Last Letter to Hurstbourne BC

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Resurrection Sunday 2014

We knew it would eventually come to an end.   I am sure you have heard the old saying, “All good things must come to an end.” Well, I don’t think I like that saying any more, especially when it comes to the ending of ministry together.

I want every person at Hurstbourne BC to know how much Jennifer, the boys and I have loved being with you. You welcomed us with open arms from the earliest days and have treated us like family every Sunday we been there. Never once did we feel like outsiders. Instead, you made us feel like long-time friends and family.

I want to say a very extra special thank to the pastoral staff – Chris, Cameron, Jeff and Vince – along with office team of Carolyn, Carmen and Mike. Each one of these men and women are top-notch servant-leaders who remain kingdom-minded and Gospel-focused in all they do. Serving with them has been a tremendous joy.

I want to also say thank you to the Personnel Team led by Mrs. Jan Watts. From the beginning interview, through the entire interim, until today, this group, in general and Mrs. Jan in particular, have been so easy to work with and serve alongside. They have made this one of the best interim experiences I have ever had.

I believe there are very bright days ahead for HBC. I believe there are hundreds of people who will come through your doors in the coming months. I encourage and challenge you to treat them just like you have treated us. Introduce yourself. Make them feel at home. Show them around. Help them find the way to the gym, which I still struggle to find. Treat them to your warmest hospitality and friendship as you have done for us.

If you do that, HBC will explode with new faces, new ministry ventures, and news ways to be a blessing to your community. The ride is just beginning. I hope you are ready.

I love you all and will forever keep you in my heart.

Grace, Shane

Interim No. 6 Coming to a Close

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Easter Sunday @ Hurstbourne Baptist Church

Next Sunday, Hurstbourne Baptist Church in Louisville will come together to extend a call to my friend and current student pastor Bro. Cameron Debity.  If all goes well, this means interim pastorate no. 6 is coming to a close.

With each of these six churches and interim contexts, I have learned new lessons about this type of ministry and church leadership in general.  Here are a few lessons I picked up this time around.

1.  Even in the city, rural-like hospitality still works.   There is an assumption that when you live in a major city with hundreds of thousands of people no one wants you in their home or at their table.  While that can be true in some places, I found at HBC that there was still a sweet sense of in-home hospitality.  There hasn’t hardly been a Sunday in over 6 months where we didn’t have an invitation to a home for lunch.  Maybe this is only because I am the pastor, but it is so good to see that table fellowship is still alive.

2.  People of means have the same basic needs as people who struggle.   HBC is located in a rather affluent section of Louisville.  Many of the attenders are, or have been in the past, very successful men and women in their line of work.  One might think because of their status in life they don’t need anything, but that is not true.  It doesn’t matter how much is in the checking account or sitting in mutual funds, people are still people.  And people have needs.  No matter who you are or what you earn, people struggle with sin.  People struggle with relationships.  People struggle making Jesus first and foremost in their lives.

3.  When there are multiple staff members and a senior pastor moves on, the primary goal is to embolden and champion the staff who remain.  This was the first time in any interim where I had a rather large team remaining – 6 full-time teammates, each who were competent, flexible, and really strong in their particular areas of service.   I found the key in this interim was to let them loose.  To challenge them to go big or go home.  To praise them publicly and privately and encourage them to boost their ministry areas 5-fold.  The outcome was the church never felt like we were in an “interim.”  We were able to create momentum which turned the interim phase into a season of advance, not a season of survival.

If all goes well, my last day at Hurstbourne Baptist Church will be August 10.  This has been one of the best interim experiences I’ve had.  Lots of heart connections.  Lots of great times together in worship.  Lots of meaningful conversations.  This experience is going to be hard to match.

Who knows where interim no. 7 might land us next.

5 Questions Answered in 5 Sermons

since you askedAt Hurstbourne Baptist Church in Louisville, we have recently finished a series of messages called Since You Asked.

