Monthly Archives: July 2010

Border Violence: Pray for your Enemies

As a new resident of El Paso, I am learning every day new lessons about living on the Border of the United States and Mexico. Since my arrival just weeks ago the sights and sounds of violence confront me on a daily basis.

A couple of weeks ago the bullets struck the  El Paso city hall fired from an AK47 from across the river. These bullets were strays from a gun battle on the streets of Juarez. The city hall sits less than a mile from the facilities of the church I lead and serve.

A few weeks ago a  teenager who was throwing rocks at a border patrol agent was shot and killed on the Mexico side of the river.

Last week a car bomb when off in an attack on the authorities in Juarez.

Just an hour ago CNN reported:

(CNN) — A graffiti message on a wall in Juarez, Mexico, warns of a car bombing if U.S. authorities do not look into alleged ties between Mexican federal police and drug traffickers, a police spokesman said Monday.

“Yes, another ‘narcopinta’ was spray-painted on a primary school wall Sunday night,” Jacinto Seguro, a spokesman for the Juarez Municipal Police, told CNN, using the Spanish-language name for the message. “It threatens another car bombing in 15 days if the DEA and FBI don’t investigate the federal police ties to El Chapo.”

To top things off, one of the mission leaders in my church asked us to pray in staff meeting for the president of a seminary in Juarez who was threatened by a cartel to either pay up or his family would be victims of violence. Currently the president has resigned his post, and his family is in hiding.

Living in the valley of the shadow of death strikes fear in the heart and rattles the nerves. I am thankful that the LORD reminds us that we have nothing to fear because HE IS WITH US!

Pray for the Border. Pray for those behind the senseless violence that God will turn their hearts of stone to hearts of flesh.

I am increasingly convinced “Jesus is the Answer”–the only Answer!

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African American Fellowship of the Baptist General Convention of Texas

Houston: Last week I had the opportunity and honor to represent the Baptist General Convention of Texas at the annual African American Fellowship meeting held at the Fort Bend Church in Sugarland.

It was an amazing night for me. The worship led by the choir of Fort Bend was powerful and moving. The message by Rev. Dr. Kevin Wayne Cosby of St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church of Louisville was quite convicting and challenging to me personally.

His announced theme was the colorful idea: “Superman or Spiderman” drawn from Acts 14. This moving story of when the people wanted to worship Paul and Barnabus as gods laid the background for his challenge. He rightfully pointed out that “leader worship” is a peril most leaders must face and conquer. Paul’s response was fitting and on target when he declared:

“Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God”

Every leader must remember he or she is just as human and frail as those we lead and serve. We are not like “Superman” who came from another world. We are like “Spiderman” who is human and yet transformed to be supernatural. Our strength and influence rests not in what we can do, but rather in what God can do for us.

Cosby had another key insight about the nature of people. He pointed out that pastors and leaders are “flawed” and he also noted that people are “fickle.” He called attention to how the same crowd that wanted to worship the apostles as “gods” soon turn on them and stoned them. The Bible is so true to life. We are “flawed” and people can be so “fickle”–but God is faithful. Our one constant in the changing world is the faithfulness of our LORD and Savior.

I thank the LORD for our African American Fellowship under the leadership of President Michael Bell and Vice-president Michael Evans. The AAF helps our Texas Baptist family to be the presence and voice of Christ to our state in a powerful way.

As I shared with those gathered in Sugarland, the BGCT is an amazing network of churches that “practice heaven on earth.”

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The Dead Sea Syndrome in Church Life

Over recent weeks I watched closely the giving patterns of the churches of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. I wish I had better news to report. Our financial struggles continue as noted below:

Cooperative Program Reports

June YTD:

Actual BGCT CP $17,242,761
YTD Budget $19,089,779
YTD Last Year $19,180,123

Comparisons

YTD Comparison to Budget = 90.32%
YTD Comparison to Last Year = -11.10%

As you can see the giving of our churches continues to decline at an alarming rate.  As president of the convention it is hard to see and accept. I had hoped and prayed that over the last two years we could turn the tide and that we would be making positive strides into the future.

The hardest thing about interpreting financial numbers is trying to unlock their meaning. Standard thinking would relate the decline in giving to the national charitable trends. During these difficult economic times people are giving less due to fear or due to loss of jobs and income. Without doubt there is truth to this to some extent. Before we panic and try to change course by seeking a silver bullet solution we must admit our ship floats in the same sea with other charitable organizations. We thrive together. We struggle together.

However, I believe greater forces work among us. As the world has gotten flatter, and churches have begun to embrace world-wide missions in a much more “hands on” way. I believe many churches have chosen to keep their mission dollars at home to fund their own mission endeavors. Since most of our churches have limited resources, this appears  a wise and prudent decision for many leaders. The recent struggles of denominations and conventions have also fueled this movement. One cannot argue with the logic of controlling your mission dollars by your own passions and priorities.  However as a pastor leader I have always tried to have a “both/and” attitude toward missions. I believe in the “hands on” approach, but I also believe in the value of cooperative efforts, especially when you think of the multiplication of your dollars through the work of the BGCT and its institutions and ministries.

My greater fear is for those churches and leaders who in these difficult times have chosen to keep their dollars at home and to make ends meet by cutting their mission giving all together. I believe mission giving is critical in the life of a local church. It helps  to keep the eyes of the church focused outward rather than inward. Over twenty-eight years of ministry I have known good times and lean times, but one thing I have never been willing to do in lean times was to cut back on mission giving. I believe this shows a lack of faith and vision. It is a risk worth taking to keep giving when everything around you screams to cut back. Remember every good and perfect gift comes from above.

Not far from the home of Jesus is a sea apply named the “Dead Sea.” This stagnate body of salty water receives but does not give. Fresh waters flows in but nothing flows out. I fear the Dead Sea is a parable of our day. We receive and receive, but we keep too much and pass on very little.

Where your mission dollars goes is a decision each of us must make, but please give so that the nations may hear, and that Texas can be shaped by the presence of Christ. I was challenged by this quote from Johnny Hunt former president of the Southern Baptist Convention–

“Will we give up the American Dream for the sake of the Great Commission.”

I pray we will. I pray each of our churches will be streams of living water to the nations–and I pray the LORD will help us do it together!

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