December 2016

It’s a girl!

December 29 2016 by Rhonda Harrington Kelley

What seemed like a typical gathering of women at an Atlanta hotel one Friday morning took a delightful twist.
Fourteen ladies representing women in the Southern Baptist Convention were meeting to discuss how to involve women in more ministries at all levels of denominational life. However, something else of historic proportion was happening. We were having a baby!
As the meeting began, one member of the Women’s Ministry Advisory Council announced that her water broke.

Rhonda Harrington Kelley

Huh? Well, not her water, but the water of her expectant daughter who would be giving birth any minute now. Cellphone updates buzzed in throughout the meeting: On the way to the hospital. In the delivery room. Six inches dilated. Amidst the business agenda, we all celebrated when our friend’s baby girl gave birth to a baby girl!
Men are definitely different than women. Only a gathering of women would share the details of childbirth while conducting serious business and not feel at all uncomfortable. Men typically don’t talk about personal things that openly.
When God created human beings, He created male and female in His image with different roles and personalities. He gave women childbearing responsibility as well as relational natures and emotional feelings. God also gave to those women who choose to follow Jesus the gift of salvation and the ability to share the gospel with those in need of redemption. So, Christian women can be a part of the physical and spiritual birth of others.
Old Testament scriptures proclaim the sanctity of life, as the psalmist sings of the miracle of physical birth in Psalm 139:13–16. God forms the inward parts of a baby in the womb of its mother and sees the substance of its being before the baby is born. God fashions the days of the baby and writes them all down in His book. Praise the Lord God for His mighty works of human creation! You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
A newborn baby is a perfect reminder of the awesome creative power of God Almighty. Our women’s team received an email photo of our friend’s granddaughter who was pronounced “the most beautiful baby in the world.” Cherub cheeks. Tiny nose. Ten fingers and ten toes. A dark brown head of hair. All parts of that perfectly created human life which enters the world from the womb of a mother are a testimony of the physical life given only by God.
The New Testament introduces spiritual rebirth through the Messiah Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself shares the truth of the gospel that “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, NKJV).
How can one be born again? Believers speak about their faith to unbelievers who hear and receive the Good News. Jesus explained the Gospel clearly and simply in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (NKJV). New birth takes place in a human life when one accepts Jesus as personal Savior and follows Him as Lord. Physical life is created by God through woman, while spiritual life is given by God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
A new believer is a “babe in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1–3). A spiritual babe in Christ must mature spiritually in the same way that a newborn baby must mature physically. A baby cannot eat meat until she has been fed milk. She cannot walk until she has learned to crawl. All babies must grow and develop physically.
In a similar way, all Christians must grow and develop spiritually. Baby Christians begin to grow as they develop spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible study, service and witnessing. Women who give physical life care for their children and help them grow physically into healthy human beings. Christian women who share the gospel with others have the responsibility to encourage their spiritual growth.
It was a blessing to share the joy of our friend at the physical birth of her granddaughter. We rejoiced together and spread the news of God’s miracle of life. Her family grew as another person was added to the population.
Let this spontaneous celebration of physical birth remind us of the joy we should experience with the spiritual birth of anyone who trusts Jesus as personal Savior. When someone is saved, another member is added to God’s family for all eternity. Every Christian should speak the gospel to lost family members and friends. Let’s have a baby!

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rhonda Harrington Kelley is chairwoman for the SBC Women’s Ministry Advisory Council and adjunct professor of women’s ministry who also leads the Ministry Wife Program at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary where her husband Chuck serves as president. This article first appeared in SBC LIFE, newsjournal of the SBC Executive Committee.)

12/29/2016 9:33:29 AM by Rhonda Harrington Kelley | with 0 comments

Book Review: Who moved my pulpit?

