Something To Think About

A. Tozer wrote

Let a man but become, as the early Methodists would have said, soundly converted, and certain things will begin to happen in his life.  Though he will undoubtedly suffer from the inward struggle described in the seventh chapter of Romans, yet his direction will be established beyond any doubt and his face will remain turned toward the City of God. That word direction should have more emphasis these days, for the most important thing about a life is its direction.  An emotional conversion which stops short of Christ-orientation is inadequate for life and death, and, unless new help comes from some quarter, it may easily be worse than no religious experience at all. And just this would appear to be the source of our bad orientation. The original experience of conversion was not sufficiently radical to turn the life wholly to God and things eternal. Then when religious leaders found that they had on their hands half-converted persons who wanted to be saved but would not turn fully to God, they tried to meet the situation by providing a twilight-zone religion which did not demand too much and which did offer something. Better have them halfway in, they reasoned, than all the way out. We know now how bad that reasoning was.

He’s so right.  So very right.

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Cry Out America…

You’ll be hearing more about this in due time. For now, set the date on your calendar and plan to be at the County Courthouse on 9/11/08 at noon.

Selling the Gospel

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is in and of itself sufficient to draw people to salvation. “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to myself” declares Jesus in the Gospel of John. I firmly agree, which is why I get so very annoyed when I read about Churches that sell the Gospel, sell it out, manipulate people to gain it a hearing, and act in a way that is deeply offensive and un-theological. The First Baptist Church of Snellville, Georgia is guilty of exactly that. The Associated Press reports

So much for spaghetti suppers: The First Baptist Church of Snellville is fueling its membership drive with a sign in front of its sprawling campus proclaiming “Free Gasoline.” There’s a catch, of course. The offer is a not a giveaway. Instead, each time newcomers or members attend a church event during a Sunday-to-Wednesday revival they get a pink raffle ticket for a chance to win one of two $500 gas cards.

The Church doubtless thinks that it is helping the cause but in fact all they are doing is cheapening the gospel by selling it for a gas card. What’s the Gospel worth? Apparently down in Georgia, just $500.

Perhaps the folk there are unaware of a simple fact: people who come to church for gas don’t come to church for Christ. And when the raffle is over, those who came just to get some gas will be gone like the gas itself. Are there no theologians in the Church there to call this what it is? Is theological astuteness now a thing of the past in Snellville?

The Gospel is not for sale.

The Latest Arrival

Here are some photos of the latest arrival with his mom and dad.  Jamie should be home from the hospital Wednesday.  Do pray for the lot of them.

Congratulations!

To John and Jamie C., on the birth of their little boy.  He was born today and weighed in at 6 pounds, 9 ounces and is 19.5 inches long.  Congrats to the happy parents!

Arab Baptist Theological Seminary

Street fighting in Beirut at the end of last week forced the closing on Thursday of the Beirut Baptist School, led to the postponement of a public lecture today at Arab Baptist Theological Seminary and enveloped a BMS World Mission staff member. Associated Press referred on Sunday to the past five days as the “worst sectarian violence since Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war.” AP reported that 38 people had been killed. Calling the situation “the country’s worst internal fighting since its bitter 15-year civil war,” BBC News reported that 7,000 had fled from the city of Tripoli.

The Arab Baptist Theological Seminary has sent around a flyer today updating the situation. If you are the praying sort, pray for those folk. There isn’t a very pronounced Baptist presence in the entire middle East and the seminary there trains pastors from all across the region- when they can get there!

Thought of the Day

A famed theologian once wrote, ‘The whole of the Christian life is Worship. The duty of the Christian is to always remember that he is a part of the Body of Christ.’ I could not agree more. If we lived as authentically as possible always in the presence of God, we would live miraculous lives.

Thought of the Day

We are not diplomats, but prophets, and our message is not a compromise, but an ultimatum. — Tozer

Happy Mother’s Day

To all you moms!  Have a great day.

