Posted by: Robin Foster | September 3, 2019

Church Covenants: Are They Still Useful?

It may be hanging in your sanctuary or a hallway or kept in a closet somewhere collecting dust.  It has had a long presence and strong adherence in the life of Baptist churches yet has recently fallen out of fashion.  It is where the primitive Baptist movement built a foundation upon which we stand today.  It is also what Baptist churches have committed to in order to survive and thrive during times of persecution and struggle. Always pointing to Jesus, always pointing to His Word, it has enabled the Baptist church to remain focused and united in order to accomplish the Great Commission.  I am talking about your church covenant statement. A church covenant is a written pledge of steadfastness between church members and God uniting the church in purpose and commitment.

Having a church covenant is actually biblical.  Nehemiah 9-10 recalls the people making and signing a written covenant with God and each other agreeing to specific areas of their lives that needed commitment. The people were facing massive challenges and they knew the only way to overcome them was to make a covenant with each other to protect their unity.  So, if it is biblical and Baptist churches have used such statements in the past, why is there little talk of it today as a tool of single-minded harmony?  Charles Deweese, who wrote the book Baptist Church Covenants, believes it is because churches began to adopt the standardized church covenant implemented back in the 1800s and have not written one themselves that would cause them to wrestle with the commitments they would be willing to make.

I believe the church is under attack like the Israelites during Nehemiah’s time.  We must commit to the defense and integrity of our church. Strange doctrines are being promoted from within and attacks from the world is coming from outside.  If we are to be strong against the forces of division and deceit, it must be done with a renewed commitment to God and each other that is based on His Word, building us up as the body of Christ.  A renewal of commitment to biblical church covenants is the key.

Now might be a time to revisit your church covenant and wrestle with some of the issues of commitment your church is facing today.  You may want to write your own church covenant.  It is my prayer that our churches will revisit the blessings of a church covenant that God has used to unite us and strengthen us in the past for His glory!

Bro. Robin
Speak, Acts 4:20

Posted by: Robin Foster | July 23, 2019

Sacrificial Calling

Of course, there could be many examples of sacrificial living for ministry from the Bible, but when I think of a modern-day example of ministerial sacrifice, I think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  A church martyr killed by the Nazis towards the end of WWII, he was a foundational rock for the German church when the rest of the religious leaders capitulated to the storm of Hitler which led to their great fall (Matthew 7:27).  Bonhoeffer’s ability to stand against the evil horde of Nazism was based upon embracing his own death to his wants and desires which led to his resurrection to following Christ and carry his own cross at all costs. Below is an excerpt from his book, The Cost of Discipleship:

When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die . . . . it is the same death every time – death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call . . . . only the man who is dead to his own will can follow Christ.

Ministry is costly and only those who are willing to sacrifice all they have are able to fully submit to Christ’s Lordship.  This is true for all followers of Jesus, but especially those called to vocational ministry.  Think of Apostle Paul.  Philippians 3:4-8 lists all of Paul’s accomplishments before the Damascus Road incident.  From a worldly perspective, it was a sacrifice to give up his position in Jewish culture, yet Paul called it all “dung.”  For the man of God to follow God’s calling into ministry, it is a sacrifice of worldly blessing, but what many come to realize (especially me) is that those worldly blessings were all dung from the start.  It is a sacrifice to accept God’s calling.  It is a sacrifice to be trained to follow that calling.  The minister sacrifices money, time, and yes sometimes family.  It is a sacrifice to pastor any church, but especially a small church with little prospect from our perspective (in God’s perspective there are no small churches with little prospect).

There is a great need in churches for qualified and trained men to fill pulpits and while the need is great, I ask if the willingness to sacrifice of self is greater?  Are you called?  The Bible reminds us to count the cost (Luke 14:27-30).  If you are called to the ministry, don’t just tell people, trust Christ to lead you and be willing to sacrifice that which you may hold dear.  Submit to Christ’s investment in you for training. Yes, that costs both money and time. For years I told people that Jesus was calling me to preach.  I thought it would be done un-sacrificially on my own terms.  I was wrong.  By God’s grace, I gave up a lucrative career and all the benefits from it to truly answer God’s call.  I found out that it was one thing to say it, it was another thing to sacrifice for it. I pray men may rise up and not just give lip service to God’s calling, but willfully and joyfully give all of themselves sacrificially for the glorious call to serve Jesus and His church.

