August 2019

Christians, continue to labor!

August 30 2019 by Daryl Cornett

Labor Day may be one of the holidays from which we are most disconnected. I have to admit to a typical indifference toward it myself. For most of us, it marks the end of summer, cooler weather, the return of college football and a day off from work. But the basic fact is that this special day, set aside to honor American workers’ contribution to our society, emerged from a long struggle in the nineteenth century to reform the exploitive practices that accompanied the Industrial Revolution.
 
The labor movement formed unions and organized protests and strikes in order to negotiate for better working conditions and pay. In the late 1800s, the conditions of American workers in factories, mills and mines were typically dismal. In some places young children were even employed at lower wages that adults. In the 1880s, many state legislatures honored the American worker with an official holiday. Eventually, the movement among state governments resulted in the federal government declaring in 1894 the first Monday of September an official holiday to honor America’s laborers.
 
No doubt, Labor Day represents one of the difficulties in our country’s history. The half-century following the Civil War was a challenging time on many fronts, and Christians were deeply involved in the social reform that was taking place. In the aftermath of the Second Great Awakening of the first half of the nineteenth century, Christians marshalled movements to address many social problems, beginning with the abolition of slavery before the Civil War.
 
In response to industrialization’s exploitation of children, churches introduced Sunday School. First appearing in England in the 1780s, this outreach ministry to children came to the United States, and American churches eagerly embraced it. Sunday School helped to educate poor children who were not going to school because they worked in factories six days a week. Of course, it was also a method to share the gospel while teaching reading and writing with the Bible as a key textbook.
 
Christians also led the charge against the devastating impact of alcohol on American families. It’s hard for us to conceptualize a popular movement so strong against alcohol. However, the problem was so bad that Congress amended the U.S. Constitution in 1919 to outlaw “the manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors.” This was accomplished primarily through the influence of Christian activists. This amendment remained in effect until it was repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933.
 
Labor Day reminds me that Christians can have a potent, positive impact on culture. The nineteenth century in America saw a lot of change for the good by the time it was over. Certainly, not everyone advocating for change was conspicuously Christian, but we know many were. God used them to bring awakening and to create a more just society.
 
American history is full of examples of sinful behaviors, exploitive systems, and corrupt practices by individuals, government and systemic social arrangements. In the nineteenth century many Christians ran the missions in the urban settings, started Sunday Schools for underprivileged and exploited children, went to war against the destructive consequences of alcohol abuse, and raised a nation’s conscience to the evils of racism. Where else would we expect true followers of Christ to be found but on the side of the oppressed and exploited?
 
This historical awareness of the context of the birth of Labor Day causes me to be grateful and reflective. I am grateful for many Christians who went before me, navigating incredible social change and courageously challenging major evils of their time.
 
I reflect on my own historical context and ask myself some questions. What are the injustices and evil that should grieve my soul and compel me to action? What is on my spiritual radar that is a clear and present danger to the souls of men and certainly displeasing to their Creator? Or, do I have it so good that I choose to ignore the evil in my own time? Micah the prophet declared, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” On what fronts do we see evil raging in the early twenty-first century?
 
Pondering the origins of Labor Day makes me realize that many nineteenth-century Christians saw it their duty to impact their country for the sake of forging a more kind, just, and God-honoring culture. This is certainly always a work in progress, but work that the church can’t forget about. God has given us his Word as a prophetic voice, not just to the church, but also to the society of which we are part.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Dr. Daryl Cornett is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Aberdeen, N.C.)

8/30/2019 10:18:50 AM by Daryl Cornett | with 0 comments



The big casino & the small church

August 29 2019 by Keith Shorter

Sitting on a hotel’s 38th floor, you gain a perspective on a community that you can’t get from street level.
 

On a recent mission trip, I could see all of Charlestown, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Boston, which is a SEND city for the North American Mission Board.
 
Each morning as I sat on my bed, I would pray for this beautiful neighborhood and the young church being planted there.
 
