Tuesday, September 25, 2007

This is Part 17 of a continuing series of articles examining the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. This statement of faith was adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting on June 14, 2000 “to set forth certain teachings which we believe.”


Christ's people should, as occasion requires, organize such associations and conventions as may best secure cooperation for the great objects of the Kingdom of God. Such organizations have no authority over one another or over the churches. They are voluntary and advisory bodies designed to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of our people in the most effective manner. Members of New Testament churches should cooperate with one another in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ's Kingdom. Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary cooperation for common ends by various groups of Christ's people. Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament.*

I will have the opportunity to address the 125th Anniversary Celebration of the Buncombe Baptist Association on Monday, October 8. It is a special time of remembering our missionary heritage with a challenge to future expanded efforts to reach lost souls. We will gather with other Buncombe Baptists at our sister church in Candler—New Morgan Hill—in their new sanctuary beginning at 6:30 that night under the theme, “That the World May Know Him.” Although we can only have ten voting messengers for the business of the association, we can have many guests and so I want to invite all of you to come and worship with us!

Our participation in the Buncombe Baptist Association, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and the Southern Baptist Convention is of our own choosing. This church is autonomous—as are all Baptist churches. I found it humorous recently when someone sent in a report of their mission work to me and stated they had planted several independent Baptist churches. My response to them was, “Is there any other kind?”

No Pope, bishop, presbytery or other ecclesiastical body can dictate what we believe and how we behave. This church has one ruler—Jesus Christ, the Lord! It has one creed—the Bible! Our decisions are made prayerfully—under the direction of the Holy Spirit (hopefully) within the local congregation.

Yet, we must be mindful of the prayer of that same Lord Jesus in John 17, where He pleads with the Father to make His followers one. Unity and cooperation in love is a mark of the true follower of Christ. As we look around at those attending the Associational meeting we will be reminded of the rich tapestry God has woven together in our churches. Diverse people—the multi-colored threads—of Baptist witness. We are not all identical, yet there is a spiritual unity in a common faith in an uncommon Savior and a fervent purpose to fulfill the Great Commission that binds us together.

That does not mean we need dilute our faith, watering it down to the lowest common denominator. Rather it means that where we find those Bible-believing Christians that we embrace them as brothers and sisters and work arm in arm to advance the Kingdom message. Indeed, we go beyond just cooperation with Baptists, but those of other denominational affiliation to impact our world.

There are parameters beyond which we may not go. Some “Christian” churches and denominations are not “Christian” at all—but apostate. They have left the faith. We pray for them to repent, but we cannot experience true spiritual fellowship in the Gospel, for they preach another gospel. Paul pronounced anathema on all such and we must. But, when a people subscribes to the fundamentals of the faith, we may disagree with them on some secondary matters, and still work together as the people of God.

Here’s the bottom line: we can do more together than we can ever do alone. Even the greatest mega-church has its limitations. But through cooperation in the cause of Christ, we are impacting millions around this world and generations to come! Isn’t that exciting!

* Exodus 17:12; 18:17ff.; Judges 7:21; Ezra 1:3-4; 2:68-69; 5:14-15; Nehemiah 4; 8:1-5; Matthew 10:5-15; 20:1-16; 22:1-10; 28:19-20; Mark 2:3; Luke 10:1ff.; Acts 1:13-14; 2:1ff.; 4:31-37; 13:2-3; 15:1-35; 1 Corinthians 1:10-17; 3:5-15; 12; 2 Corinthians 8-9; Galatians 1:6-10; Ephesians 4:1-16; Philippians 1:15-18. (Baptist Faith and Message, 2000)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

This is Part 16 of a continuing series of articles examining the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. This statement of faith was adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting on June 14, 2000 “to set forth certain teachings which we believe.”

