Day 3,205

I sincerely believe that one of the great hopes that our nation has is the starting of new churches, and I rejoice in every new work that will make the preaching of Christ its primary focus.  Fellowship Baptist Church has always been involved in new church plants; both here in America and around the globe.  Nothing is more exciting than a new baby, even if that baby happens to be a church.

In recent weeks, my heart has rejoiced to hear of the birth of many new churches.  Fellowship Baptist has been financially involved in some of those plants.  I have been prayerfully involved in each one that I knew about.  I sincerely hope that this post will not be misinterpreted as a lack of enthusiasm, on my part, for starting churches.

IMG_0461Last Sunday was not our launch day.  As a matter of fact, last Sunday was day 3,205 for Fellowship Baptist Church.  That’s right, more than sixty-one years ago; FBC held its first service on the other side of the tracks in the Catsburg community of Durham, North Carolina.  While I rejoice with those involved with every new church plant that is springing up across our country, I also want to rejoice with those churches that remain faithful to the mission after decades of ministry. We need established churches.

I have been to many conferences where church planting has been a point of emphasis, and to that emphasis, I give a hearty Amen.  Churches are closing their doors each and every week.  Pastors are quitting the ministry regularly.  If we do not continue to invest in church planting, the attrition rate will ultimately catch up with us and we will cease to exist.

10553799_10208860780062007_6493875145736582858_oOn the other hand, we need strong, established churches to remain strong.  To be honest, I doubt that things were quite as exciting for us on day 3,205 as they were for some of my friends on their launch day.  However, I rejoice that Fellowship Baptist just experienced day 3,205!

Established churches should provide financial support for new church plants.

Fellowship Baptist is not a wealthy church, but the Lord has blessed us.  He has enabled us to care for our needs, and He has also provided for us to help others.  There are currently 125 missionaries that receive monthly support from our ministry.  Many of those works are new church plants.  The ability to faithfully support that many missionaries would not have been a possibility in the early years of our church’s existence.  An established church can and should invest financially in new church plants.

Established churches should produce workers for new church plants.

All things being equal, it will take some time for new church plants years to produce workers for ministry.  When I mention workers, I’m talking about pastors and others who serve in leadership positions.  The Word of God is clear that those who are novices should not occupy such offices.

Churches that have been in existence for decades can and should produce pastors and assistant pastors for new church plants.  God doesn’t intend for everyone to serve in full time ministry, but it should definitely be a consideration for everyone.

Established churches should be models for new church plants.

No two churches are alike, and no church should attempt to mimic another ministry.  However, it is healthy for a new church plant to have older churches to look to for examples.

266284_163898233682833_2420894_oHere at Fellowship Baptist, I love the fact that our teenagers can look to our young adults and young couples for examples.  I’m glad that our young couples, which are just starting their families, can look to our middle aged couples for examples in child rearing.  I am very grateful that all of our people can look to a healthy group of senior citizens to learn how to finish their course with joy.

In much the same way, new church plants can look to older, established churches in order to learn.  What a privilege it is to be able to help new church plants in this way.

Established churches should not be threatened by new church plants.

Having worked with young people for more than thirty years, I have watched the scenario play out again and again.  A new girl enrolls in the school or joins the youth group.  Usually, the guys are really excited about that, especially if she happens to be attractive.  Sometimes, the girls are not so excited, especially if she’s pretty.  There is a timeless problem that arises and that problem is called jealousy.

I have also seen pastors display that same jealousy toward new church plants.  One thing I had to settle a long time ago is that I cannot determine the will of God for someone else.  Where a man plants a new church is between him and the Lord.  If that church planter fails to properly discern God’s will, that’s his problem, not mine.  Neither can I impose my personal ethics on another man of God.  I may not understand a man’s thought process in planting a church down the street from where I pastor, but it’s not my thought process and I will not answer for it.  I will, however, answer for ill feelings that I harbor toward someone who does not do things just like I think they ought to be done.

We need established churches and new church plants.

Reality states that we need both established churches and new church plants.  Most churches don’t live to be sixty years old.  Many that do, are no longer effective.  Those who are a part of established churches shouldn’t feel as if they are missing something because of the enthusiasm of a new church plant.  Those involved in church plants should not be intimidated by established churches.

