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
Feb202015

The ‘tithe’ - Archie Mason, ABSC president

I had the privilege of growing up in a Christian home where I watched my dad sit down at his desk every Sunday morning and write out our family’s tithe check to Biscoe Baptist Church. I did not get saved until I was 25, but his leadership stuck with me, so after I was saved, I started tithing on my and Angie’s net. Then, at age 30, Angie and I started tithing on our gross.

MasonAs an adjunct professor of preaching and pastoral ministries classes for Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, I am asked, “Should I tithe off the net or the gross?”

I always respond, “It depends on which one you want God to bless, the net or the gross.”  

I teach and preach tithing at Central Baptist Church on a regular basis. Jesus says in Matt. 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The love of money is a heart issue.  I share with people publicly from the pulpit that Angie and I tithe off our gross, that we give over and above our tithe to missions and that we give over and above our tithe to Central Baptist construction projects. As a leader, I never ask our people to do something that Angie and I are not willing to do ourselves; tithing is one of those things.

I remember one time early on in my ministry at Central Baptist while preaching on tithing I said, “There are a lot of stolen vehicles sitting in the parking lot at Central today … because many of you are robbing God of the tithe.” You could have heard a pin drop, and I thought to myself, “Well, … that didn’t go very well.”

We challenge people at Central to take the 90-Day Challenge, which means to tithe for 90 days. After that, we tell them if they are not satisfied with their obedience to God and His blessing to come see us and we will give their tithe back to them. The first time we challenged folks, we had 50 new families that accepted the challenge and started tithing. So far, we have never had one person ask for their 90 days of tithing back. We have a required membership class where we explain to all the folks on the front end that they are joining us, rather than us joining them; therefore, as one of our doctrines, we teach and preach tithing from the pulpit, so don’t send me any unsigned letters in the mail.

Most Christians give less than 3 percent of their income to the Lord’s local Church; the tithe is 10 percent. Through the years as a leader of the church, I have learned that everybody likes to spend God’s money on ministry and building new buildings, but not everybody tithes and not everybody gives over and above the tithe to build buildings. I challenge pastors, associate pastors, deacons and lay folks to tithe, and to preach tithing. In most cases, the people who oppose tithing are not tithing. They are living in disobedience. I have never met a person who holds the theological view that tithing is unbiblical who actually gives 10 percent or more of his gross income to the Lord. I am sure there are some, but remember, it takes money to do ministry locally and around the world.

We have missionaries whom the International Mission Board cannot send to the field because of funding, because most people in the local Church do not tithe. God has established a system of giving that funds the sharing of the gospel locally and around the world; we just need to be obedient. I pray that you preachers stand in the pulpit this coming Sunday and “preach the paint off the walls” for His glory!

Archie Mason is president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and senior pastor of Central Baptist Church in Jonesboro. His column appears every month in the print and digital editions of the Arkansas Baptist News. Subscribe here.

Thursday
Feb122015

Responding to the ‘me’ culture of the 21st century 

Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

When I served at the North American Mission Board, the video department produced a video called “MeChurch” to illustrate some aspects of church culture today.

The video  was about the fictional MeChuch and featured vignettes of people who all had different reasons why they would consider attending church.

YarbroughHere are some excerpts:
“Imagine a church where every member is passionately, wholeheartedly, recklessly calling the shots,” the announcer proclaims.

A lady from her office desk looks at the camera and says, “I have a busy work week. By the time Sunday rolls around, I’m tired. So how about a church service that starts when I get there?”

The announcer responds, “Can do. When you arrive, we begin!”

“This guy, he plays by his own rules,” says a father in a baseball cap, pointing to his wife holding a small baby. “We want to find a church where if he starts screaming, we’re not the bad guys.”

The announcer agrees, “Say no more. If your baby is screaming, you stay seated. The others around you can leave.”

An older lady sitting on her porch reading, pauses and says, “When I am in the church service, can my car get a buff and a wax?”

The announcer responds, “Not just that, but an oil change and a tune-up!”

The final screen ends with: “MeChurch: Where’s its all about you.”

The video was produced to point out how self-centered our culture has become.

Too often today, when we go to church, we focus on what we want to get out of the experience, rather than what God wants for our lives.

But this behavior isn’t just limited to those who sit in the pew.

