SBC LIFE

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December 1995 Issue

There are over 15.5 million Southern Baptists in almost 40,000 churches across the country. In addition, Southern Baptists finance the ministries of almost 10,000 vocational missionaries at home and abroad. That doesn't include the many short-term volunteer mission trips made continually by Baptists throughout the year. For the second year in a row, Baptists set a new record for Cooperative Program giving -- almost $146 million with about another $133 million in designated gifts, bringing the total to over $278 million. That's the money that Baptists give to national causes. In 1994, churches reported their members gave over $5.5 billion in tithes, offerings and special gifts. No matter what time of day, Baptists are constantly involved in ministry, reaching out to a lost world by sharing Christ as our only hope. With that in mind, SBC LIFE offers a small sampling of Southern Baptists around the clock and across the country. We've focused on Baptists in the U.S. this time, acknowledging that thousands of Baptists are at work overseas. Times have been converted to Eastern Standard ...

The non-Christian world continues to find ways to shift attention away from God to material things, and at Christmas, the problem is even more noticeable. Our society has moved from a time, several hundred years ago, when gifts at Christmas were almost non-existent to the current material focus where we feel guilty if gifts don't cost hundreds of dollars. We're constantly pressured to measure up to "the Joneses." The short-sightedness of keeping up with "the Joneses" is that they don't have a clue where they're headed.

As a financial counselor, I will see the results of families who yield to the world's standard for Christmas. Many families fail to comprehend the impact their holiday spending will have until all their Christmas purchases are posted in their credit card accounts. It's not uncommon for a family to spend the remainder of the year paying for their Christmas debt (Prov. 22:7). I can easily reach the conclusion that the community...

Over the past few years, editorials in state papers across the SBC have lamented the arrival of conservative leadership on our seminary campuses. The latest round of commentaries have included a call by one editor for churches to actually boycott graduates from Southeastern, another called for the creation of a seminary to compete with Southern and suggested the Kentucky seminary remove Baptist from its name, and several others suggested that only extremely conservative students would want to attend the six seminaries funded by the Southern Baptist Convention.

The implication, along with some downright explicit comments, is that the six Southern Baptist seminaries are somehow less academic than they once were, no longer embracing the ever fuzzy concept called "academic freedom."And the suggestion is that moderate or liberal seminaries somehow maintain an even-handed perspective on education while conservative seminaries are only capable of indoctrination.

But...

"In other decades Baptists were better indoctrinated than they are today. The environment in which they lived, sometimes inimicable to them, was conducive of the mastery of their principles. Of later years, a tendency to depreciate doctrinal discussion is easily discernible, and young converts particularly are not rooted and grounded in the faith. Modern nonchalance acts as if it made little difference what one believes."

These words were spoken in 1919 by George W. McDaniels, a leading pastor in Virginia and later president of the SBC. Seventy-five years later, McDaniels' words still ring true. We live in an age held hostage to an ideology of indifference to truth. There is no problem more urgent for Southern Baptists today than how to pass on the faith intact to the rising generation.

This crucial task has been made even more difficult by a new mythology of Baptist identity which runs something like this: "Baptists are not essentially a doctrinal people. The basic criterion of theology is individual experience. Baptist means freedom, freedom to think, believe and teach, without c...

This message by Morris H. Chapman was delivered to the Executive Committee at its last meeting.

When Isaiah had a vision, he "saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up!" (Isaiah 6:1) Vision is seeing into a faith dimension, something which cannot be seen with the physical eye, yet something which requires enormous concentration, dedication, meditation, precise focus, and spiritual insight. Vision is seeing God in and through it all. Those who see Him are compelled to see things as God might see them and do them as God might do them and live them in the spirit Jesus lived them.

A vision will cause you to see God as He really is. It will cause you to cry out, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory" (6:3). We must never forget that God is in the midst of His people and where God is, there is His glory. When the Executive Committee is assembled, we are not alone. God is in our midst. We are about His busines...

Denying my part of the post-Nintendo generation, I do not keep company with video arcades or computer games. However, seeing young people lost in these pastimes I decided to have a go at one myself in the Atlanta Airport. Stepping into a game niche in the T terminal, I latched onto "Mortal Kombat," deposited my quarters and began losing the game rather rapidly. I can't remember if I was decapitated or merely kicked over the edge of a precipice onto those disemboweling stakes. I cried "uncle" and boarded my jet plane for home.

