Friday, November 27, 2009

Don't Count On Crashing This Party

The White House is embarrassed by a major security breach pulled off this week at President Obama's first State Dinner. Seems as though a couple from northern Virginia, Michaele and Tareq Salahi, walked right in to the 5 star, black tie affair even though their names were not on the authorized guest list. The Secret Service, which is tasked with protection of the President and the first family, have been mum so far concerning the November 24th shocker. No wonder! How embarrassing must that be - not at some non secure public venue, but right in the White House no less?

NBC Evening News anchor man, Brian Williams (who was, himself, an invited guest) said that he witnessed the arrival of the couple. Williams recalled that he thought it odd, how this couple got out of a limousine with their own photographer snapping photos, and a personal make up person who gave Mrs. Salahi a last minute make up and hair touch up before making their grand entrance. The Salahi's posed for photos with Raham Emmanuel, Vice President Biden and numerous other VIP's who WERE invited guests.

It must take a lot of nerve, and an abundance of gall, to try to pull off a stunt like this. Apparently these folks got what they were looking for - their 15 minutes of fame - and the opportunity to hob nob with international big shots in the home of the leader of the free world. More information is coming out on this couple daily as news agencies look into their past. It seems that they are no strangers to our justice system, with over 17 court appearances in various lawsuits in recent years. Furthermore, one Internet source has also revealed that the couple spent the hours preceding their successful security breach, accompanied by a television crew from a proposed reality program. This couple is a real piece of work and they may be facing prosecution for their actions.

Gate crashers have been around for a long time. Do you remember that guy back in the 80's who was always showing up at sporting events, infiltrating the players ranks in uniform and even got on the court as part of an NBA officiating crew? A friend told me once that in many situations, one can gain access to just about any area, "If you just act like you belong there and you know where you're going". There is obviously an element of truth to that, but I can think of one "party" that one need not even think about crashing. Very simply stated, it ain't going to happen.

John the Apostle gives us a glimpse of this still future event as he writes in the Book of the Revelation, (the last book of the Bible) in chapter 19, verses 6-10. Please note what verse 9 says:

"And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are
invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

The Bible plainly states that there is but one way to be included on that invitation list, and that is through a personal relationship with the host. Jesus tells us that He is the key. He alone controls the guest list. Apart from Him you will not gain access:

"Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No
one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6 ESV)

Are you on that guest list? God wants you to come. He has sent you a personal invitation and provided the way, but there is only one way. You can bet your eternal destiny on the fact that the security for that event will be impenetrable!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What's Your "Agent Code"?

Back in the 50's, TV host Art Linkletter authored a book entitled "Kids Say The Darnedest Things!" Anyone who has ever raised (or even been around) children can verify that title. While they certainly may say the unexpected, there is usually an element of honesty and truth to their pronouncements. Little Canon Josiah Adkins (grandson #3), who celebrates his 5th birthday this Sunday, is a perfect example.

His mother tells of a recent event that, while I it find hilarious, really spoke to my heart.

Michelle and Canon's older brother Quint were playing in the kitchen floor with Rudy the Cocker Spaniel. For some reason, Canon limped into the room holding a piece of paper in his hand. Michelle said he acted like he was reading some sort of official dispatch as he announced seriously, "Our agent code is 'Latcherated'".

"What?" said Michelle.

Canon repeated the message, "Our agent code is 'Latcherated!'"

"What is Latcherated?" she asked.

"Never give up." he answered seriously, then exited the room.

The kid is a real hoot. What makes the story funny to us, is that no one knows where he came up with the word and it's definition. What makes it poignant is that it speaks so strongly of Canon's character.

For nearly half of Canon's young life he and his family have been dealing with a measure of adversity. The problem first surfaced when, Canon began to limp, and to complain about pain in his lower leg. A trip to the ER and resulting x rays indicated that the tibia was fractured just above the ankle. Everyone was baffled. There had been no trauma of any type. The ER doctors at West Jefferson Parish Hospital referred Canon to New Orleans Children's Hospital where an MRI was ordered. The test showed that a tumor had formed inside the bone and grown large enough that the tibia had been weakened to the point of fracturing under normal activity.

It is a long story, but I will shorten it to the point that surgery was done to dig the tumor out of the bone. Shavings from a cadaver bone were used to fill the void left by the removal of the growth. Canon wore a cast to the hip for a number of weeks. Later a walking cast. Still later a protective boot. Just about the time he was getting accustomed to walking without the boot, the bone broke again. Further MRI tests showed the tumor had returned and was larger than before.

