Moving Forward at ABC (Building Program)

Last night at Antioch Baptist Church, the power of God and the faith of His people were on full display. Recognizing that God has been moving in us and through us to reach our community and our region for Christ, we voted on a Master Plan that stretches us in faith and obedience. There was an evident spirit of unity and forward momentum… and the unanimous vote on these plans was a living testimony that God’s people at ABC are “letting go of what is behind, and reaching forward to what is ahead” as Paul wrote to the Philippian church in Phil. 3:13. We acknowledge the good work that God has been doing in us and through us in the decades past. And together, our unanimous vote proclaimed that there is no better way to honor the precious saints of our past than to build on the solid foundation they have laid in giving everything we are and everything we have to the cause of Christ.

For many reasons, I decided to record on this blog the motion as unanimously adopted at the business meeting last night, and a short recap of plan descriptions that were discussed. The two main reasons for this blog post are as follows:

  • To serve as a point of reference for clarification as to what was discussed and decided. Share this with others who are wondering what the future looks like at ABC. And remind yourself occasionally of the direction God has laid before us.
  • To serve as a celebratory mile-marker along our journey of faith together. There have been many decisions that have led us to this point, some from decades past. But this specific decision is to be celebrated and remembered as well. It can be a memorial stone, for generations to come, of how we trusted God and stepped out in faith in the direction He is leading us.

The Motion as Unanimously Adopted December 14, 2014:

The Church Council moves that Antioch Baptist Church adopt a three-phase building program as follows:

  1. (Phase 1 to begin immediately, incurring no debt) Remodel the old sanctuary into a children’s wing as presented.
  2. (Phase 2 to be saved toward [estimated $1 million], with a goal of 50% down-payment) Remove the middle section of church facilities and replace with a new building consisting of a worship center, education space, and offices.
  3. (Phase 3 to be completed by church members at minimal cost) Remove the baptistery from the old sanctuary and reconstruct the area into storage space.

The Master Planning Team worked for two years (since December of 2012) to seek God’s direction in a “big picture” plan for our facilities. They thought outside the box, inside the box, and even as if there were no box… all to provide a “best guess” picture of what the facilities at ABC might look like when they meet the needs of our church life together. Below is a shortened recap of the discussion of the three phases:

Phase 1 - The children’s ministry at ABC is the fastest growing ministry area. There is an immediate need to renovate our facilities to accommodate this rapid growth. The remodel of the old sanctuary building into a children’s wing will include a large-space meeting area for children (AKA: “KidZone”), three large classrooms, a large preschool area with two breakout-style classrooms, an expansion of the nursery, and two children’s bathrooms. The baptistery in the old sanctuary will stay for now, until the completion of a new worship center. This phase also includes updates to the outside of the old sanctuary. Metal siding will cover the area, with a 2.5-3′ wainscoting of brick, austin stone, or something similar running along the bottom (this outside “look” will carry across the facilities after the construction of the new building). Ray Butler will oversee this Phase. We currently have all funds necessary to complete Phase 1.

Phase 2 - The new building will offer a centralized concept of church life. Large classrooms downstairs and upstairs will accommodate needs for education space, and an indoor hallway will connect the East side of the building to the West side without having to walk through the worship center itself. The upstairs classrooms are designed in such a way that they could be changed into balcony-seating if needed. The proposed worship center will include seating for 300 (old sanctuary max seating was 140… we currently seat 220, but can fit up to 375 in the FLC if needed). It was stressed that this plan is an educated guess. If, by the time we’ve raised the $500,000 needed to begin we need a worship center that seats more than 300, we will formulate another committee to reevaluate. In any case, upon entering the building portion of Phase 2, a building committee will need to be formed.

Phase 3 - When the new worship center is finished, including a new baptistery, a team of ABCers will remove the baptistery from the old sanctuary and turn that area into storage. Until then, we will continue to use the baptistry in what is to be the “KidZone” by allowing close family and friends to be in the room with the baptismal candidate, and a live-video feed will run to the FLC. This will allow for during-service baptisms without having to relocate the congregation from one end of the building to another or to an off-site location.

