Month: March 2017

Easter and the Posture of Hope: Why are you looking for the living among the dead?

The day of Jesus’ resurrection has always been an orienting point for Christians. From the beginning, it was the day for their weekly gatherings. Soon it became a pivotal day in the annual Christian calendar. Prior to Easter each year, we reflect on Jesus’ perfect submission—from his victory over Satan’s temptations in the wilderness to his ultimate act of obedience on the cross. We examine our own devotion and deal intentionally with the temptations and distractions that keep us from full obedience. The posture prior to Easter, then, reflects a penitent heart. At Easter, this posture of penitence gives way to a posture of celebration. The commemoration of Jesus’s resurrection pivots us from contemplating the humility of the suffering Lamb to celebrating the power of the risen Lamb; from identifying with the crucified Servant to exalting the victorious Savior.

This shift in postures is rooted in the events that occurred on the very day of Jesus’ resurrection. The two women who went to Jesus’ tomb that morning received the first lesson on proper Easter posture. The lesson comes in the form of a question: “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5). While it is true that the question has something to do with their location at the tomb, it is their posture that prompts the question. 

Luke reports that when the women “inclined their faces to the ground” the messengers asked the question, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” Why would the women’s posture toward the ground prompt this question? Because early Christians knew that they lived in a world governed by the words of Genesis 3:19: “You will eat food by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground, since you were taken from it; for you are dust, and you will return to dust.” The women’s posture that morning was entirely reasonable in light of these words. Each and every body laid in a tomb would return to the ground, the dust. A change had occurred that morning, however, that the women’s posture did not reflect. Jesus’ resurrection had brought about a new posture. The women should not be inclined toward the ground looking for Jesus but standing and facing him as their risen Lord.

Easter posture is not, however, merely standing and facing the resurrected Lord. It is standing and facing our future because of his resurrection. Forty days prior to Easter, some Christians have ash placed on their foreheads and hear the words: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” They are reminded of the brevity of life and the urgency of present obedience. If you have been to a funeral this past year, you don’t need an ashen symbol to remind you of the brevity of life or that death still grips creation. As you inclined your face toward the body that was to be placed in the ground, you were confronted with the fact that this is not how God created that person. The eulogies testified to the fact that there is no one in the world who spoke, sang, laughed or loved like the one whose body lay in the casket. 

It is at just this point where the women’s lesson is vital for us because the Easter posture is a posture of hope. Death results in the body returning to the ground—for now. Sorrow and grief are real—for now. Because of Jesus’s resurrection, however, we can stand and face our future with hope. Paul says it this way: “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; afterward, at his coming, those who belong to Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).

Are you struggling to face your future? Maybe you have experienced a great tragedy in your life: the death of a friend or family member, a diagnosis of a terminal disease. Maybe the loss of someone or something that has provided security has shaken your confidence in the future: the betrayal of a close friend or spouse, the loss of a job. Maybe anxiety is just your persistent struggle; you struggle to face the future even in the absence of crises. The question is good for you to hear: Why do you seek for the living among the dead? Allow the fact of Jesus’ resurrection give you the confidence to face your future. With his resurrection in mind, stand up and face your future with hope. 

REVIEW: Is “Boss Baby” family-friendly & OK for kids?





Tim is a typical 7-year-old rambunctious boy, with a wild imagination to match his energy. He flies into space, explores the Congo and dives deep into the sea—all from the comfort of his parents’ suburban living room. And at night, mom and dad read stories and sing songs as he falls asleep.         

Life as an only child, he tells us, is great.

Then one sunny day, a new baby arrives in the home. But this is no normal baby. He wears a suit. He carries a briefcase. And when the parents aren’t looking, he even walks and talks. This baby also is a sassy jerk, which quickly leads to tensions with Tim.  

DreamWorks’ animated film The Boss Baby (PG) opens in theaters this weekend, telling the story of an adult-like baby (voiced by Alec Baldwin) who has one mission: ensure that babies throughout the world receive more love than do puppies.