For further reading about Bonhoeffer I suggest this excellent book by Eric Metaxas.  To read The Cost of Discipleship by Bonhoeffer you can purchase a copy on Amazon.

Posted by: Robin Foster | December 19, 2018

The Death of Liberal Arts and History?

After all these years I have learned that one does best when pursuing his or her’s passion. If I could do it all over again, I would have majored in History for my Bachelor’s. Possibly gone on to do a masters. But I am grateful to be where I am today by the grace of God. The past being what it may be, I do make up for lost time by reading a lot of history books.
 
It is a shame that History is being considered to be dropped as an option for a degree. I had an excellent history teacher in High School who taught with passion and really forced us to weigh the ramifications of past decision made. Today, I am afraid, that in some if not many High Schools, coaches (not all, I had some good coaches who taught history) who are more concerned with Ws and Ls are tacked on with teaching history and are doing a poor job of it. I remember one coach in High School that would have his students read the textbook, answer a multiple choice study sheet, and then send them on their way. As a kid I knew this was wrong. If this effort or something similar to it is still put forth then no wonder kids hate the discipline of studying history.
 
This article states reasons for the Liberal Arts to be in decline, but what I cherish close to my heart, history, has been murdered by an education system that is more concerned with churning out all-star atheletes than graduates who are able to learn from history and make better decisions for today and tomorrow.
Posted by: Robin Foster | December 5, 2018

The Pastorate And The Age Factor  

In hearing the political debates surrounding our nation, speculation is abound concerning who will be the Democrat nominee for president.  One name that is surfacing again is former Vice President Joe Biden. In discussions about the former VP many on the Democrat side are saying that Biden is too old.  They state they want someone younger who can “relate” to a younger generation.  This has begged the question, “What’s wrong with being older?”  At one time in society, age was considered a benefit.  Wisdom was assumed to follow in proportion to age.  Of course, this may not have always been the case, but it was proven more times than not.

It was once overheard from a seminary professor that when he first started preaching, everyone was trying to make themselves look older.  Now, he said, everyone is trying to do everything to make themselves look younger.  It was witnessed that an older prominent pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention would get his hair styled in the latest fashion. It didn’t look good.  If one was to peruse the listings of churches looking for pastors, he might also notice more churches listing a younger age as a prerequisite.  Does the biblical record endorse a younger candidate approach?

Contrary to culture, it seems in the New Testament that the older pastor was preferred. That is why Paul told his protégé Timothy to not let others despise his youth.  Instead he was to allow his example to speak for his leadership rather than his age.  Of course, being an example is great advice to even older pastors.  What is crazy about Paul’s statement is that most scholars consider Timothy to have been in his late thirties to early forties by this time!  Even at the age of forty, he was not considered by some as leadership material in the church.

The term elder used for church leaders was synonymous with an older age.  In the culture then, more age meant you had more respect.  When considering leaders for the church, an older age was a positive factor as they were called elders.  Elder was a term borrowed from secular life for the leaders of a city or town and had the connotation of “old man.”  In the New Testament, this was one of the three terms to describe the leaders of the church, with the other two being pastor and overseer.  The position of pastor/elder/overseer in the New Testament may have been more suited for an older man. In Timothy’s case, his youthfulness may have been the exception rather than the norm.

So why today is a younger age qualification for pastor in such demand.  One item may be the thought that a younger pastor brings a younger family that may attract other younger families.  Youthfulness is not only prized in the pulpit, but in the pew also. Younger pastors may also have a higher energy which would be a plus for them. But is youthfulness a good “leading” metric for a pastor?

