Friday, April 15, 2011

Why I'm Excited About a Business Meeting

Where are the words to express all I would like to tell you about my trip to the 2011 meeting of the Baptist Missionary Association of America (BMAA)? I’ve posted a few videos online that I hoped would provide some of the people who have never attended an associational meeting a glimpse of what happens at these meetings, but the videos I posted can hardly do it justice. Lifeword and the BMAA Missions Department will be posting better quality videos in the coming days, but even with the excellent quality Lifeword always has in their videos, I don’t believe they can capture the spirit of the meeting. This is partly because so much of what makes these meetings special happens outside of the scheduled sessions of the meeting.

I’ve been attending BMAA meetings since I was knee high to a grasshopper. I missed a few during my high school and college years and I don’t think my parents started going until I was about one or two. I was three at the first meeting I remember attending, so I have some idea of what to expect at these meetings. It’s pointless to try to decide if this is the best BMAA meeting I’ve attended because they are all different and yet it seem inadequate to just say that it was a good meeting. What does “a good meeting” mean to those of you who haven’t attended these meetings? Without a common frame of reference, I’m not sure it has any meaning at all. So let me try to explain in a way we can all understand.

What’s the Purpose of the Meeting?

You wouldn’t be wrong if you said that the purpose of the BMAA annual meeting is to conduct business, but it would leave people thinking these meetings are like a church business meeting that is extended over a period of three or more days. These meetings are nowhere near that boring. You wouldn’t be wrong if you said these meetings were a time to worship our Lord and to fellowship together—that certainly takes place—but the BMAA has better designed meetings for that purpose. DiscipleGuide has several conferences every year, including those for senior adults, pastors, and youth. You wouldn’t be wrong if you said these meetings are to provide information to the churches. That also takes place, but if we relied on these meetings as the sole source of information, many of our churches would be uninformed. And we can’t really say that these meetings are about decision making. The BMAA does too much for every decision to be made during one meeting.

Point the Ship in the Right Direction

When the messengers of the various churches attend the BMAA annual meeting and vote, what they are doing is providing direction and accountability to the departments of the BMAA. And though much more happens at these meetings, we must not lose sight of the fact that the primary reason for these meetings is for our churches to have the opportunity to adjust the rudder of this great ship we call the Baptist Missionary Association of America.

For the past few years, I’ve been actively involved with the Baptist Music Fellowship of America (BMF), which is an auxiliary of the BMAA that handles much of the music during the meeting. I got involved with the BMF because for a long time they put together a choir each year and we would sing before the annual sermon. It is disappointing that the schedule for the meetings no longer allows for that and I heard some frustration during the BMF meeting that the worship services aren’t more structured, but we’re music guys. We want the music and worship during the meeting to be the best it can be. Give us a chance and we’ll make the worship services better, but that’s not the primary purpose of these meetings.

I’ve heard some people who are disappointed that there hasn’t been very much discussion in recent years and other people who are glad that there hasn’t been so much discussion. I’ve found that discussion is good, but an abundance of discussion doesn’t necessarily mean that things are being well considered. I’ve found that harmony is good, but a lack of discussion doesn’t necessarily mean that things are harmonious. But when the committees and departments give their reports to the messengers each year, they are held accountable for their actions. Those who follow the direction the churches wish them to follow are rewarded by the continued support of the churches. But when the move away from the will of the churches, their recommendations are rejected and the people serving in those positions are replaced with people who are willing to go the direction the churches want our association to go. Without these meetings, there would be little accountability and no opportunity for the churches to provide direction.

So What’s a Good Meeting?

This year I left Wichita Falls saying that it is an exciting time to be a part of the BMAA. There are things that we need to do better. There are things that we’re not sure how to do better. But I left the meeting with the belief that we’re heading in the right direction. I’m excited about what lies in front of the BMAA. In the meeting hall, we heard the various departments talking about what they are doing to in their efforts to carry the gospel to the world. We heard them talk about a renewed effort to focus on what they can do to help the churches carry out the Great Commission rather than the churches relying on them as their Great Commission proxy. We enjoyed great music and preaching.

