March 2018

Simple questions

March 23 2018 by Jeff Iorg, Baptist Press

The American church has never been more analyzed and categorized, with predictions galore about where it’s headed, what it’s becoming, how it needs to change, and whether it is growing, plateaued or declining.
It’s easy to get lost in all this and decide the health of our own local church more intuitively – basically, do we like it? If we do, then it’s a “healthy” church. If not, then it needs to change so we will like it more, which is an unhealthy standard.

Jeff Iorg

Somewhere between these extremes has to be a simpler way to understand the direction a church is trending – growing or declining, healthy or dying.
Three simple questions can help cut through the fog:

Does your church have more attenders under age 6 than over 60?

With rare exception, preschool children don’t bring themselves to church. They usually come with at least one parent – which means a church is attracting, connecting with and developing members among younger adults.
If there’s a paucity of preschoolers, you are not likely reaching younger adults. Your membership is aging and your church is slowly declining. Older members may be serving and giving – which is good. But when their generation passes (and it will happen faster than you think), your church will be history unless you are also reaching a younger generation.

Does your church have more adult baptisms than memorial services?

If your church is having more deaths than adult baptisms, you are losing more adults than you are reaching. Baptizing children and teenagers is important, but most of them will grow up and leave your church. Reaching adults in your community is essential to building a church that will last to the next generation.

If you are over 50, do you like everything about your church?

If the answer is yes, your church is probably on a downward trajectory. I am almost 60 and there’s a lot about how church is being done today that doesn’t connect with me. That’s OK. Millennials need to reinvent church programs, processes, methods and schedules to reach their generation. As I age, I hope to be less and less comfortable in church as the age difference between me and young adults grows.
Answer these simple questions for your church – and then get to work helping it be as healthy as possible!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jeff Iorg is president of Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention. This column first appeared online at

3/23/2018 10:11:34 AM by Jeff Iorg, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Do it anyway

March 22 2018 by Randy L. Bennett, Baptist Press

One of my roles as a director of missions is assisting churches in mentoring men and occasionally women in ministry. My favorite mentoring or teaching relationship, however, is with a 37-year-old pastor and a pair of 33-year-old twins.
Those are my three children. All three are involved in ministry.

Randy L. Bennett

We have a great time sharing ministry ideas back and forth. I generally receive a phone call from each of them on a regular basis – from my youngest twin it’s almost every Monday night. She and I talk about how our Sundays went; sometimes we strategize new ministries.
Years ago when she started teaching Sunday School, she called asking about how to reach some new children for her class. I suggested she go visiting door to door in her neighborhood. I further suggested that she drive around and look for yards with kids’ toys, get out of her car to visit them and invite them to Sunday School. None of her neighbors came but within just a few weeks quite a few new children came!
Recently she called to give an exciting report – one of the students in a Team Kid outreach she had initiated in her church came to know Christ and was being baptized. If she hadn’t started Team Kid a few years ago, she realized this young lady may never have been saved.
She reminded me about the challenges she faced in starting this new ministry. She had no workers. She had no space for the classes. She had no money to spend. While she had her pastor’s support, she heard a handful of negative responses to the ministry.
One evening while washing dishes she became distraught over the challenges she was facing. She called out to God to say, “It’s too hard. I can’t do it.”
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been at exactly the same place. No workers. No space. No budget. A so-so response to a new ministry. Should I quit? Do I continue? Do I resign? Do I give up on the idea God gave me?
We’ve all faced those breaking points as leaders. Will we move forward or quit before reaching the goal?
Praise the Lord; God spoke to my daughter in His still small voice. What do you suppose God said?
After Jesus’ resurrection His disciples returned to Galilee and went fishing probably hoping to make some money. They fished all night but caught nothing. Jesus appeared to them and told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. “We never do it that way,” you can imagine them saying.
He said, “Do it anyway,” and they had a great catch of fish.
God said to my daughter, “Do it anyway.”
Knowing my 5’4” daughter as I do, I can easily visualize the look on her face as she processed what God said to her. I can see a look of newfound determination as she chose to move forward. She simply wouldn’t allow a handful of challenges to keep her from trying to reach people for Christ. I love that about her. She’s a tiny lady but I wouldn’t want to get in her way.
She took God’s message and continued moving forward. She’s seen so many great things happen. Her Team Kid program has meaningfully increased the church’s Sunday night attendance. Her determination helped the whole church. She was grateful that she just did it, or the little girl that night may never have gotten saved.
Where are you today? What are you facing? What challengers are robbing you of your joy? God says, “Trust me with the challenges. Follow the dream I’ve given you. Do it anyway!”
Imagine if we all took that message to heart and kept on keeping on in reaching people for Christ. Imagine if we learned how to deal with our challenges in such a way that we kept moving forward. The impact would be huge when God’s people trust Him to remove the barriers and challenges that threaten the ministries God has given us.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Randy L. Bennett is director of missions for the Kern County Southern Baptist Association in Bakersfield, Calif., and immediate past president of the California Southern Baptist Convention.)

