friend said, "Our church was having a business conference
last Sunday night to vote on our new interim pastor."
personnel committee is charged with finding and recommending a
minister for this purpose, and they had done their work. In the
business meeting, the congregation was discussing the choice and
asking many questions. My friend wanted me to know of one little
thing that had transpired.
in the midst of all the discussion, this long tall man unfolded
and walked up in front of the church. He said, 'People, there's
a better way than all of this. You chose a committee and entrusted
them with the duty of finding this person and interviewing him
and bringing him before you. You do not have time enough to get
every question answered in this meeting. Ultimately, you're going
to have to trust your leaders."
friend said, "I laughed to myself, 'He sure has learned from
his dad.'" He said, "I don't know how many times I've
heard you say that over the years you were our pastor.
believe it strongly. In recent months, I preached that at West
St. Charles Church in Boutte and the First Baptist Church of Belle
Chasse. "One day soon, your search committee is going to
bring their recommendation for your next pastor. The man and his
family will spend the weekend visiting your church and the community.
You'll have several opportunities to meet him and ask some questions.
But you need to realize up front that in three days you will not
be able to know him well enough or to get all your questions answered.
What it all comes down to is that you're going to have to trust
the very best your church has. Then trust them. In finances, in
business decisions, in personnel matters. The extent to which
your church does this tells volumes about the congregation.
admit that to our shame, untold numbers of Baptists who are strong
participants in every phase of church life have a hard time doing
that. They trust no one except themselves, and sometimes not even
that. The result is a constant murmur of bickering and debating,
a low level of distrust and a high level of dissatisfaction, which
tires out the leaders, slows down the work of the Lord, brings
disgust to the hearts of new believers, and doubtless frustrates
the Lord of the Church who loves it and gave Himself for it.
I digress. I started to write something here about family, having
had my wonderful son "outed" by his remembering something
his father often said.
friend Barry is a Jew. We connected almost by accident many years
ago, and he has taught me a number of lessons about relating to
someone different from me.
the early 1970s Barry--a native of Southern California--took it
upon himself to see the Deep South. I'm not sure of the details,
but believe he flew into Mississippi and rented a car. He drove
to Oxford just to see for himself the university where James Meredith
had been forcibly installed as the first black student, an incident
much in the news back then.
Jackson, Barry drove around, found the Capitol, and walked into
the governor's office. Everyone was gracious--he had not been
sure what to expect--and next thing you know, he showed up in
the office of the First Baptist Church across the street. The
receptionist, Mickey Brunson, stepped across the hall to my cubbyhole
of an office, and said, "Joe, we have a gentleman here who
would like a brief tour of the church. Can you do it?"
how we met. And started corresponding. In 1981, when the Southern
Baptist Convention met in Los Angeles, Barry picked me up at the
hotel and gave me the grand tour. We attended a baseball game
in Anaheim and checked out the campuses of UCLA and USC. And I
The Scars Tell
Rose's column in Tuesday's Times-Picayune deals with the "badges
of honor," those spray-painted markings left from the days
following Katrina when National Guardsmen were checking houses
for survivors or victims. They brandished their cans of spray
paint with a flair, marking giant X's on every home no matter
whether damaged or not, noting their unit number, today's date,
a number--usually a zero--to say whether anyone was found inside,
and often "NE" to indicate "no entry."
lovers frequently came behind the guardsmen looking for abandoned
critters. The markings they spray-painted beside the NG tattoos
were usually large and gaudy and wordy. "Two cats under the
house; dog in back." Occasionally, a house will carry a full
conversation between these animal lovers: "Dog in back."
"Could not find it." "Look next door."
the only damage a home sustained was the bright red paint on the
brick carrying the post-hurricane graffiti. A souvenir of our
saviors; residue from our rescuers.
community has not agreed on what to make of those tattoos. Or
even what to call them. Hieroglyphs of catastrophe. Crisis markings.
Marks of distinction. Disgusting souvenirs. Badges of honor. Battle
sometimes suggest to preacher friends that they consider bringing
a sermon on scars. The scars on your body tell a story about you.