Archive for June, 2012

The summer is a season where our regular routines are disrupted a bit.  Schools are on break, vacations are in full swing, different ministry opportunities abound, and it is hot (like 104 right now).  The detours in our routine can provide an excellent opportunity to be refreshed and renewed or at times they can overwhelm us. This last month I seem to be in the latter category. This summer has started off with a bang and has not stopped and does not show any signs of letting up so let me give you a recap. The first week of June was spent with my two oldest kids, folks from the church I am privileged to pastor, and Peach Valley Baptist Church getting to partner with church plants in inside the perimeter in Atlanta. You can read more about that here and learn more about the great needs inside the perimeter of Atlanta. That was an incredible and exhausting time of sweet labor in the Gospel (that we pray will continue as a partnership and not just a one and done mission trip).

After a week of catch-up I had the great privilege to travel to New Orleans (via Orlando; don’t ask that’s just how my family rolls:) ) and participate and a historic and pivotal moment in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).  This exciting moment was the election of Fred Luther as the president of the SBC. Fred is passionate about his love of Jesus, has been a faithful pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church  in the hurricane ravaged city of New Orleans, and he is the first African-American SBC president. There is much to be said about this and Lord willing, I hope to post more about it during a future date, but take a few minutes and look over the newscasts and interviews following his election . Celebrate what this means historically and pray for Fred Luther.

For my wife and kids the excitement of this SBC meeting meant hanging out with family in Orlando while I was in New Orleans. If you wondering how Orlando is on the way to New Orleans from upstate South Carolina, it’s not (except on my wife’s map)! I got to spend a special day at LEGOland with my son in the midst of our travels. For a grown man who loved Legos as a kid and for my son who loves them now it was a great treat. I think he would say this was his favorite moment there though:

So much more could be added about the annual SBC meeting as we celebrated missions, passed helpful resolutions, and enjoyed genuine fellowship. I hope to post more helpful recaps of this summer but the joys and demands of life, ministry, and following King Jesus for now look to keep me from it. While I strive to post blurbs here and there and maybe post more about this summer’s activities I want to primarily focus on living and ministering the remainder of this summer (Vacation Bible School, family vacation, etc.) to the glory of God. Please pray that I would do this and stay tuned.

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Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Father’s Day will be tomorrow, June 17. Many churches often build up moms on Mother’s Day and beat down dads on Father’s Day.  No one should question a mother’s worth and we should “rise up and call them blessed” at the same time we must emphasize that healthy children ideally come from healthy families where dads are present. That becomes quite a challenge in our families with the amount of fathers absent in the home today. One in three children, according to the Census Bureau, lives without a biological father (24 million children in America ). Many children overcome these obstacles, and many mothers rise to the challenge of parenting alone but research suggests that absentee dads can be linked to an increased likelihood of teen pregnancy, incarceration, child poverty, child abuse, health problems, and drug and alcohol addiction. The instruction from 1 Corinthians 16:13 to “be watchful” is to the church for us to be alert. These statistics should be a loud alert to the church today.

The call to Christian men (and all Christians) is to stand firm, act like men, & be strong. So, take the time to honor dads tomorrow but also pray for them. These are weighty instructions that we desperately need God’s grace and strength to live out.  If you are dad, play the role God’s called you (act like men”) too and take up the challenge is to have a multigenerational vision for biblical faithfulness.  Not only pray for and honor them but encourage them (here’s the “let all that you do be done in love” comes in), as they face the challenges of being a faithful dad in this day and age are increasing. We certainly want to take the time also to pray, remember, and encourage the millions of single moms out there that pull double duty, THANKS!

Remember also those that will not have a much needed dad in their life tomorrow (or for the long haul). We are told that there are over 140 million orphans in the world today and 127,000 children in the US waiting to be adopted. Numerous times God describes himself as the Father & Protector of the fatherless.  The primary way he wants to show his love to the “fatherless” is through the church. It is a call every Christian must heed  from James 1:27:   Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. How will we answer this call? For some it may mean considering adopting or fostering children. For others it may mean mentoring needy kids while others may give help these causes. How will we pray to see how God would have us play a role to the fatherless this Father’s Day and “let everything that we do in love”?

Below are some resources to help encourage us this Father’s Day. The first is a brief clip to show how Fathers are vital, followed by 5 ways to be a Good Dad, and finally some notable quotes for Father’s Day. May the good Father to the fatherless bless you this Father’s Day as you worship Him and honor Dads.

5 Godly Ways to Be a Good Dad

Notable Quotes:

Every dad begins fatherhood clothed in garments of praise [Proverbs 17:6]. It usually happens naturally and effortlessly. He possesses an authority that is both inexplicable and awesome. For this reason, few things are more important to a boy – or a man – than a touch, or a smile, or a word of encouragement from Dad. ~Robert Lewis in  Raising a Modern-Day Knight

“Men are never manlier than when they are tender with their children – whether holding a baby in their arms, loving their grade-schooler, or hugging their teenager or adult children.”~ Kent Hughes in Disciplines of a Godly Man.

