Sunday, March 29, 2009

First things First

Sunday was a great day in the Lord for the Macedonia church and myself. The Lord showed himself mighty in this place and even allowed me to come out of a depression that I have been in longer than I realized (well at least peak my head out of the shell).

It was our "Trust God Sunday", an idea I watched my pastor in OKC birth and I brought here to South Bend. Stewardship is my deliberate demonstrative response of my appreciation to God for what He has entrusted me with. What I do with God's gift is a direct reflection of what I think about God! Our weekend started with a great financial seminar for the family where we covered the topics of Investing, Credit, Budgeting and Prospecting for Homes all from a Biblical basis with sound economics and the turn out was wonderful. I appreciate all of the hard work of our women's ministry and the appointed leaders for this project. May God bless and keep you is my prayer.

I was scheduled (me talking) to preach Exodus 20: 1-3 "First Things First, however because God is God, He changed the sermon due to incidents that happened in our church this week that needed to be addressed from the lips of God through the Pastor to the people. I will post that another time but I told the church I would post at least the skeleton of what I intended to preach.

I have been asked many times, Pastor, What is the greatest challenge you face? The answer surprised many as it surprised me when I realized it. It has not been preaching, that's my love, not counseling or administration, as that's my job. It hasn't been raising my girls by myself as they are my passion, nor has it been the ongoing pressures of being a single man/Pastor/preacher of a visible church, (although that one is making me weary).

No the greatest challenge I have faced is keeping God first, maintaining a close, personal, growing relationship with Jesus Christ. To make sure No "god", person, object, task, duty, obligation, civic duty or church function comes before HIM in my priorities, my plans or my praise.

These small verses have become by biggest challenge. I am becoming good (trial and error, mostly error) at being the "Civic Pastor", the Community Pastor", the Denominational Pastor, the Politically Correct Pastor, The District and Associational Pastor, the "one of the boys Pastor" and before you know it you start losing piece by piece your first love. That's what happened at Ephesus. You become great at doing the work that you forget the Lord of the work.

These small verses teaches us about:
God's Requirement for us
Gods' Relationship with us.
God's Rewards Towards us

It's a love issue, a relationship issue, my children don't want any rivals for their daddy's love and my father feels the same way. I made the mistake one day with my oldest daughter that i still hear about. People at the church who love their Pastor will give me pictures of themselves, senior pictures, sports, etc. My daughter went through my wallet one day in the car( I know, another story) and as she did she noticed another child's picture in my wallet. She became upset. I explained that she was a member, she is your friend, I reassured her I love her and she had no reason to be jealous; i even further noted that, her picture was in my wallet as well.

That's when I understood my error, she said, Yes Daddy, and now this photo is the place where mine used to be. I used to be first in your wallet, now I am stuck in the middle between the other things. Whose picture is in your wallet? Whose picture now occupies the place that God used to hold? What "god" have you put on the "desk of your heart" or the wall in the room of your life"?

Whatever captures our attention, our interest, our money, our time, our commitment, our thoughts, our dreams, our goals is First in our life and is our God, and God says I want to be first! Why is that so important or is God just making a big fuss about nothing? I leave this blog with a simple message, a sentence that keeps haunting my mind to keep God first.

Always put God first!


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Media Ministry Questions and Discussion

I am asking for the discussion/opinions and advice of my fellow bloggers/Pastors/preachers/deacons and lay people concerning this topic. What is the proper way to administrate and allocate the media ministry at the local church?

Does the money from CDS/DVDS etc go to the church treasury? The Pastor? Are sermons the intellectual property of the Pastor and can be copyrighted as such? If a Preacher/Pastor runs revival in "said" town and takes CDS/DVDS of himself from his local church to sell, should that money be given to the church treasury? Should the proceeds of said items be part of the Pastor's compensation package?

I ask these questions because I am new sitting in this chair and would like to glean from the wisdom of fellow pastors and lay people. The media ministry is launching its maiden voyage at Macedonia and I would like for it to stay afloat so, please comment. This article I received from Pastor Cory Gathwright sparked my interest:

This is by no means an indictment against a fellow Preacher/Pastor as my prayers are with and for him and his ministry but a conscious realization on my part that what happens in one area can happen in this area.

FORT LAUDERDALE _ Some members of New Mount Olive Baptist Church have filed a lawsuit that accuses the senior pastor and his wife of accepting funds from the church’s video and tape ministry without authorization.
Kenneth Mullens and Pat Davis, on their own behalf and that of “concerned members’’ of the church, filed the lawsuit on Dec. 12, claiming that the Rev. Mack King Carter and his wife, Patricia, “converted’’ nearly $18,000 to their own use without the church’s consent.

The video and tape ministry records church services and choir performances, and sells the recordings.

