Monday, October 18, 2021

Heavy Worship

Rise Above Ministries hosted a concert on the Baptist Temple Campus Saturday (October 16) featuring the bands Filthy Rags and Becoming Sons. The concert was aimed at folks outside the mainstream.

Filthy Rags

Harry and Mel Becker from Fort Wayne, Indiana are Filthy Rags. They come to San Antonio from a tour of the Eastern U.S. with the Extreme Tour, a diverse community of creative people providing free concerts where diverse members of the community can come together. Mel, who was born and raised in a Baptist Family in Houston, has a heart for people on the fringes of society. Part of her testimony includes recovering from substance abuse by the grace and power of Jesus Christ.

Mel describes Filthy Rags sound as heavy worship. They reminded me of the Rez Band and similar 80's bands. Becoming Sons has a harder sound which they describe as metal-praise-core.

Becoming Sons

This evenings line up included the bands founder, Roger Stack, on drums, Roger Garza on vocals, Brian Derby on bass and Marcus Allen on guitar. The band is local to San Antonio and published a studio album, “Flesh to Death,” in 2018. A recently recorded single, “Illuminate” remained on Christian Music Weekly's Loud Chart at number one for sixteen straight weeks, and was also number one on the CMW Top Loud Sounds of 2020.

Click here for more photos

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Rest Was God's Idea, Too

“Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
(Exodus 20:9-11) 

Sabbath is a gift from God. He set the example by resting on the first Sabbath. Even the land is to enjoy rest as every seventh year the land was to lay untended. Every seventh year, slaves were set free. This brought the gift of hope to an otherwise desperate situation. After seven cycles of seven year Sabbaths, a Jubilee would be declared and all land was to be returned to its ancestral owners. These acts countered the tendency of a small number of people to accumulate wealth at the expense of others.

 “Time is money,” is the popular rally call today but, in primitive cultures, three hours a day was all that is needed to grow and gather enough food for three days. During the Stone Age, the average work week was 15 hours. Men would hunt and the women gather and, then, paint on cave walls and tell stories around the fire. 

The Industrial revolution increased the hours required to work. Factories started at a certain time and the workers had to be at their posts. Factory owners wanted more wealth and, often, exploited workers with low wages, long hours and dangerous conditions. They exploited resources by taking as much out of the ground, as fast as they could; dumping their poisons in the ground and water. Labor laws and unions have created a more equitable work environment but have not changed the human heart. 

The booming economy following WWII, created an atmosphere of consumerism that was needed if growth was to continue. We worked harder to buy more toys, while advertisers cheered us on. We buy on credit and wind up working to pay off our debt. It's almost as if we have sold ourselves to slavery. “I owe, owe. It's off yo work I go.” 

Consumerism damages our planet and our physical, spiritual and emotional health. It has been said, “There is enough for human need but never enough for human greed.” 

Sabbath is the antidote to consumerism and the key to sustainability. It controls greed driven growth and gives the land a chance to recover. It enhances physical, mental, and spiritual health by allowing us to be unproductive and enjoy the moment that we are in.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Work was God's idea

Work was God's idea. He told us to fill the earth and subdue it. (Gen. 1:28) Tending the garden of Eden was humanity's first job. (Gen. 2:25) The book of Proverbs is filled with praise for industry. “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.” (Prov 12:11)

In the beginning, work, like everything else God created was good. However, when sin entered creation, work became cursed. “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will -produce thorns and thistles for you... By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food.” (Gen.3:18-19)

This is why T.G.I.F. is such a popular cheer.

Part of the curse it includes the desire to accumulate more. How much is enough? John Rockefeller, one of the richest men of his time, said, “Just a little more.”

During the stone age, women gathered, men hunted for about 15 hours a week. In three hours of work, primitive societies could gather three 3 days of food. People had time to develop culture and improve tools and technology. People learned to play music and painted in caves. As trade developed, cities emerged.

The Industrial Revolution brought about remarkable change. Factories were able to exponentially increase productivity. As more goods were created more was desired. The desire to have more led to the exploitation of workers and the environment and created a shift in the way society thinks of a person without a paying job. They were considered unsuccessful, even lazy. This included homemakers. The Great Depression reinforced this notion that everyone needs to have a paying job.

The boom years following WWII accelerated America's economic growth. People needed to earn money to spend on things that we were producing. Advertising fed consumerism and made credit card debt a way of life for most Americans. We buy things we can't afford to impress people we don't know. Comedian Lily Tomlin put it best when she said, “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat.”

It doesn't have to be that way. When we separate the idea of work from the the idea of money, we gain freedom from consumerism. We learn to value people who stay at home to raise children, even when they are men. We find meaning in our work.

Jesus came to earth to reverse the curse. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8)

We can enjoy our work without being part of the rat race. Meaningful work is more than a salary. I met a nurse on a medical mission trip in Ecuador, who worked enough to raise the required funds for his next mission trip. He found it easy to find temporary jobs. He found a greater purpose in his work beyond the accumulation of things.

