October 2017

Baptist beliefs: Learning from the Reformers

October 17 2017 by David Dockery, Guest Column/Baptist Press

Second in a series
 
With Christians through the centuries, Baptists stand with the Reformers in confessing that there is one and only one living and true God, who is an intelligent, spiritual and personal being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver and Ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections.
 
Furthermore, our confession as Baptists maintains that God is Triune and that there are within the Godhead three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We can say that God is one in His nature and three in His persons. More specifically, we confess that there is only one God, but in the unity of the Godhead, there are three eternal and equal persons, the same in substance, yet distinct in function.
 

Scripture

Baptists are “people of the Book.” With Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and other 16th-century Reformers, Baptists believe that it is impossible to define or even describe Christian orthodoxy apart from a commitment to a full-orbed doctrine of scripture. Baptist theology and spirituality rest on scripture as the central legitimizing source of Christian faith and doctrine, the clearest window through which the face of Christ may be seen.
 
The Reformers were also in agreement regarding the truthfulness and authority of scripture, a belief with very real consequences. Such an understanding of holy scripture led to a rejection of the medieval belief and practice concerning papal authority and church tradition. The Reformers recognized that these matters could no longer be acknowledged as an authority equal with scripture or as a standard independent of the Bible. Martin Luther summarized well these things when he said, “Everyone indeed, knows that at times the Fathers have erred, as men will; therefore, I am ready to trust them only when they give me evidence for their opinions from scripture, which has never erred” (Luther’s Works, 32:11).
 

Salvation by grace through faith

The Reformers believed that medieval thinkers had led the church astray by teaching that human effort and good works as well as moral or ritual action would earn favor in the eyes of God, enabling sinners to achieve salvation. A serious ongoing study of the teachings of the apostle Paul, however, led Luther to the conviction that sinners are granted forgiveness as well as full and free pardon only through faith in Jesus Christ. Sinners are justified by grace through faith, not by their own achievements. The Reformers were in full agreement that justification is a forensic declaration of pardon, which Christ has won through His victory over sin, death, the law and the devil.
 
Standing on the shoulders of the Reformers, Baptists believe that justification is accomplished at the cross of Christ (Romans 5:10), guaranteed by His resurrection (Romans 4:24-25) and applied to believers when we confess our faith in Christ (Romans 5:1).
 
Experientially, we still sin, but God views us as totally righteous, clothed in the robes of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 4:1-8). Because of Christ’s sacrifice, God no longer counts our sins against us (2 Corinthians 5:19-21). Thus, justification is even more than pardon, as wonderful as that is; it is the granting of positive favor in God’s sight based on the redemptive work of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-26).
 
It was John Calvin who emphasized the perseverance of the saints, which Baptists sometimes refer to as the doctrine of eternal security. Our salvation is secured in Christ, and nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (John 10:28-30; Romans 8:31-39), yet our response to this truth brings our assurance. In part three, we will look at other areas of Baptist life that have been influenced by the Reformers as well as key Baptist distinctives that show how Baptists have chartered their own course in many areas, moving beyond the thought of the 16th-century Protestant leaders.
 
(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.)
 
Related columns
The Reformation & Baptist life
Baptist & the Reformers: intersections & departures (coming soon)
10/17/2017 2:57:47 PM by David Dockery, Guest Column/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



The power of an annual meeting

October 17 2017 by Cameron McGill, Special to the Recorder

As another annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) approaches, my mind goes back to a previous convention meeting. As an officer of the BSC, I had been a part of planning the 2014 convention, but little did I know just how significant it would be in my life.
 

Contributed photo
Cameron and his wife Tiffany, distributed a shoebox to a child in Moldova. His involvement in the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina annual meeting changed his view of Kingdom work.


For the first decade of my ministry at Dublin First Baptist Church (FBC), I was satisfied with the good things in church work – full pews, met budgets, exciting worship, happy people and a successful building program. But that year’s convention theme, “Greater Things,” would open my eyes to God’s desire for me personally, and for my church to quit doing church work and start doing Kingdom work.
 
