NPCC – Andy Stanley Tells of Prep. For Inaugural Prayer Service

This is a short segment from a Sunday morning message by Andy Stanley in which he shares part of what he and his wife went through in preparation for his participation in the National Inaugural Prayer Service. The humorous account is shared as a personal example of the core principle Andy was sharing that morning. You hear Andy share that principle at the end of this clip. ■ The message is from February 1, 2009 and part of a message series entitled “Balanced” which has to do with getting one’s personal financial world in balance. This was part 5 of that series and can be watched in it’s entirety at ■ Andy delivered this message in person at Browns Bridge Community Church in Cumming,GA and was broadcast to North Point Ministries other two campuses (North Point Community church in Alpharetta and Buckhead Church in Atlanta). He has rotated between the three campuses for this series, now that all three church campuses are connected via optic fiber for the broadcast of the message portion of the church services. ■ Andy’s actual participation in the Inaugural Prayer Service that he refers to in the clip occurred on January 21, 2009 (the day following President Obama’s inauguration) and can be viewed at the following links: ■ Video of entire prayer service: ■ PDF of the service bulletin:

Interview: Theology Professor tells about cell groups and Sunday schools in Southern Baptist Church by Peter Menkin

Interview: Theology Professor tells about cell groups and Sunday schools in Southern Baptist Church by Peter Menkin

Interview: Theology Professor tells about cell groups and Sunday schools in Southern Baptist Church by Peter Menkin

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Home Page > Spirituality > Religion > Interview: Theology Professor tells about cell groups and Sunday schools in Southern Baptist Church by Peter Menkin

Interview: Theology Professor tells about cell groups and Sunday schools in Southern Baptist Church by Peter Menkin

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Posted: Oct 27, 2009 |Comments: 0



