Parents, Guard Your Children
For five years she entertained your children alternating between her natural brown hair and a blonde wig. You felt safe letting your kids get caught up in the life of a teenage rockstar. You bought her merchandise, some of your daughters dressed up like her for Halloween, and you were excited that your little girl had a "wholesome" role model to look up to. Fast forward two years after the final episode of Hannah Montana aired to Sunday night. The blonde hair remains, now shortened beyond recognition. Gone are tween friendly dance tunes, replaced by blatant references to drug use, near nudity, and declarations of freedom from anyone who would attempt to tell her and her friends what to do.
If you missed Miley Cyrus perform at the MTV Video Music Awards Sunday night, all you need to know today is that any connection between Miley and her former Disney persona was completely destroyed. I would tell you to google the performance, but don't. Outside of shock and anger there is nothing to be gained from it. I could rail against young Miley going off the deep end, but that isn't really helpful. She is a troubled young woman. For a great take on how someone might be able to help her, read this blog here, but be warned there is a picture of Miley in her "outfit" from last night. Be sure your kids aren't around.
My purpose today isn't to bash Miley. Instead, I want to ask you, "Who are your kids' heroes?" No one would have blamed you for letting your kids watch Hannah Montana, nor could you have been blamed for trusting a sweet faced young man who sang cute little songs. Remember when Justin Beiber wasn't the train-wreck he is today? They sold a book about him in Lifeway for crying out loud! Now he's known as much for his marijuana use, urinating in restaurant mop buckets, and threatening, in not so nice terms, to beat up photographers while he was surrounded by a wall of bodyguards.
This phenomenon is not new. Child stars grow up and often want to shed their kid-friendly image as they grow into adulthood, and there is big money to be made by bringing their kid/tween/teen fans along with them. So before you allow/send your kid headlong into super fandom you must be looking at where things could go 2-5 years down the road. I suppose therein lies the problem. We can't know how these kids are going to turnout when they grow up, or if they actually will grow up. Consider that in the last month you have had Miley's performance at the VMA's, Amanda Bynes (former Nickelodeon star) being committed to the hospital for mental evaluation after very erratic and dangerous behavior, and Lee Thompson Young's (former star of Disney's The Famous Jett Jackson) suicide. You can go further back and find evidence of Britney Spears' meltdowns and transformation from starlet to vixen, and even back to Drew Barrymore's troubled teenage years after starring in E.T.
So what's the point? You can't control how these people turn out, and everyone will fall and fail at some point. Should we keep our kids in a bubble, never exposing them to the big bad world? That is neither practical or scriptural. We can't be light to dark places if we never step out into the dark. What we can do, as parents, is to guard the heart of our children and point them toward Christ. Remember that your little boy or little girl is only little once. Too often we seem intent on making kids grow up faster than necessary. We allow them to consume shows and music at ages seven and eight that are written for and star kids that are thirteen through eighteen. Parents it's OK for your little girl to be a little girl. Don't shelter her irrationally but don't rush her into her teenage years before she turns nine!
"But I can't help it if my kid likes someone or something!" you might protest. No you can't. What you can control is the level at which they consume certain media. You control the purse strings so you control how much money is being spent on feeding your darling's new found fascination. I'm not saying to not download music for your kid. I'm not saying to ban them from watching all of Disney or Nickelodeon. All I'm saying is to be on guard. If you allow/encourage your child to become obsessed over a certain individual you need to be prepared for that obsession to continue even when the "star" grows out of the clean cut image that was produced for them and decides to try on a new world of drugs, sex, and freedom from all authority, including parents.
So what can we do. For starters, point your kids to Jesus. Teach them to love Him, to serve Him, to follow Him. Teach them that He is the only hero who won't fail them. Teach them about his miracles, about His power, about His sacrifice, and about His love. Then point them to other heroes already in their lives. Husbands adore your wives. Show your children what an amazing wife/mom/teacher/worker/juggler of all things she is. Wives love your husbands. Teach your kids that your husband, with all of his imperfections, is still your hero. Parents, make sure your kids spend more time with you than they do the tv or ipad or iphone or xbox. Teach them the difference between silly characters on a tv show and real life. Let them explore new things, and let them have fun. Let them struggle and fail. It is true that with the exception of Christ, these real world heroes, the moms and dads and teachers and coaches, will fail them too. These too will prove to be imperfect human beings. The difference is, in the midst of their failure, they will still care for and love your son and daughter unlike some pop culture illusion. The only way they care about our kids is by how much money they can make off of them.
