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The Benefits of the Long Term Pastorate

This month marks 25 years since I came to FBC O’Fallon, IL as pastor. I do note that I don’t get called “the young pastor” as much as I did then. I wonder why that is? Hmmm….

While 25 years isn’t nearly as long as some (I have two pastor friends who have been at their churches for more than 50 years), it does cause me to consider some benefits to staying at the same place. I’m not suggesting that all pastors should stay at their churches forever. But I am suggesting that pastors go to a church with the willingness to stay there for the rest of their pastoral ministry should the Lord will.

Here are 5 benefits to a long term pastorate.

1. You can influence your community. Staying a longer times means you have an opportunity to make an impact that couldn’t happen otherwise. You get to know people in your area even outside of your church family. By staying a long time, I’ve had the opportunity to know and have some influence among regional officials, business leaders, fellow pastors and others. I know them and they know me just by virtue of me being around for a while.

2. You can experience real love. It is one thing to be loved for your role; it is another to be loved for being you. I appreciate those who honor the office of the pastor. That is a good thing and I am thankful for those who love and appreciate me for being in that position. But, I am very thankful for people who love me just as me. They love and appreciate me as a person and not just because I fill this position. That is special.

3. You can build trust. The best way to build trust is to be trustworthy. And being trustworthy for a long time builds a lot of trust capital. Building trust means people assume the best in you and not the worst. It means they will listen to your thoughts even when they might not agree. It means they value your opinion because they know you are trying to do the right thing for the sake of the kingdom. They know you aren’t infallible, but they trust that you are trying to point them in the right direction.

4. You can see the long term results of your work. It is a lot of fun to baptize the children of people you baptized years before. It is rewarding to see people you knew as young people in your church now serving as teachers of small groups and deacons and pastors and missionaries. Long term ministry means you get a long term perspective. Staying allows you to see some of the fruit of the trees you planted years before.

5. You can bring stability to your life, family and church. While there are dangers that come with stability, there are benefits as well. I know the patterns that work best for a sustainable ministry in my context. My family got to have some stability in their personal relationships because we stayed. And, our church got the continuity that comes with having the same pastor. In our context (suburbia, a transient military community), that matters a great deal.

Staying at a church a long time doesn’t mean there are never any problems or that ministry is easy. But it does have some advantages that come no other way.

Ministry friends, maybe the Lord will have you move every 2 or 3 years for the rest of your life. But, consider the possibility that he will have you put down some deeper roots and stay in one place for a long time.

Excuse me now as I begin to make some contingency plans for what I will say at my 50th anniversary!

Why Revival?

Like many, I’m praying for revival in our day. By revival I mean Christians returning to a deep intimacy with the Lord. Revival is the condition of believers being right with God and living in close fellowship with him. When revival comes, it certainly makes an impact on the world. Revival, however, is for believers who know the Lord but have drifted from full surrender to his will and his ways.

So why should we want revival? Why should we care? Here are some reasons to desire revival in the life of our churches and in our personal lives.

Why revival?

1. Because God has something better for us than casual Christianity. What God wants for you is better than what the world wants for you. Casual faith tries to live like the world and look like the world. “Don’t be too radical with your Christian faith,” it warns.

But God’s way is so much better. I didn’t say Continue reading

There is Hope

Hope is a powerful thing.

Without it, we sink into a chasm of despair and depression. But with it, we can overcome the most difficult and challenging circumstances of life.

And Christians have hope. Not wishful thinking hope. Not blind optimism hope. Not ignoring reality hope. Christians have genuine, God-given, obstacle-overcoming hope that comes from the throne room of heaven itself.

To the believers in Rome facing threats and problems, Paul spoke of hope. Though he himself dealt with persecution, trials and poverty, Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write words of hope.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Powerful words!

There is hope in this fallen world. There is hope for your life and future. There is hope for our churches in these uncertain times.

Here are three reasons Continue reading

Baptizing in Rusty Water

What an exciting day! I was a new pastor and I was going to baptize a young adult lady who had recently trusted Christ as Savior. This was to be my very first baptism. And, to make it even more exciting, this would be the first baptism for our small congregation in two years. I couldn’t wait for Sunday!

But, I had a big problem. Though the church had not baptized anyone in a couple of years, water had steadily dripped from the faucet which filled the baptistry. And, the baptistry was made out of sheet metal. Who makes a baptistry out of sheet metal? Sheet metal rusts! This had to be the work of a committee! The dripping faucet left the drain completely clogged and several inches of rusty water stagnating at the bottom.