More surgery - this one more extensive. Another cast. A wheel chair. A walker. Eventually another "Moon Boot". Late this Summer the boot was removed and Canon was back to wearing matching shoes again. When I was there in early October, I was saddened to see how much smaller his "problem leg" was than the other. Lack of use had caused the muscles to atrophy and he was limping pretty badly, always under the encouragement of his parents to use the leg and "build up the muscles".

In all, Canon has had tree surgeries on the leg, several MRI's, numerous hospital and doctor visits, and a good bit of pain. Throughout the entire ordeal, Canon has had the sweetest spirit, and shown a maturity that is far beyond his years. He has often thanked God in his bedtime prayers, for his doctors, and even for his cast and his wheel chair. He is a picture of perseverance in a five year old boy.

A couple of weeks ago, in a followup visit to the surgeon, Jay and Michelle were numbed by the news. The leg was broken again. Canon is back into a cast for the third time, and they are awaiting further instructions from the surgeon. No word yet on whether or not the tumor has returned. Only an MRI will determine that. Until that, the question remains unanswered.

We know that Canon's situation could be much worse. There are children suffering all around the nation and the world in more serious condition than he. Our hearts still hurt for him, but we thank God for Canon and for his attitude in adversity. He's a pretty good role model for all of us in that respect. But, why should that surprise us?

After all, his "agent code IS 'Latcherated'".

What is yours?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Class Act

On July 3rd this summer, Rick Gunnell and I (along with his son, Ricky and my grandsons Will and Asher) visited Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati for a game between the Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals. That particular game was, I believe, the turning point in the season for my Reds. They were only a game and a half behind the division leading Cards, and had been hitting on all cylinders. It all changed that day, as July and August became a nightmare for Redlegs fans everywhere.

The Reds had a comfortable (we thought) three run lead going into the 8th inning when the wheels began to come off. With two outs and the bases loaded, Cardinal first baseman Albert Pujols stepped into the box. I told Will, "This guy can change this whole game with one swing of the bat."

That is precisely what he did.

He drove reliever, Carl Weather's, pitch deep into the leftcenterfield stands, one section over to our left. Long story short, the Cardinals won, and the Reds began a downward spiral, and the Cardinals never looked back. That is the kind of player Albert Pulols is. The kind that can carry a team on his strong shoulders. And that is exactly why he was named National League Most Valuable Player yesterday.

This is the third time in Pulols' career that he has won the MVP award. He joins an exclusive club of only 9 men in both major leagues to be named MVP thrice. This list includes Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Joe DiMaggio, Jimmy Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Alex Rodriquez, and Mike Schmidt. Pretty lofty company, heh? Only the alleged steroid king, Barry Bonds has more MVP trophies (7) on his mantle.

While not a Cardinal fan, myself, I still have great admiration for "El Hombre". Not just for his tremendous athletic accomplishments, but because of his unapologetic testimony of his faith in Jesus Christ.

Several years ago, while attending a breakfast for State Convention Presidents at the LifeWay building in Nashville, I met Fred and Cindy Winters. Fred, as you will remember, was the Illinois pastor who was fatally shot in his pulpit during a Sunday morning worship service last year. The conversation was wide ranging that morning, and somehow the subject of baseball came up. Fred and Cindy lived in the metro St. Louis area, and were Cardinal fans. I joked with them about the division rivalry between the Cardinals and my favorite team from Cincinnati.

Cindy's eyes lit up when she talked about the Cardinals. She was truly a FAN, and Pujols was her baseball hero!

"Albert is a believer, you know", she said with a big smile.

I was unaware of that fact at that time. I only knew he was a good first baseman, and an opposing pitcher's worst nightmare.

When my son, Jay, and I had breakfast with Fred and Cindy later that year at the SBC annual meeting, Cindy had something she wanted to give me. It was a little "baseball card" of featuring Albert Pujols, but it wasn't the type that comes with statistics on the back. The front of the card had a color photo of Albert pounding one out of the park, and the reverse side, told of his conversion and of his life as a follower of Jesus Christ.

"If this doesn't make you a Cardinal fan, nothing will", said red haired Cindy.

Well, I'm still not a Cardinal fan, but I did become a fan of Albert Pujols. Since then I have read several times of his outspoken Christian faith, and have heard him interviewed by Dr. James Dobson on "Focus on the Family". His personal testimony is compelling.

The MVP award couldn't have gone to a more deserving player, who is also a wonderful role model for young people and adults alike.

