November 2011

7 tips for saving money

November 30 2011 by Chuck Bentley

GAINESVILLE, Ga. (BP) – Saving money is a good thing. The Bible tells us to “go to the ant, o sluggard, observe her ways and be wise, which having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest” (Proverbs 6:6-7, NASB). By developing a “saving” attitude, we can begin to live a “saving” lifestyle. And with a “saving” lifestyle, you’re much better prepared to face the ups and downs of a volatile economy.

Our Crown Financial Ministries staff has compiled a list to assist you in changing some spending habits, and I’m sure you can add many more ideas with a little thought and planning.

1. Save on your energy bill. Turn it off: turn off lights, TVs, computers and other appliances when you exit a room. If you aren’t using an appliance, unplug it. Switch to energy-saving light bulbs. Use a timer for your thermostat to keep the house warmer or cooler when no one is home. Set it to change to a more comfortable temperature an hour before you return home. Do the same for your water heater.

2. Save on gas. Think before you drive. Make numerous errands in one trip vs. many short trips. Carpool to work, or talk to your boss about telecommuting one or two days per week. Keep your car in good shape. Check tire pressure. Under-inflated tires can cause the car to run less efficiently. Have the oil, oil filters and air filters changed frequently. If you change your own oil, check with your local garbage dump or recycling center to see if they recycle used motor oil. Watch your driving habits. Be careful of rapid starts and stops. Accelerate slowly and don’t go above the speed limit.

3. Be your own handyman. For minor repairs around the house, try doing it yourself. You can check out books from the library on basic home repairs and learn to fix things on your own. Or attend a free class at your local home improvement store. You save money, gain new skills and bask in your own accomplishments.

4. Be creative. Make homemade gifts for your family and friends. Use a skill you already have, such as painting or drawing or even cooking to create thoughtful and memorable gifts for birthdays or Christmas.

5. Save at the grocery store. Make out a weekly menu and shop for only those ingredients. Plan meals around store specials and coupons. Look for coupons online. Stock up on nonperishable foods when they are on sale. Try going “meatless” a couple of days a week. Learn to cook at home from scratch and save money on fewer prepackaged foods and eating out less often.

6. Be a savvy shopper. For clothing needs, shop thrift or consignment stores or discount department stores. You can often find new or barely used clothing at these stores for 50 percent or more off retail price. Buy basics, such as socks, underwear and T-shirts at discount stores. Think twice before buying an item that can only be dry cleaned. Look for home washable fabrics instead. Buy items that can be worn with more than one outfit.

Also, check yard/garage sales for barely worn baby and children’s clothes. Many times children outgrow the clothing before it shows any wear. Look online for used books, furniture, toys and other items. Just do your homework to make sure you are getting a good deal and that the item is in good condition.

7. Look for alternatives for entertainment. Consider dropping the cable TV and film rentals, or dining out less often. Your local library is a good place to read the latest newspapers or issues of your favorite magazine instead of paying for a subscription. The library is also a good source for movies or audio books, and many offer free classes or children’s story hours. Check your local community centers for other free or low-cost class offerings.

Although the economic conditions of today’s world are unpredictable, living a “saving” lifestyle will maximize your available resources for those things that really matter.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries and author of “The Root of Riches: What If Everything You Think About Money Is Wrong?” To sign up for his free weekly e-newsletter, “Handwriting on the Wall,” visit Crown.org/handwriting or call 1-800-722-1976. Crown Financial Ministries (Crown.org) is an interdenominational ministry dedicated to equipping people with biblically based financial tools and resources through radio, film, seminars, small groups and individual coaching. Based in Georgia, the ministry has offices in the United States, Canada, Latin America, and Africa, Europe, India, Asia and Australia.)
11/30/2011 2:11:36 PM by Chuck Bentley | with 0 comments



The urgent need for biblical literacy

November 29 2011 by Ed Stetzer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) – I am a student and teacher of God’s Word. I went to school – a lot of school – committed to studying things rooted in the Scriptures. I write books and articles; I lecture, preach and speak at conferences all around the world on the centrality of God’s mission expressed in Bible.

For me, reading the Bible is essential to my spiritual growth. I make a habit of consistent and regular study in the Word of God – not just for messages I preach on Sunday but to be changed by the Word of God. Every time I open the Word of God and teach at church I ask the Lord to speak through it. As believers, it is essential that we read, memorize, study and meditate on the Word of God.

There is much research that shows the correlation between spiritual maturity and reading the Bible. In Brad Waggoner’s book “The Shape of Faith to Come,” which is based on a LifeWay Research study, and in George Guthrie’s “Read the Bible for Life” material, we see that reading the Bible is the best predictor of spiritual maturity. In other words, if you are in the Bible, you are growing spiritually.

Many people are realizing that we aren’t making as many disciples as we would like. Studies done by LifeWay Research show a lack of discipleship among many evangelical Christians. So we need to ask: What’s the answer to that? Issues such as preaching, missional living and “doing life” in a covenant community are all part of the solution. But I think there’s no question that an essential element is leading God’s people to consistently engage God’s Word through reading, studying and memorization. Biblical illiteracy is prevalent and personal commitment to God’s Word is the only real answer.