OTHER DISCUSSION:

  • Parking – Currently, the maintenance team is working on adding 15-20 parking spots on the West side of the building. We dreamed that eventually we would have concreted or asphalted parking space all around the building. This can be discussed at any time in the future.
  • Your Giving - We are officially in a “building program.” We receive no funding from government institutions or special interest groups. That means we are completely dependent on God’s provision through His people to meet the needs He’s placed before us. Since we currently have the funds necessary for Phase 1’s completion, you can be assured that from this point forward, when you give to the designated “building fund” at ABC, you are giving toward the new worship center (“Phase 2″). Your undesignated tithes fund the daily ministries and operational expenses of our church. Please do not stop your current giving practices. On top of these, I challenge you and your family to prayerfully consider how God would have you sacrificially give regular designated gifts to the building fund. Our church budget models this sacrificial giving by designating 12% off the top to missions… and we are currently forward-paying ourselves $1500/mo. into the designated building fund. This $1500/mo. will not, in a reasonable time frame, add up to the needed Phase 2 funding – we do this to model for our members the sacrificial nature of giving.

According to 2012 Census data, there are 2,888 people living within a 10 mile radius of our doors. Half of them claimed they were either “somewhat involved with their faith” or “not at all involved with their faith.” . . . And we do not plan to stop our outreach efforts at 10 miles from our doors. God has placed thousands of people all around us who are in desperate need of the salvation and the hope that is only found in Jesus Christ. They need a church family who will “do life together” with them, love them, and serve them with the heart, hands, and feet of Jesus. Last night we officially decided that we want to be that church. This is where we’re heading. This is the direction God has given us. We’ve stepped into the Jordan River in faith, and are trusting God’s provision as we move toward putting our foot on the destiny He has set before us. May He alone receive the glory! And may He use us in ways we cannot even think to imagine, for the cause of Christ.

Buildings are great, but Antioch Baptist Church is not a building. We are a people. And our only goal is to know Jesus and to make Him known. Our plan for accomplishing this also has nothing to do with buildings. Our method of operation toward the vision God has given us is through Christ-Centered relationships…. one by one, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with whomever God sees fit to put in our path, and inviting them to repentance and faith. Our strength is not in our facilities, our budget, or even our numbers. It is in Christ Jesus. May His power and His glory take center stage in all that we do, and all that we are. To God be the glory! Great things He has done!

Grace and Peace,

Tony

Posted in ABC, church

Campfire Reflections

IMG_5158-0.JPG

In John 18, it was a campfire much like this one where Peter stood warming himself after Jesus had been taken away by the chief priests and soldiers… in a ridiculous display of injustice that would eventually lead to His execution on the infamous apparatus of Roman torture we call a “cross.” Peter had assured Jesus that he would give his very life for the wellbeing of his Lord. Yet here he stood – ashamed that he had allowed Jesus to be taken. And what’s worse, here around the fire Peter denied even knowing the Man. Three times. Peter felt like a failure. A deserter. He had defected.

As I sit around this fire tonight, God’s Word reminds me of how many times I’ve failed my Lord today. I wish it were only three. Sometimes as I reflect on my own unfaithfulness to God, I feel like a failure. A deserter. Defected.

But thank God there was another campfire after Jesus’ victorious resurrection – the resurrection which turned that infamous apparatus of Roman torture into a symbol of victory and triumph for all who believe. This campfire is in John 21. Around this one, Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to declare his love again. Three times.

“Do you love Me, Peter?”
“Do you love me, Peter?”
“Do you love me, Peter?”

What a gracious Savior is ours. The fire tonight convicts me of sin… But it also brings healing to my soul. Instead of gazing upon a dead Savior hanging on a cross, I have the great joy of owning a personal relationship with Him – The Resurrected, Living Lord of All. His Word brings conviction even to the strongest of men. But it also brings forgiveness and grace to those who love Him.

