The Legacy of Pastor Shane Hall: “Christ is Enough!”

This may be the most difficult blog post I’ve ever written. My brother, Shane Hall, is with the Lord. I’ve been given the task of writing this post in honor of Shane and representing all of us here at SBC Voices as we mourn his passing, pray for his wife and girls, and express our love and admiration for this godly pastor. Each of us has been praying for him and have been blessed in different ways by his life and ministry. I personally feel this loss deeply and wanted to share a bit more story as a way of honoring him as he honored our Lord.

I first heard of Shane’s cancer as he was praying for my wife who was battling a much less aggressive form of the disease. Shane checked in with me while my wife was in the hospital and seemed far more concerned with her health and how I was doing spiritually than his own news of a nearly always terminal, aggressive cancer. As he shared with me about the disease, living on the other side of the country, I believed I would never see him in person again. Yet, the next summer at the Convention, there he was. I wept openly as he updated me on his story and what God was doing in his life – a miracle.

Immediately after Dave Miller was elected as Pastor’s Conference president in 2016, I asked Shane if he would preach at the pastor’s conference. I had many reasons for choosing Shane and shared some of our history and my admiration for my brother in an earlier post. Besides our friendship and history, I knew that Shane’s message would be powerful and that he would have the right words to say in a venue meant to encourage pastors as he had so many times encouraged me. I knew, too, that his testimony of God’s healing would be uplifting to the pastors in attendance. Besides all that, it was a small way for me to honor him for his friendship. I loved him as a brother, admired him as a godly man and pastor, and wanted to show that in a practical and tangible way what he meant to me and so many others. Little did I know how God would use that decision.

Shane’s cancer returned later that year and he would be in and out of the hospital several times leading up to the Convention. Health issues kept him from being able to join the other eleven preachers at the preaching colloquium at Southwestern seminary. As the Pastor’s Conference drew closer, he continued to have health issues and we were not sure if he would be able to preach. We had a back-up plan in place, but were praying that Shane would be healthy and able to preach. The Monday he was to preach, we still did not know up to a couple hours before whether he would have the strength to deliver the message he had prepared. We had a stool ready for him to sit if needed, and our back up preacher in the wings.

We got the word late in the afternoon that Shane would be able to preach. Back stage, about an hour before he would take the stage, I found myself in a darkened corner weeping openly. I loved my brother and was overwhelmed by the emotion of it all. When I took Shane to the platform, he had a renewed energy. He was ready to preach and share what God had given him from Philippians 4. Pastor Shane preached a powerful message about the sufficiency of Christ. That “I can do all things through Christ” was a proclamation that “Christ is enough!”

Near the end of his sermon, Shane shared his cancer story. He shared how his stomach had been removed and how he had beaten an unbeatable cancer. The crowd applauded in praise. Then he continued and spoke of how the cancer had returned and that he may not live. He shared his own experience of how he had to “learn” contentment. He shared his struggles and how God had taught him, his wife, and his daughters that Christ is enough. It was a powerful message – one of the best I’ve heard at the conference and certainly the most memorable.

At the end of his sermon, the final sermon of the conference, I brought his wife and girls to the platform. The PC officers, the other preachers and their wives all joined me. No one in the room left. It was my great privilege in that moment to lead in prayer for Shane and his family. Shane had already given me specific instructions: “Pray for God’s will, but pray specifically for healing.” And that I did. God answered by giving Shane eight more months.

Before cancer came into Shane’s life, I would have praised Shane to anyone. He was a godly man, a gifted preacher, an effective pastor, a Baptist statesman, a good friend. He was the kind of man I wanted to be like. In these past years, my esteem for him has grown. Even as he encouraged me and my family in our own battle with cancer, he taught me by his words and by his life what it truly means to trust God.

I am just one among many, many people whose life Shane touched and who loved and admired him. In twenty years of friendship, Shane had already left a lasting impression on me. Now, in these final months and days he left a legacy: Shane Hall lived and proclaimed the glory of God – that if we have Jesus, there is nothing else we need. Christ is enough!

 

I love you, Shane!

See you in Glory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contrasting Views on a Future IMB President

The various perspectives on a new IMB president fascinate. I’d like to summarize and contrast three distinct perspectives that have been posted on SBC-oriented sites. If I am citing your work, authors, please note I could not possibly hit every nuance of your original writing; readers, please see the authors in their own words via the links provided. However, there’s a question at the end that is best answered if you’ve not yet read the original articles.

*Please note: I’m not a battle blogger. If you see some fighting words here, I beg you to assume that I do not perceive them in as inflammatory fashion as you. 