December 28 2016 by Brian Upshaw, Book Review

Change is constant in life. People must learn to cope with it in their personal lives, their health, their families and their careers. Organizations must navigate change due to factors in the marketplace, advances in technology or internal challenges.
Churches are not exempt from the reality of change. Change can frustrate church members and discourage pastors. In fact, the issue may be the most significant barrier to missional revitalization that is facing the local church.
In his latest book, Who Moved My Pulpit?, Thom Rainer uses case studies and stories from a variety of churches to address how to lead change in a church. Written for pastors, church staff and lay leaders wanting to make a positive contribution, the book provides an eight-stage roadmap for change. Rainer emphasizes principles such as prayer, communication, teamwork and people issues. The pastor must be a voice of hope for the congregation, Rainer says. Equally important is the willingness of the congregation to move its focus toward evangelism and community impact.
The author does not shy away from the challenges of personality, nor does he pit pastor against congregation, acknowledging that both church leaders and members must take ownership of the current state of the church.
The failures of pastors in implementing change are chronicled in the book. Additionally, he classifies five types of “unmovable” church members that will be recognizable to most readers. The final chapter is an inspiring call to embrace change for the sake of the gospel, despite the obstacles one may face.
Rainer has created something of a cottage industry by writing small volumes intended to be read together by a church. This book is no exception. The concise volume lends itself to group study. Each chapter concludes with diagnostic and study questions for discussion. Readers will also find the “Change Readiness Inventory” in the appendix is a useful instrument to assess the potential for transition in the church. If a church body were to use it and discuss the results together, they may find the inventory itself to be a catalyst for change.
Who Moved My Pulpit? is readable and tackles a critical issue for churches today. This book should be read by every pastor and church leader who desires to see people revived, churches renewed and communities restored. By reading and reasoning together, pastors and people can approach change with a united game plan for kingdom impact.  
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is hosting a one-day event March 7, 2017 called “Leading Change in the Church.”
The program – based on Who Moved My Pulpit? – will provide church leadership training from Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, and nearly two dozen ministry leaders from across the country.

Individual registration for the conference is $10. Visit for more information.

12/28/2016 11:26:08 AM by Brian Upshaw, Book Review | with 0 comments

Itching ears and civil religion

December 21 2016 by Joel Rainey

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.”  Paul, 2 Timothy 4:3.
As a young seminary student, every time I heard this passage expounded upon in a chapel service, it was nearly always applied to theological liberalism. I was preparing for ministry during the latter period of my denomination's “conservative resurgence,” a time when the authority of Biblical truth was threatened with compromise, and a time when we were repeatedly warned by visiting speakers to be vigilant. After all, there would be those I would preach to as a pastor each Sunday who would not appreciate my devotion to the whole counsel of God – those who might even walk out in protest, and find another church home with another pastor who would tell them what they wanted to hear.
In those same days, Jack Graham had recently moved from Florida to be the new pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, and Robert Jeffress was burning books in Wichita Falls. I would never imagine that 20 years later, I'd be reading this passage and thinking first of them.
Yet, this was the passage that came to mind as I read a Wall Street Journal article yesterday, describing these two men – alongside a few others – threatening to pull their church's financial support of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). The ERLC is the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention – speaking to Southern Baptists to help them best express their faith in the public square, and to some extent also speaking for Southern Baptists and representing our doctrinal distinctives and social concerns to leadership in Washington, D.C.
