Tag Archives: Southern Baptists

Time to stand up to cyberbullies

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Leave the children alone. And for that matter, leave my brothers and sisters alone. Leave my family alone.

It’s about time someone stood up to the bullies.

Even though I’ve had enough of pastors and others using the pulpit and the keyboard to embarrass, ridicule, and point to the “sins” of others, while hiding behind LLC’s, half-truths, and undocumented videos to spread misinformation–until now I’ve chosen to ignore such foolishness for the most part rather than to expend any energy on it.

Cyberharassment or cyberstalking that affects and targets a family, however, has now caught my attention, and those adults who engage children in such endeavors are no longer on equal ground and the ick gets ickier, the stakes are raised, and the bullies need to remember that words do hurt.

Adult bullies may easily forget they are dealing with children, and when children suffer, so do their families–and so do we all.

Many may have the misconception that anyone old enough to hold a phone, create a Facebook account, or set up a Twitter ID is old enough to defend themselves against an onslaught of vicious remarks and moral commentary–but they’re wrong.

Children and teenagers, especially those who are born into minister’s families, are especially vulnerable. They may already feel like they live in a fishbowl and have no right to privacy.

I should know.

It was my own imperfect son, now an adult with four children, who pointed out to me last night that one of my dearest friends’ own teenage son took his life following a month of what another close friend described as by being “cyberbullied” by “merciless” bloggers and Tweeters.

Just because the teenager chose to live in this century and engage in social media, didn’t mean he invited adults to engage in conversation or talk openly about his life choices without his permission. That’s called cyber-harassment and cyber-stalking, according to a law enforcement website.

Some of the folks who engaged in that egregious behavior have had a disagreement with my friend for years. And they’ve let him and others know it. They’ve contacted media outlets. They’ve broadcasted their concerns far and wide. They’ve put a lot of energy into telling their side of the story. They seemingly refuse to agree to disagree with my friend or others who don’t see things their way. They relentlessly stalk him, taunt him, badger him, and refuse to go away.

I can’t tell you the depths of despair I am in for my friend and his wife. For all of my friends out there who have been publicly flayed by a communications phenomenon that is easily and readily used to edify and exhort, to uplift and encourage, to hold accountable–but has all too often been used to destroy, damage, embarrass, ridicule, harass and vent–I’m sorry and disappointed.

Apparently, it’s now OK to go against the grain of what even those who are outside our evangelical world know is forbidden. Apparently it’s OK to draw the children in.

Oh, the stories we can all tell about this person’s daughter who got pregnant out of wedlock, or this person’s son who lived a homosexual lifestyle, or this person’s daughter who listened to crazy music and read trashy books, or this person’s son who spewed forth bad language in a public place, or this person’s daughter who has a drug problem, or this person’s son who spent time in jail for stealing or this person’s daughter who wore dresses that are shorter than we consider modest.

But to what end shall we go about airing the sins of our children or putting ourselves in the seat of judge and deciding about which aspects of their lives we should publicly comment?

Instead, friends, when tempted by the White Witch (Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis) who offers us bold words, or too much Turkish Delight–flee. Don’t be drawn in by those who are bent on destruction. Think about what might motivate men (and women) who lead by slander and by seeking to find fault with others–and post or RT with comments and photos of people’s families and children and grandchildren–in order to ridicule or belittle them.

Steer clear of preachers, ministers, writers, bloggers, and commenters who are so immature that they lead you down a path that mixes in just enough Bible truth with plain nonsense to make themselves sound reasonable. They are seeking to build their own kingdoms, not the Kingdom. Listen for the Holy Spirit to guide you.

And when you are tempted to tell me what is permissible according to the First Amendment, let me remind you that whatsoever might appear to be strictly legal, is not always the right thing to do.

Finally, brothers and sisters–we can and should agree to disagree on many issues, including how one should repent and what one should repent for.

I leave for you this passage my mother marked in her Bible many years ago from Philippians:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise — dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:4-9 ESV).

For our children–and for our families–stand up to the cyberbullies!

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July 30, 2014 · 7:17 pm

These people see and hear more than most

Two years ago I got a strange phone call. It was Russ Rankin, then president of Baptist Communicators Association, a 60-year-old organization comprised of individuals who narrate the story of what Southern Baptists do to carry out the Great Commission worldwide.

