought.
 
When race day came, I pushed through pain, kept moving forward, cried when I saw my husband cheering me on from the crowd and cried again when I crossed the finish line. I ran like a girl!
 
But what does it mean to “run like a girl”?
 
One of this year’s Super Bowl ads showed teen boys and girls being asked what it means to do something (run, throw, fight) “like a girl.” In every instance, the teens made motions imitating a prissy, “girlie-girl” manner. But when younger girls were asked what it means to do the same thing “like a girl,” they showed a decidedly more confident, though still girlish, example.
 
Recognizing that many girls begin losing their confidence during their adolescent years, Procter & Gamble, the ad sponsor, began their “Like a Girl” campaign last fall. Boys accuse friends of screaming like a girl, running like a girl, throwing like a girl as a derogatory put-down, and even girls use the phrase as a statement of being weak or silly, or someone not to be taken seriously. As the campaign says, “Using #LikeAGirl as an insult is a hard knock against any adolescent girl. And since the rest of puberty’s really no picnic either, it’s easy to see what a huge impact it can have on a girl’s self-confidence.”
 
Admittedly, there is an undercurrent of feminist ideology in the message here. But anytime a characteristic turns into a stereotype that morphs into an insult, we should take care to reinforce the truth.
 
Even in Christian circles, we need to be careful about painting a strict picture or developing preconceived ideas of what the practical outworking of biblical womanhood looks like in today’s culture. For example:

  • Scripture tells us that we are to be women who have gentle and quiet spirits, but does that discount the woman to whom God has given a gregarious personality and an infectious laugh? How does she fit in our stereotypical box?

  • Motherhood is the highest calling and a unique task for women. Is the woman with no children looked at with a question mark, asking, “What's wrong with her?”

  • Women are commanded to love their husbands, and marriage is high and lifted up in our churches. Where does that leave the middle-aged, never-married woman who is serving the Lord with all her heart? Does she have a place in our ideal picture of what biblical womanhood looks like?

  • And what about the woman who is gifted athletically, committed to keeping her body physically fit and striving to perform at the highest level possible? Does she not fit the mold? Is she deemed unfit to be soft and feminine and worthy of praise?

Author and speaker Mary Kassian reminds us that women were unhappy in the “Leave to Beaver, happy housewife, vacuuming in pearls” model of womanhood during the ‘50s. Feminists fought for a new model of what it meant to be woman, but even with all that is afforded them today, women are still unhappy. Women traded one model, or stereotype, for another and neither is satisfying. But if the picture of the ‘50s housewife doesn’t work, and the feminist “anything goes” model is even less satisfying, where does that leave us?
 
Kassian offers a solution. “The solution the biblical solution is to embrace the Word of God, and ask Him to help us figure out how to live out His divine design in this culture,” she writes in True Woman 101: Divine Design.
 
In other words, maybe it's time to stop creating boxes or pictures that women have to fit into, but rather teach the principles of biblical womanhood and let the Lord guide the practical outworking of those principles in a woman’s life.
 
I do not fit in a lot of the extra-biblical stereotypes that are constructed on the shoulders of the truth of biblical womanhood.
 
I am a girl ... who rides her own Harley-Davidson.
 
I am a girl ... who is strong-willed, driven and focused.
 
I am a girl ... who doesn’t necessarily like girlie parties.
 
I am a girl ... who will fight to the bitter end.
 
I am a girl ... who is married with no children.
 
I am a girl ... who ran hard for 26.2 miles and might actually do it again.
 
But I am also a girl who loves Jesus with all her heart, daily seeks to live a life for His pleasure and embraces the truth of Scripture for women. Every day I wake up and set out to live my life like the girl God created me to be.
 
I clothe myself “like a girl” “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come” (Proverbs 31:25).
 
I work “like a girl” “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks” (Proverbs 31:17).
 
I speak “like a girl” “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue” (Proverbs 31:15).
 
At the end of the Procter & Gamble commercial, the last little girl was asked to describe what it means to run like a girl. Her answer? “To run as fast as you can.”
 
When I hear “like a girl,” I want to see a picture of a woman who is running the best she can, the hardest she can, using every ounce of her being, keeping her eye on the prize and her heart focused on finishing the race well. This is the true biblical ideal!
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE –Terri Stovall is dean of women’s programs at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and co-author of the book Women Leading Women. This article first appeared at the seminary’s BiblicalWoman.com website.)

3/5/2015 11:12:40 AM by Terri Stovall, SWBTS | with 0 comments



Nurturing new churches

March 4 2015 by Terry Dorsett, Baptist Press

As a church planting missionary, I encourage existing churches to sponsor new churches in nearby communities. The goal is to produce healthy communities of faith in areas underserved by vibrant churches.
 
For this to work out well, there must be a meaningful relationship between the sponsoring church and the daughter church.
 
A great way to view this relationship is to use the analogy of parents raising children. Parents provide for and protect their young while teaching them to make good choices and develop into responsible adults. There are always some disagreements along the way, perhaps even strong ones, but when done correctly, it is a beautiful experience for all involved. The same is true in regard to relationships between existing churches and daughter churches.
 

