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Showing posts from July, 2011

Unstained, RBC Youth Camp 2011

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Youth Camp

I am spending the week with our student ministry at Ridgecrest Baptist Church at Laguna Beach Christian Retreat near Panama City Beach, FL. I have a long history with this place. We started coming here when I was in 8th grade, which would have been about 1986. At the time my world knew the mullet, the rise of Andre Agassi, Duran Duran, and the air brush T-shirt. Somehow the air brush T-shirt has survived. Air brush is to Panama City what taffy is to Gatlinburg. Both are useless and in bad taste, but when you are there you just have to have one. Now I am 38 and this is about trip 50 to Laguna for me. As a youth pastor I brought groups here. As a pastor I have brought a number of groups here. For the last five years I have been the camp preacher for my friend Chris' youth group (he too survived the mullet era). Preaching for Chris' youth camp is surreal for me. Yet this youth camp is even more so. This is the first camp in which my daughter is a part of the group.

Praying for NASCAR

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The media world is frenzied this morning with the story of what is commonly being deemed as "the best prayer ever."   The prayer in question was voiced by Pastor Joe Nelms of Family Baptist Church in Lebanon, TN.   He opened the prayer by calling attention to the fact that the Bible instructs us to give thanks for all things.   He then began to thank God for several of the sponsors, the engines, an alliance between owners, and quoting the movie Talledega Nights he thanked God for his, "smoking hot wife." The prayer has been received with mixed reviews.   From the footage I saw it sounded as if his prayer was met with a loud cheer from the fans.   The drivers and their crews thought it was funny.   Sports reporters are having a field day with it.   Robin Meade on HLN said that NASCAR should consider taking Pastor Nelms with them wherever they go, as if his prayer was some comedy bit they needed to take on the road. The Christian community is vacillating between con

Say Anything

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Throughout these Shepherd Chronicles I have alluded a few times to the fact that Shannon and I were engaged when I began as pastor at Lantana Road Baptist Church.  My first day at LRBC was Oct. 13, our wedding date was set for Feb. 1.  Before I move too far along in the story, I should back up a bit and talk about how I met and married the greatest part of me. At the time Shannon and I attended Tennessee Temple University, it was an independent  Baptist college with strict, independent Baptist rules.  You could not wear shorts or blue jeans.  You had to wear collared shirts in Jesus name.  You could not swim in the same pool as a member of the opposite sex.  They called this “mixed bathing.”  I cracked up laughing anytime someone used the term.  To top it all, commandment #11 was that you could not date without a chaperone until you were 20.  When Shannon and I met I was a Senior, she was a Freshman.  If we were to date, we needed a chaperone. The ironic twist in the story is that ev

A Night at the '96 Olympics

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15 years ago today the Centennial Olympic Games began in Atlanta.  Though this derails the chronology of my first 15 there is a story here worth sharing. Early in the summer of 1996 my friend Chris moved in with me for a few months.  Our families are close.  I went to their house every day after school from 3 rd – 5 th grade.  Chris’ dad coached one of the world’s greatest sports franchises, the Graysville Bobcats soccer team.  We lost only two games in three years, both championships.  We were the Buffalo Bills of rec. league soccer.  Chris is now also serving the ministry as a youth pastor in Carrolton, GA.  Even now our kids get together with the grandparents and go camping together just like Chris and I did growing up.  The Altmans and the Branams represent three generations of friendships , very cool. While Chris crashed with me for the summer in Cartersville he also joined me in working at the golf course.  I would like to think that it was also that summer that God used our t

Tilted Saucers

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People expect pastors to be generous souls, detached from material things, and not greedy for money.  That may be true, but everybody has to eat, even pastors.   Being a small congregation Lantana Road was only able to provide me with a small salary.  Fortunately my parents blessed me by paying my college tuition.  I paid cash for my one semester of seminary, so I had no college loans to repay.  Upon moving to Crossville I rented a small two bedroom duplex that wasn’t too unreasonable.  I had a red Nissan pickup truck with a payment of less than $150.  I paid on that truck for 48 months and drove it for 156.  I sold it only a few years ago.  I had a 19” television, but no cable.  My Uncle Roy loaned me a VHS copy of Tombstone.  I watched it almost every morning while eating pop-tarts.  It is one of my favorite movies and outside of Raising Arizona probably the one I can quote the most.  “I’m your huckleberry.”       After rent, truck, and pop tarts there was not much money left for any