We talked by phone of the design of the Southern Baptist Church, and I note that it is comprised of more classroom and educational setting than worship space. That isn’t to say worship space is small. We also talked about cell groups, a recent phenomenon of Sunday school where people gather to study scripture and other related Church matters in a small group, sometimes in a home setting.   Will you tell me something of the beginnings of this “movement” in the Southern Baptist Church, and how it has grasped the imagination of Church goers?   Southern Baptists were formed in 1845 around values of winning souls, educating and training members for effective Christian living and service in the US and around the world. In 1909, a man named Arthur Flake was recruited from Mississippi to work for the Baptist Sunday School Board in Nashville. At that time, there were about a million persons in Southern Baptist Sunday schools. In forty years, that number would grow to six million and well beyond. Some of this growth was due to a book Flake wrote entitled How to Build a Standard Sunday School, which was studied by over a million Southern Baptist workers. This book taught Flake’s famous five-fold formula for Sunday school growth:   1) Know the possibilities, 2) Enlarge the organization, 3) Enlist and train leaders, 4) Expand the space, and 5) Go after the people. Southern Baptist pastors often recited the Flake mantra that “the formula works only if you work the formula!”         Who came up with the Cell Sunday School, or small group, and how have Sunday School students of various ages responded to this?   Can you tell us where in the Bay Area or even California or the U.S. where this is more popular, and something of the character of the Southern Baptist Church that takes this methodology of direction.   (I know, methodology is a big word, so if you want to provide an example to help take it out of the professional level that only the Sunday School teacher really grasps, please do. Or do most Southern Baptists grasp this Small Group or Cell Group Sunday School method today?)   Southern Baptist innovative pastor Ralph Neighbour Jr. first brought cell groups to the attention of SBC churches. He studied the tremendous growth of cell group churches in Korean and published a book called “Where Do we Go from Here?” He later backed away from the argumentative tone of the book, which really argued that cell groups and Sunday school were incompatible in the same church. His book lays out the principles and best practices for starting and multiplying cell churches.    The attraction for Southern Baptists for the cell or small group method has been fourfold. First, Southern Baptists are pragmatists and love to look into if not imitate what’s successful. It’s hard to argue with the success of the Yoida Full Gospel Church in Seoul, Korea with its near 800,000 well disciple members.   That church is based on cell groups.   Second, Baptists love what’s biblical. They want to be “New Testament churches.” The cell group or house church appears to be the norm for the spread of Christianity in the first century through the ministry of the apostles and other early missionaries.   Cell groups look more like those New Testament house churches than do Sunday School classes on church property, so many SBC churches are moving in that direction.  Third, buildings cost so it is more cost effective and less limiting to growth to simply have cells meet in homes.    Fourth, people wanting to explore Christianity are thought to be more comfortable in a home of a friend as opposed to a classroom on church property. So many SBC leaders believe that cell or small groups meeting in homes is the better way of reaching new people with the gospel.         The education of a Southern Baptist starts in the baby years, and goes through childhood to adulthood, a Discipleship program of some magnitude in conception, and thought out in a curriculum and almost systematic consideration for periods of human development. So I understand in my conversations with various people in the Church who are knowledgeable in the training and education of members, including the education of ministers. You educate ministers at Golden Gate Baptist Seminary located just north of San Francisco in Mill Valley.   As one knowledgeable in such, will you talk a little in this email correspondence about how this helps to make Southern Baptists the “Sunday School Church,” and talk a little of the emphasis for each age range in what they study or look to learn about. Please say something of the Biblical imperative, and the evangelical imperative of the Southern Baptist, if you will.   Southern Baptists (SBs) made their Sunday Schools a center for both evangelism and discipleship and built their campuses accordingly with educational space for all ages equal to or greater than worship space.    To assist  this focus of the churches, the Baptist Sunday School Board (now called LifeWay Resources) publishes age-graded Bible teaching literature organized around a cyclical curriculum to cover the sixty-six books of the Bible over a five year period.    SBs were and are serious about sharing the gospel and its implications through the Sunday school and small groups. Most Sunday school leaders are trained to be aware of developmental issues at the formative stages of human development and how the gospel and knowledge of Scripture is best acquired and applied at that stage.    Churches receive coaching and training from their local or state networks called associations at the area level and conventions of churches at the state level. Most of these training events are led by women and men trained in education ministry and human development at one of the many Southern Baptist colleges or six Southern Baptist seminaries for graduate theological education and ministry training.   Most Southern Baptist pastors have a “heart for souls” meaning that they believe God’s Spirit works in the hearts of persons who receive a clear presentation of God’s love and so are drawn into a personal and enduring walk with God.    SBs believe that the mission of Jesus as God’s Son was to remove any barrier to relationship with the holy and loving God through His sacrifice on the cross outside Jerusalem 2000 years ago. It is the Spirit’s work to make that event current as conviction and commitment in lives today.    Southern Baptists are the most self-critical when it comes to whether or not people are being baptized and new churches are being started.         How can a baby go to Sunday School, or a small child? What does this mean for the baby or child?   Infants and young children go to Sunday School as brought by their parents. They learn experientially that church is a safe, loving and interesting environment. They hear music and songs of Jesus and this lays down a rich positive affective memory for their later development as they become more abstract thinkers and are able to read and learn in primary school.         The Sunday school is a large part of Christian life in the Southern Baptist Church. Please let us know why is there so much time spent on Biblical study, and how does a child get to be introduced to the Bible? Can you tell us what you tell the Sunday school Ministers what it is in Christian formation that is key to Sunday school for adult disciples and young people. Tell us, too, what is new in the life of young people in their Christian education. I understand from what I’ve been told this can mean going into the world in a missionary way to help others. What is the lesson here, and what is the need for this for a member in his religious life as a member of the Church?   One of the more interesting changes that is occurring in Sunday School and small group ministry among SBs is the movement, from students to adults, to practice “what we preach” by going on mission locally, regionally, nationally or internationally to show and share the good

5-Star Spiritual Review of FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO, a documentary on DVD

5-Star Spiritual Review of FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO, a documentary on DVD

For The Bible Tells Me So is about how deeply Christian parents respond and relate to their children when the child comes out of the closet and announces his or her sexual preference.  The story is told from the perspective of five normal, real-life adult homosexual children and their families.  The families struggle with love for the child and the competing desire to do the right Christian thing. A literal interpretation of the Bible, for example, would mean the child is bad, wrong and sinful in the eyes of God.  This DVD is important because it asks us to consider whether the Bible provides an excuse to judge and hate homosexuals.  Several Biblical experts and prominent citizens talk about how a literal interpretation of select phrases from the Bible leads to a gross misinterpretation.  As one of the experts says, “There’s nothing wrong with a 5th grade understanding of God as long as you’re in the 5th grade.”