God is the source of all blessings, temporal and spiritual; all that we have and are we owe to Him. Christians have a spiritual debtorship to the whole world, a holy trusteeship in the gospel, and a binding stewardship in their possessions. They are therefore under obligation to serve Him with their time, talents, and material possessions; and should recognize all these as entrusted to them to use for the glory of God and for helping others. According to the Scriptures, Christians should contribute of their means cheerfully, regularly, systematically, proportionately, and liberally for the advancement of the Redeemer's cause on earth.*

Everything we have—absolutely everything—belongs to God. He has made it, thus He owns it. The Sovereign God of the universe has the right to direct the use of all He has entrusted into our hands to be used for His glory in fulfilling His infinitely wise and loving designs. This recognition that we have no “rights” when it comes to the use of time, talent and treasure is crucial to Biblical understanding. These blessings have come from the gracious hand of the Almighty, and we will one day give an account of how we have invested God’s wealth—pursuing that of eternal value or squandering His wealth in earthly and trivial pursuits. This acknowledgement of God’s ownership is the foundation of stewardship.

Each breath we take, every beat of our heart, the strength to put one foot in front of another, our moments and our days, the gifts, skills and capacities we possess, along with our material blessings—all are ours because of the goodness of God. Wise use of these blessings is the essence of stewardship.

We have all heard, “You can’t take it with you!” That’s true, but you can send it on ahead! We have the privilege of exchanging the capital of earth for the currency of eternity—to invest in the Kingdom of God with our material dollars in order to receive spiritual dividends. Imagine—we have a limited allotment of days on this planet, but if we use our brief stay here for our Lord, we will have His commendation hereafter. The talents God gifts us with, when employed for His purposes today, will be acknowledged in that eternal Day. This is the reward of stewardship.

A stewardship principle to remember in giving is this: God demands the tithe and He deserves the offering. Ten percent is His, right off the top—the first fruits of our labors—that’s the tithe. Then, since God is so generous with us, as we are able, we can give generously beyond that in special offerings. God has promised to meet all our needs. He does—and then some! Can we content ourselves with just meeting the minimum requirements when giving back a portion to such a beneficent Being who lavishes us with such bounty?

Now, for a personal challenge: The last Sunday of this month, we will receive a special offering to retire the debt on the Gayle Brown Ministry Center of Buncombe Baptist Association. This is a vital building for staging missions outreach throughout our county and the world! Our Director of Missions, Dr. Craig Bailey (also a member of Pole Creek along with his wife and mother-in-law) has called on Buncombe Baptists to eliminate the debt and help us free up dollars paid to the bank in interest to be utilized for mission work. Pray about what God would have you to do. Let’s all do what we can!

I will be preaching at the fall meeting of Buncombe Baptist Association, only a few days after we receive that offering. It would be a thrill to be able to say that Pole Creek has helped push us over the top in eradicating that indebtedness.

* Genesis 14:20; Leviticus 27:30-32; Deuteronomy 8:18; Malachi 3:8-12; Matthew 6:1-4,19-21; 19:21; 23:23; 25:14-29; Luke 12:16-21,42; 16:1-13; Acts 2:44-47; 5:1-11; 17:24-25; 20:35; Romans 6:6-22; 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 4:1-2; 6:19-20; 12; 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8-9; 12:15; Philippians 4:10-19; 1 Peter 1:18-19. (Baptist Faith and Message, 2000)


Some have called the downward slide of morality in the US, the "pornification" of culture. In view of what we are seeing all about us (and we are seeing too much) this seems a fitting (too tight-fitting) description. Even in the church house we will sometimes see far too much flesh. It's awfully hard for a teenage boy to think about God when there are yards of tanned skin spread out like a buffet in front of him! Someone might say to me--you're a dirty old man! The truth is--I don't want to become one! Yet, there are those resisting the carnal tide. Consider the following article:

Walking on the “Mild” Side: The burgeoning modesty movement
Penna Dexter - Sep 10, 2007 - comment

Overexposed is a word that comes to mind when considering young celebrities like Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Nicole Richie. We see too much coverage of them in the news and not enough coverage on their bodies. But it’s not just Hollywood. Young women in general are looking a bit trashy these days.

Take a look at your high school yearbook or photo album. If you’re under 30, look at your mom’s. You’ll notice something: less skin. Certainly there were the exceptions. Remember hot pants? Parental reminders regarding necklines, skirt length, and “sending the wrong signals” have always been a necessary part of raising a girl.

But, in recent years, even good girls dress like they’re bad. And young women who would rather cover up more have trouble finding stylish clothes that work for them.
Sometimes even their mothers, unwilling to look matronly, find themselves with scant middle ground between frumpy and Desperate Housewives. So they compromise, just a little, then a little more until we have a new norm where fashion trumps modesty. Thus, over time, style and elegance are defined down. Christian women and girls unwittingly undermine their testimonies by the way they dress.

