October 2017

Silent preachers deny Christ

October 31 2017 by Mark Creech, Guest Column

Recently, I listened intently as my Sunday School teacher taught from chapter 18 of John’s Gospel about Peter’s denial of our Lord. Peter never meant to do it. He was just swept up in a moment of weakness.

It is Luke, however, who tells us of that moment of reckoning when Christ looked directly at Peter in grave disappointment after his third denial. Suddenly, as our Lord had predicted, the cock crowed.

Mark Creech

Consequently, Peter wept bitterly in remorse for his cowardice.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards out of men.” Indeed it does, and no one appreciates a coward.
The late W.H. Clough admonished, “The man I honor is the man who can rise in a company of men and women disloyal to all that Christ has taught, and make his protest for his Master. In that great day, when Christ comes again, of such deeds and such men he shall speak in praise. ‘Whosoever confesseth me before men, him will I also confess before my Father which is in heaven.’

Can we follow these confessors of the Lord? Do we always acknowledge our allegiance to Christ? Do not some of us stand in workshops where jests are passed and allusions are made which dishonor Christ, and we make no protest? Do not some of us sit at men’s tables and hear talk which is not only scornful to Christian verities but corrupting to Christian purity, and we make no sign?

You say that you have felt the hot blush when all that Christ lived and died for was slighted and mocked at. ... There is a time when it is shameful not to speak. However difficult it may be to know when and how to make our confession, and what to say and to do, and however unwilling you are to appear ostentatious or pharisaic, there are occasions in life when we must confess our allegiance, or stand under the condemnation of having been ashamed of Christ.”
Thoughts like these ran through my mind as I considered Peter’s denial. How many times during my early ministry was I silent when I should have spoken out? How often did I fear men more than God, and refused to speak to the great social issues of our time? How often was I content to play it safe and not risk jeopardizing my comfort, security or reputation? I must have denied Christ not three times, but dozens.

Reformation leader Martin Luther is reputed to have said, “Though we are active in the battle, if we are not fighting where the battle is the hottest, we are traitors to the cause of Christ.”
I think preachers are some of the greatest traitors to the cause of Christ. Like Peter, I don’t think they mean to deny their Lord, but they do it all the time. They just don’t realize how badly they’re caught up in their own weakness.
Several years ago, founder and chairman emeritus of the American Family Association, Don Wildmon, wrote something incredible that every pastor should read. I’m paraphrasing what he wrote to make it a bit more relevant:
“Today, more than 4,000 innocent unborn lives were snuffed out. And hundreds of thousands of pulpits are silent.
“The media makes a mockery of Christians and Christian values with nearly every broadcast they air. Greed, materialism, violence, rank profanity and sexual immorality are standard fare. And hundreds of thousands of pulpits are silent.
“News articles condescendingly refer to Christians who speak out for the sacredness of life, sexual purity or traditional values in general, as extremists. And hundreds of thousands of pulpits are silent.
“Teenage suicide, rape, murder, gambling, alcohol and drug abuse are through the roof. And hundreds of thousands of pulpits remain silent.
“And what important matters are being dealt with in our churches? The church bulletin says there will be a meeting to plan the church-wide supper. We are raising money to put a new floor cover in the kitchen. The sermon subject last Sunday was ‘How to Have a Positive Attitude.’ And best of all, we are organizing a softball team.”
For what do my preacher brethren wait before speaking up? Do we halt between two masters, only to really despise the one and love the other? Do we wait for some supernatural experience that will agitate, stimulate or master us, when the appeal of scripture and conscience are no less the voice of God than what Paul knew on the Damascus Road? Do we wait for some convenient season, when the need so desperate presents reason enough to act promptly?
There comes a time when silence is not golden, but just plain yellow. This is the most pressing issue.

Pastors and other church leaders who remain mum in these times of moral crisis are denying their Lord. We should feel the Lord’s disappointment as He looks on us. We should hear the cock crowing in the distance. We should weep bitterly.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Creech is executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, a Christian public policy organization representing conservative evangelicals in the state.)

