Missional Monday : Love Gave 2015

mmSeveral months ago I was sitting with Shane Olsen, lead pastor of Decibel Church and Mike Green, lead pastor of the The Link at lunch. I do not remember the purpose of that meeting. Perhaps we were debriefing a past event or planning a future event. I simply can’t remember. I do remember that out conversation turned toward our city. As the discussion went on, one question seemed to emerge: How can our churches work together in order to show God’s love toward our city? We had already been serving our community in our own individual contexts. Collectively we were all part of large community-wide, non-denominational Thanksgiving event that fed hundreds and hundreds of families. Several questions helped to frame the above question.

What more could we do together?

Is once a year enough to make a real and lasting impact?

What resources could we pool and leverage to make a difference?

What is the best option for long-term and lasting impact?

It was out of this discussion that Love Gave was born.

So, what is Love Gave? Well, there is no formal mission and purpose statement. I guess you could call it an emphasis, a focus, or perhaps collaboration. My prayer is that it becomes a movement. We decided that over a 40 period (October 11th – November 22nd) that we would make it a priority to serve our city in a visible display of God’s love. During this 40 day period, each church will choose their individual emphasis. Port Royal Baptist will see 40 Days of Community. Collectively we will come together for two main community events in under-served areas; one in Beaufort (October 24th) and one in Port Royal (November 7th).  I believe a fundamental principle in community ministry is to ask agencies and city leaders how the church can help them in order to cut down on duplication and focus resources. We met with the mayor of Beaufort and Port Royal’s town manager to share our vision and seek guidance. Both recognized the need and welcomed the help. There are at least three goals we hope to attain through these events. First, it is our desire to show the cities of Beaufort and Port Royal a visible witness of God’s love through sacrifice and service. Second, it is our desire to show the community how beautiful and how strong the Body of Christ is. Lastly, it is our desire to give at least 1000 volunteer hours to our cities on each of the two city ministry days.  Although the details of each city ministry day are still coming together, we do know a few things for sure. The Beaufort ministry day will consist of park clean-up and painting, renovation work for a needy homeowner, and a carnival/block party in the Greene Street area. The Port Royal ministry day will consist of skate park repair/painting and other work in Veterans Memorial Park.

I would ask that you pray. Pray that our cities will see God’s love lived out in practical ways and that hearts will be softened to the gospel as a result. Pray for the approximately 10-12 churches that will be involved in Love Gave. Pray that their congregations will be strengthened as a result of serving their community. Please pray that this truly would be a movement that would be embraced as we partner with our cities to love the people who make them up. I would also ask that you volunteer. I would pray that you might embrace this opportunity to “be” the church.

The Implications of Baseball Beyond the Diamond

Baseball season is finally here. Spring training has begun and opening day is not too far around the corner. There is one central principle that is obvious in the game of baseball: TEAMWORK. Although there are nine players on the field, none work individually. This teamwork can be seen between the coach and the player, teaching the fundamentals of the game. Teamwork can be seen between the catcher and pitcher, selecting the right pitch to get the batter out. Teamwork can be seen between the shortstop and the second baseman working together to turn a double play at first base. If any one player decided to play all the positions by himself, the TEAM would fall apart and lose. A baseball team exhibits the precious quality of unity.

There is a parallel between a baseball team and the church. In the local church, the Lord has brought together diverse people for one common goal. The goal of the church, simply, is to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the world in which we live. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:10,  “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”  Paul made a reference to being “perfectly joined together”. As a New Testament church, we are to be working together in all that we do. We are to be perfectly joined together. Paul tells us that the results of being joined together will be that we will speak the same things, be free of divisions, and have the same things in mind.

Remember the baseball team? Individual players with specific talents come together to contribute and share their talent with the team. The coach then determines where that talent will be best used for the greater good of the team. In the same way, the Lord has brought individuals together to be part of a team. Each person is gifted uniquely. The Holy Spirit places each one in the area of service that best suits their gifts and talents. When we pull together as a TEAM, and us our gifts and talents for the greater good of the church, we all win.

I have heard coaches say there is one main point to remember in the game of baseball. That point is that you win as a team and you lose as a team. As a pastor, I believe the same thing is true in the church. We will have battles from time to time. We may have periods of ups and downs. The thing to remember is this. Whatever we do, if we work TOGETHER, and commit to remain TOGETHER, we will be victorious.

What Should Be The Standard of Cooperation In The Local Baptist Association?

