Thursday, December 31, 2015

16 Questions to Ask Yourself in 2016!

"Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Examine yourselves..." -Corinthians 13:5 (HCSB)

The New Year celebration is a time of reflection.  I would encourage you to set some personal spirtual goals for your walk with Christ this year.  Here is a list of 16 excellent questions to reflect on and ask yourself in 2016.  Please note that Don Whitney is to be given credit for writing these questions, and I couldn’t think of a better way to phrase them.  

1. What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What's the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

8. What's the most important way you will, by God's grace, try to make this year different from last year?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in 10 years? In eternity?

11. What's the most important decision you need to make this year?

12. What area of your life most needs simplifying, and what's one way you could simplify in that area?

13. What's the most important need you feel burdened to meet this year?

14. What habit would you most like to establish this year?

15. Who is the person you most want to encourage this year?

16. In what area of your life do you most need change, and what will you do about it this year?

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

How has evangelism methods changed over the past 30 years?

“Of the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do, …..” -1 Chronicles 12:32

Recently a friend called me and asked me about using the “Way of the Master.” The “Way of the Master” evangelism method promotes a very in your face, confrontational style of evangelism, and it has been effective for some. Other evangelism methods we have seen developed over the last thirty years plus include the Four Spiritual Laws, Evangelism Explosions, F.A.I.T.H., the evangecube, and the old Roman’s Road.

I would argue that culture constantly changes. We must exegete the culture we live in just like we would the Scriptures. We see examples of this in the gospel when Paul preaches his famous sermon about an unknown God in Acts 17.  According to a recent study from the Pew Research Center, the number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public, a third of adults under 30 years old is religiously unaffiliated today. In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. In a population that has grown up ignorant of the bible or church life, the former methods of evangelism may not be as effective.  It also appears that as a christian influence slips away, a more hindu view is gripping American's thinking and theology as seen in the article, "We Are All Hindus Now."  I would like to share a few items that would be helpful in evangelism today:
  • Be Relationship Oriented. In my experience, almost every case that I have led someone to the Lord over the past ten years, I have had a relationship with for some time. Usually a meeting as friends then that becomes an evangelism opportunity. You must be willing to be available and take time to build relationships with people. People who are far from God want to know you care about them first, and that they are not another notch on your evangelism belt.
  • Let’s Have Better Fights. Let’s just admit it we all end up in a fight or love a good fight, especially Southern Baptist! The problem is most of our fights are small and petty compared to real problems in the world. Instead of fighting Starbucks on their choice of holiday coffee cups, let’s fight racism and prejudice. Instead of fighting over the color of carpet in the church, let’s go to war with poverty in our community and make a difference in someone’s life.  Jesus didn't help everyone in need when he was alive, but he did help some.  We can't help everyone, but we can help someone.  Everyone wants to be part of something bigger than themselves which makes a difference in the world, why not the local church? Jesus met both physical and spiritual needs. Why shouldn’t we?
  • Be Patient. This is just an issue of expecting more time. The apostle Paul was converted in a single event, but Lydia's heart was opened slowly in Acts 16. In my experience,  evangelizing someone usually takes at least three to six months and in many cases a year of hearing the gospel over and over. We must show perseverance and persistence. In John 3:37 Jesus said, “One sows and another reaps.” You may find that you are often part of a process not an event.  
  • Meet People Where They Are. The apostle Paul did not expect Greeks to cross-Jewish cultural lines to become believers. In 1 Corinthians 9:22 Paul said, “I have become all things to all men.” Certainly this has parameters, we do not become like an adulterer or thief in order to reach them. We never violate scripture’s boundaries for what is sin, but we are able to we flex.  We can and should cross cultural lines to meet those far from God where they are.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Remembering Uncle Mike Russel

Uncle Mike Holding Xander!
Uncle Mike served his family as a father, uncle, great uncle, husband, and grandfather.  He made his living as an electrician, and was a big Nebraska Fan!   He loved his Lord, family, and college football.  When I came into Becki's family about 11 or 12 years ago, we were the only two real college football fans.  You see St. Louis is a baseball town, Go Cards!  We would always watch the college football bowls together, and have a good time.  I remember him being at all the holiday family gatherings with the same warm smile you see in this photo, and getting down on the ground to play with all the little kids.  He loved his great nieces and nephews.

Back in November, he began to have memory problems and headaches.  On December 1, Uncle Mike was diagnosed with CJD a very rare brain disease.  I had never heard of it in my yeas as a pastor.  It took him and our family to a hard dark place.  On December 15, the Lord called him home.  His last prayer was the Lord's prayer.  He told us that the whole thing that he was being reminded that Jesus loves him.  We thought that it would take months, but it only took weeks.

