How to get ready for Easter
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
When I served as a Baptist pastor in Rincon, Georgia, I had the unique experience of putting on a white wig and an old robe borrowed from a Methodist, to give a dramatic presentation of the founding pastor of the oldest Lutheran Church in North America. The historic pastor’s name was Johann Boltzius, and his church was Jerusalem Lutheran Church, founded in 1734 in the Ebenezer Community in Effingham County, Georgia, some 30 miles north of Savannah.
School children came from all over Georgia to the retreat center at Ebenezer to learn Georgia history. They visited Savannah, and they also came to the old Jerusalem Lutheran Church, whose sanctuary was built in 1769, to hear me tell the story, in costume, of Boltzius who served a congregation that fled to the New World from Salzburg, Austria, in search of religious freedom.
After the presentation, students were given an opportunity to ask “Pastor Boltzius” questions. One day in March, a student asked me why it was so dark in the church. With a gleam in my eye, I explained that it was Lent, a season in which members of that church remembered Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins. Members of the church fasted, prayed, and thought of other ways to make sacrifices in memory of Jesus, and during this time, they kept the window shutters closed. In fact, on Good Friday, they came into the church and sang songs about Jesus’ death, and then blew out all of the candles and went home in total darkness. The students reflected on that quietly, and I paused. Then I waved my hand at the shutters and shouted, “But on Easter Sunday morning, they threw open the shutters, let the light in, and celebrated, because Jesus is alive!”
Whether or not your church observes the tradition of Lent, it is an important reminder of how any Christian can get ready for Easter, by first reflecting on the suffering of Christ. I encourage you to read the story of the crucifixion from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Spend time alone, silent, reflecting on it. Fast and pray. Think about your own sin, your own struggles, your own sorrows, and how the suffering of Christ forgives, redeems and renews you. Meditate on the dark, and the light will brighten you more when it comes. Like that church in Georgia that threw open their shutters, if we will remember how dark it was when Christ died, we will appreciate all the more how glorious it was that He arose!
Houses of worship: Black Rock A.M.E., Washington, Georgia
Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers
I continue my series of photo blogs of houses of worship that I like with the creative design of Black Rock African American Episcopal Church near Washington, Georgia. This worship center caught my eye because of the amazing way that it brings together the entrance, steeple and pitch of the roof. I don’t know if there is any symbolic meaning to the three-part steeple on the front (perhaps for the Trinity?), but it certainly has an unforgettable look that I love.
Houses of worship: Bethel Lutheran Church, Springfield, Georgia
Continuing my series of photo blogs of houses of worship I like, we see a great example of a wonderful Lutheran tradition. Notice the red door at on the sanctuary of Bethel Lutheran Church, Springfield, Georgia. Local Lutherans tell me that many Lutherans paint their church doors red because one must go through the blood of Jesus to enter the church. That’s great theology, and the classic all-American white wooden structure to this congregation is outstanding for its simple beauty.
Houses of worship: Church of the Holy Family, Columbus, Georgia
Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers
I continue my series of photo blogs of houses of worship that I like with a Roman Catholic church. The Church of the Holy Family is a traditional Catholic sanctuary located in downtown Columbus, Georgia. It caught my eye as a majestic example of modern church architecture in the Gothic style, so popular in Europe and among Catholic churches.
Houses of worship: St. Mary Magdalene Christian Orthodox Church, Rincon, Georgia
Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers
I continue my series of photo blogs of houses of worship that I like, with a very unique worship center. The sanctuary of St. Mary Magdalene Christian Orthodox Church looks like it might be in Russia, but it’s actually located in a rural area just outside of the small city of Rincon, Georgia. This building shows that a congregation does not have to be large to build an absolutely gorgeous building. Notice the dome and cross, a popular design among Eastern Orthodox churches, and the icon above the front door, as well as the musical pipes on the front lawn.
Guest blog: GBC president Hattaway calls Georgia Baptists to pray for revival
(Below is a guest blog post from Dr. Don Hattaway, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Cartersville, and president of the Georgia Baptist Convention.)
A message from Dr. Don Hattaway, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention
The Georgia Baptist Convention has been greatly blessed by God. We have some of the most dedicated pastors and leaders in the history of our convention, excellent educational opportunities and resources, and the technological ability to deliver our message to the masses. In addition, we live in a state with over 7 million lost people desperately in need of the Gospel. Considering these factors, you would think we would be making great strides in reaching our state for Christ. Sadly, the opposite is true. Baptisms are down. Giving is down. Church attendance is down. Despite all of our efforts, we continue to lose ground in the battle for the souls of men, women, boys and girls across our state. If this downward trend is to be reversed, the problem causing it must first be determined.
I have come to believe that the greatest problem facing our convention is of a spiritual nature. We are in desperate need of revival. As the president of the Georgia Baptist Convention, my vision is to see spiritual renewal experienced in the churches throughout our state. This can only happen when we humble ourselves and seek the face of God. The time has come for all Georgia Baptists to cry out to the Father in confession and repentance of sins. When we are right with God and each other, God will be able to use us to impact our state with the Gospel.
If revival is going to be experienced throughout Georgia, prayer is where it will begin. Since there is no such thing as a prayerless revival, I want to call upon all Georgia Baptist pastors and leaders to begin to pray fervently for revival in our state.
