Danny Chisholm

Observations about Baptist life and the Church in general

Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart — March 10, 2018

Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart

Gordon Livingston was a surgeon in Vietnam who returned to the United States after his tour of duty to become a psychiatrist. In that capacity, he listened to countless numbers of individuals talk to him about their problems.
He himself experienced great tragedy over a 13 month period of time, as his oldest son committed suicide and his youngest died of leukemia.
Out of those experiences came a book entitled, “Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: 30 True Things You Need to Know Right Now.” It’s a thin book of axioms and truths gleaned from a lifetime of dealing with the pain and challenges of life.
Here are a few of them: We are what we do. Any relationship is under the control of the one who cares the least. Forgiveness is a form of letting go, but it is not the same thing. The fear of losing happiness is a roadblock to our experiencing it. The major advantage of illness is relief from responsibility.
I referred to these axioms at Dr. Kinder’s funeral this week, and I’ve given additional thought to them as we paid our final respects to our dear friend John McCullars. It has been an emotional and difficult week for us as a family of faith.
“We are what we do.” That’s a good way to describe Doc’s and John’s lives. They both demonstrated through their actions what was important to them, and we are the better for knowing them.
Let’s use the experiences of the past week to recognize what’s truly important, and that a life well lived is of great value. May each one of us aspire to leading a life that is “worthy of the calling of Jesus Christ” so that others might see our blessed Savior in us.
Sunday’s coming–an hour earlier! I hope to see you all then. Philippians 1:3
Ash Wednesday in Broward County — February 15, 2018

Ash Wednesday in Broward County


     Nick Cruz walked back into the high school he had been expelled from armed with an assault rifle. He pulled a fire alarm to get students into the hallways, and then began filling the air with a hail of gunfire. In the chaos that ensued, 17 students were killed.

     This isn’t the beginning of Lent that anyone could have imagined.
     In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Robert Runcie, Superintendent of Broward County Schools offered these remarks: “This has been a day where we’ve seen the worst of humanity. Tomorrow is going to bring out the best in humanity as we’ve come together to move forward from this unspeakable tragedy”
     Ash Wednesday will forever take on a different meaning for the people in that south Florida community. We will grieve with them and remember the victims, the families, and the surviving students who are traumatized with the reality of what happened. These students are dealing with the deaths of classmates and the awareness that their security and peace of mind has been shattered.
     This is a time when our nation offers another round of “thoughts and prayers” to the victims and families. While doing so, we need to realize that this sort of senseless school violence only occurs in the United States of America.
     It’s going to a particularly painful Lenten season for Broward County.
     It’s important to note what is happening in our nation, as well as our world. Theologian Karl Barth once said that pastors should do their work with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other (it would probably be a smartphone now). I think that’s an apt description of the work I’m called to do, and in a similar way, the work the church is called to do.
     Lent is upon us. It begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes the day before Easter. It’s a season of 40 days (not including Sundays) in which the Christian community should reflect, repent, and prepare for the arrival of Easter. Lent is a period of time for us to pay particular attention to our relationship with God.
     By the way, the reason Sundays in Lent aren’t included is that each Sunday is a “little Easter.” On these Sundays, we should temper our melancholy mood with the anticipation of Easter Sunday.
    It’s not uncommon for some Christians to “give up” something for Lent. It’s a way of fasting from something that we typically do as an exercise of discipline. It’s a smaller but can be meaningful way to recall the 40 days of fasting and temptation that Jesus endured (as mentioned earlier, Christians don’t have to practice self-deprivation on Sundays in Lent).
     If you’re looking for suggestions, Twitter has a list of 100 items to “give up” during Lent. The top choices are: social media, alcohol, twitter, chocolate, meat, sweets, swearing, coffee, soda, and Snapchat (ask a teenager what that is).
     In addition to giving something up for Lent, it’s also a time to give one’s time and compassion to others. For this reason, our church is promoting the 40 Days of Change Calendars sponsored by Safe to Sleep. “Safe to Sleep” is a ministry of the Council of Churches that helps at risk women (and children) find shelter and security.
     I’ll be using one of these calendars, and challenge the rest of us to do the same. It’s not the monetary benefit to Safe to Sleep that’s most meaningful, but rather the time spent reflecting upon how much we truly have for which to be grateful.
     Broward County will be grieving for a long time. And, in a nation in which the “worst of humanity” is often on display, let us do our best in representing Christ to show the “best of humanity.” This should begin in our own individual families and extend through our church family into our own county and world.
     The world needs hope. Let the church be that hope.
The “Little Gospel” — February 10, 2018

The “Little Gospel”

I came through New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary at a good time (prior to 2000) and enjoyed sitting under the teaching of some remarkable professors. I was especially fortunate, as a theology student, to be influenced by Fisher Humphreys and Paul Robertson.

