April 2001

Church conflict a common problem

April 27 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Church conflict a common problem | Friday, April 27, 2001

Friday, April 27, 2001

Church conflict a common problem

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor What happens when conflict overshadows a church's fellowship and mission? American churches are not unique in experiencing internal discord. Denominational leaders in southern Africa have taken active steps to deal with congregational controversy, using a model with a North Carolina flavor. In March 2000, Wayne Oakes of the Baptist State Convention (BSC) and Dennis Burton of the Union Association traveled to Johannesburg and Cape Town to lead week-long training events in each area. Oakes is consultant for minister-church relations on the pastoral ministries team of the BSC's congregational services group. Burton is director of missions for the Union Association, which has worked closely with the seminary in Cape Town.

Oakes and Burton trained consultants from each association, along with other Baptist Union leaders. They wrote a manual for conflict resolution that southern African leaders have since revised to fit local cultural contexts.

The materials used were similar to those used in conferences and consulting services the BSC has provided in North Carolina, featuring a conflict resolution model developed by John Savage of LEAD Consultants in Reynoldsburg, Ohio.

Terry Rae, general secretary of Southern Africa's Baptist Union, says the conflict resolution training is one of the most important results of the N.C. partnership. Leaders of the six Baptist associations in southern Africa responded to the training by developing conflict resolution teams in each association and networking the teams across the larger convention.

In Western Province Baptist Association, which includes a large area around the western cape, the team includes area coordinator (equivalent to Director of Missions) Angelo Scheepers and layman Jonathan Matthews, who is partnership coordinator for the convention.

The process, Scheepers said, involves a great deal of listening, spread over many sessions. All parties involved in the conflict must be heard. Pain must be shared and issues confronted. Only through such honest encounters with the sources of conflict can wisdom prevail, he said.

Conflict resolution requires a substantial portion of Scheepers' attention in his association of more than 90 churches and missions.

In the Baptist Northern Association, the area around and north of Johannesburg, new area coordinator Steve Mann is finding it difficult to visit all the church fields in the association because effective conflict resolution requires much of his time.

In southern Africa, as in southern American churches, conflict often swirls about the pastor. Perhaps the pastor has a vision for church growth that will require changes the church does not want to make, or a shift in power that long-term leaders resist. Perhaps the pastor has overstayed his welcome or effectiveness but is reluctant to move on. In southern Africa, a number of pastors - many from previously disadvantaged areas - exist below the "breadline" (some make no more than $100 per month) and live in a modest "manse" owned by the church. They have minimal resources to provide a home or income in retirement.

Southern Africa's Baptist Union is working to assist retiring pastors but has limited funds available. Conflict resolution teams help churches and pastors work out mutually beneficial contractual agreements, and to set up clear succession strategies for pastoral transition.

Matthews can point to multiple success stories growing from his association's active involvement in helping churches cope with conflict. At times, the association takes the initiative, rather than waiting for the church to ask for help. "Many things have come out," Matthews says of one church currently in the resolution process. "We are on the verge of a breakthrough."

On the opposite end of the country, near the town of Mebopane, pastor George Mataboge praises recent conflict resolution efforts in the Baptist Northern Association. He speaks of a church that recently completed a lengthy process of conflict resolution and reconciliation. With a great smile, he said, "They say it was a miracle!"

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4/27/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Page to seek BSC presidency

April 27 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Page to seek BSC presidency | Friday, April 27, 2001

Friday, April 27, 2001

Page to seek BSC presidency

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor PLEASANT GARDEN - Leaders of Conservative Carolina Baptists (CCB) announced April 26 that Charles Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, will be a candidate for president of the Baptist State Convention (BSC) in November. Page was introduced by CCB president Bill Sanderson, pastor of Hephzibah Baptist Church in Wendell, as "the next president of the Baptist State Convention."

Page is the first candidate to announce for one of the BSC offices that will be decided at the BSC annual meeting in November.

BSC President Mike Cummings will complete his second one-year term in November. Cummings, a conservative who has worked with both sides in the BSC controversy, is not eligible for re-election.

CCB leaders did not announce potential candidates for BSC vice presidencies. BSC vice presidents Buddy Corbin and Larry Harper, who are both considered moderates, are eligible for re-election.