We buried Uncle Mike a week ago today.  In moments like this it always appears that darkness is winning, but as the old Appalachian songs says, "The Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn!" I do not think it is an accident that the shepherds received the news of Christ's birth in the darkness of night.  It was a dark night spiritually, the nation of Israel's religious leaders had turned their faith into legalism and the priests served as little more than politicians bending rules to their benefit.  The world sat in darkness, but Jesus is the bright and morning star!  We are reminded in the last book of the Bible that the light always trumps over the darkness!  Revelation says,

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you the testimony for the churches.  I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.  -Revelation 22:16

Our Morning Star will rise in the midst of our most unfamiliar and dark places.  What is your darkness?  Is it a sadness?  A loss? Sickness? Failing Health?  Living with the effects of your sins or others' sins?  Let the light of Christmas shine in your dark moments.  Uncle Mike does not rest in darkness this Christmas, he is bathing in the Light of our bright Morning Star!  The old poem instructs us, "Rage against the dying of the light!"  Let us rage at our sin, and it's effects.  Let us rage at all things that seem to dim the true light of Jesus Christ in all of us.  Let us rage at the darkness in mandkind's souls, and let us proclaim that a child is born who has ended the darkness for all who will follow Him!  Christmas is a holiday of lights, because as the angel told the shepherds,

"10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. 12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”  -Luke 2:10-12

The light has come on Christmas Day.  Every Christmas light I see lit up is a reminder of the light of our Morning Star which has conquered the darkness!  Glory be to God!

Merry Christmas Uncle Mike, until we meet at Jesus feet!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

What John the Baptist teaches Us as We Celebrate Christmas?

How is this for a Christmas Card!
Forgotten in the Christmas Story, John the Baptist was a man who came onto the Biblical scene like an F-5 tornado.    He speaks to the religious leaders of his day with a clarity and perhaps harshness that we may not be comfortable with today.  But he is a crucial bridge from the Old Testament to the New Testament.  He is the last Old Testament prophet, and Jesus called him the greatest of the prophets in Matthew 11:11. While I am yet to find a nativity set for sale which includes John the Baptist, John's ministry reminds us that God uses all types of people to accomplish his work.  Even someone who lives in the wilderness, wears animals skins, and eats honey covered locus for meals.  If John the Baptist came to modern Christmas Eve service, I wonder if our churches would listen to him or tie him up to a tree outside, while they wait for animal control.  I think that if he could celebrate Christmas with us today, he would teach us at least three important things to say:

1.  Make Jesus the Theme of Your Life!

What is your theme?  What do you talk about most of the time?  Is it sports, politics, health, family?  John talked about Jesus!   He talked about other things, but he talked about Jesus the most!  My hope is that the Lord would bring us to a place where we are so in love with Jesus that we cannot help but talk about him.

2.  Make Jesus the Passion of Your Heart!

John the Baptist is an aggressive guy.  He didn't just talk, but he lived passionately for Jesus.  His passion was disruptive to the religious goers of his day.  With his camp in the wilderness, camel skins, and wild honey and locus on his breath as he screamed "REPENT!" he would have seemed weird to his contemporaries.  He would be a fanatic or radical by that days standards.  Most of us in 21st century America are not tempted to be fanatics.  

Instead we are tempted to do the opposite, and believe a lie.  Here is the lie, "If I believe in jesus and I am not getting into trouble I must be spiritually mature."  Let us not mistake a clean, reputable life, for spiritual maturity.  It could be that the reason we are not getting into trouble is that we are spiritually asleep.  If Satan cannot get us to be bad, he will be content to let us be good as long as we are being quite!  Once the enemy gives us on dragging you into hell, his Plan B is to let you slip quietly into heaven without a fuss.  May the Lord ignite in us a spiritual passion the will not out us settle for a quite, respectable life of spiritual apathy.

3.  Make Jesus the Gage of Your Success!

How do you gauge success?  Is it a title, position, or things acquired?  How would you finish this statement, "My life would be a success if only...."?  

John could have measured success by how many people attended his riverside revival meetings, or by how many prodigals he baptized, or by how many Pharisees he ticked off, or by how many times he could publicly call King Herod an adulterer without losing his head.  

John was popular among the people and it had to be very tempting of him to gage his success by the size of his following.  But in John 3:26, some came to him worried he was losing his influence.  His answer is amazing in John 3:30, "He (Jesus) must become greater; I must become less."  If we all had this attitude our country, our churches, and our families would be totally different!  May God grant us the same theme, passion, and gage for success as John the Baptist!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Why Plant a Second Sunday Morning Worship Service at Grace Baptist Church?

Last night we had a great special called business meeting.  After four months of sharing a vision for a new worship service that will reach a new kind of people, Grace Baptist voted 86% in favor of beginning the new ministry of a second Sunday Morning Service.  Here are the reasons why we voted to start this ministry.

1.  A New Service Will Reach The Unchurched.

Of all the reasons to begin a new service, this should be the most compelling. Christ’s passion for reaching lost humanity is stated frequently and emphatically throughout Scripture:
  • “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.” -Luke 19:10 
  • “For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” -John 3:17
  • “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.” -Matthew 20:28
  • “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” -John 10:10
2.   A New Service Will Minister to More People.

