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By Steve Hamrick

Steve HamrickMany times in ministry, I have been called on to do something not because I wanted to, but because I knew I should or it was in my job description. Often these “acts of obedience” make me uncomfortable, but I’ve noticed when I am obedient in these hard things, I receive a blessing and satisfaction that is many times greater than the fear. Many times, I see God at work on the frontlines. I had such an experience recently in Hillsboro, Ill.

Rob Cleeton is pastor of Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in Medora and a volunteer chaplain at Graham Prison in Hillsboro. One day, he told me about the prison praise team, which is made up of more than 20 prisoners who serve various ways. They set up gear and chairs, sing and play, lead worship, and run sound and video.

Rob told me that I might be able to help them. The invitation to join Rob at the prison intrigued me, but I was fearful too. With Rob’s permission, I asked several of my minister of music friends if they would be interested. Five of them, including one who is a guard at the prison, agreed to join me.

After getting security clearance, my team planned a clinic for the prison praise team. On the day of the training, we met at the prison. We were searched, left our cell phones behind, went through three or four barriers and guard stations, and found ourselves in the center of the prison. Even though I knew they were going to let us out when we were done, I had an eerie feeling about being locked in.

When we first met the prisoners they looked exactly like I had expected. Some had gang- or crime-related tattoos; others looked like they could lift 300 pounds. I knew that many of them were there for serious offences. But when they started playing and singing, I could tell that they were better musicians than I am. Many of them made a living playing in bands and clubs before their prison days. I was pretty unsure what we might be able to do to “help” them.

Pastor Rob told me that most of the guys in the prison ministry had a better relationship with Christ than most Christians on the outside. He also encouraged us not to worry, that the men would be grateful for our time with them. He was correct.

As I got to know the men and their stories, something started to change in the way I looked at them.

As I got to know the men and their stories, something started to change in the way I looked at them. No longer did they look like prisoners. They started to look like friends. One man looked like my father. Another one looked like me. God told me clearly that the only difference between them and me was that they broke our civil laws. But we both have broken God’s law. In God’s eyes, we are exactly the same kind of sinners, deserving of death and hell.

But we also share exactly the same good news. Jesus died to save us both from our sins, the prisoner and the pastor.

That evening, our ministers of music joined the praise band and to lead 121 prisoners in worship. In a room with only 80 chairs. The chaplain decided that because we didn’t have enough chairs, he would remove all of them. As the prisoners entered, led by the band, they started singing and praising the Lord. Through both familiar and unfamiliar songs, they sang with all their heart. When it came time for the message, they stayed engaged. They interacted with me while I spoke, affirming with “Amen,” “Blow it up, preach!” and “Come on!”

When the service was over, I found one of my new friends in the audience and asked him why no one had complained about standing up for an hour-and-a half. His answer has fundamentally changed the way I look at worship.

“When we come together to worship,” he said, “we are not concerned by prison bars, uniforms, rules, guards, bad food, or barbed wire; we are worshiping free before the King of Kings.”

Time was suspended while they were transported before the throne in worship. It was personal worship, yet it was fueled by the corporate singing and praise of believers. The presence of the Lord did not have to be called down, because he was already there. We stepped into his presence. Worship in our Illinois Baptist churches could be like that if we confessed our sins, left our un-prayed over opinions at the door, and set our hearts and minds on Jesus.

There in the prison, we were all blessed standing in the presence of God. The prison band was blessed as they prompted the prisoners in worship. Our ministers of music were blessed by the worship and the new relationships they made. I was blessed most of all as God showed me a new picture of what worship should really be like every time we come into his presence. Thanks, Pastor Rob, for inviting us to participate in such a blessed event.

Steve Hamrick is IBSA’s director of worship and church technology.

In the golden age of piracy, a pirate captain had power, authority, and a wide-brimmed hat that set him apart as commander of his ship. His crew agreed to follow their captain wherever the seas took them.

While the captain had legitimate power to move the ship onward, the ship’s quartermaster had a different kind of influence. Often placed second in command, the quartermaster’s primary job was to take care of both the needs and the discipline of the crew. He interacted with his fellow pirates on a daily basis and had the responsibility of keeping up morale and making sure the crew was effective in their daily duties.

His influence, though not official, also allowed him to have authority over the crew. And if the captain became despotic, the quartermaster could use his influence to assume power and lead a mutiny.

Pirates don’t pastor churches, but pastors and church leaders do wield different types of influence. Each can be used wisely for the edification of the church and the glory of God.