Cooperation is the tie that binds in the local Baptist association. Cooperation is vital. Cooperation is fragile. Cooperation must be fostered and nurtured. Cooperation is what defines us as Southern Baptists. In a Baptist association, individual churches make the decision to come together and share resources, spiritual gifts, spaces, and finances as they work together toward a common agreed upon goal. The goal is different in every association and can be cloudy and undefined at times. Certainly the goal, at the minimum, should be the desire to see the Great Commission fulfilled. It is also  the prerogative of every local association to determine what it will accept from its member churches as the minimal level of participation as a cooperating church. The choice that is made here is so very important. This decision says a great deal about what the association values. It says a great deal about what the association pursues as its passion. This decision is often reflected in its governing documents. It must be remembered that the association is, at best, a “para-church” organization. The church has the final authority in the matter of contribution or affiliation with the association or any other institution.

I serve a church in the Savannah River Baptist Association which has 33 churches and missions. From where I sit, there seems to be some uncertainty as to what the standard of cooperation is. A standard is defined as “a basis for comparison; a reference point against which other things can be evaluated.” If there is no clearly defined statement of faith (i.e. Baptist Faith and Message) put forward by the association to unite the churches, everything becomes subjective. The Savannah River Baptist Association has no such defining statement of faith. It is this uncertainty that I want to write about openly, honestly, and in a way that is educational. Should the standard of cooperation be member participation, financial contribution, or something else all together?

Associations can choose to adopt (whether written or unwritten) the standard of member participation. This standard says that each church is expected to actively participate in and contribute to the events, fellowships, and decision making process of the association. The association as a whole benefits when this happens. When all of the member churches come together and share their talents, knowledge, and resources, the whole association prospers. There are some member churches who feel the association has nothing to offer them. That may be true. However, the member church that thinks this way may have much in the way of knowledge, experience, and resources to give that the remainder of the association could benefit from. I personally believe that participation is much more than just sending in a check every month. Looking at the  attendance numbers of both the spring and fall sessions of the Savannah River Baptist Association from 2000-2010 (11 years), I want to make a few observations. (The following numbers are based on 30 churches. Three of our churches are new works and were not active this entire time period).

* In the 11 year period between 2000-2010, 13 churches sent representatives to the Spring Session of the SRBA 6 or fewer times.

* In the 11 year period between 2000-2010, 17 churches sent representatives to the Spring Session of the SRBA 7 or more times.

* In the 11 year period between 2000-2010, 10 churches sent representatives to the Fall Session of the SRBA 6 or fewer times.

* In the 11 year period between 2000-2010, 20 churches sent representatives to the Spring Session of the SRBA 7 or more times.

* In the 11 year period between 2000-2010, 1 church sent no representatives to the Spring Session of the SRBA at all.

* In the 11 year period between 2000-2010, 2 churches sent no representatives to the Fall Session of the SRBA at all.

I am certain that churches have their own reasons why they don’t participate. Perhaps they feel the association has nothing to offer them. Perhaps they feel they are not being led adequately. Perhaps they feel abandoned. Perhaps they feel their local church work is more vital. I don’t know.

An association can also choose to adopt (whether written or unwritten) a standard of financial contribution. This standard would say that the financial gifts (frequency and amount) a member church gives defines whether or not they are cooperating. I believe there is a reality that we can all agree upon. Ministry requires money. This is true from the church pew to the foreign mission field. In all fairness, in the same way not all churches participate all the time, not every church financially supports the association every single month. This is no secret. I don’t know what the reasons are for this. Perhaps the reasons are the same as above. Perhaps they are completely different. There is one major difference. How you handle the two.

In my estimation, again, this is simply my opinion, I sense our association leaning toward the position that the standard of cooperation should be financial contribution. Our association will be voting on a significant overhaul of the Constitution/By-Laws in October. There are some really good things I agree with, and some not-so-good things I don’t agree with contained in this revision. The wording of this new document seems to speak to what I am have written here. Here is an example from that revision. Under the present constitution, there is a section entitled “Non-Reporting Churches” and it reads like this:

“When churches fail to support the work of the Association a committee appointed by the moderator shall consult with said church as to their desire and intent to continue in fellowship.”

This seems to allow for a variety of issues to be dealt with, whether those issues are lack of participation, financial, or doctrinal. Now, the proposed revision renames “Non-Reporting Churches” to “Non-Supporting Churches” and reads as follows:

“If a church fails to financially support the work of the Association, the Moderator shall request the Finance Committee to consult with said church to encourage its continued fellowship with and support of the Association. The Finance Chair shall report their findings, with or without recommendation(s), to the Executive Board at its next meeting.”

