Monday, January 18, 2016

Moved by Gratitude

I returned to the States this past Thursday after a short, quick trip to Guatemala for our twice-a-year leadership training conferences that we conduct in the western city of Quetzaltenango.  This was a special trip in many respects.  It marked the 10th anniversary of our initial training trip there back in 2007.  I was also blessed to be accompanied by Jim Hill, executive director for Churchnet, who accompanied me on that first training trip many years ago.  As always, the group of pastors and leaders who had gathered (81 on this occasion) welcomed us warmly and demonstrated profound gratitude for the efforts of Missouri churches affiliated with Churchnet over the past decade to provide leadership training, as well as other books and resources to help them in their ministries.

Jim did an outstanding job with his sessions--focusing on strategic planning in 2 sessions under the theme "Finding God's Vision for Your Church" and two other workshops on leading a stewardship emphasis in the local church and supervising church volunteers.  I wrapped up with a session on seeking balance in our personal lives and pastoral ministries through various Christian disciplines.

One of the highlights of the gathering was a time at the end of our teaching sessions on the final morning when we typically give the participants a book purchased for the occasion that relates to one of the workshop themes and also receive a gift from the participants.  In addition to this, the leadership team of the association of Baptist pastors in the western region presented us with a formal statement they had drafted the previous evening.  It was a beautiful statement of appreciation for the efforts of our network's churches to make available the training they've received over the past decade.  I was especially encouraged by a statistical highlight that they included in the official statement.  They noted that when the partnership began 10 years ago, there were 15 churches involved in the western region.  In last week's training, 81 participants came from a total of 38 different churches and they clarified that there are actually 60 churches and missions that are currently affiliated with this western association of Baptist churches.  It's been a wonderful joy to have been a part of each of these training sessions over the past 10 years and we look forward to a continued relationship with these wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ in Guatemala.

The above photo was taken during one of our worship times prior to the teaching sessions.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Elijah Brown on the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Almost 2 years ago in March 2014, I was privileged along with several Churchnet colleagues to attend a meeting of the North American Baptist Fellowship in Philadelphia that focused on the future of missional collaboration among Baptists.  On that occasion, I was very impressed with some of the insights shared in small groups by a young professor from East Texas Baptist University.  I've since read other things written by Elijah Brown and greatly appreciate his written contributions in the area of church/state relationships and even more recently in the area of justice issues.

He had a great article today in Ethics Daily that is well worth the read.  In the midst of so much angry rhetoric about Muslim immigrants and refugees fleeing the ongoing crisis in Syria, Elijah shares a positive and hopeful message about our role as Christians in addressing their needs.