Grace and Peace,
Tony

Posted in life | Leave a comment

Christian Reflections on the Leadership Challenge

While I am not in the regular practice of publishing school work on my blog, this particular book is worth the read for any believer. So much of leadership in the contemporary church is more an exercise in futility than biblical principle. I believe that God has called all Christians to leadership on some level. Whether it is positional, influential, or socio-behavioral leadership, all believers in Jesus Christ are summoned by God to leave an eternal impact in a temporary world. The thoughts of this blog interact with Kouzes and Posner’s book Christian Reflections on The Leadership Challenge. Although it was an assignment for school, I pray it challenges your idea of Christian leadership at the core.

Kouzes, James M. and Barry Z. Posner. Christian Reflections on The Leadership Challenge. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2004. 152 pp. $16.95.

The Five Practices: 1) Model the Way. 2) Inspire a Shared Vision. 3) Challenge the Process. 4) Enable Others to Act. 5) Encourage the Heart.

         Christian Reflections on the Leadership Challenge is a compilation of seven Christian authors’ interaction with the Five Practices first introduced in Kouzes and Posner’s The Leadership Challenge. Each contributing author brings a unique perspective on how the Five Practices guide and influence Christian leaders—especially church leaders. Coming from a variety of different denominational backgrounds, the book’s authors speak into every church leadership style and system of church polity. The Five Practices themselves, as well as this book’s commentary on each, are valuable assets for Christian leaders everywhere.

            In Chapters One and Two, Kouzes and Posner explain the Five Practices and issue the challenge for every Christian to answer the call to leadership in his or her own context (4, 7). In so doing, the editors have challenged not just those who have positional authority, but all who would rise to the occasion God has given them. “The Five Practices are available to anyone . . . who accepts the leadership challenge,” they write (7). This encouragement—for all to lead—is a welcomed one to this reviewer. Every born again believer in Jesus Christ has not only the ability, but the call to lead others in some capacity. They may be parents called to lead their family, children or teens called to lead among their peers, senior adults called to lead in their circles of influence, Sunday School teachers and small group leaders called to lead their own small flocks, team leaders or committee chairs called to lead a group of church members in working together for God’s glory, or pastors called to lead God’s church. Leadership is not an activity reserved for the few. It is a challenge extended to all Christians. In these first two chapters, the editors grab every Christian reader’s attention by probing them to think critically about the Five Practices, and to accept God’s call to leadership in the context He has given them.

            The book’s greatest contribution to the leadership discussion—in this reader’s opinion—is its emphasis on relationships in leadership. “Leadership is relationship” (37). Even in John Maxwell’s section on leading yourself, the reader finds this convicting sentence: “People don’t buy into your vision, they buy into you” (44). Throughout the book is an emphasis on listening to followers, mutual respect, “reciprocity” in leadership, trust, humility, service, and loving those you lead (18, 29, 83, 89, 90). The editors go so far as to declare in their final chapter that “the outcome of leadership is a result of the relationship,” “Christian leaders must master the dynamics of the leadership relationship,” and “people don’t quit their organizations; they quit their leaders” (119, 122). In a culture where church leaders have become associated with modernistic CEO’s—positional authoritarians coldly managing and delegating—the church must get back to a relational understanding of leadership (123). Christianity is a relationship. Christians are to reflect on every facet of life with special attention to how it affects one’s relationship to God, and to other people. When Christian leaders lose their commitment to healthy relationships, they lose their ability to lead after Christ’s example.

            David McAllister-Wilson’s reflection on Inspire a Shared Vision is especially noteworthy. He roots his position in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (55). While many authors begin with secular work on leadership and seek to apply those principles to the church, McAllister-Wilson reminds the reader that the church is the oldest of organizations and as such, has much to offer the secular world on the subject (56). This realization alone should be sufficient impetus for Christian leaders to stand on biblical principles of leadership and pervade the world around them with the Five Practices. The world did not teach Christianity how to lead. Rather, it is Christianity that has taught the world. While McAllister-Wilson acknowledges that vision itself is not everything, he declares that it is “the beginning of everything” (56). He goes on to explain the place of faith, hope, and mission in Christian leadership; it all hinges on how leaders “plant the vision” (61). This vision-casting and vision-planting is to be a constant endeavor of the Christian leader, especially in the church (65). Many pastors frustrate themselves by preaching a sermon on vision or launching a singular vision campaign and then expecting the vision’s flame to fan itself. But vision is something that needs constant attention. If it is not persistently set before followers, it will be easily confused with other priorities and practices. Vision is to be continuously communicated, and assiduously inspired.

