Archive for the ‘Pastoral Ministry’ Category

Next Tuesday, June 1, I will officially complete my brief, 2-year stint as a science teacher at Fontainebleau Junior High School. My original goal when I enrolled at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, was to become a high school speech or civics teacher. However, the Lord took me on a path that did eventually land me in a classroom. I never expected to teach so far away from my hometown, nor did I anticipate that my first teaching position would come 37 years after I had graduated from college! In the meantime, I have served as the pastor of four churches, including more than 23 years at my last pastorate.

My science classroom at Fontainebleau Junior High

I began substitute teaching at eight different schools not long after I left Mandeville’s First Baptist. It made sense, having a teaching degree and having been associated with one of the high schools in town as the sports announcer. In addition, I had formed good relationships with each of the high school principals in town.

Before long, I found myself getting calls to substitute regularly. I accepted a long-term sub position in the final quarter of the 2018-2019 school year, filling in for a junior high teacher who had taken an early retirement. This assignment included teaching seventh and eighth grade science (hardly my preference). By this time, I had begun taking steps to prepare for a teaching position at a junior high or high school, hoping to land a job in either my first or second teaching fields.

However after the job fair interviews, the only offer I received came from the principal at the junior high where I had taken the long-term sub position. Although I had not realized it, the Lord had already placed me where He wanted me to be. So I accepted the position to continue teaching junior high science. At least I knew what to expect the next fall!

I have enjoyed the challenge of teaching junior high students. It’s an interesting time of life. I’ve also enjoyed teaching science, and I hope that my students have increased their understanding and appreciation for science. I know that I have! And I’m going to miss being with them and having the opportunity to influence them.

The transition from teaching junior high science comes at a time when God has made it clear that Gayla and I should plant a new congregation in Abita Springs called SweetWater Church. This became clearer to us as we served at Ebenezer Baptist Church of Hammond for about 2 1/2 years. We learned additional lessons that have shaped us for this ministry.

We began meeting with a core group in our home in January and sensed that the timing for starting this new church was nearing. Grand Opening for the new church has been set for September 12, 2021. This would mean that I would step away from teaching at Fontainebleau Junior High so that I could dedicate more time to the new church.

I’m grateful to the Lord for the time I have had with the administration, faculty, and students at the junior high, because I know that this was all a part of the journey God planned for me. Hopefully, the interactions we have had the past couple of years will pay dividends and result in a harvest for the Kingdom.

If you missed our first preview, SweetWater Church has a second preview service scheduled for Sunday, May 2, at 10:00 am at the Abita Springs Recreation Center. With almost 50 people in attendance for Easter Sunday, we met many new friends and hope to meet more at our second preview service.

SweetWater’s original group of five individuals began meeting late last year in our pastor’s home. We prayed together asking God to give us His vision to plant a new congregation in Abita Springs. From those meetings, the Lord led us to SweetWater Church as a church that engages people through activities, community events, and group gatherings. Our Sunday gatherings focus on worshiping God through guitar-driven music, enjoying fellowship with one another, and hearing a Bible-based message.

This month’s message, Would God Love Me — Even with My Guilty Past? will focus on the story of the woman at the well from the fourth chapter of John’s Gospel. This story teaches us that God loves us in spite of our messed-up lives. God values us enough to seek us, to welcome us to intimacy, and to rejoice in our worship. To be wanted, to be cared for when no one, not even herself, could see anything of value in her—this is grace indeed.

We don’t believe that anyone is beyond the reach of the good news. God offers His gift of eternal life to all who will receive it. When it’s received, life becomes real and meaningful and has significant purpose. The woman in John 4 experienced life change, and she was never the same. She told everyone she knew about Jesus.

By the time SweetWater Church has its grand opening in September, we hope to have many people from Abita Springs and the surrounding area take roles in our ministry. Whether you have interest in music, hospitality, technology, outreach, or administration, we have plenty of opportunities for you to join our ministry. We will equip everyone so that they can serve in these roles with confidence.

