I am disturbed in my spirit.
The verdict in the Zimmerman trial seems to have unleashed a deep bottled-up division in America. Add to that the recent Voter Rights Act decision by the Supreme Court and we have some ugly rhetoric boiling up in our culture. It seemed over the last twenty years we had made some great strides in racial connection in America. Now I am not so sure.
I hear white and black saying we need to have a national conversation about race. Then the screaming starts in an 8-10 minute TV segment. There is more heat than light in most of that. But I do believe a conversation is needed. The conversation I am talking about is with someone of different race. Someone whom you do not know very well. Make an invite to dinner at your home. Talk. Get to know one another. Hear the stories about their families, grandparents and children. Make a friend rather than making a point. Hear the concerns each has on each side of the color line. You just might be amazed.
I hear some people say I do not see color. That is true only if you are physically blind. It is a part of what makes each of us who we are. It is okay to see it. It is just not ok to pre-judge because of what you see at first glance. Let’s have some conversations.
I am preaching Sunday on the Woman at the Well. She was a Samaritan. Jesus was a Jew. That was a formula for separation. Jesus tore down the barrier. It all started with a drink of water.
Grace is greater than race.
Last night Liz and I had dinner with the Pulpit Search Committee that recommended us to Olive in 1990. These Olive members and spouses were the first people we met in Pensacola. There is a special bond. It has been a great adventure. I am grateful for the trust they placed in me.
There were great stories around the table. Carol Dunn had saved notes from the meetings. She gave those to me. In the folder I found comments from conversations the members had with my references. These were informative and humbling. I had several reflections from this walk down memory lane.
I am honored to pastor Olive Baptist Church. Bob Davis (chairman) and his wife Betty are in heaven. So are Loma West and Joe Pinson. Clyde, Carol, Larry#1, Dave, Dennis, and Larry#2 will always have a special place in my heart.
It is good to look back remember and be grateful. Now it is time to look forward and do the work God called us to do.
It was two weeks ago that my good friend, Dr. Leo Day, shared with me the news of his move to Southwestern Seminary. He is going to be the Dean of the School of Music. This was a sad day for me.
For the past eight years Leo and I have worked together to lead Olive in worship. He has been a wonderful platform partner. I cannot thank him enough for all he has brought to the Olive family. Leo and his family will be with us until Sunday, August 11.
The past several days I have been in the planning and praying stage for the future of worship at Olive. In the short look we have to prepare for August 12. There will be no one sitting in the Minister of Music’s chair that day. I am putting a plan together. And in the long view we are searching prayerfully for God’s man to come to Olive. I am grateful for those who join me in prayer on this endeavor.
It is still hard to believe God sent Leo Day to Olive. Through some eyes a black man from Mississippi and a red-haired preacher from North Alabama is an odd pair. But it was a match engineered by the Lord. Hurricane Katrina was the storm that made this possible. Leo could not go back to New Orleans after helping us for a month. We needed an interim Minister of Music and he fit the bill. He needed a house and we had one. God was at work. What a delightful journey it has been.
When I think of his days with us several words come to mind:
The Lord’s Prayer
Thank you, Leo. Your pastor and friend in Pensacola will miss you.
Today I am meeting with SBC State Evangelism leaders from across the Southern states. These leaders do a great job keeping the fires burning for sharing the Gospel.
Yet we all admit we are in trouble. We see a decline in baptisms. There are 900 SBC churches a year closing their doors. And we have a high percentage of our churches stagnant or in decline. I had a few takeaways from the Monday meeting and look forward to learning more today.
1. Any church can and will die if it does not reach the next generation.
2. A growing number of churches no longer have Vacation Bible School. I was amazed. The reason most often given is the church does not have enough workers.
3. Church revitalization is a critical need. There are several ways to go at this. But the key is dying churches must admit they are in critical condition before any plan can be attempted. This is a tough step.
4. Church planting is a must in our cities.
5. Cooperation among churches needs to grow. Healthy churches helping struggling churches is a big challenge. It is not an easy task but is often fruitful.
6. The pastor is key. If a church is going to reach people, it begins with the pastor. If his heart is not on fire, the church will seldom blaze.
In my message Sunday morning I shared of my conviction that we need to pray more together at Olive. So I have set a time for us to do so.
