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Guest Columns

Same-sex marriage & the pro-life example

September 30 2014 by Bryan Cribb, Baptist Press

No issue flummoxes and frustrates evangelicals in today’s culture wars more than that of homosexuality.
 
It seems to many Christians a no-win issue. If we speak about it in any way, the media attempts to marginalize us. If we stay on the sidelines, it feels like we are sitting silent on the Titanic of traditional marriage as it sinks in the sea of cultural chaos.
 
I find myself pondering – as an evangelical father, as a Bible professor, as an elder in a local church – how to navigate these chaotic cultural waters. As evangelical Christians convinced of the biblical plan and theological mandate of traditional marriage, what should we say, think and do in this world where our views are disregarded, misunderstood, misinterpreted or impugned as antiquated and intolerant?
 
While reasoned disapproval can and should be expressed in the right circles and circumstances, we need to realize that homosexual behavior is only going to become more public, more prevalent and more praised. But perhaps the current culture is not an irreparable reality.
 
I wonder if, as evangelicals, we might take some lessons from the pro-life movement. Early in the pro-life movement, many tried to argue against choice and the pro-abortion arguments. Though these arguments were correct and many times biblically grounded, this strategy of negativity did little to impact the direction of the debate – principally because of the shifts in culture and the movement away from biblical authority.
 
However, in recent years, the pro-life strategy shifted from arguing “against” abortion and to arguing “for” life. Ultrasounds, pro-life crisis pregnancy centers and science itself seems to be winning the day for the pro-life argument. Studies have shown that Millennials are much more likely to support life than any other cultural issue.
 
In no way should we shy away from calling homosexuality what it is but, at the same time, I wonder if a positive and “grassroots” strategy might prove more effective – especially among Millennial Christians who seem to be moving further away from biblical marriage. In other words, instead of focusing public efforts on arguing against homosexuality, constructively promote “for” biblical marriage.
 
So, for example, evangelical preachers should celebrate the beauty of the biblical metaphor of marriage as rightfully patterned after the relationship of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:22-33). In this way, we should show that marriage is at root a profoundly “gospel” issue.
 
We should also commend the original creation-vision for marriage as demonstrated in Genesis 2. Indeed, is this not what Jesus did when faced with unbiblical views of marriage in His day (Matthew 19:1-12)?
 
Church leaders should demonstrate healthy marriages in their own lives, purposefully inviting especially younger Christians into their homes to witness their examples. Christian parents should teach and model the principles of biblical manhood and womanhood as well as God’s purposes for marriage to their children. Truly, discipleship on the church and family level must include the issues of marriage and sexuality.
 
Social media, when used, should trumpet the virtues of biblical marriage – edifying, rather than tearing down. We should be known by our love for one another and for the outcast. And perhaps most importantly, we should pray that the light of the gospel and of the gospel-centered vision of marriage might penetrate the cultural fog surrounding this issue.
 
Of course, no easy answers exist. And we should be prepared to be maligned by many, even if we do attempt a more constructive approach. But if we are attempting to maintain an unhelpful strategy, maybe we need to look at changing. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “A sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bryan Cribb is associate professor of Christian studies at Anderson University in Anderson, S.C., and chair of the Christian studies department. This column first appeared at the Anderson University faculty blog MinistryU.org.)

9/30/2014 10:27:30 AM by Bryan Cribb, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘The Song’ updates King Solomon

September 29 2014 by Phil Boatwright, Baptist Press

Faith-based films are becoming more and more like real movies, not just cinematic sermonettes. Better still, many Hollywood actors looking for roles of substance are embracing film characters that depict the spiritual nature of mankind.

Greg Kinnear brought a gravitas to the film “Heaven Is for Real.” Reese Witherspoon took basically a supporting role in “The Good Lie” (opening on Oct. 3). Nicolas Cage is soon to be seen in the reboot of the “Left Behind” end-times saga. Still others are on their way to the same cinema screens that normally feature caped crusader actioneers and crude comedies starring guys named Seth.

The Song,” a modern take on the life of Solomon which opened Friday, Sept. 26, may be the best so far.
Alan Powell, son of Florida pastor Richard Powell, is receiving rave reviews for his debut screen performance as Jed King in The Song. A music-driven romantic drama, The Song shows the protagonist’s search for things we all long for: significance in life and the true meaning of marriage. The film is produced by Kyle Idleman, teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, in conjunction with City on a Hill productions.

Idleman believes “it’s time to ‘take back’ the conversation on love, sex and marriage from the worldly way they’re usually treated and instead ‘awaken love’ the way God intended.”

The updating of biblical parables requires a savvy touch by anyone attempting to transfer them to the motion picture screen. After seeing countless renditions of the prodigal son’s hard knocks/life lessons treated with all the subtlety of a Joe Biden speech, I was leery of a film update of the lives of King Solomon and his father King David. I was pleasantly surprised, however.

Writer/director Richard Ramsey adeptly transfers Solomon’s assertions about what really matters in life, found in Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, to today’s setting. His lead character is a musical celebrity, a person lured by all the temptations that affected Kings Solomon and David.

Ramsey presents the sanctity of marriage both intellectually and emotionally, and never overwhelms the story with the underlying testimony. His cast reaches all the right notes and the crew’s technical contributions help energize the proceedings.

I must admit that I had to overcome one prejudice. In keeping with most movies and commercials, the lead wears a four-day growth of beard for the first third of the movie, which remains at the same length scene after scene, even in flashbacks.

I interviewed the film’s star the other day and made it clear that if we could get past this first question, he’d find the remainder of the inquiries to be of a more friendly nature. He was game:

PHIL BOATWRIGHT: Okay, here goes. What’s with the four-day growth of beard through the first third of the movie? I know it’s a trend but often in movies its use says more about the actor than the character. What was your reason for having it and did the director argue over it?

ALAN POWELL: Richard Ramsey was looking for a way to age the character. I’m seen as a young teen early on, but I age throughout the story. The beard helped. Then, as you will recall, the beard begins to grow as the character becomes more consumed by his career.

