Nailing Down the Fundamentals

“Play ball!” I watched as my son Connor took the field to play in the Dixie Youth World Series. I had coached him all year and talked baseball nearly every day. We worked on drills outside in the backyard, practiced a lot, and learned rules as we sat on the couch watching baseball. Now he would have the chance to play in a tournament all the dads in the stands dreamed about playing in and to compete for a crown coveted by all Little League baseball players.

I was drenched in sweat after hauling in what seemed like a full tailgate setup, complete with tent, chairs, cooler, portable fan — and a 3-year-old little brother! Despite a fairly busy schedule, I had missed only one game during the season, and nothing would keep me from cheering him on in the most important games of the year.

You would never guess that my son sometimes suffers from domestic abuse.

What?

It’s true. You see, in all of the excitement and late-night games of the past week of tournament play, I neglected to crack the Bible open once with my sons. My prayers with them were limited to a few just before our meal. Sure, we talked about life lessons from the games on the ride home, but I did not take the responsibility of making sure they were hearing from their Heavenly Father that week.

One of the worst forms of domestic abuse is neglect — spiritual neglect. In an effort to provide everything for our families, some of the blue-ribbon moms and dads neglect their children spiritually. They get consumed in work and family activity and neglect to do the one thing that is most important: model and train them to follow Jesus. Moms and dads discipline their children but neglect to disciple them.

It is not the responsibility of the church to disciple your children. That responsibility falls directly on the shoulders of the parents, according to Deuteronomy 6:6-9. Think about it: If they received only one hour of instruction practicing for a sport or learning math, how good would they be at either one?

We will rearrange our entire lives so that our children and grandchildren have all the opportunities in life, but we’ll neglect to provide them with the Gospel that will transform their life.

Our country is reflective of a nation filled with individuals who have suffered spiritual domestic abuse. It’s no wonder that professing Christians hold views contrary to what the Scripture teaches. They’ve never read it!

If you love your children and grandchildren, stop neglecting them spiritually. Be intentional about reading Scripture with them. Take opportunities to instruct them as you model a life that follows Jesus. Let them go with you as you serve others. Pray with them in times of trouble and in times of gladness. Your children need your spiritual instruction more than learning how to take a stick and hit a ball.

Challenge them to share the Gospel as much as you do.

I’d love to continue the conversation, but I have some spiritual work with my boys to catch up on. How about you?

 

Lee Clamp, Director of Evangelism

From Sanctuary to Flooded Streets

“Why does God hate me?”

Sam sat with his head in his hands, sobbing. His life was a mess, piled up 10 feet high in his front yard, after the flash flood in South Carolina rushed into his home. A few days before, his life seemed fine; now he was broken, and there was no insurance to put the pieces back together.

Josh put his hand on his shoulder and wept with him. He was part of the South Carolina Baptist Disaster Relief team of volunteers and a member of a church across town that began mobilizing people in the midst of the storm. Josh was not the only one. The Church was deployed in all corners of the city — meeting needs, caring, loving those in the midst of crisis, and listening to their stories.

Stories of hope and rescue flooded the news. People felt compelled to take days off from work in order to go to a neighborhood close by. The Church flooded the streets and began to help those in need. One Christian plumber gathered 30 of his employees and paid them to assist in an affected area.

Grills opened up, frowns turned to smiles, and the neighborhood was alive despite the wreckage that lay in each man’s yard. Neighbors who hadn’t talked to one another in years shared stories of struggle and survival. The Church was seen all around — caring for people, circling up to pray, and sharing the joy and hope of Jesus. People were investing in the souls of mankind — which will last for eternity — rather than in possessions for their own personal pleasure.

Wouldn’t it be great if, in a few months, things didn’t get back to normal?

