February 2002

An Olympic movement

February 22 2002 by James Dotson , Baptist Press

An Olympic movement | Friday, Feb. 22, 2002

Friday, Feb. 22, 2002

An Olympic movement

By James Dotson Baptist Press

SALT LAKE CITY - It doesn't take much to start a conversation during the Winter Olympics: a funny costume, an offer of a free collector pin, a shared ride on a commuter train, a shared moment around a warm fire.

For about 1,000 volunteers from 21 states, those casual encounters are becoming opportunities to share the one thing in life that means "More Than Gold" - a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The volunteers are part of Global Outreach 2002, a Southern Baptist outreach ministry that has been gearing up for the Feb. 8-23 events for more than a year.

The ministry is sponsored by the North American Mission Board in partnership with state conventions in Utah-Idaho, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and Colorado.

Some of the volunteers - housed at local Southern Baptist churches - are involved directly with the games, partnering with the Salvation Army in providing free water for spectators and delivering boxed meals to official Winter Olympics volunteers. Other volunteers are assigned to the streets around major venues, where they are free to get to know people and share Christ as opportunities arise.

Volunteers offer an "Interactive Pocket Guide" to the games that includes Winter Olympics history, maps, a chart for tracking event winners and other useful information. But tucked into the back is a presentation of the gospel geared around the five colors of the snowflake in the "More Than Gold" logo.

The "More Than Gold" pin also is a draw for the ubiquitous pin collectors, who are ever in search of new pins or fodder for trades. The pins are free to anyone willing to listen as a Southern Baptist volunteer explains the significance of the logo.

The brief encounters sometimes result in immediate professions of faith, but more often the effect is more gradual - what organizers call a "positive Christian touch" that plants seeds of the gospel that can later bear fruit in changed lives.

In the nearby ski village of Park City, organizers placed a number of "warming stations" - small propane fireplaces - for people to warm their hands. And stationed at each was at least one Global Outreach volunteer helping maintain the fires and making visitors feel welcome.

"A lot of people just want to hang around here a long time to talk, so it's really great," said Monica Lopez de Victoria, a college student from Miami, who found numerous opportunities to share her faith in Christ causally around the fire.

For many of the volunteers, the involvement in Olympic ministry is an eye-opener of sorts, the exposure to personal evangelism that makes them realize that telling people about Christ is not that difficult at all.

"I was terrified to come and do this," said Nancy Gostic of Lakeside Baptist Church in McMurray, Pa. "It's amazing to me how easy it is to share and how open the people are. It's like the games have just increased their openness. I just feel like God has gone before us."

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2/22/2002 12:00:00 AM by James Dotson , Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Greensboro to host 2006 SBC meeting

February 22 2002 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

Greensboro to host 2006 SBC meeting | Friday, Feb. 22, 2002

Friday, Feb. 22, 2002

Greensboro to host 2006 SBC meeting

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting is headed to North Carolina for the first time since 1916.

The SBC Executive Committee unanimously endorsed a proposal to hold the 2006 meeting in Greensboro. The plan is expected to be approved by messengers to this year's meeting in St. Louis.

Convention planners also considered Charlotte for a future meeting, but decided that facilities there are not adequate for the event.

Bruce Martin, pastor of Village Baptist Church in Fayetteville, was chairman of the Executive Committee workgroup on convention arrangements.

"I'm thrilled and excited that the convention is coming to North Carolina," he said.

SBC officials said the meeting could have a local economic impact of $8 million to $10 million.

The Executive Committee also decided to hold the 2005 meeting in Nashville, Tenn. Kansas City, Mo., was also under consideration.

Convention planners especially liked the open, airy feeling of the Greensboro Coliseum, which is well known as a host of the ACC basketball tournament. They were also attracted to 120,000 square feet of exhibit space right off the facility's main floor and the nearby War Memorial auditorium which could hold the Women's Missionary Union meeting.

The workgroup and a subcommittee also unanimously endorsed the proposal.

Rental for the coliseum will be free, but the SBC will have to pay set-up fees, electricity costs and some other expenses.

The Greensboro Coliseum will hold 22,000 people. Less than 15,000 messengers have attended each annual meeting since 1995. About 9,600 attended the 2001 meeting in New Orleans.

Convention planners said Charlotte's bid to host the SBC meeting was hurt because its facility would only hold 14,000, with about a third of those being blocked from the view of the podium during show-of-ballot votes.

