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Rejoice with TCBC and Joe Tyrpak

Joe Tyrpak was selected to be the new Senior Pastor of Tri-County Bible Church yesterday afternoon with an overwhelming vote of 98%. I rejoice for him and for the church. I thank God for allowing this transition to be so smooth, demonstrating the Spirit-produced unity described in Ephesians 4:3. I’m certain that the Lord will continue to use Joe and TCBC to bring great glory to Himself. Joe has been an ideal co-laborer, functioning humbly and effectively as an Assistant Pastor. It’s been my great privilege to work alongside him and to be sharpened by him. As I’ve said many times, I’ve had a great pastor for the last 7 years!

Thank you for your prayers for us. Please continue them, and rejoice with us. Grace!

(Related: If you’ve not yet listened to Joe’s message from Joshua 1 on leadership transitions, I commend it to you.)

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“When we rely upon prayer…”

One of passages which most shapes my understanding of the ministry is Acts 6:1-7. Yes, it introduces us to the ministry of deacons and the importance of that ministry to the church. But it also introduces us—with devastating clarity—to the two-fold responsibility of those who shepherd Christ’s flock: “We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4). Most pastors I know are very diligent in their “ministry of the Word.” Their consciences would smite them if they didn’t study well before they preach. Excellent. But I wonder if we’re as diligent in our ministry of prayer? I’m not, at least not as I ought to be. I tend to focus more on my speaking to men on behalf of God than on my speaking to God on behalf of men. It’s helpful to remind myself that prayer is at least as essential as preaching.

Pastor friends, study well. Exercise oversight well. But by all means, pray well. Consider these good words from A. C. Dixon:

“When we rely upon organization, we get what organization can do; when we rely upon education, we get what education can do; when we rely upon eloquence, we get what eloquence can do. And so on. But when we rely upon prayer, we get what God can do.” (quoted by Robert Hall Glover in The Bible Basis of Missions)

This and That…

Writing a blog post takes time. Linking to others’ worthwhile thoughts takes less. Here are some things I’ve appreciated in recent days, along with some links to helpful resources:

Brian Fuller’s Blog

Brian Fuller, a classmate of mine at BJU and a like-minded friend, is the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Concord, New Hampshire. We enjoyed some sweet fellowship when my family was there last year. I’ve appreciated two recent posts from his blog: “Fundamentalists and the M-Factor” (on relating to the next generation of church members and leaders) and “Let the People Sing” (on the importance of music in the church, with a word of thanks to Fred and Ruth Coleman). Good stuff.

Another Good CD from the Pettit Team

I was asked to say a word about the new CD from the Steve Pettit Evangelistic Association, Before You Now. I did, gladly:

“Recordings from the Pettit Evangelistic Team have pointed me to Christ for years. ‘Before You Now’ does so again. It’s joyful, fervent, and Christ-centered. I love it. Grace!”

Free Jerry Bridges

Jerry Bridges writes extremely helpful things. They’re worth buying. And when they’re free (as this book on church life is right now), they’re certainly worth downloading. Do.

Funny. Kinda.

(Insert disclaimer here.) This tweet from Max Lucado is funny. Mostly.

“For every action there is an equal and opposite criticism.”

Watchsong Video

Another friend doing great work for our Savior is Paul Keew. He has a burden and gift for writing new hymns (like one of my favorites, O God, My Joy), which he posts as his website, Watchsong. He explains why in the following video, which hits some of the same notes Brian did in his blog posts, including a nod to the Colemans.

A New Chapter of Ministry Begins

Yesterday, after almost a year of praying and agonizing about what the Lord would have me do, I accepted the call to be the Senior Pastor of Killian Hill Baptist Church in Lilburn, Georgia, a community on the north side of Atlanta. It was a bittersweet day—bitter as I prepare to say goodbye to Tri-County Bible Church after 15 years together and sweet as I prepare to lead a body of believers in one of the world’s great cities. Please pray for me and my family, for TCBC, and for KHBC.