It is critical for church leadership to challenge believers to be in the Word of God, consistently growing in their knowledge of the Scriptures. One way to do that is to teach and encourage study of the Scriptures in the context of the grand narrative of redemption. I try to read the Bible in the way it unfolds. The Bible is not a series of isolated morality tales. Instead, by looking at it as a whole through a Christ-centered lens, I read the Scriptures with the whole story of redemption in mind.

I regularly hear of people who would rather read devotional books than read the Bible. Certainly, when wading through Leviticus, the chapter on identifying and treating skin diseases doesn’t exactly bring great joy and warmth to the heart. But we need to remember that even that passage plays a part in the unfolding plan of redemption.

All parts of the Bible are equally inspired, but not all are “equally applied to my life in this very moment.” I recognize my view can be easily misunderstood, but I think that I probably need to spend more time praying on and thinking through Philippians chapter 2 than I do Leviticus chapter 13, the skin disease chapter. So, I think what we have to do is remember why they’re both there.

With that being said, one of the things I do is make it a habit to read through the Bible once a year. If I simply read the parts I think I need the most, I will miss a big part of God’s design for my growth. Even though my tendency, like a lot of Christians, is only to read the New Testament, I need to spend time in the Old Testament as well. It is essential for all believers to get the full picture of God’s revelation.

Churches today face some big challenges. One of the greatest is the evangelical angst occurring in North America. Evangelicals in our country are just not sure of who they are or where they’re going.

Perhaps what evangelicals need most right now is a strategy for biblical literacy. We need to reengage the biblical narrative and immerse ourselves in consistent study. It will help us be more gracious and winsome in the way we communicate. It will help us have a clearer view on controversial issues. It will help us to understand and communicate a clear gospel as laid out in the Scriptures – a gospel of the cross and of the Kingdom. The Word of God is essential to where we are right now.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ed Stetzer is vice president of research and ministry development at LifeWay Christian Resources.)

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11/29/2011 2:47:24 PM by Ed Stetzer | with 0 comments



Being and doing

November 22 2011 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. – At the ripe old age of 18, I was already a total failure – in my own mind, at least.

Lingering insecurities of youth mingled with anxiety about the future. College was hard. The Christian life was harder. And as a relatively new believer, I wasn’t leading crowds of people to Christ – my results-based definition of spiritual success. The more I prayed through my lists of “prospects,” the fewer believed. I couldn’t make a sale, so to speak.

I remember sitting on my bed near tears one night, telling my visiting grandmother that I didn’t really love anyone. If I did, why wouldn’t they give their lives to Christ? She hugged me first, then tried to talk some spiritual sense into me. But I was convinced I had failed God.

What I had actually failed was one of the first lessons of the Gospel: Christ draws people unto Himself as He is lifted up. Salvation is His gift, accomplished by His power and grace, not by our paltry efforts. Our first and highest calling is to love Him, to worship Him, to serve Him – as He reminded frazzled Martha long ago. Martha was angry that her sister, Mary, sat at Jesus’ feet while Martha rushed around preparing to serve the crowd gathered in her home to listen to the Master. “But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her’“ (Luke 10:38-42).

The natural result of a close relationship with Christ is to love others, to joyfully obey His command to tell the world about Him, to make disciples. Teacher and preacher Ron Dunn called evangelism the “overflow” of our walk with the Lord.

Eventually I got those priorities in order, though I still need regular reminders from God’s Word and some of His wiser servants. A spiritual classic I discovered in that first year of college helped greatly: “No Man is an Island” by Thomas Merton, the former skeptic who became a renowned Christian mystic. A single chapter in that book, titled “Being and Doing,” revolutionized my spiritual life.

“We are warmed by the fire, not the smoke of the fire,” Merton wrote. “We are carried over the sea by a ship, not by the wake of a ship. So too, what we are is to be sought in the invisible depths of our own being, not in outward reflection in our own acts. Our soul only finds itself when it acts. We must act. Stagnation brings death. … (B)ut I must not plunge my whole self into what I think and do, or seek always to find myself in the work I have done. … When we constantly look in the mirror of our own acts, our spiritual double-vision splits us into two people. We strain to see and we forget which image is real. … We can never be real enough or active enough. The less we are able to be the more we must do. … In order to find God in ourselves, we must stop looking at ourselves, stop checking and verifying ourselves in the mirror of our own futility, and be content to be in God and to do whatever God wills, according to our limitations, judging our acts not in the light of our own illusions, but in the light of God’s reality. …”

If that didn’t quite make sense the first time through, read it again. Read it a hundred times if necessary. It might change your life, too.

Be warned, however: Being before doing is extremely difficult in a culture (perhaps even a church or mission ministry?) that puts a premium on ceaseless movement and activity. It has become nearly impossible to be still in our day. Yet if I understand Psalm 46:10 correctly, stillness is a prerequisite for fulfilling the mission of God: “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’“

An alternate translation for “be still” is “cease striving.” Try putting this in your next monthly report: “I ceased striving and was still.” It might not go over too well. But if you’re reporting to God, it ought to come at the top of the list.

