August 2016

Essential discipleship

August 31 2016 by David H. McKinley

I read a lot of information and focus enormous amounts of energy and attention on what may be called “essentials” in ministry. Of course as a pastor, what I call “essential” must always be rooted in biblical instruction.

For all pastors, churches and Christ-followers, there is no sole, single text with broader application or a greater call to action than Matthew 28:18-20, the Great Commission.

David McKinley

I’m sure you would agree the Great Commission is the foundation of all ministry focus and formation. Here we meet the “disciple-making” mandate:
“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV).
Yet, I often read and observe what seems to be a myopic view of discipleship that focuses exclusively on believers leading or bringing embryonic believers into greater maturity in Christ. In other words, discipleship is projected as being synonymous with spiritual development.
No doubt the end result of effective discipling is a follower whose life bears “observational obedience” (Matthew 28:20) to the commands of Christ. But may I suggest that if you are to follow the biblical model of discipleship, there are at least three essential and integral dimensions to consider?


1. Conversion

The starting point for essential discipleship begins with the Great Commission. The Great Commission is a sending mandate in and under the authority of the name of Jesus Christ. It requires active and cooperative obedience on the part of existing believers to go.
Where? Everywhere.
Who? All peoples.
What? Bear witness to the name and fame of Christ.
Essential discipleship requires bearing the seed of the gospel of which the fruit is “baptismal” identification under the authority of the “name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9). This is not a matter of church tradition or denomination; it is the pattern of those who confessed conversion throughout the New Testament.
It should be noted the word “disciple” appears almost exclusively in the Gospels and Acts, but appears absent in the New Testament epistles that focus on spiritual growth and maturity. Why? The first essential component of disciple-making is the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit through the faithful proclamation of the gospel.
The disciple-making process is not what happens after salvation; it is the very essence and evidence of faithful gospel witness, beginning with God’s gracious work of intervention called salvation.
Evangelism and discipleship are inseparable. All biblical evangelism is aimed at a life-change, and all discipleship is dependent upon faithful gospel proclamation that leads to conversion. God makes disciples when you go in faith and faithfulness to His command.
The result of gospel-bearing witness is life-changing followship of Jesus Christ.

2. Formation

No doubt essential discipleship requires that you give great attention and effort to spiritual formation in the lives of both new and continuing believers. Formation involves instruction, discipline, relationship, accountability, adversity and more. Yet, this formation depends on the reality of an indwelling enabler, the Holy Spirit, who works to bring a Christ-bearing image in you.
What are the results of bearing Christ’s image? You encourage, support and surround others for the purpose of deepening the understanding of gospel truth. You instruct and challenge others toward greater obedience, as is the clear intent of biblical community within the church (Hebrews 10:23-25).
Spiritual formation is not a random process or an automatic outcome of believing faith. It is challenged through instruction, called out through mortification of the flesh, tested in affliction and commanded in the Great Commission itself: “… teaching them to observe all I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).
Who? Those who have been marked in baptism as disciples “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

3. Mission

Discipleship is not an end in and of itself. It is a send essential! It is a journey of conversion and formation in faith that leads to faithful mission and participation in the disciple-making process. You are an evangelist, mentor and missionary.
In the end, any view or ministry effort that seeks to isolate one component or pit one component against another as competitors within local church ministry misses the mark of essential discipleship.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David H. McKinley is pastor-teacher of Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga., and author of two books, The Life You Were Born to Give and The Search for Satisfaction.)

8/31/2016 8:58:39 AM by David H. McKinley | with 0 comments

The SBC’s wisdom about Disney

August 30 2016 by David Roach

In anticipation of watching Disney’s Finding Dory with my children in the theater this summer, I pulled up the trailer on my phone and noticed what appeared to be a scene featuring a lesbian couple with a baby.
The scene passes quickly, and co-director Andrew Stanton told USA Today the two animated women, who caused a significant internet stir, “can be whatever you want them to be.”

