Connecting the Dots in an Unconnected World

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Happy Birthday Tom

Today is my dear friend Tom Bryant’s ?? birthday. Tom has been my friend across more years than I can count. It was in the providence of God that Tom and I became friends. Tom was pastor of a church in our local association and a new Southern Baptist. He and I developed a relationship that has included my being his pastor, presiding at his wedding with his precious and wonderful wife Sarah, and watching him grow as a leader in Florida Baptist life.

He has been my encourager, my prayer partner, and my counselor. Each week we get together to simply fellowship and share the good things that God is doing in our lives.

I am grateful to God for a good friend like Tom. He is a gift from God to me as I serve our Lord.

Attempting to connect the dots…

Romans 1:16

"A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I may think aloud."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Old Paths

This was shared with me by a friend. I hope you enjoy it.

I liked the old paths,
when Moms were at home.
Dads were at work.
Brothers went into the army.
And sisters got married BEFORE having children!

Crime did not pay;
Hard work did;
And people knew the difference.

Moms could cook;
Dads would work;
Children would behave.

Husbands were loving;
Wives were supportive;
And children were polite.

Women wore the jewelry;
And Men wore the pants.
Women looked like ladies;
Men looked like gentlemen;
And children looked decent.

People loved the truth,
And hated a lie;
They came to church to get IN,
Not to get OUT!

Hymns sounded Godly;
Sermons sounded helpful;
Rejoicing sounded normal;
And crying sounded sincere.

Cursing was wicked;
Drinking was evil;
and divorce was unthinkable.

The flag was honored;
America was beautiful;
And God was welcome!

We read the Bible in public;
Prayed in school;
And preached from house to house.

To be called an American was worth dying for;
To be called a Christian was worth living for;
To be called a traitor was a shame!

Sex was a personal word.
Homosexual was an unheard of word,
And abortion was an illegal word.

Preachers preached because they had a message;
And Christians rejoiced because they had the VICTORY!

Preachers preached from the Bible;
Singers sang from the heart;
And sinners turned to the Lord to be SAVED!

A new birth meant a new life;
Salvation meant a changed life;
Following Christ led to eternal life.

Being a preacher meant you proclaimed the word of God;
Being a deacon meant you would serve the Lord;
Being a Christian meant you would live for Jesus;
And being a sinner meant someone was praying for you!

Laws were based on the Bible;
Homes read the Bible;
And churches taught the Bible.

Preachers were more interested in new converts,
Than new clothes and new cars.

God was worshiped;
Christ was exalted;
And the Holy Spirit was respected.

Church was where you found Christians on the Lord's day,
rather than in the garden,
on the creek bank,
on the golf course,
or being entertained somewhere else.

I still like the old paths the best!

Attempting to connect the dots…

Romans 1:16

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

-Sir Winston Churchill

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What does it mean to be a Baptist church?

I recently was introduced to a new term, “Baptist Identity.” This term is most often used as a pejorative identifying those who hold a doctrinal position of ecclesiastical separation. As I have mulled over this term it has raised a question in my mind, “What does it mean to be a Baptist Church.”

It means we are committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Baptist churches as I have known them and as history portray them have always sought after the will and purposes of our Lord, to do else would be to deny our very existence. The church belongs to Him.

It means we are a people of the book. The Bible is our final guide in all matters of faith and practice. We believe the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. By the way, these are still good and appropriate words to describe our Bible.

It means that we identify with a great heritage of churches that have existed since the origin of the first New Testament church. While I am well aware that some would date the origin of the Baptist church to the time of the Protestant Reformation. I cannot do so. I believe that since the origin of the New Testament church there have always been churches that believed and practiced what Baptist churches in our day believe and practice. These churches were not perfect (our churches today are not perfect). They were not always called “Baptist” however, they held to the tenants of faith that we today hold dear.

It means we hold to an identifiable set of doctrines and practices. You cannot believe anything you choose and be a Baptist church. There are doctrines that Baptist churches hold dear and doctrines that Baptist churches reject. If this is not true then we shall be lost in an ecumenical hodge-podge, which believes nothing and falls for everything.

It means we are committed to the Great Commission. The heart-beat of Baptist churches is the winning of the lost and developing of the saved, where we are and around the world. The key for Baptist churches in the fulfilling of the great commission will be the establishing of Baptist churches that have a burning fire to reach the lost with the gospel.