BOATWRIGHT: (I dropped the subject and moved on.) What’s your religious background?

POWELL: I’m the son of a minister, brought up in church.

BOATWRIGHT: Are you still a churchgoer?

POWELL: Absolutely. My wife and I are regular attenders. I take my faith seriously – and my witness. In the film, for example, I have to kiss the actress who plays Jed’s wife. I’ve taken a vow not to kiss anyone other than my wife. I mean, the film is about the importance of marriage, so it just didn’t seem right that, for the sake of a movie, I’d kiss another woman. So, through movie trickery I’m actually kissing my real-life wife in that scene.

BOATWRIGHT: What are you hoping people will take away from your film?

POWELL: We get caught up in the busyness of life. And we often seek what glorifies ourselves. But as Solomon realized, “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.” He came to understand the true purposes of our being here and what was truly important to a person’s soul. I think the film addresses this issue with integrity. It’s my prayer that The Song will witness to nonbelievers and help strengthen the body of Christ, plain and simple.

Alan and I ended our conversation as brothers in Christ, despite my four-day-beard-growth annoyance. A moving, entertaining ode to marriage, The Song is one of the best films of the year.
 

(EDITOR'S NOTE – In addition to writing for Baptist Press, Phil Boatwright reviews films for www.previewonline.org and is a regular contributor to "The World and Everything In It," a weekly radio program from WORLD News Group.)
9/29/2014 1:33:49 PM by Phil Boatwright, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Raising your children in an age of increasing persecution

September 26 2014 by Renée Bates, ERLC

Last Christmas, my husband and I bought a copy of The Action Bible, a collection of Bible stories presented comic book style, for our nine-year-old son. Unsurprisingly, he loved it and carried it with him everywhere. He would load up his school backpack and put The Action Bible in with his school supplies every day.
 

Religious intolerance hits home

Until one day when, after school, he told me that he’d gotten in trouble.
 
When I asked him what happened, he said that during free reading time he pulled out his Bible. His teacher approached him and quietly asked him not to bring that book to school again. I was surprised. Really? Here in the suburbs of the Bible Belt? Knowing his teacher, I didn’t raise a fuss. I told Eli to be a little more careful about bringing it out during class to which he responded, “I don’t care what they do to me! They can’t keep me from worshiping Jesus!” His response elicited from me a sense of pride and alarm.
 
My husband and I have always known that we were going to need to prepare our children for resistance to the Christian faith, but we had wrongly assumed that it would be with regards to bold evangelizing when they were older. It never occurred to us that we’d need to talk to them about it where we are now. Such is the thinking of much of the church in America.
 
Many of us, myself included, have become so accustomed to freely worshiping Christ in public that to be opposed is taking us by surprise more than it should. The faithful apostle tells us pointedly in 1 Peter 4:12, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.” Granted, The Action Bible incident was no fiery ordeal, but we were surprised. I’m thankful that the Lord used this episode to gently awaken us from our comfortable slumber.
 
As I wrote last time, religious liberty in America is increasingly being limited as those practicing their faith openly, particularly Christians, are being told keep faith out of the public sphere. And as the hostility is ramping up, we are forced to remember that this is not just a grown-up situation—our children will be involved as well. So how are we to think about raising our children in this growing hostility?
 

Raising eternal creatures

We are prone to forget in the chaos of team sports, report cards and doctor’s appointments that our children’s lives are much more than the here and now. As Gloria Furman tells us in Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full, “Our children are so much more than just potential adults.” It is imperative that we bear this in mind. Our kids are eternal souls over whom we have been made stewards. We cannot simply fixate on making sure they know how to function politely in a world that is passing away.
 
As parents who love and follow Jesus, we have been given the responsibility of teaching our children who Christ is and what he’s done. They are going to be asked to give an account for their lives, so we need to teach them the things of God. We must dedicate ourselves to making sure that our little and not-so-little ones know the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps this seems like Christian Parenting 101, but as a fallen, sinful parent I know that life gets busy and we end up taking for granted the overwhelming necessity of teaching eternal things to our eternal creatures.
 

Showing our children Christ’s glory

When my son’s faith in Christ was opposed, his reaction was one of determined obedience. “I don’t care what they do to me! They can’t keep me from worshiping Jesus!” are the words that came from his little mouth as an overflow of his heart. This is not because my husband and I are perfect parents or because our son is an angelic little Christian, but rather because Eli has seen that Jesus Christ is valuable.
 
If we are to raise our children in a world that will only increase in its hatred for Christians, and we desire for our children to endure this hatred, then we must show them the glory of Christ and his worthiness. Jesus Christ is the fundamental truth who precedes all other reality, matchless in glory and worthy of all worship.
 
Do our children see this truth emanating from us? Do they learn from our words and deeds that Christ is our beloved King? Do they see us loving him and making hard choices for him? Are they witness to our praise of him and our singing songs and hymns that glorify him? Are we teaching them who he really is or are we teaching them that he’s simply the “reason for the season” or the reason we have to wake up early on Sunday mornings? Are we begrudgingly worshiping him or are we joyfully heralding his majesty?
 
Much of what our children come to know about the value of Christ Jesus will undoubtedly come from us. Let us dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to the passionate praise of our King, not simply because we want our children to see us, but because we are enthralled with the glory of the gospel and what Christ has done to ransom our souls! Let’s be a generation who models the obedience of laying down our lives for the Lord to the next generation.
 

Felicitatis and her seven sons

When I think of raising children who would gladly lay down their lives for Christ, I am reminded of the story of Felicitatis and her seven sons in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs:
 
Felicitatis, an illustrious Roman lady, of considerable family, and the most shining virtues, was a devout Christian. She had seven sons, whom she had educated with the most exemplary piety. Januarius, the eldest, was scourged, and pressed to death with weights; Felix and Philip, the two next had their brains dashed out with clubs; Silvanus, the fourth, was murdered by being thrown from a precipice; and the three younger sons, Alexander, Vitalis and Martial, were beheaded. The mother was beheaded with the same sword as the three latter.
 
