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John D. Pierce | Blog


Need a Big Sky adventure? 

Photos by John D. PierceBy John Pierce

For those looking for an experience of reflection and renewal and the exploration of fresh places and ideas, let me invite you to NURTURING FAITH EXPERIENCE: MONTANA.   

This “experimental experience” in Big Sky Country, Aug. 18-23, will be a unique retreat opportunity.

While addressing current issues with some bright-minded people, the group also will help shape a model for future events in Montana.

Sponsors (to date) include Baptists Today, Baptist History and Heritage Society, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina and The Pittman Center of Gardner-Webb University. Other sponsor-participants are warmly welcomed.

Programming will make good use of the many talents within the group as well as some leaders in Montana. Initially, 14 spaces have been reserved. Additional persons will be added as long as lodging and transportation are available to us.


Friend and colleague Bruce Gourley, who lives in Bozeman and is owner of the popular web site, is making great plans and will be our well-informed guide.

Here’s what the schedule looks like:

Monday, August 18

Arrive at the Bozeman, MT airport by 4 pm (earlier if possible). If someone’s flight is delayed, transportation will still be provided.

Western dinner and lodging in Bozeman / Get-acquainted time and overview of plans



Tuesday, August 19

Early breakfast in Bozeman and drive to Yellowstone National Park

Personalized tour by Bruce Gourley

Lodging in the park

Wednesday, August 20

Breakfast buffet at Old Faithful Inn

Second day of touring Yellowstone

Check in and dinner at Parade Rest Guest Ranch

Evening session

Thursday, August 21

All meals, meetings and activities at the ranch with a possible side trip

Friday, August 22

All meals, meetings and activities at the ranch with a possible side trip

Friday night Cowboy Cookout at ranch

Saturday, August 23

Breakfast and depart ranch for Bozeman

(Please make departing flights for noon or later.)

 Cost is $1,200 (based on double occupancy) and includes:

Ground transportation from time of airport arrival in Bozeman (Aug. 18) until airport departure from Bozeman (Aug. 23)

Lodging and meals from Monday dinner through Saturday breakfast

Two-day private tour in Yellowstone National Park

All of the wonderful activities at Parade Rest Guest Ranch near West Yellowstone

Additional information:

Housing at the ranch and Yellowstone Park varies. These are cabins and lodges, not the Ritz. For anyone insisting on a private room throughout the week, please add $250.

Each person is responsible for his or her own travel to and from Bozeman. Reservations should be made as soon as possible.

Much time will be spent in the great outdoors with a variety of optional activities.



To secure a spot, please send a $400 deposit to Baptists Today, P.O. Box 6318, Macon, GA 31208-6318 marked as “NF Montana.”

The balance ($800) will be due June 15.

If you have questions, please ask me:





Live the lessons

By John Pierce

The most common response from first-time visitors to Israel is that the familiar Bible stories learned since childhood (via flannelgraph, for many of us) came alive.

There is something transformative about breathing the arid air, touching the ancient walls, sailing the waters of Galilee and walking the well-trodden city streets and the scenic paths in the countryside.

Such a pilgrimage is greatly enhanced when led by highly knowledge leaders and accompanied by … well, good company. There is a great chance to have such an experience November 6-17. (Note: These are revised dates from what was published earlier, due to airline availability.)

Tony Cartledge, contributing editor of Baptists Today and writer of the Nurturing Faith Bible Studies (who teaches at Campbell University Divinity School as well), will interpret what we see and experience. He holds a Ph.D. from Duke University in Hebrew Scriptures and Ancient Near East Religions.

Also, we will have the great benefit of traveling with Doron Heiliger, a native of Israel and most-sought-after guide. So our interpreter, guide and company will make for a most enjoyable, insightful and inspirational visit.

We will have the unique opportunity to participate in a hands-on archaeological dig at Moreshah in the Valley of Elah, bringing pottery and other finds to light for the first time in more than 2,000 years. In Ancient Jerusalem (City of David), we will slosh through Hezekiah’s Tunnel leading from Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam.

In Jerusalem, we will view the city from the Mount of Olives, walk the Palm Sunday Road, visit the Garden of Gethsemane, pray at the Western Wall and follow the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

We will visit the Galilean countryside to sail on the Sea of Galilee and see a recovered boat from the time of Jesus. We will go to Bethlehem to see Shepherd’s Field and the Church of the Nativity.

We will visit Megiddo and other ancient cities, Nazareth, Capernaum, the Mount of the Beatitudes, the Golan Heights, the Jordan River, Jericho, Qumran, Masada and the Dead Sea as well as other important places — with our able guide and knowledgeable interpreter providing insights at each stop.

Join us!

The cost of $3,800 includes airfare (from select cities), lodging, breakfasts and dinners, and travel on a luxury motor coach for the entire trip.