The last time the SBC met in North Carolina was the 1916 meeting in Asheville.

In other action at the Executive Committee meeting, committee members honored Ann Frazier, who died Jan. 1. Frazier served as secretary of the Executive Committee.

"Ann was recognized as one of the most influential Christian women in the world," said Bruce G. Coe, chairman of the Executive Committee and pastor of First Baptist Church in Chandler, Ariz.

C.J. Bordeaux, pastor of West Monroe Baptist Church in Monroe, lost a bid to replace Frazier as secretary. The committee elected Marty Odom, a realtor from Edmond, Okla., as secretary.

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2/22/2002 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments



Mainstream Baptists focus on freedom at national meeting

February 22 2002 by Jimmy Allen , BR Assistant Editor

Mainstream Baptists focus on freedom at national meeting | Friday, Feb. 22, 2002

Friday, Feb. 22, 2002

Mainstream Baptists focus on freedom at national meeting

By Jimmy Allen BR Assistant Editor

CHARLOTTE - Freedom was an often-used word during the first national gathering of Mainstream Baptists on Feb. 15-16.

Speakers described freedom. They utilized biblical stories to relate to the importance of freedom found in Christ. They talked about contemporary threats to freedom. And they used examples from church history to highlight people committed to freedom.

The approximately 250 people attending the convocation in a hotel ballroom were there as representatives of the 15 Mainstream state organizations. Although officially titled Mainstream Baptists, other names can be used to describe them, according to Roy Smith, interim chair of Mainstream Baptists of North Carolina (MBNC) and a retired executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Those names include authentic Baptists, traditional Baptists, and free and faithful Baptists.

Smith spoke during the Friday evening banquet. He said he sees three values or freedoms that are being threatened in Baptist life.

One of those is Baptists' belief in the authority of the Bible only. "There are those for whom the Bible is no longer sufficient," Smith said, referring to writers of the 2000 version of the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M).

"For the first time in our history we have an official, doctrinal statement," Smith said. That document is being used as a prerequisite for hiring, serving on boards and cooperating with the Southern Baptist Convention, he said.

"I contend, my friends, it is a gross and drastic departure of who we've been and who we ought to be as we seek to honor Jesus Christ," Smith said. His comment generated applause.

In North Carolina, an effort is underway for the state convention to adopt the BF&M, he said. "I hope and pray that day never comes."

Smith also sees a threat to the freedom of local church autonomy. No one should have the right to dictate to churches, he said. He referred to Benjamin Merrill who in the 1700s protested Gov. Tryon's decision to approve all pastors and their pay. Merrill, leader of more than 700 men willing to fight to preserve their autonomy, was arrested and convicted. He was hung, disemboweled and beheaded by the government because he was willing to stand up for the church's freedom.

"This business of freedom we often talk about glibly did not come easily," he said.

Smith also said the freedom of cooperation is a value that goes back in history. Two men, Shubal Stearns from the Sandy Creek tradition, and John Gano from the Charleston tradition, were able to come together for ministry in an effort that would result in the founding of the Baptist State Convention.

"We don't have too much of that attitude today," Smith said.

When a committee of cooperation in the BSC made recommendations for bylaw changes designed to encourage shared leadership at November's convention, two people stood up in opposition. One said the changes would be the basis for disunity. The other said no cooperation could exist until everyone agrees on the nature of scripture. So the convention didn't vote.

"We're living in strange and difficult times, and strange and difficult winds are blowing in North Carolina," Smith said.

David Sapp, pastor of Ponce de Leon Baptist Church in Atlanta, read a story of freedom from Acts 16 in which Paul and Silas set a fortuneteller free.

"The really great leaders in the history of the church have been those who have understood the word 'cross;' who were willing to pay a price to set others free - the martyrs, Martin Luther, Dietrich Bonhoeffer," Sapp said.

"It seems to me that those of us who have been captured by the Baptist idea have a unique responsibility to share our freedom," he said. "It is, after all, for freedom that Christ has set us free."

That freedom can be threatening to those in power and the sources of freedom are often put in prison, he said. That is what happened to Paul and Silas after setting the fortuneteller free.

Missionaries who have left their families, who have gone to the ends of the earth with little pay, and who model the saving love of Christ for others are now being asked to sign a creed, the 2000 BF&M, Sapp said.

"It is necessary because their freedom is threatening to those in power," he said.

