The Messenger Articles


     In lieu of reading a messenger article this week, please read Matthew 5, 6, and 7 several times throughout the week to prepare for Sunday’s sermon.



Does My Vote Even Matter?   

     “Ahh, but isn’t this naïve?” the skeptic may ask. No one vote, after all, will be the difference in any election or political decision. Why bother casting a vote that has no meaning?

     The first thing to say about such an objection is that it’s a odd way to think about doing anything with a communal element. I may as well decide not to recycle because my individual effort alone will not clean the environment. Nor will my modest charitable gift solve poverty in my community, let alone my country or the world. Yet the combined efforts of Christians can have a staggering effect when taken together, when individuals do not think of their actions entirely through an individualistic lens.

     My country, my state, and my town ask for a relatively minor effort on my part to contribute to the common good by expressing my views in the voting booth. Surely the test of whether I submit to this request cannot turn on whether my decision will by itself determine the entire issue.

    And there are other reasons for voting. Voting is one measure whereby we learn what it would mean to promote the common good in our particular community. It’s a small but tangible exercise that can lead to even greater involvement in cultivating a just and merciful society. Moreover, we are in good company when we carry our witness about the good into the public square.

     John Witte Jr., in his book From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion and Law in the Western Tradition, describes how the early church fathers publicly spoke out in favor of marriage and against evils like child abuse, polygamy, and abortion. These early leaders, who knew a thing or two about persecution and preaching the gospel, loved their neighbors enough to speak to political issues in a system that afforded them no formal power. How much more should we speak out given our political tradition is predicated on the active commitment of an informed citizenry?

    Finally, voting as political participation is a way of telling our neighbors—believers and nonbelievers alike—that we too are committed to a vision of the good life. We care about their well-being, even on issues that are secondary to eternal matters. For politics concerns decisions that contribute to a free society in which people can worship, evangelize, provide food for the hungry and clothing to the naked, schools for learning, and justice for the poor. Our Father in heaven knows we need these things too, and he uses our action in the voting booth in part to provide them.

     This well-written article is by Micah Watson, an associate professor of political science at Calvin College.

 Voting YES on Constitutional Amendment 1 Will Help Stop State Funding of Abortion

      “If the members of the community close their eyes when that man [sacrifices infants], if they fail to put him to death, I myself will set my face against him and his family and will cut them off from their people together with all who follow him…” Lev. 20:4-5

     Did you know that your tax dollars (almost $10 million of them) can currently be used for elective abortions?  Right now, an expectant mother with government funded health care can find out she’s having a girl (instead of a boy) and use your tax dollars to pay for her sex selection abortion. Yes, that’s a fact.

     Did you know that during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, women can request an abortion for any and every reason? That’s the current law.

     Did you also know that only 16 other states in the nation require taxpayer funding of abortion?

     Voting YES on Amendment 1 will prevent your tax dollars from paying for abortions. But this isn’t about money.  It’s about whether or not life in the womb is ordained by God and whether or not an individual or a government should pay to destroy that God-ordained life.

     In over 30 years of vocational ministry, I’ve never publicly endorsed any individual candidate for any office.  I’ve seen some radical pro-abortion candidates over the years and I haven’t endorsed their opponents.  There’s a gray area when it comes to how much a pastor should get involved in politics.

This is NOT one of those times.  There is NO gray area here.  Aborting a child at 20 weeks is murder. Period.  It’s immoral.  And our government should not allow it, let alone pay for it.

     This year, the West Virginia Legislature passed a proposed constitutional amendment, which will be on the ballot at the November election.  Amendment 1 will say on your ballot: “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.”  Its purpose is to neutralize our state constitution on the issue of abortion and allow the state legislature to exercise its appropriate responsibility for control over the funding of abortion. You will hear a lot of misinformation about how this is confusing, how women are going to die, how doctors won’t be able to save a woman’s life …. Don’t believe it.

     Following passage of Amendment 1, women in WV will still be able to have abortions under the federal constitution. Personally, I don’t think the amendment goes far enough, but the political reality right now is that this amendment is the best we are going to be able to do this fall.  If Amendment 1 passes, our tax dollars would be limited to paying for abortion only in the cases of life of the mother, medical emergency, reported rape and incest and fetal anomaly.  If Amendment 1 passes in November, it will help prevent future pro-abortion judges from “finding” abortion rights in the WV Constitution.

     I’m voting YES on Amendment One.  I’ve never had an easier decision in my voting life.  Even if you don’t get into politics, whether you are Republican or Democrat or Independent, I would hope you’d make the effort to stand for those who cannot stand for themselves.  We cannot keep turning our heads and ignoring this problem. Abortion for any and every reason must stop.  There have to be some limits.  Voting YES on 1 will be a step in the right direction.



