“Thanks!” is Inadequate

Camille and I are deeply appreciative and humbled by the Anniversary Celebration last Sunday of our 20 years at Anderson Mill Baptist Church. So many of you spent countless hours preparThank Youing for this event and the results were incredible. The day with our family and our church family will remain one of our most cherished times. Plus, the Memory Book and the gift trip this fall were unexpected treasures!

These 20 years have gone quickly but have been good ones as we have faced both joys and challenges together as a family under God’s leading and blessing. Several times on Sunday, the statistics were shared regarding the fact that a very small percentage of pastors remain with one church for 20 or more years. That’s true, but you have made that relationship an easy one to maintain through these two decades. The 20 year tenure says as much, or more,  about you – the church – as it does about us.

You have loved our children and helped them to grow into adults who love the Lord and His church. Sometimes pastors’ kids leave the church, or at least have a less than positive view of it, because of what they have experienced or known during their years at home. But you have given our children the encouragement and room to be themselves and grow with you in their walk with God. You have shown them what a loving, God-honoring church looks like. And for that, we are deeply thankful.

You have also loved Camille and me and have been willing to follow and grow together. You’ve been willing to make changes necessary to reach a changing community while remaining faithful to the ministries God has given us. You’ve stepped up to accept challenges that require additional money and time in order to see that others hear the gospel and experience God’s love.

And, you have exhibited a heart for the world. Look around you in worship to see faces from as many as 10 different nations and cultures who worship together in this church family. With enthusiasm, you have taken the gospel to Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Brazil, Honduras, Bangladesh, New York, Missouri, Arkansas, and throughout the city of Austin. You have also been in the top 5% of Southern Baptist Churches in per capita giving each year for the past 5 years for our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for World Missions. Thank you for being a Great Commission Church.

God blessed our family when He brought us to Austin, Texas 20 years ago. It has been our joy in serving with you and we look forward to what lies ahead as we continue to engage people in our daily paths to take their next step with Christ.

We love and appreciate you!

Pastor Rod and Camille



Altogether Together

A description of the early church in Acts 2:44 has, for a long time, intrigued me. In describing the church, Luke says, “All who believed were together and had all things in common.” The words which catch my attention are these; “were together.” The term “together”, in this case, refers to direction or location. In other words, these believers were moving in the same direction and camped in the same location. Location here is not geographicalTogether. These believers were planting their lives on the same area of commitment. I’ve sometimes translated this idea by stating that these believers “were altogether together.” What a great concept and testimony to the unbelieving world, not to mention a powerful position for accomplishing God’s command for taking the gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Just like our churches today, this first church was made up of people from different backgrounds, social standing, educational levels and economic resources. There were any number of issues that could have divided them, but they had experienced the miraculous work of God in their lives and wanted others to know Jesus and His forgiveness as well. So, they laid aside the issues and preferences that could divide and focused on what was of greatest value – the gospel message. They were altogether together in their direction. They were “all in” for the gospel. And the result? The gospel spread like wildfire through Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and beyond. Even when faced with threats and persecution, they prayed for greater boldness to live and speak the word of God.

I read a short article recently by Pastor Jimmy Pritchard who is serving as the President of our Southern Baptist of Texas Convention. Jimmy had served on the committee for our International Mission Board charged with finding the man God would bring to lead our world mission agency. At his first progress report to the board of trustees, he remarked that he was somewhat surprised that the Holy Spirit seemed to be saying different things to different members of their group. After the laughter subsided, he reported that when the committee decided that they must pray and ask God for unity, they began to come together in a focused pursuit. When all was said and done, they found unanimous agreement in God’s direction. But it only happened when they were “altogether together” in pursuit of God’s plan instead of their own individual plans.

God’s charge to the church has not changed. The gospel message is our direction and our place of encampment. It doesn’t matter what we have on our church calendars or how we think things should be done, if we are not altogether together regarding the fact that God has placed us where we are in order to share the gospel in our neighborhood and around the world, we will be failures. Unless we do all that we do with that goal in mind, all of our words and activities are nothing more than exercises in religion. I want to be part of those who refuse to spend their lives in religious activity. I want to be all in for the gospel. That will mean I lay aside those things that could divide and unite with others in taking the life-changing message of Christ to our community and beyond. I’m thankful to share in that fellowship with you.


The High Value of Friendships

friendsAs a chaplain with our police department I ride with one of our officers during a shift at least once a month. Recently I had a very interesting and enjoyable ride with an officer who had served for many years with the Beverly Hills Police Department. As you can imagine, he had some very interesting encounters and experiences in 25 years with the department. But one of the most memorable was serving as security for the 80th birthday party for Jimmy Steward. Arriving early, he rang the bell at Mr. Stewart’s home, expecting to be greeted by a housekeeper or some member of the house staff. Instead, Mr. Steward opened the door and welcomed him in, gave him a tour and visited with him as if he were a long-time friend. As the guests began to gather, he was in awe of the long-standing friendships of the invitees – people he had grown up watching in movies and on television. It was obvious that they had lasting friendships with their host and there was no celebrity air in the gathering. After the party ended, again Mr. Stewart spent time with my friend thanking him and visiting long after everyone had left. And as this officer reflected on his experience he decided it was not difficult to understand why these people were such loyal friends to Jimmy Stewart. The reason? He was a loyal friend who valued their friendship. There was no pretense of fame or position. He loved them and they loved him.

I thought about the classic Christmas movie called It’s A Wonderful Life, in which Jimmy Stewart stars in the lead role as George Bailey. You’ve seen the movie, I’m sure, and know that George is a man with a huge heart for people but loses everything to Mr. Potter, the conniving and selfish town bully. But when things had reached their worst most of the town came in friendship to declare their support of George. And someone said, “Remember George, no man is a failure who has friends.”

One of the things God has been reminding me of lately is the high value of friendships. We need friends and should choose, cultivate and keep them. That takes a deliberate investment of time and thought on our part. I’m very grateful for the friendships God has given me through the years. I have two friends from college who are also in ministry that I have the opportunity to see and spend time with each year. Another who has been a friend for 30 years who continues to challenge me in faithful ministry and is always good for more than a few laughs every time we visit or talk by phone. I have a friend with whom I have prayed each week for a number of years and continues to challenge me to pursue God’s heart. And there are others God has brought into my life through sports with our sons, workouts at the gym and shared commitment to missions. Some of the greatest experiences of my life have been shared with a couple of friends in mission travels through the years. I could never place a dollar value on those friendships.

What do friendships offer? They influence our lives, provide accountability to how we live, and they bring encouragement to persevere – to live and finish well. I often think of a powerful illustration of those contributions in friendship that happened to another long-time friend. He signed up to run a marathon in Washington, D.C. that was part of the celebration of the anniversary of one of our armed forces. His wife waited a few miles from the finish line where she got as close as she could get to the rope barrier and watched for him to appear. When she finally saw him, it was apparent that he had “hit the wall” and was hanging on, trying desperately to finish. In an instant she went under the barrier, ignored the shouts of Marines who guarded the race course, and began running alongside her husband, encouraging him to keep going, stay the course and finish the race. He did. But he was always quick to say that he would never have done it without his best friend – his wife – coming alongside, bringing influence, accountability and encouragement as she ran with him.

Who are your friends? Value them. Thank God for them.