By Dan DeWitt
The modern apologist stands on the shoulders of faithful Christians from previous generations. That is because apologetics is a basic expectation for every believer in every generation. As one apologist noted, preaching the Gospel is “inseparable from defense [of the Gospel].”(1) Every person whose life has been transformed by Jesus is necessarily an apologist, someone called to proclaim, explain and defend the Good News.
All followers of Jesus are obligated to give a well-reasoned explanation of his or her hope in Christ (1 Peter 3:15). The Apostle Peter says to give a reason for the “hope that is within you.” This calls for, not a presentation of abstract and detached arguments for Christian hope, but a deeply personal account. Every Christian should be able to give a simple explanation of how they first believed the grace of God in Christ: an objective reason for their hope in God.
R.C. Sproul’s definition of faith as well-reasoned trust (2) is helpful to understand what Christians mean when they say they hope in God. The word “trust” implies that faith is not unreasonable, as we usually trust things for which we have good reason. Yet, trust goes beyond reason. Trust communicates that Christian faith is no blind leap, it is not mere existential wishful thinking. Trust is a response to someone who has proven himself or herself to be trustworthy. The Bible is filled with references to the trustworthiness of God and His Word.
THE GENESIS OF APOLOGETICS
The late agnostic scientist Stephen J. Gould thought that religion and science speak of, to and from separate domains. He described religion and science as two ships passing in the night. “Science gets the age of rocks,” he wrote, “and religion the rock of ages; science studies how the heavens go, religion how to go to heaven.” (3) Both skeptics and Bible-believing Christians alike have rejected Gould’s description, as the Christian religion does make claims about the physical world and not merely about
internal human values.
The Bible has plenty to say about the physical world, such as, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth….” The Bible lays claim, not on some part of humanity, but rather, on the entirety of the Cosmos. That is why I believe that all creation passages in the Bible are fundamentally concerned with two things: authorship and ownership. God made it all, and He is the boss.
As Abraham Kuyper reminded us, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”(4) This is of course not a persuasive line of argument for someone who rejects the authority of God and the Bible. But it is indeed the point of the Bible.
The celebrity atheist, Richard Dawkins, glibly responded to Christian apologist John Lennox that the Bible’s accuracy about the origin of the universe was of little importance. (5) The Cosmos either did or did not have a beginning, he reasoned. His point was that the Bible being right was as coincidental as flipping a coin and guessing correctly as to on which side it might land. Lennox, never at a loss for wit, conceded the odds, but reminded Dawkins that it was the Bible, not secular scientists, which was on the right side of the issue, literally, since the beginning of time.
Lennox is right to start with the beginning. If the time, space, matter and energy universe had a beginning that would suggest that something outside of time, space, matter, and energy brought it into being. It is not a leap of logic to suggest that the source of the cosmos is eternal (outside time), omnipresent (outside of spatial constraints), spirit (immaterial), and omnipotent (all powerful).(6) As Edgar Andrews, emeritus professor of materials at the University of London, says, “the hypothesis of God accounts for the world in which we find ourselves as thinking and feeling beings who care both for physical realities that science seeks to explain, and for all the immaterial things like love and justice that are outside the scope of science, but are the very things that make life worth living.” (7)
To be clear, the Bible does not begin with an apologetic for God. It begins with an assertion, “In the beginning God created . . . ” (Gen. 1:1). The Bible operates on the belief that God exists, and that His existence cannot ultimately be denied — though it can be suppressed (Rom. 1). Nonetheless, apologetics is ubiquitous in the Biblical corpus.
For example, the Biblical writers draw upon creation as itself serving an apologetic function. In this way, creation tells a story. It speaks of the glory of God (Psalm 19). Yet it also reveals the wrath of God to those who exchange the glory of the Creator to serve and worship the creation (Rom. 1). The glory and wrath of God are an inescapable message revealed by the heavens.
Even skeptic scientists sometimes concede this cosmic pull towards something outside of nature. Take, for example, the late agnostic scientist Robert Jastrow, who worked for NASA. Jastrow felt that the existence of a finite universe like ours points to something outside of nature, something supernatural. As Jastrow said, the existence of the universe is itself empirical proof of the supernatural.(8) Historically (9), philosophers and scientists who preferred a model of the universe without reference to the supernatural have advanced and defended the eternality of the cosmos.
That is why Carl Sagan’s famous quote, “The cosmos is all that is, or ever was or ever will be” (10) should be seen as a declaration of worship. It is clear why many skeptics would prefer this model. If the universe did not have a beginning, if the cosmos is all that ever was, then references to something outside of the natural world would be unnecessary, they reason. However, this interpretation of the cosmos as existing by and for itself is without a scientific basis. Science does not support the idea that the cosmos is all there ever was.
The facts point in the opposite direction. Numerous discoveries have demonstrated that the cosmos had a beginning. Even scientists such as Albert Einstein, who was at first reluctant to accept that the universe was not eternal, was finally convinced. Of course, this is the claim the Bible has made from the very beginning.
To understand God’s world, we must begin with God’s Word. We cannot understand who we are until we first understand who God is (Psalm 8). We cannot understand who God is until we understand Scripture (Romans 10). Every thinking person must come to terms with the God of creation as revealed in the Bible. Our relationship to the Creator is the most important thing about us.
