Saturday, May 22, 2010

Doug's Thoughts on the SBC GCRTF---Addendum

A couple of quick notes on the blog series last  week:

1.  I think it would not hurt one bit for state conventions to consider some of the same suggestions.  The best way, in my opinion, to restore funding is to restore confidence.  This will require a renewal of accountability.
2.  Just as several people have pointed, most notably Ben Stroup at Church Giving Matters, churches are no longer the only avenue that Christians give money through.  There are other groups and organizations that the people in the pews are considering.  Many of these are good causes.  Some of them are even Kingdom-building causes.  Just as we have long struggled in the SBC (at least every church I've ever been in, from baby on up) to remind people that special offerings, whether building funds, Lottie Moon, or Gideons, are above your tithe, so we have people choosing to move their tithe outside of the church.
This is the same thing the SBC is facing: competition for those dollars.  It really will require finding ways to have more pie, not just reslicing the current one differently.  This will take an increase in understanding of relevance and importance in local churches.  The SBC will need to become evidently more accountable and more relevant to individual churches.
3.  To answer a criticism some have: no, I did not attend any of the "listening sessions" with the GCRTF.  They held one in the opposite corner of Arkansas.  It was on a Wednesday, as I recall.  It would have been physically impossible for me to attend it and fulfill my responsibility to teach that portion of the flock of Christ that I'm responsible to teach that night.  Could I have found a substitute?  Certainly, had I received any information about the meeting more than 2 days in advance.
4.  There would be immense value in Southern Baptists around the nation realizing that we're all dwelling on an under-churched mission field, and quit wasting time and money on some of our disagreements.  Many of our churches are where they are financially and spiritually because they've fought over paint colors and music styles.  If we would be willing to gather for more than an hour and realize that the building is not the most important thing, we could actually look at more unity, and fewer identical congregations.
Church planting and new churches are great when they are done to reach people that the current church will not effectively reach.  Starting a new church is a waste if it's a carbon copy of a church within a 2-mile radius, which many of ours are, especially in the South.  Churches choosing to merge would reduce overhead, allow for more ministers to be focused on making disciples and less on maintaining facilities or programs.
Yes, I foresee, along with notables like Thom Rainer and Ed Stetzer, a time when there are fewer SBC churches in America.  I also don't see it as a bad thing, because I think we have many places where we have too many.  If the graph were to dip, hit a low-point and then turn back up, that could indicate a good thing: carbon copies merging into sustainable sized churches, which then plant other churches across the world.
5.  Someday, we should change the name.  To what, I don't know.  However, while I'm a fan of "Galactic Baptist Alliance," that doesn't seem to have much attraction to others.  Hey, the Kingdom of God is more than just Earth, right?


Friday, May 21, 2010

Doug's Thoughts on the SBC GCRTF Part 5

While there have been comments recently downplaying whether anyone cares what bloggers think, I'm going to chime in with my own opinion about one of the current issues we're facing in Southern Baptist life. Now, this is a long thought, so it's going to be spread across 5 blog posts. There's a “Contact” link at the top of the blog. Email me if you want the whole thing in one document. Or click here for a PDF (I hope!)
10.  Re-establish mandates for each entity that cannot be exceeded without approval of the SBC at Annual Meeting. Fund these entities with these percentages of National CP receipts:

  1. Executive Committee: to promote cooperation between SBC Churches, entities, and states. 2% of CP, maximum.

  2. Seminaries/Education: Provide effective education with a primary emphasis on preparing for service within SBC Missions or Churches. Maintain historical records of the SBC. 10% of CP, maximum.

  3. North American Mission Board: Promote cooperative missions inside the US/Canadian Borders among English-language populations with less than 20% believers. This includes special populations, such as military/correctional facility/emergency/hospital chaplains as well as ethnic groups. Coordinate Disaster Relief within US/Canadian Borders when it exceeds state capacities. 30% of CP funds

  4. International Mission Board: Promote cooperative missions outside of US/Canadian Borders or in unserved non-English speaking populations within those borders if no other SBC group is working in that population. 58% of CP funds.

  5. Collectively, NAMB and IMB should coordinate with the seminaries to establish a fully-expense paid internship/education system that covers the cost of education while providing access to supervised practical ministry for students. Financial provision to be handled in exchange for a committed term of service in underserved areas. If the government has figured out how to do this to get teachers and doctors places, we can find a way to do this to get preachers and missionaries places.

  1. None of this addresses the spiritual dynamics discussed in the mainstream GCRTF Report. Why not? I don't find many points of disagreement, but I do find it to be a point of redundancy. If we are Bible-centered, Lordship of Christ honoring people, then we will strive to light the world with the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I don't know if we need the term “penetrating lostness” or not, since, like “missional,” we'll end up spending a lot of time trying to figure out what it means. If we will preach the Bible in our churches, if we pastors will call our people to obedience, then these issues will take care of themselves without new terms. I'm very hesitant that we not decide in Orlando what each autonomous local church should adopt as a mission statement or a values statement. If we hold to autonomy, we hold to it. If the SBC Annual Meeting cannot second-guess church personnel decisions, it cannot dictate mission statements or values to churches.
    Ultimately, this comes back to the question of obeying Christ. The list of suggestions at the end of the GCRTF Report is interesting to me, as I see statements borrowed from resolutions that took several years to pass or were never brought out of committee, now shown as “good ideas” for the SBC. All of them come back to points about church membership, stewardship, parenting, education, and church behavior that reflect whether or not Christ is Lord in all things or if people get to pick and choose their obedience. If we will surrender and obey, if we will repent and return, we will see the glory of God revealed in what He does within us and through us. Otherwise, we'll sit on the sidelines and see what He does without us and about us.
For your consideration,
Doug Hibbard

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Doug's Thoughts on the SBC GCRTF Part 4

While there have been comments recently downplaying whether anyone cares what bloggers think, I'm going to chime in with my own opinion about one of the current issues we're facing in Southern Baptist life. Now, this is a long thought, so it's going to be spread across 5 blog posts. There's a “Contact” link at the top of the blog. Email me if you want the whole thing in one document. Or click here for a PDF (I hope!)

