Harry Reeder: Thoughts from a Grateful Neighbor

I distinctly recall the first time I met Harry Reeder. He had recently come to be the pastor at Briarwood Presbyterian Church and we had a graveside funeral together at Elmwood. How did that happen? The deceased was a Briarwood member whom I had gotten to know because I pastored his daughter and family. They had a graveside only funeral and asked me share a few words before Dr. Reeder spoke. Here I was, the young 20-something pastor of a small Baptist church in Blount county conducting a funeral with Harry Reeder. I was in WAAAY over my head! However, Harry was very kind and gracious to this young pastor he had never met.

Fast forward to 2013 when I was called as pastor at Lakeside Baptist Church off I-450/Actor Road exit. Now I was literally just across Acton Road from Briarwood. Harry Reeder and I were now neighboring pastors! Over the years, I became privileged to count him as a friend. I was with him at a few community pastor’s events. Both of our boys graduated from Briarwood Christian School and our paths crossed several times. We knew one another and chatted briefly when we saw each other. Once we shared a laugh about how the Acton Road exit is a great illustration of different strands of evangelical theology: Metropolitan Church of God on one hill with Briarwood Presbyterian on the other hill – and the Baptists right between them! He loved the visual!

While I did know him, mostly I appreciated Harry Reeder and his ministry from a short distance. I often listened to his preaching and followed him on social media. My last interaction with him came back in April after he had preached at the Ligonier Conference. I watched his message online and was so moved I sent him an email of appreciation. He responded with his typical graciousness and we made plans to have lunch together. Sadly, that never happened. Tragically and shockingly, Harry Reeder went to be with the Lord on May 18 in a car accident. I have many friends at Briarwood Presbyterian Church who are in profound, shocked grief. I have prayed much for the Reeder family and Briarwood.

As a neighboring pastor, I had a TON of respect for Harry Reeder and his ministry. He was a tremendous Bible preacher who always shared the gospel and pointed people to Christ in every message. He had a tremendous intellect and used it to speak to issues of our day with a clear, Biblical worldview. He was a steadfast, unbending defender of life, truth, and righteousness. You never had to wonder where Harry Reeder stood – he told you! By all accounts, he was not just a bold preacher. He was a faithful husband, father, grandfather, pastor, and friend – in that order. For these reasons and many more, I had the utmost respect for Harry Reeder.

Count me a grateful friend and neighbor for the life and ministry of Harry Reeder. Well done, good and faithful servant!

THE key issue: The Authority of Scripture

“I know what the Bible says about abortion, but I am for it!”

Even after many years, those words still hit me like a gut punch. They were spoken to me by a person who was in church almost every Sunday and even led in a Sunday School class at their church. While there are many problems with such a statement, I want to focus on what I believe is the biggest one: the open rejection of scripture’s authority. In one sentence, the person who spoke those words communicated that they did not believe the Bible was authoritative for how they lived their lives. They didn’t say they didn’t “believe the Bible” and they didn’t say the Bible wasn’t clear about the issue. They simply said the Bible wasn’t their final authority in making decisions and living their life. They rejected the AUTHORITY of the Bible for their life.

No doubt there are many professing Christians today who make similar statements – to their great peril and the peril of the church. Contrast this line of thinking to what the Bible actually says about itself…

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, NASB95)

If you are reading this post, you may know that the Greek word translated “inspired” literally means “God breathed.” The very words of the Bible are God’s words. Then, in response to the nature of the Bible, there is the ROLE of the Bible in the Christian’s life…

“teaching” = The Bible is where we GET what we believe and the source from which we teach what we believe.

“reproof” = The Bible rebukes and strongly corrects us when we sin and need to be confronted.

“correction” = The Bible helps us improve and become more of what we need to be.

“training in righteousness” = We never outgrow the Bible. The Bible is part of our constant growth as a Christian.

Sounds pretty “authoritative” to me!! Please understand what I am NOT saying. I am NOT saying that every single issue is crystal clear in scripture. I am NOT saying that sincere believers (who believe scripture is authoritative) cannot disagree about some issues (i.e. mode of baptism, eschatology). I am NOT saying that every issue is simple and sincere believers shouldn’t wrestle with implications and the bigger picture.

I AM saying that scripture is absolutely authoritative in the life of the believer. It is not enough to “believe the Bible.” We must study the Bible and seek to understand the Bible. We must seek to adjust our lives to the teachings of the Bible – not the other way around as so many do today. These facts hold true even if we don’t like what the Bible says to us. These facts hold true even if the culture tells us the Bible’s teaching is outdated and out of step.

If the Bible isn’t binding and authoritative on my life as a Christian, then it immediately becomes an “option” among many. If the Bible isn’t binding and authoritative on my life as a Christian, then the Bible really means very little. Sadly, this is where so many professing believers in our churches are today. It all comes back to the authority of scripture. Once that is lost, everything else goes pretty quickly.

Think about it.

Life’s Seasons

I shared this devotion with our staff team today and decided to share it in this space. My favorite season of year just started: FOOTBALL SEASON!! Seriously, we all know that there are four seasons of the year that all of us walk through. We all have our favorite and least favorite seasons. For me, fall is my favorite followed closely by summer. Count me OUT for the cold winter! However, even in the coldest winter we have hope becasue we know that spring is coming! It’s interesting that the Bible takes the common seasons of the year and compares them to seasons of life…

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1–8, ESV)

The Bible compares the different times we experience in life to the seasons of the year. Let’s take a few moments and think about life’s seasons…

We must RECOGNIZE the seasons.

Some seasons of life come with time and life. Our kids move from diapers to drivers license. We move from a full house to an empty nest. We move into retirement years. Other seasons come because of change or circumstances. We get offered a job in another city and we accept – necessitating a move and a new season. A loved one suddenly passes away. Natural disasters come. Sometimes seasons change suddenly and irreversibly. Sometimes we get so busy that we don’t even realize the seasons change. The reality is that every single one of us is in a season. Some of us are in a great season. Some of us are in a hard season. Some of us are beginning a new season. Every single one of us is in a season.