All that was great, but it was more than that. Step into the corridors and committee rooms for a moment. Sit down in the restaurants of Wichita Falls for a few minutes. Listen to the people who didn’t stand at the mikes or get up on stage and you’ll hear them talking about what they are doing in their churches. And what you’ll hear is exciting, because you’ll hear of prison ministries and outreach ministries and teaching ministries. The BMAA isn’t the largest association (not even close). The BMAA isn’t without its challenges. The BMAA isn’t well known by those outside our ranks. But I left the meeting in Wichita Falls with the belief that we’re headed in the right direction and there are many churches among us who are willing to work. The road ahead isn’t an easy one and though the departments have a desire to help our churches, there isn’t a simple solution that doesn’t require the churches to put in even more effort if they want to see growth. But when you leave a meeting with the feeling that the churches and departments of the BMAA are anxious to go to work, that’s a good meeting.

I’m excited about the future of the BMAA. Christianity in America is trending in the wrong direction, but I see those in the BMAA who are willing to put in the effort required to turn that around. I don’t know when or if that trend will be turned. It don’t know if the Lord will use the BMAA to turn that trend around or merely to slow the trend, but I see great things ahead for the BMAA.

Making Up God

Isaiah 44 describes the process of making an idol. A smith spends long hours shaping metal or a carpenter spends time carving wood. Then in Isaiah 44:19 it says, “And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, ‘I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh and eaten it. And shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? Shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?’” We laugh at this poor man who cut down a tree, used part of it to cook with and then out of the same tree made something to bow down to. We know that a lump of wood can’t hear us. But people are still making their own gods today.

President Obama is a black man. We know this to be true because we’ve seen him on television. Some of us have seen him in person. Now, suppose someone came to you and said, “I believe the President is a white man.” We would conclude that this person is either crazy or he is talking about some other president. Now, suppose there are some attributes that we know are true about God, such as God is all-knowing, and someone came to us and said, “I don’t think God really knows what I ate for breakfast this morning.” Assuming this person knows what all-knowing means, we must conclude that this person either doesn’t know that God is all-knowing or they’re making up their own God. Instead of a God that knows their deepest, darkest secrets, they want a God who doesn’t care about that sort of thing.

A lot of people like to see God as a God of love, but they struggle with the concept that he is also a God of judgment and wrath. We find people saying things like, “I don’t believe God would send anyone to hell.” Or to word it another way, “the God I believe in wouldn’t send anyone to hell.” It sound really good. The only problem is, that isn’t the God of the Bible. Throughout the Bible, we see God as a righteous judge. God had fellowship with man until Adam and Eve sinned. When that happened, God threw them out of the garden. All they had to do to live forever was to not eat from one and only one tree in the garden. When they sinned, he threw them out so they wouldn’t have access to the tree of life. Even God’s chosen people, Israel, were not free from his judgment. When they sinned, he turned them over to gentile kings. When Jesus turned up on the scene, he went into the temple and overturned the moneychanger’s tables. We spoke of people going to a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. He referred to himself as a judge. Then when we get over into Revelation, Oh boy, God’s wrath is just pouring out, tempered only because he is a God of love.

So, people who worship a God who isn’t a God of wrath aren’t worshiping the God of the Bible. They’re making up their own god—much like the man who carves an idol out of a stump—but why can’t they see that they are making up their own god? I think it is because they have put too much emphasis on the way they feel about God rather than taking the time to learn who he really is. Perhaps they don’t really believe that the Bible is God’s word, so they place more importance on other things rather than accepting that God has reveal what he wants us to know about him through the Bible. They think about what they would do if they were God and conclude that that must be how God is. Just who do we think we are to be able to decide what God should and shouldn’t do.

God is God. We don’t have the right to go telling him what he should or shouldn’t be. If God says he is love and also a God of judgment, who are we to say that he isn’t. We may not like that he judges our sin, but we have no say in the matter. God reveals himself through his word, the Bible. The Bible is like no other book and it is the only book that God ever wrote. We know he wrote it because it is the only book that contains historically verifiable fulfilled prophecy. And we’re not just talking about a little bit of prophecy; we’re talking about page after page of predictions that took place exactly as they were written. The old testament has 333 predictions of the Messiah concerning his birth, his life and his death. Jesus fulfilled every one of them. There is a God. He is a living God. And he wrote a book.

If we want to know the truth about God, we must get it from the book he wrote. We may not like what the Book says about God, but it is what it is. You can make up gods by imagining God to be various things all day, but if you really want to know who God is, you’ve got to go to the Bible.