Let’s plan to talk about how you can serve the Lord through SweetWater Church. We meet at 22517 LA 36 at the District 11 Recreation Center — just look for the green water tower. It just might be filled with “sweet water.” 😉

Our core group has made steady progress as plan to launch a new congregation in Abita Springs in the fall after Labor Day. To that end, we have taken significant steps for five pre-launch services so that people in and around Abita Springs can get to know us and what the Lord has purposed on our hearts. We believe God would have us focus on sharing the life-changing gospel with the people He brings into our lives. We have a passion to minister to our friends and neighbors so that we can lead them to faith in Christ.

SweetWater Church will diligently seek opportunities to engage people through activities, community events, and group gatherings. Our Sunday gatherings focus on worshiping God through guitar-driven music, enjoying fellowship with one another, and hearing a biblical message. We will also equip people so that they can advance the work of Christ by living out the gospel in the workplace and our neighborhoods.

SweetWater Church will have its first pre-launch service at 10:00 a.m. on Easter Sunday, April 4, at the Abita Springs Recreation Center. To learn more about SweetWater Church, call or message us at 985-807-2867.

Let me put it out there straight. It’s okay to wash your hands, not to shake hands, and use similar precautions as you would to avoid contracting the flu. However, it’s not okay to walk in fear. Fear is sin. Fear is not trusting in God’s provision.pic-handshake-web_1024xx1200-675-0-63

“You [God] will keep the mind that is dependent on you in perfect peace, for it is trusting in you. Trust in the LORD forever, because in the LORD, the LORD himself, is an everlasting rock!” (Isaiah 26:3-4, CSB).

Perfect peace is God’s gift to the person whose mind or thoughts are fixed on Him. We live in a time when Satan has had his way in stirring up trouble. His evil plan has always been focused on getting attention away from God. Yet God wants nothing more than for us to put our trust in Him. When we keep our lives dependent upon the Lord, He promises the wonderful blessing of “perfect peace” The word “peace” (shalom) means to be in harmony with God, experiencing peace with God and the peace of God. It means to be in such harmony with God that we are assured of having all needs met. Peace gives us the assurance of health, wholeness, the absence of conflict and strife within and without our souls. The peace God gives is the security of knowing that no hardship, accident, or disease could separate us from Him.

When Isaiah wrote the words contained in Isaiah 26, Israel faced great turmoil It was hardly the best of times, yet the prophet clearly experienced what so many today long for — the perfect peace of God, peace of heart and soul.

One of the great works of God on our behalf is to provide a solid foundation for life. As our solid Rock, the Lord provides stability, security, support, and defense against all the stormy trials and temptations of life.

I don’t know what lies ahead, but I’m certain the news people will continue make sure we hear that bad stuff. Let me offer you this advice for the week and the weeks ahead. Turn off the TV and radio news shows. Quit looking so much at social media to see what bad things are being reported about the coronavirus and the economy and so on. Open up your Bible and listen to the Lord speak to you.

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock where I seek refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I was saved from my enemies” (Psalm 18:2-3, CSB). 

For the past year, I have been serving as a Transitional Pastor. While Gayla and I had always juggled a multiple tasks throughout our ministry together — going to seminary (two degrees!) while serving as a full-time pastor, serving on community and Bi-vodenominational boards and committees, coaching our kids in the local recreation leagues, and various other activities — we had never faced the need to work vocationally to have enough income for our personal needs. When I stepped down from my last full-time pastorate, we knew that we would have to “hustle” some extra income.

Now a year-and-a-half after having stepped down from my last pastorate, I’m enjoying pastoral ministry at another level — as a bi-vocational pastor. To be sure, it’s a challenge! My life has hardly slowed down. If anything, I’m busier than ever before.

Finding time to prepare to for all the ongoing services and ministry meetings at church along with working to provide the income necessary for living has been a squeeze. Gayla and I commute about 40 minutes one-way to the church where we serve, so that’s an additional time for which we must account. I worked as a substitute teacher the past year-and-a-half, and this has provided the opportunity to work as a full-time teacher beginning with the new school year in August. Besides the school teaching, our son and I have started a home renovations company that has surprisingly kept us quite busy. So there’s a joy in knowing that the Lord has and will continue to provide for us.

