Posts filed under: Church/Ministry

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.

I cannot think of a better song for today. 

Saturdays are days that I have looked forward to for most of my life. Getting to sleep in late… no school… laid back schedule… Looney Tunes in the morning (where did they go?)… ball games … on and on…

I still love Saturdays to this day. I may not sleep in like I once did, but Saturdays are days where you can do what you want to done easier. I especially like Saturdays from September to January with all the football going on.

This week, I have been reflecting on events that took place during the first Passion or Holy Week leading up to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We come to one of the hardest, if not the hardest day of the week. I call it “Silent Saturday.”  This includes much of the time between the cross and the empty tomb. 

The only thing really mentioned about this time period in the Bible is found in Matthew’s gospel. 

“The next day, which followed the preparation day, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember that while this deceiver was still alive he said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give orders that the tomb be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come, steal him, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” “You have a guard of soldiers,” Pilate told them. “Go and make it as secure as you know how.” They went and secured the tomb by setting a seal on the stone and placing the guard.”  (Matthew 27:62-66 CSB)

Those who had pleaded for Jesus’ death wanted to make sure that He stayed there. They had shut this rogue Rabbi up, and they wanted to make sure things went back to the way they were when they were calling the shots. 

What strikes me more than the paranoid (yet rightful) worry of the religious leaders of that day was the silence that is found in the Bible. The is not much at all mentioned about that day. 

I can understand that though, too. If the One that you had put all your hope and dreams in was suddenly gone, would you really feel like doing much? I can imagine the remain disciples hiding out wondering if there would be a knock at their door from those who had Jesus killed wanting to do the same to them. 

Some of the most difficult times in our journey of faith with God are those of silence.  It seems that God doesn’t say or do anything. One can easily think that God has either been bested/stumped, doesn’t care, or left the scene and we are all alone in the situation. 

The truth is that Saturday was silent because God wanted it so. I’ve come across some material that leans on the thought that Jesus was taking a Sabbath from His work on this Saturday. I could see that in one sense. I think it is more about what was said in the prophet Isaiah: 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways.” This is the Lord’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For just as rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return there without saturating the earth and making it germinate and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so my word that comes from my mouth will not return to me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do.”  (Isaiah‬ ‭55:8-11‬ ‭CSB‬)

What looks like apathy or abandonment to us was very different to God. Jesus had already said that He would be raised on the third day (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭17:22‬). This was all part of the plan. A day of letting all of what had already taken place sink in was in play, but the silence wouldn’t last forever. 

You may be in a period of silence. I would encourage you to take this time of silence to remember what God has done for you, already taught you, already done in you. Then, lean on His understanding and trust His timing. God is always right on time… not too early, never too late.