The Importance of Thinking Small

“I look on all the world as my parish; thus far I mean, that, in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right and my bounden duty, to declare unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation.” John Wesley

We have been encouraged all our lives to THINK BIG. I am all for that and do believe we need a vision as big as the world. But we need the corresponding ability to break the world into small pieces. Often people hide behind the veil of big thinking in order to shirk the responsibility for messy engagement. Churches run from one big program to another hoping that the next big thing will be the magic red pill of success. We need to learn to think small! We will explore this notion through four messages in January. Spend some time with these stories as the New Year begins. I look forward to worshipping and serving with you in 2012.

1.8.12 – “Small is Big” John 6:1-14

1.15.12 – “Small Faith” Mark 9:14-32

1.22.12 – “Small Church” Acts 2

1.29.12 – “Small World” Acts 10

Jon Kvanvig - Destiny and Deliberation

Clarity Needed

Clarity is one of the most import parts of good leadership. Vision is more about seeing the river in front of us than decades into the future. We are more river pilot then palm reader. We need to see the rocks and turns as they approach in the distance. . Murkiness creeps into our thought processes through an assortment of mental and spiritual pollutants. These pollutants keep us from visioning well. The darkest pollutant is unforgiveness.

Doriss Hambrick gave a devotional at our monthly deacons gathering last night that affirmed this for me. She read 2 Corinthians 2:3-11. It’s a passage about the hard work of forgiving. Verse 11 asserts that unforgiveness leads to Satanic deception. Unforgiveness makes us dumb and vulnerable. That’s ample reason to give forgiveness a shot.

A Thank You Note to FBC Waco

Thank You

I thank my God every time I remember you, Philippians 1:3

You are a reason for gratitude to God. I typically use we and us language when I talk about our congregation. I think of us that way. We are we. For just a moment I want to traffic in some pastor to congregation you language. I want you to hear why I’m grateful to God for you.

You are family to our family. When we moved to Waco we moved a long way from the people we love the most. We came because we believed (and believe) God wanted us to. You have embraced us and called us your own. Meredith and I appreciate the love you have shown our children. Thank you.

You serve. I am grateful that you serve one another and this community. Yes, there is more that we can and need to do but you are faithful servants. Thank you

You give. You faithfully give money for the ministry of FBC Waco. Money does not sound very spiritual but it is. You demonstrate faith by consistently giving. You have shown kindness through numerous extravagant gifts. Your gifts large and small are improving the financial health of our church. By God’s grace I believe we will be debt free. We will be responsible stewards. We will be able to invest more in the cause of Christ. We will be able to make needed capital improvements. Thank you.

You pray. I have seen many tears fall this year. Many of you have said during critical moments, “I feel the prayers.” I think you are feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit but in some mysterious way prayer does have a deep effect on God and us. Thank you.

You persevere. You are tough as a boot. Thanks for hanging in there and maintaining your confession. Thank you.

You forgive. I am praying that we become a group of people known for radical forgiveness. We need honesty, correction, and grace. Many of you are walking in forgiveness. Many of you will. It’s the only wise way to live in a broken world. Thank you.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus. 1 Corinthians 1:4

Stained Glass and Stained Carpet

I consider Ron Cook to be my pastor. He is one of the best listeners I know. He love me. He is wise. He loves God. He once told me something like this, "God loves the church more than pastors know." How true. I was remided of this yesterday as I worshipped with our church family. I started crying tears of joy during the announcements and that set the tone. Jamie McCallum preached in our evening gatheing. It was a confessional message about God's work in our midst. FBC folks  - If you missed this please take a little time and read it. I love y'all.

Stained Glass and Stained Carpet: God Is Here

It is an honor to stand before you this evening and call you friends. When I first walked the steps to this pulpit back in January, I looked out on a room full of new faces, besides the one row of relatives and couple rows of friends from Truett that had come to encourage me and help calm my nerves. That was a great night- one that I’d remember for years to come, even if it had been my only interaction with all of you. For on that night, about 5 rows back and 3 seats in, sat my 90-year-old grandfather who has been a Southern Baptist preacher for at least 95 years it seems. I had only felt that God was calling me to preacher for a year at this point- and just like you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, it seems you can’t teach an old preacher new parameters of orthodoxy. So, my Papaw walked into this chapel a bit skeptical- a bit confused- quiet torn.

He wanted to be here to support his only grandchild out of 12 who was following in his footsteps by going into ministry. He loved that I had been a missionary. He loved that I was working for Baylor as a chaplain. But this idea of preaching- and serving the local church made him uneasy. Yet here he was- and one by one you embraced him and welcomed him- and you embraced me and welcomed me- as though you didn’t see that big of a difference between us. And through you, my Papaw began to see me as a preacher for the first time in my life. He saw that you were a people who loved God and served God- and who actually allowed me to offer a word from the heart of God. Because you believed in me that night, my Papaw believed in me. And, even if that had been the totality of my experience with the folks of the First Baptist Church of Waco- that would have been enough for me to love you forever. For on that night, 2 preachers walked into this room unsure of the other- and both walked out understanding each other better than we ever had before. We were preachers. We were family. And we encountered the living God in this place- through you.

And as I stand here tonight, my hope is to do nothing less than show you that the God who filled this chapel on the evening of January 30th and changed my life as a result of it, has continually filled my heart through the people and the work of this church since the day I walked the aisle and became one of you on May 22nd. He is here- He is moving- and His life resonates through you. I see it- can I tell you just how, just where, and just when?

