The Pastoral Plan for Amissville Baptist Church

pastorFor all its vast complexities, Church ministry consists of two essential elements, preaching and love.

The church should preach the Word even when society opposes the Bible’s sexual ethic, even when the local community deems the Bible’s view of depravity outdated, and even when church members and pastors do not like hearing that God commands us to put the needs of others before our own. God’s Word is often unpopular. But it is also gracious, joyous, and life giving. Paul encourages Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:13-16 with the following advice:

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.  Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Salvation, hope, joy, kindness, and life are found in the Word of God. If the church loses the Scriptures or minimizes the presence of the Word in worship, in Bible Studies, and in the youth group, the church will die. Her building may expand, but her people will drift far from the God of the universe into eternal despair. Rather, the church must continue in the Word. If the people of God devote themselves to the preaching and the reading of the Word, they will save themselves and others. The church will grow, succeed, and survive.

As your pastor, I come to preach the Scriptures. During my first year at Amissville Baptist Church, I want to regularly and faithfully preach, teach, and share the Word in all that I do.

But great preaching cannot thrive on its own. The preacher’s devotion to the Word must be matched by his commitment to love others. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:2:

 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

Though many associate 1 Corinthians 13 with romantic love that they have commemorated via the artwork hung on their living room wall, Paul is addressing the love of the believer. He is detailing how Christians should conduct themselves. Paul says believers should be known as those who love each other. A man can preach greatest sermons, fill row after row of pews with tech, savvy youth, and break into the conference circuit and still fail to love his family and his congregation well. Such a man is nothing more than a clanging cymbal. He is one who proclaims the majesty of God and then slinks into a hole because he cannot in good conscience encourage others follow his loveless lifestyle. His family knows he never has time to hear about their struggles or complaints or to attend their basketball games. His church members know not to call him because he has little time for talking, counseling, or prayer. And the advice he does give seldom goes beyond, “Read your Bible and pray more.” Lacking love, the preacher proclaims a gospel that he has not experienced. All people who have been deeply touched by the love of Christ cannot help but love their brothers and sisters.  The apostle John affirms Paul’s teaching and writes:

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20).

When preaching is combined with love, the Gospel goes forward with incredible power. When men and women know their pastor calling them to change is himself being changed by the love of God, their hearts fill with joy and encouragement. I have been blessed to experience this joy first hand. Both at the Bible Church of Little Rock and at Fairdale Baptist Church, godly men regularly preached the Word in love and kindly confronted me when they saw sin in my life. God used their love for the Word and for me to shape and grow my faith.

Though I am definitely an imperfect man with many faults who daily repents, I desire to love the people of Amissville well. I hope to love you as I have been loved.

When I think about all that has happened over the last several months, my heart leaps for joy! April and I our counting down the days till our arrival! We look forward to introducing two (soon to be three) little kiddos to our Amissville family and to getting settled into Northern Virginia!

I cannot wait to worship with you on April 22! To Preach and to love! May God bless us all!

Are You Ready To Listen More and do Less in Church?

risk-all.gifAre you willing to listen?

Right before Jesus took off for the cross, he stopped and conversed with the rich young ruler (Mk 10:17). He delayed his march to Jerusalem, to his death, and to his victory over the grave to talk with the young man and to point him to Christ. As believers and followers of Christ, we must have the same disposition and mindset. We must be willing to stop and converse with others. We must care enough about our neighbors, our children, and our spouse to abandon our programs, our goals, and our ministries to care for them.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer rightly noted that “Our love for another consists first of all in listening.” The greatest success one can have is not found in creating a program that employees hundreds or thousands of people. Our greatest success, our most profound moments, our greatest times of influence often come when we stop and listen.

And we should not stop and listen simply to appreciate a violin solo or to notice the sunset. Those things are good and noble. They exist for our enjoyment and point to the beauty and majesty of our creator. We should stop and listen to hear people’s hearts, to learn of their sorrows and to point them to Christ. Many people wind up in crisis, depressed, hurt, and horribly broken because no one was willing to lay aside their schedules, programs, and ministries to care for them. As speaker, pastor, and counselor Paul David-Trip notes:

Perhaps the simplest reason for our lack of self-disclosing candor is that no one else asks.

Jesus took time to listen to the rich young ruler and to ask questions the drew out his heart. Jesus took the time to know what we all experience becoming human so that he could perfectly relate to us for the purpose of redeeming us. If Christ has so loved us, how can we not in turn love others?

