Category Archives: Church

You’re Never Too Old!

We may be 230 years old, but that doesn’t stop us from streaming at high speed!

Join me on Facebook LIVE as I lead us in worship each Sunday at 11 and 6, Wednesdays at 6:30, and also every weekday around 2pm.

Bethlehem Baptist Church, Warthen, GA.

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Sermons from 3/22/2020

Should you be interested, I’m posting links to the Facebook Live recordings made last Sunday morning and evening.

We are still working out the bugs. I didn’t have a mic in the beginning of the first service when I greeted everyone.

By the way, did you hear that Churches broke the internet last week? 🙂

Blessing to you all.

Anthony

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Church In 2020 and a Modern Translation

I don’t think King David had Facebook in mind when he wrote Psalm 122, but I believe he would understand what it is we are facing. Therefore, though the above translation is not perfect, neither is having to give up face-to-face worship for that of streaming media.

But, unlike in David’s day, or even back during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, aren’t you so glad we are blessed with Facebook technology??

102 years ago, churches were forced to close, pretty much like we are seeing today. However, back then when a preacher preached his sermon for Sunday, all they had access to was a reprint in the local newspaper. If you weren’t a big-name pastor, you didn’t even have that opportunity.

But now, praise God, any church pastor can share an encouraging message from God’s Word and not have to wait for the local paper to publish it. What’s more, it’s not only the church members who can watch; the whole world can now visit for the service!

That being said, why not join us at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Warthen, Georgia for our 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. services this Sunday? This Sunday (March 22) I will be preaching from Psalm 103 at 11 and Acts 5:17-42 in the evening at 6.

You can find us on Facebook at @bethlehembaptistwarthen.

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Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Operation Re-Evaluate (Pt 2)

Funny thing, I don’t really like long titles, but what’s a guy to do?


Answering “Why?” 

In my previous post I promised that in the next I would “address ways that churches (including the one I pastor) can use this current crisis to turn us into the effective, healthy Church Body we should have been all along.”

But before I get into that, I would like to give an answer to the question I suggested many people are going to be asking: “Why do I even go to church?”

I know there have been some very well-written and scholarly responses to the above question, and, for me, it all comes down to a command from Jesus Christ. Regardless of what I can get out of it, going to church (gathering with other believers in a biblical, congregational, ecclesiastically-sufficient context, not simply a home Bible study) is an act of obedience and worship. But what is the answer going to be to this generation?

Perceived Value

One reason I believe the question will be asked is because of perceived value: “What am I really getting in return for my investment?”

When people who attend only sporadically, at best, come to discover they don’t miss much through this crisis, the likely response will be to quit going. And who could blame them? If their only reason for going was a religious one, one that satisfied their conscience and offered a visible sense of faith, then why go through all the effort to go to church and be around people they see but once or twice a month? Why not just watch online?

But when people who attend regularly begin to see very little difference between being in church and NOT being in church, what will justify going back? In other words, if while not allowed to attend corporate worship no one gives them a call, sends them a note, checks on their family, or in any way recognizes their personal worth outside of a number on an attendance roll, why be a statistic?

The reality of the human condition is that people want to be loved, respected, needed, and wanted. What I see happening is many church-goers figuring out through this absence that the relationships and friendships they thought were real were only facades meant to perpetuate an institution. Given enough time to think, many will conclude the only reason they were being asked to go to church was to fill a slot, keep up the numbers, or satisfy the ego of someone who didn’t even care to call or check on them.

Revitalizing the Value

It is in times of crisis that we find out who we really are, what we are made of. When it comes to the Church, specifically the local congregations, we have the opportunity to discover if we are more than a weekly social club with voluntary dues and free potlucks.

Go to the sixth chapter of the Book of Acts and what do you see? You see believers who walked through life together, not just on Sunday, but throughout the week. They were a community, a family, one that took care of each other OUTSIDE the walls of any structure. Did they regularly meet at the temple for instruction? Absolutely! Daily, even! But they were also there for each other through struggles, breaking bread in each other’s homes and meeting temporal, tangible needs.

And note: all of the above, as listed in Acts 6, was done BEFORE persecution came. This was the model of church life that would carry them through the truly difficult days just around the corner.

Folks, what we should have been doing all along is making sure there is a legitimate, tangible, temporal value to being a member of a local body of Christian believers. This means more than offering a nice place to sit for an hour, generic smiles, and a sweet, full-color, take-home bulletin with built-in sermon outline. It means genuine inclusion into a Family that loves you, values you, walks with you through the good and bad, and has your back when no one else will.

If we churches don’t want to lose members after this pandemic, then we need to be working overtime to do everything possible to revitalize our sense of family and our duties as a community of Believers. If we simply wait until we are allowed to gather again before we acknowledge each other, then we are hypocrites.

