Throughout our nation's history, there's been two Southern Baptist presidents: Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Warren Harding and Harry Truman were Northern Baptists. Most presidents have been Episcopalian.
22 people have declared they're running for president in 2016. 17 Republicans and 5 Democrats. Of these 22 candidates, 4 of them are Southern Baptists. I'm a devoted Southern Baptists, so we need to get to know these 4 men.
Throughout our nation's history, there's been two Southern Baptist presidents: Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Warren Harding and Harry Truman were Northern Baptists. Most presidents have been Episcopalian.
A Senator from South Carolina and is a member of Corinth Baptist Church in Seneca, South Carolina.
The former governor of Arkansas and the former youngest-ever president of the Arkansas Baptist Convention. He attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He's pastored two Southern Baptist Churches: Immanuel Baptist Church in Pine Bluff, Arkansas and Beech Street Baptist Church in Texarkana, Arkansas.
The former governor of Texas grew up alternating between a Methodist and Southern Baptist church in Paint Creek, Texas. He now attends Lake Hills Church (Southern Baptist) in Austin, Texas. Last year, he was baptized by Lake Hills' pastor in Little Rocky Creek near Independence, Texas. It was the same creek Sam Houston, the Republic of Texas' president was baptized in in 1854.
The Senator from Texas is a member of First Baptist Church of Houston, Texas. His father, Rafael Cruz, is a Pentecostal pastor of Purifying Fire Ministries in Carrollton, Texas. Cruz launched his campaign at Liberty University.
Scott Walker's father was an American Baptist pastor - now Walker is a member of Meadowbrook Church, a non-denominational church in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin - he serves as a deacon and usher. The Governor of Wisconsin left the American Baptist Convention when the church he was attending placed a homosexual rainbow flag on the church's sign.
I cannot believe that 1 year has already passed! It seems like just a short time ago Daniel and I were checking our packing lists (several versions due to my Type A personality), medications (an entire medicine cabinet), flight tickets a world away with our 2 oldest children (Yikes, what are we thinking!), and precious 12-month outfits for our soon-to-be daughter. The transformation of love is remarkable. I have been full of nostalgia this past week, thinking of our hundreds of friends who prayed for us, supported us, loved and encouraged us and even gave their own money to help us get our daughter.
I think of the first time she was placed in our arms, she was tearful but curious. We gave her a lollipop and she didn’t even know what to do with it. She just held it in her sweet little hand the entire first hour during our “Gotcha Day” paperwork. She would smile sometimes but didn’t even know how to respond to being tickled. She would stare at us like we were crazy. She only liked rice soup called “congee” and wouldn’t take a bottle at all the first 3 days we had her with us in China. Esther didn’t know how to relax in our arms, or put her head on our shoulder. She threw baby dolls across the room because she didn’t understand or know how to love by pretend play. She didn’t know who to trust. We were the unfamiliar, yet we loved her SO much. We had been praying for her before we ever saw her face, before we knew she would be our daughter. But our Sovereign Lord knew who she was and where she would belong. “God sets the lonely in families.” Psalm 68:6
Now that Esther has been with our crazy clan for 1 whole year she understands a family. She loves to be carried around by her older brother and sister. She loves to be snuggled at night before bed while we pray and sing how Jesus loves her. She cries for her Mommy or Daddy when she gets hurt and wants us to console her. Everyday she relaxes into our family more and rests her sweet head on our shoulders. She pretends to feed her babies and changes their clothes and plays dress up and tea set with her older sister. She understands how to pretend love because she is loved. She trusts that we will take care of her needs, that she is our precious girl. Love can transform lives.
Just like love has changed Esther’s life, Jesus’ love can transform our lives if we trust Him, if we know Him, if we spend time with Him. Jesus tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 This past Sunday morning the message was about God’s omnipotence and omnipresence. Just as children trust their parents, we should trust our Almighty God. God knows the whole picture and if we rely on Him more than we rely on ourselves, “He will make our paths straight.” Proverbs 3:6
July 28th we will celebrate our sweet baby girl. We will rejoice that she is with our family forever. But this special time is born from great loss. Esther will never know her birth parents. She will ask questions as she gets older and will wonder about her past and the decisions her birth parents made when she was a baby. Jesus sees our painful pasts, but He can provide us a new life through His salvation. Isn’t it amazing that adoption paints the perfect picture of God’s love. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8b.
