It’s already been announced on Facebook, but now it’s time to tell the story here on the blog.
This past Sunday, after a unanimous vote, the congregation of Bethlehem Baptist Church (founded 1790) in Warthen, GA, called me to be their pastor, and I accepted. That means I will be moving away from the Chattanooga/Soddy-Daisy, TN area and relocating to “Bulldog” territory (as in Georgia Bulldogs).
NOTE: It won’t be easy to get on board with the whole “bulldog” thing, but I am a certified Atlanta Braves fan, so that helps. I’ll always have orange blood.
It all started several months ago when I was contacted by the pastor search committee from Bethlehem Baptist. They had gotten my resume from the SBC database and wanted to know if I would be willing to be considered for the position. I knew I would not be the only person under consideration, and since I figured they would find someone else more qualified than me, I said it was OK. I mean, why burn any bridges, right?
Eventually, one thing led to another and I got to the point of multiple interviews, background checks, and trial sermons. I wasn’t actively seeking to leave South Soddy Baptist, but it became apparent after a while that the writing was on the wall: It was time for me to move.
South Soddy Baptist Church, along with many other people in the Soddy Daisy area, made a huge impact on our lives. Had it not been for South Soddy, I have no idea where we would be right now. God opened that door at a time when we desperately needed it, and through our last two years there He proved His faithfulness.
So, for the rest of this month and the month of July we will be attempting to wrap things up, get everything packed, and then moved to Georgia (nearly 5 hours away). My first official day in the office (yes, I will have office hours) will be August 1st.
As you have prayed for our family in the past, I would ask for your continued prayers – this will not be an easy transition.
Pray, also, that God will prepare the soil in the field to where I am going, along with sharpen my plow and fill the seed bag. Even before I get there to go to work, there is work to be done.
This is going to be an adventure, one that will surely affect not only our lives, but the way in which I write this blog. Big changes affect little changes, like how the ripples from a big splash create smaller ripples that reflect off other things.
Thank you for being my friends and reader all these years (10th anniversary for the blog this September!). I’m just thankful that no matter where God leads, the technology He has allowed will keep us linked.
God bless you!
I just wanted to share an update about my heart and other medical issues.
As most of you who read this blog know, I had a heart attack a little over a month ago. That resulted in me receiving 2 stents and having to take a lot of medication – ugh!
Yesterday, I finished my first round of cardiac therapy – it wasn’t that bad, just a little trip to a nice gym where nice nurses and technicians treated me like an invalid and made me wear a heart monitor while I worked up a sweat.
I am scheduled to do therapy for two days a week, then up it to three. I may even get into shape when it’s all over!
Today I went to my cardiologist, endured a painful echo cardiogram, and, to be brief, got a good report. My heart is functioning just wonderful and there is no damage as a result of my heart incident. Hallelujah!
Now, as Paul Harvey would say, here’s the REST of the story…
I have a mass in my chest, just above my heart, close to the aorta. I will be having a PET scan sometime soon to find out if it is malignant. Regardless, because of the size and where it is, I am told it must be removed. If it is cancerous, it must be addressed sooner than later.
The only problem is that having any kind of surgery any time sooner than at least six months after a heart attack (and being on blood thinners) is a risky procedure and ill-advised. If I do have to have surgery soon, then it will require me having to be admitted to the hospital at least 5 days prior in order to be put on a drip to take me off of the Brilinta.
Nothing is easy anymore, is it?
But here’s the good news – yes, there is good news. The constant pain in my chest may be related to the mass in my chest, not my heart. Well, fact is, it’s NOT my heart! So, whatever the other thing is, once it’s removed, I will not keep having these pains that make me think my heart is hurting. That’s awesome!
Funny thing, though… the pain of the mass in my chest may have actually saved my life by getting me into the hospital to find out I was having a heart attack that I DIDN’T feel. On top of that, the heart attack may have opened the door to the early discovery of what could be cancer (hope not).
While I was in the waiting area waiting for the echo cardiogram to be done, I met an 85-year-old man named Hyman. To make a long story short, with the sweetest and calmest of temperament, he began to talk to me about life, his lack of worry, his marriage to his bride Rachael, and his life-changing faith in Jesus Christ. We had a wonderful discussion, which leads me to my final thought.
As I told the elderly saint in the waiting room, my wish is that people not necessarily pray for my healing, but for me to be a faithful witness of the love and grace of Jesus Christ while God allows me to endure whatever He has planned for me. Sure, I want to be healed, but I’d much prefer to be able to point people to Jesus.
As I told Hyman, sometimes, when the people in the hospital won’t go to church or seek after God, God sends the church to the hospital to be a witness for Him. When the hospital won’t go to church, He sends the Church to the hospital.
I appreciate your continued prayers… and pray for Rachael, Hyman’s wife. He really loves her.
The Christians in Sri Lanka weep as they mourn the loss of hundreds of precious lives, and pray for the wounded numbering in the hundreds more.
