Wednesday, November 30, 2011


If you are a Southern Baptist minister, you recognize the letters A C P. Every year we must go through the ritual of reporting to our denomination the numerical statistics that capture a snapshot of our churches. The report includes membership, attendance, baptisms, contributions received, money spent on missions and ministers, and a few other things. It's the way we determine that there are 16 million Southern Baptists. In fact, it's the only place you'll find 16 million Southern Baptists.

We call it the Annual Church Profile - the ACP. I said that we "must" do it but that's not really true. Southern Baptists can't be told they must do anything. Sometimes I think that even applies to directives in the Bible. In Arkansas, a little more that 10% of the Southern Baptist churches will not complete the ACP. Not sure if they have something to hide or just don't think it really matters.

At Cross Road we are studying the book of Daniel on Wednesday nights. Tonight's study was in chapter 9 where Daniel prayed a prayer of adoration, confession, and petition in response to what he read in God's word. He was part of the group of Israelites that had been exiled to Babylon (under Persian rule at the time of his prayer). Other Israelites had been scattered to other places. Some had been left back home with nothing to call home.

Daniel was reading pieces of a prophecy from Jeremiah that said the exile was to last 70 years. When Daniel read this he had been in exile about 67 years. The realization that the exile would soon be over led Daniel to consider why they were in exile in the first place. They had turned from God, did not repent, and disobeyed the Lord's commands. So Daniel prayed. He confessed. He pleaded with God to restore the people to their home and make them a nation again.

Here's the pattern of his prayer: adoration, confession, petition - ACP. The prayer is one of the most significant in the Bible and a great pattern for modern Christians to implement. I wonder what might happen if Southern Baptists emphasized more ACP praying than ACP reporting.

I told my church tonight that when next year's ACP is due I will send in a paper about ACP praying. I was just joking. Or was I? Check back in October 2012.

-I think the Annual Church Profile has merit.
-A member of CRBC works for the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. Her responsibilities include ACP.
-Adoration, Confession, Petition pattern taken from New American Commentary.
-Counting baptisms, budgets, and buildings is not just a Southern Baptist phenomenon. Maybe your church could use a little ACP praying, too.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Nights Indicate Good Days

Since mid-June our church has replaced the Sunday night services with other activities. We have Sunday Night Bible Study in a home. Anyone can host the Bible study. We sometimes sing, always eat.

We also have fellowship nights where we get together in our Activities Building for singing, missions studies, Bible studies, and other things. Seems like the folks enjoy hanging out, especially since we moved into the Activities Building.

We have tried to schedule at least two events each month. Only one person has told me that they miss Sunday night church.

Our decision was based on the participation in our evening services. Almost nothing. With only one or two exceptions, the participation in this new format is better. Most people who attended before still attend. But more people are taking part now who rarely came on Sunday evening before. I understand those who miss the other way but if we want to involve more people and disciple more believers we've done the right thing.

What I really want is to have more than one location for Bible studies on Sunday night. Our membership is spread out geographically. I can envision a location in Ferndale, another in Avilla, and maybe another fairly close to the church. We could have the groups meeting two or three weeks during the month and meet all together in the Activities Building once a month.

Not sure what this will look like down the road. We may even change away from this to something that looks like the old pattern. That really doesn't matter. What matters is getting the most people involved in disciple-making Bible study. These are good days at CRBC because we are willing to do things that can impact our effectiveness.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Helping Others

Been making calls today to folks we think might need a little help putting a Thanksgiving meal on the table this week. Our church family donated enough to provide for ten families. Thought we had ten but a couple of them have said they really don't need the help this year. That's a good thing but now I'm looking for more families.

When I talk with them I ask how we can pray for them through the holiday season. Here are some of the responses.

"My health." This person is dealing with infection from a recent surgery.
"My kids." This grandparent is keeping seven of the grandchildren on a temporary basis.
"That people will come to Christ." This person forsakes the assembling of himself with other believers and gets his "church" on TV. (He's not a shut-in.)

So I'm praying for their requests and for other issues the Spirit has impressed me with about them. I want the helping ministry to reach beyond the physical need and touch them spiritually, too.

