Thursday, December 31, 2015

Christianity 101 Series


            This Sunday I am starting a new sermon series titled “Christianity 101.”  This series is designed to introduce Christianity to those who are not believers, who may be inquiring or seeking spiritual answers to life.  In fact, this Sunday's message title is “Is There More to Life than This?”  However, the series is also helpful for new believers to consider some of the basics of following Jesus, for long-time Christians to be refreshed about the validity and vitality of their faith, and for mature disciples who are looking for ways to share their faith with others.

            I encourage you to bring your friends, family and neighbors for this four-month series.  Pray, invite them, bring them, keep praying and watch God work in their hearts.  You will notice that sometimes the approach of the message will be directed toward non-believers or those who are very new to the faith.  Often it won’t feel like I am talking to church-going people.  This is intentional.  On the one side, we want to communicate clearly to seekers who may not have any Bible or church background.  On the other side, we want to model for disciple-makers how they can communicate with those they attempt to reach, who may also not have a Christian background.

           If you bring unchurched or unbelieving guests with you, I would encourage you to make lunch plans with them after church and discuss the morning's message.  Since they would've heard my preaching already, you don't need to preach any more.  The discussion time should consist of your guests' questions and opinions.  He/she should be able to express him/herself with freedom without being "pounced" on or judged.  This is where we trust the Holy Spirit to do the work in the hearts of people.

            This series will be recorded and edited to be used in Calvary’s Alpha course this semester.  Please note this series is NOT the Alpha course.  While it may share the same topics, Alpha consists of three essential ingredients: (1) food/fellowship; (2) the message; (3) small group discussion.  The topics and main ideas for this series are taken from the Alpha course but each message is personally prepared, personalized and customized for Calvary’s Sunday morning congregation by me.  I will work with the Bible text(s) and develop the messages from the text(s), occasionally borrowing some supporting material from the Alpha course.

          The video files will also be available for anyone who wishes to use them in sharing their faith with friends, co-workers, neighbors or family.  When doing so, I also suggest following the message with a discussion over a meal.  A third alternative for using this series to share your faith with others is to bring them to the Alpha course at church this semester.  CBC Alpha 2 will begin on Wednesday, February 3 at 6:30 PM in the church parlor.  More information coming soon.

          A fourth and final option for utilizing this series is to conduct your own Alpha course at your home or as an ABF.  We would be glad to train you how to do this.  Please contact me or Pastor Paulo Gatan for more information on how to do this.

          We have been praying for an evangelism strategy that we can implement at Calvary.  I believe this approach can help us make disciples.  I believe this approach is helpful when sharing the gospel with people who have very little spiritual, biblical or church background.  The content of the messages are extremely important.  After all, it is the gospel that has the power to save (Romans 1:16).  The other important elements of a good evangelism strategy for our time and for this generation are lots of prayer, food and fellowship, loving people, listening and discussing the topics in a non-threatening manner.

          Let us pray that God brings many people to faith and to become mature disciples through this series and through the upcoming Alpha course.

*The hashtag #cbc101 may be used for those who would like to engage in dialogue through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Personnel Committee's Recommendation

     As you may already know, our church will meet in Conference this Sunday, November 22nd in order to take action on several very important matters.  Click here to see more details about it.  After supper the agenda will include finance reports, deacon elections, election of officers and committees, consideration of the 2016 church budget, the licensing of two individuals to the gospel ministry, and a recommendation from the personnel committee.  You should have received already in the mail information about the deacons being nominated and a copy of the proposed 2016 budget.  (You can also see those at the bottom of this blog post).  Later this week we will upload to our webpage the agenda and book of reports for your reference.  (We encourage you to print it at home or to load it to your tablet before coming to the meeting).

     The recommendation from the personnel committee is in regard to the position of Pastor for Administration and ABFs.  Approximately a year ago, in consultation with the personnel committee, the position of Pastor for Administration and Worship was created.  I hired Paulo Gatan to fill this position on an interim basis.  (You may refer to my October 13, 2014 blog post by clicking here).   By February of this year, the position combination was changed to Pastor for Administration and ABFs.  (You may refer to that change by reading my February 7, 2015 blog post here).  The personnel committee and I believe it is time for the church to take action in calling someone to this position on a permanent basis rather than on an interim basis.

     The personnel committee, thus, will recommend to Calvary that, as per our Constitution and Bylaws, a search committee be elected in order to recommend to the congregation the person who should fill this position on a permanent basis.  Additionally, considering the great work that Paulo Gatan has performed as an Interim, the personnel committee will recommend that Paulo Gatan be considered as a primary candidate for that position.

     Article II, II, 2 of our Constitution and Bylaws stipulates that such a committee consist of five (5) members; that each member of the committee shall have been a member of the church for at least one (1) year at the time the committee is formed; that employees of the church and their immediate families shall not be eligible to serve on the committee; that the committee consist of no fewer than two (2) men and no fewer than two (2) women; that the men and women receiving the highest number of votes shall constitute the Search Committee; and that election shall be by secret ballot.

