December 2018

9 Discussions Local Churches Will Likely Need to Have in 2019

December 28 2018 by Chuck Lawless

As we face a new year, some of the issues churches will likely need to address haven’t changed. On the other hand, we seldom address these issues unless we’re reminded to consider them.  Here are some of those issues I’m seeing: 

What is the relationship between social justice, social ministry and the Great Commission? Evangelicals don’t even define the terms the same way, but we’re debating their priorities again. We need to talk with each other rather than about each other regarding these matters.


How will our budgets change (if at all) if pastors lose their current housing allowance benefit? This discussion has been on the table for several years now, and it is still in debate. The benefit is not an insignificant one, however, and its potential loss would affect pastors.

How will we minister to those struggling with same-sex attraction while maintaining a biblical commitment to sexuality and marriage? Speaking truth without a willingness to love and minister to those with whom we disagree is insufficient.

Do we have any responsibility toward the thousands of churches that will close their doors in 2019? If 6000-10,000 churches may close this next year, surely we have some role in helping them find new life.  

How will we deal with illegal immigrants who attend our churches? All of these issues are complicated ones, and this one is wrought with political tensions, too – but we cannot ignore it.

Do we genuinely believe in the possibility of church revitalization? It’s hard to think about some churches ever changing, but hopelessness should not be a mark of our faith. I’m grateful for groups like Revitalize Network and Church Answers that are leading the way in this arena.

Are we willing to affirm the role and calling of bivocational pastors? Not everybody affirms my thoughts on this subject, but I’m convinced we won’t reach North America or the world without affirming and promoting this calling.

Do we really care about the Great Commission? We’re beginning to see churches that recognize they need help in evangelizing their neighbors and reaching the nations, but the depth of their burden remains to be seen.

How will we reach generations raised on the Internet (and sometimes, seemingly by the Internet)? The Internet has dramatically changed the world of education, and churches must operate in that changing world, too – without losing who we are in the process.

What other questions/discussions would you add to this list?
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chuck Lawless is Dean of Doctoral Studies and Vice-President of Spiritual Formation and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, where he also serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions. In addition, he is team leader for Theological Education Strategists for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

12/28/2018 12:44:48 PM by Chuck Lawless | with 0 comments



The SBC’s season of change is a chance to pray

December 20 2018 by Biblical Recorder Staff

As the Biblical Recorder staff began its annual review of the year’s top stories, there was one topic, arising in numerous articles, that our editorial team designated for special consideration. The topic is change, and it is presented here as a call to pray for the many churches, organizations and individual Christians involved – that is to say, all of us.
 
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) began what appears to be a season of change in 2018, signaled most noticeably by vacancies in executive leadership roles at five SBC entities. Yet, there was also a wave of other openings, transitions or announced departures in seats of influence at state and national entities, as well as local churches. Below is a collection of news snippets that, when stitched together, offers a broad perspective on current events in Southern Baptist life.
 
Frank Page resigned his position as head of the SBC Executive Committee in March due to personal, moral failings. Paige Patterson, a dominant personality in Baptist life, was terminated as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) in May amid a swirl of controversy and scandal. Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, announced in August his intentions to retire in the coming year. In September, David Platt exited his leadership role at the International Mission Board (IMB) to pastor full-time at McLean Bible Church in metro Washington, D.C. Chuck Kelley announced in late fall his intentions to retire from his post at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 2019.
 
Also declaring plans to retire in the coming months were three Baptist state executive directors: David Hankins in Louisiana, Robert White in Georgia and Lynn Nikkel in Wyoming. Three editors of Baptist state news agencies reported their upcoming retirements as well: Gerald Harris of Georgia’s Christian Index; Allan Blume of North Carolina’s Biblical Recorder and Bob Terry of the Alabama Baptist.
 
A number of pastors at influential churches across the SBC signaled plans to pursue various ministry opportunities. Well-known preacher Johnny Hunt left First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., to lead the North American Mission Board’s evangelism and leadership training initiative. Mark Harris stepped away from the pulpit of First Baptist Church in Charlotte to campaign for office in the United States Congress. John Mark Harrison took a senior pastor position at Concord Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., exiting the pastorate of Apex Baptist Church and withdrawing his candidacy for president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). Rob Peters departed Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., and now leads a church revitalization ministry. Bryant Wright from Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., and David Crosby from First Baptist Church in New Orleans, La., both announced their plans to retire.
 
