February 2018

Billy Graham’s motorcade

February 28 2018 by Keith Shorter, Baptist Press

When I heard that Billy Graham had died my first thought was purely selfish. “I never got to meet him.” For more than 40 years, Billy Graham has been my spiritual hero. My dream was to one day shake his hand and thank him for the impact he had on my life.

BGEA photo
Thousands lined up along the route to pay respects to Billy Graham as the motorcade bearing his body made its way from Asheville, N.C. to Charlotte.

Since that dream was now gone, I decided to at least travel to Black Mountain, N.C., and pay my last respects as his motorcade passed by on his journey to Charlotte. As a pastor, I wanted to do something to salute this man who had meant so much to the cause of Christ and to my ministry.
I stood outside the gate of The Cove retreat center with a couple hundred other people. I did not know any of them, but they likely were there because they also had been impacted by this humble man who was known by the world.
There was a lady standing across the street with a bouquet of white balloons. There was a man to my right with a large cardboard sign with pictures of Billy Graham. In bold handwritten letters, the sign summarized Dr. Graham’s ministry: “Servant, soldier and faithful steward of the [g]ospel of Jesus Christ.” We all stood there by the side of the road, watching the gate and waiting for that moment when the motorcade would pass by.
I have seen other motorcades before, having had the opportunity to watch as Elvis, President Nixon and President Reagan passed by. In those situations, there was great excitement and people usually waved or cheered.
This was different.
When Billy Graham passed by, the crowd stood silent. We were not there because he was famous, we were there because he was faithful. No man has ever taken the gospel to as many people. No man has been a better example for pastors as he ministered with integrity for more than 70 years.

BGEA photo
People gathered in Charlotte, N.C., to catch a glimpse or a photo as Billy Graham’s motorcade passed by them.

I think that is why thousands of people lined the roadways and the highways from Black Mountain to Charlotte. Collectively, we all wanted a way to say “thank you.” We wanted to honor this humble servant of the Lord who was known as “America’s pastor.” If you watched the motorcade online or on TV, you likely saw lots of signs that said, “Thank you sir,” and “Well done good and faithful servant.”
In 1873, British evangelist Henry Varley said: “The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him.” The world has seen it now. In our lifetime, we’ve seen what God can do when a man lives his life fully surrendered to the Lord. Literally, millions of people will be in heaven one day as a result.
When I first started to preach as a 17-year-old, I naively thought I would be the next Billy Graham. I’m pretty sure I am not the only pastor who started out with that big dream! As I watched Billy Graham’s motorcade pass by the crowd outside The Cove, I realized there will probably never be another Billy Graham.
Then I remembered something that was said at my father’s funeral. My brother said, “We will never fill James Shorter’s shoes, but we can follow in his steps.”
That’s what I am aiming for. I can’t be the next Billy Graham and neither can you. Those shoes are just too big to fill. I pray we can follow in his steps as we take the gospel to a needy world.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Shorter is pastor of Mt. Airy Baptist Church in Easley, S.C., and immediate past president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.)

2/28/2018 9:14:02 AM by Keith Shorter, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Immigration & the church

February 27 2018 by Frankie J. Melton Jr., Baptist Press

The world’s population is on the move. Unprecedented numbers of men, women and children are immigrating to countries beyond the boundaries of their ancestors. Many are doing what immigrants have always done: fleeing persecution, disease and hardship.

Frankie J. Melton Jr

Like all good mothers and fathers, they long for a better life for their children and grandchildren, and the United States is the destination of many of these peoples. In the milieu of harsh debate on immigration fomented by the media, what should be the response of people of faith?

First, the church should respond with compassion.

Displaying compassion does not mean you need to change your stance on immigration. We can separate our public policy positions concerning the larger geo-political issues from the persons and families living in our communities. The wider debate on immigration and the person standing in front of you require two very different responses. Compassion requires kindness and assistance toward those who are sojourners, exiles and immigrants among us. We should be reminded that Jesus Christ Himself was an immigrant in Egypt after His birth.

Second, people of faith should respond with loving communication.

Using language that is disparaging and hurtful to men, women and children is never appropriate. In marriage, at work and in political debate our word choice should always be loving. When I hear of someone who consistently vilipends anyone who speaks with an accent or has a shade to their skin tone, I wonder, “Do they not realize their Savior is in that group?”

Third, people of faith should respond with understanding.

Can you imagine how difficult it is to leave all that is familiar to you and move to a place where you have no friends or relatives and do not speak the language? Recently, I met an immigrant from China. She works 10 hours a day, six days a week, yet she does not make enough money to care for her new baby. After giving birth to her first child, a little girl, the immigrant and her husband had to send the child to China to be cared for by grandparents, because they did not make enough money to pay for childcare. I asked, “When will you see the baby again?” She said, “Maybe in three years.” I immediately thought of my own children and how devastating it would be to send them away for three years. Let us seek to understand the lives of the immigrants we are debating.

Fourth, people of faith should respond relationally.

