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Thanks for the memories!

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Yesterday was my last day as senior pastor at Providence! Now I am just a member, but I want to be a good one!

When Cathy and I found ourselves with eleven other couples on the threshold of starting a new church in 1978, we could never have predicted what the next 37 years had in store for us!  After preaching thousands of sermons, writing several books and articles, traveling hundreds of thousands of miles to speak at conferences here and abroad, baptizing hundreds, marrying hundreds more, counseling those in trouble or in need, comforting those who were bereaved or hurting in some way, sharing the gospel with individuals, small groups or entire congregations, my calling to preach the gospel and to equip the saints for the work of ministry has never left me in search of something to do!

For all the mistakes I made, and the failures I endured, there was never a moment in all those years when I felt any lack of support from you. Don’t get me wrong! There were plenty of antagonists to be found along the way and the sailing was not always smooth. But I always knew that Providence consisted primarily of men and women who loved Christ, loved His Word, loved His church, and yes, loved me as their pastor. How can I thank you properly for all of that?  What words of praise can adequately be expressed to a great and glorious Savior, Jesus Christ?  Praise and thanksgiving will always be in my heart and on my lips for you and to Him who alone is worthy to be exalted!

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David and Cathy; Jeff, Elizabeth, Michael and Brian; Scott, Meredith, Tom and Cate; Jon, Meghan and Graham.

Through all of those years, you the people of Providence have extended much grace to me and my family! Thanks for loving my family and for loving me well!

Looking back, some of you I baptized, then officiated at your weddings, dedicated your babies…only to get to do the same thing for your children!  Scores of you we ordained to the ministry, hundreds we commissioned to be missionaries, and thousands of others we affirmed to be salt and light in whatever circumstances God has placed you.  In this day of short pastoral tenures, who gets to stay in one place long enough to do all of that? Your gracious love and prayers and faithfulness provided a place for us to call home and raise our own family right here.

From a purely practical standpoint, you have also been a generous people. Through four relocations, you stood by the ministry and gave freely so that we have never had debt for more than a few years at any given time. We have met our budget all but a handful of those 37 years. And even then, we managed our spending well and ended the year in the black! That was done without ever compromising our commitment to give sacrificially and gladly to support various missions endeavors around the globe as a gospel centered church should. You have joined me to treasure Christ and make His glory known in your hearts and in all the earth! Thank you for that!!

May the riches of His grace flow freely as Brian Frost excels in his new role.  I now get to join you as a member of Providence, loving, supporting and praying for my new pastor.  So as I step aside and Brian becomes your Senior Pastor today, my heart is filled with joy and gratitude that I have been your pastor and friend all these years. “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth” (3 John 4).

As I begin a new phase of ministry as Executive Director of Equipped for Life ministries, continuing to equip the saints for the work of ministry, especially ministry leaders, please pray for me as I will for you! May the grace of Jesus Christ be yours completely!

Does a pastor ever need help?

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Recently, this picture appeared on Facebook and I re-posted it because it struck me as quite comical!  Sometimes pastors feel like they are running for their lives!be a pastor they said

Not sure who “they” are who said that, but frankly sometimes being a pastor is NOT fun!  But when God is the One who calls, being a pastor is the best…even if once in a while it might feel like a Jack Sparrow moment!

At the end of this month, I will complete over 37 years as a pastor and turn the reins over to Brian Frost, our next pastor.  As my tenure comes to an end, I can say with complete candor that I have been blessed to be the pastor of an amazing church.  Providence Baptist Church, its leaders and members, have allowed me to serve them and shepherd them for a very long time!  How can I express my gratitude for that?  Not many pastors get to do what I have done and experience life together with a loving, appreciative, supportive people.  Not that it has always been an easy calling!!  That is why I think every pastor relates to the picture above!

But how can churches and pastors be more likely to do better than mereefl logoly survive ministry?  In January, I will begin a ministry called Equipped for Life, also the name of this blog.  My whole ministry life has been devoted to equipping the saints for the work of the ministry so it is only fitting that I get the opportunity to continue that at another level.

