Voices Jeff Johnson

God’s presence: Working for change

I gave up something Dec. 29, 2013: “Pastor’s Pals.” Yes, the one consistent Sunday morning worship service reliable bright spot. We did not exorcise it completely from the order of worship. Our children’s minister has taken the stage and is doing a great job.

jeff johnson130Jeff JohnsonAmazing, in my 31-year run in children’s sermons, no matter how badly I botched my chance at communicating the gospel to the youngest church folk, these moments became the most memorable—the most potentially energy-releasing for the entire congregation. Why? Because children are like God’s kingdom. They are predictably unpredictable. Their presence changes things.

When our oldest daughter was born 29 years ago, I heard more than once from wise friends and relatives, “Your lives will change completely!” And they did. Every preacher knows that no matter how carefully a children’s sermon is constructed, the wonderfully unpredictable, energizing force of the children gathered to listen to it will change it. Everyone else in the congregation feels this tension too—and for just a few moments, at least, there is a breath of expectation and of freshness in the air. The kids might say or do something funny, or rude, or horrible, or touching, or beautiful or truthful—and release the energy of that moment, that spirit, over the whole congregation.

The Baptist Standard has graciously given me the opportunity to write a few words of encouragement and challenge to Texas Baptists each week through November 2014, when my term as president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas concludes.

My plan is to highlight a different Texas Baptist ministry each week. My hope is that as children of God, you will help somehow energize these words, transform them and help bring expectation and freshness to Texas Baptists. The presence of God is working in and through Texas Baptists and will change things in 2014.

I can’t wait.

Jeff Johnson is president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and pastor of First Baptist Church in Commerce.

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