Friday, October 31, 2008

SBC VP Bill Henard on active church membership

Bill Henard is the pastor of Porter Memorial Baptist Church in Lexington, KY. He was elected First Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention in June of this year. Recently he preached a message entitled, "Getting our Faith and Church to Connect: Expectation," based on Acts 2:41-47.

Pastor Henard addresses the problem of inactive members in this message. He proposes contacting the 2500 inactive members of Porter Memorial and addresses the problem of having only 1000 of its 5000 members showing up on Sunday. He starts getting specific in his application around the 23:15 mark.

While much more biblical insight could be shed on this subject than is possible in one sermon, and the problem is much more serious than perhaps was suggested, I am very grateful that Pastor Henard addressed this issue in a straightforward manner. He "wants membership to mean something." Amen. He has given the church something important to consider and think about by admitting the reality behind the statistics and calling for some practical, corrective steps (such as requiring a new members class for membership).

This is the kind of honesty and integrity that needs to become widespread throughout the SBC. Until honestly admits what is true of its membership, it will not be in any position to start addressing any problems that exist in the way that membership is regarded. He rightly points out that our refusal to address the "inactive" membership problem suggests that we really don't care about people.

Pray for Pastor Henard and Porter Memorial Baptist Church. May the Lord continue to lead them forward in reclaiming meaningful membership, and may their example inspire courage and conviction in other pastors and churches to do the same.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

North Carolina preaching, Tom Nettles' lecturing

Today I am traveling to North Carolina with my wife, Donna. Tomorrow I will preach in chapel at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Tonight I will speak at the Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Mebane. I also hope to connect with those in the seminary family who are interested in church planting. If you are in the area, be sure to say hello. I will be the one dressed like a Floridian who has wandered into the frozen tundra with a beautiful lady at my side.

Tom Nettles will be delivering the faculty lecture today at 10 AM Eastern time at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's chapel service. I think Dr. Nettles' lecture will be livestreamed.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Gospel and Founders Ministries

From its inception 26 years ago, Founders Ministries has been concerned about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We want to see the Gospel recovered and proclaimed far and wide. Our conviction is that the Gospel is what unbelievers need to be saved and what believers need to stay saved. In other words, what God has done for us in Jesus Christ is essential not only for our regeneration and justification, but also for our sanctification and glorification. We never advance beyond the Gospel.

The following video was put together by my daughter, Rebecca, as a tool to help introduce Founders Ministries to folks who don't know about us. It was supposed to be included in a presentation I recently gave to some business and ministry leaders, but was inadvertently left out. God overruled that glitch to enable me simply to preach the Gospel to those present, for which I was very grateful.

But the video does express something of the heartbeat of Founders, and it is worth sharing.

video

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ligonier's Pastors Conference: free bilingual webcast

Ligonier's Pastors Conference begins today at 1:15PM Eastern Time. It is being webcast for free in both English and Spanish. Steve Lawson, Sinclair Ferguson and RC Sproul. The conference continues until Thursday, October 23. For more information on how to access the conference online go to the Ligonier blog here.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

"Koran Idol" - Reality TV Afghanistan style

Reality TV has been exported to the most unlikely of places. But on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, it is not singing or dancing that provides for riveting television viewing, but reciting the Koran.

Here is how the London Times describes it:
As the three finalists walk before the cameras and packed audience there is no clapping or cheering. Instead, a Saudi cleric intones a long passage from the Koran. For this is Koran-Star and, rather than sing, the contestants must recite long passages from the Islamic holy book. It may not look like gripping viewing but the programme secured an impressive 80% audience share.
Read the story here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

New Founders Podcast available

Part 1 of a 2-part interview with an International Mission Board missionary who works in a Muslim country is now available. For 15 years "Calvin Walters" has worked in Indonesia. For the last 10 of those years he has lived among and focused on a people that has no church and very little Gospel witness. To listen, click here, or go to iTunes and search for Founders Ministries.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

McCain or Obama?

I, like most of the people I know, have been very attentive to the upcoming presidential election. In what has been the longest campaign of its kind in history, so much distortion, half-truths and outright lies have been told (by people on both sides) that I find myself succumbing to politics fatigue. Less than 3 weeks left and I wonder how much more political palaver I can take.

The only thing worse than the political campaigns are the apocalyptic warnings that are being sounded from the right and the left. Somehow, it seems to be more fitting coming from the latter than the former--not because I agree with the left. Hardly. But because so many on the right are quick to invoke God, the Bible and Jesus in getting out the vote.

Lest I be dismissed as a pietist or a liberal, let me simply restate my views on these issues.
I recognize the church has a prophetic role to play in relation to political powers. "Speaking truth to power" may have been sloganized by liberals but it is an apt description of the church's responsibility to civil authorities. This is a part of the church's calling as the pillar and ground of the truth.
As "citizen-kings" I believe Christian Americans have a responsibility to try to direct public policy and laws toward justice and mercy. I have written on that before. But I do not think that any church should allow itself to be co-opted by any political impulse that results in the confusing of its message of Jesus Christ crucified. Yet, such confusion emanates from well-meaning but misguided political activism by churches done in the name of Jesus.