We must ENTRUST the seasons.

The Lord controls the seasons. We are not in control. Seasons come and seasons go according to His will. If we keep reading in Ecclesiastes 3, this truth is made clear…

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, ESV)

“I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.” (Ecclesiastes 3:14, ESV)

The seasons of our lives are in HIS hands. If we are in a hard, painful season it’s important to come back to this truth again and again. During one of the most difficult seasons of my own life I was agonizing with the Lord in prayer. He spoke two words to my spirit that night: “TRUST ME.” The Lord is in control of the seasons of our lives. THAT fact is why we can trust Him.

If you are in a hard season, remember the flip side of this truth. Seasons are not permanent. Seasons come, but seasons go. Cold winter gives way to life giving spring. You may not be able to see it. It may be hard to for you to believe it is there, but there is an end to this hard season and the beginning of the a new season. We don’t control the length of our life seasons. We just have to ENTRUST them to the ONE who is faithful and true.

We must EMBRACE the seasons.

“Be where your feet are!” I honestly don’t remember where I heard that expression, but I have never forgotten it. Be present. Be all in, wherever you are in life. This lesson also applies to seasons of life. All of us have favorite seasons of life – times of blessings, joy, and happiness. All of us have hard seasons of life – times of tears, pain, discouragement, etc. The problem comes when we are in a hard season, but our heart is stuck in the good season. We remember when it was better. We remember when it was easier. We remember when it was like we wanted it to be. We remember the good seasons. Praise God for them! It’s good to remember and rejoice. The problem comes when we get stuck in anger, depression, despair and more due to the hard season we are presently in. In a very real sense, we must EMBRACE the season we are in even if it is a season we would have never chosen. “Be where your feet are. Embrace it!”

Some time ago, the Lord used a member of our church to very clearly challenge me about this issue. It happened in a most unexpected place. His wife of over six decades was in her last days. I walked into the hospice unit, and he was sitting at her bedside holding her hand. As usual, I talked with them and prayed with them. As I finished my prayer, he began praying. Here is how he finished his prayer….“Lord, you have been faithful to us. Thank you for bringing us to this place where we can be faithful to you in this moment.”

Have you ever had something hit you a few moments AFTER the moment? Such was my experience that day. As I walked to my car, the reality of his prayer hit me. Here was a man in what was likely the hardest season of his long life, yet he thanked the Lord for it and praised God for the opportunity to be faithful in it. If I ever witnessed anyone who entrusted and embraced a hard season, it was that man in that moment.

Honestly, I was a bit shaken. I was in the middle of a difficult and painful season myself. Increasingly, my thoughts had turned wistfully to better, easier, happier seasons. After witnessing that prayer, I sat in my car for a few minutes to pray. Through my tears I thanked the Lord for His faithfulness to me through every season of my life. I thanked Him for the hard season that I was walking through, and I thanked Him for the opportunity to be faithful to Him in it. I had long ago RECOGNIZED the seasons. It was on that afternoon that I truly learned to ENTRUST and EMBRACE a hard season.

What about YOU? Maybe you are reading this post and you are in the middle of a hard season. Maybe your prayer needs to be similar this one…

“Lord, you have been faithful to me. Thank you for bringing me to this place where I can be faithful to you in this moment.”

My thoughts on the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention

Because I know that this post might have greater interest than usual, I decided to provide a brief recap at the beginning (for those who want a quick bottom line) and then take a more detailed dive into some issues in the rest of this post for those who are interested.


Several church members and friends have reached out to me inquiring “How did the convention go?” The short answer is that it went very well, in my opinion. I honestly did not see how it was reported by news outlets, but I can assure you there was a high degree of unity in the room among 8000 gathered messengers from all 50 states. There was a determination to deal straightforwardly with the issues identified in the well-publicized Sexual Abuse Task Force report. The messengers took needed and necessary first steps with no real opposition to the recommendations. My good friend, Craig Carlisle, summarized the highlights of the convention this way…

  1. We commissioned 52 new missionaries.
  2. We affirmed and approved the Sexual Abuse Task Force recommendations.
  3. We elected conservative leadership to every position.
  4. We bolstered our position on pro-life.

I agree with Craig’s highlights. Were their differences of opinion? Sure. You get 10,000 Baptists in the room and there will be some different opinions! However, someone said that Southern Baptists look much better in person than we do on social media. The convention agreed near-unanimously on all but a handful of matters.

The bottom line for me is that I came away from the convention cautiously encouraged that we had found a pathway forward from some of the serious issues we have been dealing with.


WHAT DID THE CONVENTION DO ABOUT THE ABUSE CRISIS? The Sexual Abuse Task Force (commissioned at the 2021 SBC) and the report they released covered three basic areas: allegations of abuse, the responses to reports of abuse, and treatment of victims. The investigation included all employees of the SBC Executive Committee and all those who served on the Executive Committee itself going back to the year 2000. It was not an investigation of the whole convention; the scope was pretty narrow. Still, the findings of the investigation were horrendous and the messengers at the 2022 SBC were determined to address them head-on and take steps to ensure the SBC responds better to these issues.

Specifically, the messengers near unanimously approved two recommendations that come from the Sexual Abuse Task Force. First, messengers approved the formation of an Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force. Members of this task force will be appointed by the new SBC president. This task force will deliberately and prayerfully bring further recommendations to the convention over the coming years. Second, messengers approved the establishment of a “Ministry Check” website that will contain names of SBC pastors, staff members, denominational workers, and volunteers who have at any time been credibly accused of sexual abuse. The goal is to prevent people from moving from church to church and state to state and repeating the same vile acts. The approval of these two recommendations represents important, vital, tangible initial steps. The SBC certainly is far from finished addressing this issue, but we got off to a decent start with these actions.