1. Legitimate influence. This is formal authority, like the captain, the President of the United States, a police officer, and yes, a pastor. A person with legitimate influence occupies an official position and because of that, has authority. Biblical examples of this kind of influence include King Saul and King David, both anointed king by God’s prophet Samuel.

2. Referent influence. Like the quartermaster who understands and cares about the needs of the crew, referent influence is based on affection, trust, integrity, and dependability. While the culture’s referent influence comes from Hollywood actors and star athletes, referent influence in ministry often comes from missionaries, ministry leaders, and again, the pastor. He may start with legitimate influence, but to be most effective long-term, a pastor must develop referent influence.

3. Reward influence. This type of influence is based on the ability to offer rewards or incentives to motivate. A general example of this is an employer/manager or a military superior. In ministry, a pastor can utilize reward influence.

Paul’s commendations at the end of his letter to the Romans showcase the value of reward influence. He extends warm greetings to several fellow believers by name, and then addresses the whole church. “The report of your obedience has reached everyone. Therefore I rejoice over you…” (Romans 16:19).

4. Coercive influence. Averse to reward influence, coercive influence is based on the ability to punish, discipline, or penalize. This kind of influence also comes from an employer or superior. The same authority that can promote you can also fire you.

Pastors also have this kind of influence, though it should only be used on rare occasions.

5. Expert influence. This influence is based on knowledge, special skills, or insight that others do not have. Examples of expert influence include doctors, lawyers, teachers, and scientists. Pastors and other full-time ministers and experienced Bible teachers can become experts in their ministries. They follow trends, know what works and what doesn’t, and have experience dealing with a variety of issues and challenges.

6. Informational influence. Though not an expert, someone with informational influence possesses the ability to attain and distribute information, and usually to effect change. This influence stems from personal connections. Political leaders and people in sales are prime examples. Similarly, pastors, elders, and denominational workers can use their connections as a way to influence people around them, for the glory of God.

God is the ultimate source of pastoral influence, and we as leaders are completely dependent upon him. However, we are called by God and affirmed by our congregations, and we should be moving our people toward God’s agenda.

In other words, we want people to do what God wants them to do. Most of us influence and lead with our own intuitive style, but understanding different kinds of influence—seen both now and in a biblical context—can help us be more intentional based on the challenges and needs of our specific ministries.

– Bryan Price pastors Love Fellowship Baptist Church in Romeoville.

Grilled, not toasted

Lisa Misner —  June 6, 2019

By Eric Reed

toastTwo things surprised me about my ordination: the interview was not nearly as painful as I anticipated, and it was scheduled 90 minutes prior to the evening service where I was to be set apart for God’s use.

What if I fail the test? I thought. My mother drove 10 hours to attend the service. And there’s an ice cream social afterward. What will happen to all that ice cream if I give the wrong answers?

I passed.

A dozen of the church’s finest gathered in the church library and asked me to share my testimony and my calling. (As I had recently written at length about that for my seminary application, the telling of it was easy and lasted about 40 minutes of the hour they reserved for the meeting.) Had I read The Baptist Faith & Message? (I had. In fact, the previous pastor had required it as part of a church membership class.) Did I disagree with any basic Baptist doctrines? (I did not.)

Their vote was unanimous. Half an hour later the church body approved. It seemed right that my little local congregation was doing the ordaining; after all, they knew me. I had served as their youth minister for two years.

I still remember a few prayers of those men as they laid hands on my head and whispered over me. Then came their wives and other members of the church. The praying lasted longer than the quizzing as the line to affirm God’s call wound around the inside walls of the sanctuary and Norma Lassiter played hymn after hymn on the Hammond.

Those men were serious, and they took their responsibility seriously. I recall with appreciation those who signed my ordination certificate: Leslie Rooks and Stephen Young and Marion Oldham and Luther Barker and more.

Anyone ordained in a Southern Baptist church might tell a similar story. They might also tell this one, as a friend described his own ordaining council: “I expected to be grilled, and instead I was toasted”—as if they had raised a glass in his honor.

In retrospect, I respect those men and the process. But times have changed and the call for more stringent screening is appropriate. The questions I have asked in ordaining councils have gotten tougher across the years, and yes, even a bit embarrassing, but it’s necessary. And ordaining councils would be well advised to bring directors of missions and pastors, a theologian, and men who aren’t so close to the candidate into the process to beef it up.

For the safety and well-being of the church, the pastorate, and the faith, we need to do more grilling and less toasting.

