Category Archives: baptist

baptist

Re-Examining the Divorce Controversy

The following subject comes up periodically, requiring me to give a biblical explanation.  Therefore, for those who may not have done much study on it, let us consider the question of divorce and the pastorate.

My Story

I will never forget the phone call I got from a church in Rome, GA over 20 years ago. Someone on the other end of the line was part of a search committee looking for a new pastor.  They had gotten my resume and were impressed enough to give me a call.  Everything was going well until they asked a very pointed question, “Bro. Anthony, does your wife have a spouse that is still living?”  With an undeniable tone of frustration, I replied, “Yes, ME.”  

Unfortunately, this would not be the last time something like that happened.

What I encountered on the telephone that day was not unusual, nor unexpected, but it stung. You see, even though our (then) pastor told me marrying Valerie would “put the final nail in the coffin” of my ministry hopes, I chose to marry a woman who had been divorced – and there were consequences.

However, I was aware the scripture (1 Tim. 3:2) being used against me was lacking in exposition, and it was ultimately up to God whether or not I pastored a church.  So, after much study, I felt peace that what I was doing was right (but it didn’t hurt when the late Dr. Spiros Zodhiates gave us his approval).

But let me be clear about a few things…

wedding picture fourFirst,  I have never been divorced, so for me the whole argument of 1 Timothy 3:2 should be moot.  Second, my wife was left with no choice but to divorce; furthermore, it happened before she was a believer.  Third, my wife’s ex-husband remarried and divorced again before I even met her. By all accounts my wife was free to remarry, so both she and I were clear from any “adultery” issues.  

Also, I am “the husband of one wife,” and Scripture NEVER said a bishop “must be the husband of one wife who was the wife of only one husband, ever.” Just a minor observation.

So, what DOES the Bible say?

1 Timothy 3:2 says,  “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife...”  Also, verse 12 says, “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife...”  The difficulty with these verses is not what is being said, but how it is interpreted.  

Is Paul telling Timothy that in order to be a pastor, deacon, or elder in a church, you must have only been married once?  Could it even be possible that Paul is saying that a man of God MUST have a wife, because being single would disqualify one from ministry?  These are things that have been debated for centuries.  

Some believe that a pastor, deacon, or elder should have never been divorced (or married to a divorcee) . Others believe that in order to be a proper leader, one must be married.  Still, many commentators believe that the proper rendering of the Greek is “one-woman man,” implying faithfulness and character over the number of wives.  

In reality, what the Bible says is one thing, but as William D. Mounce put it, “The Greek gives us a range of possibilities, but our theology is going to determine our interpretation.” 

I think there’s another way to look at it…

Take a look at 1 Timothy 3 and read through verse 12.  The best I can figure is that there are between 16 and 17 qualifications for the bishop, and between 6 and 8 for the deacons.  All of these are preceded with a literal or an implied “must be,” as in “must be blameless,” or a “must have.”  How does this affect the argument that an elder “must have” only been married once, never remarried, or never divorced?    

Think of any great man of God you know that has stood behind the pulpit and faithfully proclaimed the Word of God.  Has he always been blameless?  Has he always been on his best behavior?  Did he ever get drunk, covet, lose his patience, or curse his wife or children in anger?  Was he ever a novice, a beginner subject to pride? If so, then according to the logic of some, he should never be able to preach or lead in God’s church, for just as a man “must be the husband of one wife,” so he also must be “blameless, vigilant, sober, well-behaved, given to hospitality, patient, never greedy, and always in control of his house and children.”  

Do you see it?  If your interpretation leads you to believe that the bishop must have only had one wife – ever – then the same hermeneutic (the study of the principles of interpretation) should apply to the other “must be’s.”  

  • Must be the husband of one wife” = never divorced.  
  • Not a novice” = never been a beginner in the faith.

Doesn’t make sense, does it?

1 Timothy 3:1-12 is in the present infinitive tense (i.e., must be / dei einai).  The requirements listed are ones that describe a man of character and faithfulness, of sobriety and gravitas; not a beginner or one untried and unproven.  What I see is a list of requirements that may not have always been present in a man, but should be NOW, after God has done a verifiable work in his life.  In other words, the Bible says a bishop “must be,” not “must have always been,” or “must have never done.”  

