Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Why you should do VBS

So there seems to be a trend of churches not participating in Vacation Bible School. The single biggest evangelistic program in the SBC, the one that brings so many kids to Christ, but we have stopped doing it. Here are my top reasons I don't think churches do VBS, and why they are wrong.

1. We can't get anyone to do it. Well congrats, we now have churches full of people who care about themselves and don't want to do anything for anyone else. We have become lazy and uncaring. Sounds like we would be better off with a huge stone around our necks and flung into the sea. Let's challenge our people to stop being lazy and complacent and actually DO something.

2. It costs too much. Well, children's ministry is pricey. Deal with it. Cut the budget somewhere. Stop getting things that are nice and pleasant and invest that money into ministry. Maybe the decorations will be slimmed down and you have to buy cheaper coffee. DO VBS.

3.Kids don't come. Know why the kids don't wanna come? Cause your attitude stinks, they know you don't like them, you don't have any teachers and the ones you have grumble all the time. You don't do the VBS the way it's programmed, your outreach and promotion stink. Actually go out and engage kids and their parents, they'll show up.

4. Kids don't bring in any money. Sadly, our motivation is often $$$$. Well, if you want to reach young adults, reach kids. They will add to your church, build your church and may contribute some money along the way. Don't let that be your motivation, but it can be a perk.

5. We don't want kids in our building. Yes, kids are loud and messy, smelly and can be a nuisance. They require teachers, leaders, helpers and space. They take time and money. They require resources, but if you don't want to reach kids, you won't reach young families. If you don't reach young families, your median age will be 67. Just the way it's gonna work.

Most people come to Christ between 4 and 14. If you want to have water in your Baptistry and new life in your church, start with VBS. It's the greatest week of work you'll have all year.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What's in a Name?

I want to tackle the “B” word with you today. It's often a stumbling block for people, some have a hard time defining it, some just want to ignore it, but it has significance. If you haven't guessed, It's the word “Baptist”. What does it mean? Why is it there? Why not just call ourselves Christians, why do we have to have the title attached? I want to answer some of those questions briefly so you know why I choose to be Baptist.

The movement we are affiliated can be traced back to the Reformation. During the Protestant Reformation, a group emerged in England called the Separatists. They wanted purity of doctrine and wanted to separate from the Anglican church. Those associated with this movement were generally known as the Puritans, many of who came to America in search of religious freedom. One of these Separatists was a man named John Smyth. Smyth believed that infants should not be Baptized and that only those who believe and have accepted Christ as Savior should be Baptized, and done so my full immersion. A layman named Thomas Helwys continued the leadership from Smyth and the Baptist movement began.

In the United States it was Roger Williams and John Clarke who worked to establish the Baptist Movement. These men worked for religious freedom in the United States, which was largely Congregational. The First Great Awakening in the United States established the movement firmly and grew the churches in the colonies very rapidly. It was the Baptist leaders in early America that fought for religious freedom and the ability for churches to meet in this country without government influence or control.

In many countries today, the term “Baptist” is a general term, not referring to a denomination or affiliation. It is a term used to identify those Protestant Evangelicals who baptize believers by full immersion. In many countries in Eastern Europe and in Asia, the term “Baptist” is often how we would use the term “Evangelicals”. During the Iron Curtain, the Communists identified those who were willing and eager to share their faith and be tortured for the work of Christ as either Orthodox or Baptist.

In the United States, the term “Baptist” has come to refer to a group of denominational traditions that all hold a common belief. They are all Evangelical in nature, hold to believer's baptism by full immersion and have an inerrant view of Scripture. In the United States, there is a variety of Baptist groups, such as the American Baptists, The Baptist General Conference, Landmark Baptists, and of course The Southern Baptist Convention.

So this leads me back to the original question. What difference does it make, it won't change our church any if we are not “SBC”, why do we have all this Baptist stuff? Denominations are in the Bible, so why do we do it? I have 4 reasons that I am, have chosen to be and will continue to be associated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

  1. Doctrinal purity. The Southern Baptists believe in the inerrant Word of God. In an age where many denominations seem to be straying from the truth of God's Word, this convention, this state and local association and this church will stand firm on the authority of the Bible.

