June 2017

‘His glory is our reward’

June 19 2017 by Joshua Crutchfield

“His glory is our reward” is a line repeated in Hector Gabriel’s song, “Peoples Praise.” I heard this song at this spring’s SEND missions conference in Dallas and this phrase has since been stuck on repeat in my mind.
If I am honest, I desire many kinds of rewards and find myself motivated to share the gospel for many reasons, but it was not always for the glory of God.

Joshua Crutchfield

In 2003, an International Mission Board worker named Karen Watson wrote a letter that would inspire this song. She was in Iraq along with others to provide humanitarian aid to the embattled country. Prior to her departure she wrote a letter to two of her pastors that was to be opened and read should she die on the mission field.
Though written nearly 15 years ago, the letter captures the breathtaking image of the gospel: “His glory,” Watson wrote, “is my reward.”
It seems today that the gospel we share has our eternal destination as a focal priority of the message. I can still recite the “key question” from the FAITH evangelism outline I learned while in high school, which focused on how people can go to heaven. I have no idea how many times I have asked the question, “Do you know where you will go when you die?”
However, I have come under conviction about the aim of how I have evangelized – I made heaven the pinnacle of the gospel and not God. A gospel that has anything other than God as its chief reward fails to be the gospel.
In 2 Corinthians 5:20, the apostle Paul states that we are ambassadors of God, appealing to others to be reconciled with Him. Somehow we have taken that responsibility and have distorted our role as ambassadors into a role of holy travel agents. We have a desire to book trips to heaven, but where is our desire to see souls restored to God? Now you might ask, “Are not those desires one and the same – to be reconciled with God is to also have heaven as your home?”
No, the goal to see souls in heaven is not the same as the goal to see souls recreated in God’s righteousness. The first focuses on a person’s eternal destination. We might mention sin and separation from God but the ultimate consequence for them is not that heaven is not their home but, rather, hell. We share a passage like John 14:2 that says Jesus will use His carpentry skills to build us mansions in glory. Before we even realize it, we have become heavenly real estate brokers who fail to have a concern for men, women, boys and girls to be restored into a right relationship with God at this very moment. We are simply content with believing that heaven is theirs when they die.
But what makes heaven, heaven? Is it the streets of gold, the pearly gates or the mansions? Should heaven possess all those things, but not the presence of God, it ceases to be heaven. In fact, it would be hell. Heaven is heaven because God is there and is enjoyed completely unadulterated, without any filters.
Fortunately, we do not have to wait for death to enjoy God.
We are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is our heavenly prelude to what is in store for us for all eternity (Ephesians 13–14). By the Spirit of God, we can taste and see that the Lord is indeed good, and His presence enjoyable (Psalm 34:8). As we read through the book of Revelation, it is not the description of heaven that evokes praise and excitement, for one day the heavenly city comes down to earth (Hebrews 13:14, Revelation 21:1–2). What evokes the unceasing worship is God, and while that worship takes place in heaven, it will resume on a newly recreated earth where God’s presence will dwell with humanity forever and ever (Revelation 21:3).
Yet, we do not have to wait to worship Him, for His heavenly presence is available now to those who are reconciled unto Him.
As Karen Watson wrote her letter to her pastors, she told them that she was not called to a place, but called to God. He is the heart of the gospel, the greatness of heaven and our eternal inheritance (Psalm 73:25–28). He extended heaven down to us so that we might taste and enjoy eternity in the present. He has entrusted us with the gospel in order that we might glory in Him and invite others to do the same. Until God’s glory is our reward, and is the kernel of the gospel we share, we will never live out the gospel mission as God intended.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joshua Crutchfield is pastor of First Baptist Church in Madisonville, Texas.)

6/19/2017 8:19:56 AM by Joshua Crutchfield | with 0 comments

The priority starts with participation

June 17 2017 by Keith Whitfield & Micah Fries

The 2017 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting has come and gone. This family gathering has become for us a highlight every year.
With all our differences, when we gather as a convention, we see again the ways God uses us together, in our country and around the world.
The reports from each entity remind us how blessed we are to have such gifted leaders stewarding these organizations, what a privilege it is to cooperate with so many people (those we know and the thousands we don’t) in Great Commission work, and how the Lord has used us over the past year. And, we share and hear reports outside the meeting hall about what the Lord is doing in the local contexts where we and our friends serve.

"'Better together' is not just a catchphrase. It is a reality," say Micah Fries (left) and Keith Whitfield (right).
We leave again this year believing we are, as one of our friends says, “better together.”
We are not suggesting everything is easy when we are together. This year, we both had pointed conversations with friends. And we saw our friends struggle during some challenging moments as the resolution on the dangers of white supremacy (and specifically the alt-right) was not presented to the convention by the resolutions committee, and then a motion to reconsider from the floor failed. 
No doubt, those moments caused some confusion, hurt, indignation and short-term anger. We talked to enough people to know that some form of these emotions were experienced by a large number of the participants. This happened among those who were in favor of passing the original resolution, and those who were not.

