February 2001

Annuity Board to cut non-SBC churches

February 23 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Annuity Board to cut non-SBC churches | Friday, Feb. 23, 2001

Friday, Feb. 23, 2001

Annuity Board to cut non-SBC churches

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor Baptist pastors and staff have often joked, "If the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) splits, I'm going with the Annuity Board." For some, the issue is no longer a joking matter. The Annuity Board has announced that staff members from churches that publicly sever ties with the SBC are no longer eligible to participate in Annuity Board retirement or insurance programs. The board will continue to manage asset accumulations and distributions for past participants, officials said, but will not accept additional contributions or make insurance programs available.

State convention officials have been asked to police the policy and to notify the Annuity Board when a church announces its withdrawal from the SBC.

The Church Annuity Plan (CHAP) is based on contractual agreements between the Annuity Board and the state conventions or multi-state associations affiliated with the SBC. The plan calls for the state conventions to determine which churches qualify for participation. As amended and restated in 1995, the plan defines an eligible church as "... any Southern Baptist Church as determined by the State Convention as well as an association of Southern Baptist Churches or other Southern Baptist organizations that the State Convention determines should be treated as a church for purposes of participation in this Plan" (CHAP, section 2.1[f]).

The same section goes on to state that "... an organization shall cease to be a Church when the Annuity Board receives notice from the State Convention that the organization is no longer a Southern Baptist Church."

Annuity Board president O.S. Hawkins recently wrote to the executive directors of the state conventions, pointing out the CHAP provisions. The Annuity Board must act within the limits of its charter, Hawkins said, which calls for it to serve churches within the bounds of the Southern Baptist Convention.

"We expect you to notify us of churches in your state that no longer consider themselves to be a part of the Southern Baptist Convention," Hawkins said in his letter to BSC Executive-director Jim Royston.

Royston told the Biblical Recorder that the BSC's policy allows any church contributing a minimum amount through one of the BSC's cooperative giving plans to qualify for participation. "The contract is between the state convention and the Annuity Board," he said. "If a church continues to support the state convention, we don't plan to declare it ineligible."

Churches that publicly disassociate themselves from the SBC are not the only ones that could be affected. Through a long-standing agreement, the BSC's contract with the Annuity Board also provides services for churches and denominational staff affiliated with the General Baptist Convention of North Carolina (GBCNC), which consists of predominantly black congregations. The cooperative agreement calls for GBCNC churches to be dually aligned with the BSC through minimum contributions to one of the BSC's cooperative giving plans but does not require affiliation with the SBC.

Curtis Sharp, executive officer for denominational and public relations services with the Annuity Board, told a recent gathering of state convention executive directors and state paper editors that the Annuity Board has no desire to force churches out of its programs. "We want to keep them in," he said. "The worst thing for us is to erode our asset base - the more assets we have, the lower our fees - but we must maintain the charter."

Sharp said the Annuity Board is encouraging all SBC churches to remain affiliated with the convention so they will not face any loss of benefits.

Annuitants who are members of non-SBC churches will not be affected, Sharp said, because their benefits are based on past service.

The Annuity Board cannot cease serving a church unless the state convention instructs it to do so, said Sharp, because the Church Annuity Plan is based on a contract between the Annuity Board and the state conventions.

The Annuity Board will not rely solely on the state conventions, however. Sharp said that when Board officials learn of churches that have voted to withdraw from the SBC, they will contact the churches individually, advise them that the Annuity Board will serve only SBC churches, and encourage them to rethink their decision to sever ties.

Those churches, however, have an alternative. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship launched a new benefits board Oct. 1.

Gary Skeen, president of the CBF Church Benefits Board, Inc., said he is already in conversation with a number of churches that have recently severed SBC ties. He said about 30 churches so far have enrolled in medical, retirement or life-and-disability programs offered by the new organization.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
2/23/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



Customized approach by NAMB benefits churches

February 23 2001 by Tammi Reed Ledbetter , North American Mission Board

Customized approach by NAMB benefits churches | Friday, Feb. 23, 2001

Friday, Feb. 23, 2001

Customized approach by NAMB benefits churches

By Tammi Reed Ledbetter North American Mission Board TOPEKA, Kansas - A blending of old and new methods provides Randy Cowling with the tools he needs to direct missions at Kaw Valley Association in northeastern Kansas. Meeting pastors over a cup of coffee is still the most personal way of remaining aware of the needs of churches, said Cowling, a missionary with the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board (NAMB). And yet, interacting with them online offers a new dimension of keeping churches informed of ministry opportunities.

