Saturday, January 27, 2007

Missions Leader Training

I’ve just completed a seminar to learn the ropes of leading a missions team.  Lots of dynamics involved in planning the trip, recruiting the team members, and executing the plan.  I’m ready to get started!  My first task will be to mobilize our church to work with Arkansas Baptist Builders in restoring homes in New Orleans that were ruined by the floodwaters of Katrina.  I would like to take a group of 6 – 8 sometime before the end of April.  I also want to take a group that will include youth sometime during the summer months.

Friday, January 26, 2007

West Africa

When I asked Deana to marry me we talked about the life of a preacher’s family that involves moving around and sometimes away. She said that was OK and that she was willing to go anywhere except Africa.

A couple of years ago a church is Hawaii had me on their short list. We were pretty excited! That must not have been where God wanted us to serve because he didn’t open that door but has opened the door to serve here at Cross Road. It’s good to be where God wants you to be. I can’t imagine any reason for being miserable in Hawaii except to be there when it’s not God’s will.

At Cross Road we are looking at ways to share the gospel all across the world. We have ministry/missions plans for our community and across the state of Arkansas. We will soon work in New Orleans on construction projects. And we have adopted the Tukulor people group of The Gambia – in Africa!

I’ve only been on three mission trips in my life. That’s a sad statement for someone who has been a Christian for almost 35 years! I went as part of a youth group to an area where our church was considering starting a mission. We went door to door taking a survey to determine the interest in a Southern Baptist church in the community. Last year Deana and I went to Hoboken, New Jersey on a project called “Paint the Town.” This was a NYC-area campaign to paint school buildings. Last week I went to New Orleans to view the possibilities of our church joining other Pulaski Baptists on a project to refurbish homes devastated by the floodwaters of Katrina. That has been the extent of my missions “going.” I’ve been good at “giving” and “praying” but my “going” stinks. But I’m changing that.

By adopting the Tukulor people group our church is pledging to pray for them. They are part of the “Last Frontier” meaning that they have very little evangelical influence with less that 2% of the population Christian. In praying for them we are praying that God will prepare a missionary for them and, until then, that he will speak to them through supernatural means, such as dreams and visions. He has chosen to spread the Gospel through people but can certainly use other means. We are praying that the influence of Islam and animism will be minimal. We are also praying for evangelistic material to be translated into their language. For now, only audio gospel presentations are available but we pray for translations of the Bible, the Jesus Film, radio and tv broadcasts, and other printed material to become available.

The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention is seeking volunteers to go to The Gambia this year. The mission will be to prayer-walk the villages seeking God’s direction for evangelization. The cost is about $2,500 per person. I am praying for discernment regarding going to the Gambia for the one-week project.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Sandy's Freedom

Sandy is our 6-month old dog. She has been home with us for a couple of weeks. We've been keeping her in the garage in a crate except for play time and potty time. She's used to that. Last weekend we bought a 30' lead connected to a stake we placed in the back yard. It took a little experimenting on our part to place the stake in the right place. At first I had her too close to too many things around which she could wrap the lead. Then she was close enough to the steps leading up to the deck (about 15 steps) that she could get half-way up. I was afraid she would jump off and hang herself. Now she's far enough away from anything that might hurt her, I think.

I just put her out there so she could spend most the day outside since it's not raining. But she stands as far as the lead will allow and whines. I'm sure she'll get used to it; if not, I'll get used to the whining.

Isn't she acting just like people act? We have boundaries on how we are to live yet we like to stand at the edge of the boundaries and whine. Sociologists call these people "deviants." Many of them end up on TV or in the movies. OK, maybe it's just the Jerry Springer Show but it's still TV!

There is no difference with Christians. The Bible clearly states that since we are in a relationship with Jesus Christ we have both freedom and restrictions. God gives us boundaries in biblical instruction but we are so free to move within the boundaries; there's plenty of room for differences in lifestyle within the boundaries of Christianity. I'm not embracing sin nor saying sin is OK but there is plenty of fun, excitement, challenge, etc., within Christianity - within the boundaries God established.

I've forgotten most of what I learned in Mr. Drittler's Geometry class so I can't quickly figure the area of a circle. But I do know that Sandy is on a 30' lead so she has a circle of freedom that is 60' wide - lots of room to roam and play. More than a crate in the garage! Maybe she'll learn to enjoy the freedom she now has. Maybe Christians will learn that, too.

I wonder if God ever gets used to the whining?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

New Orleans

I was part of a 17-member team from the Pulaski Baptist Association to tour reconstruction of New Orleans this week.  The drive down there was about 8 ½ hours so we spent 17 of the 39 hours of the trip on the road…in a bus…with preachers.  We preachers like to talk and tell stories and tell jokes.  I figure I have 6 months’ worth of sermon illustrations and outlines.  We solved difficult theological problems like creation, the rapture, eternal security, and KJV vs. NIV.  With these issues settled, we’ll have much less to talk about from now on.