REDEMPTIVE HISTORY AS APOLOGETICS
After explaining the origin of the universe, humanity, and sin, the Bible provides an account of God’s redemptive work through the choosing of a people, the nation of Israel. Like the creation of the world, the chronology of the nation of Israel is presented as an historical account of God’s activity in the world. As Timothy Paul Jones explains, “The first report we have of God calling a human being to write was when God commanded Moses to write what he heard (Exodus 17:14, 24:4-7). And so, Moses recounted the story of God’s work with humanity all the way from the beginning of time up to the people’s entrance into the Promised Land.” (11) This true story of a nation in the Arab world, chosen by God, provides invaluable apologetic resources to us today.
This Bible explains that the account of the nation of Israel is documented so that future generations might know the words and works of God (Psalm 78:6). The Biblical apologist is able to use redemptive history in the very way Scripture does, to point future generations to the faithful Creator who offers salvation to all who believe, who fulfills His promises and who sustains His people.
In addition to the history of Israel recorded in Scripture, the historical evidence left in the nation’s wake, accessible through archeology and extra-Biblical literature, is extremely helpful for apologetics. Like other extra-Biblical evidence, archeology is not fundamental to Biblical apologetics, but should not be ignored or neglected. Why would we refuse to search for buried treasures when we have been given a reliable map?
God’s real work in the real world left the very kind of evidence you would expect of any civilization that takes up real estate, makes military conquests and builds stuff. Israel left a trail of breadcrumbs: towns, villages, battlefields, tombs, temples, and cities. Figuratively speaking, God left footprints in Palestine. As the Nobel Prize-winning archeologist Nelson Glueck makes plain, “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible. And, by the same token, proper evaluation of Biblical descriptions has often led to amazing discoveries.” (12)
THE SOUNDTRACK OF THE BIBLE: THE PSALMS AS APOLOGETICS
This story of redemptive history is captured poetically in the Psalms. These songs are a microcosm of the entire Bible. In this way, the Psalms function like the Soundtrack of the Bible. They unpack God’s role in creation and redemption. The five books of Psalms are organized to tell the story of God and man. These “holy songs,” as Jonathan Edwards described them, are “nothing else but the expressions and breathings of devout and holy affections.” (13)
The Psalms speak our language. They describe the longing for the holy in the midst of the unholy. In these 150 songs, we find every human experience. These are the sorts of themes often referenced in cultural and literary apologetics. The apologist is able to show how the Bible explains what it feels like to be human, in a manner far superior to alternative worldviews. C.S. Lewis often appealed to the explanatory power of the Gospel as an apologetic, “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” (14)
The Psalms do not sugarcoat what authentic faith looks like in a cursed world. Consider the Biblical depiction of suffering. Between one-third to one-half of the Psalms are songs of lament, songs of suffering. But these inspired songs also speak of hope. In “Israel’s hymn book,” we find an apt description of what it means to be human while living in a fallen world and yearning for our coming King.
The Psalms speak of a Kingly Deliverer who will suffer, but, in the end, gain victory over the enemies of God and offer salvation to the people of God. Though the primary goal of the Psalms is the glory of God, these songs also provide an apologetic function of outlining Israel’s history, explaining the human experience and providing prophetic details regarding the fulfillment of God’s promised Messiah King.
The New Testament authors regularly point back to the Psalms, showing how Jesus is the fulfillment of this expectation. In this way, the New Testament demonstrates an apologetic use of the Psalms of speaking to and defending the person of Jesus as the Messiah predicted in the Old Testament. Brian Morely makes this point in his book “Mapping Apologetics: Comparing Contemporary Approaches,”
“The New Testament reflects important apologetic themes found in the Old. For example, Christ clearly and repeatedly appeals to prophecy to show that he represents the true God.” (15)
A VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS: THE PROPHETS AS APOLOGISTS
The Old Testament prophets served to warn the nation of Israel of God’s judgment and to encourage them with a vision of God’s promises. The New Testament writers apply many of these Old Testaments prophecies to Jesus. The apostles understood and preached that Jesus is the fulfillment of the promises of the old covenant. That is why the Apostle Paul calls Jesus the “final Adam” – the promised child in Genesis 3:15; the son of Eve, who came to crush the serpent’s head. The trajectory of the Old Testament is the cross, the resurrection and the appointment of the rightful King. The law, the wisdom literature, and the prophets all point to and are fulfilled in God’s chosen Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Numerous apologetics resources outline the Old Testament prophecies and assign probability for them all being fulfilled in one person. For example, Peter Stoner, former Professor of Science at Westmont College, catalogued the Old Testament prophecies and suggested the probability of one person fulfilling just eight of the major prophecies as one chance in one hundred quadrillion. (16)
Probability theories can be confusing and contested and should be used with caution. However, they do illustrate the miraculous nature of Jesus as the Messiah. The Biblical apologist should use the fulfilled prophecies as the apostles did, in preaching the Gospel with the force of God’s word revealed to the prophets, and in these last days, in the person of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:2).
THE NEW TESTAMENT CRIME SCENE: THE APOSTLES AS EARLY APOLOGISTS
The Gospels present clear historical information in their accounts for the purpose of teaching and persuasion. Luke, for example, even states his methodology in his prologue, like a modern-day research paper might, as to explain the sort of account he is delivering. The Gospels are clearly more than apologetic in nature, but they are not less. As Avery Dulles summarizes: “While none of the New Testament writings is directly and professedly apologetical, nearly all of them contain reflections of the Church’s efforts to exhibit the credibility of its message and to answer the obvious objections that would have arisen in the minds of adversaries, prospective converts, and candid believers. Parts of the New Testament — such as the major Pauline Letters, Hebrews, the four Gospels and Acts — reveal an apologetical preoccupation in the minds of the authors themselves.” (17)
The apostles, chosen by the resurrected Christ, writing by the power of the Holy Spirit, still include evidences in their appeals. While the New Testament does not read like an apologetics manual, there are clear traces of apologetics concerns inherent within multiple passages, accounts, and sermons, or as Dulles says, “the apologetically significant themes that are present, in a diffused way, throughout the New Testament.” (18)
The apostles were not reticent to use reasoned arguments or even tangible historical evidences in presenting and defending the Gospel, as Dulles explains, “apologetics was intrinsic to the presentation of the kerygma.” (19) Paul’s sermons in Acts 14 and 17 are helpful examples. Paul sites the harvest as “witnesses” of God’s provision (Acts 14), and the resurrection as “evidence” that God will judge the world (Acts 17). The result: some of his audience scoffed, others inquired but some believed. Contemporary apologists should expect nothing less in the response to their own presentations of the Gospel.
