May 2004

Speaking my language : Friday, May 28, 2004

May 28 2004 by Tony W. Cartledge

Speaking my language : Friday, May 28, 2004
Friday, May 28, 2004

Speaking my language

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor


I get excited about seeing new sights, making new friends and eating new foods. With a two-week stint in Armenia coming up, I'm scrambling to get prepared. Some people start packing clothes weeks in advance. I pack my brain with useful indigenous phrases.

Most of the time, I'll be teaching at a small seminary that was built by partnership teams from N.C. Baptist Men. I can speak English there, and someone will translate for the students.

But, I won't always have a translator nearby, and I want to be able to relate, however superficially, with local people in their own language.

So, I spend my drive time these days listening to a taped language tutorial for Eastern Armenian, and can often be overheard muttering strange sounds. When Samuel asks for a snack, I'm as likely to ask "Du inch ek uzum utel yif khamel?" as "What do you want to eat and drink?"

You'll note that I learn words related to food first. I know how to say "I want to eat something" (Yes uzum em miban utel). If someone feeds me, I know how to say "thank you" (Shnorakalut`yun).

I want to be able to greet people (Bari or) and ask how they're doing (Vuntsek`?). If the answer is anything other than "very well" (Shat lav) or "not very well" (Voch shat lav) I'll be lost, but that's hamadzayn.

The transliterations offered here are only approximations, because proper Armenian is written with its own alphabet, which appears to consist mainly of variations on the letters w, m, n, p, q and u, with jots and tittles added to distinguish them.

Communication is important, but words are just one mode of relating. The love of Jesus can be shared in smiles and hugs, in ministry and presence, in shared prayer and singing, whether we understand the words or not.

My halting Armenian won't go very far, but I'm looking forward to some very meaningful conversations before it's time to say ts`�tesut`yun.

5/28/2004 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments

Who makes church decisions? : Friday, May 28, 2004

May 28 2004 by Tony W. Cartledge

Who makes church decisions? : Friday, May 28, 2004
Friday, May 28, 2004

Who makes church decisions?

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

When you ask N.C. Baptists who makes the important decisions in their churches, and who they think should make them, you often get different answers. These are two of the more interesting questions addressed in a survey I introduced in our last issue (see articles on page 9 for more details about the poll).

Most responders indicated high levels of church participation in both worship (average attendance of 3.75 times per month) and Sunday School (average 3.0 times per month). One third have served as deacons, 35 percent as Sunday School teachers, and 64 percent said they perform other roles in the church.

When asked: "Who do you feel tends to make most of the important decisions at your church?", 7.7 percent were unsure, 22.9 percent said "the pastor," and 27 percent said "the deacons." As expected in a denomination that has historically practiced congregational government, the largest percentage, 42.4 percent, said the congregation makes the important decisions.

There were some interesting age-group distinctions. Though all groups said most important decisions are made by the congregation, adults aged 35-49 were more likely to say decisions are made by the pastor and less likely to say by the deacons. Those 50-64 years of age were about twice as likely to attribute decisions to the deacons than the pastor. Adults over 65 were equally likely to name the pastor and the deacons as decision makers.

Now, compare those responses to a second question that asked participants who they thought should make important decisions in church. The number of those who were unsure or attributed decisions to the pastor or deacons was reduced by nearly half in every case: 4 percent were unsure, 12 percent thought the pastor should make the decisions, and 14.9 percent thought the deacons should be in charge. In contrast, though 42.4 percent had said the congregation makes most important decisions, a much larger percentage (69.1 percent) said the congregation should be making the decisions.

Cross-tabulating the responses adds additional insight. Among those who said the pastor makes most of the decisions, more than a third agreed that the pastor should make the decisions. Among those who named the deacons as decision makers, 45.6 percent thought that is the way it should be.

Among those who said the congregation makes the decisions, however, an overwhelming 92.9 percent said the congregation should be in charge. Less than one percent of that group thought deacons should make the decisions, and just 3.2 percent preferred that the pastor have decision-making authority.

These numbers suggest that, while some N.C. Baptists are comfortable with pastors or deacons taking the lead role in decision-making, far more believe the primary human authority lies with the congregation.

