Category Archives: Southern Baptist

Sunday Sermons (March 29, 2020)

For those of you who’d like to watch, I am attaching links to our “services” from each Sunday.

Most churches these days are streaming live on Facebook. If not there, then through things like Zoom, etc. I’m just excited that, even though we can’t meet in person as a congregation, more people than ever are able to hear the gospel due to this pandemic.

Coincidence? Hmmm.

Anyway, please watch, if you’d like, and share any comments you may have.

On Sunday morning I preached a sermon based on the Lyrics of “It Is Well,” by Horatio Spafford. The video recently released by the singers in Nashville pushed me over the edge on that one 😉

Sunday evening, from my office, I covered the first few verses of Acts 6. Also, my daughter, Katie, since she has come down to hold up with us while she has been let go from her job, assisted me with a couple of songs I know you will enjoy.

So, grab some popcorn (you can do it in this context) and pretend you’re joining me for church!

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Filed under baptist, Bible Study, Church, community, Southern Baptist, worship

Coronavirus Sunday: Turning a Virus Into Evangelism

Did you wash your hands?

Good evening, everyone! What a different day this has been! How many of you went to church, despite the fear that you might get sick and die?

As I typed that, I couldn’t help but think of all those in places like Nigeria where going to church on any given Sunday could get you killed by an AK-47 or a machete. I wonder what they think of our virus protection plans? Which do you think they would prefer, a bullet-proof vest or hand sanitizer?

Anyway, many congregations across the country and around the world decided to cancel meetings this morning. Others did what we did: we encouraged the vulnerable and sick to stay home, and we streamed the service live on Facebook.

Missions

What I found so wonderful about all this, however, is that by streaming our services to Facebook, then sharing them on other media platforms, what would have been local turned into global! Think about that for a hallelujah minute!

One can’t help but wonder if Satan was at one point dying from laughter, then the next moment throwing a demon across the room in a fit of rage. I hope so!

It’s like, “Oh, look at all those churches closing their doors over some silly little virus! We are shutting them down, now!” Then it was, “OH, MY PLACE! What are they doing now? Reaching the world with the gospel??”

The Videos

So, what I want to do for this post is offer you the opportunity to watch both our ENTIRE Sunday morning service, along with a video I did from my office this evening.

But just so you don’t miss it, there’s a lot that went on this morning in our church service. So, if you want to skip to that actual sermon I delivered on St. Patrick and missions (it’s a GOOD one!), go to the 41:30 mark.

That shirt made me look HUGE! 

If you think St Patrick was Irish, or that his favorite color was green, you REALLY need to listen to this sermon 😉

God bless, and have a Christ-honoring week!

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Filed under America, baptist, Christian Unity, Christianity, Church, current events, ministry, Preaching, Southern Baptist, Witnessing, worship

The Birthing of an 8 Year-Old: A Proper Time to Use the “Sinner’s Prayer”?

Last night I was blessed with the wonderful privilege of holding hands with an 8 year-old boy and his mother as he prayed to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior! It was awesome!

The “sinner’s prayer” was involved, though. Was this a problem?

Let me describe what happened, then let’s talk about it.


It was Wednesday night, and that’s when the youth meet downstairs and the adults meet in the main sanctuary for prayer and discussion of Scripture (we are currently going through the book of Proverbs a chapter each week). After I had already gotten started, the mother and her son came in and sat in the auditorium. Frankly, I thought it was odd that they both came in…maybe he got in trouble, or something?

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting, people standing, hat, child and outdoor

Jhett and his mom, Cara, at a rodeo. It runs in his family.

Well, it was only after the meeting was finished that Cara and Jhett (Yeah, that’s his name. Cool, huh?), a young rodeo star in his own right (he’s a champion mutton rider!), walked up to me and wanted to talk.

“Jhett has something he wants to ask you,” his mother, Cara, said.

“Oh, really?” I responded. “What is it you want to talk about?”

