Friday, December 21, 2012

Listening is Vital to Communication

By Dr. Mark T. White

“He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame.” –Proverbs 18:13

Many of us have had years of training in communication skills such as writing, reading, and speaking. However, we probably have not experienced much training in what many believe is the most important facet of communication, listening.

The art of listening may not be lost, but is surely seems difficult to find. Many of us, instead of really listening as someone speaks to us, are mentally framing our response, getting ready to jump in as soon as the speaker takes a breath.

Consequently, we are really listening more to our own thoughts than to the person who is speaking. “I wish he/she would hurry up and take a breath so I can tell them what is really important.” In fact, for many of us, our listening habits are so poor we even have difficulty hearing God speak.

We have been taught that prayer is communication with God. Communication suggests both transmission and reception. Our transmission of concern to the Creator is usually done fairly well. We accept by faith that God is receiving our transmissions. But what about God’s transmission to us? How well do we receive it? Is it possible to miss God’s voice because we are too busy with our own thoughts, rather than concentrating on our Creator’s?

God’s people must understand that the Almighty is always seeking to communicate with us. However, if we are listening only for the answer we want, it is possible we will miss sensing God pointing us in another direction.

Try including the reading of the Word of God in your prayer life. It is amazing what you can hear when you listen to God’s word. It is even more amazing if you wait to hear from God before answering.

Mark White is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Clayton, NC. This article originally appeared in their church newsletter, The Outlook.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Fit to Serve

Dr. E. Steven Ayers

The past several months I have read several disturbing reports about the general health of the populace. Now, I have a pretty good habit of cherry picking reports and studies. I particularly liked the study that infers that 4 cups of coffee a day for adult males may reduce diabetic risk by 50%. Now that’s what I call a really good study. Particularly impressive in my book are any studies that suggest chocolate is a good thing. And of course, we certainly can appreciate even more how Jesus was way ahead of the health curve by making 280 gallons of water into wine. But for all the studies to which I have an affinity, there are too many others that suggest that there is a crisis upon us. Life expectancy for the least educated has declined. Obesity and diabetes have become a national epidemic.

Why should these matters concern us as Christians? I think I can better phrase that by asking, how can these matters not concern us as Christians. We serve and proclaim the Great Physician. And John shares these words of Jesus before Jesus says he is the Good Shepherd, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10b NRSV)

The recent push to improve our financial condition is a part of a more encompassing emphasis that we need to be “Fit for Life, fit to serve.” We need to be fit in our spiritual, physical, and economic health. The faith demands our all: our body, mind, and spirit. What can make us more fit? What can we give up? And what can we begin? There is something we can all do to have a healthier lifestyle for our world and ourselves. It is a matter of faith and practice. God calls us to wholeness. In that calling we will discover afresh and anew our interconnectedness.

Steve Ayers is the pastor of McGill Baptist Church in Concord, NC. This article originally appeared in their church newsletter, The Way.

Friday, December 7, 2012

What is “Fresh Expressions”?

by Rev. Dr. Larry Hovis

On February 1, 2012, at FBC Greensboro, CBF of North Carolina (in partnership with CBF National, Center for Congregational Health, and Virginia Baptist Mission Board) will host a Fresh Expressions Vision Day. But what is “Fresh Expressions”? Something you spray on your body or in your bathroom?

Actually, Fresh Expressions is a movement of the Holy Spirit that began in the Church of England, has spread throughout other denominations in the United Kingdom, and has now made it to the U.S.  According to,

“A fresh expression is a form of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church.

  • ·         It will come into being through principles of listening, service, contextual mission and making disciples.
  • ·         It will have the potential to become a mature expression of church shaped by the gospel and the enduring marks of the church and for its cultural context.”

Fresh Expressions is not a program or a marketing tool to get more people to attend Sunday morning worship services or a strategy to increase contributions. “While all fresh expressions are different,” says, “there are some guiding principles that tie them all together. Fresh expressions are:

  • ·         Missional – serving those not currently served by any church;
  • ·         Incarnational – listening to people and entering their culture;
  • ·         Discipling – helping people enter more fully into the life of Christ;
  • ·         Ecclesial – forming church.”

