August 2017

Preaching under pressure

August 17 2017 by H.B. Charles Jr., Baptist Press

As a young pastor embroiled in congregational conflict, I once told my pastoral mentor I was going to resign my church. As our conversation progressed, he identified the motivation behind my planned resignation: I just wanted to preach one Sunday in peace. He warned me, however, that trouble would find me wherever I preached the Bible and lifted the name of Jesus. He encouraged me to stay put, keep preaching and not grow weary in well doing.
 
I heeded his counsel. And I am glad I did not quit, even though the conflict in my church continued for several more years. I wouldn’t trade anything for what God taught me as I preached under pressure.

H.B. Charles


On the other side of leadership challenges over the years, I believe you have not really learned to preach until you preach through a storm. Unending sunshine creates shallow pulpits. Preaching through a storm anchors the pulpit to the tried and proven Word of God.
 
So how do you preach faithfully under the pressure that arises against your leadership, ministry or pulpit?
 

Preach the Word.

During the darkest days of my ministry, I struggled to see my way to the pulpit. I did not feel like studying, praying or preaching. I believe this was the Enemy’s primary strategy. Waves rise from the pews to eject the preacher from the pulpit. The faithful preacher must hold the stern and preach through the storm. But avoid preaching to or about the storm, unless it is necessary. Preach the Word to lead the congregation forward. Preaching through a storm introduced me to consecutive exposition. Series preaching helped me respond to the Holy Spirit’s leadership, rather than reacting to my opponents’ shenanigans.
 

Pray without ceasing.

The Lord does not teach us to pray in a classroom. He teaches us to pray on a battlefield. In the classroom, you may learn the truth about prayer. But it is on the battlefield that you learn the power of prayer. Ministerial battles drive the pastor-soldier to the spiritual dependence needed for effective prayer. So pray when you feel like it. Pray when you don’t feel like. And pray until you feel like it.
 

Guard your heart against bitterness.

As I preached through a storm at my first church, a friend pleaded with me to leave, lest the experience make me bitter. I did not feel free to leave my assignment. But my friend’s concern burdened me to pray unceasingly that God would keep me from becoming bitter. I am grateful that God answered my prayers. Stubborn sheep tend to make cranky shepherds. If you do not guard your heart, church conflict can make the preacher angry, bitter and cynical.
 

Be a shepherd.

I went to hear a pastor who was going through conflict in his church. I knew he was in conflict because that’s what he preached about, giving his side of the story and berating his opposition. After the service, several older women stopped me and said, “Rev. Charles, please know that he was not talking about us. We are not fighting him. We love him.” Be careful not to harm the sheep in the name of fighting the wolves. Be a shepherd. Lead and feed the flock. Those whom you call wolves in sheep’s clothing may be sheep who have gone astray.
 

Believe what you preach.

When I complain about my life or ministry, my wife accuses me of not listening to the sermons in church. She levels this charge knowing I am the one who preaches the sermons at our church. It is a stinging but needed rebuke. Preachers regularly stand in the pulpit and challenge the congregation to trust God no matter what. But pressure-filled seasons of ministry require you to put your faith where your pulpit is and trust God no matter what. It is much easier to preach what you believe than it is to believe what you preach.
 

Know when not to preach.

One Sunday morning, my father – who also was a pastor – was blindsided by news his minister of music had resigned. It was not the resignation that bothered him so much. It was the fact that a key church leader withheld the news from him. My father felt betrayed. And with his sermon manuscript sitting in front of him, he asked one of the associates to preach. “I am too angry,” he said. “The Lord cannot use me this morning.” Watching this taught me more than any sermon he would have preached that day. Sometimes the best way to preach under pressure is to not preach.
 

Love your enemies.

A business executive hires loyal employees. A coach recruits team players. A gang leader runs with ride-or-die partners. But the pastor must shepherd the flock the Lord redeems and places under his care. It is the Lord’s flock. We are under-shepherds who will give account to the chief Shepherd. We must watch over the stubborn sheep, as well as the loyal ones. We must love our enemies, not just our friends. This is not only our pastoral calling, it is our Christian duty.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – H.B. Charles Jr. is president of the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference and pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.)

8/17/2017 9:28:25 AM by H.B. Charles Jr., Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Ramesh & Jesus

August 16 2017 by Randy Adams, Baptist Press

I was tired from 16 hours of travel and hadn’t been to bed in 30 hours, but a conversation with Ramesh was among the highlights of a recent mission trip to Asia.
 
Ramesh was our Uber driver who took us home from the airport in Portland, Ore. He lives in Vancouver, Wash., where our Northwest Baptist Convention offices are located. He lives 15 minutes from our home.

Randy Adams


And he needs Jesus as much as anyone we met in Myanmar or Japan.
 
Ramesh was born in Fiji but has lived in the United States for 32 years. When I asked him about his life here, he said things weren’t going well and he was considering changing his religion to see if a new religion would bring him a better life.
 
I asked what his religion was and he said he is a Hindu. “What new religion are you considering?” I asked.
 
Ramesh said he thought he might become a Christian. “How do you become a Christian?” I asked, to which he responded, “By getting baptized.”
 
I told Ramesh that I am a Christian and asked if I could share what the Bible says about becoming a Christian. He welcomed my offer and I began by sharing John 3:16.
 