In the professional sports arena, where side stories of drunkenness, drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, gambling, and violence abound, isn't it refreshing to know that it is possible to be a hero, and still have a personal relationship with God.

Thank God for men in all walks of life who are not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, but it's always exciting when sports stars like Albert Pujols and Tim Tebow use their celebrity as an opportunity to exalt their Savior.
Real men love Jesus!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tribute To An Old Friend

Tandy's eyes lit up at the challenge. With that big grin all over his face he shouted, "I'll supply the mule!".

It must have been 8 or 9 years ago, and I was issuing a challenge to the members of Ashland Baptist Church to fill up the house for High Attendance Sunday. I had told them how my son had made a deal with his congregation down the river in South Shore, KY that if they broke the attendance record for Homecoming, that he would kiss a pig! The Ashland Baptist folks got a big laugh at the story of how Jay had been forced to pucker up for a porcine smooch. Someone in the congregation asked me, "Hey C.J., if we hit the goal for High Attendance Sunday, will YOU kiss a pig?" I thought about it for a moment but then my eyes fell on Tandy Kemper in the third row.

"No", I said firmly, "But if we get 120 in Sunday School or 150 in morning worship, I'll ride a mule home from church."

I knew Tandy Kemper had a couple of mules among the other animals he kept out on his Crane Creek, KY farm. I also knew that Tandy was always ready to load up old Kate and Barney and put them on display. He took the bait immediately. "I'll supply the mule!" he said.

The sanctuary at Ashland Baptist could seat 160, max, without putting out folding chairs. A crowd of 150 would pretty much fill up the building, and the folks rose to the task. On High Attendance Sunday, we missed the Sunday School goal by about 10 folks, but the tally for the worship service was 155.

The event was on. I would ride the mule home after church the next Sunday.

The crowd that day was even bigger than the previous Lord's Day. Folks were chomping at the bit to see me ride a mule. (Strange what some pastors will do to get a houseful of people to preach to). Tandy had brought both mules, and it was agreed that my Sunday School Director would ride the second one.

Earlier in the week, Floyd Paris (pastor of nearby Unity Baptist) had asked me the big question.

"Have you ever ridden a mule before?"

"No" I admitted, but I allowed that it couldn't be too hard.

"Well when you get up on his back, scoot as far back on it as you possibly can."

Being a total novice at mule riding, I agreed to follow Floyd's advice.

The big day came and the crowd outside the church was buzzing with excitement. Someone had called the newspaper and a photographer was present (front page - slow news day!), and the police were there to ride slowly along, lights flashing, for our protection as we covered the 1 1/2 mile trek up US Rt. 23 toward my home.

Tandy threw a blanket over Kate's back and boosted me up on her. (I never realized that some mules are darn near big as a horse.) Remembering Floyd's bogus advice, I scooted back toward the mule's hindquarters. Tandy, standing along side the mule, kept pushing me forward, "Move up! Move up!" he continued to say. When I told him of Floyd Paris' instructions, Tandy glared at me and said sharply, "He's trying to get you killed! You listen to me!"

I listened to Tandy. It was always good to listen to Tandy.

He was quite a guy. A bachelor until he was nearly 40 years old, Tandy had built a body shop and scrap yard business, and sold used cars on the side. He was a good business man and a work-a-holic, but his true love was for the horses and mules he prized so dearly. Tandy and his mule drawn covered wagon was a fixture in all of the local holiday parades. They tell me he was quite the rounder in his younger days. He was a body man by day but a cowboy at heart.

He met his wife Judy on a trail ride or a hay ride (I don't remember which for sure) that he sponsored on weekends out in Carter County. She was an attractive young widow who worked in one of the city's finest ladies clothing stores. They fell in love (an odd couple to say the least), got married, and embarked on the trail of holy matrimony. Judy brought out the best in Tandy. She cajoled him into attending church on a regular basis with her, and sure 'nuff he eventually accepted Christ as his Savior and Lord. His life was changed forevermore.

The story is told that when Pastor Phil Haney baptised Tandy, it was the biggest crowd that had ever been in the old church building. They were standing around the windows on the outside of the packed building, peering inside to get a glimpse of what many people thought would never happen in a million years. Tandy Kemper was being baptized! "Who'd a thunk it possible?", many said. "Do you think he really got it?" was the common question.

