Tag Archives: Georgia

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.

11 Comments

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.

 

7 Comments

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

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Showers of Blessing

It’s Raining!

My first day “on the job” here in middle Georgia (Warthen) was August 1, but we were here a day or two before that. And since that time, I had not seen a drop of rain fall in our yard or on the church building until Sunday…and that was brief.

Sure, it has rained a couple of times since the 1st of August (it’s now Oct. 15), but I was out of town, so I didn’t see it. Other than a major storm that nearly washed everything away with 6 inches of water falling in just a few minutes (which I missed), it’s been pretty dang dry. Frankly, we’ve been in a drought for 3 months.

So, today, as I was driving into the church parking lot, I saw for the first time the church building through a rain drop-covered windshield! I was so taken aback by the unusual sight that I had to take a picture.

Praises!

Since the sound of rain landing on the rooftops has been missing, when it finally did rain again the folks around here took notice. Eyes looked upward, heads tilted like a dog hearing a strange noise, and people literally exclaimed, “It’s rain! Praise the Lord!”

Can any of the worthless idols of the nations bring rain? Or can the skies alone give showers? Are you not the LORD our God? We therefore put our hope in you, for you have done all these things. – Jeremiah 14:22 CSB

The folk around these parts know the importance of rain. Without rain, there’s no harvest. Without rain, there’s ruin. Without rain, there’s desperation. Without rain from the sky, there will be tears from the eyes. Therefore, praises were appropriate.

Rain Will Come

But what I’m waiting for, even more than the rain that will bring an earthy harvest, is the spiritual rain of the Holy Spirit upon the dry and thirsty hearts of men and women, boys and girls.

When I heard the audible praises upon the sound of rain falling on rooftops, my heart longed for the same type of rejoicing at the sound of hearts being renewed, revived, and re-energized.

Ask the LORD for rain In the time of the latter rain. The LORD will make flashing clouds; He will give them showers of rain, Grass in the field for everyone. – Zechariah 10:1 NKJV

I’m asking, I’m praying, and I’ve got my umbrella ready.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Church, General Observations, Thanksgiving, Weather, worship

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Dirt Roads

A portion of the unpaved southern half of the road where I live.

Georgia Red Clay

I’m sure you’ve either heard of it, or maybe you’ve even gotten your clothes stained by it, but Georgia is famous for “Georgia Red Clay.”

The reddish soil that covers much of the state of Georgia, along with areas in surrounding states, gets it’s color from iron oxide, the reddish-orange shades varying as much as any shade of red rust. It’s almost everywhere.

As a matter of fact, a good portion of the secondary roads in my area look just like the one above.

Georgia White Clay

On the other hand, especially around these parts (Washington County), there is another kind of clay: Kaolin.

4 oz. for $7 on Etsy!

As opposed to the common red clay, Kaolin (nicknamed “white gold” because of its color and its profitability) is mined, processed, and sold locally and around the world in various forms for use in products ranging from paper to lipstick. Actually, over 50% of it is used to give coated paper the “gloss” you might see in quality printer paper or magazines.

FYI, just click on the attached link and learn about one of the world’s largest producers of Kaolin located just 10 miles south of me in Sandersville, GA: Thiele Kaolin Company.

However, what I wanted to write about was not the types of clay that can be found in middle Georgia, but those red clay dirt roads…just like the one two houses down from me…right where the pavement ends.

It’s About the Dust

Two days ago, as I drove by one of these dirt roads, I sensed there was something profound…an important lesson…that I needed to learn then share. However, asking myself “What’s so spiritual about dirt roads?” over and over didn’t bring me any closer to a revelation. Then, as I was in the shower this morning, the truth of it all became clear (or clean, whichever):

It’s about the dust!

What do you get on your car after you travel down a paved road? Nothing. What do you get when you travel down a dirt road? Dust! It covers everything.

Think about it. You could drive a thousand miles down a nice, paved highway, and nobody would be any more the wiser of your long, hard journey. But travel down a dirt road and people will know you’ve been somewhere.

It’s About Serving

In a small, rural town like mine, the people have the tendency to care a little more about their neighbor. It’s not a firm and fast rule, but generally speaking, here you’re more likely to have someone lend you a helping hand than in the middle of a metropolis.

Yet, how do people know when you need a helping hand? How do people know you’ve traveled down a long, dirt road?

So often, in our “big cities,” we live such guarded, relationally-sanitized lives that we could be driven to near exhaustion and no one would be able to tell from the outside. In other words, our cars are clean.

But get down to a place where “everybody knows your business” and what do you find? A more openness about the road of life, a transparency that admits the road is dusty and dirty and has an affect on you.

