May 2015

Why sabbaticals matter

May 29 2015 by Michael Lewis, NAMB executive director of pastoral care and development

Pastor, you need rest. You were built to rest. God uses healthy pastors to build healthy churches. That’s why you and your church’s partnership in working through a sabbatical ministry plan may be one of the most important decisions you make about the future health of your church.
 
As a pastor for more than 25 years – in churches large and small – I know what you’re thinking: I can’t ask for more vacation time. My church will think I’m lazy.
 
Think again. Sabbaticals aren’t vacations. They’re a scheduled time of extended rest for your spiritual refreshment and renewal, ideally developed jointly by you and your congregation. Typically, it won’t be longer than three months. My hope is that your church will fully support you in this by providing continued salary and benefits during this time and by providing for some of your other expenses.
 
Why take a sabbatical?
 
– The concept is biblical. Sabbatical comes from the biblical word sabbath (related both to the word for “cease” and the number “seven”). God commanded the Israelites to take this day of rest each seventh day in Exodus 20:8-11. In Leviticus 25, the Israelites were to provide “a sabbath of solemn rest for the land” every seventh year. Jesus “returned in the power of the Spirit” following his 40-day wilderness experience (Luke 4:1-14) and modeled rest before calming the storm in Matthew 8. Rest and renewal aren’t optional to the biblical description of a life of ministry. They’re a non-negotiable requirement.

  • It will make you more productive. Rest prepares leaders for the ever-growing demands of spiritual leadership like few other activities. Anecdotal evidence has shown that rested leaders return from sabbaticals with a renewed vision for ministry and empowered for more effective service.
  • It will extend your current ministry. Because you’ll come back to your place of ministry service refreshed and renewed, you’ll be more likely to stay longer. In a recent blog post on the topic of pastoral sabbaticals, LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom Rainer reported anecdotal evidence of pastors returning from sabbatical and serving at their current ministry locations much longer than pastors who didn’t take a sabbatical.
  • It will add months – and maybe years – to your life. Ministry stress, if not handled correctly, can be hazardous to your health. Regular sabbaticals can help ministry leaders deal with the additional stresses inevitable in pastoral ministry in a healthy way.
  • It will revitalize you spiritually. Getting focused time alone with the Lord remains the most important reason for a pastor to take a sabbatical. This extended time with God will allow a pastor to get a renewed vision for God’s unique purpose for his life and ministry.

At the North American Mission Board, we believe local churches – and the pastors who lead them – are the front-line forces for pushing back lostness throughout the continent. It’s a huge task. To do this, we need to all be at top strength. Pastor, that includes you.
 
For more resources to help you begin this conversation with the lay leadership of your church, visit NAMB’s pastoral care and development website, namb.net/pastor-support.

5/29/2015 10:54:36 AM by Michael Lewis, NAMB executive director of pastoral care and development | with 0 comments



Believing God for our upcoming SBC annual meeting

May 28 2015 by Ronnie Floyd, SBC President

There are years when we come together as Southern Baptists annually, having little to no expectation of what God may want to do among us. For the sake of a very lost America and an ever-growing lost and dangerous world, let’s come together in Columbus believing God to work in us, among us and through us.
 

Let’s refuse unbelief

I am reminded of the words recorded in Matthew 13:58, “And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.” I am convinced this is the reason we see a limited work of God in many churches in America. I assure you, in our own church, business as usual is Satan’s weapon to create unbelief.
 
This year in our convention gathering, let’s refuse unbelief! It is the opposite of faith; therefore, we should refuse it in every way. As pastors and church leaders, let us not be guilty of what we accuse our people of at times: coming together with little to no expectation of God doing anything among us.
 
As leaders coming to Columbus, Ohio, we do not need to sit, listen, evaluate and critique. Let’s refuse this way of thinking along with all attitudes and actions of unbelief.
 

Let’s believe God

I love the words of our God exhorting us in Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Faith is believing God is who He says He is and He can do what He says He can do. I choose faith and refuse unbelief!
 
1. Let’s believe God together for a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Columbus.
 
I believe with all my heart that God desires to pour out His Spirit in our generation in a way we have never seen before. While the promise of this outpouring of the Spirit as prophesied in Joel 2 has been fulfilled at Pentecost partially, I believe before the Lord comes back there will be a mighty outpouring of the Spirit that will ignite a significant harvest of the lost coming to Christ.
 
