April 2018

Play the ball where the monkey throws it

April 12 2018 by Jim Futral, Baptist Press

A friend of mine told me about a strange experience he had while on a mission trip in Africa. Some of the folks there wanted to play golf one afternoon at a course on the edge of a large city. He was not a golfer, but just to have some fellowship with them, he went along.

Jim Futral


He got out on the golf course and saw signs that said, “Play the Ball Where the Monkey Throws It.”
 
He asked what it was about, and later he found out what it meant. The golf course had areas around it that had monkeys everywhere – just regular, wild monkeys that lived in that area.
 
The monkeys would come out on the golf course and were fascinated with the little white ball that came flying through the air and landed near them or on the green. The monkeys would run and grab the golf ball and throw it somewhere.
 
The people who kept up the golf course had tried several things to get rid of the monkeys, including a large fence and noise makers, but to no avail. Many of the people who played golf there got upset because where they hit their ball was not where it was when they had to hit it the next time. The monkeys would run out there, get the ball, throw it to the other side of the fairway or off the golf course.
 
Failing to keep the monkeys away, the golf course managers just conceded that they built the course in the monkeys’ domain and they changed the rules to accommodate what happens on the course. So the sign said, “Play the Ball Where the Monkey Throws It.” It’s hard enough to play golf when you are playing against the elements or the wind or the frustrations of just trying to hit the ball fairly straight, but when you’ve got to deal with the monkey population, it’s even more difficult. The people who played the course that day as every day would just begin with the understanding that they would have to hit their ball from wherever the monkey throws it.
 
The fact is that for nearly all of us, life is somewhat like that. Every one of us is going down the fairway of life and suddenly realize that something has affected the steps ahead and the next shot in life. Sure enough, the monkeys have been on the course.
 
Yet there are some amazing things that can take place when God changes the course in your life each day. Things that can either frustrate you or bless you. Things that can change the twists and turns of your road of life and take you down a path that is filled with new sights, new joys, new people and new opportunities.
 
Some people may never see those things. Some of you may never come to enjoy the monkeys of life throwing your ball around on the course, but would choose just to be frustrated about it, angry about it, upset because somebody, something, some monkey pitched your golf ball off in a ditch, and you can’t get over it.
 
I often think of James in his little book toward the end of the Bible where he said, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:13-14).
 
James reminds us that the will of God is not always fully known when the sun comes up every morning, and what you plan for the day may not be in God’s plan and purposes for you. Things get shifted around and about mid-morning you realize, yep the monkeys in life have been at work again in my daily routine. Go with the flow. Go with God in the midst of what He has in store for you. Watch carefully and you may see a bright and shining blessing just ahead.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jim Futral is executive director-treasurer of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board.)
 

4/12/2018 8:54:11 AM by Jim Futral, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Evangelism ‘by the Book’ & ‘from the heart’

April 11 2018 by Matt Queen, Baptist Press

A professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary used his sabbatical 17 years ago to address his concern that “evangelism is often recognized as the heartbeat of the church, yet it is rarely the focus of serious research among biblical scholars,” according to his book on the topic.

Matt Queen


Upon his return, David Beck, who taught New Testament and Greek, asked faculty and students during a chapel service:
 
“How did people in the first century [evangelize] without attending an evangelism training seminar? Did Paul invent the FAITH outline, did Peter ever go through [Continuous Witness Training] and did James write the Four Spiritual Laws booklet? … Why did none of the New Testament authors write and circulate an evangelism how-to manual? … It would seem that evangelism was not something planned or programmed by the early church. Yet consistently and constantly, ‘The Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved [Acts 2:47].’”
 
Evangelism in the early church, Beck concluded, was “the natural overflow of hearts filled with Jesus.”
 
How might today’s believer return to less programmatic gospel presentations that result from such a “natural overflow”?
 
