Friday, December 23, 2011

USA TODAY article on Churches closing on Christmas

The article below comes from the USA TODAY, Friday, December 23rd, 2011 edition. It is interesting how much this topic has taken off.

The Macedonia MBC at 1862 N. Olive Street in South Bend, Indiana will be open regular hours on Christmas Day. Nothing is changing. Below is the article.

Because Christmas falls on Sunday this year, some churches are opting to close that day so that
families can spend the morning together at home. Among the nation's top 20 largest Protestant churches — as ranked by Outreach Magazine — three will be closed on Christmas, and 10 will be having only one service, The Tennessean reports., an Oklahoma-based megachurch with 14 locations in five states, says it will be closed on Christmas, but it plans to hold Christmas Eve services. In Atlanta, First Baptist Church will hold morning services on Christmas Eve but close on Sunday.

Life Research, based in Nashville, says its national survey of Protestant churches found that 91% would hold at least one service Christmas morning, while about 9% will not worship on Sunday at all. Some plan Christmas Eve services instead.

"Having church on Christmas Day when it falls on a Sunday seems as if it would be as much of a given as having Thanksgiving on a Thursday, but this has been an issue of discussion and contention in recent years," says Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. "Also, just because an overwhelming majority of pastors think that way doesn't mean those in their congregations necessarily share their perspective."

The survey found that Protestant pastors in the South are the least likely (62%) to host a Christmas Eve service compared to other regions. Pastors identifying themselves as Mainline(87%) are more likely to have a service on Christmas Eve compared to those identifying themselves as Evangelical (70%), Life Research found.

The Houston Chronicle reports that many pastors in that Texas city are consolidating services or even canceling them for Sunday. St. Martin's Episcopal Church, the largest Episcopal congregation in the country, anticipates just 500 to 600 people at its one service Sunday but
expects 6,000 at its five Christmas Eve services.

In Colorado, The Longmont Times Call reports that Vinelife Church is offering families devotion packets to have a "church experience" in their homes on Christmas, according to executive pastor Bob Young. Each packet includes a written message from the senior pastor, a CD of Christmas hymns and a suggestion for how to weave the spiritual side of Christmas throughout the day, Young tells the newspaper.

White Fields Community Church is holding a Christmas Eve service at 4 p.m., which senior pastor the Rev. Pete Nelson says appeals to the large number of young families with children in the 200-member congregation. "We feel very comfortable with giving the mantle of discipleship and ministry to the parents of the family," Nelson says. "It's not about a service. It's
about being a family that serves Christ."

In Murfreesboro, Tenn., the Rev. Brady Cooper of New Vision Baptist Church notes that it takes 150 volunteers to staff a single service at the megachurch, so he is opting to run five services on Christmas Eve instead, The Tennessean reports.

"Asking them to be there all day Christmas Eve and most of the day on Christmas is hard,"Cooper says. "Our staff is very thankful to have the chance to be home with their family."
The LifePoint church, one of three "campuses" in the country, including Smyrna, Tenn., will also be closed on Sunday.

In Nashville, however, Mt. Zion Baptist Church isn't planning any Christmas Eve services but will go all out instead on Christmas Day. "We are having a birthday party for Jesus," says Bishop Joseph Walker III, pastor of Mt. Zion, who hopes the services will take the focus off commercialism on that day.

Monday, December 5, 2011

We need Peacemakers

There has been continued feedback and fallout over the decision by the Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church to vote against or ban interracial couples. People have asked, "Where was the Pastor", who by the way was against this idea but it was being led by a former Pastor of the Church.

The National Association of Free Will Baptists has been backpedaling as quick and as far away from this church as possible, "We are not a group of racist people". The question continues, "How did it happen"? Them the thought hit me! It hit me so hard, it scared me! It terrified me when I realized what happened at Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church could happen at Macedonia MBC.

I am not concerned about our church going that route but i was struck by the fact that 40 people, in estimate, were at the meeting but the vote was 9 to 6. That means only 15 people used their voice to speak out. 25 or so people stayed quiet. I became even more frightened because I realized THAT COULD HAPPEN AT MACEDONIA.

There are three types of church members. The ones who will stand for whats right, the ones who will stand for whats right for them even if its wrong by the Bible and the others who will watch everyone else stand while they do nothing. You know they tell you whenever a church mess or a church problem starts, My name is Bennett and I am not in it.

