Archive for category Christian Civility

The Work of the Spirit – Rev. Andrew Shull – FBC Woodruff, SC

First Baptist Church in Woodruff, South Carolina, where I serve as pastor, has a long and very interesting history.  Tariff Acts were passed in 1828 & 1832 that adversely affected the economy of the southern states.  Under the leadership of John C. Calhoun, South Carolina voted to “nullify” the federal tariffs.  President Andrew Jackson threatened to send federal troops to SC to enforce their collection.  In Woodruff, loyalties in our church were split between the federal government and the state government.

  1. B. Woodruff describes “a terrible convulsion that shook the church to its very center, and came very near breaking it into atoms. The difficulty grew and increased until the church was literally torn into two distinct factions.  Hard sayings were indulged, bitter feelings ensued, and the future of the church was exceedingly dark.”

After numerous attempts at resolution, the Bethel Association asked the church to hold a day of fasting and prayer to “lay aside all party spirit and hardness, to forgive one another and unite as a band of Christians in the spirit of meekness.”  The day ended with the members forming a line in front of the church.  While hymns were sung, they went up and down the line giving each other expressions of forgiveness, fellowship and love.  It became “a time of general joy.”

  1. B. Woodruff ends his account by stating, “This was the settlement of this mighty difficulty, but like the ocean after being swept by some grand storm continues to lash and foam and fret long after the storm has died away, so the angry passions that had been raised in this tumultuous strife yielded slowly but steadily to the pressure of brotherly love which was re-occupying the hearts of those Christians. Satan was vanquished, but he retired muttering and sullen from a position he once thought was impregnable.”

It is natural to nurse hurts, flame the fires of bitterness, keep track of any offense or slight, hold grudges, keep wounds open and occasionally throw in some salt.  But we do ourselves great harm when we chose to live that way.

There is a better way to live.  It involves swallowing our pride – regardless of who is right and who is wrong, humbling ourselves, extending mercy and forgiveness, and receiving the healing that comes through the Lord.  Christians are commanded to: go the extra mile (Matthew 5:41); settle disagreements and disputes quickly (Matthew 5:23-25); be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9); love and pray for those who mistreat us (Matthew 5:44); forgive (Matthew 6:14-15); speak “only what is helpful for building others up” (Ephesians 4:29) and entrust themselves (their injuries and hurts) to God who judges justly (1 Peter 2:21-23.)  Christians are people who know what it is to be forgiven –  for they have experienced God’s incredible grace and mercy.  And they are people who know how to forgive – because you can’t really experience God’s forgiveness without it changing your heart.  Jesus said, “He who has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47.)

From our earliest years, we learn, often the hard way, the right things to say and the right things to do.  We learn what is acceptable, what will allow us to fit into our families, have friends and keep our jobs.  We learn how to monitor our words and behavior.  Whatever your job, there are some things you just won’t do.  Not because you don’t want to, but because of the consequences.  But sometimes we surprise ourselves and we say something or do something we thought was uncharacteristic.  Where did that come from?  It comes from our heart.  Jesus teaches us “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34.)  We may learn to monitor our words and actions but we often let things like anger, hurt, jealousy, pride, resentment and selfishness get lodged in our heart.  We let things that happened years ago control us for they have been allowed to grow in the darkness.  Solomon writes, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23.)  Your heart affects everything.

Jesus, the Great Physician, can change our hearts.  His grace can work in us from the inside out.  He can take what is broken and use it for our good and for the good of others.  He can address not just the symptoms but the root causes.  Because of His great love for us we can become people who genuinely love others and reflect that love not just in our choice of words and actions but also in our hearts.  “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26.)


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“Miracle on 31st Street’ – Review –

By Mitch CarnellJune 9, 2020 –

If you want to experience joy and feel as though you have been wrapped in a warm blanket of love, then read Susan Sparks’ new book, “Miracle on 31st Street.”

It is a small book of 26 devotionals that will lift your spirits. Sparks spreads out the message of Jesus in a simple but profound manner.

The devotionals are grouped under four headings – Hope, Peace, Love and Joy – plus reflections for Christmas Day and The Day after Christmas.

Quick response, or QR, codes included inside allow readers to obtain a workbook and an Advent calendar.

Born and raised in North Carolina, Sparks knew she wanted to be a preacher by age 7. However, all of her role models in her Southern Baptists circles told her that women could not be pastors.

She then became a lawyer and a standup comedian. After 10 years of being a lawyer, she decided she could deny her calling no longer.

So, Sparks enrolled at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where her calling was honored, and later became lead pastor at historic Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City.

The title of the book comes from the location of the church, which is only three blocks from 34th Street, the location of the famous Christmas movie, “Miracle on 34th Street.”

The book grew out of a series of sermons she preached at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York State.

Sparks takes full advantage of her Southern roots in how she slides the gospel into her wonderful stories. She is a storyteller and a very good one, finding a way to assure us of God’s profound love for each of us in every entry.

In the devotional, “It Is Enough,” she recounts making a cheese grit soufflé and offers a good example of how she uses humor to teach us a biblical truth. “The recipe of life is enough. We are enough.”

