Monday, October 12, 2009

Understanding Religious Liberty

Ethicsdaily.com published an article by Zack Dawes. Zach is a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship ministerial resident at Trinity Baptist Church in Moultrie, Ga. The article was entitled "Christians Support Religious Liberty -- for Themselves." He points out "Christians ought to be the champions of religious Liberty, yet Christians often defend their religious freedom to the exclusion of others."

Dawes correctly says, "The
First Amendment is intended to protect the freedom of religion (free exercise clause) and the freedom from religion (establishment clause). Yet one is left to wonder why the concept is so difficult for many Christians to grasp. Even if Christians happen to be the overwhelming majority in a community, this does not abrogate the First Amendment, which protects individuals from having religious beliefs forced upon them." He points out Christians might view things differently if they found themselves in the minority in their community.

Check out his article here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Religious Liberty is God's Gift

I attended the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty Board Meeting earlier this week in Washington, D.C. It was a good meeting which concluded with a White House Briefing at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Tuesday afternoon. The briefing focused on areas related to both domestic and international religious liberty issues.

The U.S. Constitution, in the first amendment of the Bill of Rights, contains twin guarantees concerning religion. The first requires that there be no establishment of religion and, second, that the freedom of religious expression is protected. Taken together, and interpreted broadly, these clauses provide strong legal protections for religious freedom. I believe they provide protection for the freedom of conscious God gives to each of us. Religion should never be coerced. Rather it should be a free response to God.

Baptist have historically stood for Religious Liberty, and I am grateful we have the opportunity to support the BJC in it advocacy and educational work on behalf of all Americans. If you are not supporting the work of the BJC personally or through your church, I hope you join me in providing support for this work. Check out the BJC at www.bjconline.org.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Incredible Changes and Opportunities

Our Board of Directors approved a strategy planning process for our convention in June. A diverse Strategy Planning Leadership Team of 25 people from across our state is giving direction to the process. We are currently completing a data gathering stage which includes congregational listening sessions, an online survey, and leadership interviews with new paradigm ministry organizations. If you have not completed the online survey we encourage you to go to our website (www.baptistgcm.org) and click on the link on our home page. The survey only takes a few minutes, and your input is a valuable part of the process.

Our world is changing at an incredible pace, and our churches are confronted with hundreds of new challenges and incredible opportunities every day. Services and programs once provided by denominational organizations no longer seem relevant to the needs of many of our churches. Church leaders now face problems we could not have imagined only a few years ago. When I was a boy we received reports and updates from missionaries on the field slowly, and they seemed so far away. Today we talk with missionaries almost daily with voice over IP (internet provider) and video conferencing. Churches access training sessions via the internet and network with churches in another state or on another continent. Communication and technology seem to change almost daily. Churches now have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts to keep their members informed and to facilitate small group communication and dialogue.

All of these changes sometimes leave church leaders struggling with problems and concerns we did not have to address only a few years ago. Some churches need help with the transitions. Others need assistance in identifying and engaging the new opportunities they have to minister in their community. As incredible as it seems in the midst of these opportunities the overwhelming majority of Baptist congregations in our state are plateaued or declining in attendance. Some do not know how to adjust to the incredible pace of change in our society.

Our mission is to serve churches and church leaders as they fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. We desire to help churches they seek to lead to their members and others to love God and love each other. We serve them as they seek to make the rule and reign of Christ a reality in their world. One of our great advantages is we are a young and dynamic denominational organization which is not encumbered with large bureaucracies or traditions. We are lean and flexible servant organization. We can change to become more effective. Our current strategy planning process is designed to allow us to re-examine both who we are and how we approach our ministry to local congregations. We want and need your input. Help us know how we could best serve your church. Share your ideas and suggestions. I would love to hear from you at jimhill@baptistgcm.org or (888) 420-2426 extension 705.

While our world is changing the Gospel is not. God still loves every person. We still have the incredible privilege of sharing the Good News with those trying to find their way through this world. We hope our strategy planning process will help us prepare to more effectively serve churches committed to this task. We would love to partner with your church.