“Ramesh, according to the scriptures, Christianity is different than religions,” I then said. “Christianity is about coming to know Jesus Christ and inviting Him into your life.” We discussed the Bible’s teaching on sin, repentance and faith. We talked about the uniqueness of Jesus as the one who is fully God and fully man, truly the Lord of all.
 
After about 15 minutes we arrived at our house. I said, “Ramesh, would you like to pray right now and invite Jesus to come into your life as your Lord and Savior?” He said, “I want to think about it some more.” I asked if he had any more questions. He didn’t, and then I encouraged him to pray and ask God to speak to him. I gave him a card with my email and phone number and asked him to call me. I said, “I think God brought us together tonight Ramesh.” Ramesh agreed. He even carried some of our bags into the house. I prayed for him and then he left.
 
It’s been a few weeks and I haven’t yet heard from Ramesh. But I’ve thought about him and have prayed for him. And, in a way, I think Ramesh was a reminder from God to me that I am surrounded by people who need Jesus right here in the Northwest. Like Ramesh, they may think baptism makes someone a Christian. Many of our neighbors haven’t rejected Jesus outright. They simply don’t know the gospel of Jesus’ life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension and coming again.
 
Ramesh seemed genuinely grateful that I had shared Jesus with him. It seemed like he was hearing things for the very first time. I wonder, how many are waiting to learn the truth about Jesus for the very first time? More than we can imagine, I expect. Most are open to a genuine conversation about faith and God and forgiveness and grace. Not a sales pitch, but a conversation, from the heart, with expectancy, but a conversation just the same.
 
It’s been said before, but I do think many unbelievers have rejected, or ignored, a “form of religion” that they think is true Christianity. We need many, many conversations with our friends and with those we encounter each day. Conversations that focus on gospel truths, spoken with uncommon grace, bathed in God’s love.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Randy Adams, online at randyadams.org, is executive director of the Northwest Baptist Convention.)

8/16/2017 8:28:43 AM by Randy Adams, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



When white supremacists come to town

August 15 2017 by Christine Hoover, Baptist Press

I live in Charlottesville, Va. You may have heard of it.
 
You may have seen my city on the news or on your Twitter feed after several white nationalist and white supremacist groups converged on our downtown park to protest the potential removal of a Robert E. Lee statue.

NBCNews.com screen capture


You likely have seen the images of confederate flags and swastikas, protesters and counter-protesters, fist fights and arrests, and videos of carnage. I have watched the evil of white supremacy playing out on my local library steps and hate on a street I’ve driven hundreds of times. My family is weeping in lament to learn that protesters have wielded clubs and even a car against other human beings, fueled by their ideology.
 
As a citizen of Charlottesville, I want to publicly state my disgust and condemnation of the rally that occurred to champion white supremacy.
 
Aside from condemnation of their ideology, my husband and I and our church simply will not give them our attention. And we will also not be one-day activists who aren’t interested in faithful, gritty work in this community.
 
We will instead be Christians. We will continue to give the gospel issue of racial division our full attention. We will call white supremacy what it is: sin. We will continue building real relationships with brothers and sisters in our community and in our own church who represent, alongside us, the beautiful diversity of God’s kingdom. We will continue partnering with our friends of various races as we seek to meet needs in our city.  And my husband will preach the gospel from the pulpit as it’s meant to be preached – for all people.
 
This is the gospel that has made me a Christian, the gospel that tells me all are made in the image of God but only One stands supreme – Jesus Christ. He teaches me to love others, not celebrate myself or fight for my rights, not love selectively or with favoritism. He teaches me to try to understand others and to honor them, not to honor myself. He teaches me that His Kingdom is the country and people to which I belong, and that this Kingdom is formed by every nation and people group.
 
We need Christians being Christians not only in Charlottesville but all across our nation. Being a Christian in the face of racial hatred begins with Christ’s church falling to its knees in lament and confession and asking for his Spirit to move us toward Him and toward one another. May we do this corporately as we gather. Help us, Lord, to understand our union with You and with all who are Yours! Help us to love our enemies – those who spew hatred – and remember they need Your grace just as we do.
 
It’s time for us to stop believing and repeating the worn phrase that we’ve moved beyond racism because we’ve moved beyond Jim Crow. If Charlottesville shows us anything, it begs us to see reality. We have failed one another in so many ways, some have ignored what they haven’t wanted to see, some among us are disheartened and weary from ongoing injustice, but our God offers us repentance and restoration, both individually and collectively, as we acknowledge our racial sins before Him and before one another.
 
Let me acknowledge mine to you. I have received benefit from educational, social and economic systems that I’ve assumed all could enjoy if they simply worked hard enough for it. I have lived ignorantly, failing to understand that my reality is not the reality of others and shrugging it off when some have tried to explain otherwise. I have not called out racist jokes or words for what they are.
 
I have desired a multiethnic church while also expecting people of different races to adjust to my preferences for church expression. I have not spoken up about injustice, I have not tried to understand different perspectives and I have been fearful of those who are different than me.
 
But, praise God, He does not leave us in our sin. Praise God that he who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion. He has convicted and is changing me, He is teaching me through his people, and I want more of His transforming work.
 
I want this for the church as well, which is why I share: because God is able! He is able to make us tender toward others rather than angry and embittered.
 
