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.


Fishers of Men

Jamie McAnelly
Central Baptist Church, Bald Knob

It is truly amazing how your perspective changes when Jesus comes into your life and you experience the miracle of salvation.  About nine years ago I was invited by my employer to go on a guided fishing trip to the Norfork River, all expenses paid!  It was everything a fisherman could ask for; a beautiful setting on the river, wonderful food to eat and door prizes ranging from fishing poles to guns to $500 gift cards. I was very excited and grateful to be included in all the activities since I had been with this company for only a short time.  Naturally, with this being an outdoor-centered men’s weekend, there was plenty of adult beverages. I made sure my cooler was full and, as usual, I over indulged. The next day, I hardly enjoyed the fishing due to a pounding hangover. While I should have been having the time of my life hauling in those trout, I was worried about my behavior the prior evening…did I make a fool of myself in front of my bosses? Thank goodness, no one was upset about it except me! 

McAnellyA little less than a year after the trip, I started going to church at Central Baptist in Bald Knob, the church my wife had grown up attending. When my mother-in-law asked if she could start taking my 3-year-old daughter to church (because we weren’t), I became convicted that this was my responsibility. I won’t get into my full testimony here, but I went through some serious and awesome changes in my life. I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and thank God, I have been saved.

A couple months after my salvation, it was time to go on the annual company trip again.  I was excited to return and looked forward to all the freebies that accompanied the trip. When I arrived I realized that this year was different for me. I hadn’t had a drink since the day I accepted Christ. I was very thankful to be included on the trip but I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle the temptation of my old ways. I was still literally a babe in Christ. I felt somewhat alone and found myself more and more in prayer. I kept wishing I had one of my new Christian brothers with me to keep me accountable. This was the spark of a conviction. This spark continued to grow throughout the weekend, I kept thinking, “How cool would it be to be in this beautiful, God-created setting with guys that shared my faith, God-fearing men that wanted to draw nearer to Christ?” 

I went to our Men’s Fellowship meeting the following Thursday and told the group about the previous weekend.  I soon realized that these were the men that I wanted to experience a trip like this with, these were the brothers in Christ that I wanted to develop a deeper relation with. After sharing with them, the chair deacon in the group said, “Why don’t you put a trip together for us?” My reaction was a jaw drop with a resounding, “Whaaat?” I had never tried to put together or organize anything like this. After researching it a while, it seemed that it would probably be too expensive for our group. I approached the guys with the price per person and all they said was “OK!” My response was simple, “Really? You’re just going to trust me to make this happen?” I hoped that if we got at least eight to go on the trip, we could get a cabin to ourselves. Funny thing is that God had something else in mind. We showed up at the resort with a group of 23! Well in excess of my expectations. Matt Mosler of Beautiful Feet Ministries was our guest speaker on that first trip. We occupied three cabins and had three different church services in the common picnic area that weekend. It was so much more than I had ever imagined it could be. But the best was yet to come! When we returned to church that Sunday night, we gathered for a testimonial service. Funny that no one ever mentioned that it rained while we were fishing that Saturday. Actually, hardly anyone talked about the fishing at all; we were too caught up telling of the fellowship and the worship. The setting allowed us to relax and have fun while also letting down our guards and addressing issues that we struggle with daily. The cherry on top of this crazy, God blessed weekend was when, during the testimonials, a friend from the trip made that walk down the aisle and accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. That was almost more than my heart could stand! I can still see all the men in the church that night circling our new brother in Christ, how overwhelmed I became with God’s boundless joy in my soul. I literally wilted to the ground in tears. Because of the conviction God gave me on a company trip, we had just witnessed another name written in the Book of Life. I sat amazed.

There have been six more annual “Fishers of Men” retreats since that first year. Each year has seen us grow in numbers and excitement. I have seen men changed, convicted and sometimes saved on these trips. It is really hard for me to find words to express how important and instrumental this weekend of fellowship and sharing has become to all of us that attend. I have witnessed honesty, love, compassion, self-sacrifice, competition, servant hood, worship, conviction and just plain enjoyment.  It’s one of those “God” things that you can’t understand unless you experience it. 

Although this fishing trip started as a Central Baptist Church retreat, it has always been open to anyone wanting to come along. On the second year’s trip, a visitor from Immanuel Baptist Church in El Dorado came with us. He now brings a full group from his area. Guys come from Bald Knob, Batesville, Searcy and El Dorado. As some of our past guest speakers have shared their experiences of the trip with other churches, we have been able to draw participants from out of state. One group from Louisiana joins us annually, and one guy drove from Florida!