If we will come together in clear agreement, visible union and extraordinary prayer, we will be in a position for His Spirit to pour out upon us due to His great mercy and grace. Perhaps we need to let our children remind us of what we have taught them: Our God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there is nothing my God cannot do.
 
I choose to believe that our God is able. I choose to believe God for a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Columbus.
 
2. Let’s believe God together for the next Great Awakening in America.
 
It is time we come together in clear agreement, believing that our number one need in America is the next great move of God. Some desire political, social or moral reform. Historically, when God moves in a way only He is able, He changes the hearts of people radically with the power of the gospel of Christ. When the hearts of millions are touched, we may see things occur that only our God can do.
 
It is time to come together in visible union for this next Great Awakening. We need to refuse attitudes and actions that divide us. We need to lock arms in faith, ignited by the gospel, empowered by the Spirit, and motivated by our love for Jesus and for one another.
 
It is time to come together in extraordinary prayer for this next Great Awakening. We will be doing this on Tuesday night, June 16, beginning formally at 6:45 p.m. (EST). The entire session, built on the Word of God, will lead people to call out to God extraordinarily. Eleven pastors from various ethnicities will help me lead this gathering. I cannot think of one thing that is more important than this opportunity. Please adjust all of your convention gatherings and social times to join us for this significant gathering of thousands of Southern Baptists.
 
The brilliant theologian Jonathan Edwards writes, “Be much in prayer and fasting, both in secret and with one another. It seems to me, it would become the circumstances of the present day, if ministers in a neighborhood would often meet together, and spend days in fasting and fervent prayer among themselves ... so it is God’s will that the prayers of His saints shall be great and principal means of carrying on the designs of [C]hrist’s [K]ingdom in the world. When God has something to accomplish for His church, it is with His will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayer of His people.” May it be so with us in Columbus, Ohio.
 
3. We need to believe God together to reach the world for Christ.
 
In chapters 5 and 7 of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, we learn that “every tribe and language and people and nation” will be represented in heaven. There will not be one ethnicity left out by our loving Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.
 
We need to believe God together that He wants our churches to explode with making disciples of all ethnicities rather than implode with division. We need to believe God together that He wants to ignite our churches to plant gospel churches by the thousands nationally and internationally. We need to believe God together that He wants to mobilize His church to take the gospel to every people group in the world, regardless of their vocation. Presenting the gospel to every person in the world and making disciples of all the nations is the heart of God.
 
It is for this big vision that we must come together in unity. Anything short of this will lead us into the weeds of division. This is why we will pray on Tuesday night, calling out to God for the next Great Awakening and to reach the world for Christ. Then, we will come together on Wednesday morning, imparting a vision that will advance the gospel to the world. There is nothing our God cannot do!
 
Let’s believe God together now.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ronnie Floyd is Southern Baptist Convention president and senior pastor of Cross Church in Arkansas.)

5/28/2015 12:09:39 PM by Ronnie Floyd, SBC President | with 0 comments



Convoluted reasoning

May 27 2015 by Jeff Iorg, GGBTS/Baptist Press

A very successful political consultant in the Bay Area, who has helped elect a number of local officials, was arrested and charged with multiple counts of child pornography earlier this month. At his arraignment, the evidence presented reportedly included some particularly heinous depictions of sexual acts involving children.

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The political fallout has been dramatic and immediate. Former clients, particularly those now in office, have rushed to outdo themselves with denials of any and all relationship with their former confidant. He is radioactive – political death to anyone associated with him.
 
While his purported actions are deplorable, watching politicians scramble to find the moral high ground on this issue has been frustrating at best, comical at worst. They are applying a double standard to his behavior which reveals the convoluted reasoning prevalent in making and enforcing laws these days.
 
In light of current reasoning, what legal defense should this alleged pedophile mount? How about these familiar sounding arguments: “My sexual orientation makes me a protected class citizen; therefore, expressing it is my civil right. My sexual orientation is an inborn trait; therefore expressing it is my natural right. My sexual orientation cannot be regulated by the state; what happens in private is my business, not anyone else’s.”
 