I have been married for 34 years.  I’ve only enjoyed one wedding day, and it was something!  Folks came from all over and filled that church auditorium in South Bend, Indiana.  What a time we had!  Last July when Renae and I celebrated our 34th Anniversary there was no party.  There were no guests and there were no gifts.  It was just she and I, enjoying a nice dinner together.  However, to us, it was more than that.  What we have now we could only dream of having 34 years ago.  I loved our wedding day, but I wouldn’t trade our wedding day for our 34th Anniversary.

In much the same way, established churches and established pastors should celebrate new church plants.  Well wishes and gifts are certainly acceptable and much appreciated.  However, those who are a part of established churches don’t need to be envious of new church plants.  As a pastor of almost 30 years in a church that is 61 years old, I don’t want to start over.  I love this stage of my ministry.  I’m enjoying this era in our church’s history.

This fall I have officiated four weddings involving young couples in our church.  Each time I’ve done so, I’ve rejoiced with the newlyweds.  I’ve been happy for them.  Yet, when my wife I and get in the car to drive home, my hope for that young couple is that one day they will have what my wife and I have now.

In much the same way, I’m happy for the new church plants that are springing up around the world.  I appreciate your excitement.  I admire your vision.  I have great hopes for your future.  In much the same way, I hope you appreciate and admire what the established churches around you have become.  I’m happy for your Launch Day and I thoroughly enjoyed our Day 3,205.

Rick Finley

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God’s Perspective

I am writing this post from 38,000 feet in the air as I am flying to Chicago.  Someone will meet me at the airport, drive me to Northwest Indiana, and tomorrow I will preach in chapel at Hyles-Anderson College.

Not long after we took off from Raleigh-Durham International Airport, we broke through a deck of clouds.  To say that life above the clouds was gorgeous would be an understatement! As we began to head northwest, the sun began to set at the edge of the horizon.  As I was enjoying the handiwork of my Creator-God, I was reminded that this was His perspective….all the time.  What I am seldom privileged to see, He sees continually.

IMG_7943It is good to be reminded that God’s perspective is much different than ours.  Our perspective is limited by our human weakness.  Our eyes can only see so far.  Our feet can only take us to a certain point.  However, our God’s perspective is unlimited.

From His perspective, He sees beyond my failures to my potential.

My Bible tells me that even the just man will fall seven times.  Failure isn’t foreign to any of us.  As I think back over the past 34 years that I’ve been involved in full-time ministry, I don’t have to think long to remember a failure.  As a matter of fact, I am more prone to remember my personal defeats than I am to remember my victories.

The reason my failures are so readily accessible to my mind is because of someone that we know as “The Accuser of the Brethren.”  Satan is quick to remind me of the many times I’ve failed.  Once those thoughts have pitched their tent in my mind, it can be very difficult for me to evict them.  As a matter of fact, sometimes it’s hard for me to see past my failures.

God, on the other hand, sees past them readily.  Remember, His perspective is vastly different from mine!  He sees my failures, but while looking beyond them, He sees how He plans to use them in my life.  He sees how those failures, which reminded me of my weakness, will actually make me stronger.  From His perspective, He can already see how even my failures will “work together for good” in my life.

From His perspective, He sees beyond fears to my deliverance.

In recent weeks our world has been pummeled with hurricanes.  We’ve all seen the images of the dark, heavy clouds on the horizon.  Knowing what is behind those clouds causes great fear in our hearts.

It is comforting to know that God has a different perspective.  Most of our fears are dependent upon our inability to see beyond the clouds.  We fear the unknown.  Most of what we fear, will never come to pass. Thankfully, God can see beyond our fears, and He already knows how He will deliver us.  It’s all a part of His divine plan.

From His perspective, He sees beyond my frailities to how He will reveal His strength.

My weaknesses are glaring, at least to me.  I know them.  I am aware of them.  Sometimes my weakness is like a low cloud deck in my life.  It’s almost as if I can feel my frailties.  Others don’t always notice them but I notice them.  I am reminded of the often.

