Getting to be an OUTIE

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Pastor Top is bi-vocational pastor of Little Oak Baptist Church somewhere in a rural area.
Top was looking forward to the rest of the year at Little Oak. The next few months the leaders of the church had planned two outreach events and one community ministry project. Top felt that the folks at Little Oak were turning a corner by looking outside the church. The church had a good reputation for helping others in need. The past several years the folks at church had gradually turned inward. They were helpful at times to others yet predominately thought of themselves first and others second. It was an effort of prayer and Bible Study to begin to look outward. There had been tearful prayer meetings of thoughtful confession. It began when Bert, the oldest and most respected Deacon, had stood one night and prayed a prayer of confession that he had been self-centered as a believer and leader of the church. He was more concerned with the people in the church and their comfort than the lost people that lived around Little Oak. That simple prayer of confession had opened the hearts of people to the renewed attitude of Christ alive within them. The journey had been several months of praying, studying, hearing people’s hearts. There had been resistance as a few people struggled to see the difference between looking outward as a church and looking inward. God was opening hearts and eyes. People were becoming more alive in Christ as they began to see the enormity of the task to share the Gospel with 7000 people around Little Oak. Most of the folks around Little Oak lived on farms or on small acreages. It was a challenge to get connected. Yet folks knew each other and cared about each other in the area. How great is our God to provide a savior and entrust his followers with the message of Christ. We must be sharing about Christ.
The first outreach event for Little Oak was a Halloween Festival on the Sunday Night before Halloween. The planning of this event had evoked spirited discussion. Why Sunday night? Cancel church? God surely couldn’t bless something like this. Yet the young adults of the church had led in the planning of this event and were involving about all the regular attenders somehow. There would be food, games, and kids were welcome to dress in their Halloween costumes and come to church. All who came would register for door prizes. A simple form with name and email address or phone number asked for just enough information to be able to stay in touch for the future. The names from Halloween would be used as contact list for the Christmas Eve outreach event. The ministry event was a work in progress for the end of November. The Sunday before Thanksgiving the folks from Little Oak were going to take Sunday afternoon and go to as many homes as possible and simply pray for people. The church members would go to a home, introduce themselves, and ask for prayer concerns. Following that they would write them down, pray for the folks and leave. The prayer concerns would be placed on the prayer wall at church. A copy of the prayer concerns would be given to members, not the entire lists just a few concerns per church member. The Christmas Eve service was the last outreach event for the year. The Christ of the manger would be shared about with familiar Christmas Carols and Scripture. Top was working on the Gospel presentation for that night. It had to be short and simple. It would be.
Top was praying that the Lord would make each of these times fruitful for the folks outside of the church. Top was also praying that the folks at Little Oak would see the long term nature of what needed to be done. It seemed that church folks wanted a one and done church event to share the gospel where everyone in the area would come, get saved, and live happily ever after. The reality was that it would take many touches, many times of sharing the Gospel for folks to hear the good news of Jesus. Studying the life of Jesus Top realized that Jesus traveled and taught over a relatively small area. Many of the same people saw the miracles, heard the teaching, and didn’t believe the first time they heard, maybe not the tenth time they heard. Perhaps we the people of God need the attitude of Christ found in Philippians 2:5-11. Servants like Jesus served out of love and obedience regardless of results. Sharing the message was the important part of the next three months. The Lord of the harvest would take care of results.

