Calling Out the Called

Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Luke 10:2 (NKJV)

Early in his tenure as Executive Director-Treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, Dr. Todd Gray called 120 KBC churches who were searching for a senior pastor at the time. He was reminded that mid-size and large churches usually have no problem finding qualified candidates, but smaller churches often face great difficulty. He heard that some churches were so desperate that they were considering non-Southern Baptist candidates.

Dr. Gray decided to call for a statewide initiative to address the need. He asked me to lead the initiative along with selected members of the CCR Team. We gladly accepted the assignment because of the potential benefits to KBC churches. At this point, I am traveling around the state talking and listening to leaders about this challenge. It will take all of us working together to see positive movement in this area.

I am traveling around the state talking and listening to leaders about this challenge. It will take all of us working together to see positive movement in this area.

As a part of the assignment, Dr. Gray shared four main convictions about the need.

Dr. Gray’s 4 “Calling Out the Called” Convictions

  1. Men sitting in the pews of nearby area churches can best meet these needs.
  2. Many of these men are professionals and deeply committed Christians who have abilities to teach, preach, and lead.
  3. These men need to hear the call of God, answer the call of God, and receive basic skills training them how to begin their ministry.
  4. The KBC needs to lead out in this area to help churches meet the need.

This initiative will be a multi-year project, but we believe there is urgency. As a result, we hope to make immediate strides with a goal of announcing key initiative elements at the 2021 KBC Annual Meeting in Elizabethtown on November 9, 2021.

Please join us in praying for God’s blessing and wisdom. The harvest is indeed great, but more laborers are needed. PRAY that God will send laborers for His work and for His glory!

PRAYER: Dear Father, please send laborers into your churches in Kentucky to reap a harvest that will fulfill your purpose for those churches and bring you glory! And please give us wisdom to know what our part should be in this glorious work. Amen!

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Best Bible Reading Plans

What is the most important spiritual discipline? What is the one thing that is paramount when it comes to maturing as a follower of Christ? I believe the Bible is the key. I’m not saying that it is the only thing that is important, but I am saying that it is most important!

Many Christians have followed Christ for decades, yet have never read the Bible in its entirety. There are several printed plans, web-based plans, and Bible apps that make it easier than ever.

4 Types of Bible Reading Plans

1. Printed plans. There are numerous ways to print off a Bible reading plan online. One of the best sites is the The Navigators. They utilize the Discipleship Journal Bible Reading plans which are some of my favorites.

2. One-Year-Bible. This Bible is designed for those who want to read through the Bible in a calendar year.

3. Online plans. Dozens (probably hundreds) of sites exist online that are dedicated to reading the Bible through in a year. Some will even email you each day with the assigned reading. Here are three good ones:  Christianity.com, BibleGateway.com, and BacktotheBible.org.

4. Bible apps. I utilize several great Bible apps for Bible reading and study. They all have Bible reading plans that are very helpful. My favorite Bible apps include: You Version, ESV, and Logos.

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4 Steps to Forgiving Those I Hate

How can we forgive people we hate? How can we show grace to those we can’t stomach? The honest truth is that we can’t! In our own strength, we are unable to forgive those who have hurt us deeply, but with God’s help, it is possible.

4 Steps to Forgiving Those I Hate

1. Turn our hurts over to God. We should remind ourselves that nothing happens that God does not allow. As a result we should acknowledge our hurts and ask God to help us with them. He may choose to teach us through them and shape us into the person He wants us to be. God never wastes a hurt!

God never wastes a hurt!

2. Ask God to transform our hate to love. In time, God will change our hearts to match His heart if we allow Him to do so. We should pray and ask God to start the process of healing and forgiveness in our hearts.

3. Read what God’s Word says about forgiveness. The Bible is replete with verses on this topic. Reading what God says is a major part of how He moves us towards a heart of forgiveness. Here are a couple of passages on the topic:

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”  Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV) 

“He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:  Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.'”  Luke 11:2-4 (NIV) 

4. Remember that we sinned against God. God forgave us when we didn’t deserve it, so we should forgive others when they don’t deserve it. We are never more like God than when we grant forgiveness to undeserving people.

Don’t spend the rest of your life without rest in your life!

If you’re struggling with hard feelings toward someone . . . if you’re mad, hurt, bitter, or all the above rolled into one, then let it go! Forgive! Do it for their sake! Do it for your sake! Do it for the Lord! Don’t spend the rest of your life without rest in your life. Unforgiveness can slow down or even sidetrack your spiritual growth.

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5 Things I Hated Doing as a Pastor

In my previous two posts I wrote about 6 Things I Hated Hearing as a Pastor followed by 7 Things I Loved Hearing as a Pastor. In today’s post I want to explore 5 Things I Hated DOING as a Pastor. Keep in mind that I loved being a pastor and I loved most the tasks that came along with the position, but I didn’t love everything.

5 Things I Hated Doing as a Pastor

1. Preaching on difficult topics. I preached on marriage, divorce, homosexuality, fornication, adultery, abortion, tithing, racism, prejudice, laziness, gossip, and numerous other difficult subjects, but I didn’t love doing it. As a pastor, I preferred to preach about Jesus and the encouraging passages that abound, but I knew that I was accountable to God to preach the whole Bible even when the topics were not popular or culturally acceptable.

…even when the topics were not popular or culturally acceptable.”

2. Visiting new parents in the hospital. I didn’t really hate visiting new parents, but it always felt a little awkward. I felt better visiting when the mother and the father were both present or when my wife could join me. As their pastor, I wanted to let them know that we celebrated with them on the birth of their child, but at the same time, I wanted to respect their need for privacy. As a man, I was certain that I didn’t understand everything that the new mother was going through physically and emotionally, so I wanted to give her space for rest and healing.