Most people would scoff at these fallacious arguments. They would cite children’s lack of maturity for consenting to sexual activity, their need to be protected from exploitive adults, the physical harm of sexual activity to children, and the illegality of such behavior in our culture. They would be right on all counts. These cultural mores and laws, however, are based on the foundation of Judeo-Christian moral authority, upon which so much of our legal system rests (or at least rested in the past).
 
This moral foundation has been rejected in our culture. The new moral standard is whatever is culturally popular – and then made legal by legislative action or court decisions. We now define morality by what is legal and legality by what is popular. Polling has replaced principled discernment in national decision-making.
 
The conviction that sexual activity involving children is wrong is not based on cultural disdain for it, but on timeless moral standards. Political leaders can’t have it both ways. They should not change some laws to reflect current cultural mores and then claim some kind of moral authority to uphold other laws when it’s politically expedient.
 
Governing by principle based on unchanging moral convictions – not popular opinion – is essential for democracy to survive. Let’s hope we figure this out again before it’s too late.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jeff Iorg is president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, with campuses in the San Francisco Bay Area, Southern California, the Pacific Northwest, Denver and Phoenix. This column first appeared at ggbts.edu/president/blog.)

 

5/27/2015 10:58:52 AM by Jeff Iorg, GGBTS/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



AT THE MOVIES: Lest we forget veterans

May 22 2015 by Phil Boatwright, Baptist Press

Long ago Hollywood governed itself with a Motion Picture Code that forbade excessive content, even in war films. Movies such as “Battleground” made in 1949 and “The Longest Day,” in 1962, vividly detailed the conflict of war without including obscene language or overly graphic violence. But times have changed.
 
And I’ll admit that if there is one genre deserving of a more in-your-face depiction of the realities of man’s inhumanity to man, it’s the war film. If we don’t become immune to it, Hollywood’s CGI (computer generated imagery) “realism” can have a visual and visceral impact that will stay with us long after viewing.
 
Films such as 1998’s “Saving Private Ryan” and “Flags of Our Fathers,” 2006, inspect the nature of heroics and patriotism with a keen eye, revealing the depth of character submerged in average people. Such is the case with two selections I’ve chosen to spotlight in this Memorial Day tribute.
 
Despite the rough language and vividly detailed wartime action, both my choices contain profound statements. Their violence clarifies the horror of war and indicates the necessity of battling evil in order to preserve the good.
 

‘American Sniper’

This movie recounts the military career of Chris Kyle, a Navy S.E.A.L. trained as a sniper to protect soldiers advancing within hostile zones. The 2014 Oscar-nominated action drama recreates many of his more than 150 confirmed kills.
 
Superbly directed by Clint Eastwood, and memorably acted by Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, American Sniper does what most great military films do; it delivers a thoughtful exhortation on the costs of war. While it is pro-God (Kyle carried a Bible at all times) and pro-country (he did four tours of duty), the film points out the haunting price paid for freedom. It is an edgy, tension-driven thriller that also gives us a revealing portrait of home life for the returning vet.
 
Despite its R rating, here’s my ultimate reason for praising American Sniper. It drove home the fact that our military face and remember horrors most of us will never endure. The film reminded me not just to thank our soldiers for their service; I also felt the Holy Spirit putting a burden on my heart for these men and women. I now believe I’m supposed to pray the Lord will replace their nightmares with peaceful dreams, and gently restore wounded bodies and minds. I suspect our prayers for someone we don’t even know is pleasing to our Heavenly Father. Surely He will not ignore them.
 

‘We were soldiers’

This movie from 2001 was written and directed by Randall Wallace, who managed to capture the heat, the fear, and the uncertainty felt by American soldiers in Vietnam. The emotions are downright palpable. As the filmmaker explores the true spirit of American combat forces, he wisely takes us out of the action, relieving us occasionally of the battle intensity. During these moments, the film looks at the wives back home. They have their own battles to fight, including the constant fear that their men will not return. Also, they must deal with America’s increasing polarization over the first televised war.
 
It is a difficult film to sit through, but there are many outstanding moments that balance the gut-wrenching segments. Its star, Mel Gibson, gives perhaps his best performance. Several times he delivers witty remarks – to his kid, his wife, or to a fellow officer – that could have come across as sappy and untrue, but here are expressed with a pitch-perfect clarity of intention.
 
Gibson’s Col. Moore is portrayed as a religious man, several times seen in prayer, reflecting a reverence for God and a need for the Almighty’s direction. The character reminded me of what the biblical King David may have been like when heading his armies.
 