Solving the problem in New Orleans won’t be as easy.  Arkansas Baptists have been on the ground since the hurricane hit 16 months ago.  We have fed workers and refugees, we have cleared debris, we have shared the gospel, and we are rebuilding homes.  Our project was to tour the area learning about the work managed by Arkansas Baptist Builders.  We saw devastation left by the flood waters and hope in the eyes of people watching there homes being restored and thankfulness on the faces of those benefiting from the work.  Now we’ll all go back to our churches with the mission to motivate our people to be On Mission.  Our churches have prayed and they have given.  Arkansas ranks 2nd in the nation in charitable giving per capita.  This is in part due to the higher percentage of Christians living here than in other places along with our proximity to the affected areas of 2005’s disasters and our desire to help.

Praying and giving are important.  Now we need to go.  We need to go to New Orleans putting our muscle into the mission.  Anyone can help.  Everyone can do something.  It’s an affordable trip.  It’s worthwhile ministry.  The volunteers don’t have to be skilled carpenters, electricians, plumbers, etc.; just willing to help.  I hope to motivate and mobilize our church to take at least two trips to New Orleans before August.

One trip of adults to hang sheet rock, staple insulation into the walls, and run new wiring.  Again, these people don’t have to be skilled in these trades.  Another trip will be for youth during the summer.  This trip can be more of the construction work or conducting VBS.  This is a great opportunity to demonstrate that we are sheep, not goats.  (See Matthew 25)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Gone to the Dogs

We stopped by to see what is necessary in order to adopt a cat from the Humane Society of Pulaski County. We left with a dog. Yep, we are the proud owners of “Sandy,” a five-month old hound mix. She weighs 20 pounds and will grow to be about 35 pounds, so they say. I guess it’s really hard to tell exactly what a dog will grow to be when you don’t really know what kind of dog it is. So, only time will tell!

Her name was “Merry” but we felt it necessary to change it. Why “Sandy”? Her color is a reddish tannish brown. I guess her color is as mixed as her breed. But it is somewhat sandy colored. And the girl who helped us get all the accessories at PetSmart looks like Sandra Bullock.

Sandy” is almost house broken. We don’t intend for her to be an inside dog but we certainly don’t want her going inside. OOPS! I just got a call from home…Sandy peed on the rug. Time to go into the carrier.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Young Pastor

OK. I'm not the one saying I am young. As far as I'm concerned, I'm over the hill and gaining speed. If a man can expect to live 76 years or so, I'm well past "middle age."

But a woman in our church said this was the first time she's had a pastor younger than she was. She's not old...but I'm not young.

There are advantages to having an old pastor. He's been around the block and has answers to almost everything. He's heard "we've never done it that way before" so many times he has finally given up trying to lead and simply wants to stay out front without getting run over. He's baptized every size of believer so he's not intimidated when the 6'5" 290 lb woman gets saved - or man, for that matter. He's like the grandfather all the 30-somethings are missing. He's preached through the Bible at least twice so he has a sermon for every occasion. Since he's preached through the Bible at least twice he doesn't have to study as much so he has more time to just sit and talk.

But there are also advantages to having a young pastor. This is his first time around the block so you can tell him anything and he'll believe it. If he can't stand hearing "we've never done it that way before" anymore he'll leave and you might get an older preacher next time. He's just learning to baptize so you get a good laugh when you see him sweating as he stands in the baptistry awaiting the 290 lb water-displacer. He's like the younger brother you never had. He hasn't even read the New Testament twice so you can pretty much tell him your ideas are in there somewhere and get away with it. Since he doesn't have a shoebox full (or a hard drive full) of sermons he'll spend most of his time studying and stay out of your hair.

And then there's me.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Kenny Bishop

I love Southern Gospel music. I've posted about it before so you can read about my love for it. I came across a website for Kenny Bishop ( several months ago. Kenny is one of my favorite characters and singers. He, his brother, and their father were the Bishops for several years. I promoted them in Russellville back in the day. I drove many miles and paid many dollars to see them.

Then they just went away. Rumors swirled around the gospel music community; some of them must have been partially true. Mark (the brother) continued in SG music right away. Dad stayed home. Kenny went into politics. Now he's back.

I was reading another SG website a couple of days ago and came across a link to his website. I hadn't really thought about him since I first found his sight months ago. But I went back to it out of curiousity. I listened to the MP3 files from his new album...absolutely great. So I headed to Lifeway to make my purchase.

I listened to it today and will again tomorrow. It's a wonderful collection of songs about grace, mercy, forgiveness, repentance... Sounds like he's come full circle and I am glad for that. I would love to have him come to my church; I've already started working on that.