Baptism In The Early Church

    As we approach Jesus’ baptism, we see from the Gospel of Mark (1:10) that Jesus was “coming up out of the water” when the Holy Spirit descended on Him like a dove.  This is one of the clearest references to baptism by immersion for if Jesus would have only been sprinkled, He wouldn’t have been coming up out of the water.

      It’s really unclear as to when baptism started including pouring water over people or, even less than that, a sprinkling with water. Writers Thomas Kidd and Justin Taylor comment:


      Some conclusions from historian Everett Ferguson’s magisterial 975-page tome, Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries (Eerdmans, 2009): Is there evidence for infant baptism existing before the second part of the second century? There is general agreement that there is no firm evidence for infant baptism before the latter part of the second century.” (p. 856)

Does this mean that infant baptism didn’t exist? “This fact does not mean that it did not occur, but it does mean that supporters of the practice have a considerable chronological gap to account for. Many replace the historical silence by appeal to theological or sociological considerations.” (p. 856)

     Why did infant baptism emerge? “The most plausible explanation for the origin of infant baptism is found in the emergency baptism of sick children expected to die soon so that they would be assured of entrance into the kingdom of heaven.” (p. 856)

     When did it catch on and become the dominant understanding of baptism? “There was a slow extension of baptizing babies as a precautionary measure. It was generally accepted, but questions continued to be raised about its propriety into the fifth century. It became the usual practice in the fifth and sixth centuries.” (p. 857)

What was the mode of baptism in the early church? “The comprehensive survey of the evidence compiled in this study give a basis for a fresh look at this subject and seeks to give coherence to that evidence while addressing seeming anomalies. The Christian literary sources, backed by secular word usage and Jewish religious immersions, give an overwhelming support for full immersion as the normal action. Exceptions in cases of a lack of water and especially of sickbed baptism were made. Submersion was undoubtedly the case for the fourth and fifth centuries in the Greek East and only slightly less certain for the Latin West.” (p. 857)


     As you can see, the most common mode of baptism was full immersion and it was only after several centuries and theological accommodations that the church began baptizing children at all.  From what we can tell, the standard way of doing baptisms in the early church were very similar to how we do it in the Baptist church today: by full immersion.


Staff Are People Too

     Do you ever look back on your life and think, “I had no idea how much my life would change over the last few months?”  Yes, life is full of surprises.  Our plans are only plans. God’s will is often different than our will.

     Being in the ministry doesn’t insulate you from radical life changes.  Really, we are no different than anyone else.  As we approach Staff Appreciation Day, I’d like to give you a little insight into the personal lives of our folks on staff.  This time last year, our staff had no idea that…

              …Desiree Sowards would find a job, lose a job, find another job and get pregnant with her third daughter!

              ….Jeramie Wells would be our front office secretary!

              ….Kayla Gaskin and Sharon Napier would both give birth to baby boys

              ….after beating cancer Callie Cicenas would start working at Tri-State Airport again.

              ….Megan Creasy would be diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease. We thank the Lord for dietary changes that have made this much                            better.

              ….Pam Akers would have two more grandbabies and maybe a third by the time you are reading this! GO WHITNEY!

      I say all this to focus on the ladies who either minister around the church or assist their husbands in their ministries.  Usually the guys are up front and from the outside it’s difficult to understand the role of a spouse involved in ministry.  All of the above females are crucial to the success of FBC Kenova in more ways than you know.  When you appreciate our staff, please know that these behind-the-scenes heroes are as important as the people whose names are on the back of your bulletins!

     As we head toward our staff appreciation lunch, this year, I’d like to encourage you to make special effort to write notes of encouragement to the staff member(s) that most directly ministers to you.  All of us appreciate a supportive word now and then, and your church staff are no different.  In many ways the prophet Jeremiah’s words are fulfilled in through our staff. “And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding” Jeremiah 31:15.  Your staff really does love the Lord and you too, so please, make the effort to stop by and give them a hug or a pat on the back.  After all, staff are people too.


Powerful Testimonies This Sunday

     Last April I was attending a national speaking competition and one young lady blew me away.  She was just a senior in high school, but she took the stage in front of 3000 people looking as if she did it every evening of her life.  Miss Lindsay Phillips rose to tell the story of abortion survivor, Gianna Jennsen, and then tied it to her own.  About halfway through her national championship speech, I began to think, “I’ve got to get this girl to Kenova.  Our church needs to hear this story.”

     Fortunately, I was able to track down Miss Phillips and she will be joining us this Sunday morning for the purpose of sharing this 10-minute testimony.  Let me assure you, it goes perfectly along with my sermon about King Herod and the birth of Jesus.  God’s timing is perfect!

