Have you ever found yourself in a conversation with someone on a topic you are unfamiliar with? The Bible has incredible help and hope for people through God’s truth. But then Paul reminded us in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” How much more can we encourage and help, when we ourselves have gone through the same valley of suffering or trials? And the fascinating thing is that those who are willing to share and minister from their experiences will find God drawing people to them who he wants loved on!
Last Sunday was a case in point. I don’t believe any of us who have walked this earth for any length of time can truly say we are strangers to trials and suffering. But how many among us has suffered through a life threatening illness or disease? Who has literally knocked on the door of death, and almost wished that God took them up on it? Tom is not some super-saint; he’s really just like you and me (Hey… I’ve run and walked with this guy for over 12 years, LOL!) … The difference in Tom is that he made the choice not to waste his pain and suffering. He is determined to make Jesus known through the comfort God has provided him… in order that he might comfort and offer hope to others. I don’t know about you, but I was truly blessed and comforted on Sunday. And yes… he kind of had me crying too.
Note: For any of you wanting a copy of Tom’s message, just let us know. I’ve had several requests from his former school and others. I have no doubt that Tom’s message will touch more lives than those who were present on Sunday. Go God!!!
Changing the subject, last week I shared one of two things that pretty much blew me away regarding treasured assumptions I have carried with me regarding ministry. Today I want to share the second one. First, I need to give you the setting. Pastor John and I had attended a 9 Marks one-day conference in Arlington, VA a few weeks ago. The speakers were Mark Devers (Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in D.C. and author of 9 Marks of a Healthy Church and other works), and Dr. John MacArthur. Suffice it to say these are two of the most Bible-focused, Christ-centered pastors/teachers/authors I have known. Attending that day were maybe 1000+ pastors, staff, and laypeople from quite a few churches, and from all over the area; the vast majority of whom are just as committed to Christ and His Word. Mark Devers had just taught the final session. His topic was the importance of the role of evangelism in expositional preaching (i.e. teaching scripture). In their final Q&A time, Mark found himself addressing a question from the floor, and asked his own: “How many of you belong to a church that gives an evangelistic invitation at the close of the sermon?” John and I raised our hands (no doubt with a touch of confidence and pride in my case… oops.); but then I looked around… Out of 1000+ people, the vast majority of who are committed to God’s Word and making Him known… there are maybe a whole 12… yes… TWELVE of us who have raised our hands. What????
I was trained, I was drilled on giving invitations in seminary and in my home church. I am only half-joking when I say that I had thought it was like the 12 Commandment, right after, “Thou shall worship at the sacred hour of 11:00am on Sunday.” (Uh oh… being the renegades we are, here we start at 10:45). But… Did you know that evangelistic invitations are only about 200 years old? There is no recorded evidence that such formal invitations were presented at the birth of the Church. And while I have served as your pastor for over 12 years now, I believe I can count on the fingers of one hand how many people have come forward to receive Christ during the invitation. Hmmm… It has John and me wondering and thinking, and doing a whole lot of praying. We have seen how some have used that time for prayer; but are there options? How can we be evangelistic in our messages, and still help people being drawn to Christ if there is no formal invitation time? Let me say this, John and I don’t have the answers yet, but we are working on it. I will keep you apprised.
As the days get colder, it seems things are heating up around here with busyness. Last Saturday we ran cables throughout the church for a new wireless network that will make it easier for our guests to log-on to the internet. Thanks to all who showed up! This Wednesday we are having our Annual Membership Meeting, where we will go over and affirm the 2015 Budget for our church. Those practicing for the Christmas Choir will begin joining the praise team shortly as we sing songs for this most wonderful of seasons. We also have a number of new Bible Studies beginning shortly. By the way, it might seem an odd time to start new studies, but one of the things we have determined from the work in our Focus Teams is that our Discipleship Ministries will now be geared towards semesters, each 13 weeks long, and the Winter Semester begins the first Sunday in December.
Keep an eye out for what’s going on; keep an ear tuned to hear what God is doing here at ESBC; and keep your heart and mind’s focus on Christ who will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), and will always comfort you in the midst of your own trials and suffering… assuming you trust Him enough to let Him.
Love you all!!