October 2004

Don't discard Baptist freedoms : Friday, Oct. 29, 2004

October 29 2004 by Tony W. Cartledge

Don't discard Baptist freedoms : Friday, Oct. 29, 2004
Friday, Oct. 29, 2004

Don't discard Baptist freedoms

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

An upcoming challenge to the Baptist State Convention's system of flexible giving plans is now official: Ted Stone has announced that he will bring a motion to the annual meeting in Winston-Salem, asking for the convention to return to a single giving plan in 2006.

Stone's motion would also change the percentages so that the BSC portion would decline to 65 per cent (down from 68 per cent), and the SBC share would rise to 35 per cent (up from 32 per cent). To encourage supporters of Plan D to come on board, Stone wants the new plan to grant Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute the same amount of funding as the state's smallest Baptist college - even though Chowan, the smallest college, averages about 700 students, while Fruitland, which must meet less stringent academic and facility requirements, averages less than 200.

The effect of those changes would reduce funding to the Baptist State Convention by more than a million dollars, even without considering the additional loss of income from churches that would certainly choose to redirect their funds.

The most important feature of the motion, however, is not the proposed increase in percentage giving to the SBC, or the disproportional bonus to Fruitland. The heart of the motion is the removal of the BSC's flexible giving options, a distinctive way of doing missions together that has allowed North Carolina Baptists to avoid "the tyranny of the majority" and to continue cooperating despite their considerable diversity.

Stone's press release clearly reveals the true agenda that he and some (but not all) supporters of the SBC's most conservative wing share - to hardwire the Baptist State Convention exclusively to today's rigidly conservative Southern Baptist Convention.

Supporters of the BSC have long spoken with pride about "the North Carolina way" of doing missions, but Stone announced "It is time to discard 'the North Carolina way,'" describing it only as a term "used by those who are constant critics of our denomination to justify optional giving plans."

Instead, Stone wrote, "It is time for us to do missions together the Southern Baptist way. After all, we are Southern Baptists, and most of us are proud to be Southern Baptists."

One could not state the issue more clearly. Stone and his supporters would have participants in the Baptist State Convention pledge their primary denominational allegiance to the SBC, reducing the BSC to a deferential role as an upstream channel of money to the SBC, and a downstream channel of programs, policies and faith statements handed down from the larger body.

This, of course, completely reverses traditional Baptist denominational polity, in which the local church is on top of any connectional chart, and national bodies are at the bottom. The issue is more than just a "preacher fight," for an ever-growing desire for control among SBC leaders has resulted in an emerging Catholization of Baptists. For example, denominational employees and mission volunteers are required to sign or comply with a creedal statement, the ordination of pastors is now said to give them a priest-like spiritual authority over church members, and a type of church discipline is being promoted that would deny communion to members who don't measure up. Is this what North Carolina Baptists want?

Members and supporters of the Baptist State Convention - which existed before the Southern Baptist Convention was ever dreamed of - have recognized from the beginning that they are free and autonomous churches who make voluntary choices about relationships on every level of denominational involvement.

Retaining the BSC's flexible giving plans will preserve this inherent freedom of both the churches and the state convention to relate to whatever Baptist organizations they choose.

In contrast, imposing a single giving option would discard this cherished freedom, selling our Baptist birthright for a self-imposed subservient role to the Southern Baptist Convention.

I am aware that many North Carolina Baptists have grown weary of denominational politics, and some have indicated their intention of bypassing the annual meeting where the Baptist State Convention does its business.

I recognize that weariness, and often feel it myself, but no one ever said the Christian way and the Baptist way would always be easy, or that no challenges would arise along the way.

The easy way is to drop out and leave others to fend for themselves, but I believe it is worth exerting some effort to preserve these freedoms for Aunt Sadie and Uncle John, for Sister Rosa and Brother Elwood and their children - for unnumbered Baptists across our state who faithfully serve the Lord, support their churches, and enjoy being North Carolina Baptists without a thought for denominational politics.

Freedom undefended is freedom lost.

