Trusting The Lord In Transition

This Sunday I have the privilege of bringing the Word to Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. Anytime I’m able to preach the gospel is a humongous privilege that I’m so undeserving of. Also, it’s a very joyful and nervous experience because of the weight that comes in presenting the gospel.

The most symbolic gifts for the occasion would be anything religious, such as wall crucifix, framed pictures of angels or saints, figurines of guardian angels or a lamb sculpture. Items with decorative and sacred purposes may be designed at the base, such as figurines, or embedded with meaningful verses, such as framed pictures of angels or saints. On the other hand, the wall crucifix or cross pendant, or the child’s first Bible, which are usually gold or silver, are engraved with the child’s name and other details of the baptism. These are all great ideas for godparents to give as christening gifts and you can find all religious gifts you want at Holyart.

This Sunday is a very unique situation, being the first Sunday without a Lead Pastor. I’ve been here in this situation before. It was about 6 ½ years ago. I had having the opportunity to preach the Sunday after Jon Beck left as Senior Pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in North Vernon, IN (where I was currently serving). During the time of transition, there’s always a lot of angst about the future. We do not know who the next guy to lead us is, or where the church will be going, but could it be that God allows us to experience that so we learn to trust Him more?

 

Proverbs 3:5 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understand …” That can be a very interesting verse to bring up during a time of transition, because we are known to lean on our carnal understanding and our own desires. All of God’s people must realize that we aren’t the ones that whoknow what’s best for the church, but rather God is. When you lean on your own understanding, it fails you and causes you often initially to make an irrational decision.

 

I’ve said often over the last several months to people at MPBC that the easiest thing to do during this time of transition is to leave. That probably would have been the easiest thing for me to do in ministry, to leave knowing that transition always brings about some uneasiness. Shouldn’t we be glad that Jesus didn’t always take the easy road out? Knowing that Jesus doesn’t ever leave or forsake us should construct our conversations about what He desires out of us (Heb 13:5). The bottom line is that you can find churches that aren’t without pastors, churches with bigger budgets, churches with more ministries, churches with fewer problems, but could it be that God brought you to Mount Pleasant not to run away but to trust in the Lord with all your heart. Part of that trusting, is trusting that God knows what He’s doing at Mount Pleasant and isn’t confused.

 

I’m urging you to join with me this Sunday at Mount Pleasant as we study God’s word together from 1 Corinthians 1. The message for this week is entitled A Church Divided Cannot Stand, and we will examine how we as a church can get back unified together. But it starts with all of us. It begins by trusting thatGod has a bigger plan to use all of us together for the glory of God His glory.

 

I’m also extremely thrilled that Brian Autry has agreed to lead us during this transition time at Mount Pleasant as our Interim Pastor. We hope you’re there December 14th to hear him share the gospel, but also join us this Sunday at Mount Pleasant to see God move.

 

Pastor Joe

Where do 6th graders belong?

Where do they belong?!

6th Graders in the life of Apex Student Ministry

Joe Mayes

Mount Pleasant Baptist Church

Vision & Philosophy- It is our vision and philosophy to continue moving towards a separate middle school and high school ministry under the umbrella of our student ministry. We believe this will be most effective in ministering to students, effectively equipping them, and reaching more students in our community.

How do 6th graders really fit in student ministry? Should 6th graders be in children’s ministry instead? If 6th graders are in student ministry, are we creating a safe environment for both 6th and 12th graders? Will we start losing students if 6th graders are involved in children’s or student ministry?

These are questions that have been around since student ministry began, and we’re still dealing with these issues today. Although there are differing views on these questions, we believe Mount Pleasant Baptist Church can create a fair and balanced approach to seeing 6th graders in the life of Apex Student Ministry.

First, across our community, 6th graders are in middle school, where they are often with 7th and 8th graders.  We recognize the diversity between high school and middle school students, along with the difference between a 6th grader and an 8th grader. Being in 6th grade is an awkward stage of life. A 6th grader probably feels too mature to be with 1st graders, but also too young to be with 12th graders. We are trying to create an environment here that will allow 6th graders to not be overwhelmed by student ministry, but rather accepted and comfortable.

Over the past year, our student ministry has been implementing a strategic plan to separate middle school and High school students during teaching times. We have fully made that transition, both on Sundays, Wednesday’s, and for most of our events. There are very definitive reasons we have decided to allow 6th graders to be a part of student ministry moving forward.