On the edge of Charlestown, a newly opened casino towers over the community. The bronze-toned glass tower with 27 floors is visible for miles. Each morning as I looked out my window, I thought about the big casino and the small church.
 
Both the casino and the church hope to reach their community and beyond, but for very different reasons.
 
The casino offers luxury and the dream of hitting the jackpot. The church offers the hope of the gospel and love for people who live broken and empty lives.
 
The big casino meets in a $2.6 billion facility that is hard to miss. The small church has no facility. They meet in a school gymnasium in the neighborhood.
 
If Jesus were to walk the streets of Boston today, I think He may tell a parable of the big casino and the small church. Perhaps He already has. In Mathew 13:31, Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in a field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.
 
Jesus seems to be saying that the kingdom of heaven often grows from small beginnings. A mustard seed is not very impressive. It is so small one might easily overlook it. It appears to be almost inconsequential.
 
Placing something so tiny and insignificant into the ground may seem like almost a waste of time.
 
Then God does what only God can do.
 
He brings life and growth to that unimpressive little seed – significant, noticeable, life-giving growth. So much so “that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
 
As I sat in my hotel looking over Charlestown, I realized why church planting is so important. The seeds of the gospel are being planted in a community where it is desperately needed.
 
While the spotlights shine on the casino, a small group of dedicated church planters is serving their community and showing the love of Jesus to those who don’t know Him. One person at a time, one neighborhood at a time, the gospel is advancing.
 
From a human perspective, what is happening in Charlestown is probably not that impressive. At least not yet. However, a significant, noticeable, life-giving church is taking root.
 
The size of the church does not limit what God can do in a community. God often starts with small things to do big things!
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Shorter is a former president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention and pastor of Mt. Airy Baptist Church in Easley.)

8/29/2019 1:49:45 PM by Keith Shorter | with 0 comments



Caring for missionaries through connection: The three Cs

August 26 2019 by Shirley Ralston

A perfect illustration of “out of sight, out of mind” is that of the missionary serving overseas. We have heard this refrain many times in our conversations with missionaries in our church’s care ministry. The Cambridge Dictionary describes it this way: “not able to be seen, and so not thought about. Problems in remote places can be out of sight, out of mind for many people.”
 

Photo by IMB.org
IMB missionaries to Japan gather for a meal with friends. The couple met when they were both serving in Japan as Journeymen and have since gotten married and planted their family there, saying they believe God is at work in the hearts of the Japanese.

Although connection may be one of their biggest desires, it is also one of their biggest challenges. A missionary’s support network usually consists of their family, friends, and church community. These are the people who know and love them and understand their purpose and work. They are key to their well-being on the field.
 
Paul expressed this same sentiment in his letter to the Philippians when he mentioned being “fully supplied” (Philippians 4:18 HCSB hereafter) and joy in his renewed care (Philippians 4:10). In this way, the dynamics of missionary work have remained the same over the centuries. So church, as much as it depends on us, as we send we must also support, and support means staying connected. Here are three key elements to consider in staying well connected to your missionaries.
 

Consistency

 
Your missionary should hear from you on a regular basis. With today’s myriad of communication apps, this is easily done. There is no better encouragement (perhaps outside an actual visit) for a missionary than to receive consistent communication from their support network. Regular contact allows you to get to know your missionary really well, and it provides a level of personal security for them to be vulnerable and share needs.
 
Make it your goal to be so consistent in your communications that your missionary can echo the words of Paul: “I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3–5). That is the sign of an excellent partnership.
 

Community

 
Paul had a reciprocal relationship with the Philippian church that he highly valued, made evident when he said, “because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and establishment of the gospel” (Philippians 1:7).
 
This kind of relationship between the church and their missionaries can be a challenge, but there are practical, effective ways to make it happen. The following ways are taken in part from Mind the Gaps: Engaging the Church in Missionary Care by David Wilson.
 
Church-wide prayer gatherings
With your missionary’s permission, include photos, profiles, copies of newsletters, and specific requests from your missionaries and their teams in the field.
 