3/22/2018 11:00:16 AM by Randy L. Bennett, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

What about your coworkers?

March 21 2018 by Autumn Wall, Baptist Press

Eight hours of your day is spent with the same people at your workplace throughout much of year. Are you leveraging your time at work for the sake of the Kingdom?
Many Christians want to share Jesus with people around them but just don’t know how. It’s much easier than we think to be a witness for Christ at work.
It starts with knowing people.
As you look around your office today, how many of your coworkers do you really know? Here are a few ways you can be intentional to know those around you:

  • Know the simple things. Do you know their spouse and kids’ names? When is their birthday? What’s their favorite snack?
  • Know the deep things. What’s their story? What are they most passionate about? What do they fear most in life?
  • Know the spiritual things. What do they think about the church? Who do they say Jesus is? Do they have a Bible?
  • Know the personal things. What do they do on their weekends? What makes them tick inside? What are they hurting over right now?
  • Know the random things. What’s their favorite sports team? What kind of music do they like? Are they an introvert or an extrovert?

Many of these things you can’t learn just by listening over the phone. Take a coworker to lunch and get to know them. When we know people – really know them – we will see the opportunities to minister to them that we would have missed otherwise.
Is a holiday coming up? Does their family live out of state? Invite them to celebrate Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas with your family. Do they love baseball? Do you have a team in your area? Buy them tickets to go to a game with you. Find ways to connect with your coworkers every day in the office to build relationship, then look for opportunities to take that relationship outside of office hours. Then, when you’re at the Thanksgiving table or sitting at a baseball field, share Jesus with them.
Your workplace is a mission field to which you have been assigned, and Ephesians 5:16 tells us to “make the most of every opportunity.” Will you be intentional to befriend those God has already put in your path and share Jesus with them at first opportunity?
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Autumn Wall, online at, is an author, speaker, worship leader, pastor’s wife and mom of three in Indianapolis. She is the co-author of Across the Street and Around the World, New Hope Publishers.)

3/21/2018 8:55:11 AM by Autumn Wall, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ministry moments

March 20 2018 by Chuck Lawless, Baptist Press

Everyone in ministry needs these moments. When the work gets tough, we need reminders of why we do what we do.
Here are some “glimpses” that have helped me press on in faith through the years:

  • Seeing the look of absolute joy on a new believer who has just been baptized. You can't explain it; you just have to see it.
  • Telling Bible stories to children who hang on every word. Only God knows how He will use that Word to change their lives.
  • Praying with someone seeking God in faith and repentance. I've guided folks who have had no idea how to pray, and I've also listened as others launched into their own prayers. Either way, it's glorious.
  • Renewing vows for a reunited couple. In this case, saying “I do” again is a witness to the power of God's love and a testimony against the wiles of the devil.
  • Telling the story of Jesus to people who've never heard it. Sometimes, watching them pay attention takes you back to when the gospel story first fascinated you as well.
  • Experiencing or hearing answers to prayer that can't be explained apart from “God did that.” When His power is most evident, you realize again that He is the living God.
  • Celebrating the passing of a saint. This one may sound morbid, but it's not at all. Standing beside the bedside or casket of a departed believer has brought some of my strongest ministry memories. I'm reminded then that what we do has eternal ramifications.
  • Singing with missionaries in their mother tongue. There's nothing quite like it. Joining with faithful believers to sing God's praise in their own language – especially after they've been struggling to learn another one – is captivating.
  • Listening to a young preacher fumble his way through his first sermon. We've usually been there ourselves, so we understand the struggle. Raw, yet unpolished commitment in the hand of God, though, is inspiring.
  • Serving the Lord's Supper. This ordinance takes us to the cross in preparation for His return – and we get to lead others to share in the act. It's a holy moment.

