August 2005

Formations lesson for Sept. 18: The Midlife David: Frustrated and Foolish : Friday, Aug. 26, 2005

August 26 2005 by Haven Parrott

Formations lesson for Sept. 18: The Midlife David: Frustrated and Foolish : Friday, Aug. 26, 2005
Friday, Aug. 26, 2005

Formations lesson for Sept. 18: The Midlife David: Frustrated and Foolish

By Haven Parrott
Focal passage: 2 Samuel 11:1-27; 12:1-25

The Scandal

The New American Standard version of 2 Samuel 11 introduces the story of David's great offense with these words, "Then it happened . . ."

And we all know what it is, even if it didn't actually happen until verse four. Fact is, it had been waiting to happen since chapter five.

The makings of a scandal had long been simmering, as evidenced by the dueling of David's dual natures, duly recorded: "And David realized that the Lord had established him as king over Israel, and that He had exalted his kingdom for the sake of His people Israel. Meanwhile David took more concubines and wives . . ." (2 Sam. 5:12, 13) There's a world of meaning in that "meanwhile." David knew better than to collect women (Deut. 17:17), but he did it anyway.

What's so exasperating about the whole deal is that David was experienced and successful in warfare.

For years, Saul and company had stalked David through the wilderness and chased him even beyond the borders of Israel, but David's march to the throne was not thwarted.

And there was always a battle to be fought with those pagan Philistines, but in campaign after campaign, David protected Israel from the invasion of the idol-worshippers.

But David had a third enemy, a ferocious foe that proved to be the most vicious of all: his own dang self.

Like David, we also have three enemies: Satan and his demonic cohorts pursue us, an idol-worshipping culture surrounds us, and a sinful nature is ingrained in us. Of the three, the sinful self is the most difficult to subdue and keep subdued. Which is why the honest among us are not shocked by David's behavior nearly as much as we are sobered, even scared, by it.

Besetting sins can get out of hand rather quickly. We who have them should heed well the warning from this sad chapter in David's life: the enemy behind the scandal that rocked the kingdom was none other than the king him-dang-self.

The Greater Scandal

David spent three verses pondering and preparing to do the deed, half a verse actually doing it, and nineteen verses trying to cover it up, the result of which was an even greater scandal than the first.

While Bathsheba's body purified (v. 4), David's conscience putrefied. Like trying to mask the odor of a dead fish by putting another dead fish on top of it, David made a bad situation terrible by refusing to own up to his actions.

After arranging for and receiving news of Uriah's execution, the decomposition of David's conscience is evidenced up by the cavalier comment, "These things happen, Joab. Fuggedaboudit" (2 Sam. 11:25, Mario Puzo Translation).

David's callous cover-up was merely a scab concealing a festering, scarring, tissue-eating infection that could only be healed by exposure.

The Greatest Scandal

By the time David got convicted enough to begin picking his scab-encrusted heart: "I have sinned against the Lord" (2 Sam. 12:13), Nathan informed him that the greatest scandal was on its way. "The Lord has taken away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child that is born to you shall surely die" (2 Sam. 12:13,14).

The greatest scandal is that David's life was spared at the expense of the life of his innocent son. A guiltless son bore the punishment for David's sin.

And it is this, the worst hour of David's scandalous affair, that hints at God's best, at a scandal yet to come. For there would be another innocent Child, a Son of David, who would be born not in sin but who would become sin so that we - sinners of the same sort as David - "might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21).

The greatest scandal of all is that sinners are spared the death they deserve at the expense of God's innocent Son. Amazing scandal, amazing grace.

8/26/2005 12:00:00 AM by Haven Parrott | with 0 comments

Gideons can help BSC achieve its purpose : Monday, Aug. 22, 2005

August 22 2005 by

Gideons can help BSC achieve its purpose : Monday, Aug. 22, 2005
Monday, Aug. 22, 2005

Gideons can help BSC achieve its purpose

"The distribution of the Bible" is one of the purposes of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), according to Article IV of its constitution. For years now we've neglected this obligation. Writing as a Baptist and a Gideon, I suggest the Gideons International be included in our state budget as a way for the BSC to fulfill this commitment.

