Why I Keep Saying “Thank You But No Thank You” to Full-Time Church Ministry

no thank youFor the past 8 years, I have served in cross-vocational ministry.  I have willingly, intentionally, and consistently turned down several gracious invitations to return to “full-time” church-based ministry.  “Why did you say no?” you might ask.  Please let me explain.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with full-time, church-based ministry.  It is a high calling and something I believe firmly in.  As a ministry professor, I am thrilled when I hear that my students have accepted their first FT position on a church staff or in a para-church organization.  I remember well my first FT ministry position and how it changed my life forever.

However, I am seeing some trends in the larger landscape of ministry today that compel me to stay in a cross-vocational role with no plans of making a change in the future.

What are some of those larger landscape trends?

1. Issues with insurance.  While none of us enter into ministry to make the big bucks, the reality that self-employed insurance premiums can  drain our monthly budgets very, very fast.  Even with new government-subsidized insurance plans available, the cost is still significant to a ministry family.

If there are on-going medical needs, monthly prescriptions, or the desire to have a large family full of little ones running around, you could see a fourth of your monthly take-home pay devoted to medical expenses.

Churches are doing their best in trying to help their ministerial staff, but in all honesty, they are only able to provide a small portion of what is actually needed.  Going cross-vocational can assure that a second employer is there to help with medical expenses and possibly even provide medical insurance as a benefit over and above the salary.

2. Access to influence.  Everyone knows that the community influence once held by pastors and ministers is waning in the US.  The church is being pushed further and further to the periphery of society, being displaced from the central position it once held.  A voice once sought after in community affairs is slowing being silenced from the public dialogue.

Yet, by remaining cross-vocational, you’re influence in not tied to your church position. It’s tied to the relationships and networks you’ve built within your community. Because you work in this industry or are a member of that professional group, your voice within community is held much stronger.

3.  Invitation to conversation.   There are two types of people never invited to the party: the pastor and the police.  Yet, Jesus was constantly being invited to gatherings of all sorts.  He was invited because people wanted to hear what he had to say.

When you’re only answer to the most avoided question – “What do you do for a living?” – is pastor or minister, you know the conversation will quickly end as walls go up and stereotypes flood in.  But if your honest answer is teacher, nurse, sales, event planner, web designer, then you have a chance for the conversation to move forward. You will be given the opportunity to build a relationship and engage in a conversation which eventually could lead to the topic of faith.  When your lead is “preacher,” the conversation is pretty much over.

4.  Financial freedom from the finance committee.  Lastly, I continue to say no to opportunities to return to FT ministry because, frankly, I don’t trust a committee or volunteer group to hold my financial future in the palm of their hands.

I am not opposed to churches utilizing finance or stewardship teams in making decisions on salaries and compensation.  I actually applaud congregational leadership and place value in seeking and hearing from wise counsel in decision making.

Yet, I don’t want an argument or disagreement I’ve had with one member of a single committee to become a foothold in my heart, creating fear and anxiety about my next paycheck or raise.   Nothing makes my blood boil more than a volunteer committee using the pastor or church leader’s salary as leverage to get what they want.

“If you don’t bend to my way, you will never see an increase as long as I am on that committee.”   This mentality is the exception to the rule, I assure you, but I have seen it with my own eyes and know it happens all the time.

The FT minister can be stuck between leading with courage and boldness and facing fear about feeding their family all because of a disagreement with someone on a volunteer committee.  When you have an income coming from somewhere other than the church, you can lead far more courageously.

For these reasons, and others, I am happy to say “no thank you” to the gracious invitations to return to FT church-based ministry.

Personally, I see the cross-vocational calling aligning well with the words of the Apostle Paul,

For you remember, brothers and sisters, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. (1 Thessalonians 2:9)

 

What’s Been Up with You Lately?

whats-up-docI was in a restaurant the other day and a friend I hadn’t seen in a while came in to eat. We saw each other and approached warmly to give a handshake and a hug.

After exchanging pleasantries, he asked, “What’s been up with you lately?”  A very regular thing to ask to an old friend.  My response started, “Well…a lot actually.”

What would constitute a lot?  Well, my beautiful wife, Jennifer, finished her PhD in Family Ministry from Southern Seminary back in December, which was huge for us. This was a long 5-year long process that began with her being laid out on the coach recovering from a back surgery.  She defended her dissertation a couple days before Christmas and passed with high marks.  She will walk in May.

What else?  Well, back in July I made a switch from full-time faculty to full-time administration at Campbellsville Univ.  I still teach a two or three classes per semester in the School of Theology, but my main responsibility is to serve as Dean of Online Education overseeing 25 fully-online academic programs at CU.  I am only 6 months into this new role when, just over the new year, I was asked to take leadership of the Graduate School, which has graduate programs online, on the main campus, and in Louisville.  This has been a HUGE growing experience in academic leadership, vision casting, team building, and systems management.  The learning curve has been steep.