David Roach

Still, viewing that scene – and other moments in the Disney movies my daughters love – has reminded me of Southern Baptists’ wisdom in 2005 when they pledged in conjunction with ending an eight-year Disney boycott “to continue to monitor the products and policies of The Disney Company.”
Disney’s children’s entertainment contains no profanity, gratuitous violence or overt sexual content – at least that I have seen. And recent productions contain positive thematic elements like ethnic diversity. But the more I view Disney shows and movies with my kids, the more I realize they contain elements that seem likely to influence children away from Christian doctrine and morality.
I also notice a departure in recent Disney entertainment from some wholesome themes of the company’s productions in the mid-20th century.
For one, biblical allusions and depictions of Judeo-Christian religious practices have yielded in some cases to depictions of secular and even idolatrous practices.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) includes a scene in which Snow White kneels by her bed and prays. Pinocchio (1940) bears striking parallels to the biblical story of Jonah, as a puppet disobeys the instructions of the loving father who created him and is swallowed by a whale then vomited up.
The apparent biblical imagery continues in Sleeping Beauty (1959), when the king’s only son, armed with “the sword of truth,” cuts through a forest of thorns and thistles to rescue his bride and slays the “mistress of all evil,” who takes the form of a dragon and tells him she possesses “all the powers of hell.”
In addition, themes of resurrection seem apparent in Snow White, Pinocchio, Sleeping Beauty and even the more recent Beauty and the Beast (1991).
Contrast that with, for example, the Native American religion depicted in Pocahontas (1995), the ancestor worship depicted in Mulan (1998), a crowd of people bowing to an idol in Mulan II (2004) and the replacement of Christmas with the fictional and religion-less winter holiday “Wassailia” in the Sofia the First series (2012-present).
Portrayals of marriage and gender roles have shifted too.
Disney princesses used to get married almost without exception. Think Snow White, Cinderella (1950), Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid (1989) and Beauty and the Beast. Not so much anymore, as in Pocahontas, Mulan, Brave (2012) and Frozen (2013).
In mid-20th-century films, departures from the traditional family structure caused grief and pain, as in Snow White and Cinderella. In Sofia the First, however, a blended family appears to be the source of nearly unmitigated joy.
Of course, many aspects of this shift are not bad in themselves. The single life is a God-ordained and fulfilling path for many Christians, and blended families can be blessed and joyful. The fact remains though, that the trajectory of Disney entertainment seems to be moving away from extolling the traditional family.
In other gender-related developments, Mulan joins the military and engages in hand-to-hand combat. She also finds herself accidentally swimming nude with men.
That said, caveats are in order.
First, older Disney movies were not without flaws. Racial insensitivity seems apparent in Snow White, where the heroine is seen as beautiful because she has fair skin. Sleeping Beauty’s distinctly Anglo features similarly are said to set her apart as beautiful. And almost all Disney movies include references to magic.
Second, there have been some decidedly positive shifts in more recent Disney entertainment like the racial and ethnic diversity of the protagonists.
Third, Disney is not the only producer of children’s entertainment to include questionable themes. It is one of many mirrors that reflect a general cultural drift.
Still, without child-level discussions on religious pluralism, marriage, gender roles, modesty and other ethical and theological themes, exposure to Disney entertainment may undermine foundations of a biblical worldview. Amplifying the problem, Disney introduces such themes well before some parents want to introduce them.
So should parents prevent their children from watching Disney movies and shows? That’s for each family to decide, seeking God’s wisdom in the process. Some may opt to delay exposure to these themes while others may decide to watch Disney films with their children and use them as teachable moments, as my wife and I have done.
What’s certain is that Southern Baptists were right in 2005 to urge vigilance in monitoring Disney products.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

8/30/2016 9:58:23 AM by David Roach | with 0 comments

Evangelize to revitalize

August 29 2016 by Ernest L. Easley

With all the talk about church revitalization these days and how the majority of our churches need to be revitalized, let’s keep in mind that there is no church revitalization apart from church evangelization.

When it’s time for a church to revitalize, it’s time for a church to evangelize.

Ernest L. Easley

We read in the Psalms, “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:5-6).
For a church to be revitalized, keep in mind:

The principle of sowing

Drawing from agriculture, the psalmist takes us to the heart of the matter of church revitalization: sowing and reaping.
The church at Laodicea (see Revelation 3:14-22), like many of our churches today, had ceased from doing the “first works,” namely, sowing the gospel, sharing the gospel and scattering the gospel. Our churches will never experience revitalization without getting back to the first works. People are having a hard time getting saved because we’re not sharing Jesus with them.
There is no harvest without first sowing.
Here’s what the principle of sowing and reaping looks like:

  • You reap what you sow.
  • You reap after you sow.
  • You reap more than you sow.

We’re going to have to sow our way into church revitalization.

