From the Desk of the Associate: The Thriving Tree

When I was just a poor college student, I worked my summer and off hours for a lawncare company. We did the typical mowing and weed control for commercial and residential properties. There is something so satisfying about mowing a lush green lawn and looking back at your very precise cross-stripped mowing pattern and just think “wow! what beauty.” Now with some lawns it was impossible to get to this perfectly lush and green standard. Many of our customers were working under a certain budget that did not include room for the type of measures that such a lawn requires. There were some customers who wanted that luscious lawn but who did not invest in the fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and watering that were required. I remember thinking one day of a customer who had commented that her property was looking as sharp as some others but then she refused my boss’s offer to apply fertilizer and pesticides. I remember thinking that this customer was like many of us. We want lush and green spiritual lives but we refuse to invest the time and energy into making this happen. It’s not that it isn’t possible, we just don’t do the things that we know we should.

Over and over in Scripture, God uses tree metaphors for the Christian life. Just think of Jesus’ statement in John 15, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit…. Abide in me, and I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” Jesus is clearly stating here that if we want to have a fruitful life we must abide in him. Consider also, Galatians 5. Paul states that we will either bear fruits of the flesh or we will bear fruits of the Spirit. Many of us learn the verses about the fruit of the Spirit, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” But though many of us learn what the fruits of the Spirit are, we take them to be imperatives and not indicatives. In other words, Paul is simply describing what someone who is led by the Spirit looks like, he is not commanding us here to be loving, joyful, peaceful, etc. but he is saying that someone who is led by the Spirit exhibits these things. Does that mean this is just something that passively happens to us? Or to go back to John 15, do we just passively abide in Jesus the vine?

Jesus and Paul are very helpful because they don’t leave us guessing. Jesus goes on to state in verse 7 of John 15, that “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.” Jesus will go on to say in this same dialogue, that He would be sending the Holy Spirit who we know enables the follower of Jesus to bear fruit. Back to Paul in Galatians 6, he says that in order for us to bear certain fruit we must plant certain fruit. Galatians 6:7-10 “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. The interesting thing about Galatians 6 is that it is all in the context of living our Christian life in community of other Christians. In other words, we sow to the Spirit by abiding with other Christians.

It’s not just the New Testament that uses trees and fruit metaphors for the godly person. Look at Psalm 1. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” David is describing what it takes to be a fruitful person. It seems that the distinguishing feature of a thriving person is their delight in God’s Word. Can’t you hear the echo in Jesus’ words when he said “if my words abide in you”? We will bear fruit if we delight in God’s Word frequently. But there is another more subtle aspect about Psalm 1 that we should not miss. David contrasts the thriving person with the wicked person as someone who surrounds himself by the wicked, sinful, and scoffers. What’s the application here? Well it’s the same as Paul’s application in Galatians 6. We are to surround ourselves with others who are seeking to be fruit bearing Christians, we also call this the Church.

So to boil it all down, what does it take to be a Spiritual fruit bearing person? We must abide in Jesus by delighting in his Word, and we must plant to the Spirit by living in community with those who are also abiding in Christ. I am probably not giving you some groundbreaking revelation, but many of us are like the customer that I described at the beginning. We want a lush and green life and we know what it will take to get that but we just don’t want to invest our time and energy in God’s Word and God’s people. I hope that will not describe me in the coming year and it is my prayer that it won’t describe you either.

Flirting With Death…

It was July of 2021 and I honestly thought I was going to die. I was so far from shore and the current underneath me was so strong. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was caught in a dangerous rip current off the Gulf Coast of Mexico. I was far from shore and the waves were high and pummeling my already tired body.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a strong swimmer. In any pool or body of water I only go as far as chest high. Indeed, I can swim, but I’m not proficient by any stretch of the imagination. The thought of drowning is perhaps one of my greatest fears in life, next to killer clowns and creepy basement crawlspaces. I respect the water. I fear the water. To die in a watery abyss is beyond scary to me.