These two men were instrumental is helping me forge my own theology, and along the way they penned a work entitled “For God So Loved the World: Traditional Baptists and Calvinism.” This little book is a remarkable tool for making the argument for God’s great mercy and compassion for ALL people. Here is an excerpt:

“The most important truth in Christian theology is this: God is love. We believe the love of God lies behind the coming of Jesus Christ and is the reason God send Christ into the world. We believe in the love of God for all people (not just the elect) because the Bible teaches it and Jesus displayed it throughout his life and especially at his death. The love of God for all people underwrites the true meaning of our lives.

There are several metaphors in the New Testament that describe that Divine-Human encounter that brings about eternal life. This Sunday I’ll be reviewing the term “born again” as we revisit that conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus as recorded in John 3. Conversations about spirituality and faith in Christ are still important today.

A Church Closure and a Modest Prayer for 2018 — December 31, 2017

A Church Closure and a Modest Prayer for 2018

I’ve read numerous articles and heard stories about churches closing their doors. I’ve had people come into our church family who tell me that they don’t have a “membership to transfer” because their previous church had disbanded.

Churches close for a variety of reasons. These have been cited in numerous publications and played out in congregations in many different settings. Usually churches close due to declining attendance, decreasing financial contributions, and gradual and consistent change in the neighborhood around the building itself.

When I received a message that College Place Baptist Church was shutting down, I couldn’t believe it. I don’t know why I couldn’t believe it, except that I didn’t know of any churches on a personal level that had closed. This time was different.

I grew up in College Place, and started attending there when my family moved into a small farm house right down the street. I attended the elementary school right across from the church, so my world was Sherrouse avenue.

It’s been a few decades since I attended that church, but remember being part of youth choirs, missions organizations, and the puppet ministry. We went to Glorieta on more than a few occasions (it’s now defunct too), and had numerous other experiences which have stayed with me to this day.

I mention this church because it has had a profound influence upon my life, and a great deal of what I’ve been able to do and be has its roots in that congregation. I dare say no one (especially myself) could have envisioned that a boy roaming the halls of that building would grow up to be a pastor.

I’ve read a lot of articles and books about church growth and what a church is supposed to be about. There are all kinds of programs, activities, and events that are associated with the work of the church. Still, what is most important, in my view, is that lives are forever changed for the better because of a church’s witness and influence.

I received a wonderful Christmas card a few weeks ago from a woman named Julia. She is Carolyn’s grandmother, one of the Missouri State students who graduated this month and attended UHBC during her four years in school.  Julia thanked our church for our encouragement of Carolyn and our investment in her life.

That card meant a lot to me, and I shared it during our last worship service of 2017. It’s a good reminder of what the church should be doing; our work should be about helping people deepen in their relationship with Christ.

That’s what College Place did for me more than four decades ago. I’m so grateful for all those who were in that church while I was growing up physically and spiritually. I hope that our church now can have that kind of impact on students who come our way, and also provide a spiritual home for others who can spend more time with us. Survival is not the ultimate goal of a church; it’s investing time and resources in human beings for the cause of Christ.

There’s a lot of unknowns when it comes to what’s yet ahead, but what is known is that God remains faithful and able to provide for what is needed and when it is needed. Yes, I am a pastor but much more than that, I’m a follower of The Way. And, I hope that I can trust the Lord for what is yet to come and be excited about the opportunities and challenges of a year.

Psalm 31:14-15 is a good place to begin 2018:  But I trust in you, LordI say, “You are my God.”  My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me.