What if we came out of our homes and began to have conversations with our neighbors? What if we quit pretending that others’ lives weren’t a mess and looked for ways to care for them and share the hope of Jesus? What if, when we gathered on Sunday, we were more concerned with raising money for those in need than with renovations to our building? What if loud music and a solid message were no longer the metric for a good Sunday? What if Sunday was a time of celebration of how God used us this past week to love others?

What would happen if the Church treated their community like a disaster area every week and looked for ways to serve and share with those needing to be rescued?

A flood has a way of moving the Church from the sanctuary to the streets.

Don’t go back to normal.

Invest in the souls of mankind. Then tell them the truth: Jesus loves them to death.

 

Lee Clamp, Director of Evangelism

The Graying of America

“I feel like I’m 18 years old.  But when I look in the mirror it tells me something different.”  I laughed as 82 year old, Mr. Bickley, gave a little wink and walked slowly away.   There was something in his eye that told me that he was telling the truth.

Age is relative.  I remember in college when I was a senior and a new roomate was placed in our apartment by the housing department.  We couldn’t believe it when we walked in after Christmas break.  There sat an old man on our couch.  We asked him if we could help him and he said he was our new roommate.  How could we be placed with an old man?  He would be in bed by 9 pm every night!

I said, “How old are you?”

“35 years old.” He said.

Thirty-five seems pretty young to me now and I long for 9 pm bedtimes!

God is not concerned with your age.  He is concerned with your obedience.  He took a baby and changed the world, and He took an old man and brought his people out of slavery.

The reality is that we are all just a few seconds away from death so why not make the most of it?  Age tends to be a great excuse for not obeying Jesus.  Young people wait around on being responsible until 22 years old (sometimes 30) and Older people tend to hit retirement mode about 20 years too early.   Somewhere in the middle there is this mad rush to be successful, chase careers, and raise a family.

The generations have a lot to learn from one another.

Younger people need to be patient and listen to the older generation and hear stories of when the phone was stuck to the wall. Let the older generation teach you about how to have relationships face to face and work through conflict without a cell phone stuck in your face.  Learn from their triumphs and tragedies rather than repeating the process.  Realize that 50 years of experience in this world may be more valuable than Google.

The older generation would do well to empower the younger generation rather than trying to maintain control.  Release them to take a risk to change the world, instead of stifling them with stories of why it can’t be done.  Encourage them in their struggles and dust them off as they fall.  Turn the music up a notch at church and put in ear plugs.  It’s better than the alternative of sitting in silence.  Teach them the truths of scripture through your life and mistakes.

Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation,    your mighty acts to all who are to come.  Psalms 71:18

The reality is that we need each other.  Let us unite and be an unstoppable force.  The lost are worth it.

 

Lee Clamp, Director of Evangelism

Break a Sweat

I have lost nearly 150 lbs.  Before you go comparing me to my boy Jarod at Subway, you may want to know that since I’ve been on a diet I have also found about 170 lbs.  You see, I’ve lost about five lbs and found six of it for the past 20 years.

Each time those diets were started around January 1.  I inform all my family and closest friends.  I instruct my children to form tackle me if they see me going for the Moose tracks ice cream.  Work out clothes are purchased, and gym memberships are acquired.  There are a few quick wins, and then in the middle of the night I drive by this bright red sign that has “Krispy Kreme:  Hot and Now“ and the party is over.

Here are my observations as I have done self analysis on the issue.  First, my desire to be comfortable supersedes my desire to fit into smaller pants.  Second, I want to lose weight, but I don’t want to work for it.  Finally, you have to actually get off the couch and do what the man is telling you to do on those exercise tapes!

One of the biggest reasons that individuals who need to lose 100 lbs never get started is because the goal seems unattainable.  Those who have actually lost it and kept it off, lost it one pound at a time.  You cannot lose 100 lbs until you lose 10, and you can’t lose 10 until you lose 1.