Indeed, that day in July had started off with so much excitement. My brother, Steven, had just sworn into the Pensacola Police Department as a police officer. My heart swelled with pride as I witnessed my brother raise his right hand and take his solemn oath. My little brother had just become a cop! My other brother, Samuel, was also with me at the swearing in ceremony. It was a proud moment for the three of us brothers. We decided to celebrate by heading to Pensacola Beach…

We swam around and played around for hours. We wrestled in the water and cracked jokes that made us laugh till our bellies hurt. Man alive, it was such a good time! The sun was beginning to set, and we decided to take one last lap in the water. We were all tired, but happy, and wanted one last hurrah in the Gulf before heading to dinner.

Then it happened, I popped out of the water after seeing how long I could hold my breath, and I was so far from land. Indeed, the current was pulling me farther and farther from land. Fear and panic gripped my body. My life flashed before my eyes. Images of my wife and children (especially my new – always smiling – adopted son, Derrick) flashed before my eyes. I was so scared. “You can’t swim!”, my brain screamed at me with aggressive passion. After a few more seconds of panic, I made the decision, “It’s sink or swim; and I’m not going to die today – not today,” I told myself. So, I began to swim. The struggle was real and intense. Amazingly, I never took a gulp of water with all the waves crashing in around me. I swam hard. I swam ugly. I swam for my life. “Not. Going. To Die. Today. Keep going…Don’t quit…Don’t stinking quit…”, I told myself as my body chopped through the relentless waters. I was tired. Exhausted. I wanted to stop, to catch my breath, but to do so meant certain death – death by drowning.

By the grace of God, I survived that day. All three of us brothers were able to escape that strong rip current in the Gulf of Mexico. As we got to the beach, we flopped on the white sand in satisfied, nervous exhaustion. We were alive…by the grace of God.

You know, I’ve been close to death several times. From incoming mortars in Iraq to some scary car accidents, but that moment in the Gulf was intense. I’m grateful to be alive. Still breathing. Still moving forward. Still on mission.

Flirting with death is an uncomfortable grace that is filled with adrenaline and high stakes passion. Indeed, to escape death gives you new perspective and a renewed vigor for life. Ultimately, God is the giver of life, and He is sovereign over our lives and over our deaths. To Him be the glory both now and forever, amen.

As I exit 2021 and enter 2022, I’m still up and moving. Yes, and I intend to keep moving till my bones collapse and God says, “Come home.” Till then, the time to live, love, and lead is NOW, not later. You and I are not guaranteed any set amount of time here on Earth. James 4:14 clearly states, “What is your life? For you are a mist [a vapor; a puff of smoke] that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

So, resolve with me to live this quickly vanishing life with all the passion of a non-swimmer stuck in a rip current to the glory of God. Are you struggling right now? Scared right now? Uncertain right now? Keep going. Don’t quit. It’s sink or swim – choose to swim.

2021 Lead Pastor’s Report

Prairie Flower Baptist Church,

It was July of 2021 and I honestly thought I was going to die. I was so far from shore and the current underneath me was so strong. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was caught in a dangerous rip current off the Gulf Coast of Mexico. I was far from shore and the waves were high and pummeling my already tired body.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a strong swimmer. In any pool or body of water I only go as far as chest high. Indeed, I can swim, but I’m not proficient by any stretch of the imagination. The thought of drowning is perhaps one of my greatest fears in life, next to killer clowns and creepy basement crawlspaces. I respect the water. I fear the water. To die in a watery abyss is beyond scary to me.

Indeed, that day in July had started off with so much excitement. My brother, Steven, had just sworn into the Pensacola Police Department as a police officer. My heart swelled with pride as I witnessed my brother raise his right hand and take his solemn oath. My little brother had just become a cop! My other brother, Samuel, was also with me at the swearing in ceremony. It was a proud moment for the three of us brothers. We decided to celebrate by heading to Pensacola Beach…

We swam around and played around for hours. We wrestled in the water and cracked jokes that made us laugh till our bellies hurt. Man alive, it was such a good time! The sun was beginning to set, and we decided to take one last lap in the water. We were all tired, but happy, and wanted one last hurrah in the Gulf before heading to dinner.

