Wednesday, May 16, 2018

It's Time Grant Helps a Church Find a Place in a Transitioning Community

Our gym stood vacant; a sad reminder of a day when the church was thriving. The 80,000 square campus that once had 1500 enrolled in Sunday School was now mostly silent during the week and not very active during the three hours it was open on Sunday.

A $21,000 grant would change the course of this inner-city church in a transitional neighborhood.

When I arrived at Baptist Temple almost ten years ago, we were on the verge of celebrating our 100th anniversary and in search of a vision for the future. The It's Time, with an accompanying grant, was how the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship was helping churches like ours find ways to be on mission for God.

In 2009, San Antonio led the nation in diabetes and obesity. At the same time, we had a gym no one was using. The answer was simple. We decided that we were going to help our church and our community become healthier by developing programs for all ages. We used the grant dollars to purchase fitness and recreation equipment and turn a forgotten recreation room into a weight room.

We offered karate, tumbling, chair aerobics, balance training, and open gym nights. During the summer, kids were introduce to golf, tennis, badminton and other non-traditional sports. Classes on healthy cooking, nutrition, diabetes management/prevention, and cancer awareness were offered in partnership with the YMCA, University of Texas San Antonio, Methodist Health Systems, Baptist Health Systems, and the San Antonio Metrohealth district.

Further grants from the Baptist Health Foundation and Texas Baptists have allowed us to hold annual health fairs and establish a community garden. For the last three years Baptist Temple has been a site for the city-wide Fit Family Challenge. We were the first church site. A second church was added based on our successful model.

This level of health awareness led to a campus-wide recycling program that keeps a dumpster full of items out of the landfill. Recently we have installed a solar array and are currently developing a plan to replace our current landscaping with water-saving hardscape and succulent plants.

We hope to provide a model for other churches to follow so they can help their congregation and community live the abundant life that Jesus brings. 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full. 
John 10:10

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Lessons I Learned from My Mom

Kay's mom, Inez, with son-in-law, Sammy Richardson
Guest blog by Kay Richardson

My mom was the glue that kept our family together. She loved the Lord and raised her kids by example. When my dad went to be with Jesus, we were not sure how mama would react. They had been married for 66 years. God, church, and family is what their lives revolved around.

The first thing my mom did in her time of mourning was a study on heaven. She wanted to know all she could about Max’s new home and the home she would eventually share with him. The study was intense. Every day she learned more and more. We began to worry that she was a little obsessed with it, so I decided I needed to have a talk with her. The day I went to suggest she take a break from her study of heaven, I walked into her room, she looked up at me and said, “I think I know all I need to know about heaven! I’m ready to get on with life.”

And so she did. She enjoyed visiting with family & friends, going to church, and going to the Young in Heart luncheons. When she lived in the assisted living facility, she would go around and visit other residents… she called it “spreading a little cheer.”

Mama kept a journal of who she visited with and who she was praying for. One of the entries in her journal was, “I find the more I focus on Jesus, the less I focus on myself.” She also kept a journal of the scripture verses she was memorizing or were comforting to her. It was that journal of scripture verses that went with her every time she went to the hospital. She would read them or quote them over and over. She drew strength and courage from God’s Word.

Her last words were, “I love you. I want to go home.” Someone questioned what she meant by that, but I knew exactly what she meant. She was ready to go to the place that had been prepared for her in her new heavenly home!

A lot can be learned from my mom. Even in a difficult time of her life, she chose to live. She chose joy! She was able to do that because she knew God was walking with her every step of the way!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Jesus heals body and soul

A sudden burst of sunlight interrupted the master's teaching. Everyone looked up to see a man being lowered through a hole in the roof. We learn in Luke's Gospel (5:17-26) that the man is paralyzed. His friends wanted to bring him to Jesus; his only hope.

They'd heard Jesus was in town and teaching in a nearby house. These men knew that if they could get their friend to Jesus, his life would be changed. Upon arrival, they were disappointed to find the house full. It was standing room only. People were peeking in and those who couldn't see were listening outside the walls.

