8 Reasons I’m Grateful For The 2017 SBC

 

I wanted to share some thoughts of a fellow pastor, Jed Coppenger,  who attended the Southern Baptist Convention this year. I totally concur with his statement and thoughts.

 Another Southern Baptist Convention is behind us. Most of us have made our way back to our homes and are starting to engage in regular life. Hopefully, we are all returning encouraged and challenged to take greater steps forward for the sake of Christ’s kingdom. I pray that all of us have greater hearts for prayer and evangelism. And I bet most of us are still processing all that happened at the SBC.

As you reflect on your time at the convention, or you weren’t able to make it to the convention, I’d like to share a few reasons why I’m grateful to God after this year’s SBC.

 

1.I’m grateful the SBC condemned the racist Alt-Right movement – Although the resolution condemning the racist Alt-Right movement didn’t initially make it to the floor for a vote, I’m grateful that it passed unanimously when it did. Racism is evil and everyone should know that Southern Baptists believe that, regardless of where it appears.

2. I’m grateful for the humility I saw around the convention – President Steve Gaines interacted with folks at the convention microphones who were sometimes “less than kind” to him in ways that took great humility. I heard Pastor J.D. Greear and Dr. Al Mohler and the other B21 panelists talk about the great struggles they have had as they’ve pursued God’s call for unity and diversity in their contexts. And I think about the Resolution Committee’s leader, Barrett Duke’s apology to the convention. We’ve all messed up, but rarely do we own it like Duke did. We still have a long way to go as a convention, but God’s grace was evident in these ways.

3. I’m grateful for the candid conversation that happened at the B21 panel – One of the joys of the pastor led nature of B21 is that no topics are “off limits.” Whether it’s Calvinism, political engagement, race, SBC presidential politics, or something else, Southern Baptists have significant differences that we need to candidly and charitably talk about. That’s why we think it’s worth volunteering a great amount of time and energy to put on the B21 panel. That’s why we are grateful for the courage and candor offered by our diverse panel made up entity presidents, pastors, and, for the first time, a state exec!

4. I’m grateful for the commissioning of our IMB missionaries – There are a lot of great moments at the SBC, but none surpasses the commissioning of our IMB missionaries. I was moved to tears as I saw these families, some of which had to keep their identities hidden because it could compromise their future mission, committing to take the gospel to the unreached peoples of the world. There is no greater reason for all of our cooperation. I wish we could move this time to Tuesday afternoon. It should be the convention’s centerpiece.

5. I’m grateful for our gospel-centered, mission-focused entities – The SBC entities are so consistently faithful that it’s easy to take that faithfulness for granted. But if you look around “Christianity” you’ll learn quickly that faithfulness to the Scriptures is the exception, not the rule. Whether it is our six seminaries, the ERLC, NAMB, IMB, Lifeway, and Guidestone, God has blessed the SBC with incredible entities and incredible leaders. My heart overflows with gratitude for all that God has done, is doing, and will do through their efforts.

6. I’m grateful for all of the time with friends – One of the sweetest things about making the trip to the SBC each year has to be the time hanging out with friends. There’s nothing like face-to-face time with friends. You hear what they’re up to, where they’re headed, and all the rest. There’s a lot of laughter, some tears, and a lot to be thankful for. I never come away from the SBC without renewing old friendships and making some new ones.

7. I’m grateful for the diverse streams that make up the SBC – When you look around the SBC, you quickly learn that it has old people, young people, rich people, poor people, cool people, not so cool people, well dressed and barely dressed. By God’s grace, we are also seeing a bit more ethnic diversity, although we have a long way to go. Not only do we all look differently, we all think differently about “what’s best for the SBC,” how ministry should be done, and more. We won’t all agree on everything, ever. Sure, it brings some tensions. But by God’s grace we’ll be better for it.