  2. Accountability. If a leader in this church begins to stray from our mission and purpose, we can show them the covenants and we can show them our mission and purpose. As a Church, we agree with the Baptist Faith and Message and if we stray, we have other churches who will hold us accountable. Each member is part of the body, each body is part of a community, and the community provides us with accountability.

  3. Impact. It's hard for one church to reach a community because of the number of people. Multiply that by how many communities are in one city, how many cities are in one state, the states in a nation, the nations in a continent. You get the idea. As part of a cooperation of churches, we do our part in reaching the whole world. We give, we share resources and man power. We come together to do Disaster Relief, World Changers, Baptist Builders. We support together through the Cooperative Program to fund North American and International Missionaries.

  4. Opportunity to be involved. There is no reason that a member of a Southern Baptist Church couldn't be involved in mission work. You can help with World Changers, Disaster Relief, Baptist Builders, Gods Plan for Sharing. You can give to the Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong and Bill Hyde Mission Offerings. You can go on short term trips in the United States, Canada and all over the world. You can travel to different places to serve with Campers on Mission. The opportunities to get involved starts young, kids can be involved in work we do around the church and here at Heartland. Youth can work on short term trips, get involved in World Changers and other mission projects. College kids can begin international trips, as well as Summer and Semester Missions. After graduation, there are opportunities such as Mission Service Corps, USC2 missionaries, International Missionaries and so on. There area also the other missions I have mentioned, the list is long, much more than we can do just as an independent church.

I hope that helps you see “Baptist” in a little better light. Our devotion and our allegiance is to Jesus Christ, His Word is our source of truth and The Holy Spirit is our guide. Baptists follows Jesus as head, and chooses to work with other churches we know have that same conviction. Together, we form a group that is known as the Southern Baptist Convention.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Sacred Journey - a review.

Recently I read The Sacred Journey from the Ancient Practices series by Charles Foster.

I enjoyed reading The Sacred Journey, but is many aspect, it read more like a spiritual diatribe that often led in circles and then back on itself. The material has compelled me to think differently about how I see a pilgrimage, but often seems to try to make a point at expense of other points. Foster tells us that we need to get out on the road, to take an actual physical journey and leave everything else behind. He seems to switch gears and the tell us that anywhere we are or go is a pilgrimage and we don't really need to go far. He goes back to the thesis that we need to leave everything and be on the road, and then seems to double back over himself again. He does use scripture, but also seems to make a lot of assumptions. His assumes that Cain was sedentary and Abel was a nomad because he was a Shepherd. That seems to be a bold assumption, combined with the idea that God preferred Abel for that reason.

I would recommend this book if you want to challenge your ideas and thinking, but I am not convinced I need to travel to Canterbury or Rome or Jerusalem. I do agree that we need to travel each place with a sense or wonder and expectation for God to move. Some of the material seemed very un-spiritual and some seemed hyper-spiritual and some seemed to be more balanced. Overall, it was worth reading, can become redundant in some places, but once you get through it, you feel like you have taken quite the journey yourself.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Shut Up and Work

There are times in my life that I am reminded that all the stuff I say, all the stuff I know, unless there are hands and feet behind it doesn’t mean anything. Here in the part of Iowa I live in, there is a surge of water being released from an overfilled and overstressed dam. This surge in an already bloated river will flood many basements and destroy some homes. Our church has organized to send people to help our family who is in the path of the water. We have been packing and moving quickly before the date of the release.

As I was packing, I was joking with some guys. We were talking about how if you plan how to pack, it never works but sometimes you just have to shut up and work. One of the guys made a joke about how that seems to be what Pastors tell people, to shut up and work. We laughed and continued to haul boxes.

I love to teach, and I enjoy preaching some (which is why I’m an associate, not a lead). To put it simply, I enjoy talking. I like to talk about God’s word, about how we apply it, how it changes us and the world we live in. I like to work with leaders, talk about how we make disciples, how we teach them. I like to discuss theology, history and society. I like talking, but weeks like this are a good reminder to me. Sometimes we need to shut up and work.

You all have heard it from St. Francis. “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary, use words.” I believe it’s always necessary to use words, because faith comes from hearing, but doing sometimes needs to happen before speaking. Sometimes we need to share the gospel in deed and then in words. It has been a great opportunity to show what the Church is about by getting to work. Let me encourage you, when the opportunity comes to shut up and work.