Strict//EN" ""> EAGLES' REST: March 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How I Know I Know What I Know I Know

The lights went out, at church, two weeks ago last night. Here's the deal:

It was Wednesday night, March 10, and I was at the church supper in our annex. During supper, Sam Neugent came over and pestered me about going on his next ministry trip to South America. He's a church planter with E3 Partners, and he was going back to somewhere they'd been, to do some evangelism, as well as discipleship with previous pastor contacts there. Sam said I could go along and give out eyeglasses; they take discarded reading glasses and hand them out to folks, based on a simple test they give.

Side note: the eye chart is actually the "Plan of Salvation". I thought that was pretty neat.

Anyway, Sam said all I'd have to do is walk from the hotel to the bus, from the bus into the clinic, and then I could sit and run that part of the clinic. Wouldn't have to walk much.

Well, I considered it, and hemmed and hawed around a lot and he said well, pray about it and let me know.

Then, as I was about to go across the street to the church and get ready to lead my small-group discipleship class, the lights went out. At the Annex, and across the street at the church.

SO .. no Discipleship class that night. And, since the following week was Spring Break in Alabama, there were no classes scheduled for the following Sunday night .. when I lead a class studying the Baptist Faith and Message .. or the following Wednesday night, when there would be no Church supper.

Peg and I came home, where we had electricity, and settled in for the evening. I contemplated the South America trip .. Sam has been such a good friend for so many years .. and what the message might be from the electricity going off right when it did. I also contemplated the fact that I was really down in the dumps. Really bummed. And I'm not usually that way. But then, after wrestling for a few minutes with that, it finally hit me:

I was down in the dumps because I was going to be out of "discipleship mode" for two weeks!

Suddenly it was crystal clear: teaching is "my deal". It's what God has gifted me for. It's my passion. And when that realization hit me (thanks, Holy Spirit), the "doom & gloom" lifted and I immediately knew why I'd been bummed out, and whether South America was for me.

And also why the electricity had gone off! So I would know that!

I sat right down and sent Sam an email, explaining this to him. He wrote right back, and said he understood completely.

So did I.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Aim Low, Boys, They're Ridin' Shetland Ponies

Some last thoughts about the GCRTF Report .. preliminary .. which leads me to believe they may change some things before the "Final Report" is published.

Judging by the reactions I've seen, I'd be surprised if they didn't!

For one thing, issuing a call to repent is a good thing, I suppose, unless you couch it in intangibles and generalities. Sort of like 2 Chronicles 7:14 .. which I think is misused, anyway, in connection with "revivals", which is another term I think is misused.

By the way, did you ever hear the story about the church of some other denomination, that had an infestation of a rare variety of squirrel? Hundred and hundreds of them running all over, to the point that they couldn't hold services there. They'd catch them and release them miles away, and they'd come back anyway. They couldn't get rid of them, until they heard about the Baptist church that had experienced the same problem. So .. they went to see the pastor, and asked him how they got rid of the problem. His answer?

"Simple .. we had a business meeting, voted them all in as members, and we haven't seen them since .. other than a few at Christmas and Easter."

PLAIN FACT: God is the source of supply in the SBC. People and money. I can't speak about all the money .. although I've seen enough excesses in the SBC already to give me an opinion about that long before the GCRTF Report came out .. but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to count the numbers and discern we've completely booted it with half (or more) of the people God's sent us.

To the point that people make JOKES about it!

I didn't see one word about that problem, in the report. Not ONE word! And any report which purports to address the problems of the SBC and its declining numbers, and doesn't start by reporting the lousy job SBC Churches have done, collectively, in discipleship, isn't apt to hold my attention too long.

But I did read it nonetheless.

Secondly, any such report which includes any recommendations, where the recommendations do not include any designed to remedy the situation with the non-discipling of millions of members, has a serious second strike against it.

Minor example: I heard an SBC pastor remark once that a couple he'd visited hadn't been in church for 17 years. But .. they were "saved and loved the Lord .. they just hadn't been in church in 17 years". How'd the church that took them in, as members, 17 years ago, do on that personal instruction, by Jesus, to "make disciples"? And what does that say for our expectancy of behavior on people who profess to "love the Lord"?

Thirdly, there is absolutely nothing in the report which is apt to produce an increase in CP giving, a better attitude among the churches toward the CP, or a more favorable ministry future for the State Conventions.

Several people whom I respect are most favorably disposed toward the Task Force Report. That's OK. I don't mind at all, seriously.

