Tag Archives: Ministry

Keeping Watch at Night

“And it came to pass that night, that the word of the LORD came unto Nathan…” (2 Samuel 7:4)

2:30 a.m.,etc.

Believe me, I am not one who enjoys getting out of bed before the sun does. If it were up to me, I would prefer stumbling to the coffee pot in daylight. But that’s not my life – I’m a school bus driver; 5 o’clock mornings have been my norm for the last 10 years.

But I am also a pastor. A “shepherd.” And because I am a shepherd of souls, sometimes I have to do like the shepherds of old, keep watch over my flock by night. That requires being on call all the time, including the dark times. And when I say “dark times,” I mean that literally and figuratively.

In the Christmas story, we read of shepherds “keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). Have you ever wondered why the shepherds stayed awake? Simple: because wolves and thieves work the night shift, too! Sometimes shepherding involves looking out for your sheep while they sleep. Often it is in the dark times that pastors and intercessors are needed most.

Because of my shoulder surgery, I have been woken up by pain nearly every hour every night this past week. A few of those times I decided to pray while awake, and that got me to thinking.

The Night

It was in the night that “the word of the LORD came unto Nathan.” What would have happened if Nathan had refused to wake up? What would have happened had he refused to listen, but instead said, “I have GOT to get some sleep?”

This morning, like a lot of recent mornings, the Lord placed a prayer on my heart long before any alarms were set to go off. He gave me a “vision in the night.” I could have griped, rolled over, looked at the clock, and asked, “Why now?” Instead, I sat up, forced myself to thank God for the pain I’ve been enduring, and began to intercede for certain individuals and the ministry in which I’m involved.

What would have happened had Nathan decided to go back to sleep? We can only guess. What would have happened had I brushed away God’s nudging? Only God knows. But if history is any kind of teacher, disobedience in even the smallest of things can be catastrophic; going back to sleep might have fed a wolf.

Your Call

Just the other day I mentioned to my wife how that I didn’t want to miss what God was wanting to teach me through this painful recovery. When I told her about David, Nathan, and my inability to get more than an hour or two of sleep each night, immediately she replied, “Looks like you’ve found your lesson.” As she pointed out, since I can’t do much else right now, God is calling me to pray more – especially in the night.

Have you ever woken up at night with another person on your heart? When that happens, what do you do? You see, dark times come at all times, especially when it’s most inconvenient. As a matter of fact, the “darkness” may even be a difficult time in your life. It may be in the wee hours of your “night” that God chooses to speak.

God wouldn’t call in the middle of the night if it wasn’t important.

Don’t ignore Him.

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Christmas, Life Lessons, ministry, Preaching

Could I Appeal for Your Temporary Support?

Please take a moment to read and then share the following appeal. Thanks!


Hey everybody!

First, let me just say that God is good, and I put my full faith and trust in Him to provide for me. He is the One who loves me more than the flowers He clothes in the field (Matt. 6:30; Luke 12:28), so why be anxious? He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, including the hills; He will take care of my family and me.

However, one of the ways God takes care of His children is through the other children in His family. We don’t have to read very far into the book of Acts and the Apostle Paul’s writings to see where it was the churches (including individuals) who sent gifts to keep the first missionaries in the field and to relieve the burdens of hurting congregations. It is not beyond the ability of God to make manna fall from heaven, but more often I’ve seen Him use the abilities and gifts of His children to sustain those traveling through a modern wilderness.

On this December 19th (Tuesday) I will be having rotator cuff surgery on my right shoulder. A couple of years ago I fell on the side of a hill while mowing a friend’s grass, and now the problem has grown to the point where surgery is the only option. I have two partial tears and one full through-and-through tear of tendons in my shoulder. I am also being advised to have a release of the bicep tendon which is tracking wrong and causing damage to another tendon. This surgery will result in many weeks (up to 4 to 6 months) of recovery.