    1. Peg the compensation of all executives for any entity receiving CP funds to the pay scale of IMB/NAMB missionaries. Vice-Presidents would be pegged to 1.5x the salary and Presidents 2.5x the salary of IMB/NAMB Missionaries. Use a publicized average salary level to derive this number. This would also apply to administrative/executive positions at seminaries receiving CP funds. Benefits and cost of living/locality pay should match what missionaries receive. (As a side note: I think the salary information would be pertinent to each church as they determine compensation for ministry staff.) This will require action by all Boards.

    2. Require, as part of their annual reporting, accounting of administrative expenses from entities, including satellite management locations that exist for administration. For example, as NAMB or IMB operate regional management offices (which IMB does, I'm not sure about NAMB), how much is spent on staff in those offices? Are these individuals counted in missionary count totals? Are they actually doing missionary work as their primary role or are they primarily administration, with the hope that they do some evangelism on the side? What costs are incurred for travel and provision when these people travel to ministry locations? This will require action by all Boards.

    3. Return to encouraging furloughing/stateside assignment missionaries to speak individually at small churches, rather than pushing the giant conferences in large locations. Reconnect the missionary force with the churches that support them. Yes, the IMB/NAMB appoint those sent by their churches, but they are also sent on behalf of all of us. Meet the church members where they are: their home churches, with attendances under 100, so that we see missionaries. This will require action by the IMB/NAMB.

    4. Mandate public disclosure of compensation agreements with all CP executives: how much time is to be spent speaking at conferences or traveling; compensation for book-writing; time spent doing things that are not what their job should entail. (For example, no criticism should go the IMB President for being at every missionary appointment service, speaking at seminaries to recruit, etc, although one could criticize if the IMB President spoke on several “Bible Study Cruises.”) Mandate a balance between conference and mega-church visits and seeking ordinary churches to speak to, including avoiding duplication of church visits in a given time span (for example, why should any one church be visited by the Presidents of every CP agency inside of 2 years, when there are other churches that have never seen anyone paid by the national portion of the CP?) Reduce compensation from CP agencies in accordance with outside income: furloughing missionaries receive no compensation if they receive outside income while stateside. This will require action by all Boards.

    5. Address concerns about dominance of national annual meeting and the resulting board/committee nominations by adjusting the messenger system. Here are some thoughts (not all are good or workable):

      1. Establish satellite voting locations. If major corporations can hold shareholder votes via the internet, why can the SBC not? My experience at the annual meeting was that over half of the reports brought were made of pre-fabricated video anyway. Stream it, publicize intended motions and move on. As it stands, all business is pre-cleared by the Committee on Order of Business, and anything brought up at the open microphones is either referred or ruled out of order. You can refer it from a distance, and you can rule it out of order from a distance.

      2. Require that no less than one-half of the Boards and Agencies Nominees come from churches that are in majority of size of SBC churches.

      3. Alternately, as each board is typically allocated to receive a certain number of nominees from specific states, allow the state meeting to elect the state's representatives to those boards. The Annual Meeting of the SBC could then elect any “at-large” roles, with the Nominating Committee paying an extra dose of attention to those churches not involved in a state convention.

      4. While this would be a major change, establish a two-level system of involvement in the SBC: Partner Churches and Participating Churches.

        1. Partner churches would:

          1. Be in agreement with the Current BF&M, whichever one that is (currently 2000, but how long do you give it?)

          2. Financial support of a minimum of either a designated percentage or a designated amount, such as either 5% of budget or $100,000. (Or more, or less)

          3. Commitment that SBC missions are the primary missions outlet for the church in funding and participation.

        2. Participating Churches would:

          1. Be in agreement with any edition of the BF&M.

          2. Provide any amount of financial support to the causes of the SBC.

          3. Hold SBC mission work at any level of priority in the church, from first place to an afterthought.

        3. Both types of churches would be allowed the appropriate number of messengers at the Annual Meeting based on the By-laws.

        4. However, only members of Partner Churches would be eligible for service on Boards and Agencies.

        5. Missionaries could be appointed from either type of church.

        6. If done in conjunction with the recommendation to split state/national funding, no church would be able to claim a status based on supporting a state convention.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Doug's Thoughts on the SBC GCRTF Part 3

While there have been comments recently downplaying whether anyone cares what bloggers think, I'm going to chime in with my own opinion about one of the current issues we're facing in Southern Baptist life. Now, this is a long thought, so it's going to be spread across 5 blog posts. There's a “Contact” link at the top of the blog. Email me if you want the whole thing in one document.  Or click here for a PDF (I hope!)
V.  Is there anything that can be recommended? Are there other possibilities? While I am not a mega-church pastor, seminary president, or other great and note-worthy individual, here are some things that I would suggest. I'd be interested to hear anyone else's critiques or additions:

  1. Allow each church to set the amount given to their state convention and to the national level. This eliminates the debate over state percentage division with the national entities. If local churches are the focus point of our obedience and our plan, put this decision directly in their hands. If states see they are receiving more than they need, they can look towards forwarding the excesses to specific entities at the national level as guided by their own processes. This will require agreement by both the SBC Executive Committee and each separate state.

  2. Set a 7-to-10 year plan that for every funded NAMB missionary in an “old-line” ministry area, there are 2 serving in pioneer or ethnic ministry areas that are unserved. This would not apply to those who serve, such as Mission Service Corps volunteers, that are officially missionaries with NAMB but are not full-time funded. A similar equity would be recommended in those areas; however, I would not suggest that NAMB reject volunteers who only want (and qualify to receive) endorsement but are unable to relocate. This will require the action of the NAMB. As the Cooperative Agreements begin to be impacted by this, it may require involvement of affected states.

  3. Decrease funding for the ERLC and place it under the authority of NAMB as a missions point. ERLC political lobbying functions are duplicated by a variety of Christian organizations and serve more as a distraction from the task. Also, one could wonder if our maintaining a “membership” number that is 10 million more than our attendance reflects building a political platform. This will require an action of the SBC to merge the entities.

  4. Require all hiring for executive positions from Vice-President up in SBC Boards and agencies to be ratified by a vote of the entire SBC at the annual meeting. Boards could place an individual in the role as an “interim” but the body of messengers would have to confirm the decision. This will require action by all Boards.

