Wednesday, December 31, 2014

It was one year ago today that I began this blog, seeking to chronicle my church planting internship with the North American Mission Board. While I have been negligent in recent monthly updates, I wanted to provide you with some reflections as my internship winds down. What have I learned this year?
First, I recognize my need to grow in grace. This past year has exposed areas of sin and negligence that I need to work on in the strength of the Holy Spirit. By God's grace, I have been approved by NAMB as a church planter, and I have also been blessed with progress in my spiritual walk. At the same time, the words of the Apostle Paul remind me of my need to continue pursuing godliness: "For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works" (Titus 2:11-14 HCSB).

Second, intentionally reaching out to my neighbors in love with the hope of the gospel needs to be my lifestyle, not simply a year-long exercise for my church planting internship. Loving my neighbors is not optional, nor is evangelism merely an internship requirement. Yet how easily these responsibilities can become squeezed out by other pressing daily concerns. I must remain intentional to continue serving Christ as He has called me to live.

Third, I have seen the necessity of community in evangelism and discipleship. The highlight of this year has been leading a Gospel Community Group. Together, we have encouraged one another, helped one another, held one another accountable, cared for one another, prayed for one another, and loved one another. Christians are called to live life together in service to God, and I have definitely seen the fruit of this biblical truth through our group. I am reminded of the biblical warning of this close-knit life together: "But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception" (Hebrews 3:13 HCSB).

Fourth, the urgent need for a gospel presence in Utah. I assume that I do not need to reproduce the many statistics which clearly show the spiritual darkness which permeates the Salt Lake Valley of Utah. Suffice it to say that my heart continues to be deeply burdened for the light of Jesus Christ to permeate the state. If it is the Lord's will, may He use me in bringing the gospel of perfect righteousness in Christ to Utah!

Fifth, Christ will be glorified through the salvation of sinners and the advancement of His church. Upon Peter's confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, our Savior gave a wonderful promise to His church: "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it" (Matthew 16:18 HCSB). The kingdom of Christ will advance. And it will become manifest in Utah. Praise God!

As a result, I am excited to enter 2015. My church planting internship may have completed, but my service to Christ will continue as long as He gives me breath. May He be glorified through my life, my family, and my church!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

This September was a busy one for me and my family. First of all, we had a lot of preparation to do for our first neighborhood alliance fall kick-off picnic. Over the summer, as I have gotten plugged in to our neighborhood alliance, I have actually become involved in the leadership of this community organization. So I had a lot of planning and preparation to carry out. But it continues to be a great opportunity to get to know my neighbors better and to serve them.

The picnic itself was a great success. My Gospel Community Group was involved, and we were able to meet and begin developing relationships with those living around us. The neighborhood alliance estimated about 150 people came to our picnic, and I was able to spend a little time with many of them. Hopefully, I will be able to continue getting to know them and share with them the gospel of Christ.

Secondly, I have begun the formal process of assessment as a church planter with the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. My wife and I have completed a number of assessment tools over the last few weeks, and now we are waiting for our summary report.

With this in mind, please pray for God to use this assessment as a tool to guide us toward a ministry which will glorify Christ and make Him known. We are also praying for wisdom through this process as we consider what our next steps will be. Thank you again for all of your prayers and encouragement.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

As I mentioned previously, my family devoted the month of August to prayer and fasting. This past month was definitely a time of drawing close to the Lord and seeking His guidance and wisdom. I am so thankful for the time I spent in prayer drawing near to the throne of grace. Christ has greatly helped me as I consider the path moving forward in ministry.

I was also asked to preach twice in the month of August. First, I had the privilege of opening God's Word to the saints at Covenant Baptist Church in Clarksville, Tennessee. With my mind focused on prayer, I thought that it was only fitting to preach from Hebrews 4:14–4:16, "Let Us Pray!" Second, my pastors asked me to preach a sermon in a series going through Hebrews 11. You can watch my message from Hebrews 11:8-10, "Abraham: A Pilgrim Faith" (simply fast forward past the first minute of the video due to technical difficulties with your Bible open.)