It's all a part of the association's Acts 1:8 goal of "helping churches discover and fulfill God's purposes."

"Churches want more customized help for where they're at instead of one big Sunday School meeting to attend," Cowling said. "One church's situation with 25 people is different than another with 150."

Cowling and his wife, Doris, are featured missionaries during the 2001 Week of Prayer for North American Missions, March 4-11.

The association's 12-county area includes 41 Southern Baptist churches, encompassing the cities of Topeka and Lawrence. Instead of being consultants with limited expertise, Cowling and associate director of missions Debbie Carter and Richard Taylor are assigned to 15 of the churches within the association. By focusing on building a relationship with each church, the associational minister becomes a resource in every aspect of ministry.

With the majority of churches having a single staff person and many of those serving bivocationally, the varied needs demand a customized approach. "Now we can be hands-on facilitators," Cowling said of the new approach.

Since coming to Kansas five years ago, Cowling has encouraged the association to retool for greater effectiveness. Instead of 27 committees meeting occasionally, a streamlined association focuses on the broader categories of administration, missions and outreach, support and enrichment. Quarterly board meetings with sparse attendance have given way to biannual worship and business sessions that draw five times the number of people. A core administrative team meets every other month to supervise the work of the association.

"For the past four or five years we have pushed, pulled, prodded and promoted the need for new churches and ministries across northeast Kansas," Cowling said. In spite of the energy, time, and resources expended, he said there was limited return.

Drawing from the apostle Paul's encouragement for Timothy to "fan the flame," Cowling said his staff refocused on helping churches discover and fulfill God's purposes. "We've discovered that ministry is popping up all over northeast Kansas, and we've got to just get out of the way and let God work," Cowling said, referring to the advice of Henry Blackaby in Experiencing God.

"Ministries and churches begin from the grassroots," Cowling said.

With the changing perspective has come exciting results. One church is developing Bible study for Hispanics as a result of providing food to area residents. Pastors of three additional churches have identified similar needs and began meeting regularly to determine how to more effectively reach people for Christ.

Multi-housing communities provide the setting for social ministries that reach particular ethnic populations.

A cookie-cutter approach is inadequate, Cowling and his staff said. By getting to know each church's strengths and weaknesses, one of the associational ministers can determine which ones have similar needs that require particular resources.

"We're taking partnership to a whole different level," Cowling said. "By building a team approach, the churches have seen that we're here to serve them."

In addition to discovering God's purposes in individual congregations, churches are cooperating to fulfill His goal for the region through missions. Sharing the gospel with Native Americans is a key part of the association's ministry, ministering to three reservations with Potawatomi, Sack and Fox and Kickapoo tribes.

Haskell University in Lawrence, Kansas, draws students from federally recognized tribes to the only four-year institution designed for Native Americans. Through the association's student ministry, Southern Baptists share the gospel in an increasingly New Age climate. The future leaders of Indian tribes will emerge from the school to go back to the reservations.

Student ministry extends to Kansas University with more than 25,000 students to what Cowling calls "an Ivy League school of the Midwest" - the commuter campus of Washburn University, where 50 students gather each week for campus ministry.

Discovering God's purpose for Kaw Valley Association has allowed the 41 churches to cooperate in starting three new congregations, including a Native American work, a home church, and a more traditional start.

Cowling draws on previous experience in diverse settings to challenge northeastern Kansas Southern Baptists to discover opportunities for mission action. As a missionary associate serving as director of Atlantic City Ministries in New Jersey, Cowling organized ministries to casinos, resorts and college campuses. He has also led educational and youth ministries for local churches in Kansas and Missouri.

In order to develop leaders within the association to meet the demands of ministry, Cowling is drawing on technology to improve communication via the Internet. Churches exchange prayer needs across the association. And increased communication helps the association overcome the isolation facing many rural churches, Cowling said. "We're all in this together."

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
2/23/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tammi Reed Ledbetter , North American Mission Board | with 0 comments



Perception of culture divides moderates, conservatives, historian says

February 23 2001 by Mark Wingfield , Texas Baptist Standard

Perception of culture divides moderates, conservatives, historian says | Friday, Feb. 23, 2001

Friday, Feb. 23, 2001

Perception of culture divides moderates, conservatives, historian says

By Mark Wingfield Texas Baptist Standard AUSTIN, Texas - Differences between Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) conservatives and moderates on church-state issues stem largely from different perceptions of culture, according to a Baylor University historian. "The differences between SBC moderates and conservatives on church-state issues are even more intractable than one might think precisely because the deepest areas of disagreement rest at the level of perception," said Barry Hankins, assistant professor of history and church-state studies at Baylor.

