Read This! 07.25.17

Teaching Inmates Their Worth

I think Genesis is a great place to start in explaining the gospel to someone.

4 Ways Elders’ Wives Can Avoid Fueling Conflict

This is about the conflict that sometimes arises between the wives of fellow elders.

Will You Cleave and Leave Your Man?

This is a letter to a would-be adulteress.

5 Passages Your Pastor Wishes You’d Stop Taking Out of Context

Can I add a few?

Why Did Jesus Need the Holy Spirit?

That’s an interesting question.

A Reflection on Corporate Lament

It’s a missing part of many churches.

Rest ≠ Idleness

Amen.

Learning to Talk About Disability

This is helpful.

Wow, these card throwing trick shots are something to behold:

Why Our Church Only Has a $300 Advertising Budget and I Celebrate That

I continue to be amazed at the growth in our children’s and youth ministry. We shattered our churches previous records for VBS this year with 185 unique children coming through our doors. (Take that word “unique” however you want). We continue to see around 150 kids on Wednesday evenings as well. One of the reasons I am amazed to see this is that we do zero advertising for our children’s and youth ministry. And I intend to keep it this way.

Okay maybe zero is a bit of an overstatement. We do have the occasional time when we will put out information on social media about various events we are having. We will on occasion pass out fliers to a block party that we are having somewhere in the community. But we don’t take out ads in papers, we don’t spend money on mailings, or any of that stuff. Our advertising budget for the whole year is $300 and we could probably get away with less.

Full disclosure, though. If you are familiar with my writing ministry you know that I’m not very good at self-promotion. I stink at it. I don’t do all those things you are supposed to do in order to get people to your blog. At times I question this. I believe my writing ministry could go further if I was a bit better about self-promotion (and maybe a better writer). But I actually think our lack of advertising and promotion is a good thing for our church. Let me explain.

First, this forces us to grow by word of mouth. I come from the Steve Martin school of success. Martin tells young comedians to “be so good they can’t ignore you”. I try to do that same thing with writing and I also as a church. Of course I mean different things than Steve Martin when I say, “be so good”. I don’t mean “put on such an excellent show that they come back”. What I mean is that you love people so deeply and faithfully proclaim Christ so passionately that you won’t be ignored.

And that is how our children’s ministry has grown. The children in our community know that they are loved here. They know that we are going to provide a free meal for them, but it’s so much more. They know they will be loved by our leaders and that they’ll have a good time. But we also are increasingly working to reflect Christ in everything we say and do. This means that the kids are also experiencing the aroma of Christ and the life-changing gospel of Jesus. That keeps them coming back and it keeps them bringing their friends.

Secondly, when we get first-time guests to our Wednesday evening their experience is markedly different than it would be if we got them here by some sort of campaign. It’s also different than it would be if we promote ourselves as being awesome and amazing and that they are going to have the time of their life and this is going to be the best Wednesday they ever have. You do that stuff and kids come in with a certain expectation. It gets them thinking as consumers. And eventually you’ll disappoint a customer.

But we don’t view our children as customers or consumers. We aren’t focusing on getting them here. We are working on setting our focus upon what happens when the kids are here. Even if that meant 5 kids. We aren’t asking on a weekly basis whether or not our ad campaign worked. We don’t measure success by how many kids showed up. We measure success by whether or not kids were loved and whether or not God met with them through His precious gospel. To be cheesy and tweak a line from Field of Dreams, we believe “If you build them they will come”.

And so we don’t advertise. And we see new kids about every week.

We also understand that the whole thing could fizzle and nobody show up some Wednesday night. We depend upon faithful volunteers being dedicated to loving children and sharing Jesus. And God is faithfully drawing children and adults to Himself here. We aren’t really doing anything but planting and sewing. We are just faithfully plodding along and as of right now God is working in hearts and kids are showing up. Some day those numbers might dwindle. But we’ll keep doing mostly the same thing we are doing.

Loving people. Preaching Jesus. For the long haul.

And that doesn’t require an ad campaign.

Photo source: here

Read This! 07.20.17

The Radical Difference between Believers and Unbelievers

This is one of the reasons why Paul speaks against partnering with unbelievers.

Identity & the Gospel in Judges 19

I like this series idea and might start something similar myself.

How I Overcame Cynicism as a Pastor’s Wife

It’s a real temptation not just for pastor’s wives but probably any ministry wives.

The Paradox of the Worship Selfie

I always try to read what Bob Kaulfin writes on the topic of worship.

Are You in the Dangerous Time In Between?

This is worth reading and considering.

