Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Broken and Spilled Out

Sandwiched between the declaration of Israel's leaders to kill Jesus and Judas' decision to betray him, a woman expresses her devotion to Jesus in a tangible and generous manner. She broke open an expensive jar of perfume and poured it on his head. She was so overwhelmed by the wonder of Jesus Christ and his love for us that she wanted to give back. When we put God first, we serve Him, not out of duty but out of love.

She gave sacrificially. The perfume was expensive; about the annual wage of a laborer. It was usually used to anoint a body in preparation for burial. Sometimes, a little was used to anoint guests.

True love refuses to count the cost. Earlier Mark told us about a woman who gave two coins; all she had. (Mark 12:41-44) Neither of these women held anything back.

The disciples objected to what they perceived as waste (Mark 14:4-5) but love always seems wasteful to those who don’t love. A person’s outlook is determined by what is inside the heart. Judas witnessed an act of love and called it an extravagant waste but offerings of love are never wasted. Jesus did not receive any other expression of love prior to his crucifixion.

This woman thought only of Jesus as she broke that jar and poured that perfume over his head but she immediately faced attacks. Christ followers will never do anything worthwhile for Jesus without being criticized – even by other churchgoers. The devil only bothers those who are working for Jesus and his favorite tactic is to use people in your church, your family, or your friends to reject you and try to get others against you.

The woman's act had an eternal impact. Jesus said, "Wherever this gospel is preached throughout the whole world, what this woman did will also be spoken of as a memorial to her." (Mark 14:9)

Our acts of love will have eternal impact if, like this woman, we have more compassion and generosity and less concern about what somebody might think or say.

Is there something you can do this week to demonstrate your love in service to Christ?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Creative Staffing

In his book, Unleashing the Church, Frank Tillapaugh describes the innovative way in which he staffed his inner city church in Denver. His professional staff included both full and part-time ministers as most churches do, but some positions were unpaid. All staff were given the authority and respect merited by their position whether or not they were paid, including opportunities for professional development. This enabled Tillapaugh's church to establish “a major ministry with modest means.”

There are many people in America with some level of formal theological education who are not making a living by serving a church. Some may be a stay at home spouse, retired or employed in another field. Some of these folks do not desire a paid position in a church and others want to return to full-time church work but haven't found a paying position, yet.

Serving as staff in an unfunded position can be a good experience for those who are looking to be hired full-time one day. It provides experience, networking opportunities, and career continuity. More importantly, it provides a way to fulfill the calling that led one to seek theological training in the first place.

Ray Bakke, The Urban Christian, told a seminary class that 50% of the graduates would be out of ministry in five years. The primary reason was that there were not enough paying jobs to keep up with all the graduates of America's seminaries, divinity schools and Bible colleges. On the other hand, there was a growing need for more workers in the harvest field. The number of Christians as a percentage of society was shrinking. Furthermore, new church starts were not keeping up with population growth.

Bakke stated that if we are to maintain a Christian witness in America and reach this generation with the gospel, we will need large numbers of trained ministers who will be self-supporting and committed to spreading the gospel. This is a familiar concept for Baptists. As America expanded West, the farmer/preacher tended to the spiritual needs of the pioneers. These bivocational pastors, who helped make Baptists the second largest denomination in America, are the key to evangelism in the 21st century.

Today, we need bivocational ministers of all types. Churches in affluent neighborhoods have large, fully funded staffs to meet the needs of their church members. In contrast, under-resourced neighborhoods have the same (often greater) needs but lack the finances to hire the needed staff. The answer, again, is a large number of trained, committed and self supporting ministers who are called to show God's love to our inner city areas.

This is an important element in Baptist Temple's ability to provide so many ministries to our community. On the front lines are our bivocational pastors: John Richey (Family Deaf Church), Raul Lozano (Betel) and Milton Smith (Empowering Grace). There is also a second wave of unfunded or partially funded ministry associates: Maryanne Richey (Deaf ministry), Clinton Shull (outreach and evangelism), Larry Brown (Deaf and pastoral ministry) and Joe Guinn (daycare and hunger ministries). All have advanced ministry training and have been called to minister to our church and community.

