On June 24th, 2012 I officially began my role as pastor of Cheerful Hope Baptist Church. A lot has happened in those six months. I’ve learned quite a bit and know there is much still to learn.
Of all the things I’ve learned these are some of the most important ones:
1. Just because a church is small doesn’t mean it isn’t going anything.
The church I’ve been blessed to be a part of is a small congregation in a small community. I’ve heard for years now that the majority of Bible College/Seminary students will end up pastoring small rural churches that make up the majority of the Southern Baptist Convention. I’ll be transparent that I’ve not always had the greatest view of ‘little country churches.’ There are a lot of stereotypes and unfortunately a lot of these churches fill them. What I’ve learned is just because a church is small and in a rural area doesn’t mean they aren’t striving to be what God has called them to be. Cheerful Hope is striving to be Biblical. They are a church that has struggled when they went for a while without a pastor. They are a group of people who love God and love his word. Just because they aren’t making the pages of the Biblical Recorder or are on a blog post on the Gospel Coalition doesn’t mean God isn’t working in their midst. I’m sure this is true of lots of other ‘small’ churches across the land.
2. Never underestimate the value of exposition.
‘Preach the word,’ is the exclamation of Paul to Timothy and of professors and pastors to other ministers of the word today that I’ve heard countless times. My best reflection on this admonition is simply to preach the word. The Bible is God’s word and it remains true. Being new to ministry and new to the people of Cheerful Hope I know what is always relevant, and that is the Word of God. I’ve spent the majority of my time preaching through the Gospel of Mark. It has been extremely beneficial and challenging. I don’t think I would typically go in during the first six months of ministry at a church and preach on the Sabbath or on Blaspheming the Holy Spirit, but preaching verse by verse through the gospel of Mark has brought those messages to the pulpit. I’ve seen the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in administering the preaching of the word. Preach God’s word to God’s people it won’t return void.
3. Everything you need for ministry isn’t taught in the classroom and a lot of it is.
I’m not a graduate yet of school, but I have spent quite a bit of time in the classroom at two great schools and I’m trying to continue that education. I’ve had a lot of classes on the Bible, preaching, philosophy, English, and so on. I cannot begin to explain how beneficial it has been to have had these classes. In my preparations for Sunday School, Sermons, and Wednesday night Bible Studies I’ve been blessed tremendously by what I’ve learned in school. It has been of great benefit especially in those situations where I’m asked questions that aren’t in my lesson plan. There has been a lot of great wisdom imparted for practical situations on handling ministry. But, there have been times where I cannot recall going over a particular situation. Those times are just like the ones where I can recall something from a classroom, they are times to think biblically, pray, and rely on the Holy Spirit.
Pray. Do lots of it. I cannot do ministry on my own. I cannot get up to preach Sunday after Sunday by my own strength. I cannot be there to minister to the hearts of my congregation every moment of everyday. But, I can pray for them. I cannot say enough, but simply enough I’ll say in ministry, make prayer a priority. Make it a priority when you are on your own, when you a preparing to preach and teach, when you are preaching and teaching, during worship, preparing for worship, as you gather, as you depart, when you are on the phone with suffering people, when you are joyous with rejoicing people, pray without ceasing.
5. Cooperation and Fellowship with other churches is a great thing.
I’m a Baptist, and I believe in local church autonomy. I’m a Baptist and I also believe in cooperating for the Kingdom of God. When I came to Cheerful Hope we were (and we still are) an Independent Baptist Church. But, we’re moving in a direction to cooperate with the Columbus Baptist Association, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and the Southern Baptist Convention. At this years annual meeting our church was approved to be put under watch-care for a year to rejoin the Columbus Baptist Association. The men and women of the Association have been nothing but welcoming and friendly to us. The other ministers in the Association have been a constant encouragement and partners in prayer. As a church we are excited to begin supporting local, state, countrywide, and international missions through Southern Baptist means of cooperation.