How would we treat Jesus?

The theme of the 2018 Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Assembly, which I attended last week in Dallas, was “celebrating the Church locally and globally.” We heard a number of testimonies from leaders in churches tell of how God is at work in the Church locally and how through partnerships with others, ministering globally. These local church congregations from various parts of the country looked beyond the usual ways of addressing needs in their communities and found creative ways to take the love of God, “the Gospel,” into their neighborhoods.

One featured speaker, Dr. Wade Bibb, pastor of Central Baptist Church Bearden in Knoxville, TN, spoke of how spiritually energizing and exciting it has been for their church to be guided by the Spirit of Christ into new ways of ministry. Bibb said, “we’ve been flexing the muscle that we have in the wrong way for the wrong reasons. We’ve been flexing the muscle to sustain power. We’ve been flexing the muscle to hang on to the past. We have been flexing the muscle and substituting the mystery for the controllable.” We might expand the “controllable” to include the comfortable, personal preference, the way we have always done it, or what requires the least effort and has the least resistance. I cannot think of a time in scripture that Jesus took such a path. He challenged the status quo encouraging his followers then, and his followers today, to be transformed and to experience a paradigm shift in understanding life and the implications of God’s love for the whole of creation. We are called to follow Him and in faith courageously respond to all manner of ills particularly those promoting an ideology that God’s has greater love of one, or one group, than another.

We, as individual Christians and as a church are called to be God’s people, following Jesus to the edge of cultural norms where the marginalized exist. We are called to compassionately care for all of God’s children, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or nationality. A fact Jesus made very clear in the Matthew 25: For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

As I consider the plight of the immigrants seeking refuge and entry into the United States, I am reminded of this quote by Sir Thomas Browne, “By compassion we make others’ misery our own.” In this and all situations where individuals are in distress, misery and losing hope, where there is oppression and injustice, prejudice and bigotry, I urge you to listen to the Spirit of Christ to convey and interpret, apart from your personal opinions, how you should respond and how you should pray for and speak to those in positions of leadership to respond with love and mercy. How we respond to “the least of these” is how we respond to Jesus the Christ.

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How would we treat Jesus?

Welcoming Changes

The last few days of May usher in a period when most individuals and families find time to break away from the usual routine for a week or two and rest, relax and perhaps travel. This time of year is a time of transition, too. High school graduates are anticipating the beginning of a new chapter in life as they enter college or enter the work force. College graduates are looking for a position in their field, or perhaps they plan to enter graduate school furthering their education in preparation for a particular profession. Families find this to be a good time to move to a new community or city, especially if they have school age children. So, while this time of year is a time to rest and relax for some, others are fully engaged and getting things in order for their next steps in life. Every year during this period, we have the privilege of meeting a number of individuals who choose to join us for worship as they settle in our community. I hope we all see the tremendous opportunity of practicing radical hospitality by being the presence of Christ to those who come our way and to those we meet in our neighborhoods who are looking for a place to belong and a place to experience community.

This Wednesday evening, we will talk more about these opportunities in the second session of “Thinking about Our Mission: Building an Inclusive Community of Grace.” I hope you will be present for the Fellowship Supper and Prayer beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Welcoming Changes

Our social justice responsibility

If you read the April issue of the Southside Columns, or observe the posters in numerous locations around the building, our focus for study and involvement during Eastertide, social issues and social justice, is very apparent. Looking to scripture and the life of Jesus to inform, motivate and guide us in our response to our neighbors and the world in which we live by addressing systems of injustice and oppression is at the forefront of Jesus’ call to follow him.

The Sunday School lessons for this month fit well and support the efforts of understanding our responsibility in addressing cultural norms that perpetuate these problems. The unit of study looks at the life of an easy-to-like leader in the early Church named Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement. Barnabas was one who worked to spread the gospel in both his preaching/teaching and in his kindness and compassion towards others. Barnabas gave his resources to meet the needs of others, he interceded and advocated for the acceptance of others, such as Paul and John Mark, when their intent or devotion was called into question, and he was  a partner in ministry with the Apostle Paul when God led them to realize that the gospel was for everyone including Gentiles.