John 14 begins with the promise of an eternal mansion. But tucked in the middle (v. 12), is another promise of a miracle that would take place after the Holy Spirit’s entrance at Pentecost – the miracle of “Greater Things.” I went home from that annual session knowing that I had met with God, and my life would never be the same. In the years that followed, my family and over 200 members of Dublin FBC have traveled all over the world on mission. I have shared the gospel in many countries and passed out shoeboxes to hundreds of children. Our church has stepped out in faith in obedience to Acts 1:8 to be “On Mission – Here, There and Everywhere.” We have partnered with churches in New York City and Vadul Lui Isac, Moldova. We birthed the Lake Church of White Lake as a second campus of Dublin FBC. In July 2017, the Lake Church established White Lake Christian Camp and Retreat Center. All of this and so much more can be traced back to a life-changing BSC annual meeting and the challenge to do “Greater Things.” I hope to see you at the 2017 annual meeting in Greensboro, Nov. 6-7.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Cameron McGill serves as BSC president.) 
10/17/2017 2:51:15 PM by Cameron McGill, Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments



‘Broken Before the Throne’ prayer gathering

October 16 2017 by J. Chris Schofield, Guest Column

Throughout history, God’s manifest presence through revival has always been coupled with deep conviction and brokenness over sin in both believers’ lives and among the lost.
 
During the Hebrides Revival that began in 1949, seven young men wept before the Lord in brokenness, confession and humility in a barn outside their town. They sought the Lord for clean hands and pure hearts in their own lives. God moved, and the Hebrides Revival began that night.
 
During the Laymen’s Prayer Revival of 1857-59, a group of pagan sailors entered a room to break up a prayer meeting on the USS North Carolina. They fell under deep conviction of sin and were converted to Christ. God moved, and over the next few days many lost sailors were broken over sin and converted to Christ.
 
Never before in the history of this nation has there been a greater need for God’s people to seek Him with clean hands and a pure heart for revival and spiritual awakening.
 
God is calling His people to return to Him in godliness and holiness so that He might show Himself strong among the nations.
 
On Tues., Nov. 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro during the final session of this year’s Annual Meeting, North Carolina Baptists will gather to humble themselves and seek the Lord through prayer for revival and spiritual awakening. The “Broken Before the Throne” prayer gathering is based upon God’s invitation in Acts 3:19 to His people to return to Him in genuine repentance, humility and brokenness. Acts 3:19, which reads, “Therefore, repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19, NASB), is also an invitation for God’s people to experience His mercy, forgiveness, restoration and refreshing through personal and corporate revival. During the prayer gathering, participants will be lead through four seasons of prayer built upon the following four themes:

• Repent

The first season of prayer will be toward genuine biblical repentance. This involves personal and corporate humility, confession, honesty and brokenness over sin. The term “repent” means to have “a heartfelt change of mind.” This is accompanied by genuine grief over sin and present direction in life.

• Return

Participants will pray toward returning to the Lord in brokenness and contrition over sin. This involves the idea of turning back in love and obedience to God. This is also a call for God’s people to set their hearts anew and afresh on Jesus, who is the only way back to the Father (see Acts 4:12).

• Restore

God’s restoration always begins with His forgiveness of sin. When He forgives, He restores His people in relationship, which opens the door for His restoration in other ways. God’s desire to restore His people is rooted and grounded in His loyal love for His people in Jesus. Jesus alone is who we must run to for forgiveness, cleansing and restoration.

• Refresh

Times of refreshing from God take place because of God’s renewed manifest presence with and in His people. A season of refreshing is also preceded by a genuine returning to the Lord by His people through heartfelt confession, repentance, forgiveness of sins and active obedience to God’s Word, work and ways. At the heart of God’s refreshing works are His redemptive purposes – renewing His kingdom work with and through His people and glorifying His name among the nations.

