In Five Years

Five years in one place.  I began my life as the pastor of Cottage Grove Baptist Church on June 6, 2004.  If the church keeps us another week, I will have been here for five years.  It has been my honor to be named among the 40 other pastors who have served Cottage Grove.   Five years doesn’t sound significant when you consider our church is over 150 years old, but the last five years have impacted my family significantly.

The past five years have impacted me as a pastor.  I have spent the last five years pursuing the same goal day after day, which is “Preach the Word and Love the People”.   In five years God has led me to deliver over 500 sermons (2 per Sunday).  In five years I have counseled (in formal and informal sessions) with hundreds of people.  In those counseling sessions I have witnessed marriages fall apart, and have seen many healed.  I have seen addicts lay their addictions on the alter, and have listened to some tell me what I want to hear only to return to their masters.  In five years I have seen some lives ablaze for God, and witnessed others burn out.  In five years I have seen a church grow, decline, and grow again in a community that is slowly deteriorating.   In five years I have watched the church remodel and upgrade technology in the sanctuary.  In five years I have visited the lonely, the sick, the dying, the prisoner, and the widow.  In five years I have seen God remove obstacles to His plan for our church (sometimes my plans have been that obstacle).  In five years I have conducted and overseen many weddings and funerals.  In five years I watched as babies became kindergartners,  first graders became middle schoolers, 9th graders became graduates, and graduates became adults.  In five years I have seen mechanics become missionaries.  In five years I watched as our church increased missional giving and going exponentially.  In five years I have seen the fellowship of the church threatened, and the fellowship of the church strengthened.  In five years I have seen individual church members become our evangelism program.  In five years I have seen seekers become disciples, and disciples mature in their understanding of God and the mission.  In five years there have been times when I prayed for God to deliver me from here, only to turn around and pray for Him to help me stay.  In five years God has shown me that I have much to learn, and little ability without Him.

The last five years have impacted me personally.  In five years my wife and I have gone from our early 30’s to the downhill side of 30.  In five years my family has expanded from six to eight.   This community and this church is the only home  three of my children have ever known.  In five years three of my children have been saved and then baptized at Cottage Grove Baptist Church.  In five years my children have all made friends and have become connected to this community.  In five years Robin and I have grown to love the people and the community in a way that I could have never  imagined.

I don’t know what the future holds for us but one thing is sure. . . the last five make me look forward to the next five.

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Published in: on June 1, 2009 at 3:15 am  Comments (5)  

We Need Revival In Rural Churches

Have you ever thought about the fact that admitting your need for revival is also admitting your need to repent.  The very fact that we need revival tells us that there is sin in our lives or that some spiritual element is lacking in our lives.  Revival is always predicated by death.  Only the dead need revived.   The only way to be revived is to repent of the rot in our lives brought on by sin.  Spiritual vitality and life can only be obtained through repentance.

I am afraid that too many of us are calling for “revival” without calling our churches to repentance.  We want the hype and height found when we are revived without the godly sorrow that leads to repentance.  Here are some things I have identified in my life, my church, and other churches that indicates our need to repent and be revived.

1.  We don’t think we have any problems.

2.  We apply Scripture at our leisure.

3.  We only act urgently when the “right” people need us.

4.  We spurn anything that resembles technology b/c it might change something we hold dear.

5.  We are satisfied being satisfied.

6.  Our graciousness is conditioned by our suspicion.

7.  We are deeply rooted in spiritual jargon but fail to live spiritually.

8.  We patronize the lost with programs rather than proselytize them with the Gospel.

9.  Our fellowship ends when accountability begins.

10. Our corporate worship is ruled more by a clock and our opinions than by God.

11. Our missional efforts only include a pen and a checkbook.

12.  We think someone ought to be busy doing evangelism.

13.  We operate our churches rather than facilitate the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

14.  We crave our independence and individuality to the neglect of our dependence on God.

15.  We confess that we are evangelical but we live like we are universalists.

16.  Our budgets reflect our belief in a semi-present and semi-powerful god rather than THE Omnipresent and Omnipowerful God.

17.  If the heating and air-conditioning were absent from our worship services. . . we would also be absent.

18.  Our circumstances often dictate how obedient we are to God.

19.  Our tongues boast more spirituality than our feet and hands ever seem to deliver.

20.  We will conform to the image and character of God as long as He looks and acts like us.

Published in: on May 21, 2009 at 3:20 am  Comments (1)  

Cottage Grove Baptist Church featured in Associated Press Article

This article points to the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s new web page that is designed to be an encouragement during these economic hard times.

Click here to view the article.

Published in: on March 21, 2009 at 8:19 pm  Comments Off on Cottage Grove Baptist Church featured in Associated Press Article  

Payton

Okay,  here are the pics I promised.  Kevin Bomar and I got to spend Tuesday night and Wed. morning with Payton and Stacy.  I am overwhelmed by the Progress Payton has made.  Miraculous is a good description of what has occurred in Payton’s life.   Three months ago Payton couldn’t speak or move.  The only way he could communicate was by blinking his eyes once for “yes” and twice for “no”.   Today he is speaking, has the use his right arm,  and has promising movement on his right side.   His comeback is a great story but Payton and Stacy’s faith is the real story.   They KNOW that God has a purpose in every painful step that Payton has taken.  I watched as Stacy encouraged other patients.  I watched as Payton, unapologetically, acknowledged God as his strength.  They are not waiting for perfect circumstances to be obedient to God.  They KNOW, by faith, that their circumstance has given them a platform to speak God’s name boldly.   I was impressed by Payton’s physical progress but I was encouraged by his faith. 