10/29/2004 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments

Praise the Lord and pass the feedbag : Friday, Oct. 29, 2004

October 29 2004 by Tony W. Cartledge

Praise the Lord and pass the feedbag : Friday, Oct. 29, 2004
Friday, Oct. 29, 2004

Praise the Lord and pass the feedbag

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

One of the indelible memories I retain from childhood is the pleasant sound of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans singing their theme song at the end of each television program. I don't remember a single scene from a single episode, but I can still hear them singing "Happy trails to you, till we meet again."

That memory was evoked when I got the announcement that the "Happy Trails Cowboy Church" celebrated its first meeting on Monday night, Oct. 25. Pastor Don Martin tells me that 80 persons gathered for the first service at the H & H Arena in Taylorsville, and six of them professed faith in Christ for the first time.

You may recall our recent report on the emergence of cowboy churches in North Carolina (BR, Oct. 9, printed edition). Three horse-loving congregations have begun meeting in recent months, and cowboy church evangelist Jeff Smith (who is also pastor of the more traditional Young Memorial Baptist Church in Concord) hopes to help seven others get started.

Other churches, local associations and the Baptist State Convention are all contributing to the effort.

Smith said the state is loaded with folks who love to ride horses on Sunday, but would also participate in a church if it were offered at another time. So, cowboy churches typically meet one night during the week, usually at a local arena where horse shows and rodeos are held. Baptisms may take place in a horse trough brought in on the bed of a truck.

I suspect that some folks may be as surprised as I was that North Carolina is awash in cowboys. Others may be shaking their heads, thinking that a cowboy church panders to people who ought to spend their Sunday mornings on a pew instead of in the saddle.

The way I see it, if cowboy churches can successfully round up strays and bring them into the Christian corral, I can only wish them happy trails.

10/29/2004 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments

Incorporation makes sense : Friday, Oct. 29, 2004

October 29 2004 by Jim Royston

Incorporation makes sense : Friday, Oct. 29, 2004
Friday, Oct. 29, 2004

Incorporation makes sense

By Jim Royston
BSC Executive Director-Treasurer

The most important decision messengers will make during business sessions of the annual meeting in Winston-Salem Nov. 15-17 is to affirm incorporation of the Baptist State Convention.

We've talked about this for months now, in every forum that will afford a listener. To me incorporation is a "no brainer" because of the logical business sense it makes while carefully leaving in place our lines of authority and governance. Nomenclature changes - such as the General Board becoming the Board of Directors - but how those members are elected, what they do and who they do it for stays the same.

What does change is the level of protection afforded Baptist State Convention tangible assets and those who manage them.

We wracked our brains at the General Board to anticipate reasons someone might oppose incorporation. It was hard to come up with potential questions because the board unanimously affirms incorporation.

If you think incorporating makes us more susceptible to government intervention in church business, that's just not so.

The truth is that government already is entangled with every church. Just ask Catholics in Boston and Arizona. Closer to home, local and state governments regulate your parking; handicapped access; fire code; construction permits and codes; noise regulations on your carillons; employees' wages, taxes and benefits, and on and on.

Incorporation does not submit the Baptist State Convention to a single government regulation to which it is not currently subject. And, quite the opposite, incorporation increases the efficiency of our business operations.

Under our current status as a non-profit association, the Trustees of the Baptist State Convention own our property, but decisions made by the General Board govern that property. Incorporation will merge the decision-making process. It makes good sense from a business standpoint and from the liability perspective, too, as incorporation is the best form for protection for our officers and members.

Is that spiritual? If incorporation increases our efficiency so more resources are available to our God-called staff for ministry effectiveness, then yes, it is. But this decision doesn't have to be justified spiritually to be right.

Beyond spiritual, it's right because we are, in effect, a $35 million entity that does business with hundreds of other businesses and has tens of thousands of persons on our properties each year. Every one of them lives, breathes, eats, sleeps and functions in a business world guided by the rules of incorporation.