Page spoke of his five-year struggle with multiple myeloma, which is in remission, and cited lessons he has learned from the experience. Page said the Bible had become more personal to him.

"I have always believed with all my heart in God's inerrant, infallible word," he said, but biblical promises became more personal during his illness.

Page said that prayer had become more meaningful, and that family and friends had become more special. "I've also learned that God has a sense of humor," Page said, alluding to practical jokes and laughter that helped him deal with the illness.

"Sometimes, our darkest hours become our greatest hours," Page said.

The BSC has great days of missions and evangelism ahead of it, Page said.

"It is only by God's grace and effective word that this will happen," he said. "Here we stand."

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4/27/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Some conservatives join Mainstream

April 27 2001 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

Some conservatives join Mainstream | Friday, April 27, 2001

Friday, April 27, 2001

Some conservatives join Mainstream

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor Several conservative N.C. Baptists, including one who holds an elected office with Carolina Conservative Baptists (CCB), have agreed to serve on the Mainstream Baptists of North Carolina (MBNC) steering committee. CCB wants the Baptist State Convention (BSC) to have closer ties to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), which has taken a decidedly conservative shift in the past 20 years. MBNC wants the BSC to maintain its autonomy.

Larry Locklear, pastor of Island Grove Baptist Church in Pembroke and a self-described theological "ultra-conservative," serves on the MBNC steering committee and as a CCB regional director. He said MBNC members who asked him to serve on the steering committee promised him the main goal of the group is to encourage cooperation between conservatives and moderates in North Carolina.

"That is the sole reason that I decided to be a part of the group as a whole and part of the steering committee," he said.

Locklear served on the Commission on Cooperation that proposed a leadership sharing plan in the BSC. The proposal received a majority of votes but failed to get the needed two-thirds vote at the 1999 BSC meeting.

Locklear said conservatives and moderates on the commission got to know each other while working together.

"In that almost two years of working together, my conclusion was our state was not that far apart," he said. "The things we disagree on I found out are not things that keep me from fellowshipping with my moderate brothers and sisters."

Locklear said he wants N.C. Baptists to keep working together.

"I think the good we do is more important that any personal agenda or the moderate or conservative agenda," he said. "During those two years I was never asked to compromise my conservative views in order to work together and I never asked a moderate to compromise their views in order to work with me."

Bobby Blanton, pastor of Lake Norman Baptist Church in Huntersville and a conservative, also serves on the MBNC steering committee. He said he agreed to serve on the MBNC committee because of his love for N.C. Baptists and his desire to help do the Lord's work.

Blanton said he got to know moderate N.C. Baptists while serving on the Executive Director Search Committee that nominated Jim Royston to the BSC's top job in 1997 and another group that met to talk about cooperation.

Blanton said the conservatives and moderates on the committees had preconceived notions of each other. After talking with moderates, he said he discovered that their views were "not very different from views I've always held," he said.

"The older I get, there are certain things I have come to realize that are without compromise," Blanton said. "Other issues, as I get older, take on a less divisive nature.

"There are certain things I think are worth fighting for. Others are open to interpretation."

Blanton said he knows that conservatives and moderates don't see "eye to eye" on everything and may choose to do church differently.

"Most of these areas fall in the area of interpretation - personal interpretation and church interpretation," he said. "Overall what unites us is our drive to win people to Jesus."

Mike Smith, pastor of Fruitland Baptist Church in Hendersonville, said he considers himself a theological conservative. Some N.C. Baptists might call him a liberal, while others might call him a fundamentalist, he said.

Smith said he believes in "all the orthodox teachings of the Christian faith." But, he doesn't believe that someone has to be a member of the SBC to be a member of the BSC or a local association.

"It is non-baptist," he said. "I believe in the end you end up infringing on the autonomy of the local church.

"In our autonomy we can't cooperate with the local association if the local association says we have to be a member of the Southern Baptist Convention."

Smith said he thinks the MBNC is the best chance for reconciliation among N.C. Baptists.

"Mainstream is a non-legislative way to share leadership," he said.

Smith said he believes that God has been working among N.C. Baptists.

