Friday, March 27, 2015

Our Annual Gathering: Building Community

Our Churchnet Annual Gathering is only about a month away, and I am looking forward to a great time fellowship and worship.  We will be meeting at First Baptist Church in Jefferson City where I have been a member for more than 17 years.  Our gathering begins on Friday evening, April 24, at 5:30 p.m. with our Annual Missions Banquet.  We will hear reports on our partnership efforts in Guatemala, the Ukraine, and Cuba. 

Following the banquet we will have our Share Hope Worship.  Our theme this year continues our Share Hope emphasis as we focus on Building a Community of Peace & Reconciliation.  Dr. Brian Kaylor who serves as our Communications and Engagement Leader will be speaking on Friday evening.  Brian is an award-winning author and journalist and a sought after speaker.  I know you will want to be present to hear his message.  First Baptist Church will be leading our worship Friday evening.

Saturday morning, April 25, we will begin with a light breakfast and business session.  Following the business session we will have our Share Hope Workshops at 8:45 and 10:00 a.m.  The workshops will focus on our Share Hope theme.  The gathering will conclude with another Share Hope Worship Service at 11:00 a.m.  Rev. Cornell Sudduth, Sr., Pastor of Second Baptist Church in Jefferson City, will be speaking, and Second Baptist Church will also be leading our Saturday worship.  Second Baptist Church was established by slaves who were formally members of First Baptist Church in the period prior to the Civil War.  What a wonderful opportunity for us to think together about what it means to build a community of peace and reconciliation as we gather with these two great congregations.

The tragic events this past year in Ferguson, Missouri, and in other communities across our nation have made it clear that we have a long way to go if we would live out the ideals upon which our nation was founded, and even further if we would build a community based upon the justice and compassion found in the covenant relationships in the scripture.

The Annual Gathering will also be the time when our Board of Directors recommends approval our Vision 2020: Engaging the Future with Hope strategic plan for 2015 through 2020.  The revised mission statement is: Churchnet serves churches by fostering collaboration and hope for engaging new generations and cultures.  This mission grew directly out of our conversations with congregations and leaders across our state. 

The plan establishes four areas of strategic initiative which will guide our ministry as we seek to serve churches:
  • Facilitate Missional Collaboration
  • Develop Hope-Filled Strategies
  • Engage New Generations & Cultures
  • Expand Community Involvement
I hope you will come to the Annual Gathering and learn more about the Vision 2020 plan as we consider God’s will for the future of our ministry together.

This article was originally written for our Churchnet page in Word&Way.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Palm Sunday & Holy Week

I recently began an interim pastorate at Kirkwood Baptist Church in the St. Louis area.  During the Lenten season we have been Celebrating the Covenant as we have explored God’s covenant relationship with his people.  This Sunday we conclude the series as we begin our celebration of Holy Week and Easter.  A few years ago I preached a series of messages on the Lessons from the Last Week.  The series was a study of the last week in the life of Christ beginning with his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday ending with his resurrection on the first Easter morning.

During my study I learned how central the ‘last week’ was in the scripture. Jesus lived approximately thirty-three years.  That is more that 1700 weeks.  The writers of the four gospels dedicated a great deal of their accounts to only one of those weeks.  It was the last one.  By the present chapter and verse divisions the four gospels include 3779 verses comprising 89 chapters.  The first thirty years of his life are recorded for us in only 208 verses.  The background, announcements, and record of his birth are parts of only five chapters including John's unique approach to the beginning of his gospel.

The balance of the gospels is dedicated to the three years of his ministry.  This is more than 3500 verses to record the significant events in the life and ministry of the Son of God.  The amazing thing is that 1258 of these verses are dedicated to only one week—the last week.  More than one-third of the verses in the four gospels are committed to the last week which we call Holy Week.  What an impact the week made upon their lives.  What vivid and penetrating memories they must have had of the events of the last week.  

Have you ever thought about how important that week was in the lives of the disciples?  Sometime after the death and resurrection of our Savior they began to write.  It was after the emotional highs and lows.  It was after they had had the opportunity to reflect upon everything that had happened. Sometime later the gospel writers were led by the Spirit of God to begin to record the events of his life.  There was so much to be written.  How do you capture his life on paper?  What do you include?  Everything seemed so important now. 

I believe that God led them in their writing and in their choosing.  I also believe that God led them in a personal way.  Each writer reflected from his own perspective as he recorded life changing words.  Maybe God led them like he leads us.  Maybe they wrote what they remembered most.  Maybe they wrote about the things that impacted their lives most.  Whatever the method of inspiration they wrote about the last week. 

This Sunday we will have our Palm Sunday Worship.  The children of Kirkwood Baptist church will lead us in our processional.  We will explore one of the most intriguing and challenges days in the life of Jesus.  As you prepare to celebrate Palm Sunday and Holy Week let me suggest that you spend some time during the coming week reflecting on Jesus’ life and ministry.  Let me suggest that you spend some time reading about that last week.  Maybe it will impact you like it did his disciples!