            Reflecting on Challenge the Process, Patrick Lencioni instructs the Christian leader to persevere. He suggests a level of “pain tolerance” for leaders who really want to make a difference (71). “Am I ready to suffer?” is a question Christian leaders must ask before setting out on any endeavor of change (72). This is not a principle taught in most seminary classes, and it is not often a topic of high praise at denominational leadership seminars. The prophet Isaiah, like so many other great leaders in Scripture, was confronted with the reality of his call to suffer in Isaiah Chapter 6. When God called him to leadership, He told Isaiah he would not be successful by any worldly measurement. The people would not listen, and it would eventually bring them to their own ruin. In contrast to Isaiah’s obedience, many church leaders today want the glory without the suffering. Lencioni’s section calls the reader back to a biblical principle of perseverance. The mission itself demands complete self-subjugation (74). While this reader does not agree that in leading, Christians are “ultimately working for salvation,” Philippians 2:12 teaches the biblical principle of working out one’s salvation with fear and trembling before God; this agrees with the writer’s call to perseverance in Christian leadership (77). “Who am I really serving?” is Lencioni’s other convicting question to Christian leaders (72). While secular business owners and leaders serve a temporary cause, mission, or company, Christians serve the eternal God of the Ages. Graceful endurance of any amount of difficulty is nothing but an honor to the Christian leader who is serving the kingdom cause of God. As President Abraham Lincoln once said, “Let us not pray that God is on our side, but that we are on His.” Perseverance in Christian leadership is essential, especially when “Challenging the Process.”

            Overall, Christian Reflections on The Leadership Challenge is a welcomed challenge to the status quo of contemporary Christian leadership. The contributing authors bring their own proven track records into its pages, and their insights and reflections are valuable for any Christian who would answer the call to leadership in any context. Pastors and church leaders especially will gain significant insight from its pages. However, “the Five Practices are available to anyone . . . who accepts the leadership challenge” (7, italics added).

Grace and Peace,

Tony

Posted in church, leadership, life, relationships | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“Immovable” by Tim Riordan

I am honored to have Dr. Tim Riordan as a “guest blogger” today. Dr. Riordan serves as pastor of SonRise Baptist Church in Newnan, Georgia (www.sonrisebaptist.org), and has written a new book entitled Immovable, Standing Firm in the Last Days. I have had the privilege of reading a few chapters already, and am anticipating reading the work entirely as my copy is on the way. Take a minute to read Dr. Riordan’s guest post today and consider his charge to stand firm in your faith in the days ahead.

———————-

Fiinal_Front

What is going on in the world? This question seems to be on the minds of many people today as we consider world events. Some people face these times of uncertainty with great fear and dread while others engage these times with wonder and expectation. For those of us who are Christians, there is another question on our minds: “Do world events have anything to do with Bible prophecy and the return of Jesus?” While God is clear in His Word that no one knows the time or day when Jesus will return (Matthew 24:36), He also tells us in the same passage to “keep watch.” He gave us specific prophecies in the Bible related to world events telling us these would be indicators that His return was near, and He stated that these anticipated happenings would grow in increasing intensity: “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs” (Matthew 24:8). The miracle of birth begins slowly, maybe even weeks before the actual delivery. Early contractions are so insignificant that many young mothers may not even notice them. As the prophecies of Matthew 24 begin to be fulfilled, they will start small and grow in significance. There is no doubt that we are seeing a growth in intensity of world turmoil, and some of these specific prophecies are becoming more pronounced with every passing day. If we are living in the last days, what does this mean for the Church? What does it mean for you and your family? It is because of my burden for the Church and my belief that we could be facing very challenging days in the near future, I wrote my new book, Immovable: Standing Firm in the Last Days. I believe that God has given Christians equipment, or armor, to help us endure the evil days leading up to Christ’s return and to bear fruit during a time of unparalleled opportunity. Ephesians 6:13 says, “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” I shared these thoughts about this verse in my book: “While ‘the day of evil’ can refer to a time of intense temptation or spiritual conflict that can come at any point in any Christian’s life, it seems that God may be calling us to think about THE day of evil. Is it possible that this passage is calling Christians approaching the last days to prepare for battle by putting on spiritual armor?” With that question going through my mind, I began studying Bible prophecy about the last days comparing it to the teaching of the spiritual armor of Ephesians 6. The connection was significant, and I believe there are important implications relating the spiritual armor for the last generation before the return of Christ. These implications are not only important for us, but also for our children and grandchildren. I encourage you to consider our times and the clear teaching of Scripture. Study Bible prophecy with an eye on the evening news and consider how the spiritual armor of Ephesians 6 will help you prepare for what is to come. What do you need to do to put on the spiritual armor of God so you will stand firm in the last days? Being immovable is really not an option for the Church. The world is desperate to see strong, healthy believers standing firm in the last days. When the winds of heresy and deception blow, will you be immovable holding firmly to the truth of God? The only way you or I will stand firm is if we put on the armor of God and allow the immovable Lord Jesus Christ to live victoriously through us.

