Sunday, January 31, 2010

New Pastor Officially Installed

Tonight our church took part in a special service to officially install our new pastor, Dr. Blake McKinney. Blake has been serving with us since January 1st, with his first official sermon delivered on January 7th. The service this evening was quite meaningful, with Blake's father sharing some insights and background from a dad's perspective about his son's ministry as a pastor and then reading some Old Testament passages. Blake's sons, ages 9 & 11, also read some scriptures from the New Testament. Our pastor emeritus, Dr. Wendell Page, who served First Baptist Church of Lee's Summit for 19 years before retiring in 2000, brought a charge to both Blake and the congregation. Blake's former minister of music at Lost Mountain Baptist in Powder Springs, Georgia, where he just came from was present as well to give a charge to Blake.

As a part of the service, we also read responsively a Pastor-Church Covenant in which both Blake and we as a congregation pledged to serve the Lord together, praying for one another, as well as fulfilling other Christian responsibilities as pastor and church. All of those present then filed by to sign a poster-sized copy of the covenant that Blake intends to frame and hang on his office wall. We had a great crowd tonight, which meant that the process of signing took a good while, even with four folks or so signing at a time. We had strongly encouraged the members to be present for this special service and our usual 150 or so Sunday night crowd swelled to I would estimate 500-550 or more.

The service concluded with the pastor search committee gathered round Blake and our chairman of deacons leading in a prayer commending him to God's care and leadership. It was a very meaningful service and a joyous occasion for our members.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Back from Guatemala

I had another outstanding trip to Guatemala this past week for the seventh round of leadership training conferences that the BGCM has offered for pastors and leaders in the western region of the country. We had a great turnout with 81 present in all. The two conference leaders who accompanied me both did a wonderful job of communicating some important biblical truths to those attending. The spirit of unity among the pastors there continues to grow and they without hesitation trace the origin of this harmony to our gatherings every six months. A new board of directors for the regional pastors' association was elected and the make-up of the group offers great hope for continued collaboration.

Several church members asked about the 6.1 earthquake that Guatemala had experienced last Monday. We hadn't yet departed from Houston when that occurred, but the folks there in Guatemala City said they had felt it but that it hadn't caused any major damage.

We were able to pay a visit to the Tabitha Ministry on Thursday morning after we had returned to Guatemala City from Quetzaltenango. Carol Bercian and others continue to meet the needs of a growing number of children whose mothers scavenge through the trash in the city dump, looking for things they can recycle or sell. The kids receive two meals a day as well as 2 snacks. Carol also has a ministry with these mothers--having led many of them to Christ and attempting to disciple them. Her brother told us on Thursday as he drove us to Antigua for some sightseeing that there were close to 50 women who had attended a Bible study and worship time at the Tabitha Ministry house the previous evening.

Plans are taking shape for the trip this next month to Totonicapan. We'll have a total of 11 going (9 from our church and 2 from Wyatt Park Baptist in St. Joseph).

Monday, January 11, 2010

Study the Playbook

Noted researcher and pollster George Barna has started blogging. You can find his blog here. He has already posted a couple of interesting and thought-provoking articles--one dealing with house churches and another talking about the leadership exemplified by Peyton Manning. The article on Manning describes what convinced the Indianapolis Colts to select Manning over another highly touted quarterback in the 1998 NFL draft.

Barna writes, "To figure out who might be the best selection for their team, Colts executives set up interviews with both young men. Both prospects discussed their desire to win and their positive feelings about the Colts. The turning point in the Colts’ decision was the answer they received to one particular question: If chosen by the Colts, what is the first thing you will do? Young Manning’s reply, supposedly offered without hesitation, was 'Study the playbook.' His competitor’s response? 'I’m booking the next flight to Vegas so I can celebrate with my buddies.'”

Barna concludes his article, asking the rhetorical question of which player demonstrated the mind and heart of the leader the Colts needed.

I think there's an even deeper spiritual application for believers in this story than the obvious commitment to excellence and leadership that Manning displayed. "Study the playbook" is outstanding counsel for Christians when we remember that God has given us wise instructions in the Bible on how to succeed in the game of life. As we come to know its Author more deeply each day through studying His written revelation to us, we'll find ourselves "equipped for every good work."

