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Theology, missions, social issues key facets of Messenger’s content

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)–In a day when ministries and corporations rise and fall as quickly as the flowers of spring, 90 years of publishing a reliable news source is a notable accomplishment. Oklahoma Baptists have made great strides during nine decades, and the Baptist Messenger offers perhaps the most comprehensive look at the panoramic history of God at work through Oklahoma Baptists.

The early years of Baptists in the state of Oklahoma were every bit as exciting as the work today. New churches were starting. New people were birthed into the kingdom of God through faith in the Lord Jesus. New institutions were beginning.

Today, some of the greatest works of gospel ministry in the world are located in Oklahoma. Falls Creek Baptist Assembly has the reputation of being the piece of real estate where more ministers and missionaries are “called” than any other place in North America. Oklahoma Baptist University is one of North America’s finest liberal arts universities. The same kind of accolades could be applied to numerous ministries in Oklahoma Baptist life, and the Baptist Messenger has been there to tell the story.

For more than a third of those 90 years, Bob Mathews served on the staff and was the main person promoting the special-page editions, which has made the Baptist Messenger the fifth-largest state Baptist paper in the Southern Baptist Convention. Mathews served under four different editors during his tenure, helping make each of them — and the Messenger — successful with his willingness to serve the churches. What Mathews did was so typical of the heart and spirit of the entire Baptist Messenger staff. The people who worked — and now work — at the Messenger have had a passion to share what churches are doing to make disciples in all corners of the world.

Many great icons of Southern Baptist history either wrote in the Baptist Messenger or their sermons were printed in its pages. George W. Truett’s writings appear in many early editions. Then came the consummate theologian-pastor Herschel H. Hobbs.

While he served First Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, as senior pastor, Hobbs wrote a regular weekly column for the Baptist Messenger called “Baptist Beliefs.” In 1988 he wrote, “You do not need to discard your intellectual honesty when you read and study the Bible or hear it preached. For it is God’s authoritative, inerrant word.” Hobbs was once asked why the Baptist Faith and Message adopted in 1963 began with the Bible instead of with God, and whether he thought the Bible is greater than God. Hobbs’ response was classic, “No. But the Bible is the written record of God’s revelation of Himself, His will and His redemptive purpose and work.”

In 1988, on the subject of Christology, Hobbs wrote, “It is true that Jesus of Nazareth was God. Even more wonderful to me is the truth that the eternal God in Christ became Jesus of Nazareth! When God revealed His law, He did so through a man, Moses. When He revealed His grace and truth, He became a man, Jesus of Nazareth. And He did so for you and me!”

Throughout the nine decades of Baptist Messenger publishing, solid conservative theology has been a hallmark of Oklahoma Baptist leaders. While Baptists across the nation have grappled since 1925 with doctrinal identity, Oklahoma Baptists have stayed on course with the Word of God as “a light unto our path.”

One result of having certain theological issues settled is that Oklahoma Baptists have focused their energy on building churches, evangelism and missions. The Baptist Messenger has been there through the decades to tell the story of God’s people on mission in the state, the nation and the uttermost parts of the world.

Oklahoma Baptists have entered several partnerships with missions of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board. The Baptist Messenger seeks to inform readers of the work of the largest missionary force in human history. The Baptist Messenger features a weekly report on volunteer partnership missions to tell the story of Oklahoma Baptists who are making a difference in the world for the cause of Christ. Whether domestic or international, the reports often read like an addendum to the Book of Acts. God is powerfully at work through the cooperative mission projects.

Historians divide the last 90 years into several sections. There are the dividing points created by World War I, the Great Depression and World War II. The Baptist Messenger was there to encourage and comfort and tell the story of faith under fire. Many historians believe the age of terrorism, the Oklahoma City bombing and Sept. 11 significantly changed the way people live and think. The Baptist Messenger was there to report a different dimension of the news than what is offered by the wire services. The Baptist Messenger continues to report the news about how lives are changed when catastrophes bring people to reckon with the frailty of life and their need of a personal Savior.

During the terrorist attacks and natural disasters, many Oklahoma Baptists gave of their time and resources to provide disaster relief. The Baptist Messenger staff not only was there to report the story of God using his people to minister with the gospel, but the Baptist Messenger staff served in the food lines and helped comfort those who lost loved ones.

The Baptist Messenger also has been the primary source of communication about the actions of elected officials in state and national government.

Especially in the realm of social issues, the Baptist Messenger has acknowledged that one of its major purposes is to communicate a biblically centered worldview. There are always special interest groups attempting to influence government. Many of these coalitions are not as interested in the good of Oklahoma families as they are in making a fast dollar or wielding power in their favor.

On many occasions, the Baptist Messenger has been the lone media source articulating why a proposed social choice will hurt those who are already hurting.

In recent days, the Baptist Messenger has repeatedly communicated the message to the state legislature that Oklahoma Baptists do not favor any form of expansion of gambling.

The Baptist Messenger also has encouraged the passage of legislation that will protect children from harmful adult choices that terminate life in an abortuary or hospital. The Baptist Messenger also is clear in reporting the harmful effects of human genetic research. Oklahoma Baptists have a long history of believing that God alone holds the right to determine a person’s days on the Earth, not man.

One needs only to peruse the back issues of the Baptist Messenger to see that local churches are the real passion of the people who have served as editors and staff. By and large the majority of stories in the Baptist Messenger for nine decades have been about people serving in local Oklahoma Southern Baptist churches.

As long as the Lord allows Oklahoma Baptists to be on mission with God, there will be stories to tell and biblical applications to be made to an ungodly culture.

The partnership forged between Oklahoma Baptist churches and the Baptist Messenger has a bright future.

Generations to come will read how the old, old story is new every day.

    About the Author

  • Bryan Barros