Dr. Tim Riordan is the author of Songs from the Heart: Meeting with God in the Psalms and his newest book Immovable: Standing Firm in the Last Days. For more information on his books or ministry, visit his website at www.timriordan.me.

Grace and Peace, Tony

Posted in church, life, worldview | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

VBS Matters

ABCers are working long hours right now in preparation for Agency D3 Vacation Bible School (VBS), July 7-11 this year. But with so much work, and so many resources devoted to this one-week program for kids, is it all really worth it? Allow me to offer 5 reasons VBS is one of our most valuable ministry efforts each year…

20140628-082734-30454295.jpg

1. The Great Commission. On average, 70,000-80,000 children and adults enter a personal relationship with Jesus Christ each year because of Vacation Bible Schools. We have seen so many in our own church receive Christ during VBS week, and many more who have come to salvation by a residual effect of this week-long ministry. Many ABCers in our pews week by week were saved during a VBS at some church, somewhere. Taking the Gospel to lost people in a way that connects with them is our first priority as a church. And VBS is a very effective tool toward that end.

2. Church unity and volunteer ministry. No other week during the year will see such a large number, and wide spectrum of ABCers volunteering together toward a common goal. Old and young come together during VBS every year to be the hands and feet of Jesus. This week promotes unity and common ministry like no other week during the year.

3. Discipleship. Children who are already saved, and those who are very young are saturated with biblical truth every day for a week, and go home singing Scripture-songs they will remember for decades to come. Talk about “Hiding God’s Word in their hearts” (Ps. 119:11) …

4. Outreach. Kingdom connections are made, not only with kids, but with parents, and other workers. Every year at VBS, workers make meaningful connections with the unchurched in our own community because they are actually coming in our doors – not just the kids, but their parents and grandparents too! How often does that happen?

5. Leaders are born. One of the major impending crises in established churches today is the constant need for Godly, biblical leaders to rise up from within. Come to ABC’s VBS this year and you’ll see scores of “everyday people” developing/practicing teaching, ministry, shepherding, administration, and many other forms of leadership skills. It would be interesting to know what percentage of Sunday School and Bible Study teachers today were active participants in VBS’s when they were a child, and when they were first developing leadership abilities. I am willing to bet the number would be astronomical.

—————————

I hope this year you’ll look for the ministry behind the work, asking God to open your eyes to the countless benefits and blessings that VBS will bring to Antioch Baptist Church. I have to get up and get moving now. I’ve got work to do! I’m preparing to “Discover, Decide, and Defend” the truth of God’s Word this year in VBS! Hope I’ll see you here!