What Bethlehem Is Doing

In some ways we are unique, but in other ways we are well behind the curve. However, every church, to some degree or another, is having to do some new things.

Regarding questions of real and perceived value, let me share with you what we at Bethlehem Baptist are trying to do or improve.

1. Expand our social media footprint.  Long before the COVID-19 crisis erupted, I stressed to our church that we needed to make every use of social media and the internet. Some folk were a little skeptical, as you can imagine. Yet, a few others took me seriously enough to get to work on a website. Unfortunately, the initial energy waned, thereby leaving us with a handicap at this time.

However, one thing that I was able to do early on was drastically increase our presence on Facebook. This is still a work in progress, but increasing posts and promoting the content has brought a good deal of fresh attention to Bethlehem Baptist. Believe it or not, there is not a local television station in our county! Therefore, social media is the only real-time media in town. Not taking every advantage of its usefulness would be tragic.

No photo description available.

Check out the Washington County Grapevine!

Even before this crisis, I had already been posting videos to YouTube, then to our church Facebook page. So, when we couldn’t meet as a congregation, going live on Facebook was second nature to me – I’d already been doing it on my own. I even created a county-wide community Facebook page which could function as one more channel through which we could reach people.

2. Make contact with member families.  If we can shake their hands or hug their necks on Sunday (we still do those kind of things down here in middle Georgia), we’d better be sure to make a call (or visit, if possible), send a card, or do something. We’ve got to show that we appreciate people and miss them when they are not here.

The worst thing we can do to people is allow them to go unnoticed.

3. Seek out needs to be met.  There are still a lot of people down in this part of the country who don’t like to ask for help, and many of them are the elderly. However, that doesn’t remove the responsibility of the Church to care for those in need; it mandates that we should be looking for ways to serve.

Too often the complaint leveled at Christian churches is that all we want is people’s money. Of course, that is patently false. However, even though perception is NOT reality, we need to prove to our own members, at least, that it’s not what they put in the offering plate that makes them special.

Holy Lemonade

Image result for lemonade imagesLike I’ve said before, when life (or China) gives us Coronavirus-lemons, make holy lemonade. And by that I mean that we should look at this as a cutting-edge, next-generation opportunity to engage our communities with the Gospel. Even more, we should up our game and engage the world!

We used to sit around and talk about what the Church was going to look like in the future, how we would operate, and how we would maintain our cohesiveness. Then, right out of the blue (or Communist red) came this tiny little virus that has rocked the world-wide community, including Christians. Doing “church” like we’ve always done it is no longer an option and no longer up for debate.

I’m looking forward to once again gathering in our beautiful old sanctuary, but I praise God for the shock to our traditional system! And what’s even more exciting than seeing congregations stepping up to the plate and swinging is the feeling that this could be the beginning of a new era.

As we re-evaluate, God may be sending revival! 

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Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Operation Re-Evaluate

Bethlehem Baptist Church
95 Bethlehem Church Road, Warthen, GA 31094

It’s Our Time

I know I am not going to be the first person to make this observation, but as I said on Facebook this morning, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and crisis is this generation’s World War Two.

Make no mistake, this is a world war . . . a war for survival, both physically and economically, against a killer virus. But unlike wars of the past, this one is being fought on every continent – none are immune from its effects.

However, as tragic and scary as the upheaval may be, just like our forefathers did in the 1940’s, what we have is the potential to come together in ways thought impossible just weeks ago. Where less than a month ago people had no plan for how to survive a national crisis, now you see the creative minds working to solve difficult issues.

It’s not an easy thing to say, for it could be interpreted the wrong way, but as strange as it may sound, this crisis could be the best thing to happen to America since WW2. In so many ways it is forcing us to unite to fight a common enemy that cares nothing about politics, race, or religion – it just wants to destroy us. So, where petty ideological differences, even serious political and social ones have threatened to destroy our country in recent years, this virus – like Nazi German and Imperial Japan – is deadly and costly enough to force a re-evaluation of who we are.

And just think about it! What time in history would have been a better time to fight a war like this? We were created for such a time as this, and in this time we will be victorious.

It’s the Church’s Time

How often have you heard it said that the modern Church is irrelevant? How many times have you heard the complaints about living within our buildings’ four walls and never engaging people outside?

How many times has it been said that the modern, local church cares only about itself? How many churches, for real, exist only for those who walk through the door on Sunday?

COVID-19 is the wake-up call – no, more like the Pearl Harbor – that Christian churches across America have needed for a long time. We have had an Enemy waging war against us for ages, but we’ve been content living with the effects being on distant shores. Now, the fight has been brought to us, and even the old “home guard” is being activated.

