We say the darndest things
August 25 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Art Linkletter hosted two of the longest running radio and television shows in American broadcast history. The longest, House Party, ran for 25 years and featured a wildly popular segment called “Kids say the darndest things.”

If someone were to follow suit with a segment called “Preachers say the darndest things,” they might open with John Piper, pastor for preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minn. Piper surmised in his blog that a rare tornado in Minneapolis Aug. 19 was a divine, surgically precise warning to Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Lutherans to “turn from the approval of sin.” They were debating their position on the suitability of hiring non-celibate homosexual clergy.  

While North Carolina Baptists would wonder how in the world that issue even rises for discussion, the topic here is that we Christians have a tendency not to want to waste any good tragedy or act of nature without finding deep inside it a larger meaning, perhaps a message from God, or a warning. Maybe God does such things but maybe our own circumstances, timing and current concerns elicit from us a God-awareness that we would miss from any other similar storm.

When God told the prophet Elijah to stand on the mountain “for the Lord is about to pass by,” Elijah was looking, but he did not see God in the powerful wind, nor the earthquake, nor the fire, “for the Lord was not in” them. (1 Kings 19) Sometimes it’s just the wind.

Three people at Acadia National Park in Maine got a message from nature Aug. 23 when they were washed into the sea as they stood watching the waves whipped up by Hurricane Bill: “Don’t stand so close to the water.”

BSC layoffs simply a money issue
Don’t make any more of the sad news from the Baptist State Convention (BSC) that six positions are being cut than is there. There is no “shake up” in the staff. The layoffs are about the difference between income and expenses, nothing more. This will mark the fifth year of the past seven in which Cooperative Program gifts from the churches are lower than the preceding year.

There is more at work than the economy in the BSC budget and uncertainty still lingers like the smell of burnt popcorn. The 2010 budget will be the first in almost two decades without an optional giving plan.

As always, BSC income is completely dependent upon the willingness and commitment of North Carolina Baptist churches to support the work they initiated. No one knows how sure that commitment will be come January, when the first gifts are received under the new, single plan.

If BSC administration thought this year’s shortfall was just a dip, while the economy struggles to pick itself up off the floor, they could have covered the shortfall from reserves, which are in place for just such an event. A permanent paring of positions indicates enough concern for the long term that such action was necessary.

Avoid living with scarcity mentality
On a related note, I heard during a recent conference several professional fundraisers say there is as much money out there as ever. Only twice in the past 40 or so years has Americans’ giving to charitable causes been lower than in the previous year. And last year, which was one of those years, the entire drop of $6 billion out of $300 billion could be traced to wealthy people making smaller contributions to their own foundations.

Speaker Viken Mikaelian pointed out that a steady stream of bad news breeds a lack of confidence, which causes us to draw in, to hoard and to take no risks. Soon a “scarcity mentality” takes over, he said, and we start operating from a sense of what we no longer have, rather than what is available if we ask, plan, prepare and work.

Every entity, not only in Baptist life, but at every storefront in America, has to prove its worth day after day. That includes you in your job, your company in the marketplace and your church in the minds of its members.  When we do, there are funds to support the work.  

Increase easily justified
The BSC Executive Committee made a dramatic move by approving a 52 percent increase in the Cooperative Program gifts required from churches before church staff will be covered with retirement and protection benefits from the BSC. These benefits are not the complete coverage your church should provide its staff members, by the way, but they were put into place to provide minimums.

Too many churches have been giving nothing through the Cooperative Program or have been giving just the $420 per staff member to qualify for the benefit. Such a gift is not a gift at all, but the church simply buying a benefit. The minimum goes up to $640 in 2010 to qualify for coverage in 2011.

That is neither an unreasonable, nor a punitive move by the BSC. GuideStone Financial Services has been supplementing the coverage on a decreasing scale, which is at its end. Cooperative Program gifts from other churches are not intended to fund staff benefits for churches that will not fund their own.

NAMB on ice floe
Read the stories recently pertaining to the North American Mission Board and you may wonder how many chances remain for NAMB to erase doubt of its worth. Already the subject of at least nine studies on whether to continue its ministry as a separate missions board, or eliminate it or combine it with the International Mission Board, its trustees put the agency in position for yet another evaluation by forcing the resignation of President Geoff Hammond. Although North Carolina’s representatives on that board will not talk about meeting specifics, Alabama trustee Ellie Ficken quit the board in disgust after the meeting. Before the meeting, she’d said, “We should never be afraid of the truth. There should be full disclosure on what is happening.”

Full disclosure is not a NAMB trademark. The agency still will not disclose the terms under which it “sold” FamilyNet, the last remnant of the Radio and Television Commission, to InTouch Ministries.

“The first sin that our Holy Father judged in the church was hypocrisy, and He did not judge it lightly,” Ficken said. “What I observed would make it impossible for me to serve Alabama effectively as a trustee.”

It may be just global warming, but NAMB must feel like a polar bear on the last chunk of sea ice.

8/25/2009 8:12:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 3 comments

Tim Marsh
Maybe Jesus was right...Luke 13:1-5
8/28/2009 8:39:30 AM
Gene Scarborough
There are 2 basic outlooks on life: (1) Getting all you can or (2) Giving all you can.

If anything, the last 3 years have shown us the fallacy of a "Getting" way of living.

The only thing which keeps helping us in such hard times is people willing to "GIVE." We lost our house through foreclosure. We had no time to have a yard sale or auction. All we could do in moving to a much smaller place was to give away those things we no longer needed.

Our neighbors and friends are still smiling over the piano, refrigerator, surround sound, lamps, silver trays, etc. which they chose from the piles of THINGS they took home. Our friends giving of their love and compassion was our return gift and we a now just fine.

Giving works so much bettern than getting that words cannot describe it. Jesus was right!!!!
8/26/2009 9:17:33 AM
John Sneed
Maybe Dr. Piper was right ...
8/25/2009 11:12:24 PM
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