Because Gideon membership fees pay for all the organization's overhead, 100 percent of the money given to the Gideons goes directly toward the printing and distribution of Bibles. I know of no more cost effective way for the BSC to meet its constitutional mandate to distribute Scripture.

Until the BSC meets its constitutional obligation, I hope individual churches will contact their local Gideon camps to have speakers share with their congregations about the ministry of distributing Bibles across North Carolina and around the world. For more information, send an e-mail to

Ed Johnson

Lillington, N.C.

8/22/2005 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Fulfilling a dream : Thursday, Aug. 18, 2005

August 18 2005 by

Fulfilling a dream : Thursday, Aug. 18, 2005
Thursday, Aug. 18, 2005

Fulfilling a dream

On Aug. 14 at Pine Grove Baptist Church in Rockingham, N.C., we had a "fulfill our dream day." The Brotherhood at our church has had a vision to establish a Disaster Relief/Handyman Trailer through the N.C. Baptist Men. This day was set aside to let others know of this dream. Carl Nance, Region 6 Director of Disaster Relief and Jack Carroll, Jr., Pee Dee Baptist Association director for disaster relief came and spoke to our church about missions and disaster relief.

Joey Hardee of Rileys Creek Association, Dexter Wilson of Anson Association, and Nance of Derita Baptist Church brought their trailers for the members of our church to see. I am so thankful that the N.C. Baptist Men all come together and support each other for the main purpose of sharing the gospel of Christ with others.

We have ordered our trailer and are waiting for it to be delivered. We are in the process of finding ways to supply this trailer. Please be in prayer for this "dream" we have. Thank you again N.C. Baptist Men, we are true Brothers in Christ.

Mark Blake

Rockingham N.C.

8/18/2005 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Bible study leader praises Caswell workers : Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2005

August 16 2005 by

Bible study leader praises Caswell workers : Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2005
Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2005

Bible study leader praises Caswell workers

I have just finished eight weeks as Bible study leader at Camp Caswell and felt compelled to write a letter and salute the evangelism department and specifically Merrie Johnson and her staff and the staff of Caswell. I believe this was the greatest summer in my life. I saw the results of a cooperative effort of youth ministers and volunteers from across your state. I saw the amazing work of college kids from across your state on the praise and worship team.

I was blessed to see the Lord work. Praise the Lord for the experience and I salute your state and staff.

Ken Smith

Leesburg. Fla.

8/16/2005 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Break with tradition gives spiritual jumpstart : Friday, Aug. 12, 2005

August 12 2005 by Jeremy Watson

Break with tradition gives spiritual jumpstart : Friday, Aug. 12, 2005
Friday, Aug. 12, 2005

Break with tradition gives spiritual jumpstart

By Jeremy Watson
BR Intern

During its Pursuing Vital Ministry program a month ago, Conrad Memorial Baptist Church in High Point explored ways to give itself a spiritual shot in the arm.

One such shot was administered on the weekend of July 22-24 with a conference entitled "Renewing The Spirit."

Conrad's conference was unique because it made Vacation Bible School (VBS) a family affair by giving teens and adults the same mid-summer revitalization as the children's ministry. While children took part in typical VBS activities like puppet shows and craft making, their parents and older siblings worshipped together and listened to speakers talk about their faith in God.

Comedian and dramatist Kelly Swanson, a Conrad member appointed to plan the three-day conference, says that even though the speakers she assembled came from diverse backgrounds and denominations, their messages were harmonious. "I feel that God led all the speakers to me," she said.

"If you have come looking for Jesus, you won't be disappointed," speaker Todd Cartner of Kernersville told an audience on Saturday. Throughout the weekend, speakers explained how Christ had worked in their lives, while dramatists like an e-team ("evangelism team") troupe showed it with their performances.