Short-term mission trips
Go where your missionary is serving. “As you might imagine, this is where people really discover the real stories from the life of the missionaries and their ministries. When you’re eating, traveling and serving together, it is a great partnership and time of bonding” (Kindle loc. 1471–1474).
 
Care team field visits
These teams can be incorporated into short-term trips, or they can be separate ventures. “A field visit goes a long way to connect your hearts and build trusting relationships that show them how important they are to us. The visit opens up vistas into the challenges these tough soldiers are facing day to day for our Lord and we see it as critical to bridge the understanding and compassion gaps that can so easily exist with the miles, time, and differences in a foreign country” (Kindle loc. 1353–1354).
 
Introduction
Have returned missionaries recognized in the worship services. In whatever way you can, make their presence known by putting together faces and names. This will bring them closer to the church community.
 
Care retreats and conferences
This is an excellent opportunity for your missionaries to return home for a time of connection with the congregation and for rest and restoration. Involve the church community in planning and providing for this special time.
 
Group involvement
Incorporate your small groups, Sunday school classes, youth groups, etc. Have them consider adopting a missionary. Their efforts do not have to be burdensome. Here are a few things any group can do.

  • Prayers: set aside time for praying for them and their needs each time you meet.

  • Photos: send one of your group.

  • Phone calls and packages: Know their birthdays and anniversaries, send Christmas cards and care packages. Read and reply to their newsletters. Let them know you have sincerely interacted with their lives through the experiences they’ve shared with you.

  • Preparations: if they are returning home for any reason, find out what they need. A welcome basket is always uplifting during this difficult transition period.

  • Participation: include them in your group time (Skype or in person).

 
Church resources
Churches are usually well-equipped for meeting needs. Examples are access to counseling, housing, transportation, perhaps even a fitness facility. Appeal to the congregation for any professional skills missionaries may need like tax or legal advice.
 

With Care

 
Above all, caring through connection means a support network that is a safe place. This requires you to be careful. Many global workers serve in sensitive areas where communication may be monitored. When you have the opportunity, ask your workers the following:

  • What is their preferred method of communication?

  • What is the best time for communication with them?

  • What words should you use or not use so you do not inadvertently put them at risk?

 
Being a safe place also means a support network that is trustworthy, a place where your worker can be known and accepted. Look to Paul’s letter to the Galatians for how important it is for us to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1–5). There should be a few people in the missionary’s circle of support who share a strong, trusting relationship with them. This is so that issues related to emotional and spiritual health can be discussed in confidence and additional help on a more professional level can be pursued if there is a need.
 
Finally, consider holding an information session for anyone who is part of the support network for your missionary community. Training is key for a good missionary care ministry. Use this time to cover the three Cs of caring through connection.
 
I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shirley Ralston, MA Christian Education, Dallas Theological Seminary, is a founding member of the missionary care team at Houston’s First Baptist Church. She also serves on the pastor’s research team and teaches a Bible study to single young adults. Shirley and her husband, Jeff, now reside in Houston after several years living overseas. This article first appeared on the International Mission Board’s website, imb.org.)

8/26/2019 11:12:57 AM by Shirley Ralston | with 0 comments



Baptismal pool not a museum piece

August 23 2019 by Marshal Ausberry

One of the beautiful things I like about Washington, D.C., is the number of museums located in the city. There are all kinds of museums: the Air & Space Museum, the Newseum, the National Archives Building & Museum, the National Air and Space Museum, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Museum of the American Indian, Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Bible Museum. This list is just a small sampling of the wonderful museums in Washington, D.C.

Museums typically tell of the past, of how life used to be. In the church we never want there to be a Baptism Museum. In too many churches, the baptismal pool (or wherever you baptize) has become a museum artifact.

 

Marshal Ausberry


Baptism is not a relic of the ancient past – baptism is an essential part of today’s church. For Christians, baptism was instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ for His church, and mandated in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).

The filling of the baptism pool with water is a tremendous reminder to the church of the message we are called to remember. We baptize believers!

