Posts filed under: Church/Ministry

I have been one that likes music for as long as I can remember. Different genres of music can be found on my playlists and radios: rock, rap, country, swing, folk, etc.

I have been accused a few times in the past of being born in the wrong generation because of my music taste. I’m on the tail end of Generation X (born in 1979). While my childhood was in the 1980s, and my teen years in the 1990s, if I had my choice of music, it would probably be the classic rock of the 1960s & 70s.

In 1965, a group known as The Byrds released their hit song “Turn, Turn, Turn.” The song would go on to be #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 by end of that year. This song is taken just about word for word from the English version of Ecclesiastes 3.

In this passage from the Bible, we see King Solomon sharing some of the wisdom that God had granted to him as he recognized the reality of seasons. King Solomon saw that there was a time and place for everything under the sun. There were even seasons in life.

Contrary to what we may experience where I live, there are typically four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Around here (north Mississippi), we see most of these seasons regularly. Each season gives way to the next and moves on again.

Some people see seasons in life. They could think of spring as the childhood years of life where children are born and grow at speeds like no other time in their lives. Summer might be those adolescent years where you are carefree and enjoying life. Autumn would come with adulthood as one seeks to settle down and begin to reap the harvest of what was sown in prior years. Winter would represent the elder years of our lives where we begin to slow down and rest more.

I can see that picture playing out easily. I believe that there are many who share that picture of how the seasons may look in life. I think this because I hear people say that it’s time for a younger group to pick things up and do them because they’ve done their time. These would be those who see themselves as in the winter season.

The problem with this picture is that it is a linear picture of the seasons that plays through one time. In this picture, the seasons play through one time and then they are done. What we see in nature is that the seasons are not so linear but rather circular. They pass from one to the other and then start again.

I have seen this circular picture of seasons in life many times. I can remember many springtimes where God started a new work in my life (salvation, called to ministry, marriage, parenthood). I have experienced the other seasons many times as well.

The one thing that the circular view of the seasons of life shows us is that no matter what season that you are in a new season is around the corner. As long as we are here on the earth and there is breath in our lungs, a new season will be coming. It may seem like certain seasons are longer than others, but the next season always comes.

With this in mind, it is important that we as Christians not get trapped into the thought that “we are done” and just waiting on the bus to take us to heaven. If God were truly finished with His work in us, we would not be here on this earth. We would be with Him in heaven enjoying the eternal rest prepared for us from the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34). The fact that we are still here on this earth proves that God is not done with us.  We may find ourselves experiencing a winter season of rest, but we need to be on the lookout for the spring that is around the corner.  It may be something completely new that the Lord has never done before in or with us.

Let us make sure that we are not checking out before we are supposed to.  Seasons come and seasons go, but we can be sure that God is working through each of them.

I am no musician. I do have a guitar that I attempt to strum a little now and then. One thing that has always been a regular routine is that when I take the guitar out of its case and before I start playing it, I have to tune it up.

It is interesting that no matter if you play the notes or chords correctly or if you have the correct rhythm, if the instrument is not in tune, then it doesn’t sound right… it is just noise that irritates.

I think Paul said it this way:

If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1 CSB)

Not only do our instruments need tuning, but our lives do as well. Check out this song by Austin Stone Worship, and may it help you tune your life to the proper “key” today in order to be the disciple of Jesus that we should.

This week my wife and I had the opportunity to attend the SEND Conference that was hosted by the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. It was a great time as my wife and I got away and experienced God in a mighty way. I thought that I would share a couple of things that stood out to me from this week.

Great Host

The SEND Conference was hosted by First Baptist Church of Orlando, Florida. I had heard many great things about this church, and this week just solidified what I thought. This church has so many things going on, but they gave their campus over for a week so that people from all over the world could worship together and be encouraged.

Diversity

One of the first things that we noticed about the SEND Conference was the diversity of people that were present. There were people from all generations present. There were people from different languages, cultures, and ethnicities present.

This was a breath of fresh air. Sadly, the Southern Baptist Convention has been seen as a denomination of old white people by many. I know that there were people of younger generations and other ethnicities in our denomination, but it is easy to see the stereotype when you look into some of our meetings.

The SEND Conference was a picture of heaven, at least according to Revelation 7:9-10. There were men and women, boys and girls, various languages and ethnicities… it was a beautiful sight. It really showed me that there is a future for the Southern Baptist Convention.

Amazing Worship

The musical worship for the SEND Conference was led by the Austin Stone worship team. Oh my goodness… I have heard some of their music before, but I have never seen them lead worship before. It was something special.

The one thing that I appreciated most about the worship team was that they were not just up front playing music for others to sing along to. They truly took a pastoral role and led each person in the room to the throne of grace. They took time to explain lyrics and used both older hymns of the faith and contemporary songs. It was truly something for all present.