Preaching Cubed

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I had a few weeks between the time I received the call to become pastor of LRBC and my first Sunday.  I took the time to relocate and write two new sermons, one for Sunday morning, one for Sunday night.  I had grown in my preaching skills.  Long gone were the days of marching Joshua around Jericho in 7 minutes and 30 seconds.  Now it would take him almost an hour.   By the time LRBC called me as pastor I approached a sermon as if I were carving a paper weight out of a mountain.  I read broadly.  I researched every cultural nuance of the text.  I took several days to carve out an outline.  I searched for stories.  I took a few more days to write the manuscript and several more to practice it.  By the time the process was over I had a well crafted 45 to 50 minute theological masterpiece.  Those early sermons took a great deal of time to prepare and they took an even greater amount of patience to hear.  On October 13, 1996 I preached my sermons.  One in the morning.  One in the evening. 

Eleven Plus Two

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It was mid September when I preached in view of a call at Lantana Road.  To “preach in view of a call” in Baptist life means that you are going to preach for the entire congregation and barring you don’t pass out or renounce Christ from the pulpit they are going to vote you in.  I had a few weeks to prepare a sermon.  I delivered it.  Jesus remained the Son of God.  I remained conscious, but I would have to wait a week for the vote.  That week in Cartersville, mowing grass and waiting, seemed as if it lasted a month. Lots of things run through your mind while you are mowing grass.  Buddhists meditate.  Baptists mow grass.  I have had some deep thoughts on a mower.  That week of waiting in Cartersville made my mind wander from how awesome of a pastor I was going to be, to how much the people were going to love me, to how happy I would be to quit mowing grass at a golf course and finally begin serving as pastor of a church.  Apparently I didn’t get the entire “humility” memo God was tryi

Interview LRBC

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I vividly remember “Baby Blue” pulling away from the curb with the LRBC pulpit committee inside.  I do not remember exactly what transpired in the days after my trial sermon, but somehow I eventually wound up in Crossville for an interview.   Because we were engaged Shannon was invited to be a part of the process.  I had no idea how it all would go, but I remembered Bro. Wayne axiom #3 , “Whatever they ask you will reveal what they didn’t like about the previous pastor.”   The evening began in a relatively old local buffet restaurant with wood panel walls.  Our party would occupy the back room.  After making our first visit to the buffet, Shannon and I were seated in the rear of the room with our backs to the wall.  The six members of the committee sat across from us.  There was no escape, but I was ready.  I guess I expected some friendly chat over course 1 which generally includes some sort of modest soup or salad.  I didn’t want our first impression to be pig.  There was only a lim

The Pulpit Committee

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Some say Charles Finney invented the “gospel invitation."  The conclusion is debatable.  I would love to know who is responsible for the invention of the pulpit committee.  In pastor circles pulpit committees have inspired a myriad of nightmares and comedic stories.  Allow me to share my first experience with a pulpit committee.  After waiting almost a year I finally received a call from the chair of the pulpit committee at Lantana Road.  I remember nothing about our initial conversation other than that I surmised my possibilities of becoming pastor at LRBC increased now that I was engaged to Shannon.  I shall share that romantic moment in a future episode.  We agreed to meet at a neutral site so they could hear me preach “live.”  I called a family friend, a man who had been called into the ministry from my home church, William Swanson.  At the time he served as pastor of a congregation north of Chattanooga in Ooltewah, TN.  The date was set.  I would drive up from Cartersvill

Cartersville

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Between TTU and Southern Seminary I had taken countless Bible and theology classes and 2.5 years of Greek.   Yet, perhaps the most beneficial pastor-prep class of my educational career came on the back of a mower.   My pastor, Dr. Wayne Hamrick left my home church, New Liberty Baptist Church in Ringgold, GA to pastor Atco Baptist Church in Cartersville, GA.   He made this move while I was a student in Louisville.   While I awaited a response from Lantana Road, Bro. Wayne asked me to serve at Atco as Interim Youth Director.   I had served with Bro. Wayne at New Liberty also as Youth Director.   Serving my first ministry job at my home church provided me a safe place to begin.   There was some degree of difficulty in becoming the official leader over many people I had grown up with, but somehow we all managed to adjust.   Honestly, I never realized how volatile a situation the whole arrangement could have been until many years later.   I now realize the tremendous amount of grace that my