Monday, August 31, 2009

Follow-up to Forum 121 Gathering

In re-reading my own post (something I don't do very often), I was struck by the fact that one comment I made might easily lend itself to misinterpretation and I wanted to clarify it. I had remarked that I didn't feel that it was necessary for Dr. Reid to sing the praises once more of the Conservative Resurgence and comment on the fact that there will always be a battle to be fought for the Bible. My concluding sentence in that paragraph states, "Angry and argumentative Baptists who excoriate fellow believers with hate-filled words simply aren't fulfilling the command of Jesus to love one another, no matter how much they insist that they're merely defending sound biblical doctrine." As I thought about it, I realized that some might take those words as a criticism of Dr. Reid's own demeanor or presentation at the conference. He in no way was guilty of such an attitude or action from my perspective. His words were gracious and his illustrations clearly indicated a man who shares the love of Christ with a heart of compassion for others. My comment stands though in the sense that his tribute to the Resurgence did nothing in my opinion to strengthen his presentation. It was more like the perfunctory bone tossed to the dogs to keep them hungry and wanting more. I encounter numerous commenters on the Baptist blogsites in particular who can't even conceive of a moderate Baptist as belonging to the family of God and are quick to lash out with accusations of liberal, etc. whenever someone dares to question one of their interpretations. There seemingly exists an utter inability in the fundamentalist mindset to be able to separate the action of questioning their interpretation of a passage with rejecting the Bible itself.

My apologies to Dr. Reid and the forum organizers if my comments somehow indicated that he was guilty of angry or hate-filled speech toward fellow Christians, for he most certainly was not.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Forum 121 Gathering

I very much enjoyed the Forum 121 gathering this weekend that was held at Frederick Blvd. Baptist Church in St. Joseph. The 121 stands for First Century Mission, 21st Century Practices. The most challenging speaker for me of the entire conference was Bob Roberts whom I had heard a number of years ago but not in recent times. Bob is the pastor of the Northwood Church in Keller, TX and they've been instrumental in starting something like 90 different churches. They have a major focus internationally in Hanoi, North Vietnam, and Bob meets with leaders from across the world, including many Muslims, to seek ways to partner in bettering the living conditions of many living in poverty. He truly has a Kingdom focus, despite his Southern Baptist upbringing in East Texas. He alluded to the cosmic nature of Jesus' role where Paul says in Colossians 1 that Jesus came to redeem all things. He spoke extensively about discipleship and made one statement that really struck me. His comment was that we have to push evangelism in our churches because we don't have disciples. Speaking of missional living, he also posed the question, "What if God gave people their jobs not to make a living but to make a difference?"

Rodney Reeves, professor at Southwest Bapt. Univ. in Bolivar, MO also did a great job with his conference on First Century Missional Practices. His introduction followed Bob Roberts' thoughts about the Kingdom, saying that the church is not an end in itself but the means to an end which is the Kingdom of God. Taking the model of Paul, he suggesting our ministry must be prophetic, incarnational, and community-focused.

The other conference leader whose presentation I really enjoyed was Allan Karr, a missions professor at the Denver campus of Golden Gate Seminary. One of his statements that grabbed me was this--"If you make disciples, church happens." He then proceeded to outline a series of shifts needed to achieve a viable 21st Century ecclesiology and expressed them in terms of respiration, breathing in and out.

1. Breathe in - From extrabiblical traditions to biblical minimums. This echoed strongly what Wade Burleson and others have been encouraging Baptists to do in not going beyond the Scriptures themselves in our demands for conformity around non-essentials.
2. Breathe out - From institutional church-based to Kingdom of God based ecclesiology.
3. Breathe in - From a regional focus to a neighborsphere/local community focus.
4. Breathe out - From an organizational maintenance focus to an incarnational community transformation focus.
5. Breathe in - From hierarchical structure to shared leadership.
6. Breathe out - From "going to church" to "being the church."
7. Breathe in - From a focus on a main gathering to "doing life together."
8. Breathe out - From "right belief" to living out sound biblical doctrine holistically.
9. Breathe in - From efficiency-driven strategies to collaborative relational efforts.
10. Breathe out - From strategies of the flesh to a reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit.

Alvin Reid of Southeastern Seminary also did a very good job of highlighting 8 keys for missional living. His main focus, not surprisingly given his role as an evangelism professor, was to focus on evangelism and sharing, using Paul's example in 1 & 2 Thessalonians for his text and point of departure. My only criticism comes from my own admittedly moderate viewpoint. I just didn't see the need for him to extol the virtues of the Conservative Resurgence and stress that there will always be a battle to be fought for the Bible. Moderate or historical Baptists don't have a problem affirming the truth and authority of the Scriptures whatsoever. Allan Karr's comments regarding his 8th point about the shift from right belief to living out sound biblical doctrine holistically resonates much stronger with me. He said that for far too long we've emphasized knowledge and content rather than transformed living. Angry and argumentative Baptists who excoriate fellow believers with hate-filled words simply aren't fulfilling the command of Jesus to love one another, no matter how much they insist that they're merely defending sound biblical doctrine.

