January 2010

Being a pro-life church

January 17 2010 by Karen Cole, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Is your church pro-life? As a body, are you encouraging each other not only to think in a pro-life way but also to act in a pro-life way?

Undeniably, Christians have been the backbone of the pro-life movement since its inception. If more churches would harness their membership and organizational power on behalf of pro-life causes, however, perhaps the tide could be turned in America and we would once again live in a society that values every human life.

Let’s think about some practical ways your church members can be pro-life.
  • Teach your children
“Impress these words of Mine on your hearts and souls ... teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19).

Explain to your children from an early age why human life is sacred. Impress upon them that humans are made in the image of God, who loves and has a purpose for every person. In age-appropriate ways, prepare them to defend the pro-life ethic.
  • Pray for a pro-life ministry
“In everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).

The pro-life ministries in your area covet your prayers! Pregnancy care centers, Baptist children’s homes, Christian nursing homes and adoption agencies are just a few of the pro-life ministries that depend on God’s grace and the prayers of His people. Most will joyfully provide you with a list of their prayer concerns.
  • Support a pregnancy care center
“Rescue those being taken off to death, and save those stumbling toward slaughter” (Proverbs 24:11).

Pregnancy care centers typically have a paid director and some paid staff, but they could not function without an army of volunteers. If your church members have skills such as nursing, sonography, counseling, fundraising, graphic design, etc., your local pregnancy care center probably needs their help.
  • Establish a mentoring organization
“Whoever welcomes one little child such as this in My name welcomes Me. And whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me, but Him who sent Me” (Mark 9:37).

The National Fatherhood Initiative reported that 23.3 percent of children lived in single-mother families in 2006. Many single parents are eager to find Christian role models for their children. In the past, parents looked to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America; that organization now requires that every local affiliate accept homosexuals as mentors. You could establish a Christian mentoring organization within your congregation, being diligent to implement measures to protect the children from abuse.
  • Provide relief for stressed caregivers
“Blessed are the merciful, because they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7).

Parents of special needs children and adult caregivers of the elderly or disabled live in stressful environments. For some, everyday errands must be scheduled when a relief caregiver is available, and the opportunity to attend church is priceless. Perhaps Sunday School classes or other small groups could share this responsibility. Some churches have had success with a regularly scheduled monthly night of care and activities for special needs children and adults, allowing a few hours away for their regular caregivers.
  • Support foster and adoptive families
“Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27).

Children across the United States and around the world are in need of families to be a part of for a short while or a lifetime. Evangelical Christian social workers have long lamented the lack of Christian foster and adoptive families, people willing to share their homes, their hearts and their love for Christ with vulnerable children. People in your church can form a loose fellowship or an organized group to promote awareness of the needs and support the families who make these children a part of their lives.
  • Remember senior adults
“You are to rise in the presence of the elderly and honor the old” (Leviticus 19:32).

The aging Baby Boomer generation coupled with advances in health care have produced a growing senior population. Ministry to the senior adults in your area will be a blessing to all involved. Make an effort to connect the younger families in your church with the senior adults. Encourage them to keep in touch, help with household tasks and errands, and share special days together.
  • Volunteer with a hospice
“Carry one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).

Many people find great fulfillment in giving their time to help improve the lives of those who are terminally ill. Volunteers can provide companionship, do light housekeeping or use their skills and talents to improve the quality of life for both patients and their families.
  • Express your opinion
“You are the light of the world ... let your light shine before men” (Matthew 5:14,16).

Issues regarding the sanctity of human life are constantly being debated in the media and in local, state and federal government. These issues include abortion, genetic engineering, stem cell research, reproductive technology, sexuality education, marriage, child welfare, euthanasia and assisted suicide, insurance regulations, etc. Keep your congregation informed of these issues and provide contact information for your state and federal legislators, government agencies and the media. The statement “All politics is local” is true because people in politics usually are very sensitive to the people who voted them into office. School boards have changed their policies on abstinence education because one citizen took a stand, and legislators have been known to vote a particular way on an issue because of just a handful of correspondence.
  • Give to the Psalm 139 Project
“For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13).

