Posted in Christian Living

A New Name?


newI wish I could say that every decision that I have made as a pastor has been the right decision, but I can’t. I wish I could say that I have never regretted a decision I have made, but I can’t. The truth is I have made many wrong decisions. The truth is I have made decisions that have hurt the Church. That is why this latest decision has been almost three years in the making.

For nearly a year, no one knew the thoughts that were crossing my mind. I spent many hours in my private prayer time seeking the will of God. After countless hours of prayer and many sleepless nights, I began to seek counsel from other Pastors that I trusted.

What are you thinking? Why would you do such a thing? Is this part of a larger agenda? Does this signify a change in your doctrine? Is this really what God wants or is this what Leroy wants? Why haven’t you done this earlier? These are just few of the questions that I was asked.

Men of God that I greatly admire and trust seemed to have differing opinions as to what I should do. It seemed that there were just as many on both sides of the decision. I sought counsel and while I had hoped their advise would make the decision easier, it only made the decision that much more difficult.

In the late spring of 2014, our Church began the process of rewriting our Constitution and By-laws. Was this the right time? Should I bring it up or should I just forget it? What should I do? By the time the rewriting process was finished, I had decided to once again put off the issue.

Nearly three years have passed and I am no closer to a decision, but one thing is clear. I can’t keep putting off making a decision any longer. At a Ministry Team meeting last month, out of the blue it pops out. “I think we need to change our Church name.” Did I really just say that? I can’t take it back now, the decision I have been wrestling with is now the most public that it has ever been.

Our Church Deacon responded with “present it to the Church and see what they think”. I’ll be honest, this was not quite the response I was expecting. What I was expecting is “Pastor, I think you and I need to talk.”

I spent the next few days praying and for the first time I had peace. I had peace that this decision may indeed be the will of God and not the will of Leroy. So after nearly three years of prayer, I informed the Church that I felt led by the Lord to change the name of our Church. I asked the Church to spend the remainder of November praying about it and we would formally consider the proposal on December 2.

The night finally arrived. Just as I was starting the Wednesday Bible Study, the computer program decided to act up totally throwing my lesson off. Then the microphone started popping. I was extremely nervous about what was coming. Was the rocky flow of the service an indication that turbulence was ahead? I had a hard time concentrating on the lesson, which isn’t good since I am the one preaching.

Business meeting began, various topics were discussed, and now it was time for the “big decision”. The proposal was made, members spoke in support and opposition of the decision, and then the vote was taken. Ninety-two percent of those in attendance voted to change the name of our Church. What began as the First Baptist Church of St Helens and later became the First Missionary Baptist Church of St Helens, was now St Helens Baptist Church.

As I write this, I must admit that there is a part of me that asks “is this the right decision? Have I made another decision that will hurt the Church or will this decision be one that moves our Church in the right direction?” I wish I knew the answer to these questions. The coming days, weeks, and months will tell the tale, but one thing I know for sure: there is not a single decision that I have made as a pastor that received as much prayer and counsel as this one.

Now to answer one final question: “what is the purpose of this post? Is this post really about a new name?” No this post really isn’t about a new name. This decision was made by the membership of St Helens Baptist Church and there is no need to offer a public explanation behind why we did what we did.

The real purpose of this post is to remind the readers that so often we have the perception that Pastoring consists of preaching three messages a week, checking on the sick, and preaching funerals. The reality is your Pastor may have spent more time praying over a single decision than he has over any message he has ever preached. Pastors understand that every decision they make will have an effect on the Church and quite often, the effect is not positive.

So when you pray that God will help your Pastor as he prepares for the message, don’t forget to pray for him as he is seeking God’s will regarding the future of the Church. Pray that God will give him peace when the decision is according to the will of God and that God will make it abundantly clear when it is not the will of God.

Posted in Christian Living

Not getting fed or a refusal to feed yourself?


Where have we gone wrong? God’s people have never had so many study aids to help them understand what God is saying in His word. We have commentaries, concordances, study books, CD’s, and video ministries. In spite of all this, there are so many spiritual dwarfs and so many underdeveloped Christians.

C. H. Spurgeon was looking out of his hotel window, watching people who were coming to draw water from the pump in the street. After a period of time, he noted a man, who had come to the pump a number of times. Later Spurgeon discovered the reason why this man was at the pump so often; he was the local water seller, who distributed water to others. This was why he had returned to the pump so many times. He was returning to the source of the water.