The primary focus of the early church was the fulfillment of Christ’s commission (Matt 28:19-20). This often included apologetics, but was not focused exclusively on arguments or evidences. It was focused on presenting the Gospel. Even the sign gifts of prophecy, tongues, and healing, served the purpose of demonstrating the authenticity of the Gospel message. To put it plainly: we must not conflate the message with external evidences for the message.
One thing upon which apologists of all methodologies should agree is the centrality of the Gospel message in the work of the early church. Though times and challenges change, this remains the central task for apologists. This is as true today as it has been throughout the history of the church. Our methods might change, our message never will.
Thus, our apologetic should begin and end with the Gospel, according to the Scriptures. This is because the Gospel is our first, our final and our only lasting apologetic. The Great Commission will not be fulfilled merely through a demonstration of philosophical syllogisms and historical evidences but through the proclamation and power of the Gospel. And of this Gospel: may we never be ashamed.
Dan DeWitt, Ph.D. is the director of the Center for Biblical Apologetics and Public Christianity, and an Associate Professor of Applied Theology and Apologetics
1. Greg Bahnsen, “The Encounter of Jerusalem with Athens” (http:// www.cmfnow.com/articles/pa045.htm)
2R.C. Sproul speaks to this definition in many places including his article “Faith and Reason” available online here: https://www.ligonier.org/learn/ articles/faith-and-reason/ and in his book What Is Faith? Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Trust, 2010.
3See Stephen Jay Gould. Rock of Ages: Science and Religion in Fullness of Life. Reprint Edition. New York: Ballantine Books. Reprint edition, 2002.
4Abraham Kuyper, “Sphere Sovereignty,” in Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998, 488.
5From the October 21, 2008, debate “Has Science Buried God” between John Lennox and Richard Dawkins, hosted by the Fixed Point Foundation at the Oxford Museum of Natural History in Oxford, England.
6I first heard this argument framed this way from a presentation by William Lane Craig. Since then, I have seen it used in a number of apologetics presentations.
7Andrews, Edgar, Who Made God? Hertfordshire, Enlgand: Evangelical Press, 2012.
8 Jastrow, Robert, God and the Astronomers. New York: Norton, 1978, 16.
9See A.D. Chernin, V. Ya. Frenkel, and E.A. Tropp, Alexander Friedmann: The Man Who Made the Universe Expand. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993, 175.
10See the book Cosmos by Carl Sagan or documentary “Cosmos” featuring Carl Sagan.
11See Timothy Paul Jones’ chapter “The Bible: How We Got It” in Standing for Truth, Louisville, KY: Crossings Press, 2018, 24.
12Glueck, Nelson. Rivers in the Desert. New York: Farrar, Srous and Cudahy, 1959. 136.
13Barshinger, David P. Jonathan Edwards and the Psalms: A Redemptive-historical Vision of Scripture. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2014, 1.
14See C.S. Lewis, “Is Theology Poetry?” in They Asked for a Paper. London: Geoffrey Bless, 1962, 165.
16McDowell, Sean. The Apologetics Study Bible for Students. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009, 744.
It’s not a matter of “if” a disaster will strike but “when.” You can be trained as a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer with the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware and serve others in love at one of the most, if not the most, difficult times in their lives.
Classes for new volunteers and for those who need new badges is scheduled for June 1, 2019, at Tri-County Baptist Church in Damascus, Maryland.
Classes Offered are:
- Introduction to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (12:30 p.m. — 2:30 p.m.)
This is required for all new volunteers. This class will give an overview of the work of Disaster Relief and ministry with disaster survivors. We will also cover what to expect on a disaster response, what to bring, and other necessary information.
- Recovery Team (9:30 a.m. — 11:30 a.m.)
This class will overview the work of the recovery team: flood recovery, chainsaw and temporary repairs with emphasis given to safety. The primary area of focus is flood recovery. Although this is a physical ministry, many recovery tasks in the field do not require great physical strength.
- Feeding Team (9:30 a.m. — 11:30 a.m.)
In this class you will learn the processes that are followed in preparing, serving and cleaning up meals served out of a mobile kitchen or church kitchen. Emphasis will be placed on food safety. The class will prepare and serve lunch as if this were an actual disaster response.
Please indicate which classes you would like to take when you register. To receive badges, new volunteers are required to complete two classes including “Introduction to Disaster Relief.”
Course trainers are: Carl Brill, George Blevins, and Ellen Udovich
The cost is $30 for new volunteers and volunteers who need a new badge. It is free for returning volunteers who don’t need a new badge.
For more information email Ellen Udovich or call 410-290-5290 x 216
By Sharon Mager
MIDDLETOWN, Maryland — The General Mission Board (GMB) of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) met on May 7 at Skycroft Conference Center in Middletown, Maryland. GMB members visited the mountaintop center, where they enjoyed a time of fellowship over lunch in the dining area prior to the start of the meeting.
