February 2003

Cannadas building hope among the hopeless

February 28 2003 by Debbie Moore , North American Mission Board

Cannadas building hope among the hopeless | Friday, Feb. 28, 2003

Friday, Feb. 28, 2003

Cannadas building hope among the hopeless

By Debbie Moore North American Mission Board

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - As a sports journalist and editor for 10 years, Norm Cannada had no idea that he would wind up living and ministering in the struggling inner city of Charleston, W.Va. But it was while serving on a mission trip in New York City that he and his wife, Debbie, realized God was calling them to live and minister among people many others had forgotten.

"I believe for the most part the church ignores the inner city," said Cannada, a church planter strategist in Charleston. "... But as far as living day to day, living among the people, there are not a lot of people who are willing to do that. I just fell in love with the whole concept of touching lives. If we lived somewhere else, we would never be part of the community."

The Cannadas, both North Carolina natives, are among the missionaries featured during the 2003 Week of Prayer for North American Missions, March 2-9.

After being called by God to leave his job and enter the ministry in 1994, Norm was serving on a church staff in Statesville when he and Debbie had the opportunity to work with Taylor Fields on Manhattan's Lower East Side.

"It was during that time that we knew God's call to the city. We just knew that's where we were supposed to be, with inner-city people," said Debbie, who has been amazed over the past five years at how God has used her training as a special-education teacher and experience in ministry.

While attending Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary the Cannadas contacted all 42 Southern Baptist state conventions to discover what inner-city ministry opportunities were available. But they never imagined West Virginia would be a candidate.

"Everybody knows there's no inner city in West Virginia," Debbie said.

But after a visit to Charleston before Cannada's graduation, "we knew immediately that this was where God was calling us to be," she said. They moved that June, intent on starting a multi-racial church in a unique environment where he said, "rural Appalachia meets the inner city."

"God led us to an area that was considered the worst corner in Charleston," he said. "... There would be 15 to 20 drug dealers there all the time."

They established West Charleston Baptist Church in their home. Rather than taking the usual approach of first reaching out to the people with ministries then beginning a church, Cannada decided to start a church that would minister to the community.

The congregation started with Cannada's family and four new friends. Soon they had 49 regular attendees. They moved into a former convenience store. While also working to establish congregations in a trailer park and a government housing project on the outskirts of Charleston, Cannada challenged the West Charleston congregation to begin praying for the money to obtain an abandoned building across the street from the convenience store - an old print shop and warehouse.

"We prayed and fasted. We believed God did not want us to go into debt for it," Cannada said. By March 2002 - with some help from the North American Missions Board (NAMB), the West Virginia Baptist Convention and the Florida Baptist Convention - they purchased the 9,500-square-foot, two-story building.

"It was a miracle itself," Cannada said, concerning the process of praying and waiting on God for the money. One of the last-minute contributions was an anonymous donation of $45,000.

Along with traditional evangelism tools of backyard Bible clubs, vacation Bible schools and a food pantry, Cannada has led the congregation to reach out to their community through a combination of church-based ministries and proactive "servant evangelism."

Everything is done "in the name of Jesus first, but under the name West Charleston Baptist Church," he said. "The church seemed to give (the ministries) more credibility."

Homeless people are welcomed to take a shower in a newly renovated section of the church building.

Children can get help with their homework after school or just come to play, as the church sanctuary doubles as a basketball court. Free ballet classes are available.

Unemployed people can learn new work skills in the church's computer lab, where seven new computer systems were donated by Florida Baptists.

Servant evangelism takes place when members clean toilets for storeowners in Charleston's Town Center Mall; serve free hot coffee, juice and doughnuts to people waiting in lines at the local welfare office; hand out free cold drinks and doughnuts to weary travelers at the bus station; and wash cars for free at a local grocery store.

Cannada has taught church members to state simply - as people stare at them incredulously - "We want to serve you to show you God's love in a practical way."

He said the church has "gotten the reputation for being people who care, and that's a pretty neat thing."

"We've been careful to pray for people - not just take requests, but to pray right then. So we've gotten the reputation that we love them and will pray for them. I think that's made a difference," he said. "We do about anything you can do just to show people that we love them and that we care about them."

Living Hope Baptist Church is Cannada's newest endeavor - his third church plant in the area. The thriving congregation is located in the middle of Charleston's infamous Badlands area. Several years ago the city designated the mile-long stretch, because of its relatively out-of-sight location, for strip clubs and porn shops, but Cannada targeted the area in 2001 as a prime location for the gospel.

He started by meeting some basic needs of the women and children in the neighborhood: after-school care and Bible studies, and a prayer walk.

In 2002, Cannada recruited a pastor for the fledgling congregation. James Fitzwater, a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, agreed to serve as a church planter intern through NAMB's Nehemiah Project.

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2/28/2003 12:00:00 AM by Debbie Moore , North American Mission Board | with 0 comments



CBF cuts budget in response to giving drop

February 28 2003 by Greg Warner , Associated Baptist Press

CBF cuts budget in response to giving drop | Friday, Feb. 28, 2003

Friday, Feb. 28, 2003

CBF cuts budget in response to giving drop

By Greg Warner Associated Baptist Press

ATLANTA - The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), facing a shortfall in contributions, will reduce spending 10 percent this fiscal year and use up to $1 million from reserves to stave off deeper cuts.

Members of the

CBF Coordinating Council, meeting in Atlanta Feb. 20-22, dealt with budget cuts and adopted a less ambitious budget for its next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Philip Wise, chair of the group's finance committee, told the council $1.8 million has been cut from the organization's $18 million budget for 2002-03.

