August 2013

Calvary Baptist to cut ties with Scouts

August 27 2013 by BR staff

After nearly 60 years of sponsoring a Boy Scout troop, Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem has decided to end its relationship with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Pastor Rob Peters made the announcement to the church Aug. 25.
 
The church will discontinue its sponsorship effective Dec. 31, 2013. The announcement comes after the BSA voted in May to adopt new membership guidelines that allow youth who are openly homosexual into its organization.
 
“After prayer, conversation and deliberation the church has decided that it will end its relationship with the Boy Scouts of America,” Peters said in a video posted on the church’s website. Peters said the BSA’s controversial decision “directly challenges the moral standards of churches across the United States who sponsor Scout troops.”
 
The church will remain committed to providing a “smooth transition” for Scouts who have decided to continue in the organization, Peters said.
 
“We are currently assisting those in the Eagle Scout process to achieve their award in this current calendar year,” Peters said. “We are assisting those who wish to stay with the (BSA) to find another pack or troop.”
 
 “We are grateful for a Scouting program positively impacting so many young people in our church and community,” he said. “… We will continue to invest in starting a relationship with a similar kind of national outdoor, character development program, such as the one currently being launched called On My Honor.”
 
The church is launching an interim strategy to help transition Scouts into the new program that was started by parents and Scoutmasters earlier this year. According to the On My Honor website, the vision of the organization is “to be the premier national character development organization for young men which produces godly and responsible husbands, fathers, and citizens.”
 
“… We look forward to continuing our boys character development program under a new name and new charter,” Peters said.
 
“Our desire is to support and strengthen young people through our affiliation with a traditional values-based program.”    
 
For more information about On My Honor, go to http://www.onmyhonor.net/. For more information about joining or becoming a leader, contact Calvary Baptist Church at (336) 765-5542, or go to http://www.calvarynow.com/scouts.
 
The church’s website includes the following question and answer section related to the BSA’s decision to change its membership standards:
 
Q: What has changed in Calvary Baptist Church’s (CBC) relationship to BSA?
 
A: The BSA national leadership changed their membership standards to allow openly homosexual members to participate in Boy Scout troops. These changes become effective January 1, 2014.
The BSA national leadership addressed the issue of homosexuality among Scouts and viewed this as exclusively a behavioral issue rather than both a moral and behavioral issue.

The BSA changed the overall direction of their organization. The Scouting program chartered by Calvary has not changed. In other words, they moved, the local troop did not. 

 
Q: How will CBC respond to the BSA change in membership requirements?
 
A: Before finalizing a decision, the church leadership, deacons, and Scouting leaders carefully reviewed the needs of those in the program and their families, questions concerning participating in a new organization, and legal matters impacting these decisions. That decision has been made and is explained in the information statement released by Calvary Baptist Church.

CBC, as the charter sponsor of Pack, Troop, and Crew 942, will no longer be affiliated with BSA due to the higher commitment to Scriptural teaching as accepted in traditional Christian values. This moral standard is essential to uphold in policy as the Bible teaches that homosexuality is both a moral and behavioral issue.
CBC will end its charter and sponsorship with BSA on December 31, 2013. 

 
Q: How will Calvary Baptist Church transition away from BSA?
 
A: The ending date of December 31, 2013 will give a number of Scouts the opportunity to complete merit badges and Eagle Scout projects. Our scouting leadership will assist boys in transitioning to other Scout troops. The church leadership and CBC Scout leaders are aligning with a newly formed group called “On My 
Honor,” a national outdoor character development program for boys. A national meeting will be held in Nashville, TN in early September, and key leaders from the Scouting program and the church will attend and return with recommendations. CBC and Scout leaders are preparing a transitional program to assist those who desire to stay with CBC’s outdoor program for boys (camping, fishing, leadership training, etc.). 

 
Q: What will the new character development program for boys include?
 
A: It will include similar components as Pack, Troop, and Crew BSA programs.
 Boys who are members, as well as those who are not members, of CBC are welcome to join the new organization.
 Many activities of the current Scouting program will be available without the modified membership standards of BSA.
 
Q: Where can I find more information?
 
A: For more information, please contact one of the following leaders: Scouts – Truett Williams at twilliams@calvarynow.com; Guy Wentink at guy.wentink@wellsfargo.com; George Burns at George@anchorfinancial.org; Cubs – Sheri King at sking@calvarynow.com; or Bobby Keegan at cltkeegan@earthlink.net. Or, go to http://www.calvarynow.com/scouts.
8/27/2013 3:22:52 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments



Calvinism and S. Baptists: Six ideas for navigating this issue

August 27 2013 by Daniel L. Akin, SEBTS

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second part of our series on Calvinism. Read part 1.)

Grasping the magnitude of this issue is a daunting task for finite, sinful humans. A good dose of humility is certainly in order. As we attempt to understand both the Bible’s teaching and work alongside of those with whom we may not see eye to eye, what are some theological and practical principles that can guide us? I would make six suggestions.
 
1) In your doctrine of salvation, start with God and not man. The Bible affirms that salvation is from the Lord (Jonah 2:9) and by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift – not from works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). We should be God-centered in all of our theology, especially the doctrine of salvation. The Bible teaches that salvation is God’s work. He is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). He takes the initiative. He is the true Seeker!
 
2) We should affirm the truth both of God’s sovereignty and human free will. “The Abstract of Principles” was the founding confession for the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. It was penned by Basil Manly Jr. in 1859. Manly was a Calvinist, and yet Article IV on Providence reveals a healthy, theological balance in our Baptist forefather. Manly wrote, “God from eternity decrees or permits all things that come to pass, and perpetually upholds, directs and governs all creatures and all events; yet so as not in any wise to be author or approver of sin nor to destroy the free will and responsibility of intelligent creatures” (emphasis mine).
 
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Many Baptists believe the Bible teaches that God predestines and elects persons to salvation, but that He does so in such a way as to do no violence to their free will and responsibility to repent from sin and believe the gospel. Is there a tension here? Yes. Is there divine mystery? Absolutely! Many believe this is what Paul felt when, at the end of his magnificent treatment of this subject in Romans 9-11, he concludes with a doxology of praise and says, Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments and untraceable His ways (Romans 11:33). If you find it a challenge to fathom the depths of this doctrine then you are in good company!
 
3) Recognize that extreme positions on either side of the issue are biblically unbalanced, theologically unhealthy and practically undesirable. Biblically, we affirm the truth of all of God’s Word. Words like calledchosenelectionforeknowledge and predestination are in Holy Scripture. We should embrace them, examine them and seek to understand them. Words like believeevangelistgopreachreceive and repent are also in the Bible. Biblical balance requires that we embrace and affirm these as well.
 
Theologically, we dare not be seduced into living in a theological ghetto that may espouse a nice, neat doctrinal system, but that does so at the expense of a wholesome and comprehensive theology.
 
Practically we must not become manipulative and gimmicky in our presentation of the gospel as if the conversion of the lost depends ultimately, or even primarily, on us. Neither should we be lulled into an antipathy toward personal evangelism and global missions. Attempting to construct a doctrine of double predestination wherein God elects some to damnation, hates the lost, and consigns non-elect infants to the fires of hell would be viewed by most in the SBC as irresponsible and lacking in biblical support. Any theology that does not result in a “hot heart” for the souls of lost persons is a theology not worth having. I fear that some extreme forms of Calvinism have so warped the mind and frozen the heart of its advocates that if they saw a person screaming at the top of their lungs “what must I do to be saved?” they would hesitate or even neglect the gospel for fear of somehow interfering with the work of the Holy Spirit.
 