Basically, I gave the entire congregation the chance to ask biblical, theological, and spiritual questions in which I would try to answer in a sermon.  We received nearly 30 questions and I attempted to answer five of them.

Maybe you have wondered about these things.  I have included the question and a link to the sermon audio if these have ever been questions in your mind.  Take a listen and let me know what you think.

  • How do we publicly and privately interact as the body of Christ with people who we significantly disagree with? sermon audio
  • When Christians leave this earthly life, do we immediately go and be with Jesus, seeing him face-to-face or will there be a waiting period for the second coming of Christ?  sermon audio
  • How do relationships work in heaven? Will we know and recognize our earthly family and friends? sermon audio
  • Does God control the small things? Such as does God give us one job over another? Does God determine where a student is accepted into college? Did God put my child in that teacher’s class? A fender bender that could have been a horrible accident, was that a “God thing”? The tickets to a sold-out ball game that are suddenly offered to us by a co-worker, is that orchestrated by God?  sermon audio
  • If a young man accepts Christ and is living a Christian life, has a Christian wife and two children. All is well. Time elapses, he gets involved with another woman, divorces his wife, gets into drinking and gambling. He drops out of church. His lifestyle never changes and he passes away. Is this person still going to heaven?  sermon audio

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross Visual Journey

Four videos, four Scripture readings and three sermons intended to lead you to the cross of Jesus.  You are welcome to use these as you prepare for Holy Week, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.

Stop ONE:  The GARDEN of GETHSEMANE

Message:  A Cursed Curse from Galatians 3:10-14. Sermon audio here.

Stop TWO:  The MOUNT of OLIVES

Message:  A Sanctified Sacrifice from Hebrews 4:14-5:10. Sermon audio here.

Stop THREE:  CAIAPHAS’ HEADQUARTERS

Message:  A Criminal’s Charge from Matthew 26:57-68. Sermon audio here.

Stop FOUR:  GOLGOTHA, the PLACE of the SKULL

A Scripture reading from Mark 15:33-39.

Do Things That Don’t Need a Vote

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Do Things That Don’t Need a Vote.

While in seminary, I was given a book written by Dr. Paul Powell, former pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, TX.  The book was called “Shepherding the Sheep in the Smaller Church.”  There was a little hidden gem in the back of the book that I have never forgotten.

Dr. Powell encouraged anyone shepherding a smaller (or any size) church to do things that didn’t need a vote.  He encouraged pastors and ministers to do the little things that didn’t need money or permission to be done.  Little things that as a pastor no one could say yes or no to like starting a small group in your home or visiting shut-ins.

Over the years in ministry I keep going back to that little mantra – “do things that don’t need a vote.”  I have added a few other suggestions to my list like…

1.  Send hand-written thank you notes.  Those still catch a surprised and grateful eye.

2.  Send small group leaders a mid-week encouragement email as they are studying for Sunday.  Their study and teaching preparation is as important as yours.  Don’t you love it when someone writes/calls and says “I’m praying for you as prepare.”  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  It goes a long way.

3.  Personally invite people to come to your church.  Invite your friends.  Invite your family.  For me, I invite my students all the time.  When you brings guests, it encourages others to do the same.

4.  When preaching, communicate vision and direction in where you see the Lord moving.  Tell your people what you see happening.  While the church newsletter or blog is fine to share vision dates and details, your “face-time” on Sunday morning should be used wisely in casting the direction.  You only have their undivided attention for the first 5 minutes of the message, make it count in moving the ship forward.

5.  Pray for people who come to the altar by laying on hands.  If you believe in the power of prayer (as I do), encourage your people by praying over them.  If possible, invite some others to join you in praying for their needs.  There is nothing more unifying and humbling.

6.  Walk the isles before worship and spend time with your people.  Dr. Ken Hemphill called the 10 minutes before worship the 10 most important minutes in ministry.  Don’t seal yourself off in your office or “green room.”  Be among your sheep.  Talk with them.  Visit with them.  Sit down and pray for them if they ask you to.  Trust me, they all know you are thinking about the sermon and the service, but you have been called to be their “pastor”, not their professional Bible teacher or speaker.  A pastor spends time among their sheep.

