Thursday, February 13, 2020

Mission Accomplished!

Last week the Executive Board of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists voted to call Eric W. Ramsey to serve as our new state convention's Executive Director/Treasurer. The vacancy occurred when our former State Exec,  Dr. Bill Henard answered the call to a pastorate in his home state of Tennessee.  

The official announcement of Ramsey's background and hiring in a recent Baptist Press article can be read here

As background, according to the State Convention's Constitution, the task fell to the Administrative Committee to appoint an Interim state exec, and a search committee to seek out a candidate to be Dr. Henard's replacement.  The Administrative Committee met at the end of July to begin the work. Cledith Campbell, pastor of Altizer Baptist Church in Huntington was appointed to serve as the Interim State Executive Director. Cledith is a godly man of integrity and goodwill. He is an exceptional undershepherd to his flock. He is well respected by his peers, locally and around the state.  He has been pastor at Altizer for 46 years and has worked with every State Convention Executive Director in its 49 year history.  Cledith did an excellent job as our interim, providing a smooth transition for our new Director.

The Admin Committee recommended 15 people to the Executive Board to serve as a Search Committee to seek out, and make recommendation to the Executive Board, a qualified candidate to serve as State Executive Director. The Search Committee is mandated to be comprised of a Pastor from each Association in the State Convention "and other persons as shall give representation to various areas and interests" of the WVCSB, and "shall be knowledgeable of the Executive Board and the State Convention".  The Admin Committee nominated the following individuals who consist of Pastors, a Youth Pastor, Association Directors of Missions, and a Pastor's wife who has previously served on the Executive Board, and who has been very active in State Convention activities in the past.

The Executive Board approved each of the following individuals, with no dissenting votes.  Six members of the original Search Committee were the members of the Administration Committee, and two of them, Dallas Smith and Paul Harris later resigned from the committee. The following is a list of the final roster of the Search Committee, approved by the State Executive Board:

  • Allegheny Association - Dennis Cherry (Allegheny Association Director of Missions) and Randy Spurgeon (Anstead Baptist)
  • Coalfields Association Rick Gannon (Borderland Baptist)
  • Greater Huntington Association -  C.J. Adkins (Westmoreland Baptist & 2nd Vice President)
  • Immanuel Association Jim Messenger (Faith Baptist, West Union & State Recording Secretary) and Lynn Sommerville (layperson & pastor's wife, Southside Southern Baptist)
  • Monongahela Association - Jim Strawderman (Southern Baptist of Philippi) and Don Knotts (Salt and Light Church)
  • Mountain State Association - Kevin Howerton (Covenant Church, Princeton)
  • Pioneer Association - Mason Ballard (Resurrection Church, Charleston, and now President of the WVCSB)
  • Potomac Highland - Nathan Ertel (Old Fields Baptist & State Convention 1st Vice President) and David Duckworth (First Baptist Fort Ashby)
  • Tri-County Association - Bryan Dugger (Westview, Martinsburg)
  • Upper Ohio Valley Association - Ed Goodman (UOVA Director of Missions & Jim Higginson (Temple Baptist)
At our first Committee meeting in Flatwoods, I was elected chairman of this group. Ed Goodman, DOM of Upper Ohio Valley Association was elected Vice Chair, and Jim Messenger served as our Secretary.  I was humbled by their confidence and I considered it an honor to serve our State Convention in this way.  For the purposes of this blog, I just want to say thank you to this lady and the other gentlemen who served faithfully on this committee. It was not an easy task and it required a good bit of time and travel to serve.

Having worked closely with this group, I want to assure the Southern Baptists in West Virginia that they were well represented in the Search Process.  Each member prayerfully approached this task with no personal agendas.  There were no pre-concieved favorite candidates brought to the table.  We met seven times (six in person and one by conference call) and considered 19 resumes received via email through a system set up by our State Convention Communications Director, Cleve Persinger.  We appreciate Cleve's valuable assistance in this task. The Committee considered each resume carefully. We had a number of excellent candidates and it was difficult to narrow them down to six "semi finalists".  We interviewed what we deemed to be our top four and then came to the difficult task of selecting one candidate for recommendation to the Executive Board.  Eric Ramsey was selected by an 80% vote of our committee and he graciously accepted our recommendation. 

