Wednesday, June 27, 2007

We're a "Comeback" Church!

Quite some time back I was interviewed by phone for a research project on "Comeback" Churches. The interview lasted for more than an hour and included detailed questions about "how" and "why" our church had been able to recover from a plateaued state. I heard nothing further following the interview and concluded that my responses had somehow missed the mark for the study. Ironically, earlier this morning, I was having coffee at Starbucks with our Director of Missions and we were talking about the convention in San Antonio. Our conversation moved to Ed Stetzer and I shared that I had been interviewed in the "Comback" study but that we evidently didn't measure up as a "Comeback" church. This afternoon I found a package in the mail from B&H Publishers. I expected some type of promotional material or perhaps someone's pet project that I would be asked to promote within the church. Inside the package I found a copy of "Comeback Churches" with an attached letter. Here is a quote from the letter:

Thank you so much for opening your church and your heart to us as part of the Comeback Churches project. We surveyed 324 churches like yours--those that had experienced substantial growth after a protracted period of decline. We are grateful for the time that you invested in this project. Please consider this book a gift from the authors and B&H Publishers. We appreciate you and consider it a privilege to help tell your story.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


At 5:15 this morning I helped unload the truck for the food distribution that is held at my church once a month.

At 5:45 this morning my 14-year-old son left for Juarez, Mexico as part of our student mission team.

At 7:30 this morning, we will leave for the nearby community of Greeley where my 12-year-old son will participate in his league championship baseball tournament.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A True Southern Baptist Hero...

In his mid-thirties he surrendered to the ministry leaving behind a lucrative position with a prominant insurance company as a safety inspector. His first church was a small split from a almost as small Southern Baptist Church in Kimball, Nebraska. From the beginning, he was bivocational times 2 working as a garage mechanic by day and as a washer of milk cans at a local dairy by night. Witnesses still living recall a well-dressed young man with manicured nails heading off to do ministry. His first visit back literally brought tears to the eyes of one witness who would later share with me how those hands had become cracked, dirty, and broken indicating the drastic change in life circumstances. His entire ministry was spent among small congregations of no more than 75 members at the most. In fact, the majority of his churches were planted by himself with little help from anyone else except for a few churches in the South who would make the journey to the Northern Plains to help for a few weeks. At times a typical Sunday would include a 200 mile circuit holding services in three different communities. Most of these communities that he would serve were Native American with oppressive environments. He knew the joy of seeing a person come to Christ and he also knew the sorrow of absolutely no one showing up for Easter Sunday. He knew the thrill of beginning something new that had never existed before and he also knew the devastation of being dismissed by his own converts while away attending his son's college graduation. He never earned a seminary degree and he never formally graduated from high school. Even with no education that would qualify him, he would eventually receive appointment by the Home Mission Board because his work simply could not be ignored. He would later earn an associates degree from a local community college and attend classes at a university. There are a dozen or more congregations in existence that he faithfully founded under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Though I doubt that he will ever be formally recognized by any denominational entity--no statues will ever stand in his honor--I suspect that one day in Heaven's courts he will recognized as the hero that he is. It will by my great honor to accompany this seasoned man of God to the this year's Southern Baptist Convention in San Antonio. He is a messenger from the Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church in Helena, Montana, and he is my dad--Pastor Ted Samples.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Seven Relational Remedies...

"I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel..." (Philippians 4:2-3).

Paul identifies a relational problem in Philippi and then sets out to provide a relational remedy in the verses that follow.

We would do well to practice these seven remedies in all of our relationships...
  1. "Rejoice in the Lord always!" (v4). It's very hard to be angry or bitter when your are busy praising God.
  2. "Let your gentle spirit be known to all men!" (v5). Gentle means humble and patient. I'm pretty sure that "gentle spirits" aren't divisive and venomous.
  3. "Be anxious for nothing!" (v6). Worry about nothing? That's right--nothing!
  4. Pray about everything! (v6). EVERYTHING! We're too busy to fight when we're praying.
  5. Guard your heart and mind with God's peace! (v7). Peace is the absence of conflict. When you feel conflict coming to God!
  6. Think positively! (v8). We naturally tend to focus on the negative. Paul lists the positives. Be optimistic!
  7. Practice being Jesus! (v9). We're really good at knowing stuff and really bad and doing what we know. Practice Jesus!
I will have these things in mind as I go to San Antonio this weekend for the Southern Baptist Convention.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Our Only Hope...

I am thrilled that SBC President Frank Page has planned to focus our meetings in San Antonio on prayer, revival, and spiritual awakening. Dr. Page has said, "The central focus for my presidency and therefore for this meeting is to seek from the Lord spiritual awakening--His Holy Spirit's revival, and that is always prefaced by and enabled by and empowered by prayer" (SBC Life, June/July 2007). I have begun praying for these meetings that something remarkable would happen--that we would forget about politics, resolutions, and position, and that we would become broken over our utter failure to penetrate lostness in our nation. May God break the messengers who show up in San Antonio over our pride and self-sufficiency. May He crush us and bring to our hearts a true recognition of how displeasing our power-sustaining political divisions are to the heart of God. Let me "Amen" Frank Page when he says, "I believe God wants us to have a broken heart. And so far, I've seen no broken hearts except on rare occasions" (SBC Life). Each of the SBC sessions will have a particular prayer focus. I want challenge all who will, to pray during these sessions, whether you're in San Antonio or not.
  • Tuesday morning: "Lord Transform Your Churches."

  • Tuesday afternoon: "Lord, Bring us to Confession and Repentance."

  • Tuesday evening: "Lord, Unite Us in A Cooperative Mission Task."

  • Wednesday morning: "Lord, Send Revival to Our Convention."

  • Wednesday evening: "Lord, Energize Our Evangelistic Efforts."

"If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14).