Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In Good Baptist Fashion

The land sale is complete...contracts have been signed, closing documents executed, and the money is "in the bank." Now, what do we do?

In good baptist fashion the congregation has already made decisions on two key issues: the proceeds are to be placed in an account designated for future building needs (our Finance Committee meeting is meeting this week to start the process); and we have sixty days to form a site planning committee to develop a plan for future land and building use that will maximize our remaining space for ministry.

In good baptist fashion the Finance Committee's proposals will be brought to the congregation for input and approval. In good baptist fashion the Site Planning Committee and its recommendations will be discussed and approved by the congregation.

What's missing from this process? One, there is no internal group or individual making decisions for the congregation. Our committees study and recommend- the congregation makes decisions. As pastor, I will have input and provide support- the congregation makes decisions. Second, there is no outside group or heirarchy making decisions for or imposing its will on the congregation. Our association and partner conventions offer support and resources- the congregation makes decisions. All this is in good baptist fashion.

Congregational church government is something of a spiritual democracy. It can be messy, slow, and appear inefficient. For it to work effectively members must be informed, involved, and intentional about seeking God's direction... in good baptist fashion.

Monday, October 25, 2010

An Encouraging Day

I preached a sermon yesterday on "Barnabas- the encourager" and came home from church encouraged--- go figure!

I was encouraged by our worship. Sharing communion is always a special occasion-- this one was enhanced for me by Wanda and Phebe's beautiful accompaniments, the reverent service of our deacons, Clint and Alison"s reading of scripture, John's heartfelt prayer, and the singing of our "great choir," the congregation.

I was encouraged by the "coming and goings." It's exciting to know that a college student like Daniel Rice has joined our fellowship as he prepares for missions service. Ken and Carleen Newton have blessed our church in many ways during their time with Kristina and Alexa and we will miss them as they return to Brazil. The missions lunch saw over 100 people "come" for good food and even better fellowship and raise money for those who will be "going" to New Orleans next month to work with Global Maritime Ministries.

I was encouraged by being a "witness" at the closing of our land sale. Our Real Estate Committee: Jimmy Bobo, Dave Cogdell, Scott Conti, Jerry Jansen, and Jim Smith (chair) have served us well in diligently carrying this process to conclusion. By the time the transfers are completed this afternoon we will have paid-off our current mortgage on the land and building and will have over $700,000 "in the bank" towards future plans.

All-in-all quite an encouraging day for this suburban parson. To God be the glory!

Monday, October 11, 2010

What Happens When Deacons "Deac"

There are many models available for how deacons function in a baptist church. Some deacons form a self-perpetuating board of directors. There are churches were deacons become managers of the church- approving decisions from the price of Wednesday night supper to paint colors for the next workday. I was reminded yesterday of the different approach to deacon ministry that we have chosen.

Our deacons meetings are held at 8 a.m. on the second Sunday of each month. (Sundays seemed to avoid most conflicts and an 8 a.m. start means we have to be done in time for Sunday School!) The deacons rotate who will prepare breakfast and share the devotional before the meeting begins. Typically, I share a "people update" and then excuse myself. From there our deacons share needs from their family groups and consider ways to be of service.

What's missing? Business, church business to be more precise. We have committees to take care of business matters. We ask our deacons to take care of people. From time to time we may share word of projects on on "information only " basis, committees don't need approval from the deacons before asking the church's blessing on an idea.

As I left Sunday our deacons were considering the needs of families within our church and some in the community. Sometimes it is as simple as buying food or paying a medical bill- sometimes the deacons must wrestle with how best to address a family's need when a check isn't the most important need.

When our deacons "deac" they do so in a spirit of prayer, humility, and service. I am grateful to share ministry with these fellow servants.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Slowing Down

I was reading through evaluations from my latest class of students in the Introduction to Biblical Literature class I teach on occasion for Shorter University when I ran across the following: "Thanks for telling us to slow down and read the stories in the Bible. No one has ever said that to me." Lord, help me practice what I teach!

Several years ago the Ladies' Sunday School class placed a bird feeder outside my office window for Pastor Appreciation Day. Tricia has faithfully maintained it since. This simple gift allows me opportunity to observe a variety of birds (colorful), chipmunks (cute), squirrels (pests), mice (?), and the occasional "circle-of-life" thing as the hawk swings through the neighborhood. We all need times to retreat and "get away from it all." We can all benefit from a moments a day to "be still."

These random thoughts brought me back to a book of prayers and a remembrance of Psalm 23 for Busy People as written by a believer in TokyoThe Lord is my pace-setter, I shall not rush; He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals, He provides me with images of stillness, which restores my serenity. He leads me in the way of efficiency, through calmness of mind; and His guidance is peace. Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day I will not fret, for His presence is here. His timelessness, His all-importance will keep me in balance. He prepares refreshment and renwal in the midst of activity, by anointing my mind with His oils of tranquility; my cup of joyous energy overflows. Surely harmony and effectiveness shall me the fruits of my hours and I shall walk in the pace of my Lord, and dwell in His house for ever.