By the end credits, these two motion pictures have declared that war is a tragedy, while also reminding us of the truth found in Ecclesiastes 3: “There is a time for everything ... a time for war and a time for peace.”
 
American Sniper and We Were Soldiers have given me an insight concerning one way evil surfaces to destroy the soul of man.
 
American Sniper has recently been released on DVD/Blu-ray.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Phil Boatwright, in addition to writing for Baptist Press, reviews films for www.previewonline.org and is a regular contributor to “The World and Everything In It,” a weekly radio program from WORLD News Group.)

5/22/2015 11:07:53 AM by Phil Boatwright, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Looming senior adult revolution to impact nation

May 21 2015 by Chuck Kelley, NOBTS president

Something is happening that you may not have noticed. If you have noticed it, you may not fully appreciate its significance. It will affect you. It will affect your church. It will affect the whole nation.
 
What’s happening is a senior adult revolution.
 
Some call it the graying of America, but that is too gentle a term for what lies ahead. It is more like a ‘60s remix. The 1960s were the most turbulent, revolutionary years in modern American history. Every aspect of U.S. culture was affected, including the church. Now picture the ‘60s reimagined and reinvented: profound changes in American life driven by grandparents rather than college students, by retirement living and health care rather than drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.
 

The unprecedented generation

Here is the revolution in a nutshell: According to Ken Dychtwald in the The Age Wave, “two-thirds of all the men and women who have lived beyond the age of 65 in the entire history of the world are alive today.” Ponder that for a few moments. Dychtwald goes on to note that life expectancy for Americans doubled in the relatively brief history of our nation, creating for the first time “a mass society of healthy, active elders.”
 
Not since the days of Noah has God given a generation extended life, good health and adequate resources. Today the fastest-growing segment of the senior adult population is the 85-and-up group. The birthdays you celebrate now are practice for the birthdays you will celebrate for many years to come.
 

The ripple effect

The simple fact of senior adults living longer sets in motion many ripples. Older adults will be an important influence in our churches for a significantly longer time than was true in the past. They will not only be present, they will be active. They will not only be active, they will be vocal. This is one reason why attitudes toward worship style have become so complex for many congregations.
 
In most congregations, a strategic plan for the future that does not incorporate the needs, values and gifts of senior adults is incomplete.
 
Older adults will make attention to pastoral care essential for healthy churches. A growing number of senior adults will move from independent living to assisted living to life in a skilled nursing unit. How will the church minister to them as they make these very important transitions? How will the church incorporate their presence in a retirement community as a launching pad for evangelism and ministry to other residents of that community?
 
Senior adults will affect the lifestyles and decisions of younger adults. A growing number of church members will have the care of one or more senior parents as a priority. Imagine the questions and issues faced by Baby Boomers who will retire and still have responsibility for the care of aging parents. This will affect how families spend their time, their money and their emotional energy. A church’s attitude toward, and provisions for, senior adults will be noticed in a way not unlike how parents look carefully at programs for their children.
 

A Great Commission army

This senior adult revolution is more than a medical advance. As the number of unevangelized and unchurched in our nation grows, God is raising up a Great Commission army. He intends for senior adults to form the critical mass necessary for the gospel to penetrate the world. Their opinions will shape direction. Their willingness to give will affect fiscal stability. Their engagement with the mission will be crucial for mobilizing congregations. God intends for senior adults to step up to missions engagement and not step aside for younger adults to do all the work.
 
The current generation of young adults is often called the Millennials. I call them the Lost Generation. They are the largest generation in American history, bigger even than the Baby Boomers. They are also the most unevangelized generation in American history. So many of them have no religious background; they are also called “nones” for responding to surveys about religious background and beliefs with “none of the above.” However, connections with senior adults are possible. Millennials made Tony Bennett, popular in the 1960s, more popular than at any other time of his career. Their interest in the classic hymns of the faith has spurred every major Christian artist today to record at least one album of hymns. They have a deep respect for authenticity and consistency. We are unlikely to reach the Millennials without the witness of the seniors.
 
How can senior adults make a difference?
 
Here are some specific suggestions:

  • Write cards and notes to people. Children and their parents are a good place to start. Personal mail is so rare these days that handwritten cards and notes become treasures.

