June 2018

This is our time

June 29 2018 by Tony Wolfe

“This is our time,” young pastors and church leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention can be heard saying. And so it is. We now are on the shoulders of those who have come before us. And one day atop our shoulders the next generation will stand.


The dethroned King Richard II – imprisoned, a victim of both treason and his own naivety – muttered a depressing commentary at the end of a lifetime full of regret, awaiting nothing but death itself: “I wasted time, and now doth time waste me” (W. Shakespeare, Richard II).
 
As a pastor I sat by the bedside of more than a few whose final days were full of such sorrow. Imprisoned by regret and bound by dwindling days, they realized all too late that their lives had been wasted on things altogether unimportant and unnecessary.
 
From a Roman prison cell the apostle Paul wrote to young Timothy, his son in the faith, on the circumstance of his own impending death. Paul anticipated his final breath with a very different attitude from Shakespeare’s Richard II.
 
The time for my departure is close,” the imprisoned gospel warrior wrote. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. There is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day” (2 Timothy 4:6-8). In full expectation that this may be his final script, Paul wrote from a position of great contentment. The apostle had poured out his life for the advancement of the gospel of Jesus Christ (v. 6) and at the end of his days he reminisced with great joy instead of wallowing in sorrowful regret.
 
In full disclosure, my days are not always lived with urgency for the gospel. I sometimes do a lot of things without getting anything eternal done. I have learned that if Satan can’t get me to default on the best thing, he’ll distract me with a lot of good things. So the main becomes peripheral and the peripherals become urgent. On these days I am more like Shakespeare’s Richard II than the Bible’s apostle Paul.
 
“Preach the Word.” “Be ready.” “Do the work of an evangelist.” Paul wrote these words of urgent exhortation to young Timothy knowing that all too quickly the young man would find himself in the same condition as the old one, reflecting on his yesteryears while anticipating a final breath.
 
Time passes so quickly. Yesterday I was a preteen boy playing baseball in the backyard with my brothers. Tomorrow I’ll be sipping a senior coffee from McDonalds with friends from decades past who do good to just remember my name.
 
I pray for myself and my peers – young pastors and leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention – that this truth grips us quickly. Every breath is a gift from God and every gift from God is to be poured out on the altar of gospel advance. Not only are useless debates, childish banter and foolish exchanges unbecoming of the people of God, we simply don’t have time for it.
 
“This is our time,” we suppose. And so it is. May our time be marked by a Pauline sense of gospel urgency, not a Richard II foolishness of wasted years. Call this my Christian mid-life crisis. I’m fine with that. But brothers and sisters, this truth is beginning to catch up with me: If we waste time now, time will waste us later. God’s gospel story is passing through our generation right now. The name and fame of Jesus Christ is being propagated among the nations and God has invited us to join Him in this eternally significant work.
 
Let’s not waste time with the foolishness of self-promotion or the wickedness of others’ degradation. Instead, let’s “preach the Word,” “be ready” and “do the work of an evangelist.” Let’s solidify God-honoring partnerships for Great Commission causes instead of dissolving proven missional methods for peripheral reasons. Let’s hold each other to account without holding each other in contempt.
 
Let’s pour our lives out for the advancement of the gospel and selfless service to Jesus’ bride, the church. Our commission is too great and our time too short for anything less.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tony Wolfe is director of pastor/church relations for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/29/2018 9:56:02 AM by Tony Wolfe | with 0 comments



Spiritually fit

June 28 2018 by Doug Metzger

If one of our children got into their 20s and still acted like a 2-year-old, we would have a big problem on our hands – worse still, if they got into their 30s and 40s and were still acting like immature children. Yet from a spiritual standpoint, how careless and complacent some can be toward their spiritual growth.

Because growth toward maturity is to be an actuality in every believer’s life, consider some practical truths to get going and keep going in the growth process toward being spiritual fit.
 