For several years, I was on record advocating the elimination of this entity, which by 2011 had become little more than a Republican Party echo chamber. I saw the $4 million given in support of this entity annually as better invested in missionary work abroad. But in 2013, the ERLC trustees named Russell Moore as their new president. Moore represented a new generation of Baptist ethics that while holding firmly to historic Christian faith – and subsequently deeply entrenched views on some important social issues – nevertheless presented itself as “above” the fray of partisanship. Under his leadership, our commitment to protect unborn children hasn't moved an inch, but our “pro-life” position has been more holistically applied to minorities, women, the poor, the immigrant and the refugee.
Full disclosure: Russ is an old friend and former seminary classmate whom I have always respected and admired. But it was his leadership at the ERLC that restored my faith in the purpose of that entity. And it was that consistent leadership on moral issues that made him a sharp critic of Donald Trump as a Presidential candidate – criticism that called into question the apparent hypocrisy of so many public Christian leaders who threw their support behind a man whose lifestyle stood in sharp contrast to the biblical description of righteousness. Once Mr. Trump became the Republican nominee, most evangelical Christians understood that hard decisions were in front of them, and respected each other even when sometimes coming to different conclusions regarding what one should do when arriving in the voting booth. But Moore's constant reminders that the public support and unbridled advocacy of Trump by Christian leaders was a bridge too far was enough to ruffle the feathers of those supporters, including Robert Jeffress, who later said that any Christian who didn't vote for Trump was a “mamby pamby, panty-waisted, weak-kneed, hypocritical fool.”
Now, the same guy who lashed out in this way is joined by others who claim Moore was “disrespectful.”
Pot, meet kettle.
What we are witnessing now among too many evangelical pastors is a regurgitated form of zealotism that seeks to curry favor with power, even if obtaining that cultural favor makes us appear to the culture as just another interest group rather than representatives of a higher Kingdom (2 Corinthians 5:20).  And when zealotism is mixed with theology, the result is a really ugly baby called civil religion.
And in this case, civil religion means orthodoxy that is determined by the mob. Louisiana Baptist Executive David Hankins expresses this view accurately when he stated that the issues surrounding Moore are the result of “disagreement with a large majority of his constituents.” Until reading this, it never occurred to me that in a denomination supposedly committed to the absolute truth and authority of scripture, “he isn't saying what we want to hear” would, by itself, be sufficient grounds for a heresy trial.
And what about the historic Baptist principle of dissent? Healthy exchanges during disagreement aren't always comfortable, and they can sometimes even be offensive, but they are an excellent way to arrive at the truth, provided we are listening both to the Holy Spirit and each other. Without this, “group-think” infects us like cancer, and healthy congregational environments turn into toxic “democracies.”
And that sets a horrible example for our churches. Years ago while leading a local Baptist association, I moderated a very painful business meeting, the end of which was punctuated by the resignation of a faithful pastor.  Pressured by a group within the church to whom he said things they didn't want to hear, he finally had all he could take, and left.
My next meeting with church leadership was for the purpose of charting a course of congregational healing and restoration, but the leaders wouldn't have it. “Why,” I asked, “wouldn't you want to try to make things right? You are at odds with your brothers and sisters and the unity of this body is threatened. Why not make attempts to reconcile?”
The answer from one of the men still haunts me to this day. “Because we won,” he said.
I have yet to hear anyone successfully challenge the truthfulness of anything Russ Moore said this election season. I have only heard that he was “disrespectful” and didn't say what others wanted to hear. Those making those claims “won.” The candidate they championed will move into the White House on January 20. So why keep fighting? Is it guilt? It is shame? Or could it be that their candidate rubbed off a little too much? Nothing is worse than a sore loser – except perhaps, a sore winner who doesn't feel they have been “congratulated” enough.
Jack Graham, Robert Jeffress, David Hankins, William Harrell and others need to knock it off.  Stop pretending that the ERLC should somehow be punished because its president was more faithful than them in the proclamation of biblical righteousness.
As it turns out, preachers sometimes have itching ears too.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joel Rainey is lead pastor at Covenant Church in Shepherdstown, W.Va. This post first appeared on his blog, Used by permission.)

