A Giant Fell – A Tribute to Bro. Bobby Roberson

You may not have heard it.  You may have been so busy with your day-to-day routine that you simply didn’t notice it.  It was about supper time (at least that’s what he would call it), on February 12, 2018.  That’s when a mighty tree, named Bro. Bobby Roberson, fell.

27867556_10213388327616907_213252262008740554_nIn the forest of fundamentalism, Bobby Roberson stood, like a mighty sequoia amongst a bunch of shrubs.  Although not great in stature, he was head and shoulders above the rest of us.  What made him stand out, you might ask?  We could talk endlessly about his consistency, his longevity, his compassion, his steadfastness and his commonality.  Although he was a giant, he never made the rest of us feel like he was our superior.  He was just Bro. Bobby.

Bobby Roberson loved preachers; all kinds of preachers.  Although he wasn’t one to compromise, he always treated those with whom he disagreed with courtesy and grace.  He didn’t talk down to anyone and always seemed to have time for everyone.  If you were a preacher, he didn’t care whether you were the pastor of a mega-church in the city, or a small handful of folks in the Appalachians.  He loved you and was there for you.  I can remember dropping in on him a time or two.  He always seemed to find time.

27973564_2113305185352727_8115630854666741951_nOne of my fondest memories of Bro. Bobby took place just a couple of years ago.  Our school basketball team went to Walkertown to play Gospel Light Christian School on Homecoming Night.  Our bus broke down as we were pulling into the parking lot, and after the game, we had to wait around for another bus to come from Durham.  For some in our group, that might have been an inconvenience, but not for me.  I went over to the cafeteria and there was Bro. Bobby.  He and I, along with a few of his people, sat and ate Pinto beans and cornbread and just talked.  I will cherish that night forever.

About twenty-four years ago, I invited Bro. Bobby to preach a two-night meeting for us.  On Monday night, he and Mrs. Roberson drove over from Walkertown and met my family at a local restaurant.  On that night, Mrs. Roberson drove and Bro. Bobby rode shotgun.  When they got out of the car I asked Mrs. Roberson how she was doing and she promptly replied “Terrible!  Daddy made me drive over here and he knows I don’t like to drive!”  I learned real fast that Mrs. Roberson just said what she thought.

We went into the restaurant and had supper.  During the conversation I mentioned to Bro. Bobby that I was praying about starting a school.  When Mrs. Roberson heard that, she jumped into the conversation.  “Don’t even think about it Bro. Rick!  That Christian school ain’t nothing but a big headache.  It’ll kill your church if you’re not careful.”  I realized real quickly that I had touched a nerve, so I abandoned the subject of the conversation abruptly. (Looking back, I remember Bro. Bobby didn’t feel led to continue the dialogue either.)  Mrs. Roberson had spoken her peace and had said enough for both of them!  We finished our meal and made our way to the church for the service.

During the service, Bro. Bobby and I were sitting on the platform.  During the special song, he leaned over and put his hand on my arm.  I inclined my ear in his direction and he whispered to me, “Bro. Rick, you’ve got nice facilities here.  The Lord’s been good to you.  You’ve got a good church, some good people and a good crowd of young folks.  You know, I think you ought to start a Christian school.  I believe you’d do good with it.”  He didn’t want to talk about it when his wife was around, but that one sentence helped give me the courage to move forward with what the Lord had placed upon my heart. Yes, the mighty tree crashed to the ground a couple of days ago, but his influence will continue on forever.

I just returned from having lunch in our school cafeteria.  As I looked into the faces of our students, I was reminded of Bro. Bobby Roberson.  Those kids don’t know it, but they owe him a debt.  They were not even born when he and I had that fifteen-second conversation on our platform.   Most preachers have a Bro. Bobby story, and that is mine.  Just like me, many preachers could share how Bro. Bobby gave them good advice, encouraged them not to quit, or guided them into some new area of life or ministry.  Everyone that has been influenced by the countless pastors Bobby Roberson helped owe him a debt, even if they didn’t hear that giant fall on Monday about suppertime.

Rick Finley

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Making Church Gr8 in One8

So much of life comes down to what we do with what we’ve been given.  We’ve all heard the old adage, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”  It is true; much of our destiny is in our hands.

As we look forward to our relationship with our local church in 2018, we need to assume some responsibility.  In most cases, what church means to us this year is in our hands.  It’s what we do with what we’ve been given that is going to produce the desired results.