Furthermore, it was my joy to lead our Gospel Community Group as we sought to reach out to our neighbors. We threw a back-to-school ice cream social at an area park and had nine people who were not a part of our church show up! Additionally, we are planning to be involved this month in a major neighborhood fall kick-off picnic, so our hope is that we can meet many more neighbors and share with them the love of Christ. Please join with us in praying that we can continue building on the relationships with those that we meet.

Finally, a brief article about my church planting internship was included in the August issue of Woman's Missionary Union's Missions Mosaic. As a result, I received birthday cards from the following churches and individuals letting me know that they were praying for me and my family:
  • A Dear Sister, Colonial Beach VA
  • A Dear Sister, Conway SC
  • A Dear Sister, Decatur GA
  • A Dear Sister, Enterprise AL
  • A Dear Sister, Jasper GA
  • A Dear Sister, Milam TX
  • A Dear Sister, Nashville TN
  • A Dear Sister, Owensville MO
  • A Dear Sister, Rydal GA
  • A Dear Sister, Spartanburg SC
  • A Dear Sister, Transylvania LA
  • A Dear Sister, Warrensburg MO
  • 411 Chapel Baptist Church, Madisonville TN
  • Alpharetta First Baptist Church, Alpharetta GA
  • Alum Spring Baptist Church, Culpeper VA
  • Anacoco First Baptist Church, Anacoco LA
  • Baptist Temple Church, Victoria TX
  • Bethlehem Baptist Church, East Durbin GA
  • Cedar Bluff Baptist Church, Falcon MO
  • Center Grove Baptist Church, Rock Spring GA
  • Charleston First Missionary Baptist Church, Dawson Springs KY
  • Charles Town Baptist Church, Charles Town WV
  • Chesterfield Baptist Church, Chesterfield SC
  • Crane First Baptist Church, Crane MO
  • Cross Memorial Baptist Church, Morgantown NC
  • East Park Avenue Baptist Church, Norton VA
  • Eubank Baptist Church, Eubank KY
  • Fairview Baptist Church, Woodville TX
  • Fellowship Baptist Church, Bitam AL
  • First Baptist Church, Cabot AR
  • First Baptist Church, Drakesboro KY
  • First Baptist Church, Huntsville AL
  • First Baptist Church, Lecanto FL
  • First Baptist Church, Mount Olive AL
  • First Baptist Church, Old Fort NC
  • First Baptist Church, Raytown MO
  • First Baptist Church, Siloan Springs AR
  • Flippin Memorial Baptist Church, Mount Airy NC
  • Friendship Baptist Church, California MO
  • Friendship Baptist Church, Warner Robins GA
  • Hillister Baptist Church, Hillister TX
  • Kirby Baptist Church, Gaffney SC
  • Kirvin Baptist Church, Kirvin TX
  • Lone Oak Baptist Church, Paducah KY
  • LaFayette Baptist Church, LaFayette KY
  • Lanier Baptist Church, Baton Rouge LA
  • Lime Branch Baptist Church, Cedartown GA
  • Lone Oak Baptist Church, Robbinsville NC
  • McRae First Baptist Church, McRae GA
  • Milford Baptist Church, Leary GA
  • Miracle Baptist Church, LaVergne TN
  • Mount Hermon Baptist Church, Taylorsville NC
  • Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, Austell GA
  • Northvale Baptist Church, Harrison AR
  • Oak Grove Baptist Church, Oak Grove MO
  • Second Baptist Church, Dyersburg TN
  • Springdale Baptist Church, Dublin GA
  • Trinity Baptist Church, Wynne AR
  • University Baptist Church, Arlington TX
  • Vista Baptist Church, Belen NM
  • Zion Hill Baptist Church, Cabot AR
As you can tell by the length of this list, I am simply overwhelmed by the encouragement and support that my family has received this past month!

Monday, August 4, 2014

With my family's time in Utah earlier this summer, I have not been writing much about my church planting internship here in Kentucky. But I have not lost focus on my ministry here. Through the summer, I have sought to be intentional in building bridges with my neighbors.

