October 2021 Mind of the Missionary

October is traditionally “Pastor Appreciation Month”. Many churches celebrate this month honoring their pastors and staff while others celebrate it some other time of the year. Unfortunately, there are many churches who do not recognize their pastors and staff at all. As a former church planter/pastor, I cherished the times in when our churches showed kindness towards Claren and me. It made us feel appreciated for the work that God called us to do.

Pastoral ministry is not like any other vocation because most of what a pastor does is not seen publicly. Everyone knows that he only works only one day a week, maybe two if there’s a Wednesday night prayer meeting. However, a faithful pastor does so much more. He visits; he calls, he texts; he emails; he preaches; he teaches, he prays for the flock; he travels to where members and non-members are; and I could go on.

However, COVID has made the pastors’ task much more stressful and different. Each one has had to work with church leadership to decide whether or not to meet, how often, and when to reopen. The pastor has not been able to visit in the hospitals and nursing and private homes as is his custom. Special events like revivals, homecomings, VBS, and other gatherings have been postponed or rescheduled. Honestly, it’s been a super stressful time for our pastors.

As Pickens Baptist Association churches, take time this year to remember and appreciate your pastors. Here are just a few ways that you can celebrate them:

  • Pray for them. It sounds easy, but prayer is hard work. Pray for his family, his ministry, and his health. Pastoral Ministry is one of the most stressful jobs in the world. Look it up!
  • Encourage them. Write him a card; send him a text or an email; tell him face-to-face that you appreciate him and his ministry.
  • Stand by his family. Most pastors leave churches and the ministry because of the treatment of their families. If a pastor’s wife and/or children are not loved and appreciated why would a pastor want to stay?
  • Recognize your pastor and his family in October or some other time during the year. Make them feel special because they are special. They are YOUR pastoral family!
  • Give the pastor a special gift. It doesn’t have to be a financial gift. It could be a date night, a baby-sitting night, a special dinner, but something that lets them know that they are a blessing to your church.   These are just a few ideas. Be creative and think of ways to remember your pastor and the ways that he serves your church. As Paul said, “…esteem very highly in love….” 

    Until Next Month,

    Bro. Lyle

September 2021 Mind of the Missionary

“…and so I have fully proclaimed the Gospel of Christ. It has always been my ambition to preach the Gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” (Romans 15:19b-20)

I believe this is one of many mission statements by Paul. It expresses how he did ministry. He was not afraid to go as God led him with the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. I understand what he is saying because I Love Missions! I don’t just enjoy going on mission trips, but I love being involved and living missions.

I remember that day in Connecticut when the Holy Spirit spoke to me as I was reading Isaiah 6. As I came across verse 8, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord say, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ and I said, ‘Here I am. Send Me!’”  My life changed forever. I had no idea where I was going, or what I’d be doing. I just knew God called me to missions. Fortunately, God led me to Claren who loved missions as much as I. It has definitely made His call easier to fulfill.

Every September is the emphasis of the Myers/Mallory State Missions offering for Church Planting, Church Revitalization, WMU, Partnership Missions, and Disaster Relief. These monies are used to strengthen the work of these areas within the state of Alabama. This year’s goal is $1.2 million dollars. The Pickens Baptist Association gave over $11,000 dollars last year. That’s good, but I sense that all of us can do better.

The namesakes of our Alabama State Missions Offering are Kathleen Mallory and Martha Myers. Kathleen Mallory felt God calling her to promote missions education through the Alabama and National WMU. In 1909, Kathleen became Alabama WMU’s Secretary/Treasurer. While in 1912, she became the National WMU Secretary/Treasurer for 36 years. She wrote that “substance and self” were all a Christian had to give and that these gifts should be “fragrant with self-denial”.

