When the Tourist Becomes a Pilgrim

Petra, Jordan

Over the past days, I made my second pilgrimage to the Holy Lands of Israel and Jordan.  I entered the state of Israel for the first time back in 2010 and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 2011.  Both earlier trips were huge in shaping my passionate love for Jesus, the Holy Bible and the lands in which God’s presence has dwelled throughout both the Old and New Testament.

Another trip to Turkey and Greece in 2012 set this flame ablaze again as we journeyed through the Book of Acts, into Paul’s letters and to all 7 Churches of the Revelation.  I snapped more pictures on those trips than I could ever look at.

For all three of these journeys I have been primarily a tourist.  There is nothing wrong with being a tourist.  A tourist takes a lot of pictures.  A tourist needs to see the ancient sites with their own human eyes to supply their imagination with visual images and landscapes.

A tourist on these kind of trips is like a baby getting to eat ice cream for the first time – they are not sure what it is, but it is sweet and cold and wonderfully good and they can’t seem to eat it fast enough.  A tourist arrives at one site and is so excited about what they see, they anxiously rush to the next, and to the next, and to the next to keep getting their fix.  I love being a tourist; there is nothing quite like it.

For this trip, however, I was no longer a tourist.  I became a pilgrim.  A pilgrim moves slower.  A pilgrim is calmer.  A pilgrim takes pleasure in seeing the giddiness of the tourist, but doesn’t have to feast at the buffet line of experience.  A pilgrim selects 2 or 3 things and relishes in their goodness, their completeness, at a deeper level.

Mt. Olives, Israel

The pilgrim’s journal is filled to the brim but their camera SD card…not so much.

This time I was a more of a pilgrim and less of a tourist.  And I liked that fact very much.  I moved at a different speed.  I sat down at the sites.   The texture of the trip for me wasn’t like an over-excited, crazy-wild Jack Russell Terrier, it was more like a solemn owl nestled atop of branch overlooking the beautiful forest.

What is a Pilgrim?
P – Pauses often to breathe and truly see.
I – Is in the moment, not the traffic.
L – Lingers in silence.
G – Grateful for pictures that others take because the camera sometimes doesn’t come out.
R – Reads, writes and reflects a lot.
I – Itinerary is not even on the radar.
M – Measures the experience not in days, stops, sites, or miles traveled, but in meaningful encounters with God, with His Word, and with others.

There was a simplicity to the study and depth of the trip.  My eyes were filled but more so my heart.  I love being a tourist, but being a pilgrim in the Holy Land is far more gratifying.  I hope I can continue growing as a pilgrim.

Serving from a Place of Fear

fear

Serving Christ from a place of fear.

Over the past several months, I have had numerous conversations with pastors, ministers, and key denominational leaders in various leadership positions.  These are men and women I highly respect and admire for their calling, their efforts to expand the Kingdom of God, and their passion to make Jesus’ name great.

But there is also something that worries me and brings me pause. Many of these amazing Christian leaders are serving from a place of fear.

There is a place within their hearts that are always cautious, afraid, anxious, and nervous about what people will think, what people will say, how people will respond.  This fear makes them second-guess everything they do and never feel as if their work before the Lord is satisfactory.

I have personally struggled with this type of fear (especially when I was on full-time church staff).  Honestly, it is strange to be afraid of the people you are trying to serve.  Are shepherds afraid of what their sheep will think about them?  I sincerely doubt it.

Yet when this fear sits in, there is no confidence and contentment in knowing you are doing the best you can with the resources you have, even though that is exactly what you are doing.  Instead you feel like you are constantly on edge waiting for the next criticism, the next complaint, the next condescending letter to come in.  You feel like you are always looking over your shoulder for someone to stab you in the back.  It is a terrible, gripping feeling.

As I reflect on these conversations and my own experience with this fear, my heart and soul goes to the Word of Life.  I think about the VBS theme verse for last year: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)  Great words from the Apostle Paul to a young man with a big responsibility of leadership.  But even beyond this sometimes over-used verse, I think about Paul’s words to the Galatians about himself.

He writes: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?  Or am I trying to please man?  If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ?” (Galatians 1:10)

Could it be that when we continually bow down and seek the approval of man, we no longer, therefore, serve Christ?  Are these two approvals, that of people and that of Jesus, in opposition to one another.

I have found the approval of man to be so fleeting.  One minute you are everyone’s hero; the next you are everyone’s enemy.  But Jesus is not so fickle.  He is not so easily swayed.

He knows your heart, more than just your actions.  He knows your intentions and motivations, more than just the results.  Jesus sees your effort, even when things don’t come together rightly.   Shouldn’t He be the only one we seek approval from?

In the end when we’ve finished this race called life, no person from any church or any event is going to judge our service to the King, only Jesus will.  Maybe that knowledge will give us the kind of courage to serve not from a place of fear, but from a place of unflinching faith.

Back to the Big City

Back in 2010-11, I had the great honor of being called interim pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Louisville.  We met and served alongside wonderful people for that year.  We loved getting to travel to the big city of Louisville each Sunday and eat breakfast at Whole Foods and then maybe another cool place for lunch.  We could run to the mall, go to Target, eat Krispy Kreme donuts, and drink Starbucks coffee from a real store, not just the little kiosk we have on our campus.

hurstbourne bc

Hurstbourne Baptist Church, Louisville

Well starting yesterday, January 26, we are back in the Big City for a new season of ministry.  I have been called to serve as interim pastor of Hurstbourne Baptist Church over in the St. Matthews area.

We have already come to love this congregation, having spent about a month with them back in 2013.

HBC has a great ministerial staff, men and women who love the Lord Jesus and love people as Jesus would.  The congregation is made up of multiple generations, both young and old.  We have an active ministry to kids and families all the way through teenagers and young adults.

One of the things I especially love about this place is their desire to be missional in the Jefferson country region by serving regularly at the Baptist Fellowship Center, teaching weekly ESL classes, and serving in all sorts of local mission projects.  If there is a mission project to be a blessing to another group of people, they are usually right on top of it.

We also have a Korean church, KY Vineyard Community Church, led by a wonderful pastor Young Choi and his wife Youn, who is also our church pianist, that meets each Sunday @ 1:00 pm.

I am so excited about this opportunity and season of ministry back in the Big City.  If you live in the Louisville area and are looking for a church home, we would love for you to come and visit us at Hurstbourne Baptist.  Our Sunday morning service starts at 10:45 am.  You can find more information at HurstbourneBC.org.