10/31/2017 8:41:33 AM by Mark Creech, Guest Column | with 0 comments

Cautious about a global Cooperative Program: A response

October 30 2017 by Keith Whitfield, Guest Column

In August, Seth Brown published an article in the Biblical Recorder suggesting the Cooperative Program (CP) could reach its fullest potential if the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) allowed global churches to contribute. He offered ten thoughtful reasons for why the SBC should consider a global CP.
I agree with much of what Brown wrote in his article. Cooperation is biblical and effective. The CP does highlight the value of smaller churches, and it is designed precisely to display unity amidst diversity. Global missions coordination would strengthen the work of Great Commission Baptist churches.
I do, however, have some reservations about the organizational viability and missiological effectiveness of the idea.

Is it effective?

First, initiating a global CP would entail increased organizational complexity that could change the mission of the convention.
My concern is not about whether the SBC can operate globally. In this global world, businesses and ministries have found ways to function internationally. I am certain the Executive Committee of the SBC can figure out solutions to any challenges a global CP would introduce to our operational systems.
My concern is losing the significance of the SBC’s organizational method and focus, which is designed to facilitate Great Commission cooperation and the fulfillment of its mission.
The SBC is a cooperating body that oversees a central funding mechanism and the governance of SBC entities.
During its annual two-day meeting, it appoints representative bodies to govern its ministries throughout the year.
We already struggle to appreciate the valuable cooperative work of our representative governing bodies. We also struggle to utilize effectively the collective voices of these bodies to equip and mobilize the American church for missions.
While there are many reasons for these challenges and others, one is the complexity of a national body comprised of more than 40,000 churches. A global CP would eventually require global representation on those governing bodies and increase the complexity of our current challenges.
A global CP would also challenge the historic focus of our convention. Article II of the SBC Constitution states the convention’s purpose:
“It is the purpose of the Convention to provide a general organization for Baptists in the United States and its territories for the promotion of Christian missions at home and abroad and any other objects such as Christian education, benevolent enterprises, and social services which it may deem proper and advisable for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God.”
If we adopt a global CP, it would question whether the mobilization and equipping focus of the convention should shift from Baptists in the United States and its territories to the whole world.
The effectiveness of the convention would be tested by this expansion. If the mobilization and equipping emphasis of the convention shifts from America to the world, what impact will it have on the American church’s missions engagement?
Great Commission mobilization of cooperating churches in America is a sizable task all by itself.

Is it beneficial?