BCM/D Executive Director Kevin Smith welcomed members and read from John 3. He went on to introduce Sherri Swanson, the wife of Bayside Baptist Church Pastor Glenn Swanson, who led in a time of singing hymns such as “Holy, Holy, Holy,” and “How Great Thou Art.”
GMB President Frank Duncan read from Psalm 36:5, “Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens. Your faithfulness to the skies.” (NIV)
He prayed, “Father, we thank You for this time to gather, representing our various churches coming together for the work of this great convention. Lord, we desire to do Thy will. It is our great and distinct privilege to be a part of the work that You are doing to advance Your kingdom….”
Associate Executive Director Tom Stolle reported that Cooperative Program (CP) giving is up, exceeding last year’s first quarter by over $51,236.12 or 5.7 percent.
Regarding disbursements, Stolle reported convention operations are running ahead of the year-to-date budget. Facility repairs were higher than anticipated in 2019, but Stolle explained these expenses are not incurred evenly. Management currently expects to be within budget at year-end.
For the three months ended on March 31, 2019, results have yielded a deficit of ($2,367.12). A deficit is not unusual for this point in the year, Stolle said. Assuming CP receipts track on budget and out of state partnerships are secured, management expects that operations will approximate break even at year end.
Regarding Skycroft Conference Center, receipts are ahead of budget by $40,050.30 or 1.76 percent through the first quarter, though Stolle cautioned that there is a concern that general user fees are down from last year. Fewer user fees mean fewer guests registered to stay at Skycroft, he explained. Management is exploring ways to raise additional revenue during non-summer months.
For the three months ended March 31, 2019, disbursements totaling $464,585.87 represent only 20.45percent of the budgeted expenses incurred compared to 23.24percent of budgeted expenses incurred in 2018 for the same period. Stolle emphasized that the Skycroft staff continues to do their best to control costs. He noted that all expenses are not incurred evenly, with a higher percentage of certain costs incurred in the summer months when more guests are on the campus.
First quarter results yielded a surplus of $143,394.43. “This is not unusual for this point in the year,” Stolle emphasized, adding that management currently expects that operations will approximate break-even at year end, although the reduced occupancy numbers compared to last year are concerning.
Regarding State Missions Offering (SMO), affiliated churches gave $137,455.30 designated to fund approved SMO initiatives — Skycroft Evangelism, Church Planting, Collegiate, Special Needs, and Disaster Relief. To date, $32,026.58 or 21.35percent of these funds were expended. Stolle emphasized that as we move into the summer months, we will see more disaster relief funds spent due to seasonal natural disasters that will necessitate relief efforts and funding. All funds received will be used as designated.
Stolle reported for the Baptist Foundation of Maryland/Delaware. Fourteen churches have outstanding loans from the church loan fund. Income for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2019, will be distributed to the BCM/D to start and strengthen churches. Management currently anticipates that distribution to total between $90,000 – $105,000.
Three churches have outstanding loans from the Arthur Nanney church loan fund, established in 2006 and for small, emergency loans to churches.
As of March 31, 2019, the market value of the investment portfolio was $8,577,994. The most recent calendar quarter portfolio performance reflected a return of 9.4 percent. The one-year performance reflected a return of 4.7 percent, and the three- year return totaled 8.2 percent.
Executive Director’s Report
“Since 1836, the BCM/D has existed to strengthen and plant churches in this two-state region,” BCM/D Executive Director Kevin Smith said, addressing the GMB members. He shared the BCM/D’s three core values: cooperation, affirmation, and multiplication.
Regarding cooperation, Smith said the Southern Baptist mission methodology is effective and admired by other denominational leaders.
“They appreciate our methodology,” Smith said. He explained that many leaders appreciate the processes in the Southern Baptist Convention–how faithful stewards in local congregations give in their churches, and then the congregations give a percentage of undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program, which funds all of the missions in the state, nation and internationally.
He expressed thankfulness for national leaders who recently answered the call to fill strategic positions in SBC agencies and seminaries, and he asked for prayer for those entities that are still seeking leadership.
Smith said he is excited that Dr. Paul Chitwood is the new president of the International Mission Board (IMB). Chitwood, he said, believes strongly in the SBC methodology. The IMB is vital, Smith emphasized, especially to smaller state conventions that don’t have full-time staff personnel whose work is focused on missions mobilization. Smith said BCM/D is also blessed to be just over a two-hour drive to the IMB offices in Richmond, Virginia.
Regarding church safety, especially as it relates to sexual assault and abuse, Smith said BCM/D has been proactive, offering “With All Purity” discussions to provide helpful tools and information, with Biblical integrity, to pastors and church leaders presented by legal and social professionals. Smith said information from the SBC Sexual Abuse Presidential Advisory Group, formed by SBC President J.D. Greear, is expected at the annual SBC meeting in Alabama in June, and that the BCM/D will respond with more resources accordingly.
There is currently safety information on the BCM/D website provided by BCM/D Children, Bible Teaching, and VBS Consultant June Holland, who also regularly counsels churches regarding these topics.
Smith stressed, “We have been, and we are, and we do take these matters very seriously.”
Church Services Report
Mark Dooley, who began serving as the BCM/D director of evangelism in January 2019, said that a major emphasis of church services is building relationships.
