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.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Moving Beyond Relief

David came to us looking for food. He's 51 but life on the streets made him look much older. He would park his shopping cart in the shade of our Thrift Store/Food Pantry and slept there at night. Thrift shop manager, Kay Richardson called him our night guard, protecting our properties from vandalism.

Cathy McShane, one of our counselors, worked with David to get him an ID card and a debit card so he could receive his Social Security payments. He had $1600 available but could not access it without a debit card. Once this was settled, he was able to find a place to live.

David is one of many people who are unaware of available resources such as SNAP, medical care, free dental care, etc. It is easy to provide relief in the way of food and clothes to people in need but there are other issues that are less obvious and more important. Every person that comes to us looking for food sits down with a social work student. We work with the client to discover available resources and paths to greater independence.

Most of our social work students come from Our Lady of the Lake University and University of Texas in San Antonio. The students are fulfilling their field work requirements under the supervision of our Community Ministries Program Director Elizabeth Cruz. The students gain valuable, hands-on experience and provide a much-needed service to an under-resourced community.

People come to us with a variety of needs beyond food. One woman told a counselor, through tears, that she didn't need food. She had a job interview but lacked suitable clothes. We were able to find her an outfit in her size that was appropriate for an interview. Our thrift store offers some nice items at nominal prices (most things are less than a dollar). By charging something we take away the stigma of charity and preserve our client's self respect. The thrift shop is open to everyone, not just the needy. Purchases keep serviceable items out of the landfill. Proceeds help fund the food pantry and other community ministries.

Some folks come in to our thrift shop in dire need. A homeless man came in looking for some pants. He'd been wearing the same shorts for three months. He picked out a pair of shorts and a t-shirt from the ten cent bin. We did not charge him the the twenty cents.

Our clients receive more than material help. I met a young man one Sunday morning in church wearing a nice suit and some crude tattoos. He had been referred to our thrift store by one of our deacons who volunteers at a rescue mission. He was made to feel so welcome by the seniors who staff the thrift store that he came to church the following Sunday.

Come by our store at 848 E. Drexel if you would like to volunteer, drop off a donation or shop. We are open Tuesdays (9-4), Wednesdays (9-1) and Thursdays (9-1). We are closed Thanksgiving week.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Education and the Most Powerful Weapon

Interns Geraldine (L) and Alicia (R) ready to hand out school supplies.

Guest blog by Geraldine Garcia
Nelson Mandela once said, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I agree but I also know that you, yourself, are also a powerful weapon that can be used to help change the world.

To understand my passion for education and the people who have impacted me to try and change the world, you need to step into my world. My family and I refer to this time in our lives as “03”. It was the end of my 7th grade school year. My dad started to get sick and we weren’t exactly sure of the cause. His feet would swell up so bad, he was unable to wear shoes, and his sugar levels were all over the place. He began to miss work and his boss had to let him go. My dad was in and out of the doctor’s office undergoing tests. Foot ulcers would lead to amputation if he didn’t stop working and gain control of his health.

My dad is what we call in Spanish, “trabajador” [worker]. I remember, as a child, my dad worked two, sometimes three jobs, just so we could have what we needed and a little extra. Growing up, my sisters and I didn’t have much but we did have all the necessities and love, which goes along way. We didn’t know anything else so we thought we lived pretty good.

“03” changed everything for us. Now, my mother was the main bread winner, and my dad was struggling with health issues; coming to the realization that he no longer could take care of his family the way he used to.

Somehow, we managed to stick together as a team. The Bible teaches, “for I know the plans I have for you declares the lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11.)”

The struggles my family faced that summer came and went and I realized school would be starting soon. The best way to sum up how I felt about school was simple; I just didn’t want to go. I remember clearly going into my closet trying to dig out old school supplies and looking for the pencils and pens that still “looked new”. This way the kids around me couldn’t tell that they were the same old supplies from last year. We needed assistance paying our light bill and turned to our neighborhood church. It was here that my family met Maggie.

Maggie was a warm-hearted, caring volunteer who was able to offer us some assistance. During one of our meetings, she asked me if I was ready for school. I didn’t know how to answer her. Do I tell her the truth or just smile and nod my head? She could tell I wasn’t looking forward to the new year. When she finished talking to my dad, she ask me how many of my sisters were in school (At that time it was my older sister and I.) and asked me to follow her to a room with new school supplies laid out on tables. She told me to take an HEB bag and go around the table and fill it with the amount listed of each particular school supply. She gave me an extra bag so I can fill it with supplies for my sister.

“Hope anchors the soul (Hebrews 6:19).”

My hope was restored in that moment, by an act of kindness. Although I was only 12, I knew that I never wanted to feel hopeless again. I didn’t want other kids to feel discouraged to go back to school because they didn’t have supplies.

Once the school year progressed and my family got back on track, I didn’t forget the kindness or generosity I felt. I started to attend the church that helped my family, and every summer I would buy not only my school supplies but extra. I would wait and collect and find families that needed the help and donate it to them. I’ve done this just about every year. Now as a teacher I find myself stocking up for my kiddos and classroom.