Hankins offered the assessment during the annual conference of the Baptist General Convention of Texas Christian Life Commission, held at Tarrytown Baptist Church in Austin Feb. 12-13.

His presentation was based on face-to-face interviews with a number of leaders of the SBC's conservative movement, interviews intended to help identify what SBC conservatives really believe about church-state issues. While admitting he does not share the viewpoint of these conservative leaders, Hankins said he believes many moderate Baptist leaders have misrepresented what conservatives actually do believe.

When questioned closely, both moderate and conservative Southern Baptist leaders claim adherence to the same set of historic Baptist beliefs on church-state separation, Hankins said.

However, the conservatives are driven by a perception of culture that changes the entire landscape, he said. This is the perception that the United States today is hostile toward any expression of religion or faith.

Hunkered down in what they call a "culture war," conservatives today are willing to downplay concerns about the possible government establishment of religion in order to achieve the greater good of ensuring free exercise of religion, Hankins said.

"Far from believing there was any danger of the establishment of religion in America, conservatives became convinced that a decadent culture was being stripped clean of religious influences with the help of a secularizing state that was hostile to religion," he said. "Conservatives, therefore, low rate the danger of establishment and instead turn all church-state issues into matters of religious liberty."

An example is found in the debate over school prayer, Hankins said. "Because of their perception of a hostile and discriminatory American culture and state, conservatives have turned what we all consider an establishment violation into a free-exercise right."

On the other hand, Southern Baptist conservatives as a group are not advocates of a theocracy or Christian reconstructionist movement as some moderates have alleged, Hankins said. Such charges are "patently erroneous," he said.

One way the historian gained perspective on this matter was by asking conservative SBC leaders to evaluate a much-quoted 1984 statement by W.A. Criswell, then pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas. In a nationally televised interview, Criswell said, "I believe this notion of the separation of church and state was the figment of some infidel's imagination."

While it is easy to assume Criswell spoke for all Southern Baptist conservatives, that actually is not the case, Hankins said. In fact, the only SBC leader he interviewed who expressed any sympathy for Criswell's statement was Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Mohler told Hankins he is "very sympathetic" to statements like Criswell's, "but I would be very reluctant to throw them out in the public square where I wouldn't be understood. I think the phrase 'separation of church and state' is a very unfortunate statement."

While Mohler explained he does not believe government has a right to establish a state church or take on a priestly function, "on issues of morality, it is ridiculous to believe that you can disestablish Christian morality without fundamentally undoing the American experiment."

All other SBC leaders interviewed by Hankins - including Jimmy Draper, Adrian Rogers, Richard Land and Paige Patterson - disavowed any sympathy for Criswell's statement. One called it "bizarre," and another said it was "not one of Criswell's finer hours."

"All the SBC conservatives I've talked to argue that people of all faiths should worship freely in America and that the state should coerce no one in matters of religion," Hankins said. "Still, this leaves a puzzling question. If SBC conservatives espouse the same religious liberty principles as moderates, why are they on the other side of moderates on so many church-state issues?"

The answer, he said, "has to do with the conservatives' perceptions of American culture. ... SBC conservatives believe American culture has turned hostile toward evangelicals. America, in their view, is now discriminatory toward nearly all positions of faith.

"This is the language of culture war, and it drives the SBC conservative movement on issues ranging from church-state, to abortion, to the roles of women," Hankins said. "In fact, I believe perceptions of American culture serve as the glue that holds together Calvinist theologians like Mohler with revivalist preachers like Rogers, evangelistic expositors like Patterson and public advocates like Land.

"On church-state issues, this perception of culture not only shapes their positions on religious liberty but also leads them to virtually disregard the danger of the establishment of religion," he said.

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2/23/2001 12:00:00 AM by Mark Wingfield , Texas Baptist Standard | with 0 comments



Mortality hurts

February 23 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Mortality hurts | Friday, Feb. 23, 2001

Friday, Feb. 23, 2001

Mortality hurts

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor Grown men cried when Dale Earnhardt died. Tough men. Men who wouldn't shed a tear if they lost a leg. Women cried, too. The man in the black number three had countless fans who loved him like family and who took thrilling, vicarious rides with him week after week. Racing fans in Daytona and around the world were stunned when they learned that Earnhardt had died instantly from head injuries after crashing into the fourth turn wall on the final lap of the Daytona 500. The wreck appeared to be a routine wall-slider, so most fans focused on the thrilling finish as Michael Waltrip won his first race in 463 tries, shadowed by Dale Earnhardt, Jr., both of whom drove cars owned by Dale Earnhardt, Incorporated.