Most of those reductions were from within the organization - including $888,000 from its missions program - with another $638,000 coming from CBF's ministry partners.

Wise, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Lubbock, Texas, blamed the slow economy and its effect on CBF's donors, primarily churches. "We can't control how the money comes in," he said.

Wise detailed several measures to relieve the budget pressure and adjust to shifting giving patterns. "We can't continue to operate the way we've been operating and hope it all works out in the end," he said.

Two staff-led task forces are looking for ways to generate more revenue and reduce expenses. Spending, including funding for ministry partners, will be adjusted in line with actual monthly receipts and monitored closely.

At the request of CBF staff, a task force of council members will advise the staff before other cuts are made in the CBF's 14 "priority" areas. "If we cut any more, we are going to change those priorities," said Phill Martin of Dallas, Texas, CBF moderator and chair of the council.

The budget to be recommended for next fiscal year is $17.9 million - 9 percent less than the original 2002-03 budget but still 7 percent more than the reduced budget.

Wise said the finance committee was comfortable projecting the increase for next year despite the recent experience. "We believe we can grow out of this. It's kind of a Republican strategy," he said.

The proposed budget must be approved by the CBF general assembly in June. It will retain many of the spending reductions imposed this year.

Total funding for CBF's ministry partners, such as divinity schools, is projected to remain about the same - $1,686,915 in 2002-03 and $1,712,100 in 2003-04.

In other business, the council approved a national church-planting partnership between CBF and the Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas and Hispanic Baptist Theological School in San Antonio.

Among the project's goals are to start 400 Hispanic congregations and train 400 new Hispanic pastors by 2010.

Another new partnership with Buckner Baptist Benevolences, based in Dallas, will address the needs of at-risk children in the Rio Grande Valley. The project is part of the CBF's rural-poverty initiative.

The council also chose Bob Setzer, pastor of First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Ga., as moderator-elect to succeed Martin, director of education for the National Association of Church Business Administration.

Council members were told CBF has endorsed 295 chaplains since it began its chaplaincy program five years ago. The organization is on pace to endorse 100 to 150 new chaplains a year, with more than 600 currently in the process of application.

The Coordinating Council adopted a new policy for electing the eight-member Council on Endorsement, which handles applications.

The CBF has been surprised by the success of the program and the potential impact "is awesome," said Daniel Vestal, CBF coordinator. "We didn't put this in the strategic plan. We didn't think this up. ... God continues to surprise us."

In his address to the council, Vestal said he is coming to terms with the likelihood he "will live out the rest of my life as a moderate Baptist in a minority setting."

Many CBF members were accustomed to being part of the largest religious group in the South before their estrangement from with the Southern Baptist Convention.

"We were the establishment. We are not now the establishment. And I don't think we ever will be again," Vestal said. Many moderate Baptists "are having a problem with that," he added.

Vestal also predicted moderates will "live a long time in the context of fundamentalism" and will continue to be "maligned." But the Bible says those falsely accused should rejoice, Vestal said. "So let's get over it.

"We need to learn what it means to be the presence of Christ when you are the minority and when you are a labeled - and sometimes libeled - group."

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2/28/2003 12:00:00 AM by Greg Warner , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Should free market determine pastors' pay?

February 28 2003 by Mark Wingfield , Associated Baptist Press

Should free market determine pastors' pay? | Friday, Feb. 28, 2003
  • In all but the largest churches, connectional churches pay their ministers better than congregational churches and provide better benefits.
  • Church size matters when it comes to salary. Among Protestant churches of both kinds, landing a job at a larger church translates into a larger income.
  • Smaller churches struggle to pay a high enough salary to attract and retain qualified clergy. An increasing number of smaller churches are calling part-time or less experienced clergy as a solution.
  • Regardless of polity, "only a small percentage of pastors earn what most Americans would consider a professional-level salary."

    The problem begins with the assumptions upon which clergy salaries are based, the authors say. "Most congregations attempt to answer that question by looking at what they have paid pastors in the past and what they can afford given their current membership."

    Catholics approach questions about clergy salary from an entirely different perspective than Protestants by removing financial incentive as a motivator for excellence in ministry. The variation between compensation for Catholic priests varies relatively little between larger and smaller parishes.

    That allows Catholic priests to move more freely between parishes of different sizes, the authors said. But the relatively low pay of Catholic priests may discourage young adults from entering the ministry.

    Likewise, connectional Protestant churches are more likely than congregational Protestant churches to offer clergy a livable wage. The down side of that policy, however, is that some smaller connectional churches go without clergy because they cannot pay the minimum salary required by the denomination.

    For example, in the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1999, 62 percent of churches with membership less than 100 were without pastors.

    Another reason clergy salaries may be higher in connectional churches is the typical economic status of those churches. "Churches within connectional polities also happen to be on average larger and richer, and they hire clergy with higher education," the study said.

    The researchers applied their data to compare what a pastor might expect to earn in a congregational church versus a connectional church and in churches of various sizes. This John Doe has 20 years' experience in the ministry, an earned seminary degree and serves a church with an average lay income of $49,000.

    The smaller the congregation, the better off financially the pastor would be in a connectional church. The larger the congregation, however, the better off he or she would be in a congregational church.

    Under this model, in churches under 100 in attendance, the pastor would earn about $35,000 in a congregational church and about $40,000 in a connectional church. At about 180 attendees, the salary offered by the two kinds of churches meets at $52,000. From there, the projected salary in the congregational church soars much faster than in a connectional church, so that in congregations of 1,000 attendees, the congregational church would pay about $35,000 more than the connectional church.