Second, the proposal could have unintended negative missiological consequences. Here are just a couple:
It could entangle global churches with the SBC’s work to mobilize the American church. We noted above that SBC entities focus on the mobilization and equipping of the American church, and a global CP will create a need for us to consider changing this emphasis. This possiblility does not simply test the organizational effectiveness of the convention; it also strains the missiological practices.   
If the mobilization and equipping emphasis of the convention shifts from America to the whole world, how much attention and resources will global chuches expend to prompt the change? If the predicted shift in mobilization focus never takes place, then global churches will be investing its resources to mobilize and equip the American church.
Each of these scenarios results, in my opinion, in the misuse of resources and mission distraction.
A global CP will likely distract global churches from the important work in their context and the sending opportunities for their churches. It will likely not maximize the strategic opportunities and investments of all the global partners.
A better plan is to help national conventions develop funding mechanisms that support their own national and international movements.        
Global missions centralization could encourage disengagement. Brown proposes scaling the CP by centralizing giving and missional cooperation. He wants to do more with less. His plan results in more money and more partners with less organizational structures. Brown’s intention is not for people to disengage in missions, but that is the possible effect of scaling missions cooperation. Scaling leads to centralization, and centralization always creates distance between those supporting the organization and the decision makers in the organization.
This dynamic encourages disengagement. At some level, we have experienced this effect already. Southern Baptist churches have for years sent their money for missions while failing to engage in missions.
The Great Commission calls us to do more with more (more money, more partners, more access and more engagement), and it will likely require more organizational structures.
Christ requires everyone’s involvement in the work to which God has called them. This call requires a local missional impetus to mobilize the church. Convention structures and missions mobilization only work when they help churches get involved in the mission. They don’t work when the church uses the convention structures to farm out its responsibility.  
We don’t have to chose an either-or approach when it comes to working with global churches. Many global churches already participate with the SBC’s global work. They work along side of our missionaries in their own country or in countries in which they send missionaries.
I used the term participate here, instead of cooperate, to point out that we can work together and benefit from that work without sharing a cooperative structure like the CP.
Baptist conventions around the world already work with the International Mission Board (IMB), and at least one national convention works with both the North American Mission Board and the IMB. These partnerships provide ways for us to do more with more in a Great Commission sense. Everyone is invested, and everyone is involved.
Brown hopes to increase CP giving by adding global churches. Even if giving increases, this good desire will possibly hinder accomplishing the Great Commission. A centralized plan will not effectively facilitate all of God’s people being engaged in God’s mission.
A global CP will likely distract global churches from the important work in their context and the sending opportunities for their churches. A global CP could place the resources of churches from other countries under the control of churches in America. We must find a way to revive the CP. I am not convinced that global cooperation is the answer. The greatest capacity to increase the CP rests with the churches in the U.S.
SBC churches can address the declining CP together. We can maximize CP potential by renewing the vision in our own hearts for the work of cooperation.
Our churches and entity leaders have the influence to promote the CP.
Giving will increase when sacrificial, mission-focused leaders lead our churches and lead our entities at every level (association, state and national).
Our entity leaders can promote the CP by stewarding faithfully the trust of the members of SBC churches. Their judgment, their commitment, their sacrifice, their vision and their cooperative spirit make a difference in the confidence people place in the value of the CP.
Our leaders can promote the CP by investing in and developing young leaders and facilitating their participation in SBC life.
Giving will increase when access to SBC leadership is given to more people and meaningful cooperation increases. People give to what they have confidence in, what they have access to and what they are invested in.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Whitfield is dean of graduate studies and vice president for academic administration at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and member of the Biblical Recorder Board of Directors.)

10/30/2017 3:54:54 PM by Keith Whitfield, Guest Column | with 0 comments

I had many excuses

October 30 2017 by LouRae Holt, Guest Column

I had many excuses for why I didn’t know more about the politics surrounding our state and nation. I’ve been busy loving my husband, raising four children, being an active church member and struggling to know and imitate Christ in the midst of life happenings.
I told myself, all I needed to do was vote on a regular basis, which I did. I would ask my brother, a newspaper editor, at election time who to vote for and take my voter guide in with me to the booth to cast an “informed” vote.

LouRae Holt

But God changed all that last fall. I found myself praying desperately for our country and for the presidential election and for Christians here and abroad. For the first time, I fretted over my vote. God convicted me of the need, as a Christian, to be politically literate, not just imitative of others I trusted.
As much as I wanted to stick my head back in the sand and say, “God, you’ve got this,” – which He does – I knew He was calling me to be more proactive.
As confirmation of this call, a childhood friend reached out to me and asked if I would consider writing for the N.C. Family Policy Council. She thought I could write from the perspective of many people in our state who are active and engaged in their communities, but perhaps not as informed about public policy as they could be. I’d be writing, not as a political wonk, but as a wife, mom and church member.
Being from a family of journalists – and a decent writer in my own right many years ago – I didn’t think I would have too hard of a time writing stories. However, I was surprised to find that understanding state policies and background legislation was far more than I imagined. Working remotely from my home in Alamance County, what I have learned about the political climate in our state since January of this year would fill a book. I am often shocked and appalled at what I see, but also excited to witness the inner workings of a democratic process that is both messy and wonderfully designed.
Here are my biggest revelations over the past six months:

  • There are organized resistance movements behind the protests and demonstrations we see on the news regularly;
  • Political discourse is much ruder than I expected;
  • Progressivism is vigilant and desperate to change the culture, no matter the cost;
  • There are many avenues available to all of us to be more active in the political process.

