63 Annual Session Report Adopted by the Bethel Missionary Baptist Association 2021

Faith and Practice

Just, Faithful, Exemplary

A thoughtful consideration of our prescribed deportment. Seeking a sharpened understanding of our covenantal instruction to be JUST in our dealings, FAITHFUL in our engagements, and EXEMPLARY in our deportment.

  • What effect can unfavorable deportment, unjust dealings, and unfaithful commitment have on the local church? Also, how does this effect our ability as Christians to outreach to those we contact outside of the body of Christ?
  • What hazards arise when unbecoming deportment is present within our Churches, and what benefits and blessings come from holy relationship and interactions among members?
  • What biblical truths can be applied to this matter in a measure to ensure our consecration towards Holy living, as a means of more accurately reflecting the Nature of God?

As you walk into the doors of a Missionary Baptist Church, you will observe a heritage passed down from generation to generation. The long pews cultivate an environment of unity and brotherly love. The altar is a public reminder for the sinner and the saint to offer a living sacrifice. The visitor sitting in the pew for the first-time notices minimal decor on the walls, yet a large display of a five-paragraph document is found in the front of the church. As the visitor scans the document titled “The Church Covenant,” they perceive a series of rules and control. As the faithful member passes by, it stands as a reminder of the commitment not only to one another but to God in our pursuit of Holy living. The covenant has evolved, but the vast majority of the words used have stood for 188 years. In 1833, J. Newton Brown took his quill and was inspired to write in the third paragraph of the Church Covenant we will strive “to be just in our dealings, faithful in our engagements, and exemplary in our deportment.” As we seek a sharpened understanding of our covenantal instruction, let us evaluate the effectiveness of our deportment.

Noah Webster defined deportment as acting in relation to the duties of life, behavior; demeanor; or conduct. Much has transpired since J. Newton Brown scribed a commitment for God’s people to be an example in our behavior. The Church Covenant was published in The Baptist Church Manual in 1853, and since it was distributed, our world has done nothing but speed up. The spark of the Industrial Revolution introduced an entirely new world of convenience and communication. Over a span of a hundred years, we began using the telephone to communicate faster than ever before. Thomas Edison brought light into our churches with the flip of a switch. Airplanes began to catch our eye out of the church window during a sermon. Henry Ford substituted “walking up hills both ways” for a comfortable ride in a gas-powered vehicle. Imagine having a conversation with J.M. Pendleton or Charles Spurgeon regarding the ability to preach on Facebook Live, using an app to study God’s word with the touch of a finger, or fly anywhere in the world to fulfill a preaching appointment. The advancements in technology, transportation, and communication have, without a doubt, impacted the culture of our congregations.

What happened to being punctual, dependable, responsible, & faithful? Our adversary has had the gift of time to master his ability to seek and devour the foundation of the home. Before the 1860s, the option to divorce was so rare that statistics were never recorded. Five years later, divorces were being filed in roughly 3% of marriages. In 2021, nearly half of couples that stand in front of their family and friends, more importantly, God, end their sacred vows in divorce. The vow has transformed from “Till death do us part” to “Until our love fades.” The age of commitment is pushed off till later in life from fear of being tied down. In the 1950’s the average age to unite in marriage was 22 for males and 20 for females. In 2021, the average male is 32, and the female is 28 years old before committing to marriage. In the 1950’s, men were praised for tenured employment with paid pensions. In 2021, the average person changes jobs 12 times in their lifetime. We live in a day when society encourages us to push off commitment, and if we commit, there can always be an exit plan or a loophole.

