January 2018

Revival & the glory of God

January 16 2018 by Doug Metzger, Baptist Press

Southern Baptists want revival but, sadly, for the wrong reasons, Henry Blackaby once told me.
“Until we want revival for the glory of God, God will not send it,” the Experiencing God author said over lunch one day at the North American Mission Board.
Blackaby’s statement was one I’ve never forgotten.

Doug Metzger

One of the reasons it caught my attention was that I had not, as I should have, appropriately connected the dots between revival and the glory of God. Though I had prayed daily for God to send revival, I confess that I had not given much thought to revival and God’s glory.
My desire for revival had been prompted primarily by what I saw happening in our churches and culture. Many of our churches are plateaued or in decline; in some, without wanting to be overly judgmental, the spiritual fervor might best be described as lukewarm.
As to our culture, it is in a major mess and the mess keeps getting messier all the time. Paganism is surging. Morality is in decline. The Judeo-Christian ethic is routinely rejected at almost all levels of American life including in our government, educational systems and, sadly, in many homes. These three institutions are foundational to keeping our nation functioning upon the principles established by our founders who acted under God’s guiding hand.
These scenarios had driven me to pray for revival. But if I may be honest about my motives, I’ll make this confession: More than anything, I prayed for revival because I grieved for what is coming for my children and, particularly, my precious grandchildren because of the deterioration of life as we once experienced it in America. As the mess gets even worse, what will the future hold for them if God doesn’t send revival?
I may be a selfish grandfather, but for the sake of those I love, I want to see God do something that will change the plight I see coming to our nation.
And what about revival and the glory of God? God help me to always remember that what God does, He does for His glory. We like to add the words “and for our good,” but whether it turns out for our good, it always must redound first and foremost to His glory. I fear that many of us may need a refresher course on just how high a premium God places on His glory.
One of the New Testament uses of “doxa,” or glory, speaks to giving honor to the repute and splendor of God. Acknowledging and extolling Him as worthy of all honor is to be priority. Surely if I love Him and value who He is and the grand and glorious way in which He has valued me, then how can I do less than make His glory a priority in my life, and a priority in that for which I pray? As the apostle Paul commands, “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
So let’s connect the dots. If revival comes, in what ways would God receive glory?

1. Through the changed lives of believers

When the Spirit moves in revival, it has always begun with the body of Christ first experiencing its dynamic impact. The church moves from being Laodicean in temperature to being first-century, Acts 4 alive to God. A spiritual fervor that we don’t see much today is experienced. A renewed love for God and others manifests itself in God-honoring ways. It would be a new day for His church should it happen today and all the glory would have to go to God.

2. Through the conversion of multitudes of lost people.

In the Layman’s Prayer Revival of 1857, the last major revival America has seen, it is estimated that a million souls were saved. The U.S. population was about 15 million at the time. With our national population being over 300 million today, a similar revival today would equivalently result in over 20 million conversions. And think about it: If heaven rejoices when one soul repents and turns to Christ, just imagine the heavenly hallelujah that 20 million new souls would bring. Surely, God would be glorified!

3. Through a national spiritual awakening

When the church is on fire and people are being saved, the unsaved cannot help but notice that the God in heaven is making a unique visit to earth. The late evangelism professor Roy Fish appropriately titled his book about the 1858 revival When Heaven Touched Earth. In such an awakening, a God consciousness takes place that will impact the greater society as previous great awakenings have done. In the end, great glory will redound to God.
So let’s continue to pray for revival and do it for the reason that God would be glorified. And perhaps God will forgive an old granddad, if in addition, he also prays selfishly wanting revival for the sake of his grandkids.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Doug Metzger is a retired pastor in Canton, Ga., who served churches 20-plus years in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia and California in addition to eight years with the North American Mission Board as director of prayer evangelism and, earlier, director of its Strategic Focus Cities emphasis and three years with its predecessor, the Home Mission Board, as associate director of personal evangelism.)

1/16/2018 11:05:29 AM by Doug Metzger, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Is God at home in you?

January 15 2018 by Frank S. Page, Baptist Press

I was challenged early in my ministry to read the Bible through in a single year, a practice I have continued since January 1974. God’s Word continues to illuminate my heart with precious truths. Not a day goes by when God does not reveal something new, fresh and exciting to me.

Frank S. Page

I was reading in John 14 not long ago from Jesus’ discourse in the Upper Room. I was taken by verse 23: “Jesus answered, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”
In all honesty, though I have read it many times, it struck me in a powerful way, as if I had never seen it before. The Lord Jesus is speaking to His disciples just before Gethsemane and the cross. He makes a very interesting comment – if we love Him and keep His Word, we will be loved by the Father, and Jesus and the Father will come and make their home with us. What a powerful statement this is!
The Lord’s statement is actually an offer. When we have a relationship with the Lord, He comes to dwell within us.
We are taught to repent and believe at which time we receive the Holy Spirit. We are taught that the presence of the Lord will never leave us, something illustrated powerfully in Hebrews 13:5-6 as well as Matthew 28:19-20. And we yearn for a daily touch of God’s Holy Spirit, continually seeking His filling and His power.
With that being said, I think it is still important that we hear this intimate offer from our Lord. He offers to come and actually make His home in us and with us.
Is He really welcome? Or do we try to crowd Him in with other causes, agendas or competing allegiances that serve as lesser gods in our lives?
We know what has happened in our nation. For many years we have given lip service to a Judeo-Christian ethic while at the same time ignoring the power of the gospel. Has that happened with us individually? I am afraid often that it has. I am afraid the Lord has often not been very welcome to make His abode in us as a country, in our churches or even in our lives.
It’s my hope and prayer that we will take this offer from our Lord seriously. May we so abide in Him that He knows He is totally welcome – not merely invited to compete for space, allegiance and loyalty in our hearts, but welcomed and honored as the resident King and Lord of our lives.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Frank S. Page is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. This column first appeared at his website, frankpage.org.)