It’s crazy when I think that this has all started with a conviction to share a weekend with my new Christian brothers.  Over the years, the trip has really shaped itself.  It has truly become a Proverbs 27:17 “as iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” weekend.  God has truly blessed this event each year and I have been blessed just to be a part of it.

Jamie McAnelly is a member of Central Baptist Church, Bald Knob. ‘Fishers of Men’ originally ran in Searcy Living Magazine.

Click here to view a photo gallery from the Fishers of Men retreat.


Every Southern Baptist sharing the gospel on Tuesday, Oct. 14 

What if every Southern Baptist would share the gospel with one person on Tuesday, Oct. 14? Just think what could happen if you awakened on that day, spent time with God and asked Him to empower you to share the gospel with one person that day; then, with great intentionality, you sought after that opportunity, ready to see Him use you greatly.

Collegiate students are leading the way, asking all churches to join them

FloydOver the last two years, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) collegiate ministries nationwide have set aside a day to call every one of their students to share the gospel with someone in their sphere of influence. They’ve seen thousands of students share the gospel for the first time as a part of the challenge, and now collegiate leaders are inviting churches to participate as well.

Will you participate in what they call “Engage24” on Oct. 14? As we look back at history, we know that God often sparks awakening fires among college students. From the Cambridge Seven and their influencing the world to engage China with the gospel to the birth of the Student Volunteer Missions Movement ignited by the 250 students gathering at Mount Hermon, there is no doubt that when students are committed and focused to a vision for gospel expansion, magnificent things happen.

We are seeing this happen through our Cross Church university ministry. Recently, more than 700 students met on our Fayetteville campus, were challenged by God’s Word and 31 college students met Christ – all because there was intentionality in sharing the gospel. The gospel is the power of God to salvation.

Imagine what God would do if our churches did this

Just imagine what it would be like if several thousand of our churches determined they would lead the way in participating in sharing the gospel on Oct. 14. Imagine what it would look like if our churches across Southern Baptist life would learn how to articulate the gospel clearly and with passion, then with intentionality, share the gospel regularly.

Yes, every day we should be sharing the gospel, but perhaps if a specific day was targeted, like Oct. 14, it could become a beginning point for many of us. Again, imagine what it would look like to see every Southern Baptist sharing the gospel with just one person during Engage24 on Oct. 14.

Of the 318 million Americans today, 22 million are college students, as noted in my recent article on reaching college students. Therefore, together we must understand that to the level we will sow the seeds of the gospel will be the level we reap the joy of seeing people come to Christ.

As we pray for the next great awakening, we must always be sharing the gospel

Praying for spiritual awakening in our nation does not eliminate us from sharing the gospel right now. In fact, as we wait expectantly for God to answer our prayer, we need to be sharing the gospel more than ever before. The power of God is always upon the gospel.

Pastor and laypeople, will you and your church share the gospel on Tuesday, Oct. 14?

This coming Sunday, challenge your people to target Oct. 14 on their calendar and join our collegiate leaders in doing so on their respective campuses. Perhaps your church can plan some specific evangelistic ministries for that day, all leading to the gospel being presented and opportunities given for people to respond to this powerful message.

Lead your people to pray as they go. Lead your people to sow as they go. Let’s go together. Let’s target Tuesday, Oct. 14, as a day to share the life-changing gospel message with others. God always blesses His Word.

Please pray this week

God has opened some wonderful doors of opportunity over the next few weeks, and I would be honored if you would pray for me. This week, I would like to ask that you pray specifically for the United in Prayer gathering at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. It is a privilege to serve Cross Church and the Southern Baptist Convention, but I cannot do it on my own. In these critical days of leadership, I want to be used powerfully by God.

For more information on Engage24, visit engage24.org.

Floyd is senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas and president of the SBC.


‘Soul revitalization’ 

Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

I really have to applaud efforts by the Arkansas Baptist State Convention staff to put feet and focus to a comprehensive Church Revitalization strategy.

Traveling extensively and visiting churches throughout the Southern Baptist Convention since 1989, I have been told over and over by pastors, other church staff and laypeople, about the need for church revitalization.

YarbroughMost Southern Baptists see the need and importance of starting new churches, but because of resources already expended, existing traditions, ties to family and a host of other reasons, many also feel we need to help the churches we already have get healthy and more active in the mission cause.