Perhaps such a transition would occur if we shifted from reciting memorized gospel outlines to recalling the gospel we first heard in order to believe. One way this kind of evangelism can be possible entails three questions:
 

1. What are the gospel essentials?

What content must a person communicate in order to share the entire gospel with unbelievers? Recall the apostle Paul’s summary of the gospel: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the [s]criptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the [s]criptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
 
Anyone who knows enough of the gospel to have heard it, believed it and been saved by it knows enough of the gospel to share it. Conversely, anyone who doesn’t know enough of the gospel to share it should ask whether he or she has ever heard and believed enough of the gospel to have been saved by it in the first place.
 
Recall the gospel message you heard and believed. At its core, it likely included:

  • The reality and consequences of sin.
  • The truth that the God-man Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried and was raised on the third day
  • An invitation to repent of your sins; believe Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection alone saves you; and verbally confess, “Jesus is Lord.”

 
Although your recollection of the gospel’s core elements may be worded or enumerated differently, find encouragement that you already know the gospel and can share it naturally with unbelievers.
 

2. What scriptures will I use to communicate these essentials?

The New Testament presents two reasons why scripture must be incorporated in our gospel presentations. First, hearing the Word of Christ is prerequisite for biblical faith. Paul wrote, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Second, evangelistic proclamations in the New Testament overwhelmingly incorporate the scriptures (Luke 24:14-32; Acts 2:14-41; 3:11-26; 4:1-12; 7; 8:4, 35; 13:13-49; 16:25-32; 17:10-13; 18:5, 28; 20:27; 26:22-23; 28:23-27).
 
Likely you can call to mind verses that, in their immediate context and with their intended meaning, communicate the gospel essentials that you heard and believed. For example, Romans 3:23 communicates the consequences and reality of sin. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 conveys the truth that the God-man Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried and was raised on the third day. And Romans 10:9 conveys the gospel’s invitation to repent of your sins; believe in Jesus Christ and in His death, burial and resurrection for your salvation; and verbally confess, “Jesus is Lord.”
 
With the Spirit’s help, select a verse that communicates each of the gospel essentials you have identified. Now, utilize them in presenting the gospel’s essentials.
 

3. How will I instruct a willing hearer to repent, believe and confess?

Some Christians believe that the most difficult aspect of evangelism is the beginning of the process – starting a gospel conversation with another person. However, another aspect that can be just as challenging, if not more so is finding that the person you evangelize is simultaneously convicted by God’s Spirit, yet you don’t know how to help him receive Christ.
 
If, after an unbeliever hears the gospel and is convicted by the Spirit, and you are convinced he genuinely desires to repent, believe and confess, then consider asking him to call on God in prayer. Usually, an unbeliever does not know how to pray to God. So, first have him articulate in prayer the reason he finds himself praying to God. Generally, you are listening for him to admit his sinfulness and need for God’s forgiveness. Second, ask him to tell God, in his own words, what he has understood from the gospel essentials you shared that can forgive his sins and make him right with God. Listen for him to reference the essence of the gospel and confess with sincerity, “Jesus is Lord.” Last, invite him to thank God for what he understands God has done for him. Usually, new believers will thank God for His forgiveness, His presence, His mercy and His grace.
 
Evangelism, simply put, is a matter of going and telling someone about Jesus and helping them tell God the reason they need a Savior.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Matt Queen is associate professor of evangelism and associate dean for doctoral programs at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Roy Fish School of Evangelism & Missions. He holds the seminary’s L.R. Scarborough Chair of Evangelism, “The Chair of Fire”.)
 

4/11/2018 10:29:31 AM by Matt Queen, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Your sins don’t define you

April 10 2018 by Shea Hicks, Baptist Press

“You messed up, and this mistake will always be a part of you, from now on.”
 
Have you ever been told that? I am not talking about making a mistake like spilling your coffee on the white rug, or misspelling a word or backing your car into a shopping cart. Those are accidents, not moral shortcomings. I’m talking about the kind of mistakes the Bible calls sins.

Shea Hicks


On the surface, identifying people with their moral failures seems to make sense. Perhaps you committed adultery. Now you are an adulterer. Perhaps you murdered someone. Now you are a murderer. Perhaps you lied. Now you are a liar. Perhaps you cheated on a test. Now you are a cheater.
 
