1) Two of our churches are deep into discussions about merging. “Sojourn has a congregation and needs a building,” said Lakeview’s veteran pastor Dick Randels last Wednesday morning. “We have a building and need a congregation.”
“We have some old people and need young folks,” he continued. “Sojourn has lots of young people and no seniors.”
It appears to be a perfect match. Sojourn’s pastor James Welch introduced Dick Randels as “my new best friend.”
Wisely, these two very different congregations are going about this merger slowly and deliberately. The memberships have met for dinner and they have worshiped together at least twice.
2) Two churches that shall remain nameless at the moment are in talks about one buying the property of the other. One of our fastest growing Hispanic congregations is hemmed in by a middle-class residential neighborhood. Down the street three blocks one of our churches sits with excellent buildings and plenty of land. That church has a second campus which they’re still rebuilding since the floodwaters of Katrina did a great deal of damage. May be a win-win situation for everyone.
3) A pastor called me. “My church is going to help such-and-such church that took so much additional devastation from the recent hurricanes.” I’ll report later what he has in mind, but I was thrilled to learn of one local church ministering to another in such a fashion.
4) Oscar Williams smiled, “You all might want to pray for me. Two weeks ago, I quit my job to go full-time with the church.” Good News Baptist Church is in all-new facilities and located three blocks from the great Franklin Avenue Baptist Church. “I’m not sure how the Lord is going to provide for us,” Pastor Oscar said. He laughed, “We’re going to find out if that was the Lord speaking to me–or me speaking to me!”
(I told him about the time my mentor Dr. James Richardson was asked by his little granddaughter Leigh Anne, “Papa, how do you know when it’s God speaking to you and when it’s just you talking to yourself?” He said, “Sweetheart, that’s one of the hardest theological problems we ever have to face.”)
Oscar Williams told the other pastors some of the ministries he’s done this week, and added, “I could not have done what I did this week if I had not been full-time.”
Woody Sears, an Indiana pastor whose church has been a strong supporter of Good News since Katrina, writes, “With Oscar going full-time, they’ll soon be tearing out the walls to add all the new members he’ll be bringing in!”
Problem is, the neighborhood in and around Franklin Avenue and Good News is still only partially rebuilt and sparsely settled.
Oscar says, “We want Franklin Avenue to prosper and us to get the overflow!” Both churches will appreciate the prayers.
5) “I had to come today,” said a pastor from Reserve, a community some 25 miles west of New Orleans. It was our weekly pastors meeting, which we reinstituted on September 17 at the request of several. (Wednesdays, 10 am, here at the Baptist Center, 2222 Lakeshore Drive)
He added, “I needed some time with other ministers. It’s lonely out there.”
What makes that comment more poignant is that this minister is not Southern Baptist and his church lies outside our association, the western border of which ends at LaPlace. He has indicated he wants to bring his congregation into BAGNO (the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans), however, and of course, he will be welcomed.
The point I keep trying to get across to pastors is that they need to spend some time with other ministers on a regular basis. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) That might explain why some of us have grown dull and rusty!
There is a thing about preachers which I call the “Elijah complex.” It goes like this: “I’m the only one still faithful, the last one still holding the tide against the encroachment of sin and the world.”
Meanwhile, if you recall this lesson from I Kings 19, God replied something like, “I beg your pardon–I still have seven thousand faithful who have not bowed the knee to idols.”
The lone-ranger-syndrome is alive and well in the ministry, and if you ask me, it’s destroying our pastors and hurting our churches. One of the best things a minister can do for his work and his own mental health is to spend an hour or so every week with his brethren, just talking and sharing, laughing and learning. Hanging out. And I’m not talking about sitting in a room and listening to someone speak. I’m talking about activities like sitting across the booth at McDonald’s and sharing coffee or an ice cream cone while talking about whatever is on the minds of those present.
Our God is a social God who created mankind for fellowship. James Weldon Johnson’s “God’s Trombones” pictures the Creator saying, “I’m lonely—I’ll make me a man!”
Genesis tells us that after creating the world and pronouncing everything good, the Lord found one thing that was not right. “It is not good for man to be alone.”
There are two things one cannot be alone: married and a Christian. God ordained a spouse for the married one and a church for believers. Likewise, all through the New Testament, it’s apparent that the preachers/missionaries/apostles were to work in teams and not alone.
Some 10 years ago, after a deranged gunman burst into Fort Worth’s Wedgwood Baptist Church on a Wednesday night and killed several people and critically injured others, the congregation was in shock. Saturday, the church leaders and members were attending funerals all over town. Meanwhile, the administrator had to try to get the sanctuary in some kind of shape for the next day’s worship services. Carpet had been torn out, bullet holes riddled the walls, and blood stains were everywhere.
At that point, a Church of Christ congregation there in Fort Worth called Wedgwood to ask what they could do to help. An hour later, a delegation arrived at the church to clean and scrub and spackle and paint. The next day, Sunday, a vanload of folks from a church in Oklahoma City arrived to prayerwalk the area around Wedgwood while the congregation worshiped inside.
The Wedgwood folks were overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from other congregations.
“By this shall all men know you are my disciples,” Jesus said, “that you love one another.” (John 13:35)
So, who does the Lord want you to demonstrate your discipleship to today?