Thankfully, God sees from another perspective.  He sees how He is going to reveal His strength through my weakness.  When the Apostle Paul thrice asked the Lord to deliver him from his weakness, God refused to do so.  However, Paul needed not to be hopeless.  In almost the same breath that God refused to eradicate Paul’s problem, the Lord promised to give Paul strength to make it.  It was already predetermined.  From God’s perspective, He knew just how much strength, or grace, that Paul needed.  As a matter of fact, God promised that His grace would be sufficient.

You and I sometimes struggle because of our perspective.  What a glorious moment it is when God enables us to break through the clouds to see things from His perspective.  For some, that moment doesn’t come until we step into eternity.  In the meantime, we must choose to trust Him.

Rick Finley

There Are No Second Class Laborers

Today, as I write this, it’s Labor Day and I am enjoying a very rare day at home.  I like to spend a portion of days like this thinking about the goodness of God in my life and in my ministry.  As I thought about that, my mind went to many of our Fellowship Baptist Church family who are also enjoying a rare day off.

I am thankful today for our church staff.  God has assembled a dedicated team of workers who selflessly give their lives for the people of our church and our community.  Our daycare workers, our Fellowship Baptist Academy staff, our office and support staff and our pastoral staff are all choice people who help make ministry possible in our church.  I am so happy that they are able to enjoy this holiday with their families.

16265232_10211783351364463_7725654532476332636_nAs thankful as I am for our staff, I am just as thankful for the volunteer workers of our church.  By volunteer, I mean those who labor in our church without any type of compensation; at least here on the earth.  Many of these men and women are employed full-time in the secular realm.  They invest 40, 50, or 60 hours to earn money to provide for their families, and then they volunteer countless hours in the ministry.  They are the backbone of our church and a constant source of encouragement to this pastor.

Early in my ministry, I was committed to training young people for ministry.  Looking back, I believe that I was so committed, that our kids felt pressured to surrender. (Don’t get me wrong, I believe that every Christian young person should consider being in ministry.  If we don’t get our future pastors, teachers and ministry workers from churches like ours, I’m not sure where they will come from.) Many years ago, I determined that if a young person believed God wanted them to work secularly; they were going to be made to feel just as important as those who left our church to attend Bible college and train for ministry.

14432962_10210506105474114_7903952178091288887_nI have also spent the last several years trying to convey to our laypeople that they are not second class laborers.  Because someone’s paycheck is signed by an unsaved administrative assistant at a factory rather than by a church secretary, that person doesn’t need to feel inferior. At FBC, some of our most valuable ministry workers are those who serve in a volunteer capacity.  Here are just a few reasons why our ministry workers who serve as volunteers are so important to us.

THEY ARE STRONG DUE TO ENDURANCE

Some of our men and ladies work in very difficult environments.  Every day, they are subjected to profanity, vulgarity and disdain for Christianity.  Those who serve within the walls of our ministry are protected from much of that kind of filth, and that is a blessing.  Yet, many of those who live and work in difficult environments have grown stronger through endurance.  They have to be strong or they would succumb to the pressures that are being placed upon them by the world.

THEY ARE SALT AND LIGHT WHERE THEY WORK

During a recent service we found that there were people in attendance from seven different counties surrounding our church.  Three times each week, people come from many different directions to convene at 515 Southerland Street in Durham.  Following our services, our people go back into those communities to be salt and light in a very dark world.

 

17966647_10212580513093008_5703298253424756345_oThose who work in secular environments throughout our community are representing their church, and more importantly, their Saviour, in their workplace.  On a daily basis, they rub shoulders with people I will never meet, although we live in the same community.  They are able bear the burdens of their coworkers and to pray with them for their needs and the needs of their families.

THEY HELP TO FINANCE OUR MINISTRY

Most of our ministry financial needs are met by people who work in a secular environment.  The Gospel is free, but it costs greatly to get the message to those who need it most.  Were it not for the secularly employed men and ladies of our church who give their tithes and offerings, we would not be able to operate.

THEIR SERVICE IS GENUINE AND FROM THE HEART

I believe this is true of our paid staff members as well, but I know that it is true of our volunteers.  They aren’t compensated for their service.  They are not required to serve.  There are no repercussions affecting their employment if they don’t serve.  Having been in ministry for more than 34 years, I’ve watched as many pastors, assistant pastors, teachers, etc. have chosen to leave ministry to pursue secular employment.  Unfortunately, those workers oftentimes stop serving in ministry altogether.  All the while, I’ve observed many volunteer laborers who just continue on in their teaching, soul winning, singing and serving.