I do, however, think of Jesus’ words to the crippled man who’d lay beside the pool for many years: “Do you want to be healed?” That seems a curious question, but I hear what Jesus is saying. Sometimes we are too content in our sickness. We don’t want the healing because we don’t want to have to really look at ourselves, confess, repentant or forgive. We don’t want to be uncomfortable; we just want Jesus to fix it.
 
I want us to live fully in the picture of what the gospel is and can do, specifically in the area of racial hostility and division. “For he himself is our peace who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14-15).
 
Church, we have hope to hold out, both for the white supremacist fighting from a place of anger and fear and for the victim of his hatred. We can have peace! We must not just believe this in theory, but we must show it and speak it in our relationships and our communities! Only as we humbly submit to his Spirit and to one another can this be so.
 
So let us lament the state of things. Let us confess what are some of the most uncomfortable things to talk about with one another: racial sins.
 
Let us hear how we’ve hurt one another and really listen, believing what our brothers and sisters are saying to us.
 
Let us pray for the hurting, including those whom we consider enemies.
 
Let us pursue and engage others of different races so that this listening and confession, restoration and forgiveness can actually happen.
 
Let us serve together and stand together in our communities so that those who aren’t in Christ may know us and know Him by our love for one another.
 
I’m sorry for the hurt and pain this rally has caused my brothers and sisters of color. It comes as one in a long line of pains, so I am praying for your perseverance, and I look forward with you to the day when all injustices will be made right. May the Church be vocal in standing with you and denouncing white supremacy as evil.
 
Please know that there are faithful Christians trying to bridge the racial gap here in Charlottesville. People are trying to do something meaningful, which we believe is primarily building real-life, everyday relationships and having important conversations at that level.
 
By the power of the Spirit, my hope is to be one of those people. Please pray for us in our city as we seek to love, understand, address, confess, and forgive.
 
Will you join us? In whatever places you live as a Christian, let us fall to our knees in lament, let us cry out for healing from the only place it can come, and then rise up with a weapon far greater than clubs and shields. Rise up and go with the pursuing, reconciling love of Christ!

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Christine Hoover is a pastor’s wife, stay-at-home mom and author of From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel and The Church Planting Wife: Help and Hope for Her Heart. This article is adapted from her website, gracecoversme.com. She and her husband Kyle serve at Charlottesville Community Church in Charlottesville, Va.)

8/15/2017 10:15:08 AM by Christine Hoover, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Bearing with one another

August 14 2017 by Laura Thigpen, Baptist Press

It’s that all-too-familiar verse that fits nicely in an Instagram square with watercolor flowers embroidering its edges – “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).
 
Yes, one of those verses that’s often pulled out of context and overused. And yet, it’s a verse I find myself returning to often for instruction and comfort.

Laura Thigpen


It’s easy to think about bearing a burden for a short time or a season, and it certainly makes it easier when you have an end in sight, a date of relief. But when the season lasts days, or months, or years, the call to bear all things quickly tests our ability to “believe all things, hope all things” and “endure all things.
 
The apostle Paul was a man acquainted with sorrow like our Lord. He pressed on in faith and hoped against hope and endured with patience. He knew well the order of love – bearing, believing, hoping, enduring.
 
We do not endure trials or suffering for the sake of enduring, not even for the sake of faith. Christ said the greatest commandment is not “to muster your faith in God” or “just be patient.” No, the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). It is why Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
 
In prolonged seasons of burden-bearing, I have returned multiple times to this passage. I consider Paul often as an example of one who loved Christ and His bride, the church, bearing all things. Christ calls us to love Him, to submit to Him, to suffer with Him, and we are called to love His church, to bear one another’s burdens, to suffer long and exercise Christian charity to one another. What a joyous gift it is to have others bear all things with you and to have brothers and sisters who love you.
 
Bearing with one another is not easy, though. Our sins, like potholes on a smooth road, mar our efforts to live righteous lives. It’s easier to walk away from relationships than it is to reconcile them. Praise be to God, He did not see us as something to be done away with, but children to be reconciled to Himself. Christ told His disciples that their love for one another would tell the world that they were followers of Christ.
 
A way to measure your own love for the Lord, your love for the church and your community is to consider how well you bear all things:

  • Do you strive always for reconciliation?
  • Do you care enough to share hard truths with a brother or sister?
  • Are you willing to listen, consider and respond to a brother or sister with grace?
  • Do you extend the benefit of the doubt or judge harshly?
  • Do you walk away when things get hard or do you press into community and relationships with resolve?

 
Faith may move mountains and hope may produce character and patience, but without love they are meaningless. When the strong winds come and the waters rise, what compels you to believe without faltering, hope against hope and endure the tempestuous journey that is faith? Co-laborers, let us love one another well – bearing all things.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Laura Thigpen is an administrative assistant at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, a freelance writer and an adoptive parent-to-be with her husband Joseph.)

8/14/2017 7:21:47 AM by Laura Thigpen, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



An infinite power source

August 11 2017 by David Jeremiah, Baptist Press

The subterranean world beneath northern California is boiling hot – hot enough to produce vast caverns of superheated steam. This area, known as The Geysers, is one of the most active geothermal spots on earth.

David Jeremiah


Sitting directly atop The Geysers are buildings that house some of the world’s most innovative power generators. Workers have drilled wells two miles deep into the scalding earthen chambers beneath the generators, and as the steam escapes through the wells it turns huge turbines and produces electricity. The Geysers supply nearly 60 percent of the electrical demands from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border.
 
