June 2003

Tooting the horn for N.C. Baptists

June 27 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Tooting the horn for N.C. Baptists | Friday, June 27, 2003

Friday, June 27, 2003

Tooting the horn for N.C. Baptists

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

When I was a boy and tempted to brag about my good grades - which was generally all I had to brag about - I would quote Confucius as saying, "He who tooteth not his own horn leaveth so-said horn to remain untooted."

I'm quite confident that Confucius never said half the things attributed to him, and even more certain that he wouldn't have spoken them in the King James' English, but the truism remains - sometimes a horn just cries out for tooting.

It occurred to me recently, as I noticed one item after another, that North Carolina Baptists would need an entire horn section to publicize their denominational and missional leadership.

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), for example, would be in a world of hurt if not for churches affiliated with the Baptist State Convention (BSC).

For example, you may have noticed that this year's Southern Baptist Convention - held on the opposite side of the country - had more messengers from North Carolina than from any other state. It's a long haul from the Tar Heel state to Phoenix, Arizona, but 567 of the 7,077 registered messengers came from N.C. Baptist churches.

Presence is backed up by dollars. The BSC's Cooperative Program contributions to the generic SBC budget usually run about 8th among the other states, just slightly behind several others of similar size. Designated gifts, however, are another matter. In fiscal year 2001-02, N.C. churches led the league in designated gifts to SBC causes, primarily missions.

Tar Heel Baptists gave $11.1 million to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions in 2001-02, more than any other state and 11.4 percent of the total. Through May of this year, N.C. Baptists are again out front, with $10.78 million in gifts for international missions.

The BSC's lead is even more striking with gifts to the Annie Armstrong Offering for North American Missions. Last year's total of $3.49 million was more than $700,000, or 20 percent, ahead of Georgia, which was next in line.

N.C. Baptists are leading again through May of 2003, with gifts of $1.94 million so far.

You'd think that kind of support would get the state a little recognition at the SBC's annual meeting, but for the third consecutive year, there were no Tar Heels on the SBC program except for Paige Patterson, who represented the seminary and not the state.

North Carolina is a big player within the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), as well. The state is a perennial leader among representatives at its annual General Assembly, and had far and away the most participants in Charlotte June 27-29.

CBF also benefits from the generosity and cooperative spirit shown by BSC churches. The state is third in the total number of participating churches and organizations, with 390, just behind Virginia's 408 but well short of Texas' 775.

Financial contributions of $1.99 million from N.C. Baptists also ranked third, close behind Georgia ($2.06 million) and Texas ($2.55 million).

N.C. Baptists ranked second in giving to CBF's Global Missions Offerings with $769,448, trailing only Texas, with $1.14 million.

And when it comes to hands-on missions, Tar Heel Baptists are hands-down leaders.

I can't imagine a stronger or more active partnership missions program than we have through the Baptist State Convention's partnership office and Baptist Men's programs.

Beneficiaries of our partnership ministries in other countries and states routinely confide "other partner states have been helpful, but nobody does it like North Carolina."

When mission leaders recently put out the call for Baptists to prepare and donate food boxes for hungry Iraqis, it should come as no surprise that North Carolina filled more trucks than anybody.

During these days of continued denominational conflict, theological division and uncertainty about the future, it is good to know that N.C. Baptists are continuing to participate, continuing to give, continuing to cooperate.

That's something to feel good about.

Toot! Toot!

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6/27/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Truth in labeling

June 27 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Truth in labeling | Friday, June 27, 2003

Friday, June 27, 2003

Truth in labeling

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

Arriving a day early for the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix not only saved money on the airline ticket, but provided the opportunity for a side trip to the Grand Canyon.

The south rim is about 225 miles north of Phoenix, about like driving from Raleigh to Asheville. If I'd sprung for a larger car with cruise control and fewer vibrations, it wouldn't have been bad at all.

The air conditioner worked, at least. It was 108 degrees in Phoenix.

The canyon itself cannot be described with mere words. It's so big that you can barely see the other side, and trying to grasp even a small part of it in a photograph is frustrating.

But, the rim trail offered a great place to hike. It was hot and dry, so I carried several bottles of water to last through the five miles I was planning to walk.

And it was the water, not the Grand Canyon, that kick-started my cogitations.

As I dropped to a rock and drained the first bottle, I noticed that the brand name was "Crystal Glacier," but the fine print showed that it was bottled in Las Vegas, Nevada, where the primary water source is Lake Mead. You can be sure that water hadn't seen a glacier in eons.

The label went on to say "This pristine purified drinking water is processed by: Carbon Filtration, Reverse Osmosis, Microfiltration, UV treatment and Ozonation."

Now, the word "pristine" refers to something that is in its original state, untouched and uncorrupted by civilization.

If the water was truly "pristine," it wouldn't have required so many civilized processes to un-pollute it.

Carbon filtration is what most home water purifiers do, and it mainly targets chemical pollutants. Reverse osmosis forces water through a semi-permeable membrane that traps metallic molecules, including the sodium and chlorine that make up salt. Microfiltration is designed to filter out bacteria and such. Bombarding the water with ultraviolet light and bubbling it with toxic ozone are supposed to kill any organisms that escape the microfiltration.

That water may have been clean, but I wouldn't call it "pristine," unless you intend it to mean "as clean as it ever was."

