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We Preach Jesus! (A Revival Sermon In Africa)

Revival

It has been two years since I went to Zimbabwe. I went there to preach in a series of revival services in two different Baptist churches, both of which were started along with several others by Chinhoyi Baptist in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe. Of course, preaching wasn’t all I did; I went with different pastors into various villages, visiting and praying with Christians, evangelizing those who’d never heard the gospel.

The other reason I went to Zimbabwe was to get revived myself. I needed this trip! And, praise be to God, it was life-changing!

Here are some photos from different services.

People starting to show up for church. River of Life met in a tent in a member's front yard.

People starting to show up for church. River of Life met in a tent in a member’s front yard.

image

Worshiping Sunday morning at Dolomite Baptist.

Worshiping Sunday morning at Dolomite Baptist.

Lively and energetic African worship at Chinhoyi Baptist.

Lively and energetic African worship at Chinhoyi Baptist.

Being introduced at Chinhoyi Baptist.

Being introduced at Chinhoyi Baptist.

The Final Service

The final service in which I preached was at Chinhoyi Baptist Church. It was a celebratory farewell service where all of the churches which had hosted our team of three (Dr. Eddy Rushing, Marshall Kellett, and myself) came together as one. And man, was it a service!

The honor was mine to be selected to preach the final service, and what an honor it was. Dr. Rushing and Bro. Kellett were responsible for personally leading scores of people to Christ during this trip, so who was I to be the one to preach? Nevertheless, they asked me, and I jumped at it!

The beginning of the service was full of extremely lively music and dancing – not something the average Baptist in America is used to 😉 When all of that was over, the music shifted to hymns. Dr. Rushing and Bro. Kellett both gave stirring testimonies before the final hymn “Higher Ground” (sung in the native language of Shona) set the tone for the sermon to follow.

Oh, Rev. Luckmann Chiasaru was my interpreter for this service, and man was he good! He even sang with me! Awesome!

Chinhoyi Baptist Church in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe. This congregation hopes to plant a total of 50 new churches in 10 years. They're well on their way!

Chinhoyi Baptist Church in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe. This congregation hopes to plant a total of 50 new churches in 10 years. They’re well on their way!

The following was recorded on an iPhone 6s, then edited on Audacity. I wish it could have been a better recording, but it was all I had. I pray it is a blessing 🙂

CLICK HERE for link to the audio of “We Preach Jesus!”


I went to Zimbabwe to get revived – and I did. Now, if you’d let me, I’d love to come share a little of what God’s given me over the last 2 years with your congregation.

You can reach me at pastoracbaker@yahoo.com., or call 423-645-8884.

 

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I’d Like to Share What I Have

This will be quick.

If you or your church is in the planning stages or considering scheduling a series of “revival” meetings, I’d love for you to keep me in mind.

Don’t get me wrong, I love doing what I do as Pastor of South Soddy Baptist Church. However, I am also available to preach and share my passion for God and His Kingdom with you and your congregation. Silver and gold have I none, but what I do have I’d love to share…I have a story of hope, courage, faith, and the One who will make all the difference – Jesus!

Sometimes it helps to hear someone who is stirred up in order to get stirred up 🙂

You can email me at PastorACBaker@yahoo.com

God bless!

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Distinctions Worth Noting

This morning I came across a quote I posted to Facebook several years ago. Being Sunday morning, and being that I am a Baptist pastor, this is a great quote from a theologian with Chattanooga roots, Dr. Timothy George. And to think, we actually attended the same school 🙂

“The Baptist tradition finds a place within this narrative as a distinctive reform movement within the wider evangelical renewal, a reform within the reform, so to say. Baptists are indeed heirs of the Reformation, but they are not, nor have they ever been, mere clones of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, the Anabaptists, or anyone else. For Baptists, the great doctrines of the Reformation were refracted through the prism of persecution and dissent which informed their intense advocacy of religious freedom and, especially in the American setting, the separation of church and state (which does not equal the divorce of religion from public life). With all true Christians, Baptists profess loyalty to Jesus Christ the Lord, the eternal Son of the heavenly Father who “for us and our salvation” became man. He died for our sins on a cross, rose triumphantly over death, ascended to the Father, and one day will come again in power and glory. In the meantime, he still reigns, rules, and redeems through the Holy Spirit.” – Timothy George

The Body of Christ (the Church) has many members, each distinct in its own way. I just felt these distinctions were worth noting.

