Archives For May 2014

Redunda_Noble_blog_calloutHEARTLAND | Redunda Noble

Our church recently completed a study based on Thom Rainer’s eye-opening book “I Am a Church Member.” In the book, Rainer shared practical insight for developing the right attitude about the part we play as members of the Body of Christ. I breezed through the first few chapters with an air of superiority. As the wife of a pastor for more than 15 years, I was completely proud of myself for being a “model” church member. After all, I was already obeying most of the principles articulated in the book. I kept thinking, “It sure would be great if ‘brother and sister so-and-so’ read this book.” (Be honest. You know you have thought this too!)

I gleefully stood on my pedestal — until I got to chapter four.

The title, “I Will Pray for My Church Leaders,” hit me on the head like a ton of bricks, knocking me off my pedestal and down to my knees.

The moment I read the title, it struck me that I was the one who needed this book. I was not spending quality time daily in prayer for my pastor (who is my husband) and the other leaders of our church. (Bear with me while I confess.) I prayed daily like most Christians. I prayed for my family, my health, my needs, my wants, my desires, my struggles … my, my, my. My. All about Me! Oh My! How selfish I was in my prayers! Nowhere in my prayers did I petition the Lord specifically for the needs of my pastor and leaders.

We mistakenly think our pastor doesn’t need our prayers because when we see him, he is in the pulpit, often wearing a tailored suit and always a smile. We never want to think that our pastors and leaders might be struggling and desperately need our prayers.

Rainer challenges us to pray five minutes a day for our pastor. Only FIVE minutes. Who doesn’t have five minutes, right?

Jesus is the Son of God; yet he understood the importance of prayer in ministry. In Luke 6:12, the Bible records Jesus going to a mountain to pray. He stayed there and prayed ALL NIGHT. As Christians, we should follow Jesus’ example by spending ample time in prayer. While most of us understand we should pray, we have difficulty finding the time to pray. After looking at my own prayer life, I found that I struggled in three areas:

Prioritize prayer
How often do we get up in the morning, get dressed, eat breakfast and rush out the door, certain that we will have time to pray later? But later never comes. By 10:30 p.m., I was exhausted from the busyness of the day, managing to whisper only a few words to the Lord before drifting off to sleep. To prioritize prayer, I had to prioritize my morning and designate a specific time to pray.

Learn what your pastor’s needs are. Pray for his needs the way you pray for your own. It does not matter when you pray as long as you do pray. Put a daily reminder in your smartphone and take the time to pray for your pastor.

Persevere in prayer
You will find that when you decide to pray regularly for your pastor and the leaders in your church, many things will challenge your commitment. You may choose to start with prayer early in the morning, but on the day you begin, the baby wakes up crying at the same time. You may decide to pray on your lunch break at work, but find that other employees constantly interrupt. You may plan to pray in the evening, but your child’s teacher sends extra homework that requires your help. Whatever the challenge, recognize that prayer honors God. Don’t give up. Although you may struggle in the beginning to pray, what joy you will find when you persist.

Prayer is a privilege
What is your attitude toward prayer? Do you see prayer as just another chore added to your to-do list? Attitudes are important to God. View prayer as a privilege. See it as your opportunity to spend time with the One who loves you most. Ask God to give you a desire to pray.

I have struggled to be consistent. But I find that as I continue to pray, my love for the Lord, His church, and my spiritual leaders grows deeper. I hope you find this to be your experience as well.

Redunda Noble leads a women’s Bible study, sings at church and serves alongside husband James Noble, pastor of Grace Fellowship Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn. This Baptist Press column is part of the call to prayer issued by Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, to pray for revival and spiritual awakening for churches, the nation and the world.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, has used the phrase “convictional kindness” to describe how Christians ought to engage a vastly different culture than the one their parents and grandparents knew.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, has used
the phrase “convictional kindness” to describe how Christians ought to engage a vastly different culture
than the one their parents and grandparents knew.


NEWS | Meredith Flynn

Southern Baptists’ generals in the culture war demonstrated their new strategy at an April meeting for church leaders. But the tactic, softer in decibels but not doctrine, was met by criticism from opponents using modern weaponry – social media.

“The way that we are going to be able to speak to the people in our culture…is not by more culture war posturing, but by a Christ-shaped counter-revolution,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

The conference on sexuality and the Gospel was the ERLC’s first major event since Moore assumed leadership from Richard Land, who served as the denomination’s main voice on issues such as abortion and first amendment rights.