Those in attendance saw Swanson's comedic routine, which introduces audiences to imaginary characters from the fictitious town of Cedar Grove. In her act at the conference, Swanson played Vyrlene, a cosmetologist at Merlene, Vyrlene and Shirlene's House of Beauty. Swanson says her performance was intended to demonstrate "our beauty in God's eyes and how pointless it is to try to please the world."

In a speech to teens, John Fowler, a baseball coach at Glenn High School in Kernersville, told students about a "wake-up call" that changed his life and brought him to God. On Saturday, teens at the event arranged an impromptu community witnessing effort.

Among the Baptist speakers on hand was Shane Nixon, the Baptist State Convention's Web Minister and Technology Coach. "So often, our spirits get down and need renewal because we lose our focus on God," Nixon told his audience. "Luckily for us, we live in the grace of a God who welcomes our focus as soon as we put it back where it belongs, on Him."

Speakers at the event represented the pluralism of modern Christianity, with Methodist, Pentecostal, Baptist, and non-denominational Christians sharing their testimonies. Swanson says the speakers displayed "unity in the body of Christ."

As teens and adults received a lesson in religious cooperation, children learned about racial harmony. Professional storytellers Janet Harlee and Betty Foust taught children to be tolerant of racial differences and to avoid judging people based on features beyond their control.

According to Swanson, Harlee and Foust's message dovetails with the transition Conrad Memorial is making. "God is calling our church to get beyond race lines and denomination lines," says Swanson. "We're here to grow God's kingdom."

Swanson believes the conference was a step in the right direction for the church. "A fire has been lit," Swanson said. "It renewed a sense of compassion for the lost."

8/12/2005 12:00:00 AM by Jeremy Watson | with 0 comments

Dance club music, Bible teaching power : Friday, Aug. 12, 2005

August 12 2005 by Mike Creswell

Dance club music, Bible teaching power : Friday, Aug. 12, 2005
Friday, Aug. 12, 2005

Dance club music, Bible teaching power

By Mike Creswell
BSC Staff

In a small cinder block building in the Huntersville area north of Charlotte, Tommy "T" Long is rocking.

That's rocking as in moving with the music from chug-chug-ka-chink steroid-enhanced stereo speakers in the back of the every-seat-taken building as the people raise their hands in praise.

From the distance, it could be a dance club. But it's Good News House, operative title for a new Baptist church, and Long is the pastor. Members call him "Pastor T."

This 7-11store-sized, steeple-topped building has been a short-term way station for the growing group; they expect to break ground on a new building by early 2006. The congregation is growing much like the surrounding community that is exploding in new houses - 15,000 new homes are projected.

Drive through the finished part of Highland Creek and you'll see mini-mansion subdivisions with luxury cars parked in paved drives. Away from the subdivisions, older, simpler and cheaper wood frame houses sit along once-rural roads. Long is reaching people from both areas. There are few churches for African Americans around, though, which makes the place a high priority for church planting.

Long is one of 160 church planters sponsored by the Baptist State Convention. He is also one of a growing number of African Americans now working with the convention in more than 60 congregations. The huge church-planting program is funded through Cooperative Program Missions Giving and the North Carolina Missions Offering.

Pastor T's Sunday morning attire is a warm-up suit topped with a seriously conspicuous silver cross necklace that sparkles in time with his energetic praise worship leading and equally energetic preaching. But sift through the booming music and the motion and there's a solid gospel message about how people need Jesus in their lives.

That's why Long is here: to meet that need. People start listening to the music; they keep listening when Long talks in a close, friendly way about God.

After the service Long, 38, wipes his brow and crumples, tired, into an office chair to talk about his work. A native of Chesapeake, Va., he earned a bachelor's degree in social work from Norfolk State University and attended Morehouse School of Divinity in Atlanta. He worked 15 years at a detention center for juvenile offenders and with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Department and also taught school in Cleveland, Ohio, for five years.

His wife, Eunice, is his co-partner in ministry. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in public health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Members call her the "First Lady."

