Author Archive

Quoting Statistics May Undermine Truth, part I

by Ronnie Rogers

Ronnie Rogers is senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Norman, Okla., a university city cited by the North American Mission Board in 2006 as the most unchurched in the state. Pastor Rogers’ expositional sermons draw large collegiate crowds during the school year as he preaches and teaches (and writes) from a biblical perspective that boldly challenges popular culture.


In the quest to seem with it in our present scientistic milieu, preachers and Christians often pursue fluency regarding the latest polls, statistics, and studies (punctiliar thinking) more than they seek understanding of the Scripture and linear thinking. This quest is often characterized by indiscriminate reliance upon and usage of these tools, which actually leads people farther from the truth both in their thinking processes and in their conclusions. Although these tools are useful at times, they should be used judiciously and sparingly lest one unwittingly becomes a scientistic myrmidon, and by his example leads others to do likewise.

Science proper is the systematic study of the physical nature, relationships, and interactions of physical phenomena.[i] Thus, the benefit of science is the knowledge it provides about the physicality of life; however, when scientific inquiry seeks to explain or comment upon more than that or limit knowable existence to that, it is no longer science, but scientism—naturalism.

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What is a healthy church?

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

Dr. Bob Rogers is pastor of First Baptist Church, Rincon, Ga. He earned a B.A. from Mississippi College, and an M.Div. and Th.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He likes to write about theology and practical Christian living, and he loves humor. He writes a weekly column, “Holy Humor,” syndicated in several newspapers and magazines, and that column will soon appear in SBCToday.

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Recently, Outreach magazine published its list of the 100 largest churches in America and the 100 fastest-growing churches in America.

But when we read about the church in the New Testament, we do not find a list of fastest-growing churches. Not many numerical reports are even given, other than the 3,000 baptized at Pentecost (Acts 2:41) and the fact that the number had grown to 5,000 a little while later (Acts 4:4). After that, numbers are rarely given. We don’t read Paul reporting to the church that when he left Ephesus they were running 200 in Sunday worship. Instead of talking about numerical growth, he emphasizes spiritual growth. So why don’t we?

It’s time to change our terminology. Instead of so much emphasis on church growth, we should talk about church health. So what makes a church healthy, anyway? Paul gives us a full description in Ephesians 4:11-16.

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All of us should Share the Word,
individually, collectively and cooperatively.

SBC PRESIDENT’S ANNUAL ADDRESS

Owen Cooper

1973

 

OWEN COOPER, who retired May 1 as president of the Mississippi and Coastal Chemical Corp. in Yazoo City, Miss., is the first layman in 13 years to serve as president of the 12-million member Southern Baptist Convention.  He was elected president of the SBC in 1972 in Philadelphia, and since then has devoted almost full time to the presidency.  Born in Warren County, Miss., April 19, 1908, Mr. Cooper is a graduate of Mississippi State University, the University of Mississippi, and the Jackson School of Law, Jackson, Miss.  After a few years as a vocation agriculture teacher and worker with the Mississippi State Planning Commission, Cooper became executive director of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation about 23 years ago.  In that position, he discovered during World War II a shortage of nitrogen fertilizer, and led a campaign in Mississippi among farmers to establish their own fertilizer cooperative.  Mississippi Chemical Corp. now sells about $2 million worth of fertilizer annually.  Cooper conceived, organized and built the company into one of the nation’s largest fertilizer producers.  In the SBC, Cooper has held almost every possible leadership post on local church and denominational levels.  He has been president of the Mississippi Baptist Convention, Chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, and vice president of the Baptist World Alliance.  He is a deacon and chairman of the missions committee for First Baptist Church, Yazoo City, Miss.  He is founder and president of the Pan American Union of Baptist Men, and is a former vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.  His activities in community, state, business and professional, and government organizations are too numerous to list.  He has served as chairman of the board for Mississippi Action for Progress (MAP), the statewide Head Start poverty program, and has been active in many other similar programs.  He was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree by Mississippi College.

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“Remember son, you can’t make nothing grow!
Only the good Lord can do that!”

SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION

PRESIDENT’S ADDRESS, 1971, part I

By Carl E. Bates

 

Carl E. Bates (d.) was born on a farm in Amite County outside of Liberty, Miss. Though raised in a Christian home, Bates was not converted until he was 19. Bates graduated from Mississippi College, and later from Southern Seminary. Bates served as president of the Texas Baptist Convention, North Carolina Baptist Convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention (1971-1972). From 1976 to 1978 his wife, Myra, served as a vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, making them the only husband and wife combination ever to serve as Southern Baptist officers. In 1980 he became senior professor of pastoral ministries and preaching at Southern Seminary, and retired from there in 1985, but continued to preach until he was well into his 70s.

