February 2017

Why I practice cold-call evangelism

February 28 2017 by Brandon Kiesling

Many of us have received a phone call from an unknown number and, upon answering, found out that a random salesperson from a different state is attempting to sell us something.
This method is called cold-call sales, which simply means that a company acquires a list of random names and phone numbers and methodically marches down the list, calling people to whom they have never spoken before and offering their product and/or services.

Brandon Kiesling

My question regarding this practice is, Why are so many companies still attempting this type of sales if so many people turn them down?
In the church, there is a similar approach to evangelism called cold-call evangelism in which Christians acquire a list of random names and contact information, either by mapping out the area around the church or using other strategic ways of gathering such information, and methodically going house to house, knocking on doors and sharing the gospel.
Some Christians believe this approach has outlived its usefulness because of the lack of fruit they see while attempting to do cold-call evangelism, but I hold the conviction that cold-call evangelism is a practice that I will continue to do. Here are several reasons why:

1. It is biblical.

The book of Acts gives the account of the birth of the first-century church. The apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and both publicly and personally proclaimed the gospel to the world around them. One does not have to look very hard to find examples of cold-call evangelism in Acts.
Probably the most convincing argument for cold-call evangelism is found in Acts 20, where we see the apostle Paul’s defense of his ministry before the Ephesian elders. He explains to them that he served with humility, even in the midst of trials (Acts 20:19), and then he describes how he did not shrink back from declaring the gospel to both Jew and Greek “from house to house” (Acts 20:20). What was he proclaiming to them? Repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). If Paul saw the benefit of cold-call evangelism, so do I.

2. It is economical.

The church, like any other organization, has a budget to work from and must make the most out of the money it is given. Many churches send their members across the country or even around the world to do mission work, and I wholeheartedly believe this is an important and necessary task. However, many of these same churches often neglect sending them across the street. Why are we willing to spend thousands of dollars to send people to other continents when we can spend little to nothing sending them out into the community around the church? Cold-call evangelism is an opportunity to get the gospel out to the lost that costs nothing more than the material that is handed out. Though stewardship is not the primary reason I participate in cold-call evangelism, it does help build the argument for doing this type of evangelism.

3. It is practical.

One of the major benefits of doing cold-call evangelism that many people overlook is that this practice helps Christians develop evangelistic skills that they may not build otherwise. I have been going door-to-door for more than six years now, and through this practice I have engaged people of all different backgrounds – Mormons, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Buddhists and about every other major religious background.
Not only does this practice help build my own personal evangelistic skills, it also provides an opportunity for me to train other believers how to share their faith. By inviting believers to “come and see” (John 1:39) and then helping them to “go and do” likewise, I am able to effectively multiply my evangelistic efforts through other believers.

4. It is effectual.

Some believe that door-to-door evangelism is dead, and I understand why they do so. In my experience with this type of evangelism, I get turned away more than I get the opportunity to lead people to faith in Jesus Christ. However, I have also seen a number of people turn to Jesus and get folded into a local church.
Just because people turn us down doesn’t mean that cold-call evangelism is dead. People turned Jesus down during His ministry as well (Luke 18:23; John 6:66). We cannot control what other people say in response to the gospel; we can only control what we say and do when attempting to get the gospel to people.
Is cold-call evangelism the best way to evangelize? Maybe not. Is cold-call evangelism the only way to evangelize? Absolutely not. However, cold-call evangelism is a biblical, economical, practical and effectual approach to evangelism in which I have personally seen numerous people turn to Christ.
To be clear: The church is not a business, and we should not simply treat the gospel as a product that we offer to consumers. However, the church is the body of Christ, and the gospel is the power of God to salvation and the greatest offer that has ever been extended to mankind. Regardless of the response, I intend to do everything possible to get the gospel to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, as persuasively as possible.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Kiesling is an instructor of evangelism in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions. This column first appeared at the seminary’s Theological Matters website, theologicalmatters.com.)

2/28/2017 9:52:05 AM by Brandon Kiesling | with 0 comments

The Reformation & Baptists

February 27 2017 by Ray Van Neste

Around the world this year, multiple celebrations and events are marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Germany’s tourism board is working overtime, advertising the land of Martin Luther and anticipating a flood of pilgrims. Union University here in Jackson, Tenn., is hosting the largest celebration in the Mid-South next month, March 9-11.

