On August 25th, Ligonier hosted a Google Hangout with Dr. John MacArthur, president of The Master’s Seminary, and Dr. Stephen Nichols, president of Reformation Bible College. The discussion was based on the urgency to stand with conviction in a time of rapid cultural change.
The 2016 G3 Conference – The 2016 G3 will be focused on the doctrine of the Trinity. Although the conference will be held in January, there are only 125 seats remaining as of this morning. If you’re planning to attend, you should go ahead and get your seat reserved.
Ashley Madison and the Death of Monogamy – Albert Mohler writes, “The mainstream media seems to know that the Ashley Madison hacking story is big news, but the main concern seems to be more about embarrassment than shamefulness.”
We’re presently living an an age of church decline across America. Every year we see the statistics plastered before our eyes in printed reports regarding the decline of the church and the rise of paganism. The Pew Research Center reported that the adult population claiming a Christian identity has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Many people have answers for this decline, but before we jump on any train, we should first consider its destination. Are these methods of addressing church decline God’s answer or man’s pragmatic approach to the deep rooted problem? How will the church answer the culture in day when everyone is doing what seems right in his own eyes? How will the church respond to the cultural pressures? How will the church rebound from the recent downward declining trends?
I have the privilege to meet with a group of godly pastors each month for lunch. During our meetings, we typically discuss theology and ministry. Right now, we’re reading Iain Murray’s documentary on D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and discussing a chapter each month over our meal. This time of fellowship is refreshing, encouraging, and profitable to my soul. This week, we discussed chapter 7, “A Different Kind of Preaching.” This chapter is devoted to the ministry of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in Sandfields, Aberavon. From the very beginning, he demonstrated his method and devotion to the Word of God as opposed to the broken pots of human schemes and tricks of church growth programs.
When D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones entered the church at Sandfields, people wanted to know what he would do. In that day, the church was in decline and they were, in many ways, doing everything they could to answer this problem. Everything except for what The Doctor would do upon his arrival. With the looming black cloud of church decline, many churches were seeking to appeal to people by the use of more “high church” approaches by the use of liturgy, choirs, and organs. Other churches felt that people didn’t want to come to church to be “preached at” – so they repackaged the sermon as a relevant address which contained modern topics, poetry, and quotations from secular authors.
The church at Sanfields had sought to answer these problems. They had various activities going on within the church such as football, musical events, and a dramatic society. Some members approached D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and suggested that they could be successful if they majored on their children’s ministry. However, to their surprise, the new pastor wasn’t interested in using such things to attract people. In fact, the secretary was very surprised at D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ response to the question of his direction and the needs of the church. He was interested in the regular church services of 11am, 6pm, a Monday evening prayer service, a mid-week worship service on Wednesday, and a Saturday morning men’s meeting. In the words of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, all of the other things could go. When the Committee asked what they were to do with the wooden stage for the dramatic society, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones responded by saying, “You can heat the church with it.”