1/15/2018 9:43:38 AM by Frank S. Page, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

They imploded my building!

January 12 2018 by Jimmy Draper, Baptist Press

It is rare for any of us to have buildings named after us. It is even more rare for us to observe the destruction of those buildings. But it happens – in fact it just did in Nashville where the Draper Tower was reduced to rubble in a few seconds on Jan. 6.

Jimmy Draper

Ever since receiving a call a couple months ago that the building would be imploded, I’ve long thought about the event. God reminded me that Jesus is the great cornerstone of our faith and of LifeWay. Biblically, the cornerstone was selected with care, laid with great ceremony and the stone itself determined the lines of the architecture of the building.
The apostle Peter reminds us that believers have come to Christ, who is “a living stone” and that we have become “living stones” in a great spiritual sanctuary (1 Peter 2:4-10). The apostle Paul reminds us that “In him the whole building, being put together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
Living stone” is a magnificent figure of speech (1 Peter 2:4). It appears to be a contradiction of language, as if we said “cool fire, hot ice, bright darkness, dry water.” We normally speak of someone as “stone dead.” Yet the Bible calls Christ both our Stone or Rock and our Life.
He has the nature of a Great Stone: fixed foundation, fortress, solid, steadfast, strong, massive and immovable. But He is the living stone. In Him is vitality, life, energy, growth and movement.
It has never been God’s intention just to have a temple for His people but to have a people for His temple. Every believer is a temple, but every Christian temple becomes a living stone in that vast, eternal temple that God is building.
The living stones in the walls of the temple become the believer-priests offering sacrifices within the temple. We are not only the stones in the wall, we are the priests in the temple (1 Peter 2:5).
This concept dignifies every life and every aspect of each life. There is no job so low or position so prestigious that it is not dignified by this high calling. All can declare, “I am a living stone in the everlasting sanctuary that the Lord Jesus Christ is building.”
Now, what does all this mean for those who have served in Draper Tower? That building was not LifeWay. It was simply one of the buildings on our campus where LifeWay served and ministered. I have walked those halls when they were empty and in the loneliness of those moments I often thought deeply about what LifeWay is. When the buildings were empty, LifeWay was not there. The employees are LifeWay. Their passion, devotion, abilities, heart, expertise, service and love for Him expressed through their service and love for others – that is LifeWay.
Have I been diminished by the removal of this building? Absolutely not! That building is not my legacy. The exceptional ministers employed by LifeWay are my legacy. Without them I have no legacy.
Some wonderful things occurred within those walls. However, that building never helped a church in its ministry, nor any person in their devotion to the Lord. It never designed a budget or a building for a church, nor provided a single piece of Bible study curriculum or a single piece of discipleship material. It never provided retreats or conferences to strengthen church leaders, nor provided guidance for any young person in their walk with Christ. It never printed any books to promote maturity among believers, nor provided materials scrutinized for the inventory for LifeWay Christian Stores. It never wrote a song or provided choir arrangements for our churches, nor addressed any of the significant challenges facing the church in this godless world. It never won a single soul to faith in Christ.
But the people who have served in LifeWay’s buildings have done all that and infinitely more. Individuals come and go, but all who serve or have served at LifeWay comprise its essence and strength. The stones, steel and mortar of that building were lifeless materials. The only thing that made that building sacred and distinct from other buildings is the extraordinary people who ministered there and still do in another place.
When I moved back to Texas after leaving LifeWay, I did not cease to be who I am. I simply relocated to another place. LifeWay is the same. LifeWay still lives and ministers because those phenomenal people are LifeWay. Those of us who have been privileged to serve as the face of LifeWay for a season could not have done it without them. They will always be LifeWay Christian Resources wherever they are!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jimmy Draper was president of LifeWay Christian Resources from 1991 until his retirement in 2006. The 12-story building, constructed in the lead up to LifeWay’s centennial in 1991 and later named for Draper, was imploded on Jan. 6. LifeWay sold its Nashville property last year and has relocated to a new facility also in the downtown area.)

1/12/2018 12:13:02 PM by Jimmy Draper, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ala. vs. Ga.: Post-season play in a postmodern era

January 11 2018 by David H. McKinley, Baptist Press

At the risk of adding to the paralysis of analysis (ad infinitum, ad nauseam) following big games, I have found myself captured by a powerful parable I need to examine and express before time passes and the imagery of the Alabama victory fades.
Monday night’s National Championship game between Alabama and Georgia in the College Football Playoffs displayed all the expected traits of the strong, calculated and daring leadership Nick Saban has brought and continues to bring to college football in this era.

Screen capture from ESPN
Freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa gave thanks to God in a post-game interview after leading the Alabama Crimson Tide to win college football’s national championship. Pastor David McKinley writes that church leaders must “take a risk on a generation who have little game time but are willing and able to be ‘all in.’”