Well, Tandy must have got it, because from that day on he was faithful to his Lord, and became a stalwart member of Ashland Baptist. He served for years as the church treasurer - using the talents of his own book keeper to do the church books, on his dime and his time. Many were the times he'd send a group of his employees down to work on some project at the church, while they were still on the time clock at the body shop. He kept the church van serviced and in top shape, and he practiced the grace of tithing to his church, while often helping other worthy causes or families in need.

He loved and supported his pastors (of which I was one for a little over 7 years). He was generous, almost to a fault. Eventually Tandy was ordained into the office of Deacon, where he served faithfully for many years. His work ethic, generosity, and friendly manner made Tandy one of the best known men in all of Boyd, Greenup, and Carter counties. Even though his health had been slipping in the past couple of years, he still kept up his gruelling work schedule until about six weeks ago. He was a well known fixture in the community, and you might see him anywhere in the area driving that red and white tow truck with the words, "Here Comes Tandy" emblazoned across the front of the truck and "There Goes Tandy" over the back window of the truck. He was an American original, and it was my pleasure to have called him "friend".

Early this morning, Tandy escaped the non responsive body that lay quietly in the hospital bed in his living room for the past eight days. He left a world that had given him more than his share of good times and bad, pleasure and pain. He simply cast aside the worn out 81 year old garment that he no longer needed as he was going into the presence of the Lord.

One can only imagine the gatekeeper of Heaven calling out to open the Gates of Pearl for his arrival.

I can almost hear it now...

"Here Comes Tandy"!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Difficult Aspect Of Pastoral Ministry

Those of us in pastoral ministry work in a myriad of situations. Besides the obvious need for prayer and preparation for our preaching and teaching ministries, there are numerous other areas in which we serve. A church congregation is often called a "flock", and just as a flock of actual sheep require a shepherd, so does a church body. A shepherd's duties basically fall into two main categories - to feed and to lead the flock. But the care of the sheep also requires individual attention from time to time.

One of the most sobering responsibilities of a pastor involves ministering to individuals and families in times of critical illness or death.

If the pastor is fortunate enough to have the seminary educational experience, some of his ministry classes will have taught the basics of counseling and grief ministry. However, nothing in the academic realm truly prepares the young pastor for the real thing. When that call comes in the wee hours of the night, it could be a number of possibilities. Perhaps there has been an accident. Perhaps a stroke or heart attack. A loved one has died, or is lingering near death, and the family calls for spiritual support. It could be an elderly person. It could be a child. It might be someone in the very prime of his life. Every situation is different, but no matter the particulars, there is grief, sorrow, and fear - and the pastor is being called for support.

The hardest thing this young pastor faced in early ministry has probably haunted nearly every other pastor in similar circumstances. "What can I say? What can I do? How can I possibly help these people?

The feeling of inadequacy is overpowering.

We know how to pray. We have memorized certain scripture references which are prescribed for the various situations we may face. We know that we must certainly depend on God for guidance, but the fact remains that we often feel the human pressure to "perform". After all, we tell ourselves, the patient or the family is depending on us. None of us relish these particular ministry situations, but I found myself dreading them terribly. The pressures I was putting on myself were crippling my efforts and I just wanted those situations to disappear, but of course they will not go away. They are a very real part of what a pastor has to do.

On a particular day, about 20 years ago, God finally got an important point across to this pastor. I was on my way to an emergency hospital call. The father of one of my church members had suffered a severe stroke, and was lingering near death in the local hospital. "Can you come?", the lady cried into the phone. I assured her that I would immediately be on my way.

In the car, the feelings of inadequacy were again flooding over me. "What does she expect me to say or do? How can I possibly ease her pain?" Then God spoke to me. Not personally, but this time through the radio ministry of Chuck Swindoll. My car radio was tuned into a local Christian station and "Insight for Living" was on at the time. Swindoll was teaching on the subject of being a steward. Although his message had nothing specifically to do with what I was facing at the moment, God used 1 Cor. 4: 2 to speak to my heart. That familiar verse says, "Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful."

Suddenly the light bulb came on over my head! It wasn't up to ME to handle the situation. I didn't have to provide all the answers. Yes, I was the lady's pastor, but I didn't have to be brilliant, charismatic, or perform in any profound way.

All that God required of me was to show up!

If I was faithful to be there, He could use me to help the grieving church member. We prayed together. I shared scripture with her and I held her father's hand as he slipped away from this life and into the presence of His Savior. The prayer was important. The scripture references were comforting. But I truly believe that the most effective thing I did that day was just simply showing up and being there for someone who was hurting beyond human understanding. We sat quietly, and I'll admit that I shed some tears with the lady myself. God used that experience that summer afternoon to radically change how I perceive that aspect of my ministry. I've spent hundreds of hours since then in hospital rooms, ICU waiting areas, private residences, and funeral homes with individuals and families who were dealing with unbearable grief. It's never easy, but the dread is gone.

