Monday, March 30, 2009

Strategy Conference Wrap-up

I really enjoyed the strategy conference this past week. Rodney Hammer did a great job of bringing in some excellent speakers to share from their personal experiences in the area of strategy planning. Mark Aderholt, a former IMB missionary in Budapest, did an outstanding job of emphasizing the importance of prayerwalking and knowing your field in order to be able to hear clearly from the Lord what He is leading you to do in terms of outreach and discipleship. Vince Blubaugh of the MBC shared some great insights from his own experience, especially with a church plant he did in Rockaway Beach, MO. Gus Suarez of Midwestern Seminary also shared some very practical suggestions from his background as a church planter and state convention strategist.

Our ministerial staff was able to revise a bit more the prior work that we had done on a missions statement and some core values and the feedback from the other participants and leaders was helpful at that point. We're seeking to implement some of the insights we learned from the conference and share with the church body some of the convictions that we came away with from the week.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Week of Strategy Planning

Starting this afternoon, all of our ministerial staff will be attending a week-long strategy planning conference at the associational office, led by the Blue River-Kansas City Association's executive director, Rodney Hammer. Rodney spoke in our church yesterday morning from Acts 1:1-8 and preached a great missionary message. We've been working on our homework as a staff in advance of this week and have crafted a missions statement, identified some core values, and elaborated a plan that to this point includes several priority concerns and goals. We've determined as a staff to move ahead on this project, trusting that it will lay some good solid groundwork for our church in this interim time without a senior pastor. The spirit of cooperation and enthusiasm for the planning process has been outstanding.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Word & Way article on our recent trip

If you don't subscribe to Word & Way, you might have missed a recent article about our church's trip last month to Guatemala. Jennifer Harris has a write up in the most recent edition about our trip.

I hope you'll check it out if you haven't read about it in Word & Way.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Tale of Two Funerals

Involved as I am in senior adult ministry at our church, I wind up doing numerous funerals each year--for more than I'd like to of course because these folks for the most part have been active church members whom I've come to know and love in the time I've served on staff here. I met with the daughter of one such member this afternoon to plan her mother's service for this coming Monday morning. The lady whose service I will officiate that day was 94 years old and had been a member of our congregation for 47 years. It has been my privilege to know and visit her regularly for the past 6 years or so. I'm okay with that kind of a funeral, even though it certainly prompts some feelings of sadness and sorrow at bidding goodby to a friend.

I'm not so comfortable or emotionally okay with the graveside service I was asked to do this morning for a young couple whose wedding I performed a couple of years ago. They lost their first baby this past week when the mother was 8 and a half months along in her pregnancy. That is the kind of funeral that is much harder to accept emotionally than one where the person has lived a long, full life.

What do you say in a situation like this? I'm convinced that what you shouldn't try and do is to answer the inevitable question of "Why?" Why us? Why our family? Why our child? Attempting to answer those questions is pointless and fruitless. It's pointless because we cannot know the mind of God at this point nor His reasons for allowing the child's death. It's fruitless because what this young couple needed this morning was not a logical explanation (as if there were one) but rather a message of hope and encouragement.

I used David's experience with the death of his son and tried to draw some principles from his response--he worshipped God; he recognized that death was a part of life and resumed his normal activities; and he focused on a future hope when he affirmed that while the child could not come back to him, he would go to the child. One of the final things I shared was a statement that I read in a book by Paul Powell that I received back in the dark ages in seminary entitled Gospel for the Graveyard. In fact, the basic outline (though not the thoughts for the message) were gleaned from the book as well.

The quote that spoke so powerfully to me, and I hope to the couple and their extended family as well, came from another couple who had experienced a similar loss of a young child. Their statement was this: "We have determined not to ask why until we get into the presence of the One who can give us the answer."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Jason & Jen's Medical Missions Trip to Guatemala

I wanted to pass along an email update I received from my son and daughter-in-law, reporting on their trip last week to Guatemala as a part of a medical missions project. I know that many of you were praying for them and wanted to share their report.