Why Frank Page is Wrong

I mentioned the other day this report from Associated Baptist Press and I’ve been pondering it ever since. When it notes

[Frank] Page, [President of the SBC] said the problem “resided in the churches” that refuse to change to stop their inevitable demise. He said the SBC downturn is not the denomination’s fault – because of poor programming or lack of emphasis on the denominational level. “The reality is it’s our fault,” Page told the Pastor’s Disciple-Making Network, an initiative of the North Carolina convention. “People rarely rise above the level of their pastor’s spiritual life, and it is critical that pastors maintain a vibrant walk with Christ.”

I find myself having to disagree. It’s high time that people take responsibility for their own spirituality. While Page may be right that some Church members only rise to the level of their Pastor’s spirituality, many, many more either do not rise to any sort of spirituality at all and others rise well above their Pastor’s. Further, if Page’s suggestion is taken seriously then

1- Lot is to be blamed for the destruction of Sodom because he wasn’t spiritual enough.
2- Jeremiah is to be blamed for the fall of the Southern Kingdom because he didn’t preach well enough or convincingly enough.
3- Hosea and Amos are to be blamed for the same thing regarding the Northern Kingdom.
4- John the Baptist is to be blamed for his failure to persuade Herod to repent.
5- Jesus is to be blamed for his disciples abandoning him at the Cross- if he had only been spiritual enough, they would have followed his example and been willing to suffer arrest and execution instead of running off like scared children and hiding.
6- Paul is to be blamed that the Roman empire as a whole didn’t come to Christianity during his lifetime.
7- John is to be blamed that the world hasn’t opened the door to the knocking Jesus. If he only had been more spiritual they would have done so.

In short, blaming the failure of modern Baptists on pastoral leadership (or lack thereof) is the same thing as blaming Jesus for the failure of his followers down through the ages.

Each Christian stands before God alone- and responsible for their own spirituality. As long as Page and others attempt to lay blame for the decline of Christianity at the feet of those striving and living and dying for the Gospel, one and all will ignore their own part in the play.

Thought of the Day

A world with as many centers as there are human beings — that is the cause of all the chaos and disintegration in the world of men.  The message of the Bible, therefore, is this: God, not man, is the center…  The Gospel … is an attack on [the] man who is his own center.  — Emil Brunner

The Newest Addition

Lindsey’s baby is home from the hospital! Here are some photos- and note that the mural on the wall in the baby’s room is hand painted by Ruby C.

That’s the happy granny and the visiting Vicar…

The Future of The Church…?

According to the Times Online

Church attendance in Britain is declining so fast that the number of regular churchgoers will be fewer than those attending mosques within a generation, research published today suggests.The fall – from the four million people who attend church at least once a month today – means that the Church of England, Catholicism and other denominations will become financially unviable. A lack of funds from the collection plate to support the Christian infrastructure, including church upkeep and ministers’ pay and pensions, will force church closures as ageing congregations die.

As goes Europe, so goes America. Sooner or later. And further

According to Religious Trends, a comprehensive statistical analysis of religious practice in Britain, published by Christian Research, even Hindus will come close to outnumbering churchgoers within a generation. The forecast to 2050 shows churchgoing in Britain declining to 899,000 while the active Hindu population, now at nearly 400,000, will have more than doubled to 855,000. By 2050 there will be 2,660,000 active Muslims in Britain – nearly three times the number of Sunday churchgoers.

And there you have it- a bit of a look at things to come.

Half of SBC Churches Might Die By 2030

According to the President of the SBC, Frank Page.

The Southern Baptist Convention is rapidly dying, and resistance to change could kill over half of the denomination’s churches by 2030, the outgoing SBC president said May 1. Unless something is done to reverse the downward trend, Southern Baptist churches could number only 20,000 — down from the current total of more than 44,000 — in fewer than 22 years, South Carolina pastor Frank Page said. His comments came in a conference call with pastors, hosted by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Page said the problem “resided in the churches” that refuse to change to stop their inevitable demise. He said the SBC downturn is not the denomination’s fault – because of poor programming or lack of emphasis on the denominational level. “The reality is it’s our fault,” Page told the Pastor’s Disciple-Making Network, an initiative of the North Carolina convention. “People rarely rise above the level of their pastor’s spiritual life, and it is critical that pastors maintain a vibrant walk with Christ.”