There are many who take jobs teaching ESL in order to be able to live abroad. Others work in ski resorts and other recreational areas to enjoy the outdoors. Some give up large salaries to serve God as missionaries and parachurch workers. They put in long hours because they love what they do. For them the curse has been lifted.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Becoming a positive church member

During the COVID-19 shutdown, many were proclaiming that, “The church has left the building.” Well, the church leaves the building every Sunday. Others declared that the church is not a building. This seems obvious to most Christians I know. A good number of folks were proclaiming the church as an assembly of believers and were striving to maintain relationships in the face of the challenges presented by social distancing.

Social distance is a term as inaccurate as it is unfortunate. We needed physical distance and social nearness in times like these. Many of the churches that left the building continued to meet online; not forsaking the gathering.

I recently completed a series of sermons based on Thom Rainer’s excellent book “I Am a Church Member.” The small book (79 pages) outlines what it means to be a church member in a clear, biblical manner with a focus on relationships. I wanted to explore and expound on what the Bible says about church membership.

Rainer stands opposed to the idea that the church exists, primarily, to serve the needs of its members. That would make it more like a country club. A place where, if your needs aren’t met, you will take your money elsewhere.

Church members are the body of Christ gathered to worship, love one another, and bear witness to God’s love for the world. However, we often behave badly towards each other. Some will bully others to get there way. Some will become possessive of their turf. Backbiting and gossip are not uncommon. Jesus said that the world will recognize us as His disciples by our love. We can do better.

“I Am a Church Member” encourages us to move beyond being spectators and consumers. We are to give of our time, talent and treasure in service to God through the church. We are to be loving and humble in our relationships with others. We are to respect and pray for the leaders of our church. We ought to view church membership as a gift; an opportunity to be part of something greater than ourselves.


Saturday, August 07, 2021

VBS in the time of COVID

We just finished VBS this week. It was a marvelous triumph, despite its small size relative to past years. VBS at Baptist Temple has included as many as five churches and often involves the assistance of a visiting short term mission team. We have recorded attendances of over 200 and one year had 40 professions of faith.


VBS is a big deal in the American church. It is bigger than Easter and Christmas in most churches. Lifeway, Group, Concordia, and other publishers put out elaborate kits around themes that capture the imagination. Oriental Trading puts out decorations and trinkets linked to the various themes. It is big business. Baptist Temple spent over $2000 in 2019 for VBS.

Kay Richardson has been directing VBS for the past several years, presiding over impressive productions that included a diverse group of leaders and children that included a wide range of age, cultural and economic strata. There have been light shows, worship bands, witty treat and elaborate decorations. Once we had an airplane with a six foot wingspan on stage. This year, however, was her best.

COVID led to the cancellation of VBS last year. This year seemed a bit iffy. The churches with which we usually partnered opted out. Our children’s ministry was small and we were unable to accomplish our typical summer outreach. Kay overcame these challenges and coordinated a VBS program that maximized our resources without taxing our workers. The children had a wonderful time and the workers an enriching experience.

Most important is the fact that we pushed forward in the face of uncertainty and adversity. We were faithful our service to the Lord and emerged victorious. It wasn’t our biggest VBS nor did it set a record for professions of faith, but it was, arguably, our most successful.

A big thank you to Kay and her steadfast team. To God be the glory

Friday, June 18, 2021

Should a church borrow money?

Some churches are totally against going into debt. They will cite Romans 13:8: “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

On the other hand, in the parable of the talents, the master praises the two servants who had invested his money, while rebuking the unfaithful servant who buried his allotment. “You ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest” (Matthew 25:27).

Sometimes, loans are needed for a church to continue or expand its mission. When our air conditioning system failed, we learned that it would cost $300,000 to replace the broken parts. The decision to secure a loan was easier to make because Baptist Temple had begun to reverse its decline. The building was being used daily and our forecasted income would cover the loan.

The Baptist Church Loan Corporation (BCLC) granted us the loan based on their understanding of the history our church and our prospects for the future. BCLC is a ministry of Texas Baptists with whom we are affiliated. Their ministry focused calculations are different than a bank’s, but they can only loan money when there is a reasonable chance of repayment.

Without this loan that three story building would have been unusable. Too many urban churches fall into disrepair because of deferred maintenance. However, mission must come first. If a church is on mission for the gospel, God will supply the needed resources. In fact, this loan was paid off early thanks to an unexpected financial blessing.

We secured a second loan based on capital campaign pledges. Members and friends of Baptist Temple pledged a certain amount over a three-year period for the replacement of our roof systems and other needed repairs. The loan (again, from BCLC) allowed us to get to work right away; before we experienced any more rain damage. The generosity of our folks was extended for a few more years and we have reached the end of that obligation.

A third loan was secured to replace all of our existing lighting with more energy efficient fixtures. While the matter was less urgent, we needed to act in order to take advantage of a CPS grant. The loan will be paid from the savings on our energy bill.