A spate of faculty resignations over moral concerns touched three of the SBC’s six seminaries this year, including Alvin Reid from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, David Sills from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Christian George from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
A small number of the vacancies listed above have been filled, but many are still open or are expected to be filled soon. Jeffery Bingham was named interim president of SWBTS shortly after Patterson’s departure. Paul Chitwood was chosen to replace Platt as the next leader of the IMB, leaving open his former position as executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Jeremy Morton now occupies Hunt’s former pulpit at Woodstock in Georgia. Jennifer Davis Rash currently works as editor-elect for the Alabama Baptist and will assume the lead role Jan. 1, 2019, upon Terry’s retirement. Thomas Hammond will step into Georgia’s executive director seat after the first of the year following White’s departure. Likewise, Quin Williams will bear the leadership mantle for the Wyoming Convention on Nikkel’s exit. Steve Scoggins, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, N.C., took up candidacy for BSC president when Harrison withdrew, and was elected by acclamation at the Nov. 5-6 annual meeting.
 
Some of the transitions listed above are somber and sobering. Others are the result of the natural ebb and flow of life and ministry. Still more changes are exciting and encouraging. Regardless, each is an opportunity for North Carolina Baptists to pray. The Recorder staff would like you to join us in asking God to lead each church, entity and individual Southern Baptist toward greater faithfulness in service and new fervency on mission, for the good of our churches and the advance of the gospel among all nations.

12/20/2018 11:00:31 AM by Biblical Recorder Staff | with 0 comments



Christmas: Tell His story

December 19 2018 by Autumn Wall

The season of joy. The celebration of Jesus’ birth. Christmas is right around the corner!
 
As believers, we know the real reason for the season is Jesus. We love to celebrate this season because it holds so much weight and value. This is when we celebrate our Savior coming to earth to begin His journey to the cross which gives us freedom from sin and shame eternally.
 
Yet the chaos of this season sometimes can distract us from the very thing we were put on earth to do: Tell His story.
 
Here are some fresh ideas to keep you focused on the gospel this December.

  • Buy some clear or blank ornaments and decorate them with your favorite Scripture verse. Keep a box of them in your car and as you go throughout your daily routine give them to people you encounter – at the gas station, grocery store, your kid’s school program, as you go for a family walk.
  • Get a stack of invitation cards from your church (or make some yourself) to invite people to your church’s Christmas Eve service or program. So many people are willing to attend a holiday event who might never go to a “church service.” Whom could you invite?
  • Have a neighborhood Christmas tea. Invite your neighbors to stop by your home just to celebrate the season together for a few minutes. Present each attendee with a small gift, a card and/or an invitation to your church or small group.
  • Set a small tree by your front door. As people come to visit, snap a quick photo of them and hang it on the tree. You’ll be surprised at the end of the month how many family, friends, neighbors and delivery men came to your home throughout the season and how many people you got to talk to about Jesus.
  • Take time to train your kids how to tell people about Jesus. As simple as telling their teachers and friends that “we celebrate Christmas because God came down to us and made a way for us to know Him.”

 
It’s simple in this season to share Jesus, but it’s also simple to forget to share Him. How will you tell others about Him wherever you go?

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Autumn Wall, online at autumnwall.com, is an author, speaker, worship leader, pastor’s wife and mother of three in Indianapolis. She is the coauthor of “Across the Street and Around the World.”)

12/19/2018 3:16:46 PM by Autumn Wall | with 0 comments



A wounded warrior’s baptism

December 17 2018 by Jeff Iorg

Over the years, a few people have asked me for a private baptism experience. I have always declined.
 
A private ceremony undermines key purposes of baptism – a public witness of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and public identification with a community of believers.
 
People have usually asked for a private baptism for these reasons – their pride, concerns about embarrassment or claims their “faith is a private matter.” All of these reasons strike at the core of why public baptism is important. None of them have convinced me that private baptism is a good option.
 