Welcome to the world of renewable energy.
 
I’m not a scientist or a politician, but I’m interested in being an outspoken advocate for the best source of renewable energy, and that’s spiritual energy. Paul the apostle told the Colossians, “He is the one we proclaim. ... I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me” (Colossians 1:28-29, NIV 1984).
 
The apostle Peter wrote, “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3).
 
Left to ourselves, we face frequent power outages juggling the demands of work and home and even ministry. We need renewable energy on the inside. If you want to pursue what the Bible has to say about this, open a concordance to the word “power,” which occurs nearly 300 times in the Bible. There’s something about reading Bible verses about spiritual power that imparts strength to us.
 
Psalm 62:11 says, “Power belongs to God.” According to Psalm 65:6, God is “clothed with power.” Jeremiah 10:12 says that God “made the earth by His power.” Psalm 66:7 says that He “rules by His power forever.
 
We can only live for Him effectively when we tap into the infinite source of His power. We’re to be strong in the power of His might (Ephesians 6:10).
 

Feeling weak?

On earth, we grow tired in body, mind and soul. While our outward self is perishing, our inward self can be renewed daily with God’s renewable energy. Psalm 68:35 says, “The God of Israel is He who gives strength and power to His people.
 
In studying the word “power” in the Bible, you’ll find secrets to tapping into God’s renewable energy. The first is through praise. We often praise God for His love and grace but fail to rejoice in His power and worship Him for His omnipotence. When King David was surrounded by his enemies, he wrote, “I will sing of Your power; Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning” (Psalm 59:16).
 
Second, we renew our strength by reading scripture. The Bible is God’s powerful Word to us; as Psalm 29:4 says, “The voice of the Lord is powerful.
 
Third, we renew our strength by waiting on the Lord. The prophet Isaiah said, “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31). It refreshes us when we let go and let God, trusting Him to work according to His own timetable.
 
Fourth, be filled with the Spirit. One of the greatest benedictions of the Bible says, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
 
Fifth, we need a daily walk with Christ. When we are walking closely with Christ, we are near the power center for the entire cosmos. He radiates “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24).
 
Sixth, we encounter raw power in our lives as we share the gospel; as the apostle Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God. ...” (Romans 1:16).
 
Finally, cling to the cross. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,” Paul noted, “but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
 
Remembering those generators at The Geysers, think of God’s power as vast, endless reserves of geothermal energy. Claim His power to do greater things in your life than ever before!
 
(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 DavidJeremiah.org. This column has been approved by Turning Point for redistribution in Baptist state newspapers; for other reprint requests, contact Myrna Davis at mdavis@tursningpointonline.org.)
 

8/11/2017 8:05:46 AM by David Jeremiah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Your newly arrived refugee neighbors

August 10 2017 by Terry Sharp, IMB

An unprecedented 65 million people worldwide have been forced to flee their homes due to war, persecution or natural disaster. Out of these millions of displaced people today, more than 21 million have left their home country and sought refuge across international borders. In 2016, the United States resettled 84,995 of these refugees, and many new arrivals will settle this year.

Terry Sharp


Refugees are some of the most vulnerable people in the world. Not only have their lives been completely disrupted by violence and upheaval, but they also endure miserable, mind-numbing conditions in refugee camps, which are often little more than overcrowded, fenced-in tent cities.
 
Because less than 1 percent of them are permitted to resettle into a third country each year, refugees can spend up to 17 years in these “temporary” facilities.
 
After years of living without many basic needs, the few refugees who finally have the opportunity to come to the United States arrive with nothing more than what they can carry.
 
As the body of Christ, we can have the gift and privilege of showing and sharing the love of Jesus with them. In such passages as Deuteronomy 10:18-19 and Leviticus 19:33-34, the Lord’s heart for the afflicted, the downcast and the stranger is clear. He places a premium on our care for the disadvantaged (James 1:27). As peoples from across the globe resettle into our communities to start a new life, we need to clearly understand that this is an important moment (Luke 10:29-37).
 
Christ-followers and the local church must ask what we are doing to serve the refugees coming to our cities and neighborhoods. In fact, Jesus will one day ask us how we loved the hungry, the sick and the stranger (Matthew 25:36). We decide now how we will answer Him.
 
You and your church can take practical steps toward being a blessing to newly arrived foreign neighbors:
 

1. Be a good neighbor.

Work together with your small group or circle of friends to welcome refugees. Form a good neighbor team – a small group of people from a local church that partners with an evangelical resettlement agency such as World Relief to welcome newly arrived refugee families. The goal is for each refugee who arrives in the United States to feel the warm welcome of his or her local community.
 

2. Help in the home.

There are many simple ways you can help refugee families settle into their new homes. Even learning to use everyday household appliances creates a learning curve for someone who has lived in refugee camps for years. Assist new refugee friends as they learn how to use the microwave, stove, washing machine, etc.
 

3. Give welcome kits.

Remember how much gifts from wedding and baby showers meant to you when you were beginning a new stage of life? Refugees are starting a new life in America and gifts of household items, baby supplies and furniture go a long way in assisting them (not to mention help them feel welcomed and loved). These types of welcome kits can help you get started.
 

4. Collect backpacks.

Any parent knows that school supplies can be expensive. Much more so for those entering a new culture. Have your church donate backpacks, notebooks, binders and other items to help equip local refugee children with the items they need to be successful in the classroom. Collect and distribute them to families in as simple a manner as possible.
 