I am thankful that the Executive Committee voted to call Eric and I am truly excited to have Eric and his lovely wife, Gaye coming to join us here in the Mountain State. He needs our support, as challenges lie ahead for him. He is up to the challenges, and knows that "With God, all things are possible". I hope each pastor and every Southern Baptist in West Virginia will pray for and support Eric in his work of helping to lead us in accomplishing the Great Commission - starting here in "Wild and Wonderful" West Virginia, and reaching around the globe.  

In my next post to "For What It's Worth" I will share what I believe were several positive lessons we learned during this search process.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

20 Year Old "Letter to My Newborn Grandson"

I am thankful for Jay Adkins posting in SBC Voices the "Letter to My Newborn Grandson" that I wrote 20 years ago on the birth of our first grandson.  Read it here   His post brought tears to my eyes.  I am thankful for what that grandson, Caudle Jerry Adkins V, is doing for the Lord now and I can only imagine what the future holds for him.  Happy birthday Quint.  I am proud of the young man you have become.  He is the first of five grandsons. I am thankful that all of them are followers of Christ.

 #BlessedBeyondMeasure  #ProudPapaw

Friday, January 24, 2020

Thank God and the Insurance Company!!!

On November 27 about 4:45 PM I was sitting at my desk in my study which is at the far west end of the educational wing of Westmoreland Baptist Church.  The secretary and youth pastor were both gone for the day.  I was trying to wrap things up so I could get home to help Linda start preparations for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  But that is when the phone call came.

Our neighbor across Hughes Street was on the line. She said,"I wasn't sure if anyone was there or not, but did you know your column is out in the street?"

What???  I ran out the door at the Welcome Center at the far west end of the building and could hardly believe my eyes.  One of the four huge 20 foot columns that had graced the front of our building since 1956 had actually blown over!

It had been a wild day to say the least.  We had been warned by Tony Cavalier (the News Channel 3 meterologist) that it was going to be a day of high winds. Boy oh boy!  That was an understatement. The wind had howled all day long blowing from the west to the east.  Some gusts were going to be as high as 65-75 mph Tony had warned us.  That is near the threshold of hurricane force. I was worried about my roof holding up back at the house, and fearful that some more of the siding would be blown off the side of my home.  Losing one of those massive columns was the last thing I expected that day!

For several months large cracks in the surface covering of two of the columns had been noted by several of our folks.  One of the long time members who had long been involved in church maintenance activities assured us "I've always been told that there are steel beams inside each column and the columns, themselves, are only decorative."  Our Stewardship Committee (who were just finishing up their proposed budget for 2020) had noted the need for repair work on the columns. Due to the size of the things, and our limited budget, it went on the "wish list" for 2020, knowing that eventually we would need to take care of the problems.  We had no idea that it would jump from the wish list to the "gotta deal with it now" list at any time so soon.

With the column down - as can be seen in the upper right photo, it was easy to see there was NO steel beam inside as was once thought. Understandably there is no one at the church now who was old enough to be involved in the construction of this building back in 1956, so the steel beam theory turned out to be mythology.  Knowing this, it put a much higher priority on the badly cracked column next to the fallen one - and the one on the far west of the portico, which was beginning to show some cracking, itself.

It turns out that the wooden columns had begun to deteriorate from standing water trapped inside them. Drain holes had been calked up at some time long ago when the columns had gone through a painting project. Now - nearly rotted out at the base, the columns had actually "dropped down"  - not enough to be visible to the untrained eye - but enough to weaken the fallen one enough that the high winds just knocked it over.

Having worked as a Nationwide Insurance Company agent for 22 years - I had little hope that we would get much help from our insurance company due to the nature of the damage. "Call Church Mutual" I advised our Trustees and we need to get someone to get in here quickly to secure it from further damage.  Ryan Smith (our bi-youth pastor and contractor, himself) suggested Classic Construction Co, with whom he had previous dealings.  He said, "They would be equipped to handle something of this scale". So we gave them a call and they were there the next morning to shore up the portico roof with scaffolding and steel beams for a temporary fix.

The Christmas holidays were coming up quickly and it was going to take a while for the adjusters and the construction company - which had several other jobs in progress - to be able to get much done before the end of the year.  The area was secured and protected from further damage, but it was certainly unsightly as well as inconvenient.

We knew that the security work was going to be costly, but what really concerned us was how we would ever be able to afford to replace the down'd column, as well as how we would be able to replace or repair the others.  Estimates began to come in and the prices were frightening.  The estimated cost to replace the columns would be about $25,000 and we were looking at three more who were in bad shape.This was going to be a huge undertaking for an average sized congregation.

We didn't break out into a panic, but the trustees and stewardship committees were frantically discussing what possible options we might have.  We had inherited some money from an estate bequeath several years ago, but some of that was in a trust fund and some was in bonds that had not yet come to maturity.  Would we have to go into heavy debt after getting out from under our mortgage just a few years ago.  We still hadn't heard back from the insurance company and every day the concern got a little greater.  My head was telling me that we had a real problem here, but there was a strange peace in my heart that things would be ok.  I urged our congregation to be in earnest prayer for the situation and to remember the promise of Philippians 4:19, "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory, through Christ Jesus."

Well, to make a long story shorter, let me cut to the chase.  When we finally heard from the Insurance Company, it was in a letter that said they had mailed us a check in the amount of $109,000.  This would actually be enough to pay for the replacement cost of ALL FOUR columns! That was wonderful news. However, we knew that there would be other expenses, not the least of which being the emergency work that had been done immediately following.  In just a couple of days we got another letter from the insurance company stating they had recalculated and another check was on the way.  In the final analysis, the cost of replacing all four columns were covered by our insurance. Furthermore, the new columns would have almost identical capstones and bases as those which graced the old columns since I was a six year old!

Now I can hear you saying, "Well, that's what insurance is for". But I'm telling you that from my experience, that with our situation I was basically hoping that the insurance might pay for debris removal and emergency work but I truly had doubts that it would be much more than that. But thanks be to God (and Church Mutual Insurance Company) the new columns have been ordered and should be in place by Easter!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Benefit of Affliction

Psalm 119:71 It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.
I first discovered this verse (buried deep in the longest Psalm) about 15 years ago, when I was undergoing chemotherapy treatments for Stage 4, “incurable” Colon Cancer.

On first blush, one might think that the great poet, shepherd, and King, David must have been out of his mind to think that affliction was a good thing.  After all, for years he had been threatened, hunted, and intended to be killed by the God rejected King Saul. But during his time as a fugitive, David learned some valuable lessons. One of which was there are times that it us good for us to be afflicted.

Dr. W. Moodie has enumerated some of the benefits of affliction as follows:
I. THEY AWAKEN US TO SERIOUS THOUGHT. When, by reverse of fortune, we are deprived of the means of pleasures in which we had too profusely indulged; when the companions of our happier years forsake us; when pain and disease unfit us for tasting our wonted comforts, and forewarn us of death; on a sudden, the enchantment is broken; our conduct, to which we had not hitherto attended, rises in review before us; virtue and vice are exhibited in a light in which we had not viewed them before, and our souls, awakened from the dream of dissipation, commune seriously with themselves.
III. THEY SERVE TO EXERCISE AND DISPLAY OUR VIRTUES. It is the storm that tries the strength of the vessel.
IV. THEY HAVE A NATURAL TENDENCY TO IMPROVE OUR PIOUS AFFECTIONS. When the fabric of our felicity falls, we perceive whose hand it was that supported it, and whose hand it is that alone can rear it anew. We feel our dependence on that Providence which, before, we had neglected to acknowledge, and seek, in communion with God, the consolation which our sufferings require.
V. THEY HAVE A TENDENCY TO ENLIVEN OUR HOPE OF IMMORTALITY. The doctrine of a future existence is no longer regarded as a subject of cold speculation; it addresses itself to the tenderest feelings that can arise in the human breast; your minds are prepared to yield to the evidence by which it is confirmed, and you cherish it as your support under afflictions which admit of no other consolation.

