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January 1996 Issue

On Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, Jan. 21, Southern Baptists will turn their attention to the value of human beings, including unborn children. While Sylvia Boothe welcomes the attention, she challenges Southern Baptists to be actively involved in such issues throughout the year.

As director of the Home Mission Board's Alternatives to Abortion Ministries office, Boothe advocates involvement blended with compassion. "We have a powerful message," she says. "We need to tender our message with love and compassion and forgiveness and restoration."

About 1.5 million babies — one in every 2.8 babies conceived — are aborted each year in the United States, Boothe says.

Southern Baptist churches and associations are involved in hundreds of crisis pregnancy centers, Boothe says. Crisis pregnancy centers are locally funded and locally staffed. Consequently, their affiliation and procedures vary but typically a woman comes to ...

It's a sign of our times that wherever small groups pause to talk, whether it be at the break area or Sunday school class, debt is likely to be discussed. Debt has increased as if we have been inoculated against its dangers. A startling fact that supports our immune condition: Today banks are offering a new level of credit to consumers, up 33% in one year to over $1 trillion with the average credit card debt near $3,900.

God's word brings a different message than we generally hear from the media and those who make their living in the financial markets. "The prudent man foreseeth the evil and hideth himself: but the simple pass on and are punished" (Prov. 22:3).

What does it take to correct the uncontrollable spending in a nation consumed with a materialistic focus and a national debt pushing six trillion? The media reports would have one believe that "confidence is high" while they fail to report that personal bankruptcies again made an upward t...

Two Southern Baptist congregations, one in decline, one in infancy, share facilities to advance the Kingdom.

It's an experiment worth noting: a traditional Southern Baptist church in a Los Angeles suburb is down to less than 50 members, a large portion of them in their 70's. The worship is traditional, including responsive reading and traditional hymns.

A few miles away, the bud of a new church is ripe for planting. This new church — aimed at the heart of Generation X — worships with guitars, encourages a casual atmosphere while still emphasizing repentance before God.

Rather than working against each other, these two congregations — in a startling unselfish and intimate way — chose to work together. First Baptist Church of Granada Hills, with Pastor Bruce Swetnam, continues to meet at 11 o'clock on Sunday mornings, as it always has, and continues to offer a Sunday school before the church service.

Yet, Granada Hills, voting unanimously, has invited the Harvest Church of the Valley, a Southern Baptist church plant, to use their facilities as they struggle to stand as a church to the next generation. Harvest Church, with Pastor Rob Mye...

A cruise on the information highway can be a dangerous ride. Here's how to avoid disaster.

TV Chat. What a nice way, she thought, to meet new friends, talk about Barney and Big Bird, and converse by computer about all her favorite TV programs. Though only 8 years old, she was quick with the family computer. She scrolled rapidly through the menu of other online "chat rooms" and was soon ready to make her choice.

How could she know TV Chat was for transvestites? Across the country, the "information highway" holds a growing fascination for both young and old. The nation's three major online computer services — Prodigy, CompuServe and America Online — boast more than 6 million subscribers, while an estimated 25 million users cruise the Internet worldwide.

With a home computer and a telephone modem, you can blast off for the outer reaches of "cyberspace," as the online universe is known. Your destination? Despite the vast informational wealth available, "the bulk of commercial online service ... is spent...

Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

Several years ago the Barna Research Group polled evangelical households. Their study found that Christians were just as likely to own VCRs as other Americans. Barna also discovered these families were just as likely to spend less time reading after bringing a VCR into the home. Is it any mystery why they pick up the Bible less often?

Mass media conditions the way society communicates -- how people expect a message to be formatted, how they interpret and derive its meaning. If you like this magazine with its bold colors, vivid photos and concise writing, then thank your TV set. Television has conditioned society to expect quick and visual communication.

Before, mass media always flowed in one direction, from communicator to audience. Now the information highway is poised to change all that, to make communications interactive. And as the printing press, telegraph, radio and TV changed society in their day, so will the information highway.

Yet one trend is alread...

Imagine a Wednesday night prayer meeting lasting 18 hours. That might give you some sense of what happened in Los Angeles at Prayer and Fasting '95, a gathering of Southern Baptists and evangelicals seeking God's face and praying for the world's needs.

Sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ, the meeting drew participants from all over the world and across the denominational spectrum. Rather than a conference on prayer, it was a conference of prayer as the 2,900 participants broke into small groups charged with interceding for themselves, their families, their churches, and then the whole world.

"Everybody really understands what we're here for," says Mike Arrington, with the Baptist Sunday School Board. "It's not to hear speakers; it's not to listen to denominational leaders, but it's to really focus on the Lord and for you to open your own heart to what God has for you."