– Eric Reed

Improving ordination

Lisa Misner —  June 3, 2019

More careful interview process needed to protect churches

By Grace Thornton, with additional reporting by the Illinois Baptist

Ordination_web

The ordination process of Southern Baptist churches is a weak spot when it comes to protecting congregations from sexual predators, according to a report released May 9.

The report, “Above Reproach: A Study of the Ordination Practices of SBC Churches,” was conducted by Jason A. Lowe, an associational mission strategist in Kentucky, in response to a Feb. 10 Houston Chronicle report on sexual abuse among Southern Baptist churches.

Lowe began polling pastors and other Baptist leaders across the Southern Baptist Convention on Feb. 20, two days after SBC President J.D. Greear presented 10 calls to action from the Sexual Abuse Presidential Advisory Study, one of which was to enhance the ordination screening process.

IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams said the survey is helpful because it inquired about familiar aspects of ordination, but also some that are less often considered. “For example, it asked about various types of background checks as part of the ordination process, and also about how ordination councils can provide follow-up and accountability,” Adams said.

The screening process is a “sacred responsibility” that needs to be taken seriously, Greear said at a February meeting of Baptist newspaper editors. He explained that ordination candidates should have no hint of sexual abuse or cover up in their past. Greear asked why background checks are often more rigorous for children’s ministry volunteers than for people being ordained to lead.

Fewer than 1/3 of ordination candidates were required to have a background check.

Ordination, a process that sets a person aside for ministerial service, is left up to each individual Southern Baptist congregation in keeping with the SBC’s policy of church autonomy. Churches may review a person’s salvation experience, pastoral call, qualifications, and potentially his experience or seminary training to determine if he’s an appropriate candidate, according to the SBC’s website, sbc.net.

But Lowe wrote in his article that up until now, no one had a good snapshot of what was actually happening across the SBC when it came to ordination practices. “Very little study” has been done on this topic, he said.

“No one knows how thoroughly candidates for ordination are being examined,”
wrote Lowe, who serves as associational mission strategist for the Pike Association of Southern Baptists in southeastern Kentucky, as well as executive pastor for First Baptist Church of Pikeville.

“No one knows how many ordination councils require candidates to complete a background check,” he wrote. “No one knows how many ordination councils examine a candidate’s sexual purity.”

In late February and early March, Lowe gathered 555 survey responses. He compiled his findings in a 42-page report and noted five significant points of interest:

1. SBC ordination practices have significant room for improvement. In addition to Greear, other SBC leaders had spoken out about weaknesses in the ordination process ahead of Lowe’s report.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote on his blog in February that “lackadaisical ordination will produce doctrinally dubious and morally corrupt pastors.” That kind of trend “must end and churches must take responsibility for those men they ordain for ministry,” he wrote.

Thom Rainer, former president of Lifeway Christian Resources, also wrote that because of the weak process, “we ‘bless’ new pastoral candidates who may not be ready for ministry at the least, and who are sexual predators at worst.”

Lowe said his report confirmed their observations. “While there are some encouraging trends, [Southern Baptist] churches need to improve our current ordination practices in a number of ways,” he said. For example, only 30.2% of ordained ministers were required to have a background check and only 29.4% were asked about their sexual purity. Also, in roughly 60% of cases, the ordination service was publicized before screening took place and the screening council happened on the same day as the service.

“Ordination is too important and consequential to be handled casually or quickly,” Adams said. “I would start by inviting local associational leadership into the process, and developing a plan for the ordination that allows sufficient time, and that can be thorough and involve as many ordained men as reasonable.” He also suggested churches obtain a guide or checklist of ordination best practices that would include steps of preparation for the candidate and the ordination council.

2. Discussions regarding a candidate’s sexual purity are sparse, but on the rise. Even though sexual purity is not discussed most of the time, the report found that there has been a “significant uptick (40.5%) since 2010.”

During the ordination process, Adams said, questions of an extremely personal nature should be tempered with a sense of appropriateness, respect for the candidate’s privacy, and recognition that past mistakes and especially pre-conversion behavior are not necessarily disqualifiers.

“That being said,” he added, “in today’s world especially, ordination councils—and pastor search teams too, for that matter—are wise to include in their processes background checks, reference checks, and secondary reference checks, and even a loving line of questioning about personal purity.”

Pat Pajak, IBSA’s associate executive director of evangelism, suggested a standard questionnaire about sexual purity and other moral issues could be helpful for ordination councils.