     In addition, we will be led in worship by the Jason Lovins band.  Jason and the guys attend our church regularly and when I confirmed Lindsay joining us on October 7th, I knew  we had to book them as Jason has a pro-life testimony of his own.  Jason is another fine example of a child that many would have said he didn’t have a chance, yet God had wonderful plans of His own for Jason's life.  We serve an amazing God and you will be greatly encouraged this Sunday.

     I hope you are able to invite a friend to attend with you.  Between the worship, testimony, and preaching, you will cry, laugh, and experience God’s grace in perhaps a way you have not understood Him before.


     Personally, I can’t wait!


Man + Woman + not married + alone = TROUBLE

  • Dinah and the prince of Shechem. Two teenagers at a party.  Alone. They wander off alone. The girl gets raped and the brothers murder the offender as an act of revenge.
  • Reuben and his step-mother Bilhah.  The two are alone in a tent one day.  Bad things happen.  Jacob finds out and disowns his son.
  • Judah and Tamar.  A father-in-law with his daughter-in-law.  Unlawful relations.  A child born out of wedlock.
  • Joseph and Potiphar’s wife.  A young man working in the house with his boss’ wife.  She accuses him of rape.  He cannot prove himself innocent. He spends more than a decade in prison.
  • Samson and Delilah.  She seduces him.  He loses his eyes in the process. Ouch!
  • David and his captain’s wife, Bathsheba.  She comes over for dinner while her husband is out of town.  Don’t worry about it.  It’s just dinner!  Soon there’s a murder and a dead baby.
  • Amnon and Tamar.  A step-brother invites his step-sister into his bedroom.  You just know this story isn’t going to end well.

          I could keep going but I’ll just stop less than a third of the way through the Bible. You don’t have to read very far to see a reoccurring theme.  When unmarried men and women find themselves alone together, it’s a recipe for disaster.

           Sometimes I wonder just how many times the Bible has to tell a similar story before God’s people figure it out.  Man + woman + alone with no one else around = T-R-O-U-B-L-E

           Yet the deception of exception fools parents, teens, married men & women alike.  “I know all those people in the Bible couldn’t handle it, but my situation will be different.” Famous last words.

             Whether it’s teens at a party, adults on a work assignment, or extended family members gathered for the holidays, please church family, stop playing with fire.  Please learn from the biblical examples as well as what is going on in our culture today. Protect your kids and your own reputations from being besmirched in the eyes of the world.

              As followers of Christ, it’s not just your name that is on the line.


Unity Night

     Sunday, September 27, 2015 was a date being shopped around as a prelude to the end of days.  On the heels of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, the day of atonement, in the heart of Sukkot, the feast of tabernacles, in a calendar year that lined up exactly with 33AD, on the night of the fourth consecutive blood moon coinciding with the major Jewish holidays of the last two years, on the eve of a U.S. backed deal with the chief of Israel’s current and millennial old enemies …. On that night …. We chose to praise the Lord.   We sang hallelujah.  We celebrated the mercy of Christ on the cross and the power of Christ displayed in the resurrection.

     The Holy Spirit was moving among our congregation.  God was honored and our hearts were moved to love our neighbors as we loved ourselves.  Challenged with meeting the immediate physical needs of over a million refugees, many of which are Christian, our church family at Kenova and MCF demonstrated unity by giving and/or pledging over $10,000 to be sent to our mission partners in Eastern Europe.

     Time usually flies but to me, our first unity night feels like a long time ago, but in reality, it was just three years ago.  FBC Ashland hadn’t partnered with us as of yet.   Between us and MCF, we’ve had over 100 baptisms since that time.  Our weekly worship attendance has nearly doubled. God is certainly on the move.

     But as we prepare our hearts for this Sunday night, I want to remind us that Unity Night is more than a concert.  This is about three congregations coming together as one church to glorify God.  Please come expecting the name of Jesus to be lifted up in a special way.  As the book of Acts teaches us, God does something extraordinary when “all the people are together and have everything in common.”  We find unity in one thing above all else, the GLORY of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. May His glory be shown among us this Sunday night!


Update on Choir Ministries

     It was great to have the full choir leading worship this past Sunday.  They add an incredible aspect to our worship services.  I’m sure the entire congregation would say the same!

     A few people have asked for an update in our search for a choir director.  The reality is that we are no closer now than what we were when Andy Honeycutt announced his resignation last April. It’s not that we haven’t tried.  We’ve posted our information on over 100 websites, partnered with a search company, and interviewed a handful of candidates.  None of these efforts, however, have produced much fruit.

