Monday, August 27, 2007

The heart of a man is revealed by his actions.

I found this article in this weeks edition of the Florida Baptist Witness. It coincides with my last post, which dealt with SBC leaders speaking out against the abuse of blogs and the SBC. Frank Page and Jerry Ranking both removed endorsements for the blog In this article Thom Rainer, President of Lifeway, speaks to this issue as well. These men made endorsements in good faith, when asked to by the focal contributors of SBCoutpost. When the true heart of these contributors was demonstrated on the blog, our SBC leaders have begun to speak against the manner in which that blog was being used. I applaud these men for being men of integrity and character. It takes these characteristics in leaders to address issues like character assassination, etc... God bless this great Southern Baptist Convention.

Serving Him,
Pastor Mike

Point of View
In denominational life, a plea for more civil discourse
By THOM S. RAINER LifeWay Christian Resources
Published August 23, 2007

"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer" (Psalm 19:14, HCSB).
I wish I could say that I get it right all the time. I wish I could say that I get it right most of the time. But, more often than I care to admit, the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart are not acceptable to the Lord. I do not always bring glory to God in the words I say and the words I write.
I, therefore, consider myself unworthy to pass judgment on those who say and write matters that seem to me to be displeasing to the Lord. But my silence is no longer an option.
Frank Page, our Southern Baptist Convention president, called me today. He told me he would be issuing a statement about the words being spoken and written on church and denominational issues. Though I have not yet seen his statement, I imagine this article will "amen" to Dr. Page's words.
Electronic media, particularly Websites and blog sites, is neither inherently good nor evil. This medium can be used for God's glory, or it can be used in a manner that clearly does not glorify God. I have seen it become a particularly wonderful medium to keep us updated on key issues, to engender dialogue, to provide a forum for healthy debate, and to ask necessary questions.
But it can also host forums that cannot please our Lord. Whereas most print media have the accountability of boards, bosses and subscribers, much social electronic media does not have clear and explicit accountability—it's the community's responsibility. Words that are hurtful, untrue and even displeasing to our Lord can be written without consequence. The community then becomes collectively accountable.
I'm not saying avoid substantive issues and the calls for accountability, but I plead with my brothers and sisters in Christ, particularly in our denomination, to move toward a more civil discourse, a more Christlike attitude in what we say and write.
I have made my own mistakes in the blogosphere. Prior to the launching of the Weblog SBC Outpost, I responded positively to a request for an endorsement. My endorsement spoke with a hope that this new blog would be an exciting opportunity to focus our denomination more on missions and evangelism. My words, instead, were construed by some to be an endorsement of every article that followed, particularly those articles that were critical of other entity presidents. That was unacceptable. I was wrong. By the time I contacted SBC Outpost asking for the withdrawal of my endorsement, all endorsements had been removed.
My passionate desire is to be a bridge builder in the Southern Baptist Convention. Not to compromise biblically. Not to be soft in my theology. I desire true collaboration with those of uncompromising biblical certitude to reach a lost world with the Gospel of our Savior. My prayer is that the conservative resurgence will now grow into a Great Commission resurgence.
But our witness is compromised when a spiritually lost world sees us fighting with one another, when they see unloving words hurled without restraint, when they see terse comments cloaked in civility—when they see little evidence of Christian love.
Would you pray with me that the world will see us as men and women who love the Lord with all of our hearts, and who love one another? Will you be a part of the conversation that shifts from negativity to Great Commission obedience?
I ask: Will you be a person who speaks a truth in love in such a way that your comments glorify God and are found acceptable to Him?
Such is my plea. Such is my prayer.

Thom S. Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Good News from BP

I opened my email this morning and read an article on BP by our SBC President Frank Page and a statement concerning from Jerry Rankin, the IMB President. I was greatly relieved by Jerry Rankin's statement. I also appreciate greatly the statements of Frank Page. Listed below is a link to the article which contains the statements from both of these leaders. I encourage you to read it and ask questions if necessary.

Serving Him,
Pastor Mike

I also decide to put the entire article here just in case you would rather read it here.

FIRST-PERSON: For Christ's sake, stop!
Posted on Aug 22, 2007 by Frank Page

EDITORS' NOTE: A statement by International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin follows this article by Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page.TAYLORS, S.C.