What else?  Well…I told my friend at the restaurant… I am still serving as transitional pastor at First Baptist Monticello.  We’ve been there right at a year.  It is such a healthy place to be.  Great people.  Sweet spirit.  Generous in ministry.

What else?  Well, my oldest son has to get braces and my younger son is really doing great in school.

What else?  We are just a couple months away from finishing off all our student loans. Hallelujah.  And Jennifer is planning a fabulous western US summer vacation to celebrate her completion.

What else?  Well…as I recounted all of these life developments with my friend, I began reflecting in real-time that I am as happy as I have been in years.  I am feeling the shine of God’s favor and blessing.  I am amazed at His goodness and kindness to me and my family.

So what’s been up with you lately?

Personal Journeys Off the Map

vbs 2015The LifeWay Christian Resources VBS (vacation Bible school) theme for 2015 is “Journey Off the Map.”  The  theme captures the heart of adventure, unchartered territories, unknown places and dangerous challenges. I have been on the road with LifeWay the last couple weeks and have loved challenging leaders about what it means to follow God on a journey into the unknown.

The theme has got me thinking.  What is it about human nature that loves a good journey?  Why are we drawn to adventure novels, movies and stories?  Why do little boys and girls love to pretend to find hidden treasures in the backyard that can only be discovered with an ancient map?

Apparently God has implanted the desire for journey into our soul.

As I look back on my life, I have been on some great journeys.  They may not seem great to Mt. Everest climbers or Appalachian Trail trekkers, but they have been amazing journeys for me.

Short-term international mission trips have been a journey.  Places like the Sinai desert of Egypt, the ancient city of Xian, China, all through rugged Latin America and modernized Europe.

The chance to go on three Bible land tours has been a journey.  Walking where Jesus, Peter, Paul, Luke, Timothy, Titus walked has been a real adventure.

Leaving my home in KY and moving to Dallas/Fort Worth for seminary was a huge journey.  Saying good-bye to the familiarity and comfort of the Bluegrass state in lieu of full dependence on God and willingness to do whatever He called me to do in the Lone Star state.  Looking back, that journey was really hard but ABSOLUTELY worth every minute.  Without leaving, I don’t believe I would have grown as much as I did.

There have been more relational journeys that have been just as adventurous.  Marriage has been a wild journey.  Standing with and loving my wife of nearly 13 years has been a journey into uncharted waters.  Parenting two sons has been a great journey.  Watching them grow, learn, explore has been filled with adventure, and at times, chaos.

Teaching and walking alongside college students has been a glorious journey. Seeing them walk into college fresh, eager, green and hopefully leaving more matures equipped, discipled, trained and properly launched.

There is one student, in particular, that has been a journey to say the least.  From his entrance into our lives four years ago to his recent exit, he has completely transformed.  There is still more for God to do, but the difference is radical.

I love the journey.  I love the adventure into the unknown. I love letting God Almighty set the course and take me and my family anywhere He wants us to go.  I wonder what journeys lie ahead.

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

A KBC Boy from CU, SWBTS, SBTS and back to CU with No Problems Whatsoever

In the midst of a rather weighty and public dialogue happening between Campbellsville University and the Kentucky Baptist Convention, I wanted to shore up a few personal things about my experience as a Campbellsville student (’99 alumnus) and as a CU School of Theology faculty member since 2008.

I can’t speak for everyone who has been through our doors, but here are the indisputable, unshakeable facts about my personal experience at CU and connection with the KBC.

– I was saved and baptized in a rural KBC church in 1987 – the Lewisport Baptist Church in Lewisport, KY – through the ministry of VBS.  I have been a member of KBC church every year of my born-again Christian life, except while in TX during seminary.

– My home church supported my decision to go to Campbellsville University in the mid-90’s and even helped me financially.

My personal faith in Christ exploded while at CU.  My understanding and belief in the Bible grew 10-fold.  My love for taking the Gospel to the unreached peoples of the world “blew up” while studying here.  My call to ministry was significantly nurtured and encouraged.  The opportunities to serve in KBC churches and in God’s kingdom through all sorts of ministries was enhanced and elevated simply because I was at CU.

– After CU, I studied at Southwestern Baptist Theo. Seminary in Fort Worth, TX.  There wasn’t one thing at SWBTS that made me question my academic experience at CU.  It only added to what was already there – biblically, theologically, philosophically, and practically – everything was in line.

– While in seminary, I served in two SBC churches as youth minister.  In those churches I used what I learned at CU and from SWBTS without having to modify any of my core convictions or theological roots.  They were perfectly in line with traditional Baptistic ways.