In the same devotional she says, “If someone in your life doesn’t call you beloved, it’s their failing, not yours.”

Just to make certain we get the point, she adds, “We are beloved because of who we are. We are children of God.”

The most inspiring story comes in the devotional, “Changing the World with a Five-Dollar Bill.”

Each church member was given a five-dollar bill with the sole instruction to use it to lift someone’s day. The stories that came back from that experience teaches us a lesson on how to do much with little.

Sparks is at her best in the devotional, “Christmas Day.” She quotes a Russian store clerk just after he helps an elderly woman, “If we don’t help each other, who are we?”

You can easily read all the devotionals in one sitting, but I urge you to take your time and savor each one. You will also enjoy giving this book of love and hope to friends.

Mitch Carnell

Mitch Carnell is a member of First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina. He is the author of “Our Father: Discovering Family.” His writings can also be found at

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Pillars of Say Something Nice Sunday

From the First Baptist Church of Charleston – August 31, 1791

We will be careful to conduct ourselves with uprightness and integrity, and in a peaceful and friendly manner, toward mankind in general, and toward Christians of all descriptions, in particular.

Unity in the Body of Christ – South Carolina Baptist Convention – 2007

Whereas Ephesians 4:29 (NIV) says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”; and

Whereas we are reminded in Holy Scripture not to bear a grudge and to love one another (Leviticus 19:180; and

Whereas, Civility in public discourse (spoken and printed) appears to be declining among those of us who claim Jesus Christ as our savior; and

Whereas, in recognition of the negative effects that such behavior has on our wittiness; therefore, be it

Resolved, That we, the messengers of the South Carolina Baptist Convention meeting in Florence, South Carolina on November 13-14 2007, do proclaim our intent to foster a climate of Christian communication that brings honor to our Lord through encouragement and love, and be it finally

Resolved, that we encourage and support activities or programs that will help establish a positive dialogue, between Christians and with non-Christians that honors Christ.

The Catholic Diocese of Charleston – Most Reverend Robert E. Guglielmone, Bishop of Charleston – May 19, 2010

“Say Something Nice Sunday is a wonderful way to express our common love for each other as Christians. Our words should be used to express love not hatred. What better way can we express this belief than to celebrate a day devoted to healing with our words? I heartily endorse the mission of Say Something Nice Sunday and urge all Christians to participate. In 1 Corinthians 13:13, St. Paul tells us that the greatest virtue is love. What better way is there for Christians to express this virtue than to participate in Say Something Nice Sunday?

Cardinal Dolan of New York – March 29, 2011

“Say Something Nice Sunday certainly seems like a great idea to me. How wonderful it would be if all churches and their members decided to say something positive about other Christians and Christian groups at least one Sunday per year in recognition of our common belief in Christ.”

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A Different Easter to Celebrate During Coronavirus War –

It was a different Easter.

Gone were the new outfits. Gone were the in-person Easter egg hunts. Gone were the gatherings together for worship.

Our Sunday School class met by conference call. We watched the worship service on computers, iPhones and iPads. We were together but separate.

Gone were the big Easter family dinners. One friend and I – that was it. My sister in North Carolina laments it was the smallest Easter dinner she had ever cooked, but we were good soldiers in the coronavirus war.

We talked on our telephones, as has become our custom. We accounted for every family member – so far so good. We talked about the sunrise services of our youth when our dad was in charge of the arrangements.

Michael, my son, called to tell me about the new version of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” now showing on NBC.

I thought back to when I accompanied him and his young friend to see the road show version and how I worried about whether or not I was doing the right thing to take them.

My doubts lifted a few days later when I overheard Michael and the same friend discussing in serious tones whether or not Judas had a choice. And to my utter astonishment, discussing whether or not Judas could be saved.

Fourteen-year-old boys trying to solve a mystery that religious scholars have struggled with for two centuries. Yes, I was right to take them to see the show.

I settled in to watch the television version, trying to compare it to the original. It is a beautiful/horrible story or a horrible/beautiful story depending on your point of view.

I was forced to realize the problems of the last week are nothing in comparison to the last week Jesus endured before His crucifixion. Here it was again unfolding on the screen in front of me.

The hundreds of times I have heard the story, read the story, seen the story and told the story do not matter. Time does not soften its impact.

It grabs you and does not turn you lose even though you know the ending, even though you have experienced the ending. You are horrified all over again.

What a story! What an ending! What a new beginning!

Easter is beautiful where I live. The flowers and trees are dressed in such splendor that no store-bought outfit could even come close to competing.

Spring is here. New life is here. Coronavirus or no, a new day is dawning. Easter brings us new hope for all the days ahead.

The telephone rings. A friend is bringing me an Easter basket and a freshly made quiche. I meet her at her car and maintain six feet of distance between us.

She is a devout Christian out spreading joy wherever she can. I’m moved by her thoughtfulness.

It’s late, but it’s Easter. It’s time for me to call my daughter in Tennessee. They are in a different time zone.

“Hello, honey. Happy Easter.”

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