Pastor-to-pastor communication

One of the most essential keys to healthy relationships between sponsor churches and their missions is good communication. The pastors of the two groups should meet often for prayer, encouragement and planning. In many cases this will be weekly or every other week, especially at first. As time passes, it might shift to monthly, but rarely will a great relationship be maintained with less than that.
 
Though it is possible to do this via phone or Skype when schedules get busy, face-to-face meetings are always preferred.

 
Congregational buy-in

In addition to good communication between the leaders, the rest of the congregation must understand the vision and purpose of the new congregation.
 
This can be done in a variety of ways but often includes the pastor of the new church making presentations to the existing church about the plans, timetables and focus of the new work. It also may include the mission pastor preaching several times in the mother church before starting services in the new church. The goal is for the existing church to be fully committed to the new work.
 

Logistical collaboration

There are times when the new church will share a facility with an existing church. This is likely when there is a language or cultural group in the same town as the sponsoring church, but which the sponsoring church is not equipped to reach. For example, if the existing church is Spanish-speaking but is concerned about the lack of churches that offer services in Creole, they may start a Haitian congregation and allow it to use their building so that two completely different congregations are utilizing the same facility.
 
When a building is shared, good communication is needed between the two congregations in the scheduling of rooms, sharing the cost of utilities, providing volunteers for cleaning the building, or having workdays to maintain the building. Each group will have to accept some level of inconvenience in order for the other group to be effective, but good communication will allow both bodies to accomplish their mission.
 

Financial trust

Even when a building is not shared, there likely will be some sharing of finances. Often the sponsoring church provides a significant portion of the new church’s income, especially in the first few months. They may even handle the money, keep the books and sign the checks, all depending on the situation and what kind of leaders God brings to the new church.
 
To work out the logistics of this, good communication again is needed, but it can be an amazing picture of the body of Christ when diverse people pool their resources for Kingdom expansion.
 

Friendships that last

Many church planters say that the most important part of their relationship with their sponsoring church is the friendships forged between the leaders and the members of each congregation. Those friendships often endure long after the new church has become self-sustaining and the formal sponsorship has ended.
 
Sponsoring a new church is a lot of work, but many pastors can attest that it is also a faith-growing and vision-stretching time in the life of the sponsoring church. If you are interested in sponsoring a church, contact your state convention office or go to www.namb.net.
 
Even if your church is not able to sponsor a new church on your own, you can still be involved in church planting by becoming a partner church with someone else’s church plant. Many sponsoring churches are not able to handle everything for their daughter church, which creates room for other churches to help in smaller but significant ways.
 
As churches work together, new communities of faith are planted and lost people come to faith in Christ. It sounds very much like the New Testament!
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Terry Dorsett has been a church planter and author in New England for more than 20 years, serving in both rural and urban areas. He is the author of Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church and other books.)

3/4/2015 10:38:02 AM by Terry Dorsett, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Paige Patterson - 40 years of leadership

March 2 2015 by Jason G. Duesing, MBTS Communications

Some figures in history accomplish the work of multiple lifetimes within a single life. Like the resplendent Martin Luther in the 16th-century Reformation, some leaders function at a capacity that wearies the rest of us just in the thinking of it. Yet, scores of lives have benefited from what these great men did with the time that was given to them.
 
When a future history is written of the triumphs and travails of the Southern Baptist Convention of the late 20th and early 21st century, there is no debate whether the name Paige Patterson will have a sizable number of entries in that volume’s index. For at the time when this convention of churches was undergoing a theological crisis, God provided many timely leaders, and one of the giants among them was Patterson.
 
Regularly, the hinges of history’s precarious moments have turned on the courageous actions of great men. For those of us impacted by their imprint, we recognize that we see the world, and God’s work in it, more clearly, not because of any sizeable stature on our part but because we are, in fact, standing on the shoulders of these giants.
 
Significant, though, in this epoch of change was the vehicle in which Patterson carried out his ministry of influence and discipleship. Not often considered is that Patterson has shaped a generation principally from the unique post of the presidency of schools of theological education for four decades.
 
On Feb. 24, 1975, 40 years ago this week, Patterson was elected as president of what would become Criswell College in Dallas. From the age of 32, Patterson built that school not only into a premier training center for future ministers – but also for future leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention for decades to come.
 
After 17 years in Dallas, Patterson went to serve as president at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. The reformation of that school is a story fit for the cinema, and the transformation of the eastern seaboard of churches, new and old, to this day can be traced back to the recovery of that institution for theological good.
 
At age 60, when many thought Patterson would certainly retire in North Carolina, he agreed to return to Texas as president of the century-old Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he continues to serve. There, too, he has helped reshape and fortify a school to which Southern Baptist churches can, with confidence, send their young men and women for quality training and theological preparation.
 
The leadership of Paige Patterson leveraged from the presidencies of these three schools has refashioned the landscape of Southern Baptist and evangelical theological education. Here are just three of many examples.
 
First, Patterson was an educational innovator long before the advent of the Internet required us all to think outside the box. From creative missions platforms that accelerated students to the ends of the earth, to a legendary ability to cultivate faculty and administrators who go on to shape their fields and lead other institutions of significance, Patterson refashioned the paradigm for what a college and seminary president could be and do.
 
Patterson’s educational philosophy has always been more pastoral than clinical, but amazingly without sacrificing academic quality. During the 1990s when the trend was to decrease the amount of biblical languages required for a master of divinity degree, Patterson increased the minimum hours of Greek and Hebrew and his school grew while others plateaued.
 
