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June 1997 Issue

Contextualizing the Ministry without Compromising the Gospel

On a bright Sunday morning when most Colorado farmers woke before dawn to plant spring wheat, Denver's Riverside Baptist Church celebrated its harvest of souls. Riverside's annual gathering marked the fourth birthday of their Arms Around Denver missions program, and brought members and participants of its twenty congregations and ministries together for a time of praise and celebration.

This was to be no ordinary church service. A row of Harley-Davidson motorcycles growled to a halt in front of the church's east foyer. The bikers, who in any other setting would seem intimidating in their coal-black leather and crimson headbands, were actually members of a Riverside sponsored congregation. They stood at the door, welcoming all who entered with a warm smile and a hearty "howdy."

Their greetings were joyfully returned in a variety of languages. Amidst the "hi," "hello" and "welcome," there were also greetings i...

A Growing Doctrinal Crisis

A growing battle over the doctrine of God may "dwarf' the biblical inerrancy controversy of recent years, according to the editor of a new theological journal.

The orthodox definition of God is the topic of the inaugural issue of The Southern Baptist journal of Theology, to be published quarterly by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

"American Christianity is currently locked in a struggle over the doctrine of God that in time may well make the battle for the Bible of the past twenty years look small in comparison," Paul House asserted. "Its implications are far reaching for all denominations, and no group that ignores this theological issue will survive with its ecclesiastical integrity and doctrinal purity unscathed."

Who is God? Is God fully sovereign? Is God able to do anything? Is God limited in some way? These questions and others are at the heart of the growing theological controversy, House said.

Appointed ...

Conservatives and liberals mistakenly look to government as the answer for America's problems, when it is people who have solid convictions and a sold-out commitment to Jesus who are the hope of this country Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said at the 50th anniversary seminar of the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission.

"Liberals believe that government is really like God. If we just had more of it, we'd be so much better off," said Huckabee, a conservative Republican.

Conservatives too often focus on legislation or on "who's in the White House or who's in the statehouse, and we forget that what really matters is who's God in our own house."
The hope of the United States "cannot be in politics, in the Republican or Democratic parties," he said in the March 3 session at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Louisville, Ky.

"Let me also say that real hope for our country is not found in a denominati...

Whatever happened to the value of objectivity in American journalism? Not so long ago, editors and the public demanded that reporters keep their stories free of personal opinions. Journalists were occasionally allowed to write commentaries, but those columns were clearly marked "editorials" OT "analysis."

A reporter who dared infest a news story with personal opinion would likely have been bawled out by the editor and viewed as either naive or unprofessional. The editor's blue pencil would strike out the offending portions or the reporter would have to redo the story.

But today the state of American journalism has degenerated to the point that journalists' opinions pepper the news pages of national publications and taint the stories of TV news broadcasts.

Let me say clearly: No reporter is free of bias. We all have our opinions. But according to the old-fashioned code of journalism — which I think is far superior to the condesce...

Fatherhood is under fire in Hollywood, in the courts and in the test tube. The most noted fathers in America's entertainment subculture are an ignorant slob (Al Bundy), a shallow klutz (Tim Taylor) and a slovenly clod (Homer Simpson). Concurrently, some courts are granting adoption rights to lesbians, tossing the role of fatherhood onto a post-modem trash heap. And, with the advent of cloning, some have even declared the father obsolete. It looks like an all out effort to strip fatherhood of any purpose and value.

This, of course, contradicts God's design. He has assigned responsibilities to the father — responsibilities which make the role noble, valid, and valuable beyond our culture's comprehension. He calls the father to raise his children "... in the training and instruction of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4, NIV). This responsibility ascribes immense value to the currently maligned paternal function, for a father's actions shape not only the child, but th...

The divorce rate is down in Modesto, Calif. — thanks in large part to a "Community Marriage Policy" established ten years ago by the Greater Modesto Ministerial Association.

More than 100 area evangelical churches have closed ranks and established three key requirements for couples who want to be married in church:

(1) an engagement period of at least four months.

(2) at least four sessions of premarital counseling.

(3) learning about the value of marriage enrichment training within the first two years of marriage and mentoring by equipped, spiritually mature couples.

During the past decade, Modesto's population tripled but the divorce rate plummeted 18 to 27 percent annually, said Guy Grimes, pastor of Orangeburg Avenue Baptist Church.

"Most couples spend many hours and weeks preparing for a 45-minute ceremony," Grimes observed. "But we want them also to be well-prepared for the marriage itself t...