Fresh expressions of church, ideally, are launched by or exist in partnership with, “inherited” churches. Together, they form what Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams calls a “mixed economy”, existing side-by-side, enriching one another in mutually supportive ways.

Fresh expressions require little or no budget. Instead, they will demand that we approach our communities with:

  • ·         Open eyes – to see people in our community that need Jesus but to whom we may have been blind
  • ·         Open hearts – to make space and time in our busy lives to cultivate relationships with them

I believe fresh expressions may be a significant avenue through which the churches of our fellowship more faithfully and effectively reach people in our community with the Good News of Jesus, people that may never enter our buildings. In doing so, these fresh expressions may, in ways we can’t now imagine, serve to renew and revive the congregations historic congregations we love so much.

Interested in learning more about this movement, and how you and your church might join in? Visit for more information.  Then join us on February 1, 2013 at FBC Greensboro.

Larry Hovis is the Executive Coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Why We Do What We Do

Rev. Paul Batson

Nobles Chapel Baptist Church, where I gratefully serve as Pastor, is part of a tremendous collaboration of churches and community organizations called CHEW (Children's Hunger Elimination of Wilson). CHEW was developed last year to meet the needs of school-aged children who likely do not have food in their homes for weekend meals. This organization partners together for buying power to purchase food for these children for their weekend meals at a price that is less than what any church could buy on their own. Buying in bulk, you know? And I'm happy to say that EVERY child that has been identified in Wilson County as food insecure is receiving a weekend meal bag this school year.

Recently, CHEW was faced with a decision about putting encouraging messages in the bags for the kids each week. Do we put general messages in there? Can we include Scripture or references to God? We sought the council of school principals and other administrators and ultimately (probably to no surprise) the decision was made to include messages without reference to God.

Fast-forward to today when I was at a meeting of Wilson area ministers and the issue of "the encouraging messages" came up. This is what I heard one pastor say:

"If we can't put messages in the bag that tell the kids where it comes from or about a relationship with Jesus, what's the point? Maybe we'll just give our money somewhere else."

I've heard these kinds of comments before. In fact, I've heard it from people at every church I've served:

"I don't understand why we keep giving and doing the weekend meal bags when we haven't seen any of those kids and their families come to our church as a result."


"I see people drive up to fill-in-the-blank-organization in nicer cars than I drive to get food, clothes, etc., so I've stopped bringing things when we have drives for that ministry."


"I'd give him some money, but he'll probably just buy alcohol or drugs."

In a culture where people are increasingly skeptical of the Church and Christians and their efforts at evangelism and mission, we have to ask ourselves about the motivation for what we're doing. Sure, we should be about communicating our faith and telling others about the life-changing difference Christ has made in our lives and how we'd love for everyone to know what it means to have a relationship with God. I'm not trying to minimize that responsibility.

But, "what if there was no chance that I'd come to your church or come to your faith. Would you still give me and my family food on the weekend? Would you still donate clothes or money to help me? Would you still be my friend if 'relationship evangelism' will never lead me to faith?"

May I submit to you that if your answer is "no" to any of the above questions, then your motivation for mission is misinformed. I believe that the spirit in which Jesus calls us to give and meet the needs of those around us is because that's just what we do. It isn't to see bigger attendance numbers or even just to see the recipient "get saved". It's because the people of God see a need in this world and they meet that need, regardless of the outcome.

I have to believe that Jesus knew that out of the ten lepers he healed, only one would return to give thanks (Luke 17), but He did it anyway. And I certainly have to believe that God knew that not everyone would accept His son and His sacrifice on the cross, but Jesus died for us anyway. Why give regardless of the outcome? Because that's just what God does.

So give. Give whether you can tell the kids the food is from Jesus or his church or not. Give whether he'll use it on drugs or not. Give whether they need it or not. Give.

Give, because as people of God, that's just what we do.

