Monday, March 31, 2014

We're on the hunt for a Children's Pastor

To anyone and everyone who reads this blog, please feel free to share this post with people you know who (a) might be interested or (b) know someone who might be interested.

So much of church staff searches are networking, so I'm asking for some help.  Please pass along the information included in this post and the link to the Job Description below.

We are on the hunt for a full-time Children's Pastor, a person willing to take on responsibility for the children's and preschool ministries of our church, Heritage Park Baptist Church.  We do our best to hire stellar pastors who seek to pastor the church through their particular area of ministry.  If you know someone who might be interested, please have them contact me via email:  trent at heritage park dot org.

You can download a PDF of the job description and send it along (or just send the link) by clicking here.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Snakes are Scary, the return: What kind of Preacher are you?

Well, here's a return to the Snakes are Scary series.  You can read the original post and purpose of the series here.

But the truth is, I don't even have a snarky comment about this...

In case you can't read it, it says...

"I was asked not long ago if I was an apologetic preacher.  I said, 'Lord no, I don't apologize for anything.'  I was then asked if I was an expository preacher.  I said, 'No, I am more like a suppository preacher.  I give the word and let God move the stink out of peoples [sic] lives.'  What kind of preacher are you then?  I answered, 'I am one of those KJV Bible preachers.'"

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I can almost gloat

With the quite stunning reversal of World Vision's original decision to hire people in homosexual marriages in states that have deemed them legal, I could almost gloat.

Not because I had much to do with it.  I didn't.  You can measure my impact with a ridiculously long list of zeroes to the right of the decimal point.

Frankly, not because I invested all this prayer into it.  I didn't.  I remember muttering something like, "Et tu, Brute?" to the Throne Room when I heard about it.  I remember praying before posting.  I have to call that about it.

Not because I'm a stakeholder in World Vision.  We did sponsor a child through them about 3 years ago.  When our sponsored child left the program, we chose not to renew.  We were donor-fatigued from the extra mailings and phone calls we got from them.  Previously, we had sponsored a child through Compassion International.  Our experience was very different with them, which is why I continually recommend them.

None of those reasons.

I could almost gloat because I was on the "winning" side.

Even typing that into words makes me not particularly like the guy typing it.  It's pride.  That thing God actively, present-tense opposes.  Ugh.

I don't get to gloat when the Kingdom advances because it's not my Kingdom.  I don't get to gloat when Truth wins the day because I'm not its author.  I don't get to gloat when prayers are answered in the way I pray them because they aren't my answers (and there have been a Library-of-Congress-size catalog of prayers that haven't been answered in the way I prayed).

And I don't get to gloat in this moment either (though the temptation is admittedly there).

Here's where I am this morning and I hope it's helpful to someone:  when the right thing is done and you're on that side, don't gloat.  Go on about your business and keep doing right.  There will be a day when you are on the side of right but the wrong thing is done.  Go on about your business and keep doing right.

Because the measure isn't whether you won or lost - it's whether or not you remained faithful.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

World Vision chooses by not choosing

For those of you who haven't heard, World Vision, the child-sponsor organization whose president wrote a pretty dang good book called The Hole in our Gospel, has chosen to hire practicing homosexuals, thereby lifting a prior ban on this particular form of immorality.  Please note, the hiring ban against practicing adulterers and other immoral people still stands.

So why did they choose to do so?

It's simple surrender.  Capitulation.  Thinking they're not choosing but actually choosing.

In their illogical logic, they say they are not choosing sides on an important cultural issue and then by their actions choose a side.  Their argument goes like this:  this is an important but contentious issue.  So we're not going to get in the middle of it.  Therefore, we're going to lift the ban on hiring practicing homosexuals who are in a marriage relationship in states (like Washington, where World Vision is headquartered) that have legalized it.

By lifting the ban, they have chosen sides.

They have sided against the teaching of Scripture.  They have sided against 2000 years of church history.  They have sided against Bible-believing people who have supported children through them.