As I mentioned earlier, I had come across this verse during a very difficult time in my life. The cancer was aggressive and considered to be incurable. I was only 54 years old. I had only been pastor here for two short years and was still on my “honeymoon” period with the congregation. Our sons were just getting their own families established, and we had three little grandsons whom I had hoped to watch grow up.  We had mortgages on three pieces of property that I dreaded leaving for Linda – along with all the medical bills that would be left behind! And naturally, I was hurting due to the disease and the vicious treatments that we hoped might give me some “extra time”.  I could see no blessing in any part of this dark time of affliction.

But God intervened. I didn’t die like “I was supposed to”.  After a period of two years of treatments, surgical and other related procedures, I went into remission from that cancer with no recurrence of it still today!

Looking back, I began to understand some of the ways in which “it was good for me that I had been afflicted.  When I was first called to WBC a neighboring pastor told me I might be making a mistake.  “They are not very good to their pastors” I was told.  “It’s a revolving door”, he said.  But, I was also told by GHBA Director of Missions, Doug Virgin, “There are good people there. They just need someone to love them and lead them”. I set out to try to do that.
During my first two years at WBC I sought to minister to the people.  I ministered to a lot of hurt.  But then after two years I was stricken with the malignancy, and for the next two years, the church ministered to me!  God used my illness to help bring our church closer together as a faith family.
That time of affliction gave me a stronger and deeper love for this congregation. Having gone through such a trial enabled me to have more empathy for others (who were suffering, themselves) to whom I was ministering.

That time of my affliction drove me deeper into the Word of God, for instruction, for comfort, and for answering my questions as to why me?    After all, remember, David wrote “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.”

That time of my affliction drew me closer to my family and friends, burning into my heart the blessing of having them all in my life! Life was more precious.  The grass was greener, the sky was more blue, and people, in general, became more precious to me.

That time of affliction brought me closer to God.  I learned to truly trust Him, and that everything He brought my way was either for my good, or His Glory, or BOTH! I began to more fully understand His peace that surpasses all understanding, that I had preached and talked about for decades.

I learned to identify with what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:9, But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Over this past year and a half, I have been facing some new physical afflictions, with a new cancer, one for which there is not a good chemotherapy. More recently a wicked infection has caused me to lose more of my right foot.  It’s been a rough 18 months – but the lessons learned years ago regarding affliction remain strong in my memory, and I still claim the ancient promise of Psalm 119:71 still today.

I love what Charles H. Spurgeon said about this verse: “Trial is our school where God teaches us on the blackboard. This school-house has no windows to let in the cheerful light. It is very dark, and so we cannot look out and get distracted by external objects; but God's grace shines like a candle within, and by that light we see what else we had never seen.”

The late Veda Young, who was suffering from an inoperable brain tumor back in 2004 told me, “I’m not going to spend the rest of my life dying”, and she didn’t.  I have tried to make that philosophy my own.
As we approach Thanksgiving, let us not only remember to thank God for our blessings but to even be thankful for the blessing of affliction!

Monday, August 12, 2019

An Update for West Virginia Southern Baptists

This will be my only public communication on this subject,  as we begin our work as a Search Committee,  I thought it important to pass along this information to our brothers and sisters across the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptist congregations.

As we all know, our former State Convention Executive Director, Bill Henard, has resigned that position to re-enter the pastorate.  Bill did an excellent job during his tenure here in the Mountain State, and we wish him the very best as he assumes his new position in Tenessee and this next chapter of his ministry..