God’s clarion call to His people is that we might become broken before Him over our sin and the spiritual famine in our churches, communities, nation and world. Please join fellow believers from all across North Carolina at the “Broken Before the Throne” prayer gathering in Greensboro.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chris Schofield serves as director of the Office of Prayer for Evangelization and Spiritual Awakening at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. For more information on the “Broken Before the Throne” prayer gathering, visit ncannualmeeting.org/broken.)
10/16/2017 1:33:49 PM by J. Chris Schofield, Guest Column | with 0 comments



N.C. Baptists encouraged to utilize early voting

October 16 2017 by Earl Roach, Guest Column for the Recorder

The Christian Life and Public Affairs Special Committee encourages North Carolina Baptists to participate in early voting opportunities for the upcoming 2017 November elections. Early voting is essential this election season since the annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) will be taking place on Election Day, Tues., Nov. 7.
 
The committee hopes N.C. Baptists will vote early so that we can all gather for our upcoming annual meeting, knowing that we have exercised our voice to vote in these important elections.
 
Some people are tempted to forgo voting during “off-year elections.” However, the committee reminds N.C. Baptists that while national elections are not taking place this election season, important local elections are on the ballots in many communities. Local elections may include opportunities to vote for individuals looking to serve in a variety of offices such as a local board of education, town council, mayor and more. An example of the importance of participating in 2017 elections is the race for mayor of the city of Charlotte. Baptists will remember that the current mayor of Charlotte was instrumental in both the passage and promotion of the city ordinance commonly referred to as the “bathroom ordinance.” This specific city ordinance resulted in actions by the N.C. General Assembly, commonly referred to as House Bill 2 or HB2.
 
Media reports hailed the position of the Charlotte mayor as she opposed HB2. Given the outpouring of support she received in opposition to HB2, it would seem that her re-election would be a simple formality. However, the current mayor did not win the primary, meaning she will not be on the November ballot.
While the race for mayor of Charlotte is just one example of important local elections, the outcome in the primary is an example of the importance for every N.C. Baptist to exercise their privilege to vote. The elections in your community are just as important as the race for mayor of Charlotte. Please do not miss your opportunity to engage in this essential process. Your vote will make a difference.
 
In addition to encouraging you to vote, the committee encourages you to attend the annual meeting of the convention Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 6-7. Whether you attend as a messenger elected by your church or as a visitor, the annual meeting provides opportunities for fellowship, inspiration, education and training. We look forward to seeing you at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Earl Roach serves as a chairman of the BSC Christian Life and Public Affairs Special Committee.)
10/16/2017 1:32:05 PM by Earl Roach, Guest Column for the Recorder | with 0 comments



A trek amid Harvey’s havoc

October 13 2017 by Marc Ira Hooks, Baptist Press

Furniture, clothing, wedding albums and baby pictures, festive homecoming mums and memory upon memory were stacked in reeking water-logged heaps, as I walked along flooded-marred streets in north Houston, Beaumont and Vidor last month talking with people gutting their houses of everything they owned. But there were also smiles, and people grateful for the friends, neighbors and strangers who had come to help.

Marc Ira Hooks


When I met Kevin, he was working on the back patio of his home, his living room empty except a few photos on the walls which contained a water line much taller than Kevin’s six-foot frame. The ceiling fan, blades drooping like the branches of a weeping willow, also gave testimony to how high the waters surged.
 
Kevin fiddled with his fishing rod as we talked, putting drops of oil here and there, almost oblivious to the destruction around him, focused only on one small thing he could control in his life. Kevin wasn’t at home at the time of the flood. His neighbor Larry was not so lucky. “I was watching the news in my living room at 5:30 that night,” Larry said. “At 5:30 the next morning I was wading through chest-deep waters with my dog lifted over my head.”
 
As with many disaster situations, capitalism found a home as “I survived Hurricane Harvey” and “Texas Strong” T-shirts flapped in the summer breeze attached to makeshift roadside stands, many next to restaurants and other businesses yet to reopen. John was running one of those stands. When he saw the word “chaplain” embroidered on my shirt as a Baptist volunteer, he broke down in tears and asked me to pray for him, his daughter and his new grandchild who was born the night of the storm. At the time, his daughter was still in the hospital, but their home was flooded and John did not know where they would live when it was time for her to leave the hospital. I prayed for John and went home with a “Texas Strong” shirt in my hands. I wish I could have done more.
 