Commitment

If people buy a gym membership to get physically fit but aren’t serious about doing anything in the gym, they’re wasting their money. A commitment to active involvement is necessary. The same is true for spiritual fitness. There must be an intentional commitment to get in the game and stay in the game. This does not mean that along the way there won’t be the temptation to throw in the towel and quit, but in order to realize success, one must commit to keep going.
 

Effort

A fitness addict knows that muscles are not built without pumping iron. Heart health requires cardiovascular exercise. Nothing happens automatically. The parallel in the growth of spiritual muscle and heart health as a believer is to realize that nothing happens there automatically either. Those who want an instantaneous, microwaveable solution to their spiritual infancy need to overcome their spiritual laziness and give growth the effort required. It will not happen otherwise.
 

Time

Developing a physically fit body not only requires effort but also time. The same is true of spiritual fitness. The daily discipline required over weeks and months, even years, is vital for achieving desired growth.
 
For those who continuously employ these practical truths, growth and fitness will be recognizable. When I go to the gym and continuously give what it takes, I don’t hope for but anticipate a noticeable difference. Likewise, when we get in on God’s plan for spiritual fitness, before long we can expect evidence that God is working in us. Noticeable transformation will occur in time according to the commitment we make and the effort we put in. Possessing and maintaining spiritual fitness requires that we “Just keep going!” (and going and going).
 
(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.)

6/28/2018 9:28:14 AM by Doug Metzger | with 0 comments



Needing qualified people

June 27 2018 by Hance Dilbeck

Old football coaches have a saying: “It’s Jimmies and Joes not X’s and O’s that win football games.”
 
A team might have an excellent game plan, creative formations and cutting-edge equipment, but if their players are untrained, weak and slow, they will not win many games.

The players are the key, not the plays.
 
The church in Jerusalem was struggling, and they were distracted by a division over the care of widows that threatened the advance of the gospel. In response to the challenge, the apostles put the spotlight on the need for players, not plays. They called for qualified people to rise up and address the matter so that the church could pursue her mission. The apostles did not propose a plan or a program, they appealed for qualified people.
 
As recorded in Scripture, “Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task” (Acts 6:3).
 
Consider this call for qualified people:
 
Our churches depend on people who are morally qualified – people of good reputation who live with integrity in the home and at work, and people marked by honesty and a consistency of character that wins the respect of their communities. It is tragic when the men and women who ought to be leading our churches forfeit their capacity to lead through moral compromise.
 
Our churches depend on people who are practically qualified – people who will take charge of a task. Too many of us want to come to a worship service that suits our preferences and then serve when the notion strikes us, shirking long-term responsibility. This kind of irresponsibility makes our churches weak.
 
Our churches depend on people who are spiritually qualified – people full of the Spirit and wisdom. The late missions leader Oswald Sanders used to say that spiritual work can only be done by spiritual people using spiritual means. Too many of us are weak and ineffective because we do not walk with Jesus consistently. If we abide in Him we bear much fruit, but apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5).
 
The honest truth is that the problems in our churches are spiritual problems; the enemy we face is a spiritual enemy. Only men and women able to wield spiritual weapons – prayer, the sword of the Word, a purity of life and proclamation of the gospel – and who are spiritually strong can address the problems that plague our society.
 
Many of our churches are weak because many of us are weak. We do not need to search for better plays, rather we need to become better players.
 
O Lord, we beg You to raise up men and women who are morally, practically and spiritually qualified to lead Your churches. Do this fresh new work by Your grace, through Your power and for Your glory. Amen.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Hance Dilbeck is executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/27/2018 8:33:23 AM by Hance Dilbeck | with 0 comments



My takeaways from SBC 2018

June 25 2018 by Chris Hefner

I grew up going to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meetings. My father retired a few years ago from more than 40 years of ministry as a pastor of SBC churches. We attended SBC meetings as a family in cities like Atlanta and Orlando. Now, I attend as a senior pastor representing the SBC church I serve.
 

Chris Hefner

Some things about the meetings remain the same. There always seems to be media attention pinpointing whatever controversy threatens discord in the largest evangelical denomination in the U.S. There are always interesting comments and motions as our congregational form of government gives the microphone to messengers from across the nation. There are always reports offered by leaders, both encouraging and discouraging regarding the state of the SBC.
 