Now, if you didn’t know already, my main source of income is driving a school bus and training new drivers. I put in up to 10 hours a day either driving or instructing. My only other income is a small housing allowance from the little church I pastor ($150 a week). Having this surgery will mean that I will not be able to drive at all for a good while, and neither will I be able to instruct (I have to be back to full capability before returning to drive or work – there is no office work available). Therefore, I will have no income coming in for possibly up to 6 months!

What I am asking is simple: Would you consider supporting my family and me as temporary “Pastoral Missionaries”? Yeah, I sorta made up that title, but it fits the bill, don’t you think?

You see, South Soddy Baptist is a small church, but it cannot afford a full-time (fully funded) pastor. I believe this church has potential and value in this community, but what it really needs is to be worked in a full-time-pastor fashion. Being gone so much during the weekdays prohibits me from doing a lot of visitation (especially in these darker winter months), and doing personal outreach is critical to growing a new church, but especially in a context of revitalization. Believe it or not, I can see this surgery becoming a blessing this church needs. However, my family still needs to have electricity, gas money, and food, of course.

Oh, but why doesn’t my wife work? In case you didn’t know, my wife would work if she could. However, my wife became disabled a couple of years ago, so now the only money she can bring in is from her disability and what little she is allowed to make for doing taxes and books. Both of our younger two daughters still live at home, but one is in college and the other is duel-enrolled; they can’t work enough to pay our bills.

So, what I’m praying for is enough people to take us on as temporary “missionaries” and therefore provide tax-deductible support on a weekly or monthly basis. If enough of you could give $10, $20, or $50 monthly or weekly, my bus-driving income could be replaced while I recover, and in the meantime more ministry could take place here at South Soddy Baptist.

It this something you could do? Would you pray about it?

IF you would like to help, then you could contact either myself or our Director of Missions for the Hamilton County Baptist Association, Dr. Dennis Culbreth.

IF you would like to donate with a credit card, you could simply click on the “Donate” tab in the sidebar on this blog.

Thank you so much for giving this some thought and a lot of prayer. Please pray that the surgery will be a success and that full recovery will be quick. But remember, those of you who pray and give will not just be helping my family for a short time, you will be contributing toward the ministry of a small, local church as it seeks to minister to the people in this community.

God bless you,

Anthony Baker (The Recovering Legalist)

Contact Information:

Dr. Dennis Culbreth,  c/o Hamilton County Baptist Association, 6625 Lee Hwy, Chattanooga, TN 37421 (423-267-3794) Website: www.BaptistAssociation.com/contact-us/

Anthony C. Baker, c/o South Soddy Baptist Church, 11055 Dayton Pike, Soddy Daisy, TN 37379 (423-645-8884) PastorACBaker@yahoo.com

http://southsoddybaptist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/SouthSoddyBaptist.mp4?_=1

 

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Filed under baptist, Christian Unity, Church, community, ministry, Struggles and Trials

An Open Letter to an Average Disgruntled Church Member

Dear Disgruntled:

I noticed that coming to church has become something of a dying habit for you (well, to call it a habit might be stretching it a bit; habits do require some sort of consistency). From what I’ve heard, you’ve become disheartened and disillusioned with the whole church “thing.”

Is that true? If it is, my heart breaks for you. Believe me, there’s not a single church-related heartbreak or disappointment I haven’t already endured. However, there is something simple you can do to turn things around.

What you need to do is develop a Christ-like love for your brothers and sisters, then even the worst of disappointments will have a hard time turning your heart cold.

You could start by repeating the following statement over and over: “Because He first loved me… Because He first loved me…” Why? Because He first loved you (1 John 4:19)! Believe it or not, Jesus loved you long before you were loveable…long before you stopped breaking His heart on a daily basis…long before you became perfect and quit messing up.

Wait, you are perfect, aren’t you? No? Wow! And He loves you anyway?

Amazing, isn’t it?

So, if you would just try to love others the way Jesus loves you – faults and all – His Spirit would turn those tears of disappointment into healing streams of grace.

Then, if you’d keep your worship more vertically oriented and less horizontally irritated, there’d be a lot fewer things to complain about.

