by Tom Smith
At the recent Annual Enrichment Conference in Seaside, Oregon (March 7-9, 2016), four different presenters spoke on four obstacles that hold back the Conservative Baptists in the Northwest from being a movement on mission with Christ. These obstacles were in order 1) satan 2) materialism, 3) comfort, and 4) fear. NOTE: I capitalize God, not satan, to properly honor only God. Mark Hoeffner, Executive Director of CB Northwest and teaching elder at Grace church in White Salmon talked about the first obstacle, satan. He reminded us that though satan was decisively defeated by Christ's victorious death and resurrection, satan remains (in rebellion) a vicious foe of Christ's church. Through a Bible survey, Mark reviewed satan's strategy. Satan aims to rule this world. The devil seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. He tries to deceive. He accuses constantly. Satan is our enemy, not fellow Christ-followers! Gospel-driven ministry lives in Christ's victory and stands against satan. How does satan bedevil our church and attack us when we try to move forward on mission with Christ? Mark Hanke, senior pastor of First Baptist of Salem, next considered the obstacle of materialism. The barometer of materialism is not how much stuff you have. You can have very few possessions and fall into asceticism, the pride of not-having. The antidote to materialism is to recognize that God is the Owner of everything. The materialist acts like a little god exercising ownership. Gospel movements stall when they debate the social implications of the gospel--whether it is better to give a man a fish or teach him how to fish. Instead, we must understand that God owns the lake! Everything belongs to God and all of His resources are available to churches on mission with Christ. How do we act as owners of God's resources (people and things) in ways that hinder our church from moving forward on mission with Christ? James Gleason, lead pastor of Sonrise in Hillsboro, next considered the obstacle of comfort. Sonrise church has uncomfortably followed the Lord of the harvest into ministry with registered sex offenders. With support and training from Washington County Corrections, Sonrise church began a ministry to people ostracized because of their criminal behavior. This was uncomfortable for some in their congregation and the neighborhood. The church persevered, learned what they need to know, and grew into a respected and safe place of worship and fellowship. Another ministry out of their comfort zone was to add a staff member to their church who serves as a coordinator of volunteer services for Hillsboro schools. The level of cooperation between the church and local schools was initially uncomfortable. However, it has proven to be a blessing to both. How does our church's commitment to comfort interfere with moving forward on mission with Christ? Greg Spires, teaching pastor of First Baptist of Medford, considered the obstacle of fear. Their church faced the fears of loss of identity and significance when they decided to give away a thriving Christian K-12 school. From the very beginning, the school started as a ministry of their church. Cascade Christian School was thought by some to be the best thing FBC-Medford had going for them. To bless the school with facilities, grounds, and create an independent school board cost the church. Would the church survive without the school? Greg pointed out that the very things you fear are also the things you trust. If you lose certain things (health, money, reputation), you fear you will not be okay. If you keep those same things, you will be fine. Fear of losing is the flip side of trust in keeping. How do our fears (trusting in anything/anyone other than God) hold back our church from moving forward on mission with Christ? Unless we identify and overcome them, these four obstacles will keep our church from moving forward on mission with Christ: satan, materialism, comfort, and fear. With God's help, Conservative Baptists of the Northwest can again become a movement of churches on mission with Christ!