In a conversation with another immigrant last year, I learned that this immigrant’s family has been living in the United States for 20 years, yet they did not have a single white American friend or relationship. Some who talk in church about how they want the world to “know Jesus” refuse to even speak or seek a relationship with the world living beside them. Churches raise thousands of dollars to send missionaries to other countries to share the gospel, yet the people giving the money will not do the simple act of getting to know their Muslim neighbor. Isn’t that hypocrisy?
There is no sound more beautiful to a person than the sound of their own name. Yet, most immigrants develop a one- or two-syllable American name derived from their own because Americans are too disinterested to learn to pronounce their actual name.
Whatever your position on the larger debate about immigration, Christ demands that you speak kindly, reach out in love, learn to pronounce their names, invite them into your homes and build a relationship with them.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Frankie J. Melton Jr. is assistant professor of Christian studies at North Greenville University in Tigerville, S.C.)

2/27/2018 10:00:50 AM by Frankie J. Melton Jr., Baptist Press | with 1 comments

When is an invalid invalid?

February 26 2018 by Jim Burton, Baptist Press

The unabridged English dictionary symbolizes the power of the English language. I recall a time when most public libraries and many schools had one unabridged dictionary. The book was enormous and, in theory, contained all the words in the English language.

Jim Burton

Given the evolution of the English language and its growing vocabulary, unabridged dictionaries never remain current. Still, they represent the host of words available to us for communication. Among them are homographs, commonly spelled words that have more than one definition.
One word has become particularly real to me since my ALS diagnosis more than five years ago. The disease has progressed to the point that I fit the definition of an invalid as the disease confines me, and I am unable to care for myself.
Receiving assistance for life’s necessities is humbling. Having been an independent person, I struggle with being dependent due to this unexpected reality.
I once traveled worldwide but now I rarely leave the house. I once led a ministry team of approximately 43 people, more than 300 contractors and scores of volunteers. Our efforts resulted in thousands of people receiving assistance during disasters. Nearly 1,000 homeowners received assistance each year with the partial rehab of their substandard homes. Volunteers built an estimated 300 churches per year and assisted with numerous community outreach initiatives. Doctors and dentists provided free medical help. I miss those days.
Which raises the question, has this invalid become invalid? If you’ve ever had an expired driver’s license or credit card, you understand invalid. To be invalid can mean you are neither acceptable nor appropriate.
No one wants to be invalid. Nor do I, which is why I refuse to accept that portion of the homograph. Clearly, health issues can decrease one’s capacity. I often suspect that health insurance providers refuse payment for expensive treatments because they see their customer as invalid or hopeless.
Classification as invalid denotes someone else’s resignation regarding your situation and potential. One can simply accept that designation and give up. Or one can fight their disease or calamity and redefine significance for themselves.
February 2018 marks the 10-year anniversary of my mother’s death after a 10-year bout with Alzheimer’s disease. She met every definition of being an invalid, but to our family, she never became invalid. Though engagement with her became markedly different, we could enjoy her presence, the memories we shared with her and those occasional lucid moments that reminded us of her love.
Local churches should never underestimate their ministry to the sick and disabled. Every card, phone call and visit matters even as Jesus demonstrated in the New Testament as He encountered scores of sick people. Jesus validated the worth and humanity of those He touched and healed.
Any number of medical professionals can classify you as an invalid, but I feel that the only person who can render you invalid is you. God’s purpose in our lives doesn’t stop with a catastrophic diagnosis or life-changing accident. Even with a degenerative disease, somehow, some way one can live out that purpose. God’s creation and purpose are not invalid no matter the state of one’s health.
I am not naïve. I know how hard it is to live with a progressive, degenerative disease. Each day in some way I fight for validity, which is why I call myself the ALS Warrior. The fight can be exhausting and discouraging. But I will continue to fight because I have no intention of becoming invalid.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jim Burton, online at life-bluezone.com, is the former senior director of partnership mobilization for the North American Mission Board and former pastor of Sugarloaf International Fellowship in Suwanee, Ga. He is the author of Life in the Blue Zone: God, I Didn’t See This Coming, available at Amazon.)

2/26/2018 9:24:48 AM by Jim Burton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Be a light in the NICU

February 23 2018 by Autumn Wall, Baptist Press

Unexpected tragedy strikes – that’s just life sometimes. As I write these words, it is fresh from the experience of holding my 1-week-old baby girl in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). And I must say, it was a pretty odd place to be.
The emotional roller coaster of thankfulness for a new baby but also fear and uncertainty as she is hooked up to multiple wires and tubes has a way of making even the most confident adult feel rattled.
In your community right now, there are multiple families at a neonatal intensive care unit. The smallest things can make the biggest difference to a family. Here are a few fresh ideas for things you can do to support families with babies in the NICU:

  • Crochet a ton of baby hats, tiny blankets, socks, etc. and deliver them for each room. You most likely will not be able to be in contact with the families themselves, but instead will leave the items with the nurses.
  • Collect a stack of puzzle books (crosswords, Sudoku, Word Finder) for the waiting room.
  • Gather small toys and coloring books with crayons to leave in the waiting room for older kids who are waiting on their parents.
  • Do a book drive and deliver children’s books for each NICU room with a note written inside the front cover saying, “We’re praying for you.”
  • Buy a small teddy bear or soft toy for each baby in the NICU.
  • Create prayer request cards that you can leave at the nurses desk. Arrange for a church staff member to come by the hospital and pick up cards that have been filled out so your church’s prayer team can continue to pray.
  • Leave a stack of church pens and/or notepads for families to use.
  • Is it near a holiday? Make (or take) a holiday-themed gift, mini Christmas stockings, Valentine’s teddy bears, etc.
  • Write encouragement notes with scripture verses for the parents and siblings of the babies in the NICU.