    Among other findings:

  • Clergy salaries correspond much more to church size than to years of experience held by the pastor.
  • Median salaries for clergy have grown to become comparable to those of teachers and social workers. The gap between clergy salaries and those of other professionals such as doctors and lawyers has widened.
  • African-American churches are more likely than Anglo churches to offer pastors less than a livable wage, although some African-American churches have broken through this barrier. On average, African-American pastors earn two-thirds of what white clergy earn, even though African-American laity is more likely to tithe and report similar income levels to white laity.
  • Female clergy on average earn $6,500 less than male clergy, although average household income for female clergy is higher than for male clergy households due to working spouses.

    The complete report is available at www.pulpitandpew.duke.edu.

  • Friday, Feb. 28, 2003

    Should free market determine pastors' pay?

    By Mark Wingfield Associated Baptist Press

    DURHAM - A free-market economy drives pastors of many churches, including Baptist congregations, to climb a career ladder in order to maintain a decent standard of living, according to a new study from Duke University.

    This pattern imperils the health of smaller congregations that cannot afford to pay a middle-class salary and threatens the prophetic role of ministers who are trapped by climbing the ladder, said the authors, Becky McMillan and Matthew Price.

    "How Much Should We Pay the Pastor?" is the title of the report produced by the Pulpit & Pew research unit of Duke Divinity School. The Lilly Endowment funded the study.

    "While pastors may feel called to serve small or poor congregations, the costs of doing so might be considerable," the authors said. "In order to accumulate savings and pay off educational debt, they need to progress to larger congregations with correspondingly larger salaries.

    "The salary structure is such that clergy wishing to maintain a middle-class lifestyle must take on a 'career' as opposed to a 'calling' mentality. Local congregations, rather than focusing on their mission to the world around them, must focus inordinately on 'church growth' strategies in order to increase their market power to attract good clergy."

    The study compares clergy compensation among three types of churches - Catholics, "connectional" Protestants and congregational Protestants. Connectional Protestants, such as Methodists, allow a denominational structure to play a major role in clergy placement and in setting standards for clergy qualifications and pay. Congregational Protestants, such as Baptists, allow congregations free reign to hire whomever they desire and pay whatever they choose.

    Baptists and other congregational churches exemplify the strongest correlation to free-market economics, the authors said.

    Data for the report were gleaned through a national survey of 883 clergy in 2001. Among the key findings:

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    2/28/2003 12:00:00 AM by Mark Wingfield , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments



    Texas men's group to work with both state conventions

    February 28 2003 by John Hall , Associated Baptist Press

    Texas men's group to work with both state conventions | Friday, Feb. 28, 2003

    Friday, Feb. 28, 2003

    Texas men's group to work with both state conventions

    By John Hall Associated Baptist Press

    AQUILLA, Texas - The executive board of Texas Baptist Men (TBM) adopted a resolution reaffirming the organization's unique relationship with the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) and agreeing to "officially work" with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), the newer conservative convention.

    The board unanimously passed the resolution and faith statement by secret ballot at its Feb. 15 meeting. Board members stood and applauded when the outcome of the vote was announced.

    "This permits us to go into every single (Baptist) church in Texas to do the ministry we are called to do," said Andy Andreason, president of Texas Baptist Men. "We want to be able to do what God wants, whenever He wants and wherever He wants."

    Although Texas Baptist Men is a self-governing missions affiliate of the BGCT, it is housed in BGCT facilities and depends heavily on the BGCT for funding ($926,888 in 2003).

    The new document affirms the "unique affiliation and partnership" with the Baptist General Convention of Texas but also confirms partnerships with other state conventions and the two mission boards of the Southern Baptist Convention.

    Lastly, the statement says Texas Baptist Men "will officially work" with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, its churches and associations in a "mutually supportive relationship."

    The SBTC is not required to provide any monetary support. "There's no commitment," Andreason said. "There's no money. That's the way we wanted it."

    The resolution should unify Texas Baptist Men and quell threats from some SBTC churches to remove their volunteers from the organization, said Leo Smith, interim executive director of TBM and coauthor of the document.

    The resolution follows more than two years of negotiations and several unsuccessful attempts to define a working relationship between the three bodies.

    In December 2000, Texas Baptist Men declined to sign a formal agreement to enter into a fraternal relationship with the SBTC.

    Instead, the men's organization revised its constitution to allow membership for laymen from Baptist churches affiliated with a "Baptist association in Texas, the Baptist General Convention of Texas or the Southern Baptist Convention." Later the TBM executive board adopted a resolution that enabled the group to help any Baptist church in Texas.

    Those actions did not satisfy leaders of the new conservative convention, who wanted to be recognized for a working relationship to occur, Smith said at a Texas Baptist Men meeting in February 2002.

    At that meeting, a task force presented a resolution that proposed a "working relationship" with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, the Southern Baptist Convention and all Texas associations. A heated discussion followed and, although the resolution was approved 44-15, it was tabled.

    The 2003 resolution was presented after months of revision and conversations with leaders of both Texas conventions. The SBTC executive committee will consider the working relationship April 3. The BGCT does not have to offer any further approval of the resolution.

    The approved resolution includes a series of theological clarifications of the group's beliefs.

    TBM affirmed a belief in the Bible as a completely accurate "final authority" for its faith and practice, salvation by grace, Jesus as the model for ministry and a Christian calling to ministry.