Congratulations Lindsey!

Lucas came into the world this afternoon- so we congratulate mom and dad, and Ed and Donna, very happy grandparents!

Thought of the Day

The Church of Jesus Christ lives by the power of the Holy Spirit; that is the secret of its might.  It is the power that binds believers together and the secret of their communion.  Where the Holy Spirit is absent, there is neither Church nor community.

Announcements From This Week’s Bulletin

The Association is partnering with an Association in Iowa and their representatives will be here on May 13th. If you would like to find out about the details of the Partnership, meet with them at the Harriman Cracker Barrel that day at 1 PM.

HOMECOMING is May 25th! Plan to attend, invite your friends, and enjoy what’s always a wonderful day of singing, worship, and fellowship. Don Long is our Preacher and the Singing service begins at 10:15.

And don’t forget, tonight is ‘Dinner and a Movie’ at 6:30.  Bring some soup or some sandwiches and join us!

Is He Right?

A Pastor in Britain has written concerning the decline of the Methodist Church there (but what he says applies everywhere it seems to me):

If your church is in decline and not growing, it is because your congregation has decided to die rather than to live (alas, there is no in between when it comes to churches). The majority of our churches are not growing, thus we have a huge challenge before us. Still, our major challenge is not to find good resources for helping a church grow and live into the future; our challenge is to have pastors and churches who want to do what is necessary to live into Christ’s future.

This ties up with what I have seen in the UK, in various denominations. Too many churches are attended and led mostly by people who are quite happy for their church to decline. They recognise that they are personally getting older and will eventually die, and their expectation is that their church will decline with them and also eventually die. They have no vision for the church being revitalised and no will to make any of the changes that might be necessary for this to happen. Indeed they resist change of any kind. They welcome new members, including younger ones, but only if these people conform to the way things have always been done.

And, from what I have seen, the same can also be true of specific groups and ministries within churches.

Is there any hope for a church in this condition? Well, nothing is impossible with God, and he could revive such a church with his Holy Spirit. A new pastor with a strong vision just might be able to get a church like that going again, by stirring up any remaining embers of true spiritual life, but is more likely to break himself or herself in frustrated efforts to beat a dead horse into motion.

The Danger of Parental Smothering

In a very fine essay Paul Coughlin writes

Another pitfall of overprotection is a heartbreaking irony: Because over-parented children are taught to obsess over themselves, they don’t learn how to connect with others. Helicopter parents, who think they are drenching their children with love, are raising lonely sons and daughters. The kids’ constant self-focus, developed under the tonnage of unending parental intervention, handicaps them in every social setting.

Self-focused kids—whether they’re shy and withdrawn or brash and mouthy—do not reach out to other people. They’re not friendly, so they don’t make friends well. Their near total self-consciousness appears to others as self-absorption. What they need is wise guidance and encouraging nudges. Problem is, that’s exactly what many overprotective parents find distasteful and don’t want—nudging their kids outward, even little by little, would negate their constant presence and persistent meddling.

And when they do allow their children to enter “the realm of others,” by demanding special consideration, they expect others to coddle their child. They tend to unleash harsh words and passive-aggression on those who don’t, whether grown-ups or youngsters. Such parents, mostly mothers, stack the deck against their own best interests as they contaminate play and turn their children into the pariahs of the kid world.

He says many other wise things as well, and his essay is perfect for those who hover over their children, managing their every moment and forming their every thought for them and hindering their normal social interaction. Do read it all.

Decline

The Annual Church Profile report from the Tennessee Baptist Convention is out- and decline is the word of the day.

All areas reported by churches declined except Sunday School enrollment and financial giving, reported Libby Eaton, information specialist of the TBC. The number of TBC churches reporting this year also declined — 3.4 percent — from last year. The TBC has about 3,000 member churches. Eaton said she had hoped the number of reporting churches would increase as church secretaries and association secretaries are trained to report online. The TBC has offered online reporting for two years via TeD (Tennessee Electronic Database).

The cure? Commitment.