12/21/2016 11:10:50 AM by Joel Rainey | with 0 comments

Election year thoughts at Christmastime

December 20 2016 by Russell Moore

What does a family Christmas look like after a divisive election?
A little over a month out from the 2016 elections, this is the question I’ve been thinking about recently. As many Americans travel home to see family, many of you are bound to be on the receiving end of heated political conversations. Some of you may be visiting family who are upset about how you voted. Others of you may deal with family who are upset about things you did or didn’t say. Still others of you may be disappointed with how a family member advocated or debated.
I can understand that. Over the last month, there have been some pointed conversations in my denominational family about the election and the way forward, and some of them have been directed at me. But it also raises a broader question worth considering: as Christians, how should we move forward in this Christmas season and beyond?
First, try to see where there are misunderstandings. I remember one situation where I witnessed a handful of Christian political operatives excusing immorality and confusing the definition of the gospel. I was pointed in my criticisms, and felt like I ought to have been. But there were also pastors and friends who told me when they read my comments they thought I was criticizing anyone who voted for Donald Trump. I told them then, and I would tell anyone now: if that’s what you heard me say, that was not at all my intention, and I apologize. There’s a massive difference between someone who enthusiastically excused immorality and someone who felt conflicted, weighed the options based on biblical convictions, and voted their conscience. In a heated campaign season focused on sound bites, this distinction can get lost in the headlines, so it bears repeating.
For many of you, you may find yourself in situations where you haven’t been clear in what you’re saying and what you’re not saying. I know I have. That’s true not only in an election year but anytime. Try to find out when those times are.
Second, as Christians, particularly as it comes to this election, we need to make sure we have empathy for one another. When I went to the ballot box this year, for the first time in my life my conscience wouldn’t allow me to vote for either major party candidate. For me, to vote for either candidate, I felt, would be to sin against my own conscience. That said, many Christians, including some of my very best friends and closest ministry partners, approached the ballot box conflicted but felt compelled to cast a ballot for the “lesser of two evils,” hoping for the best with a less than ideal president. A possible temptation in situations like this is to take things personally – something I’ve been guilty of myself – but it’s important that we not.
This is important because, regardless of which side you’re on, as Christians we are called to honor everyone (1 Pet. 2:17), and we ought to take the time to understand and not caricature one another. So, if you voted but your conscience wouldn’t allow you to vote for either major candidate, don’t stand in judgment over a Christian who prayerfully came to a different conclusion. Remember, whether it was concern for the unborn, the Supreme Court, or any number of other issues, most often it was a commitment to biblical convictions that motivated his or her vote.
On the other hand, if you find yourself frustrated with someone whose conscience would not allow a vote for either major party candidate, don’t stand in judgment over that decision either. Most often, these voters were animated by biblical motivations too: many felt either that they could not sin against their conscience (Rom. 14:23) or that a vote for an ethically-compromised candidate would implicate them personally and be akin to “do[ing] evil that good may come” (Rom. 3:8). In either case, we all owe it to our brothers and sisters in Christ to understand their convictions and be slow to judgment when biblical motivations are the primary motivators. In the heat of an extraordinarily divisive campaign, that is something all of us, myself included, are wise to remember.
Third, don’t ignore your conscience. Regardless of how we voted, I think we can all agree that 2016 has been fraught with ugliness, much of which couldn’t be left unchecked. In my personal situation, there were some outrageous moments in the midst of the campaign that I felt compelled by my job to address. When those moments came, occasionally I was tempted to remain silent for the sake of the “team” or the issues at stake. After all, these issues are the ones I’ve spent my life defending and the ones my denomination has been vocal and insistent about for decades.
Even still, in my case, it is precisely because Southern Baptists are pro-life, pro-family, pro-religious freedom, pro-racial reconciliation and pro-character-in-public-office that I felt it was my responsibility to speak out on those issues. For me, to remain silent – rightly or wrongly – felt negligent.
This election year reminds me somewhat of the history we’ve all learned of the Vietnam war era. Back then, there were kitchen tables and even marriages sharply divided on the issue. Two mistakes could have, and often did, come out of this. One mistake would be for those families to remain divided, and not speaking. The other mistake would have been for those families to conclude that the way to avoid such division in the future is to stop worrying about matters as important as war and peace, life and death.
The same could be true this year. On the one hand, we could conclude that it’s just not worth ever talking about issues of character and conscience, of what it means to repent and believe in Christ, of human dignity for all people. That would be a mistake. The opposite tragedy would be never to move past election day and constantly war with one another about who was right in the midst of the campaign. Too much unites us as Christians, and too much is at stake with the issues we all care about to be permanently entrenched in intramural warfare. Now that the election is over, as Christians we owe it to Donald Trump to pray for him (1 Tim. 2:1-2) and give honor to whom it is due (Rom. 13:7), and as responsible citizens we owe it to him to work with him for the common good everywhere possible.
The good thing about an election year though, regardless of how important the consequences, is that elections are about temporal matters. The United States, and every other nation, will one day pass away before the reign of God. Christmas reminds us of what is ultimately of more importance than what is debated on cable news and across social media platforms. The first Christmas, after all, wasn’t about how many terms Quirinius served as governor or how many subjects were counted in Caesar’s census. The glory of that Christmas was found where no one was looking, except for those who were directed by God. The glory of that Christmas was in a feeding trough, where the Word became flesh, and dwelled among us. That’s true this Christmas too, even in an election year like this.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Russell Moore is the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the moral and public policy agency of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. This article first appeared at Used with permission.)

12/20/2016 10:39:06 AM by Russell Moore | with 0 comments

Accepting & affirming the repentant

December 19 2016 by Mike Goeke

Nineteen years ago, my wife and I began a journey.
We both were struggling with our identities – my sexual identity and her identity as a woman and a wife. Our marriage had been shattered and both of us, in unique and personal ways, had experienced a profound and fresh connection with our Savior.