Are bigger towns with the paved roads really all that better? Consider what the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery had to say about “streets” under the heading of  “A Window into the City’s Common Life”:

[The] street as a setting in the Bible represents what is commonly true of the mood, spirit and well-being of the city. Streets typically line the entirety of a city and serve as its reference points. Descriptions of what takes place “in the streets” therefore function as generalizations about what is going on in the city as a whole. – Leland Ryken et al., Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 820.

If the streets of this middle-Georgia pastorate are any inclination, there’s a lot of opportunity to be like Jesus…to be a servant. At least down in these parts people are a little more willing to admit the need to have their feet … or their tires … washed.

So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for [so] I am. If I then, [your] Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. – John 13:12-16 

It’s easier to be a servant where the roads are dirt 🙂 

9 Comments

Filed under America, Christianity, community, General Observations, Life Lessons, ministry, places

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Listen to the Locals

“In the Middle Of…”

When I first traveled down to this part of Georgia, having no knowledge of what was around, I used a common term to describe the area. I told others it was “in the middle of nowhere.”

Since then, I have felt bad about saying that. First, unless Warthen was in the middle of nowhere – like some outpost in the middle of Antarctica – the term could be considered derogatory. Coming across as bigoted isn’t helpful.

Secondly, nowhere is actually nowhere; everywhere is somewhere because God is there. In reality, I’m right in the middle of where I’m supposed to be.

So, there’s that.

Listen to the Locals

But when it comes to getting around and finding what you need, the somewhere might not be “nowhere,” but finding anywhere when you’re there can prove difficult, if not leave you stranded with an empty gas tank and no filling station for miles. That is why before you start exploring, listen to the locals!

One of the first things that bothered me (and, I know, this is more of a first-world problem) was that there seemed to be no restaurants. My wife and I had pretty much resigned ourselves to the fact that there would be no nice place to go on a date. But what we came to find out was that if we were only willing to drive a few minutes, and if we were willing to trust our local guides, we would find exactly what we were looking for.

For example, last week a couple from our church invited us to join them for a movie and dinner. After the movie, they took us to a steak house. But if we had not trusted the suggestion of our new friends, we wouldn’t have even given the place a chance. I mean this place was the quintessential example of “hole in the wall.” It was literally a steak house.

In front of Tumpies, the “Best little steakhouse this side of Texas.” It’s not too far away in Dublin, GA. It was a house built in the 1880s, but now a great place to eat!

But the food was some of the best I have ever had – ever. It will be a destination when we host friends from out of town.

Another thing that bothered me was that I didn’t think there were any coffee shops around. Again, when I listened to the locals I found out about a great coffee place not far away from where I will be meeting a new preacher friend every week to talk shop.

So, no, my place in the middle of Georgia might not be Nashville, Chattanooga, Atlanta, or the like, but it has everything I thought I was going to miss and everything I need. I mean, come on, it’s got steak and coffee!

Been Where We’re Going

You know, the children of Israel, under the leadership of Joshua, were faced with a similar situation when they were about to cross over the Jordan River. In chapter 3, the Lord told Joshua to send the Levites and the Ark of the Covenant ahead of the people. The reason was pretty clear.

“But keep a distance of about a thousand yards between yourselves and the ark. Don’t go near it, so that you can see the way to go, for you haven’t traveled this way before.” – Joshua 3:4 (CSB)

If there is there anyone we should listen to, it’s the Lord. Do you realize there is not a place He has never walked? Do you know there is not a place, not a situation, not a wilderness, where He has not already worn the straight and narrow path?

Think how much time and effort I saved after listening to the locals who’ve lived in this little town for years and years! How much more would all of us benefit if we’d just trust the One who’s already been where we’re going?

If you can trust the locals, you can certainly trust the Lord – He knows where everything is.

5 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Church, community, Faith, Food, God, ministry

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Food and Fur

It’s still a work in progress, but take a look at my new writing spot!

It’s not the most comfortable seating position (in relation to the keyboard), but I think I’ll get used to it… Oh, cool! I just lowered my chair and the keyboard’s in a better position! Sweet!

Anyway, it’s been a really long while since I sat down to write a brand new post, so here it goes!

Culture Shocks

Moving to a new city and a new culture brings with it a multitude of “shocks.” You’d think that a distance of 250 miles (201 as the crow flies) wouldn’t make that much of a difference, but you’d be wrong. Life in rural middle Georgia compared to metropolitan Chattanooga (Gig City) is totally different, and some adjustments are easier than others.

For instance, back in the Chattanooga area there are tons of restaurants, and not just the fast-food variety. There, for instance, you can find several very good barbecue restaurants, all within a few miles of each other. Yet, when my wife and I decided we wanted to find some barbecue down here, we had to drive 45 minutes to a place that was open only on Fridays and Saturdays, had outdoor bathrooms, had no air conditioning, and the floor was sawdust.

