Tag Archives: Ministry

Friday Night Thoughts of Encouragement (1/25/19)

It’s Friday night in Pigeon Forge, TN, the place where Dolly Parton is famous, there’s snow on the Smokey Mountains, and legal moonshine is a hot commodity.

It’s also the place where every year at this time bivocational pastors and their wives come together for a wonderful and critical time of fellowship – the kind that says, “I know what you’re going through…you’re not alone.”

If you follow me on Facebook, you will notice that I shared some of the music and speakers live.

Below is a link to a powerful message, more like a charge to us pastors, by Dr. Randy Davis, President and Executive Director of the TBMB. (At one point I knock over my iPad – sorry)

But if you are a bivocational pastor in the state of Tennessee and you are not here, the real question is why aren’t you here?

I know that it’s not always easy to get away for a Thursday through Saturday, maybe even the Sunday, too. But my wife and I plan for this retreat every year because it is the highlight of the year for us. There’s barely anything else like it.

Unfortunately, so many pastors are loners. They think that getting together with other pastors is a sign of weakness, unless, that is, the purpose for getting together is a time to flex their preaching muscles or do anything that doesn’t include admitting you’re less than superman.

But I’m a little bit embarrassed for our own association of Baptist churches in our county. One association of Southern Baptist churches had only 12 churches, as opposed to my county’s 100+. Yet, that little association of SBC churches reportedly had 100% participation in this event, while only 3 pastors from churches in our association came! I was one of them!

They just don’t understand what they are missing!

To be honest, I came to this retreat with a very heavy heart and beyond discouraged. I was down, stiff, a little resentful, and a tad bit skeptical of whether or not this time the retreat would benefit me, my wife, or my church.

Then came the time for the first speaker to speak (at least the first one we were able to hear, because we came in a couple of hours after the whole thing started). He asked us all to turn in our Bibles to 2 Corinthians and stand as we all read the 1st verse of chapter 4…

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. – 2 Corinthians 4:1 NKJV

Without exaggerating, I broke down into sobs before the last word of that verse was able to be read aloud. God knew exactly what I needed at that moment…and I would even bet money I wasn’t the only one.

After some more music and some more preaching to the preachers, I found myself at the front, right below the stage, in a conference room with a few hundred of my peers, on my knees before God confessing my lack of faith, my lack of wholeheartedness, and the pitiful state of my spiritual weaponry.

And I wasn’t the only one who did that; it was kneeling room only. I’m sure the carpet was damp with tears when all was said and done.

And that’s what I’m talking about: Pastors and their wives from all across the state of Tennessee, just regular folk who work jobs and pastor churches, getting real. Getting real with God, and with each other.

We are living in a time when godlessness is taking over. The last thing we need is a bunch of discouraged, downtrodden, scared shepherds trying to watch over the few sheep they do have as the wolves are emboldened.

What we really need are more ambassadors of Christ, spiritual warriors of the Cross, who realize that though they may be surrounded by an encroaching enemy, the battle is not over! Surrounded by an army nearly twice his size, the truth of King Hezekiah’s words should be an encouragement to us…

“Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that [is] with him; for [there are] more with us than with him. “With him [is] an arm of flesh; but with us [is] the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah. – 2 Chronicles 32:7-8 NKJV

Tomorrow is the final day of this retreat, and I’m looking forward to the blessing. But I’m also more encouraged than yesterday to attack hell with a water pistol when I get back home.

With me is the LORD my God to help us and to fight our battles – I am not alone!

I am unwavering!

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Filed under America, Christian Maturity, Christian Unity, Church, Faith, ministry, Preaching, worship

Qualifications for a Pastor (and a reminder for the rest of you)

There are places in the Bible where the Apostle Paul describes the qualifications necessary to be a pastor (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1:5-9).

But there are some additional characteristics I think every pastor should have if he wishes to survive until the next Easter service or deacons’ meeting… and believe me, I speak from experience.