Which reminds me of what happens when a polluted sinner turns to Jesus. We can't fully understand how it is that Christ's death on the cross effected our forgiveness any more than most of us could explain reverse osmosis, but the Bible says that when we trust in Christ, our sins are completely forgiven, completely gone. Our souls become, one could say, "pristine."

And that good news is cool water for a thirsty land.

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6/27/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

SBC, BWA illustrate alternative approaches to unity

June 27 2003 by Marv Knox , Texas Baptist Standard

SBC, BWA illustrate alternative approaches to unity | Friday, June 27, 2003

Friday, June 27, 2003

SBC, BWA illustrate alternative approaches to unity

By Marv Knox Texas Baptist Standard

Credit Denton Lotz with the most ironic-yet-gracious line of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting June 17-18 in Phoenix.

Messengers had just voted overwhelmingly not to reconsider the SBC's 2004 budget. Their decision clearly ensured the convention would cut its allocation to the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), which Lotz leads, from $425,000 to $300,000.

Following the set agenda, SBC President Jack Graham immediately introduced Lotz, who stepped to the podium to present the BWA report.

"Good morning," Lotz said, smiling although $125,000 poorer. "The Lord has a wonderful sense of humor, doesn't he?"

Some messengers laughed nervously, but Lotz went on to deliver a wonderfully generous message. "We Baptists ... want to stick together," he said, not a trace of sarcasm or bitterness in his voice. "We stick together because we belong to Jesus Christ."

The BWA embraces 206 Baptist unions and conventions whose membership numbers 46 million baptized believers around the globe, Lotz noted. They worship in 193,000 churches and minister in more than 200 countries.

The SBC is the largest and wealthiest affiliated convention in the BWA. Its 30 percent cutback in funding reflects strong disapproval of the BWA's openness to consider accepting the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship as a member.

The Fellowship left the SBC 12 years ago, its members disenfranchised by the increasingly fundamentalist nature of the convention. Now, the Fellowship has petitioned to join the BWA, whose membership committee has slated the request for consideration this summer. SBC leaders claim they are pulling money from the BWA because they aren't being "heard adequately" and because they disagree with the process the BWA membership committee used in considering the Fellowship's petition. The bottom line, however, is SBC leaders despise the Fellowship and are furious the BWA might allow the upstart organization to join.

This rift between the Southern Baptist Convention and the Baptist World Alliance reflects two worldviews. Those perspectives illustrate the difference between the leading approaches to Baptist unity. The SBC seeks unity based on doctrine, requiring adherence to well-defined, strictly interpreted adherence to a set of beliefs. The BWA seeks unity missionally, finding ground for relationship through a common purpose.

The SBC hasn't always utilized doctrine as its litmus test for unity. When the SBC began in 1845, affiliates checked doctrinal differences at the door. Calvinists and Arminians sat down together, as did worshippers who loved the high-church liturgy of Charleston and others who roused to the fiery evangelism of Sandy Creek. They joined together because they needed each others' strength to do missions. For years, their only institutions were foreign and home mission boards. For eight decades, they never felt they needed to write a statement of faith.

But in the past quarter-century, the SBC shifted its focus to doctrinal-based unity. In fact, the convention's "conservative resurgence" or "takeover" revolved around conformity to a narrowing set of beliefs. This trajectory reached its apex in 2000 with the adoption of the new Baptist Faith & Message statement. It describes itself as an "instrument of doctrinal accountability," or what some observers have called a creed.

The language used by speakers on the SBC platform in Phoenix illustrates their desire for firm doctrinal parameters. They described - with strong justification - the moral decay that pervades American society. But they also repeatedly talked about how Southern Baptists are oft-persecuted and much-maligned. This is ironic, since the SBC enjoys unparalleled and unprecedented access to the White House and Congress, and SBC leaders appear frequently as commentators on talk TV and other media. Their language illustrates how they feel attacked by a hostile culture. So, a rigid doctrinal emphasis creates a protective fence around the faithful, defining who can and cannot come inside. However, they have diminished the diameter of that fence and may, in time, declare the BWA, with its 205 other member bodies, outside their fold.

The BWA, on the other hand, embraces many of the poorest and most persecuted Baptists on the planet. Lotz described baptisms in bathtubs in Afghanistan, performed in secret so the pastors and new converts would not be executed. He told about ministers imprisoned in Turkmenistan and harsh sanctions around the globe. Baptists worldwide hail from many cultures and articulate some doctrinal distinctions differently. They uniformly affirm the lordship of Christ, believer's baptism, the authority of scripture and a regenerate church. But in the BWA, they rally around mission. They sacrifice to spread the gospel across the globe, to strengthen and encourage churches, to fight for religious liberty in the face of totalitarian regimes. BWA members include some of the world's most oppressed people, yet they persevere for fellowship and common purpose.

Leaders of both groups clearly articulate their rationale for Baptist unity. While the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's possible membership in the BWA is the focal point of current conflict, it really is beside the point in the larger picture. For its own reasons, the SBC will continue to delineate doctrinal demands for unity. Likewise, the BWA will rally under the common lordship of Christ and a shared heritage. This may mean the SBC drops out of and defunds the BWA (a possibility presaged by SBC Vice President Paul Pressler, who in defending the reduction in funding twice referred to the BWA as the Baptist Joint Committee, a religious liberty group the SBC defunded a decade ago).