Paul said, “and such were some of you:  but ye were washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:11

Here’s my point…

I believe that there are plenty who are sitting back or hiding out because someone has convinced them that they are used up and un-usable.  For example, I can think of men right now who, for whatever reason, are divorced.  Yet, these men, now Christians, are sold-out, God-fearing, faithful, Spirit-filled fathers and husbands with proven testimonies and unimpeachable character.  Sadly, however, because of mistakes made when they were young, unsaved, and stupid, they cannot serve as deacons, much less as pastors.  

On the other hand, I can think of several pastors today who were once murderers, drug dealers, fornicators, extortioners, and abusers of mankind (do I need to explain that last one?). Yet, only because they don’t have “divorced” to add to the list of past sins, they are accepted and given full authority as leaders in the church. 

Sad.

It’s time the body of Christ re-examine this issue in the light of GRACE.

Advertisements

31 Comments

Filed under baptist, Divorce, General Observations, Independent Baptist, legalism, Relationships and Family, Uncategorized

Going to Bethlehem

It’s already been announced on Facebook, but now it’s time to tell the story here on the blog. 

Me and my wife, along with family that joined us for the day.

This past Sunday, after a unanimous vote, the congregation of Bethlehem Baptist Church (founded 1790) in Warthen, GA, called me to be their pastor, and I accepted. That means I will be moving away from the Chattanooga/Soddy-Daisy, TN area and relocating to “Bulldog” territory (as in Georgia Bulldogs).

NOTE: It won’t be easy to get on board with the whole “bulldog” thing, but I am a certified Atlanta Braves fan, so that helps. I’ll always have orange blood.

It all started several months ago when I was contacted by the pastor search committee from Bethlehem Baptist. They had gotten my resume from the SBC database and wanted to know if I would be willing to be considered for the position. I knew I would not be the only person under consideration, and since I figured they would find someone else more qualified than me, I said it was OK. I mean, why burn any bridges, right?

Eventually, one thing led to another and I got to the point of multiple interviews, background checks, and trial sermons. I wasn’t actively seeking to leave South Soddy Baptist, but it became apparent after a while that the writing was on the wall: It was time for me to move.

This is either me preaching the trial sermon which preceded the vote, or me singing “Stop! In the Name of Love!”

South Soddy Baptist Church, along with many other people in the Soddy Daisy area, made a huge impact on our lives. Had it not been for South Soddy, I have no idea where we would be right now. God opened that door at a time when we desperately needed it, and through our last two years there He proved His faithfulness.

So, for the rest of this month and the month of July we will be attempting to wrap things up, get everything packed, and then moved to Georgia (nearly 5 hours away). My first official day in the office (yes, I will have office hours) will be August 1st.

As you have prayed for our family in the past, I would ask for your continued prayers – this will not be an easy transition.

Pray, also, that God will prepare the soil in the field to where I am going, along with sharpen my plow and fill the seed bag. Even before I get there to go to work, there is work to be done.

Being welcomed as the new pastor of Bethlehem Baptist.

This is going to be an adventure, one that will surely affect not only our lives, but the way in which I write this blog. Big changes affect little changes, like how the ripples from a big splash create smaller ripples that reflect off other things.

Thank you for being my friends and reader all these years (10th anniversary for the blog this September!). I’m just thankful that no matter where God leads, the technology He has allowed will keep us linked.

God bless you!

Anthony

13 Comments

Filed under baptist, Church, ministry, Preaching

My Song for the Day

As some of you may know, Building 429 is one of my favorite groups of all time. Why? Because they’re the coolest Baptist musicians around 😉

. . . And their songs are solid!

. . . And I had a personal run-in with them several years ago that reminded me who I am – or who I’m supposed to be. You can read about it here.

But today I’m taking things one step at a time, trusting God to lead me down a road I’ve never been down before – but He has.

And the LORD, he [it is] that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed. – Deuteronomy 31:8

The following song is a song that’s meant a lot to me over the last 3 years, and it’s becoming something of a reminder, again. So, This is my song for the day, and I want to share it with you.

. . . In two videos 🙂

I don’t know where this path is leading exactly, but I’m going to take it one step – one foot – at a time.

