Wednesday, August 06, 2008
It's Getting Busy . . .not that anything has changed!
As I type, I'm sitting in the customer service area of my local Ford dealership, waiting on my Taurus to be serviced. Aside from a 10-day vacation from which I just returned, moments like this have been rare over the past couple of months. But its been exciting to see God at work in so many ways!
First, there was a trip to the Eastern Caribbean. I had the opportunity to spend several days on the island of Antigua with my pastors, Jerry Cooper and Rob Stephens, and help them begin to map out a church planting strategy for the island. Less than two months later, plans have moved forward at a fast pace. The first training event for indigenous church planters is next week! Through this trip, God providentially alligned us in relationnships with pastors and laity who share a passion for reaching the island. The long-term vision is for the movement to "go viral." Given the centrality of this island to the rest of the Eastern Caribbean, our prayer is that the Gospel will eventually spread from Antigua to other islands.
Then, there was the Southern Baptist Convention. I know, I know, there are a few of you out there who think the SBC has seen its best days. While I value your friendship, I don't share your pessimism, and this year's convention gave evidence, I believe, that our best days are (potentially) ahead of us. Overall, there was a somber, introspective spirit among the messengers that was reflected in many ways, cheifly in the resolutions. While I personally have always felt resolutions to be a total waste of time, I am unusually perturbed to see them often aimed at people who aren't in the room. This year, things were different. In particular, in the resolution on integrity in church membership, Southern Baptists sent a clarion call . . .to ourselves! And of course, there is always the opportunity to re-connect with old friends. All in all, I walked away from this year's convention very encouraged about our future. In the coming days, I will deliver on what I promised at the beginning of the year with a post on why I'm still Southern Baptist.
Two weeks later, I was on Mississippi's Gulf Coast. Through a partnership we have with Gulf Coast Association, our churches have worked for the past three years to help bring continued relief to this area, which was hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina. With the hurricane now three years removed, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get the needed resources for continued rebuilding. In our "fix-it-fast" culture, it is sometimes hard to fathom that hurricane victims would still need help after three years. But category 5 hurricanes don't leave behind the kind of problems that can be fixed quickly, and thankfully, the churches in my association understand this. 40 volunteers joined us in Gulfport, rebuilt homes, hosted VBS at two churches, and shared the love of Jesus with the people in this area. It was also great to have my family with me on this trip. My lovely wife headed up the kitchen crew, without which we would all have been very hungry!
Now that the fall season is upon us, it looks as if things aren't likely to slow down! The next three Sundays are filled with speaking dates. I'm privileged to speak in a lot of places, but I genuinely love preaching to the churches in my association. My current position doesn't lend itself to close relationships with laity, or to regular Biblical expositional series', and preaching in MMBA churches is the closest I can get to the pastoral role that I so often miss.
September is full as well. The good folks at Southeastern Seminary have invited me to their campus to talk about Maryland/Delaware church planting, along with my good friends David Jackson, and Troy Bush. As an "occassional" professor, I always enjoy being around students, especially those preparing to make sanctified trouble for God's Kingdom. In fact, I'm praying that a couple of future Maryland church planters will be around.
I'm back from North Carolina just in time for our second Frontliner's conference of the year. We held this conference in January, and the response has been outstanding.
Immediately after the conference, I board a plane for Atlanta, where I will speak Sunday at Orange Hill Baptist Church in Marietta. My good friend Spencer Haygood gave me the opportunity to speak to their Missions Conference four years ago, and evidently doesn't think his church has been punished enough! :) It will be great to see the people of Orange Hill again, and it is always an honor to be invited to challenge God's people toward better Great Commission fulfillment.
Oh, and don't tell him, but my son Sam will be joining me on the trip to Atlanta. The trip will be a surprise for him, but I'm also looking forward, in the midst of all the scheduling chaos, to some "father-son" time.
In the meantime, I've had a couple of months to think about a few issues, and although I'm far from a political expert, the upcoming election season provides a great opportunity to address issues the church dare not be silent about. The first item on my list: immigration. More on that later.