Sunday, January 10, 2021

Baptist Temple Year in Review: 2020


2020: The Year in Pictures

It is with great joy that I write this blog as a testimony of God's faithfulness. Even in the darkest times we can see Him at work. While the COVID environment created limitations and hardships, God created streams of mercy that enabled us to continue to be a channel of blessing to our community.

Towards the end of March, we shut down hard. All of our campus churches went online. Jubilee Academy went to remote learning. Our Early Learning Center closed and all campus activities were suspended. We did not know how long this would last.

I soon received an email that put us back into play. A lack of open childcare centers created a crisis for medical workers who were unable to return to work. Our newly hired daycare director, Kathleen, quickly went to work and, in two weeks, we had the equipment, protocols and training to reopen.

In order to stay close to our members in this age of social distancing, we commissioned our deacons and Stephen Ministers to be Phone Angels and make weekly check in calls to all our members. Robert Newman, our Archangel, and Minister to Adults, kept it running smoothly. He, also, created paths for online ministry so our worship and Bible study would continue.

Thanks to Jonathan, our Executive Pastor, we continued to improve our infrastructure to save money and enhance ministry delivery. Jonathan's most visible accomplishment was the completion of our inclusive playground. Work days continued in January as the equipment began to arrive. Construction is essential work, so it continued through the Spring and Summer. We dedicated the first inclusive playground in the Southside to God's glory in October, as a testimony of God's love for all His children. We received nearly $250,000 in cash, material and labor to make this happen.

In 2020, we collected and distributed over 55,000 pounds of food. During the shutdown Daniel, our Minister of Outreach, delivered food directly to our clients who were in greatest need and lacked transportation. David and Bertha led the way in determining ways to provide ministry through our thrift store and pantry in a safe manner.

Uncertainty caused many churches to cancel summer travel plans but we still had a 40 member team from Lee's Summit FBC stay at BT this summer. We also had five summer interns who assisted in worship and a variety of other tasks.

A partnership with No Place Left expanded our disciple-making efforts. No Place Left is a network that seeks to preach the gospel to the ends of earth until there is no place left that has not heard. A group joins us on Thursday mornings to prayer walk in our neighborhood and has provided training for our leaders. In the Fall we hosted a No Place Left residency for seven people (six are ministry students). The residency provides advanced training for evangelism.

We returned to worship in our sanctuary in May, with the new protocols in place. We maintained space between family groups, wore masks and avoided hand shakes and hugs. The 30 minute service reduced the amount of singing and the offering plate was not passed.

Soon Family Deaf Church, Sunny Slope and Rise Above returned. Another church, New Direction, started meeting on our Campus. (The Message and Life Change still have not returned.) Other groups began to return, including Jubilee and youth basketball clubs, all with new safety procedures.

Although it seemed to be a quieter year, much was accomplished. A group from the community has started working on the community garden, ensuring its beauty and utility. Under Kathleen's leadership the Early Learning Center not only survived but revitalized the after school program and helped us acquire a van to pick up kids from other schools.

All this was made possible through your prayers and financial support. Thank you for your faithful partnership that sustained us through a difficult year.

Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:19 NKJ

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Joy

A teen girl is pregnant. Her boyfriend marries her even though he is not the father. In her 9th month she was forced to move by the government and gives birth in a homeless shelter. A short time later she must move again. Now she is a political refugee in fear for her son's life. That baby would grow up to become a convict, executed for a crime he didn't commit.

This tragic story is actually one of Joy. An angel said “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

Some mistake happiness for joy but JOY is greater than happiness. The Bible mentions "joy" or "rejoicing" 330 times. But it only mentions "happiness" 26 times. Happiness depends upon what happens to you. So, if all the circumstances are right, then you can be happy. But joy comes from inside.

Paul says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control." (Galatians 5:22)

Joy is an evidence of the presence of God in your life. If God is in your life, if you are filled with the Spirit of God, then this fruit of the Spirit will be obvious in your life.

Jesus taught us joy can be experienced despite our circumstances. On the night before the crucifixion, Jesus is in the upper room with His apostles. Gethsemane, the arrest & trial are coming. Soon He will be nailed to a cross, and He will die. On the last night of His life, facing the cross, Jesus talks about love & joy, "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you & that your joy may be complete." (John 15:11)

The Bible points to the source of our joy, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author & perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross & scorned its shame." (Hebrews 12:2)

Paul writes, "Therefore we don’t lose heart. Though outwardly we waste away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. Our light & momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Joy is the evidence of God’s presence in your life. It turns pain into victory

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Hope

This is a gloomy time of year. The days are shorter, there is a chill in the air and COVID-19 still hangs in the air. There is hope in the air, carried by the news of a vaccine as a new year approaches.

Hope is the theme of the First Sunday of Advent. The prophet Isaiah told his divided nation, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)

Israel to the north would be crushed by the Assyrians; the
people were scattered. To the South, Judah would be carried away to Babylon; their Temple destroyed but Isaiah told them of the promised Messiah, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)

America has faced gloomy times before. Each time we bounced back stronger than before. The Civil War killed more soldiers than WWI and WWII combined. In the aftermath, slavery was abolished and the reunited nation became the world's strongest economy. We emerged from the Great Depression and WWII as a global economic and political leader.

By the grace of God we have survived pandemics, terrorist attacks, riots, economic downturns and more but the ups and downs of America are but a flash in the pan in the history of God's work with humanity. God is in control and is moving towards an end where he will be glorified.

My hope this First Sunday of Advent echoes the words of Paul: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)