We often get so consumed by doing the hard work of ministry that we inadvertently overlook the blessings of doing God's work. Difficulties and struggles cloud our vision, and we miss the glimpses that can keep us going. Spend some time today remembering glimpses of the past in your ministry, and then watch for new ones throughout the day.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chuck Lawless, online at, is vice president for spiritual formation and ministry centers and professor of evangelism and missions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

3/20/2018 10:41:17 AM by Chuck Lawless, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

When God takes you on a detour

March 16 2018 by Van Kicklighter

I learned to drive when finding your way around still involved maps – ones printed on paper with different size dots to represent populations and different width lines for what kind of road it was. To get from place to place, you would locate where you were and where you wanted to go and, most of the time, map out the shortest distance.
This worked well until you came to one of those big orange triangular “Detour” signs. Typically, you would be directed off the road with a sign or two and, at times, left to your own resources to find your way back to the main road as soon as possible to continue your journey.
Personally, my life recently took a detour (with a cancer diagnosis). Not only am I now on a different road, I am headed for a new and different destination. To be honest, my wife Robin and I aren’t sure we know what it will be. This detour is not simply a short-lived excursion, it is a brand-new road.
Sometimes God takes our lives on a detour, at least from the plans we have laid out and from the destinations we were headed toward. And trying to get back to the old road, the former route, is to miss what God wants to do in our life. As one author puts it, the detour has become the new road.
What do we make of this? Is God playing a mean trick on us, or has He changed His mind about His purpose for our lives? As I have thought and prayed about this, I have come to a new understanding and appreciation for what God might be doing when He interrupts our personal road maps and seeks to take us to a new destination.
Even a cursory reading of the Bible reveals that many of God’s choicest servants, men and women, experienced some incredible detours. Consider Abraham, who was told to leave his homeland and go to a place God would show him (eventually). Ruth, a young bride-turned-widow, also journeyed to a foreign land. Peter, Andrew, James and John left the family fishing business to wander with Jesus, and the apostle Paul detoured from persecuting the church to being the planter of churches.
These are just a few of dozens of examples. Let me suggest a few possibilities for what God might be up to in the detours of life:

You detoured when you trusted Jesus.

The truth of the gospel is that we were enemies of God until He intervened and offered us salvation through Jesus. In our old life, we charted our own destination, and it was leading us to separation from God. Our repentance – doing an “about face” – represents the first and most important detour as a disciple of Jesus.

Your detour may last for many years before you see the benefit.

Joseph was enjoying his time as the favorite son of a wealthy father. Then his brothers threw him in a pit and left him for dead. He was sold into slavery to a foreign king and later thrown in prison, even though he did nothing wrong. Quite a life-changing detour! But after decades and several more detours, Joseph’s position in the foreign land was used by God to meet the need of his people in a time of severe famine. You may not see the benefit or the blessing of a detour for many years to come.

Your detour may have a Kingdom impact.

Saul, who became the apostle Paul, may have had the most dramatic detour recorded. From hunting down and wanting to kill followers of Jesus, he became the greatest missionary ever, planting churches all over the known world. Only in heaven will we know how many people came to be followers of Jesus because of Paul’s ministry. This was certainly not his original life’s ambition. Yet you and I have heard the gospel because of Paul’s dramatic detour.

Your detour may be for the blessing of others.

Consider Abram. He was a herder of livestock. God told him to leave home and set out for a place that God would show him. Not only would God bless Abram, whom he renamed Abraham, but “all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). Abram’s detour resulted in all the nations of the earth being blessed.
So, don’t get in a hurry to get back to your original route. Allow what seems like a detour to be the new route of obedience for your life.

