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First Baptist HammondFirst Baptist Church Hammond voted to accept John Wilkerson as its new pastor Sunday evening.

Wilkerson follows Jack Schaap, who left First Baptist Hammond last year after admitting to having sexual contact with a 16-year-old girl and transporting her across state lines to have sex with her (a federal offense).  Schaap is currently awaiting sentencing. According to news reports: Wilkerson graduated from Hyles-Anderson in 1989 and taught at the church’s City Baptist Schools for a year before moving to California to teach at a Baptist school in Long Beach. He became principal of Calvary Christian School in Baton Rouge, La. in 1993 and returned to California in 2000 to become the pastor of First Baptist Church of Long Beach. During Wilkerson’s tenure as pastor, the Sunday school program at First Baptist Church of Long Beach has grown in attendance from 849 to more than 1,700. The Wilkersons are parents to nine children. In August 2008, the couple’s 17-year-old son, Tyler, was killed in a car accident. The Sunday after his son’s death, Wilkerson presented a sermon entitled, “God Makes No Mistakes,” according to the First Baptist Church Web site. Wilkerson will begin at First Baptist Hammond on February 17. // Read more here…
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This from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Last Sunday, the Rev. Travis Smith paced First Baptist Church’s sanctuary, decorated for the holidays with poinsettias and a Christmas tree. He addressed his congregation, speaking to them about forgiveness. Smith read verses from the Gospel of Matthew that follow the Lord’s Prayer: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,” he said. Since Smith’s arrest in October on sexual abuse and statutory rape charges, which follow similar allegations from 2010, forgiveness from his congregation has become critical to his survival as its pastor. It is this group of about 100 souls who will decide Smith’s future in the Southern Baptist Convention. In any denomination, Christians confronted with the shocking news that their often-beloved pastor has been accused of sexual misconduct, many congregations circle the wagons, some experts say. “When a church rallies around its pastor, there’s disbelief that someone they trust could do something like this,” said Diana Garland, dean of the school of social work at Baylor University. “It often feels so much safer to blame the victims for causing his downfall, rather than accept that the power of a religious leader has been abused.” But what happens when those circling the wagons around their pastor are also those who have to make the ultimate decision about his fate — his career, his paycheck, his reputation? A deacon at First Baptist Church of Stover said that at its last monthly business meeting no one from the congregation even put forward a motion to dismiss Smith, the first step in a longer process to remove the pastor. “These are old charges, and if they’re true, why weren’t they brought up when they occurred?” said Phil Marriott. “We’ll wait for the court system to address them and let justice take its course.”
I’ve seen this happen many times.  When confronted with charges against a pastor, some churches are just not in a place to accept, or at the very least, investigate the charges.
That leads to the ‘circling of the wagons’ effect the writer describes.
It’s a tough situation.  On one side, ANYONE can make an accusation (and scripture even puts it down that if it is an elder, there really needs to be more than one accuser to help substantiate claims).  But at the same time, these allegations are very serious, and need to be investigated.  Rape, for instance, is a pretty stinkin’ serious charge; and to circle the wagon and not even discuss the situation is horrible.
If you were on the board at this church, how would you respond right now to this situation?
