October 2015

Pastor’s wife, be real!

October 30 2015 by Amy Hebert, Baptist Press

It is the loudest silence, a moment so brief it is imperceptible to the untrained ear – that moment between reality and response when faced with the traditional Sunday greeting of “How are you?”
Inside there is a heart crying out to be known. Yet, as we turn up our smiles, we turn down the volume on the voice of truth. I am fine. I am great. My life is in order.

Amy Hebert

Pastor’s wife, we are facing an epidemic in our churches. It is the epidemic of being “fine.” Somehow we have bought into the lie that if anyone knew our true humanity and all of its nagging sin nature, we would be ostracized.
Instead of dealing with our struggles and finding in another person the relief of confession and healing, we lock them away in a compartment of the heart where only Satan knows the combination. He opens the lock when he wants to cause you pain and shame and then lets you close it back up until the next time he wants to use it.
Pastor’s wife, you don’t have to lock away your shame. Christ died on the cross and has removed from you any condemnation. Nothing about your struggles surprises Jesus. It is only when you keep silent that Satan retains his power. It is only in his whispers that you hear a voice of judgment. Yet the proclamation of scripture is of captives set free and chains broken by a Savior with the power to carry us through life.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, the apostle Paul talks about a “thorn in the flesh” that tormented him relentlessly. We don’t know exactly what it was, but we do know that he pled with God to remove it. God’s response was that He wanted Paul to see how useful his struggle was. It caused Paul to run to the one place he could go for help, namely, Christ.
So what did Paul do? Did he collect his thoughts carefully and make sure to let the Corinthians know that all was well? Did he write that it really was not a big problem, and not to worry because he had it under control? No. Paul was obviously not accustomed to polite Sunday conversation, because he takes a much more dangerous approach to his struggles. He says, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” He lets other believers in on the fact that he does not have his life in order. In fact, Paul has something in his life that causes him great pain.
Pastor’s wife, I want you to know that you can and should be real with other believers. Like Paul, we all have things in our lives which seem to be a constant struggle. When I was in school, our teacher assigned us a building project. We had to design and make a bridge out of toothpicks, which we would then test to see how much weight it could hold before buckling. Sadly, I am not an engineer, and it only took one or two weights for mine to crumble. Some of the more sturdy bridges lasted for five or six or even 10 weights, yet ultimately they all succumbed to the same fate.
Ladies, when we are silent and refuse to share our struggles, we are just loading up the weights. Some of us crumble more quickly than others, but ultimately we will all succumb to the same fate unless we do what Paul did. We must use our weakness as an opportunity to put Christ on display and allow His strength to be our own. In His grace God has given us fellow believers on whom we can lean when we are being buffeted.
So the next time you face trials, even the kind that you think are too much to share, I encourage you to find someone in whom you can confide – fellow pastors’ wives, trusted friends from a previous ministry context, anyone you know who not only will hear you but spur you to godliness in the process of healing.
When you do, you can experience the freedom described in God’s Word, which could end the era of the loudest silence. When asked next Sunday, “How are you?” you will be able to respond with confidence, “I am weak, therefore I am strong.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Amy Hebert is the wife of Andrew Hebert, pastor of Taylor Memorial Baptist Church in Hobbs, N.M., and mother of four young children.)

10/30/2015 1:45:44 PM by Amy Hebert, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

What are we going to do?