If we claim to be doing missions ministry, we better be focused on the spiritual needs. If we just offer a cup of cold water it's not missions nor ministry. If we offer it in Jesus' name it's ministry. If we offer it in Jesus' name with the intent of sharing our faith it's missions.

Lots of folks will be helping others over the next few weeks. I hope you'll be involved. And I hope you'll think bigger than just delivering a bag of groceries. Look for opportunities to meet spiritual needs, too.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Timothy+Barnabas School

Deana and I attended the Timothy+Barnabas School held in Branson, MO this week. The school is the effort of Johnny Hunt and many others who intend (and succeed!) to encourage pastors and their wives. we have wanted to go to one of the conferences for years but never got around to it. Glad we did this year.

We made new friends while there. Tim and Katie Marr serve in Rattan, OK at First Baptist Church. I'm looking forward to cultivating a lifelong relationship with them. Deana and I are almost old enough to be their parents (!) but we connected in a special way. This will be a good friendship.

The pastors were encouraged through Johnny Hunt's teaching on growing your church and maximizing your influence. He has a huge heart for pastors and it really shows. The guys I talked with are so encouraged and we are ready to get back to work. It was a time of refreshing that I needed. And the content will help me be a better pastor.

The wives partied all week. Janet Hunt lavished gifts upon them each time they met and as they walked out the meeting room doors. Between the gifts and the shopping Deana did, I was beginning to wonder if there would be room in the car for me to ride home. Beyond the fun and games, the ladies talked about being a Christian woman, wife, mother, and pastor's wife to the church. I can tell that Deana liked the whole thing. She'll be going again whether I do or not!

If you are a pastor you must attend Timothy+Barnabas. Check out the schedule at and get it on your schedule. You will not regret it. And take your wife.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hey, the music just got louder!

I'm sitting in a Starbucks sipping a decaf Caffe' Americano, downloading some updates, reading the news online, and doing a few social media updates. Not your typical Friday activities for a preacher, at least a preacher my age.

The music is not very loud right now but about three minutes ago it was really loud. I have a theory why the volume fluctuates in places like this. When the volume was loud the crowd was loud. I believe the crowd got loud first then the music bumped up to cover the crowd. Anytime I'm in a place like this you can hear the other conversations but you can't really understand what they are saying. As the crowd noise gets louder, I think the music gets a little louder to maintain that "cover."

It was blaring a while ago! And that seemed to push the crowd noise up. Then about half the people left, the crowd noise diminished, and the music quietened.

People want to stick out. They get louder so everyone can hear them. They act out so everyone will notice them. They attempt what no one else is attempting so they can say they've done what nobody else has done. They want to beat the record and get mentioned in the media.

Nothing much wrong with sticking out. Just make sure you draw attention to Jesus. While Christians are called to fit into God's plan and his will, we are called out to be a witness for him.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Doing What's Right

I'm hearing the same things out of the Penn State sexual abuse situation that you are. You probably have heard more than I have. But what I hear is not good. Just saw a tweet that Penn State may be preparing for Paterno's exit.

So many issues come out of this mess. One is that we must always do what is right even if it is embarrassing or painful.

So what is right? If you meet the requirements of the law are you right? In some cases you are. If the law says the speed limit is 45 mph and you are driving 45 mph you are right. But if the rules say you must report wrong-doing and you do but you don't do anything else that might prevent or protect, are you still right?

I say, no. "Legal" is one step along the way to "right." Ethical action is often a greater action that simply taking the legally required steps. A legalist would say that a coach must report suspected wrong-doing. An ethicist would say that the coach should do more to prevent the wrong-doing from continuing or repeating and to protect those who may have been injured or harmed in some other way by the act.

A pastor is legally required to report cases of abuse that he might learn about through his ministerial position. If I learn about a case of sexual child abuse I have to report it - I've legally met the requirements when I do. Do I have a moral obligation to help the child? I think so.

It seems from what I know about the Penn State situation is that the legal steps were met but no further steps were taken.

Are we such a legalistic culture that we will accept this? You might not think that such a permissive culture as ours could also be legalistic, but that's a fitting description if we are satisfied with simply meeting the legal requirements.

