Friday, July 25, 2008

Big Tent Revival?

They meet in converted store fronts, centuries-old stone cathedrals just off of the courthouse square, rented office units, crowded living rooms, large up-to-date campuses, and small clapboard-sided structures. Some of them are unashamedly "free will," while others have points that even Calvin didn't know of. The worship services in some are considered "high church" (I call them Baaahptists), and others use a guitar, a bass, a keyboard, and (dare I say it) a drum set-with nary a hymnal in sight.

What is one thing that unites these different congregations? They are all Southern Baptist churches.

Even the "Southern" part is a misnomer; the convention officially operates in 41 US states and 153 countries. SBC missionaries even work in countries where they are not supposed to operate. I never cease to be amazed at what the convention continues to accomplish and how diverse it is.

For the last two years, I've been involved in a church that is not in the SBC. My frustrations with the SBC were varied, but I have come to some realizations over the last couple of years:
1) Most of the frustrations I had were with particular churches (okay, and particular people too).
2) There really is no perfect denomination (I'm using the term loosely, but you could also use the terms network, organization, association, fellowship, etc.). I know this is obvious, but I've really come to the fresh realization that in every church some issue is going to surface that forces the believer to ask: "Is this a hill I'm willing to fight and die on, should we agree to disagree, or should I just go with the flow?"
3) SBC churches have definitely given me a great deal over the last thirty years. It would be wise for me to proceed prayerfully, carefully, and slowly in any decision in which I might permanently end any association that I have had with the SBC.
4) The Cooperative Program of the SBC continues to be very effective and efficient, despite its size and age. While there are many things it can do better, there are many things is does well.

I've been having a lot of these thoughts against the backdrop of the SBC annual meeting in Indianapolis on June 10 and 11. The concern of newly-elected president Johnny Hunt (and others in the convention) is that there is a trend among younger ministers to leave the convention for other, seemingly greener theological and ministerial pastures.

I was talking with a good friend this past weekend. We went to college together, and not many theological issues come up that I don't discuss them with him and seek out his counsel and viewpoint. I shared with him a struggle that I've been having; in particular, I'm wondering if Baptist ministers of our generation are to remain in the convention to bring about change within it, rather than jumping off to find something new. Without a doubt, it is easier to go find a church where the problems we have don’t exist, but is that the right thing to do?

The SBC is indeed a big tent with a diverse group of churches and believers. I’m praying that God will bring a big tent revival, and I’m praying about what my part (if any) should be.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I Trust in You

Has is been a month since I wrote that last post? There is no way...

Anyway, I found the words below going through my head Saturday morning at some point. We haven't sang this song in a while at church, and I don't think that I've even let all of the words completely sink in:

O Lord, when all my hopes and plans
Are taken from my hands
And I cannot see the way
I will rest in Your sovereign plan
And bless Your gracious hand
I know Your promise stands
That I’ll see Your goodness in this land

Okay, so I can definitely identify with lines 1-3. It seems I woke up one day and they had all happened overnight. Lines 4 and 5 are ones that I have to strive towards daily. I don't want to rest (where is the balance between rest and action, dang it) and I'm so busy whining to God that I don't have time-and don't have the correct attitude-to bless Him.

Lines 6 and 7 are the ones that give me hope. There are times that I really doubt that God will ever answer my prayers in the affirmative-after all, He doesn't have to, right? I mean, God would be no less glorious if He never gave my wife and I children, or if I never served in vocational ministry again. If I never teach one class, He will still be holy and altogether worthy of more than I can ever give to Him. Eternal communion with Him is more than I deserve; how could I expect that He would give me more than that?

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
-Psalm 27:13-14

I know that God has put desires in my heart that are good. Give me courage, Father. Strengthen me to wait on You.

Oh yeah, by the way, the message at church yesterday was on patience.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Thoughts on Worship

Tim Smith, a Worship Pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, gave an excellent definition of worship in a sermon that I listened to this week. He defined worship as "our response to God's initiation."

I love that this definition is both simple and profound. I also love that this definition rightly identifies God as the initiator in worship. I can tell you-and those who know me know this to be true-that I don't seek to worship God on my own. Left to my own desires, I seek after what I want, what I think I need. There are times, however, when God reminds me of the grace that He has extended to me in salvation and adoption (did you ever stop to think that God could have saved us without making us children and heirs-wow!), or He extends His grace to me in a particular situation. The only acceptable response to God's grace is worship. How many times I fail in this obligation! How far I fall short of responding to God's initiation!

A third thing I love about this definition is that it does not limit the nature of the response. Sometimes the response should be shouting a song to God with our hands held high (did I say that?). Sometimes our response should be active-something we should do for God. At other times, our only response can be to fall prostrate before a loving Father in adoration.

Finally-and this is something that I would probably rather not think about-is that God's initiation might not always be what I would see as a "good" thing (and by good I'm thinking words like fun, pleasant, easy, etc.). My response to the initiation of the Sovereign God should be worship-even if that initiation is not fun, pleasant, or easy. Huh.

Father, give me an intense desire to worship you-however and whenever-anytime you initiate that worship.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Blogging Again...Maybe

Well, after a long hiatus it looks like I might be getting back into the blogging thing. I'm not going to say for sure though. I've started and stopped so many times that I know better than to make any kind of definitive statement. My wonderfully supportive Bride (thank you, sweetheart!) was the person who suggested that I start blogging once again. As I read over some of my previous posts, I was amused at what I've found to write about over the last couple of years. Don't get me wrong; some of it was worthwhile, but a good bit of it was purposeless ramblings.

So, I've said all of that to say that I'm back (at least for today). I think that it will be good to have some kind of cathartic outlet for all of the things that I think about and am struggling with.