Finally, in a post-recession era of crumbling investments and hesitant donors, Patterson here, too, has redrawn the map of the status quo, this time in terms of evangelical fundraising. At a time when Christian schools without sports programs and minimal endowments are closing their doors, Patterson has seen exponential growth for his school in every category of giving.
 
The simple fact is that if, with the aid of Marty McFly’s Back to the Future time machine, we were able to go back 40 years and alter the future impact of Paige Patterson on theological education and return to 2015 as observers, those of us trained in Southern Baptist schools or serving now in theological education would not recognize our world or ourselves in it. The truth is that as Southern Baptist colleges and seminaries prosper today, it is in large part due to the fact that we are able to see more clearly and do our ministry more effectively having built upon the transformative work of Paige Patterson.
 
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he instructs those believers to “honor such men” who have served God and the gospel well (Philippians 2:29). On the occasion of 40 years as a president, Patterson’s decades of service are worth contemplating, imitating and honoring. How grateful I and many others are for the privilege of standing on the shoulders of this giant. Any strides forward in theological education today are due in large part to Patterson’s four-plus decades of transformative leadership.
 
Congratulations, President Patterson.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jason G. Duesing, provost at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., previously served 12 years with Paige Patterson in a variety of roles at Southern Baptists’ Southwestern and Southeastern seminaries.)

3/2/2015 3:27:04 PM by Jason G. Duesing, MBTS Communications | with 0 comments



David Platt: Counter culture with gospel

February 27 2015 by Erich Bridges, Worldview Conversation

It’s hard not to offend people these days, especially if you actually believe what the Bible says about right, wrong, sin and salvation.
 
Fearing the loss of friends, being dismissed as irrelevant – or worse, being called intolerant – many evangelicals jump on the bandwagon of popular social-justice causes, but lapse into uncomfortable silence on issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion. Some quietly abandon biblical positions on controversial issues altogether.
 
That path eventually leads to a deeper surrender, however. Because the entire foundation of biblical morality, not to mention the biblical basis of Christian missions, rests on the most “offensive” claim of all: the gospel itself.
 
“[T]he most offensive and countercultural claim in Christianity is not what Christians believe about homosexuality or abortion, marriage or religious liberty,” writes International Mission Board (IMB) President David Platt in his new book, Counter Culture: A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Persecution, Abortion, Orphans and Pornography. “Instead, the most offensive claim in Christianity is that God is the Creator, Owner, and Judge of every person on the planet. Every one of us stands before Him guilty of sin, and the only way to be reconciled to Him is through faith in Jesus, the crucified Savior and risen King. All who trust in His love will experience everlasting life while all who turn from His lordship will suffer everlasting death.”
 
That claim – and the idea that God became a man, died on a cross and rose again to embody it – is foolishness at best, anathema at worst to postmodernists, atheists, secularists, Muslims and other subsets of humanity comprising billions of people. It is increasingly costly, even dangerous in certain places, to proclaim it. Some cultures consider it blasphemy; others call it hate speech. That’s really nothing new if you peruse church history.
 
The main question for self-proclaimed Christians, Platt suggests, is this: Do we believe this gospel?
 
If we don’t, we should reconsider whether we really follow the Christ revealed in the Bible. If we do, everything else we believe and do must flow from it. We don’t get a pass on the toughest issues engulfing culture today, nor do we get to pick which ones to address. We must counter them all with the revolutionary, uncompromising love of the gospel. Hence the title of Platt’s book.
 
And the gospel is an equal-opportunity offender, as Platt has discovered in his personal spiritual life. He says God convicted him of his own silence about racism and abortion, among other issues. That’s why he’s speaking to other believers now.
 
“I sense a trend in the church among evangelical Christians – particularly younger evangelicals, but really broader,” he observes. “We have this tendency to pick and choose which cultural issues we’re going to stand up and speak out on and which we’re going to sit down and be quiet on, usually based on those issues that are most comfortable and least costly for us to speak out on. It is right for us to speak out against poverty and sex trafficking, and I’m thankful for increased awareness of issues like that and the way people are speaking out on those issues.
 
“The danger, though, is if we speak boldly on issues like that, but then when it comes to issues like abortion or so-called same-sex marriage – issues that are much more likely to bring us into contention with the culture around us – we’re much more likely to be quiet. Before we know it, our supposed social justice actually becomes a selective social injustice. … The same gospel that compels us to combat poverty compels us to defend marriage. The same gospel that compels us to war against sex trafficking compels us to war against sexual immorality in all of its forms.” (Hear Platt on “picking and choosing.”)
 
That kind of consistency won’t win us many popularity contests, but if we back up our words with lives of grace, truth and loving action, we will change culture rather than surrendering to it. (Hear Platt on whether addressing cultural issues hurts our witness.)
 
Why court controversy so early in his tenure as IMB leader? Platt began writing the book several years ago, while he was pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala. He submitted it to his publisher well before his election by IMB trustees last year. But he remains convinced the time is right for its message to an American church facing fundamental challenges.
 
