Category Archives: Ministry

Preacher Notes: BIVO Sermon Prep

After reading this post on NAMB’s SEND Network blog, I thought I would offer an explanation of my sermon prep habits for fellow BIVO workers.

When I was a seminary student, I longed for the day when I would be a full-time pastor and have the ability to block off hours of my schedule to devote to sermon study. However, God would have other plans. What I did not know is that He would lead me to a bi-vocational (BIVO) lifestyle and ministry.

Over the course of eight years of working as a middle school science teacher, missionary, and church planter, I have had to figure out how to balance the demands of family, work, and ministry while ensuing that I have time to prepare my sermon each week. While I don’t spend 20 hours working on a sermon, I do dedicate myself to study and preparation. What follows is a synopsis of what I attempt to practice, knowing that each week is different and demands on my time can change.

Monday, Tuesday, & Wednesday: reading the text in my quiet time

Early in the week, I take time to read the text and meditate upon it. I mostly preach expositional sermons rather than topical sermons, so I approach the text asking, “What does it mean?” and “How does it apply to me?” During this period, I will make observations about the text, ask questions, and even propose a basic outline.

Thursday: outline & overview
By Thursday, I feel familiar with the text and begin to use commentaries to answer any questions I have asked during my reading thus far. I have Thursday evenings blocked off to read commentaries, extract quotes/illustrations, finalize my outline, and possibly begin typing my notes.

Friday & Saturday: family & friends
I normally don’t complete any sermon study on Friday & Saturday beyond reading the text (and maybe a section of a commentary) during my quiet times as Friday nights are typically reserved for outings with friends and Saturdays are “family days.”

Sunday: final prep & preach
During the week, I do all of my initial sermon study in a notebook. I love taking the time to write using pen & paper. On Sunday morning, I will wake up around 5:30 and finalize typing my notes and sermon slides before my family wakes up. I feel this helps me review the text before beginning the business that is “Sunday morning set-up.” As we are a small church, I help set-up most weeks and play drums in the worship band, so this early morning session is my last chance to review.

When it comes time to preach, I use my Cambridge Wide-Margin ESV, and my notes have been transferred to iBooks on my iPad. I love using a physical Bible, and my iPad allows me to easily flip between pages without having to worry about anything falling from my music stand.

Final Thoughts:
Much of what I learned about preaching came from my mentor, Bro. Al Jackson of Lakeview Baptist in Auburn, AL. He is a great preacher and teacher, and having the opportunity to learn from him has impacted me greatly. The book he used in class was Wayne McDill’s 12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching.

If you are BIVO and want to know more about how to prepare sermons while balancing the secular and the sacred, I recommend you reach out to Hugh Halter. I recently received some coaching from him, and he has some great advice to offer in this area.

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Books for Church Planters

Earlier today, I came across this post on recommended books for church planters. Since I am a church planter, I thought I would offer my own recommendations here. Following are my top three recommendations and one honorable mention.

Hugh Halter, BIVO: A Modern Day Guide for Bi-vocational Saints

Most of the literature for church planters centers on equipping planters who are focused on their work in a full-time capacity. As someone who is a bi-vocational planter, this book was extremely encouraging and helpful as it gave great validation to my method of planting. Furthermore, understanding the costs associated with planting in the urban landscape and the need for more new plants, I would recommend this book to anyone considering planting, especially in the urban context.

Lance Ford and Brad Brisco, The Missional Quest

Ford and Brisco offer a different take on church planting and evangelism, encouraging their readers to truly love their neighbors and focus on planting in a “movement mindset” rather than a “maintenance mindset.” This book will help equip any reader to better focus on contextualizing their methods to the needs of the community, thus hopefully resulting in a sustainable plant.

Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

In seminary, I was told by a professor, “Pick a dead guy. Read his stuff. Learn from him.” A few years ago, I came across this book, and since then, I have enjoyed studying Bonhoeffer’s works. He was by no means a perfect theologian, and some debate whether or not he could be considered an “evangelical,” but his life story, that is, his desire to make disciples who make disciples, his love for Christ, and his personal sacrifice can be a great encouragement to church planters struggling in the battlefield of daily ministry.

HONORABLE MENTION: Eugene Kranz, Failure is Not an Option

I love learning about the history of spaceflight, and along the way, I have read almost every astronaut biography that has been written. Several years ago, I read this work by a former NASA Flight Director and was amazed at his story of hard work and dedication. Church planting is a difficult task, and Kranz’s story of the rewards and challenges of one’s life work can provide some much-needed encouragement.

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A radical change

Today I am getting rid of my smart phone. I could expound greatly upon numerous reasons, but I will instead quickly summarize. First, I long for holiness and to humbly be an example for others. For years, I’ve joked with my mentor, Bro. Al Jackson about his not having a cell phone or a computer. I am beginning to understand his choices more and more each day.