     I personally met with the choir about a month ago and asked them their opinion as to how to move forward.  We agree we want a quality choir director who has excellent people and musical skills.  For this to be a full-time job, however, a candidate must serve in some other capacity in the church such as administration, visitation, counseling, etc.  The main thing is that we find the right “fit” for our congregation, and we trust that will happen in the Lord’s time.

      In the meantime, choir practices have been moved to the first Sunday evening of each month.  In one 2-hour practice from 4-6pm, the choir will work to prepare a month’s worth of songs to either open our worship services or sing specials for the offertory time. After each practice, the church is providing a meal for the choir participants as many of them serve in other ministries at 6:30pm.

     For now, Josh Sowards has agreed to serve in the interim.  It’s a new challenge for him, but until we find the person we believe God has for us, we know Josh will lead with integrity of heart and a joy to serve the Lord.  While Josh is leading, he would love for many of you to join choir, especially as they are only practicing one Sunday a month.  They will also make arrangements for child care if that’s what has prevented you from being in the choir in the past.  If you can carry a tune in a bucket, come join them!


The Academy

     This upcoming Sunday we will begin our new Sunday School classes including additional classes for THE ACADEMY. THE ACADEMY is a certificate-level program where members can take one class from several different theological disciplines.  THE ACADEMY classes will provide people a learning experience in each of the following areas:


       Old Testament Bible: This semester Isaac McCown is teaching Pentateuch and Bill Davenport is teaching the Historical Books (Joshua-Esther).


       New Testament Bible: Jerrod Workman is teaching the Gospels and Larry Lucas/TJ Adkins are teaching the Book of Acts.


       Missions: Sharon Napier and Jerry Saulton: Intro to World Missions.


       Systematic Theology: Isaac’s class would count for an elective in this category as well.


       Practical Theology. Chris Ball is teaching Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. Caleb Jones Celebrate Recovery. Dave Akers Biblical Manhood. Sarah Murray Biblical Womanhood.


     Participants will receive a certificate for completing one class in each category. Participants who complete two classes in each category will receive an advanced certificate and those who complete three classes in each category will receive an ACADEMY Diploma.


     Our hope is that many of you will take a 17-week class in one of the above areas.  We will have fall semesters, spring semesters, and summer semesters. If you would prefer to keep your own class, that is fine, but we are also wanting to challenge the congregation to mature in a broader range of biblical knowledge and a broader range of teachers.  Current existing classes are Jason Brumfield teaching Deuteronomy and Jack Ferguson is finishing the book of Jeremiah. 


    Please get involved in one of our classes and be blessed by the varying teaching styles from the diverse set of teachers with whom God has blessed our church.  --Steve

The Academy

     This upcoming Sunday we want to announce our new classes, new teachers, and roll out the schedule for THE ACADEMY which will be a certificate-level program where members can take one class from several different theological disciplines.  THE ACADEMY will provide people a learning experience in each of the following areas.

  •        Old Testament Bible (e.g. overview of Torah, Historical Books, Poetry, Major and Minor Prophets)
  •        New Testament Bible (e.g. overview of the Gospels, Acts, Pauline Epistles, General Epistles, Revelation)
  •        Missions (e.g. Personal evangelism, World Religions, Intro to World Missions, Local and National Missions)
  •        Systematic Theology (Various apologetic courses, Angelology and Anthropology, Trinitarianism, How we Got our Bible, Creationism, Soteriology          and Ecclesiology)
  •        Practical Theology (Teaching and Preaching, Biblical Parenting, Spiritual Leadership for Men and Women, Biblical Ethics and Spiritual                            Disciplines, Discipleship 101)

     Participants will receive a certificate for completing one class in each category. Participants who complete two classes in each category will receive an advanced certificate and those who complete three classes in each category will receive an ACADEMY Diploma.

     Our hope is that many of you will take a 17-week class in one of the above areas.  We will have fall semesters, spring semesters, and summer semesters. If you would prefer to keep your own class, that is fine, but we are also wanting to challenge the congregation to mature in a broader range of biblical knowledge and a broader range of teachers.  This helps us to get to know one another and be exposed to different teaching styles from the diverse set of teachers with whom God has blessed our church.


A Lesson in Humility

     The Bible teaches us to be careful not to judge others as being inferior to ourselves.  There's no person that doesn't struggle with self-righteousness.  In some way we all judge people who don't do things the way WE would do things as somehow inferior.  We think we know best.  We must guard ourselves from thinking things like....


If your son doesn’t play sports, you’re not as good as I am

If your daughter doesn’t cheer or dance, you’re not as good as I am.

