My day begins at 4:30 a.m. since the church has to open the pre-school at 6:30. We get off work anywhere between 3:30 and 6 in the evening. Depending on the day, it’s just enough time to come home, eat, entertain my 2-year-old, have some down time, and put the kid and the wife to bed by 8:30 and 9 p.m., respectively. Then I go and work on church related things until 11:30, sometimes midnight. Then it’s back at it at 4:30 a.m.
Sabbath afternoon is my usual member visit time. There is no time management when there is no time to manage sometimes. But members don’t get sick or die on my time. It gets difficult at times balancing the two full-time careers (bi-vocational pastoring is part time on paper, but everyone knows a pastor’s work is never part time, and this is my unique ministry. Not all bi-vocationals have my schedule), but God chose me to do both and has given me the ability to handle both. And He gives me breaks when needed. I’ll be 37 in a few weeks. I’m glad I have some youth still left in me.
Sabbath, September 1
Today I had the privilege of conducting a “church in the park” service. The weather cooperated in that we were on the backside of 25 out of 28 days in Cincinnati with the temperature between 95-100. Nature, God’s second book, provided us with an atmosphere unlike any other, and I encourage each church to attempt it as far as possible.
The high point for me was that I taught a youth group Sabbath School class and discussed the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon, after gaining all his wisdom, realized that everything was meaningless (NIV). We talked about the issues that are facing youth today; most of which I faced when I was their age. Due to demographics and the turnover in culture, there are some things I didn’t go through. I had to worry about a teacher at Spring Valley Academy (Centerville, Ohio) enforcing the $1 gum fine while these kids are worried about someone going “postal” and shooting up the place. We ended on the positive note that Solomon did in that when it boils down to it, fearing God and keeping His commandments is key to life itself.
Sunday, September 2
I was met with the challenge of dealing with the message(s) of an alarmist that the denomination has denounced many times in the past. A newsletter was given to me with how the Jesuits had occupied France and it gave Spirit of Prophecy references. Today I spent a few minutes putting together a rebuttal to this. Yes it happened in the 1700s, but it was met with a defensive counterattack and they were driven out. There was even references to current events, such as top Republican Congressman John Boehner and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi being Jesuit operatives and helping the Vatican work secretly “in the wilderness” to “regain control of the world.” I am not going to get into any type of debate—religious, political, etc. I have found that the devil uses debate to take away the Christian’s focus on what he or she should be doing. Being an old-school Adventist, on one hand, the fear of the future—knowing that prophecy dictates that God’s faithful will endure hardships and trials, as a result of the beast setting up his kingdom—gets a little unnerving. However on the other hand, I say let prophecy be fulfilled so Christ can come. I am tired of this Earth and the results of sin and I want to go home! I want my mansion, my telescopic and microscopic vision, I want to see Moses and John and Paul, but most of all, I want to see Jesus.
Monday, September 3
Today was Labor Day. We spent the afternoon with in-laws in Kentucky and ended up spreading encouragement to someone in the family who is enduring a hard time and facing tough decisions. We are hoping that through love and example by the lives we lead, this individual comes back to the Lord. I often heard my father pray when I was a child, that we would reflect Christ’s character to those we come in contact with. I never forgot that and try to apply it to my daily life.
Tuesday, September 4
It was three years ago that my mother pulled through ovarian cancer. I can remember my father calling me as I was making my way back to Cincinnati from Dayton—taking a CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) unit at Grandview Hospital—and getting the news that cancer was the diagnosis. A death warrant loomed. But through the power of prayer and encouragement from family and friends, my mother and we as a family pulled through. Being a pastor, I felt it my duty to “minister” to my family and to be the spiritual leader they needed. But behind closed doors, I cried like a baby at the thought of losing my mother. Why, Lord?! She was health and temperance leader for eons. Why did you let that happen to her? My wife, Cheri, cried with me, but helped me pull through.
