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
May192016

A short-term mission experience can ignite a church

Today, when so many things of the world distract us from our God-given mission, a well-planned short-term mission experience can be a catalyst to igniting revival.

There is perhaps no better way for members of a church to become Jesus’ “hands and feet” than to participate in a short-term mission experience, which can be done literally in your own community or across the globe in a foreign country. The possibilities are endless!

It has been my privilege to participate in dozens of these trips in North America and around the world the past 25 years, and each time God has taught me something new about His mission and how I can personally be involved in carrying it out.

The beauty of a short-term mission experience is that it can be specifically tailored to the abilities and interests of the people who attend your church.

It may be you have a church that is chock full of handymen and carpenters. There are many churches in need of renovation or construction assistance, as well as community renewal projects where the lives of individuals can be impacted directly.

Perhaps your church has members with multigenerational talent that could be used to help a church start canvass its community, do block parties and other outreach activities to gain important visibility.

Whatever it may be, your church is filled with talented people who can contribute on a multitude of levels locally, regionally, nationally or internationally in carrying out Christ’s mission.

In Arkansas, pre-packaged mission opportunities abound for churches through our local Baptist associations and the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC).

If your church has been hesitant to take the plunge, you may want to consider signing up for the Acts 1:8 One Day Mission Trip set for Oct. 1 in Fort Smith.

Since 2010, thousands of Arkansas Baptist churches have made a difference in the lives of thousands of people through Acts 1:8 One Day events organized by the convention. Already, many churches across the state make it a priority to participate every year.

“This event has become the highlight of the year for many people across our state,” said Breck Freeman, community missions leader for the ABSC. “It has also made the local associations aware that this One Day event is only a beginning to something that can be an ongoing mission project at a local level. This event has spawned local ‘Jerusalem’ mission days across the state.”

Perhaps what’s best of all is that it is so easy to participate! All you need to do is cast a vision for your church, enlist and sign up to go.

Registration is now open for the Fort Smith experience, which will include a variety of opportunities such as prayer walking, evangelism, children’s activities, block parties, home repairs, health/dental clinics, sports camps, yard work, cowboy ministries, children’s fishing derbies and multi-housing ministries.

The Acts 1:8 Mission Trip is intergenerational and for all ages of your church, so everyone can participate. Some of my fondest memories are when my entire family served together on a mission trip.

I encourage you to prayerfully consider how to get involved in 2016. You and your church may never again be the same.

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

Thursday
May052016

Thoughts on the SBC in St. Louis, ABN Day of Prayer

Faithful readers of the Arkansas Baptist News (ABN) know that I’m a Missouri boy.

While I was born in Kennett, which is about as far from St. Louis as you can get in Missouri, I have fond memories of growing up in southeast Missouri on a farm outside the little town of Risco.

When I was about 7, our family traveled to the big city of St. Louis, where I attended my first major league baseball game at Busch Stadium. I still have the little red ballcap from that day somewhere tucked away in a box of memories. Yes, and I’ve been a Cardinals fan ever since!

Of course that was many years ago, and the St. Louis metro area, like all large cities in America, has a lot of challenges. One such challenge – that of racial violence – erupted across our TV screens the past few years in Ferguson just outside of St. Louis.

I know many pastors and members of Arkansas Baptist churches won’t have the opportunity to be in St. Louis for the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention June 14-16, but the ABN will be there to cover all the happenings and the final time that Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd will preside over the gathering.

The theme of this year’s meeting is Awaken America: Reach the World – Agree, Unite, Pray. As with last year, Floyd will lead a special session devoted to prayer. “A National Call to Prayer for Spiritual Leadership.” The session will be held Tuesday evening and will feature a number of prominent Southern Baptists. As a sign of racial unity and cooperation, African American pastor Jerry Young, president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, is included in the prayer event. (See related story on page 1).
    
ABN Day of Prayer

If you need another example of unity right in Arkansas, look no further than the partnership the ABN has in May with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC).

May 15 is designated as the ABN Day of Prayer on the convention calendar, and since 2011 the ABN and ABSC have joined together to produce and distribute special bulletin inserts for use in your church on May 15 or another time during May.

Arkansas Baptists are encouraged to pray during the month of May for the work of their state Baptist newspaper, as well as for the work being done across the Natural State through the ministry of Arkansas Baptist churches and institutions.

I urge all pastors to call their churches to pray during this special emphasis. These are trying times, and we need to pray without ceasing and lift our petitions to our Father in heaven, calling for the redemption of all men.

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

Tuesday
May032016

ABCHomes: May is National Foster Care Month

May is National Foster Care Month. Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries (ABCHomes) is participating in this effort by encouraging churches to adopt local Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) family service workers (FSW).

These dedicated individuals have the unenviable task of determining if a child should be removed from his or her home. These homes, at times, are unsafe not only for the child but also for the FSW.

To make matters worse, in the past year 1,425 children were removed from their homes after normal working hours due to immediate danger, often in the middle of the night.

ABCHomes is asking churches to begin ministering to FSWs in their counties this month by preparing “after-hour care packets.” Most of the time, workers are equipped with items to address the child’s needs. The focus of this effort is to take care of the workers.

Many of these workers are parents. On any given night, workers may have a child in their backseats who has not been bathed, is wearing filthy clothes and is possibly infested with lice. The next morning, workers may put their own child in that same car seat to drive to school. Providing something as simple as sanitizing wipes or spray is helpful so that workers can feel safe allowing their own child to ride in their personal vehicles.

Other items for the packet could include lip balm, water, hand sanitizer packets, snacks or small flashlights. It would also be nice to include a soft praise and worship CD for workers to listen to as they return to their homes after placing the child in a safe place.