On the first Wednesday of each month at noon I plan to be in the OBC Chapel to pray with anyone who will join me. This is community wide. Invite your friends to join us. We are praying for revival in America and in our churches and in our lives.
Some cannot join us because they are out of town or just cannot get to the Chapel. Pray where you are. Take time to call out to the Lord. Get a couple of Christian friends together and pray. One man told me he would not be at Olive because on the first Wednesday of the month for a long time believers at his office have been praying together at noon. AMEN! That is what I am talking about. JUST DO IT!
Join me Wednesday at noon on your knees!
When one studies revival, you can only come to the conclusion that awakening is a sovereign act of God. Yet, there are some actions we seem to always find when we find revival among God’s people. One of those actions is unified prayer.
I have come to a conviction. We do not pray enough at Olive. So, I have sought to take some action. As pastor I am calling us to unite in prayer on the first Wednesday of each month at noon. The first gathering will be next week December 5 in the OBC Chapel.
It is open to anyone who wants to pray. I will lead out in the meeting. And I invite you to mark your schedule and join me. You could skip the noon meal if you like. Or you can eat before or after with some friends at a local restaurant. We just need to pray. We need to invite our friends, be they from Olive or other churches. Or invite a lost friend to join you if they want to be a part.
No doubt many will not be able to get to the church campus. You may be across town or away from Pensacola. I ask you to set aside the noon hour on the first Wednesday and pray.
United prayer is important. You never know what God may do. O Lord, make Isaiah 64:1 a reality among us!
Christmas decorations are going up at Olive. Volunteers and Olive staff have been hard at work. The campus is looking great. This weekend we move into the Christmas music season. It is going to be an amazing month at Olive. Do not miss it. Be here as we worship the New Born King!
Christmas is a season of gift giving. And it is a time of year when the church is blessed by special gifts from many people. The ongoing budget will get a boost. International missions benefits from the SBC Lottie Moon offering. And this year we are taking a special offering to build a clinic in the Ministry Village at Olive. I am looking for 200 people to give $2000 over the tithe to build this clinic. We can do it! We will receive the offering Christmas Eve. You can send it early if you want to. But that evening will be a joyous occasion. Pray about your part.
You never more like Jesus than when you are giving! Give your funds, your service, your love and of yourself.
Many individuals, churches, families and organizations help the poor on Thanksgiving weekend. Those are good and commendable actions.
I never come to these days without memories of my good friend Jean Rae. She was the catalyst to beginning the Ministry Village at Olive. She turned a deaf ear whenever people asked her for a needy family to help at Christmas. I can still hear her saying,
“If you do not know anyone poor, you are just making yourself feel better by giving some food one day a year. People are just as hungry on February 25th as they are December 25th. We should be doing ministry year round.”
Those words stuck in my heart. So now we feed the hungry, provide clothes, pay light bills and more five days a week. My wife says Jean is smiling at me from heaven as she sees the work going on at Olive. I hope so, because she never smiled much at me here!
I love and miss Jean. I am going to name a building for her one day. Just to make her mad!
Yesterday I returned from Olive’s pastoral/director staff retreat. WOW! What a great team. We met and sought the mind of the Lord for the future. There are some bright days ahead. Pray for our team.
Bob Bumgarner, Director of the Church Development Division of the Florida Baptist Convention, led our Tuesday sessions. It was a great day of challenge and fresh ways to evaluate ministry.
This was my 20th retreat at Olive. The team has changed and so has the church. However, the vision is the same. Olive is here to fulfill the Great Commission and obey the Great Commandment.
It was twenty-two years ago I moved to Pensacola. It was a Wednesday night. Our family stayed in the Holiday Inn University Mall. Kids were out for Trick or Treat. Rachel and Bennett were just small kids. My, how things have changed. But one thing has not: my passion to serve as Olive’s pastor. I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to lead this great church.
When I first pastored during college I was the only staff member at the church. Since that time I have had the pleasure of leading churches with multiple staff members. These relationship are critical in the life of a church.
Next week the Olive Baptist staff team will be on retreat together. I ask for your prayers. This annual event is an important time.
What is KEY to staff relationships?
7. A leader who knows where he is going—Pray for ME!