Where those worlds meet, we must be scripturally wise and utilize the protections of government, just as did the Apostle Paul who claimed his Roman citizenship for his own protection.

10/29/2004 12:00:00 AM by Jim Royston | with 0 comments

Defeat Stone's proposal : Friday, Oct. 29, 2004

October 29 2004 by

Defeat Stone's proposal : Friday, Oct. 29, 2004
Friday, Oct. 29, 2004

Defeat Stone's proposal

Ted Stone does not understand Baptist history or Baptist polity. This lack of understanding is the fatal flaw in his eagerness to scrap our N.C. Baptist giving plans. In support of his proposal he said, "We are Southern Baptists." No, we are North Carolina Baptists. The N.C. Baptist Convention was founded in 1830, 15 years prior to the founding of the SBC. Did those founders envision a day when N.C. Baptists would yield our autonomy to some other Baptist body? I suspect not. Since when did the SBC, the CBF or any other Baptist body have the right to claim the exclusive loyalty of N.C. Baptists? Never! I would ask the same question of N.C. Baptists if they sought in any way to hold sway over a local church or association.

Historic Baptist polity allows churches to choose which associations or conventions they belong to, independent of membership in any other association or convention. The same autonomous decision making power has been vouchsafed to each association and convention. Stone's proposal violates this core value of Baptist heritage.

The issue at stake is whether we will maintain the right of our convention to exist and function independent of control by any other Baptist body.

Baptists were born nearly 400 years ago out of a yearning to be free from ecclesiastical tyranny. N.C. Baptists are now being asked to submit to denominational tyranny and vow exclusive loyalty to the SBC. If we choose to give up our autonomy we will have ceased to be Baptists.

This is not about being moderate or conservative. This is about being Baptist. I pray that all of us who value the historic Baptist way will come to Winston-Salem and resoundingly defeat Stone's proposal.

Ron Cava

Clinton, N.C.

10/29/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

'Ironic' proposal : Friday, Oct. 29, 2004

October 29 2004 by

'Ironic' proposal : Friday, Oct. 29, 2004
Friday, Oct. 29, 2004

'Ironic' proposal

The most recent attempt by Ted Stone to gain support for abolishing the four giving plans currently available to churches in the Baptist State Convention is ironic. He describes the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention as "God ordained." I am wondering just exactly what verse in my Bible I should go to discover God's command to support this ordinance. Most Baptists these days only keep two ordinances: baptism and the Lord's Supper. But like the original Baptists in the North Carolina Piedmont, some of us are open to the possibility that there might be other ordinances, but we'll need clear biblical warrant for this view that the Cooperative Program is a gospel ordinance. Lacking biblical support, we may conclude that the Cooperative Program is being ordered by human authority.

Baptists supported the Cooperative Program after the success of the 75 million campaign, not because they were told by denominational leaders or pastors that they had to. They supported it freely and willingly because they trusted the Lord and one another and believed in their common mission. It allowed for local churches to be independent and interdependent. The Baptist way is faithfully following what God has ordained not just following orders. What I'm hearing sounds like something different.

While there is much Baptists do not agree about these days, one thing that we know is that God has ordained for us to "love one another" (John 13:34-35). What we also know is that we have broken that commandment over and again. Maybe if we really wanted to move toward unity in our stewardship, we should start thinking about how we could love each other. Wouldn't that be radical?

Curtis W. Freeman

Durham, N.C.

10/29/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for Nov. 14: God Rules! : Friday, Oct. 29, 2004

October 29 2004 by Robert Hunter

Family Bible Study lesson for Nov. 14: God Rules! : Friday, Oct. 29, 2004
Friday, Oct. 29, 2004

Family Bible Study lesson for Nov. 14: God Rules!

By Robert Hunter
Focal Passages: Psalm 33:6-17, 20-22

This Psalm, one of the few without a title, is a wonderful hymn of praise. It talks about creation, the covenant and our response in worship. In this Psalm you find adoration, worshipful celebration, dedication and a recognition of the closeness of God.

