Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday Focus - 11/28/08

Hello blog family! Please forgive me for my absence, this past week has really been a busy one for me since the last time I made a post to my blog. Before I get to my week, let me express my sincere appreciation for all of the positive, spiritual comments that many of you left on my last comment. I want to express my appreciation to a couple real good friends, H.B. Charles for his godly advice about the tenor and tone of my friday focuses, and Keith Witherspoon for reminding me that I am able to be transparent without being angry. Thank you both for being true friends.

I was blessed to be in attendance for the homegoing celebration for a wonderful woman, Wynona Pearl Hutchinson, who is the mother of my Pastor, Joe A. Carter, held at the Fairview Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, OK, where Dr. John A. Reed Jr. is the Pastor. My travel was adventerous to say the least. Flying on United Airlines to Chicago O'Hare Airport is not something that I would recommend to anyone with any thoughts of being happy. My flight from Newark was 22 minutes late which caused me to miss my connecting flight, which is really fortunate because even if I would have made that flight my luggage did not make the plane, which means that I would have made it to OKC but my luggage would have stayed in Chicago...NOT COOL! The airlines wanted to redirect me to Denver and then to OKC, but that is entirely too much flying. So they got me on an American Airlines flight direct into OKC with my luggage in tow.

The funeral services was outstanding, with a lot of Pastors showed up from all around the country to support Pastor Carter. Wynona's Pastor, Claude White, Greater Faith Church, Waukegan, IL preached an outstanding message out of Psalms 92 which he tagged the Nature of Righteousness. This was a very difficult time to preach for him, but the Lord showed up and brought him through. My flight back home was without incident and I made it home with my luggage safe and sound.

This past Lord's Day, I continued our series on Acts 2 which I call Created For A Community, with an exposition on verses 12:21 which I tagged How to Handle An Attack On God's Church. For the disciples were present on the Day of Pentecost, in one place and on one accord, allowing themselves to be filled with the Holy Spirit, so that they can preach to those who were present the wonderful works of God in their native languages, fulfilling their purpose for existing. It is at this point that the enemy sends an attack on the people of God, when they are accused to being drunk with new wine. Peter responds to this attack in the same way that we should respond when our churches are attacked, Peter responded with boldness. God is not looking for scary Christians or punk Christians, but he is looking instead for bold Christians. Here is the sermon outline:

Thesis: whenever God's Church is under attack, the people of God must respond with boldness

I. Expelled Their Report of the Spirit

-verse of Judea adn all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give ear to my words
-verse 15...these men are not drunk as you supposed

II. Explained the Remarkablility of Spirit

-verse 16...but this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel
-verse 17...and in the last days it shall be, God declares that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams
-verse 18...even on my male servants and female servants
-when the Spirit shows up it is remarkable in that the world will not understand what it is when it comes

a. Purpose of the Spirit - uttered through the prophet Joel...the purpose of the Spirit is to be the fulfillment of prophesy

b. Promise of the Spirit - verse 17...the spirit will not discriminate on who it will fall upon

1. Gender - sons and daughters shall prophesy
2. Age - young men shall see visions; old men shall dream dreams
3. Status - male servants and female servants

c. Power of the Spirit - verses 19-20...Peter tells of all of the things that the Spirit will be able to do for us

III. Exposed the Reality of the Spirit

-verse 21...and it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved
-Peter exposes the truth of the Gospel story...whoever calls on the name of the Lord, no matter your past, shall receive the gift of salvation

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Focus - 11/21/08

For the last couple of weeks, I have endeavored on these Fridays, to write posts that have an emphasis on many of the issues that we as Pastors face in our day to day walk in ministry. I previously dealt with the issue of charging other churches a set fee in order for us to preach there. And I also dealt with the issue of how handle problems with deacons, trustees and other lay leaders in our churches who attempt lead us instead of being led by us. I will say that both issues have garnered some good responses from my fellow bloggers.

