Pastor Buddy Champion said as his church — First Baptist Trussville — was preparing for its 200th anniversary in 2021, some interesting tidbits emerged from the minutes of past business meetings.
The church has gone through its share of big dust-ups, and some were about inconsequential things, he said.
“There was a major confrontation at First Baptist Church on whether you could play marbles on Sunday,” Champion, president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention, shared during his president’s address at the annual meeting Tuesday, Nov. 15. “And for goodness’ sake, don’t get in a fight, or we will kick you out of the church.”
Finding those old stories led him to ask Lonette Berg, executive director of the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission, about things other churches have had conflict about through the years.
She gave him a long list of possibilities from stories she has seen in the minutes of other church meetings from over the centuries — things like walking hand in hand at church picnics, making off with a stray hog, distilling “spirituous” liquors, dancing and attending Methodist meetings.
‘Truth after truth’
He said it reminds him of what Paul said to his brothers and sisters in Ephesus. Paul urged them not to be like the Gentiles, but to speak truthfully, to not sin when they were angry and to stay away from a host of other sins.
“He’s giving them truth after truth after truth of how you live your life,” Champion said. “But all of a sudden, right in the middle of all that, he said, ‘Could you be kind? Be tenderhearted, compassionate to one another? Would you forgive each other just as Christ Jesus forgave you?’”
Preaching from Ephesians 4:32, he said kindness means to be sensitive to the needs of others, to have tenderhearted emotion for that other person.
“We can get sideways on a lot of things, can’t we? We can get turned around on a lot of different things, but Paul looked at the sins in that port city and said, ‘Oh, would you please be kind to one another,’” Champion said.
He said it is important to speak the truth as Paul says in Ephesians 4:15, but it’s equally important to do it with love — to not leave a trail of carnage behind you from your sharp words.
“Be gracious and loving; have a heart that freely desires to give grace to other people,” Champion said.
He said it reminds him of 1 Corinthians 13, which says speech is nothing but a clanging cymbal if it’s done without love. To illustrate his point, he pulled out some cymbals and hit them together.
“We can go through life doing all kinds of things in the name of the Lord, and if we don’t do it with love, we’re just a clanging cymbal. We’re just nothing,” Champion said.
The sound of cymbals “gives a beautiful picture of God looking down on my heart,” he said.
“‘Buddy, I don’t care what you do. I don’t care what your numbers look like. I don’t care what you think you’re doing for Me. Buddy, if you don’t operate in love, you’re just making a bunch of racket, just like a clanging cymbal.’”
Champion said remembering the message of the gospel — that no one is good enough on their own to earn God’s favor — helps a person extend grace to others.
“Be kind, be compassionate, be forgiving, just like Christ forgave us,” he said.