The Day After the Southern Baptist Convention

(This message was originally published on June 12, 2014)

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. (Philippians 1:3-5 ESV)

Reflecting upon this week’s Southern Baptist Convention in Baltimore, I want to say “Thank You” to the SBC of Virginia churches and pastors. I’ve known the SBCV as my extended ministry family since our founding when I was in college. I was blessed to serve in one of our founding churches as well as to be one of our early church planters. We are a blessed fellowship of churches in the SBCV. Having noted this, here are a few reflections and updates I ask you to share as words of encouragement with your team and church family.

(1) This past Saturday, one of the largest mobilization efforts of SBC of Virginia missionary staff and churches took place in the outreach effort to Baltimore that preceded the SBC, called Crossover. Much of the resources and ministry equipment of SBC of Virginia was mobilized to minister to our Northern neighbors. Block party trailers, disaster relief feeding units, etc., were used to help launch churches and to serve needy communities. The Baltimore area leadership expressed their thanks and said this past week’s outreach would not have had the impact it did without the resources of SBC of Virginia churches – united in ministry. Please let your churches know that because of your prayers, partnership, and participation through our Cooperative Program and Vision Virginia this is possible.

(2) SBC of Virginia Fellowship at the SBC in Baltimore. We were blessed to gather together a full room of folks from SBCV churches after the Tuesday evening revival service. We are one of the few state Baptist conventions that is doing this type of fellowship. We have something special amongst our fellowship in the SBC of Virginia. We are blessed with clarity of mission and a unity of message that is sometimes rare these days.

(3) Prayer and Spiritual Awakening. This past year we have seen SBC of Virginia focus on prayer, evangelism, and seeking God’s power. My hope is that we are seeking this in our national SBC fellowship as well. We are blessed with our SBC partners and many of them shared with me this week in Baltimore about how they rejoice over what God is doing in and through the SBC of Virginia churches and our unified efforts of missions and ministry.

70th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion

(This message was originally published on June 6, 2014)

Today marks the 70th Anniversary of the Allies D-Day invasion.

In marking the occasion, The United States Military Academy (West Point) states:

On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which, “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end, the Allies gained a foot-hold in Continental Europe. The cost in lives on D-Day was high. More than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded, but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 soldiers to begin the slow, hard slog across Europe, to defeat Adolph Hitler’s crack troops.

The National D-Day Memorial is located in Bedford, Virginia. Proportionally, the Bedford community lost more soldiers that day than any other American community. Bedford represents so many other communities. Places where families sent off their loved ones to defeat tyranny and to restore freedom.

In the spiritual realm, we are engaged in a spiritual battle. Paul tells us to “fight the good fight.” Joshua tells us to “be strong and courageous.”

The United States was a part of forging the greatest Allied force in history. My hope is Christians will unite with a local church, with fellow believers, as allies in the good fight. My hope is that local churches will be allies in the Great Commission, seeking to make disciples and plant churches to bring the good news of Jesus to the nations.

I give thanks for your partnership in the gospel with SBC of Virginia churches and our allied effort to set the captives free through the allied efforts of Southern Baptist missions and ministries.

This week, our Empowered Email featured the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford. Check it out at:

Let no one despise YOU for your YOUTH

(This message was originally published on May 22, 2014)

Today the SBC of Virginia is providing an orientation day for a large number of summer interns/ministers/missionaries that will serve across Virginia this summer. Most college students have returned home for the summer and will need to get plugged into our churches. High school seniors will soon graduate across America in the next few weeks. This reminds me that the Lord Jesus has a calling upon the lives of younger Christians. It is critical for them (notice, I write “them” as I am now in my early forties) to follow Christ in these critical days.

Two Lies That Youth Must Reject:

(1) You should “sow your wild oats” while you are young. This is a lie of the devil. We are not to indulge in irresponsible behavior at any time. Satan says, “You can pursue pleasure in present without any long-term pain or consequence later.” That’s not true because guilt from the past cripples more people than polio.

(2)  You are the leaders of tomorrow. I have heard the phrase “Next Generation Leaders.” I understand the meaning behind the phrase. However, youth must know that they can be used of God now, today. In fact, this summer, youth and a younger generation will serve Jesus across Virginia at our FUSION Camp and our STUDENTZ Camp. A younger generation of pastors is becoming even more involved with the SBC of Virginia. Churches are being planted and disciples are being made by this younger generation.