But a recent experience in a worship service showed me sometimes it might be the best option.
 
A pastor – who is well-known for his conservative convictions – told this story. He had met a woman and invited her to church. She later introduced the pastor to her husband who has severe PTSD. This wounded warrior is crippled emotionally, psychologically and spiritually – so much so he seldom leaves his home or interfaces with anyone outside his immediate family.
 
The pastor spent several months slowly building a relationship, creating a trusting friendship and sharing the gospel. Finally, the man received Jesus as his Lord and Savior. He wanted to be baptized, but the thought of being in a crowded building or being surrounded by so many people – even well-meaning people – was more than he could endure. So, after some consideration, they arranged a private baptism.
 
The man was baptized with his wife and two adult daughters as witnesses. The pastor performed the baptism and an associate videoed the event. Then, on the following Sunday, the pastor told the church the story, the reason for the unusual circumstances and then showed the video.
 
When this broken man who has given his mental health for our country said, “Yes, Jesus is my Lord and Savior,” and then sobbed with joy in the baptistery, my heart leaped and tears flowed. When he emerged from the water, the audience clapped and cheered the video as if it was happening live.
 
Pastoral wisdom means finding creative ways to hold to convictions while facilitating obedience and growth among believers. It was a privilege to see a thoughtful pastor leading in such a profound moment. This so-called “private” baptism turned out to be a very public and moving witness for the gospel.

12/17/2018 10:17:19 AM by Jeff Iorg | with 0 comments



CHRISTMAS: The reality of God’s favor

December 14 2018 by J.D. Greear

What do we mean when we talk about the “favor of God”?
 
The house you’ve always wanted goes into foreclosure and you buy it for a steal. Your kids bring their report cards home and it’s straight As. You find out that a long lost relative left you a tidy sum of money.

 
Many people may think that God’s favor is something like that. When life seems to break your way, it’s easy to think, “God is really smiling down on me now. He must really love me.”
 
When we turn to the New Testament, though, we get a splash of cold water. The favor of God doesn’t always line up with great circumstances. Case in point: Mary.
 
When the angel Gabriel shows up to announce the first Christmas to Mary in Luke 1, he tells her twice that she has God’s favor. But her situation sure doesn’t look like it.
 
Gabriel has just told her she is going to be pregnant out of wedlock in a culture where this isn’t just frowned upon but could have been punishable by death. The man she loves, Joseph, is probably not going to understand the situation or believe her bizarre explanation and might leave her. She’s already poor, and if Joseph rejects her, she’ll be destitute. She might have to beg for a living.
 
So here’s Mary – financially insolvent, with a ruined reputation, her most important relationship in tatters.
 
Maybe you can relate if you sense no joy or good cheer this Christmas season, but dread. Your life doesn’t look like one “blessed and highly favored.” For you, Christmas only reminds you of all the good you don’t have in your life.
 
If that’s you, then Mary’s circumstances are particularly relevant, because she supposedly has the favor of God in the midst of all her mess. How?
 
Because a Son is being born to her – a Son, the angel says, whose name will be “Jesus,” meaning that He will save His people from their sins. Like all of us, Mary’s main problem was a severed relationship with God. Jesus was coming to restore that.
 
But Jesus was coming to do more than merely save from sin. Gabriel points out that He’ll also rule from the throne of David (Luke 1:32). It’s easy to miss how big that promise is. David’s throne symbolized the restoration of worldwide peace and blessing – a condition called shalom.
 
Think of the promise in Joel where the prophet says, “I will restore the years that the swarming locusts have eaten.” Not just forgive, but restore. Bodies destroyed by disease will leap and run in perfect health. Reputations that have been ruined will be exonerated. Relationships torn apart by death will be mended, as we see, in Tolkien’s words, “all the sad things come untrue.”
 
We know that God will do this because He did this with Jesus. At the cross, Jesus went through pain that looked like a defeat. But the Father used that pain for our good. He reversed it and turned the devil’s strongest attack into an opportunity to redeem us and restore the world.
 