  5. Peg the compensation of all executives for any entity receiving CP funds to the pay scale of IMB/NAMB missionaries. Vice-Presidents would be pegged to 1.5x the salary and Presidents 2.5x the salary of IMB/NAMB Missionaries. Use a publicized average salary level to derive this number. This would also apply to administrative/executive positions at seminaries receiving CP funds. Benefits and cost of living/locality pay should match what missionaries receive. (As a side note: I think the salary information would be pertinent to each church as they determine compensation for ministry staff.) This will require action by all Boards.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Doug's Thoughts on the SBC GCRTF Part 2

While there have been comments recently downplaying whether anyone cares what bloggers think, I'm going to chime in with my own opinion about one of the current issues we're facing in Southern Baptist life. Now, this is a long thought, so it's going to be spread across 4 blog posts. There's a “Contact” link at the top of the blog. Email me if you want the whole thing in one document. Or click here for a PDF (I hope!)
IV.  Some questions that I'm wondering at this point:

  1. Are the GCRTF recommendations to change NAMB/State agreements and to celebrate “Great Commission Giving” going to recover the funding that churches now send to non-SBC missions work? Or has that funding left because churches feel that other organizations are better stewards of missions dollars?

  2. Are these recommendations intended to deflect the criticism that is often brought against churches, and their leaders, that have grown large enough that they consider themselves “too big” to give on the same percentage basis they did when they were smaller? Is this a case of soothing the mega-churches of the SBC, and will it cause the foundational smaller churches to look elsewhere?

  3. Have we spent this money and this effort simply to grind an ax with the Executive Committee and the percentage counters? The end result of structural changes seems to be just that. The only entities expected to decrease their spending, as the recommendations go, are states and the EC. There is no suggestion that seminaries, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, or any other CP recipient see a budget squeeze.

Contact Doug link fixed

Ok, my lack of HTML skills are showing.

Contact Doug link is now fixed.  Fire away.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Doug's Thoughts on the SBC GCRTF Part 1

While there have been comments recently downplaying whether anyone cares what bloggers think, I'm going to chime in with my own opinion about one of the current issues we're facing in Southern Baptist life. Now, this is a long thought, so it's going to be spread across 4 blog posts. There's a “Contact” link at the top of the blog. Email me if you want the whole thing in one document. Or click here for a PDF (I hope!)
    The hinge point of the GCR seems to be about structural change and the control of funding. Specifically, we seem to be having an extremely large stir about “Great Commission Giving” and the dissolving of “Cooperative Agreements” between state conventions and the North American Mission Board. The stirring point for the whole action seems to have come from our inability to fund the IMB Missionaries we've wanted.

  1. The first observation I'd like to make: SBC churches have always been allowed to designate every dime they give to the work of the Convention. The Cooperative Program exists to allow churches to contribute to all agencies and operations, and to fund those items which need budgets both too large (IMB) for single church support or too small (like the Historical Commission) to expect much in the way of designation.

    1. Even if a church didn't know how to designate the giving, if it wanted the IMB to get everything, it could have given it all through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Likewise NAMB and the Annie Armstrong Offering, and I would be stunned to find a seminary that would turn down a gift.

    2. As evidenced by the SBC system for preregistering messengers, all of those designated gifts count towards the $250 to be allowed a messenger. For example, the system accounts our church as having contributed the total of our Cooperative Program, Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO), Annie Armstrong Easter Offering (AAEO), and a direct designation we've been making to an IMB Missionary on the field. So, no church should be being denied either the opportunity to send messengers or serve on Boards/Committees due to designated giving. I'd venture, though I lack evidence, that far more small churches are denied involvement because of travel expenses to Convention meeting locations.

  2. Since the SBC allows churches to directly designate gifts, including designating to bypass state convention choices, then concerns about state allocations or bureaucracy should be evidenced by seeing designated giving around the general Cooperative Program (CP). This is evidenced by the much-discussed decrease in general CP giving among churches overall. However, if the churches that find problems with either states or specific CP agencies have designated their giving, it should be reflected in a corresponding increase in designated giving to the appropriate agencies. For example, if the prevailing concern is that the International Mission Board (IMB) does not receive enough of the shared pie, the SBC should be seeing more churches give directly to the IMB and bypassing all other activities. The IMB should, therefore, be on the positive receiving end.

    1. Instead, what has happened is that many churches have, apparently, moved to also supporting other missions groups or directly supporting their own missionaries.


  3. How a church spends 100% of the funding God gives them reflects their Great Commission passion. Every last penny we spend should be about spreading the Gospel, making disciples , and obeying the commands of Scripture. One of our issues is that we have spent untold resources on things that, in all honesty, don't match those expectations. This problem is not specific to one type of church or another, but a problem I believe all churches and organizations face at various times.

    1. It is neither fair nor appropriate to judge a church's commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ based on their giving to the Southern Baptist Convention. In no way, shape, form, or fashion, neither by percentage or volume, can we say that a church that greatly supports the SBC greatly supports Christ nor the inverse.

    2. However, the amount given to SBC causes is an adequate measure of a church's commitment to the Southern Baptist Convention. As such, it is a valid question for those who would claim the leadership of the SBC to reveal their commitment to the SBC. This is not about Christian commitment or leadership, but specifically about leadership and commitment within our own context as Southern Baptists.

Monday May 17 & Romans 16:20

Ok, well, yesterday was a good day at church, with just a few minor blips.  However, you can click back to the previous post and listen to the whole AM service and the sermon from Sunday night and judge for yourself.  (Alternately, you can take the podcast.  It's worth every penny!*)

I found Kara Sawyer's testimony particularly challenging to me.  I'm on a slow roll towards finishing a degree, and her testimony of dealing with life and finishing hers pushed me to make sure I'm striving as I should toward my own.

This morning, I was finishing up the book of Romans in my study time.  I've only been pouring through this book for about a year now, and finally, I've come to the end.  Romans 16:20 struck me:

"The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." (NASB)

What struck?

1.  God crushes.  Not me.  Leave it to Him.

2.  Satan is the promised crushed one.  He's the enemy, not anyone else.  Including politicians.

3.  God remains the God of peace even though He crushes.  Why?  Because peace requires evil be crushed.  Peace-making requires disposing of evil.