If you don’t send your kids to Christian school

If you don’t send your kids to public schools

If you don’t homeschool

If you don’t vote democrat, or republican

If you don’t recycle,

If you don’t go to Marshall

If you don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend

If you don’t lift your hands in worship

If you don’t like to sing songs from KLOVE or WALK FM

If you don’t sing the hymns I like

If you don’t have any kids

If you have too many kids

If you don’t work in the Garage

If you don’t teach AWANA

Drive an American made car

If you’re not following Paleo or a vegan diet

If you ARE following paleo or a vegan diet

If you don’t have a nice house

If you live in too nice of a house

If you’re not from Barboursville


....the list goes on and on.


     Let's watch judging one another for living out our Christian freedoms in different ways. 



Reflections on the Wedding of an Adult Child


     Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding? – Job 12:12

     No kid likes it when they have a disagreement with their parents and the mom or dad says, “Someday you’ll understand.”  It doesn’t matter if you’re 6, 16 or 26, it feels almost patronizing when someone older than you assumes you don’t know something just because of your age.  I hated when parents told me as a youth pastor, “Just wait until you have teenagers. THEN, you’ll understand.”

     But that’s kind of Job’s point.  There are certain things you just don’t understand until you go through them.  It’s impossible to understand the emotions that come with the birth of a child unless you’ve been through it.  One can’t fully empathize with a couple who struggles with infertility unless they themselves have gone through an extended period of time fighting the emotions that come with the fear of being unable to bear a biological child.  Whether it’s going through a divorce, discrimination in the workplace, being bullied at school, or, in my case, marrying off one of your children, one just can’t understand the emotions that go with certain life circumstances until or unless you go through them yourself.

     This was never truer to me as I watched Titus share his original vows with his new bride. Here was a boy who learned how to write at the tutelage of me and his mother but now was using those skills to commit himself to a lifelong covenant with the woman he loved.  Here was a young man who I taught how to budget now responsible for his own car savings, repairs, rent, tuition and fees, and the life of a young lady whose father, Mike Troutt, sat just across the aisle from me.  I remember thinking, “Poor Mike.  Everything he’s poured into his little girl is now in the hands of a young man he barely knows.”

     Then I looked behind Titus’ bride, and there as one of her bridesmaids was Johnna Willis.  Perhaps this time next year, or a summer not long from now, I’ll be in the same position as Mike Troutt. Wow. Just wow.

     No one could have prepared me for that moment. People have told me about it, but it’s one of those things that until you go through it, you just cannot understand. In my case it was bittersweet.  I love my son’s new bride, so I feel like I’ve gained a daughter, but at the same time I feel like I’ve lost something as well.

     As we counsel our friends through the seasons and challenges of life, let’s be careful when we use the words, “I understand,” if we haven’t walked a mile in their shoes.  Sometimes we don’t know quite what to say, and the more difficult the situation, maybe the less words the better.  Maybe, “I’m here for you if you need someone to listen,” is the best response we can give.

      Celebrate one another’s successes. Bear one another’s burdens.  Amen.



     Since I was 7 years old listening to my mamaw and papaw “start hymns” in their Independent Fundamental Freewill Baptist Church to now, music has always had an almost magical influence on my life. Over the last 10 years or so, I’ve seen the impact of music in the lives of Jesus’ followers more than ever. See, music - singing - dance and theatre. They connect all people at an emotional and spiritual level unique among all arts and sciences

     Go to Africa … they sing for joy or to express sorrow. They sing to give praise. What about India? Same story. They’ll sing for joy, during tragedy and in gladness. China, Japan, Europe, South America and even the arctic … music pervades the most important values of every culture!  Listen to “He Reigns” by Newsboys if you’re not familiar with it. It’s a great example of this.

(Click here if you’re reading this online and want to give it a listen!)

     Take a few moments to look at the examples given in the Bible. You’ll notice something. Singing is always done in groups! Large groups. Small groups. But, always in groups.

  • Take Miriam and Moses in Exodus 15 - They’re leading - all Israel is singing!

  • Look at Ezra and Nehemiah at the rebuilding of the temple in Nehemiah 12:31 - they round up the leaders of Israel, the priests, and send the choir around the new wall with David’s instruments and strike up the band!

  • What about New Testament samples? Look at Paul and the early church in Colossians (3:16) and Ephesians (5:19) - The believers are meeting together singing songs that encourage one another and build each other up. They’re directing their songs to the Lord.

     Those examples leave out all the Psalms we could reference where priests wrote songs for the choirs to sing century after century. And King David did a fair bit of “solo” work himself. Music, singers, choir … they make up the biblical worship of all believers.

     On that note … music, singers and the choir. They’re an intimate, irreplaceable part of our congregation’s weekly worship. As Steve said in his message last week, no one is “in the hopper” to replace Andy and the incredible ministry and direction he brought the choir. But that service to the body of believers isn’t going anywhere!