Dooley has met with over 48 pastors face-to-face since January, sitting down for lunch, or meeting in an office to hear concerns and praise God for how He is moving in the churches. “That’s one of the things I’ve enjoyed the most…,” he said. He’s also contacted dozens of pastors through phone calls or emails. BCM/D consultants have also consistently reached out to build those relationships, he said. “Everyone is involved in reaching out and trying to touch the churches, church members, and especially the pastors, getting to know them and develop relationships.”
Dooley said ongoing training continues to be a focus of our church services department, referencing multiple successful children’s ministries and Vacation Bible School training, “Preaching Roundtable” events and prayer workshops, as well as an upcoming disaster relief training.
Also, Dooley said that following a state revitalization network meeting in Oklahoma, leadership is considering a sermon-based approach for revitalization efforts as a potential addition to the “tool kit” of resources.
Dooley also referenced the effectiveness of church assessments. He and Church Services Consultant Randy Millwood are developing a convention-specific church health assessment that can be used by churches at all stages, not just when they’re in transition.
Currently, at least 22 churches are without pastors, Dooley said. The convention is prayerfully seeking to assist those churches.
“Pray for consultants as they reach out to help those in transitions,” he said.
Revitalization efforts are ongoing and will be until Jesus returns, Dooley said. Four churches are now being trained through the Thom Rainer “Revitalize Network.” The BCM/D has a partnership with the Revitalize Network.
Church Planting Report
State Director of Missions Michael Crawford reported that church planting is in the best place it has ever been and that the relationship with the North American Mission Board has never been better.
Crawford said he’s happy to see increasing unity within the planters’ network. “They are building relationships with each other, talking to each other, and encouraging one another,” he said.
This fall, Crawford and the church planting team will address the top six challenges identified by local planters, providing experts who will be able to assist in these problem areas. “We want to eliminate challenges,” Crawford said.
Churches planting churches is the primary strategy of planting. Crawford said, “Not every church will plant a church, but we want to see churches plant churches.” We want to be like the disciples in Antioch, he explained. They heard what was going on and sent someone. “That’s what we want to be at the BCM/D. We want to hear about what’s happening in your church, and if you have a church planter or a group of people that wants to start a church, we’re excited to help in any way we can, to come alongside and partner with you. We want to put some wood down and light it on fire,” Crawford said.
“I believe vision is what you see when you close your eyes. So, to me, I’d like to close my eyes and wake up in 2030 to a new reality where the majority of planters that are being planted in the BCM/D are coming from our churches. I believe we’re on that path and we’re going to get there. We have cooperated; planters have been affirmed in their local churches, and we’re rolling with them towards the issue of multiplication.”
BCM/D President’s Address
BCM/D President Harold Phillips shared about the need for prayer. Using Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, knowing He was to face the cross, Phillips showed how prayer gives Christians the ability to accept the weakness of the believers in our lives (Jesus’ disciples); the ability to accept the wickedness of the wicked and to still love them (the Roman soldiers); and the ability to accept God’s will over our own (“Father, not My will but Thine”).
“Jesus was a prayer warrior, and He was God incarnated,” Phillips said. He shared part of a devotional he heard while he was on a trip to Israel when he was standing in the Garden of Gethsemane – a name referring to an oil press. Jesus was being pressed, Phillips said. Jesus knew that when He went into the garden that He was facing the cross and that He would still face the cross when He came out.
Prayer doesn’t always change circumstances, Phillips explained. “Sometimes the prayer is for you,” Phillips said. It did not change the circumstances for Jesus, but it changed Him.
Jesus was sorrowful when He went into the garden, and during the time He prayed, and He was frustrated during prayer, but He came away from prayer revitalized. “He had the ability to face what was in front of Him.
“Even Jesus was changed by a prayer meeting,” Phillips said.
Closing the meeting, Phillips prayed, “Father, we thank you for the wonderful blessing of being able to call on the name of the Lord.
“We’re thankful for at times being able to have the Holy Spirit come over us and give us peace…”
By Tom Stolle
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of attending the Delmarva Night to Shine celebration, a prom for individuals ages 14 and up, organized by Grace Seaford Church and held in Bridgeville, Del. It was an amazing experience!
It was wonderful to see approximately 65 very special guests, 150 volunteers and numerous
parents, family members and caregivers of the guests celebrate together. It was a night just for them.
As the guests celebrated, I saw some family members laughing, some crying tears of joy and heard numerous expressions of thanks from the loved ones of the guests for making this special
evening available. The smiles were precious and abundant. For the smiles to be a part of an event that exalts the name of Jesus was even better.For the special guests and their loved ones to hear that God loves them and He has a purpose for their lives is priceless.
I believe in Night to Shine. I believe in what it represents. I served on the organizing board of the Grace Seaford Church Delmarva Night to Shine, assisting with its planning, promotion, and production. I will continue to encourage churches to participate in this ministry. I will assist churches that desire to get started. God uses Night to Shine to touch hearts and change lives. I praise God more churches get involved every year.
However, my heart grieves for many very special individuals and families that cannot participate in a Night to Shine. Please allow me to explain. Not all individuals that are affected by certain intellectual and/or developmental disabilities can handle attending a prom. For some individuals, the crowd of unfamiliar people and the loud music played for the enjoyment of guests dancing creates an environment that some affected by a disability would not find enjoyable or celebratory.
I began to think: What would a “Night to Shine” (not in the Tim Tebow Foundation sense of the phrase) look like for my son or individuals like him? How can these individuals experience the feeling of love and expressions of value from their community? Surely the God of the universe has created all of us with a purpose and wants us all to feel respected and valued.