Today, my mother’s older sister—who followed her son to Covington, Ky., across the river from us, as he took a pastoral post at the South Central Regional Conference—went under the knife for the same surgery. Everything that we went through came back to me as the day drew on. Being bi-vocational, I hold a full-time job outside of my church. Aunt Bonnie’s older son, who is a pastor/chaplain in Chicago for the Lake Region, was in town as well. I remembered the pain I went through. I have always said that doctors sometimes get sick and need medical care. Pastors serve others as well, and sometimes there isn’t anyone near that can minister to the pastor in his time of need. Elders are supposed to do it. So my main focus of ministry today was to minister to my family, especially for those pastors who usually are there for others and pray for others. My mother knew what Aunt Bonnie was going through and it’s never easy. In a time when the adversary is trying his best to break down the family unit, we as a family bonded together, for and with each other, spiritually today. Praise the Lord, it was a successful surgery!
At the end of each day, I put Cheri and Alanah, our 2-year-old, to bed and then I go to my study area and do church work for a couple hours. I am putting the finishing touches on about 10 ministries that members in my congregation signed up for: We are trying to make disciples of the members. Cheri and I have talked before that the career at the daycare is a necessary evil. There are kids there some days from 6:45 a.m. to 5:30 or 6 p.m. What quality time has the parent spent with the child? McDonald’s on the way home, TV at the house, and bedtime. We are raising people’s kids for them. At least our daughter is there with us at all times. Knowing that scenario, I realize that I must be the best positive role model I can be. Most kids don’t have a positive male role model anywhere in their lives.
Someone once told me that a Christian should always be of the frame of mind that others are watching. Two clichés come to mind as well; “You may be the only Jesus someone ever sees,” and “Preach everywhere you go. Use words if you have to.” When kids come and give you ear-to-ear grins, hugs that grizzly bears would be jealous of, etc., that lets you know that you are making a difference. In sharing Christ with them through His Word and the life I lead, that’s the biggest ministry outside of my family and congregation.
Through myself and Cheri, as well as Jan Comberger from the Clifton church and Ebony Lampkin from Shiloh, our sister church, those not of our faith (other teachers, parents, and kids alike) are getting a good, solid, consistent dose of Adventism by the way we conduct ourselves. People come to expect certain things from me as a pastor, but when it is echoed by those other like-believers in the way they conduct themselves, there is positive reinforcement. Now the Hindu teachers are playing Christian music and videos for the kids, and they are saying Christian prayers with the kids at meal times. Even the parents are spreading the word that we are more than just a step up to quality (above state regulations) program. Even our state inspector knows that we are in a quite a different atmosphere than other centers. Until the Lord calls me to my next task, my two “full-time careers” are challenging, yet rewarding, in ministry. I don’t think about this every day, but I often wonder what people are going to say about me at my funeral: “Bout time,” or ‘He was a good Christian man that pointed others to Christ ...”
Wednesday, September 5
Cheri is the administrator of Little Lamb Child Care Learning Center at the Clifton church. I am the head pre-school teacher (3-5 year olds). I had asked the Clifton pastor, Jeba Moses, to give worship for us one day. He came today and opened his office to the 15-plus kids that were there in my room today. He showed them the pictures of his daughter, Joanna, and asked them to count the pictures. The kids counted over 15 pictures of her in his office. He simply added that Jesus has each one of their pictures in His office because they are so special to Him. One particular child, a Muslim, a couple hours later saw Pastor Moses and thanked him for teaching him about God. Then the kids asked me to tell them more. As I looked around, there were Seventh-day Adventists, Muslims, Baptists, Presbyterians, Hebrews, Pentecostals, as well as unchurched children there that day. One of the assistant teachers in my room just happens to be Hindu. So I got to tell them a little bit more about God’s love and Jesus, who alone can “make us free.”