In a sermon, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said:
The world expects the Christian to be different and looks to him for something different, and therein it often shows an insight into life that regular church-goers often lack. The churches organize whist-drives, fêtes, dramas, bazaars and things of that sort, so as to attract people. We are becoming almost as wily as the devil himself, but we are really very bad at it; all our attempts are hopeless failures and the world laughs at us. Now, when the world persecutes the church, she is performing her real mission, but when the world laughs at her she has lost her soul. And the world today is laughing at the church, laughing at her attempts to be nice and to make people feel at home. My friends, if you feel at home in any church without believing in Christ as your personal Saviour, then that church is no church at all, but a place of entertainment or a social club. For the truth of Christianity and the preaching of the gospel should make a church intolerable and uncomfortable to all except those who believe, and even they should go away feeling chastened and humble.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones remained steadfast and refused to entertain people and attract them into the church. He preached the Word faithfully, week-by-week. The results were amazing. Men who once squandered their money on liquor and were known around town as drunkards, became upstanding citizens, faithful church members, family men, and all of this without schemes or abstinence politics. It was by the power of the gospel. One particular woman was a well known spirit-medium in the community. On one particular Sunday, she was feeling ill and wasn’t able to do her normal work. As she observed the people passing by her house on their way to church, she decided to attend too. Upon entering, she would later recount, she could sense an overwhelming power in the room. She would later say, “I had a feeling that the power in your chapel was a clean power.” On that first visit to the church, under the preaching of the gospel, she became a Christian.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones did the hard thing at first, he addressed the failed attempts of church growth and broken strategies of man. His decisions were not popular. In fact, when The Doctor announced that there would be no more stage dramas in the hall, a Mrs. Robson said to herself, “You’ll learn young man, you’ll learn!” However, as she would later tell her story, she said, “It was I who learnt.” In 1927 when D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones arrived at Sandfields, the church had enough seats for 400 people, but only 70 seats were occupied on the Lord’s Day. Under the preaching of the gospel, God added to His church. In 1930, the church at Sandfields recorded 88 new additions, and according to their records, 70 were “from the world.” These additions continued as the gospel was proclaimed. In 1931, the church experienced an addition of 135 new members, and 128 of those people were new converts to Christ.
As the downward trajectory in church numbers in America (especially in the Bible belt regions) continues onward, may God raise up pastors and church members who will be fearless and faithful like D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and keep their focus on the gospel of Christ. We cannot expect the decline of church attendance to be reversed and baptism numbers to increase through broken schemes of man and church growth techniques. Children’s ministries and other ministries in the church are important, but we must see the gospel of Christ as the central means of growing the church. Away with the power lifters, ventriloquists, and comedians – we need the gospel of King Jesus to echo loudly from the pulpit to the hearts of men, women, boys, and girls. Jesus and the apostles were committed to the preaching of the gospel. Men like The Doctor, all throughout church history, have followed in Jesus’ footsteps. May we be found faithful in an age of cultural compromise and church decline. Jesus is enough and His gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.
This upcoming Sunday, I will be preaching from Mark 6 on the death of John the Baptist. As we consider how his head ended up on a platter, it provides an important commentary on the recent events with ISIS, the church shooting in Charleston, and the Supreme Court ruling regarding same-sex “marriage” in America. While it may be tempting at times to separate from modern society and go out into the wilderness and live off of locusts and wild honey, that’s not exactly what John the Baptist was doing. He wasn’t starting a compound to get away from the world, although he did dress strange and his diet did include large grasshoppers and local honey.
Christians must learn to live in a complicated world of sin. One of the first lessons that a Christian must learn is that we’re not home yet. Sadly, many professing Christians are too comfortable in our present world. Others are overly offended when depraved sinners behave like depraved sinners. As we stand upon the shoulders of many Christ followers from history, we can learn lessons about life as we consider how they navigated the complexities of sin in their day. John the Baptist provides us an interesting point of reference as we consider our present sexual revolution in America. What can we learn from John the Baptist about modern life in a confused culture?
In the aftermath of the terror attacks on America, September 11th, 2001, a religious service was held at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. where many people and various faiths gathered to mourn the death of thousands of Americans. The Rev. Nathan Baxter prayed during the service, and as he finished his prayer, he said, “Respecting persons of all faiths and traditions, I humbly submit this prayer in the name of Jesus, the Christ, Amen.” John the Baptist would not have cared about respecting other religions had he prayed on that day. In fact, it was duty to another religion that brought on the attacks of September 11th, 2001.
In our culture, American evangelicals often work overtime so as not to offend other religions. I’m certainly not suggesting that Christians should aim to be offensive or scandalous in tone, character, or speech. However, Christians must realize that the message of the cross is a scandal to the world and one that we cannot “dress up” or avoid. To mention the name of Jesus is offensive in our day, and to claim to be a follower of Jesus is to open yourself up for ridicule and attack. John the Baptist would stand firm and remain unashamed of Jesus Christ in the midst of a perverse culture. In fact, that’s what he did in the midst of his perverse Jesus hating culture too.