Men have come to me confessing how their smart phones have become an instrument for sin, especially the lust of the eyes. Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” (Matthew 5:29 ESV) In order to be an example to the men over whom God has called me to be an overseer, and to prevent an opportunity for myself to sin, I am trashing my iPhone, that device that is so attached to me that it has become a “member.”

Furthermore, I want to be a good father. My smartphone, that is being constantly available via text or email, combined with a desire to update social networks, has taken time away from my children. I want them to see their dad as a partner in playtime, a caring husband, and a servant to others, not someone attached to his phone.

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology. I love my Apple laptop, iPad, and Apple TV. I think technology does great things for our lives. However, I have to decide what is more important – technology or holiness; technology or family

Seems like an easy call to me.

Of course, people have raised objections. Here’s some common things I’ve heard and my responses.

“What will you do for GPS when your drive?” I’m going to buy a GPS unit for my car.

“What if people need to immediately get in touch with you?”
If it’s that urgent, they’ll know how to find me.

“Won’t you miss social media, email, and texting others?”
I still have a computer and an iPad, so I’m not completely cut off. Plus, the postal service still delivers mail each day; consider writing me a letter.

“Your choice is too drastic to me. I could never do that.”
I used to say the same thing to Bro. Al. This is my choice, not yours.

In conclusion, I ask that you pray for me…that God would continue to mold me into the husband, father, and pastor He has called me to be. May my life honor Him always.

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Serving Church Plants and Church Planters

For the last five years, I have lived and worked in New York City as a church planter. During this time, I have had the opportunity to meet many men whom feel called to church planting and are seeking the advice of current planters. While I by no means feel that I am an expert in church planting, I do feel that my experience has given me some insight which may be passed along to hopeful planters.

Recently, several potential planters have crossed my path who have raised some concerns in regards to their preparation for church planting. These men are clearly called and seminary-trained, but they lack something – secular work experience and secular vocational training.

You might be wondering why this is a problem. Well, in my experience, I have seen it extremely beneficial for church planters to be prepared to work in a bi-vocational setting in order to support their families and the work of the church. Raising support is a possibility, but what happens if the support runs out? Men need to be prepared to persevere, not retreat.  J.D. Payne, my former church planting professor at SBTS, wrote an article on ethical guidelines for church planters in which he included the following statement:

Guideline # 6: Since our calling to this ministry, people, and location is from God and not based on money, we will not end our church planting ministry in this area simply if our financial support ends, but rather will make appropriate plans for the future of our personal finances.

And, we do not only need to consider the need for support, but reproducing church planters and church plants. To really impact the culture with the gospel, we need thousands of churches to be planted. This will be more easily accomplished if we seek to prepare and send out men with the ability to support themselves. Once again, Payne writes,

Guideline #2:  Since the world consists of four billion unbelievers, with two billion who have never heard the gospel, our strategy will involve the use of highly reproducible church planting methods.

So, I ask, “Are we doing our best to serve church plants and church planters in our methods of preparation?” In asking this, I am not negating the need for biblical education. I am very thankful for my time at SBTS and have been immensely blessed by my training. Rather, I want to examine the way we approach undergraduate men who express a call to  ministry. Should we push men to get degrees in biblical studies, religion, and other “pre-seminary degrees”? Or, should we press them to study business, engineering, science, and technology, in order that they gain real-world skills which will enable them to enter a context, find a job, and begin the work of a planter immediately, without having to worry about raising support first?

Thoughts?

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30 for 30 #14: Final Surf in Australia

Noosa

The Sunshine Coast

During the summer of 2003, I had the wonderful opportunity to serve with the International Mission Board and be placed with a church in Buderim, Queensland (Australia) as a youth and children’s worker. The church with which I worked, Goodlife Church, was relatively new and employed a rather interesting ministry model in terms of their building. Rather than seeking to build a traditional church building, the church leadership and membership built a community center, complete with a basketball court, swimming pool, skate park, aerobics room, squash courts, seminar rooms, and cafe. During the week, the building functioned as a gathering place for people in the community, and on Friday nights and Sundays, it was a gathering place for the church.

Thanks to the generosity of the founding pastor, Doug, I was loaned a car to use. This allowed me to participate in almost every program offered by the church including weekly children’s and youth activities, touch rugby matches,  youth camp, Sunday services, and discipleship and planning meetings. It also allowed me explore the area – Mt. CoolumKondalilla falls, the Australia Zoo, and local beaches.