Then it happened, I popped out of the water after seeing how long I could hold my breath, and I was so far from land. Indeed, the current was pulling me farther and farther from land. Fear and panic gripped my body. My life flashed before my eyes. Images of my wife and children (especially my new – always smiling – adopted son, Derrick) flashed before my eyes. I was so scared. “You can’t swim!”, my brain screamed at me with aggressive passion. After a few more seconds of panic, I made the decision, “It’s sink or swim; and I’m not going to die today – not today,” I told myself. So, I began to swim. The struggle was real and intense. Amazingly, I never took a gulp of water with all the waves crashing in around me. I swam hard. I swam ugly. I swam for my life. “Not. Going. To Die. Today. Keep going…Don’t quit…Don’t stinking quit…”, I told myself as my body chopped through the relentless waters. I was tired. Exhausted. I wanted to stop, to catch my breath, but to do so meant certain death – death by drowning.

By the grace of God, I survived that day. All three of us brothers were able to escape that strong rip current in the Gulf of Mexico. As we got to the beach, we flopped on the white sand in satisfied, nervous exhaustion. We were alive…by the grace of God.

You know, I’ve been close to death several times. From incoming mortars in Iraq to some scary car accidents, but that moment in the Gulf was intense. I’m grateful to be alive. Still breathing. Still moving forward. Still on mission.

Flirting with death is an uncomfortable grace that is filled with adrenaline and high stakes passion. Indeed, to escape death gives you new perspective and a renewed vigor for life. Ultimately, God is the giver of life, and He is sovereign over our lives and over our deaths. To Him be the glory both now and forever, amen.

As I exit 2021 and enter 2022, I’m still up and moving. Yes, and I intend to keep moving till my bones collapse and God says, “Come home.” Till then, the time to live, love, and lead is NOW, not later. You and I are not guaranteed any set amount of time here on Earth. James 4:14 clearly states, “What is your life? For you are a mist [a vapor; a puff of smoke] that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” So, resolve with me to live this quickly vanishing life with all the passion of a non-swimmer stuck in a rip current to the glory of God. Are you struggling right now? Scared right now? Uncertain right now? Keep going. Don’t quit. It’s sink or swim – choose to swim.

With these sobering thoughts in mind, here is my 2021 Lead Pastor’s Report divided into three streams of thought: personal things, prairie things, and priority things…

Personal Things:

As many of you know, 2021 was truly an exciting year for me and my wife. The highlight for us this past year was meeting and adopting our son, Derrick. What an adrenaline rush it was to get word about our son (born on the sidewalk outside of a Chase bank) on Sunday, Jan. 17, fly out to Arizona on Monday, Jan. 18, and help him detox from a plethora of drugs for the weeks that followed. Finalizing Derrick’s adoption at the Washington County Courthouse (here in Washington, IA) on Tuesday, Aug. 17 was such a satisfying day for our family.

Please continue to pray with us for Derrick’s birthparents, Justin and Chelsea. They are beautiful people, but broken people. I dream of the day when they show up to our little church out here on the prairie. Perhaps they’ll sit quietly and timidly in the back row or perhaps boldly sit in the front row. No matter what, I long for the day when I can hug them, share the Gospel with them, and show off our son who smiles like life is truly worth living – to the max.

Yes, by the grace of God, we worked hard to find our son. By the grace of God, we found him. By the grace of God, we brought him home…and we’re never letting him go. Thank you, Prairie Flower, for loving me and my family through this adoption journey. Derrick doesn’t know it yet, but the day we adopted him, he was adopted into two families: the Cotner family and the Prairie Flower Baptist Church family. Yes, we’re family…and families stick together, for better or worse, no matter what. I love you, Prairie Flower – I love you more than you know. Don’t believe me? Well, we got a long way to go together, and a short time to get there, so hang on. I’ll prove it with time…

Prairie Things:

As far as our church is concerned, 2021 was a great year. By the goodness and mercy of God, we experienced the following:

  • Salvations – 6
  • Baptisms – 3
  • Members – 5

Also, as a church family, we were able to host a Marriage Conference in February, celebrate Easter with a special service in April, conduct a spectacular VBS in August with special missionary speaker, Louis O’Tool, and host our 5th Annual Christmas Eve On The Prairie Service in December with 125 people in attendance! During this past year, we continued to host men’s and women’s prayer groups, Rooted Women, Kids4Truth, and Outfitters, all with great attendance and real growth in godliness. We were also able to install new A/C units, upgrade our Wi-Fi capabilities, improve our Livestream service, and install new siding for our church building. What a great year of ministry and improvements!

