August 2002

Family Bible Study lesson for Sept. 15: God is Patient

August 23 2002 by John Tagliarini , Jonah 3:1-3a, 10; 4:1-3, 6-11; 2 Peter 3:9, 15

Family Bible Study lesson for Sept. 15: God is Patient | Friday, Aug. 23, 2002

Friday, Aug. 23, 2002

Family Bible Study lesson for Sept. 15: God is Patient

By John Tagliarini Jonah 3:1-3a, 10; 4:1-3, 6-11; 2 Peter 3:9, 15

Our children have tried our patience and sometimes found it wanting. Never have we felt as satisfied as when they have responded to us in love without the exercise of threat or punishment. As our family has matured, we have shared inexpressible joy in relationships of deepening love. This is why God is patient.

Our experience of the patient mercy of God should develop in us a true compassion for the lost. Sharing His compassion would help us give a clear, caring and consistent witness to His grace. What would it look like if our compassion mirrored God's?

True compassion witnesses without duress (Jonah 3:1-3) God gave Jonah a simple assignment, "go to Nineveh, cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me" (Jonah 1:2).

The task seemed so onerous to Jonah that he ran as far and fast as he could in the opposite direction.

God prepared a fish for his "fantastic voyage" and landed him back in the right direction.

Though Jonah's prayer (chapter 2) indicates repentance and a vow of obedience, we find a reluctant Jonah offering God's message.

We could easily criticize Jonah for his reluctance, but how often must we be cajoled, coerced or rewarded superficially before we witness?

God does not coerce, but He did convince Jonah that obedience was preferable to becoming tuna delight. God was patient with Jonah and wanted to show His mercy to Nineveh.

The child of God who loves the Lord will not need to be forced to share God's love.

True compassion waits without distress (Jonah 3:10-4:4) Arm-twisting to elicit a witness often results in arm-twisting to receive the witness or at least one sore arm. Jonah's sore arm keeps showing.

God in His patience forgave the people of Nineveh in their repentance, and Jonah in his petulance railed against God for His grace and compassion. Jonah could not get past, "I told You so You're a good God."

Why he couldn't see the insanity of his gripe is beyond me until I realized how easily my agenda rules my heart contrary to what God may want to do.

In his flight to Tarshish, Jonah's distress was compounded by having taken matters into his own hands. He offers this action as justification for his anger and proof of his clever insight into the ways of God (Jonah 4:2). His cruise of disobedience must have heightened his distress as he reflected on the odyssey, which had brought him thus far.

How could he be so wrong? The same is very often true of us. Without godly compassion we assume, "It's all about us." We are the objects of concern, and in the extreme, if things do not go our way we would just as soon die as live. That is where Jonah was.

True compassion wants what God desires (Jonah 4:6-11; 2 Peter 3:9, 15) Waiting in peace and witnessing with love reflects the heart of one who wants what God wants. He cares about His creation. He "relents concerning calamity." God is slow to anger, gracious and compassionate. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

How can we defend our vengeful attitudes? We get as emotionally involved over the characters in our TV shows as Jonah did his little gourd.

How can we cultivate the flower of compassion to shade our angst?

First, recognize that God's purpose is always redemptive. "The Lord is not slow but is patient not wishing any to perish but for all to come to repentance... Regard the patience of our Lord as salvation" (2 Peter 3:9, 15).

Second, remember that God is the creator. If we care so much about things in which we have invested no creativity or resources, won't God care for His creation?

Third, realize that God is sovereign. He shows mercy to whomever He chooses, whether those individuals or groups are our choices or not.

Since God's desire is for "all to come to repentance," we should never risk the contemptuous attitudes Jesus condemned in Matt. 5:22. Jesus taught that anger is tantamount to murder and to call someone "good-for-nothing" or "fool" leaves us guilty.

Let us want what God desires and allow Him to vindicate our witness, and demonstrate the abundance of His loving kindness.

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8/23/2002 12:00:00 AM by John Tagliarini , Jonah 3:1-3a, 10; 4:1-3, 6-11; 2 Peter 3:9, 15 | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for Sept. 8: Faith Consistent with Works

August 23 2002 by T. Wayne Proctor , James 2:1-26

Formations lesson for Sept. 8: Faith Consistent with Works | Friday, Aug. 23, 2002

Friday, Aug. 23, 2002

Formations lesson for Sept. 8: Faith Consistent with Works

By T. Wayne Proctor James 2:1-26

Consistency. Now, that's a word I like. I like consistent, dependable people. I like people who show up on time and do a great job without complaining. I like productivity, but I also like a person who takes time for others.

James was talking about the person who was consistent - their actions matched their words. The key phrase in James 2 is "Faith without works is dead." Another term he uses is "barren." In other words, a faith that doesn't bear Christian fruit is no faith at all.

Preferential treatment (James 2:1-8) We struggle with our own prejudices and biases. We have more than we want to admit.