"Why tear that up for what I see as political gain," he said.

Smith said he fears N.C. Baptists could be facing a "divorce" between conservatives and moderates.

"No one wins in divorce," he said.

Locklear and Blanton were expected to attend their first MBNC steering committee meeting April 28. Smith said he would not be able to attend because of a family commitment.

The group held its first meeting in February, before Locklear and Blanton agreed to serve.

Locklear said he is working with a recently formed group called Native American Interfaith Ministries. The group includes Native American churches in the Pembroke area that are trying to combat social problems.

"If I can do that with people of other denominations who I have major differences with, I can work with people I've been a part of all my life," he said.

Other members of the MBNC Steering Committee are Eugene Bain, Fayetteville; Wilma Cosper, Cullowhee; Matt Ingram, Hickory; Wally Pasour, Mebane; Kathryn Hamrick, Boiling Springs; Roy Smith, Raleigh; Don Taft, Charlotte; Bob Millis, Wilmington; Jo Godfrey, High Point; Don Gordon, Mount Olive; Ann Hiott, Raleigh; and Jerry Wallace, Buies Creek.

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4/27/2001 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Urged to stay in BSC

April 27 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Urged to stay in BSC | Friday, April 27, 2001

Friday, April 27, 2001

Urged to stay in BSC

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor PLEASANT GARDEN - A prominent N.C. Baptist pastor is asking conservatives not to pull out of the Baptist State Convention (BSC). Mark Corts, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, made the appeal in a videotaped statement shown April 26 during a rally of "loyal Southern Baptists" at Pleasant Garden Baptist Church.

About 300 Conservative Carolina Baptists (CCB) supporters and a scattering of onlookers attended the meeting. Promoters had hoped to draw 1,000 supporters.

Corts encouraged attendees not to withdraw from the BSC.

"It is our job as Baptists to preserve a loyal denomination," he said.

Corts said a conservative influence is needed in the BSC to maintain more Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) influence among member churches, and that it was imperative that the BSC offer direct ties to the SBC.

Conservatives should also remain active in the BSC because it keeps the doors open to the institutions, Corts said. Some institutions would cut ties with the BSC if there was full conservative control, he said, but others would not because they depend on BSC funding. More conservative influence would help keep them from leaving, he said.

Conservatives should also remain active in the BSC because it is the greatest force for church planting in North Carolina, Corts said. If conservatives don't stay involved, he said, budget funds could be diverted from evangelism to other causes.

The BSC also has enormous symbolic power in North Carolina, he said. Conservatives should remain involved to see that the BSC takes positions that are morally right. Corts said he is convinced that most Baptists are conservative, and that conservatives must stay involved to help the BSC stay in line with its past.

Corts said conservatives should also stay involved for the sake of fellowship, noting that the BSC does not force people to choose.

Finally, Corts said, conservatives should remain involved in the BSC to preserve a state channel of giving to the SBC. "We must not forfeit our right to be involved," he said. "I urge you to be involved."

Corts' comments come about a year after he said that a new convention is likely the only hope for peace among N.C. Baptists. At the time, Corts said he thought it was far more likely that moderates would form a new state convention. But since then, moderates won two of the BSC top three offices.

Laity Moderate gains have largely been attributed to a group calling itself Mainstream Baptists of North Carolina. The group has emphasized laity involvement and held a "laity conference" just before the BSC annual meeting in November.

During the rally April 26, conservatives announced the formation of their own group to energize the laity.

Clarence Johnson, a layman from Indian Trail Baptist Church in Indian Trail, said that because of the efforts of the N.C. Baptist Laity Task Force, the BSC would be a different convention in three years.

"Once people realize the battle is for the Bible, they will stand up and fight," he said.

Johnson said he recently attended the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina (CBFNC) meeting, and had met a number of sweet people, had good conversations over dinner, and sang some good hymns. But, he said the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) proclaims bad theology that promotes "stinking thinking."

Johnson quoted a variety of unnamed professors from the University of Chicago who questioned the Christian faith, and said he could cite similar quotes from professors at divinity schools that partner with CBF.

