August 2013

The pastor search process

August 20 2013 by Rick Lance, Baptist Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Churches face many daunting tasks in the pilgrimage of doing ministry. Arguably, one of the most crucial times in the life of a church is when a pastor leaves and the search begins for a new pastoral leader. 

Among Baptists and similar faith groups, the process involves a pastor search committee. Each church determines how this committee or team is selected. Most often, that selection is driven by bylaws or some other codified means of choosing representatives to do the search for the church family.

During my pastoral ministry, I have had occasions to talk to pastor search committees – I was the one being researched and interviewed in the process of calling a new pastor. 

In most instances, the experience was pleasant and informative, even when I did not make the transition to the church that a committee was representing. I did learn a few things along the way that might be helpful to those engaged in this calling process.

A couple of disclaimers need to be noted before I offer comments about the process of calling a pastor. I must admit I have never been on a search committee for a pastor or a CEO of an entity. I have had my share of experiences in ministry, but this one I have not yet encountered. Therefore, my views on the subject may come across one-sided or a bit biased. If that is the case, I apologize in advance.

Additionally, I have to admit that with all the potential downsides of the way we do the pastor search and calling process, I believe it is an excellent model. It is based on the congregational principle of church governance, even though a representative group makes the initial recommendation. By that, I mean the church makes the final decision as a local body of believers. In my view, this is an expression of solid ecclesiology or church polity and practice.


Prayer power

With all that said, let’s launch into a descriptive approach to calling a pastor, with the intent of hoping to make a good process even better.

Where does the process need to begin? After the church has selected the search committee/team, the group needs to get to know each other better. 

They may be acquaintances or even friends, but most likely they have not worked together in a ministry assignment like this one. So getting to know each other more intimately is a must. 

Praying together is one of the best ways to deepen relationships among people with such an important task before them. Praying for each other, for their families, for their church family and for the new pastor makes for healthy direction-setting as a group. 

Obviously, prayer needs to permeate the process. It is not just a beginning place but a foundation on which to stand. Any committee/team wanting to do a good job needs to be empowered by the Spirit of God for sure. Prayer is the key to that sense of empowerment.


Practical matters

Practical and confidential matters have to be considered in the initial stages of the search process. If the church did not select or name a chair, which oftentimes is the case, then the group will need to take care of that matter. 

The chair is certainly not a dictator, but this person is a direction-setter along the way. Other leaders may need to be selected as well, such as a vice chair and someone to keep good notes and information for the entire committee/team.

Another practical matter to be seriously considered is training for the assignment. Some committees do not think they need to be trained for this assignment. This is not arrogance; it is just the feeling that they are good leaders in the business world and in the church, and they feel they are already prepared to do the work. This is a misperception for sure.

Every committee/team needs some personalized training. Who does the training? There are more options than one might think. Local directors of missions often are experienced and prepared to do this specialized training. State conventions also can help.

A trainer can help the group avoid some problem areas in the search process. I cannot overstate the importance of having a coach or trainer to do at least some initial training for the work ahead.


Profiling the church

Doing a church profile can be helpful to the search team as well. Many who are called on to do a pastor search feel they know their church well. However, with multiple generations worshiping together and with all kinds of backgrounds represented in the church family, a survey of the church at this interim juncture is of vital significance. 

No one really has comprehensive knowledge of a particular church until the person does some reflective study of the church family. 

This kind of survey can be a part of the trainer’s role in getting the committee off to a good start. The survey or profile of the church can be a way of understanding how the church has changed since the calling of the last pastor. That is valuable information.


Pastoral resumes

The experience of receiving resumes can be a confusing part of the search process. However, it is now the pattern and practice of most committees or teams. Let me say that I believe a search group needs to have this information. Many times it will come from a person recommending a prospect to be considered. That is a healthy way to receive information. 

Personally, I would prefer to not receive the resume from the candidate himself. By contrast, I know that is the accepted practice in the business world, but it is not my preference. 

Resumes may be available from the offices of local Baptist associations and state conventions as well as seminaries. Also, there is no reason the committee could not request the information from someone in whom they are interested.


Patience with the process

Patience in the process is a necessity. There are times when the search group has an unnecessary feeling of being in a hurry. The church may have some problems, or there may be some outside pressure placed on the team. 

This is a point of caution. A hurried approach to calling a pastor is fraught with danger signs. Space and time will not permit a discussion of this issue but, again, a trainer can help the committee understand the need for a patient attitude in this search process.

Regarding interviewing a prospect, let me say a few things that reflect my experience. First, do not oversell the church. Yes, you need to emphasize the positives and highlight the high points of the past and present, but most pastors with experience know that search teams have a high opinion of the church or they would not have been chosen for the task. If there have been problems recently, be forthright with the prospect. 

Additionally, if you have questions about his past or present ministry, feel free to tactfully but truthfully pose them to him. This needs to be an open process. It is better to know the candidate and the candidate to know the church up front than to find out later that the situation from either perspective was not what those involved had thought it was. 

Again, I just cannot overstate the importance of the transparency needed for the team and the prospect as they consider walking together in presenting a recommendation to the church.


