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June 2009 entries

Tidbits from SBC in Louisville

Well Marilyn and I are in Louisville, Kentucky for the annual Southern Baptist Convention. We're back in the room for a few hours while we take a break from the seemingly endless reports from committees and institutions. It's not all boring however, there are some moments of intense emotions and even laughter. Always there are opportunities to engage in my favorite activity, people watching.

Pastors and messengers from all over the country are here in the blue grass state. I've noticed from simple observation that the new attitude of praise and worship is to keep your arms folded high on your chest, often resting on top of the belly,  and look absolutely dis-interested. I know this must be a posture of praise because so many pastors adopt this position and I know they know how to praise the Lord. A look of disgust has also replaced tears and the occassional smile in worship as a way to express your gratitude for Jesus saving your wretched soul. 

I have also discovered the style or genre of music is no longer an issue when it comes to worship. I have heard praise, southern, traditional and classical music. Pastors respond the same way to all types of music now. See paragraph above for further details. 

I am happy to report that others have discovered that ties, since the invention of the button, are no longer needed for shirts to be worn without being im-modest and showing too much chest hair. At least 75% of the speakers and designated prayers were without ties! I think it must be a sign of the end times. 

I have also noticed while people watching that Southern Seminary students, whether male or female, are not as fashionable as their counterparts in the other 5 SBC institution of higher education, partcularly the one in San Francisco. Which means they will probably be great pastors but their wardrobes will not qualify for mega-church status unless their is a fashion intervention.

I have also noted that lay people are better "worshippers" than those of us in the professional ministry, regardless of their age. One couple who has been in the same seating area with us for the last two days are a perfect example. I know he is not a pastor because when a man asked all pastors and their wives to stand for prayer, they did not stand. ( I can look remember, I am a professional.) This elderly couple worships out loud and proud. She raises her hands high and sings to the top of her lungs. He would too, but his hands are not able to get too high and his lungs aren't what they used to be. Neither is his hearing evidently, and I am glad for it. They talk loudly to one another and I have not heard one single negative word out of either of them no matter the style of worship of the identity of the preacher. I've considered taking them home with me. Unfortunately, he has a tendency to get lost. Whenever, he goes to get coffee or to attend matters in the men's room she looks worried until he returns. She will usually find him a few sections over looking for his chair and wondering why they keep rearranging the room. 

I am glad to report that Dr. Johnny Hunt was re-elected president of the SBC without opposition. He is a great man of passion for the Word of God and compassion for the lost. We are blessed to have him as our president for a second term. He has been a great example to me and many others who have gotten to know him and his lovely wife Janet.

Let me leave you with this quote from our president. Making remarks about the sorry condition of our finances and the uncertainty of our country in the world he said, "Many people want to end their speeches with God bless America. We should be crying out that American should bless God." Then, and only then, may we begin to emerge from the mess we are in. Preach on, brother! 

God bless and I talk with you soon.

Pastor Ken                  


SBC Could Learn from VBS

Summer is hot and hectic around here. Just yesterday was a first for DBBC. We had both a funeral and VBS going on at the same time on the same campus. Thankfully, all went well. I had this fear that some class of grade schoolers would march into the worship center and start "hooting and hollering" as we say down in Mayberry. It didn't happen. What was cool though was looking at both ends of life from the same hallway. In one room was a group of mostly senior adults paying their respects to a life well lived. In the other rooms and hallways were children who were being given a boost to live out their lives in a meaningful and powerful witness to the reality of God. 

This weekend there is a motorcycle ride through the country for a bunch of us who ride. Then Sunday is Father's Day and worship. Sunday afternoon Marilyn and I leave for Louisville, Kentucky and the annual Southern Baptist Convention. Three days after I get back from Louisville I go to Gulf Shores, Mississippi with a bunch of our middle schoolers. But what I wanted to share with you concerns the SBC. 