Johnson said both secular and religious newspapers say that "if you don't believe anything, you're a moderate, and if you believe something, you're a fundamentalist." He defended the term "fundamentalist," saying that Southern Baptists wrote the Baptist Faith and Message because there were more points to affirm than are outlined in classic fundamentalism.

Johnson distributed a two-page handout, drawn largely from quotations in the Biblical Recorder, that he said demonstrated what is wrong with CBF. He acknowledged that the CBF coordinating council made a statement in 2000 designed to distance itself from a pro-homosexual position, but said CBF had never apologized for or disowned an AIDS education pamphlet distributed at the 1995 CBF General Assembly that did not call homosexuality a sin. "When we see things like this," Johnson said, "we must stand up and draw our swords to fight."

Mark Edwards, moderator of CBF of North Carolina, said his group hopes that all N.C. Baptist churches can work together through the BSC "to accomplish God's work in North Carolina and around the world."

Edwards said supporters of CBF are "Baptists who are passionate about their faith."

Johnson said he is "sick and tired of hearing about 'Mainstream this' and 'Mainstream that.'" His handout said the Mainstream movement was an attempt by CBF members to distance themselves from "radical left groups" such as the Alliance of Baptists, the Baptist Joint Committee, and the Baptist Peace Fellowship.

The question for CBF, the handout says, "becomes how to scare longtime Southern Baptists into a new group with a nice, non-threatening name like Mainstream."

Edwards said CBF and CBF of North Carolina are not political. Both are about missions, he said, and there is "no official or unofficial connection" between CBF and Mainstream.

Don Gordon, the chairman of the Mainstream Baptist of North Carolina (MBNC) steering committee, said his group is focused on the BSC.

"Our focus is not on the SBC or the CBF," he said. "Our focus is the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and upholding Baptist principles in North Carolina."

Gordon said MBNC has supporters who are affiliated with both the SBC and the CBF.

"We welcome their support, but our focus is on the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina maintaining its Baptist identity and autonomy," he said.

Awards, Speakers Conservatives at the meeting also honored five persons for past contributions to the conservative cause, enjoyed special music, and heard reports from CCB leaders and a sermon from former BSC president Mac Brunson.

Allan Blume, CCB's executive vice president and treasurer, presented plaques to five pioneers of the conservative movement in North Carolina. "Even as we look ahead," he said, "we want to look back and honor these men who have gone before us."

Blume said the men had shown love for the SBC, support for the conservative cause, and had defended the Bible as inerrant.

Those recognized were Coy Privette, retired minister from Kannapolis and former executive director of the Christian Action League; Mark Corts, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem; Gerald Primm, retired minister from Greensboro; Robert Tenery of Mocksville, retired pastor who edited pro-conservative publications; and M.O. Owens, a retired minister from Gastonia who was cited by other recipients as having inspired their participation in supporting conservative causes.

Eight trustees of SBC agencies and institutions were recognized, and four of them gave glowing reports about SBC life and work.

Bruce Martin, pastor of Village Baptist Church in Fayetteville and a member of the SBC Executive Committee, said he could not think of a better time to be a Southern Baptist than today. "We've decided what the Bible is - the inerrant word of God - and we've decided who Jesus is," he said. Martin said he could not imagine why any church would want to leave the SBC.

Michael Barrett, pastor of Pleasant Garden Baptist Church and a trustee of the International Mission Board (IMB), cited statistics showing large gains in baptisms, church starts and prospective missionaries.

Dennis Harrell, pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Lumberton, spoke for the North American Mission Board (NAMB), for which he serves as a trustee. He described several NAMB outreach programs, and said NAMB has a goal of seeing 100,000 SBC churches in the United States by 2020. The SBC currently has about 38,000 churches.

Coy Privette said miracles were taking place at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), where he is chair of the trustees. Privette said SEBTS is the fourth largest and fastest-growing seminary in the world, and has become a place where students who are not missions volunteers are in the minority.