     In the meantime - I offer my humble direction. Singing is one of the most important aspects of communal worship. It totally unites us in moments of melody, chorus, and refrain. It simply can’t be lost.

     We’ll make some schedule adjustments for rehearsals. And we’ll have some leaders in the choir step-up to help lead sections and learn parts. Then we’ll do what any group, team, or company does to become excellent - we’ll practice.          


Updating Our Records

We need updated information from many of our members in order to more effectively communicate with our church family. If you have recently moved or cancelled your landline, please call the church office or text me directly. If you are unsure whether or not we have the correct information, feel free to call in with your contact information.  Our Pastors, Shepherds, and Deacons would greatly appreciate it! Also, if you have a specific need for prayer be sure to put it on your prayer card at church or call the church office. Thank you for your help.--Jeramie

Developing Our Leadership Pipeline

    Most of you are familiar with a children’s summertime ministry called “Nic at Night.”  For nearly ten years we saw thousands of children in our region come to this ministry that involved the entire community. Two of my own children gave their lives to Jesus as a result of “Nic at Night.”

     The first time we participated in Nic at Night was at a friend of mine’s church plant in Myrtle Beach, SC.  The pastor and creator of the creative ministry is Mac Lake, who just so happened to grow up across the street from me in Pratt, WV.  Mac is 9 years my senior, and I pretty much learned how to be a Christian teenager by watching him live out his faith.

     Today Mac is the lead trainer for the entire Southern Baptist Convention and their church plants.  He also serves as a consultant for leadership training across the country.  Mac recently visited our congregation and was blown away by how much we’ve progressed over the last ten years, not only at our Kenova campus, but through our partnerships with HCC and Ashland as well.

     Mac recognized our strengths as biblical teaching, character development, and passion for missions and outreach both locally and around the world.   He loved our church family atmosphere and the sense of community that we’ve created.  He even called the executive minister of the SBC in Nashville and encouraged them to find ways to replicate how we’ve revitalized an established congregation while simultaneously planting a collegiate ministry at Marshall.

     But Mac also identified some definite weaknesses when it comes to leadership development.  All of our staff recognized our deficiencies in some of these areas, but Mac pinpointed some specific ways we needed to improve right away.  The most significant need for improvement was that our staff are doing too much of working with new volunteer leaders instead of training volunteer leaders to do the recruiting and training of new workers.  We have too many staff doing the ministry ourselves instead of developing a leadership pipeline where we grow more and more people into positions of spiritual and administrative leadership in the church.  In a nutshell, we have to organize around the principle of leadership development instead of just mobilizing volunteers for the works of service.

     Please be praying for us as we continue in this training and attempting to move forward in these areas.  It’s pretty much a new thinking process for our entire staff but we realize we need to do better if we are going to be more effective in reaching our world for Christ. Good things are coming and we are going to need your help in making it happen!


Collegiate Ministry at Duke University

Hey everyone, in case you didn’t get to meet me this past week, my name is Taylor Troutt, soon to be Taylor Willis.  I want to thank the entire church for welcoming me to your church family, especially those whom I met at the incredible shower we had last Thursday. Titus and I cannot thank you enough.  

    Just to let you know a little about me, I grew up in Houston, TX and my life revolved around two things: church and softball.  My father is an Army chaplain and former baseball player so between him and my Jesus-loving mother, I was raised to love the Lord and be a competitor on the field.  During my senior year in high school I received an offer to play Division 1 softball at Columbia University, which is where I met Titus at a campus ministry group.  After four years of hard work, God blessed me to become the Ivy League Player of the Year and to be listed as 3rd-team all-American (Pastor Steve made me include that!).

     I really love playing softball, but the more I saw the lostness on Columbia’s campus, my heart’s passion became to minister with college students like so many others had ministered to me. When Titus received his scholarship to Duke Law, it enabled me to live out my dream of attending Southeastern Baptist Seminary which is just 27 miles from Duke’s campus.  In addition, when Duke’s Campus Crusade for Christ staff learned that I was moving to the area, they informed me that they have been praying for a female athlete to reach out to the ladies on their campus. With my experience as a college athlete, and with my academic credentials as an Ivy League graduate, God has given me an incredible platform that will gain credibility on a campus that greatly values excellence in both academics and athletics. Plus, with my future husband being a student there, it’s really a perfect fit for my gifts and abilities.

     So as your missionary to Duke’s campus, right now my goals are to 1) build relationships with the softball team during fall workouts 2) start a freshman Bible study and 3) train the current students already involved with Duke CRU ministries to have gospel conversations with at least 200 students this fall.  Those are big goals, but with your prayers and the Lord’s help, I know it can happen!