NASCAR fans have seen hundreds of cars hit the wall, often driven (or tapped) by Earnhardt. When the cars stop rolling, the drivers get out and limp to the ambulance for a mandatory ride to the infield care center. An earlier chain-reaction crash was much more spectacular and frightening, as it sent Tony Stewart's car flying and spinning into the air, landing on other cars, sparking fires. The cars were junk, but everyone walked away.

Not this time.

Many observers call Earnhardt the greatest NASCAR driver ever. His diehard fans loved him with a passion, while others loved to root against him. I was in the latter group because I didn't like his "get out of my way" driving style or his ties to Budweiser, but I was also left gaping for air at the news of his death.

Earnhardt drove with a constant, controlled aggression and was not at all averse to bumping other cars to push them out of his way or to signal his displeasure. He also shunned recent safety developments, continuing to wear an open-face helmet and refusing to use a head and neck restraining system that NASCAR recommends. He openly criticized NASCAR's efforts to slow speeds and increase safety as being "for sissies."

Words like "superstar," "icon" and "institution" fail to express the significance Earnhardt's presence had on NASCAR racing. The media called him "The Intimidator." Competitors called him "Ironhead." There was an aura of invincibility about him, a sense that Dale Earnhardt was indestructible.

But he wasn't.

Neither are we.

That's why it hurts.

The cold reality of his mortality offers a lesson to all who grieve his departure. Let us hope it is a lesson learned.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
2/23/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



Show me the morals!

February 23 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Show me the morals! | Friday, Feb. 23, 2001

Friday, Feb. 23, 2001

Show me the morals!

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor Governor Mike Easley is following through on a campaign promise to push for a state-run lottery in North Carolina. In his first State of the State address on Feb. 19, Easley announced two new education initiatives for young children and said a lottery was the way to pay for them. Easley knows he is up against a group of lawmakers who are not inclined to support state-sponsored gambling, so he challenged them to find a better way.

"You can't just say 'I'm against a lottery for education,'" Easley said. "You have to finish the sentence, tell me what you're for, because next year, 100,000 5-year-olds will show up at the schoolhouse door, and they deserve more than an overcrowded classroom with an underpaid and overworked teacher."

Easley pulled a line from the movie Jerry MaGuire - which deals with the life of a greedy sports agent - and added, "Show me the money!"

I want Gov. Easley to show me the morals. I'm all for improving education, and our family happens to include one of those 5-year-olds who will be showing up at the schoolhouse door next year, but I cannot endorse the idea of financing his education through state-sponsored gambling.

I don't care if every other border state has a lottery. If it's wrong, it's wrong - and gambling is wrong.

A state lottery promises much and delivers little, with the only sure winners being the outside gambling operators who run the show.

Gambling exploits the gullibility of people who think their chances of winning are actually good.

Gambling preys on the poor, promising the false hope of quick wealth in return for investing grocery money they don't have to spare.

Gambling undermines the basic moral value of working for a living, of earning honest gain for honest labor.

Gambling encourages the value of selfish greed, for even potential winners must know that any winnings will come at the expense of others' loss.

Show me one good thing about that.

Show me the morals.

The governor asked for someone to show him the money. If more money is needed for education, two solutions come to mind: raise taxes or shift budgetary priorities. The governor knows that selling a tax increase could be harder than selling the lottery, and robbing Peter to pay Paul won't be popular with those who have vested interests in other budget categories.

I am reminded of a lesson I learned as a boy. I noticed that some churches raised a substantial amount of their budgets through bingo games, turkey shoots and frequent raffles. When I asked why we didn't do that at our church, I was told that we believed God's people should support God's work voluntarily through their tithes and offerings. The wisdom of that message has stuck with me, and I believe it is applicable here.

If North Carolina's people believe more education funding is needed, then we should dig into our pockets and pay for it straight up rather than relying on questionable means. I am not excited about increasing taxes, but I'd rather fund a fair tax increase to support our children than sell their moral birthright for a mess of ill-gotten pottage.

The governor appealed to the Golden Rule as a reason for improving our education system. A state lottery promises gold, but breaks the rule.

