Charleston Southern University
WORLD News Service
Bethancourt tells CSU students how
to properly equip for spiritual battle
By Charleston Southern University Communications
CHARLESTON, S.C. (Charleston Southern) -- Phillip Bethancourt, executive vice president for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, spoke in Charleston Southern University's annual Values & Ethics Series at the school's chapel on Nov. 13. He told students, "There is no Switzerland in spiritual warfare. Not taking a side is not an option in spiritual warfare. We are either building up the kingdom of light or the kingdom of darkness."
When Bethancourt was a student at Texas A&M, he attended a college men's Bible retreat in a swampy marshland. Bored with fishing from the dock and armed with a metal baseball bat, a couple of the guys ventured into the swamp, knocked out a small alligator with a crack to its head, put the alligator in the boat with them and headed back to camp. "They were not properly equipped for the long-term battle," said Bethancourt.
In Ephesians 6:10-17, the apostle Paul tells how to win the fight of your life by equipping for battle. Paul was in prison while writing to the Ephesians and saw Roman guards wearing the exact armor he talks about in Ephesians 6.
Ephesians 6:11 says, "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." Bethancourt said, "There is a dangerous plan against us. Satan watches for weaknesses and vulnerabilities, looking for ways to attack."
Bethancourt shared the Armor of God:
-- Belt of truth. "Our life can be driven more by convenience than conviction," he said. Instead, everything in our life should be truth, including our Facebook status and Twitter posts.
-- Breastplate of righteousness. "Christ's righteousness delivers us from the deathblow of sin and guilt. For those of you who have trusted Jesus, your spiritual life is not based on your last sin; it is based on the righteousness of the blood of Jesus Christ. Sin does not define you; His righteousness does," he said.
-- Shoes of the readiness of the gospel of peace. "As we go, always go with the readiness of the gospel. You combat the devil with the truth of Scripture," he said.
-- Shield of faith. In ancient times, a four-by-four-foot piece of wood was wrapped in leather. When entering battle, the warriors dipped the shields in water and moved forward together as a wall of shields. The wet shields protected them when the enemy shot fiery darts. "In spiritual warfare, we need an army around us. The shield for the Christian soldier is faith. When God's people faithfully obey, God fights for them," he said.
-- Helmet of salvation. "We need to take up and put on the helmet of salvation we have in Jesus Christ, which prevents Satan from striking a blow. When you sin again and again, you are not leveraging the power you have in Jesus Christ to fight against temptation," he said.
--Sword of the Spirit. "If you don't have an offensive weapon, you can't go into battle. You must know the Scriptures (your sword) and hide yourself in the story of Scripture," he said.
And what happened to the college guys with the dead alligator in the boat? On the way back to camp, they heard a noise from the front of the boat. The alligator was merely stunned and had come back to life. He was turning circles in the front of the boat because he had lost an eye when they struck him on the head. "They had to strike a final death blow," said Bethancourt.
He concluded, "When we think about what Christ has done on the cross, he has struck the final blow to Satan."
New reality show attempts to resuscitate failing churches
By Sophia Lee
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WORLD News Service) -- Most churchgoers realize this truth after several years of church involvement: Our churches are imperfect. It's a complex, living organism made up of flawed leaders and members of the congregation, struggling to survive through limited resources, complicated relationships, and controversial dramas. If only we had a hotline to dial and fix these issues.
That's the premise behind Church Rescue, a new National Geographic Channel reality show produced by T Group Productions premiered this week.
If you've ever watched the popular show Extreme Makeover, you'll know how the sequence goes: A team of experts swoop in to change somebody's life with their advice and their network's deep pockets—all under a time crunch. You see some tears, a little "tough love," and a nail-biting obstacle or two. They all lead up to the climactic unveiling, in which participants reveal their "after" phase and bask in the shock and praise of family and friends. Church Rescue provides all those elements—except instead of a beauty makeover, it travels across the country trying to resuscitate failing churches.
The team of experts is the Church Hoppers, a consulting company based in North Carolina. A trio of best friends—Kevin "Rev Kev" Annas, Anthony "Gladamere" Lockhart, and Jerry "Doc" Bentley—formed a friendship through a shared frustration with the state of today's churches. They saw churches going through foreclosures, passionate leaders delivering lackluster sermons, and inexperienced squandering of resources—and they decided to do something about it.
"Ultimately, we believe that God put us together, because those frustrations ended up motivating us to do something about those frustrations," Bentley said. Pooling their decades of experience as ordained ministers and businessmen, the three men developed a business model for churches. Their philosophy is that every church needs to balance these three critical areas: systems, business, and marketing.
Each Church Hopper contributes his own area of expertise: Annas, an entrepreneur, handles the business navigations; Bentley, a pastoral counselor, deals with human relations; and Lockhart, a sales and marketing specialist, provides guidance in the church mission and direction.
With their charming Southern accents, boyish personalities, and endearing friendship, the three consultants are naturals on TV. They wear Western boots and hats when visiting a cowboy church, but don leather jackets when meeting with the Freedom Biker Church. They go on conversational walks with congregants, slap the pastor's back in jolly laughter, and then solemnly discuss strategies over milkshakes and burgers.
"We try to understand the culture of the particular church and community before we actually step into it," Lockhart said. "So we do a lot of research before starting the seven-day process."
The way they look at it, each church has an individuality that meets a certain community's unique needs. They try to figure out what that need is, and then help the church direct its purpose to meet that need, no matter what its denomination. Bentley said communities are "screaming for so much variety," and that's what a local church should do: Provide a variety of worship options for people of various beliefs, personalities, and perspectives. "We're not going to go in and try to change their theology," he said.
That kind of open-minded, fit-all approach to churches shows a troubling lack of spiritual discernment. But Church Rescue isn't the gospel; it's still a reality TV show designed to entertain a mainstream, secular audience on an educational channel. For the discerning Christian, Church Rescue can be an interesting opportunity to church hop with three very likeable individuals. Without ever having to leave the couch, you can visit churches of distinct demographic and styles across the nation.
"The biggest thing we've learned through perusing the country and visiting churches of all denominations is that there's a passion, there's a purpose, and there's an excitement to serve a living God in every case," Annas said.
Whether that God is the one true and living God … well, that's up to the viewer's own spiritual discernment.
Copyright (c) 2013 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net