Have a blessed one!

3 Comments

Filed under baptist, Christian Maturity, Christianity, Future, ministry, music

I Was Interviewed – Or Was I?

Good Friday, everyone! I hope today will be the start of a great weekend for you.

Phoned In

I just wanted to share some thoughts with you guys, whoever might be interested, regarding some recent interviews I’ve had.

Let me be clear, I am perfectly happy to stay right where I am as pastor of South Soddy Baptist Church. Now, don’t get me wrong, it would be great if this little church could grow, even by a few people. But I’m happy to stay here and work my tail off as long as this is where God wants me.

That being said, recently several churches have contacted me and asked if I’d be willing to be considered for the position of pastor. Again, I’m NOT looking to leave where I am, but I felt it would be wise to at least have a conversation with these different churches just to make sure I wasn’t missing God’s direction.

Because the churches that have contacted me have been out of town, each one has elected to do conference-style phone interviews, their pulpit search committees on one end of the line, me on the other.

However, what concerns me…which is what this post is going to be about…are the questions these pulpit committees are asking – or NOT asking.

Weak Questions

What I have been experiencing from these pulpit search committees are questions that are rather weak, vague, and easy to manipulate. By “manipulate” I mean that they are questions that by their very nature tell me what the answer should be.

For example, before I participated in any of these interviews I did my research on who these people were. That’s only smart. So, if I were to have been asked questions about worship style, what version of the Bible I use, or even denominational polity, all I would need to know is apparent on their websites and social media accounts. If I had wanted to, I could answer their questions just like they were expecting.

But beyond that, the typically weak and vague questions are ones that inquire about my family, how well I work with committees, how long my average sermon is, and am I willing to visit people in the hospital.

Should you be one of the committee members of one of the churches that have interviewed me, whether on the phone or in person, please understand that I’m not mocking or deriding you – I’m simply concerned.

Tougher Questions, Please!

Whether it’s me being interviewed or someone else, my advice to these churches – maybe even yours – is to ask tougher questions that demand answers grounded in solid theology and backed with Scripture.

In the last several interviews I’ve never – not once – been asked questions like the following:

  • Describe the time surrounding and leading up to, including the actual moment of your conversion.
  • What are your views on the divinity of Jesus Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity?
  • What is your belief regarding the sufficiency of Scripture?
  • How do you think you meet the requirements of a “bishop” as found in Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus?
  • What do you think the Bible says about marriage?
  • Do you regularly view pornography, and if not, how do you avoid it?
  • Do you have a time you regularly spend with the Lord outside of sermon prep?
  • How is your marriage?
  • What books are you reading right now?
  • Do you believe in a literal Adam and Eve, heaven, and hell?
  • Why do you even want to be a pastor in the first place?

Just to be clear, I pastor Baptist churches, and Baptist churches select their pastors differently than other denominations. Baptist churches are autonomous, therefore (except in rare exceptions), we do not have a standard prerequisite for how pulpit search committees select and vet their candidates.

However, all I’m asking is that at the very least … should I be contacted again … could you make the questions a little more challenging, please? I really do need the workout.

I promise it’ll be fun 😉

Thank You! 

11 Comments

Filed under baptist, Church, ministry, Preaching

Why Some People Are Legalists

Every once in a while I think it is important for me to get back to the whole reason I started this blog: legalism within the Church. There are plenty of other people talking about Bruce Jenner, don’t you think?

In the following article I will attempt to:

  • define legalism, and then
  • give five possible reasons one might want to become, or remain, a legalist.

Defining Legalism

Before we look at why a person would want to be a legalist, let’s make sure we understand what legalism actually is. Below are a couple of good definitions.

The first one is from GotQuestions.org (which I recommend). I would advise reading the whole piece on their website. The following is an excerpt:

The word “legalism” does not occur in the Bible. It is a term Christians use to describe a doctrinal position emphasizing a system of rules and regulations for achieving both salvation and spiritual growth. Legalists believe in and demand a strict literal adherence to rules and regulations. Doctrinally, it is a position essentially opposed to grace. Those who hold a legalistic position often fail to see the real purpose for law, especially the purpose of the Old Testament law of Moses, which is to be our “schoolmaster” or “tutor” to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24).