Get creative with simple things you can take or do to be an encouragement to families who are spending their days and nights with their newborn in the NICU. No matter what you do or take, be sure to include a handwritten note with a promise of your prayers along with an invitation to worship at your church on Sunday and something that shares the good news of Jesus.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Autumn Wall, online at autumnwall.com, is an author, speaker, worship leader, pastor’s wife and mom of three in Indianapolis. She is the co-author of Across the Street and Around the World, New Hope Publishers.)

2/23/2018 8:10:47 AM by Autumn Wall, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Hazardous exposure

February 21 2018 by David Jeremiah, Baptist Press

A man entered a bank in Modesto, Calif., to make a deposit a couple of years ago. He handed the teller a large wad of money wrapped in a paper towel, and after he left the teller broke out in hives and had trouble breathing. Other bank employees developed fevers and respiratory problems.
Who came to the rescue? The Hazardous Materials Unit, wearing yellow suits and rubber boots. The hazmat team entered the bank looking like space travelers as they searched for the source of the contamination.

David Jeremiah

Every city and town has a hazmat team. Chemicals are volatile and dangerous, accidents waiting to happen. “Of the more than 40,000 chemicals in commercial use,” said one authority, “most are subject to accidental spills or releases.”
That’s not to mention the threat of deliberate biological or chemical attacks. As of this writing, the source of the Modesto incident is unknown. None of us knows when we’ll need the men and women in yellow suits.
What about spiritual toxins that can seep unseen into the soul? What about the devastating results of untrue thinking and unwise behavior?
In the first chapter of Romans, the apostle Paul describes the collapse of a society as if explaining a chemical chain reaction. First, rejection of the teaching of creation (verses 18-20). Then a proliferation of false gods (verses 21-23). Then a rejection of moral absolutes and a collapse of sexual morality (verses 24-25), resulting in runaway sexual perversion (verses 26-27). The final state is a total moral meltdown (verses 28-32).
An essential element to Christian holiness is learning to spot and avoid moral contamination like a hazmat expert.

Toxic people

Some friends can be hazardous to your spiritual health. Perhaps you’re finding it hard to resist the invitations coming your way. You want to feel included, but it comes at the cost of your conscience. It’s important to avoid toxic friends now because, as time goes by, the temptation becomes worse.
Toxic friends can get you to do things you never thought you’d do. 1 Corinthians 15:33 warns that “evil company corrupts good habits.” Wrong friends can contaminate our good habits like a pesticide. If you need to back out of a friendship, make a covenant with the Lord to do so, ask His help, then think through what to say.
Don’t expect the conversation to go well. The Bible warns, “Your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you. But remember that they will have to face God” (1 Peter 4:4-5, NLT). That is all the more reason to make friends with those who can build you up, not tear you down.

Toxic exposures

We also need to guard against toxic exposures. With all our electronic options, we don’t need friends to lead us into evil; we can do it very well ourselves. Pornography is only a click away. We no longer have to stand in line at a movie theater to view profanity-laden stories of sex, violence, nudity, gore and corruption.
My point here is a positive one. Since the evil around us is as clear as a chemical cloud, we can avoid it. The Bible says, “Through the fear of the Lord evil is avoided. ... The highway of the upright avoids evil; those who guard their ways preserve their lives” (Proverbs 16:6,17 NIV).
Remember those bank employees in Modesto? They were taken to the parking lot, rinsed off and decontaminated. The Lord Jesus can do the same for you. Hebrews 10:22 puts it perfectly when it talks about “having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Ezekiel 36:25-27 is the Lord’s message to you if you’re battling spiritual contamination: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Take these words seriously. Claim them now as your own. Read them aloud and hear what the Lord longs to tell you.
Spiritual contamination matters to God and it should to us. The Lord Jesus is the greatest hazmat specialist in the world. He can cleanse you from hazardous friends and exposures. Let Him cleanse you with His blood and with the water of His Word. It’s time to clean up your life.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Jeremiah is pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., and founder and host of “Turning Point for God.” For more information on Turning Point, visit DavidJeremiah.org. This column has been approved by Turning Point for redistribution in Baptist state newspapers; for other reprint requests, contact Myrna Davis at mdavis@tursningpointonline.org.)

2/21/2018 1:46:37 PM by David Jeremiah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘I’m sorry’: Thoughts on the CBF

February 20 2018 by Layne Wallace

Her name was Goldie Hicks. Goldie was a deacon at the first church I had the honor of serving after graduating seminary, Center Hill Baptist Church in Lexington, N.C. Goldie was an exceptional deacon with a deep love for God and her church. She was long past retirement, but her age was seen as a great source of wisdom.
The church had long had women deacons, and had a decidedly “moderate” ethos, so naturally I believed the church should partner with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF). I knew there would be some resistance to adding CBF to our budget, but believed the church would do well in CBF life. So, in the fall of 2000, I introduced CBF to the congregation.