DID THE SBC ELECT A “LIBERAL” PRESIDENT? Absolutely not. There were four men nominated for the office of SBC President. In my estimation, all four of them were good, faithful, godly men who were all conservative theologically. Ultimately, Bart Barber, the pastor of FBC Farmersville, Texas was elected president in a run-off. Do I agree with Bart Barber on every issue? No. However, that doesn’t mean he is a liberal. Bart is not a “mega-church pastor” like most who have served as SBC president in my lifetime. He has my prayers and support. By the way, the SBC President is an UNPAID position. Yes, Bart will still serve as pastor of FBC Farmersville and have the stress of being SBC President on top of the normal (considerable) stress of being the pastor of a local church. I am optimistic that Bart will serve us well.

I HEARD THE SBC IS “GOING LIBERAL” ON ABORTION & WOMEN PREACHERS. IS THAT TRUE? I do not believe that is accurate at all. Yes, some did not like how the interim ERLC president answered a question about abortion and pro-life advocacy. Yes, there was debate on the floor of the convention regarding the Credentials Committee recommendation regarding Saddleback Church in California. However, NOT ONE PERSON argued that abortion was not the taking of a life and that Roe V. Wade should not be overturned. NOT ONE PERSON argued in favor of the SBC approving female pastors. I was in the room. In fact, the prevailing atmosphere of the messengers in the room was decidedly toward a conservative, complementarian view of female pastors and the role of women in the church.

CAUTIOUSLY ENCOURAGED. As I stated earlier, I came away from this year’s SBC meeting cautiously encouraged. I hope the worst of the mess at the Executive Committee is behind us. I am very grateful for the interim leadership there and that recent EC committee meetings have been without conflict. I am hopeful that people will tear down one another on social media less in the coming months. I am hopeful that 2022 was the beginning of our denomination finding its way forward in a way that all but a handful of our churches and pastors will support.

I STILL BELIEVE IN THE WORK OF OUR CONVENTION. What is that work you ask? Collectively, those 47,000 SBC churches from all fifty states cooperate to send over 3500 missionaries internationally and over 5000 missionaries in North America. Our International Mission Board and North American Mission Board continue to do much outstanding work. Our six seminaries are all led by solid, Biblically conservative Presidents and train thousands of future pastors, church staff, and missionaries. Southern Baptists are the second largest disaster relief organization in the world – second only to The Red Cross. These efforts alone represent 95% of the money spent by the national SBC. In addition, there is great work being done by many state conventions and local associations across the country. Personally, by the nature of being involved in both, I can attest to the wonderful Kingdom work being done by our Alabama Baptist State Convention and the Birmingham Metro Baptist Association.

The Southern Baptist Convention has been my home since 1990. I have served at six SBC churches. I have preached in countless others. I personally have degrees from two of our seminaries, and my own ministry efforts are the fruit of Southern Baptist’s investment in me. I have seen our mission efforts up close and personal. I know the impact that is being made for Christ literally all over the world by Southern Baptists. I have countless friends serving as pastors, staff members, deacons, volunteers, and faithful members of SBC churches all over America. For these reasons (and many more) I refuse to walk away or lead my church to walk away from the SBC at this point. Am I deeply concerned about several trends I see? Absolutely. Have mistakes (and worse) been made? Yes. However, I am not ready to throw in the towel. Count me as one who chooses to be hopeful that our convention can not only survive, but thrive in the future.

WE MUST ALWAYS BE VIGILANT. Some more perceptive readers noticed the phrase “at this point” in the previous paragraph. Why do I say it that way? We must always be vigilant and watchful. First and foremost we must be vigilant and watchful of ourselves and the local churches in which we serve. We must always be vigilant and watchful of the institutions that we support, no matter how much we love them. We must always stand rock solidly on the inerrant Word of God and proclaim the clear Gospel of Jesus Christ. We must always be watchful that our churches and the institutions they support faithfully fulfill the Great Commission and “contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.”

We can NEVER just assume or take doctrinal fidelity for granted in our churches or institutions. We must always be watchful – particularly in the post-modern 21st-century culture we find ourselves in. Our first loyalty is always and forever to the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word. Our commitment to our Baptist institutions is only appropriate IF those institutions exist for the glory of Christ and the fulfillment of His commission. No association, state convention, or any SBC entity is “owed” anything by any local church. Those who lead our Baptist institutions and entities must constantly earn the support of our churches by their unapologetic faithfulness to Christ, His glory, His Word, and His commission. THAT reality is the only thing that will actually keep the SBC “rope of sand” together long into the coming decades.

Appreciating My Pastors

“The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” (1 Timothy 5:17, NASB95)

October is Pastor Appreciation Month. Like many pastors, I have been blessed with a number of personal cards and words of appreciation during this month. In recent days, I have been thinking about the pastors in my life who influenced me. I thought about writing them a card of appreciation, but some are already with the Lord in glory. I decided to write a blog post of appreciation and share it with anyone who reads this blog.

VERNON MCKINNEY, the first pastor I can remember in my childhood. I never got to know him well because he moved to another church when I was a young boy. I do distinctly remember preaching at a church years later where he was present in the service. He gave me kind words of affirmation that day.

DOYCE WHITE, the pastor who baptized me and let me preach for the first time. “Brother White” as we called him was a butcher in a grocery store and served as the pastor of our small country church for a number of years. He baptized me on a Sunday afternoon in a creek just off highway 117 near Ider. I pass by that place every time I go back to Ider to visit family, and each time I remember the day I was baptized. When I was 17 years old, I went over to his house and told him that I felt God had called me to preach. “Well, you can preach this coming Sunday!” he said to me through tears. I will always be grateful for his affirmation and giving me the opportunity to preach at such a young age. Since that day, I have been in a pulpit somewhere almost every Sunday.