(BP)--Do we love one another? Do we love our pastors? Do we genuinely care one for another? Do we care for the lost? Obviously, the list could go on and on, but the question remains, "do we love and care for one another?"I have been greatly burdened in recent days. Our lost world, our lost continent, hurting churches and hurting pastors are crying out. A few days ago I had the opportunity to share Christ with a young man on an airplane. At that very moment, I had to decide whether to continue writing this article or talk to this young man. Obviously, I put the writing material down and spoke with this young man who is in desperate need of Christ. He, like our world, is looking for authenticity and for love. I point this out because I believe we often are making the wrong choice.Our witness is being diluted and energies expended on other activities, especially on internecine conflict.Church conflict is rampant. Seldom does a day go by that I do not receive a call for help from either a church, a pastor or staff member. Recently I received three in one day. And, there seems to be a new way to deal with church conflict. These days, increasing numbers of church members launch websites detailing allegations, accusations and complaints. I ask church members this question: Do you think lost people see this? When newspaper reporters are called and church conflict becomes known in the newspaper, either locally or nationally, what do you think this does when lost people read it? For Christ's sake, for the sake of the lost, stop!Personal attacks are on the rise. I recently removed my endorsement (as did David Dockery, Thom Rainer and others) when a hoped-for and needed place for dialogue on the Internet degenerated quickly into a place of personal attack against denominational leaders as well as those who are advocating reform (emphasis added) . For Christ's sake, stop!Phone calls, e-mails, and hallway conversations continue to take place with the bottom line being character assassination. For Christ's sake, stop! Yes, as you can tell, I am sick and tired of all of this. But guess what? What I think or feel matters little, if at all. However, what does matter is what our Lord Jesus thinks. He states his heart in John 17:21, where he prays, "May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me." He also states in Galatians 5:20 that the works of the flesh are "strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions and factions. What must we do?1) We must beg God for forgiveness. We have spoken ill of brothers and sisters of Christ in ways that should never occur. 2) We must pledge to avoid personal attacks in the future and not to support an activity or conversation in which this occurs. By the way, there is an individual in our convention with whom I have disagreed and have done so publicly. I personally think that is fine. However, I will not be a part of a personal attack of any brother of sister in our convention. 3) We must learn to disagree using the biblical mandates in Matthew 18, Ephesians 4:15, etc. Most church problems and convention problems could have been overcome if we would have followed these biblical mandates.4) We must learn to listen to one another. This applies to all of us. It is time for leaders, trustees, pastors and people in the pew to listen to the concerns of others, even those with whom we have serious disagreement. The pattern of totally ignoring others with whom we disagree has led to a stone walling and given many the encouragement to become extreme.5) We must learn to talk to each other, not just about each other. I challenge you to do this. I also promise to you that you will find new friends in so doing. What is at stake? Certainly I am concerned about the future of our convention, its great mission work, and the educational work in which we are involved. However, even more importantly, I am concerned about lost souls and new believers. Lost people are seeing the deep division and sometimes hatred that is flowing forth among churches and among those who are involved in convention discussions. For Christ's sake, stop!--30--

Grace & respect needed in dialogue By Jerry Rankin RICHMOND, Va.

(BP)--Within the diversity of the Southern Baptist Convention, we desperately need dialogue to take place in which we can listen and learn from each other, even to the extent of respecting differing viewpoints. However, the Bible gives us clear instruction of how we are to deal with disagreements with others. As a leader of a Southern Baptist entity, I find there is no lack of those who have disagreements with the work of the International Mission Board and issues with me personally or my leadership.I welcome direct communication that is intended to result in understanding or corrective actions. But discussion of such issues publicly without making every effort to deal with me or the individual involved is inappropriate and unbiblical. There can never be justification for communicating, even areas of serious concern, without grace, respect and a Christ-like spirit. I regret that, which I and others earlier endorsed, has not fulfilled its intended purpose (emphasis added). This had the potential of being a forum for an objective interchange of ideas and opinions that would contribute in a constructive way to the Southern Baptist Convention. While I continue to endorse and advocate the value of open communication and understanding that comes from a free exchange of ideas, I am retracting my endorsement of SBCOutpost as the place for that to happen (emphasis added).