My wife and I sat next to a young man from Hawaii on an airplane a few years ago. The conversation we had with him illustrated the mixed messages that too often are being sent by conservative Christian churches. He was raised by his parents to be atheistic, but he was very open to discussing what the Bible says about Christ. When he finally pegged us as "conservative Christians," I asked him what he knew about Christianity. He responded by saying that all he know about "conservative Christians" is that "they want to force their political agendas on everybody else."

Caricature? Of course. But his perception is far from unique. It is too common, and much of the presidential political activism that churches are promoting feeds those mistaken ideas. That is why I think it is vitally important to distinguish between what a church does and says and what individual Christians say and do in the political arena. I largely agree with Martyn Lloyd-Jones on this point when he said, the rise of evangelical interest in politics is "sheer folly" because "you can't reform the world."

The church is the only institution that has been commissioned with the task of preaching the Gospel. God forbid that we should trade that mandate for any level of political influence held out by either Democrats or Republicans.

As the campaign winds down (and no doubt, heats up even more), I will work to remember Psalm 146:3, which says,
Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help.
Whether McCain or Obama wins the election, the kingdom of Jesus Christ will continue on. If your man wins, he will not be able to do what we desperately must have done. If your man loses, his defeat will not be even a speed bump in slowing the advance of the eternal cause and purposes of Jesus Christ.

Remembering that will help get us through not only the next 3 weeks, or 4 years, or 8 years, but also the rest of human history.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Friday is for films (ok...home movies)

This brother and sister are part of the gang of preschoolers of Grace Baptist Church who help make our gatherings particularly bright and joyful. This clip, shot by my daughter and posted with the parents' permission, shows why. It also shows just how much they hold back when we they are in "big church!"

Children serve as "perspective-givers" for me. At the end of week full of difficult news from the global economy, we can use some large doses of fresh perspective. Enjoy.
video

Friday, October 03, 2008

Lightning-survivor-blogging

More from the geniuses at Despair.com. In light of Greg Welty's astute observation about the uniqueness of this blog--featuring the only LSB (lightning-survivor-blogging) on the internet--I found this poster especially appropriate. It would probably also look good in my study.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The changing face of blogging

I love the guys at Despair, Inc. Their "demotivator" material is a riot and provides helpful social commentary. This is one of their newer posters and is indicative of their wit and wisdom.

It is clearly noticeable that blogging has slowed down. Not only here, but throughout the blogosphere it seems that, as a phenomenon, blogging reached its peak a year or so ago (which in blog-years, is about a generation). It's not going away. Some uber-bloggers are still worth reading regularly. But there simply aren't that many bloggers who consistently have something to say that is worth reading.

A far greater number have some really good things to say occasionally, and I am grateful that this medium exists to make those pieces of wisdom readily available. I am also grateful for Justin Taylor, and others like him, who consistently call attention to individual blog posts that are particularly worth reading.

Blogging has helped shape the conversation in the SBC in ways that are mostly good, I believe. First, some of the foolish things that have been said and done by SBC influencers over the last 3 years have been held up to the light of scrutiny and properly chastened as bloggers have given unvarnished accounts of them. This has frustrated and angered many who missed the sea change that occurred in communications a few years ago.

Previously, if a prominent Southern Baptist said or did something dumb, their reputations could be protected through well-honed denominational spin and scrub techniques. Because the gate-keepers were were few and well-entrenched, the information that made its way to the public was often closer to propoganda than news. With blogging, the curtains were pulled back and lights were turned on in ways that surprised and often embarrassed some who were unaccustomed to having their words and actions scrutinized, much less challenged.

After the initial complaints and attempts to discredit this new way of communicating (anybody remember the charges that blogging is nothing more than graffiti or porn?), most of these protesters became chastened by the process and have become more circumspect in their (public) comments. That is a good thing, because it has significantly lowered the harsh rhetoric that has too often characterized some of our internal Baptist Battles conversations.

A second way blogging has helped is that it has allowed for more voices to be added to those conversations than would otherwise be the case. Not all of them are equally helpful, but some of them have provided wonderful insights that would never have been given a hearing if it were left up to the old-line gatekeepers. Granted, the volume has some times been ramped up too much and all of the chatter can at times be distracting, but, all-in-all, it has been refreshing to hear some new voices in the mix, often with new and better perspectives than the typical party line that previously monopolized denominational lines of communication.

Blogging will continue to play an important role in the future SBC. If nothing else, its presence helps keep folks honest. I intend to keep this blog going, though, as is rather obvious from the last few months, the frequency of my posts will not keep pace with the previous 3 years. I also hope to begin blogging fairly soon at our new church site and perhaps at one other site that is yet to be launched. When that happens, I will mention it here.