Pastor's Perspective, September 2018

Pastor’s Perspective, Rest and Be Restored

Pastor’s Perspective, Rest and Be Restored

By: Andrew Bates

Dry. Dry can be a good thing when you’re dealing with laundry or freshly mopped floors, but when it pertains to your spiritual walk with Christ, dry is not ideal. Scratch that — dry is downright dangerous.

A couple of years ago I was experiencing a very spiritually dry time in my life and the sad thing is that I knew it but couldn’t do anything about it. I was striving so hard to please God and to put in extra hours at my church, so much so that I actually planned to skip out on a family vacation to Navarre Beach, Florida, to stay at the church and “work.” Needless to say, neither my wife nor my family was very pleased, but I thought it was what I needed to do. I needed to work my way out of dryness.

After an event on the Wednesday night of vacation week, my assistant looked at me and boldly said something to me I will never forget: “You’re never going to work your way into pleasing God. Go love your wife.” So needless to say I jumped in my truck, packed a bag, and drove through the night to the beach.

When I arrived, the sun was just starting to rise. I knew my wife would not be awake yet, so instead of banging on the condo window and scaring everyone inside, I grabbed my bible and walked down to the beach. To say I was tired would be an understatement, and not just from the drive. I was spiritually, emotionally, and physically exhausted. So before I dove into Scripture, I prayed, “God, I am so tired. I am tired of being tired. Please renew me.”

I then opened my bible to Isaiah 40 and read verses 29-31: “He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.” (HCSB)

As soon as I finished reading that passage, I looked out over the water and noticed a very large boat I had apparently overlooked before. As I began to study the boat, I realized it had a large pipe connected to it that ran all the way to the shore, where it was pumping in new sand to restore the beach.

At that moment, it hit me. I needed to be restored. I needed God to restore my strength. But the thing was, He didn’t need my help to do it. All I needed to do was be like the beach. I needed to slow down, stop my fighting, stop working and worrying myself thin, and simply rest in who He was and who I was in Him. Dry could not fix dry, but if I rested in the One who gives life, then I would be restored.

I think too often in life we respond a lot like I did in this story. We feel the pressure. We feel the need to grow. We feel the tension of the oncoming dryness. But instead of resting in God, and allowing Him to renew us in the way that only He can, we want to try to work and transform ourselves. It’s in our nature to be “fixers” and overcome our own shortcomings, but the gospel of Jesus teaches us that we are fully incapable of overcoming these obstacles. He’s the only one who can do that for us, and thankfully, He loved us enough to come and overcome all of our trials and struggles for us. It is with this heart Jesus said the words of Matthew 11:28: “Come to Me all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (HCSB)

Next time you are feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, dry, or overrun with the treadmill of life, rest in Jesus. Trust in the one who has overcome the world.

Andrew Bates is the Teaching/Site Pastor at Chapel in the Oaks in Baton Rouge. With his wife Emily, he “invests in people’s lives”— opening up their home for meals and fellowship, discipling younger believers, engaging people where they are in life, and attempting to bring a smile to everyone they meet. He can be reached at Andrew.bates@thechapelbr.com.

June 2018, Pastor's Perspective

Pastor’s Perspective, Abundant Life Church rebuilds after the flood

Back Home in the Dome

Abundant Life Church Rebuilds After the Flood



Pastor Greg and Christian Beatty with their children Kate and Tyler

Church members were heartbroken when they found the flood’s devastation

A man looks at a timeline of Abundant Life Church during the church’s rededication service on Sunday, March 11.

The members of Abundant Life Church in Denham Springs had plenty to celebrate on March 11. Not only was it the church’s 38th anniversary, but it was also a day of rebirth for a congregation whose campus had been devastated by the Great Flood of August 2016. As 700 churchgoers greeted each other at the re-dedication service, it was hard to imagine the 18-month journey that had led them here.

In the days after the flood, church members were shocked by the damage to their campus, which covers more than 12 acres and housed 10 buildings. “Everything was destroyed. Most of our buildings took on about four feet of water,” said Pastor Greg Beatty. “But our sanctuary, which we call the Dome, took on seven. We were heartbroken, and I’ll be honest – I had no idea what we were going to do.”

He knew what they would not do, however.

“We never once thought of giving up,” he said. “It was never an option. We moved our services to the Outreach Center and that’s where we worshipped for a year and a half. We knew we would rebuild and sure enough, from the very beginning, our church family started volunteering to help in any way they could.”

It was an overwhelming task – gutting, cleaning, pulling up carpets, tearing down sheetrock. And it went on for nearly a year. Then the rebuilding began. Luckily, many church members and volunteers donated their skills, from carpentry to painting to construction.