The ones that walk away when they see a fight happening, the ones that intentionally stay home when they sense any drama brewing, the ones that stick their heads in the "spiritual sand" and pray when they pull it out, it will be all worked out. the ones who are afraid to take a stand because it may go against family ties or may upset friends so they stay neutral and walk away.

Many people use the old Texas adage, "I don't have a dog in this fight"which means I don't have an interest in this matter. I don't care what y'all decide. Doesn't affect me, but in affect that is not true. In a church, what affects one affects us all.

In the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church, A decision that affected the ENTIRE church was made by the MINORITY voice because the MAJORITY voice stayed quiet.

We need Peacemakers!

A peacemaker is a person who labors for the public good. Instead of fanning the fires of contention and strife, he uses his influence and wisdom to reconcile divided parties, adjust their differences, and restore them to a state of reconciliation and unity. The peacemaker is also one who, having received the peace of God in his own heart, brings peace to others. They have been reformed by the regenerating power of the Gospel. They are peacemakers because they themselves are at peace with God.

The peacemaker is not simply one who makes peace between two parties, but one who spreads the good news of the peace of God which he has experienced. As all men are represented to be in a state of hostility toward God and each other, the Gospel is called the Gospel of peace, because it tends to reconcile men to God and to one other. They have entered into the peace of Christ and thus are able ambassadors of God's message of peace to a troubled world. The peacemaker is concerned about peace between men and God. He strives to get men right with God.

God's blessing is on the peacemaker, not necessarily the one who is a lover of peace. The Lord is not speaking about people with a peaceful disposition or those who love peace. He is referring to those who actively intervene and get involved to make peace.

The blessing is not on the person who runs away from conflict, flees from drama or stays at home when things get messy but rather it is on the person who actively gets involves and who makes things better. Many people can get involved but they don't always make things better. A Peacemaker does!

I am praying for the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church but I am also praying for my church. While praying, I am praying for all of all churches. We need people who will be used by God to become peacemakers. Not to run away! Not to hide! Not to show up to the meeting and listen to the arguments but people who are willing to stand for right after the discussion is over.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Kentucky Church bans interracial marriage

A small Kentucky church has chosen to ban marriages and even some worship services for interracial couples. The Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church, located in Pike County, made the vote in response to a longtime member who is engaged to a man whose birthplace is in Zimbabwe.
Other pastoral leaders in the area were quick to denounce the church's vote. "It's not the spirit of the community in any way, shape or form," Randy Johnson, president of the Pike County Ministerial Association, told the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The small congregation, which usually hosts about 40 members each Sunday, held the vote after longtime member Stella Harville, brought her fiancé Ticha Chikuni to church with her in June. The couple performed a song together at the church in which Chikuni sang "I Surrender All," while Harville played the piano.

Chikuni, 29, who works at Georgetown College, is black--and Harville, who was baptized at the church but is not an active member, is white. Dean Harville, Stella's father, said he was told by the church's former pastor Melvin Thompson that his daughter and her fiancé were not allowed to sing at the church again. However, Thompson recently stepped down and the church's new pastor, Stacy Stepp, said the couple was once again welcome to sing.

Stepp's decision prompted Thompson to put forth a recommendation saying that while all members are welcome at the church, it does not "condone" interracial marriage, and that any interracial couples would not be received as members or allowed to participate in worship services. The only exception? Funerals.

The Harville family has formally requested the congregation to reconsider the interracial ban, and Thompson has also said he would like to resolve the issue, the area CBS affiliate WYMT has reported.

A copy of the recommendation, obtained by WYMT, reads in part:
That the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church does not condone interracial marriage. Parties of such marriages will not be received as members, nor will they be used in worship services and other church functions, with the exception being funerals. All are welcome to our public worship services. This recommendation is not intended to judge the salvation of anyone, but is intended to promote greater unity among the church body and the community we serve.

Members of the church held a vote on Thompson's proposed language, with nine voting in favor and six voting against. The other members in attendance chose not to vote. Gawker notes that Pike County is 98 percent white and home to the infamous Hatfield-McCoy feud.

The Harville family doesn't see Gulnare's new policy promoting anything like unity or civil peace. "They're the people who are supposed to comfort me in times like these," Stella Harville said.

And Stella's father was much more forceful in his denunciation of the interracial ban. "It sure ain't Christian," Dean Harville said. "It ain't nothing but the old devil working."