“If being precedes doing, then isn’t it true that being with Jesus should precede doing for Jesus?” Tom Elliff, now International Mission Board president, asked a gathering several years ago. “The essence of lordship is intimacy with Him. A person who does not walk intimately with Christ cannot expect God’s blessing … leadership or protection. How arrogant it is for us to believe that we can be and do anything empowered by the Spirit, unless we develop intimacy with Jesus.”

New missionaries sometimes rush into different cultures and places of spiritual darkness with that kind of arrogance, whether they admit it or not. They inevitably crash and burn. Some never recover from the experience. Others learn the wisdom of building deep intimacy with God before attempting to make an impact on others.

Randy Rains, IMB’s leader for spiritual life and formation, calls that process the “two journeys.”

“Jesus constantly reminds us to pay attention to the relationship, to the inner journey of the soul,” Rains observes. “We certainly need to attempt great things in Jesus’ name and exercise the authority and power He has given us in sharing the Gospel of the kingdom. Yet we must be ever mindful of our inner journey, of who we are becoming in our relationship with God in Christ. What is happening in the inner journey of our soul is of eternal consequence. The question is how and to what extent are we being transformed by God’s Spirit into the image of Christ for the sake of others to God’s glory? We must let the words of our Lord be a constant reminder: ‘Apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5).”

Missionaries need that reminder. So do the rest of us.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Erich Bridges is the International Mission Board’s global correspondent. Visit “WorldView Conversation,” the blog related to this column, at http://worldviewconversation.blogspot.com/.)

11/22/2011 2:05:51 PM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Worship in many small churches is a ‘dry and thirsty land’

November 21 2011 by Kenny Lamm, BSC senior consultant

Bruce Cannon, associational missionary for the Bladen Baptist Association, commented that it seems like we are worshipping in a “dry and thirsty land” in many of our churches. Almost every week I hear from a pastor or associational missionary concerning the desperate situation in so many North Carolina Baptist churches that lack needed worship leadership.
 
One pastor described his church’s situation as having a pianist who can only play in three or four keys and an organist who has very little ability. Although the pastor was very grateful for volunteers willing to serve, he shared that the church is limited in the older, more traditional, music they can do, and they cannot even venture into newer music.
 
The pastor asked what could be done to help his church’s corporate worship times.
 
These stories are not at all uncommon. The younger generation is producing very few instrumentalists to replace retiring church musicians. Many churches find they have instrumentalists with vast limitations or no musicians at all.
 
Volunteer leadership in many of our churches is in great need of training. Many churches long to move beyond traditional forms of worship, but find that impossible with the limitations they have. What is a church to do?
 
After much time interfacing with smaller membership churches and hearing from concerned pastors and associational missionaries, I have developed a training event that will inform and equip the church worship leadership on ways to renew worship in churches with limited resources.
 
The event is called “Worship Leader Boot Camp: Special Edition (Leading Worship with Limited Resources).” It takes the popular Worship Leader Boot Camp training event, offered throughout North Carolina last year, and changes the direct application of the biblical and leadership principles through practically helping churches with limited resources to engage technology and new ways of thinking to lead worship with only one or two, or perhaps no instrumentalists.
 
The theology of worship and leadership principles taught in the original worship leader boot camps are unchanged. The practical application will instruct participants to use resources such as LifeWayWorship.com and other technology to inexpensively provide meaningful and musically excellent worship experiences in the local church. All times of worship will be led by only one to three musicians, demonstrating worship in churches with limited resources. For instance, a worship segment may be led by one keyboardist utilizing only tracks on some songs, just keyboard on some songs, and a combination of the two on other songs. The songs will be woven together in a seamless fashion to demonstrate the effectiveness and use of these practices.
 
Finding excellent new songs for use in worship and learning about the best ways to introduce new songs into a congregation’s worship is another vital part of the training.
 
Participants will be encouraged to bring their computers, if available, and people from their church with technical ability and some knowledge of music since there will be some hands-on time of constructing musical segments for worship.
 
For more information, visit my worship blog at www.RenewingWorshipNC.org. The blog articles are written specifically for pastors and worship leaders, to assist them in their journey to renew worship in the local church. At the blog, you will find out how to connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.
 
You can also find additional information about the BSC worship & music ministry at worshipNC.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kenny Lamm is a senior consultant for worship and music at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)
 
Special edition Worship Boot Camp
A Worship Leader Boot Camp: Special Edition is scheduled Feb. 10-11, 2012, at Ridgecrest Baptist Conference Center; fee: $30/person; housing/meals cost: single occupancy – $105 (includes lodging and three meals) double occupancy – $68/person. Contact Ridgecrest for commuter fees and meal plans for off-campus participants: ridgecrestconferencecenter.org or (800) 588-7222.
11/21/2011 4:19:31 PM by Kenny Lamm, BSC senior consultant | with 0 comments



How I wish TV debates on homosexuality would go

November 18 2011 by Trevin Wax

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) – Just once, I’d like to see a TV interview about homosexuality go more like this:

Host: You are a Christian pastor, and you say you believe the Bible, which means you are supposed to love all people.

Pastor: That’s right.

Host: But it appears to me that you and your church take a rather unloving position when it comes to gay people. Are homosexuals welcome to come to your church?