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12 ESV)

Five Challenges That Youth Should Accept:

#1. Set an example in your words. As a youth and younger leader it is important for you to examine the words you use and the way you speak. Become aware of euphemisms that have become common place in speech yet are actually grounded in profane actions and speech. It is easy for our speech to be influenced by the words we hear in music, media, and in the marketplace. Secondly, it is important for a younger leader to speak clearly and intelligibly. Don’t mumble. Look people in the eye and speak clearly, yet with a spirit of humility.

#2. Set an example in your manner of life. People say ‘walk the walk, don’t talk the talk.’ Actually, it is important to do both. We need to talk the talk, but we must walk the walk. My actions must back up my rhetoric. My lifestyle does impact and influence others around me.

#3. Set an example in your willingness to serve others. The Bible in this verse uses the word ‘love.’ Older translations may use ‘charity.’ The challenge for us is to serve others. There may be suffering and sacrifice involved. Be willing to wash the feet and wait the tables.

#4. Set an example in your firm convictions. Youth and younger leaders have been born and raised in an age of relativism. Many have seen lofty leaders crash and burn. It is important for all of us, but also for youth to have firm convictions based on Scripture. Jude 1:3 reminds us, “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”

#5. Set an example in your staunch commitment to purity. Joshua Harris said, “The right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing.” Our society has become satanic in its assault on youthful purity. Movies, books, magazines, web sites, even video games are now created to suck you into the web of seduction. Our culture creates lots of pressure for those who are wanting to wait until marriage.

This is the call of the Lord God upon our lives. May a strong and courageous generation of leaders among our youth rise up and be raised up.

May our churches embrace the opportunity before us in this season to mobilize another generation for His glory!


(This message was originally published on May 15, 2014)


Preaching is an ongoing ministry assignment for so many of you. As Scripture reminds us, preaching the Word of God is a privilege and a responsibility. This week, SBC of Virginia had a Leadership Summit for pastors of smaller congregations. Our subject was on the ministry of preaching.

I wanted to send all of you this list of Top Five Preaching Tips from our panel of pastors and preachers.

May the Spirit empower our preaching so as to result in strong churches with a bold commitment to the Great Commission.

Top 5 Preaching Tips from Pastors of Smaller Congregations Leadership Summit – May 13, 2014

Tim Hight, GraceLife Baptist Church

  • Never stop crying out for the enabling and empowering of the Holy Spirit.
  • Always allow the Biblical text to dictate the foundation and flow of the sermon.
  • Let every sermon be saturated with the Gospel.
  • Pray that God will first do in you what He desires to do through You.
  • Allow authenticity and compassion to drive your delivery.

Tyler Scarlett, Forest Baptist Church

  • Let the text establish the sermon’s point, shape and mood.
  • Avoid the commentaries until you’ve read the text 50 times.
  • Realize it or not, most preachers talk too fast. Slow down. Pause more.
  • Exercise faith in the Holy Spirit – plan a preaching calendar.
  • Remember, your best sermon is always your next one.

Jimmy Acree, Bacon’s Castle Baptist Church

  • Plan your preaching schedule at least six months out, preferably a year out. Your schedule should include the series title if available, the text, the general subject matter and the Sunday date.
  • Preach expositionally most of the time. Topical messages are sometimes needed but teaching expositionally is the best way to deliver God’s Word.  “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”
  • Begin work on your preaching early in the week.  Don’t put off your sermon preparation to the end of the week lest you give to God’s people less than your best.
  • Seek honest feedback from people you trust and people who know you, who can help you improve in your preaching.  Seek feedback in content, clarity, delivery and application.  If you find yourself deficient in some area, work on it specifically.
  • Don’t confuse preaching for making disciples.  Preaching is important, and God can use it in a person’s life, but disciple making takes place in the context of relationships.  Jesus modeled for us disciple making by pouring his life into a few men in relationship with him.  This should be our priority as pastors.

David Slayton, South Norfolk Baptist Church

  • Pastor your church so you can know your people.
  • Pastor in your community so you can know and speak to your community.
  • Spend time with people so they will want to listen: They only listen to pastors they think who care.
  • Use the Biblical languages Greek and Hebrew in study.
  • Use application that is tied to daily living.

