This morning I had the privilege of speaking to the men at Ferguson Baptist Church at their men’s prayer breakfast. This was the first opportunity I’ve had to speak since we moved here to Savannah a month ago. After watching the Democratic National Convention this week and waiting to hear the announcement of McCain’s running mate I decided it would be timely to think about the Sovereignty of God as it relates to the upcoming election.
Sometimes it is easy to believe that if our man doesn’t get elected the country will begin spinning out of control. In the back of our minds we may be thinking come November, “How did God allow this to happen?” And yet, should the our candidate lose this presidential election we can confidently affirm that God is in control. Here are six things things we should remember if our candidate doesn’t get elected:
1. God will still be on His throne.
2. God can use ungodly leaders to accomplish His purposes. (i.e. Pharaoh)
3. The scripture tells us to pray for our next president whoever he is. (I Tim. 2:1-2)
4. We can pray specifically that he will repent and follow Jesus.
5. We should honor the next president whoever he is. (I Peter 2:17)
6. We should remember that God is the ultimate source of our confidence.
It helps if we keep in mind that while we want to be good citizens of our country here in this world, we are ultimately citizens of a different place: “for our citizenship is in Heaven from which also we eagerly await for a savior, our Lord Jesus.” (Phil. 3:20)
As I started looking into the concept of church-planting I was surprised to find that church-planting has become somewhat cool these days. Of course I don’t mean cool like trucker hats and panic attacks are cool. Ashton Kutcher is not out planting a church. But as “ministry cool” goes it seems to me that church-planting is in.
There’s been a growing trend among pastors of my generation to turn their attention back towards the cities. In general, the children of the suburban mega-church grew up and decided to react against the seeker-sensitivity of the late eighties and nineties. So they all grew soul patches, bought big rimmed glasses and moved downtown to have church in pubs and coffee shops.
Now don’t understand me for a moment to be saying that this hasn’t resulted in some great ministry. I believe that God has called men to reach the cities just as much as everywhere else. But that’s also my point. Who’s planting the churches everywhere else? What about the smaller cities with “less artsy” downtowns? What about those suburbs? Are we just giving up on those families living in the shadow of a mega-church because they drive SUV’s and don’t go to clubs late at night because their kids have school the next morning?
As artsy downtowns go Savannah is actually doing OK. Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) has attracted some pretty cool people and the work they’ve done downtown is spectacular. We’ve got more than our fair share of tattoos and piercings and there is some great ministry getting started down there. But I’m hoping to plant a church in the Savannah I grew up in. The one where people like to eat seafood they caught themselves, where children grow up learning to say “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am,” and where many people are born, grow up and die and are happy about it.
I don’t believe that the only way to reach people is to replace our pews with couches and our overhead lights with candles. I believe that we can reach people everywhere the same way it’s been done for centuries: with the faithful ministry of the Word of God.
For 10 years I labored in local churches as a youth pastor. At different times I have had the pleasure of leading junior high students, high school students and college students. For most of that time I loved my job to the extent that even during the more difficult times I found myself excited to go the office for another day. It is by no means lost on me that now as I am leaving youth ministry I am probably more qualified than ever to actually pastor teenagers. For 10 years not only did I study the bible constantly to teach the youth of our church but I was also a student of youth culture. I tried to keep up with what they were watching, listening to and reading.
I would like to use this space from time to time to reflect on the things that I learned during my tenure as a youth pastor. There are few people less appreciated these days than a youth pastor who is trying to implement a biblical philosophy of youth ministry. Even in the strongest of churches distinctions are made between how teenagers should be reached versus how one endeavors to reach the rest of the congregation. This can only result in ministry to students that is watered down and powerless to change lives. The least I can hope from these series of posts would be that some discouraged youth pastor out there might not feel quite so alone after dropping by this site.
I’ll have more to say about this in future posts on the topic. But let me close for now by saying that I think ministry to teenagers, particularly ministry to junior high students is actually some of the most important ministry in the church. There is an all out war being waged for the souls of students. Pastors and parents need to get their heads out of the sand so that they can help teenagers become true disciples of Jesus Christ.