Paul Botson is the pastor of Nobels Chapel Baptist Church in Sims, NC. This article originally appeared on Paul’s blog,

Friday, November 23, 2012

Shift Happens (Or It Should)

by Rev. Dr. Larry Hovis

Most of us in North Carolina realize that a significant shift has been taking place in recent years, a shift in the relationship between the church and the culture. Earlier in my life and ministry, the church sat at the center of the culture. A majority of people went to church, or at least understood the nature and purpose of the church. The culture supported, rather than competed with the church.  The church enjoyed a privileged place in most of our communities.

That is no longer the case. The place of the church has shifted from the center of the culture to the margins of the culture. Not only do most persons not attend church, but they don't even feel guilty about it! Some have no direct knowledge of the beliefs and practices of the church and don't see how it is relevant for their lives.

This is a relatively new phenomenon for most of our churches in North Carolina, but it has been going on in Canada for a long time. On a trip to Canada during last summer’s sabbatical, I met with Baptists who share our core beliefs and practices and learned how they have been dealing with shift for several decades. As I visited with Marc and Kim Wyatt (CBF Global Missions field personnel from North Carolina), congregational leaders, regional denominational leaders, a seminary professor and the leaders of Canadian Baptist Ministries (a global missions agency), I learned of shifts they are making that are enabling Canadian Baptists to deal faithfully and effectively with the larger cultural shifts that have now reached the Tarheel State.

From Church-As-Community Institution to Church-As-Mission Outpost

In our heyday, churches were viewed as significant community institutions. People understood what churches offered and came to churches to receive religious goods and services (programs and ministries) in much the same way they went to other community institutions to receive the goods and services they provided. Church leaders worked to provide the best programs and ministries possible in order to attract people to the church, who, for the most part, understood what the church was trying to do.

Churches in Canada no longer pretend that the culture "gets" the church. Instead of thinking like marketers or managers or even chaplains, they are learning to think like missionaries. When missionaries move to a new place of service, they don't assume that those they are trying to reach understand what they are doing. They don't begin by creating programs to attract persons to the church. They first learn the language and customs of the community. They build relationships with people to discern their felt and real needs. Then they begin to translate the Gospel of Jesus Christ into tangible need-meeting ministries that connect with people where they live and where they hurt. Bible studies and worship services grow organically out of tangible expressions of the Kingdom of God, not vice-versa. In the future, in order to deal with the changes in our culture, we church leaders in North Carolina will need to think more like missionaries and less like program managers or chaplains.

From Fearing the Stranger to Welcoming the Stranger

Because of an open-door immigration policy, Canada has become a haven for people all around the world who have immigrated there to flee persecution or to seek a better way of life.  The city of Toronto is the most multi-cultural city in the world, and much of the rest of Canada has become very culturally diverse.

I imagine it was difficult, in the early days of a high level of immigration, for traditional Canadian Baptist churches to embrace the newcomers to their communities. The changes in their communities caused most of them to decline significantly in terms of traditional measurements (attendance and money). But in time, some of them began to discover ways to welcome the newcomers to their communities who came to Canada from other countries. And the congregations that have learned to make this shift are growing again.

For example, I was given the opportunity to preach at Bromley Rd. Baptist Church in Ottawa. It's a church that in many ways is very much like North Carolina CBF churches - architecturally, programmatically, and liturgically. But this traditionally Anglo church has reached out to newcomers in the community, particularly immigrants from Haiti and Karen people. They have reversed the decline in membership and attendance, they have more children in their Sunday School, and most importantly, they more faithfully reflect the Kingdom of God.

In North Carolina, our churches haven't always been welcoming to newcomers. Sometimes, often out of fear, we have shut the doors of our churches and our lives to them. A key task facing us is to make the shift from fearing these "strangers" to welcoming them as brothers and sisters in Christ.

From Mission Trips to Global Discipleship

How can we make these two shifts? Canadian Baptists have developed a powerful tool to equip Christians and churches to move in this direction. Like us, the Canadians have been sending church members on mission trips for three decades. But they discovered, as many of us know intuitively, that these trips often have as great an impact on those making the trips than on those we are seeking to serve. So, they have developed very intentional processes to utilize short-term mission experiences as vehicles for missional formation and discipleship development.