The event came with a sort of confession: the culture war as we knew it is over.

“We’re all in agreement that the cultural war is over when it comes to homosexuality, certainly when it comes to gay marriage,” Florida pastor Jimmy Scroggins said at the ERLC’s summit. In his urban context of West Palm Beach, Scroggins said, “The question is what are we going to do in the church.”

Some might call this “post-culture war America.” Others might conclude that we’ve entered a new phase, culture cold war, with new weapons such as Twitter and a new battlefield, ironically, inside the church.

Embrace the strangeness
This new culture has been on the horizon for a while: Marriage rates across all demographic groups have fallen continuously since 1970, Andrew Walker of the ERLC noted during his summit breakout session. Cohabitation rates are up too: USA Today reported last year that for almost half of all women between ages 15 and 44, their “first union” was cohabitation instead of marriage.

Also on the rise: Approval for redefining marriage. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll reported 59% of Americans approve of same-sex marriage.

Addressing sweeping social and cultural changes was one emphasis of the April 21-23 meeting in Nashville, but speakers also talked about how church leaders ought to interact with increasingly specific questions arising at their churches. Like what to do when a transgender person expresses repentance and belief in Christ. Or how to counsel college students when premarital sex is not only accepted, it’s expected on the first date.

A few days before the ERLC summit, Moore appeared on ABC’s “This Week” to discuss religion and politics with a panel of evangelical and conservative leaders. He talked about the falling away of nominal, in-name-only faith, and the increasing “strangeness” of Christianity. Moore told moderator Martha Raddatz, “It’s a different time, and that means…we speak in a different way.”

“We speak to people who don’t necessarily agree with us. There was a time in which we could assume that most Americans agreed with us on life, and on abortion, and on religious liberty and other issues. And we simply had to say, ‘We’re for the same things you’re for, join us.’

“It’s a different day. We have to speak to the rest of the culture and say, ‘Here’s why this is in your interest to value life, to value family, to value religious liberty.’”

During the Nashville meeting, social media provided plenty of evidence of the divide. The meeting was one of Twitter’s top trending topics on its first day. Feedback from attenders was positive, but others watching the summit online spoke out, often harshly, against what speakers said.

That Christian views are seen as strange isn’t surprising, Moore said on the ABC broadcast.

“Many people now when they hear about what evangelical Christians believe, their response is to say, ‘That sounds freakish to me, that sounds odd and that sounds strange. Well, of course it does. We believe that a previously dead man is now the ruler of the universe and offers forgiveness of sins to anyone who will repent and believe.”

Reclaim the strangeness of Christianity, he urged at the Nashville meeting, basing it on the death and resurrection of Jesus.

So, what should we say?
Throughout the summit, speakers stressed the supremacy of the Gospel and clarity of what the Bible teaches about sexuality. Christians shouldn’t apologize for it, said Andrew Walker. Preaching an almost-Gospel is no match for the sexual revolution, Moore said.

Or, as Southern Seminary’s Denny Burk put it, “We have to be grave about these things.”

Scripture calls Christians to speak the truth, but to speak it in love. “We have to reject ‘redneck theology’ in all of its forms,” Jimmy Scroggins said during a panel discussion on the Gospel and homosexuality. “Let’s stop telling ‘Adam and Steve’ jokes.” (God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve…)

As the audience chuckled, Scroggins continued, “Let’s be compassionate because these are people that are in our community, these are people who are in our churches, these are people who have grown up in our youth groups, and these are people that we’re trying to win to Christ, and we want to care for them as a people created in God’s image.”

Speaking with “convictional kindness” has been a major part of Moore’s message in his first year as ERLC president. “I hope to speak with civility and with kindness and in dialogue with people with whom I disagree,” he told Christianity Today last year.

It’s a timely endeavor, especially when social norms run ever more contrary to the Gospel. J.D. Greear pastors The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. At a church that reaches a large number of college students, sexual ethics are a topic of constant conversation.

“Sex gets at the core of who we are. Its dysfunction and its damage is deep, but the Gospel goes deeper still,” Greear said. “Because where sin abounds, grace much more abounds, and the great brokenness of sex presents an even greater opportunity for the Gospel.”