Pastor: Of course. We believe that the gospel is a message relevant for every person on the planet, and we want everyone to hear the gospel and find salvation in Jesus Christ. So at our church, our arms are outstretched to people from every background, every race, every ethnicity and culture. We’re a place for all kinds of sinners and people with all kinds of problems.

Host: But you said there, “We’re a place for sinners.” So you do believe that homosexuality is sinful, right?

Pastor: Yes, I do.

Host: So how do you reconcile the command to love all people with a position on homosexuality that some would say is radically intolerant?

Pastor: (smiling) If you think my position on homosexuality is radical, just wait until you hear what else I believe! I believe that a teenage guy and girl who have sex in the backseat of a pickup are sinning. The unmarried heterosexual couple living down the street from me is sinning. In fact, any sexual activity that takes place outside of the marriage covenant between a husband and wife is sinful. What’s more, Jesus takes this sexual ethic a step further and goes to the heart of the matter. That means that any time I even lust after someone else, I am sinning. Jesus’ radical view of sexuality shows all of us up as sexual sinners, and that’s why He came to die. Jesus died to save lustful, homo- and heterosexual sinners and transform our hearts and minds and behavior. Because He died for me, I owe Him my all. And as a follower of Jesus, I’m bound to what He says about sex and morality.

Host: But Jesus didn’t condemn homosexuality outright, did He?

Pastor: He didn’t have to. He went to the heart issue and intensified the commands against immoral behavior in the Old Testament. So Jesus doesn’t just condemn adultery, for example, as does one of the Ten Commandments. Jesus condemns even the lust that leads to adultery, all with the purpose of offering us transformed hearts that begin beating in step with His radical demands.

Host: You say he condemned adultery. But he chose not to condemn the woman caught in adultery.

Pastor: That’s right, but He did tell her to “go and sin no more.”

Host: But who are you to condemn someone who doesn’t line up with your personal beliefs about sexuality?

Pastor: Who am I? No one. It’s not all that important what I think about these things. This conversation about homosexuality isn’t really about my personal beliefs. They’re about Jesus and what He says. I have no right to condemn or judge the world. That right belongs to Jesus. My hope is to follow Him faithfully. That means that whatever He says in regard to sexual practices is what I believe to be true, loving and ultimately best for human flourishing – even when it seems out of step with the whims of contemporary culture.

Host: But you are judging. You are telling all the gay people watching this broadcast that they are sinners.

Pastor: I’m not singling out gay people. I’m pointing to Jesus as the answer to all sexual sinfulness.

Host: But you are referring to gay people. Why are you so focused on homosexuality?

Pastor: (smiling) With all due respect, you are the one who brought up this subject.

Host: Are you saying that you can’t be gay and Christian?

Pastor: No. I’m saying that you can’t be a genuine Christian without repentance. Everyone – including me – is guilty of sin, but Christianity hinges on repentance. We agree with God about our sin, and we turn from it and turn toward Jesus. When it comes to Christianity, this debate is not about homosexuality versus other sins. It’s about whether or not repentance is integral to the Christian life.

Host: But do you see why a homosexual watching this might think you are attacking them personally? You’re saying that something is wrong with them.

Pastor: I think Jesus’ teaching on sexuality shows us that there is something wrong with all of us – something that can only be fixed by what Jesus did for us on the cross and in His resurrection. That said, I understand why people might think I am attacking them personally. Most people with same-sex desires believe they were born with these tendencies. That’s why they often see their attraction as going to the very core of who they are, and so they identify themselves with the “gay” label. So whenever someone questions their behavior or desires, they take it as an attack on the very core of their being. That’s usually not the intent of the person who disagrees with homosexual behavior. But that’s the way it is perceived. I understand that.

Host: If it’s true that a person is born with one sexual orientation or another, then how can it possibly be loving to condemn one person’s orientation?

Pastor: Well, we really don’t know for certain about sexual attraction being innate and set from birth. All we have is the testimony of people who say that they’ve experienced same-sex desires since childhood. Christianity teaches that all people are born with a bent toward sin. It’s possible that some people will have a propensity toward alcohol abuse or angry outbursts, while others may have a propensity toward other sins. Regardless, Christians believe people are more than their sexual urges. We believe that human dignity is diminished whenever we define ourselves by sexual urges and behaviors. Consider this: Married men are sometimes attracted to multiple women who are not their wives. Does this mean they should self-identify as polygamists? Not at all. And surely you wouldn’t consider it hateful for Christians to encourage married men not to act on their desires in an effort to remain faithful to their spouses. It is the Christian way, after all.

Host: No, but it still seems like you are telling people not to be true to who they are.

Pastor: It only seems that way because you believe sexual desire reflects the core of one’s identity. It would help if you and others who agree with you would understand that in your putting pressure on me to accept homosexual behavior as normal and virtuous, you are going to the very core of my identity as a follower of Jesus. The label most important to me is “Christian.” My identity – in Christ – is central to who I am. So I could say the same thing and call you intolerant, bigoted and hateful for trying to change a conviction that goes to the core of who I am as a Christian. I don’t say that because I don’t believe that’s your intention. But neither should you think it’s my intention to attack a homosexual person or cause them harm merely because I disagree.

Host: But the problem is, your position fosters hate and encourages bullying.

