August 2011

Baptists must defend traditional marriage

August 31 2011 by Mark H. Creech, Christian Action League

The week of September 12, the North Carolina General Assembly is expected to reconvene in special session to take up a measure that would give the electorate of this state an opportunity to vote on the much debated question of marriage.

North Carolina remains the only state in all of the southeastern United States that has yet to enact a Marriage Protection Amendment in its Constitution. Without it, the state is extremely vulnerable to court or legislative actions that could provide for a definition of the institution as something other than its traditional one.

Gay marriage is now legal in Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and New York, states that didn’t have Marriage Protection Amendments. And, what has happened in these states heightens the urgency for North Carolinians to place marriage’s true definition of one man and one woman in its Constitution – an act that will prevent it from being subject to the whims of future judicial or legislative redefinition.

Baptists have always believed in God’s model for marriage as described by the Genesis account, where Adam and Eve, two similar but distinct creatures, male and female, made after God’s image, were joined together for a permanent union. It was this model Jesus blessed at the wedding in Cana and endorsed when asked questions concerning marriage in Matthew 19:4-6.

For centuries, Baptist pastors performing this rite have declared it the foundation of home life and social order, exhorting that it must so remain until the end of time.

But who would have imagined a day when there would be a concerted effort to redefine the fundamental building block of society to include same-sex relationships? Some now contend marriage is essentially a private affair, created by two people for personal reasons, deserving of a license by the government to obtain certain legally recognized rights. Thus, to favor one kind of personal relationship, heterosexual, over same-sex relationships, they argue is inherently discriminatory.

The historic and biblical view, however, recognizes marriage as designed by God not simply for private purposes, but for the public’s good. Government has a vested interest primarily because every male-female nuptial has the potential for children, either biological or adopted, and societies need babies. Social research overwhelmingly demonstrates children are most apt to be successful when raised by both a mother and a father in an intact family. Therefore, without a healthy citizenry that can reproduce and provide a stable, productive and balanced workforce, the culture’s future is bleak.

Make no mistake; if matrimony is redefined to include same-sex couples and the government’s favor for traditional marriage is erroneously deemed discriminatory, it will mean the beginning of the end of the nation’s best support system — the traditional family.   In places like Norway, which has had de-facto same-sex marriage since the early 90s, marriage is quickly becoming irrelevant.

Anthropologist Stanley Kurtz notes that in that country “we are peering as far as we can into the future of marriage in a world where gay marriage is almost totally accepted. What we see is a place where marriage itself has almost totally disappeared.” Nothing can effectively substitute for civilizing and focusing men on productive pursuits, protecting women, mothers and children from violence and economic harms, while encouraging an adequate replacement birth rate as marriage.

Moreover, the links between the dissolution of marriage and rising illegitimacy levels are profound. Frank Turek notes that in Norway, “where they fly gay ‘rainbow’ flags over their churches, illegitimacy has soared – nearly 70 percent of all children are born out of wedlock.”

Illegitimacy not only produces a less than favorable environment for children to grow up, but consequentially adds significant social and economic burdens for any society.

With considerable certainty, the failure of the traditional family will also precipitate a severe curtailing of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The most important assignment of the family has not only been to propagate the race, but to hand down the faith to children. Malachi 2:15 instructs husbands and wives, “Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring.” Few things stifle the ability to pass the gospel down to the next generation than the loss of God-fearing families. This accounts for much of Christianity’s decline throughout Western Europe today.

This is to say nothing about the numerous ways the ratification of same-sex marriage will clash with religious liberties and the church’s ability to spread the truth, just as its legalization already does in places like Canada and Sweden. If Baptists in the Tar Heel state really believe marriage originated exclusively as one man and one woman, if they are genuinely concerned the foundation God ordained for home life and social order remains in law until the end of time, then at this juncture in history they will have to vigorously defend it. That includes zealously expressing their support for a Marriage Protection Amendment to their state lawmakers before they return to Raleigh on September 12.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Creech is executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.)
8/31/2011 10:04:00 AM by Mark H. Creech, Christian Action League | with 0 comments



‘Things fall apart’

August 26 2011 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

I’m not talking about the earthquake that rattled America’s East Coast the other day – though it symbolizes other forces currently shaking things up.

Financial markets lurch up and down with the latest bit of hopeful or gloomy news, while a dazed global economy hangs on for dear life. Once-stable governments in the so-called developed world, including our own, struggle to contain deep social and economic divisions tearing at the foundations of their nations. Flash mobs randomly assault people on the streets for fun and profit.

