Monday, January 22, 2007

With great power...

...comes great responsibility, or so we all have learned from our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Although, when you think about it, you hopefully learned that from reading the twelfth chapter of the Gospel of Luke. In verse 48, Jesus is quoted as saying "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more."

The leadership of Bellevue Baptist Church has shown responsibility today in terminating Paul Williams fron the Bellevue staff as of today. The release from the church website reads thusly, and like so:

Bellevue’s Investigative Committee presented its report and recommendations regarding the moral failure of a Bellevue minister to the Personnel Committee on January 20.

On Sunday, January 21, the Personnel Committee reviewed the report and voted to terminate Paul Williams’ employment at Bellevue effective Monday, January 22.

The Personnel Committee will present a full report and its recommendations to the church on Sunday, January 28, following the 6:30 p.m. evening Worship Service.

There are some for whom "a full report and its recommendations" might not be enough.

I am one of them.

Even the most copious of reports will have the potential to leave questions unanswered. Even the most sweeping of recommendations can miss something of significance. For this reason, I urge Pastor Gaines and the Bellevue leadership to call Bellevue Baptist Church into a business meeting "following the 6:30 p.m. evening Worship Service."

Speaking of Luke, there's a line from the motion picture "Cool Hand Luke" that sums up in a single sentence a prime difficulty that will remain even after Mr. Williams' dismissal. I quote the actor who brilliantly and indelibly delivered that line, Mr. Strother Martin, thusly and like so:

"What we've got heah... is... a failure... to communicate!"

As I have stated previously, the only way available to put the difficulties of the past few months in the church's collective rear-view mirror is to talk openly, soberly, and frankly about them, and so work through them in a spirit of mutuality. A business meeting will allow the forum to do that; a report, with no ability for congregants to pose questions from the floor, will not.


Friday, January 12, 2007

"What else can we undermine?"

Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter want to redefine what it means to be a Baptist.

You may begin writing your own punch lines and leaving them as responses...



Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Act like you've been there

Last night, the University of Florida's football team beat The Ohio State University's football team 41-14 for college football's national championship. Most folks (myself included) expected it to be a runaway Ohio State win, rather than a Florida cakewalk. And while there are a number of reasons for Ohio State's collapse, one that stands out in my old-school mind is the injury to Ohio State wide reciever/kick returner Ted Ginn, Jr., an injury that absolutely did not have to happen.

After Ginn effortlessly returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for what might have been the start of an Ohio State rout, he was injured. Not by a Florida player--but during the post-touchdown celebration scrum with his teammates. "Oh, but it was an accident!" Yes, it was accidental, but it was an accident resulting from immaturity. What happened to the days of Jim Brown, and Larry Czonka, and all the other players who just found the nearest official and flipped him the ball after scoring a touchdown?

Just as my father and my coaches used to preach, there's a rule of behavior that is now all too clear in the mind of Ted Ginn, Jr. (and his piling-on teammates)--or at least it should be. That rule is a simple one: Act like you've been there. (There is the redundant permutation of the phrase that reads "Act like you've been there before," but when else would one have "been there" except "before," in the past?) Score a touchdown? If it's the first of your career, a little exuberance is understandable. However, young Mr. Ginn has scored more than that at Ohio State: 14 receiving touchdowns, 3 rushing touchdowns, 6 punt returns for touchdowns, and 2 kickoff returns for touchdowns.

He's been there. Before, even.

"But Mike, it was the national championship!" All the more reason for Mr. Ginn to maintain his focus, a lesson he will take, hopefully, to the NFL. (I would prefer to see him stay in college, but the widely-held view is that he will enter the NFL draft.) So, keep an eye on him next fall. The first time he does anything other than toss the ball and trot to the sidelines, much less allow himself to be mobbed by his teammates, we will know the lesson has been lost on him.

What does that have to do with Micah 6:8? Thought I'd forgotten about that, hmm? Well, you just get that wiseacre look off your face and I'll opine, all right?

Now, then... We'll talk about "doing justly" and "loving mercy" in subsequent articles, because the BCS championship is the perfect opportunity to talk about "walking humbly." The Hebrew word translated "humbly" can also be translated "modestly," and you might agree that modesty is something in short supply in our culture. Children's dolls are dressed to bare their midriffs, television programs are increasingly slanted to appeal to base instincts, and sports figures from Dennis Rodman to John Rocker to Allan Iverson attract the limelight more for their undesirable behavior than for their professional performance. Humility and modesty are anomalies in our society, rather than norms.

