Archive for June, 2015

What a first year!

Well, it may not be my “official” anniversary, which comes in September. But for me May 4, 2014 remains in my mind as the day I came home to First Baptist Palos Verdes. That was the day I came to preach for Pastor Joel as he was candidating for his new church to be. I must say that knowing the announcement would be made for the first time at the end of the service made me a bit nervous! After preaching here through June and July, it was actually tough to wait through August to see if the call would come. Kelly, Almaz and I had become so comfortable here, we didn’t want to leave.

After a 15 month journey seeking my next pastorate, I was somewhat confused about what God wanted me to do. Everywhere I turned, I was encouraged. My qualifications, preparation, preaching, teaching and discipling skills were constantly being reinforced by friends and mentor pastors. No church, however, seemed interested in calling me.

Here’s what I’ve learned through that process; God’s plan is the best plan! When Jeremiah spoke to the exiles in Babylon, they were focused on when God would redeem them and return them to Israel but God tells them to wait (70 years!). Then he reminds them:

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

I believe that the long wait for me was that the church family I was destined to join was in good hands and God had not yet made the opening. I needed to wait until one Godly man was rewarded for his service so that my first Senior Pastor roll would be prepared and waiting for me. But the Lord is merciful. He taught Kelly and me some valuable lessons, stretched our faith considerably, and graciously opened a new door of ministry in a church we’ve been blessed by the reception and faith of the people in this congregation.

So here are some thoughts about my experience so far. First, FBCPV is not what anyone would expect from a small, older congregation! You are not resistant to change. You have been very gracious to let me do what I want in the pulpit and outside of Sunday. When I started the Thursday night classes, my hope was to just get a few of the working people who couldn’t come for Wednesday morning Bible study to come participate. Surprise! Twenty plus people including folks who don’t attend on Sunday fill up the Fellowship Hall, get involved, ask good questions and participate fully. We even had someone come on the first Sunday in May who hadn’t attended before but had been coming to Thursday nights. Praise God!

I still have a few challenges as your pastor. In my heart, I now we need to grow our church and I carry that burden with me all the time. I know, however, that God brings the increase, not me. So while I still want this very much, I need to give that up to Him and at the same time look for ways to open our doors to new members. Pray for me and for us that all will share this burden.

This year has also shown me what many other pastors have shared that carving out time just for Christ is a real challenge. As pastors, it’s easy to think we’re spending time with God because we spend so much time studying for sermons and classes. But while our devotional reading and our sermon preparation may overlap some, there is still a distinction.

I need time with the Lord in His Word that’s focused not on what I’m going to say to others but on what the Lord is saying to me. Psalm 46:10 tells us to “Be still, and know that I am God.” The 30 prayer challenge organized by Jackie Hitt will be a great help to me and I want us all to come to Wednesday night, June 3 to share our experiences

Someone else once told me that most churches can handle about one major change a year. I’ve made four or five changes in less than a year. Luckily, these have been well received. Our prayer cards each Sunday, it seem to me have been a blessing to all. Thursday night classes seem popular and folks are bringing people. And movie nights! I never realized how good it was to wrap up and intense study with a relaxing fellowship night.

Now what? Pray for me. Pray for guidance and discernment about ideas for the ministry. Because I have a lot of new and different ideas doesn’t mean they are the right ones for us at this time. Pray that the best ideas for getting ourselves known in the community and bringing in new folks will be the first ones on my mind. Pray for yourselves to continue as you have been. Any success I’ve seen in this past year has been a result of your love and support of me and my crazy ideas. Let’s all get together and take this hill for Jesus! Love you all, Pastor Rich


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