Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Transparency In The Church

Below an excerpt of a good message regarding church leadership by Lee Grady of Charisma. You may click the link at the bottom of the entry to finish reading the article. (Wow--what a typo I had on this one...LOL---took weeks to catch it!)

"Please do not "lick" the link at the bottom, but rather "click" the link at the bottom of the entry..."

Why Bishop Eddie Long Should Be Transparent

by Lee Grady

The church has had enough spin, denial and closed-door settlements. Leaders must demonstrate humility and repentance.

A few years ago a minister in my city went through a divorce, and the messy details of the settlement between the pastor and his wife were reported in our newspaper. But when the divorce was finalized there was no public statement. The man’s wife disappeared from the stage, her photo vanished from the church website and nothing further was said. Zip. Nada. No comment.

The message: It’s none of your business what happened between the pastor and his wife. He’s the anointed messenger of God. Just follow him.

Another pastor in my city stepped down from his pulpit briefly for unknown “indiscretions”—and then it became known that he had been carrying on an affair with a stripper from France. The man never resigned from leadership, and his wife eventually divorced him. Today, this preacher appears on Christian television, and he still has a following.

The message: Anointing is what’s important. Character is secondary. If a guy can preach the paint off the walls and get everyone shouting, then relax—it really doesn’t matter how he runs his personal life.

Then last month, Bishop Eddie Long of Atlanta settled out of court with four young men who had accused him of using gifts, trips and jobs to entice them into sexual relationships. The pastor of 25,000-member New Birth Missionary Baptist Church told his congregation last fall that he would fight the charges. But in late May, Long agreed to pay an undisclosed amount to the four men, and the terms of the agreement were sealed. The church said in a statement that the settlement was engineered “to bring closure” and that the congregation will now “move forward with the plans God has for this ministry.”

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Southern Baptists Move To Diversify

Southern Baptists elect black pastor to No. 2 post
Associated Press

PHOENIX – Members of the Southern Baptist Convention elected an African-American pastor to its No. 2 position for the first time on Tuesday, signifying an effort to diversify its leadership and flock at a time of declines in overall membership and church attendance.

Fred Luter Jr., the head pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, was elected with 1,558 votes, or 77 percent. Some of his supporters had expected him to be unopposed, but he picked up a local Arizona challenger in Tuesday's session. Rick Ong, a deacon at First Chinese Baptist Church in Phoenix, received 441 votes, or 23 percent, according to results from the Baptist Press.

The move to elect Luter comes at the same time the SBC is making a push for greater participation among what it sometimes calls its "non-Anglo" members in the life of the convention, particularly in leadership roles.

Luter's church is one of an estimated 3,400 black churches in the nation's largest Protestant denomination, a small minority of more than 45,700 total SBC-affiliated churches with about 16 million members total.

His election also sets up the potential for his election to the top position of president when the denomination holds its annual meeting next year in Luter's hometown of New Orleans.

It's a big step for a denomination whose history is rooted in a split over race. The denomination originally formed in 1845 in a split with the American Baptist Convention over the question of whether slave owners could be missionaries. The SBC was silent or actively opposed civil rights through the 1970s, and many congregations excluded blacks. It was not until 1989 that convention declared racism a sin.

In 1994, the convention elected its first African-American to an executive position when the Rev. Gary Frost was named second vice president. In 1995, the denomination issued an apology to blacks for slavery. That same year, Luter was elected to succeed Frost as second vice president.

Luter said it doesn't make him uncomfortable that people want to see this as a milestone for African-Americans.

"There's no way we can get around it. Here's a convention that started on slavery. Years later you have an African-American one step away from the presidency. I can't deny that," Luter said.

Robert Anderson, a pastor who also serves on a SBC executive committee, said Luter's vice-presidency affirms that the time has come for the SBC to have a greater presentation of members of various backgrounds.

"It helps reflect what people desire to see more of in our convention," Anderson said.

Several prominent pastors in the denomination were pulling for Luter, including the man who nominated him, Danny Akin, President of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.

David S. Dockery, the president of SBC-affiliated Union University in Jackson, Tenn., tweeted soon after the voting results were announced: "Hope he will be elected president next year in New Orleans!"

Luter said presidential aspirations were far from his mind.

"Give me time to enjoy this first. I'm not even thinking that far ahead," Luter said. "I want to enjoy the vice presidency, enjoy the moment."

This year's meeting comes following the release of internal figures showing SBC affiliates baptized fewer people in 2010 than any time since the 1950s and also saw declines in overall membership and attendance.

David W. Key Sr., the director of Baptist Studies at Emory University's Candler School of Theology, said the decline reflects the fact that the membership of many Southern Baptist churches is aging.

"Over the next few years membership is going to drop even more dramatically," he said. "And older members are the financial foundation of the churches. As they die off that trend is going to have a big impact."

It's a trend many mainline protestant churches began seeing a couple of decades earlier, in part because of the declining religiosity of Americans in general. The Southern Baptists have been somewhat insulated from the trend, he said, because of their heavy concentration in the South, where religious participation has declined more slowly than in other parts of the country.

"They want to start planting churches, which is a smart move," said Key, who is a Southern Baptist. "How that strategy unfolds is going to be the kicker."

He said the SBC has been very effective at creating ethnic churches. "But they've not created a strategy for how to shift predominantly Anglo churches into multicultural churches."

According to statistics released last week from Lifeway Christian Resources, the publishing arm of the Nashville, Tenn.-based SBC, baptisms declined by nearly 5 percent in 2010 over 2009, with churches reporting 332,321 baptisms last year.

Many Southern Baptists consider that an important indicator of the denomination's health because evangelism is a defining characteristic of their identity.

Key said a more telling number is probably how many people actually attend SBC churches on Sunday. The SBC puts that figure at 6,195,449 for 2010, a 0.19 percent drop over the previous year.

Total membership in 2010 also dropped 0.15 percent from 2009 to 16,136,044, the fourth straight year of decline.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Power Of Audio

The following article was originally published on Mission Network News. Click on the link towards the bottom to read the story in its entirity.

Hostile village opens up to the Gospel

Mozambique (MNN) ― Over the last two years, audio Scripture players have been distributed across Mozambique. The results of handing out the small, Bible-loaded devices have been jaw-dropping.

A team of missionaries with Audio Scripture Ministries recently traveled 6,000 kilometers to chart just how significant progress has been.

Tom Dudenhofer, executive director of ASM, says the team felt compelled to revisit several areas throughout the country.

"[Two years ago], the demand had been so strong and the supply had been so small that we just felt like it was critical that we try to go back into the area and encourage some of the Christians that were there. [We wanted] to remind them that we haven't forgotten them and that we really do care about their ministries," says Dudenhofer.

ASM has heard story after story of life transformation in Mozambique, and this trip was no exception. Perhaps the most notable discovery of the recent trip was of an entire village that had rearranged its thinking on Christ.

The village had been closed toward the message of Jesus Christ. Dudenhofer says they were hostile to the message for both religious and political reasons and were unwilling to hear the Truth.

Nevertheless, ASM missionaries left an audio player in the hands of a believing couple in the area. When another villager heard the player going one day, he came in and listened with them. Soon after, he gave his life to Christ.

Click here to continue to read.