Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My Latest Project

I thought I'd share my latest venture. Our church is celebrating its 150th anniversary next year and I volunteered to write a history of the church for the occasion. The major problem I'm facing quite obviously is having begun about 2 or 3 years later than such an undertaking should have commenced. We're just about one year away now from the anniversary celebration. The church was founded on April 14, 1860 and we'll be celebrating it next year on the Saturday and Sunday following that date--April 17 & 18, 2010.

There is a subcommittee of the larger anniversary planning committee that is working with me on the project, assisting with locating resources and investigating some of those. I've tackled the initial task of reading through 150 years of church business meeting minutes, although the church didn't meet for about 4 years during the Civil War as a terse note following the September 1861 business meeting notes: "No Church in the following months on account of the troubles in the border counties: October November and December 1861 – January February March April and May 1862 – Elder J. J. Robinson preached to the Congregation on the first Sunday in May 1862.” Thos. Best C.C. (church clerk). Following that worship service in May of 1862, the church didn't reunite for worship again until June of 1866.

There is also a gap in the minutes from about 1901 to 1912 due to the fact that the records were at the home of the church clerk and were lost in a house fire. Beyond those gaps though, with the exception of some early business meetings that were cancelled "owing to rain," there are regularly scheduled monthly meetings as well as special called business meetings to wade through and seek relevant information which will shed light on our church's past.

Other sources that we've uncovered include deacons meeting minutes, WMU minutes, trustees minutes, the church newsletters, bulletins, printed programs for special events, the minutes of the Blue River Association, articles in the Word & Way, articles in the Lee's Summit Journal, etc. Once again, the biggest challenge in writing the history will be finding the time to do the necessary investigation, writing, and editing. I'm excited about the prospects though and look forward to being able to have a printed account of our church's long history.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Strength for the Journey

One of the downsides of living in the age of instant communications is that we are often inundated by the news of tragedies occurring around the world. In an earlier day, folks might never have heard of some of these events, or news of the disasters would have arrived at best several days or weeks later. With 24-hour news broadcasting, cell phones with cameras, and so many other forms of advanced communication technology, news of worldwide disasters reaches us in minutes. Sometimes the toll in human suffering is so great that we turn off our emotional sensors to block out the pain, steeling ourselves against the hurt and grief that others are enduring.

I recently learned about the worst maritime disaster in American history. I would have suspected that might have been some battleship that sunk during World War II, but in fact it involved a steamboat on the Mississippi River just days after the conclusion of the Civil War. The Sultana was carrying 2100 passengers when it exploded and sank just north of Memphis, TN on April 27, 1865. Only 400 survived the tragedy, most of the passengers drowning in the swollen waters. Of the 1700 that died, all but 100 of these were Union veterans, the majority being survivors of Confederate prisoner of war camps. They had survived the rigors of the battlefield and endured the harsh conditions of imprisonment only to die in an accident on their way home.

The lesson I would underscore from this tragedy is that we never know what lies around the next bend in the river or the next curve in life’s journey. Whether it brings us unexpected joy and happiness or unspeakable sorrow, our calling remains to live by faith each day. May we look together to God’s grace to find the strength to encourage one another along the way.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

MBC Executive Board Makes its Intentions Clear

Well, if there was any lingering doubt as to the resolve of the MBC's Executive Committee to continue the legal battles with the 5 "renegade" agencies as they are fond of labelling them, those uncertainties have all been dispelled by Executive Director David Tolliver's most recent article in The Pathway. The Executive Board voted to authorize an additional $500,000 line of credit to what has already been authorized to fund the ongoing lawsuits against The Baptist Home, Missouri Baptist University, Word & Way, Windermere Baptist Encampment, and The Baptist Foundation. While Tolliver reasserts that no Cooperative Program funds have been tapped to date to fund the lawsuits (an affirmation that is certainly open to question as this article demonstrates) the proposal now is to do exactly that. Beyond extending the line of credit to the tune of an additional one-half million dollars, the MBC is also proposing a new line item in the Cooperative Program budget to fund the lawsuits. The amount of that line item isn't disclosed. [Actually that amount is revealed in a separate article in the same edition. The new budget line being proposed is $469,000, again almost a half a million dollars to sue fellow Baptists].

