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Who’s In Your Cockpit?

Posted: 9/30/16 at 4:00pm. Post by Gary Chapman

Picture your life as the cockpit of a 787 airliner. When we allow our life to be open to God’s leading, his Holy Spirit comes on board with us. He’s in the cockpit with us. But the central feature of this cockpit is the pilot’s seat. From that chair, all the decisions are made about the path of our life. Those decisions will shape the person we will become, how we live, and yes, whether we will know abundant life or not.

Whoever is in the chair makes the decisions. Now, I can’t speak for you. But, my natural inclination and arrogant human nature lead me, on many occasions, to trust myself, more than God, to chart the path of my life. That attitude, alone, is the epitome of our sinful nature.

Too often, we relegate Christ to a corner of the cockpit. “Spirit of God, I’m glad to have you on board with me. But right now I’m doing okay. You just stand over there in the corner and if I need you, I’ll call.” Having him in our life provides some peace. But to yield total control to him is another matter. Then we marvel at how often we “crash and burn” when left to make our own decisions.

When we trust our future to Jesus, our eternal destiny is sealed; we are, now and forevermore, part of God’s family. Yet, critical as that decision may be, our salvation has a present dimension, too. Some believers are so preoccupied with life after death that we neglect God’s intent for life here and now, one as full as we can know short of eternity with God in heaven.

Accessing abundant life is difficult for us for one simple reason and one only.

But let me be very upfront here. Accessing abundant life is difficult for us for one simple reason and one only. How we struggle with submission to anyone or anything, including God. It’s a seemingly bizarre notion that runs counter to the self–reliant mindset of our culture. We may be willing to acknowledge God as our Creator and Savior. Maybe. The harder choice for us is allowing him control of our day to day existence.

Biblical submission often gets an unfairly bad rap. Keep in mind, though, we’re not talking about submission to a religion, church, or body of doctrine. And it’s not as if we have no choice but blind surrender. Rather, it’s a reasoned choice to trust our daily existence to God, based on a history of him coming through for us in the past.

More specifically, this submission is not a one–time decision to trust God. Each and every situation we encounter creates another choice for us — will I submit this time, too? Biblical submission is day by day, moment by moment obedience to a God who loves us more than we can imagine and wants only the best for us.

True confession: Now in the latter stages of life, I fear I’ve missed much abundant life simply because of my desire to be in control. But, ironic as it may seem, I’m beginning to understand that I am most free to be all I can be when I finally do submit to God’s direction. I can do it my way and know, perhaps, some of the comfort and pleasure of this life. But, more often than not, I end up feeling more frustrated, stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed than joyous. The wiser move is for me to step back in to that submissive relationship with God.

Abundant living happens as a byproduct of life in the Spirit. We access this longed–for joy only by submitting to the control of God’s Spirit in our life. “I give up, Lord. I’ve tried it my way. Please take your rightful place in the pilot’s seat.”

41i6hfgcn2l-_sx322_bo1204203200_Excerpted from Discovering My Niche by Gary A. Chapman.

Dr. Gary A. Chapman was involved in leadership training with the BGAV prior to his retitrement. He is a certified life coach who lives in Roanoke.

4 Things to Consider When Pain Interrupts your Class

Posted: 9/28/16 at 10:35am. Post by Tony Brooks.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18 NIV)

What do you do when pain interrupts your class? When no subject is off limits and a class really shows genuine care and vulnerability (which you should), pain will come out in the middle of your lesson. How do you handle it?

Here are some thoughts:

1. Listen to what they are saying and not saying. This requires attentiveness. Some may just come out and say what is going on in their lives. Take time to listen and show empathy. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  (Matthew 9:13 NIV)

We need to empathize with persons in pain. We all have moments of pain in life. After listening, decide the next steps: Prayer for the person. Who else needs to know with permission? Care for them in the moment and beyond.

Perhaps a person is tearing up and not really talking. Take time after class to talk or set up a time to talk during the week.

2. Use Care Group Leaders to help you care during the week. A teacher cannot do it all. I recommend care groups, much like a deacon family ministry plan. (Contact me at tony.brooks@bgav.org to know how to set them up.)

3. Have an active prayer chain/prayer ministry. Pain happens during the week as well. Have Care Group Leaders contact you and you let Care Group Leaders contact their people on roll to begin a prayer chain for someone in pain.