This first year has been challenging, exhausting and hard as our family has adjusted to 4 children, but it has also been amazing. Esther has been under anesthesia on 6 separate occasions. At times I am sure she has wondered if we are crazy putting her through so much pain. Yet this past month she began to walk on her flat feet for the first time in her life. She is determined, strong and so resilient. Our precious girl is amazing and we are so blessed to know that our friends and family continue to pray for her health and her soul. We are humbled to know that our story has in some small way inspired others to consider adoption. If you are considering adoption, if you feel God leading you down this road, don’t hesitate. It is an amazing journey we would do over again in a heartbeat to complete our family.
Gotcha (from Sherri)
One million Chinese live in Central and South America - yet only .02% are believers. We hear about a Chinese revival in East Asia - but not for the Chinese in Latin America. Among the Hispanic countries, Venezuela has the most Chinese with 350,000. There are eight Baptist churches reaching the Chinese there. Peru has the second most Chinese with 200,000 and zero Baptist churches for Chinese believers. Zero. This should bother you. A Chinese person is more likely to get saved in Communist China than in Democratic Peru. Southern Baptists have assigned one missionary family to work with Venezuelans, and they don't even work with the 350,000 Chinese. In Peru, the IMB has assigned one family to work with the Chinese, and they don't even speak Chinese. This is what an unreached people group looks like.
Baptists have been working in Peru since 1927 - but in the city of Canete, two hours south of Lima, whom 26,000 people call home, there's no Baptist church. Not even a Spanish-speaking Baptist church. Christians south of Lima have two options for worship: the Roman Catholic Church or prosperity Gospel churches. Could you imagine being a Christian with the closest evangelical church hours away? We met people today who are praying, even begging for a church planter to come to their city.
Every large city has a Chinatown. Atlanta's Chinatown's in Chamblee. The method our IMB personnel engage Peru's Chinese is to eat at their Chifa's or Chinese restaurants and invite them to a midnight Bible. We spoke with a Hakka man who said he hasn't had a day off work in 24 years. He owns a seven-day a week business. David Platt has said, "There's a reason the unengaged, unreached remain unreached." We visited about a dozen Chifa's - trying to connect with the owners.
200,000 Chinese Peruvians live in Lima. This morning we attended a non-Baptist church. We worshiped in the China Alliance Missionary Church. Why not a Baptist Chinese church since there's so many Chinese? There aren't any. In a city of 9 million with 200,000 being Chinese, there are two Chinese churches, both Alliance. Could you imagine Coweta and Troup counties having zero Baptist churches in both counties? That's what it's like for Chinese immigrants in Lima. How many Southern Baptist missionary families are working with the Chinese in Peru? One. Of the 46,000 SBC churches how many have adopted the Chinese in Peru? One. Is one church in Moreland, Georgia and one SBC missionary family from Chattanooga, Tennessee going to reach 200,000 Chinese Peruvians in Lima? What's different about this Lima? The Chinese speaking people in Lima, Peru are overwhelmimingly unreached with the Gospel.
Today we learned about our assignment and explored Lima, Peru. This is our first time to South America - most of the continent is in the middle of winter. Lima is a city of 9 million with 200,000 Chinese. It never rains and is usually foggy. This country loves soccer. Everything paused this afternoon so everyone could watch Paraguay beat Brazil in the Copa America soccer tournament - which is the premier soccer tournament for South America. Peru plays Chile on Monday evening in the semifinals. Soccer here is like SEC football in Georgia. Tomorrow we worship in a Chinese Peruvian church.
On Friday, First Baptist Church of Moreland will be sending four people to Peru on the church's first-ever international mission trip in her 186-year history.
Please be in prayer for myself, Eric Ramey, Kerry Howard and Macie Perry as we try to engage the Hakka people group with the Gospel. The Hakka are Han Chinese people who speak the Hakka Chinese language and descended from southern China. They now live all over the world.
Click here to learn more about the Hakka of Peru from the IMB's people groups website. IMB personnel told me they only know of one believer among the Hakka. We'll be working in Lima's Chinatown (pictured below).
Not only will our team be in Lima, but the Hakka also live in a city 2-3 hours south of Lima called, Canete, we'll also serve in. We'll also be traveling to a city called Chosica, which is two hours east of Lima in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. There's a Baptist Campground there we'll be doing VBS-style ministry with children. The IMB workers said children's ministry typically involves soccer. Fortunately, all four of us on our team have been Upward Soccer coaches!
