January 2015

John R. Sampey & Christ-centered Bible study

January 29 2015 by Trevin Wax, Baptist Press

I confess to being a bit of a Baptist history nerd. In my office are pictures of two Southern Baptist heroes – John A. Broadus and E.Y. Mullins. I admire Broadus for his example of Christ-centered preaching and Mullins for his denominational statesmanship and advocacy of religious liberty in Romania, where I was involved in missions for several years.
I may soon be placing another picture on my desk, that of John R. Sampey (1863-1946).
The past few weeks, I’ve been reading a print-on-demand copy of his memoirs, written in the twilight of his long life after having served as a professor of Old Testament for nearly 60 years, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary during the worst of the Great Depression (1929-42) and president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1936-38.
Sampey’s autobiography is full of activity that displays his passion for evangelism, scholarship and missionary work, particularly in Brazil. But what strikes me about his memoirs is how often he talks about the church’s ongoing discipleship ministry, particularly through Sunday School.
Sampey was a brilliant Old Testament theologian, but he didn’t simply busy himself with discussions and debates in the ivory towers of academia. In his book, we find him traveling frequently to Nashville to meet with workers at the Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources). We see him serving on the International Sunday School Lesson Committee, recommending study plans and Bible passages. This was a scholar who knew the conversations in Sunday School every week are just as formative and important as the debates in academic halls or the sermons from a pastor’s pulpit.
In 1914, some were complaining that the lessons lacked a “redemptive” focus. So, Sampey recommended a study plan for taking participants through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. They formed a six-year plan through the Bible, followed by a briefer overview of both Testaments in two years. World War I put the plans on hold, but Sampey wouldn’t be deterred. The new plan launched in 1918.
Looking back over his decades of service to Sunday School planning, Sampey reflected on the trends and changes in developing and using curriculum. But through it all, there was one principle that guided him – he wanted people to see how the whole Bible points to Christ.
Sampey wrote: “When the advocates insisted that the lessons be pupil-centered, I countered by insisting that the lessons should be Christ-centered. I sought to make Jesus Christ the center of each cycle.... For 46 years I sought to exalt the redemptive element of the Bible. And how many noble men of the Lesson Committee joined me putting Christ Jesus and His salvation in the center of our lesson system!”
Christ Jesus and His salvation at the center! That should be the heart’s cry of every teacher, small group leader and facilitator who opens God’s Word to communicate God’s truth.
Even today, 100 years later, we are told we should be “pupil-centered” if we are to reach people in our congregations. But “Me-centeredness” isn’t a solution; it’s part of the problem. The way we realize the world doesn’t revolve around us is by seeing how it revolves around Jesus – the One from whom, and to whom, and for whom are all things.
Every generation needs to be reminded of redemption. John Sampey was ringing this bell a century ago. W.A. Criswell preached the “Scarlet Thread” through the scriptures a generation later. And today, LifeWay continues this mission of showing how, in the words of the Baptist Faith and Message, “all scripture is a testimony to Jesus Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.”
As managing editor of The Gospel Project, I have the privilege of working with a team who wants to make sure Christ is at the center of every study cycle and every session. As we get ready to embark on a three-year journey through the Bible’s story of redemption, I can’t help but feel a sense of a gratitude for men like John R. Sampey and their vision of Christ-centered Bible study.
After all, we never stop needing to be reminded and refreshed of the redemption God has given us in His Son. May the Spirit of God empower us to spread the news of His great salvation to all people everywhere.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project, which begins a chronological scope and sequence in Fall 2015. To see a preview, visit gospelproject.com/2015.)

1/29/2015 11:00:56 AM by Trevin Wax, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