Loans should not be sought for foolish reasons but, if it is clear that the church’s mission can be expanded or sustained, then a loan is a sound ministry strategy.

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Baptist Temple sets fast pace for summer

Summer has reached the Baptist Temple Campus. Jubilee Academy is out for the summer but things have not quieted down. Care Warriors have begun their summer program to help young people with developmental disabilities build life skills that lead to greater independence. The program includes music and crafts and working at the thrift store. During the summer, the thrift store will be open on Mondays and Wednesdays and run by Care Warriors. Our usual Tuesday/Thursday schedule will also be maintained.

Our Early Learning Center is hopping as well with 110 enrolled. Summer day camp has filled in the gap created by the end of after school care.

Crosspointe Inc, a nonprofit organization that helps people reintegrate into society, was here on the first Saturday of June, moving a large mound of mulch into the community garden. The mulch is a beautiful way to suppress the weeds on the pathways. A crew of BT folks cut down the dead citrus trees around our Long Mission House. The trees were victims of the recent freeze.

A mission team from First Baptist Church of Tulsa arrived this week to lead to VBS for our Early Learning Center and at Highland Park. They also brought a construction team to work on a couple of projects. One was to seal 17 of our first story windows, providing increased security and insulation. Another was to prepare a space for, soon to arrive, Fletcher Seminary. They built bookcases, ran electrical and computer network wiring, painted the walls. They helped to set a fast pace for our summer.

We do not have any more groups scheduled for the summer. COVID fears discouraged churches from making summer plans but many are starting to venture out. Past experience and flexibility will allow us to maximize opportunities as they present themselves.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Spiritual and physical health make stronger disciples.

Installing the gym floor in 1967

The Baptist Temple gym was completed in 1967 as a way to provide physical fitness opportunities for our community. BT has a long and storied history of sports activity. Our oldest trophy is dated 1936 for a softball championship. Since then, there have been numerous championships in multiple sports.

The gym has been used for a variety of activities including basketball, volleyball, badminton, martial arts and more. However, as the membership of BT aged, gym usage declined. By the start of the 21st century it was rarely used.

When the church resolved to increase its community involvement, things began to change. A new charter school used the gym daily during the school year and our summer day camp used it when school was out. In the evenings, we had karate. On the weekends a variety of recreational activities.

As word got out, youth basketball teams started using the gym for practice in the evenings and, occasionally, for tournaments. Additionally, mission groups that stay on our campus overnight use our locker room showers.

Today, the gym is used day and night, seven days a week all year long. Along with the youth basketball clubs, four adult recreation groups use it as well.

San Antonio has a higher than average number of diabetics and its related problems. Fighting childhood obesity, a nation-wide problem, is key to preventing “lifestyle” diseases, including diabetes. Organized recreational activity is not only improves physical health but, also, provides a healthy after school environment. In fact, studies consistently show a connection between activity and better school performance.

As to be expected, the years have taken their toll, so we are launching a fund raising campaign to renovate the gym. The highest priority is repairing and re-striping the gym floor. Beyond that, we, also, need to repair the surrounding tile, remodel the restrooms and update the showers. As funds allow, we will also renovate the back staircase.

The fundraising effort began with a special Mother’s Day offering and will include a variety of events and grant applications. We want to partner with as many people as possible who want to invest in the physical and spiritual health of our community.

You can contribute online here or send a contribution to Baptist Temple, 901 E Drexel, San Antonio, TX 78210.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

I am thankful for water

I have lived near water for most of my life but I rarely had to think about it. That was until I moved to San Antonio. While not a desert, it is a place where people text each other when it rains on their block. We watch the evening news to learn how high water is in the Edward’s Aquifer and our current water use restriction.

The Bible has a lot to say about water. There are 500 references to water not including rivers, rains, wells, floods, seas and storms. Mary’s water broke and Jesus was born. Water came out of Jesus’ pierced side and he was dead. The Hebrews crossed the Red Sea into a new life. We are baptized as a symbol of our new life. God destroyed the world with a flood. Jesus told the woman at the well that he gives us Living Water.

Water is a big deal. Our bodies are 70% water. The surface of our planet is 71% water. However, 97% is in the oceans. Only 3% of earth’s water is fresh (not salty) but only 0.5% of it is accessible. So, 2.5% of the earth's fresh water is unavailable: locked up in glaciers, polar ice caps, atmosphere, and soil. Some is highly polluted or lies too far under the earth's surface to be extracted at an affordable cost.

One out three people in the world do not have access to clean water. On the other hand, the average American family uses 300 gallons of water per day. FEMA recommends that, in an emergency, each person will need one gallon of water per day. We use 3 gallons of water when we brush our teeth with the water running. That’s three days of water by FEMA’s calculation.

Water is essential for all life and is one of God’s gifts to all humanity. We ought to consume it with thanksgiving and be mindful of those who lack it. The simple act of not letting the water run while we brush our teeth can be one small way we can show our gratitude for this precious resource.