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.

Worth Repeating : James Dennison

“The scene is one of the most breathtaking in all of Scripture. An itinerant Galilean carpenter stands surrounded by twelve very ordinary men. At the moment, the leaders of nations are plotting to destroy him as a dangerous heretic. He stands in an area which illustrates the conflict and power of religions more than any other place in the world – Caesarea-Philippi, north of Galilee.

At least fourteen temples to Baal lay scattered about the area, reminders of Canaanite paganism. Nearby is a deep cavern where the Greeks said their god, Pan, was born. The entire region is symbolic of Greek mythology. Adjacent stands the great temple of white marble built to the deity of Caesar by Herod the Great, emblematic of Roman emperor worship. And the Jews believed that their sacred Jordan River originated from beneath this very mountain. Behind Jesus stands a gigantic rock formation, with a cave which is deeper than we are able to measure to this day. It was called the “gates of Hades,” and was widely believed to be the doorway to the underworld.

It was and is an intimidating place. I’ve stood at this spot, and I remember it well. But here Jesus uttered words which astounded his followers: ‘On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it’ (Matthew 16:18). Hades would not attack the church – this small band of men would attack Hades. And neither Hades, the pagan religions, nor the power of the Roman and Jewish rulers would prevail. Jesus’ church would assault the very gates of hell with the gospel – and win. The church was Jesus’ strategy for reaching a lost world.

And this strategy worked, amid some of the greatest ecotones in history. As Jewish and Gentile cultures clashed, the gospel thrived (Acts 10-11). As East met West, the church grew and prospered (Acts 16). When the gospel came to Rome itself, it took root and flowered (Acts 28). As the Roman Empire crumbled and fell, the church mushroomed in power. The strategy worked.

Across the centuries of ecotonic clashes, the church has remained Jesus’ answer to world evangelization. In a millennium of Dark Ages the gospel spread, and the church grew. In the midst of Enlightenment attacks it experienced Great Awakenings. The Industrial Age saw the greatest missionary expansion to point in history.

And our century, with two world wars and the greatest rate of change in human history, has witnessed unprecedented growth in Christian missions. According to church growth expert George Otis Jr, about 70 percent of all progress toward evangelizing the world has taken place since 1900. Seventy percent of that growth has occurred since World War II.

Now, in another ecotonic time, the church is still Jesus’ strategy for world evangelization. Change is nothing new. Only Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He still intends to reach the world through his church.”

James Dennison, from Missiology; An Introduction to the Foundations, History, and Strategies of World Missions. 1998

Missional Monday : National Night Out

nno2013Last August, Port Royal Baptist Church had the privilege to participate in a community event known as National Night Out. National Night Out is an initiative to develop and promote crime-prevention programs in neighborhoods involving watch groups, law enforcement agencies, churches, non-profit organizations, businesses, and individuals working toward one simple goal: safer and stronger communities. Our church had been seeking a way to gain entry into the multi-housing community that adjoins our property. We approached the property manager with this initiative and were welcomed with open arms.

This is how it works. A church, business, or non-profit organization identifies a neighborhood to “adopt”. Local law enforcement and fire departments are brought in to share the anti-crime and safety message. Through this initiative, foundational partnerships are formed that lead to future opportunities of ministry and involvement. Port Royal Baptist will host a block party (bounce house, popcorn, sno-cones, etc.) including a cookout. The property manager will provide the space, power, and internal promotion to more than 100 family units. Port Royal Police Department, Beaufort County Sheriff’s Department, and Beaufort County Fire Department will provide staff and resources from their departments to communicate their anti-crime message, while showing a side of their work that most of the communities never get to see. On August 6th, 2013, we will all come together again to do our individual part in collectively making sure our community knows that we care about them.

Earlier I mentioned foundations for future involvement. From the church standpoint, we have had the privilege to minister in other ways. Because of a “non-church” event, we have been allowed to come back to host “church” events including those related to Easter and Vacation Bible School. I believe we were able to carry out the purpose of the church because we built trust and earned the right to minister. How did we do this? How can you do the same thing?

1. We took advantage of a secular event in order to lay the groundwork for ministry. Check your community calendars and involve your church in those events. I wrote about the importance of merging church and community calendars. You can read that post here.

