November 2001

Barna shows how churches reach the unchurched

November 30 2001 by David Winfrey , Associated Baptist Press

Barna shows how churches reach the unchurched | Friday, Nov 30, 2001
  • The senior pastor is a genuine advocate of reaching the unreached. Leadership for this begins with the senior pastor, Barna said.
  • Ministry is culturally relevant. From the worship style to the language being used, churches that reach unchurched people find ways to connect with people who don't know traditional church language and practices, Barna said.

    Ironically, surveys have found that unchurched people's view of the ideal church includes a music program that has traditional hymns with contemporary instruments and arrangements. The reason, he said, is that most unchurched people have a church background and are comfortable with the hymns, even more so than praise hymns or other unfamiliar music.

  • Efforts to ensure that the church is serious but that everyone enjoys the experience. Barna recalls a church that had programs in place to reach the unchurched but wasn't being successful.

    In a conversation with the pastor an older woman said bluntly, "I don't even enjoy coming here. Why would I bring my friends?"

  • The church facilitates and emphasizes relationships. Barna said relationships don't attract the unchurched, but relationships are an important factor after they arrive.
  • Members are prepared to explain their faith. Too often, churches assume they can get visitors to confine their questions about Christianity to a class or conversations with a staff member, Barna said. But most people's deep, meaningful questions arise during casual times with Christians they know or meet at church, he said.
  • Multiple points of entry. From sports leagues to conferences, effective churches find a variety of ways to interact with their community. "Each is targeted to a particular niche of the community," he added.
  • Name awareness. Research has shown that the average unchurched person today can't name one church within a 15-minute drive from his or her house.

    "If I invite them to a place that they've heard of and they have a generally positive impression, the chance is much higher that they will visit," Barna said.

  • Minimizing the loss of visitors by having a spiritually healthy congregation. An unchurched person who visits a congregation wants to know that it makes a difference in the lives of those who regularly attend or a visitor would conclude that church attendance is a poor use of time.
  • Adapting effective outreach methods from other churches. They also consistently track their success to see how effective their methods are working, Barna said.
  • When people come to worship, they experience the presence of God. "The unchurched tend to come when they are struggling with something and they need an answer," he said. "They're not coming for an intellectual service. They're coming for an emotional service."

    Unchurched people likely won't know how to explain what happens when they are in a church experiencing the presence of God, but it likely will attract them to come back, he said.

    Barna said people who had encountered such an experience will say, "I wanted to go back and see if they could do it again."

  • Friday, Nov 30, 2001

    Barna shows how churches reach the unchurched

    By David Winfrey Associated Baptist Press MIDDLETOWN, Ky.-"Unchurched" people who visit a house of worship aren't looking for Jesus, but "value," says researcher George Barna. Churches that are effective at reaching unchurched people recognize and respond to what visitors are seeking, Barna told about 200 church leaders during a recent workshop in Louisville, Ky.

    Barna said unchurched visitors value anonymity, the care shown to guests, ministries that are culturally relevant and multiple ways to get involved.

    Based on thousands of interviews, Barna said he found unchurched Americans have a higher demand for control than most people who attend church. "These are high-control people," he said. "They're concerned about their image."

    Unchurched people usually come to a church because they are struggling with an important, life-impacting issue, not because they want to worship, he added.

    They bring that need for control with them and react negatively when they visit an institution that often exerts a high level of control in its members' lives, Barna said.

    Research has shown that churches effective at reaching unchurched people allow visitors to be anonymous, Barna said. Visitors don't want to have to wear a nametag or stand up and identify themselves.

    Still, they do want some personal treatment, Barna said. Visitors hope someone will give them an authentic greeting.

    Visitors who share their name and address would like a thank you from the senior pastor, but they don't want a home visit or a gift, he added.

    A greeting from the senior pastor is important, Barna said, because of the "big-kahuna principle." That stems from his premise that most unchurched people have a high demand for control and are accustomed to being the center of attention, he said.

    While some churches pride themselves on gestures such as delivering bread or cookies to visitors' homes, Barna said, "My own analysis is that it's irresponsible to do that."

    Most unchurched people view home visits as an invasion of privacy and gifts as manipulation, he said.

    Barna said he has consistently found that at least two-thirds of unchurched people respond negatively to gifts.