Using the aforementioned reasoning, who we are is determined by our moral decisions. But there is a problem with this reasoning in light of the gospel and Christ’s salvific work on the cross.
 
For the Christian thinking your moral failures constitute the entirety of your being, your makeup, your soul, is in total opposition to what the Bible says about your sin.
 
You see, as Christians we rely on the Advocate – Jesus Christ – to cleanse us from all sin (1 John 1:6-2:2) and on the Counselor – the Holy Spirit – to convict us when we make bad choices (John 14-16; Romans 6-8). Our duty is to turn from that sin (repentance), take up our cross, die daily to ourselves and our sin nature and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23; Romans 6:4-13).
 
What happens when we “die” to ourselves? We die to the parts of us that made those bad decisions. We die to the old version of ourselves. We die to those mistakes. Because we are reborn, because those sins are forgiven, those past “mistakes” are no longer a part of who you are. Want proof? Take a look at these verses:

  • As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12
  • I – I sweep away your transgressions for my own sake and remember your sins no more.” Isaiah 43:25
  • He will again have compassion on us; he will vanquish our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” Micah 7:19
  • “... But where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more.” Romans 5:20

 
Furthermore, there is a massive difference between people knowing what you did and God knowing what you did. People do not have the supernatural power to hurl your sins into the sea. People cannot move your moral failures as far as the east from the west.
 
People may remember your sins. People may try to name you by your sins. People may assign your worth based on your past mistakes.
 
But the Bible tells us we are new creations, co-heirs of the Kingdom, chosen and beloved. Nowhere does God say, “Yes, you have received my salvation, and I have put my Spirit in you, but your identity still is adulterer/murderer/liar/cheater.” No, we are called sons and daughters of the Most High. The 1 John 1:9 purification of all unrighteousness that occurs upon repentance is not a partial purification. There is no part of that former unrighteousness left. Believing otherwise is to believe a lie about who you truly are.
 
We often form thought patterns and perceptions based on the results of choices we make, both good and bad. These thought patterns and perceptions might lead us to believe we should add a suffix to our names as though it is a part of us from now on.
 
False. You are not John Smith, adulterer. You are not Jane Doe, cheater. You are part of a holy priesthood, and your mistakes are not a part of who you are.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shea Hicks serves in the U.S. Air Force and is a master of divinity student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

4/10/2018 9:52:28 AM by Shea Hicks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



COOPERATIVE PROGRAM: Sandlots, whirlpools & CP

April 9 2018 by Travis Southern, Baptist Press

What do sandlots and whirlpools have to do with the Cooperative Program? When I was young, we would spend seemingly endless summers at either one of two places: the baseball diamond or a neighborhood swimming pool.
 
While there were certainly organized sports teams, most of my baseball career was spent playing pickup games at the sandlot in the middle of our neighborhood. Those were “glory days” of pretending to pitch like Nolan Ryan, steal bases like Rickey Henderson and play shortstop like Cal Ripken. Most days at the sandlot were filled with boys living out the dreams of America’s pastime.

Travis Southern


That is, most days. There were some afternoons that were definitely not as fun as others. What made the difference? There were some days when we didn’t have enough players show up to play the game. That’s the thing about baseball. It’s a team sport. You can’t play catch very well by yourself. And certainly ghost runners and automatic outs are poor substitutes for the real thing.
 
On afternoons when the Oklahoma sunshine just became unbearable, we would often trade our Louisville Sluggers for beach towels and jam shorts and head to the pool for some cool summer fun.
 
Inevitably, one of the games we would play between rounds of “Marco Polo” was making a whirlpool. This would involve all of the kids walking, running or swimming around the edges of the pool in the same direction. Eventually, the water would be flowing with a momentum of its own and chaos would ensue as you tried not to get swept away by the current.
 
So what do sandlot baseball and a whirlpool at the neighborhood pool have in common with the Cooperative Program?
 