Paul ends with this statement:

"To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen." Romans 16:27 (NASB)

Is that my focus today?  Yours?  Our church focus?  That to Him be the glory, forever?  And do we grasp how serious an "amen" is?  It's born of a vow, the solemn word of a person of honor.  I had a professor in college state that an "amen" was placing your life in agreement, even if it costs your life, with the statement.  Is my life committed to the glory of the Only?  Um.  Perhaps I need to work on that.




*For those of you who don't know it: Podcasts are free. To upload and download.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday Sermons May 16

Above is the music player.  The AM file contains the entire service, while the evening file is just the sermon.  Here are the sermon outlines:

Text: Matthew 10:5-15

Theme: First Things First

Date: May 16, 2010

Location: CBC Monticello

  1. First Action: Go to those around you.

    1. The disciples are sent to the children of Israel

    2. These are the people they have encountered all their lives

    3. They will, eventually, scatter across the whole world

    4. We have a responsibility to start here

    5. And then we go on

  2. First Purpose: Preach the kingdom

    1. Everything else proceeds from this point.

    2. The church is not here solely to do social work

    3. Neither is the church here to be a social club

    4. Our lives are meant to be wrapped around preaching the Kingdom

  3. First Evidence: Heal, raise, cleanse, cast out.

    1. There are certain problems that interfere with people hearing of the Kingdom

    2. Do what God has enabled you to do about those problems:

      1. The Disciples prayed and miracles happened

      2. God has given you gifts to use: Spiritual, emotional, financial, mental, physical

  4. First Test: Do not be sidelined to pursue comfort

    1. The disciples go out with just enough

    2. They must rely on people to provide what they will need

    3. There is no promise they will receive anything

    4. There is instruction that, even if offered, they should turn down comfort or back-up provisions

  5. First Promise: You will be defended by God as your sender

    1. Notice that Jesus does not say that the disciples will be protected

    2. He only states that those who do not receive their words will be worse off than Sodom.

    3. There's no guarantee of acceptance or of success.

    4. Only that God has commanded you to do it!

→ Freely give of what you received: the forgiveness of God


Text: Philippians 4:1-3

Theme: Stand Firm!

Date: May 16, 2010 PM

Location: CBC Monticello

  1. Stop bickering!

    Euodia and Syntyche as examples.

    → Feud source is not explained

    → It is not a fight over truth

      → else Paul would have chosen sides

→ They are instructed to live in harmony

→ Someone referred to as “loyal yokefellow” or “true companion” is to help → some translators take as a name “Syzygus”

→ Name/meaning: Barnabas

→ Note: no one's salvation or commitment to Christ is in doubt. This is a dispute within the family. However, it's big enough that Paul addresses it from a distance.

→ Application:

→What makes a petty dispute? Anything that holds a person more responsible to you for their actions than they are to the God who made them, the Savior who died for them.

→What makes a petty dispute? Anything that, in light of eternity, looks silly. If no one will be drawn into or pushed away from the Kingdom of God for it, it's petty.

→What makes a petty dispute? Placing ourselves,our traditions, even our needs as more important than the spread of the Gospel, the making of disciples.

→ What makes a petty dispute? Allowing the prevailing culture to define our Christianity, rather than expecting the prevailing culture to clash with the demands of our faith.

→Church squabbles distract from what is important. They result from losing focus on what our purpose is:

The struggle for the cause of the Gospel.

      1. To live for Christ

      2. To preach Christ

      3. To know Christ and His suffering

    1. Are we willing to do this? Are we willing to set aside the bickering? Paul called the Philippians to unite for the labor that the apostles had called them to for the sake of Christ.

    2. Are we willing to unite for the labor the Holy Spirit calls us to do?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A song recommendation-- @downhere "You're Not Alone"

I'd like to point you to a song well worth the downloading.  Legally, of course, because they could use the sales numbers!! (And the money.  Rock stars need money, after all.)

It's entitled "You're Not Alone" and it's from the band Downhere.  You can get it from or from iTunes, but here's a quick link to Amazon for it:

Why Amazon? It's an affiliate link. If you buy it from that link, I'll make a nickel. If that much.

That's not the point. The point is that this song is worth your listening to. It's an encouraging song, and it's very much a message that I've needed to hear these days.


Here are the lyrics, for those of you that either don't listen to the rock or, like me, can't quite hear perfectly well!

You feel the isolation, slowly take a toll
This season of waiting, is starting to get old
Looking for acceptance, and aching for a home
So tired of trying to make it out on your own
There's no easy answer, but one thing you should know
You're not alone, anywhere you go
You're not alone, hear the voice whisper to your soul
A promise you can always hold:
You're not alone, no
You're stuck in a dive and you've almost had enough
Because of what you've been through, it's difficult to trust
You're still barely hanging on, trying hard to fight
If anybody's listening, you want to know tonight
There's no easy answer, but one thing you should know
You're not alone, anywhere you go
You're not alone, hear the voice whisper to your soul
A promise you can always hold:
You're not alone, no
You're not alone
You're not alone
Reach out, don't reach within
I'm it the door, if you just let me in
Reach out for what you need
What you won't find in yourself, you will find in me
You're not alone, hear the voice whisper to your soul
I'll never leave or let you go
You're not alone, I'm with you to the end
You're not alone, I'm closer than a friend
You're not alone, and I'm with you to the end
You're not alone, closer than a friend
You're not alone

(You're not alone by Downhere, I'm sure it's copyrighted 2010 between them and Centricity records, their label)

Romans 16:16

16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.

Romans 16:16 (ESV)

I thought I'd take a look at this verse, and ponder a few things that come from what it says. 

I.  This verse gives us a good look into how we don't take the Word at face value these days.  How many of us greet our fellow church members with a kiss?  (International readers, we know some of you do.)  Why do we not do what the Word says?

II.  Ah, we don't do it because we're not convinced that, while it seems to be a plain command, we shouldn't just automatically do it.  Why not?  Typically, we don't do the plain commands of Scripture because we think we shouldn't have to do them.  Now, some of you are wondering how to get around this, aren't you?