Contributed photo
Layne Wallace

It was a big surprise to me when Goldie later approached me to ask a pointed question about CBF.
“Layne,” she said, “Isn’t this all about homosexuality?” Of course, I told her it was not.
The CBF was about moderate Baptist life, the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message and the autonomy of the local church, I assured her.
If Goldie were alive today, I wonder what I would have to tell her.
The Illumination Project of the CBF has presented its report, and the Coordinating Council has approved its recommendations. The committee tasked with producing the Illumination Project had a daunting responsibility. They were charged with helping the diverse groups of the CBF hold together despite their entrenched disagreements on the issues of human sexuality. With the goal to find ways to hold the community together, the committee did the best they could possibly do, and they are to be commended for it.
I stand in disagreement with the recommendations of the Illumination Project, however. Frankly, though, I have a profound distaste for denominational strife. I intended to simply and quietly try to find a way forward for my congregation and me. Since the report’s release, however, Baptist news sources have been replete with editorials referring to people who share my opinion as “practicing discrimination” and by implication, as bigoted.
After days of being compared to those who would put up “whites only” signs, I must respond.
The trouble with the Illumination Project is not what it produced, but the strictures by which it was called into being. The committee was formed to protect the unity of the CBF, not to investigate the theological, biblical and doctrinal issues around human sexuality.
Even though the committee notes the overwhelming majority of Cooperative Baptists are committed to the affirmation that Scripture as the primary authority in matters of faith and practice, no investigation into the texts in question are within the pages of the report. Missing are reflections on Romans 1, 1 Timothy 1 and 1 Corinthians 6.
If we are a people who believe in the primacy of the Bible on matters of faith and practice, then why is the Bible excluded on the question at hand?
As I read through the editorials and pastoral letters of those who support the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons into the life of the CBF, several themes emerge. Many see inclusion as a matter of justice. Some argue that full inclusion is a matter of the Great Commandment that we love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Others argue it is a matter of welcome. Since God welcomes all in Christ, we should not be surprised that God welcomes LGBTQ+ persons. Others suggest the prevention of LGBTQ+ persons serving as missionaries is a violation of the “Four Fragile Freedoms,” and indeed an act of violence.
Still more have even mentioned that word “oppression.” While I have not seen it come up in the recent conversation, there are those who interpret the New Testament texts in question as referring to pederasty, not sexual behavior between two consenting adults.
I have looked at the arguments presented, and I am not convinced.
I believe the Scripture has spoken on the issue. The most egregious move I have seen to undermine what Scripture says on the issue is the misuse of the “Jesus Criterion.”
“Jesus says nothing about homosexuality,” so the argument goes.
Here is the thing. There are many things that Jesus is not recorded to have mentioned. Absence of Jesus speaking about an issue does not mean Jesus approves of a behavior. Trying to say that since the Gospels do not record Jesus speaking about homosexuality, Paul’s admonition should be discounted is vapid.
Further, I believe the church has spoken on the issue. For two thousand years, the church has spoken with one voice on the topic of homosexuality. If what is believed by everyone, everywhere and at every time matters, then this is a settled matter.
From the New Testament forward, there is unanimity of thought on this issue. Only in recent decades have people decided to oppose the Scripture and the church’s consensus. In short, opposition to the church’s stance on the issue is novel and localized to the modern West. It fails the catholicity test.
Moving toward homosexual missionaries and clergy is also schismatic. Across denominations and continents, Christians around the world oppose what the CBF is attempting to normalize. The report itself admits this issue.
Do not think this is a minor point. Breaking faith with partners on this issue can only serve to isolate the CBF.
The change to CBF’s hiring policy is a repudiation of CBF’s roots. CBF emerged as a moderate organization in Baptist life. What is happening is that CBF is becoming a progressive or liberal organization. While many in the CBF welcome this change, it is striking how different this is from where we came.
We considered it libelous, slanderous, that the conservatives in the SBC called professors in our seminaries liberal. Now, we who denied the charge of liberalism at our founding are embracing liberalism just under the label of progressivism. If we are to hold to the term moderate to describe our organization, it must be redefined.
In the early days of our movement, “moderate” usually meant holding to the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message or to church autonomy. If we want to use the term moderate, it now must mean, “in agreement with the progressives, but desiring to move slowly enough to avoid controversy.”
I recall during my seminary days SBC leaders used the argument of “denomination drift” to describe what would happen to the CBF and other organizations that were moderate in orientation. The argument was simple, the CBF might now be moderate, but in the long run it will become a liberal organization because what is not structurally conservative will inevitably drift left.
I imagine Paige Patterson and Albert Mohler are somewhere saying, “I told you so.”
The approval of the Illumination Project report by the Coordinating Council is a watershed moment for the CBF.
The responses to the report have been very illuminating. Rarely has anyone ever tried to claim that I am bigoted, or that I am similar to those who would put up “whites only” signs, yet over the last several days, that language has been bandied about for people like me routinely.
I can only conclude that people like me are not wanted within the movement. I would love to be corrected on that point.
From my perspective the CBF is moving into open heresy. I cannot understand why we are determined to move in this direction. I cannot understand what I am expected to tell my local congregation. What I do know is this, that my conscience prevents me from affirming the current direction of the CBF. I cannot and will not violate my conscience.
To the leaders of the CBF, I profoundly disagree with your position. I would advise you, however, to do what you believe is correct. The half measure you have used to try to keep the unity is bound to fail. Do what you believe is right.
I know one more thing. If Goldie Hicks were still living, I would give her a call and say, “I’m sorry.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Layne Wallace is pastor of Rosemary Baptist Church in Roanoke Rapids, N.C.)