Its a Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown vs. The Charlie Brown Christmas Special

I am making a bold prediction today.  I predict that Its a Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown will outlast and outrun The Charlie Brown Christmas Special in network TV airtime.

First some history.  Its a Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown was first aired in 1966 as part of three yearly holiday Peanuts TV specials created and produced by Mr. Charles M. Shultz.  The Charlie Brown Christmas Special aired one year earlier in 1965.  Both have run continuously since.

charlie brown pumpkin

It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown airs October 31st on ABC, 8/7c

Its a Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown will air tomorrow evening, October 31st, 2013 at 8/7c on ABC.  The Charlie Brown Christmas Special will certainly run sometime during the Christmas holiday season.  But for how long?

The main difference between the two holiday specials is found in one particular scene from the Charlie Brown Christmas Special.

Now infamously known as Linus’ Speech about the meaning of Christmas (see video below), the Christmas special has a uniquely Christian message.

It is the message that Christmas is not about presents, trees, Santa Claus or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (no offense to Rudolph).  It is about the baby being born in Bethlehem, Jesus Christ, to the virgin named Mary,  while shepherds lay watching their sheep, angels singing “glory in the highest” and a bright star pierces the night sky.

Linus calls our attention back to the real meaning of Christmas, not the shopping spree, Black Friday craziness with a Griswold-like decorated house complete with strobe lights and Mannheim Steamroller background music.  Linus’ message is simple, to the point, and distinctly Christian.

I simply do not see ABC (or any other major network) continuing to air a special with this clear and present description of Christian, biblical principles to an American audience that is progressively more and more antithetical to such teaching.

Its a Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown has little or no spiritual significance, which makes it more amiable to a more pluralistic society.  Actually with Halloween now eclipsing Easter and Thanksgiving as the No. 2 most celebrated holiday in America, it might be more interesting than ever to TV viewers.

In all, our culture is being stripped of all vestiges of Christian symbols, principles, and sentiments.  Charles Shultz was a born-again Christian.  He allowed his faith to find its way onto the comic strips that made him famous.  This continued in 1965 (consider that is now nearly 50 years ago) when he created the storyline for the Christmas special.  I honor him as a creator who sparked our imagination with great characters, stories, and obvious biblical principles.  Thank you Mr. Shultz.  You were a visionary and a prophet.

But what if a new cartoonist attempted the same thing in 2013?  Would a clearly, overtly Christian message be attempted and aired on a major TV network as a children’s special?  I seriously doubt it.

That is why It’s a Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown will outrun and outlast its Christmas counterpart.  Maybe not this year, but coming soon to a TV listing near you.

How Many Seeds Are In a Pomegranate? – A Spiritual Question for the Produce Aisle

While on our first Holy Land tour of Israel back in 2010, our Jewish tour guide Shimone told us that every pomegranate grown on the face of the earth had exactly 613 seeds.  He explained that if you opened up any pomegranate grown in any part of the world and de-seeded it, you would find exactly 613 seeds.  I didn’t believe him then, but I had no way of proving it.

Now why Shimone believed every pomegranate in the world had 613 seeds is important.  But you are going to have to wait for it.  There is a point, I promise.

So since that trip, I have been on the search for pomegranates.  The only problem is that you can only buy them in KY for about 1 month – from late October through early November.  And if your local grocery store doesn’t have them (which most don’t in Campbellsville), you are out of luck.

pomegranate trays 2

My Pomegranate Experiment

But then yesterday, we were in the Whole Foods Market in Louisville and Jennifer spotted a whole stack of pomegranates.  So I bought one (for $2.50 mind you) to test the hypothesis.

I carefully opened the fruit and removed each and every seed.  Then I organized the seeds into a muffin pan so I could count them accurately.

The result?  The total number did not even come close to 613; instead only a meager 374.  Shimone’s little fib had been proven false.

So what is the point to all this seed-counting business anyway?  According to a Jewish legend (that obviously Shimone believed), the pomegranate is a living reminder of the Laws of God.

Beyond the 10 Commandments we all know from Exodus 20, there are a grand total of 613 laws in what we call the Levitical Laws given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai.  These 613 laws govern all of life for the Jewish people.

It is these 613 laws that Jesus came to fulfill (Luke 24:44).  The 613 points us to our absolute inability to be good enough to earn God’s favor (Romans 5:20-21).  There is no one righteous, no not even one (Romans 3:10).  Therefore we need the righteousness that can only come through Jesus Christ.  His perfect life given as a sacrifice for our horribly imperfect one.

While the pomegranate may not have 613 seeds, I can assure you it is just as difficult to perfectly obey 374 laws.  Each seed reminds us that we have sinned and continue to fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

I give God praise because He knew I would fall short and so made a way for me to be stand right before him.  Romans 6:14  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under graceI will never look at a pomegranate the same again.

Enter Ministry or Go to Seminary : What Should a Young 20-Something Do First?

Seminary student

Should I enter ministry or go to seminary first?

My ministry students are primarily 18-22 years old.  They are the traditional, undergraduate college years.  They left home after graduating high school a few years back and hopefully after attaining their four year degree, they are ready to launch into the real world of ministry prepared and equipped.

Let me repeat, my graduating students are 22 years old, maybe 23 at the oldest.  Would your church hire a 23 year old to serve on your church staff?

If you were on a Personnel Team or a church staff search team, would a resume of a 23 year old college graduate jump out at you as being a top-notch choice?  They would have a basic theological education.  They might have completed a summer or semester internship working in some sort of ministry.  They are probably going to be single and dating or possibly engaged, but rarely married.

My question to you is:  Would they be a top-tier candidate?  If not, why not?

I get calls and emails every week from churches looking for staff members in youth, children, discipleship, worship, and many for lead pastors.  But when I explain that my students are usually not older than 23 and mostly single, they decide to look elsewhere.  It would be fine for these young adults to serve as an intern or even as a ministry assistant, but not in significant leadership.  The opinion is that they are just too young.  The searching church wants someone with extensive experience, but only willing to pay the bare minimum.

So what do I advise my graduating college seniors?  I encourage them to go to graduate school or seminary.  Another year or two is only going to help them enter into church staff positions with more theological education and hopefully more experience in a part-time ministry setting, and possibly even a significant other in tow.

It is sad to think we need to delay them 2 or 3 years before we will consider them “ready for service.”  We don’t say that about 18-19 year olds in the US military or a 22 year old teaching high school in the public school system.  So why do we think this way in church ministry?