Prior to the conference, Campus Crusade'...

Since America has been inundated with Twelve-Step Programs, Self-Help Groups, and "How to Spot the Signs Of ..." articles in every magazine, it only seems fair that Baptist preachers not be left out of the loop. This is a test to determine if your minister has reached the end of his rope.

Nearly every week we get calls in the office of convention relations from people disgruntled by something that is happening in their church. It may be they're mad at their pastor, upset with the deacons, frustrated with a group they perceive as dominating the membership, or just alarmed at a particular decision approved at last week's business meeting.

No matter what the problem, eventually the callers get around to wanting the Southern Baptist Convention to do something about it. They want someone with authority to step in and intervene on their behalf. My response is always the same: That authority lies only in the local church. Baptist churches are autonomous, and our denominational polity precludes any outside intervention into the matters of the local body.

"You have every right," I tell them, "as a member of the church, to discuss these matters and bring your concerns before the body in a Christian spirit." Ironically, many of the callers find this disappointing. They want someone else to take care of the matter for them; they want someone else to lead the way, particularly if it means an open conflict.

The Theological Art of Talking to Ourselves

In reading Robert Funk or John Spong, I often get the feeling that churchmen are forever talking to themselves. What Jesus said in one-syllable words, the educated reproduce in triple syllables. If glossolalia is "talking in tongues," surely the art of talking to ourselves might be called "autolalia."

I work at the greatest seminary in the world and am struck by the wonder of so many educated men and women who teach while they live out a simple faith. Alas, it is not so with those scholars I meet in other arenas. Autolalia often owns the day. The problems may stem from the fact that theologians often practice their theology far from the common haunts of word-a-day laymen. Theologians have a way of turning from the simple vocabulary of faith and experience to be sure they're saying things right.

Since I now travel more in academic circles than I once did as a pastor, I've found I have to attend lots of functions where it's important to loo...

The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in the world. The organization's publishing wing, the Baptist Sunday School Board (BSSB), prints literature for 40,000 churches, runs a chain of 65 bookstores (Baptist Book Stores and Lifeway Christian Stores) and manages conferences, among other activities. Headquartered in Nashville, TN, BSSB employs approximately 1,600 people and had annual 1994 revenues of $225 million. Bill Peter, a marketing analyst, explains to Business Geographics how his organization uses geographic technology as a component of the overall ministry. "This isn't about trying to compete," said Peter. "This is about trying to understand our customers." A BSSB customer, in many cases, is one of its churches. "I like to think of the 40,000 churches as site locations," comments Peter. "We provide information that helps them evangelize within their neighborhoods.&...

It's Wednesday night, and you're working on a wonderful pre-prayer meeting meal. You're just about to dispose of your delicious dessert when Mr. Gallant taps you on the shoulder. "Preacher Grissom, you know what our problem is? We got too many young people coming into this church from other denominations. They don't know the first thing about Baptist history. You've got a lot of books in that study of yours. I bet you know a lot about Baptist history. I know we don't have time to cover it all, but why don't you share with us some of the things that are important?" Below is the test given by Preacher Grissom at the end of his lecture.

Baptist History 101 - Test 1

Short Answer

1. First corresponding secretary of the Woman's Missionary Union, the Easter offering is named for her.

2. Esta...

The football season is almost over, the Super Bowl is left. It's called the ultimate game. One player said, "If it's the ultimate game, why will they play it again next year?" Actually, a lot can be learned from football. When I was in college my team wasn't particularly good. Well, they were bad. One year we won the toss and elected to go home. Then there was the pep rally when the team ran on the field carrying the coach, and they fumbled him. One time we scored and forgot the victory song because it had been so long since we had scored. You get the picture. Our team was so bad that the crowd in the back would sometimes yell, "Up in front!"

I still liked to go to the games. One game I sat beside a man who had already made Milwaukee famous. He was drunk before the kick-off, but he knew his football. He figured out that when our team was in a particular formation, the halfback would always get the ball. So, whenever they came out of that formation, ...

Every Sunday School Class has its Own Private Bath

Starting with just a few families 17 years ago, Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC, has grown into a dynamic, 2,000-member church. The congregation's expansion has always outpaced any plans to build a place to worship, so when the Crown Royale Hotel and Convention Center went bankrupt, Providence bought the facility and converted it into a church building. Services are held in the former convention hall, youth meet in what used to be the bar, and Sunday school classes convene in guest rooms, meaning they each have their own private bath.

Born Again Barn

They were growing out of the town hall where they were meeting, so the members of...