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even when society opposes the Bible’s sexual ethic, even when the local community deems the Bible’s view of depravity outdated, and even when church members and pastors do not like hearing that God commands us to put the needs of others before our own.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!

Great Kids’ Lessons Are Text Driven

kids-sermon-1When many Christians think of awesome kids’ sermons or Sunday school lessons, they think back to that gooey craft, or to that really moving illustration, or to that magical moment where half the class came forward to confess Christ as their savior in response to a hip pastor guy’s message.  The power of the lesson is often judged by how kids respond to the words that just rang off their eardrums. While such thinking is common place, it is not helpful;  it’s not even biblical.

In John 4, Jesus told the woman at the well to ask him for, “living water.” She responded to Christ’s message by repenting and believing and leading many others to Christ. A little later in John 6, Jesus told his hearers to embrace him as the “living bread.”The text reports that “From that time many of his disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (John 6:51-66).

In Acts 2, Peter eloquent preaches the whole gospel beginning with the prophet Joel and almost 3000 people repent of their sins. In Acts 7. Stephen presents the whole gospel beginning with Abraham and he gets stoned to death.

If the validity of the message is determined by the response of those who hear it, then Stephen was one of the worst evangelists of all time. When is the last time you saw an American congregation murder an evangelist for a poor sermon?  Even worse, Jesus was an ineffective teacher. The God-man failed to bring men and women to point of crisis needed to push them into the kingdom of heaven. If Jesus can preach an ineffective sermon, there is little hope for us, his followers.

The pragmatic approach to teaching is not the right approach. The examples above reveal that a good sermon and a good gospel presentation have to be based on something more than the fickle reactions of human beings.  As J.I. Packer wrote,

And if we forget that only God can give faith, we shall start to think that the making of converts depends, in the last analysis not on God, but on us, and that the decisive factor is the way in which we evangelize. And this line of thought, consistently followed through will lead us far astray.

The quality of the message is determined by its faithfulness to the message of Jesus, the word who became flesh. Jesus was the greatest preacher and evangelist of all time. Peter and Stephen were also great men of God. What made them remarkable was their message. They preached the Word clearly and powerfully. Because of their faithfulness to Christ, their sermons are included in the Bible. All of them show us how to create a good lesson by focusing . We are to focus on the Word. As Paul told Timothy,

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching.

– 2 Timothy 4:2-3.

Men and women can teach really awesome and inspiring lessons and be hated by the kids listening to them. They can teach really bad lessons and be applauded by the whole church. But the judge of our effectiveness is not the men and women that we can see. Our judge is the God above. And he tells us to “preach the word.” To be a great teacher, we have only to do this.

J.I. Packer comments again:

The way to tell whether in fact you are evangelizing is not to ask whether conversions are known to have resulted from your witness. It is to ask whether you are faithfully making known the gospel message.

A great kids’ sermon and/or Sunday school lesson is not the one that evokes an emotional response or the one that connects with a kid’s imagination through an amazing craft. Those things are not wrong but they are not ultimate. The great teacher is the one who presents the gospel clearly relying upon the Scriptures for the ideas. The Bible is the Christian’s one and only message. Are we teaching it?

Kids’ Pastors Should Pastor

kids-pastors-that-pastorThere is a reason kids’ ministry sometimes gets separated from Big Church. In Big church, people love listening to the organ. In kids’ Ministry, people jump up and down to the rhythm of the drums. In big church people sit calmly in pews struggling to stay awake. In kids’ ministry, the people run around throwing dodge balls at each other. In big church, you great each other with a hand shake. In kids’ ministry you get greeted with a pie to the face. Kids’ ministry often looks very different from adult ministry.

But despite appearances, they are actually very similar. Both are based on the preaching and teaching of the gospel. To be effective both must proclaim the Word. The same gospel that saves little old ladies saves crazy little grade schoolers.

And because the preaching and teaching of the gospel is essential to kids’ ministry, churches should require their kids’ pastors to be teachers. They should care more about the content of their Wednesday night kids’ program than how much green slime was used. In short, the church should not just look for kids’ pastors that can run a nursery or entertain the little ones for 2-3 hours a week. These are good things. But they are not the ultimate thing. Kids’ pastor need to pastor.

Notice what Paul tells Timothy:

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 (I Tim 4:16).

How do you reach kids? How does your kids’ pastor keep his soul refreshed and point kids to the gospel? He watches his teaching. He spends time studying the Word. He regularly and frequently immerses himself in the Bible. And because he studies, he can accurately teach it to others. He can show others how to become more like Christ (I Tim. 4:13). Because he studies, he can reach your kids with the gospel.

At the end of the day, a kids’ pastor will only be effective if he is regularly in the Scriptures. Yes, it’s good to have a guy who can relate to kids, who can create great programing, and who can plan engaging events. But if your kids’ pastor looks more like a cruise ship direct than a pastor, he will not be ultimately effective. He may connect with kids but he’s not getting them to Christ. Salvation comes through hearing the Word. Your kids’ pastor needs to be studying the Scriptures so that he can faithfully declare them. The gospel is ultimate. Let’s encourage our kids’ pastor to spend more time studying and less time entertaining. Let’s give them the freedom to grow in their faith. And as they grow and as the get a better understanding of the Word, everyone will benefit. The gospel will be better proclaimed and more and more kids will come to Christ!

Are you ready for your kids’ pastor to pastor?