We weep with them. We mourn with them. We pray for the wounded.
But we rejoice in that the victory has already been won . . . The church will not be defeated . . . Jesus Christ has risen!
Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning! – Psalm 30:5
Good Friday, everyone! I hope today will be the start of a great weekend for you.
I just wanted to share some thoughts with you guys, whoever might be interested, regarding some recent interviews I’ve had.
Let me be clear, I am perfectly happy to stay right where I am as pastor of South Soddy Baptist Church. Now, don’t get me wrong, it would be great if this little church could grow, even by a few people. But I’m happy to stay here and work my tail off as long as this is where God wants me.
That being said, recently several churches have contacted me and asked if I’d be willing to be considered for the position of pastor. Again, I’m NOT looking to leave where I am, but I felt it would be wise to at least have a conversation with these different churches just to make sure I wasn’t missing God’s direction.
Because the churches that have contacted me have been out of town, each one has elected to do conference-style phone interviews, their pulpit search committees on one end of the line, me on the other.
However, what concerns me…which is what this post is going to be about…are the questions these pulpit committees are asking – or NOT asking.
What I have been experiencing from these pulpit search committees are questions that are rather weak, vague, and easy to manipulate. By “manipulate” I mean that they are questions that by their very nature tell me what the answer should be.
For example, before I participated in any of these interviews I did my research on who these people were. That’s only smart. So, if I were to have been asked questions about worship style, what version of the Bible I use, or even denominational polity, all I would need to know is apparent on their websites and social media accounts. If I had wanted to, I could answer their questions just like they were expecting.
But beyond that, the typically weak and vague questions are ones that inquire about my family, how well I work with committees, how long my average sermon is, and am I willing to visit people in the hospital.
Should you be one of the committee members of one of the churches that have interviewed me, whether on the phone or in person, please understand that I’m not mocking or deriding you – I’m simply concerned.
Whether it’s me being interviewed or someone else, my advice to these churches – maybe even yours – is to ask tougher questions that demand answers grounded in solid theology and backed with Scripture.
In the last several interviews I’ve never – not once – been asked questions like the following:
Just to be clear, I pastor Baptist churches, and Baptist churches select their pastors differently than other denominations. Baptist churches are autonomous, therefore (except in rare exceptions), we do not have a standard prerequisite for how pulpit search committees select and vet their candidates.
However, all I’m asking is that at the very least … should I be contacted again … could you make the questions a little more challenging, please? I really do need the workout.
I promise it’ll be fun 😉
Just the other day I came across a couple of old VHS tapes in my study. You do know what they are, don’t you?
The ink on the labels was so faded that I couldn’t tell what had been recorded on them. So, I took them back to the house and popped them into the old player to see what little bit of history had been archived.
To my surprise, one of the VHS tapes contained the recording of my father’s funeral back in 1991! It was a little disturbing at first, but I decided to watch some of it, especially since I didn’t remember much about what was said that day.
One of the men whom I had invited to speak was Evangelist John Mitchell, a former pastor of ours and a man who knew my dad well. During his short sermon in honor of my father, he gave an illustration that eloquently described him.
When describing my father, Bro. John Mitchell put it this way:
“What was Terry Baker’s real aspirations? I mean, what did he really want out of life? Well, Terry was satisfied, as few people are, with just doing little things for Jesus.
I heard the story one time of a fellow who had a couple thousand acres that he farmed, and he had these big John Deere tractors with 24-ft harrows. In other words, with one swoop with that tractor they would plow a 24-foot strip…it would take no time to get those big, huge fields done.
But there was only one problem: those fields were so big, when it turned around, it couldn’t catch the corners, and the corners were always left…and they had to get somebody to come in and do those corners because the ground was just as fertile and grew just as much in the corners as it did out in the middle.
It seemed like to me, knowing Terry 20 years, that he was satisfied in just doing the corners. He never did look for big stuff. He never was, all the time I knew him, disappointed in doing the little things for the Lord Jesus Christ. He felt like, as I do, it was just as important as that fellow out there with the big John Deere tractor…
Terry didn’t aspire to be somebody great with his name in the papers. He just wanted to do whatever he could for the Lord Jesus Christ. I would to God we had more Terry Bakers who had that type of attitude.”
In other words, my dad was content plowing the corners, for that was important, too.
So, if my dad was here today (and I wish he was), I think he would be proud of me. Today is the 2nd anniversary of when I became pastor of a small corner in the big field of Hamilton County, Tennessee: South Soddy Baptist Church.
While others have been tasked by the Owner of the field to drive the big plows, He has entrusted me with this little spot – because the harvest is that important.
When I was younger I had aspirations of plowing larger plots of land, but that was when I thought it was MY field…my ministry, not God’s. But now that I’ve matured and learned to be more like my late father, a humble man of God, there is joy and contentment in doing the bidding of the One who called me to the work…
…even in the corners.