Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Another birthday brings reminders of God's grace

Today's my birthday, and I've received many reminders of it on Facebook.

All of them are welcome, because they remind me of what is really of value in life - family and friends who you love, and who love you back.

Yes, another birthday brings many reminders and, having been born during the Truman administration, I have a lot to remember!

There are many people who have been important in my life, and quite a few of them are gone. Most important of all, my parents, Jase and Vivian Jones, who provided me a home filled with love and examples of Christian faithfulness. They're gone, but memory is a wonderful gift that God has given us, and I have great memories of them.

Another birthday is also a reminder that time is getting short, and there is still a lot I want to get done as long as I'm drawing breath. None of us knows exactly how long we have in this life, but when you're 61 you know you're well past the halfway point.

Most of all, my birthday is a reminder of how blessed I've been - a layperson who at this point in his life has been given ministry opportunities that are beyond what he ever imagined. Most of my adult life has been spent in the corporate world. In my 30s, I was a manager for Mountain Bell telephone. In my 40s and 50s, I was a technical writer and editor for various companies.

But now here I am with the opportunity to spend my days working on the matters about which I'm most passionate. Last year, just before I turned 60, the Texas Baptists Committed Board asked me to lead TBC as associate executive director. Last week, the TBMaston Foundation for Christian Ethics elected me as chair.

I especially thank God for T. B. Maston, whose influence has been a part of my life - whether or not I was aware of it - from the time I was born. After all, my impending birth was the reason that Dr. Maston granted Daddy a month's delay for his oral exams from March 1951 to April.

Daddy said that T. B. Maston and his own Daddy (A. Jase Jones, Sr.) were the two greatest influences in his life, and he passed that Maston influence down to my sister, Patsy, and me.

But back to the opportunities that God has given me. Even before being asked to fill my current roles with Texas Baptists Committed and the TBMaston Foundation, I had already spent the past few years developing content for their Web sites and blogs. Now I've been given the opportunity to do even more. So I get to spend my days working on issues that are at the heart of who I am, and I get to work with people on these Boards - and other people in Baptist life - for whom I have a great respect and affection. Most of all, I learn so much from these wonderful Baptists with whom I work.

That's probably the best thing about the work I do - the people I get to know and work with, such gracious and gifted Baptist ministers and laypersons. As I told the Maston Board last week, I really don't feel worthy to sit at the same table with those folks, knowing the great things many of them have accomplished for the Kingdom. But that's the grace of God, something we don't understand but gratefully accept. (And my friend Weston Ware, the recipient last November of the T. B. Maston Christian Ethics Award, reminded me that, if any of us who serve Christ were to wait until we're "worthy," we would never serve at all.)

So I thank God for another birthday - and all of you for how you bless my life and for how you bless the Kingdom of God.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

T. B. MASTON SAID IT: He went about doing good

(Originally published as part of T. B. Maston's "Problems of the Christian Life" series in the Baptist Standard, April 17, 1968; several articles from this series are reprinted on the TBMaston Foundation Web site)

This five-word biography of Jesus, "He went about doing good," was part of the sermon of Peter in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:38). This statement has deep meaning for followers of Christ.
Hoke Smith, an area representative of our Foreign Mission Board, recently said that the essence of missionary theory and practice could be reduced to a very concise formula: "To be like Jesus in attitudes, words, and deeds." This is not only the essence of missionary theory and practice, but it is also the essence of the Christian life.
If we are like Jesus, we will have a wayside ministry. He went about from place to place, and as He went He was helpful in His relation to suffering, sinning, seeking men and women. Jesus did not settle down in one spot and invite the people to come to Him. He went out where they were.
Our contemporary institutionalized concept of Christian work tends to localize and circumscribe our ministry for Him. We must move out of our church buildings and reach people where they are, or we will not reach the vast majority.
This does not mean that there will be no need for our buildings. We will still need them for worship and fellowship. But that worship and fellowship should be primarily preparatory. Also, we should seek to discover new approaches and techniques to transport some of that fellowship out where the people are.
Let us never forget that as Jesus went from place to place He ministered to the needs of the people.
What was the secret to the kind of life Jesus lived? Peter says that He went about doing good "for God was with him." Here was the source of His power. It was also the reason or the motive for the kind of life He lived.
At least His life was a natural expression of an inner desire. He could have used His miraculous power to perform miracles even more spectacular than most of those He performed. They would have been proof to the people that He was the Messiah, that He was the Son of God.
Why did He use His power so exclusively to relieve human needs? Approximately two-thirds of His recorded miracles were healing miracles. All others, with the possible exception of one or two, were miracles to relieve some human need. Why? He had a deep concern for people.
The more vital our relation is to Him, the deeper will be our desire to go about doing good. Also, the only source of the power that will enable us to have an effective wayside ministry is the power that comes from a vital relationship to Him.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