The friends of the paralyzed man would not be deterred from their mission. They climbed up on the roof, carrying their friend, and dug a hole in it so they can place their friend in front of Jesus.

Imagine the shock of the crowd at the audacity of these invaders. All eyes turn back to Jesus when he says, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 5:20)

Wait! What?”

It was so quiet you could almost hear the thoughts of the people. The Bible says that the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Luke 5:21)

What about the healing? It seems odd that Jesus forgave the paralyzed man before healing him but Jesus used this moment to show that he had the authority to forgive sins by healing the man.

Jesus' healing reaches beyond our bodily ailments to the salvation of our eternal souls; even, beyond death. It is holistic healing. A woman, who had a blood flow for 12 years, touched the hem of Jesus' clothes and her bleeding stopped immediately. What Jesus then told her reaches beyond cure to the deeper need of the whole person: “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” (Luke 8:48)

God is not just interested in saving our souls. Salvation is healing for the whole person: body, mind and spirit. God has promised the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of the body to life everlasting. The Gospels record 40 healings that were signs pointing ahead to our ultimate healing.

If God is interested in both our physical and spiritual health, then so should the church. As a global body the church has done well in this area. We have established public schools, universities, hospitals, orphanages, rescue missions and all manner of relief and development ministries; all in an effort to minister to body and soul. William Carey, the father of modern missions, established schools and clinics in an effort to reach the people of India with the gospel.

Local churches are the hands and feet of Jesus, ministering to the physical and spiritual needs of our neighbors. This is especially true in an under-resourced, inner-city area. Working with agencies that provide human services can bring new life into a congregation facing declining numbers and finances while saddled with a large building. Sharing the building will help cover utilities and deferred maintenance and bring new people into the building. This type of cooperation provides the type of relationship building that wins souls and heals bodies and emotions.

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:4-5 (NIV)

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Tending creation was the first job God gave us

Baptist Temple's solar array
The Lord God took the man
and put him in the Garden of Eden
to work it and take care of it.
Genesis 2:15

God made the world and it was good. He gave it to humanity to tend. A task for which we get mixed reviews.

On this 48th Earth Day I reflect on the environmental impact of Baptist Temple on our community and our planet. Our campus has 80,000 square feet on almost 3 acres of inner city property. That is a lot of concrete, brick and asphalt.

Certainly we have high energy bills. First we attempted to reduce energy use by turning off lights that weren't in use and shutting off the AC during the week. That turned out to be very difficult. CPS Energy performed an audit and determined that replacing the lights with more energy efficient models would be cost prohibitive. Instead we decided to make better use of our building by sharing our facilities. While this did not reduce our actual energy usage, we became more efficient by hosting multiple entities on our campus. Six churches that might otherwise be using up energy in a building used only a few hours a week, share space instead, on a campus that is busy all week. We all contribute towards expenses.

All this activity created a lot of garbage, so we received a second dumpster for recyclables that is picked up once a week. This is a cost savings for us and keeps a dumpster load of cardboard, plastic and metal out of the landfill.

Our thrift store also helps to keep items out of the landfill. We offer gently used clothes at nominal prices (.10 – 2.00) to everyone. Proceeds help support our food pantry and other community ministries.

While we can't replace all of our lights at once, we upgrade whenever our lights need to be replaced. Our new exterior lighting uses less energy while producing more light. This saves money and makes our parking areas safer

The move that has made the biggest environmental impact on our community is the solar panels on our rooftops. We leased roof space to a company that sells the collected energy to CPS. We are compensated with a modest credit to our energy bill. While not financially lucrative for us, it carried no risk for us and helps make San Antonio less dependent on fossil fuels.

Another recent earth friendly project is our community garden. Sixteen 4x8' raised beds produce vegetables for our food pantry. Additionally we have an orchard with four grapefruit trees, three tangerine trees, three pecan trees and a peach tree. Our primary goal is to teach people of all ages gardening techniques that are sustainable in an urban environment. Growing some of our own vegetables improves our health and reduces the need for industrial farming.