The rough edges of globalization

January 28 2015 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

Hannan* is hanging on, unsure what tomorrow will bring.
A doctoral student from the Middle East, she studies at a university in a major European city. Her potential is unlimited, but her resources are razor-thin. She and her husband, also a student, had lived off a tiny stipend from their home country’s government. But now with political unrest there, no money has arrived for months.
Hannan’s husband is completing his degree but has no immediate prospect of a job – either back home where things are falling apart or in Europe. The couple are using up what they managed to save last year.
A local church has befriended the Muslim couple, making sure they have enough food during the lean months. Moved by the love of Christians, Hannan and her husband have begun comparing the teachings of Jesus with their own beliefs. Their church friends hope they will accept a New Testament to learn more about the gospel.
There are millions of Hannans out there. They live on the periphery of a better life, but it often lies just out of reach. They are students, immigrants and their children, refugees, migrant and contract workers. They’re looking for prosperity or at least basic economic security. They’re also looking for purpose and hope. But unlike Hannan, most of them have no one to tell them about Jesus, even if they currently live in free societies.
To echo a common phrase among economic and sociopolitical analysts, they live on the “rough edges of globalization.”
More than 200 million people are part of this global migration, John Brady, International Mission Board vice president for global strategy, reports. Some of them quickly find opportunities in the places they come to.
But many “are being left behind,” Brady says. “When I look at the unevenness of the benefits of globalization, I see a lot of the rough edges. And sometimes those rough edges are in pockets that are just a few feet away from the very smooth edges. We’ve got to find ways to get into those pockets just outside the wealthy core of the industrial world and the information world.”
These migrating millions want decent jobs. “But particularly in the populations that have vast numbers of young people, we see not only underemployment but just the sheer inability to be employed, so there’s a wasting away of human potential,” Brady explains. “They don’t have jobs; they don’t have hope; they don’t have education. They feel useless.”
Left on the edge of prosperity looking in, some turn to crime. Others turn to extremism if they fall under the influence of militant ideologies. Most struggle quietly with hopelessness and despair. That’s true for people who live close to opportunity but can’t quite grasp it – and for the masses who still live far from it.
“Pressure is building in many places over the world where there’s just this booming number of young people, and we’ve got to find a way to get to them with the gospel,” Brady stresses. “It’s not easy, but it’s essential. Utopia is not going to just appear out of the economic progress of the world. It’s not going to be an economic solution, though economics is important. It’s not going to be a political solution, though politics is important. It is going to be a Kingdom of God solution.”
The practical ways to apply God’s solution globally are countless. But they always involve people reaching across barriers and differences in the love of Christ to make disciples.
“I see the nations, and I see His love for them,” Brady says. “I see His desire for those people in the highways and the byways and the hedgerows, all those people who are hidden away – the neglected, the least of these, the ones who are the most unlikely folks.
“He wants us to be obedient in passing what we’ve got to someone else,” Brady says. “When the blessing goes to that person and through that person to the next person, it becomes unstoppable.”
*Name changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is IMB global correspondent.)

1/28/2015 10:54:10 AM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pro-lifers, walk & don’t grow weary

January 23 2015 by Gary Ledbetter, Baptist Press

It’s been a lifetime, the better part of 40 years, since I heard Francis Schaeffer and C. Everett Koop explain the horrors wrought on unborn children by our culture’s sexual revolution.

I’d never heard any of this in church or in ethics classes, nor had I noticed it in the news – at least not in these terms at the Tarrant County Convention Center here in Texas. It is to our shame that it took years after Roe v. Wade for evangelicals, particularly Southern Baptists, to realize what we’d allowed to happen.

Since those days, millionaire abortionists have risen and declined. Even many of the unsaved now see abortion at any stage and for any reason as monstrous. It is a right that many defend but in which only the shameless glory. Yes, there are shameless people, and many of them are politicians, but abortion clinics are closing.

In my adult life, the “women’s health issue” has been put to shame by quiet, praying volunteers at pregnancy resource centers around the country. Without public money and a decent return on investment, abortion clinics close. Without public money and any return on financial investments, pregnancy resource clinics expand and multiply.

The legal landscape has to some degree reflected growing public distaste for the extremes of the abortion lobby. The activists and profiteers know that any limitation, even on the killing of fully formed and viable children in the wombs of girls too young to legally drive a car, undermines the mythology they preach. Average citizens, and many state lawmakers, are not deeply concerned about the financial consequences that reasonable regulation might have on the fortunes of ghouls.

But Roe v. Wade still stands. And public opinion is more quickly changed than legal precedent.

Young women still have what were formerly called “problem pregnancies” and lack adequate family or community support. That won’t end. The drift of fallen humanity will always be away from righteous sexual behavior and personal responsibility.

Our families and our churches will still need to support pregnancy centers, then. These outposts provide food, diapers, furniture, counseling and nurture to tens of thousands of young women (and their guys) each year. Thousands will confess Christ as Lord each year as a result of the ministry and witness these centers provide.

If Roe v. Wade was overturned tomorrow, we’d still need these ministries. The government will not fund them because they are too controversial. Those with a profit motive will never help them because they are the purest benevolence. This must continue to be one of those things we’d never do for money but will do for love.

Frustrating as it can be, we must continue to advocate for laws that protect life. There will always be challenges to existing regulations by many with venal motives and some with a misbegotten but sincere desire to help women. Technology will move so that existing laws don’t address the things we can someday do. For example, the amazing progress of medical arts to keep ever-younger babies alive outside the womb has impacted the pro-life movement in the past 20 years. The movement for embryo-destructive stem cell research is another thing that we wouldn’t have predicted when the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down.

Additionally, the strange “we favor the right to abort, but we also love babies” mentality of American society will always leave bizarre contradictions in the law. When a person kills a pregnant woman, how many “people” has he caused to die? Roe v. Wade will not allow us to treat the unborn child as a person with rights separate from his mother, but it seems to allow us to protect him from nearly every other person. We who believe in God, the giver of life, must be on hand to help tip the scales toward the value of every human life as lawmakers try to unsnarl knotted legal problems we’ve created.

