Pastor, how’s your outreach?

It’s November 1st.  Where did the first ten months of 2021 go?  Like most years, this year has flown by.  Heidi and I had a great end to our September and a fabulous October.  In His grace, God gave Heidi and me two more grandchildren. We celebrated our seventh anniversary at First Southern Baptist Church. Many of our members showed their love and appreciation to Heidi and me during October.  We are grateful to God for so many things. 

Yesterday our church invited our city to come for our annual Trunk-or-Treat.  It was a great way to end a rather great month for Heidi and me. I’ve thought about our event a lot since it was completed Sunday afternoon. Pastor, I want to encourage you to find ways to invite your city to your church continually.  I  think there are a few practical reasons pastors and churches should consider hosting events at your church.

1.       It builds excitement among your people.

I have found creating events in your church gets people excited for Kingdom work. It reminds them of their purpose and mission as a church. It isn’t about them.  It causes your church to look outwardly and find ways to bless others around your area.

2.       It fulfills the call of the church to reach into the city.

When the people of God were in Babylonian exile, what did God communicate to His people through the prophet Jeremiah?  He tells them to live in the place of their exile.  To build houses, plant gardens, marry, and in general, live.  He continued to say to them as they live in the land of exile, pursue the well-being of their city.  Pray for your city.  See to it that your city I’m in thrives (See Jeremiah 29:4-7). We, also, are exiles and foreigners in a land not our own.  What do you think God will tell you and me?  Live in your city; bless your city; shine your light in the city in which you live.  Is your church blessing your city?  Does your church make your city a stronger and better place to live?  Is your church shining Christ’s light into your city? 

3.       We invited Salina and many strangers were blessed by our church. 

At our Trunk-or-Treat, we handed out 54 bags of complete Tex-Mex Chicken Soup.  54 different homes picked up a bag with an invitation to church.  Our people donated everything we gave away.  Pastor, what are you doing where you were able to bless 54 different homes in your city in the span of an hour and a half at zero cost to your church? 

4.       It communicates to the people in your city that your church is there and you care.

This event has a dual purpose. First, it blesses our young families in our church with a safe trick-or-treating option.  Most of our trunks were staffed by our “older” families.  Secondly, it brought many strangers onto our physical campus.  In my opinion, there is great wisdom in creating multiple ways people assemble at your church besides Sunday morning.  Is your building remaining unoccupied during the week?  What can you do to invite your city to your church?  Get people in the habit of looking for your church.

We have no idea how many people came to our church on Sunday afternoon.  A conservative guess would be 300 people.  It was so much fun to see our people excited. I loved seeing all the children in their costumes and interacting with their parents.  It blessed my heart to hear parents thanking us for the food and putting on the event.  It was a very good Sunday.

Pastor, Christmas is just around the corner.  What are you doing to meet the needs of your community? What types of things can you do to get your people excited for gospel connections?  Our church loves Christmas. Here are a few ideas we are doing around our church this Christmas Season.

a.       Middle School Hoodie and Shoe drive.  In the past, we have collected hoodies and shoes for one of the middle schools. This year they contacted us and asked if we would be willing to do it again. 

b.       St Francis Christmas gifts for foster children. We are adopting 50 foster children this Christmas and will purchase Christmas gifts for them.

c.       Operation Christmas Child Shoe Boxes – We are collecting boxes from our people and will act as a drop-off point.

d.       Christmas Eve Cup of Cheer distribution. After our Christmas Eve service, our people will grab a Christmas Cup with packets of tea and hot chocolate and distribute them around Salina to people who are working on Christmas Eve.

Pastor, I don’t give you that list to make you feel guilty, but to encourage you to consider ways this Christmas you can get your people on mission with God and bless the city God has planted you in. Get creative.  Get other people involved.  By chance, have you noticed that Christmas will fall on a Sunday in 2022?  How can we leverage next Christmas for God’s glory and other people’s good?  You can’t wait until Thanksgiving of 2022 to begin to plan. 

Have you planned anything yet for Christmas 2021? It’s not too late.  What if you think of one thing?  The Christmas Eve distribution is very doable.  If you have a question about how to go about doing it, let me know. I’d be more than happy to share my thoughts.  Do something this Christmas. It will get your people excited. It fulfills your call as a church. You will practically meet needs in Jesus’ name, and you will let people in your city know you are there and you care. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Before you leave the blog, let me know what your church is doing for outreach. My guess is we can learn from each other. If you have questions, feel free to ask.

The Executive Committee of the SBC

It has been a while since I’ve written. I’m hoping to start writing much more in the future. Here are a few thoughts on the happenings in the Southern Baptist Convention and the Executive Committee.

