ABN Columns & Viewpoints

Editor's Note: This section includes current and past ABN columns - published in the print edition and online exclusives - as well as viewpoints from a variety of Arkansas Baptist and Southern Baptist authors. Opinions expressed are that of the author and are not necessarily an endorsement.

Friday
Oct242014

Worship in a war zone

My brother Joel, who is currently in Afghanistan, recently sent the following email:

"I experienced a first tonight.

Kim Reeder“Here on Bagram (military base) we have a church called the Enduring Faith Chapel. I went tonight for the 6 p.m. service. We started the service as any other and it seemed as if tonight would be no different. The band cranked up and we sang a song, then transitioned into the standard “meet and greet.” Just after the opening prayer it became apparent that tonight's service would be unlike any I had ever attended. As the chaplain began to greet everyone, we heard a familiar voice coming from strategically placed loudspeakers. 'Incoming! Incoming! Incoming!' It ended to the sound of a very loud explosion. The sound, that we are far too accustomed with here at Bagram, was the impact of what was likely a 107 mm Chinese rocket. Never before have I seen an entire congregation (albeit small - maybe 40 people) immediately drop to the ground. We lay on our stomachs to avoid the shrapnel that threatened to rip through the building. Seconds later we heard the beautiful sound of outgoing fire from the C-RAMs. Imagine the largest caliber machine gun in our arsenal firing red tracer rounds into the night sky at such a rate that it looks like a singular red laser in the form of a whip slashing through the dark. While beautiful to our ears, it was also an ominous warning that more rockets were inbound and the computer guided C-RAM was attempting to intercept them midair, instead of allowing them to land and detonate.

“Now you would think that 40 smart people might run to the bunker for safety. Not us.  Instead, about 30 seconds later we stood back up and sang a song of praise so loud we could no longer hear the sirens. Some who are unfamiliar with the ways of war might say, 'Wow!  That was a brave showing of faith!' Say that if you wish, but it was not bravery. Stupidity, maybe, but certainly not bravery. We have simply become accustomed to attacks, and we all realize that if it is our time to go, no bunker 100 yards away is going to save us. 

“The point is that afterward I was contemplating what just happened and realized how lucky we are as Americans. In some parts of the world, churches meet in secret to avoid Islamist beheadings. In Nigeria, churches are frequently bombed by Boko Haram. Other places throughout the world suffer numerous fates for worshiping our God. In America, well, we don't have to go to church in secret, we don't worry about getting decapitated and we don't worry about rockets landing in the middle of the congregation.

“How blessed we are to have the freedom to worship God as He demands without the perils that so many of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ face around the globe! Let’s make sure we keep that freedom and thank God for it every day."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Kim Reeder is pastor of Barton Chapel Baptist Church in Tyronza.

Thursday
Oct162014

Many changes in new look

Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

As you may have noticed, we are introducing a lot of changes with this edition of the Arkansas Baptist News (ABN)

The newspaper has a new size, is now printed on higher quality paper and is all color.

YarbroughChanges to your state Baptist newspaper have come as a result of a number of your suggestions and careful thought by the ABN staff.

The type size of the font we use for news stories is the same, but the way in which we present news and feature stories is changing somewhat. The use of a five-column layout style will allow us to publish more stories and shorter stories on a page, as opposed to our previous four-column format.

Some pages, like the editorial page you are now reading and other selected pages will retain the four-column format.

One of the most exciting changes is that we now publish an all-color newspaper on higher quality newsprint. After all, the world you and I experience every day is in full color, so why shouldn’t your newspaper be as well?

You will also notice the newspaper came to you in a slightly different form this time, as the front page of the ABN is now folded outward, like most other newspapers.

The vertical length of the newspaper was shortened a bit to allow our newspaper to fit onto a more standard four-color press.

We are not finished with changes, and we will continue to improve the look and feel of the newspaper in the months to come as we strive to make the ABN the best state Baptist newspaper not only in Arkansas, but throughout Southern Baptist life.

Let us know what you think, and as always, send us your suggestions.

Tim Yarbrough is editor/executive director of the Arkansas Baptist News.

Thursday
Oct162014

‘Southern man’

Caleb Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News 

I was reading Tim Keller’s book The Reason for God recently when a passage in Chapter 3 jumped out at me.

Keller is pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, a church he started with his wife, Kathy, in 1989. Today Redeemer has a regular weekly attendance of more than 5,000 and meets at various locations across the city.

YarbroughIn the aforementioned passage, Keller mentions an experience he had speaking with a “man from a southern U.S. state.”

Keller writes that the man visited Redeemer after hearing that the church had grown a substantial congregation “in the midst of a skeptical, secular city” while maintaining an unflinchingly orthodox Christian doctrine.

Understanding Redeemer’s success reaching New Yorkers with the gospel,  Keller writes that the Southern man assumed the church had attracted their members and visitors through “avantgarde music, video monitors and clips, dramatic sketches, exceptionally hip settings, and other kinds of eye-catching spectacle.”