Saban is now creating his own new era, having tied Paul “Bear” Bryant’s legendary six championships – and by all evidence he is not ready to throw in the towel. In the heat of post-season play, Saban was willing to do what may be the most unconventional thing – risk the future of his career and the game on a young man who was talented and eager but had little game time or experience with the team. Rather than following the protocol of loyalty by staying with quarterback Jalen Hurts, Saban chose to throw the second half into the hands of freshman Tua Tagovailoa.
Saban didn’t take the risk because he was retiring; he took the risk because he cared passionately about winning. He was not resigning to a better game plan demonstrated by Georgia in the first half; he was leading. And in the risk to lead, Saban proved he had overwhelming and amazing potential to win.
The result is now in the record books. Alabama’s Crimson Tide overcame the Georgia Bulldogs in the championship game, 26-23. Saban led Alabama to a 17th national championship – their fifth in nine seasons – and tied Bryant’s record with six national championships, the most in history.
Why am I repeating and rehearsing Monday night’s game? I believe there are parallels we can learn from and apply to a winning ministry.
In football, I’ve often heard, “Do what we’ve done all year. Stay with the plan and those who got us here.” In baseball, “Don’t change the lineup or take out the pitcher.” When the predictable happens, we often lose. Post-season play requires risks and actions that don’t fit the regular season plan.
Whenever big wins occur, big risks often are the key.
I believe the easiest way to lose in ministry is to quit leading your ministry, rest on your laurels, do what you’ve always done, hope for the best.
For us as pastors and leaders, it’s time to take a risk on a generation who have little game time but are willing and able to be “all in.” This means taking a risk on players whose backgrounds are diverse, whose names you can’t pronounce (Tongue-oh-vie-loa), but players who can get a job done that benefits the team, not just the record book.
As a pastor, I’m certainly not saying this because I’m ready to retire or throw in the towel (though I’m beyond the second half and clearly in the fourth quarter of my game). I’m saying this because I believe the post-Christian era is going to require impact through some talented yet inexperienced game changers who need someone to say, “Take the ball. Go make the play.”
I recently read about a Barna study, “The State of Pastors 2017,” and found myself concerned about the trend of churches toward an aging ministry in an emerging generation. I’m not saying that maturity doesn’t matter. It does. But like Paul and Timothy, the intentionality of engagement and development may be our most strategic path forward in order to see our churches strengthened and increased in numbers daily (Acts 16:5).
On Monday night, the instruction to take-the-ball-and-go-make-the-play was not limited to the Saban playbook, but the Kirby Smart playbook as well.
Jake Fromm, the quarterback for Georgia, is an incredible young athlete with a bright future. Fromm, like Tua Tagovailoa, is a Christ-follower, and both of these young men have been willing to stand on the biggest platform of college sports to give glory and honor to the name of Jesus Christ.
In an arena where the name of Christ is disrespected and disregarded (universities, sports franchises, public displays), these men are bold and courageous to declare and affirm their allegiance and service to the name of Jesus. When I witness this, I understand and believe this post-Christian era needs seasoned leaders who are willing to take great risks on an emerging generation.
If you are young and eager, get ready! What happened on Monday night wasn’t a fluke of fate; it was the result of young men’s spiritual and physical preparation for a big game.
Tua – not knowing he would take a snap, experience a sack or save the game – was reliable, responsible and ready. Like young Timothy, he let no one “despise [his] youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
In the end, the aim of our effort is that the name of Jesus be glorified, His kingdom be extended and His will be accomplished on earth as it is in heaven. For me, it is not about records; it is about wins for the Kingdom. I want to keep leading, risking and winning until the clock runs out.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David H. McKinley is pastor-teacher at Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga.)

1/11/2018 10:06:17 AM by David H. McKinley, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Is church membership biblical?

January 10 2018 by Bill Connors, Baptist New Mexican

Some Christians struggle with the idea of formal local church membership. They feel uncomfortable with the idea that some folks are “in” and other folks are “out.” They ask, “Where in the Bible does the idea of formally recognized church membership appear?”
Settling the issue of church membership requires understanding the biblical concept of a local church, embracing the types of covenants that existed between early believers, accepting that New Testament church members knew who was and was not part of their group and recognizing a believer’s Kingdom-citizen responsibilities. Only biblical notions of membership that emerge from scriptural accounts and teachings about local churches should remain.

Universal and local

Notice the difference between the concepts of the “universal church” and a “local church.” The “universal church” consists of every born-again believer, from every place, throughout all of time (as in Matthew 16:18, Ephesians 3:10 and Colossians 1:18). It has never held a meeting and will only do so at the marriage supper of the Lamb, described in Revelation 21.
However, scripture primarily refers to the church (Greek: ekklesia) as local believer fellowships or groups of believer fellowships in a particular area. Such references especially appear in scripture passages containing instruction or teaching (e.g., Romans 16:1, 1 Corinthians 11:18 and Jesus’ letters to the churches in Revelation 2-3).


Church is a both-and idea: Christians are both part of the universal church and should be part of a local church. All believers are brothers and sisters, and will gather together at the end of the ages. But, for now, each born-again believer should enter into a covenant relationship with a particular local church. Individual believers in a local church seriously agree (covenant) to engage in certain practices, such as participation and using their gifts to serve the congregation. In response, the other believers, together as a group, seriously agree (covenant) to engage in complementary practices, such as guiding, teaching and gently disciplining the individual.
The two-way practice of covenant agreements forms the foundation of church membership. Living out those covenants requires local church membership. Because covenants form the core of church membership, no one should casually join a church, nor should churches casually receive individuals into their membership.
But is this idea biblical? Granted, the New Testament nowhere explicitly instructs local churches to maintain formal, organized membership records. But the lack of an explicit command does not render modern notions of church membership unbiblical.