ROGER WATKINS, the pastor who ordained me. In August 1991, New Home Baptist Church in Rosalie had asked me to be their interim pastor. “Brother Roger” felt it was time for me to be ordained before I went to do that. I still remember his prayer over me on that day. Later, I was called back to that church and served on staff as Youth Minister and Associate Pastor under Roger. He ordained me and gave me my first opportunity to serve on staff at a church, and I will always be grateful for him. Roger is struggling with declining health now, and I prayed for him as I typed these words.

BOB PRUITT & MELVIN SLATTON, the pastors who performed our wedding. Bob returned to Rainsville First Baptist as pastor and I served with him for a brief period of time. Even though Bob “inherited” me as an existing staff member when he came, he was always encouraging and affirming of me. He was a first class pastor and gentleman whom I always had great respect for. I still have the letter Melvin wrote to me when I graduated from high school. He was the first pastor who encouraged me to go to seminary. Both of these men are with the Lord now, and I am grateful for their investment in my life.

BILL LETT, my first Director of Missions. When I was called to pastor my first church – Pisgah Baptist Church – Bill was the Director of Missions for that association, a former pastor, and member of the church. Bill and I quickly grew close. His door, his phone, and his home were always open to me. His love, listening ear, and advice meant WAY more to me than I ever knew at the time. More than once he talked his brash young pastor off a cliff or out of a ditch! As a Director of Missions, Bill was a pastor to pastors – par excellence. Over the years we talked regularly and he was a great encourager before going to be with the Lord in 2019. I still miss my phone calls with Bill Lett and his friendship. Bill taught me by example to love people – even the ones who disagree with you.

TOMMY TURNER, a key influence at pivotal times. When I became the 23 year old pastor of Pisgah Baptist Church, Tommy was pastor at First Baptist Boaz. I was pastor of his home church and his parents’ pastor. From time to time, I would drive to Boaz and Tommy would buy us barbecue for lunch and encourage me. There were two distinct occasions when Tommy spoke truth to me and influenced me in making key decisions that have greatly shaped my life and ministry. Tommy’s wisdom helped me say “YES” on one occasion and “NO” on another occasion. As I look back, I am grateful for both occasions and I believe my life and ministry would not have been as blessed had I made different decisions. It’s been a joy to renew my friendship with Tommy in recent years.

TED TRAYLOR, a friend and mentor for the last 27 years. The first church I served as pastor was Ted’s home church. His parents attended there faithfully, so Ted was in town often and was always gracious to give this young pastor his time. In the years since I left that ministry, Ted has continued to graciously give this young (and now middle-aged) pastor his friendship and time. Ted has helped me in immeasurable ways. I have learned much from Ted, but two lessons stand out in particular. First, Ted demonstrates the power of faithful, consistent, expository preaching of the Word of God. The first priority of Ted’s ministry is the pulpit, and I have tried to follow that example. Second, Ted has been faithful at the same church through thick and thin. His favorite piece of advice to me and many others: PERSIST.

JIMMY JACKSON, still my pastor. He was literally my pastor during the years I served with him as Associate Pastor at Whitesburg Baptist Church. Those were very good days in the life of the Corbin family. After working closely with Jimmy for several years, I had more respect for him the day I left than when I arrived. He was/is the “real deal.” For 40 years, he faithfully preached the Word and shepherded the Whitesburg flock. He is probably the wisest man I have ever known, but I know for sure he is the godliest man I have ever known. To this day, hardly a day goes by that I don’t think of him and something he said or how I saw him handle a situation. I am a better man, a better husband, a better father, and a better pastor because of Jimmy Jackson’s influence on my life. To this day, I still call him “my pastor” because he truly is.

When You Are Weary of the Dying

I was only a few weeks into the pastorate of my first church. Riley walked into my office – a man in his 80’s who wanted to “get to know” his new 23 year old pastor. It was quickly apparent that Riley was a little lonely and just wanted to talk. It wasn’t long until he began to tell me about family and friends who had passed away – many of whom had been faithful members of the church. Honestly, I don’t remember the specifics, but I do remember clearly a statement he made: “Pastor, there reaches a point where you have more over there than you have left down here.” That statement stuck with me. For some reason, I came back to it in recent days.

For many years of my life and ministry, dying was not something I dealt with frequently. Like most pastors, I serve a church with a large number of senior adults and deaths among our church family happen fairly frequently. Having reached middle age now means that deaths of family members, friends, and close family members of friends are now commonplace. Even if I were not a pastor, Becky and I would be attending far more funerals than at any point in our lives. These trends were there before the terrible COVID-19 pandemic happened. This most recent wave of the “Delta variant” has taken more lives of people I personally know than all of the other stages of the pandemic combined. Just this week, on the day that Becky and I attended the funeral of a 50 year old COVID victim and longtime friend in Tennessee, I received word that the husband of a high school classmate passed away from COVID. In recent months, dying has been constantly before me.

I am weary of the dying.

I thought of my friend, Riley, who reached the point where he had more “over there” than he had left here. Now I understand better what he meant. In the last year, I have buried some of the best friends, encouragers, and mentors of my life and ministry. The other day, I pulled up the contacts of my cell phone and there next to the number I was seeking sat the number of one of those great friends and mentors. He went to be with the Lord several months back, but his number is still in my phone. With tears in my eyes, I wished I could call him one more time.

I am weary of the dying. Maybe you are too.

Perhaps the most beloved verse in all of the Bible is John 3:16…

““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, ESV)

For my entire life and ministry I have focused my attention on the first two themes of that verse. I focused on the love of God for every single person. We are sinners, but God loves us with His great love. I have focused on the hope of salvation for any person who will believe – “whoever believes in him.” Lately, I have focused more on the last theme: “…should not perish but have eternal life.” ETERNAL LIFE. Ten times in the Gospel of John alone we find that phrase.

