November 2014

Is there value in the annual meeting?

November 18 2014 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Every busy pastor, church staff person and lay leader has to look at their schedule and ask the question, “Is it worth my time to attend the annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention (BSC) in Greensboro?”
 
For some the distance is only a few miles; for others the trip is more than 200 miles, translating into as much as four hours of driving each way.
 
Weighing the investment of time, the expense of travel and the potential of an overnight stay is not a light matter when church budgets are tight and the demands on one’s time are increasing.
 
Some have said there was a time when their vote at the annual meeting was essential. The prospect of turning the state convention in the same direction as the Southern Baptist Convention was important to them. So they made attendance a priority. Now, some of the same people say they trust the BSC leadership and the committees in place. They no longer sense the urgency to attend. Involvement is perceived as a luxury, no longer a necessity.
 
It is reported that many in the categories of Generation X and Millennials are either less interested or completely uninterested in the workings of denominations. Therefore they are not likely to consider attending annual sessions.
 
With due consideration for the researchers who analyze unique generational preferences, I wonder if the absentee generations simply have not been given the information they need to convince them of the value of working together through existing structures. I understand they perceive these systems to be outdated and cumbersome. In some cases that is true, but not in all cases.
 
As one who has experienced North Carolina Baptists’ internal operations, I strongly encourage skeptics to take a closer look. Tightening the belt, overhauling the purpose and fine-tuning the mission of the BSC have driven the agenda for almost eight years. It is impressive to see the clear hand of God reshaping us.

Even the annual meeting schedule is more efficient. Until a few years ago, the meetings continued into Wednesday morning. Now everything is packed into a 28-hour period, ending Tuesday evening.
 
But, maybe there are some principles that transcend the issues of distance and generational characteristics when identifying the value of annual meetings. I offer two points to ponder.
 
First, there is something everyone can contribute to the annual meeting.
 
Your vote is still important. Electing the right people to give leadership to the BSC is not a light matter. Supporting resolutions that address emerging issues and voting on a Cooperative Program missions budget that will impact the world with the gospel are not small concerns.
 
As you interact with peers at the annual meeting there is the potential that God may say something through you to minister to a fellow N.C. Baptist. It is like serving on a mission trip. You may go with one purpose in mind, but in the great wisdom of God, He uses you in ways beyond your imagination. Being available is the key.
 
Then there is the potential for giving your leadership to a convention-related ministry. There are many places to serve. Invest some time in the big picture of Kingdom work.
 
Second, there is something you receive as you attend the annual meeting.
 
Through a message at the pastors’ conference, a report from a convention agency, a theme interpretation, the music or a sermon, God speaks to messengers in unique ways. There may be a powerful word from God that impacts your life, your family and your ministry.
 
We are blessed that the convention sessions are available by live streaming on the Internet. But one of the great benefits of being in the meeting hall is the abundant networking that happens. Connecting with ministry partners and special friends is huge.
 
In a conversation with David Horton, president of Fruitland Baptist Bible College, he described the networking at the meeting as “social media on steroids.” I like that. But the “media” in this case happens to be face-to-face conversation instead of distant electronic communication. I treasure the personal conversation at these meetings.
 
Don and Julie Wright attended this year’s convention as messengers from First Baptist Church in Cary. They have been active members of a N.C. Baptist church since 1984, but have never attended the BSC’s annual meeting. “We were greatly impressed and enjoyed the exhibits and meeting people,” he said.
 
But the couple was really moved by all of the networking they encountered. “We found that we had mutual acquaintances with many people. We really enjoyed the exhibits and talking with people.
 
“We were both very impressed by the presentation of the Baptist Children’s Homes. As a result of that, we understand the financial need they constantly have and the importance [of their work]. It was impressive. And the fact that they have branched out into Guatemala with their services was very impressive.”
 
Wright was thankful for the healthy working relationship between North Carolina Baptists and the Southern Baptist Convention. He expressed appreciation for every segment of the meeting. “You see the Spirit around you; you see enthusiasm and the love of Christ shown to one another, and the commitment to service. In our entire experience we have nothing negative to say. We were positive and uplifted the entire time.”
 
Josh Eller also attended his first annual meeting.
 