16107557_10211677625841391_4382234216130002688_oTwo thousand years ago, the Lord gave His disciples a prayer request.  He asked them to pray for laborers.  On this Labor Day, I want to praise God for how He has answered my prayer request by providing our church with scores of dedicated workers.  A few of them are employed by our church, but the bulk of them will return to work tomorrow in a non-Christian environment.  They are some of the finest Christians I know and it is the honor of my life to be their pastor.

Rick Finley

 

The Gift of Transparency

A few months ago I was at a meeting where several hundred pastors were in attendance.  A long-time pastor friend approached me and we exchanged greetings.  Following our initial words, this good man said to me, “I follow you on social media.  Man, you’ve really got it going on down there in Durham!”  My immediate response was, “No sir.  We really don’t.”  Initially my friend looked puzzled.  After a few seconds of contemplation, he said to me.  “Thanks for saying that!”  He and I entered into a brief conversation about the struggles of the ministry and the pressure that we sometimes feel to give the impression that things are always going great!

13048143_10209198738830765_7021186518761424882_oI don’t know about you, but often I feel hesitant to be transparent.  Sometimes my pride prevents me from being totally honest concerning the things that are transpiring in my heart or in my life.  Questions flood my mind and I wonder how I will be perceived if I am totally honest about how I am feeling.  That day, when my pastor friend shared his perception that things must be going really great in our ministry, I was tempted to go along with the his line of thinking.  It would have been easy to do.

Let’s consider this matter of transparency in our lives.  Here are just a few thoughts the Lord has given me.

WE CAN EASILY FOOL OTHERS

People are gullible.  They are easily fooled.  Every day, hundreds of people are bilked of hundreds of thousands of dollars by crooks that convince them that they can be trusted.  They sell them goods or services all because of smooth speech, glossy business cards and trendy websites.

You can fool people!  A fake smile and warm handshake can cover up a world of hurt.  A few positive Tweets or a few embellished Facebook posts can easily give people the impression that your ministry is the greatest thing to happen since the Day of Pentecost.  (By the way, we don’t ever post the bad things that take place in our church.)

WE CANNOT FOOL GOD

We spend far too much time trying to impress people who really don’t count.  I’m not insinuating that people are not important; I am simply stating that the person who counts the most is God!  Romans 14:12 declares that we all will give an account of ourselves to God.  He really is the person who matters most!

The time that you spend trying to impress others is wasted time.  It was Jeremiah the prophet who wrote in Jeremiah 17:10, “I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.”  Why are we so worried with the impressions of others when our Creator God knows the truth about us?

THE TRUTH WILL BE REVEALED

In I Corinthians 3:13 we read these words:  “Every man’s work shall be made manifest:  for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.”  Covering our faults, failures and inhibitions is only a temporary solution.  One day, it will all be revealed.

In my life, I have found that these types of revelations are not always postponed until the Judgment Seat.  Oftentimes, the truth is revealed much sooner.  Recently we had a fine, young lady who visited our church from another state.  She had heard about our ministry for most of her life.  Her father is a pastor, so she was familiar with Fellowship Baptist and it’s ministries.  At the conclusion of her visit I asked her, “Is the church what you anticipated it would be?”  Her answer both pleased and humbled me as she affirmed her visit had exceeded her expectations.

IMG_0461There have been times when I’ve been able to visit churches of which I had heard.  Maybe I had learned of the church through social media.  Maybe I read in some periodical about a big Sunday or some special campaign they had enjoyed.  On more than one occasion, I have been terribly disappointed to learn that the reputation that had been presented concerning that church was inaccurate.