The second definition can actually be found on Wikipedia. Believe it or not, it is a pretty in-depth article. Again, here is portion:

Legalism, in Christian theology, is a sometimes-pejorative term referring to an over-emphasis on discipline of conduct, or legal ideas, usually implying an allegation of misguided rigour, pride, superficiality, the neglect of mercy, and ignorance of the grace of God or emphasizing the letter of law over the spirit. Legalism is alleged against any view that obedience to law, not faith in God’s grace, is the pre-eminent principle of redemption…Legalism refers to any doctrine which states salvation comes strictly from adherence to the law. It can be thought of as a works-based religion. 

But to be fair, most people that I would label legalists do not believe salvation is earned by works of any kind (at least if they’re Baptists). No, the vast majority of legalists to which I refer (and to which I used to belong) use a system of rules and regulations to determine spirituality, spiritual growth, and favor with God and other believers.

Legalists believe, as a whole, in the redemptive work of the cross, but set a universal standard which defines holiness for all who claim Christ, regardless of cultural or societal considerations. To the legalist, anyone who behaves or believes differently than his perceived standards must not be “right with God.

So, what would make a person want to be, or remain, a legalist? The following five reasons are ones which I have observed throughout the years.

5 Reasons for Being a Legalist

1) Some people don’t know any different.

When I was growing up, I did not know anything different than what I was exposed to in our small churches, missionary conferences, revivals, or Christian schools. Even though I believe that most of what I was taught was doctrinally sound, I was not allowed to examine different viewpoints, even those of other Baptists (specifically if they were anything other than “Independent, Fundamental,” etc.) Many are still in this situation. Tragically, they are content with their ignorance. They refuse to consider the fact that they may be wrong on a particular point.

Even when Scripture is plain and simple, because of the secluded nature of certain groups, legalists would rather stick their heads in the sand than risk being wrong. Being wrong might make someone else, even another denomination, right about something. Heaven forbid!

2) Some came from an unholy lifestyle and now seek to redeem themselves (or their consciences).

Some people are so ashamed of their past that they go overboard in trying to live a life of holiness. They see in their past a link between so-called “worldly activities” and their fall into depravity. In an effort to show they are no longer the person they used to be, and in order to avoid temptation, they strictly avoid certain activities deemed “worldly.” Sadly, even though they mean well, they project their own weaknesses onto others, therefore expecting others to abide by the same level of austere living or be seen as worldly. However, in many cases, appearances are not what they seem. The very ones who are so legalistic in some areas of life wind up being the ones with the biggest weakness in that area. Their overbearing attitudes, in many cases, may only be the big doors hiding skeletons in their closet.

3) Some desire to be controlled, to be told what to do.

As strange as it may sound, some people don’t like to think for themselves, nor do they like being responsible for their own choices. It is sort of like people whom I have seen that were once under a totalitarian government: when they no longer had a dictatorial system telling them what to do, they either lost all control or had no motivation to do any good.

Legalistic churches provide the lazy or immature Christian a list of “do’s and don’ts” so that he/she doesn’t have to search the Scripture for guidance. It is much easier this way. If the pastor says something is wrong and that God would not approve, then that’s it – end of discussion. Having a list is safe and doesn’t require much thought. Essentially, the legalist would rather be a marionette than mature.

4) Some may want to control others.

Freedom is dangerous. Freedom allows for movement and change. Freedom allows for the individual to be led by God in a specific direction that may or may not be God’s will for another. Freedom takes power away from those who would want to control others for their own edification or gratification. On the other hand, legalism keeps the sheep under strict control by encouraging tattling and fear of being ostracized.

There are pastors, well-intended men, who would rather their people live under a specific set of guidelines than question long-held, man-made traditions. These leaders are afraid to lose their congregations to the world, but also to other churches. They may even find comfort in controlling others due to their own inadequacies. Much like emperors and dictators, they manipulate weak Christians in order to maintain their little kingdoms. Rarely do they admit weakness and often micro-manage every aspect of ministry. Legalistic leaders have to be in control.

5) Some people are more afraid of God than in love with Him.

