January 2009 Issue
Baptists - Promoting, Protecting, and Providing for Life
by Roger S. (Sing) Oldham
During the early days of the so-called
"culture war" between proponents of life and promoters
of death, those who argue for elective abortions accused those
who defended the right to life of only caring for the infant in
the womb. For centuries Baptists around the world have been caring
for children of every age. Southern Baptists are part of this
caring tradition. What follows is a "Top Ten" list of
ways individual Southern Baptists invest themselves in Life.
1 Since 1973,
Southern Baptists have used the power of relentless influence
to encourage elected officials to defend and promote life. Richard
Land and The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) have
taken the initiative in keeping this topic ever before us. Though
some have grown weary in defense of life, the ERLC has not wavered
from its support and promotion of life from conception to natural
death. It has not stood alone. Across the nation, millions of
individual Baptists consistently vote their convictions and advocate
for life in the congressional districts in which they live.
2 The North American
Mission Board provides ministry support for local churches that
have pregnancy care centers as part of their ministries.
Many other Southern Baptist churches are not financially strong
enough to maintain their own centers, so they solicit support
from like-minded believers from many denominations in thousands
of cities and towns to provide centers of hope in their local
communities. Given the decentralization of Baptist life, there
is no way to quantify how many Southern Baptists serve as volunteers
in these centers, but evidence points to a sizable army of men
and women who give of their time, talents, and financial resources
each week to promote life.
3 Many of our
state conventions maintain children's homes for children
who need a safe haven. While the age of the "orphanage"
is largely a thing of the past, many children are "orphans"
by divorce, dysfunction, or despair. Baptists have stepped forward
to provide ministries for children of every age, from preschoolers
to college-bound young adults. These ministries offer residential
care, promote adoption, and work to place children in loving foster-care
4 In his 1991
volume Acts of Compassion, Princeton sociologist Robert
Wuthnow chronicled the phenomenon of the millions of Americans
who choose helping careers as a vocation. His subtitle
is intriguing: Caring for Others and Helping Ourselves.
His basic premise dovetails with a statement we frequently hear
"when I helped that family, I received more of a blessing
than I gave." Tens of thousands of Southern Baptists find
tremendous fulfillment through their work in community-based programs
that promote children's health such as WIC, Healthy Start, and
Head Start. Others work with the government through children's
services or the juvenile justice system. Still others work with
independent and faith-based adoption agencies.
5 Another area
where Southern Baptists directly impact and influence children
is through public and private education in our nation's
school systems. Our educators strive to radiate the joy of the
Lord and the fruit of the Spirit on a daily basis in some of the
most difficult surroundings imaginable. Given the strictures against
actively testifying of the grace and goodness of the Lord Jesus
Christ, these educators nevertheless daily demonstrate life-changing
6 Hundreds of
Southern Baptist churches provide church-based education services
for families, including affordable daycare programs, mother's
day out programs, and Christian schools. Many of these employees
work at great financial sacrifice, performing these acts of service
as investments of love and worship as they seek actively to influence
the next generation for Christ.
7 One of the
greatest evangelistic tools ever promoted by Southern Baptists
is Vacation Bible School. VBS could not exist were it not
for the willing volunteers that prepare lessons, teach crafts,
provide refreshments, drive buses and vans, ferry neighbor's children,
lead worship, and organize recreational activities. To look at
a VBS volunteer is to see what an individual who values the life
of each child looks like!
care in the church setting is perhaps the most unsung ministry
a local church offers. Most churches would come to a screeching
halt if nursery volunteers rose up and said, "I will no longer
serve." One long-time pastor observed that many mothers and
fathers take advantage of the nursery service as an entitlement.
What they fail to realize is that when they choose not to volunteer,
they take advantage of the goodwill of others who willingly give
of themselves to watch over and care for children who are not
9 It has been
said that the greatest gift a parent can give a child is to provide
a stable home environment. It has never ceased to amaze
me how some homes are "kids magnets." What a wonderful
blessing to be the home where your children's friends want to
congregate! Parents who intentionally create this kind of home
environment demonstrate the love of Christ and their desire to
protect children throughout life.
10 Very few churches
do not have an active age-graded ministry of some kind.
In the small church, the youth and children's ministries may overlap
and be led by volunteers. In larger churches, ministers with specialized
training in preschool, childhood, middle school, and high school
ministries provide oversight and guidance; but, even here, the
ministries would end overnight if thousands of volunteers did
not make the ministries a priority of their time and commitment.
I could go on. Simply put, Southern Baptists are involved in
the lives of children throughout their childhood, adolescence,
and young adulthood. Churches, ministers, and members alike care
for children. They rejoice over the strong and successful. They
receive the fallen, seeking to restore them with gentleness and
love. The Convention partners with states, associations, and local
churches to provide resources to protect the innocent from sexual
molestation and abuse.
On this 36th anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade
decision by the Supreme Court, let us recommit ourselves to promote
life, protect the innocent and unborn, and provide ministries
and services that will give each child the best possible opportunities
to see Christ, hear Christ, and receive Christ. The ethic of life
is, ultimately, about more than mere biology. Jesus put it this
way: I am come to give them life; and to give it more abundantly.
Roger S. (Sing) Oldham serves as the vice
president for Convention Relations with the SBC Executive Committee.
© 2017 Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee
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