Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> EAGLES' REST: November 2015

Saturday, November 21, 2015

FACING ELEPHANTS

1) I'm getting old.

Now ... there are several other points I've come face-to-face with, in the recent past. In addition to the obvious thing of age ... I'm 77 ... there's also arthritis, titanium knees, and a host of other vagaries that come with advancing years.

But there's also another factor to consider. From 1975 to 1984, I traveled extensively, on business. The four corners of the country and lots of places in between. And regularly to London.

Plus, Peg and I traveled somewhere special every year, generally March 13th to 20th. The 13th is our anniversary and the 20th is her birthday, so that was a handy way to cover both with one trip.

We went to Cancun, St. Thomas, St. Martin, Jamaica, Germany, and probably some other places I've forgotten. When I add them up, I've been in 126 airports on 3 continents!

So .. the elephant I faced this last week was that I really don't want to travel, for pleasure. Which it isn't, any more, anyway. I came to this realization while at the Alabama Baptist State Convention's annual meeting, this year in Daphne. I decided this mainly because we had an ideal hotel, 3 minutes from the meeting site, and I still did not enjoy the trip one bit. Oh, I saw a few good friends, but they're mostly local and I can see them here in town, much more easily than I can, after traveling 200 miles.

I don't like travel any more, unless it is for a purpose. Such as being part of the State or National SBC, which I have done several times. But which brings me to the other point.

2) I've already said it.

But the SBC leadership won't face it. Their elephant is the failure of the churches, for the most part, to make disciples. Which happens to be ... hello .... the Great Commission.

I say that because, according to numbers published in The Alabama Baptist a few years ago, attendance in SBC churches, in the 6 big population areas of Alabama, is 33.28%. When you consider that attendance includes pre-schoolers, children who aren't counted as members, and other visitors, I think it's safe to assume that fewer than 3 out of 10 members are in church on any one Sunday.

Oh ... just by way of information, other reporting denominations' attendance is 53.97% of membership. Hmmm .... so much for the SBC's collectively being the "crown jewel of God's plan to evangelize the world." Which, yes I did, I heard someone say about the SBC.

Ask yourself what would happen, to your employer, if 3 out of 10 employees showed up for work, except maybe the days before holidays (so they could get holiday pay).

I have also asked Sunday School Teachers, Deacons, individually and in meetings, why you have to be baptized to join a Baptist church. No one, in 6 years, has ever given me the right answer!

I see absolutely no evidence, nationally, that our churches are effective at making disciples.

The IMB cutback raised a mighty uproar, mostly concerned with we ought to be ashamed. That churches ought to give more. But what I have heard no one, at any level, say is that God is our source of supply! 

And He still does pay for what He wants done!

Not only is God our financial source, but He also has supplied us with every person who has ever walked through our doors, down our aisles, into our baptistries, and onto our membership rolls. And I've already stated what we seem to be doing with them. 

Or not doing. And remember ... God sent them to us ... every one ... to make disciples!

I said as much from the floor of the Convention, when we were discussing the "alternate descriptor" ... "Great Commission Baptists".

I also said this, personally, to people in the highest levels of management within the SBC. Again, both Alabama and nationally.

Add it all up and I think the plain fact for me is that, unless something new arises, on some other front, which indicates to me that I should attend the conventions again, that my tour of duty in all things SBC, has come to an end. I want to concentrate the energies and ideas I do still have, on the mission field in which God has placed me. 

Right here at home.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

BEZALEL, OHOLIAB & THE CHURCH'S "VISION"

I am almost always amused, but (sadly) no longer surprised, when I hear church folks talking about the "vision" for the church. It is almost always based on the perceived needs of the community surrounding the church.

I think we get it backwards.

Go back to the Exodus and ask yourself how much of what Israel did was based on the needs of their surroundings. I think you'll conclude that it wasn't, much; God had other ideas for them. He spent quite a bit of time ... and in the Bible ... a number of chapters ,,, explaining how their task was to build the Tabernacle. Of course, the people in the pews, so to speak, didn't have a clue; they were down on the flatlands celebrating a golden calf.

The most interesting part is that Moses had been given a ton of instructions about wood, fine cloth, various metals, precious stones, and all manner of finery. Which would take skilled craftsmen to develop and turn into the altar, poles, drapery, rings & things, and all the other stuff that made up a portable Temple.

I think Moses knew that, and I think God knew that Moses knew it. So, God spoke the words of Exodus 31:

1 "Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. 3 I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, 4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, 5 and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship. 6 And behold, I Myself have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill, that they may make all that I have commanded you: 7 the tent of meeting, and the ark of testimony, and the mercy seat upon it, and all the furniture of the tent, 8 the table also and its utensils, and the pure gold lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, 9 the altar of burnt offering also with all its utensils, and the laver and its stand, 10 the woven garments as well, and the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, with which to carry on their priesthood; 11 the anointing oil also, and the fragrant incense for the holy place, they are to make them according to all that I have commanded you.”"

Filled Bezalel with the SPIRIT, and gifted him all all sorts of crafts. Sounds like the Bible's first specific instance of Spiritual gifting, to me.

 Hmm .. I have to think that God knew the purpose of the ekklesia at that time, and had already put the people in their midst, who could carry out the vision. And the "people" didn't include the preacher, other than to deliver the message.

 I have seen many instances of a church announcing a "vision" for the church, and I'd hazard a guess that they were based largely on leadership's perception of the needs of the community, observed looking outward from the church. But back in Moses' day, the vision wouldn't have had much to do with sand & rocks. It had to do with the enabling of worship as God desired.

For the perceptive among them, they might have known that, by the presence of Bezalel and Oholiab.

Oh. That's right. God had to reveal that, and The Holy Ghost wasn't here yet. Hence, direct prophetic revelation.

Fast forward to today. Might it make sense that the "vision" God has for the local church is hinted at by the people God has placed in our midst ... see 1 Corinthians 12 & Romans 12 for details ... rather than by what church leadership sees when they look out the windows, at the community?

It does, to me. But I have never seen a church's "vision" based on the discerned and discovered giftedness of the individual members.

You'd think we'd learn ... some of the most beautiful ministries I know of came from the rank & file, when they had a holy concern for an area that wasn't being addressed.

Maybe it's time for some inward examination, and seeing a vision of more than 15% or 20% of the church's attendance using their gifts in the Kingdom work.

Maybe discipleship is needed among the membership, and maybe moreso among leadership.

I think so.