Research shows that 80% of the congregations that move from one worship experience to two find their overall attendance increases by at least 10% in two years time.  One way it does this is through increasing the visitor flow into the church on Sunday Morning.  The National Visitor Retention Rate is between 8% to 12% a year for local churches.   That means that churches see 8 to 12 percent of their first-time visitors become active members in the following year.  It is shocking to see that:
  • In the past decade, the US population has increased by 9% while church attendance has declined by 9.5%.
  • No State in the US has had a church that has kept up with population growth.
  • Not a single county can report that more people attend church now than they did ten years ago.
3.  A New Service Will Reach New Kinds of People.

A new style service will not only help us reach more non-Christians (reason 1) and help us minister to more total number of people (reason 2) it will help us reach different kinds of people than we are presently reaching. James White correctly points out, “The simple truth is that worship cannot be culturally neutral.” No single service can be all things to all people. Consequently, it is most important to ask, “Who finds our present services attractive?” The most common age of a member at Grace Baptist Church is 59 years old. Given this number, our present services resinates clearly with the 50 years and older crowd, which is not a bad thing. All people need Jesus and that does not change with any age. This is not about getting rid of our current net, but instead it is about widening our current net in Elizabethton. Let it be noted that we have seen growth in our current service; therefore, let us not do away with what appears to be reaching people. More statistics:
•In 1972, Southern Baptist baptized 140,000 teenagers, and in 2008, we baptized 75,000 teenagers.
•The number of people who claim no religious affiliation has doubled since 1990, Non-believers represent the third highest group of Americans after Catholic and Baptist.
•1 in 5 have no religious affiliation.
•Nearly one fourth of those in their twenties profess no organized religion. It is not that they are uninterested in spiritual things, they are not necessarily atheist.

4.  A New Service Will Help Break the Normal Life Cycle of the Church.

The life cycle of a church is both normal and predictable. Like gravity, it is a law that simply exists. Grace Baptist is no exception to the rule. The life cycle describes a local church’s infancy, maturity, and death.

 The sobering fact is that at least 80 percent of churches in America today are on the flat or back side of their life cycles. As shown in Table 1.2, Grace is currently in a plateau, if we do noting our direction will change to decline before we realize.

Grace Baptist Church lies at a crossroad in her lifecycle. Perhaps Grace is at a very dangerous point in her life, because of the church attendance remaining in a plateaued pattern. Mr. McIntosh points out from his book There’s Hope for Your Church that, “A Plateau is much like hypertension, which is called the silent killer by medical professionals.”

•Only about 2% of a church body is likely to invite an unchurched person to church, this is normative for churches in the US.
•More than 80% of the unchurched say they would attend if someone sincerely invited them.
•Of young adults (20-29), 63% say they would attend church if it presented the truth in an understandable way that relates to their lives.

5.   A New Service Allows for Change While Retaining the Familiar.

If we adopt this strategy, we will double our outreach and ministry potential, provide opportunities for more members to have a role task in ministry, and see new kinds of people begin attending. Members will be far more likely to tolerate change around them if their own comfortable world is not disturbed. Change through addition will be more successful than change though substitution.

6.  A New Service Will Activate Inactive Members.

In the typical American church, approximately 40 percent of the membership attend a service on any given Sunday. Reasons for inactivity among church members may vary. But regardless of the cause, the people who stay away are nonverbally saying that the cost of attending (in time and/or comfort) is not worth the benefit (in spiritual growth and/or fellowship) . It is not uncommon, however to see a new service boost the member attendance percentage from the 40 percent range to 60 percent or more. In other words, some of the most likely to begin attending our new service will be our inactive members. We currently have over 600 members on record and last year turned in an average Sunday Morning attendance of 211. We have just under 40 percent attenders coming to our current service.

7.  A New Service Will Empower More Church Members to Use Their Gifts and Passions Weekly.

God has gifted the church with individual members who have differing passions and callings to serve the local church. This is demonstrated in Paul’s teachings in the following passages:
  • “According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts…” -Romans 12:6 
  • “For as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body--so also is Christ.” -1 Corinthians 12:12 
Ask yourself this simple question, “What would we do if God sent us 50 new believers in Sunday School and Worship? Where would they or could they serve the church? Or if we were sent 100 or 150?” Where would these new people serve the church? How would we plug them into the body in a meaningful manner? Are we willing to allow our people to serve according to their passions and gifting, instead of filling in names on a sheet? We want our people to serve according to their gifting and passions, not just fill in a a blank on an elected position sheet. If we do not properly challenge and provide areas of service for church members, these members will go somewhere where they can serve the Lord according to their passions and gifting on a weekly basis.