October 29 2015 by Nate Adams, Illinois Baptist

I remember vividly my dad talking about the final hours he spent with his mother, my grandma, in the hospital before she died. Grandma was a devoted Christian and churchwoman, a member for more than 60 years of First Baptist Church in Murray, Ky., which played a key role in the birth of the Cooperative Program in 1925.
As she was coming to the end of her life and was only semi-conscious, Dad said grandma would occasionally rise up out of her hospital bed and say over and over, “What are we going to do? What are we going to do? What are we going to do?”
Then he said she would relax back into her pillow with these words: “I guess we’ll just trust the Lord.”
For devoted Southern Baptists, recent news from the International Mission Board (IMB) that as many as 600 to 800 missionaries soon need to return from the mission field leads us to that same urgent question. What are we going to do?
I don’t have space here to go into all the details, which you can read at the imb.org or sbc.net websites. But in summary, the IMB has been drawing down on financial reserves and selling properties for years in order to keep as many missionaries on the field as possible. It has been an unsustainable situation that IMB leadership reports must now be corrected.
What are we going to do? I submit that trusting the Lord is still the best and right answer. Let me suggest five specific ways we can do that.
First, we should pray. We should intercede for those in leadership at IMB as they make decisions, and for those missionaries and others who are affected by those decisions. We should pray for solutions, and for generosity from givers and churches, and for the Lord to send laborers into the harvest fields, even as it seems the opposite may be happening.
Second, we should trust the IMB trustees and executive staff to do their jobs. More than once over the years I have thought to myself that I would do things differently if I were in charge of some organization. Sometimes time proves me right, and sometimes time proves me wrong. But in our autonomous, cooperative family of churches we elect trustees to give oversight to the gifted and called leaders of our entities. They are closer to the facts, finances and circumstances than any of us. And the Bible says that one of the ways we trust the Lord is to trust the leaders He providentially allows to have positions of authority.
Third, we should renew and increase our churches’ commitment to missions through the Cooperative Program. Even the higher levels of giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering over the past decade apparently have not been enough to prevent this downsizing of the missionary force. But 10 percent giving through the Cooperative Program (CP) would have. Nationally, CP giving from Southern Baptist churches has dropped from an average of 10 percent in 1989 to 5.5 percent in 2014 (6.8 percent here in Illinois). If churches’ CP giving had continued to average at least 10 percent over those years, the number of international missionaries would have grown dramatically, along with the rest of our cooperative missions and ministries.
Fourth, we should of course consider giving our most generous gifts ever through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. IMB says that will not change the need for many of the missionaries to return home. But it may speed the rate at which they can be replaced.
And finally, as churches, associations, state conventions and individual Christians, we should look for ways to directly assist the missionaries who will be returning stateside. Temporary housing, transportation, job placement and personal encouragement will be needed by returning missionary families. The Illinois Baptist State Association, for example, will be establishing a Missionary Relief Fund, and the offering received at this year’s IBSA annual meeting will be designated for that fund. I will also be contacting IMB with a list of Illinois Baptist State Association’s currently open positions.
Many of us were surprised at the need for these missionaries to return home. But God is not. And so let us answer that urgent question with one or all of these very tangible actions that demonstrate we are trusting the Lord.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. This column first appeared in the Illinois Baptist at ibsa.org/illinoisbaptist, newsjournal of the Illinois Baptist State Association.)
10/29/2015 11:17:21 AM by Nate Adams, Illinois Baptist | with 0 comments

Church budgets: Can they be visionary & rewarding?