If we Jesus and truly want to follow him, we too must be willing to stop, to listen, and to draw our the hearts of those around us. We must be willing to be thrown of task and schedule for the gospel. We must be willing to risk a large invest of time and be willing to receive a result that we deem less than desirable. We must be willing to follow Christ and love others not matter the cost.

Crazy, Stupid, Self-Love

self-loveDo we need to love ourselves more?   theologians have claimed believe they answer is a responding, “Yes!”  When the read Mathew 22:29; Romans 13:9, or James 2:9 with a heavy bent towards secular thinking, they conclude that God is all about us loving ourselves more. They say things like the following, “You cannot love others until your love yourself.” Or, “We can only begin to love others when we start loving ourselves.”

We love hearing these words. We love being told to spend more time meditating on our wants, our desires, and our needs. As fallen people, we love celebrating ourselves especially when we have the religious right to do so.

But the Bible never calls us to love ourselves. We do that just fine without any divine urging.  As Paul notes in Ephesians 5:29, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it.” Our spiritual problems, eating disorders, and broken relationships do not arise from a lack of self-love. They arise from an overflow of self-love.

Now admittedly, some Christians will be quick to point out the anorexic girls, the suicidal teenagers, and the depressed middle-aged men all appear to be driven by anything and everything not labeled ‘self-love.” These three people are struggling because they do not care about their body, the life, or their well-being.

But according to the Scriptures, these destructive habits are actually driven by selfishness. In Psalm 37:4, we are told to, “Delight yourself in the Lord, And he will give you the desires of your heart.” The girl who is wasting away, the teenager who is depressed, and the man who struggles for meaning all feel lost because they are seeking to find life and fulfillment in something other than God. They have rejected Gods commands have tried to find joy through winning the support of others, through good grades, or through large sums of money. And when those idols failed (and they always do), these men and women find themselves surrounded by darkness and despair.

Commenting on this very phenomenon, Edward T. Welch hits the nail squarely on the head in his book, When People Are Big And God is Small:

That’s the paradox of self-esteem: Low self-esteem usually mean that I think too highly of myself. I’m too self-involved, I feel I deserve better than what I have. The reason I feel bad about myself is that I aspire to something more. I want just a few more minutes of greatness. I am a peasant who wants to be a king. When you are in the grips of low self-esteem it’s painful, and it certainly doesn’t feel like pride. But I believe that this is the dark, quieter side of pride – thwarted pride.

Our deficiency, is Jesus. We need more Jesus in our life.

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 16:25).

kane-reinholdtsen-188778Jesus and the apostles tell us to love others with the love we devote to ourselves because we all love ourselves dearly. We all know this. We do not have to tell a baby to be selfish, to scream for food, or to demand candy. The little people of the world do these tasks effortlessly because they love themselves. You do not have to tell anyone to care for their desires. We all do it. We may not do it in socially acceptable or logical way. But ultimately we are all seeking after the things that believe will bring us happiness: academic degrees, meth, physical fitness, new shoes, food, and on and on. Self-love is something we all engage in because we are all sinners. God taps into the idea of self-love to give us and analogy, a picture of what true love looks like. True love looks like caring for others with the same innate ability with which we care for ourselves. As Paul says, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10). The law exists because we are all naturally self-centered people who need to be re-centered on Jesus. To arrive at true love, we have to deny ourselves and follow Christ.

Though it is helpful and biblical to think about love through our human lens, the ultimately example of love in seen in the work of Christ. As I John 4 makes clear, love is sacrificing all for someone else regardless of that persons worth. Love is not selfish; it is selfless.

We were never worth saving. We were enemies of God, who delighting in mocking, attacking, and destroying the creator of the universe. Yet, God died for us anyway. He came not because sinners deserved saving. The wages of sin is death. Jesus came because he loved us. This is the best definition and motivation for love. We love others because God first loved us. We do not love others because we love ourselves and then discover that others need to be valued.

We love because we have been loved by our heavenly father. To extend true love to others, we must stop putting our desires in the center of our little universes. We need to start making the God of the universe the center of our universe. Only when we love God and cherish him above all else will we be able to find solutions to our problems.

Telling sinners captivated by self-love to love themselves is akin to telling a drug addict to consume more meth in hopes of finding relief. Deliverance from sin and hope for the future never come from within us sinners. They came from outside of us. They come from God.

So are you ready to abandon the crazy, stupid, love of the self and embrace the true love that comes through Christ?