OUR TRANSPARENCY CAN HELP OTHERS

Occasionally, God will bring someone across our path that is struggling.  Sometimes, they are struggling with the same things that we are struggling with in our lives, but they are not aware of our struggle.  When they leave our presence they are still unaware because we give them the impression that we have no struggles of our own.  Our lack of transparency robs us of the opportunity to help others.  We see this truth explained in II Corinthians 1:4, “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”

As you deal with the struggles in your life, don’t always attempt to hide them from others.  God may have brought a particular person your way for that purpose.  You don’t have to air your dirty laundry, but openness and transparency may give you the platform for ministering to someone who is walking through the same valley you are walking through.

OUR TRANSPARENCY MAY ENABLE US TO HELP OTHERS

Once someone is aware of our struggle, that person may be able to help us. God may have allowed them to cross our path for that specific purpose.   Covering up our pain with a facade will cause them to forfeit the opportunity to be a blessing to us.

554760_486104784776056_1472062379_nYears ago I was making the rounds at church; shaking as many hands as possible before the service started.  I was asking all of the obligatory questions and giving the obligatory answers.  “How are you doing?”  “I’m doing well.”  When I offered Bro. Walter Cole my customary, “I’m doing great!” he refused to let go of my hand.  Instead, he pulled me back to him, looked me in the eye and asked, “How are you really doing?”  He didn’t know it, but that week had been unusually tough.  The truth is, I wasn’t doing great.  The simple fact that such a good man, (who has since graduated to Heaven), looked past the façade and tried to help me, encouraged me more than I know how to describe.

God is at work in your life.  Allow those whom He has placed in your path to help you.  Stop trying to give people the false impression that things are going so well, when in fact, they aren’t going well at all.  Be honest and open.  The people who might be impressed by the outward facades surrounding our lives are not nearly as important as those who might be helped by our openness.  Remember, honesty really is the best policy.

Rick Finley

I’m a First Year Teacher

This week Fellowship Baptist Academy opened its’ doors for another year of training young people.  As the pastor, I am so thankful for the people whom God has sent us to work with our students.  I believe that He has given us some of His most choice servants for this task.

Each year, new teachers join our teaching staff here at FBA.  My heart always goes out to these young men and young ladies who have placed so much trust in our ministry by relocating here to serve.  It is always our hope that these teachers will choose to serve with us for many years, but even those with long tenure had to start.

I was recently speaking with a pastor about the joy of longevity on a school staff.  His response was, “Longevity can be good or it can be bad.”  His comment turned my attention to first year teachers, the challenges they face and the potential they possess.  I penned the following thoughts about first year teachers.

I’m a First Year Teacher

I hope that you will pray for me.  Right now, my life is just a little bit overwhelming.  I have recently gone through more transitions than I have at any other time in my life.  Just a few months ago I graduated from college and went home to spend my last college summer with my family.  The last several weeks have involved trying to make memories with those I love the most before I relocate to spend all of my time with people I’ve never met before.  It’s a bit unnerving.

Right now, I hope I never have to look at a heavy-duty plastic tub again!  I’ve spent the past three months putting all of my belongings into one of those things, and just in the past few days, I’ve emptied them all out, placing my stuff in my new home.  Don’t feel sorry for me.  It’s not like I have a lot of stuff.  Remember, I’m just getting started.

Then, there is Teacher Orientation.  I’ve never tried to absorb so much information in such a short period of time in my life!  I’m learning the procedures and policies of my new school, while trying to understand the hearts of those who lead me.  You see, my desire is not to be just a good employee; I want to be an extension of my pastor’s ministry in my classroom.  I’m trying to observe those who have much more experience than I have.  Sometimes, it’s a bit intimidating.  Sitting in meetings with people who have taught five, ten or twenty years can make me feel so inadequate.  I hope that someday I will be able to boast of that kind of tenure, but right now, I bear the title of first year teacher.

20800068_10213817124047509_8306696148164684777_nIn the past, when I have gone through these types of unsettling experiences, church has been my refuge.  Don’t get me wrong, it still is.  However, I’m in a new church.  I like it, but it’s not exactly what I’m used to.   While trying to find strength from the pastor’s sermon, I’m trying to remember the names of that couple that I just met during the handshaking time a few moments ago.

On top of all of that, I’m learning a new community.  Where is the post office, the library and the most affordable grocery store near my home?  Which areas of town do I need to avoid?  Where do I choose to bank?  If I am under the weather, which doctor’s office do I call?  It seems like my life is one big question mark right now.

