March 2018

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 billygrahamlegacy.info and curator of the video streaming channel bit.ly/BillyGrahamLegacyYouTube.)
 

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, christianindex.org, 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 DeniseGeorge.com. 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 codycunningham.com. Originally published at gcdiscipleship.com. 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, illinoisbaptist.org.)
 

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



Scared to share?

March 7 2018 by Doug Munton, Baptist Press

Though I have shared the gospel message many times, I can still be afraid to share my faith with others. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. I’ve heard many others express that same anxiety. Here are some reasons we might be afraid to share our faith and what to do about it.

Doug Munton

 

We worry that it won’t be well-received.

I’ve actually had very few people who were offended that I tried to share the gospel with them. That doesn’t mean they all trust the Lord when I witness. It just means that people are frequently more interested than you might think.
 
Often, I ask for permission to share the gospel by saying something like, “Can I tell what the Bible says about how you can have a relationship with God?” or something like that. A few say “no” to that question. But many people are willing to at least hear the message.
 

We worry that we won’t be able to answer their questions.

It is true that we can’t always answer all the questions people ask about faith. Sometimes we have to say, “I don’t know” or “Let me find out more about that.” But we don’t have to know everything about everything to be able to share what we know.
 
And, all questions are not the same. Some questions people ask are more theoretical. Some are excuses. Some are genuine questions that need to be dealt with carefully. Often I find myself saying, “I don’t know the answer to that fully and will need to get back with you on it. But can I tell you what the Bible says about how you can know Jesus?” If possible, I want people to be able to hear the basic gospel message fully even if I can’t fully answer every question they might ask.
 

We worry about what others will think of us.

Let’s face it. This one can be a big part of our fear of sharing the gospel. After all, like many of you, I can be something of a people pleaser. But God reminds us that He wants to use us to be His ambassadors. In other words, our primary thought should be on what He thinks and not on what someone else thinks.
 
Remember that telling others is the natural result of what we believe. We are beggars who have found the bread of life. It is only natural that we want other beggars to find that same bread. While we can’t make them eat, it is our compassion that leads us to tell them about this life-giving bread. We should be kind and caring and loving in our sharing, but our primary focus should be on doing what the Lord wants us to do.
 

We worry that we might mess up and are unsure how to make the gospel clear to them.

I don’t want to add confusion to those already living in spiritual confusion. This is one of the reasons why a sound method of sharing the gospel is helpful and healthy. Learning a solid method can keep us on track and help us avoid confusing those who are hearing the gospel.
 
There are dozens of great tools for sharing the gospel. Whether it is the Romans Road or 3 Circles or Can We Talk or any other biblically sound method, these tools can help you to share the gospel in an understandable way. A solid methodology can help us overcome the fear of not knowing how to share.
 
If you have had any of these fears, or others, you are not alone. But, with God’s help, you can be a witness of God’s grace to others. Don’t let fear keep you from following the Lord’s command to share the gospel. And don’t let it keep you from the joy of learning that God uses people like us – fears and all – to accomplish His purposes.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Doug Munton, online at dougmunton.com, is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in O’Fallon, Ill., and a former first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
 

3/7/2018 8:34:27 AM by Doug Munton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Grateful for Graham’s clarity, passion

March 6 2018 by Chuck Lawless, Guest Column

I never had the privilege of meeting Billy Graham, but his ministry marks my life.
 
He was the first crusade evangelist I ever heard speak when I was a teenage believer, and many were the nights I watched him preach the Word on television.
 
The clarity of his message and the passion of his heart made me long to tell the old, old story as often as I could.
 
Then, I had the honor of serving as the second dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS). When I moved from SBTS to the International Mission Board, the seminary gave me a painting of Graham and a framed letter of congratulations from him. I’m most humbled to have both hanging in our home office.
 
There’s so much I could thank Graham for today, and others have written much more powerful tributes to him than I ever could. Here’s what I’m most grateful for, though: he ended well.
 
When so many others have fallen into sin; when so many have been ensnared in the devil’s trap; when so many have compromised the Word; when so many have lost their moral compass, Graham remained faithful.
 
He fought the fight all the way in the full armor of God.   
 
That’s the cry of my heart today. I realize that every one of us is always but one dumb decision away from falling. Just like Jesus warned Peter, each of us could deny Him with our words and actions by time the next dawn comes. Every step could be disaster – and every moment of victory we have is due to Him.

Fully in the grace of God, Billy Graham ran his race well. All of it. To the end.
 
I pray that God will grant me grace to do the same.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chuck Lawless is dean and vice president of graduate studies and ministry centers at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. This article first appeared at chucklawless.com. Used by permission.)
 