These early Christians had their difficulties in treating all persons equally. Their "sin" was the improper treatment of the poor - this might be our "sin" as well. Christians, like James, who had spent time with Jesus, knew God's love for all people.

He also knew that for the church to be God's, it must be "inclusive." The pauper deserves the place of honor as much as the prince, yet as James observed the church, the pauper was treated as a second-class citizen.

James further makes the point that religious persecution had come from the wealthy, not the poor. We must, however, be careful not to heap disdain upon the wealthy. Some of the finest Christians in our churches are people of financial means and influence.

Tim Owings, pastor of First Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga., recounts a person describing First Augusta as liberal and cold, full of rich folk. Owings asked the man had he ever worshiped at First or been involved in its ministries. He had not. He then challenged him to experience the church before passing judgment. He did and even joined this fine congregation.

Degrees of sin? (James 2:9-20) James clearly makes the point that sin is not to be measured by degrees. Showing partiality (v.9) is a sin equal to adultery or murder. While James does not use the term "sin of omission," this is exactly what he is describing. Obviously, no individual can feed or clothe the whole world. But every church can be involved in a ministry or multiple ministries to help the poor. One of the best investments churches make is when they send mission teams to our inner cities or a third world country.

Christians need to get their hands "dirty" and cross cultural and racial boundaries.

Examples of Abraham and Rahab (James 2:21-26) These Old Testament heroes (see Hebrews 11) put faith into action. They risked much to serve God.

Further, we see that one doesn't have to be perfect in order to do a sacrificial or redeeming act. Rahab is always an interesting example because of her involvement in prostitution. Yet, we also understand that Rahab's good deed was not her "ticket to heaven." Rahab became one of the Hebrew people, and I believe her future was much different than her past.

The use of Abraham and Rahab as examples of faith-works is interesting in that Abraham and Rahab represent extreme contrasts: man and woman, Hebrew and Gentile proselyte, saint and sinner.

James Adamson writes "By his choice of Abraham and Rahab, James shows not only that the acid test of faith is works, but also that this principle has universal application, embracing both patriarch and prostitute."

It is most important when we read James to remember that faith and works are consistent with each other. Faith comes first, but works naturally follow.

Remember this statement: We don't do good deeds to become Christian; we do good deeds because we are Christian. That, my friends, is the consistent truth of Scripture.

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8/23/2002 12:00:00 AM by T. Wayne Proctor , James 2:1-26 | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for Sept. 15: Sin vs. Wisdom

August 23 2002 by T. Wayne Proctor , James 3:1-18

Formations lesson for Sept. 15: Sin vs. Wisdom | Friday, Aug. 23, 2002

Friday, Aug. 23, 2002

Formations lesson for Sept. 15: Sin vs. Wisdom

By T. Wayne Proctor James 3:1-18

Have you ever been shocked by someone else's speech? Perhaps you heard a church leader or Sunday School teacher use language or make remarks which you found offensive. Perhaps it was at the ball field, auto garage, home or place of work. You were shocked because what you heard was not what you normally hear on Sunday mornings.

Teaching is serious business (James 3:1) My philosophy of teaching in the Sunday School is this: Teaching is a gift, a spiritual gift. Not everyone can teach effectively. Further, some are effective with only one age group, while others have the ability to teach almost any age group.

Teaching is also an honor. If you are a Sunday School teacher, then you should do this task faithfully, prayerfully, humbly and honorably.

Twenty years ago I served in a church where a youth Sunday School teacher told her students, "Do as I say, not as I do." That statement bothered me then and it bothers me even more today.

That statement doesn't work because students hear what you say, and they also "hear" what they see. What you say and what they see needs to match.

The tongue (James 3:2-12) James calls the tongue a fire - a fire that can be ignited by hell itself. These are extreme words.

His first two illustrations to describe the force and power of speech are much more palatable. The bridle for the horse and the rudder for the ship serve the same purpose - to keep something under control which, when left alone, would have no definite direction.

Something so small can do amazing things, especially in the hands of a master. There is nothing more beautiful to watch than an equestrian or sailboat race.

Likewise, speech can be a source of inspiration, beauty and joy.

Fire is the opposite. Fire speaks of destructive, uncontrollable fury. Fire is associated with evil and with Satan himself.

During June and July, hundreds of thousands of acres of land were destroyed by fires in Colorado and California. In addition, homes were destroyed and lives were lost. This kind of tragedy often happens because of little accidents or mistakes in judgment.

It is humbling to think that teachers will be judged more strictly by God than non-teachers. Yet, what we do in the field of Christian education is extremely important. I would go so far as to call it essential.

As an educator myself, I am always talking to our people in terms of making the connection between church and home and world. I truly believe Christians are to be different in their speech and behavior, and if it means dressing differently, talking differently and acting differently, than so be it.

In verse 8, James goes so far as to state that "no one can tame the tongue." If that be true, then what hope is there?