As we pray that God would grant every church an increase, filling the baptism pool is also a step of faith, believing that God is the one who grows His church. We are expressing our desire to be in step with God – creating an atmosphere in our churches that moves the congregation to be concerned about the lost, all the while looking to God for His mighty move that more men, women, boys and girls will come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

On Sunday, Sept. 8, I hope my fellow Southern Baptists will join in and fill their baptism pools with water, reminding the church of the commandment to baptize. Filling the baptism pool with water is a sermon in itself.

In order to baptize, we must evangelize! If we don’t evangelize, we don’t baptize! Baptizing and evangelizing are the right and left footsteps of the church – we need both to do what Jesus commands us to do.

My friends, we don’t like to hear bad news, but if you read the statistics, our report card shows a steady decline in baptisms. Therefore, we can’t just stand by and allow our baptism pools to remain empty. If our baptism pools remain empty, then we are not winning souls to Christ.

I encourage you to fill your baptism pool with water on Sept. 8 as a reminder that our baptism pools do not belong in a museum as a relic of an ancient past, but they belong to the living church of Jesus Christ.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marshal Ausberry is the first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention; president of the National African American Fellowship; and senior pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, Va. Sept. 8 is Baptism Day in the Southern Baptist Convention. For resources, go to namb.net/baptism-sunday.)

See related:
Floyd: Special baptism day lives, breathes Gospel urgency
Hunt: Baptism: A sign of obedience to Christ
Greear: Why Baptism Sunday?
8/23/2019 10:59:49 AM by Marshal Ausberry | with 0 comments



Special baptism day lives, breathes Gospel urgency

August 20 2019 by Ronnie Floyd

A special day of baptism will set your church on fire. There is nothing like the joy of baptizing a person who has been transformed by the power of Jesus Christ.

On Sept. 8, our 2019 Baptism Sunday, we are asking every Southern Baptist church to do everything they can to have a special day for baptizing new believers in Jesus Christ. We must recapture the culture of the early church. Those early believers were baptized immediately upon their response to trust and follow Jesus as their Lord.

One way we can begin creating and living and breathing a culture of gospel urgency is to make much of this nationwide, coordinated celebration of believer’s baptism. The testimony of baptism is so powerful that no one can deny its authenticity. The testimony of life change that is lived out before the church through baptism leads a church to celebrate what God is doing. It reminds the church of the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Cross Church photo



Above everything else, we must again become a convention of churches that believes PEOPLE NEED JESUS and PEOPLE NEED JESUS NOW.

Pastor, begin this Sunday in your church, calling people to join you in the waters of baptism on Sunday, Sept. 8. On that day, do not delegate baptizing to another or to an associate pastor, but you do the baptizing. Make it special. Passionately appeal these next three Sundays for people to follow Jesus in salvation and also into the baptism waters in obedience to Christ.

This kind of encouragement is not only believing the Gospel; it is living and breathing the Gospel with a deep sense of urgency. Be more intentional than ever to do this. If we believe the Gospel transforms lives, then we need to preach like it, lead like it, and extend to people the opportunity to be baptized before His church as followers of Jesus.

Pastor, study who is coming to your church that is not a member of your church. Focus on this group now and do your best to inform them of your desire for them to follow Jesus personally. If they have already confessed Christ privately, challenge them to make Sept. 8 their special day to identify with Christ openly and join your fellowship through baptism.

Southern Baptist leaders of all kinds, whether volunteers or employees, we must begin resetting our strategies and decision-making processes as leaders who live and breathe gospel urgency. Spreading the Gospel is what each Christian is to do – wherever we are, whatever our vocation, or our location, our age, or our stage of life may be. That is what each Christian is to do and that’s what Jesus tells us to do. As a network of churches, we cannot play it safe, nor can we move in slow motion in a fast-changing, real-time world.

Pastors and all preachers of God’s Word, when you preach the Word of God and then extend the call for people to come to Jesus Christ, do so with your hearts on fire, living and breathing gospel urgency!

How amazing it would be if we saw more people baptized on a single Sunday on Sept. 8 than ever before! Let’s call on people over the next few weeks to lay aside their fears and submit to the waters of baptism, celebrating the death, burial and resurrection of their Lord and Savior!