As we take an honest assessment of our current commitment to holy living, without a doubt, we can observe we have lost two generations. Our sister churches have a healthy representation of the “Silent Generation” that represents individuals born from 1925-1945. The Silent Generation witnessed the hardships from the effects of The Great Depression through the eyes of their parents. The stock market crashed, and the ripple effect was felt through all classes of citizens. The Silent Generation watched their parents put their faith and trust in God’s providence. Today we feel we have the ability within ourselves to solve the problem. The family worked together in the field, sat down at the family dinner table, and were forced to mature at an early age. Instant communication was not sitting in a small device on the kitchen table; instead, the family had in-person interactions. Cyberbullying did not exist, and the word “anxiety” was replaced with the word “stress.” The home was not arguing over the remote, but the fight was over who was next to use the outhouse. The torch is quickly passed to the “Baby Boomer” generation born from 1946-1964. The cultural shift has empowered the new world of obtaining the “American Dream.” The introduction of the television is now the focal point of the family living room, and the local gossip is in the hands of a phone connected to the wall. The generations to follow 1964 have rapidly evolved the environment of the home and church.

The present generation hides behind words as they text through a hand-held device. It appears they would rather live in a virtual world than a current reality. The cultural shift has not happened overnight, but centuries of satan turning doubt into denying God’s word. The same year that the Church Covenant was published an English biologist Charles Darwin arrived at the Galapagos Islands. The observations made by Charles Darwin were later published in his book titled “Origin of Species.” The theories presented by Darwin introduced the idea that populations evolve throughout generations through natural selection. The theory proposed by Darwin allowed satan to cast doubt on God’s creation. Darwin’s theory was quickly adopted into our children’s textbooks as the scientific proof for the beginning of life. satan’s tactic of deceiving Eve by casting doubt on God’s word. “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Gen 3:1) That seed of doubt quickly transitioned into complete denial as satan said unto the woman, “Ye shall not surely die, yet ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:5) One of satan’s strategies in his arsenal is to seek and destroy the influence of God’s people.

The Bible provides examples of satan trying to damage the influence of God’s people, such as Moses’s frustration as he struck the rock twice (Numbers 20:11), David’s spiral with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), Jonah’s disobedience (Jonah 1), the apostle’s denying Christ (Matt 26:69-75), Paul persecuting the church before Damascus (Acts 8:3), and many more. The cause and effect of sin did not end with the book of Revelation. As we sit in the 21st century, we can witness how sin has impacted our culture and the role it has had on the fallen examples we have had in some of our congregations. The acceptance of sin has had a seat on the front pew, our congregations represent broken homes from unlawful divorces (Matt 5:31-32), today there is no noticeable lack of shame for sin; in fact, it’s celebrated, and individual accountability does not exist because we cannot afford to lose the warm bodies sitting in the pews, let alone family accountability for secret sins that stay locked away behind closed doors.

James wrote to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations due to fear of persecution that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26). satan has provided the church of the future with many examples that have fallen and shown no proof of what is acceptable unto the Lord (Eph 5:10). If we are honest, we have had under-shepherds secretly living in sin while preaching against the very sin hidden in their own closet. As the hidden sins become public, the absent adolescent population has been left with the question, “How can I trust you?” In 2021, Do we have sound examples of men and women who are just in their dealings, faithful in their engagements, and exemplary in their deportment?

The examples that have sacrificed great riches for a good name (Prov 22:1) are few, but this group of Saints have stood in the gap (Ezekiel 22:30) and said, “Here am I, Send me” (Isaiah 6:8). One of the individuals that chose a good name was asked, “How did you stay consistent in your deportment for over eighty years?” The man paused and raised his head, looking towards the ceiling. He then grabbed his Bible with pieces of tape holding the binding together from years of use and turned right to a scripture. He said, “Daniel 1:8, But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank.” He closed his Bible and said, “I purposed in my heart a long time ago.” That type of determination and faithfulness lacks in the 21st century. Our society has significantly impacted our lack of concern for our unfavorable deportment, unjust dealings, and unfaithful commitment.