To begin with, I have continued to bring treats from my daughters to our neighbors. I have been able to meet several families now and have begun building friendships with them. My hope is that these relationships will continue to grow so that I can share and show the love of Christ to them.

My gospel community group has also been meeting through the summer. We have been devoting much of our time to praying for our community as we consider ways to reach out to them, and this past month we began prayer walking through our neighborhood. I hope that this can become a regular activity for our group, as we ask God to bless our efforts to serve our neighbors in love.

Speaking of focusing on our neighborhood, I continue to enjoy participating in our community's neighborhood alliance. It has been a great way for me to get involved, and I am even now leading our alliance in planning a fall neighborhood party. What a great way to serve and get to know those living around us!

At the same time, this summer has also shown me of my need to grow in godliness. I am more convinced than ever that I will be used by God as much as I am faithfully reflecting His holiness. One practical area where I want to focus my attention over the next few months is in my family being more hospitable. As the Apostle Peter instructs us: "Be hospitable to one another without complaining" (1 Peter 4:9 HCSB). Or as we read elsewhere: "Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it" (Hebrews 13:2 HCSB). After all, being hospitable is a requirement for pastoral leadership (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8)! So please pray that I will be more faithful in this area of my life.

Finally, as many of you know, my family has set aside the month of August for prayer and fasting about our future. We do not want to move forward in our ministry plans without God's wisdom and blessing. So we have committed to pray. If you would like to join with us this month, please do so! We look forward to seeing what the Lord has in store for us as we seek to glorify Him.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Today is the fifth and final update about my family's Utah missions trip. In this video, I answer the question "What's Next?":

Thursday, July 31, 2014

In the fourth update of my Utah missions report, I want to share with you some of the key ministry leaders in the Salt Lake Valley that I was able to meet:

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

In today's Utah missions video update, I focus on what my family learned about living and serving in the Salt Lake Valley:

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

In today's update about my family's mission trip to Utah, I wanted to let you know more about the evangelistic outreach that we were able to engage in:

Monday, July 28, 2014

With my pastors' encouragement, I have come up with a series of daily video updates this week to give a report on our time in Utah. While these videos are intended for our church family, I thought that you may be interested in watching them too. With this in mind, here is today's video:

Monday, June 30, 2014

Since our time in Utah is rapidly coming to a close, I wanted to provide one final update before my family returns home. This mission trip has simply been amazing, and I thank God for all that He has done!

Our Lord's Day was a true blessing. My family was able to join in morning worship at First Baptist Church of Provo, Utah. Pastor Russ Robinson preached from Acts 14:19-23, showing us the centrality of the local church. A faithful church provides encouragement, gives exhortations, and has biblical church leadership to wisely and lovingly shepherd our souls.

After the worship service ended, we went over to the Robinson's home to enjoy lunch and a time of fellowship. I also had a great time discussing church planting and our future with Russ, who is quickly becoming a good friend of mine. Here is a video of a brief interview that I had with him so that you can get to know him better:

Then in the evening we were able to worship at a recent church plant, The Mission Church. Again, the Word of God was faithfully preached from Ephesians 5:22-6:9 by Pastor Ritch Sandford. Ritch and I really seemed to hit it off and I look forward to building our relationship in the months ahead.

Today I was also able to meet with Pastor Kenny MontaƱo of Roy Bible Church. Since he ministers north of Salt Lake City, he was able to provide a helpful perspective on the northern part of the valley. Again, I found a kindred spirit and plan to stay in touch with him as I prepare to serve in the Salt Lake Valley.

This afternoon, my family was able to visit the Great Salt Lake and Antelope Island. It is amazing, as you can see from the picture! Far saltier than the ocean, the Great Salt Lake is fascinating. God has certainly blessed this place with natural beauty.