By leading mission trip participants through a pre-trip preparation phase that lasts several months, guiding them in focused reflection during the trip, and helping them apply what God taught them on the trip after they return home, church members who take mission trips not only grow more deeply in their faith, but they are better equipped to serve as missionaries in their communities when they return home.

In the coming years and months, CBFNC will be working to develop processes that will help congregations who participate in our mission efforts to make this shift. Not only will it enable us to be better stewards of the significant resources we pour into mission trips, but it may be a vital avenue of spiritual renewal for our churches and Kingdom-transformation for our state.

The church in North Carolina, like the church throughout North America, is undergoing drastic shifts. We may not like it, but we can’t stop it. Thankfully, like-minded and like-hearted Baptists in Canada have more experience in dealing with these shifts than we do. By learning from them and following their lead, we can make our own shifts that will enable us to be faithful to God’s mission in our time and place.

Larry Hovis is the Executive Director of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina

Friday, November 16, 2012

Choosing Thankfulness

by Rev. Len Keever

The apostle Paul wrote to the good folks in Philippi, "Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7).

All my life I have heard statements like, "Don't sweat the small stuff!" and "Ninety-five percent of the stuff we worry about never happens." When I studied Family Systems Theory we discussed how we spend so much time trying to change others when we only have control over ourselves. In other words, I can work to change me, but only you can work to change you.

Reinhold Niebuhr gave us the Serenity Prayer: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference." This is especially poignant knowing that Niebuhr was an American theologian active in trying to relate the realities of faith to a world embroiled in a Great Depression, the threats of Communism and Fascism, two World Wars, and the advent of nuclear armament. The wisdom to know the difference between what we can control and what is under the authority of God is indeed very valuable.

We worry so much about things over which we do not have control. So many thoughts come to mind when I think about how worry affects us: worry never fed anything but an ulcer; worry is a barren desert where faith can find no root; worry robs productivity and kills initiative. The opposite of trust is worry; the opposite of submission is anxiety (another word for worry). To worry is an attempt to take control from God.

When Jesus taught his disciples in the 6th chapter of Matthew, "No one can serve two masters," he immediately said, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry." Worry can become a false god when we give it a voice to influence us. The Greek word translated "therefore" connects Matthew 6:24 and 25; we can easily say, "You cannot serve God and worry." We are not fully listening to Jesus when we think that only wealth can become our master. There are lots of things that undermine a life of devotion. Worry is one of them.

Eugene Peterson translates this passage in The Message: 

Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It is a wonderful thing that happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

It is no accident that Paul wrote just a few verses later, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances...I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

For those not attuned to Christ, this can be a very anxious time. But for the Christian, it is a time to trust in God, to give our present and future to Jesus. God reigns over all creation. Let us praise God! Let us be thankful! God is still on God's throne. Why worry? Be peaceful!

Len Keever is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Dunn. This article originally appeared in their church newsletter, The Builder.

Friday, November 9, 2012

High Anxiety

by Dr. Dennis Herman

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Paul’s words to the Philippians.)

Chaplains and pastors were once taught to be “a non-anxious presence” while ministering to persons in high anxiety and crises. We learned after a few years that such a goal was too idealistic. Now, chaplains and pastors are encouraged to be “a less anxious” presence during times of crises or high anxiety.

We wish we could follow Paul’s encouragement to be anxious about nothing. The fact is, we are anxious. It’s the way we are made. But we are to address that anxiety by the disciplines of our faith, specifically by prayer. Paul simply reminds us to rejoice, to give thanks, and then present our requests to God.