Freedom is the most fertile soil for faith, Sapp said. "We do not advocate freedom in order to encourage people to embrace crazy ideas, although some of them might," Sapp said. "We do not advocate freedom in order to provide a license for heresy, although some might commit it. We advocate freedom so that people will be free to find truth, free to find life, free to find God who the Bible says is in Christ.

"So this is the simple call today. Keep the Baptist idea live. Run the risk of freedom so others might run the risk of faith."

Don Gordon, past chair of MBNC, told about his father being severely injured in a car crash. After several days, Gordon was told his father's tire business in Winston-Salem was facing a difficult time because his father was the one who created the cash flow. Gordon called a meeting of the business' seven employees and then went out generating business.

"I wouldn't allow his business to collapse," Gordon said. "I have similar feelings about the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina."

Gordon said he wants to pass on the Baptist heritage to his three daughters because "the Baptist State Convention has shaped my faith in a thousand ways known and unknown."

Testimonies were also given by Lynn Williams, a church-staff minister whose ordination in Florida led to a failed effort to expel her church from the local association; David Flick, the only director of missions in Oklahoma who refused to sign the 2000 BF&M and a self-described "closet moderate" until three months ago; and Mike Chancellor, the father of two Journeyman missionaries through the SBC's International Mission Board. Chancellor wrote a letter to IMB president Jerry Rankin saying Rankin is requiring missionaries to choose between their calling and integrity.

Raymond Earp, a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Beaufort and a former candidate for president of the BSC, attended the gathering. He said he liked the two-day event, especially after the IMB's announcement to require missionaries to sign the 2000 BF&M.

"If it (the convocation's message) can get out to the people in the local churches, it'll have a great impact," Earp said.

Johnnie Jackson attended the convocation from her home in Buies Creek. "I have really appreciated its focus on love and grace," Jackson said, "and the fact it is centered on the ministry of Jesus Christ."

She said she hopes the impact of the meeting is to motivate people to go into local churches and educate people.

"I really like Don Gordon's comment that it's up to those who are already educated (about Baptist issues) to carry the torch so others can see what's really happening," she said.

David Currie, MBN national consultant, said the convocation was an opportunity for people to get fired up and then inspire others.

Thirty-seven people, including five with North Carolina ties were inducted as the charter members of the Mainstream Baptist Network Hall of Fame. They are Randall Lolley, former president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and the pastor of several N.C. churches; Cecil Sherman, former pastor of First Baptist Church, Asheville, who is now an instructor at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond; James Dunn, former executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee and now a visiting professor at Wake Forest University's divinity school; Dan Martin, a former pastor in North Carolina after being fired from Baptist Press; and Duke McCall, former president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and an associate member of First Baptist Church, Highlands.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
2/22/2002 12:00:00 AM by Jimmy Allen , BR Assistant Editor | with 0 comments



SBC to promote 'kingdom growth'

February 22 2002 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

SBC to promote 'kingdom growth' | Friday, Feb. 22, 2002

Friday, Feb. 22, 2002

SBC to promote 'kingdom growth'

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is preparing a new emphasis on building God's kingdom, but SBC leaders made it clear that not all Southern Baptists will be part of the effort.

The SBC Executive Committee dealt with the proposal during its Feb. 18-19 meeting in Nashville, removing language that could be seen as friendly to moderates. During the meeting, the head of the committee echoed themes conservatives used to gain control of the SBC from moderates.

The document outlining a new "Empowering Kingdom Growth" (EKG) concept was amended to remove a paragraph that addresses reasons Southern Baptists aren't promoting the kingdom of God.

"Why are we hesitant and given to distractions such as power concerns, money, doctrinal differences, gender issues, congregation size, worship styles and out-dated organizational practices?" the paragraph said in part.

Calvin R. Wittman, pastor of Applewood Baptist Church in Wheat Ridge, Colo., raised a question about the paragraph when the document was first presented to the Executive Committee on Feb. 18. He said doctrinal differences and gender issues are based in Scripture.

Wittman said those matters could be "misleading." People who don't have the same scriptural beliefs as conservatives could use them as a "smoke screen," he said.

Carlisle Driggers, the executive director of the South Carolina Baptist convention and a member of the task force that proposed the concept, said the kingdom is the most important part of the idea. He said the language in question could be removed.

"We can take that out of there," he said. "That's no problem."

The EKG concept is based heavily on work done by the South Carolina convention.

