Leave a comment

My Resignation…My Resolve

Today, I resigned as the Senior Pastor of University Baptist Church.  Today, I resolved to patiently wait on the Lord to be sent into His harvest field (elsewhere) and to become a more faithful laborer while I wait.

Below is my resignation letter:

Dear Church Family,
 
It is with a great deal of sadness, but confidence, that I tender my resignation as Senior Pastor of UBC.
 
About a year ago the elders began a process of serious evaluation (due, in large part, to concerns voiced by current and former members and decline in attendance).  From that, concerns regarding my leadership and “fit” for this season of the church were brought forward.  Shortly thereafter, a consensus of the elders stated the belief that we should part ways.
 
During this year, including the sabbatical season, I prayerfully submitted my name to other churches.  While some interest has been expressed, we have not sensed a call away at this time.  After patiently waiting, praying, and seeking much counsel we’ve come to the conclusion that it is time for me to resign for the good of my family and the good of UBC.
 
I know I’ve made mistakes and missteps.  The elders affirm they have too.  The elders and Jan would also testify that I have not disqualified myself in any way from ministry.  Together, we have sought to avoid sin, and none of this has anything to do with a cover up of some secret or gross sin.  I can tell you that the elders have done what they felt was best with what felt like mounting evidence that this decision was in the best interest for UBC. We remain friends, and have sought to approach each Lord’s Supper with a clear conscience.
 
I hope that some of what the Lord has done through me and my family, will serve UBC in the long run.  In the mean time, pray for us as we seek the Lord as to what’s next.  We’re unsure about the future, but God has proven faithful time and time again.
 
I do thank you for allowing me to be your pastor for nearly 8 years.  You have made UBC the one church home we’ve known more than any other.  I thank you for loving my kids by teaching them and caring for them faithfully.  Thank you for not putting unreasonable expectations on my wife and allowing her to use her gifts as she saw fit.  Thanks for being our friends, particularly the kind who are willing to say hard things, but never giving up on us.  We do love you.
 
I do exhort you to seek to actively encourage and support your future pastor and elders.  It is no support to simply NOT speak negatively or to remain silent while you have concerns.  Talk with your leaders and pray for them.  Joyfully follow their lead.
 
We (my family and the elders) trust this to be the will of God.  So, I commend you to the Lord and the leadership of the elders.  I pray for your health and the advancement of the gospel in your homes and Fayetteville.
 
In Christ Alone,
Pastor Mike
 
Below is my sermon text from this morning (the Lord’s timing in exposition is good):
 
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
 
Matthew 9:35-38
 
 Below is the statement by the elders:
 
Your elders want to start by expressing our deep love for this church, pastor Mike and his family.  We believe strongly that UBC has been uniquely positioned by God to bring glory to His name among its members, in Fayetteville, at the UA and to the ends of the earth. This has been our mission since inception. 
 
As Mike expressed, over the past several months we have increasingly wrestled with God’s will for our future.  As Mike has faithfully planted, does God intend for someone else to water?” We eventually put this question to words and earnest prayer, pleading with The Lord to give us direction. After months in this posture, we, along with Mike, believe the time has come for him to be sent out to serve others in the manner he’s served us.  Concerns about further budget restraints, the Fall program launch and a desire to quell any  divisive rumors were factors that help shape the timing.
 
Pastor Mike came to UBC with some big goals: 1. Bring Gospel weight to the pulpit; 2. Establish meaningful membership; 3. Transition to elder leadership; 4. Lead the church to love expositional preaching.  In succeeding with these goals, Mike has blessed this church in ways beyond our understanding. They are a heritage we cherish and a foundation for vibrant ministry and gospel impact. Our resolved commitment to these for the future is further fruit of Mike’s ministry.Please join us in praying for and encouraging Mike, Jan and their children.
 
Please pray that we would honor Christ as we seek Him for what’s next. Please trust us when we says there is nothing hidden and no broken relationship in this. Any comment made to the contrary is nothing more than gossip. Please communicate with the elders, the staff or Mike if you have any questions.Your elders affirm again our love for you, our love for Mike, and our love for Christ – the One in Whom we place our hope and trust.
 
May He be glorified in all things. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Leave a comment

Authority Extended

Yesterday, our text was Matthew 9:1-8…

And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “ This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “ Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven, ’ or to say, ‘ Rise and walk ’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —he then said to the paralytic — “ Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

This is something of a “transitional” miracle.  Up to this point, as readers and hearers of the Word, we could understand the gist of the purpose of the miracles:  To show the authority of Christ, the God-Man.  In this text, the purpose is stated plainly and clearly and dividing lines are drawn.

