Posted tagged ‘Baptists’

Cheek Turning and Face Slapping

June 24, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           June 24, 2018

                                

Okay! I get it! People don’t agree with one another! I get that! Our country is polarized in about a thousand different ways. Having a difference of opinion is part of our history. Just go back and read about our founding fathers and the forming of the Constitution. I wouldn’t exactly characterize its writing as “synchronized wordsmithing.” By the grace of God they didn’t splinter into a dozen different directions and shout “Forget this!”

Good Lord! Baptists can’t agree on much! You know what they say about us Baptists (I’m an ordained American Baptist minister!)? Where there’s two Baptists there’s at least three denominations!

So…I get it! My own group of Christian journeyers are as different as each hair on my head. 

Jesus said something about turning the other cheek. His words were:

      “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”  (Matthew 5:39)

If someone does something unkind to you, or says something that is insulting, we refer to it as “a slap in the face.” Jesus answer was not to get even, not to seek revenge, but rather turn your cheek and let the insulter smack the other cheek. 

Not a widely practiced life principle!!!

Sarah Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, and her family were asked to leave a Virginia restaurant by the owner because the owner does not agree with the president’s policies and actions. 

I get that…the disagreement part, that is! Sanders left without incident. She took the slap in the face, BUT she had to go to Twitter and post about the incident, with a little jab at the owner in the midst of it. 

I don’t agree with either the owner’s initial slap or Sanders’ jab back. But both are representative of our cultural, political, and confused slants on life. We have become a retaliatory people, not just in our political venom, but in most areas of life. Jesus’ message focused on reconciliation. His keys words were grace, forgiveness, love, hope, peace, and justice. His message sought to heal brokenness, draw in the outcasts, give a voice to the powerless.

Respecting one another’s differences is a lost art. Instead of joining hands the overwhelming response is to punch the other person/side in the face.

I get it! Conservatives treat liberals with disdain, and liberals think conservatives are thugs. Others get pulled into the crossfire. 

There’s two enduring signs of hope in all of this. One is this! If the founding fathers could get it figured out so can we!

And second, if Jesus could turn the other cheek…the very God Incarnate!…I have hope that each one of us can too!

Between Brews and Baptists

August 22, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          August 22, 2017

                                

Carol and I joined a group of American Baptist pastors and spouses at a Colorado Rockies baseball game last Friday night. They were playing the Milwaukee Brewers, and brew was a prominent part of the evening.

Not for the Baptists, but rather for the group of young guys who were sitting in front of Carol and me. Since we didn’t get there until the second inning we were on the fringe of our group, so we were between the Brews and the Baptists.

It was interesting, and somewhat amusing, to see the different ways the two groups enjoyed watching the game. The Baptists would exit and come back with nachos, fresh-squeezed lemonade, and hot dogs. The Brews would exit and come back with…brew! No food, just brew! Or they would summon the beer guy walking up and down the steps and buy it from him. “Give me three!”

The Baptists were polite in their cheering, like religious high society folk. The Brews were raucous and amusing. One of their group wore his Brewers shirt, which meant any Rockies success (They won 8-4!) resulted in the rest of his group mocking him, while they gave high fives to one another. A Milwaukee home run resulted in the Brewers fan finding another Brewers fan ten seats and four rows away and giving him a high five. Success was followed by celebrated fandom, while failure was accompanied by “F” bombs.

The Baptist pastors talked about church work, the approaching Sunday sermon, how summer church camp and VBS had gone. The Brews talked about where the baseball was going to end up at the end of the inning…because they made bets about its placement. Someone would take the location of the pitcher’s mound, someone else that a player would carry it into the dugout, someone else that it would be tossed by a player to a fan in the crowd, and someone else that it would be given to one of the umpires. Dollar bets were made each time, followed by discovery and disappointment. There were also bets on whether a home run would be hit by the Rockies in an inning, and any other unusual way that bets could be made. Would a pitcher take off his cap and wipe his head? Would a batter spit on the ground? Would there be a double play? Would someone with a last name that starts with a letter between A and M hit a single? Would there be more batters with beards than batters who had shaved, or more batters with beards than batters who had shaved heads? Anything that prompted a bet, but also bleacher victory dances was fair game!

I enjoyed both groups! It was Friday night fun, or, for the Baptists, fellowship! Both groups were accepting. Carol asked one of the Brews to explain their betting games, and he went into great detail with her even though she was drinking Sprite. I talked to Mary Beth about their new pastor and the exciting things happening in her church. We enjoyed our conversation, although the cheering around us made it difficult to hear from time to time.