The task of filling the vacancy is a process that begins with the State Convention Administrative Committee. This committee  consists of the four elected officers of the State Convention, the Chairperson of the Finance Committee, and two members at large from the Executive Board, elected by the Executive Board. Our State Convention constitution spells out the procedure for filling a vacancy in the position of Executive Article V, Section 2, Subsection C,  Paragraphs (2)a. & b.

The first action of the Administrative Committee was to choose an Interim Director to serve in the office until a new Director is selected by vote of the Executive Board.  After some deliberation, the
Admin Committee chose Cledith Campbell, who after a couple of days of prayer and consideration, agreed to accept the position.  Cledith is a Godly man. A man of integrity and one who has served Altizer Baptist Church in Huntington as pastor for the past 46 years!  Cledith has served the State Convention and the Greater Huntington Baptist Association in many capacities. He also served the Southern Baptist Convention as a Board Member of the former Christian Life Commission (now known as the ERLC).  He is a man who holds a high view of scripture and has pastored the same church for 46 years of the 50 that our State Convention has been in existence.  All of these factors, plus his ability to work well with others, to understand and work within budgets, and the fact that he lives within 35 minutes of the State Convention office, and his willingness to commit to being in the office three days per week made him an ideal candidate for this temporary position. This puts a quality man in this interim position, and allowed the Admin Committee to proceed with the responsibility of appointing a Search Committee to make recommendation for a permanent Exec.

The Admin Committee recommends 15 people to the Executive Board to serve as a Search Committee to seek out, and make recommendation to the Executive Board, a qualified candidate to serve as State Executive Director. The Search Committee is mandated to be comprised of a Pastor from each Association in the State Convention "and other persons as shall give representation to various areas and interests" of the WVCSB, and "shall be knowledgeable of the Executive Board and the State Convention".  The Admin Committee proposed the following individuals who consist of Pastors, an Association Director of Missions, and a Pastor's wife who has previously served on the Executive Board, and who has been very active in State Convention activities in the past.

The Executive Board approved each of the following individuals, with no dissenting votes:

  • Allegheny Association - Dallas Smith (FBC Fairlea) and Randy Spurgeon (Anstead Baptist)
  • Coalfields Association - Rick Gannon (Borderland Baptist)
  • Greater Huntington Association - Paul Harris (Abundant Hope Baptist and State Convention President) and C.J. Adkins (Westmoreland Baptist & 2nd Vice President)
  • Immanuel Association - Jim Messenger (Faith Baptist, West Union & State Recording Secretary) and Lynn Sommerville (pasor's wife, Southside Southern Baptist)
  • Monongahela Association - Jim Strawderman (Southern Baptist of Philippi) and Don Knotts (Salt and Light Church)
  • Mountain State Association - Kevin Howerton (Covenant Church, Princeton)
  • Pioneer Association - Mason Ballard (Resurrection Church, Charleston)
  • Potomac Highland - Nathan Ertel (Old Fields Baptist & State Convention 1st Vice President)
  • Tri-County Association - Bryan Dugger (Westview, Martinsburg)
  • Upper Ohio Valley Association - Ed Goodman (UOVA Director of Missions & Jim Higginson (Temple Baptist)
We met for our "organizational meeting" this past Thursday in Flatwoods, WV.  By secret ballot, I was chosen chairperson and Ed Goodman as vice chair.  We asked Jim Messenger to serve as recording secretary.  As I said at the top of this post, this will be my ONLY public communication regarding the make up and the work of our committee, but I want our fellow Baptists to understand what we, as a committee, have discussed and agreed upon as we begin our work.
  • We are a Search Committee, NOT a "Hiring Committee".  When we complete our work and come to an agreement on a proposed candidate, that individual's name will be forwarded to the Executive Board for their consideration.  The Search Committee hires no one.
  • Each member of our Committee is one voice among fifteen equals.  Each member will be respected by each of the other members and, obviously, their opinions are of equal value.
  • We have agreed upon confidentiality until our task is completed. (that is why I say this will be my only public comments on this committee)
  • None of us have any personal or hidden agendas.  None of us have committed to, or are in support of any potential candidate for the position.  Our only agenda is to seek out that individual who God has for West Virginia.
  • We have agreed to bathe every activity in prayer, seeking wisdom from God, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
  • We are committed to do everything honestly and with transparency of motives, and "by the book" Two of us were privileged to have served on the previous Search Committee and we are committed to the integrity of this committee.
  • We will accept resumes for the position for a period of two months, once we officially launch our activities next week.
  • A Job Description already exists, and when we meet again in Flatwoods on Thursday, August 22 we will agree upon Qualifications and Characteristics expected of candidates for the position, and we will officially launch our search.
  • At that point, Cleve Persinger, in our State Convention office will release the Job Description and Qualifications in various media sources, with directions for submission of resumes
I am honored to serve with these individuals as we serve our State Convention in this important task. Also, I am humbled by their confidence in selecting me to chair the committee. I pledge to do my best to prayerfully lead our committee to be faithful to our mission.