The perceived disconnect between "who does" and "who should" points to a clear desire for church members to be more involved in making important decisions.

This observation is validated in some measure by responses to other questions. For example, nearly two-thirds of those surveyed were unaware of which Cooperative Missions Giving plan their church uses. Though congregations may vote on their church budget each year, many are apparently uninformed about crucial elements of the budget, such as which Cooperative Missions Giving plan is/are supported by the "State Missions" or "Baptist State Convention" line item.

While many churches routinely experience poor attendance at monthly or quarterly business meetings, the lack of participation may be a sign of frustration more than apathy, arising from a perception that the congregation is simply being asked to "sign off" on decisions that have already been made.

In Baptist polity, God alone stands above the power of the people - but the people have a responsibility to participate.


5/28/2004 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments

Considering incorporation : Friday, May 28, 2004

May 28 2004 by Jim Royston

Considering incorporation : Friday, May 28, 2004
Friday, May 28, 2004

Considering incorporation

By Jim Royston
BSC Executive Director-treasurer

For many years, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina has not been heeding its own advice.

We've advised churches to incorporate to protect themselves, their staffs and their members from potentially disastrous consequences of claims against their assets and those of their members in this litigious society. And yet, we've not been incorporated.

As hard as that may be to realize, the Baptist State Convention has been officially a "non-profit association" and never a corporation. Although some people might think our convention actually exists only during those three days in November when messengers gather to do business and worship, it actually exists every day, with convention business being carried out through the General Board and its staff.

When matters that affect the Convention's tangible property arise, three trustees are responsible for signing approval for actions initiated by the General Board and conducted by the General Board staff regarding the property.

Oh, we're insured, and careful and protective. But we do not have the legal protections afforded through incorporation. Glenn Harder, our executive group leader for business services, is sponsoring a process by which we can become incorporated. He introduced that process to the General Board members May 19 during their meeting at Caraway.

They are to think about incorporation, ask any further questions between now and September, and be prepared to vote on a recommendation at their meeting in September. If the General Board votes for incorporation - which I pray it will - the convention messengers will be asked to approve the change by two-thirds majority in November. There will be plenty of opportunities to ask questions before the vote.

While the process is not simple, the result is. The thing to remember is that incorporation will change legal terminology and protect the board members and officers of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. It will not change a single thing about the way we do business and kingdom work.

While there will be some terminology changes, the operative word is that everything will be conducted "just like today."

Membership will be "just like today." Gifts and accounting will be "just like today." Our structure, staff, ministry teams, mission and purpose will all be "just like today" when we incorporate.

To see Glenn's PowerPoint presentation to the General Board go to In fact, you can find a lot of information at that site about the missions and ministries of your Baptist State Convention.

There is no hidden agenda in this process. This is simply and strictly a wise business decision that will offer new protections to what is now an over-exposed association of like-minded Baptist churches, working with each other to further kingdom work.

5/28/2004 12:00:00 AM by Jim Royston | with 0 comments

Lessons for a time of change : Friday, May 28, 2004

May 28 2004 by Tom Ehrich

Lessons for a time of change : Friday, May 28, 2004
Friday, May 28, 2004

Lessons for a time of change

By Tom Ehrich
Religion News Service

I recently announced a career change - more writing and teaching - and was overwhelmed with responses.

Many wrote about their own career changes, some chosen, some forced, all frightening and yet often refreshing. Many wrote about changing relationships, collapsing marriages, moves to new homes, decisions to leave congregations. Some wrote about disastrous changes, in which nothing improved, no "window" opened.

These are the stories behind the plant closings and white-collar layoffs; behind the marriages and divorces; behind the hospital statistics; behind the moving vans and Sunday church visitors; behind the For Sale signs.

From previous career changes I have learned five lessons about change. I think these lessons apply not only to career changes, but to other changes, from launching a family to ending a relationship to making a sale to entering a retirement center.

First, don't waste time. Every minute counts. Honoring time doesn't mean working every hour of the day, for time with family and friends is precious, too. But time-wasters such as telemarketers, junk mail, pointless arguments and empty gatherings must go.

