Rachelle and I left the hotel at 7:15 a.m. for the 7:30 worship service at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. Frankly, when I first heard I would be preaching at this service, I thought it was a typo. Whoever heard of Baptists have a 7:30 a.m. worship service other than Easter?
I guess Cornerstone Baptist is a unique church. We pulled into the parking lot and literally dozens of volunteers made the entrance into the church from our car a welcoming experience. I don't believe I have ever seen a church stationed throughout with more men and women serving the Lord and each other by being official 'greeters,' hosts and hostesses, servants in the audio/visual ministry and various other volunteer capacities throughout Cornerstone. There is truly a sense of hospitality, warmth and genuine service that is very noticeable.
Rachelle and I were escorted to the second floor where Dwight McKissic greeted us in his office. We had a time of prayer with Pastor Dwight and Pastor Jason Epps of a church start in Salt Lake City, Utah. Jason had been denied funding by the Southern Baptist Convention for his church start because he had been honest and answered 'yes' to the question "Do you have a private prayer language?" Though Jason has never made 'tongues' a central part of either his life or teaching, he could not deny the gift God had given him. Dwight heard of his story and encouraged his church today to take an offering to help Jason's church buy land and construct a building for a church that now has over 150 attending in an area where 90% of the people are non-Christian.
The 7:30 service had a very large crowd and though it is designed to be an hour long service, there was no time pressure and we did not end the service until 9:00 a.m. I preached a message on Jesus healing the blind beggar named Bartimeus, and I showed how the anointing of the Holy Spirit is given to those who pray like Bartimeus and persevere in their prayers like this blind man who felt the touch of Christ. The worship was wonderful, the crowd responsive, and it was one of the better services I've ever been a part of -- regardless of early starting time.
At 9:00 a.m. Rachelle and I ate breakfast with Pastor Dwight and his wife Vera in their office suite on the second floor. Joining us were my mom and dad, Paul and Mary Burleson, their friends from Wichita Falls, Bobby and Margie Brown, and Pastor Jason Epps. The conversation was very stimulating, the fellowship great, and I long for the day when, in the Southern Baptist Convention, we all can fellowship like we did over the breakfast table, regardless of race, views on the gifts, and cultural differences. We are truly one family in Christ.
Rachelle and I went back to the hotel to check out, but made it back to Cornerstone for the 10:00 a.m. worship service. We were a little late in arriving. The auditorium was packed, but we were escorted to the front and seated on the second row. The church was filled with volunteers standing to direct people to seats, and no guest went unescorted into the auditorium. I imagine there were at least 1,500 in this service.
What happened next was incredible.
We worshipped for an hour and a half. And when I say worship, I mean worship. The choir, ensemble, Daniel Brymer and Cornerstone's worship pastor led us before the throne. We sang a mixture of hymns and choruses -- there was not stopping and starting, it flowed from special worship songs sung by soloists and the choir, to congregational singing, to a combination of both -- no performance here, true and utter worship from all involved. The spirit was exuberant, the air electric. Some sat, most stood. Some lifted their hands, others bowed their heads and closed their eyes. Honestly, it was absolutely amazing -- the Spirit of God came down in a special and unique manner. My wife said she had never sung, or felt, the hymn "O How I Love Jesus" like she did this morning as we sang it. It was an absolutely moving worship time with many touched by God before the preaching of the message.
Jason again shared his testimony and then our church member, Dr. Sam Storms preached an astounding message entitled "Quench Not the Holy Spirit." I have learned more on the ministry and person of the Holy Spirit under the teaching of Dr. Sam Storms than any other theologian or pastor. I will be taking and applying what I learned from this message into my own life and ministry. Dr. Storms finished his 35 minute message at 12:05 and we worshipped again with the pastors of Cornerstone extending a public time of response and ministry for an additional 25 minutes.
The service ended at 12:30 -- two and a half hours after it began.
We could not stay for the luncheon afterwards because we wanted to be back in Enid for the 25th Anniversary Celebration of our headmaster and current Association of Christian Schools International Board Chairman, Paul McDonald. Rachelle and I discussed what we experienced on the way home to Enid, Oklahoma, and I say without hesitation we both profited from "The Conference on the Holy Spirit."
Two observations in closing:
(1). I am utterly astounded that anyone within the SBC would desire to exclude from denominational leadership or missionary cooperation Pastor Dwight McKissic or any member from Cornerstone Baptist Church because of their views or practices of the Spirit's gifts. I can assure you that at not one time was anything done or practiced in the services Sunday that is prohibited in the Bible -- more importantly, Cornerstone's worship services seem to follow what Scripture prescribes worship ought to be. There was both exuberance and reverance, emotion and doctrine, love and grace, Spirit and truth, etc . . . Many of us could learn from Cornerstone and I am happy they are part of our convention.
(2). It's time the Southern Baptist Convention reflected the diversity of our people within our leadership. I will be proposing at some time in the near future that the Southern Baptist Convention be held at regional locations throughout the United States. The technology exists today for messengers to vote via computer, and I really think that the worship, teaching and testimonials at the different regional sites could reflect the diversity of our convention. In larger cities there could even be two sites for messengers to gather. This kind of networking will solve several problems:
(a). There will be greater participation in the direction of our convention by the members of the churches of our conventions instead of a select few who can travel across country to the site of the SBC host city.
(b). Since our convention was built on 'cooperation' and not 'conformity,' various regional sites for the convention will allow true cooperation of a multitude of churches and church cultures.
(c). The policies and practices of our convention will truly reflect the diversity of our people.
This recommendation will need to come from the proper committees and, of course, a great deal of work will need to be put into the proposal, but I look forward to the day when (not if) it is done.
All in all, the weekend was great. If there is a "Holy Spirit Conference Part II" I would encourage you to attend.
In His Grace,
P.S. I have heard from a friend who was present Sunday night for the worship and praise time at Cornerstone with Joel McCray and J.E. McKissic (both worship pastors at Cornerstone) and Daniel Brymer. I hope my friend will bog about it, but he told me the three hour service included prophetic singing and an incredible movement of the Spirit of God -- the service moved him like nothing he had ever experienced.