Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Big Changes Coming In California

The congregations who make up the Southern Baptist Convention own and operate six seminaries.  Three of them (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY; Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Wake Forest, NC; and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Fort Worth, TX) are distinctly within what we would call the Bible Belt.  Even Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Kansas City, MO is well within "traditional" Baptist territory. 

Two of the SBC Seminaries (New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary) are located in coastal communities, with their main campuses located in areas that are decidedly NOT traditional bastions of the Baptist faith.  Although NOBTS is obviously in the southern United States, anyone who is familiar with South Louisiana can testify to the dense Roman Catholic population and the Roman Catholic Church's powerful influence in that state from its formative past through the present day.  After all, Louisiana is the only state in the Union with Parishes instead of Counties!

Golden Gate Seminary is located out on the "left coast" with it's main campus at Mill Valley CA, (San Francisco bay area) and extension centers in Brea CA, Scottsdale AZ, Vancouver WA, and Centennial CO. Not exactly hotbeds of Baptist heritage. Like NOBTS, Golden Gate's funding through the SBC Cooperative Program is somewhat less than the other four seminaries due to the fact that the formula for that funding is based primarily on the number of on campus students.  Much of these two seminaries student bodies are spread across their various extension centers.  I have always viewed these two seminaries as being located in real American mission fields.

It was announced yesterday that Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary is selling their Mill Valley campus and relocating the main campus to the Los Angeles area in Southern California. Some might view this as a questionable move, since one of the most prestigious seminaries in America (BIOLA) is already located in that area.  Others see this move as a wise choice, due to various challenges that have faced the Trustees and administration of GGBTS.  All would agree that this is a MAJOR change an is a tremendous step of faith.  Dr. Jeff Iorg, President of GGBTS made the announcement public yesterday.

I am blessed to be serving in my second term as a Trustee of NOBTS.  I can only imagine the prayer and discussions that preceded the GGBTS Trustees in making this monumental decision. Dr. Chuck Kelley, President of NOBTS sent us each an email yesterday telling us about the upcoming change at Golden Gate and suggested that we share the information with our congregations and other SBC churches in our states.  Dr. Kelley, who understands many of the challenges facing Dr. Iorg, obviously thinks this is a wise move.  Here is the text of Dr. Kelley's email:

“Today Dr. Jeff Iorg, President of Golden Gate Theological Seminary, announced the signing of a purchase agreement to sell the property of Golden Gate. The final act of sale is not expected before July. The seminary will continue to have campuses in Northern and Southern California, but in different locations to be announced later. The seminary will remain in its present location for two years while necessary arrangements are made. It is a brilliant tactical move that will allow Golden Gate to continue its ministry to Baptists in the West from a much stronger position. The Providence of God is on brilliant display in the conclusion of so complex a sale. We congratulate Dr. Iorg for his visionary leadership in finding a way to secure and enhance the California heritage of Golden Gate for many years to come. This will always be remembered as one of the greatest days in the history of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.” - Dr. Chuck Kelley, President, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

Later yesterday afternoon Baptist Press released an article going into detail on the major change coming at Golden Gate.  If you do not subscribe to Baptist Press, you can read that article by clicking on this link.

Big changes have already come to all of our SBC Seminaries in particular and to theological education in general. Online courses have been around for a long time.  Now major accrediting agencies are approving the granting of degrees totally delivered online.  The times are changing, and Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary is making a major change.

The leaders of GGBTS obviously feel that this is the direction of God for them.  This pastor prays for great success in this move, for the sake of the Kingdom of God.  As that great philosopher, Dorothy, once said to her little dog, Toto, "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore!"  Well folks, we're not.  There are few Baptists who relish change.  I personally abhor change just for the sake of change.  However, when it comes to methods, locations, ideas, and principles concerning the work of the Kingdom we truly serve - we'd better be listening to the Holy Spirit, and be ready to be obedient, even if it means making some BIG changes!


Friday, March 28, 2014

A Sad Commentary On Baptist Life

Someone once asked veteran Kentucky pastor, Chuck Stewart, "Brother Stewart, what would you be if you weren't a Baptist?"
The old preacher answered, "Why, I'd be Ashamed!"