When I first became a Baptist I knew nothing of the Southern Baptist Convention. We just didn't talk about it at church among the common folk. When I became a pastor I was told I was now a part of the largest non-Catholic denomination in North America. I went to my first convention in New Orleans, Louisiana in the early 90's. The city rolled out the red carpet for us. We were headline news and the talk of the town. Not everyone liked us, but they loved to talk to us and about us. Protestors lined up all along the street outside the Superdome. I had never been in such crowds and such excitement. The same atmosphere continued for the next few years and then I began to observe a subtle change. When I picked up the newspaper in the city holding the convention I noticed we were no longer front page news. Sometimes we were buried in the Metro section close to the lodge notices and  wedding pictures. People would remark in cafes and coffee shops that they did not know we were in town. How could this be. Since the 1940's Southern Baptists flooded into cities by the tens of thousands. Bar owners actually complained to city councils that we were bad for their business. Not anymore. What happened?

I think we began to think it was a status thing to be the largest denomination in America. We started being arrogant about who we were rather than Who's we were. We thought, no assumed, that everything we did would be successful. We fought the battle of the conservative resurgence and that boosted our spirits and increased the crowds for a short while. After we kicked out the liberals we began to quarrel among ourselves as to who was most conservative. Reports began to surface that our numbers were diminishing. Baptisms were dropping along with giving to mission causes. No longer did we fill convention centers or football stadiums, but now we roped off upper balconies and half of the floor of basketball gyms. As my mom would say, "We had gotten too big for our britches" and God was allowing our decline. Our fighting among ourselves over insignificant matters had taken its toll. The excitement is no longer in the hallways of the convention center. More and more old timers are talking about the good old days. What's the solution? I think I know and I saw it this week.

When kids get together at VBS each summer there is an air of expectation. It's cool to finger paint and drop Mentos into Coke bottles and watch them explode. They are mesmerized as someone dresses up like a Bible character and speaks from God's Word. You don't have to wow them. You just have to love them. You don't have to be perfect. You do have to be real. They don't care what denomination you are. They do care that you are glad they are there and tell them so. When a teacher tells them about the love of Jesus they don't try and determine from which theological perspective they are coming from. They just listen and begin to wonder if Jesus loves them too. What I like about VBS is that it's cool, but not too cool. You have teenagers working next to senior adults. You have black children playing with Asian kids. They stay for three hours and hate to leave.  At the SBC messengers get up and browse bookstore when someone at the platform exceeds 30 minutes.

I have an idea. Let VBS directors plan the next Southern Baptist Convention. Let's take off the ties and business suits and wear shorts and t-shirts. Even the best of people get irritable in the summer in a tie. Let's tell the simple story of Jesus again. I vote for finger painting over listening to one more seminary president defending their institution. They condemn those who do not preach the way they prescribe. The way, they have determined, God intended. I saw a cross painted by a child in a third grade VBS art class that said more than many sermons I have preached or heard preached by gifted orators. And rather than pointing fingers at others who may not do church just like you do church, wouldn't it be great if we walked together like the kids in VBS. Sometimes hand in hand, but always excited about where they're going. Then maybe, just maybe, the world would notice us again and listen to our story. After all, we have the best news in the world.

See ya,

Pastor Ken  


Summer Reading Suggestion

Often the thoughts that I share here come from my reading. I am usually reading a couple of periodicals, a reference book, a book on preaching and my Bible at any given time. Only recently I added a book that is destined to become a classic beside White Fang, Great Expectations and The Grapes of Wrath. It's called Rick and Bubba's Big Honkin' Book of Huntin'. It's one of those books you just can't put down. (Not to mention it is the only book I've ever owned that has a 3-D 12 point buck on the cover.) I thought I might share some insight from that book but then I realized it might be a little too deep for some of my regulars. You know who you are.