Josh Turner, New Life Community Church

  • Make sure sermon preparation is a priority in your schedule.  This is your ministry, the part that you play in the organization.
  • Start planning your preparation days.  Start with an ideal work week, subtract 15-20 hours per week for sermon prep/prayer and fill in the blanks.
  • Plan a one year/6 mons. preaching calendar.
  • Be sure to let the text drive your sermon.
  • Communicate your preaching schedule with your worship leader.

Together We…

(This message was originally published on April 9, 2014)

In my email this week, I’d like to share with you three principles for our Cooperative Partnership as churches united together as Southern Baptist churches with the SBC of Virginia.

Before I go any further, here is a link to a video we produced to help you celebrate with your church our Cooperative Partnership as Southern Baptists, and other resources to celebrate and communicate or partnership are at

Together we obey a Biblical Mandate…

Matthew 28:18-20 is simply and often referred to as The Great Commission.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

As followers of Christ we are called to “make disciples.” We are given a biblical mandate in these Bible verses and others to make disciples, to go, baptize, and teach them. This call to make disciples is given to all of us. Each and every Christian, each and every church is to obey Christ in this mission. We all know and understand that very familiar command.

Together we have a Global Strategy…

I find it interesting that someone decided at some time to begin referring to this Scripture as The Great Commission. The reality is that this is a GREAT commission. To make disciples of all nations is no small task.

By joining together as Southern Baptists in a cooperative partnership, we give through what is called our Cooperative Program, we mobilize for praying, giving, and going in obedience to the call to make disciples of all nations. It is a unified and regular way churches support an entire global strategy to make disciples across Virginia, America, and around the world.

The churches that unite together as Southern Baptist churches make disciples through a global strategy that assists churches to plant churches, reach different people groups and send missionaries to the nations. That same global strategy helps strengthen and support church leaders and future leaders, provides education for ministers, opportunities for students, responds to hunger and disasters, as well as the needs of our neighbors and the nations.

In Virginia alone, we are seeing churches unite to plant churches to reach various people groups and communities in need; we are seeing churches unite to strengthen one another as disciple makers; we are seeing churches unite to support missionaries and ministry on a global scale.

Together we provide Mutual Support…

As a follower of Jesus, you give to the Lord’s work as a response to His grace and in grateful obedience. As a church, we give from these tithes and offerings to support on a regular basis ministries and missionaries that are part of our unified, global strategy. Because of your partnership with Southern Baptists as an SBC of Virginia church, missionaries receive ongoing, mutual support from multiple churches. This insures that your missionaries can serve without added pressures. Seminary students are educating without mounting massive student loans. Churches are planted and strengthened.

At you can find articles on how our Cooperative Partnership through the Cooperative Program is making a difference. You can also find resources like our “52 Sundays” resource that will assist you in leading your church to obey this biblical mandate, with a global strategy, through mutual support.

Connect with the Disconnected in the Church

(This message was originally published on March 27, 2014)

Like many of you, I too have several books on small groups, Sunday School, and Bible study groups in church. Even, though we know the importance of connecting people in churches, I want to point you to a resource I read the other day: Transformational Groups (Ed Stetzer and Eric Geiger).

Overall, the book serves as a good reminder and useful resource of principles/ideas for developing groups in our churches. It is an easy read, easy to highlight, and you can pass along the ideas to those in your church.

Here are Five Ways a Church Can Connect with the Disconnected:
(from: Transformational Groups)

1) Take advantage of the three-minute rule. Focus on reaching out to peoplewhom you do not know or appear to be disconnected for the first three minutes after/before the church service or activity. Be friendly and invite them to attend your group with you.

2) Make yourself available to people before and after worship services in the lobby areas of the church. Greet and reach out to those who appear to lack connections at church.

3) Know where groups meet and also provide a group information ‘concierge’ in a prime location. Have some person and place to provide information on groups.

4) Invite people to a basic newcomers’ class or gathering. Providing a ‘next step’ opportunity for those attending is a way to also find out who needs and may desire connecting.

5) Follow-up. When in seminary in the 1990’s, I read how Ken Hemphill and First Baptist Norfolk did follow-up on guests who attended church. Call it old school, but we basically followed a similar protocol when I was planting a church and it works well. Here is a sample for follow-up protocol:

  • Contact guests that Sunday night and thank them for visiting.
  • You can also have a team that actually delivers a gift bag to first time guests the very same Sunday. We did this and people were amazed that we took their attending that seriously (and quickly).
  • On Monday, the church sends out a letter thanking them and giving some helpful information.
  • Midweek, the pastor can send a hand written card to the guests.
  • Have a group leader contact them later in the week and invite the following Sunday.