He served on the staff of three N.C. churches, but is now in his first year as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in McLeansville. “When I walked in the thing that impressed me the most was the cooperative effort of all the churches,” he said.
 
Eller, 34, grew up in a Baptist church and was aware that Baptists are doing a lot of ministry in the state, “But when you see it first hand, it just puts it in a real-life perspective of what we are trying to do together,” he said. “When I saw all of the different missions that the convention supports – the Baptist Children’s Homes, the disaster relief work of Baptist Men – when you see what all our money is going to, it is an encouragement.
 
“It reinforces to me that our church wants to be involved in something that we couldn’t do ourselves. Knowing that we are partnering with other churches, we can accomplish a lot of things we could not do on our own,” Eller added.
 
I asked if he had any concerns. “The only thing I saw that concerned me was that when I walked in the convention center, I felt young,” Eller said. “At 34 years old, I am young. But looking around I asked, ‘Where’s my generation of pastors?’ ... It was such a concern. I’m not sure why my generation of pastors are not participating. I don’t see them. It looks like an older generation of pastors at the meeting.”
 
Let’s get on the same team to impact lostness in our state. We can do more together.

11/18/2014 9:40:09 AM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 3 comments



Ignorance is not bliss

November 7 2014 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

The old adage, “Ignorance is bliss,” is not true. A similar lie is hidden in the statement, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you.” The Bible respectfully disagrees with both of these old sayings. There is no happiness associated with being uninformed.
 
In Hosea 4:6 God said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” God was grieved that His covenant people were not being given the truth. He was angry the priests were not doing their job. Therefore He informed them that He was bringing His judgment on the priests and the people. The nation was falling apart, and the people were living in confusion because they did not have the vital information they needed to sustain a proper relationship with Him.
 
While the knowledge addressed in this text was primarily the knowledge of God, the principle flows into our present setting. People need to know! Let it be known that God is never afraid of the truth. He has never shown the slightest reluctance to raw truth.
 
Today the people in your church family really need to know what is happening in the culture, in mission work and in the ministries they are supporting though the Cooperative Program. Where are they getting their information? Is secular media feeding the information diet of your families with an unbiblical agenda? What can you do about it?
 
As I travel around the state I am amazed at the large number of Baptists who do not know there is a news agency for North Carolina Baptists. They are not getting the news and information that supports the work of the local church and guides them through the maze of challenging cultural clashes. Many are clueless when it comes to the massive impact of the ministries they support across the state and around the world.
 
The Biblical Recorder exists to support the work of your local congregation. We want to support the preaching and teaching of God’s Word in your church. Pastors and church leaders are faithfully engaged in proclaiming truth in worship services and Bible study groups. But when the people scatter to serve God throughout the week, they need access to news and information that will strengthen the truth they get on Sunday.
 
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Allan Blume is editor and president of the Biblical Recorder. He writes and travels the state to spread the word about the Recorder and what North Carolina Baptists are doing to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. Contact editor@BRnow.org or (919) 459-5696.
 
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11/7/2014 12:08:22 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



No compromise on marriage

November 4 2014 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention held a long-anticipated conference on marriage and sexuality in Nashville, Tenn., Oct. 28-30. Attendance exceeded expectations. The content of each message, testimony and panel discussion was both challenging and encouraging to those who hold a biblical worldview.
 
We understand that no Southern Baptist and no Southern Baptist entity speaks for the whole of us. But at least three questions relating to Southern Baptists’ position on marriage were answered at the ERLC conference.
 
First, “Will Southern Baptists abandon biblical marriage?” I heard no calls for surrender at the conference; I saw no interest in backing down from the biblical view of marriage. No evolution of theology or adjustment to popular culture were suggested by any of the speakers. No backing down, no capitulation.
 
We still hold to the inerrancy and infallibility of scripture. Furthermore, the gospel of scripture is a life-changing gospel. There is no reason to surrender to the army of secularists surrounding us. There will always be a few liberals among us who will cower under social pressure. Some will change their minds and embrace the non-Christian worldview. But the overwhelming majority of Baptists will hold fast to the biblical standards of marriage.
 
Second, “Do Southern Baptists hate homosexuals?” Homosexual activists want to define our position for us. Their two-pronged strategy to silence all civil discourse is maintained by crying “hate” when they hear disagreement and by defining “love” as total agreement. This is unhealthy for the existence of a civil nation and it is unhealthy for their cause.
 