Kevin Kron, a 20-year ALC member and owner of Kron Enterprises, served as project manager for the reconstruction. “There were a lot of people with different skill sets who were used for God’s glory during that time,” Kron said. “It was stressful and it was a chore to stay coordinated, but God continued to meet our needs and bless us with volunteers.”

Family Pastor Miranda McGraw was also instrumental in the rebuilding of the church. She remembers incredible offerings of time and talent. “People we didn’t even know came to help,” she said. “All in all, we had more than 300 volunteers from nine states. And our church family really stepped up in a big way through fundraising and financial donations. We were really blessed. They believed in this church and they really came together.”

When all was said and done, the flood had caused $3.2 million in damage, and five of the 10 buildings had to be torn down. But the reconstruction allowed church leaders to make improvements and add new features.

The 65,000-square-foot sanctuary has a brand new look that includes theater-style seating, new carpet and furniture, a larger stage, a 40-foot TV screen, sound panels, and brand-new lights, instruments and sound equipment. In addition, 30 offices, meeting rooms and bathrooms were remodeled, and the children’s church area was expanded.

Beatty credits Kron and McGraw with making an impossible dream become a reality. They, in turn, credit their pastor for showing strong leadership and keeping the church family focused during a difficult time.

“We were able to accomplish something amazing,” Beatty said, “and I believe it was due to a unity of vision on the part of our members. I was just amazed at the generosity of people. By God’s grace we were able to overcome … and by his grace, we will continue to move forward … stronger than ever.”

Abundant Life Church is located at 206 Edgewood Drive in Denham Springs. For more information, visit abundantlifechurch.tv or call           (225) 933-0065.

Kids enjoy being back in their church home.
Back home in the Dome!
Congregation happy to praise and worship!
May 2018, Pastor's Perspective

Who Do Others Say You Are?

Who Do Others Say You Are?

by Rev. David Melville

Pastors make certain their parishioners are familiar with the day Jesus asked, “Who do people say I am?” (Mark 8:27) But I take the question further and include you and me in the equation. Who do others say you are? Are they accurate in their assessment? We can fool others, we can even fool ourselves, but we can’t fool God. God will know come Judgment Day.

I hope others see Christ in you. I hope you identify clearly with the Risen Christ. “Easter People” should be more than students, disciples, fans or even experts on Jesus. “Easter People” should stand out as identifying as closely with Christ as possible. Indeed, in our baptism we are said to go into the waters (die) and rise out of the waters (live) … with Christ. To be a Christian is to receive a new identity; in baptism we put on Christ.

We all wear many hats, and we can have more than one personality. (Just don’t have too many!) Most people have more than one talent, and more than one thing we’re good at. But in the end, one description about us should stand out above the others: did we deny self for Christ (Mark 8:34-35), and were we in the world, but not of the world? We are to be set apart; we are even to be, if necessary, peculiar.

Don’t we all know people who seem to be at one with Christ … or pretty darn close? There is just something about them; that “something” about them is explained as living Christ-like through the power of the Holy Spirit. To offer one example, Baton Rouge businessman Bill Peters, in my view, is identified with Christ. He was when I met him at the LSU Baptist Student Union nearly 50 years ago, and I saw the same identity when I re-connected with him after moving back to Baton Rouge in 2014. He is set apart.

Perhaps other national newspapers do likewise, but I do know that the New York Times presents selected obituaries in the form of what basically is a lengthy news article, with a headline summing up how the deceased was known to the world. A several-decades-old life is summed up in a headline. My obituary won’t make the New York Times, and whatever newspaper I wind up in will simply print what my family pays them to print. But every once in awhile I like to imagine what one-liner would be attached if I were eulogized in the good old New York Times! I invite you to do the same. Decide how you want to be identified and work every day to live according to that identity. At a minimum, be identified as very loving and as a person who was somehow in the world, but not of the world.

It is sad, frustrating and amazing to read an obituary of a Christian and never read a reference to church affiliation or the importance of Christ in the dearly departed’s life. It seems this is the case with increasing frequency. We learn about a man’s hobbies, favorite sports teams, that he was the life of the party, and that he loved his grandchildren very much. These identities are all fine if they are secondary to his love for and his identity with Jesus. But you have to wonder if church or spirituality is not even mentioned …

In the Broadway production of Les Miserables, the main character, Jean Valjean, is a convicted felon who turns his life around and becomes a Christ-like figure. But in one song, he asks, “Who am I?” and realizes that to some, he will always be identified as “#24601,” his prison number … even though he had become much, much more.

