Thursday, June 30, 2011

Leader or follower?

It’s been almost a month since I typed out one of these Thoughts-for-Thursdays. It’s not that I’ve had no thoughts. But most of my thoughts have been aimed in other directions – namely a doctoral seminar and then recovering from a doctoral seminar. The seminar was on leadership. Thankfully, the seminar was not one of those overly pragmatic looks at the topic. You know the kind I’m talking about, those that tell you if you’ll follow these three easy steps you’ll be a great leader. Seminars and books like that don’t sit well with me. Life is never that easy.

This seminar pointed us in a different direction altogether. Namely, the readings and discussion reminded us that if any of us want to learn to be leaders in the Christian sense of the word, we must first become followers. The calling of every Christian (not just of pastors) is first and foremost Christ’s invitation to “Come, follow me.” It’s funny, for all the emphasis we Christians put on being biblical, when is the last time you heard about a seminar or conference on “Followership”? And yet, followers are what we are called to be.

Where does following Christ take us? If the words of Christ are any indication, following Jesus will usually take us in the opposite directions of our instincts: we are to love enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, and to return evil with good. We are to care for those who are different than us and to give to others without expectation of anything in return. I don’t know about you, but for me, none of those things come naturally, which makes it all the more important for us to work on our followership skills even more than we work on our leadership skills.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me – John 10:27

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

New TX BSM website for college freshmen

Alyson and I love Texas Baptist's BSMs (Baptist Student Ministry).  We met each other at the Aggie BSM.  And through the ministries there, also discovered much about God's calling in our lives.  I'm glad to say that BSMs are still making a huge difference in the lives of students.  Whereas 70% of students stop going to church when they head off to college, 80% of students who attend the BSM on their campus continue being active in a local church in and beyond their college years.

Are you a recent high school grad heading off to college?  Or do you know someone who is?  Texas Baptist Student Ministries has a great new website www.texasfreshmen.com.  There students can find out where and when the BSM meets on their local campus.  The best thing about the sight?  It features testimonies by two folks we know and love at Southland - Jeremiah Banks and Isa Torres.  Check out their videos below.



Thursday, June 2, 2011

The most difficult place to be a Christian

Daniel Vestal, executive director of the Cooperative Baptist Convention, tells of a time, several years ago, when he attended a conference where former Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield spoke. After his speech, there was a period of discussion. Someone asked the senator, "What is the greatest challenge you have as a Christian?"

Vestal remembers Hatfield’s response, “I was intrigued and surprised by his answer. Here is a man who served in the United States Senate with great power and prestige and made decisions that affected millions of people. He responded quickly, ‘My greatest challenge as a Christian is in my home.’”

In other words, Vestal comments, “If you want to know what kind of Christian I am, don't evaluate me on the platform, ask my wife, ask my children and ask my mother-in-law. The first place we build community is in our homes.”

Both Vestal and Hatfield are on to something. Our world is full of communities that require very little of us. We come in and out of people’s lives so quickly that we never have to give too much or sacrifice too deeply. At home, however, where these handful of people keep showing up over and over again, Christ’s commands become more daunting. Forgiving as often as is necessary, giving without expecting in return, and turning the other cheek can feel impossible with the people we are supposedly closest to. And yet, if Christ’s words don’t apply there, where do they apply?

Maybe our prayer everyday should begin with the simple plea, “Lord, help me the Christian you want me to be right here at home.”

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God – Ephesians 5:1.