Month: November 2016

Holy Spirit rewires heart of believer, Lino says

AUSTIN—Nathan Lino, SBTC president and pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church, describes the early years of planting his church as some of the hardest years for him and his wife Nicole.

On the verge of leaving the ministry altogether, Lino recalls getting alone with the Holy Spirit of God and waiting to be filled.

“It was still really hard, but I woke up each day and said ‘let’s do this,’ not because of me but because something inside me had miraculously changed.”

The filling of the Holy Spirit served as the cornerstone of Lino’s message to pastors and church leaders on the opening night of the SBTC annual meeting at Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, Nov. 14.

The second of six messages based on Romans 8, Lino described the radical transition for Christians from life in the flesh to life in the Spirit.

“Imagine with me for a moment that you could switch bodies with someone,” he told messengers.

“Here’s the truth about you: Two completely different people have lived inside of your body. … The old person that used to live inside your body was God’s enemy, but the new person living inside your body is God’s son or daughter, heir to the divine fortune.”

According to Romans 8:9, which says “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you,” there is a guarantee of having the Holy Spirit for followers of Jesus, Lino said.

Just as every animal is designed for a specific habitat, Lino said the Scripture is clear that each person is also wired for a specific kingdom and is either bound by the nature of the flesh or by the nature of God.

In the same way a fish would need to be rewired to survive outside of water, Lino said the Holy Spirit rewires the heart of a believer.

“When you believed in Jesus with the kind of belief that saves you, God took you out of the kingdom of man and put you into the habitat of the kingdom of God.”

Lino urged the pastors, their wives and other church leaders in the meeting to remember that “as your relationship with the Holy Spirit goes, so will go your life.”

“Maybe you’ve been doing a bunch of stuff for the Spirit, but you have not been communing with the Spirit,” he suggested.

While the temptation might be to flee ministry or move to a different context when ministry grows difficult, Lino encouraged weary church leaders in the room to first wait on the Holy Spirit.

“For some of us the answer is not a change of context. The answer is to go and get alone with the Holy Spirit of God and stay there until he comes and until he fills you. … If you do that, you will get up and leave that moment, but you will not be leaving the Spirit, and you will walk through your day in the power of the living God.”

Irrevocable love of God gives Christians victory and intimacy, Matte says

AUSTIN—The ironclad, irrevocable love of God described at the close of Romans 8 served as the text for Gregg Matte Nov. 15 as he closed out the 2016 Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Annual Meeting.  The pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church spoke of Paul “loading the bases” of verses 1-30 with promises to believers, then turned his attention to the intimacy with God made possible through victory over death.

“We have a God who has given us victory. He’s proven it and provided it by the cross,” Matte told the audience. Working through the series of rhetorical questions of verses 31-35, he celebrated Paul’s assurance that nothing can prevail against those whom God has saved.

“For Jesus to be given to us in salvation on the cross was a tremendously difficult thing for God to give,” Matte said, describing the pain of his death. “If Jesus Christ didn’t give you or me one other thing in our lives, he’s already given us too much,” he said. “Therefore, I walk in gratitude with God, not with arrogance, but submission and say, ‘I give you my life.’”

With the question of who can bring a charge to God’s elect, Paul points to the protection God provides, Matte said. “There is no accusation that can come because of justification through Jesus Christ. It’s not because I’m without sin that I have no accusation. It’s because I’m with Jesus,” he reminded.

In answering the question of who can condemn, Matte pointed to Paul’s testimony that Christ died, was raised and makes intercession for believers. “I’ve got a church, friends, a wife and a mom who are praying for me. But the fact that Jesus is interceding for me and for you is amazing. That’s incredible. That’s tremendous power,” he added, reiterating that “no condemnation can come upon you because Jesus has stepped in the middle.”

Matte said the intimacy of God’s love is revealed as Paul states that nothing can separate a believer from God’s love. “In all of these things we are more than super-duper, hyper, completely victorious through him,” he explained, emphasizing the extent of the secure relationship. “It is not through works, religion, a certain church or baptism. It’s through him who loved us.”