When a tornado ripped the front porch from his home in Arkadelphia, Ark., the owner had no idea how much his life was about to change — forever.

Following the March 1 tornadoes that devastated portions of southwest Arkansas, a Disaster Relief team from the Southwest Arkansas Baptist Association went to the man's home to rebuild the porch.

While helping to repair his house, Jerry Creek, director of missions for the association, explained to the man that while this storm had lasted only a few moments, many of life's storms are even more devastating. He pointed out that only one thing will stand in those storms — Jesus Christ. Shortly afterward, the man prayed aloud to receive Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior.

Such stories are common among Disaster Relief team members. Each year, hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions, of disaster victims are introduced to the gospel through the various relief efforts sponsored by the Brotherhood Com...

Because summer heat does not give way to winter snows in South Florida, some may think we have no seasons. Those who live here know that to be a false perception. South Florida has distinct seasons: "Tourist Season" and "Off Season," and then the most dangerous season of all — "Hurricane Season." In recent years we've seen multiple named storms surging in the Atlantic as additional storms brewed off the coast of Africa.

Reflecting on these storms can give ministers a tool to reassess the inner quietness of their lives, the settledness of their souls. For the truth is, to be a minister is to live in a perpetual hurricane season.

Crisis is inherent in the life work of a pastor. It is part of the structure of the call — the DNA of ministry

The minister may seem to be an ordered person in an ordered world, spending time in quiet reading, careful study, and meaningful appointments. In reality, the call brings him to m...

President Fails to Condemn Christian Persecution

AU.S. State Department advisory committee condemned religious persecution and pledged to help those seeking to flee such treatment.

The Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad adopted a statement Feb. 13 saying it "condemns all forms of religious persecution, as well as the climate of religious intolerance that has led to armed conflict and even genocide." The 20-member panel also committed to provide data to the federal government about religious persecution and to "develop recommendations to combat religious intolerance and assist those seeking refuge from persecution."

The committee's initial meeting came a year after the evangelical community began calling for the Clinton administration to take action on the persecution of Christians in foreign lands. They requested that the White House address the growing problem by naming a special adviser or commission reporting directly to the president. When the State department-administered committee was named in November, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission, and others called the action unsatisfactory, partly because State Department...

The study of a Larry Burkett course on biblical principles of financial management led to a new deacon-sponsored ministry at First Baptist Church of Stillwater, Oklahoma.

"As we looked at ways to minister to single women of our church, we found cars were often a cause for concern," said Lonnie Daugherty.

That led to Daugherty and Bennie Trout volunteering the facilities of their automotive centers as ministry sites. The first Saturday the deacons and other volunteers diagnosed and corrected problems on nine vehicles. Routine service such as oil and filter changes and tire rotations were also performed.

Other problems detected and corrected included brakes, brake-signal lights, starters, belts and steering components.

The women are charged only the mechanics' cost for parts as the men donate their labor to service the autos. This results in oil and filter changes costing only about $8 or $9, compared to more than $20 at o...

"Why him?"

More than a few people asked that question during D. L. Moody's evangelistic campaigns throughout Great Britain during the 1870s. Thousands were coming to faith in Jesus Christ and whole cities were beginning to sing the praises of God. The impact of the gospel was astonishing.

Yet Moody himself was anything but extraordinary His education was limited. His speech was unimpressive. His messages were short and simple. Nevertheless, everywhere Moody preached hundreds were publicly coming forward to confess the Lord Jesus as Savior.

In Birmingham, England, one theologian went so far as to tell Moody, "The work is most plainly from God, for I can see no relation between yourself and what you have done." Moody laughed and replied, "I should be very sorry if it were otherwise."

Lessons From Great Evangelists

Why Moody? Why W...

The Southern Baptist Convention's 1997 annual meeting in Dallas will make its share of history, with the launch of the SBC's new North American Mission Board among the highlights.

'We're going to celebrate a lot of things when we meet together," said SBC President Tom Elliff. Yet he described as "uppermost" a yearning for "God to meet with us in such a remarkable fashion that, when all is said and done, we would come away gripped with a sense of urgency that we are closer than ever to the return of Christ ... a sense of urgency for reaching the world with the message of Christ."

Urgency is reflected in the theme of the June 17-19 SBC annual meeting, To the Cross at the Dallas Convention Center, the 140th session in the 152-year history of the nation's largest evangelical body.

Elliff, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Del City Okla., said he is praying for "a revived fellowship, a convention sold out...

