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News for Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Our Denomination
By Lonnie Wilkey
editor, Baptist and Reflector

Over the last few weeks, I have written two columns based on a book (Building a Standard Sunday School) that was written by Arthur Flake and was published in 1919.

Though nearly 100 years old, that book is a wealth of information that is relevant to churches today.

Here is my last installment based on that book. I doubt it is still in print, but if you can find a copy, I highly recommend it for your library.

Flake was a firm believer that a strong Sunday School would boost evangelism, giving, and discipleship. He was also a strong proponent of using the Sunday School to educate Southern Baptists about their denomination and the entities they supported. Keep in mind that 1919 was six years before the Cooperative Program was established. SBC entities were funded then by special offerings taken up by churches.

Flake advocated that Sunday Schools teach members about the work of the Southern Baptist Convention. “Our Sunday Schools need to get the denominational viewpoint. Many of the Sunday School pupils are not church members and we cannot afford to wait until they join to impress them with our great missionary, benevolent, and educational agencies,” Flake wrote.

Is it any surprise that denominational loyalty and our greatest years of evangelism and giving took place in the three or four decades that followed the publication of Flake’s book?

 We had several generations who grew up knowing what it meant to be a Southern Baptist and why we should give to supports missions and ministries. “Denominational days” were recommended and observed in many churches in those days. During Flake’s time giving was through what was known as the $75 Million Campaign. After 1925, the Cooperative Program became the norm for funding missions and ministries throughout the world.

How times have changed.

Over the past 30 years we have raised generations who “know not Joseph.” We have adults who were raised in church that know precious little about our denomination. With a decreasing emphasis on the denomination and especially missions education by our own SBC entities, it’s only going to get worse.

God is not through with Southern Baptists. With all our flaws, we are still the largest missions-sending agency in the world. Think of how much stronger we would be if we followed the example of Arthur Flake and actually taught our people what it means to be Southern Baptist.

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