Long-term regimes have fallen – or are falling – in the Middle East and North Africa, but no one is sure what will follow them. Perhaps something worse? Scenarios range from a new dawn of freedom and democracy to the rise of Islamist theocracies across the region.

“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold,” W.B. Yeats wrote in “The Second Coming,” one of the most-quoted poems of modern times. “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned....”

We can hope “mere anarchy” holds off for a while, but things sure seem to be falling apart, for better or worse. Of course, things always seem to be falling apart. That’s the problem with supposedly indestructible human institutions: They aren’t.

A recent newspaper editorial discussing U.S. defense requirements argued that many military bases overseas “serve little purpose in a post-Soviet world.” The writer thoughtfully added an explanation for those who might be puzzled by the word “Soviet”: “The Soviet Union was an empire of communist states in Eastern Europe, led by Russia, that constituted the principal enemy of the U.S. in the second half of the 20th century.”

Here was an imperial colossus that bestrode half the world for generations – and periodically threatened the rest with nuclear extinction. It crumbled only 20 years ago. Yet the editorialist feared, probably with good reason, that some readers are so historically uninformed or forgetful that they wouldn’t know the Soviet Union had ever existed. “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” thundered King Ozymandias of old – long forgotten except for his shattered statue, half-buried in the desert sands.

Even the seemingly eternal institution of bribery in India, as predictable as tea and the rising sun, trembles before the protests of one man, Anna (“elder brother”) Hazare. An ascetic who has galvanized the nation in recent days through his Gandhian tactic of fasting for change, Hazare calls for a “second revolution” to rid Indian society of corruption.

“Graft has long wracked India’s public life and society, running the gamut from small-scale bribes to the police in exchange for dispensing with traffic tickets to massive payoffs to politicians and political parties to acquire complex weapons systems,” the journal Foreign Affairs reports. “The country’s citizens have frequently complained about this malaise but have rarely, if ever, resorted to organized public protest to register their frustration and anger about this pervasive phenomenon.” This time, many are joining Hazare to demand real change.

Nothing is permanent in human affairs. Changing an institution is pointless, however, without changing hearts. The new institution inevitably sinks into the same swamp as the old.

No wonder Jesus Christ refused to be pressured into leading a political or revolutionary movement to liberate the Jewish nation from the Roman Empire, as some misunderstood His Messianic mission to be.

“My kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus said when He stood before Pontius Pilate, Rome’s military prefect, before His crucifixion (John 18:36a).

“So you are a king?” Pilate asked.

Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37, NASB).

Our mission as His followers, then, is to proclaim His truth in every culture and give every searching heart the opportunity to hear His voice. The millions who search for something permanent in this ever-changing world deserve to know there is a Kingdom that will outlast the stars.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Bridges is a global correspondent for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Visit “WorldView Conversation.” the blog related to this column. Listen to an audio version.)
8/26/2011 8:37:00 AM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



The Cooperative Program & church plants

August 24 2011 by Page Brooks, Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS – God has allowed me the privilege of serving three church plants in 15 years of ministry. I have served in various roles in these, from staff pastor to lead pastor. While all of the church plants have given to the Cooperative Program (CP) in varying amounts, promotion of the CP has been a constant goal (and joy) for our church members.

Being a professor and church planter, I believe I have a unique perspective concerning the promotion of the Cooperative Program. As a professor, I see more and more seminary students who are not familiar with many of our Southern Baptist mission-funding programs. As a church planter, I see the challenge of educating new believers in showing them the genius of cooperative funding of missions through CP.

Following are some simple suggestions for how church planters can promote the Cooperative Program in a joyful way in their churches as we work to fulfill the Great Commission together.

1.  Start early in promoting the Cooperative Program. From the start of a new church plant, it is important to help new believers and members understand what the CP is and how it works. At my current church plant, we start in our new members class by telling them about the CP and how our church gives. We show members how even though we might be a small church plant now, our money combined with other small church plants (and churches) can have a large Kingdom impact.

2. Show the results of CP giving. Many people in today's generation don't care about the process of CP money collection and disbursement. I have found that by emphasizing the end results of the CP, people are more receptive to learning. We have had great results by explaining to people how their money goes to help international missions, local missions, disaster relief, etc. By seeing their money in action and knowing the end results, I believe people are more likely to give and support the CP.

3. Explain the Kingdom impact at a local, national and international level. The trend nowadays is for church plants to keep funding at the local level because they are able to see a direct impact in their community. Yet, churchgoers also have a heart for helping when they see both national and international catastrophes occur. We can show our members the incredible advantage of the CP. Even with a small amount of dollars, a church can have a local and global impact, from their own communities to the farthest countries of the world.

