Rachelle and I arrived in Louisville late Saturday night via a direct flight from Dallas, Texas. Before catching our flight at DFW, we dropped of our youngest son, Logan, at Dallas Christian College where he is going through a week of training before heading to the Amazon jungle in Peru to spend six weeks sharing the gospel with Peruvian jungle natives on a team from Awestar Ministries in Tulsa.
Rachelle and I are staying at the historic Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville. We both swear by Hotwire, and our $90 a night hotel room is a great deal when compared to the $125 rooms at the Convention headquarters hotel where we usually stay.
Today I attended three different worship services at various Lousville Southern Baptist churches, including Valley View Community Church, Highview Baptist Church, and 9th and O Baptist Church. I will be attending a couple of meetings at Sojourn Church later this week.
Kevin Ezell, Senior Pastor of Highview, is being nominated for President of the Southern Baptist Pastor's Conference. Highview has seven locations, and I attended the Fegenbush Campus where Dr. Russ Moore of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary preached the 10:15 worship service. Dr. Bill Cook, a professor at Southern, is the lead pastor at 9th and 0 Baptist Church. Joel Carwile is the Senior Pastor of Valley View. A few observations from attending these various worship services today.
(1). The influence of Southern Seminary is felt at every Southern Baptist church in Lousville. Southern is our largest seminary and, frankly, it is a huge blessing for churches to be able to tap into the gifts and talents of both faculty and students. Examining closely the staff rosters of the churches, it is evident that Southern plays a huge influence in leadership at these churches.
(2). Valley View is less identified with Southern Baptists, removing "Baptist" from their name, using women far more effectively in leadership roles than the other two churches, and they seem, by far, to have the younger congregation. However, to be fair to Highview, I only attended one service of multiple services they offered this weekend, and it could have been that I chose a service attended by a generally older crowd than the other services.
(3). All three messages that I heard were doctrinally sound, well-delivered, and a blessing to the hearers.
(4). Highview is to be commended for having multiple campuses with multiple pastors and teaching pastors. Rather than Kevin Ezzel preaching at every campus via close circuit feed or video archive, various pastors teach at each campus, including Dr. Russ Moore every Sunday at the second of three services at the main campus, giving Dr. Ezell a break between the early and late service. The series topic is the same at each campus, but the messages are unique to each pastor. This, in my opinion, is far better than the LIFE model out of Edmond, Oklahoma, which often becomes a church revolving around a personality.
(5). The websites of Valley View and 9th and O were well done, but in Valley View's case, information was outdated. Highview, on the other hand, had the finest website of any Southern Baptist Church I've come across. It was visually appealing, easy to use, and simplified a very complex worship schedule and structure for the newcomer or visiter. The web administrator and staff at Highview are to be commended for a job well done on getting great information about the church on the Web.
(6). All three churches sponsor a number of missionaries, mission projects and direct mission causes that have nothing to do with the Cooperative Program. This is neither a negative or a positive regarding the churches - just an observation.
(7). I came away this morning grateful that these churches understand evangelism, for the most part, is to be done OUTSIDE the worship service - and Sunday worship is to encourage believers - which happened at all the services I attended.
After an early start this morning, Rachelle and I ate lunch and returned to the hotel where I watched Emmanuel, Enid's 11:00 a.m. service via the internet (archived). My dad delivered a wonderful and meaningful message on Father's Day.
Needless to say, the Southern Baptist Convention has a great deal going for her in 2009 - mostly some wonderful churches who understand what it means to minister to people.
I am on my way to the Southern Baptist Pastor's Conference at the Kentucky Exposition Center where I will hear J.D. Grear, Mac Brunson and Chuck Colson. I will report on the Pastor's Conference later.
In His Grace,