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Majors

There are four major championships on the PGA Tour: The Masters (April), The US Open (June), the British Open (July), and the PGA Championship (August). The PGA is the last "major" of the year and is being played beginning today at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Three first time major winners have taken home the title of major champion this year. It is up in the air about who will take home the title, the trophy and the check in Tulsa. Some of the favorites are doing rather well on this first day and some are not fairing so well in the sweltering heat of Oklahoma. But whomever wins this weekend, their life will never be the same.

As I was thinking about that my mind drifted back to the moment my life was radically changed forever. You may think that I am referring to the day I graduated high school, college or seminary, but you would be wrong. You may think I am referring to the day I was married, but you would be wrong, although my life did change drastically that day. You may assume I am thinking about the day my precious little girl was born two years ago, but again you would be wrong. It is not the day I submitted my life to God's plan for me and I went into full time vocational ministry, but that's not the day either.

The day I won the "Major" was the day I came into a personal, intimate relationship with the Creator God who died in my place and forgave me of all my sins: past, present and future. On that day when I was five years old I won the major and my life has never been the same.

The Bible says that this major victory is available for anyone and everyone who is willing to come to God on HIS terms. There are many people who say there are many different roads that lead to God. But I challenge you to take just any road today and see if it takes you home. You can't just take any road to get home, it just doesn't work that way. God has provided the only way to Himself, and that way is through His son Jesus. It takes a person being willing to put their complete trust in Christ and resting in Him. Trusting Him to meet all your needs, even the most simple things.

There are people who need to win this major and God has given us the privilege of teaching them how to "get the ball in the hole." That is the goal of all those professional golfers in Oklahoma, and that is our goal too. We want to win, and the only way to do that is in and through Christ. May you know the "thrill of victory" rather than the "agony of defeat."

Serving Him,
Pastor Mike

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Good Read!

I have read some great books throughout my college and seminary days. I must say that reading is not something that I enjoy doing, but it is something that I must do as a Christian and a pastor. I have read some good books this summer: The Costly Call by Emir Caner and Ed Pruitt and Twelve Ordinary Men by John MacArthur. I would highly recommend each of these books for your benefit and personal growth in the Lord.

Tim, Jeth and I read the MacArthur book together for our staff meeting and used it for some discussion. We are in the process of reading a book that seemingly is changing my outlook on ministry in general and specifically what we do here at HGBC. The book is entitled The Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger. After I am through reading it, I believe that I am going to require all leaders at HGBC to read it and then evaluate what we are here for as a church and why we do what we do. At this point I would recommend it to any pastor, staff and church leader; I believe it will greatly benefit your ministry.

Jesus came and fought against, stood in opposition to the religious establishment of His day. He presented a very "simple" way of life compared to a very complicated way of life. His ministry was simplistic in nature verses the complicated requirements of the religious leaders of His day. I believe we have taken the place of the Pharisees in our churches today. We have bogged down the people of God. I believe Jesus would come to us and say "simplify" your lives. Simplify your church and ministry. Focus on one thing and do it with excellence.

I have talked a lot about excellence since coming to HGBC in November of 2005. I think that we are doing a few things with excellence, but I believe their is room for great improvement in other areas of ministry. How do we bring excellence to these other areas of ministry? I believe the answer is focus. What do we focus on here at HGBC? What do you focus on in your life or church?

We have a three step purpose at HGBC: Exalting the Savior, Equipping the Saint, Evangelizing the sinner. I believe that is exactly what we are here for. It should be our focus; it should be our life as the children of God. Another way of communicating this purpose is: Loving God, Loving Others and Serving the World ("Cross Church" in The Simple Church). I like that. That is the same purpose we have only worded slightly different. But it works! It is something that we all can internalize. It is something we can all accomplish in our lifetime.

All God is looking for is found in that statement of purpose. Exalting the Savior is Loving God. Equipping the Saint is Loving Others. Evangelizing the Sinner is Serving the World. I pray that that is all we seek to do, and I pray that you find fulfillment in it.

Serving Him,
Pastor Mike