3. Addressing church conflict. When I faced conflict during my early years of ministry I simply prayed and hoped that it would go away. As the pastor, I began to realize that I had to lean into conflict and work towards reconciliation, but it was something that I always dreaded.

…I began to realize that I had to lean into conflict…”

4. Asking for help. In the perfect church world, all the church members would jump in and volunteer when needed. Since that rarely happened, I often had to personally ask people for help.

5. Administering church discipline. The Bible clearly teaches that there are times when church discipline is required. The purpose of discipline is to help the offender discover his sin and his need for repentance. Even when church discipline was appropriate and best, it was always very difficult.

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7 Things I Loved Hearing as a Pastor

In last week’s post, I talked about 6 Things I Hated Hearing As a Pastor. Fortunately in the churches I served as Senior Pastor, I heard far more words of encouragement than words of discouragement. Here are a few of the things I loved hearing most as a pastor.

7 Things I Loved Hearing as a Pastor

1. Pastor. I loved being called “pastor.” I’ve had no higher calling or greater privilege in my career than serving as a pastor of a local church. When someone said “Pastor Steve” or “Pastor Rice,” it always warmed my heart and made me grateful to God.

I loved being called “pastor.”

2. Pastor, I’m praying for you. You’ve heard the saying “I need the prayers and you need the practice.” I don’t know if the person who offered to pray for me needed to practice, but I knew that I needed their prayers. What a privilege that they would take time to pray for me!

3. Pray for me pastor. It was always humbling when members of the church or community asked me to pray for them. They trusted that my prayers would make a difference in their lives–what a blessing this was!

4. Thank you pastor. Words of gratitude were always welcome. I did not serve as a pastor in order to receive the praises of men and women, but since I’m human, it felt great to be appreciated.

…since I’m human, it felt great to be appreciated.

5. Pastor, I’ll be glad to help. Some individuals were always ready to jump in and help, always ready to say yes. They were always willing to give of their time, finances, talents, and gifts.

6. Pastor, tell me how to become a Christian. The “Good News” never got old. Possibly the highest privilege of a pastor was being present when a person placed their faith in Jesus Christ. Heaven was present and eternity was changed!

7. Pastor, help me know how to read the Bible. The Bible is the most important key to spiritual growth. Through our reading and study of the Bible, we hear the Word of the Lord. I always found great joy in helping church members know more about God’s Word.

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6 Things I Hated Hearing as a Pastor

I recently read Dr. Thom Rainer’s excellent post entitled Six Traits of a Church DisrupterHis post made me think of things that I’ve heard from church members during my years serving as a pastor. Keep in mind, that I’ve been blessed to hear great encouragement and much-needed, Godly advice through the years, but these are things that I always hated to hear as a pastor.

6 Things I Hated Hearing as a Pastor

1. People are saying. This usually mean’t that the person talking to me had a personal concern about something. As I matured as a pastor I began to ask “what people?” “Who exactly?” “Please ask them to come and talk with me because I would be happy to talk to them in person about his matter.”

…what people? Who exactly?”

2. You should have told me about this. It’s true that communication is extremely important and there were times that I didn’t communicate well, but usually this phrase came from someone who simply wanted to control decisions. Although we went through all the proper church channels in making the decision, they were upset that their opinion was not sought.

3. You should preach on ___________. Church members should feel the freedom to offer sermon topics to their pastor. Personally, I’ve been overly defensive at times in this area. It wasn’t the suggestion itself, but the motive and spirit behind the suggestion that really got under my skin.

…really got under my skin.”

4. If you’re in the area. “If you’re in the area, go by and see my uncle that I haven’t spoken to in 25 years.” This type of request always made me feel guilty. Usually they were referring to someone who lived hours away. I made a few of these visits through the years, but they often felt very awkward. The person making the “suggestion” was actually the one who needed to go see their uncle instead of asking me to do so.

5. No one came and saw me in the hospital. I know that I failed to make some hospital visits through the years, but this statement usually came from someone who never let the church know that they were in the hospital. With the new privacy laws surrounding one’s medical records, a church has NO WAY of knowing unless someone tells them.

6. That will never work. Sometimes this phrase is accompanied with “our last pastor tried that and it didn’t work.” The fact that the last pastor also felt led to try the same thing is evidence that God is leading in that direction. Very likely the timing just wasn’t right when the last pastor tried it. This phrase usually comes from individuals who do not like change.

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6 Truths about the Holy Spirit

After serving as a pastor in Southern Baptist churches over the last quarter of a century, I find that the average Southern Baptist is largely unfamiliar with the person and work of the Holy Spirit. As a result, let’s consider six foundational truths about the Holy Spirit:

6 Foundational Truths about the Holy Spirit

  1. The Holy Spirit is God. The Holy Spirit was there in the beginning. He was part of the Trinity as everything was created. Genesis says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2).
  2. The Holy Spirit is a person. Throughout the Bible, the Holy Spirit is referred to as “He or Him.” In John 14:16-17, Jesus said, “….I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”
  3. The Holy Spirit plays a key role in salvation. (John 16:8-11)
  4. The Holy Spirit dwells in each believer. Jesus said, “….the Spirit of truth….he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17). Paul asked, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
  5. The Holy Spirit is given to us as a deposit. What a glorious truth! The Holy Spirit is God’s down payment indicating that He is good for the rest! Hallelujah! “Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 5:5).
  6. The Holy Spirit produces fruit in the believer. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

I personally believe that the greatest evidence that we are truly believers is the fruit of Spirit. If we have the Spirit as a deposit then we are, without a doubt, a true Christian. If we are genuine Christians who are in fellowship with God, then we will bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

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