Monday, June 13, 2016

Word & Way Article on Recent Cuba Trip

I had the opportunity in April to make a second trip to Cuba, having visited there previously in October 2014.  I traveled with 5 colleagues representing 3 different agencies: Churchnet, Future Leadership Foundation, and the Baptist Home.  My Churchnet colleague, Brian Kaylor, was written a nice summary of our visit to the island nation in the most recent edition of Word and Way.  I hope that you'll take time to read it.  We're exploring together the best means of responding to some of the needs and opportunities we observed while visiting with the leadership of the Eastern Baptist Convention of Cuba as well as several local pastors.  Click here to read the article.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Scot McKnight on the NeoReformed

I always enjoy reading Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed blog.  Today was no exception as he revisited a post from several years ago about the rise of the NeoReformed as he terms them.  Others speak of this group as the NeoCalvinists, the YRR (Young, Restless, and Reformed), etc.  His blog post today on the subject explores the tendency of this group to act as gatekeepers and exclude other evangelicals whom they deem as failing to live up to the gospel or embrace the truth by their refusal to espouse the doctrines of Calvinism.

This has been a concern of mine for a considerable time as recent years have witnessed the growing spread of the NeoReformed movement in Southern Baptist life in particular through a few of its seminaries where the faculty is decidedly bent in that direction. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Spring Break Trip

I'd like to pass along some thoughts I shared in our latest monthly edition of the Joyful Tidings as I prepare for another trip to Guatemala.

As a child, what did you dream about being when you grew up?  Lots of you as little boys probably thought about becoming a policeman or fireman--visible community helpers who live a dangerous lifestyle.  Others perhaps aspired to be lawyers, doctors, or businessmen.  I suspect that among the ladies growing up prior to World War II, the majority of you aspired to be teachers or homemakers as these were the normal career choices for women in that time.  Career options are certainly much more diverse for females in the 21st Century.

How many of you wound up doing what you dreamed about as a child?  My suspicions, and they are just that without any statistical evidence, are that most of us ended up in a profession very different than that we had envisioned for ourselves.  Perhaps a unique opportunity presented itself, or maybe we were influenced by a parent, teacher, or mentor who helped direct us into the career we eventually chose. 

I share these thoughts as a background to ask you to pray for the ten high school seniors from our church who will be accompanying Aaron and Andrea Huffman and me to Guatemala during their spring break, March 19-26.  I'm excited that these young people have a chance to experience missions firsthand at this critical juncture of their lives before they embark upon college, military service, a trade, or whatever else the Lord has in store for them.  Would you pray that the Lord would use the time there to cause them to think deeply about His will and purpose for their lives?  Thanks for your prayerful support for our team as we go to serve at the Tabitha Ministry near the city dump in Guatemala City.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Moved by Gratitude

I returned to the States this past Thursday after a short, quick trip to Guatemala for our twice-a-year leadership training conferences that we conduct in the western city of Quetzaltenango.  This was a special trip in many respects.  It marked the 10th anniversary of our initial training trip there back in 2007.  I was also blessed to be accompanied by Jim Hill, executive director for Churchnet, who accompanied me on that first training trip many years ago.  As always, the group of pastors and leaders who had gathered (81 on this occasion) welcomed us warmly and demonstrated profound gratitude for the efforts of Missouri churches affiliated with Churchnet over the past decade to provide leadership training, as well as other books and resources to help them in their ministries.

Jim did an outstanding job with his sessions--focusing on strategic planning in 2 sessions under the theme "Finding God's Vision for Your Church" and two other workshops on leading a stewardship emphasis in the local church and supervising church volunteers.  I wrapped up with a session on seeking balance in our personal lives and pastoral ministries through various Christian disciplines.

One of the highlights of the gathering was a time at the end of our teaching sessions on the final morning when we typically give the participants a book purchased for the occasion that relates to one of the workshop themes and also receive a gift from the participants.  In addition to this, the leadership team of the association of Baptist pastors in the western region presented us with a formal statement they had drafted the previous evening.  It was a beautiful statement of appreciation for the efforts of our network's churches to make available the training they've received over the past decade.  I was especially encouraged by a statistical highlight that they included in the official statement.  They noted that when the partnership began 10 years ago, there were 15 churches involved in the western region.  In last week's training, 81 participants came from a total of 38 different churches and they clarified that there are actually 60 churches and missions that are currently affiliated with this western association of Baptist churches.  It's been a wonderful joy to have been a part of each of these training sessions over the past 10 years and we look forward to a continued relationship with these wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ in Guatemala.

The above photo was taken during one of our worship times prior to the teaching sessions.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Elijah Brown on the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Almost 2 years ago in March 2014, I was privileged along with several Churchnet colleagues to attend a meeting of the North American Baptist Fellowship in Philadelphia that focused on the future of missional collaboration among Baptists.  On that occasion, I was very impressed with some of the insights shared in small groups by a young professor from East Texas Baptist University.  I've since read other things written by Elijah Brown and greatly appreciate his written contributions in the area of church/state relationships and even more recently in the area of justice issues.

He had a great article today in Ethics Daily that is well worth the read.  In the midst of so much angry rhetoric about Muslim immigrants and refugees fleeing the ongoing crisis in Syria, Elijah shares a positive and hopeful message about our role as Christians in addressing their needs.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Thanksgiving Reflections

I wrote the following thoughts on motives to be thankful as an article for our upcoming church newsletter, the Views.  If you're a member of FBCLS and see it here first before reading it there next week, consider yourself ahead of the game and an overachiever.

As 2015 rushes forward towards its conclusion, I'd like to take this opportunity in the spirit of Thanksgiving to express my gratitude for many things that I count as blessings from God.  I'm grateful for both my immediate family and my church family here at FBCLS.  I count it a high privilege to be able to serve among you.  I'm thankful for countless hours that volunteers have invested this year in many different ministry settings--teaching God's word; caring for children; providing lunches this summer at two apartment complexes; reaching out to Lee's Summit via Downtown Days, Oktoberfest, and Trunk or Treat; and serving the poor, hungry, and ill in Guatemala to highlight just a few areas of service.  I'm grateful for the generosity of our members that make all of these ministries possible.  I'm thankful too for new folks that the Lord has led to join our fellowship this year and for the gifts and talents they bring.  Finally, I'm extremely grateful to serve alongside a wonderful church staff. I am blessed.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

A Memorable Night

This photo was taken in the bottom of the 14th inning of the opening game of the 2015 World Series.  I had the awesome opportunity to attend this series opener with my son Jonathan and we were treated to an epic battle between the Royals and the Mets.  Eric Hosmer hit a sacrifice fly during this at bat to score Alcides Escobar from 3rd.  It was an incredible moment to conclude a game that lasted more than 5 hours.  Very few fans left as the picture can attest.

Unless you've been living on a remote island in the Pacific the past couple of weeks, you know that the Royals went on to win the series 4-1.  These comeback, cardiac kids never gave up, even when trailing in 7 of the postseason games and often very late in those contests.  The city celebrated in grand fashion yesterday with a parade and rally at the Liberty Memorial/Union Station.  An estimated 800,000 people turned out to cheer our hometown heroes and did so in an incredibly orderly fashion.

Those of us who closely followed the Royals all season will undoubtedly be experiencing withdrawal symptoms from baseball until next spring, but for now, we get to bask in the glory of a world championship during this off-season.  Well done, guys!