As I mentioned in my blog for last week, my “call story” to ministry was published in a collection of other such stories designed to encourage churches and individuals in hearing and responding to God’s call. Edited by Barry Howard, former pastor of Brookwood Baptist and First Baptist, Pensacola, Florida, the book is available on Amazon, either in paperback or Kindle.
One of the more imperceptible changes in personal communications that have come about in recent years is the shift from voice calls to text messages. Some of us will still remember the mad dash that ensued whenever the telephone rang in your home. Nowadays, not many of us have “landlines” and most of us leave our cellphones on “silent mode.” Consequently, we rarely acknowledge voice calls so that if someone really wants to catch up with us, text messages are the contact of choice.
One of today’s great puzzles is how many of the people who live “in the land of the free and the home of the brave” can feel so repressed and constrained. How can that be? How can so many Americans feel so restrained, especially in light of how unless one is literally in prison or on probation, he or she is able to go and do pretty much whatever he or she wants? And yet, there are many today who feel anything but free.
If you were a child during the last part of the 20th century or you had children, then you are more than familiar with the name Fred Rogers, better known as Mr. Rogers, the star of the PBS television show, “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” With his cardigan sweater and his comfortable sneakers, Mr. Rogers regaled us children and adults with his puppets and music and excursions into the Land of Make Believe. But most of all, Mr. Rogers drew us into his neighborhood by receiving us “just the way we are.”
In the concluding verses of each New Testament epistle penned by the Apostle Paul he states his desire to revisit the churches he helped establish so that they might be inspired by his presence and encouraged by his teaching. Some churches Paul was able to get back to; others he did not. But the letters remind us of how much those churches meant to Paul, especially during his latter years when he found himself imprisoned for the sake of the Gospel.
Part of the heritage of Mountain Brook Baptist Church is the privilege God has given us to have been a training ground for some of the finest young ministers in Baptist life. Because our church is an example of strong faithfulness and spiritual health we have groomed many a young minister for effective ministry in congregations near and far. Without a doubt, creating a “culture of call” not only refers to those young persons who have grown up in MBBC; it also encompasses those whom we have invited to join us for a season, who having fulfilled God’s call to our church have moved on to other places to advance God’s Kingdom purposes in our world.
One of the best indications of emotional and spiritual health is our desire to make a difference in life. Regardless of one’s state or occupation, a life of significance is a most worthy ambition. Unfortunately, living in such fashion requires a person to take some risks. No one can achieve anything without moving out of his comfort zone or stretching herself in uncomfortable ways.
I wore flip flops and shorts to church last Sunday, something I haven’t done since leading youth retreats back in college. Judy and I attended church at the beach, a small, enthusiastic congregation formed some 20 years ago to offer a witness to the beach crowd that descends on Navarre every vacation season.
My sabbatical leave begins this coming Sunday. As I’ve written earlier, I see this opportunity as a “time out, time off, and time away.” My hope is that I’ll return more revigorated for the work that we have before us at MBBC. But while I’m away there are some things I’d ask you to do.
My sabbatical begins in a couple of weeks and I make no apologies for looking forward to the “time out, time off, and time away.” It’s almost as if my soul senses the approaching leave and I realize how I am more spiritually spent than I ever knew.