Sunday, July 1, 2007

A Preacher Walked Into a Bar….

(Sabbath Blog #24)

No, this is not a joke.

I was in Washington, D.C. last week for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly. Friday night provided the highlight of the week. That night, people attending the CBF meeting shared in a worship service with the delegates and guests attending the Biennial meeting of the American Baptist Churches, USA. It was a historic and inspiring evening. We sang, we prayed, we celebrated partnership missions endeavors, and, in everything, we worshiped the Lord Jesus. We also shared in Communion, which was a very moving experience.

Once upon a time there was one major Baptist movement in the United States. It was basically comprised of missionary societies through which Baptist churches all over the nation supported home and foreign missions. A national meeting was held every three years; thus, the organization is referred to as the Triennial Convention. Things changed in 1845 when, largely because of a dispute over the appointment of slaveholders as missionaries, the southern churches formed the Southern Baptist Convention. The northern churches continued to follow the society model until 1907, when the Northern Baptist Convention was formed. The name of that convention was later changed to the American Baptist Convention and then to the American Baptist Churches, USA. At their meeting in Washington, which continues through Monday, they are celebrating their centennial.

Also once upon a time, even though they were two separate conventions, the SBC and ABC cooperated on matters of mutual interest. One example was their shared support of Central Baptist Seminary in Kansas City, until the SBC formed Midwestern Seminary. Another was their shared involvement in the Baptist World Alliance, until the SBC withdrew from the BWA. Yet another example was their mutual participation in the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs (now the BJC on Religious Liberty), until the SBC stopped supporting the work of that organization.

I am glad that the CBF is gladly partnering with the ABC in all of those areas and in other missions and ministry projects. The CBF and ABC are working together in all three of those arenas from which the SBC absented itself. But they are also jointly supporting missionaries and missions endeavors. We celebrated those efforts on Friday night. I walked away from that service glad that I had been a part of it.

That was when I walked into a bar.

The hotel in which I was staying has a sports bar and restaurant. I wanted to watch the last few innings of the Braves/Marlins game and I knew that it would not be on the television in my room. So, I decided to go to the bar, get some dinner, and watch the game. I had eaten there on my first night in town and had seen that they had a lot of televisions; I figured the Braves game would surely be on one of them. I walked in and wandered all over the establishment searching in vain for my game. After I had made a loop around the restaurant, a waiter asked if he could help me. I told him of my predicament. He said, “Have a seat and I’ll see what I can do.” So I did. A few minutes later, a manager came over to me and said, “Sir, I’ve put your game on the plasma TV in the back.” I followed him to a room where the Orioles vs. Angels game was on one screen and there, on the other, was the Braves vs. Marlins game. I gladly ordered some shrimp, onion rings, and iced tea and watched the rest of the game, which, I am happy to report, the Braves won.

There’s a lesson that our churches can learn from that bar. Folks wander in all the time, looking for something. We need to find out, if we can, what they’re looking for. And then, we need to try to, in line with our mission, meet that need in the name of the Lord. If we do, they may just stay—in the Kingdom of God, if not in our particular church.

Yep, a preacher walked into a bar—and was reminded of something that is very important.

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