Love God. Love People. Grow Disciples.
It's Monday morning as I write this blog, and we have just completed our two week series on the mission of Walnut Street Baptist Church. I thought I would take some time to write today and explain how we landed on this, and talk a little bit about where we take it from here. When we began to transition from Pastor Rusty being the Senior Pastor to him taking on a different role, we knew there would be many unanswered questions about where we are going from here.
One of the things that began to come out in conversations, and even some bible study discussions, was a sense that we needed to communicate what it is that drives what we do. Why are we here? What is our purpose? As a staff, we have always felt that we were driven by Christ's command to make disciples in Matthew 28, but it became apparent that we once again needed to make sure everyone knew where we were going and why. I began a time of study and reflection in God's word, asking the question, "What is that you want for us and from us Father?" It's important that you know I was driven to Scripture for this. There are countless books available that speak to the Church and her mission, many of which I have found very helpful. For this time in the life of our church I didn't want to present Rick Warren's or John Piper's or anyone else vision for the church. I wanted to know what God's word has to say to us.
Two things became readily apparent in my study. First, Christ commands us to love God with every part of who we are, and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40). To put it as simply as possible Christ commands everyone who would follow Him to Love God and Love People. Christ says that loving God is the first and greatest commandment, and loving people is just like it. We cannot be followers of Christ without following these commands. If this is His command to us as individuals, we must also take this command to pertain to the Church gathered here at Walnut Street Baptist Church.
Secondly, after His death, burial, and resurrection but before His ascension, Christ commanded His followers to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). Christ commands His people to go and share the good news of His grace and mercy, and to teach them what it means to follow Christ. After some discussion among the staff we decided to summarize this as Grow Disciples. As I said in my sermon yesterday, we chose the word "grow" because of our context today. When we hear the word "make" we think of a project that you begin, complete, and then move on. Growing indicates process, time, and investment. The disciple of Christ never stops growing. We don't reach a point where we say, "Ok, I'm all done. I am complete." That point will not occur until we see our Savior face to face. Growth in Christ is a lifelong process in which we are more and more transformed into the image of Christ.
So where do we go from here? That seems to be the million dollar question. Here is my hope: I pray that as a church we will develop a passion to pursue obedience to Christ in these areas. I pray we take it upon ourselves to go and make disciples, telling people in our lives about the good news of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. I pray that we will have a passion for seeing people grow in their knowledge and love of Christ throughout their lives. I pray that we will invest our lives in the lives of others so they might know Christ. I pray we will evaluate how we spend our time and energy, both individually and collectively, and ask if what we are doing is producing fruit for the Kingdom of God.
In talking with one of our church members, he communicated that he felt this approach (Love God-Love People-Grow Disciples) was simple, easy to remember, and biblical. This was the goal. We wanted to present the church with something you could remember, that was easy to understand, and most importantly was biblically sound and based. The call is clear. What remains to be seen is how we will respond. My prayer is we will simply say, "Yes Lord!".
Summer is here and there is much going on around Walnut Street and around the world through our people. Right now, as I write, we have members ministering in Nigeria, Kenya, Brazil and Haiti! Wow! Is that cool or what? Cool may not be the best word, but you get the picture! It’s beautiful!
And have you noticed the increase in our younger adults and college students since we overhauled the first service last fall? Yesterdays first service had lots of younger adults that came for the first time. The word is finally getting around that there is a lot going on at Walnut Street and there are places for the younger adults to serve.
Which brings me to my primary topic today. I announced Sunday morning a called business meeting for Sunday, June 17th, that we might deal with the calling of Paul Gibson as our Missions Pastor/Preaching Associate. Paul has been leading our college ministry since last fall and preached Sunday, June 10th with Kris in Haiti. Paul will preach for me this coming Sunday, June 17th.
We have a timely opportunity to take another giant step in continuing to gradually transition our church to one that attracts, engages and appeals to a younger generation, a generation that is very missional in their desire to follow Christ. The proposed addition of Paul Gibson as Missions Pastor/Preaching Associate is of great significance.