The answer is teamwork.
 
A great day of baseball is dependent on enough kids showing up at the lot ready to play. And if the kids in the pool don’t work together, the whirlpool idea dies out and the monotony of a pool without a deep end or a slide wears on.
 
And similarly, the Southern Baptist Convention missions funding concept known as the Cooperative Program only works effectively as churches get in the game, give sacrificially, support their missionaries prayerfully and engage in the work as a team across our great convention.
 
For me, this is personal. Because that baseball card collecting, swimming pool-wrinkled boy was not a Southern Baptist growing up. And when he graduated high school, he went off to college not intending to live out his faith.
 
And yet because Southern Baptists were giving sacrificially to support collegiate missions through the teamwork known as the Cooperative Program, this young man met a group of intentional disciple-makers at the University of Oklahoma Baptist Student Union. And it forever changed the course of his life. Eventually that young man would attend both Southern and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminaries at a greatly reduced cost.
 
All of these blessings were made possible because Southern Baptists showed up and gave sacrificially through the Cooperative Program. And the work extends far, far beyond me. Multitudes of missionaries, church planters, chaplains and seminary professors could testify that they are able to fulfill their calling in part because of the faithfulness of Southern Baptists to give.
 
Thank you, Southern Baptists. I would not be a Baptist pastor working in a frontier area in the Northwest without your faithfulness to give. While our cooperation may have more eternal significance than a sandlot pickup game or creating a monster whirlpool, the principle is the same. By working together, by God’s grace we accomplish more as a team than we ever could alone.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Travis Southern is senior pastor of Richland Baptist Church in Richland, Wash.)
 

4/9/2018 9:08:43 AM by Travis Southern, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Welcome to the Masters

April 6 2018 by David H. McKinley, Baptist Press

There’s nothing like springtime here in Augusta!
 
The vibrant appearance of variegated azaleas along with an explosion of blossoming trees and flowers make this city beautiful! Augusta is known as the Garden City, yet even the glory of the flowers is trumped each year with the return of the Masters Golf Tournament.

David H. McKinley


For eight days each spring, Augusta takes its place on the world stage as golf’s best amateurs and PGA professionals fulfill their life dream of walking the hallowed fairways of the Augusta National Golf Club. And as they come, so do throngs of people, press and promoters from all over the globe to share in the wonder of this Augusta tradition.
 
The Masters is the first of four major tournaments played on the PGA tour each year, and it is currently the only major tournament played in the same location year after year. A badge to watch the tournament is not just hard to obtain, it is one of the most elusive tickets to any sporting event in the world.
 
It all began when Robert “Bobby” Jones, golf’s greatest amateur, business partner Clifford Roberts and architect Alister Mackenzie transformed the 365-acre Fruitland Nursery into the Augusta National Golf Club.
 
Since the tournament’s beginning in 1934, the pursuit of a win at the Masters has become the “holy grail” of golf. Many describe what they see and share at this event as if talking of a religious experience. Even the course itself has a set of holes commonly called, Amen Corner.
 
The Masters is in its 82nd year and has the smallest field of qualifiers of any PGA event. This course intimidates and frustrates even the greatest players – maybe not Jack Nicklaus who reigns in Augusta with six Masters championships. However, few dominate, and many face the drama of this competition only to leave in defeat and despair.
 
In the end, only one Masters champion walks away with the high-paying purse, the distinct Masters Trophy and the most coveted prize of all, the Green Jacket.
 
One other note of interest: The Green Jacket cannot be taken from the grounds of the Augusta National Golf Club even though it is a possession of each club member and each champion. Only the prior year’s champion can take the Green Jacket beyond the exit gate on Magnolia Lane in the year after a win. This is just another part of the mystique and tradition of the Masters.
 
The championship round at the Masters is played on the second Sunday in April. The city bows and bends to make every accommodation for the world to come and experience the Masters and the beauty of Augusta. It is an extra holiday for Augusta residents as area schools and businesses share a common spring break, and people move out of their homes to make room for guests coming in. You could say our relationship to the Masters changes everything for us.
 
