Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thinking About One's Legacy

For what will we be remembered when we’re gone? What will be our legacy? From time to time I enjoy reading through the obituaries in the Kansas City Star. The things that family members choose to include about their departed loved one can be quite interesting. Reading these death notices reveals that many folks were consumed in their work, as the writing focuses on their accomplishments in the business world. For others, pastimes and hobbies seemed to dominate their time and interests. On the same day this past week, two different obituaries highlighted the deceased’s passion for golf. One spoke of the places where the individual had traveled to play golf, while the other gave the date and location of a hole-in-one that the man had achieved. Frequently there is mention of a special relationship with a family pet. While those things may all be interesting and worthwhile in their time and place, wouldn’t we all prefer to be remembered more for how we lived our lives in relationship to God and others? As we enter eternity and face our Maker, I don’t think God is going to ask us what our golf handicap was, or how successful we were in our business endeavors. I think He will be more concerned about how we measure up on the scale of having lived in accordance with Jesus’ identification of the two greatest commandments—to love God with our entire being, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Applying a crisis event to church life

Jim White, editor of the Religious Herald of Virginia Baptists, recounts an interesting story of an in-flight crisis aboard a plane on which he was recently traveling and makes some great applications of the experience to church life. I encourage you to read it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

SMART Baptists

I received the latest edition of Baptist World today, a news magazine that is published by the Baptist World Alliance. I liked the article written by BWA president David Coffey who says the BWA needs Smart Baptists. He credits Teddy Oprenov, General Secretary of Bulgarian Baptists with the idea.

S - Standing together in worship, fellowship and unity
M - Moving strategically in mission and evangelism
A - Acting justly for human rights and religious freedom
R - Responding to human need and engaging in sustainable community development
T - Thinking theologically.

Coffey elaborates on each one of these principles with illustrations from around the globe where Baptists face unique challenges in each of these areas. I like the acrostic and concur that we could surely use some SMART Baptists.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A Challenging Quote

I heard Bill O'Brien share this quote last weekend at the BGCM's annual meeting and Google'd it to see if it was attributed to anyone. Evidently it is anonymous. I share it because it spoke to me. Here's the quote:

"Hope is the ability to hear the music of the future; but faith is having the courage to dance to it today!"

Bonhoeffer's Death Marked

Today marks the anniversary of the death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor who participated in the German resistance during WWII. Bonhoeffer was a leader in the Confessing Church movement which sought to combat the anti-Semitism of the Nazis. His ties to some high-ranking military officials who were plotting Hitler’s assassination were discovered and Bonhoeffer was imprisoned in April 1943. He was executed on April 9, 1945, just three weeks before Berlin fell and a month before the Nazis surrendered to the Allies. Among Bonhoeffer’s most famous writings is The Cost of Discipleship, which begins with these words, “Cheap grace is the mortal enemy of our church. Our struggle today is for costly grace.” Bonhoeffer goes on to say, “When Christ calls us to follow Him, He bids us to come and die.” His words and his life’s example remind us that the cost of following Jesus can at times be extremely high—even to the point of martyrdom. In our culture we know little of the suffering and persecution that others experience daily for being a Christ-follower. My prayer is that we would prioritize our walk with Christ far above all other things in this life, no matter what that might cost us.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Two Conventions Contrasted

Today marks the beginning of the 6th annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Missouri, meeting at the historic Fee Fee Baptist Church in St. Louis. I drove across the state last night to be here, delaying my departure from Lee's Summit a bit after learning that the Guatemala Baptist Convention president had run into a snag with his passport and wouldn't be arriving yesterday as originally planned. Dios mediante (the Lord willing), he will be getting here at 4:05 p.m. this afternoon, just in time for our missions banquet celebration that starts at 5:00. He will miss a bit of the afternoon's proceedings, but if all goes well he will be here for the banquet and in time to bring greetings to the convention on behalf of the Guatemala Convention this evening.

As usual for the BGCM, no unusual or disturbing business is slated to occur. There will be no hotly contested elections for president or the other convention offices, as these positions in the BGCM aren't invested with any significant power and no one in the convention is seeking to wield that kind of influence anyway. Our meetings are joyful celebrations about what God is doing in and through the life of our convention as we seek to be about our First Priority--Serving Churches. We'll celebrate our partnership with Guatemala and reflect on how God has blessed many through those efforts. We'll hear some great preaching as we focus on this year's theme, "Faith in Action: Making the Most of Every Opportunity."

What we won't observe I'm quite positive is self-destructive denominational infighting and struggles for control as continues to take place in the MBC. The latest edition of the MBC's own official newspaper, The Pathway, recounts a rather tense debate that took place recently on March 27th as the nominating committee fought over a proposed restructuring of that committee in an attempt to influence the direction of the convention through nominations for the new slate of officers to be proposed during their annual meeting this fall.

