Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Great Compassion Baptists...

Recently, at the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans, our body of Baptists voted to keep the name "Southern Baptist Convention" but give the option for folks to use the qualifying descriptor, "Great Commission Baptists" to refer to ourselves. I thought that it might even be more fitting to call ourselves, "Great Commission" and "Great Compassion" Baptists. Because, no matter what we call ourselves, what we do and who we are is far more important. And, in my humble opinion, we are noted  as a missions and a compassionate people. Southern Baptists: People who care for people, both spiritually and physically.

This Sunday, I'll be pinch hitting in Sunday School and teaching our class here in Mt. Juliet. I have decided to talk about Baptist distinctives and a bit of Southern Baptist history. When I shared this with the regular teacher (who'll be out of town), I think he was glad that he wouldn't be there. :)

As I've gone over materials this week, I've reread parts of "Global Mission" by Winston Crawley. I just finished chapter 13 (one of my favorite of all time) entitled, "What About Human Need?" Dr. Crawley states,...

"From the beginning, Southern Baptist foreign missions ministries have been holistic; that is, the have addressed the whole person in an actual life situation, not just the soul. Even though there has sometimes been a tendency in the United States to polarize evangelism and ministries to physical or social needs, as if they were opposed to each other, that has seldom been the case in overseas missions. Compassionate attention to all kinds of human need has been more typical. Note, for example, the school for girls started by Henrietta Hall Shuck in Hong Kong, the appointment of a Southern Baptist missionary physician in 1846 (My note: the SBC was formed in 1845), and the sharing of food with famine-stricken people by Lottie Moon (and many other missionaries). Missionaries quite naturally reached out in Christian love to relive the intense physical and material suffering of those around them."

More recently, growing up at Trace Creek Baptist Church in New Johnsonville, TN, I can remember two distinct "mantras" of Southern Baptists: "Bold mission thrust" and "Southern Baptist, people who care." In retrospect, these are a couple of major things that shaped my early theology and Baptist identity. We are a missions people and we care about people.

I tell people that I have the best job in the world. By the grace of God and the good support of Southern Baptists, I get to help people and help them hear about Jesus. And to me, in my frame of reference, you can't get any more Southern Baptist than that!

Helping people; making God known....

Great Compassion and Great Commission Baptists...

Makes sense.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Reflections on the Southern Baptist Convention...

I just returned yesterday from New Orleans and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Each year, BGR is allowed to staff a booth in the exhibits and displays area. This year, in our display, we focused on the Japan relief efforts, hunger in Africa, the BGR Kits for Kids project and medical/health care ministries.

Our display was well received. We had good interaction with the convention messengers who stopped by to talk about various things. One interesting thing is that most people tend to know BGR now. A few years ago as we started BGR, we receive a lot of, "who are you.." questions. This year many would say, "I know BGR. Our church has done a project with you!" It was really nice to hear. 

Also, during the IMB's report by the president, Dr. Tom Elliff, BGR received a compliment and "plug" for the work we do. Dr. and Mrs. Elliff and I had made a trip together to the Horn of Africa last November. He got to see first hand the way that hunger, relief and health care projects are critical to Kingdom work and has become a great advocate for BGR. Moreover, he got to follow up that trip with a trip to Japan and see the devastation and work there to help the Japanese Baptists in their recovery efforts. 

Several milestones were achieved during the SBC this year in New Orleans. If you didn't know, Southern Baptists elected their first African American president, Fred Luter, Jr. We also voted to keep our name as the "Southern Baptist Convention" but with a "qualifier" to those who wanted to use it: "Great Commission Baptists." 

But one of the most encouraging things to me was the excitement from many of the younger leaders who are passionate about social justice issues such as widows and orphans, human trafficking, hunger, etc. Nobody asked me, but I think a better descriptor of who we are as Southern Baptists would be...

"Southern Baptist Convention: Great Commission and Great Compassion Baptists"

Seeing what I saw this past week, this would probably be a more accurate description.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


I ran into an interesting article the other day in Fox News. It was very enlightening in regard to celebrities and their favorite charities they promote.

A reliable charity watch-dog group that also looks at organizations such as ours, Baptist Global Response (BGR), reported that some of the best-known celebrity charities send only 20% to 30% of donations to meet actual needs. Up to 70% is spent on salaries, marketing/advertising, and overhead costs!

I’ll not name names here (you can read the article at the link below), but I suspect many of these famous people would speak negatively about a “World Hunger Fund” that is connected to Southern Baptists -- even though our WHF sends 100% of every donation straight to helping people in need.