8.  A New Service Will Help The Southern Baptist Convention Survive.

The Lord has used the SBC for many years to be a great help in my life.  It was in an SBC church I heard the gospel for the first time, received my call to ministry, and was education.  I feel a debt to the convention to do all I can to ensure her survival if the Lord wills it!  There is little question among church growth scholars that planting new churches is the single most important activity for assuring the future of a denomination. But it is not as commonly known that widespread creation of new services among existing churches is the second most important strategy. When a large number of churches in a denotation are staring a new service to reach a new target audience, they are in effect accomplishing the goals of, and realizing many of the benefits inherent in, planting a new church.

•90% of SBC churches are either declining in number or losing ground per population growth.
•400,000 SBC churches in the US, and 360,000 are losing ground.
•SBC membership has declined for five years in a row.
•10 million SBC members are absent on Sunday Morning; 6 million attending each week.

9.  To Fulfill Our Church's Mission Statement, "To Know Christ and To Make Him Known."

Our mission statement is the essence of the Kingdom.  As John the Baptist said, "May Jesus increase and may I decrease."  

Closing thought:

“So, which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Does a new service cause church growth…or does church growth require a new service? Here’s the answer: Growing churches act like the church they want to become. If you wait for the new people to begin attending, and then start your new service…you will be waiting a long time. If you begin a new service in order to reach new people… you will be much more successful.”  -Charles Arn

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Amazing GriefShare Turnout for 2015!


GriefShare seminars and support groups are led by people who understand what you are going through and want to help. You’ll gain access to valuable GriefShare resources to help you recover from your loss and look forward to rebuilding your life.

There are thousands of GriefShare recovery support groups meeting throughout the US, Canada, and in over 10 other countries.

Anyone can receive free daily email encouragement from

Anyone is able to receive an encouraging email message every day for a year. These short messages will inspire you and provide practical information as you grieve the loss of your loved one.

For more information on GriefShare go to

Fall 2015

The Fall 2015 thirteen week cycle began on August 2, 2015. The group met at Sycamore Shoals on Sunday Afternoons from 2 to 4 pm in Classroom B. Here is a quick breakdown of the numbers on the group Fall 2015:

· Total Hours Spent in Group = 28 Hours

· Total Participants Visiting the Group = 14 People

· Average Group Attendance = 12 People
Snapshot of GriefShare Attendance Fall 2015

Most ministries have a diminishing return as time passes. Diminishing returns in a small group/seminar would mean as time goes on the attendance in the group would reduce. For the fall 2015 GriefShare group, the reverse from diminishing returns was found. The group attendance increased as time passed. This is excellent news, and shows the need to continue this ministry in the future. Please see the graph below, which reflects overall attendance higher at the end than at the beginning.

The second chart shows that participation from 2014 to 2015 – The numbers confirm that attendance doubled from 2014 to 2015.

Surviving the Holidays

The highest attended session on November 15nd was a self-contained session called Surviving the Holidays. For more information on this event please go to ( Below is a description of this session:

In past years, the Christmas holiday season may have been a time of great anticipation and excitement … but this year, the prospect of facing the holidays without your loved one may cause anxiety and dread.

You are not alone.

Here you can connect with support, encouragement, and advice to survive the holidays. This site helps you:

· Discover practical, stress-reducing ideas that will help you face the holiday season

· Find a Surviving the Holidays seminar near you

· Find out how to begin receiving daily, encouraging emails written for people who are grieving

· Discover why it’s still possible to celebrate this holiday season

· Learn more about the GriefShare program

Quotes from Participants in Fall 2015

· "This class helped by reminding me of my wedding vows. (Till death do us part)"

· "All things work for the good of those who love the Lord and are his called."

· "I enjoyed the videos and grief classes immensely. They really helped me in my grief. I hope you continue these classes. I think Preacher Tyler done a fantastic job in managing the classes. I recommend that you continue next year."

· "It helped me learn that everything is God's will and nothing I can do can change that and to accept it. But that does not make it easy by any means. It's very hard but it makes it a little bearable being in a class where other people have been through the same thing. You make new friends and share the same kind of hurt." - VM

· "GriefShare has been a wonderful and eye opening experience. I came as support for a friend but I learned so much. I am so glad that I came. It has allowed me to help others and pass on what I have learned. I would definitely recommend it to anyone."   - CT

· "GriefShare helped me by letting me know I am not alone in my grief and it is not my fault that my loved ones have passed. They passed in God's time and God's way. I must continue serving God to meet them again. Loss of mother, stepfather, grandmother, grandfather, brother, nephew, aunts, uncles, cousins and precious granddaughter."  -LL

· "I have enjoyed these sessions we have had in GriedShare. GriefShare has helped me to know that I am not alone, there are people just like me who has lost loved ones."       - MB

· "I liked the pastor leading these sessions, also the videos and Bible based study telling us of God's love. It has helped me as I heard how other people are having struggles and it is nice to know I'm not alone, and everyday gets better with God."                            - DW

· "In this time of grief/loss I have gained a lot of important facts and information. Everyone is so helpful and caring. Special thank you to Travis and Wanda."                            - GT

· "I don't know how I would have made it without GriefShare. I know God led me to this group because of the way I found it at just the time I needed it. I have made wonderful friends & Travis makes it so easy to participate and share your feelings. Being with people who really understand your feelings lightens your burden. Thank you so much and God bless you. I appreciate all the time & effort you put into this class."  -JAA

· "I AM HEALING. August 2015 I began attending a 13 week GriefShare seminar at Sycamore Shoals Hospital on Sunday from 2-4."