“I trust that the Lord led me to write this and knew exactly where I would be when it came out,” he told IMB missionaries and staff in a recent message. “Further, I am completely convinced that these issues are not just American issues ... these are global issues ... . I want to use any platform the Lord has given to me to strengthen the church in this culture in order that we might send out and support brothers and sisters into other cultures with rock-solid confidence in God’s Word and with wisdom to apply the gospel to these pressing social issues.”
 
Only servants with that kind of confidence can make a real impact on the world’s lost, who suffer from the worst injustice of all.
 
“The greatest injustice in the world is the fact that a couple of billion people still don’t have access to the gospel,” Platt says. It is the gospel alone “that has the power not only to change cultures on this earth but to transform lives for eternity.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is a global correspondent for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

2/27/2015 12:47:30 PM by Erich Bridges, Worldview Conversation | with 0 comments



Can you love your enemies?

February 27 2015 by D.E. Parkerson, Guest Column

Several years ago in the Rocky Mountains a bighorn ram approached the home of a man named Ed Bailey while he was watching a football game on television. The bighorn stopped suddenly, seeing his reflection in an unbreakable plate glass window. Thinking it was another ram, he bowed his head, ready to charge. He backed up, and immediately saw that the other ram backed up also.
 
Every time he moved, his reflection moved. Finally, after a three-hour duel, the ram shook his head and charged full force into the window, knocking himself unconscious.
 
That bighorn ram reminds me of a few people I have known through the years. I suspect that you have known such persons also – people who were born in the objective case, and live in a combative mood.
What makes them walk around ready to butt heads with everyone they meet – even though in the long run they are the loser for their negative attitude? I am reminded of the humorous story of a western cowboy who was known for being “the fastest gun in the west.” He was so fast, in fact, he could shoot before his gun left his holster. His name? “Footless Frankie!”
 
I suspect that most of us have shot ourselves in the foot at one time or another by being too quick to criticize, to condemn, to confront, to challenge or to chastise. I certainly have. We need to hear again the words of Jesus, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:32-36).
 
So what if you are good to your mother – big deal! Even Mafia mobsters look after their family and friends. Any person who would be a disciple of Jesus Christ must go further than that. We are challenged to love those people we ordinarily could not stand.
 
Any person who is serious about living the Christian life must learn to look at others through the eyes of Jesus – the eyes of compassion and understanding. Yes, this includes even those who are difficult to love.
When we look at people through the eyes of Jesus, we see them as individuals having infinite value. It is easy to view a young person in trouble – perhaps pregnant or on drugs – and cast a critical eye. But any parents who read these words know that it could be their child in trouble – and if it were, it would make a tremendous difference in the attitude they have.
 
We dare not treat any person with contempt, for he or she is a person for whom Christ died. To see every person through the eyes of Jesus is to see him or her, not as an object, but as an individual with hopes, dreams and aspirations equal to our own.
 
An unloving heart is a spiritual problem. Very often those who have the habit of butting heads with everybody they meet do so because they have never felt loved or accepted by others. Just as an abused child will often grow up to abuse his or her own children, so the person who has never felt loved or accepted will not be able to love and accept others. The spiritual answer for such persons is that they come to fully understand what it means to be loved and accepted by God. It is in knowing that we are loved and accepted by God that that we learn to accept ourselves and to love others.
 
As followers of Jesus Christ we are taught to “love our enemies.”
 
Can it be done? Is it possible? What does it mean? No other word has caused as much discussion and debate as the commandment to love our enemies. So, we must know what Jesus meant. The Greek word He used is agape.
 
It means that we must never allow ourselves to desire anything but the highest good for others – even our enemies. Obviously we cannot love an enemy in the same way we love those nearest and dearest to us, for that would be unnatural, impossible and even wrong.
 
But we can see to it that no matter what a person may do to hurt us, we should desire and seek nothing but his or her highest good.
 
Do you have a loving heart? If not, you can have one with God’s help. It is for your own sake, for your antagonist’s sake and demonstrates to others that you are “a child of the Father.” Retaliation is never redemptive in nature. In a world governed by a holy God, it can never be triumphant. It is when we love that we are most like God.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Del Parkerson is a retired minister who writes The Paper Pulpit, a blog at paperpulpit.wordpress.com. See BR's 'best blog' section every Thursday for updates.)

2/27/2015 12:37:10 PM by D.E. Parkerson, Guest Column | with 0 comments



The church & social media

February 26 2015 by Darrel Girardier, Baptist Press

I’ve worked in social media on a church staff for nearly two years and am having a lot of fun. The more time I spend with our staff and other churches, the more I get excited about the future.
 
Over these last two years, my opinions and assumptions have changed about social media. What hasn’t changed is my belief that the church can be a force for good on social media. I think the church is in a position for God to use social networking for some amazing things.
 
Here are some additional beliefs, opinions and observations:
 
1. We need to stop tweeting that our worship band “rocks.” Unless U2 is your worship band, I don’t think it rocks. Saying your worship band rocks on Sunday morning has become cliché. I think we can stop doing that.
 
2. We can speak truth in love in national moments. We can be the voice of hope and truth when our world seems to be falling apart.
 
3. We shouldn’t be negative. Pastors, if you don’t like your sandwich at Subway, don’t tweet about it. Why? Because there might be a chance that the kid working behind the counter at Subway goes to your church and will read the tweet. One bad sandwich, airline flight or customer service experience doesn’t warrant airing your grievances online.
 
