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.

Annie Armstrong Easter Offering; A Missions Offering That Goes To Missions

Spring brings many things. Some wanted and some unwanted. This time of the year we see the blooming of flowers, warmer weather, and baseball. Spring also brings pollen and a time change. I look forward to spring because we have the opportunity and privilege to participate in the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missionaries. Our Southern Baptist missionaries serving in North America are supported by the gifts that Southern Baptist churches give through the AAEO. I’m very proud to serve in a denomination where the work of our missionaries on both home and foreign soil continues uninterrupted. Think about this for a moment. Our missionaries don’t have to leave the field to travel back to their home churches, or set up speaking engagements, in order to raise the funding for the work they have been called by God to do. Through the cooperative efforts and gifts of all Southern Baptist churches to this missions offering, the fields are not vacated and the message of Jesus Christ remains present and consistent. I think this is truly amazing.

As a pastor, I am comforted by the idea that I can stand before the people that I lead and with confidence assure them that every penny that is given to the AAEO in the name of missions actually goes to mission work in North America. From the North American Missions Board’s website, “When people give to the offering, 100 percent of their gift will be transformed into missionary salaries and ministry supplies. Those missionaries and supplies will help others hear the message of Christ and respond in faith to His offer of salvation. Time and again our missionaries relate how the offering is their lifeblood. They know that behind each penny given, there is a Southern Baptist who believes in what they do and are affirming the need to equip them to share the gospel with those who need a Savior.” This is critical to the local congregation. The people of God who pray and give sacrificially to this effort, and other missions efforts, deserve this kind of confidence. The confidence of knowing that missions gifts are used solely for mission work accomplishes at least two things.

 First, the local congregation can give, with a sense of peace, and what may already be limited funds, knowing their gifts can positively affect the need presented to them.

 Second, when funds are used for the stated purpose, a greater sense of trust is established between the local congregation and the leadership who encourage them to give.

We are participating in the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering this year. I believe in it. I believe in the work of our North American missionaries. We are fortunate to have a missionary on staff with us in our local Baptist association. We are able to see the some of the results of the gifts given to the AAEO in our local communities through his ministry with us. Our goal this year is $2500. Will we make it? I don’t know. What I do know is this. Whether we raise $2500, $250, or $25 matters less than the knowledge that every dime given goes to actual missions work across North America. To me, that is satisfying.

Are We There Yet? Part #2

“Getting there”. In yesterday’s post, I began looking at the question that is being asked of all Southern Baptists during this Christmas season as we study about, pray for, and give to our missionaries through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. The question is “Are We There Yet?” The “there” is the lost world. The “there” is the culmination of our witness so that everyone has heard the name and gospel of Jesus Christ. Along the way, questions must be answered. The status quo has to be challenged. Priorities must be re-shuffled. Today, I want to offer two questions that surely will have to be dealt with before we can get “there”.

Question #1: Are we there yet in our willingness to place the funding of our missionaries as a top priority?

Our Southern Baptist missionaries are on the front-line in the battle over spiritual darkness and are funded solely by monies contributed through the Cooperative Program. This enables our missionaries to remain on the field engaged in training leaders, planting churches, building relationships with local people groups, and other gospel-proclaiming endeavors. The flip side of the issue is this. If churches decrease their giving, then less money will reach the mission field overall. If state conventions decide to keep for themselves larger and larger percentages of the CP dollar, then less money will reach the mission field.

It is a reality that ministry requires money. It is just the simple truth. Reaching the lost, and the nations for that matter, requires the individual believer, the individual church, the individual association, and the individual state conventions to give selflessly, in whatever manner is available to them in order for Christ to be proclaimed. Budgets reflect priority. It does not take an economist to tell that financially our county has been hurting for a few years, and continues today. I am also a firm believer that financial challenges further reveal priority.  When faced with financial challenges, churches can decide to either make missions and ministry a priority or play it safe and look within. At Port Royal Baptist Church, we have recently made decisions to further invest in what is fruitful and decrease what is not seen as fruitful. Associations, when faced with financial challenges, can either choose to cut ministries and play it safe or aggressively speak for the nations on behalf of the fellowship of churches. State conventions, when faced with financial challenges, can either decide that missions work beyond the state lines is as equally important and worthy of equal funding, or can allow the lobbying of the state agencies and entities to drown out the call for needed funding from overseas.