Pastor: I recognize that some people have mistreated homosexuals in the past. It’s a shame that anyone anywhere would mock, taunt, or bully another human being made in God’s image. That said, I think we need to make one thing clear in regard to civil discourse: To differ is not to hate. I hope we can still have a real conversation in this country about different points of view without casting one another in the worst possible light. The idea that disagreeing with homosexual behavior necessarily results in harm to gay people is designed to shut down conversation and immediately rule one point of view (in this case, the Christian one) out of bounds. As a Christian, I am to love my neighbor and seek his good, even when I don’t see eye to eye with my neighbor. Furthermore, the picture of Christ on the cross dying for His enemies necessarily affects the way I think about this and other issues.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum line developed by LifeWay Christian Resources for all ages. This column first appeared on his blog at http://trevinwax.com/2011/10/18/how-i-wish-the-homosexuality-debate-would-go. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/Baptist Press) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).)
11/18/2011 3:06:18 PM by Trevin Wax | with 0 comments



Influx reshapes U.S. cities

November 16 2011 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

NEW YORK – Immigrants flowing into urban America live mostly in the inner cities of huge metro areas, form tight ethnic enclaves and stick together, right?

Wrong, wrong and wrong.

Yesterday, cities were in the nations. Today, the nations are in the cities, urban ministry pioneer Ray Bakke has observed. But to reach those nations, or peoples, for Christ, we need to understand who they are, where they are and how they are moving and changing.

“The epicenter of the urban wave in North America is ethnic minorities,” Troy Bush told pastors, lay church leaders and others during a session of “ethnéCITY: Reaching the Unreached in the Urban Center,” held Oct. 20-22 at Park Slope Community Church in Brooklyn, N.Y. “How are we going to tap into this, not only to reach them with the gospel, but to mobilize them so that they will be the ones reaching people groups? ... We must recognize what God is doing in our cities and seize the day.”

Bush, a former International Mission Board missionary to Moscow, leads the Dehoney Center for Urban Ministry Training at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He also directs The Rebuild Initiative, a national urban leadership and church-planting network based in Atlanta, one of the most ethnically diverse communities in America. While working with the North American Mission Board, he directed church planting in Baltimore, another city undergoing major ethnic change.

Using new data about urban immigrants in America from the Brookings Institution, Bush examined some key changes in the decade between 2000 and 2010. The number of foreign-born people in the United States reached 40 million in 2010, a 28 percent increase since 2000 – and about 13 percent of the nation’s total population. More than a third of new immigrants during the decade came from Asia, while the fastest-growing group came from Africa.

Immigrants living in the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas increased 27 percent during the period. The five cities with the largest foreign-born populations: New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago and Houston. But the top five’s share of the total immigrant population dipped from 43 percent to 38 percent during the decade. The fastest growth came in smaller and mid-sized cities.

The Brookings study reports: “A swath of metro areas from Scranton (Pa.) stretching southwest to Indianapolis and Little Rock and sweeping east to encompass most of the Southeast and lower mid-Atlantic – including states and localities that have been flashpoints in the immigration debate – saw growth rates on the order of three times that of the 100-largest-metro-areas rate. These include Charlotte, Raleigh, Nashville and Indianapolis, all of which passed the 100,000 mark for total foreign-born population by 2010.”

“These aren’t your Chicagos, L.A.’s, New Yorks, your normal gateway cities for immigrants,” Bush said. “These are medium-size cities.... Many (immigrants and refugees) coming from places like Somalia are only passing through LaGuardia or JFK (airports in New York) as they go straight to Louisville, straight to Kansas City, straight to Memphis. They’re bypassing these large cities right from the start.”

Similarly, the state with the fastest-growing immigrant population isn’t California or New York, but North Carolina. Number two: Georgia – followed by Arkansas, Nevada and Tennessee.

“So when we think strategically about where we’re going to engage unreached people groups, it’s OK to think about coming to Atlanta,” Bush said. “It really is. Why? Because they’re coming there! The largest Hindu temple in the entire U.S. is in Atlanta, in Gwinnett County.”

Another key trend: New immigrants are increasingly settling in the suburbs of metro areas rather than traditional inner-city ethnic enclaves as they seek better neighborhoods, jobs and schools. By 2010, slightly more than half of all immigrants could be found in suburbs.

“The younger generations that are moving in today, almost regardless of where they are coming from, are skipping completely over the center city. They’re actually starting in the suburbs,” Bush said. “They’re not going into ethnic enclaves that once made up the cores of those cities.”

Perhaps even more significant is the increase of second-generation immigrants in the cities and the nation at large. More than half of the children in Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco are second-generation – i.e., U.S.-born but with at least one foreign-born parent. They now account for more than 11 percent of the national population.

“This is a wave that we’ve really, really got to get on the radar,” Bush urged. “But here’s the thing to watch: Second-generation immigrant children represent 25 percent of all of the children under 18 in the United States. It is an enormous wave that is beginning to crash down on us.”

Second-gens often leave their parents’ homes, neighborhoods and ethnic communities. They move around (a trait that also typifies many new immigrants). They change. Their worldviews change. They create new patterns and cultures. In some cases, they actually form new people groups. “New American ethnic groups are forming more quickly than ever before (and they are) the children and grandchildren of today’s immigrants,” write Alejandro Portes and Ruben G. Rumbaut, authors of “Legacies: The Story of the Immigrant Second Generation.”