· The sessions are led by Grace Baptist Pastor Travis Tyler. I told Travis I couldn't attend October 18 meeting because that was my 53rd wedding anniversary. He was very understanding.

· "Friday, (Date omitted for privacy), 2015 was the 4 month anniversary of my husband, RS' death. Much to my surprise I woke up felling great, happy and BLESSED. I was dreading October 18th, the approaching date of our 53rd wedding anniversary.  Five days after the death of my husband RS, and one day after he was buried GOD blessed me with the strength to attend church. I and PRAISING the LORD I haven't missed a Sunday since he died.  I prayed for God's MERCY and STRENGTH to go to GriefShare on October 18th regardless of the circumstances. In OCTOBER,  I attended GriefShare meeting. My GriefShare FAMILY HELPED CELEBRATE MY ANNIVERSARY. I encourage anyone who is grieving to attend a GriefShare support group. GOD NEVER FAILS!!!"

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Phi. 4:13

- DS, October 19, 2015

Final Thoughts

The second year of this ministry has shown double the participation, demonstrating the need for this to continue. All who attended did so because they were encouraged to by someone else. This is a ministry that I would desire to continue in partnership with the Spiritual and Pastoral Care Department of Mountain States Health Alliance.

Special thanks to Wanda Iberham, Vi Watson, Gordon and Karen Kyte, Kathy and Richard Taylor, Loretta and Wayne Peeks, and Charlene Davenport!

Recommendations for Fall 2016 Group

It is recommended that the Fall 2016 thirteen week cycle finish before mid-November. I would also recommend that there be Two Surviving the Holidays sessions offered, one before thanksgiving and one after thanksgiving & before Christmas in the Pine Room. The current time slot seems to work well, Sunday Afternoons from 2-4pm, and Classroom B was excellent in size for the group. Here is the Recommended Schedule for Fall 2016:

August 7- Living with Grief

August 14- The Journey of Grief

August 21- The Effects of Grief

August 28- When Your Spouse Dies

September 4 - No Griefshare Holiday Weekend

September 11- Your Family and Grief

September 18- Why?

September 25- The Uniqueness of Grief, Part 1

October 2 - The Uniqueness of Grief, Part 2

October 9- God’s Prescription for Grief

October 16- Stuck in Grief

October 23- Top Twenty Lessons of Grief, Part 1

October 30- No GriefShare- Grace Baptist Homecoming Celebration 75 years

November 6- Top Twenty Lessons of Grief, Part 2

November 13- Heaven

November 20- Surviving the Holidays

December 4- Surviving the Holidays

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What are the Biblical Qualifications to be a Pastor?

I recently received a phone call from a church member whose sister wanted to know where the qualifications for a pastor are found in the Bible. The word pastor literally means Shepard, and means the same in the New Testament as the words elder or overseer. The qualifications have been the same for pastors for almost 2,000 years now. Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of these qualifications as the pastor over all pastors.

1. A Pastor Must be above reproach (Titus 1:6, 7; 1 Timothy 3:2).

2. A Pastor Must be devoted to his wife (Titus 1:6; 1 Tim 3:2; Eph. 5:22). I believe the qualification is one wife at a time otherwise; widowed pastors would be disqualified from the office.

3. A Pastor’s children must be in submission, though not perfect. (Titus 1:6; 1 Tim 3:4-5). No child is perfect, but they must show love and respect for their father.

4. A Pastor is a faithful steward (Titus 1:7). This would also include not being greedy for gain. (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3; 1 Peter 5:3).

5. A Pastor must be humble – not arrogant. (Titus 1:7)

6. A Pastor must be gentle – not quick tempered (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3).

7. A Pastor Must be hospitable (Titus 1:8; 1 Tim 3:2). A pastor’s home should be open for others to enjoy! It is a place of ministry.

8. A Pastor must be a lover of good (Titus 1:8).

9. A Pastor must be self-controlled (Titus 1;8; 1 Tim 3:2). Again this is not perfection, but there should be a balance in all areas of life: time, exercise, relationships, money, etc…

10. A Pastor must be a man of integrity (Titus 1:8). There should be a consistence to all the relationships in his life.

11. A pastor must be holy (Titus 1:8). This means a wholehearted devotion to Jesus Christ.

12. A Pastor must be able to teach (Titus 1:9; 1 Tim 3:2). This is only ability-based requirement. He must teach sound doctrine, not just be a good communicator. They must be able to defend the faith against false teaching.