ETERNAL LIFE. Literally it is “life in the age to come.” For the unbeliever who has never met Christ, eternity will be an eternal death in the fires of hell. However, for those who have “believed in him” eternal life with be theirs. Eternal life is spending eternity with our Savior – the One who is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. Eternal life is spending eternity in a perfect place with a perfect, glorified body where the taint of sin is gone and the tears of this life are wiped away. In the words of the great Casting Crowns song, the only scars in Heaven will be on the hands of the One holding us. ETERNAL LIFE. For the believer, that is our future. That is our hope. Furthermore, this life eternal is absolutely guaranteed by the blood of the Lamb and the authority of his Word. All who believe have eternal life. NO exceptions. Praise God!

Many know the name John Newton because he wrote the beloved hymn “Amazing Grace.” Some know the name John Newton because of his righteous work to end slavery. Recently, I read what several sources say were John Newton’s last words on earth as he lay dying…

“I am still in the land of the dying; I shall be in the land of the living soon.”

Soon after speaking those words and taking his last breath, John Newton entered the land of the living. His last words are a needed word for all of us in this season who are weary of the dying. The heartaches, tears, and loses of this life demonstrate that we truly are in the land of the dying. We are headed for the land of the living! Those in Christ that we love and miss so deeply are in the land of the living. We will join in them one day and lay aside the tears of this life.

Dear friend, when you are weary of the dying, focus on the land of the living.

Personal thoughts on the 2021 Southern Baptist Convention

Since returning from Nashville, I have been asked about the convention by several members of the church I serve, as well as friends and family. Some indicated they had been keeping up through the news media – which frightens me! Others indicated they had heard the convention was “going liberal.” In an effort to communicate with as broad an audience as possible and (hopefully) provide accurate information, I would like to share my personal thoughts on the just concluded SBC annual meeting and where we are as a denomination. After attending the 2021 SBC annual meeting in Nashville and being present for almost every key moment, I offer my thoughts…

There is greater unity than you might think. There were four men nominated for SBC president and, leading up to the convention, there was some very public conflict between SBC leaders. Social media was howling about all the problems and attendance at the meeting spiked to the highest number since 1996. Late on Tuesday afternoon (after the presidential election was settled after a run off and other controversial issues had come to the floor) I ran into a friend of mine who was attending his first convention. “This hasn’t been nearly as bad as I was expecting,” he said. He had been getting his information from social media. While there were certainly moments of passionate disagreement, the overall feeling of the messengers present was positive and loving. How could this be? We all agree on the most important matters – our love for the Lord Jesus and His church, our belief in the inerrant Word of God, our commitment to share the gospel and make disciples, our cooperation together in missions. As the convention was drawing to a close, I saw two SBC pastors who were publicly and passionately on opposite sides of the SBC presidential race. They were eating Nashville hot chicken together at a restaurant and enjoying good fellowship. That is the SBC.

I do not see evidence that the SBC is “going liberal.” The convention took NO steps to alter our statement of faith – the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message – that guides all of the entities in our convention. In fact, nothing along those lines was even mentioned. All four candidates for SBC president openly describe themselves as theological conservatives. While some media outlets describe Ed Litton, our new SBC president, as the “moderate” candidate, I believe that description is unfortunate and doesn’t accurately portray Ed. While I do not know Ed Litton personally, he has faithfully served as pastor of the same Alabama Baptist church for over 25 years and I have no reason to believe he is anything but solid overall in terms of both his character and his theology. The presidents of all six of our seminaries are staunch defenders of the inerrancy of scripture and require all professors to teach in accordance with and not contrary to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. We have our problems in the SBC, but I personally do not see going liberal being one of them.

The SBC messengers were determined to see the convention do better in terms of dealing with sexual abuse. All Southern Baptists are in full agreement that every church should implement child protection policies and do everything it can to be a safe place for everyone. That isn’t the issue. All Southern Baptists are in full agreement that every church should report accusations of abuse to authorities. That isn’t the issue. The well publicized issues have revolved around what the denomination can do at the national level to deal with past instances of abuse and prevent future abuse. There has also been deep concern about how some SBC leaders have responded to some abuse victims. Due to the polity of our denomination – each church is independent and there is no “top down” authority structure – then dealing with these issues on a national level is much more difficult. From my seat, the clear message sent by the messengers was “We expect you to do much better than you have done so far. Get back to work on it right now!”

The SBC does not subscribe to Critical Race Theory but DOES care deeply about racial reconciliation. In recent months, the influence of Critical Race Theory has been a heated topic within the SBC and in American culture at large. In several different ways, the 2021 SBC convention made clear that the SBC does not support or teach Critical Race Theory. In addition, the convention passed Resolution #2 titled “The Sufficiency of Scripture for Race and Racial Reconciliation” which was, in my opinion, a very strong and very well done resolution. I loved how prominent SBC seminary professor Dr. Hershael York summed up this issue: “Southern Baptists do not like Critical Race Theory but they also don’t like being told that caring deeply about racial reconciliation is CRT. They know the difference.” To that statement, I add my “amen.”

The SBC is becoming more diverse and less focused only in the deep south. It might surprise you to learn that 20% of our SBC churches are ethnic or “non-anglo” churches. That is 1 out of 5 of our churches. Our convention continues to see more diversity in our leadership and participation. We have churches in all fifty states and in some states outside the south we are planting churches rapidly. A Hispanic pastor is preaching the convention sermon in 2022. I say “BRAVO!!” to all of these facts.