– After seminary, I served a KBC church in Northern KY.  Again, no problems whatsoever theologically, biblically or practically.  My training at CU combined with SWBTS was in sync with kingdom-building, Gospel-expanding principles of leadership and strategy.

– As I began my doctoral studies at the Southern Baptist Theo. Seminary, again there were no problems whatsoever.  Actually, what I had learned at CU, plus SWBTS, plus in practical church experience made my SBTS time even more fruitful.  There were no snickers that a CU guy was studying at SBTS.  Even as I finished at SBTS and started my first year teaching at CU, no one said a word.  No one hinted of any problems.  All in all, everything was positive as far as I could tell.

– Six years ago when I came to CU to be considered for a position in the School of Theology, I was asked lots of questions.  My theology, biblical interpretation, methodology, experience, and practice of the spiritual disciplines were all questioned in the interview process.  Not because I was a risky candidate, but because that is what we do with everyone who is considered.

– In the 6 years I have been in the classroom, I have never been told to do anything other than teach biblical truths with my theological convictions openly and honestly before my students Everyone knows where I stand on things and that has never been a problem.  Again, no issues whatsoever.

– In addition to teaching, CU leaders have overwhelmingly embraced and encouraged me to continue serving in KBC churches.  I have served four KBC churches as interim pastor: Parkway BC, Bethany BC, Lancaster BC and Hurstbourne BC.  There has never been any issues with me being a CU, SWBTS, SBTS and KBC guy.  Again, no issues whatsoever.

– Lastly, my wife is nearing the completion of her Ph.D. from SBTS in Family Ministry and has taught five classes at CU as an adjunct instructor.  Again, no problems or issues whatsoever.

Are you seeing a running theme?  In summary, we are, and have always been, KBC connected.  My family are, and will continue to be,  members of a KBC church.  I will hopefully, if God wills, continue serving as an interim pastor in KBC churches.

Obituary for Crystal Danielle (Garrison) Horton

Jan. 13, 1980 – Jul. 15, 2014

Crystal Smith Horton

Crystal Danielle (Garrison) Smith – 1/13/80 – 7/15/14

Crystal Danielle Horton, 34, passed away on Tuesday, July 15, 2014 at her residence. Crystal was born in Hardinsburg on Sunday, January 13, 1980 to Danny (Denise) Garrison of Lewisport and Donna Sue (O’Neal) Wall of South Carolina. Crystal worked at Whitworth Tools and Subway in Hardinsburg. She was an active member of Hardinsburg Methodist Church and was a 1998 graduate of Breckenridge County High School.

Her greatest joy was spending time with her children and family. Crystal is preceded in death by her fraternal grandfather, Ivan Garrison; her fraternal grandmother Ozella Hines, and her maternal grandmother, Dolly Mattingly.

Crystal is survived by her parents Danny and Denise Garrison of Lewisport and Donna Sue and O’Neal Wall of Plum Branch, South Carolina; a son, Connar Smith, and a daughter Haley Smith, both of Hardinsburg.

She is also survived by her brothers, Chris Garrison of Lewisport, Shane (Jennifer) Garrison of Campbellsville, and Justin Wall of South Carolina; her grandfather, Paul Mattingly of Hardinsburg and her grandmother, Sue Hill of Lewisport.

She is also survived by her step-brother, Ryan Williamson of Hawesville; her step-sisters, Kelly (Keith) Cambron of Lewisport, and Rhonda (Steve) Wininger of Jasper, Indiana; her aunts, Sheila Dowell Priest of Hardinsburg, Bonnie (Jim) Yocum of Louisville, Missy James of Lewisport, Lucy (David) Terrell of Owensboro; and uncles Ernie Garrison of Lewisport and Keith (Serita) Dowell of Custer, Ky., as well as several nieces, nephews and cousins.

Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Taylor-Wood Funeral Home in Lewisport (295-3312). Visitation is from 2:00 to 8:00 P.M. Friday and after 9:00 a.m. Saturday followed by Crystal’s funeral service at 11:00 a.m. in the funeral home chapel.

Burial will follow in Lewisport Cemetery. Bro. Greg Shannon and Dr. Shane Garrison will officiate.

Proud Papa, A Father’s Day Reflection

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The 2014 CYB Phillies – Pee Wee League Champs. Isaac is on the second row, third from left.

My 8 year old son Isaac and his Pee Wee baseball team, the Phillies, are league champs, but that is not what is making this Father’s Day special.

They had a great year with a 13-2 record in the regular season, winning the league championship, and going into the year-end tournament a #1 seed, but that is not what is making this Father’s Day special.