For example, last month I attended my congressman’s town hall meeting. I witnessed first hand the rude and disrespectful dissension displayed by parties who disagree. I listened to two interesting interviews on N.C. Family’s “Family Policy Matters” radio show and podcast. First, a Hillsdale College professor discussed their free online Constitution 101 course, for which I immediately signed up. Anthony Esolen’s radio interview about his latest book, Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture, piqued my interest, and I bought the book. I pored over the pages on how to make a difference in the culture and found it inspiring!
I learned about an organization that works with state lawmakers called the Capitol Commission and I signed up to pray daily for our state legislators. I wrote about a Raleigh crisis pregnancy center’s struggle in court to open its doors next door to an abortion clinic, I grew in my understanding of why an expansion in the gambling industry would be bad for our state, and I know more about school choice options through a story on Parents for Educational Freedom (PEFNC).
And of course, who could forget the drama and repercussions surrounding House Bill 2 or the many disturbing attacks to our religious freedoms. N.C. Family’s stories about LGBTQ movements challenged me to question how, as a Christian, I am to love this community without compromising God’s Word and His truth. N.C. Family has been a helpful first step to knowing more. With their mission of “equipping North Carolina families to be voices of persuasion for family values in their communities” and their vision of “A state and nation where God is honored, religious freedom flourishes, families thrive and life is cherished,” they are a great resource.
Whether God wants you to run for office or just to be informed on what is going on in our state, we need to get our heads out of the sand for the sake of the gospel.
Learn more about resources available by going to NCFamily.org. Sign up for email updates and receive a complimentary one-year subscription to Family North Carolina magazine.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – LouRae Holt is a contributing writer to the North Carolina Family Policy Council. She lives in Burlington and is a wife and mother of four children.)

10/30/2017 3:52:42 PM by LouRae Holt, Guest Column | with 0 comments

Four reasons many believers don’t share the gospel

October 27 2017 by Alvin Reid, Center for Great Commission Studies

Why do so many believers find talking about Jesus so hard? Part of the reason comes from the very way we church leader types have taught people to share Christ. Let me say how grateful I am for so many who have taught me so much about telling the good news. At the same time, I’ve observed some unintended consequences of the way we have often packaged our evangelism training. Here are four main reasons:

Alvin Reid


First, most believers do not consider themselves public speakers.

Evangelism training often focuses more on learning a one-size-fits-all presentation to deliver than on the gospel message and on the people with whom we share. This approach makes people who are not naturally public speakers more than a little bit nervous. According to Gallup, public speaking is the second greatest fears of adults. Giving a set gospel presentation represents a form of public speaking more than an everyday conversation. This is a reason we’ve had so many people go through some form of evangelism training but never actually develop a lifestyle of witnessing.

Second, most of the people who teach evangelism training tend to be aggressive,

Type-A folks(raising my hand, guilty as charged) who share Christ passionately and genuinely want others to as well. But most people aren’t wired like that, so it can be intimidating. Imagine you finally decided to get in shape physically. You go to a gym and hire a personal trainer, and out walks a guy who looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s muscle-bound big brother. I would feel pretty defeated looking at myself in the mirror and then looking at that, wouldn’t you? That’s the way a lot of people who don’t have a lot of witnessing experience feel.

Third, at times evangelism training makes us more self-conscious than self-confident.

I’ve met too many Christians who tell me some version of this: “I met the Lord, and started telling others how he changed my life. Then, I took evangelism training, and suddenly began to wonder if I was doing it all wrong. So, I became more apprehensive than bold.” That’s not what is intended in witness training, and it’s not what we are going for here. That may not be your story, but it’s one I’ve heard far too many times.

A fourth reason is less about training and more about the Christian subculture we have created today.