  • Be a mentor to younger adults. Get to know the ones around you. Ask about their lives. Listen to them. Pray for them. When they face issues you faced, tell them how you managed. Be a grandparent outside your family.

  • Seek Kingdom advance above personal satisfaction. You lived much of your life deferring dreams and desires for the sake of your family. Be willing to do the same when your church wants to try something new.

  • Encourage, encourage, encourage. So few people have a constant encourager in their lives.

  • Speak as often of Jesus as you do your grandkids. If you will keep Jesus on your mind, He will find a way out of your mouth.

  • Give one last gift to Jesus through your estate. Honor Him in your death as you sought to do in your life, making your last act on earth a gift to your church or a Christian ministry.

Not since the days of Noah has God done for a generation of people what He is doing for this generation of senior adults. Celebrate your extended life, health and resources as His gift for His purposes. Use these additional years for His glory.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chuck Kelley is president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. This article first appeared in the Baptist Courier at baptistcourier.com, newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.)

5/21/2015 12:36:59 PM by Chuck Kelley, NOBTS president | with 0 comments



Redeeming your building

May 21 2015 by Mark Clifton, NAMB

Legacy church planting isn’t limited to churches at the very end of their lives. Many churches find themselves with buildings far larger than they need even as they struggle to impact their immediate community in a meaningful way. They love Jesus and the gospel. They love lost people, but they can’t seem to crack the missional code of the people who live around them. They aren’t ready emotionally to turn over their ministry to another entity. But they live daily with the reality of a building that is far too big and a community that seems unresponsive. Sound familiar? Keep reading.
 
God has raised up an entire generation of bold, gospel-focused young men who are planting Bible-believing, community-transforming and disciple-making churches all across North America. Almost 1,000 new Southern Baptist churches launch each year. One of the single greatest challenges for these new churches is finding a location in which to meet and from which to conduct ministry.
 
There are tens of thousands of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) church buildings in neighborhoods throughout cities, towns and villages around the continent. At the same time there are tens of thousands of SBC churches that are praying for their cities, towns and neighborhoods to be reached. Maybe God wants to use a new church plant as the impact point to reach that community and to use part of your church building from which to launch that new church.
 
The new church could lead the way in pushing back the lostness of the community and the older established church can provide a building and a base of love, care and, most importantly, strategic and constant prayer. This model of legacy church planting is happening all across North America.
 
Community Baptist Church in Bellingham, Wash., is one such example. After decades of effective ministry, the church stopped growing and spiraled down in decline. In frustration they even considered closing the doors. Instead the church did something courageous. Noticing a need to reach Spanish speakers in the community, they invited church planter Ivan Montenegro to plant a Spanish-language church from their building.
 
At first Montenegro wasn’t sure if the timing was right. But God soon confirmed the timing through a man Montenegro met named Bautista – which is Spanish for Baptist. Ivan told the man he was considering starting a church in the community and asked him if he’d be interested in helping.
 
After the man answered affirmatively, he returned to the hotel where he worked and invited all the Spanish speakers he knew to the potential church. That became the foundation of a new church to be hosted at Community Baptist. The Spanish-language church plant thrived from the beginning. Where the community once saw a struggling congregation, it now saw a place full of life and new people.
 
Another church, Armour Heights Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo., had struggled to reach the community and experienced few results – much like Community Baptist. Their building was large enough to house several churches so they opened it up to share with an SBC church plant. The two churches worked together on children and youth ministry and Vacation Bible School. In short order Armour Heights gained a new vision, and they too began to grow!
 
Sometimes, as the Holy Spirit leads, the new church and the older church may become one. Sometimes the older church may hand over its facility to the new church at a later date. Sometimes the two continue to serve side by side. They may even add a third! That old building that seemed too big for the declining church can once again be filled with Great Commission activity for God’s glory and your joy!
 
You don’t need a multi-million dollar budget or a large staff to become a supporting church to a new church plant. You simply need to practice that old-fashioned Christian virtue of hospitality. Connect with a church planter who has the gifting and calling to plant a church among an underserved segment of your community. Come alongside of him and the new congregation. Do joint ministry in the community. Start a new church together.
 
In one sense you’ll become a supporting church without ever leaving your building.
 
It just might be the most important legacy your church will ever leave your community.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Clifton serves as the national legacy church strategist at the North American Mission Board. For more information about legacy church planting options, visit namb.net/revitalization/.)
 