Sadly, at least one person has publicly questioned the appropriateness of our State Convention President serving on the Search Committee due to the fact that his wife is a State Convention office employee. We do not take this accusation lightly, but this should not be a concern due to the following reasons. First, he has been elected for two terms as 2nd Vice President, two terms as 1st VP, and was elected last fall as our State Convention President.  His wife being a convention secretary did not exhibit a problem in any of these elections.  Secondly, there is nothing in our State Convention Constitution that prohibits the President from serving on the search committee. This is not without precedent. Our last Search Committee (the one which recommended Dr. Henard) included the then serving State Convention President as a member. Finally, consultation has been made with the West Virginia State Ethics Commission, (the public body which oversees ethical questions in our State Government). Their representative advises that due to the fact that this is a Search Committee, and not the entity who will make a hiring decision, that there is no breach of ethics here, nor, under their definition, does this situation equal nepotism. It is customary for search committees to consist of individuals from various segments of communities, including persons who may serve under the individual who may be recommended for hiring. 

So, having said all this, please know that we take this responsibility very seriously, with malice toward none, no agendas at hand, and committed to integrity to the task, let me ask every church in West Virginia, and every individual to join us in prayer, that God would lead us and we will be attuned to the guidance of His Spirit.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

New Life On Wednesday Evenings At Westmoreland Baptist

    Things are happening on Wednesday evenings here at Westmoreland Baptist Church, and many folks are missing out on the blessing.  By last Summer the former Wednesday evening church “Prayer Meeting and Bible Study” attendance had dwindled down to about a dozen people in attendance. With our Student and Children’s Ministries meeting on Sunday evening, and nothing for them on Wednesdays, family attendance had fallen down to nearly nothing.  We knew that something needed to be done to inject some energy and interest in our mid-week service.  After much prayer – and overcoming the always present Baptist “fear of change” about a year ago we decided to go for it.

     First of all, we moved the location of the service to the gymnasium across the alley in our Multi-Purpose building.  Naturally, the Gospel is what Church is all about.  Everything we do must be Gospel focused, so Bible Study is still the key in our Wednesday night get-togethers.  We have just finished a yearlong Bible Study entitled the “Disciple’s Path: The Journey”.  On August 7th we will begin a new Bible study that will take us through the end of 2019. This study is one I have compiled over the years and is entitled, “From Here to Eternity”.  It is a study in the doctrine of last things – a subject in which there is great interest among almost everyone.  While it is an excellent study for church members, this Gospel centered message would also be great for us to bring unsaved friends to hear, as well. Study guides will be provided to all who attend, and there is no charge for the materials.  This study is for adults and students from middle school age – up.

     The second thing that has changed on Wednesday evening is activity for the children.  Our Children’s Choir Ministry has been incorporated into the mid-week schedule.  This activity is overseen and directed by Josh and Mindi Spurgeon, and participation in this has exploded.  They started out with 8 children, and now they have already outgrown their Children’s Choir room with 19 children involved!  The Children’s Choir will share their talents with the congregation periodically on Sunday mornings.  Child care is also provided for the little ones who are not yet old enough to be in Children’s Choir on Wednesday evenings.