4. Being online doesn’t mean you have to be everywhere. Don’t feel comfortable being on Snapchat? Don’t. Do you prefer Facebook over Twitter? Then use Facebook. Be online where you feel comfortable and where you’ll think you’ll succeed. Don’t chase something that isn’t you.
 
5. Tweeting Scripture isn’t always a good idea – it can be an easy way to get likes or retweets, but does it make a lot of sense to post a scripture then moments later post about a church event? Especially when the two aren’t related? If you’re posting Scripture, make sure you provide context as well (e.g., the Scripture you’re tweeting is tied to Sunday’s sermon).
 
6. You can buy Facebook likes and Twitter followers but you can’t buy influence. Influence is earned, not bought. Always has been, always will be.
 
7. The church should take the lead on how to use social media. We should be the standard bearers of how to use social media. When someone asks, “How should I conduct myself online?” I hope they look at our church staff and see how to do it right.
 
8. The church shouldn’t be afraid to try new platforms. We can’t let fear of a new platform stop us from reaching people. Sure, people use Snapchat for the wrong reasons, but that doesn’t mean you should shy away from reaching people there.
 
9. Don’t argue online. No one wins and we all lose when we argue online.
 
10. Small is the new big. If you’re a small church, I think you have an advantage on social media. You can take your time to interact with your people online since you’re dealing with a smaller congregation. Large churches may have more resources, but smaller ones can be quicker and nimbler, which is a big advantage on social media.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE –Darrel Girardier is the digital strategy director for Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tenn., where he oversees the team that handles the church’s social media, Web and mobile presence. He blogs at darrelgirardier.com and is @dgirardier on Twitter.)

2/26/2015 11:28:16 AM by Darrel Girardier, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Is President Obama a Christian? It depends on what you mean

February 25 2015 by Justin Taylor, Religion News Service

Wisconsin governor and Republican presidential hopeful Scott Walker made headlines for the second time this month regarding worldview and religion. The first was when a journalist asked him during a trade mission to London whether he is comfortable with or accepts “the idea of evolution.” Walker declined to answer, protesting that it’s “a question that a politician shouldn’t be involved in one way or another.”
 
Last week he was asked whether he believes that President Barack Obama is a “Christian.” The first three words of Walker’s response – “I don’t know” – made all of the headlines. He went on to complain about gotcha questions that are out of touch with what voters want to know.
 
As an evangelical with conservative political inclinations, I am simultaneously empathetic with Walker’s complaints about these questions and also frustrated at his flat-footedness in answering them.

 
Taylor2-25-15-(1).jpg

RNS Photo by Josh Dennis
Justin Taylor is a doctoral candidate at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is publisher for books at Crossway. He runs the blog Between Two Worlds, hosted by the Gospel Coalition. With Andreas Kostenberger, he is co-author of “The Final Days of Jesus.” You can find him on Twitter at @BetweenTwoWorlds.

On the one hand, it is increasingly clear that the press treats Republicans and Democrats differently when it comes to moral and public policy issues related to religion. It took a pastor to ask Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama when human rights begin for human beings (he responded that the answer would be “above his pay grade”), and it took a reporter from a conservative opinion magazine to ask House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi about the moral differences between Kermit Gosnell’s widely condemned late-term abortions and legal late-term abortions that she supports (she refused to answer the question).
 
When evangelicals are asked these sorts of questions, there are at least two rules to follow in formulating a clear and compelling response: (1) speak the truth, or at least say nothing untrue, and (2) clarify the terminology, which often involves making distinctions.
 
When it comes to the question of who is and who is not a Christian, the governor should have remembered that clarity is often served by asking the questioner why the question is being asked. This prevents answering a form of the question that is not being asked (as may be the case here).
 
“Is the president a Christian?” can serve as shorthand for “Do you take the president at his word that he is a professing Christian, or do you think he is secretly a Muslim?” This is a legitimate question: A Gallup poll in 2012 showed that only 34 percent of Americans could correctly identify his religious affiliation, and 18 percent of Republicans believe he is a Muslim. There are ridiculous YouTube videos purporting to reveal that Obama’s own words indicate he is a Muslim. Wikipedia even has an entire entry devoted to “Barack Obama religion conspiracy theories.”
 
There is simply no evidence the president is a Muslim, and there is explicit evidence that he is a professing Christian. And although Walker’s spokeswoman quickly clarified that “Of course the governor thinks the president is a Christian,” the damage was done, and the fever swamps of conspiracy where unwittingly inflamed rather than dampened. It was an opportunity to speak truth to conspiratorial power, and Walker missed it.
 
I suspect – though I do not know – that Walker, as the son of a Baptist minister, was not thinking first and foremost about the way in which the president self-identified his religious affiliation. Rather, he may have been thinking of the second possible meaning of the question, namely, “Do you believe President Obama is a genuine Christian, one who shows the marks of being truly born again?” This is a question of theology, not sociology.
 
Claiming the name of Jesus does not a Christian make. Jesus himself explained that many who call him “Lord” and do works in his name will not enter the kingdom of heaven because they are not truly known by him (Matthew 7:21-23). The church has always held that it is possible to be a “Christian” who is not a “Christian.”
 
