Hope and prayer in the midst of a crisis
By Jeff Iorg
When all else fails, pray. That’s the response most people make to a crisis — shown once again by the immediate response to the near-fatal injury to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin during the Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game Jan. 2.
Sports commentators — who too often eschew or lampoon references to religion — repeatedly said all they could do in the situation is “hope and pray.”
Social media lit up with similar calls to pray for Hamlin and his family.
One fan in the stadium made a quick sign calling for prayer, which was shown repeatedly on the national broadcast.
Some critics dismiss these calls to prayer as shallow expressions of civil religion, but that misses an important point.
When life is overwhelming, most people revert to their core convictions and beliefs — and for most people that includes belief in God.
While most news about organized religion in the United States indicates an overall decline in church participation and denominational allegiance, the same surveys indicate the vast majority of people still believe in God.
Tragedy brings that out by revealing where we turn for help when circumstances are overwhelming.
Heartache puts people back in touch with their deepest spiritual longings and reduces them to resting on what really matters.
For Christian leaders this should be a motivating reality.
We should reject the superficial distraction of being told our work is irrelevant to secular people who have little interest in relating to God. That’s just not true.
Our message is timeless, addresses the deepest needs of the human condition and demands we communicate it so people have the foundation they need for their darkest hours.
Our discipleship processes must be consistent, focusing on shaping biblical and theological underpinnings so Christians have genuine spiritual resources — not just folk religion — to fall back on.
We live in a frivolous world, captivated by politics, sports, entertainment and countless issues which seem so important — until they aren’t. As Christian leaders, we can’t get caught up in these pursuits to the extent we forget our core responsibility to preach and teach truth that matters.
Hurting people need a spiritual foundation to rest on when all else fails. It’s our job to build it by establishing sound doctrine as the buttress against whatever storms life throws at us.
National calls to prayer reveal people want this more than they are willing or even know how to express most of the time.
Wise leaders recognize these spiritual impulses and what they reveal. We recognize spiritual longings common to humanity and intentionally address them — in season and out of season — with consistency demanded by both the truth we proclaim and the needs of people it meets.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was published by Gateway Seminary on Jan. 4. While in critical condition the first few days after the cardiac arrest, Damar Hamlin made positive steps of improvement throughout the week. Following his Jan. 9 transfer from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center to Buffalo General Hospital, he was released from hospital care Jan. 11.
How associations help pastors
How do Baptist associations help pastors and churches?
Asa Greear, a longtime associational mission strategist and former international missionary, shares three key ways associations can “bring value to our churches” by focusing on relationships, prayer and training.
“Relationships are vital in … knowing our pastors, loving on them,” he said.
“We also pray for our pastors on a daily basis” and “encourage them to pray for one another because prayer is so vital within the ministry that they do.”
Practical training opportunities could be as simple as working alongside church leaders at an outreach event or sharing the gospel alongside pastors, Greear explained.
An association’s ministry priorities are all designed to help churches be more effective for the Lord Jesus Christ, he added.
“Church should be sacrificial, but most people approach it as consumable.” Isaac Adams, founder of United? We Pray
“God was going to make room for me. I didn’t have to be those guys (Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing),” said David Robinson, NBA six-time All Star known as the Admiral, who retired in 2002.
“Something I had been wanting to say in a song is ‘Yes, God is good to make a way and move mountains and do miracles, but also God is still good when He doesn’t do it,’” said Jonathan Gamble, staff writer for Capitol Christian Music Group Publishing. “It’s still for our good.”
“God made His plans for us abundantly clear. … It’s a biblical commandment for us to do these things,” said Rusty Smith, a former NFL quarterback, who is preparing to leave with his family to serve in Kenya with Africa Inland Mission.
“It’s good for Christians to be curious, to understand history and other topics and to know Scripture and theology because these ideas help you better love God with your whole person: heart, soul, mind and strength. Your worldview matters regardless of your career,” said Dan Darling, director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“When your members get excited and begin inviting people to church, God is going to honor that,” said Jack Long, pastor of Farmington Baptist Church, Lewisburg,
“How can the church reach people who are not listening? We need to pursue a brief interaction — just to get them to look up and listen for a short time,” said Mark MacDonald, executive director of the Center for Church Communication.
“When Christ-followers humble themselves and pray, when we get serious about seeking the face of God and turn away from our sins, God will revive the church. When the church is revived, awakening of the lost will follow,” said Gary Dennis, pastor of Old Zion Hill in Independence, Louisiana.
“It is my deepest desire that you would never forget [your worth is found in Him],” Dove Award-winning artist Jordan Feliz told his daughter, Jolie. Feliz wrote a song to share God’s love with his daughter, and a book based on the song is sharing the message with a new audience.
“It feels like we stumbled on to a very important record,” said Bart Millard, lead singer of MercyMe. “It’s perfect timing with an album titled ‘Always Only Jesus’ when we’ve got a divided body of Christ that needs to be reminded of the one common denominator we should all have.”
From the Twitterverse
As believers, we are called to serve others. We all play a vital role in the Kingdom of Christ.
The truth is, people are like rubber bands: We’re most useful when we’re stretched.
The Church better get about being the family. We are fond of calling one another brother and sister, but more often than not live as strangers.
We damage the dignity of others when we refuse to wait for them — whether they need to tie their own shoes or are struggling to find words for the indescribable. We bestow honor on another when we consider him or her worth waiting for.
Your day might begin by your pleading for help. But if you are trusting the Lord, it could end by your praising Him for the help He has given you.
Jesus Christ stands at the heart of the Christian faith — a Person who is to be known and adored, rather than being merely the object of theological analysis and dissection.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is not just historic truth. It is not just the miracle of all miracles. It is the very promise of salvation to all who believe and repent of their sins.
Joy is not the absence of trouble; it is the presence of Christ.
Being easily offended is not a fruit of the Spirit.
Civil discourse is biblical, necessary and leads to solutions. What typically happens on Twitter is neither civil nor biblical and often leads to confusion and conflict. Unfortunate.
“Moral failure is never a blowout, it’s always a slow leak.” —Roy Fish