I could go on and on.

I feel like church leaders, especially in smaller or mid-sized churches, feel as if they have limited authority in leadership.  While there might be policies and procedures in place for spending larger amounts of money or specific steps to take in securing prime real estate on the church calendar, there is much ministry that can be done without any red tape.

Spend your energies doing those little things that don’t need a vote and you will find greater success in your overall ministry leadership.

What I’ve Learned About KidMin While On the Road with LifeWay

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VBS Preview Event in Ridgecrest, NC

For the last several weeks, I have been on the road with LifeWay Kids training VBS leaders from around the country and North America.  We have traveled to North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee and will be in Florida this weekend.

There have been VBS leaders from every state in the union including Alaska and Hawaii and from our neighbors in Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Canada.

Once everything is finished, we will have trained nearly 6000 VBS leaders who will in turn train another 70,000+ leaders who will host and lead 3 million boys, girls, teens and adults in VBS this year.  I am overwhelmed by the power of multiplication and the enormous influence VBS has on Kids Ministry around the world.

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VBS Preview Event in Nashville, TN

Over the last few weeks of ministry, I have learned several important truths about those who lead and serve in Kids Ministry around the nation.

I have learned that…

1.  THEY ARE PASSIONATE.  These servant-leaders are absolutely passionate about their own personal faith in Christ and the work assigned to them by God in serving kids and families.  They are willing to do whatever it takes to help the next generation know Jesus and grow in Him.  Their passion and vitality is infectious.

2.  THEY ARE HARDWORKING.  These leaders go the extra mile and often do it without any appreciation or recognition.  Without exception, Kids Ministry is the largest people and volunteer network in the church.  It is usually the most demanding with all sorts of different needs among different age groups.  It is usually the most under-funded, yet all the while it is the single most effective evangelistic tool the church has at its disposal.  These leaders get it done week after week, year after year and I applaud them.

3.  Lastly, THEY ARE HUNGRY FOR HELP.  When a KidMin leader attends a training session, they sit on the edge of their seats hungry for any tip, any suggestion, any instruction we can give.  They take page after page of notes.  They listen with their eyes and ears and hearts wide open.  They are starving for anything that will help them lead better.

I have taught similar sessions for pastors, ministers and deacons and I promise you the sessions are not the same.  I am not slamming pastors (goodness, I am one), but the intensity level is not nearly the same as these KidMin leaders.  Pastors tend to generally appreciate the training but all the while are checking their phones, day-dreaming, catching up on some sleep, and running back and forth to the lobby to take a call.  Not so with the KidMin leader.  This is their chance to be equipped and they are in it full on.

My heart and soul goes out to these 6000 VBS leaders.  In the months ahead, they will labor to get volunteers, make preparations, decide about budgets, argue with the church maintenance staff, stay up late, get up early, all to share the love of Christ with kids and families.  We know their labor will not be in vain.

I am simply humbled and honored to be able to meet them, encourage them, and give them a glimmer of hope because I am a VBS salvation.  It still works and will continue to work for generations to come.

VBS Preview Ridgecrest 2014

A very special thanks to @LifeWayVBS for the invitation to come and share at the 2014 VBS Institutes & Previews.  Here are few pics from Ridgecrest, NC during the sessions I led.  (Photos courtesy of Ashley Abell.)

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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.

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.

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

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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.

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.

An Open Letter to Living Grace Church : He Who Began

The following is an open letter to the men and women, college students, teenagers, boys and girls of Living Grace Church, Campbellsville, KY, a church I dearly love and treasure.  This is my prayer for you.

Dear Living Grace Church,

Philippians 1:6  I am assured of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

I am assured of this, that He  I am assured that He, God is with you.  I am assured that He, God dwells among you.  I am assured that He, God is near you.  I am assured that He, God is working in you to make you what He wants you to be.  Will you let He, God do more?