Willie Jones, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said the latest turn in the case surfaced during testimony given by Selina Thomas, director of the church’s video and tape ministry, during a recent deposition.

“When taking Selina Thomas’ deposition, she said – under oath – that she has been turning over the proceeds from the sale of church videos and audio tapes directly to Carter and his wife since at least 2002,” Jones said.

“I almost fell out of my chair because this is money that does not belong to them.”

The lawsuit states, “Rev. Carter has converted various sums of money from the church, specifically the Tape/Video Ministry, in excess of $17,800 in checks between 2002 and 2005 to his own use without approval from the church governing bodies, and without the knowledge of the governing bodies.’’

The complaint also accuses Carter’s wife of converting “an unknown amount in cash and/or checks,” for her personal use without authorization.

Repeated calls to the church seeking comment from Carter were not returned, and messages left on his secretary’s voice mail went unanswered.

The lawsuit stems from an August 2006 court petition filed by former members of the church’s various oversight boards. The petition seeks access to and accountings of church financial records.

The case pitted the plaintiffs against Carter and his supporters, who represent a majority of the church members.

Carter and his supporters have accused the plaintiffs of being jealous and vindictive in their efforts to oust the senior pastor.
Carter has also delivered sermons that made reference to members aiming to disrupt the church through gossip, allegations and rumor.

On June 28, 2006, Carter oversaw a process in which church members voted overwhelmingly to disband the oversight boards and change the church constitution.

The new governing structure gave Carter much more authority over the church’s day-to-day operations, financial matters and general management.

Since that vote, church financial challenges have been revealed, including the fact that the church’s expenses outpace its income. Carter has asked members to increase their offerings by an additional 25 percent.

The latest complaint calls for the money that Carter allegedly “converted’’ from the tape and video ministry to be restored to the church. It also seeks to return the church’s management structure to the status it had for more than 80 years before Carter assumed more power.

The complaint also seeks to open the church’s financial records to the petitioners.
“We need openness because he should not be taking money intended for church missions,’’ Jones said.

“The people I represent had hoped this would have been resolved quietly, but now everyone will be able to see some of the reasons the previous boards had been concerned. As more of the truth comes out, they will all be vindicated.’’

One of the people Jones represents is Nathaniel Green, a longtime member who has served on various church boards since 1998, including several years as chairman of the trustees.

He also served on the church’s finance committee and the church council.
“This is just the beginning of the vindication process, because I think the members have had enough,” said Green, who is also an attorney.

“We want them to pay back any money they were not entitled to.’’
Eugene Pettis, another lawyer representing the church in this matter, could not be reached for comment.

Jones said, “I just find this to be reprehensible and I hope we will be able to get a better indication of exactly how much the pastor and his wife have received improperly. It literally could amount to thousands of dollars more than what’s presently contained in the lawsuit.”

Monday, March 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Pretty Girl

God has given me two special honors that I take very seriously, pastoring the Macedonia Church and being the Priest, Parent, Provider and Super Daddy to my girls, Rachael, LaBraia and Raven.
March 23rd is one of the special days in my life because it is the day God gave me my oldest daughter Rachael, born in Oklahoma City, OK at 7:17pm at Deaconess Hospital, 7lbs and 21 and half inches long. Scared to hold her and petrified I was going to do something to damage her, when I looked at her the first time, she became "My pretty girl". All of my babies are beautiful but Rachael batted her eyes at me long enough to know "I got him hooked" and then she wouldn't open them again for me for another 5 days. She trained me that day and I have been trained every since.
Rachael is the boss of the family, she fired me this year from hair duty, that's her job. She fired me from dishes, that's her job as well. She is the nurse, "Daddy, did you take your medicine", secretary, "Daddy what appointments do you have today", personal assistant, (the people who stand next to the President in the receiving line to tell him the name of the person who is about to shake his hand), Rachael can run down every name, family association, and cousin in Macedonia, thereby making Daddy look good.
I cannot thank God for my girls without also thanking God for the girls mother, Ramona. We were not able to sustain our marriage but God has used that experience to make me a better person and Pastor. I praise God that she has found happiness because she is the queen in the eyes of our princesses. Everything good in my life right now came from the hands of God through the vessel of Ramona(that includes my church as they interviewed her more than me, long story, another time and place).
Rachael, I am so proud of you. You are a wonderful daughter. Yes, I am a cry baby but every time I look at you, hear you talk, watch you reason, I praise God for the gift he gave me in you. The Lord has great things in store for you. How do I know? The Bible, goofy, it is always found in the Bible, whatever you need will always be found in the Bible.
1 Corinthians 2:9 (New Living Translation)
9 That is what the Scriptures mean when they say,
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”
God loves you and Daddy loves you as well. You are my pretty girl.
Keep running Baby,

Friday, March 13, 2009

March Gladness

I am just getting home form church service tonight where the Lord showed up mighty in His House. We worshipped at Second Baptist Church here in South Bend. This service was sponsored by a minister from Fort Wayne who has a ministry called Empowerment Ministries where he is conducting March Gladness Services all over this nation, Baltimore, Atlanta, Washington D.C. and Indiana just to name a few.