As a child, I had a 45-RPM of Eric B. Hare telling the story What A Fool I’ve Been. I played that so much that I memorized it, and to this day I love to tell that story to kids. It’s about being tied up by Satan to some bad habit, and having their parents read the Bible to them every day so they can find the Savior and He will make them free. You never know what cultivating the Holy Spirit does with the seeds you plant. I dream of a day in heaven and seeing those kids I teach.
We are gearing up for the Doug Batchelor series “Here We Stand.” One of the young ladies in the church passed out 1,000 fliers and reported that we were already getting hits on our church website. Praise the Lord!
Thursday, September 6
Three of the ladies hired this summer at the preschool are of the aforementioned Hebrew/Pentecostal/House of God denomination and split away. We knew they were Sabbath keepers, but what we weren’t aware of was all the other similarities they had to Adventism. They are Trinitarians (believe in the Trinity). They don’t eat pork or unclean foods (their mother is becoming vegetarian, which makes me wonder why Adventists have dropped the ball when it comes to health reform—at Hamlet it is being revisited)—they baptize by immersion, they do not believe in the immortality of the soul, and they don’t wear jewelry (although the ladies at work do and are kind of embarrassed. They said their apostle, or pastor, gets on them for it). It reminds me again that we Adventists have dropped the ball on dress reform as well. They do feet washing on communion days. One of them smokes and said she would never do it in front of her pastor because they really teach against that. They do, however, celebrate all the Jewish holidays and feast days, including Chanukah, Passover, etc. Rosh Hashana just happens to be coming up and they need the day off. All in all we had a good discussion in front of a Baptist teacher who is not presently attending church.
Presenting information (through conversation) about the Sabbath, state of the dead, etc., to someone who probably would never have even been privy to it makes work a little more interesting. My next step is to follow up on any questions our dear Baptist sister might have. Seeking first the kingdom of the Lord and His righteousness, then adding all the other things. One last thing, Hebrew Pentecostals are “holy rollers.” My response was that in some Adventist Churches, their style of worship would be welcomed, but in some others it would be shunned. (Hmmm???) I then go home to work on church planning.
Friday, September 7
I am anticipating seeing some new faces in church this evening as “Here We Stand” opens. As I pull into the church lot, I see only the cars of our members. My heart drops. I tried encouraging the young lady that passed out all the fliers, and it hits me. We, as a congregation, prayed individually, and maybe at prayer meeting for the series. But we didn’t lay our differences aside and come together in earnest, with sincere fasting and prayer for this. Batchelor warned in his message of the coming storm. At the end, I gathered the members together and said that as long as we have holes in our umbrella, we can’t give shelter from the coming storm. So we need to use this as a revival in our church, to become spiritually reconnected with the Lord and with each other and lay aside petty differences that, if left to fester, explode into major ordeals. This changes the ministry outlook I had planned for the rest of the year. Whole church evangelism is essential to a healthy congregation. Now I really have got to finish putting together those ministries. I then prayed earnestly with the congregation that the Holy Spirit be poured out on us, uniting us and preparing us for a future outreach that will propel us instead of trudging us along.
Sabbath, September 8
Today I was part of a group of bi-vocationals that came together to discuss Christology. We learned that in the Preface to the Quran, the Muslim believes that the major difference between Muslims and Christians is that the Word of God came to Mohammad, and the word, or script, became holy. To the Christian, the Word came from God in the form of a man, the man Jesus Christ. We spent a good deal of time reflecting on the human and divine natures of Christ, and the history of Christology even in our own denomination. In reuniting with my family later in the day, I was able to share with them the good time we had and the inspiration I had with my fellow pastors.
Each week, of course, is different. There are some weeks when the ministry opportunities are more abundant and some less. This just happened to be this week’s events. I have access to an experienced, full-time pastor in Jeba Moses. He counsels me and advises me on things at times and is usually quite helpful in his analysis of things. I know that God called me to Hamlet “for such a time as this.” I pray that His perfect will be worked out in me and for the church I pastor and the kids I teach during the week.