The movie starts with 1977 video footage of Anita Bryant, the Christian activist and former beauty queen, singer and celebrity endorser of commercial products.  We see the magnificent Anita making anti gay statements.  She is wholesome, righteous, full of her Godly mission, and very sure of herself.  Then a gay guy in a suit calmly walks up to her and throws a cream pie right in her face.  A friend sitting next to Anita reminds her to forgive the pie thrower.  Visibly shaken and sometimes crying, Anita extends the typical Christian version of forgiveness.   “Father,” she says, “I ask him to be forgiven and that we love him and pray for him to be delivered from his deviant lifestyle, Father.”  The chance to witness such a perfect example of the ego-based act of forgiveness is reason enough to see this movie.  Through Anita we come to a new awareness, and it’s this:  ego-based forgiveness is actually a subtle act of attack and hate rather than the love and goodness it pretends to be.  Most of us routinely forgive from an I’m better than you or you’re the bad one posture.

Each child tells about the recognition of self as homosexual, how and when parents were told, and what happened next.  We meet Imogene and Victor Robinson.  Gene, their son, is now the first gay Episcopalian bishop in New Hampshire.  We meet the Brenda and David Poteat who have a lesbian daughter, Tonia.  David says when his children were born he made a prayer to God.  “God, please don’t let my son grow up to be a faggot and my daughter a slut.”  Then with tongue in cheek he tells us that God “didn’t do that.  He reversed it.”  Jane and Dick Gephardt’s lesbian daughter, Chrissy, talks about how she was worried her coming out might spoil her Dad’s campaign for president.  Phil and Randi Reitan’s youngest son, Jake, realized he was gay when he was in middle school.  When he told his parents, Phil said “it hit me so hard I felt like I had just had a death.”  And lastly we meet Mary Lou Wallner.  Her lesbian daughter, Anna, committed suicide after being rejected and troubled by her mother’s reaction to her coming out. 

All five stories are emotionally moving, but it’s Mary Lou’s story that makes you cry, and her story stays with you long after the movie is over.  Anna told her mother about her homosexuality when she was away in college.  Mary Lou wrote a letter back to her saying, “I will never accept you…what you’re doing is spiritually and morally wrong…and I will always hate this in you.”   At the time, Mary Lou’s opinion was strongly shaped by the church she was attending.  According to the church, homosexuality wasn’t just a sin; it was the sin of sins.  After her daughter’s death, Mary Lou began independently researching homosexuality.  She discovered that gay people are 3-7 times more likely to commit suicide.  They feel excluded.  They feel like God doesn’t want them.  They feel like there’s no place for them in the church.  “Now instead of taking the Bible literally, I have to take it in the context of the day in which it was written.  I believe differently than the way I was raised.”  Mary Lou still attends church, but it’s not the same church. 

We know that love does not attack, and we know that love does not separate.  Therefore, if words from any source are interpreted in a way that justifies judgment and condemnation of our brothers and sisters, then our interpretation of those words must be mistaken.  The Bible has 6 or 7 verses that speak directly to homosexual conduct.  Picking out these highly selective passages draws attention away from the whole message of love and focuses on a minor flaw in the message.  It’s like looking at a tiny freckle and saying the freckle is what’s most important and most relevant about a whole person.  The word abomination, for example, is used in the Bible and is frequently quoted as God’s opinion about homosexual activity.  “If a man lies with another man, it’s an abomination.”  Yet modern day Biblical experts tell us that abomination needs to be re-interpreted within the context of the time in which it was used.  Our current interpretation of abomination means extreme disgust, hatred and loathing, but during Biblical times abomination referred to a violation of a ritual requirement, such as the ritual requirement of marriage.  The Bible also says that it’s an abomination to eat shrimp.  It’s an abomination to co-mingle crops.  It’s an abomination to weave linen and wool together.  All of these other literal interpretations of the word abomination have been deselected from our attention, forgotten and ignored. 

Desmond Tutu, the South African winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and a featured guest in the movie, said, “I can’t imagine that God would punish you because you’re black, not white.  I can’t imagine that God would punish you because you’re a woman, not a man.  And I can’t imagine that God would punish you because you’re a homosexual, not a heterosexual.”

This movie won many well-deserved independent film/documentary awards.  From the pie-in-the-face Anita Bryant moment to the heartbreaking story of Anna Wallner’s suicide, it grabs your attention and holds it.  It’s a compelling, authentic account of what it’s like to be a Christian homosexual in this millennium.  But even more importantly, For the Bible Tells Me So asks viewers to quit playing with homosexuality as a reason to block the love that is our truth.  Do yourself a favor and see it. 

DVD Title: For the Bible Tells Me So
Produced and Directed By:  Daniel Karslake
Distributor:  First Run Features
Copyright: 2007

Karen Bentley is America’s Spiritual Reviewer. She reviews contemporary books and movies exclusively from a love-based perspective. For more information go to