3/16/2018 3:08:21 PM by Van Kicklighter | with 0 comments

Billy Graham’s next-generation legacy

March 14 2018 by A. Larry Ross, Baptist Press

The world stopped to celebrate the homegoing of evangelist Billy Graham, 99, who was buried in Charlotte on the grounds of the library bearing his name next to Ruth, his marriage and ministry partner of more than 63 years.

BGEA photo
Billy Graham began connecting young people with the Gospel in the 1940s as one of several Youth for Christ evangelists who preached in youth rallies across the country.

Throughout his ministry, Graham constantly leveraged the leading edge of technology, from radio and print journalism to satellite television and the internet in order to speak timeless truths to the mercurial interests of the next generation.
While the message of Jesus’ love and redemptive power for the sinner is eternal and timeless, the modern believer lives in a world of near-instantaneous change. The youngest among us are particularly susceptible to the whims of culture, especially one driven by a 24-hour Twitter news cycle.
Before Billy Graham was known for reinventing the old-fashioned tent revival, he cut his evangelistic teeth as an itinerant youth preacher, speaking to young men and women in the armed forces who were home from World War II, afflicted with a deep sense of uncertainty that combat too often inspires.
In 1944, Youth for Christ International founder Torrey Johnson invited a 26-year-old Graham to lead a series of meetings at the 3,000-seat Chicago Orchestra Hall. Graham’s style was passionate, pithy and – perhaps most importantly for a crowd of youngsters – able to deliver the gospel message quickly. The following year, Johnson recruited Graham and a number of other young evangelists to tour the country speaking at other similarly organized youth meetings.
Great Souls author David Aikman recalls that Graham and his colleagues energized their listeners with “loud and contemporary” music, “flashy” clothes and, similar to the popular “I Am Second” video series of today, well-known athletes who had committed their lives to Christ presenting their faith testimonies.
The lessons gleaned from those early youth rallies influenced Graham’s preaching for the remainder of his worldwide career. When he addressed thousands in Times Square in 1957, he famously invoked the titles of the movie marquees lining 42nd Street as textual evidence for the world’s sin and brokenness for which God’s redemptive love was the antidote.
In June 1972, Graham kicked off Campus Crusade for Christ’s “Explo ’72” at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. The event, later dubbed the “Christian Woodstock,” capped the peak of the ’70s “Jesus Movement,” gathering 100,000 college and high school students – including future minister and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee – for a week of evangelistic training.
Explo ’72 culminated in a day-long Christian music festival featuring artists such as Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson, an experience so powerful that music critic John Thompson later credited the event with kick-starting the Contemporary Christian Music genre and the rise of the juggernaut Christian music industry.

BP file photo by Kelli Cottrell
Reflecting Billy Graham’s intent on reaching young people, Kirk Franklin was among the contemporary musicians who joined in Graham’s 2003 crusade in San Diego. Also featured were dc Talk, Third Day, Nicole C. Mullen and Michael W. Smith.

In 1994, Graham returned to a Youth Night emphasis out of a self-professed burden to reach his own grandchildren and their peers. This desire soon became one of the hallmarks of his later ministry as local pastors looked to his model of reaching the next generation, which statistics show is outside the grasp of the church.
Longtime crusade director Rick Marshall remembers that Billy Graham never forgot the lessons learned early in his career, that the most effective way to reach young people is through their own mediums.
“Billy agreed to take a risk and a new approach to advertising – including spots on MTV and urban radio – and programming,” Marshall said. “Billed as ‘The First Concert to Benefit Its Own Audience,’ we combined high-energy music – presented with integrity – with straight talk from him as a caring adult, communicated with love and simplicity so that these kids knew he understood their world.”
According to Marshall, as a senior statesman for the faith Graham had the experience of a modern-day Moses, the Old Testament patriarch who, after a long life of blessing and impact gazed upon the Promised Land on which he would never set foot.
“Mr. Graham was standing on a mountain speaking into future generations he would never see,” Marshall said. “After a rousing concert with several contemporary music bands, the stadium record crowd of teens got pin-drop quiet for Billy’s message, with overwhelming response.”
Beginning that night in Cleveland moving forward, 22 youth events were held during Mr. Graham’s remaining crusades, 12 of which broke all-time stadium records with crowds of mostly young people totaling nearly 1.3 million, of which nearly 100,000 responded in making a commitment to Christ.
Billy Graham’s prayer for future influence to the next generation was answered and extended over the last 11 years of his preaching ministry, but only as the evangelist similarly yielded his physical limitations and weakness to the Lord and operated in His strength from above.
If Billy Graham innovated by speaking into his times, preaching with a “Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other,” then perhaps the modern-day youth evangelist might speak with a Bible in one hand and Buzzfeed in the other. However, that same preacher should also remember that, though the methods might have changed, Graham’s core message never did.
Don Wilton, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C., who became Graham’s pastor beginning in 2009, reflects that the evangelist’s “impact on youth was encompassed in his person. He transcended age and station. … We, many times, look at that and say, ‘What can we concoct? What can we do in order to attract more people?’ Mr. Graham believed that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – A. Larry Ross is president of A. Larry Ross Communications, a Dallas-based media/public relations agency providing cross-over media liaison at the intersection of faith and culture. For more than 33 years, Ross served as personal media spokesperson for evangelist Billy Graham and is responsible for the website and curator of the video streaming channel