You see, this concept of reporting what God has done is not just a random idea for tonight’s sermon, but rather is something people of the faith have done all along. There is something very biblical- very crucial to communities of faith- that comes from one within the community reporting to the others what God has done. It’s how we remember his goodness, when life just seems so hard- how we remember his presence when life just seems so ordinary- how we find the joy to gather in this place again and again- when we have already been gathering week after week, for decades.

So, as I report to you the signs of the Living God that I have seen in you I follow in the footsteps of the 70 who Jesus sent out in Luke 10. As they returned from their journey, they rushed back to Jesus overwhelmed with excitement because God had shown up! Verses 17-18 say,

“The seventy returned with joy, saying “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.”

They claim that they saw things happen they never would have imagined possible, and Jesus affirms that he saw it too.

Tonight, can I join with these disciples- and with a spirit of humble amazement, exclaim to you what God has done?

Along with those disciples, I want to follow in the tradition of the apostle Paul, as seen in Acts 21. Starting in verse 17, the author recounts,

“When we arrived in Jerusalem, the brothers welcomed us warmly. The next day Paul went with us to visit James; and all the elders were present. After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard it, they praised God.”

After being away from some time, Paul gathers around a church that is near and dear to his heart, and begins to tell them all the things God had done. Paul gives a testimony of the fruits of faithful service, and as a result the people praise their God.

They become convinced once again, that God is in the work of transformation, conversion, and salvation.

Tonight, along with the apostle Paul, can I report to you the fruits I see from your faithful service- fruits that convince us that God is at work- even if we haven’t been so aware?

For the next few moments I simply want to walk alongside Paul and the disciples- and simply proclaim how I’ve witnessed God at work among you? Would it be okay, if I just give a report of where I have seen Him in this place?

I have seen him as I gathered around the table with some of you. Whether it was over a cup of coffee at Starbucks, a meal at your kitchen table, or lunch at a local restaurant- we have sat and have shared stories of life with God. You have asked me about my calling, my journey, singleness, studies, and the transition. I have asked you about your family, your work, your life in this church, and your life outside this church. We have found that we are more alike than different- and we agree that we’re better for having broken bread together. God showed up when I met with you. And for that I’m thankful.

Then, I have seen our Father as I walk the halls on Sunday morning and pass by some of you who I know struggled to get out of bed that morning. Last week we awoke to a rain storm- some of you awake to that most every day. Some of you, I’ve come to know, wake up with grief many days. Others to physical pain that makes each step from the house to the church and back difficult. Some have been hurt by the church in the past- either this one or another- and to come back each week stirs up old feelings of regret and disappointment. Yet, here you all are- week after week, with each step proclaiming that somehow being here is worth the effort- even worth the pain. You have helped me believe that church is worth it too. And in this shared conviction, I see God- and I praise him for you.

I see God each day- as I look around and see families, single people, young folks and older folks simply wanting to be a part of what God is doing. Some of you spend months out of the year preparing for one week in Guatemala, praying that the children you serve will see Christ in you. Others help volunteer at the Gospel Café as often as they can- choosing to know and serve our homeless population- praying they see Christ in you.

And then each month the fellowship hall is packed with folks who give up their typical dinner time to sit alongside and serve the homeless who come to us to be fed. I was talking to a homeless man in my first month here- and when he found out I worked at First Baptist he said the Agape meal was the day he looked forward to the very most each month. He said at least that night I know I will leave full and will be treated well. You pray they see God through you- and it seems those prayers are answered.

And each Saturday a bunch of little kids with their cleats and shin guards on make their way to FBC- because this church has determined that fun should not be regulated to those who can afford it.

From LIFT workshops, to summer meal programs, to ESL, to VBS canvassing in Kate Ross- you show that our God will not be contained in this building. He’s on the loose and you’re out there with Him!

As you walk out these doors week after week and long to be the presence of Christ for those out there, I also find myself challenged to not get too comfortable inside these church walls. God is present in your belief in his kingdom- and as you serve He shows up all over this town, all over this world.

I’ve seen God in deacon’s meetings- yes even in deacon’s meetings- as a room full of folks put the prayer needs of this church before any issue on the agenda, week after week. It was in these meetings that we celebrated that birth of a new child and mourned the death of Mrs. Dodee Jackson. It was in one of these meetings, that just a few weeks after her death, Dick Jackson stood and shared a word of encouragement from Scripture- as though he needed to encourage us in his time of loss! In the midst of his pain, he wanted to offer a word of life to the church that loved him- and in that moment that room became a holy place. This church is still a place people cling to in life and in death- Our God is still the One you cling to in life and in death- and each day in between.

I could go on to talk about how I’ve seen God at work as a senior adult class pulled their funds together to send a young 13 year old boy to summer camp. They had never met him but decided he was worth taking a chance on. That week this young boy’s life was changed and the life of our entire youth group was changed by him.

And on these Sunday evenings, when a group of you gathers to hear one seminarian try out this thing called preaching after another. God knows you could get better speakers up here. It could be more interesting- it could be more entertaining. Yet, you don’t seem to care too much about that. You’re too busy offering hugs and words of encouragement to those of us who are terrified that we’re not really cut out for the call on our lives. I see God in your selflessness- it often seems church isn’t about you at all.