However, I received a phone call this past week from a person who's opinion I value tremendously, who had read both of those Friday posts and they gave me some sound, Godly advice that I want to share with all of you.

I wrote those posts with the thought that they were for fellow Pastors and Preachers as we face the various difficulties in ministry. But what my friend explained to me was that not only do Pastors and Preachers read our blogs, but we all have members who read our blogs, and subsequently they read our friend's blogs as well. And when we use our blogs as a vehicle to vent about the problems we may be having in our churches, it may cause our members to think that all we do is complain about them.

I want to share with each of you, that it is a privilege and not a right that God has chosen us to lead his people, and the reality is that we lead the people by permission. They really don't have to listen to the voice of God and follow what we say God is telling us to tell them, and I don't want anybody's members or my own to think that all of them are grouped in with the distinct few that decide to be contrary to our leadership.

I believe that this blog can and will be a blessing to both the body of Christ and the ambassadors of Christ both at the same time. So I have decided to use these Friday Focuses to be an encouragement to my brothers and sisters in the faith and not as a tool to get even with people who have failed to heed the voice of God. My complete goal with these posts was to share some of my pitfalls in ministry and be as transparent as possible so that we all can learn from each other on how to make it in times such as these.

So I ask for both your forgiveness and your patience as I attempt to be faithful to my assignment in being a blessing to you and not blowing off steam. I love each and every one of you and I pray that we will allow even the mistakes that we commit to help us become better Pastors, Preachers, leaders and most of all Christians in these last and evil days.

Until we meet again, may the Lord bless you and keep you, may he make his face to shine upon you, may he lift his countenance upon you, may he be gracious to you, which is to give you his divine favor, may he grant you his peace and may this peace be with you until we all meet again.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Speaking @ Mount Calvary BC, Jersey City, NJ

Last night I had the expressed privilege of preaching for the 20th Anniversary Celebration of Preaching for one of my good friends in the ministry, Pastor Barron O. Wilson, who leads the Mount Calvary Church where his father Pastored for many years before him. Pastor Wilson is somebody's preacher! He has a heart for people that allows him to reach into the very consciousness of people, to help them see where they truly belong in the Kingdom of God.

There have been many times when I have gone to him for counsel and he has never failed to provide for me the right information and methods that I needed at that time. It was during my first year of preaching and the invitations were few and far between, when Pastor Wilson invited me to stand in his pulpit and present to the people God put him over, my convictions about Jesus Christ. And ever since that day, he has been a big part of my life and my ministry.

I wanted to deal with something that was not a common text for a Pastor's Anniversary. I lifted a great text from Exodus 3:13-14, which I tagged the Remedy For Our Inadequacies. The reality is that no matter who you are, all of us have experienced a real sense of being inadequate on this journey. It matters not if you have been in ministry for 50 years or 5 minutes, there comes a time in our lives where we feel like we just don't measure up to this awesome task that God has presented for us. Moses, that great emancipator, felt the same way while on the backside of a Midianite desert, he hears a voice crying out from a burning bush, telling him to go into Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let God's people go. Moses replied who is he to go and tell this deified being anything, God replied to him, five of the greatest words ever recorded in verse 14, I AM WHO I AM (ESV). Here is the sermon skeleton:

Thesis: our sucess as servants of God rest totally in our complete trust that during moments of inadequacies God will make up the difference

I. Trust in the Evidence of His Existence

-I AM...this phrase literally is defined to mean God is self-existent
-Pharaoh considered himself to be the direct descendent of the Egyptian sun god which he feels that he exists because the sun god exists
-God tells Moses to tell Pharaoh that while he needs the sun to exists, the sun needs God to exist
-how do we know God exists:

a. scripture states it
b. scenery suggests it
c. spirit senses it

II. Trust in the Presence of His Personality

-God's personality is expressed to many different people in different ways

III. Trust in the Awesomeness of his Authority

-God's has the power to accomplish any and everything

Please pray for the family of my Pastor, Joe A. Carter, who are dealing with the loss of their beloved mother Wynona Hutchinson, who went home to be with Jesus on last night. She was an extraordiarily strong woman who survived plenty of heartache in her life, to exemplify what it means to be a wife, mother and a woman of God.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fulfilling Our Purpose

