Monday, December 30, 2019

Baptist Temple Year in Review: 2019

Daniel Arredondo,  Roxanne Arredondo, and Robert Newman
(front) were licensed this year. Pastor Jorge Zayasbazan in back.

SLIDESHOW: TheYear in Pictures 

We kicked off 2019 with an Experiencing God Weekend led by Texas Baptist Men. Our goal was to grow together as a church so that we may better see where God is at work, make adjustments and join Him. One clear message we discerned is that our bottom line mission is to make disciples. This spiritual awakening would be crucial to the decisions we would need to make as many opportunities and changes presented themselves in quick succession.

One major decision was whether or not accept a $200,000 lump sum payment for the cell tower lease. It would be a financial loss in the long-term but a short-term windfall that would pay off a large loan and free up money to do ministry now.

Buildings are a church's biggest financial liability but can also be its strongest asset. In order to maintain our campus as an asset, we were able to leverage some large financial gifts and grants to make needed repairs and improvements. These include completing the exterior lighting upgrades and upgrading all interior lighting to energy efficient LED, replacing a significant number of windows, replacing the floor in the parlor and new signage.

We said goodbye this year to Betel and Free by the Truth. Two new church starts that were incubated on the #BTCampus. Betel began as a Spanish-language Bible study in 2006 and moved into their own facility. Free by the Truth continues to meet as a house church.

However, the work continues as God sent two new churches to our campus. Rise Above Ministries meets at 3 pm in the chapel and reaches out to counter culture youth in the punk / heavy metal culture. It is led by Basilio Carrillo. Iglesia Bautista Inmensurable is a Spanish-language new church start in its formative stages and is led by Samuel Paquot. 

We also welcomed the San Antonio Clubhouse to our campus. They meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Fritz building to help people living with mental illness live more productive, enjoyable lives.

Our leadership development and ministry-student mentoring kicked into high gear this year as we hosted five Student.Go missionaries (from five different schools) and nine mission teams. Student.Go is a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship program that places potential missionaries in ministry settings.

The nine missions teams brought 179 people who worked all over San Antonio with refugees and children, in hunger ministries, community gardens, home repairs, evangelism and more.

In the Fall we licensed Robert Newman, Daniel Arredondo and Roxanne Arredondo to the ministry. Robert serves as our Minister of Adults, Daniel has served as an intern and is, now, our Minister of Outreach, and Roxanne is our Youth Ministry Intern.

Another leadership development action we began this year is training 18 people to be Stephen Ministers. After 50 hours of training they will be prepared to walk alongside people who are going through a difficult time. Training will be completed in January.

Along the way we baptized 5 and added 11 new members. We gathered over 112,000 pounds of food that was distributed to over 15,000 people. We also served over 2000 meals and snacks.

What stood out most prominently this year was our vision to build the first inclusive playground in the Southside of San Antonio. We received grants from the Baptist Health Foundation ($7395) and the Charity Ball Association ($60,000) plus other gifts and fundraisers that totaled over $140,000 at the end of 2019. There are still two more grants pending and gifts are coming in but we have enough to get started.

As we look to the new year, we must look to find evidence of God's work and make the needed adjustments to join Him. That will require breaking the bondage of tradition and moving beyond the comfortable and familiar.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Bringing God's presence into church meetings

Did you hear about the church business meeting that ended in a fist fight in the parking lot; over the color of the new carpet? I'm not sure if that story is true but it is often told. It serves as an illustration for how volatile church meetings can be.

Understanding that church committee, board, council and business meetings are spiritual gatherings can go a long way to bringing God's presence into our deliberations. Opening and closing in prayer is a good practice but we need to move deeper than these book-end prayers. One way is to pray over each agenda item; seeking God's wisdom and clarity.

Hymns and other Christian songs can help set an appropriate atmosphere. Another form of prayer is create a litany of recent victories. After each victory is read, the people pray in unison, “We give thanks to you, our Lord.”

If the group is small and not familiar with each other, begin with someone sharing a brief (3 minute) testimony. If it is a retreat-type setting, with a longer meeting time, more people can share.

Vision casting is important element in understanding purpose. Not just the vision for the organization but, also, for the group and this particular meeting. How are we going to honor God in this meeting? How will we advance the Kingdom... the Gospel... the Great Commission? Tie the vision to scripture in a vibrant way that binds the journey of the church to God's Word.

Move beyond statistical reports to victory stories. Whose lives are being changed? Numbers have value but stories bring them to life in a way that is memorable and spurs us on to greater service and sacrifice.

Most importantly, Christians must remember who we are and whom we represent. Moderators need to be ready to pause a meeting for a time of prayer and reflective silence; perhaps, even, a hymn if a meeting becomes contentious. Angry shouting has no place in a Christian gathering.

Discernment is more than consensus and compromise and may require a bit more time. Discerning God's will is worth the wait. It's certainly better than a bad decision and much better than the bitter feelings left behind after a split vote.