The Christian's hope is in the Holy Spirit. He can change us when no one else can, provided we let Him.

James reminds me of Paul's struggle as he described it in Romans. "O wretched man that I am, who can deliver me? Only Jesus Christ, and thanks be to God for Him" (Rom. 7:24-25).

Who is wise? (James 3:13-18) One of the arguments made against James by some is that he differs from Paul theologically, emphasizing works over grace.

I find this to be an empty argument. For example, in these verses we find a direct parallel to Paul's words in Gal. 5:22-26. Wisdom is making the right decision, even when it may not advance our personal-life agendas. Wisdom has not as much to do with intellect as it has to do with character.

Look at James' words. It's not about ambition, pride or gaining the affections of certain people. It's about spiritual fruit-bearing: gentleness, peace, mercy and preferring others over self.

James, like Paul, is calling Christians to grow up, to be responsible, and to always make sure they are saying and doing the right things for the right reasons.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
8/23/2002 12:00:00 AM by T. Wayne Proctor , James 3:1-18 | with 0 comments

Alaska Baptists confront declining membership

August 16 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Alaska Baptists confront declining membership | Friday, Aug. 16, 2002

Friday, Aug. 16, 2002

Alaska Baptists confront declining membership

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

ANCHORAGE - A thinning out of Alaska's already widely scattered Baptists was cause for concern at the 57th annual convention of the Alaska Baptist Convention (ABC), held August 6-7 at South Anchorage Baptist Church. One hundred and fifty-seven messengers representing 37 churches and four missions attended. In 2001, the ABC reported a total of 74 churches and 26 missions.

David Baldwin, executive director of the ABC, pointed to a drop in total membership from 19,292 in 1998 to 16,848 in 2002, with a concurrent drop in baptisms from 792 to 514. Annual Church Profile (ACP) results showed a peak of 10,591 resident members in 2000, down to 8,788 in 2001.

ACP results were down across the board, Baldwin said, due in part to some churches failing to turn in their reports. Baldwin emphasized the value of the ACP as a tool for evaluation and for preserving a church's status as a non-profit organization.

Baldwin later told the Recorder that the reduction in membership totals resulted in part from several of the larger churches "cleaning up" their membership rolls. Some of the churches report only resident members, he said.

Baldwin, a 21-year veteran of work in Alaska who became executive director in 2000, said interest in Sunday School and training programs is lacking in the state, and evangelism is inconsistent. Some churches depend too much on outside funding, he said, and "leadership training is needed all over the state."

Baldwin was encouraged, however, by consistent growth in Cooperative Program giving by the churches. The Convention is on track to its third consecutive year of exceeding budget expectations, he said.

Baldwin outlined his vision of a three-year growth emphasis to be called "Light Up Alaska." The emphasis will focus on missions and prayer in 2003, church development in 2004, and major evangelism efforts in 2005.

More than half of Alaska's churches and missions average less than 50 in attendance, Baldwin said, and about 80 percent average less than 100. "We are a convention of small churches," he said, "but there are no small places in God's service."

Although the oldest Baptist churches in Alaska were not established until the 1940's, a heavy reliance on tradition still prevents some churches from embracing needed changes, but Baldwin challenged messengers to remember that "everything now in place was originally a great idea ... revolutionary ... a challenge to the status quo."

"We must learn to challenge the process without challenging the authority of those who founded the process," he said.

State evangelism and church development director Jimmy Stewart said Alaska churches must deal with continually transitioning communities as military families and others move frequently, making growth difficult.

Even so, Stewart challenged messengers to seek growth through prayer, discipleship and evangelism. Southern Baptists make up only 1.4 percent of Alaska's population, Stewart said. He encouraged those present to seek "a bigger piece of the pie" and work toward reaching 10 percent of the state's residents, a membership goal of 63,000 persons.

The bottom line is changed lives, Stewart said. "If we don't see changed lives, we haven't accomplished anything."

Terry Hill, pastor of Rabbit Creek Baptist Church in Anchorage, urged faithfulness in the midst of crisis. Using Paul's shipwreck described in Acts 27 as a text, Hill said people in crisis are prone to drift, to discard important values, and to despair. Instead, Hill said, believers should drop anchor and trust in God's presence, God's plan and God's promises.

In any situation, Hill said, "one plus God is a majority."

In his president's message, Jack Green also pleaded for greater outreach efforts on the part of both pastors and laypeople. "We stand in the door of the church and say 'come on in,'" he said, "when we should be going out and bringing them in."

Southern Baptists got off to a late start in Alaska because of an early agreement apportioning missionary work in the state among various denominations, he said, but that is no longer a detriment.

Green, a layperson, encouraged pastors to set good examples for lay members. "The sheep follow the shepherd," he said, "they are dumb but not stupid." Green quoted Chaplain Aubrey Halsell, who started the first Southern Baptist Church in Alaska, as saying "when there's fire in the pulpit, there will be smoke in the pews."