3. SBC ordination practices are changing in both positive and negative ways. Lowe’s survey garnered information on ordinations spanning every decade since the 1960s, and across the years, a number of trends emerged. Some were positive—for instance, more churches are requiring theological training, and more are conducting background checks and asking candidates about sexual purity.

But on the other hand, the role of the ordination council seems to be decreasing in importance. Screening periods have gotten shorter as a whole, and councils involve fewer ordained pastors.

Pajak recommended councils seek help from others. “Few church members may feel qualified to ask theological questions,” he said. “That is why the practice of church councils inviting associational mission strategists and other pastors to sit in on the questioning is necessary, but unfortunately, rarely done.”

Adams suggested every Baptist ordination council should have at least one, and hopefully several, members who have studied The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (Southern Baptists’ statement of faith) thoroughly enough to question the candidate through its articles. “That’s why it can be valuable to have multiple pastors involved in ordination processes, as well as local association or state convention staff that are usually available to help when needed.”

4. Ordaining churches in more populated areas set higher standards for their ordination candidates. The report data showed urban and suburban churches handling the process differently than churches in less-populated areas. City churches more often check on candidates both before and after ordination and require training more often. Rural churches are more likely to publicize the ordination service before a candidate is approved, then conduct the screening on the same day as the service.

Joe Lawson is associational mission strategist in Rehoboth and Louisville Baptist Associations. He agreed with Lowe that interview questions are important, but said they should be part of a longer-term mentoring relationship that starts well before the ordination process. “By the time a person is ordained, they have very likely been in a position of leadership teaching children, youth, and/or coed adults in church. They have also preached,” Lawson said. “A candidate desiring to pursue a call to ministry should have a pastor/mentor who will ask the questions about debt, sexual purity, and other behaviors, i.e. drugs and alcohol. It is easy to hide and not be transparent about the sin in our lives. Yet, leadership demands that we hold each other accountable.”

5. Larger churches are more thorough in their examination of ordination candidates. Churches with a larger membership are more likely to cover more topics during the screening process, require a background check, and require training.

Lawson cautioned against creating too rigid a barrier between ordination and theological education, though. “Personally, I am a little concerned we could establish a hierarchy of clergy and lose the power of the Spirit of God and the call of God in people’s lives,” he said. “Many of our churches are served by folks who are well-read, articulate, and theologically sound, but not formally educated. They are effective pastors serving in small places.”

Lowe didn’t make any specific recommendations for improvements, but he wrote that he shared the findings “with the hope of generating productive conversations among Southern Baptists as we seek ways to improve our ordination practices in the days ahead.”

“Ordination by local churches is one of the grassroots practices that has for generations allowed Baptist churches to recognize and develop leaders, accelerate proclamation of the gospel, and establish new churches more rapidly and expansively than other groups,” Adams said. “That’s why it’s imperative that ordination by local churches be administered responsibly and thoroughly, whether its result is to qualify or to disqualify.”

The full report is available at https://jasonalowe.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/sbc-ordination-practices-report.pdf.

– Grace Thornton, with additional reporting by the Illinois Baptist

By Meredith Flynn

Baptism

Romanian Baptist Church of Chicago and Pastor Adrian Neiconi (center) celebrated baptisms in April, joining a statewide, month-long focus on evangelism. More than 700 people were baptized in April, including 271 on Easter Sunday alone.

Pat Pajak gestures to a small piece of paper filled with neat script. Each line is the name of a different IBSA pastor or church that has called him to report baptisms in the month of April. On one car ride alone in the middle of the month, he talked to three leaders who were celebrating people who had come to faith in Christ and followed their decisions with baptism.

One GRAND Month, marked in churches around the state in April, was, in a word, grand. Churches reported more than 700 baptisms during the month, and Pajak is still getting reports. And churches are still baptizing. Several pastors have said the April emphasis on evangelism resulted in professions of faith and people wanting to be baptized.

“How in the world are we going to reach 8.5 million people?” Pajak knows the question is overwhelming, especially when estimates say the state has around a hundred times more people who don’t know Christ than Southern Baptists.

If One GRAND Month did anything, he says, it alerted church members to the fact that people all around them are living without a relationship with Christ. “It’s a daunting task if you allow Satan to convince you that it can’t be done. You just say, ‘Let’s give up. Let’s not try.’”

But hundreds of churches took up the challenge in April, baptizing 271 people on Easter Sunday and 443 the rest of the month, for a total of 714. Pajak notes that if IBSA churches baptized 700 people every month for a year, it would more than double the number of baptisms reported last year.