13. A pastor must be spiritually mature (1 Tim 3:6). A position with authority that lacks spiritual maturity leads to the trap of pride. When pride grows, sin will multiply.

14. A pastor must be respectable (1 Tim 3:7). This does not mean that everyone must like him or even appreciate him. I don’t really like Coach Steve Spurrier, but I respect his coaching abilities.

15. A Pastor must be an example to the flock (1 Peter 5:3). This means in all areas of the church. A pastor should be someone your sons could pattern their life after and the kind of man your daughter should marry.


To pursue this call is a good call to pursue, but be warned it is a call from God. It is not for the fainthearted. You must learn to have tough skin and a tender heart. It is an amazing blessing to be a pastor!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

How was our Halloween/Reformation Day?

Short answer, "Best Ever!" The kids really cleaned up on candy this year. We made four different stops along the way. Our trick or treating started out at Hermitage Health Center. The staff and residents at Hermitage were so gracious to share with the kids of our community. In addition, Adalynn got to see her buddy Mrs. Elliot. Next stop was to see Mrs. Ireland Johnson at Ivy Hall everyone had a great visit! First Baptist Church of Elizabethton’s Treat Street was fun for all ages, with their medieval theme.  

Back to the house to hit some homes on Mayfield Drive, but the grand finally was Kids Harvest at Grace Baptist Church.  The kids then were taken ba I think that two things made the event this year:

1. The Gospel presented clearly via the cross puzzles pieces!

2. The Prayer Wall

Special thanks to Charity Bell and Carol White for their hard work to make Kids Harvest a great success this year! Kids Harvest had at least 430 plus folks come out for the event. I think that it was more like 500 plus due to the fact that some went to the event backwards and missed the registration table.

I worked the prayer wall, and special thanks to Rick Cates and Michael Tierney who put it together. Over 30 prayer requests were collected that night and I prayed with at least three families. I still believe that prayer is a touch point for sharing the gospel! Three things most Americans still believe in are: momma’s love, apple pie, and prayer. Prayer is a means to both show concern and keep the conversation spiritual in nature. I look forward to next year.

Thanks Mamaw Debbie for helping us stay on track and get the most candy in the short amount of walking!!!

I didn't know that Mrs. Jean and Penny Heaton knew batman!

 Adalynn with her buddy Mrs. Elliot!

 Mrs. Irland at 91 years young, we had a great visit wit her!

This wall is now on display in the Fellowship Hall at Grace Baptist Church!  Praise God for the opportunities this wall created on October 31!   It will be something we will use for years to come!  

Monday, November 9, 2015

You Might Be A Pharisee If…

A cancer of the soul that has plagued God's people since the beginning is a pharisaical heart.  Call it what you like Pharisee, Externalist, or Moralist.  Mark 7:1-23 is a final collusion between the gospel of the legalistic Pharisees and the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Jesus brings the hearts of the Pharisees into the light. It is easy for us to dismiss them, but this spiritual sickness easily infects the hearts of God’s most faithful. Here is a look in the mirror to see if this describes you. I know that I have to be putting these sins to death in my own heart constantly.

· You are more concerned with others behaviors than your own heart.

In Mark 7, the disciples are accused of not observing the traditions of the elders. These traditions had grown out of interpretation and reinterpretation.

· You believe that grumbling and complaining is a spiritual gift.

While grumbling and complaining is an ancient practice that dates back to Moses (See Numbers 1:1). While there are times that sin must be confronted, a constant negative, grumbling spirit is not of the Lord. Encouragement does fall in the category of spiritual gifts though!

· You emphases more eternal behavior, but ignore the heart.

Husbands and wives does your spouses sins disgust you more than your own sin? Can you easily pick out the sins of others and it makes you feel better about your sin because it’s not as “big” as others sins?

· You elevate achievable human applications to the statues of God’s law.

Have you ever judged someone on Sunday Morning for not wearing a suit to church? Have you judged someone for not parenting the way you do? The Bible clearly states we are to judge (1 Corinthians 5:12) by God’s standard, not mans.

· You mislocate your struggle with sin.

Have you ever said the following, “I’m sorry, its just I’m going through or dealing with ____________.” That statement seeks to excuse our behavior based on external circumstances. We need to be saying things like, “Please forgive me for my sinful heart or words.” That would be more beneficial. We need to start owning our sinful hearts and stop giving halfway excuses that sound like repentance. Our struggle with sin remains within us, not outside of us. God uses difficult situations to show us what is inside of us. Difficult situations squeeze us like a toothpaste tube until the sin is openly exposed.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What are the Top 5 Books you have read on local church revitalization?

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” -2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Donald McGavran, the father of the Church Growth Movement, once said, “It is easier to birth a baby, than it is to resurrect the dead.” He was talking about church planting vs. church revitalization in the comment above. You are most likely reading this because you are in need of either encouragement, tools, or help with vision casting/direction. These books have a little of it all! One must be called to revitalization, as it presents different challenges and obstacles to pastoring. One of the biggest challenges you will face is to lose hope. Do not lost hope brothers, God can breath new life into dry bones!