Talmage Williams, on-site coordinator for the North Carolina Baptist State Convention partnership with Alaska Baptists, reported that almost 1,300 N.C. Baptists volunteered in Alaska during 2002, the third year of a five-year partnership.

Williams cited a number of ways in which volunteers have assisted Alaska Baptists through direct ministries, construction projects, and leadership training. "Whatever North Carolina Baptists do, the focus is always on congregations and people," he said. "If the churches are not stronger when we leave, then we've failed."

Business matters

In business matters, messengers adopted a 2003 budget of $1.9 million, of which $677,903, or 35.5 percent is expected to come from giving by Alaska Baptist churches, up from $652,000 in 2002. The North American Mission Board (NAMB) is to provide more than $1.1 million, or 59.2 percent, of the ABC budget. Sixteen appointed NAMB missionaries serve in Alaska, along with 13 Mission Service Corps volunteers. LifeWay Christian Resources will furnish another $51,500, or 2.7 percent of the budget.

The ABC forwards 33 percent of its in-state contributions to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Cooperative Program.

Messengers also approved minor changes to the Convention's constitution and bylaws, and elected former first vice president Leon May as the Convention's president. May, pastor of Greater Friendship Baptist Church in Anchorage, is the third African-American elected to lead the ABC.

Outgoing president Green was eligible for another term, but declined to run again, as did second vice president Scott Coffman.

Messengers elected John Mortensen, pastor of Montana Creek Baptist Church in Talkeetna, as first vice president, and Mark Goodman, pastor of Immanuel Baptist church in Anchorage, as second vice president.

The ABC constitution requires that all vice-presidential candidates be nominated together, with voting to take place in a following session. The candidate receiving the most votes is declared first vice president, and the person receiving the second highest total becomes second vice president.

Although Mortensen and Goodman were the only candidates nominated, pastor David George of First Baptist Church of Eagle River and two messengers from First Baptist Church of Kenai questioned Goodman regarding his church's support for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and its percentage of giving to the SBC.

When the votes were cast, Mortensen edged Goodman by a total of 55 votes to 52 votes.

Judy Zach, of University Baptist Church in Fairbanks, was re-elected as recording secretary.

In an auxiliary meeting, Linda Hoffman, of Fairview Loop Baptist Church in Wasilla, was elected to a fourth term as Woman's Missionary Union president.

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8/16/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Chowan College seeking fiscal fitness

August 16 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Chowan College seeking fiscal fitness | Friday, Aug. 16, 2002

Friday, Aug. 16, 2002

Chowan College seeking fiscal fitness

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

MURPHREESBORO - Following three years of budget deficits, the Chowan College board of trustees has declared the school to be in a state of "financial exigency." Meeting in a special called session on Aug. 12, the board approved a restructuring plan calling for budget cuts and staff reductions designed "to cut costs and realign college resources with its current needs," according to a press release issued by the college.

The declaration of "financial exigency" grants school administrators the ability to include tenured faculty members in the layoffs.

Personnel cutbacks will include seven faculty members and seven support staff employees, Chowan president Stanley Lott told the Recorder. Some support staff will be laid off immediately, with others slated for termination through the course of the year.

All affected faculty members will work through the 2002-2003 academic year, Lott said. By school policy, tenured faculty members must be notified a year in advance. Three of the seven slated for dismissal have tenure, and another has been on a tenure track.

Tenured professors can be dismissed only for just cause or in the event of financial exigency, Lott said.

The close of the fiscal year on May 31 marked the third consecutive year the school has faced a financial shortfall. Deficits were about $700,000 in 2000, $1.9 million in 2001 and $1.4 million in 2002, Lott said.

Declaring a state of financial exigency might be overdue, said Elaine Myers, chair of the trustees' executive committee, but "we have a plan in place that we feel speaks to our situation."

Lott said many factors contributed to the school's current state of affairs, including higher than expected costs as the school moved from 2-year to 4-year status in 1992, and the inability to meet financial objectives and enrollment projections set in the early 1990's. Working from those projections, the school was staffed and operating as if it had 1,000 students, Lott said, while enrollment remained around 800. Initial projections had anticipated an enrollment of 1,200 students by 2002.

For a while, the college made ends meet by dipping into investment income, but poor stock market performance in recent years left administrators with budget gaps that could not be reconciled.

The school's current budget of $18.1 million will be reduced by about $500,000 during the remainder of the 2002-2003 fiscal year, but the bulk of the cuts - just more than $2.4 million, or about 14 percent - will be implemented in 2003-2004, Lott said.

Employees who retain their jobs will share the pain of budget cuts. Retirement benefits for all staff will be cut from 8 percent to 5 percent beginning Jan. 1, and on June 1, all staff salaries above $20,000 will be reduced by 5 percent.