October 28 2015 by Todd McMichen, Facts & Trends Magazine

The church budgeting process ranks fairly low on the list of a minister’s most motivating and inspiring experiences. Pastors will line up to deliver a message, shepherd the hurting, pray for the wayward and lead the body forward. However, if a pastor lies awake at night thinking of the church budget, it’s often for the wrong reasons.
For many churches, the budgeting process begins with ministry leaders submitting their annual requests for funds. Some underestimate their budget needs; others inflate their numbers because they don’t expect to receive their full request.
Once the numbers are in, the vetting begins. Unfortunately, this process is often shaped more by fixed expenses and relational loyalties than most would like to admit. Tough decisions are always present, which can result either in hurt feelings or a stressful extension of reasonable financial limits.
Finally, the budget is sent to a financial business meeting for approval, where it’s secretly hoped that few will show up to participate.
Does a visionary, rewarding budgeting process exist? If so, what does it look like?
Consider a different approach – one that can increase vision, disciple your people and set your church free from the bondage that sometimes accompanies money.
1. Begin with a season of prayer and fasting. Scripture teaches the tithe is holy to the Lord (Leviticus 27:30). This applies both to the one giving and the one spending. God grants you resources to use for His glory and to impact lives.
Your leadership needs to feel deep gratitude and responsibility before the process begins. Releasing ownership will change the language of the conversation from the beginning.
2. Recount how God has been at work over the past year. Where do you see the fruit of His hand or the anointing of His Spirit? Seeing the hand of God can provide a good indication of what He desires to do in the future.
Ultimately, you need to align your resources to support God’s work. Acknowledging God’s work will prevent personal agendas, subjective opinions and ministry silos from occurring. Released resources and the Spirit’s leading create wonderful meetings.
3. Stand on the foundation of vision clarity and a well-defined discipleship strategy. No church is great at everything. Do you know what your church does better than 10,000 others? God places unique people in unique communities for a specific period of time.
Your church has its own unique calling and it’s not supposed to compete with the congregation across town or mirror the church across the country. You are free to be you. This level of focus will cause your ministry to expand. It helps you say a powerful “yes” as well as a confident “no.”
4. Learn your “return on investment.” Do you know the impact of a dollar spent? Is your church investing the proper amount to gain the desired result to accomplish your dream? The longer a church exists, the more its budget grows. It’s rare that a congregation evaluates an expense based on the return.
We tend to continually fund ministries long after they have lost effectiveness. Every ministry line is not mission critical and not all ministries are created to exist forever. The vision to glorify God and make disciples never changes, but strategy does.
5. Allow strength and strategy to lead. This may be a radical concept for most, but give consideration to each budget year starting with a blank slate by not encouraging each department to make its own financial requests. Instead, allow the activity of God, the vision strategy and a few select financially gifted people to create a solid business plan.
This doesn’t mean collaboration and dialogue are removed. It simply means those with the giftedness should lead under the clear direction of the bigger picture vision.
6. Spend strategically, not simply less. Perhaps this is a shocking piece of advice: Create a spending plan that spends only 90 percent of your previous year’s undesignated giving receipts. (This may take a few years to accomplish.)
Most churches increase their budget 3-15 percent annually. Why do we do this? “It’s faith based and visionary,” a pastor might say. In reality, it’s far from visionary. It tends to create a lot of stress and can be careless, unfocused and demotivating. It creates a crisis money culture instead of a generous culture.
7. Plan to be surprised. Every year God will call you to become engaged in something you can’t currently see. And, of course, there’s always the possibility that something will break or wear out. And then there’s the next growth step that will need to be funded.
Prepare for what you can’t currently see. Nothing is more financially freeing than cash reserves. It’s a sure way to tell God “yes” before He ever asks you to go. But don’t step over the line and hoard cash reserves. God gives you money to invest in His causes.
8. Inspire others with the vision investment plan. This is the opposite of simply getting church budget approval. A well-designed spending plan and presentation should bring glory to God, affirm those who have invested, validate what the leaders have said in the past and inspire toward the future. It should raise generosity. Loyalty and confidence in the leadership should increase. A faith-filled expectation for the future inspires all.
Everything is a choice. As leaders, we choose the financial culture we create. Every conversation can be both a vision and discipleship conversation. It all depends on how you lead it.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Todd McMichen works with Auxano, a church leadership partner of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. This article first appeared in Facts & Trends, a LifeWay magazine and online resource at factsandtrends.net.)

10/28/2015 12:21:15 PM by Todd McMichen, Facts & Trends Magazine | with 0 comments

Pencil in God's hand

October 28 2015 by Erich Bridges, Worldview Conversation

It’s not about you.
That famous first line from The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren’s mega-bestselling book, has become a cliché. But it’s no less true for being too familiar.
We are created for God’s pleasure, not our own. In our culture of relentless self-regard, we forget that. Even among those who serve God, service itself can become a little god through which we come to worship ourselves, not Him. So we should always hold our individual callings lightly, because they are not “ours.” They are merely means to a divine end: the glory of God.



In a memorable 1989 interview with TIME, Mother Teresa expanded on this truth in her no-nonsense style:
Question: Humble as you are, it must be an extraordinary thing to be a vehicle of God’s grace in the world.
Teresa: But it is His work. I think God wants to show His greatness by using nothingness.
Question: You feel you have no special qualities?
Teresa: I don’t think so. I don’t claim anything of the work. It is His work. I am like a little pencil in his hand. That is all. He does the thinking. He does the writing. The pencil has nothing to do with it. The pencil has only to be allowed to be used. …
Question: What are your plans for the future?
Teresa: I just take one day. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not come. We have only today to love Jesus.
Question: And the future of [your missionary] order?
Teresa: It is His concern.
False modesty? No. Practical theology. The work of God is His concern. The mission of God is His glory over all creation. And as He promised in Psalm 46:10, it will be accomplished: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Our privilege is to be a part of His work, when and how He chooses. Certain skills and abilities may be needed, but the only non-negotiable qualifications are surrender and obedience.
I hope these words provide a measure of comfort to International Mission Board missionaries and staff who have agonized over whether to accept the voluntary retirement package being offered due to ongoing financial shortfalls, as well as those who will consider accepting a voluntary departure incentive to follow. The plan to reduce missionaries and staff by 600 to 800 people over six months will affect many lives and ministries. But it won’t stop the work of God.
And since nothing is wasted in God’s economy, He will continue to use all who obey Him, whether they follow His leading to come home or to stay on the field. As Mother Teresa often said, “Let Jesus use you without consulting you.”
He is the master potter. We are the clay. Yield to His gentle hands.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is the International Mission Board’s global correspondent.)