If the initials J.C. bring first to your mind the name John Calvin rather than Jesus Christ, and you fancy yourself more of an evangelist for Calvinism than Christ, then this latter word of concern is particularly for you. Never forget that the greatest theologian who ever lived was also the greatest missionary/evangelist who ever lived. His name is Paul.
 
4) Act with personal integrity in your ministry when it comes to this issue. Put your theological cards on the table in plain view for all to see, and do not go into a church under a cloak of deception or dishonesty. If you do, you will more than likely split a church, wound the Body of Christ, damage the ministry God has given you, and leave a bad taste in the mouth of everyone. Let me give an example. I am pretribulational/premillennial in my eschatology. It would be inappropriate for me to interview with a church and continue the discussion if I discovered that it was committed to an amillennial position.
 
Now let me address our topic. If a person is strongly committed to five-point Calvinism, then he should be honest and transparent about that when talking to a church search committee. He should not hide behind statements like “I am a historic Baptist.” That statement basically says very little if anything and it is less than forthcoming. Be honest and completely so. If it is determined you are not a good fit for that congregation, rejoice in the sovereign providence of God and trust Him to place you in a ministry assignment that is a good fit. God will honor such integrity.
 
5) Teach the issues to your people, especially your youth. Sometimes pastors get frustrated when they send their students off to college and seminary and they come back different. Sometimes they go to a liberal institution, and they return questioning or jettisoning the faith. Other times they go to a conservative school and return as double predestinarian, supralapsarian extreme Calvinists. They now question the public invitation and personal evangelism training, and redefine into insignificance the Great Commission. It has been my experience that this latter malady is more often caught from immature fellow students than from godly professors.
 
This observation is not intended to absolve our colleges and seminaries of their responsibility. It is to say, however, that we do our people no favors with a dumbed-down theology in the local church. We need to raise the biblical and theological bar in our churches, and we need to do so immediately. I believe we should train our people so they mature to the point that we can consider the great theological debates between Augstine and Pelagius, Luther/Calvin and Erasmus, Calvinists and Arminians.
 
I also believe we should help them mature to the point that we can familiarize them with the five points of Calvinism, the humanism of the Enlightenment, and the destructive criticism of rationalism/anti-supernaturaism and the Jesus Seminar.
 
Some may protest that these issues will be over their heads. I would strongly disagree. If our schools can teach our children chemistry and biology, physics and geology, algebra and geometry, political science and economics, then we can certainly teach them theology and apologetics, Christian ethics and philosophy. We, as the local church, can prepare them in advance for what they will encounter so that various ideologies can be carefully critiqued and extreme positions intelligently rejected for the errors they contain. Again, it requires a gradual and intentional maturing process – you don’t teach calculus to a first grader – but to neglect this area is to fail in preparing them to deal with the critical theological and social challenges of our day.
 
6) Recognize that our Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is a well-constructed canopy under which varying perspectives on this issue can peacefully and helpfully co-exist. Pelagians, Arminians and Open Theists will not feel at home in our Southern Baptist family. We will love them while also disagreeing with them. Is there a place for differing positions on the issues of election, the extent of the atonement and calling, as well as how we do missions, evangelism, and give the invitation? I am convinced that the answer is yes.
 
Further, I believe we will be the better for it theologically and practically as we engage each other in respectful and serious conversation. As one who considers himself to be a true compatibilist, affirming the majestic mystery of both divine sovereignty and human responsibility, I have been challenged and strengthened in my own theological understanding of those less reformed than I as well as those more reformed than I happen to be. Because of our passionate commitments to the glory of God, the Lordship of Christ, biblical authority, salvation by grace through faith, and the Great Commission, we work in wonderful harmony with each other, and I suspect we always will.
 
Finally, as a denomination we must devote as much passion and energy to studying the Word as we have to defending it. Let us be known for being rigorously biblical, searching the scriptures to determine what God really says on this and other key doctrinal issues. For the most part, we are not doing this, and our theological shallowness is an indictment of our current state and an embarrassment to our history! Furthermore, let none of us seek to be recognized so much for being Calvinists – five-point, modified, or otherwise – but rather for being thoroughgoing biblicists and devoted followers of Jesus Christ!
 
Conclusion
The great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon was a five-point Calvinist. He was also a passionate evangelist and soul winner. On Aug. 1, 1858, he preached a sermon entitled, “Sovereign Grace and Man’s Responsibility.” The words of wisdom that flowed from his mouth on that day could only come from a capable pastor/theologian with a shepherd’s heart and a love for the lost. We would do well to heed the counsel of this Baptist hero upon whose shoulders we stand today.
 
“I see in one place, God presiding over all in providence; and yet I see and I cannot help seeing, that man acts as he pleases, and that God has left his actions to his own will, in a great measure. Now, if I were to declare that man was so free to act, that there was no precedence of God over his actions, I should be driven very near to Atheism; and if, on the other hand, I declare that God so overrules all things, as that man is not free enough to be responsible, I am driven at once into Antinomianism or fatalism. That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one place that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find in another place that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is my folly that leads me to imagine that two truths can ever contradict each other. These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity: they are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the mind that shall pursue them farthest, will never discover that they converge; but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring. … You ask me to reconcile the two. I answer, they do not want any reconcilement; I never tried to reconcile them to myself, because I could never see a discrepancy. … Both are true; no two truths can be inconsistent with each other; and what you have to do is to believe them both.”
 
Here is a good place to stand. Here is a theology we can all affirm in service to our Savior.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Daniel L. Akin is president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. This article is being used with permission of the Southern Baptist Convention. The article was originally published in the April 2006 SBC Life, news journal of the SBC’s Executive Committee.)
 
Related story
Part 1

Glossary of theological terms
• Calvinism - A theological tradition named after sixteenth-century French reformer John Calvin that emphasizes the sovereignty of God in all things, man’s inability to do spiritual good before God, and the glory of God as the highest end of all that occurs.
• Doctrines of grace - Another term for the theological tradition commonly referred to as Calvinism.
• Arminianism - A theological tradition named after seventeenth-century theologian Jacob Arminius that seeks to preserve the free choices of human beings and denies God’s providential control over the details of all events.
• Supralapsarianism - The belief held by some Calvinists that God decided first that He would save some people then decided to allow sin to enter the world so He could save them from it.
• Double predestination - The belief that God predestines some to salvation and others to damnation.
• Atonement - The work Christ did in His life and death to earn our salvation.
• Providence - The doctrine that God is continually involved with all created things so that He maintains their existence, guides their actions, and directs them to fulfill His purposes.
• Pre-tribulational/pre-millennial - The view that God will rapture believers into heaven secretly during Christ’s first return prior to the great tribulation.
• Amillennial - The view that there will be no literal thousand-year bodily reign of Christ on earth prior to the final judgment and the eternal state.
• Pelagians - Those holding the theological beliefs of the fifth-century monk Pelagius, who believed that man has the ability to obey God’s commands and take the first steps to salvation without God’s assistance.
• Open Theists - Those who believe that God does not know with certainty all future events.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – While most pastors would recognize and understand the theological terms used in this article, we have a growing number of readers who have not had formal theological training and might be unfamiliar with such terms and phrases as these.)
 