5. Provide financial coaching.

Offer to help new arrivals set up bank accounts and establish budgets. Depending on their origins and their length of stay inside a refugee camp, newly arrived refugees may not have used a checking account or a bank card in years, or may be unsure how to plan for monthly expenses.
 

6. Tutor and teach.

Provide tutoring for children of refugees. These children start school immediately after arriving in the States and are in urgent need of help with homework and language. Adults may welcome lessons in conversational English as well.
 

7. Take them shopping.

All the retail options – grocery stores, department stores, drugstores – can be overwhelming to someone arriving from a refugee camp. Show them around their new communities and explain the differences between these stores.
 

8. Offer transportation.

Navigating without a car in most American cities can be very difficult, especially to newcomers. Offer rides to doctor appointments, job interviews, schools, stores and banks until new families can acquire cars or learn the ins-and-outs of public transportation in their new cities.
 

9. Create an urban garden.

Does your church or community have unused green space? Consider providing a garden area where refugees can grow their own vegetables. Those who come from agrarian societies may be eager for an extra way to provide for their families.
 

10. Learn more.

Familiarize yourself with local resettlement agencies that can teach you about incoming refugee groups and provide specific volunteer opportunities. Seek out further training that will teach you and fellow church members strategic ways to share the gospel message and to advocate for the needs of refugees in your community.
 
Let’s engage this moment well, so that the first friends refugees make in our communities will be those who can demonstrate and speak the message of Jesus.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Terry Sharp, @terrysharpimb, is the International Mission Board’s state, association and diaspora network leader. This article first appeared at the mission board’s imb.org website.)
 
 

8/10/2017 7:41:56 AM by Terry Sharp, IMB | with 0 comments



Dinner with a former jihadi, a new view of missions

August 9 2017 by Rachel Cohen, IMB

Growing up in post 9/11 America, I believed no greater enemy existed than a terrorist waging war on the Western world. So you might imagine how, um, surprised and paralyzed I felt when I found myself in South Asia eating dinner with a jihadi.
 
Well, he used to be.
 
During our group’s light dinner conversation, Joseph*, a Christian from a Muslim family and strong partner in local ministry, casually let out a sentence that started with, “When I was training for jihad. ...”
 
I froze mid-chew, convinced I misunderstood him due to my weak comprehension of the Hindi language he spoke. Sensing my bewilderment, he chuckled and started in on his story.
 

A jihadi in training

Joseph loved Allah, but he feared him more than anything. From a young age, he was taught that everyone is a sinner deserving of no forgiveness.
 
He could see the filth in his own heart, and he wept over it. He always knew he was destined for hell.
 
Not that he didn’t try to earn his way out of it. Joseph adopted the traditional dress for Muslims in his community – long, white kurta and baggy pants – and grew his beard. He filled his vocabulary with eloquent, pious words that demonstrated how devout he was.
 
He was also taught that it’s a Muslim’s duty to wage war against the unbeliever – Hindus, Jews and especially Christians. A hatred for these enemies took root, and he decided to do his part in the fight against them.
 
He joined a ragtag group of Muslims, and they began to train for jihad. They devoted themselves to extra morning prayers and to preaching verses from the Quran that promoted their cause. He occasionally got into skirmishes with unbelievers because of a perceived offense committed against Allah.
 

A profession of faith calls for a deadly mission

When Indian Christian missionaries rolled into town to host tent meeting revivals, Joseph’s group of jihadis planned to attend – not to hear more about Jesus but to debate and hopefully convert attendees to Islam. Their plan backfired when one of their friends decided to follow Jesus.
 
Although Joseph was also stirred by what he heard from these missionaries, he pleaded with this brother to leave this blasphemous religion. The man refused, and the time for jihad had come. Joseph’s leader paid him a large sum of money to kill the traitor. He set out on his assignment, armed with a foot-long knife. But he was stopped on his way by a friend who convinced him to spare the man.
 

Looking up from rock bottom

Meanwhile, Joseph was starting to grow weary of defending something that made him a hate-filled man, frightened by death and judgment before Allah. He had no peace, security or even a true community. When another friend, David,* also became a Christian, Joseph’s confidence in his religion deteriorated all the more.
 
In the midst of his introspection, his niece fell gravely ill, and he was asked to take her to the hospital. While there, he stood by a third-floor, open window and looked down. He sobbed as thoughts of jumping to end it all consumed him. He cried for his niece, for his inability to put food on his family’s table and for the gaping hole Islam left in his soul.
 
Before those thoughts took him any further, his phone rang. David, his Muslim-turned-Christian friend, was coming to the hospital to see him.
 
Joseph unloaded all of his frustrations about life, about money, about Islam to David, who listened intently, then covertly slid Joseph a Bible. David said this was where he had found hope during his own despair. He gave Joseph money to tide him over with some bills and left him with the illicit book.
 
Joseph started with the gospels and was immediately intrigued by Jesus’ miracles and teachings. When he looked at the life of Jesus and the life of the prophet he once followed, he recognized glaring differences and knew his old religious practice was lacking. Against everything his community and faith had conditioned him to do, the jihadi decided to follow Jesus.
 

Five ways God grew my faith through a Jihadi

There are so many aspects of Joseph’s story that leave me awestruck at God’s power to redeem. Here are five that have changed the way I live on mission.
 