Gospel and Great Commission Focus

The main thing of the SEND Conference was undoubtedly the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Great Commission that Jesus gave to His church. While there were multiple sessions and many different breakout sessions, each and every one had the gospel and the Great Commission at the heart of them. I loved how each of the breakouts and main session speakers clearly tied things back to the gospel and did not have to stretch it to make it happen. They showed that the gospel truly does apply to any topic.

Meeting New People

I always like to meet new people and hear their stories. This week provided a great opportunity to meet people from all over and hear about what God is doing in and through their lives. It was also good to see a few people that I haven't seen in a while. It was so good to refresh the connection.

I will be grateful for some time to the North American Mission Board for contacting and providing complimentary tickets to the conference in Orlando. It was a much needed break from the norm and time to refocus. I am definitely looking forward to 2020 when they will do it again in Atlanta.

The news story was one that no one wanted to hear. Police had been called to a house to investigate a 911 call. It appeared to be a murder-suicide tragedy. 

Sadness creeps in…

Then you find out that the victims in this story were an elderly couple. 

Sadness grows deeper…

If the news that this tragic event involves an elderly couple was not enough, it is released that this couple was identified by neighbors as a retired pastor from the area. 

That’s just too much…

I wish that I could say that the scene that I have just discribed was fictional and completely made up. The truth is that this is a news story that has impacted an area close to where we live within the past week. 

Alongside the sadness that this story brings stands a gigantic question: What led to this?

The part of this news story that has got my stomach in knots is that the apparent reason behind this murder-suicide is that “the couple’s health was fleeting and they struggled to take care of each other.”

Read that again… “the couple’s health was fleeting and they struggled to take care of each other.” 

My wife and I have recently been talking about the biblical mandate of community among the Body of Christ. If there is one thing that has been struggling in many churches, it is the practice of biblical community. 

This tragic news story should be an alarm for all churches: we desperately need community! 

I know that we have busy schedules. I am as guilty as anyone of putting too much on my plate. This does not excuse us from doing what we have been commanded by our Lord to do: 

I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.  (John 13:34-35 CSB)

Jesus was not talking to the masses when he spoke those words. He was speaking to his disciples. The way they cared for and loved one another would be one of the greatest witnessing tools the Church would have. It would be an undeniable characteristic of those who belong to Jesus. 

This whole thing has brought three prayers to my mind:

  • I pray that this story is an anomaly. I pray that this is not one of many stories that show that the Church is not doing as well with “community/fellowship” as we thought we were. 
  • I pray that the Holy Spirit would comfort the family at this time and bring healing. Can’t imagine the pain they are going through at this time. 
  • I pray the Church would not be blind to the desperate need of community. May we not be fooled into thinking that meeting one-two hours on a Sunday morning constitutes community. It didn’t work for the Church in the first century, and it will not work in the 21st century. 

Last night, my oldest son got his first real taste of “homer umpires” in his baseball game in a nearby town.  I’m sure that if you have been in the baseball scene for a fair amount of time, you have gotten a taste as well.  It is never a good thing when you see the umpires favoring one side over the other.  The children that are learning and enjoying the game are the main ones who get hurt.

As I was thinking this over and it took me down another rail of the thought train.  It is one thing to experience dishonest scales on the ballfields, but it is a whole other thing to experience it in other parts of life.  One area that should never have dishonest scales is the church.

The church is to be a place where honesty and truth are at the forefront.  Proverbs 11:1 tells us that “dishonest scales are detestable to the LORD, but an accurate weight is his delight” (CSB).

In the church, there are many different things that are dealt with.  One of the greatest ministries of the church is dealing with people and their issues.  Because of this, it is important that the church have honest scales when dealing with issues of people of all kinds.  It is easy and tempting to use one set of scales for those who are “outside” the walls and another set for those that are “inside.”  Sometimes there are different scales that are used even between different groups inside the church.  This should not be.

The church of Jesus Christ has been a champion of absolute truth.  There is a truth that is relevant and applicable to all people in all places at all times.  This truth is what is given to us in the Bible.  While one cannot expect unbelievers to act like believers in this life, yet there are still some truths that apply to each across the board.

It may be easier to just let certain things go with some people because “that’s just the way they are” or because “they have been a part of this for so long” or “they hold this position/weight in the church/community.”  This is no reason to use dishonest scales.  When we do give in to that temptation, the cause of Christ is harmed, and the people suffer greatly.

May we be careful to have honest scales in our dealings.  If Christ uses honest scales with each of us no matter what we come to Him with, then we – as followers of Christ – should also use honest scales.  It may not be easier… it may not be what people necessarily want, but it is most definitely what we need.