Yet, even through the loss, confusion and sadness, a sense of humor about the situation worked its way into the strange patchwork of mountains of soaked drywall and housing insulation lining the streets. Messages left on spray-painted plywood warned visitors of looting and other potential crimes. “You loot, we shoot” was a common placard. After all, we are in Texas. But my favorite was, “Yard of the Month.”
 
I also met an army of yellow-shirted volunteers – with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief – who know firsthand what it is to see the other side of disaster. They sacrificed vacation days, time with family and the opening weekend of college football season. They came from Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and even as far away as Alaska. There were those who assessed the damage, others who cooked meals, some who brought trailers with showers and others who ripped walls from studs and carried wheelbarrows of debris to the curb. They came only to serve. They came to show that while it may be the worst of times, there are those who have come to be the hands and feet of Jesus in times like these, in an age like this.
 
King Solomon long ago struggled with life’s incongruous mysteries. His conclusion, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven …,” he wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV). We may never know why natural disasters occur and why some people must endure them while others do not.
 
However, we have evidence that the worst of times brings out the best in people. If you have not yet donated financially or sacrificed your time to help those who are still hurting, may this be the day you are called to be a living witness of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marc Ira Hooks is associate director of missions for the Dallas-area Collin Baptist Association/CBA Church Network as well as a photographer and former missionary to Eastern Europe.)
 

10/13/2017 11:43:20 AM by Marc Ira Hooks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



A common myth exposed

October 12 2017 by Jeff Iorg, Baptist Press

A common myth in our culture is “all religions are the same.” Many religions use the same vocabulary (love, grace, peace, for example), providing supposed evidence for their commonality.
 
That kind of superficial analysis contributes to a false sense of similarity but falls short of proving the point. World religions are each unique, with more that defines and delineates them from each other than what unifies them.

Jeff Iorg


One profound difference is how each religion views and values life. UNESCO recently reported 83 children (mostly girls) had died in 2017 as the means of terror attacks. Most of these were suicide bombers, sent to their death as part of Islamic jihad.
 
Terrorists outfitted children with bombs in many instances, sent them into crowded locations, and detonated them from a distance. It’s hard to image a more cowardly, dastardly, pathetic expression by adults of their religious devotion.
 
Some other world religions value children – but with important caveats. Hindus value children because they are reincarnated friends or family members, thus must be treated carefully to avoid negative karma in future generations. Buddhists also value children, unless they become an impediment to enlightenment (following the example of their founder who abandoned his wife and newborn son to seek enlightenment). Unfortunately, in contrast to these perspectives, some traditional religions in Africa still practice child sacrifice according to news reports as recent as October of this year.
 
Christians take a radically different view of children – motivated by our conviction about the value of every life. We oppose abortion (including selective abortion of special needs children), promote adoption as a means to place children with families, create children’s homes and other care facilities and start schools (often the first thing done in a missional setting) to educate children (including girls, even in cultures that forbid it). We value life – every life – and expend millions of dollars and countless hours backing our conviction.
 
We do not care for children out of fear something bad may happen to us. We do not abandon them or sacrifice them to enhance our religious devotion. We do not weaponize children to advance our ideology.
 
All religions are not the same. Christianity is distinct in its passion for life. We take the global lead in serving children – from refugee camp schools to feeding programs to ending abortion as a birth control method. All this results from our conviction that God originates and values every life.
 
The next time someone says, “all religions are the same,” ask them, “How many children did Christian leaders send to their death this year?” The answer provides a sobering reminder about the importance of maintaining the influence of a Christian worldview in our culture.
 
(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.)
 

10/12/2017 8:23:00 AM by Jeff Iorg, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Our double-edged smartphones

October 11 2017 by Art Rainer, Baptist Press

Your smartphone can impact your financial health beyond the monthly service bill.
 
Smartphones are everywhere. According to Pew Research, 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone. This is more than double the 35 percent ownership in 2011.
 
Many of us cannot remember what life was like before our smartphone. Just the thought of losing or breaking our phone sends us into a state of panic.