Part of the body, or not

Paul said, “... You are the body of Christ, and individual members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27; see also Romans 12). He compared a local church to a human body, attributing an organic quality to its structure. Just as a body cannot exist without its individual parts, a local church cannot exist without its parts (i.e., members) – its covenanted believers. Likewise, just as every body part belongs to a particular body, so each believer should belong to a particular believer fellowship, a church. Nonbelievers do not belong to a believer fellowship. They are not part of the body Paul describes.
It is clear that believers in New Testament churches knew who was “in” and “not in” their particular church. At the end of Romans, for instance, Paul greeted by name numerous believers known to be part of the church in Rome (Romans 16:3-16). And Paul told the Corinthians to “remove” a specific man from their ranks (1 Corinthians 5:13), a command that assumed the Corinthian believers knew who was part of the church and who was not.

Same word, different meaning

So why do some people challenge the concept of church membership? Church terminology and modern cultural terminology overlap, fueling the struggle. Modern uses of the word “member” differ significantly from the Bible’s use of the concept. Specifically, cultural ideas of membership lack the element of covenant.
Today, people are members of all sorts of things. They hold membership in clubs that are bound together only by common interests or activities in which participation is optional. By paying dues, they can become members of service-providing organizations and receive certain perks and privileges (e.g., warehouse stores). They also claim membership in political parties so they can vote for or against this or that. But these examples of membership all differ from the covenants that bound New Testament believers together in local churches.


Rather than seeing a local church as a club, a store or a political party, Christians should view a local church as an earthly embassy of God’s Kingdom. Believers have changed their citizenship. They are residents of God’s Kingdom who cooperate together to represent that Kingdom’s interests where they live. In fact, scripture plainly describes Christians as ambassadors of God’s Kingdom (2 Corinthians 5:20). Accordingly, they have responsibilities to their King and to one another.
Church membership is not about perks, deals or votes, but about identity, covenants and fulfilling one’s responsibilities. From that perspective, problems with church membership shrink. That perspective may also help believers understand their roles inside and outside their church facilities’ walls.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bill Connors is pastor of Eastern Hills Baptist Church in Albuquerque, N.M. This column first appeared in the Baptist New Mexican, bcnm.com/bnm-current-edition, news journal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico. Used with permission.)

1/10/2018 10:05:27 AM by Bill Connors, Baptist New Mexican | with 0 comments

Why we are pro-life

January 9 2018 by J.D. Greear, Guest Column

How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:2-4 ESV).
Jan. 19, in Washington, D.C., thousands upon thousands of people will participate in the March for Life, the largest pro-life rally in the world. The march is built on the conviction that unborn babies are made in the image of God, and as such, deserve the rights God has given to all people.
I want to outline here the two key reasons why we – pro-life advocates in general and The Summit Church specifically – believe this, and why we take it seriously. Then, I want to address some of the “red herrings” in the discussion. Finally, I want to offer a word of hope to you, wherever you stand on the issue and whatever your background. All of this is meant to serve and love both the unborn and those of you who have abortion as part of your story.
To state it as simply as I can, we believe the unborn are humans worthy of protection.
Here are two reasons:

1. Science and logic

Scientifically, the human embryo, from the point of conception forward, is already a whole human entity. As Maureen Condic, a professor of neurobiology at the University of Utah, states, “Embryos are not merely collections of human cells, but living creatures distinct from a group of cells; embryos are capable of growing, maturing, maintaining a physiologic balance between various organ systems, adapting to changing circumstances and repairing injury. Mere groups of human cells do nothing like this under any circumstances.”
This isn’t a minority opinion, either. Every science textbook recognizes human embryos are not merely an extension of the woman or “collections of cells” but rather independent human beings. If they are not “human,” what else could they be?
Scott Klusendorf points out that many of the distinctions made to imply the unborn are not “human” enough fail to stand against even the slightest application of logical consistency. He uses a SLED acronym to show the inconsistencies of saying unborn babies are not people yet, with each letter standing for an idea pro-choice advocates use to deprive the unborn of their humanity:

  • S: Size. Yes, you were much smaller as an embryo, but since when does body size determine value?
  • L: Level of development. You were less developed as an embryo, but infants are less developed than teenagers. Do infants have less value? Of course not.
  • E: Environment. Where you are has no bearing on what you are. Does an eight-inch journey through the birth canal change the essential value of the unborn?
  • D: Degree of dependency. Sometimes pro-choice advocates say unborn babies rely on their mothers for survival. But does dependence make a person un-human? People with disabilities have a higher degree of dependency, so do the elderly. Humans are humans not by their function, but by their nature.


2. Scripture

For Christians there can be no doubt the unborn are full persons. Bible writers consistently refer to unborn babies in this way. King David says God knew him before he was born: “You [God] created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). Or take John the Baptist, who was filled with the Spirit in his mother’s womb. Not only was he alive, but God was also dwelling within him. And consider this: The Hebrew word for “child” is the same, whether referring to children outside or inside the womb.
The Bible teaches that all human beings are image bearers of God (Genesis 1:27; James 3:9) and the intentional killing of innocent people is forbidden (Exodus 23:7; Proverbs 6:16-19). Intentionally killing any innocent human made in the image of God is an assault on God himself (Genesis 9:1-5).
Yet, nearly two-thirds of the women getting abortions say they are Christians!