Then, with a nervous voice, he looked up and said, “I want to be baptized.”

I said, “Oh! Well, let’s sit down and talk about it.”

I had to make sure what was going on, so we then sat down on the steps in front of the stage. I needed to know, first of all, if Jhett knew what baptism was and why it was important. I needed to know if he was even born again.

After some simple discussion, it became clear to me that Jhett had never actually become a Christian by repenting of his sin and giving his life to Jesus. If he had, he didn’t remember. However, it also became clear that he associated baptism with giving one’s life to Christ, so all I felt was needed was clarification and a little instruction.

Some people rightfully worry about false conversions when it comes to children. I’m one of them. The last thing I will ever do is preach a sermon to a bunch of children and make a blanket plea for “all who want to go to heaven come forward.”

Another thing I am very hesitant to do is ask a child to pray the “sinner’s prayer” with me.

Now, wait a minute! Haven’t I written a strong defense of the “sinner’s prayer”? Yes, I have! As a matter of fact, my dad led me through the prayer, helping me say what needed to be said, when I was only 6 years old (Sept. 27, 1973 – a Wednesday night). Why, then, would I be hesitant to lead another child through the “sinner’s prayer”?

Simple: I need to know that what they are doing is genuine and not coerced.

So, last night I explained to this wonderful young man what it meant to be a sinner, what sin was, and what God thought of it. I explained the first half of Romans 3:23, to which he responded with a look of shock. Then I told him about the “gift of God” and eternal life through faith in Jesus.

After first explaining everything in the most elementary way possible, then after asking if he understood, Jhett nodded in approval. He understood that he was NOT saved and WAS lost. He understood that he needed to be SAVED before being baptized. And when I asked if he wanted to pray to make Jesus “boss” of his life and trust Him with his soul forever, he said, “Yes.”

Why am I writing all of this? It’s important you see where I had to make an informed, wise decision where others may have either rescheduled with Jhett, or excitedly moved forward without any hesitation.

When it comes to adults, especially, I am a firm believer in: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9).  If a person is unwilling to publicly profess his/her faith in Jesus, then I highly doubt their conversion.

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” – Jesus, Matthew 10:32-33

Therefore, I had to pause for a second after I initially prayed with the boy. The first time we prayed, I asked him to pray to God in his own words something similar to a prayer that I would say. It was a “sinner’s prayer.” But when I was done, and Cara asked him if/what he prayed, he looked a little embarrassed and shook his head. I could tell he was nervous.

His sisters had come in and were sitting on the front row, watching with expectation. That probably didn’t help.

I then asked him something like, “Why don’t you do this…why don’t you go ahead and talk to God, just like we’re talking now, and tell him you are a sinner, ask for His forgiveness, and ask Jesus to take control of your life?” He balked at the idea.

(His mom nicely and wisely asked the girls to leave the room for a few minutes.)

“Can you pray to Jesus, Jhett?” his mom asked. With a frown and a shake of his head, he replied, “I’m too nervous.”

  • Did he not want to be saved?
  • Were we pressuring him into a false conversion?

These were questions that I had to consider at this point, and doing the wrong thing could be catastrophic.

I then asked, “Would you like for me to pray aloud and say the words so that you can follow along?” His eyes lifted.

“Would that be OK?” Cara asked. He nodded with a smile.

“Then let’s pray,” I said. “And let’s all hold hands.”

Why did I go forward with the “sinner’s prayer”? Because, as I discerned, I had not made an emotional, manipulative call for Jhett to come forward to accept Jesus – he came of his own free will. Even though his understanding of baptism was initially mistaken, the fact that he wanted to be saved, even though he was confused about the process, was evident and his desire was genuine, not coerced.

In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with using the “sinner’s prayer” as a tool to help someone who is already being drawn by the Holy Spirit unto Christ. I do think it’s important, however, that we use discretion when praying with children.

Now let’s go fill up that baptistery!