National preachers and singers such as Marvin Sapp, J Moss, Pastors Jeffrey Johnson, Maurice Watson and many others have been on this program. It was my honor to be on program tonight with the former pastor of Macedonia and now current pastor of Progressive in Fort Wayne, Rev Anthony Pettus Sr. I thank God just for being considered.

With that, I did the unthinkable. I mean preachers wait for this day, a large forum, packed house, the day where you are one of the headliners but that doesn't impress me much. I know who I am. God allowed another great preacher to be in South Bend this weekend in the person of Rev, Rickey Harvey, Pastor of the Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in Rochester, NY.

Pastor Harvey is here to attend the funeral services for his uncle who passed away. It was my prayer that he would stay with us so he could bless Macedonia Sunday morning but after the funeral Saturday, his plans are to drive back to Rochester. I felt God leading me to put him up to preach. It became even more evident that God would not bless me unless I was a blessing to him.

I did the unthinkable. I asked Pastor Harvey to take my spot on the preaching platform and just let me introduce him. I praise God that he accepted and I am so glad I listened to God as Pastor Harvey preached out of his heart from Galatians 4: 6-7 "Abba Father". God blessed his preaching tonight. God also used Pastor Pettus he preached from 2 Corinthians 1:8-10, "Why is this happening to Me". I thank God I was just counted worthy to be a part of the number.

One final word concerning the unthinkable. God told Joshua after he was following the leadership reign of Moses, you don't have to worry about making yourself because I will make your name great. The same way I was with Moses, I will be with you. So many times, we as young preacher/pastors become consumed with trying to establish our name, prove we are the Pastor, get our name on the circuit, slay/run and drag everything in the house and forget, we can't do anything without the help of God.

God makes us, God places us and when the time comes for God to elevate you, He will. If a man puts you up, he will tear you down, but if God be for us, who can be against us. Young preacher you don't have to make you mark by trying to rip down the cornerstone of the last administration, God will make your name. You don't have to try and out whoop, out sing, or out yell any preacher because when it's your time, God will elevate you to the place he has for us.

Let the Lord make you, not people, not churches, not events, but God. I praise God that in some small way tonight, I discovered God is making me.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Spiritual maturity

The Trifecta of all things that can be a detriment to people coming to church took place today at least on my side of South Bend. First, Time change, spring forward, something about losing that hour that just throws all of us off a bit. Secondly, it is raining, the good, sleeping kind of rain, started yesterday and it has settled in. Thirdly, our city girls basketball team, Washington went to the state championship last night in Indianapolis. They fought a good fight but came up short and to lose on a last second shot takes the wind out of your sails so most of my members are still in Indy recovering.

With that, PRAISE GOD FOR THE PEOPLE WHO WERE AT CHURCH AND CAME WITH A MIND TO WORSHIP GOD. We finished off I Corinthians 13: 11-13. The title of our message was "Spiritual Maturity", with the sub theme being "It's Time to Grow Up". In order to become spiritual mature and grow up in Christ, we must:

Accept our Responsibility: Paul starts off vs 11 by saying WHEN. I paused there because I realized that we all have a when. We may not all share the same How, or Why, or What, or Where but we all have had a When. That place where we fell short of the glory of God, that moment where we lived beneath our calling, that time where we disappointed ourselves and our God. Where was your When? David's was on a roof top, Moses' was on a beach, Peter's was in the Garden and Paul's was while he was holding the coat, make no mistake we all have had a when.

However Paul teaches us How to deal with our when moments because he shows us how to accept responsibility. He says, "When I was a child". Notice he takes blame. He does not blame his background, pedigree, TV, Lyme disease, parents, educational system, church or Pastor. He says, "I spoke as a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child".

Spiritual maturity realizes ITS TIME TO GROW UP. We may not be able to choose what we go through but we can choose how we go through it. Take spiritual inventory of your life, walk around the rooms of your life and see what areas you need to grow up in. The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.

Assume our Rightful Place: Martin Luther stated that, "A Christian is never in a state of completion but always in the process of becoming". Paul uses the word "child" to describe what he WAS. The word he uses is similar to 1 Corinthians 3:1 where he talks about infants in the church, how I wished you were spiritual people but you were babes in Christ, people of the flesh and so I had to feed you milk and not meat.

We still have babies in church. Someone told us we were cute when we threw a tantrum, laughed when we refused to help if it didn't go our way, patted us on the head when we stuck our lip and pouted for all to see. However that is not our rightful place. Paul says, "I Became", which means what I was, I no longer am.

Time and space won't permit me to tell my story but everyone ought to have a "Before and After testimony". Paul says when I stepped into my rightful place, I had to "put away, or gave up" my childish ways. When you go in to the place God has for you, you have to leave somethings at the door. Some habits, friends, conversations, attitudes, places have to be put away. I lost it right there because all of the things that I had to put away was for God's purpose and his plan. You can't walk into a new land burdened with old baggage, We all have some things to put away.

Allocate my Reward: Right now I only see through a glass darkly, but my reward is one day it will be Face to Face. What keeps me going on bad days, rainy days, low attendance days, is one day I will see my Saviour.

As usual, I have typed too much, when I become a good preacher like my fellow bloggers, I will learn to compress and simplify, in either case,

Still feel like running,


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Love Never Fails

It felt great to be back in the pulpit that God has entrusted me with, I am honored and humbled every time I am away from the church that when I get back, all is like I left it. Key still works, name still on the marquee, no called meetings and members who missed their Pastor.

I was eager and excited about preaching today. Service was just right!!! As I was getting my baptismal gear on the praise team was singing and although I praise God for their spirit every Sunday, they were "SANGING" today, not singing but SANGING" "I love to praise His Holy Name". I almost fell in my study trying to hurry up and get my waders on just so I could sing with them, He's my rock, my sword and shield, hey glory, it was right today. I baptized four and had great turnout from those families.

In times past with service high and a house full, I would have tried to swing for the fences but I am getting older and wiser. All i want to do now is get on base, don't make an out, keep the inning alive, God will bring the runners home when he is ready.

We continued our series on Love, that I think now will not end until Easter Morning. We are close to completing I Corinthians 13 as we did vs 8-10 today, Love Never Fails: Why Does Love never Fail?

Because it is Permanent In Its Makeup: Everything in this world goes away! Nothing lasts forever, in fact its not built or made to last forever. There is no money in that. It's meant to break, need repair and after cost analysis has been done at some point it is cheaper to buy again then keep repairing, but God's Love is not like that. It is Permanent in its makeup. God does not change! Situations change, people change, money changes, jobs change, bills change, churches change, deacon boards change, even enemies change but God remains the same.

When careful word study has been done the word picture refers you to a flower that falls or withers to the ground. God says my love will not be like the flower that fades, the grass withers and the flower fades but the Word of the Lord will stand forever, and if there was one word that describes God's word, one word that put it all together, what would that word be? Joy, peace, Patience, my contention is that the word would be Love, because after all God is love.

Why does Love never fail, Because it is Perpetual in Motion: To slightly show my age, before the energizer bunny( it keeps going and going) I grew up with the Timex watch( takes a licking keeps on ticking), no matter how you treated it, it still treated you with good service, perfect time and wonderful craftsmanship. Well I lost it there and closed, didn't mean to but I fooled around and got happy because I thought about my God.

He is in love with us. He choose us, cares for us, waits to hear from us, gives us what we have not earned and withholds what we really deserve. He does not treat us as our sins deserve. Even when we forget to talk to him in the morning, oxygen still flows, forget to praise him, but car still works, forget to thank him for another day's journey and he still gives us another day. Most businesses and businessmen would have done a cost analysis and said it costs too much, cut them loose but God kept on loving us, from creation, to graduation, even while we messed up through our matriculation, God loved us. It flowed from the beginning and is still flowing now.

Why does Love never fail: Because Its Production is Magnificent: I told my church to look at the blog as I forgot this part, but right now we are nothing but parts and pieces. A part here, piece there, see in part, preach in part, pray in part, sing in pieces but the Bible says "When perfection comes" the parts will be done away with because it has all come together.

My secular job was an automobile assembler at General Motors. I walked past the completion or the final line every morning. We built Escalades, Suburbans, Tahoes and Yukons but we did not build them in completion, WE BUILT THEM PIECE BY PIECE, PART BY PART. Body shop builds their part, rivet by rivet, screw by screw, weld by weld, Paint would build their part, booth by booth, room by room, vat by vat, Trim would build their part, seat by seat, fabric by fabric, design by design, Chasis built its part, tire by tire, brake by brake, engine by engine and when it all came together it turned into a Escalade, Yukon, Tahoe or Suburban, all it had been was pieces and parts but something brought it together.

That's all I have ever been, I am just a piece of a Pastor, part of a man, piece of a servant, part of worshipper, piece of kind, part of patient, piece of long-suffering, part rejoicing but love is working on me, it is producing something in me. It Deposits in ME, Develops ME and then Died for ME.

Don't give up on me Macedonia, I'm just a piece now but Love is working on me, South Bend don't write my obituary yet because even though I am just a part now, Love is producing me and when God gets through with me............

Feel like running,