Also, with sorrow and joy, we promoted two members to Glory, Bill Brown and Milo Luers. Our loss is Heaven’s gain. These two men, after living a life to the glory of God, are now standing face to face with their Savior “and in His presence there is fullness of joy.” We who are left behind still struggle with sin and selfishness, difficulty and darkness, but these men are finally home where there are no more tears or pain “for the former things have passed away.” Bill and Milo, God bless you guys, I do love you guys, and I’ll see you when I see you – we got it from here.

Priority Things:

In terms of goals and aspirations for this coming year, I hesitate, not out of laziness or lack of vision, but because God is sovereign and He can take our best laid out priorities and give to us new plans and priorities. Remember 2020? Well, with the sovereignty of God firmly in view and tightly embraced, here are two of my goals for 2022…

  1. Dive Into Genesis – Lord willing, we will get through at least half of Genesis in 2022. This exciting book tells us about the beginning of creation, mankind, sin, and God’s unfolding plan of redemption through the covenant He made with Abraham. It’s an exciting book that teaches us much about God, our purpose in life, and how to make sense of all the bad that takes place in our world today.
  2. Finalize Our Constitution – We’ve been talking about this for years. After successfully revising our Articles of Faith (2016) and our Biblical Principles of Church Membership (2018), it is time to finalize our revisions of our Church Constitution. Indeed, slow is smooth and smooth is fast; and may God’s timeline trump all; but I hope we’re able to vote upon this new document this year.

With Renewed Passion,

David Cotner

Lead Pastor, PFBC

Thank You & Merry Christmas!

Dear Friends,

As we near Christmas day and get towards the end of another year, I just wanted to take some time to express my deep gratitude for each and every one of you…

  • To the six of you who placed your faith in Jesus Christ this past year, thank you for trusting Jesus and only Jesus for your righteousness.
  • To the three of you who submitted yourself to water baptism by immersion this past year, thank you for taking your next step of faith with Jesus.
  • To the five of you who joined our church in official church membership this past year, thank you for committing yourself to our congregation so that we can continue to be a strong church that makes disciples for the glory of God.
  • To all of you who faithfully attend our services (or tune in online) every week, thank you for staying committed to the Word of God despite cultural pressure to do otherwise.
  • To all of you who serve in our church, thank you for staying faithful to your tasks even when things get mundane or routine.
  • To all of you who teach in our various ministries and programs, thank you for studying diligently and communicating clearly.
  • To all of you who encourage the downtrodden on a regular basis, thank you for lifting heavy burdens by speaking the truth in love.
  • To all of you who faithfully give of your time, talents, and treasure towards the work here, thank you for your spirit of joy and generosity.
  • To all of my fellow leaders (especially Pastor Tim and our five Deacons), thank you for leading with me in joy and zeal despite hardship.
  • To my wife and four kids, God gave me such precious gifts in each of you; I love you and thank God for each of you.

Simply put, to all of you who show up, step up, and seriously care, thank you! What a privilege to serve alongside each of you out here on the prairie…

Merry Christmas,

Pastor David Cotner

A Special Letter with Pictures from Our Former Associate Pastor, Jon Rocha…

To Our Prairie Flower Family:

We are so thankful for the connections we still have at Prairie Flower. This year has been particularly difficult with the growing pains of business, my father’s failing health, and his eventual passing. I was very thankful we moved back when we did to be with my dad. We were able to worship together most Sundays, our son got to be with him once a week, and we were able to experience men’s retreat/zip line together for the first time.

My dad enjoyed so much coming to visit Prairie Flower on the weekends and his time going to the Creation Museum. Once he passed, I couldn’t believe how many people reached out via telephone, cards, and even in person to support us during the grieving process. Also, due to your generosity were able to take a weekend trip up to Chicago and spend some much-needed quality time with our son. He loves Christmas lights, museums, and trains and we were able to experience all three over the weekend!

Even though we are not there, we still feel your love, support, and generosity throughout it all.

