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New Features for a New Yearcomment (0)

January 2, 2014

By Bob Terry


New Features for a New Year

With this first issue of 2014, The Alabama Baptist begins introducing four new features that will appear regularly in the state Baptist paper. 

The first feature is a new weekly column called Theology 101, which will be written by former Beeson Divinity School associate dean Jerry Batson. This column is written for lay readers. Its purpose is to present in easy-to-read, easy-to-understand fashion the foundational truths about what evangelical Christians believe about God, the Bible and the Christian faith. Each article will be short — about 500 words. That means the topics will be presented in bite-size portions and that it may take several articles to deal with a single topic. 

No topic will be presented in exhaustive fashion. There will always be more to say about every Bible-based belief. But regular readers of the column will gain new understanding about what Baptists believe and why we believe it. 

Theology is not a verse-by-verse study. Theology takes an idea and examines all the Bible says about that idea in order to gain a more full understanding than any single passage provides. 

The need for a better understanding of Christian theology is self evident. Americans, including many in our churches, have become biblically illiterate. Barna Research and others tell us that the majority of Americans cannot name more than two or three of Jesus’ disciples or know where to find the Ten Commandments in the Bible. 

If we are so ignorant of simple factual information, imagine how little we know about the nature of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit or the doctrine of last things. These are the kind of truths Theology 101 will examine. 

Our writer Jerry Batson is a Bessemer native and a Samford University graduate. He earned his Th.D. degree at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and spent the majority of his ministry career as a professor teaching at The Baptist College of Florida and the University of Mobile. For 20 years he taught at Samford’s Beeson Divinity School where he served as associate dean and professor of New Testament. 

In addition, Batson is a well-known writer of Sunday School curriculum for LifeWay Christian Resources and serves as pastor of First Baptist Church, McCalla. His first Theology 101 column can be found on page 9 of this issue.

A second weekly feature beginning with this issue is Reflections. Some might call it a cartoon. Walker County native Joe McKeever will provide original material for The Alabama Baptist dealing with the life of the church. Some of the Reflections will deal with programs and emphases regularly promoted in Alabama Baptist life. Others will deal with events and observances. Some will be about everyday experiences. All will be designed to make us chuckle as we see ourselves through a mirror of humor.  

It has been said that Baptists sometimes take themselves too seriously. It is also said that a sign of maturity is the ability to laugh at one’s self. Hopefully the Reflections cartoons will cause us to be a little less “uptight” and occasionally recognize the humorous side of what we do. 

Still there is an inherent danger in using humorous material. What one sees as humorous, another sees as deadly serious. What causes one to laugh causes another to feel insulted. It will never be our intent to belittle or insult through the Reflections cartoons. Their only purpose will be to help us look at ourselves in a mirror and see a reflection. 

McKeever is well known to Alabama Baptists. Most recently he was at the 2013 annual meeting in Huntsville drawing sketches of messengers who would pose for him. McKeever’s cartoons have been published many places across the years including The Birmingham News. 

The third feature will be a monthly column titled A Certain Trumpet: Sermons by Alabama Baptists. The title comes from 1 Corinthians 14:8 where the apostle Paul points out the pitfalls of an uncertain trumpet and urges readers to be clear and distinct in their communication. 

Each month this column will provide encouragement and inspiration offered in sermonic fashion. It will also give readers opportunity to experience the varied ways Baptists approach a sermon. The sermons will not be the full text preached from a pulpit but a digest-like presentation that will help readers understand the insights offered by the preacher. 

The initial series focuses on the Ten Commandments with doctoral-level graduates serving in Alabama offering insights into the meaning of one commandment each month for the first 10 months of the year.

The fourth and final new feature beginning in January is titled Heroes of the Faith and will be written by Joanne Sloan, a member of First Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa. This monthly column will look back in history to highlight famous Christians. Their stories will illustrate dramatic ways God has worked across time and illustrate important lessons for today’s Christians. 

Sloan is a noted writer, having been published in a variety of magazines from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s Decision magazine to Focus on the Family publications to LifeWay’s Mature Living magazine. She also is the author of two books dealing with faith stories of missionaries and the importance of spiritual disciplines. 

The Heroes of the Faith column is scheduled for the third issue of each month. 

The four new features for the new year only add to the original content found only in The Alabama Baptist, which remains the only publication devoted to what God is doing through Baptists in Alabama, the nation and the world. 

Whether one is looking for new ideas for local church use, the latest updates from Baptist representatives across the globe, personal stories filled with inspiration and encouragement, Bible studies or news from and about Baptists, the one place providing all of that and more is The Alabama Baptist. 

Take time to read your state Baptist paper each week. It is an indispensable companion on the lifelong journey of Christian discipleship. 

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