If you affirm the SBC's doctrinal unity, you will approve the departure. If you support the BWA's missional unity, you will want to help make up the financial shortfall by leading your congregation to become a BWA Global Impact Church, which provides at least $1,000 annually to the BWA budget.

What's your basis for Baptist unity?

For information about the BWA's Global Impact Church program, contact Global Impact Department, BWA, 405 N. Washington St., Falls Church, Va. 22046; globalimpact@bwanet.org; (703) 790-8980, ext. 129.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
6/27/2003 12:00:00 AM by Marv Knox , Texas Baptist Standard | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for July 13: Good News! No Longer Under the Law

June 27 2003 by Kim D. Shaver , Galatians 3:10-14, 18-25

Family Bible Study lesson for July 13: Good News! No Longer Under the Law | Friday, June 27, 2003

Friday, June 27, 2003

Family Bible Study lesson for July 13: Good News! No Longer Under the Law

By Kim D. Shaver Galatians 3:10-14, 18-25

God used the 16th Century monk Martin Luther mightily to change the course of world history by purifying and preserving the church from corruption.

Luther single-handedly sparked the Protestant Reformation by posting his "95 Theses" on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in 1517, rejecting the legalism that had permeated the Christian faith.

Luther, however, had not always been a vessel of God's power, authority and freedom. For years, he had served God in high places - including the University of Wittenberg - but had been under the bondage of the law. He was known to have walked up the steep stone stairs of a towering German cathedral on his knees as a demonstration of remorse for sins as he tried to win God's favor. He struggled to blamelessly keep God's law in order to become righteous. Repeatedly, he failed.

The turning point of Luther's life came one day as he read the first chapter of Romans in his study in the tower of Black Cloister in Wittenberg. There in that dark room, the light broke upon him when he read and believed Paul's words: "The righteous will live by faith." (Romans 1:17) At the realization that God justifies sinners through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, not by works or the keeping of the law, Luther said he felt he was "altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates." Now Luther was a ready instrument to be used by God to reform the world church.

Like Martin Luther, the Galatian church was also in the dark, following a false gospel where one "gets in" by grace but then must live by the law to continue to be right with God. In his letter to them, the Apostle Paul taught clearly and boldly to help set the Galatians free from this false doctrine.

Mosaic Law Never Saved Anyone

(Galatians 3: 10-14, 18)

The Law of Moses is not an instrument of salvation but of condemnation, Paul asserts. "All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law."

Breaking even one commandment brings a person under condemnation. But, thanks be to God, Jesus took the curse of the law upon Himself when He hung on the cross so that we could escape the curse. "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21).

Mosaic Law Condemns Everyone (Galatians 3:19-22)

Because "the whole world is a prisoner of sin," the law condemns everyone. "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23). There is no one righteous, not even one.

Therefore, we look in vain to the law as a means to become right with God. The law has a major shortfall: it cannot impart life or forgiveness. Only Jesus can impart forgiveness and eternal life. Those who look to Christ will find righteousness and life.

Mosaic Law No Longer Supervises (Galatians 3:23-25)

Those who are "supervised by the law" are like a prisoner who is chained to a prison guard. Such a prisoner is constantly suppressed by a harsh and haunting disciplinarian who simply will not go away.

Before Martin Luther received God's grace through faith, he was filled with anger and hatred toward God, who he believed "crushes us miserable sinners with His law and threatens us with punishment." In Luther's blinded eyes, God was like a harsh prison guard. But when the light of true faith dawned in Luther, he saw Christ as He truly is: as the Great Emancipator.

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6/27/2003 12:00:00 AM by Kim D. Shaver , Galatians 3:10-14, 18-25 | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for July 13: The Mobility of God

June 27 2003 by Tommy Bratton , Numbers 10:11-28

Formations lesson for July 13: The Mobility of God | Friday, June 27, 2003

Friday, June 27, 2003

Formations lesson for July 13: The Mobility of God

By Tommy Bratton Numbers 10:11-28

At a recent deacon's retreat, the leader asked our group of deacons a provocative question: "If Jesus lived in Gastonia, would he choose to come to your church?" We struggled with the answer to that question. I would hope that our reverence for the sacred, our warmth of fellowship, and our desire to understand the call of God would draw Jesus into our presence. However, I think a further question is just as important: "If Jesus came to our church, would we follow him out into our community?" We often invite Jesus into our worship, but do we follow Him into the world to serve the hurting, the outcasts and the lost?

Setting out on the Journey

The Hebrew title for the book of Numbers is "In the Wilderness." The book of Numbers begins in the wilderness of Sinai after the Israelites have made their way out of the bondage of Egypt. Our text for today comes after several chapters of preparation for their unknown journey into the wilderness of Paran.

The Israelites had remained at Mount Sinai for nearly one year when the cloud lifted, a signal to the people to move. The cloud had served as the presence of God that guided the Israelites along their journey. It had led them and at times, protected them.

The people set out on the journey as commanded by God through Moses. Imagine both the excitement and the trepidation of going forth into an unknown land. It was also a lot of work. It would have been much easier to settle and maintain the way things were, but the people moved out with God's leading headed to the place God promised.