The Psalm 139 Project gives women in crisis pregnancies a “window” into the world of the children they are carrying by helping pregnancy care centers secure sonogram machines. One hundred percent of the funds given to the Psalm 139 Project are used to purchase and place sonogram machines and for the ongoing work of the fund. The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission provides the administrative oversight as a part of its ongoing Cooperative Program-funded ministry. Your tax-deductible gifts can be sent to the “Psalm 139 Project,” c/o ERLC, 901 Commerce St., Suite 550, Nashville, TN 37203. An acknowledgment and proper accounting of your gift will be provided. Visit psalm139project.org (where you can give online through PayPal) or contact the ERLC (1-800-475-9127) for more information.
  • Celebrate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday
“A truthful witness rescues lives.” (Proverbs 14:25).

The Southern Baptist Convention observes Sanctity of Human Life Sunday on the third Sunday in January. This date was chosen to both mourn the children lost to abortion since the Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade in January 1973 and remind us that there is much work to be done before all human life will once again be cherished in America. Host a pro-life speaker on that Sunday and allow local pro-life organizations to promote their work. A free bulletin insert can be downloaded at www.ilivevalues.com/life and other materials may be purchased at www.familybookstore.net.

“We just don’t have the influence we once did,” some pro-life Christians lament. How does God expect us to remedy that situation? The answer is simple: Go to work for Him. Whether you are a caregiver, mentor, prayer warrior or parent with enough love for just one more, He is calling you to stand up for Him. “Here I am” are words He is longing to hear.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Cole is an editor at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Sunday, Jan. 17, is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention.)

Related stories
Centers offer hope to expectant mothers, families
OPINION: The abortion tragedy, in perspective
NAMB video
Baptist State Convention of North Carolina video
1/17/2010 8:35:00 AM by Karen Cole, Baptist Press | with 3 comments



FIRST-PERSON: Back to Sunday School basics

January 15 2010 by David Francis

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--During the last decade or so there has been a lot of experimentation with Bible study ministries in churches. Some have changed the named from Sunday School to Bible fellowships, Life Groups or just Bible study in hopes of seeming more relevant to newcomers.


Others have tried larger groups for children as well as adults, striving to create more enthusiasm -- and deal with a shortage of committed leaders. A few have just given up on an on-campus Bible study ministry, launching small, off-campus groups instead.


For most, these experiments have produced only modest or short-term results. Many are now asking a "new" question: "What if we just tried to do really excellent basic Sunday School work?"


It's a good question, but first you need to know those basics. Here are a few:


-- Five step formula. Arthur Flake's "Formula for Sunday School Growth" still works today. A simple acrostic can help you remember it: "KEEP Go." Know the possibilities. Enlarge the organization. Enlist and train the leaders. Provide space and resources. Go after the people. For more information, check out a free download of "The Five Step Formula for Sunday School Growth." Visit LifeWay.com and type "Five step formula" in the search box.


-- Four critical elements. There are a lot of different elements in a vibrant Sunday School ministry. At least four are critical to success.


1. The ministry list, or class roll, includes the names of all members -- active or inactive -- and the class commits to minister to each person on that roll.


2. The prospect list, which includes the names and contact information for every prospective member. Remember that it is crucial to collect that information from every guest.


3. Open enrollment allows any person of any age to enroll as a member of Sunday School without regard to the requirements of church membership. Remember to invite prospects to enroll.


4. Sunday School is an open group, which means that a new person can come at any time and every lesson will be completed during the Bible study session even though it may be part of a larger unit of study.


-- Three dimensions. Every successful Sunday School class operates simultaneously around three dimensions. The classic terms to describe these dimensions are Reach, Teach and Minister. More contemporary words with the same idea are Invite, Discover and Connect.


Effective classes balance these three dimensions and typically have at least three leaders, one of whom takes the lead on each dimension. A ministry book, "The 3D Sunday School," is available for download at LifeWay.com/sskickoff.


-- Two marks. Release and Reproduce are the two marks of every outstanding adult Sunday School class. Such classes release members to serve in the preschool, children and student areas of the church's Sunday School program. These adult classes keep up with their associate members serving in other areas of the program and celebrate their service.


Excellent adult classes also plan to reproduce themselves. They enlist and train apprentice leaders in each of the three dimensions with the expectation that the class will eventually become two.


-- One textbook. The Bible is the textbook of a Sunday School class. Bible study is the most basic of all the basics of Sunday School. Curriculum materials that engage people in discovering the truths of God's Word are important, but they should never be viewed as a substitute for the Bible.