I am not calling anyone to seek a violent death or elevate these saints above their station, but there is an important point here. Felicitatis endured the crushing heartache of witnessing the death of a beloved child whom she had raised and brought up in the admonition of the Lord seven times. What devastating heartache. I cannot begin to imagine what that must have felt like.
 
And yet as I ponder it, I cannot help but imagine that as Felicitatis and her seven sons passed from this world and into the presence of their Savior Christ, they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that enduring such hatred had been even more worth it than they had the capacity to imagine. Let us keep this in mind as we raise our own children to see and know and endure for the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Renée Bates is a wife and mother of three. She serves at Pantego Bible Church in the high school ministry. This article was originally published at ERLC.com)

9/26/2014 11:23:11 AM by Renée Bates, ERLC | with 0 comments



Friends needed

September 26 2014 by Terry Sharp, Baptist Press

With another school year underway, let me encourage you to consider hosting an international student.
 
Why? Because international student enrollment is at an all-time high – more than 875,000 students, according to the Christian ministry International Students, Inc. Among their homelands: China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Vietnam, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Mexico.
 
China continues to send the most students – 29 percent. Many international students come from places that are restrictive or prohibitive to the Good News of Christ Jesus.
 
You may not realize this, but many are interested and receptive to the gospel while studying in the United States. We have a profound opportunity to influence future political and business leaders.
 
While studying in the United States, the majority of international students – as high as 75 percent – are never invited into an American home. An estimated 80 percent of these students are never invited to an American church nor do they have any meaningful contact with genuine Christians during an average stay of four years.
 
This information should pierce the heart of every believer. The church should reach out. No international student who wants to have an American friend should be lacking.
 
We cannot allow programmatic busyness or the fear of different customs, cultures or languages keep us from building relationships. If you will reach out, you’ll discover a multitude of opportunities to build friendships, meet needs and discover what it can mean to live out your Christian faith as a witness.
 
One of the first things you can do to share God’s love and Good News with international students is become a welcomer. Christians can and should be a part of welcoming and helping students acclimate to their new homeland.
 
Here’s how you can become a welcomer:

  1. Contact your local university to see about becoming a host family to an international student. Usually this is arranged through a program in the international student office, but call the university or universities in your area to find out for sure. Programs may differ, but generally you’ll receive a form to fill out that matches your family and a participating student. Typically you’ll be asked to host your assigned student throughout the school year. My family is hosting two students, and we make a point of including them in holiday festivities and meals as well as family birthdays, shopping excursions and worship opportunities at our church.

  2. Pick up international students and help them get settled into their dorms or apartments.

  3. Provide household goods and furniture for international students. Some churches and Baptist associations have developed a ministry to provide these items. International students secure household goods and furniture as they settle into their new places of residence and then bring them back at the end of the school year.

  4. Embrace students as a part of your life and be a genuine friend. Invite them for meals and to special family events, church activities and excursions such as ball games, bowling and amusement parks. On holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, explain the meaning of these special observances. Remember that they want to experience life in America.

If you will reach out, you’ll discover a multitude of opportunities to build friendships, meet needs and minister to people God has brought to your doorstep. Friends are needed. Will you be one this year?
 
Looking for resources to help you minister to international students? Here’s a list of organizations and their websites with ideas and resources that can help you:

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Terry Sharp is the director/lead strategist for the International Mission Board’s urban mobilization strategies.)

9/26/2014 11:16:00 AM by Terry Sharp, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Urgency

September 25 2014 by Ronnie Floyd, SBC President, Baptist Press

When you compare today’s church to the church of Acts, one major reality is missing: urgency. They knew how to tell time; do we? Most of the time we act as if time does not matter at all. At times, this is also visible in our Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). We must recapture a sense of urgency.
 
I have served as SBC president for just over 100 days. Over conference calls, personal calls, emails and meetings, I have connected with leaders in Southern Baptist life from all spectrums. I have listened to them, prayed with them and strategized with them. I have already spoken in numerous cities and states. Simultaneously, over these past 100 days, the entire world has faced unprecedented crises, while we continue to see our rapid moral slide as a nation.
 
Here is what I know from our leaders: Desperation is rising and there is a growing sense of urgency that we must see God fall down upon His people with fresh power and with fresh fire from heaven. We are learning that “we cannot fix ourselves.”
 
What time is it in the Southern Baptist Convention?
 
Romans 13:11 tells us, “Besides this, knowing the time, it is already the hour for you to wake up from sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.”
 
“Knowing the time” – perceiving and seeing this “time” – is not “chronos,” but, rather, “kairos,” an undeniable moment and season, fixed by a sovereign God as a moment of destiny. Interestingly, the apostle Paul writes this with the expectation of our Lord returning soon. Therefore, Jesus is nearer now than ever before. The urgency is upon us.
 
“Wake up” challenges our spiritual slothfulness or apathetic condition spiritually. Paul was telling them, “God is at work and we cannot be unresponsive, asleep and missing this season of decision and opportunity.”
 
Southern Baptist leaders: We are so blessed that Sovereign God has chosen us to live at this point in human history, in this decisive and critical season, and we must rise up and be more responsive than we have ever been because the urgency is upon us.
 
We need to be like the leaders mentioned in 1 Chronicles 12:32 “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.”
 
Southern Baptist leaders: We must be in touch with our times and know these are urgent and strategic days. These are God moments in human history. Are we sitting around using a calendar template from the year before or just meandering through our days as if they do not matter?
 
These days call us to faith, to believing God for the impossible, and to change not once, not twice, but perpetually to be able to be positioned continually as a denomination to reach the world for Christ. We must be willing to die to ourselves, die to our preferences, die to our disagreements, die to our biases and prejudices, and be willing to die to our ways, practices and actions that may prohibit God’s power upon us from reaching the world for Christ.
 