While all that was great fun, the best part of my free time was learning to surf. Buderim and the neighboring communites of Maroochydore and Mooloolabah are in an area called the Sunshine Coast. This area is beautiful. One of the couples from the church loaned me their longboard, and almost everyday, I went to the beach in the afternoon to surf.  Very quickly, surfing became a way that I engaged people and made friends. On the water, I met teenagers who I invited to youth activities. I also met a group of people my age from Goodlife would go surfing each Friday morning at sunrise and make breakfast on the beach – I was there each week, and these were good times.

There were many experiences I will always remember from that summer – going to youth camp, worshipping with a group of vibrant believers, handling logistics for the church’s missions expo, trying a skateboard for the first time, playing touch rugby each week, going to my first and only Australian rule football game (Brisbane Lions), fishing at Noosa, making French Toast for some close friends on a Saturday morning, SCUBA diving, seeing the Southern Cross for the first time, and watching the sun rise over the ocean from a longboard. Nevertheless, there is one that stands above the rest – my final surf.

On my last full day in the Sunshine Coast (7-28-2003) I gathered with a few friends, Russ, Kane, and Smiley, and we hit the waves one more time. I don’t fully remember the waves I caught or the times I crashed. However, I do remember sitting on my board, surrounded by some good friends and enjoying God’s Creation.

If God ever allows, I will return in a heartbeat. There will always be a special place in my heart for the Sunshine Coast and the people there.

10 Year Anniversary Celebration from Goodlife Community Centre on Vimeo.

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30 for 30 #9: RA Campouts

While attending First Baptist Clanton as a child and a teenager, I was involved in a missions-education program called “Royal Ambassadors.” On Wednesday nights, we read RA lessons and learned about SBC missions emphases and offerings such as Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong. The main educational focus of this program was to train boys to be missions-minded men and developed followers of Christ, as expressed by the Royal Ambassador pledge:

As a Royal Ambassador I will do my best: to become a well-informed, responsible follower of Christ; to have a Christ-like concern for all people; to learn how to carry the message of Christ around the world; to work with others in sharing Christ; and to keep myself clean and healthy in mind and body.

As a participant in RA’s, one also had the opportunity to play in a basketball league, which attracted many boys to the program. While I did enjoy playing basketball, there was one yearly event that I looked forward to more than basketball – the annual RA campout.

Each year, the men of the church hosted a campout for all the boys involved in RA’s and their dads. We would go to someone’s land, set up a tent, build a campfire, cook all our meals outdoors, play tackle football (without pads of course…this was a man’s event), and enjoy the finale of the campout – capture the flag.

Beginning as soon as dinner was completed and darkness fell, we would dress in our black masks and camo, choose teams, and begin an all-night quest to protect our flag while conquering the other team. It was epic every time.

I’ll never forget some of those nights – hiding in a creek bed with Morris Bramlett and his dad while capturing invaders seeking to get to our flag, using a video camera with night vision to attempt to see possible enemies, and of course, the thrill of winning as you grabbed flag and returned to your base.

I hope that one day, Cornerstone Church has enough families where we can attempt a campout with our boys – having fun while also teaching them to become men of God.

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30 for 30 #8: Youth Camp in Panama City

Youth Camp

Youth Camp

When thinking about growing up in Clanton and being a part of the youth group at First Baptist Church, there is one memory that stands above the others: going toPanama City Beach for youth camp each summer. Throughout my entire time in the youth group, we would rent a retreat facility in PCB that was only a short walk from the beach. Our days were filled with Bible study, ping pong tournaments, pool time, beach time, and worship services. I always looked forward to going to see the beach, spend time with my best friends, and grow in my relationship with Jesus. I’ll always remember the walks to the beach for free time, the friends we made from Aliceville and Elba, and of course the night I sat on the beach and while pondering the words of Psalm 8, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” I truly made a decision to follow Christ with my life.

Those were good times.

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30 for 30 #3: Pat Dye’s Farm

While I was a seminary student and intern at Lakeview Baptist Church in Auburn, Alabama, I was required each week to follow-up with people who visited our worship services on Sunday. Assignments for follow-up visits would be given on Monday during staff meeting, and visits were made on Tuesday evening following dinner and evangelism training.

So, let’s get to the part about Pat Dye’s farm…

On Monday, Jacob (another intern) and I received an assignment to follow-up with a man who had visited on Sunday. It was an address located in a rural area near Auburn, and since Jacob knew the area well, we were excited to go. The next evening, we jumped in his truck and headed down the road to this address.

As we arrived at the given address, we noticed something strange…and exciting…we were at Pat Dye’s farm. Now, for those of you who are not Auburn men and women, this may not mean anything, but for an AU grad, Pat Dye is an iconic Auburn figure, having been the football coach at Auburn during a large chunk of my formative years.

