March 2016

Too easily distracted

March 16 2016 by Lee Clamp, South Carolina Baptist Convention

A man is designed to take on but one task at a time. My wife should have used better judgment when she asked me to watch our 3-year-old Corder while I was grilling.
 
I did what most men would do: I delegated the task to our oldest son, Caden. Several minutes went by as I grilled and my son played in the backyard. Then something caught my eye: a bird feeder in need of repair.
 
It would only take a few seconds to fix, so I flipped the steak and got to work. I needed another set of hands, so I called Caden over to help.
 
A few seconds turned to a few minutes, and then Mama stood on the porch and asked the question that sent us into a frenzy: “Where is Corder?”
 
Trying to blame Caden fell on deaf ears, of course, and a task force was mobilized to find Corder, who has a habit of playing hide and seek without telling anyone.
 
At first the search was nonchalant. But after a few minutes it became a little more frantic, and then it was time to call the neighbors for reinforcement and expose my irresponsibility. All of a sudden the bird feeder and the internal temperature of the steak were not that important.
 
Can you imagine my wife’s reaction if I’d said, “Oh, don’t worry about him. He is just one life. We have two other sons. He will turn up in a few days. Someone else will most likely find him wandering around. Let’s have dinner.”
 
Isn’t that ridiculous – or might it sound familiar?
 
How nonchalant are we as believers with seeking out those who are lost? How often do we assume someone else is responsible to reach out to those in our community? When will we stop allowing trivial distractions to keep us from engaging those far from God?
 
Being lost can be tragic. Thankfully, Corder is alive and well. We found him in the garage refrigerator with the door slightly open. It seems the temptation of a Popsicle was too much for him to handle. Good thing we found him when we did.
 
Certainly the greatest tragedy is being lost when no one is looking for you.
 
To those who are lost, the good news of Christ’s Kingdom is life – His restoration of life now as well as eternal life to come. Let us focus on the one task of making disciples of those far from God. Open your home to your lost neighbors. If you are pro-life, start being a life-advocate among the broken. Let us seek the lost with the fervor that Jesus described in the parables of the lost coin and the lost son.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lee Clamp is the evangelism group director for the South Carolina Baptist Convention and author of “Close Encounters,” available at CourierPublishing.com. He is on the Web at leeclamp.com.)

3/16/2016 11:45:58 AM by Lee Clamp, South Carolina Baptist Convention | with 0 comments



Committee on Committees & its long-term impact

March 15 2016 by Ronnie Floyd, SBC President

Since last September, we have been working to secure our 2016 Committee on Committees of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). This process requires due diligence because it is one of the, if not the, most significant long-term tasks of the president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
 

Just like in our nation

When we elect the next president of the United States, we are also embracing the appointments he or she is privileged to make. These appointments are not just for the U.S. Supreme Court, but also for their staff, cabinet and many other positions across America and the world. This is serious business because it has a long-term effect upon our nation, many times for generations.
 
The same is true when the Southern Baptist Convention elects a president. You are also embracing the appointments he makes. While there are several appointments I have the privilege of making, the Committee on Committees appointments determine the future of the trustees of our boards and institutions.
 
When the conservative resurgence began in the Southern Baptist Convention in 1979, it all began with the election of Adrian Rogers as president. His appointments and the successive presidents helped bring about the conservative resurgence in our convention.
 
This process cannot be minimized or conducted without the highest level of commitment. Otherwise, the end result will not be good for our convention of churches.
 

The role of the Committees on Committees

The Committee on Committees, with two members from each of the 34 states and regions qualified for representation, has the responsibility to appoint the Committee on Nominations. The Committee on Nominations has far-reaching influence on Southern Baptist life. They recommend the trustees of our 11 convention entities and our Executive Committee to the Southern Baptist Convention.
 

The process

In receiving nominations for the Committee on Committees from across our convention, we began in September to work through our processes of evaluating and examining candidates. After hours of meetings, countless phone calls, continual research and due diligence, we completed this task last week. Prayerfully, within the bylaws that guide this process, we are placing some wonderful Christians and Southern Baptists before you.
 

My commitment to diversity

Twenty percent of our Southern Baptist churches are non-white churches. To my knowledge and research, our appointments to the Committee on Committees last year were the most ethnically diverse we have ever made. This year’s appointments are even more diverse, not only in ethnicity but also in gender. Of the 68 persons who comprise the 2016 Committee on Committees, 22 percent will be non-white. Additionally, over 26 percent of these appointments are women.
 

The committee’s work begins

This entire committee will work together to determine the two very best people at this time from their represented state or region to serve on the Committee on Nominations, at least one of whom must not be employed full-time by or retired from a church. After working through this process between now and our 2016 convention, they will meet together in St. Louis on June 13 to determine their final recommendations. On Tuesday afternoon, June 14, they will recommend to our convention the Committee on Nominations. After this process is voted on by our convention and if the persons are affirmed, the Committee on Nominations will begin their work to recommend trustees of our SBC entities and Executive Committee at the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix.
 
Willy Rice will serve as chairman of the 2016 Committee on Committees. He is the senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, Fla. Rice is a gifted leader and has served in many areas of our Southern Baptist family. Most recently, he served as the president of our 2015 SBC Pastors’ Conference. Assisting Rice will be Ed Litton, senior pastor of Redemption Church in Mobile, Ala. Litton has a great passion for God and has also served our convention as president of our SBC Pastors’ Conference. As chairman, Rice will chart the work of the Committee on Committees and both he and Litton will lead these 68 people through their assignment in an exceptional manner.
 
Pray for these two men and our entire 2016 Committee on Committees for the Lord’s guidance in their role to help shape our SBC entities in reaching the nation and the world for Christ.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ronnie Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. This article was adapted from Ronnie Floyd’s website, ronniefloyd.com.)
 

Related Story:

Floyd names Committee on Committees

3/15/2016 11:39:27 AM by Ronnie Floyd, SBC President | with 0 comments



Finding Easter eggs – and the Savior

March 14 2016 by Diana Davis, Baptist Press

What’s cuter than a 2-year-old at an Easter egg hunt dumping three eggs as he picks up one? Or a fifth-grader stretching to reach the last elusive egg? That’s as good as it gets.
 
Or is it?
 
For decades, our family has hosted a neighborhood egg hunt as a friendship outreach for friends and neighbors. It worked at our acreage home in Texas, our condo lobby in Indiana and our subdivision in Florida.
 
It’s quick, simple and it works! Will you begin a new Easter tradition this year to touch your neighborhood in Jesus’ name?
 

Step 1) Invite them

Hand-deliver an invitation to your neighbors even those with no children. Some may have grandchildren or relatives in town, or they may enjoy just coming to watch the excitement or serve punch. Invite the entire family, providing date, time and address. Ask them to bring a dozen eggs for hiding, and print a simple schedule. 10 a.m. - Dads hide eggs while kids play; 10:15 a.m. - Egg hunt; 10:30 a.m. - Prizes and snacks. Don’t delay the invitations.
 

Step 2) Plan

Purchase a whistle, bubbles and oodles of individually wrapped eggs. Spray-paint and number some gold prize eggs and gather great prizes, such as stuffed rabbits. Get an Easter Hunt sign for the front yard. Prepare nametags and simple Easter-themed refreshments. Mark boundaries and create a long starting line for the hunt. Add extra treats if you like, such as a bubble machine or popcorn machine.
 

Step 3) Party time

As families arrive, immediately direct dads and teens to the back yard to hide eggs. Moms and kids stay in another area for relaxed bubble blowing and sidewalk chalk drawing.
 
When eggs are hidden, bring kids to the starting line. Give simple instructions and invite everyone to stay for snacks afterward. At the whistle, preschoolers take off. A second whistle starts the older kids. An egg hunt rarely takes 15 minutes.
 
After most eggs are found, gather for prizes. Conclude with an invitation: “We’re so happy we are neighbors. Please call on us anytime we can help you. Easter is a very special holiday for our family because, as Christians, we celebrate our living Savior. If any of you don’t have a church, we’ll save you a seat tomorrow at Calvary Baptist. Now enjoy some snacks and hang around to meet neighbors.” Pray silently for each person as you mingle. As each guest leaves, give a verbal and printed church invitation.
 
Our kids took charge of the egg hunt during their teen years. Some years, they planned a child-friendly two-minute presentation of the real Easter story, with puppets or drama or object lesson. Many neighbors heard the gospel for the first time. God can use a simple egg hunt to open doors to share Him.
 
Even better, why not challenge every member of your Bible class, mom’s group or women’s ministry to plan a purposeful egg hunt for their neighborhood? Imagine what God could do!
 
Our adult daughter called from across the country the other day to say that her neighborhood egg hunt is scheduled. The tradition continues. Now that’s as good as it gets. Happy Easter!
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Davis, on the Web at www.dianadavis.org, is an author, columnist and ministry wife in Pensacola, Fla. She is the author of “Fresh Ideas for Women’s Ministry” and “Six Simple Steps – Finding Contentment and Joy as a Ministry Wife.”)

3/14/2016 12:51:01 PM by Diana Davis, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



What small church pastors and Andy Stanley can learn from each other

March 14 2016 by Joel Rainey, Themelios

Hopefully the headline didn’t chase too many people off.
 
Last week, Andy Stanley, Lead Pastor of Northpoint Church which meets in multiple locations throughout the metro Atlanta area, said something very discouraging to many smaller church pastors. While preaching to his own congregation and praising the way the church had invested in his own life, Stanley apparently went off-script for a bit to berate anyone with children who would keep them in a small church.
 
The rant climaxed with this declaration by the Atlanta mega-church pastor:
 
“If you don’t go to a church large enough where you can have enough middle schoolers and high schoolers to separate them so they can have small groups and grow up the local church, you are a selfish adult. Get over it. Find yourself a big old church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people and grow up and love the local church. Instead… you drag your kids to a church they hate, and then they grow up and hate the local church.”
 
On this subject, there really is no room for nuance. What he said was really, really stupid. Seriously, there was just no excuse for it. It was simply boneheaded. But Andy Stanley knows this, admitted it, apologized, and has since done an interview with Christianity Today to further explain himself. It takes a big man with a lot of humility to do that, and I’m thankful for it.
 
I’ve learned an awful lot from Andy Stanley over the years, and there have also been things he has said that have highly discouraged me. While planting my first church, I read a book he co-wrote with Texas pastor Ed Young Jr. It was full of ideas our church just couldn’t afford – ideas that had been cooked up on a Caribbean island they had visited together that I couldn’t afford to get to. I never finished reading it.
 
Fast forward many, many years. I’m now serving as a professor teaching doctoral students, and my most recent syllabus contains Stanley’s book Deep and Wide on the required list for a Contemporary Issues class. Why? Because I find that looking into Stanley’s ministry philosophy – whether or not I would approach ministry in exactly the same way – to be very helpful and challenging.
 
I share that piece of personal history as a way of illustrating that like many smaller church pastors who felt the unmerciful sting of Stanley’s remarks, I too have been wounded by him. But I’ve also been highly encouraged by him. And more than a few times, the people I minister to have been the beneficiaries of practical wisdom that came from one of his books.
 
My point is simply that at heart, Andy Stanley is very much like all the rest of us in ministry. He just happens to have the misfortune of a MUCH bigger and brighter spotlight. So when he says something that unintentionally wounds a smaller church pastor who is slugging it out in the trenches, and is then man enough to own his mistake, it might be a good idea for all of us – regardless of the size of our churches – to learn some lessons.
 
1. All pastors say stupid things. Only scripture is inspired and inerrant.  Pastor’s mouths are not – not by a long shot! In 24 years, there have been more than a few times I have declared with authority something I found out later the Bible gave me no authority to declare.  A few times, I’ve had to stand in front of the people I pastor and apologize for misrepresenting God and His Word.
 
In other words, I can identify with Andy Stanley, because I too, have said a LOT of stupid things while preaching. I credit providence for the fact that my earlier sermons aren’t stored away in cyberspace – since my ministry began way before the day of the podcast. Today, nearly everything I publicly say or write usually ends up on the internet, but I’d like to think I’m a little wiser in my 40s.
 
But that doesn’t mean I won’t say something stupid this coming Sunday –  although God willing, I’ll be able to resist being an idiot. We all say things that sometimes we have to retract. That’s something pastors of churches of ALL sizes have in common.
 
2. Most pastors suffer from “size myopia.” Andy Stanley has never, ever ministered in a small church. That doesn’t make him a bad guy. It just means that from the standpoint of experience, he has no real reference point for what it is like to be the guy who preaches and prints the bulletins and takes out the trash and stacks the chairs. He himself will admit that he is not a “church planter” in the truest sense of that term. Northpoint’s “core group” started with 450 people. That’s more than five times the size of the average congregation in North America.
 
This myopia explains a lot. Our family spent 11 years at the same church where my wife and kids worshiped while I drove or flew all over the country and the world preaching in other places.  During that time, my kids – ALL of my kids – grew in their faith at a church that was never larger than 150 people. They cried when they learned their Dad was going to be a pastor again because they loved our small church family, and didn’t want to leave it. Now they attend the church I pastor – a large one with the very kind of structure Stanley contends is necessary so they won’t “hate the church,” and they love it too! My own family is living proof that the size of the church has very little to do with whether your kids will grow in their faith.
 
When Stanley assumes that kids will hate church if they go to a small one, I can counter that assumption with my own kids! But I don’t expect him to understand that because again, he has no reference point for it. All he has ever known his entire life is large churches.
 
But if we are honest, most small church pastors have to admit that they too suffer from size myopia. If all you have ever known is a small church environment, you don’t have a reference point for Andy’s world either. I’ve repeatedly heard the stereotypical critique of the “mega church” by many small church pastors who assume that every mega church pastor is a spoiled rock star who is only concerned about his own “brand.” Problem is, I’ve met many of these guys, and with few exceptions they are godly men with a vision for the Kingdom that is sorely needed in our culture.
 
Last week, Andy Stanley spoke out of ignorance. Given his willingness to own his mistake, let’s not respond with more ignorance. The myopia on both sides could be easily cured if we were willing to learn from each other.
 
3. A few pastors are big enough men to admit it. A couple of years ago I was consulting with the pastor of a large church with a budget of just over $4 million. During that conversation he described how financially tight the church was, and told me “Joel, some weeks I wonder if I will even get paid!”
 
A couple of hours later I was sitting with several church planters in a coaching session. One of those planters, whose church budget was around $75,000, told me “Joel, some weeks I wonder if I will even get paid.” He was shocked to learn that a large church pastor had, in the same day, told me exactly the same thing!
 
The thing is, when you have a $4 million budget, it’s because you also probably have $4 million in liabilities to cover, and tight financial margins feel the same no matter how large you are! Actually, the pressure is greater in the large church, because so many more people are depending on your leadership. We don’t need more churches of one size or the other. What we need are men godly and humble enough to admit that we all struggle, we all occasionally say stupid things, and we are all limited by our own experiences and points of view.
 
Jesus loves the grand mega-churches of Korea that make our mega-churches look small! Jesus also loves the hidden house churches of China. He loves the large, vast auditoriums full of people growing in their faith. He loves the small building built by volunteers who worship there each week. He loves the networks of house churches led by tent-making leaders who are passionate about His truth. Anywhere He is worshiped, His Word is taught, and His people are equipped to extend His Kingdom is a place and a people He looks at and smiles.
 
If Andy Stanley’s recent gaffe can be the catalyst that drives us all to understand this more deeply, then I thank God for it.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joel Rainey is the lead pastor at Covenant Church, Shepherdstown, West Virginia. He serves on the adjunct faculty of two seminaries, and the author of three books.)

3/14/2016 12:45:25 PM by Joel Rainey, Themelios | with 0 comments



Cleansed & called

March 11 2016 by David Platt, IMB President

Why should every Christian say to God, “I will pray however You want me to pray, I will give whatever You want me to give and I will go wherever and whenever You want me to go” – whether it’s to that dangerous area in your city, or to a distant part of North America, or anywhere else in the world He might lead you?
 
Because we have an incomprehensibly glorious God. Because we are a sinfully lost people. Because we have a merciful Savior willing to die in our place. And because we have an indescribably urgent mission.

 
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David Platt

Read Isaiah 6:1-13 and you will hear the personal testimony of an unworthy servant – just like you and me – who was cleansed and called by a holy God to proclaim the gospel. What was Isaiah’s first response after beholding the holiness of God? “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (v.5).
 
We might think, “Relax, Isaiah. You’re overdoing it.” But we would be tragically wrong.
 
We are a depraved people, just as Isaiah and the Israelites were depraved. Our sin leads directly to the wars and suffering and condemnation that afflict the world today. How can we stand before an incomprehensibly great God and not be condemned? Isaiah felt the same way. He cries out in depravity – and the Lord responds in mercy. God commands a seraph to take a burning coal from the altar, touch Isaiah’s lips and say, “Your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for” (v.7).
 
How can a holy God say to guilty sinners, “You are not guilty”? In Isaiah 53, this same penitent prophet foretells that Christ, the servant, will endure the penalty of sin and take the place of sinners. What mercy! An incomprehensibly great God saves a sinfully lost people through a merciful Savior.
 
What kind of response does such divine compassion compel? Isaiah’s example is clear. Such mercy compels the commitment of our lives. Our voices. Our all. “Who should I send?” He asks (v.8, HCSB). When more than 2 billion people have no access to the gospel, is there anything greater to give your life to than declaring the gospel of this God? Every unreached person in the world has knowledge of God, whether it’s a man in an African jungle, a woman in an Asian village, a nomad in a remote desert – or the newly arrived immigrant family in your community. They all have enough knowledge of God to show them that He is incomprehensibly glorious and they are sinfully lost. But that’s all they have.
 
That’s why we must go to them because the gospel is powerful enough to save them and satisfy them forever.
 
And they are here – in our great North American urban centers and the countless communities that surround them. More than 80 percent of the people on our continent now live in metropolitan areas. Our North American missionaries, our Southern Baptist state conventions, our associations and our churches must reach them to be faithful to God in our day. And praise God for how the North American Mission Board is leading all of us to do just that.
 
As we approach the Easter season and celebrate the resurrection of our Savior, I challenge you to give generously and sacrificially to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. What your church gives will help support missionaries, fuel church planting and church revitalization efforts across North America and mobilize believers – including you – to reach the unreached among us.
 
“Who should I send?” our Lord asks. Let your response be: “Here I am. Send me!
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – The annual Week of Prayer for North American Missions, March 6-13, and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering provide support for missionaries who serve on behalf of Southern Baptists across North America. With a goal of $70 million, this year’s offering theme is “Here I am. Send Me.” For more information, visit anniearmstrong.com. To read about other 2016 featured missionaries, anniearmstrong.com/missionaries.)

3/11/2016 11:06:05 AM by David Platt, IMB President | with 0 comments



Leaders wanted

March 10 2016 by Terry Dorsett, Baptist Convention of New England

Everywhere we look leadership is in great demand but short supply.
 
Among the reasons we need to nurture leaders:

 

Families are in trouble

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Terry Dorsett

Though many factors contribute to that stress, what is missing most are fathers who are willing to lead their families in the way God intended. Thank God for all the single moms who are making things work. But I think every single mom would agree that if the Lord gave her a good man who would be the kind of husband and father that was really needed, her family would become stronger.
 

Churches are in trouble

Though many factors contribute to the decline of church attendance in our culture, what is most missing are deacons, elders and pastors willing to lead. Many want a position of leadership, but few want to do the work of being a leader. Thank God for the older generation that has led for so long, but if a new generation does not step up to the plate and lead, a large number of churches will not exist in the next decade. Churches need leaders willing to do the work that is required of leaders.
 

Economies are in trouble

Though many factors contribute to the financial challenges that families, organizations and governments are experiencing, what is most missing are leaders willing to make the hard choices that will provide for long-term financial security. Families that do not save for their future are unlikely to ever get to the future they want. Organizations that use money in unwise ways will experience a crisis of donor confidence that eventually lowers giving. Governments that cater to special interest groups instead of making decisions that are best for the larger group become paralyzed. We need leaders willing to make the hard choices even if not everyone agrees with those choices.
 
As I pondered this, I found these verses of scripture that describe the kind of leaders we need:
 
Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.
 
Luke 6:31: “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.”
 
Matthew 20:26: “It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.
 
John 3:30: “He must increase, but I must decrease.
 
Proverbs 29:2 “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, But when a wicked man rules, people groan.”
 
Men and women who lead like this will know who they are and where they need to lead us. They can save families, churches and economies. May God help us be leaders like this!
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Terry Dorsett, executive director of the Baptist Convention of New England, is on the Web at thoughtsfromdrt.blogspot.com.)

3/10/2016 10:52:48 AM by Terry Dorsett, Baptist Convention of New England | with 0 comments



Don’t wait to say ‘Send me’

March 9 2016 by Kevin Ezell, NAMB

Not long ago I had the privilege of visiting with 1,200 college students for the weekly meeting of The Salt Company, a ministry of Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa, near the campus of Iowa State University. Cornerstone was birthed from The Salt Company 21 years ago. The goal of The Salt Company was to reach students at Iowa State for Christ and today this ministry keeps that as its primary goal.
 
Two years ago Cornerstone planted Candeo church in Waterloo, Iowa, near the University of Northern Iowa. Already it averages more than 500 each week in attendance and the church is baptizing new believers on a regular basis.
 
A great many of the students attending The Salt Company each week are already living a “send me” lifestyle. Hundreds gather every Monday morning to pray for friends who don’t know Christ. They’re committed to discipling young believers and over the years hundreds have given a semester to serve in overseas missions.
 
Most of us are familiar with Isaiah 6:8 when the prophet hears God ask, “Who should I send? Who shall go for us?” and Isaiah answers, “Here I am. Send me.” But too often when we are passing through a phase of life like college or a work transition or the birth of our first child, it’s too easy to say, “Here I am. Send me later.” instead of living out “send me” right now, right where God has placed us.
 
That’s why I am grateful for those college students I met. They are an example to all of us that we should live out God’s call all the time – even in those times of transition. Even when we are preparing for the future.
 
I am also grateful for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and for all of the individuals and churches who sacrificially give to it each year. It provides 49 percent of North American Mission Board’s annual budget and all of it goes directly to missionaries and to church plants like Candeo in Northern Iowa. As a result, hundreds of college students are being reached for Christ at Candeo alone. In fact we have posted one of their recent baptism celebration videos here if you want to see and hear some of the life-change stories taking place.
 
Giving so that others can go and be reached is so important. God has used the giving of Southern Baptists in remarkable ways throughout our history and it is a blessing that can’t be measured in earthly terms. It is what helps start churches like Candeo and what allows thousands of our church planters and other missionaries remain on the field, fulfilling God’s call.
 
But beyond the giving, we must remember that God also wants each of us to live out Isaiah’s “send me” attitude every day. For some of us that will mean a call to a faraway place and maybe a new vocation. For others it might mean being willing to work in a different city for a while to help a church plant get started. And for many, “send me” means taking the gospel to those we work with, go to school with and live with every day. Don’t miss the mission field all around you and don’t miss how God wants to use you to reach it.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kevin Ezell is president of the North American Mission Board. The annual Week of Prayer for North American Missions, March 6-13, and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering provide support for missionaries who serve on behalf of Southern Baptists across North America. With a goal of $70 million, this year’s offering theme is “Here I am. Send Me.” For more information, visit anniearmstrong.com. To read about other 2016 featured missionaries, visit anniearmstrong.com/missionaries-2016.)

3/9/2016 10:51:26 AM by Kevin Ezell, NAMB | with 0 comments



10 Conversations I Wish Someone Had with Me as a Teenager

March 8 2016 by Chuck Lawless, Guest Column

Today I write on behalf of teenagers. Frankly, I’m glad I’m not one today for many reasons – not the least of which is I would not want to face the temptations teens face today. I do remember my teen years, though, and I still think about some of the times when I desperately wanted guidance and encouragement back then. Here are some of the conversations I wish someone had shared with me:

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Chuck Lawless

  1.  “You’re not the only one struggling as a teenage Christian.” I was certain I was. Surely nobody was battling temptations like I was. At least, nobody was talking about it. That was part of the problem.

  2. “Let’s talk about pornography and lust.” I cannot say strongly enough how I wish a Christian man had cared for me enough to initiate that conversation. Fathers, waiting until you catch your teen in this habit is an abdication of your responsibility. 

  3. “I’ll show you how to read the Bible and pray every day.” I wanted to do it because my pastor told me I needed to do it. Nobody taught me, though, so I struggled trying to be obedient. No teenager should have to learn these disciplines on his or her own.

  4. “God forgives you, but you’ll probably remember your sinful choices the rest of your life.” Had I known forty years ago that I’d still occasionally hurt over my past sin today, I think I would’ve made some different choices then.

  5. “Be ready for God to change your plans.” As a teen, I knew exactly what I was going to do when I grew up: teach high school English. God had other plans.

  6. “Let me help you learn your theology well because you’ll be challenged often.” High school classmates respected me, but they disputed my beliefs. College professors in a public institution questioned my faith. I’m sure the battles are worse for teens now.

  7. “Date only believers.” My experience is that more often than not, the non-believer influences the believer more than the other way around.

  8. “Don’t be a jerk.” I was at times, especially when I thought I was better or smarter than others. I wish someone had confronted me in my arrogance then so perhaps I wouldn’t deal as much with arrogance now.

  9. “Even teenagers die.” That’s morbid, I realize. None of us knew that fact, though, until a classmate died – and no one talked us through our questions.

  10. “The choices you make today can come back to haunt you.” That’s probably even more the case today. Facebook posts, tweets, and other social media options reveal a teen’s foolishness to others, including college recruiters and future employers.

Parents and grandparents, have the conversations with your teens. Someday, they’ll be glad you did.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chuck Lawless is Dean and Vice-President of Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, where he also serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions. In addition, he is Global Theological Education Consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. This article was originally posted at chucklawless.com.)

3/8/2016 10:27:48 AM by Chuck Lawless, Guest Column | with 0 comments



The Ten Commandments, rediscovered

March 7 2016 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

I’m finding the Ten Commandments more refreshing than ever. There’s no other word for it – refreshing.
 
No, there’s not much refreshing about the ancient-looking granite or picture-framed depictions of the Ten Commandments in public places.
 
The noble array of enduring truths in the Ten Commandments – that’s what is refreshing. Would that a modern-day commercial artist capture their power from the Old Testament book of Exodus, chapter 20, with colors that might be bold, or subtle, lettering that might be gripping, or winsome.
 
Amid today’s cultural demise, the Ten Commandments are like a hand-warmer on a frigid night. Or an ice-cold soda on a steamy day.
 
They are like a witness making a stunning revelation in a court case that seems hopeless.
 
The “shall not” instruction in the Ten Commandments is not a killjoy but a soul-satisfying source for honorable living. See their vibrancy in Psalm 19, verses 7-11, their uniqueness for “reviving the soul,” “making wise the simple,” “giving joy to the heart” and “giving light to the eyes.”
 
The Ten Commandments need not be shouted. They are perhaps optimally spoken in a soft voice rooted in the Holy Spirit.
 
Jesus is their crowning touch. See His words in the New Testament book of Matthew, chapter 5, verses 17-19, and chapter 22, verses 36-40.
 
Amid America’s innumerable festivals celebrating books and music, strawberries, pumpkins, beer and wine and, yes, gender abandonment, it would be a novel idea to hold a festival for the Ten Commandments. Let community organizations and businesses set up booths to reflect how they give wholesome nurture to the citizenry as reflected by the commandments. Let the faithful among rock-n-roll, jazz, country and bluegrass performers sing of their hearts’ yearning for clear consciences and godliness.
 
Let us ask ourselves such questions as:
 
Do we stop at trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior without heeding the morality of our Judeo-Christian heritage?
 
Can anything else nurture one’s conscience better than new birth in Christ and a Holy Spirit-infused Bible awareness that includes the Ten Commandments?
 
Do we think the Ten Commandments are too outdated yet works by Plato, Socrates and Aristotle aren’t?
 
Are we bigoted toward the commandments’ Jewish origin but not wary of the influences of paganism, hedonism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism in culture?
 
Are we too “entertained” or too high-minded to give the Ten Commandments traction in our lives?
 
Are we afraid of how the Ten Commandments might change our souls?
 
What might happen if we spent a few weeks, or months, memorizing the Ten Commandments?
 
Could they be a cornerstone for revival in our nation?
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention, and author of the ebooks “When I Meditate” and “Meditation & Morality,” with descriptors at arttoalston.com.)

3/7/2016 11:43:07 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



His ‘mess’ became his message

March 4 2016 by T. A. Powell, Proclaimer

It was on Saturday morning, Jan. 3, 2004, when I confessed to my dear wife Betty that I had committed adultery – a seven-month affair with one of her best friends. She fell to her knees in disbelief. It was as if I had reached inside her heart and ripped it out. The pain was almost unbearable. Life had reached its darkest day for me – it was truly the worst day of my life. Immediately, life changed, and everything began to take a different direction for us as we tried to somehow deal with this dreadful situation I had caused.

 
3-4-16cityofrefuge.jpg

T.A. and Betty Powell

For almost 26 years, I had been the senior pastor of a Tidewater, Va., church. We loved our people, and most all of our friends and a lot of our family members were in some way connected to that ministry. On that same evening I called a special deacons meeting and confessed to them my affair. Most of them wept in disbelief. I told them that the next day I would go before my congregation and come clean with them also. I did and also resigned. The news spread like lightning throughout the city and surrounding areas. The guilt and shame was overwhelming for me. The thought crossed my mind that death would have been a welcomed event. I had disappointed and broken trust with so many people.
 
Within seven days of my confession, at the invitation of pastor Johnny Hunt, Betty and I pulled into the parking lot of First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga., to enter the City of Refuge, a ministry for pastors and full-time Christian workers who have been burnt out, forced out or have struggled with some addiction or immorality. For 17 months, Betty and I received intense counseling and encouragement, which started a new journey of trust, transparency and vulnerability in our lives. In addition to that, the sweet people at First Baptist loved on us and offered us grace, safety and love like we had never experienced in our entire lives. We were loved unconditionally. It was during that time that my dear wife offered me unconditional grace, forgiveness, love and renewed trust. Our marriage and our home environment slowly became truly a place of genuine love, openness and transparency.
 
The above is only a thumbnail of my 12-year journey, and I share it openly because pastors and church leaders (as well as laymen) are struggling with addictions and sexual sins. The fallout is at epidemic levels. We hear about it almost weekly, and there is very little help offered for pastors and churches who are experiencing such adversities.
 
I am a blessed and grateful man who realizes that God has strategically placed people and circumstances in my journey to help me understand what biblical grace is all about. My mess has become my message. I never want to forget the pain and disillusionment that I caused my wife, my family, my church and my friends; however, my past no longer defines me. My vision and desire are to see the entire body of Christ understand grace, spiritual freedom and healthy living out of our identity in Jesus Christ as mature Christ followers.
 
For more information about City of Refuge go to fbcw.org/community/city-of-refuge/.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – T.A. Powell is assistant professor at Liberty University Online, School of Divinity. This article first appeared in the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia’s missions magazine, Proclaimer at sbcv.org/proclaimer.)

3/4/2016 12:44:15 PM by T. A. Powell, Proclaimer | with 0 comments



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