I believe we need to embrace these young adults.  I believe we need to give them a shot to enter into ministry at 22 or 23 and see what God might bring to our churches through them.  I think we need to listen to them and give them a fair shake.

I was 26 years old when a church finally gave me a full-time chance to serve as their Associate Pastor.  I had been part-time youth minister for 4 years and completed two seminary degrees.  I was married, but had no children.   I sent my ministry resume to over 100 churches from NY to FL and every state in-between.  Not one gave me a call or an interview.

But a single church with no posted vacancy, no budgeted salary, and not even a search team in place invited me to  come and serve with them.  It was one of the best ministry opportunities of my life thus far.  I wonder if that same place would have given me a shot 4 years earlier as a college graduate with no experience and no wife.  I bet they would have, because it was (and still is) that kind of place.  But they are rare.

Would your church be willing to take a shot on a 22 year old in full-time ministry?  I hope so.  They have a lot to offer the kingdom of God.  They might even teach you something new.

Being BOTH Denominationally Loyal AND Fervently Ecumenical

Over this past week three events converged together to influence me, yet again, concerning my personal convictions of being BOTH denominationally-loyal AND at the same time fervently ecumenical.

  • Event No. 1 – I preached a 4-day revival at church with dual affiliation with my tribe (Southern Bapt) and a more moderate form of Baptist life, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
  • Event No 2 – The CEO of the Southern Bapt. Conv. Executive Committee Dr. Frank Page was on our campus, speaking in chapel, meeting with local pastors, and sharing in my class.
  • Event no. 3 – I finished an interim at a Christian Church – Disciples of Christ – in Hodgenville.

In one week, I was stretched to see the significant work of other baptistic forms of ministry, 2) made increasing proud of my Southern Bapt. roots and heritage and its mission around the world for the Gospel, and 3) said goodbye to a wonderful group of Christ-honoring believers of another tribe altogether who I don’t align with biblically or theologically, but was able to worship and preach for them for several months without any issue whatsoever.

My conclusion is simpleYou can be BOTH denominationally-loyal AND fervently ecumenical at the very same time.

Without question, I am very denominationally-loyal to my tribe called Southern Baptist.  I came to faith in a SBC church through an amazing ministry called vacation Bible school.  I was baptized, discipled and ordained to the ministry in a SBC church.  I have four degrees from three SBC-connected institutions.  I was married by a Baptist pastor in a Baptist church to a Baptist girl.  My personal church membership from salvation until today is in a SBC church.  I firmly believe in the doctrine, mission and direction of my tribe with all my heart.

But I am also very committed to being fervently ecumenical.  Being ecumenical is having the vision that more than one tribe (or denomination) will be in heaven and that you can do more together for the Gospel than you can apart.  We live in a post-Christian, postmodern America where faithful, biblical Christianity is moving to the periphery of the society and I fervently believe we need each other more now than ever.

I think it is all about perspective and context.  Consider this scenario.

You are in the Middle East doing underground mission work and you happen to discover another group of like-minded Christians working among the same people group, but from another denomination.  Do you work with them or reject them entirely?

Well, you carefully consider their missiological framework and understanding of salvation, that is by faith alone in Christ alone, and you begin working with them as best as you possible can without compromising your convictions and remaining biblically faithful.  You will both be in Heaven together one day, why not work together now for the Gospel and bring more souls with you.

Seems easy right.  Its not.  I have found the closer the denominations are to each other, the harder it is for them to trust each other and work together.  For example, it is very difficult for the conservative Baptists and more moderate Baptists to work together because they have purposely separated from each other for a variety of reasons.  Those reasons might be a particular theological doctrine or most likely a social issue but the intentional division drives a hard wedge between the two groups.

Likewise I have come to recognize it is tough for the Disciples of Christ tribe to work closely with the independent Christian church groups because they have purposely separated from each other and have no desire to rejoin.

Conversely, I find it is much easier for two tribes who are relatively far apart theologically to come together for a single purpose and work hand-in-hand.  For example, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals are coming together on issues like human trafficking, the sanctity of human life, and the mandatory coverage of contraceptives.  You also see various groups who would differ on all sorts of theological and liturgical issues working together in disaster relief or Operation Christian Child shoe boxes.

So what is my point.  I believe the American 21st century Evangelical Christian must embrace the BOTH/AND nature of being BOTH denominationally-loyal AND fervently ecumenical.  Our culture and world is turning ever-increasingly more hostile toward the Gospel and message of Jesus Christ.  In a world where we are moving more and more toward the minority, division and isolation into tribal loyalties will not be helpful.

Whatever you might think of the Together for the Gospel movement, I believe they have embraced the right motto – We can come together for the Gospel of Jesus and be both denominationally-loyal and fervently ecumenical.

What I Would Lose If I Went Back into FT Pastoral Ministry

Pulpit view

What would happen if I went back?

I get asked all the time if I am planning to go back into full-time pastoral ministry?  The question usually comes from a well-meaning church member at a church I am interiming at.  The question is harmless and is meant to be a genuine interest in my calling and God’s will for life, but it always causes me to think.

What if I left Christian higher education and went back into full-time pastoral ministry?  What would I lose?  What would I give up?  What would I exchange to be back in a FT pastoral staff position?

So far I have come up with 5 pretty good reasons why I believe God has put right where He wants me to be.

1.  Access to numerous unbelievers.  In my general education classes and walking all around campus are young men and women from all over the world and around our country who do not know the love of God in Christ Jesus.  They have come to our Christian college for all sorts of reasons and at some point are expecting us to tell them what makes us different than other schools they considered.  They are EXPECTING us to share the Good News of Jesus with them.  Did you read that right?  They are expecting us to share the Gospel with them.  What an opportunity?  What a mission we have before us?

2.  Opportunity to teach about Jesus in an academic classroom.  Students, some who believe and some who do not, take my class called Christ and Culture as part of their general education requirements.  Get this – they have to study the Bible in order to get an A.  They have to be able to explain the Good News of Jesus in order to pass one of the tests.  That is unheard of.  While they don’t have to become Christians to pass the course, they are exposed to the truths of the Gospel by an unashamed born-again Christian who believes the Bible is true and wants to help them with their questions about faith.  This is amazing and definitely not like pastoral ministry.

3.  Invitation to walk alongside younger believers in a critical times in their lives.  Consider the number of youth group Christians who drop out of church during the college years.  My job encourages me to come alongside these struggling believers and lift them up in their journey with Jesus.  I get to ask them “how are things going between you and God?” and actually listen to their stories.  This is such a critical moment in their lives and I believe it is so helpful to have professors and campus staff who care enough to ask.  This happens every single day.