Do I look forward to those emergency calls now? Of course not! But, I thank God that the "pressure to perform" is gone - replaced by the assurance that it's not about me at all. It's not about what I choose to say or do. It's just about being God's undershepherd, and caring for His sheep.

Every pastor, young or old, needs to understand that simple truth.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Solemn Anniversary

It's hard to believe that it has been 39 years since most of the young men pictured here perished in a fiery crash near Tri State Airport. Dying with them on that rainy night were a number of fans, community leaders, university officials, and the flight crew. It was a tragedy that forever changed Marshall University, and our community. To those of us in the Huntington area, November 14, 1970 (much like December 7, 1941; November 22, 1963; or September 11, 2001) is a date that is forever etched in our memories. The motion picture, "We Are ... Marshall" has helped an entirely new generation understand the magnitude of the loss to the school and the community.
I lost classmates, neighbors, friend's parents, and my own medical doctor. The University lost student athletes, administrators, and key supporters. The community lost civic leaders, media figures, and valued professional members. More than 70 families lost their nearest and dearest loved ones. It all happened so quickly, so unexpectedly, and the shock was felt throughout the nation. Now, after nearly four decades, the images of that night are still vivid in our memories.
It's been a long time since the crash. How long? The Viet Nam War was still going full blast. Eight different Presidents have sat in the Oval office. It was 19 years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Cell phones were unheard of, MTV and personal computers were non existent, and the USSR was our greatest threat. Most of us who were college students then, are grandparents now! Yet, as long as it's been since the news broke it still seems like only yesterday.
Today at noon, a crowd will gather behind the Memorial Student Center. Speeches will be made, tears will be shed, and the Memorial Fountain will be turned off until the beginning of spring football practice next year. The crowd will disperse from campus, and gather in at the stadium at 4:30 for today's game with Southern Mississippi. Life goes on.
Today's ritual is one we've repeated for 39 years. It is an appropriate memorial to our friends who left us way too soon.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11, 1919 to be Armistice Day to observe the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice Agreement which ended World War I. (Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice). On November 8, 1954, the Congress officially changed the name of the holiday to "Veterans Day" to honor all the veterans who have war or peacetime service, not just those who served in WWI.

My Grandfather, Caudle Adkins, Sr, continued to refer to it as Armistice Day. He did so until he died in the Veterans Hospital in Huntington, WV in 1959. He had been one of the Doughboys who fought in France during "The Great War". He was seriously injured in a German gas attack, and I believe that injury eventually contributed to his death to lung cancer at the age of 64.

The grandson of a Civil War veteran, Papaw Adkins was one of many veterans in our family. He served in the U.S. Army as did Linda's grandfather, Cornelius Bowling (WWI) and her Dad, Burgess Bowling (WWII). There have been several Navy vets in our family as well. My Dad, Caudle Adkins Jr, served in the U.S. Navy during WWII as did his older brother, M.J. "Buster" Adkins. My younger brother, Bruce, also had Navy service during the Viet Nam era.

I joined the Air Force (also during Viet Nam era) but never saw overseas duty like my uncles who were also Airmen. Jerry Stidham served in the USAF during the Korean War, and Sammy Adkins did much of his Air Force peacetime service in France during the mid 50's. My brother in law, Danny Joe Bowling also served in the Air Force as did my nephews Chris Bennett and Dan Bowling.

The United States Marine Corps celebrated its 234th Anniversary just yesterday. We've had our share of proud "Leathernecks" on both sides of our family. Linda's Uncle, William Smith, died during his service to the USMC, and her brothers, Burgess Ray and Bob Bowling were also proud Marines. Our younger son, Benji, enlisted in the Marine Corps, and served with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, taking hostile fire in Kosovo, and doing earthquake recovery work and humanitarian aid in Turkey during his four year tour of duty.

Veterans are all around us. There are some well known and easily recognizable ones, like local Congressional Medal of Honor winner, Woody Williams. However, most of them are just average guys in every walk of life. They may come from various backgrounds, separate branches of the service, and differing military experiences, but they share one thing in common. They're Vets. Some made a career of it, some just served their hitch and came back home, but they all served. There is not much about them that makes them stand out in a crowd, but it is nice to have a day set aside when we can say thank you to those who have served, and for the Veteran to be honored for his or her service to our country.