Preparation for the call

When the search committee/team has made its decision, there needs to be some time for the group to prepare the church for the recommendation and the call of the potential new pastor. With mass communication in terms of social media and the like, confidentiality is really challenging for the process. 

The pastor will be sensitive to the fact that he wants to be the one to tell his people about his departure. Therefore, the schedule for introducing the pastoral choice to the people and calling him needs to factor in all these variables. Every church is different, and so is every pastor. Careful consideration of how and when to go public with the announcement is something that demands the best of all involved.


Personal support

After the pastor is called, the search committee/team may think their work is complete. That is technically true, but not in the relational sense. Let me make a suggestion to any search group. On the anniversary of the pastor’s calling, take him, his wife and family out to eat and have a time of fellowship with them. Let them know how much they are appreciated. 

This was the practice of my last pastorate, and it was a good one. I wish I could say it was my idea, but it wasn’t. Try it, you will like it.

Well, this was a lengthy discourse, but my passion for seeing good marriages in the ministry has led me to share these thoughts with you. I regularly pray for our churches. I want the best for all of them. 

This is my simple way of trying to help churches at a crucial time in their journey. A lot is at stake. This is a Kingdom concern, one which cannot be taken lightly. Thanks for your service.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rick Lance is executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. This column first appeared on his blog at RickLance.com.) 
8/20/2013 2:59:12 PM by Rick Lance, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



What’s with ‘Duck Dynasty’?

August 19 2013 by Kelly Boggs, Baptist Press

ALEXANDRIA, La. – It’s amusing, it’s quirky, it’s clean and it’s wildly popular. It’s the hit reality program “Duck Dynasty” on the cable network A&E.

Duck Dynasty’s fourth season premiered Aug. 14 with 11.8 million viewers, making it cable’s most-watched nonfiction telecast to date. Last season the program averaged 8.4 million viewers.

For the uninitiated, Duck Dynasty features the Robertson family who became wealthy from their family operated Duck Commander business in West Monroe, La.

The company makes products for duck hunters, primarily the duck call named Duck Commander, a revolutionary design patented by family patriarch Phil in 1972.

The business began in a family shed, where Phil spent 25 years making duck calls from Louisiana cedar trees. His son Willie became the company’s CEO in 2006. Under his leadership the family business has grown into a multi-million dollar company.

The family previously was featured on the series “Benelli Presents Duck Commander” and its spinoff “Buck Commander,” which still airs on the Outdoor Channel.

The Robertson men, brothers Phil and Si and Phil’s sons Willie, Jase and Jep all work for the family business and are known for their long beards. Phil and his wife Kay have a fourth son, Allen, the oldest, a minister who is the only clean-shaven one of the bunch.
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A&E promo photo
The fourth season of “Duck Dynasty” premiered Aug. 14 to a record audience for a cable show.


One thing more, the Robertsons are, by their own estimation, rednecks. They are simple, hard-working and unpretentious. In their world, camouflage and coveralls not only are work clothes, they also double as formal wear.

In an entertainment culture thick with the stench of sexual innuendo and the foul odor of every dysfunction imaginable, Duck Dynasty is a breath of fresh air. The content is clean and features a close-knit intact family who are unapologetic about their Christian faith.

Pundits and television critics have tried to understand Duck Dynasty’s appeal. Many come up with the same reason – engaging and entertaining characters. While there is no doubt that the Robertsons are an interesting lot, especially Phil’s off-beat younger brother Si, there is much more to Duck Dynasty.

I believe the elements that keep viewers tuning in for the Robertson clan are wholesomeness, authenticity and values.

Duck Dynasty is good clean fun. The Robertsons pursuit of life is wholesome. The show is free of sexual innuendo, coarse humor and perverted dysfunction. People who are looking for entertainment to enjoy with their families have found it with Duck Dynasty.

Regarding the Robertsons’ authenticity, what you see is what you get.

A&E’s reality programming chief Lily Neumeyer, also an executive producer of the series, told USA Today that, although some of the situations might be scripted, once the cameras are rolling the Robertsons take it from there. The spontaneity is real and refreshing.

Additionally, the Robertsons’ faith and values are real. They are unapologetic about the fact they are Christians. They also defy the typical stereotype many people have of what a Christian should be. The Robertsons live their faith; they don’t feel the need to portray it via perma-press clothes and coiffed hair.

Each episode is peppered with staunchly conservative values. At the close of each program, a moral is drawn from the program, always emphasizing something of virtue.

Residents of Louisiana were well-acquainted with the Robertson family, especially patriarch Phil, long before their Duck Dynasty fame. On almost any given Sunday, Phil can be found at a church in the Bayou State sharing his faith.

Duck Dynasty proves there is a market for wholesome entertainment that features authentic people who embrace traditional, even Christian, values. What is amazing is the fact that much of Hollywood continues to ignore this market.

For every Duck Dynasty there are a dozen or more programs that flaunt foul-mouth characters, situational ethics and destructive values. Families are depicted as dysfunctional, featuring clueless parents with shrewd-beyond-their-years progeny.

While Hollywood creators and producers may say they are driven by profit, the proof is in the pudding. If Hollywood really wants to make money, it would do well to follow the Duck Dynasty formula and offer clean, wholesome entertainment.

