You Are Not Special:

baseball-1The words echoed of the walls and fell with a thud. We had been running, throwing, hitting and diving for the last two plus hours. With each passing hour, we became more aware of the 99 degree heat that the sun relentlessly sprayed across the artificial baseball field. The glue began easing out the side of my cleats. The less fortunate guys crawled to the grandstands and began puking their guts out. 

Those of us who survived that day, managed to scramble into the dugout a little before 2PM. Windy and soaked in salt-stained sweet, we gave the head coach our full attention. He briefly thanked us for show up on that miserable July afternoon. Then he said the words the felt like an anvil sinking to the bottom of my heart. “There was no one special here today.”

Though the words were full of disappointment, they have since become a moto for me. I plan to call my autobiography, ‘No One Special.’ But do not get to excited. I have no plans to write it anytime soon, or really ever. But if I do, I have the title. I believe that is approximately around 90% of the work. Anyways, I digress.

I think back to that coach’s words often because they are a great reminder of reality. I am not special. Yes, I am made in the image of God. But when I evaluate my abilities my skills, and my life, I am ultimately no one special. I have no right to demand that others put me on their team, listen to my opinions, or defer to my prejudices.

If I do have the opportunity to play for a team, to win the ear of a friend, or to gain the respect of a coworker, those abilities and moments are all gifts from above. We essentially have the ability to be noticed, respected, and honored because God has blessed us. I.e, we are not inherently special.

The apostle Paul tackled our insignificance this way. He wrote, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.” Romans 12:16

Many people in and around our churches today lack harmony because they are haughty and think themselves wise. I knew a dad who regularly lambasted his son’s 2nd grade teachers and the other adults in his sons life. His son was always in trouble because of what the teachers did. The teachers failed to understand the boy, they failed to listen to the boy, and they failed at failing the boy. In short, the dad and his son were above reproach. The dad cared nothing about the fact that his boy talked back in class, fell asleep during school, and regularly refused to do his homework. He and his son ignored everything the Bible said about respecting those in authority. They refused to listen to the Bible and to the biblical counsel of our Senior Pastor. They were haughty and were wise in their own sight. They always knew what their problem was. They cared little for living in harmony with others and regularly attacked, belittled, and verbally assaulted anyone who criticized them. They failed to grasp that they were not special.

Sadly, they are not alone. I blow up at my kids for messing up the family photo. I am quick to become defensive when my wife and others challenge my ideas. And I fall into worry because someone does not immediately return my phone call. I do all these things and more because I become prideful, haughty, and self-confident. I forget that I am not special.

newfieldThose who over estimate their value are destined for failure. James 4:6 says that, “God opposes the proud.” Those who are wise in their own eyes and who are quick to blame others for their sins and the sins of their kids will not find peace. They will find broken relationships, discord, and every kind of evil. They will feel alienated from their schools, churches, and friends because they have deemed themselves more special than those around them. Those with prideful hearts stand outside the will of God.

The solution for broken relationships is not more self-justification and more explanations of everyone’s else’s problems. The antidote for the prideful heart is humility. God tells us that God, “gives grace to the humble…Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you…humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 4:6-10).  We need to confess our sins to our friends, teachers, and pastors. We need to encourage our children to confess their sins. We find peace only when we humble ourselves. We find joy and happiness when we realize that, “I am no one special.”

I was not special enough to make my college baseball team. But they guys on the team and the coaches also turned out not to be all that special. The Athletic director fired the coach at the end of that season because the coach’s main gift appeared to be leading young men to lose. Even off the field, the team had knack for losing. They regularly flunked their exams and spawned the moniker “Geology for Jocks.” Evidently, they did finally find one class that a few lucky ones could pass.

I share all this not because I want to bash my baseball team. I truly love my alma mater. I share above story because it illustrates what the coach told all of us that hot summer day. No one is special. No one is above needing correction, no one is above being fired, and no one is above failing. To live well, we must live humbly boasting in our God and all his God gifts. At the end of the day, “There is no one special here.” 

Are you ready for those words to sink in?


Connect Camp: 2016 Review

Connect-Camp-BlogAnother exciting month of Connect Camp has come to a close. With the help of over thirty committed adults and youth, First Baptist Eastman was able to put together an amazing day camp that featured everything from Baseball to praise band. During the months of June and July, we connected with forty-five different kids. Each day of camp, we averaged almost 35 kids. We peaked on the first day of camp when 41 arrived. Our lowest attendance occurred on the last day of camp -Thursday, July 14. We hosted 30 kids and 53 kids and adults for our family day luncheon.

Each day, the kids kicked off camp with a worship rally at 8 AM. Next, they participated in two track-times (activity times) of their choice before coming inside to cool off with a snack. Then, they rounded off the morning with a small group Bible study, another track time, and a brief closing worship rally that concluded at noon. FBCE kids’ ministry loved hosting the kids. And I am confident that many of the kids liked camp. It takes a lot to convince a grade schoolers and middle schoolers to wake up early on summer morning. Plus, I received a lot of positive feedback from parents, kids, and volunteers.Connect Camp by church

I truly believe Connect Camp this year fulfilled its mission of connecting kids to Christ and of connecting unchurched families to our church. The gospel was preached every day during both the worship rally and the small group time. Seed was sown. And by having parents and kids attend camp all month long, we got to know at least two new families.