Priority of the Holy

The tabernacle was, for the Israelites, the evidence of the presence of God. The tabernacle was set up to hold the Ark of the Covenant, the altar and other holy items. It was also made to be mobile. As the Israelites set out on their journey, the tabernacle was disassembled and carried to the next site. When the tabernacle arrived at its destination, it was set up prior to the arrival of the "holy things" (Numbers 3:31; 19:21).

For the ancient Israelites, the tabernacle represented the place where God temporarily dwelt upon earth. It was also the place where people came together to meet God, often referred to as "The Tent of Meeting." And it was a place where people came as individuals to hear a message from God. The tabernacle was the place where people struck the balance between God's immenence and God's transcendence. God's presence dwelt there, yet the tabernacle held sacred items that were kept separate from the people, therefore making it a place of awe and reverence.

When I read of the planning and care that went into the set up of the tabernacle and the transport of the holy items, I have to ask myself if we today have an adequate understanding of the holy, of that which is greater than ourselves. Do we plan our journeys around a place of worship? Do we prepare for the arrival of things that are holy? Or do we expect God to follow us?

Community Responsibility

"Then the Israelites set out by stages from the wilderness of Sinai" (Numbers 10:12). The march into the wilderness of Paran required organization and cooperation. The previous chapters, which record only 19 days, have told of the detailed preparations for this journey to Paran. Now the time had come for each company to set out and carry forth their particular responsibility. God had made a promise, the people had prepared and now the time had come to follow through.

If the church is going to be on mission to our world, it takes everyone going forth at the appropriate time and sharing of their unique giftedness. A phrase I once heard as a youth was, "If you don't feel close to God, guess who moved?" The answer was, of course, that we moved away from God by doing our own thing. Now, I think maybe it was God who moved ahead while we settled in comfortably where we were. If we don't feel close to God, it may be because God does not sit still but works wherever there is need. Following God requires us to move forward wherever He leads and to use the gifts God freely gives to each of us.

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6/27/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tommy Bratton , Numbers 10:11-28 | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for July 6: Good News! Saved by Grace

June 20 2003 by Kim D. Shaver , Galatians 1:6-12; 2:15-21

Family Bible Study lesson for July 6: Good News! Saved by Grace | Friday, June 20, 2003

Friday, June 20, 2003

Family Bible Study lesson for July 6: Good News! Saved by Grace

By Kim D. Shaver Galatians 1:6-12; 2:15-21

The gospel of Jesus Christ stands apart from all other world religions in one primary way. All other religions teach salvation by works. In all other religions, a person has to "do something" in order to be made right with God. Perhaps they have to go through certain rituals to gain God's favor.

One major world religion teaches that redemption comes by "relinquishing all desire" and "becoming one with the universe." And, worldly wisdom says: "If you are 'good enough,' you will get to go to heaven."

The good news of the gospel is that we are made right with God - not by anything we do - but simply by faith in Jesus Christ and His life, death and resurrection. From start to finish, the gospel is a message of God's grace.

When Paul wrote his letter to the church in Galatia, some people within that church were teaching that, to be saved, Gentile believers had to follow Jewish laws and customs, especially the rite of circumcision. Paul is bold in condemning what he calls this "perversion" of the true gospel.

Centered in Christ (Gal. 1:6-7) As Paul opened his letter to the Galatian church, he skipped over his customary thanksgiving for the believers and cuts right to the chase. The situation is urgent. "Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion," Paul wrote. They are turning to a false gospel and are "perverting the gospel of Christ," he warned. The people Paul referred to were a group of Jewish teachers who believed that salvation came by following the law of Moses in addition to faith in Christ. In other words, they were saying that faith in Christ was not enough. Paul responded by proclaiming, in effect: "Faith in Jesus plus nothing is enough!"

Even today, if we set up additional requirements for salvation, we deny the power of Christ's death on the cross. Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected, is the one and only gospel, and Paul resolved early in his ministry to preach nothing else. (1 Cor. 2:2)

Revealed by Christ (Gal. 1:8-12) No matter how angelic or attractive a person looks, sounds or acts, they are to be "eternally condemned" if they twist the pure and simple message of the gospel, Paul said.

Paul's double condemnation of those perverting the gospel in Galatia is one of the harshest statements in all of his epistles. He used strong language because he was dealing with a matter of eternal life and death. Paul was more interested in speaking the truth and preserving the truth than in winning a popularity contest.

He went on to ask, "Am I trying to please men or God?" We would do well to ask ourselves the same hard question. Which is really most important to you - the approval of God or the approval of people? No matter how hard you try, you will never, ever please all of the people all the time. Often, the harder you try, the more you spin your wheels. What a freedom is ours when we can truly say that we are living our lives "for an audience of One." If this is not the case for you, pray that God will release you from the bondage of "people pleasing" and set you free with a single-minded passion to please Him and Him alone.

Received by Faith in Christ (Gal 2:15-21) It is impossible to please God without faith, the Scriptures proclaim.

Faith is the starting point to be in right standing with God. How, then, are we "justified," or counted as righteous before God? Paul answers that question in these verses when he says, "Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ."

While the law provides an essential guide for righteous living, we could never keep the Ten Commandments perfectly. In the marvelous grace of God, he has provided a way of salvation that depends on Jesus Christ, not on our own efforts. But Paul goes further than justification when he talks about living for God. "I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." Now Paul is talking about sanctification, the process of allowing Jesus to live through us daily.