The story from Spurgeon points us to one of our problems. We have learned to rely on the water salesman to supply us with our water, rather than going to the source of water ourselves. We no longer study the Word of God for ourselves. We rely on “baby food jar” study. We want our food chewed for us, fed to us, and then all we have to do is swallow.

From time to time, Pastors are faced with this statement: “Pastor, I am not being fed by your preaching. I leave hungry for more every week. I need more.” Often the individual who makes such a statement will end up leaving the Church in search for a Pastor that will “feed them”. After just a few years, they will leave the new Church, once again in search of a Pastor that will “feed them”.

Imagine with me this scenario. You deprive yourself of food for 6 days. On the seventh day, you take yourself to the best steak restaurant in town and order the best steak that they offer. You have them bring it out with a loaded baked potato and some fresh vegetables. After you return home from such a feast, you find yourself still hungering for more food. Is the restaurant at fault for not providing you with enough food?

The problem is you have forsaken food for six days and then thought one meal would satisfy your hunger.

This scenario points us to another one of our problems. We forsake the Word of God Monday through Saturday, but expect the Pastor to satisfy our spiritual hunger with just 30 minutes of preaching. We need to dig into the Word of God for ourselves. Each day we do things to care for the Flesh, yet we neglect the Spiritual things, and then we wonder why we are such spiritual dwarfs.

Study helps are great. I use them every week. The preaching we receive from our Pastors is important, and I hope you are getting that every week. However, if we continue to rely on others to feed us and we never go to the source for ourselves, we will continue to be spiritual babes and underdeveloped Christians.

Posted in Christian Living

Together


together purplleEvery year I challenge our Church with a yearly theme. In the past we have used slogans such as “Going & Growing”, “Making a Difference”, and “Love Like Jesus”. The purpose behind the theme is to give direction for the year. While I have started each year with the best of intentions and well thought out ideas, our themes really never became more than just that, an idea.

January 2015 is the beginning of my 6th year as Pastor of this Church. This makes me above average. According to the most recent statistics, the average pastor only stays 3-5 years. While my tenure may be above average, my performance as a Pastor has been below average. I have let far too many intentions and ideas die before they became a reality.

Several months back I began to evaluate what I needed to change if I was going to be above average. What would help make me a better Pastor? What I realized is I needed to do a better job of working together with those in our Church. We need to work together more.

The biggest change I made was the creation of a Ministry Team. This Team is made up of 5 other couples within the Church that represent every demographic of our Church. I am meeting with this team on a regular basis and we are planning the events and activities for the Church year. It is through the development of this Team that the Lord gave me the theme for 2015.

Life is meant to be experienced in communion and relationship with others.  The power of the early church was experienced in group dynamics.  God Himself calls the church a Body, a Building, a Bride.  Each of these descriptive terms alludes to unity, harmony, and togetherness.  This is not a suggestion, this is what we are.  Therefore, to function properly the Church must work together to fulfill its God-given assignments.

First Corinthians 3:9 says “For we are labourers together with God”. We are called to assemble together, pray together, believe together, grow together, follow together, and be built up together. To reiterate, God calls the church to experience life together.

I know that you have probably figured it out by now but if you have not, our theme is simply the word “Together”. It is my prayer that 2015 will be the greatest year of unity here at the First Missionary Baptist Church. We will be focusing on three main areas: Worshipping Together, Growing Together, and Serving Together.

One of the greatest strengths of the early Church was their togetherness. They experienced life together. They served the Lord together. They impacted their communities together. It is amazing how much a Church can impact their community when they work together. I am praying that at the end of the year, our Church will be able to give testimony of the great power of a Church working together with God

Posted in Christian Living

It was me!


It has been way too long since I have posted anything on the blog. Maybe after reading this you will understand why and I have made it a goal to be more active on the blog beginning in 2015. Thank you Sis Shari Hughson for your faithfulness to the blog in my absence.

On Sunday, December 29, 2009, I preached my first official sermon as Pastor of First Missionary Baptist Church. I had already been elected to be the next pastor months earlier, but the current Pastor wanted to finish the year as Pastor and then turn the Church over to me. That night I was excited to finally be back into the Pastorate. I was filled with energy and ready for whatever the future had in store, or so I thought.

The first 2 years were amazing. We saw God bless in a mighty way and saw the average attendance of the Church more than double. In early 2012, we saw God continue to grow the Church and never was it more evident than on Easter Sunday. My very first Sunday as Pastor there were 28 in attendance. On Easter Sunday 2012 we had 80 people in attendance. That is nearly a 200% increase in just a little over 2 years.