That's probably because I'm 71, and may not live long enough to see the total collapse of the SBC .. as the cooperating venture among autonomous Southern Baptist Churches .. and the formation of another body by those churches who see the handwriting on the wall, written there by a bunch of guys who seem not to want to support the Cooperative Program beyond token measures.

I have an idea. Let's adopt their attitude, only let's apply it to the local churches. Let's celebrate all the giving of our church members, both to the churches and also to their favorite charities.

How would that go over with the bulk of the SBC pastorate?

Saddest part: I doubt that anyone will have the gumption to call a spade a spade, at the convention. There will be polite discussion about the report, and I imagine it will pass by an overwhelming vote. After all, who wants to really admit they have been doing a lousy job, in their churches, all proud of their number of baptisms, without any realistic look at what the effect of those baptisms really was.

We talk and talk and talk about the meaning of baptism, in the Convention. Judging by the pride in the baptisms, and the collective shame over the massive decline in the numbers, baptisms generally haven't meant much to the people being baptized.

Not if making disciples has been what it's about.

Today is Peg's Birthday

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart.

How about sending her a Birthday Greeting at"


I know she'd appreciate it, and thanks!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

And Just WHAT Is It We Can't Do, Again?

Something's been bothering me for a while, so guess what.

Yeah. I'm gonna write about it.

I've heard ever since I've been a Southern Baptist, that we're a Convention and not a Denomination. OK, I get, that, even though I find it curious that the last time I looked, the SBC website said the word "convention" referred both the the "denomination and to the annual meeting". Well, all righty, but it does seem to come in handy now and then, not being a denomination.

Stuff like convicted sex offenders, womanizers, etc. We don't have to keep track of them. Nor of embezzlers, who steal from mission boards, which makes it easier, I suppose, to set them free to steal from Alabama citizens in a clever fraud scheme (which was apparently practiced while on SBC payroll).

And then there's accountability. It's a lot easier to excuse the failure to disciple eight or ten MILLION people God sent our way, when you say up front you don't have any control over that.

So .. what is necessary to be a Southern Baptist Church? From what I'm told, the church must contribute to the Cooperative Program, and they must be in "Friendly Cooperation" with the Southern Baptist Convention. I'm not real sure what that means, but I know for certain you can't condone same-sex unions in the church. And, I'm pretty sure having a woman for a pastor isn't, either. But aside from that.....

So I am wondering .. if there are a couple things they'll check up on you about, why can't they check up on whether you're actually making disciples of the people God has put in our midst? Why can't the SBC require that churches clean up their membership rolls? Why can't we require folks who haven't attended in a year (barring some substantial reason like being a shut-in) be removed from membership?

Why can't we require some sort of performance, on the part of members, to be members?

Why can't we require some sort of performance on the part of churches to be an SBC church?

I can think of a few reasons.

  • We don't want to.
  • We getting along OK without it.
  • We have plenty of money.
  • Local pastors don't want to be held accountable.
  • We couldn't claim to have 16,000,000 members any more.
  • We couldn't say we're the biggest, any more.

Or maybe it's all of the above.

The way I figure it, we've got to have some things we say we can't do, to have something to blame the current to-what-ever-degree-it-is-disappointing results of the collective efforts of the SBC on. To that extent, maybe we don't really want to fix things.

That would explain a lot. Like the GCRTF Report. In my opinion.

Almost forgot .. somebody ought to point out that neither of the things the local church has to do, to be an SBC church, have anything to do with the local church actually MAKING DISCIPLES. Hence the question: since the SBC is about cooperation, and not about discipleship, why the fuss about a Great Commission Resurgence?

Friday, March 12, 2010

At Least SOME Guys "Get It"

I've had my say on how badly I think the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force missed the mark with their report. With all the folks waxing warm on what a terrific step the SBC seems to have taken with the publication of the report, it's nice to see some guys who seem to be able to see past the "Yippee, we're CHANGING something" hoopla, and give this thing some serious thought.

Check it out here.

NOW .. I must admit .. if the Task Force had some other objectives in mind, well, perhaps their report was on target. But that would be the wrong target, IMO.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Some Twisted Reasons For Doing Some Stuff

I'm not at all sure that anybody's going to weep and wail that I don't show up at the SBC Annual Meeting this year, but my pastor and a couple of others have made a deal over it, so I thought I'd explain myself a little. Which will take some doing.

I was a very shy and insecure kid. Low expectations, low opinion of myself, last kid chosen for baseball, unpopular with girls, and the grammar school class brain. A psychologist described it, years later, as the "Fat Boy Complex".

OK, hold that thought.