Always, we have a prophetic role to a nation too often mindless of revealed truth. For the sake of the unborn innocent and for the sake of a guilty nation racking up ever more guilt by what we allow, approve and even bless, we must be light bearers in our communities. There are many ways we can do that but really no way we can justify ignoring the worst thing our generation has done.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gary Ledbetter is editor in chief of the Southern Baptist TEXAN (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

1/23/2015 11:04:52 AM by Gary Ledbetter, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Atlanta is burning: A new threat to religious liberty

January 21 2015 by R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Kelly Shackelford, Religion News Service

One day Atlanta has a fire chief; the next day it doesn’t. Once again, a moral scandal takes down a public official.
What was the scandal involving Chief Kelvin Cochran? He holds to views that Mayor Kasim Reed, among others, find out of bounds.
The facts in the case are now clear: Reed fired Cochran for what the mayor called “bad judgment” in writing a book in which Cochran asserted the sinfulness of homosexuality, and then sharing a copy of the book with three city employees.
The former chief is not accused of discriminating against any employee or citizen. Some are now claiming that this fact shouldn’t even matter, and that merely believing what Cochran believes is enough to disqualify him – or anyone else – from public office.
This is the new demand of modernity: Surrender to the moral revolution or keep your mouth shut.
Believing what the Christian church has held for two millennia (and most Christians around the world still believe) is now a disqualification from public office. Cochran is a member of a Southern Baptist church, but the Roman Catholic Church also officially teaches that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered” and sinful. Does this mean that no Southern Baptists and no Roman Catholics who hold to the official teaching of their churches can now serve as Atlanta’s fire chief?
A new illiberal spirit threatens our most basic liberties, reducing the First Amendment’s protection of free religious exercise to the confines of our homes and our churches, or our minds. If you vocalize your religious beliefs in public, as Chief Cochran did, you can soon be out of a job.
Mayor Reed explicitly cited the chief’s religious views when he said that Cochran’s views were “inconsistent with the administration’s work to make Atlanta a more welcoming city for all of her citizens – regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, race and religious beliefs.”
But not Chief Cochran’s religious beliefs, evidently.
Amazingly, Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan went even further: “I respect each individual’s right to have their own thoughts, beliefs and opinions, but when you’re a city employee and those thoughts, beliefs and opinions are different from the city’s, you have to check them at the door.”
The city of Atlanta now has an official theological position on the sinfulness of homosexuality? May God help us.
It is hard to imagine that Councilman Wan, or Mayor Reed for that matter, would make such statements in virtually any other context. A city leader cannot disagree with the “thoughts, beliefs and opinions” of the city of Atlanta? How can public officials make such statements with a straight face?
In 1981, Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger reminded the nation that “religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection.”
Yet now it seems that at least some major public officials are ready to redefine the First Amendment to exclude views they do not share or even reject. The First Amendment’s protections of speech and religious expression, however, were not designed to protect popular beliefs.
What comes next? Should we now expect this new illiberalism to subject citizens to interrogation on the basis of religious beliefs or church membership? Are agents of the city of Atlanta going to examine the religious beliefs of city employees as they arrive at work? Limiting religious beliefs to the confinements of heart, home and house of worship is tyranny masquerading as tolerance.
The First Amendment protects one’s religious belief – and also the speech that communicates such beliefs. Our world lacks diversity, not to mention courage and compassion, when freedom of speech is one-sided. Only when the freedom of speech is unfettered can we give voice to the causes that animate our souls. Because of free speech, we are able to understand our differences and, out of those differences, find unity – or, as the Founding Fathers put it: “E pluribus unum – out of many, one.” Unity is not uniformity.
Modern advocates of tolerance and the new erotic liberty may not find some religious beliefs to be “acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible,” but the First Amendment protects those beliefs nonetheless.
If one’s religious beliefs are to be punished with (among other things) loss of employment, we need not possess a vivid imagination to guess where such logic may lead. Why would the front lines of the battle over free speech and religious liberty stop at the door of one’s house of worship if they will not stop at the beliefs of an individual?
The First Amendment does protect religious beliefs – especially when one is at work or in the public square. The question is: Will we as a nation yield to this new and ominous attack on religious liberty, or will we mean what we say when we affirm the First Amendment?
This question reaches far beyond Chief Cochran and the city of Atlanta. The news out of Georgia is a signal to the entire nation that we are all in danger of losing our liberties – fast.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – R. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and Kelly Shackelford is president and CEO of Liberty Institute in Plano, Texas.)