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Russ wanted to know if I would serve as the awards chair-elect for 2013 and the awards chair for 2014. The call was strange because though I have been a member of the organization sporadically for a number of years—I had never attended its annual workshop.

My networking with most of the individuals in BCA had been through Southern Baptist Convention annual meetings and the now defunct Baptist Press Collegiate Journalism Conference that involved an average of 15-20 of our state Baptist colleges and their advisors, some of whom are BCA members.

Nonetheless, after consultation with my supervisor at my former job, I agreed to take on the responsibility. It was my pleasure to observe at the BCA workshop in Little Rock, and then jump in these past several months to recruit judges, record evaluations, create certificates, select award trophies, create a slide show, plan an awards room, plan an awards banquet—and celebrate the giftedness of our Baptist communicators.

This past week at the workshop at Ridgecrest Conference Center in Asheville, N.C., a verse shared during a devotional time caught my attention. In Luke, there is an account of Jesus sending out the 70 to be ahead of Him and prepare the people for His coming. He talks about “unrepentant towns” and when the 70 return He tells them to rejoice “their names are written in heaven.” Jesus tell them not to belabor over their power and the authority He gave to them.

After praising His Father, Jesus rejoices in the Holy Spirit about what has happened and then turns to His disciples and says “privately”: “The eyes that see the things you see are blessed! For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see the things you see yet didn’t see them; to hear the things you hear yet didn’t hear them.”

What an incredible description of how blessed we are as Baptist communicators!

Indeed as we hear and tell and see and show through a variety of mediums ranging from state Baptist newspapers to denominational magazines, from social media campaigns to unique websites and more, we are blessed. I was doubly blessed this past year as awards chair for BCA to see and hear what our members submitted to be judged as their very finest work. Some of it I had seen and celebrated in the course of following Baptist work—and some of it was brand new to me and I marveled at the stories. I wept as I watched the videos and read the words that will forever burn in my heart. The images have already imprinted themselves on a page in my mind’s eye.

If you are a Baptist communicator, or you supervise those who are involved in this important labor of sharing what Baptists do to extend God’s Kingdom here on earth, to be involved in Great Commission work—then please consider membership in BCA if you are not already.

This year’s program was loosely themed, “With Purpose,” and as I thought about that—I was struck by the fact that our purpose never changes. We strive always to be about bringing glory to God.

The contest over which I had responsibility is designed to recognize the best work, and yet, through a rigorous evaluation process by teams of excellent, professional judges, our members are also given helpful evaluation for each piece they submit.

They also receive the encouragement and feedback from their peers that keeps them connected in a way that many who are from very small shops and operations may not otherwise receive.

For some, the BCA contest seems overrun by the larger ministry entities whose members outnumber the smaller organizations, but in fact, it’s a beautiful thing to see healthy competition. Many of our members have swapped ministry positions through the years in answer to God’s calling and the organization facilitates this by providing networking opportunities for building relationships and showcasing skillsets.

If there is an elephant in the room about BCA, it has been the way in which people are truly focused on the task of communication and don’t seem to waver from it. State Baptist papers, the International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board, GuideStone, Golden Gate Seminary, and several of our state Baptist colleges were represented this year at the conference, as were freelance writers and graphic designers and others.

Although the leadership changes on an annual basis, the fellowship and networking stays the same—and withstands what may be a pendulum swing of various program items and speakers based on a particular leader’s choice. At Little Rock and Asheville, I found the speakers and mission activities resonated with my own views on many levels and I am looking forward to more of the same in San Francisco next year and in Oklahoma in 2016 at the Falls Creek Conference Center.

As Southern Baptists move forcefully ahead into the 21st Century, my challenge is that communicators will be bold in telling the story of how God is at work in the hearts and minds of those who seek to extend His Kingdom.

And ultimately, they tell the same old story, of Jesus and His love.

To find out more about Baptist Communicators Association, go to http://baptistcommunicators.org/

 

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Perspective

Occasionally I have the opportunity to cover a missionary appointment service for Southern Baptists. Typically held in large churches where hundreds of denominational workers and sister church members gather–the service is both celebratory and solemn. There is a parade of flags, hearty singing, and a challenging message.