This photo was taken at a bi-vocational pastor and wives retreat. These men were gathering around a fellow pastor who’s son who was a drug addict and missing.

Among other things, a pastor should have a thick skin, a broken heart, a humble spirit, and a hope that rests in the fact that Grace is there to pick up the pieces.

As for you, the congregations they lead, be reminded that the only perfect Shepherd was Jesus; the rest are human.

Pray that the light of Jesus will shine through the cracked vessel which is your pastor.

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Faith, grace, ministry, Prayer, Preaching

Weddings, Weddings, Weddings!

Ringgold, Georgia

Did you know that Ringgold, GA is the “Wedding Capital of the South”? Well, it is, and that’s because hundreds and hundreds of couples get married there every year.

And where do many, if not most of them choose to tie the knot? The Ringgold Wedding Chapel. Go check out their website and read about its history, including some of the more famous names who’ve gotten married there (Dolly Parton and Carl Dean, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Bob Harvey from Jefferson Airplane, etc.).

Anyway, I’ve been conducting weddings at the Ringgold Wedding Chapel for a few weeks, now. It’s been interesting, to say the least. 🙂

A Ministry

Some of you may think me crazy, or even a heretic, for agreeing to marry people in a wedding chapel. Believe me, I get it. There used to be a day when I wouldn’t do a wedding for anyone unless they first agreed to extended pre-marital counseling. Now, I marry people the same hour I meet them.

But why do I do it? You see, the people that come into the chapel to get married don’t just walk in and say, “Marry me!” No, they have to book the chapel and pay a fee, plus have all their paperwork in order. However, those that want to get married could just as easily go to a courthouse, but they don’t; they choose to be married by a minister.

If these couples are going to get married somewhere, no matter what, I figured why not seize the opportunity to present the Gospel to them through a ceremony that highlighted a biblical model of marriage? It’s not a perfect situation, but it’s a chance to plant a seed, if nothing else.

So, I wanted to share with you guys my wedding script. It’s what I read for each and every wedding, making adjustments as needed, sometimes adding more when appropriate. When the service is over, I give the couple the script I used (with their names written in the blanks) for a keepsake, Scripture references and all.

Wedding Ceremony

The Greeting

   Greetings, everyone! My name is Rev. Anthony Baker, and on behalf of __________________ and ________________, I would like to welcome you to this wonderful occasion.

   We are gathered together here, today, in the sight of God and all you witnesses, to join this man and this woman together in holy matrimony. It is holy because marriage was not invented in a court room or a judge’s chamber, but in ages past by God Himself. Therefore, it should not be taken lightly, but should be entered into reverently, advisedly, and in the fear of God.

   He is watching, and He will never forget the vows you two will be exchanging. And, not to leave anyone out, God also knows every one of you here as witnesses, and He will know whether or not you encourage and support this couple in the days and years to come.

   To Bride: ______________, are you willing to proceed with this ceremony? Answer: “I am.”

   To Groom: _______________, are you willing to proceed with this ceremony? Ans.: “I am.”

The Giving of the Bride (optional)

   Who gives this woman to be married to this man? Response: “I do,” “We do,” “Her mother and I do.”

Prayer

   Father in Heaven, Creator of all things, we thank you this day for your mercy and grace and for giving us the wonderful gift of marriage. Lord, please bless us with Your presence, bless the union of this bride and groom, and be glorified by all that is said and done today. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ we pray, Amen!

Statement of Marriage

   As I mentioned before, marriage was not created by men, nor was it ordained in a courtroom; marriage was created by God Himself. We know this from reading the second chapter of Genesis. There, God created Adam, then Eve, and brought her to the man. Adam then said of Eve, “This is now bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” Genesis 2:24 reads: “This is why a man shall leave his father and mother and bond with his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

   Marriage is the institution in which God ordains a man and a woman to come together in love, with undying commitment, as a testimony to others of God’s love for us.