4. Empower people of pain to find the resources they need. Some people can develop a co-dependency to your care. Help these individuals discover the strength within themselves and refer them to professional counselors for long term recovery. There are certain types of pain that needs therapy. Don’t try to handle this on your own. Ask your pastor for referrals that would be helpful.

Pain happens to all of us. It is best to be prepared and have necessary ways to help the brokenhearted and those crushed in spirit.

Brooks-TonyTony Brooks is our Sunday School/Discipleship Specialist and Field Strategist for the Southside Region. You may email him at tony.brooks@bgav.org.

Follow Tony on Twitter: @TonyBrooks7 

The Importance of Grease

Posted: 9/26/16 at 2:50pm. Column by Ed Jordan.

Automobile wheels require grease for them to function.  Many years ago one would go to a service station to get your car a grease job from a grease monkey. When I was young, I bought a grease gun and a couple of times a year I would slide underneath my car and put grease in the zerk fittings made for that purpose. When a wheel bearing “goes out,” it is often due to lack of grease.

Grease, oil, or other lubricants play a vital role in many moving parts of engines, machines, sliding glass doors, garage doors, regular doors, and even electric fans. Whenever and wherever a moving part is experiencing friction, over-heating or stress there is a need for a lubricant to reduce the damaging results of friction.

I am not sure when the change occurred, but at some point car parts were prepacked with grease, and no longer had zerks through which new grease could be added. Zerkless parts became expendable parts. When the grease lost its resilience, the bearings or moving parts would wear out, and then would be thrown away and purchased new parts replaced them.

Over the years we have become a throwaway society. In fact we have become so much so, that the word “throwaway” is now a recognized word in spell-checker. There are few stores or businesses that repair anything. For example, it is hard to find a shoe repair store or person. When your soles wear unevenly or down, people go buy new shoes. We used to get shoes resoled, but now we just buy new shoes instead. Perhaps we as people need to resole (or would it be re-soul?) in order to be renewed to carry on effectively.

The reality is that human beings are one of God’s most miraculously designed machines.

The reality is that human beings are one of God’s most miraculously designed machines. And as such, we were designed to need renewal from time to time. We need psychological, spiritual, mental and physical grease to keep us moving and functioning well. Many jobs are stressful, and we all need a day each week to renew our systems.

Perhaps one of the most stressful professions and occupations in the world is that of pastoring. Good pastors are people who perform the roles and work of a vast number of professions and occupations, day in and day out, year after year.

Some may ask: What does a pastor do, anyway? A good pastor undertakes many roles, and trying to perform them all well all the time, and often all at the same time. The pastor is often the CEO of the organizational aspects of a church, and therefore does the perpetual jobs of organizing, managing and training.

The pastor is a nurturing caregiver, not just for the members of the church, but also to people in the community where the church serves. This requires availability, sensitivity, advising, counseling, healing, and encouraging people dealing with difficulties in their lives. Pastors make visits to develop relationships with people, whether they visit people in their homes, at hospitals, or in nursing homes.

Pastors are also scholars, teachers and students, who continually study not just the Bible, but also try to stay abreast of many subjects including psychology, philosophy, religion, education, organizational principles, technology and its use, music, art, society and sociology, world news, and the particular cultural characteristics of where the church and its members serve God.

The pastor also has to know something about good financial practices, leadership, crisis and conflict management, grief counseling, planning and leading public events, weddings, funerals, public speaking and communication, as well as systems analysis and applications.

Lastly, the pastor must be endlessly creative in producing two to three new impactful, understandable, and engaging presentations or events shared with the same people week after week, all without reusing material or repeating yourself.  The amazing thing is that all these things are happening at the same time, and all the time, in the life of the pastor.

Furthermore, depending upon the size of one’s congregation or ministry recipients, any or all of the hundreds of people whom the pastor serves can at anytime inject new, unplanned and unexpected issues into the mix which may cause shifts in many plans across the whole system.

October is Pastor Appreciation Month. Believers are instructed in 1 Timothy 5:17 (ESV): “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.”

Wherever you attend church, the pastor that ministers to you is worthy of appreciation because of his or her commitment to the ministries that benefit you, both as a congregation and an individual. Pastors are people who frequently need to be renewed and greased in order to keep them in good mental, physical and spiritual shape to deal with the heat and friction of ministry. Don’t forget the importance of grease!

ed-jordan2Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. You may also read his past columns.