My nonprofit, Christ in the City, will present Aaron Beam at an ethics luncheon on Wednesday, May 2 at the De La Ronde Ballroom in downtown Baton Rouge. Aaron served prison time for corporate fraud, and in his efforts to help businesspeople attending his speeches, he always reminds them that, “Though I stopped my fraud and paid my debt to society, and am trying to do some good things now, I will always be a convicted felon.”

But Aaron Beam is much, much more.

For tickets, call (225) 397-6393.

March 2018, Pastor's Perspective

Reflection Makes Our Lives Much Fuller

Reflection Makes Our Lives Much Fuller

by Bruce Lininger, Ph. D.

Our lives in 2018 don’t offer us much time for reflection, as information and choices come at us so quickly, we can barely grasp the blessings of any given moment. Change is the one thing we can count on, and we best get used to the reality of it. We often miss essential aspects in our lives because of changes, and without reflection, we suffer in intimacy (with God and others), grief (essential in the midst of change), and leadership essentials. 

Call it a “cultural faux pas” not making commitments for the sake of keeping our options open, but we miss out on the depth of emotion and health available to us in any given situation. Reflection is an essential aspect when dealing with the need for anchors in our lives. As Andy Stanley states, “We as Christians are at our best when we are personally growing in our intimacy with God, community with insiders, and influence with outsiders.” This balance of intimacy is impossible without the discipline of reflection.

The Apostle Paul shared in Romans 6 that one must know, consider and present yourself “dead to sin and alive unto Christ.” The difficulty I have found of late is that we conservative Christians take such joy in knowledge of theology, God, and the Bible, that we have the opposite impact God desires in our life — reflection leading to intimacy with Him. I may think I am succeeding in life, achieving such lofty outcomes, and even have all the outward markings of winning at life, but with this speeding chase of life, lived without the practice of reflection, we risk the symptoms of shallowness in all our relationships, knowing about, but never truly knowing or being known.

Working in two environments, one as a hospice chaplain and the other as a missionary to the business community, I find that reflection is also essential when dealing with people experiencing grief. Reflection is the pathway to walk beside grief, which wears many varieties and covers. Grief is individual, yet organizational, and is experienced in so many ways. It is most obvious when we lose a loved one, but in the marketplace, the grief in success is the same as grief in tragedy. Both involve change from what was, to the new normal of what now is. Without reflection, grief will disable you, whether in loss or in plenty; however one handles transitions often determines the joy we experience in life. Grief demands to be experienced, and as Kubler-Ross’ “Five Stages of Grief” recommends, take time to grieve (reflection), even in your triumphs. 

I have heard the word “leadership” defined as taking initiative for the good of another. But without reflection upon your overarching “why,” you miss what is meant for good. God calls us to be intentional, to take the lead for the good of others. Interacting with people, I find leadership lived out through Paul’s reflection in I Corinthians 16 … “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.  Do everything in love.”

Whatever experiences you find yourself in, the lowest of lows, or in a thriving environment experiencing growth, be prepared to practice the discipline of reflection — to know who you are, who you aren’t, and who you need. Practice healthy “self-care” and embrace intimacy and the emotions that flow from it, and ask the Lord to teach you what its source is. Lead yourself first.

BRCLM Image Gruce Lininger

Bruce Lininger is a graduate if Louisiana Tech, Dallas Seminary, and Trinity University, with over 30 years of ministry experience in churches and non-profits. In his 29th year of marriage to Sharon, they are parents of four grown children. Currently he serves on staff with The Navigators through NavWorkplace, and as chaplain with Bridgeway Hospice

June 2017, Pastor's Perspective

A New Breath of Life

 

A New Breath of Life

by Mark Lubbock

One of the things that breathes life into me is conversation with folks who see from a point of view that differs from mine.

Listening to them explain life as they see it helps me get out of my own head and begin to once again embrace and enjoy the diversity of God’s creation.

Not long ago I visited a technology retailer for information on a product I owned. The young lady who waited on me was clearly more drawn towards talking with fellow employees than serving customers. She glanced at the Christian shirt I was wearing so she could make some guesses of her own about me. Initially she was distant, businesslike, and seemed a bit disinterested in her work. I felt like I was just another customer she needed to get out the door. So I started a conversation, taking this as an opportunity to learn a little about her. Stating that I use my device in ministry, I paused and asked if she had any thoughts on spirituality. She was quick to reply that organized religion is a major problem in our country and she wants nothing to do with it. Nodding my head to indicate I am listening, I followed up by asking what works for her in place of organized religion. Her reply was along the lines of “I believe in God and don’t need church. I have my own private spiritual life.”

No surprise there of course, since this is a common theme with folks who are not interested in traditional church. What I saw as she shared though, was a
hint of thinly veiled anger. Not directed towards me, but seeming to arise from the thoughts going through her mind as she formed her statement about church.

