Friday, March 30, 2012

Five Lessons from "The Hunger Games"

By Rev. Felicia Fox

Last night I took a bus full of teens to see The Hunger Games. Unless you have been living under a rock or in a cave for the last few weeks, I’m sure you have heard a ton about this movie. It may seem strange to some that I took the youth group to see the movie as a church event. I have read the books and even saw the movie before loading up the bus and taking my students. I have no regrets about taking the youth. In fact, I think there are many good lessons our teens need to hear from the movie.

1) Hope is stronger than fear. Many teenagers live in fear. They fear bullies, violence at school, losing homes because parents have lost jobs, being hungry when school is out and free lunches at school have stopped for the summer, or abuse at home. The Hunger Games show teens that they can live in a world of hope and they can even be agents of hope to those around them.

2) You don’t have to follow the status quo. Katniss Everdeen saw the injustice and the poverty around her and decided to take action. She wasn’t afraid to make a stand for what was right and make a difference. Katniss was a leader. Teens need to know that they can be leaders to and they have the power to change the world for better.

3) Be true to yourself. Peeta Mellark has one of the best quotes in The Hunger Games. He says, “Only I keep wishing I could think of a way to…to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games.” Peeta was willing to not compromise who he was. Teens need to know that they have a right to be who they are and to stand up for what they believe is right. The world could be a better place if more teens felt empowered to live out their convictions.

4) Caring for others doesn’t make you weak. Katniss loved people and showed it. We see this in all the relationships she has in the movie. She cares for her sister, Gale, Rue, and Peeta and her actions show it. Teens have a ton of friends but they don’t really have a lot of people they care about on a deeper level. Most teens don’t feel cared for on a deeper level. It is hard for teens to develop and be open to deep relationships. Katniss shows us that it is okay to have true relationships.

5) Heroes can be girls too. That’s a lesson I hope all of my youth last night picked up on. Even if we don’t want to admit it, we still live in a world where girls and women are often seen as weaker. As a female minister, I have firsthand experience with this. I’ve been told more than once that because of my gender God can’t use me. Both male and female teens need to see positive heroes of all shapes, ages, colors, and gender. They all need to know that they have the power to be a hero to someone and that God has created them the way they are on purpose.

As you hear the teens around you talking about The Hunger Games take time to bring up some of these lessons. Maybe this movie can be a conversation starter to talk about something more than surface level topics with your teens. Feel free to comment below. I would love to hear from you. “And may the odds be ever in your favor.”

Felicia Fox is the Minister of Youth and Children at First Baptist Church of Mount Olive, NC. This article originally appeared on her blog.

Friday, March 23, 2012

My Visit to the White House

Photo courtesy of
by Rev. Dr. Larry Hovis

In late January of this year, I received a phone call from Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, informing me of plans underway for a delegation of “Goodwill Baptist” (Parham’s umbrella term for CBF and other Baptist groups that desire to be known what we are for, rather than what we are against, and who seek to share goodwill with our neighbors) leaders to meet with White House officials in our nation’s capital on March 7, 2012. Robert was working with Ricky Creech, executive director of the District of Columbia Baptist Convention (DCBC), to make the arrangements. A written invitation came in early February (along with security clearance forms to be completed and returned), with instructions to retain the confidentiality of the invitation for the moment. Later, we were given permission to share information about the event and I informed the CBFNC Coordinating Council of this possibility during our regular monthly conference call.

The Big Day began with our group of sixty Baptist leaders (mostly pastors, plus a few organizational leaders) meeting in the DCBC Building for a light breakfast and instructions. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know what to expect. Most of us were comfortable in religious and non-profit board rooms and speaking before hundreds, or even thousands, but we were obviously nervous about what would be a completely new experience for almost all of us.

We boarded a charter bus and were deposited beside a chain link fence where we went through the first of two security checkpoints. After being allowed to pass through the gate, we came before a huge set of steps leading up to what we learned was the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building (located next the West Wing) which houses a majority of offices for White House staff. Turns out, when you visit the White House for most business with officials of the Executive Branch of our federal government, you don’t go to the White House at all, but the Eisenhower Building! After climbing the exterior steps, we entered the vestibule of the building, went through another security checkpoint, were issued badges, and then were instructed to climb more stairs to the fourth floor to a specified conference room and wait until the meeting began.

The Agenda:

Our visit was arranged, coordinated and led by Paul Monteiro, Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement. Our meeting resulted from the cultivation of a relationship between Monteiro and Creech. After opening words from Creech, Parham and Monteiro, the bulk of our three hour block of time followed a common sequence. First, we were “briefed” by a representative of numerous Administration offices or departments who work on issues Monteiro believed would be of interest to Baptist leaders. After these presentations, our group was given a few minutes to ask questions or make comments. Then another Administration official would come in and the cycle would repeat itself. The ratio of our listening to the officials to our responding to the officials was about 3:1, so only a small minority of our group had a chance to speak.

