Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Making the Most of Transition Moments

Our youngest son graduated from college this past week. It is another step in our master plan. My daughter-in-law will graduate with her masters this week and my middle son will complete his masters later this year. I have attended a number of graduations through the years in addition to my own, and I have had the privilege of speaking at a few of them. This time of the year it seems like graduations are taking place everywhere. Young people are graduating from high school and college. Graduate students are completing advanced degrees.

The dictionary defines graduation as “a ceremony at which degrees or diplomas are conferred” or “a division or interval on a graduated scale” or “a mark indicating the boundary of such an interval.” In a sense graduation does mark an interval or transition point in our lives. For some it is the completion of training for a specific career field or job. For others it is a transition to another advanced course of study. I always liked school. Years ago I thought about becoming a professional student, but I discovered that it did not pay very well.

Transition moments are important in our lives. They are worthy of a pause to celebrate and reflect on our journey. It is also important to consider God’s plan for our lives. I was a college student before I really paused to ask God what he wanted me to do with my life. When I did, I was surprised to discover that he had a plan for me that was different than mine. Through the years I have also come to understand that his plans were best.

It is pretty easy to adopt the values of the world around us, and most of us have been impacted by a culture that tells us that life is about acquiring things. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Philippi and said, I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want (Philippians 4:12).

Sometimes we spend our lives rushing to get ready for the future instead of living in the moment and exploring the opportunities of the present. As I reflect on my own graduations and transition moments I realize that sometimes I was in such a big hurry to complete my education and get ready for the future that I overlooked the opportunities God was placing before me. In spite of the fact that Jesus knew the crisis and task that lay before him, he always managed to live in the moment and notice each person he encountered. Maybe we would be wise to pause at these important transition points. Not just to celebrate, but also to reflect on our lives—how we are living and where our lives are headed. God is always at work “shaping our lives” as he seeks to conform us to the image of his Son. He is still working on me. How about you?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Strategic Opportunities

This past week I participated in a leadership retreat with approximately 80 leaders of Baptist organizations from across the nation. We met April 27-29 at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga. The retreat was convened by Babs Baugh, president of the Baugh Foundation, and Daniel Vestal, executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The group included national and regional CBF leaders, a few state convention executives, and leaders from a variety of educational and ministry organizations and institutions. It was an interesting dialogue as we reflected on the transitions that have taken place in Baptist life over the past twenty plus years and dreamed about what God might have in store for the future of our ministries.

The meeting was particularly timely for me in light of the recent approval of our First Priority 2015 strategic plan during our Annual Meeting a few weeks ago. It was interesting to hear from other Baptist organizations and institutions are dealing with some of the same challenges and opportunities confronting our convention as we seek to serve churches. It was even more significant to learn that some have identified similar strategies for addressing these needs. I visited with leaders from the Baptist General Convention of Texas, Central Baptist Theological Seminary, and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship regarding ways we might collaborate to more effectively and efficiently achieve our shared goals. Baptists have always been proud our autonomy, but we should also be committed to move beyond mere cooperation to genuine collaboration for the sake of God’s Kingdom.

Our First Priority 2015 strategic plan includes seven specific initiatives that we believe will enable us to more effectively serve churches. These initiatives will be launched this year under the name of ChurchNet. They focus on helping our churches with Relationships, Training, Resources, Consultations, Missions, Church Starting, and enhanced relationships with our Institutional Partners. The plan also includes a five-year, state-wide emphasis called Share Hope! This emphasis is an effort to assist our churches as they share hope with their communities through relational evangelism, congregational ministry, and community advocacy.

I thought we had a wonderful Annual Meeting; however, I am confident the real impact of this year’s gathering we be felt over the coming years as we begin to implement our in new initiatives and explore together how we can best serve churches as they fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. I look to making the journey with you.