It generated deep emotional responses by those who were in attendance at the SBC meeting and by those who were not there but followed the livestream. Tensions were high at dinner Tuesday night (June 13) and throughout the rest of the evening. These same tensions were being projected by many on social media from around the country.
There is no simple answer to some questions: What happened? How did this get so complicated so quickly? It would be worth it for someone to reflect and consider those things. At his blog, Ed Stetzer provided some initial thoughts on Wednesday morning before the passing of Resolution 10 that afternoon. But, that’s not our purpose here. Our purpose is to acknowledge what happened when we worked with one another. The process tested us to be sure. Yet, we ultimately did the right thing. And, it really did take everyone working in cooperation to get there.
On social media, we saw people raise important questions about priorities and values. Some even wondered just how far the SBC really has come in rejecting racism in its every form, or if we truly value these issues as much as some other ones. These are fair questions, and we should continue to engage this conversation.
But allow us to provide some friendly push back for those of you who were not there, yet questioned priorities of a committee who did not present a resolution you thought should have been presented and questioned the priorities of messengers who did not affirm a vote that you thought they should have passed. One thing this year’s annual meeting taught us is that when it comes to Southern Baptists who care about the decisions and statements of our deliberative body, the priority starts with participation.
We aren’t saying that people who were not there should not speak into the events of the convention. In fact, we believe they made crucial contributions to this conversation. We are saying, however, that people who were not there cannot contribute to the final decisions we made and the actions we took.
Another friend quipped Wednesday evening, “a ballot is more powerful than a tweet.” And, she is right. Only by participating in the process can we pursue the right actions together.
This time it took all of us to get it right – all of us. Steve Gaines led us well, both in his direction and through his emphatic call to action from the platform. The parliamentarians did their job to give procedural advice. The Resolutions Committee and the Committee on Order of Business worked together for all the messengers to reconsider a revised resolution. The president of the ERLC, Russell Moore, helped to prepare the final resolution “On the Anti-Gospel of Alt-Right White Supremacy.” Messengers spoke with conviction from the floor and worked behind the scenes to seek a way forward, and then, we all voted.
Resolution 10 passed at 2:45 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon because of the work of everyone.
The power of presence and engagement has rarely been felt as clearly as it was Tuesday night, June 13. It is fair to say the resolution would not have passed unless everyone contributed.
We experienced 24 difficult hours, and that could lead some to question if there is even a point in trying. The answer is yes.
At the end of the day the Southern Baptist Convention made what some have argued is their strongest repudiation of racism to date. Across the nation people heard us affirm the imago Dei and the worth of every human being. This week showed us again we are at our best when we our cooperating, not just with our resources but also with our hearts and our votes. That’s no small thing.
We will likely have difficult conversations again one day, but our collective striving is worth the effort. “Better together” is not just a catchphrase. It is a reality.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Whitfield is assistant professor of theology and vice president for academic administration at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Micah Fries is senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., and he blogs at MicahFries.com)
6/17/2017 9:57:22 AM by Keith Whitfield & Micah Fries | with 0 comments

Watch Dad

June 15 2017 by Doug Munton

There is a tape that plays in my head. I don’t turn it on, it just plays. I found it playing deep in the recesses of my mind when I disciplined my children or taught them to play ball or how to hammer a nail. It plays involuntarily still when I show my grandchildren how to cast a fishing line or how to play well with their siblings.

Doug Munton

It goes like this, “How did my Dad do it?”
This intimidates me a bit because I know my children – and yours – have a tape playing in their own minds. And this intimidation only deepens when I consider the common description of God as a father. When our children go to church they learn the lesson that God is their heavenly Father. And they can’t help but see that through the lens of their own earthly dad.
At our best, we will be imperfect fathers. We will always be imperfect models because we are imperfect people. But God uses fatherhood as a description of Himself. We are, for good or for bad, examples from which our kids learn about God. We are, for good or for bad, examples from which our kids learn how to do life.
Here are some suggestions about how dads can get this right – imperfect, but right:

1. Show your children how to love their families.

Dads, make sure your children know you love them. Let them know you love them when they succeed and let them know you love them when they fail. Be certain they know that your love is unconditional. That you love them whether they do right or wrong. That you love them even when you discipline them. That you discipline them because you love them. Proverbs 3:12 says, “The Lord disciplines the one he loves, just as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights.” Unconditional love is a powerful force in the life of a child.
And, make sure they know you love their mother. Teach them by your actions how a man is to treat his wife. Live out Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.” Show by your love and sacrifice that you treasure your wife so they can see a healthy model.

