Saturday, June 21, 2014

Are We Really Together For The Gospel? (pt 2)

In my previous article I mentioned how a local pastor actively encouraged his church family to recruit members from other local churches under the banner of biblical "missionary" activity.  Some of my friends had a hard time believing me when I told them this.  This post is for you. 

For the record, the "Reformed" minister who wrote this letter transitioned to another ministry context some time ago.  Even more encouraging, the current pastor of this local fellowship is a godly, like-minded, minister of the gospel.   

As a result of these experiences here are some questions that I have been asking myself recently:  Are we really together for the gospel?  What does it look like to be together for the gospel?  How can pastors and churches that really are T4G come alongside one another in more intentional ways?  How can I better demonstrate to our people that our local church is not the only ministry that is doing things "God's way?"  How do we fight against the kind of behavior that destroys relationships between like-minded churches and pastors? 

The following note is an actual letter:   "As you heard during my presentation, Grace is now entering an exciting stage in it’s early ministry—where the stakes are high! In this stage, we must all start seeing ourselves as “missionaries to Freeport—recruiting other missionaries to Freeport.” Large churches like Crossroads can survive for quite some time based on size, budget, different-ness, and momentum. Park Hills can survive based on size, multiple staff and a broad, mainstream evangelical culture, and migration from broad evangelical churches. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

How One Area Pastor Helped Revitalize Our Local Church

On June 8th, 2014 a small group from First Baptist traveled to Rockford to pay our respects to Pastor Bob Bixby and Morningstar Church.  The special service we were participating in was not a funeral rather it was a special "commissioning service" for Bob Bixby.  We were attending this service in large part to show our appreciation for a selfless servant of God.  Our group also wanted to thank Morningstar Church for what they have meant to our congregation over these past six years. 

For a long time I have wondered if conservative evangelicals are really "Together For the Gospel"?  Yes, I know more and more local churches now say they embrace the chief tenants of biblical Calvinism and I realize that pastors come together in droves today for mega conferences telling the world along the way that we are gloriously united in the truth (see the Gospel Coalition and Together For the Gospel for example).   However, I have witnessed and experienced first hand many actions that seem to tell a much different story.  I have found that professing evangelical churches often function as if we embraced religious Darwinism.  It's the survival of the fittest. It's lets grow my ministry even if it's at the expense of undermining yours brother-pastor.  It's your loss is our gain (praise the Lord). It's, can I say, a dog eat dog world out there!?! 

In one 'real world' situation a former lay leader left our local church, after trying to secretly run me out, only to be welcomed by another evangelical pastor the next Sunday.  No follow up phone call ever came even though this pastor knew me and was fully aware that this member use to joyfully serve at our church.  This whole situation saddened me but honestly it really did not surprise me because I have experienced similar situations like this many times before and I am guessing most of my pastor readers have too.   My favorite story is the (former) "missional" pastor in town who was actually teaching his local church that being a 'missionary' involved actively recruiting Christians from other local church congregations (including ours) to come and join the mission at ___ church.   In a previous ministry context I remember when our senior pastor received an email informing him that in a few weeks a new, like-minded, church plant was going to start up just a few blocks away from our location.  A few months later one of our pastor's fellow elders left to join the "Harvest team" down the street.  With interactions like this, are we really together for the gospel?

Thankfully I/we have also  had the joy of meeting some amazing pastors and local churches.  These shepherds truly care about the spiritual health of local churches that they don't even pastor!  They actually look out for one another and serve one another in the joy of the Lord.  They contact each other if a member from another local church starts attending their ministry just to make sure everything is above board.  Some of them even pray for one another's ministries by name on Sunday morning.  I have briefly written about this refreshing experience in a previous blog post. 

No pastor has modeled this spirit more than Pastor Bob Bixby (pictured above).  Bob was greatly blessed to have a plethora of gifted preachers at the church he "planted" many years ago.  Of course some of these men were the direct fruit of Bob's ministry labors.  Rather than hoard these gifts Pastor Bixby willingly shared these men with like-minded ministries that were in need of assistance.  He even commissioned two of his best men to go pastor other needy congregations.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Six Years Later

Six years ago the Lord brought our family to Freeport, Illinois to shepherd the flock at First Baptist Church.   The revitalization work here has never been dull.  Despite my mistakes as a Lead Pastor God has shown Himself to be faithful and good during this roller coaster journey (Joshua 1:8-9).

The following archived Journal Standard article by Hilary Matheson brings back a lot of memories. 
Posted Aug. 6, 2008 @ 12:01 am

Freeport, Ill.

The son of a pastor, Caleb Kolstad is now into his sixth week as senior pastor of First Baptist Church. Kolstad joined the church after serving First Baptist Church in Carmel, Ind., as an associate pastor for three years.  Witnessing the highs and lows, challenges and blessings, as a pastor’s son was a great learning experience, Kolstad said. “There’s a great group of people that make up the congregation and a great staff – Steve, associate pastor, Sandy, the children’s director – so it seemed like a perfect fit,” Kolstad said.

Becoming a pastor was a change in Kolstad’s plans of becoming a sports broadcaster. He gets different responses from friends who remembered him talking about being a sportscaster since junior high.

The responses vary from those who tell him he should use his intelligence in another job and those who give him a lot of  respect for his decision.  “It depends on really what the perspective of the Christian ministry is. For those who are Christians, they think, as do I, it’s the highest calling God can give to a man,” he said.