The film is loosely based on a 2010 book by the same name and envisions a world in which babies are made by a company called Baby Corp., puppies by a competing company, Puppy Co., and there’s a finite amount of love to be divided between them.  

“We’ve always been No. 1,” the Boss Baby says during a pep talk to his baby contemporaries.

The plot thickens when it is discovered that Puppy Co. has plans for a new breed of puppy that will never age—a novelty that is sure to make puppies No. 1.

The core of the film’s plot is creative, even enjoyable. Yet the strife between Boss Baby and Tim likely will turn off many parents. (Details below.)  

The film stars Jimmy Kimmel as the voice of the dad, Lisa Kudrow as the mom, Steve Buscemi as a company president, and Tobey Maguire as the narrator/adult Tim. Miles Christopher Bakshi plays the younger Tim.

Thanks to partnerships with Subway, Tampico and Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt, even kids who haven’t seen the trailer may want to go. 

But is it OK for children of all ages? And what lessons can kids learn from it? Let’s take a look …   

The Good

Minor spoilers ahead!

Despite its flaws, the filmmakers should be commended for promoting the concept of not only the family, but a larger family. Tim is hesitant at first to share the house with a brother, but by the end of the film he sees the blessings of siblings. (See Worldview, below.) The mother and father are portrayed as loving parents.   

The film also promotes teamwork, selflessness and sacrifice. There is a redemptive moment at the movie’s end.

It’s not the funniest animated film I’ve seen this year, but I did laugh several times.

The Bad

Boss Baby—like nearly every animated film ever made—has a good, positive ending. The problem? It takes seemingly forever to get there, which means that for most of the movie we are forced to endure an ugly, verbal (and sometimes physical) war between the brothers. Some families will find this humorous, but others—such as ones who have experienced sibling jealousy when a new baby is born—will find it uncomfortable. This is especially true for families who are still fighting those battles. (And thus, the positive final 10-15 minutes will get lost.)

We watch as Tim is ignored at night—no bedtime story, no song—and the parents struggle to get Boss Baby to sleep. At the dinner table, the baby gets all the attention, too.       

“Everyone wants the hot new thing,” Boss Baby tells Tim in his annoying tone when they are alone. “… There’s only so much love to go around.”

He adds, “Babies get all the love. … There’s not enough love [within the family] for the two of us.”

Later they trade more insults: “I wish I’d never met you,” Boss Baby says, to which Tim retorts: “I wish you’d never been born.”

Tim and Boss Baby fight in the backyard. When Tim records Boss Baby talking, Boss Baby threatens to harm Tim’s stuffed animal by stapling its nose (which he does.)

The film contains quite a few shots of cartoon baby bottoms, and at one point even shows Boss Baby fully nude, with his private parts pixelated.

Boss Baby critiques the story of Hansel and Gretel by saying it’s only about “cannibalism” and “burning people alive.” He also grabs a flashlight and makes a joke in the dark: “I’ve come for your soul.”

Tim and Boss Baby steal an airplane ticket and lie twice, with no consequences.

Boss Baby says “fart” twice and abuses the word “God” twice. Other than that, there is no coarse language.

The Worldview

In a society that often views children as a burden, it’s always nice when Hollywood promotes larger families. Americans on average say that 2.6 is the ideal number of children to have, although in the 1950s their answer was closer to 4 (source: Gallup). Many factors have contributed to this, but it seems we’ve strayed from what Scripture teaches: Children are a blessing (Psalm 127:3). (As an aside, the 2016 animated film Storks delivers this message better than does Boss Baby. Storks also has less baggage and is funnier—although it has a split-second gay couple scene you can preview on YouTube prior to watching it with the kids.)

The Verdict: OK for Kids?

Boss Baby is like most animated films these days: It has a few content problems that will have different families making different decisions. As for me? My children struggle enough with intra-sibling jealously, so we’ll be skipping this one.    