Art Rainer


Smartphones have been a double-edged sword for most of us. We find them useful and harmful at the same time. This can be true as it relates to our financial health. Sometimes they can help. But sometimes they can harm.
 
First, let’s consider how they can help us manage our money.
 

Mobile giving

A checkbook is no longer necessary to give. Smartphones provide a number of ways churches and other non-profits can receive donations. Text giving continues to increase in popularity. Several nonprofits have apps through which you can give. And for those organizations that do not have an app, you can still give by accessing their website through your phone’s browser. We can now respond to God’s call on our lives to be generous right away.
 

Mobile banking

Many banks offer apps for smartphones. They offer quick and convenient ways to check account balances and pay bills. For those banks that do not offer an app, you can still manage your money through their website on your phone.
 

Budgeting apps

There are many great apps out there to help you keep track of your spending. A quick look at your budget prior to a purchase can be the difference between getting into debt or staying out of debt. Mint, EveryDollar and Mvelopes are a few good budgeting app options.
 

Price comparison

Smartphones help us find the best deals. With just a few searches, we are able to make sure that we do not spend more than we have to for a product.
 
But smartphones also can be harmful to our finances. Here are a few examples:
 

Keeping up with the Joneses

No longer do we observe the lifestyle of those in our neighborhood and workplace. Social media allows us to witness the filtered lifestyle of our friends and acquaintances around the nation and world. We see their houses, cars, clothes and vacations. Sometimes, we find ourselves in a state of a dissatisfaction with our own lifestyle. And a person who is continually dissatisfied with his or her lifestyle often is a person who is continually in debt.
 

Impulse purchasing

We don’t even have to walk over to our computers to make a purchase. We just pull out our phone and press a few buttons and what we want will arrive on the doorstep within a day or so. Smartphones eliminate any delay between the initial want and the act of purchasing.
 

Decrease in productivity

We spend a lot of time on our phones. Often, it is time wasted. We can easily find our inattentiveness leading to a lack of productivity at work that hurts our income and can lead to job loss. We can waste time on things that are not helpful and ignore the ways a phone can be helpful to us.
 
Furthermore, our smartphones also can hurt our spiritual health. Issues like wasted time and comparing ourselves to others get at the heart of our security – are we secure in Christ or in some lesser distraction? We need to consider these hurtful implications of smartphones in relation to our spiritual health and, ultimately, to the church’s gospel advancement.
 
The Great Commission is the command to go throughout the whole world, preaching the gospel to others. Don’t let your smartphone allow you to waste precious time on insignificant comforts that lead you further from others knowing and experiencing the love of Christ.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Rainer is vice president for institutional advancement at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of The Money Challenge: 30 Days of Discovering God’s Design and The Minister’s Salary: And Other Challenges in Ministry Finance and coauthor with Thom S. Rainer of Simple Life: Time, Relationships, Money, God. This article first appeared at ArtRainer.com.)
 

10/11/2017 7:36:32 AM by Art Rainer, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Service station theology

October 10 2017 by Tim Patterson, Baptist Beacon

This will certainly date me, but I remember filling automobile after automobile with gasoline at my father’s Fina service station for 19.9 cents per gallon for regular. Ethyl sold for 24.9 cents per gallon and was purchased by the guys who owned high-powered hot rods.

Tim Patterson


On a Friday or Saturday night, teenagers in town would pull in and ask for a “dollar’s worth.” If it happened to be a motorcycle, they would usually flip me a quarter and say filler up. To say the least, things have changed. A dollar will only purchase a third of a gallon of fuel and a quarter won’t even buy a candy bar.
 
I worked in that service station for several years and, as a result, learned a great deal about people and a small amount about running a business. My dad was a hard-working man who provided well for his family. But he was very softhearted and created credit accounts for various people in the community. When we finally left the business, the family was holding thousands of dollars of delinquent accounts that were never collected. Plenty of folks wanted something for nothing. It was a learning experience, to say the least.
 
I came away from my “service station days” with a new perspective on people and, for that matter, life. I don’t believe I was jaded by those encounters, but I did become more discerning. My time there helped me be a better judge of people and their character. While gullibility level went down, I still inherited the “softy” gene from my dad. People in need still get to me and I would probably “give away the farm” if my wife would let me.
 