Future plans include changing our suburban style landscaping to a low-water-need xeriscape, a water catchment system and increasing our composting. It our hope that we can model practices that are both earth-friendly and money-saving to neighborhood churches, businesses and families.


To the Lord your God belong the heavens,
even the highest heavens,
the earth and everything in it.
Deuteronomy 10:14

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Baptist Temple Campus welcomes a new ministry

Baptist Temple is pleased to welcome FuneralCaring® USA to it's family of churches and agencies serving our community. FuneralCaring® USA is the leader in affordable funeral services in San Antonio, helping folks celebrate the life and the memory of loved ones with a dignified funeral at a reasonable cost. They provide support to grieving families with high-quality, value-driven merchandise, superior service, and uplifting facilities.

There will be no cremations nor embalming on the Baptist Temple Campus. Traditional funerals will be conducted as they have been for over 100 years.

Once upon a time funerals were handled by the church and folks were buried in the church graveyard. Things have changed. The church's role in society has diminished some. However, at Baptist Temple, we want to care for the spiritual and physical needs of folks from cradle to grave. The Baptist Temple Campus houses six independent churches: Mision Bautista Betel, Family Deaf Church, Sunny Slope Baptist Church, CBC Highland Park, Free By the Truth and Baptist Temple Church. Other agencies on our campus include Baptist Temple Early Learning Center, Jubilee Highland Park Academy (PK4-8th grade, tuition free charter school), Immanuel Motorcycle Ministry, Highland Park CAN (thrift store, food pantry, community garden), and a Community Health Care Worker.

FuneralCaring® USA is veteran owned and operated, fully licensed and insured, and offer pre-planning services.

Along with funeral services, Baptist Temple offers Christian counseling and a grief support group.

To contact FuneralCaring® USA call: (210) 822 4445

For grief support information call: 210-533-7114

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Can you spot a con artist?

“My baby boy has stomach cancer. He's in a hospital in Chicago,” said a young man to a group of pastors that were meeting at an inner-city church one night.

Heart broken for this young man they prayed for his sick son. After the prayer the young man said he was trying to get train fare to get to Chicago. He just got out of the county jail and needed money.

You could see the disappointment immediately appear in their faces. They'd been had. Questions flashed through their minds.

“Why was he released from jail without documentation?”

“Do they release prisoners at night?”

“Where is his family?”

“What was his plan before he found a church with lights on?

His lies were very thin and easily exposed because he followed a familiar pattern. First, there is the disease. It's better if it's a child, a parent or a pregnant woman. Second, there is a travel motif. Getting to the hospital or back home; sometimes a hotel room for the night. Third, the monetary need is an odd number: $17, $65, etc. Fourth, someone has already provided funds and they just need a little bit more. Fifth, the person requesting help is a stranger. Sixth, the need is urgent.

The lies are in the details. What is the problem? Is it the disease? Are you trying to get home? Do you need a job? The problems seem insurmountable but the immediate solution appears to be monetary. You are overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness that can be quickly resolved by giving up a few bucks. At this point we just want to feel better by getting rid of troubled soul. We will never see them again (the travel motif). We just want them out of our way.

Con artists work on your emotions and read your face to measure your response. That is why the story has so many details. I don't suggest we ignore requests for money. I suggest that we determine what the real need is and how best to address it. That is the most loving and helpful thing to do.

On the other hand, con artists target folks with surplus funds who are looking for the most expedient thing to do. It is difficult to balance compassion with common sense. These decisions cannot be rushed so, my decision is to pray and think. If this is a real problem it did not happen overnight and it cannot be solved in one day. There is no rush. If it's a con, it will go away. If the need is real, it will still be there in the morning.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Deacon spotlight: Ernest Cruz

Guest Blog by Robert Newman
 
Ernest Cruz is our current Deacon Chair. He was raised in a Christian home with five brothers and a sister; attending Prospect Hill Church of God.