Text: Acts 2:5-11

Thesis: The role of God's Church is to provide for this world a glimpse of the greatness of God through the spreading of the Gospel

I. The Gospel Will Attract the World

-verse 6...and when this sound occurred, the multitude came together and were confused because they heard them speak in their own language
-the Gospel will draw this world to a closer look at the awesomeness of Jesus Christ

II. The Gospel Will Amaze the World

-verse 7...and they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, are not these which speak Galileans

III. The Gospel Will Arrest the World

-verses 9-11, list all of the different people who were represented
-this lets us know that the Gospel can and will reach anybody no matter how far away from God they are

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Stuff

This week has been a trying week for me personally, as I have allowed the pressure of this building project to stress me out to where my blood pressure is the highest it has been in a long time. Not only has the building project caused me stress, but also the overall condition of our church has been the cause of stress for me. I have learned in my years of full-time ministry, not to compare the condition of my church with the condition of other churches, but in my strong desire to have a successful ministry for God, I began to really question where I fit in the grand scheme of the Kingdom of God.

But I had a heart to heart conversation last evening with my best friend, Pastor Keith Witherspoon, and he helped me see that what I already knew, my faithfulness with produce great rewards from the Lord. So I got up this morning and with a strong desire to get to the house of the Lord to worship his name with other believers who have the same desire to worship. I went to the 8 AM service at the Mount Olive Baptist Church, East Orange, NJ where my good friend Pastor Michael Jordan serves as Pastor. The worship at Mount Olive was off the hook, and Pastor Jordan really did a great job with his message on Phil. 2:5 which he tagged Having the Mind of Christ.

I got to First Mount Zion with an urgent feeling of getting worship started and the Lord did not disappoint me. He met us in the sanctuary from Praise & Worship until the preaching of the Word. I led in the music ministry and there was an awesome presence of the Holy Spirit when we met together at the altar to pray. God be praised!!!

We continued our series on the model church in Acts 2 entitled Created for a Community, with our look at verses 5-11 which I labeled the message, Fulfilling Our Purpose. As a lifelong Christian who has been a member of the church of Jesus Christ for my entire life, I have discovered that many churches have failed to fulfill the purpose that God designed for his church. It doesn't matter how many members you have, how popular your Pastor is, how big your budget is, if you are not doing what the Lord has designed for the church to do, you are not fulfilling the purpose that God has for his church.

This purpose is found at the end of verse 11, for they heard them speak in their own language the mighty works of God. Scholars debate as to what exactly this phrase meant, many say that the 120 were praising God for his good works, but I would contend that if you are speaking about the good works of God, then you are speaking about the Gospel, which is the good news of Jesus Christ. So the purpose of God's church is to provide for the world a glimpse of God's goodness through the spreading of the Gospel. I will post the outline tomorrow.

Please keep our church and me in your prayers as we attempt to build God a Kingdom here on earth.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Focus - 11/14/08

As I stated on last week that with all of this election stuff being over and our country being ready to move on towards hopefully better days, I want to deal with on Fridays, with some of the issues that deal directly to the heart and minds of Pastors/preachers as we attempt to advance the Kingdom of God here on earth.

Today I want to deal with an issue that many if not all of us can relate to; how do we handle when Deacons, Trustees and other church leaders refuse to follow Pastoral Leadership and attempt to lead Pastors? Why have many of them made it up in their minds that the church needs them more than they need Pastors? Why are many of them so hung up on keeping Pastors in our places?