      I plan on updating a blog bi-weekly throughout the year with specific things happening on campus and several ways that you can be praying for me and for Cru at Duke! If you would like to receive these updates, please contact me or call the church office by August 1 to add your name and email.  Thank you and may God warm you with His love!   



Operation Rescue 7/11/18


For the past two weeks the world has watched as a Thai soccer team was trapped in a deep labyrinth of flooded caves.  Thinking they were just going to explore a small section of the caves, and wanting to cool off after a hot day of practice, the boys went a few hundred yards below the surface, only to find themselves trapped when monsoon rains flooded the entryway.  As waters began to rise, the boys and their 25-year-old coach were pushed further and further into the cave system trying to find a place of refuge.  After many hours of searching and fleeing, eventually the boys found high ground in the pitch darkness, nearly a thousand feet beneath the earth's surface.


Most thought the boys dead, but a couple of diligent and valiant scuba divers found the entrapped squad some eight days later.  Almost miraculously, without food or clean drinking water for over a week, the boys were alive and in good condition.  The entire world came together and lent time, treasure, and talent to rescue these boys from mortal danger.  One Navy Seal even lost his life getting oxygen to the entrapped children. 

For the church, this is our call to mission, except in our case, it’s not mere physical life that is on the line.  The issue is literally a matter of eternal life or death.   The call to take the gospel to a world entrapped in sin, to people with no chance of making it out of their own accord, must be paramount in our lives. To the call to save the lost, we give our treasure.  And for some of us, like the Navy Seal, we give our very lives.


No matter what your walk of life, people around you are stuck in the cave of sin on a daily basis.  You have the oxygen tanks, the diving skills, the map, the only hope of their rescue.  Rush into the caves of dying people and point them to the only Savior who can redeem their very souls!


Camp Cowen Update - 7/3/18

     Thank you church for your faithful giving! It is because of your faithfulness that our (children and youth) Camp Cowen budget lines are even established. We have been able to meet families halfway on covering the cost of a weeklong experience like no other. This past Saturday, we returned from Junior II camp with 35 campers and 10 leaders (thank you also for your dedication and desire to serve our Lord through counseling). Jeremy has another 60 campers (and a bunch of counselors) going in the coming weeks – Praise the Lord!!!

     If anyone who has never gone to Cowen wants to know what the experience is like, read the Book of Acts. Acts 2 shares “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (Hylbert, Vespers and Campfire) and to fellowship (everywhere), to the breaking of bread (all meals) and to prayer (throughout the day). Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts (camp). They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (many were saved or rededicated their life to the Lord). Camp Cowen is a picture of what “church” should look like.

     Cowen has a huge impact upon the campers and often an even bigger impact upon the counselors. I have had the blessing of teaching at either Vespers or at camp fire for several years now. As I was preparing for Thursday’s camp fire, I was studying the life of Jonah. My thought was that it would make for a great teaching moment for the campers – obedience. Jonah 1:1-2 shares “The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” Jonah ran the other way

     It wasn’t until after reading verse 17 many times (“Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah”), that God’s grace was clearly shown. We have all experienced “storms” in our life. Let us not focus on the storm itself but rather seek to see His grace through this time. Jehovah Jireh = The Lord will provide.


Wolves in Pastors' Clothing - 6/27/18

One of the most important job for any shepherd is to protect his sheep from wolves.  New Testament writers such as Peter, Paul and Jude say the same thing is true for pastors and their churches.  So to recap what we discussed this last week, if you hear “pastors” teaching the following, they are probably the wolves of which the Bible is writing. Wolves in sheep’s clothing will usually teach that:

1. The orthodox teaching that you’ve heard all your life is wrong.  Wolves have a new and better way of understanding God’s grace.

2. The Bible is God’s Word as long as it is translated and interpreted properly. Guess who knows how to interpret it properly? That’s right, the wolves do.

3. Wolves teach that most, if not all, of the Old Testament is outdated and doesn’t apply to the sons and daughters of God.  They often teach that the NT apostles’ teaching is frequently misunderstood.

4. Above all, wolves despise accountability.  They spend much of their time attacking the belief systems of other Christians.

5. The church of wolves usually will be filled with those who have little theological training.

Wolves typically lead their churches in one of three dangerous directions.

1. Originalism. Wolves often give new details on spiritual things that contradict Biblical teaching or they like to add things to the Bible.  Some examples are: giving new details on heaven or hell that the Bible does not give; denying the literal existence of an eternal hell; setting specific dates for the rapture or the return of Christ; worshipping angels or denying the existence of them, including but not limited to the denial of a real Satan.

2. Legalism. Wolves like to make up their own rules for salvation and teach others that you can only be saved or made righteous by following a bunch of rules. (Of course we know that the Bible teaches we are saved by grace through faith alone (Gal. 2:16, et al)).

