2015 Shepherding

Shepherding 2015Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”  1 Corinthians 15:58 (ESV)

I’m really excited about the 2015 SHEPHERDING conference being held at a new Lexington location, Griffin Gate Marriott Resort & Spa on January 29-31.  Baptist Health and the Kentucky Baptist Convention continue our long-standing partnership to provide an event that will bring a time of Godly refreshment to pastors, chaplains, and Directors of Missions.  The conference is being held at a NEW LOCATION this year, the Griffin Gate Marriott Resort & Spa, in an effort to provide a relaxed setting as well as a relaxed pace.  The hotel staff is among the best you will find in the business and we are grateful that they are hosting us for this year’s event.

As always, we should have a packed house again this year.  The lineup of presenters and worship leaders is outstanding.  Our featured speakers include:

  • Dr. Kevin Ezell (North American Mission Board)
  • Dr. Dan Summerlin (Lone Oak FBC, Paducah)
  • Rev. Tom James (Eastwood BC, Bowling Green)
  • Dr. Carl Hurley (America’s Funniest Professor)
  • Mike Harland (Lifeway Worship)

In addition to those above who share in the plenary sessions, we will hear from several other excellent presenters during our breakout sessions.  If you plan to attend, please register as soon as possible because we are almost at full capacity.  You can register online today!  If you have any questions, please contact me (Steve Rice) at (502) 489-3571 or toll free in Kentucky at (866) 489-3571.

3 Ways to IMPACT

Making-Impact-LogoThe Lord wants us to make an impact in life even when life is difficult.  The Apostle Peter understood that, so he wrote about it in his letter to the believers in northern Asia Minor.  Some of them were present in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost and heard Peter preach, but now they were suffering greatly from intense persecution.  In his letter, he encourages them to continue impacting others for the Lord during days of great difficulty.

3 Ways to Make An Impact

1.  Start serving.  To the elders among you, I [Peter] appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed:  Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be….”  (1 Peter 5:1-2a).  Peter saw Jesus serve others through suffering.  When we take our eyes off our own struggles and focus on others, we imitate Jesus and we make an impact.

2.  Be humble.  “Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble'”   (1 Peter 5:5).  Surely Peter had the towel and basin scene that took place in the Upper Room in mind as he wrote these words.  God uses those with a humble heart and He gives them grace.  I have noticed that all my “heroes” in the faith are men and women marked by humility.  Most Christians admire and respect those who have a humble spirit.

3.  Trust God.  “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).  God is in control.  Even when we cannot see or sense Him, He is there.  Not only is He there, He CARES!  HE is the key!  Knowing He is in control during difficult moments should free us to focus on others and to continue to faithfully serve Him.

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

lexington-ky-hotel-location-topLast week, two members of the Kentucky Baptist Convention Church Consulting & Revitalization Team and I spent part of the day in Lexington, Kentucky touring the Downtown Lexington Hilton hotel for a future event we are planning. Throughout the day, I observed the hotel staff members utilize many basic, but impressive welcoming principles that can and should be applied to the church. See if you can pick up a couple of things from this post that can help in your setting.

The hotel did a good job of putting their best foot forward. We had an appointment with the Convention Services Manager, Emily Dowd, but she was tied up on a telephone call when we arrived.  Instead of making us wait, she sent another manager to greet us and make us feel welcome until she could break away from her call. When she arrived, she welcomed us and offered us coffee or a soft drink. Throughout our visit, she was helpful, ready to listen, and extremely knowledgeable about her facility. As we randomly ran into other hotel staff members throughout our visit, they smiled and said hello. Some even asked if they could help in some way. Mrs. Dowd invited us to join her for lunch in the hotel restaurant and made sure that we received a validated parking pass as we were leaving.

Here are some basic welcoming principles that impressed me from the day. I believe all of them apply to the church setting as well….

  • Be on time. Although we had an appointment, our appointment was simply for the “late morning.”  As a result of not setting a precise time of arrival, Mrs. Dowd could not help that she was tied up on the phone when we arrived.  Knowing the importance of being on time, she was courteous and asked another manager to “fill in” until she arrived.
  • Be prepared. We were there to get information and to make relational connections. Although, we did not expect the managers to know everything about their facility, we did expect them to know most things. We expected them to be organized and prepared for our visit–we were not disappointed!
  • Be nice. Everyone provided a warm handshake, a friendly smile, eye contact, and good manners! They acted as if they were truly glad we were there and honored we were utilizing their facility.
  • Be real. A mechanical “sales pitch” is obvious. It was nice to meet real people who were working at a real jobs. It caught my attention that everyone seemed very genuine.
  • Be flexible. Throughout the visit, we ran into a hotel staff member who is in charge of Audio/Visual. Although we had not planned to do so, we spent several minutes talking with him about new audio/visual improvements in the hotel. Mrs. Dowd was very patient and flexible throughout our visit.
  • Be thorough. When we’ve held events in that hotel in the past, the staff always sends a very nice thank you note or letter that conveys their appreciation. It’s a small gesture, but little things make a BIG difference.

Surely, if the business world can do such a good job of welcoming people simply for the purpose of their business, the church can do a good job of welcoming people for the purpose of God’s business. Keep striving to put your best foot forward!

For more help in this area, please see the following posts:

California or Bust

Last week we headed out to sunny California with our family.  While there, in addition to vacationing, we visited with our oldest son who is an active member of the United State Air Force.  We had not seen him in a year, so it was great to spend time together.