Loving and missing you,

An Average Pastor (without a jet) 

 

P.S. Service times haven’t changed, and no one has claimed your seat.

 

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Filed under Christian Unity, Church, grace, Struggles and Trials, worship, writing

It Is Well…Even If

I was driving in to work this morning when this song came on the radio. I began thinking of a fellow Christian blogger who is going through a very tough time, her faith wearing thin. I then prayed, but something else happened.

It was just after 6 a.m., and just as soon as “Even If” by MercyMe quit playing, it played one more time. Now, who preprogrammed that into the station’s computer, I wonder?

At that moment I began praising God from my own perspective. Tears began to build up in my eyes as I listened once again, only closer now, until gravity turned the pools to streams.

You see, I’ve got burdens, needs, mountains that need moving, and questions needing answers. All the while I’ve got a host of others who need me to help with the very same kinds of things. And what do I say when the prayers don’t get answered? What do I say when the healing doesn’t come? How do I react when everything seems to be overwhelming me, but God seems silent to my cries?

I trust Him.

I mean, Jesus loved me enough to die for me; He promised never to leave me or forsake me; so wouldn’t it stand to reason He cares what situations I face? If He cares for others, shouldn’t he care for me as well? Yes! He does!

And I will trust Him.

Even if nothing turns out the way I hope, my real Hope is Jesus. Notice, my hope is not IN Jesus; it IS Jesus.

I will trust Him.

When peace like a river attendeth my way; when sorrows  like to see billows roll;  whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say, “It is well with my soul…even if.”

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Filed under Christianity, Faith, God, ministry

No Home Down Here

It is just after midnight on Monday morning. I’m in bed, ready to go to sleep, but something is keeping me awake a little longer, and it’s the sting of something my youngest daughter said.

Haley said, “I don’t want to live in another house…I want a home.”

You see, she had come home from an over-nighter with some friends, and it was their house that got her attention. She noted the artistic way the place was decorated; the years of family photos that graced the walls; even a special area where one daughter’s paintings hung for all to see.

We live in a parsonage, the second one in ten years. The last place we lived was only a temporary stop until this parsonage was livable. All other places we’ve lived during her first 7 years of life were rentals.

The fact is, sadly, we live in a house, but we don’t have a home. My 17 year-old daughter has never lived in a place where family would always be, put down roots, and call it our own. We are nothing more than transients.

That’s the life of a bi-vocational pastor and his family, just trusting the Lord to keep a roof over our heads till we are asked to leave or God opens a door. Not very glamorous, for sure.

But, to be honest, there’s a lesson that’s not been lost on me during all this. Simply put, nothing on this earth will last forever, not even the deed to a home. No matter who we are, we’re all pilgrims in this world. As a matter of fact, living in a borrowed place down here just reminds me of how this world is not my home, I’m only passing through.

No, I don’t own a home down here, but at least I know where my real home is. One day I’ll go there, and you’re all invited. I bet my daughter will even be impressed with the way the Builder decorated it.

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Filed under Life Lessons, ministry, Relationships and Family, Struggles and Trials

Thinking Out of the Box? Or Out of My Mind?

The Facts

It should be common knowledge for most of you, at least those of you who regularly read my blog – because you are the more intelligent of all readers – that not all pastors are “fully funded.” In other words, over half of church pastors are what we call bi-vocational (i.e., they work at least a second job).

Well, it might come as a surprise to learn that many pastors, such as myself, receive no compensation from a denomination, either. At best, most bi-vocational pastors receive a small or modest salary and possibly an expense account, even more rare a parsonage (house). In other words, we are not getting wealthy from what we are called to do.

You see, the fact is that mega-churches make up only a small percentage of all churches. The vast majority of congregations in America have regular attendances of less than 400, and a good 30+% have less than 100 regular members. Why, then, would one choose to enter the ministry (accept the call), spend tens of thousands of dollars on years of education (4-10), only to expect a career that pays, on average, less than a 1st-year school teacher? Believe me, it’s not about the money.