Later today, I will be privileged to sit with Benji and twenty or thirty other veterans at Charles Russell Elementary School. There my grandson, Will, and his school mates will perform patriotic songs and readings, to honor the assembled veterans. The program will close as every student and teacher, will come by and shake our hands and thank us for our service. Just seeing those little ones and knowing that they live in freedom that has been provided by trained fighting men and women makes one thankful to be a small part of the big picture.

Veterans Day is one of those holidays that we sometime take for granted. It's that little holiday between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, when the banks are closed and their is no mail delivery. There are ceremonies here and there and even a few small parades, but it's not a day that the family goes out on a picnic, or gathers together for a huge feast at Grandma's house. There are no fireworks, but there should be. It is a day that is set aside to honor those who serve. The men and women who have served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard (and their families) have sacrificed to serve us and to protect the constitution of the United States which guarantees our freedoms and secures our way of life.

Freedom is never free, and for that, we can all thank the veteran. May we honor them all on this Veteran's Day.

"It Has Always Been The Soldier"
by Father Dennis O'Brien, Chaplain, USMC

It is the soldier, not the President,who gives us democracy.

It is the soldier, not the Congress,who takes care of us.

It is the soldier, not the reporter,who has given us Freedom of Press.

It is the soldier,not the poet,who has given us Freedom of Speech.

It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,who has given us the Freedom to Demonstrate.

It is the soldier,who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag that allows the protester to burn the flag.

Thank you, to all veterans, for your service to our country!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Are You A "Church Member"? - Really?

Call it a pet peeve if you wish. Actually it is more of an outrage to me. Every time I hear it, it just goes right through me, and the older I get, the more it bothers me. What am I talking about? The sad concept that some people seem to have about "church membership". While I am not what many would consider an expert, and I certainly am not highly trained in ecclesiology, I do have some experience in the field. Growing up as a PK (Preacher's Kid) and having been in pastoral ministry, myself, for more than 38 years, give me some perspective in the matter.

It is strange how some professing believers view the church and it's purpose. Furthermore it is really weird how some relate to church membership.

First of all, if we are true Christ Followers, church is not something we "go to". The church is what we are. The church is WHO we are. It's the Body of Christ. The Bride of Christ. Not an organization, but an organism! Christ bought it with His own blood and gave his life for it. The word "ecclesia", translated church, appears roughly 100 times in the New Testament. Since it is used 90 percent of the time in the context of a local body of believers, one can only surmise that the "local church" is very important to our Lord. That is why we should take it seriously too!

The Great Commandments (Matthew 22:37-40) and Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) cite the responsibility of the church when it comes to:

  • Worship - " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'"

  • Ministry - "... 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' ..."

  • Evangelism - "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations..."

  • Discipleship - "... baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you..."
Why then, do some take their relationship to the church so lightly? I run into it all the time, and I'm sure every other pastor does as well.

"I'm a member of ______________ Church", folks will proudly announce. Yet many times the same people (although in good health and living in the community) never darken the door, give no money to accomplish the mission of the church, and don't even know the pastor, or other church members. But their name is on the Roll Book, and that's good enough for them.

Maybe they think their "membership" status gives them a certain standing in the community. Perhaps in their minds, their "membership" ensures a beautiful place for their kids to get married, and guarantees a minister for their own funeral service. Some may even mistakenly think that baptism and church membership is their "fire insurance policy" for eternity. Folks with this mindset are missing the whole point.

Having served in pastoral ministry over half of my adult life, I have heard the the following comments, ad nauseum.

"I grew up in that church." (Apparently not spiritual growth)

"I was baptized when the church was still meeting in the basement." (but they haven't been back many times since that blessed event)

"Mom really loved that church. She took us there every Sunday". (Now they faithfully show up EVERY Easter Sunday morning and on Christmas)

"We're not going anywhere right now, but we sure do love the folks down there at the church. Is 'Brother So and so' still going there? He was my Sunday School Teacher." ("Brother So and So" has been dead for 20 years)

"I learned a lot of Bible verses back in Sunday School." (How have you applied them to your life?)

"I know my church will always be there for me." (But when was the last time they were there for the church?)

"I know we need to get back involved, but the kids have something going on just about every day of the week." (Remember when parents taught children that it was important to put God first in their lives - and then modeled it in their own behavior?)

"My name has been on that roll book for a long time!" (The big question is, "Is your name written down in the Lamb's Book of Life?")

Yadda, yadda, yadda. You get the idea.