Until then, I’m going to assume the entertainment moguls are mostly about pursuing an agenda of promoting vain values that many in America reject. Based on the ratings, it is evident that millions of viewers – 11.8 million to be exact – are pleased with wholesome, authentic and values-laden Duck Dynasty. And A&E is quacking all the way to the bank.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s office of public affairs, and editor of the Baptist Message, news journal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)
8/19/2013 12:47:46 PM by Kelly Boggs, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Cohabitation in the church

August 16 2013 by Evan Lenow, Baptist Press

FORT WORTH, Texas – Many of us would like to think that the church is immune to the growing trend of cohabitation prior to, or instead of, marriage. Unfortunately, this cultural trend has crept into the pews as fewer church members recognize cohabitation as a violation of biblical sexual ethics.

Scripture is clear in its condemnation of fornication (a KJV-style word for a pre-marital sexual relationship). Fornication and fornicators (as well as adulterers) are described as evil, subject to judgment, and not heirs of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 15:19; Acts 15:20, 29; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Hebrews 13:4).

Beyond the clear scriptural statements regarding fornication, cohabitation presents another breach of biblical ethics. God established the sexual relationship between a man and a woman in Genesis 2 as a sign of the covenant of marriage.

Just like the rainbow serves as a tangible reminder of God’s covenant with Noah that He will not destroy the earth by flood again, the sexual relationship between a husband and wife demonstrates the exclusive, permanent union of marriage. It is so intimate that Genesis 2:24 says the man and woman “shall become one flesh.”

Those who cohabit participate in the “pleasures” of the relationship without the covenantal commitment. This stands in direct violation of God’s plan for marriage that He established in Genesis 2 prior to the Fall.

So how do we address the issue of cohabitation in the church? First, remember that cohabitation is not the unpardonable sin. After Paul gives a vice list in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10 that says certain people, including fornicators and adulterers, will not inherit the Kingdom of God, he states, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

We need to work with cohabiting Christian couples to help them confess and repent of this sin. Ideally, this confession and repentance should have a public element to it within the church. This does not necessarily mean that they air their dirty laundry before the church on Sunday morning, but it should at least include their families and those in their circle of influence who are aware of the situation. Depending on the church, it may also include the entire church body.

Second, we need to help these couples separate from their sinful lifestyle. Many couples use cohabitation as a “test drive” for marriage, but it is actually a recipe for disaster. If a cohabiting couple is heading toward marriage, then we need to encourage them to change their living arrangements. If it means a woman moves back home with her parents, or a man moves in with some friends for a period of a few months, then so be it. If the couple is not willing to do this for the remainder of the time leading up to the marriage, then they are not interested in honoring God with their marriage.

We simply cannot turn a blind eye to the issue of cohabitation. The biblical covenant of marriage is too important to God’s design for mankind to adopt the world’s preferences for pleasure without commitment.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Evan Lenow is assistant professor of ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. This article was originally published in The Alabama Baptist. For another article on the topic of cohabitation, published by the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, click here.)
8/16/2013 11:31:30 AM by Evan Lenow, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



A Christian vision for gender non-conforming boys

August 15 2013 by Denny Burk, Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A youth camp for gender non-conforming boys – a retreat for prepubescent young men who behave in ways that are feminine – was posted in Slate.com this summer.

The camp provides a place for parents and children to feel “protected” as these young boys act out in ways that they wouldn’t normally do in public. The article pictures boys wearing dresses, parading down runways, and putting on makeup – all of it with their smiling parents looking on in approval.

The article – and especially the pictures – are grieving for more reasons than I will enumerate here. But there was one particular line from the report that stood out as uniquely revealing:

“Although it is unknown if the kids at the camp will eventually identify as gay or transgender – or even if the way gender and sexuality are defined throughout society will evolve – the camp allows the kids to look at themselves in a completely different way.”

The utter moral confusion of that one sentence is astonishing. According to this author, it’s not just these boys’ gender that is unknown. It’s also the very definition of “gender and sexuality” that is still up for grabs. It is an unwitting admission that the sexual revolutionaries and gender revisionists don’t really know where they are trying to lead us. Yet they confidently call us and our children forward to follow them over the cliff.

This is exactly where the Christian vision of humanity has so much to offer people like the ones profiled in the article. The Bible puts solid ground beneath our feet so that we don’t have to guess at what it means to be male and female – so that parents don’t have to sow even more confusion into their child’s bewilderment.

The spirit of the age tells us that gender is nothing more than a social construct – a set of behavioral patterns and tendencies that we absorb from our culture and upbringing. In this way of thinking, gender norms are arbitrary and fluid. Thus to raise a little boy to be a little boy can be cruel and abusive if that little boy wishes to behave like a girl. Gender is a choose-your-own-adventure story, and the parent’s job is to get out of the way and let it happen.

The Christian vision is so very different from this and so very freeing and affirming of what we were really meant to be before God. In the biblical view, every single person is created in the image of God. God did not make us into undifferentiated genderless automatons. On the contrary, he made us male and female (Genesis 1:26-27), and that fundamental biological distinction defines us.

Gender norms, therefore, have their roots in God’s good creation and are revealed in nature and scripture. The task of parenting requires us to understand those norms and to inculcate them into our children – even those children who have deep conflicts about their “gender identity.”