He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.

Don’t Fit in at Church? Maybe You’re “R and D”

4 Ways to Communicate the Power of Scripture

Posted: 9/20/16 at 8:55pm. Post by Tony Brooks.

Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29 RSV)

Communication is often difficult for each person to hear/see what we are communicating. The right words, the right pauses and pictures can bring people closer to Christ. Here are some thoughts:

1. Words take on a life of their own. God spoke the world into existence! The Hebrew understanding was spoken words could not be taken back. They took on a life of their own. (Genesis 27 makes it very clear. Once you have spoken the words, you cannot take them back.) We need to help class members realize the power of their words in class and outside of class. One false word, rumor, gossip can destroy a class. One encouraging word can help people soar!

Sometimes we are called to share a word of discipline. Make sure that your motivation is to help them grow in Christ! I had many in my lifetime shares words that I needed to hear. Some did it out of love, and some out of other motives.

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:15 NIV)

2. Written words can be just as damaging or uplifting! Be careful what you tweet, post on Facebook and more. I am so discouraged by Christians who post hateful, angry words to villainize others over political, social and even athletic opinions. Do we realize that we just put politics, social issues and sports above all of us “being in the image of God”? We can disagree respectfully and speak the truth in love. Please pray and think about what to say before you hit send or post!

I stay away from negativity, and try to send a positive quote, Scripture or thought each day on Facebook. It is a way of helping people think about the good things.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9 NIV)

3. Pauses matter in Sunday School/Small Groups and in life. Reflective learners learn best with silence. Give moments of silence for these persons to think through the Scripture and life application before they have to respond. I am an introvert. Though I speak to large groups, I need time to reflect and think about what God is doing in this situation- whether it is training teachers, preaching or Sabbath time for me each day. I need alone time to pray and reflect. What are you doing to help people do the same?

4. Pictures are worth a thousand words! I learned that phrase early on, and it is true! Pictures and videos will increase retention levels on what you are learning. Use pictures and videos as a part of Bible study. Let me give one example. Knowing your why is more important than what you do. Check out the video on YouTube.

When we understand the value of communication through words, pauses and pictures, your class will be transformed!

Brooks-TonyTony Brooks is our Sunday School/Discipleship Specialist and Field Strategist for the Southside Region. You may email him at tony.brooks@bgav.org.

Follow Tony on Twitter: @TonyBrooks7 

Called to the Wilderness – Where Scriptural Metaphor Meets Ministry

Posted: 9/17/16 at 10:30am. Article by Jonathan Davis.

wildernessAre you in the wilderness, either metaphorically or literally? Small town and rural pastors can relate in unique ways to Scripture, especially in passages referring to wilderness and solitude. Chances are, if you serve in a rural church you read certain passages with greater insight than those that live in more urban areas.

God’s people and leaders have, over millennia, spent much time in the wilderness. The connotation of the term “wilderness” may be positive for some, and negative for others.

Sometimes the wilderness is positive:

  • Moses meets Jethro (who’s name means “friend of God”) only after a wilderness journey.
  • The prophets Nathan, Elisha, Elijah, and many others, heard most clearly from God in times of solitude and reflection while surrounded by nature.
  • Jesus often retreated for times of personal reflection and spiritual nourishment.
  • Countless early monks moved to rural locations (often the desert) in rejection of the excesses and paganism of their culture.

Sometimes wilderness is negative:

  • Adam and Eve are cast out of the garden into unknown land that required toil and labor as a result of the fall.
  • Israel wandered in wilderness for 40 years as punishment for not having faith at the time it was needed.
  • Some of the same prophets that went to the wilderness to hear God were chased from cities where people wanted to kill them. Many lived in exile their entire lives for safety reasons, and not of their own choosing.
  • While Jesus often retreated into the wilderness for fasting and rejuvenation, it’s also in the wilderness that he is tempted by Satan.

So, if you pastor a rural church, perhaps literally in the wilderness, do you identify with wilderness in positive or negative ways? Many small town pastors struggle with a sense of isolation. Many also enjoy connecting with God in nature by being able to take advantage of outdoor sporting opportunities that come with rural living.

