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Monday, May 23, 2011

Rustler Article for 5.26.11

How do you measure growth? Most things in life can be measured numerically, such as the height of a child, the profit of an investment, or the membership of a church. But how do you measure spiritual growth? Is there a yardstick or scale that can really show how a church family has “grown?”

This week I spoke with a trusted friend about the way his former church looked for a new pastor. Instead of taking resumes and considering things like education and experience, the litmus test for a candidate was to be only the rate at which he had baptized new believers. While this statistic is indeed easily measured, it hardly gives a report of a minister’s success or a church’s growth.

Take, for instance, the work of our Children’s Minister, Lesley. Over the last five years we’ve baptized several of the children who have been under her care and leadership, but even this handful of baptisms is small compared to the numbers of children who attend our programs during the week. Should we call such a ministry a failure? Should we have demanded more baptisms from among so many children?

Certainly not. It is foolish to think that the work of any minister can be measured by the number of baptisms she performs. Such an evaluation ignores the growth of understanding and formation that the children of our community have undergone through Lesley’s faithful leadership. Our children have learned the Scriptures, they’ve learned the vocabulary of faith, and most importantly they’ve learned that they, too, can know and serve God.

The foundation that has been laid through Lesley’s service is going to make other ministers look really good one day. These children will grow in faith and knowledge until the day that Jesus Christ calls them in an unmistakable way and they are baptized in ours or some other church. They will be counted among the statistics of ministers who measure and are measured by the quantity of those who profess faith in Christ and are baptized. Heaven will rejoice.

But somewhere miles away there will be a woman quietly serving her Lord, teaching the Word and loving the children of her church with the love of Jesus. She’ll have no tally of immersions in her mind; only the peaceful knowledge that she knows what real growth looks like.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rustler Article for 5.19.11

Baptists often get picked on because of our business meetings, and, quite frankly, we pick on ourselves for them too. At first glance it looks like we “lose” a Sunday night of Bible study every month to talk about the finances and complain about things not getting done in the church. It’s true; some churches have regrettable shouting matches at their monthly business meetings that can split the hearts of the church, if not the church itself. We need not dig too deep to find evidence that such contentious arguments have happened in each church’s history in our community.
But from a Pastor’s perspective the business meetings we labor through look like something else entirely. For me, business meetings have become something of an opportunity for response among the members of the church. It is here that ideas are kicked around, that the leanings of the heart are vocalized, that action is taken and ownership of the ministry of the church is claimed. You see, ours is a church full of ministers. Some get paid to preach or lead children or youth, but all of the members of our congregation are expected to be ministers in the fullest sense of the word.
The last few business meetings have made me want to burst with joy and pride. People are volunteering to take on difficult tasks in our community and congregation, risking their hearts to achieve what God has called us to in Riesel. Others are coming up with new ideas for ministry to address the needs of our town and church, making the Gospel more accessible to those who hear it sparingly.
I’m increasingly proud to know these people, young and old, who are earnestly struggling to do God’s will and work in his Kingdom. It’s time for you to be a part of this group of servant leaders. Come worship with us and share in the Lordship of Christ that drives them to lay down life and property to serve.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rustler Article for 5.6.11

Monday night we were informed that the United States military had successfully eliminated the threat to the world that was Osama bin Laden. Moments after the announcement crowds gathered at the former site of the World Trade Center in New York and the White House in Washington, all celebrating and chanting “USA!”
Shortly thereafter there began a national discussion on whether or not we should “celebrate” the killing of a man, even one as vile as bin Laden. In the conversation that has followed these last few days, many Christians are divided over their beliefs and their patriotism. Is it “Christian” to be happy someone, let alone a Muslim, has been killed? Should we condemn those who, even under orders, killed another human being? What about the poor woman used as a human shield that died in the firefight?
Please understand that whatever position you take in this argument you are making a theological statement about your faith. If you proudly cheer with the patriots that America has won a victory by killing bin Laden, then you testify that some killing is justified, that sometimes Christians have to hold their noses and kill. If, however, you side with those who object to the cheers of joy and celebration you testify that killing is never justified and that Christians should denounce killing in all its forms.
I am not going to definitively take a side in this argument, because I’m not settled on one. On the one hand, I want to feel “ok” with an enemy of my people being stopped once and for all. On the other hand I mourn the killing of even a murderer like Osama. Jesus’ words are clear: don’t kill. So I’m convicted, satisfied, guilty, and proud all at once. All I can do is breathe a prayer with my friend Roger and say “God have mercy.”
Remember: you cannot comment on an event like the killing of bin Laden without commenting on what you believe. As one of my friends said this week, whenever we cheer or condemn this and other moral actions “our theology is showing.”