This weekend I attended my third strategic planning session since mid-January for a third group. I have two more strategic planning meetings to attend this spring for groups with whom I work. I know, a strategic plan for me would be to evaluate the # of groups I volunteer with!
This weekend leaders from all but two of the churches in Southwest Oregon Baptist Association came together for some praying and planning. The new regional denominational structure has changed the face of what we Southern Baptists call ‘associationalism.’ In my life time Southern Baptist churches in small geographical locations – like a city or a county- linked together in ‘associations.’ These associations used to have a full time leader- often a man who had served as pastor and sensed God’s call to be a mentor and leader of pastors- who served to interpret the work of the regional and national denomination, to guide local churches towards necessary resources, and who served to assist local churches in cooperative ministry endeavors. As of July 2009 our regional network of churches (and their national partner, the North American Mission Board)stopped funding those positions in the Northwest, leaving pastors and lay leaders in these smaller geographically linked associations to develop a more grass roots driven strategy. (If this doesn’t make much sense, I didn’t sleep much at all last night—one of the men in the room I shared had a snoring problem that made it hard for me to sleep…but that’s another story for another day….)
Anyway, this group of pastors, laypersons (men and women) worked pretty hard most of the morning to identify three specific areas we as a network of churches will seek to address this year and into next. Thus,the strategic plan…more information will be coming on the website, www.swobaptist.org. Check out that site when you have time.
I don’t know if I am supposed to admit it or not, but I began reading Walter Wink’s recent book, The Powers That Be this week. He has a rather interesting take on the spiritual dimension of the evil that exists in the world. We began our time this morning with prayer (as is normal for Southern Baptists). As the facilitator asked for prayer requests almost all of the requests were for people with significant health challenges. NOW, PLEASE READ THIS NEXT SECTION CAREFULLY!
I believe in praying for the ill and physically afflicted. I have seen God bring miraculous healing in response to prayer. But I wonder sometimes if we really ever pray about what truly matters. Yes, illness matters. Pain matters. Physical pain is real, intense, and distracting and debilitating. But, where in Scripture does God promise or guarantee a life free from pain? If we are serious about advancing the kingdom of God- which was one of our strategic objectives- are we praying about the types of issues that enable us to advance the kingdom? Are we praying against the spiritual blindness the enemy uses to keep those around us from seeing and experiencing the truth? Are we praying for boldness to speak clearly- even if it might cost us physically as it does many believer across the world today? Are we praying that we might be light in darkness, or are we trying to be light in places where the light has already shone?
I realize I am physically tired tonight. The lack of sleep, the pace I’ve been keeping truly takes a toll. But I long for a ministry that not only that grows in such a way to earn the praise of my peers in ministry, but one that truly God uses to push back the darkness, one that God uses to open blinded eyes, a ministry that God uses to unveil His majesty, His presence- EVEN IF HE FAILS TO BRING THE PHYSICAL HEALING, COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE WHICH WE SO OFTEN SEEM TO BE PRAYING ABOUT!
Well, I’ve said my piece. I’ve got some work to finish up before tomorrow morning’s Bible Study hour….and I’ve got a night’s sleep to catch up on….so…till next time…