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Emmanuel Baptist Church of Midland called me to be their Pastor on Sunday, September 11, 2022.
I began serving in that role on Sunday, October 16, 2022. I am bi-vocational/part-time. Below is the text from the sermon I preached when I was a pastoral candidate. I wanted them to know my vision for my ministry at Emmanuel.

If I become your next Pastor, I will lead the church to be:
Bible-Centered (2 Tim 3:16-17)
- Read the Word - SS, Worship, Other Times
- Preach the Word - teaching and preaching ministry is vital
- Pray the Word - identified as a current strength/want to continue/V.1 Brethren We Have Met to Worship
- Sing the Word - doctrinally sound/written to be congregationally sung
- See the Word - in the ordinances of the church: Baptist/Lord's Supper
- Share the Word - with the lost/those who are far from God/indiscriminately - Culture of Evangelism - permeates everything we do

Why should we evangelize? Because the Word of God commands us to share the gospel with all people everywhere. Why do they need to hear the gospel? Because they’re lost, far from God, under the wrath of God, on their way to Hell, and their only hope is Jesus Christ.

You know, just the other day, President Biden decided to cancel the federal student loan debt of at least up to $10K for those earning less than $125K per year. There’s more to it than that, but at a bare minimum, that’s what he did. In my bi-vocational teaching position with Liberty and Spring Arbor Universities, I subscribe, through email, to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Generally, it has a leftist perspective on education, but there was an article about what the President did, and there was a picture in the article of students holding up signs that said, “Cancel Student Debt,” and I think they meant all of it, not just part of it. And I got to thinking that not only students, but all people everywhere have a debt that most don’t realize they’re going to have to pay. The debt everyone owes is owed to God because of personal sin. Everyone has sinned against God. We’ve all broken His law, and there is a fine, a penalty, and wages to be paid to God. The wages of sin is death – which is eternal punishment in hell. The default position of everyone that’s ever been born since Adam and Eve other than the Lord Jesus Christ – is that you are a sinner in need of a Savior, without which, you have no hope.

But God, who is rich in mercy, demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ Jesus died for us. God sent Jesus to live a perfect, righteous, holy, obedient life for us – that we never lived - and also to die on a cross and pay the wages – not for His sins because He committed no sin – but for the sins of everyone who would believe/trust/have faith in Him. After three days, He arose from the dead victorious over sin, death, and the grave. And the Bible says that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

We broke God’s law – we are guilty. And Jesus paid our fine - and only those who personally apprehend and appropriate through faith, Christ’s payment for their sin will actually experience true biblical freedom, the forgiveness of sin, and eternal life. Nobody else can save you. Only Jesus can save you, so reach out to Him and trust that what He did for sinners, He did for you. And, at the end of the service today or after the service, I want anyone and everyone who has today trusted in the risen living Jesus as their Savior to tell me so that I can help get you started in your growth as a Christian.

So, if I become your pastor, we’re going to:
- Read the Word
- Preach the Word
- Pray the Word
- Sing the Word
- See the Word
- Share the Word
You see, I believe in the infallibility, sufficiency, authority, and truthfulness of this book from Genesis to Revelation, every single word. And whatever the Bible says, that's what we're going to do. If you don't want that, don't vote me in. But if you do want that, vote me in and that's what we're going to do - expositional, verse by verse, book by book studying through God's Word and we're not going to skip the hard stuff. We will deal with it as we come to it in our study of the scriptures.

Another thing we will be if I become your pastor is…
Unashamedly Baptist

I am not ashamed to be called a Baptist! I am a Christian first, Protestant second, and Baptist third. I believe that if a person reads the Bible and tries to live out what the Bible says for him/her personally and follows what it teaches about the church, being Baptist is the most normal, natural result.