There’s also the joy of serving with a congregation who genuinely wants to make a difference in its community. While they have made some mistakes in the past that has diminished the size of the congregation (what church has not done so?) , they have admitted these failures and have taken steps to move forward with the Lord’s guidance.

The experience of serving as a Transitional Pastor has also helped me understand the challenges that bi-vocational pastors face. Having to work one or two jobs in addition to serving as pastor requires faith, stamina, the ability ability to manage time well, and a faithful and supportive partner in marriage. I’m blessed to have a wife who not only loves and supports me in our ministry, but Gayla works alongside me in our church and often works alongside me in teacher preparation and in our small business. What a blessing she is!

It’s been several months since I have written a blog, so some of you may be wondering, “What happened to Ken? What’s he been doing?” question_mark_emoji_png_1126325I’m sure most people don’t really care, but I thought it might be a good idea to return to the blog and hope that I can return to writing more consistently.

The main reason that I have not written in a while is that I have found little extra time in my packed schedule. The Lord continues to assign responsibilities to me that bring great joy to our lives. The role as transitional pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Hammond, continues to offer both challenge and fulfillment. We have seen the Lord work in the lives of so many of the people in that church. We just completed a very successful Vacation Bible School where we saw six children give their lives to Christ. Serving on the state board of Child Evangelism Fellowship has offered me additional opportunities to grow, including to help establish the Northshore Chapter of CEF earlier this year.

The Lord has permitted to serve on the board of trustees of Louisiana College for the past seven years. During this final year of my tenure, I have had the privilege of serving as the board chairman. Getting to work with President Rick Brewer in this way has increased my appreciation for this great school.

In March Curtis Honts contacted me about writing a series of Sunday School lessons for LifeWay. I have written several times for him, so I knew what he would expect. However, I did not expect the deadlines would fall so close together. His offer came about the same time I was offered a long-term substitute teaching position at Fontainebleau Junior High School. These last two opportunities contributed greatly to the unexpected sabbatical from blogging. By the grace of God, I met all six writing deadlines for LifeWay. (Those lessons will be studied beginning next March.) Also by the grace of God, I finished the year out strong teaching junior high science and found that this might be the next avenue of my life ministry.

By the end of March, I had also completed the steps necessary to attend the job fair for new teachers in our parish (county for the rest of states). I interviewed for several teaching positions in junior high schools and high schools. Yesterday I was offered the position at Fontainebleau Junior High where I had worked as the long-term substitute.

Gayla and I are thankful to the Lord for the path on which He has led us and continues to lead us. During our 44 years of marriage, we have gone to college and seminary (two degrees), and served as the pastor of four churches in Texas and Louisiana. These experiences have positioned us to continue giving in the variety of ways mentioned above. The junior high now becomes another field of service in which we will serve as we serve in His work as a transitional pastor. To God be the glory!

Transitional1Just a couple of weeks ago, someone asked me, “So how do you like being an interim pastor?” I responded, “I am not an interim pastor. I am a transitional pastor.” He gave me a look of incredulity and drilled down, “What’s the difference?”

While the two terms appear to be interchangeable, the differences lie in the intentionality of the transitional pastor. An interim pastor fills the gap or vacancy caused by the departure of the previous pastor by generally preaching on Sundays and leading the Wednesday prayer meeting or service. He may provide some additional leadership, but generally he has no specific charge for him to lead the congregation. He may even be considered as the permanent pastor.

With Transitional Pastoral Ministry, the congregation and the transitional pastor enter into a covenant relationship whereby the transitional pastor agrees to provide spiritual leadership to the church and lead the church throughout the transitional period. The church agrees to be loving and gracious to the transitional pastor and his family and to pray for spiritual power in his life and work. The church further promises to relate to him as a God’s anointed leader for the task, to support his leadership, and to talk with him about personal concerns instead of talking about him to others.

Therefore, the transitional pastor becomes the lead pastor for the congregation. He leads the church through the spiritual, situational, and psychological stages of the transition that concludes with the church calling a permanent pastor. The transitional pastor helps the church to view the church’s history through the eyes of Christ and assess the church’s current reality redemptively. By affirming biblical principles for church growth, he will lead the church to focus on kingdom results. He will guide the church in a complete review of its documents, procedures, and ministries. He will also train the pastor search committee and assist the committee as a resource; however, he will not be available for a call as the permanent pastor.