And, as Southern Baptists, it means we are committed to cooperative ministry. Baptist churches do best that which they do together. As Southern Baptists we are a group of churches that hold to a like faith and practice. Do I agree with all Southern Baptists? No. Do I believe that the best way to reach the world with the gospel is through our great Southern Baptist missions efforts? Yes.

I proudly claim my “Baptist Identity.”

Attempting to connect the dots…

Romans 1:16

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it, I see everything else.”

- C. S. Lewis

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Leadership by Intimidation

Much is written in our day concerning the matter of leadership. It is my belief that this plethora of books on leadership is a response to the hue and cry for leaders in our nation, our culture, our homes, our industries, and our churches. The current vacuum of leadership may well be the major cause of the many failures politically, organizationally, culturally and religiously in our day.

These many books present to us some very interesting models of leadership. One of the volumes on leadership I possess is titled, “Leadership Secrets of Atilla the Hun,” by Wess Roberts, Ph.D. I found this to be a very interesting read.

A leadership model that I have observed in practice might be called Leadership by Intimidation (my designation for this style of leadership). In this model the leader presents the direst of outcomes should the constituents fail to follow the direction of the leader. Often the leader espouses recognizable clichés to reinforce his/her position. If that fails they turn to invoking the name(s) of notable leaders of a previous generation or supposed super leaders of this generation as affirmation of their position. For the person following the model of Leadership by Intimidation, focus on the purpose or goal is primary, the consequence of his/her decisions to the organization or to his/her constituency is of small import. The mantra of the individual following the model of Leadership by Intimidation is often "the end justifies the means."

We have seen this model played out politically in the massive bailout bills that our politicians have adopted. Tragically, we even see it in our religious and church life. Many a pastoral failure has been experienced because a pastor followed this model. The people of God should not be exposed the kind of emotional and spiritual coercion that Leadership by Intimidation presents.

Where is the model of Jesus that simply says, “Come follow me?”

Attempting to connect the dots…

Romans 1:16

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”

- Dwight David Eisenhower

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Southwest Florida Conference on Evangelism and Soul Winning

Monday, April 20, Southside Baptist Church will be hosting the 4th annual Southwest Florida Conference on Evangelism and Soul Winning. The purpose of this conference is to inform and inspire pastors, staff and laity in the areas of evangelism and soul winning. In previous years we have had attendees from as far east as the coast, as far north as Zephyrhills, and as far south as Naples. This year’s conference should be our finest.

Our conference emphasis is on preaching. We have had some of Southern Baptists finest leaders and preachers in our conference:

  • Dr. Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Dr. John Cross, pastor of the South Biscayne Baptist Church
  • Dr. Hayes Wicker, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Naples
  • Dr. Tom Kinchen, president of the Baptist College of Florida
  • Dr. John Sullivan, executive-director treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention
  • Dr. Willy Rice, pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church of Clearwater

This year will continue this rich tradition with:

  • Dr. Tom Kinchen, president of the Baptist College of Florida
  • Dr. John Sullivan, executive-director treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention
  • Dr. Roy Fish, retired professor of evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Also, this year our music will be led by The Sons of the Father, a men’s trio that has sung at the Southern Baptist Convention and at some of our convention’s largest congregations.

I encourage you to plan to attend this wonderful opportunity. You will go away more excited about soul winning and evangelism than ever before.

Check out the
flyer for more information. Don’t forget to make your reservation for the free steak dinner.

Attempting to connect the dots…

Romans 1:16

“Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell.”

- C.T. Studd

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

An Athlete Who Gets It!

Tiger Woods spoke Sunday, January 18, 2009, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington during "We Are One," an inauguration celebration for President-elect Barack Obama.

Below is the text of his speech, entitled "You'll Never Walk Alone" as posted on his Web-site:

"I grew up in a military family — and my role models in life were my Mom and Dad, Lt. Colonel Earl Woods. My dad was a Special Forces operator and many nights friends would visit our home. They represented every branch of service, and every rank. In my Dad, and in those guests, I saw firsthand the dedication and commitment of those who serve. They come from every walk of life, from every part of our country.

Time and again, across generations, they have defended our safety in the dark of night and far from home. Each day — and particularly on this historic day — we honor the men and women in uniform who serve our country and protect our freedom. They travel to the dangerous corners of the world, and we must remember that for every person who is in uniform, there are families who wait for them to come home safely.

I am honored that the military is such an important part, not just of my personal life, but of my professional life as well. The golf tournament we do each year here in Washington is a testament to those unsung heroes. I am the son of a man who dedicated his life to his country, family and the military, and I am a better person for it.

