John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had been key players in one of history’s most significant dramas in the founding of the United States. Years had passed since that fateful July 4 Independence Day. Now, they were two stately gentleman near the end of their lives exchanging letters and reflecting on bygone days.
“My friend,” Adams wrote to Jefferson. “You and I have lived in serious times.”
It has been my joy over these past five years as executive director to walk closely with Tennessee Baptist pastors and ministers – no doubt, some of the greatest people on this planet. I say to you, “Friends, you and I live in serious times.”
The culture across our nation and throughout our state is changing rapidly before our eyes. I don’t believe any of us would have projected five years ago that we’d see the monumental societal shift in issues like same-sex marriage. Know this: I’ve been praying passionately for my brothers and sisters involved in vocational and lay ministries. You are all on the frontlines of a spiritual war. You are fighting for the spiritually lost souls of family, friends and your communities. At my core I’m a pastor, and from this pastor’s heart, please hear a deeply sincere, “Thank you.”
I want to do more than just say thank you however. I offer this column as an opportunity to provide seven simple – yet strong – words of encouragement.
- Be very encouraged. Joshua was standing on the banks of the river, the new leader of the nation of Israel and heading into a culturally pagan land. God spoke clearly. “Be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left…” (Joshua 1:7). God’s word to Joshua was clear: I’ve got this! He’s also got us too so be strong and courageous.
- Be prayer warriors. Practice what you preach. Pray systematically, regularly and passionately.The prayers of a righteous man still avail much, and I am firmly convinced God hears our prayers, sees our hearts and is determined to act on behalf of His people. But we must pray.
- Preach with anointing. This is no time for preachers of the gospel to be cute in their communication. They need to be powerful in their proclamation, passionate in their biblical conviction, humble in their ministry and straightforward in their clarity. A broken-hearted, compassion minister is a powerful combination in the hands of God.
- See our children. Our youngest generation is growing up in a world that is radically different from just 10 years ago. They desperately need to be biblically equipped. We must intentionally disciple them and clearly point them to the precepts of the Bible. We must equip their parents to be the primary disciple-makers of their children. We cannot, must not, lose our youngest generation to this world.
- Connect with others. You’re not alone. We have a strong network of like-minded ministers and churches found in our associations and our Tennessee Baptist Convention. We are unified around to authority of the Bible and share a Great Commission calling. Let’s lean on and love each other. Let’s help each other contend for the faith!
- Love your family. Seriously, love your family. Your primary ministry is your family so pay close attention to each member. Noah got his family on the Ark and they were saved. Don’t sacrifice your family on the alter of ministry. That is not a badge of honor. Your family needs your loving leadership.
- Keep on fishing! I have a painting in my office of a fisherman with his nets lowered into stormy waters under ominous skies. Anyone else relate? We seem to be tossed by the cultural seas, don’t we? Yet our God has placed us here at this time to be salt and light in a spiritually dark world. I firmly believe if we’ll keep casting our nets of evangelism He’ll keep filling them with a harvest of souls.
So, my charge to you is, be encouraged. Stay the course. Cast your nets. Love others well. Be humble. Preach the full counsel of God. Pray often. Have faith. And remember, God is still very much on His throne.
It is my joy to be on this journey with you.