Maybe you think God is too far away and too busy running the universe so you are more concerned with money, career, health, family and planning for retirement than you are about this distant God. Granted, these things are important to some degree for survival in this present world, but we can only find fulfillment as we submit to God's authority. This Psalm extols the merits of God's authority

Display of God's authority

Psalm 33:6-11

The Psalmist reminds us of the power of God's Word. He spoke and the heavens came into being. He spoke and all the angelic beings came into existence. God created ex nihilo, out of nothing. His Word sustains the world and provides for it. All the money, careers, health issues, family matters and retirement plans are all sustained by this Word. Therefore, we should fear Him, not as some tyrant, but in awe, to be humbled before His power and majesty. God calls nations into existence and judges them by the plans they have made.

Extent of God's authority

Psalm 33:12-17

Since God creates nations then those nations that submit to His authority are blessed. God knows whether a nation or an individual is submissive or in awe of His being, for He has a watchful eye. This same eye guarantees His attention and presence in the affairs of men and women, boys and girls everywhere. Because of His attentiveness we should not worship the power of men, but of God.

Effect of God's authority

Psalm 33:20-22

We can depend on God. If God has created and sustained all His work then He will come and continue His work. His Word is a redeeming Word and He will deliver and keep those who are submissive. We can trust God and the Name associated with Him. All the facts the Psalmist has presented bring him to the joy of worship. God will not let us down. Therefore, we can be submissive to the One who has our best interests in mind.

This Psalm should create worship just as God has created us. This Psalm reminds us of the mercy of God and should create a spirit of submissive worship within us. It reminds us to cast our plans and our use of power into the shadow of His guidance. We are reminded that we live under His watchful eye and will finally be brought into His presence.

The question we must ask: Is the experience of the Psalmist our experience? Do we wait on the Lord? Do we really trust and have hope in Him?

God possesses faithful love. Can we not be submissive to someone who in all conditions and under all circumstances puts us first? God is the ultimate criterion, the power and truth. He is reality and truth originates from Him. Real truth has our best concern at heart.

Too many of us are like a man I read about in a story told by Nicholas Humphrey from Cambridge. It seems that during a strike on the docks in London, huge trucks were going in and out across the picket lines with a posted notice on the side of each truck, like "Authority of Her Majesty's Government," "Authority of the Trade Unions of Congress," and "Authority of the Ministry of War." Among the huge trucks came a tiny donkey cart driven by a little old man who had posted on his cart: "By My Own Bloody Authority."

By what authority do you travel? Do you travel life like the old man by your "own bloody authority?" Are you one of those who consider the idea of living in submission to God laughable? Or are you a believer who submits to God because He is the Creator who rules over all?

It's something to think about.

Our challenge is to live and think like the Psalmist.

10/29/2004 12:00:00 AM by Robert Hunter | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for Nov. 14: Happiness : Friday, Oct. 29, 2004

October 29 2004 by Wayne Proctor

Formations lesson for Nov. 14: Happiness : Friday, Oct. 29, 2004
Friday, Oct. 29, 2004

Formations lesson for Nov. 14: Happiness

By Wayne Proctor
Focal Passage: Ecclesiastes 3:1-15

This is one of the best-known sections of wisdom literature; heard in sermons, weddings, funerals and even pop music (remember The Byrds?). It describes the "seasons of life." It is a very philosophical passage, and one that deserves careful reading and scrutiny.

The writer of Ecclesiastes, who calls himself "Qoheleth," sometimes uses words that are negative in tone, specifically the words "meaningless" and "vanity." In this passage he uses the positive word "happiness." "There is nothing better than to be happy and do good, and that everyone may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all his toil (hard work, extreme effort). This is the gift of God" (verses 12-13).

In this passage the writer asks only one question, which we find in verse 9. "What does the worker gain from his toil?"

Life from a temporal perspective

Ecclesiastes 3:1-9

One philosophy of life is "fatalism." Current American culture did not invent fatalism, but it is prominent in popular worldviews. Fatalistic beliefs have always been and remain a consequence of life without God.