One of the focuses of that ministry will be to equip pastors and other Christian leaders to find the joy of Christ and the fruit of the Spirit in their calling.  Another part of that ministry will be to help churches and their leaders understand how to function in the most biblical ways possible as they follow the lead of their pastors.  sunergos

That part of the ministry will be called Sunergos Equipping Ministry.  Sunergos is the Greek word for “working together with.”  I will be working together with churches and Christian leaders to help them find the pleasures I have enjoyed for all these years at Providence – and if possible help them avoid the parts that were not always enjoyable!

Pastoring and functioning well as a Christian leader can be a delight.  Pray for this ministry to reach the right churches and pastors and leaders so that every year more of them will find the joy of Christ in their ministries!  In addition to the coaching, consulting and mentoring aspect of this work, I will also be available for teaching, preaching and conferences.  Lots of ground to cover should the Lord allow.  I will keep you posted as this new ministry develops!

Chapter number next…thoughts of a grateful man!

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Well, the time is fast approaching!

As a 26 year-old pastor without much of a clue about what leading a church meant, back in 1978 God put me in the right place at the right time to become the pastor of a new congregation, Providence Baptist Church.  All I knew for certain was that God always provides abundantly for anything He asks of us, that I had a talented and supportive wife named Cathy, and that an extraordinary opportunity had been placed right in front of us to make a difference in the city of Raleigh for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now, almost 37 years later, I am down to my last few months as senior pastor here at Providence.  This is the only place I have ever pastored and the only place I have ever wanted to be.  The environment of grace at Providence has given me the rich privilege of loving and being loved by a gracious people as we have pursued Christ together.  With many missteps and stumbles, I have learned in the trenches of practical ministry the ups and downs of shepherding God’s people, and yet have been given room to grow through the failures, rejoice in the victories for Christ, delight in seeing scores of pastors ordained, hundreds of missionaries sent out and thousands of people come and be better equipped to go as God has led.

DSC_6501June 28 proved to be a memorable day in my life.  Sadly, that morning, my Mom died at 6:15 after enduring failing health for the past couple of years.  It was tough to watch her go, but with a sense of relief and joy to see her enter into her eternal home with Christ.  A new day for Mom has been secured by grace through Jesus Christ!  That evening back in Raleigh at Providence, the members stepped up in an astounding display of unity and affirmed their support for Brian Frost to be my successor as senior pastor at Providence.  By a secret ballot vote, he was approved by a 674-0 vote of the congregation.  A new day for Providence has been set to begin under Brian’s capable, godly leadership!

On that same night, the elders then had the opportunity to announce that I would spend the next six months coaching and mentoring my good friend Brian as he prepares to take the reins as senior pastor on January 1, 2016.  That also means that on that date, after 37 years and 3 months, my ministry will change and be something other than senior pastor of Providence Baptist Church.  Other than a few early years of student ministry, I have never known anything else but being the pastor at Providence so the adventure before me is huge!

As this transition begins, lots of people have been asking great questions about what’s next for us.  Indeed an exciting new chapter of ministry will be coming my way beginning in 2016.  Some have asked about my “retirement” plans.  I have to answer by saying I don’t have any such plans at this point!  Far from retiring, I see some of my most active days of ministry yet–and they are just around the corner!  Providence has made chapter one in my ministry years a satisfying and amazing journey.  Now, we anticipate chapter number next!

Pray for Cathy and me as we wind down our labor of love here over the next several months and wind up our new adventure as I step into the lead role for a ministry called Equipped for Life.  I have just finished year one of my PhD studies and know that much profitable labor remains for me in that direction for some time to come.  A season of rest early in 2016 will be followed by a period of intense focus for the development of Equipped for Life as Cathy and I work on the foundation stones for this exciting new ministry.

In a later post, I will answer some of the questions I have been asked the most about this period of transition, explain what Equipped for Life is and hopes to accomplish, and in general how I am feeling about where the Lord is directing our steps.

For now, thank you for your interest in reading this far!  We have been most blessed to serve Providence for most of our lives and will continue to call her our church home.  We love this place and her people and intend to be right here supporting Brian and the rest of the ministry team as long as the Lord gives us breath!  Until next time, know this–I am one grateful man for the goodness of God, for the love of an amazing wife and family, and the privilege of serving alongside some of the best folks in the world right here at Providence.  Thanks!

“When Missions Shapes the Mission” Kindle sale!