Ray Van Neste

From radio interviews to Rotary Club meetings, I’ve seen significant interest in this anniversary in our part of the country. As Baptists we may wonder if the Reformation has anything to do with us. Why should we celebrate something that happened 500 years ago?
I believe the Reformation has much to do with us, and we are duty-bound to celebrate it. Here is why: At its heart, the Reformation was a rediscovery of the gospel.
During the years prior to the Reformation, the false belief that people had to earn the forgiveness of God had largely obscured God’s glorious gospel. This doctrinal belief led to the corruption and spiritual weakening of the church.
But God, as He has done so often in the past, began to stir and awaken His people. The gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone came in power once again. Luther said this discovery to him was like the opening of the eyes to the blind. Preaching of this gospel inspired and emboldened the church, and this renewed vigor resulted in the training of death-defying God-exalting missionary-pastors.
Souls were saved, churches were purified and planted, and the missionary efforts extended even to the Americas.
Furthermore, the Bible was translated into the language of the common people, giving them direct access to the Word of God. For all of these reasons, the Reformation is the greatest revival in the history of the church after Pentecost.
So, should you celebrate the Reformation? Only if you appreciate knowing how your sins can be forgiven; only if you rejoice in being able to share that news with others; only if you love to see souls saved; only if you love having the Word of God in your own language; only if you want to see the gospel spread around the world.
If those truths rejoice your heart, you have reason to celebrate the Reformation. Of course, the Reformation was a human event, and there were excesses and things with which we’d disagree. But that has been true of every spiritual revival.
If we long to see a radical renewal of the church in our own day, we’d do well to study this divine outpouring from the past and see what lessons we can learn. If we look back carefully, we will be able to see forward more clearly. So, let’s acknowledge the dynamic work of God 500 years ago in renewing His church and pray that He might revive us again.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ray Van Neste is professor of biblical studies and director of the Ryan Center for Biblical Studies at Union University which is hosting REF500: A Festival Celebrating the Protestant Reformation, March 9-11 in Jackson, Tenn. Van Neste and J. Michael Garrett are editors of Reformation 500: How the Greatest Revival Since Pentecost Continues to Shape the World Today.)


2/27/2017 11:03:53 AM by Ray Van Neste | with 0 comments

Hear, see, touch the Cooperative Program

February 24 2017 by Freddy T. Wyatt

I do not usually thank God for the Cooperative Program when I pray over my meals, but there are some people who do.
The International Mission Board (IMB) is a vital element of the Cooperative Program (CP), with nearly 4,000 international missionaries deployed throughout the world. The size and strength of our missionary force is compelling and possibly even unmatched.

Freddy T. Wyatt

For years, I have been thankful to be a Southern Baptist in large measure because of the Cooperative Program. Over the past two years, however, something changed for me as I experienced the grand vision and strategy of the Cooperative Program in a personal way.
It reminds me of how the apostle John described his personal experience with Jesus when he wrote, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete” (1 John 1:1-4).
Similar to how John heard, saw and touched Jesus – I have heard, seen and touched the Cooperative Program.
About two years ago, our student pastor, Thomas Morgan* and his family of six answered God’s call to go to the ends of the earth. As they pursued their calling, the IMB partnered with our church to send the Morgans to Southeast Asia, where they started intensive language training as soon as they hit the ground and began to acclimate to a new culture and way of life.
Last summer, I and two others from our church visited the Morgans. We arrived at the airport, hugged the Morgans, jumped into their car, rode to their home, ate in their kitchen, felt the cool air from their fans and slept in beds at their house.
As I laid down that night, it dawned on me that I had just hugged CP missionaries, ridden in a CP car, eaten in a CP kitchen, felt the cool air from CP fans and slept in a CP bed. The Cooperative Program was coming alive to me in a very personal way. I was filled with gratitude for the tens of thousands of Southern Baptist churches that give generously to the Cooperative Program as I saw how the Morgans were sustained through CP giving.
As the week went on, I was stunned to hear Thomas speak the local language so well after just six months of intensive training. He successfully led us through the city, navigated the open air markets and ordered our meals. As I listened to him, I knew that I was hearing the CP with my ears.
Seeing, hearing and touching the Cooperative Program’s work through the Morgans gave me a new and deeper appreciation the Southern Baptist Convention channel for supporting national and international missions and ministries. I’ve always believed in the big picture genius of the CP but now I’ve experienced the critical nature of it for the personal, daily lives of our missionaries. To every person who has made a sacrificial gift, to every church that has increased CP giving, on behalf of my missionary friends, I say thank you.
I may not usually thank God for the Cooperative Program when I pray over my meals, but Thomas Morgan and his family do.
*Name changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Freddy T. Wyatt is senior pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Scottsdale, Ariz. This article and others highlighting the Cooperative Program is posted at talkCP.net.)