 

In The Spirit Of Christ—Consider Our Mission

 

As long as I can remember, Southern Baptists have been concerned about their mission in the world.  In my opinion, a good part of the tension that expresses itself in our annual meetings grows out of sincere concern about our mission.

It is in this fellowship that the teacher, the pastor, the laity, and convention personnel—each, according to his particular point of view, finds the freedom to express himself.  I believe that the willingness to innovate (which increases the incidence of mistakes) is born of a sincere desire to carry our our mission in the world.  At times we have found partial answers and, as a result, called for a reorganization of our forces.  At other times we have tasted success under circumstances which we assumed existed universally and, as a consequence, expected every church to “be just like ours.”  Sometimes, we discovered methods which seemingly were fail-proof and, long after their productiveness had run its course, were contending earnestly “for and against.”  We have, on occasion, flowed toward poles like filings to a magnet.  Sometimes we flowed far enough away from one another until hearing became a problem—speaking across that space was even more difficult.

But, always and ever, the one thing which has been a constant among us is concern.

It is so tonight.  We have met in St. Louis again to bear witness to our concern for a lost world.  It is my hope that, along with whatever else may be said about our meeting here, the news media will report that our being here and expressing ourselves in deliberative sessions, when best understood, is expressive of this concern.

We have come with an awareness that our nation (and our world) teeters on the brink of disaster.  I can almost hear someone saying within himself:  “The world has known crisis since Babel, so what’s new?”  And, he is right, but I believe the present crisis is different.

For instance, for the first time in the history of our nation there is no Christian consensus.  Christian influence is at an all-time low.  Law is no longer king—something called “sociological averages” has taken its place.  During the span of my ministry my generation has largely turned its back on God and, in His place, enthroned things which the present generation couldn’t care less about.  And, oh yes, we moved from the country to the city and, in the process, lost our peace and when our children came along we had nothing really worthwhile to pass on to them.  Some of us who had something worthwhile failed to transmit it under the cowardly fear of “alienating” our children and so we lost them anyway.

Another thing deepens the crisis for us:  We reared a generation of Baptists who are almost totally ignorant of our doctrines.  This, in my lifetime—so, I must share the blame.

And to that, this:  The sense of decency in our land, which produced a corresponding sense of guilt, is gone.

And this:  The pastor is no longer thought of first when a crisis arises in the home.  The doctor, psychiatrist, marriage counselor, or, even Dear Abby is called upon before the pastor.

And this:  Many pastors and churches are sick of each other and this carnal nausea has turned many of our church-houses into nothing more than irrelevant grandeur.

What shall we say to all of this?  How shall we bring this continuing concern to bear upon the crisis?

If we should ask John Bennett, editor of the book, “Christian Social Ethics in a Changing World.” He would say:  “The church is sent into the world to transform the institutions and structures of society.  The status quo is not providentially ordained.  If some political party proposes to do the most for mankind, the church ought to openly declare itself in support of that party.”  He is not clear about who is inside or outside the circle of salvation.

Ask another and he will say the Christian witness need not be verbalized in order to make its impact upon the “worlds” of labor, leisure, education, government, and even ecclesiastical institutions.

In direct contrast others insist that “one never evangelizes until he stands directly before the heart’s door of a sinner and clearly confronts him with the Gospel of Christ.”

Still others insist that we must produce a climate conducive to winning the world.  If we do not lay down our lives in service to a needy world our declaration of the Gospel will fall on deaf ears.

And, if this were not enough, we have found ourselves spending precious time debating whether it is the task of the individual Christian or the organized church to be responsible for evangelizing the lost.  Some say it is the responsibility of the individual; others say it is the responsibility of the organized church.  Some have compromised and said:  “Personal evangelism is the responsibility of every follower of Christ, whereas mass evangelism is the primary responsibility of local churches and gifted evangelists.  Both individuals and churches in all they do should endeavor to make such an impact upon the world that people will listen to the gospel when it is proclaimed.”

My concern has been to find a way to consider our mission in the Spirit of Christ rather than in the spirit of the times.  Is there some way to look through His eyes and view in His Spirit our mission.  I think there is.  True to the promise of our Lord that “when the comforter comes, He will cause you to remember every thing I have told you” (John 14:26).  Matthew tells us:  “And when He saw the milling mob, His heart was moved with pity for them, because they were tired and scattered like sheep without a shepherd.  Then He said to us, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the reapers are scarce.  Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out reapers to His harvest field’” (Matthew 9:36-38).

If, in addition to all we have done and are doing, we could take a look at the present world crisis through His eyes, I believe we would find a true channel for our concern and a new understanding of our mission.