To reserve your space, send a deposit of $250 per person, payable to Baptists Today and marked “Israel,” to P.O. Box 6318, Macon, GA 31208-6318. Include the full name of each person, mailing address, email and phone numbers.

Indicate your departure city as Atlanta, Raleigh-Durham or Dallas-Ft. Worth. If from another region of the country, please let us see if we can secure a closer departing airport. (Following connecting flights, the group will travel together from Philadelphia to Tel Aviv.)

Full payment will be due July 1. Any refunds due to cancellations will be based on airlines/accommodation policies. Remember: the travel dates are November 6-17. This will be a memorable experience.



The last shall be … last, again?

Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta. Photo by John D. Pierce.

By John Pierce

On this weekend honoring the memory, courage and significant social and spiritual impact of Martin Luther King Jr., my mind goes again to a remarkable reality: He was a Christian (Baptist, even!) minister and this movement for justice and equality was birthed and nurtured in the church — yet some of the strongest opposition came from conservative Christians.

All kinds of rationalization, abuses of Holy Scripture and downright violence (either practiced, condoned or ignored) were common among many of the good church-growing crowds during the struggle for equal rights for African Americans.

Sadly, many strongly professing Christians — including a big chunk of Baptists — have a long track record of showing up late to struggles for basic human equality. Or worse, becoming obstacles to the unstoppable march toward justice by the larger society that somehow sees and embraces biblical truth before those who claim the Bible as their truth.

It was/is the case with racial, ethnic and gender equality — and regarding fairness for gay and lesbian persons.

Yet each unfolding issue gets a rehashing of “This is different” and a fresh run at snagging isolated verses of scripture to be weaved into “But God said” — while ignoring the larger biblical revelation.

Thank God for Martin L. King Jr. and all who put godly causes of justice ahead of fear and personal preferences. And may God help more of the Church to lead in the face of discrimination and injustice wherever and whenever they arise — rather than being last to rightful causes again and again.




The sin of social elitism

By John Pierce

One of the good, early lessons veteran editors taught me years ago came as a warning against using editorial space to simply jump on a favorite soapbox repeatedly. Such writing should be broader and more constructive than just venting against a pet peeve.

This writing (assuming blogs count too) puts me dangerously close to failing to heed such warnings. For it concerns the one thing I observe almost daily that raises my ire (whatever that is).

It has to do with those who profess to be Christian yet relate to other persons — particularly those they perceive to be “below them” — in condescending and disrespectful ways. It is the sin of social elitism, and in many places it appears almost epidemic.

However, such social behaviors may be unrecognized by those who exhibit them. Their thoughts are elsewhere — focused on their wants (elevated to perceived needs) and their convenience.

The root of the problem is precisely a sole focus on oneself.

Expressions take on various forms: Treating service people disrespectfully — such as demanding rather than asking kindly for something from a server in a restaurant.

Then there is parking in a fire lane at the grocery store or going to the front the carpool line because, well, it’s more convenient than parking and walking, or waiting in line, like others.

At the least, it would nice if those with fish symbols and Christian bumper stickers would remove such from their expensive cars before doing those things. That’s the most ire-raising part.

It hard to imagine any attitude or behavior less like Jesus than to appear or act superior to others. Jesus was the great equalizer — the lover and affirmer of all humanity.

A person’s value in Jesus’ eyes was never tied to race, ethnicity, gender, education, wealth — or whether someone belonged to “the club.” In fact, Jesus got in a lot of hot water with the elitists of his day for seeing and treating persons in the ways he did — and calling out those who saw themselves as superior.

Many, many years ago I was told that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. That, I still believe.


'Who's who?'

By John Pierce

Countless books land on my desk throughout the year. It’s one of the blessings and burdens of being an editor. (There are some really bad books out there.)

However, receiving review copies of good books is indeed a blessing. They come in all shapes and sizes and by a wide range of authors.

Sometimes I stick one in my computer bag to read (or scan, at least, to see if I want to read it) in airports, hotels or between appointments. Others I take home for evening reading.

Occasionally, a book will arrive that is so impressive in its presentation that I stop immediately to look through it. Such is the case with Who’s Who In The Bible: Unforgettable People and Timeless Stories from Genesis to Revelation by Jean-Pierre Isbouts, newly published by National Geographic.

It is impressive in size, depth and graphic appeal. The art, artifacts, maps and other graphics (including National Geographic photography) are worth thumbing through the volume even if a word is not read.

Key events and numerous characters found throughout the Bible are identified and explored in seemingly continuous entries.

Very few of its 384 pages are untouched by art. For those who do read the text, however, the scholarship is deep and without the usual presuppositions.

Detailed attention is given to the political and historic contexts in which the biblical story is told. The alphabetical listings of timelines and persons make it an accessible resource as well as the kind of book that finds a prominent place to display simply because of its beauty.

And it’s one of the few books of many in which I put my name in front to keep it from walking away too easily. Perhaps there is someone on your Christmas list who would welcome such a treasure.