Quotes from members of the Calvinism advisory committee
“I enthusiastically affirm the statement of our committee. While it candidly acknowledges differences Southern Baptists have, it’s a powerful reminder that we stand together on essential doctrines such as the inerrancy of Scripture, the free offer of salvation through Jesus Christ alone, and the universal sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross. ... the statement encourages all Southern Baptists – wherever we may stand with respect to Calvinism – to be gracious and constructive as we serve the Lord together.”
– Stephen Rummage, senior pastor, Bell Shoals Baptist Church, Brandon, Fla.
 
“I affirm the Calvinism Advisory Committee Statement for four reasons: It strikes a good balance as a consensus statement. It stakes out the ground where we can stand together on the issues. It stipulates some of our key theological differences without being polemical, and it steers a good course for continued future discussion.”
– David Allen, dean, School of Theology, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas
 
“I am totally satisfied with the fairness of this document, which does a magnificent job of articulating our shared belief. I wholeheartedly add my full support to this document. I am grateful to each person that has worked so hard to help us speak with Christ-honoring clarity.”
– Johnny Hunt, pastor, First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga.
 
“For Christians to work together cooperatively requires broad doctrinal agreement, although not agreement in every point of detail. This statement underlines the broad areas of doctrine upon which the overwhelming majority of us as Southern Baptists agree.”
– Steve Lemke, provost and director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans, La.
8/27/2013 2:53:37 PM by Daniel L. Akin, SEBTS | with 1 comments



SBC ministry of reconciliation 50 years later

August 27 2013 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON (BP) – A dichotomy existed within the Southern Baptist Convention when 250,000 blacks and others, including those from a range of faith traditions, converged for the 1963 March on Washington championing civil rights and equitable economic opportunity.
 
While doors of many Southern Baptist churches and schools were closed to African Americans, all SBC seminaries supported by Cooperative Program dollars were racially integrated, according to 1963 SBC statistics housed in the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives. In all, 22 of the SBC’s 70 seminaries, universities, junior colleges, academies and Bible schools were integrated.
 
In spite of many Southern Baptist pastors supporting racial segregation, some Southern Baptists were just as resolved in championing racial inclusion, though they were in the minority.
 
As Americans mark the 50th anniversary of the 1963 march with a week of special events in the nation’s capital and other activities in select cities, the SBC has long led a ministry of reconciliation and made significant strides in modeling love across racial lines, but it still has much work to do, current African American Southern Baptist leaders told Baptist Press.
 
“There are more cultures worshipping together in our SBC churches than ever before. And to that I say, Praise the Lord!” said SBC President Fred Luter, the first African American president of the body, now in his second one-year term. “Yes, we have come a long way since 1963, but as the saying goes we still have a long way to go. Therefore the pastors, leaders and members of SBC churches need to continue to be intentional in our efforts to reach people regardless of their skin color.
 
“It was Dr. [Martin Luther] King’s dream, but it is also the heart of God,” said Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. “Red, yellow, black and white, we are ALL precious in His sight!”
 
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BP photo provided by National Archives and Records Administration
An estimated 250,000 blacks, whites and Jews attended the 1963 March on Washington seeking civil rights for African Americans.


K. Marshall Williams, chairman of the SBC’s African American Advisory Council and pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, echoed that past progress must be followed by continued growth.
 
“For a convention that has a history of being on the wrong side of slavery, to a 1995 resolution renouncing and repenting of its racist roots of defending slavery, segregation and white supremacy, to in 2013 seeing the second-term election of Dr. Fred Luter as the first African American president of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Williams said, “I believe that [the] SBC has made progress in modeling the love of the Lord by becoming more inclusive of ALL blood-bought believers who have been [birthed] into the body of Christ.
 
“However, in the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., ‘We have some difficult days ahead,’” Williams said. “Racial injustice, employment, economic and educational inequalities as well as a culture that is in moral decay is the day in which we live. Many in the church have left their first love and need to repent (Revelation 2:4-5).”
 
Long before the SBC’s 1995 resolution denouncing racism and seeking forgiveness from African Americans for slavery and racial injustice, the SBC Christian Life Commission authored “Race Relations: A Charter of Principles” promoting racial equality.
 
The SBC adopted at its 1947 annual meeting and reaffirmed the following year the report which stated, in part, “We shall think of the Negro as a person and treat him accordingly” and “We shall be willing for the Negro to enjoy the rights granted to him under the Constitution of the United States, including the right to vote, to serve on juries, to receive justice in the courts, to be free from mob violence, to secure a just share of the benefits of educational and other funds, and to receive equal service for equal payment on public carriers and conveniences.”
 
Yet the charter fell short of embracing integration, speaking instead to equality. Its last principle stated, “We shall actively cooperate with Negro Baptists in the building up of their churches, the education of their ministers and the promotion of their missions and evangelistic programs.”
 
In 1961, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary blazed a trail by hosting King as a chapel speaker in the Julius Brown Gay Lecture series.
 
The world had become geographically one with the invention of air travel, but the church was challenged to make the world spiritually one, King told the audience in his speech, “The Church on the Frontier of Racial Tension,” archived in audio and text on the SBTS website.
 
“It is urgently true that now we are challenged through our spiritual and moral commitments to make of this world a brotherhood. In a real sense we must all live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools,” King said. “We must see this sense of dependence, this sense of interdependence. No individual can live alone, no nation can live alone; we are made to live together.”
 
And the church “must make it palatably clear that segregation is a moral evil which no Christian can accept,” said King, who would deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech more than two years later at the Washington march. “The church must make it clear that if we are to be true witnesses of Jesus Christ, we can no longer give our allegiance to a system of segregation .... The church also has the responsibility of getting to the ideational roots of racial prejudice.”
 
Today, the SBC has heeded much of King’s call, but must stand firm against a world dying in sin, Williams told Baptist Press.
 
“We now have over 10,000 growing African American and ethnic churches in our convention. The recent appointments of Dr. Ken Weathersby and Dr. Gary Frost as vice presidents of the Executive Committee of [the] SBC and the North American Mission Board (Midwest Region), respectively, have been significant," Williams said. "We have had over 22 African American and ethnic former presidents of state conventions. The formation of the [SBC] Asian, African American and Hispanic advisory councils ... by Dr. Frank Page, Executive Committee president, will continue to enhance transparent dialogue and deliberate execution of biblical mandates that will promote unity in the body of Christ and building of the Kingdom of God.”
 
Williams encourages the church to set an example of godly love while fulfilling the Great Commission.
 
“The church needs to stand up with a prophetic voice and saturate our nation with a passionate pursuit of our God in prayer [and] personal holiness with practical application, which will precipitate radical heart changes and bring healing in the land,” Williams said. “Let us by the power of the Holy Ghost, love God first, then we can do justice, love others with mercy and without partiality and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8; Matthew 22:37-40).”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer.)
8/27/2013 2:29:53 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Believers learn to tell 'The Story'

August 26 2013 by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications

Nearly a decade ago Jerry McCorkle attended a Christian conference and heard something that altered the course of his ministry. 
 