4.  Freedom to serve alongside various churches, pastors, ministries, and even denominations for future generations.  Because of my role at CU, I have freedom to help numerous churches and pastoral leaders.  Unlike pastoral ministry, I am not confined to one single congregation as their pastor and therefore am more fluid and flexible to help whoever needs help.

For example, because of my work at CU and connections to fellow CU alums, God opened the door for me to work alongside LifeWay’s CentriKid camps and VBS for the past couple years.  These ministries alone will reach 27,000 and 4 million kids and adults each year respectively.  My part is little and somewhat insignificant.  But being a small part in these huge ministries makes an enormous kingdom impact.  Last year at CentriKid, nearly 1000 children come to faith in Christ.  VBS is estimated to have seen 80,000+ children, teens, and adults make professions of faith last year.  Again, my part is small in comparison to others, but I am humbled to even be on these teams in a small capacity.

5.  Lastly, I have a chance to give back to a place that radically shaped me.  Campbellsville Univ. is not only my employer, it is also my alma mater.  I love this place!  Words will never express what God did in my life during my 4 years here.  Now I am sure there are many fine Christian institutions and universities.  I am sure God is working mightily on all sorts of campuses – state, private, Christian and otherwise.

But I get the chance to give back to the place that shaped me personally.  Not the institution, but the people who served within the institution.  They took time to invest in my life, my ministry, my personal development as a man and my academic abilities as a student. I am indebted to this place and love getting the chance to replicate my experience in the lives of others.

For those reason and probably a hundred others, it is easy to answer those who ask if I would ever consider going back into full-time pastoral ministry, “No. I don’t think so. God has got me right where He wants me.”

Who Do You Really Work For? Part 2

Because I work, I am…

  • I am a better husband to my wife.
  • I am a better time manager.
  • I am a wiser steward of God’s resources.  It all belongs to Him.
  • I am a more generous person because I have something to give away.
  • I am a better example to my sons of manhood, fatherhood, and husbandry.
  • I am a stronger contributor to my local church.
  • I am a more invested member of my local community.
  • I am given opportunities to use my strengths and improve upon my failures.
  • I am exposed to different people than my normal circle would provide.
  • I am given a chance to use my talents as unto the Lord.
  • I am participating in something outside of myself.
  • I am less self-centered and more collaborative.
  • I am taught humility and servant-leadership.
  • I am given a platform to make a difference in the lives of others.
  • I am blessed with resources to provide for the wants and needs of my family.
  • I am given a chance to see the world through others’ eyes.

Because I work, I am growing in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52).

Who Do You Really Work For?

workrailroad

“I’ve Been Working On…”

Over the weekend, I was able to listen to Dr. David Platt from The Church at Brook Hills preach an amazing sermon called “The Cross and the Christian’s Work” on the meaning of work in the life of the believer (Listen here).

Several key passages were very meaningful to me, but two in particular that I wanted to share.

  • Colossians 3:23-24  Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Whatever your job may be, whatever position, occupation, or means of making an income you have, work it in such a way as to serve the Lord Jesus Christ as an act of worship.  Everyday on the job, make it your mission to work as an act of devotion and honor to Christ, not to a man, a boss or even a company.

Certainly you are getting rewards in the form of a paycheck, benefits, vacation days, experience, and the like, but there are other rewards at stake – eternal rewards.  Your eternal reward is an inheritance of eternal life though the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, which propels us to do our job “heartily” as unto Him, not satisfactorily to just get by.

Ask yourself this question:  If Creator God was your direct supervisor at work, how would your annual evaluation be this year?  Did you work heartily for Him?  Did you worship Jesus by doing your job with excellence, diligence, competence, and integrity?

The second passage is comparable.

  • 1 Timothy 5:8  But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Our call to provide and care for our families, through the resources provided by our work, is an outward witness of our faith in Christ.  By not providing for our families, the Apostle Paul equates a denial of the faith and being “worse” than an unbelieving person.

Dr. Platt was quick to point out that those suffering from chronic illness or debilitating disease are not commanded to work when their bodies simply won’t cooperate.  Additionally, this is not a command for children, teens, or students preparing in school and college for their working careers.  But for those who are able physically and mentally to work and hold the responsibility of provision for their families, there is a call to get up and go to work.

The job, task or the amount paid for the work is not a factor.  We need to work and provide for our families because it holds up the witness and testimony of God’s saving grace in our lives.

I wrote these thoughts in my journal back in May 2013.

Why Does My Work Matter to God?  What Does It Produces in Me?

  • Work gives me a sense of individual purpose and direction. Not divine purpose and direction, but purpose and direction nonetheless.
  • Work provides for our families needs and wants and gives me the ability to make financial investments in kingdom work.
  • Work creates an opportunity for the spiritual discipline of stewardship to grow in me.
  • Work creates an opportunity for spiritual gifts like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and definitely self-control (Gal. 5:22-23) to be birthed in me.
  • Work builds in me a pattern of suffering, character, hope, endurance, and perseverance in good times and in bad (Romans 5:3-5).
  • Work provides an opportunity for me to witness to unbelievers both verbally and visually (Matthew 5:16).
  • Work teaches me how to be a life-long learner, a good steward of other people’s stuff, a manager of people & time, and to be a leader, trainer and equipper of future generations.  All of these traits are be transferable to ministry within the local church.
  • Work helps me learn to lean on God’s provision by using the talents, gifts, interests, passions, and skills He gave to me to be best used for His glory and great name.

I love my job, there is no question about it, but I know I am the rare breed.  Most people dislike or barely tolerate the work they do.

But possibly if your perspective shifted so that you began to see your work as a gift from God, you might start to love it more.  You might even be able to see God as the one you work for, not just a paycheck.  I promise you, He is the best boss you’ll ever have.

Fall 2013 Ministry Preview

fall leavesThe fall school year has officially started.  My classes are packed.  I am really excited about this semester and how God is going to work in and through my students.

Along with school, the Lord has been so faithful and kind to opened several opportunities to encourage folks here in KY and around the nation.

Here is a snapshot of the fall ministry plans.