The Executive Committee initially delayed consideration of the matter overnight so committee members could read the document more closely and pray about it.

The next day, Wittman made a motion to accept the document without the paragraph and to back the EKG concept. The motion passed without opposition.

The EKG concept arose from a group studying cooperation between the SBC and state conventions. That eight-person group will continue to meet. An EKG task force will include those eight and four other people.

Driggers and SBC President James Merritt will co-chair the EKG task force.

The document says no one tells Southern Baptists what to do.

"However, we are linked by a commitment to Jesus Christ as the Living Word of God and to Scripture as the Written Word of God" and to cooperation, the document says. "We do not compromise on Jesus, and we do not compromise on the Bible."

Morris Chapman, the head of the SBC Executive Committee will continue to chair the group studying cooperation. He said in his report to the Executive Committee that the past 23 years have proven that Southern Baptists are "people of the book."

"Through the process, Southern Baptists have rediscovered their true heritage," Chapman said. "We are a people who believe the Bible to be the inspired, infallible word of God, inerrant in the original manuscripts."

Conservatives used the inerrancy of the Bible as their battle cry while winning control of the SBC. Their rise to power started in 1979.

Southern Baptists should work together for the good of the kingdom of God, first, and then the SBC, Chapman said.

"We have a responsibility of leading not only our associational, state and national organizations, but deliberately and strategically leading the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole," he said.

Chapman said Southern Baptists need a new vision. He said the SBC has "nailed down" the issue of the absolute authority of the Bible.

"We do not interpret God's word through the filter of our experiences," he said. "We interpret our experiences through the filter of God's word."

Chapman said that after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 a call went out for people of all religions to meet together and pray for the victims.

"The conservative evangelicals said, 'No,'" he said. "Why? Because many of the world's religions don't pray to our God, the living God of the universe who sent His Son to die for our sins."

Chapman said Christians are facing increasing persecution.

"The secular world is attempting to marginalize and demonize conservative, evangelical Christianity," he said. "Secularists accuse us of intolerance, while being intolerant of our beliefs."

Chapman said Southern Baptists need to hear new voices.

"These new voices must have no agenda but Jesus and His word," he said.

Chapman said Southern Baptists need new victories.

"Let all who love Him and believe the absolute authority of His word march side by side and shoulder to shoulder from victory unto victory," he said.

Chapman said Southern Baptists are "conservative, Bible-believing people" who are marching on to new victories.

"Some may choose not to go with us, but we harbor no hatred," he said. "Our prayers go with them as they seek God's will in their walk with the Lord."

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
2/22/2002 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments



Texas explores options for missionaries

February 22 2002 by Mark Wingfield , Associated Baptist Press

Texas explores options for missionaries | Friday, Feb. 22, 2002

Friday, Feb. 22, 2002

Texas explores options for missionaries

By Mark Wingfield Associated Baptist Press

DALLAS, Texas - A Texas Baptist committee has set up an e-mail address to collect confidential information from Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) missionaries who are concerned about signing an affirmation of the 2000 "Baptist Faith and Message."

The Missions Review and Initiative Committee of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) is coordinating the e-mail survey. It was announced in a widely circulated e-mail written by Keith Parks, a member of that committee and former president of the SBC Foreign Mission Board as well as former coordinator of global missions for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

The committee's request was sparked by news that Jerry Rankin, president of the SBC International Mission Board (IMB), has asked all IMB missionaries to sign an affirmation of the current "Baptist Faith and Message."

The BGCT and some other Baptist bodies have not accepted that faith statement, which was drafted by an SBC committee without input from state Baptist conventions. Common concerns include charges that the statement elevates loyalty to the Bible over loyalty to Jesus, downplays Baptist doctrines of the priesthood of the believer and autonomy of the local church and defines itself as an "instrument of doctrinal accountability."

Exactly what will happen to IMB missionaries who do not sign the required affirmation is unclear. Rankin told Baptist newspaper editors Feb. 13 that missionaries were invited to note areas of disagreement and, if they do so, will be counseled by regional IMB leaders. While denying that missionaries would be fired for disagreeing with points of the faith statement, he said IMB administrators had not yet determined how to handle such situations.

Rankin told the editors he hopes 100 percent of IMB missionaries will sign the affirmation.

Initial reports from missionaries outside the United States indicate that is unlikely, however. Talk of at least some missionary resignations continues to circulate in e-mails and private conversations.