    The document does not include the term inerrancy or reference the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message statement.

    "I commend Leo Smith on his hard work in helping to clear the way for Texas Baptist Men to work with the men in the SBTC churches," said Charles Wade, executive director of the BGCT.

    "Our close and unique relationship with Texas Baptist Men will continue and we will work to encourage and help them to the glory of God."

    In a statement, Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, said the organization "is delighted that Texas Baptist Men want to provide missions services through an official relationship. Hopefully, together we can touch many lives for Jesus."

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    2/28/2003 12:00:00 AM by John Hall , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments



    For good or ill

    February 28 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

    For good or ill | Friday, Feb. 28, 2003

    Friday, Feb. 28, 2003

    For good or ill

    By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

    As I travel the state and chat with our many readers of the print version of the Recorder, I occasionally run across someone who doesn't realize that I'm responsible for the larger editorial that appears without a byline on the same page as my "Intrigued" column. Someone recently commented on an editorial by saying, "not your column, but the other one - I'm not sure who wrote it."

    I wrote it.

    It is fairly common for larger daily newspapers to have an editorial staff that produces a column of one or more unsigned editorials, and the reader can never be sure exactly who wrote what.

    Perhaps that's why some readers, seeing an editorial piece with no name on it, might assume that someone else on our staff could have composed it.

    Not likely.

    Our editorial committee's meetings are always short and sweet because there's only one person on the committee. It may take quite a while to decide what I want to say and how to say it, but whatever comes out, for good or ill, originates at my keyboard.

    So, whatever credit or blame is due for the larger column falls to the same guy who's picture is on the shorter, more personal column to the left on page 2 of our print edition.

    I'm not looking for extra credit and certainly don't seek out added heat, but I thought a word of clarity might be helpful.

    When we run guest columns, which usually appear on page 3, we provide a byline and often an editor's note to identify the writer, just as we identify those who write the letters printed in our "Tar Heel Voices" section.

    To avoid future ambiguity, I've decided to start adding my initials (TWC) at the end of the larger editorials in our print version.

    I just hope nobody thinks we download them from Time Warner Cable.

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    2/28/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



    Support your local prison chaplain

    February 28 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

    Support your local prison chaplain | Friday, Feb. 28, 2003
  • Fewer professionals could also mean fewer volunteers. One role of state-funded prison chaplains is the recruitment, training, coordination and supervision of volunteer ministries from local congregations. With no one to recruit and train, the number and effectiveness of volunteers could also decline. With no one on staff to supervise, prison wardens might be less likely to welcome volunteers.
  • Volunteers could be at greater risk. The professional chaplain ensures that volunteers follow appropriate security policies, which promotes the safety and well being of all concerned.
  • Prison stress could mount. State-funded chaplains are clinically trained to provide counseling to both staff and inmates, helping them to deal with the inherent tensions of the prison setting and providing grief or crisis counseling when needed. Without this service, stress levels could grow for both inmates and staff, increasing the likelihood of conflict, disciplinary problems and violence.
  • Some faith traditions could be ignored. Prisoners retain the right to worship freely in their own faith traditions. State-funded chaplains understand the complexity of the constitutional issues involved, and work to provide worship opportunities for all inmates, whether they be protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim or Rastafarian. Religious volunteers are unlikely to promote anything other than their own faith tradition, and most are unequipped to try. A failure to provide these services could lead to increased tensions, grievances and possible lawsuits from those who have no outlet for worship.
  • Recidivism could increase. Trained chaplains provide the consistent presence, the trusted relationships and the specialized training needed to help inmates become spiritually whole and better prepared to lead a productive life when they are released from prison. Without them, it is likely that more parolees would return to crime - and to prison.

    These and other reasons offer compelling arguments for retaining our current staff of state-funded prison chaplains and restoring the positions cut in 2002. The price could be less than what the system could face if there are increases in prison violence, lawsuits and recidivism. Cost, however, is not the only concern. Both compassion and the constitution compel us to provide basic services, including opportunities for spiritual growth, to the prison population.

    In response to these concerns, the Baptist State Convention's General Board approved a resolution proposed by the Council on Christian Life and Public Affairs at its Jan. 28 meeting. The resolution affirms that biblical faith promotes the concept of restorative justice, that Baptists have historically promoted religious liberty, and that a vote at the BSC's annual meeting on Nov. 12, 2002 supported the work of state-funded chaplains.

    It further states that "the present chaplaincy system ensures access by inmates to freedom of worship in their faith traditions, provides a vital contribution toward the safety, security and general health of correctional facilities operated by the North Carolina Department of Corrections, and encourages volunteer involvement, providing the best link between the correctional unit and the community."

    The resolution goes on to request that current chaplains be retained, and that funding cuts from 2002 be restored.

    Copies of the resolution were sent to all N.C. legislators, but such material is easily overlooked, especially amid the hoopla of the current House of Representatives' struggle to get organized enough to begin work.

    Personal letters, phone calls and e-mails do make a difference. Contact information for all N. C. legislators can be found at www.ncleg.net.

    They need to hear what Baptists think: the chaplaincy budget for the Department of Correction needs some serious correction.

  • Friday, Feb. 28, 2003

    Support your local prison chaplain

    By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

    As budget woes continue for the state of North Carolina, many good and useful programs will face the sharp end of the budgetary ax. The crucial services provided by state-funded prison chaplains suffered heavy losses in 2002, as $1.6 million and 24 positions were cut by the legislature.