2. We earnestly believe that our community is our responsibility, not someone else’s. Remember, missional is not about doing. It is all about being. Don’t allow someone else to be the missionary to your community.

3. We were not afraid to be told “no”. You should not be either. Pray, identify, and ask. We were told “no” in this particular multi-housing unit once before.

Missional Monday : MissionsFEST Atlanta

atlanta-skylineIn October of this year I, along with two other member of Port Royal Baptist Church (Joyce Bunton, Judy Greenlee), will take part in MissionsFEST Atlanta. This trip is the result of a partnership between South Carolina Baptist Convention Missions Mobilization, National WMU (Women’s Missionary Union), Georgia WMU, and the UACP (Urban Atlanta Church Planter’s) Network. The UACP is a cooperative effort to engage lostness through the planting of intentionally reproducing churches with the I-285 perimeter of Atlanta. Individuals and churches who participate in MissionsFEST work alongside church planters who active in reaching neighborhoods with the I-285 loop where over 100 different languages are spoken. Events and projects are designed to demonstrate the love of Christ in real and tangible ways that allow bridges to be built for future gospel conversations. Some of the week’s projects include block parties, service ministries, prayer walking, and light construction work.

We are looking at this trip as more than just an opportunity to help church planters with the enormous task of reaching their community. We are viewing this time in Atlanta as a vision trip for Port Royal Baptist Church. Every spring we sponsor a state-side mission trip for our congregation. As we seek the Lord’s guidance as to the coming year’s destination, we are praying He uses this week to open doors for future ministry. As in any trip, meeting, or conference I attend, certain hopes are always present. My hopes for this trip are as follows.

1. It is my hope that we will create partnerships for future service. As I mentioned above, we hope to be able to discern the needs of the church planters and determine if our congregation would be a fit in Atlanta.

2. It is my hope that I will be personally challenged. I believe that many of us minister within a bubble of safety. That is not always our fault, just a result of where we are. I hope to be stretched and challenged to do ministry that I never have and among people I never have.

3. It is my hope that we will learn new methods and practices for our own local ministry. Our church is very active and present in our community. I am hoping that some of what we experience in Atlanta will give us fresh ideas for reaching Port Royal.

A Pastor’s Take on Vacation Bible School 2013

ccwColossal Coaster World Vacation Bible School has pulled into the station for the final time this year. Our theme park inspired adventure is complete. The screams and shouts of kids running through down the hallways and in the sanctuary are now a distant, but treasured memory. Decorations have come down and the once vibrant and colorful rooms, hallways, sanctuary, and common areas have now been returned to their traditional look. Sadly, it looks as if Vacation Bible School never happened. Vacation Bible School makes for a very long week around the church. If you take into account the weeks leading up to the actual teaching week, many long, long hours have been logged over the past three weeks. I am a huge fan of Vacation Bible School and am sold on its ministry value. As a pastor, I fully understand how important this week is in the life of the church. Now that Vacation Bible School 2013 is over, I have a few observations that I would like to offer here.

1. Attendance: For better or worse, this is often the criteria by which Vacation Bible School is judged as a success or a failure. I am not completely sold on this marker of success. Our average attendance for the week was approximately 115. As far as the numbers go, our attendance was down slightly from last year. I was encouraged by our attendance this summer. My reason for being encouraged is not so much about how many, but who was here. It is obvious that our people were active in inviting others this week. We did something different this year with our teenagers. Instead of Youth Vacation Bible School occurring the weeks before the children’s, our youth met the same week as everyone else. This was a success and we averaged 8 teenagers nightly. This does not count the high school students who were assisting in other areas. We had the expected students who were members of other churches. That is perfectly fine. We are happy to have them for a week. We also had students who were unchurched and not affiliated with a local church. This is one of the markers by which I judge success. We averaged 53 elementary aged children this year. I was further encouraged by our Adult Vacation Bible School class. We had an average this week of 30 adults. Our adult class was not only made up of our own church members. One of goals in Adult Vacation Bible School is to give parents who are not involved in a local church a place to go instead of dropping their children off and going home. We accomplished our goal here. Parents had the opportunity to interact and meet other people in a non-threatening manner and be exposed to the gospel message. I believe this was a success.