“I heard Tim Keller say that the way we share the gospel is going to have to change because the culture has changed,” he said.
 
McCorkle, executive director of Spread Truth Ministries, heard Keller speak of America as a post-Christian society. McCorkle spoke Aug. 16-17 during “The Story: A Witness Training Conference,” held near Asheboro at Caraway Conference Center.

A generation ago, the majority of Americans had a working knowledge of the biblical story and broad themes such as the fall of man, sin and redemption. In that generation, McCorkle explained, the propositional truths of the gospel could be shared with the lost and be effective.
 
“People knew the basic story line of the Bible and you could share the gospel with them and they could connect the dots,” McCorkle said.
 
Yet, today’s America is fundamentally different, which means evangelism methods must change. In response, McCorkle created what eventually became known as The Story – an evangelism tool that helps believers share the gospel through the overarching biblical story of creation, fall, rescue and restoration.

“The gospel was not delivered to us in bullet points. It was delivered to us in a beautiful narrative that runs from Genesis to Revelation,” McCorkle said. “Believers must understand how to communicate that story to the culture.”
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BSC photo provided by Buddy Overman
Jerry McCorkle shares about The Story, an evangelism tool that helps believers share the overarching story of creation, fall, rescue and restoration. 


The two-day conference at Caraway that focused on The Story featured plenary sessions led by McCorkle and Alvin Reid, associate dean of proclamation studies and evangelism professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. The Story is a conversational approach to witnessing that encourages believers to build relationships with unbelievers through everyday conversations that naturally point to the overarching biblical story as the answer to life’s most pressing questions.
 
“This generation is searching. They know something is wrong in the world, but they can’t quite put their finger on it,” McCorkle said. “This is the only story that gives hope in life. It’s the only story that explains all of life.”
 

Build a Foundation

Witnessing through The Story begins with the story of creation, which resembles Paul’s approach to evangelism in Acts 17. This approach builds a foundation from which unchurched people can better understand the gospel.
 
“The largest number of people in America today are like people Paul met in Acts 17,” Reid said. “Paul started with creation. That’s where we must start.”
 
A key element in relaying the creation story is the image of God in man. McCorkle and Reid urged participants to begin their witness by affirming the image of God in everyone. This sets a positive tone for witnessing and helps create compassion for the lost.  
 
“What we’ve done sometimes in our witnessing is forget the beauty of the image of God in man,” McCorkle said. “There is a God who is loving and kind who has placed His image on people.”
 
Reid agreed, noting that traditional forms of evangelism can appear condescending when themes such as sin are approached in today’s culture, especially when people are unfamiliar with the concept. “Point people to the image of God in man by pointing out the creativity and special abilities of humans,” he said.
 
This approach builds common ground, allowing believers to share the rest of the biblical story.
 
Sam Cerniglia, lay leader for outreach and evangelism at West Burnsville Baptist Church, said the way McCorkle and Reid explained the image of God resonated with him.
 
“We can lose focus of the fact that we are all created in God’s image. That hit me hard, and it gave me a deeper passion for affirming the value of all human beings,” he said.
 
Prior to the conference Cerniglia was unfamiliar with The Story, but was impressed with the approach and said it’s a simple way for believers to witness to the lost.   
 
“The Story is a great way for all people in the church to share the gospel, especially those who are not gifted evangelists,” he said. “This is a simple way to integrate God’s story into our daily stories to show the world the truth. Anybody can do it.” 
 
Carlyle Hall, pastor of Castalia Baptist Church, was also unfamiliar with The Story prior to the conference. He said the training will change his approach to evangelism. “The Story makes you sit down with somebody and listen to their story,” he said. “I think when you do that they are more likely to listen to your story and that allows you to share God’s story.”
 
Hall said The Story is effective because it provides answers that many people in today’s culture are looking for. 
 
“This shows how the world became what it is today,” he said. “And it shows that God has done something to bring us back; that God is chasing us. It’s an excellent approach.”
 
For more information about The Story, visit www.viewthestory.com. North Carolina Baptists can also learn more about The Story during a breakout session at this year’s Annual Meeting in November. For more information, visit www.ncannualmeeting.org.
8/26/2013 11:22:36 AM by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Christian photogs must compromise beliefs

August 26 2013 by

SANTA FE, N.M. – The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled Aug. 22 that two Christian photographers who declined to photograph a same-sex union violated the state's Human Rights Act.
 
One justice said the photographers were “compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives.”
 
In 2006 Vanessa Willock asked Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin, owners of Elane Photography, to photograph a same-sex “commitment ceremony” in the town of Taos.
 
Huguenin and her husband declined the job because their Christian beliefs were in conflict with the message communicated by the ceremony.
 
Willock found another photographer at a cheaper price but nevertheless filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission accusing Elane Photography of discrimination based on sexual orientation. The couple was later found guilty and ordered to pay thousands of dollars in fines.
 
“The Huguenins today can no more turn away customers on the basis of their sexual orientation – photographing a same-sex marriage ceremony – than they could refuse to photograph African-Americans or Muslims,” Justice Richard Bosson wrote in the court’s unanimous decision.
 
Bosson said the Christian photographers are now “compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives.”
 
“Though the rule of law requires it, the result is sobering,” the justice wrote. “It will no doubt leave a tangible mark on the Huguenins and others of similar views.”
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Photo provided by Alliance Defending Freedom/Baptist Press
Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin. 


Bosson said the case provokes reflection on what the nation is about.
 
“At its heart, this case teaches that at some point in our lives all of us must compromise, if only a little, to accommodate the contrasting values of others,” he wrote.
 
Bosson said the Constitution protects the rights of the Christian photographers to pray to the God of their choice and follow religious teachings but he set forth a warning.
 
“But there is a price, one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life,” the justice wrote. ‘The Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people.”
 
Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal firm specializing in religious liberty cases, is representing the photographers. Attorney Jordan Lorence said the ruling in effect means gay rights now trump religious rights.
 
“Government-coerced expression is a feature of dictatorships that has no place in a free country,” Lorence said. “This decision is a blow to our client and every American’s right to live free.”
 
Lorence said the New Mexico Supreme Court undermined the constitutionally protected freedoms of expression and conscience.
 
“If Elane Photography does not have [its] rights of conscience protected, then basically nobody does,” Lorence told Fox News. “What you have here is the government punishing someone who says, ‘I, in good conscience, cannot communicate the messages of this wedding.’”
 
Amber Royster, executive director of Equality New Mexico, called the court decision a big victory.
 
“What it came down to is this was a case about discrimination,” she told Fox News. “While we certainly believe we are all entitled to our religious beliefs, religious beliefs don’t necessarily make it OK to break the law by discriminating against others.”
 
Royster said forcing a business that offers services to the public to abide by discrimination laws does not violate the First Amendment and does not pit gay rights against religious rights.
 
“It’s about discrimination,” Royster said. “It’s not religious rights versus gay rights. We have a law on the books that makes it illegal to discriminate against LGBT persons. It makes it illegal for businesses to do that, and this business broke the law by discriminating against this couple.”
 
Ken Klukowsi of the Family Research Council called the ruling profoundly disturbing.
 