Discussion Questions

What are the benefits of being an only child? What are the benefits of having siblings? When a new baby is born, how can parents and extended family make the transition easier on brothers and sisters? Why didn’t Tim and Boss Baby get along? Who was at fault? Was it OK for Tim and Boss Baby to steal the ticket? To lie? Did the end justify the means? Is there a finite amount of love in the world?  

Entertainment rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3.5 out of 5. 

Boss Baby is rated PG some mild rude humor.

LGBT themes spread in kids” entertainment

NASHVILLE Themes promoting gay, bisexual and transgender lifestyles are becoming more prevalent in entertainment expressly marketed to children, most notably with Disney’s updated version of “Beauty and the Beast.”

Disney’s remake of Beauty and the Beast debuted in theaters March 17 and includes a reimagined LeFou, who expresses a homosexual yet conflicted attraction to the brutish and macho Gaston, the movie’s director Bill Condon told the gay Attitude Magazine. [See the TEXAN Family Movie Review on Beauty and the Beast]

The movie comes after Disney already included a scene with several same-gender couples kissing in the Feb. 27 episode of the children’s cartoon “Star vs. the Forces of Evil,” available on the Disney XD network website.

At the Feb. 18-21 New York Toy Fair, Tonner Doll Company unveiled a new doll portraying a boy who perceives himself a girl. The Jazz doll, named after transgender 16-year-old Jazz Jennings, will be available in July, CNN reported. The doll has no specific characteristic that would deem it transgender but is designed with Jennings’ facial features.

One Million Moms (1MM) has pushed back against the LGBT-friendly themes, opening a campaign against Disney with a petition that had already collected over 21,000 signatures a day after its March 1 posting at onemillionmoms.com.

“This is the last place parents would expect their children to be confronted with content regarding sexual orientation. Issues of this nature are being introduced too early and too soon, and it is becoming extremely common and unnecessary,” 1MM said in a March 1 press release. “Disney has decided to be politically correct versus providing family-friendly entertainment. Disney should stick to entertaining instead of pushing an agenda.”

The live-action version of Beauty and the Beast will include a moment that Condon has described as “exclusively gay.”

“LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston,” Condon is quoted by several news outlets including time.com. “He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings. And Josh [actor Josh Gad] makes something really subtle and delicious out of it. And that’s what has its payoff at the end, which I don’t want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.”

Regarding the animated Disney XD cartoon featuring homosexual kisses, 14-year-old princess Star, the title character, is attending a concert at which same-sex couples are included in a scene featuring several characters kissing.

“Disney has been under pressure from the gay community to portray openly gay relationships in its TV shows and movies,” 1MM said. “And last fall, the creators of ‘Moana’ mentioned in an interview … that they wouldn’t rule out an LGBT Disney princess. Director Ron Clements said, ‘It seems like the possibilities are pretty open at this point.’”

In his daily podcast The Briefing March 2, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. noted Disney’s intention “to be known as the production company that comes out with a movie that has the first major same-sex relationship portrayed for children.”

“We also have to note that when we laugh at something, when we find something interesting and not to mention entertaining, effectively our thinking will become aligned with our hearts,” Mohler said. “That’s exactly why Hollywood is Ground Zero for so much of the change driving the moral revolution around us.”

The Jazz doll debuted with a pink shirt and denim shorts, the outfit Jennings wears on the cover of the memoir “Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen.” But the doll was also featured in New York in a sparkling white ballerina dress.

Jennings posted a photo of the doll on Instagram with the descriptor, “The doll is considered to be the first ‘transgender’ doll because it’s based on an individual who is trans. Of course it is still just a regular girl doll because that’s exactly what I am: a regular girl!” 

UPDATED: 13 senior adults from FBC New Braunfels killed in bus crash

–UPDATED MARCH 30 @ 4:00 P.M.–

SAN ANTONIO—A bus carrying senior adults from First Baptist Church in New Braunfels was involved in a head-on collision with a pickup truck Wednesday afternoon, March 29. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) confirmed that 13 of the 14 people on the bus died, and two others, including the truck driver, were injured in the crash near San Antonio.