   When times get hard, you don’t run away, throw in the towel, and say, “I quit!” Why? Because Jesus, as our example, said to His disciples, “I will never leave you” (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5). As a further example to us, even after all we did to Him, after all He went through, He still carried the cross – He gave His all.

   Marriage is more than a 50/50 relationship; it’s 100% both ways. But even when one of you doesn’t live up to the other’s expectations – it will happen  – true love carries the extra burden, forgives, shows mercy and grace. That is one reason why the apostle Paul tells us in the 5th chapter of his letter to the Ephesians, “Husbands, love your wives, just as also Christ loved the church and gave himself for her” (Eph. 5:25). The sacrificial love of Jesus was to be mirrored in the marriage relationship. To sum it up, Paul went on to say in verse 33: “…each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.”

   _______________ and _______________, the greatest love of all, the truest love of all, is not a love that demands of each other, or expects of each other, but gives all that one has without any expectations. 1 John 4:10 (NLT) says, “This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” Therefore, the greatest advice I can give is if you want a long-lasting, wonderful marriage, love each other more than yourself, for loving each other IS loving yourself.

The Vows

   _______________  and ______________, now that you understand something of the reason for marriage, are you ready now to confirm your commitment to each other, before God and these witnesses, by the saying of your vows?  Response: “We are.”

   Then please turn to each other and join hands.

   _______________ (groom), in taking ______________ to be your wife, do you so promise to honor, to love, and to cherish her in sickness as in health, in poverty as in wealth, in hardship as in blessing, until death alone shall part you?  Groom responds: “I do.”

   _______________ (bride), in taking ______________ to be your husband, do you so promise to honor, to love, and cherish him in sickness as in health, in poverty as in wealth, in hardship as in blessing, until death alone shall part you?  Bride responds: “I do.”

Do you have rings?

The Exchange of Rings

   You will now seal your vows “to honor, to love, and to cherish” by the giving and receiving of rings. I would like for you to look at your rings for just a moment. What you see is symbolic of two things. First, of course your rings are round. That symbolizes something that is never ending, a union that cannot be broken, and that is what your marriage should be.

   But secondly, I would like for you to think about the precious metal that these rings are made of. The metal is precious because it was hard to find and what it endured to become what you will wear. The metal in these rings went through a furnace, through testing, through times of purifying. Your marriage will also have times of trials and tribulation, times when you’ll be put through the fire. And when those times come, look at those rings you will be wearing and remember this: The longer you stay together, the more fires you endure, the more precious your marriage to each other will be.

  _______________ (groom), place the ring on ___________’s finger and repeat after me:

   Groom: “I, ________________, take you, ________________, to be my wedded wife to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. Joyfully and willingly, I commit myself to you and to you alone.”

   ________________(bride), place the ring on _____________’s finger and repeat after me:

   Bride: “I, ________________, take you, ________________, to be my wedded husband to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. Joyfully and willingly, I commit myself to you and to you alone.”

Prayer

   Gracious Father, we thank you for creating us in your image so that we might know You and what true love is. Through your power and blessing we ask You to enable these two to keep their vows and be renewed daily in their love and commitment to each other. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Unity Candle, Sand Ceremony (Optional)

The Pronouncement

   _______________ and ______________, we have witnessed the pledging of your love and commitment to each other, and the sealing of your vows by the exchanging of rings. Thereby, under the authority of God’s Word, and in accordance with the laws of the State of Georgia, it is my privilege to pronounce you husband and wife!

_____________ (groom), you may kiss your bride.

Introduction of Newlyweds:  I now present to you Mr. & Mrs. ______________________.

 

Officiated by: Rev. Anthony C. Baker, M.Min.

So, what do you think of my wedding script? Feel free to use it if you want.

What do you think of sharing the Gospel in this way?

Would you word anything differently?

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Filed under Defending Traditional Marriage, Defining Marriage, ministry, places, Struggles and Trials

To Whom Do You Give?

There are a lot of scams out there, believe me. As a matter of fact, a lot of those trying to steal your money are people claiming to work for God.