    Barna recommended a strategy similar to that of any personal encounter: be genuine, relevant and real, and let the relationship take its course.

    He listed characteristics of churches that effectively reach the unchurched. They include:

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    11/30/2001 12:00:00 AM by David Winfrey , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

    Churches more open to change, Bandy says

    November 30 2001 by Greg Warner , Associated Baptist Press

    Churches more open to change, Bandy says | Friday, Nov 30, 2001
  • Mentoring core leaders,
  • Improving adult faith formation,
  • Upgrading technology, and
  • Transforming or multitracking worship.

    "You start wherever the stress is the least and the opportunity is greatest," Bandy said.

    "I don't think any church is going to be able to survive with business as usual. But the pace of change will vary from place to place. There are some churches that can carry on probably for seven to ten to fifteen years, doing much the same things as they are now."

    "There is a window of time, but it's very difficult to measure. I have seen it many, many times. There's a moment when the tide is in, the wind is right, the moment is right, so to speak. And you can miss the moment."

    How big a window depends on many circumstances, including demographic changes and community transition, Bandy said. But it's getting smaller all the time.

    "The public today is very impatient. If they don't see you seriously undertake systemic change, transformation, in your church within a certain period of time, they will give up on you. They'll walk away, and you will not be able to drive them back."

  • Friday, Nov 30, 2001

    Churches more open to change, Bandy says

    By Greg Warner Associated Baptist Press ATLANTA - Tom Bandy says he is seeing a new openness in churches to what he calls "transformational change." Bandy urges churches to develop a "genetic code," a consensus statement of core values, bedrock beliefs, a challenging vision and a focused mission. Those building blocks will define everything the church does - while freeing clergy and laity to adapt to changing needs.

    "I find churches more prepared to do that today than they were even five-to-seven years ago," Bandy, a consultant with Easum, Bandy and Associates, based in Port Aransas, Texas, said in an interview with the Christian magazine FaithWorks.

    Yet, Bandy said, some obstacles remain in every setting.

    "There are basically three kinds of people in the church," Bandy said. "About 20 to 25 percent are rearing to go, ready to build that new genetic code and experiment wildly in a mission to the Gentiles.

    "Then the largest group in the church, the second group, is about 60 to 65 percent. These are frankly wonderful, fine, upstanding people but not particularly imaginative. Traditional kind of a people, but they are healthy people. They are coachable people. You give them a video, they'll watch it. You talk to them, they'll listen to you.

    "And the third group, that 10 to 15 percent, are the controllers. I describe them as not-healthy people. They're dysfunctional people. These are people for whom no coaching, no education, no training would help because what they need is therapy, not education. Dysfunctional leaders are people who have a need to control.

    "The hard thing is, the longer your church is in decline, the more you magnetically attract those dysfunctional people. You're in a tough place because if you don't begin changing, the 20 percent who are rearing to go will get up and leave."

    If a church does chart a new course, Bandy said, a different group will likely leave, the controllers.

    "Bottom line, you're going to lose somebody in the next 10 years. That's the hard thing. The good news (is) if you are willing to transform and change, you will have more impact in missions and you will involve more people in your church than ever before. But there will be a price to pay."

    Bandy said the issue of worship style is where conflict most often emerges in churches, but that is only a symptom.

    "If you really track it down, there is nothing theological about it. It really is all about control. It's all about how I experience the power of God, and trying to impose that on everyone else.

    "One of the ways churches traditionally exercise power is through worship," he said, "by simply controlling the worship and music that you allow people to use.

    "What diffuses conflict around music and worship is when you have that (clear) sense of identity."

    There isn't one plan or formula for transforming a church, Bandy said. "Transformation is very messy business. It's not a strategic plan that you follow."

    He suggested," four major leverage points" in the church that can be catalysts for change:

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    11/30/2001 12:00:00 AM by Greg Warner , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

    Conservative view of controversy mailed to pastors

    November 30 2001 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

    Conservative view of controversy mailed to pastors | Friday, Nov 30, 2001

    Friday, Nov 30, 2001

    Conservative view of controversy mailed to pastors

    By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor A book highlighting the conservative side of the battle for control of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is being sent to about 42,000 pastors.

    Paul Pressler's book, "A Hill on Which Die," was sent to every pastor in the SBC, according to a letter accompanying the book. SBC President James Merritt and eight former SBC presidents signed the letter. (Click here to read a review of the book.)