I am assured of this, that He who began a good work in you…  He who began this work is still at work.  He who began this work is not finished with this piece of art quite yet.  He who began this work of molding, shaping, chiseling, adding and removing wants to continue to mold, shape, chisel, add and remove until He approves.  Will you let Him work more?

I am assured of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion…  Take heart, you are not complete yet.  You are not perfected yet.  You are not polished and shined up yet, ready for display.  You are still in the completion process and will be for quite some time.  Please my dear friends don’t hinder the completion process, instead beg God to cut deeper, hammer harder, bolt tighter, paint brighter until He decides when you are ready.  Will you let Him complete more?

I am assured of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus.  Full completion ultimately awaits the coming of Jesus Christ.  Ultimately the incomplete bride desperately awaits the coming, glorious Groom.  The longer we wait, the more time that passes, the more our longings for Him increase.  But until then, will you let God do more?

To you my brothers and sisters in Christ, it has been my joy and honor to be your Transitional Pastor.  As we continue to live as neighbors in this little community called Campbellsville/Taylor County, let us look forward to the day when we will live as eternal neighbors in God’s holy presence forever.

Grace and peace,Shane

Jesus and the Cross Verse 6

Part 6 of 6 Jesus and the Cross Holy Week Reflections

Acts 4:12    And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

The last verse of the six Jesus and the Cross Holy Week Reflections tells us there is only ONE way to be saved.  “Saved from what” you might ask.

We must be saved from the very just, very holy wrath of God which will rightly judge sin.  We must be saved from the sin that “so easily entangles us” (Heb 12:1) and causes us to be in direct opposition with a holy God.

We must be saved from the place of torment, a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Jesus’ words), a place of eternal fire called Hell which has been prepared for those who reject Christ as Lord and Savior.

We must be saved from thinking that we can somehow save ourselves with our good deeds, our family connection, or our acts of charity in this world.  We can’t do anything to out weigh our sin debt.

We must be saved.  The Bible, God’s inspired Word, tells us there is only ONE way for sinners to be saved.  That one way is by placing our faith, trust, hope, heart and life into the loving arms of Jesus Christ, who died on the cross and was risen again to life.

That is what Easter, or as I prefer to call it Resurrection Sunday, is all about.

Resurrection Sunday Invitation

Jesus and the Cross Invitation

Jesus and the Cross Verse 4

Part 4 of 6 Jesus and the Cross Holy Week Reflections

Mark 10:45   For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

The paying of a ransom creates an interesting picture in our minds. We think of a kidnapper leaving a ransom note or a plane being high-jacked and the assailants delivering their ransom demands.  Some form of payment must be made for the child or the passengers to be freed.

Sin has kidnapped us.  Sin has high-jacked our lives away from God.  Therefore a ransom had to be paid.  Something had to be exchanged to ultimately deal with our sin-filled soul.  Yet there is nothing we could ever payback for our wickedness.  Our lives are tainted with ongoing sin and our hearts are wildly corrupt.

So God paid the ransom.  He gave one life to be the ransom for all who believe.  The perfect given for the imperfect.  The sinless savior given for sinful humanity.  The death of God’s one and only Son was a ransom paid in full for those who trust Him by faith.

That happen on the cross.  But how?  You shall see in verse 5.

Jesus and the Cross Verse 3

Part 3 of 6 Jesus and the Cross Holy Week Reflections

John 1:14  And the Word [God the Son] became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

God had dealt with the sin of humankind time and time again throughout the Old Testament.  Making animal coverings for Adam and Eve in the garden.  Cleansing and remaking the world with Noah’s flood.  God gave the 10 commandments and the 613 laws to Moses to govern the people and when the people broke the laws (as God knew they would), He provided an annual Day of Atonement, or day of forgiveness, to cleanse their hearts.

But these dealings with sin were all shadows, or mere pictures, of the ultimate means by which sin would have to be dealt with.