4. Share the joy of giving a "tithe" of the church. In our church plant, I explain that giving to the CP is our church's "tithe." Just like individuals and families give a tithe and offering for the blessings God has given, so our church gives a "tithe" for the blessings God has given us. We then share stories of how God has used our tithe and offering to make a Kingdom impact. Stories connect to the postmodern generation because it connects people to the impact of their giving. The more stories you share, the more joy you may see in your congregation's giving.  

In the current church setting where so many organizations and networks are vying for the attention of our church offerings, I pray these simple suggestions will help influence Southern Baptist church plants to support perhaps the greatest missions-funding strategy the world has ever known – the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brooks is assistant professor of theology and Islamic studies at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and founding co-pastor of the Mosaic Church in New Orleans. This column first appeared at SBCToday.com.)
8/24/2011 8:22:00 AM by Page Brooks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Ready to pray anew for the unreached

August 23 2011 by Elaine Helms, Baptist Press

MARIETTA, Ga. – With both anticipation and nostalgia I listened to Bryant Wright, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, tell how he and Tom Elliff, the International Mission Board's new president, each had been led by the Spirit of God to challenge Southern Baptist churches to embrace the world's remaining 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups at the 2011 SBC annual meeting in Phoenix.

While many think embracing a people group will entail an immediate trip overseas, quite often the first step is commitment followed by much prayer.

The nostalgia at the SBC meeting came because in 1989 Bill O'Brien, a vice president of the then-Foreign Mission Board, visited Johnson Ferry Baptist Church to talk to our pastor, Bryant Wright. I remember being called into the conference room to hear the discussion because we had established a focused prayer ministry a few years earlier and I was the prayer coordinator. If this commitment was made, the prayer ministry would help carry the responsibilities to ensure church-wide participation.

The more I heard, the more intently I listened. This was no ordinary prayer request.

We were looking at committing to a people group that was not only unreached, but also unreachable due to the "Iron Curtain" in place at the time. This was an opportunity to be stretched into believing that God was up to something and was inviting us to join Him in prayer. With growing excitement, I agreed to do whatever it would take to help get everyone praying for our new group.

When we got our people group assignment, we couldn't even pronounce their name, let alone spell it. So we got out a world map to find where these people lived. While they seemed strange at first, over time and with faithful installments of information from the mission board about our group, we became more familiar with them.

At least once a month as we received information, we printed a bulletin insert and took a special time during worship services to pray for our people group. We prayed for them around the clock in our 24-hour prayer room. And we began to discuss them and pray in our Sunday School classes.

The World Day of Prayer and Fasting for World Evangelization on June 1, 1990, focused our people group, the Kirghiz people of Asia. We were praying but we were not alone, and it was exciting to realize that adopting a people group is indeed a "group" project. When we responded to our God-sized assignment, He was simultaneously calling out others as well.

With all the extraordinary prayer God was drawing from people around the world, He granted the fall of the Soviet Union. That new open door allowed for an exploratory trip to be taken from Johnson Ferry in 1991. Groups began to go, including medical teams to host clinics and business training teams looking for open doors for the gospel. By the fall of that year, interns from Kyrghizstan were invited and brought to Atlanta to have hands-on training with business men and women in our church. With all this interaction, our people group really became tangible to our church and God opened many doors for the gospel to be shared.

Fast forward to 2011, and the ripple effect is still being felt in Kyrghizstan where indigenous, growing churches are reaching their own country for Christ. We are so glad we stepped out in faith to pray for what God wanted us to do and obeyed His call to adopt and partner together to reach an unreached people group. Just the other day at lunch a church friend told me that two Kirghiz women, both Christians now studying in the United States, came to Christ on one of our mission trips to their people group. They are eternally grateful that we cared about them.

Now with this new call to the SBC, our Sunday Bible study class is praying about embracing a people group. We are large enough to be a small church and interested enough to trust God to do it again!

I hope you, too, will pray about embracing an unengaged, unreached people group and see what God will do through you and your church.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Elaine Helms was the national prayer coordinator on staff at the North American Mission Board from 2000–10. She is the author of "Prayer 101" and is now director of Church Prayer Ministries (www.ChurchPrayerMinistries.org) in Atlanta. To learn more about the International Mission Board's call to embrace an unengaged, unreached people group, go to www.call2embrace.org or call toll-free 1-800-999-3113.)
8/23/2011 9:44:00 AM by Elaine Helms, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Ramadan and the summer of discontent

August 19 2011 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. — In Syria, Muslims seeking to pray in some cities are dodging shells lobbed at their mosques by the military.