The final verses of the chapter provide “the home run over the fence and the fireworks go off,” Matte said. “There is intimacy that comes through Jesus Christ, and it comes through the victory we have in him. Nothing can prevail against us, and nothing can stop God’s love for us.”

God’s love is based on his character, Matte explained. “If it were based on my actions, there’s plenty of things that can separate us,” he said. While disobedience through sin can hinder intimacy, it will never change the believer’s proximity to God, he insisted.

Using the account of the prodigal son as an illustration of God’s irrevocable love, Matte said, “God has given us victory in the cross and that victory is to bring intimacy so that you and I, the elder brother or the prodigal, can come into the embrace of the father and realize on bended knee that we can put our head against the breast of the father and hear God’s heartbeat for our lives and for the world.”

“You are not alone”: Panel discusses reality of discouragement in ministry

AUSTIN—Pastors in a late night panel discussion at the SBTC Annual Meeting agreed that whether discouragement comes from within, or from the words and actions of others, it is an inherent part of the job of ministry.

“We all understand what it means to face discouragement. The truth is, as pastors we all experience discouragement. … In many ways, we cannot avoid it because of what we face on a regular basis,” said Kevin Ueckert, pastor of First Baptist Church in Georgetown and moderator of the Nov.14 panel discussion.

While wrestling recently with wounded relationships, panelist Matt Carter, pastor of The Austin Stone Community Church, learned to look to Jesus as his example in discouraging times.

“I think my knee-jerk reaction has been to want to push people away. The only thing that has gotten me through it is just to remember all the people that betrayed Jesus. We find ourselves in really good company when we’re discouraged in ministry,” Carter said. “God didn’t call me into the ministry to be loved, but he called me into the ministry to love, and that’s been kind of keeping me together.”

Carter urged pastors who don’t have a mentor figure, or a person to whom they can confide, to ask for those relationships.

“If you don’t have that, ask God specifically for that,” he said.

John Powell, associate pastor at Northeast Houston Baptist Church in Humble, said mentors and gospel-centered relationships with other ministers have proven vital in seasons of discouragement.

“Someone who has been there before you and can see it from the other end of the problem is pretty huge,” he said.        

Powell also encouraged pastors with a word from Romans 5, which says “hope does not put us to shame.”

“You are not alone, and your sufferings are not an accident. They are there to produce something in you that the Holy Spirit will walk with you through,” Powell said.

To keep negativity and discouragement from spilling over into preaching, David Fleming, pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, said he tries to create space to focus on being a communicator of God’s Word.

“It’s important for me to separate everything from the preaching moment and from leadership,” he said.

Hurt and discouragement in ministry are not reserved only for pastors but also can trickle down to a minister’s wife. Sometimes a spouse can feel the discouragement even more than her husband, Fleming said.

“It’s really harder on my wife. I have the ministry, and I have the pulpit, and I have the leadership, and I’ve had all of that to balance the discouragement and difficulties. It’s lonely as a ministry spouse, typically,” he said.

In an effort to spare his wife from some of the discouragement, Fleming said he kept many hard things inside, instead of opening up, but has since learned to share more and lean on her as a prayer partner.

“There were lots of times where she just wanted to be part of my world, and my protecting her, at that point, became contrary to honoring her. It’s a fine balance,” he said.

Fleming encouraged pastors to love, encourage and walk with their wives through the challenges and to create opportunities for them to be filled in ministry.

Powell added that he’s found it helpful to sometimes wait for God’s resolution in hard situations before sharing them with his wife, so that he can “share with her from a position of victory instead of defeat.”

Ultimately, for the pastor or pastor’s wife walking through discouragement in their life and ministry, Carter gave a simple reminder: “Remember what got you into it in the first place. Go back in your mind and in your heart to the initial calling God placed on your life.”