2. Volunteers: I am thankful to all of the volunteers who worked this week. As I mentioned earlier, it was a long week. It was also very hot. I am especially thankful and grateful to all of our teachers who worked full-time jobs who left work and came straight to church for five straight days. I want to especially mention and thank those who worked in the kitchen all week. During our Vacation Bible School, we skip the Snack Rotation. Instead, we choose to provide a meal for parents, children, and workers every night. Our kitchen workers came out early, set everything up, served the kids, and stayed until all was cleaned up. Thank you. I also want to thank the summer student missionaries who are a part of the Savannah River Baptist Association Low Country Ministries who came out and helped with our big kick-off event. To all those who worked so hard, your pastor wants you to know that you are appreciated.

3. Ministry: Any time you have kids on campus you have an opportunity to be engaged in real, one-on-one, life-changing ministry. I believe with all of my heart that is what happened this week. During our Worship Rally, our students take up an offering each night. There is anticipated and spirit-filled battle between boys and girls to see who can raise the most money for our designate ministry cause. This gives us an opportunity to further educate our students on the importance of missions. I am excited to report that this year we raised $510.00 for the Connie Maxwell Children’s Home. Vacation Bible School is intentionally evangelistic. We are diligent to make sure that we communicate the gospel message all week long, not just on the night of the “evangelistic” lesson. With that being said, we did not have any public professions of faith (to my knowledge) this week. I can’t explain it in human reasoning. For many who read this, the assumption will be that we failed as a church in Vacation Bible School. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are here to share a message and plant a seed, understanding that it is God who gives the increase. We trust God’s Word knowing that it will not return unto Him void. Real ministry takes place when you take time to listen, talk to, and show love toward a child in the name of Christ. This is what we did this week. If down the road a year or two or five, in God’s timing, a gospel presentation is given and a child responds because of something that was planted in their heart this week, then we were faithful to have done our part.

4. Sharing: Once again this year we had the opportunity to share and pass on the decorations and other resources we used to another church that was in need of them. The bulk of our props, supplies, and decorations will be utilized by at least two additional churches before the summer is over. I believe this is a stewardship issue. Lifeway Vacation Bible School material is not inexpensive. It does not make sense to spend all of that money and then store everything in a closet. I am pleased that we were able to help others in this way.

Overall, we had a great week and look forward to what comes out of the efforts of this week. Again I want to thank every teacher, worker, and parent who allowed their child to be a part of our Vacation Bible School. We are eagerly looking forward to Lifeway’s VBS 2014; “Agency D3: Discover. Decide. Defend.” After all, it is only 11 months away.

Reflections on the 2012 SCBC Annual Meeting

This past week I attended the South Carolina Baptist Convention in Greensville, SC. I look forward to this time of the year. It is a time of encouragement found in challenging messages and powerful worship, as well as fellowship with other pastors and church leaders. Our annual meeting is also a time of information. We are able to hear the latest news and opportunities from our colleges and universities, mission boards, and other convention ministry partners and agencies. No annual meeting would be complete without conducting some sort of business. We heard and adopted resolutions, approved a ministry budget, and approved major bylaw changes in the eligibility and selection of institutional trustees. To some, these business sessions may seem boring and pointless. However, I believe they are invaluable because with them is a certain beauty. Here is what I mean. A messenger, the average person representing their church (large or small), can address the entire body, have their voice heard, and request some action be taken in an area of convention life they may have concerns about or feel an improvement could be made. During the course of the meeting as I walked around, listened, and talked with people, certain thoughts come to mind. I would like to share with you my observations from the SCBC Annual Meeting in Greenville, as I see it.

1. Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Messengers approved bylaw changes that made the BFM2000 the statement of faith for South Carolina Baptists. I believe this is a critical, wise, and timely decision. One that was long overdue. Our convention now has agreed upon theological parameters drawn from Scripture that will help to guide us in doctrinal integrity and cooperation. Trustees of our institutions will now be asked to affirm this statement of faith as part of their service agreement.

2. Debate Decorum. There was a spirit of graciousness present during this year’s meeting. Although everyone did not agree with everything being presented, their objections were offered in a spirit of grace and love. Brad Atkins, presiding president, moderated with compassion, a needed sense of humor, and a Christ-like spirit. He set the tone for the entire meeting.