Talk with older pastors as they think about past ministries and they may recall past mistakes they made. The phrase, “If I only knew then what I know now” may be said.  With age comes wisdom, though there is the occasional exception.  It is the older pastor that normally speaks and acts with more wisdom than generally a younger pastor may. It is the older pastor that understands long suffering with love and waiting upon the Lord.  It is also the older pastor who would be able to better relate to some of the “unofficial” older leaders in the congregation and possibly be better able to encourage and lead them.  It is also the older pastor that won’t be tied down to his own children’s activities as it is most probable that his kids have moved, therefore freeing him and possibly his wife for more ministry and study.  It is also the older pastor that may be able to encourage younger parents because he has a better view on how to rear kids since he has experienced it.  There are many benefits to the older man behind the pulpit.

While this is not meant to be a discourse against younger pastors, for God does call men of all ages to the pastorate. It is rather a hope that more churches will not be scared away from age and will instead see the steady blessings an older pastor might bring to the ministry of the church.

Posted by: Robin Foster | June 18, 2018

I Am Southern Baptist

I have had some people talk to me about the SBC and whether it is a viable option to remain connected. Let me tell you why I believe the SBC is still viable.

1. I believe the SBC is headquartered in the local church. That is why I believe it is still viable. Further, I believe in the SBC that is headquartered in the local churches of Poinsett county where the Great Commission lives and happens. I am honored to work among some of the most dedicated pastors and church members around. Each week I see God’s power and grace working through them. It is here and countless other associations that Kingdom work happens!

2. I believe the SBC is still viable because of the nearly 3900 missionaries we support. Yes, those numbers are down, but that can and should be reversed if a true Great Commission Resurgence is revived at the local level. The infrastructure is there for the IMB and all we need to do is the work God has commission us to do. He will provide the growth and the means.

3. I believe the SBC is still viable because of the six seminaries that provide some of the best training and equipping for pastors and missionaries. Despite recent events, our seminaries are still strong, and I believe will get stronger. I pray and hope that more of our seminaries will offer a calling to rural ministry like they offer to overseas or urban missions and create an atmosphere that leads men and women to invest in rural areas. I believe God is calling men to a long-term commitment to the rural church. 

4. I believe the SBC is still viable because our statement of faith (BF&M 2000) best represents the Bible on vital doctrines that motivates us to accomplish the Great Commission. It is this document that brings us together and drives us for Kingdom strategy and growth.

5. I believe the SBC is still viable because I work with a great state convention in Arkansas. I know many of the men and women who are partners from the state and I do believe they are some of the best with which to work.

6. I believe the SBC is still viable because I have witnessed many hearts broken these past weeks and I have seen God work through those broken hearts. I have seen two presidential candidates support one another before and after the election. I have witnessed the call to support our new president by no less than the man who lost the bid for president! That is God’s grace operating in unity and love.

7. I still believe the SBC is viable because God is still working in us and through us. Are we perfect? If you include me in the SBC mix, then we are definitely not! But yes, we have many problems and deficiencies, yet I have seen too many acts of humbleness and repentance these past weeks to believe we are not beyond God’s grace to heal us.

8. I still believe in the SBC because these past two months I have had disagreements with many people including close personal friends and we have still remained friends. If we can disagree and  have a fervent love for the one with which we disagree, there is a great hope for us!

9. Finally, I still believe the SBC is viable because I am witnessing our convention correct the problems of past race relations and trying to build bridges to our brothers of color. More churches of color are joining our ranks. The Arkansas Baptist State Convention is doing some tremendous work in the Delta area.  But I am also witnessing more churches themselves becoming blessed with different racial backgrounds than we have never witnessed. May we begin to reflect what heaven will be like.

If you ask me, “Is the SBC viable for Kingdom work?” My answer would be, “ABSOLUTELY!!!”  I am Southern Baptist!