There's something to be said for a moral education.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
2/23/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



Top ten reasons to love www.biblicalrecorder.org

February 23 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , Editor

Top ten reasons to love www.biblicalrecorder.org | Friday, Feb. 23, 2001

Friday, Feb. 23, 2001

Top ten reasons to love www.biblicalrecorder.org

By Tony W. Cartledge Editor The Biblical Recorder's redesigned Web site is setting records. It was launched in January and immediately attracted twice as many page-views per day (an average of 1,174) as the previous record setting month (April of 2000, 507 per day). Here are the 10 most popular features:

1. The new Calendar Page. Have trouble keeping up with your calendar of denominational events? We keep it for you. Just go to the home page (www.biblicalrecorder.org) and click on the "Calendar" navigation bar. Go to any month and click on "Month's events at a glance," or choose a single day to see what's happening. If your church or association has events of regional or statewide interest coming up, let us know via the convenient "Nominate an event" link and we'll add them to the calendar.

2. The Home Page. The point of entry for most users. From the home page, you can reach anything on the Web site with two or three clicks of the mouse. It's easy to navigate and loaded with features, including convenient links to local weather forecasts and breaking news.

3. The News and Opinion Pages. Here is our bread and butter - careful and responsible coverage of news that is relevant to N.C. Baptists, and a wide range of opinion pieces to spark your own thinking. These pages include new features that allow users to download articles in a printer-friendly format, or to send them by e-mail to a friend.

4. The new Classified Advertising page. With one click of the mouse, users can view the most recent listing of classified ads - even before the print version is printed and mailed. This reinforces our new approach to listing all classifieds together. Readers can even submit a classified ad online.

5. The new Church Search feature. This database of every BSC-affiliated church in our system is easy to navigate. You can ask for a list of churches in any city or town, or search for an individual church to get its address. For fun, you can plug in a word like "Beaver" to see how many N.C. Baptist churches have it as part of their name (we have four Beaver Creeks, three Beaver Dams, a Beaver Island and a North Beaver Baptist Church). We will soon have the ability to add hyperlinks for all churches that have Web sites, so visitors can go directly from our site to individual church sites.

6. The new Sunday School Lessons page. Commentaries on weekly Sunday School lessons have been a mainstay of the Biblical Recorder for years, and are now available on the Web. This feature offers an easy way for teachers to download and print the commentaries for use in their preparation.

7. The Archives. Many users have learned the value of accessing our archives for information about N.C. Baptists. All news and opinion articles that have been posted on our site are preserved in the archives, which go back to October 1997. Our helpful search engine makes it easy to dig up past articles according to date or subject. Here's a hint: when searching by date, remember that our Web posting date is usually eight days earlier than our print publication date.

8. The Links page. Our links page offers a convenient entryway to other news services and sites related to the Baptist State Convention, the Southern Baptist Convention, and other Baptist organizations.

9. The Tar Heel Voices form. We now get more letters for Tar Heel Voices by e-mail than through the postal service. In many cases, we receive responses to articles on the Web before they even go into print. This allows us to be more prompt in printing time-sensitive letters.

10. The updated Staff Page. On this page, readers can find a biographical sketch for each of our staff members, along with a photograph (for those who wonder what we look like), and a direct e-mail link for each employee of the Biblical Recorder.

Our new site registered 124,479 total "hits" in January, not counting visitors who access copies of our page on other servers. We hope others will join the "hit" parade and try out the many helpful features to be found at www.biblicalrecorder.org. Remember, these are just the top ten!

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
2/23/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , Editor | with 0 comments



Family Bible Study lesson for March 11: Loving My Enemies

February 23 2001 by William (Mac) McElrath , Luke 6:22, 27-38

Family Bible Study lesson for March 11: Loving My Enemies | Friday, Feb. 23, 2001

Friday, Feb. 23, 2001

Family Bible Study lesson for March 11: Loving My Enemies

By William (Mac) McElrath Luke 6:22, 27-38 Enemies! Do you have any? Surely no one is trying to do you in or vote you out like those amoral contestants on the "Survivor" show. Yet each of us has to face people who seem to stand in our way, people who criticize us unjustly, people who take a skewed view of who we are and what we're doing. What do you do to enemies?

Jesus says, "You gotta love 'em."

Expect opposition (Luke 6:22) In chapter 6 of his Gospel, Luke gives his version of the Beatitudes that are better known as listed in Matthew chapter 5. Only the last of these "Blesseds" is included in this lesson passage.

