Actions really do have consequences

October 19, 2015

WTVF (Channel 5 in Nashville) reported on Oct. 15 that Greater Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in Lawrenceburg has been “kicked out” of the Lawrence County Association of Baptists.

While that sounds good on a newscast and immediately draws the attention of viewers, “kicked out” is not the proper term in this case.

I have umpired baseball for more than 30 years and there are probably a handful who would say that I threw them out of or kicked them out of a baseball game. I look at it this way. I have never kicked anyone out of a game. The actions of some coaches and players have led me to inform them that they could no longer participate in the game. In essence, they “kicked” themselves out of the game because of what they did or said.

That’s the case with Greater Tabernacle, an African-American congregation which has been a member of the Lawrence County association for more than 20 years. When they joined they were granted membership based on the condition that they are in agreement with the association’s understanding of biblical doctrine.

Mike Kemper, director of missions for Lawrence County, tells me that the church recently called a woman (who happens to be a non-Baptist) despite several conversations with church leaders. This of course is in direct conflict with the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message which serves as a foundational doctrinal guide for the association.

In those talks, the leaders were reminded of the consequences of their actions should they call a woman to lead the church. The consequences included being expelled from the association and even losing the church building because of a reversion clause in the deed that gives the property to the association should it cease to be a member of the association and a Southern Baptist church. See Baptist and Reflector story.

Despite the cautions, church leaders chose to call Shonda Reynolds-Christian as pastor. As a result, members of the association voted overwhelmingly at their association meeting on Oct. 12 to withdraw membership to Greater Tabernacle.

In reality, the association did not “kick out” anyone. The church basically “kicked” itself out.

Let me be clear. Greater Tabernacle had every right to call whomever they wanted as pastor. It’s called local church autonomy. No one is disputing that. By the same token, associations can extend and withdraw fellowship as they see fit.

I have known Mike Kemper for years. He is a man of integrity and compassion. I have no doubt he did everything possible to keep the church in the association.

As you listen to the news account or read other accounts that may be written, remember there are two sides to every story and that actions really do have consequences.

Comments deserve hearty ‘Amen’

September 29, 2015

One of the reasons the Southern Baptist International Mission Board may be cutting its missionary force is Southern Baptists’ lack of support for missions education for its children over the past two decades.

GA&RA-LogoThat’s the sentiment of Wanda S. Lee, executive director of Southern Baptist Woman’s Missionary Union, based in Birmingham, Ala.

Lee was one of several Southern Baptist leaders  who expressed dismay at the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee meeting last week in Nashville about the IMB’s downsizing of 600-800 missionaries.

“We can lament the churches that haven’t given; we can lament many things. But one thing we have failed to do in our churches is to embrace the missions assignment of helping our children and our youth understand God’s field,” Lee said.


Lee observed that too many churches have abandoned Wednesday night missions activities in deference to youth sports.

Again, she is telling it like it is. I have seen this happen.

“We sacrificed our adults of 20 years ago,” she continued. “We sacrificed them when we said, ‘Well, I guess we can’t have RAs (Royal Ambassadors for boys) and GAs (Girls in Action) because kids have got to go play soccer.’ ”

Amen, again.

Lee is absolutely right when she says we have a generation of adults who do not know why they give. “They don’t give sacrificially because they don’t know the field. They don’t know the depth of lostness,” she observed.

I have maintained for a long time that our decreased emphasis on missions education would come back to haunt us and it is coming true. As Lee points out, we have a generation who did not learn about Southern Baptist missionaries and the Cooperative Program.

If your church has abandoned Southern Baptist missions education programs, bring those programs back. The future of Southern Baptist missionary efforts depends on an understanding who we are and why we do what we do through the Cooperative Program by upcoming generations.

Southern Baptist missions education is imperative to reaching a lost world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.


A sign of the times

September 18, 2015

I was glancing over Baptist Press this week and saw an announcement they posted from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The seminary is co-sponsoring a conference on transgenderism on Oct. 5 on its campus in Louisville, Ky.

When I began working with the denomination 35 years ago, I never dreamed I would one day have to write about transgenders, homosexuals, etc. Those were the days when people’s sexual preferences stayed “in the closet.” It was nobody’s business and everyone liked it that way.

Times have changed — and certainly not for the best.

The conference by Southern Seminary is just another sign of the times. Heath Lambert, executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and one of the speakers for the conference, observed, “Christians today are confronting issues that would have been unfathomable even a decade ago.” So very true.

But, like same-sex marriage, movements are underway to “normalize” transgender behaviors. We have schools that are already allowing transgenders to use the rest room of their “chosen” sex without regards to the feelings of those who legitimately belong in those rooms. Transgenders want tax dollars for their transgender surgeries. It’s only to get worse.

I applaud Southern for taking a step in addressing an issue that ultimately will be further ingrained in our culture and will eventually filter down to our churches. It’s just sad to see valuable time be spent on an issue that shouldn’t even be on our radar.

Heaven help our nation. God is truly our only hope.

