Hero blindness

Allen C. Guelzo gave a strange speech at Hillsdale College in May. The professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College said: “Heroes have become invisible. … Great deeds somehow keep on being done, but we have lost a capacity to see them as great. Biographies grow to ever-greater and greater lengths, while the subjects of them shrink into the shadows of the pedestrian, the ordinary, and the relentlessly disclosed secret.”

Basically Guelzo is saying that in recent years we have made the heroes of the American experiment more human by revealing their commonness, their flaws. That seems patently ridiculous.

The Bible shows us real heroes, and part of how it does that is by revealing the very flawed natured of some of our most vaunted heroes. Abraham does some weird stuff in offering up his wife to powerful people. David, my favorite hero, commits adultery and murder. Peter is stubborn. John is prideful. The list could go on. They were real people with real shortcomings, but they did some great things. The same could be said for the great heroes of United States history.

Nor do I think we’ve lost the capacity to see greatness. We have a federal holiday named for a many who died only 41 years ago — Martin Luther King Jr., another flawed man who did great things. We have the men aboard the 9/11 flight who stormed the terrorists and forced the plane down into a field rather than allowing the hijackers to take it into Washington. Amazing.

Despite the flaws in Guelzo’s words, he does capture some of the greatness of Abraham Lincoln. Here’s a good Lincoln quote that Guelzo uses:

“The probability that we may fall in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just; it shall not deter me.”

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Good things in Gulf Coast Association

Yesterday, I spent a wonderful day in the Angleton/Freeport area of Texas visiting some of the ministries funded by Texas Baptists.

I started the day with Bobby Fuller, director of the Texas Port Ministry in Freeport. In recent years they’ve expanded the ministry to target the entire Freeport Port community, including truckers, longshoremen and others who support the shipping industry. Of course, they’re still ministering to seaman from around the world who come to the port. Bobby and his crew of more than 50 volunteers are doing a great job.

Bobby is a missionary of the North American Mission Board. He worked in the port area as an inspector for years and served an area church as minister of education. Now, those past experiences are coming together in Bobby’s current work. He has a real understanding of strategic vision and great skills at organizing. Southern Baptists and Texas Baptists are blessed to be involved in this great kingdom ministry through Bobby.

Back from Fort Hood

A tip of my hat to our military chaplains. I just returned from Fort Hood, where our chaplaincy director, Bobby Smith, introduced me to some of the 99 Army chaplains endorsed by the BGCT. Wow!

Let me put it this way: The United States is at war against terrorism, and these chaplains are providing pastoral care to the warriors who seek to defend us from harm. It’s a dangerous job, but the call of God has never stopped at difficulty.

I brought back some medal tokens and have them on the table in my office to remind me to pray for these men and their wives. I hope others will join me.

And pray for Bobby. He is seeking to be the kind of endorser whom chaplains really need — someone to stand beside them, walk with them, counsel them and encourage them. He is gifted for this work and he loves it, but he could still use your prayers.

Every military chaplain has to have an endorsing body, and the BGCT is one of 227 such entities. This ministry, that no individual church can do alone, is growing rapidly. Bobby doesn’t recruit chaplains, but word of mouth is spreading the good word — high standards in the chaplains and good endorsement support for them.

The BGCT now has 547 chaplains, and 159 of those are in the military. And, the thing is, the military needs more. Pray that God will raise them up and go with them as they serve.

(Originally published by me on the We Are Texas Baptists blog on this date.)

Making some changes

This is my (Ferrell’s) first day in a new position with the BGCT. I am now associate director of the new Advocacy / Care Center, and Rand Jenkins has become communications director.

In my new role I will be working with Suzii Paynter, A/C Center director, and a bunch of other wonderful people in the CLC, chaplaincy, transformational missions and counseling offices.

It has been a dream of mine since I was in college to work with the CLC. Now, at age 53, that dream is coming true. Plus, I get to work with these other ministries that seek to share the love of Christ through human touch. I couldn’t be more excited.

With this change, Rand becomes the leader of this blog. He has said I may continue to post along with him and the others, but the responsibility shifts to him. He has been on the BGCT staff a number of years, using his background in marketing to help the varied ministries of the convention, including CP most recently. He’s already been posting, so you’re already getting to know him.

I just wanted to let you regular readers know of the change.

(Originally published by me on the We Are Texas Baptists blog on this date.)

In praise of assistants

We honored some of the most important people on the BGCT Executive Board staff Wednesday — our ministry assistants. For those of us who grew up in an earlier time we used the equally honored term of “secretary” to designate these wonderful servants, and many churches still do.

Where would our Kingdom work be without them? They literally make it possible for many of us “reverends” to have the time to touch personal needs and they keep us pointed in the right direction. They truly are ministers of the gospel because they assist in making the proclamation of that gospel possible.

The ministry assistants who work for the BGCT are an amazing group. They have great organizational and communications skills, as well as other abilities. They bring a high level of competence to their work, but they also bring a passion for service to our Lord Jesus Christ and His Baptist churches in Texas. And after hours, they are committed servants in their local churches.

I’m dying to give praise to my own assistant, but if I lift up Kathryn Lay for praise then I would leave out so many others. Oh, I slipped and mentioned her name. Secret’s out, but I assure you Kathryn is not alone.

If you call or visit the Baptist Building in Dallas this week or anytime, please say a hardy thank you to our assistants, our fellow ministers of the gospel.

(Originally published by me on the We Are Texas Baptists blog on this date.)

A glorious day

This is the beginning of a glorious day in American history. Barack Obama will be sworn in today as the first African-American president in our history.

I am so proud to experience this day. I remember the racism of childhood growing up in Dallas, so this is just an amazing day.

I’m in a hurry to go to an appointment, but I just had to start the day with a post. I pray God’s blessings on Mr. Obama, his family, our nation and our world.

The importance of compassion

This weekend I’ve been going through magazines that have stacked up the past few years in a desire to get them to the recycle bin. One of those mags is the March-April 2005 edition of Utne.

In an article titled “God Alert: Karen Armstrong Wants to Warn the World of a Looming Religious Storm” author Michael Valpy reflects an interview he had with Armstrong regarding religious fundamentalism. One quote from Armstrong especially caught my attention.

“Compassion is the key to religion, the key to spirituality. … It is the litmus test of religiosity in all the major world religions. It is the key to the experience of what we call God–that when you dethrone yourself from the center of your world and put another there, you achieve extasis, you go beyond yourself.”

Valpy then said Armstrong quoted the Buddha, who said, “First, live in a compassionate way, and then you will know.”

I really did not grow up being taught that compassion is the key to my religion–Christian of the Southern Baptist variety–but I do think this is right if you genuinely seek to follow Christ. And the good thing about compassion is that it inoculates you against the hideous effects of religious fundamentalism, which Jesus battled and which Southern Baptists followed.

But in saying that, maybe I’m not being compassionate toward Southern Baptists. Compassion, in seems, is not an easy thing.