I turned 56 last week.  Therefore, I’ve been a Southern Baptist for 56 years, 9 months, and a handful of days. Out of those years, I’ve been an SBC pastor for nearly 25 years.  I have always been proud of my affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention.  That is until the last few weeks.  I’ve watched with sadness the work of the Executive Committee of the SBC over the waiving of the attorney-client privilege.  The Executive Committee of the SBC is one of 12 entities of the convention.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let me go back and set the stage.

First, let me stress, I’ve never been in the “Room Where it Happens.”  Heidi and I love the Hamilton Broadway musical.  In the second act, the Aaron Burr character talks about wanting to be in the “Room Where it Happens.”  He wanted to be in the “know” and be a part of the decision-makers.  As I write this blog, please know I have never been in that room.  Thus, I know there is much information I am not privy to, and I offer much grace to each person who has been in that room.  Furthermore, as an SBC pastor, who is very grieved in what I’ve seen, I offer this criticism with much grace and love to the victims of sexual abuse from the hands of the clergy and men of power within the SBC.

Now a little of history. In 2019, a scathing Houston Chronicle report outlined the sexual abuse of over 700 victims of clergy and men of power within the SBC.  Since the report, we have seen men fall due to sexual abuse or morally inappropriate relationships.  Men like Paige Patterson, Judge Paul Pressler, and Frank Page, then President of the Executive Committee, have had to resign, or they are involved with legal battles.  Sexual abuse has been a real problem in the SBC, and there are hundreds of victims in the wake of this abuse. 

Fast forward to the 2021 SBC Convention. In 2021, the messengers of the SBC voted overwhelmingly, asking for the following:

  1. President-elect Litton to appoint a sex abuse task force;
  2. To secure and submit to an independent investigation;
  3. For the Executive Committee to waive attorney-client privilege.
  4. To provide a public and thorough report to be given at the convention in 2022.

I watched this motion online and was very encouraged and proud of the action. This motion was a good, bold, and courageous move; in light of all the information, it was the right move for us to take.  This would not give up representation, but it would assure a very open investigation and not allow people to withhold necessary documentation and evidence. The motion was presented and was passed overwhelmingly by the over 15,000 messengers of the SBC. 

A little about SBC polity.  The Southern Baptist Convention is technically only in existence for two days every year.  Every June, the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention convene in a different city to discuss the business, ministry, and mission of the SBC.  This convention acts as the “Sole Membership” of the SBC.  The authority of the messengers is beyond question.  By all accounts, the SBC is a bottom-up organization that is run by many autonomous churches in the United States and represented by the messengers at the convention.  The Executive Committee of the SBC is made up of representatives of state conventions and is tasked with the work of the SBC in between conventions.  It is tasked with carrying out the desires of the messengers at the yearly conventions.

 I understand there are legal complications I am not privy to.  However, the question in front of the Executive Committee is not, “Should we waive our attorney-client privilege,”  but “Since we must waive our attorney-client privilege, how can we do it legally, thoroughly,  and safely?”  Do you see the difference? The E.C. has secured legal counsel that has made this process difficult. The E.C. has taken two votes on rather or not to waive attorney-client privilege.  Both votes have failed.  They are currently in another 7-day extension and will reconvene to discuss the matter again and to vote rather or not to waive attorney-client privilege.

While I understand there are long-term and long-ranging issues we might face if the E.C. waives their attorney-client privilege, messengers of the SBC has spoken, and the E.C. must figure out a way to adhere to the overwhelming voice of the one member of the SBC. My prayer is the will of the messengers will be overwhelmingly approved this week as the Executive Committee once again meets.

What do I hope happens?

  1. E.C. committee: Follow the overwhelming will of the messengers.  Vote this week to waive attorney-client privilege.  There must be a thorough and transparent investigation. We owe it to victims of sexual abuse, and we owe it to all Southern Baptists.
  2. E.C. Committee: Submit to the authority of the Task Force, Guidepost Solutions, and the authority of the messengers of the SBC.   
  3. My heart is grieved as I listen to women speak of their ongoing pain and victimization of sexual abuse at the hands of the SBC.  To you, the victim, I am genuinely sorry.  You do not deserve the abuse you have received, and I am sincerely sorry. We must do better.
  4. Finally, and to be clear, because of the wake of victims within the SBC and to ensure a thorough investigation, we must do the right thing, waive attorney-client privilege and investigate how widespread and deep the sexual abuse goes.

Since none of us are in the room, what can we do? First, as always, pray.  Secondly, every church must create a safe place for men and women to attend.  While we can’t guarantee complete safety, we must take viable steps to do everything we can to make sure all people are safe and well taken care of at church.  All we do is for the glory of God and the good of others.  Let us make a concerted effort to bring glory to God in the treatment of our people, especially our women and children.  Executive Committee, for the sake of sexual abuse survivors and the justice they are seeking, do the right thing; wave attorney-client privilege, trust God to keep the SBC, and let us seek justice for those who have been abused.