But the parental vocation is not an easy one. We are a fallen race. That means that we – as well as our children – are born with deep-seated antipathy toward what God made us to be. There is a brokenness in our bones that groans to be healed. As the Psalmist has it, we have all been brought forth in iniquity and conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5).

A parent’s job, therefore, is not to “get out of the way” but to get in the way of every disposition or habit that threatens to derail what God made children to be (Proverbs 22:6). Parents who refuse to correct the destructive tendencies in their own children aren’t loving their children. They’re failing their children (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

And therein is the singular tragedy of this story. Camps like the one profiled above teach parents to abandon children to their fallenness. They celebrate the very brokenness that Jesus died on the cross to forgive and to heal (1 Peter 2:24). They confuse and distort not only gender norms but also what the role of a parent is – to know the truth and to teach their children to walk in it (3 John 4).

To miss this is to miss everything about what it means to be a parent. And it is to miss everything about what it means to be created in God’s image as male and female. In short, it is to miss everything that is most important about life.

As the sexual revolutionaries rally with cries of “liberation,” they are steadily leading us and our children over a cliff. Are you going to follow?

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Denny Burk is associate professor of New Testament at Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.)
8/15/2013 1:37:59 PM by Denny Burk, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



The ‘radical’ backlash

August 15 2013 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. – The backlash against striving to be a “radical” follower of Jesus started earlier this year.

Giving your all for Christ – including your life – goes back to the earliest Christian disciples and has been one of the marks of true faith throughout church history.

“Radical” living, however, has a more specific meaning in this controversy, stoked by several articles in Christian publications. It refers to the commitment young evangelical leaders, particularly Southern Baptist pastor/author David Platt, have urged American Christians to make.

In a popular series of books and teachings beginning with Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream (2010), Platt has challenged American believers to forsake the comfortable, materialistic, watered-down Christianity many of us practice.

In its place, Platt calls for the kind of sacrifice and obedience that might lead some to give up possessions, go to risky places to proclaim the gospel, maybe even suffer and die for Christ.

He’s been joined by evangelical voices such as Francis Chan (Crazy Love), Kyle Idleman (Not a Fan) and others calling for a faith that looks more like the one found in the New Testament than the one commonly seen in suburban American churches.

Hold on, respond the critics. You’re setting up an elite category of super-sanctified commando Christians, leaving the rest of us feeling like inadequate, second-class believers. What about everyday folks who quietly go about their lives and provide for their families, while faithfully worshipping God and serving others? Are they failing the test of basic discipleship if they don’t leave their homes and families and do something “radical” for Christ?

“The heroes of the radical movement are martyrs and missionaries whose stories truly inspire, along with families who make sacrifices to adopt children. Yet the radicals’ repeated portrait of faith underemphasizes the less spectacular, frequently boring, and overwhelmingly anonymous elements that make up much of the Christian life,” wrote Matthew Lee Anderson (founder of the influential Christian blog “Mere Orthodoxy”) in a March cover story for Christianity Today magazine.

“[T]here aren’t many narratives of men who rise at 4 a.m. six days a week to toil away in a factory to support their families. Or of single mothers who work 10 hours a day to care for their children. Judging by the tenor of their stories, being ‘radical’ is mainly for those who already have the upper-middle-class status to sacrifice,” Anderson wrote.

Anthony Bradley went a step further in a commentary for the Acton Institute, reprinted in WORLD Magazine in May. He called the push to be “radical” – and the “missional” church movement generally – manifestations of a “new legalism” among evangelicals.

Bradley, a well-known commentator and professor at The King’s College in New York, said he reached that conclusion after a long conversation with a Christian student struggling over what to do with his life.

“I continue to be amazed by the number of youth and young adults who are stressed and burnt out from the regular shaming and feelings of inadequacy if they happen to not be doing something unique and special,” Bradley wrote.

“Today’s millennial generation is being fed the message that if they don’t do something extraordinary in this life they are wasting their gifts and potential. The sad result is that many young adults feel ashamed if they ‘settle’ into ordinary jobs, get married early and start families, live in small towns, or as 1 Thessalonians 4:11 says, ‘aspire to live quietly, and to mind [their] affairs, and to work with [their] hands.’

“... The combination of anti-suburbanism with new categories like ‘missional’ and ‘radical’ has positioned a generation of youth and young adults to experience an intense amount of shame for simply being ordinary Christians who desire to love God and love their neighbors (Matthew 22:36-40)...,” Bradley wrote. “Why is Christ’s command to love God and neighbor not enough for these leaders?”

This supposed “shaming” of young Christians sure is news to me.

I seldom pass up a chance to challenge young people to get involved in local and international missions – and I’m regularly inspired by their responses.

Ask counselors who work with young missionary candidates and campus ministers who mentor students, and they’ll tell you the same thing: Millennial Christians want to make a difference in the world. They want to serve the poor and fight injustice. They want to act on Christ’s command to take the gospel to the nations. Sometimes they get impatient with parents and other elders who try to hold them back. And they’re willing, even eager, to go to some of the toughest places on earth.