III.  This verse shows the need to extract the meaning through the cultural context.  The greeting with a holy kiss would be culturally the action of greeting between people that know, trust, and honor each other.  So what is Paul's command worth to us?  Is it just that we should greet one another in the appropriate manner to shows fellowship, trust, honor, and love?  Many churches in America say this is why we greet with a handshake or a hug, if you're a hugging church.

IV.  I don't think this is right.  I think Paul is reminding the church at Rome that is appropriate in church to greet one another in accordance with our relationships.  In other words, he's not commanding that the Romans greet each other with a holy kiss to check off the holy kiss on their activity in church card.  He's pointing out that, since they do have true fellowship with one another, let it be shown.

V.  The point is this: we have developed a habit of reading Scripture searching for actions to take.  Now, that's a good thing, as far as it goes, but the same God who said "Rend your hearts and not your garments" (Joel 2:13) is the one we follow.  The actions we are seeking should be reflective of where our hearts stand, not our surface level of actions.  Rather than figuring out whether we should kiss or handshake, we should be focused on building the attitude that results in the right actions.

VI.  A final warning: we cannot go disregarding the actions mandated by Scripture.  While we do need to discern whether the actions are cultural or timeless, and how they apply to us, we cannot just toss them out.  Whether we are looking for a loophole because we don't like them, or because we're not really up to it.  Our hearts ought to lead to action, else our hearts aren't really where we claim they are.  This is, however, not perfectly evident here.  It's the whole message of the book of James, though.  The "intentions" are useless if they do not lead to action.



Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book Review: The Heart Mender by @andyandrews (Andy Andrews)


The Heart Mender: A Story of Second Chances

Ever read a book that you just kind of wish is true?  That's my take on The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews.  It's a charming story of love and forgiveness, and it's woven into the historical setting of World War II America.  For the narrative alone, the book is worth the read, but the message it contains is well worth absorbing as well.

However, let's drop back a minute.  This book was originally published under the title Island of Saints.  I read Island of Saints and enjoyed it greatly.  Now, Andrews has released it under a new title, with a few minor changes.  All of this is explained in the Author's Note at the beginning, but should be noted for purchaser's sake.  If you read Island of Saints, you're rereading when you read The Heart Mender.  Now, go ahead and reread it.  It will not hurt you one bit.

Overall, the story is well-paced.  There are points where I'd like more detail, both in the history and the geography, but Andrews states his intention of shrouding actual identities, and it's hard to shroud someone's identity if you give precise directions to their home.  So, for the purpose of providing setting, the story provides enough detail.

If you've read Andy Andrews before, you know he's not just this story for entertainment.  Woven throughout the story are various lessons and messages.  Most of these come back to the central theme of forgiveness, but there are other gems within. 

One of the additional features of The Heart Mender over Island of Saints is a "Where are they now?" section.  It closes out the work nicely.  Also present is a study guide for contemplation or group discussion.

I would highly recommend this book.

Ack!  Correction to original: Booksneeze book!  Read Disclosures! Free book for review.

Beyond the Review: Here's one additional issue with this book.  In the Author's Note, Andrews assures us that this is a true story, blurred enough to respect privacy.  As evidence, there are photos that stated to have come from his own finds in his yard and general links to the broader history referenced in the book.  There is no way for a third-party to verify or disprove the facts of the story.

Now, as far as I can tell, Andy Andrews is a man of integrity, and I'll take his word for it, but it's important to recognize that the message of the story will be ignored if he's shown to have been false.  I've recently read another book that my wife reviewed that contained moving elements that were there to reinforce the author's point.  He waited until the end to acknowledge that, while half the book was non-fiction, the other half was complete fiction.  It destroyed his point, because he had used the fictional section as his illustration of how something was possible when it was, in fact, only his imagination.

So, to Andy Andrews and authors and publishers everywhere: don't fake it.  I've read enough to know that life presents amazing and strange stories that are unbelievable but true.  So I can see this as possible.  I'll accept Andrews claim that he's heard more stories similar to this one, and would even believe these types of things happened in Southeast Arkansas (we had both a POW Camp and Japanese Internment Camps down here).  But don't blow it: if you lie to your readers, especially to assure us something is true that you know isn't, you hurt both yourself and your message.  Keep it straight.  There's a line there, and you shouldn't even flirt with it.

Not an accusation to Mr. Andrews.  As I stated: I believe him, and do not doubt his integrity, but it's a point worth mentioning multiple times: don't fake non-fiction.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Timing is everything, and I haven't wanted this post to be perceived as targeted at one particular political escapade.  However, now that tonight (March 22) we're one day removed from Congress approving a trillion dollar health insurance change law, and there's no telling what will come next, I'm going to finish writing this post and then program it for later.  If something major happened yesterday, I'm not commenting on that directly.

I'm pondering the general direction of our country.  That direction is apart from itself and adrift from the intent of its founding.  It really is.  We have made great strides as a nation.  We've come to the understanding that "all men are created equal" is to be understood as "all humans are created equal" whether they look like us or not.  We've embraced, at least in idea, that race or gender has no place as a determinant in the future of a person.  We've acknowledged that those old enough to be drafted are old enough to vote, even if not old enough to purchase handguns or beers.

However, we've also made some mistakes along the way.  We've become a nation that makes more money than ever before but has no idea why it matters.  We're willing to trade lives for convenience, whether they are young or old, drafted or volunteer.  We're so concerned about offending others that we will trade our security for it, and then lose that too. 

Meanwhile, there's a growing agitation among Americans.  The people are getting fed up with the government, the governing bodies are getting fed up with the people, and the disconnects are getting stronger.  Don't think the government's tired of the people?  Go visit the US Capitol.  Can't get in? That's right, you can't.  They won't let you.  $600 million (or more) was spent to build a visitor's center you can go to, so you can stay away from the people that represent you.  More and more people are speaking up that we're losing our liberty as Americans.

It's been going on for years.  The federal government ran a surplus in 2000.  Then, rightfully, the effort was made to stop running a surplus.  Except that, if you have debt, you have no surplus.  You pay down debt.  And then we went and spent back into a deficit, and maxed out the nation's credit.  The government is now on track to meddle in healthcare enough that costs will exceed what people can afford.  There are also pending bills that will escalate the cost of anything considered possibly environmentally bad that will make energy costs untenable.  These laws are being pushed into being by people that also hold that people shouldn't own guns or eat cheeseburgers.  With the government taking responsibility for everyone's healthcare (they are), how long before I can't own a gun because it's a health risk or can't have a cheeseburger because grilling is causing global warming?

