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.


What are we to make of our Baptist meetings?

Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

Some of you reading this recently attended the 162nd annual meeting of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention in Hot Springs.

YarbroughIt was a wonderful time of worship, fellowship and of taking care of Baptist business.

Baptists are famously, or infamously depending on your perspective,  committed to meetings and always have been.

Significant meetings of Southern Baptists – aside from those held at their local churches – are the annual association meetings, annual state meetings and at times, annual Southern Baptist Convention meetings.

So what are we to make of Baptist meetings today in the 21st century?

It seems meetings have fallen on hard times, much like many other traditional aspects of our Baptist denomination.

So just why are Baptist meetings important, such as the recently-completed annual meeting? Here’s my take:

(1) They demonstrate our unity in Jesus Christ. In spite of our historic autonomy, when Baptists meet, they are united around their collective passion for the cause and mission of Christ.

(2) They provide fellowship among believers. Each year Baptists from across the  state fellowship with other believers that make up the Body of Jesus Christ. Sometimes it is the only time we see friends in the ministry all year long, and of course, we always seem to make new friends as well!

(3) They help us to see how our giving reaches people for Jesus Christ well beyond the walls of our church, state, nation and world. Need I say more?

(4) They provide us a time of corporate praise and worship with believers beyond our own church community. It may be the way we worship away from our own church differs than what we do week to week ... and that sometimes can be a good thing!

(5) They provide the saints a time of challenge and encouragement around the mission of Jesus Christ. Nowhere does a Baptist receive more encouragement and is more challenged to be about the mission of Jesus Christ than at the annual meeting and related Pastors’ Conference. Pastors, church staff and other leaders especially need a special time of encouragement away from their own ministries.

(6) They give us an important infrastructure for conducting the business of the kingdom. Whether we like it or not, Southern Baptists didn’t grow to become one of the largest Protestant denominations in history without organization, strategy and collective direction. The annual meeting helps Baptists plan how they will carry out the Great Commission around the cause of Jesus Christ.

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


5 ways a member can leave a church well

By Carey Nieuwhof

Sometimes people remember how you arrived. They almost always remember how you left.

Especially if you leave poorly.

This is true when people come to your church and when they leave, as some inevitably do.

Click to read more at ChurchLeaders.com ...


Should leaders ‘listen’ to what they read?

Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

Not that long ago in a ministry not that far away (by years anyway), I recall an entity where I served seemed to be blown by the wind of every new leadership advice book that was published.

YarbroughThe first book I recall having a pretty dramatic affect on the ministry of this entity was “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.

There was a lot of advice shared in the book, but one thing that was quoted more than most was the phrase, “Do we have the right people on the bus?”

It was a reference to the author’s assertion that in order for an organization to move forward to be successful, it must identify the right people in the organization to “be on the bus,” or rather, to continue to be a part of the organization.

For the most part, I believe this to be true, but personally, I got tired of hearing the phrase as it was repeated over and over again by the entity’s top leaders, middle management and staff.

What’s more, I know there are many ministries at churches and denominational entities that seem quirky and unnecessary by some, but in practice serve people and make a huge difference in the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Another time, Ken Blanchard, author of “Lead Like Jesus,” came to lead the staff of the entity in a two-day “retreat” about the tenants of his book.

At the time, I served as a team leader of this entity and was impressed and anxious to put into practice what Blanchard taught.

However, my enthusiasm and that of other team leaders was squashed at our next meeting after we asked administration how it was planning to implement “Lead Like Jesus” across the board at the entity.

“Oh, that was just a seminar,” we were told. “Obviously, there are things we can gain from Blanchard and you are certainly free to use it in our own management of your team, but it’s not going to be deployed throughout the entire organization.”

Most pastors and other leaders I know read a lot, including books on leadership. So should we always “listen” to what we read? In other words, should we be quick to implement what a particular author says we should do?

It depends. I believe books on leadership are useful, but like a lot of other things in this old world, they should be carefully evaluated prior to “going whole hog” with their advice.

I have thoughtfully implemented the advice of Blanchard over the years from this book, while casting aside the advice of many other leadership book authors.

Ultimately, everything we do as leaders should come from the greatest Book on leadership of all time, which is, of course, the Bible.

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


Family time in 2016 - Ronnie Floyd

FloydThere are times a family just needs to be together. And 2016 is one of those times for our Southern Baptist family. This is a season when our family gathering should be a high priority for us all.