God the Father choose to deal with sin personally.  He did so by sending God the Son to dwell among men in human form.  In sending His only Son Jesus, we not only witness God in the flesh, but we also see in him in his fullest glory.  Jesus said, “If you have known me, you have known my Father also.” (John 14:7)

Jesus was sent to deal with sin. The price to be paid for sin, however, would be costly.  But that is for verse 4.

Jesus and the Cross Verse 2

Part 2 of 6 Jesus and the Cross Holy Week Reflections

Romans 3:10-12 As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

In a world where we constantly prop each other up with our words and admiration, making mini-celebrities out of everyone. In a day and age when we constantly quote mantas from self-esteem gurus and self-help books relying on our own self-sufficiency and pride to make us feel better about our choices. It is quite counter-cultural to think that each and every human being on the face of the earth is a desperate, wicked, corrupt sinner.

I don’t have to call you a sinner for it to be true. But you can call me one any time you like, because I know it is true. It is what the Bible says I am; it is what I know I am. There is none righteous, no, not one.

We often say, “nobody’s perfect” to dismiss our sinful nature and feel better about our shortcomings. But perfection is the standard of Heaven. Remember God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. There can’t be any darkness in His Heaven.

In order for heaven to be reached, sin must be dealt with by a righteous, holy, just God. And sin will be dealt with, just not by you or me.

Jesus and the Cross Verse 1

Part 1 of 6 Jesus and the Cross Holy Week Reflections

1 John 1:5  This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

God is not like us. We are nothing like Him. He is altogether, entirely different from anything we see, know or experience. While we are made in His image, we only vaguely reflect the attributes of God such as love and forgiveness.

God is holy. God is completely just and fair. God is righteous being completely without sin or fault. God is infinite having no beginning or ending. God is creator and sustainer of all things. God is all glorious, all good, all perfect, there is no darkness in Him at all.

The complete story of the Cross and Resurrection begins with God creating the world, including us, for perfect fellowship with him, but that changed because of sin.

Ending Interim No. 4

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Children’s Sermon @ LGC

On April 14 (4 weeks away), I will be concluding interim pastorate no. 4 at Living Grace Church here in Campbellsville.  I served Living Grace Church as interim pastor back in 2008-09 during a previous pastor search process and again this time around for the past 9 months.

The people of Living Grace Church are wonderful.  They have been so kind and gracious to let me learn alongside of them what it means to be a church that is intergenerational, inter-denominational, multiracial and from every socioeconomic level in our community.

I have been stretched in my understanding of the primary Christian doctrines, built up in my belief in the sufficiency of God’s Word, and saw how stabilizing church administration is essential for a 10-year old church plant.

I give thanks to the previous pastors of Living Grace Church: Pastor Phillip Kelley and Pastor Jason Fox.  The time between my first interim and my second showed how much leadership, blood, sweat, and tears these men invested in LGC.  Thank you my dear brothers for giving your hearts (and probably lots of nights of sleep) to this people.

I also give thanks for my worship leader for the first 6 months Mr. Benson Sexton and his dear wife Kristin, our church media guru.  These two leaders have been invaluable friends to me and my family and diligent co-laborers in the Gospel ministry.

I give thanks to our youth minister Mr. Mike Humphress who has a tender heart before the Lord and a true passion to develop leaders who love students.  I am also thankful for Mrs. Anne Sanders who leads the children’s ministry.  I have been impressed time and time again with her organization and vision for our GraceKids.  Ms. Debbie Ruggles, the church secretary, has been my helper, encourager, and faithful supporter through thick and thin.  She has been a peace-giving force in my life.

I will miss seeing the smiling faces on Sunday mornings.  I will miss the warm hugs from those ladies (and a few fellas) who gave me a hug every week no matter what was going on.  I will miss watching the children of LGC run all over the place after worship.  I will miss being called “pastor” which is a term of endearment and devotion, which blessed me every time.  And “step-pastor” by one dear friend which always made me smile and laugh.

But unlike other interim pastorates which have been in other towns, when this one concludes I will still get the chance to see the people of LGC out and about in our little community, which will always be a treat.

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