The priority of sowing

The seed bearer’s priority is seed sowing. “My main business,” Charles Spurgeon said, “is the saving of souls. This one thing I do.” And it is a joyous venture; as Spurgeon put it, “Soul-winning keeps the heart lively.”
C.S. Lewis, in speaking to theology students of this priority, said, “Woe to you if you do not evangelize.”
Sowing the gospel was the priority of Jesus, the master soul-winner who tells us in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Sowing the gospel is the priority of God the Father who tells us in 2 Peter 3:9 that He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
Why would God give His Son as a sacrifice and substitute for sinners like us? The priority of souls! No wonder we read in Luke 19 that Jesus “wept over” Jerusalem as He saw their lostness. Because too many of us no longer see people like God sees people, our tears have all but dried up. Where are the tears for lost souls across the Southern Baptist Convention?

The promise of sowing

As the psalmist declared, the one who weeps and sows “shall doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”
We hear the apostle Paul saying in Galatians 6, “… for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” Here is the promise of sowing: reaping always follows sowing!
We’ve been hearing various candidates running for the office of president of the United States traveling across America talking about starting a revolution. We need a revitalization revolution in our churches and it will begin with evangelism. There is no church revitalization apart from evangelism. Let’s determine to find ways to sow our way into revitalization.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ernest L. Easley is professor of evangelism at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)

8/29/2016 10:49:40 AM by Ernest L. Easley | with 0 comments

Soak in the view

August 26 2016 by David Cook

It’s hard to enjoy a drive through the Blue Ridge Parkway when you’re used to the interstate. The turns drone on and on, while every few minutes a beautiful overlook makes you feel guilty for breezing by it. And there’s the frustration of getting behind a motorist who wants to go much, much slower than you.

David Cook

But that’s okay, you tell yourself. You’re not there to get to your destination quickly, or you would have taken I-40. You’re there to enjoy the beauty of the Smoky Mountains, to get out and look at all those overlooks. The trouble is that your well-ingrained interstate habits don’t examine every mountain peak, drink in their glory, or do anything close to sitting still. You can’t help but zoom through it all, because that’s all you know how to do behind a wheel.
In the same way, when we’re so used to flicking through Twitter, skimming blog posts and trekking through our Bible-in-a-year plans, it can be very hard to slow down and soak in the richness of the Psalms.
But the Psalms were meant to be savored. They aren’t Cheetos; they’re Kobe steaks. They aren’t mile markers on the interstate; they’re curves on the Blue Ridge Parkway. And every one of them has a view you could sit with for an hour.
There’s a concrete reason for this: The Psalms employ visual images more frequently than other books of the Bible. They feel dense because they really are dense with imagery. But it’s those images that, like a scenic overlook, are so easy to miss when you drive too fast.
So the advice I give to someone reading the Psalms is the same advice I give to a first-time driver on the Blue Ridge Parkway: slow down, stop often and come back sometime.
When we read the beginning of Psalm 42 (ESV), “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God,” it’s easy to either speed on to verse 2 or slip into interpreter’s mode. “He’s thirsty for God. Am I thirsty for God? Does my soul thirst?” We want the shortest possible distance between our minds and the meaning, so much that we’ll skip right by the powerful deer imagery to get there. But, so often, it’s that imagery that speaks to the heart. It’s there for a Spirit-inspired reason.
In other words, that word picture is like a scenic overlook. Stop and take it in.
Beyond meditating on the meaning, meditate on the image. Picture a magnificent deer running from the archer’s arrow or the lion’s roar, confused, tired and dehydrated. What does it want more than anything? Water. It pants for it. That deer is thirsty – and your soul is thirsty, too. Now you’re ready to ask if your soul thirsts for God, because now you can sense the meaning more deeply. Your heart was moved before your head even knew what that thirsty deer was all about.
One way to make it come alive is to relate the imagery to your own experiences. When was the last time you were that thirsty? Whether it’s my memory of the Burger King coke my dad bought me decades ago after my first long workday in the Florida sun or the tall glass of water I had the other day after mowing the lawn in Kentucky humidity, I know what it’s like to pant. Thankfully, I know what it’s like to have thirst quenched too. I can still feel that first sip of cold coke coating my 8-year-old overheated stomach. I can’t even imagine how much more refreshing the sight of Jesus will be than that.
So chew on the images for a while before you move on, the same way you’d chew on a piece of a good steak before you swallowed it. Sometimes they come more easily, but other times they don’t. You might have to learn something about the gold of Ophir to fully grasp Psalm 45:9, for instance. But you can probably guess that it’s exotic gold, and thus very valuable. Whatever effort you have to put in, Bible dictionaries you have to open, or Google searches you have to type – the image is worth it.
Read slowly enough that you catch these images. Stop, park and look at them for a while. Finally, come back every once in a while. You need to see these pictures over and over again. They won’t get old. The views are great.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Cook, online at, is worship pastor at Hawesville Baptist Church in Hawesville, Ky.)