Ernest’s love of music was inspired by his brother, Robert, and his sister, Bertha. He excelled at playing the trumpet at Brackenridge High School, starting his first band in 1973, but had no real success. Not knowing what else to do, he joined the Marines in 1974.

While in the Marines, Ernest was quickly promoted to Lance Corporal. He was stationed first in Washington DC, then at Camp David under President Ford. Ernest tried out for the Marine Corp Band, but was not accepted.

He was discouraged by his lack of music education and, on returning to San Antonio, he enrolled at St Mary’s University, where he majored in music and minored in education. While there, he met many local artists, and joined and soon took over his second band, “Amity Band”. He then began a long, hard road of success and failures in the music industry.

Ernest played in bars, clubs and private parties, and soon found work as a DJ. In a world of dark and dangerous situations, sin filled his disappointing life. His first marriage ended because of the musician’s lifestyle

His parents never gave up on him. They prayed continuously, knowing that Jesus was his only hope. When he met Charlotte, Ernest's father helped both Ernest and Charlotte commit completely to the Christian life. They were married at Hot Wells Baptist Church, and became immersed in church life.

It was while Ernest was at Hot Wells that he started his music ministry and taught himself to play the guitar. God eventually led Ernest and Charlotte to Baptist Temple, where he leads the band. Ernest wrote the words and music to the song, “Welcome to the House of the Lord”, which he often sings to start the service.

Ernest was ordained a deacon at Baptist Temple, and has served as the Deacon Chair for the past three years. He also leads worship and preaches at the Lighthouse Rescue Mission downtown.

Ernest is a living testimony of how the power of prayer can take a life that is out of control and change it to a life of service to God.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Christ-optional, cultural Christianity is becoming a popular option in America.

Missionary Charles Studd once wrote, “Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell;
I want to run a rescue shop, within a yard of hell.”

But in America, as the total number of churches and Christians shrink, the remaining churches become larger and more remote from the areas of need.

I recently came across an article that listed five important factors in choosing a church. The list contained two I statements and three my statements. In other words, find a church that caters to your needs.

At the same time there is a growing number of folks that wonder if church membership is a necessary part of the Christian life. Some folks have decided that they are through with church. They have been labeled as “Dones” (done with church) by folks who track such things.

A growing problem in the American church is the idea that God exists for our sake. Perhaps it started with the easy believerism of “God has a wonderful plan for your life.”

This is a far cry from the words of Jesus, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

The first five books of the Bible go to great lengths to describe the holiness of God and what it means to be His people. Peter summarizes it this way, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

To be a follower of Jesus is to a part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27) the church, which is expressed in local gatherings, large and small. The best expression of this is seen in Acts 2:42-47, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

When looking for a church the best questions to ask are:
  1. Did you feel the presence of God?
  2. If this church were to disappear today would the community notice?
  3. Can you fulfill your God-given calling here?

The church in America is shrinking in numbers and influence. Is it because many of our churches no longer reflect the ethics of Jesus?

Friday, February 16, 2018

Buildling Relationships One Person at a Time

Kay and Sammy Richardson
Guest blog by Kay Richardson

In December, a young man came into the Food Pantry. He had lost his job. He has a wife and two small children. We prayed for God to open the doors for a job and we gave him food for his family. My heart went out to him.

A couple of weeks ago, that same young man came back to the Food Pantry for his monthly meeting. He still had not gotten a job. When I asked, “Why?” Tears ran down his cheek and he told me he did not know why. He asked if we could help him out with clothes and shoes. He needed a pair of work shoes or boots. We rarely get men’s shoes…especially those that are in good shape! I asked him what size he needed and he said he needed a size 13; the same size my husband wears! I told him I would see what I could find and he should come back the following week.

The next week, my friend came walking into the Thrift Store and I was able to give him 2 pairs of shoes…one hardly worn and another that had been broken in pretty well, but still in good shape! He was very appreciative.

When he left the building, I stood there thinking of the lessons my Sunday morning Bible study class has been studying on Acts. Each lesson encouraging us to take the gospel to the people. We have had many discussions on how we need to build relationships with those with whom we want to share Jesus .

