April 2013

How do you cure sin?

April 22 2013 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

For decades I have listened to the morally naive declare, “You can’t legislate morality.” It does not take a college education to recognize that every law and every ordinance is a declaration of someone’s moral code. Even a stop sign has a moral reason for its placement.
It occurred to me that I have not heard that old mantra in a some time, yet there seems to be a tidal wave of laws that declare the moral necessity of health care, gun control, “equality,” abortion and immigration. Ironically, the majority of the new laws are coming from those who have been saying you can’t do that!
Either I missed the seismic shift in legislative standards or we have a new “state religion,” justifying the need for laws that reflect the new morality of the state. All the while, most of the Judeo-Christian standards that gave birth to this nation are ridiculed or outlawed.
What is really happening here? I believe as sin abounds, the laws that attempt to control sin equally abound. The unbelieving world does not know that grace abounds as God’s response to man’s sin. Since law is the only tool unbelievers have to deal with sin, they pass more and more laws.
Yet, the laws are very selective. They target the “sin of the day.” If the current social discussion is about mass killings, then a wave of new laws to control guns are put on the table.
Our problems are much greater than guns. A thousand new restrictions on guns will not change one person’s heart. These laws put a band aid on the serious wounds of sin, stopping the bleeding for a only short time. Soon the problem surfaces with a different face.
If we want to discuss the problem of weapons, let’s examine some facts. Every year in the U.S., an average of 31,390 people die from guns, according to The Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence. That breaks down to 10,950 murders, 19,345 suicides, 730 gun accidents, and 365 deaths due to police intervention. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] reports the number as 31,755 annual deaths.)
On the other hand, the CDC reports 100,000 alcohol related deaths each year. That’s three times the number of deaths by guns. Have you heard any legislative activity that addresses this moral problem?

Alcohol is a much more pervasive problem. So, why is it being ignored? The blind eye to the devastation of alcohol is testimony of the hypocrisy of sin and the greed of corrupt motivations.
According to the CDC, the facts are:
  • 5 percent of all deaths from diseases of the circulatory system are attributed to alcohol.
  • 15 percent of all deaths from diseases of the respiratory system are attributed to alcohol.
  • 30 percent of all deaths from accidents caused by fire and flames are attributed to alcohol.
  • 30 percent of all accidental drownings are attributed to alcohol.
  • 30 percent of all suicides are attributed to alcohol.
  • 40 percent of all deaths due to accidental falls are attributed to alcohol.
  • 45 percent of all deaths in automobile accidents are attributed to alcohol.
  • 60 percent of all homicides are attributed to alcohol.
You see, alcohol is a problem, also. It yields far greater casualties every day. But laws alone will not stop the problem.
Perhaps politicians are frustrated in their search for the cure for man’s sin problem. They are like the circus performer who keeps ten plates spinning at the same time. He moves quickly between each spinning plate to insure they don’t fall. He can’t do it forever, so eventually, they will all fall.
We do not oppose reasonable laws that have the potential to limit accidents, crime, disease or death. We should be addressing problems. Lawlessness is not acceptable. But, why are we making a big deal over some problems, while ignoring more serious issues? We can’t be selective if we are serious about the problem.
I was taken to this scripture passage this week, “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”  (Genesis 6:5, NKJ). God acknowledged man’s problem in the first book of the Bible and gave the solution in the other 65 books of scripture.
While we acknowledge that government has a moral purpose, it is powerless to cure sin. James Madison said, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”
Government should avoid any attempt to establish a state religion, and work diligently to insure that churches have the freedom to do their work without intimidation. Both the church and the government are essential for balanced social order. We are all equal at the point of complete failure. The Bible says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23, NKJ).
The world is filled with sinners who do not need to be reformed or better educated as a remedy for sin. The gospel is the only hope for sinful man. All Christ followers have the responsibility to faithfully proclaim the grace of God through Jesus Christ to every person of every tribe, tongue and nation.
4/22/2013 4:42:41 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments

A look behind the numbers

April 8 2013 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Numbers are a necessary part of life. We count the years of our life, the months of a pregnancy, the money in our bank account, the miles we drive, the points on the scoreboard, the votes a candidate receives, and reluctantly, the pounds on the scales. Time is measured in numbers. Our bank account and social security are identified with numbers. Numbers are an essential form of communication. They tell us something.

Numbers are a source of sensitivity for some. When churches count baptisms, attendance and offerings, someone will rise up in offense, complaining that numbers are “not spiritual.”

Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, has a blog that not only offers his perspective on issues, but also provides useful facts within Southern Baptist life. In a recent blog post he shared an interesting list of all Southern Baptist (SBC) churches who reported 1,000 or more in worship attendance.

Rainer made it clear that his purpose is simply to inform, not to make qualitative comments or judgments. All of the numbers are self-reported by the churches. Some of those numbers are precise; some churches use estimated figures. If a church does not report, it is not on this list.

With approximately 46,000 SBC churches, only 1.3 percent of the churches report more than 1,000 in attendance, according to Rainer. That translates into 98.7 percent of the churches reporting their attendance under 1,000.

The trend shows people moving toward larger churches. In another blog Rainer called the concentration of people to larger churches “a clear and present reality.” He reported that while only 1.3 percent of churches report an attendance of 1,000 or more, 22.2 percent of the total denominational attendance is in these congregations.

Only 4.4 percent of the churches have an attendance of 500 or more, but 35.3 percent of the attendance of 46,000 churches is concentrated in just those few churches.

We have extracted the North Carolina churches from the national list and provided them on this page. There are 36 SBC churches in N.C. that reported 1,000 or more in attendance.

The numbers are what they are. Some comments by readers on Rainer’s blog revealed an unnecessary defensiveness as though the statistics are an attack on churches who do not show up in the list. It is unnecessary to criticize Rainer for giving us the facts.

For the record, surely we understand that this list does not express a value judgment of any church’s spiritual temperature. The list does not express the superiority of one church over another. It is a list of numbers. Every number represents people for whom Christ died. Every number represents someone who is hearing the gospel in a Baptist congregation.

Attendance figures are not the total picture of a church. It would be interesting to know how many of these churches lead the way in church planting and disciple making. What is the giving record of the largest churches – to Cooperative Program, Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong mission offerings, and other mission causes? Only 9 of these 36 churches were in the top 20 churches in N.C. in Lottie Moon gifts last year. The other 11 churches who led in Lottie Moon gifts demonstrated significantly higher giving ratios.

A list of the top 50 N.C. churches in baptisms last year shows 26 churches from Rainer’s list are leading the state in baptisms as well as attendance. Conversely, 24 of the churches who lead in baptisms are not our largest churches. Their baptism ratio runs higher than the larger churches.

Some on the list of 36 have loose connections with Southern Baptists; some have strong involvement with us. Every church’s level of participation is unique by their own choice. That’s the way Baptists work.

It would be interesting if we had information on the economic and cultural diversity of our churches. Without question Baptists are very diverse and reach out to a broad spectrum of people.

Can we rejoice with the good things God is doing in every Bible believing church that strives to reach people, to make disciples and to glorify God? I hope so. I am excited to see churches of every size serving, worshiping, giving, going, teaching and reaching for God’s glory.

There is much to do to fulfill the Great Commission. Churches cannot be cloned to fit one size and one style. We need all kinds. “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” Romans 12:4-5, NKJ.

4/8/2013 2:58:02 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments