March 2017

When tomorrow comes

March 31 2017 by Randy Adams

A key leadership responsibility is preparing for the future. That’s a difficult task considering the chaotic and rapidly-changing time in which we live. Still, there are some things that we know and for which we can prepare.
 
First, when tomorrow comes we will not be exempt from the principalities and powers who are working to destroy human life created in God’s image. As perplexing as the manifestation of evil is, the Bible shows us that our enemy works at every level of society. How do we understand the increasing coarseness of our political life, the growing vulgarity in public life, even the division and compromise that threaten our church life, without knowing that our enemy is working to destroy that which God loves? Whatever happens tomorrow, you must expect and prepare for spiritual opposition.

Randy Adams


Second, though the powers of darkness are working to destroy us, God has put limitations on the principalities and powers. Evil exists, but God is in control, and He even uses evil men to accomplish good things. We must not fall into the trap of overestimating the enemy and underestimating God. When tomorrow comes, God will be on His throne, hearing our prayers, accomplishing His agenda and rescuing human beings from our sin and stupidity. This is our true basis for optimism when tomorrow comes.
 
Third, the discipling of children is essential for a bright tomorrow. If you don’t disciple your children, the world will. The principalities and powers work to distort the human mind and this begins in childhood. Preschool children develop ideas about the world and the “powers” work to conform the minds and hearts of our kids to the world’s ways. We must fight this. Every believer, every church, must work to reach children and teach them to obey God. Whatever you do, don’t forget the children who will inhabit tomorrow’s world.
 
Fourth, the American church is returning to what has been the norm for Christians throughout the centuries – a pilgrim people, out of step with society, often poor and sometimes persecuted. The American church has escaped the norm for much of our history, but that is changing. We need to prepare for this. Most of the world’s believers are already poor and persecuted. There are more Christians in Africa than in Europe and the United States combined, and they are mostly poor. China has about the same number of weekly worshippers as the USA does, and they are persecuted. I’m not saying the American church will experience what the Asian church does today, but a bright tomorrow requires that we put our hope in God and not in the American political process. Not that we should abandon political participation, but spiritual work is done on our knees before an open Bible.
 
God’s Word tells us that the day will come when time will be no more. On that day the curse will be removed and the daylight will vanquish the night forever (Revelation 22:3-5). Until that day, with every tomorrow the Lord gives, fix your eyes on Jesus and join Him in the spiritual battle for souls.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Randy Adams, online at randyadams.org, is executive director of the Northwest Baptist Convention.)
 

3/31/2017 11:12:18 AM by Randy Adams | with 0 comments



The ‘quiet devastation’ of loneliness

March 30 2017 by Don Hinkle

Loneliness is horrible, often called the “quiet devastation.” Novelist Emily Dickinson described it as “the Horror not to be surveyed.” Albert Schweitzer said, “We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness.”
 
About 33 percent of Americans older than age 65 live alone. By age 85, it jumps to about 50 percent. The General Social Survey found that between 1985 and 2004, the number of people the average American discusses important matters with decreased from three to two.

Don Hinkle


The millennial generation is being ravaged by loneliness, with one researcher noting, “It’s not a coincidence that loneliness began to surge two years after Apple launched its first commercial personal computer and five years before Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web.”
 
A growing number of people use the internet to assuage their loneliness, substituting virtual relationships for real ones. Social connections no longer require a car or a phone call – just go online. It seems to satisfy, though only temporarily meeting one’s longing for relationships. Ultimately the internet cruelly isolates us, inhibiting our ability to sustain relationships, researchers say.
 
The negative impact loneliness has on public health is shocking. Starting in the 1980s studies showed that those who were more socially isolated were much more likely to die during a given period than their socially connected neighbors, even after corrections were made for gender, age and lifestyle choices like eating right and exercising. Research has linked loneliness with the increased risk of heart disease, stroke, the progression of Alzheimer’s and shown that it carries the same long-term risk factors as smoking. A 2015 Brigham Young University study, using data from 3.5 million people collected over 35 years, found that those who fall into the categories of loneliness, isolation or even simply living on their own see their risk of premature death rise 26 to 32 percent while their risk of dying from heart disease doubles.
 
The reasons for loneliness can vary, but many cases follow the loss of a spouse through death or divorce. And, increasingly in today’s culture, many are choosing never to marry or never find a life partner.
 
People can be lonely even if they are among others. Studies suggest that the lonely feel the way they do because they are shunned by others. We must never make people feel rejected or ignored. Every human being is made in the image of God and deserves dignity, respect – and yes – even fellowship.
 
So ask God to make us more sensitive to those who are lonely among us. The Christian faith does not merely give material goods for the relief of the distressed, it also oversees their care (see Acts 6:1-7 and 1 Timothy 5:3-16). The psalmist says, “The Lord watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow” (Psalm 146:9).
 
No one understood – and felt – loneliness as much as Jesus. His loneliness was on full display when the disciples went to sleep rather than pray with Him in Gethsemane. And He experienced vast loneliness while agonizing on the cross as He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?
 
The same Jesus who died on the cross for our sins is with us – even in the deepest, darkest moments of our loneliness. Hebrews 13:5 says it all, “For He Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you. So we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Don Hinkle is editor of The Pathway and director of public policy for the Missouri Baptist Convention. The Pathway is online at mbcpathway.com.)
 

3/30/2017 10:10:45 AM by Don Hinkle | with 0 comments



Not like that

March 29 2017 by Barry E. Fields

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone begin a conversation with: “I’m not the typical pastor” or “pastor’s wife.” “I’m a Christian, but not the stereotypical kind.” “I’m not that kind of person.” Fill in the blank with your own unique role.
 
Far from the typecasts – consuming ungodly amounts of fried chicken (pastor), deftly mastering the piano hymnal (pastor’s wife) or pre-empting the notion of appearing judgmental (stereotypical Christian) – something about our nature wants to communicate that we’re different than what the culture envisions or the stage roles society thrusts upon us.

Barry E. Fields


Deep within the human heart is the desire to be accepted while being “authentic,” to be recognized while standing out.
 
I wonder sometimes, beneath the edifice of authenticity, if there is a subtle form of pride. We all know rebels who like to “go against the system” and those who “tell it like it is” or “stick it to the man,” but the biblical notion of submission and identity goes beyond job descriptions, marketplace labels or gender norms. The Gospel account of two men praying condemns the self-righteous Pharisee (God, thank you that I’m not like everyone else) while commending the humble tax collector (God, be merciful to me a sinner).
 
Instead of constantly navigating the perennially unchartered waters of non-conformity, the scriptures call us rather to a kind of conformity that looks less like dictionary definitions and more like calloused hands of a carpenter King – the one who laid aside His divine lineage and became a man, just like one of us. The carpenter who found His identity not by rebelling against the status quo but by transcending it.
 
One of His best friends, John, later wrote about his experiences with Jesus and meditated on what it would be like to be reunited with Him one day, along with everyone else who believed in His message and took up His cross: “Beloved, we know not what we shall be, but we know that we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
 
I pray that the older I become, the less worried I’ll be about others’ perceptions of my role, stage in life or acceptance of my beliefs. I hope I’ll just want to be like Jesus and see Him as He is. Try fitting that scene in a stereotypical box.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Barry E. Fields, online at BarryEFields.com, is pastor of Hawesville Baptist Church in Hawesville, Ky.)
 

3/29/2017 8:58:30 AM by Barry E. Fields | with 0 comments



Calling out the called

March 28 2017 by Scott Hildreth

About 30 years ago, a wise pastor and a group of church leaders made a decision that quite literally changed my life and the lives of tens of thousands of others.
 
As I understand it (I wasn’t there), the pastor believed that internal and external forces limited the church’s growth potential. The church was not small but it would probably never become a mega-church. So, instead of focusing all their energies on growing a big church, they decided to ask God to raise up young men who would respond to His call to vocational ministry.

Scott Hildreth


The church invested time and resources in this vision. They gave pulpit time to young men who felt called to preach. The pastor made time in his schedule to mentor any young man who responded to this call. I doubt the church imagined the eternal impact of that decision.
 
Over the next several years, dozens of us heard God’s call. We responded to sermons and personal communication. We walked down the aisles of youth services, church services and revival services. We mentored each other and spent time with our pastor, traveling evangelists and even denominational leaders.
 
We preached sermons that were much too long. We preached sermons that were too short. We preached sermons that were borderline heretical. We learned from our mistakes and the mistakes of others.
 
Along the way, we all grew up and we spread out. The ministry of that pastor and church has influenced dozens of churches, big and small, as we served on staff and as lead pastors. Their ministry extended to evangelism crusades, into closed countries and into seminary classrooms. Theirs is a legacy of tens of thousands coming to Christ and growing in Christ.
 
All because of a simple decision to “call out the called” – a decision to value the impact a preacher, a missionary, a church staff member or any Christian minister can have on the Kingdom of God.
 
I tell this story because, to be frank, I don’t hear many like it anymore. It has been a long time since I heard a pastor call for young men to join him in Christian ministry.
 
Sure, we appeal for missionaries to go to unreached people or for church planters to go to a big city. But where is the passionate appeal from the pulpit for people to hear to the call of God and respond to His leadership into vocational ministry?
 
Thus, I am begging pastors and student pastors to pray for God to call your people into ministry. It is also an appeal for pastors to make time in their sermons and schedules to call out the called. Christianity Today released a statistic several weeks ago showing that only one out of seven senior pastors are under 40. I wonder if it is because we have stopped making appeals for people to respond to God’s call to ministry.
 
Here are a few important points for any pastor who is willing to accept this challenge:
 
1. Highlight the benefits of Christian ministry.
Too many sermon illustrations and conversations focus on the hardships of being a pastor. Sure, there are difficulties – every job has difficulties. Preach and talk about the greatness of serving the church.
 
2. Preach about the reality of a call to Christian ministry.
To be sure, we want all believers to find ways to serve the Lord through their secular vocation. However, there is a unique calling for those who are God’s gifts to the church (Ephesians 4) for equipping the saints for the ministry. Preach it and expect results.
 
3. Call out the called.
Make room in your sermon and conversations. Appeal to young men to respond to God’s call in their lives. Include this in your invitations and the conclusions to your Bible studies.
 
4. Make room to mentor.
We are all busy. We want to change the world. I encourage you to take the long view. Look at the eternal and global impact you can have when you raise up your replacements.
 
5. Pray for God to call pastors, Christian workers, missionaries out of your church.
The Bible says that “you have not, because you ask not.” Start asking. This world is in desperate need of those who hear and courageously respond to God’s calling to serve the church.
 
The challenge to you today is: Will you call out the called?
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Scott Hildreth is assistant professor of global studies and director of the Lewis A. Drummond Center for Great Commission Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

3/28/2017 9:16:04 AM by Scott Hildreth | with 0 comments



International intentionality at a campus near you

March 27 2017 by Stefani Varner

During my senior year of college, I was invited to join more than 500 Chinese students and their families to celebrate Chinese New Year. I spent several hours eating authentic food, watching talent shows and videos from celebrations around the world and learning about various customs and traditions.
 
The time came for the door prize drawing, and suddenly, I heard my name called.
 
I realized that most of the students in the room were cheering for me and encouraging me to go on stage to claim my prize. I had won a gift certificate for a Peking duck at the local Chinese restaurant.
 
In the weeks following, I was contacted by dozens of students who wanted to take me to experience my first Peking duck. Even when I told them I had already used the certificate, they still wanted to introduce me to their favorite Chinese food. I ate at that Chinese restaurant with a different group of students at least once a week for the rest of the semester.
 
It was the perfect culmination to four years of intentional relationship building with people from around the world, and it allowed me a few final opportunities to share the gospel with my friends before I graduated.
 
American university campuses serve as global intersections for education, ideas and interactions with the world’s future leaders. God has given evangelical university students in the United States unprecedented opportunities to live missionally and to intentionally build relationships with people who represent some of the largest unreached people groups in the world.
 
But where do we start? How can we build these friendships and share the gospel with our classmates from other countries? The key to reaching international students is intentionality. We must be willing to invest our time, energy and resources in order to build genuine relationships with these students.
 
Here are some tips for intentionality with international students on your campus:
 

Seek information about students studying at your university.

Your school probably has an office or a center that supports international students and helps them with visas and immigration, academic advising and other details related to being an international student. Ask for information about the students. What countries do they come from? How many students are here? Is there a certain dorm or apartment complex where many of them live? What are they studying? What are some of their biggest challenges or needs?
 

Look for cross-cultural programs, clubs and communities.

Take interest in their holidays, customs and traditions and don’t be afraid to try new things. Play cricket with the Indian Student Association. Celebrate Chinese New Year with the Chinese student association. Learn to create henna art with Middle Eastern women. Ask your African friends to take you to their favorite ethnic restaurant. Learn to paint or dance or cook according to the ethnic traditions of your friends. The possibilities for how you can make connections and learn new things are limitless.
 

Help with conversational English.

Meet over coffee or tea with your international friends just to talk. This gives time for them to practice their English in a low-pressure environment and gives you a chance to get to know them. Ask questions and find out more about them. Be sure to tell them all about yourself as well.
 

Be a guide to navigating life in America.

If you’ve ever traveled to another country, you know that normal everyday tasks can be a challenge when you are outside of your home environment. It’s no different for international students. Serve them by showing them the ropes. Pick them up from the airport. Take them to the grocery store and help them find the basic necessities. Teach them how to drive and help them obtain their driver’s license. Help them figure out how to accomplish tasks like riding the bus, going to the bank and finding things in the library.
 

Allow them to see your everyday life.

Are you hanging out and watching movies with your friends on Friday night? Invite your international friends to join you. Organize a game of ultimate Frisbee on your campus lawn. Bake cookies together. Go hiking on nearby trails. Doing life together is the best way to build relationships.
 

Teach them about American traditions and share your favorite activities.

American holidays are great times to share with your international friends. Invite them to come with you to have Thanksgiving dinner with your family. Organize a Christmas gift exchange, decorate a Christmas tree, bake cookies and tell the Christmas story. Organize an Easter egg hunt and invite them to worship with you in your church. Host a cookout on Memorial Day or the 4th of July. Many of these holidays offer easy bridges to talking about spiritual things.
 

Be bold in sharing the gospel.

Many of the students who come to our campuses have never heard the gospel, and unless we open our mouths and speak truth to them, we will miss the incredible opportunity to declare God’s glory among the nations in our own backyard. As you build relationships with your international friends, show genuine care and love for them and serve them well, but make sure they know what you believe.
 
Pray with them before sharing a meal. Talk about the things you are reading in your Bible. Tell them about the ways you trust God and teach them about the relationship you have in Christ. Look for open doors to show them how they can experience God’s grace and goodness for themselves.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Stefani Varner serves on the International Mission Board’s church initiatives team.)
 

3/27/2017 10:57:06 AM by Stefani Varner | with 0 comments



TobyMac & me

March 24 2017 by Gerald Harris

I went to the “Hits Deep Tour” featuring TobyMac at the Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth, Ga., earlier this month. I didn’t go alone, but with my extended family – 17 of us (one granddaughter was sick and could not join us). It was not the first time I have been to a contemporary Christian music concert. I have also been to Winter Jam at the Georgia Dome.
 
The “Hits Deep” concert was an extraordinary experience. I actually appreciated and enjoyed it. In fact, there were aspects about it I loved.

Gerald Harris


Now, that is saying a lot because I am 76 years old, a traditionalist and a conservative. All this means I don’t particularly like change.
 
I grew up in an era when churches only had pianos and organs, when choirs were robed, the preachers wore suits and ties and we sang hymns out of books with treble and bass clefs, notes and lyrics. Sometimes we sang in four-part harmony.
 
I learned to play the piano at a Stamps-Baxter singing convention. A man named Filmore Deal taught me to play the piano when I was 10 years old by reading shaped notes. I haven’t played the piano in a long time but there was a day when I could play “Springtime in Gloryland” with the best of them.
 
In addition to that 1940s-1950s milieu, I lived in the era of Emily Post, when we were taught manners and etiquette. We couldn’t wear hats in the house and especially not in the church, but women could wear hats in church and many of them did, especially at Easter. We said, “You’re welcome” rather than, “No problem.”
 
In those days of antiquity we knew nothing of sexual equality. We stood up when a woman entered the room, pulled the chair out for them before we were seated for dinner and opened the car door to show them the courtesy we thought they deserved.
 
I think you get the picture. Back to the concert.
 
It was loud. The special effects with the videos, lighting and fog machines were fine for the concert at the arena, but I don’t think I am ready for that to be a part of a church worship service.
 
There were some things I liked about TobyMac and his fellow contemporary artists. His drummer gave a great testimony and in the course of his comments said, “Not all white people are racists. Not all black people are criminals. Not all police officers are bad cops.” Then he told about how God had rescued him from a wayward lifestyle because a group of Christians “loved him to the cross.” It was moving and uplifting.
 
The musicians seemed to be dedicated to the Lord and surrendered to Him; I thought the words in their songs were meaningful and inspiring. Mac Powell sang, “Cry Out to Jesus” and “Soul on Fire,” both songs with great messages. He also sang “I Saw the Light” and “Amazing Grace.”
 
I really enjoyed Mandisa, a former “American Idol” contestant. She is a beautiful woman who admittedly is overweight, an issue that American Idol judge Simon Cowell addressed in a rather unseemly way.
 
When Mandisa subsequently appeared before Cowell and the other judges for their decision on whether she would advance to the next round of competition, she said to him, “Yes, you hurt me and I cried and it was really painful. It really was, but I want you to know that I have forgiven you, and you don’t need to have someone to apologize before you forgive them. And if Jesus died so that all of my wrongs could be forgiven, I can surely extend that same grace to you.”
 
The story had a happy ending. Cowell stood and said he was humbled by what Mandisa said, gave her a hug and apologized – then told her on behalf of the judges that she was going to advance to the competition’s next round.
 
Mandisa sang “The Heart of Worship,” a modern hymn, but also “Blessed Assurance” and I don’t think I have ever heard it sung better. “Overcomer” was another song she performed which was spiritually motivating.
 
The second half of the concert featured TobyMac all the way through as he sang “Speak Life,” “Steal My Show,” “Made to Love” and “City on Our Knees.”
 
At the concert, even more important to me, I saw how moved and enraptured my grown sons, daughter and grandchildren were over the music. They are not shallow Christians, but vibrant, growing Christians. I have also observed how fervently the students in our Baptist colleges worship as they sing some of the contemporary songs of praise in their chapel services. I frequently preach in services where there is contemporary music and I see students, young adults and some older adults truly engaged in meaningful worship as they sing the songs of Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman and others.
 
So, I am saying I like TobyMac and much of contemporary Christian music because of a personal interest in it and because I am thankful the next two generations in my family are blessed and spiritually strengthened by it.
 
How could I dislike music that draws this younger generation closer to the Lord? While I appreciate TobyMac and his contemporaries, I must tell you that my preference is still “At Calvary,” “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and, yes, “Blessed Assurance.”
 
Especially when Mandisa sings it.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gerald Harris is editor of The Christian Index, christianindex.org, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention, where this article first appeared.)
 

3/24/2017 10:38:31 AM by Gerald Harris | with 0 comments



The Bible speaks on racism

March 23 2017 by David Johnson

Not long ago, I preached in a downtown mission to a group of men who had been living on the street. It was a diverse group and I wanted to talk with them about racism in the wake of recent events that had raised tensions in various communities around the country.
 
I wanted to share with them what the Bible said about what they had in common beyond just their shared circumstances and how Christ gives us ultimate unity.

David Johnson


I noted seven biblical reasons why racism is wrong. Here they are:
 

God created all races (Genesis 1:27)

Every person from every race is created in the image of God. Races were not accidental or the result of sin. They are an expression of God Himself. He built diversity into the very DNA of mankind. If God created all races, then we must show value and respect for all races.
 

All races are fallen and sinful (Romans 3:10,23)

The Bible teaches that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is no race that can claim to be better than any other when it comes to the degree of sinfulness. Romans 3:10 says, “There is no one righteous, not even one” (CSB). What applies to individuals is true of races as well. We are all equally fallen.
 

God loves all races (John 3:16; 1 John 4:14)

When the Bible says, “For God loves the world in this way …” (John 3:16 CSB), it is talking about the people of the world of all races and nationalities. God did not just show His love to one ethnic group, but all. That is why John says later that He is the world’s Savior (1 John 4:14 CSB).
 

Christ died for all races (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Hebrews 9:12)

The apostle Paul says that Christ died for all in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. Christ died for all the peoples of the world. The only hope any person of any race has for salvation is in Christ. Hebrews 9:12 says that Christ entered the “holy of holies” with His own blood “once for all” to make the sacrifice for our sins. If Christ died for all races, then we cannot discriminate one over another.
 

Christ breaks down the wall between races (Ephesians 2:14-15)

Jesus not only broke down the wall of separation between us and God with His death on the cross, but the wall that separates us from one another. He broke down the barriers of hatred and division by giving us peace with God and peace with one another. This was not just true for Jew and Gentile but for all races.
 

We are one in Christ (Galatians 3:28-29)

The unity we experience in Christ results from sharing in a common faith in a common Savior that makes us part of the same family of God. That is why there is no more division between Jew and Gentile, male or female, slave or free. If we have all been saved by the same One, then we are all one in Him!
 

All races will join together in heaven (Revelation 7:9-10)

Ultimately, there will be people in heaven glorifying God around His throne from every nation, tribe, people and language (Revelation 7:9 CSB). We need to get used to joining together with people from other races because we are going to be spending eternity together! There will be no racism in heaven. That is just one of the things that will make heaven heaven!
 
I was visiting with a pastor who had received an anonymous letter from a person in his church recently lamenting the growing racial diversity in the congregation and the multi-ethnic expressions of worship. The letter said, “After all, this is the United States of America.”
 
I told the pastor that I hope that person knows that heaven is going to be filled with people from all races even more than the United States. He may not like it there! The Bible gives us plenty of reasons to know that racism is wrong. We just need to believe it and live it.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Johnson is executive director of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention.)
 

3/23/2017 10:26:46 AM by David Johnson | with 0 comments



United by truth

March 22 2017 by Joshua Crutchfield

As I look on in dismay at the convention I love, splintering and fragmenting, I cannot help but desire unity. This is why I have believed that we as Southern Baptists must pull together our resources for the sake of the gospel based on our doctrinal commitment defined in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
 
But still it seems that this doctrinal statement is not sufficient. What then is the truth that unites us as Southern Baptists?

Joshua Crutchfield


The reality is, we as a convention have lost our way in the midst of our pilgrimage. We have forgotten that this world is not our home. We need to be reminded that we are spiritual immigrants in a strange land. In our freedom, we have sacrificed more than just our lives, we have sacrificed our souls to preserve this ideal that can prove so empty.
 
Jesus said that if He would be lifted up, He would draw all men unto Himself (John 12:32). Yet, our Southern Baptist churches struggle to see the baptismal waters stirred. Why?
 
Could it be that we are too busy raising a flag instead of the cross? As our nation’s flag is raised, men and women from all over the world are drawn here, but what will they find? The American dream creates an insatiable appetite. People come hoping to find a better life, but still they hunger, still they thirst, still they grow tired and weak, and still they die. They sacrifice everything for America, but America can only provide so much. The freedom our country purveys is not the remedy that will liberate the enslaved souls this nation hosts and invites.
 
What truth then can unite us? Could it be that we are so concerned about pushing our political agendas and American ideals we believe to be Christian that we have forgotten altogether the nature of our mission? Yes, we need to interact with our country and influence our government in order to seek justice for all – the born and unborn alike. But no president will be able to bridge our racial divides, cure our health needs and eliminate our poverty hurts. Still, Jesus said, “If I be lifted up.”
 
You know why I love the Bible? Because the Bible is truth. The Bible tells me of Jesus. Jesus tells me He is truth (John 14:6).
 
In the Gospels, I see Jesus moved with compassion offering His health care plan to the lepers, paralytic, blind, deaf and dead. I see Jesus demonstrate His economic development strategy with 12 baskets of food left over after a multitude has their hunger satisfied. I see Jesus judicially appointed to the cross, where He was crucified in order that justice would prevail. I see Jesus execute His military might when He was raised from the dead and enthroned in the heavens. There He sits as sin, death and the devil serve as His footstool. I see the ability of Jesus to unite all races together before His throne. I hear more than a campaign promise when He says that He is coming back for all who forsake the treasures of this world in order to follow the King of all creation.
 
I believe that we as Southern Baptists can be united like never before if we would turn back to the truth. Jesus is Lord, Caesar is not. Is this not why 46,000 churches pool their resources together through the Cooperative Program, so that Jesus might be lifted up, and that all people might hear His name and have the opportunity to receive new life?
 
We as Southern Baptists have been distracted long enough. We need to engage our community as Kingdom citizens residing in America. It is imperative that we live out gospel-centered lives in order to influence our government and our culture. But let us not lose sight as to what unites us together – the truth.
 
The world is dying as God’s people squabble, and souls are lost to the flames of hell. If we must be angry, let it be with the devil. If we must fight, let it be against the darkness of this world. If we must be passionate, let it be about the Christ who came and is coming again. May we unite under the banner of the cross and may we unashamedly declare truth of Jesus.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joshua Crutchfield is pastor of First Baptist Church in Madisonville, Texas.)
 

3/22/2017 10:11:30 AM by Joshua Crutchfield | with 1 comments



Celebrating, strengthening the Cooperative Program

March 20 2017 by Jason K. Allen

The Cooperative Program ought not be a sacred cow, but it is close to one for me. Began by Southern Baptists nearly a century ago, it has proven to be a most effective and enduring way to support our collective ministry and mission work. I often visit with leaders of other evangelical denominations who are envious of the Cooperative Program. And they should be; there is nothing like it in American Protestantism.
 
I was reared in a Southern Baptist church, so I grew up with a general awareness of the Cooperative Program. But, it was not until I sensed God’s call to ministry that I became fully aware – and fully appreciative – of the Cooperative Program.
 
As a seminary student, I was astounded by how affordable my seminary training was compared to other evangelical seminaries. While a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, I learned more intimately how the Cooperative Program worked, felt how much it helped me and saw it impact the world by providing for our missionaries. It was during this time that I became a true believer.
 
Then, as a pastor, the two churches I had the privilege of leading gave 14 percent and 10 percent of undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program (CP). The first church grew exponentially, and we flirted with cutting our CP giving to hire additional staff. But we held firm. My second church, conversely, had to trim its budget on a couple of occasions. Cutting CP would have been the easier way to balance the budget, but we held firm then as well. I had come to value the Cooperative Program enough that I advocated against cutting it. Thankfully, in both churches, the CP won out, and we kept our giving at its high levels.
 
Now, as a seminary president, I lead an institution that benefits daily from the Cooperative Program. Without it, we would be forced to double tuition on our students. Such a move would decimate the seminary, plunge the enrollment and bring immediate and long-term financial hardship on our students.
 
In the world of theological education, the six Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) seminaries stand as grand anomalies in size, support and overall strength. The Cooperative Program is essential to this vitality.
 
Though the Cooperative Program has been proving itself since 1925, we cannot take it for granted. We neglect it, or minimize it, to our own peril. Without a robust CP, our work as a whole will suffer. With a robust CP, our collective ministry and mission can flourish. That is why we must work in our generation to strengthen the Cooperative Program. Consider these three observations to that end.
 
First, like our denomination as a whole, the Cooperative Program is best led by pastors. The uptick in Cooperative Program giving in recent years is a direct result of past SBC president Ronnie Floyd’s efforts to this end. He, in concert with Frank Page, strategically worked with pastors, encouraging them to strengthen their CP giving. Thankfully, current SBC president Steve Gaines has continued this emphasis. Perhaps no single factor will determine the strength of the CP in the years ahead more than how much our pastors believe in and advocate for the CP.
 
Second, those of us who serve in CP-supported entities must constantly give SBC churches good reason to support us. This is true at every level of denominational life: local, state and national. We exist to serve the churches; they do not exist to serve us. We need to ensure that our churches continually see the benefits of their entities working for them. As our churches find in us skillful, faithful and responsive service, surely we will find from them sufficient support to do our work.
 
Third, all of us must be careful how we posture and speak of Cooperative Program giving. If a church is evaluating or trimming their CP support, let’s not cajole, pressure or shame them. That is not a winning strategy. My assessment is not a pragmatic or political calculation. It is a biblical and theological one. Christ promised to build his church, not our denomination.
 
Let’s clean up our vocabulary, and use words like “please” and “thank you,” and shelve words like “should” and “must.” The Southern Baptist Convention agencies and our state convention partners serve the churches, not the other way around. As we serve them, they will support us.
 
Southern Baptists’ persistent generosity through the Cooperative Program is one sign of God’s continued hand on our work. In denominational circles, it is a modern miracle. Through the missions and ministries of the SBC, we have together impacted the world. Let’s continue to celebrate and strengthen our collective work.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE –  Jason K. Allen is president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of two recently-released books, The SBC & the 21st Century (B&H Publishing) and Discerning Your Call to Ministry (Moody Publishing). He regularly posts essays on his website, jasonkallen.com, and hosts a weekly podcast, Preaching & Preachers. This article is posted on his website and used by permission.)  
 

3/20/2017 3:33:03 PM by Jason K. Allen | with 0 comments



Go beyond

March 17 2017 by Kevin Ezell

Have you noticed that God does not settle for the status quo? There is no place in the Bible where He says, “There, that’s good enough. You can take a break now.” Even nature, which He created, is constantly shifting, changing and moving in order to keep the balance He intended.
 
God is always pushing us forward. He calls us closer in our walk with Him. He sends us out to tell people about Him. This is His nature.

Kevin Ezell


I love to hear about our missionaries who are always pushing forward as well. They are starting new churches, connecting with new people and finding ways to meet needs so that in the process a conversation can turn toward the gospel.
 
We must guard against a tendency of our human nature to be satisfied with things the way they are. No church should ever say, “That’s it, we have reached enough people.” And until God calls us home, no believer should ever say it either.
 
The Annie Armstrong Easter Offering is one way each year our Southern Baptist family says, “We will move forward.” Between now and Easter Sunday, thousands of Southern Baptist churches will take up the Annie Offering. Others will give to an offering for North American missions at different times. Either way, everything designated to the Annie Offering is focused on reaching people in North America for Christ. Every dollar given goes to support missionaries who are on the field, working every day to share Jesus and give people greater access to the gospel.
 
In Maine, the U.S. state with the third-lowest average weekly church attendance, missionary Dan Coleman started a church three years ago that is now attended by 1,200 people each week. In Jacksonville, Fla., missionary Kim Carr is seeing refugees from several different ethnic backgrounds embrace Jesus as Lord after first building a relationship with them through English and citizenship classes. At Washington State University in Pullman, missionary Jacob Dahl is impacting future generations of leaders by bringing students to Christ and discipling them.
 
When you give to the Annie Offering you have a direct impact in these places and in ministries like these throughout the United States and Canada. In addition, as we start strong, new evangelistic churches here in North America, they will raise up missionaries and resources to support the work of the International Mission Board as it reaches all over the world.
 
Each church and every believer has their own personal role to play in the Great Commission which cannot be fulfilled solely by giving money. Let’s not settle for the spiritual status quo in North America. By giving to the Annie Offering, Southern Baptists will make a greater impact that goes far beyond what any of us could do alone.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kevin Ezell is president of the North American Mission Board.)
 

3/17/2017 11:43:56 AM by Kevin Ezell | with 0 comments



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