Once again, I thank all of you for your prayers. My family has a lot to process, discuss, and pray over. Above all, we hope that God will give us wisdom as we consider the possibilities Utah has for us.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

As this week draws to a close, I wanted to update you on what has happened over the past few days. I am so thankful that God has allowed my family to come out here and am excited about our future ministry opportunities in the Salt Lake Valley.

To begin with, we spent some time understanding the local context here. So we visited downtown Salt Lake City, including the LDS Temple Square. We were led around by two Mormon missionary women, who explained more about their beliefs and the purpose of their temples. This was very helpful and led to my family having some fruitful discussion afterward.

We also visited the This Is The Place Heritage Park. In this park, they have a monument where the second prophet of the LDS Church, Brigham Young, supposedly decided that the Mormon people would settle in the Salt Lake Valley. Here we learned more about the trek of many Mormons who traveled across the country largely by foot with handcarts to the valley. I think that knowing the history of Utah is critical to understanding the state today.

But the time that I most enjoyed with my family was when we went up to a high point behind the state capitol building and looked across the valley. We were moved by what we saw and prayed for the gospel of Jesus Christ to permeate the Salt Lake Valley. My son even set up a small cross made from stones and asked if we could come back every year to pray. May it be so!

At the same time, my evenings were given over to street evangelism. One evening my family went with me, seeing thousands of those who are without true hope of Jesus Christ. The other two nights, I went with others who were out evangelizing as well. In God's kind providence, I was blessed to spend a few hours with one missional couple who have a heart for church planting here. We had a great time discussing many different aspects of church planting, and I learned a lot from them as I consider the next steps for our ministry. Thank you Randy and Carol!

Evangelizing in the streets started slowly, mainly handing out gospel tracts because of the weather. But God showed up in an amazing way last night and tonight. The weather was wonderful, and I was able to have several serious gospel conversations with over a dozen people. While none of them have yet received Christ by faith, I was able to clearly proclaim the gospel and they promised to pray about what I shared. I believe that a number of them are seriously considering the gospel and will read the tracts that I gave them which will also direct them to Christ. Please join me in prayer for all of those who heard the gospel from me and many other faithful men and women here.

I thank God for all that He has done over the last several days! And I am looking forward to tomorrow, where we will gather together on the Lord's Day with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to worship our Savior. May His praise ring loudly throughout Utah!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Greetings from Utah! As our second day in the Salt Lake Valley winds down, I wanted to update you about many of the ways that God has already been blessing our time here.

​We have spent most of our time so far meeting with other church planting families in the area. Yesterday morning, we met with the Fox family. Travis Fox is the Pastor of Preaching and Vision at Grace City Church.  We wound up being together for a few hours with Travis telling me of his missional efforts in the downtown area and helping me understand the Salt Lake Valley context for ministry while his wife talked with Jennifer about life as a wife and mother here. Our kids also had lots of fun playing together! Here is a brief video that I recorded with Travis on church planting in Utah (I apologize for the low volume, but hopefully you can still hear him):

Then in the afternoon we met with the Rutledge family. Kevin Rutledge has just moved to the Provo area (last week!) to plant Redeemer Church. We spent a few hours with them getting to know each other and hearing what he has done so far to plant a church in Provo. The whole time I was together with the Fox and Rutledge families, I felt like I was a sponge soaking in insights and wisdom from these men. I am sure that we will be staying in touch as my family moves toward church planting ourselves.

This afternoon we enjoyed some together with the Madden family. Adam Madden leads the Christ Fellowship church network. We met for a picnic up the mountains on the east side of the valley in the Wasatch National Forest. Again, it seemed as if God had given us another divine appointment, providing me with another great contact and partner in church planting. I feel like Christ is at work and I am simply along for the ride!

We ended the day by having dinner with some of the leaders from West Valley Church, which is a part of Christ Fellowship. Their families were very generous in inviting us to share a meal with them, and we appreciated hearing their insights on living in a diverse community where they are seeking to make an impact with the gospel. 

So at the end of two days, we have been able to establish several strategic relationships, I have gained insight into church planting in the Salt Lake Valley, my wife has learned a lot about being a church planting wife and mother in this area, and our kids have already started making friends. They were even able to throw snowballs with some remaining snow up in the mountains!