We do it because we are called. We go because we are sent. And, in whatever way we can, if we have to, we will make tents (Acts 18:3). That’s why we work more than one job, if we have to, so that we can do what pastors do – shepherd the flock of God.

The Thought

But here is where I feel I was thinking out of the box yesterday afternoon: What if bi-vocational pastors could be supported like missionaries?

Stop and think about it. There are some areas where churches are few, and the ones that are there cannot afford to pay a pastor any kind of living wage (and, by the way, it’s biblical to pay a pastor). These little churches would love to have a seminary-educated minister teach and preach the Word of God, but most of the time end up searching for years until they wind up accepting whomever they can get. Not a good situation.

What if pastors of smaller congregations could raise support, much like what many missionaries do before going into the field? You do realize that the small, bible-teaching church down the road – the one which still serves a purpose and meets a specific demographic need – is still as important to the Body as the large church on the hill, don’t you? Whenever a small church closes its doors because of a lack of available leadership, the whole Kingdom suffers. Would it not be reasonable, therefore, to suggest supporting at least in some small ways, the pastors of these churches? Granted, there must be some considerations, but is it not a reasonable thought?

Pastoring a church takes time, and there are only so many hours in the day. When one has a family (if only a wife), puts 20-30 hours a week into church-related work and activity, and then has to maintain a “secular” career on top of that, something will suffer. When you add to the mix a pastor who is primarily trained and educated in ministry, not a technical skill-related field, the types of employment available – including the hours and days one must work – become more and more limited.

Am I thinking out of the box, or am I out of my mind? Are there ways this could be developed? Would it be something you would consider? Are there other options worth exploring?

What are your thoughts? 

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Filed under Christian Unity, Church, Preaching

I’m Not a Superhero

Email Ads

I don’t know how it happens, but somehow my email gets flooded with “half-off” offers and all such craziness. Even though I delete cookies, unsubscribe to stuff, and threaten friends, people still send me links to things I can’t afford.

Now, honestly, not all of the ads are worthless. As a matter of fact, if I had the money, I’d take advantage of some of the Groupon offers. Come to think of it, I should have taken advantage of some of those coupons before my last anniversary! Dang it! Why didn’t I think of that?

Once, on Facebook, someone sent me a link to a company selling t-shirts. The one that caught their attention was one that read, “I’m a School Bus Driver. What’s your superpower?” I thought that was cool! Alas, I didn’t have $20 to spend on a t-shirt, even though I wanted it.

However, it was not long after the offer for the first t-shirt that I got another offer. This time I wasn’t so happy.

Super Pastor

Dear reader, dear friend, dear occasional stalker, etc., I am not a superhero!

photoFor those of you who may be having this read to you, to the right is a picture of the advertisement as it appeared on my cell phone. It shows a black t-shirt that has printed on the front: “I’m a PASTOR, what’s your SUPERPOWER?”

Unlike when I saw the one about being school bus driver, when I saw this t-shirt design, I didn’t laugh, smile, or even grin; it ticked me off.

Folks, I don’t even joke about this. Pastors are already placed on unwanted pedestals, live in glass houses, and are thought of as superhuman. We, along with our families, are expected to have special powers of some kind, almost like Baptist wizards, impervious to the spells of the dark lord.

But, we are not special, only our calling is. Pastors are not gifted with superpowers, and to suggest that only adds to the expectation that we can do everything perfectly, never getting tired, never mouthing off to our kids, and always having the right answer for everything.

Super Savior

The only thing I can say is that God called me to a humbling “profession.” I did not choose to do what I do; He put the desire in my heart. And unlike other careers, like bus driver, fire fighter, school teacher, etc., no amount of education, training, or experience can make us successful at what we pastors do; only the living presence of Jesus can do that.

I have no super power other than the power of Christ within me. As a matter of fact, the weaker I am – the more the “kryptonite” affects me – the more He is able to work through me (Phil. 4:13).

And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 KJV

I am only human. I have no superpower. All I have is a Super Savior.

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Filed under ministry, Preaching