Posted tagged ‘Grace Baptist Church’

And now for a personal update

October 6, 2011

2011 has been one of the most eventful years of my life.

As someone who likes to plan and prepare things, I thought I had a good beat on where the Lord was leading me at the beginning of the year.  And yet I can say that the majority of my days this year have been overturned by God’s sovereignty in ways that continually reminded me that He is in control of my life, not me.  I feel like I have been living in James 4:13-16 and Proverbs 16:1-9 for the past eight months.  Let me explain.

In December of last year, I met with my fellow elders for our elders retreat during which time I presented them the need for me to dedicate more time to developing the church planting network I started, called PLNTD.  After much discussion and prayer, my fellow elders affirmed that call and encouraged me in the transition to move full-time into directing the network as it continues to be developed and launched.  Also during this time, the door for ministry in Haiti was wide open, and I was dedicating a significant amount of time organizing mission work, creating systems to fund orphans, and forging partnerships for theological education of Haitian pastors.  At the beginning of the year, it was clear that God was abundantly blessing the work locally and elsewhere.

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Honoring a Faithful Shepherd

June 2, 2011

Last night, I had the privilege of joining my church family in honoring Tom Ascol on his 25th anniversary as pastor of Grace Baptist Church.  The evening was spent with members sharing stories and testimonies of how God has impacted their lives through Pastor Tom, and I began it with a few words about the call of a shepherd, explaining how he has led our church through the years.  I provide them below because I know many of my readers know Tom from his blog, articles, books, or role as director of Founders Ministries.  I’m fortunate to know him as a fellow pastor, father in the faith, and personal friend.  

Honoring a Faithful Shepherd:
Reflections on the Ministry of Tom Ascol
on His 25th Anniversary as Pastor of Grace Baptist Church

If you were alive in during biblical times, there is one vocation that every person in the community would be familiar with. That would be the work of a shepherd. It is widely understood that shepherds were in many ways considered to be heroic men, known for their independence, resourcefulness, adaptability in severe circumstances, courage amidst all kinds of opposition, and vigilance to their calling. Their work required of them an intense capacity for attentiveness, self-sacrifice, and compassion. As a result, shepherds were looked upon in Scripture as an icon of leadership, and no doubt one of the reasons why Jesus referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd and of whom Peter called the Chief Shepherd.

There are many ways to describe the work of a pastor, but none are more comprehensive and clear than that of a shepherd. When a pastor is faithful to the people he is called to lead, he images forth the shepherding ways of God. Indeed, God Himself said, “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God” (Ezekiel 34:15). In the popular Shepherd Psalm, King David begins by saying, “The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). So in a very significant way, God communicates his heart and ways with His people as a shepherd. That alone should alert us to the significance of the work, given to those who are called to lead by “shepherding the flock of God” whom Jesus purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28).

But what is it that encompasses the work of a faithful shepherd? Tonight, I want to briefly give you three aspects of a faithful shepherd in light of what this evening is all about. For 25 years, God has given us a pastor who has served this church as a faithful shepherd to the flock entrusted to his care, and tonight, I want to honor the man who has honored Christ and discharged his calling as a dedicated pastor, committed churchman, and stubborn herald of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This weekend marks the 25th anniversary of our beloved pastor, Tom Ascol, and though it pains him for us to draw any attention to him, we are going to do it anyway. It is fitting for us to honor and recognize what God has done in and through him.

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Life Offline

October 26, 2010

For the past 2.5 years, I have been serving as a pastor of Grace Baptist Church.  I have not blogged much about my church or my role as a pastor (other than the kingly administration stuff).  It has been an incredible journey so far, and I am loving being a church that is “reformed and always reforming according to the Word of God.”

Last week, we gave an elders report to our congregation for our annual members meeting.  This report is our reflection on the past year of ministry (specifically September 2009-September 2010).  God is doing some wonderful things through our church family, and I thought I’d share nine of them in bullet form here (for a detailed summary, go here).

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We Have Not Forgotten

September 14, 2010

By the time you read this, I will be en route to Haiti for the rest of the week.  How all this came about is rather remarkable.  Like many of you, we felt an urgent need to minister in Haiti after the earthquake, especially since is located in our backyard (globally).  We had already planned a mission trip to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic to work with a church planter who was starting Haitian churches.  However, after the earthquake that mission trip had to be canceled since his work was need more in Haiti than where he was currently serving.

Flights in and out of Haiti were severely limited, and so we were wondering what in the world we could do (other than support the disaster relief efforts through the IMB and Churches Helping Churches).  Within a matter of a couple of weeks, we received an email from a Haitian pastor who recently arrived in our city looking for a church to attend.  We welcomed him to come and join us at Grace, and he spent the next three months with our church family.  We call him “Pastor Joseph.”

