July 2013

WORLDVIEW: Confidence – what it is and isn’t

July 3 2013 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. – If you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything. Visualize success and it will happen. Positive self-talk is the key. Go for the gold and let no one get in your way.

Those tips might help you develop a great jump shot or close that big sale, but they won’t make you a successful person. Have you noticed how many star athletes make a mess of their personal lives? The will to win is great in competition, but it tends to wreak havoc in relationships. 

Belief in yourself as an exclusive guiding principle is a recipe for misery. That may sound like heresy in our age of self-worship, but the self is a particularly undependable little idol. What happens when you let yourself and others down? And you will, again and again.

Granted, self-confidence is an attractive, magnetic quality. Many leaders have it. They seem to know who they are and where they are going. Especially in times of chaos and confusion, we are drawn to them. We would follow them anywhere – even over a cliff, which is where some of them take us. 

Julius Caesar was adored by his troops, whom he led to great victories in Britain, Gaul and elsewhere. But power went to his head. “I came, I saw, I conquered,” he famously declared after one glorious conquest. Governing Rome wasn’t quite as simple. When he took dictatorial power, delivering a fatal blow to the tottering Roman Republic, his opponents returned the favor by assassinating him on the Senate floor. 

“Give us a king,” the Israelites cried out in the days of Samuel, many centuries before Caesar. For them, God Himself as Divine King wasn’t enough; they wanted to be more like the nations around them. Samuel, a faithful servant of God and righteous judge of Israel, took their request to the Almighty. His response: “Listen to the voice of the people ... for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them” (1 Samuel 8:7 NASB). They ended up with Saul, who accepted the crown reluctantly but held on to it violently – long after he had lost the blessing of the Lord. 

Moral of the story: Choose your leaders carefully, starting with yourself. They all are fallible – except for Jesus Christ, the sinless One. In this world, seek role models who display authentic confidence, not counterfeit. 

“Confidence is not bravado, or swagger, or an overt pretense of bravery,” said Dharmesh Shah, software company founder, author and frequent blogger. “Confidence is not some bold or brash air of self-belief directed at others.”

In a recent article, Shah listed some qualities shared by “truly confident people.” His perspective and primary audience are business-oriented, but several of the qualities he highlighted have spiritual resonance:
  • “They listen 10 times more than they speak. Bragging is a mask for insecurity. Truly confident people are quiet and unassuming. They already know what they think; they want to know what you think.”
  • “They duck the spotlight so it shines on others. Perhaps it’s true they did the bulk of the work. Perhaps they really did overcome the major obstacles. Perhaps it’s true they turned a collection of disparate individuals into an incredibly high-performance team. ... [But] truly confident people don’t need the glory.... They don’t need the validation of others, because true validation comes from within. So they stand back and celebrate their accomplishments through others. They let others shine – a confidence boost that helps those people become truly confident, too.”
  • “They freely ask for help. Many people feel asking for help is a sign of weakness.... Confident people are secure enough to admit a weakness.... [Also], they know that when they seek help they pay the person they ask a huge compliment. Saying, ‘Can you help me?’ shows tremendous respect for that individual’s expertise and judgment.” 
  • “They don’t put down other people. Generally speaking, the people who like to gossip, who like to speak badly of others, do so because they hope by comparison to make themselves look better. The only comparison a truly confident person makes is to the person she was yesterday – and to the person she hopes to someday become.”
Ouch. I wish I could go back and change all the times I have failed to follow those wise guidelines because of insecurity, foolish pride or ego. Truly confident people are humble, teachable, eager to encourage others and help them grow, excited to reproduce and multiply success in the lives of others. That sounds like an effective disciple-maker to me. Compare Shah’s tips to the qualities of authentic love outlined by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NASB): 

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 

That is true confidence in action, because the object and source of true confidence is not ourselves but Christ. 

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is International Mission Board global correspondent. Visit WorldView Conversation, the blog related to this column.)
7/3/2013 11:00:41 AM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

What is a relationship-driven model?