In essence, Carol and I were part of the Baptists touching the Brew Crew. There’s something in there for followers of Jesus to learn! We follow Jesus and we converse with the world. Some church folk believe in Jesus and turn their back on the world, but the more I think about it I believe if Jesus happened to show up for the baseball game that night he would have been sitting in, or close to, our seats. If he changed water into wine he may have even turned lemonade into beer!

Naming Churches

August 4, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          August 4, 2017

                                     

My family, growing up and current, has always been a part of Baptist congregations. The church I was first carried into as an infant was Central Baptist Church in Winchester, Kentucky. It was called Central Baptist because…it was centrally located in Winchester, just a couple of blocks off the main street that ran though the downtown area.

We moved from Winchester to Williamstown, West Virginia and began our association with a series of First Baptists.  Our home churches in Williamstown, Zanesville, Ohio, and Ironton, Ohio were all named First Baptist because they were the first Baptist churches established in those communities. In Ironton the First’s were all situated within about three blocks of one another…First Presbyterian and First United Methodist. The Catholics turned up their noses at being “First” and moved right on to one of the saints, Saint Lawrence. Not to be outdone the Lutherans went for St. Paul even though they were first across the street from First Presbyterian.

Church names became connected to either “First” or “Second”, indicating their timing in the community; or a saint to indicate their…saintliness!

There was usually reason to the naming of a church. The last church I pastored, Highland Park Baptist Church, was situated in an area of Colorado Springs known as Highland Park. Interestingly, as the city has grown and mushroomed very few people know that area is known as Highland Park, but, originally, location determined the name.

My cynicism is now going to splat all over the rest of these words. It seems that a new wave of churches are looking for a “catchy name!” It’s like the intriguing name of a new development of homes that is underway. Across the highway from our subdivision there is a development called “Wolf Ranch.” I’m somewhat drawn to the name. We could be the Wolfe’s of Wolf Ranch. To the north of Wolf Ranch there is Cordera. In their publicity they make it shown exotic and sexy as they say the name, like Gloria from Modern Family saying it. Houses are being built at a crazy pace there…for a couple hundred thousand dollars MORE than what homes in our subdivision are valued at.

It seems that the new wave of churches is looking for that name, that name that sounds like a destination, a vacation spot, or at least a weekend service spot. People aren’t drawn to the new church in town that decided on the name…First Baptist! It needs to have essence, depth, be sweet-sounding and peaceful, relevant but sophisticated! I was traveling along an Ohio Highway yesterday and passed a church that is called “The Point.” The Point is probably a happenin’ place to be, and when people say they are going to “The Point” it doesn’t even sound preachy! It sounds hip and cool and whatever other words that are being used today to indicate relevant.

It seems that there are more of The Points that are getting the point. A church doesn’t need to name itself the First Holy Apostolic Freewill United  Church of Temporary Insanity. According Thom Ranier new churches are keeping it simple and short, like a church outside of Greeley, Colorado I’m familiar with called “Grace River Church.” I kind of like that. Another one in Colorado Springs is called Hope Chapel. Short and easy to remember.

A couple of new churches that have begun recently are focused on verbs. One close to us is called “Thrive Church.” Sounds energetic! There’s another one named “Venture Fellowship!” Sounds like an entrepreneurial deal!

Here’s the thing! No matter how sophisticated or mission-focused, doctrinally-connected, or hip-sounding the church is named people won’t land there unless what happens in and through the congregation speaks to the spiritual yearning of the visitor. Sometimes the true environment of a church gives it a different name than the outside sign reads. There’s been a couple of Grace Churches that could better be named “Judgmental Fellowship.” A couple of places with peace in their name that get known more as the Church of Sunday Morning Fights. First Baptist might better be described as Bitter Baptist and First Presbyterian could be renamed “Peeved Presbyterian.”

Names are nice! They are even nicer if they are also the reality!

Switching Pockets

March 20, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          March 20, 2017

                                

I am a creature of habit in so many ways. Last night Carol started to make scalloped potatoes to serve with the hamburgers I was cooking on the grill. I stopped her! “We”, meaning my family growing up, always had either french fries or potato chips when we had hamburgers. So we had to make a trip to the store to get a bag of chips…and one other bag in reserve!