12 Principles on How to Disagree With Other Christians

Helpful.

5 Ways to Give Your Family Your Best

I enjoyed meeting Ryan at the SBC Pastor’s Conference, I’m also blessed by his work here.

5 Words of Advice for Young Seminarians

This is sound.

Apparently a hungry caterpillar isn’t just a children’s book:

Moral Licensing in the SBC?

You are on a diet. For the past week you’ve been exercising like a professional athlete and eating nothing but rabbit food. Then you walk by a kid selling strawberry pies. You buy three of them hoping to share with your family. You eat all three. But you justify this by saying, “I’ve done so good on my diet that I deserve to cheat a little”.

Sociologists have coined a term for this behavior. It is called moral licensing. And it extends to far more than just eating strawberry pie while on a diet. Studies have found that when we humans do something that we consider a good deed rather than backing that up with more good deeds we tend to go the other way and give ourselves permission to do something less than favorable.

I first learned about this concept listening to Malcom Gladwell’s podcast, Revisionist History. Gladwell weaves together stories of outsiders who broke through a barrier only to have the door closed behind them. Rather than seeing the door remain open what often happens is that accepting one “outsider” serves as justification for the status quo to close the door again. There are exceptions to the rule, like Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in the MLB, but more often than not the door closes after an one outsider breaks through.

I’ve been wondering a bit lately about where the SBC will land on this issue. In my mind we face a bit of a crossroads as a denomination. We have seen significant growth over the past decade in terms of racial reconciliation. In 2012 Fred Luter was nominated as the SBC’s first African-American president. Was this opening a door for wider representation by minorities or will this serve as a license to slowly shut that door?

I’m a nobody with only one set of eyes, so take my observations for what they are worth. Yet, I must voice my concern that I see and hear a bit of moral licensing. I hear folks touting voting records on resolutions, raising a ballot for Fred Luter, and the like. What I’m hearing is the ol’, “I have a black friend, so I cannot be racist” schtick. It’s really no more than giving ourselves permission to not look deeper into potential vestiges of racism. It’s blinding our eyes to the pervasive whiteness on our committees and our stages.

In my opinion, a massive part of the problem with the recent dust-up concerning the alt-right resolution was the lack of minority representation on the resolutions committee. Our resolutions committee absolutely misread the situation and the importance of this resolution. I cannot help but think had there been more representation by minorities that the committee would have had a better read on our need to bring this to the floor.

Then we heard the names of those appointed to a personal soul-winning, evangelism task force. Look at the list of names. Notice a trend? The group is mostly comprised of white seminarians and white mega-church pastors. The wise words of Walter Strickland (our newly elected 1VP) are not being heeded, “Superior theological development results from the diverse collection of the church (across ages, genders, races, and cultures) rather than from an individual or believers isolated in their cultural context”. (Removing the Stain, 58)

There is one other thing I’ve noticed in the past few years that has me both encouraged and discouraged. I am happy to see more representation by minorities on our panel discussions. But I’m also discouraged that for the most part the only questions they are asked on these panels are questions related to race. To me this reeks of moral licensing. We are doing the good deed of having at least one minority represented on our panel and then giving ourselves license to not do the greater thing of considering them intellectual equals and asking for their perspective on significant theological issues not related to race.

In order to move forward we must be intentional about representation on our boards. This is not virtue signaling or affirmative action. It is about intentionality. It is about recognizing that unless I’m intentional about not doing this I will look at a pool of people and pick those who look like me and think just like I do.

I’m encouraged that the way forward has already been modeled by the 2017 Pastor’s Conference and hopefully will continue with H.B. Charles at the helm in 2018. We were blessed by hearing from a diverse selection of voices. We need this to continue. I was part of that selection process, and we had to be intentional about pursuing diversity. We had a pool of many qualified men to preach. We could have easily filled it with 12 white guys who were gifted preachers. We could have just as easily filled it with 12 minorities. But we chose to be intentional about hearing from many different voices.

Until a healthier balance is achieved we have to look at every committee and board and make certain that we have a diversity. We cannot let things like the 2017 resolutions committee misreading that alt-right resolution happen again. We cannot pretend that we are going to get the best ideas on personal evangelism and soul-winning when we are mostly leaving out smaller churches and minorities from having a voice. And why not have a panel of nothing but minority Southern Baptists talking to us about something like ecclessiology or pneumatology? Why not intentionally do something like this?

Here’s to praying that the open door or racial reconciliation and minority representation/leadership swings open wide and doesn’t slowly begin to close by way of moral licensing.

Photo source: here