Brunson, now pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, gave a sermon from Daniel 3 on the importance of convictions. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Brunson said people who hold convictions will face fiery crises of compromise. Convictions must be developed before crises arrive, Brunson said, and crises will come without warning. Godly convictions will inevitably clash with culture, but they will create a quiet confidence in the heart. When people hold godly convictions, he said, God promises to walk with them through the crises they face.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
4/27/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Catch my fish; feed my sheep

April 27 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Catch my fish; feed my sheep | Friday, April 27, 2001

Friday, April 27, 2001

Catch my fish; feed my sheep

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor Another Easter has come and gone, and many are experiencing a post-Easter let down. Hundreds, thousands, even millions of people who celebrated Christ's resurrection on Easter morning got up the following Sunday and went back to reading the paper, mowing the lawn and enjoying brunch instead of breakfast. Modern believers are not the first to abandon Christ quickly. John's gospel relates the familiar story of how Simon Peter, despite having encountered Jesus at least twice following the resurrection, seemed ready to forget the Lord's "follow me" and go back to his old way of living.

When Peter went back to the fishing boats, he seems to have been retreating from the past and hiding from the future, but Jesus was unwilling to leave him there.

Twice Jesus asked Peter to express unconditional love for Him, but the discouraged disciple's denials had prompted him to be more careful with his words. Peter was less confident about keeping his promises, and professed only that he loved Jesus with a brotherly sort of love. Finally, Jesus questioned him even on that level, and challenged Peter to prove it by caring for his sheep.

Jesus knew the warm thoughts associated with brotherly love don't hurt anyone, but they don't change the world either. Brotherly love does not get a person out of bed in the morning with a desire to impact others for God and for good. The selfless love that Jesus demonstrated and called his followers to practice takes warm feelings and turns them into deeds that make a difference.

Jesus challenged Peter (and all who follow him in hiding behind their failures and inadequacies) to discover and to live out an after-Easter faith that is motivated by the presence and the compassion of the risen Christ. He called Peter to join him in ministry by combining two unlikely metaphors: fishing and shepherding. Those two metaphors represent the church's twin charges to practice evangelism and social ministry - to touch the world with concern for both soul and body.

It was from fishing for fish that Jesus had first called Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow Him and to become fishers of men and women (Matt. 4:19). A fisher of fish seeks to bring living creatures from life to death, but a fisher of people seeks out the dying to bring them life.

When Jesus described Himself as a shepherd (John 10:7-11), He was preparing the disciples to become shepherds in their own right. As shepherds care for their sheep, so God's people are called to care for others: to feed the hungry, heal the sick, shelter the homeless, protect the abused, comfort the wounded and seek the lost.

Christ's call to a ministry of both body and soul is a challenge that cannot be met on Easter Sunday alone. It calls for the best we have every day of our lives. It calls for a faith that comes out of hiding and manifests itself in our living.

I like what some of the churches in southern Africa do on Sunday mornings. Leland Kerr, director of missions for the Kings Mountain Association, recently told me about his experience of preaching at Langa Baptist Church, near Cape Town. Like other black churches of the area, the congregation began its worship time with a healthy dose of joyful, exuberant a cappella singing. After the sermon, church members closed the service with more of the same.

It was what happened next that speaks volumes to those who would follow Christ. After filing out of the building, the congregation formed a circle in the churchyard and continued their lively praise for another 15-20 minutes as townspeople walked by on the busy street. The pastor explained: "We do this because we want the people outside to know what we have inside. We want to take our faith out of the church and into the world."

May more of us answer Christ's call to take our faith out of hiding and put it to work - not just on Easter Sunday, but every day.

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4/27/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

The perils of shooting first

April 27 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

The perils of shooting first | Friday, April 27, 2001

Friday, April 27, 2001

The perils of shooting first

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor The tragic deaths of a missionary and her daughter while flying to their home base in Peru have been sobering. Veronica (Roni) Bowers and her 7-month-old daughter, Charity, were passengers on a small, pontoon-equipped Cessna 185 that also carried her husband, Jim, and their son, Cory. According to widespread news reports, as the small seaplane flew in a straight course toward a planned landing near their mission outpost on the Amazon River, a Peruvian officer in a spotter plane under contract to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency identified the plane as a possible drug-runner. Peruvian Air Force jets scrambled to the scene and shot down the plane after failing to follow appropriate procedures for identifying aircraft.