Dear Prayer Partners,

First and foremost, thank you to all who remembered us in prayer in our trip to Guatemala this past week. We remained safe and basically healthy in a county where you have to remember to brush your teeth with bottled water and pray constantly while on the highways. Like last year, we had a wonderful experience and probably received just as many blessings as we were able to share with the Guatemalan people. Once again, we were able to see God’s hand at work in all aspects of the trip and in the lives we were able to touch.

Our purpose in going to Guatemala was to support Maya Mesoamerica Mission which was founded by missionaries David and Kathy Doss. Its goal has been to share the love of Jesus Christ through evangelism, church planting and helping establish micro-business opportunities for Guatemalans to provide a living for their families. Our team consisted of several diverse members fulfilling different roles. David Doss led the team having orchestrated the trip and location sites. During clinic days he translated medication instructions to patients in the pharmacy. Harold Harmon is a pharmacist from Alabama. He and his wife Delores operated the pharmacy. Harold’s sense of humor and off key singing served as great entertainment to those waiting to be seen! Chris Hammond, also from Alabama, operated the eye clinic. He worked alongside a Guatemalan translator named David in prescribing reading glasses to patients. A former major league baseball pitcher, Chris joyfully shared his testimony with those he cared for. Pastor Mario, is a local Guatemalan pastor affiliated with the mission. He was key in making contacts in the villages in which we served and would register the patients at the beginning of each clinic day. Kendra Butner, a nurse practitioner, who works in Jason’s office provided medical care, teaching and was able to share Christ with those she served. Sarah Dale, who with her husband John spent the last 6 months serving as short term missionaries with the mission, translated for Kendra. We, Jason and Jennifer, were able to bring medical care, evangelistic outreach and spiritual encouragement to the patients we encountered. As often happens during mission trips, we developed new friendships and deepened old ones with fellow team members while sharing personal blessings with each other.

While there, our team served 400-450 patients hosting five days of clinic in separate rural locations each day. The clinics were located in various church or school buildings. During the clinics we saw a wide variety of medical needs most of which we could address but some severe conditions were beyond our capabilities. We wish that we could share all the touching stories with you, but are unable to fit them on this page. Some of the things that Jason found most rewarding during the trip were the opportunity to pray with every patient seen and distribute Bible’s to those seeking God. Despite the busyness of the day, we make it a point to take the time necessary to share the full gospel message with any non-believer. One young woman prayed to receive Christ and several left with seeds planted where we felt the Holy Spirit was still at work. For Christian believers, we were able to offer prayers of encouragement for them personally and for their churches. Jason also enjoyed the opportunity to work alongside Jennifer and despite language barrier see her provide compassionate care whether in the form of a wound dressing, a hug or a children’s toy. Jennifer truly enjoyed working alongside Jason and watching him share of his love for our Lord to the patients. It was a blessing to see the smiles on the faces of the patients. Some would wait for several hours in hot and dry conditions to be seen, yet they would be so grateful for the care given and never did we hear them grumbling or complaining. They exhibited pure joy despite very difficult circumstances. Jennifer had the opportunity to distribute cloth diapers, carefully made by 2 very giving women from her bible study group, to many deserving babies. Another thing that was very touching was listening to patients in the eye clinic who had been unable to read their Bibles because of deteriorating vision. A simple pair of reading glasses left some with tears in their eyes, a Bible in their hands and the precious gift of being able to read God’s Word.

From the bottom of our hearts we appreciate the generous support of the church making the trip possible, along with faithful prayer partners for safety and success. We would ask you to continue to pray for those we saw including the many people whose names we wrote down who still need to come to know the Lord. Pray others will be placed in their lives to complete the harvest. Pray for those patients with illnesses we were not able to treat including chronic malnourishment, hepatitis, seizure disorders and children with brain injuries. Pray for their healing. Finally pray that God would continue to impress upon our hearts and the hearts of others the need to share Christ’s love.