Habits! Habits are traditions that have become natural reactions.

I’m sitting on the last stool on the right at Starbucks that looks out at Pike’s Peak. Habit!

In the morning I shower, dress, comb my hair, brush my teeth, and shave…in that order…every morning…no variations!

I get the morning newspaper and flip through to the sports section first before I read anything else!

Whenever I’m doing work on my book manuscript I go to the public library and find a cubicle to create some words in the midst of.

Recently I’ve been dealing with another habit that I’ve tried to change. It’s simple and silly, and yet so hard to change. It involves my wallet and my left hip pocket.

You see…I’ve always carried my wallet in that pocket…always! But last week a hole started appearing in it, which clearly outlined the top part of my billfold. In the past when that has happened I’ve headed to Old Navy and simply bought a new pair, but this time someone made the simplistic suggestion of switching pockets…to move my wallet to my right hip pocket and my comb and handkerchief from right to left!

So I did that, and it is not going well! I’ve dropped my comb out of my pocket numerous times because it has suddenly gone from left to right at sometime during the morning, cozying up to my displaced wallet, and then falling to the ground when I reach for the billfold. I keep reaching for my hanky in my right pocket and finding my wallet there. I reach for my wallet in my left pocket and don’t feel it, which brings on a moment of panic about where it went. The answer…eight inches to the right…doesn’t occur to me until after the cold sweat surfaces.

Habits are hard to break! There’s a pocketful of lessons in there somewhere. We get entrenched in systems that lead to stagnation and frustration, but we can’t imagine things ever being done differently. Even when a hole gets worn in a pocket…or the carpet…we go on with our daily living habits as usual.

Lord knows that churches have hole-filled habits that need to change, but tend to cause the weeping and gnashing of teeth when they are changed. We always said that it took at least three Baptists to change a light bulb…one to change it and at least two others to stand there and comment on how nice the old one was!

Of course, there are habits that should never ever change…like the caring of the impoverished, seeking to be the hands and feet of Jesus, being light in the midst of darkness, sharing the good news of Christ and being a reflection of his grace, love, and peace. It seems , however, that those are often the habits that aren’t deeply ingrained. They haven’t left their imprint showing through to the outside of the pocket.

Habits!

I just felt a sneeze coming on and reached for my wallet! Darn it!

There is an increasingly good chance that I will be going to Old Navy sometime today!

Advocating for The Program-less Church

May 1, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            May 1, 2016

                  

I’m about to walk on thin ice with lead boots, but here goes!

I’m advocating for a church that has no programs! And just so we’re clear here, I’m not simply going to substitute the word “ministry” in place of program. We do that quite often to make it sound legitimate.

I’m not saying that programs like Awana, Frontier Girls, after-school programs, senior fellowship groups, Bible Quiz Bowl, Royal Rangers, Young Adult ministries, spring rummage sale, church softball teams, and church bowling leagues have no merit. They do…kinda’!

My concern, as one who has created programs/ministries and trumpeted their merits for three and a half decades, is that programs start driving the cart instead of being the cart that follows the horse.

In case you’re confused, the horse is God, and his ways and purposes…and ministries and churches are following in his trail in the cart.

Sometimes churches create programs out of a sense of “spiritual impatience.” We are over-caffeinated people (I’m sitting in a Starbucks as I write this!) who have a very difficult time waiting upon the Lord, and I would say even “being with the Lord.” We get into the “I need to be doing something!” mindset.

This is not meant to be a blanket statement, but many times programs/ministries get adopted by congregations who get tired of waiting upon the Lord. The Methodists down the street are getting a monopoly on a ministry to seniors, so the Lutherans jump into the fray to get part of the market share. The Assembly of God church has a rockin’ praise team so the Baptists look to upgrade.

Another dilemma sometimes happens when the program becomes what is worshiped. If it is drawing a crowd it is suddenly seen as being anointed by God. Like the crowd following Jesus as he sat down on a hillside and gave a series of blessings and teachings, programs often create followings of the devoted. Conflicts in churches happen, more often than not, over programs. I rarely see conflicts in churches over God!

I’m wondering if a church should do a “program moratorium” and let God guide the wagon. What would that look like? The picture in Acts 2, 4, and 6 would help us figure that out. It seems that what rose to the surface in the beginning days of the church was the caring of one another, the proclaiming and teaching of the gospel, worship, and prayer. The Body was built on the strength of relationships knitted together. Acts 6 shows the development of a ministry to widows, the forgotten group.