You read that right! The Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund (SBWHF) is a “dollar in, dollar out” vehicle to help hungry people all around the world. Not one penny is taken out for our administrative costs. Our salaries and operating expenses are already covered by the generosity of Southern Baptists through giving channels such as the Cooperative Program.

When you give a dollar to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund, you can be sure a dollar will be spent somewhere in the world to alleviate hunger or address hunger-related issues. 

WHF donations are allocated 80% to causes overseas, while 20% is used within North America. Baptist Global Response administers and oversees the international portion, and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) oversees the domestic component. Both these organizations are blessed with other sources of income for operations, so the World Hunger Fund can be used 100% for what it was designed to do: address hunger needs.

So here’s my question. Whether you’re a Southern Baptist or not -- whether you’re a follower of Jesus, a Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, agnostic, atheist, etc. -- why wouldn’t you give to something like the “dollar in, dollar out” Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund?

To learn more about the World Hunger Fund and opportunities to give, visit:

To read the full article about celebrity charities referred to in my post, you can visit the website…

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Breaking down Transformation...

Just to follow up on what I wrote in my last blog regarding transformation and how it applies to us personally and corporately...

Transformation is God's work in us to change us and conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus. It can only begin with regeneration or a "spiritual" birth into God's family. This birth can only happen with the indwelling of God's spirit in a person's heart. All of our efforts at becoming good people or "like Christ" are in vain unless it is the power of God working that within us. Frankly, we are all sinners and are prone to and will return to that sinful nature.

When God's Spirit or "seed" enters into our heart, the process of transformation can begin. It requires submission and surrender on our part to God and His Spirit, allowing the work of transformation to take place. In both the Old and New Testaments, it is the "looking" or "beholding" of the glory of the Lord that inertias the transformation. This happened with Moses when he went into the cloud on Sinai. It was so with Jesus at the transfiguration. It was what Paul meant in 2 Corinthians 18 when he says, "We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit."

So, it seems pretty simple. We come to faith in Christ and God places His Spirit in our hearts. If we yield and "behold" His glory, He works the power of transformation in our hearts and live to be conformed to the image of His Son. When we become conformed to the image of Jesus, we are moved to see the world and respond like Jesus. Yes, pretty simple. :)

Here are the takeaways as to why we as Kingdom people are involved in addressing needs both physically and spiritually all over the world...

1. The needs of people moves us. If we are becoming like Christ in transformation power, we cannot look at the world and its needs and not be moved because He was moved. He looked at the crowds with compassion because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). And every time, every time, when someone cried out to Him for help, he stopped and addressed the need. To be like Christ means to be moved by people in need.

2. The love of Christ compels us. Jesus' love for God the Father compelled Him into this world and translated into love for people. This was of course manifested in teaching, preaching and healing to all those in need (Matthew 4:23) If the Spirit of God is in us and working in us to be transformed to the image of Jesus, this same love compels and even propels us out into a world in need.

3. The Word of God commands us. This is not a legalistic constraining adherence to God's law. This is a "born out of love" wonder and respect for God's law. It is as the Psalmist declares, "...the ordinances (laws) for the Lord are reliable...They are more desirable than gold - than and abundance of pure gold; and sweeter than honey...

4. The desire to make Christ known in word and in deed motivates us. In the end, as we are changed from glory to glory, our heart and existence becomes the same as Christ which is to make God's glory known to all creation. To become transformed and ultimately conformed to Christ, means that we exist for God's purpose - to make His glory known.

Transformed to share our lives and His story with others...

This is our motivation for doing good proclaiming truth in a fallen world...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Revelation on Transformation...

As I was reading through 2 Corinthians this morning, the Word of God spoke out to me and I jotted down a simple, but (at least to me), profound thought on transformation.

When we look at doing community development (e.g. helping the poor, hungry, homeless, those in need, etc.), we often talk of transformation of individuals and communities alike. Our goal generally is to see people and their surroundings "transformed" to become models and reflections of God's true plan for their lives and communities. Moreover, in a missions perspective, we see this as a step towards God's kingdom coming and His will being done on earth as it leads towards heaven.

In 2 Corinthians chapters 3 to 5, the Apostle Paul gives a encapsulation of true transformation. He keeps it all focused in the purpose of God making His glory known but personalizes it as to how it involves us both as being changed ourselves and acting as His change agent. So, here is the summary truth I gleaned from my devotion time this morning...