 

  1. Most of our student ministry programs and events will not be all inclusive: middle and high school. This has been the goal over the past 4 years that I have been Student Pastor at Mount Pleasant. We understand since often times 6th graders do not belong in large group teaching settings with 12th graders. Although there will be some events that will be all inclusive, most of them will be geared towards high school or middle school students. Those that are combined will probably have limited teaching together and more age appropriate teaching. Because of team we have put in place (Joe Mayes, Amy Meadows, Luke Southall, Danielle Southall, & Chris Hendricks) we are just now beginning a specific middle school ministry that is under the umbrella of our student ministry. God has blessed us with people, who love our students, and have done a fantastic job building relationships and teaching middle school students.
  2. 6th Graders are in middle school in our school corporation. The school corporation should not and does not dictate how the church is run, but it has influence on how 6th graders feel in church. We believe that it is healthy for 6th graders to go to church with the same kids they are going to school with. Students begin to feel that despite their age they are taught like a child within the church if they stay with children’s ministry. Just like it’s hard to teach to 12th and 6th graders, it is equally as hard to teach to 6th and 1st graders. This grade seems to make an easier transition when the school and church are making the same transition together. Also, let’s not downplay the fact that most students in 6th grade will be exposed to things that are more healthy to deal with at a student ministry level.
  3.  6th Graders should be beginning to own their own faith. In middle school, students will begin to be tested in their faith.  We do not downplay that happening before middle school, but it becomes more of a burden moving forward. Student ministry is more designed to teach students what it looks like to own their faith. We want them to be prepared to give answers to questions that they are asked about God. We believe that it is necessary for students to know what they personally believe about God. This becomes a fundamental point in making sure students stay involved in church through middle school, high school, and college.
  4. High school students (9th-12th) should be mentoring middle school students (6th-8th). Part of our goal is that those who are in high school would be ministering to our 6th graders, providing someone to look up to. Hopefully, our high school students are actively serving in the children’s ministry for the sake of building relationships with those who will be coming into our student ministry.

What will this look like for Apex Student Ministry at Mount Pleasant?

  • ELEVATE- Our Wednesday night worship service for students (ELEVATE) will stay very similar. Our meal/fellowship, games, welcome, and worship will all be together. During the teaching time, we will separate between middle school and high school. Although the same topic will be covered, the teaching will be directed towards the specific age group that is being addressed. This allows us to be under the same student ministry, while ensuring that the needs of different grades/ages are met.
  • Sunday School- Our Sunday school will stay the same and we’ll continue to evaluate how we can improve this structure. All students meet in the student center for welcome and announcements, before breaking off into their specific grades for the lesson. We still want to make the first few months smoother for the group that’s coming into student ministry in September.
  • College Students- We understand a big question is about college students. Where do they fit in? It is our opinion that on Sunday mornings college students need to be in the College & Career (Young Adults) Sunday school class. On Wednesday nights, we’re always looking for leaders that are willing to build Christ-centered relationships. Therefore, if college students are willing to follow our guidelines for leadership then we’re willing to allow them to serve. With that being said, college students must realize that ELEVATE is not for them, but it gives them an opportunity to serve.
  • Transition- We recognize the need for a better transition into student ministry. Realizing that ministry transition is not an event, but rather a process, we will do 1 or 2 events (spring or summer) that will include 5th graders (and possibly 6th graders) in order to get them acquainted with the student pastor, leaders, and current students. Also, we will strategically make a big deal about them moving up into our ministry in September every year.
  • New Brand & Logo- It’s our desire for the middle school ministry to have their own identity. With that said, we will create them their own logo and branding so they feel like the two groups are separate (to some degree).

 What would our events possibly look like?

MS Events

HS Events

Combined

Scaremare (Fall)

Judgment House (Fall)

Disciple Now

Christian Concert

Christian Concert

Winter Blast

Waterpark

Theme Park

Summer Fun Activities

SBCV Camp

Summer Camp

 

Mission Trip- DC?

HS Missions- WC?

 
     
     

 

*This is subject to change and after each event we will ask 3 important questions:

1. What went well and didn’t go well?

2. What can we improve on?

3. Will we do it the same way next year?

Feedback- We are ALWAYS wanting feedback from parents about how we can more effectively make our student ministry experience and events better. Please feel free to email Joe Mayes (joe.mayes@mpbclife.com) or Amy Meadows (amy.meadows@mpbclife.com) if you have any suggestions, comments, or thoughts on improving our transition or overall ministry experience.