Sound harsh?

All the believers in Jesus who follow His teachings now have to make a decision.  That's actually how I heard about this case.  A friend called and asked what his family should do about their support of a family through World Vision.  For the record, I think people have the legitimate ethical option of completing their sponsorship without any problem from Jesus.  I think they also have the legitimate ethical option of supporting a different child through a different agency like Compassion International.

Progressive and mainline denominations will applaud it.  And they will call folks like me less-than-biblical or mis-priortized because I care about something like this rather than children in need around the world.  I'm not a prophet, but my guess is that they will see 30% shrinkage in their revenue in the next several months.  How many families in need of support will that impact?  So, if I'm right - which is a big if, they have moved away from biblical morality and the social justice they care about so much.

Before you pick up the ad hominem rock of "You're mean like the Scribes and Pharisees," just know I would've written this about any self-proclaimed Christian organization who made such a foolish moral call on another moral issue.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The uncertainty and the Certainty

Confession:  I didn't sleep particularly well last night.

I can hear your "ahhs" and "ohhs" from here.  I'm glad you're concerned, so I'll go ahead and tell you why.

We're in the beginning stages of hiring a children's pastor.  God commissioned our other one to another church, even against our protests and prayers.  So we're in that personnel process as a church.

I was thinking about that and many other issues in the middle of the night last night.  And I just sensed the Spirit of God speak to the spirit of Trent and say, "Who you hire doesn't affect who I am."

The circumstances of my life, my leadership, our church, our staff, our health, our children's health, or anything else I could name does not affect who God is.  He is the same - yesterday, today, forever (Heb. 13.8).  He never changes.  Never waffles or shifts.  No transitions in Him.  Not even a shadow of turning, in the older phrase of James 1.17.

Be encouraged, dear reader.  No matter your circumstance, you will find God the same in it.  No matter what changes in your life, He will not be one to morph on you.

Constant.  Certain.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, March 24, 2014

So, Fred Phelps is dead. Should I be happy?

Fred Phelps, the founding pastor, and lead hate-inspirer at the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas and apparent keeper of the super-helpful website god hates fags dot com (I write it out so as not to give it any linkage) has died.  He has led the "church" to protest funerals of soldiers and others, claiming the country ought not be mourning because that is the judgment of god (little 'g' on purpose so as not to give it credence) upon a nation that has forsaken basic morality.

They even protested my alma mater, Baylor for something I can't remember.  I think it was for Baylor hosting the memorial services for the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion.

For clarity, I consider him a pastor like I consider my lab-beagle mix a wolf.  And I consider their "church" as much a church as I consider the Buddhists to be Baptists.  If you work hard enough, you can find similarities.  But no one would naturally associate the two.

He's dead.  He's facing his Maker - not the one of his own making, but the real deal, the genuine article.  God.  The Righteous Judge.  The King.

Should I be happy about this?  Like when UBL was killed.  Is there rejoicing in me?  Should there be?


No.  There's no rejoicing in the death of the wicked.  And there's no glee in a person who showed no mercy now desperately in need of some.  A man who so often pronounced God's judgment is now facing it.  I don't claim to know his eternal state.  That's not my job.

But this is haunting:  "Be merciful as your Father is merciful."

And then I wonder how to apply it today.  To my friends.  To my kids.  To my wife.  To my co-laborers.

That command stands.  No matter what the Phelps family says.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Last one, I promise: Louisiana College

I write about these things this week just to point out that there is stuff going on in the evangelical world that needs attention, and not just from the secular press.

So it is with Louisiana College.

Joe Aguillard, the current president of LC, has apparently misappropriated funds, cost the college a $10M donation, removed more than a few faculty members, and covered up and then paid off the kind of actions that get you fired.  There might have been other issues with investigations, barely survived votes of confidence, leaks from the board of trustees, and relations to the state convention.

I have friends in Louisiana.  I have other friends with degrees from LC.  I've known a faculty member there. It's all ugly.