(My thanks to Cara and Jhett for letting me tell this story. Oh, and we may also have an up-and-coming “preacher” in the midst 🙂 )

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Filed under baptist, Prayer, salvation, Southern Baptist, Theology

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: The Convention

I haven’t written much over the last week, especially since the weekend. The biggest reason is that I have been pretty busy with ministry and church-related stuff.

Now, when I say “stuff,” it could be interpreted as things that don’t matter much in the big scheme of things, things that just take up time and make us look busy. That kind of stuff is bad, for we should make the best use of what time we’ve been given.

However, the stuff I’ve been doing (at least from Sunday evening through Tuesday) was centered around our denomination in the state of Georgia. This week we attended the 198th Georgia Baptist Convention Annual Meeting.

Conventions

When hear the word convention, they often think about wild parties and lots of nonsense. The convention I went to for two and a half days was anything but parties and nonsense; it was where 1,300 delegates from Southern Baptist churches all over the state of Georgia came together to do business, worship, and be encouraged.

For those of you who don’t know, congregations within the Southern Baptist Convention are independent, autonomous, self-governing churches – the SBC doesn’t tell us what to do. However, what unites us is a common set of beliefs (Baptist Faith and Message 2000) and a desire to reach the nation and the world with the Gospel by participating in the Cooperative Program. State conventions operate in similar fashion, but deal more with regional needs.

Changes

This year is a big year for Georgia Baptists! The reason is that the whole convention was restructured to become more effective in serving the needs of our churches and pastors.

If you haven’t already, you can click on the link above (or here) and see exactly what’s going on. But if you are short on time and/or curiosity, let me sum things up with a few bullet points.

  • The Georgia Baptist Mission Board has been restructured into FIVE main ministry areas:
    • Georgia Baptist Women
    • Research and Development
    • Strategic Church Planting
    • Church Strengthening
    • Pastor Wellness
  • The Georgia Baptist Mission Board is now regionalized into six new areas. Each region will have a team of consultants that are serving our pastors, their families, and churches. Each region team includes consultants from:
    • Evangelism, Missions, Next Gen, Discipleship, & Worship and Music.
  • The Georgia Baptist Mission Board is committed to three guiding principles:
    • Pastors Are Our Heroes
    • Churches Are Our Priority
    • Georgia Is Our Mission Field

Why the Changes?

As stated in the video you can watch on the website, the main reason for all the changes in the structure and guiding principles of the convention is that there are over 7 million lost people in Georgia. We have to get “wiser, stronger, and more efficient in reaching them.”

There is a great need for discipleship. However, you can’t be a disciple of Jesus unless you are a follower of Jesus! We must get back to the primary mission of the Church, which was the primary mission of Jesus: “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

I am proud to be a Georgia pastor. It is a great honor to be counted among those who will recommit to “making a big deal about Jesus” in the communities where we serve, and beyond.

Georgia pastors standing to be blessed with prayer.

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Filed under baptist, Christianity, Church, ministry, Southern Baptist

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Where’s the Coffee?

Preparing Sunday lunch in Zimbabwe, not Georgia 🙂

Food

It doesn’t matter where in the world you go, food is a universal need, even here in the middle of Georgia. However, what people eat and drink when they are hungry can vary greatly between location and culture, and Georgia is no exception.

Consider the following observations…

In Romania:

When I was in Romania, I found out that ground pork wrapped in cabbage leaves (sarmale) was the national dish, and I enjoyed it. As a matter of fact, I can’t remember any food in Romania that I didn’t like.

…except that soup.

Once, when staying in an apartment, the host family made fish soup. When I looked into the bowl, several little fish glared back at me with glassy, broth-covered eyes. Considering that the fish had to have come from water that was heavily contaminated by industrial waste, I had to refuse it. Before I did, just to be sure I was doing the right thing in offending my hosts, I dipped a spoon into the broth and tasted it…I had a metallic taste in my mouth for a week after that.

At least there was coffee.