This wasn’t a decision I made lightly. I’ve shed many, many tears as I’ve contemplated the move. If you’ve not gone through a similar decision, you have no idea how excruciating it is. I anticipated spending my entire ministry at TCBC, and I was glad to do so. There is no problem to escape. On the contrary, things are going great. We have solid leaders in place. People are continuing to come to Christ and grow in Christlikeness. Our philosophy of ministry is sound. Our relationships are strong. We’re enjoying a new building after 12 years in a high school. Finances are fine. It’s a healthy, vibrant church, by God’s grace (Psalm 115:1). So why leave? Well, for a number of reasons (listed in no particular order):

  • First, I’ve been unsettled over the last year, wondering if the Lord had another task for me to perform. I waited it out, lest it was a temporary thing—a midlife crisis, or a letdown after the building project, or a funk, or burnout, or whatever. But the sense that it might be time to do something else lingered, even as I delighted in what God was teaching me and doing at TCBC.
  • Second, I objectively looked at my strengths and weaknesses, and where they could be maximized and minimized most effectively. I wanted to be a steward of my opportunities, responsibilities, and gifts.
  • Third, I prayed. And prayed. And prayed. I’ve never prayed so much about a matter in my life. It was my first and last waking thought: “Lord, want do you want me to do?”
  • Fourth, I considered the Scriptures. I rested in the call of God for pastors in Acts 20:28. The Holy Ghost makes our pastoral assignments—which is great to know. He’s more interested in this than I am. And He’s sovereign. I asked God to exercise veto power as described in Proverbs 16:9. I considered texts which focus ministry on urban and multi-ethnic areas in both Testaments (from my preaching on Jonah, to my writing on missions, to my reading of Acts and the epistles). I considered with great delight the multi-ethnic throng in Revelation 5:9-10, and I desired to be part of gathering such a diverse people.
  • Fifth, I sought counsel—from long-time friends, from ministry partners, from co-laborers at TCBC, from missionaries, from family members, and especially from my wife.
  • Sixth, I read. John Cionca’s book on pastoral transitions, Before You Move, was very helpful. Kevin DeYoung’s Just Do Something was liberating. A number of books about missions and risk-taking were troubling, albeit in a good way. Some Christian biographies talked about transitions that the Lord used for His glory. It seemed from what I read that there was a divine conspiracy to get me ready to go.
  • Seventh, I looked at the stability of TCBC, and specifically at the giftedness of Joe Tyrpak, our Assistant Pastor. For years I’ve labored to make the body sustainable should I die, or move, or (God forbid) fall. We’ve preached every-member ministry. We’ve decentralized leadership. We’ve taught that no one is essential to the local church but Christ. And all the while, Joe has grown as a preacher and pastor (as evidenced in this bold message on transitions in leadership, preached 3 weeks ago). He’s shepherded TCBC—including me—capably. He is as gifted and faithful a shepherd as I’ve ever known. I began to believe that although we work exceedingly well together (in fact, he’s among my best friends), our gifting and burdens are a bit redundant. It’s great working together, but there are so many needs and opportunities elsewhere. I believe he is more than ready to lead TCBC and that we should expand our influence. (By God’s grace, the transition is going well. We’ve worked on it for months, and Joe has been recommended as the next Senior Pastor of TCBC by a unanimous vote of our leaders. We vote on that change as an assembly next week, when I’ll begin serving as his Assistant Pastor through the end of 2012, Lord willing.)
  • Ultimately, having considered objective and subjective factors, having gone through a thorough vetting process, and having prayed relentlessly, I determined that the Lord was opening a door for a new phase of ministry. And so I moved forward. Yesterday, by God’s good leading and grace, the decision was made final, both by a strong vote at KHBC and by my acceptance of the call.

I’m excited about the work God has ahead for my family as we join the team at KHBC. I’m excited about their involvement in missions. I’m excited about their excellent Christian School, particularly their open enrollment policy that allows them to minister to a staggering breadth of families from every corner of the globe. I’m excited about their faithful, complementary leadership. I’m excited about their committed, sacrificial members. I’m excited about their stability (the last time they had a pastoral transition I was 8 years old!) and commitment to the Scriptures. And I’m excited to see the Lord transplant a bit of TCBC’s heart for evangelism and discipleship into a sister ministry. I’m confident that the result of the move will be a net gain as the Lord works in both churches for His greater glory.