Dealing with life’s “bad calls”

September 9, 2015

By now, I imagine most people have heard about the two high school football players in Texas who attacked an unsuspecting referee in a football game last weekend.

I heard about the story but did not realize how bad it was until I watched the video replay.

A referee was watching his area on the field when the play began. One defensive player came up and knocked the official to the ground and the other player speared him with his helmet. I watched the video several times to see if it could have been an accident. It definitely was not an accident or a case of mistaken identity. The guy had on a striped shirt, not a football jersey. Those two players deliberately targeted this official.

According to a news report the players said they were frustrated with perceived bad calls and that one official had used racial slurs.

Let’s get this one out of the way. If an official used a racial slur he doesn’t need to be officiating football games any more. End of story.    But even if he did, that is no excuse for what transpired.

As to bad calls, that’s part of the game. It’s the human element. I have never refereed football, but I have refereed basketball and umpired baseball. Officials will miss calls occasionally. We are human.

What those two players did is inexcusable. The official could have been seriously injured or even killed. Whether he made a bad call or not doesn’t matter.

While there is talk about possible criminal charges, that is speculation at this point. What needs to happen is to make sure that those two players are never allowed to play football again. Too harsh? Not when you consider a man could have been paralyzed or killed by their reckless action.

My prayer is that parents and youth leaders in our churches will use this as a teaching moment. Show the video to youth groups. Teach them what sportsmanship is about. Life is not always going to be fair. Bad things will happen. Just read John 16:33.

John 16:33 makes it clear we will face adversity. But it also reminds us of a promise from Jesus Christ Himself: “Fear not, I have overcome the world.” With a promise like that we can deal with life’s “bad calls.”

Would you go to jail?

September 3, 2015

Would you go to jail for standing up for your Christian beliefs?

Kim Davis apparently will. Baptist Press reported today (Sept. 3) that a federal judge has ordered her to be taken into custody because she refused to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

The judge noted that her “good-faith belief is simply not a viable defense.”

It may not be in his court, but in HIS court, I beg to differ.

Pray for this brave woman and her family. She has taken a stand for her Christian faith.

That brings me back to the original question. Would you go to jail for standing up for your Christian beliefs?

All of us probably want to say, without a doubt, yes. But my feeling is that  we really will never know until we are faced with that decision.

My prayer is that we all will be found faithful.



Just a little common sense

August 26, 2015

Over the years I have bemoaned the fact that plain common sense is on the verge of extinction.

I keep hoping it will be revived, but a lack of common sense actually seems to be getting worse. And it’s no respecter of age, race, education, etc. The most intelligent of human beings can literally have no common sense.

The latest example is a judge who ruled that the band at Brandon High School  in Mississippi could not participate in their high school’s Friday night games because their performance included the song “How Great Thou Art.”

Keep in mind the band plays music only, no words.

I can’t help but wonder how many people at the game would know what was being played, much less its significance. I confess. I am a music illiterate. If I played the old game “Name that Tune,” I would be embarrassed. I would like to think I would pick out “How Great Thou Art” because I was reared in church, but I am not 100 percent sure I would get it right on the first guess. If I had trouble, I can’t help but think those who aren’t as familiar with Christian songs would have trouble as well.

Here’s where some good old-fashioned common sense would have been useful. The judge ruled that the band couldn’t play “How Great Thou Art” because administrators, teachers, and staff in Brandon County are prohibited from sponsoring prayer and religious activities.

A song without words that most people likely would not identify hardly counts as a “religious activity” in my book.

Click on the link above to read some of the comments people have written.

One is the standard argument that is always used against Christians. If the band had been playing a Muslim song the Christian community would have been in an uproar. This Christian would not have been because I would not have had a clue of the song’s origination.

Here’s another example to illustrate the difficulty of identifying music without words. If I asked how many of you are familiar with Gioachino Rossini’s “William Tell Overture,” you probably would look at me with a blank stare. If I asked you if you have heard the theme song of the TV Show, “The Lone Ranger,” you probably would answer in the affirmative. The two are the one and the same.

Now, the story has garnered national attention and people are talking about it. Had the judge exercised some common sense and allowed the band to perform, I doubt it would have been a blip on the radar screen.

It’s yet another growing example of our freedoms slowly eroding.

Some good out of a bad situation actually took place at that first game. I applaud the parents of the band and probably others who stood up spontaneously at half-time and began singing “How Great Thou Art.” Watch the video  on YouTube. It is a blessing to see Christians unashamed to take a stand. The judge didn’t want the music played, yet God won as He always does. The words of “How Great Thou Art” are a powerful witness.

May we all be so bold!



Taking a stand

August 19, 2015

In today’s society taking a stand for what’s right involves risk, whether it be for an individual, church, or organization.

Taking a stand today for Christian values and beliefs more than likely will pit you against culture or what’s popular.

Taking a stand often means you will become a target for those who want to label you as a bigot or hypocrite.

Christians today, however, need to step to the plate and take a stand regardless of the consequences.

