(5/5/20)

These last several weeks has forced me to see many “Missed Opportunities” in my life prior to our nation and day-to-day routine being turned upside down. There is one that has grieved my heart dearly, and that is the many missed opportunities to share Christ one on one with someone in some way form or fashion. Sharing Christ has always been met with opposition. But today, the cultural shift that Covid-19 has left our world in has only put more barriers up for those one on one interactions. In some cases, those barriers are literal, and in others, they are merely perceived.  

For many years, I have used Gospel Tracts as conversation starters. Often, when checking out at a convenience store, paying for my gas, or paying my waitress/waiter at a local restaurant, I would accompany my interaction with a Gospel Tract. With much regret, I must admit that I did not do this nearly as often as I had been given opportunity. One may say, well you can fix that right now! However, the “new now” has made hand to hand interaction very stand-offish. No one wants to handle anything someone else has handled. My mind goes back to many occasions or “missed opportunities” when I grieved the Holy Spirit by refusing to take this opportunity.  

Another approach to have Gospel conversations was simply to talk to people. I would often start the conversation with the typical, “how are you today?” or “are you enjoying this beautiful day?” Even a simple gesture like this is now met with great skepticism and reluctancy during the pandemic. We now watch folk veer away from each other in a public place while in passing, and the thoughts of engaging someone is discouraged.  Our churches sit empty on Sunday’s. These empty churches once held not only faithful members/attenders, but also un-converted visitors. As churches begin to open back up, will we refrain from inviting others due to the dreaded reaction we may get in this “new now?”  

It has been said that the fastest way to someone’s heart is through their belly! I’m confident that was a southerner that coined that phrase! We like to fellowship over food. This was yet another approach that I would take to build relationships and have Gospel Conversations. This too has changed greatly due to the Pandemic and the fear surrounding it.  

Taking all of this into consideration, what are we to do? Are we to accept this notion that we no longer have a way to live out the Great Commision? No, we must continue to develop relationships and have Gospel conversations. It will likely be a little bit messier and may be received with a little more reluctance, but we must not stop. If we totaled all the missed opportunities under normal circumstances, and then add up the massive amount of missed opportunities if we were to cease to even try, it’s just not an option.  

I for one am beginning to resume my normal practices of sharing Christ. In addition to that, I am forced to be more intentional in every way possible to have these conversations, build new relationships, and even develop new methods. We cannot cease to be disciples of Christ. The Great Commision comes with NO off button. May the regret of “Missed Opportunities” of the past now fuel the fire within to miss opportunities NO MORE. 

Pastor Ancel  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

(4/21/20)

There have been few things in my short time on this earth that has drawn more passion and zeal from people than the current Covid-19 pandemic. Most everyone that I talk to about the virus not only has an opinion on the subject, but they have a very passionate take on the subject. Their take on the subject matter is driven with fierce passion and zeal, and in some cases, it has caused division between friends, family, and Christians.  

The church I pastor is made up of nearly 300 individuals. Of those 300-precious people, I am confident that I can get a different take from nearly half of them on the current pandemic we’re ALL enduring. Some of the people I talk to throughout the week are totally convinced that we’re on the brink of massive casualties. Others believe this is over hyped, they believe there is a need for concern, but not hysteria. There are even some that believe there is little to nothing with it in comparison to other statistics concerning death, sickness, and disease. However, the one thing that is consistent among these many opinions is the passion and zeal surrounding their opinion.  

Just this past Sunday, I heard a local pastor rake other pastors over the coals over their handling of “having church.” I was drawn back by his harsh criticism and un-Christlike attacks on fellow brothers in Christ and their leadership. I listened to a crowd of probably 200 people cheer him on as he “preached” to his “choir” of how pathetic these other pastors were for their different view of shepherding their church. His congregation and online viewers were cheering him one. He used shock and awe tactics in his delivery, and it seemed to work for his crowd and most of his viewers. However, I found myself getting angry. I have labored over this pandemic in prayer, and I too have struggled with the best way to lead the church God has entrusted to me. You see, I too have passionate beliefs concerning the current pandemic we’re all enduring. We all have beliefs about the pandemic, and most of us are equally passionate about them.  

What has led me to write on this subject? Division among Christians! We’re beginning to see division among Christians in a time that we should be more united than ever. You see, it is only the church that possesses the answer to man’s ultimate problem, SIN! We all must make choices for our self and our family based upon what we deem is best for our circumstances and concerns. Many people will make decisions that differ from yours, just like you will make decisions that differ from theirs. However, their decision may be derivative from a completely different set of circumstances than you and your family have. As Christians, let us honor and respect one another and our leaders.  