Or I could tell how I see God each week when parents and leaders throughout who have put in 40 hours at work and who knows how many hours at home, come into their respective classrooms with a lesson ready to go. In the midst of busyness and being pulled every which way, you come to this church ready to give some more of yourself- because you seem to take Jesus’ command to make disciples literally. You care that He is known- you care that each one in this church from the youngest child to oldest adult has the opportunity to really love him. I see Christ in your care and in your efforts.

Or we could speak of the Sunday School class who adopted and elderly couple and gave up a weekend to give them the anniversary celebration they would never forget.

Or what about those college students who fill this very room every Wednesday night, until an hour past my ideal bedtime, worshipping and digging into the depths of Scripture together. We all know college students have plenty of options for where to be at any given hour of any given day. And yet they’re here- they’re worshipping- they represent the next generation that stands alongside each of you and says God is worth it! And the church is the Bride of Christ!

And then, there’s those youth who know the codes to the doors in this building better than I do. That probably makes insurance companies nervous, but it reminds me that you have given them a place to belong- a place to call home- they call this church their own.

And then once they break into the building, they could proceed to show you every knick and cranny of this church. From secret rooms, to dungeons, to the top of the dome (not that I’ve gone up or down there in case Cecil is listening). As they lead me around the maze that is First Baptist I can’t help but smile. The fact that they know this place so well tells me that they’ve been allowed to live in this place- to enjoy- to kick back and realize that sometimes God’s presence must be responded to with reverence and awe- and other times His presence is best responded to by kids laughing, and running up and down the hallways- truly believing that there is no place they’d rather be in that moment.

Or I could mention how I’ve seen God in the lines that almost go out the sanctuary doors as you all gather to welcome new members and new believers. This family is not closed- but is always ready for who God will send next and what he wants to do next. By the time the last hand is shaken, those standing in the front have a coarse voice and a full heart. They realize you cared more about welcoming them than beating the lunch crowd- and in that gesture you stand with our God who always puts people above agenda.

I see God in the carpet stains that show signs of activity- of eating and creating together. I see him during the children’s sermon, as boys and girls rush to sit closest to our pastor. They cling to him, because he’s not just mom and dad’s pastor- he’s their pastor too!

I see God as folks who have shared passed disagreements stand pews apart week after week and lift their voices simultaneously to the God of reconciliation- to the God who heals. They pass the bread and cup to one another, acknowledging that we’re all broken, and by sharing in or Savior’s brokenness we can all be made whole.

I see him in the group of 10 or so WMU ladies who meet the third Monday of every month with a simple desire to know what God’s doing in the world and pray on behalf of those serving far from home. They don’t think they’re doing much, but as one who spent a couple years far from home I can testify that they are. There were many days that I didn’t know much about why I was there or what I was doing, but the one thing I did know was that the WMU ladies were praying for me and for God’s work through me. These women are prayer warriors- women who still believe God has a heart for the nations and prayer matters. Their years of faithful service inspire me to press on as well.

And I experienced God through you on July 31, as I had the opportunity to preach that Sunday morning and then accompanied a group of youth to serve at the homeless shelter that night. You have given me a place to embrace my calling just as I am. You have believed in me, and in so doing have helped me believe in the church that I was so afraid would never want me. You see me as a minister- and I see each of you as one as well. For in a time of great uncertainty, you ministered to me- by believing God could actually use me- not because of my gender, experience, or skills- but simply because God is faithful to work in and through his church.

Friends, this is just the beginning of my report of what God has done. Praise him there’s even more- more that you know that I don’t. More that some of us will never know- and most definitely more to come. In Scripture, when a report was given the purpose was to proclaim to the hearers that this God really is who He says he is. To remind the believers that He really is at work- that he really is present- that He really is on the move. Friends, if nothing else may we leave this place tonight convinced more than ever that God is here among us. May you see him in the sanctuary as you find yourself gazing up at the massive dome where light trickles down. Mat you see him as you look up at the baptistery imagining the many feet that have walked down those steps, and the many that will. May you see the story of his work among us is in the beautiful stained glass windows and in the beautiful stained green carpet. May you see it in the ancient pews and the month old futons that already show signs of donut icing and taco night. May you hear him in the songs you sing, the words of life you offer, the laughter that arises, and the tears that are shed.

As we live life in this place, our Father is living it with us. You- the ones who are even here on a Sunday night- are the ones who tend to be here most every night the doors are open. Sometimes when life becomes pretty normal, and worship routine- we need someone who is utterly convinced that we’re living in the midst of a miracle- that we’re dwelling in the presence of the Living God- to help us remember and believe it to. Like our friends the disciples and Paul I’m here to confess that God is at work, that the miracle of his presence is here, and that I see him in you. May you leave rejoicing- convinced once again, that God is in place.

Embodied Holiness

Broken Steeple Songs

I feel like this blog needs a few tunes that encourage broken steeples everywhere. Don't give up y'all! The first is from Billy Joe Shaver. My buddy Marcus and I are going to try to meet him before Christmas. Wish us luck.

I Have Decided

I am working on a new sermon series called, "I Have Decided." I will explore some of the big decisions we face in life. I would like some feed back from you. What are some of the BIG decisions you've made in your life? Let me now through this blog, Facebook, Twitter, or my email -

Prayer Pods

We have been members of FBC Waco for one year. It is hard to believe that I am able to type that sentence. Time has flown by. In a strange way we also feel like we have been here much longer than 365 days. We joined a story already being told and we feel it. Thank you so much for allowing us the privilege of serving along side you in the cause of Christ. You words and deeds of encouragement feed our soul. Thank you.