A pastor's son, Long has been in ministry since he was 22, but he said about three years ago God gave him a vision to start a church near Huntersville and he has been working at it for a little more than two years.

To cover expenses the Longs started a day care center in a leased facility, which also provided a ready way to meet people from the surrounding community. "That's how we reach the lost," he said. "We reach the lost and teach the found."

He said a third of his members have been drug addicts and prisoners, but others are successful businessmen - blue jeans to Brooks Brothers suits. Most of the congregation is black, but a few whites also attend. The one common denominator is youth. "We don't have a member over 50 years old right now," he said.

The contemporary music is intentional, he said: "The upbeat music, the club style, dancing around - that's conducive to people who are used to being in a club. So there's a method to our madness."

But he admits that part of his showman's persona is just who he is. "A lot of them (members) are just like me," he said.

With little room left on Sunday mornings, he said the church will need to move to two services soon or consider moving to a larger location. He also dreams of starting a school that would train and educate people in the area for ministry.

Darren and Desiree Boice were looking for a church when they moved from Philadelphia, Pa. He is a federal bank examiner for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. "We were looking for a church that was more concerned about winning souls, more that we're going to be able to apply to our everyday lives. We weren't looking for a church that was form or fashion," said Darren, 33.

He praised Long's practical preaching. "I remember the messages as I go through the week. That's what's important," he said.

Reggie Clark said he has been attending Good News for about two months, drawn by Long's sermons - and his energy. "He does something different that really keeps you entertained with the Word, not something just dead. He goes over a real life situation so you can correlate it to your life," he said.

"I think his messages hit home and he has a wonderful way of speaking and giving them out," said Felicia Fontenot, 34, who works in the day care program.

The Longs invited Ureka Davis to the church after meeting her through the day care program. She works with insurance at a local hospital. "I like the today's music. I just love it. I like how the pastor preaches and he breaks it down where I can understand. He breaks it down in layman's terms where I can understand exactly what it means," she said.

Salesman Shawn Davis also started attending Good News through the day care program. He said his life just fell apart when he quit attending, so he gradually became a loyal member and eventually was made a deacon. He credits the Longs with turning his life completely around.

As the Sunday service comes to a close, two young men stand to sing a Christian rap song. The people move. The walls move.

More importantly, the Spirit moves.

8/12/2005 12:00:00 AM by Mike Creswell | with 0 comments

Caswell camps teach teens to 'Choose Wisely' : Friday, Aug. 12, 2005

August 12 2005 by Melissa Lilley

Caswell camps teach teens to 'Choose Wisely' : Friday, Aug. 12, 2005
Friday, Aug. 12, 2005

Caswell camps teach teens to 'Choose Wisely'

By Melissa Lilley
BSC Communications

Once a place where soldiers guarded the coast against sea invaders, Fort Caswell on Oak Island helps young people stand against the world.

The North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell is a spiritual retreat for 40,000 guests each year. In the summer up to 1,000 youth each week attend special weeklong camps for spiritual growth and enrichment.

This summer, 7,030 youth and chaperones from 305 churches attended the eight youth weeks. More than 3,000 made rededications, 336 made first-time decisions and 232 teens said they experienced a call to ministry.

North Carolina Baptists purchased the abandoned fort on 250 acres in 1949. Visitors can still explore remains of forts from the Civil War and World Wars.

This year's youth week theme was "Choose Wisely." Through worship, Bible study and church group devotions, youth are taught to make biblically based decisions, reflecting God's purposes.

Thomas Hinton, youth minister at First Baptist Church in Lenoir, has brought youth groups to Caswell for nearly 30 years. Hinton said his youth group's return to Caswell each year is marked by continued spiritual growth.

"This is God's summer home - He speaks here to teens in unique and powerful ways," Hinton said.

Hinton's group counts down the days until the trip to Caswell. "We have two seasons - the one from Caswell to Christmas, and from Christmas to Caswell," he said.