God’s Call – You Are Not Alone

If you pastor or serve in (or even attend) a rural church, in a sense God has called you to the wilderness. The wilderness of denominational life; the wilderness of fewer retail and entertainment options; the wilderness of living without quick access to top medical facilities; and the wilderness of open spaces, expansive pastures, deep woods, winding rivers and soaring mountain peaks.

11376002286_8a5f8f4ce1_bWhen you make pastoral visits do you get a little mud on the tires? Know that you’re not alone. It has been estimated that in the United Stated alone, there are over 150,000 rural and small town churches.

To put that in perspective, there are 17,900 Roman Catholic Churches in the U.S. and roughly 50,000 Southern Baptist Churches. If small town churches were their own denominational network, they would be THREE TIMES the size of the largest denomination in the land.

In our rural churches, what if the paradigm of ministry shifted from us relying on denominational models and resources designed primarily for urban and suburban churches, to embracing the unique realities of rural ministry, in all of its joy and complexity?

Maybe if you’re in the wilderness, its because that’s where God has called you. Perhaps if you feel isolated you need to hear the still small voice, and also find a support network. How can you take advantage of where God has planted you in ministry so that ministering in the wilderness of modern culture is a joyful blessing instead of a burden?

I hope to hear from you in the comments below!

JD-pic-150x150Rev. Jonathan Davis is pastor at Urbanna Baptist Church. He is a Doctor of Ministry student at Logsdon Seminary.

This post originally appeared on his website “Small Town Churches Network“.

4 Ways to Honor Sabbath & Sunday School

Posted: 9/13/16 at 3:40pm. Post by Tony Brooks.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15: 1-4 NIV)

How can we be the most productive Sunday School teachers for our class/community? We need to make sure we have time for renewal and re-creation. One of the great reminders of this for me was my time in a discipleship huddle group last year. (If you are interested in huddle groups, contact John Chandler or Laura McDaniel of the Spence Network.

I was reminded of the need for Sabbath (not as a way to rest from all of my work), but the time to abide in Christ so I am more effective in my work. Here is the crux of it all: Do you work in order to have time to rest or recreation? Do you rest/abide in Christ in order to work out of God’s design for you? Too often our priorities get out of the appropriate order and we need to be reminded of time away from it all with God for rest, renewal, abiding and pruning.

Here are some ideas for you as teachers to remain effective:

Take time each day for God. I am not talking about preparing a SS lesson. We each need some quiet time with God. It does not always have to be in your study. For me it is time while I am pushing a lawn mower, fishing, taking a prayer walk, working in a garden or in other methods while enjoying God’s creation. Whatever energizes you in your relationship with God is appropriate. Though prayer on bended knee is important, so is prayer in other ways each day.

Have a Sabbath day each week. God chose for each of us to have a Sabbath day to rest and abide.

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2:1-3 NIV)

For ministers and teachers, Sunday is not a Sabbath. We need another day in the week to seek renewal and rest if possible.

We need longer periods of time for pruning and abiding each year. Part of this time each year is seen as vacation. Often we pack so many items into the agenda that it seems like work! Pick some time each year to seek renewal for your soul, and whatever that would look like for you.

Part of this time is pruning for teachers. This is a time of training and renewal as well. Doctors, lawyers, teachers and other professions need continuing education each year. Why not Sunday School teachers? We have the greatest responsibility in sharing God’s Word. Take time for training each year. You may want to take a Sunday off and go hear another teacher in your church or another church. This could be a great experience to continue to prune and grow.

So how do we make time for vacation/training? Make sure you are mentoring someone as an apprentice. Every teacher needs an apprentice to train. When we do so, we will have plenty of new teachers to fill in for us and be prepared to teach a new class.

Help your church see the potential for Sabbaticals. All church staff should have opportunities for an extended period of time (for instance after the 7th year of ministry) for sabbatical. This is a time (1-3 months for rest, renewal and continuing education) to fan the flame within and step back to see a clearer vision for your ministry. Check with your BGAV Field Strategist about advantages of Sabbatical for church staff. Sunday School teachers need a Sabbatical as well. I know of a church that requires teachers to take a year break after every three years. This decreases burnout and provides energized teachers when they return.

The bottom line is we sin against God when we do not take periods of time each day, each week, each year and longer periods of time to abide in Christ. I look forward to writing again in a little over a week. For the time being I am trying to practice what I am sharing, and will be on vacation and conference time. Until the next blog, may God provide restful, abiding moments for you as well!

