The Old Testament is in large part a chronicle of how God moved and worked in the life of His chosen people, Israel. They kept records so that future generations would see how God delivered them, provided for them, forgave them, and yes, rebuked them. And also so they would see how to better follow their Creator God. Right now First Baptist Church of Ferris is in the middle of something incredibly special and way bigger than any of us could pull off. I’ve tweeted a few times about what God has done just in the past couple of weeks, but I’ve got to chronicle this stuff so that future generations will know how God moved in the life of His church at FBC Ferris...and because this is way longer than Twitter will allow!
God began to impart to me the vision for His church in a formal way back in May of this year. (I say formal because He’s been pulling my heart this direction for years, but now He was giving me instructions.) I had just graduated from Dallas Baptist University and came on full-time as senior pastor. I didn’t have to worry about reserve duty for the summer and with no more homework looming over my shoulder, I was excited to just be doing ministry and dreaming about what God had for the church. Little by little God began to show me that He was calling for a fundamental change in the way we did church. I know the textbooks say never make big changes in the first year. But this wasn’t the first time God was forcing a major change that frankly I would have rather not made. Two months after I was called we added a $30k playground to the front of the church, the most visible spot on campus, because God gave it to us. Yeah, as in free! Two months later, I had to move the senior adult Sunday school class from their classroom of, well forever probably, because we had too many babies to fit in our two nurseries and needed a third. Common sense says, “Don’t move the old ladies! For Pete's sake, don't move the old ladies.” (If any of the "old ladies" are reading this, I use the term endearingly!) But, God led and the move went smoothly and to date I haven’t heard a single complaint. And you know the old ladies are not slow to share their concerns. Next came the worship pastor. Were we ready for a worship pastor with a neck tattoo and gauged ears? Definitely not! But who did God send? You guessed it. And although there have been a couple folks say the music is too loud, no one seemed to notice that this guy doesn’t look like a worship pastor of an old First Baptist Church! Except for the dozens of young families who have begun to attend since then. So, this isn’t the first leap of faith God has asked me to take in leading our church.
As God revealed the vision, He began to impress upon my heart the absolute urgency of activating and mobilizing our men. “Stop going for the easy converts, Brian. I want you to reach men. Then they will reach their families." So I began to search for a decent curriculum that would engage men in spiritual growth and in leading their families in godliness. After searching for a few weeks I got a mailer with a DVD called “Sleeping Giant.” It’s a two-year discipleship strategy to take men from being associated with the church (you know the guy – he comes on Sunday mornings and sits at the back unless there’s a football game on and then he doesn’t come at all) to activated (the guy that sees leadership of his family and in his church as an essential calling in his life). The activated guy sees the pastor’s vision and says, “How do I contribute to that vision in a meaningful way? The associated guy says, “How can I check the block as easily as possible without being challenged?” Perfect! Just what our church needs…now what about the women and children? Once again God provided direction and guidance and curriculum aimed at helping women return to the Bible’s definition of womanhood and to reject the world’s. No, we’re not promoting caveman marriages where the husband barks an order and the wife drops everything to obey. We’re talking about men and women stepping back into the “servant-leader and helpmeet” relationship exemplified by Jesus Christ and the Church. Women, if you’re reading this thinking, “How outdated!” ask yourself how you would respond to a husband who led you gently, provided for you responsibly, protected you diligently, submitted to a higher authority for his behavior, namely Jesus Christ, prayed with you and your kids nightly, read his Bible daily, responded to crisis and chaos with prayer and peace, served you selflessly, abandoned his fantasy world of video games, ESPN, and pornography, and replaced it with a real-life relationship with you and your kids...Would you follow a man like that?
Where was I? Oh yeah, women getting back to the biblical meaning of womanhood. We found two books: Designing a Life that Pleases God and Becoming a Woman that Pleases God. The author of these books found out about our model of ministry here and is Skype-ing in to their study in a few weeks! We couldn’t have done that! We’re just a small church in a small town that people just pass through on their way to I-45. But there it is!
Our children and youth curriculum came together pretty spectacularly, too. We found curriculum aimed at equipping parents to engage their children in meaningful, spiritual conversations so that parents can make disciples of their kids rather than relying on the children and youth pastors. This is in direct opposition to the tragic contribution of the 20th-century church: professional discipleship.
That was longer than I planned. So, the vision…what God wants us to be about, what God wants us to focus on with laser-like intensity: At FBC Ferris we are about reaching men and their families with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, training them in godliness, and equipping them to serve our God, church and community. Simple. Reach men, train them, equip them. Jesus modeled it. Jesus wants us to do it, too. (Matthew 4:19)
How’s it working out?
It’s just been 9 days since we launched. But, in those nine days we have seen this…
- A man in his 40's, unchurched since his teens, accepted Christ in his bedroom after church the day we launched.
- The first Wednesday night we had 67% of our Sunday morning crowd at our Wednesday night Bible study. For perspective, that’s 270 people in a church of 400.
- That night, the wife of the guy in #1 accepted Christ in our parking lot.
- Another man in his 40’s, this time unchurched his whole life, accepted Christ in our gym at the luncheon just moments before we launched.
- Last Sunday night after our Bible study, #4’s wife accepted Christ. Her words to her husband with tears in her eyes moments after receiving salvation, “You led me to Jesus.”
- Tonight, week 2 of our Wednesday Bible study, a 12-year-old girl told me she accepted Christ Sunday night in her home with her parents because she didn’t want to walk in darkness anymore and wanted to follow Jesus in repentance! And we had 67% attendance again!
- A man prayed with his wife for the first time in 18 years tonight after Bible study!
- A man prayed in public for the first time ever last Wednesday night.
- A man who allowed his family to miss 6 months of church for baseball repented tonight and committed to “never again.”
- Our youth and children’s ministries have doubled.
The irony is that while women usually outpace the men in spiritual matters, this week at least, our men are leading the way! And it’s supposed to be that way…It’s as if God is saying, “Told you so…told you that if you go after the men, you’ll get women and children too.” Yes, you did, Lord…yes, you did.
And they all lived happily ever-after, right?
Not everyone likes the changes. There are some who see the sudden spike in conversions, the filled pews and the commitment of men, and all they can focus on is the temperature in the Worship Center or the electric guitar on stage or how loud the music is (by the way, we’re at like 85 dB…it ain’t loud!) I feel badly for those folks because they’re looking for a movement of God and they’re standing right smack in the middle of it! I pray that they, too, will be awakened by the Holy Spirit just as the two men and their wives were. I write this entry with cautious optimism. I know it’s only been 9 days and the real test is in the perseverance. Even if things taper off, we’ve seen more in these 9 days than many churches will in a year. But, I believe God is up to something even bigger than this and this is just the beginning…so long as we learn from our spiritual ancestors, the Israelites, and don’t jack this up with stubborn hearts!
Proverbs 3:5-6 is our theme verse:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.” He’s calling us to something different than ever before. We just have to trust Him, follow His lead and seek His plans, and He’ll take care of the rest.
It’s a great time to be at First Baptist Ferris…why don’t you come check us out and see if God is wanting to do a work in your life, too?