Missouri Baptists, we’re on a journey, look at mile markers
December 27, 2005
When you are on a trip, the interstate mile markers tell you where you are, what ground you’ve covered and give you some idea of how far you have to go. Missouri Baptists, we are on a journey together in this state. We are a diverse people, speaking over 25 languages in our worship services every Sunday. We are a dispersed people spread over 69,709 square miles. But I hope we are also a directional people headed in a common cause to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to our neighbors, our state and the world. Being distributed as we are, I have wondered, “God, what are you doing among us? Is your work in our hearts?” Well, I want to take a very quick look in the rear-view mirror at 2005 and then look in the headlights at 2006.
2005 is in the rear-view mirror
Honestly, I have been asking the Lord to encourage my heart by somehow showing me in some tangible ways what He is up to among Missouri Southern Baptist people. In the last two months I have been blessed. Let me share just a couple of the “mile-markers” I have seen:
Marker #1 … our annual meeting held Oct 24-26 was a blessing in many ways. Excluding reports, the total time of business was somewhere about 15 minutes. A great spirit prevailed. Even those who spoke for/against motions did so with statesmanship and grace. Three years ago, the MBC church planting luncheon was held around four tables. This year, we occupied the largest banquet facility in the convention hotel with 70 tables and a packed house! Wow! What an exciting meal time. Next door, the partnership missions’ ministry had a luncheon in the second largest facility and it too was packed! Do you see the picture? Our people are showing great interest and great hearts for missions and church planting (which is missions)! Then the power of God seemed to fall on us Tuesday afternoon with the message of Bro. Terry Hopkins. The altar was filled with tear-filled eyes and folk were saved. That was a pretty good convention “business meeting” … Amen!?
Marker #2 … we are seeing some ministries mature and some new ministries being raised up that are great blessings to our MBC churches. Through Cooperative Program gifts, we have been able to add many Block Party trailers to our resources and boy are they being used! All of them are checked out on average of 22 weeks every year. That equates to them being out on about every spring, summer and fall weekend that weather permits for outdoor evangelistic events. You set up a tent, open up a block party trailer and voila! You have an instant evangelistic revival event. Recently, you read here in The Pathway about the new church in Sedalia that has grown to over 180 in attendance this year that has made extensive use of Block Parties.
Marker #3 … the Minister’s Juggling Act continues to minister to our pastor and staff families in a huge way. This is an investment we want to continue to make in our pastors and staffs of our churches.
Marker #4 … some strategic conferences held this year such as the first Preaching Conference that’s been held in our state for some time. It was a phenomenal time of inspiration and you read the details in the last issue of The Pathway. The State Evangelism Conference was a huge blessing and you won’t want to miss the one coming up Jan. 23-24 at Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Springfield.
Marker #5 … we have gained 159 new churches which have been started in the last 36 months. We aren’t there yet, but we are not giving up on our vision of 100 new works per year. Your staff team is working hard toward that goal.
There are just too many more to list here. When you think of over 2,000 Sunday School and VBS workers who were equipped this year, the nearly 700 professions of faith registered as a result of our Collegiate Summer Missionaries and so much more … it has made a wonderful year.
FINALLY, after three years of procedural stalling tactics by our five rebel entities, Judge Tom Brown ruled, Dec. 16 that the Executive Board can represent Missouri Baptist people in our case and that he is determined to get this case tried with a decision by this fall! We are finally going to hear the case on the basis of its merits.
As you have been reading, we are very concerned about Windermere. From public documents we obtained (Internal Revenue Service Form 990) we have learned that the rebel Trustee Board and its former President, Frank Shock incurred a loss of $2.1+ million in operations during 2004 alone! During these last three years, they have increased Windermere’s debt to $21 million. They are now cutting the timber off this pristine lake front property. They have conveyed 900 acres of the property to a private bank with a Special Warranty Deed. They are now offering for sale bonds in the amount of $14 million with a line of credit that could go to $30 million. In a news article report published just after Windermere’s rebel board met, this statement by board chair Arthur Mallory was printed: “Windermere is in very good shape …” If this is good shape, what would they call bad?
After our case is tried and the control of these entities is returned to the duly-elected trustee boards of the Missouri Baptist Convention, we will ask for all these debts created by unlawful boards to be declared null and void. Pray.
2006 is in the Head lights
Marker #1 for 2006 … we should have court decisions in the fall.
Marker #2 … a new evangelism tool is being rolled out for our churches that we believe many will love. It will make evangelism even more interesting and fun. It is a ministry that is designed for four weeks of on-the-job training in the church. It is very inexpensive and single staff churches can do it as effectively as any mega church. It includes … well, just get ready. You will love this one. Remember, the gospel is ONLY good news if someone hears it!
Marker #3 … gambling interests will be back on Capital hill this spring, as they are perennially. What to expect from them is unknown, but I am sure there will be another attempt to expand gambling.
Marker #4 … bio-medical ethics. In particular, stem cell research and human cloning. This is a giant with huge amounts of money it is spending. Fortunately, money doesn’t vote, people do. We are going to do all we can, within our means, to bring biblical, ethical and scientific information to you with regard to this issue of SCNT and human cloning.
This is an emotionally volatile issue because anyone who has family or friends who have Alzheimers, spinal cord injury or even cancer will permit anything if there is even the slightest hope for a cure. I have family/friends who are in these categories as well. But remember, the issue is LIFE! We will need to be sure we are walking in the truth of God’s Word and not personal opinions. Life is the issue. We cannot allow any life to be sacrificed for another life. Much more will be shared in the months ahead.
Let me share with you a very simple way of understanding what we are dealing with. Rodney Albert, the leader of our Missouri Christian Life Commission, helped me with this by breaking it down into the three ways by which a blastocyst (the stage from which all types of our body’s cells begin formation) can be created:
1. Natural Fertilization – which occurs via normal physical relations of a husband and wife.
2. In Vitro Fertilization – which occurs when a father’s seed is joined to a mother’s egg in a petri dish outside the body of the mother and which is then introduced into the mothers womb via medical procedure.
3. SCNT – this is when a cell is manipulated with the introduction of 43 chromosomes necessary to begin the cell division process. This is life! – because this is how “Dolly the Sheep” was created.
As you can see, SCNT does create life. I fear it is a dark world our nation will enter if we start down this path. If we lose our moral and biblical ground here, how far off course will we be in another 25 years?
Missouri Baptist saint, we are on a journey together. There continue to be blessings and trials in the days ahead, “… but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15