Second, stick to reality. Cash, for example. Easy credit is a thief, and banks that prey on our neediness deserve to be acquired and to suffer the indignities of "restructuring." Better to do without than to assume the shackles of debt.

Third, accept help. For the most part, people are good. Some have more capacity for giving than others, and some more help to give. People do want to help. The obstacle usually isn't the other; it is oneself and one's pride.

Fourth, change course gladly. The future will be different. Resistance to change is a conceit of the lazy and fearful. Those who fight change are serving only themselves and, by denying someone else's freedom to breathe and grow, are abusive.

Fifth, trust in God. God has a big and loving heart, and God cares about us. God's caring will take many forms, some of them predictable, most of them surprising. Trusting in God means letting go of control, and saying yes to life.

These lessons might not be directly quotable from the Gospel, but I think they are what Jesus was saying.

His message to the people was, first, the time is now, the kingdom of God is at hand, be alert, don't waste time.

Second, know yourself as you are and are becoming, not as others insist that you be. See the truth about wealth and power. Resist being controlled.

Third, love each other, which means receiving love as well as giving it. Don't lose your identity in fear or hubris.

Fourth, embrace God's new creation. Everything is being made new, including much that you hold dear. Change isn't an option. Those who resist change for themselves are delusional, and those who resist change for others need to be ignored.

Fifth, look around, look for manna on the ground, hear the demoniacs and lepers who know truth, see calm in the storm, allow God to be God.

A reader asks when to stay and when to go. The answer is contextual, of course, and loaded with subtleties. But I'd say the lessons apply. If a stone is being rejected, that rejection must be taken seriously (given time), experienced (taken as reality), put alongside true value (self-worth, true friends), trusted as the future's cornerstone, and discussed with God. Staying or going must be grounded in reality, not denial, nostalgia, inertia or stubbornness.

Onward is necessary, and onward with God is ultimate reality. For we were born to be free, not slaves; citizens of God's kingdom, not fearful inhabitants of someone else's tidy preserve; lovers and the loved, not integers in someone else's calculation of self-interest.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Tom Ehrich is a writer and computer consultant. An Episcopal priest, he lives in Durham.)
5/28/2004 12:00:00 AM by Tom Ehrich | with 0 comments

N.C. Baptists helping protect children : Friday, May 28, 2004

May 28 2004 by

N.C. Baptists helping protect children : Friday, May 28, 2004
Friday, May 28, 2004

N.C. Baptists helping protect children

Just a note to thank North Carolina Baptists for working to Protect Every Child on the Internet. As founder of Protect Every Child ( every day I go to the post office and find copies of our petition filled with signatures from members of our churches asking Congress to establish a Top-Level Domain of .XXX for pornography to keep our children from stumbling across these websites accidentally.

Thank you for all you are doing to make the World Wide Web a safer place for our children to explore and learn. God Bless You each and every one.

Mary B. Conyers

Knightdale, N.C.

5/28/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Site selection 'difference between success and failure' : Friday, May 28, 2004

May 28 2004 by Jane Paige

Site selection 'difference between success and failure' : Friday, May 28, 2004
Friday, May 28, 2004

Site selection 'difference between success and failure'

By Jane Paige
Special to the Recorder

About 15 years ago, Fairview Baptist Church started meeting in a small mobile unit on a 10-acre site in rural Wake County. Tobacco fields, horse farms and corn crops were among the few neighbors of the mission church.

Today, the church boosts a membership of almost 500 with large facilities on a 23-acre site. New homes and schools have replaced the tobacco and corn in the neighborhood.

Careful planning, a bit of luck and a lot of faith helped place Fairview Baptist on the perfect site right in fast growing southern Wake County. The church, located off State Route 1010, is ideally situated near Raleigh, Garner, Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina, Apex and Cary. The church actually is on an Apex mail route and has a Garner telephone exchange.

"We are excited about how the Lord worked in all of this over the years," said Tommy Vick, a charter member of the church. "We are right in the center of the Fairview community on a perfect site for everyone to find and see."

Selecting the right site for construction of a new church is as important as picking the right architect or builder, according to church construction experts. The ideal site means the difference between success and failure of the church, they agree.

