by: Jeff Poppinga
Faith Baptist has four congregational business meetings each year. At each one I give a report trying to highlight big picture ministry truths as well as some practical things going on. Here is the most recent report.
1.A Kingdom View
In Acts 13:1-3 we read, “Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul, for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”
There are several things in this passage I want to point out. First, the church in Antioch was doing great! There was relative peace and they had several top notch prophets and teachers leading them. The church in Antioch was doing well and growing. Secondly, worshiping and fasting kept their eyes on Christ and His Kingdom rather than on their own comfortable circles. The church in Antioch was open to what Christ wanted them to do, even if it meant shaking things up a bit. Thirdly, being open to the leading of Christ by the Holy Spirit meant that they had to be willing to send some of their best teachers, leaders and friends elsewhere to carry on the work of the gospel.
Do we have a kingdom view of gospel work? The question is really about what kingdom or whose kingdom we have in mind. Do we have God’s Kingdom in view or our own kingdom? In the Lord’s Prayer we are instructed to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” When we worship the Lord in all his beauty our little kingdoms begin to crumble. When we see the Lord in his majesty our little kingdoms look puny and weak and unnecessary. When we worship the Lord through prayer and fasting and singing and meditating and obeying we become willing to kick the props out from under our little kingdom work and we begin crying out, “Your Kingdom come! Your will be done!”
2.Programs and People; Trellis and Vine
For years I have repeated the phrase, “Programs do not reach people; people reach people!” This is not to say that all programs are worthless or pointless or useless. Programs can be important in order to create the space or place for people to be introduced to other people and to interact with other people for the purpose of pointing one another to Christ.
I shared one my favorite quotes with the ladies last Thursday evening at a meeting. EM Bounds said, “The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men.” He went on to say, “What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use—men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men—men of prayer.” Although Bounds speaks directly to men, this truth is applicable to all believers.
Another image to help point to this truth is that of a trellis and vine. Life resides in the vine not the trellis; the trellis is simply there to help support the vine. Who plants a vine in order to support the trellis? Church can be thought of in these terms; life resides in the people of God not the programs of God’s people. The programs of God’s people are simply there to help support and encourage the life of God’s people; the trellis is there to support the vine. The trellis and the vine is an image I have gotten from a book with that title.
Recently, as I was studying and meditating on Acts 6:1-7, I was struck by how the twelve handled the complaint that the Greek widows were being overlooked. The twelve did not hold any meetings (that we know of) to draw up a plan or structure to handle the situation. The twelve asked the congregation to select from among themselves seven men of good repute, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom and they appointed them to the task. This is an example of putting trust in people rather than programs; this is an example of giving priority to the vine rather than the trellis. The twelve’s answer to the complaint was to emphasize Spirit filled people rather than a structured program. This is not to say they had no structure but it does show that the emphasis was on trustworthy people rather than airtight programs. This is a challenge for all of us to think about people and pray specifically for people and look for opportunities to encourage people with the Word. This is a challenge for us to be engaged in the disciple making process and to have any structure or program or process serve in making disciples to the glory of God.
3.A Sabbatical Plan
First of all, I want to say thank you for allowing me to go on sabbatical from June 1st through August 31st. I am grateful for the opportunity and feel a great responsibility to use this time well. I do not view a sabbatical as an extended vacation but as a purposeful rest. During the sabbatical I will be “resting” from pastoral ministry and yet engaging in exercises and activities that will refresh, recharge, and renew me for continued pastoral ministry.
Secondly, I want to share with you a couple passages that are stand out to me as I plan. The following passages are key passages for me as I head into the sabbatical. I want to take time and remember the whole way that the Lord my God has led me and my family these past 25 years and be reminded that I do not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. I also am eager to explore the concept of rest in the Lord and to learn more of what it means when Jesus tells us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.
Deuteronomy 8:2 says, “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. 3-And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4-Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. 5-Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you.”
Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29-Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30-For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Thirdly, I want to share some specific things I will be engaged in on my sabbatical.
I want to take some time to travel and remember the whole way the Lord God has led me and my family to this point. Beginning in June, I will travel out to Spearfish to remember and reflect upon my time of ministry there. I will travel from there to Montana where I will be staying with the Morgan’s for a time before coming back home. Toward the end of July I will be traveling south to the Kansas City area to remember and reflect upon my time of ministry and training there. Then I will travel east to Kentucky to do the same thing. From Kentucky I will continue on to Florida to visit JP, Courtney and Jeffrey and Cole and Kezia. I will then be traveling home in August to get the kids ready for school.
When I am out of the area I will visit local churches I have attended before or those I am familiar with, and when I am in the area I plan on visiting our sister churches within the NAB conference or TPA network. The purpose of worshiping elsewhere is so that I will keep “resting” from pastoral ministry and for me to experience, enjoy and learn about the ministry of our sister congregations.
I also plan on doing several shorter “silent” retreats where I completely unplug from phone and media. These retreats may take place at Newton Hills, Lake Pahoja or other such spots I may find.
During my time away I plan to devote time to read and journal through the Bible chronologically. I have purchased a journaling bible for the occasion. I do have some other books and studies in mind but want to give priority to reading and meditating on God’s Word.
During my time away I will be maintaining contact with the elders for the purpose of accountability and providing updates. Any ministry related items should be directed to the elders in my absence. The elders of Faith Baptist have proven themselves fully capable of carrying on the Gospel ministry and I know they will step up and serve well during this time. We have good elders and we also have a very loving congregation who do a good job of caring for one another and I know everyone will step up and serve each other well during this time.
Glory and Praise to God
Grace and Peace to you