In Zimbabwe:

As opposed to Europe, food choices in Africa can be a little more adventurous, especially for an American. However, for the most part, the food I ate in Zimbabwe was pretty much the same as in the States. The only thing I was told NOT to eat was anything from the bush (i.e., monkey).

The reason for the similarity is that Zimbabwe’s food had a history of English influence, so finding familiar food was not a problem, just as long as you knew what to ask for. Don’t eat their “biscuits” with gravy, if you know what I mean.

The only thing I couldn’t stomach in Zimbabwe was a desert made of bananas, pinto beans, green onion, yogurt, and Thousand Island salad dressing. After one spoonful I was done. My American palate had met its match.

But, at least, there was coffee!

In Georgia:

Look, believe me, the food down here is great, and other than when they spring something new on me, like pineapple sandwiches, it’s pretty much like anywhere else in the South. However, I’ve come to learn that we have a completely different understanding of one key food group: Barbecue.

The best I can tell, once you’re exposed to raw kaolin (the clay mined from the ground), pine trees, and higher-than-average heat, what the rest of the South does with pork doesn’t matter. Somewhere in their rich, rich history, these folk evidently developed a subconscious hatred for the pig. They like to eat it, but first they must pulverize it then torture it with a light bath of BBQ-flavored vinegar.

But at least there’s coffee, right? Uh, well, sorta.

Beverages

Like with food, it doesn’t matter where you go – people have to drink. Of course, what they drink depends upon the quality of the water and whether or not the locals have an excess of potatoes.

But, regardless, everywhere I’ve been in the world, from North America to Europe to Africa, one drink has been there for me, waiting around every corner, offered at every function, even boiled in pots over an open fire …coffee.

That is, except in middle Georgia!

Seriously, in Romania I woke up to a big, cast-iron pot full of dark, fragrant, exceedingly rich coffee over an open fire. Yes, there was electricity where we were staying, but because there were more than a few of us, and since coffee was a must for breakfast, they broke out the pot, lit a fire, and poured in the grounds.

In Zimbabwe, coffee was offered everywhere I went, including homes that prepared their meals in a mud hut! Even in an Ethiopian airport, where few things were recognizable to a Westerner, there was a coffee shop serving that familiar, satisfying, nerve-calming, caffeinated friend.

But here? Coffee? What coffee?

No joke, I’ve been to multiple fellowships, dinners, meetings, you name it, and I can’t tell you one time – not once – where there was any coffee offered with the desserts! Where else, except maybe the Sahara, do you go to an important meeting and find only water and iced tea, but NO coffee?

I don’t understand it.

All I can figure is that the folk down here are so laid back, so calm, so chill, so full of the “peace of that passes all understanding,” that coffee isn’t needed. Sweet tea is the cure-all for everything.

Or, it could be that they learned other ways to cope with stress way back when Union blockades stopped the shipment of coffee to Confederate troops. I don’t know.

Either way, I’ll survive. I’m tough. I’ll even grow to enjoy the way they do their BBQ.

It’s not like I have to have coffee with every meal and meeting, right? It’s not like God commanded locally-grown Georgia pecan pie be accompanied by a cup of dark roast, right?

I may need your prayers.

 

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Filed under baptist, Church, community, Food, General Observations, Humor, ministry, places, Southern Baptist, Struggles and Trials

How Do You Want to be Known?

It’s not often I post a video of me preaching, but I hope this one is a blessing.

A couple of years ago, not long before I became pastor of South Soddy Baptist, I was invited back to Mile Straight Baptist Church to preach for the evening service. It’s always an honor when Dr. Tom Goss extends the invitation.

That night I felt led to preach a sermon based on one of my personal ministry objectives. The title of the sermon was “How Do You Want to be Known?”

So, if you’ve ever wondered what I looked like preaching, this is me! I don’t look any different, today, by the way. 🙂

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What to Wear to Church?

Clothing

Recently, I was asked to be the guest speaker at a larger, more contemporary church. Out of respect for each other, the pastor of that church and I jokingly discussed what I should wear. You see, he never wears a suit, while sometimes I do. His congregation has become more “contemporary,” while my congregation remains more “traditional.” So, to make me comfortable, the pastor told me whatever I wanted to wear was fine.

Therefore, I wore shorts and flip-flops… Just kidding.

The way I dress to go to church may not be the way you dress. My style may not suit your tastes, nor yours mine. But the fact of the matter is that you do wear some kind of clothing to church, correct? Well, have you ever wondered if what you wear to church is appropriate?

Some people have asked that question.

Below are some of my thoughts on the subject.

Keep It Simple

If you are planning to attend a worship service where God is supposed to be the center of attention, don’t dress like a clown! Don’t dress like you are going to a movie premiere in Hollywood, either (that could get expensive in a hurry, not to mention scare the kids).

Some cultures believe people should come to church in clothing that could damage someone’s retina. Gettin’ “fancied up” is what’s expected. But it’s this type of clothing, in many cases, that draws attention to the congregant, not Christ. My advice is to stay away from neon suits and flashing bow ties. Church clothing should be a covering, not a calling card.

Show Respect

Some people think it is totally appropriate to wear enough jewelry and feathers to keep pawn shops in business and all geese naked. Others think it is completely acceptable to look like a drunk that slept in an alley all night (no offense to the drunk). Neither shows a sense of respect. The first steals glory from God, while the second implies the place where we gather to worship is no different than anywhere else.

Think about it this way, for example. Receive an invitation to tea from Queen Elizabeth and show up looking like you just got out of bed and never took a shower. Unless you’re a bonafide rock star, security personnel may escort you to a private room to “get acquainted.” Therefore, if dignitaries of earthly kingdoms demand respect, why shouldn’t we offer it to our Heavenly King?

Just a thought.

Beware of Legalistic Standards

However, whatever you wear, don’t be too quick to judge another person’s spiritual condition by what they wear. Only God knows the heart.

Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. – Rom 14:4 KJV

Sadly, I have been around many believers who consider one style of clothing a sign of spiritual maturity, while another style a sign of spiritual waywardness.  And you know what’s funny? It doesn’t matter which side of the spiritual tracks, there’s always somebody looking at another thinking, “They’re not right with God.”

Legalism cuts both ways, dear friend. For example, I have been to churches that ridiculed any woman who wears pants, or a man who never tucks in his shirt. On the other hand, I have been in congregations that blatantly condemned all dress and tie-wearers as right-wing, self-righteous, fundamentalist nut jobs. In both cases, someone judged another’s spirituality based on outward appearances, alone. In both cases, one group’s set of standards were being used as a guide to what is mature spiritual behavior, and what is not.

That’s LEGALISM.

Context, Context, Context

Ultimately, how you dress should be determined by the context of your community. Small, rural congregations might not feel comfortable dressing for church in the same way a metropolitan First Baptist may. Similarly, churches in depressed economies may adopt different dress codes than upwardly mobile societies. The key is to be respectful, honorable, and considerate of the holy moment at hand. Whatever fits that bill is good enough.

Just keep this principle in mind:  Grace accepts, Maturity develops, and Love constrains.

Don’t make appearances the only thing about which you’re concerned. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is far too important a message to be drowned in petty arguments about whether it is appropriate to dress up for church, or go dress-casual. Many people in the world have to worship Christ underground – literally. Dress codes are the least of their worries.

Additionally, the drug addict who needs hope and help may not have any clothes left that he hasn’t already sold to get high. The single mother of five that walks into your church may have barely enough energy to survive, much less do her hair.

Do all things to the glory of the Lord, but keep things in perspective, OK?

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism [or be legalistic]. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? – Jam 2:1-5 NIV

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Filed under baptist, Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Christian Unity, Culture Wars, Do not judge, Independent Baptist, legalism, Southern Baptist