Well, I can only offer my own personal experiences with this issue as an open window into what I am referring to. My preaching ministry and Pastoral training ground was formulated at The New Hope Baptist Church under the direction of the late Dr. C.E. Thomas and Rev. Joe A. Carter. If there was one thing I knew about the ministry of the New Hope Church was that the servant leadership of the church FOLLOWED the vision and direction of the Pastors without any glimpse of disunity and disruption, and any leader that showed any of those traits were reprimanded not by the Pastors, but by the other servant leaders. They understood what it means to follow Pastoral Leadership. So you can imagine my surprise when I began my first pastorate at the Friendship Baptist Church, Asbury Park, NJ and found out that every church is not the same.

My time at Friendship was filled with argument after argument with my leaders. As a matter of fact, I never had one leadership or church meeting for that fact, that ended any other way but with an argument. The chairman of trustees said to my face during one Mother's Day with guests at our church that the trustees don't follow the Pastor at that church, the chairman of the deacon's board was their pastor. It went so far as they refused to pay my salary for 8 consecutive weeks because I discovered that they were misappropriating church funds and exposed them to the congregation who subsequently did nothing about it. As you can expect, I got my wife and family out of that place quick, fast and in a hurry.

When I got to my present assignment at First Mount Zion, I thought they would be different being as though my immediate predecessor had an earned doctorate degree and was a past moderator, but to my surprise, he allowed the chairman of the deacon's board to run roughshod over his entire tenure there. This same deacon thought that he could do the same to me, and he even had the audacity to tell me that the Lord told him that God sent me to the church so that he could teach me how to be a Pastor. He fought me tooth and nail on every spiritual decision even the vision that God gave me to give to the church. What he didn't realize was that I am as bullheaded as they come, and he left long before I. This entire situation has caused some difficult moments at our church with those who were ready for him to leave against those who were loyal to him because he kept them in power. But I will say this, the Lord has removed virtually every opposition to his vision for this church.

So again, blogging family, let me pose this interrogative, why does this occur and how do we handle this when we are faced with this great dilemma.

Monday, November 10, 2008

It Began At Pentecost

What a day we had in worship at First Mount Zion, the Lord showed up in the house. I came to church with absolutely no expectations on what will happen, but I had a real heaviness on my heart. I naturally thought that I was worried about something, but I just could not put my finger on it. So I went to the pulpit to lead the church in worship, and something just clicked. I led the church in a medley of worship songs such as: Welcome Into This Place, Lord, I'm Available to You and I Love You Lord, and let me tell you, we had a worship experience in that place. God be praised!

We continued our series on the Model Church entitled Created For A Community, which is our study through Acts chapter 2, by lifting up verses 1-4, which I tagged It Began At Pentecost. I would suggest that the birth of the Church of Jesus Christ is one of the most important events ever recorded in human history. 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus during the feast of Pentecost, 120 believers were in the upper room, in one place and on one accord. Not special people, but ordinary people who happened to believe that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, gathering together in a spirit of unity to do the will of God. The reason why churches have ceased to be effective in ministry, is because they are not committed to a unified effort to perpetuate the cause of Christ. In days such as these, when people are going to hell in a hand basket, where sin is tolerated more and more in the church, God is looking for his church to get on one accord, so that the Holy Spirit can show up in our lives. Here is the sermon outline:

Text: Acts 2:1-4

Thesis: the unity of the people of God releases the power of God so that the people of God can perform the will of God

I. Audible Mark

-verse 2...and suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting
-when the people got together in unity, the God sent an audible sign

a. surprising sign - and suddenly
b. spiritual sign - there came from heaven a sound
c. strong sign - like a mighty rushing wind
d. shocking sign - and it filled the house where they were sitting

II. Awesome Manifestation

-verse 3...and divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them
-when the people became unified God sent a visible appearance

a. explanation of the manifestation - divided tongues of fire...this word is pictured as a single body that was divided so that it would fall on each of them simultaneously to give them the knowledge of the grace of God to share with the world
b. existence of the manifestation - and rested on each one of them

III. Accomplished Mission

-verse 4...and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance
-the Spirit came to complete that which was originated in Genesis, advanced to Calvary and exposed on Pentecost

a. filling of the Holy Spirit - and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
b. focus of the Holy Spirit - and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterence

Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday Focus

I have decided to use Fridays to write a thought provoking blog post on issues that we all face as Pastors that are entrenched in ministry. We spend a lot of time putting our sermon outlines and our political ideologies and vacations on our blog, but I really felt the heavy burden of dealing with things that will affect us as Pastor/Preachers in this present age.