Where is the spirit of John the Baptist today?
To preach the gospel is to preach truth, and to proclaim the truth is to shine light into the darkness. That’s not always a popular thing. To be clear, the message of the gospel is not centered upon monogamous heterosexuality. The message of the gospel is centered upon the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, Christians approach life through a gospel lens and when asked why it was necessary for Jesus to die on a bloody cross, all of the sudden human sexuality is a relevant issue.
Jesus died for sinners, and in His death He accomplished the salvation of a diverse group of sinners – including sexual sinners who would one day bow their knee to Christ as Lord. Jesus’ death was sacrificial; however, it wasn’t the end of the story. On the third day, Jesus was victoriously and miraculously resurrected from the dead. His resurrection validated His claims of deity, and thereby the right to address all sin – including sexual sin (divorce, adultery, homosexuality, etc).
Therefore, the gospel proclamation is not merely a proclamation of facts about Jesus. It goes beyond that into the dark abyss of sin and human depravity. That’s why John the Baptist wasn’t merely saying, “Jesus loves you this I know, for the Bible tells me so, now come down here and get baptized, because Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” John the Baptist was proclaiming the truth, and the truth involved the facts about Herod’s incestuous and adulterous relationship with Herodias – his brother’s wife. Mark gives us the details in his gospel account:
For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her.  For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” (Mark 6:17-18).
John MacArthur was right on target in his book, Hard to Believe, as he stated, “You can’t be faithful and popular, so take your pick.” John the Baptist was willing to be faithful to the truth and his popularity didn’t matter so much to him. The popularity of the truth was more important to the Baptizer. As truth proclaimers, we must have confidence in the Bible. We can allow those who oppose to throw their questions and criticisms toward the Bible. Those who oppose the Bible can’t harm it with their criticisms, doubts, and questions. As we see with John the Baptist, to stand on the truth often means to stand exposed and to stand alone.
Where is the spirit of John the Baptist today?
Calling out Herod Antipas was not the politically correct thing to do in John the Baptist’s day. John the Baptist wasn’t willing to trade his pulpit for a political stump. He understood the risk, and he boldly proclaimed truth. Christians must be willing to take risks in order to proclaim the gospel. In fact, to spread the gospel in private or on a public stage is risky business. It could cost you your job, political advancement, friends, family, and perhaps your very life.
Let’s be honest, it’s a sad reality that the divorce culture of the world has been welcomed into the church. Could the divorce culture in the church be related to silence from the pulpit from pastors who were paralyzed by “fear of man” issues? What will the landscape of the church look like in the future? Will similar men refuse to speak out about the sexual sin of homosexuality and welcome it into the “church” because of “fear of man” issues?
Many people are willing to risk their reputation, but not their life. When clear lines are drawn in the sand of culture, Christians must be willing to stand with Christ rather than the popular crowd. John the Baptist proclaimed the truth even when he was opposed. He was warned to keep quiet, but he continued to thunder the truth about God and the sexual sin of Herod Antipas.
We need faithful and loving men who would be willing to walk in the footsteps of John the Baptist and call out the Supreme Court and the President Barack Obama on their open sinful sexual revolt they’ve been leading in America. Those who speak out must do so in love. Don’t misunderstand love and think that it’s weak, soft, or capitulating on principles. The fact is, love is bold and strong. John the Baptist told the truth and risked his life in love.
A risk-taking Christian is not a reckless Christian. John the Baptist wasn’t reckless. Bold proclamation of truth requires a certain amount of risk. J.C. Ryle said, “Duties are duties. Results are God’s.” The reason people were drawn to him was because of his calculated proclamation of truth. May our God raise up an army of faithful Christians who, in the spirit of John the Baptist, will tell the truth about sin and point to salvation in Jesus Christ. According to Proverbs 28:23, in the end, a person who rebukes a person in error rather than having a flattering tongue will gain favor. That was true of John the Baptist. Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11).