I am not ashamed to have the name Baptist on the church sign. Many Baptist churches that have dropped the Baptist name haven’t gained anything by doing it. So, let's be honest with everyone and fly the flag of who we are. I don't think saying our church is a Baptist church hinders how effectively our church can serve our community. I think it is dishonest for a church to hide deep down in their bylaws who they really are and who they cooperate with. 99% of lost people don't even know the difference between Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians, and probably close to 75% of Baptists don't know either. What hinders a church's ministry is meanness, hypocrisy, and fighting - when the church is more like the world than the family of God. We should not be saying "Our Father" on Sunday and living like orphans the rest of the week. Amen???

In the book, The Baptist Story, authors Chute, Finn, and Haykin discuss why some people are Baptists and what are particularly Baptist convictions.

Some people are Baptist by conditioning - this is a person whose Christian experience has been mostly limited to Baptist churches. They might have been raised in a Baptist church, or they might have been converted through the ministry of a Baptist church, or they have married a Baptist and joined his/her church. Someone who is a Baptist by conditioning is such because it is rooted in their family heritage or long-term church participation. The famous Baptist pastor RG Lee once quipped: "I'm Baptist born and Baptist bred, and when I die, I'll be Baptist dead."

Some people are Baptist by convenience because they presently attend a Baptist church. This person is only Baptist because that is the church they're currently attending. Often, someone who is Baptist by convenience could just as easily be Methodist, Presbyterian, or Pentecostal, but because he/she likes the Baptist church he currently attends, he is Baptist - for now. In this day of post-denominationalism, many people move from church to church based on the preaching, music style, or programs, no matter what the denominational affiliation may be.

And then there are those who are Baptist by conviction because their beliefs and priorities match those that have been historically identified with Baptist Christians. A Baptist by conviction considers himself a Baptist ultimately because of what he believes. I am a mixture of being a Baptist by conditioning and by conviction. But I'm primarily Baptist out of conviction. I believe the Baptist faith most closely resembles the clear teaching of scripture. And there are five distinctives that I believe most clearly set Baptists apart from other denominations:

Regenerate Church Membership
Baptists have historically insisted that the Bible clearly teaches that a local church's membership should be comprised only of individuals who provide credible evidence that they have repented of their sins and trusted in Christ as their Lord and Savior - in other words, born-again believers. The NT indicates that the earliest churches included only professing believers in their membership. The NT pattern is that you must believe before you can belong. That’s what we should insist upon in this church.

Believer's Baptism
Related to insisting that a church's membership consist only of born-again believers, the issue of believer's baptism is the belief that only individuals who give a credible testimony of personal faith in Christ should be baptized. That is what we should insist upon in this church. There is no evidence in the Bible of a known unbeliever being baptized. Those in non-Baptist churches that practice the baptism of infants have a practice that is in search of a theology to support it. Presbyterians, Lutherans, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians disagree with one another on why infants should be baptized. This is also why I'm a Baptist. If you take the plain, simple, natural reading of scripture, you will end up at the Baptist position of only baptizing people who are old enough and who understand enough to make their own personal profession of faith in Christ as Savior and Lord.

We also believe the proper mode of baptism is by immersion under the water and back up again. This mode properly pictures the believer's death to sin and resurrection to a new life in Christ. Baptism is required before membership will be granted. It publicly indicates he/she now belongs to the Triune God and is part of God's family. It's where one’s faith goes public that God's invisible work of regeneration is made visible and one declares God as his Father, Jesus as his Savior, and God's people as his people. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are ordinances of the church... commitments and symbols that we, as often as we participate in them, remind ourselves of who we are and what the Lord has done for us. Like I said earlier, these ordinances are how we see the Word.

Congregational Polity
Polity is a word that refers to how a church is structured and how it functions. Congregationalism is the belief that local churches should be governed by their own membership as they follow the teaching of scripture. Baptists believe there is ample evidence in the Bible showing that the entire local church is responsible for maintaining its membership and selecting its officers (who, by the way, are pastors and deacons). It is based upon the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, which teaches that every member of the church is a minister and has a ministry in the church (every member needs to have a way and a place to serve within the church), AND that God has placed you in a vocation and/or a location outside the church where you are to serve as His ambassador and share His gospel through your life and your lips, your words and your works, your walk and your talk.