How do we tell the difference? Evangelicals would want to hear more from the professing Christian. How does he believe one enters into a vital relationship with God? What does he believe about the nature of sin? What does he believe Jesus accomplished on the cross? What role does the authority of scripture play in his life? Does the person evidence the fruit of the Holy Spirit that accords with genuine repentance?
 
These questions are difficult to answer from a distance. And while the president has been clear that he self-identifies as a Christian, the details of what he believes and what this looks like in his life appear to be something he is reticent to discuss in any detail.
 
All of this is plausible background for why Walker responded, “I’ve actually never talked about it, or I haven’t read about that. I’ve never asked him that. You’ve asked me to make statements about people that I haven’t had a conversation with about that. How (could) I say if I know either of you are a Christian?”
 
Ambiguous questions yield ambiguous answers, neither of which serves the cause of clarity and truth. Both the media and the candidates can do better on both fronts, which will lead to more fruitful conversations about the issues that matter most.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Justin Taylor runs the blog Between Two Worlds, hosted by The Gospel Coalition. You can find him on Twitter at @BetweenTwoWorlds.)

2/25/2015 12:18:05 PM by Justin Taylor, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



Spurgeon on Christians who rail against the times

February 23 2015 by David Prince, Prince on Preaching

The current conspiracy theory, sky-is-falling, outrage culture can’t be reconciled with what the Bible says about living in the already of Christ’s Kingdom. Christians ought to be the last people to fall prey to doom and gloom hopeless theology, but sadly, it is thriving in contemporary evangelicalism. The problem is exacerbated by our minute-by-minute social media news cycle. The prophets of outrage, despair, and conspiracy often position themselves as courageous truth-tellers. But do not be fooled: the evangelical outrage industry is often more about building donor lists than it is about truth.
 
Few have ever questioned the courage and theological fortitude of the prince of preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. His theological convictions were out of step with most of his ministry contemporaries, and the media often vilified him. In January 1888, after fighting for the doctrinal integrity of the Baptist Union in the Downgrade Controversy, Spurgeon was publicly censured by the Union. He acknowledged, “Men cannot say anything worse of me than they have said. I have been belied from head to foot, and misrepresented to the last degree” (159). With the vicious scorn and ridicule he often faced, it would have been easy for him to adopt a bitter and skeptical perspective on life and ministry, but he did not.
 
In addresses to students at Spurgeon’s Pastor’s College he warns them against adopting a doom and gloom perspective by constantly railing with outrage against the times. In 1872, he began his Annual Conference for these young preachers at which he customarily delivered a presidential address. The most outstanding of these addresses were reprinted after his death in the book An All-Around Ministry. These addresses brought the best out of Spurgeon and exposed his pastor’s heart. They are as helpful for Christians today (if not more so in the age of social media) as they were to those who originally heard them.
 
Make no mistake; it is the best time in human history to be a Christian. We are the privileged people “on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).
 
Consider Spurgeon’s wise gospel counsel about railing against the times in the excerpts from An All-Around Ministry below.
 
What have you and I to do with the times, except to serve God in them?
 
Come fair or work come foul, my comrades, hold ye the fort. Some men attempt to excuse their own negligence by blaming the times. What have you and I to do with the times, except to serve God in them? The times are always evil to those who are of a morbid temperament.
 
A scholar tells us that he once read a passage from a book to a worthy gentleman of the desponding school; it described “these days of blasphemy and rebuke,” – I think that is the correct expression, – and lamented the failure of the faithful from among men. “Ah, how true!” said the worthy man, “it is the precise picture of the times.” “What times?” exclaimed the scholar. “These times, of course,” was the reply. “Pardon me,” said the scholar, “the sentiment was delivered about 400 years ago; examine for yourself the date of the volume.” The benefit of railing at the times it would be hard to discover, for railing does not mend them (52).
 
What have you to do with the times? Do your own work
 
What have you to do with the times? Do your own work. If God has made you a house-cricket, and bidden you chirp, you could not do better than to fulfill his will. As he has made you a preacher, you must abide in your vocation. Even if the earth should be removed, and the mountains should be cast into the midst of the sea, would that alter our duty? I think not. Christ has sent us to preach the gospel; and if our life work is not yet finished, (and it is not,) let us continue delivering our message under all circumstances till death shall silence us (52).
 
Every year is an exceedingly critical time and has people who gain a following by crying “Woe! Woe!”
 
So far as I remember, every year has been an exceedingly critical time; and so far as I can see in history, almost every six months some fervid spirit or another has written about “the present solemn crisis.” There are persons who always believe in the imminent peril of the universe in general and of the Church of God in particular, and a sort of popularity is sure to be gained by always crying “Woe! Woe!” (64).
 
We must not be “Woe! Woe!” Christians. We must be “Grace! Grace!” Christians.
 
Prophets who will spiritually imitate Solomon Eagle, who went about the streets of London and the time of the plague, naked, with a pan of coals on his head, crying “Woe! Woe!” are thought to be faithful, though they are probably dyspeptic. We are not of that order: we dare not shut our eyes to the evils that surround us, but we are able to see the divine power above us, and to feel it with us, working out its purposes of grace.
 