Notice the condition Jesus put at the end of verse 22. If you are hated, excluded, insulted, or rejected because of your own bad deeds or bad attitudes, then you don't qualify for the promised reward. But if any of these things happen to you "because of the Son of Man," then you may hope for God's blessing.

The rest of today's lesson is Jesus' expansion and explanation of Luke 6:22.

Act rather than react (Luke 6:27-30) In these verses Jesus lists eight types of behavior that ought to characterize His followers. Every one of the eight goes against the grain of human nature.

Notice that Jesus' commands are both inward ("Love your enemies") and outward ("Do good to those who hate you"). In both cases He suggests specific action: Inwardly, we are to pray for those who abuse us. Outwardly, we are to turn the other cheek, offer the coat along with the pilfered cloak, and so on.

Are these commands of Jesus to be taken literally? Obeying the last part of verse 29 could result in nakedness. Obeying verse 30 could result in starvation. Obeying the first part of verse 29 could result in annihilation.

The key word is love. Jesus' followers must always act in love. His list of specifics may be taken as a warning of possible dangers in such selfless love.

Return good for evil (Luke 6:31-34) Jesus stated the Golden Rule in simple words (v. 31). Yet perhaps no other verse in the Bible has been so often misquoted, misapplied or misunderstood.

For one thing, don't listen to anyone who tries to tell you that great Jewish rabbis, the Chinese sage Confucius, and other religious leaders have all stated the Golden Rule just as Jesus did. The fact is, Jesus was the first ever to state it in a positive form. Both Confucius and all Jewish teachers down to the 1100s A.D. put it negatively: "Don't do to others what you don't want them to do to you."

Even more misleading are those who "simplify" the Golden Rule into "Do as you're done by."

Other well-meaning people perhaps make the opposite error: They try to glorify the Golden Rule into the highest, fullest expression of Christian morality. Luke 6:27 might be a better choice for that.

Yet the Golden Rule certainly is handy. Consider it a portable guide, a reality check, an emergency clause. If you can't do any better in a pinch, at least you can do to others what you'd want them to do to you if the positions were reversed.

Having stated the Golden Rule, Jesus then went ahead to mention three types of behavior that any honest person would classify as kind and appropriate: Love your loved ones. Do good to your friends. Lend to people who need money.

Thus far a Christian's pattern of behavior might be no different from a non-Christian's. "But this," says Jesus, "is not enough. Don't limit your loving and your doing good to the realm of enlightened self-interest. Don't limit your lending to good credit risks."

Hope for the right kind of reward (Luke 6:35-38) In these closing verses, Jesus continues to urge His followers to show a higher type of morality. But He also begins to say, "Your reward will be great."

Who will fulfill the great promises stated in these verses? Who will give to us, if we give? Who will not judge us, if we don't judge others? It seems as if Jesus didn't say, for all of these great promises are couched in passive terms.

Probably Jesus was following Jewish tradition in using the passive voice to avoid repeated mention of the Name that must not be lightly uttered. Most likely His true meaning was: "Do not judge, and God will not judge you. Do not condemn, and God will not condemn you."

If we obey His commands, so Jesus said, then we "will be sons of the Most High" (v. 35, NIV). Of course we will! Who else but children of our merciful God would be brave enough to show mercy in a merciless world? And who else but God will reward us for it?

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
2/23/2001 12:00:00 AM by William (Mac) McElrath , Luke 6:22, 27-38 | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for March 11: Faith as a Source of Strength

February 23 2001 by Ken Vandergriff , Hebrews 11:1-3, 23-28

Formations lesson for March 11: Faith as a Source of Strength | Friday, Feb. 23, 2001

Friday, Feb. 23, 2001

Formations lesson for March 11: Faith as a Source of Strength

By Ken Vandergriff Hebrews 11:1-3, 23-28 Martin Luther stated that "faith is a living and unshakable confidence, a belief in the grace of God so assured that a man would die a thousand deaths for its sake" ("Preface to Romans"). No Old Testament hero better exemplifies Luther's statement than Moses, to whom our attention turns today. His faith did provide him an unshakable assurance in the face of seemingly impossible tasks; yet his faith also thrust him into situations that must have seemed like a thousand deaths.

Moses' confident faith The writer of Hebrews recalls four episodes from the life of Moses which depict his faith. The first actually celebrates the faith of Moses' parents; in defiance of the pharaoh's order to drown all Hebrew boy infants, they hid the baby as an act of faith.

