Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Wade Burleson's resignation

If you don't follow SBC politics too closely and aren't a frequenter of Baptist blogs, you might not be familiar with the two-year long struggle that an Enid, OK Baptist pastor and member of the IMB's board of trustees has fought against some rather notoriously misguided actions and policies of that body. I've read Wade's blog now for the past two years and have found him to be a gracious man, even in the face of scurrilous attacks on him by his detractors.

As a former IMB missionary, I've witnessed firsthand some of the negative impact of convention politics at work. I would encourage you to read his post today that provides a capsule summary of his struggles with the IMB Board of Trustees and the eventual impasse that led to his resignation this week. I posted a rather lengthy comment (about #7 in the comment section) expressing my appreciation to Wade for his efforts on behalf of missionaries and his fight to defend the right of principled dissent.

(The link above isn't working right now, as evidently the post in question has been taken down). Those interested in reading Wade's blog can go to his home page and find his explanation of his decision to resign.

Monday, January 28, 2008

De Regreso (Back home)

The trip to Guatemala went extremely well this past week. We had a total of 70 pastors and leaders who attended the training sessions and their response and participation was very encouraging. They were very pleased with the COSECHA materials that Guy Muse and his team are using in Guayaquil. I spent 3 sessions--about 4.5 hours total giving them an introduction to and an overview of the materials. My colleague, Owen Taylor, took about three hours and shared some basic church planting principles with them, including many personal stories and illustrations from his 3.5 year old church plant in St. Louis.

In addition, we had some good times of worship and then fellowship together, both after the sessions and around the tables during our mealtimes. I was able to sit down with the three pastors from the city of Cantel where our church is sending a team next month and finalize some of the plans for our trip. As it's only about 10 minutes from the hotel where we've been hosting these previous pastoral training conferences, our church team will be staying in the same hotel. Our partnership liaison has gotten some very good rates for us from the hotel management and the accomodations and food are very adequate.

We'll be speaking in three different public schools in the mornings, doing a combined VBS for the three churches in the afternoons, and then conducting a leadership conference for children's workers during the evenings. It promises to be a full schedule. I'm accompanying the group as guide and translator this time, but am leaving the teaching responsibilities up to our children's minister and her team.

(Back to this past week's activities...) On Friday and Saturday, a fellow from Georgetown, TX led the convention leadership through a strategy planning procedure that enabled them to redefine a little more clearly their vision and mission statements and to focus on three priority areas that they want to give attention to in the next three years. This visioning conference was facilitated by WorldconneX. I think it was a very profitable time. I especially enjoyed getting to know Sergio Ramos a little better. He's a fourth generation Hispanic pastor who works with WorldconneX and comes from a family with something like 24 pastors altogether in the extended clan. He's currently working on a doctorate at Dallas Baptist and we have some mutual friends from Argentina and elsewhere.

There was also a large group of North Americans in the country participating in a series of evangelistic meetings and home visits through International Commission (formerly International Crusades). They had their victory service at the seminary on Saturday evening so I got to hear some of the music (including a Christian mariachi band) and to meet some of the folks. Several were on my flight home on Sunday. There was also a group from Louisville, KY that had been down working with two different projects--a Habitat for Humanity building in the Quetzaltenango area where we've been doing our training, as well as a Living Water group that was installing a water purification system. It seemed like 2/3 of the flight home was composed of Christian volunteers.

I'll probably share a few more observations in the coming days, but wanted to get this initial post up to inform those who were aware of my trip and especially to thank those who prayed for our efforts. I'm convinced that the Lord heard and answered those prayers. Thanks for being prayer partners in the effort.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Gracious Speech

The following is an article I contributed to our church's bi-weekly newsletter.

On January 21, 1990, at the Australian Open in Melbourne, American tennis player John McEnroe became the first player since 1963 to be disqualified from a Grand Slam tournament for misconduct. McEnroe had earned a well-deserved nickname as the “bad boy” of tennis for his explosive temper. He was constantly challenging calls by linesmen and umpires and did so with a dramatic flair. In the 1990 Australian Open, he crossed the line one too many times with two smashed rackets and a profanity-laced verbal tirade against the umpire that the TV audience heard. His reward for his bad behavior was disqualification for unsportsmanlike conduct.

We jokingly discussed in staff meeting this past week some of our favorite pet peeves. All of us experience things that annoy us in the course of daily living. Sometimes those annoyances are irrational, while at other times they may well be justified. Whatever their source, we aren’t free to vent our frustrations on others in the style of John McEnroe. In Colossians 4:6, the apostle Paul offers us some great advice about our verbal response to others whose conduct vexes us: “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how to respond to each person.” Gracious speech is far more becoming to our Christian witness than a childish temper tantrum. Let’s commit ourselves to communicate grace by our words and actions.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Guatemala Beckons

On Monday I’ll be heading southward once again, destination Guatemala. I’ve lost track of how many trips this makes in the last 3 years or so, but it’s in the neighborhood of 5 or 6. This will be the third in a series of 6 or 7 projected leadership training events for pastors and leaders in the western region of the country. On this occasion, Owen Taylor, a pastor and church planter from St. Louis and the head of the church planting team for the BGCM, will be my traveling companion and fellow conference leader. We’ll arrive on Monday night in Guatemala City, travel to Quetzaltenango on Tuesday morning, arriving in time for lunch at the hotel where the conference will take place, and then begin a series of 5 training sessions that will conclude early on Wednesday afternoon. Owen will be talking about church planting principles while I’ll be giving an overview of the COSECHA manual that Guy Muse and his team utilize in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Cosecha (for non-Spanish speakers) means “harvest” and is an acrostic that focuses on various aspects of discipleship and outreach. For the previous 2 training events, the specific topics were more clearly detailed by the leadership of the Guatemala Baptist Convention in terms of the focus of the conference. This time it’s been more general—just the basic guideline of outreach and evangelism.

We’ll wrap up the conference and head back to Guatemala City on Wednesday afternoon. Thursday will be for some sightseeing in Antigua since this is Owen’s first trip to Guatemala. He leaves to fly back home on Friday since his church meets on Saturday evenings (no they’re not 7th Day Adventists). On Friday and Saturday, I’ll be participating in a strategy planning conference for the Guatemala Baptist Convention that is facilitated by WorldconneX. After that, it’s catching a flight home on Sunday.

The one other thing I hope to accomplish on this trip is to firm up some details for a missions trip that our church will be doing next month to the same area. We’ll be assisting 4 churches in the town of Cantel in western Guatemala with some leadership training conferences for their children’s workers, conducting a joint VBS for the children of these churches, and hopefully engaging in some community outreach activities as well. We have a team of 4 from our church and a couple of ladies from St. Louis who will be joining us for that trip. My son, a doctor, and his wife, a nurse, will be participating in a medical missions trip to the same region in March.

Monday, January 14, 2008


I was tagged by Texas in Africa to participate in the following exercise in self-disclosure.

1. Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself.
3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.

Seven Facts About Me
1. I'm a graduate of the Univ. of Texas where I went originally planning on attending law school after undergraduate studies. I was there in the days of Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell. I actually hit his predecessor, Roosevelt Leaks, with a snowball. I don't know what possessed me to do that but I lived to tell about it.
2. I met my wife on a summer beach project with Campus Crusade for Christ in Panama City Beach, Florida.
3. I once saw a UFO while deer hunting in South Texas. My brother, hunting about a half mile away, witnessed the same phenomenon. I read today about some UFO sightings near Stephenville, TX and it brought back memories.
4. Though not a Baylor graduate, I wrote my doctoral dissertation on Baylor's namesake--Judge R.E.B. Baylor.
5. My wife and I have four sons, ranging in age from 30 to 15.
6. Though we resigned from the IMB five years ago, I continue to make frequent trips to Latin America, participating in missions trips and leadership training events.
7. I am a groundhog, having been born on Feb. 2nd. In an interesting combination of pairs, I was born on 2-2 at 10:10 and weighed 7 lbs., 7 oz.

I'm not sure how many of these I will tag are currently reading my blog, but I'll tag 7 individuals to abide by the rules.
Brian, Paul, Kevin, Jason, Bowden, Guy, and Micah.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Wisdom and Aging

I thought I'd share some thoughts I passed along in the most recent monthly newsletter for our senior adults here at church.

As I was reading some jokes and one-liners the other day on a website that featured senior adult humor, I ran across two statements regarding wisdom that caused me to pause and think a bit. They both express the same truth about wisdom and aging. Here they are:
“It is easier to get older than it is to get wiser.”
“Age doesn't always bring wisdom. Sometimes age comes alone.”

There is certainly a measure of truth in each of these affirmations. A part of wisdom is being able to learn and profit from our own mistakes. None of us is wise enough to always speak, act, or make decisions correctly 100% of the time. When we do mess up, we need to have the humility to recognize the fact and make amends if our words or actions have negatively affected those around us. Wisdom consists in large part of learning through trial and error what works and what doesn’t work—whether the activity in question is a hobby or pastime or something more serious such as seeking to relate well to family, friends, and fellow church members.

The source of wisdom of course is God Himself. It stands to reason then that if we would grow in wisdom as we grow older (something that the two quotes above suggest isn’t automatically assured), we would do well to invest our time in continuing to grow in our knowledge of God and His will for our lives. I’m convinced that this is a life-long process that doesn’t end just because we become senior adults. Every day can be a new adventure of walking in fellowship with Him and learning to experience His guidance in a deeper way.

Several years ago Henry Blackaby’s popular discipleship study, Experiencing God, taught us that one of the key ways that we grow in our relationship with God is by identifying where we see Him at work around us in our world and then joining Him in that process. My prayer for you in 2008 is that your spiritual antennae will be attuned to God’s activity around you and that you’ll find creative ways to join with Him in ministering to the needs of others.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Book Tag

I was tagged by Paul Littleton and asked to share about some books that have impacted me along the way. Without further ado, here's my list:

1. One book that changed your life.
The Extension Movement in Theological Education: A Call to the Renewal of the Ministry, by Ross Kinsler. I took a course on Theological Education by Extension with Dr. Justice Anderson toward the end of my M.Div. work at SWBTS. It profoundly affected my outlook on leadership training, to the point that when we looked at requests for missionaries from different fields of service, I prioritized a TEE request even above a position at a residential seminary, despite having also felt led to pursue a PhD in order to teach. After our first term of service doing TEE and pastoring as well as planting a new church, I did agree to serve at the International Bapt. Theological Seminary in Buenos Aires, but only after inquiring about TEE and being given the chance to revive a program that had functioned well many years earlier under Dr. Anderson.

2. One book you have read more than once.
The Anabaptist Story by William Estep. I was privileged to study under Estep at SWBTS, serving for awhile as his grader and taking a trip to Europe with him to study the sites of the Reformation and the Radical Reformation.

3. One book you would want on a desert island.
Most have opted for a practical survival manual. I think I’d like a dictionary to expand my word power.

4. Two books that made you laugh.
I haven’t read anything very funny of late I have to confess. My son received Stephen Colbert’s I am America (and so can You) recently and I’d like to read that soon.

5. One book that made you cry.
I don’t remember if I actually shed tears reading it or not, but it did impact me very much emotionally – Lord of the Flies.

6. One book you wish you'd written.
Leon McBeth’s, The Baptist Heritage. Dr. McBeth was my supervising professor for my doctoral dissertation and I always appreciated his writing style and command of historical information.

7. One book you wish had never been written.
I could think of several-—The Book of Mormon comes to mind, but closer to our time, I suppose Pressler’s A Hill on Which to Die would be a strong candidate.