1/21/2015 3:28:39 PM by R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Kelly Shackelford, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Call to Prayer: Promote, protect, support life

January 21 2015 by Roger S. Oldham, Baptist Press

(EDITOR’S NOTE – This column is part of the call to prayer issued by Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, to pray for revival and spiritual awakening for our churches, our nation and our world.)
From the earliest days of the so-called “culture war” between proponents of life and promoters of death, those who advocate for elective abortions have routinely accused those of us who value life of only caring for the infant in the womb. In fact, Baptists around the world have been caring for children of every age and in every generation. Southern Baptists are part of this caring tradition.
What follows is a “Top Ten” list of ways individual Southern Baptists invest themselves in life.
1) Beginning in 1973, and escalating since 1980, Southern Baptists have used the power of relentless influence to encourage elected officials to defend and promote life. The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) continues to take the initiative in keeping this topic ever before us; but the entity does not stand alone. Across the nation, millions of individual Baptists consistently vote their convictions and advocate for life in the congressional districts in which they live.
Let us pray our diligence will not flag.
2) Countless Southern Baptists in thousands of communities provide financial and volunteer support for pregnancy care centers. There is no way to quantify how many Southern Baptists serve as volunteers in these centers, but evidence points to a sizable army of men and women who give of their time, talents and financial resources each week to promote life.
Let us pray that their numbers will increase.
3) While the age of the orphanage has largely passed, many children are “orphans” by divorce, dysfunction or despair. Baptists continue to step forward to minister to children of every age through a network of homes for those who need a safe haven. These state-convention ministries offer residential care, promote adoption, and work to place children in loving foster-care environments.
Pray for house parents, adoptive parents and foster parents alike to provide Christian nurture to these at-risk children.
4) A throng of Southern Baptists – whose names will never be emblazoned on a marquee, but whose impact in individual lives is noted in heaven – have chosen helping careers as a vocation. They work in social services, children’s health and services organizations, juvenile justice, law enforcement, fire protection, emergency rescue, health care, independent and faith-based adoption agencies, and other areas.
Pray for these unsung heroes and look for ways to affirm them in their selfless service.
5) A multitude of Southern Baptists directly impact and influence children through public and private education in our nation’s schools. These educators radiate the joy of the Lord and the fruit of the Spirit daily in some of the most difficult surroundings imaginable. Given the strictures against actively testifying of the grace and goodness of our Lord Jesus Christ in public schools, these educators nevertheless daily demonstrate life-changing compassion and life-giving grace.
Pray for an educator by name today. If you have children in school, pray for your child’s teachers by name.
6) In addition, countless Southern Baptist churches provide education services for families, including affordable daycare, mothers’ day out, and Christian schools. Many of these church employees work at great financial sacrifice, performing daily acts of service as investments of love and worship, actively seeking to influence the next generation for Christ.
Remember them in prayer and give them a word of encouragement.
7) One of the greatest evangelistic tools ever promoted by Southern Baptists is Vacation Bible School. VBS could not exist were it not for the willing volunteers that prepare lessons, teach crafts, provide refreshments, drive buses and vans, ferry neighbor’s children, lead worship, and organize recreational activities. To look at a VBS volunteer is to see an individual who values the life of each child! Churches are already planning for this summer’s VBS.
Pray for volunteers and for a fruitful ministry of outreach and growth.
8) Nursery care in the church setting is perhaps the most unsung ministry the local church offers. What church would not come to a screeching halt if nursery volunteers rose up and said, “I will no longer serve”? A long-time pastor observed that many parents take advantage of the nursery service as an entitlement.
Pray for your faithful nursery workers who willingly give of themselves to watch over and care for children who are not their own; and that these workers’ numbers will increase!
9) It never ceases to amaze me how some homes are “kid magnets.” What a wonderful blessing to provide a stable home setting where your children’s friends want to congregate! Parents who intentionally create this kind of environment demonstrate the love of Christ and their desire to protect children throughout life.
Pray about ways your home can be a Kingdom hub for children in your community.
10) What church doesn’t have an active age-graded ministry of some kind? In the smaller church, youth and children’s ministries may overlap and be led by volunteers. In larger churches, directors with specialized training in preschool, childhood, middle and high school ministries provide oversight and guidance. But even in larger congregations, the ministries would end overnight if volunteers did not make serving kids a priority of their time and commitment.
Pray for these paid leaders and volunteer servants of the Lord.
The list could continue, but the point is made. Simply put, Southern Baptists are involved in the lives of children of all ages. Southern Baptists care about children – from the womb and beyond!
We rejoice over the strong and successful. We receive the fallen, seeking to restore them with gentleness and love. And we grieve over the molested and abused. In fact, the Southern Baptist Convention lists resources to help protect the innocent from sexual molestation and abuse (see http://www.sbc.net/churchresources/sexabuseprevention.asp).
As we approach the 42nd anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision, let us recommit ourselves to promote life; protect the innocent and unborn; provide ministries that give each child opportunities to see, hear and receive Christ; and pray, pray, pray.
The ethic of life is a lifetime commitment of pointing people to the One who said, I am come to give them life; and to give it more abundantly (John 10:10).
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roger S. “Sing” Oldham is vice president for convention communications and relations with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. This Call to Prayer is adapted from “Southern Baptists—Promoting, Protecting, and Providing for Life”, an article that first appeared in SBC LIFE, January 2009.)