I’m sure there are many other ideas and strategies that work very well. I just wanted to take a moment to highlight this book that I read the other day on groups and to encourage you in the work of helping connect people in church.

Many people living across the Commonwealth of Virginia need a church home. They need the gospel. They need a family. They need a mission. They need Christ and His church! You are empowered by His Spirit for this work. Be strong and courageous…

Cavaliers’ Coach

(This message was originally published on March 20, 2014)

This past Sunday morning I was preaching in Suffolk, Virginia. We made it home in time to see the Virginia Cavaliers win their first ACC Basketball Tournament since 1976.

Now, I really have not followed Cavalier Basketball very closely in recent years. The University of Virginia is the college I drove past on my way to school (my undergrad is from J.M.U.). However, as a teenager growing up in Southeast Virginia I was one of their biggest fans. I literally wept when dreams of a championship were never realized in the Ralph Sampson era. My friend, and the pastor at Bethel Baptist Church, Doug Echols has remained a steady and true fan of the Virginia Cavaliers.

But on this past Sunday afternoon, I cheered. I cheered for a Virginia team that had not won an ACC Basketball Tournament since I was six years old. I cheered because this past Sunday, basketball was once again a “team sport.” I cheered because I watched Coach Tony Bennett in a very classy way honor Christ first, and then show his affection for his dad in the post game interview.

This past Tuesday, the local paper in Richmond, Virginia posted an article titled, “Cavaliers’ Success: By the (Good) Book.” Bennett acknowledges his father’s faith. The article states that these values for Bennett are based on the Bible. In this article the writer highlights the core values of the coach:

  • Humility
  • Passion
  • Unity
  • Servanthood
  • Thankfulness

These “pillars” (as Bennett calls them) are important to keep in mind as church leaders and church members. Working together as a team, being focused on Christ’s mission, and keeping the most important matters in perspective is very important.

I know many of your friends, neighbors, and church family may be talking about March Madness at this time. So, I thought it might be helpful to be able to highlight this biblical philosophy.

Article link:

Now, I don’t want to be just another fair weather fan. Although, I must admit that I may go out and get myself a new UVA shirt. Americans and Virginians love their coaches when they win. Unfortunately, had this coach and the team failed to win Sunday’s game, who knows if this article would have been written. I’m not sure I would have noticed. But Coach Bennett has my attention. Not just because he cut down the net in Greensboro on Sunday, but because he honored Christ. Cheer on the Cavaliers if they are your team. But, let’s pray for the Lord to raise up champions for Christ that will make Jesus famous!

Jesus’ Four Prayer Requests

(This message was originally published on February 27, 2014)

The Gospel of John, Chapter 17, has been considered a “favorite” by many followers of Jesus. The reformer John Knox referred to John 17 as “the anchor for his soul” and had his wife read him the chapter as he lay on his deathbed.

I’d like to point out four prayer requests that Jesus appears to make in this chapter of Scripture. Many sermons and articles have been preached and written on this chapter. David Jeremiah in his book on prayer, and others come to mind. For the sake of your time, I will simply give you the prayer requests and a Scripture from John 17.

Prayer Request #1. That Jesus might be glorified.

John 17:1, “When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father,  the hour has come;  glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.”

Prayer Request #2. That Christians might be sanctified.

John 17:15-16,”I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself,that they also may be sanctified in truth.”

Prayer Request #3. That the church might be unified.

John 17:21, “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

Prayer Request #4. That the world might be evangelized.

John 17:21, “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Political Opinion or Biblical Plumb line?

(This message was originally published on January 31, 2014)

January 2014 is/was a month that has caused even more concern among those who are seeking to hold and proclaim biblical beliefs. In Virginia, and in certain portions of the United States, some have noted political shifts and changing opinions on ‘social issues.’

Recently Virginia’s newly installed Attorney General said that his office will not positively defend Virginia’s Constitutional amendment on marriage – that his office will take the position that marriage should be valid between people of the same sex.

The United States marked forty years of abortion being available on demand. This means that millions of unborn children have been aborted.