    Pressler and Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and one of the signers of the letter, are widely perceived to be the architects of the conservative rise to power in the SBC.

    Critics call their efforts a "takeover," while supporters refer to it as the "conservative resurgence" in the SBC.

    "It has become increasingly apparent that many have forgotten the conditions which necessitated the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention," the letter said. "The oncoming generation needs to know what transpired."

    The letter said the presidents want every pastor, every seminary student and Southern Baptists in general to know and understand the issues.

    "We feel most strongly that "A Hill on Which to Die" is must reading for an informed Southern Baptist," the letter said. "Since each of us has served as president of the convention during the period of the conservative resurgence, we feel strongly about the issues dealt with in the book."

    All but two of the SBC presidents during the conservative rise to power - Charles Stanley and Jim Henry - signed the letter.

    Patterson, who served as SBC president in 1999-2000, said in a telephone interview that "a number of people" approached Pressler about making the book available to all the SBC pastors. Patterson said he didn't remember who the people were or how much the project cost.

    Patterson said Pressler contacted him about the idea.

    "I said 'I think it would be a fabulous thing,'" Patterson said.

    Patterson said even Pressler's sworn enemies will "probably get a kick out of reading" the book.

    "Those who love him will love him more when they read it," Patterson said. "Those who are undecided might gain some insight."

    The letter said tax-deductible contributions to offset the cost of the project can be sent to First Baptist Church in Houston. The book's paperback version, which was sent to the pastors, costs $3.50 each, according to the letter.

    Kirk Boudreaux, director of financial services for the church, said Pressler is a member of the church. The church has not put any money into the project but does receive and pass along tax-deductible contributions to LifeWay Christian Resources, Boudreaux said.

    "We've just created an avenue to help with funding," he said.

    The church has received a few checks and forwarded the equivalent amount of money to LifeWay, he said.

    The book arrived to pastors in an envelope with a LifeWay return address. It was sent with a non-profit, postage paid permit from Tallahassee, Fla.

    LifeWay officials said the agency didn't spend or invest any money in the mailing. Pressler told them a group of his supporters funded the project, they said.

    Pressler could not be reached for comment.

    (EDITOR'S NOTE - Marv Knox, editor of the Texas Baptist Standard, contributed to this report.)

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    11/30/2001 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

    N.C. Baptist leaders facing health challenges

    November 30 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge and Steve DeVane , BR staff

    N.C. Baptist leaders facing health challenges | Friday, Nov 30, 2001

    Friday, Nov 30, 2001

    N.C. Baptist leaders facing health challenges

    By Tony W. Cartledge and Steve DeVane BR staff Three prominent N.C. Baptists appear to be recovering from serious illnesses, while a missionary with ties to the Tar Heel state is fighting for his life.

    Norman Wiggins, the president of Campbell University in Buies Creek, has reportedly told school officials that doctors have given him a clean bill of health. Wiggins was diagnosed in May with lymphoma, a tumor affecting the lymph nodes.

    Charles Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, is preaching again after getting treatment for a serious form of cancer.

    Mark Corts, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, hopes to return to the pulpit this month. He has been out since the summer with a serious heart condition.

    Tom Ogburn, a N.C. native and former pastor of Westwood Baptist in Cary, is seriously ill in a Dallas, Texas, hospital. Ogburn, who is now a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship missionary, developed flu-like symptoms in early November that were later diagnosed as gallstones and severe pancreatitis.

    Wiggins and Corts are former presidents of the Baptist State Convention (BSC). Page was a candidate for BSC president this year but withdrew when his cancer reoccurred.

    Wiggins The Fayetteville Observer reported Nov. 24 that Wiggins recently told school officials that he is free of cancer. Wiggins told the officials that he received a clean bill of health after a recent physical, the newspaper reported.

    A Campbell spokesman declined to comment on the report. Wiggins declined to be interviewed on the subject, the spokesman said. He is on sabbatical until January.

    Frederick Taylor, chairman of the university's board of trustees, told the newspaper that Wiggins has been on campus and at trustee meetings.

    "He is looking better than he has been in a long time," Taylor said to the Fayetteville Observer. "Everybody's happy that he is doing well."