1. God is raising up missionaries from the nations, to the nations.
 
God chose to use missionaries in Joseph’s story, but not ones from foreign soil. Sometimes I get caught up in a savior-complex, thinking that foreign missionaries are someone’s best shot at hearing the gospel. But God is raising up Christians all over the world to reach their own people. It’s an honor to labor with them and learn from them.
 
2. Muslims gauge our faith by our actions.
 
I asked Joseph what Christians can do in order to reach Muslims in the United States. He pointed out that Muslims highly revere the Quran as God’s revelation, so when Christians claim the Bible is from God, Muslims observe how they follow it. Someone who has a flippant attitude toward the Bible, prayer, and worship will likely never get anywhere in a spiritual conversation with Muslims. Muslims will respect and listen to someone who diligently follows God’s Word.
 
3. God is at work in our despair.
 
We see it over and over again in scripture – Job in his loss, David on the run, Paul in prison – that God is highly active in our suffering.
 
Joseph was broke after several failed businesses. He couldn’t provide for his family, and he felt forgotten by his jihad brothers. He now says that those circumstances were a miracle from God because they humbled him enough to entertain the gospel. It was only when his life fell apart that he realized God could not only glue the pieces back together, but make his life radically different than it was before.
 
4. God’s Word can speak for itself.
 
When Joseph read the stories of Jesus alongside the Quran, the Holy Spirit illuminated the difference between the man Joseph once followed and the Savior who could give him life. The missionaries’ apologetics weren’t the lynchpin for Joseph’s faith. It was scripture. This reminds me how ridiculous it is to rely solely on my own words when I have access to the living and active Word of God (Hebrews 4:12).
 
5. Loving our enemies speaks louder than leaving them.
 
Joseph’s friend, David, knew about his radical devotion to Islam and that he once planned to kill a defector. That means David also understood the risk of giving Joseph a Bible and sharing the gospel. He could have let fear keep him from mentioning Jesus to someone he knew hated Christians.
 
Instead, David listened to Joseph, met a felt need with Joseph’s bills, and shared the true way to find peace. It took guts and a lot of intentionality, but that’s what is required to emulate Jesus’ radical love for all people, from all backgrounds.
 
Learn more at imb.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rachel Cohen is a content editor for imb.org. She lives with her husband and daughter in South Asia.)
 

8/9/2017 8:52:24 AM by Rachel Cohen, IMB | with 0 comments



10 reasons Southern Baptists should consider a global CP

August 7 2017 by Seth Brown, Guest Column

The Cooperative Program (CP) is the institutional lifeblood of Southern Baptist missions and ministries. The unified giving plan started in 1925 as a solution to the perpetual, but floundering, fundraising campaigns of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and state convention entities.
 
The CP continues to be a powerful sorting mechanism that ensures local church missions offerings enable Baptist entities to fulfill their purpose: help churches saturate the globe with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And yet, I wonder if the CP has one arm tied behind its back. Does our missions mobilizing apparatus operate at its fullest potential?
 
The SBC has been a domestic corporation since it was founded in 1845, meaning only churches in the United States and its territories may participate, according to Article II of the SBC Constitution. Churches outside the U.S. are free to make financial contributions to entities or conventions – and some do – but they are barred from joining the SBC.
 
To state the case more directly, the SBC is currently receiving money from some international churches that are giving through conventions, such as the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention, but does not allow them to send messengers to the SBC annual meeting.
 
We’re denying non-American churches the ability to link arms with us in our global missions effort, even if they hold Southern Baptist doctrinal distinctives; even if they contribute financially through an existing state or regional convention; even if they are born from International Mission Board (IMB) efforts or led by North American Mission Board field personnel.
 
Is it time to embrace our Baptist brothers and sisters around the world?
 
Can we imagine a future where our cooperative effort extends to the farthest reaches of the globe? Will we continue to work toward a vibrant and diverse convention of churches, no matter their nationality?  

Here are 10 reasons why I think we should consider creating pathways for global churches to partner with us through the CP.

