KOH2RVA: Day 190

BTSRIt’s Monday, March 18, 2013. I’m up having coffee and getting ready for an all-day trustee meeting at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. I’m wondering if there is any way I can bring heaven to earth today.

I think there is. I think BTSR is, in itself, a way of bringing heaven to earth. For more than twenty years this school has been training men and women for ministry in the local church, and some of those men and women—Sterling Severns, Mandy England Cole, Justin Joplin, and Erin Spengeman, just to name a few—are out there blessing our city right now.

In the beginning, the idea of training women for ministry seemed radical and new, especially for Baptists. These days I think we understand that if the church is going to have a future it’s going to take all of us, women and men alike, and the women at BTSR are proving themselves extremely capable. Jim Flamming (my predecessor at FBC Richmond, who now teaches preaching at the seminary) says that the women in his classes are consistently the best preachers.

That shouldn’t surprise us.

As I’ve heard someone else say, women were “last at the cross, first at the tomb.” They were with Jesus when the disciples had fled. And Mary Magdalene, if you go by John’s version of the story, preached the first Easter sermon on record: “I have seen the Lord!” she said. Short, simple, to the point:

Hard to improve on that.

So, I’m going to spend the day doing what I can to ensure the future of the seminary. Things are looking much better than they did just a few months ago. The seminary has sold some property that had become a huge financial burden and gotten itself free to fulfill its mission in a leaner, more sustainable way. Ron Crawford, the seminary’s president, seems practically giddy when he talks about the future of the school these days and the students—characteristically—seem eager to go forward even if they have to do it in another building.

So I hope you will say a prayer for me today, a prayer for the trustees of BTSR, and a prayer for the future of a school that is determined to go on training men and women for ministry in the local church.

Lord knows we need them.

KOH2RVA: Day 12

I had lunch with Mike Robinson yesterday.

Mike is the Director of Missions for the Richmond Baptist Association. I wanted to tell him about our mission to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, and to ask for his partnership.

It was a good lunch, at a great little place called Garnett’s, but as we talked I surprised myself with my passion. “A church has to have a clear understanding of its mission,” I said, banging the table for emphasis, “and its mission can’t be its own survival.” I told him I believe that attendance and giving are a by-product of doing what Jesus has asked us to do and cited several examples.

One of those was Tabernacle Baptist Church, right here in the Fan, where my friend Sterling Severns is pastor. When Sterling came church attendance was under 100 people on Sunday mornings. Now it’s double that. Why? He says it’s because they embraced Burmese refugees who were moving to Richmond, helped them get established here, and invited them to church. Thanks to Baptist missionary efforts in that part of the world years ago, many of those refugees were already Christian, and eager to find a church home. By showing radical hospitality to these Burmese brothers and sisters (remember they didn’t have much of anything and didn’t speak English), Tabernacle has been transformed into a vibrant, mission-centered, community of Christ. Attendance and giving are on the rise, but only because attendance and giving are not the point.

I told Mike that I had invited Sterling and Tabernacle to partner with us on our mission trip, and wanted to ask RBA to do the same. Mike was happy to say yes. The Richmond Baptist Association is already deeply involved in bringing heaven to earth in Richmond. There are three community ministry centers in the city and every summer hundreds of kids leave the city to spend a week breathing the fresh air and enjoying the great outdoors at Camp Alkulana.

I’ve listed the community ministries of the Richmond Baptist Association below. I welcome the RBA as a partner in our mission of bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia.

Thanks, Mike!

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COMMUNITY MINISTRIES

CHURCH HILL CHRISTIAN WELLNESS CENTER
(located in Mount Tabor Baptist Church)
2011 Fairmount Avenue, Richmond, VA 23223
Rev. Glinda Ford, Community Missionary
804-780-0053; glinda.ford@rbaonline.org

OREGON HILL BAPTIST CENTER
(located in Pine Street Baptist Church)
400 South Pine Street, Richmond, VA 23220
Rev. Jennifer M. Turner, Community Missionary
804-648-1353; jennifer.turner@rbaonline.org

SOUTH RICHMOND BAPTIST CENTER
(located in The Saint Paul’s Baptist Church South)
700 East Belt Boulevard, Richmond, VA 23224
Rev. Wesley R. Garrett, Community Missionary
804-232-0174; wesley.garrett@rbaonline.org

CAMP ALKULANA
111 Camp Alkulana Road, Millboro, VA 24460
Mrs. Beth Reddish Wright, Camp Director
RBA Office: 804-329-1701 ext. 206; campalkulana@gmail.com
Camp Phone: 540-997-9444 (June-August)

Here We Go!

It’s Wednesday of Holy Week, and tonight we gather at Richmond’s First Baptist Church for the first worship service of five that will be held over the next few days.  Before I say another word, let me say thanks to Phil Mitchell, Associate Pastor for Worship, who did most of the heavy lifting in putting these services together.

Tonight’s service (at 6:30) is one of candlelight and contemplative prayer, interspersed with Scripture readings and singing by our own “cantor,” Robert Dilday.  It was “designed” by the Prayer Team at First Baptist Church, a group of lay leaders who work with Lynn Turner in praying for the church and keeping the church praying.

On Maundy Thursday we will gather at 7:00 for an impressive commemoration of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples that will include communion.  I’m preaching a sermon called “Washing the Devil’s Feet,” that refers not only to the foot washing before the meal, but also to the new commandment Jesus gives his disciples afterward: “Love one another as I have loved you.”

The Good Friday service will be held in the sanctuary at Noon, and will feature a reader’s theatre comprised of First Baptist staff reading the passion narrative from Luke’s Gospel, and a sermon delivered by my friend, former associate, and hip young pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in the Fan—Sterling Severns.

On Saturday, we will host an abbreviated Easter vigil, celebrating this ancient ritual in Fourth-Century style by kindling “new fire” in front of the church at 7:00, lighting candles from the flame, and bringing the light into the sanctuary to begin our celebration of the Resurrection.  This is a service of “Fire, Word, Water, and Wine” that will include a sermon by Lynn Turner, the candlelight baptism of six new converts, and communion that will feature Welch’s grape juice instead of wine (it’s not the Fourth Century way, but it certainly is the Baptist way).

All of this slowly unfolding drama will build up to a jubilant celebration of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday morning, with two services in the sanctuary: one at 8:30 (for the early risers and those who hope to find a seat) and another at 11:00 (prepare for a packed house).  Both services will feature glorious music, multiple choirs, and an Easter sermon called “Dying for Resurrection.” 

If you live in the Richmond area I hope you will join us for each of these services.  If you don’t, you can still access the Easter service by webcast.  But please don’t let me lure you away from your own community of faith. 

There is no better place to be at Easter than there.