Family sources say mother and daughter were apparently killed by the same bullet, which went through Roni's heart and into Charity's head. Kevin Donaldson, the missionary pilot, was shot in both legs but managed to land the flaming plane on the river. Jim Bowers spent the next half hour getting his family members out of the plane, putting a tourniquet on the pilot's shattered right leg, and keeping his wife and daughter's bodies from floating away while also clinging to a pontoon of the sinking plane. Villagers eventually reached them in dugout canoes and brought them to shore.

I can't imagine.

Can you?

It's not just death in the jungle or the potential risk of mission work that is so sobering - it is the needless nature of their deaths. These courageous and faithful people did not die at the hands of the people to whom they ministered, but as the targets of one or more trigger-happy fighter pilots.

Whether we shoot with bullets or with words, going off half-cocked and without accurate information inevitably leads to deep, tragic and unnecessary wounds.

There is biblical virtue in being swift to hear but slow to speak (James 1:19) - or to shoot.

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4/27/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Can we reach everyone?

April 27 2001 by Jim Royston , BSC Executive Director-Treasurer

Can we reach everyone? | Friday, April 27, 2001

Friday, April 27, 2001

Can we reach everyone?

By Jim Royston BSC Executive Director-Treasurer Raleigh's daily newspaper (News & Observer) recently published several articles related to the explosive and changing population growth in North Carolina. One story characterized our state as becoming more like California and less like Mayberry, with all apologies to Andy, Barney, Opie and Aunt Bee. Our rural roots are being paved over by four-lane highways and discount store parking lots. We've been discovered. Who benefits from all of this growth? Our first answer is probably the developers and the people who hope to sell products and services to the newcomers. But what about the churches? More people available should mean more opportunities for ministry. Whole new mission fields have just been placed within driving distance of our sanctuaries. Most of us can now do "world" missions and never leave the county.

Will we be up to this challenge? As hundreds (even thousands) of newcomers move into your community - many who speak a different language or even worship a different "god" - what is your church's strategy? What is your state convention's strategy?

There is no one, easy set of answers to these questions. As other sections of our country have experienced similar explosive growth in years past - even within our Southern Baptist land - we have failed to keep pace with the cultural and population changes. There is no exact model we can imitate.

Repeating what others have done will probably not get us where we want to go. What can we do? First, new people often respond better to new churches, or to new church services within existing churches. Everyone doesn't enjoy our kind of music and preaching. Only the gospel matters, everything else is tactics, to paraphrase Thomas Bandy, nationally known consultant on church growth, in a recent interview. The traditional church, Bandy adds, can provide relevant outreach to that segment of the population that remains traditionally loyal to the church in which they were brought up. All others (the majority) don't understand or care what our churches are all about.

Second, we've got to strengthen our base - and our base is the local church, not the association, state convention or national convention. Associations and conventions only exist to serve and strengthen churches. There is no such thing as a strong denomination made up of weak churches. New, non-traditional churches need older, traditional churches to provide leadership and support. It's very difficult to go it alone.

Can we reach everyone? Your church or mine cannot do it, but a variety of churches can. We must provide choices.

Again Bandy: "The motivation for evangelism is simple. Do you love people outside the church even more than people inside the church? Do you want to give your very best to those folks out there, so that they can have abundant life? And are you willing to stake the parsonage, the pension plan, the stained glass and the pipe organ to do it?"

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4/27/2001 12:00:00 AM by Jim Royston , BSC Executive Director-Treasurer | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for May 13: Finding Forgiveness

April 27 2001 by Catherine Painter , Luke 15:11-32

Family Bible Study lesson for May 13: Finding Forgiveness | Friday, April 27, 2001

Friday, April 27, 2001

Family Bible Study lesson for May 13: Finding Forgiveness

By Catherine Painter Luke 15:11-32 He interrupted my teaching. "That's not fair! The older brother does everything right; the prodigal gets rewarded!"

"The cross is for sinners," I said, seeing his blood pressure rising. After class he waited.

"You don't understand," he said. "I married, then lived with my wife. My brother lives with his girl, brings her home, demands the respect we show my wife, and my parents seemingly love him more than me!"

"He needs their love more," I said; then asked, "Haven't you ever done anything wrong?"

He confessed he had.

"Then stop role-playing the older brother. Be the prodigal - you'll get the robe and ring!" I also suggested he love his brother and his girl.