     All of the above activities take place at 6:00 PM

     The third change we have incorporated for mid-week service is a Family/Fellowship Meal at 5:15 PM.  This, obviously, is not an original concept, but it is new for us on Wednesday evenings. This has proven to be a real blessing to working families who have little time to prepare an evening meal between getting home from work and getting the family out to church.  I am so thankful for the ladies in our Bible Study who have taken on the responsibility of planning menus and taking turns in preparing the Wednesday evening meal.

      I think that anyone who has been involved in our changes in the mid-week services will agree that these changes have been positive in nature. Attendances shows that.  Our highest attendance has been 58 and there has been a good turn out each week – even during these Summer vacation times.

     So, whether you have a family, or are a single person, there is something for everyone here on Wednesday evenings. There is good food and fellowship with our “forever family” of believers, ministry activity for the children, and the  building of relationships, centered around the study of God’s Word.  It is in a comfortable, informal setting and everyone is welcome!

     Come for dinner at 5:15, or just for Bible Study and/or Children’s Choir at 6:00 PM.  Whichever you choose to do, we have a spot for you. Don’t miss out on a good thing – come out and see for yourself!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Main Thing!

Former Greater Huntington Association Director of Missions, Doug Virgin, was fond of quoting Steven Covey, saying, “We’ve got to keep the main thing, the main thing!  How true!  In church life we are constantly bombarded by The Adversary to be distracted by any number of peripheral issues, and he sees to it that there are plenty to consider. 

Paul the Apostle wrote to the Corinthian Christians these important words. “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Cor 1:1-2)

Everything we do as a church (and as individual members of that Body) should be centered around the message of the Gospel. 

In Acts, chapter 28 we see the Apostle Paul is on his way to Rome for his appeal trial before Caesar.  His crime?  Standing for the message of the Gospel. God had told Paul earlier that he would take the Gospel to government officials and kings.  He probably didn’t think it would be as a prisoner – but you and I can never pretend to know the mind or plans of a Sovereign God for our lives.
There were numerous efforts of Satan to stymie Paul in his mission.  As a prisoner back in Jerusalem, there had been a plot to kill Paul. He was hustled out of town by a company of Roman soldiers. Then he was kept in custody by the Roman governor for two years. Now, as a prisoner on his way to Rome, we find him shipwrecked and swimming ashore to the nearby island of Melita.  Surviving the shipwreck, Paul is bitten by a poisonous snake as he gathers a bundle of sticks in trying to help warm the other survivors of the wreck.  The natives who saw him struck by the deadly viper thought he would drop dead right away but Paul shook the snake off into the fire and went on about his ministry.

This is exactly what we must do when snakebites from Satan keep us from focusing on “the main thing”.

Financial woes, criticism, cynicism, gossip, maintenance issues, worship styles, debates over scripture translations and Sunday School literature, programs, kitchen use, and preaching styles -  our enemy will see to it that we all are snake bitten with some distractions as we go about our work in the church.  May we follow Pau’s example and shake those snakes off into the fire and go on with our ministry and mission.

The main command of the Great Commission is to "go" but to “Make Disciples”. This starts with winning the lost to Christ through presentation of the Gospel message. Scriptural Baptism follows, and the discipleship making plan then moves on to teach them “all that he has commanded us” so that in turn, they may be able to disciple others. This builds His church.  The snakebites are designed to stop the work.
It’s up to each of us individually to accomplish that mission.  

Whatever you do in the church,  like Paul, let us have the same focus he had in 1 Corinthians 9:23-24  (ESV) I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.

I implore each member of our church, or members of any church who may be reading this.  Shake off the snakes and move on with the message of the Gospel - each one of us as members of the Body, working to accomplish the mission.

THIS is the main thing!