Leader guides provide commentary, teaching plans and application ideas. Learner guides help members prepare for the Bible study session and make excellent resources for outreach to prospective members. Just remember, we don't study "quarterlies" in Sunday School; we study the Bible.


Blessings as you get back to the basics.


David Francis is director of Sunday School at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

 

1/15/2010 3:52:00 AM by David Francis | with 0 comments



Responding to abortion in the current culture

January 15 2010 by Traci DeVette Griggs, BSCNC Communications

CARY (BSCNC Communications) - I drive by an abortion clinic many days. It’s near my home and just around the corner from where my children went to high school. The parking lot is always full, except on Sundays when it’s closed. For some months after the facility opened, I would see a group of people, led by a Catholic priest, praying quietly on the sidewalk in front of the clinic.

Over the years, we’ve all watched as those opposed to abortion have grappled with the appropriate response to it.  We are, after all, Christians attempting to emulate the life of Jesus before a watching world. We work to balance His attributes of grace and truth (John 1:14) especially on this issue.  We know the answer lies somewhere between the bombers/snipers (which we vehemently condemn) and the apathetic. We also recognize that there are those sitting in our churches who have experienced abortion and we’re conscious of the pain that condemning abortion could inflict.

However, as we recognize the 36th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which legalized abortion in every state across the nation, Christians fight a malaise that has settled over the issue. Unless we go to Web sites that show graphic pictures of aborted babies or drive by an abortion clinic every day, the issue fades into the background for many of us.

Meanwhile, the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, has crafted a public image that appeals to the masses and certainly to our lawmakers.  American taxpayers support Planned Parenthood to the tune of  $349 million a year (2007-2008 Planned Parenthood Annual Report), freeing up the organization to fiercely advocate legalization of abortion around the world and to fight any efforts by states to restrict it.

It goes without saying that abortion is an emotionally charged issue that has become hot politically. Perhaps for that reason, some Christians shy away from dealing with it. “Let’s concentrate on what we’re for and not what we’re against,” was the recent comment from one pastor. The 2010 Explore the Bible Adult Learner Guide from LifeWay has a lesson for January 17 entitled, “Sanctity of Human Life.”  Its suggestions for supporting Sanctity of Life include concern for children with special needs, concern for sick and dying people, and concern for parents and children. These are important matters, but does such a lesson address the core concern?  Does it challenge people to grapple with the question of how Christians should be thinking about and responding to abortion?

We are 36 years beyond the passage of Roe v. Wade. Nearly two generations have grown up with legalized abortion as status quo.  If the Senate version of the Health Reform bill passes, we will see a surge in taxpayer funded abortions in this country. (Current federal law prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions except in the case of rape, incest, or if the mother’s life is in danger.) And yet, some of us choose to give only passing notice to the estimated 1.2 million abortions performed each year in local communities all around our country.

How then should we respond? I think we would all agree that a biblical issue is a biblical issue, even when it turns political. We are not relieved of our responsibility to respond simply because the issue is incendiary. But how to do it?  

John Piper, pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in a sermon delivered on 2009 Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, chooses a hard line. He chastises those who say abortion is an issue of reproductive freedom for women. “You are not protecting reproductive freedom, you are authorizing the destruction of freedom for one million little human beings every year…. Killing our children is killing our children no matter how many times you say it is a private family matter.”  However, Piper then goes on to examine biblical references that shed light on God’s view of the unborn and marvels at the “wonder in the womb.”

Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in a blog post from August 21, 2009, points out how thinking people of all backgrounds are beginning to peer beyond the rhetoric of pro-choice advocates to see abortion for what it really is.  This truth is being revealed in many ways, including the increased use of ultrasounds in pregnancy resource centers and mainstream movies such as Bella and Juno. Mohler writes, “The evil of abortion cannot be hidden…the voice of life cannot be forgotten.”  

However, for those of us not endowed with a pulpit from which to exposit, here are some practical suggestions:

*       Write. Write letters and/or e-mails to your lawmakers when issues come up pertaining to abortion.  Nearly every year, legislation is considered which would restrict abortion in our state and nation.  Don’t underestimate how much effect a short note to your representative can have.

*       Advocate. Ask your pastor what your church will do to commemorate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday each year.  Have some suggestions ready including video resources or speakers that can provide a testimonial.

