Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A WHOLE NEW BALL GAME? The SBC: Meetings, Organizations, Churches. And People.


Had an interesting conversation with my Pastor, about the Great Commission Document / Sermon / Publication / Thingamajig Guys Are Signing, a few minutes ago. And it prompted some other thoughts about which I figured I'd put ink on paper.

Or electrons on monitors.

It centered around Article 9 on the document he read; I can't identify with that because the one I signed had 12 points and the one he read had 10, and "nine on mine" was entirely different. So I had to run to the Great Commission Resurgence website, and see what concerned him.

As an aside, he's as "Southern Baptist" as any pastor I've ever met, taking VERY seriously the autonomy of the local church. So he's said, now and then (when the SBC made some pronouncement our church didn't go along with) that what the SBC does really doesn't necesssarily affect us, so not to worry.

Our church expends a lot of effort and money on missions endeavors outside the purview of the SBC, NAMB, or the IMB. As a matter of fact, as I start this little rant, we have two groups of people on two faraway foreign fields, evangelizing and discipling, and I don't think either group is SBC-connected!

From where I sit, we don't need the SBC. But the SBC certainly needs the local churches.  I've said it before, but we're an autonomous church and we know it, and we know how to start churches here (see Riverchase Baptist Church for evidence of that). And we also know how to do foreign missions, as Red Hills Baptist Church would readily attest. Also, if we want to go plant churches abroad, our long-time Worship Leader, and dear friend, Sam Neugent .. now with E3 partners .. would be only too happy to oblige.

There is plenty of Sunday School material out there, there are plenty of good seminaries that aren't SBC, and all in all we could go merrily along our way, were the SBC cease to exist altogether.

We are SBC by choice; we've been SBC for about 100 years, and it is our decision to continue that. Not inertia,  not tradition.

Brother Mike said he hadn't signed the GCR Document because (and there may be other reasons), in the version he read, Article 9 said that theological education started with the seminaries, and flowed out to the churches. His view is just the opposite. It starts with the churches, and I agree with that.

But that's not really what got me to writing. I've been fascinated with being involved in the Annual Meetings .. and some other ones too .. and I encourage my SS Class and my Discipleship Group, and my friends in general, to get involved in the SBC and to get registered and go to the Annual Meeting as messengers. 

To no avail. It seems nobody is interested!

Nobody! In fact, my Pastor is not going this year, owing to a lot of family duties (including a kid getting married shortly); our Administrative Pastor (if I got the term right) and his wife will also be attending the convention. But not one other layman,  out of 2,400 members?!?! 

**I'd previously stated that no one else at all would be attending .. I got that wrong, obviously, along with goodness-knows-how-much else....

That just may be the beginnings of the death knell for the SBC as we know it. Nobody cares. Sure, a lot of pastors do, but more don't. They seem not to see what goes on at the Annual Meeting as important to them. And it's surely not to the guys in the pew; even with someone excited about being involved, and trying to "spread the joy", so to speak, they're still not interested.

Since the younger guys seems to be staying away more and more, just in the three years I've been involved in Convention matters, I don't see this situation correcting itself. And that spells BIG problems for the SBC as the old guard continues to age, and lose its practical influence, as a Convention, over the local church and the guy in the pew. And, unfortunately, by the time the Convention considers it, the Committee (if there is one) studies it, and all the rest of the stuff happens, I think it'll be too late to get back the preachers we've lost, and the members we may never really have had.

Yogi Berra, one of my favorite philosophers, once said "If people want to stay away from a ball game, you can't make'em". 

Uhh .... right .... maybe it really IS a "whole new ball game" for the SBC.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Cup .. Once Again .. Still .. Running Over

I reflected a fair amount, yesterday, on my last day of being 70. And, considering what all went on during the year, I suppose turning 71 ought to be a welcome relief. And, indeed, it is, as is every year (when you're as ancient as yours truly).

One of the things I considered was the promise I stumbled onto in the Bible, perhaps 40 years ago:

And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
(Matthew 19:29, KJV .. well.. that IS what I was reading at the time...)

I recall telling God, right then, that I wanted in on this promise. That I was yielding up everything I had, to Him, and that whatever He wanted to do with them was fine with me.

So as I was sitting in the garage this morning, putting some cute letters on the side of Taz, several things came crystal clear to me. And I knew I had to write about them.

First, I heard doves cooing somewhere, and that took me back to the days of my childhood, when we used to visit Aunt Marcella in Indianapolis, on spring break. There would always be doves in the belfry of Hillcrest Baptist Church, directly across Villa Ave. from their house, and when we were playing in the yard, they were quite noticeable. The nice memories of that home, of Pleasant Run (a creek directly across the parkway from their house), and memories of Grandma and Grandpa Tanner's little half-duplex with its pot-belly stove and Grandpa's Craftsman Tool Catalogs, 2 blocks away on the corner of Minnesota Ave. And THAT took me back to V-J day, when I was 7, and we ran over to the church to help ring the bell to celebrate the end of The War. Such wonderful memories of times which were a lot more terrific than I realized.

Then I heard Peg walking around upstairs, making my favorite lunch (Barbecued Corned Beef and Bread Pudding) and thought how blessed I've been to have been married to a Proverbs 31 woman for 50 years. And right about that time, the WeedWhacker fired up; grandson Matthew getting ready to trim the lawn he'd just mowed for us. We do have terrific Grandkids .. Matthew, with an Associate Degree in Computer Science, and now studying to be an elementary school teacher .. and Meredith with her B.A. in Theology and studying for her Master's at Union University's extension of the SBTS Campus.