Dr. Martha Myers started her missions career during her third year of medical school. She participated in a Foreign Mission Board (IMB) program which allowed her to spend two months doing medical work at Jibla Baptist Hospital in Yemen. This experience changed the course of her life. She quickly finished her senior year of medical school, internship, and residency through the University of South Alabama. Then, Dr. Martha attended seminary classes and began learning Arabic. Eventually, she was appointed by the Foreign Mission Board to serve as a medical doctor in Yemen. She served sacrificially there for 25 years. Sadly, her life ended on December 30, 2002 when she and two other American missionaries were murdered by a member of an al-Qaida cell. One of her most memorable statements was, “Things don’t matter, but people do.”

Remember the lives of these two ladies as you pray and seek how much your congregation’s goal will be this year. Don’t ever say, “We can’t do that!” With God, all things are possible. (Matthew 19.26)

 

Until Next Month,

Bro. Lyle

August 2021 Mind of the Missionary

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and an eyewitness of the sufferings of Christ,..”  (I Peter 5:1)

A couple of months ago, I knew that I could not attend this year’s Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville due to a previous ministry commitment, but I did want an eyewitness account of what happened. So, I spoke with Bro. Robert Heard to share his perspectives. I hope his words will give some comfort and encouragement to you as to the direction and new leadership of Southern Baptist life.

My Perspective of the 2021

Southern Baptist Convention

Before going to this year’s Southern Baptist Convention, I was a little apprehensive about what would happen and what the future would hold for our denomination.  The social media posts by many pastors and leaders in the convention were very negative.  The news reports painted a bleak picture of racial tension, sex abuse cover-ups, and partisan bickering that could lead to the end of the Southern Baptist Convention as we know it.  From all I had read, I truly believed and still do that this was one of if not the most important conventions since the conservative resurgence in 1979.  I described it to many of my friends and colleagues as a watershed moment.

The false narratives spun by many in the main stream media tell of boisterous debates, “liberal” policy statements, and a major rift in the convention.  That is not at all what I encountered.  What I experienced was being part of over 15,000 Southern Baptists kneeling in prayer before our Heavenly Father to plead for Him to unify us around the cause of evangelism and discipleship.  I saw the convention and the convention leadership make several clear and unambiguous statements about the need to end sexual abuse and racial discrimination.  I heard calls for unity, love, cooperation, and gospel-centeredness.

The convention passed many important motions and resolutions.  One of the most important was the adoption of a vision statement calling for us as Southern Baptists to “to reach every person for Christ in every town, every city, every state, and every nation” before the year 2025.  This vision calls for us to increase missionaries, churches, leaders, and giving to see the Great Commission accomplished. The convention took a strong stand against abortion – what many have stated is the most pro-life statement in the history of our convention.  Steps were taken to provide more transparency in how we deal with sex abuse allegations among our churches.

Many have pointed out in their social media reporting that the Southern Baptist Convention consists largely of predominately white congregations.  They failed to report that the worship team leading us to God’s throne each session consisted of people from multiple ethnic origins.  Three out of the four men nominated for convention president were nominated by minority individuals (two by black men and one by a woman of Asian descent).  I saw people of varied ethnic backgrounds praying for each other, worshipping side by side, and displaying harmony that is not often seen in our world today.

I saw the gospel and missions put at the very center of all that Southern Baptists focused on during the meetings…and that’s the way it should be.  I had the privilege to witness sixty-four missionaries commissioned to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.  The messengers voted to increase our missionaries by a net of 500 over the next five years.  Evangelism was emphasized as was discipleship.

I came away encouraged and excited about the future of the Southern Baptist Convention.  It is my hope and prayer that the calls for unity, love and cooperation will be heeded, and we will be able to fulfill our Lord’s command to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).  This task can only be achieved if we work together and unify around the essentials that unite us as Southern Baptists – the gospel, missions, discipleship and cooperation through the Cooperative Program.  If we do this, then great days are ahead.

July 2021 Mind of the Missionary

“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”  (Galatians 5:13)

Our nation is on the verge of celebrating its 245th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, and it appears as though we have retreated from its original purpose to declare ourselves an independent country with no need of God. With all the entanglements in which we find ourselves these days (i.e. politically, economically and socially), we do not have a clear understanding or a clear direction.

