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.


Many changes in new look

Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

As you may have noticed, we are introducing a lot of changes with this edition of the Arkansas Baptist News (ABN)

The newspaper has a new size, is now printed on higher quality paper and is all color.

YarbroughChanges to your state Baptist newspaper have come as a result of a number of your suggestions and careful thought by the ABN staff.

The type size of the font we use for news stories is the same, but the way in which we present news and feature stories is changing somewhat. The use of a five-column layout style will allow us to publish more stories and shorter stories on a page, as opposed to our previous four-column format.

Some pages, like the editorial page you are now reading and other selected pages will retain the four-column format.

One of the most exciting changes is that we now publish an all-color newspaper on higher quality newsprint. After all, the world you and I experience every day is in full color, so why shouldn’t your newspaper be as well?

You will also notice the newspaper came to you in a slightly different form this time, as the front page of the ABN is now folded outward, like most other newspapers.

The vertical length of the newspaper was shortened a bit to allow our newspaper to fit onto a more standard four-color press.

We are not finished with changes, and we will continue to improve the look and feel of the newspaper in the months to come as we strive to make the ABN the best state Baptist newspaper not only in Arkansas, but throughout Southern Baptist life.

Let us know what you think, and as always, send us your suggestions.

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


‘Southern man’

Caleb Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News 

I was reading Tim Keller’s book The Reason for God recently when a passage in Chapter 3 jumped out at me.

Keller is pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, a church he started with his wife, Kathy, in 1989. Today Redeemer has a regular weekly attendance of more than 5,000 and meets at various locations across the city.

YarbroughIn the aforementioned passage, Keller mentions an experience he had speaking with a “man from a southern U.S. state.”

Keller writes that the man visited Redeemer after hearing that the church had grown a substantial congregation “in the midst of a skeptical, secular city” while maintaining an unflinchingly orthodox Christian doctrine.

Understanding Redeemer’s success reaching New Yorkers with the gospel,  Keller writes that the Southern man assumed the church had attracted their members and visitors through “avantgarde music, video monitors and clips, dramatic sketches, exceptionally hip settings, and other kinds of eye-catching spectacle.”

“This is a complete mystery to me. Where are the dancing bears? Where are the gimmicks? Why are these people here?” asked the Southern man.

Keller directed the man to “downtown art-types,” attending the service. 

The art-types expressed to the Southern man that they were drawn to Redeemer because it lacked the emotionally manipulative language of other churches they had visited, that attendees of Redeemer instead “addressed others with gentle, self-depricating irony,” that beliefs at the church were held in “clarity and humility” and that “teaching and communication at Redeemer was intelligent and nuanced, showing sensitivity where they were sensitive.”

As a Southern man myself, I believe we Southerners often look to the places like New York City with a kind of self-righteousness. We picture their large metropolises being bastions of godless secularism.

And they are.

But so are our cities, towns and neighborhoods.

Much like the Southern man in Keller’s story, many of us Southern believers miss the point.

If we truly believe that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation” (Rom. 1:16), then we must also believe that “hip settings,” and “avantgarde music,” do not save people.

And while it pains me to say it, it may be time we Southerners took a lesson from some of our Yankee brothers and sisters.

People need Jesus. It is tempting to believe we need to dress Him up to make Him appealing to them, but a clear and honest representaion and presentation of the gospel, in our words and deeds, continues to be the most effective form of evangelism.

Call and Response is written by Caleb Yarbrough, staff writer for the Arkansas Baptist News (ABN). It appears on the ABN’s Faith & Culture page.


Religious expression flagged on the field

Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

The P.O. (politically correct) police have struck again – this time in Jonesboro with their target being the Arkansas State University football team.

Someone complained, requesting that crosses on Red Wolves football helmets – intended to commemorate the death of people close to the program – be removed. The symbol of the cross was said to be offensive and inappropriate for a state-funded university.

YarbroughI understand through media reports that the individual lodging the complaint asked not to be identified. 

The person told at least one reporter, “After all, I have to live in this town.”

In 2014, Americans find themselves living in a society that is attempting to stamp out every vestige of religion – mostly Christianity – from the public square. History often repeats itself. I have read about the same type of thing happening in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. Communist China does this type of thing often. They remove crosses regularly from Christian churches, and – by the way – shut them down too.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the incident at Arkansas State, but did you hear that Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III – a Baylor University graduate – was asked to remove or turn inside out a T-shirt he wore to a postgame NFL news conference? The offensive T-shirt read, “Know Jesus, Know Peace.” With numerous domestic violence and drug abuse allegations lodged against NFL players the past few weeks, it seems to me the NFL could use a little more Jesus and less politically correct behavior as well.

We are becoming a self-policing society – one that believes the lies of the devil telling everyone we must become a truly secular nation  – aggressively seeking to stamp out any form of religious expression.