Can you tell that I am excited about the possibility of planting a church here in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah? Please continue praying for us. The next few days include getting to know the valley and its culture better, doing some evangelistic outreach, and meeting more families. So you can look forward to more updates!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Today, my family is leaving for Utah. During our time there, we have several goals: 1) to engage in evangelistic ministry, 2) to meet with others committed to and engaged in church planting so that we can have a better understanding of ministry in their local context as well as develop key relationships, and 3) to strategize our next steps in moving toward church planting efforts in Utah. While this is a lot to do in a week and a half, our prayer is that God will guide our time there for His purposes and glory.

With this in mind, will you please commit to praying for us daily? Christ will need to bless us with the strength of his Holy Spirit to have any lasting fruit. We hope to provide updates while there, but we know that your prayers will be essential to an effective mission trip. Thank you so much for your continual encouragement and support of our ministry!

I want to leave you with an insightful quote from a book that I recently started reading by Stephen Tyng, a 19th century American Episcopalian pastor. In his Lectures on the Law and the Gospel, Tyng concludes his first chapter by reminding us of the need for spiritual enlightenment for salvation. May the Holy Spirit apply to the hearts of those in Utah their need of Christ as their Savior, providing our required perfect righteousness:

They who gain not this clear perception of the condition of man under the violated law, see not their need of the continued special influence of the Holy Spirit, to illuminate their minds, or to sanctify their hearts. They are led to doubt, or even to deny, his personal agency in the great work of man's redemption. In connexion with this, they are often deluded by the same ignorance, to reject the whole revelation of the Glorious Persons in the Trinity, — and the various indispensable doctrines of grace which are connected with it, such as the doctrine of actual satisfaction for sin in the Saviour's death,— of the imputation of his righteousness to believers for their justification, — and of the certain preservation of them in new obedience, by the power of the Holy Ghost. They do not feel themselves to be destroyed in sin; they see not therefore their need of the free and boundless love of the Father, electing them unto life, as the origin of their hope; of the divine merit of an Immanuel to bring them in acceptance before him, and into possession of this life; and of the Almighty agency of the Spirit to enable them to know and to receive the things which are thus freely given to them of God. Multitudes thus bring down their avowed system of religion to some low and miserable standard, which in fact almost assumes the sufficiency of their own nature, and their own works to meet the judgment and to claim the favour of God. All these are mistakes which spring altogether from an ignorance of his law. Let them obtain a thorough insight into its claims and character by the enlightening power of the Spirit, and they will then see how solemnly and fatally its demands and sanctions shut them up under the condemnation and bondage of sin; they will then see, that if any one less than God himself, undertake their salvation, they must assuredly perish; they will be convinced that no arm inferior to the Lord of hosts, can rescue them from the wrath to which they are exposed, or bring to them the victory they require; — they will humbly seek, and then shall surely find, the free and great salvation, which God has so clearly revealed, and so fully offered, in the provisions of his Gospel, — and they will realize the importance of the prayer before us, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law [Psalm 119:18]," — in discerning that all these advances in spiritual knowledge are dependant upon an accurate understanding of its character and claims (24-25).

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The month of May proved to be a very fruitful month as I seek to love and serve my neighbors. I thank God for the blessings which have taken place and am excited to see what He will do in the future! Let me share a little about what has happened.

First, the warming weather has allowed my community group to begin meeting at a local park in our neighborhood. We enjoy a meal together along with a time of fellowship, pray for one another and encourage one another, and plan how we can reach our neighborhood with the gospel. By gathering together at the park, we do all of this in the midst of people who need the hope of Christ. Hundreds of people are around us, and I appreciate the continual reminder of so many who are lost apart from our Savior. Meeting in this public place helps to fuel our prayers and gives us an urgency to our efforts.