This has lead the vast majority of Christians to spend most of our time around saved people with little interaction with lost people. We live in Christian bubbles, which means we go to movies with believers, have parties with believers, and do pretty much everything in our discretionary time with believers. In our mastery of fellowship with the saints we’ve lost a burden for a friendship with sinners. But Jesus was known as a friend of sinners (Luke 7).
Whatever the reason, it’s time church leaders help believers grow in confidence in sharing Christ in their everyday lives, the way they were born to do it. That’s why I wrote the Sharing Jesus book. I’m not going to try to make you the next Billy Graham or Apostle Paul, but to help you become the person God made you to be, to become the person God created you to be, and to be like the host of believers in scripture and history who tell the real story behind the spread of the gospel of Jesus around the world. Folks like those unnamed guys in Acts 11:19-23 who planted the gospel deeply in Antioch, the fourth largest city of the Roman Empire. People like those Michael Green described in his book Evangelism in the Early Church: “In contrast to the present day, when Christianity is highly intellectualized and dispensed by professional clergy to a constituency increasingly confined to the middle class, in the early days the faith was spontaneously spread by informal evangelists, and had its greatest appeal among the working classes.”
These “informal evangelists” were normal people just like you (I’m talking about you) God used to evangelize the Roman Empire. You can do this in your everyday life, as well!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Alvin Reid is the senior professor of evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Adapted from Reid’s book Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out, B&H Academic, 2017. The post originally appeared at the Center for Great Commission Studies website, cgcs.sbts.edu. Used by permission.)

10/27/2017 11:18:07 AM by Alvin Reid, Center for Great Commission Studies | with 0 comments

PASTORS: What causes a man to take a job like this?

October 26 2017 by Jeff Iorg, Gateway Seminary

Pastors are vital Kingdom leaders. Without their effective leadership, healthy churches cannot be built. Without healthy churches, everything else – from missions to seminaries – ultimately fails.
Being a pastor – depending on the day – is either the best job in the world or the worst. Pastors regularly experience God’s power accomplishing salvation, restoring families, empowering preaching and healing broken lives. They also see people at their worst, including Christians, who sometimes take out their anger, fears and bitterness on their pastors.

Jeff Iorg

Yet, pastors keep coming back for more, like these two men:
One received a death threat. It resulted in an arrest, conviction and imprisonment. He presses on, knowing someday the threat may return, but if it does he will deal with it as best he can. Leaving his pastoral post is not an option.
Another received accolades for community leadership – until he took a stand on biblical gender definitions as timeless aspects of God’s creation. Now he is facing blowback, all because he preached the same message God-fearing people have taught for thousands of years.
What causes a man to take on a job like this and stay with it? Only one reason: a profound sense of God’s call.
Most pastors cannot imagine themselves doing anything else. They serve selflessly, motivated by an inner compulsion to preach, teach, counsel and lead.
You can do two things to support pastors – yours and others’ – not just during October’s Pastor Appreciation Month but throughout the year. First, do something to make your pastor’s job a little easier and speak an encouraging word to him. Second, find a young man who is considering becoming a pastor and help him pursue his calling. Let’s work together to care for today’s pastors and help the next generation of pastors step forward to fulfill God’s call.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jeff Iorg is president of Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention. This column first appeared on the seminary’s website at gs.edu/gateway-blog. October is Pastor Appreciation Month in numerous churches across the country.)

10/26/2017 8:00:19 AM by Jeff Iorg, Gateway Seminary | with 0 comments

Connected to the family

October 25 2017 by Kevin Ezell, Baptist Press

When I met Dan Coleman a few years ago, he was a church planter with a vision for reaching the state of Maine for Jesus but he didn’t have a lot of resources.
Maine can be a lonely place for a church planter. There are only a handful of Southern Baptist churches, encompassing fewer than 1 percent of the population. Across Maine, only 22 percent of the population attend a church of any kind on a weekly basis.

Photo by John Swain, NAMB
North American Mission Board 2017 Week of Prayer missionary Dan Coleman, far right, uses every opportunity to reach out to the community of Augusta, Maine, including connecting with staff at a local coffee shop.