The writer of Ecclesiastes details 14 contrasting activities or stages of life. They are opposites, but in most cases have a natural cause and effect relationship to each other. They are universal to the Christian and the non-Christian.

The basic question found in verse 9 causes us to make a choice of belief. Is what we experience on Earth all there is, or is there God, the God who has "set eternity in the hearts of men?"

My belief is that fatalism is more prevalent in societal thinking than we imagine. Alcoholism, rampant drug use and abuse, crime, unbridled sexual activity, suicide and crass materialism are all results of fatalistic philosophy. If this is what life is, let's either grab it all or check out early!

Life from an eternal perspective

Ecclesiastes 3:9-15

One of my favorite phrases is "seize the day!" I like it because it is positive. Be happy. Do something special. Life is worth living.

The writer has that spirit in this passage. What does the worker gain?

Well, the worker gains when he begins and ends life with God. Without God, nothing has permanent satisfaction. With God, true pleasure can come. Revering God allows us to accept that He has more control over life events than do we.

As the writer acknowledges, we live life on one level, but we have our hope on another level. At the earthly level, we can be happy and find satisfaction in our life's work. Why? Because the ability to work and do good for others is a special gift from God. The other, higher, level is where God has "set eternity in the hearts of men."

Innate within all of us is this unexplainable longing for eternity. It has always been our hope, and it will always remain our hope. The apostle Paul expounded on this hope with words we can understand. He wrote that if this earthly existence is all there is, then we are most miserable and to be pitied (1 Cor. 15:19). But, Christ changed our future. He is the one who fulfills what the author of Ecclesiastes meant when he wrote that God has "set eternity in the hearts of men." We desire eternal life. It's part of our spiritual DNA. We can't change it.

Furthermore, it is bigger than our own longing or desire. Eternity found its fulfillment in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus died and Jesus arose, and while it may sound too simple and too narrow to some, Jesus Christ is the way to eternity with God.

10/29/2004 12:00:00 AM by Wayne Proctor | with 0 comments

Biblical basis for church leadership : Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2004

October 27 2004 by

Biblical basis for church leadership : Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2004
Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2004

Biblical basis for church leadership

It's amazing to me that a feature article in the Oct. 23 (printed) Recorder, "Fashioning the role of core leadership in your church," on the topic of leadership in the local church could consume almost a page and never once mention the plain biblical mandate for church leadership from 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. North Carolina Baptist leaders from a century ago would never have imagined that we could have drifted so far from the Bible and so close to being conformed to the culture as this article shows. In their day, church leaders were "elders" and the qualifications were clear: men, whose character was above reproach, who led their families well, and were able to teach - nothing more or less.

The article states: "The forms of the church are man-made" I, most Baptists of generations past, and many Baptists today couldn't disagree more with this thinking. The author makes his point well, but to bypass the most applicable biblical passages to make that point leads, I believe, to faulty and dangerous conclusions. The "forms" of the church were set out more than 2,000 years ago, and remain valid and useful today. We ignore them at our peril.

Steve Ward

Boone, N.C.

10/27/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Make at least one mistake a week : Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2004

October 20 2004 by Rick Warren

Make at least one mistake a week : Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2004
Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2004

Make at least one mistake a week

By Rick Warren
Baptist Press

LAKE FOREST, Calif. - It's not uncommon for me to remind the leaders at Saddleback Church that they have my permission to make at least one mistake a week. I tell this to staff members and to lay leaders, explaining periodically that it's OK to make mistakes - provided they're not making the same mistakes over and over again each week.

Now, obviously, I don't want the leaders at Saddleback to fall into sloppy habits, but I do want them to feel free to fail because that means they'll also feel free to take risks! My point is that, if you're not making mistakes, then you're probably not trying anything new. And, if you're not trying anything new, then you're not learning, and if you're not learning, then you and your ministry will quickly be out-of-date, perhaps even irrelevant.

