Tag Archives: ministry

Four Ways to Connect with God: 4) Love with All Your Mind

How do you grow in your love for God? Sure, love Him with your heart, soul, and strength, but what about loving Him with your mind?

It’s more than simple mental assent, to know the facts about Jesus, to understand the basics, to hold dear the concepts of the essential and even non-essential doctrines. But is this love? Hardly. Studying without heartfelt application is an academic exercise, not much different than the Pharisees of Jesus’ day or those that Paul explains in Rom 1 who “suppress the truth in their unrighteousness.”

There is a sense, however, of knowing and doing God’s will. Romans 12:2 (ESV) says,

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

We love God by being transformed by what we know of God to understand the perfect book-623163_640will of God. This means that bible study is to be applied for His Kingdom’s sake. We grow to show ourselves approved to Christ. We do this as a daily sacrifice to glorify Him.

So read the Word, study it, devour it in fact, and always apply this not for the sake of knowledge, but for a greater glory in Christ.

Until next time,

Pastor Fran

To My Beloved Church Family…

About three weeks ago, I received a phone call to see if I was open to discussing a possibility of serving in a full-time position that would involve ministering to churches and pastors throughout the Upper Midwest region of our country. Although I was not at all looking to leave Mt. Healthy, I did want to be faithful and seek the Lord’s leading in this. After several helpful conversations, Teresa and I took the time to pray, read the Word, seek advice, and again, seek His leading through more prayer. Ultimately, I felt God reminding me that my life is not mine to live, and whatever I do, I must be faithful to go enthusiastically to where ever He leads.

My brothers and sisters, it has become clear to me that God is leading me to serve Him in this new ministry. In this capacity, I will have the chance to serve and love on hundreds of pastors and churches in several states throughout the Upper Midwest. I will have the chance to focus on disciple making and a chance to affect thousands of lives with the gospel. As you can imagine, this is an amazing and exciting opportunity to see many, many lives being changed by the Lord!

That said, leaving you is not easy. Teresa and I love you as our family and we struggled with our decision to leave! You can Worshiptake comfort that I am not leaving with any negative feelings whatsoever- I am not mad, upset, pressured, or angry in any way. To the contrary: I am leaving with the joy of the Lord and with my gratitude and love for you! I can truly say that it’s been nine wonderful, memorable, uplifting years of fulfilling the gospel work!

As I prepare to finish my last Sunday on April 2nd, I want to share some words of encouragement. First, be assured that both the deacons and church staff have already begun planning for this time of transition so that everything can run as smoothly as possible during this interim period. Your leaders need your confidence, prayers, and cooperation during this time. You have wonderful, godly leaders who love the Lord and His church, so trust them!

Second, know that I will be your biggest cheerleader and greatest prayer partner. I am already praying for you as you seek the Lord for a new pastor, and I have already begun to pray for him as you receive him in love. In the same way, please pray for Teresa and me as we serve Christ in this new way. It will be an honor to love on our sister churches and pastors as I help them to serve Christ more fully.

Thank you, my beloved church family, for these past nine years. I will always treasure this time of our sweet blessings and steadfastness in Christ. I love you all. Watch this blog for updates of God at work in and through this new ministry for us. May the Lord bless you and may the Lord bless the gospel work of His church!

In Christian love,

Pastor Fran

How It All Fits Together

We all have seen it: when talking about pastors, deacons, and the ministry of the church, there are many applications on a local church level. In my own research on deacon ministry, for example, I found as many varieties of deacon ministries as I did churches!

However, there’s a couple of questions for ministry that should always be asked:

  1. Is it biblical?
  2. When applied, is it sustainable?

Here’s a brief summary of the various duties of church members as seen in Scripture (these references are not an exhaustive list):

  • Ministry of the Pastors– the pastors primarily preach, teach, oversee, and minister to the spiritual needs of the church (1 Tim 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-16, Acts 20:28, 1 Pt 5:2).
  • Ministry of the Deacons– the deacons primarily care, visit, serve the poor, and ministering to the physical needs of the church (Acts 6:1-7, 1 Tim 3:8-13).
  • Ministry of Teams– the ministry teams primarily reach, teach, fellowship, worship, serve, and pray for the work of the gospel (Eph 4:11-16, Ex 18:17-26).

The model might look a little like this:

god-centered-church

So how does this work together? First, all ministries at First Baptist Church submit to the Scriptures for all guidance and practice. Second, all ministry leaders abide by the decisions of the church, knowing that the church is the Bride of Christ. Third, the support for one another in various ways will assist each another in their ministry functions and gifts. But last, these three areas (pastors, deacons, ministry teams) will help the church as a whole get healthy and be able to attend to physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of each other and of unbelievers.