The May 26 issue of the Illinois Baptist will examine in more detail how speakers at the summit addressed contemporary threats to biblical sexuality and marriage. The ERLC also will look more closely at “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage” at a conference scheduled for Oct. 27-29 in Nashville.

Jared Moore

Jared Moore

Update (May 20): Bennie Smith, a deacon from New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, Ky., will nominate Jared Moore for president at the SBC Annual Meeting in Baltimore.

NEWS | Kentucky pastor Jared Moore announced this week he will allow himself to be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention at the denomination’s June meeting in Baltimore. Moore, pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, Ky., currently is the SBC’s second vice president.

In a post on his blog and SBC Voices, Moore listed four reasons he’s willing to serve: He wants to serve Southern Baptists, represent rural Southern Baptists, promote unity in the SBC, and promote the Cooperative Program.

“I was saved in a rural Southern Baptist church, and I’ve primarily served rural Southern Baptists ever since,” Moore wrote. “Where I live now, the nearest gas station is 7 miles away. My church is a small church made up of about 60 people. They’re a loving, caring, godly group of people…I want to represent Southern Baptists like the ones I serve on a daily basis who may not have the opportunity to attend the convention or serve at the convention level.”

I want to represent Southern Baptists like the ones I serve on a daily basis who may not have the opportunity to attend the convention or serve at the convention level. – See more at: http://sbcvoices.com/why-i-am-allowing-myself-to-be-nominated-for-sbc-president/#sthash.M2hwtrUG.dpuf

Moore joins Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, in the election to succeed current SBC President Fred Luter. Fellow Kentucky pastor Paul Sanchez will nominate Moore, and Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, will nominate Floyd.

I was saved in a rural Southern Baptist Church, and I’ve primarily served rural Southern Baptists ever since. Where I live now, the nearest gas station is 7 miles away. My church is a small church made up of about 60 people. They’re a loving, caring, godly group of people. – See more at: http://sbcvoices.com/why-i-am-allowing-myself-to-be-nominated-for-sbc-president/#sthash.M2hwtrUG.dpuf

I was saved in a rural Southern Baptist Church, and I’ve primarily served rural Southern Baptists ever since. Where I live now, the nearest gas station is 7 miles away. My church is a small church made up of about 60 people. They’re a loving, caring, godly group of people. – See more at: http://sbcvoices.com/why-i-am-allowing-myself-to-be-nominated-for-sbc-president/#sthash.M2hwtrUG.dpuf
I was saved in a rural Southern Baptist Church, and I’ve primarily served rural Southern Baptists ever since. Where I live now, the nearest gas station is 7 miles away. My church is a small church made up of about 60 people. They’re a loving, caring, godly group of people. – See more at: http://sbcvoices.com/why-i-am-allowing-myself-to-be-nominated-for-sbc-president/#sthash.M2hwtrUG.dpuf

The_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Half of all Illinois residents said they’d move out of state if they could, putting the Land of Lincoln at the top of a Gallup survey of all 50 states. But it’s a dubious honor: On average, only 33% of residents in all states would like to move, compared to 50% in Illinois.

19% of Illinois residents said they are extremely, very or somewhat likely to move in the next year, compared to about 14% across all 50 states.

Gallup linked their most recent poll to similar studies that measure how negative residents are about their state’s taxes, and how much they distrust their government. Illinois topped the latter list too – only 28% of residents said they had a great deal or fair amount of trust in their state government. As for taxes, 71% of Illinoisans said they were too high, placing the state fourth on a list topped by New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

One piece of good news amid the bad: A study from the University of Colorado-Boulder named Chicago the country’s funniest city, largely because of its improv scene. Judging from the Gallup numbers, it may be a good time to learn to laugh at ourselves, too. Read more at Gallup.com.

Supreme Court rules in favor of town meeting prayers
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that prayers before town meetings in Greece, N.Y., can continue. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City had ruled the prayers “had the effect of affiliating the town with Christianity,” but the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision overturned that ruling. “This is a victory for all of those who believe in the freedom of speech, including religious speech, as a prized part of our God-given religious liberty,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Read the full story at BPNews.net.

Oklahoma school district bars pre-game prayers
The Freedom From Religion Foundation successfully lobbied an Oklahoma school district to stop pre-game prayers led by baseball coach Larry Turner and his staff. In a letter written by his attorney, Owasso School District Superintendent Clark Ogilvie said his district “will not allow any District employees to participate with any District students in any prayer or other religious activities in connection with any school-sponsored events.” Read more at ChristianPost.com.