Throughout the history of Israel and the Church, God has brought conflict, even foreign invaders, to shock His people out of complacency and lethargy. At times God called our enemies His “servants” to discipline us. And as we should be thankful God loves us enough to discipline us, it should not be too far of a stretch, then, to be thankful the “virus” has come at this time.

What of the Walls?

So, finally, here we are in a situation where the walls of the church don’t matter too much anymore. Oh, sure, we will get back to corporately worshiping together like we should, but what of the walls right now? Not only are they doing us little good, but they have no relevance to who and what the Church actually is or how it must operate right now.

Most local churches have operated on the model that worship, fellowship, community, bearing each other’s burdens, etc., happens only when people show up to the building, the campus, or wherever the bulk of the member choose to gather.  In other words, when you miss out on what happens at the church property, you not only miss out, but you get left out, ignored, forgotten.

All that has abruptly changed.

For the first time in the history of the Church, local congregations are being forced by a virus – not the government or a tyrant – to make “church” something other than simply attending a one-hour meeting while sitting on a pew.

For the first time in history, churches are now, for the most part, gathering online over the internet, not inside four walls.

For the first time in a a LONG time, local churches are going to have to prove their worth to the members. For if coming together on Sunday to hear a choir or listen to a pastor is all church is, many are going to wonder why they tithe or give offerings.

Frankly, this pandemic is going to open the eyes of a lot of people and make them ask the question: “Why do I even go to church?”

What is our answer going to be?


In my next post I will address ways that churches (including the one I pastor) can use this current crisis to turn us into the effective, healthy Church Body we should have been all along. 

Until then, make a phone call, do a video chat, and pray with a fellow believer. We must not forget each other, nor our need for fellowship.

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Coronavirus Sunday: Turning a Virus Into Evangelism

Did you wash your hands?

Good evening, everyone! What a different day this has been! How many of you went to church, despite the fear that you might get sick and die?

As I typed that, I couldn’t help but think of all those in places like Nigeria where going to church on any given Sunday could get you killed by an AK-47 or a machete. I wonder what they think of our virus protection plans? Which do you think they would prefer, a bullet-proof vest or hand sanitizer?

Anyway, many congregations across the country and around the world decided to cancel meetings this morning. Others did what we did: we encouraged the vulnerable and sick to stay home, and we streamed the service live on Facebook.

Missions

What I found so wonderful about all this, however, is that by streaming our services to Facebook, then sharing them on other media platforms, what would have been local turned into global! Think about that for a hallelujah minute!

One can’t help but wonder if Satan was at one point dying from laughter, then the next moment throwing a demon across the room in a fit of rage. I hope so!

It’s like, “Oh, look at all those churches closing their doors over some silly little virus! We are shutting them down, now!” Then it was, “OH, MY PLACE! What are they doing now? Reaching the world with the gospel??”

The Videos

So, what I want to do for this post is offer you the opportunity to watch both our ENTIRE Sunday morning service, along with a video I did from my office this evening.

But just so you don’t miss it, there’s a lot that went on this morning in our church service. So, if you want to skip to that actual sermon I delivered on St. Patrick and missions (it’s a GOOD one!), go to the 41:30 mark.

That shirt made me look HUGE! 

If you think St Patrick was Irish, or that his favorite color was green, you REALLY need to listen to this sermon 😉

God bless, and have a Christ-honoring week!

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Florida Flock Hires A Sheep-Eater for Shepherd

A Week of Blah (Health Update)

I have been feeling under the weather (sick) for most of the week. I went to the doctor just to make sure that I did not have the flue (or Coronavirus), and the test was negative. I just had a bad case of an acute stomach virus or food poisoning. That was good news, especially considering I was determined to speak at a funeral service on Thursday.

However, for the rest of the week I have been wiped out – no energy, thirsty, little appetite, and no desire for coffee (yeah, something’s really wrong). Every time I get up to do anything, I feel like I need to sit back down. It’s been miserable.

But then I read a news story that injected some adrenalin into my veins and animated my limbs (at least my fingers). I knew I had to say something, the sooner the better. Anger overcame lethargy.

Florida Church Hires a Wolf

The headline of the story read like this: “Florida church members split after ‘registered sex offender’ returns to preach“.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? What kind of idiots would do such a thing? Are they stupid? Crazy?

No, actually, they are probably like so many other Christians who believe the right thing to do is forgive, and they’ve likely never experienced the fangs of a predator within their flock. Or, maybe they’re just the stick-a-fork-in-a-socket kind of dumb.

Click here and check out the video from this local Jacksonville news station.

A Must Read – Seriously!