I also have learned that the character and actions of people today aren’t much different than people in that day and time. People are people, no matter when or where they exist. And I have learned that the human characteristics common to all of humanity transcend into the spiritual realm as well.
 
Many people want to have a full and meaningful relationship with God, for example, but they don’t want to pay the price for it. They just want God or someone to hand it to them with little or no sacrifice on their part. Many are well intentioned when they try to make deals with God, and reason with Him that they will do much better in the future if He will just meet their pressing need right now. They want the blessings of God, but on credit.
 
I have even seen some display the same actions and attitude of one fellow who pulled into our Fina station in a mad dash and didn’t even wait for me to come out and start the pump to put fuel in his vehicle. (In those days they were actually service stations and we actually serviced their cars. What a concept!). By the time I got out to the pump he shoved $5 in my hand, jumped back in his truck and told me to hurry up. But before I was finished, he thought for some reason that his tank was full and he cranked up the motor and peeled out as fast as he could. The nozzle was still inserted in the filler neck of his truck and gasoline was still flowing as he pulled away. The hose came out and fuel was spewed all over the pavement because there were no automatic cut-off valves on pumps at the time. He was in such a big hurry that he never really filled up, leaving me with a mess to clean up.
 
Too many people today believe they can be spiritually filled without ever slowing down and stopping in the process. They are in such a hurry that they believe in a sort of “in-flight fueling system” that doesn’t require a reduction of activity or actions.
 
In order to get filled, we must first get close enough to God for Him to provide what we need. We also must slow down and wait until the process is finished, or we will go away with only a small portion of what we need, or worse still empty. Besides, running away from the work of God in your life before it is complete will always result in a mess. That is usually when you rely on the service station attendant (local pastor) to help clean up the mess.
 
The price of filling up today may be high, but the cost of running on empty is not something anyone can afford.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Patterson is executive director/treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. This article first appeared in the convention’s online Baptist Beacon, baptistbeacon.net.)
 

10/10/2017 8:08:24 AM by Tim Patterson, Baptist Beacon | with 0 comments



How to find a pastor

October 9 2017 by Mark Dever

Times of pastoral transition are critical periods in the life of a local church. What might have been a relatively peaceful and edifying church community can be thrown into uncertainty when a preacher resigns.
 
There is danger of confusion and even decline.
 
That raises questions about a current trend: why are there so many old and dying churches in our communities today and yet so many church plants?
 
It could be because we have not been very faithful in finding good pastors for existing churches. So, what can we do to find the preachers we need?
 
Here are 11 steps to aid churches in thinking about how to find a new pastor.
 

SEBTS photo
Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., offers local churches 11 steps for finding a new pastor in a talk given at the 2017 9Marks at Southeastern conference.

1. Prepare

One of the most important parts of a pastor’s ministry is helping to secure a sound teacher to follow him. We should always be preparing the congregation for the next man.
 
Pastors do this by making sure we are financially prepared to no longer need this job; not being defensive and envious of others’ gifts; teaching the whole counsel of God, which produces a mature congregation; helping the congregation realize God’s gift of other elders in the church, teaching them the New Testament qualifications and helping them expect to hear others preaching; and by recommending a name or names from inside or outside the congregation to succeed when the time comes.
 
A current pastor’s help in the transition is faithfulness, not interference – loving, not lording. These are sheep he has loved and cared for, and this decision is of utmost importance. It should be prayed about regularly, both privately and publicly.
 

2. Agree

The preaching pastor and other elders should agree together, either on the date the current pastor will cease being responsible for the preaching ministry of the church, or the date they would like to begin the search for the next preacher. This helps ensure the smoothest possible transition.
 
Perhaps the current minister moves on to another church, or perhaps he (or other elders) can sense he is wearing out, and needs to start thinking about changing his role. Honest, sensitive, open conversation about this among the elders is helpful.
 

3. Communicate

The elders should lead and advise the congregation throughout the transition, not a specially called committee created for the purpose of calling a new pastor.
 