The topics on which were briefed included human trafficking, the environment, the Hispanic community, consumer financial protection, immigration, emergency disaster response, and the mortgage crisis. Many of those making presentations were the persons in their respective offices or departments who had responsibilities for relating to faith-based communities. A powerful moment for me came when, after the briefing on immigration, Parham presented Felicia Escobar, Senior Policy Advisor, with a copy of the new Common English Bible, which translates the Hebrew word, “ger,” as immigrant (other versions of the Bible use words like alien, foreigner, sojourner or stranger).


First, not only is a visit to the “White House” not a visit to where the First Family lives, it rarely includes the President of the United States (he was in North Carolina that day). Some in our group were disappointed that we didn’t get to meet the president, though I never thought that was very likely.

Second, the Obama administration, building on the groundwork laid by the Bush administration, is taking very seriously their engagement with faith-based communities. I learned that the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships actually coordinates 12 Federal Centers for Faith-based and Community Initiatives, which forms partnerships between a federal agency and faith-based and neighborhood organizations to advance specific goals, connecting that agency to the community at the most grassroots level

Third, while it was somewhat disappointing that our exchange focused more on programs rather than policies, and we had little opportunity to address the moral or social aspects of issues important to our Baptist faith communities, the presentations did help us learn about specific ways the federal government is trying to address real human needs that are critical to our communities.

Fourth, our visit to the White House put a human face on our federal government. Before, government “bureaucrats” were nameless, faceless functionaries with whom I had no relationship, and I would never have thought to contact them. Now, I see them as real people who have a real desire to serve others. I would not hesitate to contact the officials we met or others like them, to solicit their help or share my opinions about important issues. We were given contact information for all those we encountered, and upon returning from my trip, I visited the White House website to learn more about the various agencies and those who staff them. Now, I will definitely communicate with the appropriate White House offices if the need arises.

Finally, as a firm believer in the separation of church and state, I am still somewhat uncomfortable relating to government officials, especially politically appointees. However (and my “duplicity rader” was on full power), I never felt as if those who spoke to us were being disingenuous or using us for political advantage. They all seemed to be genuine public servants with a sincere desire to make a positive difference in our nation and world.

If nothing else, after visiting the highest levels of the greatest kingdom on earth, I’m in a much better position to pray not only for these specific leaders, but also to pray as Jesus instructed, “Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Spirituality of Money

By Rev. Rich Goodier

When we think of money, the first thing that pops into our minds is not our Christian faith. Money seems to be antithetical to our faith, wooing us from the One we love. We remember the verse in 1 Timothy 6:10 that warns us that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” And indeed, the love of money is very dangerous. Jesus spoke against loving money countless times.

Among those many times Jesus spoke on money, though, we never hear Jesus rejecting the use of money. In fact, Jesus called his followers and would-be followers to use their money wisely, not hoarding it for themselves, but using it to help others.

Jesus himself was the benefactor of people using their money wisely. We read in Luke 8 that in addition to his twelve apostles, some wealthy women followed Jesus and supported them “out of their own means.” We follow the model of these women today, using the money God has given us towards love and good deeds.

Jesus spoke about money more than any subject except for the Kingdom of God. If that is true, then we Christians must consider how we view money. This is especially true in the midst of the worldwide economic breakdown of the past decade. Because of the irresponsible and selfish use of money by some, we are all hurting. Some of us are hurting considerably. And now we have a decision to make.

Our decision is not whether or not to use money, but rather how are we to use the money God has given us. Like time and talents, money is a gift from God. We must not love the gift but the Giver and learn how to use the gift to glorify the Giver.

How do we use the money God has given us to Glorify God? We give to our local church, the primary presence of the Gospel in our community. The local church can be an economic force for good in a world battered by selfish economic forces. We pool our money like the early church and proclaim the Gospel in tangible ways.

As individuals, we also give to those in need, the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the immigrant, as Scripture has called us to do for hundreds of years. And we give to support our missionaries. Our money becomes an extension of us so that we can participate in the missionary endeavors in places we cannot go.

As a new calendar year begins, vow to participate in the privilege of using your money to help others in Jesus’ name. Take the Macedonian church’s generosity (2 Corinthians 8) as an example for you and Mount Hermon Baptist Church. May we give all, including our wealth, in the name of the One who gave all for us.