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Just found out that my book, When Missions Shapes the Mission, is on sale via Kindle for only $0.99!  Thanks to all who let me know that, and thanks to others who actually went there and bought it!!

http://www.amazon.com/When-Missions-Shapes-Mission-Church-ebook/dp/B004Z7SHCM/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2_kin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1427502193&sr=1-1&keywords=when+missions+shapes+the+mission

Praying that God will use this work to stir up a growing passion and commitment in churches and with their leaders to keep missions in the forefront of their calling and ministry!

“Though You Slay Me” — Shane and Shane

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shane2Sometimes in our lives, we have to make a call.  Will we make a judgment that God has done us wrong, or will we choose to trust Him to be all wise even when we don’t understand what is going on or why.  In Job 13:15, we read,  “Though he slay me, I will hope in him;  yet I will argue my ways to his face.”  Which will it be?  Yes, we are free to ask why, but what we need never wonder is whether it is worth it when life gets hard, afflictions come.  As this song by Shane and Shane calls out a response from the hurting heart, a segment from a teaching by John Piper is edited in over the music.  His premise is certain–all of our light and momentary afflictions are totally meaningful in light of all that God is doing through it…”For momentary, light affliction is producing in us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Hear the song, listen to the Piper voice-over and marvel that our God never wastes a moment of our lives.

“Though You Slay Me”

So what about the Crusades?

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Crusades2What do you know about the Crusades?  Or more precisely, what do you think you know about the Crusades?

Since the recent presidential prayer breakfast, President Obama’s characterization of the atrocities of ISIS as something no more or less horrible than the Crusades generated quite a response!  His remarks have called attention to a chapter in the history of the church that frankly embarrasses Christians.  The folk lore surrounding most recollections of these Crusades leaves us wondering how such things could have been done in the name of the Prince of Peace!

Well, there is a lot of truth behind that concern.  But, few recent accounts and references to the Crusades have the slightest hint about their historical background.  An article appeared in Christianity Today magazine in May 2005, first written for Crisis magazine in 2002, by Thomas F. Madden, associate professor and chair of the Department of History at St. Louis University.  The article, “The Real History of the Crusades,” sheds some much needed light on this matter, and in fact should shame most of us for how little we really know about what happened and why.  Political correctness will make it highly unlikely for information like this to be a welcome contribution to the cultural understanding of what has come to be a derogatory and indefensible series of actions spanning four or five centuries.

Read for yourself and see if you learn anything that helps you get a better grasp of the dynamics of the Crusades.  Nothing in the article is intended to excuse acts of horrendous atrocity committed by Crusaders.  But there are nearly always two sides to every issue.  I think you will agree that this is profitable information to know.  The link is to the article in Christianity Today.  Sometimes it requires a subscription to see the entire article and sometimes it does not.  I apologize if it requires for you to sign up, but even if it does, the historical data will be worth your investment.

The Real History of the Crusades

 

Choose Life! 42 Years Later…

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This year marks the 42nd anniversary of Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court decision that opened a flood gate of atrocity against the unborn.  Estimates run as high as 57 million lives have been taken in the womb through the horrors of abortion.

Today I am posting a sermon I preached 20 years ago on the 22nd anniversary.  I do hope you find it helpful and will pass it on as you think appropriate.

Here is a pdf version of a sermon that still rings true today, twenty years later!  Click on the link below to bring up the message.

CHOOSING LIFE

 

Living against the grain by believing the Bible

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221una-lectur_1354119604675Living against the grain…that is what it is like to take a stand for Christ in a culture that does not see eye to eye with biblical faith.  On Sunday at Providence, we took time to explain why the Bible is a trustworthy foundation upon which to build our lives.  We can trust what He says, of course, but in order to live in the fullness of our new life in Christ, we must learn how to do what He says.

Healthy, new-born babies have a natural hunger that compels them to demand food. Their piercing cries in the night will long be remembered by their parents as a clear indication that the little one desired food. Their hunger and cry for food reminded their parents that a new life needs nourishment.

In the same way, when someone has been born of the Spirit of God, the natural, normal response to new life is to hunger for spiritual food. God’s Word is that food. A healthy, growing church is made up of people who have been born of the Spirit–or born again–and who have a real hunger for the Word of God. Just as physical food helps us grow to maturity physically, so spiritual food helps us grow to maturity spiritually.