Then I thought back to last evening, and a chat session with a dear friend on Facebook. We'd spotted each other and he had some exciting news to share, but also was having some problems, with reference to church. God seems to have given me something for him last evening, and we ended the session with rejoicing maybe an hour later.

I am always simply bowled over when God selects me for a task He wants done...

Then a bit ago I came upstairs and found 25 new EMail messages, mostly friends wishing me Happy Birthday. And most of them are people I've not met, personally, but with whom I've made friends over the past few years at blogging and commenting here and there. That's pretty neat, and reminds me of what an advantage we have over prior generations, when folks' circle of friends was pretty limited, geographically.

Right after that, I had my favorite lunch, with Peg and Matthew and Matthew's daddy .. our older son .. Brian. And I was reminded of how blessed I am with my family.

And that made me think back to last evening, when Connie .. Brad's wife .. called to inquire what we were doing for lunch today .. she wanted to make sure something was being done for my birthday. That branch of the family blessed me, too.

Then, on to a funeral for the Mother of one of my best friends, Neal Blackwelder. Brother Sam Neugent, formerly our worship and missions leader, conducted the graveside service. Wow .. He and I go back 22+ years, and goodness-knows-how-many mission trips.

More reminders of how many friends God has given me, in the process of keeping a promise He made to me some 40 years ago.

Not only has my cup been running over for all these years, but God's surely given me one of the biggest cups on record.

Overflowing.

Monday, May 04, 2009

She Kept Her Appointment.

"And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment ..." (Hebrews 9:27, NAS)

I learned today that my friend, Mrs. Willie Mae Dennis, had kept that appointment.

She'd been ailing over the past few months .. I don't recall seeing her at church for quite a while .. and yesterday our Pastor told us she was in a coma. But other than that, over the last 28 years that we've been at FBC Pelham, she'd been there every Sunday.

We knew her from church, of course, but I had another introduction to this remarkable lady. From 1980 through 1984, I was a City Councilman here in Pelham, and she was our Municipal Clerk. With all the meetings, and the pre-council meeting sessions in the Mayor's office, we'd spent a decent amount of time around each other. And she was, indeed, quite a lady.

Willie Mae had been married when she was young, but after a too-short time married, her husband was killed in a train-car crash. She never again married.

She was a member of the Lee family, a prominent family in Pelham; her father had been the judge in Pelham when court was held in a little concrete block building that still stands on the property where Willie Mae lived,to this day. That was also the home from which she left on the last journey each of us must take.

In addition, the Lee family were the sellers .. at a remarkably good price .. of the 22.5 acres upon which FBC Pelham sits today.

She was every bit a lady, but one of my most precious memories of her has to do with an episode in which her spunk and spirit really showed through:

One day during my stay on the Council, a man (apparently high on something) walked into City Hall ... how do I say this ... buck naked. Willie Mae was up front by the door and immediately grabbed a coat off the rack, chased him down, and wrapped him up as best she could.

There were what Willie Mae referred to as "her girls" working in the office, and by golly she was going to protect them from that sight, much as a momma bear protects her cubs.

I still remember the night she told us that story in the pre-council chambers, and the merciless ribbing we gave her over that incident. From the spark in her eye, I'd say she enjoyed the reporting, as did she a month later when she read the police report from the evening, from the minutes of that night's meeting ... when the Police Chief reported only "one miscellaneous unnamed incident".

I don't think the words "one miscellaneous unnamed incident" ever got more laughter than they got from the Council, that evening. Except maybe when Willie Mae read them a month later, from the minutes.

She was much more than can be described .. Chairman of the Trustees ... Sunday School Teacher ... the longest-term member of our church ... trust me, the list could go on. But I'll just say she was a precious person to me, and to a lot of others.

You were a class act, Mrs. Dennis. It was a real pleasure to call you "friend".

I'll see you later.

Me & Rodney Dangerfield

We don't get no respect, especially not on May 12, 1978.

Now, you might wonder how I remember that.

Easy. It was my birthday. The deal was, I was traveling on business, and headed back home when a guy across the O'Hare Gate caught my eye and came over and said he thought he recognized me. We chatted about it and decided that the only way we'd ever had any contact at all was that we both flew around a lot, especially up and down the East coast.

By way of explanation, I was Marketing VP of a company that had reps all over the country, which took me to 100 different airports over 9 years. So we'd probably seen each other in airports, or on airplanes.

Anyway, he was on his way back home to Charlotte NC, and I was headed here to Birmingham. We laughed and chatted a minute; then they called his flight and he left. But he gave me his newspaper.

My intellectual prowess revealed itself and I immediately turned to the cartoon section; my first read was Crock, my favorite.

Now remember .. this was May 12, 1978. I'd been born May 12, 1938. Do the math.

Keep that in mind as you check out that day's episode of Crock.




Like I said: no respect.

Friday, May 01, 2009

AND ... SInce I'm Feeling Lazy .....

But wanting to stir up something, or maybe just to do something funny, I thought I'd put up this little photo.

See ... we're having a little work done at the house, and a brick salesman came by to try to match the brick on the house, for a brick "cap" they're going to put on the concrete wall that keeps our driveway gravel from tumbling merrily into the woods behind our house. They can come close, which is OK with me. But when I chatted a bit with the brick guy, he said he worked for a local distributor, and handed me his card.

I didn't look at it until I'd come upstairs, but his name kind of made me wonder if there wasn't something ... about a couple of my friends ... that I hadn't known.

His card.......


Hmmmm........

Naaaaaaahhhh......