The lostness in our nation is huge.  You don’t have to watch the news long to see that.  It seems to be out of our control even as much as we yell and scream about it.  The lostness in our state is on the rise.  There were 3.6 million people not inside the walls of a church this past Sunday which is 3 out of 4 people in SC.  Numbers like that seem so overwhelming that the church is paralyzed to move.  The lostness is so great, and the task seems impossible.

Maybe your goal needs to change.  Instead of trying to save the world, could you set a New Year’s Resolution this year to engage ONE.  They may be a coworker, family member, hunting buddy, or neighbor.  You set a goal this year to begin praying for them and for the opportunity to show them love and tell them about Jesus.  Over the course of the next year you have an ongoing conversation about your faith, your church, and your savior.  I know it’s tough.  I know it’s uncomfortable.  But they are worth it and they matter to Jesus.

The goal of reaching our state is not unattainable.  In fact, if all the Baptists who met this past Sunday set a goal of one each year, we would be done with the state in a decade.

I have never met someone who lost 50 lbs and said, “I wish I was fat and lazy again.”  You will never regret seeing someone you invest in, come to know Jesus.  It will be the greatest thrill of your life.  So get off that pew and break a sweat!

 

Lee Clamp, Director of Evangelism

The Sermon

Two of the best sermons I ever heard were not preached inside the walls of a church, during a revival, or at an Evangelism Conference.  The sermons weren’t on a podcast or live streaming from the web.   There was no pulpit, no love offering, or quiet mood music during the invitation.

These two sermons were living and active and had names:  Jeff and Dow.  They were preached on a daily basis through the lives of two men in my dorm at Clemson University.

I remember my first night at college.  I had just met my new roommate from Jacksonville, FL.  We got to know one another and then he did something very strange.  He climbed up into his top bunk and started reading his Bible.  I thought to myself, “Does he know it’s not Sunday?”  I began to listen as the sermon developed over the coming weeks.  There was something different about this guy and I wanted to know what it was.  He actually lived out the sermons that I remembered being preached at my church growing up.  He made decisions based on scripture and actually enjoyed life, too.  Why did he live this way?

Dow was two years older than me and lived on my hall.  I listened to the introduction of his sermon the first week I was at school.  You would have thought it was just a conversation among guys, but I noticed something very different.  What I witnessed was a guy who was fun to be around, loved Jesus, and was open about what he believed.  His roommate Lopez was just like him.  I thought to myself, “What’s up with these guys? ”  The sermon continued over the next few months as I watched Dow interact with others.  His magnetic personality attracted believers and nonbelievers alike.   It was not uncommon to see those far from God engaged in laughter and conversation with him.  He treated them with grace and pointed them to Jesus.  Why was he so different?

Dow and Jeff lived questionable lives.  Missiologist, Michael Frost, describes a questionable life as one that arouses curiosity among unbelievers which leads to questions and faith sharing.  Their lives were sold out for Jesus, counter cultural, and full of joy.  Their lives provoked me to ask questions and their answer was simple.  They loved Jesus and had surrendered their life to Him.  I wanted that same joy.

I surrendered to Jesus at the campus ministry I attended at their invitation.  The sermon that night was pretty compelling, but not as powerful as the sermon I had been listening to for the past three months.

Paul charged Timothy to preach the Word in season and out.  The most compelling sermon you will ever preach is a life lived out in total surrender to Jesus.  When others ask why, be ready to answer.  Be the sermon that changes someone’s life.  Live a questionable life.

 

Lee Clamp, Director of Evangelism

State of the Church

Blake’s heart was thumping in his chest as he looked over at one of his best friends in high school sitting next to him in his car.  John and Blake had played baseball together and were pretty tight but Blake had kept a secret from John for over two years that he needed to fess up to.  He wasn’t sure how their relationship would change after this conversation, but he couldn’t keep a secret any longer.

“You may think this is weird, but I have to tell you about someone who is very important to me.”  He then shared the gospel and his testimony.

There was silence in the car.  John broke the silence and said, “I can’t believe you have never told me that.  You and I are close friends and what is important to you is important to me.  If what you are telling me is true, why would you think I wouldn’t want to know about it?”

