October was Pastor Appreciation Month. Our folks at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church here in South Denver made this pastor feel appreciated, to be sure. It was in October of 2011 that I received the call to pastor this church, and on December 1, 2011, I came (with my golden retriever Biscuit and whatever I could fit in my 1996 Buick Regal) and head west.
I had spent eight years previously as pastor of Boone’s Creek Baptist Church just outside of Lexington, Kentucky—and it’s never easy leaving family. I am grateful for the lessons I learned there. Seminary may have taught me how to preach, but that little church in Athens (pronounced AY-thens) gave me a crash course in pastoring and dealing with people.
I think sometimes pastors and ministers forget that we are dealing with people. Yes, we have the Bible, but we do not just preach the Bible; we preach the Bible to people! We may bring in programs and set up various ways of getting things done, but we do this to help people take the next step in discipleship.
God has provided 12 reasons why I love Arapahoe Road Baptist Church. I could think of others, but here are the top 12.
- They love to hear the Word preached, and want to know how to plug the Word in to their lives. One dear senior adult shared with me not long ago how grateful she was for the preaching because “you explain the Bible rather than just tell us what it says.” Friends, that’s expositional preaching. I’m passionate about that, I want others to be passionate about that—simply because our people are starving for knowing what they believe and why they believe it.
- They let guests (not visitors, guests) know they are welcomed, loved, and treasured in Christ. We are a strong Southern-transplant makeup of our church. Yes, we are in Denver—about as different from Southern culture as you can imagine. But one thing that this mindset brings about is a genuine love of people. The term “Southern hospitality” is true, and our folks certainly leverage that to their advantage. Granted, do we have to realize we are not in the South, sure. What’s the expression: you can take the man out of the South, but you can’t take the South out of the man? It’s true to an extent. But in a culture where folks want to stay to themselves, having others show genuine Christian love and care is a plus that’s needed here. Badly.
- Our Sunday School classes have a desire to know what the Word says (whether they use The Gospel Project, Explore the Bible, The Bible for Life, etc.).
- A culture is developing to be more missional in our Acts 1:8 paradigm. We are working to adopt an elementary school in our area (Jerusalem), have a relationship with Sugar City with Eddie Nicandro and his food distribution in a very hard-hit area (Judea), will look to establish a relationship with either a group in Utah or Wyoming (Samaria), and have a great connection with missionaries in Hungary, Russia, and now Trinidad & Tobago (ends of the earth). But more than this, we hear of folks working to establish relationships with their repairmen, bankers, waiters at restaurants they frequent, and other areas. Keep at it!
- I love our Wednesday night prayer times. About 20 of us gather to explore the Psalm of the Night, look at what that Psalm says about who God is, what He has done, and how we respond—then we use that as a grid for our prayer groups over the last 20 minutes. This has been a trial and error (of course, you can never err with prayer), but God is crystallizing what prayer times should look like among us. It’s good to pray—and it’s good to hear your brothers and sisters pray.
- I love how our children’s workers show the children and parents the love of Christ and their love for them. We didn’t have many children’s activities when I came in December 2011—just Sunday School. But one of our members, Bob Scott, began laying the groundwork for when I came and the folks were ready to charge ahead. Soon, we had a Wednesday night children’s time (with me having four children, they would at least have four present!), that soon bloomed into AWANA where now around 40 children are coming. I say this only to boast in the Lord. God has blessed us with some fantastic leaders who always want to do things well and to do things better.
- I’m grateful for our deacons. In both churches where I was/am a full-time pastor, I’ve been blessed with some wonderful deacons. God provided again. These men do not want to serve as a board, making all the decisions. They want to serve their pastor (me) and help him (me) with the physical needs of the church, while I’m free to tend to the spiritual needs—just like Acts 6:1-7 ordains.
- I’m grateful for the leadership and administrative team. When I came in December 2011, there was Connie (who had been the lead administrative assistant since 1980), Diane (she does publications as well as put our worship music together, and leads our praise team), Joanna (our financial secretary), Milton (our custodian since 1988), and Steven (our part-time interim student pastor). Connie, Diane, and Milton are still here. Steven is now our student pastor (no interim now). God has brought on Adam Embry as our Discipleship and Administration Pastor. Terri has taken over for Joanna, who retired in May. God provides. I could not be happier with this team. There is a culture around the office of joy, mutual respect, and (most of all) a desire to serve our church in the name of Christ. Only God could have brought us all together like this with our different personalities to be the servant machine it’s become.
- I’m grateful for our worship team. All volunteers. All having full-time jobs. Yet, they lead our singing, our worship choir, our praise team, our handbells, our Dixieland Jazz Band (no, that’s not a typo—we use the gifts and talents folks have, to the glory of God and to the vision of our church)—and do this with a desire to be Scriptural, with songs that are singable. Our desire is to have a joyful sound that’s doctrinally sound where skills abound and praise resounds.
- I love that it’s multigenerational. I wrote on this recently.
- I’m grateful that Jesus is still in charge. This is His church. Not ours. Yes, He has given us each other, but the church is His to give. Is ARBC perfect? No! But Jesus loves us enough to take us along, and enough folks are in the church led by Christ to move the church in a good direction. But as pastor, I’m grateful that the church belongs to Christ. He has put me here as the undershepherd to preach and care for the flock. Pray that I would continually remain under Christ’s leadership.
- Hey ARBC folks—you fill this one in. What are some things you love about your church? Use the hashtag #ilovearbc if you post on Facebook or Twitter.
This pastor appreciates you greatly! We have work to do. God may lead in some changes down the road. But know this: your pastor (and I know your pastors) love you more than life itself. Whatever comes will come out of a desire to love Christ, love His church, and love the community in which He’s placed us. Let’s stay the course!