Related Story:

How a dying church can glorify God

5/21/2015 12:28:59 PM by Mark Clifton, NAMB | with 0 comments



Forgotten former seminarians

May 20 2015 by Bryan Cribb, Anderson University/Baptist Press

“Don’t be a ‘dropout.’” As a young aspiring minister-in-training, I remember hearing this caution frequently – and annoyingly – as I packed my belongings and headed to seminary. “Many seminarians are not even in full-time ministry anymore after 10 years,” I was warned. “Don’t be like them.”
 
For me, the warning functioned almost as a “Hebrews 6-like” threat: “Once you have tasted of the heavenly gifts of ministerial training and then fall away from the ministry, it is impossible to be restored again.”
 
Now, exactly how many former seminarians are out of full-time ministry after 10 years is unclear. But what is indisputable is that, with the number of students obtaining ministry degrees these days – whether from seminaries or from Christian colleges and divinity schools like Anderson University where I teach – we undoubtedly have large numbers of “trained up” people who aren’t actively participating in full-time vocational ministry, though many serve in a wide range of leadership and service roles in their churches.
 
I can’t tell you how many times, though, I meet people in my limited travels, who say, “Oh, I went to seminary as well, but I’m not in ministry anymore.”
 
Many reasons exist for such a turn of events in a former seminarian’s life – anything from a change of calling to bad experiences in church, difficult domestic issues or moral missteps. But I fear that the result is that many have experienced discouragement and depression from within and cold shoulders and condescension from without. Indeed, some in this category may be reading this article.
 
What can we say to and do for this neglected, forgotten and often snubbed subcategory of “former seminarians”?
 
First, if you are in this category, I would say to take encouragement. Every situation and story of a former seminarian is different, but just because you are not in active full-time ministry does not mean that you are in disobedience against God. For every one “Jonah,” there are many more Jims and Jennys who have honestly been led in different directions by God.
 
For instance, women seminarians who are now “just” stay-at-home mothers have told me they feel a tinge of guilt because people have said they are not “using” their training in a church or ministry-related vocation. False. My wife falls into this category, and I try to encourage her regularly that she is using her ministry gifts in the primary mission field divinely granted to us as parents – the home.
 
Second, see ministerial training as a stewardship. Receiving specific instruction in Bible, theology, ministry, leadership and counseling is a gift from God. And while you may not be using that gift in the manner that other Christians deem normative, you still have a responsibility and privilege to use it in a manner that glorifies God and serves the church. Lead a small group. Lead your family. Lead a life of evangelism and gospel fervor. I know as a pastor, I would love to have a congregation full of theologically trained laypeople.
 
So, third, similarly, if you are a pastor and have “former seminarians” in your congregation, seek them out. Encourage rather than exclude. Provide them opportunities to teach and serve. Use their gifts. You have a stewardship as a shepherd of the resources God has provided your church.
 
Finally, for former seminarians, be open to where God may lead in the future. Just because you are not in full-time ministry now does not mean that you are forever banned. Always be prayerful and watchful for new opportunities to use your gifts and training.
 
In the meantime, use those gifts of ministerial training, wherever God places you, as “Soldiers of Christ in truth arrayed.” Being a “full-time” disciple of Christ is just as important as being a “full-time” vocational minister.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bryan Cribb is associate professor of Christianity and chair of undergraduate Christian studies at Anderson University in Anderson, S.C.)

5/20/2015 11:41:58 AM by Bryan Cribb, Anderson University/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Go to NYC, impact the world!

May 20 2015 by Bill Greenwood

After four vision trips to New York City, my wife, Sheryl, and I have discovered that we can impact the whole world by serving in this world-class city.
 
The bustling mega city is the fourth largest urban center in the world. Some 22 million people call the region their home. All the nations of the world live in the neighborhoods of greater New York City.
 
Approximately 60 percent of all residents were born somewhere else or are the children of recent immigrants. On any given Sunday, nearly 40 languages can be heard in the churches.
 
The Metropolitan New York Baptist Association is a collection of some 250 churches within a 75 mile radius of Times Square. These churches are located in parts of three states (N.Y., N.J. and Conn.) and 26 counties. They reflect the diversity of the region.
 
People ask us, “Why do you keep going back to New York City on these vision trips? Don’t you have that vision thing down yet?”
 
The answer is simple. We want to recruit others to go to where ministry is urgently needed. With less than four percent of metro New York’s people attending an evangelical church, many new churches are needed. Our N.C. Baptist churches can help extend the work of these new church plants.
 
Church plants in this city need help in three key areas: intercessors, individuals and income. They need those churches who will pray earnestly, participate eagerly and pay expectantly, trusting God to multiply their efforts – for the fame of His Name.
 
Every time we go, Sheryl and I learn more about the amazing work of God in dark places there. For example, in a recent trip, we heard of an Eastern European woman coming to Christ through the creative coffee shop outreach by new church. This woman, transformed by Christ from another world religion, “Skyped” her family back in Europe and led some of them to Christ.
 
Another couple, recently separated and not going to any church, began attending a church plant and were soon reconciled and radically changed by the power of the gospel.
 
They renewed their marriage vows and began to reach out to their many un-churched friends, inviting them to come along with them to this new church in their neighborhood.
 
We want to encourage other N.C. Baptist churches to send volunteer teams to this urban metropolis and impact the world. Our God is a global God and He wants us to be global Christians. Work in New York City can and will help reach many of the nations of the earth.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bill Greenwood recently retired after pastoring Baptist churches in North Carolina for 30 years. He can be reached at sgreenwood2@juno.com. For more information on the partnership between the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association, please contact Steve Hardy at shardy@ncbaptist.org.) 

5/20/2015 11:31:54 AM by Bill Greenwood | with 0 comments



Only God could use a chicken to make a church

May 19 2015 by Chris Hefner, pastor and writer

This is a story about how a chicken became a church and a bag of change helped build multiple churches. I never cease to be amazed at the astounding ways God shows off His glory. I hope this story encourages your faith and inspires your efforts to participate in God’s global disciple-making mission.
 
A couple of years ago, Mud Creek Baptist Church sent a mission team to Kisumu, Kenya. We participated with North Carolina Baptist Men in their Houses of Hope project. Teams partner with local Kenyan pastors to build houses in rural villages. The village selects a widow or widower in need of a home. The team supplies the funds and labor to build the home. And the new home becomes a base for local Bible studies with the hope of planting a church in the village. As a missions pastor I love the partnership because local pastors return to the village regularly for follow-up and Bible studies with the hope of beginning a new church. It is a project where a mission team can successfully meet a need, engage in one-on-one evangelism, and begin a ministry built upon by indigenous pastors.
 
During that first trip, our team was sent to build a home for a widow named Irene. Irene had a number of children and one chicken whose eggs she used to feed her children. Some days, all she had to give them to eat was the eggs her chicken produced. In Kenya it’s customary for the hostess to feed guests. In this situation, the guests were our team.
 
She insisted on killing and cooking her chicken for our mission team. The team, understanding her situation, tried to talk her out of it. But she would not be dissuaded. That afternoon she fed our mission team the only source of guaranteed food she had.
 
The mission team could not get over her sacrifice and was equally burdened for Irene’s situation. They felt led of the Lord to return a gift to Irene. The next morning, our team bought seven chickens for Irene and gave them to her. Communicating very clearly that the gift was from the Lord, they used the opportunity to preach the gospel to the village.
 
A year later, we sent another mission team to Kenya. Upon arriving we discovered that the house church in Irene’s home was growing, and that God had continued to bless Irene. In between the trips, she wanted to give back to the Lord for blessing her.
 
So she deeded some of her property to the Kenya Baptist Convention to build a church building.
 
Recently, Pastor Shem Okello, the general secretary of the Kenya Baptist Convention and coordinator of Houses of Hope Project in Kisumu, came to North Carolina to visit. He shared at our church with our Awana children.
 
We discovered from Shem that the church, on Irene’s property, had not yet been built. So, our pastor, Greg Mathis asked if we could take up a special offering to construct the church. It would take $2,200 for the materials.
 
Aidan, one of our Awana kids could not make it the night Pastor Shem was to share, so he sent a bag full of change to make sure he could participate in the offering. Aidan’s gift became the foundation for an almost $6,000 offering for the church on Irene’s property and other projects in Kenya.
 
To make the story even better, Mathis was honoring a lifelong friend and fellow pastor, Jerry White, on the night Pastor Shem was with us.
 