Red herrings

The abortion debate should hinge on one question: Are the unborn human or not? If not, then you don’t need much reasoning for abortion. But if they are, then the reasoning behind the pro-choice position falls apart.
Any other arguments become “red herrings,” distractions that are not relevant. (A red herring is a fish that has been brined until it turns red, which makes it smell particularly odorous. The origin of the term is a helpful metaphor: The story goes that a person might be able to use the scent of the fish to distract hunting dogs, which would lose their trail.)
Here are some of the most common red herrings used in the discussion about abortion:

A. If you’re so pro-life, why do you only care about babies before they’re born?

This comes in a variety of forms, but the basic implication is that those who are pro-life are hypocritically so: They don’t want women aborting babies, but they also won’t do anything to help those women or babies after birth.
For example, pro-choice advocates might say: “Are you willing to adopt all these unwanted kids you don’t want aborted?” The charge is carefully engineered, but it is both a logical fallacy and inconsistent with facts about pro-life advocates.
Logically, this is an ad hominem argument. It’s an attack on pro-life advocates, not on the pro-life view. These objections are carefully engineered to silence pro-life advocates, because who ever feels that they have done enough for women and children? If you imply people are not truly loving, the honest person will say, “You’re right. I could do more.” That’s the power of the “argument.” But remember, it’s not an argument. It’s an attack. The question of the humanity of the baby isn’t even addressed.
The charge diverts discussion away from logical reasoning to moral judgmentalism, and it also misrepresents the facts. Pro-life Christians do care, and not just in a don’t-get-abortions kind of way.
Pro-life pregnancy centers, for instance, outnumber abortion clinics two-to-one. They provide parenting classes, clothing and adoption services. Pro-lifers adopt more often than pro-choicers. And they give far more to charity than their pro-choice counterparts.
We want to promote a culture of life, and that means caring about life from womb to tomb. So, if we aren’t caring for the poor and needy and marginalized among us, we need to repent. But that should never lead us to stop caring and fighting for the protection of the vulnerable and voiceless unborn.

B. Only women can speak on this issue.

This is often hurled at male pro-life advocates because the discussion touches on issues affecting women’s bodies. But again, this is a logical fallacy: Whether it is right or wrong to intentionally kill someone depends on the person being killed, not the gender of the person making the argument. Remember, the central question is, “Is the unborn one of us?”
Maybe an even more appropriate response is to ask, “Which women?” What about the women who are aborted? Or the millions of pro-life women? Women do not have a single position on this issue. And, in fact, statistics show women are more pro-life than men.

C. Shouldn’t we spend more time speaking out against the poverty system that creates the need for abortions?

As with most red herrings, there’s an element of truth here. Yes, we should work to fight the poverty that can create despair which makes abortion feel necessary. But whether or not abortion is wrong is not contingent on the environment surrounding it.
Imagine a Southern slave owner explaining why the economic system Northerners created demanded slavery. Even if it were true, the practice of slavery was wrong anyway.
If we truly love people, we should do everything in our power to help them. So we speak out against poverty and abortion. It’s not an either-or decision.

D. If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one!

We’re not talking about preferences; we’re talking about lives. I don’t oppose abortion because it violates a preference; I’m opposed because I believe it ends human life.
To imagine how absurd this statement is, change the variables in it: What if someone said, “Don’t like slavery? Well, don’t own a slave!” or “Don’t like sexual assault? Don’t do it!” Pretty insensitive, right?

E. I’m personally opposed to abortion, but I don’t think we should overturn Roe v. Wade.

This statement is similar to the one above. It’s often offered on college campuses with good intentions, but abortion either deprives an innocent human being made in the image of God of life or it doesn’t.
The questions here are: Why are you personally against abortion? Is it because you know it is the wrongful taking of human life? If that’s what you think, are you really willing to sit back and do nothing while innocent people are murdered?

F. Abortion needs to be legal so that it’s safe for mothers.

The narrative surrounding abortion rights goes something like this: Back in the 1970s, women were dying by the thousands in back-alley abortions. Then Roe v. Wade happened, and now women are much safer. They’re going to do it either way, so we might as well make it safe.
The truth is that maternal death had been in steady decline – from 7,267 to 780 – in the years between 1942 and 1972. Of those 780 deaths, 140 were related to abortion (though that also included spontaneous abortions caused by miscarriage).
So the idea that abortion was overwhelmingly common – but dangerous – simply isn’t true. What we can be sure of is that the death rate for babies in abortion procedures is 100 percent.

G. What about situations of rape or incest?

The number of pregnancies arising from tragic instances of rape or incest may be small, but they are nonetheless painful. Our hearts go out to anyone in this situation.
For you, we recognize this is heart-rending. We grieve with you. The core of this question is about our response to pain and tragedy.
A woman in this situation may be saying, “This baby came to be through the most horrific event of my life. Why should I be forced to bear the burden of something that only reminds me of that pain?”
The answer, in brief, is twofold: First, it is actually not healing for the mother to pursue abortion. When faced with tragedy, the most healing path forward is not to push away any evidence of the pain. It is to bring that pain to God, allowing him to heal us. We’ll address that more in a moment.
Second, this objection, like the others, shifts the terms of the debate. We aren’t debating whether rape is heinous. We agree it is and that it leaves deeply wounded victims. But is the child at fault for how he or she came into existence?
How do we, as a civil society, treat innocent human beings that remind us of painful events? We don’t help anyone by harming one human simply because he reminds us of another human’s sin. The question, once again, hinges on whether the unborn are human or not.