Parks reported that in the first few days after his e-mail began circulating, "a pretty steady stream of folks" wrote to the committee at newmissions@bgct.org.

The main thing, Parks said, is "we wanted to say to missionaries who share our convictions, 'Don't feel forced to compromise your own understanding of what it means to be a Baptist.'"

A Feb. 19 Baptist Press story quoted Rankin as downplaying the efforts of the Texas missions committee. Rankin told Baptist Press that Texas and moderate Baptist leaders "are going to be surprised when so few, if any, IMB missionaries take them up on their offer of an alternate support base."

Rankin also said he believes some are presenting a "distortion of facts ... to advance their anti-SBC agenda."

"The presumption seems to be made that it is the IMB administration and trustees who are attacking missionaries," Rankin said. "To the contrary, we have absolute confidence in the doctrinal integrity of our missionaries and their commitment to Southern Baptist convictions as outlined in the 'Baptist Faith and Message.' After all, their own statement of beliefs were examined thoroughly and they affirmed the 'Baptist Faith and Message' when they were appointed."

"To dispel any question by others, we are just giving them an opportunity to reaffirm what they have already done and said," he said. "Most of our missionaries understand that this request was to give protection and credibility to them so we can get on with our task."

In the e-mail announcing the electronic address, Parks said: "All of us who value our heritage of 'no creed but the Bible' are incensed by this demand for creedal conformity. This is one of the most extreme (although expected) actions in the ongoing destruction of cooperative Baptist mission efforts to which many of us have given our lives, prayers and money."

Some IMB missionaries will "refuse to compromise their belief in the priesthood of the believer," Parks wrote. "Texas Baptists, and many other Baptists, refuse to abandon these missionaries to the unacceptable choice of compromising either their convictions or their calling.

Information gathered through the e-mail address will help the BGCT committee explore ways to create a "genuine Baptist option" for these missionaries, he wrote. "We are confident that our Baptist people will respond to a cry for help from the missionaries as they always have."

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2/22/2002 12:00:00 AM by Mark Wingfield , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Can we ride this train?

February 22 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Can we ride this train? | Friday, Feb. 22, 2002

Friday, Feb. 22, 2002

Can we ride this train?

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

I want to get on board this train.

I really do.

I want to ride up front, ring the bell and blow the whistle.

The train comes in the form of a report that grew out of a two-year-old task force of SBC agency heads and state convention executives appointed to study issues of cooperation between the Southern Baptist Convention and the state conventions. The task force was expanded to include two pastors, SBC president James Merritt, and a director of missions who later joined the North American Mission Board (NAMB). State executive directors and editors heard a preview during a Feb. 12-15 meeting in Albuquerque, and a slightly revised version was delivered to the SBC Executive Committee meeting in Nashville Feb. 18-19.

One of the major issues facing the task force was the SBC's criticism of state conventions whose cooperative giving plans include missions options other than the SBC. For the record, none of those states were represented. State conventions also have expressed concerns about the number of strings attached when Cooperative Program money sent to the SBC is returned through channels such as NAMB funding for jointly hired state and associational staff. Sticky issues of autonomy and questions of "who's the boss?" in state convention/SBC affairs needed careful attention.

The task force report addressed none of the issues that led to its creation. Instead, members said they felt led to lead the convention in a risky venture to live out the tenets of the kingdom of God.

The issues still need addressing and adoption of the report should not be seen as resolving them, but I can applaud any attempt to promote the kingdom of God.

Much of the report, which contained 13 pages of New Testament quotations about the kingdom of God (or kingdom of heaven), is a reworking of the "Empowering Kingdom Growth" emphasis that has gone through several incarnations in the South Carolina convention.

There is nothing I like more than to hear people talk about putting distractions aside to focus on the kingdom of God.

I grew up being taught kingdom principles. My seminary education focused on the ideals of Christ's teaching about the kingdom. My efforts as a pastor were always to help the church find and fulfill its role in the kingdom of God. When the Biblical Recorder's board of directors joined me in developing a mission statement for the paper, it began with "Our mission is to further Christ's kingdom among North Carolina Baptists ...."

Our calling to be kingdom people is not something new.