We have been wonderfully blessed that God brought Paul Gibson and his family to Walnut Street last fall, with the express purpose to help us continue to attract and engage the younger generation. Paul came to us on a mission, and now we have the opportunity to take another step in the necessary direction of increasing younger persons in this church.
Paul and his wife Tara have been married 9 years. The Gibsons have two children, daughter Natalie Ryan, 3, and son Isaac, 5 months. Paul’s recent resume will be available Sunday. Paul has a Master of Arts in Transformational Leadership from Bethel Seminary and served a three-year internship at Willow Creek Church in suburban Chicago. Tara holds a Master of Science degree in Physical Therapy.
This development/opportunity has come on us quickly, and from the pastor’s perspective, is easily one of the most exciting things that has happened since I have been pastor. To have the chance to begin to penetrate the campus at U of L with the help and cooperation of the Kentucky Baptist Convention through our Missions Pastor/Preaching Associate is an amazing development that we would have never anticipated even two months ago. The resignation of the campus minister at U of L last month opened up the discussions with the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
I truly believe God orchestrated the situation for us to proceed with this plan. It is a win/win/win scenario. The church wins because we are blessed to be able to make a huge move in the right direction of continuing our effort to reach more young persons. It is a win for the KBC because they are able to staff the campus with a very able interim who will “be there” when the students return in less than two months!! And last, but not least, the Kingdom impact of this is great.
Let me take us through a timeline of the last 14 months:
1. In April of 2011, the Walnut Street Great Commission Task Force, made up of a broad cross-section of our members, brought their final recommendation set to the church for approval.
2. Included in the four recommendation categories was the addition of a young Missions Pastor/Preaching Associate. With the understood need for our church to begin to put younger leadership on the platform each Sunday, this pastor would preach regularly. He would also provide leadership for all our missions endeavors, beginning with all we do in the city (including the Walnut Street Academy and CSM), and extending to our global missions efforts.
3. The church approved the Great Commission Task Force Report by a vote of 82% in favor of the recommendations.
4. Our finance team, with the approval of the deacons and the church, approved the current fiscal year budget, which allowed for the hiring of the Missions Pastor/Preaching Associate at mid-year, which was May 1.
5. Three weeks ago, we began discussions with the Kentucky Baptist Convention regarding our cooperation with the campus ministry at the University of Louisville. After much prayer and conversation, we reached a cooperative agreement that Paul Gibson would become the interim campus minister at U of L. This interim position will run through the end of the year. This is an amazing opportunity for us to extend our outreach to the U of L campus. Though the campus position is interim, this will really help raise awareness on the campus as to what God is doing at Walnut Street!
6. Last week our Personnel Committee met and voted to bring Paul on as our Missions Pastor/Preaching Associate. Their recommendation went to our deacons for affirmation on Monday night. Paul’s position with us is permanent, while the campus minister position is interim. For the first six months or so, he will be generally splitting his time between Walnut Street and the campus.
7. Our by laws read thusly:
A. The Personnel Committee will recruit, interview and employ all positions except the pastor. Individuals who have been called of God under the direction of the Holy Spirit shall be sought. Employment will be within the framework of the church budget.
B. The Personnel Committee is charged to consult with the pastor, other appropriate church committees, provide information to the deacons, and to seek church affirmation before taking action to employ any ministerial personnel.
8. Thus we brought Paul for affirmation to the deacons Monday night and will bring him for church affirmation on Sunday, June 17th.
So God continues to work in incredible ways in our midst. Only God could have arranged the circumstances in such a timely manner, bringing his parties together at just the right time! Walnut Streeters, it is truly exciting to see what God is doing in our midst as the plan continues to unfold! I am reminded of my favorite Scripture verse, Eph 3:20-21 Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think—according to the power that works in you—to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever! Amen. Do you believe that passage? Really believe it? Or do you believe that our best days are in the past? I beseech you to seek God’s perspective and come to believe that God cannot be through with Walnut Street, if we will continue to take steps of faith in pursuit of Him!