Sometimes we read Paul’s words and we grit our teeth declaring, “I will not be anxious; I will not be anxious; I will not be anxious.” Have you ever noticed the more you tell yourself not to do something, the more prone you are to do it? Like the MRI technician who kept asking me, “Are you claustrophobic? Do you have a fear of crawling into caves? Would you like anxiety medication? Does it bother you to be in a dark, closed space with no air with a dozen monkeys beating on a tin can placed over your head?” (Actually, he only asked the first question a couple different ways, but they all seemed to say, “Be anxious, this MRI will drive you nuts!”) Then he told me “not to move” while lying in what appeared to be an air conditioned coffin. Please, just give me some strong medication next time and forget the verbal encouragement.

We do get anxious. We could count the ways, but the fact is that anxiety is personal. Some folks just seem genetically engineered or environmentally conditioned to feel high anxiety. For all of us who deal with anxiety, here’s a prayer I like. Maybe it will be one you can say in times of high anxiety, low anxiety, or MRI anxiety:

"Embolden my spirit by the presence of Your Holy Spirit within me. Assure me that nothing separates me from Your love. Remind me that you will provide all my needs. If I must be anxious, let me trust that You will not be, and in that relationship of trust may I know that all will be as You will it. Amen."

Dennis Herman is the interim pastor of Oxford Baptist Church in Oxford, NC. This article originally appeared in their church newsletter, The Forecaster.

Friday, November 2, 2012

No Magic in the Moving Van

Dr. Guy Sayles

Have you ever tried a geographical cure for your problems? Just move to a new city and leave your problems in the old one.  The difficulties you’ve had and the challenges you’ve faced in the past are the fault of the clueless employers and insensitive coworkers you’ve been cooped-up with for all these years. 

So, get a new job in a new place with new co-workers and everything will be different; you will be different. You’ll shed your pattern of procrastination. You’ll become a morning person who finds it easy to get to work on time—no more tying your tie or applying your makeup at stoplights. You’ll be proactive and positive.  

A geographical cure: a new place and a new you.  A few years ago, I read this tongue-in-cheek story in The Onion:

ATLANTA—All of area resident Brian Shepard's problems, including his fear of commitment, lack of personal direction, and inability to learn from past failures, will be instantly solved this week when the 29-year-old packs up his belongings and moves to a new city. "Moving to Portland is going to make all the difference in the world," said Shepard, who, just by putting 2,500 miles distance between himself and years of destructive behavior, will suddenly turn his life around. "It won't be anything like Chicago, or Boston, or San Francisco. This is exactly what I need right now." Shepard also plans to completely eliminate his dependence on self-denial by ignoring his dependence on self-denial.  (The Onion, December 5, 2008)

Speaking from my own experience, I can tell you that the promises of geographical cure are an illusion.  As I heard myself telling a friend: “Mike, here’s something I’ve learned: Hell is portable.  You take it with you wherever you go.”    

There might be good reasons for taking a new job or going to a new school or moving to a new town, but a new office, a new classroom, and new address don’t automatically make us new people.  There’s no magic in a moving van.  

We can’t, after all, move away from ourselves.  What we need is not a geographical cure, but transformation—a deep healing of the wounds and brokenness which drive the patterns which hurt us and other people; an infusion of confidence that God loves us fully and joyfully, no matter what and forever, and a  thoroughgoing renewal of our gifts and talents.  Geography doesn’t cure us, but God can change us.  

Guy Sayles is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Asheville. This article originally appeared on his blog, From the Intersection.

Friday, October 26, 2012

On Finding Comrades: The 2nd Annual Faith & Immigration Summit

 The 2nd Annual Faith & Immigration Summit was sponsored by the North Carolina Council of Churches and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina.

Professional interpreters make sure everyone
can follow along in both English and Spanish.

story by Scott Schomburg and photos by Justin Hubbard, Duke Divinity School Interns for the North Carolina Council of Churches

I was new to the scene, a newcomer at the 2nd annual Faith & Immigration Statewide Summit. Just weeks ago I started my internship with NC Council of Churches.