It's a funny story, and I've used the joke several times.

However, there are times when I honestly have to say that sometimes I am ashamed of us Baptists.

Now understand it has nothing to do with Baptist doctrine and the Baptist's high view of scripture.  And certainly not the time honored view of he autonomy of the local church.  Baptists believe that there is no organization on earth higher than the local church.  However, we also believe that we can accomplish Christ's Great Commission more effectively when we voluntarily associate together with other like minded congregations for the purpose of taking the Gospel to every people group on the planet.

What I am ashamed of, is unfortunately, that sometimes in the local church, or the local association, or in the state convention, or even on the national level, there will always be those who seek to consolidate power.  A desire for power and authority sadly is part of the fallen human condition, and unfortunately it can rear its ugly head at every level of the work.

I'm ashamed of the politics, dirty tricks, good old boy networks, threats, shunning, and the drive to stifle anyone who has the audacity to question actions of those who seek to consolidate power.
Such is the case now in the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

Before I go any further in this blog, let me offer this caveat.  I am not a Louisiana Baptist, but I am a Baptist.  Southern Baptist to be exact.  I do have numerous friends who ARE Louisiana Baptists, and a son who serves as pastor of a Southern Baptist Church in Louisiana.  Providence has placed him in the middle of a controversy that is brewing among the brethren in the Bayou State.  It started with the actions of the President of Louisiana  College (a Baptist institution in Pineville, LA) but now reaches into the office of the Executive Director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.  It is a story of ineptitude, mismanagement, personal vendetta, cover up and possible criminal misdeeds.  But it grows from that to a story of power, protection, conflict of interest, undue influence, and threats used to stifle the voices of those who in their fiduciary responsibilities as Board Members who would have the temerity to ask questions regarding ethics.

You see, in Baptist life, we have had the wisdom to build the Board of Trustee system into our various state and national Convention entities.  I personally have the privilege to serve on the Board of Trustees of one of our SBC Seminaries.  The Trustee system is designed to give oversight of the various convention entities into the hands of the local churches.  Ideally power is then decentralized and spread to those whose tithes and offerings (or a portion thereof) go to support these various entities.  However, in Louisiana, the power of the Board, whose members represent the many Baptists in that beautiful state, has fallen into the hands of one very powerful person and a few supporters.

The frustration level has reached the place that a third of the Board Members have written an "Open Letter to Louisiana Baptists From Concerned Trustees".  You can read that letter here.
Another caveat, my son, Jay, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Westwego, LA is a member of that Board of Trustees. He has written in depth in his blog about the history of the situation at Louisiana College, and he has even attempted to bring the situation regarding the undue influence of the State Executive Director to the floor of the Louisiana Baptist Convention's annual meeting last year, and run into a dead end there as well. For those who are interested, his blog contains a lot of background information in earlier posts.

This battle has been going on since 2012.  Smoke screens and straw men have been put forward to confuse the issue.  Jay, and the other minority members of the Board have worked hard behind the scenes to try to do what's right.  He hasn't spoken to secular media until this week.  He hasn't released any confidential information from Board Executive Sessions.  His first allegiance is to his family, his flock, and his own Ph.D. work in seminary, but the thing has come to a head in Pineville. He is a Trustee and he has to do what he feels is his fiduciary duty to the Baptists of Louisiana who put him on that Board.

While these things are issues that must be dealt with, it is sad how much time and energy we Baptists must expend to try to right wrongs among us when the Mission is to reach a lost world.  It's happened before, this time it just happens to be in Louisiana.

Pray for Louisiana Baptists. For everyone involved!

We've Passed A Milestone

Now, I know it's small potatoes compared to a lot of blogs, but earlier this week, this humble site "For What It's Worth" received it's 100,000th visitor.

I just want to say thank you to those who have visited, left comments, shared posts, or walked away shaking their heads.  Thank you for stopping by for a visit.

My blogging has slacked way off over the past year or so, but it is nice to know that there are folks who visit do the site from time to time.  All viewers are appreciated!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Don't Miss This Event!

The congregation of Westmoreland Baptist Church and visitors will have a wonderful and rare opportunity on Friday, April 4th at 6:30 PM in the multipurpose building.