  • Through September – Preaching each Sunday morning at the Hodgenville Christian Church.  Helping out my new friend and pastor Bro. Carlton Puryear as he takes a few weeks off.
  • Sunday, Sept 15 – Leading “The Calling of Every Christian Parent” workshop at Ormsby Heights Baptist Church in Louisville.  Joining my long-time friends Pastor Steve and Michelle McKelvey, who serve on the staff there.
  • Sunday, Sept 22-25 – Preaching the fall revival for Stanford Baptist Church.  I will be joined by some great worship leader friends: Caleb Phelps, Kristina Critcher, CU Sound, and my old friend from Lancaster BC, the one and only Nehemiah Wilkinson.
  • Oct. 8-9 – Jennifer and I will be leading 3 breakout sessions for the LifeWay Christian Resources Kids Ministry Conference in Nashville, TN.  We will be teaching: 1) Teaching Children Contemplatively, 2) The Full Spectrum of Family Ministry Models, and 3) Memory Makers.  This will be our first time to lead together as a couple.
  • Oct. 13, 20 and Nov. 3, 10, 17 – Preaching Sunday mornings at Hurstbourne Baptist Church in Louisville, KY.
  • Oct. 27 – Preaching for Campbellsville University Day at Lancaster Baptist Church in Garrard Co.  I can’t wait to visit my dear friends at LBC.  I have missed them greatly over the past year.

And I am getting ready for another huge January, February and March, 2014.

In January and February, I will be joining the LifeWay VBSi Team again at Ridgecrest, Nashville, Fort Worth, and Kissimmee, FL as we train over 6000 VBS leaders from across North America.  I will be preaching during the main worship service and leading a breakout session.

And then in March, I get the great privilege of traveling back to Israel and Jordan for the second time in 5 years as part of the Campbellsville Univ. School of Theology Holy Land Tour.  This time I will be joined by my dad and brother in Christ, Danny Garrison, along with many CU faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends.  Space is available, if you are interested in joining us.

I would really covet your prayers for me, Jennifer, the boys, and these opportunities to preach and teach about our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Beasts of Burden

Notice the facial expression on my son’s face. Priceless!

One of my favorite summer-ending activities is going to the KY State Fair.  We have gone every August for the past five years.  We loving walking the exhibits showing cows, goats, chickens, and rabbits.  Our boys love every minute of it.  It is the closest they get to farm animals all year.

Jennifer loves looking at the flowers and vegetable displays.  I get my native Hancock Co. FFA-on, which is the complete opposite of who I really am, but it does take me back to stripping tobacco and picking peppers in the pepper patch.

Some animals are raised for their milk.  Others are raised for their meat.  Still others are raised for their eggs.  But an animal that is not raised for any of these things are mules and donkeys.  They are raised for carrying burdens.  Their bodies are designed to pull, tow, carry, and shoulder weight.   Even with all the fancy, high-tech machinery and tractors we have these day, a few farmers are still use donkeys to bear the burdens of the fields back to the barn.  And if you go overseas, you see them used for everything.

Which makes an interesting comparison.  Galatians 6:2 says  “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”   We are called to bear one another’s burdens.  We are called as brothers and sisters in Christ, part of God’s family, to help share the load of our friends and neighbors.  To take something off another’s shoulders and carry it a while on our own.

Jesus says in Matthew 11:28  “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  We can lay any burden upon Jesus our Lord, but sometimes we additionally need to lean on those God has yoked us together with here on Earth–our peeps.

For the past several months I have been carrying a particular burden; a pretty heavy load upon my back.  I have been like a donkey saddled with surplus weight.  I have been shouldering a sense of failure and regret.  I would try to let it go, but ultimately something would cause me to pick it right back up again.  I’d think about it, dream about it, and in the quiet moments of my heart, fret anxiously about it.

But last night during a casual dinner conversation that burden was lifted.  Not because I tossed it to someone else to carry, but because of a kind word spoken through a gentle expression by a trusted brother in Christ.  In that moment, the burden disappeared entirely.  He probably didn’t even know he was helping me.  Yet he did.

And today my yoke is easier.  My spirit is freer.  My load is lighter.  I guess I am not a donkey anymore…at least for today.

Choosing a College Church Revamped

Several years ago I wrote a piece on finding a college church which I reposted last year around this time.  Year after year it is one of the most read posts on the blog.

DeCourseyWEB

My Druien Hall Office – 2nd & 3rd window from the right.

As a new academic year comes into focus, I am compelled to reach out again in trying to help incoming freshman, transfer and upper-class students skillfully connect with local body of believers.

It is so easy to buy into the consumer culture mentality in trying to find a church with everything you want, resulting in shopping around for months and months and usually ending in failure.  But that is what most believing students do.

So this year I want to flip the switch and instead of telling you what to do, I am going to try and advise what not to do when choosing a college church.

Four words of warning.

1.  Don’t believe everything you hear.  Churches have reputations just like people and most of it is blatant rumor, false information, and competitive gossip.  Please don’t believe everything everyone is saying about a particular church.  You must visit and find out for your self.

2.  Don’t think one church will have everything you want.  There is simply no such place.  No single church can meet all of your preferences, wants, desires, and accommodations.  Therefore you must determine what are your top tier issues.  You have to arrange what matters most to you and your growth in Christ, such as worship style, preaching content, biblical faithfulness, friendliness to guests, college ministry options, ways to serve in the community or if they are globally-minded.  Determine your top one or two issues and look for those alone.

How do you find those things out?  Read the bulletin, website, and newsletter word for word.  You can get a quick sense of the church values by what is printed.  If you get a chance to shake the pastor’s hand, ask him one question: “What does this church value the most?”  That will give you your answer.  If they can’t answer that question, move on.

3.  Don’t be persuaded to go where everyone goes.  Mob decision-making is never the best.  There might be a church off the beaten path that really needs some fresh college students to take them to the next level.  They might be so blessed with you coming that you change their future direction and ministry.

Sometimes when the crowd all goes to the same place, you get lost.  Peel off.  Take a risk.  Sacrifice a few preferences to make a bigger impact for the kingdom.  Be a blessing, not a consumer.

4.  Lastly, don’t drag this thing out.  Visit once or twice, consider your top tier issues, pray for God’s guidance, and choose.  If you move on, move on quickly.  If you stay, get plugged in quickly.  The longer you drag out the search, the less likely you are to ever land anywhere.

I hope this is a help to you this semester.  If you are a college student who has found a local body to invest in, I am very proud of you.  Why not pass this post around to some of friends still on the hunt.  It could be a real blessing to them and their search process.

