God’s Word is both a light and a lamp for our feet and our path. The Psalmist declared that “The Law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover, by them your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:7-11 NKJV).
As we begin a brand new calendar year, I am preparing a series of messages that we are simply calling “The Grand Story.” Following an outline in D.A. Carson’s book, “The God Who Is There” – I will share an overview of the whole Bible and how His Story is connected to our story. The entire Bible is a tapestry woven together as a glorious unified whole by the very breath of God. There is a brilliant connection between the Old and New Testaments that focuses on a single theme – The Grand Story of a Mighty God who creates, protects, rescues, redeems, and sustains His people for all time and eternity.
Faith Baptist Church is firmly founded on several core values that find their origin in The Grand Story. We must return eagerly and regularly to these core themes to remain well grounded in God’s Word. It is my hope that every member of our church family will embrace these foundational stones personally and with great conviction:
- We are a Biblical church. God’s Word is our guide book for life; we are committed to practice the principles found in the Bible.
- We are a Relational church. People are the primary focus of our ministry; we value relationships and seek to help others grow as followers of Jesus.
- We are an Intentional church. Loving God and sharing His love with people is the premise on which we operate; we do what we do on purpose.
- We are a Transformational church. Through prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit, lives are being changed as people become more like Christ; our culture is changed as a result.
- We are a Missional church. Our heart beats for God’s glory among the nations. We are committed – at any price and at all costs – to reaching the whole world with the Gospel.
These concepts, or core values, clarify our focus in all areas of ministry and mission. They shape not only what we believe, but how we behave as a church family. My prayer for Faith in the coming year is that our foundation will be very firm as we press toward an exciting future!
Preparing for Sunday is about getting our minds focused and our hearts ready for worship. It starts long before we grab our Bibles, jump in the car, and race to arrive on time. I’m convinced that one of the disciplines for getting the most out of meeting with The Lord is simply taking some time in preparation.
Here’s my prayer as I think about gathering with God’s people in worship on Sunday:
“Lord, create in me a clean heart. This week has been busy and I want to download my bad attitudes and any thought that might interrupt your voice as I come into your presence in worship. Help me embrace my role as pastor with humility, gratitude, and total dependence on Your power. Blaze your Word into my mind and ignite a fire to share it deep in my soul. Help me love your people and see them through eyes of compassion. Give me clarity as I offer the hope of life through Christ. Fill every space on our campus with the strong sense of your presence.
Allow your people to come hungry – fill us with anticipation and an overwhelming sense of awe and wonder as we sing your praises. Let our prayers be real, authentic, and genuine. Give us opportunity to meet new friends and see people saved by the power of the gospel. I am grateful for another day to live and breath and share the good news with others. My heart is full, my mind is clear and my flesh is weak. I am totally dependent upon your power as the only hope of transformation. Speak, Lord – give us ears to hear and hearts to obey. I offer this prayer in the strong and beautiful name of Jesus; amen.”
My hope is that every week, more and more of our church family will engage in spiritual preparation for worship. It will change the way we see Sundays!
My favorite biblical image of a minister is that of being a shepherd. Peter referred to the high calling of this relationship in I Peter 5:2-4 when he said, Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
I always think of this role as being very near to the heart of the Savior. Maybe it’s because Jesus referred to Himself as a Shepherd and God’s Word has a lot to say on the subject of faithful and unfaithful shepherds (see Jeremiah). For the past 19 years, it has been my privilege to serve as the shepherd (pastor) with our wonderful church family at Faith. I’ve learned so much about the role as a result of these dear people loving me and allowing me to learn along the way. It has also been an honor to serve alongside some incredible men who helped me shepherd the church. I also love to coach young men who are training or just beginning their role as shepherds
Here are a few principles that I believe are essential for being a faithful shepherd:
- Shepherds ought to smell like sheep. There are no shortcuts in this role – you have to spend time with people and get to know them on a personal level. Sometimes it can get messy.
- Shepherds ought to model their message. Sheep can spot an impostor fast. They deserve an authentic role model who practices what he preaches to others.
- Shepherds must always love as they lead. It takes time to earn the respect of sheep – especially if they have been wounded in the past. Once they know you love them – really, really love them – they will follow you gladly.
- Shepherds must never intentionally do harm to the flock. The local church is very fragile; people don’t have to attend, give, or serve. If they know they are safe, they will be much more likely to be healthy in all areas.
- Shepherds should never forget that every sheep is valuable. Don’t give up too easily on that member that seems to be difficult – sometimes it takes more time to see the results of good shepherding.
- Shepherds are ultimately accountable to the Chief Shepherd. The sheep don’t belong to us; we are merely servant leaders who will be held responsible for how well we lead.
- Shepherds must stay long enough to enjoy the journey. I’m convinced that being a shepherd is the greatest work in the world. Sharing life with a church family has both tears and joy, but some will miss the beauty in the work because they leave for greener pastures too soon.