A Prayer for Religious Liberty (and our state legislators and staff)

Prayer for Religious Liberty at the Kentucky State Capitol. Photo by Kentucky Today.

I was asked to pray for our Kentucky state legislators staff today at a prayer rally for Kentucky Baptist pastors at the Kentucky State Capitol today. I was honored and happy to do so. Below is the text of my prayer.

Our Father’s God to thee, Author of Liberty, to thee we pray,

We thank you for the gift of liberty and especially our religious liberty that reminds us that there is a power higher than government or any human power that grants us our liberties. As John F. Kennedy said in his inaugural address, “The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.” All of our rights come from You, O God. Because there is a power higher than the state, we have the rights of free speech, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. These are not gifts of government to us, but gifts of God which government must recognize. Because this is true, we have the freedom to gather here in prayer today. Because this is true, I have the freedom to minister to all who work in the two buildings behind me through a ministry of presence, prayer, and proclamation. Because this is true, others who think differently than me have the exact same right. And for all of this, we thank You!

Father, we pray now for those who work in the Capitol and the Capitol Annex, specifically the Kentucky State House, Senate, and their staff. They are here by your will and by your hand. You have ordained civil government to protect and preserve human rights. Thank you for these men and women who are willing to serve their Commonwealth and a cause that is greater than themselves. Thank you for the long hours of work that their constituents don’t see, but You see. Thank you for their sacrifice of being away from their families and careers in order to serve our Commonwealth. I pray that you would bless these men and women, that your hand would be upon them, that you would grant them great wisdom as they balance competing claims on our liberties, that they would legislate righteously and wisely for the good of the people. I pray for their families while they are away so much during session and during this interim. Please be with their spouses, children, and grandchildren. Protect them and allow them to know how much they are loved and cared for by You. Give strength and health to these men and women.

We pray also for the administrative staff who work behind the scenes with little or no glory, but who are the engine that runs our state government. We pray for their safety as some come to these grounds to assert their liberties in ways that threaten others.

We also pray for the Supreme Court which meets in this building and many times adjudicates on issues of religious liberty.

We also thank you for the Kentucky State Police and security details that work year around to keep everyone safe.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

“Satan…will do anything to hold up evangelism and divide Christians.” J.I. Packer

e&sJ.I. Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God should be required reading for all who desire to understand and discuss the relationship between divine sovereignty and human relationship with its implications for evangelism. It is at once a plea to take Scripture’s teaching regarding both divine sovereignty and human responsibility seriously and a call to declare the gospel indiscriminately to all. In the paragraph below, first published in 1961, Packer presciently responds to the current debate between Calvinists and Traditionalists in the Southern Baptist Convention. His words are a stern warning against the tendency of both sides “to grow self-righteous and bitter and conceited as they criticize each other.”

This is a question that troubles many evangelical Christians today. There are some who have come to believe in the sovereignty of God in the unqualified and uncompromising way in which (as we judge) the Bible presents it. These are now wondering whether there is not some way in which they could and should witness to this faith by modifying the evangelistic practice which they have inherited from a generation with different convictions. These methods, they say, were devised by people who did not believe what we believe about God’s absolute sovereignty in salvation; is that not of itself reason enough for refusing to use them? Others, who do not construe the doctrine of divine sovereignty in quite this way, nor take it quite so seriously, fear that this new concern to believe it thoroughly will mean the death of evangelism; for they think it is bound to undercut all sense of urgency in evangelistic action. Satan, of course, will do anything to hold up evangelism and divide Christians; so he tempts the first group to become inhibited and cynical about all current evangelistic endeavors, and the second group to lose its head and become panicky and alarmist, and both to grow self-righteous and bitter and conceited as they criticize each other. Both groups, it seems, have urgent need to watch against the wiles of the devil.

J. I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (InterVarsity Press, 1961, rev. ed. 2008), 94.

Details on this Year’s J.H. Spencer Historical Society Meeting

J.H. Spencer Historical Society Annual Meeting
November 14, 2011, 10:00 am.
Florence Baptist Church, Room E-141
642 Mt. Zion Rd.
Florence, KY 41042

This year’s speakers include:

  • Jim Duvall, Editor,  Baptist History Homepage – “The Early Baptists of Northern Kentucky
  • Steve Weaver, Pastor, Farmdale Baptist Church –  “Ambrose Dudley (1752-1825): A Forgotten Founder of Kentucky Baptists

* * *  Everyone is invited to attend. * * *

The annual meeting of the J.H. Spencer Historical Society is always held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Kentucky Baptist Convention on the morning before the Pastor’s Conference.  You can join the J.H. Spencer Historical Society for 1 year for $10 or for 2 years at $17. Benefits of membership include the fellowship with others who are interested in Baptist History, periodic updates, a printed journal and other Baptist literature, as well as the advance announcements of future events. Membership in the JHSHS is open to all who are interested in promoting our Kentucky Baptist heritage and preserving our historic distinctives.