1/21/2015 10:56:57 AM by Roger S. Oldham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

The ideal pastor’s wife

January 20 2015 by Diana Davis, Baptist Press

What does the ideal pastor’s wife look like?
Believe it or not, every pastor’s wife is one-of-a-kind. She’s definitely not a clone of your previous pastor’s wife, or any other pastor’s wife you know. God created her uniquely – her personality, giftedness, style, strengths and weaknesses.
Don’t fall for the rumor that there’s a cookie-cutter mold for the ideal pastor’s wife. I’ve known and observed hundreds of effective pastors’ wives, and can assure you that no two are alike!
I know awesome pastor’s wives who are tall, short, old, young, introverted and extroverted. She may wear a ponytail, pixie cut or dreadlocks. Some wear hats or have tattoos or pierced ears. There are pastor’s wives who run marathons, barrel race, coach, hunt, garden, golf and raise goats.
Some are factory workers, homemakers, teachers, doctors, antique dealers. They’re salespeople, office workers, home decorators, RN’s, CPAs, CEOs, and EMTs. Some have a GED; others a PhD. They’re coaches, entrepreneurs, mechanics and knitters. They’re on city councils, PTO boards, neighborhood watch teams and bowling leagues. They attend book clubs, yard sales, cattle auctions and college classes.
They live on farms or in condos, in mobile homes, parsonages and neighborhoods. They’re childless, parents, foster parents, adoptive parents, great-grandparents. They’re vegetarians, foodies, volunteers, drummers, soccer moms, readers, writers and artists. They’re biscuit burners and gourmet chefs. Some even play the piano.
Each has a distinct background and Christian testimony. Their individual ministries within God’s church vary enormously, from behind-the-scenes support to upfront leadership.
The list could go on, but you get the point. Each pastor’s wife is truly unique – like you! She loves her God and His church. In fact, she’s given her life to serving alongside your pastor. God has not called her to meet the expectations of church members, but to live for Him and serve Him exactly as He’s gifted and called her.
If you get right down to it, there are only two requirements for an ideal pastor’s wife. First, she’s a child of God – an imperfect sinner saved by His grace. Like you and me, her life is dedicated to the Savior. Second, she’s married to the pastor. She’s the only woman in the entire world who’s qualified to be that pastor’s wife.
How can you, personally, encourage your pastor’s wife? Try one of these ideas:

  • Notice how she encourages her husband in ministry. Compliment her privately.

  • Be her great cheerleader. Always have a good word to say about her.

  • Be aware that a great deal of her ministry work may be behind the scenes.

  • Show interest and encouragement in her outside-the-church involvements. Understand that God works through every area of her life.

  • Say “thank you” occasionally. She joyfully carries many extra responsibilities and burdens.

You can uplift your church and pastor’s ministry by loving and accepting his wife. Will you encourage your pastor’s wife today?
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Diana Davis, on the Web at www.dianadavis.org, is an author, columnist and ministry wife in Pensacola Fla.)

1/20/2015 9:58:55 AM by Diana Davis, Baptist Press | with 2 comments

A few thoughts on ‘Selma’

January 19 2015 by Walter Strickland, Between The Times

My nerves had already gotten the best of me before arriving at the box office. As I responded “Selma” to the question, “What movie would you like to see tonight?” my anxieties were piled high as I anticipated experiencing the struggle that affords me the opportunity to write this very review. In addition, as a Christ-follower, I wondered how Hollywood film writers would portray the role of Christianity in such an important historical epoch. As an African-American, I feared the exaggerated dramatization of black stereotypes. As an American, I hoped the Selma narrative would be carefully placed into the larger story of the 1960s. With every passing scene I was able to let my guard down and develop a new respect for the ongoing journey toward civil rights.
Selma is a reliable and compelling account of a three-month vignette of the larger civil rights movement. Since the basic framework of the historical account is depicted, I am not particularly interested in mulling over the amount of artistic license taken in the dialogues with Dr. Martin Luther King and President Lyndon B. Johnson, and between Coretta Scott King and Malcolm X, although it would be a fruitful study. My purpose is to draw our collective attention to the influence of the Christian faith in the Selma story, the “foot soldiers” of the movement, and the tensions between black civil rights organizations.