July 2 2013 by Russ Conley, Guest Column

In adopting a new strategy for impacting lostness through disciple-making, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) has clearly signaled a departure from business as usual. Nowhere is this more evident than in the use of a relationship-driven consultation model.
A relationship-driven consultation model is exactly what it sounds like. The focus is on getting to know people and understanding the local context where ministry takes place every day rather than delivering a particular product, process or event. The difference is explained in Proverbs 18:13 (NKJV), “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.” Another way to put it might be, if one answers a question before he fully understands the situation, one is likely to give an incomplete answer.
The goal of the relationship-driven consultant is to listen carefully so he or she will clearly understand the needs being expressed. Consultants listen for additional issues and concerns of Baptists in each local setting. Understanding and appreciating the work already underway locally is a critical factor for the relationship-driven consultant. The benefit of this approach is that the consultant is positioned to work more effectively in a long-term relationship with the association, pastor and congregation. Respecting the autonomy of each ministry, they find a course of action that fits their setting for the goal of impacting lostness.
A relationship-driven model fits well into the new BSC strategy. Our new strategy focuses on reaching people in eight population centers across the state, as these eight areas represent the most concentrated areas of lostness in North Carolina. Beginning January 2014, I will serve as team leader for a new Strategic Focus Team that will lead the work in these eight population areas, with a strategy coordinator serving in each of the eight areas.
These coordinators will most effectively serve N.C. Baptists through a relationship-driven model. One way they will seek to do this is through a “generalist” approach rather than a “specialist” approach. Serving as “generalists,” our strategy coordinators will work with church and association leaders to identify needs in their areas related to impacting lostness. Once needs are identified, the strategy coordinator will then help connect leaders with convention staff and consultants serving in the “specialist” role.
The consultant who serves as a specialist brings a depth of knowledge to a relatively narrow topic. For example, a strategy coordinator may connect local leadership with a consultant whose area of specialty is children’s ministry or youth ministry.
This is not to say that the strategy coordinators do not have areas of interest or expertise, but in regards to their work assisting local churches develop strategies for impacting lostness, they will serve as generalists. As our strategy coordinators serve as generalists they will be better able to discern church needs and build rapport with leaders over an extended period of time.
An example I like to share to help illustrate the generalist and specialist role is that of a family doctor. You may think of the generalist as the family physician who is responsible for the ongoing, long-term medical care of an individual. If an individual has specific health needs, the family doctor will refer the person to another physician, perhaps a cardiologist or neurologist. Yet, the family practitioner still walks through the process with individuals and helps them to make sense of the situation and all the options available to them.
Besides a particular focus on relationships, the generalist strives to maintain a working knowledge of available resources across many disciplines that can be useful to local ministries. By building a relationship early on, the generalist is better positioned to work as a partner. This partnership will allow for the development of a plan for moving forward in selecting and applying the best combination of resources.
The generalist can play a valuable role in helping sort through and focus on the best mix of resources for a specific situation. In some situations, more than one generalist may be engaged in working to see lostness impacted in a given area. What is most important is the valuable relationship that guides and drives the efforts.
Our strategy coordinators and convention staff will work to develop essential relationships necessary to impact lostness, make disciples, strengthen churches and plant churches. A well-executed, relationship-driven model benefits churches and associations. It provides a greater impact through highly customized solutions and deeper relationships. This model also offers a more comprehensive knowledge base for effective consultations. It allows for more efficient application of resources for a greater Kingdom return on investment. It also helps strengthen churches to impact lostness by making disciples who make disciples. 
Finally, the relationship-driven model will more effectively lead to the fulfillment of the convention’s mission, “to assist churches in their divinely appointed mission” and the fulfillment of the convention’s vision to, “become the strongest force in the history of this Convention for reaching people with the message of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Russ Conley is a consultant for church health at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. You can reach him at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5651, or at rconley@ncbaptist.org. This is part of an ongoing series of columns from the BSC about Impacting Lostness in North Carolina. See more stories.)
7/2/2013 1:36:34 PM by Russ Conley, Guest Column | with 0 comments