Throughout this year, I will travel across Georgia encouraging the formation of prayer groups that will regularly meet to seek God’s face for spiritual renewal. I hope to see the momentum of prayer and spiritual expectancy build throughout the year leading up to our annual convention at Ingleside Baptist in Macon, Georgia. Our theme will be “Revive Us Again!” The Scriptural basis for this focus is Psalm 85:6, “Will You not revive us again so that Your people may rejoice in You?” This emphasis is so important I have chosen to refer to this year’s convention as “Revive 2014.”
When messengers leave “Revive 2014” in November, I want them to be able to say they have experienced God’s power and presence in their lives. My ultimate desire is for Georgia Baptists to come away with a renewed cleansing from God, a unified fellowship among God’s people and a restored passion to worship God and reach our state with the Gospel message.
Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He instructed His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit descended to empower the Church. After ministering alongside Jesus for three years, the disciples were not ready to do ministry because they lacked the power of the Holy Spirit. Once the Holy Spirit descended on the Church at Pentecost, Peter preached the Gospel and 3,000 souls were saved. The Church, ministering in the power of God, turned the world upside-down for Christ. We, as believers, have the Holy Spirit living within us. However, sin grieves the Holy Spirit and limits His power in our lives. God wants to demonstrate His power in and through us. For this to happen, we must humble ourselves and pray for a fresh encounter with God. Only then will we be able to minister in the power of God and impact our state for Christ.
Will you join me in consistently praying for a spiritual renewal throughout Georgia in 2014? We must not delay. God wants to do a new work in us and in our convention. Let us join Him in His work.
(If you see a video ad below this post, please understand that I have no control over these ads, and that I do not necessarily endorse the product. If you see an inappropriate ad, feel free to contact me, Bob Rogers, at email@example.com.)
Doing church New York style
Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers
Years ago when I lived in Mississippi, I visited the Empire State Building in New York City, and I heard a Southern accent from some young ladies. They asked me and my wife, “Are y’all from the South?” We said, “Yes, we’re from Mississippi,” and they said, “Well, we’re from Georgia, and it sounds so good to hear somebody from the South.”Actually, they didn’t say “Georgia,” they said “JAW-ja.” (And I didn’t say, “Mississippi,” I said “Miss-IP-y.”)
I was thinking, how would I feel if I was from New York and came to church down South? There are some great churches in New York; in fact, the Brooklyn Tabernacle is one of the greatest churches in America. But New Yorkers and Southerners have a different culture altogether. I wonder how we could make them feel at home? My sister lived in Manhattan for years, and now lives in Brooklyn. She says a “New York minute” actually lasts 19 seconds. I believe her. So read this rapidly, and maybe you’ll get some ideas for doing church “New York style.”
1. Everybody would have to line up outside the church, and when the doors opened, they would have to rush in as fast as they could and get a seat or find something to hold on to, because the ushers would shut the doors behind them in 10 seconds. Then the pastor would announce in garbled English, “The J-train is leaving the station now. Do not block the entrances!”
2. There would be different seating for Yankees and Mets fans, with armed uniformed policemen separating them.
3. Each member of the congregation would be given a headset so he or she could listen to the sermon in traditional or contemporary English, Spanish, Romanian, Korean, Vietnamese, Italian, Mandarin or Cantonese Chinese, Swahili or Yiddish. This would allow them to understand the service without having to actually talk to anybody else.
4. If somebody tried to sit in your pew, you would block his way and say, “Don’t play with me, man.”
5. The pastor would begin his sermon with, “Yo! Youse guys! I’m TALKIN’ to you!”
Our New York friends then could visit JAW-ja or Miss-IP-y or Luzy-anna and feel right at home. After all, didn’t the apostle Paul say, “I have become all things to all people, so that I may by all means save some”? (1 Corinthians 9:22, HCSB).
Guest blogs coming from my children
Mary and I have three children, and we are very proud of all three of them. In the next few days, I will be posting guest blogs by each of them, from the oldest to the youngest.
Our daughter, Melissa Rogers Dalton, is a graduate of Effingham County High School and Mercer University, and is earning a master’s degree from Longwood University. Melissa is married to Steven Dalton of Mechanicsville, Virginia, where they now live. Steven is a child labor investigator for the Virginia Department of Labor. Melissa teaches fourth grade at New Kent Elementary School, and she gave birth to our first grandson, Keagan Dalton, on December 16. She will be writing about how it feels to be a new mother.
Our daughter, Lauren Rogers Knight, is a graduate of Effingham County High School and Mississippi College and is married to Philip “Pip” Knight of Rincon. They live in Gulfport, Mississippi. Pip is an air traffic controller at the Gulfport airport, and Lauren is a service representative for Million Air, a full based operation for private planes, and she is an independent consultant for Rodan and Fields. Lauren will write about the differences and similarity of living on the Georgia coast and the Mississippi coast.
Our son, Wade Rogers, is a graduate of Effingham County High School and is a second year student at Georgia Tech, majoring in business administration. He works at WREK, the student radio station, and announces Georgia Tech baseball games on the radio. Wade will be writing about a week in the life of a college student.