I think the answer is found in the principle of loving people ‘where they are at.’ Imagine how followers of Jesus could make a profound Kingdom impact simply by practicing what is written in Philippians 2 (NLT). Verse 1 records, “Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate?” Verses 3 and 4 state, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”
For those in your life (God has placed them there for His purposes), are you willing to go to them to provide a word of encouragement? Are you willing to tell them that you love them? When things get difficult or perhaps behaviors become challenging, are you willing to look past those challenges and express the love for them that God gives to you? Are you willing to, as scripture says, think of them ‘as better than’ yourself?
The journey of disability can be a lonely road. Families face challenges that most individuals don’t understand. They can be faced with choices that no parent should have to make. Because of the severe challenges, many of these families due to the crisis must turn their attention to an immediate crisis, which in many cases can go on for years. Sadly, relationships outside of the immediate family can suffer and die as these families must devote enormous attention to internal challenges at the unfortunate expense of external relationships.
Perhaps for these individuals that you meet in your neighborhood, your community or in your church, you can give them their moment. If you love them, listen to them, encourage them, help them, be available to them and ask God to reveal to you how you can better serve them. You can make a difference in their lives.
This type of personal ministry is crucial. Perhaps some individuals that you encounter that have severe challenges may not be able to attend a Night to Shine. However, your love and service to those very special people Bymay allow them, just for a moment, to shine. It may not be public, it may not be celebrated, but the God of the universe sees. The family will love you back for it.
Perhaps for some, that’s what their personal ‘night to shine’ may look like.
Tom Stolle serves as BCM/D Associate Executive Director
“The Lord is my shepherd; I have what I need. He lets me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters. He renews my life; he leads me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”
Psalm 23: 1-3
Sign Language classes open doors to the community
Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, in Rohrersville, Maryland, is offering free beginner/refresher sign language classes from June 27 to August 1. Church member and teacher Ron Pitts teaches “Sign English,” as opposed to “American Sign Language (ASL).”
Most people who are deaf use ASL in their day-to-day interactions, Pitts explained.
ASL is like shorthand to people who can hear. Sign English is more like complete sentences. “The person who is deaf would call a person using Sign English as being ‘wordy,’ but they would be very happy that they don’t have to break out their pencil and paper to communicate,” Pitts explained.
Pitts said there is always time built into the class to talk and to create and build relationships. Read more about this ministry in a past BaptistLIFE article.
Free VBS Material
Friendship Baptist Church, in Sykesville, is offering free “In The Wild” Vacation Bible School materials including props and decorations. They will be available after FBC finishes their VBS July 14-18. Pick-up would be the evening of Thursday, July 18th. For more information text 410-868-0710.
Outdoor movie night
Connecting Church, in Abingdon, will have a free outdoor movie night at Abingdon Elementary School. The church will show a favorite family movie on a huge screen and serve popcorn, drinks, and other free treats. Before the movie, church members will provide crafts and games.
Church hosts symphonic band
First Baptist Church of Delaware, in New Castle, will host the First State Symphonic Band in concert from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. on May 31. The band will perform a variety of music, including “Night on Bald Mountain,” a George Gershwin medley, and music from the movies “Mary Poppins” and “The Incredibles.” Admission is free. Doors open at 7 p.m.
BCM/D Upcoming Opportunities
Please visit our BCM/D website to see the many training and mission opportunities that are available including Preaching Roundtable events, English as a Second Language training, and a disaster relief training that will be held on June 1 at Tri-County Baptist Church in Damascus, Maryland.
There are also many free resources for your church including children’s ministry safety packets, VBS security packets, and congregational safety information.
By Brian Tubbs
Marcus Antonius Felix, the Roman procurator of Iudaea Province, had a problem. And it was
standing right in front of him. Felix was the governor of Iudaea — or Judaea or Judea, as we know it.
His time in office had been marked by unrest and, at times, violence, and he was facing
yet more trouble. Now, under pressure from Jewish leaders in the province he oversaw, Felix faced the joyless task of determining the fate of the Jewish Pharisee turned Christian preacher
standing before him – a man named Paul.
Paul’s accusers, including Jewish High Priest Ananias, turned to a man named Tertullus, a professional orator, basically a legal and political advocate for hire, to present their case against Paul.
In a display of sophistry and slander, Tertellus grovels before Felix while tossing out passive-aggressive criticism of Claudius Lysias, the Roman tribune in Jerusalem (and, by implied extension, Rome itself), for interfering in Jewish affairs. He describes Paul as “a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5). He adds that Paul “even tried to profane the temple,” prompting them to “seize” him (Acts 24:6).
Paul’s defense before Felix can be found in Acts 24:10-21, and it is an excellent model for any Christian or church today since our world is, in some respects, quite similar to Paul’s.
He addresses Felix politely, lays out the facts, explains how he was improperly treated by his accusers, and presents the Gospel in a manner his audience will understand. Luke tells us that, at the conclusion of Paul’s statement, Felix had “a more accurate knowledge of the Way.” It’s a masterful presentation and the perfect example of what Christian apologetics should look like.
Though we in America don’t (yet) face the degree of persecution Paul and the first-century church did, we can still glean some important lessons from Paul’s example.
The cultural and demographic landscape in the United States has dramatically changed in the last 50 years (radically so in the last 20). While some of those changes have been positive, this cannot be said for all of them. Most of us would agree that the United States today is, morally speaking, not well. We live in an unhealthy society that largely views Christians with apathy, ignorance, or suspicion. In some cases, like Paul’s accusers in Acts 24, the world can view us with scorn and contempt.
Accordingly, Paul’s defense – his apologia – before Felix and his accusers in Acts 24, and later before Festus and Agrippa in Acts 25-26, has much value for us today. Apologetics is frankly no longer optional. If we want to be relevant and effective, we must engage our culture the way Paul did his.