As I listened to her sometimes harsh criticisms of religion, she started to relax that professional mask, allowing me to see the real person. The more I listened with interest, the more she opened up (versus rebutting her comments and telling her my thoughts.) When it became clear that I was not taking any ‘sides’ in the topic, but just wanted to hear her thoughts, we were able to finally have a true discussion.

What developed was a simple conversation where I spoke of how my life was measurably better due to my relationship with Jesus, and she spoke of wounds she received from the “Church.” At the end of my transaction and the conclusion of our conversation, I asked if I could pray for her before leaving. Her head snapped back for just a second and her eyes watered a little. She simply nodded her head “yes” indicating my prayer for her was welcomed. I thanked God for the meeting and for the chance to get to know her, asking for grace and blessings upon her life. The prayer was closed with a request that Jesus would touch her heart with a sign of love and favor, easing any pain and bringing her peaceful joy. By then the waterworks were in full display. As I left, I continued the prayer asking God to lead her to a church environment where His love is LIVED OUT DAILY.

Clearly, the church universal has not successfully communicated Jesus to this
young  woman, which leads me to think about “outcomes.” Most churches want to reach outside their walls and touch lives with Jesus. Yet few ever bother to measure the effectiveness of the routine life of the church. How would you assess the outcome of your church in reaching the lost, the lonely, the hurting?

I’ve learned that the Holy Spirit offers frequent course corrections all along the journey of life. As we seek to draw close personally to Jesus, I know we’ll also encounter opportunities to look at others through His eyes and allow him to use our hands to share His love.

Shalom

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Mark just celebrated 20 years of marriage with his bride Vickie Lubbock. He served as a pastor with the United Methodist Church for over 15 years before coming on staff with the General Commission on United Methodist Men where he currently serves as Deployed Staff. He was the first pastor in the nation to become a “Certified Men’s Ministry Specialist” through the GCUMM and Vanderbilt University. Mark sits as the C.E.o. of the regional non-profit men’s ministry “Gulf South Men” headquartered in Baton Rouge, serving Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. Gulf South Men supports churches and men’s groups in making disciples of Jesus through coaching, events, training, studies and small group formation. Mark is the Regional Director for “Iron Sharpens Iron” which is the nation’s largest ministry to men through regional equipping men’s conferences. Mark formerly served as Regional Director with Promise Keepers supporting regional conferences.

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October 2015, Pastor's Perspective

Real Men

by Mark Stermer

IMG_1224-2Where are the real men in the world; men who are not afraid to be who God has created them to be? There is confusion about this right now; we are in a culture that seeks to feminize men. It’s no wonder we see some men confused about whether they are male or female. What’s worse is that our society is accepting of this deception. Even the new line of clothing for men are made from women’s style. Men are deterred from boyhood, from being rough and rugged. What’s interesting is that our society entertains itself with heroes in the movies who are raw and tough, who fight like a bear and roar like a lion. Our society would rather keep real men trapped in Hollywood where they can control them. A real man cannot be controlled by politicians, culture, or the demonic forces that plague our society.

Let me clarify who real men really are: we are not real men because we look rugged, stand to urinate, or produce life in the world. We are real men because we have found our purpose: to glorify God in this world with our lives. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are called to march into hell and rescue as many lost souls as we can by influencing them to give their lives to Christ. A real man is a man of war on a planet doomed to judgment. We have been given a rescue mission to accomplish. We are armed with weapons of war, and we don’t understand or accept retreat or defeat. We have no fear of death and no mercy on evil. We are tender and loving, but strong and free. Our wives respect us; our children revere us; our brothers will die for us; people in need or in danger will call for us; and our enemies fear us. We are a new breed of warriors standing for the truth of God’s Word. We are the redeemed of the Lord, washed by the blood, filled with the Spirit, and favored by God. We are the Real Men of the Church of the living God, and Christ Jesus is our King.

I, Pastor Mark Stermer, as a general in my King’s army, am calling for men to burn their women’s underwear and come join an army that is bent on conquering the world for Christ. Men, rise up and be the real man God has created you to be!

About Mark: Mark Stermer served as Leadership Pastor at Healing Place Church (HPC) in Baton Rouge, LA from 1997-2004. Mark has been serving as Executive Director of The Church United for Community Development, a 501c3 nonprofit organization since 1999. He also founded and was Director of the Louisiana Pastor’s Resource Council and worked tirelessly to network pastors and government officials to influence a positive change in Louisiana. Since August 2010 Mark and his wife, Cindy, have been serving as Senior Pastors of The Church, which has multiple campuses. Every Sunday The Church sermons are broadcast on national TV speaking God’s truth into many homes. They currently have 8 children and two grandchildren.