Biography Biography Biography (and Star Wars) – Summer Reading List 2013

Here is my 2013 summer reading list.  It was mostly biographies this summer.  I love reading real stories of real people.  Some are relatively recent biographies, others are from times long ago.  We took an extended vacation so I had a bit more reading time on my hands.  Plus I now use Kentucky Libraries Unlimited which allows for downloads straight to my Kindle.  I highly recommend it.

The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods by Hank Haney – Very interesting read about the professional game of golf, which I love to watch but don’t really know much about technically-speaking.  I learned more about the golf swing that I will never ever have.  It was also interesting to learn about the corporate machine that is Tiger Woods.

Polar Crusader: A Life of Sir James Wordie by Michael Smith – A great polar tale of adventure and adversity.  I read this book while sitting at the pool.  I prefer warm climates over freezing cold.

The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook by Ben Mezrich – I saw the movie a while back but the book really dives more into the nature of corporate life and how a single idea can change the world.

Called to Controversy: The Unlikely Story of Moishe Rosen and the Founding of Jews for Jesus by Ruth Rosen – Fascinating story of transformation through Christ and a willingness to do Gospel ministry in very difficult places.  Encouraging to my soul.

C. S. Lewis – A Life by Alister McGrath – I have been a Lewis fan for years.  This bio really helped me put his life into context with this writing and scholarship.  Great book about a hero of mine.

1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart – This was a very intriguing look at the political and societal happenings leading up to the American Civil War.  I was particularly interested in how you market social change through media, publications and civil protest.  I was surprised to learn I really didn’t know much of what was happening before Abraham Lincoln was president or how our country plunged into bloody war.

Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia by Michael Korda – I love the Middle East and love to read stories of how the Middle East became the Middle East during the British colonial period.  Sir T. E. Lawrence is a legend since his movie, but his real life is just as fascinating.  He was a scholar, a military hero, an adventurer, and an archeologist all wrapped up into one.  Like Indiana Jones.

Endgame: Bobby Fischer’s Remarkable Rise and Fall from America’s Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness by Frank Brady – Just like golf, I know how to play chess, but after reading this book, I now know I have no idea how to really play chess.  This book is really about compulsive obsession and complete devotion to a single thing.  It made me feel lazy and distracted.

Decision Points by George W. Bush – I have always admired G. Dub.  Reading his memoir is like listening to him give a speech.  Informed, natural, and completely likeable.

And to scratch my fiction itch.

Heir to the Empire: Star Wars (The Thrawn Trilogy): Star Wars, Volume I by Timothy Zahn – This was my beach read.  I am trying to get prepared for the new movies coming in 2015.  They probably won’t use this story line, but it was nice to get back into the universe that is Star Wars.

10 Years Ago Today

Ten Years LaterTen years ago today, July 24, 2003, was a very different time for Jennifer and I.  Ten years ago today I had just turned 26. Jennifer had turned the big 2-6 a couple months earlier.  We were leaving the early twenties and entering the late twenties.  I promise you it is a significant life shift going from the 18-25 category to the 26-35.

But things were very different for us 10 years ago.

  • 10 years ago we had only been married for 14 months.  Just newly weds.
  • 10 years ago we were living in the original cow town, funky-town Fort Worth, TX.  Home of more steaks and fajitas than a man could ever eat.  Glory!
  • 10 years ago we lived in a 525 sq. ft. barracks-like, seminary apartment, which has since been demolished and been replaced with beautiful condo-style apartments. (Jealousy)
  • 10 years ago we were both finishing seminary, both taking full loads, both studying and writing papers, plus working to pay the tuition bills.
  • 10 years ago we had no children.  We were DINKs – Dual Incomes No Kids.  We actually bought clothes for ourselves.
  • 10 years ago I drove a turquoise blue Mercury Contour (called the Aquarium), Jennifer drove a white one.  Neither of them were paid for and both were pieces of junk.
  • 10 years ago I was the youth minister of Trinity Baptist Church.  We had just came back from a mission trip to Denia, Spain and youth camp at Falls Creek, OK.  Those were wonderful days.
  • 10 years ago Jennifer was the primary bread winner of our family working as a Case Manager for Cornerstone Comprehensive Care Prog. (3CP) – one of the finest non-profit organizations in the nation.
  • 10 years ago I was hoping a church would consider me for a full-time ministry position.  I was sending resumes all over the country and getting no response.   I was willing to follow God’s leadership any where he wanted us to go, but nothing was turning up.

And now 10 years later, much has changed.

We left Fort Worth in December 2003, moving to Alexandria, KY and then to Campbellsville in 2008.  I did get a full-time ministry position at one of the best churches in KY, Main Street Bapt. Church, and then a faculty position at my alma mater Campbellsville Univ.

God blessed Jennifer and I with two beautiful, healthy baby boys, Isaac and Ethan.  One looks just like his momma and one looks just like his daddy.  We’ve made it 11 years together in what I consider to be a very healthy marriage, with our share of bumps but a growing friendship and love that is palpable.

I finished my doctorate; Jennifer is halfway through hers.  We own a home, mini-van, family sedan, and 25 year old pick-up truck named Pa-Paw.

I have served on multiple church staffs as an interim pastor, preaching nearly every Sunday for the past 5 years.  I have been a ministry consultant with churches, state and national denominational groups.  I’ve traveled to the Israel, Jordan, Greece, and Turkey studying the places and times of the New Testament.

I’ve preached twice in the Van Ness Auditorium of LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville (for Educational Ministry folks, this is the mother ship).  I’ve written curriculum for CentriKid camps and been rejected 5 times on a kid’s ministry book proposal.

All this to say that in the past 10 years, GOD HAS BEEN SO GOOD!  HE HAS BEEN SO FAITHFUL!  HE HAS BEEN GRACIOUS and KIND!  He had a plan and a purpose for our good, which was far better than anything we could have ever imagined (Eph. 3:20). 

Ten years ago, I might not have been as able to see His hand so perfectly and delicately working in my life.  I was probably fretting over finishing seminary, finding a job, and making money to pay off my student loans.  Unfortunately, I was caught up seeing the immediate, the present, the now. 

But God, in His abundant love and grace, had already laid the plans He had in store for us.  Isaiah 55:9 Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.

10 years later, I think it is good to look back and reflect.  10 years later, I recognize that I need to lean and trust more on the ways and thoughts of Almighty God.  10 years later, I need to stand utterly silent and be exceedingly thankful for that He has done in our lives.

10 years later, I need to remember Jeremiah 29:11 is true.  Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Thank you Lord for the past 10 years.