- Every member a minister/missionary/evangelist - marketplace ministry.

Each local church congregation is a "Christocracy" under the ultimate Kingship of Jesus Christ and is to be comprised only of believers who are committed to the Lordship of Christ and the authority of scripture. In such a setting, both the members and the officers trust each other to act biblically toward each other. To sum up, healthy Christ-centered congregationalism means that each local church should be ruled by Jesus Christ, governed by its members, led by its pastors, and served by its deacons. That is what we should insist upon in this church.

Local Church Autonomy
Local church autonomy does not mean that if you are a member of this church that this is your church/that it belongs to you; actually, you belong to it. It’s not even the pastor’s church or the deacons’ church. This is Jesus' church - He bought it, died for it, blessed it, gifted it, called it, commands it, owns it, and is coming back for it. What local church autonomy means is that Christ alone is Lord of the church - He is the Head of the church. It means that, in accordance with the teachings of scripture, seeking the Lord in prayer, and obeying the prompting of the Holy Spirit, every church is free to follow the Lord's teaching in their worship and witness. That means that no denomination, convention, or association can force a church to do something that they do not sense the Lord is leading them to do. Every Southern Baptist church is an independent autonomous congregation. We don’t receive orders, instructions, or edicts from denominational headquarters because the local church is the headquarters of the SBC, state convention, and association. Those organizations exist to serve our church; the church doesn’t exist to serve them.

However, there should be a balance between autonomy and accountability. This church doesn't operate in a vacuum. We are part of the wider body of Christ in Midland and the Bay Area. Churches that are of like faith and practice need each other; we sharpen each other theologically. When one church hurts, others can come alongside and help meet its needs. We need to be humble enough to ask for help, selfless enough to serve sister churches, and biblical enough to heed the sound counsel of sister churches who lovingly point out errors and faults in our theology or methodology. In other words, there should be some level of cooperation among churches of like faith and order to do things together that we could not do on our own.

Religious Freedom
The Abstract of Principles (a Baptist confession from 1858) discusses religious freedom this way:
"God alone is Lord of the conscience; and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are in any way contrary to His Word or not contained in it. Civil magistrates being ordained of God, ought to be obeyed by us in the Lord in all lawful things commanded by them, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake."

Basically, religious freedom (or religious liberty) functions on the personal level like church autonomy does on the corporate level. But there is a danger of taking this too far into a freedom that is untethered from accountability to one's local church. Liberty of conscience should provide freedom for Christians to follow Christ's will as revealed in scripture while remembering that one day we will each stand before Him to give an account for our faith and practice.

Related to this, the Baptist belief that everyone should be free to worship according to his/her own faith. We might believe some are wrong in the faith they profess, but we believe they should be free to believe and profess it because if the government limits a religion because it disagrees with them, they could come after us too. So, to have an equal playing field, Baptists have supported the rights of everyone to hold their religious opinions, and this church should continue to insist on that. The BFM says, "A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power."

Finally, if I become your next pastor, I will work to Build Fellowship in the church. This will occur by:
- Visiting members (in your home and having you in ours)
- Communicating well (in-person and online about what is going on)
- Sharing meals together more often as a church family
- Gathering in community – fun, study, service, informally

If I become your next Pastor – you will get a man who will lead the church to be Bible-centered, unashamedly Baptist, and who will do his part to build fellowship within the church body.

So, can God turn this church around? – yes, He can! Will God turn this church around? I don’t know. But I’m going to believe and work as if He will. And whoever becomes your next pastor, don’t look to him as a savior – that he’s going to come in and save the day and save the church. No… there’s only one Savior and one Head of the Church, and that’s Jesus.
It’s going to take all of us working together, praying together, following Christ together, and trusting Him to do through us whatever He wants to do.

Listen, God is pretty good at resurrecting things. So, I believe He will do that to Emmanuel Baptist Church. Amen?

Let’s pray…
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