“This decision may bring to Americans' attention the serious threat to religious liberty posed by overbearing government agencies when it comes to redefining marriage,” Klukowsi said. “Rather than live and let live, this is forcing religious Americans to violate the basic teachings of their faith or lose their jobs.”
 
Lorence said ADF is considering appealing the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
 
“This is very coercive, very authoritarian to crush those who do not agree and make public examples of them – and in a free society, that simply should not be,” Lorence said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Todd Starnes, with the Fox News Channel, is the author of Dispatches From Bitter America. This article first appeared at www.toddstarnes.com.)
8/26/2013 11:07:40 AM by | with 0 comments



Platt's Mideast simulcast grapples with 'why'

August 26 2013 by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – David Platt said he doesn't know why he was born in the shadow of dozens of churches when people on the other side of the world are born, live and die without ever hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
 
“I can’t answer the question why,” the Alabama pastor told a crowd of 400 believers of more than 50 nationalities in an undisclosed location in the Middle East.
 
“But I do know this: I’ve been reached for a reason” – to complete Matthew 4:19, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Platt’s Aug. 14 message focused on “Follow Me,” his latest follow-up book to the bestselling “Radical.”
 
“It's not just ‘follow Me’ and put a period on it like we are the end game,” said Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala. “It’s redemption for a reason.”
 
It's to “fish” for the “millions upon millions” who are “on a road that leads to an eternal hell.”
 
Platt asked the question, “How many who call themselves Christians have actually counted the cost of following Jesus?” Disciples of Jesus have always had to leave behind comfort, safety and security, he said.
 
“This is so different from the way we usually view the will of God,” Platt said, noting that most people look for “open doors” as a sign of confirmation.
8-26-13Platt-(1).jpg

Photo provided by Baptist Press
Believers are "reached for a reason," pastor David Platt said in an international simulcast, emphasizing an urgency to make disciples of the unreached. 


Platt asked what if closed doors and a high cost is what followers of Christ should actually trust as confirmation, having been sent out as “sheep among wolves.”

“Do we really want to become a follower of Jesus? There is deep cost here,” Platt said. “You become a follower of Christ, and you lose your life as you know it. For everyone who follows Jesus, comfort and security are no longer our primary concerns. Our possessions are no longer our own.”
 
This isn’t some “radical brand” of Christianity; it’s “basic” faith of a Christ follower, Platt said.
 
As Christ showed His love by leaving everything to pursue mankind, we should pursue unreached people in hard places who live and die without hope, Platt said.
 
Sujay*, a former Muslim, said God used the persistent pursuit of an American who moved to his country to “open my eyes.”
 
“An American man came to my university and started studying the Bible with me,” said Sujay, one of five believers from hard-to-reach areas who spoke via video during the simulcast. “Initially I was very suspicious. Who is this white guy? Why is he so interested in me all of a sudden?”
 
It took six months, but Sujay believed the Gospel and trusted in Christ.
 
Javeed* had a similar story of how God brought a believer to intersect his life.
 
He was discontented with his own religion, taught from childhood to believe “God was someone sitting very high in heaven and you can’t reach for Him. ... He will not answer me.”
 
Javeed found an old copy of the Gospel of Matthew and began to read but was struggling to understand. “One of my friends came to me and said, ‘Hey, you want to know more? I have a friend [who is a Christian].’”
 
The friend took Javeed to meet the Christian at church, where Javeed heard the Gospel in a way he could understand for the first time.
 
“It was blowing my mind,” Javeed said. “I left behind all of the worries in my mind and heart to have a relationship with God.”
 
Now Javeed and Sujay are leading others to be disciples – and to disciple others.
 
They realize that their own salvation is not “the end game,” Platt said.
 
“If it was, then surely God would take us out of this world of sin and suffering,” he said. “We're on earth for a purpose.”
 
Platt said he is “zealous” for Christians not to “miss the entire point of our lives.”
 
“If we’re not careful ... we’re going to stand before God and say, ‘I didn’t do the one commission You gave me to do,’” he said.
 
The simulcast, which LifeWay Christian Resources intended to air to thousands worldwide on Aug. 14, was postponed due to technical difficulties, said Philip Nation, director of adult ministry publishing at LifeWay.
 
The second attempt on Aug. 21, however, gathered “even more people” when it was simulcast, Nation said.
 
Platt wrote on his blog at radical.net that when he heard the simulcast had been postponed, he was “disheartened” but trusted God’s sovereignty.
 
“I began to pray that God would be glorified in all the individuals, families, small groups and churches that were gathered together that night for a simulcast but who unexpectedly found themselves with needing to find ‘Plan B,’” Platt wrote.
 
At least one person was saved during those “Plan B” meetings, and others spent the evening on their faces before God praying on behalf of unreached people groups. That’s what the group that Platt was with did as well. They got on their knees in an area where believers know the cost of following Christ and prayed for disciples to be made, he said.
 
“They prayed that all of us, along with all of them, would lock arms together as disciples of Jesus, making disciples of Jesus wherever God calls us, however God leads us, no matter what it costs us,” Platt wrote.

*Name changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is assistant editor of The Alabama Baptist.)
8/26/2013 10:54:09 AM by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Egypt's Christians urge scrutiny of attacks

August 26 2013 by David Roach, Baptist Press

CAIRO – Though Islamists have destroyed between 55 and 80 Egyptian churches, reports suggest public support may be turning against the Muslim Brotherhood, the main group responsible for inciting anti-Christian violence.
 
“The Muslim Brotherhood has lost all sympathy with their points due to their violence,” a Long Island, N.Y., Egyptian American who is in Cairo for a family wedding told Fox News.
 
Meanwhile media watchdogs have called for western journalists to focus more attention on the plight of Egypt’s Christians. From Aug. 15-21, the three U.S. broadcast networks’ morning and evening news programs devoted less than six minutes to anti-Christian attacks out of the one hour, 54 minutes they spent on Egypt coverage, according to a NewsBusters report.
 
Since the Egyptian military removed President Mohammed Morsi from power following an outcry against his rule by many Egyptians, enraged supporters of the former president and the Muslim Brotherhood have been locked in a showdown with the military. Amid the furor, Christians are paying a heavy price, with some members of the Muslim Brotherhood placing exclusive blame on them for the military’s violent crackdown. Christians comprise only 10 percent of Egypt’s population and were joined by students, intellectuals, businesspeople, secularists and others in their opposition of Morsi.
 
The Egyptian military deployed Aug. 23 in anticipation of a new wave of protests by the Brotherhood and other Morsi supporters a day after deposed president Hosni Mubarak was released from prison and placed under house arrest in a military hospital in Cairo, the Associated Press reported. Nearly 80 Brotherhood members were arrested Aug. 22.
 
Along with blaming Christians, the Muslim Brotherhood has called for retribution. The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, for instance, posted a webpage claiming Egypt’s Coptic Church declared “a war against Islam and Muslims.” The page ended with the threat, “For every action there is a reaction.” A July article on the Muslim Brotherhood website carried the headline “The Military Republic of [Coptic Pope] Tawadros” and charged the Coptic Church with seeking to “humiliate” Muslims and eradicate Islam.
 