In other Muslim-majority nations swept by recent political change, the hopes raised by the “Arab Spring” are sagging in this summer of doubt and fear about what will happen next as factions struggle for power. “Now Yemen, Libya, Syria, Egypt and Tunisia are all (attempting) similar transitions — at once — but without a neutral arbiter to referee,” observes Thomas Friedman. “It is unprecedented in this region, and we can already see just how hard this will be. … (T)he new dawn will take time to appear.”

In Somalia and its neighbors, meanwhile, masses of Somali Muslim refugees are unwillingly observing a grim Ramadan fast: famine-induced starvation.

Ramadan, the annual month of dawn-to-dusk fasting observed throughout the Muslim world, began Aug. 1. This year, it found millions of Muslims struggling for political freedom, for a better future — or for basic survival.

But Ramadan itself calls Muslims to higher things, things beyond this material world. “Ramadan helps us become conscious of our souls,” explains one Muslim. “Fasting helps us to separate ourselves temporarily from our worldly needs and pursuits so as to become aware of higher needs and pursuits.”

So why should Christians care about a Muslim observance? Because Ramadan is a priceless opportunity to lift Muslims in prayer to God — and to love them in action by His grace — whether they live across the globe or right next door.

The month of fasting isn’t easy, even for Muslims who don’t face political turmoil or life-threatening hunger.

“It is a time when Muslims try to spend more time focusing on (Allah) and learning about patience and humility,” says a Christian worker in South Asia. “We have seen the opposite effect as the month wears on for the millions around us. There are often fights in the traffic jams as people’s patience is frazzled by lack of food and water. There is also the feeling by many that they just are unable to keep the fast and are therefore unable to please (Allah). Pray that Muslims … will realize their deep need for a Savior. Pray that they will experience the grace and love of God that will forever replace the rules and works of man.”

Make no mistake: Many Muslims eagerly want to know more about Jesus.

A college student from my church has spent the summer ministering to Iraqi Muslim refugees in the Atlanta area. In the course of providing practical help, she’s had many opportunities to share stories from the Bible about Jesus and His Lordship.

Nearly everyone listens; several have decided to follow Jesus as Lord.

One 22-year-old Muslim “jumped into this spiritual discussion with us the first time we met him,” my college friend related. “I told him the story about when Jesus calmed the storm. He listened very quietly and was very curious. Once I was done, he said something we’ve kept in our minds: ‘Why do Christians only tell other Christians about Jesus? They should teach the followers of Islam these things, because the Christians already know.’”

Good question. Whether believers assist Him or not, however, God is moving among Muslims.

In Washington, D.C., a group of Christians regularly visits shopping malls to share the gospel with Muslims. Yet after years of ministry, they “have yet to find a church, of any denomination, who will partner with them,” says a longtime worker among Arab Muslim peoples. “Without a doubt, there have been more people incited to pray, and they are praying.” The net result is that, even in the absence of Christian obedience on the part of many churches to go and make disciples of all peoples, “God is still working and calling Arab Muslims to follow Him in greater numbers than at any other time in history.”

He speaks through His followers when they are faithful to lift Him up. He speaks through His Word. And He speaks through dreams and visions, as countless testimonies from throughout the Muslim world continue to confirm. Here is an account of one such dream from a Kashmiri Muslim woman in India who now follows Christ:

“I was in a beautiful garden, and an old woman dressed in white came up to me and said, ‘Come with me.’ She then took me to a place where I saw Him … Jesus … dressed in white and glowing with love for me. He hugged me and took me in His arms. He set a crimson rose in my lap and then said to me, ‘You are my daughter.’ And all I could do was cry. Then I turned around and saw a huge crowd of hundreds, thousands, all coming to be baptized.”

During the closing days of Ramadan, and particularly on the “Night of Power,” (Aug. 26 this year), many spiritually hungry Muslims will stay up all night, seeking divine forgiveness and praying for a vision. Ask God to answer their prayer with a vision of Jesus, the “man in white” so many other Muslim seekers have encountered. Pray that they will hear His unmistakable voice calling them to Himself — and that they, too, will follow Him.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Bridges is IMB global correspondent. Visit “WorldView Conversation,” the blog related to this column. Listen to an audio version. For videos, stories and other resources exploring how to love and pray for Muslims, visit http://www.lovingmuslims.com.)
8/19/2011 8:11:00 AM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Rioters show scope of human hunger

August 19 2011 by Charles Braddix, Baptist Press

LONDON — “Please, sir, I want some more.”