10/28/2015 12:13:29 PM by Erich Bridges, Worldview Conversation | with 0 comments

Family time in 2016

October 27 2015 by Ronnie Floyd, SBC President

There are times a family just needs to be together. And 2016 is one of those times for our Southern Baptist family. This is a season when our family gathering should be a high priority for us all.
Our family reunion will be in St. Louis on June 14-15, 2016
I realize your options for conferences are plentiful and you may not enjoy going to a convention. They may seem boring or even at times, irrelevant. We changed the format for our 2015 Southern Baptist Convention in Columbus. It was done in a new and fresh way and was engaging to all who attended. The response to this new format was fabulous.
I am confident that if we set aside our own personal preferences, we will all find value in the convention. This is a critical time for us to come together as a family. Why is it so important?
Four reasons our family needs to come to St. Louis in 2016:
1. Bringing home 600-800 missionaries from across the world should call all of us to the highest level of concern.
Hundreds of men, women and families who have served our Lord faithfully and fruitfully as missionaries from our churches are affected. Southern Baptists should want to come together to find out what is happening and how we can reset for an even greater day in mission expansion in the future.
Every church that gives through the Cooperative Program or to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions should ensure their presence in St. Louis. Each church’s messengers can then go home and share the reports with their church family.
If we are going to take our vision of reaching the world for Christ seriously, we are in a critical drawback to accomplishing this goal. Therefore, this is a time to come together on June 14-15, 2016.
2. We live in an America that is searching intently for a direction and future in 2016.
In November of 2016, our nation will vote for the next president of the United States. Worldviews are colliding fiercely. Religious liberty, the sanctity of human life and the clear understanding of family are each at stake. Beyond that, we are witnessing lawlessness at an unprecedented level and racial tension is ever occurring.
Our Southern Baptist family needs to come together in 2016 before this presidential election. Our nation has never needed us more to pray, but also to be the voice of hope.
3. We believe we need God to awaken America and empower us to reach the world.
“Awaken America, Reach the World” is the theme of our 2016 Southern Baptist Convention on June 14-15, 2016. I do not know of two greater needs in our lives today.
We need to see God awaken America! We need spiritual awakening. We need to pray for the third Great Awakening to occur in our nation. Yes, a genuine Jesus revolution!
We need to receive such power from God that we again have our vision on reaching the world for Jesus Christ. It is time to move beyond talk and sermons; now is the time to escalate our intentionality from attitude to actions to reach our world for Christ.
I say it again to each of us: This must begin with where we are right now, from rural areas to towns and cities. Until we are burdened to reach our world, we will not be burdened to reach the world for Jesus Christ.
4. Investing in the ministry of the gospel and its expansion throughout metropolitan St. Louis.
Metro St. Louis is a city in deep need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The city is experiencing racial tension that will find its ultimate answer only in Jesus Christ. The lostness of the city continues to grow.
Dr. John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, informed me this week that during the week of Crossover St. Louis and the week of the Southern Baptist Convention, 27 new churches will be planted in metro St. Louis, increasing the number of churches in the region significantly. I love this vision and we need to pray, encourage and participate with them in this grand work.
Will I see you in St. Louis? It is my hope I will see you on June 14-15 in St. Louis.
There are times a family just needs to be together – 2016 is one of those times for Southern Baptists. Begin to plan now. Come on, we need you. It is time to be with our family.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ronnie Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. This column first appeared at Ronnie Floyd’s website, ronniefloyd.com.)

10/27/2015 11:10:21 AM by Ronnie Floyd, SBC President | with 0 comments

Your pastor’s family

October 26 2015 by Kelly McCorkle Parkison, FactsAndTrends.net

Sometimes those who are most vital to a pastor’s ministry – his family – can be forgotten. Yet, they are the ones most often ministering to the minister.
As a pastor’s wife, I pray for my husband like no other. I encourage him when he needs to be built up and challenge him when he needs to be pushed. Our children allow their dad to laugh and enjoy life. They help him see God through the eyes of a child and sharpen his character.
A church member once asked my pastor husband, “How can we as a church best show you our support and love?” Without hesitation, my husband responded, “If you will love on my wife and children, then you will have shown me support and love, too.” I have never forgotten that, and am thankful to serve in a church that has taken his words to heart and loved us well.