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What to Wear to Church?

Clothing

Recently, I was asked to be the guest speaker at a larger, more contemporary church. Out of respect for each other, the pastor of that church and I jokingly discussed what I should wear. You see, he never wears a suit, while sometimes I do. His congregation has become more “contemporary,” while my congregation remains more “traditional.” So, to make me comfortable, the pastor told me whatever I wanted to wear was fine.

Therefore, I wore shorts and flip-flops… Just kidding.

The way I dress to go to church may not be the way you dress. My style may not suit your tastes, nor yours mine. But the fact of the matter is that you do wear some kind of clothing to church, correct? Well, have you ever wondered if what you wear to church is appropriate?

Some people have asked that question.

Below are some of my thoughts on the subject.

Keep It Simple

If you are planning to attend a worship service where God is supposed to be the center of attention, don’t dress like a clown! Don’t dress like you are going to a movie premiere in Hollywood, either (that could get expensive in a hurry, not to mention scare the kids).

Some cultures believe people should come to church in clothing that could damage someone’s retina. Gettin’ “fancied up” is what’s expected. But it’s this type of clothing, in many cases, that draws attention to the congregant, not Christ. My advice is to stay away from neon suits and flashing bow ties. Church clothing should be a covering, not a calling card.

Show Respect

Some people think it is totally appropriate to wear enough jewelry and feathers to keep pawn shops in business and all geese naked. Others think it is completely acceptable to look like a drunk that slept in an alley all night (no offense to the drunk). Neither shows a sense of respect. The first steals glory from God, while the second implies the place where we gather to worship is no different than anywhere else.

Think about it this way, for example. Receive an invitation to tea from Queen Elizabeth and show up looking like you just got out of bed and never took a shower. Unless you’re a bonafide rock star, security personnel may escort you to a private room to “get acquainted.” Therefore, if dignitaries of earthly kingdoms demand respect, why shouldn’t we offer it to our Heavenly King?

Just a thought.

Beware of Legalistic Standards

However, whatever you wear, don’t be too quick to judge another person’s spiritual condition by what they wear. Only God knows the heart.

Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. – Rom 14:4 KJV

Sadly, I have been around many believers who consider one style of clothing a sign of spiritual maturity, while another style a sign of spiritual waywardness.  And you know what’s funny? It doesn’t matter which side of the spiritual tracks, there’s always somebody looking at another thinking, “They’re not right with God.”

Legalism cuts both ways, dear friend. For example, I have been to churches that ridiculed any woman who wears pants, or a man who never tucks in his shirt. On the other hand, I have been in congregations that blatantly condemned all dress and tie-wearers as right-wing, self-righteous, fundamentalist, nut jobs. In both cases, someone judged another’s spirituality based on outward appearances, alone. In both cases, one group’s set of standards were being used as a guide to what is mature spiritual behavior, and what is not.

That’s LEGALISM.

Context, Context, Context

Ultimately, how you dress should be determined by the context of your community. Small, rural congregations might not feel comfortable dressing for church in the same way a metropolitan First Baptist may. Similarly, churches in depressed economies may adopt different dress codes than upwardly mobile societies. The key is to be respectful, honorable, and considerate of the holy moment at hand. Whatever fits that bill is good enough.

Just keep this principle in mind:  Grace accepts, Maturity develops, and Love constrains.

Don’t make appearances the only thing about which you’re concerned. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is far too important a message to be drowned in petty arguments about whether it is appropriate to dress up for church, or go dress-casual. Many people in the world have to worship Christ underground – literally. Dress codes are the least of their worries. Additionally, the drug addict who needs hope and help may not have any clothes left that he hasn’t already sold to get high. The single mother of five that walks into your church may have barely enough energy to survive, much less do her hair.

Do all things to the glory of the Lord, but keep things in perspective, OK?

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism [or be legalistic]. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? – Jam 2:1-5 NIV

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Bio Request Fulfilled

Website On the Way

We are in the process of developing a new website for our little church. If you are curious, the company we are working with is ZaoMedia. Give Scott Grizzle a holler and tell him I sent you 🙂

Anyway, Mr. Grizzle sent me an email asking for my bio to add to the upcoming site. After some hard thinking and prioritizing, I came up with what you see below and sent it to him.