Thank You,

Jon Rocha & Family

Guest Blogger: Kyle Bartholic, “Steadfast Hope”

Next month, I will be speaking at the 2022 IMPACT Conference in Coralville, IA. This event is hosted by Christ Community Church of Ames, IA. The Lead Pastor of this great church is Kyle Bartholic. He and I are truly excited to minister together at next year’s big youth conference. Please be in prayer for us as we prepare for this event, and read some of Kyle’s encouraging words as we continue to weave our way through this year’s Advent season…

The Greatest of Hopes

As we approach Christmas, there are a few words that we will see pop up around our community and in our neighbors’ windows. One of them is hope. Often, and culturally speaking, what we mean by hope is something along the lines of aspiration, desire, wish, or expectation. None of these are bad things. But, they don’t quite encompass the robust nature of hope that is presented in the Bible. Biblical hope is more than a simple wish; it entails certainty based on God’s demonstration of faithfulness to people in the history of salvation as recorded in the Scriptures and as experienced by the church. Ultimately the Christian’s future hope lies in the promise of Christ’s return and the anticipation of resurrection from the dead.

To sum it up, Biblical hope is a steadfast hope.

Why? Because it is not originated in us. If it was, then all we would have is a glorified wish or a really good intention. But, because it is rooted and established in God, as Christians, we are able to have great confidence in our hoping. The authors of the minor prophets hold so confidently to God’s hope that they often don’t spell it out in their writings.[1] There is a unique theological and literary style they employ, all of these books are written from a theocentric (God-centered) perspective. That is, the authors all write with such sure and steadfast confidence in the hope of God that they rarely spell it out. Yes, they talk about God’s rescue and even make messianic predictions, but on the whole, they are so confident that our hope in God is secure that they just assume the reader shares the same perspective and conviction. One might think that in order to have a perspective that is so confident in the hope of God where it doesn’t need to be plainly said, they must have been living in some pretty good circumstances. However, they weren’t! Looking at Nahum, he is living and writing during some of the harshest Assyrian domination of Judah (the southern kingdom) while it was under king Manasseh. Simply put, these prophets lived and wrote during very difficult periods of exile and war for the Jewish people. Yet, they still write with confidence and assurance that nothing could shake their hope in God.

This Christmas season, as we make our way around town and see signs that declare “The Hope of Christmas,” let us be reminded that our hope is not a wish or a good intention. Our hope is so steadfast and secure in Christ that even like the prophets of old, we can have confidence in it in the midst of unprecedented challenges and uncertainties. Christmas is not just about looking back to when God fulfilled his promise to send the Messiah; it is also a time we look forward to when Jesus will return as promised. God always comes through, so let us hope with the greatest of hopes.

The 2022 Annual Election of Officers’ Ballot

On Sunday, December 12, the membership of Prairie Flower Baptist Church will come together to affirm the following people in the following positions…

For the Position of Deacon:
 Zach Shepherd

For the Position Of Clerk:
 Lisa Van Der Molen

For the Position of Financial Secretary:
 Zach Shepherd

For the Position of Treasurer:
 Steve Bohn

For the Position of Sunday School Superintendent:
 Brian Wilson

“What Restless Children and Church Decline Have in Common” By Hunter Williams

This may not come as a surprise to you, but being a parent of three kids under 4 years old comes with many challenges. The ceaseless questions, cries for snacks, and skinned knees require constant attention! One challenge we are currently facing is our son’s out-of-whack sleep schedule. He doesn’t have a problem with going to bed. He’s actually a pro at falling asleep quickly and on time. The main issue is that he likes to wake up REALLY early. No matter what time we put him down for bed, he is up the next morning before everyone else, screaming for mommy and daddy to come get him.

After several mornings of waking up before the sun, I started researching sleeping patterns to uncover the reason for my son’s early wake-up routine… and you know how searching for answers on the internet goes. I got dragged down the rabbit hole of endless medical articles that led me to discover some interesting facts about the human body’s smallest organ: the pineal gland.

This tiny organ (measuring at less than ¼ of an inch) has a big job, and that job is to produce melatonin, the hormone that helps us sleep. Without the help of this little organ, we would be restless, drowsy, and struggle to adapt to the changing seasons. These random facts led to a profound insight… not about my son’s sleeping habits… but about the future of the church.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul uses the human body as an analogy of the church. Just as the body is made of different parts, so too, is the church made of different people with different gifts. Paul uses this analogy to confront lies that had crept into the church at Corinth. Many of these members saw themselves as more important than others, because they had greater social status or spiritual gifting that was deemed more significant and valuable. Paul corrects this misunderstanding through his comparison of the church and the body. Every single part of the human body is needed for it to thrive, no matter how small a part might be. The brain and heart are major players no doubt, but if they are detached from the other members, there isn’t much they can do. Thus, every member of the body is needed, even ones as small as ¼ of an inch.