Where is the spirit of John the Baptist today?
[Tweet “One of the first lessons that a Christian must learn is that we’re not home yet. “]
Although good churches and close friends in the ministry often disagree on the interpretation of “women” or “wives” in 1 Timothy 3 within the context of deacons, it is required to land on a specific position. Denny Burk does a good job of pointing out the issues of the debate and his own position through proper exegesis and application. Read and listen to Denny Burk’s position here.
The 2013 Easter weekend marked the end of an era for John Piper and the Bethlehem Baptist Church of Minneapolis Minnesota. For 33 years, Piper served as the pastor for preaching and vision – the main preaching pastor for the congregation. Piper served as the main preaching pastor within the Bethlehem Baptist Church context starting July 13th 1980 and continued in that role until December 31st 212. Beginning in 2013, after a lengthy transition plan, Piper stepped back as associate pastor and Jason Meyer accepted the responsibility as the pastor of preaching and vision (the lead pastor role).
Piper grew up as the son of an itinerate evangelist in Greenville, SC. Piper went on to college to major in Literature with a minor in Philosophy at Wheaton College (1964-68). It was there that he met his wife Noël and they married in 1968. Piper went on to Fuller Theological Seminary where he was introduced to the writings of Jonathan Edwards. Piper went on to do his doctoral work in New Testament Studies at the University of Munich, Munich, West Germany (1971-74). Following his graduation, Piper pursued a teaching career at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota where he taught for six years.
After a period of time in Piper’s life where he was considering leaving teaching in pursuit of pastoral ministry, Piper’s father thought he had found his niche and encouraged him to remain at Bethel College as a professor. In fact, Piper said that his father wrote him a “page and a half letter to dissuade” him from leaving the academic world in pursuit of pastoral ministry.1 Piper believed that his father had seen many things in ministry as an evangelist and was afraid for him. Piper’s father told him that he was the “quiet reflective type – not the proclaimer.” Eventually, Piper could not escape the calling and he followed the Lord’s leading. He left Bethel College and became pastor of Bethlehem Baptist in 1980.
As you go back through the many sermons, books, and articles of Piper’s ministry, several key things surface quickly that point to the reasons that he was an effective pastor.
In his candidating sermon before Bethlehem Baptist Church, January 27th 1980, Piper said these words:
Not to mention in a church where 107 people are over eighty years old, and another 171 are over the age of sixty-five? If I didn’t believe I could say to every gray-haired believer in this church that the best is yet to come, I wouldn’t bother candidating. But it’s true, and I do believe it. I don’t mean a fat pension and a luxury condominium either. I mean Christ, and you all know that.
Piper, without any doubt, was a visionary pastor. He was not a pastor with a mere title as “pastor of preaching and vision” – he was a true visionary. That is clear from his early sermons where he was looking into the future and preparing for his exit – even 5 years after arriving at Bethlehem Baptist Church. His vision worked to shape the landscape of Bethlehem and prepare the church for his exit. Piper knew that he would not last forever at Bethlehem – and as a visionary leader he desired for his church to be in a healthy place when the final day presented itself for his exit. He demonstrated this understanding by raising up pastors and gifted leaders within the church, by leading the church in building projects, by leading the church to pay off debt, and many other areas of practical leadership that he provided Bethlehem Baptist. Piper consistently placed Christ before the congregation of Bethlehem – with bold and visionary leadership.
This is where I began my ministry almost 33 years ago. This is where we will end. My text then was: “It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20). My aim and my prayer was to be a God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated pastor. My closing word now is “To him — to Jesus Christ — be glory forever and ever. Amen.