We hope to share the Gospel with people who need Jesus and encourage our IMB personnel. Our church has adopted the Hakka - we hope this is the beginning of multiple mission trips to Peru for FBCM.
Thank-you for praying for our safety and for the receptivity to the Gospel.
This Sunday is VBS at First Baptist Moreland. VBS is a week-long summer experience for children. When children grow up and reflect on their religious heritage, VBS is usually one of their favorite pastimes.
I remember growing up attending Shades Mountain Baptist Church and Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church's VBS every summer. They each had a different theme.
Parents should bring their children to VBS for three reasons:
1). God holds parents responsible for the spiritual upbringing of their children. It's a sin for Christian parents to keep their children out of church. An eleven year old can't drive, how will she attend church? Even if mom and dad don't teach biblical truths to their children, they can at least bring them to church and allow someone else to teach them.
2). Daniel Ausbun and Wendy Moore are passionate about children's ministry. Isn't it exciting that children can get saved. 90% of all people who will ever get saved, will do so before they're 19 years old. 75% will decide to follow Christ before they're 15 years old. This means if your son or daughter doesn't get saved by the time they're out of high school, most likely they never will. One-fourth of all baptisms in the Southern Baptist Convention are a direct result from VBS. Vacation Bible School is essentially a week-long children's revival.
3). VBS is fun. Wendy Moore and her leadership team use a fun and creative approach to sharing the Gospel. From the penny war, pie-in-the-face, water balloon fight, costumes, candy, Papa John's Pizza - children have fun while learning about the Lord.
Your child needs to experience VBS at First Baptist Moreland! Sunday May 31 to Thursday June 4 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. 3 years old to completed 6th grade. Family Night (closing ceremony) is Sunday June 7 at 6 p.m. T-Shirts are $7 (optional). Click here to register online.
Five VBS Takeaways
First Baptist Church of Moreland's Website
This Sunday at First Baptist Church of Moreland, Evangelist Junior Hill is preaching both morning services. Junior is likely Southern Baptists' most well-known evangelist. He's been in full-time evangelism since 1967. In fact, my dad heard him preach at Vinesville Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama (the church dad was raised in) in the late 1960s. Before going into full-time evangelism, he was a pastor for 11 years in Alabama and Mississippi. He's also the former first vice-president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Junior's from Hartselle, Alabama and has preached to millions of people - in thousands of churches. At 80 years old, his schedule is still full. I remember several years ago asking him to come to First Baptist Moreland for our Fall Revival, and he said he had a 3 year waiting list.
I remember during my Samford University days traveling to Southside Baptist Church in Alabaster, Alabama to hear Junior preach. I'll never forget the line to get saved during the invitation - it was actually so long it went out the back door. It's still the longest invitation I've ever experienced - we sang "Just As I Am" so many times, the music minister lost his voice and needed a sub.
Junior has a well-known sermon called, "The Valley of Baca" based on Psalm 84:6 - perhaps the best message for a discouraged friend. (listen to it here)
God gives evangelists to the church. We live in dark days and troubled times - but our Lord is still in the saving business - using evangelists for great harvests.
Will you join me in inviting people to church and join me in praying for God to move this Sunday? Hear Junior Hill at 8:30 & 11 a.m. Sunday May 17 at FBC Moreland, Georgia
Junior Hill's Website
First Baptist Moreland's Website
Ten years ago today was my first Sunday as pastor at First Baptist Church, Moreland, Georgia. I was the youngest pastor in the county (26 years old) - moved to Moreland in a horse trailer from inner-city New Orleans (see picture below) 11 months married and 8 months pregnant. I was in seminary working at a jewelry store while Sherri was a claims adjuster for Progressive Insurance. We taught two-year-old Sunday School at First Baptist Church, New Orleans, Louisiana.
10 years, 4 children (one via China) and 3 degrees (one was Sherri's) later - here's what I've discovered about pastoral ministry:
1). You must teach people to love God's Word. Church attenders love programs, events, ministries, being involved, serving - all of these are good - but I've learned: you can only know God through His Word. Many times church leaders try to give something they don't have.
