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.
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