If our sins and old self have been crucified with Christ, then we have also been raised with Him to walk in liberty and love. That is our "hope of glory" - Christ in us. (Col 1:27)

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6/20/2003 12:00:00 AM by Kim D. Shaver , Galatians 1:6-12; 2:15-21 | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for July 6: The Good Fight

June 20 2003 by Tommy Bratton , 1 John 4:7-21

Formations lesson for July 6: The Good Fight | Friday, June 20, 2003

Friday, June 20, 2003

Formations lesson for July 6: The Good Fight

By Tommy Bratton 1 John 4:7-21

The community of First John seems much like the church next door. I imagine that some of the faithful members of the church became a little too sure that they were always right. I would venture that some could talk about God's love, but had a tough time loving those around them. I bet that several even left the church. In general, it seems that the community was having a tough time getting along with one another and showing the love of God. When we read between the lines and wonder why the author of First John wrote these words, we may recognize struggles within ourselves that cause us to reexamine our love for God and one another.

Born of God John tells his readers that love comes from God (4:7) and that we love because God first shared unconditional love with us (4:19). Love is the central key to God's nature. It is revealed through the beauty of God's creation. It is unveiled through the wonder of worship. It is brought to light in God's mercy and compassion for those in need.

The ancient Greeks and Romans believed intelligence to be the central aspect of God's nature. To understand God, one must cultivate reason. For some today, our understanding of God is rooted in success. Do we have the best programs? How many are in our Sunday School? How much is our budget giving?

John contends that whoever is missing love cannot be said to know God correctly. All else is secondary, at best.

Revealed in Christ Because God loves, God initiates a love relationship with us. God's love is revealed to us by the sending of Jesus, the incarnation of His loving Word. We have failed to love as we should (4:1), but God's love is true and faithful. Love is a choice made by God. Love means that God is willing to give the best to teach us to love in return. Through Jesus, God imparts compassion and forgiveness that we might be compassionate and forgive.

We treat our children much the same way. As they grow, they make mistakes. Yet we are quick to forgive when they ask. They may turn away from us for a time, but our arms are open wide when they need a hug. We show them love in ways they do not know - providing them with food, a home, a church, and more. The love of a parent is willing to sacrifice anything.

Lived through Us As believers, we cannot just tell God that we love him; it must be shown through the way we love others. John explains that since God loves us, we ought to love others (4:11).

I think many Christians believe that they have only a finite amount of love, so they share their love only with those closest to them - a spouse, a child, a close friend. However, John tells us in verse 12 that if we love one another, God lives in us and God's love is perfected in us. When we abide in God, God's love overflows through us. When we hold back our love, we have only a little. Yet when we give away love, God consistently refills us with more. The truth is that the more we give, the more we have to give.

Speaking to the church, John says that we cannot hate our brother or sister and still say we love God. The way we treat others is the evidence of our commitment to God.

No Fear The Bible tells us to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and to love others as ourselves. Our innate desire is to live in loving relationship with all people. However, fear of rejection prevents us from loving openly and fully and from receiving the love for which our hearts long.

But John reminds us that God's perfect love casts out fear (4:18). We know that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:39). This confidence in God's love for us spurs us on to love others with compassion and boldness.

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6/20/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tommy Bratton , 1 John 4:7-21 | with 0 comments

Living water distributed during Crossover efforts

June 20 2003 by James Dotson , Baptist Press

Living water distributed during Crossover efforts | Friday, June 20, 2003

Friday, June 20, 2003

Living water distributed during Crossover efforts

By James Dotson Baptist Press

PHOENIX - Water is a big issue in the Valley of the Sun, an area known for its dry, hot climate. So when several thousand Southern Baptists shared the living water of Jesus Christ as part of Crossover Arizona, it made perfect sense to douse their message with the conventional hydrating variety.

"Would you like some water? It's free, and it's cold - I promise you," said Clyde Besson, pastor of Mountain View Baptist Church in Phoenix, as hikers came off nearby Camelback Mountain early June 14.

Phyllis Foy, left, of Mooresville, hands a free bottle of water to a hiker during Crossover evangelistic efforts. Foy, whose husband, Bob, is BSC first vice president, is a member of Peninsula Baptist Church in Mooresville.
"Has this bottle been blessed?" quipped one hiker as she grabbed a bottle.

Volunteers bestowed such blessings on more than 300 hikers. Each bottle was marked with the church's name and the text of John 4:14, in which Christ promises, "Whoever drinks the water I give will never thirst again."

The water giveaway was one of 62 separate events scheduled during a June 11-22 Crossover evangelism effort involving 42 Arizona churches. Various "compassion in action" events touched skate parks, a shopping mall and other venues, while block parties offered free food and fun in neighborhoods throughout the region. Other volunteers shared Christ door-to-door as opportunities arose during spiritual opinion surveys, or they simply walked through neighborhoods praying for the individuals who live there.

"It's mainly a way of building bridges to the community, but also out of it we had a couple of opportunities to share. So we felt pretty good about it," Besson said of the bottled water outreach.

The "living water" analogy also was part of an evangelistic television advertising campaign airing in Phoenix June 12-20.

While the focus was not necessarily on immediate results in many of the events, early reports indicate hundreds of new believers in Christ will soon receive follow-up visits from local churches on how they can grow in their faith.

A Crossover emphasis is held each year on the weekend before the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. This year churches in other parts of the state will sponsor events June 21 in partnership with participating Phoenix-area churches.