The saints would gather together, check in on one another, encourage one another in a time when there were more reasons to get discouraged. And the Holy Spirit moved in their midst!

What would happen if the only thing on your church’s schedule this week was the gathering on Sunday morning or Sunday night? Would you love your brothers and sisters enough that you’d connect with them in other ways during the week? Coffee at Starbucks? An evening walk in the park with a friend? Going with a couple of others to see a sick friend? Calling a young mom and seeing if there is anything you could pick up for her at the grocery? Praying together?

Congregational vitality is based on our connection to who is driving the cart, and commitment to one another.

What connects you to the Kingdom of God?

The Problem With A Pastor’s Library

December 28, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                 December 28, 2015

                                   

Retirement for a pastor means a lot of things…some good and some bad. One of the bad things is that I have to move everything out of my office at church and bring it home.

That’s where the problem starts!

My personal library is in excess of a thousand books. The bookshelves in my study at home were packed out…before I brought books from the office! Now the floor of my study is featuring towers. It looks like multiple games of “Book Jenga” are being played! How high can I build the tower, and now can I take out that copy of Church Dogmatics; Volume 1.1 located two-thirds of the way down the tower without toppling the whole thing? Challenges and problem-solving!

My wife Carol’s frequently asked question is not “Is this all you’ve got?” Flip to the opposite side of that question and you would be accurate.

“You aren’t going to keep all these books are you?”

“Ahhh…no,” I  say weakly and without conviction.

I feel like a pastor whose cat has just had a litter of kittens, and now I must find good homes for Pannenberg, Barth, and Kung. The problem is that there are very few people who are interested in Latourette’s two-volume A History of Christianity. It resembles a Saint Bernard in size and effort. I have even less potential homes for Torbet’s A History of The Baptists. there are an abundance of people who wonder about Baptists, but very few who are interested in them.

I accomplished a little bit of clearance Saturday night when I removed four books from one of the towers…and snuck them to the basement…just in case I need one of them.

The mindset of a book addict is like that. I may not have even dusted a book for three decades and yet I still think we might use it next week. That’s how my brain works.

So now my home study is being considered for an episode of Extreme Hoarders. As I stand by in obvious mental and emotional anguish Rudolf Bultmann’s Jesus Christ and Mythology is carted out. Leonard Sweet’s books are in the process of being carefully removed when I scream “Can’t you leave me at least one?”

Pathetic!

I am, however, getting better. I moved all of my Chicken Soup… books out last week. They are hiding behind the stack of jigsaw puzzle boxes in the basement…just in case I might need them!

The Blessing of Pecan Pie

December 10, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                December 10, 2014

                                          

A wonderful lady in our church named Wilma, just a shy short of being eighty, blessed me in a delicious way last Sunday. Wilma had baked a pecan pie and decided that I should have it.

Now you need to understand that pecan pie is my favorite! Capped off with a scoop of Blue Bell Natural Vanilla Bean ice cream, it is a slice of pie heaven…if there is pie in heaven!

That night the “young guys” group that I lead were descending upon our house, so the food choice was settled. Pecan pie and ice cream for everyone!

I wasn’t expecting to receive a freshly baked pie that day, but some of the greatest blessings of God come at unexpected times. The even better news is that I still have two slices left after Sunday night, and Carol doesn’t care for pecan pie (What is wrong with her?), so I’m set for another couple of nights of lip smacking delight.

I don’t know if Wilma thought I was starting to look a little lean in the mid-section or what. I didn’t ask her for an explanation as to how I was the winner. Paul said that Jesus had once made the statement that “It was more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) I’m willing, however, to be the receiver to allow someone else to experience the gift of giving.

Wilma is a woman of God who has had a life of mountains and valleys, but God gave her the gift of baking. Her cinnamon rolls are craved. If she bakes anything to bring to a church fellowship function the baked goods are snatched up in a way that only hungry Baptists can achieve.

A simple pecan pie.

An unexpected blessing.

It makes me ponder how often I’ve been the giver of an unexpected blessing. My selfish nature says I’m always willing to have something surprise me, but how often do I look to give a surprise blessing?

Christmas has that underneath message of giving. It’s more than bartering for the best deal. It’s going a little further in helping someone else.

And…listen! It doesn’t have to be a pecan pie!

If you want to bake a cake or make some cookies, I’m open for them as well!

Just kidding…kinda!