Before the room could come into focus, I found myself in conversation with pastors, organizers, and advocacy groups, recognizing both a patience and an urgency that seems to come with this work. Our day together unfolded a compelling narrative of faith leaders in North Carolina moving forward in solidarity to make communities better for immigrants.* Not everyone shares this vision however, as some politicians continue to push a restrictionist agenda, infusing local communities with anti-immigration rhetoric. This story of challenge and hope, of conflicting conceptions of justice, and of faith leaders forming a public voice, captured my attention early.

The fellowship hall at United Church of Chapel Hill was filled with faith leaders looking for comrades, searching for creative ways to tell the truth about immigration in North Carolina. Rev. Ismael Ruiz-Millán, director of the Hispanic House of Studies at Duke Divinity School, weaved accounts of immigrant struggle together with a lively scriptural imagination in his keynote address. For Rev. Ruiz-Millán, to stand with his friends to make communities better for immigrants is a way of practicing resurrection. That is, the very act of solidarity is in itself the account of the hope that is within us.

Mauricio Castro from the NC Latino Coalition leads a
workshop on North Carolina Legislation and Lobbying
Transitioning from Ruiz-Millán’s keynote address to a series of workshops, participants were able to focus the conversation in specific tracks covering the different modes of response available to faith community. From introductory sessions on immigration policy, to pastoral care, to the specific strategies of effective community organizing, seminar leaders offered their expertise and interacted with the many questions and testimonies of faith leaders in the room. I attended the advocacy workshop led by Mauricio Castro of the NC Latino Coalition.

Castro began by evoking the late Archbishop of San Salvador, Óscar Romero, whose prophetic witness against social injustice exemplified Castro’s greatest hopes of organizing for immigration reform in his home state. Unveiling the forces in North Carolina that prevent people from flourishing, Castro pointed back to the painful effects of two anti-immigration bills passed in June 2011. In addition, he described the anti-immigration aims of the Select Committee on the State’s Role in Immigration Policy, and the upcoming legislative session that may well see consideration of new measures to make undocumented workers and immigrant families unwelcome in North Carolina.

Castro then pointed forward, calling for a mobilization of faith leaders with specific strategies to bend North Carolina legislation toward justice, making all communities better for immigrants. He urged leaders to take power analysis seriously, to know how strong are the forces against immigration reform. Yet, far from painting a paralyzing picture of insurmountable challenge, Castro and other seminar leaders evoked a desire for something better. The conversations reminded us that not even the most ardent of opponents to immigration reform are outside the possibilities of conversion. Indeed, even Romero’s courage to speak against social injustice came after his own unexpected conversion.

It was a day marked by a powerful underlying story: faith leaders are active, and congregations will not stand idly by while immigrant communities suffer. And in these months following the Faith and Immigration Statewide Summit, I imagine it will be a springboard for more conversations to be had and meals to be shared. Indeed, I am tempted to say, that the spirit of Romero is alive in North Carolina.

*I am borrowing the phrase “make communities better for immigrants” from the Latino Migration Project, which takes this to be its mission.

Did you miss the Summit but want to hear some of the workshops? You can listen to the recordings here as podcasts: You can find additional resources addressing immigration on the CBFNC website: This blog post originally appeared on the North Carolina Council of Churches' blog.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Don’t Speak a Word

By Rev. Aileen Lawrimore

“Oh, she’ll be fine!”  “She’ll love it there!”  “She is so ready for this new stage!” (And my personal favorite . . .) “Honey, it will be much worse on you than it will on her.”

True. Every single statement: absolutely true. In fact, because everyone knows these things are true, you will never need to say them to another mother whose child is going away to college. She already knows this stuff.  Trust me (more on this in a later post).

But NOT saying something can be so difficult can’t it?

For example, if someone has a stomach bug, it takes true restraint for me NOT to tell them to drink plenty of water. Everyone knows that gastrointestinal upset in the extreme can lead to dehydration. I know that everyone knows this. But I feel the urge to tell them, just in case they’ve been living under a rock.

Here’s another one. I’ve actually tried not to say this; I can’t do it. My kids leave this house, keys in their hands, and I’m going to say . . . (say it with me now) . . . “Drive carefully!” I can’t help myself.