2/24/2017 1:36:34 PM by Freddy T. Wyatt | with 0 comments

God’s mission & women’s ministry

February 23 2017 by Lori McDaniel

I’m plagued with a burden that I’ve played it too safe. And what’s even more dangerous, I fear I may have led others to play it safe as well.

Lori McDaniel

The heaviness was fueled as I sat on a dirt floor listening to 15 Asian women – one by one – tell how they had shared the gospel. Each said something like, “I shared the gospel with 15 people in my village, eight of them followed Christ and one was healed of demon possession.”
As I listened, I calculated that the women in the room had shared the gospel with 224 people in just one month!
These were ordinary women with messy lives who were tenacious enough to believe in the power of the Holy Spirit at work within them to go and make disciples.
I confess that, as I listened, I tried to appear as if their words were normal. However, I felt spiritually embarrassed knowing that this kind of obedient gospel boldness and discipleship accountability was certainly not my norm, nor was it typical in American cultural Christianity.
But what if it could be the norm? How do we lead women to advance the gospel? Here are some ideas:

1. Leverage women’s gatherings to mobilize and send out.

Women’s gatherings are not just casual; it seems we are wired that way. Whether together under a mango tree pounding grain for a meal or sitting around a table with Pinterest-perfect snacks and hand-lettered coffee mugs, women gather. In American culture where thousands of women gather for Bible study and women’s ministry events, we have an opportunity to mobilize an army. Let’s not lead women to be nice girls caught in a whirlpool of an American version of Christianity, well-marketed journals and cute T-shirts. Gatherings are opportunities to equip and send out women to participate in a Kingdom movement.
As we read in 1 Corinthians 4:20, “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.”
Let us not be passive about the Great Commission but lead women to participate boldly in God’s mission.

2. Keep the end goal in mind.

Every great leader understands the “why” behind what they do. Understanding the “why” fuels the vision and purpose and should be the filter for everything that is planned. Resist the temptation to focus on the “how” of pulling off an event and marketing the “what” to get everyone excited. As disciples of Jesus Christ, let us lead by keeping the end in mind that “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). This is the “why” that should define what we do, what we teach and how we reproduce disciples.

3. Lead women beyond calendared good causes.

Advancing the gospel isn’t a one-time planned event. Opportunities to share the gospel are beautifully unscheduled. After teaching at a women’s event, I listened to one of the women’s leaders tell me how she feared reaching out to a Muslim woman she knew. We discussed some simple ways. In the end, she just needed encouragement to move forward. The next morning, I had a text that said, “I reached out to my Muslim friend and we are getting together for tea this week.” Participating in God’s mission isn’t compartmentalized to a calendared opportunity. We need to equip believers to leverage everyday opportunities as Kingdom of God opportunities.

4. Equip women to not only study the Bible but share it.

The gospel wasn’t given to us to be bound up, studied and carried around but to be carried out and unleashed into the world. The depth of biblical illiteracy saddens my heart; so does the reality that knowledgeable people hoard the gospel, keeping it to themselves. Let us lead others beyond individual, spiritual consumption to contagious, tenacious outliving of the gospel.
“Until God is using you to change the lives of others,” seminary president Danny Akin has said, “you really haven’t comprehended His truth.”

5. Teach women that God redeems their messes for His message.

I realize that women are plagued with fears, insecurities, struggles and anxieties. Who isn’t? Let us teach women that the God who redeemed us from the pit also puts a “new song in our mouth” so that “many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord” (Psalm 40:3).
We need an uprising of believers courageous enough to lead others to advance the gospel. Let us daringly use our women’s gatherings within church walls to equip women to live out the gospel beyond the church walls. It will require ordinary women with messy lives who believe in the power of the Holy Spirit at work within them to go and make disciples.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lori McDaniel, lorimcdaniel.org, serves as a global mission catalyst with the International Mission Board, mobilizing churches and leading women to participate in God’s global mission. She and her husband Mike and three children were missionaries in Africa before returning to plant Grace Point Church in Bentonville, Ark., where Mike is the lead pastor. This column first appeared at Flourish, an online community for ministers’ wives sponsored by the North American Mission Board. Used with permission.)