Through a lengthy bulleted list of what he labels principles that need to be acknowledged, Tolliver cites the example of the SBC itself and other state conventions that have spent CP funds to conduct lawsuits as well as suggesting that using CP funds for all kinds of purposes is just how the MBC does business.

The most disingenuous statement in his article has to be the following quote: "Maintaining, even recovering, lost institutions/agencies is a part of preserving the mission and ministry of that agency." Tolliver completely ignores the undeniable fact that the five named agencies are continuing to conduct their ministries surprisingly well, especially given the fact that the MBC has systematically attempted to undermine their capacity to do so. That of course is especially true of Word & Way where not only were funds cut off from the agency but existing office space was taken away from them and Lifeway and other SBC advertisers were discouraged from using their services. The same could be said of Windermere, where the MBC not only cancelled all of the convention's normal activities there but sought to influence individual churches to not utilize the facilities either. Clearly, the goal hasn't been to maintain the mission or ministry of the agencies but to regain political control of them.

Tolliver claims to be theologically opposed to the lawsuits, but that doesn't prevent him from encouraging churches to support the efforts. He repeatedly makes the claim in the article that the Executive Committee is merely carrying out the wishes of the churches as expressed in the 2001 annual meeting in Cape Girardeau. Tolliver acknowledges that the decision in Raytown this coming fall "will be emotionally charged for all of us" and says that he's praying that Missouri Baptists will lay aside emotions and personal agendas. I wholeheartedly agree with the part about personal agendas, but I pray on the other hand that some emotionally-charged pastors and lay leaders will finally come to their senses and say that enough is enough of suing fellow Baptists and seeking to hinder their ministries. Maybe a bit of old-time emotion might convince those who have quietly acquiesced all along to the demands of a few that it's high time to move beyond partisan politics to Kingdom causes.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Press Release about WorldconneX

As anticipated, the board of WorldconneX voted this past Friday morning to accept the BGCT's recommendation to dissolve the organization and incorporate its functions within a newly structured Evangelism and Missions Department of the BGCT. All of the details of how that restructuring will take place haven't yet been finalized, but Randel Everett (BGCT Exec. Dir.) and Wayne Shuffield (head of the new Evangelisms and Missions Dept.) were both reassuring in their words about wanting to continue the initiatives that WorldconneX has been able to launch in recent years. The official press release of the BGCT is linked to here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I'm catching an early morning flight tomorrow to head to Dallas for what apparently will be my final meeting as a member of the WorldconneX board of trustees. The BGCT leadership is asking WorldconneX to cease operating as a separate entity and for its functions to be taken over by the missions department of the BGCT. Some of the present staff members will in all likelihood continue to serve in the same capacity as BGCT staff members, but not all of them.

I've enjoyed my time serving as a trustee on the WorldconneX board for the group of trustees is an outstanding bunch of Baptists who are vitally interested in missions and furthering God's kingdom. The association with them has been stimulating and enriching and WorldconneX's legacy will include some very significant accomplishments in a difficult time of transition and troubled denominational relationships.

Our convention, the Baptist General Convention of Missouri, owes a great debt to WorldconneX for helping facilitate our involvement in Guatemala these past few years. That partnership continues to grow and expand and a group of 14 from First Baptist Church of Farmington, MO leaves this Saturday for an 8-day trip to Quetzaltenango where they will partner with the First Baptist Church of that city and its outstanding pastor, Roger Marquez. It's been my privilege in these past several months to serve as a resource person for them as they've planned their trip. We had a special time of prayer tonight in our evening service for their team's efforts this next week.