Let me remind all of us, we are not the same convention we were in 1845 when we began; nor are we the same convention we were in 1925 when we began the Cooperative Program; nor are we same convention we were in 1979 when the Conservative Resurgence began; nor are we the same convention we were in 1995 when the Conservative Resurgence began to be realized; nor are we the same convention we were in 2010 when we moved toward a Great Commission Resurgence. Our churches are ever changing; therefore, our convention must be ever changing and we cannot conduct ourselves preferring ancient systems in modern times. The main thing that brought our forefathers together in 1845 was to organize a “plan for eliciting, combining, and directing the energies of the whole denomination in one sacred effort, for the propagation of the gospel.”
 
This is what we must recapture from our past. We must prioritize the focus of having one sacred effort, the propagation of the gospel.
 
Therefore, in this urgent hour, we must rise up like never before and do what we know we should do. I want to challenge us as leaders tonight to rise up with a sense of urgency about these seven matters:
 

1. We need to believe God for the next Great Awakening.

I say it again: We cannot fix ourselves. Most of us know history relating to the awakenings of the past, but however you want to describe it, we need a mighty move of God in this nation like none of us have ever seen.
 
Personally, we need spiritual revival and live in it daily.
 
Corporately, the church’s number one need is spiritual revival.
 
Nationally, we need a Great Awakening, a season when the church has come alive powerfully, and God sets down upon regions, locations or on the entire nation, resulting in millions of people coming to Christ.
 
Internationally, we must take the gospel to every person in the world before they die eternally.
 
All of these things are connected together and dependent on one another. We need to learn from over 250 years ago when Jonathan Edwards called for all of God’s people to come together in these three things:
 
Clear agreement: We need revival in the church and awakening in America, as well as clear agreement that we must get the gospel to every person in the world because the Lord is coming soon.
 
Visible union: Visible union together, for all to see, and do so for the greater cause. Visible union how?
 
Extraordinary prayer: Extraordinary prayer is more than we are doing today personally, more than our churches are doing today, and more than our convention is doing today. We need to call out to God with great urgency, with a firm conviction, that revival and spiritual awakening is our greatest need. Therefore, we will not stop crying out to God until God brings it to us.
 
This is why I am trying to enlist thousands of Southern Baptists to begin to pray regularly for a Great Awakening and to reach the world for Christ. Surely we can agree on these two things. Please go tonight to pray4awakening.com and join us now. Go to your churches and beyond to make the appeal passionately. We must rise up and pray like never before.
 

2. We need to come together in unity.

Our culture of factions, divisions and fragmentations is a disease that is paralyzing our advancement. How can we expect God to look the other way when His Word calls us to value all people, respect each other and love each other unconditionally? We need to abandon any culture, conversation or persuasion that results in a 1 Corinthians 3 result that is full of: envy or contentious rivalry or jealousy; strife or wrangling with one another, debating every issue, resulting in divisive actions. Paul said these were actions “like unbelievers.” We need to cease creating parties built around human personalities or their views. Paul called this “unspiritual.” I want to remind all of us tonight: We are Jesus people, bondservants of Christ, dead to self and alive only in His grace.
 
As SBC leaders tonight, I have been and will work toward unifying us. Please contribute to unity, not distract from it. We must come together in unity.
 

3. We need to recapture what it means to cooperate together.

I would ask each of us to take time to read what our own Baptist Faith and Message 2000 states about cooperation. I will just read a part of this article:
 
“Members of New Testament churches should cooperate with one another in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ’s Kingdom. Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary cooperation for common ends by various groups of Christ’s people.”
 
It is time we trade in independence and competition for cooperation.

 
4. We need to elevate the Cooperative Program, both its need and value.

Somehow, some way, we need to discover ways to help all generations understand the Cooperative Program’s importance for what we do today and for our future. Pending the adoption of our church’s ministry budget this coming Sunday night, beginning Oct. 1 and 12 months succeeding, we will once again increase our financial gifts though the Cooperative Program in a very significant way. Why? I believe we must reach the world for Christ and we need to do it together. I believe in what we are doing and the leaders we have to help us take the gospel to the entire world.
 
Tonight, I want to call on all of our churches to come together and give more than we have ever given through the Cooperative Program in order to help us get the job done locally, regionally, in our respective states, nationally and internationally.
 
While I believe in what I just stated, please listen carefully because I also want to be clear about our present reality: While I am passionate about the Cooperative Program, I also recognize that we are in a “funding crisis” as a denomination. We have a divide that is growing over this issue and I recognize that. As your president, I will not put my head in the sand as though it is not existent or hope it will go away. I will not just believe all of our problems will go away by telling people to give more money. Nor will I try to shame others into doing what we would prefer they do because shaming pastors and churches is wrong and very unwise. Churches are autonomous and they will each do what they believe God wants them to do. Our denomination is seeing what our churches have been seeing for almost 20 years: loyalty to a brand is no longer automatic but is earned continually. No longer are churches going to be “loyal because they are asked to be.” They are asking us “hard questions that cannot be ignored.” I believe, we have a funding crisis not only in dollars, but also in philosophy.
 
Therefore, I will do all I can, to bring our leaders together soon and work through these differences toward a common goal. We cannot let this simmer into a boiling division. What I do know is that Southern Baptists are committed to the path of the Great Commission. Now we must accelerate dramatically our pace of fulfilling the Great Commission. Our challenge is not our path, but our pace. To this end, I will lead. I need you to pray. I am asking us to work together and work through it immediately. Regardless, wherever we are in this discussion, we need to rediscover our commitment to unity, cooperation and partnership. This will take all of us working together for God’s glory.
 

5. We need to recommit ourselves to personal and church evangelism.

We need to reverse immediately our present trajectory of decline in baptisms. Last year’s dismal results matching what we did 62 years ago, in a nation with at least 160 million more people today than then, and our SBC having thousands of more churches and ministers today than then, is frightening. Once again, we somehow must prioritize personal and church evangelism.
 