2/23/2017 9:06:30 AM by Lori McDaniel | with 1 comments

The Shack: A Pastoral Perspective

February 22 2017 by Joel Rainey

Next Friday, The Shack opens nationwide, prompting full theaters, plenty of box office profits, and apparently, a bunch of ticked off conservative pastors.
I get it.  I really do.
I read the book when it was first released back in 2007.  When I finished, I was simultaneously impressed and fearful.  I was impressed because it was truly a riveting novel that deals with real life issues of pain that too few churches are willing to honestly address.  I was fearful because the “god” portrayed within its pages isn’t the one true and living God who has revealed Himself to us in scripture.
The “god” of the Shack is air.  It doesn’t exist.  It’s a worthless and damnable idol.
My reasons for making such a broad, sweeping claim are numerous, and too many to list here.  If you are interested in a detailed theological critique of the book, I really cannot improve upon that given by Tim Challies here.  Principally, the author’s view of God as presented in this story reflects an ancient heresy known as modalism – a doctrine that conflates the clear biblical distinctions between the members of the Trinity and as such, compromises the role each plays in the process of redemption.
There are other major issues as well, but in the end, the biggest problem with the novel is that it presents – as an answer to our deepest pain – the theological equivalent of a flying spaghetti monster.  I find it ironic that the main protagonist is played by Sam Worthington of Avatar fame.  The Shack is about as accurate in its view of ultimate reality as Avatar.
As a theologian deeply concerned about accurately representing God as He has revealed Himself, these facts concern me.  But as a pastor whose responsibility it is to point people to the God of scripture in the midst of their deepest pain, these facts scare me for the sake of their souls.
So what exactly should pastors do in response to what we all know will take place next Friday?
Last week, I sent an email to our staff reminding them that our church family will not be promoting this film in any way.  No one on our payroll is permitted to buy tickets, rent theaters, take groups to the movie, or anything else that would give the impression that Covenant Church approves of this film and its depiction of God.  It’s one thing to take in a movie as an individual.  It’s quite another to promote something that is likely to be contrary to Christian faith.
But as a pastor, I must also recognize another reality.  People are going to see this movie!  I have told our staff that I will see it, mostly just to compare its contents with that of the book.  They too are encouraged to see it as individuals.  Why?  Because our people are going to be buying tickets.  Their non-churched and non-Christian friends will buy tickets too.  If when returning to church all they see in response from their leaders is protest, what will they have learned from us?
So, here are three reasons I think EVERY pastor should watch this film, and be ready to interact with its contents with your people.

1. From a cinematic and artistic standpoint, it will probably be an excellent movie.  

How do I know this?  One name: Octavia Spencer!  It would appear that audiences can anticipate stellar acting from a phenomenal cast of talented people.
Though it remains to be seen, I suspect that for the sake of time and content, much of the doctrinal substance of the book may be absent from the film, leaving a number of “blanks” that are going to be filled in by someone.  Why shouldn’t that someone be a faithful pastor?
One of the biggest and most legitimate complaints about “Christian” movies is that they are, well, terrible!  For the most part, this is because the characters are “flat” and issues are all “black and white.”  There is very little tension to resolve – only an affirmation of what we already believe so that we can feel good about ourselves.  My friend Alvin Reid has observed that “our theology IS black and white, and it should be, but we live lives in color!”  He’s right, and I fully expect that this film will demonstrate well the “living color” of our lives – particularly the painful parts. It is possible to enjoy a good movie, or a good book, without blindly accepting everything you read or see.  Pastors, this is our opportunity to model for our people how to do just that.

2. The movie will prompt conversations and questions pastors need to answer.  

The pain depicted in the book and film is all too real for too many people in our churches and communities.  Many people are going to see this film because they think that in it they will find the path to healing.  If the “god” presented in the film is compatible at all with the “god” presented in the book, they won’t find it.  Or worse, they will think they have found it, and forever be inoculated to the real thing.
If pastors and church leaders are faithful in responding with compassion to the issues that will certainly be raised as a result of this film, we can point our people and their friends to a God who can bring them genuine healing.  But if our disposition causes them to return from the theater, only to see in the pulpit those two old, grumpy guys from the muppets yelling “Boo!” then we miss out on the chance to find real answers.