Second, the adult Moses chose to identify himself with the downtrodden Hebrew slaves, rather than with Pharaoh's household (vv. 24-26). We know almost nothing of Moses' upbringing. Exodus 2 is sparse with details. We are told simply that when he was an adult, he saw the forced labor of his people and, upon seeing an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, he killed him. He could have ignored the beating, but by that public act he rejected his Egyptian upbringing and cast his lot with the slaves. For the writer of Hebrews, that was an act of faith. According to the striking statement of v. 26, Moses considered abuse to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt. What a paradoxical thing faith is!

Third, Moses left Egypt by faith, unafraid of the pharaoh. We should note how different this depiction is from that of Exodus 2:14-15. According to Exodus, Moses was afraid and fled for his life; for the writer of Hebrews, he left unafraid because he saw the invisible God. This difference of presentation is a good place for reflection. The same act is seen as a response of understandable fear (Exodus) and as an act of faith (Hebrews). For the writer of Hebrews, the one act cannot be separated from the totality of Moses' life. That's encouraging; sometimes we act out of impulse or fear, but our total life of faith casts those instances in a new and better light.

Fourth, Moses kept the Passover by faith. Can you imagine killing an animal and smearing blood on your doorpost in public view? If Moses were wrong about Passover, he would have been a public fool. But by faith he did it, trusting that God would vindicate the act.

The trials of faith The writer of Hebrews focuses on the victories of Moses' faith. We do well to consider other incidents as well. Often, his faithfulness brought problems. Faith brought him into confrontation with Pharaoh because the Egyptians considered Pharaoh to be god on earth. A simple command from Pharaoh could have brought Moses' life to an end. Because of his faith Moses became the leader of a motley group of whining, complaining, often unfaithful people (Exod. 32; Num. 14). Sometimes Moses had to lead this ragtag group in battle (Num. 21). His faith led to frustration as much as to comfort. Rarely have heroes of faith led lives of ease.

Before we leave this chapter of Hebrews, it is instructive to recognize some of the other heroes of faith mentioned. Rahab (v. 31) and Jephthah (v. 32) prompt an important question for our reflection: can persons who commit morally objectionable acts still be persons of faith? This is a timely question, since all too frequently in recent years Christians have attacked other Christians, declaring that "he cannot be a Christian if he commits that act or holds to that particular belief." Yet Rahab was a prostitute - morally objectionable; Jephthah sacrificed his own daughter - also morally objectionable. Even Moses killed a man in a fit of anger. Nevertheless, they all are considered heroes of faith.

Hebrews 11, then, gives us much to reflect upon. Faith is the evidence of things hoped for; faith is a source of strength even though faith may bring on trials; and even persons who commit morally objectionable acts may be persons of faith.

Faith is a mysteriously complex thing.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
2/23/2001 12:00:00 AM by Ken Vandergriff , Hebrews 11:1-3, 23-28 | with 0 comments



How mainstream is the "Mainstream" movement?

February 19 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

How mainstream is the "Mainstream" movement? | Monday, Feb. 19, 2001

Monday, Feb. 19, 2001

How mainstream is the "Mainstream" movement?

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor The genesis and growth of the "Mainstream Baptist" movement has raised excitement in some quarters and disgust in others. What should we make of this new organization that claims to represent old Baptist principles? Some conservative observers accuse the movement of being a duplicitous political front for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF). Two N.C. Baptists have written the Recorder, asking that we expose the perceived hypocrisy of Mainstream leaders by pointing out how many of them also support CBF.

It is certainly true, as the Recorder's coverage of the movement has made clear, that the early leadership of Mainstream Baptists of North Carolina (MBNC) has been primarily "moderate," though they have eschewed the label and have also sought to include conservatives in the movement.

It is also true that those same leaders are affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and the Baptist State Convention (BSC) of North Carolina-but I haven't heard anyone accuse them of being a political front for the SBC or the BSC.

A prominent N.C. Baptist conservative told the Triad World (a conservative newspaper that purports to represent a "biblical worldview") that the Mainstream movement, like so-called "Mainline" Protestant denominations, is bound for decline. "Mainstreamers are confused a lot," he said. "Everything mainstream is dying. Mainstream is a reactionary thing to wanting to be one big happy family. Everything mainstream is going downstream."

Readers may be surprised to know that some moderate observers also think the movement is misguided, not because of any perceived CBF connections, but precisely because Mainstreamers have disowned any link to CBF and have called for leadership that avoids "fundamentalism" from the right or the left. Some CBF faithful wonder if the rhetoric is intended to suggest that they are the leftward fringe that Mainstream wants to avoid. Others worry about N.C. Baptists being drawn into orbit around Texas.