*       Volunteer. Pregnancy Resource Centers and Maternity Homes offer alternatives to abortion and are found in almost every community. Most are run by professional staff but volunteers are the lifeblood. They can use help with counseling, fundraising, event planning, marketing, etc.

*       Get involved in sex education curriculum selection. There is an immediate need for parents to get involved in sex education curriculum selection in their local school systems. The sex education law in North Carolina has changed, opening the door to teaching a pro-abortion philosophy in our public schools. Contact me (tgriggs@ncbaptist.org) for more information.

Sanctity of Human Life Sunday is recognized each year near the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. This year, Southern Baptists are marking Sunday, January 17 but many national organizations are observing January 24.  The date is not important, but it is important to take some time to recognize the horror of abortion, to recommit to pray for laws that will reduce abortions, to pray for people who are considering abortion, and to commit to some form of action. The suggestions above are a good place to start.  


A Sanctity of Human Life video from the BSCNC is available here for you to download and use in your church service if you would like.

Traci Griggs is the Liaison to the Christian Life and Public Affairs Committee of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

 

1/15/2010 3:27:00 AM by Traci DeVette Griggs, BSCNC Communications | with 3 comments



First Person: Take Sunday School back to basics

January 14 2010 by David Francis, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- During the last decade or so there has been a lot of experimentation with Bible study ministries in churches. Some have changed the named from Sunday School to Bible fellowships, Life Groups or just Bible study in hopes of seeming more relevant to newcomers.


Others have tried larger groups for children as well as adults, striving to create more enthusiasm -- and deal with a shortage of committed leaders. A few have just given up on an on-campus Bible study ministry, launching small, off-campus groups instead.


For most, these experiments have produced only modest or short-term results. Many are now asking a "new" question: "What if we just tried to do really excellent basic Sunday School work?"


It's a good question, but first you need to know those basics. Here are a few:

                
    -- Five step formula. Arthur Flake's "Formula for Sunday School Growth" still works today. A simple acrostic can help you remember it: "KEEP Go." Know the possibilities. Enlarge the organization. Enlist and train the leaders. Provide space and resources. Go after the people. For more information, check out a free download of "The Five Step Formula for Sunday School Growth." Visit LifeWay.com and type "Five step formula" in the search box.

               
    -- Four critical elements. There are a lot of different elements in a vibrant Sunday School ministry. At least four are critical to success.

                1. The ministry list, or class roll, includes the names of all members -- active or inactive -- and the class commits to minister to each person on that roll.

                2. The prospect list, which includes the names and contact information for every prospective member. Remember that it is crucial to collect that information from every guest.

                3. Open enrollment allows any person of any age to enroll as a member of Sunday School without regard to the requirements of church membership. Remember to invite prospects to enroll.

                4. Sunday School is an open group, which means that a new person can come at any time and every lesson will be completed during the Bible study session even though it may be part of a larger unit of study.


    -- Three dimensions. Every successful Sunday School class operates simultaneously around three dimensions. The classic terms to describe these dimensions are Reach, Teach and Minister. More contemporary words with the same idea are Invite, Discover and Connect.

               
Effective classes balance these three dimensions and typically have at least three leaders, one of whom takes the lead on each dimension. A ministry book, "The 3D Sunday School," is available here.

               
-- Two marks. Release and Reproduce are the two marks of every outstanding adult Sunday School class. Such classes release members to serve in the preschool, children and student areas of the church's Sunday School program. These adult classes keep up with their associate members serving in other areas of the program and celebrate their service.


Excellent adult classes also plan to reproduce themselves. They enlist and train apprentice leaders in each of the three dimensions with the expectation that the class will eventually become two.


-- One textbook. The Bible is the textbook of a Sunday School class. Bible study is the most basic of all the basics of Sunday School. Curriculum materials that engage people in discovering the truths of God's Word are important, but they should never be viewed as a substitute for the Bible.


Leader guides provide commentary, teaching plans and application ideas. Learner guides help members prepare for the Bible study session and make excellent resources for outreach to prospective members. Just remember, we don't study "quarterlies" in Sunday School; we study the Bible.


Blessings as you get back to the basics.

 

David Francis is director of Sunday School at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

 

 

1/14/2010 2:59:00 AM by David Francis, Baptist Press | with 0 comments