We are known as Baptists because we believe baptism is an outward picture of an inward change of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. We also believe that baptism is a joyous celebration by the whole church that another child has been born into the family of God. It is a visible sign of our spiritual union with Christ!

Spiritually and strategically, we need a major reset. We must take our commitment to “Living and Breathing Gospel Urgency” higher than ever before. Presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and making disciples of all the nations is our mission.

It is time for Southern Baptists to come home: We need to come home to evangelism! This is who we are and what we are about.

I urge every church across our nation to pray, work, and witness between now and Sept. 8, and then stand back and see what the Lord will do in our midst!

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ronnie Floyd is president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. For resources, go to namb.net/baptism-sunday-resources/.)
8/20/2019 11:15:33 AM by Ronnie Floyd | with 0 comments



Baptism: A sign of obedience to Christ

August 16 2019 by Johnny Hunt, NAMB

To me, when I study the New Testament, especially the book of Acts, it appears that baptism is the first act of obedience a believer takes after they are saved. It is so important because it is the first time individuals will share about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and they do so without ever opening their mouths!
 

Baptism serves as a witness to others who need to be obedient to Christ’s command, and it shares the gospel with those who have yet to believe because baptism is a physical representation of how Jesus saves us.
 
One of my favorite baptism stories in the New Testament begins in Acts 8, verse 26. Philip is called by the Spirit to leave a major movement of God in the city of Samaria in order to intersect in divine providence with one person – the Ethiopian eunuch.
 
Philip sees him sitting in his chariot. The eunuch had likely been to Jerusalem and participated in worship, but undoubtedly, all of his questions had not been answered. So, when Philip approaches and sees him reading one of the most prominent messianic passages from the Old Testament, Isaiah 53, he asks the eunuch, “Do you understand what you read?” The man responds, “How can I except somebody help me?
 
As pastors, we are trying to help our people be obedient to Jesus. Christ said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” Baptism is not an option. It’s a command. When we encourage our people to be baptized, we are encouraging them to obey Christ’s commands, not ours.
 
There are many questions that I’ve answered throughout my ministry. How old should a person be? Why be baptized? Will baptism get you into heaven? These are good questions, but at the end of the day, we are commanded by Jesus to be baptized.
 
It only stands to reason that if I’ve said yes to Christ as Lord, where does the “no” fit into that equation? How can a person who has trusted Jesus say to Him, “No, Lord?”
 
To go back to the Ethiopian eunuch, when he and Philip came across a body of water, he asked, “What hinders me from being baptized?” Based on a simple confession about Jesus in response to the gospel, Philip went down to the water and baptized him.
 
I don’t know that the eunuch knew much more than his simple confession that Jesus is the Son of God and that Christ saved him from his sin before Philip baptized him. I think, sometimes, we may be too hard on new believers as to what we think they should understand.
 

FBC Woodstock photo

They must understand they are a sinner and that – based on 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 – Jesus Christ died for sin and for sinners according to the scripture, that He was buried and raised from the dead on the third day. That is the gospel.
 
In baptism, we are declaring the gospel to the congregation and testifying to the fact that we have already received it. Why shouldn’t we give new believers the opportunity to obey Christ and follow through with baptism immediately after they have responded to the gospel?
 
As pastor at First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga., we held a service where we allowed people to respond in obedience through spontaneous baptism. Dozens of people came forward that Sunday, and there was such a spirit of celebration in the room that no one wanted to leave.
 
This Baptism Sunday, Sept. 8, our church will be hosting a similar service again. We will have extra gowns, shorts, t-shirts and towels – even extra hair dryers – and we will tell people, “You can come right now and enter the baptismal waters.”
 
Now, none of them will do so without sharing a clear testimony with a trained counselor. Some who come forward may not have that testimony of being transformed by Christ yet, but we also know that there are many who need to be obedient. They know what they need to do. They just need the opportunity to respond in obedience to the Lord.
 