The greatest reason to be Southern Baptist remains our two mission boards. One of the first things that happened in Nashville was a Sending Celebration where the International Mission Board (IMB) commissioned 65 new missionaries headed to all regions of the world. Paul Chitwood is giving splendid leadership, and we are slowly rebuilding our international missions force after some tough years a while back. The North American Mission Board (NAMB) is planting churches all over the country, coordinating disaster relief, and emphasizing evangelism. Both IMB and NAMB are doing some exceptional work and I applaud them. 73% of the national Cooperative Program budget goes to these two entities.

The areas of greatest conflict represent a tiny fraction of our SBC work. I talked with a friend of mine who had only seen news reports and social media posts. He thought the whole SBC was about to blow up, seeing reports of conflict regarding the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and the Executive Committee. What if I told you that the the combined budgets of the ERLC and the Executive Committee represent less than 5% of the SBC budget? That isn’t a typo. Remember our two mission boards receive 73% of the budget and our six seminaries receive 22% for a total of 95%. The overwhelming majority of the conflict and consternation leading up to this year’s convention involved SBC organizations that receive less than 5% of the budget. To be clear, I am not making light of the serious issues involving both the ERLC and the EC, but I am simply pointing out that the work of our convention is vast and goes on every single day regardless of what conflict may be in the news.

Some on both sides of conflicts have not represented Christ well in public. I am amazed to see people who claim to be Christ followers and, on top of that, pastors and church leaders so easily disparage and attack their brothers and sisters publicly and persistently. In this age of social media, more and more people think nothing of going on the attack immediately. It is ungodly, harms our witness, and brings harm to our brothers and sisters in Christ. NO, I am not taking a “side.” Both sides of the recent conflicts in the SBC are guilty. At the convention, we often heard “the world is watching.” Yes the world is watching. What it sees sometimes isn’t pretty. We must do better.

48% voted for Mike Stone in the runoff. Present SBC leaders would do well to remember this fact in coming months. Like Ed Litton, Mike Stone is a faithful pastor who has served at the same SBC church for many years. There are many good and legitimate reasons why so many supported him. There are many good, faithful Southern Baptists who supported him and voted for him. They should not be marginalized for doing so.

We need to brush up on our Baptist polity. The national SBC has ZERO control or authority over any local church. The state convention and local association has ZERO control or authority over any local church. Each SBC church owns its own property, calls its own leaders, and makes its own decisions. That’s right. Each SBC church is an independent church. What about all of that money that we talked about earlier? The money that funds our mission boards and seminaries. Every penny of that money is given VOLUNTARILY by the churches. No SBC church is compelled to give to the denomination. Even if the national SBC made a decision that my local church felt was wrong, it would have no binding effect on my local church. None. The other side of that coin helps us understand why the actions of a handful of churches do not represent the whole SBC.

Our SBC entities exist to serve our churches. Our churches do not exist to serve our entities. Count this as a healthy reminder for all of us. We need it.

In conclusion…

One wise SBC leader many years ago declared, “SBC headquarters is the local church.” That statement is accurate. Over 15,000 of us gathered in Nashville for the SBC Annual Meeting. We made some important decisions. Then we all went home to the MOST important work. I think long time Texas pastor Jack Graham said it best after the convention was over…

Remember this about the Southern Baptist Convention. We are a local church movement. After a well publicized annual meeting we are returning to our church fields ready to fulfill the Great Commission and make an eternal difference in people’s lives. I’m glad to be a Southern Baptist.” – Jack Graham

Amen, Jack!

A Pastor’s Reflections on 2020

On Sunday January 5, 2020 I walked to the pulpit at Lakeside Baptist Church and preached a message entitled “Power for 2020.” The message was the beginning of a series through the book of Acts and the focus was on how we need the power of the Lord in our day more than anything else. 2019 had been a very good year in the life of our church family with so much good news to celebrate and many trends moving in the right direction. As a pastor, I was hopeful, encouraged, and anticipating what I believed to be a banner year. I told the church that. Little did I know that, even as I preached on January 5th, a microscopic virus that would come to be known as COVID-19 was already circling the globe and chaos was not far behind. I won’t further traumatize you with a recap of all of the chaos that 2020 brought to us. Every reader of this blog can well describe it. My goal for this post is to reflect and look ahead. Please allow me to share my personal reflections on 2020…

The pandemic has been the first event in my lifetime that has affected everyone. As a child of the 70’s, I have seen recessions, wars, political crises, social unrest, huge natural disasters, and the like. However, the affects of those crises often depended on where you lived or your family’s socioeconomic status. Many people were largely unaffected by even the harshest events. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected every single person profoundly. Intertwined with a global pandemic, we have also experienced a recession, social unrest, political crises, and huge natural disasters. Because of this fact, I am led to a related conclusion…

2020 will prove to be a transformational year. Because of all that has happened due to COVID-19, profound and enduring changes have taken place. Every single business person I talk with tells me that all of this has profoundly altered HOW they do business and think about the future of their business. Every single one. Same with doctors and educators. Yes, it’s also the same with pastors and church leaders. While I am hopeful that some point in 2021 will find us able to go about our lives without fear of COVID-19, I am absolutely confident that 2021 will bring into focus the lasting changes that this year has wrought. Yes, we will get back to “normal” but it will be a “NEW normal.” Our places of employment, our schools, our churches and everything else will never again be exactly like they were in February 2020.

2020 has acquainted us with profound grief that we need to acknowledge. We grieve what we have lost. Certainly, many many are grieving due to the death of loved ones due to COVID-19 or other reasons. Others are grieving the loss of their business or the loss of their career. Our nation has grieved together over the death of George Floyd and a number of other well publicized cases where deaths seemed unjust or senseless. Certainly, the toxic political and moral climate of our country is a source of grief. I recently had a senior adult in our church tell me, “Pastor, I am grieving the loss of my country.” To a lesser degree, but no less real is our grief over the loss of so many milestone events. Having Christmas by ZOOM brings a sense of grief all its own. Now, think about adding all of this together and bundling it into one year. At first the word for 2020 was FEAR, but I personally wonder if it has been supplanted by GRIEF.

