For SBC, 1984 was the year of the pivot

For SBC, 1984 was the year of the pivot

At mid-point in the battle then raging in the Southern Baptist Convention, a conservative victory appeared far from certain. But in retrospect, 1984 looks like the pivotal year which set the convention on a new course.

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5 communication mistakes your church is probably making

And how you can correct them.

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A Roma couple at Kisbégány near Mukacheve, Ukraine. (Photo by K Brown)
A Roma couple at Kisbégány near Mukacheve, Ukraine. (Photo by K Brown)

Baptists’ mission work order changes from carpentry to caring

Engaging the Roma in Ukraine leaves no visitor unchanged.

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Sisters Carole (right) and Mely were part of a surge of young immigrants fleeing violence in Central America for safety in the United States. They eventually joined their mother in Virginia, where Mely’s baby, Ashley, was born. (BNG photo by Jeff Brumley)
Sisters Carole (right) and Mely were part of a surge of young immigrants fleeing violence in Central America for safety in the United States. They eventually joined their mother in Virginia, where Mely’s baby, Ashley, was born. (BNG photo by Jeff Brumley)

Two young immigrants fleeing violence find refuge — and ministry — in U.S.

For two Salvadoran sisters who were part of the recent immigration “surge,” reuniting with their mother in Virginia also meant finding Baptists with open arms.

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No room for wimps

By Lindsay Bergstrom

My mom has said to me many times through the years that “getting old is not for sissies.” And you know what? I’m really beginning to believe her.

Oh, it’s not just because my knees hurt after I’ve been sitting at my desk too long. And it’s not because that 20 minutes of exercise I used to do have now turned into 40 so I can get half the results. It’s not even the shock I sometimes feel when I look in a mirror.

Nope, it’s watching her.

me n momma webAlmost two years ago, we brought my mom to live with us. Until that time she had been living independently in a retirement facility. But rising costs and declining health caused us to have to reevaluate, and this seemed the best option since I have the luxury of working from home.

I think it’s been an adjustment for all of us, her learning to depend upon me for her care and us having someone else to think about all the time. But it’s not been without its lighter moments, too.

Like the time I thought it would be nice to take her with me while I ran errands, just so she could get out of the house.

When we left, I neglected to close the door to her room, and found when we returned that my Great Dane, Stella, had raided her candy dish. And as if that weren’t enough, Mom then looked at her side table and realized her packet of jewelry that she “for sure” left there was missing.

Well, you can imagine the angst we all felt as we turned her room, and our whole house, upside down looking for it.

When we didn’t find it, Mom was then convinced that Stella had eaten it. So dutifully for the next week I went out with Stella when she did her business and examined thoroughly to make sure the packet of jewelry hadn’t passed through.

It never did.

So Mom next became convinced that Stella had taken the packet of jewelry and hidden it. Never mind that Great Danes — even though beautiful creatures — are just not that smart. Stella doesn’t hide things. But for weeks, Mom asked me if I was still looking for her jewelry, and I secretly suspected that she had thrown it away by mistake.

Then one Sunday morning, when I went to see if she was ready to leave for church, I found her wearing the missing jewelry. And when I asked her where she had found it, she pointed to her table.

Well, I knew it hadn’t been there the whole time, and when I said so, she replied, “I guess the dog brought it back.”

My family and I still laugh about that, although I would be laughing with more enthusiasm if I hadn’t been the one poking through poop.

Or the many times she has turned to me in the grocery store to ask if I know what she meant by an item she wrote on her shopping list. And as the guessing game begins, we both get a chuckle when neither of us has a clue.

Thankfully now she has mostly gotten past the frustration of not being able to think of the correct word, or the fact that she has to depend on a walker to support her movement. For awhile she could focus on nothing else. And in her frustration she would say, I hope this never happens to you.