Since God has revealed His will to His people through His Word, the Bible, it is essential for us to place ourselves totally under the authority of that Word. In order to grow toward maturity, therefore, we must come together as a church to ask ourselves week by week, day by day, and moment by moment two weighty questions: 1) Are you willing to do what the Bible says? 2) What does the Bible say?

The Bible calls His disciples the righteous ones of Christ.  But they will be righteous only as they answer those questions correctly. Paul writes in Romans 2:13: “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” The second part of the verse should give us the answer to the first question. We must be willing to do what the Bible says if we expect to please God and so inherit His blessing in our lives. “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and obey it.” (Luke 11:28)

On this point, we must be very clear. Our willingness to obey puts us under the umbrella of the authority of God’s Word as a rule of life. Therefore, all that is written in God’s Word is applicable to all of our lives. There is no room for negotiation. There is no room for compromise. If we are God’s people, we must be willing to do all that His Word requires of us.

What, then, does the Word of God say? That is the primary focus of our attention each time the body of Christ gathers. As a matter of fact, the role of the pastor-teacher according to Ephesians 4:12-13 is “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” I am called to teach and preach the Word of God to the end that the saints of God are maturing in Him through a knowledge of what the Bible says. What that knowledge requires is obedience.

So there it is. Will we do what the Bible says? Then, come, let us find together what it says, and then we will put it into practice so that the God of peace will be with us in all of His fullness!

Beyond the looting…

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Few people of color expect those of us who are not to ever understand.  They know that their world seldom crosses into ours.  To be white in a majority culture means never having to face the unspoken recognition that in spite of progress in some areas of racial concern, racism resides at or just below the surface all the time.

With the new trauma of yet another violent death facing the nation, the sense of powerless frustration…the boiling caldrons of anger…the inexplicable reactions…all point to a deeper pain than cannot be translated across racial lines.  For that, I am grieved.  So many of my strongest friendships cross those lines.  So many of the relationships that enrich my life are limited because the world I live in and the world my friends of color live in are just not the same.  I never think of being unjustly profiled.  Few people of color ever spend a day without thinking about it.

I grew up and have spent most of my life in the South, surrounded by and loving the racial diversity here.  Yet I have lived through riots in the late sixties and wept as friends lost family members in the streets.  But I was never really afraid of what could happen because of the color of my skin.  Tonight I read with profound sadness the thoughts of a good friend on what it means to be black in America, the fears of what still can happen and the feeling of impotence to do anything to guarantee that things will be different for your own kids.  Many whites will respond to the tensions by focusing on the criminal acts of a few trouble-makers, but they will excuse themselves from the troubling considerations of what other factors are at work to generate such powerful passions of racial tension.

thabitiPlease read this blog post by Thabiti Anyabwile.  After many years serving as a pastor outside the United States, he has come back to plant a new church.  Hear what he says and try to understand an experience of life in our nation that you cannot fully grasp unless you are from a minority group.  And after you read it, I do hope you will have learned how to pray in a more informed manner and see the breadth of the racial problem with fresh eyes.  To Thabiti, I say thanks again for your way of capturing heart and mind as you open eyes to see how great our need is for the healing grace and transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/2014/08/18/coming-back-to-america-my-one-fear/

Come, Lord Jesus!

ALS Awareness — Taking the IceBucket Challenge

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Ice bucketAfter several weeks of watch video of others, I finally got to participate!  I challenged our own pastors at Providence to join me after our congregational worship and prayer time last night.  While the kids and their parents enjoyed a little ice cream out in the courtyard, we got our buckets ready and joined the millions who have already gotten drenched for a great cause–research for ALS treatment.  Sure there are many other causes, but this one is here…it is now…it has impacted our church…and we could do something!  So why not?

Cathy and I wanted to join in personally so not only did I get the ice bucket treat, but we will make a donation to ALSA.org.  But beyond that, we want to extend the effort and also make a donation to Alzheimer’s research, the horrible disease that took her Mom’s life a couple of years ago.

So, enjoy the silly video, and look beyond it.  Someone had a simple idea and it struck a nerve and generated millions of dollars for a worthy cause!  What a delight to be able to give and enjoy it so much!!  Thanks to the folks at Providence who cheered us on!