Responding to calls for retribution, groups of men marked Christian-owned businesses with black X’s and mobs later attacked those businesses, Human Rights Watch reported. However, recent reports also noted Muslims and Christians standing together to protect churches and mosques, an indication that the attempt to blame Christians for national unrest may be failing.
 
“I am Muslim and I am against terrorism and I support the revolution [that ousted Morsi],” an Egyptian woman named Nina told Fox News, “and I support all the decisions of the Egyptian army forces. We love Egypt so much and we hope the foreign countries stop misunderstanding about us and the situation now in Egypt.”
 
Even at some mosques, sentiment seems to be turning against the Brotherhood, a man in Cairo told Fox News.
 
“They gather around mosques, from five to 100 of them, to show they are important and the goal is to go out and cut off the roads and rally to get more supporters,” the man said of Islamists. “Sometimes during Friday prayers, the sheikh wants to push people to support the Muslim Brotherhood, but modern Muslims are dominant and not deceived anymore with fake words that defending the Muslim Brotherhood is defending Islam.”
 
Still, the anti-Christian violence has been brutal. Among the church buildings destroyed are two belonging to Baptist congregations: Minya Baptist Church 150 miles south of Cairo in Minya, a city of 200,000, and Beni Mazar Baptist Church in the province of Minya.
 
“In reflecting on this tragedy, the Father has convicted me that I hear this kind of news all too casually,” said Hugh Carson, pastor of Renewal Church in Greenville, S.C., who ministered at Beni Mazar Baptist Church in 2011 as part of a partnership between Egyptian Baptists and the South Carolina Baptist Convention. “But this story coming out of Egypt is different because it involves a church that I know – people, names, faces that are real to me.”
 
In Bani Suef, a city 75 miles south of Cairo, a mob attacked and burned a Franciscan girls school then forced three nuns to parade through the streets as verbal abuse was heaped on them, according to Human Rights Watch. Police deterred the attackers initially but left after a nearby police station came under attack.
 
In many cases police have been unable to protect Christian-owned buildings due to their inability to deploy at full strength without military assistance, Human Rights Watch reported.
 
The Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt posted on its website Aug. 21 a list of destroyed Christian properties: 32 churches that have been “robbed, looted and fully burned”; 19 churches that have been “partially attacked by throwing stones, Molotov Cocktails and gunfire”; five Coptic schools “that have been completely burned”; seven “church establishments that have been burned completely”; and 190 businesses “owned by Copts that have been robbed, looted and then burned completely.”
 
The Coptic Orthodox Church, headed by Pope Tawadros II, is a denomination that separated from the rest of Christendom in the fifth century when it rejected the Council of Chalcedon’s statement that Jesus has a divine nature and a human nature united in one person. Churches and institutions of other denominations have been targeted as well.
 
The Coptic Church said in a statement that it “values the stance of the friendly and loyal countries who understand the nature” of the attacks. But the church denounced “the fallacies broadcasted by the western media” and called journalists “to review the facts objectively regarding these bloody radical organizations and their affiliates instead of legitimizing them with global support and political protection while they attempt to spread devastation and destruction in our dear land” – apparently a reference to the underreporting of violence targeting Christians.
 
As of Aug. 21, ABC and NBC each had aired one report on anti-Christian violence, according to NewsBusters. CBS dedicated only 15 seconds to the subject in a passing reference on “CBS Morning News.”
 
Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, wrote in National Review that the violence is “jihad.”
 
“Led by the Muslim Brotherhood, and joined by various other Islamist groups, some hoisting al-Qaeda flags, a ruthless campaign of religious cleansing, of Islamic ‘purification,’ is well underway in Egypt,” Shea wrote. “As jihad has come to the Arab world’s largest country, our foreign-policy leaders and press ignore this turn of events at our peril.”
 
Samuel Tadros, an Egyptian scholar who serves as research fellow at the Center for Religious Freedom, said he is skeptical that the Muslim Brotherhood will ever change its hostile attitude toward Christians.
 
“Anti-Christian sentiments are at the heart of the Brotherhood’s worldview,” Tadros told National Review. “When Hassan El Banna established this movement in 1928, fighting foreign missionaries was on the top of his agenda. The Brotherhood continues to use the most hateful language against Copts.”
 
In a commentary for BreakPoint, evangelical speaker and author John Stonestreet said Egypt has been an important site for Christianity ever since Jesus went there as a child to escape the murderous plot of King Herod, six centuries before the founding of Islam. The Brotherhood wants to eradicate Christians from Egypt, he wrote, adding, “If they succeed it will be in part of because Christians in the West did nothing.”
 
“Call or email your representative in Congress,” Stonestreet wrote. "Contact your Senators. And the White House. The U.S. must speak out and condemn the targeting and murder of Egyptian Christians.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is a writer in Shelbyville, Ky.)
8/26/2013 10:47:58 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Diversity celebrated at SEBTS

August 23 2013 by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor

Pastors, church and seminary leaders representing various ethnicities gathered Aug. 20 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest to discuss racial diversity within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and to celebrate the launch of the seminary’s “Kingdom Diversity” initiative.
 
Fred Luter, SBC president, and Daniel Akin, SEBTS president, fielded questions from those who attended a special luncheon presented for more than 80 guests. It was part of several related events held during a day that began with Luter speaking during the seminary’s first chapel service of the semester. The day culminated with a worship service.
 
“This is just the beginning of a dialogue that we hope [will] be a part of this Kingdom Diversity initiative,” said moderator Walter Strickland, SEBTS’s newly hired advisor for diversity.
 
“Southeastern Seminary strives to be a school that is recruiting and equipping students from every corner of the kingdom to serve in every context of the kingdom.”
08-23-13diversity.jpg

BR photo by Shawn Hendricks
Fred Luter, center, addresses participants at an Aug. 20 luncheon at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest. Flanked by Daniel Akin, right, SEBTS president, and Walter Strickland, SEBTS special advisor to the president on diversity.

 
The benchmarks for the seminary’s new initiative include: building healthy relationships across racial and cultural lines, increasing the number of minorities and women on campus, developing curriculum to better train students to minister to people of different ethnicities, to build and strengthen partnerships with ethnically diverse churches and educational institutions, and to help SEBTS emerge as a resource that fosters diversity throughout the SBC.
 
“These benchmarks are going to be costly,” Strickland added. “But it is far more costly for the church of Jesus Christ to not intentionally try to [resemble] the Kingdom that we’re appointing our people to.”
 
Strickland began the discussion by asking Luter if he believed his election as the first African American president of the SBC was a sign of genuine progress in improving race relations throughout the convention, which has been dogged for decades by its troubled past with slavery and racism.
 
Luter answered the question by sharing his surprise of running unopposed in 2012. He ran unopposed again in June and was re-elected to his second term.
 
“It’s still amazing to me,” said Luter, pointing out that the convention represents 45,000 churches, 16 million members, and only 8 percent of those are African Americans. “That was unheard of … God had to be in it. … I know it had to be the hand of God.”   
 
Luter added that he has been welcomed warmly by churches throughout the country and has seen growing numbers of minorities in the pews. 
 
“I have no doubt it’s made an impact on this convention,” Luter said. “A lot of African American brothers and pastors are showing more interest in the convention because of the fact you have an African American president. … I have no doubt in my mind.”
 
“This is not your grandfather’s convention,” Luter later told the crowd. “This is a new convention.”
 