I had to face this dilemma head on. On Saturday morning, Continue reading

Grow Up

Toddlers are cute when they are silly and immature. It is okay to be a baby– when you are a baby. But, when you act childishly as an adult, people want you to grow up! Certainly, God wants his children to grow up spiritually.

The Bible tells us frequently of our need to grow deeper in our faith. Hebrews 5:12 says, “Although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles…” Hebrews 6:1 urges us to “go on to maturity”. You are a spiritual newborn when you trust Christ for salvation. But you are to learn, mature and deepen. You are to grow up.

Note a couple of keys to growing deeper in your faith and maturing in your spiritual life.

1. Growing up takes effort. Effort is involved in Continue reading

Thoughts on Politics

Here are some of my general thoughts on politics and the Christian. Maybe they will help you think clearly about this important, but divisive, subject.

1. Politics is a privilege. What a privilege it is for us to be able to speak, participate and vote. Freedom is a great gift and ought not be taken for granted. Many parts of our world have little freedom and those living in the United States (and other countries who enjoy these freedoms) should be grateful for this treasure. Christians should be at the forefront of participating in our political process and doing all we can to help our nation go in the right direction. And, remember on occasion to Continue reading

You Have A Gift

That’s right. You have a gift. Tell your mom I said so!

The Bible tells us that all believers are given spiritual gifts. These are more than our talents, more than our blessings and more than our opportunities. God has given you, if you know Jesus as Savior, abilities and perspectives that you can use to make an impact in the church and beyond.

There are three primary passages that list spiritual gifts– Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. These gifts show us ways God can use us, how God has saved us to be a blessing to others and how we fit into God’s family which the Bible calls “the body of Christ”.

Let me suggest two things we ought to do about these gifts from God. Continue reading

The Chaos of Christmas

Good thoughts from my sweet wife!

wateringcanblog

“…it’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

In many ways, Christmas in America begins the day after Thanksgiving.

We have barely put away the leftover turkey before our thoughts turn to shopping, Christmas trees and party planning. What should be a time of reflection and continued thanksgiving, turns to hurried accomplishments to be checked off a list.

While some people thrive in the bustling atmosphere of Christmas preparation, many feel overwhelmed and even frustrated by it.  We try not to go overboard, and yet in the pressure to find the perfect tree, the perfect gift, or to have a perfectly decorated home, we cave into the chaos.

“They carry out a plan, but not mine…”  Isaiah 30:1

I have been camping out in the Old Testament book of Isaiah, looking at the prophet’s perspective on the coming Messiah.  Knowing that this prophet’s message was fulfilled hundreds of years later…

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4 Lessons I Learned from a Dead Guy

Have you ever heard of a dead guy named John Mason Peck? He is largely forgotten now, but, as one our nation’s first Baptist church planters, “home” missionaries and the founder of one of the earliest colleges west of the Alleghenies (Rock Springs Seminary, 1827), he used to be famous.

I recently wrote a chapter on Peck (1789-1858) for a larger book on the History of North American Evangelism which will come out next year. I was reminded of Peck’s life and legacy. He came to St. Louis in 1817 where he started the wild frontier town’s first Baptist church and baptized new believers in the Mississippi River. Within a few year, Peck moved the center of his operations 18 miles to his farm in Rock Springs, IL where he lived until the end of his life. (Rock Springs is today part of O’Fallon, IL and Peck’s homesite is less than a mile from where I write this in my office at FBC, O’Fallon.)

In his forty years of ministry, Peck participated in the starting of 900 churches, helped to ordain 600 pastors, printed bibles by the score, wrote histories of the region and biographies of people like Daniel Boone and helped keep Illinois from changing its constitution to allow slavery. Oh, and he found time, when he wasn’t farming in order to feed his family, to start the aformentioned Rock Springs Seminary to train pastors and teachers.

Here are 4 lessons I learned from John Mason Peck.

1. A life of obedience leaves a lasting impact. The sheer number of churches Peck helped start seems overwhelming. His impact on so many churches and so many pastors and other believers is incredible. But any life, fully devoted to the Lord, can make a lasting difference in ways not always noticed at the time. Peck just obeyed the Lord for a long time and God used that obedience to impact the region and beyond.

2. God uses people we might not have picked. Peck had very limited education in his early years. He did not come from a wealthy family. He did not come to know the Lord as Savior until almost a grown man. He didn’t become a Baptist until after the birth of his first child. He did not verbalize a call to ministry and further his education until after that. In fact, almost nothing in his early years suggested he would become what he became–except his ever growing confidence in God.