Second, I decided to go to a meeting of our community's neighborhood alliance. While I initially had reservations about going, I cannot believe the opportunity that is available for my family and others in our community group. It seems as if I will be able to help lead efforts to bring our neighborhood together through local events, and I am already building relationships with several of those involved with our neighborhood alliance.

Third, I have continued to get to know more of my neighbors. With my daughters making various treats, they have gone with me to drop by our neighbors' homes with some desserts and briefly introduce ourselves. We have really enjoyed the times in which we have been able to meet others, and I look forward to meeting many more in the months ahead. One of the most enjoyable opportunities we had this past month was with a recently retired man who had come to the neighborhood alliance meeting for the first time. My oldest daughter and I went over to his house with some treats, and he invited us to his back porch for a leisurely afternoon. I seem to have a lot in common with him, and I hope that our relationship will continue in the months ahead.

Fourth, I am leading our community group to begin working toward having events in our neighborhood so that we can all build relationships with those who are living around us. We have already become more intentional in building bridges to our neighbors, and I am thankful for God's help in our efforts. I am convinced that as we genuinely love and serve them, God will provide us with opportunities to give a reason for the hope that is in us.

Finally, my family has been moving forward with plans to go to Utah later this month. We have several goals while there: 1) to engage in evangelistic ministry, 2) to meet with others committed to and engaged in church planting so that we can have a better understanding of ministry in their local context as well as develop key relationships, and 3) to strategize our next steps in moving toward church planting efforts in Utah. While this is a lot to do in a week and a half, our prayer is that God will guide our time there for His purposes and glory.

As you can tell, we still need your prayers! Satan will oppose us as we try to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. And only through serving Him in the strength of the Holy Spirit will any lasting fruit be produced. So please pray for us as we seek to love and serve our neighbors. And pray for God to guide my family with wisdom as we make an important trip to Utah soon. May our lives be spent for the glory of His name!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Here I am. Send me.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

While I wrote my last update less than two weeks ago, as a new month begins I thought it would be good to write you again. But instead of focusing on the latest aspects of my internship, I thought it would be best to change things up and let you know about my efforts to reach out to my neighbors.

As mentioned previously, I have a growing conviction that I have not been the neighbor that God has called me to be. Those living close to me are largely strangersI don't even know most of their names. So then, how can I obey my Savior when He called me to love my neighbor?

In wrestling with this question, I have determined to develop relationships with my neighbors. With my daughters' help, I have been preparing cookies and brownies for my neighbors. Then I invite one or two of my children to go with me so that we can meet and get to know who lives around us.  After doing this for a few weeks, here are some initial reflections that I wanted to share:

First, it is not easy. I don't know about you, but I am not naturally excited about knocking on someone's door. I am more of an introvert, content to stay at home with my wife and children. And I feel as if our culture views homes as a retreat from the world, which would make my neighbors automatically suspicious of my coming to their door. It would be much easier to leave them alone. After all, I am so busy and they may view my visit as an intrusion. But none of my excuses and rationalizations change God's command for me to love my neighbor. This must start by working to begin relationships with them.

Second, it has been a blessing. So far, I have not run into a single neighbor who has pointed a gun at me or asked me to get off of their property. Never have I felt unwelcome. While these have been my (irrational) fears, most of the time I have found a genuine openness. Furthermore, I have enjoyed learning more about their lives. The more I get to know them, the more I want to get to know them, and to reach out to them in love. Should this be surprising? I am encouraged with meeting my neighbors so far and look forward to meeting many more in the weeks and months ahead.

Third, God is at work. Last weekend, my family walked to our neighborhood library. On the way, I was quietly prayer walking through our neighborhood. At the same time, I admit that I wasn't expecting to do anything more than return books and check out more. But my youngest daughter wound up playing with another girl in the children's area (she makes friends so easily!). I noticed that this girl's father was sitting down close by, and while I was wrestling with going up to him and starting a conversation, he came over to me and introduced himself. This led to a delightful fifteen to twenty minute opportunity, and I am hoping to see him again soon. But this meeting was just one small reminder of God providing me with opportunities to reach out in love to my neighbors.