On our trip, we also met our soon-to-be daughter-in-law and found her to be a lovely person.  On Thursday, we drove to the Yosemite National Park for site-seeing and a wedding.  That’s right–a wedding!  We hiked halfway up to Yosemite Falls, and after I caught my breath, I performed the ceremony right there on the mountain.  It was a memorable and beautiful setting indeed!

California is a beautiful state!  From the high Pacific coast cliffs on Highway 1 to the grandeur of Half Dome and El Capitan in Yosemite–WOW!  Not to mention the sequoia’s.  It was all breathtaking.

The final day, we traveled back to San Francisco.  We loved riding the cable cars and hiking around the Golden Gate bridge area.  More than anything, we loved being with family.  My perspective concerning California can be summed up in the familiar phrase, “it’s a wonderful place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”  I guess for me the saying “once a Kentuckian; always a Kentuckian” is true!

Do I Yearn for You?

Tonight I sit wide awake in the early hours of the morning as I wrestle with this question, “do I yearn for God”?  The song “Yearn” by Shane and Shane has captured me. It haunts me. I hear it everywhere I go. I can’t escape it.

Tonight, I understand why.  God has reminded me that there was a time when I thirsted for Him night and day–a time when He was my first thought in the morning and my last thought at night. There was a time when I would literally rather sneak away and spend time with Him than eat, and often did. A time when I devoured His Word every day. A time when I looked for any and every opportunity to share the story of Jesus.

Tonight, He reminded me of special moments at the Morehead Baptist Student Union, of the afternoon I led a man to Christ on the streets of Flemingsburg, of nights sitting on the hill above my house at Banner, and of day-long hikes in the hills of eastern Kentucky–all because I yearned for Him. All because He was everything to me. All because I was desperate for Him. All because I couldn’t get enough.

God is reminding me tonight and it’s painful–so painful that it’s hard to see as I type, but the pain gives me hope that He hasn’t given up on me. The pain gives me hope that He will still use me in His work, but His message has never been more clear. “My son, only if you yearn for Me! There’s no shortcut….YEARN! There’s no secret–YEARN! There’s no other way–YEARN! YEARN!”

The chorus of “Yearn” by Shane and Shane goes like this:

Lord, I wanna yearn for You. I wanna burn with passion over You, and only You. Lord, I wanna yearn for You. I wanna burn with passion over You, and only You. Lord, I wanna yearn.

In humility can I ask you, do you yearn for Him? Is He everything to you? Do you burn with passion in your life for Him, and only Him?  If so, praise God! If not, then do whatever it takes to get there. Remove anything in your life that dampens your fire and passion for Him. Yearn! Yearn for Him! He desires it. He deserves it. He demands it.

“Lord, help me yearn for You. Help me burn with passion over You, and only You. Lord, help me yearn for You. Help me burn with passion over You, and only You. Lord, I wanna yearn.”

“Purdy” Green Hills

A couple of months ago, my sister-in-law, told me about a Bluegrass Festival she recently attended with my brother. She mailed me a CD of David Evans, one of the musicians she heard at the event. I have listened to the recording dozens of times—I especially like the song called “Purdy (Pretty) Green Hills.”  That’s the way Mr. Evans sings the word “pretty” in the song.

The song tells the story of a man who picks up an old hitchhiker. The driver asks the old man where he wants to go and this is his reply:

 “Purdy green hills, purdy green hills”….He said, “take me into them purdy green hills.”

Now, before you even think it, I know those words would make an English teacher sweat like a UK Football season ticket holder, but hang with me. The song even talks about going into a country store and buying some “bloney” (bologna). You know you’ve got a great song when it talks about eating country bologna. Can I get an “Amen”?

Let me say that I LOVE Shelbyville. I LOVE living here. I LOVE our church. I LOVE the topography and beauty of the area. Every morning when I lace on my New Balance running shoes and trot around our community, I thank God for placing us here. BUT, as a person who grew up in the “purdy green hills” of Eastern Kentucky, I perfectly understand the old man’s words in the song. You can take a boy out of the hills, but you can’t take the hills out of the boy.

This past Saturday, as a part of KBC’s Super Saturday, I traveled back down into those “purdy green hills” to teach three conferences in Prestonsburg. Prestonsburg is in Floyd County, my home county. Saturday morning I rose early and ran a 6-mile loop through the streets of the town where I spent so much time as a boy. I recalled Saturday outings with my mom, trips to town with my grandfather—I even ran right by my great Aunt’s home before she rose for the day. We ate at the Jenny Wiley Lodge where I played many a game of ping pong as a teenager and where I attended my high school prom.

Laura and I will probably never live in Eastern Kentucky again, but every now and then, it does my heart good to visit “them purdy green hills.”

Lessons from the Ark

Someone recently sent me an email about Noah’s Ark.  As a preacher, it caused me to think of several sermon ideas I missed over the years.  Read over the following “Lessons from the Ark” for yourself and see if you find them as helpful as I do.

Everything I need to know, I learned from Noah’s Ark . . .

  1. Don’t miss the boat.
  2. Remember that we are all in the same boat.
  3. Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.
  4. Stay fit. When you’re 600 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big.
  5. Don’t listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.
  6. Build your future on high ground.
  7. For safety’s sake, travel in pairs.
  8. Speed isn’t always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs.
  9. When you’re stressed, float a while.
  10. Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.
  11. No matter the storm, when you are with God, there’s always a rainbow waiting.

I want to thank my email friend for the sermon ideas and the “kernels” of wisdom.  I hope they help you as they have me.