Getting a detailed land survey is extremely important for a new church site, according to Rick Murray, one of seven consultants with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina that helps congregations with church planning and building.

"Churches need to spend the extra money to get a complete land survey," said Murray, a retired general contractor who lives in Kernersville. "A lot of churches only get a survey showing the property lines, but they really need one that shows the land contours, building setbacks and all the other features."

Before purchasing a new land site, church members also need to talk with county or municipal planning department officials, he said.

"You need to ask these folks a lot of questions several times," Murray said. "It is important to know roadway requirements, zoning, future land development, watershed requirements and utility availability in the area. Accessibility, visibility and the actual size of usable land on the property also are important concerns.

"Being able to see the church and being able to get to it are important for the future growth," he said.

Murray also stressed the importance of selecting a site and location that coincides with the church's overall mission and ministry vision.

"People frequently don't buy a site that will successfully complete the vision they have for the church," said Robert Knowles, founder of Arks Incorporated and author of Successful Church Building. "They don't understand what they want for the church so they don't plan accordingly with the site."

Selecting the right site for a church is a challenging task and has become increasingly complex. It has been made more difficult as a result of tighter zoning restrictions, environmental concerns and lender requirements.

Knowles told the story of a church built near a river. As the years passed, county and state officials placed a watershed restriction provision on all property within a certain distance from the river. When it came time for the church to expand, it could not build because of these environmental limitations. The church was trapped, nowhere to grow and nowhere to go.

"This is one of those areas where you cannot be too careful in your due diligence," he said. "You must not only look at the current situation of the property, but you need to look ahead to potential pitfalls."

Churches want to buy in an area that is on the upside of the development market for housing and commercial real estate. This was the case for Fairview Baptist Church.

Fairview, a mission church of nearby Pleasant Grove Baptist, Fuquay-Varina Baptist and Fellowship Baptist churches, first met in a community building and then in a neighborhood flower shop.

Two area seminary students took a survey of residents in the community on the new church, and a possible permanent location. The 10-acre site near the intersection of Bells Lake Road and State Route 1010 was identified as a central location for the new church.

The original 10 acres was purchased in 1988, with an additional 13 acres purchased later. The two mobile units were replaced by the first building in 1991 and the second building in 2001. The area surrounding the church has exploded with growth in the past 10 years.

"Our founding pastor told us he dreamed about a church on that site and prayed it would happen," said Vick, the charter member. "His prayers and the prayers of many people came true for us on this site."
5/28/2004 12:00:00 AM by Jane Paige | with 0 comments

Check-list for selecting a building site : Friday, May 28, 2004

May 28 2004 by

Check-list for selecting a building site : Friday, May 28, 2004
Friday, May 28, 2004

Check-list for selecting a building site

From contributed reports

As churches narrow the search for their new location, they must pay attention to certain items specific to the site. The following list is from the book, Successful Church Building� by Robert Knowles, Arks Incorporated.

1. Traffic: From a business perspective it is cheap advertising. It is also a good indicator of future values of the property.

2. Frontage: The church needs adequate frontage in order to make the proper statement and in order to attract the traffic passing by. There also needs to be enough frontage to ensure proper sight distances for traffic.

3. Neighbors: If the neighboring property is offensive it will deter new members and hurt future values. Make certain you know the zoning of the neighboring property and what may be allowed to locate there.

4. Noise pollution: Notice if the property is located in an area that may be exposed to noise that will potentially hurt the value of the property.

5. Zoning: Don't assume you will get zoning changed to build a church if it is not already properly zoned. Do not close on the purchase of the property until adequate zoning is in place. Your contract should allow a contingency for zoning if rezoning is required.

6. Visibility: The new church can make a tremendous statement to the community if the public sees it as they travel past. Your facilities will indicate the programs you offer and attract people to visit.

7. Accessibility: People interested in the church must be able to reach you. There are many deterrents to good accessibility. The speed of the traffic on the street can be a hindrance. The route people may have to take to reach your church is important. You have to provide easy and safe access to the facility if you are going to attract visitors and potential members.

8. Site dimensions: An odd shaped tract may limit development and building.

9. Topography: Severe variations in the contours of the land may make a site not suitable for building or too costly to build on. A topographical survey will point out the areas that may cause a problem for building.