I have been conducting several conference calls with Southern Baptist leaders and groups of leaders, with as many as 20-plus leaders on the phone at once, trying to call all of us up, strategizing now, where 18 months from now we can see a turnaround.
 
I have talked to student pastors, collegiate pastors, young adult pastors and education pastors. For the past three years, the collegiate group focuses on a day, Oct. 14, called Engage24, challenging their Baptist students on university campuses to share Christ on this day. They have seen great and growing results.
 
They challenged me, “Pastor Floyd, what if you as president would ask Southern Baptists to join us?” After days of praying and considering, last Monday, I issued the call to all Southern Baptist Christians and churches to target Tuesday, Oct. 14, in that 24-hour period of time to share Christ in some capacity. Our own church is going to join in this effort, even targeting and creating several ways we can have evangelistic ministries alive and well on that specific day.
 
Please join us and challenge others. Challenge our churches. Spread the word. The level of our reaping will only be to the level of our sowing the gospel and praying as we go.
 

6. We need to come to Columbus, Ohio, June 16-17, 2015.

As we work toward addressing matters relating to our annual meeting and the future of it next year and years to come, I want to call on all of us to prioritize mobilizing people to Columbus, Ohio. I have already had a conference call with our Committee on Order of Business a few weeks ago and we are meeting together here this Wednesday (Sept. 24). Please pray for us.
 
We need the cross-generational disengagement from our meeting to change. I will be working together with our leadership to see this done. The Southern Baptist Convention meeting must become a celebration of what our churches are doing together to reach the world for Christ. We need to celebrate what God is doing! It should result in not only attracting people to come, but once there, motivating them to go back to their churches and tell the story. This should result in greater passion and resources than ever before to help us reach the world for Christ.
 
As a result of our recent trip to Columbus, our church produced a video that calls people to Columbus inviting them to join us. This is being shown in our state conventions and board meetings of our national entities. Not only do we have an English version, but a Spanish version.
 
This coming year in Columbus, we will have 1,000 college students involved in Crossover Columbus connected as summer missionaries with the North American Mission Board. They will be staying over for our meeting. I am thankful for Bryan Frye of the North American Mission Board and Mark Whitt of LifeWay, who have really worked together with me. Additionally, Dr. Paul Kim and his wife Rebekah, who live in Boston, believe God wants them to mobilize 500 Asian college students they are connected with, from across the world, for our Columbus convention. Rebekah is a recognized by Harvard University as a Southern Baptist chaplain ministering to Asian Americans. Therefore, please know, the flavor of our meeting will change dramatically and will become one great encouraging moment.
 
Additionally, I am announcing tonight, I have also enlisted the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board to do a joint commissioning service, prayerfully commissioning 100 missionaries between the two of them. This will be one fabulous moment. This is who we are and what we do best together. We need to experience it and celebrate it.
 
Therefore, come to Columbus. Sound the trumpet with me. We are going to gather the people and pray together like never before for God’s power to come upon us to see revival, spiritual awakening and the world be reached for Christ.
 

7. We need to elevate before our churches the international crisis in Iraq and Syria.

A friend recently sent me a quote from a Christian who lived in Germany during the height of the Nazi Holocaust. I’d like to read it to you:
 
“I Iived in Germany then. I considered myself a Christian. We heard stories of what was happening to the Jews, but we tried to distance ourselves from it.... [A] railroad track ran behind our small church, and each Sunday morning we could hear the whistle in the distance and then the wheels coming over the tracks. We became disturbed when we heard the cries coming from the train as it passed by. We realized that it was carrying Jews like cattle in the cars. Week after week the whistle would blow. We dreaded hearing the sound of those wheels because we knew that we would hear the cries of the Jews en route to a death camp. Their screams tormented us. We knew the time the train was coming, and when we heard the whistle blow, we began singing hymns. By the time the train came past our church, we were singing at the top of our voices. If we heard the screams, we sang more loudly and soon we heard them no more.... [A]lthough the years have passed, I still hear the train whistle in my sleep. God forgive me, forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians and yet did nothing to intervene.”
 
When we hear a story like that, we often wonder how anyone could shut their ears to such horror, how anyone could do nothing in the face of such obvious evil. Yet the truth is that we’re doing it again, this very day.
 
Perhaps you know or maybe you don’t, but currently in Iraq and Syria we are witnessing a once-in-a-thousand-year destruction of the Christian church. A modern book of martyrs is being written.
 
Just three days ago, I was invited to a confidential briefing with 40 global Christian leaders. What I learned on that call was that the situation in Iraq and Syria is even worse than any of us have imagined. Christian children have been beheaded, Christians are being cut in half, Christian women are being raped and trafficked by the thousands, and more than 500,000 Christians in Iraq alone have been displaced.
 
This evil, called ISIS, has literally gone from one Christian place to the next and killed, captured or forcibly converted everyone who couldn’t leave. What they have done to these people is demonic.
 
It’s an attempt at a brutal genocide, a kind of Christian holocaust that is also effecting other religious minorities, and it’s happening right now in our world, right under our nose, and most are not even talking about it.
 
And as leaders, you and I must face the fact that we have influence at this very moment; therefore, we must stand courageously.
 
I don’t want to sing louder in my church while my Christian brothers and sisters are crying in horror in Iraq and Syria.
 
So, I plead with you to join me in doing three things: 1) Pray every day for these brothers. Pray the prayer of Paul in 2 Thessalonians 3:2 that God might deliver them from wicked and evil men. Call on your church to pray even this Sunday about it. 2) Pastors and Christian leaders, educate yourself and speak up on behalf of these brothers and sisters in your churches and on social media. Don’t let the world ignore this. I call on each of us tonight as Southern Baptists to be a voice that resounds loudly and clearly about this issue. (3) Provide generous support financially to our own Baptist Global Response and our Global Hunger Relief on Sunday, Oct. 12. Both of these are providing assistance now to the major needs of these brothers and sisters being persecuted and displaced.
 