H. I have a right to my body.

No one is arguing against that.
What we ask is whether your right to your body includes taking the life of another body for the sake of convenience? Aren’t there competing rights at stake? What about the rights of the unborn child?
Advocates of slavery doubled down on their position with similar reasoning in The Dred Scott Decision of 1857. They admitted that slaves had a right to freedom. But they also argued that slave owners had a right to their property. The justices in the Dred Scott case reasoned, tragically, that property rights superseded the rights of slaves to freedom.
In the question of abortion, we also have competing rights – the right to privacy and the right to life. Are we going to follow Dred Scott and reduce people to property that can be disposed?
Where do we go from here?
Our efforts to defend the life of the unborn need to move beyond mere statistics; we must recognize how abortion deeply scars all involved. I read a piece recently by a woman who marched in support of abortion rights in 1973 and had an abortion a few years later. She admits that her decision has haunted her for 30 years. She writes: “It certainly does make more sense not to be having a baby right now – we say that to each other all the time. But I have this ghost now. A very little ghost that only appears when I’m seeing something beautiful, like the full moon on the ocean last weekend. And the baby waves at me. And I wave back at the baby. ‘Of course, we have room,’ I cry to the ghost. ‘Of course we do.’”
Abortion leaves victims. Not only the child, deprived of life, but often the woman, who can’t escape the regret of the decision.
To those of you with abortion in your past: we know you are hurting. We don’t want to make it any harder; we simply want to prevent others from enduring the same pain.
If abortion is part of your story, you need to know we serve a Savior who died so he could make us whiter than snow and whose resurrection has the power to restore beauty from ashes.
Each one of us, on some level, has dismissed the value of human life. We may have had different ways of doing it, but we’ve elevated our desires over the life of another. Furthermore, the entire human race rejected and murdered Jesus, yet through that murder, God brought salvation and restoration.
Because of that, there is no tragedy, no mistake, that He cannot redeem, no sin that He will not forgive. Through the victory of His resurrection, He can make all things new. None of us needs to live a second longer trapped in the past.
If you’ve had an abortion, your baby is with Jesus today. Both Jesus and that baby forgive you, if you will receive it.
To pro-life advocates: Jesus’ redemption should forever change our attitude toward those who are hurting. It shows our dignity. The value you place on something is shown by what you’ll give up for it. We were so valuable to Jesus He gave up His life to redeem us. Furthermore, it shows us our responsibility to those who are hurting. If anyone ever had the right to terminate another human being, it was Jesus.
Instead, He willingly let himself be terminated in order to restore God’s image in us.
Jesus looked at the ruins of our lives, and he saw the potential for glory. He beheld despair, and brought hope. He saw our tragedy, and he came to our rescue. If we’re following Jesus, reaching out in mercy will characterize our lives, too.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – The full version of this article originally appeared at jdgreear.com. It has been edited for length and clarity. Used by permission.)

1/9/2018 9:26:17 AM by J.D. Greear, Guest Column | with 0 comments

10 resolutions for missions in the New Year

January 5 2018 by Chuck Lawless, IMB

It’s a new year – a time when many of us make resolutions. If you’re like I am, those resolutions are often self-focused. We plan to exercise more, eat less, save more dollars, take more time off, accomplish some long-delayed goals and generally make this year more productive than the last one.

Chuck Lawless

These resolutions aren’t wrong, but I’d like to challenge you to think more externally and globally with your resolutions this year. The new year is not only an opportunity for a new start. It’s another opportunity of grace to be part of reaching the nations.
Here are 10 resolutions to consider for 2018.

1. In my quiet time, I will watch for evidence of God’s heart for the nations.

If you look for it, you’ll find it throughout the scriptures. Highlight texts whenever you see them. The God who called out Abraham to be a blessing to the nations (Genesis 12:1-3) is the God who deserves the worship of all the peoples, tribes, tongues and nations (Revelation 7:9-10).

2. I will pray for missionaries by name at least one day per week.

Maybe you already know a number of missionaries. If not, ask your pastor to help you connect with some for whom you can pray. Plan to regularly visit the International Mission Board website (imb.org) or visit the North American Mission Board website (namb.net) to learn missionary stories, and then pray with intentionality. Sign up to receive specific prayer requests.

3. I will learn about and pray weekly for unreached peoples.

Go to joshuaproject.net, and do some research. Prayerfully choose a people, and pray that the gospel gets to them. Consider this truth: you may be one of the few persons in the world praying for this group.

4. I will learn about internationals in my community.

Missions begins at home, especially when God is bringing the nations to us. Talk to your pastor or local government officials to get demographic information about your community. Talk to the international student office at a local university. Find out who is around you. Get to know them. Share the gospel with them. Pray for them.

5. I will intentionally get to know my international coworkers and neighbors.

The nations may be right around you, but perhaps you haven’t slowed down enough to get to know them. Reach out to them. Invite them to your home. You may be surprised how open they are to spending time with you and talking about spiritual backgrounds.