3. Theme. The spirit of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force recommendations adopted last year is alive and well. This year’s theme, “Great Commission Living”, was evident and well presented. Messengers could not have left without understanding how committed South Carolina Baptists are to fulfilling the Great Commission. The theme interpretations given by the four speakers were spot-on and delivered with passion and conviction. The Committee on Order of Business and others responsible for the selection of speakers, musicians, and program features are to be applauded for bringing the theme from just words on paper to a passionate plea for life change.

4. Convention Staff. I just want to say a word about our South Carolina Baptist Convention staff. I found them to be helpful, gracious, accommodating, patient, and willing to go the extra mile to ensure messengers had a positive and encouraging experience. To an often under-appreciated staff, thank you.

5. Service. There seems to be a continual and growing dissatisfaction with the current breakdown in representation on our convention boards, committees, and agencies. Messengers have in past years, and again this year, voiced their desire for specific ways in which new voices and new faces can be involved denominational service. We often hear this referred to as “bringing more people to the table”. I am interested in seeing where the common ground will  be found.

6. Fellowship. The annual meeting is as much a place for fellowship as it is for anything else. It was interesting to see groups gathered in the hallways and the exhibit hall talking and catching up with each other. It is an opportunity to create new friendship, form new partnerships, and rekindle old friendships. I believe there will always need to be a time of coming together such as this. Over the past years, especially at the SBC level, there has been an increased call to be able to virtually attend a meeting and vote online. While I understand the logistical concerns of travel and such, that convenience cannot replace the need for the real reason for these meetings. After all, voting is one small part. People are the larger and more important part.

Location, Location, Location

Port Royal Baptist Church is uniquely situated for ministry opportunity. I believe the placement of our church has nothing to do with chance. I believe the placement of our church has nothing to do with luck. Instead, I believe that we are where we are for a reason. I believe that we have been planted and given a certain responsibility for the care of this community. If you’ve never been to Port Royal Baptist Church, allow me explain a little bit about our location.

Stepping out of the front door and looking to the left, there is a major highway connecting the town of Port Royal with the city of Beaufort. Across that highway are two apartment buildings. The first is a senior adult community that we have just recently been able to involve ourselves in. The other, next door to the first, is an apartment building with a mixture of singles, families, and seniors. Our church has had a presence here for over five years and continues to be active here to this day.  Stepping out the front door and looking to the right, there is Naval Hospital Beaufort. Aboard this military base you will find housing for both singles and families. At times in the past, our members who are in the military have lived here. Stepping out the front and looking directly to the front, you will see a park that is maintained by the town of Port Royal. There are two things worth mentioning about this park. First, a skate park was built here several years ago that gives  kids who enjoy skateboarding a place to go. There are always kids there. We are expecting a door to open to be able to reach them. Second, this park hosts a farmers market that runs year round.  Every Saturday morning vendors set up in the park and sell everything from vegetables to fresh shrimp, bread to plants and flowers, barbecue to olive oil. Our church has been able to be establish a presence here during the summer months giving away free cold water to both vendors and customers. This farmers market draws a large crowd every week.

The exciting part is that all of this takes place at our doorsteps. Literally. Our parking lot serves as parking for the market every Saturday. Directly behind the church is an apartment complex in which we have been praying for an opportunity to establish a presence and a witness of the gospel. Our prayers have been answered and we have been able to host a block party here recently and meet the residents and their families.  Also, within a half-mile of the church, there are at least three other multi-housing units. Port Royal Baptist Church is just over a mile from the front gate of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island. We are praying for an opportunity to open up to that would enable us to minister to the families aboard the depot.

I said all of that to say this. It’s all about placement. Boundless opportunity surrounds us. Our mission field is right here. I believe that God has uniquely positioned us here to significantly impact our community. If you have never been to Port Royal Baptist Church, I hope this helps you understand where we are. If you have been to Port Royal Baptist Church, have you noticed what is around you? When you drive to the church building for scheduled services, do you realize that you pass through a mission field on your way in? Do you notice the potential that the Lord has laid at our feet? We have a people to reach. I am excited about the potential. I am excited about the opportunity before us. I love this town. I love this church. I love these people. May God enable us to reach them.