Evangelicals often witness the downfall of leaders whose “it’s all about me” approach to ministry results in compromising the integrity of their church or other institution.

I’ve witnessed several pastors of once Southern Baptist churches proclaim boldly from the pulpit that they are now nondenominational because they go by no man’s words, only the Bible.

The problem is, of course, that denominations like the Southern Baptist Convention – in spite of all its flaws – came into being because of an agreement to certain basic tenets of the Christian faith. There’s also an aspect of accountability when a church and its leadership belong to a denomination that cooperates together to further the gospel around the globe, like Southern Baptists do.

The “me” leader can encroach on other institutions as well, such as seminaries, colleges and other entities. That’s what trustees and a board of directors are for, to keep an eye on things and guard the entity from being mesmerized by a “me” leader. Ultimately, we cannot do it on our own in our human flesh. Our only hope is placing our trust in Jesus Christ for discernment and guidance.

Scripture says, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:7-8, ESV).

It’s that simple. Without God, life is all about “me.” With God, life is all about “Him.”

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, ESV).

Thursday
Jan292015

Tempering the tongue

Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

The tongue is the smallest member of the body, yet it can bring great destruction. It’s like a termite: It may be small in size and go relatively unnoticed, but in the end, it can do great damage if left unchecked!

James 3:8 talks about mankind’s ability to tame wild animals, adding, “No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”

YarbroughWe witness “untethered” or “unrestrained” tongues every day – especially in our current age of 24-hour talk news and TV! And – perhaps like you – I have witnessed individuals and families destroyed by a loose tongue.

We all struggle with the tongue at times. Following are some steps to controlling the tongue that I picked up along the way, … so these observations aren’t my own, but they are good instruction (I wish I could recall in whose sermon I heard these)!

First, we must recognize that we have a choice. James 3:2-3 tells us that we can bridle our tongue. After all, the fruit of the Spirit is self-control, according to Gal. 5:22-23.

Secondly, to control our tongues, we have to respect the power of our words. James 3:3-4 says even big ships are guided by a small rudder … guided by the pilot.  

Third, we must control our thoughts before they reach our mouths. We should take every thought captive to obey Christ. Many times, the first thing we want to say can be the most critical. Pause and consider how Jesus would respond.

Fourth, we must accept that we can’t do it alone. We must admit that we can’t do it alone; it is not our human nature. It’s increasingly evident that we live in an angry world. People today are so angry and many times out of control.

The only hope we have of controlling our attitude and tongue is through our Helper and Guide, the Spirit of God.

And finally, we must identify the source of our problem (James 3:15). Hurt people hurt people. A lot of people like this have been hurt by someone else earlier in their lives, and they – either consciously or subconsciously – in turn hurt people. I have known pastors and leaders in churches who constantly have gotten jabs from some people in the churches where they have served – pointing out their every flaw. A close inspection of these individuals reveals it is their hearts that needs healing. These people can (and do) destroy churches.

As Arkansas Baptists, we have important work to do through our local church before Jesus returns.

If there are unresolved issues that need fixing – issues that cause your tire (attitude) to go flat – fix it by crying out to God for healing and repair, asking Him to give you the strength to be a positive light for the gospel instead of a negative one.

Tim Yarbrough is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News.

Thursday
Jan152015

Let’s be ‘all in’ in 2015

Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

If you know me at all, you know when I take on a challenge I’m “all in.”

Such has been the case since I took over the leadership of your state Baptist newspaper four years ago. Being all in for me means being totally and completely focused and committed to the cause, working hard and doing everything that is necessary to bring success to the ministry.

YarbroughHowever, I have come to realize that sometimes in the midst of being all in and doing all the physical work of my ministry, I can sometimes miss the bigger picture of what God wants to do with me spiritually.

We all were reminded in 2014 of the aggressive spiritual warfare being waged for the souls of men. All you have to do is survey the landscape of our world to witness the stronghold the devil has on literally billions of people – a stronghold that leads to utter destruction without the Lord Jesus Christ guiding their lives.

As I reflect on this past year, I see that my biggest struggles and challenges came as a result of the devil attempting to get hold of my life and my ministry – amid all the busyness of my work.