Lott, who has served as Chowan's president since 1996, remains optimistic. "For the first time since Chowan became a four-year school in 1992, its fiscal situation will be healthy," he said.

Lott pointed to other positive signs, noting modest increases in enrollment for three consecutive years and several remodeling projects that will enhance campus life. A $1 million makeover of an old gymnasium as a state-of-the-art fitness center will benefit both students and the community, he said. The campus cafeteria has also been completely refurbished, and a $750,000 renovation of the student center is underway.

Chowan expects to welcome 350 new students for the fall term, with 300 of them being incoming freshmen.

Lott said the measures will improve the school's financial health and ensure its future existence. "We want people to have confidence in our strength and stability," he said. "We expect to continue Chowan's 153-year history of serving Baptists in an under-served region, and serving students that other colleges do not serve."

Myers said the executive committee feels "completely positive and confident that Chowan will emerge stronger as an institution."

"We have some very hard working and dedicated people," she said. "Through it all, we may become known as that 'tough little college' in northeastern North Carolina."

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
8/16/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Requesting missionaries to affirm faith statement averted disaster, Rankin says

August 16 2002 by Mark Wingfield , Associated Baptist Press

Requesting missionaries to affirm faith statement averted disaster, Rankin says | Friday, Aug. 16, 2002

Friday, Aug. 16, 2002

Requesting missionaries to affirm faith statement averted disaster, Rankin says

By Mark Wingfield Associated Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. - The request for Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) missionaries to sign an affirmation of the 2000 "Baptist Faith and Message" was necessary to head off an organizational disaster, according to International Mission Board (IMB) President Jerry Rankin.

Using what he acknowledged "may be an extreme analogy," Rankin compared his leadership dilemma to what might have happened if the United States government had learned in advance about plans for last year's terrorist attacks.

Rankin said U.S. officials would have "done what was necessary to deter that tragedy," even if those tactics proved onerous.

"The airlines and general public would have been outraged at the delays and inconvenience of heightened security measures. The civil-liberties advocates would have probably called for impeachment of President Bush for profiling and detaining people of Middle Eastern descent, and other similar reactions," he said.

Rankin drew a parallel for his much-maligned request, which critics have said smacks of creedalism and indicates mistrust of missionaries on the field.

"Because of our willingness to affirm doctrinal accountability to the Southern Baptist Convention, the consequences that could have been disastrous for the credibility and support of the IMB have been diverted," Rankin said in a July 13 letter to missionaries.

"Taking appropriate steps to assure confidence and support on behalf of the SBC has not been without offense and misunderstanding, but this is a responsibility of leadership that I take very seriously," he added.

Rankin said he took the initiative to ask for a collective response from missionaries in order to head off "an embarrassing and divisive showdown" over the issue and to protect IMB trustees from having to reverse an earlier decision and impose a policy requiring affirmation of the faith statement.

Rankin said his own confidence in the doctrinal integrity of the missionary force never wavered, however. "I would not have taken such action without the confidence that our personnel serving with the IMB represent doctrinal integrity and denominational loyalty," he wrote.

Rankin said he sympathizes with IMB missionaries who were upset that anyone would question their beliefs, because he, too, was "offended and hurt" at accusations of doctrinal infidelity.

Although Rankin has said in the past that he issued the order to satisfy unnamed critics who were questioning missionaries' beliefs, he said his actions shouldn't be viewed as bowing to political pressure.

In 2001, Rankin wrote missionaries saying that personnel already under appointment wouldn't be forced to endorse the revised "Baptist Faith and Message." In his recent letter, Rankin said some missionaries perceived his request this year that they do so voluntarily, as a reversal, "which some assumed to be succumbing to political pressure."

"In 2001 I had communicated the policy officially adopted by our board," Rankin explained. "When questions and suspicions began to escalate, the board felt some action needed to be taken, but they did not want to reverse their earlier decision and signal any mistrust in our overseas personnel. ...

"To deal with the crisis, I offered to secure the needed assurance with a personal request."

One source of suspicion resulted when IMB trustees, breaking rank with boards of other SBC entities, voted not to establish a policy making the 2000 "Baptist Faith and Message" a litmus test for continued employment.

"When we became the only entity not to require staff, faculty or missionaries to affirm the current 'Baptist Faith and Message,' questions began to arise regarding our accountability and whether we were 'protecting' those not aligned with the 'Baptist Faith and Message,'" Rankin wrote.

When one regional leader refused to affirm the faith statement, Rankin said, "It increased the speculation that there must be many others as well."

All six SBC seminaries have policies requiring professors to affirm the 2000 "Baptist Faith and Message." All home missionaries serving under the North American Mission Board are also required to affirm the document.

Some other SBC agencies, however, stop short of requiring 100 percent compliance with the faith statement.

At LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tenn., the SBC's publishing arm, only employees in "Southern Baptist required" positions - about 25 percent of the workforce - are asked to sign an affirmation that they will conduct their work in accordance with the "Baptist Faith and Message."