Mike Goeke

We knew we needed the local church. We desperately wanted a place where we could be honest about our struggles. Yet, most churches that seemed open to our struggles also seemed vague about homosexuality and sexual sin.
In some ways I felt safe in those churches as I imagined they would not reject me for my struggle. But in greater ways, I was leery.
I knew I was vulnerable, and their nuanced language made me fear their pastors might, in some way, encourage me to accept the very thing God was calling me to lay down at the cross. We ended up at a Baptist church, where we kept our struggles secret but received solid teaching. God shored up our spiritual foundation there and it was instrumental in our healing. Joyfully, we later found a church that figured out how to meld authenticity with a commitment to God’s Word. Our healing was exponential in that place!
Today, many mainline denominations are no longer vague on sexuality and have moved to a place of affirming homosexual identity and expression. Meanwhile, conservative evangelical churches, motivated by both the cultural wave of pro-gay sentiment and a genuine desire to share the gospel, have made great strides in crafting a message for the gay community designed to be less argumentative and more inclusive.
I fear, however, that churches which have chosen to speak more kindly and nuanced on issues like homosexuality and sexual sin, or which have chosen to say nothing for fear of saying too much, might be trying to reach one disconnected group outside the church at the cost of neglecting an important group within the church. In our desire to be more welcoming to and accepting of the gay community, have we shut our doors to the community of the conflicted and repentant? Are we as safe for repentant gay men and women as we are for the unrepentant?
Homosexual expression may not be worse than any other sin, but it is unique as the only sinful behavior that is protected, celebrated and endorsed on an increasingly broad scale. When someone chooses to walk away from homosexuality, based on the work of the Spirit to convict them of their sin and give them hope for something more, they are not just walking away from behavior. They are walking away from community and identity and, in many ways, safety.
I remember well the strong pull back to the accepting, caring gay community in the early days of my repentance. Had my church in any way endorsed as “OK” what I had left behind, I’m not sure I would have stayed the course. I may not have discovered the amazing life God had for me as I lived out my repentance and grew into all that He had for me within His perfect boundaries for sexuality.
Diminishing or skimming over parts of God’s Word, so as not to offend, helps no one. As Jeremiah condemned false prophets of his day, our lack of clarity may well be offering people peace where, in fact, there is no peace. The church may be leading the very people Jesus came to save to a dangerous place – not only because it may impact someone’s salvation, but also because it impacts what we are promised in Jesus – joy, peace, abundance, fulfillment, purpose and so much more.
There was no nuance in the proclamations of the Old Testament prophets. And Jesus and the New Testament writers never minced words – on sin or on love. The church need not fear the hard words about sin and must not ignore the hard words of love. Sin destroys, and if we really believe that, we won’t fear calling sin out. Love restores, and if we really believe that, we will extend it in the context of truth to the repentant and the unrepentant alike.
The early days of repentance, no matter the sin, can be the most precarious. Satan will work to convince repentant sinners that repentance was not necessary, or that what they have left behind is more valuable than what they are being offered. Clear confirmation of what God calls us to in repentance is vital in the process of repentance and sanctification.
God designed the church to stand with repentant sinners – encouraging them, teaching them, supporting them and loving them as they go through the withdrawals that always accompany walking away from the mind-altering, numbing nature of sinful behavior.
If we ignore the call to repentance because we want to attract the unrepentant, we will have nothing real to offer the unrepentant when they show up. And we will, perhaps inadvertently, minimize the magnitude of the miracle of conviction in those who are moved to repentance. There may be few who choose to enter that narrow gate, but heaven celebrates each one.
Far be it from us to cause those precious ones to stumble back into what God has called them to leave behind.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mike Goeke, associate pastor of First Baptist Church San Francisco, has been in full-time ministry since leaving his law practice in 2001. He speaks and writes on issues related to life, Christianity, culture and sexuality. Goeke is a graduate of Baylor University and Texas Tech School of Law.)

12/19/2016 8:18:46 AM by Mike Goeke | with 0 comments

Keep the ‘mas’ in Christmas

December 16 2016 by Brian Hobbs

The year 2016 offers a unique opportunity in that Christmas falls on a Sunday. Years ago, a non-denominational megachurch publicly decided to cancel its worship services when Christmas fell on a Sunday, citing families’ needs to spend time together that day and the church’s inability to get enough volunteers together to make services work.
This move, perhaps unintentionally, showed a great misunderstanding of Christmas. You see, it not only takes Christ out of Christmas, it takes that ‘mas’ out of Christmas. What do I mean?

Brian Hobbs

The very word Christmas is an Old English compound word for “Christ’s Mass,” the Christian annual worship festival commemorating the birth of Christ. In other words, Christmas is primarily a “mass” (not exclusively in Anglican or Catholic sense) worship service to celebrate and commemorate Christ’s birth during the season of Advent. Having a worship service, therefore, gets at the very heart of Christmas.
Christians frequently (and rightly) decry the commercialization of Christmas. From department stores to holiday movies, you could go almost the entire Christmas season without thinking about Jesus.
In the famous A Charlie Brown Christmas special, Charlie Brown says, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” And Linus, by quoting the Gospel of Luke, explains the Christmas story. It’s a beautiful scene that quotes a beautiful passage of scripture.
Wouldn’t it be a shame, though, if people could only hear this biblical passage recited on TV watching Charlie Brown? What if, instead, every community and town would have a Christmas-day church service in which people can hear this gospel passage recited by children in the local church congregation, amid the singing of carols, hymns and a gospel-centered sermon?
If your church is paring back for Christmas, I would encourage the opposite. Use Christmas falling on a Sunday as a chance to ramp up what you offer. Do this for the glory of Christ and as a means to reach out to the lost.
According to Thom Rainer of LifeWay Christian Resources, Christmas is the single most likely time a year when un-churched people will come to church. Churches can harness Christmas falling on a Sunday as a great opportunity to reach out to neighbors, inviting them to church.
There will be plenty of time for people to open Christmas presents, eat sugar cookies, drink eggnog and watch Christmas movies. Invite people – church members and non-church members alike – to spend the first fruits of the Christmas day hours, gathered with God’s people, worshipping the Savior of the World.
In this special way, we truly can keep Christ and keep the ‘mas’ in Christmas!

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Hobbs, editor of The Baptist Messenger of Oklahoma, urges Christians to keep the ’mas’ in Christmas.)

12/16/2016 10:21:14 AM by Brian Hobbs | with 0 comments

Send Hollywood a message

December 15 2016 by Phil Boatwright

Following a contentious election season, it’s apparent that many Americans are tired of corruption and ineptness in our political system. Will this latest presidential election change Washington D.C. for the positive? We can hope and pray that it will. Now, when it comes to Hollywood, there is an opportunity for Christians and conservatives to send a message that could provoke change for the better.
Many Christians want change in the entertainment capital. It’s time the prejudice and bigotry against Christians and conservatives ended.

Phil Boatwright

For too long, the entertainment mediums have gone unchallenged when it comes to morally objectionable content and left-leaning social proclamations. It’s time for a declaration from those who feel unrepresented by the motion picture industry.
Hollywood, give us the same representation you offer every other group; give us films that represent our views; give us films that don’t profane God’s name; give us films wherein churchgoing exists and people of faith are not mocked or ignored; and give us films that present political and social positions other than those mandated by liberal filmmakers.
So how do we send such a declaration?
We must first rally, then send an organized manifesto the entire Hollywood community will receive. If every Christian and every conservative were to agree to abstain from movie attendance one agreed upon weekend (or two), the box office receipts would indicate our displeasure with the path Hollywood has taken our culture and, therefore, our society. Producers would finally have to acknowledge us as an important demographic.
Certainly, this concept needs development and then reinforcement by a groundswell that unites us. And for sure, conservatives and Christians should make the cinema’s controllers understand that we are not talking about a “ban.”
We are not suggesting that Hollywood stifle its views. It’s America, and the citizens of Tinseltown have their rights as well as anyone else. We are simply demanding that our voices be heard along with everyone else’s views.
So, would our rally be noticed?
Nothing gets a film studio’s attention like box office receipts – or lack of. I’ve been reviewing films for 30 years and I can assure you that Christians and political conservatives are indeed going to movies. A lot of them! All too often, despite the content.
More than once, after I’d warned of the profaning of God’s name in a movie, I was told, “Oh, I don’t hear those words, I pay no attention to them.” Well, you are hearing them. You’re listening to blasphemy because you want to see that movie. Over the past several decades, many have come to accept irreverence to God in the name of entertainment.
What’s more, we’ve accepted and laughed along with conservatives being the brunt of jokes in countless movies.
The motion picture industry feels secure in its cultural dominance. Without the slightest challenge, we’ve given in and accepted Hollywood’s commandeering of our nation’s moral and civic makeup. I repeat, their defiance to opposing views has gone unchallenged for decades.
So, I guess before we send a mandate to Hollywood, we need to clarify to ourselves what we stand for – and what we’re no longer willing to accept at the movies.
The film and music industries simply plunge us further into decadence, while hiding behind the First Amendment. But if one reads the entire Bill of Rights, it is evident that the formulators of that document practiced responsibility along with the assertion of self-rights. Now it’s our turn.
Americans have voted to send a message to our nation’s leaders. Will we do the same concerning the entertainment industry? It’s my prayer that others will see this article as a metaphorical call-to-arms. Together – but only together – we can be heard. Together, we can make a difference. Together we can be represented.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Phil Boatwright, in addition to writing for Baptist Press, is a regular contributor to The World and Everything in It, a weekly radio program from WORLD News Group.)

12/15/2016 9:35:02 AM by Phil Boatwright | with 0 comments

5 pastoral convictions about congregational singing

December 14 2016 by Daryl C. Cornett

I'm not a music guy. I can still awkwardly bang out a few chords on the guitar, but for the most part I'm pretty terrible at music. Furthermore, I'm not a music enthusiast; I'd rather be listening to news or talk radio than music in the car. Some people seem to have music in their souls. I'm just not one of those people. But I do love singing with other believers in worship.
As a pastor, I am the worship leader of the congregation God has entrusted to me. It is my responsibility to think correctly about how music is employed for worship. I will not be the one leading the music, but I must be the one applying a sound philosophy to guide those who are leading. The following is what I have crystallized to this point as my personal philosophy concerning congregational singing. I've arrived at these through reading, talking to people who know more than me, and through trial and error.