I asked a lady sitting quietly nearby, “So, tell me about this place.” With matter-of-fact tone and an attitude that gave me the impression she didn’t enjoy strangers asking stupid questions, she replied, “My daddy woke up one day and decided he wanted to sell barbecue, so he did.”

Hey, the food wasn’t bad, but even more, you didn’t have to worry about slipping and falling!

As we find other culinary establishments to visit, I’ll be sure to keep you updated. Should you come visit and get tired of my wife’s cooking, you’ll be better aware of your options.

Critter Shocks

We left not only our daughters behind when we moved away, but we left two little dogs we loved, too. However, even though I have no wagging tails to great me when I walk in the door; there are plenty of wagging tails on the outside.

Imagine waking up your first morning in a new house, sitting down on your front porch to enjoy the cool, misty air while you sip a cup of coffee and read your Bible. Then, imagine looking up to see two dogs trotting down the quiet two-lane road, one with a shoe hanging from its mouth by the strings. With only the sound of a few birds singing in the trees and the faint squeak of the antique glider you’re sitting on going back and forth, imagine saying to yourself – as I did, “Well, that’s different.”

Here in the equivalent of Mayberry, the dogs are happy, wander the neighborhood, enjoy being petted, and steal any shoe left overnight on a front porch. Literally, the very next morning this same dog came from the opposite direction with a different shoe … only this time she came into my yard and dropped it long enough lick my hand and roll on her back to greet me. A neighbor, out for a walk at the same time, hollered from the street, “She’s the community dog … she doesn’t belong to anybody, but she’s a good watchdog … her name is Dog.”

…There’s also the gnats.

Did you know there was such a thing as the “Gnat Belt”?

Well, we are in it!

Continued Observations

Honestly, there’s a lot more I’d like to tell you, but I don’t want to wear out my welcome. If I bore you now, you might not come back. How sad would that be?

I mean, I’ve left my hometown; I’d hate to lose you guys!

So, hug the ones you love, thank the Lord for His blessings, and be on the lookout for some more posts. What I’m learning I’ll certainly share with you 🙂

God bless!

19 Comments

Filed under animals, blogging, community, Food, General Observations, places, writing

Thursday Thoughts and Updates

Hello, friends!

You don’t know how much I’ve been wanting to get back to regularly writing on this blog! Just last night, as we were getting in bed, I told my wife, “Do you want to know how busy I’ve been and how little energy I’ve had? I have hardly written anything on my blog in weeks!”

It’s not a “diary” thing, you know. I could get on here and do what I am doing right now, just spill my guts in some random outpouring of emotion. Yet, good blog posts – the kind that attract readers and have a life of their own – must be crafted.

This is just a pitiful attempt to let those who are interested know that I am still alive.

So, how have things been going? Let me hit some highlights.

First, becoming pastor of Bethlehem Baptist has been a thrill, even though leaving all I knew and the family and friends I love was excruciatingly painful. However, as time is passing by, I’m beginning to adjust and grow to love the people who were nothing more than strangers less than a month ago.

Second, I’ve been amazed at how God has put me in a place where I fit so well. One preacher who spoke on the Sunday before I came reminded the congregation that they were calling “the man” for this place. It’s both encouraging and humbling, along with terrifying, at the same time. And, again, as I was talking with my wife about things going on around here, I am continually amazed that people are literally quoting me! They are regularly saying things like, “Like the pastor said,…” That just blows my mind.

Last (there could be a lot more), there is a funeral in town, today. Shortly after my first day on the job, I decided to go meet the local sheriff. Since I had been a chaplain with our Sheriff’s department back in Chattanooga (Hamilton County), I wanted to introduce myself, especially since I was the new pastor in town. So, I got to meet Sheriff Thomas Smith and talked with him for about 1o minutes. What I regret was that I didn’t ask to take the time to pray with/for him before I left – he committed suicide the very next week.

Because Sheriff Smith was so beloved around these parts, even around the whole State of Georgia, thousands of people are going to be flooding the tiny town of Tennille, GA, and the even tinier Methodist Church where the services will be held. Sheriffs from over 100 counties are going to be here, along with dignitaries of all shapes and sizes, including past and present governors. Literally, there is no street into the town that is not blocked, and overflow locations range from larger churches to local school cafeterias. After over 20 years of honest, dedicated service, he will be greatly missed.

But did you catch what I said earlier? He committed suicide. There were a lot of things at play that led to Sheriff Smith taking his own life, even though there is now so much evidence he was greatly loved and appreciated. However, never underestimate the stresses leadership, physical pains, and leadership can bring upon a person, especially those who face evil every day.

Just remember the following verses:

Proverbs 22:1 – A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.
Ecclesiastes 7:1  – A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.

God bless you guys, and I hope to have more time to write very soon.

2 Comments

Filed under community, current events