Children are our future. If we don’t invest in them, who will? One day these kids will be doctors, lawyers, financial advisers, and educators for generations to come. So, I leave you with these final thoughts. First and foremost, I am grateful to be a part of this extravaganza that will impact the lives of many children.

Thank you for allowing me to reflect on my own personal experiences and draw strength from them. I feel that I have the best of both worlds because, as a teacher, “we take a hand, open a mind, and touch a heart” and, as social worker John Fitzgerald Kennedy once said, “one person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”

Geraldine Garcia is an elementary school teacher and masters level student in the social work program of OLLU. She served an internship through Baptist Temple Ministries where she provided counseling and groceries to the food insecure, free meals to the communities and tutoring for at risk children.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Churches Partner to Create a First-Rate VBS experience in the Inner-City

Vacation Bible School (VBS) is the highlight of the year for Baptist churches. It is an opportunity to teach children about Jesus and make contact with new families. This year we had a spectacular VBS on the Baptist Temple campus. Not because of our enrollment, 249, nor the number of workers, 96, not even the 32 professions of faith. Many churches have eclipsed those numbers. What was remarkable was that four churches sharing an inner-city campus joined forces to provide a top caliber VBS experience. The congregations included a Spanish language and a Deaf congregation. A 30 member short-term mission team from Houston added to both the success and the extraordinary nature of this bold ministry endeavor.

The stories are even more noteworthy than the numbers. The 32 professions of faith included children whose families are hostile to the gospel. This is not a dark cloud overshadowing a joyful event. This is the light of Jesus penetrating the darkness. “This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine,” will be the theme song of these young lives.

One woman, who recently committed her life to Christ, asked for a copy of the adult VBS class picture. It was her first Bible study. Ruby, one of our seniors, attended the adult class. She was not sure why God led her to attend until she gave away a Bible on the first day. She brought a Bible to give away each day of VBS.

Our mission project this year was to prepare emergency meal bags. One child overheard another telling us he had no food at home. He decided to give his bag to the hungry boy.

Hunger is a problem in our community. Over 90% of the children in our three closest elementary schools qualify for free and reduced lunches. We provided a free dinner each night for the folks involved with VBS, along with a healthy snack.

VBS helps us to minister to both the spiritual and physical needs of our community. Moreover, we created new relationships through which we can share God's love to the families in our community.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Don't fear change

Neighborhoods change faster than the churches within their borders can adapt. Empty pews and a lighter offering plate lead to the congregation's demand that “something” be done. At the same time, churches, like all organizations, resist change. So, a tug of war begins between the fear too little change (reflected in the loss of members) and too much change (something of value is lost.) Conflict is unavoidable when a church faces change.

The awareness that things are not the way they were or could be brings pain. This pain must be processed if the church is to become healthier through positive, lasting change. Encourage dialog and position disagreements as different approaches to common goals. Listen to the fear and complaining. Do not try to win people over with a positive vision of a preferred vision.

Listening does not mean agreement. People will need understanding as they cope with their feelings of loss and fear of the unknown. Emotional language will dominate conversations during this time.

Although leaders may have already processed their feelings, it's important not to run ahead of the church. Wait for church members to catch up. Otherwise, a toxic atmosphere will be created that will have a negative impact on the church's witness.

A period of celebrating the past and understanding the church's initial vision can be followed by a time of quiet reflection. This can bring healing.

Discovering the neighborhood's needs and assets can be an exercise in doing “something” that is productive without making any changes. This time of analysis can be a wilderness experience of empty space where something new and wonderful emerges. We encounter God in the wilderness. 

To every thing there is a season, 
and a time to every purpose under the heaven
Ecclesiastes 3:1

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Uncertain times call for entrepreneurial leaders

Molly Marshall's list of entrepreneurial qualities:
  1. Welcome the nudge of the Spirit, who loves to subvert old patterns.
  2. Be receptive to the chaos that is inevitable when innovating.
  3. Learn to embrace calculated risk.
  4. Take responsibility if an experiment fails.
  5. Empower people to bring their best thinking and energy to a common goal.
  6. Search continuously for new opportunities.
  7. Steward resources wisely and trust there will be enough.
  8. Give back a sense of calm and stability in the vortex of change.
  9. Pay attention to personal resistance to change and the desire to repristinate the past.
  10. Remain hopeful in the midst of unknowing, and walk by faith.
  11. Carry a disposition of “why not?” rather than “why it won’t work.
  12. Cultivate a life of prayer, and become ever more deeply rooted in faith.
  13. Seek wise counsel. An isolated leader cannot impose vision; rather, vision arises out of thoughtful collaboration. Leadership entails being a “keeper” of the vision, however.
  14. Find or construct a supportive professional network that can offer forthright perspective.
  15. Focus on performance objectives that align with values and vision of the initiative
  16. Understand critical tasks unique to discrete positions and require accountability for their accomplishment
  17. Continue to practice discernment about strategic direction.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Overcoming your past

A good name is better than fine perfume... Ecclesiastes 7:1

A popular Fathers Day song tells of a father who left his baby boy with three gifts before he disappeared: an old guitar, an empty bottle of booze, and a girl's name, Sue. The boy grows up to be a bitter man who hunts his father down and gives him a near fatal beating.