The difficulty is that many people who wish to protest these things have expressed in can happen "over their dead bodies" or that "you can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers."

Ladies and gentlemen, that's exactly what's going to happen.  We have allowed ourselves to become so divided, not by ideology or heart, but by time.  We don't take the time to gather together, we don't know our neighbors.    We are so busy chasing the dollars that we spend on stuff imported from our enemies that we are too exhausted to put any effort into what we ought to be as a nation.

And so, true patriots will be willing to die for their country and their liberty.  The enemies of liberty will be glad to help us with this.  We are quick to quote Jefferson or Franklin about liberty, even Patrick Henry, but we rarely remember the quote from Franklin at the signing of the Declaration of Independence: "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

We must grasp that the difference between dying for the sake of liberty and dying to assure liberty to our posterity is organization.  We've seen easily in Iran the necessity of an armed populace to hold off tyranny, which is part of the purpose of the Second Amendment.  The First Amendment contains an important freedom we neglect to consider: the right of the people to "peaceably assemble."  The Founders were not thinking of protests.  They were remembering the drill of Minutemen in the commons and public areas, preparing for the potential need of revolution.  They were remembering the need for an organized effort to overthrow tyranny.

If we are going to secure for ourselves and our posterity the blessings of liberty, we've got to read the history and understand the roadmap our Founding Fathers left us: a free press to proclaim the wrongs of government; a free pulpit to proclaim the Word of God (and free any other religion you want, but they weren't thinking of Wiccans at the time); free assembly to discuss the problems; and free petition to express directly to the government what the wrongs and problems were.

When those are found inadequate, the right of the people to keep and bear arms is necessary, lest the militia cease being well-regulated and the state cease being free.

People, it's time we stop individual bickering and bantering.  Are we serious about liberty or not?  Are we willing to stop being bought off or dissuaded by one party's promises over another's?  We're in this mess because we've allowed Republicans and Democrats to play us against each other to their own gain.

It is time that we begin to do something.  Give it another election, certainly, but we must begin to assemble and petition.  Not assemble and shout, not assemble and disrespect, but assemble and organize our views of what is wrong and why, and what to actually do about it.  Then, express what steps we will take to see those petitions met.  And what consequences if they are not.

Unless we want to bequeath to posterity the saying that "The fundamental difference between revolution and martyrdom is organization."



Monday Morning May 10

It's Monday morning again.  Weren't we just here last week?  Ok, so it comes once a week.  Well, to the day:

Step 1: Review recording from yesterday's services.  It's awful.  Too much space between recording point and source.  The microphone we're using is not designed to pick up a single speaker across a gymnasium.  So, this week, we've got no sermon audio for you.  Which, in all honesty, doesn't bother me that much.

Why?  Well, I'm not sure I was well on track with my speaking skills.  The text was good, the outline was good, but the delivery, I thought, sounded a little shaky.  Part of it was that we had a children's skit at the beginning of the service, and one of the participants was about as hammed up as one can get.  He's usually a good kid.  Just a little on the goofy side, like his father.  So, it was a little hard to recover from my son's antics in the skit.  I think my voice was shaky from it, and I didn't project well. 

Which is a big deal for me.  I use a headset microphone when I preach, but I really prefer to not need it.  If you're dependent on the technology, you're beholden to it, for good or for ill.  So, I try to be able to go without it.  Not so yesterday.

Step 2: online the recording: Not going to happen, not with the quality issues. 

Step 3: Review statistics from yesterday: attendance, giving down from last Sunday.  I know we had some folks out to see their mothers for Mother's Day, a few others out due to baseball tournaments.

Step 4:  Post Sermon Outlines:

Text: Matthew 9:35-38

Theme: Workers for the kingdom

Date: May 9 2010 AM

Location: CBC Monticello

  1. The Kingdom of God needs workers

    1. There are people in need physically

    2. There are people in need spiritually

    3. There are people that are ready to enter the Kingdom

  2. Mothers are a part of that:

    1. First role:

      1. Expanding the kingdom from home

      2. Few have more impact on children than their mothers

        1. “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world” (William Ross Wallace)

      3. Mothers grow the kingdom first by influencing their children to follow Christ:

        1. In prayer

        2. In example

        3. In compassion

        4. this does not diminish the father's responsibility, but supplements it

      4. Mothers grow the kingdom from home by prayerfully encouraging their husbands to be servants of Christ first

        1. by not demanding to be kept equal with the world

        2. by accepting the derision of the world for their Godliness

        3. Proverbs 31:10-31; Titus 2:3-5

    2. Second role:

      1. Releasing their children to serve Christ

      2. How many times have you chosen rightly because of the encouraging mother in your life?

      3. Biblical examples of Hannah, Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist); Timothy's mother and grandmother

      4. Historical examples:

      5. A Godly mother encourages her children to place the kingdom of God first in their hearts, above all else

  3. We ought to, as a church, encourage Biblical & Godly Motherhood

    1. In our teaching

    2. In our actions

    3. In our fellowship

    4. In our training of younger generations


Text: Philippians 3:17-21

Theme: Citizenship test

Date: May 9 2010 PM

Location: CBC Monticello

  1. Citizenship Matters

    1. Many of us have grown up in America as American citizens, and don't grasp the historical implications of citizenship

    2. The modern age is really the first that extends nearly identical privileges to citizens and non-citizens. In the USA, voting and jury duty seem to be the main 2 differences.

