Pastor Buddy Champion said that as his church – First Baptist Trussville – prepared for its 200th anniversary in 2021, they found some interesting information in the minutes of past business meetings.
The church has been through its share of big problems, and some were about unimportant things, he said.
“There was a major showdown at First Baptist Church about whether you could play marbles on Sunday,” Champion, president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention, shared during his president’s address at the the annual meeting on November 15. “And for God’s sake, don’t fight, or we’ll kick you out of the church.
Uncovering these old stories led him to ask Lonette Berg, executive director of the Baptist Historical Commission of Alabama, about things that other churches have had conflicts over the years.
She gave him a long list of possibilities from stories she’s seen in the minutes of other church meetings over the centuries – things like walking hand in hand at picnics in church, running away with a stray pig, distilling “spiritus” liquors, dancing and attending Methodist meetings.
He said it reminded him of what Paul told his brothers and sisters in Ephesus. Paul admonished them not to be like the Gentiles, but to speak honestly, not to sin when angry, and to steer clear of a host of other sins.
“He gives them truth after truth after truth about how you live your life,” Champion said. “But all of a sudden, right in the middle of it all, he said, ‘Could you be kind? Be kind, compassionate to each other? Would you forgive each other as Christ Jesus forgave you?’
Preaching from Ephesians 4:32, he said kindness means being sensitive to the needs of others, having tender emotion for that other person.
“We can get lost on a lot of things, can’t we? We can turn around on a lot of different things, but Paul looked at the sins in this harbor town and said, “Oh, would you please be kind to one another,” Champion said.
He said it is important to speak the truth as it says in Ephesians 4:15, but it is equally important to do so with love – so as not to leave behind a trail of carnage because of your harsh words.
“Be gracious and loving; have a heart that freely desires to give thanks to others,” Champion said.
He said it reminded him of 1 Corinthians 13, which says the word is nothing but a tinkling cymbal if done without love. To illustrate his point, he took out cymbals and banged them together.
“We can go through life doing all sorts of things in the name of the Lord, and if we don’t do it with love, we’re just a tinkling cymbal. We are nothing,” Champion said.
The sound of the cymbals “gives a beautiful picture of God looking at my heart”, he said.
“’Buddy, I don’t care what you do. I don’t care how your numbers look. I don’t care what you think you are doing for Me. Dude, if you don’t act in love, you’re just doing a bunch of racketeering, just like a cymbal blaring. ‘”
Champion said remembering the gospel message — that no one is good enough on their own to win favor with God — helps a person extend grace to others.
“Be kind, be compassionate, forgive, just as Christ forgave us,” he said.