Christianity and the Movement

Selma wonderfully depicts the significance of the Christian faith among the participants of the movement. Secular historians and conservative Christians alike have a tendency to strip MLK and his followers of their Christian motivations and relegate them to being merely political figures. On the one hand, non-Christian historians tend to uphold King’s phenomenal humanitarian efforts as a sterling example of the power of the human spirit. On the other hand, conservative Christians discount the doctrinal fidelity of King’s faith because of its social and political orientation.


Walter Strickland


King once stated, “[In] the quiet recesses of my heart, I am fundamentally a clergyman, a Baptist preacher. This is my being and my heritage for I am also the son of a Baptist preacher, the grandson of a Baptist preacher and the great-grandson of a Baptist preacher” [1]. Selma masterfully captures King as a powerful orator whose powerful speeches were laced with biblical imagery and accented with a sermonic flair. King’s pastoral concern was exposed in an intimate encounter with Jimmy Lee Jackson’s grandfather as he reassured him that God grieved first when his grandson was murdered. In a vulnerable moment, King himself was shepherded by a dear friend, Ralph Abernathy, in a Selma jail cell.
The film demonstrated that King’s commitment to nonviolent methods was not a pragmatic application of a theory, but a commitment rooted in Christian love. Elsewhere, King declared, “Agape [love] is understanding, creative, redemptive good will for all men. Biblical theologians would say it is the love of God working in the minds of men. It is an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. And when you come to love on this level you begin to love men not because they are likable, not because they do things that attract us, but because God loves them and here we love the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed that the person does” [2].

The Foot Soldiers

Selma subtly, yet powerfully, captured the oft-unsung heroes of the civil rights movement, the foot soldiers. Foot soldiers were the students, homemakers, janitors and construction workers who faithfully marched and sat-in at the call of the celebrated leaders like MLK and Ralph Abernathy. Without the nameless masses that fought for justice, there would have been nobody for MLK to lead to the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and no large demonstrations of solidarity – including the march from Selma to Montgomery.
Selma began to give us a window into the untold number of personal sacrifices made for the sake of racial justice by common everyday folk. This is captured in Annie Lee Cooper’s tireless pursuit of the ballot box before the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) came to town, and the stream of tears cried by Jimmy Lee Jackson’s mother on a lonely porch after the crowds dispersed. The bodily injuries sustained by the marchers on Bloody Sunday and the death clergy who heeded Dr. King’s clarion call to converge on Selma. My own grandparents sacrificed deeply on a black teacher’s salary to make the trip from Chicago to Washington to March with Dr. King 1963.
The burden of the foot soldier is seen especially in Coretta Scott King. Although she admits in the film that she wishes to do more, the reality is that every area of her life, like so many others, was affected by the movement. Large portions of her married life from 1955 to 1968 were lived at a distance, she lived under the constant threat of violence to her family and the lingering cloud of death haunted her daily. The film made clear that the reality of oppression was a grueling act that never came to an end. It was their lives.

Division in the Ranks

Lastly, Selma also captured the reality that the black community did not unanimously accept MLK’s methods of nonviolence. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) began in 1960 as a student segment of the nonviolent movement under the encouragement and oversight of the SCLC. Whereas the SCLC was committed to nonviolence because of its theological convictions, it seems that SNCC espoused nonviolence because it was a proven political tactic. SNCC began to lose faith in nonviolent methods as they sustained more bruises, broken bones, attended a seemingly unending string memorial services and alternative voices like the more radical Malcolm X came onto the national scene.
By 1965, the year of the Selma campaign, SNCC was only a year away from appointing Black Power proponent Stokley Carmichael as chairman. Although SNCC was the only dissenting group depicted in Selma, other groups like the Congress on Racial Equality and the Nation of Islam grew weary of Dr. King’s belief in American ideals and his stalwart faith in the American people to do what is right.
In summary, Selma offers hope as we continue in the marathon for racial equality. The resources of the Christian faith are as available to us now as they were to those being attacked by dogs on Bloody Sunday. The film allows us to see how far we’ve come since 1965 and although progress may seem slow at times it is possible. Lastly, I’m encouraged by brave citizens “fighting” for their ideals. I walked into the theater nervous and I left nervous because like those in Selma, I need to be ready to stand for what I believe when the time comes, at great costs to myself and my family.
 [1] Martin Luther King, Jr., The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. Vol. 1. ed. Clayborne Carson, 1.
[2] Martin Luther King, Jr., “The Power of Nonviolence” in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., 13.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Walter Strickland is the special advisor to the president for diversity and instructor of theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. This article originally ran on Southeastern’s blog, Between The Times. Used with permission. Next week, Nathan Finn, associate professor of historical theology and Baptist studies, will share his thoughts in part 2.)