Who can forget these haunting words of a desperately hungry 9-year-old boy in Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist?

The story is a powerful condemnation of 19th-century England’s social and economic injustices, London in particular, including child labor and the cruel treatment of children. Children of the day often were put in workhouses, abused and starved. The novel provides a graphic description of what it’s like to be hungry.

Hunger is awful, and starvation is even worse, often ending in a slow and painful death. People hunger for different things. On one side it could be for social justice and equal opportunity. On the other, it could be for the smallest morsel of food, followed by a precious sip of water.

The effects of either can lead to panic. The desire for “more” can be fatal.

Having recently moved from Africa to the United Kingdom, I saw both happening at the same time. While tens of thousands of young Brits rioted in the streets of England’s cities, thousands of refugees at a camp in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu rioted, fearing food meant for distribution was being stolen by government troops.

In England, rioters escaped with looted computers and large-screen, high-definition televisions. In Mogadishu, seven refugees on the verge of starvation died trying to safeguard food that would save their lives.

Photo by S. Kurganti (Used with permission)

People on the street near Hackney Central station confront the police.


Images of both crises are etched in my mind. Hooded youth pelting armored policemen while cars and buildings burn in the background. Emaciated children and dead cattle on the dusty roads of Somalia.

Is one situation more urgent, more critical, than the other, I wonder? Some would scoff that I even ask the question.

“There is no comparison,” said Tim Costello, CEO of World Vision-Australia. What he sees is a generation of youth in a first-world country who have a warped sense of entitlement while, in the Horn of Africa where Somalia is located, millions literally face starvation if something isn’t done immediately.

Costello said, “You just want to shake (the rioters in England) and say, ‘Get some perspective!’”

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 13 million people in the Horn of Africa are hungry and undernourished, while 3.5 million face starvation in Somalia. The WHO calls it the region’s worst drought-related famine in 60 years.

At the same time, Sky News analyst Ed Conway said that, in economic and social terms, “London has been a tinderbox for some time.” Of course “London” can be broadened to include multiple urban centers of the UK.

“There’s no one root cause for the riots across the country,” Conway said, “but a range of economic indicators often associated with social unrest have been on the rise.”

News articles identify youth unemployment, income disparity and lack of education opportunities as some of the catalysts behind the rioting in England.

One thing is certain: Both the UK and Somalia face long-term problems with no easy solutions. There is hunger in London and there is hunger in Mogadishu. Both are wanting, if not desperately needing, “more.”

Jesus, noting a hunger and a thirst that only He can satisfy, calls His followers to action.

Jesus indicates that to go about His Father’s business is to share living bread and living water that satisfies a spiritual hunger that is deep within all humanity. At the same time, He demands that we offer a cup of water to the thirsty and provide clothing to the naked. Thirty-three-year-old Zimbabwean immigrant Paul Machaka, who came to England in 2001, said, “People can try to take the situation into their own hands, but at the end of the day they can’t create real change. Real change comes from God. Answers are found in Him.”

So is the “more” they are looking for.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Braddix is a writer for the International Mission Board based in the UK. For information about reaching London with the Gospel, visit adoptlondon.com or check out the 2011 International Mission Study on London at wmu.com/london. To help victims of the famine in the Horn of Africa, visit imb.org.)
8/19/2011 8:05:00 AM by Charles Braddix, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Woman’s Right to Know: A day to weep for joy

August 17 2011 by Mark H. Creech, Guest Column

I am still experiencing sporadic moments of jubilation and tears of joy concerning the “Woman’s Right to Know Act” becoming law in North Carolina. Gov. Beverly Perdue had deemed the bill “extreme” and “repugnant,” stamping on it in big bold red letters the word, “VETO.” But recently lawmakers in the North Carolina House and Senate, by a three-fifths majority in both chambers, disagreed and overrode her objections.

The “Woman’s Right to Know Act” simply requires a woman be presented with a number of possible choices, rather than leaving her with the misconception she has only one choice — abortion. Far too often, a woman with an unplanned pregnancy is mortified, frightened and consequentially in a rush to get rid of her perceived problem. And, for a few hundred dollars the abortionist’s knife is more than ready to accommodate — no questions asked. But this measure slows the process down, requiring she wait at least 24 hours and be availed of comprehensive information concerning all her alternatives, including an opportunity to view an ultrasound of her unborn child.