Two weeks later, my heart was shattered as I watched approximately half the Church walk out the back doors never to return. Over the next 8 months, we saw others leave due to job relocation, others quit attending all together, and others left to attend other Churches in the area. By the time January of 2013 rolled around, I was once again preaching to less than 30 on a weekly basis.

Over the next year, we continued to struggle as a Church: very few visitors attending, low offerings, poor spirit in the services. Many times I wondered what was wrong with the Church. Was God done with me here? I got so discouraged in the progress being made that I made a commitment at the beginning of 2014 that if God did not change the Church, I would resign and move back to Florida.

God did make a change in 2014, but that change mostly had to do with me, not the Church. I had pastored for nearly 2 full years with resentment toward those that left. I preached as an angry pastor. Instead of leading the flock, I was driving the flock but sheep are meant to be led not driven.

A Pastor friend Astatula, FL began to invest time in counseling and helping me. He gave me words of wisdom that helped change my perspective on things. He sent reading materials to help me mature as a Pastor. No doubt he spent time praying for me. Thank you Pastor Travis Lane for your investment. I would not be where I am today without you.

I came to a point in my ministry where I realized the problem was me. It wasn’t the people that left that were hurting our Church, it was me. It wasn’t an outside influence hindering our Church, it was me. It wasn’t the Church that needed to change, it was me.  Once I came to this realization, God began to bless our Church once again.

On August 24, 2014, we had 27 in attendance. Since that time we have never had less than 30 in attendance. We have seen a high Sunday of 65 and have seen our low Sunday attendance climb to nearly 40 as a low. People have been saved. Others have been baptized. Visitors are common place once again.

Is it because of me that God is blessing? Absolutely NOT. God has blessed in spite of Leroy Goodman. I too would have left a Church if I had a Pastor like me, but God is doing a work in my heart and in my life that I do not have the time nor the words to explain.

I still struggle with some of the old Leroy. God is still working to mold me and make me what I need to be but I thank God for the change he made in me in 2014. By the way, remember I had made a commitment to resign at the end of the year? Well, that’s not gonna happen. It wasn’t the Church that needed to change, it was me. I am changing, I am growing, and I am STAYING!

I would like to publicly thank the members of First Missionary Baptist Church that have stood by me, prayed for me, and allowed God to make a change in me that only He could make. FMBC has a new Pastor because of your faithfulness. I love you more than words can ever describe.

Posted in Christian Living

MY TESTIMONY – part 1


On Wednesday, March 5, I celebrated my 32nd birthday. As I sat in my recliner that evening, I began to think about all of the blessings that the Lord has given me already in my life. The words to Carroll Roberson’s song “Wonderful Life” began to sound in my mind and I echo what is said in the chorus of that song. “If I had no more blessings in store I’d never ask or wonder why because if I died today, I can honestly say that I’ve had a wonderful life.”

I was born to parents that loved the Lord. Shortly after birth my parents took me to church for the first time. Not many parents today are willing to “take that risk”. They are too afraid that their newborn will get sick from being at Church so they keep them away from church for weeks or even the first few months.

Mom was the Church pianist and Dad was the Sunday School Superintendent. We were in Church every time the doors were open. The family vacations that I remember as a child were trips to Lexington, North Carolina for camp meeting at Bro. Noah Frye’s Church or a week in Seffner, Florida for camp meeting at Bro Lawson’s Church. Many of my other memories from my childhood revolve around camp meetings at our home church: Solid Rock Baptist Church of Homosassa, FL. As you can tell we were in church a lot, and I loved every minute of it.

My Grandparents on both side were also Christians. Grandpa Goodman was the President of the Florida Singing Convention. After he passed away, I remember going to Granny Goodman’s house and watching all of the Gaither videos. Our family has always had a strong love for southern gospel music.

I spent the majority of my time around my mom’s parents. I remember as a child going to Granny O’steen’s house and seeing her sitting at the table studying scripture. That seemed to be her favorite thing to do. Whether it was at a Lecanto Panther football game or Hunting, I loved to spend time with my Grandfather. I remember sitting in the seat of “Old Red” headed to the hunting club and listening to Rev. B.W. Smith preaching a message entitled “Watch them Dogs”. I believe Grandpa played that tape to the point that it wore out. I also remember hearing him tell how the Lord saved him on the third Sunday of October 1972 somewhere between his pew and the altar.

What a blessing it is to have such a Godly heritage. I don’t know what it is like to have a drunk for a daddy. I don’t know what it is like to suffer from child abuse. I don’t know what it is like to not be in Church. I am thankful for a Godly heritage.

 

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