“A famous cigarette billboard pictures a curly-headed, bronze-faced, muscular macho with a cigarette hanging out the side of his mouth. The sign says, “Where a man belongs.” That is a lie. Where a man belongs is at the bedside of his children, leading in devotion and prayer. Where a man belongs is leading his family to the house of God. Where a man belongs is up early and alone with God seeking vision and direction for the family.”~ John Piper

4 THINGS BOYS LEARN FROM THEIR FATHERS:

1. How to deal with, look at, and think about women
2. Confidence
3. Strength, Sacrifice, and Service
4. What it means to be loved by the Heavenly Father

~from Johnny Hunt

“America has now embarked on a foolhardy experiment to discover what happens to a culture in which nearly half the children do not live with their fathers. One result is that many people do not know how to call God “Father,” nor do they want to.”~ Philip Graham Ryken  –Taken from When You Pray

““Father” is the most significant name of the God of the Bible. It is the name that sets Christianity apart from all the other religions of the world. Other religions invite us to worship their gods, allahs, creators, or metaphysical forces, but Christianity invites us to believe in a Son and to enter into an intimate family relationship with a loving Father. Jesus, the Son of God, came so that we could meet His Father, be adopted into the family of God, and relate to the almighty God of the universe in an intimate, personal, concrete way as sons and daughters (2 Cor. 6:16, 18).”~  Mary A. Kassian  –Taken from: Biblical Womanhood in the Home by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

1. If both your parents worshipped with you regularly while you were growing up, there’s an 80% likelihood that you’ll worship God regularly as an adult.

2. If only your mother worshipped regularly with you, there’s only a 30% probability that you’ll worship regularly as an adult.

3. If only your father worshipped regularly with you, the likelihood that you’ll worship regularly as an adult increases to 70% percent!

Fathers have an enormous impact on their children’s faith and values. One of your most important ministries is worshipping with your kids! ~Author Unknown

    And when he (Jesus) drew near and saw the city, he wept over it,  (Luke 19:41)

 We have been back in South Carolina a few days after our trip from Atlanta.  As I continue to play catch up in life and ministry,  I want to continue to cast a vision that I hope will grasp hearts for taking the Gospel inside the perimeter of Atlanta and to the cities. Last post I gave a basic introduction to the collaborative Kingdom effort of Urban Atlanta Church Planting (UACP). As I continue to unpack from our trip (literally and in debriefing mentally, spiritually, etc.) I want to help build a foundation biblically for urban church planting and ministry.  So before we continue and meet any church planters and discuss Atlanta I would like to do that with a few thoughts from some help of some UACP folks dispelling some myths below. My hope is that this study my help propel you to connect  (sending, going, partnering) to the cities that need the Gospel so desperately. J. D. Payne has helped us see the need of the Gospel to the cities by the sheer  numbers of the current & future fastest growing cities, but I hope God’s Word would further propel us with that vision. In doing so, we will read a few verses, ask some questions to think on, and then do a little praying.  I would love to hear your feedback.  Let’s Go!

We’ll getting started by seeing :     Two Myths of the City

Myth #1:  The City is Too Secular

For many years, there has been this mentality that the city is too secular, and that Christians and churches have a hard time thriving there.  Although the city does have a lot of secularism in it (greed, lust, violence, injustice), that is no reason to flee it as if God is not working there.

In fact, did you know?

  • Christianity was largely an urban movement when it first started.  By the year A.D. 300, the urban population of major cities was mostly Christian.
  • Paul, the apostle, was an urban missionary/church planter who went to the major cities of his day (Antioch, Ephesus, Athens, and Rome).
  • Tim Keller, an urban church planter in New York City, says, “As the city goes, so goes the culture.  Cultural trends tend to be generated in the city and flow outward to the rest of society.”
  • What cultural trends do you find in cities?  The arts, academics (major universities), business, the technology industry, fashion, the media, etc.  In order for culture to be impacted with the gospel of Jesus, discipleship and church planting must take place in the city and be infused in these different areas.  Paul understood that if the gospel could reach the city, it could reach the whole world.  And that is what happened.

As of 2000, over half of the world’s population lives in cities of 1 million people or more.  162 million people live in the 50 largest metropolitan areas in America, and according to a recent NAMB statistic in 2007, 80% of the U.S. population lives in metropolitan areas.  The New York City metro area (21 million), Los Angeles metro area (16 million) and Chicago metro area (10 million) equal a whopping 47 million people!

Myth #2 The City is Too Dangerous 

When people think of the city, they think of crime, drugs, prostitution, dark alley ways where burglars lurk, and so on.  Although typically the city does have that, the church, in many ways, has reacted negatively by moving out of the city instead of positively by reaching into it.