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Upcoming Travels

This week I'll be gone a couple of days to Dallas for a joint meeting with some of the leadership of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, the Baptist General Association of Virginia, and the Baptist General Convention of Missouri. That sounds like a lot of generals when you say it or type it. The "generals" of the organizations will be present, but what I like about these folks is that they are very humble and down-to-earth. This will be the third meeting our conventions have held to share insights and best practices as well as discuss the challenges of living and serving in what many have termed a "post-denominational" era.

The following week, it's off once more to Guatemala. I'm as eager as always to go. The leaders whom we work with in the western region of the country have become good friends over the course of the past three and a half years or so that I've been making these trips. I'll have two guys accompanying me this time as conference leaders so I've opted to let them handle the five training sessions while I translate their presentations and the dialogue and interchanges that follow. For one of the guys, this will be his first trip. He's a pastor from the St. Louis area and I'm excited about his participating as I hope he will lead his church to become involved in a church-to-church partnership with a Guatemalan Baptist congregation.

Next month, I'll be leading a group of 11 on a missions trip to Totonicapan, a small department (their term for state or province) that's less than an hour from Quetzaltenango where we conduct our leadership training seminars. I'll be sharing more details about that trip in the future.

In the meanwhile, I did finish the rough draft of the church history project I'm writing and am busily trying to work through editing it. It's far too long I fear and I still have to find additional space for photos. I've enjoyed working on this, but will be greatly relieved and "de-stressed" when it's completed.

Friday, January 08, 2010

What Might Have Been ...

I'm utterly convinced (so it would be impossible to persuade me otherwise) that with a healthy Colt McCoy at the helm in last night's championship game, the outcome would have been totally different. UT was briskly marching toward a TD on their opening possession, following Alabama's failed fake punt attempt, when Colt was injured. Had he remained in the game, I have no doubt that they would have scored not just a field goal but a touchdown on that opening drive. The botched ensuing kickoff by Alabama positioned UT for another quick touchdown with the ball at Alabama's 40 or so. With two TD's under their belt, there's no way UT's defense allows Alabama back in the game.

As it was, Alabama struggled mightily in the second half after Muschamp made some defensive halftime adjustments. At one point well into the half, they had managed only 3 yards of total offense in the half.

Yes, Colt's absence was sorely felt. You can't lose the winningest quarterback in the history of college football and not suffer the effects. Gilbreath played pretty valiantly for a kid who's only taken some snaps during mop up operations in the second half when the game was safely iced away. The two touchdowns to Shipley were nicely executed. I think his baptism by fire will stand him in good stead for his future with the Horns.

Alabama played a decent game, but they didn't dominate at all like they did against Florida. Texas actually had 13 more total yards than Alabama in a losing effort without its star quarterback. Yep, no question in my mind that with Colt in the game, UT wins it easily.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

National Championship Tonight

Well, this is the big one. The Longhorns are competing for their second national championship in football in the last 4 years, having won with Vince Young and company over USC in 2006. I'm wearing my burnt orange sweatshirt today. I'm a lot more underdressed than typical when I'm working at church, but with 10 inches or so of snow on the ground, 2 degree temperatures and wind chills of minus 20 degrees, I thought it was appropriate. Plus it's an excuse to show my team spirit.

Alabama promises to be tough and certainly deserve to be considered the favorite. I'm hoping that UT can hang with them for 3 quarters and that Colt and Shipley can work their magic in the 4th quarter.

Hook 'em Horns!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Living in the Deep Freeze

Like most of the mid-section of the country, and I suppose even beyond according to the news reports, we here in the Kansas City area have been feeling the effects of old man winter's icy blast. He hasn't exactly wanted to relax his grip on us either. The snow that fell on Christmas Eve hasn't even begun to think about melting as the temperatures haven't risen above freezing since then, and there's no real relief in sight. We're expecting a fresh 3-6 inches of snow today, prompting the decision to cancel our Wednesday evening services tonight along with just about every other church in the area it looks like.