3/14/2018 9:33:31 AM by A. Larry Ross, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Are revivals effective?

March 13 2018 by J. Robert White, Baptist Press

I was in a small gathering of folks the other week when a dear lady made reference to a revival she had been a part of.
“But, of course, nobody has revivals anymore,” she said with such confidence. I wanted to say, “Well, that’s not exactly right. I am beginning a revival this Sunday at Summit Baptist Church in Loganville.”
Here in Georgia, I remember very distinctly one statistic that stood out from research a few years ago about evangelistic churches: Churches that have revivals baptize more people than churches that do not have revivals.

J. Robert White

In my book Healthy Kingdom Churches a few years back, I wrote about a doctor friend, who accepted the task of getting me well from a respiratory ailment, so I could preach a revival meeting at Atco Baptist Church in Cartersville. He made a statement and then asked a question: “I didn’t know churches were still having revivals. Are revivals still effective?”
I gave the most sincere and honest answer I knew: “Revivals are effective in some churches and not in others.”
“How do you explain that?” he asked.
I responded, “It’s like most other things. The success of a revival is determined largely by the amount of effort put into getting ready for revival.”
The revival at Atco Baptist Church was truly amazing. It happened because the pastor, Wayne Hamrick, had prepared the congregation through praying for revival and witnessing across the community. That week we saw 57 people come to faith in Christ. In one service, we saw over 20 make professions of faith. There were many other decisions as well, with people making rededication commitments and coming on transfer of membership. God had done an amazing thing among His people who dared to trust that if they prayed and witnessed, God would do what only God can do.
I have come to the conclusion that it is wrong to declare the death of revivals, when the only reason they may be dead in a church is a lack of commitment to pray for revival toward reaching the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In the first service at the recent revival at Summit Baptist Church, pastor Jason Rothe made the statement that the congregation had literally been praying for months for this series of services. That did not surprise me because when I arrived at the church, I found a vibrant congregation filled with anticipation over what the Lord would do during the week. When the invitation was given, the aisles filled with people coming down front to pray and to unite with the church.
I want to encourage you to plan a revival for your church. As you do, remember that we have a good number of vocational evangelists in our Baptist family that God is using in a great way. When you contact them you will discover faithful, energetic and effective servants of Christ ready to bless your church.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – J. Robert White is executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. This column first appeared in The Christian Index,, the online news journal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.)

3/13/2018 7:43:29 AM by J. Robert White, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Keeping children safe at church

March 12 2018 by Denise George

Today’s parents are becoming more and more concerned about the safety of their infants and young children during Sunday worship services and other church events that provide care. Pastors and church leaders have a tremendous responsibility to keep safe those precious little ones whose parents entrust to church child care programs.
Here are some practical suggestions you can incorporate to keep your church children safe:

Safe & secure facilities

After the recent rash of church and school shootings, some pastors are hiring law enforcement officers or security guards to monitor outside and inside children’s areas. Pastors can also provide more safety outside the building with these suggestions:

  • Additional and well-maintained lighting in parking lots;
  • Safe playgrounds for children that are securely fenced, monitored at all times and a safe distance away from woods, public areas, and roadways;
  • Playground equipment that is age appropriate, routinely cleaned and maintained for safety;
  • Fire safety and emergency evacuation procedures written down, understood and practiced by children’s workers;
  • Extra outside doors locked during church hours and a guard posted at entryways that remain open to congregants.