3. This is an opportunity!  

The most foundational question of faith is “Who is God?”  If you get that question wrong, it only goes downhill from there, and this is the fundamental danger of a book like The Shack.
But great opportunity lies here as well for pastors.  This film will prompt conversation about God, and who He really is!
Pastors who don’t willingly join that conversation are derelict in their duties both to Christ and His people.
People in our churches are going to see this film.  Their non-Christian friends will see it as well, and our people need to be equipped to have those conversations by pastors who model how to do it well.  So let’s not merely shrug our shoulders and allow our people to absorb idolatry unknowingly.  But conversely, let’s be more than the grumpy old guys who pour cold water over people’s warm experiences with no explanation why.
Let’s engage.  And in doing so, lets faithfully give people the real thing!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joel Rainey is lead pastor at Covenant Church, Shepherdstown, W.Va. He serves on the adjunct faculty of two seminaries, and is the author of three books. This blog was originally published at joelrainey.blogspot.com. Used with permission.)

2/22/2017 10:42:43 AM by Joel Rainey | with 0 comments

Reformation story must be told

February 22 2017 by Don Wright

The Historical Committee of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina encourages pastors and lay leaders in our churches to take advantage of the 500th anniversary celebration of the Reformation on Oct. 31, 2017.
For one of the few times in recent decades, the secular media plans to give broad coverage to a major Protestant event. For example, Time magazine just listed the Reformation anniversary as one of the upcoming major events of 2017. What does this mean to Southern Baptists? It is a time of reflection on the blood of the martyrs who were killed in the two centuries of the Reformation. Do we have the faith they had to die for their Christ? Are we acting as the executioner or martyr today? The indistinguishable red blood of both Catholics and Protestants was found on the hands of various churches in that period.
This is a time to reaffirm our belief in the Bible as the final authority on matters of life and faith. This concept held dear by the early Christians, but lost in the many centuries since, was first revived by John Wycliffe and blessed by the blood of John Huss until Martin Luther made it the center of his reform.
It is a time to celebrate the truth that we can have a personal relationship with God without the need for a human intercessor. The recognition of this significant historical event affirms that the reading of the scriptures (with the influence of the Holy Spirit) gives each Christian God’s message and divine guidance.
We are part of God’s great priesthood of believers. We are all equal before our Father Creator.
It is a time to continue to reject the interrelationship of church and state that always brings corruption to God’s Church. We must not forget the Anabaptists of the Radical Reformation that were hunted down and killed like animals by state sponsored Catholic, Lutheran and Reform churches for daring to assert their opposition to state churches.
It is a time to praise God for the way He used a few Christian men and women to change the world. God’s power and desire does not need armies to effect change. The Reformation and the Radical Reformation came from God’s renderings on the soul of a few Christians. Take heart that if God reformed in 1517, He can do the same in 2017. We do not doubt the power and plan of God.
What can you do as a Baptist leader? We urge you to educate both your church and community about the importance of the Reformation. Do not let your church members learn about it from the secular media.
A newly released Bible study on the Reformation is available from LifeWay Christian Resources. “Echoes of the Reformation” examines the five core truths that came from the Reformation, now referred to as the ‘solas:’ sola Scriptura (by scripture alone), sola gratia (by grace alone), sola fide (through faith alone), solus Christus (through Christ alone) and soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone). We encourage you to use this opportunity to educate your church and community about the Reformation.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Don Wright, chairman of the BSC Historical Committee, submitted this to the Biblical Recorder on behalf of the committee.)

2/22/2017 10:39:17 AM by Don Wright | with 0 comments

Leading change through children’s ministry

February 21 2017 by Cheryl Markland

The days when families attended church without question and every time the doors were opened is a pleasant memory.
Today’s families are busier than ever. Practices and extracurricular lessons, two-income wage earners, family commitments and travel sports teams mean families often spend more time in the car than at home or church.
Church attendance, in general, is on the decline due to many reasons, including affluence that permits frequent vacation travel, online church, general exhaustion and parents’ work schedules. A child who is considered a “regular attender” today comes to church three times per month, on average.
If church attendance is no longer a priority for families, what is the church to do? Churches need to focus on equipping parents to disciple their children at home (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Sermons, training opportunities and teachings on the importance of discipleship for children need to be offered. Training can be offered to parents in using the supplemental materials provided by church curriculum, such as take-home sheets, social media information and apps for electronic devices.
Churches must acknowledge parents’ expectation of safe, secure, clean and attractive teaching environments. This includes conducting background checks for all volunteers and having written safety and security policies and procedures that are clearly enforced.
Using technology in children’s ministry has its place, but churches need to balance the use of technology and “edutainment” with opportunities for building relationships between children and caring adults who desire to disciple children in small-group settings. The Bible should be taught as God’s one grand narrative made of many stories, chapters and books.
Consider the importance of children’s discipleship in the life of the child and the church. George Barna’s research states that a child’s moral standards are set by age nine. Their spiritual foundations are set by age 13.
We must make the most of this critical time both at home and at church. Excellence in facility and teaching staff is critical. Children need to know that they are part of the church family and should not always be segregated from the adult population. Children learn to be disciples as they interact with adult leaders and parents who model the life of a disciple. Churches that understand and see this truth as a guiding principle for their children’s ministry will thrive.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Cheryl Markland serves as the senior consultant for childhood evangelism and discipleship with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. She will be leading a breakout session titled “Change and Kids Ministry” at the Leading Change in the Church event on March 7 at Calvary Baptist Church’s West Campus in Advance. To learn more or register, visit leadingchange.church.)