That very same young man joined us this past Wednesday night for our Free Community Dinner! Who know what God will do next!
 

I am grateful God has allowed me to volunteer in our Thrift Store and Food Pantry giving me a place to build relationships. It is my prayer that I will be Jesus to everyone who walks through that door and that I will get to share the love of Jesus with as many people as I can.
 

Here’s how you can be a part of this ministry!

We need new or slightly used men’s shoes. Tennis shoes, dress shoes, work shoes, boots…whatever you have! There are probably some shoes in your closet that you haven’t worn in ages and really aren’t going to wear again! Bring them by the church office or the Thrift Store! You will be a blessing to someone and you will be a part of building a relationship that could change a life for eternity!

Friday, January 05, 2018

Baptist Temple Year in Review: 2017



Vacation Bible School was, once again, the high point of a year filled with God's blessings. All 5 #BTCampus churches (Baptist Temple Church, Community Bible Church Highland Park, Mision Bautista Betel, Family Deaf Church and Sunny Slope Baptist Church.) worked together to give us 96 workers and a total enrollment of 269. A sixth church, Iglesia del Dios Altisimo, brought a van filled with African refugee children that, along with a student mission team from Baptist University of the Americas, brought a total of 14 different nations to our campus that week.

SLIDESHOW: VBS 2017

Worship this year included some special events including a Blessing of the Bikes (led by #BTCampus Immanuel Motorcycle Ministry), a Blessing of the Teachers, a multi-church Youth Rally, the Hanging of the Green and a Christmas Cantata. The house was packed on Easter as BT and CBC shared the 11 o'clock hour in a combined service. On Memorial Day Weekend all the campus churches joined in worship. Delvin Atchison, director of the Texas Baptist Great Commission Team, brought the message.

In the Fall, Ferrell Foster, from the Christian Life Commission, brought the message as we celebrated our community ministries. A tour of the Brunnemann Building and snacks followed. The Brunnemann is home for our thrift store, food pantry and community garden and is open 3 days a week. Over 3500 people visited in 2017.


Our food pantry is only part of our hunger ministries. Our free weekly dinners and occasional large food distributions enabled us to feed 1649 households (6181 people) and serve 11,022 meals. We distributed 85,912 lbs of food in 2017.

The latest addition to our hunger fighting efforts is our community garden. It serves as an outdoor lab to teach gardening to people of all ages while providing fresh produce to our pantry clients. This was made possible by grants from the Baptist Health Foundation and Texas Baptists.

Community outreach events included three annual events: Fall Festival, Christmas Party and Back to School Fair. The Fair put 800 people on our campus (including volunteers). We handed out 350 backpacks, 300 lunches, $2500 in vouchers for clothes and 14,000 lbs of groceries.

Our fellowship grew closer and larger this year with 25 new members. Our young people went on a variety of field trips and three different camp experiences. Our adults shared 17 meals together including the monthly Young in Heart luncheon. We ordained 8 deacons and licensed three people to the gospel ministry.

Adding to the #BTCampus fellowship are San Antonio Against Slavery (advocating against human trafficking), who meet monthly on Thursday nights, and Free By the Truth (working with ex-offenders), who worship Sundays at 2PM.

Seven mission teams stayed on the #BTCampus in 2017 performing ministry throughout the city and recording 93 professions of faith. Other local ministries and individuals have joined with us to build up our ministry in physical and spiritual ways.

This tremendous volume of ministry takes a toll on our campus. We are continually repairing and upgrading. This year our parking lot was made safer by re-striping and improved lighting, the chairs in fellowship hall were replaced and the Fritz Building got a new roof. As I write this blog, there are a number of projects in progress.

In 2017, the #BTCampus hosted 6 churches, 2 schools, 3 conferences, 9 ministries and 6 Basketball Clubs. Thirteen different churches and non-profit agencies have contributed finances, materiel and/or labor to help us in our mission to minister to the physical and spiritual needs of our community.