And youth go full force upon arrival. "It's not a week at Caswell - it's one long day with five little naps," Hinton said.

The veteran camper and chaperone knows what he's talking about. Summer days at Caswell are packed with activity from dawn to well past dusk.

Part One: Inside Caswell with First Baptist Church of Lenoir

Table banter bounces from thoughts on the morning worship to good-natured tease. But when someone mentions the upcoming lunch is the last of the week, or tonight's worship is the last before they go home, dreaded silence hovers.

This scene is different than the one just 24 hours before...

Thursday, 12:40 p.m. - "Sunscreen, don't forget the sunscreen! Let's go, let's go, the bus is pulling out!"

The youth and chaperones of the Lenoir youth group are serious about the sandcastle-building contest.

Very serious.

Well before the official 1 p.m. starting time they'd already selected a prime beach location and placed their buckets and tools. When the green flag drops, they race to dig water pits and fill blue buckets with ocean water.

Three hours later, youth scatter during afternoon free time. Girls toss the football in a grassy area near the climbing tree. Guitar resting on his shoulder, a camper strolls to the picnic tables to strum. Cannonball splashes into the swimming pool and the lifeguard's whistle echo across camp. But the sand castle builders work steadily.

Energy still runs high, but wet, gritty sand clings to arms, legs and creases. A bitter elixir of sunscreen and sweat lingers on the tongue.

Hair once pulled back tightly off girls' faces now hangs limp, matted to the backs of their necks. Pink cheeks become red faces in the sun.

5:30 p.m. - Inside the cottage, the main hallway is lined with brown bags, decorated with the name of a youth or chaperone and used as a mailbox for encouragement letters. Some youth sit on the floor writing letters to group members.

It's decided a new look is necessary for one of the guys, and the girls help transform him from blonde to temporary redhead.

"Look at this one," a youth said, pointing to the newest round, inflamed spot on her leg that begs for a good scratching.

Chairs on the front porch stay full while music blasts through the beach cottage as volunteers inside make final dinner preparations.

Evening Worship in Hatch Auditorium

"Let's give it up for what the Lord did last night," said Adrian Despres, speaker for the first two camp weeks. The previous night Despres encouraged campers to get serious about living for Christ daily, and many youth made commitments. Despres delivers the message during morning and evening worship.

"God goes to extreme measures to bring the lost to Himself," Despres said. A crowd who entered the auditorium snapping pictures with friends and clapping their hands to the music sit still, listening to his every word.

10 p.m. - Ending card games and returning from an evening walk requiring repeated rounds of bug spray, youth and chaperones gather around tables for the scheduled church group devotion. Funny memories of the day are shared before reflecting on spiritual teachings.

Sometime late - Lights out is 11:45 p.m. But the art of whispering is perfected after lights go down and the giggles are endless.

Friday morning

8:30 a.m. - Seagulls chatter overhead and already the air is thick and stifling, skin moist and clammy from a short walk to the forts. Two girls enjoy personal devotion time atop a rampart with a backdrop of the river. A slight breeze holds some gnats at bay and carries a hint of ocean scent.

The morning has calmed from the night before. The musical wake up call in the Lenoir cottage was right on time at 7 a.m. But alarm clocks clanging at 6:15 identify those willing to wake early to claim a warm shower.

9:30 a.m. - Lights are low and a pounding musical beat resounds through Hatch Auditorium, where campers are standing and clapping and waving their arms.

The Caswell staff leads in skits on stage. Ken Smith, large group Bible study leader for all eight camp weeks, quiets the crowd and after a prayer, middle school campers leave for small group Bible study. High school campers remain in the auditorium with Smith.

After about one hour the two groups switch, then meet together for Despres' morning message.

Small Group Bible Study

Youth are instructed not to speak for the next hour. Music plays softly in the background and groups rotate among classrooms, each room holding a different remembrance to Jesus' journey to the cross.