God’s Truth Abideth Still,

 

Bro. Robin

Posted by: Robin Foster | May 29, 2018

The Future of the SBC and Her Presidency

Below is an article from the newsletter I produced for the month of June:

In June, Southern Baptists will meet in Dallas for her annual convention. It is believed this will be the biggest convention since the one in Orlando back in 2010.  This is good because it shows that many are interested in the Convention.  But, I also believe another reason for the increased numbers will be the election for president of the SBC.  The position of president is important because he appoints the nominating committee which will nominate the trustees for the entities of the SBC.  In light of this, I have friends who are supporting either Dr. J. D. Greear or Dr. Kenneth Hemphill. I believe both men have been instrumental in Kingdom work and are honorable. They both have been tremendous assets to the SBC.  Below are some of my thoughts concerning the greatest needs of the SBC.

  1. We need a president who can bring together the best of a diverse group of men and women in forging the SBC to accomplish the Great Commission.
  2. We need a president who speaks of the strategic importance of local associations in partnership with the national and state conventions. In my short tenure here, I see a great need (especially in rural areas) for continuing training and support of local churches and pastors that can be accomplished through cooperative efforts in the local association. We need a president who has had experience in this and can help the local association find her strategic relevance to the church.
  3. We need a president that will bring a greater focus on cooperative efforts in evangelism to the local church. One area I have on my heart is evangelism. I am proud of the work our association has done in this area and we need to continue our efforts, but the SBC at the national level has had little to do with cooperative efforts in evangelism.  This I believe has hurt the Kingdom work of the local church and we have now seen the lowest rate of baptisms in 70 years.
  4. We need a president who sees the need for continued church planting and also a renewed push for revitalization of local churches. For this man, it is not an either/or proposition, but a both/and vision for the future of the SBC. I, having been a church planter in the past, have seen the great need for new works, but I have also seen a great need for existing churches to be revitalized.
  5. We need a president who will champion Cooperative Program giving. This man must support the autonomy of each church in the SBC knowing she can give missions money as she pleases. But, he must also be one who has seen upfront and personal how CP giving impacts the Kingdom.  He must focus on the CP as being the default mechanism of missions support both nationally and abroad.

Only God knows what will happen in Dallas, but whatever may happen we know that the headquarters of the SBC will never be at a convention meeting, Nashville, or Dallas.  The headquarters of the SBC is the local church and we must pursue Christ’s marching orders of making disciples.

Posted by: Robin Foster | March 29, 2018

Why The Association?

Below is an article from our Associational Newsletter:

Is the local association a Kingdom investment? Over ten years ago I asked this question and found a great benefit to the Kingdom in the local association.  Today I am blessed to serve as your Associational Missionary.  Below are some Kingdom items your church supports when you pray and give to your association:

  • Your Association works together for the purpose of telling others the gospel. This year will be our chance to host the Acts 1:8 One Day Mission Trip.  On October 6th, Southern Baptist churches from across the state will come to Poinsett county to do works of charity and spread the Gospel.  Next year, we plan to have our own mini Acts 1:8 mission day where our churches will gather in a community in Poinsett county and do works of charity and spread the gospel.

 

  • Your Association works to help train and equip pastors and church members in teaching and preaching the Word, in organizing and teaching Sunday school, in helping to create and train a church safety team, and in having evangelism workshops among others.

 

  • Your Association works with other churches in not only financially supporting mission trips through scholarships, but also by being a conduit for other members from other churches to connect with those churches that have planned to go on mission trips.

 

  • Your Association seeks to encourage each other by having annual men’s and women’s conferences, a women’s retreat, ministry support groups for pastors and pastor wives, a yearly pastor/staff/wife fellowship in November, and in our bi-monthly executive board meeting where we spend time in prayer for one another. We also help in advertising for a yearly senior adult conference at Williams Baptist University.

 

  • Your Associational Missionary and Ministry Assistant are here to answer any questions you might have. These can range from putting together a search team for a new pastor/staff member, legal issues that churches face today, church safety, filling out your Annual Church Profile, and possibly mediate any conflicts your church may have.