In June the Ebenezer Baptist Church of Hammond, Louisiana, called me to serve as its Transitional Pastor. Since that time, I have come to love it and appreciate the value of a transitional pastor in a local church. I believe that through the transitional pastoral process, the church I serve can become more effective as it learns from past experiences, frees itself from hindering traditions, and replaces discord with harmony. As a result of the transition, the church will come to understand its mission and will develop church practices that should enable the church to fulfill its mission. Too often misunderstandings exist about the pastor’s role and his responsibilities which preclude his effectiveness in serving as pastor. The transition period allows for the transitional pastor to reset the expectations for both the pastor and the congregation. This will likely mean that energy previously spent addressing conflict will be redirected so that the church enjoys an increased participation in ministry and mission.

1 cor. 9.22.001Recently I posted about purchasing a couple of tickets to a baseball game for my wife and me to attend. Our local AAA baseball team had partnered with a semiprofessional football in our area for a one-night promotional event through which the Bayou Lacombe Cardinals football team would receive a portion of the proceeds. I also happen to work with the team as their public address announcer.

I had no idea that my post — meant to urge others to purchase tickets to support the football team — would be controversial. Because I am also a pastor, my association with the team was questioned, and I offered an immediate straightforward answer: “I’m building relationships with people who need the gospel.” Somehow this led to a charge that my “popularity” has to do with my willingness to please people and to conform to their ways. The charge continued to what must have been the aim of the original question, which was to disparage the use of contemporary music in churches.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I enjoy contemporary music. But I also enjoy the sacred hymns. However, I also enjoy many other styles of music. When asked “What kind of music do I want the church to use?” I always respond, “Music that honors God and that is done well and that relates to the people. I define “done well” as that which is presented as the best the particular congregation, singers, or instrumentalists can offer because we ought always offer our best when it comes to worshiping the Lord.”

Throughout my ministry I have pursued a variety of interests in order to connect with people in the community. The goal has always been the same — to build relationships with people who need the gospel. The apostle Paul modeled this (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23). Paul clearly stated his purpose for conforming to the customs and opinions of men by stating “I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). What mattered to Paul was not him, his rights, or his preferences, but the gospel. The gospel consumed his life.

The controversy surrounding “contemporary music” hardly smacks of something new. In 1873 (that’s more than 150 years ago!), something new came on the scene when the great preacher D.L. Moody’s singing associate, Ira D. Sankey, introduced what became known as the “singing of the gospel.” Sankey’s style completely revolutionized the music of the church.

Before Sankey, a cappella singing of the psalms and hymns and spiritual songs had always been an important part of worship services. However, Sankey introduced a style of popular hymn calculated to awaken the careless, to melt the hardened, and to guide the inquiring souls to the Lord Jesus Christ. Often when the Moody-Sankey team came to town for an evangelistic campaign, the people would come out of curiosity to see and hear Sankey sing. Pedaling his small cabinet organ, he would sing out in his rich, melodious voice, and completely captivate his audience. During this time many church members thought that the use of an organ or any kind of musical instrument to accompany the voices of singers was wicked and worldly. Strict church people, accustomed only to the unaccompanied old psalm-singing type of church music called Sankey’s songs “human hymns.” It took tact on the part of Sankey to break down the prejudice against organ music. He helped transition the practice and the result was a wave of well-composed and great theologically sound hymns which are still sung in churches today.

I believe that each generation needs its Ira Sankeys who can tactfully make the theology of Scripture speak to the people. People often say that the older hymns have such theological value and that we should be teaching their value and not have them lost. If by teaching the value of hymns, you mean that we should sing songs that have robust theological meaning, I wholeheartedly agree. If you mean that we need to teach a particular style of music, that’s actually missing the point. People are converted to Christ through the gospel not through a style of music.

What matters is the theological truth that comes from Scripture. Words are what matters — not the melodies or tunes or even the instruments. We should sing truth. We can sing truth with new songs and new instruments, and we can sing truth with old songs and new instruments and new arrangements.