Social media magnifies how we experience everything. I am convinced that one reason 2020 has found so many of us struggling with our mental health is that we have spent most of the year glued to our smart phones. It’s one thing to read about horrible events on the front page of a newspaper. It’s another to experience them in almost real time from one feed refresh to the next. It’s even another thing to experience the immediate (and often toxic) feedback that comes with every single event. No matter the occasion, we see it, feel it, and discuss it in ways that were unthinkable only a few years ago. This fact isn’t necessarily a healthy one for us all.

The church’s resilience in 2020 must be channeled for opportunity in 2021. Like many churches, our church at Lakeside has navigated 2020 continuing to worship, make disciples, live in community with one another, and serving our community. I would never say the Lord has brought our church through 2020 unscathed, but I do believe the Lord has brought our church (and many others) through 2020 in a way that has prepared us for the work we have to do in 2021. Count me as one who believes that the church has a great opportunity before it in 2021. The Lord has us alive and serving Him at this time in history. We must be faithful and move forward in 2021 toward greater prayer, greater effectiveness, greater connections with our communities, and deeper community among believers. As people weary from months of isolation become more comfortable congregating and gathering with one another again in months to come, the church has an opportunity to connect with people in a fresh way. Yes, we will welcome many of our church members back to church, but we have an opportunity to reach many new people who will be searching for personal connection.

We must have the courage to revision and reshape our churches in key ways. I used to say “If your church is waiting on the 1950’s to come back, it has no future.” Now I will say, “If your church is waiting on February 2020 to come back, it has no future.” Any church who thinks that they can just wait on the pandemic to be over so that they can resume business as usual is sorely mistaken. Why do I say that? Because business as usual isn’t coming back. Ever. We must get a fresh wind of the Spirit, fueling fresh commitment and fresh vision for the future. As a pastor of a local church, COVID-19 brought clarity in many ways. The strengths of our church and areas of health became clear very quickly. In the same way, it also became clear that a significant portion of what we were doing was having very little real impact. We were only doing it because we had done it for so long or because we didn’t want to upset people. In 2021, our church (and all others who want to have a future) must put more prayer, effort, and resources in activities that make the most impact, and have the courage to not bring back activities that accomplished very little.

If we haven’t fasted and prayed for revival in America, it’s time to start. 2020 has laid bare the utter brokenness of our country. In my lifetime, our country has never been more divided in every way. In the brokenness and chaos of our land, a mighty revival can come. A heaven sent, Holy Spirit empowered revival is the only thing that can change our country.

I choose to enter 2021 with hope because my hope is in the Lord. Even though 2020 has been the most difficult year of our lifetime, we are not alone in experiencing such anguish and heartache. The prophet Jeremiah had experienced the horrendous year of 586 B.C. and, with destruction all around him, Jeremiah chose hope…

“This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.”” (Lamentations 3:21–24, NASB95)

Take heart, dear friend. Great is HIS faithfulness.

The Last Season

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, ESV)


This was the question hanging over the 2020 Briarwood Lions football season. The COVID-19 pandemic had affected everyone and everything. The total shut down that came in the spring had given way to gradual reopening in the summer. Even summer workouts were far from normal with strict COVID protocols and no 7 on 7 or camps. There was an air of uncertainty and apprehension over everything in June & July – high school football programs included. More than one Briarwood coach stated to me that there were several points along the way that they did not think we would play at all, but they didn’t say that to the players. More than one player has said to me “The coaches didn’t say we weren’t going to get to play, but we knew.”

There was a also a degree of guilt when talking about playing football. After all, people were dying, many others were sick, healthcare workers were overwhelmed, 30 million people had lost jobs in America alone, the daily lives of everyone had been disrupted. No one knew if kids were going back to school in the Fall. There was no end in sight. Why was football season even on my radar at all? One simple reason….

I have a SENIOR.

Daniel Corbin had waited his entire life to be out there on Friday nights playing high school football. He had started every game of his junior year – a magical season that you can read about here… https://gregcorbin.com/2020/01/26/a-season-for-the-ages-the-2019-briarwood-lions-football-team/

When I wrote those words, I had no idea that a microscopic virus was already circling the globe and would wreck havoc on everything. The thought of Daniel and his teammates not being able to have a senior season was difficult to even think about. Finally, the word came down from the Alabama High School Athletic Association: football season would start as scheduled on August 21st. It was welcome news, but it was blunted by reality: maybe we can get in a couple of games before it gets shut down again. There was little to no optimism that we would make it through an entire season. However, we did, and what a season it turned out to be!

All football action shots courtesy of Todd Kwarcinsky at TK Photography


In addition to the myriad “COVID questions” surrounding the season, the Lions entered the 2020 season with a host of question marks – the biggest regarding the move up to 6A Region 5. After a trip to the 5A semifinals the previous season, the Lions would move up a class and move into one of the toughest regions in 6A along with Mountain Brook (who moved down from 7A), always tough Homewood and Shades Valley, constant rival Chelsea, Huffman, and Woodlawn. How would the Lions replace a great senior class off last year’s team? Would new playmakers step up? Could we avoid injuries in key places where we were obviously thin? As we drove up I-59 to Fort Payne on August 21st, these questions were on the minds of many Lions supporters.

BRIARWOOD 28 FORT PAYNE 20 The Lions blitzed the Wildcats early and held off a late Fort Payne rally. A solid start against a quality opponent that gave everyone some confidence and optimism.

SPAIN PARK 21 BRIARWOOD 14 The Lions couldn’t hold on after leading 14-0 at the half. This game was a confidence booster as everyone felt we should have beaten a solid 7A foe.