In other states where similar laws have been enacted, the abortion rate has dropped. In North Carolina, it is estimated the enactment of this bill will save approximately 3,000 unborn lives annually. The bill actually works to make abortion safer and rarer — something pro-choice advocates have argued in favor of for years. Nevertheless, when this legislation was debated, the rhetoric by pro-choice opponents of the measure was outrageously hyperbolic. Every exaggeration about humiliating women, taking away their personal freedoms, interfering between the doctor/patient relationships, to exacerbating the problems of poverty, were erroneously levied against the proposed law.

But out of the many voices that railed against the “Woman’s Right to Know Act,” one voice in favor of it got to the truth of the matter. In my estimation, the remarks of Rep. John Blust (R-Guilford) on the House floor were most succinct and profound. In fact, I think, if one had “ears to hear,” the beauty of his words were that they had the very voice of God in them.

Below is a condensed version of Blust’s impromptu remarks:

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker and members of the House. When I came in here I wasn’t planning on saying anything on this motion …

“I am not going to try and refute everything that has been said in support of the governor’s veto — so much of which was not correct. But I will say this: the bill does not affect the choice of the pregnant woman … The bill just says that you ought to take some time and be sure to know certain things.

“I’m speaking to this mainly because ... I have been involved in an unplanned pregnancy. And, I have seen the ultrasound. I knew … when I saw it that this was a life! This was my daughter … Barbara. It wasn’t a blob of cells. This was my little baby in the womb. I’ve heard over the years so many times the mantra … we will be judged as a society on how we treat our most vulnerable. I ask you, what is possibly more vulnerable than a baby human being in her mother’s womb? And, had that — using the euphemisms that give us comfort to keep us from thinking about what’s really happening — had that pregnancy been terminated — that would not have been just a medical procedure — that would have been the destruction of Barbara Blust!

“We’re just saying — the proponents of this bill — there are two lives involved … This isn’t just a small little thing that sometimes people go in for medical procedures — folks there have been 50 million souls destroyed! Does that not bother you at all?

“This is a small thing to ask someone to do, who is given custody of such a precious commodity … if there is one thing that I have learned, it’s that a life is a miracle ... And it deserves, at least, a modicum of protection ... Otherwise, why do we even have governments, if they don’t do something to protect the most vulnerable of lives?”

Yes, I can’t help from getting emotional each time I pause and reflect on what happened — when good and evil clashed on the House and Senate floors and at least a better chance at life was won for many of the unborn citizens of this state. And may God hasten the day when those little innocent ones — although still housed within their mother’s womb, defenseless as they are — will have all of the same rights and privileges as each of us: “the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Now that will be a day to weep for joy!

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Creech is executive director of Christian Action League, christianactionleague.org.)
8/17/2011 9:47:00 AM by Mark H. Creech, Guest Column | with 0 comments



A providential trip to the car repairman

August 10 2011 by Keith Collier, Baptist Press

FORT WORTH, Texas — North Texas’ blazing summer heat, which already has more than a month’s worth of triple-digit days, all but warrants the necessity of an air-conditioned car.

In June, as temperatures consistently soared above 100, I realized I was in for several miserable months unless I could get my 10-year-old Dodge Neon to blow cool relief.

I first considered a do-it-yourself approach to recharging my AC, but my mechanical ineptitude gave me caution. Reluctantly, I called a local repair shop and scheduled an appointment — an appointment that reminded me to watch for God’s masterful way of placing us in someone’s path for His purposes.

When I arrived, I met Chris*, the assistant manager. As he entered my information in the computer, I noticed his arms were tattooed with demonic faces. I thought about commenting on them but refrained before sitting in the waiting room.

His friendly smile and conversational manner betrayed his rough exterior. His eyes lit up as he mentioned his wife would give birth to their son in a couple of days, to which I replied, “Children sure are a blessing from the Lord.”

“Yes, they are,” Chris said. “In fact, this baby actually saved my relationship with my wife. We were about to split up before she got pregnant.”

I responded with a simple, but direct, question: “Chris, what’s your relationship with God like?”

I could tell by his expression that I had just drilled to the core of his being. He offered excuses about growing up in church, but now working on Sundays, he no longer attends. I told him I understood the busy demands of work, family and school, which led us into talking about my seminary studies. He mentioned a friend who taught him about chakras and asked if I had ever studied world religions.

I shared with Chris about my own spiritual journey, including struggles with my faith several years ago. I explained that I had studied and explored other world religions and found them wanting. The real question, I told Chris, was, “Who do you say Jesus is?”

Chris looked me in the eyes with a sullen expression and said, “I really don’t know right now.” He knew what he had heard about Jesus as a child in Sunday School, but he struggled with who he believed Jesus to be today.