Page appoints SBC Mental Health Advisory Council
Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, has named a 23-member advisory council to assist churches as they respond to mental health needs in their congregations. The group, chaired by Kentucky pastor Tony Rose, will address concerns brought by messengers at the 2013 SBC Annual Meeting in Houston. There, Baptists approved a motion by Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd to ask Southern Baptist entities “to assist our churches in the challenge of ministry to those suffering from mental health issues…” Messengers also approved a resolution on “Mental Health Concerns and the Heart of God.” Read more at BPNews.net.

Disaster Relief volunteers respond to southern storms
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams moved quickly into the Southeast U.S. following a spate of tornadoes and severe storms two weeks, and are still at work in several states.

“These storms were so strong that the slabs were swept clean by the wind,” said Disaster Relief director Joe Garner in Arkansas, where teams were serving the Mayflower and Vilonia areas. “There is very little chainsaw work to do. It is mainly clearing debris.”

Since April 26, destructive storms have affected 13 states, Baptist Press reports. For more Disaster Relief updates, go to BPNews.net.

After being baptized in a horse trough, David Vittetoe celebrates as John Howard, minister to students, assists. The troughs gave the church three locations to baptize the 103 people who came forward.

After being baptized in a horse trough, David Vittetoe celebrates as John Howard, FBC O’Fallon minister to students, assists. The troughs gave the church three locations to baptize the 103 people who came forward.

 

HEARTLAND | Lisa Sergent

Over a single weekend, more people were baptized at First Baptist, O’Fallon, than in all of 2013. The church’s crusade March 29-30 resulted in 103 baptisms, 17 salvation decisions, and 15 rededications.

Tom Dawson, FBC’s minister of adult education who helped organize the crusade, described it as “a wonderful event.” He called Texas evangelist Ronnie Hill “electric. He brought God’s Word straight to peoples’ hearts.”

Dawson said the church did “quite a bit of preparation” in the month before the crusade. Prayer, training, and logistics were key. Groups spent time praying for Hill and for those who would come and make decisions. Church members were trained to be “encouragers,” or counselors, to talk with people as they came forward.

Carol Cluff, adult ministries specialist, said the encouragers were trained a few days in advance of the crusade. “We wanted to make sure every person who stepped forward had someone to come with them, to talk with them about what prompted them to come forward, and to make sure they fully understood the commitment they were making.”

She noted many of those who were baptized had come to understand they had been “baptized out of order. Several people realized they had been baptized as a baby or even as a child without knowing Christ and wanted to be baptized now as believers in Jesus. Others had accepted Christ at youth events some time ago, but not taken that step.”

Sarah Schultz rejoices with Skip Leininger, associate pastor of FBC O’Fallon, after being baptized at the church’s March 29-30 crusade.

Sarah Schultz rejoices with Skip Leininger, associate pastor of FBC O’Fallon, after being baptized at the church’s March 29-30 crusade.

Hill urged the church to be ready to baptize people in each session and not make them wait until a later date. In anticipation of a large number of baptisms, the church made sure to have plenty of T-shirts, shorts and towels on hand. Plus, they placed two horse troughs filled with water on either side of the platform giving them three locations, including the baptistery, to baptize people in a single service.

“We were ready to baptize people on the spot,” Dawson said.

First Baptist has made follow-up a priority, stressing the importance of continued discipleship. In a series of follow-up actions, encouragers are keeping in touch with those they counseled and are connecting them with small groups within the church. As part of the effort, Senior Pastor Doug Munton is leading a special sermon series covering the Good News and the importance of baptism along with why Christians should share their faith and be fishers of men.

Munton is pleased with the crusade’s outcome. “We had a great crusade,” he shared. “The Gospel was preached clearly and the response was great. Many people trusted Christ as Savior and that never gets old to me. And, it was such a privilege to see more than 100 people follow the Lord in believer’s baptism.”

Leininger prepares to baptize Sonja Conrad.

Leininger prepares to baptize Sonja Conrad.

Dawson said church members are excited. The momentum continued into Easter as the church had its largest Easter Sunday worship attendance – 2,569 people.

“The crusade was wonderful,” said Cluff. “It lit us on fire.”

