Wednesday, October 26, 2016

“Hard Times Bring New Opportunities”

I recognize these days, budget planning days, as some of the most stressful during the year in our churches.  I have shared in the following way with the congregation that I serve:

“Hard Times Bring New Opportunities”

There is a new theme in our house, that is, use what we have available to our greatest advantage.  Our times have demanded that we change some of our living, spending, recreational and entertaining habits.  II Timothy 4:2 suggests that we are to be instant in season and out of season.  We are to make opportunities and take those opportunities that come to us.

We are facing some hard times in our country and hear every day of some company’s closing, some bank’s failure, or some reduction in community services.  The government cannot save us and we must not look to it to do so.  We hold the answer and key to our own ability to overcome these times.  People are the key.  People’s faith in God, people’s commitment to work through problems and tough times, people’s demonstration of good discipline in overcoming wasteful habits, and people’s resolve to pull together to  help each other.

We must not look to any one individual, (as in political candidate), to pull us through.  The individual who wins the U.S. presidency can be an integral part of our working through these times; however, he/she is not the ultimate answer.  Politicians do not have the answers.  They are looking to us to help them sponsor legislation that will help everybody.  Maybe hard economic times will make us aware once again that we need to live as neighbors.  The times teach us that we must save some along with spending some.  We cannot throw away everything; just this past week I took two shirts with tears in the sleeves to the seamstress to be repaired.  Don’t throw away those shoes you purchased last year.  There is a Deacon in the Church who operates a Shoe Repair Business.  They say, “We heel and save soles”, that is they do half soles and repair heels, making your shoes good as new. 

Hard times make for new opportunities to grow as people of ingenuity and craft.  There are things we can do for ourselves that we may now hire others to do.  There are areas that we may trade off services with our friends and neighbors.  You have a lawn mower the family down the street has a teen-ager----introduce the two.  We have become a community of people who really can’t do anything.  Technology and conveniences of this life have crippled us in many ways.  Historically, we have been a resourceful people when need arises.  Need has arisen.  Many of us are moving between two environments that I have termed, “Need More” and “Must Have”.  We always need a little more of this and a little more of that, however, when we have done all that we can do with what’s available then we reach a point of “Must Have”.  That is to say, we must have something more such as take on more debt----manageable debt, that is!

What are appropriate responses to these challenges as individuals, as churches, and as a denomination?  Here are some practical helps:  Be as independent as possible and interdependent as you trade off services with neighbors and friends;  Cook at home often----return to the Sunday dinner life and invite someone who usually eats alone;  They can bring a covered dish;  Plant a garden in the spring and co-op with a neighbor or family member;  Patch clothes and shoes;  Pass along the children’s out-grown clothes to others.  These things we can do as individuals.

The Church body can cut its own grass and not enter into a costly service contract.
Turn off lights when exiting a classroom or office;  Shut the door exiting the sanctuary to preserve heat especially during the week days;  Turn off all appliances promptly after use;  You should try to schedule as many activities as possible on one or two nights during the week;  Limit or hold the traditional afternoon services during your 11:00 a.m. service;  Do not expect to be paid for routine services performed for the church;  Give services to the church, volunteering as a family a few hours each week;  We must change the way we think about the Church and our service to the Church.  Attitude, attitude, attitude.  Romans 12:2, …”be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind”.  Transformation starts with our thinking. 

This is how our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents survived the Great Depression, two World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, the energy crisis of the 70’s and moral conflicts of late.  Use it up; wear it out; make it do; or do without.  Everybody has to be onboard.

Please remember American Baptist Churches of the South as you budget for Mission Support!!!                -James M. Harrison, Executive Minister

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Born a Baptist, chose to be an American Baptist

By James M. Harrison

I find myself using this little brochure, "Proud to be an American Baptist," over and over. I use it as part of a new members packet; I use it in a visitor's packet, and whenever I have the occasion to share with someone expressing an interest in our church and community.
In Pastoral Ministry, I have taken advantage of many services offered through the denomination. I have used the American Baptist Extension Corporation's (ABEC) building consultation services. Both (the late) Mark Tracey and Benjamin Greene have been presenters to our congregation helping to organize a building expansion committee. We have also used (ABEC's) loan services to purchase property for our church.

As a pastor I have used ABC - Find a service to help congregants moving into a new community, locate an American Baptist congregation.

Following two floods and major hurricane I have distributed ABC mission funds directly to misplaced and needy families.

My congregants have been recipients of academic scholarships as undergraduates and as seminarians, who utilized the "Matching Grant Funds" where the seminarian, our church , and ABC contributed on third each towards a semester's costs.

We have taken advantage of training opportunities while participating in Regional  meetings across the South and in Area meetings of our Region. Membership in the denomination also has given  us opportunities to support AB International Missions efforts as well as National missions projects through the annual offerings. Through the denomination we have exposed the congregation to real-life missionaries on foreign fields.

Personally, I have received many leadership-training opportunities through my participation on area program boards, Region Board of Directors,and now the General Board for the denomination.

Many years ago I participated and used the Personnel Profile service, interviewing with churches in Portland, OR, New Jersey and California. I remain a member of the Christian Community Credit Union, formally the American Baptist Credit Union, taking advantage of many of their services, and the MMBB retirement program, formally the M&M board since 1988.

I was afforded an American Baptist Ordination through an Area Ministers Council in the Region of the South, with participants such as R. Allen Hailes, Grady W. Powell, Paul Nichols, and catechists, Henry H. and Ella P. Mitchell.

When I think about services, I think American Baptist. I'm glad I made the choice.