8. Two books you are currently reading.
Unchristian by Kinnaman; Dan Kimball’s They Like Jesus but not the Church.

9. One book you've been meaning to read.
Brian McLaren’s Everything Must Change.

10. I’ll pass on tagging anyone else, but if you’re reading this and want to participate, feel free to do so.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Christmas holidays and living missionally

I took a rather lengthy break from blogging over the past few weeks as the Christmas holidays kept me pretty occupied. We were blessed to have all four of our sons home for Christmas plus the families of the oldest two. That meant some special time with the two grandkids as well as with the two daughters-in-law. We enjoyed their visit a lot and had fun with various table games and some rousing video games as well. The day after Christmas we took off for Texas for a visit with my mom. Other than a few snow flurries on the way down through Kansas, we had great weather and a wonderful time visiting with her as well. We drove back to Lee’s Summit, arriving about 9:30 p.m. on Saturday night and I was privileged to preach in both morning services on Sunday in our pastor’s absence. We had a pretty good crowd for the Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s Day. I shared a message from Neh. 8:1-12 entitled “Focusing on What Matters Most” and highlighted four priorities from the text: (1) Spend time with God’s people, (2) Treasure God’s Word, (3) Experience brokenness for sin, (4) Joyfully celebrate God’s presence.

I concluded the message with one of my favorite stories from Tony Campolo. It’s found in the opening chapter of his book, "The Kingdom of God is a Party," in case you’d like to read it. The gist of it in case you don’t have access to the book or prefer my Reader’s Digest version of it is that Campolo found himself wide awake and hungry one morning at 3:30 a.m. while on a speaking trip to Honolulu. He found a greasy spoon diner open and ordered coffee and a donut which Harry grabbed off the shelf (without tongs or wax paper of course) and plopped on his plate. As he was eating, a group of 8 or 9 streetwalkers noisily entered the diner. Their language was crude as well as the subject matter of their conversation and Campolo was planning his exit when he heard one of them who was seated next to him tell her companion that the next day was her birthday. Her friend seated on the other side of her from Campolo responded, “What do you expect me to do, throw you a party or something?” The woman by Campolo replied, “No, I wouldn’t expect you to do that. In fact, I’ve never had a birthday party in my entire life.”

After the women left, Campolo asked Harry if they came in often. He replied that they were regulars every night. Campolo asked if the lady seated next to him also came each night. Harry identified her as Agnes and said she was there each evening. Campolo proposed to Harry that he come back the next night if it was okay and decorate the diner for a birthday celebration for Agnes. Harry agreed and insisted that he would bake a birthday cake for the occasion.

The next night Campolo arrived about 2:30 to decorate the diner with balloons and streamers and a big banner that said “Happy Birthday Agnes.” By the time Agnes and her friends arrived, the diner was packed with other women who shared her profession. News had gotten out via the grapevine about the party. On cue, Campolo led the group in singing Happy Birthday to Agnes and Harry brought out the cake with the candles already lit. Agnes had gotten a bit teary-eyed at the singing of Happy Birthday, but at the sight of the cake she lost it totally and began to weep uncontrollably. Harry kept insisting that she blow out the candles or he’d do so himself, which he finally did. Harry handed Agnes a knife and said, “Go ahead and cut the cake, Agnes. We’re hungry. We want some cake.”

Agnes paused, staring at the cake and finally spoke to Harry. She asked him if they might wait a bit before the cut the cake. He replied, “Sure, it’s your cake. You can even take it home if you’d like.”

Agnes replied, “Can I really? I live just down the street. I’ll be right back, I promise.” Then carrying the cake as if it were the Holy Grail, she walked out of the diner and everyone sat in stunned silence.

At that point Campolo said, “What do you say we pray?” Looking back on the event Campolo said it was a highly unusual setting—a Baptist preacher surrounded by streetwalkers in a diner at 3:30 a.m. in a prayer meeting. He prayed for Agnes’ salvation and the blessings of God upon her life.

When he had concluded his prayer, Harry leaned over the counter a bit confrontationally and said gruffly, “Hey, you never told me you were a preacher! What kind of church do you belong to?”

In a moment of inspiration, Campolo replied, “The kind of church that throws birthday parties for streetwalkers at 3:30 a.m.”

After a brief pause, Harry responded, “No you don’t. There’s no church like that. If there was, I’d join it. I’d join a church like that!”

I’d say that’s a pretty powerful illustration of being missional. May the year 2008 find us all engaged in living missionally.