Just when I begin to question whether or not I made the right decision in coming here, everything changes.  It’s opening day at our school.  Today, I realized my dream!  I walked into a room of children whom I had envisioned long before I ever met them.  I looked into their eyes and saw their potential.  It was instantaneous.  God gave me a love for these kids that I never thought I could have.  No matter how long I teach, these kids will always hold a special place in my heart because they will always be my first class.

As a parent, you probably raised your eyebrows when you found out that I was your child’s teacher.  I can understand that.  I don’t have a track record.  All you know about me is what you heard from our pastor, and all he knows about me is what he read on my resume or learned from one of my references.  If you don’t mind, I’d like to tell you just a little bit about myself.

Teaching your child is something that I’ve dreamed about since I surrendered my life to the Lord as a young person.  It’s why I left my parents and moved into a college dormitory four years ago.  It’s why I worked long hours to help pay my school bill; studying into the wee hours of the morning so that I would be ready for this task that God has placed before me, teaching your child.   It’s why I spent holidays away from my family, and if my birthdays were even celebrated, the celebrations were with a few college roommates who couldn’t afford a cake or decorations.   I am so excited that I can hardly go to sleep at night, even though I’m exhausted from the events of the past few months.  Maybe when I’ve gotten a few years under my belt, I won’t be so nervous. I’ve noticed that some of my coworkers seem much more calm.  Obviously they’ve been there and done that.  Right now, all I can think about is that teaching your child is the biggest job and the greatest privilege in the world!

20841870_10214018774731465_5926928484627167922_nI cannot rely upon my experience, so I must rely upon my Lord.  I’ve never prayed so much in my life!  Maybe when I’ve taught several years, I won’t feel so dependent upon Him, but right now, He is my hope, my refuge and my strength.  I refuse to walk into the classroom to teach your child without Him and trust that I will always feel this way.

Obviously I’m not married, and I have no children of my own.  Although I’m hoping that one day, the Lord will bring someone into my life, right now your child is my family.  Some of the other teachers have husbands or wives and children to care for, but at least for now, I can pour most of my time and attention into my students.

I’m sure I’ll make mistakes.  I want to thank you in advance for being gracious towards me.  Please know that my lack of experience doesn’t mean that I lack enthusiasm, passion or desire.  Neither do I lack qualification.  I have worked hard to prepare for this particular moment in my life, and my preparation does give me a bit of confidence.  I am here because I believe God led me here.  I believe that same God placed your child in my classroom.  I also believe that same God will enable me to be the teacher that your child needs.  I covet your prayers.

 

Rick Finley

Our Children and Authority

The past few weeks we have reposted several blog articles that specifically address the ministry of working with young people.  Anyone who knows me knows that I love spending time with young people.  My first position after Bible college was to work with the youth at our church.  A job I enjoyed for years before I became the pastor at Fellowship Baptist Church.

Summer is a time where many activities are focused on young people through camps, conferences, VBS, etc.  I trust this article will encourage and inspire you in working with your own children or those to whom you minister.

The original blog post from January 2016:

 

I have been privileged to work with young people since surrendering to the ministry in 1978.  Since then I have served as a bus captain, a junior church worker, a youth pastor, a schoolteacher, a principal, a pastor and a father.  I must admit one of the great joys of my life has been investing in future generations.  I love it!

There are many challenges facing those who work with youth today.  One of the greatest challenges is working with parents who, in my opinion, confuse their children by challenging the godly authority figures the Lord has placed in their children’s lives.  This is not a new problem, but one that seems to have grown more complicated in recent years.

In Matthew 20, the mother of James and John approaches the Lord and asks a favor.   In verse 21 we read of her request:  “…Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.”  If this conversation were to take place today, that mother may have asked, “Why wasn’t my daughter chosen as Queen for the Day” or, “Why did my son sit on the bench more than the other player” or, “Would you consider allowing my child to be an exception to this rule?”

I get it; we all love our kids and only want the best for them.  I’ve been there and I’ve done that.  However, I think it is important that we understand the biblical concept of authority and how it relates to our children.