Our family reunion will be in St. Louis on June 14-15, 2016

I realize your options for conferences are plentiful and you may not enjoy going to a convention. They may seem boring or even at times, irrelevant. We changed the format for our 2015 Southern Baptist Convention in Columbus. It was done in a new and fresh way and was engaging to all who attended. The response to this new format was fabulous.

I am confident that if we set aside our own personal preferences, we will all find value in the convention. This is a critical time for us to come together as a family. Why is it so important? 

Four reasons our family needs to come to St. Louis in 2016

1. Bringing home 600-800 missionaries from across the world should call all of us to the highest level of concern. (See related Baptist Press story on the International Mission Board's budget shortfall.)

Click to read more ...



Why are you reading your state Baptist newspaper?

Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

In case you haven’t heard, newspapers are dying. That includes the state Baptist newspaper that you now hold in your hands or read electronically.

YarbroughJust this year, the Georgia Baptist newspaper, The Christian Index, which happens to be the oldest continuously published religious newspaper in the United States of America, announced that it will no longer publish a print edition beginning in 2016. The Index is solely owned and operated by the Georgia Baptist Convention.

Many praised the decision of the Index, pronouncing it overdue for a medium that has long been dead anyway. After all, everyone watches their news on TV or reads it online, we are told.
So the obvious question in my mind that needs to be asked is, “Why are you reading your state Baptist newspaper right now?”

Pundits say that you have to be an old (and old-time) Baptist to read Baptist news in print these days. For those who still do, they say you really don’t know what’s going on in the world around you anymore.

They say that your numbers are so small that you are no longer a viable market anymore and that it is a waste of resources – and Cooperative Program (CP) dollars – to print a classic newspaper that is mailed to you. After all, the Post Office is dead and people just don’t read print anymore.

Well, I can’t speak for the action of other state conventions, but my experience as editor in Arkansas is that a market for old-time Baptists who still read a printed newspaper still exists. Yes, just like other areas of Southern Baptist life, the audience is smaller, but there are thousands of readers and supporters of the state Baptist newspaper. To call them dead and insignificant is simply hogwash.

And what’s more, the reality is there just aren’t enough young and cool Southern Baptists out there yet to support a strictly online Baptist newspaper, and – honestly – I’m not sure there ever will be. The role of the state Baptist newspaper has changed over time, and will continue to change and evolve, but it is a long way from being dead – at least in Arkansas.

The model we have embraced and grown since I have become editor is to work at decreasing the dependence of the Arkansas Baptist News (ABN) on CP dollars by growing the newspaper’s advertising base. That means as long as Arkansas Baptists keep reading the ABN, we’ll be fine, because advertisers will find it to be a good way to reach faith-based readers while helping our bottom line. When Arkansas Baptists quit reading and supporting their state Baptist newspaper, I guess we’ll need to look at other options, such as putting it exclusively online like Georgia Baptists are doing.

In spite of changing times, the ABN ranks among the top subscription-based newspapers in Arkansas – secular or religious. The ABN is, without a doubt, the largest religious voice in the state – when measured by readers.

A few years ago while attending the annual conference of the Arkansas Press Association,  a professional media strategist from up north somewhere took the podium in Eureka Springs where the meeting was being held and looked slowly around the room at 300 or so publishers, editors, photographers and other newspaper professionals in attendance.

He asked, “What are all of you doing here? The guys selling digital products said most of you would be out of business five years ago!”

The crowd roared with laughter and applause. The speaker had made his point.

A Southern Baptist pundit wrote recently that all state Baptist newspapers do anymore is publish news that you can find online elsewhere.

Again, that might be true in some states, but not in Arkansas. Nearly all of the content published in the ABN is about Arkansas Baptists. Articles and features published only in the ABN included: “From Satan follower to disciple of Jesus,” “Baptists reach bikers at BBB; 90-plus people accept Christ,” “Former student shares faith with dying coach,” “Community garden plants ‘seeds of faith,’” “Old style tent revivals touch Arkansas towns,” “80 saved, 1,500 participate in Acts 1:8 One Day mission,” “350-plus appeal for great revival to sweep nation,” “Arkansas pastor witnesses at Planned Parenthood” and “Catching fish and men on the Norfork River.”

I’ve often said those who read the ABN are more engaged and supportive of the work of the Church, the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and their Southern Baptist denomination. And ABN surveys bare this out: ABN readers pray more, give more and go more! And that’s you!

So why are you reading your state Baptist newspaper right now?

The obvious answer is that you care about the lost condition of the world and want to see all come to know Jesus Christ.

It is as simple as that!

Tim Yarbrough is editor/executive director of the ABN.