10. Size: How much land is needed to meet the goals and mission statement of the church? That depends on how many people you plan to minister to and what programs you have planned.

11. Legal restrictions: Carefully review the legal restrictions on the property. There may be deed restrictions that could limit the use of the property. There may be easements affecting the property for utilities, sight, access or any number of reasons.

12. Utility availability: Determine the availability of all utilities for the site, including electricity, water, sewer, natural gas, telephone and cable.

13. Environmental concerns: One cannot be too careful in the evaluation of the environmental aspects of the site. One should have contingencies in the purchase contract to protect the church. If a church is going to finance the purchase of the land or the buildings, the lender is going to require certification of a clean site. The church should try to get the seller to agree to provide an environmental report at his expense. Do not forget wetlands in the environmental evaluation.

14. Municipal restrictions: Check into the potential of future governing changes that may affect the site. For instance, if an annexation is foreseen, determine the impact that may have both negative and positive on the site.

15. Soil conditions: Are the soils suitable for building? Soil samples can be evaluated to determine the answer to that question.

16. Storm water and flooding: Is the property in a flood plain or flood prone area? Investigate the ability of the site to shed storm water runoff. A site that does not flood today may flood five years from now when a large housing development uphill covers much of the land, increasing the rain runoff.

17. Setback requirements: Get a copy of the site setback requirements for the site to determine how far from each property line the buildings must be. See if parking, buffer zones or green space requirements are allowed within the setback area.

18. Land mines: Not literal ones, but figurative ones like cemeteries or historical monuments. Be certain the church has a catch-all contingency clause in the contract to purchase that protects the church.

19. Appraisal: The church wants to know the market value of the site. Ask the seller to provide the church with an appraisal of the property.

20. Fees: Determine the amount of fees that will be required by the governing body when the church is ready to develop and build. Many times, impact fees are required that can amount to large sums of money. The municipality sometimes requires street improvements before the permits are issued. Get in writing from the governing body a list of all fees that will be required to develop and build on the property.

21. Future value: Try to determine, as much as possible, the long-term value of the site. Go into the purchase expecting to see the vision fulfilled on this site, but at the same time planning to maximize the investment the church is risking.

22. Walk the site: The site selection committee must get out there and "kick the dirt." And when they do, make certain they record their findings and document everything they see.

23. Preliminary plans: Meet with the local planning department of the city/county to review the preliminary site plan showing the building location, parking location and others.
5/28/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for June 13: The Lord's Supper : Friday, May 28, 2004

May 28 2004 by Vic Ramsey

Family Bible Study lesson for June 13: The Lord's Supper : Friday, May 28, 2004
Friday, May 28, 2004

Family Bible Study lesson for June 13: The Lord's Supper

By Vic Ramsey
Focal Passage: Matthew 26:26-29; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32

"Would you have dinner with me?"

That question has begun a million romances. Intuitively, we know that sharing a meal with someone helps form or deepen a relationship.

Most family reunions involve a big meal, as do church homecomings. The strength of family relationships can often be judged by the number of meals where every member is present. One of the loneliest places in the world is eating alone in a crowded restaurant.

When societies wish to prevent relationships from being formed, as between Jews and Samaritans in first century Palestine, or between blacks and whites, sharing of meals is forbidden.

Sharing a meal together mysteriously binds people. It's no coincidence that Jesus would latch onto a shared meal as a means for binding his followers together with one another and with Himself.

Instituted by Christ

Matthew 26:26-29

The disciples gathered to celebrate the Passover (v. 17), a ritual commemorating Israel's salvation from Pharaoh's army. The Passover seder consisted of a full meal, interspersed with prayers and recitations of the Exodus story.

The bread used at Passover is unleavened, a reminder that the Israelites fled in haste. The drink Jesus called "the fruit of the vine" was most likely wine.

Today, Baptists, as heirs of the 19th century temperance movement and being sensitive to those who abstain from all alcoholic beverages, commonly substitute unfermented grape juice.

Jesus filled the Passover ritual with new meaning. The bread, he said, was "My body." The cup contains "My blood." Christians understand these affirmations in different ways.