The simple – and only – solution to the decrease in baptism numbers

July 2 2013 by Dennis Nunn, Guest Column

While attending the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting in Houston, I heard much lamenting about the fact that baptisms in the SBC are at their lowest levels since 1948. While at the meeting, I also was clearly reminded of the reason for such low baptisms and the only way to increase them.
Let me share three encounters that clearly show the problem, and then share the only solution. Cindy works in the FedEx office located in the convention center, where the SBC held its annual meeting. I asked Cindy, “With the 5,000 plus Baptists here this week, has anyone talked to you about Jesus?” She said “No.” As it turned out, Cindy was saved 6 years ago after attempting suicide. Her life is totally changed. This was evident by the sincere smile on her face.
One of the great concerns expressed repeatedly at the annual meeting has been the sad fact that SBC baptisms are embarrassingly low. Yet in two days, no one has spoken to Cindy about The Lord. I know most people have not had a reason to go the FedEx office, but I’m sure many have.
George works in maintenance at the convention center. When I asked George if any of the thousands of Baptists at the annual meeting had asked him if he knew Jesus, he said, “No.” Even though he walked around the exhibit hall among thousands of Baptists, many of whom were preachers, he said not one person had asked him about his salvation.
I also talked with five employees in a coffee shop onsite. This coffee shop at the convention center was one of the busiest I have ever seen. Often there were 25 to 35 people standing in line. On Wednesday evening as the meeting was ending, I stopped to get a cup of coffee. When I got to the counter, there was no one behind me. So I asked them, “With all these thousands of Baptists here this week, has anyone shared with you about Jesus? They said, “No.” I then asked if I could share what Jesus had done for me.
They readily agreed and all five listened intently as I shared my story. As I got close to the end, people had once again begun to line up. I said, “You have customers waiting, I will come back.” All five said, “No, we want to hear the rest!”
Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, has accurately described the SBC as a “harvest-oriented denomination in an unseeded world.” Here is the problem: few Baptists are spreading the seed of the gospel as we should.
The only solution to seeing more baptisms is for each of us, every believer, every Baptist, to be intentional about talking about Jesus to everyone we can. Our attitude cannot be, “I will witness if I get an opportunity.” Our attitude must be, “I am going to make an opportunity!”
If we don’t care enough to tell our friends, our families, our neighbors, our classmates and our co-workers about Jesus, who will? Today, share with everyone you can the story of how Jesus Christ changed your life. Share how He will change theirs if they want Him! We can turn our baptism numbers around. This is the only way to do it.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Dennis Nunn is founder and president of Every Believer a Witness Ministries in Dallas, Ga.)
7/2/2013 1:32:43 PM by Dennis Nunn, Guest Column | with 0 comments

Valedictorian goes rogue, recites Lord’s Prayer

July 1 2013 by Ginny Dent Brant, Guest Column

Roy B. Costner IV garnered national attention when he ripped up his pre-approved valedictorian speech, enacted his first amendment right, and began reciting the Lord’s Prayer at his graduation ceremony. An unsuspecting school district got just what they were trying to avoid, and the astonished crowd erupted into applause. His actions spread like a wildfire across a nation once founded upon God and biblical principles.
The prayer was Costner’s response to the South Carolina Pickens County School District’s decision to abandon student-led invocations at board meetings, which eventually trickled down to axing prayers at any school gatherings. Under advisement from attorneys, the district backed down and cowered under pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF). The Board’s 3-2 decision went against the heart-felt values of this conservative community.
Costner began his message by respectfully acknowledging those in attendance and mentioning his pre-approved speech. “So we are going to get rid of that one and use a different one,” he said. After tearing up that speech, he pulled an alternate one from the shirtsleeve under his robe, and deviated from what was approved. He graciously thanked the many people who, “Helped to carve and mold us into the young adults we are today.” He honored his own parents by saying, “I’m so glad both of my parents led me to the Lord at a young age.”
Then he continued with, “I think most of you will understand when I say, ‘Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name ... .’” As he prayed, the crowd began to cheer with some joining him. But that cheering escalated to a roar and thunderous clapping with some rising to their feet. Then Costner continued with his prepared speech that included accolades for his graduating classmates.
Was he nervous? “Yes,” admits Costner. “I did not know what the outcome would be.” But he was willing to take a stand for what He believed.
Costner took the stand many adults have failed to take. Many leaders in our country simply retreat in fear when atheist groups threaten to sue rather than standing in faith and exerting their own first amendment right. The Bible says in Isaiah 11:6, “And a child shall lead them,” but in this case, it was a student. As a result of Costner’s bold actions, many have been encouraged to stand themselves.
Although a school district spokesperson said, “Costner will not be penalized for his actions,” the FFRF co-president intends on holding the school district responsible. Though many school district employees may support what Costner did, they are confined by the time, energy and resources that a legal battle would consume if they took a stand.
Costner said he as no regrets. He stated, “I want this to glorify God. I hope this will inspire others to stand up for God in our nation.” Costner was interviewed on Fox & Friends after his famous graduation speech. On the show he said, “I don’t understand why we can’t pray at my graduation when ‘Under God’ is in our pledge and our Constitution.” That’s a good question considering we’ve been doing this for over 200 years. In his eyes, “We have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.”
Costner’s stand reminded me of a movie that was released in September 2012 called “Last Ounce of Courage” – a must see film for all Christians today. The movie is about a small-town mayor and his grandson who are motivated to stand against the ACLU and bring the celebration of Christmas back to their town. Many viewers reported people standing up and clapping at the end of the film, just as the audience did when Costner prayed.
Costner was told his speech had to be approved and he could not pray or make any reference to God. That’s tough for a student whose life is centered on his faith.
After consulting with his father, who is a minister at a local church, he knew his father was behind him. His father advised him, “Don’t do it for politics, do it for God.”
Young Costner spent much time in Bible study and prayer. He asked God, “What should I do?” He felt led to recite the Lord’s Prayer since it would resonate with all denominations.
According to revival historian, J. Edwin Orr, “Young people in student-led prayer cells have been at the forefront in almost every awakening.” Our country is desperately in need of a revival. Maybe our youth will be the ones to ignite the sparks and fan the flames.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ginny Dent Brant is an author, speaker, counselor and soloist. She is editor-at-large for Sonoma Christian Home Magazine. Visit www.ginnybrant.com.)
7/1/2013 12:59:42 PM by Ginny Dent Brant, Guest Column | with 0 comments