For our first point of view I’ve chosen some key phrases from his article:
– Someone who will correct Platt’s course change
– Mature, seasoned, older
– Experienced at a high level of leadership
– Trusted, stable, prudent
– Someone who looks, talks, smells like SBC
– Cooperative Program advocate
– Someone who isn’t simply momentarily cool
– Someone who doesn’t challenge conventionality
– Tried and true methodology of career personnel over part-time workers
– Someone exclusively focused on the IMB

Now, let’s take a different perspective.
– Exemplar of modern SBC: Cooperative Program champion and BFM committed
– Someone stepping higher than ever before, and not a retread who might jump ship
– Committed to SBC polity of strong leadership within structure of a Board of Trustees
– Skilled preacher
– A former missionary
– Former church staff or deeply involved member
– Deep missiology/theology developer
– Sound financial leadership
– Not a rock star, but one who points to the field
– Visionary who can speak convincingly to churches
– Peacemaker in our convention, regardless of position in Cal-Trad debates

And finally, a last third-party perspective before I inflict my analysis on you.
– Not a pendulum swing selection
– Creativity
– Leader in partnering around the globe
– Someone who questions methodological assumptions

You don’t need me to point out all the unique perspectives, but I will ask questions and scratch my head.

Does “stable, older, mature” and “experienced in high level leadership” mean “another old guy with older organizational views”? I doubt Author #1 means it that way, but it seems to be the case. Author #2 does not emphasize maturity, likely assuming it in his preference for someone with both former missionary and former church staff experience. Author #3? Apathetic towards age and maturity as a characteristic worth mentioning.

Author #1 does not prioritize creativity and deeply thoughtful missiology. While we can assume he wants depth, he emphasizes older methods he feels are proven. Authors #2 and #3 value an ability to suspend assumptions and push against assumed or traditional patterns of work.

Why do the first two want a clear SBC and Cooperative Program advocate, while #3 remains silent? And what about the “look like an SBCer” in section one versus the clearer “BFM and Cooperative Program” definition of the SBC in section two? Does Author #1 hope we all know an SBCer when we see one, thus the vague statement? Or – and I’ll throw this out because someone is sure to ask it later – is he attempting to imply that Platt in some way isn’t a true SBC member because of his specific interpretation of the Bible?

Assuming a spectrum of approval for Platt’s work, with full approval at one and full disapproval of his work at the other, we can see clearly the positions our involuntary contributors take: #1 disapproves, #2 seems neutral, #3 seems to approve. Author #3 begs the trustees not to choose someone just to go back the way we came. Author #1 clearly wishes we would reverse course.

Moving away from these positions, we can see a host of other questions.

Why not a woman? The IMB is a ministerial corporation, and the traditional view has been that the president is a de facto spiritual authority over the field. The policy manual says nothing on the matter, yet there are threads of spiritual authority held by supervisors in subtle places and ways. Spiritual authority in the church has been placed in the hands of men, according to the BFM, and as such we will not likely have a woman leading the IMB until that ministerial perspective of the organization changes. Even Author #2 wants a preacher in the role, and in our convention such a position is male-only.

As Dwight McKissic would ask, why not a minority? I’d love to see it happen, but as one commenter mentioned we populate leadership roles by raising up field personnel (pre-Platt). With few minorities in our organization, the odds are daunting that one will rise through the ranks. What of Fred Luter, James Dixon, and Tony Mathews, as mentioned by Dwight? He suggested some of these godly men prior to Platt’s selection, and my response was precisely the same as it is now: do they have sufficient international living and working experience? Platt did not – and some believe this hurt him. I continue to believe as we are currently structured and functioning that an IMB president needs to have significant living and working experience internationally. Of the three men of color Dwight suggested, only one has international mission trips listed on his bio (Tony Mathews).

By the way, can you guess which of the three was written by field personnel? It’s the one concerned with productivity as opposed to convention issues. While I doubt she would pretend the convention is irrelevant, the disparity highlights the hugely different perspectives the field often has over committed Southern Baptists who remain in the US.

Thanks for supporting us, and coming alongside us.

An Appeal for Honesty in References

I’m appealing to all our readers to be honest and forthright in the references we provide. What prompts this appeal? An unforgettable experience does. Some years ago our church called a new youth pastor. He applied for the position at our church, and he supplied several references from the church he was serving. After he arrived, everything went fine for several months; however, after he made a trip to scout out a summer mission project, our church’s financial secretary raised some questions about his spending. A CPA served on our church’s Finance Committee, and he performed an audit on the youth pastor’s financial reports. He discovered a number of anomalies, and the youth pastor was fired.

After all that transpired, our pastor called the person who gave the man a glowing reference. He explained our church’s experience. At that, the person exclaimed, “Oh, yes, he did the same thing here.” Our pastor asked, “If that is true, why did you give him such a positive recommendation?” To which the person replied, “Oh, that’s simple. We wanted to get rid of him.” On reflection that person’s actions were both dishonest and hurtful to a sister church. As Christians we have a duty to be honest in our statements and considerate of others. Surely, the Golden Rule applies here.