One group of about 25 volunteers got an early start June 11 with a four-day Inner City Evangelism (ICE) conference in Mesa, where street evangelism efforts resulted in 247 professions of faith.

Richard Weeks, a pastor from North Carolina, said it was the first time he had been with the group - but not likely the last.

"It's amazing how God's brought me out here this week to (meet up) with strangers. I've never been able to do that before," he said.

Weeks said the first day was difficult because of a language barrier, but the rest of the week a Hispanic interpreter helped him realize how receptive people were to the gospel.

"I think we had six people come to receive Christ in one little apartment complex," he said.

Weeks also was able to share the gospel with a grandmother who prayed to receive Christ in her living room.

"As she (prayed), her grandson came into the room, and we asked her if we could speak to him. He was about 14, and we led him to Christ," Weeks said. Two skateboarders at a city park who said they had never heard about Jesus also prayed with Weeks to commit their lives to Christ.

Other witnesses shared with a group of day laborers, resulting in four decisions for Christ.

"It was really exciting because we saw that their hearts were getting softer as we spoke," said Jesus Arturo Salazar, a member of First Baptist Church of Mesa.

Skateboarders were a key audience for First Baptist Church of Chandler, which sponsored a skating event featuring professional Christian skateboarders who gave demonstrations and shared their faith.

Prayer-walking was critical to many of the Crossover events, with churches praying over communities before the out-of-state volunteers even came to town, while others utilized the incoming volunteers to pray for individual homes.

In Mesa, prayer-walkers spent six hours walking through 35 apartment communities where The Bridge Fellowship Baptist Church hopes to start Bible studies - and ultimately churches.

The same 1,175 homes were revisited the next morning by door-to-door survey teams, resulting in 88 prospects, Banta said. Such surveys - conducted by 20 Phoenix-area churches - ask how churches can better meet the needs of families and allow residents to express an interest in learning more about a relationship with Christ.

At Wellspring Baptist Church in Chandler, a group of national Challengers and Acteens leaders found a variety of responses in a neighborhood outreach.

"We had a good conversation with a woman who was out of church and looking to get back into church and was looking to get her children and grandchildren back in church. And that was neat," said Amanda Warden of Russellville, Ky.

One Hispanic congregation reported more than 100 professions of faith and other churches reported an increase of interest in their church activities and multiple professions of faith.

Block parties also remained a mainstay of Crossover, blending multiple evangelistic opportunities around free food, carnival games and entertainment in city parks.

In Mesa, while one group of volunteers did door-to-door surveys and passed out flyers in the neighborhood across the street, a block party sponsored by Celebration Fellowship allowed volunteers and church members to mingle with guests and take opportunities to share their faith. In many venues it was not unusual to see small prayer huddles as individuals accepted Christ.

An International Festival at Margaret T. Hance Park in central Phoenix was the largest of the events, with 817 registered guests - not counting members of any of the 14 participating churches. Eight ethnic groups sponsored booths where they served samples of native food. The event also was expected to result in two new churches, one a Cambodian congregation.

In northern Phoenix, a party sponsored by Love Baptist Church offered Vacation Bible School registration and an opportunity to get to know families visited earlier by survey teams.

The engine for all of the events was an army of some 1,200 out-of-state volunteers who made the sacrifices necessary to help the Phoenix churches.

B.P. Nachtigall, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Pampa, Texas, said he brought a group just to participate in a Crossover block party - a commitment involving a drive of more than 800 miles.

"It's something that we can be involved with short-term," he said. "The people that have been involved in the past have found this is something we can do, and we've really enjoyed it."

Others noted that Crossover helped them introduce their children to missions involvement.

"It was just a good opportunity," said Justine Browning, a member of Highland Hills Baptist Church in Las Vegas. "I brought my 12-year-old daughter, and the Lord just spoke to my heart about getting her involved. And I thought it would be nice for us to do it together as a team."

And on the trail down from Camelback Mountain, Beth and Larry Robertson of Hilldale Baptist Church in Clarksville, Tenn., were joined by their two daughters in handing out cold water on the hot trails.

"They're a little young to do the door-to-door evangelism," Beth Robertson said, "so we thought this was a good way to get the whole family involved."

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6/20/2003 12:00:00 AM by James Dotson , Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pastors urged to make families first priority

June 20 2003 by Stella Prather, Jennifer Rash and Stacy Hamby , Baptist Editors Network

Pastors urged to make families first priority | Friday, June 20, 2003

Friday, June 20, 2003

Pastors urged to make families first priority

By Stella Prather, Jennifer Rash and Stacy Hamby Baptist Editors Network

PHOENIX - "Kingdom families" captured the spotlight of the 2003 Southern Baptist Pastors' Conference, even as participants heard a new version of the Monday Night Football song from evangelist Hank Williams.

Headlining the two-day meeting was a Kingdom Family Rally held during the closing session June 16. The Pastors' Conference met June 15-16 in Phoenix, immediately prior to the SBC annual meeting.

Leading up to the Monday evening rally, Pastors' Conference speakers focused their sermons around the family theme. The Annie Moses Band, Wintley Phipps and the Rick Webb Trio provided music. Choirs from First Baptist Church of Dallas also performed.

Away from the convention hall, ministers took advantage of a free family counseling service organized by Pastors' Conference President Mac Brunson of Dallas.

