Category Archives: ministry

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: It’s War, but Faith Beats Fear

This blog was never intended to become a ministerial diary, of sorts, but reality is what reality is, not what we want or perceive it to be.

Therefore, I will continue to share my observations as we press forward in this new (to us) work in Georgia.

Reality Check

Getting strait to the point, there is a spiritual war going on, and you and I are involved in the conflict. It doesn’t matter where you and I are; the war is on-going and world-wide. We will never escape it until it’s over.

Unfortunately, too many think that life, with all its problems, is rarely affected by the spiritual conflict that rages all around us, even within us. Yet, the reality is that nearly everything we experience in this life is tactically connected to innumerable, web-like strategies meant to bring either victory of defeat. And depending on which side you are on – and that is debatable – victory may mean either bondage and destruction, or hope and deliverance.

There are no coincidences, and no small decision is devoid of long-reaching consequences. This is reality, and that’s a check you can cash.

The Influence Factor

To be fair, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you are, or what responsibility you’ve been given: you’ll never know the full extent of how your life and your decisions will affect others. However, what is equally true is that the more influence a person has, the more of a “high-value” target he or she becomes. And because we are in a spiritual war, this is especially true for those in ministry.

Just since the last post I wrote, the one about “Food and Fur,” I have been reminded that the more influence one has, the more the enemy will attack. I have been reminded that the enemy will wait until we are comfortable, then strike where we are least expecting it, and usually with weapons and tactics for which we have little defense. Or, rather, the defense we do have is more than adequate, but the enemy knows we have not done much training on how to use it.  Either way, the attack is meant to knock us back and reconsider our ability to continue the fight.

This is why it should never be an aspiration for a minister to obtain a “larger church” or anything like that, for unless it’s in God’s timing, and unless the minister and his family are equipped, because of the “influence factor,” they – and I do say “they” – may not be able to handle it. The more influence over the lives of others, the more the Enemy will desire your destruction.

The “Fear” Factor

You do remember the TV show Fear Factor, don’t you? Do you remember how that it was perfectly possible for every contestant to complete the required challenges, if only they could conquer their own fears? They all had the strength, the coordination, and the skill, but it was so often the fear that immobilized the contestant who failed. So often in this spiritual warfare what we find is that we’ve been given all we need by the Holy Spirit to be victorious, but fear – fear of failure, fear of exposure, fear of sacrifice, fear of inadequacy, fear of the Enemy – saps our strength, makes us weak in the knees, causes us to run, or convinces us to surrender.

This week (even yesterday) my family was threatened. The threat is hard to assess, but it is being taken seriously, so much so that police departments in two states are now involved. Yet, should we live in fear? Should we be intimidated?

Or, should we refuse to cower and hide, put feet on our faith, and trust our God to deliver?

In the Messianic Psalm 91, David wrote of how he would handle threats. He wrote:

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him will I trust’” (Psa. 91:1-2).

Later in verse five he writes: “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day.”

Then King Solomon, David’s son, echoes these very words when he describes the kind of peace one can enjoy when he puts his faith in the true God and trusts His word:

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto your own understanding: in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths…When you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden terror, nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes; for the LORD will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught” (Proverbs 3:5-6, 24-26).

Believe me, I am concerned. I am concerned for the safety of my daughters, my family in general, myself, and even my friends and congregation. But I refuse to live in fear! I refuse to live in hiding. I refuse to accept that threats from enemies of God – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and my Father in Heaven, the One who tells me to call Him “Abba” (Daddy) – carry more weight than the promises from God’s Word!

Conclusion

Since I’m already at 907 words, I should bring this “Observation” to a conclusion.

First, I don’t think it’s wise to share specific details about what is going on that made me write this post. Doing so would not help keep anyone safe any more than what is already being done. So, don’t expect any real details to come out in future posts.

However, I will say this: Even in America there are those who will swear they are not radical, but will nevertheless use the “fear card” credit their fellow faith-members have earned as a tool. Even should their veiled threats be hollow and only mean, it is impossible to know what is truly in the heart or intended, and should therefore be taken seriously.

Evidently, the Enemy wants to put a stop to what God is doing, and he’s not going to play nice. When people down here said they’d heard I was stirring things up, this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind! And whether or not what we are going through right now as a family is related at all to the overall plan here in Georgia, in reality, it’s all related.

So, pray for us.

Your soldiers on the battlefield in middle Georgia


BONUS: Here’s a song my daughter Katie sang several years ago (I think she was 17). I think it’s pretty appropriate for today. Are we fearless, or full of faith?