Brooks-TonyTony Brooks is our Sunday School/Discipleship Specialist and Field Strategist for the Southside Region. You may email him at tony.brooks@bgav.org.

Follow Tony on Twitter: @TonyBrooks7 

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Falling Down, or Getting Back Up?

Posted: 9/7/16 at 9:10am. Column by Ed Jordan.

Recently in the Olympics competitions, Simone Biles was going for the gold in the balance beam event, when she lost her balance and dropped down to steady herself with her hands, so that she would not fall off the beam. That near fall nearly cost her the chance to win any medal in that competition.

However, through the entire process she gave us all an example of the truth that how you get up is just as important as a stumble. She composed herself, and completed the next part of her balance beam routine with excellence.

After a setback that would have rattled some to the core and caused them to fall apart, she immediately returned to her exceptionally high level of skill. She ended up still winning the bronze medal, mostly because when she had a setback she didn’t let it defeat her, but rose back to her feet to do the best she could.

Who among us have not had something unexpected happen that brought us to our knees, or knocked us flat on our backs?

Our lives are full of setbacks. Who among us have not had something unexpected happen that brought us to our knees, or knocked us flat on our backs? Perhaps it was an emergency health problem, like a cancer diagnosis.

Maybe it was a sudden layoff or termination from a workplace, or an unexpected filing for divorce. Some have received news of the loss of their loved one in an automobile accident, or in service to our country. Sometimes just being confronted with a critical decision can throw us for a loop.

How we perceive the setback, and how we get back up from it, may have a bigger impact on the outcome than the fact that we experienced a setback. This certainly was the case with Simone Biles. She put her hands down on the beam, which took away enough points to take her out of contention for the gold medal.

But she did not quit, and she did not obsess on the near fall. She stood up, focused on her routine, and carried it out with no fear that she would again lose her balance. The reward was not just a third place, bronze medal. It was also the demonstration that life is not about how you fall, it is about how you get up that makes the difference.

The Bible states: “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” (James 3:2 ESV.) Since we all stumble in many ways, we need to give thought to how we are going to get through the stumble and get back up to overcome it.

Some people fall and never get back up; some fall but bounce back up. This phenomena is described in Proverbs 24:16 (NLT): “The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again. But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked.”

The descriptor “godly” means a person in relationship with God, who desires to please God in their motivations, actions and relationships. They live with their life in God’s hand. When they trip, God lifts them up.

The “wicked” are those who live in antagonism to God, attempting to exclude God from their thoughts, activities, and life. When they fall, there is no one to lift them up, unless they turn to God and entrust themselves to His care.

We all fall down. The difference is whether or not our lives are in God’s hand as we walk through life.

We all fall down. The difference is whether or not our lives are in God’s hand as we walk through life. If so, when we inevitably stumble, God is there to lift us up, often before we hit the ground. But if we close God out of our lives, we may not be able to get back up when we fall.

Have you ever seen a sailboat’s sail collapse? It is a pitiful sight: a big beautiful boat with no power to move or make progress. When this happens, the crew does not throw away the sail, nor sink the boat.  They adjust the direction of the sail until it catches the wind and the sail fills up with moving power and momentum again.

We all get the wind knocked out of our sails. The ones who quickly recover are those who realize that they are not aligned to be filled with wind, and make adjustments to the wind. In the Biblical languages the word “wind” and “spirit” are the same word.

When our sails collapse, and our lives stumble, we need to realign ourselves with God and His Spirit. He can lift us up and fill us anew with His power, so that with Him we can sail on!

ed-jordan2Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. You may also read his past columns.

He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.

3 Ways to Reach Single Moms for Sunday School/Small Groups – Revisited

Posted: 9/6/16 at 3:30pm. Post by Tony Brooks.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27 NIV)

I have been traveling across the Commonwealth leading Sunday School training events over this Summer. I still don’t know of many churches reaching single moms. Here is just a reminder of how to reach them.

Single moms is the fastest growing population of people groups in the U.S. today. There are over 19 million singles moms raising over 47 million children. 58% of the births last year were to single moms. 95% of single moms are unchurched. They do not feel as though they fit anywhere, or they are judged.

They are open to a loving church that will accept them where they are, but not sure where that is. When they see a church has a class/small group for them, they come and bring their friends along with their children.