$1.375 million in grants to help seminaries, colleges, children’s home, church revitalization

AUSTIN—The Executive Board of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention elected new officers, approved new affiliation requests, and provided $1,375,000 in grants from reserve funds to the help Southern Baptist ministries in Texas and beyond the state.

The board elected Kie Bowman, pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, as chairman; Robert Welch, pastor of Rock Hill Baptist Church in Brownsboro, as vice-chairman; and Joe Rivera, pastor of Primeria Iglesia Bautista in Grand Prairie, as secretary.

Requests from 22 churches seeking affiliation with the SBTC were approved as the convention continues to grow. The number of affiliated churches stands at 2,610 with eight removed, three of which had disbanded, three merged with another church and two disaffiliated.

The Board released $1 million previously designated for transitioning returning IMB workers to church planting and revitalization efforts through Reach Houston. Only one church planter is still in the process and will be funded through budgeted church planting and revitalization funds.  

Anticipated year-end reserves in excess of the six months goal as well as the portion released from use for Reach Houston allowed the board to approve funds for a $200,000 grant to the Southern Baptist Convention for missions and ministry, $250,000 to Criswell College to assist with construction of a campus student dormitory, $150,000 to Jacksonville College for general operations or construction projects, and $100,000 to Texas Baptist Home for Children to offset a significant reduction in state funding due to a court ruling limiting the number of children that can be cared for in group homes.

Other grants included $135,000 over three years to the Dakota Baptist Convention to support pastoral salary and benefits for a church in Williston, N.D.; $200,000 to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for student center construction; and $50,000 to the Louisiana Baptist Convention for disaster relief.

Grants were also approved to fund costs related to cultivating diversity among SBTC churches and ministries, a revitalization consultant, technology projects, line item overage, year-end staff bonuses, SBTC reception and exhibit booth at the 2017 SBC meeting, a convention vehicle and a compensation study.

The board reaffirmed a rebranding project approved last spring to examine how SBTC can best present itself to pastors and church leaders with an ever-diversifying constituency.

Several SBTC ministry leaders brought reports of work among Spanish-speaking congregations, refugee and Asian people groups, and Texas borderlands church planting missionaries.

Chief Financial Officer Joe Davis reported that Cooperative Program receipts are $200,782 behind 2015 receipts with a net operating income of $884,128 through October. Davis expects that gap to close following a five-Sunday month in October and a typical pattern of strong year-end giving.

Contributions from SBTC churches to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions amounted to $2,765,492 for reporting year that ended in September, $31,205 more than the previous year. With four months reported for giving through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, receipts are significantly lower at $510,439 as compared to $1,019,287 for the same period last year. Giving through the Reach Texas Offering for state missions was slightly lower than last year at $63,143 for the first month of reporting.

The board welcomed new members including Brian Haynes of League City, Maria Rolf of Carrollton, Norman Rushing of Pampa and Caleb Turner of Mesquite.

Resolutions address racial reconciliation, civil discourse, human dignity issues

AUSTIN—As post-election protestors filled the streets in some U.S. cities, messengers of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention overwhelmingly approved resolutions dedicated to the reconciliation of believers to one another and to their communities. Among the issues addressed—race, civil discourse, religious liberty and orphan care—the resolutions exhorted churches to be peace and light in troubled times.

More than 800 messengers approved seven resolutions, Nov. 15, during the SBTC Annual Meeting hosted by Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin. Each measure passed overwhelmingly without discussion.

Prompted by a tumultuous year of racial discord and topping the list of seven resolutions, messengers approved a resolution “On Racial Reconciliation.” In doing so the messengers agreed to “rededicate ourselves to the responsibility and privilege of loving and discipling people of all races and ethnicities in our communities.”

The resolution called on SBTC churches and all Texas Southern Baptist entities and convention committees to intentionally seek ethnic and racial diversity in hiring and appointing leadership positions. Individual believers must work for racial “reconciliation in their personal relationships and local communities as they demonstrate the power of the gospel to unite all persons in Christ.”

Faithful commitment to the first resolution can go a long way in healing the church and nation divided by a long and “acrimonious” election.