Mary isn’t the only one with a miraculous birth in Luke 1. Her relative Elizabeth also gets a visit from Gabriel, and even though she’s barren, she is promised a child. Barrenness has never been easy, but in those days it would have been devastating, the biggest disappointment a woman could imagine. The lead-up to Jesus’ birth includes an elderly, barren woman getting pregnant because the birth of Jesus is God’s promise to erase our deepest disappointments.
 
What that means is we don’t have to be frantic if we don’t get to everything on our “bucket list.” Many of us live with such an urgency to experience everything that life becomes worthless if we don’t. It’s not the glib stuff, like not seeing the Grand Canyon, that really leads us to disappointment. It’s not getting married, or having children, or being financially comfortable, or overcoming an illness. What we need to see is that in the resurrection, under the reign of the Son of David, every disappointment will be fulfilled.
 
We have pain; He will reverse it. We have disappointment; He will erase it. We yearn for justice; He will restore it. When we go through seasons of racial strife in our country, many people start to ask, “Will there ever be justice?” Or maybe the yearning for justice is more personal: You’ve been wronged and just can’t get past it. You want to cry out like the psalmist, “Will the wicked go unpunished?
 
Unless we look to God’s perfect justice – instead of our judicial system or our own efforts – we’ll always be bitter. Perfect justice will be restored but only when Jesus rules from David’s throne. That truth gives us the hope to continue working for justice now while enduring the injustice in the world.
 
In the end, that’s what God’s favor is all about. It’s what Christmas is all about – hope. God’s favor isn’t always easy. Sometimes, as with Mary, it brings with it a lot of difficulties. But it’s always good because it brings us a hope in God’s promises and an assurance that His presence will be with us.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – J.D. Greear is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.)

12/14/2018 12:56:04 PM by J.D. Greear | with 0 comments



4 ways to choose contentment this holiday season

December 7 2018 by Brittany Salmon

It’s the most wonderful time of year, but these next few weeks can also be difficult for many.
 

There are families who, for the first time, will be gathering around a table grieving the loss of a family member. There are single and widowed adults who are navigating what it’s like to show up to holiday gatherings alone. For some couples, it’s another holiday season that’s gone by without seeing those longed-for lines on a pregnancy test or receiving an adoption placement. And for many, they might not be in seasons of suffering, but discontentment has made its way into their lives despite the many blessings God has provided.
 
Whichever boat you’re in, choosing contentment during the holiday season can prove to be arduous. But for the believer, it is something that we are called to fight for even amongst the most trying circumstances.
 
Paul says this from his jail cell in Philippians 4:10-13, “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
 
And 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
 
These verses aren’t meant to shame you, believer. Rather, they’re here to encourage you that, in Christ Jesus, contentment is possible regardless of your current struggles. Here are four practical steps to help you choose contentment this holiday season:
 

1. Get off social media

 
In a world of instant connection and readily available images of picture-perfect family gatherings, holiday parties and even well-polished Christian content, consider limiting your social media use this holiday season.
 
If you find your heart leaning toward envy, comparison or self-doubt whenever you get online, it is a great sign that it’s time to take a break. 
 
Research has shown that excessive social media use is connected to increased anxiety, depression, loneliness and even narcissism. Why not remove this proven FOMO-inducing tool this season?
 
If you use social media for news, reading or connecting with friends, consider taking a brief sabbatical from online forms. Choose, instead, to set aside these weeks for reading books, writing or calling friends and family or visiting with people in person. Consider supporting your local newspaper. Although it might be hard at first, if you stick with it, you’ll be surprised at how much you enjoy the much-needed break.
  

2. Surround yourself with Christian community

 
The holiday season can be an isolating time, and it’s tempting to avoid all the hustle. But if you find yourself discontent with your circumstances, press into Christian community. Find trustworthy people within your local church who you can be vulnerable and spend quality time with.
 
Feel free to say no to events and holiday parties that evoke a spirit of jealousy or comparison, but seek out and say yes to community events that help fix your eyes on that baby in a manger.
 
Intentionally choose community that encourages contentment in all things while celebrating the Messiah who came to change the world, right every wrong, and offer us our greatest gift.
 