(Cont’d next Sunday)

 

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SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION

PRESIDENT’S ADDRESS, 1971, part II

By Carl E. Bates

 

Carl E. Bates (d.) was born on a farm in Amite County outside of Liberty, Miss. Though raised in a Christian home, Bates was not converted until he was 19. Bates graduated from Mississippi College, and later from Southern Seminary. Bates served as president of the Texas Baptist Convention, North Carolina Baptist Convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention (1971-1972). From 1976 to 1978 his wife, Myra, served as a vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, making them the only husband and wife combination ever to serve as Southern Baptist officers. In 1980 he became senior professor of pastoral ministries and preaching at Southern Seminary, and retired from there in 1985, but continued to preach until he was well into his 70s.

In The Spirit Of Christ—Consider Our Mission

I.

For one thing, He reminds us of the ownership of the harvest.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the Lord of the harvest has made it so.”

It was my good fortune as a boy to live in the home of a farmer uncle who taught me the first lesson of the harvest.  We had broken the land, prepared it for planting and, planted it.  I wanted to see it come up, and ripen for the reaping the next day.  I wanted to know what we could do to hasten the day.  He said to me in his rustic, backwoodsy way, “Remember son, you can’t make nothing grow!  Only the good Lord can do that!”

I remember that farmer uncle tonight and when I am told that if the church does not lay down its life in service to a needy world our declaration of the gospel will fall on deaf ears.

It is true that at the heart of most of our problems is our unwillingness to serve in the Spirit of the cross but, hear me tonight, the harvest is the Lord’s.  It is ready for the reaping.  Never has the ratio between readiness and reapers been so great.  The harvest is everywhere, the whole world around, ready.

I like what Ernest Campbell said recently.  In a sermon on the tower and the king going to war he said:  “None of you would be so stupid as to plan a building unless he could finish it or start a war he could not win.  Well, neither would God!  He has the means to win and He means to win!”

In the midst of the plastic dance of circumstance, our God has prepared a harvest the proportion of which staggers the mind.  No question about it, the harvest is ready.

There is more emptiness, loneliness, uncertainty, despair, and hopelessness in our world than perhaps even before.  That’s the harvest . . . . crisis in innumerable lives all over the world.

II.

Our Lord speaks also the Father’s option in view of the harvest.

“Pray that He send.”

This leaves no room for the “amateur providence” notion about who is to go.  The choice is not ours concerning the person or the place.

I want to pause here and express my gratitude to God for having led us to provide six seminaries and mission leadership with vision enough to plan to reap the harvest both at home and abroad.  It is my personal hope that we can scotch any talk, if such exists, of cutting back on any phase of our mission outreach.

We have laid our plans in faith, believing and expecting that the Lord of the harvest would exercise His option and send forth into the harvest His laborers.  And, He is doing so!  Wherever Christian gather, He is moving by His Spirit to thrust out those whom He chooses to send.  Some of you come to this meeting tonight under the burden of a call to go.  When you stand up to preach next Sunday, you will preach to some with whom He is dealing in a special way.  They will be there, maybe standing in the pulpit, with no longer a reason to stay in the pastorate at home but a hundred reasons for going into the harvest fields afar waiting to be reaped.

And what is the key to all of this?

III.

And wouldn’t believe it.  You will say, “It’s all well and good, but it is too idealistic and impractical.”  And yet, the only order the Lord gave us is this:  “Pray.”

The key to the whole missionary problem is in the hand of God, not of man, and, according to our Lord, the key is prayer, not ingenious human schemes.  Indeed, one could build a strong case against us, based on our hope that if we get busy enough we may somehow avoid and evade the necessity of spiritual concentration.

Our Lord gave his disciples this key.  It was not a common-sense key.  It was not a medical key.  It was not a civilizing key.  It was not an educational key; not even an evangelical key:  the key is prayer.

One of the first things that impresses one about this is the difference between our view of prayer and our Lord’s view.

Someone is likely to go away from this place thinking:  “Well, I had hoped to hear something more practical but all I heard suggested for a world dying in sin was ‘pray.’  It is absurd to think that God is going to alter things in answer to prayer!”  But, that is what Jesus said He would do and, if it is stupidity, it is stupidity based on His Redemption.

Can it be that we have said prayers so long until we inoculated ourselves against a consciousness of His continuing presence in our hearts?  Or, have we said prayers in the vain hope of postponing an inevitable confrontation with a grieved Spirit by whose help we could really obey our Lord’s order.  The answer must come from your heart and mine.  There it stands, “pray ye the Lord of the harvest that He send forth ‘laborers into His harvest.’ ”

Perhaps every person here has heard the story which I first heard twenty-five years ago.  It was cast in the setting of our Lord’s exaltation and reunion with the angelic host.  He was questioned about His plan for continuing His mission on earth.  As I recall the story, He indicated that only a small band of disciples were left to continue His ministry.  “But suppose they fail?”  “Then,” said He, “I have no other plan.”