The church members were returning from a three-day retreat at Alto Frio Baptist Encampment in Leakey. The accident occurred on Highway 83 near Garner State Park in Concan.

Three people initially survived the crash, but one died after being transferred to the hospital. Authorities said the driver of the truck was at fault, but no further details were given.

The church cancelled Wednesday night activities but opened the church sanctuary for prayer.

“We are ministering to family members to help them deal with this tragedy. Counselors will be on hand at the church tomorrow. If you’re a Christian, you can pray for those who lost their loved ones and for the church family,” said a statement on the church’s Facebook page.

A follow-up post on Facebook at 10:40 p.m. Wednesday night said, “It is with heavy hearts that we confirm that thirteen of the fourteen passengers in today’s bus accident were called home to Jesus. The survivor is in serious but stable condition. Families have been notified. Out of respect for the families, we will wait until tomorrow to publish an official statement and list of names. Thank you for the outpouring of love and support. Please continue to pray.”

“Our hearts are broken as we pray for the families who lost loved ones,” said Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. “Because of Jesus, the precious saints who left this earth shed the confines of the flesh to enter the glorious presence of our Lord. We stand with the pastor and church in constant prayer.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott released a statement, saying, “Cecilia and I extend our deepest condolences to the victims and the families of those involved in today’s tragic event. We are saddened by the loss of life and our hearts go out to all those affected. We thank the first responders working on the scene in the wake of this unimaginable tragedy, and ask that all Texans join us in offering their thoughts and prayers.”

DPS officials identified those killed in the accident as Howard Bryan Allen, 81; Rhonda Barlow Allen, 61; Harold Boyd Barber, 87; Margaret Robinson Barber, 82; Murray William Barrett, 67; Mildred Goodlett Rosamond, 87; Sue Wynn Tysdal, 76; Dorothy Fern Vulliet, 84; and Martha Holcomb Walker, 84, all residents of New Braunfels. Others killed in the crash were Avis Scholl Banks, 83, of Austin; Cristie Clare Moore, 68, of Cibolo; and Donna Elizabeth Hawkins, 69, of Schertz. Addie Maurine Schmeltekopf, 84, of New Braunfels, died at University Hospital.

The only survivor from the church bus—Rose Mary Harris, 64, of New Braunfels—was in critical condition at San Antonio Military Medical Center in San Antonio. DPS identified the driver of the pickup truck as Jack Dillon Young, 20, of Leakey, who they said is in stable condition at University Hospital.

RELATED STORY: Read story on Pastor Brad McLean’s message to church members on the Sunday after the crash

Encourager Conference designed to help pastors and wives recharge





COLLEGE STATION Pastors and pastors’ wives know the roller coaster that can be ministry, days filled with extreme joys and debilitating lows. Pastoral ministry can test the mettle of a man and a marriage. 

For this reason, Central Baptist Church in College Station is hosting the Encourager Conference April 21-22 to help pastors and their wives find renewal and joy in life and ministry. 

Five Texas pastors and their wives will lead main sessions and breakout sessions designed to provide both personal and practical ministry encouragement. Each of these couples has experienced challenges and victories, and their desire is to remind others that “we can be ordinary pastors’ wives and pastors and experience fruitful, satisfying ministries.”

Leading the sessions will be Chris Osborne, pastor of Central Baptist in College Station, and his wife, Peggy; Nathan Lino, pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church in Humble, and his wife, Nicole; Matt Carter, pastor of The Austin Stone Community Church, and his wife, Jennifer; Kevin Ueckert, pastor of First Baptist Church in Georgetown, and his wife, Lynlee; and Josh Smith, pastor of MacArthur Blvd Baptist Church in Irving, and his wife, Andrea.

“Most conferences focus on church growth and how to build a big church. We want to focus on the pastors who are out there and need to be encouraged, rather than discouraged, because they aren’t drawing a massive crowd. That is the heartbeat of our conference,” Osborne told the TEXAN.