My hope for last year was to see significant change in congregational attitude. I wanted church to be fun in the holiest sense. It has been said that laughter is carbonated holiness. We have laughed together. We’ve wept together and we have developed as sense of expectancy. God blessed us last year and we should be grateful.

I sense that this year needs to be about a few simple things. We must continue to address the alignment of ministries and systems. We need to critically appraise all that we do. Above all we need a revival of prayer. My prayer about our prayer (better than a meeting about a meeting) is based on Zechariah 12:10. I’m asking God to pour out a , “spirit of compassion and supplication.” We are simply not enough but God is all sufficient. One simple thing we can do to foster this renewal is organize a collection of prayer pods.

Seed pods are little clusters of life. Prayer pods are to. Our Wednesday gatherings will be dedicated to three things this year. We will prepare for Sunday worship. 2. We will disciple children and students. 3. We will pray. I’d like to gather our congregation in small groups for prayer that will partner with each other during the year to encourage intercession and share concerns. These groups will pray around tables during the mid-week gathering. Following an encouraging devotional we will pray. It will take a few weeks to organize the pods so look for opportunities to sign up. You can sign up now by emailing me at I believe that God intends to do great things in and through us this year. Let’s be joyful participants in his mission.

Gifts From the Road

We recently took a trip to visit family in Mississippi. Our kids had a wonderful time and were more than a little sad when it came time to leave. To make matters worse, our daughter Molly Katherine discovered that she left something at my parents house when we had made it thirty minutes down the highway. It was not a turn around worthy item. It was one of those simple chunks of plastic that define a five year old's life for a few hours. I tried to console her by saying, "Molly Kat, the road gives us gifts." The road produced a gift a little bit later.

My parents gave the kids jars of coins when we left. They let them play with them and then handed them as gifts. A few hours into our trip we found a Coinstar machine at a grocery store. We let them feed their jars of filthy money into them.  We were surprised when the machine spit our coins from India, Israel, Russia and other countries.  These were coins that I had tossed into the big coin jar at my parent's house years ago - gifts from the road. The kids took their receipts and purchased more chunks of plastic. I pocketed the international loot and  remembered good times. The road really does offer us gifts.

Life is a journey and God wants us to receive his gracious gifts along the way.  We must develop a reflective attitude in order to appropriate this traveling mercy. I highly recommend Alister McGrath's wonderful introduction to Christian spirituality titled, The Journey: A Pilgrim in the Lands of the Spirit. He writes about the type of posture we need by summarizing it this way: Remember, Anticipate, Resolve to deepen the quality of our Christian faith and life in the present. He is a sound traveler and we'd be wise to hitch a ride with him. Check out the book and enjoy the gifts of the road.

Baptism - Thanks Craig Blomberg

Baptism is a beautiful symbol and an important biblical practice. I'm grateful to Craig Blomberg for sharing his thoughts on the issue. Click the title of this post to read his piece.

Social Media and Ministry

I have been asked to do an interview on local television about social media and ministry.  I'll share more about this later. I thought I'd repost a two year old piece about Twitter and preaching.


I've thought a good bit about how I share messages lately. Oddly, Twitter has helped. I've mapped out a model and I've been using it in preacing, teaching, and personal evangelism. It's a work in progress. Check it out if you have time and let me know what you think. Thanks!

What Are You Doing: Thinking about Twitter and Communicating the Gospel

I became a pastor at 22 and began preaching three sermons a week. This went for eight years until I accepted a staff position at First Baptist Church in Meridian, MS. This put me on the other side of the Lord’s Supper table for the first time in a long time. I teach several times a week in very different settings and still get to preach often but the Sunday morning change has given me an unexpected gift. Getting the opportunity to listen to sermons and reflect on preaching has helped me do something I have not yet done in my young ministry. I’ve developed a philosophy of preaching. I preached my first sermon at 15 and have preached a truck load of them. I’ve done this with passion and have really enjoyed it. I’ve now had some time to think about what I’m doing and I am grateful.

My thoughts on preaching have been impacted by an unpreacherly source, Twitter. Twitter is a social networking tool that connects people through the sharing of simple messages through the day. I’ve often played host to the wedding of intellectual odd couples. They get together in my brain and send me off in a new direction. Twitter and preaching have synched up in my noodle and here are the resulting thoughts –

Social Networking

Preaching and teaching are acts of social networking. The preaching event draws together a group of people that are connected by a common bond. The people have come to hear and respond. The gathered community is the preacher’s network. Each hearer also sits in the middle of a network of his or her own. The wise teacher or preacher sees both the network gathered under the steeple and the many networks just beyond.


When you go to the introduction page explains Twitter using the categories: what, why, and how. I’ve begun thinking about preaching and teaching using these categories. The WHAT of preaching consists of three things – text, title, and tweet.

The sermon must honor the biblical text. People come to church with the strange notion that they will hear something from God. They want this message to speak to deep needs in their lives but they want it to be more than friendly advice. They get that all week long. If they went to the trouble of getting to church they want to connect with God. A message must be built from the biblical text.

The talk or sermon also needs a title. I’ve found that the really good ones also wind up with nick names. Sometimes I start with the pet name and then write out something for the worship guide. This helps me love the message.

The sermon needs a Tweet. Each sermon or lesson needs a point. Think of an arrow. The entire arrow and the bow serve the purpose of the point. Sermons need to be well tipped. I have friends who go around looking for ancient Native American arrow heads. The heads always last the longest. The same is true for the sermon. The point is what will last.