2/20/2018 2:32:14 PM by Layne Wallace | with 3 comments

All other ground is sinking sand: A portrait of theological disaster

February 20 2018 by Albert Mohler, Guest Column

Theological disaster almost never strikes out of the blue. Trouble builds and disaster is somehow averted again and again, but anyone with eyes to see knows the time is running out. Time has run out for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF).
The CBF emerged in the early 1990s as churches aligned with the more liberal wing of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), self-identified as “moderates,” forged a new organization to replace the SBC, in which they no longer felt at home.

R. Albert Mohler Jr.

From the beginning, the CBF was largely funded by congregations that were not necessarily theologically liberal, at least self-consciously so, but nonetheless disagreed with the SBC’s determination to affirm and enforce the inerrancy of scripture. Other issues were catalysts, including the SBC’s confessional principle against women serving as pastors.
The CBF had a more explicitly liberal wing, but the most leftward of the former Southern Baptists had left earlier, forming what was then known as the Alliance of Baptists.
There was a time when the SBC and the CBF were locked in competition for the loyalty and financial support of major churches. In turn, those congregations were often divided internally by the same conflict. Over twenty years later, that competition is long over.
The SBC and the CBF have each moved through history according to their chosen trajectories. They have grown steadily apart. The SBC solidified its conservative convictions and commitments, while a younger generation of leaders emerged in the CBF – a generation that did not long for a return to the SBC of the past, but identified with a far more liberal vision of theology and moral issues.
The identity crisis of the CBF was evident from the beginning. So was the fact that the LGBTQ revolution would be the fuse that would detonate the CBF and its identity.
In June of 2000, the SBC adopted a revision of its confessional statement, the Baptist Faith & Message. The confessional revision was a first in modern church history – the first time a major denomination had adopted a more conservative confession than it had previously held. The statement explicitly defined the office of pastor as limited to men, affirmed the inerrancy of scripture and a host of other conservative convictions.
Daniel Vestal, then coordinator of the CBF, predicted that 5,000 churches were ready to leave the SBC and join the CBF in reaction to the confession. In October of 2000, the CBF was under pressure to answer criticism that it was leaning leftward on the question of homosexuality and its Coordinating Council adopted a “statement of organizational value” that precluded the hiring of non-celibate homosexuals for CBF staff or missionary field appointments.
The move was immediately criticized by many within the CBF, and especially those identified with its theological schools.
No such exodus from the SBC to the CBF occurred.
Within a decade, momentum was clearly building for a change in CBF policy. It was well understood that the main factor holding the leadership from such a change was financial. The loss of support from churches outraged by any policy condoning homosexuality would have been devastating. The conflict was largely generational.
By 2012, an elected moderator of the CBF would openly call for a removal of the policy forbidding the hiring of non-celibate LGBT personnel. Again and again, calls for such a change were answered with delay.
Then came the wider LGBTQ revolution, the legalization of same-sex marriage and open floodgates of moral revolution. More conservative forces in the CBF may still refuse to join the revolution, but others, mostly younger, see the current CBF policy as morally wrong and oppressive.
Most of the seminaries and divinity schools serving the CBF joined the LGBTQ revolution long ago, and their graduates have been demanding that the CBF join as well.
David Gushee, perhaps best equipped to observe the CBF over the course of a generation, noted: “Over these 25 years, CBF life has produced far fewer leaders and people who could be described as evangelicals or moderate-conservative Baptists, and far more who could be described as something like mainline Protestants. Meanwhile, the original founding moderate-conservatives – often based in Texas, interestingly enough – are aging out.
“The CBF has become an uneasy coalition of moderates (who, it must be again remembered, were labeled moderate-conservatives back in the day) and real-life liberals. The latter are mainly, though not exclusively, younger, and among the clergy, most are products of the new Baptist seminaries.”
Some CBF churches have become fully LGBTQ affirming, some perform same-sex ceremonies and some have called openly-LGBTQ ministers and pastors.