Payton can type better than me with one finger!  payton-270

Here is a promo for the next America’s Most Wantedpayton-274

This is Payton, Stacy, and Occupational Therapist.  payton-275

This is Payton with his Speech Therapist.   Payton has become very proficient at pronouncing EVERY syllable.    payton-278

Payton stayed on this treadmill for 35 minutes and was able to put 85% of his own weight on his legs as his physical therapists assisted him.  Just after this photo was taken Payton stood by himself for 10 seconds.  payton-286

Published in: on January 22, 2009 at 4:17 pm  Comments (3)  

Ministry on Election Day

What do left wing voters and right wing voters all need?  What is it that Democrats and Republicans must have on election day?  They all need a place to vote.  Cottage Grove does not have an abundance of large buildings that have wheel chair access. . . but we just built a big one.  Tuesday was our chance to offer our building to the community simply b/c it was the right thing to do.  Rural churches must serve their communities.  We constantly have to search for ways to connect with people who have learned to see us as a dying institution.  We have to allow people to see us as servants.  Opening our fellowship hall for voting is just one way to do that:   election-290

I was hoping to make Cottage Grove the center of the Media Universe by producing a bunch of hanging chads . . . but these machines were way to well guarded.

election-291

Turns out that the voting machines were guarded by this guy.  My sources tell me that he is a very dangerous operative of the Cottage Grove Mafia.election-292

Published in: on November 6, 2008 at 4:44 am  Comments (5)  

Great Day

This is my oldest daughter.  She has an understanding of salvation that few adults can fathom and that most can not articulate.  She has been contemplating her decision to follow Christ for over a year.  Her probing questions about the Lord’s supper, Baptism, and about the Cross finally culminated in a deep understanding of the Gospel.  I thank God continually for family, friends, and our church members who have encouraged her, answered her questions, and have reinforced what she has been learning at home.    

Published in: on November 3, 2008 at 3:37 pm  Comments (4)  

The Association and the Small Church

What an honor it is to cooperate with over 30 Baptist Churches in the Western District Baptist Association.  Our annual meeting was held last week.  What an incredible blessing it was to hear how God was using our cooperative program to do missions here, in Tennessee, and around the world.  It is a wonderful thing to fellowship with one another during these meetings as we share our burdens and victories.

The small church’s relationship with its local baptist Association can be a tremendous aid.  My church in cooperation with your church = more resources to carry out the Great Commission.  For 150 years Cottage Grove Baptist Church has maintained a winning partnership with our local Baptist Association.  It was good 150 years ago and it is even better today.

Published in: on October 27, 2008 at 12:27 pm  Comments Off on The Association and the Small Church  

Please Pray

This is the Bullock Family.  They have a fantastic rural church story but it will have to wait.  There are more important matters at hand.  Payton, the big fella on your right, needs your prayers.  On Monday, September 8 Payton had a stroke that was located on his brain stem.  Since that day Payton has fought for his life, fought to breathe, fought to communicate (sometimes by blinking once for no and twice for yes), fought to move his fingers and hands, and his fight continues.  Payton knows that he is not fighting alone.  He knows that God has not forsaken him and his hope is secure in Christ.  Payton also knows that there are many people praying for him daily and he is sustained in that knowledge.  I am asking you to pray for his continued recovery.  Pray also for his wife, Stacy, and his two beautiful daughters as they cope along side Payton.  Thank you for praying and please feel free to pass this along to others who will pray.    

Published in: on September 13, 2008 at 3:40 am  Comments (28)  

Proud

I am proud of our church.  Not because of what or who they are per say, but because of their love for and obedience to God.  We celebrated what God was doing in our church and in us this past Sunday.  Reflection is a good for the soul.  It is surprising how much you forget during the course of a year.  We are so busy and involved with our lives we rarely take time to look back at what God did.  We rarely look back and say, “Thank you.”  

With so many people out of work this year, and with a sputtering economy, I just didn’t know how this past fiscal year would look.  I knew that we were exceding our budget and were exceding missions giving, but no one could have prepared me for the end of the year totals that we were able to celebrate last Sunday.  Our people passed a $93,000.00 budget last year.  Our people gave $105,000.00 in undesignated offerings.  We give a little over 10% of our undesignated receipts to the cooperative program of the Southern Baptist Convention, 3% goes to our local Baptist association, and a little over 1% goes to the Puerto Rican Deaf Ministry.  That is over 14% of our income that goes directly to missions before we spend a dime.

Our little country church that averages 75 in Sunday School exceded every goal we set for our state missions offering, the North American Mission Board offering, our International Mission Board offering, our Children’s Home offering, the Adult Home offering, a special offering for Union University, and a host of other special offerings.  All told, our rural church gave over $32,000.00 to missions last year!!!!!  That is a chunk of change for a church with a $93,000.00 budget.  It ain’t because we are all rolling in cash either.  It is because people KNOW where the money is going.  A large percentage of our people give.  Giving is an extension of their worship. 

They didn’t just throw money at missions either.  Members of Cottage Grove Baptist Church participated in missions in  Mexico, Puerto Rico, St. Bernard Parish, Jackson, Tn, and, yes. . . Cottage Grove.  They did everything from build wheel chair ramps to building churches.  They shared the Gospel with friends and helped with VBS in New Orleans.

Yes, I am proud to be their pastor and serve along side of them.  I am even more proud of the God we all serve together.  May HIS name be praised for working through us out here between the corn and the soy beans.

Published in: on September 2, 2008 at 3:49 am  Comments (2)  

The Baptist and Reflector is a Rural Church Friend

Take a look at this:

http://www.tnbaptist.org/BRARticle.asp?ID=2590

Published in: on August 13, 2008 at 4:47 am  Comments (4)