Unfortunately, when those outside the Christian faith are exposed to Christian preaching or teaching today, they’re liable to find one of three extremes: a) feel-good messages from pastors who sound more like motivational speakers than Bible teachers, b) in-depth lectures on the finer points of theological matters that they (the non-Christians) are completely unfamiliar with and thus have no context within which to process such teaching, or c) pulpit-pounding, finger-pointing denunciations of the culture in which they (the unchurched) live.
Accordingly, non-Christians are likely to see the Christian church as either unnecessary, out-of-touch, irrelevant, or judgmental and hateful.
What’s worse, when these non-Christians sometimes approach church leaders with honest questions, they often walk away disappointed and their apprehensions or preconceived negative notions further reinforced.
Steven Garofalo, founder and president of the apologetics ministry, Reason For Truth, explains the disconnect this way, “I am hearing from pastors that they used to be able to answer most of the questions asked of them. As of the past 5-10 years, that has all changed.” According to Garofalo, author of several books including “Equipped: Basic Training for Apologetics in Evangelism,” few Christians and churches leaders are able to answer the moral, theological, and philosophical questions or objections emanating from our culture today. “If we don’t carry out, or are unable to carry out, 1 Peter 3:15,” explains Garofalo, “we will not be able to shore up the faith of Christ followers, inoculate our youth, and give a persuasive account of the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ to an unbelieving world.”
The Apostle Paul would most certainly agree.
Every church should have leaders, including one or more pastors, who are able and willing to utilize evidence and reason (as Paul did) to show that belief in God, Jesus, and the Bible is both reasonable and compelling. Every church should also have leaders, including one or more pastors, able and willing to make a compelling case (even to professing Christians) for a Biblical worldview.
We must teach and preach God’s Word, but we must do so in a way that is relevant and effective. We can’t just proclaim; we must explain. We can’t simply denounce; we must appeal and persuade. We can’t just talk; we must listen. And learn.
Only then will those who listen to us come away, as Felix did, with a “more accurate knowledge of the Way.”
Brian Tubbs is the senior pastor of Olney Baptist Church in Montgomery County, MD, and also serves on the General Mission Board for the BCM/D. He is also a speaker with Reason For Truth. For more information on Reason For Truth, visit ReasonForTruth.bible
This article was printed in our BaptistLIFE Spring 2019 magazine.
By Sharon Mager
NEWARK, Delaware—Transformation Church, a four-year-old church plant with about 60 members, will host a youth conference from May 24-26 at 505 School House Road, Hockessin, Delaware. Pastor
Chandra Rudrapathi explains that “Awake” is more than a youth conference, it’s actually for teens and their parents. The theme is “Bridging the Gap: Keeping Families Together,” based on Psalms 145:4, “One generation commends your works to another.”
There will be joint worship services for teens and parents, with specialized breakout sessions for each group.
“As part of my doctoral thesis, I realized that ethnic families in the United States are segregated,” Rudrapathi explained. “The young kids, when they grow up, don’t want to go to the ethnic churches. They want to go to American churches. So, children and their parents have different pastors.”
Reflecting on the quandary, Rudrapathi said, “there are no “ethnic” churches in the Bible.
“American churches can draw people from all nationalities in their churches. Why are ethnic churches not able to do that? They should be able to get people from other cultures.”
About 200 people — Indian, Anglo, African Americans, and families with mixed ethnicities from at least 11 states, including Texas–are expected at the conference.
Though hotel rooms may be limited or unavailable, anyone who would like to attend is welcome. Rudrapathi said he wants people to participate if the Holy Spirit draws them.
There will be worship, plenary sessions, panel discussions, breakout sessions, and games.
Rudrapathi said he prayerfully chose the special guests and he’s excited about them.
The keynote speakers are Paul Sudhakar, a well known Bible teacher from India; author Sam George, with Pariwaar International, an organization that supports immigrant
families; and Michael Yemba, a church planter who survived persecution in Saudi Arabia.
George authored the book “Understanding the Coconut Generation.” Rudrapathi explained the title — “Indians are brown in their skin color, but the children of the second generation don’t think the way the first generation thinks. They’re brown on the outside and white on the inside.” George will share practical ways of bridging the gap of kids trying to understand parents and parents understanding their children.
Breakout session topics include addictions, evolution vs. the Bible, peer pressure, taking a Biblical stand in the midst of cultural diversity, social media, and Christianity in the marketplace. Individual sessions will also be available for parents.
The church is offering the event completely free — no registration fees, no hotels costs, and no charge for the food. They’re accepting donations and expecting God to provide.
This conference is not the first time the church has stepped out on faith to host a significant event.
Four years ago, Transformation Church was a new church plant with 30 to 35 members struggling to pay their bills from month to month, but, following the lead of Rudrapathi, they took a leap of faith and hosted a $12,000 youth conference in 2015.
Their “National Christian Youth Convocation” took place on an October weekend with imminent threatening weather. A “Nor ‘easter” pounded the shores, but almost 100 youth from 14 states braved the weather. Rudrapathi was thrilled, and he praises God for a miraculous weekend. Procuring the funds and resources necessary was an absolute Godsend, he said.
God moved people to attend the convocation. One man heard about it and brought 17 people with a whole music team to help with music, from a church in Indiana.
When the big weekend arrived, Rudrapathi and others in the church were hoping for about 25 or 30 people, especially with the bad weather and potential hurricane. They were shocked when 95 people showed up on Friday. By the weekend’s end over 100 people participated.