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Filed under Christianity, Culture Wars, Faith, Family, General Observations, ministry

A Last and a First: Closing One Ministry and Beginning Another

As many of you know, I am now the pastor of a church down in Warthen, Georgia. You probably also know that I used to pastor South Soddy Baptist in Soddy Daisy, Tennessee.

Well, I thought it might be of interest to some of you to listen to two different sermons – one from my last day at South Soddy, and the other from my first day at Bethlehem Baptist.

But the reason I am sharing both of these back-to-back is so that hopefully you will notice a similarity between them. What I hope you will notice, despite the sadness of one and the excitement of the other, is a common thread of hope and assurance that God is still at work and the work for us to do is not done.

God bless you all, and I hope to get back to writing very soon – there sure is a lot to talk about!

Click on the pictures below for links to sermons.

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Filed under baptist, Church, Do not judge, Life/Death, ministry, Preaching, worship

The More You Know…

It’s been a while…

It has been a couple of weeks or more since I last sat down to really hammer out anything original. Most of my posts have been re-posts or shares from other blogs. However, before I leave the McDonald’s where I’m using free WiFi, I feel I’ve got to get something off my chest.

For years I studied and studied, spending lots of money and time in Bible school, college, and seminary – and I’m still learning. And even after all of that, I feel so inadequate, so unlearned, because there’s so much I still don’t know. It’s really true what they say – the more you learn, the more you know there’s more to learn.

Yet, let’s be honest – or at least honest with myself – I’m no idiot. I have been taught by some great teachers and have attended some great schools. I’ve even learned one of the greatest skills one can possess – the ability to know how to learn. So, there’s hardly any excuse for me not to know what I need to know.

And that leads me to a sobering and chilling revelation that came to me yesterday…one that I knew, but need to be reminded of…

I am going to be held accountable for what I know and what I preach and teach.

Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. – 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 

I am going to have to answer to God for the proper care and feeding of His flock. I am going to have to answer for each one that gets led astray when I’m not looking. I’m going to be held accountable for their undernourishment when I should have been able to lead them to green pastures.

I’m a qualified and experienced shepherd – I have no excuses.

One deacon said to me, “We are looking forward to benefiting from your expertise.” My expertise? Of course! It was like at that moment the Holy Spirit whispered into my ear: “You have what they need…Why else do you think I would have led you here?”

On my first night after my very first day in the office (not even unpacked), I got called to the church to meet with an individual who was having serious problems that were way over my head – but not beyond what the counsel of the Word could deal with! Right there, right out of the gate, God brought to my mind what I had learned and gleaned from past experience and a victory was had in this man’s life!

Some of this may seem elementary and obvious to you. I mean, what else does it mean to be a pastor than this? But what hit me last night was the fact that now, more than ever, much has been given to me – much more than I stopped to realize – and MUCH will be required.

Looking forward to hearing “Well done” has been taken to a whole new level. 

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Filed under ministry, Preaching

Give Attention to Your Doctrine

Every once in a while I feel the need to do a little teaching. Keep in mind, many who read this blog do not go to a church, never hear a real pastor preach, nor even read a Bible. This might be the only path through which they choose to accept Biblical truth.

I just finished recording the audio for an upcoming radio broadcast. The text from which I preached was primarily the following:

Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. … Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. – 1Ti 4:13, 16 KJV

One of the greatest challenges for the preacher is to make sure his doctrine is biblical, not based on human desires, such as the desire to only hear what we want to hear. I am reminded of the what Paul told Timothy in his second letter…

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. – 2Ti 4:3-4 KJV

How many people have literally “heaped to themselves” stacks of books, CD’s, cassette tapes, magazines, study guides, and DVD’s from televangelists, conference speakers, and popular authors who preach what scratches the itching ear? People want to hear what makes them feel good, more encouraged, and can lead to a more prosperous, fulfilled life. Therefore, hearing the Word of God is irrelevant, especially if it doesn’t scratch the itch

The challenge, then, is for the sincere man of God to give priority to what is true doctrine, not the doctrine of men. This takes serious study, a willingness to be led by the Holy Spirit, and an understanding that what is of the Lord might not be popular, or desired.

That’s when it’s important to be “instant in season and out of season.” God knows what we need to be spiritually healthy, so “taking heed” to our doctrine must also include the commitment to serve what what’s needed, not simply what we crave.

 

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Filed under Christian Living, God, ministry, Preaching, Theology

Going to Bethlehem

It’s already been announced on Facebook, but now it’s time to tell the story here on the blog. 

Me and my wife, along with family that joined us for the day.

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.

This is either me preaching the trial sermon which preceded the vote, or me singing “Stop! In the Name of Love!”