Bottom line: There’s no simple formula for reaching the “nations in the cities.” But any number of creative ministries can meet specific needs. Bush cited 11 different church-planting models that work effectively in different contexts. There surely are more.

“No one church can get its arms completely around any metro, especially a larger metro,” Bush said. “So what I encourage churches to do is begin in their own neighborhoods, geographically and relationally. Because in many cases, through their work and their play, they’re encountering many of the different ethnic groups that are coming into their communities. The census is certainly a good starting point, but relief agencies and especially immigration agencies are actively looking for church partners who will come alongside as they’re bringing in peoples – many of whom are coming from closed countries and unreached people groups.”

What ultimately works, regardless of location or context, is Jesus Christ’s model of disciple-making.

“There are no two cities that are exactly the same, but when it comes down to it, the heart of everything we need to do comes back to proclaiming the Gospel, displaying the Gospel and making disciples that congregate into reproducing, multiplying churches. That core is central whether we’re in Moscow or we’re in Mumbai,” Bush said.

“We need to model how to live as believers with immigrants. We need to share meals with them. We need to share life together. Our homes need to be places where we invite them not to come for a meal but to come for a month.... They see how you cling to Christ when there’s nothing else to cling to. It’s not just something you talk about in a Bible study. It’s who you are as a disciple.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is a global correspondent for the International Mission Board. ethnéCITY, co-sponsored by IMB and the North American Mission Board, reflects the reality that national borders no longer define the task of missions in a globalized world. Two more ethnéCITY conferences are set for Nov. 17-19 in Houston and May 3-5 in Vancouver. To find out more or register, visit www.ethnecity.com. Visit “WorldView Conversation,” the blog related to this column, at http://worldviewconversation.blogspot.com.)
11/16/2011 2:55:24 PM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



If you are reading this, thank a veteran

November 11 2011 by Michael J. Brooks, Baptist Press

MARION, Ala. – World War II affected my family in a number of ways.

My father received a medical deferment due to his ulcerated stomach and a special diet he was on, but two of my mother's brothers served in the war. Uncle Raymond was a glider pilot at Normandy. Gliders made no noise and were used to get men and material behind enemy lines. The glider casualty rate on D-Day was 70 percent. Uncle Raymond was fortunate.

Uncle Melvin was not so fortunate. He came back from the war with what in those days was called “shellshock.” Now it”s known as post-traumatic stress disorder. I don”t remember ever having a conversation with him. He sat silently watching television all day and never held more than a menial job.

These men put their lives at risk to save our country from tyrants and dictators.

Our veterans are not always appreciated as they should be. Many Vietnam vets were disrespected as the war became increasingly unpopular. It may be that Iraq and Afghanistan war vets receive the same treatment as these wars drag on. We Americans seem to have little tolerance for long wars. England and France fought the Hundred Years” War – which actually lasted 125 years – but America certainly would not.

But whatever the tide of popular opinion, we owe so much to our military.

A few years ago I visited with the late Frank Bolen when he came home from a stay at a Selma rehabilitation facility. Frank was a bombardier in the war and while on his 16th mission, parachuted from his downed plane, landing safely except for his injured foot. He limped around in Germany knowing just enough German to say “good morning” to passersby as he walked to the border. In the town of Speyerdorf he was discovered, arrested and sent to the POW camp, Stalag Luft 1 in Barth, for nine months until the war was over.

Before leaving his house, I asked to see his Purple Heart. He had received it only fairly recently due to the good work of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions. I opened the presentation box and for the first time in my life held a Purple Heart in my hands. As I did so I thought about the valor of so many wounded warriors.

A popular bumper sticker declares, “If you can read this, thank a teacher.”

On this Veterans Day, I think we could revise this message a bit and say, “If you are reading this, you are enjoying freedom of the press – one of the many freedoms we have. Be sure to thank a veteran.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael J. Brooks is professor of communications and assistant to the president for public relations at Judson College in Marion, Ala.)

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11/11/2011 1:47:46 PM by Michael J. Brooks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Men, temptation & the gospel

November 11 2011 by Owen Strachan, Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A few months ago Harvey Mansfield, Harvard professor of government and 2011 Bradley Prize winner, wrote a provocative piece on the distinctive characteristics and faults of men for The Weekly Standard.

Several years ago, Mansfield penned the highly controversial book Manliness (Yale, 2006). Enjoying the freedom only tenure can bring, Mansfield has questioned gender absolutes in the academy and suggested that men and women are different. These are fighting words in many circles today. I have benefited from his insights and applaud his courage, even if I have some essential disagreements with him.

In his Weekly Standard piece, Mansfield notes that “men are more adventurous and aggressive than women. This is true for good as well as ill.” Mansfield’s insights are based in his observations, not in scripture. They resonate, however, with certain tenets of the Christian worldview. From start to finish in the Bible, men are appointed as leaders of God’s church and their homes (with 1 and 2 Timothy providing the essential New Testament data on the matter). As they go, so go their families, churches and societies. When men excel in righteousness, others flourish (see, in a general sense, Israel under David’s reign – 1 and 2 Samuel). When men fall into gross sin, others suffer (see the book of Judges). The sins and strengths of men have an outsize impact on others.