2. Show your children how to love the church and the things of God.

I am very blessed in that my father took me to church. He cared so much about my spiritual development that he took me to church Sunday by Sunday. Note that he didn’t just send me to learn from others. He took me and thereby taught me to value this institution formed by the Lord. By the way, he didn’t give me a choice about attending church any more than he let me choose whether to skip school or to stay up all night long or to eat only ice cream.
Show your kids that the things of God are important. Help them see that church is God’s idea, the Bible is God’s Word and that prayer is talking to God. Let them see this by how you spend your time and your money. Let them see this by what you talk about and what you do.

3. Show your children how to love Jesus and to follow Him closely.

Faith is about more than going to church or being moral. Ultimately, it is about a personal relationship with God the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ. Let your children know by your words and your actions that Jesus is your Savior, your Lord and the center of your life. Tell them about when you trusted Christ. Talk to them about what God is doing in your life currently. Let them know the primacy of your devotional life – that Dad reads his Bible and spends time with the Lord in prayer.
You are going to get some things wrong in parenting. But don’t get this one wrong. Let your children know that you love Jesus more than them and that this love makes you love them more than you ever could otherwise. Let them know that your commitment to Jesus not only gives you a home in heaven one day, but it makes your home better in this day.
Dads, there is one more gift to give to your children. Help them hear an even better tape that needs to play in their minds than “What would Dad do?” This tape has to be played consciously and intentionally. It goes like this: “What does my heavenly Father want?”
You can let them see some of the answer to that question in your life.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Doug Munton, online at dougmunton.com, served as the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2016-17 first vice president and is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in O’Fallon, Ill. His latest book is titled 30 Days to Acts.)

6/15/2017 9:48:21 AM by Doug Munton | with 0 comments

Lost people come first

June 14 2017 by Daryl Cornett

We all know that our purpose in church work is defined by the Great Commission. We know that making disciples is what Jesus has called us to do, which starts with the evangelization of those who do not know Him.
In one of my “sermon in a sack” times with the younger kids, my goal was to help them appreciate how much God loves and seeks those who are lost. I asked the group on the steps of the stage if they understood what it meant when the Bible referred to a person as lost or when we sang songs that referred to being lost.

Daryl C. Cornett

A 7-year-old girl spoke up and said, “Those are people who are running from God.” My heart leaped. Perfect.
We know the right answer but we also know that, if we are honest, we have a tendency to make church about everything but seeking the lost, to become preoccupied with either matters of corporate institutionalization or individual consumerism.
It seems that as a church progresses over a longer period of time, it can turn inward toward maintaining the status quo and preserving the institution. Programs that have existed for a long time can become ends unto themselves, with the goal simply to keep the organization afloat and financially solvent. And as long as this is achieved it seems that the church is healthy, even if none of it truly involves any real effectiveness in reaching the lost. This is when the deacons or elders along with the pastors fall into seeing their role as managing the institution instead of leading people to be on mission.
On the individual level, lots of people have come to see a church as something that serves them. They want their church to be a good, comfortable fit for them and their family. They size up its amenities (the preaching, the music, the children and youth programs, the facilities, the small group experiences, the kind of people who go there, etc.), deciding if the church serves them well. We often become preoccupied with making people happy. Not that we shouldn’t strive for excellent worship and great discipleship opportunities. But we shouldn’t be doing what we do to sell people on our church. But let’s be honest, that’s how we are thinking about it much of the time.
The biblical truth is that God wants us to go and seek the lost as our primary passion.
Our joy should be to put lost people at the top of our priorities. This was the passion Jesus expressed to His disciples after conversing with the Samaritan woman at the well. The soul satisfaction of doing the Father’s will in seeking the lost and revealing Himself was His spiritual food. He told His disciples to lift up their eyes and look at the harvest already ripe. He pushed them out of their comfort zone and instilled in them a sense of urgency in regard to the lost.
We must stop exhausting ourselves running after disgruntled or absentee church members, and use that energy to go after the lost and unchurched no matter who they are in our community.
Jesus told a parable of one who invited certain people to a big dinner. All those he originally invited gave excuses of why they couldn’t come when the time approached. The man (representing God) grew angry at their response and instructed his servant to go out and invite the unexpected ones – “the poor, crippled, blind and lame.” He would waste no more time on those who had been invited and refused. There were always others who would respond.
We need to get over people who are chronically unfaithful and uninvolved. We need to stop strategizing how to get them back. We need to care for these folks as well, but at some point we need to cut them loose and go invite others. The lost are all around us. They need to always be our first and greatest passion.
If the lost are running from God – and they are – then we have to be running in the same direction after them. We have to overtake them and confront them with the grace of the gospel. We know that they will not all come when invited but we are promised that some will. God calls the church to go after the lost. Jesus did this and taught us that this should be our passion too.
If the church is truly going to be the church, then we are going to have to get a whole lot more comfortable with being uncomfortable. We must allow God to break our hearts for the lost, and trust God to use us to bring the same Good News that came to us to others who don’t know yet that they even need it.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Daryl C. Cornett is pastor of First Baptist Church in Hazard, Ky., a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and former associate professor of church history at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Cordova, Tenn.)