The elders hold an office mandated and described in the New Testament (Acts 20; 1 Timothy 3; Titus 1). If these men are those whose faith we should emulate and whose examples we should follow (1 Corinthians 11:1; Galatians 6:6; Hebrews 13:7, 17) then it follows in this decision – one of the most significant that a church could make – their leadership would be most important.
 
In cases where you need to find a pastor before you’ve recognized other elders, then a recognized body of deacons might be the second best alternative.
 
Some people reading this may be serving on such a “search committee” right now. And the first thing I say to you is “thank you.” Thank you for the time, prayers and care that you are investing in your church.
 
Please do not read my instruction as aimed at you personally. I’m simply trying to take the general principles of the Word, the Bible, and see what help they might give a church in finding a new pastor. I think a search committee stands at a disadvantage to the biblically-mandated, recognized officers of the church.
 

4. Search

Elders can gather a name or names of potential candidates, preferably from within the congregation, but also externally.
 
Throughout this process, it is a good reminder that we recognize elders; we don’t make them. They are gifts of Christ to His church (Ephesians 4:11), created by the Holy Spirit, who makes us bishops or elders to care for the church of God (Acts 20:28).
 
We begin this search internally, but often we need to look outside of our own congregation for someone to preach regularly. It’s very simple. Find a church you like, with a pastoral ministry you would like to emulate, and approach that pastor for a suggestion.
 

5. Propose

The elders should decide who they believe is best suited to serve the church in this role at this time, and provisionally move forward with that name. At any point further along in the process, if it becomes clear this person is not the best fit, they should propose the name of another candidate.
 
Beware, at this point, of temptations to prefer a winning personality over godly character or requiring unbiblical qualifications, such as doctoral or other degrees of education. Churches should also be wary of business leaders or others who could seek to influence the decision to call a pastor from unbiblical motives.
 

6. Preach, pray and talk

If the pastoral candidate is coming from outside, the elders should listen to sermons in person or online.
 
After this, the elders could arrange for the brother in question to come and preach for the congregation, have larger and smaller settings to meet with them, and answer questions from the church.
 
The elders should also ask why the pastor of another church is even considering leaving his current position, and whether his church knows that he is considering this possibility.
 
Think carefully, church – we shouldn’t want to be stealers of successful pastors from other churches! Why would we think God loves our congregation more than the one we would take this pastor from? Being secretive in this process suggests that something may be amiss.
 

7. Recommend

The elders should bring to the congregation the name of the person they concluded would be good to serve as the next preaching pastor.
 

8. Consider

The congregation should have time to consider the man brought before them, whether it be two weeks or two months. We want to encourage carefulness in making such an important decision, without unduly drawing the process out.
 

9. Vote

The congregation should vote to affirm this man as their pastor. I take this as an implication of the responsibility the congregation clearly has in the New Testament for bad preachers. If congregations can un-choose their teachers, as in Galatians 1:8-9, and choose the wrong ones in 2 Timothy 4:3, they must be able to choose them in the first place.
 
In Acts 27, the ship’s crew made a decision by voting. It was a familiar method in that world to make and confirm a legitimate decision, so much so, that when the decision making process is not specified, we may assume the decision was made by a vote.
 
We also know the local church chose Paul, Barnabas and others to go to Jerusalem to consult about the gospel (Acts 15:2-3). We know the Corinthian church acted by a majority in 2 Corinthians 2:6 to punish a man in unrepentant sin. It’s no stretch to see the church so making other decisions, especially this most important of decisions – who will be their main preacher of God’s Word.
 

10. Welcome

You want to end up with a pastor, happily settled, well taken care of (if possible). I’ve heard too often of church leaders saying about a pastor, “We’ll keep him poor and God will keep him humble.” That’s a terrible attitude to have to your new pastor.
 

11. Encourage

The new pastor will need to begin looking for his own successor, of course! Think of 2 Timothy 2:2. One thing that will help him do that is the encouragement you give him, of sharing some of the benefit that members have known – this would be the Galatians 6:6 kind of encouragement, or 1 Timothy 5:17.
 