I didn’t watch it, but I know that at the recent Grammy awards a large scale ‘marriage ceremony’ was officiated. Of course, no doubt there were many other escapades at that event.

Now, in all honesty, I don’t expect the Grammy’s to be like going to a revival service. I don’t expect unbelievers to act like believers. I don’t assume that all officials in the government will even hold to my beliefs. I recognize that Our Lord is more Supreme than the Supreme Court.

Now, why even bring these matters before us as church leaders and followers of Jesus.

The bottom line for followers of Jesus is that we must, by the grace of God and power of His Spirit, continue to “believe” biblically and “behave” biblically.

Charles Spurgeon while ministering in 1876 Victorian England said the following in a sermon, “Use the plumb line to see whether it is all straight and square. Try all the doctrines that are taught and do not embrace that which is popular, but that which is Biblical!”

In construction a plumb line was used to make sure a structure was built straight, sound, and secure. Now builders use laser levels and much more high tech instruments. However, the principle remains the same. Something is either straight or its not. Truth is truth.

We may find ourselves living in an age of relativism. But, I must remember that this was true in the 1st Century just as it is in this 21st Century. In response to Jesus, Pilate, asked, “what is truth?” Jesus is Lord, that’s true. God’s Word is sure, that’s true. People are lost and in darkness without Christ, that’s true. So how do we respond:

1) We must proclaim the Gospel in word and deed.

2) We should participate as active citizens in this nation, while being ambassadors for Christ.

3) We can pray for revival and spiritual awakening.

Our U.S. Constitution famously says, “We the People.” May “We the Church” be that city shining on a hill…

Therefore, I want to submit a request that you call your church to PRAY. Perhaps, this Sunday, pray for revival and spiritual awakening. Secondly, consider how your church is proclaiming the Gospel. Finally, encourage one another in the task we have to be in this world and not of it – to be ambassadors for Christ, and residents of this country.

May the Lord encourage you as you serve Him, stand for Him, and share about Him!

Ministry is a Battlefield!

(This message was originally published on January 15, 2014)

Thank you for your partnership in the Gospel.  I have said often that SBC of Virginia churches are allies in advancing the Gospel. But, this is not a cake walk!

Paul David Tripp writes in his book Dangerous Calling that “ministry is war.” (Chapter 7)

At our SBCV Young Pastors’ Summit yesterday, we had roundtable discussions about the battle that is waged in our lives as ministers of the Gospel.  In his book, Tripp writes, “pastoral ministry is always shaped by a war between the kingdom of self and the kingdom of God.”  The Lord Jesus preached in Matthew 6:33 that we are to seek first the kingdom of God.  Tripp notes that as ministers we will treasure something. The Lord Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6:21 that what we treasure will command the allegiance of our hearts.

Tripp identifies five shifts that can take place in regards to what we treasure:

(1) Identity.  Moving from identity in Christ to identity in ministry.  I can begin to treasure my position in church more than my position in Christ.  I allow my identity to become more about what I do as a minister than who I am as a follower of Jesus.

(2) Maturity.  Defining spiritual well-being not by the mirror of the Word but by ministry.  Tripp writes, “Biblical literacy is not to be confused with Christian maturity.”  I need the Gospel as much as the people listening to my sermons.  He cautions that we can begin to view ourselves as being more mature than we are because of the appearance of success in our ministry.

(3) Reputation.  Shifting from a ministry shaped by zeal for the reputation of Christ to a ministry shaped by hunger for the praise of people.  This is a tough battle.  We can easily desire the applause of people and the esteem of others.  We are stewards of the Gospel and servants of King Jesus.  May we be motivated by the glory of Christ.

(4) Essentiality.  Moving from rest in the essential presence of Jesus the Messiah to seeing oneself as way too essential to what God is doing.  I must resist having a Messiah complex.  I can begin to try to carry upon my shoulders the burden of ministry demands.  The minister of the Gospel is a high and sacred calling, but we serve the Lord Jesus with the Body of Christ.  May I treasure the gifts that Christ has placed within the other members of His Church.

(5) Confidence.  Shifting away from a humble confidence in transforming grace to overconfidence in one’s own experience and gifts.  I must not become too confident in myself.  Tripp warns that because of overconfidence, “I don’t grieve enough, I don’t pray enough, I don’t confess enough, and I don’t listen to others enough.”

I pray that we will seek Him and have our confidence firmly in the grace of Christ, for the glory of Christ.