Pastor, I want to encourage you to lead your church to do something similar. At First Baptist Woodstock, we are so expectant that we will bring in a second, portable baptismal pool. Regardless of the size of your church, I believe you will be amazed by the number of people who will come forward when you share the gospel and call for obedience to God’s command to be baptized.
 
The night I was converted, many years ago, if they had told me to be baptized that night, I would have been delighted to do so. While they did baptize me the very next Sunday night, I think we often forget the joy a new believer has and their desire to obey their new Savior.
 
Whether it’s new converts who come forward or whether it’s people in your church who have not followed through with the biblical model of believer’s baptism, this coming Baptism Sunday provides the avenue for what could be a special time of celebration of what Christ has done to save sinners.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Johnny Hunt serves as the senior vice president of Evangelism and Leadership at the North American Mission Board (NAMB). Prior to joining NAMB, Hunt pastored First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga., for 33 years. Baptist Press will be releasing a series of columns leading up to Sept. 8, which is Baptism Day in the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/16/2019 12:10:35 PM by Johnny Hunt, NAMB | with 0 comments



The power of belonging

August 15 2019 by Darrick Smith, BSC

What is every college student on your campus looking for? What is their deepest desire – the thing that they long for? What is the thing that often drives their decisions? Oftentimes, it’s the desire to belong.
 

In the fall of 2002 I was headed to North Carolina Central University to begin my college career. I hadn’t spent much time away from my family, so I was anxious about being on my own for four years. One of my deepest concerns was about making new friends. When classes began, I immediately noticed how others dressed, how they talked, and what they valued. Slowly, I began to adapt. I would develop a new set of values and motivations based off of what I saw around me, and if that didn’t work out, then I would just adapt again.
 

A desire to belong


Deep within me was a desire to be in a community with people who accepted me the way I was. I wanted a place where I could just breathe and be the real me – a place where I didn’t have to cover up my weaknesses. I wanted a place where my flaws, imperfections and insecurities would be accepted. I wanted to belong. I wanted authentic community. I wanted a family, and as a student, I wanted this from those on my campus.
 
This is common for many college students across the world. They want to belong – and they can.
 
So, in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others,” (Romans 12:5).
 

A desire for community


College ministries have something other organizations on campus don’t – the ability to create gospel-centered community. These ministries can be a place where believers come together and find strength, love, hope, accountability and correction. It can be a place where shame is swallowed up by the grace that others extend – a place where needs are met. College students can find a place where the people of God can thrive as they seek to follow Jesus and spur others on toward maturity in Christ (Colossians 1:28). College ministries offer students a place to belong.
 
Scripture reveals to us that God’s desire from the beginning of time was to create a family (Genesis 1:28). He desired to create a community where everyone belongs – both to Him and to one another. It pleased the Father to create mankind to exist in fellowship with Him and with others. Through Christ, believers have a place to belong. They not only have a place to belong for the sake of just belonging, but a place to belong with a mission. God doesn’t invite us into community to merely co-exist, but rather, to live out the truths of His Word together.
 

A desire for the mission of God


Almost every organization on a college campus has a mission. The people who seek to belong to that organization are seeking to carry out its mission. Collegiate ministries and churches have a great opportunity to create a space for students to belong, but also to instruct them how to live on mission for God. This is an opportunity to create community that reminds students of the good news of the gospel and what it means for their lives.
 
As you seek to reach college students this year, remember that you have a great opportunity to invite students into community. You have an opportunity to paint a picture of what it means to be a follower of Jesus – to belong to a family that seeks to obey Christ and follow His mission for the glory of God.
 
For help implementing a college ministry at your church, please contact the Collegiate Partnerships team.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Darrick Smith is a senior consultant with the collegiate partnerships team of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. This article was originally published at ncbaptist.org.)

8/15/2019 12:31:45 PM by Darrick Smith, BSC | with 0 comments



Why Baptism Sunday?

August 13 2019 by J.D. Greear

For several years now, I have been greatly burdened by the declining number of baptisms across the Southern Baptist Convention. I believe the baptism numbers serve as one of the best indicators of evangelism in our churches. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, and that means that proclaiming the gospel is the core of who we are – not only as Southern Baptists, but most importantly, as disciples of Jesus Christ.