Christ tells the paralytic to be filled with joy (“take heart”) because He has forgiven his sins.  Immediately, those in the religious order who hear this grumble about blasphemy.  Christ knows their thoughts (the meaning of their whispers), and proceeds to show that as surely as He can utter forgiveness He can tell the paralytic to get up and walk.  So He did.  This was to show the witnesses that Christ has authority over all of creation and has authority over the spiritual world.  He says God-like things and does God-like things because He is God!

So, the same Christ who commands creation to do His will has the authority to command the souls of men.  When He brings forgiveness, He commands repentance.  The fact that anyone would repent shows Christ’s authority over their lives, not their own strength or spiritual acumen.  In doing so, Christ commands that the forgiven be filled with courageous joy (the meaning of “take heart”).

Are you filled with a risk-taking, courageous joy?  If not, remember your redemption.  Have you shown that joy in the simplest, most mundane acts of obedience (the paralytic just got up and went home)?  What more do you need?  Who else do you need?  Christ is the King and He has the authority to charge you with a joy that flows from your being forgiven, which should outwork itself in your simple obedience to to and tell these things.

Remember, Jesus doesn’t heal everyone in this life.  In fact, in this account it is clear that joy is tied to spiritual healing, not physical.  So, everyone who calls on His name will receive forgiveness and joy.  Not everyone will be physically healed in the “here and now.”  However, EVERYONE who has been truly forgiven, redeemed, will be healed fully and finally on that day when Christ returns to established His kingdom.

Beloved, we are God ‘s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

I John 3:2-3

 

Leave a comment

What Sort of Man is This?

Yesterday, we walked through Matthew 8:23-27…

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “ Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “ Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him? (ESV)

The title of yesterday’s message was, “The Faith to Follow Jesus.”  This was on the heals of the message, “The Cost of Following Jesus.”  All of this relates to Christ, His authority, and the nature of following Christ all the way into His kingdom.  The culmination of the text from yesterday is this response of amazement in the form of a question: “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?”

I shared with you a reflection by Spurgeon on this point (“The Gospel of the Kingdom”), that the appropriate response to the King of Creation is not amazement, but worship…adoration.  That doesn’t mean amazement isn’t a good thing.  It’s just not the final thing.  Just like “small” faith is better than NO faith, having small faith in a BIG God doesn’t make sense and shouldn’t produce in us contentment.  In fact, where our faith goes, and essentially our discipleship, depends on how we answer the question, “What sort of man is this?”

The disciples begin to answer this question within the question, “…that even the winds and sea obey him?”  Yes, this man has the authority of God.  This is the God-Man.  How would you respond to this realization?  How DO you respond to this realization?  Amazement?  Certainly.  Wonder? Of course.  Obedience?  Well, that depends on whether or not you have been brought to faith to worship this God-Man, Jesus the Christ.

How all this hits on Monday morning was articulated in our benediction yesterday…

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

1 John 5:1-5 (ESV)

Believing what the Bible has to say about what sort of man Jesus is, will lead to worship, which is most biblically captured in obedience, even to His commands.  In fact, what is discipleship but to obey all that Christ commands (Matt.28:18-20)?  Doesn’t this command of discipleship stem from His authority?  Absolutely.  This is where all of these glorious works of Christ culminates for His people:  His revealed authority produces discipleship who worship through obedience.

How does that hit you today?  If you find it hard to obey His commands (I certainly do), remember His authority over all things.  He is worthy, and His worth will captivate the heart passion of true disciples.  From that desire you will long to obey and delight in your discipline to do so.  Don’t give up or grow weary in this pursuit.  He is the “sort of man” who rules all, including the hearts of His people to draw them to worship Him in Spirit and Truth.

Leave a comment

Rise & Serve

Yesterday, I had the privilege and joy of preaching Matthew 8:14-17…

And when Jesus entered Peter ‘s house, he saw his mother- in- law lying sick with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him. That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “ He took our illnesses and bore our diseases. (ESV)

Our focus was on 2 aspects of the text:  1) Christ building the apostolic witness (vv.14-15); and 2) Christ fulfilling the prophetic Word (vv.16-17).  When speaking of building the apostolic witness, which we know to be the New Testament writings, we emphasized the point that the Scriptures bear witness to the person and work of Christ, particularly related to redemption.  This means that every single miraculous act is like a springboard to show us the authority of Christ to save those who believe.  Peter bore witness to this in 2 Peter 1:16-21 and John did the same in 1 John 1:1-4.