It comes down to getting the saving message of the gospel to people. I cannot win everyone, but I’m willing to do whatever is biblically permissible to win some. And I’m willing to rub elbows with anyone if it means that I might have the opportunity to speak the gospel.

 

 

 

 

I often use “Truth is unkillable” as my salutation on emails and letters. Occasionally, someone will ask, “What does that mean? Why do you sign off like that?”

I started using the salutation after I had attended a conference at Southwestern Theological Baptist Seminary held in January 2012. The conference, “Anabaptists and Contemporary Baptists,” included speakers including Paige Patterson, Malcolm Yarnell, and Emir Caner. One speaker in particular included that surprised me was Rick Warren of Saddleback Community Church.

Known also as the Radical Reformers, 16th-century Anabaptists, such as Menno Simons (the namesake of the modern Mennonite church), Pilgram Marpeck and Balthasar Hubmaier, defended the authority of Scripture, the practice of believer’s baptism and religious liberty. Modern Baptists hold these convictions in common with the Radical Reformers, who for their beliefs often faced persecution and death at the hands of both Catholics and Protestants alike.

Warren pointed out during his address that the word “radical” means “of the root,” as portrayed in most areas of life. In Botany, for example, “radical leaves” on a tree are closest to the root; in mathematics, “the radical is the root of the equation;” and in grammar, “the radical is the root with all prefixes and suffixes removed.” In most areas of life, Warren said, “radical” does not mean “extreme.”

Radical means “rooted.” The Radical Reformers were rooted in Christ and rooted in the Word of God. As rooted believers, as the Radical Reformers read the Scriptures following the Luther’s Reformation, they concluded that Christianity had strayed from its doctrinal moorings. In other words, the faith and practices of the Catholic Church did not root in Scripture but in tradition. The Radical Reformers also concluded that the magisterial reformation did not go far enough.

“The Anabaptists didn’t just believe in the purpose of the Great Commission,” Warren said, but also in “the exact order of the Great Commission.” The church should first go, then preach the Gospel and make disciples, then baptize those who believe, and then teach them to do everything the Lord Jesus Christ has commanded.

At the conference I picked up several books about the Anabaptists, including one on the writings of Balthasar Hubmaier, the greatest theologian of the early Anabaptists. He used this salutation on all his writing: Die Wahrheit ist untödlich (“Truth is unkillable”). “Unkillable” is not a word in the English language; however, it is the best translation of Hubmaier’s word.

We live in an age where many people want to define truth for themselves — to make it relative or convenient. But truth does not change. We need a reliable source, and the world’s culture will never deliver on a reliable source. We must root our lives on the only reliable source — Jesus Christ. He has given us His Word. The Word alone is reliable — eternal — unkillable!

soccerNothing can stop the world’s most dedicated sports fan from supporting his beloved team.

Ali Demirkaya, nicknamed  “Yamuk Ali” (or crazy Ali) by the Internet, is a soccer fan of the local soccer team in Denizlispor, Turkey. Ali, who had been banned from Denizli Atatürk stadium for unspecified reasons, took the only reasonable course to watch the game. He rented a crane. soccer fan

From high above just beyond the stadium limits, the diehard Denizlispor fan watched his team vanquish Gaziantepspor 5-0. He even led the crowd in a chant.

“That match was very important for our team,” he explained to Yeni Asir newspaper. “I had to go to the police station to sign a paper to show that I am not watching the match in the stadium. Then I quickly went to rent the crane.” Social media in the area was full of pictures of a jubilant Ali cheering from his perch.

Ultimately, police were summoned and Ali was forced to lower the crane. Nevertheless, he still ended the day on a high note. The stunt only cost him the equivalent of $86, he wasn’t cited or fined by the authorities, and his team won 5-0.

How far would you go to get something you wanted? It will likely come down to how bad you want it. If it means something to you, you’ll get creative to make sure you don’t miss out. Sometimes God’s blessing comes to those willing to go to extremes.

God offers spiritual disciplines as the means to understand His heart and His will for our lives. The disciplines of prayer, meditating on His Word, and fasting are only some of them. Unfortunately, many believers think that the spiritual disciplines are extreme and only have to be used in dire circumstances. However, if you really want to know that heart of God, you’ll be more than willing to do whatever it takes.