Interestingly, there is something else about the city of Augusta that binds together the experiences and commitments for many of us. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) began here in May 1845.
 
It was in Augusta that a vision for church planting, denominational partnership, ministerial training and global mission-impact was born in the hearts of a group of “amateurs” of the faith who aspired to be used of God to change the world.
 
It was from Augusta that a meeting of Christ-followers, bound by deep biblical convictions and a common doctrinal confession, launched a movement throughout the United States and around the world. While there were social and cultural factors that reflected the great national and moral controversies of their day, they formed the SBC by faith and for the advancement of the gospel.
 
This article was originally published through the portal of Baptist Press, an entity that exists to provide testimony, commentary and documentary of the global outreach and activity of Southern Baptists. And today, God has blessed, expanded and distributed our influence for His glory.
 
The SBC has been blessed with a rich history and an ever-expanding ministry network of pastors, teachers, church members, cultures, races, missionaries, languages and even martyrs who loved the gospel more than life itself and gathered, invested and distributed the Good News of Christ to the nations. Only eternity will reveal the glory of God’s grace through our lives together. And one day, we’ll be found, not in green jackets, but “clothed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne” because of Christ.
 
Yes, golf will bring the world to Augusta and I look forward to sharing in the drama of this year’s Masters Golf Tournament, but I am even more excited to be a part of a scattering in the world through our SBC network who bear the common brand of faith, hope and love because of our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David H. McKinley is pastor-teacher at Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga.)
 

4/6/2018 9:23:48 AM by David H. McKinley, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Less me. More Him.

April 5 2018 by Rhonda Rhea, The Pathway

Sometimes I long to see God do more. A new thing. Around me and in me and through me.
 
When I pray and then stop and think what that might require, it pretty much always boils down to this: Less me. More Him.
 
There’s no doubt I need to become much less satisfied with everything chocolate-covered and comfy-cozy and much more resolute in the Kingdom work that will bring Him glory. More Spirit-directed intention. Less off-the-cuff, on-the-fly and on-my-own.

Rhonda Rhea


I wonder how many miraculous happenings occur inside comfort zones. I’m thinking not many. Sometimes God brings us to a place outside our comfort, outside our own strength, outside the box – sometimes maybe even outside of the possible. It’s often in that place of squirming that He shows up biggest.
 
No, I’ve not seen a lot of amazing things born of comfort zones, but thorny places? That’s a different story.
 
As the apostle Paul recounted to the people in Corinth, “A thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
 
Want to see God do more? A new thing? In you, around you and through you? Sometimes it happens in the thorniest places. It’s accomplished in His strength and His ever-so-sufficient grace. And here’s the kicker. Whatever you can dream, He can deliver more. By His strength and grace, it’s bigger. Better. More glorious.
 
As Paul was telling the people in Ephesus about his desire that they be filled with “all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19), he reminded them of the God who is “able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us” (v. 20). The Amplified Version expands on verse 20 like this: “Now to Him who is able to carry out His purpose and do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think, infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams.” More. And even more. And then superabundantly more.
 
His “mores” will always result in the right kinds of “lesses.” Less of my self-focused distractions. More of His glory. Less fretting about my comfort zone. More of the kind of service that will bring Him glory.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rhonda Rhea is a pastor’s wife, mom, speaker and author; her latest book, Messy to Meaningful – Lesson from the Junk Drawer, is coauthored with her daughter Kaley Rhea and Monica Schmelter. Rhea and her husband Richie serve at First Baptist Church in Troy, Mo. This column first appeared in The Pathway, mbcpathway.com, news journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)
 

4/5/2018 8:55:59 AM by Rhonda Rhea, The Pathway | with 0 comments



The 2017 CP report: For celebration and accountability

April 4 2018 by BR Editorial Staff

The Cooperative Program (CP) is the financial core of Southern Baptist missions and ministries. Local churches throughout North Carolina have voluntarily participated in the CP since its inception nearly 100 years ago. In fact, our network of more than 4,300 churches has often set the standard of generous missions giving for Southern Baptists across the nation.
 