I'm looking forward to the opportunity of being able to express my appreciation and admiration for the fine work that Bill Tinsley and the rest of the WorldconneX staff have done in these years. I pray that the Lord will continue to bless their vision as it is taken up now by the BGCT's missions department.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Baptist Border Crossing Videos

The archived videos from the Baptist Border Crossing Summmit are now available at this link. All of the speakers were outstanding, so it's pretty hard for me to give a recommendation of which one you ought to listen to. If time permits, listen to them all. If you only have time to listen to one, I'd encourage you to listen to Tony Campolo's message from Saturday morning. It's a powerful message for the church in our day. Campolo actually starts speaking at about minute 47:00 so you can drag the slider to there if you want to skip the music, etc., but in doing so you'll also miss a wonderful reading of a Martin Luther King, Jr. speech by Wallace Hartsfeld II, a tribute to Dr. King on the anniversary of his death.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Hillcrest Ministries Open House

Tomorrow is going to be another busy Sunday. We're having a pancake breakfast before services, beginning at 7:30 until about 9:30. After the morning services, there are a couple of things taking place in the afternoon. We're having a visitation at the church for a long-time church member who passed away on the 1st. I'll be doing the eulogy at his funeral service on Monday morning. There is also an open house to invite folks to see the refurbished apartments at the Hillcrest Ministries complex here in Lee's Summit. Hillcrest Ministries has an outstanding success rate in moving people from homelessness to self-sufficiency by employing a 90-day tough love approach, coupled with stringent financial accountability and the support of volunteers and professionals. Our church is sponsoring one of the apartment units and a number of our men have been volunteering their time to fix up not only our own unit but other apartments that other churches are either already sponsoring or will sponsor in the future.

Tomorrow evening I'll have the privilege of baptizing three adult ladies in the service. Their decisions came about as a result of their participation in an Experiencing God discipleship study in our church.

After the evening service, the church's missions committee will be meeting to look at some requests for financial assistance and some missions opportunities we're considering. All in all, another busy day of ministry.

Baptist Border Crossing Event

I had a very enjoyable time these past 3 days participating in the Baptist Border Crossing Summit at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Liberty, MO. The church was an outstanding host for the event and extended wonderful hospitality and assistance. The messages from the keynote speakers were all outstanding. The messages were live videostreamed as they occurred and at some future point are to be available in the archives on the website. I enjoyed each of the sessions, but the highlight for me was hearing Tony Campolo this morning. He definitely fits the role of prophetic preacher when it comes to denouncing systemic sin. The stories of the radical engagement of his students in ministry to the poor and oppressed as well as their work in the Dominican Republic are inspiring and challenging. I'll probably provide a link to this video when it's available as it's definitely worth listening to.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

BGCM Annual Meeting

We had a good meeting of the BGCM at their annual meeting this afternoon at our church, First Baptist Church of Lee's Summit. The crowd wasn't a large one as we had anticipated it might be down due to having moved our meeting up a day in the week in order to accommodate the Baptist Border Crossing event at the Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Liberty, MO. That gathering kicked off tonight with an excellent worship experience and a great message by David Goatley, president of the North American Baptist Fellowship and Executive Secretary of the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention. His message centered on the theme of coloring outside the lines and was based on the text in Acts 11 where Peter is initially called before the religious authorities in Jerusalem to account for his action of taking the gospel to the Gentiles in the case of the centurion Cornelius and his family.

The message should be available via archive later to be viewed. Live video streaming will be offered of the sessions tomorrow so if you're unable to attend, you might check out this website. President Carter will be speaking at some point in the morning between 10 and noon and Tony Campolo is scheduled to speak on Saturday morning.

The BGCM will be hosting our annual missions banquet tomorrow night as a part of the event at Pleasant Valley and we'll be highlighting our Guatemalan partnership. I was able to share a taped interview of one of the pastors from Guatemala this afternoon at the BGCM meeting as he expressed appreciation to our convention for what the training sessions we've been conducting have meant to his own life, his church, and the churches of the western region.