Pastor Joseph is a church planter in Haiti who has helped start eight churches and four orphanages with little to no money or outside help.  He did not come to our church asking for money or help the entire time he was with him.  However, the majority of the structures were destroyed, and the primary givers supporting the ministry were killed in the quake.  When he left at the end of May, we were able to take up an offering allowing him to provide temporary housing for orphans as well as food supplies for the needy children they have taken in.  Since then, his own two children have come back with him to the states on with a medical visa due to poor health and malnutrition and is now being cared for by one our families here at Grace.  It has been a wonderful display of the gospel.

So I along with one of our deacons are on our way to meet Pastor Joseph and visit the churches and orphanages he oversees.  It is a quick and demanding vision trip, and we are excited to see what is happening there in Haiti.  Nearly eight months after the quake, it is good to let the Haitians know that they are not forgotten.

Another wonderful providence has been our new acquaintance with Mission of Hope.  They are a mission organization that has been in Haiti for twelve years and have a massive operation (they have served 6 million meals since the quake).  They are currently relocating to Ft. Myers and just this past Friday had the privilege of meeting with their president, Brad Johnson.  Two of their leading executive staff have been attending Grace in recent weeks and are considering what God might have us do together.  Later today we hope to have the opportunity of visiting their headquarters in Haiti and connect with their team as well.

If you read this sometime this week, please pray for us.  We earnestly desire to be an encouragement to our Haitian brothers and sisters and also seeking God’s guidance in how we can have long-term investments among these people living and ministering in a desperate situation.  Thank you!

Parking the Great Commission

July 7, 2009

Sunday night, we parked the Great Commission.

It’s fourth of July weekend, lots of people traveling out of town on vacation, and with one of the biggest holidays of the year, the reasonable thing to do would be to alter the Sunday format to accommodate according to lowered expectations.

Not exactly.

About a month ago, I pitched the idea to take advantage of the 4th of July weekend by taking our church gathering to the biggest park in town and reach out to the community.  With the recent convention travels, VBS, and a busy June, very little time was allowed (one week to be exact!) to plan what I was calling “Worship @ the Park” (not to mention that half our staff would be en route overseas with a team to labor among an UPG).  For those of you who do not know, Grace is not a large church, so there was no cool signage, props, or video promotionals.  In fact, the fliers we passed out was made by yours truly with MS Word and an old Flickr photo. 🙂

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Where Extraordinary Grace and Celestial Joy Meet

June 28, 2009

Tonight, I participated in something that I have never been a part of in the 22 years that I have known Jesus Christ.  The reason for this is twofold: I have never been in a church before that took seriously the biblical practice of church discipline, and I have never been in a church where the pastor has faithful discharged his duties of gospel preaching and pastoral ministry for over two decades.  So what happened, you might ask?

In 1988, God saved a man named Steve who soon became a baptized member of Grace Baptist Church (where I serve).  A few years after his conversion, Steve fell into sin and came under the discipline of the church which he refused to accept.  As a result, the most severe decision a church body could ever make was practiced as Steve was excommunicated from the membership of Grace. For the next 14 years, Steve spent his life committing immoral acts, including drugs and alcohol.  At one point in his life, Steve said he spent an entire month in seclusion drinking alcohol with the jaded hopes that he could die in his own misery and insanity.

It was during this time that he found an old Bible as he was reminded of what Tom had told him when he first came to Christ, “Read the Gospel of John.”  After six months of prayer, Bible reading, and personal repentance, Steve emailed Tom because he struggled to believe that there would be a church who would accept him.  The first person he knew he could to turn to, the person whom he said he trusted the most, was the very person who 14 years ago committed the most severe act of discipline–his former pastor, Tom Ascol.

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5 P’s

April 16, 2009

Yesterday, I spent about an hour with Tom Ascol talking about the past ten months since I came on staff at Grace Baptist as an Associate Pastor.  At various points during this time, I intended to post some thoughts and reflections on things I’ve learned, challenges I’ve faced, and joys I’ve experienced transitioning from a seminary student working third-shift to a “full-time” minister in a local church (I think there are even some posts sitting in draft mode from several months ago!).

Some of my friends have encouraged me to talk more about what I am doing and learning in the ministry, so I thought I’d try to start doing that as I near my first year serving at Grace.  For starters, I want to mention a paradigm I created focusing on five “P’s” (I alliterate them to prove my true Baptist Identity for anyone checking my credentials).  Here they are with some of my thoughts.

1.  Preaching

The fundamental means of grace in the local church is the right preaching of the gospel.  With Tom preaching for the past 22 years strong, gospel-centered, expositional preaching, this is not a weak area of Grace.  However, preaching has been a weak area in my ministerial development, having done little in my seminary days.  When Tom was struck my lightning, I was thrown into the fire, from struggling to prepare for one sermon every two weeks to preaching Sunday morning and Sunday night as well as teaching an evangelism series to the adults and occasional Bible Study on Wednesday night.  Nevertheless, God used that to land me on my face with a sense of dependence and desperation I had not known.