Separate breakout session options will be available for a pastor and his wife, addressing common struggles such as jealousy, resentment, loneliness, extraordinary personal trials, and maximizing the final years of ministry. Specific pastor breakout sessions will also give encouragement and best practices on preaching, handling criticism and conflicts, managing workflow, casting vision, and leaving well.

Couples can register for the conference at sbtexas.com/encourager. Cost is $25 per person ($50 per couple), with an optional dinner on Friday night for an additional $10 each. A limited number of scholarships from the SBTC Pastor/Church Relations department are available through April 14. Call 817-552-2500 for more information. 

The Resurrection is Essential to the Gospel

Easter is April 16 this year. Since Easter observance is based on the movement of the moon it fluctuates significantly. Historically, the earliest Easter has arrived is March 22, which happened in 1818, and latest is April 25, which occurred in 1943.

As we approach Easter I could not resist putting forth a thought for consideration. We know that our current Western calendar is four years off of historical accuracy. This would put Jesus being born in 4 B.C. and starting his ministry around 26 A.D., with the crucifixion and resurrection taking place in 30 A.D. Passover (Jesus’ crucifixion as the Pascal Lamb) would have been April 6 by our present calendar dating, which would mean that Jesus was crucified on Thursday. So much for Good Friday! But the resurrection was still on Sunday! Now that I’ve stirred that hornet’s nest, let’s move on to the more important topic, the bodily resurrection of our Lord Jesus, the foundation for hope on Easter.

As a student in a Baptist college I heard in a chapel service that it wasn’t important whether Jesus literally and bodily resurrected from the dead. I was told as long as the influence of Jesus lived on in me that was the important thing. Denying the miraculous was not uncommon in our Baptist institutions almost a half-century ago. For those who get weary of hearing about battles for the Bible, let me remind you that eternal vigilance is necessary to preserve the truth. The battle for the Bible will be over when Jesus returns. 

“The testimony of Jesus Christ is found in every book of the Bible. The Bible is our only reliable witness of the historicity of Jesus and his words. Five times Jesus was seen on the Resurrection Day: Mary Magdalene, the women, Peter, the eleven, and the two disciples traveling to the village of Emmaus. Easter is a good time to reintroduce others to the literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus.”

The testimony of Jesus Christ is found in every book of the Bible. The Bible is our only reliable witness of the historicity of Jesus and his words. Five times Jesus was seen on the Resurrection Day: Mary Magdalene, the women, Peter, the eleven, and the two disciples traveling to the village of Emmaus. Easter is a good time to reintroduce others to the literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus.

The resurrection is the foundation of the gospel. Without the resurrection, the cross is a sad ending of a good man; with the resurrection, the cross is the sufficient sacrifice of the God-man. The Apostle Paul put it plainly that “if Christ is not risen, your faith is in vain; you are yet in your sins!” (1 Corinthians 15:17). Without the resurrection, we have no hope; but with it, we have the assurance of eternal life. Preaching the gospel must include the resurrection because it is an integral part of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4).

The resurrection promises us a glorious future. Believers will not live in eternity as disembodied spirits but will receive resurrected bodies like Jesus. “We know that when he is revealed, we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). We have much to celebrate.  

Christians observe the resurrection every Sunday when we gather to worship. A life-changing experience is available with the risen Lord. This is what Christianity is all about—the living Lord Jesus. Is this extremism? Yes. So are Islam, Communism, and secularism. It is time to get extreme about the living Lord Jesus. He puts within us a desire to tell the Good News like the women on that first Easter morning. It is easy to find bad news; let’s be bearers of the Good News. He’s alive! 

REVIEW: Is “Power Rangers” OK for kids & teens? (And is there really a lesbian character?)





Jason was a star high school quarterback until he was arrested for an immature prank, and now he rarely sees eye to eye with his father. His schoolmate, Billy, is autistic and mostly keeps to himself, although the school bully won’t let it stay that way. Then there’s Trini, a loner who goes to the same school, has few friends and even fewer who know her name.