Not one of those charter members could have imagined what College Place would accomplish in its seven decades of life. Today I celebrate its impact upon my life and for all the “saints” that have gone on to glory from that congregation. They entrusted their future in the Lord’s hands, and completed several generations of ministry while impacting thousands of lives with the gospel. That’s a wonderful legacy.

For now, and for where I am today, I celebrate the beginning of another year. I’ll do my best to live in the now and lean into each moment as it comes. I’m sure I’ll revisit the words of the psalmist when anxiety creeps in about what’s going on (or not going on) in the church and my family. And, I hope to remain secure in who I am as a follower of Christ regardless of my circumstances.



The rise of “whataboutisms” — December 7, 2017

The rise of “whataboutisms”

Matt Lauer was fired last week from the TODAY show. NBC executives released a statement indicating that he had been accused of sexual harassment, and that enough evidence had been substantiated to result in his immediate dismissal.
An obviously shocked Savannah Guthrie offered these words to the viewing audience: “We are grappling with a dilemma that so many people have faced these past few weeks. How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly? And I don’t know the answer to that.”
TIME magazine has announced its people of the year as “The Silence Breakers.” These are women (and a few men) who have spoken up and out after a prolonged silence regarding their own experiences with sexual harassment. They are “finding their voices” at a critical moment in our nation’s history.
Whether Savannah intended to or not, she aptly summarized the nature of our human condition. There are people whom we know and love who make terrible decisions, and when this happens we have to decide how to respond to them.
I’m grateful that these women are finding their voices; this kind of behavior cannot be tolerated and it has gone unchecked for too long. I’ve been shocked at the revelations of high profile men who have “behaved badly” in the workplace; but thankful that the testimony of these women are being believed.
Of course, politics can play a role in how these situations are handled for our elected officials. The latest meme that is going around relates to “Whataboutisms.” This means that when one elected official is accused of bad behavior, then someone then says, “well what about _________________?” The amount of moral relativism going on in the public arena is dizzying.
Now, more than ever, the church must find its voice. The church must also speak out against injustice and abuse in a clear and direct manner. What confuses our world is when people who claim to be Christians and quote the Bible are selective in its application. We must be a people who are “doers of the Word, and not hearers only.”
That voice is rooted in the voice crying out in the wilderness centuries ago. We’ll talk about that this Sunday morning, as we do our best to prepare for Christmas and the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
As we continue through this Advent season, let’s “lean in” to each day and the moments we have together. One way we can do this as a people is being together for worship and special events as a family of faith.
I hope you’ll take advantage of all the special times that are planned this month. You’ll be blessed as a result.
The Gift of Gratitude — November 21, 2017

The Gift of Gratitude

We’re approaching the Thanksgiving season, and with that thoughts about the kind of year it’s been. Is it possible to run out of words to describe the mood of our nation?

We have gone through tumultuous, serious, and some would say ridiculous political experiences. There have been significant developments around the world relating to the condition of the poor, the vulnerable, and the oppressed. We have witnessed natural disasters along with terrible gun violence. Most recently, we’ve seen and heard about the people who were killed while they were in their house of worship. This most recent development at FBC Sutherland Springs has caused many congregations, including ours, to revisit their security procedures.

Security is a timely word. We all long for it. I want to provide this for my own family and move our congregation forward in a reasonable conversation about who we are, what is going on in our world, and how best to respond to it. But, I’m reminded of the simple truth that despite our best efforts, there are going to be times when things happen beyond our control. It is during those times that we most struggle with the realities of our faith in Christ and the challenges to that faith that the world provides.

I frequently go back to the phrase popularized by the late John Claypool in responding to the death of his 8 year old daughter: “Life is a gift.” Indeed it is. I find that when I approach each day with this mentality, it provides a better perspective on dealing with people, places, and events. It doesn’t solve my problems of course, but it causes me to slow down to realize that I don’t deserve the blessings I’ve been given. The old hymn is still true: “Count your blessings. Name them one by one. And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”

When asked what I think about what’s happening in our nation and world, I’m tempted to focus only on the negative. It’s easy to do, and most of the ink (literally and digitally) is tilted in that direction. It’s important to be aware of events taking place around us, and be challenged to see how our faith intersects and influences our reactions to them.  However, it’s also vital for our own spiritual, mental, and emotional health to have a positive, meaningful approach to where we are and what we are going as individuals and as the people of God. This is not always easy to do, but for myself at least, I need the reminder. Especially at Thanksgiving.