The report includes a number of highlights, including "five foundational, fundamental truths" that were outlined to the committee by LifeWay president Jimmy Draper:

1. People are more important than institutions.

2. Churches are more important than the denomination and its entities.

3. Families are more important than churches.

4. The Kingdom of God is more important than all else.

5. Obedience is more important than global events.

Draper was right on target. These are wonderful, insightful observations, and the report is entirely correct in saying "What we need to do is get in line with the Lord Jesus as He walked the walk and talked the talk about Kingdom concerns."

The report says, "We do not compromise on Jesus, and we do not compromise on the Bible."

That's good.

The report promotes an empowering of Southern Baptists that means "to grant permission, to set free, to encourage, to bless, to support someone to reach for greatness. It does not mean to stay the same, to control, to give strict direction, or to limit progress."

I like that.

The report defines the kingdom of God as being fully surrendered to Christ, being where God is at work. "There is no limit or bounds to the Kingdom of God," it says, "Everyone is invited to the Kingdom because Jesus died on the cross that all might be saved."

Amen!

The report urges growth that comes from obedience to Christ's commission that "called for his followers to seek first and foremost the Kingdom of God and everything they needed would be provided for them."

Preach on!

The report also included a powerful paragraph that I quote in full: "The question for Southern Baptists is, 'Why can we not be Kingdom people? What keeps us from being about the Lord's business with Him? Why are we hesitant and given to distractions such as power concerns, money, doctrinal differences, gender issues, congregational size, worship styles, and out-dated organizational practices? Why can we not claim a true Kingdom focus and stay with it until Jesus comes again? Why can we not come to confess that we ought not pray "Thy Kingdom come" unless we are doing all in our power to hasten that event? Certainly the Evil One is constantly seeking whom he may distract and destroy, but the power and the call of God are greater than Satan. Do we serve the Lord of the Kingdom or do we not?'"

The Executive Committee voted unanimously to delete that entire paragraph while approving the remainder of the report, which suggests at least one answer to the questions it raised.

I want to celebrate this report and its goals, and to challenge everyone else to get on the SBC's new kingdom train. But I can't get past the puzzling paradox of leaders who simultaneously promote this report while systematically restricting full cooperation and participation in the SBC's corner of the kingdom. The conductor calls us to get on board but won't punch tickets that aren't doctrinally or politically acceptable.

This exclusivist attitude is precisely what fuels the ongoing conflict that distracts us from true kingdom living. Until we repent of our pride and learn to accept others as Jesus did, the train's bell will ring hollow, and the whistle's moan will be a mourning for lost opportunity.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
2/22/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



Sign of the times

February 22 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Sign of the times | Friday, Feb. 22, 2002

Friday, Feb. 22, 2002

Sign of the times

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

A recent meeting of state paper editors gave my family an opportunity to explore the southwestern environs surrounding Albuquerque, N.M. We reveled in the broad vistas broken by rocky mesas and snow-capped mountains jutting straight from the high plains. Local plant life in February offered little color, but the stark cliffs wore bands of cream and red, peach and burgundy and brown.

We scrambled through ancient Indian cliff-dwellings, walked through a recreated uranium mine, and ate burritos for breakfast. I attended meetings while the others shopped and visited museums.

One thing I will not forget is a sign we passed on "the Turquoise Trail," a back road leading north from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. Just a few miles north of the artsy, hippie village of Madrid, we crested a ridge and saw two low but expansive buildings at the top of the next hill, one on either side of the road. Both looked like school buildings but were surrounded by heavy-duty fences capped with razor wire.

"Aha," I thought, "this must be a state penitentiary."

As we drew closer, my suspicions were confirmed by a large and hilarious sign warning drivers against picking up hitchhikers.

Evidently, prison officials had so little confidence in their ability to keep inmates inside the fence that they had to caution motorists against aiding and abetting escapees.

I laughed until I realized that we often have the same problem with keeping people in church. We don't try to hold church members with physical fences, of course, but with communal bonds of friendship and worship, inspiration and encouragement, inclusion and on-mission involvement.

When those things aren't happening, we might as well put up a sign.

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2/22/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



Don't overlook singles - or they'll overlook you

February 22 2002 by Jim Royston , BSC Executive Director-treasurer

Don't overlook singles - or they'll overlook you | Friday, Feb. 22, 2002

Friday, Feb. 22, 2002

Don't overlook singles - or they'll overlook you

By Jim Royston BSC Executive Director-treasurer

When it comes to overall demographics, most churches do not mirror their communities. Our congregations are typically made up of traditional families - husband, wife and their 2.3 kids. According to the 2000 census, this "traditional" family is no longer the "typical" family. Single adults - people once married or never married - are a major portion of our population.