And for pastors and the president to hide behind theological controversy in order to cover up the leadership issues is organizational and spiritual hubris of the worst kind.  Yuck.  Now the students are "on strike," refusing to attend class until the president goes.

And Jesus wept.

You can look at the local paper, the Town Talk, for more info.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Problem with Ergun Caner

I have posted (here and other related posts) before about the problems with the evangelist-apologist-dean-provost-now-college-president named Ergun Caner.  Before 9/11, he was known as Butch Caner.  Since, he has been Ergun Mehemet Caner.  And he's made quite a life and name for himself playing himself up as a person who was "trained at a Madrasa" to commit similar acts as the 9/11 hijackers.  But he was saved by Jesus and all is well.

The only problem is, none of it is true.  He immigrated to the U.S. as a small child, growing up in Ohio, and doesn't even speak fluent Arabic.

It's a sham.  Or a scam.  Or both.

And now he leads Brewton-Parker College in Georgia, a small Baptist college just on the edge of losing its accreditation with SACS.

I'm enough of an autonomy of Baptist institutions guy to let them hire who they want to.  They have every right to hire someone who has intentionally and consistently misrepresented himself before teens, adults, U.S. Marines, and thousands of others.  But I also have the compulsion to say that it's a terrible choice.

While he's stirring up the red-meat appetites of the older Baptists in Georgia with comments like, "We don't have a problem [at the college] that a good old-fashioned revival couldn't fix," it remains to be seen how accreditation for basic standards at an institution and revival go together.  It preaches well but the practice is...let's say it's not so great.

I bring this up, I guess, to add my voice to the chorus of people who are asking, "What the heck is going on?"

I can't fix it.  I know.  And God does indeed know there are times when my mouth has gotten me in trouble.  But even in a losing battle against apathetic leadership among some Baptist institutions, people ought to stand up and say that it's not right.

It just reflects so poorly on Christian leaders and the Christian church.  It's not enough that the world increasingly hates us, that Satan is steadily against us.  Now we're shooting ourselves in the foot too with our tolerance of this?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Controversy Week: Mark Driscoll (now Updated)

I have been mulling some comments about some things happening in conservative evangelical life in the U.S.  All three of the circumstances have some controversy surrounding them.  I'd like to weigh in for a moment.

Let's start with the lightning rod, Mark Driscoll.  He's planted a church in Seattle, seen thousands come to Christ, been a part of controversy before, and has, in my estimation, been a pretty good guy who has done good Kingdom work.  Some disagree with that last phrase (which they have the right to do), but God forbid my life being under the same scrutiny as his.

The problem, as I see it, is he started believing his own press.  In the South, you might say he was getting a little big for his britches.

First, there were plenty of controversial sermons.  Just Google "Mark Driscoll controversial sermon" and you'll have enough material, a good portion of which is not worth your time.

Second, there were plagiarism issues.  He, pretty clearly, plagiarized a chapter in one of his books.  I'm in a doctoral program where not citing sources gets you kicked out.  I'm not sure that publishing a book should get a pass either.  Then there was plagiarized material in a study guide the church sold.  Then more material in another book.  Then a sermon, more or less.

Now, here's the deal on some of this.  I have ingested several books in my lifetime that have had such impact on me that I can quote them without knowing that I am quoting them because it has become part of my thinking.  He gets a pass from me on stuff like this.

Here's the difference:  when someone says, "Hey Trent, that's from Dallas Willard's Divine Conspiracy, right?"  I typically think for a second (to make sure that's right), and then say, "Yep.  You should read that book again!  It's just that good!"  If someone asks, "Hey, why didn't you give him credit in your sermon?"  I look at them, and yes I have done this, and say, "You know, some of his writings have soaked into me and they just come out at various times.  But you're right - I should have said it was Willard's material.  Spread the word that the good part came from him, okay?"