Temptation on Vacation

beach12Everyone needs a vacation.  Restful time away along with significant time with loved ones is a must for all people, including God-honoring believers in Christ.  But why is it that temptation toward sin is so present while you are vacation?

From abusive alcohol consumption, to inappropriate movies in hotels, to partying night spots, to watching others too closely while at the beach, temptation is everywhere on vacation.

I think there are several reasons Christians should be mindful of while away.

1.  You are away from your normal routine.  You are out of the daily patterns you are accustomed to, therefore everything feels new and novel.  With that novelty, comes new traps not present back home.  It is the same reason people get sick on vacation.  They sleep differently, eat different foods, are exposed to different temperatures and thus comes a virus.  All of these novelties cause exhaustion on the body and bring on a cold.  The same can happen with your soul.  Different, novel environments can cause you to waver in your convictions.

2.  No one will ever know.  The thoughts comes to your mind that you will never see these people ever again.  Being anonymous can be fun.  Not knowing a single person can be freeing.  You can wear whatever you want because “I don’t know these people and I am never going to see them again.”  But it is more than that.  It is a secrecy which leads toward the temptation to be more provocative and loose since no one will ever know.  Just ask a spring breaking Christian college student about the “no one will ever” allure of Panama City Beach or South Padre Island.

3.  Disconnection from your accountability partners and home church.  While some vacationers find a place of worship on Sunday to visit, most do not.  Being disconnected from fellow believers means you are less likely to be encouraged in the Word or in communion with God.  You are also away from those individuals in your life that hold you up on a regular basis.  Both opportunities give temptation an easier path.

4.  Vacation spots have easy access to all sorts of vices.  You’ve heard it before “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”  In the major vacation areas, opportunities for sin abound.  The options and varieties are endless.  Business owners know that vacationers have extra money and a desire to spend it on “having a good time.”  So they prey on vacationers with plenty of sex, alcohol, gambling, and others forms of licentious living.

5.  Vacationing creates a sense of freedom which means trying new things.  Why do you think there are theme parks with thrill rides or vacation spots with those human slingshots?  Not that there is anything wrong with those things.  However, Christian vacationers feel like this is their chance to try something new, to do something they would never do at home.  And this can lead to sinful choices.  They want to push the envelope to feel that rush of adrenaline and rebellion.

6.  Lastly, the “Well, I am on Vacation” Attitude which means I can do whatever I like.  No one is watching.  No one will ever know.  No one cares.  I’ve worked hard all year, its time to blow off some steam and party it up a bit.

But we must understand God Almighty is omnipresent.  He is not restricted to your hometown.  He knows.  He’s aware of all things.  His desire is that your integrity and Christian conduct on vacation be honoring to Him.  In many ways, how you live out the Christian life while on vacation is more true of your conviction and commitment to Christ than when you are at home.  Who you are when no one is watching is your true character.

It might be said that who you are on vacation is the more truthful, honest picture of yourself as a follower of Jesus.

Pros and Cons of Interim Transitional Ministry

moving-forwardIn April, I finished my fifth interim/transitional pastorate. In a little over 4 years, God opened the door for me to lead four churches who were in transition – one church twice. In some ways it is a very Paul-like ministry. Moving around from city to city, learning different church cultures, trying to discern the needs, spreading the Gospel to different people in a different place with different backgrounds.

In other ways, it can be utterly heart breaking. From the onset you know you are not going to be there forever, but you still develop deep relationships with the people and know that as some point, you are going to have to go.

Now with a few months behind me since the last completion, I wanted to reflect on the pros and cons of interim transitional ministry and try to outline a few things I’ve learned on this journey.

3 PROS

1. Helping When a Church Needs Help the Most – A church who has recently lost their pastor is a hurting church. Even in the best case scenario, there is still someone they love who has left them behind taking family and children with them. There is significant pain, heartache, and a real sense of abandonment.

The interim transitional pastor can help with this pain by speaking well of the former pastor and helping the healing process begin through intentional methods, such as extra communication, fellowship, and opportunities to serve together to show unity and togetherness.

2. Helping When a Church Needs Leadership the Most – Immediately following the exit of a lead pastor, there is a HUGE leadership vacuum. The power players come out of the woodwork and start plying for more influence and leverage. You might think this “hawking” is only for the largest of churches, but you would be wrong. Even the smallest church has power players and the interim transitional period is an opening for conflict and confusion.

The interim transitional pastor must manage these dynamics to make sure the selection process is done well and with full integrity, holding the power players at bay while moving the church forward.

3. Helping When a Church Needs Stability the Most – While I am not sure the numbers are perfectly accurate, the stated trends tell us that a church will decline by 15% in attendance and 25% in giving during an interim period. And the longer the interim, the greater the declines, especially in giving. Those two trends alone will cripple a church in transition.

The interim transitional pastor provides stability in the pulpit, which is paramount. Stability in the leadership vacuum to limit the grabbing forces. And stability in casting a vision for this all-important transitional period so that in 12-24 months everyone will be okay and headed in the right direction.

3 CONS (These are a bit more personal, so be aware.)

1. Leaving All the Time – In four years, I have had to leave several great churches. Now I knew this was part of the deal going in, but it still stings. As an interim transitional leader, you are effectively a “temp.” You are meant for a particular season and no more. And while you enter the situation with this understanding, the leaving part still breaks your heart.

This is one reason why many interim pastors choose to go to different cities than where they permanently reside. Because once they leave, it makes it easier on the heart to not see everyone all the time. It is comparable to seeing an old girlfriend and not knowing what to say. “Its good to see you. How have you been? Are you seeing anyone new these days.” Awkward and gut-wrenching.

2. Limited Vision and Direction for the Long Haul – Since your time is limited, your ability to cast a vision is short-lived. You can not lead the church toward a particular ministry objective if you are not going to be there to see it through. The ministry is very 90-day driven, meaning you have a 90-day window to set a goal or cast a vision, but no more. Because in 120 days, the new pastor may be getting close to arriving and you will be moving on.

3. Languishing Over Choices Made in the Search Process – Here is probably the most sensitive of issues in interim transitional ministry. As the interim pastor, you are made privy to the work of the Pastor Search Team. You might be asked to look over potential resumes or be asked to talk to a potential candidate by phone. I have even been asked to contact a personal friend and ask them for their name to be put into consideration.

I have been brought into the meetings as they work through theological questionnaires to explain what the questions and answers mean. You must remember that most search team members are not trained theologians, nor are they equipped to understand the nuances of pastoral philosophy or ministry methodology.