The Amazon link may show a different cover, but this is the book.

Dear friends, wherever you are, I beg of you…I plead with you!.. order this book by Dr. Anna C Salter. My wife and I were given a copy several years ago by a family counselor who was tasked with helping us heal from the wounds of a sexual predator. As we read it, we both became physically ill, not simply from the content, but how we had been duped by a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The reason why I became so angry when I read the story of how Mt. Ararat Baptist Church in Jacksonville hired a convicted sex offender is that they evidently don’t know what they are dealing with! They’ve never read a book like this! If they had, this guy’s name would have never been considered, not even for an outside gutter sweeper!

Tell Me, Why?

I don’t know what they used for justification, but those who suggested Rev. Darrell Gilyard as a candidate for pastor should be tarred and feathered for furthering the endangerment of children and women. His name should have never even been considered!

So, why is it that he was picked? Why did anyone vote him in? I can only guess, and here are a few that come to mind:

  • He’s a great, powerful preacher; he’s gonna have his weaknesses.
  • He never really did any of the things he was accused of or found guilty of. All were simply misunderstandings.
  • He did commit a horrible sin, but that was in 2009, and he has paid his debt to society. Are we to still treat him like he’s a criminal?
  • God is the God of second chances.
  • If Jesus Christ forgave him for his sin, then who are we to hold it over him?
  • He may have done those things in the past, but he is a changed man, now.

But let me tell you how it really is and should be (If you’re the soft-hearted type that can’t stand the sight of blood, look away; it’s going to get brutal.)

Reality

Sex offenders, rapists, pedophiles, and child molesters are predators. They do not change. They are never reformed. They will always have a taste for prey.

Oh, I know what some of you are thinking. You are shocked that a good-ole Baptist preacher like me would claim anyone is beyond the saving grace and changing power of the blood of Jesus Christ, right? Well, that’s not what I’m saying.

God can change anyone. Period. If the Word of God is true (and I believe it is), if anyone repents and accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior, he will become a new creature: a born-again individual with a new nature that seeks to please God, not the flesh (2 Cor. 5:17).

But how do you typically know when people have been changed by God, saved by His grace, given a new heart, etc.? Their testimony.

In other words, by their words and their works they testify to the change that has taken place. And who doesn’t love a good testimony story, amen?

The only problem is that every predator that infiltrates a church usually does it with a GREAT testimony. Then, before long, he/she is put in a place of authority with access to all the victims he wants, even if he has to groom them a little while before he feasts.

In the news video from Chanel 4 in Jacksonville, one of the pastor’s supporters (James Andrews) said something very telling. He said, “I forgave him.

Stop and think about that for just a moment, would you? What did this man have to forgive him for? What did Darrell Gilyard do to him? What does his forgiveness have to do with anything, really?

The first news story I read referenced another in which Gilyard was asked if he thought he’d changed.

“Of course I believe I have changed. But time will tell everyone if I have changed,” Gilyard told First Coast News in 2014. “I’m a believer in when you do something wrong, you pay the price. But do you pay the price forever?”

What the Hades?!! Is he really that ignorant? He evidently thinks we are.

  • The predator doesn’t tell the prey he is dangerous.
  • Time is not a luxury any church can afford when it comes to this.
    • Anna Salter interviewed a young deacon (only in his 20’s) who had been convicted of sexually molesting a young boy in his youth group. Before he was arrested for that, he was accused of other things, but he cleverly picked children with histories of lying, so no one believed them. By the time he was put away, he voluntarily confessed to 95 other victims. What did time tell?
  • Yes, for some things you DO pay the price forever. The girls you molested certainly will. And have you ever heard of Hell?
  • For the safety of your children, you can NEVER, EVER trust a convicted sex offender. Never. No second chances. None.

What Now?

So, what would I do if I were in the shoes of the folk there at Mt. Ararat Baptist? First, I would immediately fire Mr. Gilyand. I would not even allow him to preach a good-bye sermon. He had no business – NONE – even being behind the pulpit according to the books of Timothy and Titus.

After getting rid of Mr. Gilyand, the congregation of Mt. Ararat needs to re-evaluate what it was that made them approve of hiring a wolf to lead them, then repent and ask forgiveness from God. After that, never let the same people serve on any search committee again.

For everyone else, especially if you are a church leader, order Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists, & Other Sex Offenders: Who They Are, How They Operate, and How We Can Protect Ourselves and Our Children, by Anna C Salter, Ph.D.

Be sober. Be vigilant. – 1 Peter 5:8


If you would like for us to share our personal experiences dealing with a sexual predator within our (former) flock, my wife and I would love to talk with you. Comment below or email me at PastorACBaker@yahoo.com.

 

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