     Please pray for the selection of this important committee, consider if there is an individual you would like to nominate to this committee, and who you would vote for.  Nominations will be received from the floor on Sunday night and ballots will be distributed for the election.  Please come prepared accordingly.

     For your reference, below you will find the information on the deacons that the Deacon Screening and Nominating Committee will nominate and the Proposed 2016 Budget from the Stewardship Committee.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Alpha Starts Tomorrow!

     The first official Alpha class begins tomorrow at Calvary Baptist Church, McAllen.  This is a very exciting time and there is still a chance to be a part of it.  You can be a part of this in at least one of two ways: (1) you can be a class participant (click here to register); and/or (2) you can pray for the class.  (I'll comment on these two ways to get involved below).

     This class is designed to explore Christianity in a dialogue format where it is safe to ask questions and express opinions without being embarrassed, put on the spot or judged.  Our desire is that by the end of the class, individuals will have a personal relationship with Christ and friends that will encourage them to grow in that relationship.  You can see a description, schedule and syllabus for the class at the bottom of this post or you can download a PDF version of the flyer here.

     1.  Why should you participate in this class?  If you are already a believer this class will offer you the opportunity to bring a guest who may not be a believer or who is not plugged into a church.  You can be the instrument God uses to bring them into a personal relationship with Christ.  (We value your trust and we commit to not embarrassing you or your guest!)  Another benefit of attending the class for believers will be learning a very relational and non-confrontational way of sharing the gospel that you can use later in your own home with your friends, family and/or neighbors.  This method can also be used by ABFs also.

     If you are new to Christianity or to the church, then this class is for you.  If you are not a believer and you have questions, then this class is for you.

     2.  How should you pray?  (a) Pray that those who need to encounter Christ would be invited to come.  (b) Pray for CBC folks to bring those who need to come.  (c) Pray that the Holy Spirit will convince guests of God's love and of their need to trust Jesus Christ.  (d) Pray that God uses this method to bring about a revival of evangelism and discipleship to CBC and beyond.

     3.  Why is Calvary investing so much in this class?  We are a church that desires to make disciples of all nations.  We currently do not have an official evangelism strategy.  So we are piloting Alpha as a possible strategy.  We realize three things about evangelism strategies: (a) We live in a postmodern world where people outside the church do not have a Christian or biblical context to understand the gospel in a 5 minute presentation.  Most folks outside of faith today require relational evangelism and a safe place to ask questions; (b) Many of those who are not Christians or are not in church have been hurt, offended or misunderstood by Christians or the church.  We need to build bridges of trust with them; (c) Many of the evangelism programs that worked in the 20th century are not conducive to discipleship today.  They get people saved but they do not have a natural process that moves them to discipleship.  We want to present the gospel in an environment where relationships are developed and discipleship becomes natural.

     Although we may continue to have an annual Alpha class in English in the fall, and perhaps an Alpha class in Spanish in the spring, what we really hope is that individuals and ABFs will be encouraged to have Alpha classes in their homes multiplying the opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus with neighbors, friends, family and co-workers.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Fall Kick-Off Sunday: August 23

     For most of us the summer comes to an end this week.  Next week many of our students and educators will be back in the classroom.  At CBC that means starting a new cycle of ministry and programs.  The summer has been an exciting time of huge events such as VBS, mission trips, youth and children camps and great times of fellowship and worship.  In their own way the summer, fall and spring have important rhythms for disciple-making.

     This Sunday, August 23 is our Church Kickoff Sunday.  What does that mean?  It means at least three things at CBC:

  1.  Our children and students advance to the next grade level in their Bible Fellowships, Wednesday programs and general CBC ministry.  So if you are a parent of children or students, look out for a potential change in your child's class.  It also means that we will welcome first graders into our worship services!
  2. Our children and student Bible Fellowship teachers officially begin their teaching term.  During the summer many of these teachers take a break while other volunteers and staff do a teaching rotation.  Some of our teachers choose to teach year-round.  All of them start the new term this Sunday.  We welcome and thank each of them for their investment in our children and youth.
  3. Our Wednesday night programs begin this week.  These programs include: The Grove for preschool and children, Remedy for students 7th through 12th grade, EQUIP & WIT for English-language adults, ICC for Spanish-language adults, and Classic Service choir.  All of these meet 6:30 to 8:00 PM.  Church supper is served (for those who make a reservation) beginning at 5:30 PM.  WIT also offers classes on Wednesday morning.
      This fall the English-Language options for adults on Wednesday night include a WIT class called "Brokeness" led by Nancy Basaldua, a Men's Fraternity class led by Pastor Ed Gilpin, the Alpha course facilitated by Pastor Julio, and the Classic service choir led by Chuck Olson.  On Wednesday, August 26th at 6:30 PM there will be an orientation introducing each of these classes in the worship center, after which you can register for the class/group of your choice.  You may also register online.  (The Spanish-language orienation for ICC will take place simultaneously in the multi-purpose room).

    This is an exciting time of the year.  We encourage everyone to become involved in these opportunities to grow in discipleship and to make disciples.