8/26/2016 6:40:07 AM by David Cook | with 0 comments

Anybody’s guess

August 25 2016 by Randy L. Bennett

Have you ever wondered how some people seem to know more about what is happening in the church than anyone else?

At this year’s Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in St. Louis, I was told in no uncertain terms that one of the candidates for SBC president would win on the first ballot.
Who can know that? Was the source of the prediction a reliable person? He was well-connected in the convention. Was it possible he had some kind of secret knowledge? It certainly seemed so. Was there conviction in his voice? Yes.

Did things work out as he stated so boldly? Not even close.
This tiny episode is an example of what I call “the power of the guess.” I left St. Louis thinking about the many times I have heard a guess stated as fact.
I am currently serving on the California Southern Baptist Convention’s executive director search committee. One of our members shared at our first meeting about a telephone call he received. According to the committee member, the caller knew about the six candidates we were interviewing and gave his prediction of who would be selected and why.
As a group we just laughed. We haven’t received any resumes and certainly haven’t interviewed anyone yet. The committee is busy creating a profile of the candidate and selecting a group of ethnic leaders to walk alongside us as we prepare to receive resumes and talk to possible candidates. There was no truth to what the caller told our committee member.
Back in the mid-’80s, the personnel committee at a church where I was pastor approached me about some problems with our part-time music director. Some strange things were happening in his personal life that concerned many of the members. The outcome was the committee decided to terminate the worker. Although I did not disagree with the committee, I had almost nothing to do with the process (except in having trained the committee and releasing them to do their job).
A few weeks later, I learned that two or three families were angry at me for firing the music director. Their story was that I wanted the person to be terminated so my oldest brother could serve as the music director.

I actually laughed out loud at the thought of my brother coming to work for me. He is the older brother in every way, including the fact that he would never serve “under the leadership” of his baby brother.
Where had the idea come from? Who started telling people this theory? It didn’t take long to find out. Even though the individual was way over 6 feet tall, I looked him in the eye and asked why he was telling people his version of why the staff person was released. Apparently about two months prior to the termination my brother had sung at our church for some special event. It has always been very rare for us to worship together on a Sunday since we both have served on church staff all our adult lives. Whenever I get the chance I ask him to sing.
My brother’s singing and the staff person’s termination had nothing to do with each other except in the mind of this man. He simply guessed at my motives. His guess hurt the church and those he enraged by sharing his opinion that was not based on any facts. His guess hurt me as well.
Is it possible that much of the gossip that travels from person to person in the church is based on a personal guess? Once the guess is stated out loud with boldness and confidence, people decide if it is feasible. If so, they simply decide to believe the guess even though they have no direct knowledge of the situation.
Over the years my jaw has dropped dozens of time when people prescribed a motive for something I did that simply was untrue. I’ve even been criticized for doing things I never did. Someone guessed why I did something, or guessed that I did something, and shared it authoritatively as fact and those around them believed them.
In our crazy People magazine world of talking heads, we are accustomed to making value judgments and guesses about why people do what they do all the time. Is it possible we are wrong? Is it possible that mind reading doesn’t really exist and that the experts don’t really know what is going to happen either?
Only God is omniscient. Only God knows what is in the heart of each person. It may be fun to speculate why something happens or why people behave as they do, but we simply do not know the answer until we ask. Let’s be careful that we don’t share our guesses as truth. We must remain humble and open to the actual truth rather than substitute truth with our best guess. And what a blessing it is when a church member comes to you for the actual truth rather than blindly choosing to believe a guess.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Randy L. Bennett is director of missions for the Kern County Southern Baptist Association in Bakersfield, Calif., and current president of the California Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/25/2016 8:43:55 AM by Randy L. Bennett | with 0 comments

Building a bridge from high school to college

August 24 2016 by Morgan Owen

The phone call was one that, as a campus minister, you love to receive.
Reed Tallman, youth pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Elizabethton, Tenn., contacted me in July 2015 to pass along contact information for a student, Roger Clark, who was coming from his ministry to the University of Tennessee at Martin. Roger lived more than 400 miles from here. Tallman knew that the transition to college would be a huge step for Roger, and he wanted to do all he could to build a bridge for him from the high school campus to the college campus.

