Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Going Home

The old adage is that you can never go home again. There is of course a very real sense in which that is true. Especially if you’ve been away from that place you identify as “home” for quite some time, in all likelihood both you and the location will have changed so much that nothing will be exactly as it was, as you remember it. Fully aware of those facts, I’m still excitedly looking forward to a trip to what was home for me during my formative years.

I grew up in the small south Texas town of George West, about 90 miles south of San Antonio and some 60 miles from Corpus Christi. Though we had moved around several times before I turned six, we stayed in George West and I attended school there all the way from first grade through graduation from high school. It was one of those small towns (population about 2000) where you know everyone. My folks moved from there shortly after I finished high school to be closer to their work in Alice, 40 miles further south in Highway 281. They had commuted back and forth all those years because they liked the atmosphere of George West and the great school system this small town offered.

Other than attending one high school reunion (the only one I was aware of for my class was a five-year reunion back in 1976) and going back for a funeral, I’ve not really spent any time in George West since graduating from there in 1971. I was pleasantly surprised about a month ago when I got a phone call out of the blue from one of my former football teammates who informed me that someone had taken the initiative to gather all the old films from our games and compile them on DVDs—a separate one for each season that we played. He also told me that those who played in those years were going to gather on June 30th out at the fair grounds coliseum to watch highlights of those games and to eat and spend some time together.

I wasn’t sure initially that I could clear my calendar to make the trip, but decided that it was too important of an opportunity to pass up to renew acquaintances with the guys that I shared a lot of hours with on the practice field and on Friday nights. Yes, Friday Night Lights is a Texas reality. The whole town turned out for our games. We compiled a pretty good record the two years I played on the varsity. We went 18-2-1, including shutting out 8 teams my junior year. Our one loss that year, 36-22, cost us the district title. We had given up just one touchdown all year prior to that game and it was on a punt return. We won the district championship my senior year, only to be annihilated in the bi-district game against the eventual state champ in Division 2A.

I’m excited about seeing these long-lost friends and catching up on old times a bit. My high school class voted me as Most Likely to Succeed. I’m certain that by the world’s standards and in comparison with what some of them have achieved in terms of financial wealth, I won’t appear very successful. Still, I’m looking forward to sharing my story, relating how the Lord has led in the life of my family during these years. I trust that I’ll have opportunities to share a word about God’s faithfulness along the way and just maybe to help point some to the Savior.

Monday, June 25, 2007

First Night of Adult VBS Report

We got off to a great start with our Adult VBS this evening. I’d estimate the crowd at between 90 and 100. We had two of our adults who had gone to Bay St. Louis, MS back in April share about their experiences in helping to rebuild homes for those affected by Katrina. Then we enjoyed some great homemade cakes and pies. We have some great cooks and everything looked really tasty. The study in 2nd Timothy was well received tonight. We looked at some of the background issues regarding authorship, Paul’s purpose in writing the letter, etc., before moving on to a verse-by-verse exposition of the first chapter. The last couple of years I’ve deliberately chosen a short book (4 chapters) so as to be able to cover one chapter per evening.

I’d been praying about the personal application of this first chapter to our lives and was impressed to focus on the proper names Paul mentions in this chapter and encouraged our folks to consider who might be a modern-day equivalent in their life today. For example, who is the Timothy that we are mentoring or discipling? Who is our Lois or Eunice—a family member who helped nurture us in the faith? Is there a Phygelus or Hermogenes in our past who has betrayed or deserted us in a time of great need? What is our attitude toward them? Finally, is there an Onesiphorus in our life who has blessed us and ministered to our needs, or on a more personal note, are we being an Onesiphorus in the life of another?

Tomorrow night we'll hear reports from several of our adults who've been participating in a wide variety of Summer of Service activities. Ice cream is on the menu, followed by chapter 2. It should be a great week.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Adult Vacation Bible School - Year 4

I’m really looking forward to this next week in the life of our church. This will be our 4th annual Adult Vacation Bible School and this year we’re focusing on Paul’s second letter to Timothy. I absolutely love to teach the Scriptures and the Lord has confirmed repeatedly that this is my main spiritual gift, so rather than being a burden or something that is exhausting, I find myself re-energized by a week like this. We’ll meet each evening from about 6:30 until 8:00 p.m. and in the past have had a wonderful attendance for a mid-summer activity—usually around 100-120 people. In past years I’ve enlisted special speakers for the first part of the evening to address some timely issues or provide musical entertainment. We follow that up with some delicious desserts that our own people bake and bring, and then wrap up the evening with a teaching time of 45 minutes or so.

The early part of the evening will be a bit different this year as our church is engaged in what we’ve promoted as a Summer of Service. The idea is to get folks out into the community and engage in some hands-on ministries. I’ve lined up several to share testimonies about their experiences in that regard, as well as our handbell choir that is presenting some concerts in area churches. In some ways it’s a spin-off of the January Bible study emphasis that so many Baptist churches used to observe, but our people seem to respond better to this format. I’ll try to follow up with a report on how things go toward the end of the week.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Is the SBC exporting its controversies overseas?