Something Bigger Than Us

One of the joys of being the pastor of a church in the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention is the privilege of cooperating together with other churches for a purpose bigger than anyone of our churches. The Cooperative Program allows us to pool our resources together and do more than we could ever do individually.

The primary purpose for which we have cooperated together as Southern and Kentucky Baptists is for the spread of the gospel among all nations.  This purpose certainly includes missions in Kentucky and North America, but it especially means extending our efforts to get the gospel into nations which currently have little or no access to the gospel.

Over the years, many programs have been established in the United States that, while they are  mostly good and helpful, use vital resources for lesser purposes.  In a day when financial accountability is on all of our minds, we must not allow our budgets to reflect less than our commitment to take the gospel to every nation on the face of the earth.

The Great Commission Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention is about examining our budgets (as individuals, churches, and institutions) to see if our expenditures really reflect our stated commitment to the Great Commission.  The result has been that Task Forces have been formed in the Southern Baptist Convention and in some state conventions (including Kentucky) to make recommendations to the messengers of their respective conventions.  At the Annual Meeting of the SBC meeting in Orlando, FL in June, the messengers adopted the report of the GCR task force.  This was an essential first step, but whether or not there is a genuine Great Commission resurgence depends on the responses of the state conventions and churches of the Southern Baptist Convention.  State conventions must be willing to adjust their budgets to reflect an emphasis on the Great Commission and churches must consider raising their Cooperative Program giving so that local, national and international mission needs will be met.

Today, the report of the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s Great Commission Task Force was released.  I am pleased to announce that this report calls for Kentucky Baptists to give “More for Christ.”  This is a call to both individuals and churches.  It recognizes that a Great Commission resurgence can never be merely by adjusting numbers in a budget, but must spring from the hearts and actions of God’s people.  I believe this commitment will inevitably manifest itself in a change in our budgets, individually, corporately, and as a convention.  However, apart from individuals and churches resolving to do more for Christ in the days ahead, the Great Commission resurgence will remain a dream rather than a reality.

The most dramatic, and perhaps traumatic, aspect of the proposal of the Task Force is the call to move over the next several years to a 50/50 split in the KBC budget between the SBC and KBC (the current split is 63/37 with most of the funds staying in the Commonwealth).  This will obviously be a very difficult process.  Many good programs and positions will probably need to be cut.  However, we must choose between the good and the best.  I’m convinced that as long as more than 50% of our Cooperative Program giving stays in our own state, we cannot truthfully call ourselves a Great Commission people!

The report of the Task Force also calls for Kentucky Baptists to increase their Cooperative Program giving.  Some have maligned the whole Great Commission Resurgence movement as damaging this historic method of funding Southern Baptist work.  I believe that nothing could be further from the truth.  Failure to make the above mentioned changes in the budget will result in even more hemorrhaging from the CP.  Informed pastors and church members simply cannot in good conscience urge their churches to give more to the Cooperative Program knowing full well that the great majority of that money never leaves the state.  I am totally convinced that if the Mission Board of the KBC gives Kentucky Baptists a budget which reflects a compelling vision for the nations, we will give more than ever to make that vision a reality for the good of the nations and the glory of Christ!

Some will object to the proposals of this Task Force, and it is their right to do so.  However, please consider what the basis of their objections are.   For example, one of the cuts in the budget will probably be the matching retirement contribution that the KBC makes to the accounts of pastors, DOMs, and other KBC employees.  I receive and appreciate this benefit.  However, $17.50 a month (the max. amount given to pastors) is not worth more than one soul that has never even had the opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Make no mistake, this is the issue.  There are unreached people groups around the world who have no access to the gospel.  Called and qualified missionaries who want to take the gospel to these peoples are being turned down by the IMB for lack of funds.  This must not be among a people who were founded and exist for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission.  We have a unique opportunity to do something about this tragic state of affairs.  Together we can, because this is something that is bigger than any one of us!