The transition from high school to college can be very challenging, frightening and eye-opening. So many changes take place emotionally, socially and spiritually that it can truly be a “roller coaster ride.” The college years can become a time of confusion as the budding young adult struggles with the onslaught of freedom and temptation.
When dealing with “Generation Z” (those born from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s), many church leaders are frustrated by the statistics that suggest eight out of 10 young adults walk away from the church in their college years.
Even more alarming, small country churches face the overwhelming reality that there may be no one to assume the church leadership roles in the future. For larger churches, the solution has been to hire a college minister to work directly with students to spearhead effective outreach and discipleship for such a vital population in our communities.
My word of advice: Don’t give up on college students.
I am thankful for those who played a crucial role in my college years and challenged me to seek God in all of my life-changing decisions. They did not give up on me and I encourage you – youth pastor, pastor, Sunday School teacher, parent – don’t give up on college students. No matter what your context may be, small church or large church, let’s partner together to impact the incoming class of 2016 for the Kingdom.
Here in my state, I am encouraged by the investment of Tennessee Baptists in our Baptist Collegiate Ministries. With support from the Cooperative Program, the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions, local Baptist associations and supporting churches, Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) are ministering on 24 Tennessee college campuses. At the BCM, students will find a community of acceptance, friendships for a lifetime, caring peers and a campus minister who wants to invest in and disciple them, opportunities to serve in leadership, and missions ventures throughout the year.
But what sets BCM apart from many other college ministries is the value of church involvement. Many BCM student leaders use the ministry as a bridge from the campus to the local church. By inviting new students and peers to church, students are able to be the arm of the local church to a generation that desperately needs to hear the gospel or be encouraged to return to the fellowship.
Down through the years, youth pastors like Reed Tallman have extended their ministry investment to those who have gone on to college. They have seen the importance, as Tallman states, to “walk with them as they prepare to transition to college.”
“I make a personal contact to help students get connected,” Tallman shared. “Whether it is a phone call or an email, I do what I can to connect with them. I can’t be every place where I have a former student, but what I can do is call them periodically to just touch base and see how they are doing and ask if they are plugging into college ministry and church.”
Tallman’s initiative paid off when it came to Roger Clark. He was involved in the BCM at Martin this past year and will be serving on the BCM leadership team for 2016-17.
I am encouraged by the increasing number of churches that are taking important steps to engage and invest in college students. This investment is different in each church’s setting. Some amazing ministry is being done by churches that have hired a college minister. Through one-on-one discipleship, outreach events and worship gatherings, college students are sensing that spiritual life after youth group truly does exist. I am thankful for the churches across our state that have seen the need and are taking action to do something when it comes to ministering to college students.
So, if you are a youth pastor, pastor, church secretary, Sunday School teacher, I encourage you to build the bridge for your teenagers entering college this fall.

  1. Contact the BCMs where your students are heading and share their information (in Tennessee, go to for a listing of BCM contacts).

  2. Contact the local churches where your students are heading and share their information.

  3. Find ways to invest in college students who are staying at home.

  4. Keep in touch with your students throughout the school year, giving encouragement and guidance.

  5. Pray that there will be an increase of young adults desiring to reach their campuses for Christ.

And don’t give up on college students. They need the church!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Morgan Owen is a Baptist Collegiate Ministries director affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention working at the University of Tennessee at Martin. This article first appeared in the TBC newsjournal Baptist and Reflector,

8/24/2016 6:48:00 AM by Morgan Owen | with 0 comments

Praise God for pastoral ‘stickers’

August 18 2016 by Nathan A. Finn

Kentucky farmer-writer Wendell Berry once gave a lecture wherein he distinguished the “boomers” from the “stickers.” Boomers are the restless, ambitious types who believe the path to prosperity is leaving home and embracing a world of innovation and big cities. Stickers, on the other hand, aspire to maintain their roots in the small towns and country places that nurtured them.
Berry was thinking about the future of rural farming and rural America, but his ideas cause me to think about the future of the church and pastoral ministry.