Leave a comment below and tell me what YOU think…
Todd
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This just in… God HAS to be a Baptist… Because when he speaks to Jim Bakker, he alliterates his message.  Look… see… So, according to Jim Bakker, there will be an earthquake hit California.  A really bad one too. And more hurricanes. I’m sorry… I’m sure I’m more cynical that you. And that does neither one of us any good. But why does God tell Jim Bakker these things? OK… my real question… DOES God tell Jim Bakker these things? Any thoughts? Todd HT here
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Leadership
Dr. Chappell is pretty friendly and likeable for a strict fundamentalist.  One of the friendliest I’ve seen.  I think he’d be a great guy to sit down and have lunch with.  (And he’d actually have lunch with me, even though I’m not a Baptist). Here are some things that help determine, in his mind, who we can link to/support in the Christian community: 1.  Fundamentals of the Faith 2.  Cessationaists 3.  Alcohol 4.  Bible Version 5.  Music Choice and Conforming to the World 6.  Identity as a Baptist I do appreciate that he is friendly and not condescending to those who do not agree. And, unlike many ‘independent baptists’, he does not discount the ‘christianity’ or ‘savedness’ of those outside of items 2 -6.  But he’s pretty firm that he won’t feel comfortable recommending or ‘sharing a platform’ with anyone who doesn’t keep his view of items 2 -6. I understand the logic.  It’s what I grew up with.  But I think it’s flawed for one simple reason.  I think Dr. Chappell has made items 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 to be equal with #1. I do not. I don’t believe that a drum or a verse from The Message is something that should be a ‘test of fellowship’. Nor do I believe that being Baptist should be a pre-requisite.  Man, that constriction alone takes out ALMOST everyone in the New Testament. So… all that said… we all have lines. Where’s yours? Who will you NOT fellowship or break bread with?  And why?
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Controversy
It’s true.  Change Sucks.  Ask some of the members of The Church At Carrollton, who are none too happy about change. Since Pastor Greg Drake came five years ago, some things have changed.  As noted in a news story, some people are ticked.  Royally ticked, actually. Here are the things cited that have changed: 1.  The church name (it used to be Abilene Baptist Church) 2.  No more ‘hymn book singing’ 3.  Removal of the piano and organ 4.  Printed words to songs are now “replaced by a screen” 5.  Several pews were removed 6.  Some stained glass was partially covered. 7.  Shut down Sunday School classes (these classes met for SS, then left before the service started) 8.  Walking away from the SBC The result?  A lawsuit in county court questioning the legal ownership of the church entity, going back to the original deed in 1876. Here’s the premise:  since the church changed it’s name this year, and is no longer operating under the Abiline Baptist name any longer, the 1876 deed that grated the land to “Abilene Baptist” has been revoked since the new entity is no longer using it for the said purpose of the deed (again, signed in 1876). One of the protesters is quoted in the article: “I just feel like the Lord wanted that to be Abilene Baptist Church, or otherwise he wouldn’t instill in these men back in the 1800s to put that in the deed…The said purposes has got to be Abilene Baptist Church. To me, it’s clear, the purposes are your ministries of the Baptist Church because it states that in the deed.” This guy’s also more than a little ticked that he’s no longer a deacon: “I just had a feeling from the Lord that it wasn’t supposed to be changed, and that’s when [Pastor Drake] told me that he removed me as a deacon. My dad was a deacon there, and I voted for all the former deacons because I felt like they wouldn’t want the name changed.” After all, his dad WAS a deacon. But wait… there’s more! Not long after the civil suit was filed, the church was called to defend against allegations in Carroll County Magistrate Court that the Rev. Drake had been removing flags from the graves of Civil War veterans buried in the church cemetery. Read more:Times-Georgian – Controversy at church where change has alienated some been embraced by others // All I can say is… change sucks. This is one of the more outrageous church conflicts that I’ve seen recently… but you know… things like this happen all the time.  They’re just not written about in the local newspaper (thankfully). I hope that I don’t become like this when I’m older. I hope that if/when I walk away from a church and it’s leadership, it’s about something much more important that hymnbooks, pews, stained glass and the like. I pray that I don’t end up a bitter, angry, hopeless man as I get older. Thoughts?      