6/14/2017 7:22:21 AM by Daryl Cornett | with 0 comments

Timeless truths for fathers

June 13 2017 by Mark Smith

The Lord gave Mary and Joseph the privilege to be the earthly parents of Jesus. Unfortunately, we have little information about this young couple, especially Joseph. However, the Bible does give us some insight into their lives just before Jesus was born.
In Matthew 1:18-24, we learn three valuable principles from Joseph’s life. He was a man of integrity who loved the Lord and lived out his convictions. Here are three principles that guided Joseph’s life and should guide our lives, as well.

Stand firm on God’s Word.

The Bible refers to Joseph as a “husband faithful to the law” (Matthew 1:19a). When Joseph found out Mary was pregnant, it was reasonable for him to think that Mary had been with another man. He felt he could not go through with the marriage because he was not the father of the baby. This would violate his moral standards that were based on scripture.
Joseph had every right to divorce Mary. In this situation, we see a man who stood firmly on God’s Word. He was a student of the Bible and was determined to live his life according to God’s standard. Joseph was a man who made his decisions based on the Word of God, no matter what the situation.

Put others first.

Although Joseph would have been justified to divorce Mary, the only question was how would he carry it out? Because of his love and kindness toward her, he did not want to put her through “public disgrace,” let alone have her put to death. Instead, he decided on another alternative. The Bible says Joseph “had in mind to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:19b).
Here we see that Joseph was more concerned for Mary’s reputation. He had every right to expose her sin publicly and humiliate her in front of the whole town. However, his concern was not for himself. He decided to make the divorce a private matter with only two other people as witnesses. He did this because he wanted to protect his former “wife to be” as long as he could. In this passage, we see a man who put Mary first. Joseph was a man who put others before himself, no matter the situation.

Be a man of action.

As Joseph pondered what to do, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream explaining that Mary had conceived by the Holy Spirit and not to be afraid of taking her as his wife. When Joseph woke up from his dream, the Bible says that “he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him” (Matthew 1:24).
Even when faced with an embarrassing situation, Joseph lived by God’s laws and made them the standard by which he lived. When God gave him a new assignment through a dream, hesitation was not in Joseph’s character as he acted on God’s command. He wanted to live a righteous life before God no matter what it cost. I can imagine he felt liberated by the angel’s announcement. Joseph was a doer of God’s Word.
Be the man of integrity the Lord has designed you to be. Strive to obey God’s Word, live humbly and be the dad of action your children need to imitate.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Smith serves as the senior consultant for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Faith at Home ministry. He can be reached at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5647, or msmith@ncbaptist.org.) 

6/13/2017 1:28:15 PM by Mark Smith | with 0 comments

Ways to save your church’s history

June 12 2017 by Marcia Phillips

The Historical Committee of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) values the collective story of what God has accomplished in our churches and knows you do also. That story can only be known and told to our present congregations and future generations if it is first captured and preserved. A few simple, responsible steps can ensure that together we save this story.
First, the records – minutes, photographs and personal remembrances, as well as other bits and pieces that speak to the unique story of your church – must be collected and kept in a safe place. What you may find scattered among storage closets, filing cabinets and old desk drawers could be the only documents that support personal recollections. Mind you, the memories of long-term members are also valuable and should be captured in oral interviews that become written documents or electronic copies. 
The memories and the paperwork together support the account of what actually happened. Every church should have a church historian that proactively oversees the collecting and saving of its history. 
Second, your church building may have storage space available for historical documents but it should meet some basic requirements. Facts show that the second greatest threat to old artifacts is moisture in any form; the third is fire, but the single greatest threat to the survival of historic records is humans who lose, destroy or neglect protecting the documents. 
The storage space should be dark with consistent temperature and humidity. This can be as simple as a locked closet or filing cabinet, but should never be an attic or basement where water risk is highest in the form of flooding or leaks. 
If any of your documents predate the 20th century, those records should be stored separately from newer papers, which are more wood pulp, highly acidic and damaging. 
For the same reason, older papers and photographs are better stored in metal containers (like filing cabinets) than wooden or cardboard or even plastic boxes.
Due to the risk of fire or other catastrophes, your church might consider placing records in a place specially designed to protect them – archives. Some churches choose their local library or historical society, but they may not be well-trained or capable of providing the best preservation resources. 
There are two great options available to Baptist churches in North Carolina that are ideally suited for church holdings and that the Historical Committee highly recommend.
Wake Forest University (WFU) in Winston-Salem has been historically the official repository for the BSC, and its library archives hold the physical records of hundreds of churches. They are kept in secure and protective housing, and are currently being scanned to be made available online. 
WFU has been very responsible in its role of protecting Baptist history in North Carolina and continues to make papers available to researchers and genealogists. 
I recently found a gentleman’s ancestor in church records in WFU’s holdings, both as a slave before the Civil War and a freedman afterwards. You never know what purpose these records will serve in the future.
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in the town of Wake Forest also has well-developed and professional archives that include some special collections, like the papers of the Conservative Resurgence movement and recent convention leaders. They welcome the donation of church records and have an equally strong preservation environment and, like WFU, make records very accessible to patrons. 
Both of these archives can be contacted through the links at their online websites.
Finally, we encourage each church to write its story and produce it in a book or other form for its members, and as a testimony to the community of what God is doing inside your church walls. 
Include the details from minutes along with personal accounts of what makes your church unique, such as missions emphasis or community outreach. Show your church’s heart. 
The Historical Committee gives an award each year to the best written book. 
It’s now also granting an award for the best church history in another format, such as a timeline, compact disc or other media. 
Submissions can be made for the 2017 contest through July 30.
So, collect your church’s history, preserve it in a safe way and then find a way to communicate it. And by all means, make sure you give a copy to the BSC so we can all rejoice with you in God’s goodness in your local congregation.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marcia Phillips is the chair of the Baptist Records and Documents Subcommittee of the BSC’s Historical Committee. She has a master’s degree in historic preservation and has worked as an archivist for several Christian universities. Phillips’ husband, Bill, serves as pastor of Blaise Baptist Church in Mocksville.)