    Page Page was first diagnosed with multiple myeloma - cancer of the bone marrow - in May 1996. He went though months of treatment and two stem cell bone marrow transplants in 1997, and the disease went into remission.

    In October, Page learned the cancer was back. He went to Little Rock, Arkansas, where he said he was given "really strong chemotherapy."

    "They took my hair away from me but that's all right, it'll grow back," Page said in a telephone interview.

    Page said that during his treatments his kidneys began to fail. His heart rate went down to 21, forcing doctors to put in a pacemaker. He got pneumonia. He was in and out of the hospital's intensive care unit.

    "I had some really rough spots in October and November, but the Lord is good and He saw me through it," Page said.

    Page said his wife, Sandra, has been by his side through the ordeal. "That's been a blessing," he said.

    Page is back working full-time and was in the pulpit on Nov. 18. He will go back to Arkansas in January for an evaluation.

    "The counts that are supposed to be going down are going down," he said. "We won't really know until they do another bone marrow biopsy in January."

    Page said he is getting stronger every day.

    "I'm grateful for all the prayers," he said. "I think it was probably the deepest valley I've been through, but I discovered the Lord was in the valley."

    Corts Corts was at the beach in June when he was hospitalized in Wilmington with heart problems. He was getting ready to check out and return home when his heart stopped.

    He remained in the hospital for several days. The church set up a recorded message to provide callers with daily updates on his condition.

    Corts' secretary, Fran Pugh, said his condition is improving.

    "He is going to start preaching part-time in December," she said. "Doctors are very pleased with his progress considering, especially, the seriousness of the episode he had in June."

    Ogburn Ogburn was initially hospitalized for a week to get his pancreas well enough for surgery. Emergency surgery was required about midnight on Nov. 25 after infection developed in the fluid around his pancreas.

    Additional surgery was performed Nov. 28 and more may be necessary. Due to other complications, additional surgery hasn't been performed.

    Ogburn is being kept semi-comatose in an Intensive Care Unit for the next two weeks. Doctors say life-threatening complications are a distinct possibility. Recovery could take several months if Ogburn does well.

    Concerned friends can access a special Web site for updates on his condition at

    Ogburn and his wife, Beth, are former missionaries to Thailand, and currently work as mission and prayer coordinators with CBF through an office in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    11/30/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge and Steve DeVane , BR staff | with 0 comments

    Do we worship the same god?

    November 30 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

    Do we worship the same god? | Friday, Nov 30, 2001

    Friday, Nov 30, 2001

    Do we worship the same god?

    By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? The issue came to the fore recently when NBC News reported that popular evangelist Franklin Graham, founder of Samaritan's Purse, had described Islam as "wicked, violent and not of the same god."

    According to Baptist Press (BP), Graham made the comments in October, during an interview following the dedication of a chapel in Wilkesboro. NBC News contacted Graham for confirmation and broadcast the remarks on Nov. 16, the first day of Ramadan, a month-long period that Muslims consider the holiest season of the year. Graham noted that people of the Islamic faith carried out the Sept. 11 attacks. "I don't believe this is a wonderful, peaceful religion," Graham said.

    A firestorm of protest ensued, of course - not only from the Muslim community, but even from the White House. A spokesman for the president distanced President Bush from Graham's remarks, saying that the president "views Islam as a religion that preaches peace."

    Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, also stated recently that neither Muslims nor Jews worship the same God that Christians worship.

    In an Oct. 17 chapel message covered by BP and the Kentucky Western Recorder, Mohler said Jews have rejected Christ and Muslims have replaced the God of the Bible with Allah. Mohler noted that his observation "is so politically incorrect," but said the church must speak a clear message that the Christian God is the only God. "We must be clear that to reject Jesus Christ is to reject the Father," he said.

    So what are we to say? Do Muslims or even Jews worship the same god that Christians worship, or not?

    The answer may have as much to do with semantics as with theology, but semantics are important.

    In essence, the religion of Islam began in 610 A.D. when a man named Mohammed became convinced that the polytheism practiced by the Arabian tribes was wrong, and that only one god should be worshiped. Mohammed believed the angel Gabriel revealed this to him, and preached the message widely, teaching his followers the "revelations" from Gabriel that were collected and preserved as the Qur'an.

    "Allah" is a poetic form of the Arabic al illah, meaning "the god." Mohammed took an incipient belief in a supreme god and promoted Allah as the only god.