Those who are present that evening will be taking part in one of the oldest and most meaningful rituals in the Bible – the Passover Seder

The Seder is a ritual performed by the Jewish people, involving a retelling of the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. This story is in the Book of Exodus (Shemot) in theHebrew Bible. The Seder itself is based on the Biblical verse 
commanding Jews to retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt: "You shall tell your child on that day, saying, 'It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.'" (Exodus 13:8) 

This is the very Passover meal that Jesus and His disciples shared at their “Last Supper” the night that Jesus was arrested. Iis full of symbolism, both to the descendants of Abraham and those of us who know Jesus Christ as our Savior.  Christ and His sacrifice for our sins is pictured in the Passover Meal.

Mr. Steve Ilchishin, a Messianic Jew from Chosen People Ministries, will be with us to lead us in a special time of worship, learning, and fellowship as we observe the Passover Seder Meal, and reflect on its meaning for us in this Easter season. The Seder is much more than the unleavened bread and fruit of the vine that we use for communion.  You will be blessed and touched by God’s grace as we go through the meal with explanation from one who’s ancient ancestors were there for it’s inception.

There is no charge for the meal, but we will be receiving a love offering at the end for Mr. Ilchishin.  Everyone is welcome, but we MUST have an idea how many to prepare for.  Please RSVP the church office no later than Monday, March 31st , or turn in a reservation sheet in the Sunday morning service on March 30th.

This will be an interesting event for adults and children alike. Don’t miss out on this special blessing!  RSVP to 304-429-1348.  If it is after regular office hours just leave your name and how many will be in your party for the Seder.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Thinking Outside The Cultural Box

In 1 Corinthians chapter 9 the Apostle Paul defends his Apostolic authority, yet at the same time he models the heart of a servant.  Even though he has been called by God into this very important work, he shows himself to be willing to humble himself and to be flexible in his methods. In this passage Paul speaks of Christian liberty as well as Christian responsibility.


It is easy for Christians sometimes to be heavy handed in our “spirituality”.  In our geographical church culture we seem to feel that we have a handle on how we should worship.  We often look down on, and are critical of others who “do church” differently than we do.  We also often have the idea that lost people should see things the way we do, and we go about our worship, our ministry activities, and our witnessing using jargon, rituals and “code words” that are familiar to our “church culture” but absolutely foreign to those we claim we want to reach for Christ.


I grew up here in the Bible Belt, the son of a Baptist preacher. Dad was a bivocational evangelist who also often served as pastor to small churches.  Growing up we “did church” a certain way in the churches where Dad pastored or held revival meetings.  We prided ourselves on not having a “printed program”, yet every service was the same basic ritual.  There might have been some old hymns like Amazing Grace, The Old Rugged Cross and Rock Of Ages, but most of the  music was primarily Southern Gospel “quartet style” music.  There was usually a piano accompaniment and in some churches an organ may have been involved.  There might be soloist or trios or quartets who would use a guitar.


Prayer was something that was done a certain way.  We always had a “Family Prayer” time in the service where everyone would shake hands with one another and gather around the altar for what is often called choral prayer (everyone praying out loud at the same time).  If a person was called upon to lead a prayer individually he might stand at his seat, or even kneel in the aisle or come to the altar to pray.


There was always a time for testimonies.  Messages were usually topical and fiery.  Not a lot of scriptural exposition, very little doctrinal teaching, and usually filled with a strong evangelistic thrust followed by an emotional invitation or “altar call”. Legalism was pretty common although we were always talking about the Grace of God.


It went without saying that those who were members of our churches were expected to fit a certain mold.  There was not a lot of cultural diversity among us, and as a result, those whom we sought to reach with the Gospel, looked, acted, and fit into the same basic culture to which we belonged.


It wasn’t until I went away to Bible College that I learned that many Christians worshipped and looked a little differently than us.  Later, through becoming familiar with missionaries and making short term mission trips, myself, I learned that there are Christ Followers in other places and cultures who look, act and worship very much differently than we did.


Eventually the little light bulb came on over my head that “our way” is not the only way, nor is it necessarily the right way.  It is simply part of the culture that has slipped into churches in our geographical region over the years.  By the same token, methods that we have long used to reach out to lost people are not the only methods, nor are they always the right methods to reach people in a changing culture.