In the process, you see things, read things, and hear things which cause you to cringe, but you simply can’t say too much in response. You have to let the committee find their own way through prayer and God’s direction. You don’t want to sway or divert them, so you remain neutral and only answer when asked, which is extremely difficult for most leaders.

For those considering this type of ministry, take care to learn and grow in the Lord. It is not as easy as it may seem, but serving the Lord is a calling to sacrifice, which is never easy.

One Picture Tells My CentriKid ’13 Story

centrikid 2013

This one picture perfectly describes my CentriKid 2013 experience.  After working on the sermon content, training the camp pastors, and serving as camp pastor myself for 3 camp cycles, this one picture is what it is all about.  Thank you Hannah Golden for sharing it with me.

This group of kids were outstanding.  After worship one evening, they came up as every one else was leaving to ask me a few questions about God, His existence, how God relates to us here on earth, and how Jesus and God are one in the same, yet unique. It started with one question, which led to another and another.  After about 40 questions and an hour of discussion, they were still coming up with more and more questions.  You know how kids are.  Once they get started, they keeping going.

It was one of the richest theological discussions I’ve had in years.  These kids were asking deep, I mean, deep questions about how the narrative of Scripture relates to what they’ve learned about evolution and natural science.  Their questions were smart, articulate, and hard.

To be truthful, they were asking questions I don’t even get asked in my college level Intro to Christianity class.  They were curious and inquisitive and I loved every minute of it.

Teaching kids theology is a passion of mine.  If you can explain hard concepts to kids, you can explain them to anyone.  And these kids were eating it up.  Well, maybe all of them except the kid in the yellow shirt.  He was obviously checking something else out.  Fun.

Thank you LifeWay CentriKid camps and specifically CK2 for letting me serve alongside of you.

Checking In on Past Ministry Relationships

2 Timothy 4:10 (ESV)  For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me…

student-ministryWhat happens when those you love  and have personally discipled in ministry desert the faith?  They’ve deserted Jesus, the Bible, participation in the local church and have fallen fully in love with the world?  What happens when what was once a growing, maturing, follower of Jesus is now agnostic, unrepentant and completely uninterested in the things of God?

I was a youth pastor for 6 years and it breaks my heart (almost daily) to see some of the things on my former students’ Facebook profiles.  The photos they post.  The places they go.  The things they are most proud of, such as their ability to consume way too much alcohol or have victory in another sexual conquest.  From having children out of wedlock, to homosexuality, to marriage and divorce, to the use of most filthy language imaginable – all waved loud and proud in full view of the digital public.

Some of these are students who I took on mission trips all over the world.  Some are the ones I witnessed boldly sharing the Gospel with their lost friends and family.  Some are those who led our weekly worship service or taught others in student-led Bible studies.   Young men and women who had the most genuine, authentic, growing faith in Christ who now show no evidence or fruit of that faith whatsoever (well, at least not on Facebook).

This breaks my heart.  So much so I cannot be their FB friend or have to remove their statuses in my news feed.  I simply can’t handle it.  It hurts my soul and makes me entirely miserable.

I am certain this is nothing new to me.  All pastors/ministers/youth leaders/spiritual mentors feel this broken-heartedness at some point.  They hear reports or run into someone several years removed and they can’t quite believe their ears.  The emotions run the gamut from disappointment and anger in the person to feeling like a ministry failure to utter shock and dismay – “How could this happen to YOU?”

In truth, I am not sure how to manage these feelings.  All I can do is trust in the promises of God.  God who draws even the most prodigal son or daughter back home.  God who offers redemption and forgiveness to those who ask.  God who is long-suffering and patient with all sinners, including me, and who wants all of His children to walk rightly before Him.

I can trust in the Holy Spirit of God who dwells within the hearts of those truly saved, who convicts, reminds and speaks to the heart of even the most wayward.

My hope is that I will be able to join the elder John in saying  “I have no greater joy than to hear that my [former students] are walking in the truth” 3 John 1:4  (ESV).  However, I have to set boundaries in my life so that I am not discouraged on a daily basis.  This probably means I have to remove one of my former students, who I still love and adore, from my FB friends.

Isn’t it amazing how the Digital Age has changed ministry forever?

May 2012 to May 2013 : A Ministry Look-Back

mayEvery May, at the beginning of my summer break, I try to stop and look back over the past year and reflect on the opportunities the Lord has opened for me to do what I love and was called to do.  This particular 12 months has been a little bit of everything.  Ministry opportunities have flowed from all sides.

From…

  • Traveling to Greece, Turkey, and Switzerland with the Apostles & Epistles Tour.  You can’t beat teaching Revelation 1 on the Island of Patmos overlooking John’s cave.  Indescribable.
  • Finishing one interim pastorate at Lancaster Bapt Church and beginning and finishing another at Living Grace Church.
  • Training young pastors for LifeWay’s CentriKid Camps and then being a camp pastor myself for a couple weeks.
  • Preaching in various pulpits around KY like Corinth BC in London, Immanuel, Pioneer, Hopewell and Bruner’s Chapel BC all in Harrodsburg, Simpsonville BC, and First Bapt Clarksville, TN.
  • Leading training workshops for Eubank BC, Beechland BC, Pioneer BC and First Bapt Clarksville.
  • Teaching breakout sessions at ministry conferences – the CU Transformational Church Summit, the KBC Seminary for a Day, and CU Louisville’s Contagious Churches & Leaders.
  • Serving alongside the tireless LifeWay VBSi & Preview Team as a speaker & breakout session leader in 4 cities: Ridgecrest, NC, Fort Worth, TX, Nashville, TN, and Kissimmee, FL.  This opportunity has been one I will never forget.
  • Great times of sharing with my students outside of class like doing the DNow Team training, teaching alongside Jennifer for BCM about relationships, pre-marriage counseling in our home with Chris Price and Anna Step, witnessing Jacob Howard, one of my guys, ordained to the Gospel ministry, and taking a group of 13 to LifeWay’s headquarters in Nashville for CU Day at LifeWay.
  • All the while completing two amazing semesters with my students in class after class.  Year 5 was my best in class teaching year so far.

It is simply amazing for me to see what God has done in my life, if I would make myself available to Him and His purposes.  As I reflect back, I am overwhelmed by God’s grace and kindness toward me and my family.  This is way more than I could have ever imagined back in 1996 when I surrendered to the call of ministry.  God has taken my 3 loaves and 2 fish and multiplied them time and time again.

Where will God lead from May 2013 to May 2014…who knows?  But wherever He leads, I will follow.

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