6. I will plan to take a mission trip this year.

Most of us can go somewhere, even if it’s in the United States. Plan to set aside the dollars and time to be a witness among the nations. If you know you can’t go this year, plan to give financial support so someone else can go. Sacrifice so many might hear the good news.

7. I will listen to and read the news through a Great Commission lens.

As you learn what’s happening in the world, think about what might be happening spiritually in countries in the news. Pray for believers and missionaries there. Then, pray for the people there who don’t know Jesus. Don’t be exasperated by the news – let it drive you to your knees.

8. I will visit ethnic restaurants in my area to get to know internationals.

It’s great to go eat, but ask to meet the owners. Talk to your servers to learn about their background. Ask about their faith. Go there regularly and get to know people in your community who may need Jesus. I think you’ll find many people willing to talk.

9. I will pray that my church pastors have a great passion for the Great Commission.

I’ve never seen a strong mission-minded church without a strong Great Commission pastor and staff. Churches seldom develop a passion that is not exhibited in the pulpit every Sunday. Pray for your pastor, and then follow his lead to the nations.

10. I will honestly consider and answer the question, “Is God calling me to be a full-time missionary?”

Every believer must ask and answer this question. Be open to God’s calling, and listen well through His Word, His Spirit and His people. And while you’re praying this way, pray for your children and grandchildren to do the same.
Don’t worry about accomplishing all of these goals, but at least start somewhere. Even one resolution toward missions is great if you’ve never had such a resolution in the past. Do something – and have a blessed and obedient 2018!
For more information, go to imb.org where this article first appeared.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chuck Lawless is vice president and dean of graduate studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and team leader for theological education strategists of the International Mission Board. He is the author of several books, including Nobodies for Jesus, Discipled Warriors and Putting on the Armor. He writes at chucklawless.com. Follow him on Twitter @CLawlessjr.)

1/5/2018 10:19:41 AM by Chuck Lawless, IMB | with 0 comments

Start somewhere

January 4 2018 by Keith Shorter, Baptist Press

I went to Southeast Asia recently with some other leaders from across South Carolina. The night before I left, a friend of mine came by to pray with me. He once served as a missionary in one of the countries we were going to visit. He was excited that I would finally be in the country he loved so dearly.

Keith Shorter

In the middle of his prayer, this good friend really messed up my trip! He prayed these words: “Lord, as Keith travels through that country, remind him that nearly every person he sees does not have a relationship with You.” Those words lodged in my brain and in my heart.
Forty-eight hours later, I was in that country, touring a city of 32 million people. I looked at the people’s faces, and I heard my friend’s prayer echo in my mind. I was overwhelmed by the amount of lostness that I was seeing.
One of the missionaries there told me she invited a friend to a Bible study, and the young lady had to Google the word “Bible” because she had never heard the word before. As you and I go to church Sunday after Sunday, it is so easy to forget that the Bible we carry into church is foreign to most of the world.
So how can we make a difference in these places, and where do we even start? You can’t take the gospel everywhere amid the overwhelming lostness in our world, but you can take the gospel somewhere, so start there.
For years, I have used an acronym of the word “focus” to help me stay on track. Maybe it will help you, too, as you seek to take the gospel to your neighbors and to the nations.
F – Forward. The past can’t be changed. Look ahead to the new thing that God wants to do in your life and church.
O – Opportunities. Every obstacle you face is an opportunity to experience God at work.
C – Christ. Christ is the center of everything we do.
U – Unity. Work together with others so that you can have a greater Kingdom impact.
S – Souls. This is the reason we are here! Focus on what Jesus focused on.
The more I travel to spiritually dark places, the more I realize that people who don’t know Jesus need someone who does.
Pastor, I am praying for you and your church as you lead them to FOCUS on lostness. Here in South Carolina, we have more than 2,100 Baptist churches. Thousands more are throughout the U.S. Imagine the impact we could make if each church made an intentional effort to take the gospel somewhere!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Shorter is pastor of Mt. Airy Baptist Church in Easley and immediate past president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.)

1/4/2018 9:27:37 AM by Keith Shorter, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Will the pro-life movement sink or swim?

January 3 2018 by Dayton Hartman, Intersect Project

Learning to swim is a terrifying experience. You are thrown into a body of liquid that could fill your lungs and kill you within minutes, and you’ve got to figure out how to stay on top of that liquid or die. This fun, summertime activity really is a life and death struggle.
I remember when I learned to swim in a pool full of still, over-chlorinated and temperature-controlled water. I felt like I’d done it. I was a swimmer! I could doggy-paddle around the pool that was surrounded by semi-attentive teenage lifeguards who were at least mildly concerned with my safety and survival. It was a controlled environment with one task: don’t sink into the still and easily navigable waters.
Then I went swimming in the ocean. Well, I went sinking in the ocean. Aside from my imagination telling me that a Great White Shark was lurking just inches from the shore (a huge thank you to my parents for letting me watch JAWS at four years old), I figured swimming in the ocean would be like swimming in a pool. It’s not. Every wave is different. There are, in fact, sea creatures to be aware of. There are no lifeguards, and the sand underneath your feet moves. The first time I walked more than thirty feet from shore and began to swim, I immediately sank and was caught under the waves. I could swim in a pool; why not the ocean? For one, the ocean is not a controlled environment. Two, it is a complex environment. Three, the ocean requires more than a doggy-paddle style stroke in order to survive.