That’s why I’m challenging every Southern Baptist church to call for baptisms in services on Sept. 8th, the date our SBC Executive Committee has designated as “Baptism Day” on the SBC Calendar.
 
Baptism Sunday will be an opportunity for thousands of people in our churches to take their step of obedience and faith. Many of them already know they should be baptized, and you can schedule baptism celebrations in advance. Other people in your churches may decide on Sept. 8th that God is calling them to those same baptismal waters.
 
I know that conversations about immediate-response baptism services tend to draw some objections, many of which are grounded in healthy concern about encouraging insincere professions of faith. Trust me, I understand the concerns: I have seen dangerous and irresponsible calls for spontaneous baptisms. God forbid that we ever declare someone “saved” when they aren’t. Not only does this give them false assurance, but it also makes them that much more immune to future calls to repent and believe.
 
Our fear of extending these invitations wrongly, though, should never make us shy away from making the invitations at all. After all, every single baptism recorded in the New Testament, without exception, is spontaneous and immediate. For New Testament believers, the pattern was alarmingly simple: Believe, confess, get baptized. There was never a gap between when a person trusted Christ and when that person was baptized. Not one.
 
This follows the example of Jesus’ Great Commission: “Make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Baptism is a believer’s first act of discipleship, a step of obedience that stands as a witness that we belong to Christ.
 
Baptism is like the wedding ring of salvation. I put on my wedding ring at the moment I decided to publicly declare my commitment to my wife. Putting on the ring did not make me married. I am no more married when I wear my ring than when I don’t. But the demonstration of my commitment to my wife that the ring represents was a crucial first step in marriage. Had I refused to do it, my wife would have had reason to question my intentions.
 

The Summit Church photo

In the same way, baptism is an outward symbol of an inward covenant we’ve made in response to Jesus’ offer of salvation.
 
Every one of our churches ought to do everything in its power to ensure that everyone who comes forward to be baptized understands the gospel and the significance of what they are doing. Just because the decision is more immediate doesn’t mean it should be hasty or sloppy. During baptism services at our church, for instance, we individually counsel every person who comes forward. Those conversations take time – often extending into the next service – and we always end up turning some people away. But that moment is important, because it starts a conversation about what it means to follow Jesus.
 
Baptism is of tremendous importance, but we need to keep the biblical order in mind: Baptism is the catalyst to spiritual maturity, not the sign of having attained it.
 
When we invite people to be baptized, we are calling them to make a decision. That’s exactly what so many of our people need. They come to our churches as consumers, going along with Jesus but never deciding for Him.
 
This is personal for me. My dad became a Christian because he responded to an invitation in the middle of a church service. During the worship service, he didn’t think he needed to change. He thought everything was fine. But then one day the pastor called for a decision. It was one of those traditional invitations, too – the kind where they sing 58 stanzas of “Just As I Am.” Well, for my dad, that was the moment the Holy Spirit came after him. He knew in that moment that he had to make a decision. When he let go of the pew and walked forward, his life changed. 
 
Several years ago, our church chose to hold our first baptism service after we noticed the biblical pattern of spontaneous baptisms while preaching through a series in the book of Acts. Starting with that service, we saw three times more people choose to be baptized that year than we’d ever seen! I believe that’s because our church had been faithful in sharing the gospel, and we chose to be faithful in calling for a response to that good news.
 
I’ve been encouraged by the many stories of faithful evangelism in our denomination through initiatives like “Who’s Your One,” and I believe God is preparing a harvest of souls. Let’s faithfully call them to respond by publicly declaring faith through baptism!
 
For resources, go to namb.net/baptism-sunday-resources/.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE –J.D. Greear is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area. Baptist Press will be releasing a series of columns leading up to Sept. 8, which is Baptism Day in the SBC.)