The secret to being innovative is not being afraid to fail. So, let me encourage you to take risks in your ministry. Don't be afraid to try different methods or to think way out of the box. The great inventor, Thomas Edison, saw mistakes in a positive light, saying they taught you the things that won't work, freeing you to discover what will succeed. Edison moved on from mistakes and failures, inventing, among many things, the light bulb.

Few great things have ever been accomplished without risk-taking, and we need to teach our leaders, and our members, to take risks in their ministry for Christ. One reason this is so critical to your ministry is that it ties into faith-building. In other words, "risk-taking" is an expression of faith, and a godly "risk-taker" is being faithful in his service to God.

Will we believe God for big things? If the answer is "yes," then we automatically become godly "risk-takers" - men and women who trust God and live by faith and not by sight. When we teach our people to take risks, we are teaching them to develop faith in God.

One way to teach this concept is to take people to Mark 10:27b (NIV): "... all things are possible with God." Ask your leaders to circle the word "all," and to write the letters "NSD" next to that verse. "NSD" stands for "No Small Dreams." We serve a big God, and He says the size of our faith will determine the size of our blessings in life: "According to your faith will it be done to you. ..." (Matthew 9:29, NIV)

A great biblical example of faithful risk-taking is in Matthew 25, where Jesus tells the story of three servants who are given a varying amount of talents by their master just before he goes on a long journey. Jesus says one servant was given 10 talents, which he went out and doubled; another servant was given five talents, which he also doubled. When the master returned, he told these servants, "Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner." (Matthew 25:23, The Message) In many biblical translations, the master describes these servants as faithful.

But, in the story, the servant who was given one talent proves to be unfaithful, telling his returning master, "... I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent." (Matthew 25:24b-25, The Message)

Jesus says the master was furious, and he told the servant: "... That's a terrible way to live! It's criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest." (Matthew 25:26-27, The Message)

The master then said the single talent should be given to the one who risked the most: "And get rid of this 'play-it-safe' who won't go out on a limb. ..." (Matthew 25:29, The Message) The point is that when you're not taking risks with God, you're being unfaithful.

If we're not taking any risks in our ministries, then we're really not exercising any faith, and if we're not exercising any faith, then we're being faithless. This week, think about the risks you are taking or the risks you should be taking in your ministry.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest churches. In addition, Warren is author of the New York Times bestseller "The Purpose-Driven Life" and "The Purpose-Driven Church," which was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th Century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for ministers.)

10/20/2004 12:00:00 AM by Rick Warren | with 0 comments

Thank you Temporary Emergency Child Care : Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2004

October 20 2004 by

Thank you Temporary Emergency Child Care : Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2004
Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2004

Thank you Temporary Emergency Child Care

We are grateful for disaster relief volunteers who have so willingly given of their time, efforts and money in helping to restore lives after recent flooding disasters in Western North Carolina. Without the efforts of the feeding, recovery, shower and water purification teams, many people would not have been touched as quickly as they were with the love of Jesus Christ. Throughout this disaster, as well as other trying times, the children are often forgotten, but during the floods, the smallest children were loved, cared for and looked after by an often forgotten extension of N.C. Baptist Men, the Temporary Emergency Child Care (TECC). The director of TECC, Charlene Helderman, was in the mountains 15 days coordinating the efforts of numerous trained workers to assist parents with the vital need for security, caring and trained childcare. While some children were frightened when it began to rain again, others were able to relax and play in a safe, dry and secure environment.

Woodland Baptist Church in Clyde and the Macon County Community Building in Franklin provided needed facilities, and we are grateful to them.

TECC volunteers served in New York after 9-11 and in Kinston after the West Pharmaceutical fire. TECC has also served during the Baptist State Convention in 2003 and will serve in 2004. They also served at Missions Extravaganza and the Hispanic WMU meeting in Greensboro.

TECC needs volunteers who can model Jesus' call upon his or her life as Simon and Andrew did when Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Will you seek the TECC training when it is offered across North Carolina this next year?

Greta Paith

Roxboro, N.C.

10/20/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

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