Now, don't mistake what I am saying here. Sitting in a church building does not make someone a Christian any more than standing in a garage will make them an automobile. But our relationship to the Lord and His church IS important.

Here is the question, nay rather the questions, I would ask these so called church members. If you are a follower of Christ, wouldn't you want to spend a little time each week with other believers? Don't you think it is important to love the church that Jesus loves? Where else can you go for public worship, and fellowship with other believers. Where else can you get such a steady diet of the Word of God? What other place can better serve as a base for personal service, and provide better resources for evangelism? Does Hebrews 10:25 mean anything to you at all? How about Malachi 3:10? (Look 'em up)

Our church has two categories of members - "Active" and "Inactive". Sadly the "inactive" list is nearly as long as the "active" roll. The "Active" list is subdivided into "Resident" and "Non Resident" members. Some provision should be made for "non resident" members who are in the military, away at school, or on the mission field or doing some type of ministry out of our area. However, if it is just someone who has moved away permanently, they should unite with a local church where they now reside. After all, that is a tenet of our church covenant.

The biggest shame of all, in my opinion, is the "inactive" category. These folks aren't shut ins or home bound people. These are folks who have allegedly accepted Christ as their Saviour, been baptized, and added to the church roll, but yet for some reason they take no part in the work and ministry of the church.

I have tried to simplify and clarify to the members of Westmoreland Baptist Church, what I believe the MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS should be to call yourself a member of our church.

  • A born again experience with Christ and a personal relationship with the Father through Jesus.

  • Scriptural believer's baptism (immersion) - publicly identifying with the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus.

  • Regular attendance at Worship Service

  • Belonging to a small group (Sunday School or other small groups) for informal Bible Study and relationship building - relationship to God and other believers.

  • Taking part in at least one ministry of the local church. (many from which to choose)

  • Giving systematically and proportionately of your finances to the work and mission of the church.
Is that too much to ask of a "church member"? I think not. If you need scriptural references for the above list, just let me know and I'll be happy to provide them for you.

It's not about "going to church" or how we "do church". It's about BEING the church. If your name is on the "Heavenly Church Roll", you should be no less than an active member of a local body of believers.

Anything less is shameful.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Random Thoughts On Saturday Morning

Headlines in a story in today's "Herald-Dispatch" - "Figures show toll hikes boost Turnpike revenue". Ya think? Who could have foreseen that result from increased toll fees?
We preachers are an odd sort. Each of us so different, yet all working for the same boss, a former Jewish carpenter.
This week, Maine voters overturned a state law which had previously made so called "Same Sex Marriage" legal in that state. What makes this more interesting is that Maine is a very, very liberal state on social issues. Voters in Maine on Tuesday, and twice in California (another very liberal state) have spoken out in favor of traditional marriage, in spite of the laws thrust upon them by social engineering legislators. Isn't it interesting that in the 31 states where the people have been allowed to vote on the issue, they have all come down on the side of the traditional definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman? In the five states where same sex marriage is allowed, each of these laws came about by legislative action or judicial activist decisions - NOT by the vote of the people.

The most interesting thing about the Maine results to me, is that the action taken by those voters came down in spite of a two to one spending advantage by the gay rights crowd and the endorsement by the state's largest newspaper. This majority vote in the liberal state of Maine was not a reflection of "right wing, religious, homophobic bigots" but simply an understanding of the people that the institution of marriage involves one man and one woman. Period.

The West Virginia Legislature needs to man up and let the people of the Mountain State vote for a constitutional ammendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. This would ensure that no activist court could impose it's will on the people of West Virginia. C'mon. Let them vote!


Unemployment reached 10% in America today, the second highest total since World War II. The current administration continues to blame the former administration for the economic woes. President Bush and the congressional spending certainly didn't do us any favors, but at some point President Obama and the Democratically controlled Congress have to begin to take ownership in this situation. Enough excuses! It is their baby now, and has been since the corporate bailouts, government takeover of the automobile industries, and other elements of the "stimulus package". Where are the results of all the promises? Why do we seem to be hurling twoard socialism?

Question to the average American - "How's that hopey changy thing working for you now"?


As Mark Twain once said, "The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated". Some regular readers may think I have met my demise since I have been absent from this site for the past week. We'll it's been an incredibly busy week, what with Doctor's appointments, preparations for hosting the WV Convention of Southern Baptists Annual Meeting, and the actual convention itself. Busy week, but a really good one.