In addition, there are the counselors who are funded thorough the BCFS to provide free family counseling and the volunteer support staff that help with maintenance and office duties.

Baptist Temple is not unique in its approach to ministry staffing but the model that we are adopting is one that will allow urban churches with a desire to spread the gospel effectively.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Victories and Vision

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, o set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19 

It has been another exciting year of ministry for the Baptist Temple family. In 2013 we baptized 14 people and added more new members. On the first Sunday of the year I spoke with four new families who were first time guests. They came because of our reputation for community ministry. One woman and her daughter started working in the thrift shop their first week here.

This past year has been one of solidifying new ministries and laying the foundation for growth in every dimension.

Here are some of the highlights of 2013:

  • Our Director of daycare and preschool ministries, Paulette, started in January. She quickly brought stability, growth and excellence. Our attendance has been at an average of 100 all year, plus 50 kids in our after school club. Moreover, our summer camp kept our attendance stable all year.
    • Community impact and teacher morale was enhanced through Buckaroo Days, Fall Festival and a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Academics were improved through the addition of A Beka and Wee Learn curricula.
    • Along with Highland Park Gifted and Talented Academy, we have 400 children on our campus every day.
  • Hunger ministries continue to be a big part of our ministry
    • Last year we reached the point of distributing 16,000 lbs of food each month. Most of it is on our Thursday and Saturday distributions but also there Sunday bread and sweets distributions, emergency lunches for transients, free or reduced lunch and breakfasts for our school children, backpack meals for our children in danger of hunger over the weekend, and free summer feeding.
    • Our partners in reducing hunger are the San Antonio Food Bank (who provide food at less than .10 a pound), the San Antonio Baptist Association (who gave us $1250 this year from the hunger walk), the Texas Christian Life Commission (who gave us $1200 this year to purchase food), the Texas Department of Agriculture who provide funding for the free or reduced breakfast and lunch and free summer feeding program), the Thrift Shop (which covers all other costs), and the dozens of volunteers who make these programs happen.
  • We participated in UTSA's “Building a Healthy Temple” program to improve the health of our church family in partnership with the Baptist Health Foundation and the SA Food Bank.
  • Wednesday Night Meals returned, along with AWANA, bringing a renewed spirit to our midweek ministries. We have programs for children and youth and for adults in English, Spanish, and American Sign Language.
  • Heartstrong for CHRIST!
    • In order to ensure that our facilities would be able to continue ministry into this new century you pledged $362,252 over the next three years and gave $80,950 in first fruits.
    • There is still an opportunity to pledge if you have not already done so.
    • The generation gathered at the 150th anniversary of Baptist Temple, will rise and call you blessed.
  • We were blessed to receive $23,000 for our endowment from the estates of Ed Flynn, Nell Liverett and Weldon Frazelle.
  • Of course there are still the ongoing ministries that are so much of our church life such as free family counseling, young in heart, ceramics, Sunday school, worship and more.

Your financial support makes all this possible. You can be sure that your tithes, offerings, grants and gifts are put to good use at Baptist Temple. This year we will build upon the blessings of the past few years.
  • We will develop a system to improve our ability to meet the spiritual needs of our food pantry and thrift shop clients.
  • Develop a High School diploma program for young adults
  • Start a Bible Institute.
  • Expand our Healthy living initiative thanks, in part, to a $7500 grant from the Baptist Health Foundation.
  • Add to the classes we offer on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings
  • Add two more weekend worship opportunities.
    It is indeed a privilege to serve Baptist Temple Church and the extended family of friends and supporters with whom God has blessed us. Thank you for being a blessing to our church and community and let's make 2014 a year to remember.