"I can't!"

"Then ask God to love them through you."

He promised.

Jesus' parable remains universal, for who has not traveled in his own far country? "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it" (Jam.2:10). Right, wrong, good, bad - all must repent to be saved, and a loving God responds, not to our deserving, but according to our need.

Rebellion (Luke 15:11-13) How does the son get lost? By determining to wreck his life and wound his father? No, by wanting to direct his own life.

"The inheritance has my name on it; I want it now." And the wise father, knowing the road ahead, allows him to go. God never forces us to come to Him, or to remain in His will.

Ruin (Luke 15:14-16) We watch him enter the amusement park called the "far country" and, knowing it to be a freak show, cry, "Turn back!"

"I can't! The lights dazzle me; I can't see the road home. The noise deafens me; I can't hear my father's voice."

Wandering in sin, his wealth squandered, his wrong direction leads to the wrong destination - a pig trough - the ultimate insult to a Jew.

Destitute, he hires himself to a man who "sent him to his fields to feed pigs" (v.15b). Sent? That's not the freedom he sought! But sin has its price, lowering the moral temperature, then weakening the will. Helpless, "no one gives him anything" (v.16b).

Repentance (Luke 15:17-20a) But he remembers who he is and his home where even "hired men have food to spare" (v.l7a). Now a cry sobs its way through the centuries: "I am starving to death" (v.l7a). "I will ... go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned ..." (v.l8a).

How refreshing to hear genuine repentance! So often we worm our way out of situations with the mechanical "I'm sorry," our tone denying our words.

The son's "I'm starving" reveals a spiritual emptiness our nation must share, as hunger looks out from eyes of cultured and uncultured - eyes of those desperately contenting themselves with diets of moral and spiritual "pods.''

The son turns toward home, poor in purse, rich in resolve. Instead of "Give me," he will pray, "Make me" (v.l9b).

But longing is never enough. "If wishes were horses, all beggars would ride." If heaven were good intentions, the highway to God would be crowded. The prodigal puts feet on his prayers, believing he can, as a hired servant, earn his restoration.

Reception (Luke 15:20b-24) Works can't save, however; only God's forgiveness can (Eph.2:8-9). While the son is far off, the father sees him and with compassion runs to meet him, embracing and kissing him (v.20b). Interrupting the son's rehearsed speech, the father offers all he left home seeking.

No doubt the son had pictured himself in the far country dressed in fine clothes and jewelry. The father sends for the best robe, ring and shoes.

He dreamed of ordering from the menus of top restaurants. It's at home they kill the fatted calf. Even the pleasure he sought is present in the partying, dancing and merriment (vss.22-24).

Resentment (Luke 15:25-32) But all do not join the celebration. The older brother is in a far country of bitter resentment, sulking because the lost has been found and restored.

The "older brother" of my story was different. He did rejoice when his brother, at my invitation, brought his girl to our Bible study. He rejoiced when they married - love and acceptance won. And great was the victory as the older brother enjoyed wearing his new clothes, ring and shoes!

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4/27/2001 12:00:00 AM by Catherine Painter , Luke 15:11-32 | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for May 13: Led by the Spirit

April 27 2001 by F. Calvin Parker , Acts 16:6-15

Formations lesson for May 13: Led by the Spirit | Friday, April 27, 2001

Friday, April 27, 2001

Formations lesson for May 13: Led by the Spirit

By F. Calvin Parker Acts 16:6-15 One of the greatest blessings of the Christian life is guidance from above. "For all who are led by the Spirit of God," Paul declares, "are children of God" (Rom. 8:14). The context of this verse stresses that we are not slaves but children who voluntarily submit to God's will for our lives. Paul is a prime example of one who carried out his appointed mission in obedience to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

Stop, look and listen (Acts 16:6-8) Last week's lesson focused on Paul's boldness in preaching. No danger, no threat to his life, could hush him. This week we learn that he was "forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia." Imagine being silenced by the very One who sent you out to preach! And when Paul attempted to go into Bithynia, the Spirit blocked the way. Apparently there is such a thing as negative guidance from the Lord.