Making Church Gr8 in One8

On the first Sunday of this New Year, I took some time during a combined teen and adult Sunday school hour to share some thoughts with our folks about how they could maximize their opportunity at church this year.

Be Faithful to the Public Services

This statement seems so simple, yet, it is oftentimes so overlooked.  If your church is having church, you should be there!  There are only 52 Sundays in the year.  There will probably be some weeks when you are ill.  I hope that you get some vacation time and that will probably include one or two Sundays.  However, the average church member thinks nothing of getting away for six or eight weekends during the course of the year.  There was a time when many believers limited the time they purposefully missed church.  If they had two weeks of vacation, they left on a Monday and returned home on a Friday or Saturday so that they would only have to miss one Sunday at their home church.

Prepare Yourself for Church Prior to Your Arrival

Don’t just show up for church; show up prepared!   If you had a ticket to the Super Bowl, you would make a boatload of preparations prior to game day.  You would put your tickets in a secure place.  You’d pick out your game day attire days in advance.  You’d arrive early, find your seat, purchase your program and when kickoff time finally came you’d be ready!  How unfortunate that we spend more time preparing ourselves for a ball game than we do preparing ourselves to meet with our church family in the presence of God.  Come to church prepared and expecting God to do something in your life.

Come to Church to be a Blessing, Not to be Blessed

It’s amazing how much of our lives are steeped in selfishness.  “We’re going to be leaving the church because our needs aren’t being met,” is a statement that has been repeated again and again.  Did you ever stop to think that church isn’t about your needs being met, but about you having a part in meeting the needs of others?  Let’s not forget that passage in Hebrews 10 that mentions, “exhorting one another.”  When you arrive at church, why not start looking for someone whom you might be able to help?  Greet folks, look for guests, ask someone who is alone to sit with you and determine that while you’re at church, you’re going to be a blessing!

Get Involved in Ministry

It was a good day in my life when I learned that it’s more fun when you’re involved.  Growing up, I spent some time on the bench, and I didn’t like it.  I wanted to be in the game.  Parents never complain to the coach that their child is playing too much.  The complaints are always that the kid isn’t playing enough.  Yet, many come to church and are very content to be an observer rather than a participant.  You ought to get involved in singing, fellowship, giving, teaching, serving, etc.

Be Active in Evangelism

One of the greatest ways to make church great in the coming year is to be personally involved in evangelism.  Soul winning is not just a part of church involvement; it is the personal responsibility of a believer.  Distribute gospel tracts, invite folks to church and confront people about their eternal destiny.

Build Relationships with the Goal of Getting People to Christ

Visiting a new church can be pretty intimidating, especially to those who are unfamiliar with church.  They have no idea what goes on behind the doors of our buildings.  Satan has probably misled them.  One way to alleviate their misguided concerns is to build a strong relationship with these people and bring them to church with you.  Have them over for a meal, talk to them at ball games, and win their confidence.  It’s one thing to invite people to a church that is friendly, it is even better to ask them to come with a friend.

Avoid Criticism and Critical People

Every organization has disgruntled people.  If you don’t believe that to be true, just read restaurant or business reviews online.  An establishment may have 99 positive reviews, but then there is that one negative comment.  Don’t spend your time around people who are critical of your church or its leaders.  You will not help them, but they will hurt you.  The Bible says about those who cause divisions in Romans 16, “For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly…”

Promote Your Church in the Community 

You may be all that someone knows about your church.  Determine to be the very best advertisement possible.  When you go to work on Monday, don’t be afraid to share what God did in your church on Sunday.  Also, in today’s culture, you should not hesitate to utilize social media to promote your church.  Make it public that you are in attendance, share videos of your services, share quotes from the pastor’s message and do anything else that you can do to promote your church in your community.

Pray Daily for Your Church

Make prayer a priority in your life, and in your prayer life, include your church.  On a daily basis, pray for your church specifically.  Pray for your pastor, the staff, their families and the finances.  Pray for fruit that remains.  Before you come to church, be sure that you have invested time in asking God to bless.

Commit to Financially Supporting Your Church

Nothing will knit your heart to your church any more than investing in the work financially.  Matthew 6:21 is very clear; your heart will follow your treasure.  If you faithfully contribute to the finances of your church you will be shocked at how much interest you have in what is taking place there.  Your attitude will change.  You will be interested in seeing people being saved because that is fruit from your investment.  It really does make a difference!

Why not determine to make church great in 2018?  Do your part.  Don’t be so quick to blame others when things are not going well.  Assume some responsibility and be a part of the change.

Rick Finley

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

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