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Last week I took a few of my guys to IMPACT camp at Linden Valley Conference Center (or Camp Linden for those of us with a little gray in our hair).  I like to hear people’s stories.  I want to know how God has been working in the lives of His children.  As usual, I listened and observed all week.  My take away for the week?  Camp is a place where people become connected to God, connected to each other, and where ministries are launched.  Camp, for me, was a place where those connections became beautifully visible.     

Let me tell you about some of the connections I observed last week:

Allie:  I was minding my own business (napping on a bench) when 3 young people sat down on the bench across from me.  Turns out they were from FBC Parsons.  I told them that I used to be the Youth Minister at FBC Linden and that is when I met Allie.  Allie asked me “when were you at Linden”?  When she found out that I was there in the mid 90’s she lit up.  She said her mother was at FBC Linden then.  It turns out that I was her mama’s youth minister.  My bro. in law Jeff told me this constitutes a “GRAND YOUTH”.  Although I now felt as old as dirt. .  . I was overjoyed to find out that her mom was in a good church and that she was raising her children in church.  It was a very cool connection.     

Lifeguard Graham:  While floating the Buffalo river with my kiddos I started talking to our lifeguard for the trip.  She looked familiar so I asked her if she had ever attended First Linden.  Turns out that she did.  She was only two years old when we left Linden.  While floating we caught up on all the “goings on” in and around Linden.  It was a good connection.  

Two Brothers Two Youth Ministers Two Audrys Two Cities and a Wedding:  TBC life connects people in many different ways.  Jeff Williamson is my bro-in-law.  He and his best bud Larry Overton are both youth ministers on seperate ends of the state (40 years of expereince between them).  Jeff and and Larry met each other at. . . . CAMP Linden.  Been best friends ever since.  They are now responsible for IMPACT camp and they do a supurb job.  Their two youth ministries have done a lot of events and camps together over the years which brings me to the next connection.  Jeff’s youth group has produced two different Audreys.  Larry’s youth group has produced two brothers (Jordan and Josh).  Audrey#1 and Josh have been married for a while now.  Jordan and Audrey #2 will be married soon.  Here is the cool part.  Josh, Audry #1, Jordan, and Audry #2 are all committed to the Lord.  All 4 of them were at IMPACT camp as staff members, and all 4 minister within thier own congregations.  Where did all of this cross pollination begin?  CAMP LINDEN!   

Our camp pastor:  Robbie Robison.  He is a great guy with a great testimony.  Part of his testimony includes our Camp Linden.  He realized his call to ministry in Linden Valley’s Tabernacle.  Robie travels all over the United States sharing the Gospel and encourageing teenagers. . . and all of that began at camp.

I will always remember Linden Valley because I got to lead my youngest son to the Lord there.  He accepted Christ sitting in room #4 of Whipporwill cabin on July, 8 2011. 

Ministries launched.  Friendships forged.  Wedding bells rung.   Camp ministry is a very important cog in the wheel of what God is doing in TBC life.  I would encourage you to visit either of our fantastic conference centers and utilize them for ministry.  Click here to learn more!   

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Spent a week worshiping with young people at IMPACT camp.   I am grateful to have been a part of it.  I am proud of the fact that our Tennessee Baptist Convention cares enough to invest in camp ministry.  I am prayerful that the “Declarations” that have been made at camp will, by faith, turn into deeds.   

Some characteristics of the Students I encountered this week:

They are Hungry for truth.

They respond to the satisfaction that comes from the bread of life.

They are uninhibited by our traditions.

They are unrestrained by our religion.

They are unimpressed by our buildings and programs.

They are unmotivated by our words but are stirred to action by His. 

They are untested.  The tests will come.  They will pass some and they will fail some.  Don’t write them off when they fail.  They need your experience to guide them along their journey of faith.  They need your encouragement.   They will need your admonishment at times.  They need you to answer theological questions that are beyond their understanding.  They need you to prod them by your godly EXAMPLE.  You will be tempted to guide them back into the trap of religiosity. . . . Don’t!  You will be tempted to temper their radicalization for Christ. . .  Don’t!  You will be tempted to mold them into your image or the image of your denomination. . . Don’t!   

