Friday, December 23, 2016

Are We Losing the War on Christmas?

There are some who say that society is waging on Christmas. The evidence presented ranges from micro-aggressions such as “Happy Holidays” to the more offensive substitution of X for Christ in Xmas.

Christmas is a time when Christians celebrate the coming of Christ (Advent) and His birth. We don't exactly know when He was born but the early church decided that this season would be a good time to celebrate. Pagans in Europe had celebrations that revolved around the days becoming shorter and colder but the church wanted Christians to focus on God during their merriment. Ancient traditions (e.g. decorating trees, feasts, etc.) were deemed acceptable and new things were added (manger scenes, Advent candles, etc.)

The danger does not lie with the “barbarians at the gate;” those secular folks wishing us a “Happy Holiday.” The real war on Christmas is being waged in the hearts of Christians who lean more towards the commercial than the spiritual side of the season.

As far back as 1965, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” lamented the commercialization of the holiday. Lucy Van Pelt believed it was run by a “big eastern syndicate.” Linus read from the second chapter of Luke to remind us all of the reason for the season. For more than 50 years the Peanuts gang has given this tender reminder.

Today, as in ancient times, we celebrate the coming of Christ with a mixture the secular and the sacred. Since Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, Christian's have the opportunity to keep Christ in Christmas with more that a bumper sticker. Bring your family to worship this Sunday at one of the many churches across the land that didn't take a holiday and will be open to celebrate Jesus' birthday.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Angello Sanchez joins the BT ministry team

Angello Sanchez joined the Baptist Temple family this year to develop our campus youth ministry. Along with Luis Juarez, from Sunny Slope Baptist Church, Angello ministers to the youth of our four Sunday morning churches (Baptist Temple, Betel, Family Deaf Church and Sunny Slope). On Wednesdays, Angello leads a program for the youth of our campus churches and the community.

Twenty five teens attended our first youth worship night led by Angello. The teens came from our campus churches (including Community Bible Church of Highland Park) and the community. Ministers from the Church on Congress Avenue, Austin, helped lead worship.

Future plans include youth worship nights every 4-6 weeks and a number of activities to build community and develop slow growth. In due time our youth will be part of an outreach effort to the youth in our community.

Angello was born in Venezuela and came to the US on a student visa, enrolling at the Baptist University of the Americas (BUA) to learn English. He started attending the Church on Congress Avenue, in Austin, where he played bass and led the youth ministry.

A follower of Jesus since he was 14, Angello felt the call to ministry while at BUA and enrolled in the theology program. Working with youth fills Angello with hope. He not only wants to teach but, also wants to learn from them.

Angello has a demonstrated passion for urban youth, is fluent in English and Spanish and is comfortable ministering in a multicultural environment. When you factor in the mission-oriented education he is receiving at BUA, Angello is in position to carry the BT campus ministry to a new level.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Deacon Family Ministry Plan

The early church ran into a conflict that threatened to destroy the fellowship. It was believed that the food rations for the widows were not being distributed equitably. The problem was so significant, that the Apostles were brought in. (Acts 6)

The Apostles instructed the church to select seven of their number, known for their spiritual maturity and wisdom, to coordinate the distribution of food. These seven deacons would take direct care of the people and the Apostles would dedicate themselves “to the ministry of the Word.” They had three duties: take care of the widows, protect the harmony of the church, and support the leaders.

The results of this calling-oriented, gifts-based teamwork are recorded in Acts 6:7, “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”

Deacon ministry is as needed today as it was in the First Century. In order to ensure the best care for our membership, we are instituting the Deacon Family Ministry Plan at Baptist Temple. Each deacon will directly care for an assigned a group of families. They will be the first line of ministry to their families.

Another significant move will be the recognition of the currently serving deacon's wives as deacons in their own right. The level of caring expected of our deacons will often require woman to woman ministry. Deacons are usually accompanied by their wives on hospital calls and other visits and often are the ones who make calls and write letters. Their acknowledgment is long overdue.

Ongoing training will enhance our deacons' ministry. Classes will include understanding life stages and using the Bible to help people during crisis moments. Prayer and spiritual development will also be part of a deacon's continuing education.