Daryl C. Cornett


Congregational singing should be content driven

The whole worship service should be driven by the Word of God. Therefore, the lyrics of the music employed should declare truth about God that flow directly from the content of the Bible. The words should communicate the greatness and goodness of God and the message of the gospel. Some songs do a much better job of this than others, both old and new. It's important to pick the ones that do it the best. We should not choose songs that focus more on a personal, emotional experience rather than on God. We always want our emotions to be sparked by a clear vision of God's beauty and truth. We should be wise about these choices and evaluate our selections through a sound theology of worship that starts with the content.

Congregational singing should be mostly familiar

The goal is to get the congregation joyfully singing. If this is going to be accomplished well, then at least most of the people in the congregation need to be familiar with most the songs. It is discouraging for people to stand and listen to several songs in a row that they don't know. That in itself becomes a distraction to worship and hinders them from participating. Of course, congregations should be folding new songs into their repertoire, but it should be done slowly and methodically. If music leaders introduce too many songs too often, then it won't take long for the congregation to become spectators rather than participants.

Congregational singing should be doable for the average singer

One of the difficulties of much popular, contemporary music is that it is simply too difficult for the average singer. The notes get too high or the timing too complex. Singers like me, who have hardly any vocal range, will get discouraged. Music leaders need to keep the average and below average singer in mind when choosing songs for congregational singing, since the goal is to get us singing. Save the difficult stuff for the choir and for specials to be done by people who are gifted. All us bad singers can sit back and appreciate the talent and praise God through it. But if music leaders really want us average folks to sing along, then they need to offer stuff we can actually do.

Congregational singing should be instructive

Music is a discipleship tool. Picking congregational songs that have meaty biblical and theological content is important because it keeps God the focus of our singing. However, it also serves to instruct. The music people grow up singing in church will stick with them forever. If that is the case, then we should choose music that communicates the best things about God and sing them regularly. I can't recall a single sermon outline from my childhood pastor, and he was a good preacher. But I can quote words from the 25-30 hymns that we sang over and over. I learned about the gospel through the songs.

Congregational singing should be done well

No matter what size the church or how great or limited the resources, each congregation should try to do music as well as it possibly can. A congregation of 25 should be as intentional about what it does with its congregational singing as one of 2,500. The pastor and the music leader should collaborate on message and music, choosing songs that work to highlight key themes or ideas of the text to be preached. If resources are limited, then keeping it simple will serve you better. Plan for smooth transitions from one part of the service to the next and eliminate distractions as much as possible. But this takes prayer, planning and being in agreement about your guiding philosophy.
Sunday morning worship is prime time. This is when most people will be gathered each week to encounter the Word of God. This is when guests most likely will first be introduced to your fellowship. The music is not the main thing, but it certainly will be a significant part of the whole that is offered up to God. It deserves careful consideration.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Daryl C. Cornett is pastor of First Baptist Church in Hazard, Ky., a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and former associate professor of church history at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Cordova, Tenn.)

12/14/2016 7:08:42 AM by Daryl C. Cornett | with 0 comments

16 ways to pray for missionaries

December 13 2016 by David Platt

Acts 13 and 14 communicate one of the most pivotal stories in all of missions history. They relay the first recorded sending of missionaries by a local church in scripture. Paul and Barnabas were commissioned for their particular task in a worship service, complete with singing, prayer, fasting and the laying on of hands.
Pastor John Piper claimed of this passage, “This moment of prayer and fasting resulted in a missions movement that would make Christianity the dominant religion of the Roman Empire within two-and-a-half centuries and would yield 1.3 billion adherents of the Christian religion today with a Christian witness in virtually every country of the world.”
The people in that room in Antioch were together for a particular reason.