Today, I would like to broach the topic of preachers who put a price tag on the Gospel. We live in a day and age where it has become common practice for preachers, when they receive invitations to stand in another Pastor's pulpit, to place a dollar figure on his time of preaching. Many of them will send correspondence through their respective secretaries that inform the inviting church of the "needs" that the Pastor must have met before he will come to minister at the church. Some of them even go as far to confront the Pastor and officers of the church if they come short of what they think they should receive.

Now I need to state up front that I truly believe in the Word of God which says that a laborer is worthy of its hire, and he who preaches the Gospel shall live off the Gospel, and those who laborer over the word is worth double honor. Churches ought to take care of the preacher/pastor without reservation. But what I am talking about is this incessant need to put a price tag on something that God has given us freely. I am referring to a preacher requesting an enormous amount of money and that Pastor emptying out his church's treasury to pay this enormous amount to the Pastor.

Some years ago, while I served at the New Hope Baptist Church, Newark, NJ, a well-known female preacher was called by our Women's Day committee to preach the service for that year. Her staff informed us that she needed a few days to pray over the invitation. But when she returned the call, she stated that she took those few days to perform some research on our church in which she discovered that our church was one of the affluent churches in this area. So she stated to us that her fee to come and preach our Women's Day service was 250,000. My pastor was appalled and he told her thanks but no thanks.

My opinion is that we as preachers are really missing a golden opportunity to change the culture of our profession. Forever, preachers have been labeled as pimps, thieves and other hideous names, and when we come to pillage a church for their money, we are helping to perpetuate this negative connotation of what and who a preacher really is. God said that our gifts will make room for us and as long as we take care of his business, he will take good care of our business. The gift of any preacher is not for sale. We need to learn that what the Lord has given us to share with this world so that sinners will find rest in the arms of Jesus Christ, not to make ourselves feel like we are God's gift to the world and like He needs us. Let me suggest to you that God doesn't need us for anything. Gos does not have to allow us to use our gifts, but we are privileged to be allowed to stand as imperfect people before other imperfect people to deliver the perfect Word of God. And when you recognize this, how can we have the audacity to put price tags on the Gospel.

Now I totally understand why many of our brethren and sisters of the faith have undertaken this objective, far too long, we have labored over the Word all week long in order to have our lessons correct. When we mount the pulpit on Sunday, we put our all into the act of delivering the message to a lost world, and we don't receive enough money to put gas in the car or get our clothes clean. I get that! But what I have discovered is that we serve a great God who is able to supply each and every need that we have as a reward for our faithfulness to him with our service.

There have been times in my ministry where I have traveled 860 miles to preach and received nothing from the church I preached at and they have thousands of dollars in the bank, and while on that same trip, preached for another church and received the whole sum of $91 from a good church. Never did I want to result to requesting an amount before or after those incidents, because I do believe in the rewarding plan of God. My question to you all is, when Pastors make demands on the people for the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, has that helped or hindered the perception of us in the eyes of the people of God.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Church That Survives

On yesterday, we began our new series on how and why God created his church, which is a series on Acts 2 that I have tagged the series, Created For A Community. Before I delved deep into Acts 2, I wanted to, by way of introduction, to deal with the first instance where Jesus mentioned the church found in Matthew 16:13-20. This design of this message for the FMZ church was to explore through scripture why the church was created for if we can get a clear grasp of why the church was formed, then it will help us to realize that if we focus on the why, we can make it through the rough times of life in our church.