So, I’m going to attempt to pump the brakes a little bit on how fast life comes at me. I’ll do this even as I and our family make the annual pilgrimage to see Lori’s parents (and perhaps more importantly) Cally, Lucy, and Matt’s grandparents. For the weekend at least and maybe beyond, we’ll have fun stressing over the outcome of the Iron Bowl and elevate it’s importance beyond what reasonable people do. But, it will be fun to be together and that for me will make for a meaningful experience.

So, I’m hoping for a great Thanksgiving. I’m hopeful for a great Thanksgiving for all the victims of the floods. I’m mindful of the families who will have a place missing at the table because a family member was taken from them through gun violence. I’m hoping for a great Thanksgiving for all the victims of sexual assault who have spoken out recently about their experiences. I’m also grateful for all the churches who are reaching out to these persons in need. The recovery process will take a long time and there won’t be easy answers, but I’m thankful for those who are being the presence of Christ in a time of need.

Along with that, I’m hoping for a great Thanksgiving for myself, my own family, church family, and all my friends. To be honest, our entire nation could use a great Thanksgiving.

One definition of what I’m talking about could include lots of food, family, and a celebration of what we have and hope to accomplish in the days ahead. But, what I am learning is that being thankful causes me to slow down and appreciate what I already have. As Robert Holden said, “The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become.”

A prayer for myself first and our people is that we would slow down, and even stop on occasion, so that we can be “fully present” during the time we have right now. Conversely, let us be mindful that ingratitude is a terrible vice and can be toxic to our well-being. Let us practice gratitude for the simple things and be “in the moment” because we aren’t promised another day. And, may we be encouraged (and surprised) and all the things the Lord has done–and is doing–among us.


FBC Sutherland Springs and UHBC — November 10, 2017

FBC Sutherland Springs and UHBC

FBC Sutherland Springs is meeting this Sunday morning. It’s the Lord’s day, and that, of course is what churches do. But this Sunday will be different.

A week ago, a gunman armed with an assault rifle entered a room which is traditionally called a sanctuary and killed 26 people. He emptied 450 rounds of ammunition into that room; tragically some ended the lives of friends, family, and neighbors.

Sutherland Springs isn’t that big, really. There are about 600 residents in that community, which means that 4% of the population died in the church house. To gain another perspective of how devastating this has been on that area, think about our own city. Springfield has about 165,000 residents in its city limits, and that percentage would be equivalent to the deaths of 6,500 men, women, and children.

Social media has been littered with “thoughts and prayers” for the victims and their families. That’s about all we know to do until the next mass shooting occurs. I would simply and humbly ask our governmental leaders to find a way to come together to reduce and limit these kinds of events in our nation. Yes, there is evil in the world, and this man had a history of mental illness Let’s not be satisfied with “thoughts and prayers” this time, but rather find common ground and common sense to move forward as a people.

One reaction to this latest shooting has been other churches examining their own security measures. Our church is no exception to this sentiment. In response to the concerns of our people and in consultation with our Deacon Chair, we will have a special called business meeting later this month to talk about this. We will review our current security measures and discern what and if anything else needs to be done to deal with our current reality. Prior to this meeting, the deacons will come together and discuss this matter as well.

I wanted to make you aware that we do have certain protocols already in place relating to the security of our entrances. There are also individuals who miss out on Bible Studies, worship, and other fellowship moments to be attentive to the unexpected. I appreciate them “having our backs” and know they want to do what is best to keep our people secure.

The reason we are having a churchwide meeting later this month is for us to have consensus and clarity about our security protocols. Whenever there is a mass shooting, much attention is given to what has happened, but then over time the attention shifts to other matters. I want us to embrace this moment as a church family. When I entered the ministry, I never thought this would be a subject for me to deal with in the church. We must not develop a fortress mentality, but I do want us to embrace this moment and seek the wisdom of the Lord.

Sunday’s coming. I look forward to seeing you all and remember “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you” (Phil. 1.3)