Updated 9/29/06: Please note the correction at the bottom of this article.
Wednesday morning at our weekly pastors meeting, we began with a question: Who’s not sleeping at night? Or, Who keeps waking up in the middle of the night?
We handed the microphone to the half dozen who raised their hands. “Family problems,” one said. A daughter with medical needs and a son who needs to get his life right with the Lord, then marry the mother of his child. “The world situation,” another said. A third said, “I’m lonely.” His wife is in Heaven and he lives alone. “I lie awake thinking about Heaven,” he said, eager to be there.
I didn’t go into my reasons for waking up in the middle of the night, but I expect they are typical. I lie there thinking of what I need to do the next day, of tasks I did not complete the day before. Sometimes I get up and make a list of people to call and work to do, and it seems to settle my mind. This morning, I rose and wrote two letters and drew a cartoon that was on my mind–is there anyone else on the planet, I wonder, who wakes up with a cartoon bugging him?–and by then, it was time to get up anyway.
The cartoon? I had been half awake praying for the meetings we’d scheduled for today, one at 8:30, the pastors at 10, and another session after lunch. I asked the Lord to give me good recall for names, and this came to mind. A group of people are sitting around a boardroom table. One fellow is saying, “I’ve been on vacation for two weeks, so tell me again: who are you people, what are we doing here, and why does it matter?”
Okay, I was gone only one week, but it felt like a month.
Anxiety and worry are types of fears. And we know what the Word says about fear, don’t we. “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.” I call that the PLUS of Christian living: Power, Love, Sound mind. II Timothy 1:7.
We’re not to fear the forces of darkness; He has given us power.
We’re not to fear other people; He has given us love.
We’re not to fear the unknown; He has given us a sound mind.
How many times in Scripture do we read the command, “Fear not”? You’d think we’d get the idea.
Dr. Bill Henry of Lifeway Christian Services was with us all morning, so I asked the pastors to introduce themselves and tell a little of their situation. We’ve covered this ground before on these pages, so I’ll skip that part.
Bill and Rose Taylor (he has been a staffer of most of the great Baptist churches of America, formerly Mr. Sunday School of Lifeway, and now a contract worker with NAMB) were with us. Richard Leach of NAMB was present, as was Darwin Bacon of the Arkansas Baptist Convention.
Richard Leach called our attention to Hebrews 3:13. “Encourage one another day after today, as long as it is still called ‘today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” The best days are ahead, he assured us. He referred everyone to the line from Shakespeare’s Henry V in which the king assures his soldiers just before the battle of Agincourt that “Many an Englishman now abed will think themselves accursed that they were not with us on St. Crispin’s Day.” A hard battle to be fought, a great victory to be won, a lasting memory to be savored.
“I almost envy you young pastors,” I said, repeating something we’ve mentioned before. “As you see God work these things out in your life, your ministry will be forever changed.”
One of our guests mentioned that, based on the experience from previous hurricanes, it’s not the first but the second year after the devastation that many pastors and staff members leave the area. It’s all about burnout.
Bill Henry headed up collegiate student work for Lifeway for many years. He shared that he has watched what happened to this region alongwith the rest of the world. After a year, it is a touching thing to drive around and see what has been accomplished. It’s so inspiring to be in this meeting and pick up on your great spirit.
Joe Ormand and Mike Chandler were with NOAH’s Steve Gahagan, down from South Carolina to scope out the situation and begin plans for bringing church groups down to help.
Freddie Arnold attended the quarterly Executive Board meeting of the Louisiana Baptist Convention in Tall Timbers conference center Tuesday and reported today. 1) Guidestone is phasing out making the monthly payments for pastors disability insurance due to a decline in interest earned. Pastors will be receiving information on this. 2) The Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home in Monroe was approved to conduct an annual offering in the month of May. 3) Louisiana College in Pineville is the subject of a lawsuit by an Islamic group for rejecting a textbook which presented Muslim doctrines as a Christian teaching. 4) The LBC is helping our New Covenant Baptist Mission (Thomas Glover, pastor) purchase the building of Woodmere Baptist Church in Harvey.
Freddie had several announcements: 1) Ministers’ Wives’ Retreat to be held October 27 and 28 at Tall Timbers. Contact the conference center at 318/445-6797. 2) “The Road Home Meeting” will be held at the First Baptist Church of New Orleans this Friday, September 30 from 1 to 3 pm. Officials have assured us they will be present, although they’ve canceled twice because they did not have the answers to our questions. This is the agency that will be distributing billions of dollars to affected homeowners, up to $150 thousand each. 3) This weekend, our associational Baptist Center will be a voting place for several precincts in the Gentilly area. It will be a protected site, so be aware in case you need to run by. 4) Bill Taylor has brought many boxes of ministry books by the office; they’re available for any minister who would like to come by and look through the boxes.
One of the most exciting events we’ve done in a while is coming up November 3 and 4 at the FBC of Marrero. We’re having a Library Conference. Hold on—for those of us who love good reading, this is a big deal! And for those of us who believe God’s people need to be reading Christian literature, this is a genuine need in our churches. Here are a few of the details….
Hope Ferguson of FBC Natchitoches came down last February to see our situation and talk with our pastors about the needs of their people. She returned home and began pulling together personnel and plans for this two day conference to help ALL OUR CHURCHES establish church libraries and media centers. It’s a Friday night and all day Saturday. Classes and conferences for all kinds of groups in the church, including pastors and staff members. Free gifts. Church-changing information and life-changing inspiration.
Finally, we asked the pastors to begin considering when we should cut back on the frequency of these pastors meetings. Since a couple of weeks after Katrina, we’ve been meeting weekly, at first for 3 hours, then for 2. With so many people working or in seminary, our numbers are smaller. We had just under 40 this morning.
The plans are to meet at Good Shepherd (Spanish) Baptist Church, 5033 Wabash, Metairie, through October, then at the New Orleans Chinese Baptist Church in Kenner for the first three Wednesdays of November. Then, we are considering going to a “first Wednesday of each month” meeting at the associational office. (The bad news there is that we’ll have to send out and purchase sandwiches. No more wonderful ethnic meals such as we are enjoying these days!)
Today, we broke into prayer groups, then each person shared, everyone listened, and we all drew strength from each other. That’s not very innovative, but it sure is a blessing.
Who are we, what are we doing here, and why does it matter?
We’re the Lord’s servants, brothers and sisters of one another and leaders of His churches, in this city on mission for Him. What we do matters a great deal because it matters to Him.
I’m quite sure that many a preacher now abed (or in their office) will never think themselves accursed for missing these meetings. But they would if they knew what a blessing they were.
In this article I mentioned a report from Freddie Arnold to our Wednesday pastors group about the state executive board meeting the previous day. Two friends have contacted me since to say we had the information wrong. The lawsuit at Louisiana College is NOT from Islamists or Muslims. Instead, it’s within the college family and has to do with the contents of a textbook a class was using, on whether some of its teachings were crossing the line and presenting some Muslim or Buddhist teachings as Christian. That seems to be the gist of it, without going into more detail (and running the risk of getting more things wrong!!). Our deepest apologies. Thanks to S. and K. for calling this to our attention.