I am not a sailor.  But I remember while living in Uruguay, the early navigators would seek out the Southern Cross to lead them in the right direction. Well, it appears as though, our nation both Christian and non-Christian must return once again to the liberty that only Christ can offer us. It is only through Him that we can have true liberty and freedom. 

Paul writes that we “have been called unto liberty”. However, we have used our liberty and freedom as an excuse to “sow our wild oats”, “do whatever we want to do”,  and “live however we want to live” without regard to others. This is not the way life should be, but our independence has led us down a path of arrogance, self-indulgence and short-sightedness. In turn, this lifestyle is not making us free, but it is enslaving us more and more to our own sinfulness. Sadly enough, our Christian community is not immune to this slavery.

Paul shows both Christian and non-Christian a better way…”use liberty for an occasion to serve one another by love”. Of course, this is a self-less love, an unconditional love which only comes through a relationship in Christ Jesus. It is through this relationship with Christ that the believer should not seek his own desires, his own ambitions, and his own freedom, but should serve others by loving them. The believer now seeks the best for his family, his friends, his coworkers, his neighbors, and yes, even his enemies. 

Christ’s death on the Cross made this type of love possible. Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) In other words, there are no more entanglements; there is no more enslavement; there is no longer a lack of clarity of understanding and direction. He, the Son, has set us free to serve others by His love.

On this Independence Day, remember not only that our liberty has been bought with the price of soldiers giving their lives for ours, but also remember the price that Jesus Christ paid for us to be free to serve others by His love.

 

Until Next Month,

Bro. Lyle

June 2021 Mind of the Missionary

 “’I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters’, says the Lord Almighty.”

(II Corinthians 6:18)

Honestly, I never had really celebrated Father’s Day until I began attending and serving in local churches. Since my earthly father was not present in my life very much, I didn’t understand the importance of celebrating Father’s Day. As I’ve gotten older, I realize that this area of my life was affected greatly. I did not appreciate the role that fathers have in families and society. Unfortunately, our present culture is suffering from the same problem.

Many who have experienced my situation or have been abused by their fathers have disregarded the role of fatherhood. I do not feel that way. As a believer in Christ at the age of 13, God became my Father. For some reason, I never blamed God nor did I heap all of my negative feelings on Him. I understood that there was a difference between my earthly father and my heavenly Father. I’d like to share some of those distinctions with you.

First of all, “God so loved the world”. No matter how much I didn’t feel my earthly father’s love for me, I knew with all my being that God loved me. I can’t explain it. I can’t show it to you. Maybe, I can’t physically prove it, but I know that God loves me. It’s obvious that He loves me through the sending of His Son, Jesus, to die for my sins and giving me a new and abundant life. However, God the Father loves me for who I am and expects me to live for Him. It is not enough that He loves me for who I am, but He wants the best life for me.

Next, God saw me when I was a long way off, was filled with compassion for me, ran to me, and restored me. God sought me out. It’s great to know that our heavenly Father comes looking for us. Jesus said of Himself, “I have come to seek and to save that which was lost”. I was in that condition. I was abandoned by me earthly father, and yet, God ran to me and restored me. He had compassion for me. He saw my condition and did not hesitate to find me. WOW! That was different.

I could say more, but I’ll end with this distinction. God took away my worries about my needs. My father’s absence caused our family to suffer economically, physically, and psychologically. It took me years to forgive my earthly father for his actions, but God the Father showed me that by “seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness” that all the needs of my life would be met. God was and is faithful. He has been my Father when I was fatherless.

During this Father’s Day season, if your earthly father has been a failure or is not all you need him to be, remember that God the Father is trustworthy, dependable, and faithful to be your Father because we are his Children.