I’m also excited about TCBC’s future. I love this body of believers, and in a sense, Madison will always be home. As I preached yesterday, I find great hope in Philippians 1:6. Though it has individual implications (and that’s how we generally use it), it was written to a local church and its leaders (1:1). Paul, the church planter rejoiced in what God had done “from the first day” (1:5), was continuing to do “until now” (1:5), and would continue to do “until the day of Jesus Christ” (1:6). In reality, Christ started the church in Philippi (as recorded in Acts 16) and wouldn’t stop His work until it was finished.

The church is Christ’s. He owns it. He builds it. He rules it. And He expands it. I’m eager to see that happen, both in Ohio and Georgia, and around the world. Pray for us. Grace!

Sneak Peek: “Come, Lonely Heart” MP3

A few weeks ago I was able to travel to Dallas for a new ChurchWorksMedia project. Here’s the backstory. Paul Thompson arranged two of our hymns for Stonebriar Community Church’s orchestra, choir, and congregation a few years ago, unbeknownst to us. He sent the recordings and arrangements to me and allowed me to post them online. Those arrangements have been a blessing to many, both as MP3s and as PDFs. Paul has a wonderful philosophy of arranging for congregational singing, and he’s exceedingly gifted. The combination of CWM texts and tunes (most of which are written by Greg Habegger), Paul’s arrangements, and Stonebriar’s musicians was a “perfect storm.” I asked Paul if he’d like to do it again—like 10 more times. He said yes, and we collaborated on a total of 12 CWM hymns, which we’ll be releasing soon as a feature CD and as congregational arrangements for piano and organ or full orchestra.

The day after the recording (which was amazing), Stonebriar learned Come, Lonely Heart as a new hymn. It was an unforgettable experience to hear the orchestra, choir, pipe organ (the largest of its kind in the world), and over 3000 people rejoicing in the grace of God extended to the Samaritan women in John 4 and to Samaritan women like us ever since. The last verse just about overwhelmed me. It’s just glorious. The recording below is from that service, so it’s not the version we’ll be releasing on the CD. But it gives you a feel for the beautiful, congregational sound we were after. I trust it will be a blessing to you and whet your appetite for the rest of the CD. And most importantly, I trust it will exalt our great Savior. Grace!

Come, Lonely Heart MP3

Text / Notes / Hymn PDF

MacArthur Calls Out the Democratic Party

John MacArthur doesn’t confuse Christianity with a political agenda. He’s a pastor, not a lobbyist. But there are times when Christian leaders rightly uncork on political leaders’ immorality in a John-the-Baptist-to-Herod-the-Tetrarch kind of way (Matthew 14:4). MacArthur recently gave a stern rebuke to the Democratic party, which he says is “making a platform out of what God hates.” He ties the party’s platform to Romans 1 sins and says it is a failure of Romans 13 responsibilities. You can read about his comments in this blog post. At the very least, take 5 minutes to give the MP3 links a listen.

Recording the New ChurchWorksMedia CD

Tomorrow I leave for Dallas, where we’re recording a new CD of ChurchWorksMedia.com hymns with the orchestra and choir from Stonebriar Community Church. You may remember that Stonebriar has previously recorded two CWM hymns during live services (blog posts here and here). Now they’re helping us record our first CD, which will feature 12 of our hymns, all arranged for orchestra and congregation by my talented friend Paul Thompson.

The CD will include favorite CWM hymns like His Robes for MineI Run to Christ, For the Sake of His Name and My Jesus, Fair, as well as newer songs like Come, Lonely Heart and Every Knee Shall Bow. Besides the CD, the arrangements will all be available as sheet music for either piano or orchestra. While the songs will be useful for choirs, the music was arranged by Paul with congregational singing in mind. Details about ordering the CD and sheet music will follow.

Pray for the Lord’s blessing as we seek to exalt Christ and expand the ministry of CWM. It’s a great opportunity, and we have a stellar team. I’m looking forward to hanging out with my gifted friends and co-laborers: Greg Habegger (composer), Paul Thompson (arranger), Peter Hansen (videographer), and Jared Miller (photographer and graphic designer). Should be a great weekend with a great group of guys. May Christ be magnified, both this weekend and through the final result. Grace!