The church is beautifully unique in the same way. It is made up of different people with different gifts, abilities, personalities, and skills. This diversity is by design. God has placed specific members within specific churches to fill specific needs at specific times in specific communities. This means that every member in a local church is indispensable, because they fulfill a particular role that no one else can. By the Spirit, each member is equipped with spiritual gifts to build up the church and empowered by His presence to proclaim Christ to the world. If members are refused opportunities to serve the church, it not only creates division but it can also lead to decline. After all, if an organ stopped functioning, it would lead the body to shut down. In the same way, if members of Christ’s body aren’t given space to function as God designed, then the church is causing itself to shut down.

As a person whose work focuses on child discipleship, I am led to wonder how this truth might change the way we view children in the church. If every person who puts their faith in Christ is indwelt by the Spirit, equipped with spiritual gifts, and empowered to proclaim the gospel, then why are children often treated as exceptions to these truths? Paul makes it clear that every member of the body of Christ drinks from and lives out of the same Spirit. This means that every member, no matter how small, has the same calling to build up the church and advance the gospel.

If members of Christ’s body aren’t given space to function as God designed, then the church is causing itself to shut down.

With that being said, let me ask you, “Do the children in your church serve the body in meaningful ways?” Oftentimes, children are seen as people to watch, teach and control, but if they are believers in your church, then they are much more than babies to be sat. They are fellow members that God has placed in your church to fill specific needs at this specific time. If they are refused opportunities to serve due to their age, size, or ability, then a portion of the body isn’t functioning in the way it was designed to serve, which can lead to decline.

This may sound intense, but think back to the pineal gland I mentioned earlier. It’s the smallest organ in the body but, despite its size, is invaluable to the function of the body. Without it, we would be restless, have disrupted memory, and suffer damaged vision.

When it comes to the body of Christ, I wonder how many churches find themselves restless, because they have denied the service of their smallest members. I wonder how many have disrupted memories of Christ’s faithfulness, because they have forgotten the important place children hold in their congregation. I wonder how many have damaged the vision of their church, because their littlest members aren’t seen as co-laborers in the gospel.

I know these are heavy questions, but if we take Paul’s words seriously, then we need to consider how we can encourage the entire body to serve in meaningful ways. This doesn’t mean that every member needs to teach, preach, or sing, but it does mean that every member should be given opportunities to serve within their specific gifting. How can you know which service opportunities best match a person’s gifting? Well, it starts by getting to know them. Discovering their passions, interests, and talents and connecting these things to the needs within your church. Do you have a child that is a people person? Let him be a greeter. Do you have a boy who is talkative? Have him give announcements. Do you have a girl that loves to read? Let her read an opening prayer at the start of the service. Do you have children that are crafty? Encourage them to use their craftiness to make gifts for the shut-ins at your church.

The list could go on and on, but here’s the point: thriving churches call every member of the body to serve regularly. This may seem difficult with your church’s current structure, but don’t be discouraged. Slight changes in the layout and times of a church service can make all the difference in creating space for others to serve. I know the word “change” can be scary, but little changes often lead the body (both the human body and the body of Christ) to growth and wellness. When we see the church as a body to serve rather than a service to attend, we will make the changes needed to function in healthy ways for the glory of God.

Thriving churches call every member of the body to serve regularly.

While I may not have found a remedy for my son’s sleeping issues, I think I may have gained an insight into the decline taking place within the church of America. With 6,000-10,000 churches closing a year and 50-60% of youth departing the church after graduation, I think we can all agree that there’s a problem. We could contribute the decline taking place to a variety of issues such as the pandemic, cultural changes, or persecution, but Jesus promised that hell’s weapons wouldn’t prevail against His church. If that is the case, then maybe much of the struggle and decline being experienced isn’t due to anything happening outside the church but within it. This isn’t to say pandemic and persecution aren’t contributing factors, but if the Lord of Lords is the head of the church, then it can’t be defeated… unless the body itself fails to represent its King.