3. It’s better to give than receive

 
It’s no secret that the holidays have become over-commercialized by our culture. Ashamedly, I’ve spent more time this year developing my Christmas list and thinking about holiday events, rather than focusing on meeting the needs or wants of others.
 
To combat my own heart from longing for the things of this world, I’ve been praying about and looking for ways to quietly bless others this holiday season.
 
If your heart naturally longs to receive, spend some time thinking about ways you can share the love of Christ through generously giving. There is no better medicine for a self-centered heart than the practice of thinking about and serving others.
 

4. Keep a gratitude list

 
A few years ago a friend gifted me with Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. At first, I balked at the idea of keeping a gratitude list; it seemed a bit old fashioned and forgive me, but slightly corny. Yet per the usual, Ann Voskamp was right. Contentment is the fruit of a grateful heart.
 
I started keeping a list, and it was as if my eyes had been opened to a reality that existed but I’d been previously ignoring. The more I started looking for God’s hand, I noticed his goodness everywhere.
 
Voskamp wisely states in her book, “A life contemplating the blessings of Christ becomes a life acting the love of Christ.” If you are having a difficult time finding things to be grateful for, start taking notice of the ways God is already providing. I assure you that as you start recognizing his love for you, love and contentment will spill out into other areas of your life.
 
The world tells us we need bigger, better, flashier. It tells us that we are not enough and that we never have enough, but the good news of Jesus gives us the privilege of being a contented people in a discontent world.
 
Christ calls us to contentment in seasons of plenty and seasons of lack. But when our hearts start to long for the things of this world, may Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, the Prince of Peace, and Mighty God fix our eyes on what truly matters.
 
Merry Christmas, and may contentment in Christ abound in your heart this holiday season!

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brittany Salmon, brittanynsalmon.com, is a freelance writer and advocate for adoption. She has a master of arts in intercultural studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

12/7/2018 10:26:47 AM by Brittany Salmon | with 0 comments



From babies to teens

December 6 2018 by Melanie Lenow

When we first began to have children, I truly loved the birth through preschool years. I was confident in what I was doing and the calling God had on my life. Yes, there were stressful times, but overall, I was in control.


However, my kids continued to grow and soon the wheels started to fall off.

Naturally, the kids began to develop their own strong opinions, and outside activities and influences increased. It wasn’t long before I was questioning every aspect of parenting. Life seemed to be getting more complicated, and I was overwhelmed.
 
Thankfully, a wise friend spoke truth into my life on a day when I was struggling the most. “Just go back to the basics of parenting,” she said.
 
After much prayer, I began to realize that what children need growing up doesn’t change that much. Our circumstances change and the world around us changes, but at the basic level, even teenagers still need a lot of what babies need.
 
Over time, we finally found a new groove through the elementary years and now are riding well through the pre-teen/middle school years. When I feel uncertain if I am giving my kids what they need, I go back to these basics:

 

Shower them with unconditional love through personal contact.

 
We constantly snuggle with babies. Before rest, after rest, reading time – they are always in our arms. Well, it’s hard to carry a 16-year-old in your arms, but the need for loving hugs doesn’t change.
 
When I was going through middle school and high school, I remember my mom waking me up by spending five to 10 minutes just talking to me about the day as she rubbed my back to wake me up. I knew we were usually hurried in the mornings, so one time I asked her why she took the time to do this. She wisely answered, “When you are awake, you are always moving, and we always have somewhere to be or something to do. Waking you up is the only time I get to sit down and love on you.”
 
Pre-teens and youth need genuine, loving touch just like they did when they were younger. Studies show that a good hug can calm negative emotions much better than a lecture or fighting. Make the effort some time in your day to rub your son’s back or play with your daughter’s hair. Give hugs freely. Those actions will go further to strengthen your relationship than you realize.
 

Make sure they get enough sleep and good nutrition.

 
When our children were younger, we controlled everything, especially when they went to bed and what they ate. Even if they fought bedtime or were picky eaters, I was aware of it and adjusted accordingly. The other day, my daughter came home from school complaining of a headache and feeling tired. That combination did not bode well for a peaceful afternoon. Later that evening when I was doing dishes, I realized that her water bottle from the day was completely full. That means she did not drink anything between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. No wonder her head hurt – she was dehydrated. Similar effects can happen because of lack of sleep.
 
