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Replace feelings with courage in witnessing, Patterson exhorts

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Calling for Christians to love the lost to Christ, Paige Patterson declared during Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s spring convocation that “Christianity is not a faith for wimps.”
“You discredit the service of God if you’re afraid of anything other than God,” said Patterson, who also is in his first term as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Enough with allowing feelings or emotions to dictate a Christian’s evangelistic zeal, Patterson said Jan. 26. Addressing the excuse that “I just don’t feel like sharing my faith,” Patterson responded rhetorically, “Well, how do you feel about the judgment seat of Christ, (when) someday when you give account for (your feelings)?”
Patterson said God stands ready to help Christians face their fear of evangelism. “Seek (those challenges) out and learn that there is where God proves himself able,” he exhorted. “Be a man or woman of courage and while you’re doing it sanctify the Lord God in your heart … as King of kings and Lord of lords the one ruler of your heart.”
When Christians focus more on God’s promises and less on their individual feelings, God blesses his church beyond measure, Patterson said.
“Feelings are terribly misleading,” he continued. “Feeling is no index to truth. “However you feel about your prayers, ‘His eyes are upon the righteous and his ears are open to their prayers, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,'” Patterson quoted 1 Peter 3:12.
Continuing his expository preaching series from 1 Peter, Patterson expounded verses eight through 16 of chapter three.
Patterson said Christian love that promotes unity and mobilizes believers to win the world for Christ is a hallmark of the church.
“If there is any place that the superiority of Christ and the New Testament church ought to manifest itself, it ought to be in the way we relate to one another within the church of God,” Patterson said.
“The church of God will sometimes find itself in situations where peace is impossible, (but) the church ought to be known as (the) peacemakers in society,” he said.
Outside the church Christians must respond to people in love regardless of their actions, Patterson said. When being mistreated, Patterson said, Christians need to remember that God is always in control.
“(God) could have stopped it if he wanted to,” Patterson said. “He knows about it. He’s let it happen … but maybe he’s pruning you so that you will be more productive.”
Commenting on Peter’s exhortation in verse eight that Christians “be of one mind,” Patterson said, God’s church must not be divided over the doctrines of the faith.
“The challenge does not indicate that we must see all things exactly alike,” Patterson explained. “But when it comes to the great doctrines of the faith, it is there where in the church of God there should be singlemindedness.”
Patterson said Christians would do well to recommit themselves to honoring Peter’s admonition to control one’s tongue.
“We in the church of God have even sanctified ways of doing gossip,” Patterson
said. “We just spread gossip in the name of prayer. It’s the hardest thing in the world to keep bad news in your heart and talk about it only to Jesus, isn’t it? If you love life and want to see good days, you better curb the tongue.”
The previous week, Patterson was one of the featured speakers at the Southern Illinois Bible and Evangelism Conference in Benton.
In an interview, Patterson cited several signs of good news in the SBC as well as bad news.
The good news:
“In almost every community of any size across the country, there’s at least one Southern Baptist church that has its afterburners ignited and where God is obviously moving in a marvelous way,” Patterson said. “To me, that is one of the most hopeful signs I see.”
Another positive sign, Patterson said, is “the number of our Southern Baptist churches that have become involved in more than just a monetary support of missions,” with many churches taking people on mission trips in addition to their financial giving.
A third point of rejoicing is “the unbelievable response of our people to the Cooperative Program and to the two mission offerings,” Patterson said, with each setting records in the previous year.
The bad news:
Postmodern philosophy “constitutes the most terrifying reality of the 21st century,” Patterson said. According to postmodern thought, “morality, for example, or any truth is a matter of social convention. There is no such thing as truth or morality. Consequently, (Bill Clinton’s) behavior is unfortunate, but hardly anything to be worked up about.”
As for Southern Baptists, Patterson said he’s concerned about “the degree to which some Southern Baptists are buying into quasi-ecumenical movements. … I think our people can easily forget the blood-bought heritage that they have from the martyrs of yesteryear. What is at stake to me is the whole concept of the believer’s church. I have great concern in our embracing of the neo-charismatic movement and other forms of ecumenical persuasion that we will lose our distinctive witness in the world.”
Another issue Patterson said Southern Baptists need to address is that of church discipline.
“I’m more convinced than ever before that a large percent of the church squabbles, ministerial firings and that sort of thing arise out of the number of lost church members who never really experienced the new birth,” he said. “I think years of being concerned too much about numerical growth and not enough about the ways and purposes of God has brought us to this position.”
The six Southern Baptist seminaries have the large responsibility of producing leaders who can correct these problems, Patterson said.
“Everywhere I turn I see a loss of Baptist distinctives that concerns me,” he said. “I just pray we can hold things together long enough for a new generation of seminary students who understand their heritage to begin to flow through the bloodstream.”

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