“I just feel like when you praise our ministry, you are demeaning other churches.”
I didn’t even know what to say. Neurons began firing. Thoughts swirled and swarmed. Sentences began to form like, “How IN THE WORLD did you arrive at that lunacy?” And “What could possibly have prompted that stunning leap of logic in your brain?” And “So let me get this straight: because I thanked the Lord for our church, I am ‘demeaning’ other churches? How does that even make sense? The only way you can arrive at that conclusion is if you already have determined what I am thinking about other churches. So let’s talk about judging the motives of others, shall we?” Yeah. And there was more. The glimpse inside how my mind works is not pretty.
Finally, I gathered my thoughts and uttered a profound statement, “Um. No.” That is all I said. I couldn’t say anything else and be speaking in love. So I just left it at, “No.”
I had a similar experience when someone said to me, “Since our church has an ‘IBCS Sunday,’ why don’t we have an ‘ASU Sunday’?” I wasn’t even sure how to respond to that. Since then, I have formulated a simple response: “Oh. You must not know that IBCS is a ministry of our church. We ARE International Baptist College and Seminary.” Not sure that would answer the question. But maybe it is a start?
This Sunday we rejoiced in what God is doing through IBCS. To be clear, we were not “demeaning” any other colleges. We were praising the Lord for how God’s people have supported His work. And we were showcasing some of the current students. Yup. That’s it.
And what a wonderful Sunday it was! The choir loft was full as the college choir joined the church choir for a special presentation of “Teach Me Your Ways, O Lord.” The simple text is based on Psalm 25:4-12. Each stanza gets a little bit louder. And then the congregation joins in to sing the hymn “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.” The way the song keeps building to the powerful ending is thrilling.
While the congregation was standing, we sang a new song. Well, new to my congregation. The tune is ELLESIDE, usually sung to “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken.” But we sang a text called “A Student’s Prayer.” Pastor Jim found that hymn years ago to use at IBCS commencement. We have been using it ever since! It is a powerful statement that above all learning and knowledge is the wisdom of God. What a perfect song for an academic institution.
After Pastor Mike prayed, the college choir sang a marvelous brand new setting of “Amazing Grace.” The music, though obviously modern, was respectful and gorgeous. The congregation really enjoyed it, I could tell. I figured that someone would say to me, “Well, I like the old tune better.” So I reminded the congregation that at one point NEW BRITAIN (the tune we usually associate with “Amazing Grace”) was new.
While the IBCS Choir exited the choir loft, leaving only the IBCS Chamber Singers, we sang Dr. Bryson’s “Our Eyes Are Upon You, Lord.” I reminded the congregation that this song was our “song in the night” (Psalm 77:6 and Job 35:10).
Next the IBCS Chamber Singers sang “If God Is for Us” with trumpet. The text is taken right from Romans 8:31-32, 38-39. It was a clear, comforting affirmation of God’s faithfulness.
The offertory at the end of the service was the IBCS Handbell Ensemble playing “Amazing Grace” with violin solo. I wonder if anybody noticed that I was setting them up for the more famous tune when I was talking about the new tune that the college choir sang?
In a spirit of full disclosure, I had a ripping headache. Honestly, the reason I went on and on about the tune the college choir sang was so that folks would be eagerly anticipating the offering when they got to hear the more familiar one. But I never actually said that because I was distracted by my pounding head. Funny how that happens sometimes, huh?