Push came to shove as the CBF announced in 2016 that it would move forward through an “Illumination Project” that would allow for a new direction for the CBF on LGBTQ issues.
Last week, that project’s report was released. The fuse was detonated.
The report, “Honoring Autonomy & Reflecting the Fellowship,” has infuriated LGBTQ proponents and alienated more conservative churches. Its recommendations offer a ridiculous and unstable policy.
The report and related news reports reveal that the proposed policy will allow for the hiring of openly-LGBT CBF personnel in some positions, but not in positions of leadership or missionary field assignment. The new policy, if adopted, would create a dual morality – one for an estimated 80 percent of CBF staff and the other for supervisory staff and field personnel. The two moralities, contradictory by definition, would supposedly co-exist within one structure.
With amazing candor, the report states that “global partners (within and without Baptist life) have decisively rejected movement toward hiring or supporting LGBT field personnel or the inclusion of LGBT persons in ordained leadership.” In other words, international churches, with rare exceptions, will not cooperate with the CBF if it sends LGBT personnel to field assignments. The report also acknowledges that “less than a handful of our congregations have called pastors who identify as LGBT.”
Nevertheless, it is hard to see how the CBF can survive with such a house divided and such an incoherent policy. One openly gay woman pastor of a CBF congregation responded over the weekend by accusing the CBF of creating “a tiered caste system where the opinions and lives of wealthy straight people are worth more than anyone else.”
We have seen this same pattern throughout mainline liberal Protestantism. The moral revolutionaries push and push until the denominational middle gives way or dies out. This drama is playing out a bit later on the stage of the CBF, but its end is clear enough. In the meantime, the “Illumination Project” has been truly illuminating.
This is the inevitable result of the abandonment of the full truthfulness and authority of scripture. The CBF was born of controversy within the SBC over the inerrancy of the Bible.
On July 9, 1991, the CBF (which would adopt that name the following day) approved an “Address to the Public” that included one and only one clear theological statement, and that statement rejected the inerrancy of scripture. “The Bible,” said the statement, “neither claims or reveals inerrancy as a Christian teaching.” Once the truthfulness and trustworthiness of the Bible are abandoned, theological revisionism is inevitable. The CBF report does not even attempt the exegesis of scripture.
This is also the logical consequence of adopting a hermeneutic that allows for the service of women as pastors – for many CBF congregations, the key issue of outrage at the SBC.
The same negotiation and “reinterpretation” of the biblical text that allows for the service of women pastors will logically lead to the acceptance of the LGBT revolution. How can it not?
Individuals and congregations may refuse to take this next step, but they have surrendered the only binding argument that would offer an objective truth claim. Eventually, the revolutionaries will win, and they know it. Clearly, some appear unwilling to wait.
Finally, this is what happens when autonomy trumps biblical authority. The moral revolution was only possible because of a great and unsustainable shift to personal autonomy in the culture. The CBF was birthed in a rejection of stricter doctrinal requirements within the SBC, and one of their cherished principles was congregational autonomy at the expense of confessional unity.
Well, in response to the “Illumination Project” report, the married lesbian pastors of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., expressed their moral outrage that more conservative CBF churches and international partners were holding back the full acceptance of LGBT personnel.
In a pastoral letter they released, the pastors stated: “Autonomy of the local church is not some mucky individualism that means every church can think and oppress however it wants.”
Interestingly, the limits of autonomy as a central doctrine are becoming clear even to some in the CBF, and revealingly so.
The CBF assembly in Dallas this coming June will be an historic meeting, one way or the other.
For Southern Baptists and other evangelical Christians, the “Illumination Project” should serve as yet another reminder of what becomes inevitable once the full authority and truthfulness of the Bible are abandoned.
There is nothing to celebrate here . . . only sadness. This is an “Illumination Project” that truly illuminates, but in ways its authors surely never intended.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Albert Mohler is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. This article was originally published at AlbertMohler.com. Used by permission.)