I shared the gospel, told him about the exclusivity of Jesus Christ and how he could be reconciled to God. He thanked me for sharing and said he needed more time to think about it. I told him about The Case For Christ by Lee Strobel, a book instrumental in my own spiritual journey, and offered to bring him a copy. I then left him with my contact information and an open offer to talk anytime.

The next morning, however, my car would not shift into reverse, so I contacted Chris to see if it was related to my AC repair or just coincidence. It turned out to be just coincidence — really, providence — but it presented me with another opportunity to see him.

He received the book and a Bible I brought like I was handing him buried treasure, and expressed sincere gratitude for the unexpected gift. I told him I would continue praying for him and reiterated my offer to discuss spiritual matters.

A few weeks later, I needed an oil change, so I brought my car into the shop. Chris told me about his newborn son. He had not found time to read the Bible or book, but he had been thinking about our conversations. He claimed he believed that Jesus was the only way to God but still needed time to work it all out. As before, I told him I would pray for him and echoed my original offer.

The Lord has used this newfound friendship to teach me some simple, but forgotten, lessons.

First, mundane appointments often prove to be divine opportunities. We must be intentional and willing to share the Gospel with whomever God brings our way. You will be surprised how a simple, yet direct, statement about church or God can open up an evangelistic conversation, even with someone who has demonic tattoos on his arms.

Second, “thump ’em and dump ’em” evangelism is insufficient. Some people may only cross our path for one conversation, like Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch, and we must share what we can in the time we have. But more often than not, we can, and should, arrange follow-up discussions regardless of the inconvenience it places on our busy lives. Rarely does someone put his faith in Christ after only one conversation. We must invest in relational evangelism and continue to water the gospel seed.

I plan to visit Chris often, sharing the gospel and offering to walk the journey of life with him. I imagine we will talk at least every 3,000 miles, if not sooner.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Collier is director of news and information for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.)
8/10/2011 7:17:00 AM by Keith Collier, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Balanced evangelism in churches

August 9 2011 by Keith Manuel, Baptist Press

ALEXANDRIA, La. — Balance. It’s a hard place to arrive in ministry. I think the problem comes, at least in part, because as pastors and leaders we tend to lean toward our passions. Our default is always the easiest place from which to work.

Two defaults in evangelism are missional or attractional methods of evangelism.

The missional approach sends believers into the community to interact with people.

Community projects like painting a school or repairing homes in a particular neighborhood are missional approaches. Another example is providing help for people in need through meals or yard work. These acts of kindness open the door for sharing the Gospel.

The attractional approach brings the community to interact with church members.

Churches use events like musicals, fall festivals or sports camps. Others may hold revivals or revival type meetings to attract their neighbors. The event becomes a bridge for sharing the gospel.

Jerry Pipes, an evangelist who specializes in these two areas, once said, “The question of which is better, attractional or missional, is like asking an airline pilot who is over the Pacific Ocean, ‘Do you want your left wing or right wing to continue flying?’”

You need both.

Church planter James Welch discovered the need for both approaches in his work in New Orleans. By default, Welch leaned toward the missional approach to evangelism. He led his church into their community full force. His people wanted the community to know Harbor Community Church truly cared for them. The church was living out their faith before their neighbors.

After an associational training on attractional events in preparation for the 2012 emphasis of GPS 2020 (God’s Plan for Sharing), Welch decided to try a more balanced approach. He led his church members to hit the streets of their neighborhood again. However, this time the members placed doorknob hangers inviting their neighbors to come to a special series of worship services.

According to Welch, the church plant previously embraced an incarnational model of sharing its faith, showing the glory of God to a lost world through a lifestyle that exemplifies the incarnate Jesus. However, after the GPS training the church made a language shift. They became invitational. The goal became to connect a felt need to a relationship with Jesus Christ. From the worship services to service ministries, the members and staff are now calling for a response to the gospel.

The church’s methodology is to provide a clear, simple approach for church members to share the Gospel through the balance of missional and attractional events. The desire is to build relationships to intentionally provide a clear invitation to be saved — because the only hope for families and their community is Jesus Christ.

Many neighbors responded positively to the shift in language and methodology. At the culmination of the series, Welch gave the participants an opportunity to respond to the Gospel. Eighteen people indicated they wanted to surrender their lives to Christ and receive His gift of eternal life. That was the largest response the church has seen during a special emphasis since the work was planted.

According to research commissioned by (the North American Mission Board’s) evangelism staff through Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 92 percent of the most effective evangelistic churches in the Southern Baptist Convention used attractional events. In addition, these churches held 40 percent more attractional events than the comparative group.