Twisted together like a crown, the barbed wire presses firmly into clutching hands. A cross in the next room invites youth to hammer a nail into the wood. Youth and adults use red paint to write their names under a banner reading, "Remember me."

1:15 p.m. - Under a shady spot, grilling for the evening meal is underway. Tennis courts keep busy. Church buses and vans still read, "Caswell Bound," and "Caswell or Bust."

But soon the clothes strewn about under beds must be claimed and tucked into suitcases. Tomorrow morning begins the journey home. But for the youth group of Lenoir, the countdown until next year is just beginning.

Part Two: Caswell is long-time tradition

Something about a quiet place by the sea keeps people coming back. Since starting in the youth group at First Baptist Church of Lenoir, Bailey Stevens has attended Caswell. "I wouldn't miss Caswell for anything," she said. "It has put me where I want to be."

Her second year at Caswell, Stevens was still trying to make sense of her parents' divorce. "I was turning for somewhere, something that could lead me to fix everything," she said.

Stevens rededicated her life at Caswell and found that "something" was in God. "I can make it in life no matter what's going on - I'm always going to be strong with Him," she said.

One night Despres spoke about letting go of anything hindering a relationship with God. With reminders of family changes still fresh, Stevens knew a phone call to her mom was in order.

"I knew my relationship with my mom was holding me back," she said. "I've seen her change, I just didn't want to forgive her.

"I wanted to turn my life to God, and to give Him all of me I had to fix my relationship with her," Stevens said. "We both just sat there and cried."

Chelsea Boham is Stevens' best friend and a regular at Caswell. Before Boham went for the first time, Stevens explained camp to her friend. "When she told me Hatch (Auditorium), I pictured us worshipping under a hut," Boham said.

Like Stevens, Boham had a life-changing Caswell experience. Several years ago the speaker's message addressed doubt and the assurance of heaven. Boham shared the same uncertainties with Stevens the night before leaving Lenoir.

During the invitation, Boham said she finally made peace with herself and God. "That was the best feeling ever - I felt like I lost 20 pounds off my chest," she said. "Every year when I come back it's so refreshing."

Last year the youth group from Lenoir made it their goal to stay refreshed and spiritually strong after Caswell.

"We promised each other when we went home we'd hold each other accountable for what we were doing," Stevens said. "If we ever saw a friend at school and they weren't doing things we know are right, all we had to say was, 'What about Caswell?' and they'd straighten up."

In church, youth who normally sat in the balcony during worship services moved to the first few pews.

At First Baptist today, the front row is still where the youth call home.

A Timeless Place

As a teenager, Greg Watson traveled to Caswell with the youth group from Greenwood Forest Baptist Church in Cary. At the time, Thomas Hinton was Watson's youth minister at the Cary church.

Caswell got into Watson's DNA and as a Youth Corps summer ministry he brought his youth groups to Caswell. Now a businessman in New Jersey, Watson still comes every summer to help Hinton chaperone his youth group.

"Even though I'm working over a hot grill or pushing sand around, it is a chance to decompress and step away from the hassles and pace of the business world," he said.

In the mid-80s, Watson joined more than 300 North Carolina Baptist volunteers to tackle large-scale renovations at Caswell. Watson said he considers one of their greatest successes the addition of air-conditioning in the buildings.

Fond memories of growing up at Caswell keep him coming back. "It was the happiest time you ever had when you were just sweating nonstop," Watson said. "Being down here just a week a year, we make lifelong friends we like to call up and spend time with during the rest of the year."

Watson takes pleasure in helping Hinton plan a special week for the youth. "From generation to generation the experience is handed down," Watson said. "For a lot of people, there's a sense of place here."

8/12/2005 12:00:00 AM by Melissa Lilley | with 0 comments

Of sore feet and shooting from the lip : Friday, Aug. 12, 2005

August 12 2005 by Tony W. Cartledge

Of sore feet and shooting from the lip : Friday, Aug. 12, 2005
Friday, Aug. 12, 2005

Of sore feet and shooting from the lip

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) is limping forward after shooting itself in the foot during its annual General Assembly meeting. Despite claims to the contrary, however, it is not limping down the path to abandoning Christ.