6/12/2017 4:06:55 PM by Marcia Phillips | with 0 comments

Sharing the gospel with Muslims – What if?

June 12 2017 by George W. Braswell

In the 1960s and ’70s churches seemed to be thriving with members and money, especially among Southern Baptists. The Foreign Mission Board (FMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention (now the International Mission Board) began setting goals to appoint several thousand missionaries. The promotion of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions produced tens of millions of dollars. 
As I reflect on 50 years of serving as a pastor, an international missionary and a seminary/divinity school professor, several observations stand out in my experience with Muslims. 
I have often wondered, what if we had responded to Muslims differently? 
Today, Islam is the fastest-growing world religion with an estimated 1.7 billion Muslims worldwide. In 1980 there were 800,000 Muslims in Europe. Presently there are tens of millions of Muslims across the European continent.
My wife, Joan, and I were in the FMB’s first extended missionary orientation at Ridgecrest, N.C,. in the fall of 1967. In previous years, missionaries had a one-week orientation in Richmond before leaving for their overseas assignments.
At Ridgecrest, there were about 100 missionaries with several hundred children living in close quarters, eating meals together and attending classes from early morning into the evenings for 16 weeks. It was a boot camp. Of the 100 missionaries going to all continents, only two couples went to Europe (Italy and Switzerland) and one couple – my wife and I – went to the Middle East (Iran).
Some couples were assigned to Muslim people groups in Asian and African countries, but very few went to the historical heartland of Islam in North Africa, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. There were openings for missionaries, but very few responded.
Joan and I were appointed as the first Southern Baptist missionaries to the country of Iran in 1967. With our three children, we arrived in Tehran and were befriended by Presbyterian missionaries who assisted us in obtaining legal work permits. 
I taught world religions as the only non-Iranian on the faculty of Islamic theology at the University of Tehran. I taught Muslim clergy that would be preachers in mosques, teachers in universities and chaplains in the military. I also served as associate director of Armaghan Institute, operated by the Presbyterian mission. The institute offered English classes to more than 600 Iranian high school and university students using the Bible as a study source. It was located strategically across the street from the main gates of the University of Tehran with an enrollment of 25,000 students.
From 1968-70 I communicated with FMB officials through letters and telephone calls, asking them to send young college graduates in the newly formed missionary Journeyman program to Tehran as English teachers. Iranian students were eager to learn English at Armaghan Institute.
We believed it would be easy to get work permits from the government of Iran for a dozen Journeyman each year to teach English, using the Bible as the textbook. Also, I asked FMB to send professors to teach in several Iranian universities in Tehran and Shiraz.
No Journeymen or professors were sent to the Iranian people.
What if dozens of missionaries would have been called and sent to Iran? 
I persuaded FMB to sponsor a conference on “Witnessing to Muslims” in Tehran in 1969. It was the board’s first conference on that theme. Two missionaries from each of 14 countries gathered to present papers. Bishop Hassan Deqhani, the first native Iranian Bishop of the Anglican Church in Iran and a Muslim convert, addressed the missionaries. 
The conference inspired missionaries to call for expanded efforts to reach Muslims. 
The bishop and his wife were later attacked in their home and forced to flee Iran at the beginning of the Iranian Revolution. Arriving in England, they learned their son, who had been my colleague at Damavand College, was murdered in the streets of Tehran. Thus, another clarion call was sent out by field missionaries to send others to the Muslim peoples. 
During my first sabbatical at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1980-’81, FMB asked me to travel to Europe to meet with Baptist church leaders and missionaries to ascertain the conditions of the new immigration advance into the Netherlands, France and Germany. 
Thousands of Muslim immigrants were entering these countries from South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. They were gathering in religious ethnic ghettos, forming Islamic associations and building mosques.
It seemed obvious they planned to stay in those countries and maintain their own nationalistic, ethnic and religious heritage.
The limited number of national Baptist pastors and FMB-sent missionaries began to show concern about relations with the Muslims in their new cities. They voiced their concerns and asked for help in reaching Muslims.
Upon my return to the states, I sent a report of my research and findings. I sounded the alarm voiced by the pastors and missionaries of the region, asking for immediate assistance with personnel that are equipped with the language of the various immigrant groups and that have an understanding of Islamic beliefs and cultures. We reasoned that if Muslims could be reached in the early days of entry into Europe, before they settled into the emerging Islamic communities, they would be more open to the gospel. 
There was little measured response by FMB to the Islamic advance into Europe by Muslim immigrants from Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Arab Middle East, Iran, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya and Morocco.
What if personnel from stateside churches had responded to the presence of Muslims in Europe?
What if the vision had been caught and missionaries had been called and sent to the heartland of Islam when nations were more open to receive them?
I am most thankful to all who have responded to the call to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to Muslim peoples through the years. I am thankful to have had the strength in these latter years at Southeastern and at Campbell Divinity to take several thousand students and others into mosques so they could learn, as well as share our witness. 
Ringing in my ears and pressing on my heart are two hymns of my earlier years that influenced many in the call to missions to Muslims: “All to Jesus I Surrender” and “Wherever He Leads I’ll Go.”
“Surrender,” “wherever” and “He leads” are the foundational and operative words in all mission journeys and opportunities. God loves Muslim peoples. 
What if more Baptists had responded to a call to take the gospel to Muslims? With IMB’s recent strategies and an increased burden for missions within our churches, more Baptists are willing to go to the Muslim populations of the world today. God willing, more will respond in the future. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel …” Matthew 28:19-20.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: George Braswell is the author of nine books, the Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Missions and World Religions of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and recently retired as senior professor of world religions at Campbell University Divinity School. He is the founding director of the George W. and Joan O. Braswell World Religions and Global Cultures Center at Campbell.)

6/12/2017 4:04:06 PM by George W. Braswell | with 0 comments

Contagious missions

June 9 2017 by Chad Keck

One of my first memories of missions was when I was only 3 and my dad went with a short-term mission team to Guatemala in March 1978 following a massive earthquake there.
My dad was part of our church’s second team who went to help Guatemalans after that tragedy. The first team worked alongside our Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board) missionaries to rebuild Damascus Baptist Church in Guatemala City. The second team went to the village of Santo Domingo Xenaco outside Guatemala City to help those who lost family members and homes in the earthquake. Following a hard day of construction, the team would gather for evening worship when they would share the gospel with locals.

Chad Keck

Obviously, being 3 years of age, I do not remember much about my dad being gone except what happened to him upon his return and how it impacted our family and my life.
My dad became very sick not long after coming back, and we soon discovered that he had contracted an infectious form of Hepatitis A from the drinking water in Guatemala.
Even as a young child I remember being extremely concerned over his health. It was scary to have your father home from a long trip and him not to be able to get out of bed, or for you not be able to spend time around him.
As I reflect back on this years later, I am struck by the fact that I never heard my father complain about getting sick nor have I ever heard him talk poorly about his mission trip experience. Perhaps the most amazing thing is that it never slowed him down from taking more trips. He is now 71 and still actively engaged in international mission trips every year.
Not only did his active participation in missions make a lasting impression on me, but the commitment he and my mother had to financially support missions did as well. I remember them giving joyfully and talking often about the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for overseas missions and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for home missions. I remember them sharing stories about missionaries they had met while serving and why giving sacrificially was so important to them.
As they would share these stories, my mind would often drift back to my father’s illness. I would quietly wonder why someone would give a week of vacation, get extremely sick and yet still be passionate about sacrificially giving through these missions offerings as well as the Cooperative Program that also supports Southern Baptist national and international missions.
It would not be until I stepped off a plane in Namibia, Africa, as a 21-year-old on my first international mission trip that I would understand what my dad knew about the joy of living and giving to the Great Commission in 1978.
The joy that I discovered in Namibia was the that my parents had modeled for me throughout their lives through their faithful and consistent giving to their local church. Each Sunday, a portion of their giving would go to fund missions in their state and around the world through the Cooperative Program.
Now that I am a pastor and a dad, I am trying to model this same faithfulness.
I want my kids and my church to see me going into the world, loving others and sharing the gospel. I want my kids and church to see me sacrifice my time, talent and treasure for the cause of Christ. I want them to know there is something more important than safety, than health, than wealth and the American dream.
I want them to see that we can accomplish more for the Kingdom together as Southern Baptists than we can alone, and that is why I believe the Cooperative Program is the best way we have to accomplish this task.
It has been said that more is caught than taught, and while I’m not promoting anyone catching an infectious disease, I am suggesting that we as parents and pastors can model what it means to cooperate for the sake of the cause.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chad Keck is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Kettering, Ohio, and the Cooperative Program catalyst for the Midwest with the SBC Executive Committee. He was the 2015-2016 second vice president of the SBC.)