FROM THE MASTON READER: Neglect of the Poor

(Both-And: A Maston Reader, Selected Readings from the Writings of T. B. Maston, published by the TBMaston Foundation in 2011, will provide the focus of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Conference on March 8-9 at Wilshire Baptist Church, Dallas.)
Southern Baptists are becoming increasingly a middle- and upper-class movement. The movement upward economically, educationally, and politically seems to be inevitable, but the movement away from the poor is not inevitable.
However, too many of our local churches tend to neglect "God's little ones," and for many of those churches those little ones are close by the church building. Also, we may discover that some of the neglected "little ones" are really among God's "big ones."
We should remember one proof that Jesus was the promised Messiah was that He preached the gospel to the poor (Luke 4:18; 7:22; cf Isaiah 61:1-12).
Furthermore, we should not forget that when the "Son of man" comes in judgment He will say to those on His right hand and on His left hand, "Inasmuch as ye have done it (done it not) unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it (done it not) unto me" (Matthew 25:40, 45).
He identified Himself with the little ones, even the least of them. What would be His word to us as individual Christians and churches?
(Excerpted from the article, "Materialistic Spirit Threatens Southern Baptists," written by T. B. Maston and originally published in the Baptist Standard, May 14, 1980; reprinted on p. 172 of Both-And: A Maston Reader.)

Monday, March 5, 2012

FROM THE MASTON READER: Monologue or Dialogue?

(Both-And: A Maston Reader, Selected Readings from the Writings of T. B. Maston, published by the TBMaston Foundation in 2011, will provide the focus of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Conference on March 8-9 at Wilshire Baptist Church, Dallas.)

Many problems arise in the area of human relations because of a failure of people to communicate with one another. A major factor contributing to this failure is the inability or the refusal of some people to enter into dialogue.
The latter is one reason for many conflicts that arise between parents and children, teachers and pupils, employers and employees, pastors and people. Also, the clashes between those of different cultures and colors stem to a considerable degree from a failure to carry on real dialogue. Martin Luther King Jr., in his famous "Letter from the Birmingham Jail," said: "Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue."
Failure to Participate
The failure to participate in dialogue is primarily but not exclusively the responsibility of the individual or group with the advantage of age, prestige, or power. There is always the possibility of a two-way monologue. Two people or even two groups may seemingly but not really be speaking to one another.
As the younger or less powerful individual or group matures, there will be more necessity for dialogue. At least there will be insistence on an answer to the questions that are asked. Parents of teenage children become acutely aware of this insistence. But the same thing is true of other individuals and groups. For example, the Negro in recent years has insisted as never before on real dialogue.
The demand by the teenager, the college student, the employee, the Negro for dialogue may sound at times like a monologue. If it does, one possible reason is the refusal of the parent, the teacher, the administrator, the white man to enter into dialogue. The more the latter refuses to hear, the louder the former will speak.
Difficulty of Dialogue
Many people prefer monologue to dialogue because the latter is much more difficult. Dialogue means that one's position may be challenged. It is usually much easier to state a position than to defend it. Some feel threatened when they are asked to defend their position. When this happens, their reaction will be emotional rather than intelligent.
Also, to carry on effective dialogue, one must be able to listen attentively and to analyze objectively the position of the other person or group. This is hard to do. We need to know, however, that effective communication depends as much on ability to listen as on ability to speak.
Many problems in our churches and denomination stem from the fact that we tend to speak in monologue rather than dialogue. This is not only true of the preacher in the pulpit but also of the teacher in the classroom and of the denominational leader.
There is not enough opportunity for people generally to ask questions, to have a chance to talk back, or to state an opposing viewpoint. Unfortunately, too many of us in church-related vocations are not competent in the use of dialogue.
Dialogue is particularly important in a democracy. There is no real democracy without it. Also, the maturing of people in a democracy will be determined, to a considerable degree, by their participation through dialogue in the life and work of the democracy.
(Originally published in T. B. Maston's Problems of the Christian Life series in the Baptist Standard, December 10, 1969; reprinted on pp. 257-259 of Both-And: A Maston Reader.)