  1. We believe cooperation is biblical. Southern Baptists have long held two distinct yet complementary New Testament beliefs about local churches: each one is autonomous and cooperative. Those biblical truths apply in both Charleston and Chiang Mai.
  2. The CP is effective. Our unified plan of giving, along with the entities supported by it, is often called the most effective missions mobilizing force in the world. Why should U.S. borders restrict our ability to expand the cooperative effort?
  3. The CP could benefit from international people and resources. International congregations have biblical gifts, talents and resources just like American churches. It shouldn’t matter if Baptists come from Frankfurt or Franklin. Their voices, votes and contributions would be invaluable.
  4. The CP could highlight the value of smaller global churches. When international churches come to mind, the image that follows is often that of a poor congregation meeting under a shade tree. We recoil at the idea of accepting their money. But the size of a congregation’s CP gift doesn’t diminish its value; it increases (2 Corinthians 8:1-15). Can you imagine the joy a small international congregation would feel knowing their gifts were amplified through the CP for the sake of global missions?
  5. The CP is built for unity amid difference. Today’s cultural, generational and theological differences among Southern Baptists have been on display recently. Yet, nearly all SBC churches from Seattle to Sarasota continue to happily cooperate with one another through the CP for the sake of the gospel. That’s what it was built for. The CP could flourish with a global network of churches.
  6. A global CP could accelerate international missions. Pioneer Baptist churches, often aided by our missionaries overseas, must create from scratch their own networks and conventions. Why force them to reinvent the wheel of cooperative ministry? Let’s enable those groups to plug into our existing infrastructure and enjoy the missions resources, theological education and diverse fellowship enjoyed by our American churches.
  7. Next generation Baptists think globally. Do we want to get younger Baptists excited and involved? Make a way for them to partner with local churches around the world to see the gospel go to all nations. In fact, nearly every young Baptist I’ve spoken to about this subject mistakenly thought the SBC was already open to global churches. They obviously want to be involved in a worldwide cooperative effort.
  8. The CP needs an expanded vision. In the first 50 years of its existence (1925-’75), the CP grew by leaps and bounds. The number of cooperating conventions more than doubled from 16 to 33, but growth has almost completely stalled for nearly 30 years. We’ve added only two state or regional conventions since 1989, bringing the total to 42.
  9. A global CP is doable. Is it feasible for every international Baptist church to partner with the SBC? No way. There are security risks, logistical challenges and a thousand other obstacles. But administrative concerns should be secondary to our first principles and a commitment to see the gospel go forward. It will take hard work, but we can do it. Many international Baptist conventions could integrate almost immediately and operate much like our state conventions. Associations in other areas of the globe would take longer to develop. Online or representative voting could enable them to participate in the SBC annual meeting.
  10. A global CP is already here. Our conventions are becoming increasingly internationalized, because the nations are coming to us, and by God’s grace, we’re sharing the gospel and planting churches among them. There are Southern Baptist churches all over America that hold services in various languages and embrace international cultures, yet they already give through our state conventions and send messengers to the annual meeting. We’re already becoming a culturally global convention of churches right here in the U.S. Let’s embrace our brothers and sisters around the world, and steward the coming changes well.

 

A final note

What I’m suggesting here is neither simple nor easy. There are real obstacles that stand in the way of a functional and God-glorifying global convention of churches. I solicited feedback on a draft of this article from SBC leaders whom I respect deeply. Some had objections, many of them missiological in nature, and those concerns deserve the most careful attention. I’ve wrestled with these ideas, and I won’t pretend as if this proposal is perfect. Even still, I offer these 10 thoughts to promote discussion about the CP, because it is needed. Given the high-caliber thinkers and leaders currently at home in the SBC, I have every reason to believe that with God’s help we can chart a path forward in a globalized world that utilizes, energizes and modernizes the incredible tool we’ve inherited called the Cooperative Program.
 

8/7/2017 3:51:08 PM by Seth Brown, Guest Column | with 1 comments



Every church’s task

August 4 2017 by David Platt, IMB

Over 100 years ago, George Pentecost, an evangelist who co-labored with D.L. Moody, said, “To the pastor belongs the privilege and responsibility of solving the foreign missionary problem.”
 
Pentecost maintained that mission boards play important roles in missions – devising methods, fueling movements and raising money. But it’s the responsibility and privilege of pastors to feel the weight of the nations and to fan a flame for the global glory of God in every local church.

David Platt


I believe he was right.
 
A high view of God’s sovereignty fuels death-defying devotion to God’s mission. People, and more specifically pastors who believe that God is sovereign over all things, will lead Christians to die for the sake of all peoples.
 
Let me be clear that I’m not saying pastors should neglect ministry to people in our local churches. I know there are people in our churches who are hurting, whose marriages are struggling, whose children are rebelling and who are walking through cancer and tumors and all sorts of other challenges in this life. We shouldn’t neglect local ministry to the body of Christ.
 
Nor should we neglect local mission in our communities or cities. We’ve been commanded to make disciples, and that command will most naturally and consistently play out right where we live, in the context of our immediate surroundings. Every church member ought to ask, “With the unique gifts God has given me and the Spirit of God who lives in me, how can I make disciples today right where I live?” In this way, there ought to be disciple-making and church planting efforts where we live and across North America.
 
In every city there should be pastors who lead their people to make disciples where they live, work and play, who impress upon their people the need to be involved in local ministry, and even lead some of their people to set aside the comforts of suburbia for the harsh realities of difficult places in their own cities for the sake of the gospel.
 
At the same time, global missions can be tragically neglected.
 
I was near Yemen not long ago. Do you know how many believers there are in northern Yemen? Twenty or thirty out of 8 million people in the region – equal to the populations of Alabama and Mississippi combined. There are likely more believers in your Sunday School class or a couple of small groups in your church than there are in all of northern Yemen. That’s a problem.
 
It’s a problem because millions of people in the northern part of Yemen have no access to the gospel. They join millions and millions of other unreached people in the world who are born, live and die without ever even hearing the Good News of what God has done for their salvation in Christ.
 
It’s not primarily the job of missions organizations to address that problem. This is primarily the job of every local church. Specifically, it’s the primary responsibility of every pastor of every local church to love people in that church and to love people in that community, all toward the ultimate end that the name of Christ might be praised among every group of people on the planet. That’s what the Spirit of Christ wants, so that’s what every Christian, every pastor and every local church should want.
 
When we read through the book of Acts, we see a clear priority within the roles of the local church – the priority of spreading the gospel across the globe. In Acts 13, we see the church at Antioch worshiping, fasting and praying. In the context of that local church with its leaders, the Spirit set apart Paul and Barnabas as missionaries.
 