What makes me question whether or not the willingness is there or not comes from what I have seen over the past several months across the SBC. This willingness can be seen in several state conventions have voted to move their CP division to a 50/50 split, meaning the state retains 50% of funds sent to them from the churches and forwards the other 50% to the SBC. This is encouraging and exciting thing to see happen. It is at the very least a recognition that more funding is needed beyond the state in order keep already appointed missionaries where they are and fund the ones who are standing by. As I had mentioned in a earlier post, our state convention is South Carolina during it’s annual meeting voted to keep any excess funds beyond what is required to meet the operating budget within the state and divide the excess between the seven state entities, agencies, and schools. Do difficult financial times in our country give us a free pass on reaching the nations with the gospel? Absolutely not. Until we as Southern Baptists possess a willingness to make missionary funding a priority, “there” will remain just beyond our reach.

Question #2: Are we there yet in our realization that “business as usual” is no longer acceptable in our efforts to reach the lost?

 I believe this was the genesis for the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. Going back to the original motion in 2009, there has been a realization across the SBC that on present course we are, at best, treading water in our efforts to fulfill the Great Commission. This passion and desire to get our practice right as it relates to the Great Commission is real. It is just as real as the passion and desire was to get our theology right during the Conservative Resurgence of the mid-late 1980’s. From time to time it takes something to rattle us and wake us up from our slumber. I believe GCRTF has put before us as Southern Baptists the picture of lostness and legitimate recommendations that would enable us to fulfill the Great Commission. These recommendations, if implemented by the various agencies, will change the face of our denominational structure and how we do “business”. I was encouraged to read what Dr. Kevin Ezell, President of the North American Mission Board, said recently at a missionary appointment service. Dr. Ezell said “As we go through changes, absolutely every change we make and every reduction we make is to put more missionaries in the field.

 It is very easy to get settled into routines, schedules, ministries, programs, and structures; and as a result, place our trust in them. Any changes to the present structure will be questioned and difficult. Territorial spats are already occurring and changes have only been proposed. Recently, a group of directors of missions from Alabama wrote an open letter to the SBC encouraging a slow down on the Great Commission Resurgence. I’ll be writing a response to that letter in the near future. How do you hope to slow down a renewed desire and passion to fulfill the Great Commission? Better yet, how dare you ask such a thing? I sat in the convention hall of the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Orlando this past June, it was clear that Southern Baptists were saying “business as usual” is no longer acceptable. It is a willingness to let go of “business as usual” and set aside turf wars and territorialism that will determine our ability to get “there”.

A Month of Ministry

I love the community I which I live. I love the community in which our church has been planted. I believe with all of my heart that the best years are before us and that we are going to make a difference in our Jerusalem. God is giving us at Port Royal Baptist Church some new and creative opportunities to minister to the people of Port Royal. For this, I am thankful. Two such opportunities come our way in the month of October: the Festival of the Sea community festival in Port Royal and our annual Fall Festival and Trunk-or-Treat.

October 16th brought the Festival of the Sea in Port Royal. The purpose of this festival was to highlight and bring attention to the businesses located in the old village section of Port Royal. There was food, music, a car show, and local business vendors lining Paris Avenue. We had the opportunity to set up a booth and introduce our church to the people who stopped by. We gave away cold water and popcorn, along with information about our church and its ministries. Face painting and balloon animals were a big hit with the children. I am proud of the 27 volunteers from PRBC who gave their time during the five hours we were there. I want to also thank Larry Leming, Missions Ministries Director from the Savannah River Baptist Association, for spending the day ministering with us. It was a great day of meeting people, building relationships with people and businesses, and sharing the gospel as allowed. Below are a few pictures from the day.

   

   

  

   

October 31st brought our annual Fall Festival and Trunk-or-Treat. Halloween brings with it the carnival-type atmosphere of fall festivals and similar events. We wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to provide a safe alternative to trick-or-treating. With food, games, prizes, fellowship, and conversation, we were able to bridge the gap between entertainment and outreach. It was a real privilege to spend some time with the people of Port Royal. We had approximately 150 people on campus Sunday night. I want to thank all who made this year’s fall festival a success. You are appreciated and you labor was not in vain. Below are a few pictures from the night’s activities.

  

  

  

  

  

  

   

   

Survivor : Port Royal Baptist Style

Most everyone has seen the cultural phenomenon that is Survivor. This television reality show puts two teams against each other through a variety of physical challenges. The goal is to outwit, outplay, and outlast your opponents. Today, we had our own version of Survivor at Port Royal Baptist Church. Monday is back-to-school day so we hosted a Survivor Back-to-School Fun Day for our kids and guests. We divided our kids into two teams and they competed in four team challenges for points. After all the competition, everyone was rewarded with an all-you-can eat ice cream bar. Here are some pictures from today.