A Twitter message is called a Tweet. With Twitter, you only get 140 characters. I have not done a good job of sermon prep if I can’t tell you what the message is about on Twitter. When I prepare the point of a message I ask the sermon, “What are you doing?” If I can’t Tweet it I won’t preach it. Calvin Miller and Andy Stanley are my favorite preachers (I don’t know them. I mean technically.). They are big champions of one point preaching. I’ll bet they can Tweet a sermon.


The point of the message must connect with people. The network of people in front of the preacher is the reason for the sermon. The sermon exists for the people because people matter to God. The preacher must make the case for the point. We can’t assume people will care. The "why" part of the message generates creative tension, without which every sermon falls to the ground. What are the people's longings and fears? What does God want for them? These types of questions help craft the why of a message.


Application is the gift of a message. To stand in the center of our network each week and talk about the what and why of scripture is not enough. Sadly, we often assume they will know exactly what to do with the message. I think of John the Baptist’s network in Luke chapter 3. After he preached they asked him, “What shall we do then?” As a preacher I need to anticipate this question and work hard at application.

Don’t take notes Tweet.

When I grew up I was taught that the good Christian takes notes during a sermon, so I became a note taker. I’ve been encouraging people to update Facebook and Tweet during lessons and messages. This happened last night as I led a bible study for young adults called The Gathering on Parkway. They were all goofing around with their fancy little phones. I told them to update their status. To tell their network what they were doing. This gets the word out and sends the message down a relational bridge already built for the gospel. CNBC just ran a piece of Mark Driscoll’s encouragement of sermon twittering at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. I hope this goes viral.

Andy Stanley wrote something interesting that applies here, “The last category I might apply a message to is the person who is not there. Every time you speak, somebody is sitting there thinking about someone who really needed to hear what you had to say. Go ahead and address the person who is there but who knows someone who should have been there. Suggest ways for them to get your message in front of that person, tactfully.” Here’s a weird sentence I've come up with that helps me – “We preach to our thems for them AND for their thems.” Preaching is social networking.

These thoughts are really for me and they are a work in progress. Feel free to comment if you can help me with them. I’m working to craft my lessons and sermons based on these ideas so it’s a big deal to me and I’d appreciate your insight. If they help you communicate the gospel then I am really grateful. If you read all this thanks!

you think.

Summer Reading List

We all stack up books during this season. I've got a few lined  up.  I'm looking for at least one piece of escape fiction. I would appreciate suggestions. Here's my list:

1. Cloulds Without Water: A Study of Jude As It Deals With Unregenerate Church Members, Bill Austin

2. Love Wins, Rob Bell

3. No Other Name: An Investigation into the Destiny of the Unevangelized. John Sanders

4. The Life Beyond: An Interpretation of New Testament teaching on death, the resurrection, the second coming, and eternal destiny - Ray Summers

5. Nudge, Len Sweet

What are you reading these days?

Soul Food

I love soul food. The mention of it makes me smile. Soul food feeds the body and as the name implies it feeds the soul. Soul food can be procured in family kitchens, mom and pop restaurants, church fellowship halls, and other fine places. Soul food is loved by young and old, rich and poor. It’s good stuff.

I posted a picture of a soul food restaurant sign on Facebook recently and my old friend Bum Bounds commented that he was sure our church was probably much like the lunch place. He surmised that we were open to all and ready to feed the soul. I want us to live up to that belief.

We will focus on a number of important soul nutrients this summer. I think June and July will be important months for us. We will be reminded of ways to strengthen ourselves in the faith. Come and grab some Soul Food with friends. Bring friends with you! Here’s the message schedule:

June 5 Introduction and Scripture Intake

June 12 Gratitude

June 19 Industry

June 26 Friendship

June 3 Freedom (Curt Krushwitz)

July 10 Rest

July 17 Solitude

July 24 Vocation

July 31 Courage (Jamie McCallum)


Joe Trull once wrote, “Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers not only taught a way of thinking, they claimed to pursue a bios, a ‘way of life.’” The bible speaks of God’s way or the way of the Lord. Jesus presented himself as the way and his earliest followers were called people of the way. The word WAY is packed with ethical implications.

When it comes to serving our neighbors in groups we often simply need a WAY to start. I’m using this talk sheet for chalk board sessions with groups at FBC Waco to help launch simply ministry projects that expose our groups to God’s mission in our world. It will be fleshed out but this gives you an idea of where we are going.

Who? not oppress the widow and the orphan, the foreigner and the poor.

Zechariah 7:10

Nicholas Wolterstorff talks about the, “quartet of the vulnerable.” Other biblical passages further flesh out the Who. Do you have friends, relatives, associates, or neighbors in a vulnerable place?

Available Support?

What ministries, agencies or groups are currently working on this?

What is going undone?


What resources does our group possess?

Should we partner with an existing group?

What do we need to find out?

What is our next step?

Gathered and Scattered

Our friend Jean Ann Jones gave me a beautiful photograph of our sanctuary. It was taken over 100 years ago. I love the light coming through the windows. I am also excited about seeing the Lord’s Supper table. Bill Ramer did a wonderful job of restoring that piece. It is a wooden parable of what God can do. The sanctuary is filled with beauty but the people are absent.