“It has alerted people to the necessity of sharing their faith, and that it’s not just the pastor. He’s one guy in a whole town. Think about what happens if 35 or 40 people decide, ‘You know what, I can do that.’

“It’s the only way we’re going to reach 8.5 million people in Illinois.”

Change of venue, change of hearts
On their first Sunday in a new building, Grace Church in Metropolis baptized two people in a donated cattle trough. A young man sitting in the congregation heard the invitation to respond to the gospel and did so. He was baptized two weeks later, along with four others.

“We had a big ole day,” said Pastor Chris Sielbeck, who started the church two years ago in the front room of his home.

Grace met at the Union Baptist Association office for more than a year, and had been praying about a building when Sielbeck began to focus on a place he passed every Sunday. On a day off from his job with the U.S. Postal Service, the pastor began to research the building he thought would be perfect for a church. A local CPA owned the building, and Sielbeck dropped in to ask whether the owner would consider allowing a church to meet there.

“We’re a small church, we don’t have any money, and I need it for free,” Sielbeck pitched. “And he said, ‘I can do that.’” The church baptized two people their first morning in the building, and one the next week. Plus five more on the first Sunday in May.

When Sielbeck went to a farm supply store to purchase a $300 trough for the baptism, he ran into a sales representative for the manufacturer in the parking lot. The rep followed him inside, where he gave Grace a generous gift. Standing at the register, Sielbeck remembered, the man said, “I’m going to buy that for that church.”

‘Jesus steps in’
At Marshall Missionary Baptist Church, Pastor Paul Cooper baptized nine people in April. And five more on the first Sunday in May.

“It’s not normal for us,” said Cooper, whose church moved into a former Walmart building two years ago. “I think we had 15 baptisms for the year last year, and last year was higher than most years. Having 14 in basically a one-month period is pretty amazing.”

Marshall is the last stop on Interstate 70 before you cross into Indiana. There aren’t a lot of younger adults in the community, Marshall said, but several of the people baptized at his church the last few weeks are in their 20s. Michael Mattingly and Ranae Clements were baptized Easter Sunday. The engaged couple shared video of their baptisms on social media, celebrating their life transformation with family and friends.

Just weeks prior, Clements was a Christian who had moved away from the church and Mattingly doubted the existence of God. She attended a conference where her faith was reignited, and she also met a member of the Marshall church. Mattingly agreed to attend the church with his fiancé to be supportive. He arrived at church on the Sunday Cooper was set to preach “Jesus steps into your doubts.”

“My whole sermon was about how it’s okay to have doubts,” Cooper said. “God will speak into that, and Jesus will show up.”

When he gave the invitation at the end of the service, the pastor asked people who had prayed to receive Christ to raise their hands. Mattingly’s was one of the hands raised. A few weeks later, on Easter, he and Clements were baptized.

“There’s a sense of anticipation in the church,” Cooper said. “God’s doing things, and God’s reaching people, and people just want to share that. A lot of our new people have gotten really excited, and then they share it, and it keeps kind of multiplying right now.”
After he baptized Mattingly, Cooper asked if he wanted to say anything. The young man responded simply.

“Jesus is Lord.”

By Nate Adams

During the years when our sons were younger and still at home, one of them asked me one evening, “Dad, what do you do all day?” No doubt I was distracted with whatever work I was doing at the time, and I glibly replied, “I attend meetings, talk on the phone, solve problems, and write e-mails.”

While a little sarcastic, my answer was not inaccurate. Administration is not just a big part of my job, it’s one of my spiritual gifts from God, so I accept it gratefully.

But some weeks, administration can feel more tedious than purposeful or personal. That was the case this past week, and in the midst of that drudgery, God sent me several unexpected guests.

One guest was a man I have known for years, though we have often not seen things the same way. The last time we talked by phone was months ago, and our conversation then had ended professionally, but not cordially. The only thing that surprised me more than seeing him at my office door were his immediate apology and his request for forgiveness when he sat down. I gratefully accepted and reciprocated, sorry that I had not taken the initiative. We prayed together sincerely and parted, brothers again. And I remembered that my work is often administrative, but my real priority is people.

They reminded me of my real priority.

A second guest came to me via both phone and e-mail. He was brokenhearted and concerned for the church where he grew up, and where some of his family still attend. He described the problems, and sources of conflict, and the impasses. He asked for counsel, and for information and resources to help, and I did the best I could on the spot, offering to come or send others from our staff when the time was right. There was despair in our first exchange, and optimism and hope in our last. And I remembered that my work is often administrative, but my real priority is people.