    That leaves just 35 chaplains to serve the needs of more than 33,000 inmates in 80 different correctional centers scattered across North Carolina.

    Why should that be a matter of concern?

    Some might say, "inmates are in prison because they committed a crime, and we shouldn't have to spend our money providing religious services for them."

    But, if society's goal for the prison system involves rehabilitation as well as punishment, the inclusion of a spiritual component is most appropriate.

    For Christian believers, providing ministry to inmates is not only proper, but essential. After all, when Jesus cited examples of the most meaningful kinds of ministry, He was careful to include "I was in prison, and you visited me" (Matt. 25:36).

    State lawmakers expressed hope that local churches would step in and fill the gap caused by the staff cuts. Many individuals and congregations are already involved in volunteer prison ministries, but there are significant reasons why trained, state-funded clinical chaplains are still needed.

    Here are a few arguments for why we need more professional prison chaplains, not less.

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    2/28/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



    Family Bible Study lesson for March 16: Praying That Focuses on God

    February 28 2003 by Crate Jones , Daniel 9:1-10, 15-19

    Family Bible Study lesson for March 16: Praying That Focuses on God | Friday, Feb. 28, 2003

    Friday, Feb. 28, 2003

    Family Bible Study lesson for March 16: Praying That Focuses on God

    By Crate Jones Daniel 9:1-10, 15-19

    "Let your hand be with me" (NIV) is the third element in the prayer of Jabez (1 Chr. 4:9-10).

    In the New Testament, the growth of the church was attributed to the fact that "The hand of the Lord was with them" (Acts 11:21). "God's hand is the filling of the Holy Spirit" (The Prayer of Jabez, p. 54).

    God's character is the basis of prayer. Jabez recognized the power and presence of God. Our concept of God determines the nature of our prayers.

    A church caretaker pointed to a modernistic concept of Jesus in a stained glass window, and said, "Now that's supposed to be Jesus up there; but He don't favor Hisself very much."

    To some, God is a celestial Santa Claus. To others, He's the man upstairs; or a courier, awaiting our call. And saddest of all, the "fool" says, "There is no God" (Ps. 14:1).

    Daniel had a burden for exiled Israel. His prayer showed his dependence on God and faith that God answers prayer. It's a proper stance for Christians.

    I preached my first sermon on Christmas of 1942. I remember my need for dependence on God. Sixty years later, each time I stand to preach, that same emotion is stirred.

    When our son, Russell, was a little boy, he would come into the study between Sunday School and worship, get on his knees and pray, "Lord, you preach through my daddy today." That was his prayer then; it's been mine ever since.

    The astronomer focuses his telescope on a distant star. What appears to the naked eye as a twinkle becomes a blazing light. Jesus is the "telescope" through whom we see the dazzling light of God's character. He said, "When you pray, say our Father." That's focused praying.

    Daniel lived around 538 B.C. In his prayer we see the deep insight he possessed of the nature of God. But, in Jesus, we see the personification of all that God is.

    Among the many attributes of God, We look at three:

    God is great Daniel 9:1-4 Daniel addressed God as great and awesome. My Bible dictionary defines awesome as "respect and wonder; a holy fear of God because of His great power."

    I gave a man a ride who had been drinking. He found out that I was a preacher and wanted to impress me. He said: "My favorite verse in the Bible is, 'A man is never as tall as when he stoops to help a boy."' That's closer to the Shriner's motto than it is to Holy Writ.

    The greatness of God is never seen more clearly as when Jesus "stooped" to earth and went to the cross for our sins.

    God is righteous Daniel 9:7 As Daniel realized the righteousness of God, he humbly began confessing his and the people's sins.

    When we see ourselves in light of the righteousness of Jesus, we become painfully aware of our unrighteousness.

    A preacher stopped one night at an inn. He was to conduct family worship. Guests and servants were invited, except a dirty servant girl who was counted not fit to attend. The preacher insisted that she be included.

    After service, he found her and taught her to pray daily: "Lord, show me myself;" and later to pray, "Lord, show me Thyself."

    A few years later, a neat looking young woman saw him and asked, "Do you remember teaching a servant girl to pray, 'Lord, show me myself?' She did and God showed her what a vile person she was. Then you taught her to pray, 'Lord, show me Thyself.' God gave her a view of the love of Jesus dying on the cross for her sins. She became a Christian; I am that girl." (taken from R.A Torrey's book on the Holy Spirit)

    God is merciful Daniel 9:17-19 Mercy and forgiveness are found in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-22). The runaway didn't come home to tell his father about his happy time in "hog-wallow."

    Broken hearted, he said: "Father, I have sinned!" The forgiving father hugged and kissed him; then threw a party for him.

    "We do not make requests of You because we are righteous, but because of Your great mercy" (Dan. 9:18b).

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    2/28/2003 12:00:00 AM by Crate Jones , Daniel 9:1-10, 15-19 | with 0 comments



    Formations lesson for March 16: The Gospel and Proclamation

    February 28 2003 by David Stratton , Mark 6:30-44

    Formations lesson for March 16: The Gospel and Proclamation | Friday, Feb. 28, 2003

    Friday, Feb. 28, 2003

    Formations lesson for March 16: The Gospel and Proclamation

    By David Stratton Mark 6:30-44

    The desperate woman on the phone could not pay her electric bill. After hearing her plight, the pastor, a friend of mine, said, "Electricity is not a necessity."

    "Excuse me?" the woman replied.

    "Electricity is a luxury that many people in the world live without," he said.

    The woman hung up.