The growth in single adults is not caused primarily by an increase in divorces but by more young adults delaying marriage. Today, almost three-fourths of American women ages 20-24 have never been married. Over the past 30 years, the number of 20-24 year old never-married women has doubled, with the proportion of never-married women ages 30-34 tripling. A similar trend can be found among young American males, with less than 50 percent of under-30 males married today as compared to more than 80 percent married three decades ago. If your young adult son or daughter (or grandson or granddaughter) is not married, they're in the majority.

This information makes it more and more important for congregations to integrate single adults into the whole life of the church. The key word here is "integrate." Single adults are not some type of special, protected category. Being single doesn't segregate you at work or where you live. Single adults today, especially young women, have found much greater acceptance and opportunities for advancement in the workplace while still struggling for similar recognition at church.

The question should always be: "Is this person the best individual to lead a particular ministry?" Marital status should never be an issue.

Ron Hill, minister of education at Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas, and one of the longest-tenured ministers to singles in the nation, sees most churches ignoring this fast-growing segment of our population. "Single adults want to be the church too," he said, "and the truth is they are, but a lot of churches don't let them be. If you're married, you're treated differently."

More and more single adults, adds Hill, are just passing the church by because they are not allowed to be a significant part of the church's life - like serving as heads of committees or as deacons.

N.C. Baptist churches are in a race to catch up with the booming population all around us. In the last 10 years, for example, our state grew by more than 20 percent while our church population grew by less than 2 percent. Much of our state's rapid growth is among single adults. Can the same be said for much of your church's growth?

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
2/22/2002 12:00:00 AM by Jim Royston , BSC Executive Director-treasurer | with 0 comments



Family Bible Study lesson for March 10: Being Productive

February 22 2002 by Lisa Horton , John 15:1-7

Family Bible Study lesson for March 10: Being Productive | Friday, Feb. 22, 2002

Friday, Feb. 22, 2002

Family Bible Study lesson for March 10: Being Productive

By Lisa Horton John 15:1-7

Not long ago, I attended a weekend retreat with a group of ladies from my church. While I was away, my sweet husband, David, decided to water my houseplants for me. When I returned home, he led me through the house, proudly pointing out all the plants he had watered. I tried to express my gratitude, while containing my laughter. Not only had David watered every "living" plant in our home, but he had also watered the "artificial" ones as well!

Remain in Jesus(John 15:1-4)

As David discovered, artificial plants have an amazing resemblance to real plants. There is one important difference however. Living plants require nourishment in order to grow, bear fruit and be healthy.

Jesus compares His relationship with His followers to a living, fruitful vine. Jesus is the vine and His followers are the branches. In order for the branches to produce abundant fruit, they must remain in the vine. If a branch does not remain in the vine, it withers and dies. Likewise, it is absolutely essential that we remain in Christ and depend totally upon Him for spiritual nourishment and life. Bearing fruit is a natural response of the genuine Christian's relationship to the vine.

Remaining in Christ and bearing fruit is a very serious matter. Jesus says the Father cuts off every branch that does not bear fruit. Does this imply that a Christian can lose his salvation? Certainly not! It does, however, confirm that a person who bears no fruit has not had a genuine salvation experience.

Be Productive(John 15:5-8)

People who profess Christ, but whose lives bear no evidence of a relationship with Him are false followers. Judas Iscariot walked, talked, dressed and looked like a disciple. But he was not a genuine follower of Christ (John 6:64-71). He was a fake! Just because someone calls himself a Christian does not mean he is a Christian.

Abraham Lincoln had a favorite riddle he used to ask his colleagues. It went like this: "If a man were to call the tail of a dog a leg, how many legs would the dog have?"

"Five," was the usual reply.

"Wrong." Lincoln would say. "The dog still has four legs. Calling the tail a leg doesn't make it one."

Hudson Taylor said: "If your father and mother, your sister and brother, if the very cat and dog in the house, are not happier for you being a Christian, it is a question whether you really are."

The true test of genuine conversion is not what we say, but how we live. Gal. 5:22-23 says the "fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." This fruit should be produced in the life of every true believer.

