Thursday, October 28, 2010

Clarity of focus...

Somewhere along the way someone got the idea to have “Pastor Appreciation Month” during the month October. I’m not sure whose idea this was and honestly I feel a little weird talking about it given my position as a pastor. I have a beautiful picture above my work desk given to me by the first church I served as pastor when they expressed their appreciation to me years ago. The picture is called “The Legacy”; it portrays a pastor holding his Bible in the pulpit proclaiming the Word of God. Portrayed on either side of him are “the great cloud of witnesses” from Hebrews 12:1 and one of the figures apparently represents the Lord Jesus, standing beside his messenger with his hand on the Pastor’s shoulder as the Pastor preaches. It is one of my prized treasures and I wanted it above my study desk because it helps me have clarity of focus on the primary duty I have to proclaim the Word of God.

Pastor Appreciation is a Biblical concept that appears in several places in the New Testament. One of these is found in Hebrews 13:7 “Remember those who rule (lead) over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.” I can’t really speak for Bob, Ken and Wally, but I think they would say ya’ll have indeed remembered us with so many cards, notes of encouragement, the gift cards from the church and other tangible expressions of your love for each of us. I think it would be safe to say we’re all overwhelmed by your love and encouragement and we’re so appreciative of what you have done for us. Your thoughts and gifts mean so much and we’re thankful. Many of you tell us throughout the year you are praying for us and that you appreciate something we did.

The writer of Hebrews however was inspired by the Holy Spirit to immediately record verse 8 in that context of remembering your pastors: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” One of the Holy Spirit’s jobs is to magnify the Lord Jesus Christ and so He inspired the writer to remind each of us we need to maintain clarity of focus and exalt the Lord, to keep our focus on the Lord and not on the men He has called to serve as under-shepherds. You see the reality is each of your pastors is human, just real men, men with flaws, fears and failures. We may show glimpses of inspiration but we’re certainly not infallible or inerrant. The sad part is that when God had to call pastors, He had to recruit from the human race so He got us, warts and all. The good news in this is that it magnifies Jesus and His grace even further. Pastors’ kind of live in a fishbowl, everyone is watching us and through that fishbowl, we look larger than we really are. When we do something wrong, we make a mistake in our judgment, or we flat out fall on our face in sin; it can be devastating to people because they are not looking past us to Jesus. So remember that Jesus is in fact the same yesterday, today and forever. He’ll never disappoint you even though we will. He will never leave you or forsake you even though He might call us to another place of service and battle as He has done with Bob. The reality is under-shepherds come and go, but the Chief Shepherd always remains steady and faithful to His bride.

These are historic times here at Calvary, included in this edition of “The Way”; you’ll find our proposed 2011 Budget for review. We’ll discuss this budget on Sunday evening Nov.21st and vote on it on Sunday December 5th. It is a historical budget in that for the first time in Calvary’s history, our budget is over one million dollars ($1,000,011.00)! It is definitely a faith budget of what we’d like to see God do but it is grounded in reality as well as we’ve considered actual expenses in order to be accurate with our planning. It has been through a myriad of processes, committees and staff review to ensure we’re being wise stewards; and I’m confident we are presenting a realistic guide for our 2011 ministries. While a million dollar budget may be a shock to your system, in my simple view of the world, it helps me gain clarity to realize the weekly need will increase $1,229.00 over our 2010 budget to $19,231.00. Our unchanging God who provided last year for His bride will provide this year as well.

With Bob Brown’s obedience to God’s call and departure to a new field of service, we’re also entering a historic season in clarifying and quantifying the staff needs the church has. I told you of Jean Carr’s plan to retire at the end of the year and I can tell you that your personnel committee is already hard at work planning for our future staffing needs. It is important the church choose staff for her long term future based on the clarity of focus the Lord is providing and His vision for what He wants Calvary to accomplish. Embracing God’s vision for us will require we keep our eyes fixed squarely on the Lord who is the same yesterday, today and forever. His constant faithfulness, His vision, His clarity of focus and His wisdom is what we must all pray for as we walk through these historic days together by faith. I don’t know about you, but I’m thrilled to know Jesus is always the same yesterday, today and forever, that knowledge encourages me and helps me see clearly, from my little corner of the world to yours…

Ralph Green

Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church

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Posted via email from Pastor Ralph

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Changing Seasons....