The name on the card was not “Pat Dye,” but we figured that if you’re a somewhat famous SEC coach, you may want to be able to visit somewhere incognito. So, what did we do? We drove right up to his house and knocked on the door. The main door was open, and through the screen door we could hear music playing in the background. “Coach?!?” we called, but heard no reply. Ready and willing to share with him about our faith in Christ and wanting to meet an Auburn great, we were not giving up so easily. We jumped back in the truck and rode to another part of his farm hoping to see him. Soon, we met one of his employees who stopped and asked who we were and what we were doing. “We’re from Lakeview Baptist in Auburn, and we’ve come to see Coach Dye,” we replied. “Well, you just missed him. He’s gone for the day.” We told the man, “Thanks,” and went on our way back to the main road.

It was late and getting dark, and knowing that Coach Dye’s farm was also a hunting retreat (note: guns), we decided it would be best to only attempt a visit during daylight hours. So we returned to Auburn. Now, we could have given up, but we decided to return again the following week.

After a similar experience to the one described above, we decided to ride down one more road which ran adjacent to the property to see if we could find our visitor. Not too far down this little dirt road in rural Alabama, we came across a run-down trailer, and there was a man in the front yard, so we stopped to ask if he’d seen the coach.

Upon his introduction, we realized we had made a mistake. His name was the one on the visitor card. It was not the coach who visited our church on Sunday, giving an alias on his visitor card, but this man. He had just moved into this trailer and was renting some land from a landowner in the area (I don’t think he ever confirmed that it was Coach Dye). He was recently released from prison and was seeking to begin his life again and was participating in a Christian rehab program, which explained his visit to our church. When we asked about the address, he stated something about not having a mailbox or address yet and using the farm’s address temporarily.

We prayed with him, thanked him for coming to church, asked how we could better serve him, and invited him to come again. All-in-all, it was a successful visit. We never saw this man again, but we were thankful for the opportunity to encourage him as he sought to follow Christ in his new life.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “Why is this one of his favorite memories?” Well, to be honest with you, it was exciting. It was really cool to pull up to an address and realize that you were at the home of someone who has celebrity status, at least in that part of the country. It was nerve-wracking to stand on his porch, at his front door, and think, “What will I say if he answers the door? How will I introduce myself? Will he be gracious, or will he tell us to get off his land?”

When none of that happened, and we realized that we got anxious for no reason, it was a good bit of fun to return to the church and say, “Guess where we’ve been?”

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30 for 30 #1: The Drive

Last year, one of my best friends and fellow Cornerstone core team members, C. David Walters moved to San Diego with his family in order to pursue a Ph.D. in math and math education. While it was sad to see him go, I was able to send him off in a way which was worthy of our friendship – I helped him drive the moving truck to San Diego. We were on the road for almost 7 days in a moving truck with a car trailer in-tow. It involved long days and lots of driving, truck stops, and fast food.

It was one of the best experiences of my life. 6 days, driving across this great country, viewing God’s creation with one of your best friends is amazing. We saw rivers, forests, mountains, deserts, small towns, and big cities. We talked, argued, and laughed. We stood on mountain tops and gazed at all that God created. We made rules about our trip and we broke them. We used an iPhone to complete “aerial reconnaissance” on hotels with possible space to park. We enjoyed and endured each other’s choice of music. We met friends and family along the way. We ate at iconic restaurants, and saw all three major coastlines of the US.

Best yet, we bonded as brothers-in-Christ and made memories that will last a lifetime.

Words are not enough, so here are some pictures. For the full journey check out my instagram page or search for #26ftoffury and #36ftoffury.

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30 for 30

In a few weeks, I will be celebrating a personal milestone: I will turn 30. In order to celebrate the day as well as the last 30 years, I have decided to take some time to reflect upon some of my most fond memories from my life. Therefore, over the next few weeks, I plan to write 30 posts, each detailing a favorite memory, event, or milestone.

I do want to add some clarification for the few people who may take the time to read about my memories. These posts will not be chronological nor will I be giving one per year. Furthermore, they will not appear in any certain order so that more importance be placed on one memory over another; it has been difficult enough to select only 30 events. Finally, I will be omitting some events that are simply “too obvious” to include in my list. If you know me well enough, then you are already aware of the love I have for Jesus, my wife, and my kids. So, rather than writing a post about the day I was wed, or the day my kids were born, or the day I met Jesus and decided to follow Him, I will be writing about memories that have included these individuals or have been inspired by them.

I’ve never been much of a blogger; honestly, I feel that my time is better spent on other things. However, as I think about the mark I want to leave on this Earth, especially on my children, I think there is benefit in spending the time to document my life to share with my loved ones. I hope that you enjoy reading my stories and reminiscing with me.

Just for fun, here’s a preview of what’s to come:

Alf, Pat Dye, Mjaka, Mentone, Chi Chi, RA, 11-02, Fury, Diamond, and more…

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