And then there are the testimonies of the appointees themselves. Young and old, couples and single–and of every tribe nation and tongue–it seems, they come as they are going–to share the Good News of Christ’s love to the nations. It’s an emotional time for me as I listen to their brief stories, stare intently at their expressions, and note their devotion, piety, determination and calling.

This week was no exception and all that to which I am accustomed occurred. But there was more. On this special night, a youngster of about four caught my eye along with other children.

As the appointees walked in to the strains of an anthem–two young children seated close by shifted over their father’s knee to eyeball the missionaries as they took their seats. With rapt expressions that had me swinging my camera around, FAST, they were totally caught up in the moment and their dad was encouraging them. As I happily snapped the camera, further down the bench, where another group of children were sitting, one youngster, the four-year-old, abruptly stood on the seat frantically criss-crossing his arms atop an orange guitar-band t-shirt. His smile was eaten by the dimples below his twinkling brown eyes.

On the other side of the aisle, a tall, young, bearded man wearing a suit gave the boy an unembarrassed wave and sat down next to a dark haired beauty. My heart swelled. I had just witnessed a precious family moment. But there was more.

Later in the service, after the missionaries had given their testimonies, they were readying for another procession. I felt rather than saw an orange ball fly by before I realized it was the child, again, traversing the long pew, darting into the aisle, and finding the loving arms of his father. I had to hold my hand over my mouth this time–and judging from the gasp that went up around me and in pews across from us where I saw some initial reaction–others felt the same way.

When Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board reminded us to pray for the 4,911 missionaries worldwide AND their 4,000 children, you had better believe I will.

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Muslim prayer call in Jordan on 9/11 in 2003 was reminder to pray

September 11, 2003, the second anniversary of 9/11 was a day I won’t ever forget. Delivering food boxes in Wadi Hadada, Jordan, I awoke that morning to the sound of the Muslim prayer call—and prayed for wisdom as I worked with a team of Southern Baptists to share a message of hope and reconciliation.

I was in Amman as part of a humanitarian effort to deliver food and other supplies to refugees living there—many who had fled Iraq after the first gulf war when they faced increased oppression under Saddam Hussein, others who left after the 2003 Iraq war began in March.

The team of workers initially was headed for Baghdad, but interrupted when security concerns arose over the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Iraq. Still our team aimed to deliver some of the 46,000 food boxes packed by Southern Baptists around the country for the families who desperately needed supplies.

Working with local charities in Amman, our efforts were well received by refugees there instead. The trip for me was evidence of America’s love for peoples of all tribes, nations, tongues—and yes, even religions. Our war in the Middle East in my mind was with terrorists who attacked us, and our way of life, not with the people. Our care and concern for the people was and is an extension of Christ’s love for us.

Later that day I glanced at a newspaper rack and was shocked to see a paper in Arabic with a clear picture of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York engulfed in flames. The paper is dated September 11, 2003.

I didn’t know whether to be insulted or afraid. I wasn’t sure if the placement of the photo on the front page was meant to mock or intimidate—to inform or to inspire. In the end, however, I kept it, knowing it would stand to me as a reminder that we are to fear God, and God alone. We are not to be intimidated by what might seem to be an impossible task of reconciliation. We are not to be overcome by hatred or to sell ourselves short on understanding.

Still, I wondered at boarding an airplane for New York the next day—and it was tough to not envision a hijacker in every other seat.

Reaching past the great hurt—America has shown itself to be capable of great love. This love should not mean that we put on blinders when we are in danger—but it does mean that we reconcile everything with what we know to be true: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 KJV).

When I am uncomfortable and let the images of planes flying into buildings; leering men with Jihadist smiles; and broken bodies overwhelm me—I close my eyes and listen for the haunting chant of the Muslim prayer call—to transport me to the land of where Christianity began—to where Jesus was born. To where Moses handed down the 10 Commandments and divided the Red Sea before that time—and to where America’s presence has been forced but is there nonetheless. There remains a remnant there, and God can and will use a broken vessel to deliver His promise. That, I believe.

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