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.

Thursday
Apr172014

Avoiding cow patties

Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

As a boy growing up on a row crop farm in southeast Missouri, I had an occasion to visit family and neighbors who had cattle.

I recall being told many times upon entering the pasture, “Be careful not to step on a cow patty.”

YarbroughWhile most of the time I was successful in avoiding what was left behind by the cattle, other times I was not – but it sure wasn’t for lack of effort.

Being editor of a state Baptist newspaper is much like that. For the most part, an editor can avoid cow patties scattered along the landscape, but other times – no matter how hard he tries – it is inevitable to step in one occasionally.

Fortunately, most of the time it is easy to champion the work and decisions of fellow Southern Baptists, but when something just doesn’t seem quite right, does it honor God and the cause of Jesus Christ to remain silent?

Many today believe that a Baptist editor should never infer that things are not always OK. Is that the posture that made the Southern Baptist Convention arguably one of the greatest evangelical denominations in the history of the world?

We live in a culture that desperately needs to hear the truth of the cross. I wonder how we can expect to be champions for the transformational power of the gospel if we cannot be honest with ourselves and seek to always be truthful and upright in word and deed.

I am staunchly Southern Baptist in spite of the conflict and change our denomination has experienced – practically my entire adult life. 

However, in an age of lies propagated by the king of lies – Satan – we must forward the truth of the cross at all costs.

I don’t believe God is finished with Southern Baptists just yet. He needs denominational leaders, pastors and members to join together to charge the gates of hell with boldness and tenacity, and to always stand for truth.

Any less is dishonoring our Lord and Savior.

Tim Yarbrough is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News. He is available to speak in your church. Email him at tim@arkansasbaptist.org.

Thursday
Apr032014

The sin of affluence

Cartoon courtesy of Jim Dyke, Jefferson City (Mo.) News-Tribune

Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News 

Being reared in a farming community in southeast  Missouri, I wasn’t around “rich” folks all that much.

Of course, there were the big farmers of the prerecession 1970s, but for the most part, the “rich” folks my family knew where doctors and lawyers who lived in the nearest “big” town of about 7,000 people.

YarbroughI grew up hearing stories of how my family members struggled during the early part of the 20th century, but “always had what they needed” because “God always provided.”

My grandfather was a humble man and farmer.

I recall vividly him praying for rain during dry spells, then for the rain to stop during wet spells. His faith was strong in “The Good Lord.”

According to the Population Reference Bureau, my grandfather, who was born in 1895, is a part of the “Hard Timer” generation. Like us, he was shaped by the times in which he was born: historical events, political climate and socioeconomic conditions.

My grandfather was frugal with money and possessions. He literaly hated owing anyone anything. Until the last years of their lives, my grandparents grew a large garden, canning what was not eaten fresh for the winter months. They also raised chickens for eggs and fryers.

For most Americans, such a lifestyle is so unfamiliar that it only exists in history books. This was the way my grandparents lived until the early 1970s.

Today, most Americans get their food from the grocery store and spend a great amount of their disposable income on restaurants and takeout.

No wonder many Americans are overweight and suffer from a host of illnesses related to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.

However, there’s another – perhaps greater – problem that doesn’t impact our health, but rather our Christian witness and reach of the Church: It’s the sin of affluence.

Most readers of this column have achieved a measure of success in their lives. Southern Baptists are a giving and missional people, but the allures of our culture constantly poke at our pocketbook.

The practice of self-denial and delayed gratification have given way to “have it now and pay it out on time” – which is a contrast to what the Bible teaches.

Many people today – Christians included – take on large amounts of debt, essentially robbing themselves of their freedom and their ability to give and support the work of the Church.

Psalm 37:21 (ESV) says “The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives.” Proverbs 22:7 (ESV) adds, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” Scripture instructs believers to be content with what they have. Hebrews 13:5 (ESV) says,“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”

How we react to our affluence is key. We can use it to either honor God or rob Him.

Tim Yarbrough is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News.

Thursday
Mar202014

Is it time for you to ‘tweet’?

Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

I have been told by some friends and family I am an early adopter of technology.

When I was younger, technology was more of a curiosity than a necessity. In modern publishing, however, it is a necessity.

YarbroughAs a student of journalism, it used to be unthinkable that anyone could become their own publisher.

The rise of the Internet over the past 20 years allows anyone with something to say – and some folks without much to say – to have a voice.

And the church has been impacted mightily by this development.

When I was public relations director for the Missouri Baptist Convention in the 1990s, the convention actually had an initiative to assist churches in establishing a basic Web page on the Internet.

Most churches today have gone way beyond a simple Web presence and now offer an online calendar of events, pastor blogs, audio and video recordings of sermons, online giving and much, much more.

As society changes and the demographics of our churches change from older members to younger members, it will be important for churches to stay tech savvy to reach younger generations.

Folks searching for a church today don’t just drive by the building to check out facilities, they also visit the church’s Web page to see what is (or isn’t) going on.

In addition to checking out the overall quality of the church’s Web presence, people will look to see if the church keeps its website up-to-date with information and news for members, how robust of a missions program it has, how the church reaches out to its community and so forth.