Now, in the Matthew 8 account itself we see Peter’s mother-in-law (yes, Peter was married) healed of some illness.  We don’t know it’s extent, nature, or natural outcome.  What we do know is that she responded immediately to Christ’s touch by rising and serving.  This is similar to Peter’s response when first called as a disciple in Matthew 4, and it should be our most natural response to have been born again.

Every healing in Scripture shows Christ’s ability to remove sin, the ultimate terminal disease.  We, those born again, are mercifully granted grace through the gift of faith, and His Word alone is needed to “heal” us of our sin-illness.  Our response should be as simple as Peter’s mother-in-law…rise & serve.

As I stated at the conclusion of the service yesterday, your rising and serving is evidential fruit of having been truly born again.  You are not the great physician and you cannot heal yourself.  But once healed, you can get off the mat and do the will of God.  You won’t be perfect, and He may not heal you of your temporal, physical maladies, but He has saved you and is preparing a place for you to eternally reside, without pain, a shed tear, and full of joy in His all-sufficient presence.  So, rise and serve!

I don’t know what rising and serving looks like for you today.  My guess is, for all of us, it looks a bit more like the Sermon on the Mount.  Spending time alone with your Healer/Savior, Jesus Christ is a good start.  Be reminded of just what has been graciously accomplished for you by Him and know Him better.  Once you enter the fray of humanity, look for ways to build up the church and evangelize the lost.  These are pretty much the only two types of people you’ll encounter today.  We are far to passive in this.  I don’t see the woman rising and serving with reluctance, rather eagerly with joy.

Look, keep it simple.  You will be better served in the long run to begin small and continue to grow, than to “go big” and wind up flailing to be consistent.  You have been made spiritually whole.  2 Peter 1:3 says you lack nothing you need to rise and serve well.

I pray that you will encounter Christ today, and know His healing touch if you haven’t already.  I pray that, like the woman, you would respond very simply and immediately…rise and serve.

 

1 Comment

SBC 2014 – Affection or Affectation?

The Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting begins Monday, June 10, in Baltimore.  I will not be attending this year, but I will be watching, reading, and listening to many of the sessions and discussions.  I have a particular interest in this year’s convention, as many do, because of a recent report (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/29/southern-baptist-convention-membership-decline_n_5411695.html) published by LifeWay Christian Resources revealing a continual decline in overall church membership, church attendance, and baptisms.

Another concern regarding the report is the national media attention the report is generating.  The Associated Press, Washington Post, and The Atlantic have all reported on the results.  Basically, the concern is that the secular attention brought to the decline of our SBC tribe is a terrible witness to the veracity of our evangelistic efforts as a denomination.

There have already been many initial responses to the report, but the most telling will certainly come on the convention floor as messengers and SBC leaders articulate concerns and resolutions to help curb this decline.  Recently, and encouragingly, there have been several pastor-only prayer gatherings nationally, regionally, and locally.  It is certainly right for us to be driven to our knees to seek the Lord for a great awakening among His people, particularly those of the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention.

This is where my question comes in:  Affection or Affectation?

What is it we are praying for?  What are we seeking?  What do we think is the appropriate response to the SBC’s obvious decline?

How we answer these questions will be enlightening, as invariably some answers will include an “of course” to what could have been other answers.  For instance, we could answer “God’s glory” to just about every question.  Many, who would not say that, would certainly say, “But of course it’s for God’s glory.  That goes without saying.”

Does it?

Are we so naturally inclined toward the pursuit of God’s fame in our personal lives and in our church families that we can say “of course” to it?  My contention is how we respond to the report of decline in the SBC will say a lot about what we are all about and what we consider to be ecclesiastical success.

Long before we have a gospel-telling problem we have a heart-affection problem.

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” – Luke 6:45

Our speech follows our treasure.  Our affections pour out into words.  We can utter resolutions, fashion programs, lavish guilt, and blame theological distinctions all we want, but until our affections are stirred for God’s fame, and His fame alone, we will not see our churches become places where evangelism is the culture, to whatever numerical end God deems fitting.  And that is what we need.  We need to see the God of the gospel enrapture the hearts of the people more than we need people to be guilted into evangelistic initiatives.  What lasts longer, actions based on passion or actions based on guilt?  What’s more sustainable, doing what you love or doing what you feel you have to do?