2). People stay at a church because of their friends. If people are connected to close friends in a small-group setting such as Sunday School - hook-line-and-sinker you've got them. When someone leaves the church - I look at their circle of friends (or lack of). You should attend church with your closest friends - you'll have a better experience, I promise.
3). Unprepared meetings become detrimental. My first two years at the church I actually attended every single committee meeting (we had 10 committees). Now I only attend deacon and staff meetings. If there's no agenda or goals for a meeting, they end up becoming gripe or gossip sessions. Preparation is a pastor's friend.
4). Building ministry teams is the best way to grow a church. If your class, ministry or event is led, organized and taught by you alone - it will not become larger than 20 or 30 people. My Doctor of Ministry faculty chair at Southeastern Seminary, Dr. Charles Harvey, told me in April 2013, "Dan, if you want FBC Moreland to go to the next level, it will be through ministry teams." The solo approach to leading a ministry and teaching a class - keeps a church small.
5). Boringness kills churches. A stagnant and declining church (or class, ministry or meeting) will almost always be boring. Anticipation, excitement, passion, and vibrancy attracts people. Most ministers will struggle with this: he's a nice guy, but he's...kinda boring. No one wants to attend an average church.
6). Invite the best guest preachers possible. One thing pastors are instructed to do is to "equip the saints" (Ephesians 4:12 ESV). I've found one way to accomplish this is to invite the best preachers possible to preach at FBCM. Next month for Harvest Sunday - Evangelist Junior Hill will be preaching. Revivals and special services are some of the best services of the year.
7). If you can't raise money, you'll struggle in ministry. Everything we do at church costs something. When offerings are up, it actually affects the mood of the congregation. I believe God has blessed FBCM because the church tithes. Every dollar we receive, we've already given away 11% (10% to the Cooperative Program and 1% to the Western Baptist Association). A church shouldn't ask members to tithe, if it isn't tithing.
8). When a church steps out on faith, it usually means it will spend money. Faith and finances tend to be synonymous. Church attenders and givers become frustrated if a church is too conservative with their finances. The other extreme is debt - it handcuffs ministry.
9). Visitors visit the church's website first - if they connect to others while at church they'll turn into members. The majority of our first-time guests will have visited our church's website before they set foot in the building. People want to know three things about a church before they visit: what time does it start, what's the address, and are the people similar to me. The last one is most important.
10). Most people who begin the journey with you, won't finish the journey with you. The average American changes churches seven times in their lifetime. The average adult church member will change churches every eight years. Church leaders have to learn to be thankful for the years of service a church member gave - even if they left for another place.
9 Truths in 9 Years
5 Lessons Learned in 10 Years of Marriage
FBCM's Master Plan
This Sunday is Easter. Many churches are planning Easter Egg Hunts on Saturday and Sunday for children. Our annual Easter Egg Hunt is usually well attended with many unchurched children filling their baskets with candy.
Here are three ways we "connect" children attending the Easter Egg Hunt to other ministries:
1). We give every child a VBS postcard and hold VBS pre-registration. Our VBS is 8 weeks after Easter - we want children and parents walking away with a knowledge of the children's ministry's next big event - VBS. I've discovered children and parents are more open to an invite to a church's VBS than any other event - even Easter Sunday.
2). Along with the VBS postcard, we give a flier to children and parents about Easter Sunday service times. We have more guests at Easter than any other Sunday - many of those guests received an invite the day before at the Egg Hunt.
3). We invite children to Awana. If a child visits our mid-week children's ministry program, Awana, they'll likely have fun and return. Awana is First Baptist Moreland's only non-Southern Baptist ministry program - but it's biblical, mission-centered and enjoyable.
What we DON'T do at the Easter Egg Hunt:
1). Serve food. We used to give away pizza, but it took too long - parents and children come for Easter eggs and candy and then want to go home. Our egg hunt last less than one hour.
2). Collect information. I've discovered unchurched people resent giving a church their contact info at community events such as an Egg Hunt. They're much more receptive to completing a guest card in a worship service - they expect it.
3). Preach a sermon. Before the children hunt for eggs, we ask all the children to sit down in the fellowship hall and tell the story of the Resurrection Eggs (below). It's a great tool that uses Easter eggs to share the Gospel.
I read articles and stories all the time about church staff, how to hire staff, how to keep staff, how to lead staff, and how to equip staff.
The truth is, most of the people church staff are working with are volunteers. Small-group leaders, deacons, trustees, band members, Awana leaders, Upward leaders - they're all unpaid volunteers. Churches are mostly structures of volunteers.
