It’s great to be back home after a few days in North Carolina where I spoke at the Unite Conference of the Pillar Network (here’s one attendee/staff member’s report https://www.thepillarnetwork.com/unite-2017-an-insiders-recap/) and then spent a week in an east Asian nation teaching about 70–75 pastors on the subject of elder plurality and how to implement this biblical polity within the framework of their congregations. The Lord very kindly gave grace in each message and talk and panel discussion in which I was involved. I recapped to the congregation on Sunday that in the past two weeks I preached 6 times, gave 3 lectures, participated in 3 panel discussions, offered 1 charge to the church and new elders for installation, and had countless discussions. I’ve not counted up the miles traveled but it surpassed any two-week period in my life. The Lord granted strength for that time to serve the larger body of Christ. I’m so grateful for the church and our elders allowing me the time to extend the ministry of South Woods domestically and internationally, and including much prayer. So many people told me when I returned that they had been praying. I’m thankful! Please continue to pray with me that much fruit will be borne out of this time of ministry.
We had an absolutely wonderful time of worship on Sunday! The entire service allowed us the joy of sensing the presence of the Lord inhabiting the praises of His people. We capped the service with a great testimony and baptism of Will Fisher (on his 18th birthday). So many people told me that they were encouraged by the time that we had. The Lord met us with reminders of His goodness and grace. I’m still contemplating Psalm 139 and its powerful message to us that God is There.
This Sunday we get started on an expositional study of the Gospel of Luke. Pastor Matt Sliger and I will be journeying together with the body through this very detailed Gospel. We’re calling it: The Gospel of Luke: Good News for the Nations. One unique thing about Luke is the way that he brings up Gentiles and women more than the other Gospel writers in his telling of the story of Jesus Christ. We’ll see that as we work through the text. Please pray for Matt and me as we prepare for that time. On a personal note, the Gospel of Luke is the only New Testament book that I’ve not preached expositionally since I’ve been at South Woods. So this time has been anticipated by me!
Tomorrow night we begin a new STINT class at 6:30, working through our friend Mack Stiles’ wonderful little 9Marks book, Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus. I don’t know of anyone quite like Mack in the way that he’s able to teach how to share the good news with others with incredible clarity, simplicity, and inspiration. I love this book and I’m glad that we’re studying it together.
We have our Annual Thanksgiving Dinner at South Woods on Sunday, November 19th at 5:00 p.m. Let’s just say, this is not a gathering that you want to miss! It’s special with delicious food and amazing opportunities to fellowship with one another. We’ll have it in our church auditorium once again. So please join us!
I’m grateful for all of the volunteers that we have at South Woods! It’s really amazing to see the number of people that are involved in serving with the preschool during Sunday School and worship and other gatherings, teaching Sunday School and Wednesday evenings, helping with greeting guests and security, helping with cleaning up after meals, taking care of the beautiful grounds that we enjoy, keeping our building spruced up, serving with music—choral and instrumental—to help the body worship, taking care of the audio needs for services, facilitating our worship service video and Internet presence, keeping up our social media footprint (I’m acting like I understand all of that), serving with Mercy for Memphis, helping with hospitality, participating in international mission endeavors, partnering in other local ministries, and serving one another in countless ways. Let’s give thanks to the Lord for the way that He has blessed us! A local church, in many ways, exists due to the faithfulness of its volunteers for ministry. So, brothers and sisters, as we’ve excelled let us excel still more in the days ahead.
A number of years ago we started a special mission giving that we call 2Per, based on the model that William Carey gave for the early English Baptist Churches with the mission to India. We ask folks to give $2 per person per Sunday each week as we contribute to a designated mission endeavor. This month is particularly special as we contribute to The Pernie Hester Memorial Mission Fund. Pernie was a member of South Woods for over 20 years before she entered into the presence of the Lord in 2016. We’re grateful that her family established this fund in her memory and has agreed to match gifts up to $5000 for contributions to this effort. Pernie loved missions and she loved to see our church sending people out to serve Christ among the nations. We’re glad to honor her memory through 2Per this month.
Our study this week in Psalm 139 concludes a twelve-week look at selected Psalms. It has been an enriching time for me, and I trust, for you as well. This particular psalm has long been a favorite of many, including me. What stunned me was both its depth in which we could have spent a number of weeks considering, and its simplicity which we took note of on Sunday. I trust that you will find this reflection on the Word to profit your worship and walk.