by Tom Smith
Recently, my wife and I went on a date to a local restaurant with a Mediterranean flavor. We chose this place because the theme was all Middle Eastern from the name, to the decor, to the menu, even to the wait staff's dress. We weren't disappointed. Upon entering they asked us, "Is this your first time?" We said, "Yes." Then they offered a traditional height booth with bench seats or a curtained booth with benches much closer to the floor with embroidered cushions. The curtains were draped to look like the entrance of a tent. The table was a large, circular brass platter. It was all very cool. When our waitress came she knelt and offered to pour warm, scented water over our hands to wash before eating. We said, "Sure!" It seemed like part of the evening and we wanted to experience the full meal deal. We ordered the sambusa appetizers, lentil soup, mango juice, roasted lamb, rice, salad, bread, and Turkish coffee and Arabic tea with a pastry and ice cream for dessert. We had a great time enjoying ourselves. About halfway through our meal our waitress came to check on us and I decided to greet her with a traditional Arabic greeting, "As-salaam alaikum." Literally it means "peace to you" but generally is a polite hello. She asked me to repeat myself and I thought I'd messed it up. So I said again, "As-salaam alaikum." She did not offer the expected response but declined and said instead, "I am a Christian." Many Arabic-speaking Christians use the standard greeting but she didn't. Here's how the rest of the conversation went back and forth between us. We started, then she answers, and so on. "Where are you from?" "Syria." "Wow, Syria?" "Yes, we have a beautiful country. We had a beautiful country." "We're sorry." "When did you come to the States?" "About three years ago, but I've been working here for a little over a year." "Do you still have family in Syria?" "Yes, extended family. I came here with my mother and brothers." "What is the name of your village?" "Why, do you know something about Syria?" "Not really, I just think your village is special to you and I'd like to hear its name." [She told me the name but I can't remember.] "It's a Christian village in the western part of Syria. They are okay." "We're glad to hear that." "Have you ever been to the Middle East--Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria?" "No, we never have but we were Christian missionaries in Kenya in a Muslim village for over ten years." At that point she excused herself to take care of some other customers and we returned to finish our delicious dinner. After dinner, we ordered dessert. When she brought it we asked her, "Is there anything we can pray for you about?" She hesitated, shook her head "Yes" but then choked up. She put a finger on her upper lip to stifle a tear and couldn't continue talking. As she turned to go she said simply, "Everything." Of course, everything in her world (and ours) needs prayer. But her 'everything' is the future of her country, the safety of her extended family, her village's security, and the changing world attitude toward Syrians generally. In the current discussions about refugee policy (which refugees are safe and which are not), I found it easy to have an opinion because I did not personally know a single Syrian, Christians or Muslim. But when policy becomes personal it changes my thinking and I choose my words more carefully. Most importantly, I begin praying. When we got in the car on the way home, we prayed aloud for this lady. Our waitress is one specific person out of the tens of thousands who have fled the Syrian civil war that began four and a half years ago. But we met her. She served us. Her story touched us. And we prayed. I hope you pause and pray now too.
by Tom Smith
What is a Feasibility Study? A feasibility study is conducted to determine the viability of an idea. It considers 1) the financial cost of implementing an idea; 2) contra-indicators that might prohibit implementation; and, 3) the risks/rewards should the idea go forward. The recent Feasibility Study conducted by IMF and Frank Wood included all of the above. The purpose was to consider ways to upgrade, remodel, or build on our current property. The ministry vision is to better connect people to Jesus and each other. The findings? Costs are significant but not prohibitive. Local zoning laws and building codes are favorable. Inherent risks are related to our willingness to change our methods. We will not do anything that would compromise our biblical message and mission. The study saves us time, money, and heartache later by helping us to pre-sort what is feasible. We are healthy and positioned to change for greater ministry effectiveness, if we can go forward together. Sorting “plan be” from “plan not-to-be” The feasibility study gives us a starting point, not an ending point. “Don’t expect one alternative to “jump off the page” as being the best scenario. Feasibility studies do not suddenly become positive or negative. As you accumulate information and investigate alternatives, neither a positive nor negative outcome may emerge. The decision of whether to proceed is often not clear cut. Major stumbling blocks may emerge that negate the project. Sometimes these weaknesses can be overcome. Rarely does the analysis come out overwhelmingly positive. The study will help you assess the tradeoff between the risks and rewards of moving forward . . ." http://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/wholefarm/html/c5-65.html The study must be evaluated carefully to eliminate scenarios that don’t make sense, and to explore the most promising ones more fully. We also will gather input from end-users; those people who spend the most time in the nursery, kitchen, classrooms, etc. Some assembly required We are assembling a project team including at least one elder, one deacon and 3-5 people suggested by the church congregation. They will report to the elders who will report to the congregation a way forward to implement “plan be.”
by Tom Smith
The New Testament has a total of 260 chapters. If you read three per day you will easily finish in under three months. Why not join with others and plan to read the entire New Testament between January 01 and April 05? Begin on New Year's day and finish by Easter. Attached you'll find a copy of a reading plan that you can print to keep track. Chronological NT 3 month plan