Should this be the case in our churches, as well? There is an increasing movement for end-zone celebrations by those who see calamity befall those with whom they disagree. Don't we have a responsibility to those with whom we disagree--to pray for, and work for, reconciliation with them? Or must the Body of Christ on this planet keep subdividing and compartmentalizing until we fellowship with only our spiritual duplicates? Why would we celebrate the problems experienced by another "team" or another "side"?

Act as though you've been there; were it not for God's grace, you could be the one mired in difficulty. Walk humbly, modestly, closely with God. It is in Him that we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28), and as such we must not celebrate in others' iniquities, but rejoice when they are in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6) and encourage them toward the truth.

EDITED TO ADD: I cannot avoid the call to focus on a specific example of what I've mentioned above with regard to the current situation at Bellevue Baptist Church.

An individual named James Sundquist, who has apparently decided to make a name for himself based on what he is against rather than what he is for, has parasitically latched onto the Bellevue situation, terming it in an interview published today by "a gift from heaven." In that interview, Mr. Sundquist also made what can be construed as a violent statement with regard to Pastor Gaines, suggesting that Dr. Gaines' pastorship "be wrested from him".

How, Mr. Sundquist, does one "wrest" a pastor's position away from him? As a mob, wielding pitchforks and torches by the pale moonlight? Since I never cease to be amazed at who peruses this site, I will not be surprised to find that you've read what I've written, Mr. Sundquist--so let me take the opportunity to tell you that what you're doing is despicable. I notice that in portraying Bellevue's difficulties as worse than those surrounding Ted Haggard, you stated that "As reprehensible as Ted Haggard's actions were, they were not a crime or felony". Mr. Haggard is alleged to have solicited a male prostitute and purchased (and used) methamphetamine. Both of those are criminal acts, and if I understand Colorado law, possessing enough methamphetamine can be a felony.

It is ridiculous to see people such as yourself, without a legitimate, vested interest in the situation at Bellevue, engaging in behavior that would make Al Sharpton embarrassed. Your behavior is the quintessential example of the rotten behavior I cited in a previous article; I quote myself thusly, and like so:

"If you use this crime as a jumping-off point to make specious accusations against anyone in leadership at Bellevue, you run the risk of being known as an opportunist, someone who is inured to the pain of others, yet glad to use it as another weapon in your arsenal. Some of you have already gone down that road--back up while you still can."

For those of you who can't wait to cite Mr. Sundquist as supporting anything and everything you want to say about the current Bellevue situation, I would warn you against it, since Mr. Sundquist's behavior is that of an opportunist. And Mr. Sundquist, I encourage you to saturate this situation with your absence--and to take some time to reevaluate why it is that you let everyone in earshot know what you're against, yet make no effort to tell people just what you're for. Just like young Mr. Ginn, you take the opportunity to celebrate momentary success against the "opposition," and just like Mr. Ginn, your behavior only injures yourself and your "team."

There are a great number of people with varying opinions in this situation who desire only that Christ be glorified, that healing occur, and that Bellevue be strengthened for the task of sharing the Gospel at every opportunity.

From what you show us, Mr. Sundquist, you're not one of them.


Monday, January 01, 2007

Welcome to the future

Today begins the Year of Our Lord 2007--and I still don't have my jet pack. I know that, in Heaven, one of the infinite number of conversations I'll have with God will go something like this:

"Lord, what about the personal jet packs?"

"Michael, my child, you're actually the reason I never allowed jet packs to make it into the consumer marketplace. Think about it. Aren't you the last person who needed to be flying around over a crowd of people when something went wrong with your jet pack? Hmm? Meteors plummeting to Earth have done less damage!"

"Yes, Lord, I see your point. And thank You for the vivid analogy..."

In 2007, as with every year we haven't practiced saying, it'll take awhile to say "2007" fluently; while you're practicing, please resist the urge to say "Two thousand and seven." It's a waste of time, breath, and energy.

It will also take some time to write it properly, especially on our checks. Be forewarned that a "5" is much easier to turn into a "6" than a "6" is to turn into a "7." Just go slowly--you'll get it.

What will this new year bring us? What's hot, and what's not? Who's in, and who's out? We'll be bombarded with pontifications from style mavens, trendsetters, pundits, and others who are uncomfortably free with their opinions. Feel free to ignore them, for we have been given an ageless recommendation regarding three things that are always "in," and that will help shape any New Year's resolutions into ones that are worthwhile. Micah 6:8 came to mind this morning: "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"

More on that later. Breakfast is ready. And not just any breakfast--the first breakfast of the future...