In the second resolution “On Prayer for Government Leaders and Civil Discourse,” Christians were urged to prayerfully submit to God and his word and to “honor, and obey, all elected and appointed officials.”

The resolution recognized that people of faith landed across the political spectrum but called on Christians to give evidence to their fidelity to the gospel in speech seasoned with “salt” and graciousness.

Two resolutions—“On Meeting the Needs of Those in Our Communities with Disabilities” and “On Supporting and Advocating for Orphan Care in the Church”—served to remind the churches of their role in caring for the needs of those who cannot care for themselves.

The greatest need for thousands of Texas children is a place to call home and a family to call their own. After drawing attention to the 153 million orphans worldwide, the resolution on orphan care revealed 30,000 Texas children are in the foster care system. Some of those children will be reconciled to their parents, but others can never return and are available for adoption. All of them need Christian families to open their homes in the interim.

The resolution encouraged families to consider offering their homes and lives to these children. It also called on churches to prayerfully and materially support those who make that commitment and for pastors to keep the issue before their congregations.

Most of the resolutions were grounded in the truth of a common dignity afforded all humanity as image bearers of God. Caring for the disabled and their caregivers promotes the pro-life message and gives relief to those who might not find it in insurance coverage, public assistance or their own families.

The resolution on caring for the disabled noted the benefits of Christian fellowship for the disabled and their caregivers and called on “churches to love and minister to this population by developing methods and resources to disciple, fellowship with, and assist them.”

Whether ministering to the marginalized in the community or within their own congregations, Texas Southern Baptists are to have a “distinctive and clear witness in our culture.” The resolution “On Prayer and Evangelism Emphasis” served to remind the church of its need to humbly obey and submit to the Lordship of Christ, including his call to make disciples of all nations.

The resolution stated, “We exhort all Texas Southern Baptist churches to make a visible, concentrated effort to raise the awareness of evangelism and equip their members to effectively share the full gospel.”

But speaking the gospel into the public square is becoming increasingly difficult. Local laws and social pressures cause Christians to self-regulate their speech. The resolution “On Religious Liberty” recognized that “authentic Christianity produces a culture that is often at odds with the culture at large.” Because religious liberty is a “basic and essential human right,” the convention resolved to hold elected officials accountable to ensuring that basic right.

The resolution also admonished the United States government to vigorously advocate for the religious liberty of all people in America and abroad.

In its final resolution the committee thanked Great Hills Baptist Church for its hospitality and accommodations by serving has host for the 2016 SBTC Annual Meeting. The committee resolved to “hereby express our profound gratitude to the Lord and to all those He used to bring about a meeting characterized by evangelism, worship, and encouragement.”

Read full text of the seven resolutions here.

Holy Spirit must not be neglected, Bible Conference speakers say

AUSTIN—The Holy Spirit is essential, not optional, to the Christian life, but too many believers attempt to live in their own strength, speakers at this year’s SBTC Bible Conference told pastors and church members, Nov. 13-14. The theme for two-day conference at Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin was the Holy Spirit, a topic on which Southern Baptists are often silent.

“If you want to walk with the Lord in obedience in these evil days, and if you want to experience the presence and the power of God in your ministry, then you must be filled with the Holy Spirit,” Matt Carter, pastor of The Austin Stone Community Church, told conference attendees during his message from Ephesians 5:15-21.

Carter affirmed that every believer receives the fullness of the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation, but Scripture is clear that Christians must continually be filled with the Holy Spirit.

“Although the presence of the Holy Spirit is in us, the filling of the Holy Sprit is not always in us,” he said. “If left unattended in your life, the power of the Holy Sprit will leave your life.”

Rhys Stenner, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ga., encouraged participants to recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives, adding, “The Spirit is not hiding from us.”

“The Spirit of God is a certainty for every Christian today. You and I can live a life filled with the Holy Spirit, no excuses,” said Stenner, who spoke during two sessions.

