I am excited to announce that I will nominate Rev. J. Allen Murray to be Vice-President of the 2021 North Carolina Pastors’ Conference when NC Baptist gather in Greensboro next week for our annual convention. Allen is the pastor of Centerville Baptist Church in Kelly, NC and has served churches in Eastern and Western, NC. He and his wife, Hope, have two great children. He has studied at Fruitland Baptist Bible College and the College at Southeastern. Allen is passionate about our pastors here in North Carolina and will be a great asset to our Pastors’ Conference President in crafting a conference that will encourage and challenge pastors from across North Carolina in 2021.
As my wife and I were shopping at Walmart, I noticed the diversity in the people around me. People with many shades of melanin. People from all around the world. People with heritages different from my own. As I observed them, my heart sank thinking of the tragedy at the Walmart in El Paso just two days before. Another community retail center with people from many parts of the world. A store full of people, shopping and enjoying their day, terrorized by hate.
It is simple to blame an act of terror that claimed more than 20 lives in Texas on political ideologies, video game violence, firearm availability, healthcare access, or even the hatred inside the heart of the murderous terrorist that carried out this atrocity. The answer, spiritually speaking, runs much deeper.
These things happen because Hell hates Heaven. Hell hates that when I look around me and see people “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9), I think about Heaven. My heart rejoices knowing that God loves and redeems people from every skin tone and language group—Hell shutters at the prospect.
I find great comfort knowing that no matter what Hell unleashes on us—no matter what wickedness brings ugly terror—Heaven will look a lot like Walmart. No bigotry or hate or racism can change Heaven. Hell cannot prevail. Hell cannot overcome. The Gospel of Christ will transform the hearts of people from every tribe and language and people and nation. People from every race will comprise the Kingdom of Christ. Hate can rage and Hell can war, but they do so in desperation, not in victory. When Christ’s Kingdom is complete, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). This is the day I long for. This is the day I thought about as I strolled through Walmart.
A friend and I were recently having a discussion about church fads and the fact so many in established churches are often dissatisfied with their “experience.” We agreed that it all comes down to one question, “Is Jesus enough?” If He is, you will be content no matter the circumstances. If He is not enough, nothing you add to Him will ever satisfy. Is He enough or do you seek something more than Christ?
2019 has arrived. It came in, as most do, with fireworks and celebrations. Many of us took the first day of the year off and spent time with family and friends. However, as Christians, the work never ceases—Kingdom work does not stop for holidays. I found myself eager to return to my office on the second day of the year and jump back in to the work to be done. A new year always provides new opportunities and new challenges.
Therefore, I want to challenge each of you, especially young pastors and church leaders to consider serving as a part of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina as we enter a new year. NC Baptists fulfill this process through the nomination process. According to the BSCNC website: Recommendations are sought each year for individuals to serve on the convention’s board of directors, boards of the convention’s agencies and institutions, and convention committees. Recommendations of North Carolina Baptists for places of service and leadership in denominational work are essential for ongoing missions, ministries and evangelistic endeavors.
There is important work being done every day through the ministries of the BSCNC. Churches are being planted, hearts are being transformed, lost people are hearing the Gospel of Christ. Our state convention is guided by those who give of their time to serve on boards and committees of our convention. We consistently need new leaders from all over North Carolina to serve in these positions and provide direction and insight from their churches to our state convention.
Joining the BSCNC Board of Directors was formative for me eight years ago. I did not understand the intricacies of our convention’s ministries. I had no idea how far reaching were the activities of the BSCNC. I had only been in ministry for a few years and witnessed the work of the convention from afar. However, my time on the Board of Directors provided valuable insight that has helped me as I lead my church. I see the work that is being done, from right here in my community to the ends of the earth.
The seventh pillar of the BSCNC’s Seven Pillars for Ministry is to Engage young church leaders. Our convention is committed to engaging younger leaders in the ministries going on around North Carolina and throughout the world. This is a commitment that I both appreciate and have benefited from. I am thankful that I have been able to be involved with convention for over a decade now, and it all started when someone took the time to nominate me to serve. Who will you nominate to serve with the BSCNC? Will you serve when asked? Let’s resolve in 2019 to commit ourselves to the work of the ministry, both in our local church, and wherever else the Lord leads up.
This article recently appeared in the Hickory Daily Record, the Taylorsville Times, and at Just Ministry.
I arrived a few minutes before my friend for our weekly breakfast at a local greasy spoon. After ordering my usual tea, I noticed the conversation of the two older gentlemen seated across the room. They were brashly discussing the issues of the day, including the migrant caravan meandering its way from Central America toward the US border with Mexico; unsurprisingly, the two blue collar philosophers had a solution. To my horror and disgust, the remedy was to “lob some bombs into the crowd.” By applying the nomenclature of “invaders” to the group traveling toward our southern border, these gentlemen felt no shame in calling for the migrants’ untimely and brutal demise.
This eavesdropped conversation took place within the context of a week where two former presidents were sent packages with explosive materials, eleven innocent worshipers were gunned down in their synagogue by a bigoted, anti-Semitic madman, and two African Americans were executed in Louisville because of the color of their skin.
With that much hate on display over the last week, my fellow diners intimated that executing a few citizens of Central America is a joking matter for the first meal of the day (I hope they were joking).
What concerns me more than the flippant ignorance on display as I sipped my tea is the sobering reality that I have heard expressions not substantially dissimilar uttered by those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. This is a scandal; a scandal because the Christian faith is built on the bedrock principle that all people are created in the image of God. Not some people. Not just Christian people. All people, everywhere, at all times, are created by God and in His image. Our Lord sent His Son to die for all those created in His image—black and Jew, Latino and white, Democrat and Republican, and even two misguided greasy spoon patrons.
God sent His Son to reconcile the broken relationship sin created between God and those created in His image. He did so because He loves the world (John 3:16) and calls on His followers to love Him, and as an extension, to love their neighbor as they love themselves (Mark 12:30-31).
This must be our commitment as believers; we must rise above hate. We must not allow ideologies—political or cultural—to dictate our worldview. Our worldview is rooted in God’s Word, driven by His calling to make disciples of all nations, and reflected in our love for our neighbors.
When politicians discourage civility, we reject their call. When celebrities attempt to define morality, we rest in the truth revealed in Scripture. When leaders act like children, we pray for them—praying that they lead well (1 Timothy 2:1-2). When pundits seek to divide, we are quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; knowing that the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20).
Brothers and Sisters, we do these things because our calling is not of this world. The King of Glory is above political parties and cultural rhetoric. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords in every political era. He will still reside on His throne when everything we have built lies in rubble. Friends, our calling in Christ is an eternal calling make disciples of all people. Let us not damage the effectiveness of that calling by sacrificing our witness on the altar of the temporal.