March 2012

Anatomy of a name change

March 13 2012 by Micah Fries, Guest Column

When the invitation of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Bryant Wright came [for me] to serve on a task force dedicated to deliberating the possibility of changing the name of the SBC, I was thankful for the invitation and excited to serve with other men and women who care about the SBC.

[Our recommendation] now stands approved for consideration this summer at the annual meeting of the SBC.
 
Since the announcement of this new descriptor in our name came out, there have been many opinions about whether or not this is actually a good move for the SBC. I have heard from a significant number of Southern Baptists who love the new concept, many who are not in favor of it, and even more who are fairly ambivalent about the entire matter.
 
However, I have heard a bit of confusion as to what this exactly means for the SBC and how this name was chosen by the task force. While I obviously do not speak for the task force, I do believe the choice we made was good and helpful for the future of the SBC. I would like to make an attempt at clarifying how and why we arrived at the conclusion we did.
 
The task force convened on two occasions, but we were tasked with a fair amount of work apart from our face-to-face meetings. There were a number of issues that must be addressed. Was there a benefit to a new descriptor for the SBC? If so, what should it be? How would it affect Southern Baptist life? What legal ramifications would be involved? Would there be a cost in terms of reputation and influence? What were the financial costs associated with such a change? These and other matters weighed on our minds as we progressed through our proceedings.
 
We requested opinions from across SBC life, specifically from the Executive Directors of each of the state conventions. The responses we received were quite varied. A significant number of people (both at the grassroots level and those in positions of denominational influence) believed that some sort of name change would be beneficial to them and their Great Commission work.
 
While no one believed this to be a “fix” for the decrease in baptisms or lack of evangelistic fervor, many did believe this would be a helpful step toward that end. … Once we determined that we possessed sufficient evidence to allow us to move forward in our study, we began to research the legal options and ramifications of some sort of a name change. This involved a multitude of questions and answers that would need to be addressed concurrently. We studied the history of name change proposals and discovered this issue had been at the forefront of Southern Baptist consciousness throughout our history. Starting with George Hillyer of Georgia in 1903, Southern Baptists have dealt with this issue over and over again.
 
As we began to consider the legal options, we quickly learned it would be nearly impossible (and not necessarily beneficial) to change the name of the SBC. …
 
Across the nation, we understood there is great equity and name recognition with the Southern Baptist Convention’s name. SBC Disaster relief efforts in New Orleans and New York City in recent years have only helped to solidify this reality. Our unity in theological conviction on critical aspects of biblical fidelity has proven to be of great worth in many places in our nation and around the world.
 
When the SBC was founded in 1845 in Augusta, Ga., it was organized under a charter issued by the legislature of the state of Georgia. Southern Baptists were granted some legal exemptions that have proven to be extremely valuable to us. Should we have chosen to recommend a legal name change, we would face a possible change to our charter that would potentially require that our updated charter be under the jurisdiction of current Georgia non-profit statute. This would place the SBC in the vulnerable position of forfeiting our current legal status.

Moreover, current non-profit statutes require that a non-profit organization operate under the administration of a Board of Directors, as ultimate authority. This poses a problem, as the SBC officially only exists two days each year.  Our messengers, not a Board of Directors, are the ultimate decision making body of the convention. Southern Baptist polity would have been compromised and radically reoriented our life together by placing ultimate authority in the hands of a board of directors. How would such a board be selected? How could they function within our polity? These problematic questions stymied our ability to change the legal name of the Southern Baptist Convention.
 
Serious financial implications confronted us. As we began to contemplate the potential financial costs of everything from the legal professionals required to assist in this process to the modification of logos, the cost estimates became counterproductive and insurmountable. We literally could not calculate the enormous financial cost to a legal name change.
 
Another option was that of a Doing Business As (DBA) recognition. From a legal perspective, this option forces some binding, legal obligations on local churches, organizations and/or entities affiliated with the SBC that would cause widespread (and unnecessary) problems. The task force also rejected this option.

Southern Baptists have long held various monikers for our cooperative work. These have been used in publications, websites, etc. Until now, we have never considered selecting any of these descriptors as an official descriptor of the work of our convention. Selecting a formal descriptor/moniker for our identity and work preserves our legal status and allows us to honor those who live in areas where “Southern Baptist” continues to maintain a position of goodwill and brand equity. It honors those who love the SBC because of our doctrine and missions, but who may find our name to be a hindrance from time to time. It communicates to them that we care about them and value them as partners in the gospel. A significant number of our ethnic partners pled for a name change, and this action demonstrates our love and appreciation for them as we desire to join them in their struggle with others in their traditions who do not understand and/or appreciate Southern Baptists. 
 
To our church planters and other church leaders in non-traditional SBC areas, it highlights our love and thankfulness for them. This option is voluntary and allows every church and/or entity in the SBC to utilize the new moniker (or not) depending on the approval of their leadership, congregation and trustees.
 
Why “Great Commission Baptists”? Obviously we had to eliminate names that were utilized by other organizations and names that struck at our polity (such as International Baptists, Global Baptist, etc. as the SBC simply does not exist outside of the USA). Great Commission Baptists continued to rise to the top. While some in SBC life seemed concerned (or excited) that we would consider a more “contemporary” name, I was of the opinion that any option be what I called a “legacy name.” In other words, it must be a name that would stand the test of time. Changing the name to something that sounded good today, but would lose potency and effectiveness over time had little appeal to me.
 
From my perspective, Great Commission Baptists was a great choice … clearly explaining our desire to unite around the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
 
The Task Force came to the unanimous recommendation that Great Commission Baptists captures who we have historically aspired to be and propels us forward to a bright Great Commission focused future.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Micah Fries is pastor of Frederick Boulevard Baptist Church, St. Joseph, Mo. This column first appeared on his blog micahfries.com.)
3/13/2012 7:49:35 PM by Micah Fries, Guest Column | with 0 comments



Kirk Cameron stood strong – will other Christians do the same?

March 9 2012 by Denny Burk, Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Are you paying attention to the response to Kirk Cameron’s recent remarks about gay marriage on Piers Morgan’s television program? Cameron did not come on the program to talk about homosexuality, and he even looked like he was trying to change the subject. But Morgan pressed him, and so Cameron answered.

When Morgan asked him about gay marriage, Cameron said, “Marriage is almost as old as dirt, and it was defined in the garden between Adam and Eve. One man, one woman for life till death do you part. So I would never attempt to try to redefine marriage. And I don’t think anyone else should either. So do I support the idea of gay marriage? No, I don’t.”

Then Morgan asked him his views on homosexuality, and Cameron responded, “I think that it’s – it’s – it’s unnatural. I think that it’s – it’s detrimental, and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.”
 
What has been instructive to watch has not been Cameron’s remarks, but the response. Cameron is a Christian, and he merely summarized the 2,000-year-old teaching of the church that homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:9-10). Nothing new here. Nothing has changed on that front.

What has changed dramatically over the last 10 years has been society’s attitudes about homosexuality. By and large, people are more and more open to homosexuality as a wholesome, morally unproblematic way of life. But this, too, should not be news to anyone.

What is instructive about this interview has been how openly vitriolic people have become to the idea of a Christian sexual ethic. It’s not just that people disagree with Cameron. No, they accuse him of engaging in “hate” speech and of being “homophobic.” I saw one public figure accuse him of being complicit in murder. The denunciations of Cameron have been relentless. They accuse Cameron, and those who agree with him, of being intolerant. All the while, they seem to be blissfully unaware of their own malignant intolerance of Christian morality.

Are we really at a place where a Christian who is pressed for his views on a matter can no longer state those views without being tarred and feathered? I think we are. Christianity hasn’t changed, but the moral consensus of our culture has.

“Heed instruction and be wise” (Proverbs 8:33). We are only at the beginning of a process that probably will not go very well for us in the long haul. The trend lines are going against us on this one. Unless something radical changes in our society, we’ll all be found guilty of hate speech simply for holding to the ancient faith that was once-for-all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).

Right now, we are being censured in the court of public opinion for our beliefs about human sexuality. The days will come when the consequences of those beliefs will become more severe. I find myself thinking more and more about what may come and praying for the grace to persevere in faithfulness to Christ when the going gets tough (James 1:12; Revelation 21:7).

I appreciate Cameron for being so bold. He is under fire now from many, but I for one am grateful for his courage to speak the truth. It may not be very long before all of us are called on to display the same resolve.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Denny Burk is associate professor of New Testament at Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. This column first appeared at his website, DennyBurk.com.)

3/9/2012 2:13:45 PM by Denny Burk, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Why God doesn’t tell you everything ...

March 8 2012 by Trevin Wax, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It’s Wednesday night, and I’m helping our kids get their shoes on, jackets on, and Bibles ready as we’re about to rush to church. I hustle them out the door, tell Corina we’re waiting for her in the car, and then load them into the van.

Along the way, I tell Timothy (our 7-year-old): “Watch out for the puddle in the driveway. Zip up your jacket. Open the door for your sister.” He gives me the exasperated look that smacks of a bad attitude, and I ask him what his problem is.

He lets me know: “People tell me what to do all day long. Before school. During school. At lunch. During class. When I get home. I just get tired of everyone else being in charge.”

We’re in the car now. Julia (our 3-year-old) is buckling herself into her car seat. Timothy is ready to go.

“So you want to be in charge?” I ask him.

“Yes. I want to be in charge and make my own decisions,” he tells me.

Thinking this might be a good time to wax philosophical, I say, “Well, son, that day is coming. But right now, other people are in charge, and the reason we’re in charge is because God has told us to be. God wants us to do our best to help shape you into the kind of person who can make wise, God-honoring choices on your own.”

He nods. He knows.

But I keep going.

“One day, you’ll leave home. You’ll go off to college, and no one is going to be telling you what to do every day. You’ll be on your own, making decisions. And I want you to be ready for that day.”

At this, the weariness of the day overcomes Timothy, and the vision of such independence overwhelms him. He wails. Big tears coming down.

“That makes me so sad! I don’t want to leave home!” He is hysterical. “Why do you say that? I don’t want to think about that.” Julia starts to cry, too. “What’s wrong with Timo?”

I sigh, put my hand to my head, and try not to smile. So much for waxing philosophical. Now, it’s time to reassure him.

“Timothy, that day is far away, and by the time you get there – trust me – you’ll want to be on your own, making those kinds of choices.” He is comforted. Crisis averted. I make a mental note: “Don’t bring up college again.”

Afterward, Corina and I were talking about that conversation, laughing about how the thought of independence overwhelmed our son. As adults, we can look ahead to his future and can envision him as an independent young man, mature in his faith, making wise choices.

As a child, our son wants to get there, but he can’t imagine what that would be like. The very thought of being an adult scares him. There are too many unknown variables.

And then, I realize why God doesn’t tell us everything about our future. He lays out the vision of who we will be – people walking in a manner worthy of Christ, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God. But He doesn’t tell us everything this journey will entail. He doesn’t tell us everything we will accomplish along the way.

Sometimes I’ve wondered why God doesn’t reveal the specific plan He has for all of our lives. Now, I realize it’s a good thing He doesn’t. We wouldn’t be able to handle it. We’d cry like an overwhelmed kid if we knew the specifics of His plans for us. We’d wonder how in the world He will manage to make us resemble Christ in so many surprising ways.

And the thought of the suffering, pain and responsibility it will take to get us there – to form us into that kind of person ... well, if college is enough to overwhelm a 7-year-old, then maybe the specifics of how we will become more like Christ over a lifetime would be too much to handle.

Better instead to listen to the loving voice of our Father, who seals us with His Spirit and promises to renew our humanity day by day as He remakes us into the image of His Son.

Better instead to take our baby steps as we wobble down the journey of life, basking in our Father’s good pleasure, trusting in His Son’s sacrifice when we fall, and leaning on the power of the Spirit to pick us back up again and to help us continue the walk.

God gives us the big picture of our future. And it’s glorious!

But He chooses not to fill in all the details for us. And that’s a good thing.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum line developed by LifeWay Christian Resources for all ages. This column first appeared at TrevinWax.com, a Gospel Coalition blog.)
3/8/2012 1:42:47 PM by Trevin Wax, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Is your church ready for Easter’s extra guests?

March 7 2012 by Diana Davis, Baptist Press

INDIANAPOLIS – If a crowd of children was coming to your home for an Easter egg hunt, would you just give each child a carton of raw eggs as they arrived? Of course not. You’d boil and color eggs, decorate, and prepare prizes and snacks.

For churches, Easter Sunday is like that. Extra preparation is essential for such a special day. It’s one of the highest attendances of the year, and many who come may not know Jesus as their personal Savior. Will your church be well prepared? Need ideas? Here are a few items to consider:

– Offsite parking. If a guest can’t find a parking space, he may just drive away. Rent or borrow offsite parking lots, then shuttle leaders and members to the church by van or golf cart.

– Request extra prayer. Contact your church’s homebound members to ask for their intense prayers during Easter Sunday’s worship service.

– Contingency plans. Appoint an umbrella crew, in case of rain. Double the number of decision counselors, parking lot greeters and childcare volunteers. If your normal attendance fills more than three-fourths of available seating, consider adding worship services or overflow video viewing areas.

– Move over. Before Easter, challenge members to invite friends and neighbors by using Facebook, email, and printed invitations. This isn’t a time to reserve seats or be territorial about “my pew,” so remind members to fill center seats first and to warmly welcome every guest who comes to God’s house.

– Photo keepsake. Recruit volunteer photographers, and set up a beautiful photo backdrop in the church foyer. Individuals or families can stop for a quick snapshot as they arrive or depart, and download photos from the church website.

– Upgrade greeting. Recruit extra greeters and ushers of various ages. Train them with instructions for welcoming newcomers and seating latecomers graciously.

– Introduce them to God. Joyful, sincere worship is contagious. Boldly share the meaning of Easter’s celebration through music, drama and sermon. Guests have come seeking God, so clearly explain how to know Him personally through Jesus.

– Provide a “next step.” Don’t view Easter guests as one-timers; give them reasons to return next week. Announce an exciting new sermon series. Provide easy registration for small groups, an upcoming event, church sports team, singles mission trip or new Bible class.

– Re-invite guests immediately. Pre-plan for excellent follow-up. A well-organized plan might include a “glad-you-came” phone call, an e-mail invitation to next week’s Bible study or event, a note from the pastor and Sunday School teacher, a Saturday text invitation, and a personal visit from a church member with a packet of church information.

A crowd of God-seekers and God-worshipers will soon arrive for Easter Sunday’s celebration. Will your church be prepared?

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Davis [keeponshining.com] is an author, speaker and wife of the North American Mission Board’s vice president for the Midwest region, Steve Davis.)
3/7/2012 4:18:06 PM by Diana Davis, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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