8. I’m grateful that I didn’t hear many “straw men” misrepresentations this year – One of the hindrances to our cooperative mission is the tendency to misrepresent the positions of those with whom we disagree. The attractiveness of this temptation is easy enough to see. If you misrepresent the “other side” it helps strengthen your side. Thankfully, I didn’t hear the typical falsehoods, “Calvinists don’t believe in evangelism” or “Non-Calvinists don’t care about theology.” Whether more Calvinists and Non-Calvinists are evangelizing together, talking theology together, or just learning how to love one another like Jesus commanded, I’m grateful for greater fairness from all sides representing the “other” side.

These are great thoughts and I thank Jed for his keen insight and comments.

Blessing,

Pastor Frank Torres

 

 

 

Summer time 2017

                                                                                

 

Summer time, summer time is just around the corner. School year is ending and summer vacations begin. Families travel around and make memories of a lifetime. But summer time is not only a time to kick back and relax, but it can be also a time of personal improvement. For followers of Christ, summer affords opportunity to grow spiritually. I have three suggestion to think about.

1. Christians can develop a new appreciation for the Bible. We know we should read the Bible daily, but statistics say many don't. The first step is to find a readable translation of the scripture. Though many of us cut our teeth on the King James Version, many modern-language versions are available today. Bookstores have plenty of reliable versions available that don’t present a language barrier.

And we can devise a workable plan. Many who intend to read through the entire Bible meet with discouragement, so why not adopt a summer goal of reading a more compact group of books, such as the four gospels, the 12 minor prophets or the 13 letters of Paul? Recruit friends from church or Sunday school or neighbors to read the same books, and meet over coffee to talk about your reading.

2. Christians can develop a deeper prayer life. Most of us pray in crisis but know we should have a more consistent prayer life. A good place to begin is the prayer list your church probably publishes -- customize it for yourself. Add physical needs such as the mortgage and groceries (our "daily bread") but also spiritual goals such as a new love for your church or finding fulfilling ministry for your life.

3. Christians can find help through the media. Most cable packages have religious programming and most areas have one or more Christian radio stations. Find a Bible teacher who communicates to you and make an appointment to watch or listen every week.

 

 

Memorial Day 2017

Pastor’s Message for Memorial Day 2017                                      May 23, 2017

I would like to repost a statement that Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached on Memorial Day. His message is so on target for today: Should a church commemorate Memorial Day? And if so, how?

Pastors and church leaders grapple with this issue every May and face similar questions around the Fourth of July. How do you balance gratitude for our nation with the truth that we are citizens of another kingdom? Can patriotism and Christianity mix? Should they?

We are not the first generation of believers to face this question.

What Dietrich Bonhoeffer Preached On Memorial Day

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Memorial Day, 1932

As a young German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was asked to preach on National Memorial Day in Berlin, on February 21, 1932. These were tumultuous times for Germany. Hitler’s party was on the rise, and Bonhoeffer felt the need to equip the church for suffering in the days ahead.

What should a preacher communicate on a day that memorialized the Germans who died in the First World War? What words would be appropriate, or more importantly, Christian? 

3 Ways of Observing Memorial Day

Bonhoeffer chose Matthew 24:6-14 as his text, and he began by laying out three ways that Memorial Day can be observed.

1. Bereaved families would observe the day by focusing on those who had died, who were torn from their midst by the war. These families would mourn out of love.

2. The state would hold ceremonies commemorating the great German sacrifices made by the young who fought for their country. The state would mourn with a sense of pride because of the courage of young soldiers.

3. The church, however, must say something “special.” It must deliver a message that differs from that of bereaved families or state celebrations. Bonhoeffer prepared the congregation for the reality that the message may not be popular:

“The church is like the seer of ancient times who, when all are gathered to commemorate a great deed of the nation, is wholeheartedly present but suffers because he sees something that the others do not see and must speak of what he sees, although no one wants to hear it…

“The one who loves the most is the one who sees deepest, sees the greatest danger. A seer has never been popular. That is why the church will also not be popular, least of all on days like this.”