When I served at Southern Baptist Seminary, I participated in the orientation of the new students who were beginning their studies in the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. At every orientation I advised the students to do two things. First, I challenged them to maintain their daily devotions. It is easy to become spiritually dry while at seminary. Second, I advised them to make a good impression on their professors. During my time at Southern Seminary, I received a reference request from a church about once a week. So, I told the students: “Start making a good impression now because I won’t lie when a church calls me. If you want a positive reference, demonstrate admirable qualities.”

Now, it is easy to understand why we are reluctant to say negative things about someone; still, those seeking information deserve an honest assessment of the person. If you are hesitant about providing a reference, then just decline. I’ve found over the years that those requesting information are grateful for honesty. Once, I received a call from an IMB field leader. He was inquiring about a missionary applicant. I told him that the person under consideration was a really nice person, but he had not proven effective in his service. The field leader said, “Oh, thank you. We get so few new missionaries; we cannot afford to make a mistake.” What is true for mission agencies is true for churches as well. We cannot afford to make mistakes. We need accurate, trustworthy information.

To those who need to enlist people to provide a reference I make these suggestions. First, ask the person for permission to list their name and address. Second, ensure that the person knows you well enough to provide information. While at Southern Seminary, I received a call from a pastor search committee member. She informed me that a former student had listed me as a reference. That was news to me! I could not remember the student, so I asked her to call me back later that day. I looked up the student in our old student directories, and I checked with the registrar’s office. It turned out that the student took one class with me ten years before. When the lady called back, I answered candidly and said, “I can affirm that he studied here, but I can’t remember anything about him. I can’t help you.”

Now, over the years I’ve provided lots of positive references for former students and coworkers, and I was glad to do. I’ve also provided a few negative one. It grieved me to do so, but I believed the inquirers deserved the truth. What has been your experience? Have you and your church been “burned” by references that were less than candid?

A Reflection on Love

Originally written for my church blog as a devotion on Valentine’s Day

Many of us know the passage well. People quote it, read it at weddings, hang it on plaques on the wall—Paul’s famous words on love from 1 Corinthians 13.

Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. – 1 Corinthians 13:6-8 (CSB)

When we read this passage in their context, we find that it’s not primarily about marriage or romance, but about serving one another as brothers and sisters in Jesus. Paul wrote these words right in the heart of correcting the church on how to use spiritual gifts to serve and not to show off or exalt self. Still, the application is broad. Serving others is a universal call for we who follow Jesus. So, we can apply this to marriage and friendship and how we treat our neighbors.

If we were to boil down Paul’s teachings into a single statement, it would say this: Love happily seeks the best for others. And, oh, how that should be us!

Love, in this way, is other-focused. It is like when Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. There’s an assumption here: We typically are patient with ourselves and want others to be patient toward us. We tend to be kind to ourselves and want others to be kind toward us. We tend to be… and want others… the list goes on. The Bible assumes that in normal situations, we love and want the best for ourselves. But it also knows that it is harder for us to freely extend this attitude toward others.

But that is the command here—we’re to be patient with others, kind to others, not envious of others, etc. And nowhere do we see that we are to be these things only if they reciprocate. Love is not self-serving through what we gain from others. In Christ, we are already perfectly loved by the Father. We love because he loved us. That should be enough to motivate us to love even if no one loves us back the way we would want. Love is other-focused.

Love also looks for the best. We can say this in two ways: First, love seeks to bring the best to others. True love seeks ways to better the life of another both in the present and in eternity. It seeks to show the person Jesus and meet their present needs—physical, emotional, and relational. Second, love looks for the best in others. Living in a fallen world and being repeatedly hurt in a fallen world can cause us to be jaded. We jump to conclusions, question motives, and make assumptions without the facts. Love fights against these trends. Love refused to ignore evil and will deal with it when necessary, but love is also willing to believe and hope. Love looks for the best.

Finally, love continues. Paul was making this point in light of eternity: Eventually, when Jesus comes back and we see things clearly and no longer as through a blurry mirror, the need for various gifts will drop away. But love will remain. God is love, as John the Apostle wrote. God is also eternal. So, if love will continue forever, our present moments of love should be long-lasting. The “loving feeling,” as the song says, sometimes gets lost. But love itself, as a commitment and an act to seek another’s best, should continue. If someone loves us, we continue to love them. If someone is indifferent to us, we continue to love them. If someone hurts us as an enemy, we continue to love them. Jesus, after all, loved us when we were his enemies. He loves us when our hearts turn momentarily apathetic. And he loves us all the same when we love him well. That is his example for us. Love continues.