Again, I’m not saying that churches haven’t had it unusually hard in the past few years, and I’m not saying there aren’t any churches who haven’t sought to be faithful during this time. What I am saying is that one of biggest helps to the church might be found within its smallest members. Because serving children and allowing them to serve not only leads to a healthy church today, but it builds strong bones for the body of Christ in the future. What if the way for churches to grow up is to look down, and what if the way forward requires stepping back in humility to see God work through unlikely people in extraordinary ways? If an organ that is a 1/3 of an inch long can make such a drastic difference in our bodies, then maybe a child, 1/3 the size of an adult, can make a difference in the body of Christ.

Like I said, I don’t know why my son keeps waking up early, and I may never discover the reason. One thing I do know for sure is that God has used waking children in the past to accomplish some pretty powerful things. What if God is using children today to wake up His church? It would be a shame to keep sleeping and miss it.

Women May Not Be Pastors – Here’s Why…

Regardless of your personal feelings, denominational traditions, what someone might have told you, or what our chaotic culture has to say, the Bible (God’s Holy Word) is crystal clear: Women may not be pastors. To be clear, they may not hold the title of pastor or exercise the duties of a pastor. They may not wield any sort of pastoral authority, influence, or impact in the church of God…Cue the enraged shrills of Satan and his seedlings! But no matter what you think or feel, the Bible is clear, women may not be pastors…

From the pastoral epistle, 1 Timothy 2:11-15, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” Offended? Mad as ever? Friend, you’re enraged against your Maker, not me…Women may not be pastors.

And then in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer [pastor], HE desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the HUSBAND of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. HE must manage HIS own household well, with all dignity keeping HIS children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage HIS own household, how will HE care for God’s church? HE must not be a recent convert, or HE may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, HE must be well thought of by outsiders, so that HE may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” Notice it is only MALE pronouns that are used in this list of qualifications for a pastor. Don’t like that? Want to try to bypass the clarity of Scripture with your cultural gymnastics? Go ahead, but God’s Word is clear…Women may not be pastors.

With these Scriptures in mind, this is how I describe the situation to my lovely daughters…”Can Daddy give birth to children? The answer is no. Only Mommy can have children. Does that mean Mommy is better or more gifted than Daddy? The answer is no. It just means that in God’s good design, only Mommy can birth children, not Daddy. In the same way, only men can be pastors, not women. Does that mean men are better or more gifted than women? No! It just means in God’s good design, only men can be pastors, not women.”

And lest you think I’m a chauvinistic, male-power-hungry pig, just check out my wife and children. See how joyful and content they are! Notice the women of Prairie Flower Baptist Church. Notice how joyful and content they are! The beautiful evidence of biblical, properly administrated male eldership speaks for itself. But rage, rage, rage all you want…We’re ready for battle.

From the Desk of the Associate: Leave a Legacy

This past week, a senior saint passed into glory. His name was Milo Luers. Now I did not know Milo for very long. I first met him in February of 2019 when my family had come to our church to candidate for the associate pastor position I now hold. I had quoted a verse in the lesson that I had taught and Milo had recognized that I had quoted a passage out of the New King James Translation. He relayed to me that this was his favorite translation and that he appreciated my use of it. Though Milo had his preferences as we all do, I never experienced any negative feedback. In fact I never saw Milo with anything but a smile on his face. I for one can say he was nothing but a joy to be around.

Around January of 2020, Milo became somewhat of a shut-in. That winter the flu was running rampant and it was not a mild strain either. He decided to lay low for a couple months until spring came. Little did any of us know what events were about to transpire in the world at large. On March 15th 2020 we held our last church service before the main shutdowns. Like everyone else, we did not know exactly how the Covid-19 Pandemic was going to play out. Milo became a permanent shut-in at that point. As pastors, we did our best to try to shepherd our flock in those weeks that we were not meeting. Essentially, everyone became a shut-in for a short while. Once we started to come out of the lockdowns, it took a little bit for everyone to figure out the boundaries that each person was comfortable with. This caused some things to slip between the cracks that should not have.

It was probably in the fall of 2020 that I realized that Milo had fallen off my radar. I began to get updates from his family members on how he was doing. I kept telling myself that I needed to go pay him a visit. To my shame, I never seemed to make time to make that happen. The regular routines of ministry and life distracted me from connecting with this senior saint. And so the months stretched on.