God's purpose: To make His glory known

* We are to become God's 'living letters' of God's message produced by the Spirit of God (3:1-3)
* We are to become transformed into the image of Jesus mainly by looking at God's glory in Jesus (3:17-18)
* As we are transformed into the image of Christ, we do not proclaim ourselves but Jesus as Lord (4:5-6)
* Our treasure in jars of clay is really His Spirit and His power. The treasure exists in us not just as a benefit to us but again to make His glory known (4:7-10)
* We know all of this to be true and can be certain of the future (even though the transformation is still in a process) because of the deposit of His Spirit in us (5:5-10)
* His Spirit moving, living, breathing and doing His work of transformation in us, compels us to make Him known (5:13-15)
* And all of this is done (His Spirit dwelling in us and transforming us from the inside out) to lead us into His chosen ministry for us - the ministry of reconciliation - whereby we plead with others through word and deed, "be reconciled to God!"

Summary: God desires to transform us into the image of His Son not for our glory but for His and His purpose. As we are in the process of transformation, God's work in us to becoming like Him, we are given the ministry of reconciliation - to call others to be restored to God. The tools of our reconciliation ministry are found in both the words we speak and the deeds we do. And all is done to make Him and His glory known among the nations.

Paul summarized, "...whatever you do, do everything for God's glory." (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Living for Christ - Transformation - Living Christ - Ministry of Reconciliation - All for His Glory...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Jesus Brought us Corn and Peanuts...

Thank you for your response to the "whooping woman" story posted yesterday. Today is a continuation story of the same distribution. The BGR partners who made the first distribution to the "whooping woman's" village, made a second one to a community just as needy.

The village they went to was about three times as large as the first. It was as hot as before. Two semi-trucks full of corn and peanuts arrived for distribution. This food was provided through the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund and the village couldn't believe that such a gift was being given to them. They even said, "we thought you had forgotten about us." They over and over kept saying, "you just don't understand, the food came just in time!"

One scene illustrated best the dire situation of the villagers and their hunger need. As the corn (maize) and peanuts (ground nuts) were distributed, a few kernels and seeds fell into the dust. The team watched in amazement at grown men, women and children carefully picked up each stray seed not wanting to waste even a morsel of food. The team wrote...

"Our last night in the village, we were called to the public square for more dancing and drumming. It was a very special night. We got back to our host's home at about 11:30 pm, all of us quite tired and ready for bed. Just 10 minutes later, though, the traditional singers and drummers had followed us back to our yard and proceeded to dance and sing more for us. Never mind some were in bed! The song they sang though was the sweetest: 'Who brought us corn? Who brought us peanuts? Jesus did!'"

And whatever you did for the least of these...

Thank you, Southern Baptists (and others), for giving to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund. Thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus to a people hungry both physically and spiritually.

I encourage you to share this story with others. I encourage you also to prayerfully consider giving to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund so that more of us can help Jesus bring food to hungry people.

If you would like to give to or learn more about the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund, please visit: http://www.worldhungerfund.com.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Whooping Woman...

 We just received an e-mail from BGR partners in West Africa. They are working in a country and area plagued by hunger due to extended drought. They have a BGR and World Hunger funded project and are making food distributions in pretty harsh circumstance. They are working in the “bush” in heat excesses of 120 degrees Fahrenheit or more during the day.

 The partner wrote that after one long day of distribution, they had just returned back to their base camp and cleaning up when….

 “In the distance I heard a lady let out this traditional whoop of joy and banging, like on a drum proceeding her whoop. After supper that night our host asked if I had heard the lady. ‘Yes’, I said and he went on to tell me a bit of her story.  She was a divorced lady with 4 children. Her husband had left her. Because she had no man to advocate for her to be on the recipient list for the grain, she knew she and her children would be overlooked. However, when she got home from her work she found that the grain for a family of 5 was sitting there in her courtyard waiting for her. It was then she let out the whoop I had heard earlier and she began to beat the five-gallon water jug as a makeshift drum. She told her neighbors she was going to beat the drum all night because she now had food to feed her children.” 

When is the last time that you “whooped” out loud because you and your family had food to eat? I don’t think that I have ever been that excited about my food. Maybe it’s because that I’ve always had food and never really had to go without. 

Thank you, Southern Baptists, for providing food to this widow and her family as well as millions of others across the globe through our Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund! I can envision that not only is the widow “whooping” because she and her children got food, but also that some angels in heaven joined in with a “whoop” of their own.
 “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat…Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.” (Matthew 25:35, 40)