Kelly McCorkle Parkison

Here are a dozen practical ways you can honor your pastor’s family and in return honor your pastor.
1. Pray for us. Yes, it’s an obvious way, but one I often see undervalued. It’s easy to quickly respond, “I’ll pray for you,” and then go on without another thought. Don’t forget the power of prayer and how important it is to pray for church leaders and their families.
Thankfully, there is a woman in our church who calls or texts at least once a week, wanting to know how she can specifically pray for my family and me. Her prayers have shown such support and genuine care.
2. Pursue a meaningful friendship with us. Years ago, I had a mentor tell me that being a pastor’s family can be very lonely position. At the time, I thought, “No way!” But as time went on, his words rang true.
Sometimes a minister’s family feels they can only get so close to church members and any relationship has to be at an arm’s length. Other times, members can hold the pastor and family up as something higher and separate from the church, instead of holding out a hand and inviting the family into their lives. Get to know us and do what it takes to invest in the relationship outside of the church walls.
3. Encourage our personal giftings or passions. We all have been graced with certain gifts, but as a pastor’s spouse or kid, sometimes the ministries taking place in church can overshadow or devalue those abilities. Everyone needs encouragement in their God-given passions, pastor’s family or not.
I have a passion for orphans and victims of human trafficking in India, and the church members who have rallied behind me are such a blessing. They have supported the organization I started called LOFT 218. Many are donating and helping with a blanket drive for street people in the Indian province of Rajasthan. It’s humbling and energizing to know I have the freedom to run after my passions and dreams.
4. Care about our kids. Oftentimes, churches will recognize ministers and their spouses for all they do, but they often forget the children who also have sacrificed for the ministry. Several times church members have done seemingly small, simple things that have meant a lot to our children. One family regularly gives our kids McDonald’s gift cards. Another woman brought lip gloss to my daughters. Still others have spent considerable and consistent time in prayer for our children. Those things minister to the kids and the parents.
5. Encourage the pastor. When I hear church members praising or encouraging my husband, I know his passion for the church burns brighter, which in turn gives me more drive to serve the church as well.
Pastors are leaders and servants of the church, but they are still human and they are not perfect. But when people tear down my husband publicly, it’s extremely painful. It cuts me to the core. If there is an issue, please take it directly to the pastor as the Bible says to do in Matthew 18.
6. Think of us with a gift. It can even be something small. It may be cliché, but it’s true: “It’s the thought that counts.” Just to be thought of or remembered makes one feel valued.
A church member randomly brought me a bag of my favorite candy one day. It seemed small to her, but it showed me she listened when I shared about something I enjoyed. That impacted me in a big way.
7. Write us a note. In this day and age of texts and email, a written letter is a lost art. When I receive a handwritten note, I know that particular person has taken extra time to show me they care.
I’m quick to delete an email or a text, but from time to time, I find handwritten notes tucked away in various places in my house. I can’t get rid of them because there is something special about those heartfelt letters.
8. Help us keep our marriage strong. Facilitate regular date nights. Volunteer to pay for a meal or babysit. With our five kids, it’s no small task for someone in our church family to make that sacrifice. But it’s imperative our marriage stay strong in order for the church ministry to stay strong.
A deacon and his wife said they would keep our kids for a few days, so we could get away together for a long weekend. That was a huge undertaking for them, but it was so beneficial to our marriage. This couple recognized it as a way to not only minister to us, but to our entire church as well.
9. Forgive us when we fail. Oftentimes, our mistakes are more exposed because of our position. Sometimes, the expectations placed on us and our children are unfair. But we are regular people doing our best to honor God and be obedient to His call on our lives.
We have struggles and we will mess up. Unfortunately, we will disappoint you along the way, but know we are sorry. Please, love us despite our flaws.
10. Be passionate about your relationship with Jesus. Nothing would bring us more delight than to know all of our prayers and service for the church were producing fruit in you. It would make it all worth it to see the church set ablaze and on fire for God.
11. Volunteer more. If a position is not filled at church, frequently a pastor’s spouse will feel pressured to fill it. Honor us by volunteering and helping carry the load in church more. It will show us you care about our ministry as much as we do.
12. Please think of us more than one time a year. Hopefully, you show love to your parents more than just on Mother’s and Father’s Day. Do the same for pastors and their families.
Although Pastor Appreciation Month comes around each October, we still need love and appreciation the other 11 months. Think of us from time to time – there is a good chance we need you!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kelly McCorkle Parkison (@KellyParkison) is a pastor’s wife and stay-at-home mom to five kids in Manchester, Tenn.)