ABCHomes has created a plan to help churches create a local child welfare ministry.

In addition to adopting an FSW, ABCHomes’ Connected Foster Care ministry is equipping local churches to address the foster bed shortages in their communities.

Connected provides and/or mobilizes resources needed to make foster care successful in Arkansas while giving Baptist churches an opportunity to take active roles in ministry to foster care children, families and state FSWs, and  also, at the same time, reaching out to the biological families of foster children with a goal of reunification.

Besides ministering to children in Connected foster homes, ABCHomes also meets the needs of children and teens in crisis by providing residential care at the Baptist Children’s Home in Monticello and the Boys Ranch in Harrison in addition to emergency receiving homes in Judsonia, Paragould and West Fork.

To receive an “after-hour care packet” idea sheet to share with your church or to learn more, email connected@abchomes.org or call (800) 838-2272, ext. 5167.

Charles Flynn is program director of ABCHomes.

Thursday
Apr212016

Are Christians like frogs in boiling water?

While today’s scientists dispute its basic premise, we have all heard the story of the boiling frog. I believe it is a good analogy for our country today.

The story is about a frog that rests comfortably in a pot of cool water. While the frog would normally jump out of boiling water, as the water is warmed slowly the frog stays put and eventually ends up perishing in hot, boiling water.

The story is intended as a metaphor for life. The moral of the story is that if we become complacent about the little things and allow them to pass without notice, one day they will consume us!

I believe this simple story told to children over the years can be used as a sad commentary of life today in the United States.

There is moral decay all around us. Many people of faith agree that we are losing our beloved country to a bevy of special interests, the activity of secular humanists, socialist thinkers, progressives, and practically every type of thought that runs counter to the tenants of God.

As if those Americans elected to the seats of power are too busy pandering to special interest groups, those who pad their pockets and others who extend special favors wasn’t bad enough, now we have corporations stepping in to dictate our country’s social and moral agenda – as we see in actions related in legislation in Georgia, North Carolina and Mississippi.

The media have reported extensively the political correctness of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal in vetoing the state’s religious liberty bill – in an effort to keep Georgia’s lucrative and powerful corporations from pulling up stakes and relocating elsewhere outside the state.

Now we have Baptist Press reporting in a recent story that, “At least nine U.S. cities and five states have banned non-essential travel by government employees to North Carolina, Mississippi or both, claiming religious liberty bills adopted there discriminate against homosexual and transgendered persons.”

It seems that corporate America – which sells you and me the products and services we rely on in everyday lives – is siding with the forces of evil.

With power comes great responsibility – and these corporations are attempting to frame a social agenda to the America people that many find morally objectionable.

While not all Americans are religious in the sense that Christians understand, there are still a majority of Americans who are getting tired of politicians and the liberal elite telling us how we should live our lives – all while taking away or challenging many of our basic freedoms.

I’ve said it in this space before, it is this feeling among voters why a presidential candidate like billionaire Donald Trump is receiving so many votes and garnishing so much support. People are fed up.

Ironically, it appears that Trump’s bid to be the GOP presidential nominee could be derailed by members of the GOP establishment. Indeed, those in power who helped create the problems that so many voters seem to care about have said they will have their way – in spite of what the voters are saying.

On the Democratic side, dysfunctionality is also apparent in the chosen candidate of the party – Hillary Clinton – as she is being strongly challenged by none other than self-professed Socialist Bernie Sanders.

The point in all of this is that our country seems to be dysfunctional at all levels, and the danger is that we give up and allow ourselves to be pulled down along with the dysfunction we see every day as we live our lives and seek to honor Jesus Christ.

Now, more than ever, Christians should be resolute in our thinking and in our actions, Christians should strive to not just practice our religion on Sunday, but set the example of and demonstrate how God would have us to live a life of righteousness.

When David faced times of intense persecution and danger, he prayed not just for protection from his attackers but – even more – for protection from sin:

“Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. . . . Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you” (Psalm 25:4-5, 20-21, NIV).

We should pray without ceasing for our country, for those in authority over us and for God to heal our sick land – all the while readying ourselves for the fiery darts that may come our way as we seek to honor and serve God as aliens in a foreign land.

Thursday
Apr072016

Religious liberty attacked again; it’s time we cared

Here we go again –  religious liberty in America is under attack, and I’m beginning to wonder if anyone cares.
Of course we do. But how far are Christians going to let it go unchallenged before there is no turning back?

When they take away our Bibles?

When they arrest our pastors for preaching the Word of God from the pulpit of our churches?

How about when we are attempting to teach our children (or grandchildren) biblical values?

This is a serious issue which literally touches the core of who we are as Christians, as well as citizens of the United States of America.

It’s no surprise that a growing number of Americans believe religious liberty is on the decline and that the nation’s Christians face growing intolerance, says a new survey released by LifeWay Research.

Just this past week, the governor of the mostly conservative (except Atlanta) state of Georgia vetoed a bill.

The veto could place churches and pastors squarely in the cross hairs (see article below).

We’ve all watched the news as America has a hostile environment for religious liberty.

“As this perception grows, some approve of it while others speak up against it,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, adding: “Religious liberty has become an increasingly contentious issue in American culture – with disputes over birth control, same-sex wedding cakes, headscarves at work and prisoners’ beards.”

We’ve heard the phase all our lives, “It’s just a sign of the times.”

As America grows more tolerant of every action and lifestyle imaginable, it seems to grow more intolerant of Christianity and the things of God.

Now more than ever we must strive to lives our lives with conviction and resolve to address cultural and societial ills with the hope found only in Jesus Christ.