We’ve all heard the statistics about plateaued and/or declining churches. We are told they represent the majority of our churches.

Where we find our churches today is not that simple to pinpoint. Some blame pastors and other church leaders. Some blame apathetic church members. Some blame a post-denominational era and a lost trust in traditional structures. Some blame the Conservative Resurgence and the fight over the Bible. Some blame a shift in society that has diluted the centrality of the Church in peoples’ lives. Some blame young adults who are staying away in droves.

Additionally, it may be that Southern Baptists sat back on past successes – allowing the world to pass them by.

To some degree, these things may be true. However, I believe the real cause of the decline in our churches is the diminished focus on soul winning, discipleship and the Great Commission. We act as though we don’t fear God anymore and don’t believe people who don’t accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are really going to hell. If ever we needed renewal, revival and a great awakening – it is now.

All too often I hear of someone leaving a Southern Baptist church to join another – sometimes a nondenominational church – because of its worship style, administration or whatever.

Church and denominational loyalty has waned, and we best get used to it and retool our strategies to attract a younger and more engaged membership.

Church revitalization is one key to this complex strategy, but I believe nothing replaces simple outreach and evangelism.

In other words, if you haven’t asked a neighbor, co-worker or acquaintance to come to church recently, do so this week. What’s more, ask God to put someone in your path to share Jesus with this week!

Revitalization of a soul equals revitalization of the Church.

Tim Yarbrough is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News.


Baptists have always been catalysts for change

Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News 

I wish all Arkansas Baptists could have been present for a presentation recently made by Mike Rainwater, an attorney in Little Rock, at an associational missionaries gathering at Camp Paron.

Rainwater spoke on the topic The Bible, Baptists and the Bill of Rights. 

YarbroughIf you are a tried-and-true Southern Baptist, what Rainwater said in his presentation would get you really fired up!

Basically, Rainwater traced our Baptist heritage to the founding of our nation – including Baptists’ impact on our Bill of Rights and the First Amendment, which includes the phrase: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Rainwater’s presentation was too detailed and extensive to recount in this column, but something occurred to me afterward.

Our Baptist forefathers – at critical junctures of our history – stood up boldly for our God-given rights and were catalysts for change.

They seized their moment in history and guided the Continental Congress to adopt language we find in the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and our Bill of Rights.

Today, some 200-plus years following the founding of our nation, the ratification of the U.S. Consitution and the Bill of Rights, we find those same rights coming under attack by the same government our forefathers helped to found. 

Rainwater said several times that so many Baptists today – including Southern Baptists – have forgotten their rich heritage.

I say it’s time that we find our way and rekindle the spirit of our Baptist forefathers and once again stand up for biblical values against relentless attacks on the family and Christianity.

While our voices in the political arena are important, only by appealing to God can our country be saved. Let’s all commit to pray fervently for God to heal our land and bring the next great spiritual awakening to our great nation. 

May God continue to bless the United States of America!

Tim Yarbrough is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News.


It’s easy to criticize, harder to praise

Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News 

We live in a complicated time. What is good is bad, and what is bad is good. Things our parents and grandparents would have never tolerated we now regularly allow into our living rooms via TV every evening. In my mind, there is little doubt human history is coming to some sort of climax, but how soon only God knows.

In our present age, it is so easy to be critical of so many things, while actually turning a blind eye to things – and sin – that we enjoy.

YarbroughAs followers of Jesus Christ, there are things that should be off-limits, or at least handled in private among believers.

This includes criticism of one’s church. 

I have often said, “If I ever get to the point that I can’t be positive and support the ministries of the church where I attend, rather than sow discord among the brethren, I will just leave.”

While our criticism may be voiced to a small group of friends and others we trust in our church, the fact is our negativity can have an adverse impact on the church’s staff and ministry.

We all are – to some degree – guilty of this type of talk. Rather than criticize, perhaps it would be better to pause and have a little talk with Jesus, who sees the ministry of His Church very differently than human eyes and ears ever will.

Arkansas Baptists enjoy churches of every size, style and location. The fact is, no matter how successful the ministry of a church is, no church is perfect.

Your pastor, ministerial staff and key leaders need your support, not your criticism. 

Remember what your mother said, “If you can’t say something positive, don’t say anything at all.”

And many a parent has told a child, “Don’t you worry about (insert name), you just worry about (your name)!”

Remember what Scripture says in Luke 6:42 (NIV): “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Tim Yarbrough is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News.