Connect Camp Attendance ChartOur numbers did trend down a little from last year’s Connect Camp. Last year we averaged 40 students. This year dipped down to about 35 per day. I am not sure why attendance dropped slightly. Perhaps our number were hurt by the Dodge County School schedule, perhaps Camp went down because it started two weeks after VBS, or perhaps we simply encountered a sophomore slump. Regardless, Connect Camp still reaches the largest number of kids of any camp run or attend by FBCE. Lord willing our numbers will rebound next year!

And as always, we loved using the Zip curriculm published by Lifeway. It was easy to use, fun, etertaining and gospel filled! Without Zip Connect Camp would still be just a concept. But with the curriculm, FBCE has seen its dream of reaching the kids of Eastman become a reality!

Not it’s your turn! What was your kid’s favorite part of camp?

3 Ways To Prevent Ministry Collisions

conflict pictureI wobbled around the yard with the ball in my glove. My older brother was lying on the ground with a bloodied nose. We were both a little fuzzy (a complication of being knocked silly) on how we got to this point. We think the general story went like this: In an effort to work on catching pop-flies my brother and I would toss a ball as high as possible and then run underneath it to catch. On this occasion, I had tossed the ball and doggedly charged after it. My brother did the same. And seconds later, the ground shook as two skyward gazing grade-schoolers ran into each other at full speed.

Often church people do exactly the same thing. With eyes fixated on expanding the church, people smash into each other seeking resources for their specific ministry, projects, or ideas. And when they do collide over how the budget will be spent and on who gets to reserve the fellowship hall, things can get messy in a hurry. People in the church start complaining, start rooting for programs to fail, and start stressing how much more important X Ministry is than B Ministry. I.e. the same team starts competing against itself. When this happens, the ministry game comes to the stretching halt.

When I was playing high school baseball, my team was blessed with enough talent to thoroughly thrash a couple of our lower quality opponents. During one such thrashing, we geared up to start of the 4th inning. As we slide on our gloves, the other team decided that they had had enough. They had enough of the errors, the poor pitch selections, and the bad calls. Their gloves came off and a full out brawl began…in their dugout. We watched passively in amazement as a tornado of gloves, hats, and punches whipped around the visitors’ dugout. Needless to say, the team forfeited that game and the rest of their season. They were done.

And when the church turns in on itself, it is done.  Once we exchange the liberating hope of the gospel for the despair of personal opinions, we become bring all real ministry to a halt. Humility evaporates. Relationships break down. And, God is forgotten. What’s left? A bunch of squabbling teammates that can’t even live up to the world’s standards of friendship.

What the solution?

1.      Be Thankful

We begin with thankfulness. Instead of being angry, instead of clinging to our own ideas as if they descended from heaven, we stop and thank God for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Notice what Paul say in Philippians 1:3-4,

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy.

Paul is thankful because they are all on the same team. They are all servants of Christ united together through the gospel. The next time we are tempted to get upset, to lash out at a fellow believer over some program, we need to stop and pray for that person. We need to be thankful that the same God working in us in working in them. We need to praise God that he saved both of us.  We need to teach our hearts to love others. We may have different ideas. But we have the same God and savior. Instead of attacking our fellow teammates, let’s be thankful for them and for their ministries.

1.      Be Thankful Again

Ok, now some of you may be thinking that I can be thankful for most people. But then there is that special class of people who always get on our nerves, who do things out of spite, or who do things to advance themselves. Surely we can fight against those people. And if these people are getting the gospel wrong, then yes would should address them in love. We should speak truth. But if they are preaching truth from wrong motives, Paul says rejoice. “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” I.E. if the ministry you deem to be most important is being trampled by another ministry that’s growing (even with bad leadership) we should rejoice. Why? Why is Paul rejoicing? We can rejoice with Paul because ministry is not about making much of us and our ideas. It’s about making much of Jesus and his church. Let’s rejoice and praise everything that moves the gospel forward!

2.      Check Your Heart

In addition to being thankful, we also need to be honest with ourselves. Ultimately, the reason we turn on other church members is that we have messed up hearts. We are worshiping our ideas and programs. When we don’t get them, we sin. Notice in Philippians 2:3-4 Paul says,

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

The reason we get mad, the reason we attack ministries, and the reason we complain about our fellow church members is that we are motivated by ambition and conceit. If our main complaints about programs and the church are focused around the pronouns “I” and “me,” we have a problem. We are not looking to the interest of others. We are being selfish. We need to stop and start putting others first. Why? Because this is what Jesus does. He humbled himself to save us. If we are going to be like Christ, we must humble ourselves so that Christ and his church can flourish. Friends, we need to be honest with ourselves. If we are fighting with people in our church, if we are always critical, if we have competing ministries, we have hearts out of line. Before we fix or change any program of ministry focus, we need to repent.

It’s natural for there to be competition, complaints, and attacks in the church. After all it is a hospital for the spiritual sick. But instead of blooding each other, let’s humbly put others first. Let’s keep our gaze on Christ. Let’s be thankful for our fellow Christians, and let’s be honest with each other. Together, we can keep the church moving forward!