The Bible says, “When one member of the body suffers, everyone suffers.” We must speak for them as we hope they would speak for us. It is, for sure, a matter of life or death.
 
In closing: Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, these are days of crisis, urgency and opportunity. We must increase our pace in all we do. We need our own holy version of a hurry up, no huddle offense in fulfilling the Great Commission. We will only do this when we work together in this urgent moment, to pray more than ever, to unify more than ever, to cooperate more than ever, to give more than ever, to be more courageous than ever, and to commit ourselves more than ever to finish the task of reaching the world for Christ.
 
I want you to know: I am all in. Are you? Let’s do it together.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Ronnie Floyd is pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas and President of the Southern Baptist Convention. This article is adapted from Floyd’s message to the Executive Committee, “What time is it in the Southern Baptist Convention?” on Sept. 22 in Nashville.)
 

Related Story:

Prayer plea for Syrian, Iraqi Christians voiced by Floyd
9/25/2014 12:57:17 PM by Ronnie Floyd, SBC President, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Presence, but no witness

September 24 2014 by Jimmy Draper, Baptist Press

Here is an impossible dream: to think we can change our nation and our world simply by being present without being passionate and evangelistic in our faith and actions.

The mere presence of Christian institutions has never been a deterrent to the downfall of nations. In fact, the opposite is true. Consider:

• Muhammad, the father of Islam, grew up in the sixth century, untouched by the Christian churches that surrounded him. Abdiyal Akbar Abdul-Haqq, author of “Sharing Your Faith with a Muslim,” wrote, “The evangelistic fervor and missionary fire of the church of the earliest centuries began to cool off gradually as she started on a course of increasing secularization.”

When the church was confronted with the growing influence of Islam, it believed its presence was enough to make a difference. As Samuel Moffett, professor at Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Seoul, Korea, noted: “Faced with a choice between survival and witness, the church chose survival. It turned in upon itself. It ceased to evangelize. It survived, but what survived was no longer a whole church. It was a sick, ingrown community” (quoted at findthepower.net).

• Communism arose at a time when the institutional church in Russia was preoccupied with the color of vestments for priests to wear when conducting worship and discussing how many fingers should be extended in giving the benediction.

• Hitler appeared on the scene when Germany was thoroughly represented by Christian churches and leaders.

• Ghandi was trained in the United States in the midst of Christian churches. His own testimony is that the apathy of professing Christians is the reason he did not embrace Christianity.

• Many modern-day churches are like social gatherings with little sense of urgency in reaching our nation with the gospel of redemption. They are preoccupied with personal preferences, church leadership conflicts and other issues that rarely have eternal implications. We languish in a climate of conflict or complacency while our world rapidly unravels.

• America has more churches, more Christian books and literature, more Christian preachers, more Christian radio and TV stations, more Christian seminaries and Christian colleges, and more ready access to the gospel than any nation in the world. Yet our culture is virtually pagan and decidedly corrupt. Each generation is seeing fewer and fewer believers. Many churches are dying. Few are growing.

We retreat into our sanctuaries and live in our own little worlds, while the world we have been commissioned to reach does not even know we are here. A slumbering church will never meet the challenge of an aggressive secular agenda.

In all these cases, there was a Christian presence, but no witness.

Are Southern Baptists becoming a sick and ingrown community? Have we become so used to the gospel that it no longer thrills us, that it no longer has a grip upon our hearts to share it everywhere? Have we opted for survival instead of passionate witness?

One thing is for sure – the world needs more than our presence. It needs our witness.

The only hope of our nation and world is the change that comes through the redeemed lives of those who have been transformed by the power of the gospel message.

How do we move forward? What is our next step toward becoming the powerful, culture-changing force we were born again to be?

It begins with passion in the hearts of our leaders. Our churches will never be Great Commission churches until our pastors are Great Commission pastors, and church leaders, whether church staff or deacons or other lay leaders, are consumed with the command given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. And He promised to go before us and with us on that journey.
Every facet of Southern Baptist life, beginning with the local church, must be saturated with a hunger to see our nation and world revived by the power that can only come from God.

One thing is for sure: it truly is an impossible dream to think that we can turn the tide of godlessness and heresy that is looming on the horizon just by being here! Our world needs our presence . . . but it desperately needs our consistent witness!

(EDITOR’S NOTE - Jimmy Draper is president emeritus of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. This article is adapted from the Fall 2014 issue of SBC LIFE (www.sbclife.net), journal of the SBC Executive Committee. )

9/24/2014 11:05:22 AM by Jimmy Draper, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘Left Behind’ shapes up to be best movie on rapture

September 23 2014 by Ginny Dent Brant, Guest Column

The new movie, “Left Behind,” is based on The New York Times bestselling book series that bears the same title, co-authored by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, which has sold more than 65 million worldwide.
 
Stoney Lake Entertainment CEO Paul Lalonde, the screenwriter and producer, chose director Vic Armstrong and actor Nicholas Cage to remake this apocalyptic action-adventure film about the rapture. Lalonde and his brother Peter Lalonde were a part of the production crew that produced the original Left Behind in 2001.
 
The movie follows Academy Award winner Nicholas Cage (“National Treasure”) as pilot Rayford Steele, who is 30,000 feet over the ocean when the rapture occurs. Faced with a damaged plane and missing and terrified passengers, he must guide the plane to safety with little help from the world below which is engulfed in chaos. Buck Williams (Chad Michael Murray, “A Cinderella Story”) is the international news correspondent who unexpectedly serves as his co-pilot.
 
Hattie Durham (Nicky Whelan, “Hall Pass”) is a senior flight attendant on board who must set aside her fears and relationship with Steele to save passengers on the flight.
 
Jordin Sparks (2002 American Idol winner) plays a football star’s wife with her own secret, whose daughter vanishes on the plane during the rapture.
 