Here are several takeaways from this year’s convention in Dallas, Texas.
 

Takeaway #1

The frontline passion and emphasis on evangelism from the International Mission Board (IMB) must become prominent locally and nationally. The most poignant moment for me by far at this year’s meeting came in the commissioning ceremony for the IMB.
 
The theme, “Every Church, Every Nation” reminds us that when we give cooperatively, we all participate in evangelism to the nations. In many ways, we perceive the IMB as frontline evangelism. We celebrate missionaries whose names and faces remain anonymous because they are being sent to unsafe places for the gospel. We cheer their courage and applaud their obedience. It is time that we pastors and churches adopt a frontline mindset for evangelism in our communities.
 
We say regarding the IMB, “If we don’t send, how will the unreached hear?” We must say about the lost around us, “If we don’t share, how will they hear?”
 
While we look forward to denominational vision, we must not wait on the denomination to lead us in evangelism and discipleship. The responsibility for evangelism, discipleship, church planting and international missions rests with the pastors and churches of the SBC.
 

Takeaway #2

Some SBC leaders have misused their positions of influence, but the misuse of power and authority does not appear to be systemic. We need to learn from the failures of others.
 
Our churches and entities need to become safe places for the abused and disenfranchised. We must implement policies and protections that will lead us to defend the abused and protect our churches from predators and abusers.
 
One of the tensions in the SBC leading up to the convention regarded Paige Patterson’s failure to appropriately handle an accusation of rape while he served as president at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Encouragingly, the other seminary presidents affirmed that this was not a systemic issue at their schools. Surely, we have had and will have situations where one or more leaders misuse their power and authority. But thankfully these appear to be exceptions.
 

Takeaway #3

Pastors and churches need to engage the theological conversation within their churches regarding complementarianism – what it means and does not mean for the important roles women serve in our churches.
 
It seems unconscionable to me that a complementarian position can be used to silence women who speak out about abuse. Complementarianism is affirmed in the Baptist Faith and Message (2000) and recognizes the biblically-derived view regarding gender roles in the home and church. But to hold this view does not mean women remain silent, don’t serve or don’t teach.
 
More women than men were commissioned with the IMB this year (in the spirit of Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon). And to quote Dr. Albert Mohler from the convention platform, “There’s not a man in this room who has not learned from a woman.”
 

Takeaway #4

Many at this year’s meeting appeared to be moving away from public political party affiliations, and I think that’s a good thing. Personally, I found Vice President Mike Pence’s speech uncomfortable. Let me explain.
 
I’m conservative. But the vice president spent more time lauding presidential policies than he did commending his Christian beliefs. It was a campaign speech. By the way, I’m fine with campaign speeches and conservative policies, but it was out of place at the SBC.
 
I know that his speech fit historically, as we’ve had political leaders speak before. But to me, it did not fit thematically.
 
Around two hours after David Platt reported on Muslims coming to faith in Jesus, Vice President Pence promised to destroy the so-called Islamic State (known as ISIS). I realize one is speaking from the realm of theology and one from the realm of politics, but that’s the problem. Those two realms are divisive, distinct and require nuanced conversations.

I believe the SBC would do well in the future to refrain from having sitting politicians use our denominational platform for campaign speeches (a motion that was referred to the Executive Committee for action in Birmingham next year in 2019).
 

Takeaway #5

If we want a voice, then we need to be present and willing to serve. Steve Gaines represented the SBC well as president. Ken Hemphill would also have led well.

But it is good for the present and future of the SBC that J.D. Greear was elected as our president. His election, as well as the makeup of the messengers at SBC 2018, reflects an invigorated engagement from younger generations.
 
The congregational format of our denomination provides an opportunity to be present, have a voice and serve. If you like the direction of the convention, then be engaged and be involved. If you don’t like the direction of the convention, then be engaged and be involved. Either way, you have a voice and an opportunity to speak.
 
I’m already looking forward to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s meeting in November and the SBC meeting in Birmingham next year.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chris Hefner is senior pastor of Wilkesboro Baptist Church in Wilkesboro, N.C.)

6/25/2018 1:00:13 PM by Chris Hefner | with 0 comments



Winsomeness, personified

June 22 2018 by Susie Hawkins

Our church had an active women’s ministry and was holding our very first women’s conference. I was excited because our main speaker was Marge Caldwell, famed speaker and teacher from Houston, Texas.
 

 

Marge, who died in 2006 at age 91, had a huge national following and was known for her humor and wit, but she also was known for teaching insightful and deep truths from scripture. I was especially thrilled that she would be staying in our home, meaning that I would have some time with her alone. As one of her many admirers, I was curious about what made Marge tick and was fervently hoping I could absorb some of her stellar qualities just by being around her for a couple of days.
 
Our daughters were elementary school age at the time and were curious about our house guest. When I introduced them, Marge promptly sat down on our sofa and asked them to join her. They began to eagerly chat about their day, their school, friends, likes, dislikes, you name it.
 
I remember watching this scenario and thinking, “She’s talking to them like they were real people!” After about 20 minutes they were all BFFs and even had an inside joke! Marge was the topic of family conversations for a long time after the conference.
 
I did learn something from Marge’s visit and it wasn’t just from her strong messages to our women. She was a winsome woman, whether with children, women or anyone else. She had a joy and a love for others that was contagious.
 
Winsome, according to the dictionary, can be defined as “generally pleasing and engaging; a childlike charm; one who causes pleasure; appealing.” Let’s look at those qualities a little closer:

  • “Upbeat” – A winsome woman is positive and generally cheerful, one who looks for the best in people and situations. In my opinion, it also means a woman who doesn’t take herself too seriously. She can laugh at herself.

  • “Childlike charm” – There is a mountain of difference between “childishness” and “childlikeness.” Childishness demonstrates selfishness and immaturity, but childlikeness implies innocence or simple trust. How appealing that is in a person! No sneering cynicism, sarcasm or skepticism, a winsome woman looks for and believes in the best in others. (If you have been in ministry for a while, this can be challenging.)

  • “One who causes pleasure” – A woman who is genuinely interested in others rather than herself is a winsome woman. I doubt now if Marge really wanted to know what was going on in the third grade at Peters Elementary, but you sure could have fooled me that day. A person who is interested in others invites honest conversations and sharing on a deeper level. A winsome woman can forget about herself.

 
In the context of ministry life, winsomeness takes on even more weight. As we meet people who know nothing of the saving grace of Christ, we must be winsome witnesses. As we help bear others’ burdens, we must do so with winsomeness which includes a sensitivity to their pain. As we grow older, we are winsome when we encourage the younger generation, listen to them and believe in them. We are winsome when we refuse to look back at hurts but look forward to God’s blessings and provision.
 
The Old English root of winsome is “wynn,” which means “joy.” And that says it all.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Susie Hawkins has been active in ministry as a pastor’s wife, teacher and volunteer and is the author of From One Ministry Wife to AnotherReprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/22/2018 12:08:16 PM by Susie Hawkins | with 0 comments



What makes a good mission team

June 21 2018 by Keith Shorter, Mt. Airy Baptist Church

Churches all across America will be taking short-term mission trips this summer to places like Cleveland, Boston, Uganda and Thailand. Recently, I asked some missionaries, church planters and missions leaders a strategic question: What did the best mission teams do that made you glad they came?
 

 

The insights listed below were gleaned from their answers.
 

1. Don’t go with your own agenda.

 
Before going on the trip, ask the missionary, “How can we help you fulfill your mission?”  Mission teams can accomplish in one week what it would take a missionary six months to accomplish. However, they can also tear down and undo what a missionary has taken months or years to build by saying and doing the wrong things. Honor the vision that the Lord has given to the missionary and support what they are doing.
 