BRIARWOOD 43 WOODLAWN 0 Due to the week to week uncertainty of playing thanks to COVID-19, senior night was moved to the first home game. The highlight was the pre-game ceremony with players from both teams side by side holding American flags – on September 11.

BRIARWOOD 28 HUFFMAN 16 The Lions put together one of their best overall games of the season to defeat the uber talented Huffman Vikings.

BRIARWOOD forfeit win over MORTIMER JORDAN. The Blue Devils had to forfeit due to COVID-19.

BRIARWOOD 42 SHADES VALLEY 19 In what would become a pattern in the second half of the season, the Lions started slowly and fell behind before exploding. Three Briarwood touchdowns in :90 seconds of game clock time sealed the Mounties’ fate on this night. This game also clinched a playoff spot for the 28th consecutive season.

MOUNTAIN BROOK 17 BRIARWOOD 7 The Lions played the best team they had faced (to this point of the season) and did not play their best game. In typical 2020 fashion, the game was moved to Thursday night due to a hurricane coming through the state! This loss cost the Lions a region championship.

BRIARWOOD 28 HOMEWOOD 6 The Lions absolutely dominated the second half in every phase of the game. This win enabled the Lions to claim the second seed in the region and host a first round playoff game.

BRIARWOOD 42 CORNER 7 A huge Corner team was no match for Briarwood speed and toughness as the Lions cruised to a big homecoming win. In typical 2020 fashion, due to ANOTHER hurricane coming through the state earlier in the week and mass power outages, the stadium lights were only restored about an hour before game time!

BRIARWOOD 31 HARTSELLE 17 (1st Round Playoffs) The Lions were down 14-3 after a lackluster first half. The Briarwood seniors were not going out in that fashion and spearheaded what can only be described as a second half obliteration and dominance of a good, solid team. Tyler Waugh had a game for the ages in what proved to be the Lions last home game.


OXFORD 35 BRIARWOOD 14 The Lions did not fare well against the defending 6A State Champions who had their sights clearly set on a repeat. It was a disappointing way to end, but it cannot take away from the season as a whole.

A 9-3 season in class 6A and a global pandemic is a TERRIFIC season by any measure.


I want to express my deep, heartfelt appreciation to ALL of the Briarwood coaches, staff, players, and football families who absolutely went above and beyond the call of duty in order to help this 2020 season happen. As the parent of a senior, you will always have my gratitude for what you did in making this season happen.

I also want to express my thanks and appreciation to the Briarwood football family. Daniel got the opportunity to play at one of the state’s top football programs for one of the greatest to ever do it (retired Coach Fred Yancey) one of the most respected “up and coming” coaches in the state (current Coach Matthew Forester). Daniel was in uniform at Bryant Denny Stadium for the 2017 5A State Championship Game. Daniel started every game in the 2019 playoff run. He has been part of some of the greatest games in Briarwood history and some of the most exciting high school football games in recent memory i.e. the 2017 St. Clair County game & the 2019 Ramsay game. It was an honor and privilege for Daniel to be part of Briarwood football. He will carry the memories for the rest of his life.

I also want to thank the boys Daniel played with. If you look at that top photo of the senior football players, Daniel went to battle with those guys for seven straight seasons. Having moved here when Daniel was in sixth grade, I still remember taking him to his first practice with the Cahaba Valley Lions and Daniel not knowing a soul. Those coaches and those boys accepted Daniel from day one – even though most of them had been together since kindergarten. As a dad, I will always be grateful for that fact. Beginning with their 7th grade year, this group moved up and began to officially play for the school. They were winners – compiling a 63-12 record in their Briarwood football career. Most of all, they were the greatest young men. Absolutely could not have asked for a better group of young men for my son to grow up with and go to battle with on the field. “THANK YOU” truly isn’t enough.


“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1–8, ESV)

As we drove home from the playoff game at Oxford, I could not get this scripture off my mind. The end of the 2020 football season marks the end of a season of life for the Corbin family. You see, Becky and I have been watching one of our sons play ball every single year since 2003. We have braved the elements at baseball parks, traveled to basketball gyms all over the southeast, and parked at dozens of football stadiums because one of our sons was playing. When one season ended, we looked forward to the next season. There was always a next season – until now. The 2020 football season ended a season in the life of our family. It has a been a season filled with great joy and excitement. We have loved every single minute of it all. No one has enjoyed watching their boys play more than Greg & Becky Corbin. Never again will I wake up on Friday morning, lean over to Becky and say “It’s GAME DAY!!!” Here we are greeting Daniel after his last home game…

It’s also the end of a season and the beginning of a new season in Daniel’s life. Now final college decisions are being made and the countdown to high school graduation begins in earnest. Daniel’s football and high school sports career is over, but he has a good head on his shoulders and knows that a new season of his life looms with its own joys and opportunities. Here are Daniel’s own words in a social media post summing up his Briarwood football career…

“Wouldn’t change a thing. Thankful for all the lessons learned and the memories made. Love all my brothers.”

That pretty much says it all. The following pictures say a lot about Daniel. You may have already noticed that in some pictures he is #32 and in others he is #50. The reason is that early in this season, the team needed Daniel to step in and play offensive line for a few games. That necessitated a number change according to the rules. Daniel was a good senior soldier during those weeks – doing his very best, not complaining, and exhausting himself playing on both sides of the ball. He was all about the team and all about helping the team win. Thankfully, during the second half of the season, things were more settled on the offensive line – enabling Daniel to move back exclusively to defense and his beloved #32. Through it all, he was a leader and a warrior in every sense of the word.

Certainly, there may have been more talented ball players.

But there has never been a player who enjoyed playing ball more than Daniel Corbin.

It’s been a joy to be there for every single moment of it.

Daniel, your mom and I are so very proud of you. We look forward to walking with you into the next season of life.