Praying with Kids

Shelly and I have talked at length about some of the challenges,lessons, and ideas God has laid on our hearts since our time at the Prayer Summit with Richard Blackaby and Claude King.  One thing God clearly child_prayer3_679979819impressed on our hearts was the conviction that we need to be more diligent/consistent in praying with our children.

Shelly had the idea of daily prayer emphases, so we’ve started doing that with our kids as part of our bedtime routine.  As an idea generator, I thought I’d share the categories we’re using each day of the week.  It’s just an idea, so feel free to take and make it your own.  The point isn’t our methodology (or any methodology for that matter) but to continue growing as spiritual leaders in our family in all areas – including prayer.

MondayMissionaries (We pray for those sent from our church and with missionary cards we’ve received from both the IMB and NAMB).

TuesdayTeachers (The kids pick a teacher from school or church and we pray for them by name).

WednesdayWisdom (We pray for wisdom in decisions we/they are making).

Thursday Teaching (We pray about something God has/is teaching us that week).

FridayForgiveness, Faith, Future (Depending on what we’ve been discussing we pray for forgiveness for our sins and that God would help us forgive others…like siblings they’ve fought with like cats and dogs earlier in the week.  Faith covers things we’re praying in faith and trusting God for.  Obviously future is for our kids/families future – spouse, college, career, etc.)

SaturdaySin (We’re reminding the kids about the importance of confession and cleansing.  Sometimes we use a cleansing guide that lists a Bible verse and has questions for reflection with the older two.  We also have a copy for them to have and keep as they grow up and head out on their own someday.  This is an area of spiritual growth that we want them to grow and mature in for the rest of their lives).

SundaySalvation (We’re praying for FRAN’s and FRANC’s in our lives – Friends, Relatives, Acquaintances, Neighbors, and Co-workers/Classmates).

Again, this is A way, not THE way to pray with your kids.  Whatever your method, just remember, the power in prayer comes from the God to whom we’re praying, not the form we’re using to do it!

Basketball by the Bible

BasketballMy favorite sporting event is HERE…NCAA March Madness.  Got my brackets filled out.  Collected brackets for our staff competition.  Set the DVR to catch the games I want to see.  I’m all set and ready to go.  And just in case you didn’t know…GO CATS! (Kentucky Wildcats that is)

You may have seen the University of Virginia coach, Tony Bennett, give praise to Christ and honor his Dad in his post-game interview on Sunday after his team won the ACC Tournament, in addition to winning the ACC Regular Season Title.  It’s been a great season for UVA, Coach Bennett, and Cavalier fans.  (I confess, I pull for UK and whoever is playing Duke, North Carolina, and now Syracuse as part of the ACC as well, so I’ve been a UVA fan several times this season!).

The Richmond Times Dispatch wrote an article on Coach Bennett, highlighting his faith, called, Cavaliers’ Success:  By the (Good) Book.”  You can click here to read the article.  In the event you don’t, here are what coach Bennett calls the five ‘pillars’ he learned from his Father (a former basketball coach who developed the five pillars) that are the foundation for UVA’s success on the court (and in life as the players apply them there as well).

Humility

Passion

Unity

Servanthood

Thankfulness

Let me clear, I’m not predicting that UVA is going to win the title because Coach Bennett is a Christian, because he thanks Christ in his interview, or because he has a coaching/team building philosophy built on Biblical principles.  Even if they win, we must be careful not to equate ‘success’ as an indicator of God’s blessing in our lives.  That’s the root of prosperity theology – “if you obey, serve, pray, or _____, then good things will happen in your life” – like winning a Basketball Championship.

God doesn’t always work that way.  What about other Christian coaches who have teams in the tournament?  Are they less blessed or favored by God if their team doesn’t win?  What about believers struggling with health issues, financial hardships, emotional/psychological disorders, or sin strongholds? Are they not doing their faith ‘right’ since they aren’t ‘blessed’ with good things?  Just because things go well, and we give honor and praise to Christ, doesn’t mean we’ve done anything meriting God’s grace, goodness, or blessings in our lives.  We’re sinners saved by grace and every ‘good thing’ that happens in our lives is a ‘gift from above’ (James 1:17).

Theology lesson over, now let’s apply it to basketball…and life.  As I read the article on Coach Bennett’s five pillars I couldn’t help but think of their application to the church.  Look again:  Humility, Passion, Unity, Servanthood, Thankfulness.  I can’t think of any place where those traits wouldn’t pay rich dividends toward “success,” regardless of how you define the word success.