Grace and Peace,
Tony

Posted in ABC, church, evangelism, fellowship, Great Commission, Vacation Bible School (VBS) | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

SBC 2014

A few thoughts from the SBC 2014 Annual Meeting:

1. I’m so thankful for Fred Luter’s leadership over the past two years. Rev. Luter has served the SBC with passion and conviction. He lead us from his heart, and he served us selflessly. His tenure will be recorded in our history for so much more than racial reconciliation (although I am very thankful for this, too). He is a strong leader whose love for God is contagious and infectious. I’m thankful for him. Ronnie Floyd will be a wonderful president in the year(s?) to come. But our convention will never forget the humble Christlike steadfastness of this man who has stolen all of our hearts, Dr. Fred Luter.

2. Haters gonna hate. Blogs, Twitter, and Facebook philosophers have ruffled the good spirit of unity this week with their versions of discontented input. Many of them were not even present, and their speculative opinions were based on a glance at the program, and possibly 1/3 viewing of the convention’s happenings online. What I saw was a multicultural, multigenerational community of faith crying out to God for repentance, restoration, and revival… And learning from each other what brotherly love and Christian mission are all about. For some reason, the antiestablishment musings of postmodern America infiltrate the denomination, sometimes from the unlikeliest of places. I agree with CEO Frank Paige – show me a more effective program/partnership to reach the nations for Christ. Splitting hairs over styles of music, people on the platform, and other menial issues does not encourage unity, and certainly does not serve the purpose of edification. But what can I say?… Haters gonna hate. :) The world will know we are Jesus’ disciples by our love for one another. I often pray that we represent Christ in a worthy manner as we publicly interact with (or interact about) one another in our denomination.

3. The torch burns brightly as it passes from one generation to the next. With every passing year, the faces on the stage get younger (or maybe I’m just getting older). But Vanessa and I were struck with the large number of young pastors and church staff members who were present and active this week both on the stage and in the hallways. And the good news is… although the faces are getting younger, biblical inerrancy and doctrinal purity are clearly preserved and championed. While other denominations fight over homosexuality, abortion, leadership scandals, and the nature of salvation, old and young in the SBC unify around strong biblical conviction. Each generation will have to fight their own battles. And I thank God for leaders who have paved the way to a solid foundation, scripturally. I pray our devotion to biblical inerrancy and doctrinal purity remains as steadfast through the coming years as I saw of it this week.

4. God is still using the SBC mightily for His kingdom purposes. Reports from NAMB, IMB, seminaries, and the ERLC demonstrate the global impact the SBC is still making for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Though it is a struggle, and though our leaders call us back to this purpose every year, many of our pastors and churches are keeping the main thing, the main thing. Declining baptism numbers? Yes. And may God stir our hearts to reach more and more. But praise be to Him alone, that the life-saving, eternity-changing truth of the gospel is still the main thing for the SBC.

I am a Christian by God’s grace, and Southern Baptist by conviction. And after this week in Baltimore, MD, I am more aware of God’s great grace and more firm in my Spirit-lead convictions. Thank you to the many SBC workers, volunteers, committee members, and convention leaders who work tirelessly for the glory of our great God.

Grace and Peace,
Tony

Posted in Great Commission, revival, SBC, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Nope. Can’t Do It. Impossible.

Acts 3:11-4:20 is such an inspiring passage of Scripture. Acts 4:20 sums up, for me, what I hope is the resounding testimony from my lips until the day I die.

 “We are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

“Unable.” Incapable. Powerless and helpless against the life-giving gospel message flowing from my mouth. Stone me. Shoot me. Hang me. Crucify me. I am “unable” to stop speaking about what I’ve seen and heard. Christian, how magnificent is the work you have seen God do in your life?! Is it not overwhelming?! Does it not capture your soul and overflow from the depths of your heart?!

Evangelism starts here. It begins as the overflow of a redeemed soul… unable to stop speaking about the grace that wrought life from a stone-cold corpse of a man. Incapable of muting the praises of Almighty God that flow from the lips of a sinner saved by grace. Powerless against the outward flow of an inward change that reached down into the pits of Hell and scandalously snatched my unworthy soul from its condemning grip.

Stop speaking about Jesus? Stop sharing what He’s done for me? Stop proclaiming the good news of salvation for all who would call on His name and come to Him in repentance and faith?

Nope. Can’t do it. Impossible.

 

Grace and Peace,

Tony

Posted in evangelism | Leave a comment