Today, at our annual meeting in Des Moines, the Baptist Convention of Iowa voted to adopt a budget that includes a true 50-50 split of Cooperative Program funds. Starting in the new budget, 50% of our CP money will go to the Executive Committee to fund the IMB, NAMB, the seminaries, the EC, the ERLC and whatever else we do as a denomination.
I am pleased to be an Iowa Baptist today.
Currently, our division is 80-20, and of course, Iowa keeps the 80%. At the encouragement of our new Executive Director, Tim Lubinus, we decided not to move incrementally over a matter of years, but to dive into the deep end and make the change all at once.
When this was mentioned earlier, some discounted the significance of this move. Iowa is only a small state after all – our budget is probably smaller than a lot of your associations. And we are not one of the vaunted and venerated “legacy states” in the SBC. We are just a small convention on the Baptist frontier.
But that does not mean that our action today is insignificant. It took sacrifice and a refocusing of priorities to accomplish this.
It was not long ago that we had 5 Directors of Missions, funded by NAMB. We had three team leaders in the state office in addition to the Executive Director and several office staff. We had a NAMB funded “Friendship Center” in Des Moines, ministering to the poor and needy. We had some part-time leaders and ministry assistants. Our office building was bursting at the seams.
If you wish to rent space on W. 86th, we might be able to do a deal. It’s a quiet space now. We now have an executive, an office administrator, a financial assistant and we will eventually have two full time state staff. No more DOMs (at least not funded by NAMB). Our staff has been significantly reduced. The Friendship Center is now funded by the BCI, not NAMB. I wish I could slim down like Iowa Baptist staff has.
But we aren’t moaning about that. Because of the changes we’ve made in our state staff, and in spite of going from an 80-20 to a 50-50 split, we are going to have around 25% more in church planting funding than we had before. Instead of spending 39% of our church planting funds on office personnel, we will only spend 13%. The rest will go to planting churches throughout the state. NAMB is our mission partner in all of this and our church planting ministries are funded by Southern Baptists through your cooperative program giving.
This has not been without pain. Because of our size we are a family and there are several empty places at the table. We’ve hired a couple of our former state staff members on a contract basis to relate to churches throughout Iowa and to help build fellowship, but the men who are gone are missed.
But we decided that the way to move forward was not just to manage program assignments, but to plant churches and fund missions. To do that, we needed to speak with our budget. And Iowa Baptists decided that we did not just want to be on the receiving end of Cooperative Program funding. We want to be givers. The amounts are small, but the sacrifice is real and our enthusiasm is strong.
I am glad that now, when we send money to Des Moines for missions through the CP, half of it will go to national and international missions causes and half will stay here in the state of Iowa.
It’s a good day to be an Iowa Baptist.
Lord I want more of You
Living water rain down on me
Lord I need more of You
Living breath of life come fill me upWe are hungry
We are hungry
We are hungry for more of You
We are thirsty, oh Jesus
We are thirsty for more of you
This was one of my favorite songs in college. It summarized the cry of my heart. I wanted to know God more. I wanted to have a deeper relationship with Jesus (whatever that means). I wanted more passion.
But I think what I really wanted was some strawberry pie.
Strawberry pie is the perfect cap to an awesome meal. It’s sugary sweet goodness on top of graham cracker crust never fails to make me smile. I’m always hungry for strawberry pie.
Gospel hunger isn’t strawberry pie hunger, though.
Strawberry pie hunger is a craving from a mostly full belly. It’s a luxury. The sugar on top of an already satisfied life. You can be hungry for strawberry pie but if you don’t get your wish you aren’t going to die…you’ll just be slightly less happy.
In my opinion, that describes much of our hunger for the Lord. We’ve got things mostlytogether on our own, but we are hungry for a little Jesus to sweeten up our lives. And so we sing about being hungry for Jesus…
But I think we are really just singing for some strawberry pie.
And then the heavens become silent.
God is silent because the gospel isn’t meant to be a strawberry pie. God and his precious gospel will never simply be the dessert to your already cozy life. He can’t be. To happily take his place as a luxury in your life would be for him to bow a knee to his competitors. He can’t cease being God. Therefore, he can’t simply be your strawberry pie.
No, the gospel is for desperate people. As Martin Luther said,
The Gospel tastes best to those who lie in the straits of death or whom an evil conscience oppresses; for in that case “hunger is a good cook,” as we say, one who makes the food taste good. For when they feel their misery, the heart and conscience can hear nothing more soothing than the Gospel; for this they long, on this they are eager to feed, nor can they get too much of it…But that hardened class who live in their own holiness, build on their own works, and feel not their own sin and misery, do not taste this food. Whoever sits at a table and is hungry relishes all; however, he who is sated relishes nothing but is filled with loathing at the most excellent food. (Quoted from William Farley, Gospel Powered Humility, 69)
This is great news because we are desperate. We are broken. The problem, though, is that we like to convince ourselves and others that we are better off than we actually are. We like to pretend that all we really need is a strawberry pie type of gospel. We do this to our peril.
The gospel will never be sweet as a dessert. The gospel is your life. It is your sustenance. Without the gospel we die. The sooner we get this the sweeter our gospel will become.
In 2 Timothy 4, Paul tells Timothy to preach the word “in season and out of season” and to “do the work of an evangelist.” He instructs his young mentee to preach the gospel at all times, no matter the situation or circumstance. As I post this from a hospital room where my wife is being treated for cancer, I think one of the times that often feels “out of season” is in the midst of adversity.
When we are facing uncertainty, pain, grief, and all the things associated with trials, the last thing I’m thinking about is preaching the word. And yet, I find that God gives me tremendous opportunities in the midst of difficult circumstances to be a witness for Him. Certainly, I do not believe Paul would intend to add an additional burden to those who are grieving or going through a difficult situation by commanding them to do evangelism. Rather, as I experience God’s grace and comfort and perfect peace, I find his instruction to Timothy to be an encouragement to testify of a God who is faithful in the midst of trial.
Sure, there are times where I need to be on the receiving end of ministry – allowing others to bear my burdens, comfort me by their presence, encourage me through prayer, serve me through meeting my practical needs. And, when I am at my lowest point, God sends others to be His witness in my life. But there are also many opportunities to give praise to God for his continued faithfulness and the reason for the hope that is in me.
- To those who ask about my wife, I share not only her condition but testify to her strong faith in the Lord.
- To unbelieving friends who have expressed care for me, I am honest about my struggles, but also about my source of hope.
- To my children, I teach them about the faithfulness of God and model what it means to trust Him.
- To others in need of comfort, I offer them the comfort I myself have received from the Lord.
- To nurses, doctors and other caretakers, we testify to the goodness of God and our trust in Him through it all.
- When others observe our joy despite all that is going on, we share that our relationship with the Lord is the source of that joy.
- As people inquire about our needs, I testify of the faithful care and support of the body of Christ.
- To fellow believers I have been able to share about how God has been working in my life to grow me spiritually.
- To others suffering, but who don’t know Him, I can offer the hope that I have found in Jesus Christ.
Certainly, I don’t go to every situation with the aim of preaching or personal evangelism. Actually, I find I am not going into any situation that way right now. But I am increasingly seeing everything through spiritual eyes. Seeing God’s grace to us in the midst of our trial, then seeing the opportunity to testify to that grace and often minister that same grace to others. In the valley, I continually look to God for strength. I also allow Him to work through me even as he is working for me and in me. As I increasingly experience the Lord’s faithfulness in the midst of trial, I am finding that adversity is a time where being His witness is “in season” after all.
What opportunities have you had to testify of God’s grace in the midst of adversity?