Mansfield is right. Men are aggressive. Men are adventurous. Men find monogamy more challenging than women. When men act on their base instincts, channeling their aggression into fornication and marital affairs, they set women up for heartbreak and pain. As Kay Hymowitz has shown in her recent book Manning Up (Basic, 2011), in the new sexual economy, men are loosed from traditional cultural bonds, which only increases the risks for women, children and society.

All of which leads Christian men – men captured by the gospel of Jesus Christ – to realize that this is an age of tremendous opportunity. Godly men have a remarkable chance in this day to show how the Holy Spirit transforms a man. When God gets a hold of a man, He doesn’t merely tinker with him, making him cuss less and smile more. When God saves a man, He looses him to destroy sin and bless his family, church and society. Christian men are not normal men who sleep less on Sunday and wear Dockers with no creases. Christian men are transformed men, other-worldly men, residents of a new kingdom, servants of a great King, as Randy Stinson and Dan Dumas make clear in their insightful and challenging book A Guide to Biblical Manhood (Southern Seminary, 2011).

Not every unsaved man will stray, and indeed, the media can make it seem as if every man is out to destroy the traditional family. These ideas are plainly not true. Many men, Christian or not, will not ruin their families. The point stands nonetheless: Godly men have a fantastic opportunity in a society rightly jaded by the failures of so-called “great men” – actors, athletes, politicians, celebrities – to demonstrate the transformative power of the gospel in a man’s life.

We face all the same temptations as lost men. Our flesh pulls at us to compromise our marriages, to take our sacrificial wives lightly, to ignore our children in order to play golf or be more successful or have more fun, to flirt when traveling, to speak ill of marriage, to generally not live sacrificially in the image of Jesus Christ and spend ourselves for the betterment of those God has entrusted us (Eph. 5). Our flesh encourages us to allow small temptations to grow into strong desires, then to usher those desires into daring actions, then to allow those actions to blossom into patterns of sin that will, when discovered, blow our families and churches apart.

But the gospel, praise God, is stronger. The power of God is inside us, enabling men to exchange the role of pleasure-driven narcissist for that of self-sacrificing pillar of strength. The power of God is at work in His local church, where sinful men find fellowship in the company of brothers who bear the same weaknesses but through the power of the Spirit stand as oaks of righteousness. Instead of comparing black book conquests and planning the next hedonistic plunge, these men link arms to kill sin, love their families, and propel the church’s witness. Whether in a massive church or a tiny one, this band of brothers provides an awesome witness to a fallen world of the mysterious power of the gospel. Men who genuinely find pleasure in their families, in service of the church, and in their vocations show the world that it is not a secular lifestyle for which we were made, but the far more pleasurable way of life sketched out for us in scripture.

This very day, every man – whether a global leader or an unknown tradesman – has an opportunity to show the world that the gospel does not kill pleasure or aggressiveness. Rather, as Jonathan Edwards has shown, it frees Christians to experience true pleasure and to act in manly ways for a far greater cause than ourselves. We grieve the trajectory of modern men, and we feel special pain for the wives and children who are, through no fault of their own, deeply damaged by the sins of men. In a broken world, we pray to God to show the world a better way, a greater joy, and a magnificent Savior, who delights in taking sinful men and turning them into agents of His glory.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Owen Strachan is instructor of Christian theology and church history at Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He is the co-author of “The Essential Edwards Collection.” This column first appeared at TheGospelCoalition.org.)
11/11/2011 1:43:41 PM by Owen Strachan, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Awakening: The world’s No. 1 need

November 9 2011 by Ronnie Floyd, Baptist Press

SPRINGDALE, Ark. – Research suggests that only 11 of every 100 people in the world claim Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. About 50 percent of the world’s population presently has no realistic opportunity to hear the gospel and the percentage is growing. Every minute, 120 people are born, likely to live their entire lives and never hear the name of Jesus, not even once.

What is the greatest need in the world today? Awakening! We need to see an awakening of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the earth. We must go places we’ve never gone to, talk to people we’ve never talked to, and share Jesus where His name has not yet been spoken. Our last great hope in this world is to experience an awakening of the Great Commission.

Consider three brief questions that I believe must be answered if we are going to meet our world’s greatest need:

1. How should we define the Great Commission?

It really is a clear vision: Tell every person in the world about Jesus Christ and make disciples of all nations. The challenge is getting people to realize that the Great Commission is about more than going “over there.” It is also about reaching people “right here.” It is not an either-or for Christ-followers, but a both-and!

In fact, Jesus shows us in Acts 1:8 the progression of how we are to fulfill the Great Commission. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Jesus starts where the listeners were and moves farther away. Notice it is not progressive in a chronological sense. He never uses the word “then.” We are not intended to go here then there, but here and there. We are to be witnesses for Jesus locally, nationally and internationally, all at the same time.

