Taking a Day Off – The Importance of Sabbath-Keeping

Too busy to blog this morning, but I hope some of you will be able to keep the sabbath. Thanks to Meredith Holladay for this faithful summary of the workshop I led at the CBF General Assembly. I think there’s something here not only for ministers, but for everyone.

CBFblog

The following post is from Meredith Holladay, Associate Pastor for Spiritual Formation at First Baptist Church, Lawrence, Kansas. She wrote her dissertation at Baylor University on theology and popular music, and will gladly swap music recommendations. Though in Jawhawk territory, she’s originally from Louisville and can’t wait for Louisville basketball to start once again!

On Friday, June 28, Holladay attended the CBF General Assembly workshop led by Jim Somerville, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Richmond, Va., titled “Taking a Day Off – The Importance of Sabbath-Keeping in the Minister’s Life.” Below are Holladay’s reflections.

by Meredith HolladayMeredith Holladay

“You know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to hold the reservation. And that’s really the most important part of the reservation.” So goes a scene from Seinfeld, where Jerry is picking up a car, and, although he made a reservation for a specific car, the agency doesn’t…

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KOH2RVA: Day 293

Nancy Sehested2I’m back at my kitchen table this morning, having a cup of (really wonderful) coffee and getting ready to put tomorrow’s sermon into words, but before I do let me say a word about the annual meeting of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Greensboro, North Carolina, where I’ve been for the past few days.

On Wednesday night I attended the 30th anniversary celebration of Baptist Women in Ministry at First Baptist, Greensboro. One of the things I’ve appreciated about CBF from the beginning was its commitment to women, especially at a time when many who felt called to ordained ministry were being told they could not fulfill that calling within the Southern Baptist Convention. Nancy Hastings Sehested preached and started with a funny story about sitting on a plane beside a “chatty Texan” (she admitted that she, herself, is a chatty Texan, and that it takes one to know one). This Texan chatted on for some time before asking her what she did for a living. She said, “I’m a minister.” He said, “Really? What denomination?” “Baptist,” she said. He said, “I’m a Baptist, and my pastor tells me there aren’t any Baptist women ministers.” She said, “We’re in the witness protection program.”

We laughed out loud.

And then she said, “For thirty years that’s what Baptist Women in Ministry has been doing: protecting the witness of women.” And I turned to my daughter Catherine, who was there on the pew with me, just to make sure she heard that there was a place among Baptists where the gifts of women were not only acknowledged, but celebrated. Shortly after that Molly Brummett, a brilliant young seminary graduate whom Catherine has known all her life, received the Addie Davis preaching award.

Another reminder.

Not that Catherine will become a preacher. She’s getting ready to go off to graduate school in Aberdeen, Scotland, this fall to study anthropology and folklore. But as her father I have always wanted her to believe that she could do whatever she felt called to do, even if she felt called to ministry. I think she got that message throughout the CBF General Assembly. There were lots of young people there being honored and included in everything that was going on. The new Executive Coordinator of CBF, Suzii Paynter, is a woman. And everywhere she went Catherine was getting hugs from people who have known her and loved her since she was born.

We’re back in Richmond this morning, and Catherine is upstairs sleeping in, but as I think about how to bring the KOH2RVA I think how important it is to make a place for women, who have always had a place in God’s plan: Sarah, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Mary, Lydia, Phoebe, Priscilla, Lottie, Annie, Suzii, Nancy, Molly, Catherine, and many, many others.

God bless them, every one.

KOH2RVA: Day 290

CBF General Assembly

After lunch today I’m getting in my car to drive to Greensboro, North Carolina, for the annual meeting of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

I remember my first meeting.

It was in 1991, shortly after I had been called as pastor of Wingate Baptist Church in North Carolina. For the ten years I had been a Baptist—and for all the years I was in seminary—the Southern Baptist Convention had been engaged in a bitter conflict between the “moderates” and the “conservatives” where all we seemed to do at our annual meetings was fight over things like the authority of Scripture, the role of women in ministry, and the question of who would control the world’s largest protestant denomination. Long before 1991 I was ready to be done with the fighting. So when I heard that a group of Baptists were meeting in Atlanta to give up the fight and get on with the mission, I was eager to learn more. I drove from Wingate to Atlanta and was there at the Omni with 6,000 other Baptists when the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship was formed. On the cover of the program were those words from Isaiah 43: “Behold, I am doing a new thing.” I was ready for a new thing, and when I drove home from Atlanta I breathed a sigh of relief, feeling that at last I could quit fighting denominational battles and get on with the work Jesus had called me to do.

22 years later I’ve gotten on with my work, and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has gotten on with its work, and the Southern Baptist Convention has gotten on with its work. And, praise be to God, I believe we are all doing good work. Richmond’s First Baptist Church has not aligned itself with either the SBC or the CBF, but it does support missionaries through both entities. From time to time we get to hear some of those missionaries speak and tell us about the work they’re doing around the world. And when I hear them speak I can tell where their hearts are.

To a person, their hearts are in the right place.

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is trying to be the presence of Christ in the world; the Southern Baptist Convention is trying reach the world for Christ; Richmond’s First Baptist Church is trying to bring heaven to earth, and part of the way we do it is by supporting SBC and CBF missionaries. The other way we do it, of course, is to roll up our sleeves and go to work right here where we are—as missionaries.

I’m going to leave that job up to you for a few days while I go to Greensboro. I won’t be blogging on Thursday or Friday. But if you’d like to know what’s going on at the General Assembly you can click HERE, and even if you don’t you can say a prayer for the work of all kinds of Baptists all around the world. Pray that it would be the kind of work that would make Jesus proud.

And thank God that the fight—at least, that fight—is over.

KOH2RVA: Day 289

Essex Bible SchoolI didn’t make it to Bible school yesterday and it was my loss. Appointments and commitments that started early in the morning kept me busy until just before lunch. But I heard great things about the opening day of “Camp 2” at Richmond’s First Baptist Church and after lunch I drove out to Essex Village Apartments to see what happens when Bible school goes on the road.

In yesterday’s post I talked about the partnership between First Baptist and Park Meadows Baptist Church in Waxahachie, Texas, and how the two were collaborating to bring Bible school not only to First Baptist Church, but also to Essex Village Apartments, where there are 544 children, many of whom live in single-parent homes.

I got there early, before the afternoon session of Bible school began, but in time for a pick-up game of kickball. And once again I got to watch that old miracle occur, where people who don’t know each other overcome their initial awkwardness through some silly game, and then begin to laugh and play together, so that by the end of the day they are BFF’s (Best Friends Forever). What breaks my heart is that the kids at Essex Village are so hungry for attention Essex Bible School3they will accept it from almost anybody, even a youth group from Waxahachie, Texas. What fills my heart is the way those youth discover that they can make a difference in someone’s life, and how much joy it gives them. By the end of the week they won’t want to leave their new friends at Essex Village, and their new friends at Essex Village won’t want to let them go.

I predict tearful farewells.

But today is only Day Two of Bible school, and the end of the week seems a long way away. So, if you’re looking for a little joy in your life, and for a way to make a difference in someone else’s, then come on out to Essex Village around two o’ clock this afternoon. Bring your sunglasses and bottled water and big, floppy hat, because it’s going to be hot, but wear your kickball shoes, because it’s going to be fun. I predict that by the end of the day miracles will have occurred at Essex Village, and the Kingdom of Heaven will have come a tiny bit closer to Richmond, Virginia.

KOH2RVA: Day 288

TFH2Today is the first day of Vacation Bible School at Richmond’s First Baptist Church, and it’s bringing back some memories.

I remember going to VBS when I was a little boy. I remember hearing Bible stories, and going on nature walks, and eating those cookies with the hole in the middle so you could put one on your finger and nibble all the way around. I remember cutting construction paper with blunt-nosed safety scissors and the smell of Elmer’s glue. I remember singing “This Is My Father’s World.”

I loved it.

Years later, when I became the pastor of a little church in Kentucky, I found that VBS was a community affair: our church would host Bible school and the kids from the other two churches in town would come, and then they would host Bible school and our kids would go there. You’d see the same kids at every Bible school in town.

At the church I served in North Carolina we began to make an intentional effort to reach out to the kids at a nearby trailer park and that was harder. Those kids didn’t know how to behave at Bible school. They didn’t understand the rules. But we believed that the Jesus we were talking about would want those kids to be there, and so we kept taking the church van over there, picking them up, and bringing them to church.

At First Baptist, Richmond, we seem to have had that tradition for years—opening up our Bible school to anyone who wanted to come and going to get some of those kids who needed to be there. But this year is a little different. This year, because we are trying to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, we have invited some people from Waxahachie, Texas, to help us. Does that make sense?

Well, if you know the whole story, it does.

These are people from Park Meadows Baptist Church, and for years they’ve been going to Helena, Arkansas, in the summer to help out with a mission project called “Together for Hope.”* Well, so has First Baptist, Richmond. These two churches have worked side by side to help kids in one of the poorest counties in America, and over the years a friendship has developed. So, when FBC member Cari DuVal learned that a staff member from Park Meadows had written the very popular VBS curriculum called “Camp,” and that he had written a new curriculum called “Camp II,” she decided our friends from Waxahachie needed to come to Richmond and help us put it on.