10/26/2015 11:47:09 AM by Kelly McCorkle Parkison, FactsAndTrends.net | with 0 comments

Sending church: Why send?

October 23 2015 by Matt Rogers, Send Network

Anyone who has ever led a church to plant another church knows that sending is costly. It requires immense effort and intentionality to send well and will likely leave the sending church with a void in leadership and less money with which to operate. Not to mention the fact that local churches will send some of their best people – those who are deeply connected to the life of the church and who are loved by many. So, why send? Why should local churches (established churches and young church plants) work to strategically send teams to plant churches around the US and the world?

Sending is at the heart of the Good News

God sent Jesus to invade a sin-saturated and proclaim the availability of the kingdom through his work. This sending provides a paradigm for the sending of all of God’s people (John 20:21). The church enables and mobilizes its people to give their lives away in the pattern God envisioned.

Sending Bolsters the Faith of the Church

There is no denying the cost of church planting. The human mind may be prone to do a quick cost-benefit analysis and conclude that it is unwise to plant a church due to the cost of resources and manpower. Fear often exceeds our faith that God can, and will, provide for our needs. By sending, we release our death-grip of control on the local church and trust God to meet its needs and, when he does, our faith grows.

Sending Releases God’s People into Areas of Great Need

The darkness in our day is vast and there are pockets of lostness that are virtually untouched by the evangelical church. Two weeks ago, I spent a few days in Salt Lake City with the North American Mission Board. That city is comprised of roughly two percent evangelical Christians. This means that in a short plane ride, you and I can be in one of the greatest mission fields in the world. Sending releases a surplus of leaders in one location to serve and plant the gospel in another.

Sending Motivates the Church to Live on Mission

Sending protects the local church from complacency. It doesn’t take long for people in the church to simply go through the motions, even within a young church plant. The loss of leaders can compel some to engage in the ministry of the church in ways they were not before. It can also remind many in the church of the evangelical passion that should define the lives of all people. As believers see their friends go to plant a church, they are often empowered to share the gospel with their neighbor, coworkers, and friends as well.
The passion of the North American Mission Board is the mobilize the Southern Baptist churches through the United States to actively engage in this sending work. Certainly, as all churches give to the Cooperative Program and annual missions offerings the work of church planting is aided. However, we want to do more. We want more and more churches to be able to say, “That is our church plant.” We want churches to train leaders, send them to a strategic location, support their work through finances and short-term mission work, and reap the harvest of blessings that come from being a sending church. Yes, it will cost you but you’ll never make a better investment.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Matt is the pastor of The Church at Cherrydale in Greenville, SC (tccherrydale.com). He is a graduate of Furman University (BA in psychology), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (MA in Counseling), and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv in pastoral ministry) and is currently completing his PhD from SEBTS in Applied Theology. Matt is the author of Aspire, Seven Arrows, and Mergers.)