What can you do to reach this population?

  1. Start a new class specifically for single moms. This may begin in a home, public meeting place or the church based on your culture. Most single moms are of the Millennial generation with some suspicion of the institutional church. Finding single moms in your church to help start this class may be the best solution, as they can tell friends and have empathy for other single moms.
  1. Provide a Mom’s night out and/or a special dinner. Offer to watch their children one evening while they go grocery shopping, clean house/wash clothes, have a dinner date or just get away for a while. Single moms are working and then have all the childcare/parenting duties when they get home.Providing a dinner for the moms and children with some play time and devotional may be great as well. Perhaps use one of my previous blog posts as a theme.
  1. Adopt a grandchild. Katrina and I were fortunate to have two special ladies while I was pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Halifax: Janice Burton and Virginia Clark, who adopted our two children when we were many miles from grandparents. Both children still think about them often. You have older adults who do not have children or their grandchildren live far away. Many would love to have time with children for a few hours or more and share God’s love with them.

The bottom line is we have an opportunity to love on people and reach people for Christ. Are you willing?

Brooks-TonyTony Brooks is our Sunday School/Discipleship Specialist and Field Strategist for the Southside Region. You may email him at tony.brooks@bgav.org.

Follow Tony on Twitter: @TonyBrooks7 

Religious Liberty Committee Spotlight: John Murton

Posted: 9/1/16 at 4:00pm.

Religious Freedom: What is it, and why should persons have it? Check here each month to see how historic Baptist and other champions of religious freedom have answered these questions. These spotlights are sponsored by the BGAV’s Religious Liberty Committee.

In 1616, when Thomas Helwys, the leader of the Baptists in London, died in prison, where he had been sent for refusing to accept and practice the tenets of the established Anglican Church, his long-time associate, John Murton, took his place.

Like Helwys, he wrote tracts as well as petitions to the King, James I, in which he made the case for religious freedom. His writings significantly influenced the thinking of Roger Williams, who later founded the colony of Rhode Island and established religious freedom therein.

The passages below are from Murton’s most famous petition to King James I.

1736114-M“Our prayers are . . . that you [the King] will be moved to repeal and make void all those cruel laws . . . that persecute poor men, only for matters of conscience.  Not that we any way desire for ourselves or others, any the least liberty from the strict observation of any civil, temporal, or human law, made . . . for the preservation of your majesty’s person, crown, state, or dignity; for all that give not to Caesar that which is his, let them bear their burden.  But we only desire, that God might have that which is his, which is the heart and soul in that worship that he requireth, over which there is but one Lord, and one Lawgiver, who is able to save it, or to destroy it, which no mortal can do.  It is not in your power to compel the heart; you may compel men to be hypocrites, as a great many are, who are falsehearted both towards God and the state; which is sin both in you and them.” (p. 192)

“Far be it from you to desire to sit in the consciences of men, to be lawgiver and judge therein. . . . You may make and mend your own laws, and be judge and punisher of the transgressors thereof; but you cannot make or mend God’s laws, they are perfect already; you may not add nor diminish; nor be judge nor monarch of his church; that is Christ’s right.  He left neither you nor any mortal man his deputy, but only the Holy Ghost . . . .” (p. 230)

From John Murton, “A Most Humble Supplication,” in Tracts on Liberty of Conscience and Persecution, 1614-1661, ed. Edward B. Underhill (London: J. Haddon, 1846), pp. 181-231.

Planting Seeds in the Community for Future Growth

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Posted: 8/30/16 at 3:50pm. Post by Tony Brooks.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9 NIV)

College Hill Baptist Church, Lynchburg, VA, celebrated 140 years of ministering in the community on August 6th. In their heyday, they had a 1,000 members; now, they are averaging 35-40 on Sunday with the majority being senior adults.

What can they do to impact the community for Christ? Several are drivers for a meals on wheels program, volunteer at the hospital, work with a local food ministry and partner with R. S. Payne Elementary School.

Here are some lessons I have learned as their Interim Pastor that may help Sunday School classes realize how a small number can make a difference for a local school:

1. Provide a meal for the workers at a school. R. S. Payne Elementary is directly across the street from the church. Ten to twelve workers from College Hill provided lunch for all of the workers on the last day of school in the church fellowship hall. 80-85 employees showed up with gratitude for this lunch this past school year.