People rarely shoot themselves in the foot on purpose. In most cases, foot-shooting is accidental and results from not being as careful as needed.

The self-inflicted injury to which I refer involves a revision of CBF's constitution during its June 30-July 1 General Assembly meeting in Grapevine, Texas. While sitting on garish carpet that featured bull horns, belt buckles, cowboy boots and ten gallon hats, participants were persuaded to take direct aim at their toes by approving a whole series of constitutional changes, one of which removed the words "Christ" and "Great Commission" from the purpose statement of the CBF constitution.

Baptist Press quickly contacted two Southern Baptist Theological Seminary leaders, who criticized the move. President Al Mohler said "My central concern is what this means about the true nature of the CBF and its commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ ... How can any organization of churches redefine itself without evangelism without intending to send a message about a larger theological shift?"

Theology dean Russell Moore intoned "This represents the eclipse of Christ in the moderate Baptist movement."

I hope both men would have been more charitable if they had been given a better understanding of what really happened.

Some readers who accepted their ill-informed responses uncritically have written to the Recorder, arguing that CBF has opened the gates for a stampede of heresies promoting salvation through other means than Jesus.

Hold your horses, partner, because that grub is full of baloney.

A word of perspective, please.

A committee had been charged to recommend wholesale revisions to CBF's constitution and by-laws. In the format presented in the assembly handbook, 479 of 585 lines in the new version were unlike the old. That was a lot to chew on in a too-brief business session.

The only matter of debate centered on the first sentence under Article II of the constitution, entitled "Purpose."

The old reading began by saying CBF's purpose is "to bring together Baptists who desire to call out God's gifts in each person in order that the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be spread throughout the world in glad obedience to the Great Commission."

The newly proposed reading says the group's purpose is "to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission."

The committee's stated reasoning was a simple desire to harmonize CBF's mission statement with the constitution's purpose statement.

Some participants saw danger ahead, and complained that removing the name "Christ" from the purpose statement could send the wrong message. Faced with parliamentary pressure to approve the entire revision, however, the majority adopted the committee's suggestions without change, leading to the aforesaid bullet to the boot.

CBF officials were entirely correct in insisting that the change in wording does not change CBF's stated commitment to Christ and to the Great Commission: "to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission" certainly incorporates those ideas.

But, the participants who objected were right in recognizing that the move would lead to misunderstanding, even if it did not really change the meaning.

Post-assembly feedback has been so negative that the CBF Coordinating Council has agreed to revisit the issue at their next meeting. They cannot replace the lost blood or eliminate the scar, but hopefully they will remove the bullet and reinsert the original language beside the new.

One more word is in order: SBC loyalists who have criticized the blunder as a purposeful elimination of Christ from the purpose of the CBF would do well to read the constitution and bylaws of the Southern Baptist Convention, where Christ's name does not appear, as alluded to by one of our letter writers. The constitutionally stated purpose of the SBC is "to provide a general organization for Baptists in the United States and its territories for the promotion of Christian missions at home and abroad and any other objects such as Christian education, benevolent enterprises, and social services it may deem proper and advisable for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God."

Constitutions, by their nature, are legal documents, not theological treatises. Both the SBC and CBF constitutions rely on the word "Christian" and clearly state that their purpose is to advance Christian ministries and missions. Any criticism of one could be leveled against the other.

It should be evident that both organizations are capable of making mistakes, and occasionally shoot themselves in the foot.

It is also obvious that members of both groups have occasionally stomped on the wounded appendages of their brethren.

Here's an idea: what if we considered the option of praying for those who have stumbled, and wishing them well in their service to the same God, the one we know through Jesus Christ?