As a young adult, I read a story in Readers Digest explaining the fact that, the larger the crowd, the less likely it is that anyone will speak up; will take action. When I read that, in the early 1960's, I recall deciding that, since I now knew that, I could no longer be the one to sit and "let Joe do it".

Fast forward to the SBC Convention, 2006, in Greensboro. There was a recommendation on the floor (please filter all this through the fact that I have a lousy memory and also that my presence at the convention was intimidating to me) to encourage churches to increase their Cooperative Program giving. The Executive Committee had introduced an amendment to insert "10% of undesignated offerings" as the suggested amount each church should give.

That amendment was argued back and forth on seemingly pragmatic grounds, and God just really raised my hackles about that .. I mean, Pastors say when you give your money to the church, that's giving it to GOD, and it then is GOD'S MONEY. And the pastor is under tremendous responsibility to see that the local church is a good steward of GOD'S MONEY. How on earth can ANYBODY .. like the EC .. tell them how much to spend where?

Well, my shyness urged me to keep my seat, but something inside me stirred up my nerves and I said to Peg "I'm going to have to speak to this". So I got up and went to a microphone, the first time EVER for something like that, and told the convention what I thought. Nervously.

I don't recall much, but I do recall mentioning its being God's money, and also that GOD was their source of supply, NOT the local churches. If they wanted more money than God was providing, they needed to talk to HIM about that and oh, by the way, since God pays for what He wants done, they'd best look at what they were doing, too, as that was the real key.

I recall a real feeling of exhaustion, but I was refreshed by the kind words of other messengers who said I'd done a Good Thing up there at the mike.

Later, when Wade Burleson made his motion asking the SBC itself to address some things like packing of Boards of Trustees, and the prohibition of speaking in tongues with reference to missionary candidates, I just knew I had to speak up again. They'd referred the motion to the IMB to research and report a year later, which I figured was like asking the class bully if he's bullying people. And giving him a year to answer.

I thought of King Saul, and how he'd gone right on being king after God had withdrawn His Spirit, since he'd learned how to "be a king". And when IMB trustees voted to prohibit candidates to whom God has sovereignly given the gift of unknown tongues, they were on dangerous ground, indeed. I figured I'd best say something, and when I was standing, waiting to speak, Wade Burleson spoke ahead of me, agreeing with referring the issue to the IMB to investigate and report. Well, goodness me, I wondered, what am I doing up there to speak against the action of referring the motion, when Rev. Burleson himself was in favor of it?

It was right then that God spoke clearly to me, telling me "I haven't shown you what I have, so you can sit down and be quiet". So I told the folks just what I mentioned above. Nervously, I might add, as there are all these huge video screens with one's picture, in my line of sight.

I told them that if the SBC itself didn't address these issues, we'd be apt to come back a year later and find the Spirit had departed, and we'd just go on being a Convention, without Him, since we'd apparently "learned how".

As I look back, this has sort of been my tendency. To speak up when I figure nobody else will. I remember when Jimmy Swaggart "fell from grace", the heads of the Assemblies of God recommended a two year course of restoration for him and his church. Rather than submit to that, he took his church out of the AoG. So I wrote him a letter, telling him how unwise I thought it was to rebel against those in authority, and predicting that nothing good would come from his refusal to honor those in authority over him.

I went by he church some years later, and I was really, really glad I'd written that letter.

I once heard Lester Roloff give a rant on the radio, about what he thought was an incompetent airline clerk, and he used the term "Lord have mercy" in his "rant". I wrote him a letter, and said I knew the Lord had mercy, but asked him if Lester Roloff did.

He was killed not long after, in a plane crash. I was glad I'd written the letter.

Well, I've had my say in the SBC. Had a good time being about that work, too, and have loved fellowshipping with the guys at the Annual Meeting. But God has told me that is precisely the WRONG reason to attend. It's not about having a good time, having my say, getting quoted in the newspapers, or appearing on camera. It's not about hanging out with Neat Guys, and it's not about recognition. It's about serving God.

I'd hoped that the Task Force would finally see beyond that "Catch-22" of the SBC, and do some leading. In autonomous churches, pastors and leaders can be as lackadaisical in their approach to discipleship as membership preferences and budget pressures induce them to be. The fact that it took two tries (that I know of, personally) to get a resolution passed calling on churches to clean up their membership rolls, ought to tell you something. As should the fact that it took a motion from the floor to add in a clause calling for corporate repentance for (what Dr. Patterson described as) misleading ourselves and the public by claiming as members, people who had no real connection with our churches. And that amendment passed narrowly, telling me that pastors, in a too-large percentage, don't want to change their counting practices. And weren't sorry for saying they had all this many members when 2/3 of them have disappeared.