Notification systems

In case of accidents, excessive crying, illness, choking, vomiting, fever and so on, child care workers must be able to reach parents immediately. Some churches also employ further measures:

  • A discreet private paging system that connects workers and parents;
  • A child check-in system;
  • A teacher-parent messaging program (see resources sidebar).


Location matters

It is important to consider where the children’s area is located within the church. Here are some helpful ideas:  

  • Classrooms with outside windows that lock to prevent falling and unauthorized access. Safety glass to prevent breakage and injury;
  • No doors that open to the grounds, parking lots or streets. Only inside doorways in classrooms;
  • A viewing window in classroom doors so that pastors, staff and parents can see into the room at all times;
  • Fire department approved smoke alarms within or near children’s areas.


Safety-focused policies and procedures

Children’s areas must be clean, childproofed and equipped using these practices:

  • Safety plugs in electrical outlets and no electrical cords within child’s reach;
  • Cleared surface spaces to prevent items falling on children;
  • Childproof locking devices attached to cabinets and drawers to prevent accidental openings;
  • A first-aid kit for minor injuries; digital thermometer to check for fever; sanitary wipes (for toys, equipment, books); hand sanitizer (for workers); a diaper disposal receptacle;
  • No toxic cleaning chemicals or hazardous materials stored in lower cabinets;
  • No trash bins or plants within reach of children;

The space should also contain age appropriate children’s equipment in good condition that is regularly cleaned and maintained, including:

  • Cribs that are regularly wiped down, cleaned and used only with fitted sheets;
  • Cribs with slats need bumper guards to prevent arm/leg injuries. Cribs must be kept free of blankets, toys and books. Each crib needs only a fitted sheet on its mattress. All older cribs and painted equipment should be checked for lead paint;
  • Swings, jumpers, bouncers and other equipment should be checked regularly for soundness and cleanness. Each should contain secure safety straps to prevent children from falling;
  • Age appropriate children’s toys that pose no safety risks from sharp edges, broken parts and small pieces that can be swallowed. Toys should be cleaned before, during and after classroom hours to prevent spread of germs.


Qualified child care workers

Whether pastors hire children’s workers or enlist volunteers from the congregation, all adults who work with church children must meet certain qualifications:

  • Be interviewed by a pastor or church leader and approved to work responsibly with children;
  • Undergo a criminal background check;
  • Have been a member of the church for a significant time period (at least six months, for instance);
  • Not work alone, but with at least one additional church-approved worker in classroom;
  • Be healthy, have no contagious diseases and be up-to-date on vaccinations;
  • Understand church safety policies, have access to a phone in case of an emergency, be trained in CPR and understand what to do in situations such as fire drills, evacuation procedures, potentially violent situations, and so on;
  • Understand and love children, encourage and teach them, keep them safe and clean;
  • Refrain from bringing personal food items or drinks into classrooms. Personal items, such as purses, should be locked away from the children;
  • To prevent choking and scratching, refrain from wearing jewelry, scarves, high-heeled shoes (flat, soft-soled shoes are safer), hair ornaments, hairpins, perfume or scented hand lotions (in case of allergies). Make sure shirt/blouse/coat buttons are securely fastened. Keep fingernails trimmed/smooth;
  • Get to know each child by name, get to know and get along with parents, family members.

Child care workers should also keep an active log on each child, telling parents:

  • How much formula/liquid and food child has consumed;
  • The number and consistency of child’s bowel movements;
  • The amount of time child has napped/slept;
  • Any problems child has had with other children (such as biting, aggression, hitting, bullying, etc.)

The should also know who will be picking up children after services. Each worker should have church-approved/parent-signed written instructions determining the individuals who are allowed to take children from classrooms. It is also important to report any inappropriate parental behavior to workers or children in classrooms, and any suspected parental child abuse.