It's more than a theme for this year's Southern Baptist Pastors' Conference. It will be an eagerly anticipated answer to the prayer and fasting of the conference's president, Ronnie Floyd, his church, and others asking God to anoint the June 15-16 sessions in the Dallas Convention Center prior to the June 17-19 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.

"Pray ... pray ... pray ... for a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit," Floyd exhorted, in order for the Pastors' Conference to be a pivotal time of energizing Southern Baptists "to take the gospel to each subculture in America and the unreached peoples of the world."

Floyd and the church he pastors, First Baptist in Springdale; Ark., began a 40-day period of prayer and fasting May 6 for the Pastor's' Conference, enlisting members on a one-day-a-week basis.

The names of pastors and evangelists scheduled to address the Pastors' Conference will be "pu...

Most folks don't associate rodeos with the local church, but in Kannapolis, N.C. that's about to change.

North Kannapolis Baptist Church is sponsoring a Vacation Bible School this summer based on the Baptist Sunday School Board's rodeo theme. However, they are adding a twist -- they are kicking it off with a full-fledged rodeo that will be recognized and sanctioned by the local rodeo association.

Chris Hawks, the church's Minister of Outreach and Singles came up with the idea after viewing the BSSB promotion video with Youth Minister John Johnson. Johnson asked Hawks, who is an amateur bull rider in the local rodeo circuit, if he could invite some rodeo friends to help at the VBS carnival kick-off.

In response, Hawks suggested sponsoring a fully sanctioned rodeo on the church grounds.

If their church building was located in a rural setting, the idea might not be novel, but North Kannapolis Baptist is well inside the city limits and is...

It's a familiar Norman Rockwell-type scene: A one-high-school town on game day with the school colors displayed proudly on flags, sweatshirts, bumper stickers and pep rally posters. The team gets pumped, school-age fans flock to the game, parents, and other townsfolk gather for the heart of the community's social life: Sports.

But who washes the team's towels after the game? Who provides Gatorade for the two-a-day practices before the season ever begins? Who greets the visiting team? Who videotapes the events? Who gives attention to the nearly fanatical, non-athletic fan? Who hosts the officials for a snack supper?

"The bottom line is: churches today need new avenues to reach people," said Sharon Baach, associate professor of recreation at Southwest Missouri State University, and member of First Baptist Church, Springfield, Mo.

"Because there is such an interest in sports in our country there is a natural avenue to reach people. Th...

Jews who believe in Jesus have been the perennial Rodney Dangerfields of evangelical Christianity — they get no respect.

Their nonbelieving Jewish brethren have long denied their very existence. In recent years, as their growing numbers have been impossible to deny, they have been excoriated as Jewish heretics. Gentile Christians for years have assimilated Jewish believers into non-Jewish churches, essentially erasing their cultural heritage. Recently, more in the spirit of interfaith tolerance than biblical Fidelity, some Christians have gone so far as to deny that the sons and daughters of Abraham need to believe in Jesus to be saved.

But thanks to last summer's resolution by the Southern Baptist Convention affirming the validity of evangelizing Jewish people, Jews and Gentiles have been forced to face the issue anew: The SBCs "Resolution on Jewish Evangelism" urges renewed Southern Baptist efforts for "proclamation of the gospel to the Jewish p...

The following is a transcript of the speech given by 17-year-old Ashley Johnson to win the Challengers 1996 National Missions Speak Out competition. Ashley is a member of First Baptist Church in Sevierville, Tennessee.

The Cooperative Program

• "I am a child in a rural area outside Calcutta, India. I need an operation and I am afraid. But I have met the missionary doctor who will help me. He has told me about Jesus. I'm glad he came to India. All people in India need to know about Jesus."

• "I live in a small village in Upper Volta. We did not have water near our home. A man helped us dig a well. He told me about Jesus. I am a new Christian. People in the Middle East where I live need to hear about Jesus. A missionary sent me a Bible with lessons about Jesus I learned He is my Savior. Now I have hope!"

• "The inner city life in New York ...

In the national debate over sex education for young people, the high risk of sexually transmitted diseases and long-term consequences of STDs underscores abstinence as the scientifically sound message, a medical doctor told students at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Unfortunately, according to family physician Don Buckley, "safe sex" and the promotion of condoms — in spite of their alarming failure rate — is the message in most public school classrooms.

"There is a safe sex," Buckley said. However, "it's not what the world thinks it is."

A member of Olive Baptist Church, Pensacola, Fla., Buckley spoke Feb. 19 to the Christian Ethics Forum, a student group at the Louisville, Ky., seminary which focuses attention on moral concerns. Buckley also is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.

