ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (BP) — Why am I so happy to be a part of a local Baptist church connected in a local Baptist association and state Baptist convention?
Scan any news source and you will see a polarization and tribalism that is dividing every familiar fabric of our nation. Growing dissatisfaction seems to reach beyond national politics into denominations, including our own Southern Baptist Convention. In my opinion, there has never been a time with this much change, confusion and criticism. Opinions and debates are rampant.
So, how do people stay focused and not be swept away by all the clamoring?
First, spending more time in the Bible and less time with social media, blogs and news would benefit everyone. Fires require three things to burn: fuel, oxygen and heat. Sadly, we all are captivated by a fire and individually can contribute to the intensity of the heat. Emotions and often-incomplete information that we read or hear sometimes causes a stir within us that can harm our spiritual health.
While I worked as a firefighter in a local fire department in Clovis, N.M., I saw firsthand the destructive effects of excessive fuel, oxygen and heat. But, if you remove any of those three things, the fire goes out. More time in God’s Word and on our knees will keep us from adding fuel or heat. OK, glance at all the bad stuff, but focus on the Lord and see that He is good and is very much at work.
Second, in our diverse national society, individuals may find little that they can do to create change, but on a local level we can make a difference. We can be part of the good things and good works happening in our local church, association and state convention. We can spend time sharing the Gospel and making disciples. We can be Jesus’ hands and feet by serving on a disaster relief team. We can invest a few days to volunteer at a church camp.
We must invest the largest amount of our efforts where we can make a difference. If we are not careful, we over-invest our energy where we make the least impact.
Third, there are so many things locally that we can celebrate. We are seeing our churches place shoes on the feet of barefooted children. We are seeing food given to the hungry and the Bread of Life distributed among those who are far from God. The number of people in Bible study in many of our churches here in New Mexico is rising. The number of children attending evangelistic events like Vacation Bible School is on the increase. Men and women are responding to the call of ministry and missions through the local church.
Our collegiate ministries are making a significant impact by reaching students with the Gospel. The nations are coming to our universities, and we are seeing international students transformed by the saving grace of Jesus.
The training that is taking place through our state convention is seeing all-time high attendance. Recently, one association reached out to another association to assist with disaster relief by sending a laundry unit to some people who suffered an apartment fire.
These things are all possible because local people in local churches, working through local associations and networked by our state convention, are making a difference.
Fourth, when you hear all the clamoring and lack of civility in our nation and national convention, remember that we are having church on Sunday, whatever happens. We have a job to do, today. Demonizing others will not help us accomplish the work God has called us to do.
Fifth, the Southern Baptist Convention will meet in Dallas, Texas, next month. There has been more than enough debate about who and what is wrong. It would be tragic to see 173 years of cooperation damaged when Southern Baptists have such a critical task before us of taking the Gospel to the nations.
The potential of fire threatens us. Folks have in their hands two buckets — one filled with gasoline and the other water. I am hopeful that people will be wise enough to use the water bucket when we gather. I am praying that we not be caught up in taking sides, but submit to God and ask that He take over. May we all seek and see God as He reveals Himself in the midst of the clamor.
And, whatever happens in Dallas, we are having church on Sunday here in New Mexico and across our land.