Catholics believe in transubstantiation - that the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ, even though they do not change in appearance. Lutherans and others hold to consubstantiation - that Jesus is somehow involved with the bread and wine, "in, with and under" the elements as Christians share them together.

Evangelicals, including most Baptists, have a symbolic understanding of the elements, that they represent the body and blood of Christ. Be careful of the phrase "just a symbol." There is nothing trivial about symbols. Saying the elements are symbolic does not mean that Christ is absent from the Lord's Supper.

Reminder to the church

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Jesus said, "Do this," a command that gives rise to our description of the Lord's Supper as an "ordinance." We do this because Jesus told us too.

The instructions of Jesus are never arbitrary. He intends for something good to happen when we share the Lord's Supper. In this sense, it is also a "sacrament," not as ritual, which conveys salvation, but as a "channel of grace" through which God blesses us through fellowship with Himself and with one another.

Verses 25 and 26 speak to both a past and future orientation to the Lord's Supper. It is both "in remembrance of Me" and "until He comes." We are driven to reflect on the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Christ, and to wait patiently and hopefully for His return.

Opportunity for examination

1 Corinthians 11:27-32

The phrase "in an unworthy way" (HSCB, "unworthily" KJV) refers to the manner in which the Corinthian church was conducting the Lord's Supper, and not to their individual moral condition. Specifically, the church members were eating and drinking without waiting for all to arrive, and without sharing with those in need (see vv. 20-22).

In verse 29, Paul admonishes the Corinthians that, when they conduct the Lord's Supper without regard for other church members ("the body"), they bring judgment upon themselves, and not grace. That which was designed to be an instrument of community and fellowship became, instead, divisive.
5/28/2004 12:00:00 AM by Vic Ramsey | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for June 20: Church Leadership : Friday, May 28, 2004

May 28 2004 by Vic Ramsey

Family Bible Study lesson for June 20: Church Leadership : Friday, May 28, 2004
Friday, May 28, 2004

Family Bible Study lesson for June 20: Church Leadership

By Vic Ramsey
Focal Passage: 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 5:17-18; Hebrews 13:7, 17-18

It's hard to deny that a crisis in church leadership exists today. Our own association routinely has a quarter of its churches without pastors. Across our convention, approximately 1,000 pastors and staff members are either fired or forced to resign annually.

Those statistics don't count the many churches suffering from inadequate leadership. Neither do they account for the many fine ministers who fail to receive the support they need to be fruitful. For our churches to be effective, we must solve the leadership crisis facing us.

Qualifications for leaders

1 Timothy 3:1-7

The term "overseer" (or "bishop," KJV) refers to the leader of a congregation, the individual we would call the "senior pastor." Nevertheless, the qualifications that follow apply alike to staff members and volunteer leaders.

Being "above reproach" means living in such a way that accusations will not be believed. Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher, captured this trait with the aphorism: "When men speak ill of thee, live so that no one will believe them."

Some hold that the phrase "husband of one wife" precludes divorced persons from leadership, while others argue this prescription refers to a ban on polygamy.

An "able teacher" refers to the intellectual ability and communication skills required to be able to explain the gospel and its implications.

In our day, the standard of excellence expected for teaching and preaching has risen dramatically. Mediocrity is no longer acceptable, if it ever was.

The phrase "not addicted to (much, KJV) wine" refers to persistent drunkenness. While Paul does not prohibit drinking per se, prudence and a concern for one's public witness may lead a minister to abstain completely.

In verses 4-5, Paul reflects on a leader's family life. Regardless of the position one takes about prior divorce, the quality of one's present marriage and parenting does reflect upon a leader's qualification for service. This doesn't mean that every "bump in the road" should disqualify someone from service, but it does mean that the home is the first and best reflection of a person's fitness for leadership responsibilities.

Last of all, Paul reminds his readers that leaders are not to be new converts. The young, chronologically and spiritually, need the seasoning of experience. Many young ministers would be well served by a mentoring relationship with an older, wiser friend in the ministry.

Support for leaders

1 Timothy 5:17-18

The work of ministerial leadership is worthy of a church's financial support. When the responsibilities require full-time attention, the church is obliged to provide sufficient financial support. This support is not something the church "gives" to its pastor; it is something the pastor earns.