2/21/2017 12:49:21 PM by Cheryl Markland | with 0 comments

Ethics – more important than theology?

February 17 2017 by Andrew J. Spencer

You likely have heard the assertion that some Christians value theology more than people. Outward actions, they say, are more central to Christianity than internal beliefs.
The basic claim is that practical Christian ethics is the heart of Christianity, while theology is an attempt to define with certainty that which we cannot know. Ethics is reality while theology is speculation. Therefore, ethics is more important than theology.

Andrew J. Spencer

As a Christian ethicist, I heartily affirm the importance of ethics. However, faithful Christian ethics presupposes a foundation of orthodox Christian doctrine. We cannot do ethics apart from theology.
In her essay “Creed or Chaos?” the late British writer Dorothy L. Sayers, an Anglican, argued, “It is worse than useless for Christians to talk about the importance of Christian morality unless they are prepared to take their stand upon the fundamentals of Christian theology.”
Christian morality without doctrinal foundations devolves to humanism, which eventually fails to motivate right action, Sayers wrote.
Unless you believe rightly, there is little hope you will live rightly. If someone does not believe humans have inherent value, they are unlikely to seek to relieve suffering or may justify doing harm while calling it good. Concern for the wellbeing of others is not self-generated; it arises from an anthropology that values people as made in the image of God. When anthropology fails, so does true compassion for humans.
For example, movements that advocate for voluntary euthanasia often are couched in terms of individual autonomy and alleviation of suffering. Assisting in the suicide of the old and the infirm is ethical if your anthropology presumes humans have a right to self-determination and suffering is purposeless. A deep theological sentiment, however flawed, lies behind a pro-euthanasia ethic.
Jesus is clear about belief being the basis for human action. Luke records Him explaining the relationship between the act of speech and the beliefs: “A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart” (Luke 6:45, HCSB).
While those who pit ethics against theology are wrong to diminish the importance of doctrine, it is fair to acknowledge that theologically sound Christians sometimes fail to practice ethics demanded by their theology. Such was Carl F.H. Henry’s criticism of early evangelicalism.
The core theme of Henry’s brief volume The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism is that doctrinally orthodox evangelicals (i.e., those holding to the fundamentals of the faith) often repudiated social ethics simply because social activism was associated with modernist, theologically liberal Christians. This led faithful, theologically sound Christians to reject just action to mitigate harms, though those actions would have occurred in ways consistent with and were even demanded by scripturally faithful doctrine.
Henry’s indictment of his own theological tribe should come as no surprise, since Jesus’ words about the overflow of the heart are followed immediately by a sharp rebuke of those who have a proper faith but fail to act on it (Luke 6:46-49). Similarly, James 2:14-17 reminds Christians that faith that does not lead to ethical application is dead.
The problem in these situations is not that people were concerned about right doctrine, but that they failed to act upon it. Perhaps they understood the theological propositions but did not have a living faith to drive them to live the ethical implications of those doctrines. These critiques are reasonable.
The assertion “ethics matters more than doctrine” requires a presumption that theology is abstract while action is concrete. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ethics is abstract to the extent that even good actions are tainted by sinful motivations and have unknown consequences. Theology – the study of God and His works – is concrete inasmuch as its object is known and knowable. Doctrine is developed by faithful people in response to the revelation of God.
Again, Sayers is helpful as she describes the formulation of orthodox doctrine: “Dogmas are not a set of arbitrary regulations invented a priori by a committee of theologians enjoying a bout of all-in dialectical wrestling. Most of them were hammered out under pressure of urgent practical necessity to provide an answer to heresy.”
This is no less true about doctrines undergirding sexual ethics than about teachings on Christology. The church has often had to codify previously assumed or unconsidered doctrines in the face of innovative challenges threatening to undermine the doctrinal core of Christianity. This does not represent a failure to love people who hold faulty doctrine – it is a sign of faithfulness to the one who calls Christians to love people. The apostle Paul’s admonishment is to speak truth in love, not to reject truth in the name of love (cf. Ephesians 4:15).
Christians would do well to live out their faith. We would also do well to ponder Jude’s words to the church, which include a call to contend for the faith – the sound doctrine – that was given to the saints because those who rejected those teachings led others to practice bad ethics (Jude 3-4). Christianity is not merely about right doctrine, but orthodoxy cannot be rejected without a grave cost to ethics.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Andrew J. Spencer is associate vice president for institutional effectiveness at Oklahoma Baptist University. He holds a Ph.D. in theological studies with a concentration in Christian ethics from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He regularly blogs at EthicsAndCulture.com.)