They were not all the same, but they found themselves agreeing on a common purpose: they were united by the gospel of God, enthralled in the worship of God and intensely focused on the mission of God. In that moment, the Spirit called out two men to be sent out, and the church responded with immediate obedience. The synergy between the call of the Spirit and the prayerful response of the church resulted in a supernatural spread of the gospel that continues to this day.
The Spirit and the church sent Paul and Barnabas – the whole church, not simply a few people. The church demonstrated a commitment to upholding those they sent out, even when separated by time and distance.
Essentially, the church said to the missionaries, “We are with you.” Remarkably, the primary manner they did so was through Spirit-empowered prayer.
Today, our prayers remain the greatest way we can support those we are sending out, invoking the very power of God to intervene in ways that are beyond our human limitations to save the lost. So, I’d like to lay out [16] ways I see in this passage of Scripture to pray for our missionaries continually.
1. Pray that they would be confident in God’s Word (Acts 13:4-5).
Missionaries are sent not just to learn culture or do humanitarian relief but to confidently proclaim the Word of God.
2. Pray that they would be filled with God’s Spirit (Acts 13:6-9).
Believers already have the Holy Spirit in them, but at times the Spirit fills someone in a special way to enable him or her to proclaim God’s Word.
3. Pray for their victory in spiritual warfare (Acts 13:10-12).
When our brothers and sisters take the gospel into the nations, they are going into a war. The devil is dead set on destroying souls and diverting mission.
4. Pray for their success in gospel witness (Acts 13:12). 
Pray that many would come to know Christ in all walks of life from the faithful witness of our missionaries.
5. Pray for peace with other believers (Acts 13:13).
Satan attacks from all angles, both inside and outside. Pray for peace within families, in marriages, with children and with companions and ministry partners.
6. Pray for favor with unbelievers (Acts 13:14-15).
Nonbelievers are blind to the gospel, and many are violently opposed to its message. Pray that missionaries would find favorable opportunities to share the gospel with them.
7. Pray that the gospel will be clear through them (Acts 13:16-47).
Although cross-cultural communication is difficult, pray that missionaries, by grace, would clearly communicate the character of God, the sinfulness of man, the sufficiency of Christ, the necessity of faith and the urgency of eternity.
8. Pray that God will open hearts around them (Acts 13:48).
God alone draws people to himself. Pray that he will open hearts and minds to believe and be drawn to eternal life with Christ.
9. Pray for their joy in the midst of suffering (Acts 14:1-2).
Missionaries often face various forms and levels of suffering in their work. Pray that they would experience the joy of intimacy with Christ in the midst of it.
10. Pray for their kindness in the midst of slander (Acts 14:1-2).
Though missionaries face suffering and difficulty, pray that the character of Christ and the power of his Spirit enable them to respond with grace.
11. Pray for supernatural power to accompany them (Acts 14:3).
Pray that missionaries would speak the Word with boldness and that supernatural power would accompany its proclamation.
12. Pray for Christlike humility to characterize them (Acts 14:4-18).
Pray that missionaries would overcome the temptation to be prideful in their work by the power of the Spirit.
13. Pray for their patience (Acts 14:8-18).
Missionaries face ups and downs and wins and losses in their work. Pray that they might respond with longsuffering.
14. Pray for their perseverance (Acts 14:19-20).
In 2 Corinthians 4:8–9 Paul wrote, “We are ... struck down but not destroyed.” Pray for missionaries to persevere through setback after setback, beatdown after beatdown, and struggle after struggle.
15. Pray that God would use them to make disciples (Acts 14:21-23).
Pray that missionaries would see fruit in their ministries as they seek to make disciples among the nations.
16. Pray that God would use them to multiply churches (Acts 14:24-28).
Pray for the multiplication of churches filled with people who know the Word led by pastors who teach the Word.
We know this: joining God on his mission will not be easy, but it will be absolutely worth it. Let’s send out all those whom God has called with faithful support in prayer.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Platt is president of the International Mission Board. You can find him on Twitter @plattdavid.)

12/13/2016 10:29:29 AM by David Platt | with 0 comments

Celebrate Christmas in the fetal position

December 13 2016 by Cameron McGill

As I prepare for another Christmas season, I find myself reading Luke 1:39-45 repeatedly as the Holy Spirit reveals something new with each reading.
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.’” (ESV)
My favorite part of the Christmas narrative (this year) does not occur in Bethlehem, but rather in the hill country of Judah.
An expectant Mary does what most women in her condition do; they seek council from another woman. In her case, the betrothed virgin traveled to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was expecting a child of her own. I’m sure they compared maternity experiences and traded advice on the process of carrying a child, but something amazing happened.
When Mary greeted her cousin, the babe in Elizabeth’s womb leaped for joy. The fetal position – usually one of stillness – became a place of excitement in anticipation of the unborn child.
Of course, we know that the unborn babe in Elizabeth’s womb was none other than John the Baptist, and the babe in Mary’s womb was the Messiah that would soon make His entrance into this world.
It thrills me to think of the pre-natal prophet’s excitement. Why was he overwhelmed with joy? I believe it was for two reasons: Jesus was coming soon and John was charged with preparing the world for Jesus.
Every believer should be stirred with excitement and celebrate with great joy. Why? Because Jesus is coming soon, and we have been charged with preparing the world for His arrival.
If an unborn child can get excited, we can too. Oh that we too would find ourselves this Christmas in the fetal position. Maranatha!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Cameron McGill is pastor of Dublin First Baptist Church and the newly elected president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)

12/13/2016 10:26:45 AM by Cameron McGill | with 0 comments

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