Some will tell you to send in a “seed” in order to reap a “harvest.” I once saw a preacher tell his television audience that someone should send in a “thousand dollar seed,” even though they were afraid the bills couldn’t be paid! He literally told them that God would take care of the bills if they would just sow that $1,000 seed to that ministry.

Sickening.

Other ministries have asked for millions of dollars to buy private jets, while still more try to sell a never-ending stream of books and videos meant to fund who knows what.

Unbelievable.

However, there are smaller, local, nothing-fancy ministries out there that are just trying to make a difference in their own communities. Those ministries don’t exist for the purpose of getting; they exist in order to give.

South Soddy Baptist Church is one of those smaller, nothing-fancy ministries.

Christians are a giving people, but many times they are taken advantage of. Very often groups will come along and make grand claims of helping the poor and needy, or sharing the gospel with people in far-off lands, but their claims are hard to verify.

Not here at South Soddy Baptist.

South Soddy Baptist is a small church in a small town that desperately wants to fulfill their calling to make disciples, love their community, and take the gospel to the world, but starting right in their back yard. And nowadays, even getting the word out to people down the road costs money (street-of-the-week signs, gas, flyers, website expenses, door hangers, cookies to homes, etc.).

Then there are the normal operating expenses associated with just keeping the electricity on in our meeting facilities where we worship, teach, hold free bluegrass events, provide free food, etc.

If South Soddy Baptist Church was a place where millionaires attended, there would not be the need for a “Give online” tab at the top of our website. However, none of those who attend South Soddy are rich. What’s more, the people we want to reach aren’t rich, either. That’s why your help would be so much appreciated.

You may already attend a church and give there. If that is the case, then wonderful! On the other hand, maybe you’d like to have a real part in impacting the work of a legitimate, down-home ministry to real people living through real life.

If so, why not pray about giving to South Soddy Baptist Church in Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee? We make no promises about how God may bless you, but we will promise every dollar you give will be used to minister to our community for the glory of Jesus Christ.

And every very-appreciated gift is tax-deductible.

Click on our logo below, then click on the red “D0nate Online” tab at the top of the website.

And, while you’re there on the church website, read my blog posts and leave any prayer request – I promise we pray for every one.

Blessings!

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Your Little Church On the Web

Where Do You Go?

Do you have a place where you regularly worship? In other words, do you regularly go to church anywhere?

If you do, that’s awesome! But if you don’t, I would encourage you to find a place to go, even if it’s not perfect – is any place?

But if you don’t go somewhere…maybe you live too far away, or maybe you have a legitimate issue with crowds…I would like to encourage you to check out the website of the little church where I pastor: SouthSoddyBaptist.org.

If you don’t have a regular place to worship, and if you don’t like or don’t trust the megachurch places or internet ministries, our little church would like to help fill a void in your life. Maybe, just maybe, we could be your “Little Church On the Web.”

The Little Church

Believe me, churches don’t get much smaller than South Soddy Baptist, but we are a legitimate congregation of believers on mission from God.

We don’t have a lot to offer by way of flashy worship music. We don’t have a cool stage with lumber on the wall and mood lighting. Heck, we don’t even have a projection screen!

But what we DO have is a love for each other and a heart for God. We believe in genuine, caring fellowship and friendship. We care about what’s going on in each other’s lives.

We were blessed to be able to start our website so that we could minister to those not only in our community but around the world. Even though it’s not a huge website, like our little church it offers the basics, and sometimes that’s what is missing in other places.

Join Us

Look, if I had my preferences, I would like for you to attend a real worship service in a real brick-and-mortar building. But if that’s not where you are right now, why not make SouthSoddyBaptist.org your Little Church On the Web?

Read the blog posts. Listen to the sermons. Send your prayer requests – which we will absolutely pray for – through either email, text, or by phone. Go to our Facebook and YouTube pages as we begin to publish more content that’s simple and helpful.