The Biblical Recorder editorial staff is proud to celebrate your record of CP support by publishing the 2017 Missions Support report, found in the second section of the April 7 print edition. You will find information there for each cooperating Baptist church in the state, including its giving, other missions support and associational affiliation.
 
These records, which have been provided to us by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, begin with a breakdown of the top CP-giving churches in the state, grouped by attendance. We commend all congregations who choose to give faithfully through the unified giving plan, regardless of the amount.

The annual publication of this list also serves a more solemn, journalistic purpose.
 
A recent article by The Pathway, news journal for Missouri Baptists, detailed how a church treasurer was arrested on federal charges for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars, following a two-year investigation that began with the publication of the annual giving report in the state newspaper.
 
Some church members noticed that giving records did not match the published report. Many of the stolen funds had been designated as missions offerings and payments to the pastor’s retirement account.

The tragic story is not the first of its kind, nor will it be the last. The records found in the latest edition are accountability tools to help protect your church’s integrity.
 
We always pray that no congregation’s tithes and offerings would ever be pilfered, but if misconduct has taken place, we hope this report can help you discover the truth.
 
Christ’s people hold fast that, “Love … does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
 
To that end, we have also included a list of seven steps that pastors and other church leaders can take if they encounter non-standard financial practices in a church. The following is a section from a blog post written by William Thornton for SBCVoices.com, used by permission.

  1. Take time to learn how things work. Who collects, counts and deposits the offering? Who writes and signs checks? Who receives the bank statements? Who has access to financial records? If the same person does all this, someone needs to bring the subject up and work to correct it.
  2. Compare records sent by your state convention or GuideStone Financial Resources to what is reported. Any pastor with a GuideStone account receives regular reports of his account showing what has been deposited. He should check to see if what GuideStone shows matches what the church report shows. State conventions send summary statements of what is received from a church. These often reveal a problem if one exists. If the sums do not match, then questions should be asked and the matter corrected. It may be a mistake. Or it may indicate theft.
  3. See if there are informed laypeople in the church with whom you can have private discussions. I understand the sensitivity of raising these questions. It’s perfectly natural for a new pastor to ask questions and familiarize himself with his new church. If the sensitivity level seems too elevated over the matter, find a trusted layperson with whom you can have confidential conversations.
  4. Pushback may indicate a problem. Resistance to even modest changes in money handling may be a sign of trouble. Someone should see it through, and seek out the truth.
  5. Involve non-church people. Associations and state conventions regularly have conferences and training on handling church funds. Ask the treasurer or some church leaders to attend. The conference leaders will say what needs to be said and almost certainly share a couple of church embezzlement stories. Your church folks will pay attention.
  6. It is good practice to divide these tasks and have an annual financial review. This protects those who handle money, as well as the church, and increases confidence in church leadership that donations are managed properly.
  7. If you hit a brick wall, try to find a way around it. The church treasurer is a main source of irritation in many churches. Chances are the pastor is not the only person in the church who doesn’t like the present arrangement.

 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – April 8 is Cooperative Program Sunday, the Southern Baptist Convention’s yearly emphasis on its unified giving plan.)
 

4/4/2018 8:53:37 AM by BR Editorial Staff | with 0 comments



Setting the record straight: An exercise in brotherly love

April 2 2018 by Danny Akin

When the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) convenes in June, at least two men will be nominated for president: J.D. Greear and Ken Hemphill. Both men are my brothers in Christ and my friends. I love them, and I am extremely grateful for their ministries. I have nothing negative or unkind to say about either one of them.

SEBTS photo
Danny Akin


As we move toward the annual meeting in Dallas, it is important that we have accurate and truthful information about the candidates. Misinformation is never a good thing.

Unfortunately, in recent days, things are being said and written about Greear that are simply inaccurate and untrue.
 