Apparently, they haven't repented or changed membership reporting practices..

This is the King's business we're about down here. The SBC acts as if it's theirs. Like .. if WE are not reaching a region, the region isn't being reached. If WE are not spending much money in an area, that area is being "under-served".

Alas, the Task Force, while it could have shown real substantive leadership, came forth with a report that suggested a few notable changes, but nothing that says to me they're doing much more than re-arranging the deck chairs.

So, anyway, God's instructions to Jeremiah, outlined in Chapter 7, verse 16, reached out and grabbed me by the scruff of the neck a couple weeks ago. Herewith ...

"So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you.."

And I think back to what I said about what might happen, in Greensboro in 2006, and if I believed what I said then, I'm constrained to either go to Orlando and spectate, or stay away.

I choose the latter. And, according to Tom Parker's comment on my reasons for not going to Orlando, the few little things I've suggested didn't just go unnoticed.

When I was a kid, my family was acquainted with a neighbor family, who absolutely smothered their young son with attention and affection, did his homework for him, his dad even practiced trombone for him, just never let him grow up. He ended his military service in a jail and his dad had to go bail him out. All that time, my family said "isn't it awful....", but nobody ever said anything to them. I resolved, from that point on, that when we all knew somebody ought to say something, I didn't want to sit by and agree. I wanted to speak up.

I have, and now you know why.

Saturday, March 06, 2010


We do this as Southern Baptists, too.

Friday, March 05, 2010

It's Gonna Be A Good Day!

Let's see .. I'm a Christian, bound for heaven (when I die), living in a freedom which Embraces the Graces of God, loved by my Lord and Savior, enjoying retirement immensely, teaching a couple of classes at FBC Pelham which bless me enormously, with a lot of friends out there that I wouldn't trade for the world, with a Proverbs 31 wife and two of the finest sons (and daughter-in-laws) the world has ever seen, grandchildren that do me proud every day and especially when I see them serving God at church, and just blessed in life more than I would ever have dreamed possible.

So 3 months ago today, Peg and I went to Hunan Gardens for lunch. That's our favorite Chinese place, and we get a kick out of the "fortune cookies". Usually, Peg says, she gets my fortune and I get hers. Well .. the picture above shows the fortune I got 3 months ago today.

If nothing out-of-the-ordinary happens to me today, that little slip of paper has already come true. And it didn't have anything to do with some guy in the print shop at a Chinese bakery.

It has to do with a Savior who loves me, and likes to do the things He mentioned in His book, Bible.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Some Reasons For Not Doing Some Stuff

Like going to the SBC Convention in Orlando this year.

I'll give you a minute to regain your composure. Both of you.

First and foremost, even with reservations at the Convention Hotel, it's a long walk to the convention center. And, after that, it's a long walk around inside the convention center. I had a tough enough time in Louisville last year, where I rode the bus every time, and my arthritis is worse this year.

Then, too, we've spent most of the "mad money" we'd squirreled away for stuff like helping the grandkids and putting siding on the house. Since we're pretty much living within Social Security .. thanks, guys, you that are still paying your taxes (don't really mean to overlook President Obama's Cabinet Members, but some things can't be avoided, I guess).. we're reigning in the non-essential spending a bit.

By the way, keep them jobs and get them raises, folks, if you would. We need your money.

Where was I? Oh, yes .. we're also leaving a week after the end of SBC Orlando, to take a cruise to Alaska, which our son Brad has been yelling at us to do recommending to us, ever since he and Connie took the same cruise, a few yeas ago. Since that'll soak up a good chunk of what the Feddal Gummint is making us take out of our IRA's this year, I think we'll draw the line at stuff like the Convention. Especially since the Convention would be painful.

In ways unrelated to arthritis, too, methinks.

There's also the fact that I have two real reasons to go .. one being to speak my piece about what's going on. Particularly the message(s) I got from the GCRTF Report. I'm afraid what I'd have to say would not be popular with the GCRTF, particularly since I think they missed the boat rather grandly. And Expensively.

The other reason to go is that I like hanging around with NeatGuys, and speaking my piece to the convention. Which is precisely the wrong reason to go.

And the really big reason may be that God may not want the SBC to reform into what all the good guys think it really can be. Maybe the opportunity to change has been blown off one too many times. I can recall a certain loudmouth wise guy telling the convention in Greensboro that if the SBC itself didn't deal with certain problems, the Holy Ghost was apt to leave the premises, so to speak, and write a word over the door that they really don't want too see.

I know that guy still holds the same opinion.