Many of you know that I am working on my Doctorate of Ministry with a concentration in church revitalization; therefore, I am often asked, “What books do you recommend for a pastor to read?” Here is my top five list of books on local church revitalization:

5. Rutland, Mark. ReLaunch. Elgin, IL: David C. Cook, 2013. 208 pages.
Relaunch is very encouraging and provides great tools for daily ministry. The “fringe principle” saves pastors from many headaches. Rutland gives a very helpful leadership grid in describing them as “Finders, Binders, Minders, and Grinders.” Despite his Pentecostal theological leanings, we have much that can be learned from his gifting as a leader.

4. Malphurs, Aubrey. Look Before You Lead: How to Discern and Shape Your Church Culture. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2013. 272 pages.

This book is a must read for anyone pastoring a traditional/established church. You must understand the culture you inherited, before you can lead them to change. Dr. Malphurs gives you the tools you need to understand the church’s culture and you own culture.

3. Stetzer, Ed, and Mike Dodson. Comeback Churches. Nashville: B&H, 2010. 240 pages.
Looking for lots of excellent research, encouraging examples, and proven tools? This is the book for you! This is a must read, especially if you need encouragement. Stetzer and Dobson research the story of how 300 local churches turned around and gives hope yours can too.

2. Rainer, Thom, and Chuck Lawless. Eating the Elephant. Louisville: Pinnacle, 2003. 207 pages.

A little dated, but still great principles! The fact that the book states that you begin with outreach is an excellent point. Rainer and Lawless not only give principles, but load the book with several excellent and encouraging examples. A great reminder that we eat an elephant one bite at a time!

1. McIntosh, Gary. There’s Hope for Your Church. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012. 208 pages.

McIntosh hit a home run with this book. This book contains it all: encouragement, tools, and help with vision/direction. It starts with encouragement, seeking to give you hope to carry onward for the kingdom. You will find the description of the churches in this book all too familiar. Get this book and thank me later!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Why should I give my precious time, energy, money, and loyalty to a local Church?

“24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” –Hebrews 10:24-25 (HCSB)

Institutions have fallen on hard times. My Mom works at a bank and sees a cultural shift of banking without a bank. Recent data shows that “Churchless” population in America has grown by nearly a third over the last decade. Many today want a relationship with Christ without a local church. Just twenty years ago one out of seven Americans had never been to church before, today it is one in five. There are aspects of church life that can be obtained without ever going to church like attending a small group, listening to a sermon, and reading Christian literature. So what is the big deal, why should I go? Let me give you a few good reasons:

· Church attendance is an act of obedience. The Lord said if you love me keep my commands (John 14:15). We can’t just read the parts written in red and think we have it covered. The Words of the entire bible are of equal importance and need our attention.

· Godly relationships. Churches provide a place to connect with others who experience similar challenges and seek similar life goals, a place where people know they belong. Remember iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17)!

· Doing good. While most of us are self-centered, many of us also have a desire to make a difference for good in the world. We can sometimes do this alone, but it is more powerful in community. Churches organize and facilitate abundant good works that affect the world in large and small ways. Take our church for example we have outreach events like Battery Saturday, Griefshare, Surviving the Holidays, Kids Harvest, etc.… One snowflake is beautiful and unique, but many snowflakes joined together can cause an avalanche of good works!

· Peace. In a culture fact paced and endless noisy culture, churches provide a place where people can be still and silent in God’s presence. Churches are one of the few places where a person can seek emotional and spiritual sanctuary form the daunting pressures of the day.

· Worship. Being part of church community, people can unite with others in humble worship, recalibrating their focus away from self-centeredness and distraction.

· Wisdom. Information is abundant but insight is rare! Biblical knowledge applied into daily living is more rare. Churches often provide genuine wisdom to people through a variety of resources, forums, and interactions. Engaging with a local church will allow one to learn more about God, themselves, and the world.

· Witness. Christians have a responsibility to share their knowledge of and experience of Jesus Christ with others who do not know him. One of the best tools for evangelism is for others to see Christians treating one another in a loving manor (John 13:35). Christ centered love for one another makes all the difference in evangelism. Why would anyone listen to our message of love and unity if we can’t love and forgive one another in Christ?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

What does the Bible Say about Demons?

"There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight."

       -C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (originally 1942; this   edition: Harper Collins, 1996) ix.

I have been preaching through the gospel of Mark, and there are several examples of Jesus casting out unclean spirits or demons.