2. Partner on the school’s projects. Whether it is tutoring students after school, helping with hunger through backpack buddies, or whatever the school is doing, you can make a difference. R. S. Payne has many transient families that come in the middle of the school year. These families can’t afford the school supplies. The employees had been funding, out of their salary, school supplies. They decided to have a Spring Carnival for families to raise money for the school supplies. College Hill provides baked goodies to sell at their carnival.

3. Have a Back to School Festival. I learned this from a previous ministry. I shared the vision of providing a day when families would come and enjoy a meal. At the games played, prizes would be school supplies. We would give away door prizes to get information for follow up on families. Included in the door prizes was a refurbished computer to give away along with certificates from local restaurants. We would also give an abundance of school supplies to the school, based on what they needed. (Get the list a few months out from the school.) This past Saturday, we had the festival. Again, I learned many valuable lessons:

a. Youth and young adults will come help. They want to make a difference in the community. We had around 15-20 members helping with an additional 10-15 college and youth who are not members of the church. (Let service organizations at colleges know what you are doing. Some will come and help with joy in their hearts.)

b. Other mission minded churches will help smaller congregations/classes. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Calvary Baptist Church in Lynchburg provided many school supplies for this school.

The winner of the refurbished computer.

The winner of the refurbished computer.

c. Seeds will be planted. Some of the door prizes were Bibles. I was amazed at how many children chose a Bible over other prizes. We also gave out New Testaments to every child. One such child asked, “May I have a Bible? I love reading the stories about Jesus.” Our church member replied, “Sure.” Then the child said, “I have three brothers and sisters that are not able to be here. They need to read about Jesus.” With a smile on her face, the member reached in and gave three more Bibles.

d. The school will be blown away by your gratitude and grace. The Principal at the school could not thank us enough. We all were inspired as I called out the name of the winner for the computer. He looks to be in the 2nd or 3rd grade. It was like Christmas came early.

Just because you are small in numbers doesn’t mean that God can’t use you to plant seeds in your Sunday School Class/Small Group.

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20 NIV)

Brooks-TonyTony Brooks is our Sunday School/Discipleship Specialist and Field Strategist for the Southside Region. You may email him at tony.brooks@bgav.org.

Follow Tony on Twitter: @TonyBrooks7 

Newport News Church Members Head to Post-Flood Louisiana

Is It Lawful To Do Good?

Posted: 8/29/16 at 1:30pm. Column by Ed Jordan.

Have you ever criticized someone for being a “do-gooder?” Or have you ever been sneered at for being a “do-gooder?” Usually we don’t hear such remarks, because people say them behind our backs, or while gossiping about us.

Have you ever wondered why doing good things for others would be criticized? I have. When was the last time that you were encouraged to do good, or to choose to do what is right, even though it might be viewed as too moralistic or do-goody among your friends?

As I typed the words in the paragraph above, spell check put a hyphen into them. How common is the use of such a word in our culture? Common enough that even a spellchecker recognizes it. So what does it say about our society, when those who do good to or for others are looked down upon?

I think it says a lot about those who use such verbiage to belittle others. It is often an expression of guilt, or of a desire to be relieved of the responsibility to do good. If we can make doing good too uncomfortable or costly for those who do it, then fewer of them will do good, and thus we will not feel guilty for not doing good ourselves.

In the passage below, some of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem criticized Jesus for preparing to heal a man with a shriveled hand, and for doing it on the Sabbath, which was supposed to be a day of rest when no work of any kind could be done. In essence they were saying that it was wrong to do good because work was forbidden on the Sabbath.

In Matthew 12:10 they questioned Jesus about doing good on the day of rest, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath? …” (NASB).  They were trying to indict Him for violating their religious rules. Jesus answered with a brief scenario, asking which of them, if one of their sheep fell into a pit, would not go rescue it, whether it were the Sabbath or not?  Jesus further said that humans are more valuable than sheep. Then Jesus concluded: “… “So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:12 NASB). He then proceeded to heal the man’s hand.

So even Jesus was criticized for doing good to others. It’s a crazy world, isn’t it?

So even Jesus was criticized for doing good to others. It’s a crazy world, isn’t it? Do we find people muttering “evil-doer” behind someone’s back? In all of my years of life, I cannot remember ever hearing someone gossip about someone else as an “evil-doer.” I have heard people say that something is evil, and even that a person is evil.  But I have never heard them call someone an evil-doer.