Follow leaders' examples

Hebrews 13:7

The gospels, Paul's letters and the other New Testament texts, were not collected and widely distributed for several centuries. In the first century, then, how to live as a Christian was learned from the lives of the church's primary leaders. Thus, the importance of a leader setting a good example, and the importance of a church carefully observing that example and imitating their faith.

Submit to and pray for leaders

Hebrews 13:17-18

The command to "obey your leaders and submit to them" is not a warrant for dictatorial or tyrannical leadership.

Pastors would be well advised to learn what I call "Ferebee's Law," named after an older deacon in our church, now with Jesus. Mr. Ferebee told me one day that "the only thing a Baptist will do because you tell him to is stay home. Everything else, you better ask."

That said, when leaders, by virtue of their demonstrated character and ability, seek to lead a congregation, members must let them. One of the largely unacknowledged barriers to church growth is that, as a church grows, it becomes harder for lay leaders to keep track of everything going on, and it becomes more dependent on paid staff. Many church members resist this loss of power, and the church stagnates, or conflict erupts.

The most important support for leaders is prayer. Nothing helps a church's relationship with its pastor more than responding to the simple request, "pray for me."
5/28/2004 12:00:00 AM by Vic Ramsey | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for June 13: Worship Challenges Us : Friday, May 28, 2004

May 28 2004 by Linda Jones

Formations lesson for June 13: Worship Challenges Us : Friday, May 28, 2004
Friday, May 28, 2004

Formations lesson for June 13: Worship Challenges Us

By Linda Jones
Focal Passage: Jeremiah 7: 1-7

When Janet Fithian went to live at her farm as a bride, the rock was there ... just around the corner of the house. It was ugly, dull orange, about a foot in diameter and stuck up a couple of inches through the lawn. She asked if she could dig it out, but her husband replied," No it's always been there" Her father-in-law added: " It goes down pretty deep I reckon, my wife's family lived here since the Civil War. No one's ever got it out." So it stayed.

Her children were born, grew up and went away. Her father-in-law died and later her husband died. After mourning a while, Janet thought about fixing up the house. It would be healing for her. She thought about the southwest corner of the yard and the rock.

She went to the shed, got her shovel, wheelbarrow and heavy shoes. I might take all day but that rock was going to come out! Five minutes later, the rock was out. It had been about a foot deep and six inches wider than it looked from the top. She pried it loose with a crowbar and hoisted it onto the wheelbarrow. She was stunned. (Guideposts)

Are our lives stuck in place? Do we worship only on Sundays?

Jeremiah 7:2 says, "Hear the word of the Lord ..." Is the Lord saying something to you?

Change your ways

Do I see God active in my life? Do I hear him? Do I go to church, have the same friends, do the same things day after day and year after year? Like that rock, my perception is that my life is set. Could it be that I am supposed to change my ways?

God created us with a purpose in mind. "We are to be for the praise of His glory" (Ephesians 1:12). Every part of our lives should reveal who He is. That is His ultimate purpose for us and is true worship.

In Romans 12:1 we read, "I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice - the kind He will accept. When you think of what He has done for you, is this too much to ask?"

We live in a culture that teaches selfishness rather than self-sacrifice. Our culture urges us to conserve our time so we can have more energy to spend on ourselves. We are encouraged to accumulate things, not share them with others.

Incarnational living

God would like to use us to impact the world. Incarnational living: Christ living in me and through me, ministering to a needy but much loved world by God.

Can we say just as Jesus said, "The Spirit of the Lord is on Me because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor? He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:18-19)?

True worship

Jeremiah taught that true worship of God must result in having God's heart of compassion and mercy for people.

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood" (Isa. 58:6-7)?

What about you? Do you see the powerless, the poor, the ill and the needy around you? Where has God placed you - at work, in your neighborhood? Who do you regularly see at the doctor's office, at the gas station? What have been your life experiences? What are your talents and abilities as well as your spiritual gifts? You are unique and God wants to use you right where you are. Open your heart to a new way of being used by God. He wants you to join Him.

5/28/2004 12:00:00 AM by Linda Jones | with 0 comments

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