The following post first appeared in June of 2011 on another blog I used to have called "The Proverbs 32 Woman." (Yes, I know that the book of Proverbs only has 31 chapters. It's a long story). Anyway, I was thinking about this incident with one of our friends years ago, and I believe the conclusions I gleaned then are still relevant today.
Steve and I had a delightful time last Friday night riding in a pontoon boat just after sunset with some of our wonderful new neighbors. The river was smooth, and the light breeze made it a perfect setting for laughter and conversation. The subject got around to the different churches that they had visited lately and the pros and cons of each (in THEIR opinions). Then, unexpectedly, our new friend Johnny (not his real name) said, "I'm just a Buzzard Baptist, you know." Steve and I looked startled and said, "What in the world is a Buzzard Baptist?" He said, "I just go to church when somebody dies and there's something to eat!" Of course, we hooted with laughter, since both of us have been SOUTHERN Baptists for over 60 years and have never heard that term. Aren't those words both humorous and accurate? Don't we all know people who fit the description "to a T?" Then yesterday, throughout the hours that I was in my church, fully experiencing all that it means to be a member of the Body of Christ, I kept thinking about the vast benefits that a Buzzard Baptist misses.
A Buzzard Baptist has probably heard many funeral sermons based on John 14 -- "Let not your heart be troubled . . . I go to prepare a place for you . . . ." and Psalm 23 -- "The Lord is my Shepherd . . . ." But what about the other thousands of verses and truths in the Bible? Does a Buzzard ever hear those? Yesterday, for example, the message was on spiritual warfare, and before I went to bed last night, I found myself fighting just such a spiritual battle. What if I hadn't known what it was or what to do about it? Our pastor is such a powerful communicator of God's Word. I never fail to learn from him. And, what about all of those multi-week series of messages that go into depth on issues of vast importance? Our son Matt pastors in Arkansas. He recently concluded FIVE YEARS' worth of messages going verse by verse through the Book of Luke. How much deeper now is that congregation's knowledge of the life and words of Jesus!
A Buzzard Baptist never gets to soak in the joy of Christian fellowship, known as koinonia. Oh yes, he/she might get to taste the casseroles and cakes that are brought to feed bereaved families, but that's not the same as learning the heart of your fellow Christian and benefiting from the depth of love and concern. A week or so ago, I was in a small-group setting with fellow believers on a Sunday morning (something we full-timers call Sunday School), and I felt compelled to share some of the burdens we had been carrying as a family in recent weeks. One of the members of the class then voiced a prayer lifting those specific burdens in intercessory prayer to the Father. The peace and comfort that prayer brought to my soul was inexplicable apart from the presence and power of the Holy Spirit and the confidence in the Bible built from years of study and belief.
A Buzzard Baptist probably DOES get to have access to the ministerial staff of a church, especially when it comes to weddings and funerals, but what about having spiritual brothers and sisters come running during crisis times? I remember with such clarity the day that Steve, his Mom, and his brother were waiting on the riverbank while the rescue squad recovered the body of his dad who had drowned. I had a caring minister and his wife by my side when Steve called to give me the sad news. Another time I received one of those dreaded diagnoses that we all hope we'll never get. In a meeting shortly afterward, I quoted an old spiritual and said "It's me, it's me, it's me, oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer." And, my sisters gathered around and prayed fervently. God heard those prayers, and that diagnosis changed to something very good.
Oh, and how could I ever forget the support our family received when the children got married. It turned into something of a marathon event because all three children were married within 16 months of each other. There were 30 teas, showers, luncheons, and parties during those months and MOST were hosted by our fellow church members. Those same church members also filled the pews during those weddings, smiling and wiping tears during the tender moments and laughing, drinking punch, and dancing (yes, we're the dancing kind of Baptists) during the celebration receptions afterward.
I would guess that a Buzzard Baptist has never hosted a DiscipleNow Weekend, an Afterglow, or a Hayride/Bonfire with a speaker. He's probably never gone on a youth choir tour or a volunteer mission trip. He might not have ever worked in Vacation Bible School, taught a class of squirmy, giggling children, or sat on a committee researching a crucial decision involving the future of the church. "In my humble, accurate opinion" (as former pastor Bro. Mark used to say), a person who calls himself a Baptist and yet sits on the sidelines waiting for the big meal to be served when someone dies is missing the best parts of his/her status as a Child of God. Yes, it's a comical term, but I really hope I don't ever become one. I need my brothers and sisters, and I WANT them to need me, too.
I pray that our neighbors will find a church that fits them best and that they will be drawn in by the fellowship, the worship, and the loving spirit of the members. Before long I look forward to hearing them tell about the meaningful times they are experiencing, the people they are meeting, and the places of service they are filling. They have talents, personalities and resources that would make great contributions to most any church. It sure is tempting to pass out their names and number. Instead, just pray with me for them, will you? Just say this: "Dear Father, you know those Buzzard Baptists that are friends with the Pearsons? Will you please draw them to a church where they can know You better, love You more and serve You in a way that matches with the way You created them? Thank you, God. Amen."
Hebrews 10:25 -- "Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have the habit of doing. Rather, let us encourage each other, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.