Still, God was working through Dan’s church plant, and Kennebec Community Church in Augusta had grown to 200. In fact, they had outgrown their meeting space.
A church building across town was for sale but the $1 million price tag was impossible for a church of Kennebec Community’s size.
Because of Southern Baptists’ resources sent to the North American Mission Board (NAMB) through the Cooperative Program and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, NAMB is able to give loans to church plants like Dan’s. Most commercial lenders would not touch a church plant but our in-house property buyer was able to negotiate the $1 million price down to $400,000 and we were able to provide the loan.
Overnight, Kennebec Community Church went from a building with a capacity of 75 people to one that holds 500. The church now averages 1,100 in weekend services.
This story is only possible because Dan is connected to the greater Southern Baptist Convention family. I see the difference it makes every single day. Because of that connection, Dan is not alone. Now, his church is training several church planting interns who will soon be planting churches in the Northeast.
This kind of a network means the world to our church planters and missionaries. Yes, they need financial resources, but even more importantly, they need prayer and to know they are not forgotten.
I hope you will take a moment and visit PrayForPlanters.com. We will connect you with a missionary for whom you can pray. It’s a simple, easy way you can start having an impact right now in pushing back lostness across North America.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keven Ezell is president of the North American Mission Board.)

10/25/2017 7:14:31 AM by Kevin Ezell, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Cooperative Program: A matter of love

October 24 2017 by Randy L. Bennett, Baptist Press

The English word for love is somewhat inadequate. How can I say I love my wife and I love ice cream? Loving my wife is far more important than any bowl of ice cream. How can I say I love my pickup truck and I love my children? Children are far more important than any kind of vehicle.
To say that I love the Lord is to know true and eternal life where God never disappoints me. At the same time, can I honestly say that I love the Cooperative Program? After 50-plus years as a Southern Baptist, my answer is yes.

Randy L. Bennett

I love the Cooperative Program because it expresses our foundational belief as Baptists that “we can do more together than separately.” Although every Southern Baptist church is an autonomous body, both self-directed and ruled, Southern Baptists have chosen to cooperate with one another toward fulfilling the Great Commission.
As such, we are interdependent rather than simply independent. We choose to work together to do something that is impossible to do alone.
I love the Cooperative Program because it has given me – and thousands of others in ministry – the opportunity to have an excellent education. I was the first person in my family tree to go to college fulltime and the first to graduate with a degree. I was the first to earn a doctorate. This was all made possible by the state Cooperative Program in California that supports California Baptist University and our national Cooperative Program that supports Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention.
I love the Cooperative Program that helped me start a new church while attending seminary. I love how the Cooperative Program has helped start nearly 40 churches here in the Kern County Baptist Association in California in the past 22 years.
And of course I love the Cooperative Program for the way it financially has supported our work in associational missions since 1995. Being commissioned as a Southern Baptist missionary was one of the high points of my life.
Finally, I love the Cooperative Program every night when I go to sleep knowing that I am part of a body of believers who are taking seriously God’s command to go the ends of the earth to tell people about Jesus. I get to be part of that as I give to my local church and as I serve as a missionary in California.
Yes, I love the Cooperative Program. My prayer is that future generations will continue to choose interdependence with fellow Southern Baptists knowing that we can do more together than we can do alone.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Randy L. Bennett is director of missions for the Kern County Southern Baptist Association in Bakersfield, Calif., and immediate past president of the California Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/24/2017 9:25:24 AM by Randy L. Bennett, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Would Jesus go to a football game?

October 23 2017 by Eric W. Ramsey, Arkansas Baptist News

This fall, like every other fall, the most densely populated pieces of real estate in many cities and towns are high school football stadiums on Friday night.
The cheers, the band, the clashing of helmets and shoulder pads and the voice of the announcer ring through the cool night air, creating an electrifying atmosphere. It is one of the significant places where “life happens,” fostering lifelong memories and relationships.