Apostle Paul wrote in Roman’s a very precious passage that fits our very season right now. With all our positions, all our passion, and considering all our opinions; let us not fail in our faith and devotion to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. 
Romans 12:9—18 “9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. 10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; 11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; 12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; 13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. 14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. 15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. 17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” 

Let us love one another without hypocrisy. Let us run from evil and cling to Christ, His Church, and our Faith! Let us show kindness and love to one another during this great trial we’re all enduring. May our prayer life breed patience and endurance. May our awareness of the needs of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ be heightened like ever before and likewise transcend into helping one another. When our differences are great during these times and other Christians lash out against us, or when we read things on Social media that rub us wrong from brothers and sisters in Christ; let us display forgiveness, and a willingness to let our differences go. God help us to refrain from being arrogant and condescending in these trying times! I pray that we let the words penned by Paul in verse 18 to be the engine that drives our every word and deed in these trying days we’re all experiencing! Do not let Covid-19 or the politic attached to it separate you and your brothers and sisters in Christ!  

In His Marvelous Grace, 

Pastor Ancel  

 

 

 
 
 
 

 4/14/2020

 

I have had the pleasure of serving as Senior Pastor of Strong Tower Baptist for 10 years.  Before that, I served as Associate pastor a little over five years at my Home Church that I grew up at, River of Life Baptist Church. My father was saved when I was six months old, so to say that I have spent a good portion of my life in the Church house and around church family is an understatement.  

This past Sunday marked our fourth Sunday that we were unable to stand and sit beside one another during Sunday School, Worship, and Preaching. We were able to have our very first Drive-In service and that was certainly better than no interaction at all. I am very grateful for that experience. My heart breaks over our inability to meet corporately right now. There are so many things that I miss; things that I never gave much thought to in the beginning of our quarantine. 

I miss the buildup to Sunday. Yes, I study for every sermon now just as I always have, but it’s just not the same. I miss sitting in my office on Sunday mornings and hearing our Worship leaders rehearse Sunday’s set list. I miss the families one by one coming into the entrance of our Church. I miss hearing the children making their way through the building. Their laughs, giggles, and bigger than life personalities (voices) echoing throughout our Sunday School area. My office sits under the Sunday School rooms upstairs, so with that in mind, I hear teaching going on above me, and often little feet scuffling across the floor. Used to, if I was putting the final touches on my sermon, I would allow that to distract me. My, how I long for that “distraction” again.  

I miss hearing our Greeter Team welcoming our church family into the Church House. I miss hearing visitors receive a welcome. I miss knocks on my office door, followed by, “Pastor, do you have a second?” I miss children coming in and attempting to find my candy stash. I miss Church members dropping in to ask for prayer for their “ONE” who is supposed to come to church today! I miss folk stopping me in the hall and whispering, “Pray pastor, I have guests with me today, they need the Lord, or they need a church home!” 

I miss walking into our sanctuary filled with Church family, and the excitement I had of seeing visitors of whom I know nothing about almost frantically looking for a seat. I miss hearing the greeting of Brother Steve to all the church family and guests for the day. Then the choir begins to sing, the band is playing, and the hands of praise begin to Lift. The sound of corporate singing is one of the things I miss the most.  

I reluctantly admit that “fellowship time” has often been viewed as a “time-killer” for this preacher. Oh, how I long to stand once again on that stage and hear the roar of our church family shaking hands, talking, hugging, and greeting one another. By this time, its nearing 1130am and it’s time to stand behind the sacred desk again and preach the Word of God! I miss the interaction of folk with their Bible open during the sermon. I miss hearing “Amen, that’s right, Preach it, and Hallelujah.” What I would give to plead with those sitting in the seats to Come to Jesus, sinners and saints alike! Come to Jesus! I miss seeing broken and burdened Christian’s come to pray at the altar. They come to the altar burdened and leave the altar restored. I miss seeing the lost given the plan of salvation with Bible’s open on the altar, and then the roaring sound of praise each time God saves a sinner! 

I miss standing at the exit of our church and shaking the hands of all in attendance that pass by that Lords day. I miss the Sunday lunch conversations that take place and most of it is about the day we just had at Church. There is lunch, sometimes an hour or so of rest, and then it’s time to head back to Church for the evening service. I even miss the sheer exhaustion that comes with Sunday’s full day of ministry. I simply miss Church! 

As each passing day goes by that our beloved Strong Tower Baptist Church can’t meet, I worry over the spiritual well-being of our families. I worry about the over-all health of our church both physically and spiritually. However, I am reminded that our God has everything under control. There is a Davidic Psalm that has always meant a lot to me, but never has this Psalm been more desired by this preacher man than now! 

Psalm 122:1– “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.” 

I will forever be glad when I can say to STBC and all who so desire: “Let us come into the house of the Lord!” Keep the faith Church Family and keep on praying for God’s mercy and provision.  

In His Grip, 

Pastor Ancel