Balanced ministry, biblical ministry, led by pastors, served by deacons, ministry in the teams. In a quick summary, this is how we do it.

Pastor Fran

 

Together…

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Yesterday was a major milestone for First Baptist Church of Mt. Healthy. Over the course of the day, we both celebrated 60 years of ministry and acknowledged a new direction for our church in reaching our community with the love of Jesus Christ.  At the close of our worship service, men, women, and children came forward to sign and affirm their own commitment to the Lord, His church, and His gospel work. It was an amazing, refreshing time!

It is good to honor the past, and a very good thing to look at the present, yet one thing we as leaders wanted to emphasize in our church is to get excited about the future. We are saved in Christ because Christ fervently prayed for us in His high priestly prayer of John 17. We are alive in Christ because God saw into the future and called us to Him (Eph 1:4). And we are missionaries in Christ to do His Great Commission of Mt 28:19-20.

Church, let’s not forget that someone, some way prayed for and shared Christ with us. In the same way, make your life, your work, and your church a place where this same action is done over and over again for those who need His salvation.

I love you, First Baptist. Let’s do God’s work as Together…we Come, Grow, Serve, and Share!

 

A Devotion: What to Do…

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. – Romans 7:15, 19

adam-and-eve-798376_960_720No one is immune from the peril of sin. Satan, that father of lies, the thief who came to kill and destroy, continues to attack every human being. Ever since the temptation and Fall in the Garden, the addiction to sin has continued, and all humanity has been held captive by the evil one. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard (Rom 3:23), all have been led astray (Isaiah 53:6), all have walked in this transgression and sin in rebellion against God (Eph 2:1-3). The wickedness of sin wages war in the soul to rebel against the Creator God. Just like in Paul’s example here, we desire to do the right things yet we do the opposite. How horrific and cruel sin has been!

But praise God for His grace! Praise God for His mercy! Praise God for His salvation! The forces of Hell have already been defeated by the King of kings and Lord of lords. This freedom from sin, born through the cross, has transformed the victim into the victor, the rebel into the redeemed, and the lost into the liberated!

Fellow sinner, take heart: if you are in Christ, you are no longer condemned. This is why Paul just a few verses later wrote the ultimate truth of our condition in Romans 8:1, “there is therefore no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” Be comforted: the Bible is full of promises that the Holy Spirit will protect, guide, and even open a way out of the temptations that come. You don’t need to surrender to the temptation. Instead, His grace is sufficient, so rely on His strength, look to His Spirit, and live for His glory!

Pastor Fran

What Pastors can learn from Brian Williams

The whole Brian Williams fib-telling fiasco is really, really sad to me. He seemed human, even a likeable guy, and it was tough to hear the whole story play out. Williams claimed that he misremembered traumatic events while on assignment, and the one most discussed is the one that got him suspended: his claim that he was on a helicopter that was shot at and forced down. Well, we all now know that he was not in the helicopter that was shot down, but instead was in another helicopter far 14236788114686_700behind- like 45 minutes behind. In other words, he was literally barely on the radar. No doubt, Brian Williams was caught and called out on a lie, and in the process, became an instant celebrity in some very funny internet memes.

Williams was at the top of his game: he had the coveted anchor chair, the role of managing editor, and nationwide fame as one of the most trusted in the country. Now, his endless retelling of a false story over a period of several years has caused him to sink to the 835th position, according to a recent poll by the NY Times. Actually, I am surprised that he didn’t fall even further down the list.

All in all, I hate this for Brian Williams and I hope that he is indeed repentant as some have reported. Even more, I’m not sure of his spiritual condition, but I hope that the gospel of Christ is eminent in his life.  Yet there is always something that we can learn from these sort of events. Specifically, what can pastors learn from this? Let me give a few thoughts:

  • Credibility matters. Communicators of a message must be credible. For pastors, the communication of the true Truth of God’s Word is horribly tainted when exaggerations and even lies spew from the pulpit. This means that the preaching of truth mixed with the telling of fake stories or personal exaggerations does a severe disservice to the advancement of the gospel. Preachers who use unverifiable illustrations found on the internet or in books need to stop. 
  • Humanity matters. I believe that personal stories that make you seem almost superhuman to your church hurts your message too. Please don’t read this wrong: absolutely be the example of how others should walk, yet have a healthy realization that you are not a “Super Christian.” Hopefully your church knows that, and appreciates even more the grace that is displayed when God uses an imperfect messenger such as yourself. In other words, be human.
  • Humility matters. This relates to the first two thoughts above. The issue with lying is that it is always about the self. A person usually lies to puff themselves up before others. Apparently, it was almost a joke in the NBC Newsroom that William’s continued his lie-telling to beef up his bio. This Hemmingwayesque attempt to look tough seemed ridiculous, but this is what an egotistical narrative does: it lifts up the self and pride runs rampant. Pastors especially have to watch for this issue, and pride unchecked is a disastrous thing.
  • Repentance matters. One of the worst parts of the Williams saga is his non-apology apology. He took out time to make an apology that to many didn’t seem to own up to that fact that he lied. Not misremembered, but lied. Okay, we have all lied, yet, nothing changes the course of things like repentance. True repentance from the heart to a God who forgives all sins begins the process of healing. Pastors who blow it (whether it’s a lie or anything else) need to quickly repent, apologize, and move on to restoration.
  • Christ matters. The truth of the gospel is not about you. The truth of the gospel is about Jesus. As John the Baptist famously said in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” When Christ is elevated and you are lowered, He is presented as who He should be: the Savior of the world, who is coming again to redeem His creation in glory. Remember that as you conduct yourself.

There’s some of my thoughts. Are there any other principles that you might add?

Ten Things a Pastor Should Do: #5- Exercise three times a week.

Over 18 months ago, my wife found a Groupon deal for this crazy sounding idea- we could go to a thing called “Boot Camp” and pay only $35 for twenty sessions. When she told me about it, my ears perked up- it was cheap, yes, but it sounded, well scary. Memories of my young adulthood and Army basic training immediately sprang up: frightening men in brown hats with deep yet shrill voices growling in my face as I “pushed the earth” countless times all day, every day. Reluctantly, I told her that I would do it and we bought the Groupon deal for the two of us.

Fran T3_
https://www.facebook.com/T3FitnessAndTraining

A short time later we did our first Boot Camp. I looked around and saw no big, ugly drill sergeants, no brown hats, no yelling, not even intimidation. Nope, none of that. I saw instead support, encouragement, and even (gulp!) smiles on the faces of the trainers. The one hour session was rough (real rough) but the supportive atmosphere helped me to want to come back. 18 months later, I am still going to Boot Camp. My Groupon deal has long since been used up, and I have gladly paid the regular price for exercising at T3 Fitness. While my wife also enjoyed her experience there, my son has grabbed on to it most of all, being greatly been changed in losing 62+ pounds and counting!

It is true that we should all stay in shape, but for pastors who often care about other areas of their lives but neglect the physical, exercise should be a priority. In 3 John 2, the Apostle John encouraged his readers when he wrote, “I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” Paul wrote to “glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:20). Many a pastor (this guy included) has spent hours of sitting, studying, visiting, and inactivity. Oftentimes, meals are quickly gulped down in the car while heading to another appointment. This lifestyle is obviously stressful, but add to this routine a lack of a dedicated time of exercise and disaster is bound to happen.

Ultimately, I was convicted to lose weight and get healthy as a testimony to others of discipline. It was my conviction that I was hypocritical in preaching discipline (of all sorts) when I wasn’t being disciplined myself. I could barely go up the steps to my office without being winded. I was out of shape, overweight, and had begun feeling a lack of energy. Once I began exercising regularly, my energy increased and I became more effective. I try to exercise at least three times a week, sometimes more, and I purposely schedule the time to do this along with my other appointments. It’s a physical life changer, as I have maintained a nearly 50 lb weight loss for over six months now and I can go up steps with no issues. Most of all, I feel as if I am being a good steward of the body that God has given me, and because of this care, I hope to enjoy a longer, healthier life of service to Him while here on His earth. 🙂

I’m not quite there yet, but I’m a work in progress. However, let me ask: How are you exercising on a regular basis? What has worked for you? 

Pastor Fran

Ten Things a Pastor Should Do: #4- Set healthy boundaries.

There it was, the survey I had dreaded to see. I clicked a link and went to an article on CNN called, 10 Signs you might be addicted to your smartphone. Ugh. I knew what I would see: “Blah, blah, blah, you’re checking your phone too much, blah, blah, blah, your too plugged in.” Yeah, I know it. What about it?

I even took the Smartphone Abuse Test, and, after trying to answer every question honestly, I scored 9/15. Not bad, right? Wrong. The makers of the survey let me know, in no uncertain terms, that answering having as low as a 5/15 means that you have a problem. Ouch!

Okay, there’s no reason to deny it, I look at my phone a lot. I mean, a lot. I get emails, texts, Facebook and Twitter messages, and once in a while, I even get a phone call. Needless to say, my phone runs out of its battery real fast, and life lived in the 5% battery range is both disturbing and thrilling at the same time.

