Tuesday, June 28, 2011


STATE DENOMINATIONAL NEWS: Word comes this week that Dr. Jeff Ginn, Executive Director of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia for the past 3 years, has resigned to accept a pastorate in Baton Rouge, LA.

Ginn has been, in my opinion, a good leader. He is dynamic, articulate, and creative. He has led the SBCV in some fresh directions. He has had, apparently, a desire to return to pastoral ministry in a local church(which is really where it's at in kingdom work) and so will leave our state at the end of July. I didn't know him well. We've only had a few conversations. I assisted him once in a funeral in another city. He's a pretty sharp guy. My guess is he'll be missed. I wish him well in his new assignment.

As you know, Virginia is one of a small handful of states that have two state Baptist conventions. Here it's the SBCV and the BGAV. Local congregations can be either uniquely aligned with one or dually aligned with both. We have voted to affiliate with each of these 2 great entities. Both of them are led by and made up of terrific people and do really good work for Christ in our state. We divide up our Cooperative Program giving between them. Of late I suppose I've been a little more involved with the older BGAV because of personal friendships, but I'm a fan of both groups and am delighted that our church has the opportunity to draw from the resources of each.

In case you've forgotten, each Southern Baptist church is autonomous. We're not in some denominational hierarchy. We make our own decisions under the guidance and lordship of Christ. We do, however, voluntarily choose to relate to other congregations as partners in mission and ministry. Locally, that's through associations(for us, the PBA). Statewide, that's through state conventions. Nationally, we're linked to the Southern Baptist Convention. All of that gives us the chance to unite with likeminded believers and intensify our efforts to reach the world for Jesus. After all, that's our real business. Our churches are not to be cozy, comfortable country clubs that exist solely that we might get our needs met. Instead we're to be constantly finding new and effective ways to spread the Gospel of Christ all over the globe, often in sacrificial approaches. That's why working together in these larger groupings helps local fellowships carry out their mandate.

In recent years, denominationalism has fallen on hard times. Everything is in flux. Many Baptists across the land are turned off by bloated bureaucracy and loss of focus and division over sometimes minor issues. It remains to be seen what shapes our cooperation will take in the future. If you're a church member and serious about the Great Commission, all of this should be of at least some concern to you. This isn't something that just pastors should be interested in. Stay tuned.

CULTURAL DECLINE. The action last week by the New York state legislature to legalize same-sex marriage there next month is regrettable and one more indication of the decay and deterioration of the culture around us. This should not surprise us, though. We live in a fallen world that is mostly alienated from God. Lost people have no other means of making their decisions except by relying on their natural, fleshly reasoning which is set against God's will. In other words, unbelievers are just acting naturally. Spirit-filled, scripture-immersed Christians know that homosexuality is sin and that marriage is to be between a man and a woman.

All of that said, though, I hope by now you know my heart. We're not to be condemnatory people. We're to shower gay and lesbian individuals with love and grace with the hope of reaching them for Jesus. One of my favorite Bible texts on this is 2 Timothy 2:24-26. I'm appreciative of some of the humble, gracious remarks that Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Al Mohler made on this issue in response to a questioner at the SBC in Phoenix the other week. Though adamantly opposed to homosexuality, he reminded us all that we've got a lot of work to do in terms of extending understanding compassion before we can expect to gain a hearing. We've been loudly judgemental.But each of us is a sinner. Every one of us struggles still with some sin. We're going to have to exchange our shouting and our rhetoric for humility and listening ears and loving tears. We're going to have to come down off our legalistic pedestals, where we tend to rank sins,and admit that before God we're all desperately wicked and in need of His mercy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


REFLECTION STATEMENT: Every now and then I have Marian print up some sheets of paper with thought-provoking sentences on them and post them at different points around our facility. The idea is to stimulate our thinking.

Regrettably, no one ever comments on them, at least to me. This is true, too, for newsletter columns and bulletin inserts. No one asks "What did that mean?" or says"I didn't agree with that" or "That really impacted me" or "That was a waste of time and paper" or "That gave me a new perspective". It's a little discouraging and makes me think that these sincere efforts to provide seed and fertilizer for inspiration and motivation and spiritual challenge are futile.

Well, anyway, currently there is a 14-word saying attached to some of our doors and hallways and bulletin boards around here that poses a question: if our church ceased to exist would it make any difference to this neighborhood?

That inquiry stirs up still other questions. Does the community all about us even know that we're here? What is their impression of us? Do they sense that we care? Are we really ministering to them in any meaningful way? And again, if we folded up or moved away would that have a negative impact on them? Do they harbor the impression that we just drive in for a couple of hours on Sunday morning and then drive out without any real concern for, or interest in, them?

All of this is important to consider. If God planted us here, and wants us to remain here for at least the foreseeable future, then this is our mission field. We're to reach out and get to know and influence and bless the persons on these streets close by our property. I don't know that we're really doing that. We take a stab at it occasionally but have no ongoing, concerted, consistent strategy in place to just love on those folks with the love of Christ and touch their lives in helpful, practical ways whether or not they ever come to our church. Somehow we've got to seek the mind of the Lord and come up with some plan to accomplish that.

I'm excited about the desire of our Outreach Committee to attempt another small step in that direction with the milk-and-eggs project on June 25. This is something we all can get behind in different ways. Let's not leave this to the few members of this team. Let's plug in. Let's be here that morning to meet our neighbors and help them in a specific,tangible area of life. And let's develop dozens more creative approaches to extend a hand. Matthew 25:31-46 comes to mind here. God never intended for us to have a comfortable, country club mentality but rather to shine as lights in the darkness. Seed, and salt, in a hurting world.

NEW BOOK: In just a few weeks California pastor, writer, and conference speaker Francis Chan releases his latest work, Erasing Hell(David C. Cook, 2011). It will be a brief but thorough examination of what the Bible says about eternal punishment, and will be a great antidote to the seemingly universalistic distortions about that subject in the controversial book by Rob Bell that came out in March. I hope you'll get a copy(about $15) and read and review it very carefully. It will give you thoughts to share with unsaved friends. Chan's perspective will be a humble, not arrogant, one.

SBC. I didn't attend the annual meeting this year, held out in Phoenix. Messenger count was expected to be quite low, and no major matters seemed to be on the agenda. I do think it is important for pastors(and laypeople, too) to go to these conventions. There were many years when I never missed. Oh, well, maybe next year, in New Orleans. You do need to be aware that there is real concern in our denomination these days over declining baptisms and attendance in our churches.