Of course, the story cannot be true.  There was no margin for failure in Redemption’s purpose—just the possibility that each generation through disobedience of His Orders would fail to fulfill its mission.

This is where we stand tonight.  We can recognize the Lord’s ownership of the harvest; His option in sending reapers, His orders for His disciples, or, we can spend our time and energy in endless discussion about “how to get the show on the road again.”

It’s up to you, Southern Baptists, it’s up to you!

 

The Gift

By Walker Moore

Walker Moore founded AweStar Ministries, a missions organization that has put thousands of teens on fields ‘white unto harvest’ around the world.

 

(Editor’s note: This is by far one of the best article I’ve ever read from the hand of my longtime friend, Walker Moore, president of AweStar Ministries. The same sensitivity one reads in this account is the same heart and commitment Walker has for the lost world, and for the students he takes around the globe to reach lost people.)


Last week, Cathy, my wife, began to have severe headaches. Soon, they became unbearable, so I took her to an urgent care center. The doctor who examined her told us she was suffering from sinusitis and an ear infection. He sent her home. When the headaches continued, accompanied with vomiting, we went to our family doctor. He immediately admitted her to the hospital. There, tests showed she was suffering from a bilateral subdural hematoma (bleeding on the brain). We spent the next five days in the intensive care unit after doctors had drilled a hole into her skull to drain the fluids. She is now at home, recovering and getting a little stronger every day.

The day after we got home from the hospital, a large package addressed to Cathy was delivered to our front door. We opened it to find a shoebox, its lid secured by a massive amount of tape. The box came from our 6-year-old great-niece, Victoria, who lives in Wilson, N.Car. Taped on top was a note in a young child’s wobbly printing: “I wont ys syx … To AC” which we interpreted as, “I don’t want you sick … to Aunt Cathy.” We haven’t had to decipher a child’s handwriting for a while, but we’re going with this interpretation.

My wife began the daunting task of removing the tape. With some effort, she got the lid off, only to peer into a box that was empty except for one small piece of paper shrouded in plastic wrap. Opening it up, my wife found a beautiful crayoned picture of a rainbow with a bird colored in blue Magic Marker flying over it. Fluffy white clouds floated above the bird.

We could tell Victoria had colored and cut out the rainbow from a coloring book and pasted it onto a sheet of white copy paper. Next, my wife discovered another piece of paper in the same handwriting as the note on top of the box. This time, our great-niece had written, “I hopy you gft bebtr.” If my translation is correct, she was saying, “I hope you get better.” She signed her note, “love Victoria” but used a heart for the o in her name.

As we sat and stared at the empty box, Victoria’s mother, Pam, called and told us to expect a package from her little girl. She didn’t know what it contained, she said, because Victoria had already taped it shut before asking her mother to send it. “It feels like an empty box,” she told us. Pam also said her daughter kept insisting if she could only get the box to Aunt Cathy, it would make her feel better.

I don’t know how long it takes a 6-year-old to write more than one note, color a rainbow and draw both clouds and a blue bird, but I’m sure it was no easy task. The volume of tape she used to seal the box also showed a great deal of time and care. What my wife opened that day, although it may have seemed like an empty box, held much more. It contained all the love of a six-year-old child who was worried about her Aunt Cathy. And that box held more than just love. It was crammed with prayers, well-wishes and hopes for a better tomorrow.

Yes, my wife spent five days in intensive care and went through major surgery. What did we learn? Sometimes, the best medicine doesn’t come from doctors, nurses or pharmacists. It isn’t dispensed in a bottle, an IV bag or a syringe. Sometimes, it comes in an empty box.

I like empty things. Two thousand years ago, two women ran to the tomb of their friend and Savior. They were discussing how they could roll away the massive stone that covered the entry. Upon their arrival, they found it already moved to one side. An angel appeared and told them the person they were looking for wasn’t there; He had risen. And inside that empty tomb lay not a note but a pile of used burial clothes.

Through the years, I’ve heard sermon after sermon on the empty tomb. I can agree and disagree with each one. The tomb was empty of Jesus’ body. But I believe that empty tomb was also filled with the magnificent love of a Savior who gave His life to show His love, and rose again to give us hope.

The next time you receive a package that seems empty, take the time to look a little more closely. When you see through the eyes of a loving giver, you’ll see the same thing a 6-year-old saw when she sent her great-aunt … an empty box.