Meanwhile on the ground, Steele’s daughter, Chloe Steele (Cassi Thompson, “Cop Dog”), is left on her own to navigate the madness while trying to find her lost mother and brother, both of whom have disappeared in the event.
 
She struggles to understand the nature of God in a world spinning out of control.
 
Her mother, Irene Steele (Lea Thompson, “Dennis the Menace”), is caught in a rift between her faith and sharing it with her beloved family whom she warns about the coming rapture.
 
This film powerfully shows the chaos and results of people vanishing with no explanation through the eyes of Steele in the air and Chloe on the ground. Chloe searches desperately to find her mother and brother and puts her life at risk to save her father.
 
After frantically canvasing a hospital to find her brother, Chloe stumbles into the children’s unit only to find that all the children and babies have disappeared. A panic-stricken nurse informs her, “It didn’t just happen here. It’s all over the world.”
 
Paul Lalonde calls Left Behind, “A contemporary story that could happen at any moment. It’s based on a true story that hasn’t happened yet.”
 
Lalonde turned down offers from three major Hollywood studios to distribute Left Behind because those studios would not allow the final control to be in Stoney Lake Entertainment’s hands. Lalonde insisted Stoney Lake must have total control.
 
Lalonde desired to make this film bigger and better. With a $16-million dollar production budget, he admits he hired Nicholas Cage because Cage was his favorite actor.
 
He also emphasized, “Being a Christian was not a requirement of working on this film. No one was interviewed as to their spiritual beliefs.”
 
He wanted to hire the best actors, director, camera men, etc. He also wanted to extend the audience beyond Christians. And with Cage, he will bring his movie followers with him.
 
The first Left Behind movie is based on the entire Left Behind book, while this movie is based on the first 30 pages which cover six to eight hours that day. The 111-minute film is intense and focused.
 
Author Jerry Jenkins said, “I believe this film does justice to the novel and will renew interest in the entire series.”
 
Jenkins provided useful notes for the script during pre-production and visited the set during principal photography. Co-author Tim LaHaye added, “It’s the best movie I have seen on the rapture.” Both men acted as consultants for the film.
 
Nicholas Cage recently said, “My hope for this movie is that people will be entertained and thrilled by it, but also that they’ll go home and have conversations with their family, and ask, ‘Do you think this could happen, or couldn’t happen?’ and it’ll inspire discussion and closeness.”
 
This apocalyptic thriller is guaranteed to leave you on the edge of your seat while piercing your heart.
 
With an amazing, well-written screenplay, this film is embedded in current events and has more storyline twists, turns and additional characters than the original movie.
 
You will be amazed to see the excellent work of director Vic Armstrong, who is also one of the greatest stunt men of all time.
 
He doubled as Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones film series and served as the stuntman/action director for “The Amazing Spider Man.”
 
After seeing the movie, I agree with Tim LaHaye, “This is the best movie I’ve seen on the rapture.”
 
Theologians and pastors may disagree on the timing of the rapture regarding the seven year tribulation period, or whether the “snatching of God’s church” is separate or simultaneous with the second coming of Christ.
 
But on this we can all agree, Jesus is coming back to gather his church, and according to a poll conducted by the Barna Group in August 2013, “[41] percent of Americans over age 18 believe we are currently living in the end times as described by the prophecies in the Bible.” So my question to you is simple, “Are you ready?”
 
Left Behind is rated PG-13 and has been given the family seal of approval for ages 12 and up by The Dove Foundation. It premieres Oct. 3. Visit leftbehindmovie.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ginny Dent Brant is an author, speaker, counselor and soloist. She is editor-at-large for Sonoma Christian Home Magazine. Visit ginnybrant.com.) 

9/23/2014 9:48:14 AM by Ginny Dent Brant, Guest Column | with 0 comments



But what will I tell my children?

September 22 2014 by Jeff Palmer, BGR/Baptist Press

Several years ago, I was traveling in the southern Philippines, headed to a community where we were going to help with agricultural projects. Along the way, we passed through a village where a prolonged drought and an armed conflict had forced several families to take refuge in a local school.

We stopped to see if there was anything we could do to help. We were overwhelmed by what we saw but did not have with us what was needed to help. When we told the people at the school that we could not help them, one of the older women said, “But what will I tell my children? We have no food.”
    
There are almost 1 billion people in the world today who are wondering the same thing. The majority of these are women with children. Where will they get their next meal? What will they tell their children when they come home with no food?
 
Isaiah says, “and if you offer yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted one, then your light will shine in the darkness” (Isaiah 58:10).
 
James says, “If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15, 16).
 
And Jesus says, “I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I assure you: Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me” (Matthew 25:35, 40).
 
So, what will you and I do about that hungry person who asks what to tell their children? More importantly, what will we tell our children about what we have done for the hungry of the world?
 
Sunday, Oct. 12, is our Southern Baptist World Hunger Sunday. You can start now praying for the hungry of the world. You can also start saving – a few pennies here and there – to give an offering on behalf of people in need.
 
You can even do something right now by visiting our Global Hunger Relief website and making a contribution at www.globalhungerrelief.com.
 
What will we tell the children?
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jeff Palmer is executive director of Baptist Global Response (www.gobgr.org).)

9/22/2014 12:43:51 PM by Jeff Palmer, BGR/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



When Boomer pastors retire

September 19 2014 by Thom S. Rainer, Baptist Press

On Jan. 1, 2011, the first Baby Boomer turned 65. In fact, on that day, 10,000 of them turned 65. And that pace of aging will continue until 2030, when every Boomer is 65 or older.

The implications for churches are staggering. This generation is not of the mindset of previous aging generations. According to a Pew Research study, the typical Boomer does not believe old age begins until age 72. And the typical Boomer feels nine years younger than his or her chronological age.

The implications for church leadership are even more challenging when we realize how many Boomer pastors specifically will be retiring. This generation was, until recently, the largest generation in America's history. Millennials now represent the largest generation.

