Who am I?
There’s been a sudden increase in the number of times my “About” article has been viewed in the days since the Southern Baptist Convention met in San Antonio. I really don’t know why. That article has been there, virtually unchanged, since the day I set up this blog sometime last fall. At first, there were a few hits and comments, but as time passed, it just sort of sat there, until this week. I figured the people who read my blog are pretty much regulars, mostly friends, family and fellow church members, with a few other bloggers who have linked me on the blogroll, and an occasional reader who wanders over after reading a comment I left somewhere else. So I was quite surprised to notice “About” had risen to the top of the articles list, along with my posts about the SBC in San Antonio. I added a few things that I thought might be helpful, and “About” still seems to be one of the more popular articles on the blog.
So let me tell you a little bit more.
I’m a Christian, a believer in the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross for my sin, and in his resurrection as victory over sin and death. My redemption secures my eternity with Christ in heaven, but it also makes me a citizen and a servant of the Kingdom here. I became a Christian shortly after my freshman year at Grand Canyon University. I had one of those experiences of walking the aisle as a child, at age six, and being baptized, but I didn’t really experience the true convicting power of the Holy Spirit, and a genuine salvation experience until I realized that it wasn’t about what I had done, but about what Christ had done. Like many, many kids in our churches, once I did that, I wanted to make my baptism at age six retroactive. I feared what my college buddies might think, but I wasn’t right about that, and following graduation from college, I was scripturally baptized as a believer.
I’m Southern Baptist by choice. In 1963, a small group of Christians endured a long list of difficulties to establish a Southern Baptist church in the small, rural community of St. David, Arizona. Mormon pioneer families from Utah settled St. David in the 1870’s and until the First Baptist Church obtained land and a building, and started a church, the only church in the community was Mormon. As it happened, my Mom heard about the first Sunday School being held there, and I was the first person enrolled in what was then the “Beginners” class. Before starting second grade, my parents moved to Benson, 7 miles away, with less of a Mormon influence in the school system. The small SBC congregation I attended there, about 50 people, had a very strong missions education program, which I also attended, virtually every Wednesday night with regularity, from the time I was in second grade until I graduated from high school.
During that period of time, our church had three pastors, all of whom were influential in helping me to decide to attend Grand Canyon University, which at the time was affiliated with the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention. My professors, and the people in the church I attended while I was a student there, led me to a deep appreciation of the cooperative missions ministry of the SBC. By the time I graduated from college, I’d served two summers with what was then the Home Mission Board as a student summer missionary, and once I got things straightened out about my baptism, I experienced a call to vocational ministry.
I like to think of myself as pretty typical, as far as Southern Baptist church staff members go, particularly among those who do not serve as pastors, if someone who is 6’5″ can be “typical”. I consider myself to be theologically conservative, I believe that the Bible is the written Word of God, fully and completely inspired, and is fully authoritative in all matters of faith and practice. I also believe I am called to be compassionate, empathetic, respectful of other people and gentle in my dealings with them. I believe the Holy Spirit baptizes us at salvation, a one time experience, but fills us on many occasions in response to our desire to be filled, our repentance, obedience and worship.
You won’t find me at very many convention meetings. In my Kingdom service, aside from two summers as a student missionary with NAMB (then it was the HMB), and a week of World Changers in the summer, I’ve never really ventured much beyond the associational level. I did serve a term as an officer of the SWBTS alumni chapter in Kentucky, but obviously that’s not a large chapter, and there were only four of us at the meeting on the day I was elected. I’m quite happy being where I am, the “occasional messenger,” the supporter in the background.
Denominational politics, and church politics for that matter, strike me as being inconsistent with a spiritual faith. Why do you have to direct things with human effort, if God is the one who is supposed to be in charge? In college, I observed several individuals who used their position in the ministerial association to develop relationships with professors in order to gain access to positions in the “better” churches upon graduation. I’d always been taught that God was responsible for those callings, and you’d get what he wanted you to have. Silly me. My first glimpse at the “system” led to some disillusionment on my part, since it seemed to work so well. Since that time, I’ve served under two pastors who were masters at string pulling and manipulating the system to get either what they wanted, or to benefit one of their friends or their children. There’ve been a couple of times when I’ve paid a price for not buying into the system.
By nature, I’m a peacemaker. I’m really uncomfortable in the middle of a debate, (ironically not quite so uncomfortable when I’m on one side or the other!) especially if I can see that the two sides aren’t really all that far apart. When the conservative resurgence began, I thought it was a good thing, and that it would bring about the reform of the entrenched bureaucratic system of the SBC, opening the doors for new people to serve in leadership and ending years of recycled trustee appointments. I’ve been disillusioned by that, too, and the politics of the system forced some of the former leaders of the SBC out on a limb much further than they ever really intended, or needed, to go, with no real way to get back. Their response was to create another system, which essentially operates exactly the same way, in order to redistribute a new set of titles to the same old people. What is accomplished for the benefit of the Kingdom through all of this? Yes, that’s a rhetorical question.
I hold no position of power or influence, and don’t want to, particularly if it involves pulling strings and working the system. I’m just a plain, simple church staff member who wants to see people come to know Christ as their savior, and find a place to serve in his Kingdom. I enjoy what I do. My convictions call me to be concerned about those who serve and minister in the various levels of Baptist life. I don’t think Southern Baptists have yet seen what God can use us to do if we’ll set aside our personal ambitions, personal kingdom building, and petty arguments and submit ourselves to his will. We can be in on what God wants to do with his church.
That’s who I am.