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?

Camping On!!!!!

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Camp has been a very God filled awesome experience this year. One young man told me after Older Boys week that this was his last year. God always speaks to him during camp. He is preparing to go into the Air Force. He knows God will be with him. A girl spoke with me one afternoon and said I got saved last night. A counselor told me what a great time he had. It was his first year at camp. He has committed to come back next year. The spirit and attitude of Rehoboth Camp may be summed up in this verse. Ephesians 4:16 From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part. (HCSB)
The whole body referred to in this verse can broadly mean all the believers in Christ; more narrowly defined it could be the churches of Rehoboth. I am very thankful and proud of our churches. We fit together and are knitted together by our faith in Christ. We support many mutual ministries one which is camp. Camp calls upon many to do much. Camp directors meet and plan year round. This provides a well thought out camp program and theme. The counselors are enlisted as early as possible. Nurses, rec leaders, track leaders, Bible Study leaders, pastors, worship leaders, and kitchen staff are all enlisted along the way before camp begins. The people of Rehoboth work together.
Paul writes in Ephesians that the whole body is knitted and fit together for the growth of the body. This year we had 235 kids register for camp. This was a significant increase of almost 30 percent. Wow!!!!!! We are knit together and fit together by love. Paul writes in this brief verse that he love is the motivation and result of working together. Love is multi-purpose.
Love motivates people to give a week of intense time. Love compels us to work together. Love drives us to share our faith in small groups, with campers, and other counselors. Love also challenges us to do things in humility and with a servant’s attitude. Love must be the foundation of all we do at camp and in our churches. When we bring meals as church family cook and serve with love. A few years ago we had a camper who didn’t want to go home. He hid in the woods for an hour while we looked for him. Finally he came out. We talked about home and why he didn’t want to go home. He was afraid of parents, didn’t eat regularly, and he loved the food at camp. He could eat as much as he wanted. Bless our churches which serve food generously.
A generous spirit drives many to support camp in a variety of ways. Thanks to all who have and are continuing to contribute to the camp and building funds. Thanks for those who have given hours of time for remodeling. Thanks to all who have prayed for and worked hard at the camp. Thanks to all who have given generously for specific items at camp. Camp continues to cost a great deal above the registration fee. We have an unwritten understanding that all kids go to camp who want to go. That means that some kids come to camp and we pay for everything. There is no magic money available. We simply ask the Lord to provide and in turn ask that you prayerfully consider giving more. Our cost for the four weeks of camp not covered by registration and other gifts will be about 20,000. My belief and the way I have led in the past is to spend wisely, all kids go to camp who want to regardless of their financial ability, and God will provide. The camp committee believes that our registration fee is high enough that it could easily discourage some campers from coming. My faith says God provides through the love of many churches.
We are on mission together as an association of churches. Rehoboth churches have been generous for years and I am sure will be generous in the future