Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Baptist Temple Expands Care Through Stephen Ministry

Eighteen members of Baptist Temple Church, San Antonio were commissioned as Stephen Ministers this Sunday, January 19. A Stephen Minister provides one-on-one distinctively Christian care to hurting people in and around the congregation. While they are not therapists nor lay counselors, they do receive 50 hours of initial training followed by peer supervision and continuing education.

Stephen Ministry will strengthen our church by providing direct care to people going through a difficult time. I have heard too many stories of hurting people who felt abandoned by their church.

A Stephen Minister would meet with this hurting person for an hour a week; providing a listening ear and shoulder to cry on for as long as it takes.

Furthermore, our church is strengthened by training and deploying church members to apply their spiritual gifts in service to our Lord. Both the care giver and the care receiver grow in faith as a result.

Stephen Minister Rosalinda Acosta said, “The Stephen Ministry training was so incredibly intense while, at the same time moving. The presence of God was so strong at times. I could feel the Lord impressing into my spirit that the main element, the main purpose of a Stephen Minister is to show the love of God to those in a dark and lonely place, a place of despair, confusion and perhaps helplessness.”

A phrase often heard in Stephen Ministry is, “We are the care givers, God is the cure giver.”

Stephen Ministers do not “fix” people. They listen without judgment and maintain strict confidentiality. Even the fact that someone has a Stephen Minister is confidential. Their training includes listening, feelings and confidentiality. Through reading, lectures, case studies and role playing, Stephen Ministers learn how to help people in specific situations. These include divorce, terminal illness, grief, and childbirth.

Newly commissioned Stephen Ministers (L to R) Tracy Zayasbazan, Lin Leeth, Ernest Cruz, Ernest Alvarez, Charlotte Cruz, Bertha Alvarez, Dan Cruz, Steve Grinnell, Clinton Blumberg, Melissa Baxter, Linda Grinnell, Muriel Persky, Vernon Liverette, Rosalinda Acosta, Richard Good, Karen Newman, Armando Acosta and Robert Newman.

Stephen Ministers are found in over 13,000 churches representing 183 denominations. Texas, at 1042, is the state with the largest number of Stephen Ministry churches.

Baptist Temple is part of a family of seven churches and twelve service organizations sharing a campus to meet the physical and spiritual needs of our community.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Make Disciples!

Make disciples are the two most important words in the Great Commission. Make Disciples will be our spiritual battle cry, our focus, our hashtag. We will make decisions at Baptist Temple by asking, “How will this help us make disciples?”

We have been successful at creating a model that made our facilities sustainable and relevant to our community. We have been successful in building a hub of services to meet the physical and spiritual needs of hundreds of people each day. We now have to sharpen our focus to Make Disciples.

The spiritual formation of our members is the place to start. We will strengthen Sunday School through evaluating our current program, making adjustments, recruiting new teachers and providing training. We will provide discipleship and leadership training at all levels.

 Our 18 newly commissioned Stephen Ministers will Make Disciples by helping both members and people outside the church who are going through difficult times. Helping them to draw on spiritual resources to gain strength.

Our goal is to double our worship attendance in the next two years. We will sharply focus our resources to this end.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”   Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

Monday, January 06, 2020

Multi-site and multi-church can help keep kingdom properties in the kingdom.

Despite some mega meltdowns, the multi-site church movement is still growing. Much like a franchise, consistency is maintained through centralized leadership that, often, selects the worship song and a popular teacher via video.

There are different ways to do multi-site. A church might acquire nearby suburban churches that are experiencing decline, hold satellite services in a movie theater, a jail or apartment building.

Thom Rainer's recent podcast, “Why the Intersection of the Multi-site Movement and the Replanting Movement Is So Powerful,” makes a good case for megachurches moving into church properties that have disbanded or decide to be replanted. Kingdom properties remain in the kingdom. This is particularly vital in downtown areas, where property values are high and a gospel witness is needed.

A different strategy is the multi-church strategy where multiple congregations meet in the same building, sharing expenses and maximizing the use of kingdom properties. Both these strategies work but instead of an either/or choice, it can be a both/and.

For a church that already shares space, adding a service from a multi-site church as another option is not a stretch. For a multi-site church, the host church can become a mission point. Along with a worship service for members of the multi-site church who live in the area, there is, also, an opportunity to provide benevolence ministry in under-resourced areas. The pastor of the host church can serve as the campus pastor.

Of course, egos are always a problem but not just on the part of pastors. Strong lay leaders are reluctant to relinquish control. Pride, however, is not one of the fruits of the spirit and is contrary to the kingdom attitude required to advance the gospel. Humility is needed if we are to maintain a presence in the inner-city and preserve valuable kingdom real estate.