Tag Archives: Ministry

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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Our Worst Days

I am going to be honest with you, dear reader… I’m not writing this for you to read.

I’m writing for myself.

If you remember, way back in the day blogs were still called “web logs” and they were really nothing more than digital diaries. Some people still use blogs for that reason, and I believe that a lot of them are flat-out liars… Just keeping it real.

Maybe I’m a little/lot jealous of the ones who seem to have it all together. But again, they’re probably lying.

I don’t have it together, believe me. I’m not the perfect husband, dad, son, pastor, or anything. I really do have issues. Doesn’t everyone?

Well, maybe not you.

I’m just sitting here trying to type out my frustrations and get a grip. It’s been a bad day.

Now, even though I said I’m not writing this for anyone to read, there are some people out there who can relate to what I’m dealing with. They are the preachers and pastors who must get up on Sunday morning with the responsibility to encourage the believers, teach the Word, and appeal to the lost. Many of them know exactly what I’m talking about when I say, “I hate Saturday nights.”

There are three days that can be considered a pastor’s worst days: Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Sunday afternoons and evenings after church, along with Mondays, are usually the most depressing days of the weeks. It’s on Sundays that the pastor has so many expectations and hopes, then Monday is the day he considers another career. Sunday afternoons aren’t always that bad, but it’s usually in the evenings, after the final services (unless there’s only a morning service), that the pastor becomes his worst critic and often blames himself for the lack of attendance or the stone-faced parishioners who rarely smile, much less participate in heartfelt corporate praise.

On Sunday afternoons the pastor blames himself for everything.

Mondays are a little different. On Mondays the pastor has gotten a little past his self-guilt and has moved on to fighting the fight against becoming angry or bitter. It’s on Mondays that many pastors think about leaving their churches or ministry entirely. And if you want to know the cold, hard truth, it’s on Mondays when many pastors consider suicide – it happens.

You know, this might be uncomfortable to hear; but ministry places a lot of stress on a pastor (and his family). Try to put yourself into your pastor’s shoes (or his “glass house”) for a moment. Think of the stress he is under –

  • the stress to preach the Truth without compromise, but without offending somebody;
  • the stress to grow the church, but without taking the credit;
  • the stress to teach and preach quality sermons, but the lack of time to put into it;
  • the stress of balancing family responsibilities with church responsibilities;
  • the stress of finances;
  • the stress of seeing people walk away without ever explaining why;
  • the stress of trying to be human, but always being put on a pedestal;
  • etc., etc., etc.

Real pastors (not the ones on TV who beg for millions to buy new jets) are some of the most sensitive people you will ever meet, but they have to have thick skin (and wear the full armor of God). They love their people and want to see them on Sunday (and other days), but so often the people in the pews rarely think of how it affects the preacher when they decide to stay at home. Frankly, it’s discouraging.

Yet, we have to do what we are called to do, even if only 2 or 3 show up.

On Mondays many of us wake up asking ourselves the question: “Is this really what I’m supposed to be doing?” 

Then there is the night before the sermon. It’s the night when a pastor should already have his sermon prepared and his ducks in a row (especially if he’s an Aflac agent). It’s the night when he should be spending time with his family playing games, watching TV, or going to the park. However, Saturday night is usually the time when the average bi-vocational pastor is up until 1 or 2 a.m. trying to finish what he had little time to do during the week. It’s during those late hours that he’s all alone and able to think and pray…while trying not to feel too guilty for not having everything already done.

But unlike Sundays and Mondays, Saturdays are unique in that if there is going to be a spiritual attack, it’s usually going to be on that day. Aside from the tense couple of hours on Sunday mornings when everybody in the house is trying to get ready at the same time, Saturdays can see more go wrong in a short time than any other 24-hour period. If you think it’s only coincidence, you’ve never lived the ministry life.

On Saturdays the Enemy tries to defeat the minister before he has the chance to preach.

But I’m only defeated if I quit. So, I’m not quitting. I’m not giving up. I’m not backing down. I’m not giving in.

“I am doing a great work, so why should the work cease…?” – Nehemiah 6:3a

When people give up, even when it seems they’re the last one standing, a whole city could be in danger!

“And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.” Ezekiel 22:30

It was my Savior, Jesus, who “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2), so what is my cross? Is it any heavier than His? And He endured it because of the “joy that was set before him,” or, in other words, what He knew was going to be the result. Like a woman in labor endures the pain of child birth so that she can hold her baby in her arms, so Jesus endured the pains of Calvary so that we could become the children of God.

Are not the pains of ministry – all that our worst days may bring – worth the joys set before us?

I’m not defeated, for we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us (Rom. 8:37).

Like I said in the beginning, I didn’t write this for you; I wrote it for myself.

I needed it.

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Filed under Church, ministry, Preaching, Struggles and Trials

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.

Last week I had the opportunity to hear a friend of mine preach at a church that is considering him for the role of senior pastor. Therefore, 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.

Hopefully, my friend (and others) 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