I struggled with what to say. Wouldn’t you? I mean, it would have been great and all if someone else had written it, but whom? My wife? My daughters? They’d probably collaborate and come up with something like:

“Pastor Baker is a native Chattanoogan who loves to write, study, and preach to people. He never spends enough time with his wife and daughters, nor does he take out the trash on a regular basis. He cleans his plate at church functions, but he rarely washes his plates at home. Oh, he’s a great preacher and all, but you don’t know him like we do!” 

The best bio would come from the dog. If we had one of those translators like the kid had in the movie “Up,” then I’m sure it would read something like:

Jack with his beloved cheetah.

“Pastor Master is the best! You will like him much much much! He feeds me, pets me, goes out in the rain with me, let’s me stay close to him when it thunders, and lets me ride with him in his big car on Saturdays! He is the best man in the whole world, and he will give you treats when you pee…outside, that is!”

But, like I said earlier, I had to write my own bio for the website. Therefore, to the best of my ability, I came up with something that hopefully will give people the impression (should they actually read this) that I’m not an “ivory tower” kind of guy, just a sinner saved by grace. If not for the cross of Jesus and the grace of God, I’d be nothing.

The Bio

Pastor Anthony Baker is a native Chattanoogan, having called the area his home for all but the seven years he and his family spent in Kentucky. Now back in Soddy-Daisy, he’s all about rebirthing this historic church and reaching our community for the glory of God.

For decades Pastor Anthony was bound to a life of legalism, self-righteousness, and pride, but then the Lord graciously humbled him, taking everything away except his loving wife and sweet daughters. Nearly 20 years ago he hit rock bottom, learned what it was like to fail, and finally began the long process of growing deeper in faith and walking closer with Christ.

At one point Pastor Baker battled depression, alcohol, and suicide. Even now, life is not always easy, if ever. However, unlike those earlier days when he looked down his nose at other’s hurts and struggles, these days he can look into the eyes of the broken, disillusioned, and discouraged and say with compassion, “I’ve been there, got the t-shirt, but Jesus made the difference…Now let’s walk down this road together.”

Throughout the years Anthony has pastored churches in East Chattanooga and Lookout Valley, toured with several Christian music groups, and authored two books. He has always been the type of pastor who’s worked other jobs in order to support his family (bi-vocational), so he’s well aware of the struggles of normal life.

Anthony is married to Valerie (almost 25 years) and together they have three wonderful daughters: Alicia Westbrook (Josh), Katie, and Haley.

Pastor Baker attended Chattanooga State, UTC, Hopkinsville Community College, Western Kentucky University, Temple Baptist Seminary, and Covington Theological Seminary where he also is an adjunct instructor. He holds a Masters in Ministry and is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Ministry.

Hopefully, the new website will be up and running in a couple of weeks. When it is I’ll link all of you to it 🙂

Meanwhile, keep our little church (South Soddy Baptist) and my family in your prayers. 

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Filed under baptist, Church, legalism, Life Lessons, ministry, Preaching

8+ Reasons Why Smaller Churches Are Better

The Survey

In a recent study conducted by the survey pro’s at TheRecoveringLegalist.com, pastors from both large and small congregations shared why they thought a small church could be better than a big one.

The survey sample was made up of pastors from various denominations, from different parts of the country, and consisted of men from my personal contact list – and my wife. It was VERY scientific – sorta.

The Question

I had my own thoughts, but I wanted to know what others thought, so I asked a question. The question I posed to other pastors went something like this:

“I’m doing a quick, non-scientific survey for a blog post (no names will be mentioned). Can you give me 1 or 2 reasons why a small church could be better than a big church?”

Within moments I received multiple replies through text, email, and Messenger. It took them very little time to respond, like it was something they didn’t even have to think about, and the answers they gave were practically the same.

The Answers

If the answers from the pastors in the survey I conducted mean anything, it would seem that smaller churches are the place to be if you want to be:

  1. Known by name;
  2. Have intimate relationships with others;
  3. Have a pastor who misses you when you’re not there; and/or
  4. Experience more accountability.

Other answers suggested that in larger churches it is harder to keep track of what is being taught in “small groups,” while in smaller churches everyone is more on the same page. But overall, the most common reason given for smaller churches being better than bigger churches was knowing and being known by others in the congregation.

As a matter of fact, what the pastors in my survey said echoed the hopeful and encouraging words of Karl Vaters’ article “Why Small Churches Are the Next Big Thing.” Speaking of Millennials, he said:

“[There’s] growing evidence this new generation will bring the greatest opportunity for small church ministry in 2,000 years.