Isaac learned more about baseball than we could have ever imagined.  At the beginning of the season he could barely throw 5 feet away and couldn’t catch a thing.  He was terrified to hit, run, or have a ball hit his way.  I am not exaggerating.

As an 8 year old who had never cared one day about baseball, he really only wanted to play because his 6 year old brother was stealing some of the spotlight.

From the very beginning, we knew he was in for a very different experience.  He was really challenged by the coaches to figure the game out.  Every rule, position, strategy, and technique of baseball was completely foreign to him.  He and I started playing Mario Super Slugger on the Wii just he could figure out the names of the positions and how you got an out.

Everything he learned about baseball, from the rules to how to swing a bat to how you run the bases, was all brand new and completely from scratch.  We played and practiced a lot in the backyard.  He did great, but that is not what is making this Father’s Day special.

He has a little plague now in his room that declares the world that he was on the 2014 Campbellsville Youth Baseball Pee League championship team, but that is not what is making this Father’s Day special.

This Father’s Day is special because on Sunday, the day before the championship game, my son Isaac leaned over to his mother during our invitation at church and said, “Mommy, I need to be saved.”

When he and his momma came to me in the front, my son was gripped by the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  This was not him doing something we wanted, this was him saying “I need Jesus in my life as my personal savior.”

We have been talking and discussing this for quite sometime.  But this was his decision.  We knew nothing about it.  We had no clue it was coming like it did.

My Isaac, my little laughter, who is named for the son of Abraham and Sarah, a child of promise, a child of a new heritage, a child that God gave to begin a new spiritual legacy, is now and will forever be my brother in Christ.

That is making this Father’s Day very, very special.

My Experience as a Campbellsvillian

Teaching in Druien Hall.

Rampant news has been swirling – some true, some false – about my alma mater and employer Campbellsville University with specific attention directed toward my area the CU School of Theology.

I have not had any desire to pour more fuel on this raging fire and have actually encouraged my students to stay out of the fray, however, I have been encouraged to speak about my experience at CU as a student back in the 90’s in the School of Theology.

I offer three truths about my alma mater and school.

1.  As a student, this place changed my life forever by exposing me to Christ, to his calling for my life, to the truthfulness of Scripture, to the ministry of serving others as unto the Lord, to the task of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth, and to the role of loving people who are from every Christian tradition.  As I had the opportunity to serve Christ in closed countries, in major urban centers, and down dirt paths, I learned that you shouldn’t get too bothered about who is a Methodist and who is a Baptist.  You are just happy to serve alongside people who, like you, love Jesus and want to tell others about Him.

2.  As a student, I was trained by great men and women of God who loved Jesus, His Word, the Gospel and the mission of the church.  Faithful men like Dr. Ted Taylor who has served 40+ years in local church ministry and Dr. John Hurtgen whose passion for the New Testament and Christian fellowship are as evident today as they were back then.  Also outstanding Christian women and scholars like Dr. Paula Qualls who loved the Old Testament more than anyone I’ve ever met and showed me how to love it as well.

3.  As a student, I formed lifelong friendships with many brothers and sisters in Christ who are now serving around the world as missionaries and in our nation as pastors and ministers.  These friendships continue to model one of the School of Theology core values: partners in enduring fellowship.

Lastly, I want all to know that I came to faith in Jesus through the ministry of a KBC church in Lewisport, KY.  I was baptized, discipled and called to ministry in a KBC church.  I have served on two KBC church staffs.  I have been an interim pastor for four KBC churches.  I have four CP-supported theological degrees – one from CU, two from SWBTS and one from SBTS.  I am a Southern Baptist and KY Baptist through and through.

I believe the Bible is true.  I believe the Gospel is the only means of salvation.  I believe that my role as a man, husband, father, pastor, and professor is to offer and explain this glorious Gospel to every person I meet.   These biblical convictions have never been questioned or prevented while attending, or now while teaching, at CU.  They have only been encouraged and enhanced.  I have a platform that most pastors never have.  I get to teach unbelieving young men and women the Gospel in class every day and they have to come and listen.  This is a wonderful mission.

I am proud to be a small part of the CU story.  I love my alma mater and employer.

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.

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?

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“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.

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.

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.

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.

Hurricane Isaac on the Soccer Field

Just a couple pictures from last Saturday, Sept. 8, for Isaac’s first game in the Campbellsville Youth Soccer U8 league.  His team is navy blue.  These were taken by the league photographer.

It was a downpour, but the kids got out there and played like champions.

Far Right.  Notice the height on his jump.  That is some serious vertical lift.  All of 3 inches.

“Watch the ball.  Track the ball.  Be the ball.”
He ended the day with 3 or 4 goals.  They don’t keep score, so we really never know.