I made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ and was baptized at the age of 6. I’m not sure that I would have baptized me knowing what I know now. But for the most part I have tended to believe that as much as a 6 year old can have faith I probably did. I have one of those testimonies where I don’t remember not knowing about Jesus Christ and for that I am eternally grateful. I believe that during the first half of my life God preserved me. He brought men into my life as Sunday School teachers and youth leaders who I think genuinely loved Him and desired to help kids like me come to love Him. But until I left Savannah when I was 16 I do not believe that I had ever truly tasted of the meat of the Word (I Pet. 2:2).
In God’s providence, when he moved our family to Atlanta at the beginning of my junior year of high school we began attending a church where the Word of God was preached book by book, chapter by chapter and verse by verse. The preacher in the pulpit was equipping Christians to go out and live for Christ. I began to understand that the words written down on the pages of scripture were powerful as I submitted my life in obedience to the Lord who gave them to me. I began to be exposed to glorious doctrines like the sovereignty of God in salvation.
So what does this have to do with Savannah? When I moved away from Savannah my relationship with Christ changed dramatically. God graciously brought individuals into my life who loved God and sought Him in the scriptures but I had never encountered a church where the same could consistently be said. Over the years it has been a consistent thought in my mind that I would one day come back to Savannah to pastor. I believe that Savannah needs more men who will bring the meat of the Word to people who so desperately need to hear it so that they too can be changed as I was almost 20 years ago.
In the links section on the side of the page I’ve added Bookman’s Blog. This blog belongs to my father-in-law. It includes plenty of interesting material…like for instance the newest post about polygamy in the Bible. Whether you’re thinking about becoming a polygamist or just interested in knowing more about a practise that is hard to ignore in the Old Testament I think this post will be helpful.
The links I’ve included this time around are ones I really consider to be good resources. Between Two Worlds is a constant for me as a clearing house for all things Christian. Hiestand and Higgins are two of the smartest guys I know whose last names begin with H. Pyromaniacs keeps me duly mortified at the current state of evangelicalism. And The Corner is mostly politics and always interesting.
I hope that this will be the beginning of a series of posts that will answer the question, “Why Savannah?” Some readers who know me are probably wondering how we got here. Others who may be just stopping by may be wondering why I think a city in the southeastern US with almost 500 churches needs another one. I’ll attempt to answer some of those questions.
Four months ago I found myself standing in the pulpit of Arlington Heights Evangelical Free Church announcing my resignation as High School Pastor, a position I had held for the previous four years. For years it has been in the back of our mind that on day God might call us back to Savannah to pastor a church. In January of 2008 God began to make this thought a reality. In case you don’t know, I grew up in Savannah. Until my 16th year when my family moved to Atlanta I didn’t know anything different than long, humid summers playing golf at Bacon Park Golf Course in between trips to the beach.
I recently read an article about church planting stating that some of the most successful church plants are those started by pastors within an hour of their hometown. Theoretically I know all about the people I’ll be serving. Savannah may have changed a lot in the last 20 years but the people are pretty much the same. They need pastors who will show them from God’s Word that salvation is through Jesus Christ alone. They need to hear that Jesus demands everything, not just Sunday morning. They need a church where they can come to exalt the God (I Peter 4:11) who created and sustains them. They need a church where they can enjoy true fellowship (Hebrews 10:24-25) with others who follow Jesus Christ in this world. They need a church where they can be called to holiness (I Peter 1:16) and equipped (Ephesians 4:11-13) so that they can go out and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20) to those with whom they live, work and play.
Welcome to The Savannah Project Blog. In the weeks and months to come I hope to use this space to update my readers about all things related to life and ministry in Savannah. After almost 20 years God has brought me back to the city of Savannah. In the months and years to come I hope to pastor a church in Savannah where believers can gather to exalt God and be equipped to evangelize those with whom they live, work and play. If you’re reading this sometime around August 2008 then you’re here at the very beginning. I hope you’ll keep reading and I would certainly appreciate your prayers.