Luter said the history of the convention continues to be a barrier for many older black church leaders. It’s an obstacle Luter hopes more of them can move past within time.
 
He pointed to the SBC’s resolution on racial reconciliation in 1995, when messengers publically apologized for the Convention’s past position on slavery, as another a sign of progress.
 
“All of us have a past,” Luter said. “I’ve got a past. … And there are things in our past that we are not proud of. I know there are some things in my past I’m not proud of. … Brothers, there is nothing we can do about our past … but there’s a whole lot we can do about our future. And that’s why I’m excited about this diversity initiative at Southeastern.”
 
With that said, Luter pointed out that racism is still an issue in some congregations and needs to be addressed.
 
“You cannot deny the fact that there are still a lot of churches in our convention … I can’t join,” he said. “That’s a fact. There are churches that would love me to come preach, but I cannot join that church. And that’s something we gotta deal with.”
 
“I see those walls coming down every day,” he said. “We’ve got to keep preaching [the gospel], teaching it, and most of all, we gotta keep living it. … If we keep doing that, the walls will come down. And people will see … we’re all in this together.”
 
Intentionality is the key to progress, Luter said.
 
“It’s gotta be something you plan on purpose,” he said. “It’s not just going to happen.”
 
Though SEBTS is ushering in a record enrollment this fall, Akin said the seminary has plenty of room for improvement when it comes to racial diversity. He said he hopes to see more progress through the seminary’s diversity initiative, and with hiring Strickland and Edgar Aponte, who will serve as the seminary’s director of Hispanic leadership development.
 
Akin said both men have “an open door” to approach him and point out areas where the seminary can improve race relations.
 
“In spite of our good intentions, we all have blind spots,” Akin said. “I recognize as someone who is white [and] who grew up in the deep South … I don’t always see things accurately.”
 
Improving diversity is not only biblical, Akin said, but it’s also a common sense solution to helping the SBC grow again.
 
“If it were not for the growth within the SBC [among] African American churches, Asian churches, Hispanic churches, our decline would be even worse,” he said.  “… Even if I were not a believer, and I was just being hired to do marketing for the SBC, … I would tell you, ‘You better go after Asians and Hispanics and African Americans, especially Asians and Hispanics.’ They’re growing so rapidly. If you don’t, you’re going to miss out on two of the largest demographic groups in America.
 
“It’s shameful that we might do out of necessity what we should have been doing out of conviction,” he added.
 
Ed Davis, an African American and member of Vision Church in Raleigh, applauded SEBTS’s efforts to put more minorities in positions of leadership. He said for many blacks, leadership is a huge issue that has kept many of them from embracing the SBC.
 
“I think this is big time part of the answer when you start putting people [in leadership positions],” he said. “Now I’ll be the first to say, ‘don’t put anybody in … that classroom that is not solid.’ … I’m not looking for people to be put up there because of their color.” 
 
Luter added that change is not going to happen through “token” assignments. In order for true change to happen, more minorities are going to have to earn the credentials needed to acquire leadership positions.
 
“Guys, we’ve gotta get the degrees,” he said. “We’ve got to do the hard work. … It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be difficult, but we’ve got to sacrifice if we really want to see more of us at the table. It’s not just going to happen because you’re a nice guy and happen to be African American, [or] happen to be Hispanic.”
 
Akin said he dreams that SEBTS – and the SBC – will be made up of leaders representing many different cultures and ethnicities.
 
“My prayer is Southeastern will train up an army of African American brothers and sisters that will fill not only key pulpits but also key positions in our colleges and key positions in our seminaries,” he said. “That’s my goal.”
8/23/2013 12:57:44 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments



‘Duck Dynasty’ success thrives on Christian stereotypes

August 23 2013 by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service

A show capitalizing on Southern Christian stereotypes has snowballed into success, with faith and duck hunting creating a recipe for a ratings sensation on “Duck Dynasty.”
 
The A&E show drew nationwide attention last week after its season premiere attracted 11.8 million viewers, becoming the most-watched reality premiere in history by topping series like “Jersey Shore” and “Jon & Kate Plus 8.”
 
Put into perspective, the show drew more viewers than the highest viewed episodes of “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men” combined, and would be the most-watched show if it aired on NBC.
 
The show follows members of the extended Robertson clan, the family that runs the Duck Commander hunting supply company in Louisiana. During its inaugural season in 2008, the show attracted a mere 1.4 million viewers.
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Photo courtesy Art Streiber/A&E ©2013 A&E Networks
Willie, Korie, Miss Kay, Jase, Phil & Si Robertson of the A&E series Duck Dynasty.


 
The show is probably best known for the gun-toting Robertsons’ Southern drawl, unruly beards and camouflage wardrobe. But between TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting” and National Geographic Channel’s upcoming “Snake Salvation,” the “Duck Dynasty” portrayal of rural Southern Christians may be among the most tame in the reality TV genre.
 
“There’s a risk that someone could watch the show and think all Christians are like that, but that would come from a place of ignorance,” said Jennifer Wishon, a correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network.
 
“They’re just guys from Louisiana who like to make duck calls and hunt and that doesn’t represent the interests of all Christians.”
 
CBN invited members of the Robertson family to this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, where comedian Conan O’Brien briefly poked fun, saying they were invited because the guys from  “Storage Wars” weren’t available. Wishon said that Willie and Korie Robertson were also invited to President Obama’s private reception at the dinner, and the president told them he watches the show on Air Force One.
 
The Robertsons don’t shy away from social issues. In a speech to a pregnancy center that has gained recent attention, patriarch Phil Robertson decried the hippie generation and abortion, saying, “That movement lured 60 million babies out of their mothers’ wombs.”
 
Jase and Missy Robertson have suggested that they waited until marriage to have sex.
 
“Our faith is the main part of our lives, but it’s better to be subtle,” said Alan Robertson, the beardless fourth brother of the clan. “We don’t want to make it like ‘The 700 Club for Rednecks.’”
 
The Robertsons have taken their message on the road; Alan and Phil Robertson filled in for Rick Warren at Saddleback Church, sharing about the patriarch’s alcoholic past and marital troubles.
 
Decrying the state of the nation, Phil Robertson suggested “if the founding fathers of this country could see how degraded American morality has become, they would hang their heads in shame.”
 
In his best-selling book, Happy, Happy, Happy, he wrote: “Our founding fathers started this country and built it on God and His Word, and this country sure would be a better place to live and raise our children if we still followed their ideals and beliefs.”
 
The Robertsons attend White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe, La., part of a “Restoration Movement” fellowship of 13,000 U.S. congregations that generally teach that baptism by immersion at the “age of accountability” is integral to salvation.
 
Phil Robertson told The Christian Chronicle that he and his sons Alan and Jase preach the same message of faith, repentance and baptism wherever they’re invited. At Saddleback, Phil Robertson emphasized the importance of baptism.
 
“We feel like we’re God’s family for all Christians, mainly to try to get the message out to non-Christians,” Alan Robertson said.
 
Hundreds of people have shown up at the family’s church, said senior pastor Mike Kellett. “I tell people, ‘If you want to put your eyes on them, come to church!’” he said.
 