8/13/2019 11:50:26 AM by J.D. Greear | with 0 comments



5 reasons to support NCMO

August 9 2019 by Will Taylor, BSC Communications

Each year, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina places an emphasis on the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO), a special offering that supports the ministries of N.C. Baptist Men (NCBM), church planting, mission camps, associational projects and mobilization ministry projects.
 

NCMO is received during a special church emphasis each September, but contributions may be made at any time throughout the year. NCMO is an opportunity to impact lostness through various ministries that God uses to draw more people to Himself. The goal for this year’s offering is $2.1 million.
 
Following are five reasons your church should consider making a financial gift to NCMO.
NCMO is an opportunity to impact lostness through various ministries that God uses to draw more people to Himself.
 

Loving


Supporting NCMO accomplishes Kingdom work by [obeying] Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves. This year’s theme is “Known by Love” based on John 13:35 — “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” N.C. Baptist Men, also known as Baptists on Mission, involves thousands of people in 18 different ministries such as disaster relief, agricultural missions, and dental and health screenings. NCBM sees the world’s lostness and brokenness and demonstrates compassion for others by meeting their physical needs, which builds bridges to meeting their spiritual needs as well.
 

Serving


NCMO supports two mission camps in North Carolina located in Robeson and Cleveland counties. These camps host men, women and student volunteers throughout the year. Your support of NCMO allows these volunteers to participate in service projects that range from patching a leaky roof to renovating a needy family’s home. Projects such as these serve as platforms for sharing the gospel.
 

Going


Each year, gifts to NCMO help mobilize thousands of volunteers for mission projects in North Carolina, the United States and around the world. For many, it’s their first opportunity to serve on a mission trip, and for others, God uses this opportunity to call them into a lifetime of service. Volunteers serve in a variety of ways all over the world in places like Armenia, Cuba, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, India, Romania and elsewhere.
 

Planting


One of the best ways to reach lost people is by establishing new churches, and gifts to NCMO go directly to church planting efforts in North Carolina. Since 2007, gifts to NCMO have helped start more than 1,000 churches across the state, averaging more than 100 new church plants annually. In 2018, new churches reported over 7,000 professions of faith.
 

Discipling


Every aspect of NCMO and the ministries it supports point to the overarching goal of making disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. As such, all of the money given to NCMO goes directly to funding ministry work locally, regionally, nationally and globally. Will you give so that others may know Jesus and become His disciple?
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Will Taylor is a communications specialist with the BSC. This article was originally published at ncbaptist.org.)

8/9/2019 11:07:16 AM by Will Taylor, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Heaven will look like Walmart

August 8 2019 by Micheal Pardue

As my wife and I were shopping at Walmart, I noticed the diversity in the people around me. People with many shades of melanin. People from all around the world. People with heritages different from my own. As I observed them, my heart sank thinking of the tragedy at the Walmart in El Paso, Texas, just two days before. Another community retail center with people from many parts of the world. A store full of people, shopping and enjoying their day, terrorized by hate.
 

It is simple to blame an act of terror that claimed more than 20 lives in Texas on political ideologies, video game violence, firearm availability, healthcare access or even the hatred inside the heart of the murderous terrorist that carried out this atrocity. The answer, spiritually speaking, runs much deeper.
 
These things happen because hell hates heaven. Hell hates that when I look around me and see people “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9), I think about heaven. My heart rejoices knowing that God loves and redeems people from every skin tone and language group – hell shudders at the prospect.
 
I find great comfort knowing that no matter what hell unleashes on us – no matter what wickedness brings ugly terror – heaven will look a lot like Walmart. No bigotry or hate or racism can change heaven. Hell cannot prevail. Hell cannot overcome. The gospel of Christ will transform the hearts of people from every tribe and language and people and nation. People from every race will comprise the Kingdom of Christ. Hate can rage and hell can war, but they do so in desperation, not in victory.
 
When Christ’s Kingdom is complete, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). This is the day I long for. This is the day I thought about as I strolled through Walmart.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Micheal Pardue is first vice president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and pastor of First Baptist Icard in Connelly Springs.)

8/8/2019 9:38:21 AM by Micheal Pardue | with 0 comments



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