GOD ALLOWS US TO CHOOSE AUTHORITIES FOR OUR CHILDREN

When God entrusts us with children, He also entrusts us with the responsibility of choosing the authorities in their lives.  For instance, we choose where they attend church and who their pastor will be.  That is a huge choice!  Once that choice is made, the pastor chooses whom their Sunday school teachers, junior church workers and youth workers will be.  As parents, we choose where our children will be educated.  We may choose to enroll them in a public school; a Christian school or we may choose to educate them at home.  In each case, the choice of where they will be trained will dictate who their authorities will be.

WE SHOULD TRUST THOSE AUTHORITIES

As a parent, if I have prayerfully chosen my pastor or if I have prayerfully chosen where my children attend school, I should have confidence in the authorities that God has placed in my child’s life.  No authority is perfect and authority is not always right, but God places certain authority figures in the lives of our children.  There was a reason why Minnie Mundy was my first grade teacher and Frances Blalock was my second grade teacher when I enrolled at Holt Elementary School.  There was a reason why people like Virginia Bryant, Frankie Murray, James Carlyle, George Russell and others were my Sunday school teachers when I was growing up here at Fellowship Baptist Church.  None of those people were perfect, but God’s plan included them having influence in my life as a young person.

WE SHOULD ALLOW THOSE AUTHORITIES TO LEAD OUR CHILDREN

Salome, the mother of James and John, should never have approached Jesus in order to ask that her sons receive preferential treatment.  She should have allowed the Son of God to make decisions involving her sons, rather than interfering with what the Lord was doing. Likewise, as parents, we should allow the authorities in our children’s lives to lead.

12365978_10208260759021856_8290317660146069348_o

Gathered with some of our younger children at the annual Christmas Eve service.

Obviously, I am not talking about situations where authorities may be hurting our children.  No one in their right mind would condone physical abuse that is committed by those to whom our children have been entrusted.  I am not talking about situations where someone in authority may be teaching things contrary to scripture.  I am talking about situations where someone in authority may be making decisions that we would not make if we were in their shoes.

If a child isn’t chosen for the lead part in the kindergarten play, even though you think he should be, it probably won’t scar him for life.  If your son isn’t in the starting lineup, it probably won’t prevent him from reaching his potential as a husband or father.  If your daughter isn’t chosen to sing the solo in the Christmas musical, (even though it is quite obvious to you that she has the best voice in the children’s choir), she will probably go on to lead a quite normal life.  God can use those judgment calls that are made by our children’s authorities to help prepare them for challenges they will face even into adulthood.

MISTAKES BY THOSE AUTHORITIES CAN BE USED BY GOD

Suppose your son should be the starting center on the team.  Suppose your child should have been given the lead part and suppose that it was made obvious when his counterpart forgot all his lines on the night of the play.  Suppose the person who was chosen over your daughter for the solo totally botched her performance and ran off the platform in tears.  Suppose your opinions concerning your child are validated and you have the self-satisfaction in your heart that you were right all along and that your kid really is head and shoulders above his or her peers.

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Teaching life lessons through sports is a priority.

All is not lost.  God may be using poor judgment by your child’s authority to prepare him for something later on in life.  In all likelihood, the teacher who chose someone else over your child will not be the last authority to make a mistake in your child’s life.  He may have a boss who will one day make a poor decision.  He may be passed over for a well-deserved promotion for someone less qualified.  She may be incorrectly disciplined for something that she really didn’t do by a supervisor.  As long as God gives authority to human beings, human error will be involved as authority leads.  Mistakes will be made and judgment will be flawed.  It’s a part of life.  Our kids are going to have to learn how to deal with it.

As parents, we have more confidence in our children than anyone else in the world.  It should be that way.  Sometimes, our estimation of our own children’s gifts, abilities, talents, etc., is flawed by our love for our own.  It’s not easy to admit that our kid isn’t the brightest student in the class or the most gifted athlete on the team.  Sometimes, the Lord can use the brutal honesty of a pastor, teacher, principal or coach to temper our lofty opinions of our child.

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God has blessed my wife and I to have five children, pictured here with their spouses, our grandchildren, and my mom.

