Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Get ready! Get ready! Great ready!

Get ready! Get ready! Great ready!

We want to see you in Houston, Texas, April 25-27, Tuesday through Thursday.  American Baptist Churches of the South is meeting in its 47
th Annual Session.  The 2017 theme embodies the denomination’s  organizational goals around unity, “Coming Together, Sharing Together, and Working Together with God”, supported with I Corinthians 3:9.  It will be here that we will have an opportunity to be exposed to many of the American Baptist denominational ministry partners and affiliates.

We learn from the Corinthian Epistles that the communication between Paul and the Churches continued over several years.  The history of that relationship is complex. Paul preached in and around Corinth for some eighteen months and probably wrote at least four letters.  The first being lost, (I Corinthians 5:9), the second which is our First Corinthians answers both oral and written communications sent previously from that community.  The third letter, our Second Corinthians, is somewhat harsh as Paul relays this sentiment, “Out of much affliction and anguish of heart,” in Second Corinthians 7:8-12.  It is believed by some that Titus may have delivered this letter, (Second Corinthians 10-13.)  The fourth letter is believed to have been reaching for reconciliation.

Evenings after supper, I am encouraged to watch the television game show, Jeopardy.  Since 1984, Alex Trebek has hosted this tense quiz show created by Merv Griffin, racking the brains of viewers like myself.  It’s like the other shows except contestants are given the answers and they must answer by providing the questions.  The Pauline Epistles are presented to us in this fashion.  We have today the answers to questions believers raised with the Apostle Paul.  Our task then is to reason about what the original questions may have been.  Paul mentions the report made by Chloe’s people in (First Corinthians 1:11), and the phrase, “now concerning”, leads us to believe he is responding to concerns brought to him and in the Corinthian letters the concerns are many. 

The Pauline Epistles are situational, that is to say, they address specific concerns, issues and problems. Believers are divided about how to handle legal battles, how to rank spiritual gifts, how to deal with marital problems, and how to punish practitioners of certain immoral practices.  In all of these letters, Paul has at least two goals, that is, to preserve harmony and guard unity.  Preserve means to keep alive, make lasting, or to keep safe.  In our Churches we are to keep alive, harmony, or make it lasting and keep it safe.  Guard means to become the warden of, and to keep in custody.  In our Churches we are to become the wardens of unity and to keep unity in custody.  The Executive Minister must keep alive and make lasting harmony in the denomination.  The Executive Minister must also become the warden and keep in custody, unity within the denomination, leading everyone to become fellow workers together with God.  We then are His cultivated field.  It is God who continues to turn the soil over and over. 

At our ABCOTS 47th Annual Session, you are invited to take part in our sessions becoming reacquainted with the broad work of the region and national denomination’s body of work.   

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