3/6/2018 9:51:11 AM by Chuck Lawless, Guest Column | with 0 comments



He preached powerful gospel

March 5 2018 by Dan Darling, Guest Column

In 1970, a 21-year-old young man, born into a dysfunctional home fractured by alcoholism, walked forward with his mother at the showing of a Billy Graham movie in a Chicago-area theater. The next year he attended a crusade, part of the 1971 Chicago campaign.
 
The man who trusted in Christ that night in the movie theater was my father. Dad had been introduced to Graham by his older sister, Sandy, who said, “Mike, you need to watch this man on TV.”
 
A few years later, a young Jewish woman named Holly started a job at a Big Boy restaurant in the suburbs of Chicago. One of her new colleagues was a girl named Sandy Darling. Sandy immediately began telling her about Jesus. She also began setting up her brother, Michael, with Holly.
 
A few years later, Holly became a Christian. In 1976, she married my father. “[He] was on fire for Jesus because Billy Graham was on fire for Jesus,” she now says. “At first I thought it was a little crazy, but the more I listened, the more the gospel resonated in my heart.”
 
This is why, when I heard the news of Graham going to be with the Lord, I was overcome with emotion.

I wasn’t thinking about the presidents with whom he dined or the millions who heard him preach or the media outlets around the world that offered generous tributes. I was thinking of a troubled family, a directionless young man and a Jewish girl.
 
Graham preached to millions, but I’m most thankful for the one soul who heard him that Chicago night and how God birthed something new. My father and my aunts gave their lives to Christ. Much of my mother’s family converted, including my Jewish grandparents, who late in life saw Jesus as their Messiah.
 
God used Graham’s ministry to shape me, even before I was born. The gospel I am now privileged to preach is the same gospel I heard from my parents, who heard it from Graham, who heard it from someone else. This is the long line of gospel witness, the crimson thread that runs from Calvary to the New Jerusalem.
 
My family is one small example of the way Christ builds his church through faithful, redeemed, flawed messengers obedient to his call.
 
Paul asked rhetorically, “How will they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14). I’m thankful Graham, in that moment in history, was that preacher.
 
I am also thankful for the way my life has been shaped by institutions Graham launched. My first published piece and much of my writing has appeared in publications of Christianity Today. My theological training took place at The Southern Baptist Theology Seminary’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism Ministry.
 
I was mentored in pastoral ministry by a man who became a Christian and a pastor after hearing Graham on the radio in his small town in Canada.
 
As a pastor, Graham’s life has inspired me to be more faithful in sharing the good news with those who have not heard.
 
I once preached the funeral of a young man who inexplicably died in his sleep after some routine dental work, a death that shocked an entire community. I was nervous about what to say to the 500 or so people who would be attending, many who were unchurched.
 
Then I read some of Graham’s old gospel sermons and realized that people don’t hear Jesus through our eloquence but through earnest, compassionate, authentic gospel presentations.
 
It’s what my dad heard that night in Chicago.
 
It’s what Graham’s listeners heard, whether he was in Nashville or North Korea, the White House or a private conversation, in print or in person:
 
“Just as I am, without one plea,
But that thy blood, was shed for me.
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Daniel Darling is vice president for communications at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. This article first appeared at ERLC.org and is used by permission.)
 

3/5/2018 3:09:25 PM by Dan Darling, Guest Column | with 0 comments



The umbrella of grace

March 2 2018 by Laura Hurd, Baptist Press

Who knew that the umbrella, made to protect from rainy day elements, could lavish such care and bring forth unforeseen fellowship?
 
What a delight to watch from my son’s Sunday School room window and see church members unexpectedly being met at their vehicles with a smile and an umbrella.

Laura Hurd


Our church’s family pastor joined in the rainy day ministry, decked out in suit and tie and umbrella in hand. I marveled at the simplicity of a moment when separate lives connected through this simple act of kindness, when unknowing church members stepped out of their cars and were met face to face by these servants of Christ.
 
The men’s faces under those umbrellas blurred as my mind drifted to scripture, and I saw Jesus in the frame of that window.
 
... so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:4-5).
 
Early Christian history was now being seen in modern-day servanthood. As the master of the universe knelt at the feet of His followers, He exemplified the meaning of service.
 
Watching these gentlemen scurry from car to car delighted my soul as I imagined the conversations under the umbrellas. Although I couldn’t hear, their grins and body language spoke volumes.
 
The rain kept coming, yet I noticed how families lingered a bit longer in the elements. They seemed to not think about their jackets getting a bit too soaked for comfort, or their shoes becoming more damp than they cared for them to be.
 
Instead of allowing the weather to be a nuisance, God had used the simple tool of the umbrella to replicate a shelter of grace, fellowship and love.
 
We come to Christ not because of what we what we have to offer but because of the magnitude – the umbrella – of His grace. He has freely given so we can gladly serve, one rainy day to the next.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Laura Hurd, online at reallifemomsblog.wordpress.com, is a member of Ridgeview Baptist Church in Church Hill, Tenn.)
 