We've all heard the false statement: "You have to run a church like a business." What separates a church from a business is volunteers. Do you go volunteer at your local Wal-Mart? Yes, businesses and churches must receive income, manage their money and maintain a budget.
Churches can function and even grow with an army of volunteers. Here are three things I've learned from volunteers:
1). Volunteers do not like set-up, clean-up. They expect the church staff or custodial staff to prepare for/clean-up after them. If they're giving you 1-2 hours of their time, they don't want to vacuum the floor or take out the trash. A volunteer wants to arrive, serve and leave. Prior/post organization encourages more volunteerism.
2). If a volunteer becomes excited about something and wants to do something new in the church, encourage them. As long as the new ministry fits with the plan and purpose of the church, the volunteer should be equipped and prepared for the job. I've discovered when someone is excited about something - they'll put more time, effort and their own finances to see it succeed.
3). Volunteers thrive in structure. Remember, a volunteer doesn't attend the weekly church staff meetings, nor do they know who works under who. They do want to know when they have a question or an issue, whom should they speak with. When a volunteer wants or needs something, the staff should see to it that their need is met. Bureaucracy makes volunteers want to quit.
Many pastors/staff members have a bachelors degree (4 years), a Master of Divinity (3 years) and possibly an advanced degree (3+ years). This means a large number of ministers have been in college/seminary 7-10+ years. This is alot of schooling, and when you're at school, you're surrounded by the academic community.
God leads you to the field, and you're pastoring a church and instead of discussing soteriology, you're talking about fixing the sound equipment in the sanctuary. Conversations shift from John Calvin to Papa John's Pizza.
How can a pastor stay "in touch" with the academic community while pastoring a church?
Professional Societies allow the pastor's office to connect with the school's department chair. Evangelical societies require members to sign a statement of faith in the inerrancy of Scripture.
Here are four societies I'm a member of and enjoy reading their journals.
Evangelical Theological Society (largest evangelical society). Membership is $30 and you must have a Th.M. or Ph.D. to join. Membership includes a quarterly journey along with regional and national meetings. If you're to join one society, you should begin with ETS.
Evangelical Homiletics Society (a society for preaching). Membership is $50 and is open to anyone to join. Membership includes a bi-annual journal and multiple national meetings. Pastors should consider joining EHS - they promote biblical preaching.
Evangelical Missiological Society (a society to advance the Great Commission). Membership is $30 and is open to anyone. Membership includes an annual book, a bulletin published three times a year along with regional meetings and an annual conference. EMS promotes strategic thinking in missions, in which churches and pastors are included in the conversation.
Evangelical Philosophical Society (promotes evangelical philosophy in churches and academies). Membership is $37 and you must have at least a M.A. in philosophy or theology - a M.Div. does not qualify. Membership includes their renown bi-annual journal, Philosophia Christi along with regional and annual meetings. EPS helps answer some of our culture's major questions from an evangelical viewpoint. Questions such as, "Does God Exist?"
Tonight was "Popcorn with the Pastor" in Awana. Once a year, I join Awana and answer (or try to) every question asked. Awana is a mid-week children's ministry program that focuses on three areas: Bible Study, Scripture Learning & Recreation. The children rotate between stations - along with an opening and closing ceremony.
Awana began in 1941 in Chicago, Illinois as an independent Baptist ministry using innovation to share the Gospel with children.
If your church is considering Awana - you need three things for a Wednesday evening Awana club:
1). You need an hour and a half - most church programs are written for an hour - but Awana is designed for 90 to 120 minutes. At First Baptist Moreland, Awana meets on Wednesdays from 6:15 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. from August to May.
2). You need plenty of leaders. We have between 40-50 clubbers (through 5th grade) and have 15-20 leaders. Awana is built on consistency - children need to see the same leaders every week.
3). You need an organizational leadership team. Awana involves collecting dues, collecting an offering, tracking attendance, recording clubber book progress, listening to Scripture, awarding badges - we're fortunate to have an outstanding commander (Wendy Moore) and incredible secretary (Beth Johnson) that hold Awana together. It's better to not do something, rather than do a sloppy job.
Even though it's not a Southern Baptist program - consider Awana for your mid-week children's ministry. Awana has children memorizing Scripture, learning Bible stories and having fun.
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