    Mohammed and his followers identified Allah as the god of the Old Testament, consider Abraham to be their spiritual ancestor, and revere the biblical prophets.

    Muslims also consider Jesus to be a miracle-working prophet who was born of a virgin. They consider it heresy, however, to claim that Jesus is the Son of God, and reject all notions of the Trinity.

    Islamic arguments against Christianity typically assert that Christians worship three gods and thus show infidelity to the one god.

    The core of Islamic faith is expressed in the shahadah, sometimes translated as "There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet." Some English-speaking Muslims translate "There is no god but God."

    Jews and Christians have more commonality in belief, and clearly refer to the same deity when we say "God." Christians believe, however, that God's self-revelation does not stop with the Old Testament but is fulfilled in the New Testament.

    Whether one prefers to say that Muslims, Jews and Christians believe in different gods, as opposed to differing views of the same god, is largely a matter of semantics. From a Christian perspective, anyone who does not accept the full revelation of God through the saving work of Christ and the sustaining presence of the Holy Spirit has only a partial understanding of God.

    Thus, Christians might argue that Muslims or Jews worship "a different god" because we believe their concept of God is incomplete. It is perhaps more appropriate, however, to think of Muslims and Jews as worshiping the same god, though not in His fullness.

    Why does it matter? Our terminology can impact the effectiveness of our witness to any who do not accept Christ. It is essential that we keep channels of communication open by showing respect for people of other faiths, even if we believe their view of God is inadequate. Explaining Christ as the saving fulfillment and ultimate revelation of the same god is a natural and effective means of sharing our faith with Muslims and Jews. Insisting that they worship a different god altogether is bound to be counter-productive.

    It is possible to be tactful in our speech without compromising our witness.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    11/30/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

    Just remembering

    November 30 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

    Just remembering | Friday, Nov 30, 2001

    Friday, Nov 30, 2001

    Just remembering

    By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor The day came and went with little fanfare, but I remembered. I had thought about it for some time, working out the date in my head, rechecking to make sure it was right.

    The day was November 30, and it was the 2,873rd day since our daughter died on a cold January South Carolina road.

    The number is significant (to me, at least) because Bethany's life on this earth ended just 2,873 days after it began, 50 days short of her eighth birthday.

    When Nov. 30 arrived, we had lived without Bethany for the same amount of time we lived with her.

    It still hurts, though the pain is not so near the surface as it was.

    People are funny about death dates. When someone especially close to us dies, we remember the date like a birthday. We mentally mark it down as another year past, another cycle of seasons and holidays observed with a hole in the heart.

    By God's grace, as the years go by, our memories are tinged more with quiet smiles than with bitter tears, with sweetness rather than salt.

    It is a gift of God, the ability to move beyond sorrow to find healing and wholeness and hope.

    It is a gift of God that comes with time, often mediated by the gifts of God's people who remind us that they remember, too.

    The holiday season can be especially trying to those who have lost loved ones during the past year. Memories come crashing back. The extra space under the tree cries out for presents neither bought nor given. It hurts, and there's no way around it.

    Friends can make all the difference - just by understanding, by remembering, by reminding the mourner that they remember, too.

    For someone who's hurting, there's no better gift.

    Don't be stingy.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    11/30/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

    Pressler's readers should watch blood pressure

    November 30 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

    Pressler's readers should watch blood pressure | Friday, Nov 30, 2001

    Friday, Nov 30, 2001

    Pressler's readers should watch blood pressure

    By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor A Hill on Which to Die, by Paul Pressler (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1999), 362 pages.

    Judge Paul Pressler's memoir of his role in the conservative makeover of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is subtitled "One Southern Baptist's Journey." It is a revealing journey.

    Pressler's approach to life as an arbiter of right and wrong began long before he worked family, business and political connections into an appointment to the Texas judiciary.

    Pressler's book includes a running critique of the many churches and Christian organizations he encountered as a student, in the Navy and in later life. He found most of them wanting.

    A Texas native from a wealthy family, Pressler attended prep school at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire before going on to Princeton University in New Jersey and later joining the Navy. During his time in the Northeast, Pressler was exposed to a quite liberal view of scripture in both the classroom and the local church. He responded by organizing conservative religious organizations on campus and new Bible studies in churches.