Two things for you to consider and reflect upon:

1)  Prayerfully reflect on how you’re applying his five pillars in your own life.  Are they, in ever-increasing measure, being evidenced in your church?  Home?  School?  Neighborhood?  Sports Team?  Band?  Small Group?

2) Prayerfully consider what your five pillars are.  There are a myriad of truths/principles/pillars we can glean from the Bible.  Coach Bennett (Sr & Jr) wrote down and built their coaching/life philosophy around their five.  While our levels, and places, of leadership vary, everyone is called – and has opportunities – to lead in some capacity.  What ‘pillars’ govern how you life your life and lead in your circles of influence?  Take some time to prayerfully consider what things are guiding your life.  Are they Biblical?  Are they the ones you desire?  Are they ones that God has given you or have you picked them up from other sources?  If they need to change, what are you going to do to change them?  Where are they taught or illustrated in the Bible.

Consider these for example:  Love; patience, holiness, purity, excellence, preparation, joy, kindness, just to name a few.

What ‘pillars’ guide your life and areas of leadership?  Pray through it.  Reflect upon it.  Ask God to help you make changes as He leads.

Prayerful Self-Examination

jesus prayingAfter attending the SBCV Prayer Summit withClaude King and Richard Blackaby I told one of our church members, “That was INCREDIBLE, but quite painful at times!”  There aren’t enough adjectives to describe how moving it was to sit and listen to those godly men teach, inspire, equip, and motivate people to deeper levels of prayer and obedience to Christ.

I can’t begin to summarize everything, but wanted to take a minute to share a couple of points Claude King made from I Corinthians 11 where Paul reminds to prepare spiritually for partaking of the Lord’s Supper.  He shared these elements as part of the cleansing and self-examination process:

1.  Entire Consecration.

To ‘consecrate’ means to be set apart for a special purpose.  To be set apart for God’s purposes we must be cleansed and made holy because we can’t do it on our.  Only the shed blood of Jesus Christ can accomplish that work – which is what we celebrate in the Lord’s Supper.

2.  Wholehearted Love.

Jesus reminded the church at Ephesus that they had abandoned their first love (Rev 2:4).  Jesus told his disciples that if they loved him they would keep his commands (John 14:15).  He also reminded the disciples that THE identifying mark of being his followers would be their love for one another (John 13:35).  Part of our self-examination for the Lord’s Supper is to evaluate our love for Christ, demonstrated by our obedience to him, and our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

3.  Complete Obedience.

You may have heard it said that, “He who aims for nothing hits it every time.”  While we will never attain perfect obedience in all we do, “If we don’t aim for it, we won’t get anywhere close” said King.

He also humorously noted that all too often Christians seem to use the excuse of never being able to attain perfect as a rationalization for tolerating sin in their lives.  Just because we do sin every day doesn’t mean we’re SUPPOSED to!

4.  Full Surrender.

The word consecrate comes from two Hebrew words, “open hand” and “to fill up.”  It’s the picture of a Priest standing at the altar with open hands, ready to receive the sacrifice or offering brought by the worshipper.  As long as the worshipper held the sacrifice/offering he or she had control over it, but when it was placed in the Priest’s hands the worshipper gave up all rights and control of the sacrifice – it belonged completely to God.  Paul reminds us in Romans 12:1-2 that we are ‘living sacrifices.’  The imagery is that we (our complete being) put ourselves in the hands of Christ our great High Priest as living sacrifices to be used by God for his purposes.

5.  Posture of Prayer.

King shared how medieval kings instituted an annual appreciation time called a ‘homage ceremony.’  The word ‘homage’ comes from the Latin word for ‘man.’  Medieval Kings held celebrations and feasts for the subjects in their kingdom.  During that time the subjects came, one by one, to the King who was seated on his throne.  He would extend both hands, open, and empty toward them.  The subjects knelt on both knees, clasp their hands together (like praying hands), placed their hands between the Kings hands (who would then clasp them in his) and say to him, “I’m your man.”  Doing so was saying to the King, “I’m yours..my land, my family, my resources, my future.  Everything I am, have, and ever hope to have is at your disposal.”

Hopefully my words painted the picture of what we know as a posture of prayer: on our knees, hands together, surrendering and submitting ourselves completely to Jesus Christ kneeling before him in his throne room saying, “I’m your man” or “I’m your woman.”  It’s a picture of submission that came from medieval times, but grew to be equated with prayer.

My prayer for you is that you’ll regularly spend time evaluating your life and service to Christ in light of these four areas and that you will MAKE time for a regular ‘homage ceremony’ where you bow before and completely surrender to your King, Jesus.

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