I am well aware of an ongoing conversation about the role of SBC entity leaders in the discussion of the SBC presidency. As a voting messenger to our convention, I have personal opinions just as many others do. And I am supportive of an open discussion about the future of our convention. But this is not about that.

This is about our discourse and whether or not we speak truthfully about the facts when we share those opinions.
 
Greear is a two-time graduate of the institution I serve, a visiting professor on our faculty, a pastor who has ministered faithfully in the region in which I live and a longtime friend. I know him well.

So, let me do my best to set the record straight.
 

Some are saying that Greear neglects and is even dismissive about the work of our state conventions.

 
Milton Hollifield, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, told me personally when he spoke in chapel at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) that The Summit Church is both active and fully supportive of the work of the state convention. If anyone would know whether Greear is supportive of state convention work, Hollifield would be that person.
 

Some are saying The Summit Church, where J.D. serves as pastor, does not support well the financial work of our state convention and the SBC at large.

 
The Summit has led North Carolina Baptists the last two years in Cooperative Program (CP) giving. In 2016, Summit gave $553,103, according to the state convention. In 2017, they gave $503,396. They are on target to lead the state again in 2018, and Greear tells me his church has no plans to do anything but continue to give more to the CP.
 
In 2017, 19 percent of Summit’s budget went to Great Commission Giving. In addition to their CP giving, they gave $275,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and $100,000 to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. They also are helping fund an endowed chair at SEBTS specifically for training church planters. That is simply amazing. The data shows a very cooperative Southern Baptist church.
 

Some are saying Greear is a Calvinist, and therefore he would lead the SBC to be anti-evangelistic and anti-missionary.

 
Summit has grown from 300 in worship in 2002 to nearly 10,000 in worship in 2018. Over the last six years, Summit has led North Carolina Baptists in baptisms, with the following data:
 

Year

Baptisms

2012

895

2013

735

2014

928

2015

401

2016

736

2017

631












My friend Ken Whitten, who will nominate Greear, said, “If that is Calvinism, may God raise up more.”
 
Regarding their position on missions, Summit currently has 158 of its members serving with the International Mission Board. Summit has also planted 40 churches in partnership with the North American Mission Board.
 
When it comes to discussing an individual’s theological positions, it is always best to talk to one another, not about one another. Greear, without any hesitation whatsoever, affirms the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. When it comes specifically to the doctrine of salvation, he and I hold the exact same position.
 
In a personal conversation, Greear told me he believes God is sovereign and humans are free. This is a divine mystery taught in Scripture and we should rest in that.
 
He also believes that we should never take away from God’s sovereignty or the moral responsibility and freewill of human beings to repent and believe the gospel. Anything that lowers the temperature of a hot heart for evangelism and missions is not in the Bible and it is not of God.
 
Greear is not a classic Calvinist, and he has made no secret of his soteriological position both in writing and in speech. I think we should allow him to speak for himself and take him at his word.
 

He is happy to fellowship and serve with Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike. Bottom-line: if you love Jesus, the Bible, the gospel, the Church and the lost, he wants you on his team!
 
This is the J.D. Greear I have come to know, love and respect. This is the J.D. Greear I am proud to have in the classroom teaching seminary students. This is the J.D. Greear who has the support of Jack Graham, James Merritt, Bryant Wright, Johnny Hunt, Ronnie Floyd and Steve Gaines.

And, even though Steve Gaines and J.D. agree that the current president of the SBC should not nominate a candidate, Gaines told the Biblical Recorder earlier this year that if Greear is elected and decides to seek a second term, he would be willing to nominate him for re-election in 2019.
 
J.D. Greear, if elected, would serve Southern Baptists well.

Does this mean other leaders would not? No. We can talk about issues without tearing one another down, and certainly without spreading information that is untrue.
 
We are followers of Jesus, and the gospel frees us to interact in full transparency. This is a conversation we have at least every two years, and it is vital that we pursue it with integrity.
 
The world is watching and our mission is too important. Our opinions can differ, but our discourse must reflect our witness. We are better than this.

 

4/2/2018 10:00:05 AM by Danny Akin | with 0 comments



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