Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Letter to IBC on the 60th Anniversary

Following is a letter I wrote to IBC for inclusion in the 60th Anniversary book back in 2006. As I ran across it today, I was reminded of how the challenges I set forth then are still valid today! So, I post here for the benefit our church members:

Dear Church Family and Friends of Immanuel,

This, like every other day we live, is the “day that the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). Today I rejoice and am glad that God has opened the door of opportunity for me to serve this wonderful church as pastor. I rejoice with you on sixty great years of history.
A church has a responsibility to cherish the memories of bygone days. These past sixty years are full of spiritual markers that have been erected to mark significant moments when God worked among us in powerful ways. We rejoice as we remember, as Paul says in Philippians 1:3-5: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.” Yet, please notice that his statement does not end there. This reminiscence of the past is a preface to his assertion of rock-solid confidence in the power of God to accomplish His purposes in the future: “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Sixty years ago, God began a great work in Immanuel, but He has not finished yet. This is why the writer of Ecclesiastes said, “Do not say, ‘Why is it that the former days were better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this” (Ecclesiastes 7:10). I do not believe that God called me here to be a curator of a museum where the focus is on the past, but rather to be a part of all that He intends to do through us in the future.
What will it take for Immanuel Baptist Church to thrive in the future? It will not depend on the charisma of the pastor, the impressiveness of the facilities, the trendiness of the music, the complexity of the programs, or the busyness of the schedule. It will depend on the wholehearted devotion of every member of this church, relying solely on the power of God, seeking only the glory of God, and serving faithfully in the giftedness God has bestowed by His grace on every one of us. There must be no spectators; we must all be participants. There is a community around us in which God deserves to hear His name praised in the mouth of every individual and under the roof of every home. He has chosen only one method to accomplish that: you and I must, by the lives we live and the words we speak, demonstrate the glory of God to them, and invite them to the Cross of Jesus Christ.

So, on this day of celebration we are faced with a tremendous challenge as well. We must appreciate the past without dwelling in it, and reach into the future without abandoning the foundation stones that were set in place by our predecessors here. May our prayer together be, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21). May we find all our satisfaction in Him, and may His glory be displayed through us.

Until He Comes,

Pastor Russ Reaves

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The SBC -- My Report to Immanuel

What follows is my July newsletter article for the Immanuel Baptist Church "Messenger," our monthly newsletter. In it, I tried to cover the big picture of my take on the SBC that was held in Louisville, Kentucky this past week. Because of space limitations, I could not go into much detail. This is more an initial personal reflection. I hope to comment more thoroughly in coming days here on the blog.

Dear Church Family,

I have just returned from the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in Louisville. It is always a great week of fellowship, worship, edification, and being a part of the largest church business meeting in the world. With over 8,700 messengers registered, this was one of the larger conventions in recent years. As expected, Pastor Johnny Hunt of Woodstock, GA, will remain our president for the upcoming year, and I believe his leadership in the SBC has been overwhelmingly positive. He has demonstrated what it means to be a bridge-builder, trying to bring the various streams of life in the SBC together in a Christ-honoring, commission-furthering consensus.

The big news out of this year's convention is the launching of a Great Commission Resurgence Taskforce. This team will work for the next twelve months to bring a report back to the SBC next June on how we can work more faithfully and effectively together in advancing the cause of Christ worldwide. While that may seem obvious to some, there is a dynamic at work in SBC life that makes this step necessary in my opinion. For many years, the SBC has been a large and impersonal machine. Though there are many avenues of involvement, those paths are often hidden by layers of red tape. Older generations of SBC leaders have been content with the red tape, seeing it as a "necessary evil" when it comes to dealing with over 44,000 churches and millions of Cooperative Program dollars. A younger generation is on the scene now which sees the red tape as a hindrance to missional involvement and activity. Some common questions asked by younger SBC leaders are, "Why do state conventions keep more CP money than they forward on to our mission boards and seminaries?" and "Do we still need to have two separate mission boards (International and North American)?" The changes in our world are forcing Southern Baptists to look long and hard at whether or not we can do business as usual, or if this may be the time to take radical risks for the sake of the Gospel.

As a 35 year old pastor, I find myself swept into the camp of the younger leaders. Yet, having been involved in Baptist life for 15 years (attending 12 consecutive SBC's), I also relate to what the older voices are saying. The SBC has come too far at too great a cost to sacrifice ground on the whims of youthful zeal. Yet the status quo is becoming stagnant, and present realities must be addressed. I, for one, hope that the Taskforce will bring back a positive, practical, and powerful recommendation next June that will infuse new life into our denomination.

The best thing about being Southern Baptist is that anyone and everyone has a voice. The worst thing about being Southern Baptist is that anyone and everyone has a voice. This week, we saw the SBC at its best and at its worst. Rhetoric can become fiery and hurtful, differing viewpoints can be insensitively caricatured, and personal attacks can be unfairly launched. As long as I believe the ship is sailing in the right direction, however, though it is moving slow, I can stay on board. I am not a Southern Baptist because I was raised to be one. I chose to be Southern Baptist because we have the most biblically consistent confession of faith of any denomination in America, and more effectively engage in the task of reaching the unreached peoples of the world than any other mission force. We are not perfect, but so long as we stand on the ground of biblical authority and missional priority, those two being inseperably joined, I am convinced that God will continue blessing the work of the SBC. Thank you for sending me as your messenger to the Convention. I hope to share more thoughts about it in the future on my blog.

Pastor Russ

Friday, June 26, 2009

Ephesians 1:13-14 -- The Blessing of Spirit's Seal (Audio)

In the final message on the section concerning the spiritual blessings God has given to us in Christ, we examine Eph 1:13-14, the Blessing of the Spirit's Seal. Click to stream, right-click to download here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Blessing of Being His (Eph 1:11-12)

Paul said "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly place in Christ." The fourth of these blessings listed in Ephesians 1 is that incredible blessing of simply being God's own possession ... the blessing of being His.

Audio of this message is available here.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Blessing of Revelation (Eph 1:9-10)

In this fourth installment in the series on Ephesians, we look at the blessing of revelation, that God has "made known to us the mystery of His will."

Click to stream, right click to download.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Audio: Ephesians 1:7-8, The Blessing of Redemption

Paul said that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. One of those blessings is redemption.

Click here to stream, right-click to download.