Community Groups- Study, Pray, Serve, Live
After a hiatus this past six months we will be relaunching our Community Groups after the new year! Many of you have asked what is going on with these groups so before we relaunched I wanted to tell you a little about what you can expect from these groups and about some changes that are being made. In the first weeks after the new year you will begin to see sign up opportunities with details on locations, leaders, and meeting days and times. In the mean time, here are some things that you can expect to happen in a Community Group.
Groups will be built to serve four main purposes:
- Study- Groups will be built around the study of God's word. What does it say? How can we apply it to our lives? Though we have benefited greatly as a church through studying books about the Bible or about God, a common theme we have heard from people is they want to be in the word more. What a wonderful thing to hear! Each week you can expect open God's Word, read it together, and and see how God will change your life through it.
- Pray- Prayer is vital to any church. When we look at what the early church did together prayer was one of the vital components of their lives. Each week you can expect to share needs with each other, pray with each other, pray for each other, and be prayed for. This will grow our groups close first to the Father and also to each other.
- Serve- When we read God's word we cannot escape the call to serve. Part of each group's DNA will be to actively serve together on a regular basis. We hope that our groups will seek to serve others in their neighborhoods, communities, and elsewhere at least once a month.
- Live- So many times church life consists of showing up on Sunday morning and not really seeing each other until the next week, but that is not what God desires. As you study, pray, and serve together you will begin to see meaningful relationships grow between you and other groups members. We pray that these relationships will be a blessing, support, and and encouragement as you seek to grow deeper in your relationship with Jesus Christ.
To accomplish these things, we feel that groups will need more than 6-8 weeks to meet. Going forward our groups will be ongoing with no end date. That doesn't mean that you are signing up for life, but we recognize that relationships and understanding of each other takes time to build. This does not mean that you will meet with the same group of people for the next ten years. In fact we hope that as new people join groups (these aren't closed member only clubs) and groups grow that we will see groups split and new groups formed. We feel that involvement in these groups will be an important part of our church life moving forward as we seek to grow in our love for the Lord, grow in our relationships with each other, and engage the community around us. Begin praying now about how God would use this ministry to grow closer to Him!
What an amazing night we had at Trunk or Treat last night. Estimates are that well over 1,000 people came through our parking lot last night. We were blessed with perfect weather, and we had a fantastic time seeing so many children and families from our neighborhood. Thank you all so much for your participation and support of this event!
One of the key components of last night was passing out info for Upward Basketball. I am already receiving calls this morning from people with questions about the league, so please continue to pray that God will use this opportunity we have to bring kids into His kingdom! We are still looking for Upward volunteers. I will be publishing another post later on this week with the specific needs that we still have.
These are obviously exciting times in our church. One thing I am particularly excited about is the addition of JP McCammon as a youth intern. JP has been actively involved as a volunteer in our student ministry and has been a great asset to our ministry. Here is a little more about JP from the man himself:
Hello Church Family,
First of all, I want to say that I am very excited and grateful to have this
opportunity to serve with you all here at Walnut Street! I feel that the Lord is doing a
great work in this body and I am looking forward to seeing what He has in store. Since I
have yet to meet some of you in person, here is brief autobiography. I am almost
twenty-one years old, I am from the small town of West Union, Ohio where my father is
a minister and my mother is a substitute teacher. I felt the call to ministry in my late high
school years and I moved to Louisville to attend Boyce Bible College in 2009. During
my time at Boyce I was introduced to Crossings Camps Ministry and I served as a
summer staffer there in 2010 and 2011. Through my time at Crossings I met Rochell
Goff who introduced me to Kris Billiter and I heard about Walnut Street Baptist Church
for the ﬁrst time. I wanted to be involved in a church where I could serve and work with
students and WSBC has graciously given me that opportunity. I have a passion for
students and I believe that student ministry is crucial because if students have a solid
foundation and Biblical worldview then, Lord-willing, they will grow into adults who build
upon that foundation to share the love of Christ with a lost world. I am greatly looking
forward to meeting each of you and investing in this church and this community.
Love In Christ,
We are so excited that JP is here. God is so good to us here at Walnut Street and it is obvious that He is at work in our church. We are meeting new people every Sunday, and our new college class that had zero people the 2 months ago had 7 this past Sunday. Please continue to pray that God will use us for his glory and ask you He wants you specifically to be a part of His work!