1/19/2015 11:29:33 AM by Walter Strickland, Between The Times | with 0 comments

A worldly view of Christians

January 16 2015 by Phil Boatwright, Baptist Press

I was at a screening for an upcoming movie not long ago when the film “The Last Temptation of Christ” came up in conversation between a group of us critics. As some of you may recall, that picture caused a stir among the Christian community in 1988 as some had heard it was a blasphemous rendition of the story of Christ.
One of my critic cronies mentioned that in 1988 he was on a city board that considered which films could play in Kansas City. He had received hate mail, even death threats, he said, for allowing the film to open. His comment to us: “That’s your good Christians for you.”
Before being allowed to react to the intolerant statement, the movie screening began. A mix of anger and sadness ran through me as I tried to concentrate on the screening.
Nowhere in the teachings of Jesus are we Christians allowed to show contempt for unbelievers. We were never instructed by our Savior to harm others. And in the past year, has this man not witnessed powerful examples of Christian doctors nearly dying while fending off a devastating disease in another land?
How sad that the road this guy travels on never led him to come across someone living for Jesus. As a movie critic, has he never been moved by true examples of Christian disciples in any number of films? Here are a few movies to consider:
Inn of the Sixth Happiness

The film contains one of the most moving conversions this reviewer has seen in the movies, as we witness change in a man’s life due to a courageous missionary. It reminds the Christian viewer that our lifestyle does greatly affect others.
Stars in My Crown
This is one of my favorite films, with Joel McCrea as a 1800s minister dealing with the problems of his church members. A gentle, episodic tale for the whole family, it is another fine film example of how our daily walk can eventually affect the lives of others.
Amish Grace
This film concerns an Amish woman dealing with the loss of her child after a crazed outsider takes vengeance on God by killing children. It gives us a stunning example of a forgiveness that can only be mustered by God’s grace and Christ’s sacrifice.
Dead Man Walking
In this true story, we see average people dealing with terror, loss, guilt and forgiveness. Although I would hesitate to recommend the film due to the R material, the strong message of the courage and strength found in true followers of Jesus overrides the movie’s brutality, at least for me. Several ending scenes focus on the outcome of a life dedicated to spiritual truths. We see how a hurting heart can be changed when others offer him the greatest gift – love.
Tender Mercies
Robert Duvall plays a country singer on the skids until, with the help of a religious widow and her son, he turns his life around. A country minister is depicted with a genuineness seldom seen in the movies.
The list of motion pictures with positive portraits of the faithful is extensive, which begs the question, “Why does that reviewer prefer to dwell on the hypocrisy of churchgoers as if that foible could only be found in our community?”
But the most important questions that haunt me after hearing “That’s your good Christian for you!” are “How does he see me?” and “Is my witness so shallow that I fail to represent my redeemer?”
There’s a fine line we must walk when associating with nonbelievers. While we must respect their views and not force ours on them, we must also signal that we are people, faulty though we may be, who attempt to follow the most important commandments. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart ... Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:29).
My anger for my colleague’s apparent disrespect has worn off, but I remain saddened that he fails to see the love of God all around him, or through me.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Phil Boatwright reviews films for www.previewonline.org and is a regular contributor to “The World and Everything In It,” a weekly radio program from WORLD News Group.)

1/16/2015 11:49:06 AM by Phil Boatwright, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

What’s wrong with same-sex marriage?

January 15 2015 by Andy Royals, Guest Column

Recently I read statements from Baptist leaders who seem to embrace same-sex marriage. They appear to be deviating from the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) position on homosexual behavior/lifestyle. Surely our fundamental commitment to scriptural doctrine concerning human sexuality will not change or be compromised. Consequently, I want to share some considerations for the question, “What’s wrong with same-sex marriage?” First, same-sex marriage is scripturally undefined. In other words, nowhere in the Bible will you find allowance for it or mentioned of it. However the Word of God does speak rather strongly to the issue of homosexuality and lesbianism in Leviticus 18:22-27, Romans 1:24-27, 32 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.
There are simply no clearer Old Testament and New Testament references to the sin of homosexual conduct than these passages of scripture.
Someone has said that Jesus never spoke against same-sex marriage. Well, Jesus never spoke for it either, as a matter of fact. However, Jesus did speak concerning marriage in Matthew 19:4-6. He quoted directly from Genesis 2:23-25. He said marriage is one man and one woman according to God’s divine design. This is scripturally defined marriage. Same-sex marriage is scripturally undefined.
Second, same-sex marriage is sexually unnatural. Anatomically, it is just not natural or right for men to have sex together and women to have sex together. God created and designed human sexuality both for procreation as well as for pleasure. The Bible says in Hebrews 13:4 that the Lord approves sexual intimacy between a husband (man) and wife (woman). This kind of marriage is sexually natural. Same-sex marriage is sexually unnatural. Finally, same-sex marriage is spiritually unacceptable. Here seems to be the issue: Can a practicing homosexual (man) or lesbian (woman) be saved? What does the Bible say in Romans 1:32 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10? Anyone who habitually practices sin as a lifestyle, cannot be saved. Those who practice same-sex marriage absolutely are not saved. Same-sex marriage is spiritually unacceptable.
What is the hope for those in same-sex marriage involvement? It is the same hope for anyone in any sinful lifestyle – a changed life. First Corinthians 6:11 says, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” The Lord hates the sin but He loves the sinner according to Romans 5:8. There is something wrong with same-sex marriage. There is something right with what Jesus can do to fix it.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Andy Royals is senior pastor of Salem Baptist Church in Lincolnton. Frank Page, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, published a clarification on the SBC position regarding homosexuality. His article is in the December 2014 edition of SBC Life. It is available at sbclife.net.)