They seemingly have little in common, until one night an explosion on a mountain outside of town exposes hundreds of colorful crystals—shining like fireflies—that appear to be from another world.

Our trio of students, along with two others from the same school, rush to the location and soon discover that the crystals give them superhuman powers. They now can jump over houses. They can jump over canyons. Billy even can whip the bully.

Eventually, though, they learn that their powers have a greater purpose—to defeat a witch named Rita Repulsa, who has come to Earth to find a special stone called the Zeo Crystal. If she captures it and the other crystals, we are told, the world will explode.

Power Rangers (PG-13) opens in theater this weekend, nearly 25 years after a cartoon by the same name appeared on American televisions and roughly two decades after a pair of Power Rangers films were released. This one, though, is a reboot, meaning it does not follow the storyline of those earlier films.

The latest Power Rangers film also gives us Hollywood’s first gay or lesbian superhero—if you believe the hype (more on that in a bit).

The movie targets teens and older children, although plenty of adults who grew up on the franchise will want to check it out.

So, is Power Rangers family-friendly? Let’s take a look …

The Good

Warning: minor spoilers

Much like the original TV series—remember “morphin’ time”?—the Power Rangers film promotes teamwork and selflessness. In fact, the five superheroes find it impossible to fight Rita until they put aside their differences, learn to trust one another, and become honest. The Power Rangers’ rules affirm this me-last attitude. Among the rules: never use your power for personal gain, and never reveal your identity.

The movie contains a wonderful anti-bullying message, as Jason,the most popular kid in the school, defends Billy and then befriends him. Parents of children with autism likely will appreciate how the latter is portrayed.

It also includes an apparent message about sexting, as Kimberly, one of the rangers, expresses deep regret after sending a friend’s picture (we don’t see it) to someone else. (The word “sexting” isn’t used, but the picture, by her description, is inappropriate.)

Broken relationships, including those between parents and children, are restored.

The Bad

Power Rangers has a confusing plot, even if you know the general story. It starts off with a strange science fiction scene with alien subtitles, improves a bit after that, and then goes downhill again. It just might be the worst big-money superhero film I’ve seen, and I’ve watched a lot—and liked most of them. (Its budget was a reported $100 million). The film’s antagonist (Rita) goes from scary to gross to just plain goofy, and the movie—for the most part—has the feel of an expensive made-for-TV Nickelodeon production. The story just isn’t that good. (And five more films may be in the works.)

The movie is being billed as containing the first LGBT superhero, but the scene in question is so subtle that it’s easy to miss. As the five gather around a campfire late at night, Trina is describing her frustrations in life when one of the boys asks, “boyfriend problems?” Not satisfied with her response, he then asks, “girlfriend problems?” She doesn’t answer him, though, and instead starts talking about her parents. The scene could have been interpreted as her not having any relationship problems or her simply being annoyed by the questions. Or maybe we are supposed to think she is a lesbian. It’s not clear, even if director Dean Israelite says she is “questioning a lot about who she is.”

Earlier, the five high school students get away with a crime. Their discovery of the crystals comes only after they have passed a “no trespassing” and right before they flee security by hopping in a van and speeding down a road. Billy also helps Jason disable his ankle tracking device, which apparently was court-ordered.

I counted about 19 coarse words: OMG (9), a– (4), s–t (2), b–ch (1), h-ll (1), d–n (1), misuse of God (1). There also is an unfinished “holy sh–.”

There is no sexuality, although we do see Kimberly briefly in a bra.

The violence is typical for a superhero move—plentiful but mostly bloodless.

The Worldview

Our culture’s infatuation with superhero movies begs the question: Why do we enjoy stories about Spider-Man, Superman and even the Power Rangers so much? I think it’s because—to paraphrase a quote from Blaise Pascal—we all have a God-shaped vacuum. It’s innate. As part of that, we are looking and longing for that someone who has the power to defeat evil and make everything right. But there is only One who can do that. And He’s not on the big screen.