October 14, 2010

Changing seasons…

I love living in Maryland for a lot of reasons, primarily because God has called me to serve Him here, which in and of itself should be and is for me more than enough reason to love it. Every reason I can come up with beyond the call of God is icing on the proverbial cake. I’ve come to embrace our field of service in so many ways over the last 21 months mainly because of relationships we’re establishing and it’s wonderful to have access to so many regional interests. It doesn’t hurt to have a great football team to root for in the Ravens and I enjoy seeing the team spirit as purple becomes the order of the day. (This is especially good for me seeing the Cowboys are currently in the cellar!)

One of the things I love about Maryland is the true four season climate we enjoy here. Reasonable winters with enough snow (or as in last winter an abundance of snow) to enjoy, but then it goes away. A gorgeous springtime as trees blossom with beauty that is difficult to describe. How can you not love seeing those cherry trees in front of the church in full bloom? Nice hot summers to enjoy the water in the pool, on the lake, the bay or the beach with sky blue cloudless days for extended periods and rain when needed to cool off and replenish the soil. And now we’re entering fall. Cooler mornings and evenings, training myself to remember to take a jacket out to watch my boys play football and the leaves begin their turning process. Each day reveals more color and each bend in the road reveals another splash of beauty. Raking leaves at my house is another story altogether!

The point is to some extent, as seasons we love go by like summer, there is a degree of sadness which takes place but our Lord brings the new season for us to embrace and look forward to for its own unique blessings and benefits. I’ve learned through my ministry there are definite seasons in the life of the church as well. New eras and periods on the horizon but with the fading of one season there is a degree of sadness that goes along with it. With Dr. Carter’s retirement after 20 years of faithful ministry, Dr. Jackson’s steady transitional interim ministry, and my arrival and efforts to get up to speed with a new system and church family, many changes afoot, and your kind patience with me as your new pastor; we’ve been in an extended season of change. One of the reasons from my perspective my transition to Calvary has been so smooth and such a blessing is because of the steady, faithful and wise ministry of our Associate Pastor Bob Brown. Bob has helped me learn the church DNA, helped me understand some dynamics I couldn’t have known had he not given me insight. He’s provided me with a completely opposite perspective I may not have considered which has helped me and our staff make wise decisions and plans.

By the time you read this article, Bob has notified the church of God’s call upon his life to pursue a new ministry opportunity. He personally shared with me his call to this and how the Lord orchestrated his being accepted into a chaplain internship in York, Pa., at the hospital there. Obviously this represents a huge change of seasons for us at Calvary and for Bob and Jenny. On one hand we are sad because they have both been tremendous servants here to our Lord and church family. On the other hand we are excited for Bob and Jenny as this will be a great blessing to their family and their future. I want us as a church family to see this call upon Bob’s life as a great thing for the work of God’s Kingdom. To my kingdom way of thinking, I see Bob going as a missionary to a new field of harvest. I can totally see Bob in this role as I’ve watched his pastoral care and how he thrives in this environment. I have no doubt that Bob will see many people come to know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ because of his care for them and witness to them. The wonderful news for all of us is we’re partners together in ministry and we’re sending the Browns out as missionaries to the hospital and medical community along with all the patients and their families. We’ll have a church wide reception for Bob and Jenny on Sunday night Oct. 31st immediately after our church in conference business meeting to celebrate God’s working in their lives.

I’ve also been notified formally by our Administrative Secretary Jean Carr that she plans to retire at the end of the year. Jean has served Calvary for 18 years and had told the personnel committee when hired for the position she currently holds she’d serve for 2 years so we’ve known her plans for some time. No doubt as we draw closer to her retirement we’ll honor her service and ministry in a special way.

For several months already, I believe the Lord’s guidance has been preparing us for these staff changes. I’ve been working with the personnel committee to rewrite Bob’s job description and divide the multitude of responsibilities he carries. We were already in the planning stages of  adding a family and discipleship pastor to our team because of our growth and intentional desire to reach and disciple young families. God’s timing is perfect and we can be confident as He’s calling Bob to a new field of service and prompting Jean to retire; He already knows what His Bride at Calvary is in need of and He will make known to us His will as we seek His direction for these positions. The job descriptions may in fact look completely different to what we’ve had but we have a marvelous team serving on our personnel committee and I’m confident in God’s provision for us as a church family. I’m also confident that you’ll encourage and support the Browns and Jean and that you’ll begin now to pray for them and our church family as we walk through this season of change together. I echo the sentiments of the Psalmist in Psalm 118:23 “This was the LORD'S doing; It is marvelous in our eyes.” The changing of the seasons can be a beautiful thing to behold if we see it as the Lord’s doing. It is marvelous in my eyes from my little corner of the world to yours…

  Pastor Ralph Green
Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church

Posted via email from Pastor Ralph