Driscoll hasn't done that to my knowledge.  He's berated a talk show host.  He's backpedaled on some of his claims.  And he's blamed an unnamed research assistant who conveniently no longer works for the church.

Lastly, there is the New York Times Bestseller issue.  His church (!) paid over $200,000 to get his book on the NYT list, some of that going to a company that specializes in gaming the system and some of it going to purchase books per that company's recommendation.

Confession:  I've never written a book, though some day I hope to, so I don't know the pressure that comes along with actually selling the stuff.  However, gaming the system to make the NYT list seems to go way beyond "getting the message out" and "all things to all people in order that I might win a few."  Long past contextualization, it seems like cheating.

To his credit, he has withdrawn his moniker as a NYT bestselling author and taken some other steps.  But the deal is that the church still paid for it and it undoubtedly profits Driscoll, something the IRS calls inurement and frowns upon with penalties.

** Update ** Driscoll has written a letter of apology that gets a solid 'B' from me.  It specifically addresses the NYT issue and vaguely addresses some other stuff.  Link here.

Here's why all this crud matters (at least to me, and I hope to you).

We gripe about politicians who don't do what they say, do the opposite of what they say, or cut a deal that's good for them and bad for everyone else.  We fuss when our boss messes us over and takes credit for something he had the tip of his pinky in, but no other investment.

But we have nothing to say when one of the more famous pastors in America (is that the problem in a phrase?) has all this happen in a matter of a few months and gets called on the carpet for it, with barely a word of explanation but lots of excuses?

Shame on us.

If God withdraws His hand from what appears to be a substantial, theologically informed, Spirit-driven movement among the younger generation, it may be because we tolerated the celebrity instead of loving the Truth.

I'm not on a witch hunt here.  Again, God forbid my life be under the same scrutiny.  But we have to speak to our own.  Judgment begins with the house of God.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Well, well, well. Look who is blogging.

For those of you who have been waiting with bated breath for a new post...wait a minute, there's no such person.

A brief catch up and then a thought.

Since last blog, we have gotten everyone home and more or less settled into a routine.  Amen.  We have found out just how serious Ewok's condition is.  Bottom line:  very serious.  We have changed diapers and remembered how to do them fast so fists don't find feces.  And we have had visitors galore.  Today is the first day back to school from Spring Break.  The Big 3 are back in class and in routine.

So, that's us.

Briefly, I mentioned Sunday this question to our people.  I preached on the passage in Galatians 2 that includes v.20, the verse you know from Galatians 2 if you know a verse:  "I have been crucified with Christ.  I no longer live but Christ lives in me.  This life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me."  I pointed out that living by faith is not a passive or past tense life.  It is present tense, being the hands and feet of Jesus to people in need in places where Jesus wants to go.

So here's the question:  if Jesus reigns over everything, is He asking you to do something to demonstrate that reign?

Is there something that's on His agenda that's not on yours yet that will push you, prod you, make you step out, and stretch you beyond your current capacity?

The answer is...wait for it...


I can't say definitely because, well, I'm not Jesus.  But my guess is He always has something greater, deeper, closer, or lower for you to do.  Because those are the places He does His work, some of His best work.

So if I could ask you that question in person, what would your answer be?

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, March 3, 2014

From the baby to the big sister

One of the coolest things about this adoption process was watching Peanut go from baby of the family to big sister.  It happened in an instant and she took to it like a duck to water.  Little Sister (aka the Ewok because of her jibber jabber, though that nickname is subject to change) had pulled hair, hit in frustration, stolen legos, and that was just in the first 2-3 hours.

But she never got angry about it.  She kind of blew it off with a look and attitude like, "What do you do, Dad?  She's my little sister!"  It was cute and sweet and wonderful and funny all at the same time.

I have no doubt that she'll have to take a few breaths along the way.  She'll not be the best big sister ever at some point.  In the process of growing, though, we all have failings and stumblings and haltings and not-so-prettiness-es.  But, man, she did great.

So proud of her.  So grateful for her.  So glad to be a part of this miracle.