Civil rights becomes behavioral

July 1 2013 by Kelly Boggs

ALEXANDRIA, La. – The discussion over civil rights in the United States, until recent years, has been focused primarily on inherent, immutable characteristics like sex or race. Both are set realities at birth; they do not change.

Courts and legislatures have tinkered with the understanding of civil rights for a few years now by introducing the concept of behavior and self-perception to the discussion. 

However, when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on June 26 that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, it took a giant step toward endorsing the concept of behavior as the basis for civil rights. 

DOMA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996 and is a federal statute that allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed under other states’ laws.

“DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy who authored the majority opinion in the 5-4 vote. 

“DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others,” Kennedy wrote.

That “differentiation,” Kennedy wrote “demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects ... and whose relationship the state has sought to dignify. And it humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples.”

Kennedy makes it clear he believes people who marry because of homosexual behavior should be viewed no differently than people who marry based on the inherent characteristics of male and female.

It is clear that Kennedy and the four justices who joined him in declaring DOMA unconstitutional accept the premise that homosexuality is more than just a behavior; it is natural, normal, healthy and inherent. 

However, it must be noted that, to date, there has not been one single, definitive, scientific study that has established homosexuality as genetic or biological. Not one. Thus, there is no scientific support for the justices’ point of view. 

The American Psychological Association once touted there was considerable evidence to “suggest that biology, including genetic or inborn hormonal factors, play a significant role in a person’s sexuality.” The APA in recent years has abandoned this position. 

The APA has produced a brochure, which is available on its website, titled “Answers to Your Questions for a Better Understanding of Sexual Orientation & Homosexuality.” In the pamphlet the APA states the following:

“There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors....”

America has seen a surge in homosexual acceptance in recent years. The Supreme Court’s ruling in DOMA likely will encourage the trend. Two factors have contributed to this: One, the acceptance of the unproven premise that homosexuality is innate, and two, societal pressure to conform to politically correct norms.

Politically correct doctrine holds that all sexual behavior between consenting adults is appropriate and beyond judgment. If any individual or group deems to call any sexual expression immoral, they are to be castigated and shamed.

Kennedy makes it clear that he is guided as much by politically correct doctrine as he is by constitutional jurisprudence when he writes, “The differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects....” 

Taking Kennedy’s statement at face value, we must conclude that any and all sexual choices made by a couple are protected constitutionally as civil rights.

While the Supreme Court did not rule specifically that behavior and self-perception will be protected as civil rights, it is the end result and will be the next step in the ever “evolving” understanding of the Constitution by liberals in America. 

When it comes to marriage, there is now no longer a legal argument against any marriage arrangement or configuration. All moral and sexual choices are protected by the Constitution. If someone can imagine it, it will likely become a matrimonial reality. Anything goes.

Whereas civil rights discussion once dealt primarily with matters of race and sex, which are both inherent and immutable characteristics, going forward, the debate will focus more and more on sexual behavior and self-perception. The effects will be far-reaching.

If you take a public stand against the effort to mainstream homosexuality, you will be subject to attack. I know, because in many of my columns I dare to oppose the idea that homosexuality is natural, normal and healthy. 

As a result of my position I have been on the receiving end of numerous letters and e-mails filled with vile threats. I was once even told to my face by an activist, “We will shut you [meaning conservative Christians] up!”

It seems the Supreme Court may have unwittingly given homosexual activists a leg up on silencing those who believe all sexual expression outside of marriage between one man and one woman is a sin.

In light of the Supreme Court decision on DOMA, followers of Christ and adherents to conservative philosophy have one of two choices: Remain silent in order to be accepted by society or speak the truth in love and, in all likelihood, be castigated by many in popular culture. 

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s office of public affairs, and editor of the Baptist Message, news journal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)
7/1/2013 12:49:19 PM by Kelly Boggs | with 0 comments

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