True, not everyone is equipped by God to go to such places. Those who do go need to demonstrate a clear calling from God; otherwise they’ll never make it when the going gets hard. But everyone can participate in the task through awareness, prayer, support and local church mobilization.

The old division between “regular” church folks and the special few who go to the mission field has been bridged by the vast new opportunities for participation afforded by modern travel, technology and networking – and the rediscovery of the biblical truth that reaching all peoples is the mission of the whole church and everyone in it.

The only non-negotiable requirement is obedience.

One of the young people profiled in Platt’s Radical is Genessa Wells. The Texas Baptist teacher lived and served in Egypt for two years – and died there at age 24. She wasn’t a martyr; she was killed in a bus accident in the Sinai just one day before the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. I never met her, but I had the privilege of attending a memorial service for her a few days later in Cairo.

Wells, who had an angelic singing voice, had planned to pursue her study of music in seminary after she came home from Egypt. She never made it back, but she packed enough passion for several lifetimes into her brief life.

Shortly before she moved to the Middle East in 1999, she wrote: “I could give up (on overseas service) and get married and become a music teacher. All of this is very noble and to be quite honest, sounds good to me! But in my heart, I want to change my world – more than I want a husband and more than I want comfort. I need this opportunity to grow and to tell others about Jesus. One of my favorite praise songs says, ‘I will never be the same again, I can never return, I’ve closed the door.’”

Two years later, in her last email home, she quoted another praise song: “‘Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, open the eyes of my heart, I want to see you ... shining in the light of your glory....’ It seems that everything we do comes down to one thing: His glory. I pray that all our lives reflect that.... It seems like a floodgate has been opened in my heart [to share God’s love]. I have a passion for it I never knew God had given me. He’s given it to me for His glory.”

She shared her passion for God with Egyptians, with Palestinians in refugee camps, with Bedouin in the desert. If she had lived, she might have gone home to Texas, gotten married, started a family, become a music teacher. Or she might have opted to serve long-term overseas. Either way, she had one grand purpose in life: to love God and praise Him wherever she went and in whatever she did.

That should be the one purpose and desire of every follower of Christ. It only looks “radical” because it is so rare.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is an International Mission Board global correspondent. Visit WorldView Conversation, the blog related to this column.)
8/15/2013 1:29:55 PM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



The perils of transgender bathrooms

August 14 2013 by Penna Dexter, Baptist Press

DALLAS – California frequently is on the leading edge of societal trends. Some of these ideas are not worthy of emulation, and we should pray that a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown Aug. 12 will not take hold nationwide.

WORLD Magazine called it the “transgender bathroom bill.” The bill allows transgender students K-12 to choose which restrooms and locker rooms they wish to use and which sports teams they’d like to join based upon their gender identity. Gender identity is not necessarily the gender of your birth but the one you feel the most comfortable in.

Sixteen other states have outlawed what’s being called discrimination based upon someone’s gender expression. But California now is pushing the concept into schools.

Maybe it’s the beautiful weather. Or perhaps it’s the Left’s euphoria over the demise of Proposition 8, California’s law protecting marriage from being expanded to same-sex couples. Or maybe too many California legislators have simply lost it.

There are some obvious problems with this legislation. One senator, Jim Neilson, who voted against the bill, put it mildly when he said, “Elementary and secondary students of California – our most impressionable, our most vulnerable – now may be subjected to some very difficult situations.” He told WORLD that some parents and students would be “extraordinarily uncomfortable with what this bill would impose upon them.”

“Transgendered” is the term used to describe people who are in some way not satisfied with being male or female. This dissatisfaction likely will lead to one or more of a broad spectrum of lifestyles, from cross-dressing to varying degrees of sex changes. Supporters of the bathroom bill say it’s needed to protect transgendered students from bullying and abuse.

But this approach will not protect transgendered kids. Rather, it risks severely harming them. It’s another measure, in a string of misguided California laws, that serves to lock students into sexual or gender identities they might be struggling with.

California has passed another law that criminalizes psychological counseling to help young people battle homosexual attractions and inclinations. Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, worked hard to oppose that bill.

Now, he has argued, enacting this school law not only will usher in the obvious danger to girls who will find young men present where they are changing and showering but also would hurt those kids truly facing gender disorders.

“To completely truncate the role of psychologists and counselors in this process, much less the rights of parents, is a travesty to the welfare, proper development and possible healing of these young people,” Dacus said.

Rather than enable gender identity disorder in a child, Proverbs 22:6 says we should train each child “in the way he should go.” Sometimes it is wisest to wait until “he is old” to see the fruit.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Penna Dexter is a conservative activist and frequent panelist on the “Point of View” syndicated radio program.)


Related story

Calif. transgender students to pick restrooms
8/14/2013 11:40:04 AM by Penna Dexter, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Giving with a cheerful heart

August 14 2013 by Martha Bailey, Baptist Press

COVINGTON, La. – There’s nothing like trying to worship while wrestling with a preschooler. Helping a 3-year old adjust to “big church” can be a challenge. I had a friend whose boys slept through every service, morning or evening. I wondered how church could have such a sedative effect on her boys while having just the opposite effect on our daughters.

Occasionally I had the urge to pinch one of her boys just so she would know what it was like to wrestle during church like the rest of us. I never did it, but it wasn’t because I didn’t think of it!