Alan Robertson co-ministered with Kellett for seven years before deciding to join the show for its fourth season. He and his father, Phil, still serve as elders. Friends and relatives estimate that Phil Robertson, who had a following for his revivalist-style gospel preaching, has baptized more than 300 people.
 
“We’re kind of the John the Baptists of the 21st century,” Alan Robertson said. “It’s how you imagine, with the wild hair and the locusts.”
 
At the end of each show, the Robertsons join in prayer together, something visitors note as they come through the church.
 
“I think there are a lot of families that wish they would gather around the table and pray like that,” Kellett said. “I think it hits a nerve.”
 
While “Breaking Bad” has gotten most of the press attention, “Duck Dynasty” has won the ratings race, said Craig Detweiler, a communications professor at Pepperdine University, a school associated with Churches of Christ.
 
“There hasn’t been such a beloved depicting of Southern charm since ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’” said Detweiler, who grew up in Charlotte, N.C.
 
The show finds a smart way to combine family, food, faith and really long beards, he said. “There are a lot of complaints about the reality TV genre, but there are far more Christians portrayed on America as a result,” Detweiler said. “The beard gets longer and the ratings keep going up. They’re laughing all the way to the bank.”
 
The Robertsons can also be found on an array of merchandise, including bobbleheads, T-shirts, and Uncle Si’s plastic tea cup. Forthcoming books include a cookbook from Phil’s wife, Kay, Si-cology 1 from Uncle Si and The Duck Commander Devotional from Alan Robertson, available in regular or pink camo colors.
 
“For years, Hollywood missed a lot,” Alan Robertson said. ”It looks like they’re taking advantage of us, but we’re taking advantage of them to get the gospel preached.”
 
The show doesn’t appeal to everyone, though. Nancy French, an evangelical who blogs often on reality television for Patheos, said she and her husband have kept the show at arm’s length. Having grown up in rural Tennessee in the Churches of Christ, she is pretty familiar with the Duck Dynasty-type.
 
“It just didn’t satisfy whatever ‘escapist’ itch we need scratched in reality TV watching perhaps,” French said. “But I have always liked the idea of people with my values being represented in pop culture.”
 
The show likely strikes a chord because the Robertsons can control their image within the reality TV genre, said Larry Eskridge, associate director of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals.
 
“The Duck Dynasty fan is laughing and praying with the Robertsons instead of laughing at and gawking at them,” Eskridge said. “I think that scores nicely with the audience to see folks from that subculture poking fun at themselves as opposed to outsiders doing it.”
 

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Uncle Si offers words of wisdom
‘Duck Dynasty’ commander talks faith
8/23/2013 12:46:01 PM by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



Alan Robertson: ‘Duck Dynasty’ not ‘700 Club’ for rednecks

August 23 2013 by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service

The newest cast member of “Duck Dynasty” stepped down last year from the pulpit to join his family’s duck hunting business. Last week, beardless Alan Robertson made his debut on the hit A&E show that garnered 11.8 million viewers during the premiere.
 
Just before recording the audio version of his upcoming book “The Duck Commander Devotional,” Robertson spoke with Religion News Service about the show’s success, his beard-growth plans and the family’s faith.
 
Q: Are you surprised the show has become such a success?
 
A: I think it was the perfect timing for a show like this since it’s about strong family ties. The authenticity rings true with the spiritual themes. There’s a lot of word-of-mouth marketing that you can’t beat.
08-23-13duck2.jpg

Photo courtesy Duck Commander
The newest cast member of “Duck Dynasty” stepped down last year from the pulpit to join his family’s duck hunting business. Last week, beardless Alan Robertson made his debut on the hit A&E show that garnered 11.8 million viewers during the premiere.


 
It doesn’t feel like it’s pressed to be funny, but our family has that in us. The way we deal with each other is genuinely funny. Put that together, it’s a recipe for success. None of us would have dreamed that it would be one of the biggest shows on television.
 
Q: How would you compare yourself to other shows like “19 Kids and Counting” that feature a Christian family?
 
A: I don’t watch a lot of television, so I don’t know. Most of the time, TV seems to marginalize Christianity. It’s the judgmental person in the corner of the room everyone’s avoiding.
 
Our faith is the main part of our lives, but it’s better to be subtle. It’s more effective. When Jesus talked in parables, he wanted people to seek and find. I think it’s better that it’s funny, and while faith is there, for people who want more, we have that in our books. We don’t want to make it like ‘The 700 Club for Rednecks.’
 
Q: You were a pastor at White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ, but you left?
 
A: About a year ago, I left full-time co-pastoring. I was there 20 years, preached for 10. Now I’m doing national and international ministry as the show gets picked up outside of the country. I don’t know where this will go, I just view it as a larger stage to do ministry.
 
Q: Since you’re on the show now, are you going to grow a beard?
 
A: Dad’s famous for saying, ‘We don’t grow beards, they grow themselves, we just get in the way.’ I’ll let it grow out but shave it once hunting season is over. It’s now part of their persona. I don’t want to get stuck with that look. Everybody needs to see what the Robertsons look like without a beard, like “Where’s Waldo?”
 
Q: Do you ever worry that Hollywood might be capitalizing on Christianity?
 
A: For years, Hollywood missed a lot. “The Bible” series earlier this year was wildly popular. You have to look at it as positive that they’re being aware. If it’s a way to make money, more power to you; it’s America. It looks like they’re taking advantage of us, but we’re taking advantage of them to get the gospel preached.
 
Q: Does the show stereotype Christians unfairly?
 
A: Like Redneck Christians? Yeah, we’re always going to get that. We think that people find it charming as opposed to ignorant. They get that we’re poking fun of ourselves being from the South. We kind of wondered, “Is this going to make us look dumb?” but if you poke fun about yourself, other people will laugh along with you. I don’t think we have a fear or worry about it. They see there’s more depth than they thought there would be. There’s some sophistication to it.
 
Q: Is there any fear that it portrays Christians as anti-intellectual?
 
A: From a biblical perspective, Jesus and Paul, who was intellectual for his day, said there’s something about simplicity. Jesus seemed to say, “Less is more.” He chose the lowly things of this world. I feel that a sense of simplicity and following a biblical narrative is better than suggesting, “We have something better; we’re going to wow you with how smart we are.” It boils down to simple day-to-day living.
 
Is there a fear that people aren’t going to flock to the message because Christianity is too dumbed down? If you read Jesus’ messages, they weren’t so high-brow that people couldn’t grab on to them. I’m going to go simple all day long. It’s going to be a simple message of truth.
 
Q: Do you think the show has changed your families?
 
A: A little, but not a lot. It’s forced my brothers to maintain their families, since they have children and travel. I think the time pressures have made it hard for us. But at the core we haven’t changed at all. Mom has said she feels like it’s brought us closer together. I try to get us together once a quarter and remind everybody what’s most important. I feel like that’s part of my role as the family pastor.
 
Q: You go to a Church of Christ congregation, but you seem to be more generically Christian on the show.
 
A: We’ve done that on purpose. We speak in all kinds of churches. Yes, Church of Christ is our background. We sing a cappella by choice. We like it better. We feel like God has raised us up to be a gospel-centered family that shows love for each other and for him. We want to be gospel spokespeople. We’re kind of the John the Baptists of the 21st century. It’s how you imagine, with the wild hair and the locusts.
 

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8/23/2013 12:37:29 PM by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



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