Finally, to end on a more positive note, I was strongly encouraged by the great turnout of college students and 20-somethings who were clearly passionate about what was being shared. There weren't a lot of folks my age there, but the millenials and Gen-X'rs are certainly tuning in to the theme of living missionally. That gives me hope.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Last night in our Wednesday evening prayer meeting and Bible study time, we were looking at the healing of the lame beggar as Luke describes the account in Acts 3:1-10 and a portion of Peter's sermon that follows, beginning in v. 12. As I was preparing for the study this past week, a phrase jumped out and grabbed me and I've wrestled with it all week. It's not that it's difficult to understand. It's the impact of the words themselves and the irony they portray. While not an oxymoron as such, the phrase strikes with the force of one. I'm referring to Peter's words in v. 15 where he says of the Jewish leaders who demanded Barabbas' release and Jesus' crucifixion that they had "put to death the Prince of life." The word translated as Prince is the same one translated as author in Heb. 2:10 and as author or pioneer in Heb. 12:2. The notion of having put to death the author or source of life gripped me and I've not been able to shake that verbal image from my mind.

As I pondered that a bit more last evening after the study, it brought to mind another one of those biblical statements that exemplifies this same irony. This one is found in Paul's 2nd letter to the church at Corinth - 2 Cor. 5:21 - where we read, "He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin our our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." The sinless One became sin for us so that we might taste and experience His righteousness.

I suspect that there are many other affirmations in the Bible that possess this same ironic, or oxymoronic type of an impact. Anyone care to suggest another that you've encountered?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Great Quote

One of the blessings I enjoy each day is receiving in my email inbox a daily devotion from the Ravi Zacharias ministry. The devotional series is called "A Slice of Infinity" and is written by a number of different writers on their team. The author who never fails to disappoint with an extremely-well written and thought-provoking devotional is the managing editor, Jill Carratini. In today's piece, Carratini included a quote from Walter Brueggemann in his book, Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth . Brueggemann's statement is worth pondering as we think of our tendency to create God in our own image.

We are your people and mostly we don't mind,
except that you do not fit any of our categories.
We keep pushing and pulling and twisting and turning,
trying to make you fit the God we would rather have
and every time we distort you that way
we end up with an idol more congenial to us.

In Isaiah 44:6-10 and following, the prophet records the words of God Himself as He reminds Israel that He has no rivals, for He alone is God. All attempts to replace Him with an idol are doomed to failure and merely reveal the folly of those who look elsewhere for strength and guidance.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Missions emphasis this coming Sunday evening

At times it’s difficult to keep track of all that our church is doing in the area of missions. There is such a wide variety of ongoing missions projects in which we’re engaged in addition to the special emphases we participate in either be sending volunteers or providing financial support to enable others to go or to undergird their ministries. This coming Sunday night will focus on missions as Janis Mansker (our children's minister) and I share a brief report regarding our trip to Guatemala at the end of July and the team of 9 that went to the motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota will share pictures and testimonies of their experiences of sharing the gospel with the bikers there. Furthermore, we’ll have the privilege as well to hear a brief update from Eduardo Soto Padín, the pastor of the Evangelical Baptist Church of the Word in Fajardo, Puerto Rico that our church partnered with for several years to assist them in building their worship center.

We are blessed by the Lord in order for us in turn to bless others, and our ongoing missions program is one great way of sharing that blessing. Our church actively suppoprt a number of groups and organizations-—Lee’s Summit Social Services, City Union Mission, Hope House, Rachel House, Hillcrest Ministries, Harvesters, KidsHeart Africa, and the Special Care Home at Peculiar to name just a few-—in addition to our regular budget offerings that support missionaries in the U.S. and around the world. It's exciting to be a part of a church that seeks concrete ways to be involved in and support the work of missions both locally, nationally, and internationally.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Strategic Planning

I attended the initial meeting in a series of four projected gatherings whose purpose is to enable the Baptist General Convention of Missouri to formulate a new strategic plan and initiatives for the next five years. One of the blessings of working with such a young convention is that we're not bound by lots of tradition and bureaucracy. That provides a great deal of freedom to engage in some creative thinking and searching about where God would have us be five years from now. Today we basically looked at three different methodologies to help us assess the current realities and challenges we face as well as identifying a large number of groups (most of them being para-church organizations) that are engaging in some creative ministries. The plan calls for us to interview key leaders in these organizations in addition to conducting some listening sessions in churches and encouraging lots of folks to complete an on-line survey to help us assess what they sense the most pressing needs are in their congregations.

It was a productive day with some good fellowship and dialogue as the group worked to develop some exploratory questions for both the listening sessions and the online survey after we had dialogued exensively about the groups we knew of that we doing some "out of the box" things in ministry.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Famous Quotes on Missions

I was deeply moved last night by our church's drama ministry (entitled First Acts) and its presentation in a readers' theatre format of “Bridge of Blood”--the story of Jim Elliott and his colleagues' efforts to evangelize the Aucas of Ecuador. I had first been exposed to the life of Jim Elliott back in seminary days and his famous quote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose,” has challenged my life for the past 30 years or more. In that same vein, I thought I’d share a few other memorable quotes from missionaries and Christian statesmen on the subject of missions.

“Christ alone can save the world, but Christ cannot save the world alone” - David Livingstone.

“I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light” - John Keith Falconer.

“God isn't looking for people of great faith, but for individuals ready to follow Him” - Hudson Taylor.

“Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell” - C.T. Studd.

“Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God” - William Carey.

“If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him” - C.T. Studd.

“No one has the right to hear the gospel twice, while there remains someone who has not heard it once” - Oswald J. Smith.

“We talk of the Second Coming; half the world has never heard of the first” - Oswald J. Smith.

“The mark of a great church is not its seating capacity, but its sending capacity” - Mike Stachura.

When James Calvert went out as a missionary to the cannibals of the Fiji Islands, the ship captain tried to turn him back, saying, “You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages.” To that, Calvert replied, “We died before we came here.”