I well remember the most difficult part of my adjustment as a freshman missionary and language school student in Tokyo. During the previous three years I had preached twice every Sunday without a break, and often on weekdays. Now I sat in a pew each Lord's day while a Japanese pastor did the preaching. I felt with Jeremiah (20:9) that "there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot." Occasionally I preached through an interpreter, but not until I could express myself freely in Japanese did I gain relief.

An inhibition against speaking the word must have been agony to Paul as well. How God's "No preaching allowed here!" was conveyed to him, whether by inner compulsion or outward sign, is not revealed. What we do know is that a public witness for Christ can be counterproductive, that some occasions call for quiet and restraint. We know that doors of opportunity open and then shut again - that right timing is crucial in evangelistic work.

Seeing a need (Acts 16:9-12) In Troas, Paul saw a vision of a man who urged, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." To Paul and his companions (Silas, Timothy and probably Luke), the man's appeal was a convincing call from God. This vision has since been repeated thousands of times. Clarence E. Macartney told of a young American surgeon who saw what looked like a map of Africa, out of which was stretched the gruesome arm and hand of a leper. Overcoming his natural repugnance, the doctor reached out to clasp the proffered hand. This dramatic vision drew him to Ethiopia, where he opened a hospital for lepers.

My own life-changing vision was an objective experience. Soon after World War II, when I had completed the Army's Japanese language course, I did patrol duty on a ship anchored near Seattle. The half-starved Japanese crewmen told me of their shattered hopes and dreams of loved ones killed and homes destroyed. How pitiful those men looked! What pictures of despair! After 55 years I can still see those emaciated sailors beckoning me to Japan. It was a vision I had to obey.

Women to the fore (Acts 16:13-15) The first Christian convert in Europe was a successful businesswoman who attended Jewish prayer services beside the river Gangites. Lydia was baptized with her household, possibly in that river. She is one of several women - among them Dorcas, Priscilla and the four prophesying daughters of Philip - who are recognized in Acts for their significant role in the spread of the gospel. The author highlights the truth that God pours out his Spirit on women and men alike, that women no less than men are led by the Spirit.

The Lydia in my own ministry is a diminutive farm woman named Akira Mizukura. She invited me to conduct services at her home in the town of Ono and became the first convert there. When my wife and I visited Japan last year, 83-year-old Mizukura greeted us warmly and flourished a picture of me baptizing her in the Asuwa River 42 years ago. Today she is an honored pillar in her church.

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4/27/2001 12:00:00 AM by F. Calvin Parker , Acts 16:6-15 | with 0 comments

And the weight winners are ...

April 20 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge, BR Editor

Friday, April 20, 2001

And the weight winner is ...

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor When I set out on Jan. 1 to trim down from 223 to 195 pounds, my personal goal was to get it done by Easter. Now, lots of apples and Subway sandwiches (with fat-free honey mustard dressing and no cheese) later - and with many late-night miles on the treadmill behind me, I have arrived. I invited readers to guess when I'd hit the target, and offered a Biblical Recorder shirt to the person who came the closest. Two readers picked dates in March, and I almost made it - I was within a pound on March 15 when I left for South Africa, where "fat-free food" is a non-concept. I finally hit the magic number April 10, and have managed to maintain since then.

So, who wins the shirt? The closest guess was turned in by Virginia Griffen of First Baptist Church in Marshville, whose guess was April 16. I thought she figured that racing toward the income tax deadline would help me sweat off the last few pounds. She would have been right. It turns out that she picked April 16 because it was her son's birthday. Maybe she'll let him wear the shirt.

I feel much better now and sleep better, too. I can run farther and exercise longer. My abdominal muscles aren't chiseled, but at least I can see them again.

Why was I successful in losing weight this year, when I failed miserably in two other attempts over the past couple of years?

The answer, for me, is accountability. After announcing my intentions in the Biblical Recorder, I had to either lose weight or be really embarrassed in Baptist settings.

Whether our goal is to shed pounds, grow in grace or improve our prayer life, having friends to keep us accountable can make all the difference.

Thanks for your help!

Have some goal you're working toward? Don't be afraid to ask others for an accountability hand.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
4/20/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge, BR Editor | with 0 comments

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