I hope you’ll participate in these opportunities to study scripture and pray that God would open our eyes to areas of involvement to which we are called.

Our social justice responsibility

Faith & Family

Each day I’m thankful for the faithful folks at Southside, especially all those that help to ensure all the missions and ministries are successful. In planning, the Congregational Council along with staff thought it was appropriate this month to focus on the important connection of our faith and family.

As we think about our faith family, I’m reminded of the diversity, yet bound by unity, that describes our church family. A family that actively longs and seeks to create safe spaces where everyone in loved and welcomed to explore and journey along the path of faith. Throughout this month, we hope to highlight the joy that is represented in our families – however they are defined.

This month, take a moment and reach out to someone. Remind them of your love for them. Invite someone to join our family of faith. Let’s ensure together that all are welcomed into our family.

– Rusty Bennett, Chair of Deacons

Faith & Family

Calling All College/Grad Students & Young Professionals!!

A new group has begun and we’re really excited about it! There’s so much going on in the world today and everyone needs a safe place to voice their concerns, ideas and opinions openly. And that’s what we’re offering.

Join us on Wednesday nights at 6:00pm in Room 138 after picking up a delicious meal over in Drennen Hall. The meal is FREE for college students and just $5 for everyone else. Or join us on Sunday morning during the Sunday School hour after the Gathering (more free food). We look forward to seeing you there!

Calling All College/Grad Students & Young Professionals!!

Special Worship Service + Luncheon!

Sunday was a wonderful day at Southside Baptist Church! The baptism of Shawny Tucker gave opportunity for us to celebrate with the newest member of the Southside Baptist family of faith. It also allowed us time to recall and reflect upon our own decisions to follow Christ and enter the baptismal waters. The music from the prelude through the postlude, the heartfelt words both spoken and sung and the visible steps taken in discipleship lifted our spirits and were reminders of the wonder of God’s love, mercy and grace.

This Sunday, August 27, another wonderful opportunity of worship is planned as former Pastor, Rev. Steve Jones, and Rabbi Jonathan Miller, recently retired from Temple Emanu-El after 27 years of leadership, speak during worship. Rev. Jones and Rabbi Miller, along with their congregations, forged a very special relationship during their tenures of service and leadership. Southside Baptist opening its doors to Temple Emanu-El while their building was under renovation was a gesture that also opened doors to interfaith dialogue and spiritual growth for both congregations. Rev. Jones and Rabbi Miller will share some personal thoughts and experiences of this wonderful interfaith relationship that blossomed and continues to be cherished by Southside Baptist Church and Temple Emanu-El.

Following worship, a covered-dish luncheon will be held in the Fellowship Hall to which everyone is invited. The church is providing the meat, bread and beverages, so members are asked to provide a salad, vegetable or dessert.

Make plans to be present and celebrate this time of fellowship around the table with friends old and new.

Special Worship Service + Luncheon!

Reflections on the Meaning of Charlottesville

The events of the last week brought to light the reality of evil harbored in the hearts of humankind. I do not personally know anyone that has expressed a strong belief that any race is inherently superior to another, or of any people group to another; yet, I do know that such beliefs are held by many, as displayed this week, and that there is a desire by some to see that ideology accepted and even embraced and promoted. One may argue that the free expression of these beliefs is a right, but in this rhetoric, where are the values of compassion, equality and the worth and dignity of every human being? These are core beliefs that we cite as setting our nation apart. Acts of violence, destruction, oppression and the taking of lives are manifestations of evil that has conditioned one’s mind and heart to believe such an ideology is justifiable. It is counter to what we hold as being the backbone of our country and, for those who are Christians, it makes a mockery of what we hold most dear, our faith in Jesus the Christ. There is nothing in the life and teachings of Jesus that even hint that such views, beliefs or actions can be condoned, much less held and acted on by anyone who professes to follow Christ.

How does the Church and in turn the individual Christian speak to this issue without letting our own outrage prompt an emotional and possibly destructive response? Though difficult, our call is to promote the cause of Christ in all situations; to speak truth and love into situations of evil and hate and to pray that the Spirit of Christ will guide us in what to say and do.

Reflections on the Meaning of Charlottesville