One of the gloomy indictments of expository preaching is that it turns the pulpit into a running commentary that becomes divorced from passionate proclamation of truth. While that is a serious charge issued to many pastors, it is not one that can be given to Piper throughout his 33 year pastoral ministry. Piper was a passionate expositor who preached with a theological depth that is missing in many pulpits. His model of preaching was expositional, theological, and practical on many different levels.
Preaching is also exultation. This means that the preacher does not just explain what’s in the Bible, and the people do not simply try understand what he explains. Rather, the preacher and the people exult over what is in the Bible as it is being explained and applied.
Preaching does not come after worship in the order of the service. Preaching is worship. The preacher worships—exults—over the word, trying his best to draw you into a worshipful response by the power of the Holy Spirit.
My job is not simply to see truth and show it to you. (The devil could do that for his own devious reasons.) My job is to see the glory of the truth and to savor it and exult over it as I explain it to you and apply it for you. That’s one of the differences between a sermon and a lecture.
The preaching of Piper, as a pastor, was both extraordinary and simple. It was extraordinary in the essence that it was theologically rich and Christ exalting while being delivered through a passionate heart. The preaching of Piper was:
Under Piper’s leadership as pastor, he led Bethlehem to adopt the following mission statement that would define their ministry and his preaching:
“We exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.”
In his biographical sermon on John Newton, Piper said, “Oh how rare are the pastors who speak with a tender heart and have a theological backbone of steel.” One of the blessings of a visionary leader is normally their clarity or transparency. Piper has remained theologically transparent since his arrival on campus at Bethlehem Baptist in 1980. From his earliest sermons, you can see his theological depth and clarity shining through. One of the criticisms that has been directed toward Piper through the years centers on his Calvinistic doctrine. It has been said that he is teaching people how to covertly Reform churches through Calvinism. Although John held seminars on the TULIP acrostic in order to instruct the church on the doctrine of Calvinism by accurately defining terms and showing the theology from Scripture, he never sought to become divisive. His mission appeared to be clarity rather than division. Those people who have made such critiques of Piper’s theology would find his explanation of Calvinism impressively balanced and clearly founded upon Scripture by listening to his series on the TULIP.
Jonathan Edwards had a massive influence upon the life and ministry of Piper, but as you can see in his annual biographical sermons, he was impacted by many pastors, theologians, and missionaries of history. These different men helped shape his way of thinking, preaching, world-view, and missionary heart. Piper was the quintessential pastor-theologian of our present church age. Piper is the author of many books, articles, theological journal entries, and he remained humble enough to hold the hands of mourning family members as he prayed and preached simple funeral sermons. His ministry is truly amazing.
Piper’s theological vocabulary painted a picture of the theology he was seeking to expound from the Scriptures. In describing John Newton’s preaching, Piper said:
Instead of excessive abstraction in his preaching, there was the concrete word and illustration. Instead of generalizing, there was the specific bird or flower or apple or shabby old man.
He had an eye that saw everything as full of divine light for ministry to people. For example, in his diary for July 30, 1776 Newton describes his watching the eclipse of the moon.
Tonight I attended an eclipse of the moon. How great, O Lord, are thy works! With what punctuality do the heavenly bodies fulfill their courses. . . . I thought, my Lord, of Thine eclipse. The horrible darkness which overwhelmed Thy mind when Thou saidst, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” Ah, sin was the cause—my sins—yet I do not hate sin or loathe myself as I ought.”
Oh how we preachers need eyes like this. Seeing God and his ways everywhere in nature and life and making our communications full of concreteness from daily life.
Piper exemplified a colorful vocabulary that came alive in his poetry and preaching. The vocabulary was not used to fly over the heads of his listeners, but rather as a tool to illustrate his preaching. His vocabulary was assisted by his many different hand signals and non-verbals that often characterized him in the pulpit – and those gestures are certainly a mark of his passionate preaching style.