3/2/2018 11:21:49 AM by Laura Hurd, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Judging versus judgmentalism

March 1 2018 by Danny Akin, Baptist Press

Throughout my ministry, I have heard few verses quoted from the Bible as regularly as Matthew 7:1, which says, “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.” Even when I speak to those who know very little of the Bible’s content or redemptive story, they are able to recite this verse.
 
In fact, I’ve noticed that many use this verse to prevent anyone from critiquing their actions. Like Captain America’s shield or Wonder Woman’s bracelets, this verse is used to block any incoming critique.

Danny Akin


Matthew 7:1, however, is often misunderstood and misapplied. Jesus does not mean that we should never judge someone’s behavior. He called out the Pharisees for being hypocrites (Matthew 6:2,5,16). He called some people dogs and pigs for mistreating things that are holy (Matthew 7:6). And He labels others as false teachers (Matthew 7:15). It is clear that Jesus judged others. However, He always judged righteously and correctly. He was never judgmental.
 
Jesus is speaking in Matthew 7 against an attitude of arrogant and self-righteous judgmentalism. He says it’s foolish to criticize the splinter in your brother’s eye when you have a beam of wood sticking out of your own eye (Matthew 7:3-5). We are using a standard against another that we do not meet nor want others to apply to us. We are being judgmental when we become, as Scottish theologian Sinclair Ferguson says, more sensitive to the sin in others than the sin in our own hearts.
 
How then can those of us who have been redeemed from all of our sins by the precious blood of Christ Jesus make righteous and correct judgments without wrongly being judgmental? Here are 10 practical principles we can draw from scripture.
 
First, check your motives. Ask yourself, why am I thinking this thought? Have I checked my heart knowing that ultimately only God knows the motives and intentions of the heart (Proverbs 16:2; 1 Corinthians 4:3-5)?
 
Second, examine your own walk with the Lord. Ask, am I walking in the Spirit, characterized by a gentle spirit that is careful to monitor my own sin (Galatians 6:1-2)? Am I sensitive to the sin of others but desensitized to my own sin?
 
Third, before acting, seek the wisdom of God’s Word and godly counsel. God has given us His Word and His spirit-filled people to give us discernment (Proverbs 10:13, 10:14, 11:14; 15:22). However, be careful that you don’t let the search for godly counsel become an excuse to gossip.
 
Fourth, practice the Golden Rule. Think about how you would want to be treated if you were on the receiving end of correction (Matthew 7:12). Think about how you would want someone to pray for, love and be merciful to you.
 
Fifth, be careful not to make a snap decision or quick judgment. Take the time to get the facts and listen before taking action (Proverbs 18:13).
 
Sixth, pray for the one who appears to be caught in sin before correcting them. Prayer is a necessary starting point (James 5:15-16). We are not the Holy Spirit. Only God’s Spirit has the power to change someone.
 
Seventh, don’t forget the example of Jesus and how He ministered to sinners. Jesus was condemned and ridiculed for the way He cared for and loved sinners, tax collectors, pagans and the woman caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11). This does not mean we don’t call sin “sin,” but we should always be quick to love and care for all people because this is what God, in Jesus, has done for us.
 
Eighth, speak the truth, but do it in love. There is a time when we need to speak against false teaching (Matthew 7:15-20) and exercise discipline for sin (Matthew 18:15-20). As Charles Spurgeon says, “After we are ourselves sanctified, we are bound to be eyes to the blind, and correctors of unholy living; but not till then.” When time comes that we need to speak, our goal should be to do so with Christ-exalting love (Ephesians 4:15), not with self-exalting pride.
 
Ninth, keep in mind that some things are right and wrong, but some things are just different. Be careful not to confuse what is moral with what is simply a cultural or a personality difference (Romans 14:1-6, 13-23).
 
Tenth, never forget that ultimately everyone must give an account to the Lord, not to us. God sees all our actions. Only He is the judge. We would be careful to not put ourselves in the place of God (Romans 14:7-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
 
All of this can be summarized by simply remembering what God, the only righteous judge, has done for you and me in the gospel. When Christ should have given you and me what we deserve for our sin, He loved us, paying the penalty for our sins at the cross. Instead of looking down His nose at you and me, He had compassion on us because we were sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:26).
 
Ferguson says it perfectly, “The heart that has tasted the Lord’s grace and forgiveness will always be restrained in its judgment of others. It has seen itself deserving judgment and condemnation before the Lord and yet, instead of experiencing his burning anger, has tasted his infinite mercy.” If you and I can remember the mercy we have received from our Lord Jesus, then we will be far from judgmentalism.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Danny Akin is president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. This article is adapted from his upcoming commentary on the Sermon on the Mount in the Christ Centered Exposition Commentary series from LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
 

3/1/2018 8:41:35 AM by Danny Akin, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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