The news coverage on the tragedy in Fort Hood, Texas underscores the political correctness of the major media outlets. It is amazing how the perpetrator, who is a Muslim, is being portrayed as a victim himself. There is very little coverage on the fact that he is a Muslim and that he allegedly dressed in Muslim attire and shouted "Allah Akbar" (Allah is great) as he brutally killed 13 unarmed soldiers and injured many others. Had that dastardly deed been done by someone who claimed to be an evangelical Christian, the fact would be splashed across every newspaper headline in the nation, and the major broadcast news outlets would be trumpeting it 24/7. In the final analysis, it is not really just a "Muslim thing" it's an evil thing - and extremist Muslims simply fall in to that category. But one doesn't have to be a Muslim to be evil. The sinful nature of man is to blame. The prophet said it best. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)

The only remedy for our avarice is a personal relationship with God, and the only way to such a relationship is through Jesus Christ.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Convention Time

Three busy days coming up for us at Westmoreland Baptist Church as we will be hosting the Pastor's Conference and the Annual Meeting of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists today through Saturday.

It's going to be three 12-14 hour days for some of us, but I do look forward to seeing many of our Baptist friends from all around the Mountain State. They will be coming to enjoy good preaching and worship, great fellowship, and to conduct the business of the convention. They will spend time in the exhibit area, visit the LifeWay book store, approve the State Convention budget, hear report from state and national agencies, focus on missions, honor a retiring member of the state office staff, and elect a new President.

Jimmy Morton (a church planter from the Charleston area) is President of the Pastor's Conference. He has planned a great program for our Pastor's Conference on Thursday afternoon and evening. Cheryl Harper has put together an enjoyable time of fellowship and worship for pastor's wives, and the church will be hosting a Pastors and Wives Dinner between the sessions today. Then, on Friday morning the Annual Meeting gets underway as messengers from all around the state come together.

Mixed in among the reports, resolutions, and business sessions, Dr. Phil Roberts (President of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) will present several Bible studies. On Saturday morning we will hear messages from Dr. Hershael York, of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and West Virginia's own Jack Miller will bring the annual message. Music will be stirring throughout the Pastor's Conference and Convention. Some of the presenters and worship leaders will include Darrell Clark, Frances Skeens, a "West Virginia Bluegrass Gospel Band", The Jason Lovins Band, Crimson Flood from Liberty University, and our own Randy Spurgeon and Carla Bell.

I'm looking forward to a great time together.

We've been working like crazy for the past few weeks sprucing up the campus, and doing all those little maintenance things around the church that have been overlooked for a while. We're in pretty good shape, but unfortunately, we didn't get the gym floor completely stripped for waxing, but we will have it ready before Upward Basketball play begins. You know how it is when visitors are coming over to the house, you want everything to be clean and nice. Well that's how it is around the church as well, and I am so proud of the work our folks have done in preparation for our visitors.

Preparations started several months ago as a planning team was put together to prepare for the task before us. Carla Bell, Thamer and Jean Calhoun, June Ashworth, Charley Dygert, Jim Lackey, David Thompson, Mel Hicks, and Mindi Spurgeon all took on planning committee chairmanships. These folks have done a great job in recruiting volunteers and working to pull this thing off. I can't say enough about the folks who have worked so tirelessly to get the church ready for the upcoming events. Thamer Calhoun, Butch Cotton, Sam Wellman, Charley Dygert, and David Washington have done a tremendous amount of maintenance work inside and outside both buildings. Volunteers like Rachel Lackey, Steve and Rick Weber, Jim Bailey, Maxine Bias, David Curnutte, Bob Hall, Zach Bell, Bob and Mitzi Trout, and others have all pitched in to do important preparation work as well. Rosemary Wilks, Brenda Dingess and Mindy Spurgeon have decorated the church beautifully. Church Secretary, Sonia Jones ,has gone above and beyond the call of duty to help out with a lot of extra duties that this event has brought upon her. We have also had great cooperation from Kathy Bailey and the Mothers Day Out Program, whose regular weekly operating schedule has been disrupted this week.

We've had a couple of snags and challenges along the way, but our volunteers have come together to do a really great job.

Saying "Thanks" to the above mentioned folks (and others who have helped) just doesn't seem adequate to repay them for all their hard work, but Thank you nonetheless. Your efforts are deeply appreciated.

Next week we should get "back to normal", but for now, we are thankful to be able to host the wonderful folks from around the state who are coming together to do our part to advance The Kingdom. Hope to see many of you this week at Westmoreland Baptist Church, Hughes and Court Streets in Huntington!