The church prayed over them and sent them out, supporting them as they went. Twice Paul returned to Antioch to encourage that local church, and then on his third missionary journey, he wrote a letter to another local church, one in Rome, to ask for their support in helping him get to Spain, where Christ had not yet been named. In this way, we see local churches sending, shepherding and supporting men and women on global missions.
 
In our time, if you put these things together, you see that pastors love people in our local churches (local ministry) and we love people in our local communities (local mission) to the end that one day all peoples in all the world receive the gospel of God and revere the glory of God (global missions). Local ministry matters in that it is part of a global God making clear through His people that every person on the planet might hear the glorious news of redemption in God through Jesus Christ.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Platt is president of the International Mission Board. This article first appeared at the IMB’s imb.org website.)
 

8/4/2017 9:52:31 AM by David Platt, IMB | with 0 comments



Get ready for kickoff!

August 3 2017 by Diana Davis, Baptist Press

A great beginning can set the pace for a great year. In planning a women’s ministry kickoff event, these tips also can be tweaked to launch other key groups into the church year, such as the youth ministry, leadership teams and the choir. Let’s get ready for an awesome kickoff day!

Diana Davis

 

Invite. Invite. Invite.

All your excellent planning is worthless if people don’t attend. Create anticipation. Begin immediately to implement a detailed plan to give both a printed and a personal verbal invitation to every female in your church. Additionally, send a graphic e-invitation to church members, asking them to forward it to friends. Concentrate on including new attendees by encouraging everyone to bring a friend. Personal invitations are critical.
 
Create a Facebook event. Publicize in your church publications and website. Friendly women at our church passed out invitations at Sunday worship’s exit doors. List it as a local event in your community newspaper and websites. Whether your church is small or large, delegate and follow up to assure this happens.
 

Consider first impressions.

Every detail counts today. Spruce up your meeting space, if needed, with fresh paint and updated art. Rearrange the seating, and set up for a crowd. Be sure restrooms and hallways are fresh and inviting. Provide directional signs for guests. Create an organized, quick registration process. Add fresh flowers and extra greeters. Delegate these preparation assignments to small teams of women, including new church members, guests or peripheral members. Share the blessing of serving. “Whatever you do, do it from the heart,” Colossians 3:23 tells us, “as something done for the Lord and not for people.
 

Make it special.

Yes, you’ll overview the upcoming fall schedule during your event, unveiling new groups, plans and ministry projects. Yes, they’ll connect with old and new friends. But what else can you add to make it extra special? Each year’s kickoff deserves a special element. A brunch or tea or chocolate dessert? A ministry scavenger hunt or hands-on ministry project?
 
We introduced one fall semester with a “ministry fashion show.” Each ministry team leader strolled a runway, modeling something fun to represent that group, while the emcee told about that ministry. The homebound leader wore a fluffy bathrobe and slippers; the meals-on-wheels leader carried a food tray and scripture card; the prison ministry leader held bars and a Bible; the food pantry leader juggled cans of corn; and so on. Make it fun and memorable.
 

Worth their minutes!

Demonstrate that you value their time by planning every meeting well, beginning on kickoff day. Keep a relaxed atmosphere, but be purposeful with every minute. Begin and conclude precisely on time. Put long announcements in print. When the program is purposeful and top quality, they’ll come back and bring friends.
 

Encourage friendships.

Consider ways to help women develop Christian relationships. Draw names for prayer partners or assign mentors. Schedule some time for casual conversations, such as snack time or prayer circles. Assign a friendly member to orient each newcomer and introduce her to others. Encourage small groups or teams to meet for lunch or ministry projects. Plan informal fellowships. Meet at the coffee shop after class. Enjoy a relaxed picnic at the park. Be sure that every attender leaves with new friends.
 

Add action.

During the kickoff event, explain how your group plans to impact your community and your world for Christ. Whether your church is small or large, and whether your group is a Bible study, quilting guild, mission organization or exercise class, you can add simple outreach ministry projects.
 
Jesus’ commission to His followers is to “go into all the world” and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15), so redirect your group focus from inward to upward and outward. Today’s women love to make a difference! As your group becomes “doers of the Word and not hearers only” (James 1:22), you’ll be amazed at the impact you’ll have.
 

Point to Jesus.

Never forget that Jesus is the focus. From kickoff day to year’s end, every action or spoken word must honor Him. Be joyful. Pray. Play Christian background music. Chat often about God’s blessings and power. Love and integrate guests immediately. Intentionally invite them to Sunday worship. Impact your lost community. Share your personal Jesus story. This is no generic social group; this is a Christian women’s group!
 

Ask for a commitment.

At the close of your fall preview, ask women to register to join a group. Group leaders should call or email their class members before the next week. Have signup sheets for snacks, retreats, projects, volunteer jobs, etc. Snap digital headshots for an online directory. Provide a printed list of fall dates, special projects or events and church-wide activities.
 
Kickoff is no ordinary day. A great opening day requires lots of prayer, planning and work, but when people come together to know and serve our Savior, it will be worth it all.
 
And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works,” Hebrews 10:24-25 (CSB) instructs us, “not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Davis is online at dianadavis.org. Her newest book, co-written with her daughter, Autumn Wall, Across the Street and Around the World, New Hope Publishers, is a resource for missions ideas for churches, small groups and individuals.)
 

8/3/2017 7:34:45 AM by Diana Davis, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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