Indeed, the only way one can call someone evil is based upon the acts they do.  And the only way we know someone is confirmed as good is based upon their deeds. As Jesus said in Matthew 7:17–18, 20 (NLT): “A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.”

The person who does good reveals their inner heart and motivation. Those full of God’s goodness do acts of goodness. Those full of evil do destructive things. You can identify people by their actions.

Doing good does not have to manifest itself in dramatic, highly visible acts of charity. Sometimes the best goodness is shown in the smallest ways, where it goes unnoticed and gets no applause. Doing good includes holding a door open for someone, or speaking a kind word when the person deserved a tirade of venom, or being of practical help to someone who can’t pay us back.

So here’s the challenge. What would happen if all the good people in town spent a month doing things that will get them called “do-gooders,” and even better if they would say “thank you” whenever they are snidely called such?

If we are really filled with the goodness of God, then as Christians let’s share His goodness and let the world evaluate which is better, to be a do-gooder, or an evil-doer?

My goal is not just to be called a do-gooder, but to actually be a good doer! How about you?

ed-jordan2Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. You may also read his past columns.

He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.

#KingdomStories: Daily Morning Prayer Strengthens Coworkers

Posted: 8/25/16 at 7:45am. Story by Linda Peay.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. (Matthew 18:20 NIV)

For quite a while, Steve Gabriel and two other men at his job in the shipyards in Hampton Roads have occasionally gathered together at work for prayer. Steve, a member of Horizon Community Church in Chesapeake, also serves as team leader on the ministry leadership team at his church.

Earlier this year, his pastor, Rev. Steve Nethery, preached a sermon series on serving as witnesses for Christ at work. Feeling convicted, Steve felt led to look for such opportunities among his military coworkers.

One day, a young veteran was talking nearby, using lots of foul language. Steve did his best to ignore his words and keep clear of him. Another coworker advised his fellow employee not to speak too loudly around Steve because he has a reputation as being the “preacher man” and that he would not appreciate such foul language.

The very next day, that same young veteran approached Steve, saying he had heard that Steve went to church. Steve affirmed this fact, hoping the conversation would be kept short. However, the gentleman said he had been struggling through some internal conflicts and was wondering if he could talk to Steve. Steve felt the knock from God to help this person.

Steve said, “I could have kicked myself. I was not prepared for that question.”

Steve opened up and invited the man to join him and two other men who meet to pray for one another. Stopping Steve cold, the man responded, “What time?” He did not have an answer, because he and his prayer partners were not praying daily as they should. Steve said, “I could have kicked myself. I was not prepared for that question.”

After realizing his shame, Steve firmly responded, “It starts today. At this time, for now on.”

Because of that one conversation, a prayer group meets together at Steve’s workplace each morning at 6:30 a.m. The group averages eight members, yet sometimes as many as 15 gather together. Steve said, “We have such a beautiful mix of people who come together.”

The group includes different races and denominations. Sometimes it’s a formal meeting, such as when using “Our Daily Bread” devotional materials to facilitate discussion. At other times, there may be something that’s been laid on the heart of a member.

Group members have found strength in this prayer time, especially during difficult times of racial tension in the news. Each meeting ends with a time of prayer, hands held, hugs exchanged, and smiles given all around.

Steve has witnessed spiritual growth among the group members. His group has evolved from Steve leading the prayers to others praying out loud, including that one young veteran.

Steve’s supervisor is not a follower of Jesus; however, he is aware of this prayer time. He doesn’t approve of it openly but considers it a “team-building” exercise each day. He’s been advised by upper management that other non-Christians may protest because they may not like their meeting on government property. Steve is sometimes aware that they may be praying too loudly; however, he is also overjoyed by the participation that he can’t stifle the prayers.

Steve can see the change in that one young veteran too. The topics discussed are ones he welcomes, and Steve is amazed how God put this one man in his life so that others may be led. He acknowledges the Spirit’s hand in guiding him to this prayer group.

He said, “With God, there are no coincidences. Only God-cidences.”

How is your church Advancing the Kingdom? This story came from Rev. Steve Nethery contacting us via Twitter after responding to a tweet asking “how is your church Advancing the Kingdom?”. Please send Linda Peay an email and we’d love to tell and share your church’s story!