10/23/2015 12:51:55 PM by Matt Rogers, Send Network | with 1 comments

Profanity, violence in the movies

October 22 2015 by Phil Boatwright, Baptist Press

You don’t hear many complaints about the excesses of Hollywood anymore.
Yes, I get cranky about profanity in pictures, but who else is talking about the misuse of God’s name by the film industry? And when’s the last time a critic wrote an exposé about violence in movies?
Nearly 30 years ago I wrote a guide called The Movie Reporter; its sole purpose was to provide the synopsis and content (the reasons for the rating) of new theatrical releases. I didn’t even offer an opinion at that time. The guide was meant merely as a tool to aid parents and concerned moviegoers.
Times, however, have changed, and despite the efforts of Christian film reviewers who were as concerned about film content as myself, could it be that the battle for restraint in cinema has been lost?
Now I suspect that many readers of this column see very few of Hollywood’s products, preferring the occasional faith-based release. And there’s the TCM network (Turner Classic Movies). It’s not that you necessarily want to watch old movies, just ones that won’t offend your religious beliefs. Right?
So you avoid going to the movies. Good for you. But aren’t you concerned nevertheless with the direction the media is leading the rest of this generation? Are you giving up the battle?
Let’s be honest, we’re way beyond the question, “Do the media affect our lives?” Many films stimulate our more carnal desires, whereas the Bible steadfastly maintains it is the spirit that needs to be satisfied. Today’s motion pictures – with a few exceptions, such as the new release “Woodlawn” and, a few weeks earlier, “War Room” – just aren’t about nurturing the spirit.
“The Devil at 4 O’clock,” made in 1961, was an adventure/drama concerning a priest played by Spencer Tracy who had lost his faith. He went through the motions but had become a man living by the laws of his religion, not a walk with Christ. Suddenly, in the midst of his despair, the island that is his mission field is threatened by a volcanic eruption. A ship is evacuating the population, but a few of his parishioners are still trapped further up the mountain. Aided by three convicts who have nothing to lose, the priest goes against all odds to save his people. It’s an allegory about finding redemption and salvation.
One of the most striking things about that film is that it probably wouldn’t be made today. Rarely do we see films that even suggest the existence of God. Somewhere along the way moviemakers, in general, quit incorporating biblical ideals that nourish the soul.
Those ideals need to be re-found by this generation. We need an infusion of Hollywood productions that portray the kind of religious values found in “Stars in My Crown,” “Inn of the Sixth Happiness” and “A Man Called Peter.”
Today’s parents are supportive of their kids’ sports activities (even if practice takes place on Sunday morning, a one-time no-no in America), and they’re concerned about what’s being served in the school cafeteria, but they are giving their children’s minds over to the likes of Seth Rogen and Miley Cyrus (two examples of today’s culture; he’s often crude and she’s always vulgar.)
Far too many adults have given up the battle for their kids’ spiritual development. Why aren’t we talking about this epidemic?
To fend off the Hollywood’s hypnotic tugs, parents and children alike need to know God’s guidelines and why He gave them to us. Church fellowship and family Bible study are still the best ways to reach our nation’s youth. And parents need to lead by example, living out biblical principles and, yes, saying no to most movies.
Who, in addition to our families, is the big loser in this culture war? Society. God has been dismissed from school, vetoed from government and canceled from the entertainment venues. Look around. How’s that working out for our country and our kids?
We are instructed in God’s Word to be a light unto the world. We won’t be until we desire to rise above the culture’s standard and embrace God’s. “Friendship with God is reserved for those who reverence him,” the psalmist wrote. “With them alone he shares the secrets of his promises” (Psalm 25:14, Living Bible).
In a secular forum my assertions would be met with eye-rolling, and some religious reviewers also eye-roll when I complain of these matters. Many of my colleagues in criticism, in order to relate to today’s moviegoing demographic, are remaining mum about the margin of abuse in movies and how the content of films affects our culture, then our society.
I love the promise of movies, as they are modern man’s medium for relating parables to the masses. But just as they can uplift man, they can also mislead him. And in this age of excess, movies are the nails in the culture’s coffin.
Ministers, writers, parents – speak up!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Phil Boatwright, on the Web at moviereporter.com, is the author of “Movies: The Good, the Bad and the Really, Really Bad,” available through Amazon.com.)

10/22/2015 11:32:24 AM by Phil Boatwright, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Call a missionary

October 21 2015 by Doug Munton, Baptist Press

With the downsizing of the International Mission Board by up to 800 people, many longtime missionaries will be looking for ministry opportunities in the States. While they will be leaving the mission field (after some difficult and painful decisions), they still want to serve the cause of Christ in ministry.
Might Southern Baptist churches consider them when seeking a pastor and church staff member?
Here are three reasons why:

  1. They are willing to do hard things. Sacrifice is not foreign to them. You won’t have to wonder if they are willing to do difficult tasks or take on difficult challenges. They have proven that they can work hard for little thanks. That says a great deal about their work ethic and their character.

  2. They know how to adapt and adjust to circumstances while remaining faithful to God’s Word. They can help your church understand the changing culture around them while staying faithful to what God teaches. They can help you walk through any necessary changes without losing focus on God’s unchanging Word.

  3. They have demonstrated a willingness to put God first in their lives. You will feel confident that they are about God’s Kingdom and not their own. Their sacrifices suggest they consider the things of God greater than their own comfort or fame. That is a strong recommendation.

Returning missionaries will have some adjustments to make. They will be working through the pain of leaving a field they cared deeply about. Coming back to the States will bring some challenges. But they have faced challenges before.
If your church is seeking a pastor or other vocational ministry leader, why not consider a missionary who is returning from the field? The Lord may have made them available to us for such a time as this.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Doug Munton, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in O’Fallon, Ill., is on the Web at dougmunton.com.)

