We Southern Baptists have a racist past. We cannot get around this fact. In 1995, on the 150th anniversary of the founding of the SBC, the messengers overwhelmingly approved a resolution condemning racism and apologizing for our past. So is that the end of the story? We asked for forgiveness—now is it up to our African American brothers to grant this forgiveness and bury the past in the past? Shouldn’t we just move on at this point and work towards the future?
Whenever we read of the moral failure of an otherwise godly man or woman, don’t think that it is something that happened without any background leading up to it. In almost every case, the downfall came after neglecting the heart or failing to be fully devoted to God in such simple matters of discipline as meditating on the Bible, vital Christian fellowship, and prayer. In fact, sinful reversals may come to people who are blessed with benefits most Christians would envy if it were not wrong to do so, such as loving, responsive families, eager disciples, spiritual responsibilities, and a heritage of Christian service.
Slogging is doing things that are difficult, things that are repetitive, things that do not return immediate results or pay quick dividends. It’s continuing to advance against obstacles, to find paths around whatever hinders progress. It’s knowing what matters and doing those things with tenacity, with determination. It’s grit. It’s sticktoitivness. It’s believing in what you do enough to keep doing it when you don’t see obvious results and just want to give up.
The idea of accountability partners never seemed to work for my friends and me, though our intentions were right. We wanted to be more like Christ but, at least in my experience, accountability partners weren’t pointing each other to Christ—they were pointing each other to better morality. It was gospel-less, and therefore powerless.
Sadly, people tend to run to the opposite side of the spectrum, avoiding accountability at all costs. They claim they have the right to privacy, buying into the lie that their business is theirs and no one else’s. Others prop up excuses like introversion or lack of time for community. But in the end, those who avoid community are doing so at their own peril. Accountability is for losers—people willing to lose the shackles of worldly privacy in order to gain the otherworldly freedom of community.
I’ve been in ordained vocational ministry for 42 years. Many who started with me didn’t get to the finish line. It’s a grievous percentage. One of the main reasons so many didn’t last, I think, is because no one warned them about the ways ministry can tempt you with pride.
This is where Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:7–10 have been so helpful to me as a pastor. Paul—the very apostle trained in theology and for ministry by the actual risen Christ—warns us that theological training and life in ministry can lead to conceit if you fail to cooperate with Christ’s gracious intervention.
I haven’t always had a good relationship with ambition. At times, I have been (probably rightly) accused of being devoid of ambition, which honestly, I took as a compliment. In my mind, the lack of ambition was equated with contentment. But I no longer believe there’s a one to one correlation between the two. That is to say, lack of ambition doesn’t necessarily mean you are content; and being content doesn’t mean that you aren’t ambitious.
A favorite from the archives:
currently have somewhere around 25 different writing projects in various stages of development. Most of these are articles (though a couple are book proposals that I’m particularly excited about). Some will even turn into something. But a lot are just not coming together.
As you can imagine, this is incredibly frustrating. But it’s also part of the work of writing. And make no mistake, writing is work. There’s this notion out there of the inspired writer—the one who sits down to write and every word is breathtaking, a joy to read. And then when you actually start writing, you realize, this kind of stinks sometimes. Why? Because sometimes what you’re writing just doesn’t work.