6/9/2017 12:43:22 PM by Chad Keck | with 0 comments

SBC IN PHOENIX: ‘Vital & defining’

June 8 2017 by Rod D. Martin

This year’s Southern Baptist Convention is coming right up, June 13-14. As chairman of the Committee on Order of Business, I look forward to seeing many of you there.
It has been a special honor to serve you on this convention committee. I am not a pastor; I’m not sure what part in the body of Christ best represents pastors – hearts perhaps? heads? But whatever part it is, I am something else – hopefully a brain cell or even an arm.

Rod D. Martin

But whatever it is, the Kingdom’s work takes all of us, and God has called all of us, to bring our unique gifts and divergent callings to His altar and His service.
Baptists have several distinctives, but none so unique as our polity and our Cooperative Program. Despite our adherence to the autonomy of the local church, Baptists have long believed that we are better together, pooling resources to do that which we could not do as well alone. In stewardship, we gather in conventions, where we meet and cross-pollinate ideas and ministry strategies with our fellow workers, pray, pass resolutions and elect the officers and trustees of the entities that represent us. This is much of what makes us who we are.
Baptists don’t dictate to their churches. Our denominational structure enables our churches and church members to be more of what they choose and are called to be. The Cooperative Program enables the benefits of a top-down structure without, well, the top-down part.
The gasoline for that engine is in your offering plate, no doubt. But the engine itself? That’s the folks who serve us in our entities and, above all, those who travel at their own expense, in time and treasure, from across this country to take part in our conventions, committees, boards and on-the-ground ministries.
It may not be glamorous. It may not be Disney World either. But it is kind of grown-up church camp. And it’s absolutely the difference between a single nondenominational church “doing the best it can” and an army of likeminded believers, 16 million strong, serving Christ’s Kingdom in a whole that’s far greater than the sum of its many parts.
As a non-pastor – as an entrepreneur – that matters to me a lot. I grew up a Baptist and I love Southern Baptists, but the Cooperative Program is why I’m rooted. There are many faithful churches and movements of churches. But what God has assembled here in the Southern Baptist Convention is effective, efficient, directed by its membership, faithful to its Lord.

BP file photo
At an SBC annual meeting, Rod D. Martin notes, “we meet and cross-pollinate ideas and ministry strategies with our fellow workers, pray, pass resolutions and elect the officers and trustees of the entities that represent us. This is much of what makes us who we are.”

Consider this: Since 2011, our North American Mission Board has focused its efforts on church planting in many areas Baptists have largely neglected in the past. In established Baptist churches, we are baptizing one new believer for every 52 members; in those church plants, one for every 14, not just in the South but everywhere.
My church can plant a church, and should. But my convention can plant a thousand churches or more, every single year.
That’s adding up, fast. More than 20 percent of the Southern Baptist churches in Iowa, Nevada, California, Maryland, Kansas, Nebraska and Arizona didn’t exist in 2010. That’s also true for 24 percent of our churches in Alaska and New Jersey, 25 percent in Minnesota and Wisconsin, 26 percent in New York and 31 percent in New England.
Roughly one out of every six seminary students on the continent is rigorously and faithfully educated in our six Southern Baptist seminaries (something which most certainly was not true before the Conservative Resurgence). At the rate we’re educating them, we may well be on track toward a preacher glut. And those unemployed yet energetic young pastors are going to have to plant more churches, here and abroad.
Our International Mission Board fields the greatest missionary force on the planet, not merely in numbers but in quality of screening, training and support. Because of the Cooperative Program, they are able to focus on the gospel and those they seek to serve, not on panhandling the people back home.
That’s why I, a layman, am a Southern Baptist. I don’t want God’s resources diluted through a thousand divisive efforts, I don’t want my tithe dollars wasted on duplicative bureaucracy. I want everything I can make and everything I can do to count – to count for the gospel, to count for our neighbors, to count for our Father.
I know others disagree. I know some of our pastors question the value of what God has here assembled. But I think they’d feel differently if they came and saw what I’ve seen. The body of Christ can be messy at times. Sometimes the sausage-making is rough and tumble. But that’s a blessing, not a curse. It means we rule ourselves under Christ and are not ruled by a pope, an archbishop or a king. Grown-ups participate in that self-rule, in church, in civic life, in all of life. It is an honor and a privilege to steward our Master’s house.
If you want to learn about, take part in, even have a say over your tithe money and our collective mission, of sound seminary education, ever-increasing evangelistic outreach, quality discipleship training and publications, provision for our retired church leaders, widows and orphans, and indeed the very future of who we are and what we stand for, there is no better place to do so than at the Southern Baptist Convention, every year, this year in Phoenix.
We will commission a new group of foreign missionaries. We will hear how our tithe dollars are being spent and ask questions of those who spend it. We will elect our president and hear some of the finest preaching around, with some of the finest people I’ve ever known.
At the SBC annual meeting, we take part in the body of Christ at a whole new, vital and defining level. It will change your life, if you let it. It certainly has mine.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rod D. Martin, founder and CEO of The Martin Organization, is a technology entrepreneur, futurist, fund manager and author. He was a senior member of PayPal’s pre-IPO startup team, serves on the Board of Governors of the Council for National Policy and has served as policy director to Gov. Mike Huckabee and as president of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies. He is a member of the Florida Baptist Convention’s State Board of Missions, a trustee of Criswell College and chairman of the Committee on Order of Business of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/8/2017 10:08:20 AM by Rod D. Martin | with 0 comments