I would like to direct your attention to an insightful editorial by Jim White of Virginia’s Religious Herald. In it he reacts to Bobby Welch’s new job assignment by the Southern Baptist Convention as “strategist for global evangelical relations.” White raises the question as to whether or not Welch’s task, all disclaimers notwithstanding, will be to convince Baptists around the world to withdraw from the BWA in order to affiliate with this new conservative group. The questions White raises are extremely valid. Do Baptists around the world need for the SBC to export its own political infighting into their local settings? Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17 and His words that all men would know that we are His disciples by our love would be appear to be undermined by Welch’s mission. Just because the SBC couldn’t dissuade the BWA from accepting CBF into its ranks doesn’t give the U. S. convention the right or moral authority to project upon Baptist bodies overseas its own internal struggles. Jim White's editorial is definitely worth the read!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant

Part of my excitement regarding next year’s Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant in Atlanta stems from the line-up of speakers who have agreed to participate in this gathering. I’m particularly excited that Tony Campolo will be addressing the meeting, as I have a deep respect for his ministry “to the least of these.” I was privileged to hear Dr. Campolo during the course of an entire week many years ago when he was invited as the guest lecturer at the annual conferences of the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Buenos Aires where I served on the faculty. It was a tremendous week of hearing Dr. Campolo share stories in his own unique style, each one with a powerful message about our need as Christians to address the pressing issues that the church has far too often neglected. My wife and I were honored to host Dr. Campolo for breakfast in our home one morning, and found him to be a gracious Christian gentleman. I’ve often heard that good preaching ought to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Dr. Campolo has a gift of doing the latter, and his message deserves a broad hearing. I trust that many will make plans to be a part of the Celebration of the New Baptist Covenant next year and hear Tony Campolo and many other outstanding speakers.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Reflections on SBC Annual Meeting #2

I was sitting here this evening following the conclusion of the SBC's meeting in San Antonio and decided to go back and listen to Morris Chapman's address. I'll have to confess I haven't gotten to the point yet where he speaks to the issues of narrowing parameters as has been reported that he does. I would welcome that emphasis, but my attention was drawn to his remarks about the BWA and the fact that the SBC is not an isolationist body. That was greeted with a round of applause. He went on to argue that an illustration of this was the EC's naming Bobby Welch as a global ambassador to seek to establish relationships with like-minded conservative evangelicals in other countries. I heard the reference that my friend Brian Kaylor has alluded to on his blog about Welch's plans to evangelize Antarctica (Chapman says he will visit all 7 continents) and got a good chuckle out of that. What wasn't so funny to me was the implication once again that some 200 Baptist conventions and unions comprising a membership of more than 36 million baptized believers and a community of over 110 million Baptists worldwide aren't conservative evangelicals and thus not candidates for partnering together in missions. Oh yeah, I forgot, they're part of the liberal, America-hating BWA.

For all the efforts of the young conservatives (and I do consider them such) who are opposed to the efforts of the Old Guard Fundamentalists who continue narrowing the parameters for cooperation within the SBC, and though I strongly support the efforts of the former group, I fear that they don't grasp the determination of the fundamentalists to retain control at all costs. The language of holy war that was utilized during the Conservative Resurgence to marshal the troops can still be trotted out as Paige Patterson did to accuse the dissidents of being liberals. That language still appeals to many.

I'm not sure what to make of the low numbers of messengers and the even smaller number of them who actually cast a vote in the "big issues" that were of concern to so many in the blogosphere--the election for 1st VP of the SBC, and the resolution of the EC regarding the BF&M 2000. Only 8500 messengers in the state of Texas, and fewer than 4000 of them who actually voted? Do we chalk it up to apathy, the disenchantment and disenfranchisement of younger Baptists with the political machinery of the SBC, or have many chosen to focus their attention on Kingdom issues rather than Convention politics?

I don't have a clear answer for the last series of questions, but as I've read the conflicting opinions and arguments of bloggers the last couple of days on the significance of the votes cast and the wording of the EC resolution on the BF&M, I couldn't help but think about Paul's words to Timothy in 2 Tim. 2:14 where he urges him to instruct those he is discipling not to wrangle about words. In 2:16 he goes on to instruct him to avoid worldy and empty chatter, and in 2:23 to refuse foolish and ignorant speculations that produce quarrels, because the Lord's bond-servant is not to be quarrelsome (2:24). I suppose some could accuse me of being hypocritical in pointing out these passages in a post that some might consider to be argumentative.

I probably will not completely avoid SBC politics in future posts, as I continue to have a certain fascination with where the denomination of my youth is heading, but as I suspect some fellow bloggers will be doing after the SBC, I think I'll focus more on the things our church and the BGCM are doing in the area of missions and outreach. I'll also post occasionally on the New Baptist Covenant which I'm very excited about.

Reflections on the SBC annual meeting

In light of the current meeting of the SBC in San Antonio this week, I found Joel Gregory’s reflections about his sermon there 19 years ago very insightful. His message, entitled "The Castle and the Wall," sought to find a middle ground between 2 extremes. Most telling in his reflections are his statements about seeking a middle that was not there, and the deep regrets for not having stood with those whom he now considers heroes who denounced the threats of the fundamentalists. It is well worth reading, as are all of the articles today in Ethics Daily that deal with the SBC.