Nathan A. Finn

As Southern Baptists, we have our own version of pastoral boomers and stickers. The boomers leave their small-town or rural churches, are educated in college and probably seminary, and then head off to serve churches located in the suburbs or the city center. Their prayerful desire is to make a significant gospel impact in these places of dense populations and cultural influence.
As a denomination, we love our pastoral boomers. They are the church planters going after the unreached and underserved. They pastor larger and/or regionally influential churches. They innovate strategies for church growth that influence other congregations. When boomers think of the Great Commission, they look to Matthew 28:18-20. God bless the gospel work these boomers are doing. May their tribe increase!
While I’m grateful for pastoral boomers, over the past few years I’ve found myself thinking more and more about the stickers. They also normally attend college, though seminary may or may not be in the offing. Many of them are solo pastors, perhaps even bivocational. Instead of heading to more “strategic” settings, pastoral stickers invest themselves in small-town churches and rural congregations – often close to where they were raised.
These sorts of churches rarely grow larger than a few hundred members because they aren’t located in population centers. They can only become as ethnically and economically diverse as their relatively homogeneous communities. Pastoral stickers rarely get invited to speak at the big conferences, and they don’t often serve in denominational leadership roles beyond their region. When they think Great Commission, their go-to verse is Acts 1:8. They want to make a gospel impact, but their vision is mostly local; you can only do so much with limited resources.
It seems to me that Southern Baptists sometimes act as if we think the boomers matter more for the Kingdom than the stickers. I don’t think we do it deliberately, and I don’t think anyone means anything ill toward pastoral stickers.
Nevertheless, there is little doubt in my mind that we celebrate the boomers more than we do the stickers. Boomers baptize lots of folks. Their churches construct beautiful buildings, sometimes in multiple locations. They lead their churches to plant other churches. Their congregations send out short-term mission teams on a regular basis.
Again, to be clear, I praise God for all the ways He is using boomer pastors to make disciples here, there and everywhere. But in our rush to rightly celebrate how God is blessing the boomers, let’s not forget about the stickers among us. After all, the stickers pastor the vast majority of Southern Baptist churches.
Pastoral work is always strategic Kingdom service, whether it takes place in the heart of the city, a booming suburb, a sleepy county seat community or out in the sticks. Every church needs a faithful shepherd, even when it’s located in a small town with a struggling economy. Every lost person needs to be reached, even when he lives off the beaten path. Every believer needs to be discipled, even when her church can sustain few formal programs. Every pastor is laboring in one of the “hard places,” every church needs to be revitalized in some way, and every community, no matter how small, needs a vibrant gospel witness.
Praise God for the pastoral stickers among us. They are some of God’s most faithful servants, even when their work is unrecognized outside of their communities. Join me in praying that God raises up a generation of pastoral boomers and stickers who faithfully shepherd Christ’s people in every sort of church, in every sort of place, for the glory of God and the sake of Kingdom advance.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Nathan A. Finn serves as dean of the School of Theology and Missions and professor of Christian thought and tradition at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)

8/18/2016 7:59:20 AM by Nathan A. Finn | with 0 comments

The evangelistic power of a family

August 17 2016 by Danny Akin

The vital role of a father and mother (grandparents included) in conveying a missional life for their children cannot be too strongly emphasized.
Most children look up to, admire and follow in their parents’ footsteps. What you value they will value. What you have a passion for they will have a passion for.