2. Pick up the tab for everything.

 
Mission teams should always pick up the tab for all costs related to their team as well as any costs the missionary may incur while serving with you. All missionaries have limited funds. Don’t expect them to pay for your T-shirts, your lodging, your subway tickets, etc. Always reach for your wallet first.
 

3. Choose a place to serve and return on a regular basis.

 
Rather than going to a different place every year, find a community that you can return to over and over. Plan to invest three to five years in sowing the gospel in that community. Meet the people who live there. Learn their names. The next time you are in town, go see them. Mission teams at their best are relationship driven. Build bridges in the community that the missionaries can walk across for years to come.
 

4. Be open to your new context.

 
Be willing to embrace the city and the people who live there. Wherever you go, it will likely be different than your town and your context, but embrace the differences. Don’t speak negatively about the community you are serving. Let the differences spark positive conversations.
 

5. Be flexible and stress that to your whole team.

 
It will rain when you need it be sunny. Not as many people will show up to events as you expected. People you talk to may be rude. The van will overheat. Things simply will not go the way we think they should go, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t at work. It is such a blessing for the missionaries when a team understands this and can roll with the punches and improvise when necessary. Maintain a “whatever it takes” attitude.
 

6. Focus on being a blessing to the missionary’s family.

 
Serving on the mission field is hard and demanding work. It requires a lot of emotional energy and can be very lonely. Often there is little visible fruit from their sacrificial labor. Teams that understand this and intentionally focus on encouraging the missionaries and their children are great mission partners.
 

7. Be spiritually prepared and ready to share the gospel.

 
Don’t be afraid of people who look, speak and smell different than you. You will meet people from all kinds of different cultures, backgrounds and home lives. Remember that God created them and loves them dearly and so should you. Be ready to share the Good News of how God changed your life and how He can do the same for them. Before going on the trip, prepare yourself by spending time with the Lord and specifically praying for the mission trip, and the work that will take place.
 
Don’t just go on another mission trip this summer. Clarify what good partnerships can and should look like. Then be that kind of partner. When you go home, the missionary will thank God that you came.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Shorter is pastor of Mt. Airy Baptist Church in Easley, S.C., and immediate past president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/21/2018 10:35:16 AM by Keith Shorter, Mt. Airy Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Pointed words from Brother Louis Beloney

June 20 2018 by Fred Luter

I am the middle of five kids. My mom and dad were divorced when I was six years old. As a single mother of five kids, my mom had a lot of rules; however, the one that was non-negotiable was that everyone in our house had to attend church on Sunday mornings.
 

 

My mom would often say that everyone who sleeps in her beds, eats her food and drinks her water had to go to church on Sunday mornings. I have told people through the years that my mom gave me my first “drug” problem – she drug me to church, she drug me to Sunday School and she drug me to Vacation Bible School! However, the fact of the matter is, I was just going to church but not living for God after the benediction.
 
Because my mom had to work two to three jobs, I literally lived the life of a street kid, getting involved in things and living a lifestyle that I knew was not pleasing to God. However, it was a lifestyle that all of my so-called friends were living and I wanted to be just like them.
 
I shudder to think where I would be today if I had gotten caught doing the wrong things simply because I was hanging around the wrong crowd. Several of the guys I used to run the streets with are either in prison, alcoholics, drug addicts or are dead as a result of their lifestyle choices. As I look back on those days, I often think that “but for the grace of God there go I.”
 
The turning point in my life happened in the summer of 1977. I had joined a motorcycle gang that my mom was totally against. However, because she was always working, she could not prevent me from hanging with the guys in the gang. One evening, I was riding my motorcycle and saw a car turning in the intersection where I was turning. I tried to avoid a collision, but it was inevitable. The next thing I remember is laying with blood covering my leg and head in Charity Hospital of New Orleans. I soon was told that I had a compound fracture in my left leg and had a serious head wound.
 