2/17/2017 11:29:20 AM by Andrew J. Spencer | with 0 comments

Burnt aprons, hospitality & the gospel

February 16 2017 by Melissa Meredith

My Anthropologie apron and I have been through alot together. Its charred yellow polka dot fabric, singed teal ruffle and frayed fuchsia waist ties tell stories of my many battles with macaroons, meringue pie and Crock-Pot mac ’n cheese.

While I should probably retire the ratty looking thing, I cannot bring myself to throw it away. Why? Because it has been while wearing that apron that God has taught me the art of biblical hospitality.

Melissa Meredith

I believe that most Christian women desire to be known as ladies with hospitable hearts and homes. Many women feel limited, however, in their ability to practice hospitality in their everyday lives. My home is just too small; there’s no extra space. My budget doesn’t allow me to extend hospitality even though I desire to. My attempt at cooking is usually followed by a visit from the local fire department.
Believe me, I can relate. However, all of these challenges stem from a misguided understanding of true hospitality. Hospitality does not depend on your home mirroring the pages of House Beautiful or mastering Martha Stewart’s latest recipe.
The Bible is clear that Christians ought to extend hospitality. Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” The Greek word used for hospitality in this passage as well as throughout the New Testament (philoxenia) means “love of strangers” and is a compound word linking “love” (phileo) to “strangers or guests” (xenos).
Hospitality is essentially loving strangers and meeting the needs of others. Romans 12:13 gives further instruction on hospitality, saying, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” As Christian women we are called to intentionally pursue opportunities to practice hospitality with joyful hearts (1 Peter 4:8-9). The Greek word translated “practicing” (dioko) suggests the idea of “pursuing” or “intentionally striving for” hospitality.
So what is to be our motivation for hospitality? As women who actively pursue all that God has created us to be, our motivation is the very gospel message itself. We have received, sisters in Christ, the ultimate act of hospitality (Romans 5:8), and biblical hospitality is the natural overflow from a grateful heart for His sanctifying work in our lives and our sweet love for Him (Matthew 22:37-39).
So what makes a godly woman or home hospitable?

Open heart

The condition of our spiritual heart controls how we extend hospitality (Romans 2:11, Matthew 5:43-48, Luke 14:12-14). But who are we to entertain with an open heart? Fellow believers (Romans 12:13), widows and orphans (1 Timothy 5:1-16), Christian workers (Matthew 10:9-11), the poor and needy (Luke 14:12-14), unbelievers (Luke 5:29) and foreigners (Genesis 18:1-22). We open our hearts to a variety of guests so that we may love them in His name. These needs include extending love and encouragement (Romans 12:10-13), preparing food (Genesis 24:15-21), providing a safe place to rest (Genesis 18:1-22), sharing possessions (James 2:15-16), giving spiritual instruction (Titus 2:3-5) and sharing the gospel (3 John 7-8).
So where does this picture of biblical hospitality take place?

Open home

By divine design, women are to be the caretakers of the home (Titus 2:5; 1 Timothy 5:14; Proverbs 31). It is no surprise, then, that the home is to be the primary place where we practice hospitality. While hospitality is more an extension of our grateful hearts, our homes should be a prepared place for our family, friends and guests (John 14:2). We should strive to create havens that are peaceful and serene so that we may minister to the hearts of others without hindrance.
I fondly remember coming home for a weekend during a hard semester at college. My mother knew the semester had been rough and went out of her way to make our family home a place of quiet rest. She put fresh flowers in my room, made my favorite meals, furnished the bathroom with a sampling of spa lotions and creams and left a welcome basket on my bed with an assortment of my favorite girly things – including a note that brought tears and a smile to my face all at once – you know, the kind that only mothers can write! I will never forget the care and concern she took to minister to my spirit that weekend. Dear sisters, when we open our home to family, friends and guests, we have a sacred opportunity to bless others and live a Kingdom-focused life.