Paul says some pretty radical things here in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, that I think would be wise for us to consider as we ponder how best to take the Gospel to the world around us.


“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.


Paul made an intentional decision to think outside the box in the methods he used to share the Gospel.  The message never changes my friends, but the methods MUST be flexible.


We know that it is impossible for us to do EVERY ministry we would like to do, but it is very important that we be open to new manners of worship, new ways of doing ministry, new ways of getting the Gospel out and doing missions.  NEVER changing or watering down the MESSAGE, but looking for different ways to reach those who may not look or act just like us, and those who live outside our culture and customs.


Our success in fulfilling our role in the Great Commission depends largely on whether we will hold to our local customs and methods as the “only way” or if we are willing to think and act outside the cultural and customary box in reaching and discipling lost people for the Kingdom’s sake.
What do you think?

Monday, February 10, 2014

"All The Lonely People..."

I don't know how many total funeral services I have conducted in my 42 years of ministry. I should have kept better records back then.  I have, however, kept such records in my past eleven years as pastor of Westmoreland Baptist Church.  Today was the 131st funeral I have done since being called to WBC.

I have conducted services in our church sanctuary, other church buildings, various funeral home chapels, in a private home, in mausoleums, and simple graveside services in several cemeteries. Today was one of those graveside services.

Some funeral and memorial services had hundreds in attendance.  Some, not so many.

The most unusual funeral service I have conducted was while pastor at my previous church in Kentucky. One of our members, an elderly lady,  had previously told me of the deep sadness in her life after one of her three grown children had gone missing in 1950.  Never a word from the missing daughter, no idea of where she might be, dead or alive.  Then in 1999 word came to her son about a "Jane Doe" who had been found dead in South Carolina six months earlier.  The county coroner had for some reason decided not to bury the body until efforts could be made to identify her.

The coroner combed through hundreds of FBI Missing Persons reports dating back for decades.  Lo and behold, circumstances led the coroner to believe that this may have been the young lady from Kentucky who had been reported missing so long ago.

Dental records, finger prints, and a positive ID by her brother, brought the body home to Ashland to be interred in the family plot.  The grieved 93 year old mother was able to finally get closure, and to view the body of her long lost child one last time, only 3 months before her own passing.  The attendance at that funeral was very sparse.  Less than 10 total family members attended. Small crowd, but all loving family members - some of whom had never met the deceased.

Today, at a cold (20 degree), snowy grave site in Wayne County, West Virginia, I conducted a service that I felt was under even more sad circumstances than that Kentucky funeral many years ago.  Today I delivered the brief funeral message for mourners of a 90 year old widow lady who was being laid to rest beside the body of her long deceased husband.

Gathered at that grave plot were three mourners, the funeral director, and myself.

There was not a family member present even though her family name is one that is fairly well known in the area.

At the wishes of the deceased, the service was unannounced and private. An obituary notice will not be published in the local paper until later in the week. She died childless.

Although connected to a rather large family, there was apparently very little interaction between this lady and the in laws and nieces and nephews who lived in fairly close proximity. I understand that the last contact she had with any family was around Christmas time when a nephew and niece had visited her home.

I am totally unaware of all of the family dynamics involved in this situation.  Furthermore, I am totally unequipped to make any judgments about it.  Usually when there are cold relationships between family members, there is enough blame to go around.

What I will say is this.  How sad to lay to rest someone who has been on this planet for 90 years, and so few people seem to have had any type of warm relationship with her.

Only God knows the whole situation surrounding today's service.  But I was reminded anew that there are many lonely and perhaps forgotten people around us.  Lennon and McCartney touched a chord when they wrote these words in their ballad, Eleanor Rigby:

"All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Ah, look at all the lonely people
Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name
Nobody came."

Perhaps there is an Eleanor Rigby in your family.  Maybe there is one in your neighborhood.  Perhaps even in your church.