Stenner challenged Christians to include discussion of the Holy Spirit in their gospel presentations since no one can be saved apart from receiving the Holy Spirit, according to Acts 2:38.

But salvation is merely the beginning of the Holy Spirit’s work in a believer’s life, he said. The Spirit also empowers unity in the church.

“When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, some of our personal preferences just don’t matter so much because we are captivated with him and we look to him,” Stenner said.

Juan Sanchez, pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, expanded the theme of unity in Christ during his message from Ephesians 4:1-3.

“We’re all inclined toward our personal preferences, but instead we’re to deal with one another in humility, with gentleness and patience, bearing with one another, holding one another up in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Christians must fight for unity in the church, Sanchez said.

“You can’t fight for other people whom you don’t know. One of the tragedies in many of our churches today is that our membership does not know one another. You need to fight by getting to know the people you’re sitting with every Sunday morning.”

Sanchez explained that unity does not equal uniformity and that the Holy Spirit’s work in uniting a diverse group of people in the local church becomes a glorious display of God’s glory to the world.

“When the world looks at us, do they see a desperate people placing their hopes on temporary solutions that ultimately cannot solve their problems; do they see a divided people who are fighting against one another about mere human preferences; or do they see a diverse people unexplainably brought together by the gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to display God’s glory?” Sanchez asked.

Dante Wright, pastor of Sweet Home Baptist Church in Round Rock, preached from Jeremiah 20:7-9 on the temptation to quit ministry. Disunity in the church, he said, is evident when there is “more fighting in the church than disciple-making in the church,” which leaves pastors discouraged.

“Even God’s greatest servants get discouraged,” Wright said, but he exhorted pastors not to quit. 

“When you quit on God, remember you have forfeited the opportunity to win with God,” he said.

Wright said the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, brings strength and encouragement in ministry.

Southwestern Seminary preaching professor Steven Smith delivered a message from Luke 15 on the unrighteousness of the prodigal son and the self-righteousness of the older son. Jesus calls the unrighteous and the self-righteous to repentance, he explained.

“Heaven is not a celebration of your ability to get there; heaven is a perpetual celebration of God’s ability to get people there who could have never gotten there by themselves,” Smith said.

Churches become self-righteous when there is much activity but no presence of the power of the Holy Spirit, he said. “God can bless any church except the self-righteous church because they don’t see their need for God.”

Steve Gaines, SBC president and pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, Tenn., concluded the Bible Conference with a message on the role of the Holy Spirit in prayer.

“You’ll never be anointed by the Holy Spirit until you make prayer a priority in your life,” Gaines said. “God doesn’t fill people with the Holy Spirit who are prayerless.”

Prayerless is the worst form of pride, he explained.

“You can change the world if you pray,” Gaines said. “You can be a catalyst for spiritual awakening and revival, but you must pray.”

Ministry Café panel fields questions on ministry

AUSTIN—Southern Baptist churches must be careful not to confuse clarity with coldness, stated one of three panelists fielding questions during the Ministry Café segment of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Bible Conference Nov. 14.

Asked how to change the characterization of Christians as being hateful to the LGBT community, Steven Smith called on pastors to be disciplined in how they present biblical truth, avoiding remarks that harm individuals and families who are dealing with same-sex attraction.

“Scripture is clear, but don’t confuse clarity with coldness,” Smith said. “These are people, and we must be disciplined in our understanding and how we present the message. Do it in a gracious way.”

Jim Henry, emeritus pastor of First Baptist Church of Orlando, said God was teaching him to love people whose lifestyle he hates. “They are broken people who need to know God loves them and that I’m not out to hurt them but to walk with them.”

Rhys Stenner, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ga., agreed. “When you know someone, that makes a difference,” he stated, referring to a friendship he’d developed with a local gay rights leader. “When church members say ‘pray for our son,’ it always softens my heart to not say stuff that’s going to be completely unhelpful.”

Moderating the discussion as president of the Bible Conference, host pastor Danny Forshee of Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin advised pastors to realize they are preaching to people who struggle with same-sex attraction. “It is real, and you don’t realize this is in your church,” he said, distinguishing between those who are attracted and those who give in to the temptation.

“If there’s a parent in your church with a son or daughter who is struggling with this, they’re so tempted to change their theology at that point. They read about it, pray about it, but refuse to cross the line of saying it’s not a sin,” he stated. “There’s a blessing and honoring on their lives.”

Several questions from the audience related to the conference theme with one person asking how to open the door for the Holy Spirit’s work in spite of an obstinate atmosphere.

“You have to be patient. You have to pray. You have to be filled with the Spirit yourself and not get angry when others aren’t responding,” counseled Stenner.

Asked how to balance preparation with spontaneity attributed to the Holy Spirit, Stenner said, “I want to make sure I don’t underestimate what the Spirit can do in preparation.”

Henry encouraged prioritizing study time along with calendar planning. “I found that 90 to 95 percent of the time if I prayed and planned it worked out, and anything else I considered a divine interruption.”

Smith acknowledged that Southern Baptists often consider the Holy Spirit an aberration who ought to be feared. “We need a higher love and appreciation for the Holy Spirit.”

Forshee concluded, “I want to operate in the gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit. Empty me of me, and fill me with him.”

Empowerment of Holy Spirit facilitates Christian witness

AUSTIN—The best-equipped disciple of Jesus Christ will accomplish very little in evangelism apart from the empowerment of the Spirit of God, according to Matt Queen, who addressed a Nov. 14 breakout session of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Bible Conference. The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary evangelism professor called on the packed room full of church leaders to recover their dependence on the Holy Spirit when sharing their faith.

Calling Jesus’ apostles the most well-equipped disciples in the history of the world, Queen pointed to the instruction recorded in Acts 1:4-8 that they were to wait on the Holy Spirit in order to receive the power needed to witness.

“Spirit-filled witnesses require nothing more than the empowerment of the Spirit of God himself,” Queen said. “The early church didn’t have evangelism training,” he reminded, countering the excuse of not knowing what to say. 

“If you know enough of the gospel to be saved by it, you know enough of the gospel to share it,” he insisted.

“Being a Spirit-filled witness entails nothing different than walking in the Spirit, living in the Spirit and being led by the Spirit,” he explained. “Sometimes the reason we tell ourselves we will not witness in the power of the Spirit is because we tell ourselves it’s something different than being filled by the Spirit of God.”

Queen encouraged believers to align their Christian walk with their profession of faith. “No one is going to listen to our message of the gospel if the way we walk is the opposite of the way we talk.” Furthermore, a believer’s countenance should give testimony to living in the Spirit, he said.

Just as the apostle Paul was led by the Spirit in knowing where to share his faith, Queen encouraged believers to be sensitive to opportunities to witness.

Various fears can cause believers to run from witnessing, Queen said, citing concern over the unknown, anxiety about safety, thoughts of rejection or failure, dread of past negative experiences, and worry over the perception of manipulation or fanaticism.

“Spirit-filled witnesses have nothing to fear, except for God, because of the boldness that the Holy Spirit gives to us,” he reminded. Even worry over being “brought up before magistrates” should not prevent giving a gospel witness since God has promised the Holy Spirit will provide the words for such a circumstance, he added.

“The same Spirit that fills and indwells you now is the same Spirit that can help you share the gospel,” Queen reiterated, warning against quenching the Holy Spirit.

“Spirit-filled witnesses experience nothing more joyous than Spirit-dependent evangelism,” he added, reminding believers that the gospel is not just for lost people. “Whenever you’re recounting it with your mouth, the Holy Spirit does something in your life that causes you to have joy again. You realize you’re not going to give up on God because God didn’t give up on you.”

8 Mistakes We Make On Short-Term Mission Trips

The number of Christians in the United States who participate in short-term mission trips—those lasting a year or less—has risen exponentially over the last 50 years, growing grown from 540 in 1965 to more than 1.5 million annually, with an estimated $2 billion per year spent on the effort, according to Missiology Journal.

Sadly, in recent years, there has been some negative light shed upon short-term mission trips. Many questions have arisen, such as, Are the trips truly advancing the mission of God? Are the teams that go on these trips more of a help or a hindrance to the missionary who is living there? Are we really being good stewards of our resources? Would it more helpful to send the money directly to the missionary and the ministry instead of paying for plane tickets? 

These are all great questions and worthy of our consideration. However, all of these thoughts shouldn’t discourage missions but rather make us better in our missions efforts. The act of going is important. Jesus left his home to be among the people and to bring them a message of hope, love and life. Plus, Jesus has commanded us all to “go” in the Great Commission. 

However, we’re not perfect; we’re going to make mistakes. And, here are at least eight mistakes we make on short-term mission trips: 

1. Believing you’re the Savior: We must remember that we are not the hope of the world—Jesus is. What countries, cities and people need is Jesus, not me and my passport. At the very best, I can make a temporary impact; however, the gospel will make an eternal impact. Give them Jesus. 

2. Treating missionaries like travel agents: Now, don’t get me wrong. Often, missionaries are the best people to help plan the details of the trip and travel. However, we must realize that is not their primary reason for being there. They’re calling is to minister to the community, share the gospel and make disciples … not to be your on-call travel agent. 

3. Going with our own agendas: Sometimes teams go on a mission trip with their own agendas, looking for the missionaries, cities and local ministries to meet their demands. What missionaries, ministries and communities need are long-term partners who will encourage, energize and invest in continuing the kingdom work that has already begun there. Be a help, not a hindrance. Remember, if you make a mess and then leave, they are the ones that have to stay and clean it up. 

4. Operating as though they are on your turf: Once, while on a mission trip, one of our team members said, “Wow. There are a lot of foreigners here!” Wait! What? Seriously? Yes, there are a few foreigners here. It’s us! Remember, you’re on their land, their streets and in their homes. Be sure to respect their culture, context and history. Once again, cultures need the gospel, not a Western mindset or even the “American Church.” People will sing and do church differently than what you’re used to. Praise God for that. There is a lot we can learn from people in different contexts. 

5. Doing things for people that they can do for themselves: We must ask ourselves, “Why are we flying halfway across the world and paying thousands of dollars just to paint a wall all by ourselves?” Are we doing jobs for people that they can do for themselves? Last time I checked, people in developing countries can hold babies, build fences and hand out beans. So why are you doing it for them? If painting a wall or handing out food is really a need in a place, then invite people in those villages to do it with you. Or, if our teams are going to do these projects alone, then we must make sure that we’re doing them with gospel intentionality! For example, sometimes, handing out food opens the door for gospel conversations in closed countries. Likewise, painting or light construction can accomplish needed work that would be impossible for one or two missionaries to accomplish on their own, so it serves a critical need. Empowering people with the gospel for change, not enabling people for the same, should always be our driving force.

6. Impressing people, instead of empowering them: It’s so easy to impress people with a certain skill set that the Lord has blessed you with. It feels really good to go somewhere for a week or two, and show people how much you know. However, what if you spent that time teaching people to continue doing the same things once you left? Now, that would be true long-term community impact. For example, if you have a dental hygienist, instead of them cleaning teeth the whole time, have them utilize their time teaching others in-country how to clean teeth properly.  The work done in those few days will have more long-term impact than simply one person performing a handful of cleanings.

7. Participating in poverty tourism: If the biggest lasting impact on you from a mission trip is that it made you more thankful for your stuff back at home, then you’ve completely missed the point of missions. You must search your heart and intentions. Our motivation for missions cannot be to have a great experience, or to take photos of hurting people.  You are part of something much larger than yourself. You’re a part of the story of God and fulfilling the Great Commandment and the Great Commission—love God, love people, make disciples. 