So many people that I have known (and used to be like) were more afraid of losing their relational standing with God than anything else. Legalism tends to give some the assurance that God is pleased with them.

I wonder how it really was for Enoch as he walked with God. Many modern preachers are quick to make the application of Enoch’s walk with God to the way we act in this world, but they make little of the relationship implied by the narrative (Genesis 5:24). In reality, very few lists would even be needed if one had an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ.

angry godTo the legalist, God is not a friend: He doesn’t laugh…He speaks in Old English…and He holds a grudge because of what it took to buy the sinner’s salvation. When one thinks of God as always looking for an opportunity to send judgment, then being legalistic is the safest way to go. No one wants to be hit with a lightning bolt, you understand.

So, are you a legalist? Why, or why not? Are there any reasons I missed?

9 Comments

Filed under baptist, legalism

Endurance: What We ALL Need!

The following video was recorded Saturday morning last week at the Tennessee Baptist Bivocational Ministers and Wives Retreat in PIgeon Forge, TN.

(BTW, I recorded this on my iPad mini, and at one point I dropped it… sorry)

This final message of the retreat, delivered by Roc Collins, was meant for us pastors and ministry leaders, but it’s a message that all of us should hear – more than once.

If you are facing a discouraging time, or if you are at a point when you feel you can’t go any further, I beg you to watch this sermon. If you are not encouraged, I’ll give you a full refund 😉

Seriously, this was a fantastic, uplifting and challenging message from which all of us can benefit, especially in this time we live.

God bless! Endure!

Leave a comment

Filed under baptist, Christian Living, Life Lessons, ministry, Preaching

We Preach Jesus! (A Revival Sermon In Africa)

Revival

It has been two years since I went to Zimbabwe. I went there to preach in a series of revival services in two different Baptist churches, both of which were started along with several others by Chinhoyi Baptist in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe. Of course, preaching wasn’t all I did; I went with different pastors into various villages, visiting and praying with Christians, evangelizing those who’d never heard the gospel.

The other reason I went to Zimbabwe was to get revived myself. I needed this trip! And, praise be to God, it was life-changing!

Here are some photos from different services.

People starting to show up for church. River of Life met in a tent in a member's front yard.

People starting to show up for church. River of Life met in a tent in a member’s front yard.

image

Worshiping Sunday morning at Dolomite Baptist.

Worshiping Sunday morning at Dolomite Baptist.

Lively and energetic African worship at Chinhoyi Baptist.

Lively and energetic African worship at Chinhoyi Baptist.

Being introduced at Chinhoyi Baptist.

Being introduced at Chinhoyi Baptist.

The Final Service

The final service in which I preached was at Chinhoyi Baptist Church. It was a celebratory farewell service where all of the churches which had hosted our team of three (Dr. Eddy Rushing, Marshall Kellett, and myself) came together as one. And man, was it a service!

The honor was mine to be selected to preach the final service, and what an honor it was. Dr. Rushing and Bro. Kellett were responsible for personally leading scores of people to Christ during this trip, so who was I to be the one to preach? Nevertheless, they asked me, and I jumped at it!

The beginning of the service was full of extremely lively music and dancing – not something the average Baptist in America is used to 😉 When all of that was over, the music shifted to hymns. Dr. Rushing and Bro. Kellett both gave stirring testimonies before the final hymn “Higher Ground” (sung in the native language of Shona) set the tone for the sermon to follow.

Oh, Rev. Luckmann Chiasaru was my interpreter for this service, and man was he good! He even sang with me! Awesome!

Chinhoyi Baptist Church in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe. This congregation hopes to plant a total of 50 new churches in 10 years. They're well on their way!

Chinhoyi Baptist Church in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe. This congregation hopes to plant a total of 50 new churches in 10 years. They’re well on their way!

The following was recorded on an iPhone 6s, then edited on Audacity. I wish it could have been a better recording, but it was all I had. I pray it is a blessing 🙂

CLICK HERE for link to the audio of “We Preach Jesus!”


I went to Zimbabwe to get revived – and I did. Now, if you’d let me, I’d love to come share a little of what God’s given me over the last 2 years with your congregation.

You can reach me at pastoracbaker@yahoo.com., or call 423-645-8884.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under baptist, Countries, Preaching, worship