But now she says she’s just tired, and wonders why “the Lord doesn’t take her home.” At 85, the once statuesque postmaster is now hunched with osteoporosis and arthritis, and she has a hard time making her mind work like it used to. She’s aware of her diminishing faculties and, thankfully, is accepting them now with more grace.

But I have to tell you, the old girl still has a bit more fight left in her, too.

She gets up every morning and dresses for the day, complete with jewelry. She makes a lap or two around the house to keep her legs moving. She insists on going with me to the grocery store to buy her own things. She wants to fold her own clothes, and even sometimes helps me with mine. And every Sunday we make the trip to Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church where we both get our spirits energized to make another week.

It’s there that I am reminded of why it’s important to do this. Even though it’s hard to watch her decline, I am thankful to have the opportunity to walk with my mom through these days, good and bad, so I can experience the true grace that comes from learning to give and receive. Jesus taught us how important it is to learn both.

And so when my time comes, I hope I can remember what I learned from my Mom about giving and receiving. And not be a sissie about it.

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Is the traditional church sinking in a communication storm?

Today it’s all about strategy and it’s essential.

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Remain a slave or die in the wilderness

If we say “No” to God’s call long enough, we stop hearing it.

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Clear indicators can signal debilitating depression in ministers

By Jeff Brumley

The numbers of clergy experiencing depression have increased because the profession has become tougher, says Christopher Carlton, an ordained Methodist minister and director of Emory Clergy Care, a Georgia-based agency that provides counseling and other wellness services for ministers.

Clergy financial and sexual abuse scandals have publicly tarnished ministers, while declines in membership have added financial stresses that turn pastors into nearly full-time capital campaign managers, Carlton says.

A difficult economy and reductions in church staff have forced individual ministers to shoulder more duties, in turn leading to feelings of isolation and over-work experienced by even the healthiest pastors, he says.

And there’s personal debt. Carlton says seminary graduates are leaving school with mountains of debt previous generations didn’t face.

“We are seeing a larger rate of burnout in our pastors. We are also seeing the career option of being a pastor as a less attractive route.”

There are also inherent factors in the ministry that are exacerbated when ministers don’t take care of themselves physically, spiritually and emotionally, says Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, a co-principal investigator for Duke Divinty School’s Clergy Health Initiative.

Feeling called to their work makes pastors more likely to experience existential crises when difficulties are encountered in the workplace, Proeschold-Bell says.

Discord in the congregation, disagreements over ministry and finances — all natural occurrences — can trigger depression.

“Clergy worry if they have not been living faithfully to God. For them, it can take on divine significance that can resonate more deeply with them.”

Even in the healthiest churches, she says, pastors tend to be placed on pedestals, making it even harder for them to express concerns or seek help when problematic emotions arise.

The result often is social isolation — which is also one of the top predictors of depression.

Another “top predictor of depression is the unpredictability of emotions,” she notes, explaining that bounding between weddings and funerals, baptisms and hospital visits means “clergy don’t know at any given moment what emotions they are going to be facing.”

Even traditional stressors can become gateways to depression when ministers are working and eating more, and sleeping and exercising less. Forgoing vacations and other days off can also lead to mental illness, Proeschold-Bell says.

“Their bodies are a gift from God, and that gift or that grace needs to be responded to by being a good steward of yourself. Live the joyful life that God really wants for us.”

Former Baptist pastor Bryan Hatcher agrees, noting, “There is a cultural expectation that our pastors have it all together and that they are the last people who are going to be depressed.”

Besides getting more sleep and exercise, seeking therapy, joining peer groups or developing one-on-one relationships with clergy can provide much-needed outlets for stress, says Hatcher, chief operating officer for CareNet at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Another key to staving off depression: “Setting firm boundaries that are firm and healthy, but not overly rigid” and stop putting jobs ahead of their own physical and spiritual wellbeing.

“It’s when I get hyper-focused on work and don’t get to the gym and start living on coffee … that my thinking gets cloudy and my feelings get cloudy.”

—A version of this article was published originally by ABPnews/Herald in 2013.

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