Pray for him, and pay for him. Encourage him. Receive him as a gift from Christ to your church.
 
Friends, this choice is so important. It’s analogous to a man or a woman selecting a spouse. Who you choose as your pastor will determine so much of your church’s ministry in the years and decades to come!
 


(EDITOR’S NOTE – This column has been adapted from a talk by Mark Dever at the 2017 9Marks at Southeastern conference, which was held Sept. 29-30 on the campus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. Used by permission.)
 

10/9/2017 9:39:03 AM by Mark Dever | with 0 comments



Las Vegas & the value of human life

October 6 2017 by Steven L. James, Baptist Press

It is very early on Tuesday morning, Oct. 3. I have just surrendered to a night of tossing and turning, my mind replaying the scenes and interviews I had witnessed the previous day on various news outlets covering the senseless tragedy at a country music festival in Las Vegas.
 
I probably had fallen into and out of light sleep but my heart had become so troubled that I woke up weeping, crying to the Lord. My burden this night was not so much struggling with the question of why things like this occur, though like many Christians, I do think on this question in times like these.

Steven L. James


This night my burden is simply over the loss of at least 58 human lives, the suffering that nearly 500 others are enduring personally and the thousands of family and friends of those affected.
 
With a certain measure of guilt, I seriously question whether I have ever had such an overwhelming sense of the importance of human life to God. I am struggling to understand why I have not felt this level of grief in the multitude of terrorist attacks we have seen in our country and the world in the past two decades.
 
Further, every night that I turn on the local news I see a senseless act that has led to the death of one or more individuals.
 
Why hasn’t the sum of these acts ever brought me to this level of sorrow over the loss of human life? Probably the biggest source of my measure of guilt from this new sense of the importance of human life comes in considering the estimated 40-50 million lives taken through the heinous act of abortion.
 
I have witnessed countless others give testimony to the grief they themselves have over the murder of children and certainly felt grief and sorrow. For me, though, this night was unlike any other.
 
As Christians, and especially as Southern Baptists, we regularly affirm the value of human life. We set aside one Sunday each year to do so and, in 2015, we passed a resolution on the issue in our annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.
 
As evident in the wake of recent hurricanes in Texas and Florida, we have churches that consistently aid in disaster relief. We serve in variety of ways to feed the hungry, clothe the poor and serve our communities in ministry projects. An entity in our convention, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, aids churches in promoting the sanctity of human life to governmental officials in policy and legislation. We have professors in our seminaries who often produce sound biblical arguments on the importance of human life.
 
Still, in light of recent events, we must strengthen our resolve.
 
The church today cannot overemphasize the value of human life. Though we face a variety of issues in our culture today, it is this one that demands our constant attention. Further, this commonly-held belief relates to many other issues we are facing regarding sexuality, race, bioethics, immigration, human suffering, political agendas, the threat of nuclear war and even questions about the long-term effects of certain forms of athletic competition.
 
I do not claim to have all of the answers to how we might do more as Christians and as churches, but I am convinced that our mission, our teaching and our ministries must manifest both a clear articulation and a visible representation of our commitment that human beings, who alone are created in the image of and show forth the attributes of the triune God, have immeasurable worth to that same God and to His church.
 
Foundational to this is the unwavering commitment that the same God who created humans in His image has sent His only Son – who Himself is the image of the invisible God, the exact representation of His nature – to be sin for us.
 
It is in the gospel that we truly understand the inexplicable value of human life to God. Christ came so that man might have life and that abundantly. He came to gain victory over death. Therefore, as followers of Christ who possess assurance of these truths, we must grow to value life in everything we say, think and do as we carry the message to a world that feels the sting of death – both physical and spiritual.
 
We take this gospel to every human being, knowing that whosoever will can receive the gift of everlasting life. Ultimately, this investment in the lives of others grows in direct relation to the value we place on human life itself.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Steven L. James is assistant vice president for academic administration at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as assistant professor of systematic theology at L.R. Scarborough College at Southwestern.)
 

10/6/2017 8:27:26 AM by Steven L. James, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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