1/15/2015 9:24:19 AM by Andy Royals, Guest Column | with 0 comments

First things first

January 14 2015 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

The new year had barely begun when the usual round of bad news resumed: terror attacks, atrocities, massacres, war.
Some folks respond to the ugliness of world events by ignoring them, trying to create their own safe little world. Sooner or later, however, reality intrudes. Bills. Unexpected illness. Family problems. Job struggles. Life.
Even life’s pleasures become burdens if we depend on them for happiness. We can’t control our lives, but we never stop trying. It’s human nature, a manifestation of our need for security – and our endless temptation to usurp God’s role in decision-making.
Christians can be as guilty as anyone of playing God. We dream up brilliant ministry plans and ask God to bless them. Then we consult our goals and action plans more often than we seek direction in scripture. Doing something, anything, is easier than praying and waiting for God’s voice.
Our tendency, International Mission Board (IMB) President David Platt observes, “is to miss Christ in the middle of mission, to get so consumed in what we are doing for Him that we miss out on intimacy with Him.”
There’s a better way.
As his first full year of IMB leadership gears up, Platt is asking missionaries and staff – and anyone else interested in making the most of each brief, precious day of 2015 – to renew their commitment to seeking God’s direction.
“Life in this world doesn’t last very long,” Platt says. “When we realize this, it changes the way we live. It’s in this light that I want to implore you in the beginning of this year to stop and think: What does it mean to trust in God when I’m not guaranteed tomorrow?” (Listen to Platt’s podcast on the topic here. Subscribe to his ongoing podcast through iTunes here or download audio files here.)
The apostle James addressed the issue when he rebuked early believers for making their own plans: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’ But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:13-17).
Platt draws two basic truths from James’ words when it comes to setting priorities:
Faith is humbly submissive to the sovereignty of God.
“We can become so consumed with the material realm, so consumed thinking about our plans and our strategies, [that] we become blind to spiritual realities,” Platt says. “The problem is not planning in and of itself. The problem is planning in such a way that God has no place in the plans.”
James by no means counsels “passive fatalism” or sitting back and doing nothing until God acts, Platt emphasizes. The book of James is all about action: Its 108 verses contain more than 50 imperative commands.
“James is talking about activity and action the whole book,” Platt says. “But he’s talking about activity and action that are humbly submissive to the sovereign God of the universe, knowing that every accomplishment, every activity, literally every breath occurs only by the sovereign grace of God. ... The key is a mindset that says, ‘I need the grace of God, and I am dependent on the will of God in every facet of my life.’
“This is a radically different way to live in the world – particularly in the busyness and the business of our lives,” Platt notes.
“[S]pend your life humbly submissive to the sovereignty of God, and ultimately live for the glory of God,” he counsels. “Make your life – this mist that comprises who you are for the short time you are here – count. Be finished with self-sufficiency. Live your life in radical God-dependency.”
Humble submission to God’s sovereignty leads to wholehearted submission to God’s will.
Sin isn’t just lying, coveting and other evil acts on a long list of don’ts. We sin when we fail to do what God has clearly told us to do: Live holy lives, love others as ourselves and make disciples in our circle of personal relationships and among all nations.
Platt: “Holiness includes what we do in this world, how we obey in this world, so we’ve got to think, ‘What has God said to do today? He has given me today. He’s given me breath. He’s given me life. He’s given me sustenance. What has He told me to do with it?’ That’s a good question with which to approach today and this next year. If the Lord wills to give you an entire year in 2015, make the most of that mist which is here today and will be gone before you know it.”
That’s the approach Platt is taking this year – not only in his own life but in planning and strategizing with Southern Baptist missionaries and mission leaders in their global gospel enterprise.
Rather than recycling a stale set of New Year’s resolutions, why not consider it for your own life?
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is an IMB global correspondent.)

1/14/2015 12:29:07 PM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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