In my years as an ordained minister, I have conducted my fair share of weddings. I continue to do them, but I can’t say they’re my favorite pastoral duty.
These days, I limit the weddings I officiate to those of close friends or alumni of our mission organization. If I had a choice between officiating a wedding or going to the dentist, it would be a tossup. There is so much pressure on the day of the wedding: the dress, the decorations and the venue. But in the end, most people come for the cake.
Added to the struggle are the issues of dealing with the bossy mothers or mothers-in-law, the photographer, the best man, the maid of honor and the organ grinder with the monkey. Weddings don’t take up an afternoon but weeks or months, including counseling, rehearsal and then the wedding itself. I am not sure many pastors enjoy doing weddings.
I heard another pastor tell the story of a young bride who was becoming extremely stressed and nervous over the plans of her upcoming wedding. She found herself crying often, and it had become harder and harder for her to make decisions. She went to her pastor and talked to him about how she was falling apart with all the preparations.
This wise old pastor told her to search the Scriptures and find a verse she could memorize and claim as her own. It would bring her peace and comfort. In a few days, she went back to the pastor, thanked him for his advice and told him God had given her a verse.
“And what is it, my dear?” he asked.
The bride-to-be smiled and quoted 1 John 4:18a: “There is no fear in love. But perfect live drives out fear.” She found such comfort in the verse that she called the catering company and asked if they could put it on her wedding cake. On her special day, it would remind her that it was God who got her to this place.
About a week before the wedding, she received a call from the catering company. “Is this really the verse you want on your cake?” they asked. Yes, she confirmed, it was the one she wanted, and after a few more questions, they agreed to decorate the cake as requested.
The wedding day came, and everything was beautiful—until the reception, when the bride walked in to find the cake emblazoned with John 4:18a: “The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.” One does makes a difference.
I once performed a wedding with a young couple who, midway through the ceremony, were to walk over to one side of the sanctuary and light the unity candle. Their parents had come down the aisle earlier with lighted candles and placed them in a holder. During the service, the bride and groom picked up the candles representing each of their families and used them to light the main candle, signifying that the two had become one.
After lighting the candle, the two were to blow out the smaller candles while I read, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).
As the bride started to blow out the candle with her veil still over her face, her breath pushed the veil out to touch the flame. The veil didn’t catch fire, but it started to smolder and melt. When the bride came back over to stand in front of me, I could see the place where the flame had touched her veil. As I wrapped up the ceremony, the hole grew larger and larger, and I got tickled. Right in front of me stood this beautiful bride, her nose and a big smile in the center of a widening hole in her veil.
It took everything I had to keep from cackling. When I pronounced, “You may now kiss your bride,” I wasn’t sure if the groom would lift the veil or just kiss her through the hole. He lifted the veil. I was never so glad to see a wedding end.
One wedding lost the “1” in front of John, and the other wedding went in the hole, but weddings are not about the perfect ceremony. They are about life, about learning to live with the good and the bad. With the achievements and disappointments that come our way, through it all, the love of God is being perfected in us. Good marriages don’t come from perfect ceremonies but from a perfect God. He is the one who “in all things works for the good” (Rom. 8:28b).
Even if we have a hole in one.
RICHMOND, Va. (LBM)—Donations through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for the first quarter of the new fiscal year, Oct.-Dec. 2017, were $600,027 ahead of receipts for the same time period last year, a 4.1 percent increase, the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention reported Jan. 16 via press release.
Meanwhile, the overseas missionary force declined in 2017, dropping from 3,596 to 3,562, according to data collected from the IMB website Fast Facts page and a limited release Field Personnel Count summary.
The IMB reported a total of $15,221,629 had been collected from all sources “so far for the 2017-2018 campaign,” which runs October through September. Previous campaigns were based on a June through May calendar.
IMB also reported it has received $23,304,153 in Cooperative Program funding for the 2017-18 fiscal year, which likewise started Oct. 1. This amount is $225,349 ahead of last year at this time, about one percent more.
The combined increases total $825,376 more for the work of the IMB.
In contrast to the financial blessings it is receiving, the IMB continues to lose more missionaries than it appoints annually.
The net loss of 34 field personnel for the year actually represents a shortage of 134 overseas missionaries based on the published budget plan.
According to statements posted on the Frequently Asked Questions page on IMB.org, the budget provided for “a net gain (from Dec. 2016 to Dec. 2017) of 100 field missionaries, which is approximately 3 percent [more].”
The end of year report means Southern Baptists have lost an additional 255 missionaries, net, from the field since 2016, when 983 departed early after IMB officials announced the need for personnel reductions and offered incentives to induce voluntary terminations (another 149 stateside staff left in 2016, too).
Speaking June 12 to a select crowd in Phoenix, Arizona, during the SBC Annual Meeting, IMB President David Platt said a turnaround was imminent.
“For years now, we have declined in the number of Southern Baptist missionaries serving around the world,” he said. “But this year, the stage is set for that trend to be reversed. The stage is set for Southern Baptists to send more missionaries, through a multiplicity of pathways.”
**The Baptist Message contacted the mission agency with questions and to allow comment on the continuing personnel losses in light of the entity’s financial improvements, but IMB officials did not respond.
Aug. 2015 4,800 (before mass departures)
Apr. 2016 3,817 (end of VRI, HRO benefits offers)
Dec. 2016 3,596 (losses continued)
Dec. 2017 3,562 (134 actually short of goal)
VRI = Voluntary Retirement Incentives
HRO = Hand Raising Opportunities
A: The budget provides for a projected 451 total new field personnel in 2017. All 451 would be field personnel. We project that those who retire or complete their assignment (273) and we project those who depart through attrition (78) would equal 351. In addition to “replacing” those 351 departed missionaries, we will be able to appoint 100 more, for a net gain (from Dec. 2016 to Dec. 2017) of 100 field missionaries, which is approximately 3 percent.
Dr. Robert Jeffress and conservative evangelical Christians who oppose open immigration are not “utilitarians” who think like abortionists as one SBC blogger wrote. Such a charge is a damnable lie and mischaracterization, but we should expect no less of the followers of Russell Moore and his progressive fellow travelers who have infiltrated the Southern Baptist Convention.
The key charge from SBC Voices is that Dr. Jeffress views immigrants no differently than abortion supporters view infants. “At the core, Jeffress uses the same logic to restrict certain groups of people from entering the country as abortion lobbyists use to restrict babies from entering life outside the womb. On the one hand it is perceived value to the person and on the other hand it is perceived value to the nation.”
This is nonsense. Carrying this logic to its conclusion presents its absurdity. When hiring someone for a job, may I consider their qualifications? Is that using abortion logic if I hire based on talent and skills instead of God’s view of the person? Or, are the situations different? Perhaps, as in hiring, determining immigration policy isn’t a Gospel issue or any type of moral issue, but rather a reasonable wisdom issue where Christians should look to the merits of the policy instead of condemning one another. Continue reading