Why? Because, as the first generation with a majority born and raised outside traditional marriage, genuine relationships and intimate worshipwhat small churches do best—will matter more to them than it did to their parents.” [emphasis added]

So you see, even though larger churches offer a lot – unlimited numbers of ministries in which to get involved; professional-quality childcare; servant pastors for every niche; and the best technology money can buy – many people are coming to understand there’s something special about the community of a small, loving congregation.

But There’s MORE!

Should you surmise that intimate, supportive relationships, accountability, and being able to talk with your pastor without an appointment are the only qualities that make small churches better than bigger ones, think again. There’s more! Much more!

The following are 8 more reasons why small churches could actually be better than large ones, at least for some people:

  1. Parking Spaces. Why should one have to search ten minutes to find a parking place within walking distance to the trolley you must ride to get to the front door? Small churches have plenty of parking, usually no further than a hymnbook’s throw away.
  2. No Auditions Necessary. Forget having to try out for the choir, the praise team, the annual play, the children’s musical, or the worship orchestra. If you can sing, play an instrument, or read a line – or even if you can’t – there’s always a place for you in a small church, at least in the choir.
  3. No Training Necessary. So, you want to run sound? You want to operate the lights? You think you have a desire to operate the recording equipment? Well, you’d better have a resume and a list of references if you want to do any of that in a big church. Seriously, they can’t let just anyone with a desire operate a $25,000 camera or push the buttons that link to the network satellite feed. But in a small church? HA! There’s always a need for someone to flip the cassette or press “record.”
  4. The Best Seating Anywhere. If you come in late to a service at a big church, no kidding, you might need binoculars to see the holes in the pastor’s jeans. But in a small church, well, the back row might as well be in the reserved section! Compared to a mega-church, the back row in a small church is practically within spitting distance of the preacher.
  5. Genuinely-Experienced Childcare. Do you have small children? Do you care about them? Why let Buffy or Bianca watch your crumb cruncher while you worship? Why not trust them to the experienced, floppy-armed grannies who’ve raised more kids than a champion goat farmer? Who better to make sure you young’ns act right and learn about Jesus than a few ladies who’ve washed out more than a few mouths with Ivory soap? [Disclaimer: Washing out mouths with soap is no longer approved]
  6. Free Interactive Technology Museum. Bigger churches are all about the newest, most advanced technology. Smaller churches, on the other hand, rarely have the funds for regular upgrades to sound equipment, etc. Therefore, where else can you go to find working 1980’s (if not older) sound equipment still being used? Small churches are like free interactive technology museums where everyone can listen to both the preacher AND the local radio station at the same time!
  7. Food, Food, and More Food. Go to a large church and you’ll find plenty of opportunities to eat. They have Wednesday night meals, socials, finger foods, and all kinds of stuff before Sunday School (morning Bible study). Some large churches even have coffee bars and sit-down restaurants on campus! But seriously, how does any of that compare to what a bunch of ladies can whip up for a homecoming dinner on the ground? Believe me, when you’re sick at home and can’t fend for yourself, those small-church ladies can keep you well-maintained with cornbread, beans, fried chicken, and homemade stew.
  8. It’s Your Community. If nothing else, your typical small church is made up of people from your own community. Large churches – the ones with huge TV ministries and social programs – are made up of people from all over the place; small churches are filled with your neighbors. It’s in the small, hometown churches where people learn to shoulder up with each other through a community’s hard times. It’s in the small church where a pastor attends your daughter’s graduation, the funerals and weddings are no charge, and someone always notices when you’re not there.

Seriously, I have nothing against large churches – every pastor would love his church to be one. However, most churches average no more than 80 members, and they are where the majority of solid, faithful, salt-of-the-earth Christians still attend.

So, are small churches really better than big ones? Well, that all depends on where God wants you. But if you don’t want to get lost in the crowd – or in the parking lot – a small church just might be what you need.

Y’all are welcome any time! (11055 Dayton Pike, Soddy Daisy, TN)

 

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My Most Popular Post of All Time

Now that we are beginning a new year (2018) I thought I would skip the anual list of “Top Posts” and go straight to the top – the consistent #1 – the most viewed post in 2017 and every year since it was first published (2011):

“Was John R. Rice a Heretic?”