We'll see if there are any moral absolutes left. Or if we care about them.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Off with the Old, On with the New

I've been watching the crew reroofing the church and parsonage. The church building is getting a new metal roof over old shingles and the parsonage gets new shingles. We've had hail damage and insurance is paying for most of it.

The two jobs are different in two ways. The new metal roof on the church is going over the existing shingles. The workmen are putting the sheets of metal in place and screwing them down through the layer of shingles already there. No problem with that. Seems to be a good way to do it. The old surface is completely covered and the new surface is to be water-tight. I imagine that will last a good long time.

But the parsonage is getting a new layer of shingles where a layer already exists. Not the whole roof, just one section. If the whole roof was being shingled then I imagine they would just put a new layer of shingles over the old. But since only part of the roof is getting a new layer, the old layer in the area being worked has to be removed. Otherwise one section would be thicker than the other. I'm trying to think why that would be a bad thing. Not sure you could see the difference from the ground. But the difference would likely cause a problem sealing out water. The roofing material needs to be level so it can join together to do the job.

That gets me to thinking about the church. Sometimes we just apply something new over something old and it works fine. New instrumentation or arrangements of old songs freshens them up and most of the time we enjoy them more. A modern translation of the Bible can be more accurate to the original - but be careful which translation you choose. A new teacher in a class may spark a little more interest and help the learners to, well, learn.

But sometimes we just need to tear off the old and come back with something new. A long-held belief that people new to the community won't like your church needs to be thrown away and replaced with a fresh perspective and willingness to reach out to them. A dogmatic view of the schedule of services can keep a church from making adjustments that may well be the key to growth. Since doing what you've always done will get you what you've alway gotten, maybe it's time to replace the old ways with something fresh, innovative, effective. And the renovation doesn't have to be across the board. Maybe just one or two things need changed. Or maybe everything but one or two things need changed.

Churches ought to assess their effectiveness on a regular basis. Be honest. When something no longer helps you reach your community, it's time to let it go. Put it out to pasture. Pull the plug. Or at least revise it. Irrelevance might be the biggest sin a church commits. A church that is irrelevant to its community is living in a community that is drowning in the high waters of spiritual complacency. Let's do what we must do to stir those waters and rescue the perishing.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The World's a Scary Place

The world can be a pretty scary place. Maybe you noticed some ghosts and ghouls and goblins running around earlier this week.

The real world can be pretty scary, too. Criminals kicked in our front door last week. Several central Arkansas banks have been robbed in the last few days. National news stories tell of a woman who gave birth to twins then killed the infants.

What's even more scary is the vision Daniel had of future (to him) kingdoms that would devour each other ultimately leading to a future (to us) kingdom led by Antichrist - the most devious and powerful and vicious of any earthly leader. That won't be a good time. But it will end swiftly and decisively at the coronation of Jesus Christ, King of kings. He will defeat Antichrist, establish a thousand years of peace on earth, then send Satan to his everlasting punishment.

It's appointed to man once to die, then to face judgment. When I die I want to spend eternity in heaven with Jesus. Is it possible to know that I will? I talked with a man in the VA hospital a few weeks ago about this. He said there is no way to know. A person's only hope is that Jesus chooses to let him in, according to this man. He thinks his eternity is left up to an arbitrary decision. He will die not knowing for sure.

When I pastored a church in north central Arkansas, we took a survey of our community to determine ways we might minister to the people. One of the survey questions asked if they knew for sure they would spend eternity in heaven when they died. The overwhelming response from this heavily Catholic area was, "Oh, I hope so." They didn't know whether they would be in heaven or hell. Their only hope was to do as much good in this life as they could in hopes that the good would outweigh the bad when they faced judgment. A person with this belief will die not knowing for sure.

I know for sure! The Bible says it is possible to know. It's not an arbitrary decision that God makes for us while standing at the pearly gates. It's not a judgment of whether or not good outweighs bad. Instead, Jesus died for my sins so I can be forgiven. If I trust Jesus for my forgiveness and salvation then my name is on the reservation list for heaven. No doubts. No questions. No problems.

You can know for sure, too. But you have to believe the right things about God and salvation. Re-read the previous paragraph to get to the truth. And send me a message if you have questions.

I know. Do you?

I'm not scared. Are you?