This year's Annual Meeting theme is "Live the Difference." We asked several individuals what it looks like to live the difference in their day-to-day lives. Here's what Jeff Johnson, BGCT president and pastor of First Baptist Church of Commerce, had to say:
My ability to Live the Difference is often tested as a pastor in light of 1 Timothy 3 and the qualifications I am to embody. For instance: "Preacher, are you trying to make this church into a disco"?
My reply? "Yes, I have been trying to get a church to buy into it since the 1970's and this church is the first one that has taken me up on it." (Probably not a 1 Timothy 3 type response I'm thinking).
Francis (88 years young now) vented at length about "the terribly annoying custom of someone interrupting worship or a concert and hollering, "Let's give Jesus a hand," causing everyone to erupt into applause. While this type of enthusiasm I thought was a certainly a welcome sign of life (especially in our church), according to Francis it is also a sign of short-circuited theology:
"Jesus doesn't need our hands slapping together in applause. Jesus needs our hands slapping together in work and witness – to live like Jesus has made a difference in our life. The Bible says that the harvest is plentiful and laborers are few. We need to get to work not growing weary in well-doing. Like cleaning up a yard, reading to kids at a school, working in a soup kitchen for crying out loud"
Ouch! She was right. Could a mandate for action be any clearer?
Put in sharper terms, what difference did worship last Sunday make in my life this past week? And I am the one who preached! How was I able to be more of a force for God's Spirit of love and justice because of my worship? What difference does all this Bible study, prayer, and worship stuff make in my life anyway?
It only takes a glance to see the differences the church failed to make in this past century alone. We failed to make forgiveness, love, truth and justice concrete realities in the world. We can send people to space but certainly have not been able to make a sanctuary out of the earth.
Yes, Francis is right. Christ was the most other-centered person in history. I invite questions about Him when I live like Him. Peter said it this way: "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us" (1 Peter 2:12). Jesus says we are the light of the world, a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden. So we are to let our light shine before men that they might see our good deeds and praise God (Matthew 5:16). Notice the God focus here.
Yes, Living the Difference in word and deed is the nature of those whose lives have been transformed by the Good News of Jesus Christ.
As Texas Baptists our hands are Jesus' hands. Sowing seeds of faithfulness gets our hands dirty. At our upcoming convention in Waco when someone clamoring for applause shouts, "Let's give Jesus a hand," I'm checking under my fingernails.