     

    

    

    

I would like to thank all of our parents and everyone involved in our children’s ministry for their hard work in providing our kids and guests a fun and relaxing day. Your dedication and positive attitude is much appreciated my me, your pastor. Job well done.

Real Church Happens Outside The Church

I have done quite a bit of looking around lately. I have made it a point to intentionally notice the people and places around our church. I have noticed that we have both the traditional family structure and single-parent families in our area of influence. I have noticed that we have different races, nationalities, and religious beliefs in our area of influence. I have noticed that we have both ends of the economic spectrum in our area of influence, often living close together. I have noticed that we have people that share similar interests or are linked by some common bond. Some of these in our area of influence are skateboarders, multi-housing, and the military.

There is a reality that I believe I have always known to be true. That reality: there are people who will not connect with the body of Christ through the old “they know we’re here” mentality. Because everyone does not look, act, or respond in the same ways, our ministry approach must fit them. It is up to the church to go to the people. In the Parable of the Great Supper, Jesus tells the story of a man who prepared a banquet and when time come for the guests to arrive, excuses were made as to why they could not. The master of the banquet then went intentionally looking for those who would come. In Luke 14:23 we have the words of Jesus, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be full’. I believe there is a principle that we can carry over to the church today. We have made ready. We have prepared places and ministries. We have sat back and waited. We are to go out to where the people are.

Last night, I met with our Church Council, which is made of staff and department leaders. I appreciate this group of people for their passion in their area of service. I am thankful for their desire to see the lives of people changed. As we discussed upcoming community ministry, I posed a question to our leaders and challenged them to some “outside of the box” thinking. Here is the question I posed: ‘What meaningful services can we provide for our community that would be unavailable to them or cost them to obtain?’ I asked them to join me in considering this question and come up with areas of need that we meet “outside” the church walls. I am excited about what I am going to hear. I am looking forward to our church increasing its area of influence in our community.

Taking a Break

My writing has been, at best, sporadic as of late. I truly love writing and have a desire to write every day, however, priorities come first. Currently, there is a great deal going outside of my writing related to the church where my attention is needed. For example, we are in the process of putting into place our new outreach strategy here at Port Royal Baptist. Between new ministries such as this, studying, pastoral ministry, and family, my time is stretched. I would not have it any other way.

So, I am giving myself permission not to write for the next three weeks. I am in the process of reading some new books and will be posting a review, as well as other ministry related articles,  once my self-imposed timeout is up. Thank you to those who read what I write here and a further thanks for your encouragement. See you in three weeks.  

Thank You Port Royal

There is a tremendous need for assistance in the nation of  Haiti. Many relief organizations are on the ground giving assistance through counselling, clean water and food, construction, and medical supplies. One of the primary organizations that been on the ground in Haiti since the earthquake is Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief. Almost immediately, DR was there assessing the situation and giving guidance to other organizations. A major asset to the relief efforts are the established relationships between the people of Haiti and the Florida Baptist Convention, who has had a presence in Haiti for the past fifteen years.

Yesterday at Port Royal Baptist Church, we took our Haiti Relief Offering. We received $1,870. I just want to say “thank you” to our congregation  for giving so sacrificially. I love the heart of our people. I am proud to be the pastor of a body of people who, when given the opportunity to give to a cause greater than themselves, seek to be like Christ in their actions. Again, thank you for your generous offering on behalf of Disaster Relief.

Coming Soon to a Church Near You

One of my favorite times of the church year is fast approaching: Vacation Bible School. I know that it is only January, but June will be here before you know it. I enjoy everything about VBS. As a pastor, I enjoy the opportunity to work closely with teachers and other volunteers preparing for the arrivals of our students. I enjoy having kids running up and down the hallways not knowing how to act in church. After all, is it not our goal to get unchurched kids to come to church? Believe it or not, I enjoy being there when the first student arrives and watching the last one get into the car at night. As a pastor I enjoy interacting with the students. I enjoy talking with them, laughing with them, and hopefully praying with them.

I enjoy teaching and preparing others for ministry. It is a passion of mine.  I have had the opportunity over the past several years to share my love for VBS with others at the church, association, and state levels. I have agreed to be a part of the VBS team for the Savannah River Baptist Association this year and help train others across our association. I am looking forward to what the Lord is going to do with Vacation Bible School this year. The potential is great. Begin praying right now as to where the Lord would have you to serve. More to come.