Just as we could say that Piper was the quintessential pastor-theologian – we could likewise label Piper as a great model for the pastor-missionary or pastor-evangelist. To say that John Piper’s heart bleeds for the nations would be an understatement. That missionary heart can be clearly seen in two of his books:
Both of these books have provided a sobering reminder of the calling of the church in an age of rampant materialism. Before David Platt’s Radical came Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life. Long before people were making fun of David Platt for cutting back on Goldfish snacks for the children, Piper was thundering his warning regarding the American dream to thousands of college students at conferences and from the pages of his books.
Through the preaching of Piper, Bethlehem engaged their neighborhood with the good news of Jesus Christ. They learned this from his example. He was a pastor who lived in the neighborhood of the church – a radically diverse and poor neighborhood. John was not an “ivory tower” pastor who was separated or above his neighbors. He lived with them and was visible walking the 600 paces2 to church from his house every week for 33 years.
Piper’s preaching led his congregation to engage unreached people groups around the world by praying, sending, giving, and going. Through his passionate mission focused preaching, many left Bethlehem over the 33 years never to return as members. They left their jobs and spent their lives for Christ on far away lands. He writes in his book, Desiring God, these words:
Nature teaches us that every believer should be a soul-winner. (As Andrew Murray said), “It is an essential part of the new nature. We see it in every child who loves to tell of his happiness and to bring others to share his joys. Missions is the automatic outflow and overflow of love for Christ. We delight to enlarge our joy in Him by extending it to others. As Lottie Moon said, “Surely there can be no greater joy than that of saving souls.”3
It is my earnest prayer that God will continue to use Piper in this new season of his ministry. Although he is no longer a pastor – he remains a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. One statement that he made in his sermon titled, Why Expository Preaching is Particularly Glorifying to God from the 2006 Together for the Gospel conference resonated with me and will forever be a vivid picture of preaching. He said:
God did not ordain the cross of Christ or create the lake of fire in order to communicate the insignificance of belittling his glory. The death of the Son of God and the damnation of unrepentant human beings are the loudest shouts under heaven that God is infinitely holy, and sin is infinitely offensive, and wrath is infinitely just, and grace is infinitely precious, and our brief life — and the life of every person in your church and in your community — leads to everlasting joy or everlasting suffering. If our preaching does not carry the weight of these things to our people, what will? Veggie Tales? Radio? Television? Discussion groups? Emergent conversations?
God planned for his Son to be crucified (Revelation 13:8; 2 Timothy 1:9) and for hell to be terrible (Matthew 25:41) so that we would have the clearest witnesses possible to what is at stake when we preach. What gives preaching its seriousness is that the mantle of the preacher is soaked with the blood of Jesus and singed with fire of hell. That’s the mantle that turns mere talkers into preachers. Yet tragically some of the most prominent evangelical voices today diminish the horror of the cross and the horror of hell — the one stripped of its power to bear our punishment, and the other demythologized into self-dehumanization and the social miseries of this world.
I will never forget three different sermons that I heard Piper preach in person. The first one was when I was a college student in 2001. He preached at an event known as One Day and I remember hearing him powerfully calling us to lay our lives down for Christ and stop chasing the American dream. At that time, I was on a pursuit for that very thing – it was my goal to work in the business world and to become a millionaire. I left very unimpressed with Piper. I remember saying to other college students, “His message is too radical and none of these students are going to take that man seriously.” At the time, I could not fathom his position because I was an unconverted church member.
The second time I heard Piper preach in person was while as a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. He preached “We Work with You for Your Joy” in 2007 in chapel. His passion for pastoral ministry was extremely contagious, and I had to learn to “eat crow” from what I had said about his ministry back in 2001. The man that I claimed would have no lasting impact upon that sea of college students sitting in the field had greatly impacted my life.
The last time I heard John Piper preach was at the Ligonier conference in 2011. He preached a sermon taken from the title of his book – “Let The Nations Be Glad.“ Immediately after the session ended, I approached him on the floor and expressed my thankfulness for his ministry. I told him that his ministry had greatly impacted my life and I was grateful for his commitment to gospel proclamation and pastoral ministry.