But doesn't God always want us to pray that folks will come around? Doesn't He always wish for repentance and correction? Well, I know one place when He didn't.

Read the first 15 verses of Jeremiah 7, and then check this one:

"So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you." (Jeremiah 7:16: NIV)

Nope. Not me. I'm not doing that any more. If God still wants reformation, He knows how to get it. And unless He TELLS ME to get involved, then don't look for me there.

I'll be in my recliner that week, if you need me.

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Disassembly of the SBC, the CP, Etc?

I thought about listing the six Components and observing things about each, but decided against it. Instead, a modern-day parable followed by some conclusions.

First, another premise: God does not give us sway over the "Ends". He gives us the "Means", and He is solely responsible for the Ends. You know .. like some plant, some water, but God gives the increase?

Also, the GCRTF Report is all about numbers. It appears to me that the only way anybody knows whether they're doing the right things is by numbers.

That ought not to be. I am called, for instance, to teach. I don't teach so people will learn, so the Bible will impact their lives, so they'll be more faithful church members, or so people will like what they hear and keep coming back. I teach because God calls me to, and the results are completely up to Him. To relate the results to my methods is to take credit where I don't deserve it.

I knew of a missionary in a Mid-East nation who was there 7 years before anyone came to saving knowledge of Jesus. I didn't understand it then, but I do now. He was called to be there.

Another thought: the SBC seems to think that, if we're not working somewhere, nobody is. I know how many fewer SBC churches, compared to population, there are in Chicago or Indianapolis, than there are Birmingham or Atlanta. One might look at the numbers and say that the Northern cities are "under-reached", but that is simply not true. We do have churches there, and there are plenty of other churches, too. So the issue may be more "making baptists", than "making disciples" (which we don't seem all that good at, anyway).

I know of churches that phased out Sunday School in favor of small groups, along the perceived biblical model of meeting in people's homes, breaking bread together, things of that sort. I know of one such church that experienced drastic decreases in giving during the current economic downturn, and that caused me to wonder whether there was a connection. Could it be that moving certain church functions outside the church somehow dissociates the activity from the church? Might it be that participants feel less a part of the church, under those circumstances?

Which brings me to one recommendation of the GCRTF, that Southern Baptists "...celebrate with our churches in their Great Commission Giving ..." (note they capitalized "Giving", which seems to make that a "thing" .. a "program") ... "that goes directly through the Cooperative Program, as well as any designated gifts given to causes of the Southern Baptist Convention, a state convention or a local association". WHY would we want to do THAT?

The two criteria for being an SBC church are "friendly cooperation" and contributing to the CP. And, we're told we're to trust the system .. the trustees of the various entities .. the cooperative nature of the Convention .. the congregational nature that's built-in .. and work through the channels, etc. But now we're supposed to condone a change in the Cooperative Program .. one of the two SBC fundamentals .. apparently because some churches and/or their leaders don't like the way the CP money is distributed.

To my knowledge, our CP setup is closer to uniqueness among denominations than is the BF&M. Our SS class did an extended study of the statements of faith of four different denominations (including the BF&M) and on most doctrinal points, the class couldn't tell which confession (say, about Jesus or about the Bible) was which. That leaves the CP as likely being the most distinctive thing about the SBC, and the changes recommended are liable to be its downfall.

Just as moving small groups out of the church may have contributed to drastic changes in at least one particular church.

I have to wonder if perhaps some key Task Force member(s) send the bulk of their "SBC causes money" somewhere besides the Cooperative Program.

Oh. Right.

Speaking of the CP, it seems to me the closest people to help the local church accomplish the Great Commission, is the State Association. Tell me how the proposed change in "Great Commission Giving" is going to help the funding of the State Conventions!

Component #2: NAMB may need to change its focus a bit, but "reinvent and release"? Perhaps .. but if they were to see their goal as helping the local church fulfill the Great Commission, including reaching the people groups the GCRTF seems to think they're not reaching now, wouldn't they be doing what they should? And that, with people groups right where the local churches and NAMB have people right now?

Component #3: I don't like this one at all. I don't see how that change, apparently calling for putting more people in the field right here, will do much more than fuel the speculation that the real aim is to consolidate IMB and NAMB. Does anyone else think that would have been a recommendation if there hadn't been such a flap about it?

As to the other recommendations, sending more money to foreign missions always seems a good thing. If it weren't that we're doing such a lousy job making disciples here at home.

I am reminded of restaurant health inspectors, who always seem to find something, fueling speculation that, if they don't, the boss will think they're not doing their job. Let's hope that's not the case with the GCRTF.

And that some of the things that seem obvious, aren't.