Until next month,

Bro. Lyle

May 2021 Mind of the Missionary

 Therefore  we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)

Isn’t this a great picture? The Russell and Dahlberg boys were recently baptized at Aliceville FBC after their decision for Christ and their public profession of faith. You can see the gleam and excitement in their eyes as they begin this new life in Him. It reminds me of my beginnings as a believer at 12 years old. I accepted Christ at our church’s annual youth revival. I didn’t necessarily understand much regarding this new faith, but I began to grow and walk in Him. I joined the afterschool Bible study, carried a small Bible with me everywhere, and even led a morning devotion in our home room before classes each day. Although we didn’t have a discipleship class as such in our youth group, we had younger Christian couples who guided and taught us how to live for Christ. All of these things helped me to grow in my understanding of this “walk in newness of life”.

What about you? Can you remember those early times of your new faith? Did you grow? Did you have a deep abiding love for Christ more than anything else? OR Have you lost your joy, your peace, and your love for Jesus? Has your “walk in newness of life” become your “walk in oldness of death”? Peter wrote, “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit’ and, ‘A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.’” (2 Peter 2:21 – 22)

These are difficult and harsh words written by Peter, but ones that are true. Watch and observe the life of someone who has walked away from his/her faith or has lost his/her passion for the Lord. There is an “oldness of death”. It is as if this person is living as a non-believer rather than a person being transformed by Christ. I have experienced it in my life, and thankfully, Christ kept calling me back to Him.

Recently, we’ve come through the Easter season and now we are moving toward Pentecost. The disciples found themselves in an “oldness of death” when Christ died, but they were made to “walk in newness of life” when they saw Him resurrected and even more so when they were filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit. May the presence of the Holy Spirit be renewed in us, and may these five boys continue to grow in their “walk in newness of life”.

 

Until Next Month,

Bro. Lyle

March 2021 Mind of the Missionary

“Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.”

(Proverbs 16:31)

Recently, a few of our Sr. Adults were recognized for their faithfulness of service in Pickens Baptist Association. The pictures on this page show some of those folks. They have been and continue being “good and faithful servants” to our Lord. Their faithful service started me thinking about this topic of being a senior adult. Although I may not consider myself one, I am by some who do the statistics. By others, I am not. Either way, I’m not a “spring chicken anymore”.

There are many phrases which are used to describe this age of life. Unfortunately, most of the terms used are derogatory like declining years, golden age, winter of life, retirement age, and elderly. These descriptions creep into the life of the local church and even into our own minds. We, senior adults, begin feeling useless or “past our prime”.  Seriously, who are the folks making those designations? Usually, some young person who hasn’t experienced life and doesn’t know what he or she is talking about.

Honestly, as I look at these people who were honored, they have endured and been constant, persistent, and stable in their Christian life. These are the proper words that we should use for those of us who are aging well.

God inspired King Solomon to write that “gray hair is a crown of splendor…attained in the way of righteousness”.  He observed that older people who walked in the way of the Lord gained a crown through their faithfulness to Him. Also, the Bible teaches that the seniors need to continue living out their lives to the full by training younger believers to learn from them. It is not a time of retirement. It is not a time to slow down. It is not a time “to put up one’s feet and rest.” There is still much to be done in our churches and our communities.

Just as these brothers and sisters of Pickens Baptist Association received recognition on earth we, seniors, are striving for a heavenly reward from our Lord Jesus Christ. In Pickens County, there are about 3000 experienced folks who must NOT stop, but must KEEP going forward. May we allow God to use us until our time here is finished!

Until next month,

Bro. Lyle

February 2021 Mind of the Missionary

“This is Love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  (I John 4:10)

At this time of celebrating love of relationships through Valentine’s Day, I believe we, as humans, leave God out of the equation. Recently, Claren and I watched a movie that featured the following song lyrics,

“Lord, we don’t need another meadow
There are cornfields and wheatfields enough to grow
There are sunbeams and moonbeams enough to shine
Oh listen, Lord, if you want to know

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of…”

 

Notice the words, “Oh listen, Lord, if you want to know”, as though God doesn’t know, as though He needs to be informed about the mess we’ve made of the world. It’s “love, sweet love” that will solve the problem. How arrogant was the composer of this song!