Consider this:

  • More and more people (especially younger college-aged and twenty-something’s) are moving back into the city after most families moved out twenty years ago.
  • In fact, the most unreached people groups, in our nation, are young urban professionals that live in trendy, downtown areas of major cities like Atlanta.
  • The nations of the world are drawn to cities in North America. In Chicago and New York, for example, there are 200 languages spoken in the city. Major cities in North America have “Chinatown,” “Greek Town,” “Korea Town,” “Little India,” and other ethnic neighborhoods where English is a second language.  Currently, Toronto, Canada is the most ethnically diverse city in the world!
  • If we are going to reach our country and North America with the gospel of Jesus, we must re-thin the importance of the city.  With that said, church planting should begin in the city rather than the country and suburbs.

 Verse to ponder: And when he (Jesus) drew near and saw the city, he wept over it,”             (Luke 19:41).

What do you see when you look at the city?  Why would Jesus “weep” of Jerusalem?  When you look around a large city (Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Dallas), what do you see? Maybe it’s just on the news or TV that you catch a glimpse of the cities but when you do, are you seeing the  individuals?  Do you see individuals with specific needs?  Pray and ask God to help you “see” people as He sees them.

Biblical Foundation

We are going to look at two cities in the Scriptures, each with different characteristics and expressions.  The goal is that we would understand God’s heart for the city and the importance of the city as a vital mission field.

First City: Babel      Read Genesis 11:1-8

Questions:

  1. Why did the people want to build a city?  What was their purpose?
  2. For whom were the people building the city?
  3. What does Babel represent?  How do you see “Babel” in our culture?  Do most cities in North America resemble Babel?  Why or why not?

Second City: God’s City    Read: Jeremiah 29:4-7

 Questions:

  1. Why did God tell His people to move into the city?
  2. Why would God tell His people to pray for the city?
  3. What, then, would you say is God’s perspective of the city and what should our perspective be?

It’s interesting that certain prophets (Jer. 29:8-9) were encouraging the Jewish exiles to forget about the city and live away from it.  Although Babylon was a very secular city (where they worshipped many gods), God told them to move into the city, get involved in the city, and pray for it.

One of the “roles” we must consider as we think about what church planting is all about, is the role of the city.  God’s heart breaks for lost people; and His heart breaks for cities because cities are where large populations of people live… and that is what God is all about – people.

Take-Away: Although not all Christians are called to live and minister in the city, we should be willing to see the city as a mission field, pray for it because God loves the city, and be willing to go if God calls. If you aren’t committed to pray for a large city (assuming you don’t live in a large city), would you take a look at these current & future fastest growing cities (as a starting point)  and commit too? I would love to get some commits or maybe what city(ies) you are praying for.

 “Should I (God) not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:11)

As I post this we are starting the 4th day of a 5 day mission trip to Atlanta. The focus of this trip is to serve church planters “inside the perimeter” (ITP) of Atlanta. We certainly appreciate and desire your prayers as 20 of us strive to finish strong here in Atlanta before heading back to South Carolina. But the main reason I want to post now and over the next several days is to inform you about the needs of Atlanta and I hope to encourage you with God’s heart for the mega-masses of lost and unchurched that live in the city. We see a glimpse of God’s compassion and steadfast love for the urban peoples (represented by “Nineveh” in this passage)as he  shared in Jonah 4:11:

And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left..”

I also want to introduce you to the collaborative Kingdom effort of Urban Atlanta Church Planting (UACP). It is a
cooperative effort of the Atlanta area Baptist associations (Southern Baptist Churches) that connects with Kingdom partners like the South Carolina Baptist Convention  to engage urban lostness by intentionally planting reproducing congregations inside Atlanta’s perimeter (ITP) that strive to produce community transformation.

I initially want to inform and alert you to the great needs and demographics inside Atlanta’s perimeter:

  • Approximately 878,000 people live ITP with a projection of 951,000 by 2014. Metropolitan population projected to increase from the present 5,500,000 to 8,200,000 by 2050.
  • Over 500,000 people living ITP have no religious affiliation; over 600,000 people ITP are not church members; and over 700,000 people living ITP do not attend church.
  • 41% of the population ITP lives in rented housing. Typically 95% of those living in multi-housing/apartments/condos do not attend church.
  • 75% of the total households ITP have no children. Baptists are traditionally “better” at reaching married couple households with children.
  • 69% of the adult population ITP is not married and singles and single parents are the fastest growing groups ITP.
  • People of Hispanic origin (18,136 increase) and Whites (17,391increase) are projected to be the fastest growing ITP population segments between now and 2013.
  • The median age of people living ITP is 36.1 years of age. This is considerably less than those attending most Baptist churches.
  • ITP 6% of the adult population has less than a 9th grade education. 8% of the adult population dropped out of school between the 9th and 12th grade. 42% of the adult population has a college degree or higher.
  • Many ITP Baptist church members do not live in their church neighborhoods, do not reflect the “people groups” living in their church neighborhoods, do not impact their church neighborhoods, do not penetrate the lostness in their neighborhoods, and do not know or relate to those persons who make the decisions that affect the neighborhood. Many ITP Baptist churches are dying, declining, or just holding their own.
  • Of the 166 Southern Baptist Congregations that existed in the 1960’s in the area we now know as Inside the Perimeter, only 35 are still in existence ITP as the area has grown 24% during that time period.