Remain in Jesus' Love(John 15:9-11)

Have you ever really considered the magnitude and depth of Christ's love? While we were sinners, Christ loved us and died for us (Rom. 5:8). Jesus says for us to remain in His love. In other words, don't just be aware of Christ's love - live and serve in the power of it! Let the reality of Christ's love be the motivating factor for everything we do. When we fully comprehend His love, we will desire to remain in Him and will experience a complete, overflowing joy - the joy of living in an intimate, vibrant relationship with Christ.

Love One Another(John 15:12-17)

Jesus commands us to love each other as He has loved us. How has Jesus loved us? Enough to die for us! It is only possible to love like Jesus by allowing Him to love others through us. By remaining in Christ, we become a vessel through which He can flow to love and minister to others. Someone has said that a Christian is a mind through which Christ thinks; a heart through which Christ loves; a voice through which Christ speaks; and a hand through which Christ helps.

When we live and serve in His strength, Jesus enables us to accomplish great things for the kingdom of God. We must always be careful to give Him the credit and glory for what He accomplishes. We are nothing and can do nothing without Him. But we can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us!

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
2/22/2002 12:00:00 AM by Lisa Horton , John 15:1-7 | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for March 10: Teacher

February 22 2002 by Steve Zimmerman , Matthew 22:23-33

Formations lesson for March 10: Teacher | Friday, Feb. 22, 2002

Friday, Feb. 22, 2002

Formations lesson for March 10: Teacher

By Steve Zimmerman Matthew 22:23-33

It was the middle of 1945 and World War II was coming to an end. The super powers opposing Hitler's regime were a strange lot. On one side were Great Britain, France and the United States representing democracy. The other giant was the Soviet Union under Stalin's dictatorship. Ten years earlier no one would have dreamed of all these countries coming to a conference table to discuss anything much less war. But a common enemy had brought them together. Their survival was in jeopardy.

Two thousand years earlier two Jewish religious groups that did not care for each other found themselves working together to oppose their perceived foe - Jesus. Prior to this passage from Matthew, we find the Pharisees trying to lay a trap about allegiance to either Caesar or God to discredit the growing popular spiritual leader. After their embarrassment to Jesus' answer, it now became the Sadducees' turn to unseat the power that threatened their existence.

The Question(Matthew 22:23-28)

The Sadducees were the most powerful religious sect at the time. They were a small yet wealthy priestly aristocratic party. Their beliefs had no room for resurrection, angels or oral tradition handed down from generation to generation. The Pharisees, on the other hand, did accept these scriptural viewpoints.

The purpose of the question to Jesus was to damage the credibility of this new upstart teacher. If He truly favored Moses, who was seen through their eyes as righteous, He must believe in the law given by Moses that mentions no reference to resurrection. If Jesus did approve of the idea of life after death, then He would have been at odds with Moses. For that reasoning, they felt they had Him in a corner.

It is interesting to note that the ancient leader of the Hebrew people made no provision for anything heavenly. Moses' main concern in Deut. 25:5-6 was for life after death. He left the supernatural to God.

The Answer(Matthew 22:29-32)

Jesus gave a two-part answer to this pious group of leaders. In verses 29 and 30 we see Him address the matter of resurrection in a positive way. He does say that there will be a resurrection. This point is critical for the Easter story that He will demonstrate later with His own life. He hints of things to come!

However, what the religious leaders see as important now will not be on the same plain when resurrection occurs. Somewhere along the way, to the Sadducees' way of thinking, they had overlooked the aspect that the God they serve does not play by the same rules as humans. God is not bound by our human limitations or understanding.

Jesus, the teacher, saves His best point for last. He makes sure these learned men go back to what Moses said in Ex. 3:6. God shares with Moses the key verb - "am." In Hebrew this simple word portrays the Almighty as present in the past, in our lives now, and in the life to come. He is forever. If that is the case even for Moses, the Sadducees missed a fundamental concept that the God they serve is as real today as He was in the patriarchal times.

The Responses(Matthew 22:33)

Two groups came away from this teaching encounter with different results. The Sadducees were placed on the same level of frustration as the Pharisees. Neither group could contain this new leader. Their defeat in front of the people only fueled the flames to take further steps to get rid of their common enemy.

The second group was the crowd who was seeing this story unfold. Their response to Jesus was astonishment. They knew what He said was different and more relevant to them. He struck a nerve in their souls that made them aware of God's presence in their lives.

If you think about it, that is exactly what we strive to model each week when we share the good news about the master teacher.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
2/22/2002 12:00:00 AM by Steve Zimmerman , Matthew 22:23-33 | with 0 comments



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