In His Service,

Jason and Jennifer Snowden

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Off to Windermere

I'll be attending a quarterly board meeting of the BGCM at Windermere encampment the next couple of days. Each spring we have a retreat for our board to help with team building as well as finalize preparations for the upcoming annual meeting of the convention. This year's annual meeting as I've previously posted will be an abbreviated one at our church, First Baptist Church Lee's Summit, in order to facilitate attendance at the Baptist Border Crossing event.

I always look forward to spending time at Windermere. It is such a beautiful facility. I'll be thankful when the litigation brought by the MBC against Windermere is finally finished. Despite repeated rulings by the courts that the MBC has no case against Windermere, the MBC continues to appeal these rulings, spending huge sums of money contributed by Baptist churches for ministry purposes in order to pay the fees of lawyers who continue to insist that the MBC will eventually prevail. Their track record to date hasn't justified their confident assertions.

I'll have the opportunity to give an update to the board on my recent trips to Guatemala as a part of the BGCM's partnership with the Guatemala Baptist Convention. It's always wonderful to be able to report on the good things that the Lord is doing through that partnership.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Ed Stetzer on Discipleship

Ed Stetzer delivered an outstanding challenge on the topic of rethinking discipleship in a recent church planters' conference. I want to reproduce a portion of it here, especially the last line that walloped me both in the head and the heart.

"For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven't stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, 10so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God" (Colossians 1:9-10).

Notice the progression.

Knowing Being Doing

We can observe from Scripture a clear pattern that spiritual transformation begins with exposure to the truth. As God's revealed Truth (the Word) penetrates the mind it leads to the transformation of heart and character. The Apostle Paul expressed it this way:

"Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:2).

The renewal of the mind, enabled by the inner working of the Holy Spirit, brings about spiritual growth.

Here you can see the pattern of knowledge leads to understanding (knowing), which leads to walking worthy (being), which leads to bearing fruit (doing).

It starts with knowing.

That is why in our research we found that the number one statistical correlation to spiritual maturity was the practice of reading the Bible. There was a strong relationship between those who grew spiritually and the practice of reading the Bible.

You don't need to get your people thinking you are clever, you need to get them thinking that the word of God is sufficient.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Baptist Border Crossing Event

When the New Baptist Covenant gathering took place in Atlanta last year, I was unable to attend because of its close proximity in time to two trips to Guatemala I was making. I regretted not being able to attend because the focus on worshipping together with other Baptists of diverse backgrounds and giving attention to the words of Jesus concerning ministry to "the least of these" was very appealing. This year, a number of regional follow-up events to that gathering are being held across the U.S. Here in the Midwest, the gathering is being called the Baptist Border Crossing--making reference to the fact that Baptists from several different states, as well as many different conventions will be coming together for worship and celebration as well as numerous breakout sessions.

The Baptist General Convention of Missouri is one of the groups that has been instrumental in organizing this event. We had already lined up Tony Campolo and former President Jimmy Carter to speak out at our annual convention meeting, and when the idea for a larger gathering of Baptists surfaced, the BGCM opted to shorten its normal two-day convention meeting to just one afternoon session on April 2nd in order to free folks to participate in the broader Border Crossing event. Having had the privilege of hearing Tony Campolo previously, including a week-long series in Buenos Aires at the seminary's annual conferences, as well as hosting him for breakfast in our home, I'm excited about the chance to be challenged by him again. There's a lot of truth in the old adage that good preaching comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. Dr. Campolo's preaching majors on the latter as he calls us to not settle for less than a radical commitment to following the commands of Christ.

For those interested in obtaining more information about the Baptist Border Crossing event that will be held April 2-4 at the Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Liberty, MO, this website has further details. If you live in or near the Midwest, I hope you'll make plans to attend this historic gathering of a broad cross-section of Baptists from the heartland region.