    Do you think that conversation drew the desperate woman closer to the Lord? In Mark 6 the compassionate ministry of Jesus and the disciples drew a crowd of needy people who heard the good news proclaimed.

    Compassion that meets spiritual needs Jesus sent out the Twelve to preach, cast out demons and cure diseases (Mark 6:7-12). They returned and reported their experiences to Jesus of meeting spiritual and physical needs (v. 30).

    He led them to a boat so they could find a quiet place to rest. However, a large crowd followed and waited for them on shore. The people reminded Jesus of sheep without a shepherd. Moved with compassion He taught them many things (v. 34).

    Jesus saw a spiritual need and His concern moved Him to meet that need by teaching the people.

    Compassion that meets physical needs The Lord's compassion did not end with meeting spiritual needs. Miraculously, Jesus took five pieces of bread and two fish and He fed the hungry crowd of thousands who did not even ask to be fed (vss. 35-44). The Lord broke the bread and divided the fish and the disciples distributed the food to everyone.

    Jesus did not direct His disciples to check people out and to feed only those who were "deserving." As He did on the cross, Christ acted graciously, treating people better than they deserved.

    The Lord saw a physical need and His compassion moved Him to meet that need.

    Running to the compassionate One of the most striking features of this passage (besides the miraculous feeding) is the excitement created by the ministry of Jesus and the disciples. They left for a quiet place because so many people were coming and going (v. 31). Yet a crowd "ran on foot" ahead of them (v. 33). We do not know how far they ran. What is clear is that the people went to considerable effort to follow, not just Jesus, but also the disciples.

    Mark states that the people saw them and recognized them and ran ahead of them (v.33) - not Him, but them. The disciples' ministry of meeting spiritual and physical needs in the region (Mark 6:7-12) had an impact upon the people.

    Compassionate obedience to Jesus' mission on the part of His followers drew people to themselves and ultimately to the Lord.

    Jesus and the disciples compassionately met spiritual and physical needs and the needy went running after the compassionate ones.

    Who is running to us? The message of Jesus often presented such a challenge that people walked away. Indeed John's account of the feeding of the 5,000 tells us that Jesus, on the next day, chastised those He fed because they followed Him only for the food (John 6:26). When He explained the radical commitment involved in being a disciple, many turned and followed Jesus no more (John 6:66).

    The disciples helped Jesus as He preached to the crowds and worked miracles among them.

    Were all of these ministry efforts wasted since the recipients eventually rejected Jesus? No! Through their compassionate ministry Jesus and the disciples drew a crowd that heard the good news.

    That miraculous testimony of obedience still challenges followers today. Besides, the text states many, not all, turned away.

    Drawn by our compassion, may the needy run to us to hear the good news of Jesus.

    A pastor told me that some in his congregation are concerned that the church is being very generous with the benevolence fund and the food pantry. The word is getting around among the needy and they are beginning to flock to the church seeking help.

    The pastor hopes those concerned members are correct. He prays that some, drawn by obedient compassion, stay and are transformed by the good news of Jesus.

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    2/28/2003 12:00:00 AM by David Stratton , Mark 6:30-44 | with 0 comments



    A postmodern primer - Emerging worldview challenges the church

    February 21 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

    A postmodern primer - Emerging worldview challenges the church | Friday, Feb. 21, 2003
  • Relationships - While modernism led to an increasingly individualistic society Postmoderns cherish community. Relationships are more important than rules, tolerance is preferred to exclusion and diversity is prized over uniformity. Teenagers and young adults, for example, are more likely to go out as a group of friends than as "single dates."
  • Process - The significance of relationships is felt in the way Postmoderns deal with tasks and issues that require planning or decision-making. While moderns are prone to think in linear terms with a premium on getting from "a" to "b" as quickly as possible, Postmoderns tend to be circular thinkers who want everyone to be heard, and who consider the process to be more important than the result. What moderns might consider to be wasted time, Postmoderns regard as essential.
  • Personal truth - Modern thinkers, depending heavily on reason and science, tend to see truth and reality as absolute - there is one truth, there is one reality. Postmoderns, however, perceive reality as more relative, conditioned by one's personal experience and situation in life. In her doctor of ministry thesis, Western Carolina University campus minister Wanda Kidd wrote, "Truth for Postmoderns is personal, a living force within their lives as opposed to a guiding principle for their lives."

    Trust in one's own perception of inner truth over external claims of abstract truth leads Postmoderns to have greater tolerance and respect for others' views in matters of lifestyle and religion. In postmodern thought, no one person, organization or church can claim to have a corner on the truth.

  • Deconstruction - Approaching truth without a capital "T" leads Postmoderns to question the various structures that modernity has built. Although the process is generally called "deconstruction," the focus is not on destruction, but on dissection. Postmoderns want to take things apart so they can look inside modernity's assumptions and institutions for what interests them. As Kidd noted, they are less interested in discovering something's foundation than in discerning the heart of the matter.

    The church and Postmoderns Churches that are thoroughly rooted in modernity face a number of challenges in relating to Postmoderns. Chad Hall, lead pastor for Connection Church in Hickory and team leader for the BSC's Innovative Church Team, suggested several strategies in written resources he provided to the Biblical Recorder.