These words penned by Paul to the Church at Corinth and to the Ephesians give me encouragement, hope and perseverance when it seems the world is attempting to take hold and divert my attention. I pray they do for you, too.

1 Corinthians 16:13 (ESV): “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”

Ephesians 6:10-12 (ESV): “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

As leaders for the cause of Jesus Christ, we can be lulled into believing that we are somehow immune to the fiery darts of the evil one as we go about our ministries and that we can never be taken down! However, I believe just the opposite. I believe the devil steps up his efforts on us because he knows he can win by rendering us weak spiritually – when leaders fall, they fall hard and for all to see!

So, in 2015, in the midst of all of our busyness and obligations, it is important that we all strive to stay true to our Christian calling and committed to walk in a manner of our faith. For me, that means equipping myself daily through His Word and through prayer. When I neglect God, I am not experiencing all that He has in store for my life and ministry.

These times are not for the faint, but rather the bold. I know each of you – you are not doing what you are doing by sheer happenstance. God has placed each of you strategically where you are for a purpose – now is the time for all of us to remain strong in our faith as we go about seeking to make a difference for Christ.
That’s my encouragement for you today as 2015 sits before you – we are leaders called out and set apart to bring fame, honor and glory to our Lord.

We owe the Lord no less than our daily faithfulness.

It’s time for us to be all in – both through hard physical work and hard spiritual work!

Tim Yarbrough is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News.

Friday
Jan092015

Religious expression and terrorism

Doug Hibbard
First Baptist Church, Almyra

HibbardBy now, you have certainly heard of the events at the French magazine Charlie Hebdo. As I write this, the final chapter in that tragic attack remains unwritten; the French police are searching for the murderers but have not found them. Overall, though, we need to consider these events as both Christians and as Americans.

First, let us consider this situation as Christians. A dozen families lost loved ones who stepped off into eternity. We are not privy to their relationship with Christ, but we most certainly should weep with those who weep. This should drive us to love our neighbor in both word and deed, by seeking ways to meet needs and share the Gospel.

Second, let us consider this situation as Christians and Americans, for we cannot simply act as citizens of our natural nation. We remain servants of the Lord, even with our citizenship in the United States. Most assuredly, though, we want to carry out both with excellence.

Because of our heritage as Americans, we are firm believers in the freedom of speech and expression. Placing our duty to serve the Lord alongside this, though, we should never approach that freedom with the goal simply of offending or disrespecting anyone. This is something that, though we may be free as people to do, we are not free as Christians to do. It violates the essence of “doing unto others as we would have done to us” and “loving our neighbors as ourselves.” I’m certain you know who said both of these.

Yet our Christian duty requires that we speak the truth. And not just any truth, but God’s truth as we find it in the Bible. The exclusive nature of statements like “I am the way, the truth and life, no one comes to the Father but through me,” or “It is appointed to man once to die, and after that the judgment” will certainly offend some people. Since we must obey God rather than man, another familiar statement, we cannot withhold these truths simply to avoid causing offense or discomfort.

The difference in our behavior is based in our intent. If our goal is to proclaim God’s truth, then those who take offense may dislike us, but we must not keep silent. If our goal is to simply make “those people” feel uncomfortable, then we should check our own motives and close our mouths.

Sometimes, though, only the Lord knows our own motives. Certainly the Lord only knows what the motivations of others are. We, therefore, cannot approve and disapprove of public expression based on intentions.

Instead, we must defend the rights of all to express themselves, even if that expression causes offense to us. This includes allowing people the freedom to insult the Lord Jesus Christ. That does not mean we simply sit by and laugh it off, for we should respond clearly with the gospel of Grace in any opportunity provided. We must learn and practice restraint, though, at offense given to us. When we cry out for our opponents to be silenced, we are preparing the gags for our own mouths in the years to come.

Does this mean we sit idly by while the good name of our Lord is insulted? Of course not. But rather than argue that someone should not be allowed to say things, instead let us respond by showing how they are wrong. By allowing debate to flow freely, we promote the best environment for us to proclaim the truth of Scripture, the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the blessing that the practice of freedom of expression brings us. Let us defend it for others, just as we would have it for ourselves.

Doug Hibbard is an author and frequent contributor to the Arkansas Baptist News. He serves as pastor of First Baptist Church in Almyra.