2/20/2018 8:57:32 AM by Albert Mohler, Guest Column | with 0 comments

What does the Bible say about immigrants?

February 19 2018 by Miguel Echevarría, Guest Column

Immigration is one of the most polarizing topics in America. Our two major political parties habitually yell sensational slogans and exaggerated criticisms of one another.
To make matters worse, many news outlets have sworn allegiance to either a donkey or an elephant, and bend facts to suit their needs. The average American latches on to a news source, and drinks deeply from their wells of immigration rhetoric.
Unfortunately, many Christians are no different. Most of us think about immigration through the lens of our favorite news network. The Bible, however, has much to say about the topic, if we will look first to the scriptures.

Miguel Echevarría

The believer’s primary identity is not one of American or Republican or Democrat; it is one of immigrant. Throughout redemptive history, God’s people have been called immigrants, people sojourning to a place where Jesus will reign as king (Ezekiel 36-37; Isaiah 40-66; Revelation 20-22).
We have never been exhorted to identify with our present geographic or political boundaries. Instead, the Christian identifies with fellow citizens of the Kingdom of God. That means that we have more in common with a Mexican, Guatemalan or Iraqi Christian – regardless of legal status – than with our flag-waving American neighbor who has no regard for Jesus.
While this may sound odd to our ears, the Bible shows that God’s people have historically been called immigrants who are themselves to show compassion to the stranger. We see as early as Genesis, God makes a covenant with Abraham, promising that His descendants will inherit a land of peace and prosperity (Genesis 12, 15). Until then, they will be strangers, journeying to the Promised Land.
Along the way, Abraham’s descendants became slaves in Egypt – in other words, poorly treated immigrants (Exodus 1-14). After being delivered from bondage, the Israelites resumed their sojourn to the land. While in the wilderness, God gave His people the Law, which stipulates they are to treat foreigners with love and kindness, contrary to the way they were treated in Egypt (Exodus 22:21; Deuteronomy 23:7).
The Law extended to strangers the same social protections as native Israelites (Leviticus 19:34). They were entitled, for example, to fair treatment as laborers (Deuteronomy 24:14) and rest from work on Sabbath (Exodus 20:10).
Israel abused immigrants to a degree that prophets raged against their treatment of the vulnerable (Ezekiel 22:7-9; Malachi 3:5). Israel’s flagrant mistreatment of the foreigner was one of the primary reasons they were eventually sent into exile.
While Christians are not the nation of Israel, loving the immigrant is a principle that applies to all believers throughout history, for both the Old and New Covenants exhort love of neighbor (Leviticus 19; Matthew 22). In case you were wondering, an undocumented person is your neighbor.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) even shows that we are to love and care for the needs of those of different ethnicities, even groups against whom we have strong enmity. Thus, the Christian should show kindness to the immigrant, regardless if he or she is our adversary or of a different ethnic group.
Centuries after entering the land, God sent His people into exile (Kings-Chronicles). Once again, the Israelites became immigrants under the rule of foreign nations, such as Assyria and Babylon. While in exile, God’s people maintained hope that they would inherit the land, now expecting to inherit a reconstituted earth (Psalm 2; Ezekiel 36–37; Isaiah 65–66). The Old Testament ended with this very good expectation, anticipating the day when God’s people would no longer be immigrants.
The New Testament authors had this story in mind as they wrote their documents – a story that reached its climax in Jesus the Christ, who will deliver a community of immigrants (like you, me, Paul, Moses and Abraham) from exile and into a new earth.
Peter, for example, calls his readers “elect immigrants” (1 Peter 1:1) and “immigrants and sojourners” (2:11), terms often used to refer to someone who is living in a foreign land, either by force or by their own volition.
Peter uses such language to underscore that Christians are living as foreigners in the present world, awaiting entrance into the place where their citizenship truly lies (1 Peter 1:4; 2 Peter 3).
Thinking of Peter’s words in view of the biblical storyline, the hope of New Covenant believers is the same as that of faithful Jews under the Old Covenant. That is, we are strangers in the present cosmos awaiting the inheritance of a new creation (Isaiah 65–66; Romans 4, 8; Revelation 21–22). This is the story of God’s multiethnic people who will be saved through Messiah Jesus.
Allowing the Bible to shape our view of immigration should lead to the following conclusion:
We must accept our status as immigrants and love those who are yearning for a better home, regardless of their country of origin.
Our primary identity is not tied to our citizenship in America or membership in a political party; it is bound to our allegiance to a multiethnic Kingdom that has yet to be fully revealed, where an olive-skinned Jew, who was formerly an immigrant in Egypt (Matthew 2), will reign as king.
In His Kingdom, we will live with those who came to America as undocumented immigrants, seeking refuge from wars or searching for a better life, finally finding rest in the arms of Jesus.
Should we not, then, embrace the stranger, knowing that he may be a fellow Christian sojourning to the same eternal destination? Should we not be kind to the immigrant, knowing that he may need to hear the words of eternal life?
Would not such actions speak prophetically amid a political climate that is more concerned with demonization than salvation, more concerned with building a wall than extending the right hand of fellowship, more concerned with winning an election than gaining an unfading crown of glory?
I heartily believe so.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Miguel Echevarría is assistant professor of New Testament and director of Hispanic Leadership Development at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. This article is adapted from a chapter in the forthcoming book, Islam in America, edited by Keith Whitfield and Micah Fries. Used by permission.)

2/19/2018 3:17:29 PM by Miguel Echevarría, Guest Column | with 2 comments

Not just a ring – a choice for the King

February 16 2018 by Peter J. Link Jr.

Apart from the decision to surrender one’s life to Christ, few earthly choices define a person’s relationship with God as greatly as selecting a spouse. Marriage joins two persons into genuine unity and diversity, man and woman.
We must not, if we are to be faithful to God, follow the blind passion of a moment or the tide of our generation’s muddied thinking into choosing a spouse, because in marriage we make more than a bed. We make an outpost of God’s Kingdom – a prophetic picture of heaven on earth. Fallen yet redeemed sinners become one with each other because they both have a real union with God and accept a calling to uniquely and sacrificially express their love for God in caring for each other.

Peter J. Link Jr.