While lying in the hospital recovering from my wounds, I received a lot of visitors. Some I remember and some I don’t, but there was one visitor I will never forget. His name was Brother Louis Beloney, an older deacon at the church I was being “drug” to every Sunday. He asked me how I was doing and told me how concerned my family was about me. Then he did and said something I will never forget. Brother Beloney pointed his finger within one inch of my face and said these words, “Boy, obedience is better than sacrifice. If you were obedient to your mom, you would not be sacrificing your life in this hospital. You better get your life together, ask God to forgive you and to give you another chance to get it right!” Then he prayed for me and told me that he and God loved me – now that is what I call direct evangelism!
 
That night, I made a deal with God. I said, “God, I do not know if I am going to live or die. But if you wake me up tomorrow morning, I will live for you all the days of my life.” The next morning I woke up, gave God the praise and was determined to keep my vow to the Lord, and I have never looked back. I like to refer to my salvation testimony as my “Damascus Road” experience similar to the apostle Paul.
 
After getting out of the hospital, I willingly attended the church that I had been drug to all of my life as a kid. When the invitation was extended, with tears in my eyes, I walked down the aisle of that church and asked the members for their forgiveness and prayers. I told them of the vow I made to the Lord at the hospital and asked them to hold me accountable.
 
At the end of the service many of the members came to greet me. The first person in that line was Brother Louis Beloney. Today, he is in heaven watching the fruit of his labor. He has seen the young man that he challenged get saved, become a street preacher, become a pastor and eventually make history as the first African American president of the Southern Baptist Convention. That is why I am a living witness that “obedience is indeed better than sacrifice.” To God be the glory, great things He has done!
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Fred Luter is senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/20/2018 12:18:55 PM by Fred Luter | with 0 comments



Very optimistic

June 15 2018 by Jeff Iorg

A student recently asked me, “How do you feel about the future of the Southern Baptist Convention?”


He was surprised by my answer, “Very positive.”

He replied, “Don’t some of the current problems mean the convention is in trouble?” My answer was, “No, not really.” He asked for some explanation and here are the reasons I shared with him.
 
First, God sustains any ministry riveted on His purpose. Our reason for having a denomination is expanding God’s Kingdom. He will sustain us as long as we are focused on His overarching purpose. Our vitality has never depended on human leadership, but on God’s power.
 
Second, current problems are just that – current problems. We have had serious problems in the past and God has helped us solve them. We may have even more serious problems in the future and God will help us handle those as well. The tendency is (every year it seems) to focus on the issues at hand and pronounce them “the most serious problems we have ever faced.” There are real issues on the table this year, but let’s avoid every generation’s tendency to ignore historical perspective and overestimate current challenges.
 
Third, airing problems openly means our processes are working – not failing. Southern Baptists do almost all our business in public. Our annual convention is a public meeting, as are most sessions of each of the boards which govern our entities. Secular corporations and other religious groups have the same problems (or more) than we do, but they are not as public about their business. When Baptists learn about and face up to problems, that means our processes are working – sometimes methodically or haltingly – but they are working.
 
Finally, when faced with important decisions – like choosing leaders, clarifying positions, or correcting problems – the messengers almost always make the right decisions. The common piety and common sense of prayerful Baptists making important decisions has been a hallmark of convention meetings I have attended for the past 30 years.
 
As a leader, a part of my role is defining reality. Denying difficult dilemmas does not diminish them. Making them more than they are, however, is also a mistake.
 
May God give us the grace to admit mistakes and face challenges, while maintaining proper perspective on current problems and not losing hope for the future.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/15/2018 1:42:41 PM by Jeff Iorg | with 0 comments



Never stop praying!

June 11 2018 by Michael Waters

In the spring of 2016, I learned that Harvey “Pete” Overcash was in a nursing home for rehabilitation, due to an accident with a garden tiller. He did not attend our church, but his wife, Norma, was a faithful member for more than 40 years and had recently become home bound with declining health. She was a children’s Sunday School teacher and faithful church supporter. Pete showed no desire to attend church with Norma, but she faithfully prayed for him.
 