We say to each of you what the Lord said to Joshua in the chapter we have just read, “be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” Our trust is in the living God, who will bring ultimate victory to his own cause (64).
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Prince is the Pastor of Preaching and Vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky. This post originally appeared on his blog at davidprince.com)

2/23/2015 2:25:43 PM by David Prince, Prince on Preaching | with 0 comments



Should we pray for the defeat of ISIS, or conversion?

February 19 2015 by Russell D. Moore, ERLC President

A pastor friend told me last week that he had church members enraged with him when he suggested from the pulpit that we ought to pray for the salvation of Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists. The people in his church told him that he ought to be calling for justice against them, given their brutal murder of Christians, not for mercy.
 
I thought about my friend a few days ago when these murderous fiends beheaded 21 of our brothers and sisters in Christ because they refused to renounce the name of Jesus. I was not just angry; I was furious. Can such fury co-exist, though, with the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)?  When we pray about such evil, how should we pray?
 
The complexity of the Christian calling in the world was seen even in social media. One friend of mine posted that the slaughter of Christians overseas calls for the world’s only remaining superpower to take action. Another said, quoting singer Toby Keith, that it was time to “light up their world like the Fourth of July.” To that, I say, “Amen.” Another friend, a former student of mine posted, “Oh, that there might be an ISIS Saul standing there now, holding the cloaks, whose salvation might turn the Arab world upside down with the gospel!” To that I say “Amen,” too.
 
These are not contradictory prayers.
 
Jesus says to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). The Spirit of Jesus in the prophets and in the apostles also tells us that those who turn a blind eye to the killing of others are wrong. The fact that we feel contradictory praying both for justice against the Islamic State and for salvation for Islamic State terrorists is partly because we fail to distinguish between the mission of the state in the use of the temporal sword against evildoers (Romans 13:4) and the mission of the church in the use of the sword of the Spirit against sin and death and the devil (Ephesians 6). But that’s not, I think, the main problem.
 
The main problem is that we sometimes forget that we are called to be a people of both justice and justification, and that these two are not contradictory.
 
It sounds awfully spiritual, at first blush, to say that we should not pray for the defeat of our enemies on the field of battle. But that’s only the case if these enemies are not actually doing anything. This terrorist group is raping, enslaving, beheading, crucifying our brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as other innocent people. To not pray for swift action against them is to not care about what Jesus said we should seek, what we should hunger and thirst for, for justice. A world in which murderous gangs commit genocide without penalty is not a “merciful” world but an unjust horror show.
 
As Christians, we ought to be, above all people, concerned with such justice. We not only have the common grace standing of caring about stopping murder and injustice, rooted in the image of God and the law written on the heart. We also have the personal implication here. It’s our household being wiped out in the Middle East, the very place where our church started. For us, this isn’t a matter of “them;” it’s a matter of “us.”
 
At the same time, praying for the salvation of our enemies, even those committing the most horrific of crimes, is not a call to stop praying for justice against them. The cross, after all, is not forgiveness in a contemporary therapeutic sense – in which one is merely absolved of wrongdoing as though it were all a misunderstanding. No, that’s precisely the Apostle Paul’s point in the Book of Romans.
 
The gospel does not say, “Don’t’ worry about it; it’s okay.” The gospel points us to the cross where sin is absorbed in a substitute. God’s righteous condemnation of sin is there. He does not, and cannot, enable wickedness. And God’s mercy is there in that He is the One who sends his Son as the propitiation for sin. He is both “just and the justifier of the One who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). The gospel doesn’t leave sin unpunished. Every sin is punished, either a the Place of the Skull, in Christ, or in the judgment of hell, on one’s own.
 
The thief on the cross – a Middle Eastern terrorist by Rome’s standards – in his act of faith did not believe that his salvation exempted him from justice. He confessed that his sentence was justice, and that he was receiving “the due reward for our deeds” (Luke 23:41) even as he cried out to Jesus for merciful entrance into the kingdom of Christ (Luke 23:42).
 
We ought, indeed, to pray for the gospel to go forward, and that there might be a new Saul of Tarsus turned away from murdering to gospel witness. At the same time, we ought to pray, with the martyrs in heaven, for justice against those who do such wickedness. Praying for the military defeat of our enemies, and that they might turn to Christ, these are not contradictory prayers because salvation doesn’t mean turning an eye away from justice. We can pray for gospel rootedness in the Middle East, and we can pray to light up their world like the Fourth of July, at the same time.
 
We are, after all, the people of the cross.

2/19/2015 11:18:28 AM by Russell D. Moore, ERLC President | with 0 comments



Don’t do it Charlotte!

February 18 2015 by Tami Fitzgerald, North Carolina Values Coalition

Should Christian photographers in Charlotte be required to photograph a same-sex wedding ceremony?
 
Should a Christian t-shirt printer be required to print t-shirts for a gay pride parade?
 
Should a Christian adoption agency be required to place a child with a same-sex couple?
 
No, of course not.
 
Unfortunately, Charlotte businesses could soon be forced to make the difficult choice between providing services and promoting messages that violate their religious beliefs or facing legal harassment and financial penalties.
 
Next week, the Charlotte City Council is set to vote on a sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) ordinance that we must stop! Basically, these ordinances function by expanding the list of already protected classes like sex, race, and nationality to include sexual orientation, gender identity, familial status and gender expression.
 