Bonhoeffer described the state’s celebration of veterans and the memorializing of the dead through various monuments. But then he reminded the congregation that, while the nation’s mourning and gratitude and hope may be good, its hope was not Christian.

War in the Context of God’s Great Story

The Church, Bonhoeffer said, must look deeper. Christians need to wrestle with the meaning of the war and the significance of Germany’s loss.

In order to help his congregation do just that, Bonhoeffer took the reality of the Great War and placed it within the bigger story line of the Bible, showing how war is a demonstration of the ultimate battle between God and the evil one.

Seen in this light, every war is the evil one’s reassertion of power in the earthly domain:

“The demons rise up. It is a rebellion against Christ. And one great power of this uprising is called war! The others are called pestilence and famine. So war, sickness, and hunger are the powers that try to take Christ’s dominion away from him… led by death. These powers scream: We are here! Here, see us and be terrified! Christ has not conquered; we conquer. Christ is dead. But we are alive…”

In the wake of war, millions are “mowed down” in death, with Death as the great enemy. And because of such carnage, the foes of uncertainty, doubt, and fear creep into the hearts of Christians. Wars lead to a crisis of faith and a feeling of God-forsakenness.

The Cross and the Word of Christ

“Our situation would be truly desperate,” Bonhoeffer said, “if not for the word of Christ: When all of this comes over, see that you are not alarmed.” Bonhoeffer then recalled various times in Scripture when we are commanded to “Be not afraid.” The crescendo of his sermon is the message that makes the church’s proclamation utterly different than the worlds:

“What does being faithful mean here other than standing and falling with the word of Christ, with his preaching of the kingdom of peace, than knowing that despite everything Christ’s words are stronger than all the powers of evil?

“What does faithfulness of the church-community of Christ mean here other than calling out into this furious raging again and again – unto exhaustion, unto humiliation, unto martyrdom – the words of Christ that there should be peace, that there should be love, that there should be blessing, and that he is our peace, and that God is a God of peace?

“And the more they rage, the more we should call out. And the more we call out, the more wildly they will rage. For wherever the word of Christ is truly spoken, the world senses that it is either ruinous madness or ruinous truth, which endangers its very life. Where peace is really spoken, war must rage twice as hard, for it senses that it is about to be driven out. Christ intends to be its death.”

Bonhoeffer’s point is that the cross is the only power that can make sense of tragedies like war, and only through such tragedy does the gospel shine forth in clearest distinction:

“War, sickness, and hunger must come, so that the gospel of the kingdom of peace, of love, and of salvation can be spoken and heard all the more keenly, all the more clearly, all the more deeply… War serves peace, hate serves love, the devil serves God, the cross serves life… Then the Lord of the church will lay his hand on the church, blessing and protecting it as his faithful servant.”

Beyond Civil Religion

Memorial Day in the church? According to Bonhoeffer, the church’s celebration must be special; it must go beyond patriotic but spiritually lifeless civil religion. It means:

“…holding up the one great hope from which we all live, the preaching of the kingdom of God. It means seeing that which is past, and which we remember today, with all its terrors and all its godlessness, and yet not being afraid, but hearing the preaching of peace…

“It means looking out beyond the borders of our own nation, across the whole world, and praying that the gospel of the kingdom, which puts an end to all war, now may come over all nations and that then the end may come, that Christ may draw near…

 

Pastor Frank Torres

English Pastor

Pastor's Message

We have just started a New Year and they way of life that we know is changing. At the beginning of each new year, I take sometime to allow myself to reflect on God's Goodness and Grace over the past year. I would encourage you to do the same, see how far God has brought you. Stop and look over your shoulder as we begin a new year and see where God's hand was upon you. God is faithful, even when we are not.

Blessing, God is Good…

Pastor Frank Torres

English Ministries