Pastor Top: Leading His Church to Pray

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Pastor Top is bi-vocational pastor of Little Oak Baptist Church somewhere in a rural area in IL. Top was more than a little disturbed about the prayer life of both he and his church. He spent a good amount of time praying about what to preach, the folks at Little Oak, and his personal concerns yet he felt his prayer life was a bit routine. He had thought about getting up earlier yet wasn’t sure the issue was the length of his prayer yet rather the attitude of his heart. Examining the church he felt they were all in a rut. The Wednesday night prayer meeting was not well attended or prayer focused. They spent more time talking about people’s ailments than being concerned about the condition of their society.
Last week a young adult in the area committed suicide. How hopeless he must have felt to take his own life. He left a wife and child to wonder what went wrong. There were also the never ending arrests listed in the paper for drug and alcohol charges. The hopelessness of the population seemed vastly disconnected from the folks in the pew. Jesus said 10 A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance. John 10:10 (HCSB) It would seem that the thief in the form of Satan the great deceiver was stealing a life of hope from the people that lived in Top’s region. He worked with people who were hopeless. Johnny had talked with Top about his failing marriage and wondered if Top would pray for him. Top had mentioned him at prayer meeting and noticed the casual looks folks gave him. He knew personally that some of the people there had experienced divorce in the lives of their families. There were grandchildren they rarely saw, sons or daughters who struggled to make sense out of life following divorce. There was allot of hurt in the world both in the church and outside of the church.
Praying was mentioned both directly and indirectly throughout scripture. As believers we are challenged to call upon the name of the Lord to heal our land, mend our hurts, put our families back together, and be saved. The word call seems more intense than pray. Call reminded Top of when his mom would call him for supper as a child. Growing up in the country he would walk or ride his bike a great distance from home. When supper time came he could often hear his mom’s voice calling him. Should he not answer right away her voice would take on a more urgent and desperate tone. She was worried about him. Top would not describe his approach to prayer as calling upon the Lord. Many days he had no sense of concern or desperation about the plight of his people. His focus must become more urgent, God directed instead of self-directed.
Desperation was not in Top’s prayer life or the prayer life of his church. They might be more complacent or even depressed about the state of society. Top remember reading about the prayer life of Johnathan Edwards. He was very concerned about the moral decay of his community in the 1700’s. People were given to drunkenness, night walking, and carousing. Edwards began to arise early and call upon the name of the Lord for souls of his community. He wrote his friends in ministry and urged them to pray also. Following months of prayer a young woman mysteriously died in his community. Following her death he preached the sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. People were saved, lives transformed and along the eastern seaboard of the U.S. a great awakening broke out. The awakening followed the prayers of the people crying out to God.
Top realized his prayer life he was lacking a consistent focus on the plight of the people. He and others would pray occasionally for the lost in their area yet rarely knew their names. They would pray about the social ills yet in a critical tone. He must call upon the name of the Lord to move in salvation way in his area. Top must pray that fervently and daily. He must discover the compassion of Christ for his people. This begins with confessing his lack of concern and then grows to the point of communicating his concern to God. His prayer life was also lacking urgency in calling upon the Lord.
Jesus pointed out in John 10:10 A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance. The abundant life promise of the Lord may be waiting on the concern of the Christina.
Will you join me in praying daily for a movement of God in our area?

Pastor Top and Easter

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Pastor Top is bi-vocational pastor of Little Oak Baptist Church somewhere in a rural area.

Pastor Top was planning his preaching for the six weeks before Easter. He wanted this to be a challenging and reflecting time for his church. He felt very convicted that both he and the folks at Little Oak might have grown a bit complacent about the very people God wanted them to reach. He joked with other pastors about the casual attendance patterns of many people who considered themselves to be regular attenders. Some called them CME attenders: Christmas, Mother’s Day and Easter. Despite his desire to have them come more often Top wondered if there was something both he and the folks at Little Oak could do to help the casual attender connect with God. The God connection was what they needed to transform their life.

Top thought about the sermon he would preach the week before Easter. He would us the passage on the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  Luke 19: 41 As He approached and saw the city, He wept over it, 42 saying, “If you knew this day what would bring peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The Lord impressed on Top that the triumph folks needed in their lives today was peace, the peace that only Jesus could bring. The point of Palm Sunday was to present the entry of Christ to Jerusalem where people there saw a savior. They saw the everyday Jesus who identified with their hurts and frustrations in everyday life. That was the Jesus who saw their poverty and sat with them. The Jesus who touched them no matter how messy and dirty their lives were is the savior needed today. That same savior is the savior that both the casual attender and every Sunday attender needed to know personally.

Weeping compassion was what Jesus had for his people. Top paused and asked himself if he had wept over the people of his area? Little Oak was an open country church yet there were houses in around the church. Each time he drove to church he gave little thought to most of the houses. That was his first challenge. He needed to see homes instead of houses. Homes with people like he and his family inside. Homes filled with parents, teenagers and grade school kids who loved their family and needed a savior to walk with them through life. Top realized he drove by thinking about church not the people he drove by. The savior entered and saw lives as he entered the city not just buildings. Top needed to not only see lives but souls who the savior wanted to transform into his image.