Danny Akin

What can we do to embed the Great Commission into the DNA of our children that they may have a lifelong passion for that which is the passion of King Jesus?
Some suggestions:
1) Be incarnational in your parenting (2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:5-11).
Pioneer missionary David Livingston said, “This generation can only reach this generation. But will we raise our children to effectively impact their generation for Jesus Christ?”
The incarnation was a manifestation of God’s redemptive love for His world. Our incarnational love for our children models God’s love and communicates our love for them. To know and love them well, we have to be with them, working hard to see life as they see life. We have to invade their world like Jesus invaded ours.
2) Love well your mate (Ephesians 5:25; Titus 2:4).
Another pioneer missionary, Adoniram Judson, wrote in a letter to his wife Ann, “If such exquisite delights as we have enjoyed ... with one another [are] allowed to sinful creatures on earth, what must the joys of heaven be?” (Marvin J. Newell, ed., “Expect Great Things: Mission Quotes That Inform and Inspire, p. 92).
Children should learn about God’s love for the nations by the way they see their parents love one another. They should see the gospel and the atoning work of Christ put on glorious display in an Ephesians 5 kind of way.
3) Spend time with your children (Deuteronomy 6:7-9).
The parents of Hudson Taylor believed, “At no [other] time is there greater capacity for devotion, or more pure, uncalculating ambition in the service of God” (quoted in “The Mission-Minded Child” by Ann Dunagan, preface).
Apparently Hudson Taylor’s parents took the time early in his life to instill such devotion in Hudson. At the tender age of 5, Hudson declared, “When I am a man, I mean to be a missionary to China” (Dunagan, Mission-Minded Child, preface). And, we all know the rest of the story!
Fathers, what kind of projection of the heavenly Father are you giving to your children through the time you invest in them?
4) Learn to listen to your children (James 1:19).
Ann Dunagan rightly notes, “Often an adult may ask a child, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ But as mission-minded parents and teachers, our typical question could have the potential of directing a child toward total obedience to God and complete surrender to His purposes. We should say, ‘Oh, I wonder what exciting plans God has prepared for your life? When you grow up, will you do whatever God wants you to do?’” (Mission-Minded Child, p. 1).
Hearing your children’s heart on this level may happen in regular, normal and casual conversations, but there should be nothing casual about your listening. You need to zoom in: eye to eye, ear to ear, heart to heart.
5) Read missionary biographies to your children (Hebrews 11).
There is power and inspiration in story. One of my sons named his son Judson after Adoniram Judson. Another named his son Micah Elliot, honoring the late missionary martyr Jim Elliot. Let your children draw inspiration from the heroes of the faith.
6) Expose your children to missionaries by having them in your home, sharing a meal with them, listening to their stories.
John Stam, missionary martyr in China, had parents who ran Star of Hope Mission in Paterson, N.J., while his wife Betty, also martyred, was born into a missionary family. Her four siblings all became missionaries. “All five of us children,” Betty once wrote, “expected ... to return to China as missionaries. Our parents never urged it, but it seemed the natural and right thing to do” (Mrs. Howard Taylor, “To Die Is Gain: The Triumph of John and Betty Stam,” p. 26).
Their story could be multiplied a thousand times over. Our lives are impacted by the people we get to know and grow to admire.
7) Model missional living as a life priority before your children (Matthew 28:18-20).
David Shibley, founder of Global Advance, well says, “God is not calling us to win the world and, in the process, lose our families. But I have known those who so enshrined family life and were so protective of ‘quality time’ that the children never saw in their parents the kind of consuming love that made their parents’ faith attractive to them. Some have lost their children, not because they weren’t at their soccer games or didn’t take family vacations, but because they never transmitted a loyalty to Jesus that went deep enough to interrupt personal preferences” (Newell, Expect Great Things, p. 91).
Concluding questions to consider:

  • Are you a member of a Great Commission church?
  • How often do you participate in national and international missions experiences?
  • Do you pray that your children and grandchildren become overseas missionaries?
  • Do you personally give sacrificially to missions? Do you share this information with your children?
  • Do you have a Great Commission ministry in your will and estate planning so that you will continue to play a vital role in reaching the nations after you are dead and gone?

The Great Commission is not an option to consider. It is a command to obey. Let our obedience begin but not end with those closest and dearest to us. Let it begin in our homes.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Danny Akin is president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. This article is excerpted from his message at the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood sessions in conjunction with Together for the Gospel’s mid-April biennial conference.)

8/17/2016 8:06:40 AM by Danny Akin | with 0 comments

Prayer for everyday life

August 16 2016 by Diana Davis

It’s more than a rhyming verse at meal times or a memorized recitation. Prayer is a powerful, personal conversation with your Father, God in heaven. Here are a few simple tips to remember to pray:

First, middle and last, pray. Before your toes touch the floor each morning, pray. Pray throughout the day. As your last action before you fall asleep, pray. As the psalmist wrote, “Morning, noon, and night, I cry out in my distress, and the Lord hears my voice” (Psalm 55:17).

Diana Davis

Stop, drop & pray. When an acquaintance shares a need or concern, stop right there. Drop what you’re doing. Take her hand and offer a prayer to God on her behalf.

Pray on your way. During everyday moments of life, talk to God. Pray for police officers, firefighters and emergency personnel as their vehicles pass by. Before you check your email messages, pray. Look for minutes when you are exercising, shopping, driving, waiting or walking.

Teach your children to pray. Pray with them regularly. Pray when your child or family has a specific need or praise. Get caught praying. Allow your children to see you and hear you pray to God.
Pray before you speak. Whether it’s to chat with a friend on the phone or teach a Bible class or talk with your hair stylist, breathe a prayer before you say a word.
Pray by name. Use your church directory or small group list to pray for church members from A to Z. Check off names with a colored pen. When you’ve prayed for the entire list, get a different color pen and begin again.

Pray for your neighbors. An awesome free app helps you pray for neighbors by name. At, enter your address and email. You receive five neighbors’ names daily. Pray, click “done,” and get five more tomorrow.