"We know pastors are experiencing difficult days," Brunson said as he urged participants to take advantage of the counseling. "If Satan can cause our families to fall, he will affect a church for a generation."

The conference opened on Father's Day, with evangelist Williams performing a special ode to fathers.

Williams joked that anyone expecting to hear from Hank Williams the popular country singer was going to be disappointed. However, he shared his own rendition of the country singer's Monday Night Football theme song, "Are you ready for some football?"

"Are you ready for some preaching, some real Sunday night preaching?" the evangelist said, adding, "I've got my Bible in my hand and the devil on the run, and all my rowdy friends are going to have some fun tonight."

On a more serious note, Williams turned to what he called the biblical priorities of a minister - God, family and church.

Unfortunately, many ministers since the beginning of time have struggled to maintain these priorities, he said.

The Hebrew patriarch Moses, for example, "failed to understand his family was his first priority," Williams said.

He warned pastors: "If you don't have a family, you don't have a ministry."

And if pastors can't manage their own family, "you have no business managing the church and the people of God," he added.

Howard Hendricks of Dallas Theological Seminary drew from Nehemiah 3 to offer advice for developing a winning team in marriages and families.

A winning team, he said, consists of two or more individuals moving along a path of interaction marked by three characteristics. Team members must be totally cooperative, completely organized and successfully competing for a single objective, he said.

Christian apologist Josh McDowell, a popular author and youth speaker from Dallas, cautioned parents of temptations facing their children - particularly temptations to believe non-Christian doctrine.

He cited a poll that found 65 percent of "Bible-believing, church going, born-again children" don't believe Satan is real and 68 percent aren't sure Christianity is true.

The poll, he added, also said 65 percent of church youth believe there is no way to tell what is absolute truth.

Only 9 percent believe in absolute truth, he said, while only 33 percent say God and the church will play a part in their lives when they leave home.

These statistics illustrate the No. 1 problem in America, McDowell said, which is fathers not living up to their responsibility as Christian leaders of their homes and children.

"We are losing our kids not because they are not hearing the truth, but because we are not building relationships with them," he said. "Truth without relationships will lead to rejection in most cases."

It is up to parents to "help kids become so convinced that Christianity is the truth they will take a stand regardless of the consequences," McDowell said. "If we don't, we have failed this generation."

Humorist Dennis Swanberg sparked laughter during the Monday morning session as he told stories about his grandparents, parents, wife and children. He challenged pastors to live with laughter, love and without limits.

Chip Roberson, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Chesapeake, Va., warned pastors about the dangers of letting the flesh rule. Preaching from Ecclesiastes 10:1 and 1 Samuel 25, Roberson said, "When you let the power of the flesh overlord the power of God's Spirit, you are in danger."

A minister may have spent years maintaining the proper image and doing the right things, but it can all be thrown away by one bad decision such as looking at Internet pornography, he said.

"When we allow our lives to go unguarded, when we are in danger of losing it all, God always sends a restrainer," he said, noting, "the sovereignty of God does not overrule the free will of man. You don't have to miss God's calling or timing very much to lose it all."

Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., offered a plea for Baptist families to increase their financial support of the SBC's International Mission Board.

"You are never more like Jesus than when you are giving," he said. "It is time for the Southern Baptist Convention to rise up and say we believe in missions. Now's the day to say: 'Lord, listen. I want to be part of a family who refuses to leave this world the way we found it.'"

Ergun Caner, assistant professor at Criswell College in Dallas, garnered sustained applause, bursts of laughter and a few moments of shock from those attending the Monday morning session.

Preaching from Romans 8, Caner, a former Muslim, answered the question, "Is God a man or a woman?"

While the recent controversy over a gender-neutral or "gender-accurate" Bible served as the foundation of his sermon, Caner also dealt with the concepts of a gender-neutral God and political correctness.

"Political correctness has an agenda," he said. "Nobody is responsible, ... thus I am a victim. Political correctness turns everyone into a victim.

"Political correctness also has given us hyphenated Americans," Caner continued, noting the labels African-American, Spanish-American and others.

Caner, a Turkish-American, said, "Stop hyphenating me and each other. Just be American; stop hyphenating."

With a taunt to the media about his opposition to political correctness, Caner looked directly into the camera and said: "I spank my child, ... not to leave a mark but to leave an impression, out of love, and I love him a lot.

"If social services shows up at my door, I will spank you too," he said.

Political correctness also has shaped the church's teaching on God and gender, Caner said, causing many to miss the point.

"God is not male in relation to his gender," the professor said. "God is Father in relation to his children. This is a theological issue, not a biological issue. To remove God as Father robs us of our divine rights as his children."

He later added: "For all embedded media, get the message right. Southern Baptists don't believe God is our God, but the God, the one and only God. Is God a man? No. Is God a woman? No. More than a man, more than a woman, he is Father."

Ken Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla., focused on the pastor's family with a sermon from James 3.

"It is not easy living in a pastor's home," Whitten said. "It is not easy being a parent of a preacher's kids."

He outlined five dangers for pastors' kids - pride produced by praise, woundedness, rebellion from restrictions, familiarity with the faith and bitterness borne of battles.

"If you don't guard your heart, offenses are passed down to your children," he said. "The greatest thing we can tell our kids is be obedient because you are God's sons and daughters, not because you are the pastor's kids."