The Dallas-based Annuity Board, the SBC's insurance and retirement manager, hasn't made any public statement about requiring employees to affirm the 2000 "Baptist Faith and Message," but those in key leadership posts are required to be members of "cooperating" Southern Baptist churches.

Rankin said "most" missionaries "welcomed the opportunity" to affirm the 2000 "Baptist Faith and Message," but "some have struggled with the response and been offended as if they, personally, were being questioned."

Some others, he said, agree with the content of the 'Baptist Faith and Message' - or disagree over minor points - "but have felt the request itself made our confession of faith a creed," something which Baptists traditionally have opposed.

But Rankin claimed the faith statement has since its original adoption in 1925 functioned as "an instrument of doctrinal accountability," even though it is stated as such for the first time in the 2000 edition.

He quoted E.Y. Mullins, primary author of the original "Baptist Faith and Message," who wrote: "Baptists have always insisted upon their own right to declare their beliefs and to protect themselves by refusing to support men in important places as teachers and preachers who do not agree with them."

Rankin said no doctrinal problems have been discovered as a result of the recent process, but "it has grieved me" that some missionaries went public with criticism of IMB leaders in newsletters and the press.

He said "a few have resigned and others have expressed their intention to do so rather than affirm the 'Baptist Faith and Message' and their willingness to work in accord with it."

Rankin said the process has been personally painful to him, but he concluded: "It was done for the benefit of your ministry and our kingdom task. This will enable us to get on with our mission of reaching a lost world with the solid support of Southern Baptists."

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
8/16/2002 12:00:00 AM by Mark Wingfield , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Shortage of pastors looming as seminarians rethink their calling

August 16 2002 by Andrew Black , Associated Baptist Press

Shortage of pastors looming as seminarians rethink their calling | Friday, Aug. 16, 2002

Friday, Aug. 16, 2002

Shortage of pastors looming as seminarians rethink their calling

By Andrew Black Associated Baptist Press

DALLAS, Texas - Shane Hipps is a 27-year old student at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. He is studying for a master of divinity degree, the credential typically sought by prospective pastors. Yet Hipps hesitates when asked if he will follow that traditional route into ministry.

"I have been told by those closest to me that I'd make a good pastor, and I can see some gifting that would indicate this, but I'm extremely cautious about such a vocation," he said in an e-mail interview with the Christian lifestyle magazine FaithWorks.

Hipps came to seminary from Minneapolis, where he worked in advertising for about four years after college. "I sensed a clear call to leave advertising, and I'm pretty sure I'm called to be in seminary. But that's as clear as it gets right now," he said. "Seminary is primarily an opportunity to pursue God's call on my life ... and not necessarily vocational training."

Hipps isn't alone. Less than a third of seminary students intend to minister in congregations, according to a study by Auburn Theological Seminary in New York.

It's common to hear people confess to being afraid that if they answer a call to ministry, God might send them to Africa as a missionary. But, as jarring as it sounds, more and more spiritually sensitive and creative young Christians are now more frightened that God will ask them to be pastor of the church on the suburban corner.

The result, say researchers and seminary leaders, is an impending pastor shortage.

"What it means to local congregations is a crisis of ordained leadership as the boomers continue to retire," said seminary consultant Sheryl Carle Fancher.

The impact is already being felt. For all denominations surveyed by the Alban Institute, the number of ministers under 35 has fallen precipitously since the 1970s - dropping by at least half and for some two thirds.

Seminaries and other organizations concerned for the future of the church are studying and discussing these trends. They cite a litany of negatives - the prospect of low pay, exhausting job demands and dwindling social respect - that make the pastorate so unattractive to young adults. Some highly publicized scandals involving ministers only make matters worse.

"Young people who are involved in the church see clergy being criticized or abused by congregational leadership, struggling with personal finances, and worn out," says Fancher, associate director of the Midwest Ministry Development Service, who has been consulting seminaries on this issue for more than a decade. "The picture doesn't look very appealing as a vocational choice."

Talk to seminarians, however, and a somewhat different picture emerges. Many are idealistic about being true to God's call but don't necessarily view churches as the best venue for using their gifts.

"I think 20-somethings go to seminary for noble reasons: they want to be about the transformation of people and communities and about making the Good News good news for people," said Jason Mitchell, 38, a seminary graduate in Dallas who is working two secular jobs.

But those young adults, he said, see "the church" as a group of people speaking mostly to themselves - too isolated from their community and too concerned with their own institutional viability or growth.

Mitchell said many idealistic and innovative Christians who might otherwise become pastors are instead starting small businesses and non-profit organizations that give them opportunities to encounter people different from themselves.

That doesn't mean they've given up on the church. Mitchell foresees the growth of new, authentic, Christian communities out of these coffee shops, thrift stores, non-profits and similar efforts. Instead of transplanting leaders from traditional churches, however, these new congregations will arise with "indigenous" leaders from within their own subculture.