Oh, wouldn’t it be great if the worship I witnessed in these young hearts translated into the revival we adults have been praying for?

I have been reminded in the past couple of weeks that God’s people have a high calling and that we must follow Him on His terms.   For example:  Carrying out the Great Commission while we compromise our integrity and character is not God’s agenda for us.   The highest and purest goals can be soiled through low living.   Doing the right thing the wrong way brings reproach on the process and the product.

How will 3 thousand Tennessee Baptist Churches impact 3 million lost people in Tennessee?  Our churches have 3 options

1.  Stay the course with little or no impact. (do nothing) 

 2.  Tweak our evangelistic programs  and be satisfied to add a few here and there. 

3.  Transform our members into people who proficiently and personally propagate the Gospel where they live everyday.  

We must pick option 3 if we are going to make a real difference.  We have expected little of ourselves in recent days.  We have treated God as if He was some sort of small anemic deity who is barely hanging on.  We have experienced little power because we have passively practiced our faith.  It is high time that we expect more from the transformational power of the Gospel.  It is past time that we multiply through evangelism believing that God can transform the sinner.  3 thousand churches can make a deep impact on 3 million lost people because it is God’s desire to save.  His desire is that none should perish.  He didn’t even withhold His only Son so that redemption could be possible.  His plan is that we (we meaning all of us) go. 

I am excited about the fact the Tennessee Baptist Convention just brought on Bobby Welch to develop, coordinate, promote and equip Tennessee Baptist churches in a statewide strategy of church planting, church revitalization and evangelism.   I can’t wait to see how God will use Dr. Welch but hiring one man will not reach 3 million.  I am sure Dr. Welch will inspire us and instruct us along the way. . . . but only the obedience of 3 thousand Baptist Churches will make a real difference. 

 

Check it out HERE!

43 kids.  2000 eggs.  100 future cavities.  Last week our church invited our community (a function of ACROSS TN) to our Easter egg hunt and to our Easter worship service.  result: 4 new families came today with their children to hunt eggs and hear the REAL Easter story. 

These folks spent their Saturday morning pushing back the darkness by inviting their community to our Easter worship service.  I am so thankful for their faithfulness.

You get all the people in your church to lie to the pianist and sneak around in a highly covert operation! 

This woman is super sneaky.

This is Sue’s (church pianist) sister.  She is quite possibly the best covert operative that we have.

You can’t pull something like this off without the help of your music minister who has stealth ability like a CIA agent. 

I didn’t want to be left out of all this debauchery as the Pastor. . . . I felt I should lead the way.

I even got other local pastors to come be apart of our collective deception. . . take this guy for example.

Former music ministers have nothing to lose as they help spin our web of deceit.

This woman used fraudulent information to further our plot. 

Local politician. . . . need I say more?

Kasey and Matthew (if that is their real names) were superb in bestowing great honor on Sue. 

All of this so that we could present our pianist with a commissioned piece of music written by her favorite pianist (Mary McDonald).

I’m glad all this secretive, covert, spy stuff is over.  I am now going to spend some much-needed time at the altar.

As the North American Mission Board redirects money and resources away from Southern States the Tennessee Baptist Convention and our local associations must become more engaged in their own backyards.  If we were looking for relevancy. . .  we just found it.  Tennessee is no less inhabited by lost folks than it was before NAMB’s announcement so it is time for us to  Depend deeply upon God’s provision,  Give extravagantly to the TBC’s entities and mission, and Go Urgently to our backyard mission fields.    

Ohhhh yeah I am praying that our Tennessee Baptist Convention churches lead the way in giving and going to the ends of the earth as well.   We need to be a busy bunch of Baptists in the coming days.

How sad.  Read here.