Contributed photo
Pastor Michael Waters, left, baptized Pete Overcash, center, in March at Parkwood Baptist Church in Concord. Waters helped lead Overcash, 88, to the Lord in 2016. Pastor Darrell Coble, right, served at the church for 35 years and was Overcash’s wife’s pastor.

When I heard Pete was in the nursing home, I felt that I should visit him. I honestly had no evangelistic goals, but out of obligation to Norma, I needed to check on him.
 
When I walked in his room, Pete smiled and told me he was happy to see me, even though we did not know each other very well. After he explained his accident and next steps to getting well, he began to ask questions that seemed out of character for him. I sensed God was stirring and he was under conviction.
 
It was a Wednesday afternoon, and I needed to return to the church for the Wednesday night service. I asked Pete if I could come back the next day to answer his questions. He nodded without hesitation and said that would be fine.
 
I called the former pastor, Darrell Coble, who was Norma’s pastor for 35 years, and asked him if he would go with me the next day since he planted the seed of the gospel in conversations with Pete many years earlier.
 
I also shared with the folks at our Wednesday evening prayer service that night that Pastor Coble and I were going back the next day to talk with Pete. I said, “If you have ever prayed, please join me tonight in asking God to save this man.”
 
The next day I pushed Pastor Coble in a wheelchair into the nursing home. He was recovering from recent surgery. Pastor Coble asked Pete, “Do you remember when I shared the gospel with you about 30 years ago?” Pete said he remembered, but wanted nothing to do with it at the time. This time, he was ready to listen.
 
Pete willingly prayed to accept Christ. I could hardly believe it. Later, as we left the room Pete thanked us for the visit and asked us to come back anytime.
 
The follow up visits with Pete changed my life. His countenance changed completely. He read all of the four gospels in a matter of weeks and asked many questions about what he was reading. Pete was 86 years old when he accepted Christ, and he could not read God’s Word enough.
 
Several weeks later, Pete said that before my initial visit, he knew someone was coming to see him. God had been dealing with him. He knew he needed to get right with God, but he needed someone to tell him. That was the day that I walked into Pete’s room. He knew God sent me to talk about his salvation.
 
As weeks passed, Pete was able to go home, although walking was very difficult – even with a brace and cane.
 
During visits to the Overcash’s home, Pete often expressed how much he wanted to go to church, but he wanted his wife to get better so she could be with him on his first day in church. Norma was grateful for the change she saw in her husband, but never got well enough to attend with him.
 
One day Pete stopped by the church office to bring an offering. I invited him to see the sanctuary, since he had never been inside the building.
 
He sat on the back pew spell bound, as the sun shone through the stained glass window. He said, “Preacher, I always wondered what it would be like to sit down in here, and it is more beautiful than I ever imagined. If you don’t mind, could I have some time alone?”
 
I told him to take all the time he needed.
 
Several months passed, and Norma’s health continued to decline until the Lord called her home in October 2017. The following Sunday, Pete attended a worship service for the first time and has continued every Sunday. In one of my recent visits to his home, Pete said, “Preacher, I really need to be baptized before I die.”
 
We had discussed the importance of baptism two years ago when he prayed to trust Christ. But because of his desire to see his wife healed and attend church with her, I did not push the issue.
 
He had many questions, including how we would get him in and out of the baptistry. I suggested that he come to the church soon so I could show him how it works.
 
A few days before Palm Sunday, Pete dropped by. We walked him through several scenarios, assuring him it would be OK. Finally, he looked at me and said, “All right, I’ll do it! When do you want me to do this?”
 
I explained that the church has a special Sunday night service for Palm Sunday that includes the Lord’s Supper.
 
I said, “Pete, it would bless those attending to see your obedience and determination to be baptized if you would consider letting us baptize you this Sunday night.” He agreed.
 
As we walked down the hall, Pete said, “You know, I used to think this was all a fairy tale, but as sure as I know my home is behind this church, I know I’m going to heaven when I die.”
 
By God’s grace, we baptized Pete Overcash on Palm Sunday evening, March 25, 2018, at 88 years old. I shared his story with the congregation before the baptism. When I brought him out of the water, the congregation stood to their feet, clapping and shouting to the glory of God!
 