For the law of first reference tells us that it is imperative for us to really take a good look at this word church. It is defined in the Greek as the ecclesia, which means the called out, set apart people of God to be used for his service. I am so glad that God has looked at us in our sinfulness, our weaknesses and our proclivities, our hang ups, for which, he knew this about us before we ever got here, and he still chose to set us aside so that we can be used to turn this world upside down. God Be Praised!!!

Jesus leads the disciples into the region of Caesarea Philippi, a region that was known for its pagan worship, and it is with this paganistic ideals situated in the background, Jesus asks his disciples, who do the people say that the Son of Man is? The people confused with the question responds with John the Baptist. For Herod and many of the people felt that Jesus was John raised from the dead. Others said he was Elijah, for Malachi (4:5) prophesied that he would come again. While yet others said Jesus was Jeremiah, because the same attribute of a broken heart for the condition of the people was found in Jesus as well as the weeping prophet. But Peter gives the best response when he said, thou art the Christ, the son of the living God. That's how a church survives in a world that is going to hell in a handbasket...confess that Jesus is the great head of the church. We make it, all of us because we recognize that Jesus is at the helm of the called out people of God. Here is the sermon outline:

Thesis: churches survive in a hostile culture with their clear confession that Jesus Christ is the great head of the church

I. Foundation of God's Church

-verse 18...thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church

a. character of the foundation - Jesus and not Peter is the rock the church is built on
b. cause of the foundation - I will build my church

II. Future of God's Church

-verse 18...and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it

a. challenge to God's church - and the gates of hell
b. conquest of God's church - shall not prevail against it

III. Function of God's Church

-verse 19...and I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven and whatever is bound on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever is loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven

a. potential of God's church - I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven
b. power of God's church - and whatever is bound on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever is loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven

Saturday, November 1, 2008

New Sermon Series

As we have moved off of our month of unity in October, the Lord has led me to begin a new series on the next Lord's Day that deals with how and why the church was created, which is a series born out of the place in scripture where the church was formulated and put into motion, Acts 2, which I have entitled the entire series Created For A Community. The purpose of this series is that as we are getting ourselves ready to make our transition from Newark to Montclair, there are some things that we as a ministry need to absorb to cultivate a proper atmosphere of worship and service to the Lord Jesus Christ. Too often we as preachers take for granted that when we are called to a church that our predecessor had already laid a good foundation that we can just build on. And until we spend some time with the church, we will never know what they have been taught and what they need to be taught.

Now please understand that I am not hating or being overly critical of my predecessor, I don't know him at all, but what I do know is that I need to reinforce the basic principle of how and why the church was created in the first place. I actually preached this series during my first assignment at Friendship Baptist Church, Asbury Park, NJ about 5 years ago and I am really interested how I have grown as a preacher in the last 5 years as I will need to change a whole lot of the sermon content and maybe even structure of those messages. Please keep our church, this series and me in your prayers during this time of our development.

Before I close this post, please let me explain my feelings about preaching sermon series in the first place. Here in Jersey, not many of us will put forth the time and effort to preach expositional sermons in a series form. What I have discovered is that many of my peers will start a series, but give up after 2-3 sermons with the excuse of becoming bored or their congregation was no longer interested. And I will be the first to admit that preaching in series form takes a whole lot of work and focus, and sometimes it tends to get a little tedious. But the reality is that, I truly believe that preaching in a series will do a couple of things: first of all it will keep the congregation focused on a particular theme, or particular book, or particular chapter all at the same time. It will give the congregation one set diet of spiritual food to make it through the tough times of life. Secondly, it will make the preacher more focused on the task at hand of teaching and encouraging the people that we are placed in charge of. I think the worst thing for a preacher is to have to hunt for something to preach on Friday or Saturday night, only to get to the pulpit on Sunday depending on our GIFTS to get us through, yet the people have not been helped at all. I have to be in a series all the time, because I am a procrastinator who will wait until the last minute to do everything, so if I am in a series, it forces me to get to work on Sunday evening on the message for next week. Just a little glimpse into my thoughts about preaching in a series instead of jumping around the bible.