Here’s your chance to read the post that put me on the map…without all the drawn-out, hateful comments 😉


On the 400th anniversary of the 1611 King James Version of the Bible, I would like to pose a question to my brothers and sisters who refuse to recognize any other translation: was John R. Rice a heretic? If you do not know to whom I am referring, let me give you a little background information.

Dr. John R. Rice

Dr. Rice, who died in 1980, was one of the most well-known fundamentalist writers and evangelists of the 20th century. He wrote more than 200 books and booklets which were published in many languages and sold all over the world. He condemned the compromise, liberalism, and apostasy being taught at major denominational colleges and seminaries.  He fought for a return to holiness and the fundamentals of the Christian faith. But what I think he will always be remembered for is his founding of the weekly paper, Sword of the Lord.

For the record, I highly respect Dr. Rice. I have in my personal library several of his works published back in the 1960’s. He was a great writer and a great preacher; however, he was not flawless. He said some things back in the day that I have a hard time with. On the other hand, he had some things to say that would shock the average reader of Sword of the Lord and the typical legalist who believes the KJV is the one-and-only perfect, preserved text for the English-speaking world.  Unlike the Sword which continually decries any other translation as dangerous and confusing, Dr. Rice actually recommended the 1901 ASV. OK, would somebody get a glass of water for the fainting KJV-only person on the floor? Dr. John R. Rice, founder and editor of the Sword of the Lord newspaper, actually said that the…

“…American Standard Version, translated in 1901, is perhaps the most accurate of all versions… It takes advantage of the three great manuscripts – the Sinaiticus, the Vatican, and the Alexandrian manuscripts – which were not available when the King James Version was translated.”   from, Dr. Rice, Here Is My Question (Wheaton: Sword of the Lord, 1962), p. 59.

As an overall explanation of his beliefs on the topic of multiple translations, Dr. Rice also stated:

“[There] are many, many translations. The differences in the translations are so minor, so insignificant, that we can be sure not a single doctrine, not a single statement of fact, not a single command or exhortation, has been missed in our translations. And where the Word of God is not perfectly translated in one instance, it is corrected in another translation. And if the Word of God is not perfectly portrayed in one translation, it is portrayed, surely, in the winnowed sum of them all… Have copyists passed on to us any major errors so that in any particular matter we miss the Word of God? There is abundant evidence that they have not. Do the various translations differ materially on any doctrine, any fact of history, any Christian duty, on the plan of salvation, or the Person of Christ, or any comfort or instruction? No, they do not! God has preserved His Scriptures. – from, Our God-Breathed Book, the Bible (Murfreesboro, TN: Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1969), p. 355.

Now, according to many legalists, at least to those who refuse to read or use any other translation of the Bible than the King James 1611, Dr. Rice, who had probably been one of their heroes, is now a liberal. Poor guy! He did so much!

I believe that God inspired His Word (2 Timothy 3:16). I believe He gave it to us in the original autographs. I believe that He has preserved copies of those originals in the examples we have of Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic manuscripts. What I do not believe is that the King James Version was the one-and-only, forever-settled-as-pure-and-inspired translation. It is ONLY a translation. To say that no other English translation is the Word of God is to say that the Geneva Bible, 51 years older than the KJV, was just a book.

The Kings James Version of the Bible changed the world. We should all be grateful for it. I still use it many times when preaching, and especially when memorizing verses. But even though the KJV was and is a blessing of God, His Word is preserved in the ORIGINAL TEXTS. Anything other than the original languages, including the King James Version, is a translation.

Our goal should be to use the best translations of the texts at our disposal when we are preaching and teaching, comparing them with each other and the originals, when possible, so that we can better understand how God’s Word should be understood in today’s language. After all, if you can’t understand it, doing you no good is the least of your worries – doing harm because of a faulty understanding based on a changed vocabulary is far worse. That is where the REAL heresy comes from.

But hey, it doesn’t matter which translation, if you are not reading it and studying it on your own, you might as well be reading Harry Potter and the Temple of Whatever. READ your Bible. STUDY your Bible. Let the Holy Spirit guide you as you read and study and then a wonderful thing will happen – you won’t be ashamed in the end (2 Timothy 2:15); you will find light for your path (Psalm 119:105); and you will know how not to sin against God (Psalm 119:11). Even the ASV, ESV, HCSB, or the NIV will tell you that….right, Dr. Rice?

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