Mark_Coppenger_blog_calloutCOMMENTARY | Mark Coppenger

You know the scene: A troubled family member arrives at home only to find various loved ones seated in the living room. They ask him or her to sit down and hear what they have to say. One by one, they read prepared statements of love and admonition. The subject, eyes brimming with tears or flashing with indignation, endures as much as possible before caving in, pushing back or storming out.

The poor soul has bottles hidden around the house and in the flowerbed, and she can find another pint as soon as her prime stashes are blown.

Or there’s the trash addict who can’t throw anything away, even dead animals. (I was called in on a cleanup with some church members in my seminary days; we found a dead, dried out cat under matted stained clothes under stacks of newspapers in one of the closets.)

An intervention is very uncomfortable but worth it, whether the addiction is drugs or drink, clutter or cussedness. They’re ruining themselves, as those around them are grieving if not outright harmed. And they don’t much appreciate your suggestion that something is out of whack.

I know that people can come to Christ in a lot of tender ways. An immigrant wife is touched by her Christian neighbor’s shopping and language tips. A lost welder is disarmed by the warmth of a church softball team he’s been asked to join. A “singing Christmas tree” rendition of Joy to the World brings tears to the eyes of a cranky, unchurched parent who shows up to watch his high school senior perform.

But the Lord has also used Jonathan Edwards’ Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God and the chaste slap of a godly college girl knocking some sense into a unbelieving suitor, whose advances were unseemly, a jolt which caused him to reassess his secular worldview. Or how about Mordecai Ham’s scathing anti-alcohol parades, which salvifically grieved some drunks standing outside bars on the roadside?

God may well use a sequence of happy and scary events and items to lead an individual to Himself. (I think I once heard the late evangelism professor Roy Fish say the average was seven Gospel touches before conversion.)

So Bob may have been providentially prepped for salvation by, in order, a Vacation Bible School lesson he heard at age 8; a highway sign reading, “Prepare to Meet God”; a Jack Chick tract named Holy Joe; the stellar performance of a homeschooled spelling bee champ who thanked Jesus for helping her; five minutes of a Joel Osteen sermon; and a friend who repeated something he heard in an Alistair Begg broadcast.

Truth is, we risk looking silly when we declare, well beyond our competency and theological warrant, that all evangelistic approaches other than our own are tacky, pompous, dated, specious, trendy, dopey, sleepy, grumpy, sneezy and bashful.

That being said, there is an irreducible kernel of awkwardness and agony in conversion — repentance. I compare it to throwing up. I hate it. I fight it. (On a bucking airplane I close my eyes, turn the air full blast on my face, breathe deeply and sit very still.) I suppress it with every fiber of my being. But when it comes, oh, the relief — the blessed cooling of a sweaty brow, the relaxation of suppressed muscles.

Yes, it’s that gross, as is repentance, as we hurl up and out the poison and rot of self and sin and damnable, willful stupidity — the sort of thing you find in James 4:8-10: “Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people! Be miserable and mourn and weep. Your laughter must change to mourning and your joy to sorrow. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.”

Sometimes we hear and say that a witnessing Christian is “just one beggar telling another one where to find bread.” I’d suggest it’s more like a formerly-suicidal fellow who was talked off the ledge trying to talk a currently-suicidal fellow off the ledge. Or it is like a repentant Taliban terrorist in Gitmo going on TV to dissuade current Taliban terrorists to cut it out.

Of course, most don’t think that a law-abiding, philanthropic citizen — working the NYT crossword in Starbucks on Sunday morning, sitting across from his wife Khloe enjoying a half double decaffeinated half-caf with a twist of lemon, beside their jogger stroller bearing little Nash — is a suicidal terrorist. But he is just as we were. He’s bound for a well-deserved sinner’s hell, indifferent to the godly stewardship of his life, harming innocents along the way by his passive, aggressive and passive-aggressive defiance of the Kingdom and its gospel of grace, Khloe and Nash being his prime victims as his “spiritual leadership in the home” couples them to his downgrading train.

And so we intervene. If, that is, we love the person, are convinced of his plight and are willing to risk the alienation of affection. It doesn’t take licenses or programs or eloquence, though those can help. It simply demands compassion, courage, a firm grasp of the hard truth and, yes, a life which reflects a better way.

Mark Coppenger is director of the Nashville extension center and professor of Christian apologetics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. This column first appeared at BPNews.net.