All Southern Baptist churches have the opportunity to receive training that prepares them to host attractional evangelistic events in the spring of 2012 as part of GPS 2020. NAMB has provided evangelism training materials as free downloads on the website, GPS2020.net.

Also on the website are church and associational planning guides, along with other resources you may need for your event. At the same time, your state convention’s evangelism staff will be enlisting churches to participate and provide training events, too. Through our Cooperative Program work with the GPS 2020 emphasis, we can achieve a balanced approach to evangelism in our church plants and churches.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Manuel is an evangelism associate with the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s evangelism and church growth team.)
8/9/2011 7:44:00 AM by Keith Manuel, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Churches as generational mission labs

August 8 2011 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. — You’re just entering your prime, baby.

You’re not older; you’re better. You hit the gym with a vengeance. Aches and pains? If you’ve got ’em, you’re not admitting it to yourself or anyone else. You’ve got big plans for the future. Sixty is the new 40. “Retirement” is not part of your vocabulary (you probably won’t be able to afford it, anyway).

You’re a boomer, of course. You and your generational comrades have been turning the world upside down since you were pimply teens. So you’re not going to let little things like age, gravity or mortality slow you down.

Of five emerging trends in American churches cited by LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom Rainer in the Summer 2011 issue of Facts and Trends (http://bit.ly/pdXyim), this one struck me:

“Senior adult ministries in churches will experience steep declines.”

Wait a minute. The U.S. population is aging, right? Senior adult ministry ought to be a growth industry. To the contrary: Boomers don’t do “senior.”

“As the large baby boomer generation moves into their older years, they will resist any suggestion that they are senior adults, no matter how senior they may be,” Rainer explains.

“Unfortunately, many churches are slow to adapt to new realities. If they do senior adult ministry the way they’ve always done it, it will be headed for failure.”

It makes perfect sense if you understand the boomer psyche. As a generation, we are deep in denial about aging. In our minds, we’re still hip, young and wrinkle-free. And to be fair, medical science has added quite a few years to our potential life spans. In many cases, we really do have more energy and vitality than our parents had when they hit 50 or 60. So we don’t need no stinkin’ shuffleboard. We’re just getting started.

In a recent column I quoted New York Times writer David Brooks, who lamented that so many young college grads are being “sent off into this world with the whole baby-boomer theology ringing in their ears.... (They) are told to: Follow your passion, chart your own course, march to the beat of your own drummer, follow your dreams and find yourself. This is the litany of expressive individualism, which is still the dominant note in American culture.”

It sounds good, but encourages boomeristic self-involvement at the expense of service to others — and to God. Here’s a thought: Instead of passing on our worst trait, what if we boomers reinvented “senior adult ministry” in the years to come? Rather than waiting for churches to minister to us, what if we turned them into laboratories where boomers mentor our successors, the Millennials, to reach our communities and the nations with the love of Christ?

Another trend Rainer highlights: “Our nation will see the emergence of the largest generational mission field in more than a century. According to our current research, the Millennial generation, those born between 1980 and 2000, will have a very low Christian representation. Our estimates now are that only 15 percent are Christian. With a huge population of nearly 80 million, that means that nearly 70 million young people are not Christians.... They are not angry at churches and Christians. They simply ignore us because they do not deem us as meaningful or relevant.”

In this sea of spiritual lostness, churches are floundering to stay afloat.

“The facts are, evangelical Christianity, not to mention mainline Christianity, is declining in America,” Rainer commented in a Baptist Press story earlier this year. “Why? One of the primary reasons is the church — many local churches, I should say — have become more about what we can do for our members than what we can do to reach out beyond.”

But Christian Millennials are asking, “What can we do to become incarnational in our communities? What can we do to reach the nations?”

Christian boomers, who have actively participated in the historic expansion of the gospel across the globe in the last generation, can help them answer those questions. As a group, Millennials respect their parents and other elders and value relationships with them. That goes double for Millennials in the church — if churches make the effort to nurture that influence.

“They have learned from older people all their lives, and they don’t want to stop now,” Rainer writes. “They want to be led and taught in their places of work, in their churches and in their families. They particularly want to learn from couples who have had long and successful marriages. Many Millennials see such examples as heroes to emulate.”

That’s right, boomers. We can be mentors, even heroes, to Millennials who are searching for godly models of missional servanthood. I can’t think of a better way to defy aging. It sure beats denial.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Bridges is IMB global correspondent. Visit “WorldView Conversation.” Listen to an audio version.)
8/8/2011 8:22:00 AM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Displaying results 1-10 (of 11)
 |<  < 1 - 2  >  >|