In the summer of 1864, Abraham Lincoln, the man whose memorial we stand, spoke to the 164th Ohio Regiment and said: 'I am greatly obliged to you, and to all who have come forward at the call of their country.'

Just as they have stood tall for our country — we must always stand by and support the men and women in uniform and their families.

Thank you and it is now my pleasure to introduce the U.S. Naval Glee Club."

While I am not an avid follower of professional golf, it is refreshing to see an athlete who gets it. Heroism is not defined by who can run the fastest, hit a ball the farthest, or jump the highest. Heroism is defined, yea, embodied by those who lay their life on the line for the greater good of others. These are the people who should be our role models.

Thank you Tiger Woods.

Attempting to connect the dots…

Romans 1:16

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”

- Arthur Ashe

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Economic or Spiritual Crisis

Mal 3:7-12

7 Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?
8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.
12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts.

The day in which Malachi prophesied was much like America in the year 2009. Corrupt religious practices and leaders abounded. The ignoring of God's law was commonplace. Easy divorce prevailed. The people of God had robbed Him of that which belonged to Him, tithes and offerings.

A recent (2006) survey indicated the average professing Christian in America gave 2.2% of their income to their local congregation. The Bible is clear that the standard of Christian giving to your local congregation begins with 10% and should go beyond that in special offerings.

It is very easy for us to set behind our stained glass windows and criticize our culture for the decay of our day. It is equally as painless for us to disparage our politicians for poor decisions. It is painless for us to find fault with corporate America and its abuses.

However, we as Bible believing Christians must in honesty accept a large portion of the responsibility for the economic mess we are in. We have robbed God and ignored His commands. How can we expect God to bless us individually or as a nation? Malachi pronounced a curse upon his nation for robbing God in tithes and offerings. Why should we be exempt?

As is most often true the problem we face is not economic. God is not broke and heaven is not in a recession. The problem we face is spiritual. It is time for the church to experience a genuine spiritual revival. A good place to begin is with the tithe that belongs to Him.

Attempting to connect the dots…

Romans 1:16

"Money is a great treasure that only increases as you give it away."

— Lord Francis Bacon

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Can life in the Florida Baptist Convention be diverse?

I was asked this most interesting question last week by a young pastor. He was observing the challenges created by the blogosphere and the doctrinal divergences by those who clamor for theological diversity.

Florida Baptists are already one of the most diverse groups in the history of Christianity. In polity, our churches range from those "committee run churches" that conduct a business meeting each month and have to have committee approval to purchase toilet tissue to "pastor-led" churches that simply adopt a budget annually and allow their professional staff to oversee the work of the church.

In ethnicity, our Florida Baptist churches reach out to 20 different language groups in 802 congregations. God has brought the world to Florida and Florida Baptists are responding to the challenge.

The worship style of Florida Baptists range from the very traditional congregation that sings the "Doxology" to the church that has adopted a very contemporary style of music. Some of our churches are alarmed if someone says "amen" while others are marked by a very verbal and participative style of worship with hands raised in celebration.

However, the theology of Baptists is now and always has been narrow. It is as narrow as the teaching of the Word of God. While we are not a creedal people, we are a confessional people. Our theology is defined by the Baptist Faith and Message. I fear our diverse polity and practice lends itself to an ecumenical theology that ignores the great truths of the faith for the sake of diversity. While this does not have to happen, the "proof is in the pudding."

Allow me a few random thoughts concerning our diversity:

  • It seems that those who cry out the loudest for diversity are simply attempting to make others conform to their preferences.
  • Among the people called Baptist diversity does not need to be programmed, our historic belief in the "Priesthood of the Believer" and the "Autonomy of the Local Church" guarantee our diversity.
  • As relates to our church polity and practice there is no "one size fits all." Baptist churches develop personalities just as people. No single church can or will reach all of the lost people in any given community. A community like Sarasota, where I live, needs diversity in its Baptist churches to reach the diversity of our community. There are people that the church I pastor can and will reach that no other Baptist church in Sarasota will reach. The converse is also true; there are people that other Baptist churches in Sarasota will reach that we will not reach.
  • Diversity is not and should not be our goal. Pleasing God and reaching a lost world should be our goal. Diverse is not better it is simply different.
  • The cooperative ministry of Florida Baptists is built upon diversity. From Pensacola to Jacksonville to Key West diverse congregations of every size, style, and cultural expression join together to do what not one of them could do alone, that is, reach the world with the gospel.

Attempting to connect the dots…

Romans 1:16

"Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without."

- William Sloane Coffin, Jr.

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