Jason Mueller, a recent graduate of Truett Theological Seminary and co-pastor of Journey, a church in Dallas, is making plans to open a coffee shop that will serve as a community gathering place, where he believes he can be a kind of missionary to the unchurched.

Mueller said he doesn't believe his theological training will be wasted if he ends up delivering coffee instead of sermons. "In a lot of ways this is an embodiment of what I learned at seminary," he said. "There is so much baggage that comes with being a pastor that would keep me from really engaging culture and the people around me who don't go to Journey."

Barbara Wheeler, president of Auburn Seminary, said many idealistic and energetic young people who want to make a difference find congregational ministry too confining. While relationships between pastor and parishioners are rewarding, she said, most socially concerned young people see the church as lacking the potential to transform communities.

Brian McLaren, pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church in suburban Washington, D.C., has become a mentor to many young Christian leaders. His recent book, "A New Kind of Christian," articulates many of their concerns, judging by the discussions the book has generated.

"I think the existing church is largely modern in its theology, not just style," McLaren said in an e-mail interview. "By modern, I mean focused on control, polemics, analysis, linear thinking, reductionism, institutions and events/decisions. Both liberal and conservative churches are two sides of this modern coin, I think.

"Meanwhile, the rising generation is more postmodern in its thinking, and the disconnect is huge. It's about empowerment, seeking understanding, holism, pattern and layered thinking, wonder, relationships and processes. These are huge differences. Many young Christians recognize the challenges of a turbulent time like this and believe most churches are too busy trying to weather the storm intact to risk innovation and rethinking familiar assumptions."

While some younger ministers "will provide compassionate care to these congregations," McLaren continued, "others have no doubt they are called to serve as missionaries to their own culture, which may require detachment from traditional models of church or ministry developed in a different time."

McLaren said if churches want young ministers to consider congregational ministry, they must create an environment where they are "cared for, listened to and respected."

Wilshire Baptist Church is hoping to demonstrate one way this can happen. The Dallas church recently launched a "residency" program in which young ministers-to-be spend two years gaining field experience on a church staff before going off on their own.

Just as medical students work in "teaching hospitals," churches can commit to be "teaching congregations," providing a forgiving environment in which seminary graduates can practice ministry, said George Mason, Wilshire's pastor.

At Ecclesia, a new congregation in the arts community of Houston, pastor Chris Seay has organized an apprenticeship program for young ministers who live and work at the inner-city church.

Will one of these approaches appeal to the many young Christians called to ministry but wary of traditional church-staff positions? If Shane Hipps is any indication, it might.

"I see the need to move towards decentralized, local and organic congregations that work to cultivate missional communities, which engage culture at the neighborhood level," he said.

"I could maybe be a pastor in this kind of setting, but very few exist. And I fear I'm too young, inexperienced and perhaps not gifted in the right ways to start one on my own. I need to be mentored in this kind of environment first.

"Needless to say, it will be extremely difficult to find a job anywhere as a pastor if I retain this kind of thinking. But at this stage in my journey I'm na�ve and idealistic enough to want to take that risk. We'll see how long that lasts."

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Andrew Black is a free-lance writer and theology student at Baylor's Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas.)

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
8/16/2002 12:00:00 AM by Andrew Black , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Hot, or not?

August 9 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Hot, or not? | Friday, Aug. 9, 2002

Friday, Aug. 9, 2002

Hot, or not?

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

The front-page article was built around a large picture of children splashing in a river, swimming and playing with a large inflatable dolphin. Words like "sizzling," "scorching" and "unseasonably hot" were sprinkled throughout the story, which was devoted to a heat wave of unusual proportions.

The high temperature on Aug. 1 was 76 degrees.

The newspaper was The Anchorage Daily News.

Two days later, the mercury topped 80 degrees in Fairbanks, sending tour guides into apoplexy and requiring dog mushers to limit training of their sled dogs lest the huskies suffer heat stroke.

The heat wave was the talk of the town.

Of course, overnight lows still dropped into the 40's, and I thought I would freeze during a couple of early morning jogs.

Tar Heels who have sweltered through more than their share of humid days in the high 90's and low 100's might chuckle at their Alaskan friends who are so impressed by an 80-degree day with no humidity to speak of.

But those same northern partners might clutch their sides in glee to hear us describe a 30-degree day as cold and six inches of snow as a blizzard. You don't call off school in Nome just because it's 50 below zero, the wind is howling, and you haven't seen the sun for two months.

The objective temperature is what it is, but our subjective perception of its relative heat or coolness is a function of our own background, experience and what we happen to be wearing. That is a part of the richness of human life on this earth, and I am thankful for it.