There was no hint of hate toward homosexuals at the ERLC conference. On the contrary, there were multiple calls for compassion and understanding – not as some define it, but according to the Bible’s definition of love. In addition there were multiple examples of compassion in the event.
 
Someone will always try to dig up a case of “Westboro Baptist” hatred. But those are isolated, demented illustrations of human depravity, and are not representative of rank-and-file Southern Baptists. I want to remind us that Westboro is not a Southern Baptist church, although the general public does not distinguish between varieties of Baptists.
 
Admittedly, we have much room for improving our communication skills on this matter. Our penchant for judgmental language must be transformed into a purer tone. That point was highlighted in multiple sermons, testimonies and panel discussions at the conference.
 
I believe God is using the current public crisis to teach us how to do a better job of reaching out to those who struggle with same-sex attraction in this sex-crazed society.
 
The third big question is, “Will we cease to call homosexuality a sin?” To many homosexuals, this is the linchpin. One gay activist protested in a tweet that as long as Baptists call homosexuality a “sin,” there is no tolerance.
 
Again, I heard no one at the conference compromised on the sinful nature of homosexual behavior. There was no suggestion that sin should be rebranded in a kinder package. The fallen condition of man from Genesis 3 to the present day remains the same. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ changes the heart of man.
 
Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, delivered the opening address at the Nashville conference.
 
He commended Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, for his “Courageous leadership demonstrated in calling together a meeting such as this and demonstrating what we sincerely hope and pray will be the right kind of conversation. As we do so, we do feel that sense of gravity that inevitably that there is something massive that is happening in our midst – something that requires a very significant Christian response.”
 
Sometimes in dealing with these issues we aren’t sure where to begin the discussion. Mohler said, “I want to make sure we start with the scripture.” He asked the attendees to open their Bibles to Romans 1 which he called,  “... the most comprehensive, the most encyclopedic text dealing with the issues that seem to be right before us. And furthermore it puts into context the biblical theology that is priceless to us.” Mohler said Paul was not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God unto salvation.
 
“This is a salvation that is needed by all mankind – not just some of us, and not just those with sexual sin, but all of humanity. None of us has an excuse, because the revelation of God is accessible to us.”
 
He said, “We can’t separate sexuality from the gospel, because the New Testament resolutely refuses to let us do that. ... If at any point the church of the Lord Jesus Christ says that what God declares to be sin isn’t sin, we commit treason against the gospel.” Sin underscores the fact that mankind is separated from God and in need of the gospel for forgiveness of sin and to restore man’s broken relationship with God. “It is a slander against the gospel for us to redefine sin in any way, whether it be any of the sins listed [in scripture] or the sin du jour,” Mohler added.
 
Analyzing the moral revolution of recent decades, Mohler differentiated between moral changes, moral shifts and a moral revolution. A revolution changes the landscape of the culture such that the culture becomes realigned on the other side, he said.
 
The same-sex revolution has happened at unprecedented velocity, warp speed, Mohler said. “How did this happen?”
 
Pointing to the work of British thinker Theo Hobson, Mohler said three things take place in a revolution such as the same-sex revolution. “First, what was condemned has to be celebrated.” Homosexuality was universally condemned, but is now universally celebrated, he said.
 
“Second, that which was celebrated is now condemned.” The celebration of holy living and freedom of religion are now condemned.

Third, “Those who refuse to celebrate are condemned.” Everyone is forced to celebrate homosexuality or face condemnation.
 
As I observe the aims and tactics of homosexual activists, it is clear that the goal of their movement is neither tolerance nor equality. The goal is coercion and silencing of all who disagree with them. The movement will not be satisfied until all Christian voices are silenced and all opposing views are suppressed.
 
Speakers at the conference referred to many extremely troubling examples of litigation that proves the gay activists’ goal to suppress all opposition. They also emphasized the necessity of thoroughly teaching biblical marriage. That must be our new strategy.
 

Related Stories:

Bolster family, ERLC speakers urge
Marriage crisis predated gay marriage, ERLC speakers say
Russell Moore questions gay therapy
Marriage, homosexuality focus of conference

11/4/2014 1:05:37 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments