Parker's Birthday Party - A house divided

x.p.r.e.s.s. your faith this Xmas

I was cleaning out some stuff in my office this week and found a little card given to members of Perimeter Church (PCA) in Atlanta, Georgia. It's a tool used to prompt them to connect with their neighbors, friends, co-workers, and family. I couldn't help but think that maybe we should put a little X in Christmas. This is how they are challenged to share the gospel.

x = Christ (Greek)
p = Pray
r = Relate; build relationships with them
e = Expose them to God's people, His Word and the Kingdom
s = Share the Gospel
s = Sponsor them into the life of the Church

Have a Merry Christmas

Thank You St. Frank

I had some business at St. Patrick's School today so I walked on over. After I was through I went into the sanctuary for a brief prayer. While I was there I noticed two windows with St. Francis and St. Claire and was reminded of a prayer attributed to Francis. I once pasted the prayer to the pulpit of the Wanilla Baptist Church to remind me of my own calling.

Lord, make me an intrument
of your peace;
where there is hatred,
let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy;
Grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood,
as to understand,
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving
that we receive,
it is in pardoning
that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying
that we are born to eternal life.
Thank you Frank!

We'll Leave a Light on For You

Do you remember Tom Bodet from the Motel 6 radio spots? I heard him this morning do an ad for radio ads. He was talking about marketing plans that were complicated and that reduced people to "targets." He advised his listerners to talk to people instead. He asked the question, "What do you talk about?" He answered the question, "Talk about them."

I could not help but make a connection between the clear wisdom of the radio spot and personal evangelism. Kinnaman and Lyons' research revealed that many people outside the Christian faith believe that the church has reduced them to "targets" by the way we go about evangelism. This makes spiritual conversations all the more important. We can take some advice from Ole Tom Bodet. When we have spiritual conversations we shoult talk about -

THEM. Ministry must begin with our ears.

YOU. Friends are interested in you and will often give you a chance to make yourself known a little. Your story is important - tell it.

THE GOOD NEWS. We have a good message to share and we don't need to be ashamed of it.

Evangelism, in this season of history, takes place best within personal relationships. Remember to listen and share both your story and God's. Tom Bodet was known for saying, "We'll leave a light on for you." Leave the light of the gospel on for your friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors.

910 Talk Radio

Dr. Leake and I will be on the radio tonight from 5:00 - 6:00. We will be guests on Betty Lou Jones' show on 910 Talk Radio. Check it out if you can.

The Highways and Byways

Sent and Standing

We live in a culture that is flooded with religious noise. Many people are deaf to Christ's story in part because of the many men and women that speak for him. Our challenge it to live out the hope of Christ with compelling sincerity. We need to stand in his presence before we go to do his work. Here are a couple of verses that encourage this -

I did not send the prophets,
yet they ran;
I did not speak to them,
yet they prophesied.
But if they had stood in my council,
then they would have
procliamed my words to
my people,
and they would have turned
them from their evil way,
and from the evil of their doings.
Jeremiah 23:21-22

For we are not peddlers of God's word like so many; but in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence. II Corinthians 3:17


We had a really good Thanksgiving and hope you did as well. Mom and Dad kept our kids so that we could go to a party at our friend's house the night before and that was really nice. Thank you Pop and Mimi! My brothers and I went hunting early Thanksgiving morning. I was hunting solitude more than anything else. I found it in the form of a fiber glass deer stand. The quiet woods gave me a chance to really think about things I am grateful for. Here is the short list -

1. Life (now and later) I don't want to ever take it for granted.

2. Meredith

3. Molly Katherine and Wes

4. the rest of my family

5. Friends

6. The ministry we have

God has been very good to us. Join us in praying - "Thanks!"

weekend Christianity

Jeremy Hill and I were talking last week about our friends from Trinidad visiting us. He said something that I think is really important. Jeremy said, "I think they would be disappointed." I knew what he meant. There is a large gulf between the commitment levels of our Trini friends and the average church goer in the American South. Our cultural brand of religion is unique and missionary travel reveals it. There was a quote from Jimmy Draper in the Baptist Record that further highlights this. Draper said -

It's interesting - the kind of weekend Christianity we have would be unknown in the New Testament. It would be unknown in most of church history.

It's time to go old school!

Honey in the Rock

I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you. Psalm 81:16

A group of us from FBC, Meridian went to Trinidad last week to work with our sisters and brothers at the Mohess Road Missionary Baptist Church. They love to sing a song down there titled Honey in the Rock. Their version is a little hotter than ours but I love singing anything in the West Indies. The song reminds us of God's best gifts. As I have reflected on our trip I have made a short list of things that I think are important gifts of grace.

1. When you go on a mission trip with other Christians you are forced into situations that strengthen the bonds of fellowship. Dr. Leake was my roomate and I am grateful for the time we had to get to know each other better. I have a deeper respect for him and I'm grateful for his leadership. I also am grateful for the chance to get to know the rest of our team better. FBC is filled with wonderful and interesting people.

2. Mission trips are fun if you do them right!

3. Mission trips allow you to learn from Christians in different contexts. The Mohess Road Missionary Baptist Church is growing. They attribute this to a John the Baptist methodology: Prepare the way - get out of the way. Our friends in Trinidad are wonderful people and we learned much from them.

4. The Holy Spirit and the word of God can be counted on. Mission trips are intense and focused. One is able to see God do powerful things in response to believing prayer. This increases our faith for ministry back home.

5. Mission trips offer life changing experiences for Christians.

6. Congregational partnerships illustrate the power of the gospel.

7. Sin is everywhere.

8. God's grace is sufficient.

etc., etc., etc.,

Please plan on giving some time to short term missions in the upcoming year. You may never be the same.

Traveling Mercies

I have often heard older Christians request prayer for traveling mercies. I have always thought that that is a beautiful phrase and a powerful idea. I ask you to pray for a group of us from FBC, Meridian. We are traveling to Trinidad today to work with a partner church down there. Also prayer for our families left here. They probably need more grace than we do!

Ed Stetzer on Being the Presence of Christ

I am grateful for Ed Stetzer and I appreciate his work at LifeWay Research. I recently heard him speak at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He was talking about church revitalization and said that 89% of the churches in the SBC are in need of revitalization based on criteria from the Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Health.

Stetzer addressed churches that had made a comeback and identified some common traits. On a fundamental level each of the churches was biblical, spiritual, and missional. One aspect of the missional church that stood out to me was the emphasis on the Kingdom of God. Stetzer framed this as a call to - be the presence of Christ.

We should keep our eyes on the main thing and expend our passion on Kingdom concerns. The night is coming! Live as the presence of Christ in your world.

Daddy's Girl

Taken at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Jacksonville, FL where I took part in my cousin Drew's wedding.

The Lion of the Tribe of Snowden!

both yours and mine

For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you - or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. Romans 1:11-12

A simple truth is Christians need each other. When we gather we are right in expecting it to be a mutually encouraging experience. Sin often prevents this but it should never be considered the norm. Why not sow seeds of encouragment into the life of your church and accept the grace that comes to you through your sisters and brothers.

See ya'll Sunday!

John Piper on Healing, Signs, and Wonders

I went to a prayer gathering at the Church of the Way earlier today. I heard some beautiful stories of God's grace and we prayed bold prayers for God's intervention in our churches. As I was leaving I began to think about God's purposes for answered prayer. This led me to a quote from John Piper. In his sermon titled, How Signs and Wonders Helped Add Multitudes to the Lord, the Baptist pastor said -

But even if signs and wonders can't save the soul, they can, if God pleases, shatter the shell of disinterset; they can shatter the shell of cynicism; they can shatter the shell of false religion. Like every other good witness to the word of grace, they can help the fallen heart to fix its gaze on the gospel where the soul-saving, self-authenticating glory of the Lord shines.

Let's join with the early church in praying - "And now, Lord...grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus." Acts 4:29-30 NRSV

Thanks Ladies

The support staff of FBC Meridian gave all the ministers gifts for one of the Hallmark Holidays relating to bosses. I laughed when I found out I was included in the list but I'm grateful for the gift certificate to Books a Million. With it I was able to purchase -

Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity and Why It Matters by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons

Praying The Psalms by Elmer Towns

Thanks Ladies. You are the best!


I went to The Church Revitalization Conference at the Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Health last Thurday. It was great to be in the city and to hear Ed Stetzer. Check him out at

I was affirmed because the conference addressed many of the things we are in the process of doing at FBC, Meridian. It seems like we are on the right track. Pray that God will bring growth from the seed sowing and watering.

The conference addressed Stetzer and Dodson's latest research into churches that moved from seasons of decline to renewed vitality. Much of what they dealt with was the spirituality of the congregations. They sampled over 300 Baptist, Holiness, and Pentecostal churches and concluded that the greatest need in the church today was a revived commitment to the basics.

Stetzer and Dodson identified three faith factors that were consistent across the congregations.
1. A renewed belief in Jesus and the mission of the church.
2. A renewed attitude of servanthood.
3. A more strategic prayer effort.

Let's continue to follow God into the process of renewal. He has great plans for our congregation!


Last Sunday night I preached a message from Acts 4:24-31. In that passage the early disciples called on God to, "stretch out your hand to heal..." I found some instruction from Calvin Miller this week that I had to share.

Calvin Miller is professor of preaching and pastoral ministries at Beeson Divinity School at Samford University and was a Baptist pastor. The following quote is taken from his book, Miracles and Wonders: How God Changes His Natural Laws to Benefit You.

"I continued my praying, healing ministry for three reasons.

First; it is always right to ask God for what we want.

Second, it is always better to intercede for someone else than it is to ask them to pray for themselves.

Third, my ministry of prayer for other people's healing does include touch. Touch is going as far as we can to assure someone else that we are really there with them. If we refuse to touch, we cannot offer this last, best certification of human nearness. When we touch as we talk to God, a new kind of prayer power is born."

Miller shares that over the course of his ministry he has seen dramatic healings. He has seen others receive strength to face sickness. He has seen family members comforted. He has concluded that it is always right to touch and ask God to heal. I think he is a good model for us.

Praying Together

Last Sunday night was the third message in the series Missio Dei: Being the Presence of Christ in our World. We talked about the importance of fundamental congregational practices. This week we will explore the vital role prayer plays in shaping a mission formed congregation. Read Acts 4:23-31. Notice the early church - praying together - for boldness to speak the gospel - for power to demonstrate the gospel. I hope to see you soon!

Across the Street and Around the World

The prayer from yesterday reminds us that the gospel is for those that are near and those that are far off. It also prompted us to recall that all those persons were created by God of one blood. Our call is to share the whole gospel with the whole world.

The Mennonites speak of sharing the message of Christ with those that are across the street and around the world. Missional Baptists speak of going "glocal." As our church seeks to be the presence of Christ in our world we recognize that our world begins on 7th street and travels through the nations of the world. What do Trinidad, Tuxedo, and Toomsuba have in common? They are in our world -the world the Christ suffered to save. Let's dream of ways to go glocal with the gospel. Why not start with your circle of influence and move on from there.

to those who are far off and to those who are near...

My cousin Drew is getting married in about a month. I have been asked to help with the wedding at an Episcopal church in Florida. While thumbing through the Book of Common Prayer I ran into a very missional prayer that I would like to ask you to join me in praying.

16. For the Mission of the Church

O God, who hast made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and didst send thy blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people everywhere may seek after thee and find thee, bring the nations into thy fold, pour out thy Spirit upon all flesh, and hasten the coming of thy kingdom; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Amen. those days of my Spirit

We began a Sunday night message series focused on being the presence of Christ in the world last week. The message was taken from Acts I and focused on Christ centered Priorities. We will gather around Acts 2:14-21 this week. Our focus will be on the importance of Proclamation. Missional churches embrace the message of Jesus and share it. Each member "owns" the responsiblity of proclaiming the saving deeds of Christ. Acts 2 reveals that the early church was made up of unhindered proclaimers - age, gender, and occupation made no difference.

Join us this Sunday night as we continue to focus on being the presence of Christ in the world.


For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. I Peter 3:18 NRSV

I went to the funeral of a godly woman yesterday. Her pastor spoke about her life of faithfulness in a way that made me want to live a faithful life. As I sat listening to his message I thought about a quote from Jonathan Edwards -

Resolved, that I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.

The Church's Forward Thrust

In 1967 E. Glenn Hinson wrote some powerful words about personal evangelism. They have retained their punch over the years. See what you think -

As we face a more and more secular era, we must develop a more natural and more personal witness. The plan is simple. First, let us encourage church members to develop natural and mature friendships with those around them - in their neighborhood, on the job, where they shop, and so on. Next, let their personal maturity and Christian commitment make an impression upon those whose friendships they cultivate. Everything, naturally hinges on thier personal maturity and Christian commitment. Then, on the basis of an established confidence, let them secure commitment to Jesus Christ.

This type of witnessing has been the church's major asset through the centuries. Presently we need to refocus it so that it will again bear the major brunt of the church's forward thrust.

Whatever God can do,

I meet with a group of ministers on Thursday to pray. I am encouraged each week as I hear about what God is doing at Pine Grove Baptist, Evangel Temple, Bridge Builders, Church of the Way, and New Wine Ministries. Together we are praying for a genuine move of the Holy Spirit in Meridian, Mississippi.

I was working on a message this afternoon when I ran across a quote that reminded me of these guys and the churches we serve. -

What can a little church with some one hundred people do to affect the world? Whatever God can do, He wants to manifest His purpose and glory through every church. Every church is to be a world missions strategy center.
Avery T. Willis, Jr. and Henry T. Blackaby

Jesus offers a new vision of family...

My friend Mark is a deacon at Truitt Memorial Baptist Church, Pearl. He has been a source of encouragment for me for a good while now. He often sends me books. This week he sent me Shane Claiborne's The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. In this book Claiborne talks about Jesus' vision of the family. His vision was rooted in the experience of rebirth. This vision has practical implications for missional living. See what you think -

Rebirth is about being adopted into a new family - without borders. With new eyes we can see that our family is both local and global, including but transcending biology, tribe, or nationality...

The reality of our rebirth should mess with us... Consider the hundreds of families who opened their own homes to those suffering from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. People across the country made tremendous sacrifices in order to bring their displaced neighbors into their families, knowing the burden was too big to bear alone. And it got a little lighter as more and more people decided to carry it together.

Missions is about family!

Equipped To Serve

I had lunch with a great guy yesterday. He has been a guest in our church for a couple of months and I am enjoying getting to know him. Over Mexican food we talked about God, theology, and life in general. During our conversation he brought up Randy Pope of Perimeter Church in Atlanta. When I got back to the office I pulled one of Pope's books off the shelf. I found a marked quote that speaks to our desire to study for the sake of ministry.

Much in the way that eating creates no appetite for exercise, so too I have found that Bible study and prayer alone do not create mission-oriented Christians. But, just as exercise creates a desire for food and drink, mission-related activities create an insatiable thrist and hunger to feed on God's Word. Randy Pope

Missional in Meridian

Dr. Leake preached a message based on Matthew 7:24-27 last Sunday night. Everything was trucking along in a rather Sunday night way until he started talking about the fact that churches, like people, can be founded on sand or rock. Congregations founded on stone are the ones that hear what Jesus says and do it.

Missional Christianity is about discerning the plans of God for a given context and doing that. To quote Dr. Leake, "We need to do more of what gets us there and less of what does not." I'm with him! How 'bout you?

Snowden Family in Pensacola, Florida

Our family went to Jay, Florida recently where I was preaching a revival. While spending the day at the beach we were photographed by an AP photographer. Apparently we made it into a few papers. If you want to check out the article - google Matt Snowden Associated Press Florida.

Will McRaney on "Invest and Invite"

We are using Will McRaney's, The Art of Personal Evangelism:Sharing Jesus in a Changing Culture, in our E.T.S. ministry. He made a statement in the introduction to the book that directly spoke to the Invest > Invite > Include principles we are using in our church. McRaney said:

Eventually, some believer has to share his or her life and Christ's message with a lost person. It is even reported that Billy Graham said there is no such thing as mass evangelism. He was pointing out that for people to respond to Christ in a crusade, Christians have to invest in a relationship and invite someone to the crusade.

Wherever Christians

Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Acts 8:4 NIV

I grew up on the NIV bible. I have not really used it in years. I switch back and forth between the KJV, NRSV, HCSB, and ESV. Whew! How 'bout them letters. We were in Florida last week because I commited to preach a revival in Jay. The pastor of the church is my good friend and I know he uses the NIV in preaching so I threw a copy in my bag. I'd planned on preaching a message about Philip so I picked up the NIV bible and read the passage from Acts 8. I think I had an experience of Baptist lectio divina. The word "wherever" jumped off the page and landed in my heart.

The early church was filled with "wherever Christians." The did not file their life in neat categories like: family, work, recreation, and God. They lived for and with God wherever they were. Let's pray that a wherever spirit will penetrate our hearts so that we will truly be - the presence of Christ in the world.


The first day of the revival @ FBC, Jay went well. Tomorrow night is youth night. I love students and believe that God is doing great things with them this year. Every student minister I've talked with has told me that this has been one of the best summers for camp experiences they have seen in years. I'm looking for great things this school year. Pray that the students are receptive tomorrow night. Thanks!

Pray for Revival in Florida!

Thanks for Your Prayers

Thank you for praying for us during our staff retreat. We believe that we have heard from God and are unified in our desire to see FBC, Meridian truly become the presence of Christ in the world.

Turn Your Ear To Heaven

The first words that came out of my radio this morning were from the David Crowder Band. They sang, "turn your ear to heaven..." That's a great way to start out staff retreat. Please pray for our church staff and David McCubbin as we seek God's will for our congregation!

Invest > Invite > Include

There have been testimonies during the last two Sunday night sermons about God using his people to draw others closer to Christ. If you look for common traits among those stories you will see that in each case someone invested in a friend, relative, associate, or neighbor. They invited them to know Christ and His community. They included them in the life of faith.

The process is simple to understand. It takes the miracle of God's grace to see it really work. Ask the Holy Spirit to empower you today to invest, invite, and include your FRANs in the life of the Gospel.

Have a great day!


We are connected to the world through a sphere of influence. I remember hearing Dr. Tom Wolfe from the Church on Brady teach about our bio, geo, voc, and vol connections in the 90s. I have since learned a simplier way. We are connected to FRANs -


Invest in your FRANS. Invite them to know Christ. Include them in the life of faith.

Have a great day.


We watched an amazing show on TV last night. ABC took six wannabe country singers from the middle of nowhere and presented them with a challenge. If they could get to Martina McBride in six steps they would be given a chance at a record contract. All six began with friends and were passed to other friends until they got to meet the country mega star. All six! This reality, known as six degrees of seperation, is amazing to behold. Actor Kevin Bacon is more famous for this than for his acting career.

"Six degrees" illustrates something very important for the Christian. The ABC narrator remarked, "there is a flesh and blood world wide web." The Christian gospel is passed along through this web of connection. The web reaches back to Pentecost. We are literally connected to Jesus' first disciples through the flesh and blood web of Christian mission. Those who have yet to profess faith in Christ are connected to Pentecost by us and our web of relationships. Sociologist Rodney Stark observed, "The basis for succesful conversionist movements is growth through social networks, through a structure of direct and intimate interpersonal attachments."

If you are a follower of Jesus everone on the planet is just few steps away from the gospel. WOW!

More about this tomorrow.

Fuel for Renewal

Here is a short review of last night's message. Join me in praying Philippians 1:9-11 daily.

Pray for
our love to overflow with knowledge and full insight
so that
we can determine what matters most
so that
in the day of Christ we may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Amen to that!

Pray for Our World Changers Team

We have been partnering with NAMB and World Changers this week. Many of you have fed the crew working at Mrs. Pollard's house on 33rd Ave. They appreciate it very much. They have also enjoyed using our showers and hanging out in the gym and student ministry center. Please pray for the students and leaders as the complete the work and travel home. Pray for them by name -


You Find Out Who Your Friends Are

I listen to country music every now and then. One of my favorite new songs is Tracy Lawrence's You Find Out Who Your Friends Are. It's a song about a guy in need and how his need brings to light the true nature of friendship. A person I really trust told me that when you go through something really horrible you will probably be left with very few friends. Those friends are real, however. Tracy Lawrence says that the hour of real need is when, "the truth don't lie." That's pretty biblical when you stop and think about it.

Job snapped at one of his good time buddies, "In the thought of one who is at ease there is contempt for misfortune..." (Job 12:5a ESV). It is in the seasons of misfortune that the truth don't lie. This is what James called pure and undefiled religion. Authenticity is tested by life.

I talked to many church members last week about their ministry with hurting people. We are hosting a mission team this week from all over this country. We are planning work in Trinidad. We hosted a meeting for Wesley House today that included Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, and Episcopal ministers. We were working to meet the needs of our neighbors in a collective way. God using us to meet the needs of our community and this must increase. The credibility of the gospel is at stake and the truth don't lie.

The Shape of Your Own Uniqueness

I read Brian Harbour's, 17 Roadblocks on the Highway of Life And How to Move Around Them, last night. I got to roadblock # 13, the indecisiveness roadblock, and ran into a quote that arrested my attention. Harbour talked about John Claypool and how he made ministry decisions. Claypool asked himself a series of quesions. One of them was the "gifts" question. The gifts question asked, "Which decision is in line with the shape of my own uniqueness?" When I read Claypool's quote I thought about a series of questions that I was asked during a focused living retreat. I think they will help you understand your S.H.A.P.E much better -

  1. The people and circumstances that have most shaped my life and ministry are...
  2. When I think about ministry in the future, the area of ministry I would love to concentrate upon is______________. Why?
  3. The qualities of character I most admire and desire for God to shape into my life are ___________. Why?
  4. People who know me well believe I am most used by God when I am involved in ________. Why?
  5. For the perspective of my personal life, the activities I do that I feel are making my greatest contribution for God's kingdom are_____________. Why?
  6. The activities of my life that contribute most to God's kingdom are__________. Why?
  7. Though I may have dismissed the thougth many times for various reasons, I sometimes feel I really should be doing______________. Why?
  8. When people talk about a passion for ministry, I often begin to think about giving my life to accomplishing __________________. Why?

Spend some time exploring these quesions. You may find youself standing on holy ground!

Salting the Flame

I have really had a good time visiting in the homes of church members and hearing their stories. FBC is blessed with saints, mystics, good ole boys, and a few genuine characters. Each person we meet encourages us and leaves us with a sense of hope.

I found David and Pat McCubbin to be two rocks of faithfulness. They were my first home visit and I couldn't have started in a better place. We talked about the past, present, and future of First Baptist. They, like me, believe that God has great plans for our congregation. When I was preparing to leave Bro. David reminded me of a passage of scripture from the book of Zechariah, ... Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts (4:6 NRSV). He was reminding a young minister that all our plans are futile without the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. I was grateful for the word of wisdom.

The McCubbins, like so many others, are catalysts for the flame of God's presence. Jesus called us to be salt and light. David Garland and David Dockery said of salt, "Salt also served as a fire catalyst...As a chemical agent, salt accelerated and improved the burning."

God wants to bless our church. He has blessed our church. He wants to use us to bless the world in increasing dimension. As we plan let's be sure to salt the flame!

Dora on Leadership

I watch Dora the Explorer DVDs all the time. Molly Katherine is a huge Dora fan so I've become one as well. The other day I began to notice that Dora teaches some very important leadership principles. Here are just a few -

Define the challenge.
Dora always begins here adventures by consulting Map. Map helps her find her way. She also looks in Backpack to see what kind of resources she has to get the job done. She repeats the challenge before her again and again so that all are clear about the work. Dora sees her victory before she experiences it.

Work as a team.
Dora works with Boots and Diego to reach her goal. Her team works together making the challenge more fun and meaningful. Dora is no lone ranger.

Look out for Swiper.
Swiper is always present to steal from Dora's team and make their challenge more difficult. John 10:10 states, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy..." (NRSV). We would be wise to watch out for "Swiper." Anything God does through us will be challenged.

Celebrate each victory.
Dora, Boots, and Diego celebrate each victory with the song, We Did It. It is important to celebrate victories large and small. This encourages hard work and faithfulness during the next challenge. "More bricks and no straw" never leads to increased success.

Thanks Dora!
YES, with all our heart!

We are all called to serve God. The question is how. My pastor preached a great sermon today on this very question. He pointed to Jesus' experience in the wilderness, at the beginning of his ministry, and highlighted three helpful principles of discernment -
  1. It sometimes takes time.
  2. You must be prepared to say no until you can say yes with all your heart.
  3. You must know the scriptures.
He was spot on. One of the greatest joys in life is knowing our place in God's mission. It truly will be a great day when we all can stand and tell what our ministry is. I am praying that all of us will be able to say YES - with all our heart - to God's calling to ministry.

This is My Story

Diana Butler Bass' book, Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith, was based on Lilly Endowment funded ethnographic research. It was a study of vital mainline congregations and their practices. While I disagree with many of her conclusions, I am grateful for her observations. Butler Bass points to the testimony as one of the vital Christian practices. Baptists have known this for a long time.

Sunday night I asked our church to write brief testimonies of when and why they joined First Baptist Church, Meridian. The "why" categories that emerged were -

Salvation experiences of adults and children raised in the congregation.
Example quote - I joined First Baptist at a revival in 1934 when I was 9 years old. The Lord spoke to my heart - to accept him, live for him, and serve him." Mae Carol Eastwood Note: May Carol is Molly Katherine's new Sunday School teacher.

Example quote - I graduated from law school in 1973 and moved to Meridian. The church had a good athletic program (coach JB Barnett) and I made friends - (Nobody else wanted me.). Leonard Cobb Note: I think Leonard was "being funny" on that last comment but you'll have to ask him to be sure.

Direct Invitation
Example quote - New to Meridian - we were invited to visit and felt this was where God wanted us! Tommy and Mary Emma Allen

Example quote - Moved to Meridian in July 2006, bringing our kids "home" to Mississippi to grow up with family and church family! Joined First Baptist because Dad was pastor, brother, sister and their families are members - and have made LOTS of wonderful friends! Heath, Jennifer, Jenna, and Jed Kasselman

The four categories that emerged from our story time help us see some important aspects of church growth. We must offer others the welcoming ministry given us as we began our journey at FBC, Meridian. Go!

Fellowship in the Gospel

I thank my God upon evey remembrance of you...for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now... Philippians 1:3;5 (KJV)

Dr. Leake (my new pastor) mentioned Paul's relationship with the church in Philippi during last night's message. I have always loved the story of Paul and that wonderful church. The book of Philippians is basically a thank you letter to the church for all the kindness they showed Paul. He began it by praising God for the joy that accompanied each remembrance of the church.

Yesterday was my "first day" @ FBC Meridian. I woke up this morning praising God for them and the kind way they welcomed our family to Meridian. They shared with us and we are truly grateful.

I Believe

It is important to look within and see what is in there from time to time. Dr. Levi Price asked a group of us Truett Seminary students to do a spiritual formation exercise that I found very helpful. He asked us to sit down - pray - and then jot down a brief affirmation of belief concerning our present season of ministry. This is what came out of me -

Statement of Belief
For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake...Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. II Corinthians 3:5; 4:15 NRSV

I believe that I am called by God to serve in pastoral ministry. This demands that I personally grow in three primary areas of relationship and that I lead other followers of Jesus Christ to grow in these areas as well. These relationships are -
  1. The relationship with God in Christ
  2. The relationship with the church
  3. The relationship with the community

I believe that scripture is the guide for faith and practice. I believe that the church is God's chief instrument of grace in the world. I believe in the hope of conversion through faith in Jesus Christ. I believe in the fullness of the Spirit. I believe in the great commandments and the great commissions. I believe in the restoration of God's creational intent.

Statement of Values

I value loving God, self, and neighbor. I value faith. I value hope. I value working with God (I Cor. 3:9). I value the potential in God's people. I value my family.

Mission Statement

My mission it to love Christ, his church, and the community he died to save with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and to lead the members of First Baptist Church Meridian, MS to do the same.

Vision Statement

My vision is to lead the followers of Jesus @ FBC Meridian to love God through worship and obedience - to love each other through genuine fellowship - to love the community (world) through compassionate service and evangelism.

NOTE- I believe that every Christian needs to be an active part of a Sunday School or small group unit. I believe every Christian needs to worship God in private and corporately. I believe that evey Christian needs to be able to identify thier primary mission field and sharpen their ministry skills through the equipping ministries of the church.

That's a few things I believe. What do you believe?


This Sunday will be our last Sunday at Truitt Memorial Baptist Church. I will baptize and preach my last sermon in a church we truly love. Meredith and I have shed more than a few tears over the transition before us. We are moving to Meridian, MS where I have accepted the position of associate pastor (something I never thought I would do) at First Baptist Church. We are really excited about the new ministry and believe that God has a wonderful work prepared for us. We are in a time of change and we have two congregations in our hearts. That is not easy! I'll be in Waco, Texas over the next two weeks working at Baylor. I'm leaving Meredith to close on our house and prepare for our move. My first Sunday in Meridian will be July 1. As Scott Peck once said, "Life is difficult." It is also a great adventure. Please keep us in your prayers as we walk through changes together.

Take Your Time

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV)

My grandfather Charlie has always been a solid source of wisdom for me. He once looked at me on an afternoon fishing trip and said, "Take your time." He wasn't talking about fishing - he was talking about life. Scripture speaks of time as a season in a man or woman's life. Time is to be received as grace. It is a gift and often a surprising one. Our family is entering a new season of time with excitement and joy. God has surprised us with a new season of time. We are taking it. I think my grandfather's advice is sound - Take your time. It is a gift from the hand of God! May God bless your times and seasons.

The End is Near: I Peter 4:7-11

Growing up in the South has given me an appreciation for the folk art that decorates the interstate highway between Dallas and Atlanta. REPENT! Get right or get left. THE END IS NEAR!!! All these slogans and many more call out to the prodigals of Dixie to straighten up. I'm not sure that reminders of life's brevity are all that bad. Peter spoke up and said years ago, "...the end of all things is at hand" (I Peter 4:7). Sometimes we need to be reminded of the fragility of life and the need to focus on the big things. Peter instructed the church to spend the little time they had focusing on tree things -

  • Disciplined Prayer
  • Hospitality
  • Stewarding the manifold grace of God given through spiritual gifts.

That sounds like a strategy for missional renewal to me. Join us tonight as we talk about this powerful passage of scripture.

"Doubting" Thomas' Scarred Up God

The Apostle Thomas is widely known for his doubting. I'm glad we don't all have to carry names binding us to our weak moments. There was a kid in our church in Monticello that called me Fat Matt for a number of years. Yes, it fit. No, it did not speak to other aspects of my life and devotion. I'm fat and Thomas doubted but that's just part of the story - the part to be restored by God's grace.

If you read John's gospel with care you will find that the strongest affirmation of Jesus' divinity came from the lips of "Confessing" (?) Thomas. Eugene Peterson tells it like this - Then he focused his attention on Thomas. "Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don't be unbelieving. Believe." Thomas said, "My Master! My God!"

"My God!" That was Thomas's affirmation. "My God!" He declared the divinity of Jesus AFTER he touched his scars. Thomas confessed the craziest notion the world has ever known - God has scars. The God of blazing fire has scars. When it comes to brokeness - God gets it. We do not have a God that is unmoved by our challenges and suffering. Therefore we can join with the writer of Hebrews and encourage each other as Jesus encouraged Thomas -

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
Hebrews 10:23 (NIV)

From Great to Good

I appreciate the fact that Thom Rainer is now leading Lifeway. I think that he is a good researcher and believe that he will do good things at the Southern Baptist institution. Rainer and Ed Stetzer are two reasons that I can't give up totally on the SBC.

I, like many others, have been influenced by Rainer's book Breakout Churches: Discover How to Make the Leap. This book was based on the Jim Collins' Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't. Both works are filled with important information for churches seeking to increase their missional impact. Greatness is a noble goal but I was reminded today the goodness must not be left behind in pursuit of it.

On of my favorite pastors is Robert Creech of University Baptist Church in Houston, TX - I watch his sermons when I clean up my office. Recently Eric Swanson preached a sermon at UBC, Houston titled, From Great to Good, based on Acts 10:36-38. He talked about Jesus' ministry of goodness and how we need to follow his model. He pointed to three aspects of Jesus' good works -

  • Ministry of Mercy - making someone's day better
  • Ministry of Empowerment - making someone's life better
  • Ministry of Evangelism - making someone's eternity better

As a child I learned to pray - God is great! God is good! Let us thank him... In an effort to be truly Christian our desrire should be greatness AND goodness.

And God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power; who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. Acts 10:38 (KJV)

Receiving One Such Child

And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, he said to them, "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me." Mark 9:37 ESV

Walter Brueggemann writes about "constituences of evangelism." I have come to think of these as the pre-churched (children that are part of the church but not yet members), the un-churched (those outside the church), and the de-churched (those that have left the church). I read a blog post by Art Rogers that is relevant to ministry to both the pre and de churched and highly recommed the short piece.

In the post titled, Leaving Church, pt 1, Rogers sites Joe Ball's (Kentucky Baptist Convention) insights into teenagers that walk away from church after High School graduation. He asserts -

80% are from families who are NOMINAL Christians
50% are from unchurched homes
20% are from from churched families whose members are pursuing personal relationships with God

Rogers gleaned some conclusions that are worth reading. It seems clear that the insights listed above also speak to the way we minister to the pre-churched and suggest the de-churched would not be as big of a challenge if we did a better job living the faith in front of our children. There is another issue here . Those children that come from totally unchurched homes and are active in the ministries of the church have a BETTER chance of remaining than those from nominal families. The kids we sometimes label as "drop offs" or "pick ups" have a good shot if we receive them as Christ. This should be ample reason to reach out to kids and teenagers even if their families never follow.

For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. Matthew 12:50 ESV

Messy but Worth It

Our magnolia tree is blooming. Summer is knocking on the door. We have already been to some baseball games and I'm itching to jump into the baby pool with Molly Katherine and Wes. The magnolia invited us to summer in all its messy glory and I'm ready for it.

Summer is full of messy things that are worth it. The ole magnolia is one of them. Mrs. Sara, our neighbor, was concerned that I was going to cut it down when we moved in. She asked/dared me when I met her, "You're not going to cut down that tree are you?" It never occured to me to cut down a magnolia. I was sure there was a state law against it or maybe a verse condemning the practice in the book of Leviticus. I know you can't pick sea oates in Florida, I figured magnolias were off limits in Mississippi. I asked Mrs. Sara, "Do people cut down magnolias?" She said, "O sure they do. Magnolias are a terrible mess." I found that to be true the first time I tried to cut the grass. Magnolias, in fact, are difficult - but worth it. Summer provides other messy but worth it things: snowballs, watermelon, baseball, and barbecue.

When you stop and think about it life offers another list of messy but worth it things - faith, children, marriages, the church you go to or could go to, friendships, etc. Before you cut down any trees because of the mess stop and consider the blooms.

McCarthy and the Prize

Cormac McCarthy won the Pulitzer Prize this week for The Road. I wrote a blog post earlier this (November 17th "Cormac McCarthy and the Bible) year about this important work. It is essentially a religious novel containing powerful biblical images. It is hopeful in that it explores the mystery of iniquity and refuses to dabble in the myth of inherent human goodness. We will never embrace the light until we acknowledge the darkness. Virginia Tech should remind us of this.

Read The Road as soon as possible. Read the bible. Become a "carrier of the fire."


This week has been a week for the inspectors. The health department came by the kindergarten and the Mississippi Food Network payed a visit to our food pantry mininstry. This, coupled with April 15 (on the 17th), reminds us that people are looking and pronouncing judgement. We don't live on an island with a vollyball as our only friend, although sometimes ole Wilson looks pretty inviting.

We live in a world where our performance is evaluated on a regular basis. Sometimes we are aware of being measured up. Most of the time we are surprised by the arrival of inspectors and must face their verdict without the benefit of putting on our best face. As the Boy Scouts would advise we must, "be prepared."

Jesus advised his disciples to inspect the lives of others for authenticity. He said, "Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?...Thus you will recognize them by their fruits" Matthew 6:16b;20 (ESV). We would do well to remember that people are watching our lives to see if we give figs or thistles. We need not be unprepared for inspection - Jesus told us it was coming! We will live with inspectors - let's make them our friends.

Easter PJs

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep...Christ the firstfruits; afterward, at His coming, the people of Christ...The last enemy to be abolished is death...

Last week was a week from the outer regions of Uknowwhere. It began with the death of one our church members. Mrs. Marie was a wonderful woman and always a source of encouragment for Meredith and me. We buried her husband Winton a year ago.

Mrs. Marie requested that her family bury her in her pajamas. She explained that she wanted people to recognize that she was simply sleeping. Her clothes choice was a testimony of God's grace and a clinched fisted protest in the face of death. Marie's declaration was, "Death does not get to win!" As one of Christ's people she had confidence in the life provided by Jesus on the other side of our earthly tombs.

Paul said that Easter demonstrated the firstfruits of God's great harvest. Mrs. Marie gave witness to it. Easter has been offered to us all. What an indescrible gift.

Verse 6

We joined with millions of Christians today in the celebration of Palm Sunday. I love Matthew's version of the story. We read it together - waving our fronds - shouting hosanna.

I was taken by the actions of the two "no name" disciples in the story. Jesus sent them into the city with a mission to accomplish. Matthew narrated their obedience in the following way: "And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them." Matthew 21:6 (KJV) They were sent. They went.

Jesus has commanded us to go. We have been sent. I think we would do well to imagine an invisible writer like the evangelist Matthew looking at our lives, deciding how to write the sixth verse. Would he be able to write the verse just like it was written in Matthew 21? We are the ones that are sent. At the end of our lives will we be the ones that went?

How will your 6th verse read? Think about it.

Ultimate Goal

I went to St. Dominic Hospital yesterday to visit a man named Harlod Roach. Mr. Roach joined Truitt Memorial twice since I have been pastor. He was a missionary to Madison County during the interval time. Mr. Roach and his wife Jan are wonderful people and I always grow when I'm in their presence. Yesterday was no exception.

Mr. Harold helped plant a number of Christian and Missionary Alliance congregations when he was a younger man. He carries with him the Alliance zeal for missions and evangelism. He is now an officer in the Gideons International Organization. He spends most Sunday mornings raising funds to purchase Bibles. Jan and Harold are active in Bible distribution and evangelism through this ministry. God has used them in schools, prisions, hospitals, hotels, and in international locations like Kenya to share His love. They were missional before missional was cool!

During our lengthy conversation yesterday Mr. Harold asked me about our family and Truett Seminary. He then asked, "What is your ultimate goal?" I told him that I wanted to be a good Christian, husband, and father. I then said that wanted to serve a truly missional church. He responded by saying, "There aren't many of those out there. You almost have to start from scratch."

Mr. Harold put his finger on the pulse of the church and spoke truly. We have a two front challenge. 1) Lead conventional congregations toward a truly missional posture. 2) Plant intentionally missional congregations. I'm wondering if there is a way to do these two things at once.

If you have any thoughts I would be appreciative.

Congregationalizing the De-Churched

Brueggemann's constituences of evangelism point to the need for a multi-dimensional approach to disciple making. Ed Stetzer wrote about "evangelizing and congregationalizing" people. Our call is to proclaim, baptize, and teach. I think that Stetzer's insights dovetail with Brueggemann's. It seems to be, "what the Spirit is saying to the churches."

Constituencies of Evangelism

I just finished reviewing Walter Brueggemann's book, Biblical Perspectives on Evangelism: Living in a Three-Storied Universe, for my doctoral work at Truett Seminary/Baylor Univeristy. I found it to be helpful in many ways but was very thankful for his notion of constituencies of evangelism. He says that the constituencies are: "outsiders, jaded insiders, and children-becoming-adults" (p. 12). I think of these as: the un-churched, the de-churched, and the pre-churched. I am wonderding how your disciple-making methods change when you are ministering to persons in these different groups. For example -

How do you share the gospel with those totally outside the faith community?

How do you share the gospel with those that have left the church?

How do you seek to prevent "defection" and its evil twin "false confession?" Can these be prevented?

How do you share with children?

Note: "you" = the church you serve.

Stronger - Smaller - More - Cooperative

Perry McCall joined our family for lunch yesterday. He came to the city from Madden and couldn't pass up fried chicken thursday at Primos. We talked about the future of the church and our congregations. Perry made a statement that I have been thinking about. He said, "I think in twenty years churches will be stronger, smaller, and there will be more of them." I can't help but think that this would be a positive thing. I would hope that these churches would owe one another what Miroslav Volf calles, "sisterly affection" and demonstrate this throuh missional coopertion.

Question -
Do you see the future this way? What would it take to see it become a realtiy?

Society of Siblings

Meredith and I came to the Truitt Memorial Baptist Church in 2002. The weekend I was called to serve as pastor was full of activities and meetings. Saturday night was given to a town hall style meeting where congregants were given the chance to ask any question they wanted. I was literally interviewed by the whole church. One of the theological questions I was asked was about women in ministry. I later found out that a number of church members came from Penetcostal backgrounds that allowed women to serve at all levels of church life, a few even had "preaching grandmothers." I told the church then what I believe now. I think that scripture allows for the full participation of women in ministry. I have never pushed this belief as an "issue" as our entire church can attest. I don't even use the term egalitarian to describe myself. I have not come to this conclusion from a liberal perspective. You may describe it as a Holiness/Pentecostal/Sandy Creek Baptist perspective if you must label it.

In preaching through Romans 16 Sunday night I was called on to share my heart on this issue again. At the very least Romans 16 and a truckload of other biblical passages should give pause to the complementarians that so easily decare "what the bible teaches" on this issue. They can, for sure, offer an additional list that causes me to hold my position with humility. We all should embrace an irenic spirit because this issue is not a matter of dogma.

Charles Talbert of Baylor University (his father pastored FBC Pearl for a number of years) made some comments about this issue that I think are golden. I want to offer them to you for your consideration -

At the same time that one acknowledges the involvment of women in ministry in earliest Christianity, it is important to note that for Paul the offosite of partiarchy was not egalitarianism but something else! Paul's vision was for a society of siblings in which only God was called Father, in which there were differences among members and in which each family member used his or her strengths to enrich the quality of life in the family of God. Within such a family, contributions were not determined by one's sex, one's ecomonic status, or one's race. They were determined by the "measure of faith/responsibility/trust" (Rom 12:3b) God assigned to each. Within such a family, the measure of responsibility assigned by God as a gift of grace was not aimed to enhance the recipient's status but to build up to community. Egalitarianism is based on rights possessed, just deserts to be received, and aims at the enhancement of the status of the one who possesses such rights and who is granted such just deserts. The family of God is based on God's gracious gifts to each of His children regardless of sex, status, or race, which gifts are to be used for the enchancement of others. Egalitarianism is based on power! Christian community is based on human transformation by divine agency: on God's enablement of our transcending our Adamic nature.

Psalm 119:73

Steven Wesley Snowden (Wes)

February 26, 2007

11:03 a.m.

7 lbs. 15 oz. 21 inches

The Three Amigos of the Borderland?: Al Mohler, Stan Norman, and Roger Olson

I've been preaching through the book of Romans on Sunday nights and have come to chapter 14. In light of my bible reading and Roger Moran's recent crusade, my thoughts have turned to Christian cooperation. Paul was working really hard in Romans 14 to keep Christians from acting like Baptists. My question now is, "can Baptists act like Christians?"

When I read Romans 14 I immediately think of Al Mohler's theological triage theory. Perry McCall reminded me not long ago that Stan Norman, our old professor at NOBTS, presented the same type of system in one of his passionate lectures. I am now a student at Truett Seminary/Baylor University. I've had the pleasure of being around Roger Olson. His teaching includes the categories of dogma, doctrine, and belief. Yep - the triage. This beautiful consistency has me thinking about the possibility of genuine cooperation within the Baptist community. What would it take to foster genuine missional cooperation between a diverse group of Baptist Christians? My proposal is a DMZ along the border of doctrine and belief - a kind of forth category. Let me explain.

Al Mohler is a very conservative Baptist that takes a reformed position on the doctrines of grace. Stan Norman is very similar. They both are complimentarians when it comes to gender and are supporters of the resurgence/takeover. Roger Olson is a progressive evangelical Baptist. He was raised Pentecostal and even taught at Oral Roberts Univeristy for a brief season. He is an active member of Calvary Baptist Church, Waco, TX. This church is pastored by Julie Pennington-Russel. Dr. Olson is an Arminian. Dr. Olson is a Yankee (but a nice one). These guys are different. These guys are the same.

I don't know Al Mohler. I have only been in the same room with him once. 1000 other people were in that room. I was a student of both Stan Norman and Roger Olson. I do know them. I can attest to their differences. I don't think they would attend the same church. I can also attest to their deep sameness. Each man gives every indication that he has a passionate love for Christ and His church. They share a common commitment to Baptist identity and the Baptist missionary ethos. They are both brilliant and love students. They are the same when it really counts. Can they share a denomination? I think they can.

The SBC is in a raging mess right now because an angry junta wants to treat every theological issue as a fight for dogma - first order concerns. If we create a DMZ between doctrine and belief we can expand our cooperation without grinding theological integrity to dust. Stan Norman and Roger Olson can dwell in the same Baptist denomination if the missional ethos allows some doctines to define local congregations but not denominational cooperation. There are a host of issues that divide us that could and should be placed in this borderland. Norman and Olson agree on the categories. We can agree that many issues fall between them. Only disagreements on, doctrines approaching dogma, should keep us for partnering for the mission of God.

What do you think?

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. Romans 14:10 (ESV)

A Guild of Donkeys

I just finished listening to Dr. Timothy George's talk given at the Baptist Identity Conference at Union University. It was a wonderful lecture on the current needs of our Baptist fellowship. He called us to mine the Christian heritage (retrival for renewal), to particularity in the service of unity and to humility in the presence of the holy. I think the irenic nature manifest in Dr. George and David Dockery is the only real hope for a Southern Baptist future.

Dr. George closed his lecture with a quote form the theolgian Karl Barth on the occasion of his 80th birthday celebration. He told those honoring him that he was just a donkey bearing the message of Christ. Dr. George said that we are at the core just a guild of donkeys. It's at word we need to hearken to for it is high time to tremble.

The King of Bill Carey Bible College

The Baptist Record reports that R. Thomas King has been anointed the head of William Carey Univeristy. My prayers are with Dr. King in this new position.

I was a student of Bennie Crockett (@Carey) and Argile Smith (@ NOBTS). My hopes were that one of them would be asked to take this job. I know both of them would have been increadible leaders for the university. I don't have any personal knowledge of Dr. King but wish him and Carey the best.

The Evangelist-Pastor

Several months ago my friends at the Kettering Fellowship and I had an extended discussion about the role of the "evangelist" in the NT. I read a quote from Darrell Guder today that I think profoundly impacts this discussion. Let me know what you think.

At the heart of these basic functions of the ministry of the Word stands the work of the "evangelist." For many years, I pondered the term at the center of this five-dimensional definition of the ministry of the Word that equips the saints for the church's mission. If one understands the term "evangelist" too narrowly, that is, if it is restricted only to communication of the gospel to unbelievers, then it is difficult to see how this ministry "equips to saints." If we understand the necessity of the church's continuing conversion, however, then the function of evangelist is essential to the church's missional equipping. The apostolic and prophetic ministry of the Word must constantly evangelize the community so that it can be about its work, its evangelizing witness. The community should experience the constant challenge of the gospel to our reductions and conformities. The gospel itself, through the proclamation and exposition of the Word, will uncover our need for conversion as the Spirit is faithful and makes that miracle happen.

Our congregations today urgently need to be ministered to by evangelist-pastors. That does not mean that they should hear a sermon every Sunday about accepting Christ. They should hear, instead, the constant and empowered message of good news which calls all Christians to continuing conversion, to growth and healing in the life of faith, and to greater and more radical obedience as sent-out witnesses.

Shepherds after God's own heart

And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. Jeremiah 3:12 (ESV)

I am preaching a series of messages during our mid-week services based on the confessions of Jeremiah. I love the give and take of these confessions. Jeremiah had what Dallas Willard calls, "a conversational relationship with God." During the Divine - mortal dialogues we see God conforming Jeremiah to the pattern of His heart. In the second confession (15:10-21) we see three traits emerge that are essential for servant-leaders in any era.

1. The Shepherd's identity and purpose were in God. (15:16)

2. The Shepherd ate God's word. (15:16)

3. The Shepherd was willing to sit alone. (15:17)

Have you seen the need for these traits in your life and ministry? Are they formed in hardship? What do you think?

Minatrea and the Missional Church

I spent yesterday at one of the best conferences I have ever attended. The Metro Baptist Association brought in Milfred Minatrea of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. It was a small gathering of pastors, church planters, state convention workers, associational workers, religion professors, etc. The interaction was valuable and the content presented was informative.

Minatrea's lectures were on missional Christianity. He talked about some mechanics but spent most of the time discussing spirituality and values. He quoted Antoine de Saint-Exupery: If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.

I want to know how you guys do this in your ministries? Do you teach missional yearning? How do you do it?

NOTE - I was given a copy of Minatrea's book, Shaped by God's Heart: The Passion and Practices of Missional Churches. I already have a copy and will gladly send it to the first person that asks for it in this comment thread.


I once heard Anne LaMott say that the only real prayers are the one word prayers - Help. Wow. and Thank You. I have prayed help for our daughter and I appreciate you joining in that supplication. I now am praying - Thank You. She has responded to medication and will not require any more tests for now. We'll be watching her but are deeply grateful for her turn.



Please pray for our daughter Molly Katherine. A blood test yesterday registered a high white cell count. We hope it is a bacterial infection. She may be admitted into the hospital today, pending blood work. Thanks.

Updike and the Gospel or "Why I Want to Be a Bible-thumping Virile Muckraking Parson"

I read John Updike's A Month of Sundays during the holiday break. It was a ribald book filled with raw sexuality and sad perversion. Under this frothy surface, however, I heard the deep and steady voice of a warning prophet.

Updike's main character was the Reverend Tom Marshfield. His many affairs with lonely congregants landed him in a rehab center for wayward clerics. Here he found neither salvation nor damnation but the lowest forms of chummy talk therapy and escape. He returned to his parish unreformed and calcified.

Marshfield is the face of Updike's indictment of the modern church. He is a hollow form, an empty vestement. He is a terrified child believing if he prayes too well Jesus will answer by walking through the door, demanding his favorite toy. He fears the new birth.

Marshfield has acceted his life as empty functionary. He wrote, "The Catholic church in this at least was wright; a priest is more than a man, and though the man disintegrate within his vestements, and become degraded beyond the laxest of his flock, the priest can continue to perform his functions, as a scarecrow performs his." He continues, "We do not invent ourselves, and then persuade men to find room for us; rather, men invent our office, and persuade us to fill it." Pastors as shuttlecock - the story of his life - carecrows (*intentional miss-spelling) with a scrapwood spine.

It's easy to "go Marshfield" as Ted Haggard recently reminded us. It's just a few quick steps from the divine call to filling a role for a grinning crowd. I am grateful to Updike for this cautionary tale. He demands we pastors revisit our commitments and give attention to our spiritual formation. We need to hearken to the Word once delivered.

For we preach not ourselves but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. II Corinthians 4:5 KJV
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