It was refreshing to see one of our Tennessee Baptist institutions take such a stand just last week. Union University announced that it is withdrawing from the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).

The CCCU apparently failed to take action against two member institutions that “are going along with the crowd” by endorsing same-sex marriage.

Membership in organizations such as the CCCU is voluntary. Let Union University President Dub Oliver and others on staff there know that you applaud them for taking a stand when some in the educational community no doubt will be critical.

May their tribe increase.



Much sooner than later

August 12, 2015

It was only a matter of time. And it came much sooner than later.

When the United States Supreme Court ruled in June that same-sex marriage is protected under the Constitution and is legal in all 50 states, concerns were expressed that religious liberty would come under attack.

Questions arose as to whether ministers could speak freely against homosexuality and call it what it is — sin.

At least in Kentucky the answer is no. Fox News reported Aug. 11 that volunteer chaplains had to sign a document promising not to tell inmates that homosexuality is “sinful.”

When Chaplain David Wells said he could not sign such a document, the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice revoked his credentials.

Wells, who spent 13 years ministering to troubled juveniles, had to give up a labor of love.

If anyone is really surprised this has happened, then your head has been in the sand.

And, if you think this won’t happen again and again you are sadly mistaken. And, it will eventually find its way to Tennessee — probably much sooner than later.

Two freedoms that Americans hold dear — speech and religion — are under attack.

We have to be diligent and pray more fervently than ever. And we all need to be able to answer this question: Will we stand boldly for Christ?

That question will eventually come — much sooner than later.


Bad things happen when we lose focus

August 5, 2015

Have you ever driven down the highway and taken your eyes off the road for just a split second?

And, no you don’t have to admit you were texting or reading an e-mail or almost spilled your coffee. It may be you caught a glimpse of a deer or other animal out of the corner of your eye. Whatever the case, you took your eyes off the road and let them wander elsewhere.

If you were extremely blessed during that moment, nothing bad happened to you or anyone else.

But when we lose our focus for an extended period of time, bad things can happen.

My daughter Joanna sent me a link to a story in The Greenville News about a church that has lost its focus. It’s a sad story because of the history and tradition of First Baptist Church in Greenville, S.C.

Pastor William B. Johnson, who organized the church, would later become the first president of the Southern Baptist Convention. According to the church website, the church once housed Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in its infancy. Now, First Baptist Church is no longer even affiliated with the SBC.

The church has just announced that it will allow same-sex couples to marry in the church, that it will ordain gay ministers, and that it will allow gays to hold leadership positions in the church. In my book, that’s a good indication that the church “has taken its eyes off the road.”

Let me be clear. I understand church autonomy. First Baptist had every right to do what it did. I don’t dispute it. I just disagree with it.

One might ask how such a historic Southern Baptist church can abandon its roots.

Lest we be too harsh on First Baptist, it can happen to any church that takes its eyes off God and looks at things from the world’s perspective. You become more concerned about what the world says than what God’s Word says.

As someone who grew up in Greenville County I am saddened by what this church has done.

I imagine God is too.



Darker by the day

July 15, 2015

In Nashville today (July 15) the temperature should reach into the 90s and the  sun will be shining brightly. That should be the norm for the rest of this week and month.

On the outside, our world appears bright and cheery. Yet, underneath, where it really counts, our world is growing darker by the day.

Baptist Press posted two stories on July 14 that give credence to my belief. There are many more. Just watch the evening news and pick up tomorrow’s daily newspaper where you live. Space here, however, is limited so I will focus on these two stories.

First, which comes as no surprise, the Executive Committee of the Boy Scouts of America voted to allow gay and bisexual adult leaders. This comes about two  years to the anniversary of the Boy Scouts allowing openly gay  Scouts.

Supposedly, religious organizations, such as churches, that sponsor Scout troops can still choose their own leaders. It sounds good now, but do we really think it will stand the test of time? All it will take is one lawsuit and Boy Scouts of America will cave as they have already.

It’s time for Southern Baptist churches especially to wash their hands of BSA and turn their focus back on Royal Ambassadors. RAs provides many of the same opportunities that Boy Scouts did. Plus it will educate a new generation of boys about Southern Baptist missions.

The second Baptist Press story, if true, and it appears to be, is evil multiplied.

An executive of Planned Parenthood, a national provider of abortions, was caught on video negotiating the sale of body parts gained through partial birth abortions.

Apparently the story is true because the vice president of communications for Planned Parenthood didn’t deny it in a press release.  Instead, he defended it.

Two wrongs don’t make a right. Abortion for abortion’s sake is wrong and to sell body parts is not only wrong and evil, it is illegal.  Baptist Press reported that “Selling or buying fetal tissue is a federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000, according to Title 42 of the U.S. Code.” I wonder how long it will take a federal judge to strike that law off the books.

The only good thing about the world getting darker by the day is that means the light of Christ will shine even brighter. It’s up to us, as Christians, to proclaim His name and allow Jesus Christ to illuminate the dark world in which we live.