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.

Being welcomed as the new pastor of Bethlehem Baptist.

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!

Anthony

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Filed under baptist, Church, ministry, Preaching

So, you want to be a pastor?

With so much being posted on social media these days, even those in ministry have available to them a plethora of helps, lists, and general advice from experienced clergy folk.

Much of what is shared on Facebook and Twitter are written by the “pro’s” in ministry research like Thom S. Rainer, or long-time veterans of ministry like Joe McKeever. What rarely gets shared are articles and posts written by ordinary guys like me – probably because we aren’t professional authors or researchers.

Well, I want to share some helpful hints from an old-school, bi-vocational, small-church, in-the-trenches pastor with no access to research teams, only personal experience, and some common sense (but Logos software doesn’t hurt).

Hopefully, you will find the following 10 points helpful.

10 Words of Wisdom for Those Entering the Pastorate

  1. Get a biblical education. Seriously, it doesn’t matter if the school is only a rag-tag, non-accredited hole in the ground, get an education from someplace that will teach you how to study the Bible by making you study the Bible. Those who call a seminary a “cemetery” are nothing more than illiterate bigots who should be avoided – unless you want to show them how to get saved.
  2. Listen to your wife. I know, sometimes wives have actually been the reason men have left the ministry. However, a good, godly wife will offer you insight that no one else can. She really does have an intuition that sees what our eyes can’t. She is also going to be the only one in the church you can trust 100%
  3. Don’t think every sermon needs to be alliterated. Guys, not every sermon is best delivered with four points, all alliterated with a certain letter or phonetic sound. Sometimes the best way to outline your sermon is just go with the way the Scripture leads.
  4. Be a sheepdog. Do whatever it takes to arm yourself with the knowledge necessary to protect not only those in your church but your own family. Be prepared to fight – literally – for those you love. Always be on the lookout for wolves in sheep’s clothing, especially sexual predators. Believe me, I wish I’d prepared better.
  5. Draw your lines in the sand early on – the earlier the better. Don’t wait for church trouble to draw your lines in the sand. Don’t wait until you are in a struggle with disagreeing leadership before you say, “This is the way it’s going to be.” Start early by saying that…be the thermostat, not the thermometer.
  6. Learn to preach without notes. There’s going to come a time when you need to preach and you won’t have time to prepare an outline. There is going to come a time when you are asked to preach a funeral or a revival service, and all you will have is your Bible. Read it…learn it…know it…and be able to preach from it without a man-made crutch.
  7. Check your pride. The day you go up to the pulpit all cocky, that’s the day you will be an utter failure. Ascend to the “sacred desk” with your knees shaking under the weight of the seriousness of what you’re doing and you will come down humble, but confident God’s Word will not return void. As long as you are humble and dependent on God, that’s when even the most basic of sermons can shake the foundations of hell itself.
  8. Don’t grow too dependent on technology. Men, there may come a day when we don’t have the internet, iPads, microphones, and projection screens. At any moment you could lose one or all of those things, so learn to prepare and to preach like the great warriors of the past – because history has a tendency to repeat itself.
  9. Love your family more than your ministry. You’ve probably heard it said before, but it’s true; your family is your first and most important ministry, not the congregation you serve. Don’t lose your wife or kids for the sake of any church.
  10. Never stop studying and learning. Even if you go to Bible school and seminary, never think you’ve learned enough. Always be learning, reading, researching, and studying. If George Washington Carver could squeeze all he did out of the lowly peanut (to the glory of God), imagine how much you will be able to find if you keep digging deeper into the Holy Writ!

So, there you have it. Do you have some words of wisdom you’d like to share? Why not write them in the comment section below? I’m sure we all could benefit from our collective experiences.

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Filed under ministry, Preaching

My Song for the Day

As some of you may know, Building 429 is one of my favorite groups of all time. Why? Because they’re the coolest Baptist musicians around 😉

. . . And their songs are solid!

. . . And I had a personal run-in with them several years ago that reminded me who I am – or who I’m supposed to be. You can read about it here.

But today I’m taking things one step at a time, trusting God to lead me down a road I’ve never been down before – but He has.

And the LORD, he [it is] that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed. – Deuteronomy 31:8

The following song is a song that’s meant a lot to me over the last 3 years, and it’s becoming something of a reminder, again. So, This is my song for the day, and I want to share it with you.

. . . In two videos 🙂

I don’t know where this path is leading exactly, but I’m going to take it one step – one foot – at a time.

Have a blessed one!

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Filed under baptist, Christian Maturity, Christianity, Future, ministry, music