Fourth, my neighbors need the gospel of Jesus Christ. These efforts are not merely to get to know my neighbors better. And I must not be content with simply learning more about those who live around me. Their only hope is Christ, and I have been given the wonderful responsibility to share this good news with them. So please pray for me, my family, and our community group. May we continue growing in grace as we love our neighbors enough to reach them with the gospel!

Monday, April 21, 2014

I want to begin with an apology. In starting this site, my hope was to at least write a monthly update on my church planting internship. Unfortunately, I never wrote an update for March and now April is more than half over! So I apologize, especially when I remember how many of you are praying for my family and our ministry. Thank you again for all of your encouragement and support!

At the same time, I don't want to give the impression that my internship has not kept me busy. First, after much prayer and discussion, my community group has decided to focus on our local neighborhood to invest in and reach out to with the love of Christ. Having a growing conviction that I have not been the neighbor that God has called me to be, it was reaffirmed by reading a blog post from Timmy Brister, "From Strangers to Missionaries." And I will only learn to love my neighbor as I intentionally develop a strategy to get to know those living around us and build relationships with them.

As a result, I started using the Nextdoor social networking site to develop more community in our neighborhood. I have also begun cooking brownies and cookies to take around to our neighbors so that I can introduce my family to them and get to know them better. My goal is to connect with at least two households a week. I have already spent some time getting to know both of our next door neighbors (who recently moved in), and I look forward to continue developing relationships with them.

My community group has also sought to become more intentional in getting to know their neighbors, and we are seeking to become more involved. Lord willing, we plan to go to our neighborhood alliance's meeting next month. We are also considering having a cookout and inviting our neighbors over for some free food and games. I am excited about what God is doing among us as we learn to love our neighbors.

Additionally, I went to another training session on biblical counseling earlier this month. While I am not as far as I would like to be in the certification process, I still hope to have my application completed by the end of this summer. If my application is approved, then I can begin supervised counseling this fall. Since Scripture is sufficient for life and godliness, I feel the need to grow in my knowledge of God's Word as I prepare to help bring the hope of the gospel and the truth of Scripture into the lives of others.

As you can tell, I continue to need your prayers. God is the One who needs to bless my efforts for His glory, and I must not rely on my own skills or strength during this internship. My family also needs wisdom as we plan to spend some time in Utah this summer. We hope to engage in some outreach and ministry as well as consider our next steps in church planting in the Salt Lake Valley. Your continuing prayers mean everything to us, so please keep praying!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Wow! Another month has already gone by in my church planting internship. Once again, I am thankful to God for giving me the opportunity to serve him through this opportunity. As I move forward in preparing to serve Christ in Utah, I continue to see many fruitful blessings poured out on both myself and my family that we do not deserve. At the same time, we are grateful for the momentum that seems to be building toward a church plant.

The need for the gospel in Utah is so great. And it is only growing more and more. According to Forbes magazine, Salt Lake City now ranks #5 as the fastest growing city in America. May our Savior use me to reach the darkness of this community with the light of Christ!

It is this growing desire in me that has fueled my studies. This past month I have been reading Tim Keller explain in Center Church how a church centers its entire ministry around the gospel. Charles Bridges challenged me with the trials and difficulties of pastoral ministry as well as energized me with the comforts and encouragements through his work The Christian Ministry. And I have been confronted with who Christ has called me to be as a church planter by Paul David Tripp as I am working through his Dangerous Calling curriculum.

Additionally, I continue to love leading my Gospel Community group. We have been diligently praying over the last few weeks for the Holy Spirit to guide us in wisdom as we decide which neighborhood to strategically invest in with the hope of Christ. Lord willing, this coming month we we decide where to begin our efforts and seek to reach out to those around us. We are also considering the gifts and skills that God has given us to consider how we can best use them in furthering the gospel in our community. While the weather has not allowed us to be as outward oriented as we would like, we look forward to seeing what He has in store for us in the months ahead.