Open hands

Developing the art of hospitality requires sacrifice, time and resources. However, the rewards are many: establishing new relationships (Proverbs 11:25), training children in the ways of the Lord (Proverbs 22:6), exercising spiritual gifts (1 Peter 4:10) and growing in grace and truth (Philippians 2:1-4). If you are an older woman – and we all are to someone – consider reaching out to a younger woman and teaching her from your satchel of wisdom. If you are a younger woman, seek out an older woman to learn the skills that would help you to practice hospitality with more ease.
You might end up with a few burnt aprons like me, but believe me, the journey and reward of blessings others in Jesus’ name is worth the time and creative effort.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Melissa Meredith is the director of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Horner Homemaking House and a 2013 graduate of the seminary with a master of divinity with a concentration in women’s studies. This column first appeared at the seminary’s Biblical Woman website, biblicalwoman.com.)

2/16/2017 9:11:37 AM by Melissa Meredith | with 0 comments

Keep the music going

February 15 2017 by David Jeremiah

For most of us, the radio was part of our dating experience. That’s why when we hear a certain tune, we smile and say, “Honey, they’re playing our song.”
So-called experts are always putting together “Top 100” lists, so I wondered what songs would be listed as the Top 100 love songs of all time. According to one study I saw, the top pick was George Harrison’s “Something,” sung by the Beatles in 1969. Number 2 was Elton John’s “Your Song.” Also high on the list were Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” and Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are.”

David Jeremiah

No one ever interviews me for these lists, but I might have suggested a few other songs, like “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing” and Sinatra’s whimsical, “Love and Marriage.”
There’s nothing more pleasant than a dinner alongside your beloved with music in the background reprising love songs. Every generation has its own batch. I’m glad for songs that speak of the permanence of marriage and the enduring nature of love. We mustn’t let that music fade. Certain notes should always be playing in our hearts, and the passing of years should only refine the tune.
Marriage is like a song. That familiar chorus represents the heart of the relationship, and different verses embody the different moods and seasons of marriage. Sometimes the music is upbeat and exciting; sometimes it’s mellow and tender. But the important thing is to keep the music fresh so we don’t just play the “same old song.”
The elements we need for a dynamic relationship with God are the same we need to keep our marriages in tune and our lives harmonious. Let me suggest four elements for a melodious marriage, using the letters SONG.


Just as good musicians are sensitive to the strings and keys of their instruments, a good husband and wife learn to be sensitive to the other’s needs. Marriage counselor William F. Harley Jr., suggests this key question: What could you and your spouse do for each other that would make you both the happiest?


That leads to the “O” in SONG: openness. This has to do with the way we communicate. Several types of communication make up the fabric of our relationships. The first is small talk. A communications expert once said, “For many of us, small talk is hard work. ...” But, “It builds rapport and often leads to bigger things.”
One of those bigger things is serious talk. There are times when we must have heart-to-heart talks about things we’re concerned about.
The third kind of talk is self-talk. That’s when we open up and talk about our problems, our fears, our hopes, our ambitions, our inner feelings.
A fourth kind of necessary communication is soul talk, talking about matters of the soul, including the Lord Jesus.
The last kind of talk important for healthy marriages is sweet talk. This includes terms like: honey, sweetheart or baby. Think of this as verbally snuggling. Few marriages fail when couples communicate openly on all five levels.


Couples need physical nearness, not only in the intimate act of marriage, but in time spent together. Despite our busy schedules, my wife Donna and I manage to sneak away sometimes from our normal demands. We have regular dates, just as we did when we first met. We slip into a corner booth of a restaurant and enjoy an unrushed meal with soft music in our ears and in our hearts.

Going to church

The “G” stands for going to church. I don’t care what the surveys say about the divorce rate among churchgoing people, I can tell you this: When a couple worships together each week, and when their worship experience overflows into their daily lives, they are blessed. The couple who builds their marriage in Christ is building on a solid foundation.
Therefore, don’t get stuck on the same old song. Jazz things up. Keep the music going in your marriage. Keep a song in your heart.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Jeremiah is pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., and founder and host of Turning Point for God. For more information on Turning Point, visit DavidJeremiah.org. Used with permission.)

2/15/2017 8:18:12 AM by David Jeremiah | with 0 comments

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