The Verdict: OK for Kids and Teens?

The witch in Power Rangers is too scary and there is too much violence for my small children, even if we forget the other problems. As for teens, this one is cleaner than many other recent PG-13 movies, but it’s far from perfect.

Discussion Questions

Who was to blame for the poor relationship between Jason and his father? Have you ever known a loner like Trini? (And if so, how can you make him or her feel wanted?) Have you ever known of someone who was bullied? (If so, how can you help?) Is sexting a problem among your peers? What is the spiritual and practical impact of sexting? Do you enjoy superhero films? (Why? Is there a spiritual dimension to society’s superhero craze?) Did the five superheroes deserve to get caught when they were trespassing? (And did the “end justify the means”?)

Power Rangers is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, language, and for some crude humor.

Entertainment rating: 2 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Disciple-making task force to work additional year

NASHVILLE A group tasked with encouraging and teaching disciple-making among Southern Baptist churches will extend its work an additional year, task force chairman Robby Gallaty told Baptist Press.

Gallaty, hosting a task force meeting in Nashville March 9, said the group will not issue a report at the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix. The task force will instead seek an additional year to evaluate discipleship and strategize. They plan to give their report at the 2018 SBC annual meeting in Dallas.

“We need more time, as you can imagine this is an overwhelming task,” said Gallaty, pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn. “And I would just ask the folks to pray for us for wisdom and direction in this.”

LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom Rainer and North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell appointed the group in 2016 to recommend ways churches can improve their discipleship programs and encourage a renewed emphasis on discipleship across the SBC.

At the March 9 meeting, the group discussed results of 250 surveys conducted among pastors of a diversity of churches, church plants and college ministries across the SBC, Gallaty said, including various ethnicities, congregation sizes and demographics.

“What we’ve found is for years, our church culture has been a catch and consume culture,” Gallaty said. “So we reach the lost, we catch them, we consume them in our church. But what we read in the New Testament is more of a disciple/deploy mentality; that’s what Jesus did.

“He called, he caught them, but then he discipled them, and then he deployed them, and that’s really where the missing link is, I think, in the process,” Gallaty said. “That’s where the wheels are kind of falling off if you will, in moving people through a process.”

Task force member Kevin Smith, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, surveyed pastors in urban areas, those in economically disadvantaged areas, and those outside the South.

“When you’re outside of the South, there’s not an automatic church culture,” he said, “but the advantage is, without that automatic church culture, when you introduce … what it means to be a follower of Christ, that’s the first introduction in that person’s life. … You don’t have to unteach anything.”

With the diversity in the SBC, one particular discipleship model or methodology won’t apply across the board, Smith said. Churches within and without the SBC need to do a better job of making disciples among the poor and overcome what he called “a very middle class element to American Christianity.”

“I’ve pastored churches where discipleship and small-group interaction would usually happen in someone’s house or in a café,” Smith said. “All of that assumes a certain economic level where you have a house or hospitality, or you’re the type of person that has coffee-shop type discretionary income.”

Gallaty is leading the group to address diversity and develop discipleship strategies that address varying concerns and challenges. “We’re putting together some guiderails for a process that could be implemented at every level in any size church, in any context,” Gallaty said.

Evangelism must remain a part of discipleship and must be embraced by the whole church, Gallaty said.

“We’re highly interested in evangelism. We just don’t want the pastoral staff to be the only evangelists, which is normally the case in most churches,” Gallaty said. “We want to empower an army of people to go out in the community and share the gospel, and live the gospel, and love like Christ loved.”

Joining Gallaty and Smith on the task force are Adam Dooley, pastor of Sunnyvale Baptist Church in Sunnyvale, Texas; Eric Geiger, pastor, ClearView Baptist Church, Franklin, Tenn.; Johnny Hunt, pastor, First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga.; Paul Jimenez, pastor, First Baptist Church, Taylors, S.C.; Mark Marshall, pastor, The Glade Church, Mount Juliet, Tenn.; and Pavel Urruchi, pastor, Erlanger Baptist Church, Erlanger, Ky. Also in attendance at the Nashville meeting was Gus Hernandez, spiritual formation pastor at Long Hollow Baptist Church. 