How we answer the questions we ask will show much about whether we are pursuing affection or promoting affectation.

af·fec·ta·tion

ˌafekˈtāSHən/

noun: affectation; plural noun: affectations - behavior, speech, or writing that is artificial and designed to impress.

We seem to be concerned with our witness as a denomination before a lost world.  We should be.  We should seek to promote the gospel as Christ and His apostles bore witness to:  Our love for one another; Our discipline of one another; Our pursuit of holiness and joy in the midst of persecution.  On the other hand, we can’t worry about impressing the world by the world’s standard.  Jesus and the apostles never, to my recollection, validated their ministries by screaming, “Scoreboard!”

The Word, and we are “Word” people, does not validate or invalidate the effectiveness of churches based on numerical grounds.  Sure, we can derive that from, perhaps, the amount of fruit on the tree, but the emphasis is on the fruit being healthy and in-kind with its apparent roots.

Take this more to the local church.  Pastors, unavoidably, feel affirmed or ridiculed based on numbers in attendance.  Regularly we are pushed to, in a sense, take a census of ourselves.  In doing so, we quantify our effectiveness in making disciples simply by one part of the disciple-making process, baptism.  We seem to be content to have a wealth of Simon Maguses in our numbers without knowing whether or not the fruit lasts.  I’m not proposing we don’t celebrate baptisms and most certainly should encourage and feed new believers.  However, our mandate to make disciples is well beyond making decisions, making converts, even baptizing believers.  We are to teach them…to observe, all along the way, baptizing.

When evaluating the effectiveness of local church ministry, are we more satisfied to see the number in attendance, the annual number of baptisms, or the 5-year trend?  Or, are we literally looking at the Scriptures, even plodding along with some decline, and faithfully proclaiming, teaching, admonishing, disciplining, evangelizing, counseling, and praying among the flock in our care?

Please don’t allow yourself to think I’m saying all of this is mutually exclusive.  It’s never a true question of Faithfulness vs. Fruitfulness.  It’s always a both/and situation.  But let’s be honest.  As Southern Baptists, is our tendency to figure out new ways to boost numbers or rest in “old” ways of steady, faithful stewardship?  May God give the increase!

 

A Nuanced Conversation

This conversation is nuanced.  We will prove to be fools if we think the decline in numbers is linear in its cause.  There are several factors that should enter into this conversation so we don’t allow allow ourselves to abandon some important developments over the past several years for the sake of just increasing attendance.

 

Mind the Gap

It’s been calculated for years (by approximation) that the SBC has a membership of 16 million with an average attendance of 6 million.  The recent report shows both of these numbers are down somewhat, but the overall gap remains fairly fixed at about 10 million.  If we’re going to report numbers, isn’t it a bit disingenuous to inflate them to include those who are never among us?

As well, this enormous gap in attendance to membership seems to support the lack of emphasis on membership responsibilities as well as the baptizing of unregenerate members.  I’m not trying to make leap-frog conclusions here, but even if just 5, 10, 20, or 30 percent of the gap is representative of unregenerate members, that’s still thousands upon thousands of souls.  Maybe if we gave as much energy to insuring that our membership is healthy as we do to increasing their numbers, the veracity of her witness would bear more (lasting) fruit.

I wonder how much more effective we would be if our total number plummeted to 10 million, but our actual attendance grew to 9 million?

 

Meaningful Membership

I’m not promoting that our decline as Southern Baptists is a good thing.  I certainly believe that a great deal of the decline is directly related to disobedience in NOT evangelizing the lost.  However, we need to understand that SOME of the decline could very well be associated with the fact that the 10 million person gap between membership rolls and attendance is being addressed by more pastors than ever on the local level.

Leaders in our convention like Thom Rainer and Chuck Lawless have written on the needs for meaningful membership.  Leading pastors like Mark Dever, and by association 9Marks ministry, has helped promote the need for healthy church membership.  Because of this, more and more pastors are not simply receiving new members at the end of an aisle.  They are requiring classes, testimonies, interviews, and more.  Some have said it’s harder to become a member of some churches than it is to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.  True and “Amen!”  I say that simply because I’m not the Holy Spirit, and neither are any of our other pastors or elders.  We need the kind of information that churches needed in the Scriptures, a credible testimony and evidence of true repentance.  The Holy Spirit, frankly, knows more.