“It was powerful!” Rudrapathi said. The event included sermons, testimonies, music, volleyball, question and answer times, and breakout sessions.
Rudrapathi said while he was thrilled at the number of people who showed up, even if just a few came, he still feels he was obedient to what God told him to do.
It seemed impossible, but Pastor Chandra Rudrapathi said he was following God’s call for obedience.
When he shared the vision God had laid on his heart, many people, he admits, were not “on board.” “Looking back, I’m sure some said, ‘he’s crazy,” Rudrapathi said with a chuckle.
However, the pastor said he follows the famous Missionary William Carry’s philosophy, “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.”
So Rudrapathi moved forward. The vision was to offer the conference with free registration, free food, and free accommodations in hotels with the church taking care of all expenses.
He began to share the idea but carefully. He didn’t ask people for money. He felt God would lay it on the hearts of those He wanted to give.
The church didn’t even advertise the names of those who would be sharing at the convocation. Rudrapathi said they invited a well known Indian movie actor that many people would respond to, but he didn’t want people coming to the conference to see the actor. He wanted them to be led by the Holy Spirit.
As he prayed and shared, doors began to open. Rudrapathi said he found local pastors in Maryland and Delaware who agreed to speak at the conference, saving money from having out-of-town guest speakers. Church members sponsored almost all of the meals. They rented a church building, Life Community Church, in Wilmington, and a donor stepped forward to cover the cost of the rent. As Rudrapathi shared the vision in various places across the country, without asking for support, people felt led to give.
While he hoped to make the conference an annual event, the church went through some transition and had to move from a school to a warehouse, and that took much energy, Rudrapathi says.
“Its time to do something again,” he said.
The conference will be live-streamed on Chandra Rudrapathi’s Facebook page and his youtube channel.
For more information, contact Rudrapathi.
Senior Pastor — First Baptist Church of Eastport located at 208 Chesapeake Avenue Annapolis, Maryland, 21403, is in search of a full-time senior pastor to lead their Southern Baptist congregation. Worship services are on Sunday mornings at 11 a.m. to noon and consist of traditional/contemporary hymns, preaching and praying. Please send resumes to the church address.
Senior Pastor — South County Community Church seeks a full-time lead/senior pastor. The church is a small congregation of 50 people growing and worshiping together in a rural, waterfront area in Southern Anne Arundel County, thirty minutes south of Annapolis.
It is an elder-driven church with congregational oversight and vote. The pastor will be the leading elder and, along with the elder board, oversee the vision, mission, and ministries the Lord has given the church. For a complete job description email the Pastor Search Committee.
Please note that job ads will continue on a weekly basis for one month unless notified otherwise.
By Harold Phillips
Sometimes, the New Testament believer has a hard time distinguishing the line between right and wrong. Some hold up the law, and others cling to the word “grace”. At Corinth, many of the new believers had been raised in environments that were outside or even opposed to, the will of God. After the people of Corinth became believers in Christ Jesus as their Savior, navigating through the rights and wrongs
became a challenge for them, and it is a challenge for you and me.
As citizens of Heaven, but residents of this world, some decisions that we face as New-Testament believers have nothing to do with the law. Should I drink socially? Should I get a tattoo when all my friends seem to be getting them? What about living together before marriage? Everyone seems to be doing it, even some people who say they are believers in Christ. Some preachers rail against it, and others do not seem to think it is such a big deal.
The Corinthian Church was struggling with similar issues. Paul instructed them that all things are lawful for the believer, being redeemed for eternity by the blood of Christ Jesus, but all things were not beneficial for the believer. In other words, choosing to do like the world around you is not going to condemn you if you are truly a blood-bought, born-again believer.
The fact is that all blood-bought believers fail at one time or another. We are going to heaven when we die because we are in Christ Jesus, but there is another side to this believing life. Christ Jesus has set us free from the law, and He has also set us free from the chains of sin. Why would we willingly chain ourselves to the dead works from which Jesus died to set us free? Yes, you can do those things – but why would you?
A great example of this is Abraham. In James 2:23, James declared that “Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.” Abraham was making day-to-day decisions like we are. Faced with what to do about a barren wife and a promise from God of fatherhood, he chose to have a child with Hagar, his wife’s handmaid (a lawful way to deal with the need, but not a spiritual way). Although lawful and even common in his day, it was not a choice that would declare him faithful to God before his family, friends, neighbors and, most importantly, himself.
Abraham made a worldly choice, and even though everyone else faced with his challenge did what he did, it was not beneficial for him, because of who he was. This choice did not condemn Abraham, but it did hurt his legacy of obedience and create many problems for the ones who would follow him.
God had called Abraham to a different standard than the rest of the people of his day. Paul was trying to help the believers at Corinth understand this as well. Like Abraham, who lived and served God before the law, we live and serve God after the law, and our choices declare our beliefs.
The decisions we make in everyday life may not condemn us because we are in Christ, but they either bring glory to our Savior, or shame.
Like Abraham, our decisions either help us in our quest to bring glory to our King, or fail us and declare our self-centered commitment to a failing and enslaved world.
Let us make choices that declare our relationship to a holy God. Let us declare our King and fulfill what we are called to do. Then, hopefully, we can say as Jesus did in His prayer in John 17: 4, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.”
Jesus declared that He came to represent His Father, and He would say and do what the Father sent Him to say and do. Let us do the same. Choose well, my fellow servants. Choices have consequences, big and small, and sometimes the decisions that we think are small become the big ones.
Please note that job ads will continue on a weekly basis for one month unless notified otherwise.