But here’s the KOH2RVA twist: after putting on “Camp II” at First Baptist Church each morning, the VBS team is going over to Essex Village Apartments and do it there. I’ve written about Essex Village before: 544 kids, most of them living in single-parent homes. Don’t you know that having “Camp” come to them is going to be the best thing that happens all summer?

It’s not only “Camp” that will come to them; it’s the love of Jesus, shared by those missionaries from Waxahachie and those missionaries from Richmond. If those kids at Essex Village have a real experience of it—if they see it in the smiles, and hear it in the stories, and feel it in the hugs—they will want more and more. Maybe this will be the week when some of them start down a path that leads to life abundant, overflowing, and everlasting, and years from now they will be able to say,

“It all started at Bible School.”

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*Launched in 2001 by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Together for Hope (TFH) is a long-term commitment to working with people in 20 of the nation’s poorest counties in order to affect change and break the cycle of economic disparity. The ministry is about establishing long-term relationships, listening, learning, and walking alongside local leaders. The hope is that communities will be transformed as will the churches and individuals who serve in focal counties.

KOH2RVA: Day 287

black_and_white_eatingI want to say a little more about the meeting between some of the key leaders of Richmond’s First Baptist Church and First African Baptist Church last Tuesday night. As I wrote in yesterday’s post, Rodney Waller, pastor of First African, directed our attention to that passage in Acts 2 where “all who believed were together and had all things in common,” and then asked, “What if our two churches could show Richmond what true reconciliation looks like.”

And that’s when I got goosebumps.

It’s a worthy goal, inspired by the Holy Spirit, but true reconciliation won’t come easily; the wounds that divide us are old and deep. I remember talking to a church member in North Carolina who told me that he wasn’t prejudiced, that he had “a lot of black friends.” I wasn’t convinced. I asked, “When was the last time you had one of your black friends over for dinner?” Because this is the simple truth:

Friends eat together.

Take a look at that passage from Acts chapter 2 again: And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47, ESV).

At Tuesday night’s meeting I pointed out that line where it says they were “breaking bread in their homes.” “What if we did that?” I asked. “What if we invited each other into our homes to share meals? Because having people in your home is different from sitting down together in a church fellowship hall. It’s more intimate, more personal. It lets them into your life.”

I don’t know what the others will do with that idea but I know that I’ve been wondering if I have room at my table for Rodney Waller and his wife and their three teenage children. If our two churches are going to show Richmond what true reconciliation looks like it would be important for their two pastors to lead the way. And if the word reconciliation means “to become friendly again” then we’d better get busy. We can talk all we want, and have meetings from now until Jesus comes back, but true reconciliation is about friendship,

And friends eat together.

KOH2RVA: Day 286

hands-sandOn Tuesday night of last week some of the key leaders of Richmond’s First Baptist Church sat down with some of the key leaders of First African Baptist Church “just to talk.” One of the things we talked about was the fact that our two congregations used to worship together until we went our separate ways in 1841. We’ve worshiped together a few times since then and our preachers have swapped pulpits from time to time, but for the most part we have carried out our separate missions separately.

So on Tuesday night we began by talking about mission of the Church: What is it here for? What it is supposed to do? The more we talked the more we seemed to agree on the Church’s essential missions and purpose. And then Dr. Rodney Waller, pastor of First African, said, “When it comes to the church’s mission I’ve got to go back to the book,” and he asked us to look at this passage from the second chapter of Acts:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47, ESV).

We had been talking about the way the American church seems to be fighting for its very survival these days, doing everything it can to attract and retain members. Rodney pointed out that in the early church it was The Lord who “added to their number” as the church was faithful in doing all those other things: devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bead and the prayers. He wondered if The Lord wouldn’t add to our numbers if we would simply be faithful about doing the same.

And then he said: “What if our two churches could show Richmond what true reconciliation looks like?”

And that’s when I got goosebumps.

I don’t know what “true reconciliation” would look like, not yet, but it was exciting to talk about it and after an hour of conversation we agreed to get together for another meeting to talk some more. Before we parted ways Rodney said, “I believe The Lord was in this meeting tonight; I felt the Holy Spirit.”

I felt it too, Rodney.

I don’t think it was ever the Lord’s intention for our two congregations to go their separate ways. And I doubt that he cares much for all these denominational divisions in the world. As I tell people sometimes, “Jesus only has one church.”

These days, more than ever, it may be important to remember that.