We need to continue to push our churches to embrace meaningful membership because the veracity of our public testimony as a church depends on our mutually held agreement that we are among the redeemed, and love each other accordingly.  We have to keep this as part of the conversation regarding declining numbers.  In the midst of all the negative, we also might find some encouragement (without ignoring the issues).

 

Care-filled Baptisms

Another nuance to the conversation about decline should be baptisms themselves.  The greatest number of baptisms in the SBC are children.  As well, among adults who are baptized, most of them are re-baptisms.  Now, I’m not saying that the totality of the re-baptisms were children baptized as Southern Baptists.  However, some were.  I mean, it’s not like we go back and correct historical figures once a person is re-baptized after, hopefully, a genuine conversion.

I was one of those.  I was baptized at 10, had a ton of doubts, and was re-baptized at 18 in the same church before I went to college.  In retrospect I actually believe I was genuinely converted at 10, but just wasn’t clear on how to see real fruit, which was present even at a young age.

One troubling statistic, at least to me, is that in 10 years of recorded decline (2001-2011), including the lowest baptism numbers in 40 years, we have the highest number of recorded baptisms for children under the age of 6.  How far under, God knows.  I’m not questioning whether or not God can save the young.  I’m questioning our practices.

In 1971, the SBC recorded a total number of 409,659 baptisms.*  Of those, there were 1,899 baptisms of children under the age of 6.  In 2010, with a total number of 331,008 baptisms, 3,356 were under the age of 6.  Is there a real revival going on amongst the young or are we pressing for more decisions.

From 1971 to 2010, the next age group of 6-8, has increased from roughly 38,000 to 42,000.  As you get older, from pre-teens to adults, the numbers generally stay fixed or decline.  We have tended to emphasize decisions amongst the young while overall numbers have gone down.  At least, this is suggested by the data provided by NAMB.

All of these numbers occur over a period when household births has regularly declined.  Certainly the importance of the home is tremendous, and if you account for those in the age ranges of children still at home, this accounts for 67% of all annual SBC baptisms.  We need to train parents to witness in the home, as well as work with them to discern the fruit of their children’s professions.

Many churches today are less willing to baptize young children.  I am certainly counted among them.  While stopping short of arbitrarily assigning an age, and affirming God’s ability to save young children, we are encouraging and training parents to examine fruit and clarify understanding of the gospel message.  Historically, we have just too quickly heard the sweet confession of 4, 5, or 6 year olds and baptized them.  Unlike a repentant adult, who has a greater opportunity to show repentance in lifestyle, children are ready to affirm the stories and truths of Christianity.

Certainly this isn’t a bad thing, as we are to come Christ with the simple faith of children, and children are to inquire of Him.  However, if the new believer cannot clearly articulate the gospel PERSONALLY (including what they’re repenting from and turning in faith to), then we’re not helping them, but confusing them by putting such a memorable religious rite in their memories like baptism.  At the least I’m saying we should walk children and their parents through an informed, encouraging process of rightly understanding conversion before we baptize them.

As many have slowed down on the baptism of young children, not necessarily a bad thing at all, certainly this will eat into the numbers of the largest group (by percentage) that Southern Baptists baptize.

 

The World at our Doorstep

While there are other nuances, the last one I’ll mention in this post is the increase of world populations at our doorsteps.  We are not as “southern” looking as Southern Baptists once were.  This is certainly not a bad thing.  Because of this, basic cultural understandings of Christianity are more and more absent in our cities and towns.  Again, not a bad thing because when we see conversions we will see more true conversions, by God’s grace.  However, they would most certainly seem to be fewer in number.

This is healthy for us who live in “the belt.”  Instead of presuming upon some level of gospel understanding, we have to present a whole gospel, assuming no knowledge of the gospel among our constituents.

Part of this nuance is our eschatology.  Now, without getting into all “that” we can still include the subject in our conversation about declining numbers.  While Southern Baptists have differed on eschatological positions (dispensational pre-mil, historic pre-mil, amil, etc), very few of us would hold to a more contemporary understanding of post-millenialism, that society is actually going to improve, culminating in the reign of Christ.  Most of us understand that things are going from bad to worse; that persecutions and “birth pangs” will increase, and are increasing now.  In fact, if many of us lived in a different part of the world I’m certain our eschatology would be different.