My third unexpected guest just dropped in while she was in the area. I didn’t know her personally, though I knew her church. She quickly and quietly told me that she didn’t want to take much of my time, but her mother had recently died, and she found in going through her things documents from several Baptist meetings that were over a hundred years old. Rather than throw them away, she wondered if they might be as important to us as they were to her mother. I reverently paged through them with her, talking about what it must have been like to attend a Baptist association meeting in 1894, and why her mother would have treasured them. I gratefully agreed to receive them into our historical archives. And I remembered that my work is often administrative, but my real priority is people.

Other unexpected guests came into my life this week. One had been deeply hurt by his church, another by her pastor. Neither plan to return to their lifelong churches, but both were looking for reasons not to give up on church entirely. I know why one of them contacted me, but I have no idea why the other one did. But by the time they did, I remembered again that my work is often administrative, but my real priority is people.

What do I do all day? There are indeed a lot of meetings, and phone calls, and e-mails. But God used at least five unexpected guests this week to remind me, in the midst of my administration, that real life and ministry and purpose is found in people.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.

Ronnie Floyd, president-elect of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, is the current president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. This year’s National Day of Prayer is Thursday, May 2.

Many Christians are so disappointed and fed up with matters about America that they struggle even to pray for our nation. Is this right? Is this justified?

Absolutely not!

And many Christians struggle to truly love one another, while many are uncertain about our future as a nation and even the future of our churches.

On the National Day of Prayer this Thursday, May 2, let’s be sure to join together in fervent prayer because:

#1: Christians need to pray for America

Where America is today is the reason we need to pray. If all was perfect and unity abounded across our nation, we may enjoy praying for America more regularly, but whether we enjoy it or not, it is needed.

Praying for America should be our first choice, not our last choice.

God is our hope — our last, great and only hope. Therefore, we need to pray like we believe this with all we are.

The alarm clock is going off in our nation and this is not the time to push the snooze button. America needs to experience the next great move of God.

That is why we pray. That is why we will prioritize praying for America on our upcoming National Day of Prayer. Will you join us?

Prayer precedes every great movement of God biblically and historically. Therefore, we need to pray and ask God for a mighty, great spiritual awakening across America. That is why the National Day of Prayer is a nationwide movement of prayer for America.

#2: Christians need to love one another

Christians need to follow Jesus’ teaching of loving one another, in obedience to Christ’s command: “Love one another, just as I have loved you” (John 13:34). This what we are calling our nation to do on Thursday, May 2.

We need a Love One Another movement that begins in the church of Jesus Christ. Christians should never take pride in being filled with skepticism or criticism of other people. We should love all people just like Jesus did and does: willfully, sacrificially and unconditionally.

Love One Another needs to become a movement that also infiltrates every part of American life when the church is experiencing this movement within their own fellowship.

Followers of Christ need each other more than ever before. While certain secondary doctrinal differences will exist, we need to unite around our belief that:

— The Bible is God’s infallible Word; it is truth without any mixture of error.

— Jesus is the Son of God and the hope of the world; therefore, salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone.

— We must focus our lives, churches and futures on taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in America and across the world.

In our confessional statement, the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, we as Southern Baptists believe, “Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary cooperation for common ends by various groups of Christ’s people. Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament” (Article 14).

We need to stop fighting over secondary issues and rise up together to become the spiritual light in this darkening America and world. The church needs to model loving one another or we forfeit our right to speak into the future of our nation. It is time to come together in unity.

#3: Prepare for the future

What will the church become in the future of America? Will we lose our freedom or have it affirmed?

We need to prepare for the future realistically, but also with great hope. Regardless of the present cultural tide that is rising in direct opposition to the ways of God, we are a Gospel people committed to Christ alone.

Our future is not in the hands of the United States government; our future is in the hands of our sovereign God. Yes, our times are in His hands!

We need to prepare future generations spiritually and vocationally for what God wants them to be and how He wants them to live for Him.

That is why I believe our greatest hope lies only in Jesus Christ, His Gospel and the advancement of this Good News message reaching every corner of America and across this world.

While we call out to God for His church to be revived by the Spirit and to love one another, resulting in coming together in unity, we need to simultaneously pray extraordinarily for the next great spiritual awakening in America, which is our greatest hope.

– Ronnie Floyd, reposted from Baptist Press