We all bring something different to the table, and that's what makes it a feast.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
8/9/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Two-eared perspective

August 9 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Two-eared perspective | Friday, Aug. 9, 2002

Friday, Aug. 9, 2002

Two-eared perspective

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

Some years ago, a decade-long bout with Miniere's Disease left me with little hearing in my right ear. Modern hearing aids are small and relatively effective, but also very expensive and incredibly easy for an absent-minded person to lose.

Since I fit into that category, I haven't bothered to replace the one I lost about 15 months ago, the second within a year.

There are some advantages to being nearly deaf in one ear. Noise is rarely a bother when trying to sleep, because I can turn my good ear to the pillow and enjoy the quiet.

But there are more disadvantages. I have to be careful to sit with my good ear facing others if I plan to participate in a conversation, and it's useless for anyone to try and whisper in my right ear.

The headphones I wear while jogging work well, but when the music is stereophonic, I miss part of the harmony. If dialogue is recorded on different tracks - as it often is in the musicals I favor - I barely hear half the speakers. Sometimes I turn the headphones around and listen again so I'll know what everyone is saying.

Sometimes I just miss things, and worry that I'll respond inappropriately (or not at all) when someone asks me a question.

Perhaps the greatest disadvantage of being one-eared, however, has to do with spatial perspective. The brain identifies the direction from which a sound comes by processing information based on the different times a sound signal is received by each ear. If only one ear gets the signal, there's not enough information to determine the source of a sound.

So, if someone calls my name or says something to me while I'm outdoors or in a large room, I can't tell where the sound is coming from. I have to stop and turn in a slow circle, looking for someone I recognize and hoping they will call again so I can locate them.

That loss of perspective can be embarrassing at times, potentially dangerous at others.

It has helped me, however, to appreciate the importance of a perspective that is informed by listening with both ears.

One who refuses to give careful consideration to differing points of view cannot appreciate others appropriately or gain needed perspective on important issues.

It concerns me that so many Baptists are convinced that they possess all the truths and that others' views are inconsequential. Unable or unwilling to hear and appreciate others, who hold differing views, they draw bolder battle lines and dig deeper trenches, belittling people they don't understand and isolating themselves from fellow believers whom God intended to be allies and friends.

As a result, kingdom growth is hampered, Christian fellowship is broken, unbelievers are puzzled and the adversary grins.

Perhaps that's why Jesus used the plural when He was prone to say, "He, who has ears to hear, let him hear."

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
8/9/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Missions begins at home

August 9 2002 by Jim Royston , BSC Executive Director-treasurer

Missions begins at home | Friday, Aug. 9, 2002

Friday, Aug. 9, 2002

Missions begins at home

By Jim Royston BSC Executive Director-treasurer

We often get calls here at the Baptist Building asking if this is the number for "Baptist headquarters." The person answering the telephone corrects them by saying that their church, not a Baptist Building, is our headquarters and that conventions and associations only exist to serve churches in whatever ways possible.

Local churches are where everything begins in Baptist life. All missionaries, all monies, all missions education begins with and comes from your church. A church's commitment to global missions must be securely tied to the church's support of its own missions outreach. Helping Hispanics in Honduras, for example, must create an equal desire to reach Hispanics in your community. We are commanded to minister to "our Jerusalem" as well as to the every other part of the world.

North Carolina missions provide the foundation for our entire Baptist mission enterprise. A large part of the North Carolina Missions Offering goes to support the two basic church mission organizations: Woman's Missionary Union (WMU) and Baptist Men.

Most of us were first introduced to missions through one of these two organizations. Most of our missionaries started out as RAs or GAs. Most of the money raised for missions has come through the efforts of WMU and Baptist Men. Most of the mission education in your church and mine has been the responsibility of these two mission groups.

North Carolina Missions Offering also provides major support for our Mission Growth Evangelism Group, primarily in the area of planting new churches across our state. Other major benefactors of this special offering are special ministries (deaf, visually impaired and mentally handicapped) and Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute. Associations receive an amount equal to 8 percent of all the money contributed to the offering from that association.

It is impossible to calculate the number of local mission projects carried out by the thousands of dedicated North Carolina Baptists. These individuals make up a literal army of missionaries committed to a calling as real as any felt by international missionaries in distant lands. Our state is a mission field. North Carolina Baptists are our missionaries.

This year's offering theme is "Light in a Ground Zero World." The basis for this theme is obviously the terrorist attacks of a year ago and the tremendous support provided by North Carolina Baptists disaster relief programs. A major part of this year's offering emphasis is a special prayer vigil on the anniversary date of the attacks - Wednesday during the Week of Prayer for North Carolina Missions (Sept. 8-15).

The offering theme, however, goes well beyond the events of last year. All of us experience our own "ground zero" mission fields where we live. Spiritual darkness can be found in every community in our state. Our commitment to missions must begin at home.

Please support the North Carolina Missions Offering. In a real sense, our entire missions enterprise depends upon this special offering.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
8/9/2002 12:00:00 AM by Jim Royston , BSC Executive Director-treasurer | with 0 comments

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