This is the missional vision model we have adopted at Cross Church where I pastor: “Reaching Northwest Arkansas, America, and the world for Jesus Christ.” The Great Commission is the task of reaching every person in the world with the life-changing power of the gospel and helping them grow in their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

2. How can I see my church awakened?

We need to see a major global spiritual awakening in the church of Jesus Christ. We need a global spiritual shaking to occur all around the world. In seeking the catalyst for this spiritual movement, we need to:

– Wake up to the need itself. The world has seen too long what the arm of the flesh will do in and through the church. We need the world to see what God will do in and through the church. Business as usual has to stop and stop immediately. We need to experience a mighty spiritual movement of God.

– Prioritize prayer. When we pray, it demonstrates that we are depending on God. When we do not pray, it shows we are depending on ourselves. Prayerless worship services will develop prayerless churches. Prayerless churches will operate in the power of the flesh, rather than the power of the Spirit.

– Act on fulfilling the Great Commission NOW. Yes, this is our NOW moment. We can no longer delay in capturing our communities with the gospel or proclaiming the gospel to the ends of the world. Spiritual awakening will occur when the church is doing gospel work. Acts 1:8 affirms that spiritual power is commensurate with our commitment to taking the gospel to people and places where the gospel has never been before.

3. How can I make the Great Commission more personal to me?

One of the reasons many churches do not have an emphasis on the Great Commission is that the members and leadership of those churches are not personally committed to it themselves. Each Christ-follower must own the Great Commission! To awaken the Great Commission personally, we each need to ask ourselves three questions:

– Do I know Jesus intimately? Developing an intimate relationship with Jesus will create a deep desire to fulfill the Great Commission. It works the other way too. The more passionate you are about the Great Commission, the more intimately you will know Jesus.

– Do I love Jesus passionately? There is no better way of becoming passionate, intimate Christ-followers than through prayer and the Word of God. Despite our best efforts, awakening the Great Commission will lack its full effectiveness if we do not follow biblical principles and cover everything in prayer. Pray for a personal rediscovery of your passion for Jesus and a Great Commission awakening will surely follow.

– Do I share Jesus constantly? Knowing Christ intimately and loving Him passionately will always lead to sharing Him with others. These three ideas are inseparable. To know Christ is to love Him; to love Him is to share Him.

Never has there been a better time to live than today. While we might bemoan the events occurring in the world today, we need to see these moments as God moments. This is a special defining moment for the church to become awakened spiritually, resulting in an awakening of telling every person in the world about Jesus Christ and making disciples of all the nations.

I am believing God for a global spiritual awakening. This is our last great hope!
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ronnie Floyd is senior pastor of Cross Church (crosschurch.com) in northwest Arkansas, with campuses in Springdale, Pinnacle Hills and Fayetteville, and the author of a newly released book, “Our Last Great Hope.”)
11/9/2011 2:52:21 PM by Ronnie Floyd, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Creative goal-setting ideas for the Lottie Moon offering

November 8 2011 by Diana Davis, Baptist Press

INDIANAPOLIS – When an Indiana pastor asked his small congregation to set a sacrificial goal for their Lottie Moon offering, he never expected this. A goal of $500 would have been a challenge for Iglesia Bautista Hispana El Calvario, but they set a seemingly impossible goal of $10,000. People of every age contributed sacrificially. Some worked a second job for a month and gave those earnings. One lady gave two weeks of paychecks. Kids, retirees, even unemployed folks found creative ways to give. That awesome little church collected over $10,000 for our international missions.

What’s Lottie Moon? It’s a critical piece of our Southern Baptist plan for sharing Christ with our world. This annual Christmas offering supports more than half of the International Mission Board’s (IMB) budget, and each church sets its own offering goal. Here’s a few goal-setting ideas you may like:

– 4,800 quarters. Southern Baptists currently send and support more than 4,800 international missionaries. Why not challenge your church to give a quarter – 25 cents – for every missionary: 25 cents X 4,800 missionaries = $1,200 goal. If that’s not a sacrificial goal for your church, aim for $1 per missionary ($4,800) or $10 per missionary ($48,000 goal), or more. Set a huge, God-sized goal!

– Announce the goal. Post it prominently around the church. Print it in bulletins and newsletters, on the website and Facebook page. Be sure every member knows the goal and the challenge to contribute sacrificially. Use excellent, free promotion materials from imb.org.

– 4,800 paper dolls. Measure progress visually. Create a chain of 4,800 paper dolls. For simple instructions to make accordion-fold paper dolls, ask any grandma or check youtube.com. Size the dolls so 4,800 will encircle the worship center when the goal is reached. Add dolls weekly to show progress toward the goal. If your goal is $1 per missionary, you'll add a doll for every dollar contributed.

– Celebrate weekly. Distribute weekly progress reports to Bible classes. Post updates on the website. Email it. Do biweekly Facebook updates. Tell stories of sacrificial giving. Celebrate milestones. Example: The youth group could conduct a missions garage sale; a youth leader could present the money, and teens could add dolls to the wall and then lead prayer for missionaries.

Take it seriously. Make it fun. Will your church joyfully make its 2011 Lottie Moon offering the best yet?
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Davis (www.keeponshining.com) is an author, speaker and wife of the North American Mission Board's vice president for the Midwest region, Steve Davis.)
11/8/2011 2:43:47 PM by Diana Davis, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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