Our church has been inspired to never stop praying for the lost! With God, all things are possible!
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Waters is pastor of Parkwood Baptist Church in Concord, N.C.)

6/11/2018 11:51:42 AM by Michael Waters | with 0 comments



A plea for unity in the Southern Baptist Convention

June 8 2018 by Chuck Register

2018 marks my “golden anniversary” as a Southern Baptist. Fifty years ago I came to faith in Christ through the witness of a Southern Baptist pastor and was baptized into a Southern Baptist congregation.


In 1978, God used the preaching of Dr. Herschel Hobbs, a former president and statesman of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), to reveal His call upon my life to gospel ministry. During the last 35 years I have served as the senior pastor of three Southern Baptist churches, as a professor and administrator at a Southern Baptist seminary, and as a denominational leader serving on the staff of a state convention affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
 
So, for four decades I have enjoyed a front row seat to Southern Baptist life, and from where I’m sitting today we have never been more divided.
 
Yes, I was in Dallas in 1985, one of more than 45,000 messengers attending “The Shootout in Dallas.” But the division within the SBC, even in those difficult days, pales in comparison to the divisiveness within our ranks today.
 
Today, the SBC is divided over soteriological differences, political differences, generational differences, racial differences, differences on social justice issues, differences in worldview and the list goes on.
 
We have created an “us vs. them” mentality on every issue. We air our differences, for all the world to see, in tweets, blogs, editorials and articles. We’ve taken pages out of secular political playbooks to attack the “opposition,” to promote “our” candidate, to rally “our” people and to do it all in the name of the Lord.
 
We have weaponized the press, our conferences and our podcasts to promote “our” agendas, to exclude opposing viewpoints, to hammer “our opponents” and we do it all with a sense of self-righteous satisfaction.
 
For many in the SBC it’s no longer enough to dialogue. No, we must win the debate, and we must defeat the one who dares to debate us.
 
Southern Baptists, we are a fractured people, and our lack of unity dishonors our Lord! It stands in stark contrast to the Spirit’s admonition through the apostle Paul, “…being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
 
Fortunately, for the SBC, Paul instructs each of us how to “preserve the unity of the Spirit.” He writes, “…walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, ...” (Ephesians 4:1-2).
 
In other words, those who are called to follow Christ must follow Him on a daily basis exhibiting essential, defining traits of the Christian life — humility, gentleness, patience and tolerant love. 
 
Notice the lifestyle Paul advocates begins with humility, for without humility there is no gentleness, or patience or tolerant love and to that truth the Southern Baptist Convention is currently “Exhibit A.”
 
Today, the unchallengeable conviction that “our cause” is just, “our agenda” is worthy and “our position” is correct has robbed Southern Baptists of humility and filled us with hubris. Void of humility we are left unable to be gentle, patient or tolerant in love toward those to whom we disagree. No wonder we are a fractured people.
 
So, with the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention just a few days away, what do we do?
 
As brothers and sisters, as family, we must take our eyes off of our agendas, our causes, and our crusades, long enough to catch a fresh glimpse of our Heavenly Father. Like Isaiah we must see “…the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted…” (Isaiah 6:1).
 
Preceding the convention, we must heed SBC President Steve Gaines’ call to fast and pray. During the convention, I join the chorus of voices calling for a solemn assembly.
 
Southern Baptists, we need to see the Father. More than reports, more than sermons, more than elections, we desperately need to see the Lord seated on His throne. Then, perhaps all Southern Baptists will exclaim with one unified voice, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips. For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).
 
And then, maybe then, the Lord will send one of His seraphim to touch our collective lips with a burning coal, and as a convention, as a unified Southern Baptist people, we might hear once again that heavenly voice proclaim, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8). May it ever be so!
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Chuck Register serves as executive leader for Church Planting and Missions Partnerships with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)

6/8/2018 12:18:33 PM by Chuck Register | with 0 comments



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