      1. Realistically, there are many more, from not needing to renew “alien” status cards to not being deportable to various individualized benefits depending on what part of the government you're dealing with

      2. There are also substantial advantages we would see if we were outside of the US-in terms of US Embassy/Consulate help

      3. But, to most of our normal lives, we just don't see it

    3. In the Roman Empire, only a portion of the population were citizens. They had more rights and lower taxes than non-citizens. There were legal rights, voting rights, and property ownership rights

    4. Look at Paul's statement in Acts 22:23-28

  2. Yet here, Paul is highlighting which citizenship really matters

    1. It is as citizens of heaven that we derive our identity

    2. Any other citizenship comes second

  3. We would do well to focus our attention on examples worth following

    1. Since we are to be focused on our citizenship in heaven, our examples should reflect that:

      1. Walk according to the pattern Paul and others showed

      2. Walk according to the hope of Christ transforming us

      3. Walk according to the subjection of all things to Christ.

    2. Since we are to be focused on our citizenship in heaven, our examples should not be those that:

      1. Walk as enemies of the cross of Christ in word

      2. Walk as enemies of the cross of Christ in deed

      3. Walk as enemies of the cross of Christ in belief

  4. Where will we find our examples to follow?



Step 5: Start looking at this week: Graduate recognition Sunday, Baptist Association Board meeting tonight, business meeting Wednesday.  Sermons to prep: Matthew 10:5-15; Philippians 4:1-2 (or 3).  Books to be read: Holiness  by J.C. Ryle; The Good News We Almost Forgot by Kevin DeYoung; and for fun: The Revolutionary Paul Revere by Joel Miller.


Have a good one!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Book Review: Radical by David Platt

It's a two book review week.  Next week, there will only be 1, and then 1 the next week.  After that, I'm not sure when my next book reviews will come.  I've got a few books I'd like to get read for my own personal growth, and then there's the desperate need to gather and grow for ministry purposes.  Then this fall school starts, and I'll be writing book reviews for the academic process.  That's going to be different from the blog book review writing.  Anyway, read the Disclosures! regarding whether or not I get paid for reviews.  Summary: I don't.  WaterBrook/Multnomah gave me the book, gave me a copy to give away, and asked that I send you on the link to their website for more info.  Enough said.

Review:  The subject of today's review is Radical by David Platt.  The subtitle is Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.  If you'd like to take a read at the first chapter, there's a link right here.  Here's how the book looks:

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream

This book stirred several reactions in myself, but I'm going to limit my responses in this review.  I have become somewhat of a cynic, and tend to question those who write books that tell us to question things.  Part of me thinks it's fair, but it doesn't add to an understanding of the text.  So, let's just look at the text.  What has David Platt presented us with in Radical?

This is a book that is designed, basically, to present questions more than answers.  In that end, Platt succeeds.  He has organized a book that builds well from chapter to chapter, leading the reader to the point he's aiming at: that we can not always be both effective followers of Christ and effectively fulfill the American dream of wealth and privilege. 

There are 219 pages of content, including a challenge at the end to consider a change in life for one year.  These pages are easy to read, the typeface is clear, and the margins are adequate for making notes as you read through it.

The one difficulty I had with the book itself was that it is somewhat loose on direct application.  I assume that the purpose was for the reader to draw their own conclusion, but I would have liked to have seen more direct suggestions.  At more than one point, Platt raises a question of whether we should all either sell everything or all go into international missions or other wide-ranging questions, then backpedals to say, "but we may not all have to do that." It's a bit of a hedge in my opinion, but it does not destroy the overall value of the book.

To read or not to read?  Read it.  Buy it and give it as graduation gifts to high school and college graduates this year.  Then keep a copy for yourself and read it.  If we would push through even a portion of these ideas in the next 3 years in American churches, we'd see an amazing difference.  (The SBC wouldn't even need a GCR Task Force!)

The review package included a copy of The Radical Question, which is a summarizing booklet of this work.  It would be an excellent quick handout to church members on a Sunday morning, coupled with a sermon on the need for evangelism.  I wouldn't rush to buy the booklet for personal reading, but for handouts, it would be great.  If you're going to buy, buy the book.



Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Some Extended Thoughts on SBC Life

In 1925, a loose organization of churches came together to find a way to establish stable support for their collective efforts. What was born from the experience is now called the Cooperative Program. It's grown to be the funding basis for over $300 million in annual support for mission work, higher education, political activism, and coordination.

The difficulty has become this: where money goes, power and controversy follow. The truth seems to be that there is rarely enough money to go around. I remember the first year the IMB went over a $200 million budget, and it was wonderful! Then, it became not much, and has since become far too low. Same thing with the budgets of seminaries and the North American Mission Board.

As such, we've had our share of fighting and disputing over the years about how to prioritize and spend the money. We've had plenty of moments where we've not been pleased with how the decisions were being made. It has extended, at times, to disputes with the people involved. Sometimes this has been because the people have been the wrong people in the wrong place, but sometimes it's just been that we have not been willing to allow people to hold different priorities or different ideas.

This has not been good for us as Southern Baptists. I think we have, over the last 50 years especially, but probably longer, probably all the way back to the turn of the 20th Century and the battles with Landmarkism and Norrisism, become a fighting people. Not just a people that fights for things, but just people that fight. It's one thing to fight for something. We should fight for the truth of God's Word. We should fight for providing care for widows, orphans, and the weak. We should fight against evil things and evil people. We have struggled to do these things.

Yet we have also sometimes behaved like an army without an enemy. We've institutionalized our willingness to fight so much that, even if we don't have a valid reason to fight, we need to do it. We won the “Battle for the Bible” but then we had to pick a fight over specific interpretations of the Bible. An example would be our absolute insistence that women not teach men to the point that we, as Southern Baptists, have fired women from teaching Biblical languages in seminary. Which is odd, since the Scriptures don't speak to seminary qualifications. We've added to the idea that deacons not be given to much wine, but subtracted from being the husband of one wife.

Book Review: Plan B

Today, we're going to take a quick look at Pete Wilson's new book,  Plan B.  It's coming out today from Thomas Nelson Publishers.  And, of course, to warn you: I got the book free from Thomas Nelson in exchange for writing this review.  It's from their Booksneeze program and you can read more in Disclosures! if you need to.  Of course, I think the FTC (and any government agency) should be a little more concerned about real problems than whether or not a blogger with a small audience paid for the books he reviewed or got them free…moving on:

Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn't Show Up the Way You Thought He Would?

Review: Pete Wilson has written a good book here.  I don't think you'll see it go down in history as one of the great classics of Christian writing, but neither should it rapidly find the "please, just take this book away" pile.  It's written in an easy style, and the content is well grounded in Scripture.