I wonder what the congregants were doing the day of the photo so many years ago. I can imagine that they were going about their work. They were teaching, ranching, tending house, doing all kinds of business. The kids were probably playing. The babies were napping. The people that were FBC Waco were living. They gathered in that beautiful room but they lived outside those walls. They gathered in the sanctuary but scattered to live, love, and serve. They are our spiritual ancestors and exemplars.

We gather in the same beautiful room. We come from all over the county and meet a few times each week in our centrally located meeting house. I love gathering with our church family. We come from West and McGregor and all spots in between. Gathering makes us stronger.

We scatter to live. I encourage you to see the end of our worship gatherings as an entrance to your primary mission field. Your mission takes place where you work, shop, and play. Ask God to help you serve the cause of Easter as you go about your life. Invite your friends to gather with us. Invest in them and love them as we scatter.

Good Work Y'all! Thanks Mike @ The Trib

Waco Tribune Herald 03/26/2011
Reaching out to the neighbors
First Baptist Church of Waco adds Sunday services in Spanish
By Mike Copeland
Tribune-Herald staff writer

First Baptist Church of Waco is taking another step to reach out to its South Waco Spanishspeaking community by offering a Sunday service in Spanish.

For years, the church offered its “Habla” Bible-study program, sports leagues and classes teaching English as a second language.

“This is another opportunity to worship with and serve the people in our community,” said First Baptist Church Pastor Matt Snowden, noting the high percentage of Hispanics living near the facility’s location at 500 Webster Ave.

While about 500 people attend regular services Sunday mornings in the church sanctuary, Spanish-speaking people wanting to worship will gather at a nearby chapel.

“We do not look at this as a separate church or a separate entity, but another service in our church family,” Snowden said. “We have a lot of ministries for Spanish-speaking people and we have added this to our menu.”

Delores Melendez, who oversees the activities ministry at First Baptist, said the church works hard to overcome doubts that people in the neighborhood may have about attending a large church founded in 1851.

“First Baptist Church has a big heart and it has reached out to the community in more ways than just offering services in Spanish,” Melendez said. “A lot of people look at First Baptist and think, ‘I could never be a part of that.’ “But we are trying to get people away from that wa y of thinking and have been for many years.”

Melendez said First Baptist Church sponsors basketball and soccer teams that attract Spanish-speaking youngsters and other minorities.

It charges a small fee for parents to sign their children up to play in leagues and provides coaches as well as pays to have officials supervise the games and buys T-shirts and other equipment youngsters may need.

“Many of these children never played in a league because their families couldn’t afford it,” Melendez said. First Baptist is targeting these parents as it spreads the word about its new Sunday service in Spanish.

“Some say their children are asking about God for the first time,” Melendez said. Jaime Cortez, 26, hails from Veracruz, Mexico, and attends George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University. He said he enjoys preaching to Spanish-speaking congregants at First Baptist.

“There is need everywhere, but I see a huge need here,” said Cortez, who is married and has a 10-monthold child. “We have a lot of socialwork programs, and we have basketball leagues and soccer leagues that attract Spanish-speaking people. But there was nobody to share the Bible with them.

“I saw that as an opportunity.”

He said he and others approached Snowden about starting a Sunday morning worship service.

“He said, ‘If you want to go for it, go for it,’ ” Cortez said.

Cortez received his bachelor’s degree in theology from the Baptist University of the Americas in San Antonio, where several professors urged him to pursue advanced degrees at Baylor’s Truett Seminary.

Cortez hopes to serve as pastor of a church someday in either Mexico or the United States.

“I don’t know where yet, wherever God leads me,” Cortez said.

So far, attendance at the Spanish services, which began about a month ago, has been sparse.

“We have started very small, but we have great hopes the ministry will continue to grow,” Snowden said. 757-5736

The Pulpit and The Table

I had the joy of preaching at the George W. Truett Theological Seminary this week. Truett is a wonderful place and it was an honor to be there. Click on the title of this blog  and  you will see the message. It's directed at emerging preachers. Truett has some great young men and women and I'm one of their biggest fans.

Tempted and Tried

The first Sunday of Lent takes us into the wilderness. It's a place filled with jackals, sand, hot wind, and the Devil. We also  find a few angels and Jesus out there. Bonhoeffer once wrote, "So the Chrisitian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloiseterd life but in the thick of foes." Jesus showed us how to live in the world as it is. The focal text for this Sunday reminds us of this truth.

A robust understanding of sin and evil is one of the most practical things we can possess. R.T. Kendall said, "A solid, sound doctrine of evil is essential both to good theological foundation and also to practical Christian living." I hope you'll join us at FBC Waco this week as we begin the long walk to the empty tomb. We start on the piccacle of the temple.

Text: Matthew 4:1-11

Women in Ministry

Pentecostals were some of the folks that shaped my position on women in minsitry. Here is one their old boys talking about it.

For the folks in Biloxi, Mobile, and NOLA

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss

Oh! The Places You’ll Go!

by the incomparable Dr. Seuss


Today is your day.

You’re off to Great Places!

You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

You’ll look up and down streets. Look’em over with care. About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.” With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you’re too smart to go down a not-so-good street.

And you may not find any you’ll want to go down. In that case, of course, you’ll head straight out of town. It’s opener there in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen and frequently do to people as brainy and footsy as you.

And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew. Just go right along. You’ll start happening too.

Oh! The Places You’ll Go!

You’ll be on your way up!

You’ll be seeing great sights!

You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.