In Mark 5, there is “a man with an unclean spirit.” The more usual term for “unclean spirit” is “demon” (used 63 times in the New Testament). Who or what is a demon? They could be:

1. the spirits of a pre-Adameic evil race

2. the spirits of evil men

3. the product of angels cohabiting with women in Genesis 6:1-4

4. Fallen Angels

The fourth option is the most likely. Mark calls them “unclean sprits” 11 times and “demons” 13 times. Revelation 12:4 records that one-third of the angels fell with Satan in his rebellion against God. Some are now free to roam (Mark 1:21-34). Some will still be free during the tribulation (Revelation 9:13-19). They are confined now, never to roam freely (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). They are powerful personalities, though not omnipotent (Mark 1:24). Their activity may have increased during the time of Christ and it will do so again in the coming end times (See Rev. 6-19). They are set up under Satan’s control (Ephesians 6:11-12), probably in rank and possibly in geography (Dan 10:10-12). They have authority and can promote disunity, propagate false doctrine, inflict disease, cause mental difficulties, and hinder Christian growth. Demons can oppress but not possess believers (see 1 John 4:4). We should be encouraged because even though demons resist Christ, they are subject to appropriate spiritual authority. God is Lord of all including the demons. Be encouraged!

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

Monday, October 19, 2015

Does the Bible Say Anything About Intelligent Life on Others Planets?

Many are fascinated by the idea of intelligent life on other planets. The Bible is silent about the issue of life on other planets. As a whole the Bible does not explicitly say there is no life on other planets; it is simply silent on the question. 

I believe that it may come from a need to be a part of something bigger than our world. Some believe that alien intelligent life would bring about a kind of world peace with their “advanced” knowledge. The reality is that lack of knowledge is not mankind’s issue. The problem is and always has been the human heart, which by nature is self-centered. The Bible reminds us in James 4:1-2, 

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight.” 

 Our greatest need is for the human heart to be changed. But how can that happen? History has proven that neither education, knowledge, peace treaties, economic stimulus packages, nor new politicians cures our hearts. Jesus Christ came to reconcile us to God so we could have peace with Him, and then to reconcile us to each other.

Many individuals who claim to have an “encounter” with these “aliens” describe horrific scenarios. In Dr. Timothy Dailey’s book “The Paranormal Conspiracy,” he makes a connection that these are not really aliens, but instead of “alien” activity it is really demonic activity. He goes on to point out that many who have “abduction” experiences had previously been involved in the occult practices. It appears that these are not massagers of light, but instead instruments of deception. Remember a demon can appear any way it desires (2 Corinthians 11:14), including what we would consider an alien from space. Let’s say you were a demon and wanted to deceive and confuse the most technologically advanced human race in many years, perhaps ever. What would be the best deception? The best deception would be one that made people dismiss the truth of the Bible before giving it a proper hearing. So to conclude do not spend your time thinking or chasing after these things, but instead take Paul’s counsel:

“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable--if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise--dwell on these things.” – Philippians 4:8

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Are Ghosts Real?

“But they were startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost.” Luke 24:37

As the holidays approach, I am often asked this question.  First let’s define what a ghost is, usually people think a ghost is a disembodied spirit/soul of a person who has died that wanders the earth.  The idea of the supernatural and ghosts have fascinated so many today. The popularity of television shows like “Ghost Hunters,” “Fact or Faked,” and “Ghost Adventures.”  So what should Bible believing Christians think about ghosts?
     First of all, there are two types of ghost sightings.  One in which the person feels glad they were “visited”  by what appears to be a deceased loved one, and the other type sight or thought of a ghost gives a feeling of fear in the person or persons who encounter it.  If you or someone you know tells you an old ghost tell it gives you a feeling of the need to leave.  That is a flight response driven by fear.  When an angel of the Lord comes to people they always remind them to not be afraid (Luke 2:10, Matt. 2:20). 
     In addition to causing fear, the sight of a ghost causes confusion.  When God’s agents appear to his people it is always 100% clear they are sent from God and their message is unmistakable.  In our culture today many people are seeking out a ghost experience thought EVP’s, heat cameras, and other technologies.  The hope is to document and prove the supernatural.  As Christians we do believe in the supernatural, and we have some clarity about what is out there.  In the event that you are dealing with something that is not clearly from God, and/or causing great fear instead of comfort, it is most likely of demonic origin.  Demons being fallen angels governed by Satan (Matthew 12:22-28).  
     The Bible does record an encounter with what appears to be a dead man’s soul in 1 Samuel 28:7-21, but the spirit that speaks as the deceased “Samuel” says that King Saul and his sons would die the next day, which didn’t happen some of Saul’s sons survived.  This fact leads me to conclude that King Saul was not speaking to the dead prophet, but a demon who was posing as Samuel. 

     So to answer the question, no, I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe in demons.  I also would point you to Hebrews 9:27, reminding you that when we die we face judgment, not wandering around the land of the living.  Let me leave you with a warning and an encouragement.  The warning is this, avoid seeking encounters with spirits (Deut. 18:10, Isaiah 8:19) it will not end well.  And remember God is greater than any demon (1 John 4:4)!