“This is a complete mystery to me. Where are the dancing bears? Where are the gimmicks? Why are these people here?” asked the Southern man.

Keller directed the man to “downtown art-types,” attending the service. 

The art-types expressed to the Southern man that they were drawn to Redeemer because it lacked the emotionally manipulative language of other churches they had visited, that attendees of Redeemer instead “addressed others with gentle, self-depricating irony,” that beliefs at the church were held in “clarity and humility” and that “teaching and communication at Redeemer was intelligent and nuanced, showing sensitivity where they were sensitive.”

As a Southern man myself, I believe we Southerners often look to the places like New York City with a kind of self-righteousness. We picture their large metropolises being bastions of godless secularism.

And they are.

But so are our cities, towns and neighborhoods.

Much like the Southern man in Keller’s story, many of us Southern believers miss the point.

If we truly believe that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation” (Rom. 1:16), then we must also believe that “hip settings,” and “avantgarde music,” do not save people.

And while it pains me to say it, it may be time we Southerners took a lesson from some of our Yankee brothers and sisters.

People need Jesus. It is tempting to believe we need to dress Him up to make Him appealing to them, but a clear and honest representaion and presentation of the gospel, in our words and deeds, continues to be the most effective form of evangelism.

Call and Response is written by Caleb Yarbrough, staff writer for the Arkansas Baptist News (ABN). It appears on the ABN’s Faith & Culture page.

Thursday
Oct022014

Religious expression flagged on the field

Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

The P.O. (politically correct) police have struck again – this time in Jonesboro with their target being the Arkansas State University football team.

Someone complained, requesting that crosses on Red Wolves football helmets – intended to commemorate the death of people close to the program – be removed. The symbol of the cross was said to be offensive and inappropriate for a state-funded university.

YarbroughI understand through media reports that the individual lodging the complaint asked not to be identified. 

The person told at least one reporter, “After all, I have to live in this town.”

In 2014, Americans find themselves living in a society that is attempting to stamp out every vestige of religion – mostly Christianity – from the public square. History often repeats itself. I have read about the same type of thing happening in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. Communist China does this type of thing often. They remove crosses regularly from Christian churches, and – by the way – shut them down too.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the incident at Arkansas State, but did you hear that Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III – a Baylor University graduate – was asked to remove or turn inside out a T-shirt he wore to a postgame NFL news conference? The offensive T-shirt read, “Know Jesus, Know Peace.” With numerous domestic violence and drug abuse allegations lodged against NFL players the past few weeks, it seems to me the NFL could use a little more Jesus and less politically correct behavior as well.

We are becoming a self-policing society – one that believes the lies of the devil telling everyone we must become a truly secular nation  – aggressively seeking to stamp out any form of religious expression.

Those reading this column may very well see the day when crosses are removed from our churches and pastors are arrested for preaching against society’s “popular” sins such as homosexuality, adultery and recreational uses of drugs – as well as a host of other things. After all, these things are offensive to sinners and secular humanists.

The P.O. police are watching, and they don’t believe the Bible you and I read, nor in a God who offers redemption for their wretched souls.

I believe that short of a massive course reversal – such as revival and a spiritual awakening sweeping our land – they won’t stop until their beliefs are forced on all of us.

May God have mercy on us, and the adversaries of Jesus Christ in our present age!

Tim Yarbrough is editor/executive director of the Arkansas Baptist News.

Tuesday
Sep232014

Family Matters: Work before play

Ben Phillips
Arkansas Baptist State Convention 

I began working with my 14-year-old son several years ago to help me with the lawn outside during the summers. 

PhillipsHe complained some initially: “None of my friends have to do this. It’s hot. Can I play with friends instead?” I would frequently say, “Work before play.”

I pressed forward as a father and trained him to the point where he took care of our entire lawn. Here are some principles for chores we’ve learned along the way.

Cultivate a biblical understanding of work. A couple  key passages to share with your children are Genesis 2:15 and Proverbs 6:6-8. Help your children memorize these passages and reflect on them frequently when they work.

Help your children complete chores. Most children will need a parental example and supervision. Here’s a five-step process: (1) Parent does chore – child watches,  (2) parent and child complete chore together,  (3) child does chore – parent watches,  (4) child does chore alone and (5) parent inspects child’s work.

Organize age-appropriate chores for your kids. Even toddlers can learn to do some chores. Gradually increase the chore responsibilities of children as they age so that they are completing many adult chores before they graduate high school and leave home.  

Reward and affirm them for their good work. Look for opportunities to positively affirm your children when they complete a chore or an assignment in a timely and excellent fashion. Praising and rewarding children for completing tasks often solicits a more favorable response than does a critical comment.

Equip your children with a variety of different skills. Cross-train your children so that boys and girls all know how to do inside chores and outside chores. It will prepare them to become responsible hardworking young adults.

My son has consistently mowed several neighbors’ lawns this summer. Neighbors saw how well he took care of our lawn and began to pay him to mow theirs. 

Work before play pays off!

Ben Phillips serves on the Arkansas Baptist State Convention evangelism and church health team.