I'm slated to assist with another memorial service on Friday morning, but in this case, the burial will have taken place on Thursday in Jefferson City. I'm grateful not to be leading in another graveside service like last Saturday, but feel for those who will be doing so tomorrow in Jeff City. I'll be doing the eulogy on Friday and the memorial service is planned for the chapel at John Knox Village, a retirement center here in Lee's Summit. The deceased was a member of our church for the past four years, having moved here after the death of her husband, a long-time pastor in Missouri. She had a beautiful singing voice and taught voice lessons along the way to many students, also serving as choir and music director at several of the churches where her husband pastored. She will be missed.

I'm hoping for a break in the weather by next week when I'm slated to travel to Dallas with the rest of the leadership team of the BGCM for a joint meeting with our peers from the BGCT and BGAV. After that, it's off to Guatemala the following week for another round of leadership training classes with the pastors and leaders in the western region.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Humor and Humility

Three years ago at this time, our nation’s flag flew at half-mast to honor the memory of former president Gerald Ford, the only man to occupy the Oval Office without having been elected as either president or vice-president. President Ford died the day after Christmas in 2006. Keenly aware of the fact that Americans had not elected him to office and possessing the wonderful ability to laugh at his own frequent blunders, Ford was fond of saying, “I’m a Ford, not a Lincoln.”

Despite his shortcomings, historians credit Ford with restoring dignity to the White House and bringing national healing in the wake of the Watergate scandal. My prayer is that God might use each of us in this coming year, in spite of our own weaknesses and imperfections, to significantly impact our community, state, nation, and world with the Good News. A dose of humor and a strong measure of humility in the spirit of former president Gerald Ford will serve us well in this quest.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Sharing the Gospel in the New Year

On January 1, 1946, a lone U.S. soldier recording information about the deaths of U.S. infantrymen on the island of Corregidor suddenly found himself confronted by 20 Japanese soldiers, waving a white flag and announcing their surrender. One of them had ventured forth from the cave where they were hiding to find water and discovered a newspaper announcing Japan’s surrender some four and a half months earlier. The old saying is that “good news travels fast.” Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. The gospel (which means good news) will only be shared and heard where we take the time and effort to go and proclaim it. As we begin a new year, will you purpose by God’s grace to allow Him to use you to reach friends, family members, work associates, casual acquaintances, or even strangers with the message of God’s love for them? That’s information too important to keep to ourselves. Let’s share it!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

A Long Silence Explained

It's been almost a month I realize since I last posted anything on my blog. Part of the reason has been dealing with some family health issues of my mom who lives with us and my mother-in-law who lives in the area in Kansas City. My mother-in-law had hip replacement surgery about 3 weeks ago, about the same time that my mom began experiencing painful inflammation and swelling in her joints. A trip to the doctor for her brought the recommendation of some physical and occupational therapy and prescriptions for pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications but no real relief.

After our oldest son, a doctor, saw her during Christmas, he helped get the ball rolling for some lab work that wound up being done in the ER of a local hospital on New Year's Eve. She was admitted and additional tests were run and other specialists consulted. Yesterday (New Years' Day) she was diagnosed with rheumatoid athritis and was begun on a regimen of steroids. Thankfully, she was already feeling somewhat better today. She's slated to be released to come home tomorrow. I hate to get her out in the cold to bring her home (the official morning low here today was 5 below zero), but I'm glad that she'll be back under our roof.

My mother-in-law is doing well with the hip replacement but has had some other complications along the way. She's been doing rehab at one of the local care centers and should be released on Wednesday.

On a brighter note and as a further explanation of my lack of posting, I managed yesterday to finally finish the initial draft of the church history I've been working on for many months in preparation for celebrating our 150th anniversary in April. My plans are to finish the revisions and editing this month and have it ready to go to the printer by February 1st. That will be a challenge as I will be gone a week to Guatemala for a leadership training event and two days to Dallas for a joint meeting with the leaders of the BGCT, BGCM, and BGAV. I also have to decide about which pictures to select and how many to include in the history book.

Hopefully I'll be able to post a bit more frequently in the coming days. As I've been working through my notes from the church minutes as well as information from our church's newsletter, I've been tempted to share some of the reflections here that I write for our church. Some of them at least I think are thought-provoking and prayerfully they're also inspirational. I'll probably be posting some of those in the interim while I'm finishing up the history project.

Thanks to those of you who still manage to check in periodically on my blog, even when I've been pretty lax about writing.