So, if things are declining, and the anti-Christian sentiment rising, why would we expect larger, raw numbers to increase?  As persecution increases, even in our country, we will see a greater division between those who conveniently pose as Christian and those who are truly Christian.  It’s less and less convenient, even in Western society, for anyone to be a Christian.

 

In Conclusion

We must not give in, especially on the local level, to how we appear to others based on our numbers.  We need to repent of our lack of evangelism.  We should strengthen the gospel in the home.  We should slow down on baptizing the extraordinarily young, and continue to teach them gospel truths (they can handle more than you think).

We must, however, look at what gives us greatest satisfaction.  If we focus on numbers alone, it sounds like we’re saying, “Lord, Lord, look at all we did in your name!”  That doesn’t turn out so well.  Instead, let’s bolster our affections for Christ.  Let’s preach Christ from the Scriptures alone so as to stir men’s hearts to joy in complete satisfaction in Him alone.  Let’s practice Christ in our churches in faithful discipline, seeking to restore wayward brothers, and perhaps save some who mistakenly believe they are His.  Let’s pray to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers (us), to go into the fields, knowing He sends happy laborers who spread His fame even if rejected, reviled, and refused.

That said, the world IS at our doorstep!  We have the opportunity to share the gospel with people from every country on the planet in closer proximity than ever.  While I still encourage you get on a plane for a mission trip, make disciples right where you are, because the world is there.  You no longer live in a culture that is socially friendly with Christianity.  Do not assume gospel understanding.  Know the gospel yourself!  Preach it to yourself!  Live it in your homes!  Then, as you go about your life, share Christ with your kids, neighbors, baristas, clerks, waiters, and teachers.

Be faithful with great effort.  Proclaim Christ with great joy.  May God give the increase, and may that increase be lasting fruit!

 

* Statistics provided by Center for Missional Research of the North American Mission Board

Leave a comment

A Special Thanks

Dear UBC Family,

I want to thank you for affording me the opportunity to take a sabbatical this winter. From January 13 – March 31, my daily duties as Senior Pastor of UBC were suspended while I focused on my family, pastoral development, writing, and rest. It was a time much needed and well spent.

During the 2 1/2 months away, I was blessed to care for my children while Jan served in North Africa; visit with 8 other senior pastors and professors; travel to support extended family; read several books; as well as write dozens of pages on a book on discipleship. My hope through it all is that I become a better Christian man, which means a better husband, father, friend and pastor.

I, once again, read through Henry Scougal’s The Life of God in the Soul of Man. That book undoes me, as it always seems to do. It’s a great aid in assessing personal affections and areas of holy discontent. As well, Jared Wilson’s The Pastor’s Justification was a fantastic read for my soul as your pastor. Through these writings I’ve seen some depths of selfishness and pride that I had hoped had been long since been removed. In addition, I read several books on leadership, mainly because I feel like it’s something I do not do well…lead.

Before going further, at this point, I do want to ask your forgiveness for not shepherding better before you all. Some of you I have shepherded and served well, but many of you have not been served well by me, either directly or by example. Again, forgive me. In a church our size shepherding and care does have to be a bit more “global” in it’s expression (the body loving each other), but I could and should be much better at touching more lives directly, without there being a hint of inauthenticity. I do love you and care for you.

Developing my doctoral dissertation into a more popularized (readable) book took great strides, particularly while in Cambridge, England. I had the privilege to reside and study at the Tyndale House in Cambridge, and met new friends, while writing for hours a day. I have much work left to do, but I am close to my page goal of approximately 160. In case you don’t know, my work was on 2 Peter 1, with the practical outworking being a discipleship process based on that chapter. I’ve used this approach with many in our church, and desire to help others grow in their walks with Christ for the rest of their lives, by unpacking this chapter for their (your) benefit.

As I return to serve you, it’s a very busy season. I have some meetings to attend in Louisville, KY and then Passion Week is upon us. Be in prayer for your own souls and for the souls of others around you. Invite friends and family to church. Invite them over to your house for hospitality leading the way to gospel discussion.

I am glad to be back with you. I cannot wait to return to the pulpit. That said, I am grateful to John Mueller, Stephen Martin, the elders, and the rest of the staff for assuming so many additional responsibilities to serve me during the sabbatical season. I hope that your love and hunger for the Word of God rightly preached was increased in my absence.

May God build up His church at UBC! May God’s Word dwell richly among you all!

Blessings,
Pastor Mike

Leave a comment

Though You Slay Me

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.