Staggered & Humbled

took Intermediate Greek in seminary with Dr. John Polhill, and we did our work in Philippians for the entire semester. Each student had to select a passage in Philippians on which to write three exegetical papers. I grew up listening to my dad preach a wonderful message on Philippians 2:1-11, so I selected that passage for my papers. That beautiful passage that some think was an early Christian hymn tells all about the humility of Christ and how he voluntarily set aside privileges that were rightly his in order to serve humanity.

I was pumped about digging into the Greek syntax and learning more about it. I studied that passage for four months. I did lexical work, syntactical work and exegetical work. I knew the ins and outs of all the Greek clauses. In fact, I memorized the passage in Greek. You could say I was an expert on Philippians 2.

The problem is that while I worked hard to become an intellectual expert on Philippians 2, I didn’t work hard to become a practical expert on it. Far from having the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5) and far from displaying the humility of Christ, I actually became more arrogant and prideful. Despite Dr. Polhill’s best efforts to challenge the students, including me, to make this more than an intellectual exercise, I failed to adequately apply the passage to my life.

Regretfully, as a young minister, I have often been guilty of arrogance and pride. I have often thought I knew better than my elders. I have often been cocksure that my solutions to the problems were always the correct ones. I still have Philippians 2:5-11 memorized, at least in English, but I often fail in having the mind of Christ.

And yet, the other day I was convicted and challenged anew to apply Philippians 2 in my life when I got to see firsthand a brother in Christ powerfully demonstrate the humility of Jesus to me.

I met recently with some state convention executive directors. Backstory: I have at times been very critical of state conventions and state convention leaders. So, I was meeting with some men who had every reason to be upset with me.

One of the men in the room was Dr. J. Robert White, the executive director of Georgia’s state convention, and he asked to go first. I braced myself wondering what he would say. However, Dr. White turned the conversation on a dime and changed the temperature of the room with his first sentence, “Jonathan, I want to ask you to forgive me.” I was caught off guard and humbled within seconds.

Dr. White went on to say that I had written some hurtful things about the Georgia Baptist Convention, and he said that instead of doing the biblical thing that he knew to do—call me or come see me to talk it out like brothers—he chose to just be upset with me. For that he said he was sorry and sought my forgiveness.

It was such a powerful moment. I was almost moved to tears and did choke up when it was my turn to speak (especially since it’s a ministry of Georgia Baptists that led to my mom to faith in Christ while she lived at the Georgia Baptist Children’s Home). It was a powerful moment because Dr. White displayed the mind of Christ. Dr. White is a man in a very important position. He is my elder. He has tenure in ministry longer than I have been alive. He honestly didn’t owe me anything. I hadn’t had the respect or courtesy to call him or sit down with him before I wrote those things. And yet, he voluntarily humbled himself before me. He apologized to me. He sought my forgiveness. In that moment I was reminded of Philippians 2 again, and I knew that’s the kind of man I want to be.

I was staggered. I was humbled by Dr. White. Of course, I forgave him and I sought his forgiveness in return. In my zeal to see more resources get to the places with little to no gospel witness, I have sometimes been guilty of being uncharitable to other brothers and have arrogantly thought my proposed solutions are the only right ones. Dr. White graciously forgave me as well.

It was an encouraging and convicting meeting—one I’ll never forget. And it’s a reminder to me that knowing the Word is one thing but practicing the Word is quite another. I hope this will be a challenge to all students and young pastors. I know it’s a challenge to me. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5) and “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22).  

Jonathan Akin, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Lebanon, Tenn., since 2011, has been named to begin a young leader initiative of the SBC Executive Committee and North American Mission Board to better engage pastors between the ages of 25-45 [see brief on page 6]. This article first appeared in The Christian Index, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.