What Wilson has done in this book is take a look at the various ways that our lives don't turn out the way we expect.  Whether it's failed marriages or lost jobs, tragic deaths or crippling accidents, there are few tragedies that are not addressed here.  Wilson then goes on to give Biblical examples of similar, and sometimes worse, situations.  These are given to highlight the fact that God has often not followed exactly the plan people have expected Him to follow. 

One of the things to like about this book is the inclusion of a study guide at the end of the book.  This helps with the idea of using the book as a group learning experience.  I'd recommend that.  First of all, it will help combat the syndrome in our churches that we expect our Plan A to always work out, when we should openly realize that it often won't.  Second, group study and group discussion of the ways God has worked through the Plan B, C, D, and on down will strengthen others.

I had a few dislikes in the book.  There's no way around this one, and that is: Pete Wilson is a pastor.  As a pastor, he knows people's life situations and confidential issues.  Some of these he shares anonymously, while others he apparently received permission to share with names and details.  I would prefer he stick with the stories that he has permission to share with details.  People's curiosity is often piqued by anonymous stories, and it costs you credibility to assure that while you can't say who it was, you know it happened.  It may seem like you lose your most powerful examples that way, but you keep the focus on the content, not the curiosity about the sources.

My other disagreement would come from some of Pastor Wilson's Bible passage choices, but those are open to interpretation.  It's not that he chooses bad Scripture, just that my understanding of the context, especially of direct application of Old Testament prophetic passages, is different from his. 

I don't hesitate to recommend this book at all. 4 stars out of 5.


Now, a new occasional feature of my book reviews

Beyond the review: While I mostly liked this book, and fully agree with Pastor Wilson's reasons for writing it, I wish this book wasn't necessary.  Essentially, this book is written to help us see past the fluff version of Christianity that many Americans have come to believe in.  And that's got to stop.  You have preachers being arrested in supposedly free European countries, preachers being executed in Communist dictatorships like China, Christians being slaughtered in Africa, and while I'm writing this review, Tom Ascol has tweeted that he heard from a brother in Christ that has had a price put on his head in his Muslim community.

Folks, it's time we grow up in the American branch of the church and realize that our American Dream planning and God's Kingdom are more and more exclusive of each other.  We're so wrapped up in ourselves that we can't see what we're supposed to be doing.  Our churches, myself as a pastor included, have got to teach what the Bible teaches, rather than making Christian faith into a "it's all going to be okay" self-help group.  Sure, it's all going to be okay.  At some point during the Millennial Reign of Christ or shortly there after in Eternity.  We've created a faith that lacks any form of substance that will truly sustain people.

And we've got to stop it. 

Monday, May 3, 2010

Monday May 3

In case you've ever wondered, not that you've asked, but I typically spend my Mondays trying to process the Sunday before.  I go back over notes about the service, attendance information, notes from any committee meetings, and sometimes listen to the worship service.  I try to figure out what went well, what went poorly, and what caused anything else.

This I usually do while I'm getting the church sermons put together to put online.  I'm not sure either one of these is doing anyone any good, but the exercise in futility helps me to understand some things better.  How was yesterday?  Well, we had some technical problems in the morning service which caused a rough start, but it went ok.  Music was alright.  Solo was good, but bizarre microphone popping was a distraction.  Sermons were ok morning and evening, not great, but not the worst I've ever delivered.  Committee meetings in the afternoon was about as I expected it to be.  Meanwhile…


I've now got the files ready for the Media Player, so here are the sermons and the sermon outlines:

(By the way: STE-000.mp3 is Sunday night.  New recording device named the file that, and I forgot to change it.)

Text: Matthew 9:14-17

Theme: A Burst Life!

Date: May 2, 2010 AM

Location: CBC Monticello

  1. Text:

    1. Explanations:

      1. Fasting:

        1. The Pharisees, as many of the religious people of the day, fasted at least 1 day a week

        2. The purpose being to help the person focus more on God and less on things

      2. Wine fermenting

        1. Grape juice poured into skins to age: normal practice

        2. In the process, gas bubbles are formed and escape

      3. Bridegrooms and Feasting

        1. A time to celebrate new life

        2. A time to celebrate hope for the future

        3. A time to celebrate covenants

    2. Quick notes:

      1. Recorded also in Luke 5:36-39

      2. Also: patching clothes: most of us are well aware of that principle

  2. Principle:

    1. There is a time for mourning

    2. There is a time for fasting

    3. There is a time for feasting

    4. There is a time for celebration

    5. There is a time for repair

    6. There is a time for newness

  3. Application:

    1. The parable associates the work of God in our lives as if it were the new wine being poured into wineskins

    2. The point is:

      1. God's work in our lives is not guaranteed to be easy

      2. God's work in our lives can, in fact, be destructive if we are not willing to change the formats we expect God to work in

      3. God's work in our church is the same way

      4. We cannot expect God to work in us or our church and have things remain the same



Text: Philippians 3:12-16

Theme: Fughetaboudit!

Date: May 2 2010 PM

Location: CBC Monticello

  1. We're looking at the balance between God's work in our lives and our responsibility for our own lives

    1. Christ has made us His own: we are already fully bought by God

      1. This is complete

      2. This is irreversible

    2. We are responsible for living up to what God has done in us

      1. This is not complete

      2. This is reversible

  2. How will we accomplish what we are responsible for?

    1. By forgetting the past:

      1. First, forgetting our failures

        1. We must acknowledge they exist

        2. We must accept God's forgiveness

        3. We must stop trying to undo the ones that cannot be undone

          1. Marriage

          2. Children

          3. Other Permanent decisions

      2. Second, forgetting our successes

        1. That's right

        2. A ship does not sail on yesterday's wind

  3. We must press on to the goal

    1. It is to us to supply the energy

    2. We can because God has already bought us

    3. We can because God is with us

    4. We can because God has commanded us

    5. It is a matter of the will

  4. Notice the collective nature of the terms: we, many, us

    1. This is not a task for loners

    2. This is not a task that we abandon others in our pursuit of doing

    3. This is a task for the church!

Sermon Recap for July 14 2024

 Good morning! After being at Praiseworks Arkansas last week, I'm back.  Here is yesterday's sermon, where I am proud of myself for ...