    Upon his return to Texas, Pressler attended several prominent Baptist churches. More than once, he found the pastor to be too liberal and worked to change the church's direction, moving to another church when unsuccessful. For a number of years in Houston, Pressler's primary church involvement was in teaching and leading a large youth group in a Presbyterian congregation.

    Thus, when Pressler determined that the SBC was becoming too liberal and devoted himself to changing its course, it was a natural progression.

    Likewise, when Pressler used information gained from Bill Powell to design the strategy that ultimately won control of the SBC for conservatives, he naturally and effectively employed the same kind of personal persuasion, powerful alliances and political maneuvering he had learned as a member of the Texas legislature.

    Pressler's degree of devotion to the conservative cause is impressive, as it contributed to health problems, took him away from his family and caused a rift with his parents. Yet, Pressler firmly believes he has followed God's leadership. He regards his appointment to the Texas Appellate Court as providential, since the job only required him to be present for two days each week the court was in session. This enabled Pressler to travel extensively to promote the campaign to elect committed inerrantists to the SBC presidency.

    When Pressler insists that there was no "conservative organization," it is because there was no need for one: he reveals that he was the organization, with a garage filled with files and students hired at peak times to man the phones and assist with the filing.

    The reader has no doubt that Pressler's leadership in orchestrating the SBC's conservative makeover was a matter of a deep conviction for him. It is the firm conviction that the inerrantist view is the only appropriate means of understanding the Bible. This for him is the defining issue of theology: from the preface onward he labels anyone who does not adopt the inerrantist approach to scripture as a liberal.

    Although Pressler clearly has encountered many persons holding a variety of moderate to liberal views, he seems to regard them all of a piece, and equally dangerous. Pressler consistently implies that liberal pastors (by his definition) will always lead a church into decline, even though he had contact with (and rejected) a number of large and dynamic churches that had moderate leadership.

    Another inconsistency also jars the reader. Pressler unequivocally berates the media for labeling the conservative movement as "fundamentalist." He acknowledges that the term is theologically accurate according to its original meaning, but insists that the media should not use it to describe conservatives because the term has taken on a negative connotation.

    Yet, Pressler uniformly refers to all non-inerrantists as "liberal," even though the term is both inaccurate and clearly pejorative in the way he uses it. He asks for consideration that he is unwilling to give.

    One statement that occurs early in the book is telling, and has implications for all that follows. In describing a conversation with a professor from Union Theological Seminary in New York, Pressler writes, "The professor was using our vocabulary but not our dictionary." A Hill on Which to Die makes it apparent that Pressler's driven devotion to the conservative cause is motivated by the meanings found in his own personal dictionary - and by a determination to make those meanings normative for the SBC.

    Pressler's memoir provides intriguing reading for any Baptist who cares about the sea change in SBC leadership over the past two decades. Be warned, however: Readers of either stripe would do well to keep their blood pressure medications handy.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    11/30/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

    Family Bible Study lesson for Dec. 16: The Person of Christmas

    November 30 2001 by David Edgell , Luke 2:4-20

    Family Bible Study lesson for Dec. 16: The Person of Christmas | Friday, Nov 30, 2001

    Friday, Nov 30, 2001

    Family Bible Study lesson for Dec. 16: The Person of Christmas

    By David Edgell Luke 2:4-20 Each family celebrates its Christmas traditions with the intent of passing on memories that will last for years to come. These Christmas celebrations are a part of our desire to communicate the significance of the birth of Christ. We often repeat the saying, "Jesus is the reason for the season." But do we reflect this in the way we celebrate Christmas? The first Christmas was a time of celebration. But it was also a time of proclaiming the gospel to Israel and ultimately to the world. A New Testament proclamation of the gospel happened in Bethlehem the night of Jesus' birth.

    The phrase the angels used, "I bring you good news" is the same phrase used in the New Testament for the gospel. The "good news" or "good tidings" is the word euaggelizo, which means to preach good news or announce the gospel, to evangelize. It was this message that was first proclaimed to the shepherds by the angels.

    The shepherds were to announce this proclamation so it might be known and heard by all people, all the nations. It is the second time in Scripture an angel had a part in proclaiming the phrase "good news" to an individual. Luke 1:19 states, "the angel answered and said to him, 'I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God; and I have been sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news.'" It would be up to man to share the good news once the Messiah had come.