10/21/2015 11:25:56 AM by Doug Munton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

How churches can avoid three ‘dangerous assumptions’

October 20 2015 by Brian K. Davis, Guest Column

Many church leaders began to ask questions after the June 26 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to make same-sex marriage a constitutionally protected right. While it remains to be seen how these issues will affect churches in the long term, the immediate need is for churches to establish appropriate policies clarifying their position on marriage and their expectations regarding the use of facilities. These topics and more have been addressed in previous Biblical Recorder columns and blog posts on the Christian Life and Public Affairs Special Committee website (blog.ncbaptist.org/clpa). I hope you will revisit those articles as your congregation approaches these matters.
In this final article, I focus on the final phrase of 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (KJV). Our Lord has given us a sound mind that, when informed and shaped by scripture, can help us respond appropriately to current challenges regarding sexuality.
As noted in previous articles, the immediate need for many churches is the establishment of policies.
Churches are discouraged from making bylaw amendments but encouraged to strive to keep these matters within policies documents. There is, however, a long-term issue that may require amendments to a church’s bylaws or constitution, depending how the church is organized.
Many churches cooperating with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) have membership statements that provide four avenues for individuals to become members of the congregation. The first avenue is through profession of faith resulting in baptism by immersion. Many churches have beautiful statements regarding the expectation that new converts confess sin, repent from sin and give evidence of a life transformed by the gospel.
Others include statements expressing sentiments in scripture regarding putting to death the old life and being clothed in righteousness. Again, these are beautiful statements that churches take seriously.
The problem is the remaining three avenues into church membership. While reviewing a church’s avenues for membership, I often find the phrase, “or by baptism” followed by “or by transfer of letter” concluding with “or by statement.”
It’s easy to assume “or” equals “and.” Meaning, many believe anyone seeking to enter a church’s membership by baptism, transfer of letter or statement has given evidence of a life transformed by the gospel. That is a dangerous assumption.
As a result, the number of unregenerate members in our churches has grown because of such thinking. It’s time to stop making assumptions and employ the sound mind that God has granted each of us to engage in disciple-making with an intentionality that has been lacking in recent years.
The problem entails not only how individuals join the church, but what happens once they become members. Does your congregation have an intentional plan to disciple each member of the church?
Certainly we give attention to discipling new members, but all too often we assume current members are growing as disciples. Too many church leaders assume discipleship is taking place in Sunday School, small groups or within families at home. We even assume discipleship is taking place through the pulpit ministry. Again, it’s time to stop making such assumptions and to intentionally develop strategies and employ models of discipleship that engage each and every member of the congregation.
Consider this example: A young boy or girl grows up in the congregation, professes faith in Christ, participates in all of the ministries and programs of the church, graduates high school and goes away to college. Upon graduation he or she returns home, but with very different views of sexuality than before. How does the church respond?
For the church that is intentionally engaging each and every member of the congregation in a discipleship process, providing numerous opportunities for members to be discipled and facilitating relationships for one-on-one discipleship to occur, this scenario should result in this young college graduate re-entering a discipleship effort where other disciples help them discover where the gaps are in their understanding of sexuality.
Many young people have not been sufficiently discipled to understand biblical expectations for sexuality, much less understanding how to apply these truths to each and every relationship in life. God has created them for more than what they’re currently experiencing.
To help a young person wrestling with these truths requires patience, love and clear teaching from God’s Word. Our disciple-making must not be focused merely on sexuality, but neither can our efforts shy away from sexuality. Our efforts to make disciples and grow disciples must be intentional throughout the entire congregation.
I continue to grow in my relationship with Christ and thank God for those that continue to disciple me. Issues that I struggled with 20 years ago are no longer an issue for me, but those have been replaced with new struggles.
I am told by those that are my senior, that another group of struggles await me as I grow older; so I depend on those who are older and wiser to help prepare me for what’s to come. In every stage of life we need someone to disciple us, and we need to be discipling others.
Please do not hesitate to contact your BSC staff as you seek help in developing strategies and employing new models and methods in your congregation’s disciple-making efforts.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian K. Davis is associate executive director-treasurer at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)

Related Stories:
Churches should not fear court action
Facing legal action, churches have a ‘spirit of power’
BSC offers resources for wedding, facility policies
Make church policies clear, complementary, loving
Proclaiming the fullness of God’s love

10/20/2015 12:08:58 PM by Brian K. Davis, Guest Column | with 0 comments

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