Tell them. If you pray faithfully for your church staff, spouse, children, teachers, political leaders, etc., tell them. Send a note to remind them of your prayers.

Shower power. Make a list of people, laminate it, and post it by your shower, dressing table or computer. Pray daily through the list of your co-workers at church, pastoral leaders, family, boss, employees, neighbors, unsaved acquaintances, etc.

Pray during church. Have you ever checked your watch or counted ceiling tiles during worship? That won’t happen if you are busy praying. Pray silently for every element of the worship service.

Pray on the phone. When someone calls or texts you about a need or problem, pray. Voice a verbal prayer before you hang up or respond with a typed sentence prayer to God.

Pray when you minister to others. Delivering a casserole to a bereaved family? Making an outreach contact, homebound visit or hospital call? Say a silent prayer before you ring their doorbell, and pray aloud for them before leaving.

Pray about absolutely everything. At the Scripture instructs us, “Don’t worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for what He has done” (Philippians 4:6).
Pray. God is listening right now.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Davis is online at This column is a revised excerpt from her book Deacon Wives, B&H Publishing Group 2009. Her newest book, co-written with her daughter Autumn Wall, Across the Street and Around the World, New Hope Publishers, is a resource for an array of “going” ideas for churches small groups and individuals.)

8/16/2016 8:14:23 AM by Diana Davis | with 0 comments

Watch your speed

August 12 2016 by David Jeremiah

Henry Ford pioneered the production of cars in America but he didn’t invent the modern automobile. That honor is usually given to a German whose name is also legendary, Karl Benz. While Henry Ford’s Model-T began rolling off the assembly line in Detroit in 1908, Karl Benz’s three-wheeled car was granted a patent and produced in 1885.

David Jeremiah

I had to smile when I read this next historical tidbit: It only took three years before “the need for speed” gave birth to the speedometer, called then by its Croatian inventor, Josip Belušic, a velocimeter.
Why did they need to know how fast they were going just three years after the car was invented? There were no state troopers with radar guns in Croatia in 1888 and very few speeders, with the first cars puttering along at only a few miles per hour. Let’s just chalk up the invention of the speedometer to man’s inventive nature.
Our need to know our speed applies to many areas of life. We humans are inveterate counters. We always want to know how far, how fast and how much. But there’s one dimension of speed that is even more important than our miles per hour: the speed of our lives relative to our spiritual needs.
I see two kinds of speed limit signs on America’s freeways: the maximum speed and the minimum speed. Not only is it dangerous to go too fast in life, it’s also dangerous to go too slow.

Too fast? Slow down!

For most of us, our problem is not moving too slow for our own spiritual good. Our problem is we’re moving too fast to build our relationship with God on a daily basis.
When I think about how fast we are moving through life, I think about how the English Bible translator J.B. Phillips rendered Romans 12:2: “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within.” We have become full-fledged citizens of the American lifestyle where “the faster we go, the behinder we get,” as Lewis Carroll put it. We are exceeding a speed limit that produces a healthy, balanced and mature spiritual life.
When we take a moment to look in our spiritual rearview mirror, we see the Lord Jesus looking at our receding taillights, wondering if we’ll make time to sit and fellowship with Him tomorrow.
Don’t get me wrong – I know we are all busy. I certainly am, and just as you do, I have to overcome the same daily temptation to speed through my day without setting aside time for God. And it’s not just daily devotions for which we’re moving too fast. Some Christians can’t slow down long enough to attend church, meet with a home fellowship group, attend a spiritual conference or read a good Christian book that would deepen their walk with Christ.

Too slow? Speed up!

If some Christians are moving too fast, others are moving too slow like the sluggard in Proverbs 6:6-10.
They might say, “I need time to rest and plan; I’ll spend time with the Lord and attend church when my life is more organized.” Their symptoms, however, are the same as the person who is going too fast: no devotional time with God, no prayer and Bible study and no involvement with the body of Christ.
What is the perfect speed for a healthy and balanced spiritual life? I can’t give you a number, but I can give you signposts: joyful contentment; growth in Christlikeness; increasing knowledge of Scripture; service for Christ; a vibrant, up-to-date testimony; and fruitful, biblically-based relationships with family and friends.
Slow down or speed up and reach these godly goals. Check-up challenge: Look at your personal speedometer today to see how you’re spending your time. Make and take time for God.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Jeremiah is pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., and founder and host of “Turning Point for God.” For more information on Turning Point, visit Used with permission.)

8/12/2016 11:56:16 AM by David Jeremiah | with 0 comments

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