  • Conversion as a process - Churches should recognize that, for Postmoderns, conversion is perceived more as a process than as a one-time event, Hall said. "The 'walk the aisle' tradition of marking conversion is only about 250 years old and is a very effective means of helping people commit to Jesus if they already know the story and simply need to signify their loyalty in public," he wrote. But "for postmodern people, conversion to faith in Jesus Christ will be a process consisting of a series of faith steps rather than one significant and obvious trip down the aisle. As process thinkers, Postmoderns are more likely to describe their faith-life as a journey with periods of rest followed by more movement. This means that ministers will need to discern when a person is 'on the move' spiritually and learn to coach pre-Christians and Christians alike forward in their journeys."
  • Trading traditions for tradition - Churches must learn to focus on what author Brian McLaren calls "tiger questions" instead of "field mouse questions," Hall said, trading traditional Christian distinctions for the authentic roots of Christian faith.

    "For most of American history we have lived in a nation of Christians," Hall wrote. "In this context, we drew distinctions between different brands of believers, and many followers identified more with their brand than with the church universal. Such thinking was a luxury that the postmodern world is snatching away. In a world that is highly global, extremely diverse and shrinking every day, the driving distinction will be between those who bow a knee to Jesus and those who do not. The challenge for Christians will be to tell the unique story of Jesus, not to defend our unique position on baptism, communion, worship style, or end-times."

  • Theological humility - Theologians of the modern era, influenced by science and rationalism, have developed elaborate and detailed systems of theology to answer spiritual questions, Hall said. We are learning, however, "that the scientific approach only works for some parts of life, and theology (what we believe about God) is not one of those parts."

    This leads to a difference in one's approach to spiritual issues. "The modern thinker was oftentimes brought to deeper faith by well-constructed answers," Hall wrote, while "the postmodern person is more likely to be drawn to God by questions - his own and those posed by others.

    "Ministers who want to be indigenous in our emerging context will learn to incorporate the phrase 'I don't know' into their conversations about God. Though we must hold firm to Jesus as the answer and the truth, many other aspects of God's nature and how the universe works are admittedly beyond us. The more comfortable we become admitting there is more we do not know about God than what we do know (though we might have some guesses), the more influence we will have with postmodern people."

    One aspect of humility is integrity, and influence with Postmoderns also grows from consistency in one's stated beliefs and personal practices. Harton pointed to polls showing that the lifestyles and beliefs of American Christians are little different from those of non-Christians.

    This inconsistency is not lost on Postmoderns, who value authenticity above authoritarian claims. "For the Postmodern," Kidd wrote, "the burden of truth lies not in how convincing one is but in how convicted one is. Truth cannot be a handed down tradition: it is a living passion."

  • A new apologetic - Christians must explore new patterns for communicating the gospel to Postmoderns, Hall said. "The way we seek to help others understand the story of Jesus (apologetics) is also changing as our world shifts," he wrote. "The most effective emerging churches are adept at new communication patterns that rely on a few basics such as offering mysteries in addition to answers, focusing on essentials rather than debating minutiae, and seeing Christianity as the fulfillment of other faiths rather than a wholesale replacement of competing religions."

    Both Hall and Harton note the similarity of this approach to the Apostle Paul's sermon on Mars Hill (Acts 17). Surrounded by people who followed competing philosophies and who worshiped a variety of deities, Paul acknowledged the Athenians' devotion to many gods, including an altar "to the unknown god." He then declared that Christ was the ultimate fulfillment of what they already sought.

    This kind of apologetic, Hall wrote, is "based on the belief that Jesus is already at work in every person's story - with the goal of the apologist/evangelist being to describe Jesus' activity so that the individual can recognize, accept, and become devoted to Jesus in a life-changing way."

    In a similar fashion, Kidd's thesis emphasizes the Christian's role of listening to others, learning of their journey, hearing their pain, perceiving how Jesus is already active in their lives, and then sharing one's personal experience with Christ.

    Brian McLaren, widely considered to be the foremost writer and practitioner of ministry in a postmodern matrix, begins The Church on the Other Side with these words:

    "If you have a new world, you need a new church. You have a new world."

    (Editor's note: Steve DeVane contributed to this story. Persons interested in learning more about this subject are invited to a seminar led by Brian McLaren at Ephesus Baptist Church in Raleigh on March 13. To register for "A New Kind of Christian: A Conference Exploring Spiritual Journeys for Emerging Churches," contact Tisha Allmond at [800] 395-5102, ext. 419, or by e-mail at tallmond@bscnc.org.)

  • Friday, Feb. 21, 2003

    A postmodern primer - Emerging worldview challenges the church

    By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

    While usage of the word "postmodern" increases, understanding of the term lags. Critics sometimes use it as a synonym for "liberal," while others apply it as a generational label. Some writers speak of postmodernism in philosophical terms, while others see it as a socio-cultural phenomenon, and others as an emerging historical period.

    It is somewhat ironic that a term used to describe an age of growing ambiguity should be so ambiguous itself. However, a growing number of academic studies, interpretive books and informed speakers are making it easier for Christians to understand the challenges posed by relating to Postmoderns.

    What is a "Postmodern"? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "postmodern" as referring to "any of several movements (as in art, architecture or literature) that are reactions against the philosophy and practices of modern movements and are typically marked by revival of traditional elements and techniques." But postmodernism as a worldview refers to something much broader.

    While the church is less interested in art and architecture than in behavior and thought patterns, the defining point is the same: postmodernity is a reaction to the perceived failures of modernity. It is not just a style, a cultural element, or an arcane philosophy. More than anything else, postmodernism is a mindset, a way of thinking about life and viewing the world.