A few churches are attempting to address the problem. So are some public schools. In Arlington, Texas, the school board voted last year to prohibit “the display of cleavage.”

Some Arlington parents complained that the cleavage ban would be tough to enforce. We can only hope that most are grateful for the back-up in the modesty battle. Some students said the rule would make back-to-school shopping more difficult, and a trip to any mall proves their point. It’s almost impossible to find clothes teen girls like that don’t reveal too much, sometimes way too much. The fashion industry seems to be conspiring with the popular culture to tear down the natural modesty that God has provided as protection for little girls. Some parents, especially mothers, even Christian moms, are going along with it.

Little girls’ natural modesty gets its first challenge during the grade school years, when they are inundated with the Britney Spears-Bratz dolls culture. This world is less than wholesome, to put it mildly, and provides inspiration for clothing manufacturers. Parents do not have to buy the dolls and the provocative clothes for their little girls. But they do, by the millions. Mothers hold the purse strings and have the final say regarding their teen daughters’ clothes. But faced with the most popular stores offering revealing clothing and little else, moms of teenage girls are tempted to compromise to avoid friction with their daughters. In doing so, they sacrifice something very important, their daughters’ modesty. Parents who should be protecting this treasure are allowing, even encouraging, it to dissolve. Girls are victims of this corrosion. So is a society that once benefited from the virtue of its women. We no longer encourage that virtue. The sexual revolution of the 1960s that claimed to empower women fueled a full-blown sexualized culture.

But there are some encouraging signs that this is changing.

Move over Paris and Britney. Make room for the “Mild Girls.” The “Wild Girls” get a lot of media attention for their jail sentences and stints in rehab. And sadly, they are role models for even very young girls. But a recent Newsweek (7/23/07) story describes a growing modesty movement in which young women are learning they don’t have to be what Newsweek calls “bad, or semi-clad.”

It’s a welcome backlash. Author Wendy Shalit calls it “a youth led rebellion” in her new book, Girls Gone Mild: Young Women Reclaim Self Respect and Find It’s Not Bad to Be Good. The book is filled with stories of girls who, often motivated by their faith, or just the innate desire not to be defined as sex objects, hunger to escape the sexualized culture. Shalit’s 1999 book A Return To Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue, offered a common sense rationale for chastity and virginity. It hit a nerve and sparked a “modesty movement” that has given her the opportunity to continue talking to girls who are tired of the pressure to portray themselves as sex sirens. Her Web site (
http://www.modestyzone.net) has spawned at least a dozen others.

Additional leaders in the modesty movement include model and actress Summer Bellessa, publisher of the magazine Eliza, launched in June. Her goal is to help women be stylish and “still keep high standards in dress, entertainment and lifestyle.” And then there’s Brenda Sharman, National Director of Pure Fashion, a modeling and etiquette program for teen girls. The Web site (
http://www.purefashion.com) features a schedule of the group’s fashion shows across the country. A new fashion niche is developing, and clothing manufacturers are beginning to respond.

The modesty movement is about much more than clothing, but dress is a sort of bellwether. Paul, in 1 Timothy 2:9 instructs women to dress in “modest clothing, with decency and good sense.” It’s unrealistic to minimize the impact and importance of fashion. The truth is most females love clothes. The “mild” girls are not rejecting the trampy look in favor of the drab denim jumper. Modesty and glamour are not mutually exclusive! Allyson Waterman, from the shopping magazine Lucky and a regular guest on Good Morning America, says we’ve hit a limit in style and behavior. She says the modesty backlash is not about being dumpy or “hiding under a lot of fabric” but “about embracing a woman’s body with elegance and decorum,” a la the style icons of the past like Jackie O, Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. No, they’re not the role models for Christian girls, but we never saw their navels or their bra straps.

Some feminists call this modesty revival a new kind of oppression. The mild girls will tell you it’s liberating.

Penna Dexter is a board member of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, a conservative activist and an announcer on the syndicated radio program Life on the Line. She currently serves as a consultant for KMA Direct Communications in Plano, Texas, and as a co-host of Jerry Johnson Live, a production of Criswell Communications.