New officers for the 2004 Pastors' Conference were elected without opposition: President Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church of Pensacola, Fla.; Vice President Bryan Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church of Van Buren, Ark.; and Secretary Hal Kitchings, pastor of First Baptist Church of Eustis, Fla.

News | Opinion | Children | Youth | Youth Q&A | Archive | Calendar | Email Updates | Feedback | Sunday School Lessons | Churches | Church Search | FAQ | LinksAdvertising | Mast Head | History | Staff | Classified Ads | Place An Ad In The Biblical Recorder ClassifiedsSubscribe To The Biblical RecorderChange Your Biblical Recorder Subscription AddressSend A Tar Heel Voices Letter
6/20/2003 12:00:00 AM by Stella Prather, Jennifer Rash and Stacy Hamby , Baptist Editors Network | with 0 comments

Patterson top pick to head Southwestern

June 20 2003 by Mark Wingfield , Texas Baptist Standard

Patterson top pick to head Southwestern | Friday, June 20, 2003

Friday, June 20, 2003

Patterson top pick to head Southwestern

By Mark Wingfield Texas Baptist Standard

FORT WORTH - Paige Patterson will be nominated as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in a called meeting of seminary trustees June 24.

David Allen, chairman of Southwestern's trustees confirmed to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that trustees would vote on Patterson in a closed-door meeting in Fort Worth.

Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, confirmed to the Dallas Morning News that he is the candidate and will be in Fort Worth for the meeting. The Star-Telegram reported that Patterson previously met with the presidential search committee two weeks ago.

"I don't know what they are going to do, but there is a fairly good chance they may extend the call to come to Southwestern," Patterson told Baptist Press.

Sources close to the situation told the Biblical Recorder that Patterson appears to be the choice.

Coy Privette, a former chairman and still member of the trustees at Southeastern said Patterson had told the trustees that he had interviewed for the Southwestern post.

"I said, 'Go ahead and may the Lord's will be done,'" Privette said. "If he leaves, I'm sure the good Lord's got us another good president."

Privette said Patterson has done a superb job at Southeastern and called his work there "miraculous."

A Star-Telegram article quoted several sources close to Southwestern and Southeastern praising Patterson as the right person for the Southwestern job and indicating he is the candidate.

Patterson would succeed Ken Hemphill, who is leaving to accept a newly created position in Nashville, Tenn., as national strategist for the Southern Baptist Convention's Empowering Kingdom Growth emphasis.

Hemphill and other seminary leaders have denied previous reports that Hemphill was pressured to leave the seminary presidency. However, numerous sources related to the seminary have told the Baptist Standard, the Star-Telegram and the Morning News that Hemphill was forced to leave by a group of fundamentalist trustees acting in concert with other SBC leadership.

Trustees reportedly have wanted a stronger personality who will sweep out all faculty deemed not in agreement with the SBC's fundamentalist theology and conservative politics.

Patterson is viewed as an ideal choice for the task, because he was one of two architects of the so-called "conservative resurgence" that has reshaped the SBC since 1979. Along with Paul Pressler of Houston, Patterson sounded an alarm about alleged liberalism in SBC schools and agencies, rallying busloads of messengers to SBC annual meetings to elect a string of ultra-conservative presidents. Those presidents in turn influenced the selection of trustee boards.

Supporters of that conservative movement hail Patterson as a defender of the faith.

"Dr. Patterson is one of the heroes of our denomination," Southwestern trustee Lolley Cogswell of Sherman told the Star-Telegram.

Bob Pearle, pastor of Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth, told the newspaper Patterson would be an excellent choice at Southwestern.

Likewise, former SBC President Tom Elliff of Del City, Okla., commended Patterson as a proactive, visionary leader and told the Star-Telegram: "It would not surprise me if the committee chose him."

The Morning News quoted former SBC President James Merritt of Atlanta: "I don't think you could find a finer man to lead any educational institution than Dr. Paige Patterson."

Patterson twice was elected president of the SBC, and he has been credited with pulling Southeastern Seminary out of a near-death spiral. In 11 years there, he not only stopped an exodus of students but also grew student enrollment from 700 to 2,400.

If Patterson comes to the Texas post, it would be a homecoming of sorts - and a symbol of how the Baptist landscape has changed.

Patterson is a native Texan. His father, T.A. Patterson, was executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas from 1961 to 1973.

After earning an undergraduate degree at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, a BGCT-affiliated school, Patterson left Texas to attend New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisiana.

He returned to Texas as a pastor and educator, serving as president of the Criswell Center for Biblical Studies, which today is Criswell College. The Bible college was started out of First Baptist Church of Dallas and was considered a more conservative alternative to BGCT-related schools or SBC seminaries, including nearby Southwestern.

From his post at Criswell, Patterson launched the crusade to turn the SBC in a more conservative direction.

Relations between Southwestern and the BGCT, once highly cordial and cooperative, have grown strained in recent years as the SBC has pushed for more doctrinal conformity. One key area of disagreement is the SBC's new faith statement, drafted during Patterson's tenure as convention president. Southwestern and other SBC seminaries require faculty to sign the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, a document the BGCT has refused to endorse.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - BR Managing Editor Steve DeVane contributed to this report.)

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6/20/2003 12:00:00 AM by Mark Wingfield , Texas Baptist Standard | with 0 comments

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