Archives For change

A time for change

ib2newseditor —  December 12, 2016

These final weeks of the year seem to always bring a mixture of emotions, as we gather sentimentally with family and friends for the holidays, and start reflecting on the ups and downs of the past year. Those year-end emotions seem supercharged this year, as the recent election has brought us a dramatic change in Presidential leadership, and with it potential changes in public policy that affect our daily lives.

I won’t go further than that into the politics of our times. Instead, in these days leading up to Christmas, I want to simply observe that this same sense of looming, unknown change that many of us are feeling may have been exactly how many of the faithful felt leading up to that very first Christmas.

I come to the end of this year with a sense that I need Messiah’s presence in a fresh new way.

Those to whom it was revealed that Messiah was near—Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah, the wise men, eventually the shepherds—all had revelations from God that were fearful, and yet inviting. They were all awestruck with the news that this thing beyond their comprehension or control was about to happen.

And yet these folks all walked forward into the wonder of the incarnation, the wonder of Jesus, the wonder of unpredictable and unprecedented change, with faith-filled obedience and anticipation. They knew things were a mess. They knew that the status quo—Rome and religion and their own sin-sick culture—was not ushering in the Kingdom of God. They knew any discomfort of change under Messiah’s leadership was to be preferred over the best that frail humans had to offer. And so, they walked into the unknown, trusting God.

Of course, not everybody welcomed the change of the first Christmas. King Herod and the religious leaders of Jerusalem were scared to death of whoever Messiah was, and whatever changes he might bring. They held on selfishly and even murderously to their own power and self-determination as long as they could, refusing to know Messiah, much less follow him. Sadly, I did the same until I met Jesus personally.

And so this year, this Christmas, the climate of change and uncertainty and unpredictability that we face—may not be all bad. The people who walked faithfully into that first Christmas knew that change was needed, in their own lives and in their nation, and they knew that trusting God and following his Messiah into the uncertainty was the only path forward. Perhaps we have a similar opportunity.

I leave it to you to determine how this may apply to your own life, or your church’s. Personally, I am coming to the end of this year with a sense that I need Messiah’s presence in my life in a fresh new way, and I need him to bring change. I don’t know what that looks like exactly. But I don’t want things to remain the same. I don’t want to settle for the status quo.

Whoever the President is, whatever shifts are coming in public policy, or in the culture, I want to welcome the changes our sovereign God is bringing, and follow Jesus into them. Some of those changes may come in the form of new challenges, or adversity, or even persecution. I want to follow Jesus there. Some of them may come in the form of new opportunities, or new methods, or a new wave of revival or awakening in our churches, or in our land. I want to follow Jesus there.

The faithful who experienced the first Christmas waited a long time for Messiah to show up in a new way, and to bring change, and to follow him right on through it. I want to be among the faithful this Christmas who will do the same.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.

pull quote_FLYNNCOMMENTARY | Meredith Flynn

There were many empty seats in Houston’s convention center right before the official beginning of the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual business meeting last month.

Granted, it was early – SBC President Fred Luter banged the opening gavel at 8:10 a.m. And it was a poorly attended meeting, with the lowest number of registered messengers in a Bible belt city since 1944.

But seven or eight rows from the front of the convention hall were two familiar Illinois faces: Jack and Wilma Booth.

The couple, members of Calvary Baptist in Elgin, were two of 95 reported Illinois messengers at this year’s convention. Wilma is currently on the SBC Executive Committee, and Jack is a member of IBSA’s Board of Directors. In Houston, they were a reminder that “being there” is valuable, even in a year without contested elections or decisions.

Not that there weren’t some crowded meeting rooms in Houston. A North American Mission Board luncheon focused on church planting hosted a reported 3,500 people. And younger leaders crowded into after-hours sessions hosted by 9Marks, a para-church organization based in Washington, D.C.

In fact, the Houston meeting may well be remembered as “the denim convention,” for the tendency of younger convention-goers to dress casually…and to be there. More than any year in recent memory, the SBC annual meeting seemed to actually skew younger.

The next generation of Baptist leaders is something to be excited about. They appreciate the previous generation that fought to return the SBC to its doctrinal roots. They’re concerned about delivering biblical truth in love. They understand new churches are an evangelistic force to be reckoned with. They crave face-to-face, genuine, redemptive relationships.

But they could also learn something from Jack and Wilma Booth, because “being there” will be more and more important as Southern Baptists carve out their identity in a changing world. And not just at youth-oriented meetings, but in the convention hall too, even at 8 a.m.

Southern Seminary President Al Mohler said as much at a 9Marks gathering in Houston, when he talked about how some cities draw a bigger convention crowd because families have the opportunity to vacation in the area. “I’m not saying that’s even bad stewardship…What’s bad stewardship denominationally, is to not show up when it appears less interesting to you.”

As the denomination looks toward its 2014 meeting in Baltimore, the influence of younger leaders will be interesting to watch. They’ll help elect a new president, and take on leadership roles themselves. But to do those things, they’ll need to be there.