In biblical marriage, therefore, our deepening affection for God should always manifest itself in an expanding love for our spouse. We should sacrificially be and do that which is good in God’s eyes.
A biblical marriage in Christ within the context of a local church should serve as a place in which God lives and breathes His life into a couple, which reminds us of the resurrection as it propels gospel proclamation by word and deed.
Through this union, God in Christ encounters the world’s groaning for the way things ought to be. Marriage is, ultimately, a place of waiting for the new heavens and the new earth as two redeemed sinners remind each other and those to whom they draw near of the true hero: Christ crucified. Far too often, though, the droughts and loneliness of this world can invade a marriage. The hero is replaced or shoved to the side by the busyness and pressure of the day.
We must connect, therefore, the passion in Christian marriage to a growing affection for God, because the chief end of Christian marriage is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever – a purpose in marriage that stretches our affections beyond its natural limits.
Just as the man is not the hero, nor his wife, marriage is not the hero. Christian marriage covers and fills the highs and lows of life lived together with the grand story of the scriptures, because God slowly and silently reclaims the most common parts of human life as the gospel permeates a marriage.
Our marriages in this world, therefore, must be anticipatory echoes of who we are in Christ. The gospel makes the common clean, and the marriage conveys such within itself and far beyond it. The bride and groom, both seated in the heavenlies – and in any place on earth – can walk hand-in-hand down the aisle, to their first home, to the soccer fields and to the emergency room with a redeeming taste of heaven in each step.
Because the implications of marriage stretch far beyond the two individuals who commit to each other, the wisdom to marry or to advise others to marry must be driven by how we understand marriage’s purpose. That is, the believer’s choice to marry or not marry must be weighed by the Great Commission and the Great Commandments, like all other decisions.
Does the couple understand that they are to make disciples by expressing a genuine love for God and others? Are they already doing such now? Do they currently encourage each other to love Jesus more, or do they hinder each other’s walk?
Questions such as these are the real standards. If we choose a spouse with such ends in mind, with such pressures faced and with such hope explained, then we bind the young lady’s wedding ring and the young man’s man band to their common eschatological hope. We invite the choice of a spouse to be connected to the repentance that led us to choose Christ and to keep choosing Him. The initial “I do,” therefore, grows into a reforming refrain: “I am still doing and will keep doing.”
What God has started, He will complete. His salvation enables the choice to marry, and the everyday choices in marriage, that He might bring life until “death do us part.” In marriage, we choose far more than a ring; we declare our King.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Peter J. Link Jr. is chair and assistant professor of Christian studies for Charleston Southern University’s school of Christian studies. This column first appeared in the Baptist Courier, baptistcourier.com, news journal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.)

2/16/2018 9:38:07 AM by Peter J. Link Jr. | with 0 comments

Virtues make the best Valentines

February 14 2018 by David H. McKinley, Baptist Press

Valentine’s Day is here and the scramble is on for flowers, gifts, cards and of course, chocolates. Charles Shultz once said, “All you need is love, but a little chocolate now and then never hurts.” Can I get an Amen?
When it comes to love, courtship and romance, everyone searches for the right assortment of ways to express value and affection. Yet I would propose that the best assortment is not found in a box of chocolates (Forrest Gump: “You never know what you’re gonna get”), but in an array of “fruit” that adds value and beauty to all who share.

David H. McKinley

The fruit to which I am referring is a fresh and familiar assortment of virtues produced by the Holy Spirit in our lives as believers: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
These virtues offer enduring beauty in a world where vices have marred trust and have fueled injury and fear in relationships.
In recent days, social networks and mainstream news have featured scandalous accusations and sensational revelations concerning a growing list of popular, powerful and prosperous men who are now identified by their vices and abuses toward women. Many of these men have suddenly and catastrophically lost their livelihoods, their families and will forever bear a brand they had not previously displayed or owned.
With this in mind, I have been reflecting on my own attitudes and praying for ways to challenge the men in my church to raise a new standard of virtue in their hearts and homes with regard to all women, but especially their wives. The word I put before them and want to share with you is a word, a virtue, now lost in a culture consumed with rights and void of responsibility. It is the word, respect. I believe most of our mates would affirm and agree respect is better than roses.
Respect is choosing to take responsibility for the attitudes and actions toward others. Respect is foundational in our relationship with God – “The fear of the LORD” (Proverbs 1:7) – and our relationships with others. Respect is at the core of what makes society, community and family work.
How do we choose respect and express respect in our homes? May I offer an assortment of applications for you to read and share?
Live with her according to knowledge. In 1 Peter, husbands are instructed to show great honor and care for their wives based on what they know about them, not what they know about themselves. I am amazed how many men know more about cars, guns, games and teams than they do about their wives. When you value something (respect someone), you know what to do to promote and protect them.
Look at her. Eye contact is a means of showing honor and respect. You know this with your kids, but what about showing this to your wife? She needs to be reminded you only have eyes for her.
Listen to her. If you are like me, I am prone to jump to conclusions in finishing her sentences, to offer an opinion before I have heard her line of thought or offer a solution. What your wife really needs is an open heart and a listening ear.
Lift her up in prayer and before others. Thank God for your wife and pray for her needs. Thank your wife in front of others and let them hear you echo her value to you and your home. Public cynicism and criticism are detrimental to any relationship. What you appreciate, appreciates.
Learn to love what she loves. Guys, we fake it when we are dating and prove it when we are married, don’t we? Don’t bait and switch. Find ways to do what she likes and learn to love what she loves. This will radiate respect.
Limit your schedule to include her. Nothing says, “I value and respect you,” more than making appointments to spend time together. Time is love and love takes time.
Lean on her counsel. This is often difficult for men, yet it is the primary way to express respect through trust. If you are a pastor like me, you feel respected when people heed your counsel, and feel disrespected when they ignore you. The same is true at home.
Lend a hand to help her. When you help your wife with tasks, chores and responsibilities, you are saying, “Who you are and what you do matters to me!”
Respect. Aretha Franklin sang about it (R-E-S-P-E-C-T) and we need a new generation of men to hear it, honor it and heed it.
Respect is better than roses, but don’t forget the roses.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David H. McKinley is pastor-teacher of Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga., and the author of two books, The Life You Were Born to Give and The Search for Satisfaction.)

2/14/2018 9:24:06 AM by David H. McKinley, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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