The staff of the Arkansas Baptist News (ABN) has worked hard over the years to not only publish a great state Baptist newspaper, but also to have a robust online presence.

While subscribers get the latest Arkansas Baptist news, those who do not subscribe can access – without additional cost – a lot of material  at www.arkansasbaptist.org. Moreover, the ABN posts bonus material on the Web and on our Facebook page that never makes it into print.

User demographics tell us that people who visit our Facebook page are on average 10 to 15 years younger and include more males – believe it or not – than those who read our printed newspaper.

And there’s another aspect of the ABN that has been growing by leaps and bounds the past couple of years: our Twitter account.

The ABN now uses Twitter – in addition to postings on Facebook – as its official news feed. What’s more, the demographics on Twitter are younger than Facebook.

If you have been apprehensive about joining Twitter, now is the time for the latest Baptist news! 

Tim Yarbrough is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News.

Thursday
Mar062014

Have Christians lost the war on culture?

Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

Any casual observer of the news understands the Church is under assault. 

A recent LifeWay Research survey of Protestant pastors bears out the reality, with a disturbing response: Fifty-nine percent say Christians are losing the culture war, while one in 10 Protestant pastors says the culture war has already been lost.

Conversely, 10 percent say Christians are actually winning the culture war.

YarbroughWhat’s more, the LifeWay survey found seven out of 10 senior pastors at Protestant churches say religious liberty is on the decline in America.

Recently, while speaking at Brigham Young University, Southern Baptist leader R. Albert Mohler Jr. told students and faculty, “We may go to jail sooner even than we thought,” recalling his concern about the threat to religious liberty raised in an earlier appearance at the Mormon-owned school.

Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., added, “I am not here because I believe we are going to heaven together, but I do believe we may go to jail together.”

The reality is that much of the world doesn’t make much of a distinction between various religions or denominations, and subsequently people of all faiths are equally the target of religious persecution.

An article about the LifeWay survey said evangelical pastors (79 percent) are more likely than mainline pastors (60 percent) to say Christians are losing or have lost the culture war.

Mainline pastors (30 percent) are also most likely to say they “don’t know” when asked about the culture war. By contrast, 13 percent of Evangelicals say they don’t know. Overall, nearly one in five pastors (19 percent) says they don’t know, the survey stated.

Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, said some of the unease about religious liberty is due to shifts in American culture and church practice.

In the 1960s, nearly two-thirds of Americans were Protestants. Today, they make up less than half of the population, according to the General Social Survey.

Fewer Protestants means less cultural power, said Stetzer.

In the past, he said, Christians – and Protestants in particular – took it for granted that Americans would look to the church for guidance on moral issues. Churches, he said, were seen as being good for society and so they were given special privileges – like exemptions from taxes and other laws. “Even if people did not go to church, they looked to the church,” Stetzer explained.

That’s no longer the case, as the government and culture no longer defer to Protestant Christians, which makes pastors and their congregations nervous.

Stetzer pointed out in the article that not all the news is bad.

“The fact that ‘Christian’ is not just a demographic category can have a positive side,” Stetzer said, which means that Protestants and other Christians have to be more active in living out their faith.

But Stetzer pointed out it has political and social consequences, as a sizable number of Protestants and other Christians run into conflicts with societal norms on issues like sexuality and marriage and other issues.

Stetzer said it is important for Protestants and like-minded religious people to think through a new strategy that defends their religious liberty, but also acknowledges that conflict.

Several recent court battles may play a role, such as the Hobby Lobby case and other cases, Thomas Kidd, professor of history at Baylor University, told LifeWay. Both involve disputes between the government and religious groups over exemptions from federal law.

In the cases, religious liberty was seen as less important than other issues – like nondiscrimination or health care, said Kidd.

Thursday
Feb202014

The priority of prayer

Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News 

I know few people who aren’t advocates of prayer.

YarbroughScripture teaches us to pray. Jesus taught His disciples how to pray around the Lord’s Prayer. Our pastors encourage us to pray. Our Southern Baptist leaders – such as Henry Blackaby at the recent evangelism conference – want us to understand the importance of prayer.

But how seriously do we really take prayer?

Sure, we pray over our meals and may say a prayer to the Lord as we start our day. But do we really pray?

There are evangelical voices in our country today who believe our country is in the mess it’s in due to the lack of prayer.

In my own prayer life, I find it is essential that I keep a comprehensive list of people and needs to pray for. 

For years, I have used what I call “ACTS” in prayer, which has been a great help to me in organizing my prayer life.

It’s a simple formula: A is for “adoration,” C is for “confession,” T is for “thanksgiving” and S is for “supplication.” 

It is a model the staff of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association encourages. They describe its components this way:

“Adoration means worship. We encourage you to begin your time of prayer by adoring and praising God. 

“Confession, the next component, means agreeing with God about the things that you have done wrong. 

“Thanksgiving basically means being thankful to God. Thank Him for His love, protection and provision just to name a few things.

“Supplication is the final component, and this means praying for your needs and for the needs of others, such as friends, family, your pastor, missionaries, government leaders and persecuted Christians around the world.”

No matter how we pray, the key of course, is to make it a priority today and every day of our lives!

Tim Yarbrough is the editor of the Arkansas Baptist News.