8/12/2005 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments

A Mud Creek love fest : Friday, Aug. 12, 2005

August 12 2005 by Tony W. Cartledge

A Mud Creek love fest : Friday, Aug. 12, 2005
Friday, Aug. 12, 2005

A Mud Creek love fest

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

Mud Creek Baptist Church in East Flat Rock celebrated pastor Greg Mathis' 25th anniversary as pastor Aug. 7, and showed him some powerful love.

He has earned it.

Mathis came to Mud Creek in 1980, fresh from earning his M.Div. degree at Southeastern Seminary. During his 25-year ministry, Mud Creek has grown from 700 to more than 2600 in membership, and is one of the few churches that has more people in the pews than on the rolls.

Mathis, who was praised for his preaching ability, pastoral presence, and visionary leadership, has led the church through a series of building projects and other initiatives.

In turn, Mathis thanked the church for "letting me be me" and "letting me be free" to engage in other ministries, such as teaching courses at nearby Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute and preaching across the country, while also devoting many hours of service to the Baptist State Convention.

In the latter capacity, Mathis is widely admired for his ability to stand firmly on his own beliefs while respecting and cooperating with those who differ - a Baptist distinctive that has grown all too rare these days.

Mathis' warmth, humor, and positive approach have enabled him to cultivate a very large church that still manages to feel like a close family - in large part because of the genuine caring that flows from the top.

Members completed the day with a two-hour celebration of Mathis' ministry, and awarded him an enviable "sports sabbatical" with tickets to several championship sporting events coming up in the next year.

During the three morning worship services, Mathis' only bow to the day's observance was a request that, if church members are to remember him for anything, "Don't ever forget what I think of Jesus."

Mud Creek members aren't the only ones hoping that Mathis will stick around for another 25 years.

8/12/2005 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments

FaithSoaring or falling? : Friday, Aug. 12, 2005

August 12 2005 by George Bullard

FaithSoaring or falling? : Friday, Aug. 12, 2005
Friday, Aug. 12, 2005

FaithSoaring or falling?

By George Bullard
Acting BSC Executive Director-treasurer

Karl Wallenda, patriarch of the Flying Wallendas high wire act, fell 75 feet to his death 27 years ago while walking a cable strung between two hotels in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Reflecting on his death, his widow suggested that during the months preceding the fall Karl transitioned from an attitude of confidence and courage, to one of fear and precaution. He morphed from an aerialist who lived to soar, to a hesitant high wire actor who was consumed with the fear of falling.

This fear of falling is now known as "the Wallenda factor." It refers to situations where the fear of failure smothers the joy of soaring. It refers to situations where problem-solving erases an affirm and build process, where counting the "no" votes is more important than counting the "yes" votes, and negatives are more important than positives.

Congregations experiencing an interim between senior pastors are often subject to the Wallenda factor. They fear the possibility of failure during the interim. They focus on fixes rather than solutions. They do not engage in FaithSoaring.

The Wallenda factor is also expressed in congregations when a threat of some type is present. People are afraid the threat will become a reality, and the congregation will be harmed. Dialogue is often around the possibility of something negative happening to the congregation, rather than the opportunity for FaithSoaring.

State conventions are also subject to the Wallenda factor. Our state convention could fall victim to the Wallenda factor during the next six to 12 to 18 months. We could embrace the fear of falling rather than the joy of FaithSoaring.

How will we respond?

Will we focus our time and energies as a state convention on the joy of FaithSoaring? Or, will we focus our thoughts on the fears of a state convention likely to experience many transitions over the next months and years that will be viewed as positive by some and negative by others?

How will we focus our prayers for the search committee for a new Executive Director-treasurer that is being announced? Will we pray they will joyfully engage in a search and be positively drawn to the person God is calling to be our next leader? Or, will we pray that they will not nominate someone we are not sure we can support?

Will it be a time of FaithSoaring or a time of being fearful about falling or failing? I pray it will be a time of FaithSoaring in the spirit of Isaiah 40:31. May we wait on the Lord, gain new strength, and mount up with the wings of eagles.

8/12/2005 12:00:00 AM by George Bullard | with 0 comments

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