8. Not asking before clicking: Pictures can be a great—they help you remember what God has taught you, they remind you of the relationships that were made, and they tell a story to others who were not there for the glory of God. Just be sure to ask first and be wise. Don’t turn your camera into a weapon. How would you feel if strangers were taking pictures of you, your children and your home?

So, yes mistakes are often made, but God is sovereign and his grace is sufficient. However, we can be aware of the mistakes, learn from them and make the changes necessary for healthy kingdom expansion. We have an incredible opportunity to go in wisdom and with excellence because our king deserves our best.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. – Matthew 28:19  

“Work & leisure” is subject of online SBTS course

LOUISVILLE, Ky.  After 30 years in fulltime music ministry, God led Philip Griffin into a bi-vocational ministry role along with a tandem job as hospitality coordinator for a Chick-fil-a restaurant in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Through that experience, Griffin has learned firsthand how church members cope with inflexible work schedules, stand for eight hours a day on the job, deal with cranky customers and find opportunities to minister through it all.

Griffin, minister of music at Sagamore Baptist Church in Fort Worth, is among dozens of laborers featured in a new online course on “work and leisure” at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Taught by professor Mark Coppenger, the course is designed to help ministers understand and appreciate the varied vocations of their parishioners.

“Many ministers that come from a Christian home, that go straight to a Christian college [and] go straight to seminary [then] straight to a fulltime ministry position live in a bubble and don’t live in the real world,” Griffin says in a course video.

His Chick-fil-A job has made evident to Griffin the practical difficulty of late-night choir rehearsals for working people and the spiritual strain of attempting to live in a Christ-like manner before nonbelievers in the workplace.

Coppenger first taught a course on work and leisure 35 years ago as a philosophy professor at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., where it was among his favorite offerings. When an opportunity arose to bring a similar course to Southern, he “jumped at the chance.”

Following a successful pilot version of the course last year, Coppenger is slated to launch an enhanced online version in 2017.

“I shot ‘field videos’ [for the course] at dozens of places,” Coppenger told the TEXAN, “including the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C.; a limestone quarry near Bedford, Ind.; the Grohmann work-art museum in Milwaukee; a furniture assembly line in Dumas, Ark.; along a walking trail in Nashville’s Radnor Lake preserve; at an elaborate kids’ playground in Owensboro, Ky.; while browsing in a four-story used-book store in Detroit; at Wrigley Field in Chicago; [and] a half-mile inside a coal mine near Pikeville, Ky., where I interviewed miners by the light of our headlamps.

“I interviewed a hotel room maid in Monticello, Ark.; a used car salesman, a car-repair shop owner and a dentist in the Dallas area; SBC disaster relief volunteers in Warren, Mich.; a blacksmith in Indianapolis, Ind.; SBTS faculty members and doctoral students about their prime spots/times/setups for writing; [and] SBTS staffers at a retreat in Lexington, Ky., where I asked about the chores they had as kids.”

The videos help students consider the so-called creation and cultural mandates of Genesis 1:26-28, homemaking, evangelism in the workplace, bi-vocational ministry, the work ethics taught by other religions and whether there is a distinction between sacred and secular aspects of life.

“A huge question,” Coppenger said, “is, ‘Do we work that we might gain leisure, or do we use leisure to recoup our powers for fresh work?’ I’m inclined toward the latter, including the conviction that we’ll have delightful work to do in Glory.”

Another Texan featured in the course, Daniel Brackeen of Inglewood Baptist Church in Grand Prairie, helps students understand the work of a food manufacturer. Founder of Heritage Family Specialty Foods, Brackeen helped develop the formula for TCBY frozen yogurt in the late 1970s.

“Every day I come to work I’m thankful, and I know [God’s work in my life] is the reason I’m here today. And I ought to give God all the credit for our business success,” Brackeen says in a course video.

The aim of the course, Coppenger wrote in the catalog description, is “to prepare the students for the wise and joyful stewardship of their work and leisure in Christ, equipping them for impactful, exemplary and sustainable service, priming them to flourish as creatures of God, and equipping them to lead others in their own search for godly balance in life according to their various callings.”