We are a real church in a real city with real people who care about the Truth of God’s word and want to love people like Jesus would.

Would you join us?

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Filed under Christianity, Church, worship

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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Filed under baptist, Church, ministry, Preaching

More Than a Career, It’s a Means to a Calling

The following is from an article I published this evening on LinkedIn. I’m just now starting to take advantage of that social networking medium, so if you have any suggestions, let me know 🙂

Heads Up: I’m working on a new book, and this article is a hint of what’s to come.


Means to a Calling

How familiar is the term “bi-vocational” to you? If you are a member of a small church, or if you are a pastor of one, then you are very familiar with the term. However, judging by the uninformed comments on social media (those slamming ministers who ask for millions of dollars to buy new jets), it would seem that much of the public is unaware that the good majority of small-church pastors are bi-vocational – which means they have to work more than one job.

I am a bi-vocational pastor; I’ve been one my whole ministerial life. Even though I have a seminary degree, even receiving the Theology Award when I earned my Masters in Ministry, I still serve a church that cannot afford to compensate a full-time pastor. Unlike many assumptions, this is more of the norm these days, not the exception. Gone are the days when a young man entering ministry could expect to earn his primary living from the ministry. Now, even the most educated and qualified ministers leaving Bible schools and seminaries should also have a skill with which they can find a job to put food on the table and pay the rent.

In Acts 18:1-3 we read of the apostle Paul’s bi-vocational trade. Upon coming to the city of Corinth he met up with a husband-and-wife team named Priscilla and Aquila who “were of the same craft” and lived with them, for “they were tentmakers.” In a general sense, tentmaking was not what Paul was known for, nor was it his primary calling in life; he was an apostle to the Gentiles. However, even this great man chose (even though he could have expected otherwise) to keep up a skill which helped fund his personal ministry. After all, there weren’t many places where he could go preach where people took up large offerings to give him afterwards; in many cases all he got was a beating.

So, even though the ministerial climate in America is much different than what Paul endured, there is still a need for pastors and ministers to be able to support themselves when those they serve have little to offer in return. There is nothing wrong with a pastor earning his living from the ministry, and Paul says as much in 1 Corinthians 9:13 and 1 Timothy 5:17-18. However, church attendance is on a decline across the board and overall giving is not what it used to be; therefore most ministers must supplement their calling with other income. That is why I am writing this article: my job, my own version of “tentmaking,” is not a means to an end; it’s a means to a calling.

Over the forty-five years I have literally had…don’t be shocked…forty-two different jobs! Never mind, you can be shocked – that’s a lot. Now, many of those were part-time jobs that overlapped, but since my first job as a young, teenage preacher, I’ve done around forty different things in order to facilitate what God has called me to do. Granted, even though much of what I have done in the “secular” world has, in some ways, been ministry, none of what I’ve done…no label I’ve ever worn…no title I’ve ever had…has been the main thing I’ve desired to do. All I want to do is preach the gospel and be an under shepherd to the Great Shepherd’s sheep.

Today, and hopefully until the day when I can no longer work – or don’t have to – I am an agent with a great company, Aflac. For the ten previous years I drove a school bus and trained new bus drivers. Driving the school bus allowed me to be a positive influence on children and affect future generations, but Aflac will now give me the opportunity to be a servant of Christ by example and deed in the grown-up world of business and insurance. I will be able to help people protect themselves against financial hardship in the event of accidents and/or illnesses, help businesses take care of their employees and keep good talent while decreasing their tax burden, and most importantly keep food on the table as I serve the Lord’s people and the community in which we have been placed.

If you can introduce me to a business owner or decision maker, I would surely appreciate it! In doing so you will not only help my business to grow, but you will be helping me help others in more ways than you can know. With your help we can “make more tents,” but that won’t be all; the job is just a means to the calling. In reality, bi-vocational ministry is more than having a second job, it’s part of the calling, too.

 

Email me at Anthony_Baker@us.aflac.com for more information on how Aflac can help you 🙂

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