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Controversy
According to the Christian Post, several North Carolina churches have cut their ties with Surry Baptist Association over the group’s decision to expel a church for having a female pastor. First Baptist Church of Mount Airy voted overwhelmingly to withdraw from the association due to the expulsion of nearby Flat Rock Baptist Church for appointing the Rev. Bailey Edwards Nelson as senior pastor. Piney Grove Baptist Church of Mount Airy also decided to leave the association, with an unanimous vote taken last week. “In our congregation, and in several other congregations, there was strong disagreement with the action, the biblical interpretation given for the action, and the way the issue was handled,” said Roger Gilbert, pastor of First Baptist Church, in a statement. “The whole process was open and respectful of all. We now plan to move forward, leaving this behind us, working in partnership with those churches who want to work with us.” The Rev. Bailey Edwards Nelson, the pastor of Flat Rock Baptist Church whose appointment began the controversy, told The Christian Post on Wednesday that the churches leaving the association based their vote on more than the SBA’s decision to expel Flat Rock. “Members of both churches were bothered not only by the SBA’s stance against women serving as pastors, but also by the way in which the matter was handled,” said Nelson. via Christian News. // For these churches, the ‘fellowship test’ was broken because of the woman pastor issue, but in the opposite way you would think. What keeps your church from working with other churches?  Come on… you have a list… and you might be embarrassed to say what’s on it. Do you work with other churches in your city?  If so how? And when do you say no? And when does it get to a point where you say… you just do your own thing and leave us out of it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.      
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Outreach
Two Rivers Baptist Church, a prominent Southern Baptist congregation in Nashville, is changing its name beginning March 20 to the “Fellowship at Two Rivers.” The church says the name change was driven by a desire to distance itself from controversies from the past few years that made headlines in local media. The controversy involved church members who were dissatisfied with former pastor Jerry Sutton. Some of them sued. Sutton retired early, telling members in a letter, “Although we have won court cases and church votes, the conflict continues.” The church said in a January letter to members, “The past few years our name and church have been dragged through the sewer. Just do a search online and you will see what we mean. A new beginning and identity is needed. This name communicates that we are different as a church. We are still Baptist. Legally we are still Two Rivers Baptist, but identifying that in the name is not important. People will be drawn to our ministry by our actions and love. That is what matters.” The church said it is not becoming “seeker sensitive.” via Baptist Press The letter can be read here. The letter states that the church is transitioning to ‘one service and one style’ that would most effectively reach people *unchurched and lost non-believers”  (as opposed, I guess to ‘saved non-believers’ or ‘lost believers’). That said (which sounds good to me), the letter goes on to say that they are ‘not dumbing down the church’.  And that ‘we are not becoming a ‘seeker’ church’.  If anything, they say, ‘we are raising’ the bar. OK… I get it.  The church obviously has some people in it that don’t like the word ‘seeker’.  They equate the word ‘seeker’ with ‘dumbing down’ and ‘lowering the bar’.  Instead, the leadership has decided on the path that would most effectively reach people (unchurched and lost non-believers).  For the sake of sanity though, we won’t call those people seekers. The other word people in the church are pretty sensitive to is the word “Baptist”.  “We are still Baptist” is the only thing bolded in the letter other than the new service time.  But the renaming from Two Rivers Baptist Church to the “Fellowship at Two Rivers” has some upset. All this comes out of a bad few years for Two Rivers.  They’ve been dragged through the sewer (their words).  And they are seeking to revive a church that has been dealt some death blows in the media and community.  No doubt, a tough task. I applaud the leadership at Two Rivers.  Change is hard, and they are deep in the throws of it.  The waves are crashing.  And the people upset about the words “Baptist” and “Seeker” add to the strife. I LOVE the last paragraph of the letter:
It is imperative that through this transition we don’t give the lost and un-churched people more of a reason to not go to church.  During this time, we ask for a positive spirit of unity and excitement. While we want each person at Two Rivers to make this transition and be a part of the exciting places God is taking us, we understand that everyone will not make this transition.  We ask that each person see the vision and pray about where God would have them serve to accomplish His purposes and mission.  While not our desire, if God leads you to another place we understand and wish only the best for you.
Brilliantly played.  I’m’ sure they have realized in the past years that everyone won’t make the journey to the other side.  The same is true here… but it’s seemingly the right step to revitalize a crippled church. Would you have played it any differently?

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