By adding “sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status and familial status” to the list of protected characteristics in the city’s non-discrimination law, the city will require many businesses, non-profits and public facilities to promote messages and ideas and take actions that are contrary to their religious beliefs about human sexuality – such as promoting marriage as something other than the union of one man and one woman.

Tami-Fitzgerald-headshot.jpg

Tami Fitzgerald is the executive director of the NC Values Coalition. She will be one of the speakers at the Don’t Do It Charlotte Rally on Monday Feb. 23. outside the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center at 4:15 p.m.

 

This expansion of Charlotte’s non-discrimination law would not only threaten the religious liberty of Christian business owners, but it will also threaten the safety of women and children in Charlotte’s public restrooms because it will require public restrooms to be open to use by persons of any sex. This means that any man claiming to identify as a woman would be allowed to use a public women’s restroom!
 
Everyone in North Carolina should be concerned about the possibility of this ordinance being passed by the Charlotte City Council. Equality NC and the Human Rights Campaign are on a mission to get city councils around our state to enact these dangerous SOGI ordinances.
 
They successfully got the Greensboro City Council to pass an ordinance in January, and now they have set their sights on the Charlotte City Council. If they are successful in Charlotte, it could set off a domino effect for city councils across the state.
 
In other cities across the country where these SOGI laws exist, Christian business owners have been harassed by lawsuits, forced to pay exorbitant fines, and some have even had to close their businesses.
 
In Idaho, wedding chapel owners and pastors Donald and Evelyn Knapp are in legal proceedings against their town, fighting the claim that by not performing same-sex weddings they have violated the town’s non-discrimination policy.
 
In Washington, the owner of Arelene’s Flowers, Barronelle Stutzman, is fighting a lawsuit because she declined to provide a wedding bouquet for a same-sex couple. Barronelle has had a nine-year customer relationship with one of these men, but providing flowers for a same-sex wedding violated her religious beliefs. Even though Stutzman referred the couple to another flower shop where they were able to purchase a wedding bouquet, they are still suing her for violating Washington’s non-discrimination law, which includes a SOGI provision.
 
The owners of an Oregon bakery who turned away a lesbian couple who sought a wedding cake were found to have violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws. The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries ruled that Aaron and Melissa Klein, who own Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Gresham, Ore. will have to pay the lesbian couple up to $150,000, even though participating in the same-sex wedding violates the Klein’s religious beliefs.
 
The same is true for countless Christian florists, print shop owners, wedding venue operators, photographers, bakeries and other businesses across the country in towns and states that have SOGI provisions in their non-discrimination laws.
 
On the surface, SOGI ordinances may seem innocuous, but in reality they provide gay or transgendered people with a vehicle to sue and bully Christian business owners.
 
The potential impact on public restrooms by SOGI ordinances is equally concerning.
 
In Olympia, Washington, where the town has a SOGI provision, a man who identifies as a woman frequently uses the women’s showers and locker room at a local state college that shares its facilities with a children’s swim club. Despite frequent complaints about indecent exposure in front of girls as young as 6 years old, the non-discrimination law prevents the college from banning this man from the women’s locker rooms.
 
Stories just like these could be on their way to Charlotte – and the rest of North Carolina – if we do not stop the Charlotte City Council from voting to pass this non-discrimination ordinance next week.
 
We need your help urgently. Here are seven things you can do right now to help us stop the Charlotte City Council from passing a SOGI ordinance:
 
1. Inform your network! Please forward this email to every friend, family member and pastor that you know in Charlotte. It is crucial that we get the word out about this before next Monday.
 
2. Attend the rally! To show our unified opposition to the ordinance, there will be a rally on Monday, Feb. 23 at 4:15 p.m. outside of the Charlotte City Council meeting. Please attend if you are able. Even if you don’t live in Charlotte, your presence at this rally could have a major impact on stopping SOGI ordinances from spreading across the state. As a bonus, you’ll get to hear from a wonderful group of leaders including Tami Fitzgerald, the Benham Brothers, Pastor Mark Harris, and author and apologist Frank Turek.
 

Don’t Do It Charlotte Rally
Monday, February 23rd
4:15 p.m.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center
600 East Fourth Street, Charlotte, NC

 
3. Attend the City Council meeting! Plan to attend the Charlotte City Council meeting after the rally. We want to have a huge crowd in the room at the Council meeting so that the City Council members will have no choice but to acknowledge our concerns!
 
4. Speak at the City Council meeting! You can sign up to speak at the meeting on Monday. Directions for doing so are provided here. If you are a pastor, mom, business owner, or someone who frequently travels to Charlotte, we urge you to consider voicing your concerns publicly at the meeting!
 
5. Email City Council members! Email the Charlotte City Council and voice your concern.
 
6. Write letters to local newspapers! Submit letters to the editor of the Charlotte Observer.
 
7.  Use our hashtag on social media! #DontDoItCharlotte
 
We must stop this dangerous non-discrimination ordinance from passing in Charlotte!  PLEASE TAKE ACTION TODAY!

UPDATE: The Biblical Recorder has learned that the Charlotte City Council has moved the council meeting to Monday, March 2 at 6 p.m.


Related Stories:
Charlotte City Council to vote on transgender policy

2/18/2015 12:16:30 PM by Tami Fitzgerald, North Carolina Values Coalition | with 0 comments



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