Okay, not a Fathers Day song but it has a happy ending. The father confesses that the name was a way to make sure his son grew up tough.

Names are important and can determine your destiny. On the other hand, the Bible tells of one man who overcame a terrible name (1 Chronicles 4:9-10). Jabez' name means pain. His mother named him that, so he would never forget the pain he'd caused her.

Jabez could have become embittered but he did not let his past dictate his future. In the middle of a 600 name genealogy that fills the first 9 chapters of First Chronicles, it is noted that he “was more honorable than his brothers.”

In fact his prayer, recorded within this brief passage, ends with a plea “keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.”

For some, the word father brings up painful memories but, like Jabez, we can turn from our dysfunctional families to our Father in Heaven. “So then, you Gentiles are not foreigners or strangers any longer; you are now citizens together with God's people and members of the family of God (Ephesians 2:19 GNT)." 

Your past does not dictate your future.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Baptist churches are more starfish than spider

Baptists are a leaderless movement. Churches gather into voluntary associations where the leader is elected or hired by a group of churches. State and national Baptist organizations operate that way as well. The churches themselves are congregationally led. The absence of a pastor does not destroy the churches ability to perform its mission.

In the their popular book, “The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations", authors Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom compare spiders and starfish.

A spider has a body, eight legs and a head. If you cut off a leg or two the spider will survive but if you cut off the head, the spider dies. On the other hand, a starfish has five legs but no head. If you cut off a starfish's leg it will grow a new one AND the leg will grow a new starfish.

The spider represents hierarchical organizations with centralized command and control. The starfish represents decentralized organizations that are led by ideals rather than rules. Leaders emerge as influencers rather than dictators. The struggle is illustrated by the AMC series “Halt and Catch Fire” in which major corporations are losing a war with undisciplined but motivated computer geniuses.

Attempts by church groups at centralized command and control often lead to the emergence of new churches, denominations and parachurch groups. The Protestant Reformation is an example of how decentralizing control of Christianity brings renewal.

The Kingdom today represents many denominations who disagree on a number of issues but agree on the gospel's call. They operate independently toward similar goals. To that number we can add a multitude of independent churches and parachurch groups.

The Baptist Temple Campus hosts four churches and ten non profits that are independently governed but work together to meet the spiritual, physical, educational and emotional needs of our community.

We share a common desire to build up the community in a way that pleases God. Each church and organization has a different mission but all share a desire to make the world better place.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Heartstrong for Christ year 3 update

We are now in year three of our Heartstrong for Christ Capital Campaign and I am pleased to report that we have received $213,665 of the $330,000; that's 65% of the total. Thank you for your faithfulness and generosity.

Below is a letter from Joe Guinn a past member of Baptist Temple who continued to honor his pledge even as he moved to Arizona. He reminds us that our pledges and gifts are to honor God first. The earthly results are secondary.

Greetings Baptist Temple Family,

As we enter into 2016 we also enter into the 3rd year of a journey that we entered into together, Heart Strong for Christ. During the time of prayer for our commitment to the capital campaign I truly struggled and wrestled with what my commitment would be. I am so blessed that I allowed God to have his way in that decision because today I get to realize the true gift in my pledge. You see I don't see this final check to mean that I am free of a commitment that I made to God, but as witness to God fulfilling a promise that He made me to provide a way for me to be able to fulfill my promise to Him.

We thought as a church we were asked to commit to God, but the truth is we were being asked to allow God to show us Himself.
I know it's been a struggle, but I would like to encourage you to stay strong to the commitment, and allow God to show Himself to you in ways that perhaps you've never witnessed before. Remember God doesn't need what we have, but allows us the opportunity to receive a blessing when we trust Him. I am so blessed to have gotten to see that through Heart Strong for Christ, and pray that you all will also be blessed in the way that I have been.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Baptist Temple Founding Member was an Oil Pioneer

Andrew Brownlow Slimp was born to a prominent family in East Tennessee on June 15, 1862. His father, Frederick, was an officer in the Union Army during the Civil War and a Tennessee State Representative. 

Following success in iron smelting, Andrew Slimp relocated to Sour Lake, Texas, where he found great success in the booming oil business. Slimp moved to San Antonio and helped start the Dixie Oil and Refining Company. When that company was sold to Humble Oil in 1916, he became president of Pioneer Oil and Refining. In 1922, he was one one of five San Antonio oil men who met with the Texas Attorney General to protest Humble Oil's alleged attempt to choke competition by cutting the price of gasoline by five cents per gallon.

Slimp was also a founding member of Pegue's Memorial Church (which would be renamed Baptist Temple). His son, Chester, would become a prominent leader at Baptist Temple and the San Antonio Baptist Association as well as a prominent oil man in his own right. Chester's wife, Helen, was a prominent artist who painted the mural that still stands behind the baptistry at Baptist Temple.

Andrew Slimp died in San Antonio on November 2, 1944. A few years earlier he had witnessed the placement of the time capsule in the cornerstone of the brick sanctuary that's still in use.

He was laid to rest at Roselawn Memorial Park (now known as San Fernando Cemetery #3.)