In an effort not to offend our friend or neighbor with the gospel, we actually may be more offensive by keeping it a secret!

Here is a current state of the church according to Lifeway research.  3 out of 5 church goers in the past 6 months remained silent about Jesus with their friends and 86% surveyed told only 1-2 people in the past 6 months.  When asked how many times they prayed for the spiritual status of friends, 20% never prayed and 32% prayed once a week.  When asked how many times they invited a friend to church in the past six months, 48% said they did not invite anyone.

If we are keeping this great news a secret, it should not surprise us that 80% of SBC churches are plateaued or declining.  It should not be a surprise to us that our baptisms have remained relatively constant since 1950 years even though the population of our state has increased 2.6 million people.

Something very interesting however has been revealed in revival movements in China, India, My Hope with Billy Graham, and the One Initiative with SCBC.  For every three people that are being shared the gospel, one is coming to know Jesus.  If conversations go up, conversions go up.

It’s time for you to come clean with some of your neighbors and tell them your secret.   If you don’t know the names and children’s names of the 8 neighbors who live around you, introduce yourself with some fresh baked cookies.  If you know their names, find out their interests.  If you know their interests, find out their passions.   Then ask if you can tell them what you believe.  If you care for them, serve them, and love them, chances are they’ll listen.  It just takes intentionality on your part.

We can do this!  There were 300,000 SC Baptists that sang about Jesus this past Sunday in a building.  There were 3.6 million who didn’t go to any Christian church in SC.  If we work together, each of us are only responsible for 12.  Start with one.  Start this week.

I won’t hold you up any longer.  You’ve got some cookies to bake.

 

Lee Clamp, Director of Evangelism

New Life

Two weeks ago on May 8th, my newest grandchild was born. Paisley Ann Barker weighed in at 6 pounds 7 ounces. She will now join the home of Andrew (dad), Sarah (mom), Colton (3 year old big brother), Lucky (Dog #1), Mac (Dog #2), and Maggie (Dog #3).

Psalm 139 reminds us that the Lord “weaved us in our mother’s womb” and that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” God has designed us to have a relationship with Him through His Son Jesus and to join Him in the great adventure of Redemption as we tell the old old story of Jesus and His love.

Every Blessing,
Ron Barker
Prayer and Evangelism Strategist

Treasures in Heaven

I blew the dust off of the top of the box in the attic and my handwriting on the outside of the box read, “DO NOT THROW AWAY FOR ANY REASON.”  My heart and mind raced a bit trying to remember what was inside.  This box must have gotten mixed up with the others when I was moving 15 years ago and has been sitting in my attic all this time.  Our new move was forcing me to clean out my full attic and now I had struck gold.

 

I broke the tape on the box and slowly opened the lid.  As I peered down in the box through the dusty light, there it was….a rock.  My mind raced back in my memory to figure out where this rock came from.  Was it valuable?  Was it a chip off the Berlin wall?  After several minutes of holding the rock in my hand, it hit me.  I had no idea where this rock came from!  Obviously at one time in my life I had put it in this box and thought it was important because it was in the same box with a Braves seat cushion.  Now it seemed ridiculous that I had a packaged rock and moved it from house to house and stored it in my attic.

 

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Matthew 6:19-21. (NIV)

 

We spend our lives working to buy stuff and then run out of room to store it so we build a shed.  When that fills up, we pay someone across town every month to store our stuff.  The self storage industry owns 2 billion square feet of personal storage and generated $22 billion last year.  Not only does that mean we have a lot of broken lamps and unused exercise equipment behind padlocked metal doors, but the revenue exceeds that of Hollywood.

 

Don’t waste your life spending it on trivial work to make money to buy treasures that do not matter.  Use your work as a mission field and invest your time, energy, and resources in the souls of man who last for eternity.  Throw out those rocks in the attic and clean out the junk around your shed.  Your neighbors will be grateful.  Then treasure your neighbor by loving them and tell them about the rock of your salvation, Jesus.  Your neighbors will never be the same.