The number one reason missionaries leave the field

June 7 2017 by Paul Akin

The most common reason missionaries go home is not due to lack of money, illness, terrorism, homesickness or even a lack of fruit or response to the gospel.
Regretfully, the number one reason is due to conflict with other missionaries.
Yes, you read that correctly.

IMB photo

From my own personal experience on the field and after five years training, equipping and sending missionaries, I have witnessed this truth firsthand. In all my travels around the world, I’ve spent countless days with missionary teams of all types, sizes and makeups and one reality remains true: none of them are perfect.
In fact, toward the end of the 20th century the World Evangelical Alliance released a significant study that found “conflict with peers” as the top reason North American missionaries leave the mission field.

Why Teams?

In light of the seemingly inevitable conflict with other missionaries, many may wonder why the International Mission Board emphasizes teams. The simple answer is that this is the example and model we see in the Bible.
Team is the predominant model we see for mission work in the New Testament. Jesus and His disciples lived together and did ministry together. Paul and Barnabas – set apart by the Holy Spirit and the church in Antioch – went out together on the first missionary journey.
We see further evidence of teams on mission in Paul’s “apostolic band.”
One scholar notes that in the New Testament, at least 55 men and 17 women were associated with Paul on his missionary journeys. All this to say, there are biblical, practical and pastoral reasons why we encourage the formation and sending of missionary teams.

Five challenges for missionary teams

Conflict within missionary teams is inevitable in a fallen world. Here are five challenges that threaten all missionaries and missionary teams.
1. Unmet expectations.
Whether we realize it or not, we all arrive on the mission field with certain expectations. These expectations are shaped and formed by our previous experiences. Unmet expectations related to missionary teams are a real problem, especially for young missionaries with an idealistic perspective of the mission field.
2. Conflict equation.
Sinful people + work with other sinful people + those people trying to witness to and reach other sinful people = lots of sinful people and potential for conflict.
When you join a team on the mission field, you are stepping into this conflict equation and you must acknowledge that reality.
3. Missionary life is stressful.
Missionary life is filled with stress and pressure, and much of it is subconscious. Things that seemed so simple – like driving, grocery shopping, paying bills or sleeping – suddenly become very challenging and stressful. It’s not always easy to articulate and identify, but subconscious stress is a reality for many missionaries and missionary teams around the world.
4. Jealousy can thrive.
We’re creatures who naturally like to compare ourselves with others.
Teams often live life together and are around each other often, so there is a great tendency for envy to creep in. If we aren’t careful, we can compare, become jealous and in the process destroy a team with our own pride.
5. Sin remains a constant reality.
The bottom line is that we’re sinful people. We’re selfish, we’re prideful and when put in stressful situations, we’re often poor teammates and partners in the Great Commission.

What’s the solution?

So, in light of these challenges, what are missionaries and missionary teams supposed to do?
1. Missionaries need to have a realistic perspective of what a team is. Missionary teams are not perfect and are made up of sinful people. Therefore, beware of going to the mission field with an idealistic and utopian perspective of “team.”
2. Missionaries must strive to be flexible and adaptable.
Nobody likes teaming with high maintenance people. Most missionaries are entering a culture where they have little control over most things that happen and, as a result, flexibility and adaptability are critical.
3. Missionaries ought to prepare spiritually, physically and emotionally before going to the field.
As Mack Stiles once wrote, “There is no such thing as transformation by aviation.” Missionaries must intentionally pursue intimacy with Christ and learn to abide in Him long before they ever cross geographical, cultural and linguistic barriers.
In the end, being a good teammate is not just a matter of effort, though that’s important; it’s a matter of grace and mercy. We need God’s grace and mercy on a moment-by-moment basis. We need the gospel to change us from the inside out. We need the Holy Spirit to change our hearts, wills, desires and affection – and in the process make us more like Jesus.
That is the only way we can be the kind of teammates who honor God and help fuel the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Paul Akin is the senior aide to International Mission Board President David Platt.)

6/7/2017 11:06:47 AM by Paul Akin | with 0 comments

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