As Moses passed the torch to Joshua (Joshua 1:1-8), God knew Joshua felt inadequate to fill the shoes before him. Joshua’s leadership goes from needing confirmation that God will be with him to boldly leading the charge to the people saying, “choose you this day whom ye will serve” (Joshua 24:15). The day that Joshua referenced is the present moment we live in. The time is now. As we speak, the Lord is raising arrows (Psalm 127:4) that will hold the Banner of Truth. The arrows are aimed toward the mark of the high calling, and training is underway. The training is being restored in the home. In a small group of churches, our pews are filling with a generation of kids that have an opportunity to change the current course from surviving to thriving. But what about the absent generations and the present discouraged population? The decline in our independent bodies has discouraged us from sharpening one another as iron sharpens iron (Prov 27:17). Society has been crippled with entitlement and trained to have the right to take offense. Imagine if Paul never wrote a letter to the young servant Timothy because he was intimidated to run Timothy away. A wise man said, “Silence Implies Consent.” The lack of response to an action is silent approval of that action. We cannot be silent.

Titus was instructed by Paul to urge the older generation to train the younger with their actions and their teachings (Titus 2:4). It can be readily observable that there is a void in individual discipleship. Satan has provided challenges and obstacles that prevent older men and women from building relationships with today’s youth. Examples include, “The young people act like they don’t need my advice,” “I can’t relate because I don’t do smartphones or Facebook,” “Young people would rather text than talk to me,” or “They are just too busy.” The excuses have a ripple effect of destruction that impact both the church and the individual. Imagine if Paul never built a relationship with Timothy, would his instruction fall on deaf ears? The older generation must teach the younger generation.

The Proverb writer said, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity” (Prov 17:17). A friend, a brother, a sister must have the courage when they see something to say something. The teenager sitting in the church pew with their head down in their phone deserves to be known, seen, and more importantly, instructed. The college student sitting in the back row does not always need a friend, yet sometimes they need tough love. An Elder among us was asked if a pivotal moment sparked decades of dedication to the Lord’s work. The man swelled up with tears. He began to recall when he was first in college and was not attending service because school was two hours away. He said his Sunday school teacher, whom he respected, took the time to pull him aside and made a statement that broke a stony heart into a heart of flesh. The wise elderly Sunday school teacher put his arm around his shoulder and said, “I know you could be here if you desired to be.” The subtle yet accountable statement was no longer offering silent consent. The relationship that built, combined with the love of God, inspired a determination that changed the course of direction for the rest of his life.

We live in a time where people are afraid to be rejected. Facebook provides a platform of acceptance where everyone wants to be liked with a click of a button. The effect of silent consent not only has lasting consequences for future generations, but it affects our ability to outreach to those we contact outside of the body of Christ. Society, government, employers, colleagues, friends, and family are silencing us to conform to the world by using God’s word to tempt us. “God loves everyone” (Romans 11:32) and “Only God can judge me” (James 4:12) are often quoted to manipulate God’s word in an attempt to justify sin. Jesus left us an example of Satan himself using God’s word to tempt Jesus on the mountain (Matt 4:1-11).

In closing, as we pass around the Christian handshake and make our way towards the local fellowship hall, the covenantal instruction hanging on our church wall is a constant and visible reminder towards holy living. The error we have made in the past has led to empty pews, dissatisfied members, and created a hazard for the advancement of the great commission. Thanks be to God’s longsuffering and mercy we have brothers and sisters that have a voice that must be heard. Two of the men mentioned in this report were asked one final question. The question was, “Was it worth it?” The answer was very apparent as they wiped tears from their eyes. They were slow to answer. Not because they did not have an answer, but they were full of joy. The answers these two men gave on the benefits of Holy Living lit a fire in a young man’s heart that cannot be expressed in words. The last scripture used in that conversation was quoted by memory to the young man. Mathew 6:33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Lastly, Jesus lived a perfect life for 30 years. The people in His hometown only saw a carpenter’s son (Matt 13:55) until He opened His mouth. The time to be seen and heard is now. If not now, then when?

Humbly submitted,

Deacon Cory Houchens

Elder Steve York

Deacon Don Binion