Newspaper writers tend to be lousy historians. To be fair, it is not always their fault. It is difficult to understand, and explain the magnitude of a situation when you are standing in the “present”. Like the ol’ adage you cannot see the forest because of the trees. Interpreting the meaning of a “current” event can be as difficult as predicting weather in the Panhandle of Texas.
I attended the Texas Baptist Evangelism conference in Rockwall this week with a couple hundred of my brothers and sisters. Due to conflicts in my schedule and a bit too much fellowship in the hallways I was not able to attend all the sessions, and workshops, but what I did attend challenged, convicted, and encouraged me. John Randles too a big step of faith choosing the venue, and if you did not sit up front (Note: sitting up front as Baptists seems to go against the fundamentals of our faith) you felt like you were attending a late September afternoon Texas Ranger baseball game after the season is lost and the stands are filled only with vendors, and die-hard fans.
After the meeting I began to reflect on what it meant. Why did we have such a small crowd? We could point fingers at lack of promotion, or lack of high profile preachers, or division in our ranks. We could suggest the attention of our people is on the New Baptist Covenant in Atlanta later this month. You could declare like a prophet of old that this is a sign we have lost our evangelistic fervor and the demise of our once great convention is at hand. You could explain it away as another sign that we are out of touch with the post-modern world, and and we created an event even the gray-heads would not attend.
Since this is my blog let me share what I took away from the meeting. First I was personally blessed. I did not get to participate in as much of the conference as I would have wanted to, but the sessions I attended ministered to me, and challenged me to be more intentional as a pastor, and as a believer in sharing the good news. I was especially challenged by Jon Randles message, and I intend to blog on this in a later post. Secondly, I enjoyed being around my friends. One of the reasons I attend BGCT meetings is because they are like family reunions to me (and this one did not involve voting on anything!).
Finally, I learned what a “remnant” feels like. I have enough gray hair, and miles on my odometer to remember the “glory days” of the Texas Baptist Evangelism Conferences, especially the ones held in Ft. Worth. In fact, my baby daughter was born fourteen years ago during the conference. Her arrival followed my wife having to climb to the top of the Tarrant County Convention Center to find a seat!
In those days we took a great deal for granted. I assumed we were immune to change and decline. I was wrong, and I was living in the land of denial and I am not talking about Egypt. When I stared out over the hundreds of empty seats this week, I was disappointed and sadden, but not deterred from my convict that fresh winds of change are blowing among us.
As I reflected on what I sense God is doing among us I was drawn to the words of Isaiah 11:21-22.
20 In that day the remnant of Israel,
the survivors of the house of Jacob,
will no longer rely on him
who struck them down
but will truly rely on the LORD,
the Holy One of Israel.
21 A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob
will return to the Mighty God.
Isaiah 10:20-21 (NIV)
It appears the lesson of the remnant is: RETURN AND TRUST IN THE LORD.
I fear that we corporately have wandered away from our trust and reliance on the LORD. I believe we must face the harsh reality we need to return to the LORD, if we are going to be all He wants us to be in the years to come.