I believe Jesus would seek out those who are lonely as well as those who labor and are heavy laden.  As His followers, shouldn't we?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Letter To My Newborn Grandson (Reprint)

Late in the evening on January 25, 2000, Linda and I came home from King's Daughters Medical Center as grandparents for the very first time.  Grandparents!  So hard to believe!  Our beautiful daughter in law, Michelle, had been through nearly 24 hours of labor, with our son, Jay, right there by her side.  Finally the little guy made his arrival into this world. Caudle Jerry Adkins V was here.  A big, beautiful, and healthy child.  I was convinced he was the most beautiful child - ever!

What to call the little guy?  Jay and Michelle had already worked that out.  They certainly weren't going to saddle him with the moniker, "Caudle" for obvious reasons.  "C.J." was already taken.  Jerry apparently didn't strike their fancy, so since he was the fifth Caudle Adkins in the line, his parents decided to key on the numeral. So they chose "Quint", Latin for "Five".

Emotions were high that night. We were so happy for Jay and Michelle. We were so excited to be grandparents. We were deeply in love with a little fellow we had just met. Sleep was elusive, so I got up around 2:00 AM, grabbed a legal pad, and scribbled down a letter full of advice for this little newborn. Obviously Quint couldn't read it then.  Hopefully he will read it today, and know how special is and how much he has been loved for 14 years. Here's the letter.

Happy birthday Quint.  You are a blessing.

A Letter To My Newborn Grandson 
(Caudle Jerry Adkins V was born January 25, 2000)

Dear Quint,
Happy birthday little fellow! You were born last night at 10:59PM. Your beautiful mother worked long and hard to bring you into this world and your daddy was right there with her the whole way. I cried when I saw how much they loved each other and how much they loved you (even though they didn't yet know who you were). You see, sadly, the laws of our country would have allowed you to have been destroyed before you were even born, but your Mom & Dad would never have considered that. She carried you inside her body for nine long months until you would be able to live on your own. She labored for 25 hours and gave up her own physical well being and comfort to give you life. Always love and respect them for that – but more so, do it because God's Word instructs you to do just that.

I never thought I could ever love any little boy as much as I did your daddy and his brother, Benji – but last night I found out that indeed I could. Your Mamaw and I fell in love with you at first sight. Not only were you beautiful to behold, but you also carried in your little person the combined heritage of all your Mommy and Daddy's combined families. Your represent our very best hopes and dreams.

You are an eternal creature, for in your little body dwells a never dying soul. One day – sometime down the road, God will begin to deal with your heart about loving and serving Him. I am praying today that when that day comes, you will meet God on His terms and ask His son, Jesus, to come into your heart. Your Mommy and Daddy will be talking to you plenty about Jesus. So will Mamaw and I – and your Great Grandparents will too! You listen closely and believe, and when the time comes, it will be very easy for you to trust God and allow Jesus to be your Savior and Lord.

Sleep well and gain lots of strength. You'll need it for what lies ahead of you. Who knows what the future holds for you? Tonight my imagination runs wild about you. What will you be like as you grow? What will you look like? How will your little voice sound when you say your first words, and what will those words be? With what types of talents and abilities has God blessed you? What great things might you accomplish for Him. Who will you marry? Will I be around to see you grow into adulthood and have a family of your own? I certainly pray that I do. You are so special. Among all the 6 billion people on earth there is no one else just like you. Not only does your whole family love you, but God loves you and Jesus died for you, and that makes you special.

This is an exciting time to be alive. My Papaw (the first Caudle) was born in the 19th century, in 1895 and he fought in World War I. He died in 1959. My Daddy (your great grandfather) was born in 1927 – the year Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs and Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic. He lived through the Great Depression, served in World War II, and as a member of the greatest generation, helped set the standard for all of us who followed. I was born in 1950 at the mid point of the 20th century, and have seen a lot of changes in this world and it's lifestyles. Your Daddy arrived in 1973 and now, 25 days into the new 21st century, here you are! At the dawn of this new millennium, your life begins.

Listen to your parents. Watch their lives. Learn from them and trust their Savior as your own. Live for Him and walk with Him. Follow Proverbs 3: 5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths." If you'll do that, you'll never, ever go wrong! Your Mamaw and I love you, little fellow – more than you can comprehend right now. I pray for God's richest blessings on you all the days of your life.

With All My Love,
Papaw Adkins