Food safety

Children can choke on food, and they can die from food related allergies. Recently, at New Orleans Theological Seminary’s child care center, a two-year-old choked to death while eating lunch. Children’s workers must remember these guidelines:

  • Allow children to eat only the food sent with them by their parents, and disallow children sharing each other’s snacks;
  • Have on file an up-to-date list of each child’s food-related allergies and emergency information on treatment in case the child accidentally consumes the food;
  • Know CPR if a child becomes choked, and understand church policies concerning child emergencies.


Family member responsibilities

Parents and approved family members can help church workers keep children safe by providing valuable information and observing church rules. For instance, parents should fill out and sign a church-approved information form that includes:

  • Names of children; parents’ phone numbers; emergency phone numbers, name and phone number of child’s pediatrician, etc;
  • A list of approved family members/friends authorized by parents to pick up children from classrooms;
  • A list of the child’s food allergies;
  • Any special needs the child might have physically, emotionally or mentally.

Guardians can also aid in these ways:

  • Keep children’s vaccinations up-to-date. Refrain from bringing sick children to church;
  • Provide any supplies their child will need: diapers, skin ointment for diaper rash, sanitary wipes for diaper changes, bottles of formula, healthy snacks and drinks, a change of clothes, etc. Parents should not bring children’s personal toys, blankets, and such into classrooms;
  • Keep children’s fingernails trimmed;
  • Be appreciative, respectful and kind to children’s workers. Parents should refrain from any type of conflict, or engaging busy workers in long conversations or interfering in classroom policies;
  • Report to pastor or church leader any problems they see or experience with children’s workers.

When pastors and churches carefully plan and prepare safe children’s areas and classrooms, choose and train competent children’s workers, and work to make church a safe place for children, parents will worry less about their children as they attend worship services and events in another part of the church.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Denise George writes at She has authored 31 books, including What Pastors Wish Church Members Knew (Zondervan). She is married to Timothy George, founding Dean of Beeson Divinity School, Samford University. This article was first published in The Alabama Baptist and is used by permission.)

3/12/2018 10:38:02 AM by Denise George | with 0 comments

God loves me, right?

March 9 2018 by Cody Cunningham

The worship band starts up and you sing lyrics you’ve heard a hundred times before: “How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure, that he should give his only Son, To make a wretch his treasure.”
But the words catch in your throat.
You don’t feel like a treasure. In fact, you haven’t felt God’s love at all lately.

Is God’s love equal?

You would never say God doesn’t love you, but you’re not sure he loves you as much as someone like Charles Spurgeon, William Carey, or even the people up front leading the music. They’ve served God in obvious ways, so God is probably more accepting of them, right?
Maybe you’re tempted to believe there are two levels of God’s love. First, the love that exists between Father, Son and Spirit. This love is eternal and perfect, the fullness of what our earthly love points to. This is the deluxe package of God’s love. Second is God’s love for us. You know, the basic package.
We feel like there’s a difference between God’s love for his Son and his adopted children like some wrongly believe that parents have a greater love for their biological children than their adopted ones. But Jesus speaks a better word to us.
God doesn’t just love you as much as any other brother or sister – he loves you as much as he loves his Son.

Jesus’ comforting Spirit

Jesus describes the Father’s love for Him – and for us – in John 14. Sensing the disciples’ uneasiness as He discusses His return to the Father, the Savior comforts his followers with a promise: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18).
How will Jesus come to them while He’s in heaven? Through His Spirit. The sending of the Spirit unites believers to Jesus. That Spirit signals to the disciples, and to us, that we’re not alone: “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (John 14:20).
Jesus’ ascension and the giving of His Spirit are testimonies that God has not left us alone. Our triune God has broken into this sin-wrecked world in order to reclaim His people.
Jesus did not merely accomplish His earthly work and then tell the disciples, “Y’all stay strong. I’ll see you when you die or when I return.” The Father sent the Spirit to unite us to Jesus, to conform us to the image of Jesus, and to hold us firmly to the hope that is in Jesus.
If you possess the Spirit of Jesus, then you possess the unadulterated, unfiltered love of God.