Finally, this weekend I will be heading back to Louisville so that I can continue working toward becoming certified as a biblical counselor through the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. I would like to complete my application by the end of April so that I can enter the final phase of the certification processsupervised counseling. As I prayed this morning, my goal is not simply to get a piece of paper at the end of this process. I want to effectively show people how Christ relates to their struggles and trials, leading them in the gospel to find their ultimate comfort and strength in Jesus.

As I hope that you can see, your prayers for my ministry and preparation are being answered. Thank you so much for all of your encouragement and support. Please continue to pray for my family as this process continues, because I can easily see becoming so busy that my family is neglected. This would be the last thing that I want! With this in mind, please ask God that He will remind me of my responsibility to keep my family a priority during this internship.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

It is hard to believe that I have just completed one month of my church planting internship! I am grateful for all of the encouragement and prayers that I have received so far, and I thank God for what He has been doing in my life. Let me tell you about some of the exciting things that have taken place.

First, I love leading my Gospel Community group. We are working through the Gospel Resource Network’s Missional Community Field Guide together, and our discussion so far has been very profitable. I sense a growing unity of mind and heart among us, and I look forward to seeing how Christ will use our unique gifts and skills to impact our neighborhood for His glory.

Second, I have greatly benefited from my new approach to reading and studying God’s Word. Toward the end of last year, I came across Pastor Jim Elliff’s article “My Preferred Way to Read the Bible.” Instead of quickly going through a one year plan, I am devoting myself to saturating myself in specific books of the Bible. In January, I focused on 1 Peter the first half of the month and 2 Peter the second half. This approach has been incredibly helpful. I don’t think I have ever gotten so much out of reading the Bible. For February, I am going to work through Hebrews, so I look forward to spending a lot of time in this wonderful book of Scripture.

Third, I have enjoyed my weekly internship gatherings with pastors and other men desiring to serve in ministry leadership. We have been reading through Tim Keller’s Center Church and Charles Bridges’ classic work The Christian Ministry. Read how Bridges talks about the necessity of pastoral ministry (which obviously includes church planting leadership):

His sovereign pleasure has ordained this office as a first link of means in the chain of salvation; so that without a Ministry there should be no hearing of the word—consequently no faith in the only Saviour of whom it speaks—no calling upon his name—no salvation. It is not our province to prescribe what he ought have done, but to mark the consummate wisdom of what he has done, and to exercise the humility of faith, when we cannot discern the reasons of his dispensations. Doubtless he might have instructed as well as converted Paul by a miracle; but it was his pleasure to direct him to a fellow-sinner for the explicit revelation of his will. The angel also might have been an instructor to Cornelius; but, in order to maintain the order of the divine economy, the Ministry of the word was made the medium of conveying evangelical light to his soul. This, therefore is the ordained means of conversion, and of subsequent establishment in every stage of the Christian life; and its necessity must continue, while there is a single sinner to be brought into the family of God, or a single grace in the heart of the saint to advance to perfection.

What a humbling and encouraging reminder of the ministry that lays before me as I prepare to serve Christ as a church planter in Utah!

At the same time, this past month has also showed me areas where I need to grow in grace to become a church planter who will honor and glorify my Savior. I am nowhere close to the prayer warrior that I need to be. I am still too reliant on my own efforts and strength to accomplish what lays before me. I have repented to God for my self-reliance and lack of dependence on Him and will make every effort through His grace to improve in my prayer life.

Additionally, I want to become more intentional in evangelism. Between my work, church, and internship responsibilities, most of my time is spent around fellow believers. While this can be helpful, it also allows me to stay in a “Christian bubble.” I need to be more attentive to the opportunities that God providentially brings to me. And I also want to be more proactive in developing relationships with others who need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. Please pray for me as I seek to be faithful in proclaiming the hope of Christ to others in my community.

Finally, I would appreciate your prayers for my family as we begin planning a trip to the Salt Lake Valley in Utah this summer. I would like for my family to experience some time in the place where we plan to move in the next couple of years while I can hopefully engage in some evangelistic ministry. So please pray for wisdom as we seek to work out these details.