Keep in mind that the ages of these pastors today range from 50 to 68. The Boomers have more pastors represented in their generation than any other. There are many pastors reaching retirement age every month. And I'm not sure our churches are ready for this transition.

As I see it, five immediate issues need to be addressed:
  1. There will be more pastoral vacancies than qualified candidates. This issue is a demographic reality. There are not enough Gen X and Millennial candidates for pastoral ministry to replace the Boomers. Each of those subsequent generations has a much smaller Christian population base.
  2. Few churches are giving any thought to pastoral succession. I commend those congregations that are being proactive about this issue. William Vanderbloemen and Warren Bird have written an excellent book on this topic – "Next: Pastoral Succession That Works."
  3. There will be an abundance of qualified pastors for interim and bivocational positions. These Boomer pastors will not be idle. They will be seeking other ministry opportunities, particularly positions with part-time pay to supplement their incomes.
  4. Some Boomer pastors will stay at their current positions into their late 60s and 70s. Unfortunately, a number of these pastors are not financially able to retire. There will be many older pastors in some of our congregations.
  5. Some Boomer pastors will view their pending retirements as an opportune time to move their churches to merge with other churches. This reality is already taking place in a number of churches, many of which are struggling.
While I am an optimist about our churches, my caution and concern is for us to be prepared to respond to the looming challenges in pastor staffing.

(EDITOR’S NOTE - Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources. This column first appeared on his blog at ThomRainer.com.)
9/19/2014 11:50:36 AM by Thom S. Rainer, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Two conversations

September 18 2014 by Hal Ostrander, Baptist Press

Meet Derek and Cynda, wealthy Chicago couple, pillars of Windy City society – he, a successful senior VP of a thriving corporation; she, a dutiful wife; proud parents of one grown son, Jared, privileged and bred for business savvy.
 
Both genuinely saved at an early age, Derek and Cynda met at a Christian college and married soon after graduate school. But the years passed and their lives together somehow came to reflect an "I'll do it if it benefits me" approach to life – and their faith.
 
----------
 
Meet Khalid, an Indonesian rice farmer with a wife and four children. Saved only a year ago, emerging from an atheism he had kept to himself, his Muslim wife Liana and four children soon came to faith in Christ because of his godly example and the patient work of other believers.
 
Khalid loved the Lord Jesus with the kind of fervor common among newfound believers. But now he suddenly finds himself hiding from persecutors, alone and cowering in fear, somewhere in the Sumatran rainforest near the sloped shores of Lake Toba.
 
----------
 
Let's listen in on Derek and Cynda's brief conversation this evening, the night before the luncheon where Derek is to receive yet another accolade for last quarter's considerable profit margins.
 
And, as deep darkness falls, let's attend to Khalid's prayers during this, his time of greatest testing.
 
----------
 
"Cyn, tomorrow night we'll celebrate. I've already made reservations at Moto's for 7. You'd like that, wouldn't you? Think I'll have the salmon with carrot vinaigrette this time. Some rosé wine, too. What about you?"
 
"I'll decide when we get there, hon."
 
"K. Let's take the Jag just for fun."
 
----------
 
"O God, I'm so hungry ... so weak. The villagers don't dare help me, and stealing their chickens means they can't feed their families. Just a handful of rice tomorrow, a little water from the lake, Lord, that's all I need. Please keep the Laskar Jihad away from here. You know what they'll do if they catch me. Your will, Lord Jesus, only Your will!"
 
----------
 
"They're supposed to finish remodeling the guest bath tomorrow, dear."
 
"Let's hope so. Time is money, they say. The importing is sure costing us."
 
"But it's gorgeous, the Italian white carrera especially."
 
"Post some Facebook pictures. Everybody needs to see. We'll redo the kitchen next ... maybe the vacay condo, too!"
 
----------
 
"Father, my precious Liana! Where is she? The kids!? Did they get away? I don't care if our home's gone ... if only I could hold them one more time. Their shocked faces ... it's killing me ... they didn't know what was happening. Mercy and grace, Lord, let them call out for Your mercy and grace wherever they are! O, my rock and fortress, in You they must trust."
 
----------
 
"Derek, something's bothering me."
 
"What's that?"
 
"Remember back when we'd pray, you know, pray together?"
 
"Where're we going with this, Cyn?"
 
"I'm thinking Jared's not doing as well as he says. He's so inward lately. Something's just not right. I feel we need to pray for him, that he needs help."
 
"Oh, he'll be alright. It's just a phase. We've taught him well. Don't you remember those five straight Sundays at church? God knows we've done our part. Just pray while you go to sleep. Let's call it a day, huh?"
 
"K, goodnight."
 
----------
 
"Watch over us tonight, my Sovereign. I know Liana is praying. I feel it."
 
----------
 
Despite his distress and suffering, Khalid drifts off to sleep under a canopy of palm fronds, baffled but content with God's dealings....
 
Shuffling feet. Pale light. The scrape of drawn machetes. Awake now, he knew. The Laskar had found him. Dragged to a clearing. Tight ropes strapping wrists and ankles. Painfully stretched with stakes like a cross.
 
Four men. Four machetes. Four decisive strikes to his body in quick succession....
 
Incredibly, no screams of pain leave Khalid's lips. There's only time for one last prayer, loud enough for his assassins to hear, "Lord Jesus, take me home. I love You!"
 
----------
 
One couple still alive the next morning, but killed off long ago by the deceit and vanity of wealth's pretensions....
 
----------
 
Another murdered at sunrise by evil men, crazed and wielding the sword of terror....
 
----------
 
The question is simple yet profound: When we stand before the Lord, how will Kingdom faithfulness be measured? How faithful will our lives be found?
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Hal Ostrander is an adjunct professor of religion and philosophy at the San Antonio campus of Wayland Baptist University.)

9/18/2014 9:54:06 AM by Hal Ostrander, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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