 

  • Your Association has an active Disaster Relief team that prepares and trains to go to various places that have suffered a disaster, to give a helping hand to those who are hurting, and also sharing the Gospel to those they aid and comfort.

 

  • Your Association co-owns Cedar Glade camp near Imboden. It is a wonderful facility that has several cabins, a lodge, cafeteria, tabernacle, swimming pool, and other amenities.  While it can be reserved for various functions throughout the year, its greatest blessing are summer camps where youth and children learn more about Jesus and can hear the gospel.

These are but a few things your Association does, and we are here to help your church in its mission to accomplish the Great Commission.  So, feel free to call the office to learn how we can help you become more engaged in reaching your community for Christ.

Posted by: Robin Foster | July 18, 2013

When And How To Criticize

I have been blessed with may insightful areas from my own leadership experience (and yes, past blogging experience), but these have become very helpful as others have looked and been critical of my leadership:

When I don’t understand or disagree with a decision someone in leadership has made, I need to:

1. Take a moment to step back from the situation.
2. Realize that I have not been given the responsibility of the person with which I disagree and I definitely don’t have their perspective and information on the situation. Seek to understand.
3. Understand that the enemy is satan and not my brother or sister in Christ.
4. Is the disagreement worth exploring further? In other words, does it matter to the Kingdom?
5. Pray for that person.
6. If the Lord leads me to confront that person, I need to do so with respect and humbleness with the goal of building up and not tearing down. Never publicly embarrass them.
7. Biblical love is the means by which we are to live. If I am feeling anger or hatred, I must deal with myself before I worry about others.
8. Ultimately God is their judge and my judge. Keep that perspective and know that one day we will have to account for our actions or lack of actions.

Posted by: Robin Foster | August 25, 2010

Are You On The Middle Road?

I know it has been awhile, but I found this cool video from Francis Chan.  It hits home in more ways than one.

BTW, I would highly recommend his books, “Crazy Love” and “Forgotten God.”

Posted by: Robin Foster | May 30, 2010

Recapturing the Sacrificial Spirit

Who do you think wrote this quote:

There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning….

This is definitely a quote for our time. It must have been recently written in the last ten years, correct? Well, it hasn’t. In fact it is more than 20 years old. On April 16, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King penned a letter from the Birmingham jail to answer some clergy who said he was radical and impatient in what he was trying to do. Of course his background dealt with the Civil Rights movement he was leading in the South. But I wonder if these words hold true today with our situation? Are we more concerned with comfort than commitment? Are we silent because of what our “friends” will think? Has the world changed us rather than us being a light to the world?

I believe the answer for many to these questions would be yes. If we do not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the N. T. church in America we will certainly die. Dr. King wrote this during what some would consider the “Golden Age” of the Southern Baptist Church. As Southern Baptists, we look back to the 1950’s and 60’s when things were going great. Churches were growing and it seemed that the work of the Lord was progressing. Yet, we have Dr. King’s words to show us that not everyone viewed that time period as a “Golden Age.” A war was being fought for the respectability and equality of all people who are made in the image of God. Dr. King pointed the way. It was not to the “Golden Age” of the fifties or even the transformation of the reformation to which Dr. King looked. In fact in this letter he condemns the churches of the fifties and sixties for their silence on the civil rights issue. He pointed to the era of the N. T. church where pastors weren’t judged by their credentials and Christians relied upon each other rather than tearing each other apart. It was an era where the church did not have the wealth of the world, but relied upon the miracle making God who loved them. It was an era where there was neither, “Jew nor Greek,” “slave nor free man,” “male nor female,” but all were “one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:23) It was an era where “grace and truth” was not a byline tag to a blog, but was lived out among believers. It was an era where the church did not remain silent to the truth of God’s Word even though it may have cost them their own life. It was an era of sacrifice.

I know that Dr. King had his issues. He was not a sinless man. I too have my own issues as I am a sinner saved by grace, but I appreciate the fact that he and I would have agreed on looking to the New Testament church of the first century as our example.

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