Buckley based his comments on The Myth of Safe Sex, a slide presentation produced b...

While visiting with my three grown daughters, ages 16, 18, and 19, my mind reflected back on precious toddler times. I remembered the daily tea parties and reports of adventures while dad was at work. I recalled the night-time books Belinda and I read, to the point of memorization.

One such book was Stone Soup. It was the story of hungry soldiers passing through a small village. Realizing the village people were claiming to have no food for them, the soldiers exclaimed, "Great, we'll have 'stone soup." They built a fire under a large kettle of water and ceremoniously brought the special stone to the spot of the anticipated feast.

As the villagers looked on, the soldiers spoke of their excitement over the luscious, flavorful delight the stone would soon make. Then someone said, "This is going to be wonderful soup, but wouldn't it be even better if we just had a few potatoes to add flavor?" Suddenly a villager said, "I bel...

Highway Patrol Chief Finds Joy in Service

When a Highway Patrol trooper knocks on a door, he's usually the bearer of bad news. But not necessarily so with the new chief of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Gary Adams.

Adams is chairman of deacons at Twelve Corners Baptist Church near Noble, Okla., and one of three "dusty trail" deacons who do visitation ministry.

Appointed head of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol Jan. 15, Adams, 52, oversees 619 troopers and a $36.5 million budget which includes the statehouse patrol He had spent the previous ten years in charge of 100 troopers on Oklahoma's ten turnpikes.

"I had been in gun battles, kicked in doors, and participated in manhunts, but to save my life, I couldn't stand up before the church and read Scripture," Adams said.

Adams admitted he really wanted to be a deacon at the church, but when time came for nominations, his name wasn't even mentioned. Then when he was asked to serve as a deacon at Twelve Corners about five...

McDonalds now has more than a score of its restaurants in Israel. But they are getting mixed reviews. It all has to do with whether or not cheeseburgers are permissible for Jews to eat. The more orthodox Israelis, against seething a kid in its own milk (Deut. 14:21), hold strong taboos against eating cheese and beef together. More liberal Israelis love cheeseburgers. So a war of intolerance is being waged just underneath the Golden arches, not far from the Dome of the Rock.

Intolerance takes many forms, and I'm prone to agree with George Bernard Shaw that tolerance is the flabbiest of virtues. But American Christians have their own cheeseburger wars to reckon with. I only say that because it doesn't take a genius to see the growing division in America's former monolith of evangelicalism. Evangelicalism has managed a mighty front because evangelicals themselves have been willing to stick together on the big things in order to present a united front to the world. I like t...

You may have heard about the man who lived where the state lines of Wisconsin and Minnesota meet. He assumed he had been living in Minnesota but when a new land survey was done, it showed that he lived in Wisconsin. "Thank goodness," he exclaimed, "I never could bear those cold Minnesota winters."

Thank goodness it is possible to rise and shine. After visiting the "Promised Land," some people come back with grapes instead of gripes. They wake up singing, "Oh what a beautiful morning." They rise and shine. If they were football players, they would go for a great catch instead of signaling for a fair catch. They know that their outlook impacts the outcome.

I heard a story about a doctor who, while making rounds in a ward for the terminally ill, asked the patients if they had any final requests. He entered an older lady's room and asked, "Is there anything I can arrange before you pass on?" She replied, "Yes, I'd ...

Some Alarming Statistics

In 1992, the Youth Section of the Sunday School Board's Discipleship and Family Development Division surveyed about 5,000 teenagers who attended Southern Baptist Summer Youth Celebration events at Glorieta (N.M.) and Ridgecrest (N.C.) conference centers about the impact of violence in their lives. Here are the results.

Personal Involvement with Violence

27 percent indicated they have been involved in a physical attack on another person.

Approximately 25 percent have participated in the destruction of both private and public property.

Approximately 20 percent of the observed violence was influenced by either drugs or alcohol.

Approximately 30 percent have carried weapons and 7 out of ...

Christians Divorcing

Although traditional Christian teaching rejects divorce and stresses marital fidelity and family values, recent data show divorce strikes born-again Christians at about the same rate as those who don't profess a born-again experience.

The Barna Research Group even found those who characterize themselves as "fundamentalist" had a slightly higher divorce rate than the general public.

Research by Philadelphia counselor Tom Whiteman found the main reason given for divorce among the general public was incompatibility, but that Christians rarely cited this as grounds for divorce.

"In the Christian population, the reasons are adultery, abuse (including substance, physica...