 

Lee Clamp
Director of Evangelism, SCBC

 

While Waiting for the Doctor

The other day I was in the doctor’s office waiting room with my 3 children.  While two of them were occupied with electronics, my youngest impatiently said, “I’m bored.”  Not long after that a lady in the waiting room came up behind my son with a note pad and pen and passed it to him saying “I heard that you are bored. I’m bored too! Would you play tic-tac-toe with me?” Taken by surprise he looked up at me and then grinned as he took the paper and pen and said “Sure.” Would you believe that great grandmother of eight ended up playing games and talking with my son for 45 minutes until she was called back to see the doctor!

This precious lady saw an opportunity and took it.  That simple action made a lasting impression on my son. SHE made a lasting impression on me.  Going out of our way to show kindness can be powerful!

This is one way we can show Christ to those around us. I challenge you to look for opportunities to make a lasting impression on someone this week. It may be while you’re in the grocery store waiting in the checkout line, or the doctor’s office waiting room, or responding to an email. Don’t miss out on opportunities to make a difference in someone’s life. :) Although I don’t know if this great grandmother knew anything about the term “Relational Discipleship”, she definitely lived it.

 

“Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor.”(Proverbs 21:21 ESV)

 

Live courageously-Love unconditionally-Laugh freely

Melanie Ratcliffe
PT Women’s Ministry Strategist

Changed people change the world!

If you had breakfast with a dead guy, I wonder if your conversations would be the same that week.

Imagine Monday morning around the water cooler. “How was your weekend?”
“Oh it was cool. We did some family stuff. I went fishing with the guys. John fell asleep on the boat and got sunburned; and Oh yeah, I almost forgot. I had breakfast with a DEAD GUY!”

One day Peter is running for his life. He is scared to death that they may do to him what they just did to Jesus. Then a few months later we see him boldly standing up before thousands of people declaring that Jesus is Lord. This is not the same Peter. Something happened.

One day after the crucifixion, Peter and the boys are fishing. From the shore, Jesus calls out to them. When Peter realizes it is the resurrected Lord, he jumps out of the boat like a scene from Forrest Gump. They have breakfast and then Jesus has a little chat with Peter. After this day, Peter is forever changed and never got over the resurrection.

Nothing will stop him.
• They throw him in jail and he preaches to his captors.
• They beat him up and when they are done, he preaches in the temple courts.
• The imprison him and an angel gets him out.
• They release him and he is back in the temple courts preaching the resurrection.

Before the resurrection Peter was apathetic, but now awesome • bitter, but now bold • cowardly, but now courageous • defeated, but now determined • embarrassed, but now extraordinary • finished, but now fearless • gutless, but now guiltless • helpless, but now joly • impetuous, but now impressive • judged, but now justified • kicked around, but now kingdom bound • lost, but now loved • misunderstood, but now a masterpiece • nominal, but now noble • oppressed, but now obsessed • passive, but now passionate • quiet, but now qualified • ridiculous, but now revolutionary • stuck, but now supernatural • trapped, but now tenacious • unfinished, but now unforgettable • victims, but now valiant • wimpy, but now a warrior • eXausted, but now eXhilarated • yellow, but now yelling • a zero, but zealous.

Changed people change the world!

So I guess my question for you as we approach Easter is this, “Have you gotten over the fact that Jesus rose from the grave and gave you life?” If you have, then chances are you were silent this week about Jesus. If you have not, no one can keep you quiet. Don’t let this season be reduced to pink dresses, chocolate bunnies, and a service you go to as the dawn breaks. Instead, let the season by a reason to tell your neighbors the story of the day your life changed from A to Z and you met Jesus.

Lee Clamp
Evangelism Director
leeclamp@scbaptist.org