 

CS Lewis wrote, “What are you(we) asking God to do? To wipe out their(our) past sins and, at all costs, to give them(us) a fresh start, … But He has done so, on Calvary.” John clearly tell us that God loves us and has done everything necessary for us to experience His love through His Son, Jesus Christ. However, we continue seeking other ways to find this type of self-less love.

 

As you celebrate Valentine’s Day with your spouse, your special someone, and/or your family, don’t forget that it is only through God’s great love for us in Christ that we even know what love is.

January 2021 Mind of the Missionary

“Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”    (II Corinthians 5:17)

In 2021, everyone is desiring a fresh start and a new beginning. Usually, we want a fresh start after we’ve made a mess of a situation or as we begin a new chapter in our lives. Claren and I have started afresh several times. We’ve gone from Mobile to New Orleans to Central Pennsylvania to Costa Rica to Uruguay and now to Carrollton, Alabama. Each fresh start has had its own challenges and opportunities. However, as God has guided us through each of them, we’ve seen Him work.

The challenges and opportunities of 2020 have been difficult to see and understand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been tainted everything…work, school, family, friends, church, etc… There is nothing that hasn’t been affected. Now with the promise of a vaccine, some are hopeful while others are doubters.

In our focal passage, Paul’s experience with Christ gave him a new perspective about life and about himself. He could not remain the same person who watched Stephen being stoned and persecuting the Christian church. Paul knew that in Christ his old life was gone. Christ had made him a new creature, a new man. Is this not what Christ has done in each of us who are His followers? We are new men and women. We are not who we were before knowing Him.

This new relationship in Christ gives me hope because I see the world through His eyes and His perspective and not my own. If I were to dwell on how terrible things are now, then I wouldn’t want to continue in this life either. However, my life and my perspective has been transformed by seeing people, seeing situations, and seeing life from Christ’s way of thinking. Do we not understand that we have a new set of standards by which we are living?

As I start fresh the 2021 calendar year, I do so knowing that Christ is walking with me through these new challenges and opportunities because I am a new person in Him. As you begin 2021, may you see this new year from Christ’s perspective? If you do not know Christ, then He offers you that opportunity to accept Him and become a new creation. Desire a fresh start and a new beginning!

December 2020 Mind of the Missionary

Mind of the Missionary

 

December 2020

 

“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.” (Philippians 4.11)

 

 

As we begin the Christmas season(although many websites and stores started way before Halloween), the stress seems to build. Every commercial is tempting us to buy this or that. Even Hallmark has bought into the idea…there is that “perfect gift” for everyone. That’s just a lot of pressure. No wonder there’s so much depression and desiring for the Christmas season to end. Folks are trying to please family and friends with “the perfect gift”. Now, am I a Scrooge? NO!! But, there is a simpler way.

 

All of chapter 4 of Philippians is Paul’s plea for the Philippians to “stay true to the Lord” (v.1). Now, that’s a tough one to fulfill. However, Paul showed us that contentment in whatever situation we live is the secret to life. Of course, you can’t be content if you don’t know Christ, or if you’re caught up in the rat race of this world.

 

Envy is a powerful persuader. When you see what someone else has, it can be easy to desire what he has received. Envy even causes resentment of another person’s possessions, qualities, or life-style. For some, this envy may lead to actions which can put not only one’s life in danger  but also the life of one’s family and friends.

 

In this fourth chapter of Philippians, Paul states “Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all that He has done.”(4.6b)  Now, this brings contentment. It takes the worry, the fretting, and the running around out of our hands, and puts it in the hands of the One who can handle it much better than we can or ever will.

 

May your Christmas season be one of contentment and joy as you seek first the Lord and allow Him to meet your needs!

 

Until next month,

 

Bro. Lyle