White had surrendered to preach 50 years ago under the ministry of Mathis’ father, and was instrumental in recommending Mathis to Mud Creek Baptist Church. So, to honor White’s influence in his life, we have an opportunity to dedicate the construction of a Baptist church in a village in Kenya to White.
 
Now Kenya will have a new church because a pastor 50 years ago was instrumental in a teenager’s surrender to ministry, because Jerry White recommended Greg Mathis to Mud Creek Baptist Church, because Mud Creek sent a mission team to Kenya, because a godly widow gave her chicken, because a mission team gave back seven-fold, because that widow gave her property, because God will use a series of everyday events and situations to make disciples across the nations. God will use a chicken to plant a church. God will use a bag of change to build multiple churches.
 
What mission story is God writing through your church today?
 
Be sensitive to His leading and look for God working in and through your ministries. As for us at Mud Creek, we can’t wait to see what happens at White Memorial Baptist Church in Kenya.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chris Hefner is pastor of missions and evangelism at Mud Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville. This column originally appeared at the LifeWay pastor’s blog at LifeWay.com/pastors.) 

5/19/2015 1:13:10 PM by Chris Hefner, pastor and writer | with 0 comments



Is any problem too big for God?

May 18 2015 by David Jeremiah, Baptist Press

“Houston, we have a problem.”
 
When NASA flight directors heard those words from Apollo 13, it was like an invitation: “You are hereby invited to solve a life-or-death problem” – and they did. Flight director Gene Kranz sprang into action: “Okay … stay cool. Work the problem, people.... Failure is not an option!” (Excerpt from the movie, “Apollo 13.”)
 
Work the problem! With no heat, no light and little communication with the ground, the astronauts drifted back toward earth in darkness – helpless.
 
Work the problem! Ground engineers had to conserve enough power to fire the engines and direct them safely into the earth’s atmosphere. And they did!
 

Lost in space

Ever felt lost in space, drifting along, helpless, wondering if even God is stumped by your situation? We know God can solve problems, but in your darkest moments you wonder if He is even working on it.
 
Friend, God is working your problem!
 
Look at the Apollo 13 situation in a split-screen format: three astronauts on the left screen huddled in their freezing spacecraft, speaking little to conserve energy, fighting to stay awake, with only a flashlight – dark, cold, silent. On the right side of the screen, just the opposite, a beehive of brightly-lit problem-solving is taking place.
 
Given instructions that a plan was in the works, the astronauts had to be patient. They couldn’t work the problem, so they had to believe someone else could.
 
That’s exactly what we as Christians have to do when we have a problem with no solution in sight. We can’t work it but we have to believe that God can – and He is working on our behalf.

 
Problem solving in the image of God

Sometimes, using the gifts and abilities God gives us, we can solve serious problems, as in the Apollo 13 mission. But other times, we have to call upon God. When we are stretched beyond our human limits, we find ourselves in His limitless domain. He welcomes our cries and loves to provide solutions to our problems.
 
When asking God to help us solve problems, we have to remember that His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). God provided “surprise solutions” to people facing problems in the Bible:

  • Big problem, small solution. The Israelite army had a giant problem named Goliath. God’s solution was a teenager about 3 feet shorter. No armor or sword, but David had giant faith: “The Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands” (1 Samuel 17:47). Sometimes God’s solutions are smaller than our problems in order to create faith in us.

  • Physical problem, spiritual solution. Hindered in ministry by a physical problem, the apostle Paul called out to God three times for healing. Instead of bringing a physical one, God brought a spiritual one: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). God may allow a problem to be its own solution when it forces us to rely more on God for grace to endure.

  • Personal problem, corporate solution. When Paul was journeying toward Jerusalem to deliver relief monies to the church, he was well aware of the danger from opponents of the gospel. He shared his personal problem with the church at Rome, asking them to pray for his safety: “I beg you, brethren … that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe” (Romans 15:30-31). God may want to use others to be a partial or total solution to your problem – but you have to ask!

The Bible, church history and hopefully your life are filled with examples of how God has solved problems His way, in His time, according to His purposes. There is no problem too big for God. Be encouraged as you trust Him to get involved in whatever problem you are facing today.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God and pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif. For more information on Turning Point, visit DavidJeremiah.org.)

5/18/2015 11:10:42 AM by David Jeremiah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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