Thank You

It is official! My family and I are finally residents of Jonesboro, LA! We could not be more excited. A year and eight months ago we started this journey together. First Baptist Church and the Jonesboro community quickly became home to us. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been our address until this week. It’s true what they say: Distance only makes the heart grow fonder.
 
Over the last year and eight months God has been sanctifying me, and I didn’t even know it. At times I was confused and even discouraged, but in all of it, God was creating within me a love for First Baptist Church and Jonesboro and a greater desire to shepherd the flock and reach this community. The prayer of the Apostle Paul burns within my heart: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.” (Romans 10:1)
 
Isn’t it amazing how God can take a trial and use it for good! He used a twenty-five minute commute to create a deeper love for a group of people and a burning desire to see people saved. I rejoice today that I am resident of Jonesboro and closer to my faith family, but I also rejoice in His sanctifying work.
 
There is another blessing that came out of this: You helped me feel what I have always desired – genuine Christian community. Every time a prayergram came in the mail (and there were many), or an encouraging word was said, I was strengthened and encouraged in my hope to be a part of this community. Not once was a negative comment made.
 
You were patient with my family and me. Many of you prayed, helped, gave, and encouraged. You helped with repairing our old house, packing, renovating, painting, and moving us to our new house. Your kindness, love, and spirit has been unmatched by any church I have ever been a part of. I cannot thank you enough. My family and I are so very thankful for your outpouring of love for us. Thank you for being the church that God has called you to be. We love you!
 

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Knowing the Gospel

At midnight on January 4, 2017 my wife woke me up from a deep sleep with the one word you never want to wake up to: “FIRE!” Thankfully, the fire was next door at an empty house, but we were not out of danger. As my eyes opened, my bedroom was completely visible. Did I mention it was midnight!?! The house next door was completely engulfed in flames. The heat from the fire could be felt through our window, causing the blinds to eventually melt. The sound of a police officer banging on our front door could be heard as we woke our children. It was a chaotic scene! I could have turned back over and gone back to sleep at Melanie’s warning, but the news of the fire compelled my wife and I to grab our children and run to safety.
 
As I look back on that night, I am thankful that I was awoken to the news of the fire by my wife and the policeman. Did I enjoy being told to wake up? No. Did I enjoy discovering that I was in danger? No. Did I enjoy leaving everything in the middle of the night to run to safety? No. Did I enjoy being safe? ABSOLUTELY! Not once have I ever regretted my decision to flee our home that night, for I found safety for myself and my family.
 
As a church, we have been given the responsibility of proclaiming the Gospel so that people may find safety in the salvation of Jesus Christ. The Gospel, or “The Good News” is their only hope of escaping the fires of judgment. Therefore, Knowing the Gospel is the next element in our Healthy Church Series.
 
What is the Gospel? It is not the news that we are okay. It is not the news that God is love or that Jesus wants to be your friend. It’s not the news that God has a wonderful plan and purpose for our lives. Though these things may be true, they are not the gospel and, therefore, they cannot save us.
 
Instead, the Gospel is the news that God is the Sovereign Creator of the universe. When He created everything it was perfect. That perfection was marred when Adam and Eve, who were made to love and worship God, disobeyed Him and, in an act of rebellion, broke God’s command. Their actions left them and all of humanity after them broken and sinful. Everyone is guilty before a Holy God and is under judgment because of this, but God, in an act of great love, promised a Redeemer. God would send Jesus, His own Son, to rescue humanity by His life, death, and resurrection. Through faith in Jesus Christ alone, anyone who puts his trust in Christ can have their sins forgiven and be saved from the wrath of God. God promised that those who look to Jesus in repentance and faith will spend eternity with Him where He will make all things new. Heaven and earth will be free from sin!
 
As you can see, the Gospel is the news that our house is on fire and that our only hope is to run to Jesus for safety. The news that “God has a plan,” or that “Jesus wants to be your friend”, or that “You’re ok just the way you are” isn’t enough. None of this will help our loved ones find safety in Christ! It is our job as the church to know and share the Gospel, for that is what healthy churches do.
 
By His Grace,
Bro. Brian

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Evangelism

I remember it like it was yesterday; Christmas morning had come. Our family’s Christmas tree was surrounded by presents delivered by Santa. Many of them were mine, but there was only one that I cared for. Somewhere behind one of those wrapped boxes was a remote control truck. I had seen the commercials over the previous months leading up to Christmas. According those commercials, it was super-fast, super-tough, could go through mud, and able to make long jumps across ramps! I wanted it and made my desire was known. Now Christmas morning was here and I couldn’t wait receive my present!
 