You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed. You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead. Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don’t.

Because, sometimes, you won’t.

I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.

You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch. And your gang will fly on. You’ll be left in a Lurch.

You’ll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump. And the chances are, then, that you’ll be in a Slump.

And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked. Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked. A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin! Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in? How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And if you go in, should you turn left or right…or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite? Or go around back and sneak in from behind? Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find, for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

The Waiting Place…for people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting.

No! That’s not for you!

Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying. You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing. With banner flip-flapping, once more you’ll ride high! Ready for anything under the sky. Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!

Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won. And the magical things you can do with that ball will make you the winning-est winner of all. Fame! You’ll be famous as famous can be, with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.

Except when they don’t. Because, sometimes, they won’t.

I’m afraid that some times you’ll play lonely games too. Games you can’t win ‘cause you’ll play against you.

All Alone!

Whether you like it or not, Alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot.

And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants. There are some, down the road between hither and yon, that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

But on you will go though the weather be foul. On you will go though your enemies prowl. On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl. Onward up many a frightening creek, though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak. On and on you will hike. And I know you’ll hike far and face up to your problems whatever they are.

You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?

Yes! You will, indeed!

(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

Kid, you’ll move mountains!

So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting.

So…get on your way!

Happy Birthday Charlie Boy

Today is Charles Snowden's 88 Birthday. He's planting a garden. I can wait to eat a tomato sandwich with him.

Church Covenant FBC Waco 1877

Church Covenant

Having been brought as we trust, by Divine Grace, to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ, we do now solemnly and joyfully covenant with each other to walk together in Him with brotherly love to His glory as our common Lord. We do, therefore, in his strength engage,

That we will exercise mutual care, as members one of another, to promote the growth of the whole body in Christian knowledge, holiness and comfort in all the will of God.

That we cheerfully contribute of our property to the support of the poor of the church, and for the maintenance of a faithful ministry of the gospel among us.

That we will not omit closet and family religion at home, nor allow ourselves to permit too common neglect of the great duty of religiously training our children and those under our care, with a view of the service of Christ and the enjoyment of Heaven.

That we will walk circumspectly in the world, that we may win souls, remembering that God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

That we will frequently exhort, and if occasion require, admonish one another (according to Matthew xviii chap.) in the spirit of meekness, considering ourselves lest we also be tempted; and

That, as we have been buried with Christ in baptism and raised again, there is henceforth on us a special obligation to walk in newness of life;

And the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the flock, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make us perfect in every good work, working in us that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Dunn's Falls

Dunn's Falls was one of my favorite places when I was growing up. This show doesn't do it justice but you do get a taste of a great place in Mississippi.

Tracy Lawrence/Find Out Who Your Friends Are

I'll preach the second message in the, O How He Loves You and Me, series this week. We'll explore Christian friendship. Paul Wadell of St. Norbert College said, "Friends do not give up on one another." Tracy Lawrence said the same thing with a little twang. Enjoy!


Mavis and Tweedy blessed me again today. More about this Sunday!

First Steps @ First Baptist Waco

We are offering an opportunity at FBC Waco for new members and guests called, First Steps. I'll lead the group through four weeks of introduction into the life of our spiritual community.  We will meet at 9:30 in room 102.  Here is the talk sheet for week 1. Click on the blog title for the '63 Baptist Faith and Message. -

First Steps @ First Baptist Church

Thank you for taking part in First Steps at FBC Waco. We are glad that you are here. We are praying that you experience God’s best during this season of transition in your spiritual life. For the next four weeks we will talk about issues that are important to you. First Steps is designed for you so please feel free to take charge of the direction.


“The basis for our doctrine is the Bible – God’s Holy Word. We consider the Bible to be God’s uniquely inspired revelation of Himself and we turn to it as the authoritative source of our beliefs and practice. Every believer has the responsibility and privilege of interpreting God’s Word in light of God’s ultimate revelation of Himself, Jesus Christ, as the Holy Spirit guides.”

“There is room for variety of interpretation, but our beliefs are best summarized by the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message, a confession of faith adopted May 9, 1963.”


FBC Waco believes in a regenerate church membership. Let’s pause and review the ’63 BF&M section on salvation (p.7).

Article II Membership (FBC Waco Bylaws Revised 2008)

Section 1. Members The Members of FBC shall be those persons whose names are on the membership roll kept by the Church Clerk as of the date these revised Bylaws are adopted and all applicants for membership who, upon a majority vote of Members present at any annual, regular, or special meeting of the Members, are subsequently received as members in one of the following ways:

(a) by profession of faith in Jesus Christ and believer’s baptism;

(b) by transfer of membership from another Baptist church;

(c) by believer’s baptism; or

(d) by statement of faith and prior experience of believer’s baptism.

Section 2. Watchcare. A person who has already made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, but is undecided about believer’s baptism, or who wishes to maintain membership in another church, may affiliate with FBC by watchcare. A person who affiliates by watchcare by watchcare shall not be considered a voting member of FBC unless such person later is received for membership under Section 1 of this Article.

O How He Loves You and Me

I had wonderful experience yesterday. I spend a little time hanging out with Kurt Kaiser. He was kind enough to let me drop by his house and talk about a song that touches me deeply. His 1975 song, "O How He Loves You and Me" was my uncle Steve's final lesson for his students and has become my creed (more about this later). I am going to preach a sermon series based on this chorus. It will start on Feb. 13 and continue until March 6. Kurt Kaiser will join us on the 6th and help lead in worship. I count all of this as a gift of God's kindness.