    The occasion of the birth of Christ was the announcement that the proclamation of the good news was to go to all the peoples of the earth. It has always been God's will that the gospel go to all the peoples of the earth. Galatians 3:8 reveals, "the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, 'All the nations shall be blessed in you.'" Isaiah 42:6 states, "I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, and I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations ..." In Isaiah 49:6, "He says, 'It is too small a thing that you should be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make you a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.'" Also Paul quotes the following passages in Romans 15 to display this very point: 2 Sam. 22:50, Psalm 18:49, Duet. 32:43, and Psalm 117:1.

    The angels specifically state the content of the good news, "For there is born to you ... a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." The celebration of good news is that a Savior has been born who is Messiah the Lord! This was no mere proclamation; it was the announcement of the promised Messiah. They proclaimed the person of Christmas!

    We should view Christmas as the proclamation of the person of Christmas. Whether Jew or Gentile, the Messiah was to be a Savior to all the peoples of the earth. Every man, woman, boy and girl in our world has a right and a need to hear this proclamation of the person of Christmas.

    The shepherd's celebration was a celebration of proclamation. Luke carefully documents the celebration of the shepherds: First, they called each other to action and acknowledge that they had been in the presence of God. Second, they made haste to obey and experience what God had promised. Third, they shared what had been proclaimed to them so others might understand God's "peace and goodwill toward men." Fourth, their message was transformational to others. Fifth, they had a new understanding of worship and continued in an attitude of adoration and praise.

    Our celebration of Christmas should be reflected in our lives just as it was in the shepherd's lives. Jesus is the reason for the season and He is the person of Christmas that we celebrate and proclaim. Let's celebrate Jesus and proclaim Him to the nations as our Christmas celebration.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    11/30/2001 12:00:00 AM by David Edgell , Luke 2:4-20 | with 0 comments

    Family Bible Study lesson for Dec. 23: The Love of Christmas

    November 30 2001 by David Edgell , John 3:16; 1 John 3:11-24

    Family Bible Study lesson for Dec. 23: The Love of Christmas | Friday, Nov 30, 2001

    Friday, Nov 30, 2001

    Family Bible Study lesson for Dec. 23: The Love of Christmas

    By David Edgell John 3:16; 1 John 3:11-24 Christmas should be the most selfless holiday we celebrate next to Easter. Both are examples of humility and love. One holiday expresses the work of Christ on the cross and the other the person of Christ as God incarnate. God showed us the expression of love that we should show others: "Jesus laid down his life for us. We ought to lay down our lives for our brothers" (1 John 3:16). How are we currently expressing love in practical ways? How are we currently expressing "this kind" of love?

    The events of Sept. 11 are fresh in our minds and our country is at war against terrorism. We are being called upon by our nation to show selflessness and compassion to the victims and their families. We are being asked to pray as a nation for our president and for our troops as they combat this evil of terrorism that plagues our world. As Christians we must rise to this call to show love and extend prayer. Scripture admonishes us to show God's love. First John chapter three states that we should show this love because we have experienced this love and we understand what true love is.

    Our country is in need of people who will show God's love to others with sacrificial acts. It will be our opportunity to be an example to our world as they watch for our response.

    As we show this love, we must understand what love is and what love is not. The Apostle John explains God's understanding of love. As the apostle writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit he clarifies the biblical understanding of love.

    First, several things can be said about what love is. It is the message God has commanded from the beginning. It is to be expressed to one another. It is the expression of new life shown by how we love our brothers and sisters. It was ultimately displayed by the example of Christ. It shows validity in deed and truth. Love is a matter of the heart and this heart condition gives us confidence in prayer. And finally, we are abiding in Christ and His love when we keep His commandments.

    Second, several things can be said about what love is not. It is not shown in jealous acts. It is not displayed when someone hates his brother or sister. When it is not demonstrated, it shows our spiritual condition. It is not exhibited when one closes his heart against someone in need. It is not shown when it is solely displayed in word and in tongue.

    Expressions of sacrificial, selfless love are needed in practical ways. Consider those who are showing love by "laying down their lives" for others. Our military personnel are showing the ultimate act of love. How are we showing love to them? I encourage you to find a way to show God's love to them and their families.