Years ago when Top began to Pastor he would take an evening or two a month and visit the homes of people around the church he pastored. Life got busier as his kids got older and families changed. Perhaps he needed to make the time to stop by some of these homes and introduced himself to the people. That would be a start. Top had the sense that God told him to start praying for the people in the homes as he drove by. Pray God would touch them and then after a period of prayer go and visit them. Top knew from past experience with God that praying for people even when he didn’t know them would move him to compassion. He also felt God was leading him to ask a few folks to join him in praying. Two of the prayers were in the nursing home. They were alert and concerned about their church and area. They asked him each time he visited them what they could do for the church.

Pastor Top is a bi-vocational pastor in a rural area

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Pastor Top was feeling humbled and thankful for many things. Earlier today there was an accident on the job site where he worked. A co-worker had been injured by a falling board and taken by ambulance to the area hospital. Top had prayed with the man before the ambulance arrived. He would remain in the hospital a few days and be off work awhile. Complete recovery was expected. Top was thankful he was there to pray and would have the opportunity to share Christ with the man while he was in the hospital. Perhaps he would be open to the Lord. Top had discovered his bi-vocational role allowed him many opportunities to share the Lord. He smiled as he recalled one of his co-workers called him the Chaplin of the job site.
Top felt very humbled as the folks at Little Oak Baptist Church had honored both he and his family the entire month of October during Pastor Appreciation Month. There were times recently when Top had thought about resigning the church. The previous pastor had been a great man, servant of God and still referred to by many in the church as the Pastor. Top was not jealous of the man, in fact he admired him also. It was time for the church to look forward to new days not live in the past. He couldn’t say those things out loud. The appreciation times were humbling to Top because he felt the church had turned a corner in its attitude toward the past. The church had given his family a generous amount of money, even including his children with individual gifts. The notes of appreciation were what he was most thankful for. Folks expressed appreciation for things seen and unseen. One lady had mentioned the many visits made to her lost friend on evenings after Top got off work. Another person had mentioned his easy smile and laugh which could diffuse a tense situation. Still another mentioned that his preaching had a point and wasn’t random each week. They had been a bit skeptical at first of his preaching through the book of James, then after a couple of weeks looked forward to the next passage in James. Top was humbled and thankful as he realized that the church was beginning to look ahead and adjust to him as pastor and he to the church. The Lord is gracious and good.
Thankful according to Webster meant: glad that something has happened or not happened, that something or someone exists, etc.: of, relating to, or expressing thanks
Thankfulness should be the first thought of believers each day. Believers should be Thankful that a holy God in heaven would be concerned about the routine and mundane things in life. Thankful that God would in his patience would put up with the complaining and whining of his people when they didn’t see the big picture. Top was very thankful for his wife and children. They had willing went to Little Oak leaving a church that they loved and were loved by. They had come to love the people of Little Oak and viewed them as their extended family.
Top was most thankful and humbled by the way the Lord continued to use him. He was never amazed whether on the job or at church or at Wal-Mart the opportunities God gave him to touch lives for Jesus. Thank you Lord for being gracious and good to me.

Grubby Angels

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Recently I was traveling from Branson, MO to Vandalia, IL. I had the travel schedule down in my mind. I could drive without stopping, get home around 9pm, catch up on some work, and still get several hours of sleep. Less than an hour into the trip the low tire light came on the dashboard of the car. I got off at the next exit. While putting air in the tire I saw the problem that looked like a nail in the tire. I went to a nearby tire shop but they only did truck tire tires. They recommended a place a mile away behind McDonalds. It was 5 till 5. I thought I was stuck. I pulled into the next shop and three young guys were there sweaty and grubby from their days labor. I stated my problem they said wheel it in. I made small talk as one worked on my tire. All three were busy yet chatty. We had a couple of laughs. The tire was fixed really well. I asked how much, the young man in charge said no charge. What a blessing. These guys stayed late and helped me. Who can I bless like this?