O How He Loves You and Me is a testimony, a confession. I'd  like to hear yours. In the spirit of the favorite passages series I'd like you to send me your responses to  this -

Tell me a little about your love relationship with Jesus. How did it begin?

Your testimony is a beautiful song of redemption and it needs to be sung. Enjoy the YouTube videos of O How He Loves You and Me. Click on the title of the blog piece to link to Kurt's blog.

50 Plus Retreat Bible Study Notes

     I'm giving a bible study for a senior adult retreat this week at the Latham Springs Retreat Center. Here are the rough notes. If you were there -  thanks. I hope you were encouraged.

All The Lord’s People: The Church in Service to Christ and Community

Luke 9:28-36 – The Encounter

Jesus filled the prophetic office of Moses. Deuteronomy 8:15, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your people; you shall heed such a prophet.”

Jesus was connected to Elijah, the prophet of the eschaton. Malachi 4:5

The disciples were sleepy but stayed awake. This is an interesting little detail and we should not make too much of it but there is something important about being awake. Falling asleep at the wrong times causes you to miss things. (s) “Odell and the Hearing Aide” (s) Alice Dell Rolling Out of the Pew – Ephesians 5:14-25

Peter- Three equal booths calls to mind the Feast of Tabernacles and God’s provision in the desert. Don’t camp here – keep moving.

Shekinah glory and the voice of God – my son, my chosen, listen to him. “Jesus was found alone.” Christ is utterly unique. Colossians – revelation, creation, dominion, salvation.

Luke 9:37-43 – Into the Mess

The inner circle walks back down into a mess. Mark 9:28-29, “why?...only through prayer” J. Lyle Story, “Some demons are stronger than others.” Spiritual preparation for ministry is vitally important. God openly rewards the secret life of prayer.

Luke 9:44-48 – We Don’t Always Learn From Experience

Admiration is short lived. There’s a cross in the middle of history. Pride seems to be the human default setting. Jesus models Godly humility – the child at his side. God hangs out with weird people. See Timothy Keller’s work.

Luke 9:49-50 – Making Room for Others

Church should be a place concerned with power. We often settle for a cheap knock-off of real power and settle for control. Jesus wants empowered and released disciples. Jesus IS like Moses was – Numbers 11:26-30

God wants us to see Christ as he is and serve in the light of the vision. The service that brings God pleasure is spiritually vital, humble, and inclusive. Let’s wake up and walk down the hill with th

Pilgrims on the Amarillo Trail

I got back from a mad dash road trip last night. Here's the early morning coffee scribble about it -

Darin Davis and I are becoming friends. I prayed for friends when we moved to Texas and God has really shown out. We've met some truly wonderful people. Darin is one of the best.

One of the common things about good people is they know a truck load of other good people and  want to share them. Darin's roots run deep in the dirt of the Texas High Plains. Amarillo has a decent share of good people, many of them friends to Darin. We drove up this week to share a little life with a few of them.

I'm thankful for Howie Batson of FBC Amarillo. We had breakfast and he was interested in our lives and work. He offered good advice and his cell phone number. One of the marks of a good leader is the desire to invest in others. Thanks Howie. I'll be calling.

We also met with Dr. Winfred Moore. Our church family loves him and it's clear why. He is a larger than life character yet a pilgrim and student at 91. I found him curious, a good listener, brave with his confessions, and insightful. He knows how to confer the blessing. He blessed me. We all need mentors, peers, and proteges. I'm glad God dishes them up in his good time. It's one of the chief ways the church finds her voice.

Save This Date - February 5th


Seminar title: Science and Faith: Breaking Down the Wall

Sponsored by: First Baptist Church of Waco, Texas, and the Center for Ministry Effectiveness and Educational Leadership at Baylor University

Location: First Baptist Church, Fellowship Hall, Waco, Texas

Date and time: Saturday, February 5, 2011. 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Lunch served.

Registration: Contact Carol Huckeby at 254-752-3000 or e-mail $25 registration fee payable to First Baptist Church, Waco; $5 for students.

What is this seminar designed to do?

One of the great challenges deep in American culture today is reconciling tenets of the Christian faith with those of modern science. Many noted scientists and mathematicians often think they cannot become Christians due to the common misconceptions of conflicts between faith and science. High school and college students often lose their faith because of this same misunderstanding. Many Christians see science as a threat to their faith rather than a means to enriching it.

The goal of this seminar is to educate people of the church (as well as those outside the church) regarding the engagement of faith and science. The intent is to help clergy and laity alike understand how, in their pursuit of truth as Christian people, their faith will be strengthened and their Christian effectiveness increased when they take both biblical theology and science seriously. The sponsors of this seminar believe that as Christians better understand the relationship between the Christian faith and the scientific investigation of the natural world, many who may currently see these as antagonistic, or at best as disconnected, will begin to view them as complementary, while also mutually informing and edifying. Christians—indeed, congregations—will become more aware of the positive relationship between faith and science that is possible when each is properly understood, with God seen as the author of both.

The speakers for the seminar are Gerald Cleaver, Associate Professor of Physics, Barry Harvey, Professor of Theology, and Phyllis Tippit, Lecturer in Geology and Interdisciplinary Science, all from Baylor University. If you wish to receive additional information about this seminar, contact Julie Covington at Baylor (tel.: 254-710-4677 or email ).
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