On top of that, Associated Baptist Press news is reporting today that a Missouri layman is proposing in effect the re-creation of Missouri's own version of the SBC Peace Committee that met years ago to seek reconciliation between moderates and conservatives. The catch this time is that it's conservatives who are fighting against other conservatives. It has long been affirmed that fundamentalism must have an enemy to fight or the movement loses strength, and it would appear that this scenario is being played out in the life of the MBC.

I'm grateful to the Lord to be a part of a convention where our focus isn't on denominational politics and who's in control, but on the work of the Kingdom. If you're a Missouri Baptist who is tired of lawsuits against Baptist agencies or fed up with the internal squabblings of those whose methodology involves power politics, I would invite you to visit us in St. Louis today and tomorrow at the Fee Fee Baptist Church. If you can't attend personally, you can tune in via the Internet as the event will be live-streamed. Go to the BGCM website and click on the tab for the annual meeting. There you'll find a link for the live-streaming video option.

Thanks for your prayers for our gathering as we seek to serve churches.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Latest Round of Legal Wranglings in Missouri

Alice in Wonderland's signature phrase, "curiouser and curiouser," would be an apt description of the latest development in the ongoing Baptist legal battles here in Missouri. Springfield developer William R. Jester has sued the Missouri Baptist Convention for $10 million for lost business and additional punitive damages. An article by Vicki Brown in the Word & Way reports Jester's position as follows:

Jester’s counterclaim charges the convention with making unsubstantiated and negative claims publicly, primarily through the MBC’s news journal The Pathway. Comments “relative to Defendants’ business capabilities, financial capabilities and the status of ownership…are derogatory and were made without any effort to confirm the accuracy…,” the petition notes.

Jester claims the MBC or its representatives warned prospective lenders against financing development of the property. He alleges the convention acted “with evil and malicious intent” and “outrageously when they intentionally interfered with the Defendants’ valid contracts and business expectations.” The MBC also acted “with reckless indifference” to Jester’s rights.

The developer claims the interference has cost him more than $10 million in possible sales or development of the disputed property.

In his counterclaim, Jester is seeking at least $10 million to compensate for those lost profits. He also asks the court to grant punitive damages “in an amount that punishes them.”

“The financial damage they have done to my clients is beyond substantial, and we are looking to the plaintiff individuals and organizations to right that wrong,” Shostak said.

This legal action was taken by Jester this past week and I've been monitoring the MBC's Pathway site to see what if any response the MBC will have to this suit. They are still carrying the earlier story about Judge Callahan's decision to grant summary judgment in favor of Windermere and to dismiss the MBC's suit against Windermere. There is also an interview with MBC attorney Michael Whitehead who expresses confidence that the MBC will win the case in appeals. It remains to be seen if the MBC will go forward with the previously announced decision to appeal Judge Callahan's decision in light of Mr. Jester's actions and the potential of having to pay $10 million if his suit prevails against the Convention. Perhaps some cooler heads among Missouri Baptist pastors can prevail upon the Convention to finally abandon the lawsuits against the 5 agencies which have already cost millions in attorneys fees and allow these Baptist institutions to carry on their vital ministries without further interference. A possible obstacle to that happening could be Whitehead's interest in seeing the suits continue since his firm represents the MBC as legal counsel. Given the fact that Whitehead also serves as parliamentarian for the convention, he could potentially rule as out of order any motion from the floor of the convention to drop the suits. One cannot help but speculate about the potential conflict of interest this represents.

BGCM's annual meeting

This weekend the Baptist General Convention of Missouri will be celebrating its 6th annual meeting at the Fee Fee Baptist Church in St. Louis. This historic church celebrated its 200th anniversary this past year, making it the oldest Baptist church west of the Mississippi River. Among our featured speakers this year will be Bill O'Brien, former executive vice president of the FMB and husband of Dellana O'Brien, former WMU executive director.

It will be my privilege to be the speaker at our annual missions banquet which will take place on Friday evening. We'll also be hearing from Jose Samol, the president of the Guatemala Baptist Convention, at the banquet. Each of us will be seeking to motivate the BGCM churches to an even greater level of involvement in our ongoing partnership with Guatemala. I'll have the opportunity of sharing about some of my recent trips to western Guatemala for leadership training as well as our church's trip in February where we partnered with 3 different churches in the town of Cantel. Jose will be returning to Lee's Summit with me on Saturday evening after the convention wraps up and he will attend our services on Sunday morning and preach in the evening service. It will be my privilege to translate for him as he does so.

The pastor of our church, Dr. Scott Harrison, will also be bringing the convention sermon. If you live in Missouri, especially if you're from the St. Louis area, I encourage you to attend the BGCM's annual meeting this Friday and Saturday. Additional information is available on the BGCM's website. If you cannot be present personally, the event will be available via live-streaming video and will be archived for later viewing as well. Information about the live-streaming option is also available on the BGCM website.