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.