Good preachers are scarce and great preachers are a special gift to the church. Piper has been one of those men that seem to surface in church history about every 100 years. What made Piper so effective as a pastor? While his leadership and passion in the pulpit stand out, it seems that God placed a special anointing on his pastoral ministry in ways that appear to be extraordinary. It is my prayer that God will continue to use him to impact other pastors and missionaries in this next season of his life. May it be that God would raise up an army of preachers who possess this God saturated vision and a desire to lift up Christ and run to the nations with the banner of the gospel of Jesus Christ. God – let it be!
We are witnessing the end of a remarkable pastoral ministry—but not the end of his Christian service and ministry. My prayer, and eager expectation, is that the Lord will continue to use John Piper and to keep him faithful in this next season of life as he finishes strong for the glory of God in Christ Jesus.
Years ago after God called me into the ministry, my wife and I were saving every penny preparing to leave our hometown of Douglasville, GA for Seminary in Louisville, KY. It was our commitment to one another during Christmas that year to spend less than 20 dollars on each other since we were leaving in January for a town we did not know, with no jobs, no friends, and no support group. Naturally, my wife supported me but she understood the great responsibility that was on my shoulders as the leader of our home. Therefore, as a gift to me for Christmas, she wrote a simple letter to many pastors and evangelists who had influenced my life. Her request was for each man to write a letter that contained words of encouragement to a young preacher who had just been called into the ministry and was about to leave for Seminary.Within a couple of weeks, the letters were showing up in the mailbox. She took each one and placed it inside a binder that was then wrapped up and placed under the Christmas tree. I still remember opening it up and seeing what she had done. As I thumbed through those letters, I realized it was something of lasting value. It would not be until years down the road as I faced struggles and trials in my own life and ministry that I would see how valuable those letters are to me.One of the letters that was written to me was by evangelist Bill Stafford. Bro. Bill Stafford has been preaching the Gospel for almost 58 years. He has served as a faithful SBC evangelist, conservative leader, faithful preacher, humble servant, and even recently played the nextdoor neighbor to “Caleb” in the movie – Fireproof. Bill served as the president of ICR (International Congress on Revival) for 25 years. It was during that time that he ministered to many people overseas in countries such as Zimbabwe, Australia, Ireland, and Austria.I first met Bro. Bill Stafford when he came to preach in my home church of Douglasville, GA – Pray’s Mill Baptist Church. From that day forward, God has used him to preach the Word and encourage me in the work of the Lord. The letter that Bro. Bill wrote to me said the following:
Dear Josh & Kari:
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is with great joy that I write this letter to encourage a young preacher. You have been a blessing to me already by your words of kindness to me.
My word to you is to always remember that you are merely a vessel and He is the treasure. You are just a river bed for the River to flow. Any demands God makes on you is not on your ability but on the Christ who promised to be your sufficiency for the journey. Remember that any old bush will do if God set it on fire for His glory. May the Holy Spirit give you enough problems to keep you trusting, enough hurts to keep you broken, and enough victories to keep you praising Him. Only God can take nothing and indwell him so he can become more than a conqueror.
I love you in Jesus.
This week, it is my honor to have Bro. Bill Stafford preach in the pulpit that God has entrusted to my care. It is a sad truth, but the truth indeed, that I can think of many evangelists and preachers that I would not trust in my pulpit. However, it is a joy to have Bro. Bill Stafford with us at Cornerstone Baptist Church this week as he proclaims the truth of God’s Word. I told the church that if they had seen Fireproof to give Bro. Bill another chance because he is a much better preacher than an actor!It is my prayer that this week will be all about Christ – and that a God ordained, Spirit empowered, Heaven sent, Devil defeating, sin crushing revival will take place in our hearts – for the glory of our great God.Please pray for us as we seek the face of our God.For His glory,Pastor Josh Buice