My wife and I raised five children.  There were many times when we had to bite our lips.  There were times when we had to shake our heads in wonder as we watched other people, whom we had chosen, make decisions with which we strongly disagreed.  I’m sure we made mistakes, but we sincerely tried to let those leaders lead.  Although our children have never been perfect, I believe they are better adults because we tried to refrain from doing what Salome did for her boys.  I’m not saying that it was always easy, but I am saying that it was the right thing to do.

Rick Finley

The Hope of Our Youth

This post was originally written and appeared two years ago but my mind was brought back to it as once again we find ourselves in the midst of a summer filled with youth camps, conferences, and other activities focused on providing spiritual training geared specifically to our young people.  This week we have 250 teens gathered at a camp, surrounded by mountains and free of technological distractions as we attempt to spend time investing in their lives and reminding them of God’s love for them.

Growing up in 2017 is filled with challenges that many of us adults will never fully understand.  Times are different.  Society operates differently for the youth of today.  Now, more than ever, we need to emphasize Biblical principles and training in the hearts of our youth.  They will lead our churches and our families in the near future.

Here are the thoughts I shared back then that are still relevant today…

 

The summer of 2015 will be remembered as one of the most traumatic in history for those who believe and attempt to practice Bible principles in daily living.  It seemed that every Sunday I was trying to use the Word of God to encourage people who had been shaken by news and media stories featuring Bruce Jenner, the Supreme Court and Planned Parenthood.  To say that the news was unsettling would be an understatement.

There were other stories that never made the headlines, so most believers wouldn’t have heard them.  In spite of the unnerving news that monopolized the 6:00 evening hour and blew up social media, I got wind of story after story that brought great encouragement to my heart and hope for the future.  It seemed that every day I heard or read about some church having hundreds of children attend a Vacation Bible School or a Backyard Bible Club.  I read about churches holding youth conferences or youth revivals with many coming to know Christ or drawing closer to the Saviour.  I read about young men yielding their lives to God at Friday night youth rallies.  I saw videos of services from various teen camps across the nation.  I read Tweets from preachers who were preaching in these meetings and seeing God fan the flames of revival amongst young people who will, in the not too distant future, make up the next generation.  Personally, I was privileged to preach in a few of those camps or rallies, and I too saw the Holy Ghost at work.

11896264_10207508690220606_5195547876947802653_oNo, the churches that hosted these meetings did not all think alike.  They didn’t all run in the same “circles” nor have the exact same worship styles.  They might not all agree on specific standards of dress.  Their preferences might not line up with mine, nor mine with theirs.  However, they all agreed on one thing.  They all agreed that, by investing in our youth, we could make a difference in our future.  They agreed that our kids are worth it.  They agreed that sleeping in rickety bunks at camp, or breaking down on bus trips, or waiting in line to get a shower in a motel room crammed with five teenage guys was a small price to pay for the chance to impact a young life.

1045067_510917728961428_1197708930_nWhat about the kids?  Their hearts were open to the Word and Spirit of God.  They weren’t overly concerned with whether it was Bruce or Kaitlyn Jenner.  They didn’t really care who in fundamentalism was mad at who or who was left off the platform at some major conference, nor why.  They hadn’t read the latest blog post attacking a man who was doing his best to propagate the gospel, even if he did it a little differently than the author.   They hadn’t figured out yet that some folks believe that growing up in a church that considers itself to be fundamental could damage their psyche or cause them to rebel.

They were just kids who hoped that their world could be a better place, and hoped maybe they could have a part in making it so.  Their hearts were tender and open.  They had not yet made up their minds about a lot of things.  They believed the Word of God as it was preached and were willing to yield themselves to its truths.

11713732_10207128962847659_4149576141248908438_oI don’t know what the future holds for America, my community or my church, but I am greatly encouraged by much of what I see and hear.  There is a generation of young people coming behind us who have a heart for God.  There are teenagers and junior boys and girls who still have child-like faith that their God can do big things!  Their hope has not been diminished like the hope of so many of their elders.

As we prepare our children for their annual return to the classrooms across our land, let’s be careful that we don’t throw water on the fires that have been lit in their hearts this summer.  Let’s help them grow their faith.  Let’s encourage them to pursue their God-given visions.  Let’s pray that if He won’t turn our nation around in our lifetimes, maybe He will in theirs.

Rick Finley