Here’s what’s even scarier: I have gotten a whole lot better than in the past. There was once a time that whenever I saw a picture of me (and my wife takes a ton of pictures), the cell was attached to my ear. I have made adjustments, and though I do need to make even more, I know it’s progress, not perfection.

The greater point is this: Whether it’s electronic devices, long hours, or whatever you focus a whole lot on, a pastor with many, many demands and many duties must set healthy boundaries. This is for the sake of your marriage, your family, and your overall health in life and ministry. Cell phones should go off at a certain time. Email and texts can wait. Your kids and spouse should not see your face in front of an electronic device more than they see your face in front of them. In fact, they should see you period, like when they play in a game and you cheer them on from the stands or they have that bit part in the school play and yet still look for your face in the audience. After all, there are no small parts or meaningless games, especially if you are their biggest cheerleader.

Set a healthy boundary. Place being a husband, parent, and citizen of Heaven first. Keep the nonurgent question in the nonurgent category and wait to respond until you are back in the office. That text or email you got can wait (it really can), only to be efficiently answered by you the next day. Limit your ministry nights to no more than four nights, and let everyone know this rule should apply to others in the church too.

Can’t wait to take this test again in a few months. Will keep you posted.

Until He comes again,

Pastor Fran

Ten Things a Pastor Should Do: #3 Take one or two days off a week, and be sure to take vacations.

When I was younger and new in ministry, I used to brag to myself (and others) that I would work constantly without vacations, days off, or breaks. My goal then was that no one would outwork me in ministry- now I can see that this was such a fleshly, prideful mindset!

Truth is, ministry is hard work. The demands of ministry do not end at 5 pm and then begin again at 9 am. Often, the burdens of ministry are with you all of the time, hanging on your shoulders day and night, weekdays and weekends, during and outside of shadow walkingyour family “time.” There are late night phone calls, as well as emails, Facebook messages, text messages, and visits. The clock never stops for sermon and bible study preparations, and the constant dripping of the C.A.V.E. Dwellers can get on your nerves as well. There’s no surprise that statistics show the average tenure of a pastor to be three to four years. It’s true that there’s a high burn out rate in the ministry.

All that said, let me now be Captain Obvious for a minute: you can’t work all the time and not have time for rest. Rest is very important, even vital for the long term work of ministry. Rest is built into God’s creation, when He rested on the 7th day. Jesus often took time away from the crowds to rest and pray in quiet places (see Mark 6:30-31). We are likewise called to the Sabbath principle, a time of rest from life itself and to time with the Lord (Lev 23:3). Basically put, rest is important to God and it should be important to you.

So take that day off (or sometimes even two). Take that vacation with your family, even being willing to miss two Sundays in a row. Date your wife regularly. Break away from the cell phone, your witty Twitter posts, your snarky Facebook comments. Disconnect from the current routine and reconnect with God and your family. Remember that your relationships with God, your spouse, and your family are your prime importance and calling. After all, once you refresh yourself, you will be much more healthy and ready for the demands of your call to ministry. Now go rest!

Pastor Fran

One way to stay encouraged: an encouragement drawer!

Everyone goes through ups and downs in life. Sometimes we feel like we’re on a mountain top, looking around in seeing that everything is going right. However, there’s also times when we feel like we are in the lowest of the lows, the valleys, and in those times it seems like nothing can go right!

We can all identify with both perspectives in various degrees, but for now I’d like to speak to the second situation, the valleys of life. No one is immune from being down about our circumstances. When we look at Scripture, we can see many examples of God’s people getting discouraged about things going on around them. Elijah is one example that comes to mind, when he felt as if no one was following God and instead was following the false god, Baal. The Apostle Paul at one point in his ministry was deserted by everyone, and in spite of all of the work that he had done, he felt as if he had almost no one that he could turn to for support in time of need (see 2 Timothy). The point is, that no matter how you serve the Lord, He has called you to ministry. However, sometimes ministry and life’s struggles can be discouraging. So how do we stay encouraged and focused on the Lord?

Of course, we know the need to be in the Word and in prayer. Here’s an additional help: as a pastor, I got some good advice from a member a few years ago to keep an encouragement drawer. An encouragement drawer is just that- a place to store notes, cards, drawings, and other forms of encouragement from some of God’s people. When I get down or discouraged, I open up my encouragement drawer and remind myself that first, God is always with me, and second, God’s people love and appreciate me. Having an encouragement drawer is a visual reminder of the love that God has for me.

Today, my drawer has encouragement from people who have served together with me over the years. Some of these people are now with the Lord. Others have moved away to other places. But one thing is sure, their encouragement still lives on today. Fellow Christian and especially pastors, let me wholeheartedly urge you to you get an encouragement drawer. I pray that it will help you as God has allowed it to help me!

Romans 15:5-6, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”