One Sunday morning the children, including our 3-year-old Emily, went forward for the children’s sermon – you know, the kind that you get more out of than your child. Some folks from church had been to Guatemala on a mission trip and had brought back coins for all the children.

The minister talked about missions for a few minutes and then said, “Today, boys and girls, I am going to give each one of you a Guatemalan coin that you can keep.” So all the children eagerly reached into the bag, got a coin and proudly returned to their parents.

The offering followed the children’s sermon. After the offertory prayer, I gave Emily a quarter to put into the offering plate. While waiting for the plate, Emily held to her quarter tightly in her right hand and her Guatemalan coin in her left hand. When the offering plate finally reached us, she got her hands mixed up. By mistake she put her Guatemalan coin in the plate instead of the quarter.

As soon as she did it, a look of horror came over her face, and she screamed, I mean screamed, “Hey wait a minute! I want my ‘watermelon’ coin back!”

What did the ushers do? They did exactly what Emily told them to do! They passed the plate back to her. She dug through the offering until she found her “watermelon” coin. She gladly exchanged her quarter for the coin.

It was one of those moments that everyone else loves and thinks is so ... but can be a little embarrassing for parents. For days, we talked about our “watermelon” coins from “Gwatermala.”

When Paul wrote “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7), what did he mean? Apparently, God smiles when we give from a willing heart. When God sees that we are grateful for the many blessings He has given us and that we want to give some of those blessings back to Him, He is well pleased.

There’s a story in the Book of Acts about a couple named Ananias and Sapphira. They were not cheerful givers. They did not make God smile. They conspired to sell a piece of land and give part of the money they had received to the apostles under the pretense that they were giving all that they had received for the property.

Peter, however, saw through their conspiracy and reprimanded them by saying, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the proceeds from the field? Wasn’t it yours while you possessed it? And after it was sold, wasn’t it at your disposal? Why is it that you planned this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God!” (Acts 5:3-4).

This story has a very sad ending. God judged both Ananias and Sapphira, and they died on the spot. Their death did not go unnoticed by the early Christians either. According to Luke, “great fear came on the whole church and on all who heard these things” (Acts 5:11).

Giving is very serious business with God. In Malachi 3:8, God posed a poignant question to the people of Israel: “Will a man rob God?”

When they asked how they had robbed Him, He answered, “By not making the payments of the tenth and the contributions. You are suffering under a curse, yet you – the whole nation – are still robbing Me” (Malachi 3:8-9).

Quite often we don’t take God seriously when it comes to the spiritual discipline of giving our tithes and offerings.

How do you view giving?

Do you see it as a duty? Is it a chore? Do you do it out of fear? Do you resent having to give? Do you do it grudgingly? Do you only give when presented with the necessity of a dire need? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to take a closer look at who God is and what He expects.

God makes it clear that it’s not only the gift that counts, but it’s the attitude with which we give it. Paul said it this way, “The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart – not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

When we respond in obedience, He makes every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. The ministry of giving not only supplies the needs of the saints; it also overflows in many acts of thanksgiving to God (2 Corinthians 9:8,12).

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Martha Bailey is a pastor’s wife. She and her husband Waylon minister through First Baptist Church in Covington, La. She is also a mom, speaker and author. This article was adapted by SBC LIFE, journal of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, from “Watermelon Coin” in “Putting My Dress-up Clothes Away: because big girls live in the real world” (Insight Press, 2007).
8/14/2013 11:37:10 AM by Martha Bailey, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Would Nixon have resigned today?

August 13 2013 by Kelly Boggs, Baptist Press

ALEXANDRIA, La. – Rather than face impeachment over allegations he conspired to cover up a bungled burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C., Richard Nixon resigned as president Aug. 9, 1974.

America’s 37th president announced his resignation sitting at the desk in the Oval Office. Nixon indicated his motive for stepping down was to put the good of the nation before his own self-interest.

Excerpts from Nixon’s exit speech echo his “nation first” theme.

“I would have preferred to carry through to the finish whatever the personal agony it would have involved, and my family unanimously urged me to do so,” Nixon said. “But the interest of the nation must always come before any personal considerations.”

Nixon added later in the speech, “I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as president, I must put the interest of America first.”

The only person who knows the real motive for his resignation is Nixon himself. However, at least in words, it was his concern for the well-being of America. Nixon’s resignation stands in stark contrast to many contemporary politicians whose only interest seems to be self.

Consider President Bill Clinton, who committed perjury before a grand jury and was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives only to be acquitted by a partisan vote in the Senate. Many observers believe Clinton put his self-interest before that of the nation.

If Clinton’s actions were not egregious enough, consider the current mayor of San Diego, Bob Filner. He has been accused of sexual harassment by as many as 13 women.

While Filner has admitted to inappropriate behavior, he thus far has no intentions of resigning. Instead, the mayor plans to visit a rehab center for two weeks.

These are only two examples of many that could be cited. American pop culture is characterized by behaviors that only a few decades ago would have been the cause of intense shame and resulted in expressions of sincere sorrow and grave regret as well as resignations.

Behavior once considered sinful by society now is excused and even flaunted. However, the concept of sin, which is deemed old-fashioned and outdated by many in popular culture, has never been more prevalent and more applicable.