In the late summer of 2021, Milo contracted Covid himself. Even in his older years everyone who knew him noted his remarkable vitality. He kept his independence far longer than most people his age. After he contracted Covid, though he recovered from the virus, he never really recovered his old strength. Soon after he moved in with his son Edwin. Now I could write paragraphs about the love, attention, and care that Edwin and his dear wife Rita gave to Milo. Suffice it to say that they were an amazing example of the way children should love and honor their parents even when they are grandparents themselves. I hope that I would be able to have a fraction of the patience to do the same for my parents when the need arrives.

I began to see less and less of Edwin and Rita as one of them always had to stay home with Milo. They would alternate Sundays and could rarely attend service together as they used to. When I would converse with them, I realized that they were exhausted from this extra burden but they never, ever complained. It was at this time that I had neglected my duty as Milo’s pastor for far to long. I went out to meet and talk with Milo who was completely bed ridden at this point. Now I will admit that I felt some awkwardness about what to talk about with this gentleman. I quickly realized though that this senior saint was facing the fight of his life. Not that he was holding on to dear life. He wasn’t. He relayed to me that he was ready to go home to be with his Lord, over and over again. I began visiting Milo every week from then on. I realized that I needed to be with him in his fight to wait patiently for the Lord’s timing. Instead of beginning the conversation with a “how are you feeling?” I would ask him about how the harvest was progressing. He was always ready to discuss his lifelong passion, farming. He told me all about how he had begun farming from a very young age. How God had blessed him and his family. I indeed would remind him of the wonderful things his children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren were doing for God. How they were faithfully attending and serving in the church.

I would always end my visit with a request. I asked Milo if I could read some Scripture with him. He would always respond with a smile and the reply; “I wish you would!” I would then switch from my normal ESV to the NKJV and read passages like Romans Chapter 8 that say that the suffering of this present time will seem like nothing compared to the glory to come. Or 1 Corinthians 15, that speak of our resurrected body. After reading to Milo, I would then say, “can I pray with you?” He would again reply; “I wish you would!” We would then go to our Father’s throne and request strength for Milo’s remaining battle, we would intercede for our church, we would pray for his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. I would then leave and be reminded about eternity. I’m so thankful to have an example like Milo. He would never claim to be a perfect man. I however have a great deal of respect for the legacy he left behind in his commitment to his church, his family, and in the godly people he influenced throughout his life.

For my last visit with Milo, I decided to bring my guitar with me. Though I did not know it would be my last visit on this side of glory, I always went in with the expectation that it could be. When I interacted with Milo he was particularly weak. I could tell that he did not have long on this earth. I sang “How Great Thou Art,” and “It Is Well With My Soul.” I am told that when Milo was healthy, one of his favorite things to do was to sing the old hymns with his church family. It was hard to hold back to the tears when I sang “When I shall think, that God his Son not sparing, sent him to die, I scarce can take it in, that on that Cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.” How can you not be vividly reminded of the hope of the Gospel, when you sit next to a believer on their death bed? It is a powerful thing. We are so easily distracted by the busyness of life that we often forget that our only hope in life and death is Christ alone. Though Milo loved the old hymns so well, I thought I would venture to include a newer hymn and sing it to him. It is titled “Christ our hope in life and death.” If you don’t know it, I would strongly encourage you to listen to it. That song reminds us of the most important things of our faith.

After I was done singing to him, Milo responded in a faint voice that I could barely hear. He said, “you lied to us.” Confused I asked him what he meant. He said that when I candidated at the church, I had said that I didn’t have any real musical ability. I had to smile. Of course he would remember that from over two years before. I would still hold to the fact that I am not a good musician but I am thankful that I was able to use music one last time, to encourage this man with the truth of his hope and of his Savior.

Milo went home to be with the Lord this last Sunday. Even as I think about the this I am tearing up with joy to know that his prayers have been answered and his suffering is gone. He is singing again in a voice more beautiful than any on earth. And though he is gone, he left behind some of the biggest blessings in my life, in his descendants who are some of my dearest fellow workers in the ministry. May I leave a legacy as rich as what he left behind. May we all love God and teach our children to love him as well.