The pro-life movement gets thrown in the ocean

The pro-life movement learned to swim in a controlled environment. Our leaders could tell us abortion is infanticide and we must resist it, fight it, use every legal means available to save the lives of the unborn. We had one thing we had to learn: how to resist the advance of abortion on demand.
Now the pro-life movement has been plunged into the ocean, and we clearly do not know how to swim. At least not in an environment that requires more from us than the one thing we know: resist, fight, stop abortion on demand. The waves of culture are hitting us hard, we do not know what to do and so we are grabbing hold of everyone and anyone who is promising to get us back to the pool where we know how to swim. We are believing every politician, national leader and cultural voice that says abortion is our only pro-life concern. They may not say it that plainly, but the binary argumentation they are using is just that: pro-life ethics simply have to do with abortion.

Pro-life as a gospel indicative

For the Christian, being pro-life isn’t a political plank; it is a gospel indicative. Gospel people must be consistently pro-life. We are pro-human flourishing. That certainly has political implications and cultural ramifications, but it is primarily a theological conviction. Because we have allowed our movement to become primarily a political talking point, we’ve lost the ability to apply our theological and ethical conviction outside of seeking political power. This is why we are having so much trouble swimming in a complex environment.
The waves that are pummeling us include questions as to how pro-life ethics inform our response to the poor, to the immigrant, to the abused, to those suffering under the actions of racists. What the pro-life movement was clearly unprepared for was consistently applying a pro-life ethic (the promotion of human flourishing for all of life, for every life) to issues outside of abortion.
Now we must grapple with the fact that poverty is a pro-life issue. Sexual abuse is a pro-life issue. Racism and systems of racial oppression are pro-life issues. Fixing the systems leading to mass incarceration is a pro-life issue. Human trafficking is a pro-life issue. Rectifying our broken immigration system is a pro-life issue. Adoption is a pro-life issue. The foster system is a pro-life issue. And, of course, abortion is a pro-life issue.
The danger before us is that we would allow national leaders and politicians to reduce the pro-life movement to being about abortion. In so doing, other pro-life issues can be ignored and pro-life ethics violated. When politicians and national leaders reduce the pro-life ethic to abortion alone, they are deluding us into thinking we are back to swimming in the temperature-controlled swimming pool – when, in reality, we are being pummeled and we are drowning in the waves of the ocean. Being pro-life is no less than being anti-abortion, but it is far more than fighting abortion on demand.
We are not in the swimming pool any more. Pretending like we are will lead to compromise and ultimately our movement’s death. The waves are crashing, the ocean floor is shifting, there are no lifeguards. Pro-life Christian, it’s time to for the pro-life cause to swim in an increasingly complex environment or we will drown.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Dayton Hartman is lead pastor at Redeemer Church in Rocky Mount, N.C. and adjunct professor at both Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Columbia International University. This article was originally published at intersectproject.org. Used with permission.)

1/3/2018 10:36:11 AM by Dayton Hartman, Intersect Project | with 0 comments

The state of preaching in the SBC

January 2 2018 by Frank S. Page, Baptist Press

I think I can say that I travel back and forth across the country as much as or more than, just about anyone within the Southern Baptist Convention. This allows me great opportunity to visit every size church as well as state conventions and associations, seminaries, colleges, universities and other groups.
Through this extensive travel, I hear many sermon messages and am able to worship in a variety of settings and styles.

Frank S. Page

Truly, I believe there is a resurgence of appreciation for the preaching of God’s Word. The admonition given to young Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2 to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching” is being heard in a new way in our 21st century.
With the conservative resurgence now decades in the past, our Southern Baptist seminaries are inculcating a high view of scripture into the hearts and minds of nearly 20,000 Baptist students. This inculcation is manifesting itself in a new appreciation for text-driven or expository preaching. While various methods of preaching are utilized across the land, we are witnessing a new day for a Word-based preaching style.
This growing respect for the Word of God gives encouragement for what might happen in the days ahead. We know that we are in a day and time of cultural antipathy. We understand that “doing church” is far more difficult than it once was. With that being said, there is still hope! Part of this hope comes from a new generation of people who believe that the true answers to our culture’s issues, problems and situations come from God’s precious, inerrant Word. While the challenges will increase and the opposition is sure to intensify, I am convinced there will be strong churches that will exist and prevail. I am also convinced that those churches will be served by godly ministers who believe in the power of the inerrant Word of God and who proclaim it as that which changes lives, families and our nation.
In my earlier years, I read numerous journal and magazine articles from various theological camps which, in essence foretold the end of preaching as an effective way to share messages from the Lord. There were many who believed that biblical preaching had become out of date and somewhat quaint. I can gladly say they were wrong. I believe interest in preaching in our convention and in the broader spectrum of evangelicalism is in a state of ascendancy, not decline. It is my belief that God will receive glory and honor from this ascendancy.
We always have need for improvement. In my own life, even though my youth has long passed, I believe in continuing to evaluate and strengthen my preaching style and content. There are many others who are continuing to do the same. However, we must always remember the need to share what God says, not what we think, feel or wish. Let us remember the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:16: “I am compelled to preach.”
Let us, as pastors and teachers, be compelled to preach God’s precious Word so that we will truly see lives transformed!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Frank S. Page is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. This article was first published at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Preaching Source blog, preachingsource.com. Used with permission.)

1/2/2018 11:00:53 AM by Frank S. Page, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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