    Another practical way of showing sacrificial love is to display it in the things we reject. As Christians, self-denial is an act of love. When we deny ourselves of material goods to meet a need, the love of God can shine through us. A concrete expression of this is when we do more that give lip service to missions. We can act in deed by praying for missions, giving to missions and going to perform missions. We can act in truth by denying ourselves of something we desire and using that money for missions. When we do this we tangibly express the truth that we believe missions is a priority for the church and for ourselves.

    Let us look for ways that we can reject false concepts of love and affirm God's example of sacrificial love.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    11/30/2001 12:00:00 AM by David Edgell , John 3:16; 1 John 3:11-24 | with 0 comments

    Formations lesson for Dec. 16: Expecting Christ

    November 30 2001 by Tom Greene , Matthew 11:2-11

    Formations lesson for Dec. 16: Expecting Christ | Friday, Nov 30, 2001

    Friday, Nov 30, 2001

    Formations lesson for Dec. 16: Expecting Christ

    By Tom Greene Matthew 11:2-11 John the Baptist excited the imagination. There was the rugged, ascetic appearance and air of the man. His eyes were ablaze with a strange, intense fire, and his voice roared the judgment of God like peals of thunder. It was fire and brimstone every time. His clothes were also different: exotic, strange, way out, actual camel's hair. The swank residential areas of Jerusalem were astir with the word that he ate the old diet of the desert, locusts and wild honey.

    John became the talk of the town. He reminded people of what they imagined the old prophets of Israel had been like. People talked with a mixture of awe, respect and resentment of the things this wilderness preacher was saying.

    The kingdom was coming all right, he said, but if you thought it was going to be a cakewalk, you'd better think again. If you don't shape up, God will give you the axe like an elm with the blight or toss you into the incinerator like what's left over when you've threshed wheat.

    Then there was that day; many would never forget it, when Jesus showed up among John's hearers. Clearly John recognized Jesus' greatness. Something instantly softened and surrendered in the grim, unflinching spirit of the wilderness preacher. He saw and he believed. He saw in Jesus the very visitation of God. "Behold the Lamb of God," he cried, "who takes away the sins of the world."

    It was like the coming of springtime after a long and biting winter. Jesus was the answer. All would be well.

    But then John came into conflict and experienced the vengeance of King Herod. Herod threw John into a dismal, unlighted cell. Yet John was not in despair. He had seen Jesus and discovered in Him God's visitation. He may have thought that soon the deliverer would strike the blow that would bring freedom.

    John may have imagined that down the unlighted cell block, rushing feet would be heard racing, and the rusty doors would creak as they opened to let him out into the sunlight - a free man. But Jesus didn't come to set him free.

    Caged in his prison, it is hard to imagine the questions that began to plague John's mind. Did Jesus know? He must have heard what happened. Why didn't He do something? His plight, the silence of Jesus, long hours to brood, combined to make the question in John's mind too achingly sharp to be stifled. John's heart began to grow sick with doubt.

    Times like these are when a person can lose faith if he or she is not careful and prayerful.

    When John's grip of confidence in Jesus nearly slipped in the darkness of his cell, as he had second thoughts, John decided to put the matter before Jesus. He sent his friends to Jesus. "John wants to know if you're the One we've been waiting for or whether we should cool our heels a while longer," (Matt. 11:3) they asked.

    Frederick Buechner has Jesus responding in the words of our day, "You go tell John what you've seen around here. Tell him there are people who have sold their seeing-eye dogs and taken up bird watching. Tell him there are people who've traded in aluminum walkers for hiking boots. Tell him the down-and-outs have turned into the up-and-coming and a lot of deadbeats are living it up for the first time in their lives. And three cheers for the one who can swallow all this without gagging" (Matt. 11:5-6).

    So Jesus sent a word back to the lonely, tormented prisoner that was neither a yes or a no, but a challenge - "make your decision upon the basis of my record."

    Jesus then shared his thoughts about John with those who were listening. He said, "They don't come any better, but when the Kingdom gets in full swing even John will look like about two cents by comparison" (Matt. 11:11).

    We do not know how John responded after hearing Jesus' response. Maybe after remembering how he felt when Jesus waded into the river and putting it together with the report from his disciples, he decided he must have been right the first time.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    11/30/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tom Greene , Matthew 11:2-11 | with 0 comments

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