3. Opposition comes but can be overcome. Peck was opposed by gamblers, thieves and infidels when he came to the West. But he was also opposed by other ministers, including fellow Baptists. Some distrusted those from the East or anyone with education. Some believed that missions was an attack on the sovereignty of God and they responded by personal attacks on Peck. The response of Peck was to stay faithful, keep preaching, print more bibles, start more churches and Sunday Schools and to disagree agreeably. Through much travail, Peck would see the kingdom of God expand.

4. God honors faith. Peck never had much money. There were chronic shortages in the churches he served. Problems of every sort abounded. But, through it all, Peck believed God was able to accomplish great things because he is a great God. He lived by faith and he found God to be faithful. God honored Peck’s faith by providing just what was needed, just when it was needed. Trusting God counts and God blesses faith.

I think about old John Mason Peck once in a while. After all, he spent most of his ministry in the same area where I’ve spent most of mine. And, I’m thankful that his life can still teach us today though his body was placed in a grave long ago.

Maybe God will teach you something today from a dead guy. I sure hope so!

7 Implications of Grace

Grace is God’s love given to us though we don’t deserve it. It means we are loved by God though we haven’t earned- and can’t earn- that love. Though we are sinners and don’t deserve God’s love, he sent his son, Jesus, into the world to live the perfect life we couldn’t live, to die the death that we deserved and to overcome sin and death on our behalf in the resurrection. Instead of giving us hell as we deserve, he gave us the opportunity to know his grace and forgiveness and life.

One way to think of grace is to use the acronym of GRACE. It is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. We get the riches of God- forgiveness, heaven, adoption into God’s family- because Christ paid the penalty for our sins on the cross.

But what does it mean for us in the here and now? What are the results of this evidence of God’s love we call grace?

Note these 7 implications of grace

1. Holiness matters to God. If sin doesn’t really matter, neither does grace. We don’t need grace if sin doesn’t damage. But sin always damages. It kills, steals and destroys. We need to be saved from the death sin brings. But even after salvation, grace is our reminder of how damaging sin is. Holiness will always matter to God and should, therefore, always matter to those of us who follow him. Grace should lead us to holy living as we see the cost of sin.

2. God’s love is deeper than man’s. Our love tends to run shallow. We love when it convenient or when it matches our feelings or when it is returned in the manner we wish. But God loves perfectly. He loves, period. It isn’t based on a whim or because we can give him so much in return or due to our great goodness. Understanding grace can lead us to have the kind of love that lasts through good and bad; thick and thin.

3. We obey God out of grace, not for grace. If we don’t get grace because we are good, why be good at all? There is a stronger motivation for believers to obey God than earning God’s love. God’s love given to us freely becomes that greater motivation. We want to obey the Lord because we know how much he loves us. Knowing this love motivates us to obedience. Our motivation is not fear of not being loved, but a desire to please the one who has already proven the greatness of love for us.

4. We can love people who are hard to love. How in the world can we love cranky co-workers and grumpy relatives? Even more, how do we love those who have wronged us or hurt us or wounded us? God’s grace, given undeservedly to us, is the only means I know by which we can love and forgive those who don’t deserve it from us. And, when we do, it speaks volumes to this world which so seldom sees love like that.

5. We matter deeply to God. Grace is the evidence of our value to God. We have inherent value because we are created in God’s image. But that image is marred by our sin and disobedience. Yet God has given a demonstration that he loves us still. The cross is that demonstration. Calvary is that evidence. Never doubt that you matter to the Lord. Remember the proof of that love shown in spilled blood and a broken body.

6. We need to be saved, not just reformed. You will never be able to reform your way to perfection. Grace reminds us that we have no way to reach perfection because we are already broken sinners. But, grace teaches us that we can be reborn into a new life. Jesus paid our debt and we can be saved from the power of sin and hell. Jesus already did the work. Our response is to repent of our sins, place our faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection and receive him as our personal Savior and Lord. Have you truly done that?

7. God doesn’t give up on us. God doesn’t love you because you deserve it and he doesn’t stop loving you because you don’t deserve it. He doesn’t give up on you because of your missteps anymore than a mother gives up on her child after their first failing steps. No one wants you to succeed in life more than the Lord. No one wants you to grow into the person he intends you to be more than your Savior. Don’t give up on your future because God hasn’t.

Grace is an incredible truth. It is a supernatural truth. Learn from it and live it and grow in it.

Remember, God loves you!