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I came into the office last Monday and started rolling through my daily schedule and my scheduled tasks for the upcoming day. I had moved the finishing touches of my Wednesday night Bible study up to Monday morning so that I could take the time to travel to Atchison, Kansas to spend some valuable time with the students from our student group that had travelled to that location on mission trip. I had never travelled to that part of Kansas before and I always enjoy any new sites or new experiences when on the road. I took my lovely bride with me and we both really enjoyed the scenic drive over. As we approached Atchison it became obvious that this small bustling eastern Kansas town had something to do with Amelia Earhart. We actually discovered that she was born there and they even had an airport named after her that was a historical marker of the famed pilot’s early beginnings.

But then, after a brief look over the area, we turned to the task at hand, discovering where the students and their leaders were canvasing the neighborhood with the gospel while handing out flyers describing a new church plant called “Celebration Church” that the students have been working with during summer missions. I wanted to surprise the team with a visit just to give them an encouraging word. After a few turns here and a few turns there with my trusty navigator at my side we spotted our church vans just around a corner... we knew we were close...and it wasn’t too much longer before we slowly and deftly rolled up on Pastor Jeremy Shirley and Associate Minister Alec Erhart along with the freshest and most determined students I had seen in a quite a while. Really, it was a sight to behold. These students and their leaders were excitedly and passionately, and did I mention tirelessly, executing their plan of evangelism and survey. I mean it was a hot day there and they were still at it. In fact, after we left them to go get a bite to eat, they just stayed out there until almost dark to get as much done as possible. Pretty impressive and very encouraging to watch that team at work for the glory of the Lord. It was neat to hear their stories of how the day had gone and how the mission was progressing.

You know, there’s so much bad stuff that goes on out in this old broken world it’s really quite refreshing to come upon some good stuff that you can share. I had originally travelled to attempt to spread a little encouragement their way and they ended up being the ones that were building me up and encouraging me. It was great. Our students have a lot of opportunities on the horizon. We, as a country, are in desperate need for young and passionate Christians who serve the Lord because they want to, not because they have to, to step up and infiltrate the world with the gospel and live a life that makes a difference. We need Christian scientists who are able to discover and articulate the scientific facts that bring down the godless theory of evolution, in whatever form it takes. We need doctors, and nurses, and police officers, and military personnel, and media personalities, and newsmen, and actors, and pastors, you get the idea...everywhere to be the salt and light of the world.

"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16 (NASB)

You can put a smile on your face today because these students are anything but tasteless. And these students are stepping up. They are salty for sure and I see a commitment in their lives that demonstrates their genuine and meaningful relationship with Jesus.

What can you do to help these students? If you’re a parent of one of this fine young men or women let them know you’re on their team. That means do the tough stuff when you have to and continue to parent them with a focus to help them find what the Lord would have them do...and work on making that happen...and do it all with unmistakable love, no hidden message stuff...make it clear. You are the biggest influence on their’re doing a great job, don’t tire out...keep it up! If you’re like me and these students are not your own children it’s good to remember they are a part of our “family” and we should be there to help them, pray for them, encourage them, and support them whenever and wherever we can.

And we can love on their leaders. We should stand with them, appreciate them, and speak well of them as they serve the Lord and minister to our students.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. Hebrews 13:17 (NASB)

If someone starts to gossip from ignorance, stop them and turn the conversation into something positive. It brings our students comfort when everybody is on the same team.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing; Philippians 2:14 (NASB)

I’ve watched these leaders and students at work for the Lord. Those that were saved during the ministry of our students are glad that they came. And those that are encouraged by their love and commitment to the Lord are glad that they were sent.

Maybe they could even teach us a thing or two.


Posted by Ralph Sawyer with
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We’ve seen no shortage of examples of lack of unity this past week. Our nation is divided as African Americans and increasingly Police officers lives are being targeted. Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter. The undertones of racism that some would like to say have long since been buried in our nation have reared its ugly head. For those more politically minded, the Republican National Convention, the massive pep rally for the future presidential candidate, a supposedly unifying event was derailed at nearly the beginning by division over rules and how a vote about such rules should be taken.

It can be kind of depressing to see the division that exists in our country and the world as a whole. It can be discouraging as you turn on the news or visit your favorite news website to see the harm that lack of unity causes us. It’s not my desire to draw your attention to more of the issues that plague us today but to point us towards something we are a part of as a church that recently at its annual gathering sent a strong message of unity. Our church is a part of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). For many today in SBC congregations, you’re aware of this fact but know little of why it matters what our denominational affiliation is. It starts with a doctrinal agreement on our understanding of the Bible but from there it’s built on the premise that together we can do more for the furtherance of the Gospel than we can do separately.

Some people when they hear of the SBC, have negative feelings towards it. Let’s be honest, we are not a perfect denomination. Many Southern Baptist churches have been filled with racist and slave owners. It’s a stain on our past but something that we are working to make right, as we all recognize the gospel is not for the white man, but for all of mankind! Last month, the SBC held its annual meeting in St. Louis. It’s interesting as I look back now given the headlines in our nation at the things that the leadership were led by God to emphasize at the convention. Unity, racial and otherwise, was key to them as we move forward in an effort to bring our nation and this world to salvation.

In my efforts to encourage you, as a Southern Baptist, who probably did not have the opportunity to attend the annual convention I want to share with you a story, one that displays the unity that we have and the desire to make much of Jesus. The story that follows is about the SBC presidential election. Please do not bail on me now because I know you’ve heard more than enough about presidential elections but this story is different. It starts with 3 men who love Jesus….see I told you it was different! Each one of them running for president of the SBC, each one nominated by a well-known SBC leader, and each one likely qualified to serve the SBC in this capacity.

Here is where the story gets interesting. I was able to be in the convention hall for the vote. We all cast our vote for president. Sounds pretty normal so far but wait for it. As the votes were being counted in the background I began to hear rumors that it would be important to stay in the convention hall. Something was up with the voting, enough people I respected were saying stay in the hall that I wanted to see what was happening. The results came back with 1 candidate receiving about 10% of the vote and the other 2, JD Greer and Steve Gaines, each receiving about 40% of the vote. This is where things got real interesting. According to the governing rules, a president needed to be elected by 50% majority. So here we are in the hall, voting a second time between Greer and Gaines.

Unfortunately after this I had to leave so I wasn’t present for the rest of the story but what happened is unheard of. The results came back and both Gaines and Greer had 49% of the vote, with illegally cast ballots being the problem keeping us from getting a majority winner. At this point it became pretty clear that a divide existed. It was likely the young SBC vs. the old SBC rearing its ugly head. Greer was likely the candidate favored by the younger and Gaines likely being favored by the older. So what now? This doesn’t sound like a story of unity….but wait there’s more!

That night and on into the morning God orchestrated one of the most beautiful pictures of unity that could result from these circumstances. I don’t know all the details but I know both Greer and Gaines felt led to withdraw their candidacy so the other could be president and move forward unified. As word reached both of them, they met together. Greer expressed his strong desire to step aside and allow Gaines to serve as President. Gaines, in his desire for Jesus to be lifted high and for SBC unity, would accept the presidency. They prayed together and the next morning, both Gaines and Greer took the platform; Greer withdrew his candidacy and threw his support behind Gaines. He moved to elect Gaines by acclimation. The unified body of delegates from SBC churches around the nation elected Gaines.

These men showed us that one thing matters, Jesus and the salvation that comes through Him! May we all seek similar unity and be proud to be Southern Baptist as we move forward in building unity around Jesus Christ! If you’d like to know more about what happened at the Southern Baptist Convention, below you’ll find a video that summarizes what took place. It was an incredible gathering with emphasis on racial reconciliation, prayer, a desire for spiritual awakening, and UNITY centered on Jesus Christ! Together we can do more than we can do separately!


Posted by Jeremy Shirley with