Well, I got my remote control truck. I quickly learned it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. It was smaller than I imagined, slower than I expected, and those jumps the commercial raved about left me wanting. My gift was not as satisfying as I had hoped.
Isn’t that the way gifts go? There are good ones and there are bad ones, but even the good ones cannot satisfy. That is why Evangelism is so important. We give the one gift that can satisfy: the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Healthy Churches Evangelize!
 
What is Evangelism? It is sharing the news of Jesus Christ; presenting to people that Salvation comes from the Lord. This happens when you and I speak to people concerning the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Notice that I said “speak.” Sometimes we want to just “live” and let people “see” our faith in hopes they will come to know Jesus. The Bible is clear on this matter, salvation comes by “hearing” and that only happens when Church Members “speak” and share the gospel!
 
This doesn’t mean they will embrace your message. Not everyone accepts this gift, and that’s OK. Our job is to tell and God’s job is to save. By sharing the gospel, you have been faithful in presenting truth and offering them the greatest gift ever: the gift of salvation! The beauty of evangelism is that those who embrace the message of the gospel will never be dissatisfied with what they received! Their gift of salvation will be their ultimate joy in this life and in eternity.

That is why healthy churches evangelize. True church growth happens when God’s people share the gospel. We are being faithful to God’s command and we are loving people. So go and tell someone the gospel! It will be the best gift they have ever received.


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Biblical Leadership

Have you ever played the game follow the leader? As a child it was a fun game. As the leader, you “led” a group of others kid in goofy antics. Whether hopping on one leg, doing a hand stand, or making silly faces, you wanted to make it as difficult and uncomfortable as possible for those following. The more difficult you made it the more people quit; dwindling it down to a winner. The best leaders were the hardest leaders to follow. This is not the case with church leadership. The next healthy characteristic of a church is Biblical Leadership. Yet, unlike the childhood game, Spiritual Leaders are seeking to help grow the followers of Christ not dwindle them.
 
 The Bible recognizes two types of leaders in the local church: pastor/elder/overseer and deacon. The words for pastor, elder, and overseer are used interchangeably and refer to the same office. According to the scriptures these offices are to be filled by men who can teach/preach and have been examples of strong Christian character. The Pastor office has the responsibility leading through the preaching of the Word and Prayer. It is spiritual in nature.
 
The second office is the office of Deacon, whose qualifications are listed in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. They are “servant” leaders. According to Act 6 their role is to serve the physical needs of the church body, freeing the Pastor to focus on the spiritual needs.
 

That is beauty of the church and the two offices. God gives us Pastors and Deacons to watch over our spirit and body. When practiced properly, great things happen. Notice Acts 6:7, “The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.” That is end product of both Pastor and Deacon working together! That is why a healthy church needs healthy leadership!


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Fill Up on Prayer

One minute I was going, and the next I wasn’t. I had not driven my truck in a long while, and with hunting season fast approaching, I wanted to take it out for a spin. I was several miles down the road before it happened. My truck died! It was still rolling, but all signs of life were fading fast. Thankfully, I was able to pull over to a safe location to begin my inspection. I checked the battery first. I replaced it, but unfortunately my truck still wouldn’t crank.  I climbed under the truck, checked the fuel pump, and replaced the fuel filter, all with dismal results.
 
After days of unfruitful problem-solving on my part, a friend asked me a silly question, “Does it have gas in the tank?” “Of course it has gas in the tank!” I retorted. To my embarrassment, I found that I was wrong. I had never even looked at the gas gauge! I just started driving. You can’t get very far without a fuel source.
 
Similarly, our churches rely on a fuel source. We are dependent upon God’s help. That is why Prayer is the third attribute of a healthy church that we will mention. Without prayer, we are like a truck without gas. Sadly, the way most churches pray is very similar to how we gas up our vehicles these days: just enough to keep it running. We never fill up all the way because the price is too high. Effective praying comes at a price. It requires commitment, patience, humility, and trust.
 
A church that isn’t consistent in quality prayer time is a church that believes it can function without the help of God. It thinks it is capable of doing the work that it has been called to do. This is, of course, impossible without prayer. Prayer determines our effectiveness and endurance in ministry. It enables us to do the work to which God has called us.
 
Both individual and corporate times of prayer are needed. In Acts 2:42 Luke describes what the early church considered important. He writes, “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayers.” Prayer was vital to the overwhelming success and effectiveness of early church. The apostle Paul wrote, “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Notice he said “in everything.” Healthy churches understand the importance of prayer in every aspect of their lives; in both physical and spiritual concerns. They know where to find the source of their power. Therefore, let us pray fervently and frequently! Let us pay the high price and fill up on prayer because, without it, we will go nowhere and accomplish little for the Kingdom of God.
 

By His Grace

Bro. Brian


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