3. Antinomianism, that is, wolves will teach that there is no purpose for OT law, it’s BAD! They will say we don’t need listen to Moses, David, the Hebrew prophets or even some NT apostles.   They say ignore biblical texts about judgment, accountability for sin, that God will not punish people.  Basically all people will either go to heaven or be annihilated and cease to exist.

     Of course, all true Christians won’t agree on every detail of the Bible. Not every disagreement is a matter of heresy. But if you ever have a friend or family member who is part of a church that is teaching many of these things, seriously, tell them to run.  As the Apostle Paul teaches, have nothing to do with such men.


Guatemala Mission Team Update - 6/20/18

Our Guatemala mission team returned early this morning, June 19th . We had a fantastic trip and to give you a

glimpse of what we did each day, details are below.

Day 1 – We drove to Lexington to stay the night at the hotel and prepare our team for the upcoming travel day.

Day 2 - Flew to Atlanta. Our activity involved airport evangelism and singing worship during our lay over. We

landed in Guatemala City and bussed to Antigua.

Day 3 - We started our day in devotion, prayer and worship on the roof of our bed and breakfast. In our view

only six miles away was Fuego, the volcano that erupted and took the lives of hundreds just weeks prior. After

devotion we drove to the city of Antigua, then a 6-hour drive to Hope of Life, our destination for the week.

Day 4 - After our morning devotion we were given a tour of Hope of Life. We visited the elderly home, Kelly’s

Place (a place for special needs children), the orphanage and hospital. We then went to a place they call, “the

dump” to serve food and play with kids.

Day 5 - Our mission team re-built a road that was washed away by the torrential downpour the night before.

After lunch we worked on the Conner’s house (long term missionaries to Guatemala) and we formed rebar at

the new clinic.

Day 6 – We worked on rebar and unloading trucks at the clinic, worked on rebar at the Conner’s house and

moved concrete for some houses. After lunch we went to the orphanage to get ready for VBS and hung out at

the elderly home, hospital and Kelly’s Place.

Day 7 - VBS with orphans, free time for elderly home, Kelly’s place and the hospital. Later that evening we

swam with the orphanage kids and treated them to pizza and cupcakes. We then had our nightly debrief over

campfire. We were also able to induct some of the long-term missionary students into the “ooga-booga” club.

Day 8 – We went to church. Our students were able to play/sing and I was asked to preach the Word. Our

long-term missionary, Bryan Saulton, led worship in Spanish. After church our students were able to visit their

favorite places, the elderly home, Kelly’s place or the hospital to hold babies. That night we were asked to

have a rare private dinner with the Hope of Life founder, Carlos Vargas. Our dinner was held on the roof top of

the café. When asked why we were invited to dinner, knowing he never has these special dinners with

students, only the “big wigs.” he said, “this was the best team we ever had.”

Day 9 - Traveled home

My favorite moments were our nightly debriefs. It was amazing to hear the daily stories of how the student’s

experiences had impacted their lives. This successful mission trip was a team effort that included the entire

church body. Once again, we thank you for supporting us financially and through your prayers.


Ten Biblical Memorials (Part 2) - 6/13/18

Just as a reminder (pun intended), last week I gave you the first five of ten biblical memorials. They were given so that we would remember various people/events that the Bible. The first five were Noah’s rainbow, the Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles, the manna in the Ark, and the command to remember the Sabbath day.  I can’t go into all of the details here, but I will give a short statement as to the heart of the next five memorials.

6.  The Bronze Altar.  After 250 people rebelled against Moses, God destroyed them.  All that was left was the bronze pots they had in their hands when they died.  Those pots were hammered into a bronze altar which served to remind the Hebrew people that only those who meet the qualifications of a priest would be allowed to serve in that capacity.

7. Stones of Remembrance.  As the Hebrew people walked across the Jordan River bed, one person from each tribe brought a rock from the temporarily dry river bed.  When they got to the other side and the river was closed behind them, they put the rocks in a visible place to remind them how God had brought them into the promised land.

8. Feast of Purim.  Even today, Jews dress up in costumes to commemorate how Esther was hiding her true identity as a Jew.  It was only when she admitted her true identity that her husband, the Persian king, stopped the plot to kill the Jews.

9. Jesus said we must always tell of the example Mary (sister of Lazarus and Martha) set for us when she bought Jesus a bottle of ointment that was worth approximately $35,000.  She anointed him with the ointment to demonstrate her love for Him, knowing that He would soon be sacrificed for our sins.

10. Communion.  The fulfillment of the Passover Seder meal.  This is what Jesus practiced at the Last Supper. As often as we do this, we celebrate Christ’s body being broken for us and His blood being she for the forgiveness of our sins.  We remember His death, burial, and resurrection.