So I turned to Biblical Archaeology Review for inspiration when I saw this headline, "Understand the Fun and Beauty in Mathmatical Concepts." As my friend Jamey Ragle would say, "Now, ain't that a blessing!" Those guys need to dig up something fast or I'm cancelling my subscription! Thankfully there's always the Bible. You can depend on God's Word for worthwhile reading everytime. So I have just finished I Kings and I'm beginning II Kings. The last chapter of I Kings ends with the story of the death of evil King Ahab. Listen to this for a word picture; "So the king died and was brought to Samaria, and they buried him there. They washed the chariot at a pool in Samaria (where the prostitutes bathed), and the dogs licked up his blood, as the word of the Lord had declared," (I Kings 22:37 - 38) After reading that text I can't get the 70's tune "Workin at the Car Wash" out of my head. Anyway, II Kings begins with Elijah pronouncing a death sentence upon King Ahaziah, Ahab's son and successor. It seemed Ahaziah had been snooping in the attic for last year's Christmas ornaments or something when he fell through the lattice work. I'm not kidding, read it for yourself; ""Now Ahazariah had fallen through the lattice of his upper room in Samaria and injured himself." (II Kings 1"2) I know someone has had the same flashback I just had of Chevy Chase in the attic of the Griswold's home with a an old mink wrap and mittens watching movie reels of childhood holidays. Ok, so the king sends, not for a doctor, but for word from a prophet of Baal to tell him if he will survive from his injuries. He knew prophets on the king's payroll are sure to give a hopeful diagnosis. But along the way God's prophet, Elijah, intercepted the messenger and delivered bad news to Ahaziah. "Tell him he is going to die" Elijah told the king's servant. 

Of course, this wasn't the cheerful report Ahaziah wanted to hear so he sent an army captain and fifty soldiers to bring Elijah to Samaria in an effort to persuade him to change his report. When the men arrived at the mountain retreat of Elijah the prophet called down fire from heaven and the captain and his fifty soldiers became crispy critters. Ten years earlier Elijah had called to heaven and God burnt up the sacrifice on Mt. Carmel in front of 450 tired and bleeding prophets of Baal. King Ahaziah sent another captain and another fifty men and they met the same fate. So the third captain began to see a pattern that he didn't like. He was smart enough to bow before Elijah and ask for mercy. So God told Elijah to spare this man's life and the lives of his fellow soldiers and follow them to see the king. So I'm reading with great anticipation how this confrontation between the prophet and the king turns out. (Yes, I have read it before, but I had forgotten the details.) Elijah walks up to the king and says, "You will certainly die! So he died..!" (II Kings 1:6 - 7) So much for cliff hangers. 

So I encourage you when Redbook, Men's Health or Cosmo leaves you feeling like you have wasted your money pick up your Bible. I'm not sure if it made Oprah's summer reading list but it always makes mine!

Pastor Ken       


Twisted

I launched a brief summer series last Sunday called "Twisted." Basically Twisted is designed to reveal that there is an unseen enemy and his desire is to destroy your life. He only has one weapon at his disposal and that weapon is deceit. Christ said Satan is a liar and his native language is lies. He also said that the devil is a murderer and was from the beginning. So if you allow him to ruin your life he can only do it one way, through deceiving you. Simple enough.

In explaining how twisted the enemy can get our thinking I gave examples of "twisted thinking;" Such as terrorism, murder and genocide. I brought it home when I shared my horror over late trimester abortions and the redefinition of ma rria ge. With the proclamation that these were wrong and a contemporary example of twisted thinking the congregation broke out in spontaneous applause. I was not expecting it nor did I prompt it with a pregnant pause or solicitation for approval. It was a real affirmation that I had touched a chord in people's lives who were fed up with ambiguity and complacency in the church. 

So Monday morning I am watching the news when I learned that someone had murdered a doctor who performed abortions at church where he was also an usher. It occurred to me some of the  most twisted thinking comes from those who claim to be acting upon the will of God. When does it become right to kill a man without provocation? When do we think it is our place to fulfill the righteous indignation of Christ. If anyone is to serve up a healthy dose of justice it will not be us, but the only One Who is worthy to judge. I don't remember Christ asking for any assistance turning over tables and running thieves from the temple. The only time I remember Him asking for the administration of justice by others they refused to comply. Instead they dropped their stones one after another and walked away. 

Let me repeat. I think abortions are wrong, at any stage of pregnancy. However, we are called to share the good news of forgiveness with everyone. Christ came to save the vilest of sinners. The problem is with over zealous religiouss nuts who take matters into their own hands. Now, there is one less person who will be able to repent and find forgiveness. Sometimes the most twisted thinking come from those who are religious but deceived.