Mainstream leaders are undeterred. They have been very clear in stating their agenda and defining who they are. They may or may not think highly of CBF, but they uniformly dislike the increasingly rigid positioning of the SBC, and they don't want to see state conventions remade in the same image.

Whether that attitude is truly shared by the Baptist "mainstream" depends entirely on one's perspective. Mainstream leaders are convinced that the majority of Southern Baptists share their views and would support their agenda if informed of the issues. Supporters of the SBC's conservative reformation demur, citing continued success in winning elections as evidence that the majority supports their cause. Mainstreamers point to decreasing attendance at the SBC's annual meetings as an indication that the real majority is staying home.

Agreeing on the meaning of "mainstream" is like trying to agree on the meaning of "historic Baptist principles." There are at least two groups who are convinced they know the correct definition, and no argument or evidence will persuade them otherwise.

In a sense, the debate renews a lingering issue of semantic confusion.

Some "moderates" who consider themselves to be theologically conservative have long been irked that "more-conservative-than-thou" brethren succeeded in co-opting the term "conservative" and accusing all others of being "liberal," leaving those who are less conservative to adopt the wimpy-sounding "moderate" label as a way of denying that they are "liberal." For a while, Baptist newspapers tried to avoid the problem by using the terms "moderate-conservative" and "fundamentalist-conservative," but gave it up because the terminology was just too unwieldy, and because few people want to be called a "fundamentalist," even when the label fits.

Now the nomenclature is on the other foot, so to speak, as Mainstreamers have adopted (and legally trademarked) a label with largely positive implications, leading some SBC advocates with little recourse but to campaign against the term's legitimacy.

How mainstream is Mainstream? For now, the answer remains in the eye of the beholder. For the future, the answer may be measured by whether the movement succeeds or fails.

Unfortunately, the true numerical majority of those claimed by Southern Baptists can still be branded with two other labels with regard to denominational matters: "uninformed" and "apathetic." If those labels do not change, Southern Baptists will eventually find themselves neither mainstream nor downstream, but up the creek.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
2/19/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



Baptist colleges: True partners in kingdom growth

February 17 2001 by Jim Royston , BSC Executive Director-treasurer

Baptist colleges: True partners in kingdom growth | Saturday, Feb. 17, 2001

Saturday, Feb. 17, 2001

Baptist colleges: True partners in kingdom growth

By Jim Royston BSC Executive Director-treasurer N.C. Baptists have had colleges almost as long as we've had a Baptist State Convention. A major reason we established our convention in 1830 was to birth and support a "manual institute" located in the "forest of Wake (County)," opening for classes in 1834. Six other Baptist colleges - Chowan (1848), Mars Hill (1856), Campbell (1887), Meredith (1891), Wingate (1896) and Gardner-Webb (1905)-later joined the convention family. Christian education has been a major part of our denominational foundation.

Baptist colleges and universities are still a vital part of our cooperative ministry efforts. One of the unique and amazing aspects of our schools is their ability to adapt to the changing needs of our churches and communities. Most of our colleges began as boarding high schools, later becoming two-year (junior) colleges and then four-year institutions, several with graduate programs. Meeting community and church needs is a hallmark of our institutions.

One of the major needs of our churches today is leadership development. Everywhere I go - in churches large and small - trained leadership tops the need list. Many of our congregations face critical leadership shortages, especially as older members are no longer able to continue in their service. All of our schools are committed to addressing these leadership issues, from the founding of divinity schools at Gardner-Webb and Campbell to an on-campus church leadership institute at Chowan. Our schools - strategically located across the state - have a tremendous potential to serve church leaders, both clergy and laity.

Our colleges and universities have also taken extraordinary measures to serve N.C. Baptists by making college education as affordable as possible. Wingate University, for example, provides a tuition free education to any active N.C. Baptist minister. Baptist ministers attending Chowan College pay only $125 in tuition per semester, a bargain by even state-supported college standards. Scholarship assistance for N.C. Baptists is available at all of our institutions. You can attend a Baptist college or university for a lot less money that you might expect!

My vision for our state convention centers around reaching the lost and developing believers. These two goals obviously depend upon vital and healthy churches, especially congregations designed to reach the thousands of people moving into our state. Vital and healthy churches depend upon trained leadership.

And I'm looking to our colleges and universities to be our partners in this important endeavor.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
2/17/2001 12:00:00 AM by Jim Royston , BSC Executive Director-treasurer | with 0 comments



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