Once home, I decided to see the movie inspired by the video game. As I watched the furious progression of excessively muscled men kick-boxing their opponents into ghastly deaths of one kind or another, I kept repeating "God Bless John Wayne!" And I realized why America has come to be the most violent nation on earth.

The computer chip makes it possible for any kid with a dollar's worth of quarters to learn how to v...

Is it a spiritual discipline or a spontaneous response to a deepening relationship with God? And why are Baptists more known for their feasting than fasting?

Fasting: A Discipline?

Fasting is both an Old and New Testament teaching, mentioned more times in Scripture than baptism, says Don Whitney in Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

Whitney, spiritual formations professor at Midwestern Seminary, defines fasting as a "Christian's voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes?' In order for God to bless a fast, it must be God-centered in its purpose and not "coerced ," he adds, calling fasting the "most feared and misunderstood of all the spiritual disciplines." As evidence, Whitney points to the lack of sermons addressing the subject. Yet, Whitney writes, Jesus "expects us to fast?"

"... In the strictest sense, Jesus did not command f...

In more than a handful of Baptist churches, it's the "board of deacons" that seems to rule the roost at business meetings -- no longer waiting tables, instead exercising great authority in the midst of congregational rule.

"What this means is that all the recommendations of the church have to come back through (the deacons) before they go to the congregation:' says Robert Sheffield, deacon ministry consultant at the Baptist Sunday School Board."They basically are the financial managers of the church. Out of 40,000 churches, it's hard to know how many are still operating like that, but there are thousands."

Ironically, this managerial model insures the church will not grow, says Gary L. McIntosh, associate professor at the Talbot School of Theology. Rather than developing a "culture of service" and meeting the needs of people, the church's strategies...

Brother Bob delivered a masterpiece of homiletical eloquence. His studies had uncovered untold gems of biblical exegesis, myriad details of textual background, stirring quotations from Spurgeon and Shakespeare, and a gripping story to conclude the sermonic performance.

Bob was still wondering what size his "Preacher of the Year" plaque might be when it all came crashing down around the Sunday dinner table, as his 13-year old son asked, "So, Dad, what was that sermon supposed to be about?"

What is a sermon supposed to be about, anyway? To hear some messages, a listener would have to conclude that the purpose of a sermon is to fill the available space between the choir anthem and the invitation. There are few factors more likely to cause a sermon to "crash and burn" than the lack of a clear, concise purpose. Before a preacher steps into the pulpit, it is essential that he k...

As he walks to Wednesday night dinner, Pastor Paul reads the phone message again: "Complaint at high school: Christian teens can't wear t-shirts at school. See Red Moore before prayer meeting."

"T-Shirts?" ponders the pastor. "I guess now the ACLU wants to regulate our underwear. They'll call it Separation of Shirt and State."

At Wednesday night dinner, Pastor Paul sees Red Moore, who tells him: "Yesterday, my son, Red Jr., went to high school wearing a t-shirt with a Bible verse on it. A teacher told him that such religious language at a public school violated the separation of church and state. She said not to wear religious messages or anything that might offend someone. Is that legal?"

"Let me check into this," says the pastor. Back in his study, he calls ...

The other day I lived out one of my dreams. I played Colonial Country Club in Ft. Worth, TX, and they provided a caddie. Me — with a caddie! I felt like a real pro. It was a little stressful at the first tee. I took a mighty swing and missed the ball. "This course must be a few inches lower than mine I said. I took another mighty swing and missed again."Man, this is the toughest course I every played:' I exclaimed.

Then I nailed it. It really took off. We couldn't find it. I was furious."Caddie," I hollered, "aren't you supposed to watch my ball? "Yes sir;" he said, "it just caught me by surprise when you actually hit it."

Well, it got worse. I started slicing more than a food processor. Now for those who don't know much about golf, if the golf ball goes to the right, it's a slice. If it goes to the left, it's a hook. And if you hit it straight, it's a miracle. Not many miracles were happening ...

Bethlehem Boulevard: A Drive-thru Christmas

Kingsland Baptist Church, in Katy, TX, presents the gospel for those on the go. The congregation brings to life more than 100 biblical characters in authentic dress and ancient settings as people drive down Bethlehem Boulevard. The cost of the drive is $4 per car, regardless of how many people are stuffed in it, and that includes a cassette tape with narration and background sound effects. Cars without cassette decks can even borrow a player, and if you'd rather walk or take a tram, there's that option too. Over the years, the scenes on Bethlehem Boulevard have included a Palestinian market street, Moses before the burning bush, Isai...