Because our older children are much more independent and are not under our constant care like they were when they were younger, it is easy to lose track of their diet and sleep patterns. However, continuing to pay attention to those nuances in their lives will go far in keeping them healthy and emotionally ready to face the challenges of the day.
 

Laugh!

 
Little children are just silly. They walk around with their hair in a mess or mismatched clothes or their Batman cape all day and we just laugh it away and say how cute they are. However, as they grow they begin to take themselves more seriously – sometimes too seriously.
 
In pre-adolescence and adolescence, much is developing in our children and the opportunities to become embarrassed, stressed or frustrated are abundant. This is where we as parents need to pray for divine wisdom. We must be able to discern what is worth taking seriously and what is better to laugh off and let go. Sometimes the stress of the moment is not worth the lasting damage to a relationship or your child’s self-image. Sometimes an issue that seems so important in the moment is really just as fleeing as a child with mismatched clothes.
 
One day they will not want mix-matched clothes (or messy hair or dirty socks) and change will happen in its own time. But in the meantime, laughter is a good way to lighten the mood and communicate that no one is perfect, showing abundant grace.
 
I parent with much greater humility than I once did and have come to embrace sometimes the messiness of growing up. I constantly come back to those basics to make sure I am loving my kids well all the years they develop. It might look different depending on the age of the child, but a good hug, a good meal or nap, and a good laugh can be exactly what your child needs today.
 

12/6/2018 10:15:22 AM by Melanie Lenow | with 0 comments



An ever-escalating identity crisis

December 5 2018 by Charles Patrick

Man has been plagued with the desire to “play God” since Genesis 3. This includes promoting “imago” self rather than “imago Dei.” That is, culture is obsessed with representing self, according to one’s own design.
 
Although the created has always sinfully desired to be the Creator, contemporary culture is fraught with heightened forms of creating one’s identity.
 

Online avatars permit us to create a virtual self where visual appearance, attributes and behavior may be represented in any manner in the perceived risk-free environment of online spaces. This permits individuals to act out their personal fantasies without apparent consequences. Online screen names and profiles permit us to self-represent ourselves in a particular manner that is often far from reality. Social media permits us to define facets of self with mere images and a few characters.
 
Gender fluidity, meanwhile, is being promoted as a cultural norm. Individuals may now self-identify as someone or something else. Bookstores and blogs are rampant with self-help, self-awareness and self-actualization topics. Tattoos have moved from expressing identity to defining identity. Advances in artificial intelligence are rapidly colliding with concepts of identity and personhood. TED talks provide unending lectures on personality, self-motivation and humanity, all with the goal to assist us in defining our identity.
 
The 1978 rock classic “Who Are You” by The Who is the siren lament of contemporary culture. Culture has more adjectival labels for people now than one’s favorite cup of coffee at the boutique coffee shop. People are in an identity crisis, desperately trying to define themselves in a world that strangles uniqueness as it makes everything normative.
 
We, believers, have the answer. Our identity is not defined by a denomination or a church. It is not defined by what coffee we drink, clothes we wear, what political party we align with, whether we use an iOS or Android phone, sports team we root for, blogs we read or whether or not we have a beard.
 
Rather, the apostle Paul clearly and succinctly defines our identity with the two-word prepositional phrase “in Christ.” He repeatedly uses this expression in his epistles (along with “in Him” and “in the Lord”), and it is critical to Paul’s and our theology. Our identity is a gospel identity fully defined in Christ.
 
To be in Christ means we share in Jesus’ death and resurrection. The old us is dead and we are a new creature placed under the headship of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 1-2). Hence, our identity has been changed, and we think and act differently. We are adopted into the family of God (1 Corinthians 12:13). Having been justified, we are able to come boldly before the throne of God (Ephesians 2:13; Hebrews 4:16) as a people set apart (1 Peter 2:9). Our identity comes with citizenship in heaven as we are changed to be in the world and not of the world (John 17:14-16; Romans 12:2).
 
