by Matt Sapp

The more things change, the more they stay the same. I came across a stack of newsletters from 1992 in my office yesterday. They were hiding behind a commemorative plaque on a shelf behind my library door.

The newsletters weren’t from Central Baptist. They were from other Baptist churches scattered all over the Southeast. Before the internet, if you wanted to keep up with what other churches were doing or learn from what other pastors were saying, you subscribed to their newsletters.

The newsletters were old, but other than the dated typesetting and the proudly displayed NEW FAX NUMBERS (!!), we could have sent these newsletters out to you from Central Baptist today.

In one from Alabama, the youth were sponsoring a Halloween Carnival, all proceeds going to benefit their summer mission trip, of course.

“DON’T FORGET THE TIME CHANGE” another one demanded.

One church in Texas was promoting a new hymnal. It was obvious there was some controversy surrounding it. They were touting the extensive research and thoughtfulness that had gone into the selection process. The newsletter laid out a painfully long and intricate adoption process that included preview days and open houses and Sunday School class discussions. They even included an endorsement from the very prestigious Riverside Church in NYC (because if it’s good enough for their sophisticated tastes…). You could almost hear the determined objections of those who didn’t see anything wrong with the old hymnal shouting through the 25-year-old newsprint (and wouldn’t all that money be better spent on missions anyway?).

At another church, a Minister of Education was being reassigned to the children’s ministry. I immediately wondered if the new position was the result of her vast potential with children or because of some perceived shortcoming in her current role. A combination of both, probably.

A newsletter from Georgia advertised new Sunday School classes being started, a budget discussion on Wednesday night (childcare provided), and a vote on the new budget (it only represents a 1.02% increase over last year’s budget) at the conclusion of both worship services next Sunday.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The first pastor’s column I came across was about stewardship. Maybe we really are always talking about money. This pastor gently reminded his congregation that stewardship was more about “health,” “joy” and “authentic fulfillment” than “money” and “pledge cards.” “Giving is living in the final sense,” he said. Hold onto your wallets, right?

Another pastor used his weekly column to lament the fact that summer was over and that the challenges of fall were “squarely upon us.” The lazy days of vacation, he said, “are now just a pleasant memory.”

Which reminds me, today is the first day of school. Do not, however, confuse the first day of school with the end of summer.

This time two years ago, I used my pastor’s column to write an article entitled, “Don’t Let the School Buses Fool You,” in which I reminded readers,

“Don’t let the school district rob you of the last 52 days of summer. Don’t quietly acquiesce to buttoned-up responsibility nearly two months before it’s time to put away the flip-flops and sunscreen.

“Summer, after all, is more than just the dates on a calendar. Summer is a state of mind. So for the next seven weeks—until the sun actually crosses the equator—remember it’s still summer. “

The worry and responsibility of fall will overwhelm us all soon enough. For now, cut yourself some slack. We’re barely past the All-Star break.

So don’t let the school buses fool you. There are still 49 days left of summer. Take advantage of every one.

See you Sunday.