This proposed revision zeroes in exclusively on the financial aspect of support and participation. I believe the intention is very clear. How else could this be perceived, except that the member church’s  financial gift is what matters most. If this were not so, why then would the Finance Committee be asked to “consult with said church to encourage its continued fellowship with and support of the Association.”? If you combine past practices with the proposed policy, here is what you will get, whether intended or unintended: “It’s alright if you don’t come see us, just send your check. However, if you stop sending your check, we’ll come see you.”

Feel free to leave your comments and thoughts. This is a dialogue that we need to have.

DiscipleNow : Uncensored 2011

We had the opportunity this past weekend to host a DiscipleNow weekend at Port Royal Baptist Church. The theme for this year was “Uncensored”, calling on students to live a life uncensored for God and making personal purity a life priority. Over the course of the Friday-Sunday, there was an average of 80 students in attendance. Six churches came together to make this weekend possible; Port Royal Baptist, Shell Point Baptist, St Helena Baptist, Pine Level Baptist, Grays Hill Baptist, and Praise Assembly. We were blessed with the worship band “Soul” who led in worship the entire weekend and did a phenomenal job communicating the power and worth of God through music.


It was a blessing to see what unfolded over the weekend. As the students split into their small groups (middle school boys, middle school girls, high school boys, high school girls) leaders were able to share God’s desire for their purity on a level they could understand. Thank you small group leaders. Students went to the gym wall and put their prayer concerns in writing. Students laughed together, cried together, worshipped together, and prayed together. It truly was a moving experience.


I had the privilege as a pastor to spend some time with our students and student leaders over the weekend. As I watched individual student pastors work with their students and work with each other, it is clear they have a heart for the Lord and for students. I want to say how very proud I am of the student pastors that worked so hard for so many moths in order to make this weekend a reality. As I reflect on this weekend, a few thoughts come to mind.

1. Although teenagers may dress differently, speak differently, and worship differently than adults, those differences in no way diminish their heart and desire for God.

2. It speaks volumes to the power of the Holy Spirit when teenagers openly admit their sin before their peer group that is often their toughest critic.

3. I do not know who said that teenagers only think of themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth.

4. Student pastors are, in my book, both awesome and under-appreciated. I admire greatly those leaders who work full time and yet give full time love and commitment to their students.

To the best of our knowledge, four students made professions of faith in Christ over the weekend. For this, we rejoice. Many more made commitments to purity and to a closer walk with the Lord. In this, we rejoice. I want to thank every church and volunteer who had a part in this weekend’s event. From this pastor, I appreciate you. To the people of Port Royal Baptist Church, thank you for opening the doors and letting the students in.

Blind or Informed Cooperation?

One of the main reasons I choose to be a Southern Baptist is because of cooperation. I enjoy the cooperative spirit that sets Southern Baptists apart from other denominations, even from other Baptist denominations. The basis for our cooperation is a shared doctrinal belief as set forth in our Baptist Faith and Message. Cooperation exists between individual churches, churches and associations, churches and the state convention, and churches and the SBC. Cooperation is beneficial. One such benefit is the sharing of resources (financial, material, personnel, etc). Churches with small budgets can gain access to materials, training, and equipment for ministry from other churches, associations, and conventions that may not be readily available to them. On the other hand, the SBC, state conventions, associations have access to a pool of gifted, talented, and willing people from the local church to work and serve across various entities.  Another benefit of cooperation is simple, yet so powerfully true. We are able to accomplish more together for the kingdom than we can do alone. I believe this statement forms the basis for cooperation and has been the rallying cry across the SBC since its inception in 1845.

With that being said, I don’t believe that cooperation is automatic. Here is what I mean by that. There is a difference between what I like to call blind and informed cooperation. Blind cooperation is cooperating out of tradition, habit, or out of a sense of guilt. This would look something like this: “Give because you have always given.” “I don’t know why we do it; it’s just something we do.” Informed cooperation is committing time, talent, and finances after an evaluation of the goals and purposes of another organization so that there is a peace about joining them in the work. As a pastor, I have the responsibility to lead the church I pastor to put its time, resources, and finances into what will ultimately lead to the lost being saved and the saved growing closer to Christ.

I want to cooperate. I desire to cooperate with those who share the same conviction, desire, passion, vision, and purposes that I value as essential, based on kingdom benefit. This whole issue of cooperation is one that I have been giving a great of thought to recently. I struggle with questions such as these: What do you do when those you work with (individuals, churches, associations, state conventions, SBC) don’t seem to want to cooperate? What happens when their decisions, philosophies, actions, and plans indicate the intent to go in a direction that just can’t be followed? At what point does fruitfulness become the driving force of cooperation over tradition and guilt? As a church we can’t do everything. We don’t have unlimited resources. When it comes to the energies of our people, their talents, and financial resources, we must direct those to areas that will bear the most fruit for the kingdom.