Those reading this column may very well see the day when crosses are removed from our churches and pastors are arrested for preaching against society’s “popular” sins such as homosexuality, adultery and recreational uses of drugs – as well as a host of other things. After all, these things are offensive to sinners and secular humanists.

The P.O. police are watching, and they don’t believe the Bible you and I read, nor in a God who offers redemption for their wretched souls.

I believe that short of a massive course reversal – such as revival and a spiritual awakening sweeping our land – they won’t stop until their beliefs are forced on all of us.

May God have mercy on us, and the adversaries of Jesus Christ in our present age!

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


Family Matters: Work before play

Ben Phillips
Arkansas Baptist State Convention 

I began working with my 14-year-old son several years ago to help me with the lawn outside during the summers. 

PhillipsHe complained some initially: “None of my friends have to do this. It’s hot. Can I play with friends instead?” I would frequently say, “Work before play.”

I pressed forward as a father and trained him to the point where he took care of our entire lawn. Here are some principles for chores we’ve learned along the way.

Cultivate a biblical understanding of work. A couple  key passages to share with your children are Genesis 2:15 and Proverbs 6:6-8. Help your children memorize these passages and reflect on them frequently when they work.

Help your children complete chores. Most children will need a parental example and supervision. Here’s a five-step process: (1) Parent does chore – child watches,  (2) parent and child complete chore together,  (3) child does chore – parent watches,  (4) child does chore alone and (5) parent inspects child’s work.

Organize age-appropriate chores for your kids. Even toddlers can learn to do some chores. Gradually increase the chore responsibilities of children as they age so that they are completing many adult chores before they graduate high school and leave home.  

Reward and affirm them for their good work. Look for opportunities to positively affirm your children when they complete a chore or an assignment in a timely and excellent fashion. Praising and rewarding children for completing tasks often solicits a more favorable response than does a critical comment.

Equip your children with a variety of different skills. Cross-train your children so that boys and girls all know how to do inside chores and outside chores. It will prepare them to become responsible hardworking young adults.

My son has consistently mowed several neighbors’ lawns this summer. Neighbors saw how well he took care of our lawn and began to pay him to mow theirs. 

Work before play pays off!

Ben Phillips serves on the Arkansas Baptist State Convention evangelism and church health team.


The rise of the cults - Archie Mason

Archie Mason
President, Arkansas Baptist State Convention

Two men dressed in white shirts, black ties and riding bicycles have become a common sight in Jonesboro, our nation, plus many countries where I have been a part of mission teams. 

MasonThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – the Mormon church – is on the move, boasting on their website – www.mormonnewsroom.org/facts-and-stats – of a worldwide membership of 15,082,028 with 83,035 missionaries. Many Mormon young men, and now a rising number of women, ranging in age from 18 to 22, are embarking upon 18- to 24-month mission trips in the United States and worldwide where they share their Mormon faith door-to-door and do community service projects. 

Every Mormon missionary I have ever talked with is friendly, kind and usually noncombative. So, how can so many people be so nice, and do good deeds, yet believe that (1) God was once a man who lived on another planet, who kept the laws of the god of that planet and became the god of this planet and has a physical body and a physical wife who is a goddess; (2) believe that Jesus is the spirit brother of Satan; (3) believe that we all pre-existed as spirits, but when we were born on this earth our pre-existent memory was veiled, and (4) believe that people can achieve godhood and eventually have their own planet where they also can produce spirit children? 

The straightforward answer is that Satan has blinded the minds of the unbelieving (2 Cor. 4:4). They are sincere in what they believe, yet sincerely wrong. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christian Science are considered cults. A “cult” is defined as a group that explicitly or implicitly denies one of the central doctrines of historic Christian faith, which includes God, Jesus Christ, sin, salvation and Scripture. Should cults surprise us? The biblical answer is no. 

Jesus said they would come in Matthew 24:11 (NASB): “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.” 

Paul said they would come in Acts 20:29 (NASB): “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.”

Peter said they would come in 2 Peter 2:1 (NASB): “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.” 

Cults are on the rise, they are coming to your front door and they are preaching a false gospel. So how do we respond to the rise of the cults? Remember what Paul said in Galatians  1:8 (NASB): “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!”

We have to preach the exclusivity of the Jesus Christ of Scripture, teach our people how to defend their faith and call false teachers what they are – false teachers. If you are interested in learning more about cults, I am currently teaching a “Cults and World Religions” class on Wednesday nights at Central Baptist Church, Jonesboro, with all lectures recorded and posted on our website. Go to www.centralbaptist.com and click on “Media,” “Central Campus,” “Videos” and look for “Cults and World Religions.” 

Because everyone matters!

Archie Mason is president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and senior pastor of Central Baptist Church in Jonesboro.