There are more critical times than these though, when people seriously do not need our comments.
Like when my sister was pregnant. She had a highly uncommon obstetric liver disorder that caused her to itch constantly, from the inside out. It was miserable, plus it was life-threatening to her and to her baby. She finally got some relief from an internationally renowned specialist and both she and the baby managed just fine, but here’s the thing: long before any doctors knew what was causing her symptoms, complete strangers would come to her aid.

“Have you tried lanolin? That stuff is amazing!”

“No, go with cocoa butter. It’s better.”

“Girl you need to get yourself some hydrocortisone cream. That’ll take care of you.”

Naturally, she had tried all these things and dozens more before she got her diagnosis. She knew all that and was painfully tired of hearing such things. In fact, not only did she not need to hear their advice, she really needed not to talk about her maddening condition at all.

The truth is, people usually do not need us to correct, advise, counsel, or admonish them. They need only for us to be with them: completely—silently—with them.

 “They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.”  -Job 2:13

Aileen Lawrimore is minister, teacher, speaker, and writer. This article originally appeared on her blog, Aileen goes on…and on (

Friday, October 12, 2012

God Is Our Co-Pilot

Rev. Jason Blanton

For a while, some time in the 80's I think, these bumper stickers and tags became popular.  "God is my co-pilot."  It's well-meaning enough, until you start to realize that if God is the co-pilot, then you are actually at the controls.  So of course, next came the reaction, "if God is your co-pilot, switch seats!"

I think, at this point we need to admit that as American Christians, God has indeed become our co-pilot.  As we have spent what seems like the last 2 years (or more) fully dug into the trenches of the latest American culture battle, one of many in this 30+ year culture war, I fear we have allowed ourselves to slip further and further into irrelevance.

This isn't another blog about gay marriage.  Not really.  Its about how this latest round of bickering is a symptom of a much deeper problem, a problem that is endangering the very soul of the American Church.

If I were to ask a Catholic brother or sister, "who or what sets the agenda for your church?"  They may respond, "the Pope," or perhaps answer with something like the accumulated tradition of 2000 years of Christianity.

If I were to ask a Protestant, particularly an Evangelical, they will say "the Bible!"

Perhaps, if I were to ask a more charismatic brother or sister, they may say "The Spirit."

None would say our culture, or our political leaders, or "the world."  Yet, here we are engaged in the latest round of  "defending the faith" because we are reacting to what is going on around us.  Don't believe me?   I personally stood in a lunch line, waiting to make a sandwich on a mission trip in Grifton, NC, and had a fellow pastor chastise me for being affiliated with CBF.  "They are too tolerant of the gays (his words)"  My response was, "why is homosexuality so much worse than greed or idolatry or any of the other number of sins we seem to ignore?"  His answer - "The gay AGENDA!" Ask one of the many pastors at the forefront of the argument against gay marriage why their church, or their organization spends so much time recently talking about homosexuality, and they will say something along the lines of "the homosexual agenda."  "THEY are trying to make their lifestyle mainstream, so we have to talk about it."

Really?  So our churches are led, not by the Spirit, or the Word, or even our tradition?  They are instead simply a reactionary movement against the latest of whatever "agenda" we think is attacking us?

Let’s not forget how Jesus reacted when He was being attacked.  He didn't suit up for a culture war, or a real war - he put a guy's ear back on his head, and then put Himself on a cross.  Jesus wouldn't let the culture of nonstop violence and war ruin the Gospel.  The Kingdom was too important to waste on the ways of men. 

Jonathan Martin, a fellow Charlotte pastor, recently wrote a tremendous blog about "Gender, race, and Pentecost," in which he pointed out what the American church hasn't yet realized - we are no longer the center of the Christian world.   The Spirit is moving in places we have never heard of, in ways we can't imagine, and we are missing out - because we are taking our instructions from politicians, newscasters, and various five-star culture warriors.

Indeed, God is our co-pilot, and I'm afraid we aren't terribly anxious to switch seats.

Jason Blanton is the pastor of Grace Crossing Charlotte. This article originally appeared on his blog,