Rich Goodier is the pastor of Mount Hermon Baptist Church in Durham. This article is the introduction to a sermon series on Christian giving that you can find here: (Every sermon has a “Giving” in the title). Here is a link to an article that ties up this giving series:

Friday, March 9, 2012

FBC and the BBC

 By Dr. Dennis Atwood

It’s been an interesting week here in Mount Olive. The BBC (as in British Broadcasting Corporation) was in town—and in our church—last Sunday to do a story on the Haitian immigration to Mount Olive. The BBC broadcasts its news stories to over 100 countries throughout the world. The link to our story is:

Here's how it started. On January 22, 2012, the Raleigh News & Observer published a front page feature on Haitian immigrants settling in Mount Olive. Last Thursday afternoon I received a call from a reporter with the BBC. At first I thought it was a marketing salesman trying to sign me up for a subscription to the BBC! As an outside observer, the British reporter thought our community was a fascinating story of four cultures (Anglo, African-American, Hispanic, and Haitian) converging in a small southern town. Obviously this happens frequently in large cities and urban settings, but when it happens in a small southern town—given the south’s history of segregation and racism as its backdrop—then it becomes much more pronounced. It becomes a “story.”

It has been a year and a half since the first Haitians stepped through the doors of our sanctuary on a September Sunday morning. Many things have happened over these 18 months. Relationships have been established; needs have been met; many worship services and prayers have been shared. I’m proud of the fact that our church has been willing to open our doors and our hearts to these people of vibrant faith. They are brothers and sisters in Christ. They do have great needs, but they also have great hopes and dreams for a better life.

In Mount Olive we are learning to live, worship, and work together and we do have a long way to go. But it is my hope, and the hope of the gospel, that with God’s help we might become a tiny model of how to live as a community of one. In fact, we also provide worship space for a Hispanic congregation which meets between the Haitian’s two worship services each Sunday. So on any given Sunday you will find two English worship services, one Spanish worship service, and two Creole worship services in our First Baptist facilities. That’s a small town Pentecost!

Of course, there are those in the community who say they would prefer the Haitians “go back home.” They don’t like the new people. If a Haitian is rude or commits a crime then suddenly all Haitians are portrayed as rude criminals. Immigration is clearly an emotional and divisive issue for many people in our society. But the way I see it, in America, we are all sons and daughters of immigrants. Hopefully those who are not so optimistic about the new immigrants in Mount Olive will be won over in time with love and kindness. But even if they are not, the call of Christ compels those of us who are listening to embrace the outcast and the immigrant. This is a vital part of the fabric of the gospel that cannot be torn away or altered by human hands.

Our story in Mount Olive is really one about paying attention to God and what God is doing around us—and sometimes right in front of us! Then it simply becomes a matter of being courageous enough to do something nobody else may be doing… because it’s the right thing to do.

Dennis Atwood is the pastor of FBC Mount Olive. This article originally appeared on his blog.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Awesome and Meddlesome

by Rev. Christina Whitehouse-Suggs

I have no idea how I first met Hugh Hollowell and was introduced to Love Wins Ministries but he's become one of those friends that you swear you've known your whole life. You know, the one who is SO MUCH like you but keeps you honest and real? Yeah, he's like that. Awesome and meddlesome, all at the same time.

Growing up as a preacher's kid at Central Baptist Church in downtown Miami, FL meant seeing lots of homeless folks...even serving them a hot meal on occasion from the mission at the back corner of the church parking lot. But it never meant getting to know them. Or seeing them as real live human beings.

Leave it to Hugh to make me re-think that old script.

I end up subscribing to the Love Wins newsletter and one day read this post about/from Tony. Specifically, this:

“Please tell the people who give you this money that I am so grateful. That I could not have made it this long without you guys. And that while it may not seem like a big deal to them, it has changed my life. Hell, it probably saved my life.”

Damn it, Hugh.

That night, my family becomes a monthly contributor to Love Wins. Hugh sends me a direct message on Twitter to say that we rock. I tell him to shove it because it's a pittance and I want it to be more. I can almost feel him roll his eyes when he responds, "You don't know what I can do with a pittance."

In the next few months, I can't get Tony off my mind. Eventually, I email Hugh and ask if there's any way I can get in touch with him. Become his friend and let him know that someone other than Hugh cares about him and wants to know him personally.

Tony agrees and we start emailing. Just getting to know each other. When Tony mentions that he could use some dishes and kitchen supplies, I just smile and shake my head. God's sense of humor and timing continues to slay me...I have a ton of stuff I've "inherited" when a great-aunt passed away.

I had the opportunity to give these things to Tony in person yesterday. I got to see where he lives, hug him, introduce him to my daughter, and talk smack about NC football teams. I discovered that his birthday is close to my anticipated due date and promised I would email him when I found out the sex of the baby at the end of this month.

Hugh told me today that I have no idea what that short visit meant to Tony. I told him that I know what it meant to me.

Because, you see, Tony is my friend.

Christina Whitehouse-Suggs is the Associate Coordinator of CBF of South Carolina. This article originally appeared on her blog, Thoughts from the Journey.

Hugh Hollowell will be a workshop leader at the CBFNC General Assembly at Trinity Baptist Church in Raleigh. To find out more information and to register, visit