Holy and blameless

God does not begrudgingly forgive you. He won’t stand with arms crossed at the gates of the new heavens and new earth with a frown as you sulk by. Those three words – “you in me” – are a glorious promise that what is true of Jesus is true of us. Our sin has been taken away and when God looks at you, He sees Jesus, who is “holy and blameless” (Ephesians 1:4).
At the beginning of John 14, Jesus assures His followers:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-3).
Did you catch that? The disciples are anxious about Jesus’ departure and fear what’s next. He comforts them by assuring them they will dwell in the Father’s house. Not in some rickety shack out back; no cupboard beneath the staircase. We are promised a room of our own in our Father’s house with our brother Jesus.

Sons and daughters

When we come before the Father, we do not come as mere servants of His Son; we come as sons and daughters ourselves, not because we are by nature sons and daughters, but because we have been wrapped in Jesus’ sonship.
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Galatians 4:4-7).
What does this mean for our fellowship with God? It means you don’t get the scraps of God’s love. You get the prime cut. When you’re brought into union with Jesus, you are united in love with the eternal fellowship of Father, Son and Spirit.
Sure, we’re still sinful people, and there will be a day when we experience that fellowship to a greater degree. But you can rest today in the promise that you share in this triune fellowship.
This is why Christians are called to live a life of holiness. Those who have tasted from the pure waters of triune fellowship are foolish to return to the stale, festering waters of sinful desires.
You shall be holy, for I am holy,” is not a burden to shoulder, but a result that flows from being caught up in the divine love of Father, Son and Spirit. But we’re prone to forget the beauty of heavenly love, choosing instead to chase pale imitations of it through relationships, possessions and experiences that only bring disappointment and despair.

Remind yourself of God’s love

If you long for God’s love, remind yourself:
– Christ himself mediates every prayer you utter (Romans 8:34).

– God is not an absentee Father; He has made himself known through His Word.

– Your church is a proclamation of God’s love represented as a family comprised of brothers and sisters from every nation, tongue and tribe, all equipped with spiritual gifts.

– God demonstrates his faithfulness through every sunset, sunrise and rainbow. It is the daily soundtrack that God “called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
If Satan throws the fiery darts of shame and guilt at you, don’t despair. There’s an empty tomb that speaks a better word than your guilt. It speaks of redemption and grace. It speaks of forgiveness. It speaks of love.
As Psalm 136:26 says, “Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Cody Cunningham is one of the pastors of Immanuel Community Church in New Orleans, La. He is also a staff member at Reaching and Teaching International Ministries, an organization that provides theological education for pastors overseas. You can read other writings at Originally published at Used by permission.)

3/9/2018 8:27:30 AM by Cody Cunningham | with 0 comments

The Lord’s Supper & our baptisms

March 8 2018 by Nate Adams, Baptist Press

Celebrations of the Lord’s Supper and believer’s baptism have always been among the most basic practices of Baptist churches. Yet it’s possible for these to become occasional, even rare, ceremonies, rather than foundational ordinances.

Nate Adams

The Lord’s Supper was given to us to be a time of frequent, intimate church fellowship and worship, one that draws each participant to introspection and confession of sin and to a carefully considered reminder of the price Jesus paid for that sin.
The Lord’s Supper is, in itself, a symbol-rich proclamation of the gospel message, one that should, each time, lead us to humble worship and gratitude and fresh motivation to live out our salvation and to share Jesus with others.
What if we got that right, every one of us, in every church, every time we celebrated the Lord’s Supper?
If we did, I think it would have a dramatic effect on our other foundational practice – baptism.
Think of it this way: What if a church were to schedule baptism celebrations as often as it scheduled Lord’s Supper celebrations? More importantly, what if that church adjusted all its other priorities with the goal of seeing at least one person baptized by that time?
In fact, what if the church filled its baptistery on that date, no matter what? If no one was ready to be baptized, the church would simply pray in lament over the unstirred waters and ask the Lord to guide them to a different result next time.
If the core tasks of the church are to remember the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus and continue His mission of seeking and saving the lost, then maybe we need to let the basics of the Lord’s Supper and baptism drive our churches’ priorities and resources and schedules more than the things that drive them now.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. This column first appeared at the Illinois Baptist news journal,

3/8/2018 10:16:22 AM by Nate Adams, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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