Eric W. Ramsey

When Jesus walked this earth, He intentionally spent time in the places where “life happens.” Water wells, markets, outer temple courts, seasides and even wedding celebrations.
Jesus spent time among the masses. And within those masses were families and individuals with whom He interacted and even shared meals. He expressed love and kindness to both the young and the elderly, to the rich and the poor, to the simple and the educated, and to the socially prominent and the outcast.
As believers, we are commanded to be “salt and light” and to be witnesses and make disciples. This requires that believers be with people who need Christ. The easiest way to do this is the way Jesus did – intentionally being among others and sharing life with them.
In your town, is there a better place to do this than at a football game? If there's a better place, go there. But if not, go to some high school football games. Meet people, foster relationships and be where “life happens.” And when you go to games, don't just sit with your church friends. Make an effort to go out of your way to meet people, learn their names, understand family connections and share life together.
Would Jesus go to a high school football game? It's a hypothetical question, but I believe He desires to be there now. As believers, we should intentionally take Christ and “be Christ” in our culture. And in many communities, a big part of our culture is high school football.
Go team!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Eric W. Ramsey is an evangelism and mission strategist serving as associate pastor of First Baptist Church in Fort Smith, Ark. He is a former president of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists. This column first appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News, arkansasbaptist.org/news, news journal of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.)

10/23/2017 9:19:38 AM by Eric W. Ramsey, Arkansas Baptist News | with 0 comments

Where to turn for solace & comfort

October 20 2017 by David Jeremiah

Our nation has experienced powerful hurricanes and flooding in recent weeks, along with violence perpetrated upon innocent people enjoying an outdoor concert and raging wildfires.
As we watched these events take lives and destroy homes, we grieved with those who lost so much and wondered when the pain and suffering would stop. In times like these, where do we turn for solace and comfort?
There is only one place, and that is to go to the throne of grace, to petition the Father to be with us, to guide us and protect us.
Too often, the privilege to approach the Father in prayer is taken for granted. After all, isn’t God always there? Yes, He is there, but are we taking advantage of our direct access by making the call to Him?
Has there ever been a greater need for us to go to the Father in prayer? The sorrow that our nation feels now is palpable. When we are hurting, when we are confused, when we have lost hope, where else should we go but to the Father who sees all and knows every emotion we feel?
Public prayers during times like this are critical as people draw together in kinship and unity. Having people come alongside to help as volunteers or to give blood or financial assistance is vitally important as well.
But for the earnest cry of our heart, there is nothing like solitary prayer with the Father.
In Matthew, Jesus told us, “When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:6). The “secret place” in biblical days was like a closet in our homes today. They were small rooms, often crowded with the necessary goods for the home. But it was a place where one could find a few moments of peace and quiet to pray to the Father in solitude.

Divine access

One of the benefits of our Christian faith is the privilege of instant, direct access to heaven’s throne. The line is always open. The Lord is always attentive. To fully take advantage of this benefit, we need to create a set of personal practices involving prayer.
It’s helpful to have a regular time and place for daily prayer. Many Christians have learned to begin the day with a time of Bible study and prayer as Jesus did in Mark 1:35. For other people, the evening is the best time for prayer or even the lunch break. Find the time that works with your schedule.
Of course, our prayers are not limited to our daily devotional time. Throughout the day we have the admonition to pray without ceasing. During events like our nation experienced recently, many of us understand more fully what it means to pray without ceasing as we utter prayers throughout the day for the needs of the many who are hurting.
When we reach out to God with our words, we wait with certainty that we will be heard. God Himself has invited us into His presence at any time to make our needs known to Him (Hebrews 4:16). His Son, Jesus Christ, is always there to mediate between God and us (Romans 8:34; 1 Timothy 2:5), and the Holy Spirit helps us with our words (Romans 8:26-27). The Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – cooperates to make sure that our words are heard in heaven and ultimately answered on earth. God never turns His ear away from the petitions of His children.
Don’t try to carry your grief or sorrow on your own – you are not alone. Remember, you have a Father who is ready and willing to listen. Have you conversed with God today?
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Jeremiah is pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., and founder and host of “Turning Point for God.” For more information on Turning Point, visit www.DavidJeremiah.org.)
10/20/2017 9:54:58 AM by David Jeremiah | with 0 comments

Baptists & the Reformers: intersections & departures

October 18 2017 by David Dockery, Guest Column/Baptist Press

Third in a series

Baptists share many essential teachings with other Protestant Christians who have been influenced by the 16th-century Reformers. Baptists have moved beyond the Reformers in charting a distinctive path, beyond primary doctrines like the doctrine of scripture and the doctrine of salvation, often referred to as the formal principle and the material principle of the Reformation. To these matters we now turn our attention.

The Reformers were in full agreement in their affirmations of scriptural authority and the essence of the doctrine of salvation. Likewise, they rejected the superiority of the priesthood, of vocational ministry, stressing instead the priesthood of all believers. Not only did this mean that all believers in Christ had access to God (Hebrews 10:19-25) but it underscored the Christian dignity of ordinary human callings, including artists, laborers, homemakers and plowmen. By implication, this elevated the importance of family life, opening the door for clerical marriage.

The Reformers rejected the mediation of Mary and the intercession of all the saints, insisting that Christ alone was our high priest to bear our sin and sympathize with our weaknesses. They rejected the medieval teaching regarding the seven sacraments, insisting that the New Testament taught only two sacraments or ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The Reformers unanimously rejected the sacrificial nature of the Lord’s Supper, refuting the church’s teaching regarding transubstantiation. Baptists have emphasized a view of the Lord’s Supper that reflects much of the perspective of Ulrich Zwingli.

The Reformers also departed from the medieval teaching which affirmed that the church was dependent on communion with the papacy. Instead, they insisted that the church was called into being by God’s Spirit and was established on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20).

Baptists have shaped their beliefs regarding the Triune God, Jesus Christ, holy scripture, salvation by grace through faith, the church, the ordinances, Christian service and the family in recognition of their gratitude for and indebtedness to the courage and conviction of the 16th-century Reformers. Yet, Baptists have chosen not to be content merely with the basic teachings of the Reformers. They have also modified these teachings and moved beyond them in key areas that we often call “Baptist distinctives.”

Baptist distinctives

While Baptists are heirs of the 16th-century Reformation (with influence also from the “radical reformers” like Menno Simons, Conrad Grebel, Felix Manz and Balthasar Hubmaier), they have moved beyond the Reformers in at least five key areas.

Baptists affirm believer’s baptism by immersion instead of the Reformers’ view of infant baptism. Baptists have contended for a voluntary understanding of the church and congregationalism based on a regenerate church membership instead of an inherited understanding of church membership connected with infant baptism.

The third key distinctive involves the repudiation of church-state ties, stressing religious liberty along with the local organization of church life instead of state control or even denominational control. Also, Baptists believe that the two ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are to be practiced as matters of obedience and fellowship rather than as a means of grace. Lastly, Baptists, more so than any of the 16th-century Reformers, have consistently stressed the priority of the Great Commission and global missions.


Baptists are a people committed to the primacy of scripture, who are heirs of the best of the Reformation. The gospel-focused, scripturally grounded core to which we all must hold has been greatly influenced, both directly and indirectly, by the teachings of the Reformers.

It is important for us during this year of commemorating and celebrating the Reformation to clarify our confessional commitments and re-appropriate, retrieve and reclaim the very best of both the Reformation heritage and our Baptist heritage.

We pray that the reminders to which we have pointed in this series will enhance our understanding of the gospel, deepen our commitment to scripture and to our Baptist confessional heritage, bringing renewal to our churches. May we seek to pass on this heritage in a faithful manner to the next generation, even as we seek to take the Good News of Jesus Christ to a lost and needy world.

(EDITOR’S NOTE  – David S. Dockery is president of Trinity International University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill. This article first appeared in the Illinois Baptist, news journal of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Dockery, the author or editor of more than 30 books, is the former president of the Tennessee Baptist-affiliated Union University and former chief academic officer and professor of theology and New Testament at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

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10/18/2017 11:40:02 AM by David Dockery, Guest Column/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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