The essence of sin is to consider one’s self-interest first in all situations, no matter how it may affect others. All that matters is what I want, how I want it and how fast I can get it.

Sin once was frowned upon in American society. Now it is tolerated and even encouraged. Everywhere you turn today, from reality television to social media, the contemporary version of sin is on parade.

I have developed an acronym in an effort to explain what I believe are the chief characteristics of the sin that is not only encouraged in contemporary society but is also cultivated. This is it: S – Self-importance, I – Irresponsibility, N – Narcissism.

While the concepts of self-importance, irresponsibility and narcissism saturate every strata of American society, Jean M. Twenge, author of Generation Me, believes it is especially prevalent in those born after 1972.

“Today’s under-35 young people are the real Me Generation, or, as I call them, Generation Me,” wrote Twenge. “Born after self-focus entered the cultural mainstream, this generation has never known a world that put duty before self.”

The manifestation of sin encouraged in popular culture is characterized by self-importance. It is arrogance on steroids.

Not only are an individual’s worldview and opinions to be valued, they are not to be questioned and certainly not criticized; they are sacred. Those who refuse to agree with the views of the self-important, even family members, are deemed disposable.

Irresponsibility is another aspect of the sin cultivated in contemporary society. By irresponsible, I do not mean the eschewing of work or the keeping of commitments. What I mean is that nothing is ever the fault of the individual.

Any failure is the fault of someone or something else: parents, teachers, coaches, employers, stress, psychological disorders, etc. Passing the buck has been elevated to an art form in the sin cultivated in modern society.

A third characteristic of contemporary sin is narcissism. The term is derived from the character Narcissus in Greek mythology, who fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water.

Narcissism describes a person characterized by egotism, pride and selfishness. Narcissists are dismissive, manipulative, uncivil and given to exaggeration. They are convinced they are intellectually and morally superior.

“Every culture is shaped by its fundamental core beliefs, and in America today there are few values more fiercely held than the importance of self-admiration,” observed W. Keith Campbell and Jean M. Twenge in their book The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in an Age of Entitlement.

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people,” states a biblical proverb. An emphasis on self-importance, irresponsibly and narcissism not only disgraces politicians, those corrupt qualities also disgrace, debase and disfigure every aspect of a society.

If Nixon’s Watergate cover-up occurred today, rather than 39 years ago, would he resign? Probably not; it is likely the concepts of self-importance, irresponsibility and narcissism cultivated now in American culture would discourage any thought of placing the country’s best interest before his own.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s office of public affairs and editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)
8/13/2013 3:57:42 PM by Kelly Boggs, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Modern-day slavery

August 13 2013 by Trillia Newbell, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – News outlets across the nation reported the rescue of more than 100 teenage victims of sex trafficking. From a statement from Ronald Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s criminal investigative division, NBC reported that the sting resulted in the arrest of 159 “pimps” from San Francisco to Miami; the youngest victim was 13 years old. For many, this may be the first news of such atrocities occurring in these United States, the land of the free.

Sex trafficking is not only happening, the numbers are staggering. The FBI estimates that nearly 293,000 American youths currently are at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Victims are often young, from broken families or orphans. They are taken and sold for forced sex or prostitution. Most are girls, but boys are exploited as well.

Sex trafficking is a global issue. The FBI reports that it is the fastest-growing business of organized crime and the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world. Money and lust motivate men and women to abuse and exploit children in ways unimaginable, so much so that I have resisted linking to the plethora of graphic and disturbing images and articles describing the torture these children endure day in and day out. I’ve seen only a small portion of what this might look like.

As a young and naïve college student I had no idea what I was about to stumble upon during my visit to Amsterdam. I knew that marijuana was legal and that I might encounter it (oddly, I never did). But I did find myself in the middle of the Red Light District. The images I saw have haunted me since that trip. Women posing in windows for anyone to gawk at as voyeurs walked by. It is legal. It is blatant. And I now know it was a small taste of the devastating sex industry. What I saw was tame compared to the many reports of secret housing holding women hostage to be raped repeatedly.

As we learn about these tragedies the question that haunts us is, what can be done? How can the church help? The Psalmist wrote, “For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight,” (Psalm 72:12-14).

Because of its criminal nature we are slightly limited in what we can do; but limitations aren’t impossibilities. And we know nothing is impossible for God. Here are three ways you might get involved.

1. Pray.

The poor, needy, oppressed and orphan are special to the Lord. We can bow before God and ask Him to rescue “the needy when he calls.”
  • Pray for government officials to continue to crack down on these crimes and for the criminals to be found.
  • Pray for families to be healed and children to be protected before a sex-trafficking criminal can reach them.
  • Pray for the salvation of all those involved, that the gospel would penetrate hearts and break the sinful bondage that entangles them and pour out forgiveness and grace.
  • Pray for healing for the girls and boys who have been rescued, that they would be able to return to society and live healthy, normal, productive lives.
This is not an exhaustive list, the prayer needs are many.

2. Be informed.

You can’t share what you don’t know. This article is only an introduction. Various organizations have produced information to keep you informed and some are developing tools to help you remain active.

The Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board shares Christ and serves those in spiritual and physical need through avenues such as OneLife’s One Woman and One Brothel projects.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s website has an entire page devoted to resources on human trafficking.

Other organizations, such as International Justice Mission, Salvation Army, Sower of Seeds, Project Red Light Rescue and Nefarious Documentary, provide numerous resources to help you get started.

3. Spread the word.

Because of the horrific nature of sex trafficking, many of us do not want to face the truth that this could happen right under our noses. One way to assist is to inform your churches and neighbors. Many articles are graphic in nature and therefore require discernment regarding which to share. There is, however, information available.

Through prayer, sharing and education we can be active citizens in helping the fight against sex trafficking. We won’t be able to solve the problem in one day, one year, or even five; but by the grace of God we can be the feet of Jesus to a world that is dying and for these young girls and boys who are enslaved in the most inhumane way.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Trillia Newbell writes for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Learn more about how you can become involved in fighting sex trafficking at erlc.com/humantrafficking.)
8/13/2013 3:46:02 PM by Trillia Newbell, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



A policy to adopt and live

August 12 2013 by Lynn R. Buzzard, Guest Column

I appreciate the concern of the recent Biblical Recorder article (Aug. 3 issue) to address church issues arising out of recent Boy Scout and gay marriage court decisions. I concur with much of what was presented. However, I have a rather different view of the essential task facing churches. Perhaps it’s a difference in emphasis or priority, but it does suggest a quite distinctive challenge to churches, and our resulting counsel to them.
 
The article seemed to suggest a priority issue was establishing some policies on gay marriage. Certainly, having articulated policies on a host of topics is essential for churches to assure sound and consistent practices, avoid arbitrariness as well as minimize undue risks. 
 
Effective policies, however, must not be merely emotive driven – quickly drafted statements that have little careful thought, or worse, have been adopted without any serious biblical and principled basis. 
In the context of issues raised by so-called “gay rights” and the broader set of vast sweeping cultural challenges facing churches, the urgent need is not, I think, for crafting quick homosexual-focused policies.
 
The critical fact is that homosexual related issues are part of the much broader challenge of collapsing sexual ethics, and profound marriage and family trends. Within the church itself, we have been too passive and even functionally accepting of explosions of sexual dysfunction and failures within our church life – adultery, groundless divorce, sexual addictions, premarital sex, pornography, broken families, abandoned kids and a near pagan focus on sexuality. It’s an epidemic, and we have not been immune. Our deeper “problem” and challenge is not focused toward gay marriage. And it’s not just “them.”
 
It is not just the outside culture, but one that has infected all our society. And the family/marriage/sexuality is itself part of a larger materialist, humanist, relativist wave of moral and religious rebellion.
 
We have in the church two distinct and urgent crises. One is an internal church problem of discipleship, accountability, healing and spiritual nurture in the context of brokenness among many of our members and families. Internally we must recover being the church. That means standing firm, resolute and faithful in affirming truth. But it also means redeeming ourselves and addressing our broken lives. The church as has been observed is no hotel for saints, but a hospital for sinners. And last I noticed, we still need emergency rooms and critical care wards.
 
Externally, our challenge is to be “in but not of” the world and to engage a culture that has no history with us, no sense of the real gospel message, or of our lofty view of marriage and sexuality. They need to hear not just what we oppose, but what we affirm and celebrate. Most of our members might easily declare their opposition to gay marriage, but are ill-equipped to respond to a generation bathed in hedonistic relativism and a deluge of media that attacks the church as homophobic, bigoted, prejudiced and hateful. 
 
I see the current context as a great opportunity to do what churches rarely, but must urgently now do. We must do our biblical and theological work first. We must know who we are and our message, understand what it means to love and care deeply for the most hurting and distorted in our communities, while standing against pretensions and illusions of the day. We must not avoid or hide from the spiritual alien and stranger, but engage and call them to wholeness. We must be light and life, and be as attractive as Jesus was to the broken and discarded of His day.
 
This involves more than a one-night church business meeting or adopt-a-policy task!
 
This is not the first time the church has had to live in a culturally hostile world; it was Rome a long time ago. It was Corinth. And it is ours. We better get used to it. It is in fact our mission field. The relativism, narcissism and hedonism of the age produces a harvest of sadly broken lives – and we better be there – as Christians picked up the abandoned children on the hills outside Rome.
 
Policies? Yes, but they must be products of more than well-crafted legal statements.
 
They must reflect the fullness of Good News – not merely condemning one particular sin and illusion of the day. We must be sure the clearest “policy” – the really big policy – is one reflected in the welcoming and care that comes from Jesus being known as the “friend of sinners.”
 
Our real policy is hopefully much more what we earnestly seek to do for those in and out of the church, and to be lovingly redemptive.
 
The consistent biblical word is not “Stay Out” but “Come.” Yes, come and find a joyous place of repentance, grace and life. Now there’s a policy to adopt and live!
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lynn R. Buzzard is Professor of Law at Campbell University’s School of Law, and author of the Baptist State Convention’s Church Policy Manual that is now in the process of being updated. He has served as interim pastor of several Baptist churches in North Carolina.)
8/12/2013 2:04:42 PM by Lynn R. Buzzard, Guest Column | with 1 comments



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