    The beginning of the "modern" era is often traced to the Enlightenment period of the 18th century, a time characterized by the emergence of rationalism, science and industrialization. A growing reliance on technology and an over-riding belief that human knowledge can eventually solve any problem are characteristic elements of the "modern" mindset. Widespread trust in institutions, respect for authorities, and confidence in black-and-white answers are natural corollaries of modern thinking.

    But, the destructive downsides of technology and the limits of reason in comprehending spiritual things have led to an increasing disenchantment with modernity. "The wheels started falling off" the modern mindset in the early 20th century, Virginia-based consultant Mike Harton told participants at a Jan. 25 seminar in Lillington called "Disciplemaking for the New Century."

    Two world wars, the Holocaust, the atomic bomb, the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl and the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks have contributed to the growing disillusionment with modernity, he said: "The roots of postmodernity are found in what some perceive as the train wreck of modernity."

    Postmodernity, then, grows from dissatisfaction with modernity, a mood of discontent that is trans-generational. Younger adults are more likely to be comfortable with a postmodern worldview, but they are not alone. People of all ages - including many who were raised in thoroughly modern settings - may feel varying degrees of commonality with a postmodern approach to life's questions.

    What are characteristics of Postmoderns? Volumes have been written about postmodern distinctives, but a few things are of special interest to the church.

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    2/21/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



    Church bus crash claims 7, injures 33

    February 21 2003 by Gregory Tomlin , Baptist Press

    Church bus crash claims 7, injures 33 | Friday, Feb. 21, 2003

    Friday, Feb. 21, 2003

    Church bus crash claims 7, injures 33

    By Gregory Tomlin Baptist Press

    WACO, Texas - A church bus carrying more than 30 members of Memorial Baptist Church in Temple, Texas, crashed on Interstate 35 south of Waco on Feb. 14, killing seven people and injuring 33 others.

    The crash occurred near the town of Hewitt at 10 a.m. as the bus was traveling northbound in heavy rain. The church group was en route to an afternoon Bill Gaither Homecoming concert at Reunion Arena in Dallas.

    According to Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Tom Vinger, the driver of the charter bus swerved to avoid stalled traffic and lost control of the vehicle. The bus slid into oncoming traffic and rolled onto an SUV, killing two of its three occupants instantly. Witnesses said that several of the passengers were ejected from the bus.

    DPS spokesman Cpl. Charlie Morgan said rain may have played a factor in the accident, but the exact cause was still under investigation.

    More than 75 emergency workers from nearly two dozen jurisdictions converged on the accident scene and administered aid to the injured. Fifteen injured passengers were taken to Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco. Another 18 passengers were taken to Providence Health Center, also in Waco.

    Killed aboard the bus were Dolores Hinton, 72; Jo Freeman, 70; Martha McKee, 77; and husband and wife, Melvin, 76, and Delois "Speedie" Akers, 72. Killed in the SUV were Brenda Dobelbower, 48, and Janice Roberson, 61. Donnie Hagen, 52, also in the SUV, was critically injured.

    Dobelbower, Roberson and Hagen were all administrators in the health careers department of McLennan Community College, according to Kim Patterson, a spokeswoman for the college.

    Roy Parker, pastor of Memorial Baptist Church, was running errands Friday when his secretary paged him and added "911" to the message. He called his office and learned of the accident. He then traveled to the scene of the accident, where he comforted several of the victims.

    "These people are my friends. They are my family, and I love them very much," Parker said at the scene.

    When word of the accident spread to Temple, members of the 112-year-old Memorial Baptist Church began to assemble in the sanctuary to await news and pray.

    Parker returned to the church for a prayer service Friday night and attempted to encourage his congregation.

    "It will be a sad, sad city when word gets out," Parker said of those who had been killed. "We are devastated. I feel numb. ... These are some of the finest Christians on God's good earth, and I know where they are - they are in heaven."

    Church deacon Dick Stafford told the Austin American-Statesman that most of the passengers aboard the bus were respected members of the community. Most, he said, were over 60 years old.

    Parker said the church had received numerous phone calls from people around the country who were supporting the church in prayer, but one caller said that the accident was God's judgment upon the church.

    "Sometimes bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people," Parker told the Waco Tribune-Herald. "The final page has not turned. All things will be equal in the end. We know God loves us, and this is not part of his wrath.

    "We feel a sense of peace now because we know, as Christians, Jesus said, 'I go to prepare a place for you, and I will receive you there.' We know where they are, and we know we will see them again someday."

    Parker added that the church was now focusing on comforting those who had been left behind. Michael Haynes, a police and fire chaplain in Temple who ministered to the accident victims and members of the church, said the church would weather the storm.

    "These people take life pretty well. They've been around long enough to know that bad things happen to good people, but it's still tragic," Haynes said.

    News of the bus crash reached Gaither shortly before his concert was scheduled to begin. He issued a statement to the media before the concert.

    "Our thoughts and prayers go to each of the victims of this tragic accident, and to their families. These individuals will undoubtedly be present in our hearts as we sing about the hope of heaven during the concert they were traveling to attend today," Gaither told the concertgoers at Reunion Arena of the accident.

    "All are part of a tight-knit family," Gaither said. "When one part of our family is aching, all are aching."

    A nine-member investigative team from the National Transportation Safety Board was dispatched to the site of the accident, according to NTSB spokeswoman Lauren Peduzzi. The group will examine the scene and attempt to discover how information gathered from the site can be used to prevent future accidents.

    Preliminary investigations of the bus company revealed no pattern of accidents, and the driver was not suspected of operating the bus under the influence of alcohol or drugs, authorities said.

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    2/21/2003 12:00:00 AM by Gregory Tomlin , Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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