Our identity does not depend on us or material things of this world, but solely on Christ. We are united with Christ and are His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20).
 
So, the next time someone asks who you are, answer them with “in Christ.” When they look at you strangely, begin a gospel proclamation.

12/5/2018 10:17:42 AM by Charles Patrick | with 0 comments



I’m in. Are you?

December 5 2018 by Tony Wolfe

No doubt the 120 believers in Jerusalem’s First Downtown Church Plant, in Acts Chapter 1, were uneasy. The commission Jesus had given them was completely impossible. Unless, of course, God wanted to do something fresh, new and maybe even a little bit unconventional.


Enter Acts Chapter 2 – fresh, new and definitely a bit unconventional. Ten days earlier, Jesus had told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem. “Don’t do anything, until you’ve been baptized with the Holy Spirit.” For the rest of Chapter 1, these 120 believers were in a 10-day prayer meeting together, laboring intensely before the throne of grace over what exactly this promise of God would look like when it came.
 
When it did, there was no question it was from God. The church could have set all the systems and structures in place. It could have had the best worship leaders, the most gifted expositors, the most dynamic children’s and youth ministries, and the trendiest technology but unless God breathed on it nothing would happen. So He did.
 
These 120 church members were completely overcome by the presence and the power of God when the Holy Spirit came over them. Then Jesus unleashed His Holy-Spirit-filled church on the world.
 
As Southern Baptists organized in the 19th century, God was stirring the waters. There was a fresh wind blowing through Christendom. Churches across the United States would lock arms together to take the name of Jesus around the globe. They formed associations. They sent missionaries. They trained local pastors. In 1925, with the formation of the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists were poised to be the most operative mission-sending body in modern history. They had the systems and structures in place, and God breathed on it. In the decades to follow, they would plant churches, send missionaries, advocate in Washington for biblical justice and storm the gates of hell for the sake of the gospel to the glory of God.
 
But is God done with the Southern Baptist Convention?
 
We have all heard the reports of declining baptisms. There is an ominous political tension lurking between us. Racism and classism have begun to threaten our fellowship again. Moral failures have been exposed from within the ranks.
 
But, ultimately, who is writing this narrative? Are Southern Baptist churches not still churches of the living God? Are we not still baptized in God’s Holy Spirit and sent with power and purpose to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth? Even in our uneasiness, is not the gospel-centered local church still God’s only plan to propagate the Gospel of Jesus Christ among the nations?
 
God is not done with the Southern Baptist Convention.
 
I don’t know how you feel about the future of the SBC, but I get the feeling that right now in Southern Baptist life we are gathered together in an upstairs room in prayerful expectation that any day God could breathe on us and unleash us on the world anew. I honestly believe that God is getting ready to do something fresh, new and maybe even a little bit unconventional through our fellowship of theologically conservative, missionally driven, gospel-centered churches.
 
Our recent past should serve to remind us that we can have all the right systems and structures in place, but unless God breathes on it nothing will happen. Without the breath of God, churches and groups of churches lay lifeless in the dirt like a valley full of dry bones. But when the Holy Spirit moves in us and through us, we are filled with the power and the presence of God. I’m on the edge of my seat in prayer today, brothers and sisters. It could come at any moment. There’s a fresh wind blowing through the SBC.
 
I’m not exactly sure what God’s new thing is going to look like in this generation, but I’m laboring in prayerful expectation. We’ve got some great systems and structures in place. God has gathered the nations at our doorstep. But we need Him to breathe on us again. We need the Holy Spirit to saturate us with the power and presence of the Almighty.
 
I know this thought makes us nervous. I recognize it is a bit unsettling to pray with supernatural expectation without knowing exactly what supernatural things to expect. But I just want to get this out there today: I believe in God’s work in and through the SBC. Whatever God wants to do through our fellowship of churches today and tomorrow, as long as it’s God’s thing engulfed in God’s presence and fueled by God’s power, I’m in. Are you?
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tony Wolfe is director of pastor/church relations for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

12/5/2018 8:51:09 AM by Tony Wolfe | with 0 comments