Since June of last year, I think I’ve preached somewhere around 30 times, and every one of my messages have been critiqued by the elders as I have welcomed the constructive input to help me become a better communicator of God’s Word.  Various things like writing and preaching from a manuscript, length of message, pace and enunciation in delivery, thesis construction, coherence/clarity and simplicity, and pastoral application have all been addressed.  While I have a long way to go, I can honestly say that I have been tremendously helped by the feedback and follow-through of more experienced preachers who care enough to help me communicate the gospel message with passion, precision, and pastoral insight.

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On Being Gospel-Saturated

March 22, 2009

For the past couple of weeks, we have been discussing at Grace the third mark of a healthy church member, namely being gospel-saturated.  During this time, I have posted the following blogposts on the subject that I thought I’d pass along here.  In the near future, I hope to begin a series on ths sufficiency of the gospel that ties into this subject very closely.  Here are the blogposts:

1.  Fueling a Gospel-Saturated Lifestyle
2.  Gospel-Saturated Love for Fellow Christians
3.  15 Gospel-Saturated Book Recommendations
4.  You Never, Never, Never Outgrow Your Need for the Gospel
5.  “Don’t I Need More than the Gospel?”
6. Never Empty Your Brain of the Gospel!

More posts are available through subscribing to the RSS feed of the TGG Blog.  You can also get info on new resources, podcasts, and other media via Grace Baptist on Twitter.

Biblical Theology for Church Members

March 12, 2009

For the past couple of weeks, I have been teaching through What Is a Healthy Church Member? by Thabiti Anyabwile, and last week we broke down the second mark – a biblical theologian.  One of things I have been doing on our church blog is to provide some resources on the various issues or doctrines we have been studying.  This past week, I posted several on biblical theology that I thought you might be interested in checking out.  Here they are:

* Getting Introduced to Biblical Theology
* Books on Biblical Theology
* Why Biblical Theology Is Essential to the Life of the Church
* D.A. Carson on Defining Biblical Theology
* Shai Linne on the Greatest Story Ever Told

The third mark is “gospel saturated” so I hope to write several posts to help fuel a gospel-saturated vision for life in every church member.  If you would like to catch these posts as they go up, you can either subscribe to the RSS feed or if you are on Twitter, you can follow Grace Baptist on Twitter.

New Website for Grace Baptist Church

November 24, 2008

grace-logoThis week, we are announcing the launch of our church’s new website–a project that has been in the works for several months.  There are several things I sought to have in the design and template, including a WordPress integrated blog for the church, new podcast, embedded live-streaming, and a mullet-strategy design (business up front, party in the back).  The back end is a password protected section that includes a digital church directory, church calendar, daily devotional (Octavius Winslow’s Morning Thoughts), and more info tailored to church-specific needs, issues, and announcements.  It is a very small picture of what Mars Hill has done with The City (developed by Zach Hubert, now being marketed by Zondervan).

The next goal is to duplicate this entire website into Spanish (half of Grace’s congregation has Spanish as their primary language).  There are other aspects you might be interested in checking out, including our page dedicated to regenerate church membership.  Resources on this cardinal Baptist doctrine include the resolution passed in 2008, quotes/excerpts, bibliography, and books on church membership.  We hope to potentially hold live-streaming discussions on this topic in the future as well.  To read more of the new features, check out the latest blogpost.

Alongside the new website, I have been working on the Grace social media project with the creation of a GBC Facebook Group and a GBC Twitter.  These sites have been helpful to connect and leverage our influence on the internet, utilizing the tools available for the advancement of the gospel (we are currently doing a testimony challenge, encouraging all GBC Facebook members to write their testimony and post it before the end of the year).

The last project, one which have mentioned several times previously, has been Sowing Grace–the church planting resource center online.  There you will find information about current and future church planting developments as well as daily posts related to the work and life of a church planting church.

If you got a moment, check out the new church website, and let me know what you think (positive or negative).  Tom Ascol and I will be updating the church blog fairly regularly.  If you would like more information about the guys who created the template and design, check out Elevate.  They are a solid team of designers who give generous amounts of time to creating a quality website.

Website | Blog (RSS) | Facebook | Twitter | Sowing Grace | Flickr | UStream

Update >>>

What now?  Well, to cap things off, this Thursday the pastoral staff of GBC are running in the 29th Annual Cape Coral Turkey Trot. This is a 5k run (3.1 miles).  Tom actively works out; I haven’t run a mile in four years. He was struck by lightning this summer; I was struck by lightning in the 9th grade.  His was far worse. So that’s all the pre-race commentary. Who will win the race? Cast your vote!

Website | Blog (RSS) | Facebook | Twitter | Sowing Grace | Flickr | UStream

Moving In, Praying On

July 31, 2008

I want to first apologize for not having provided any updates in recent days.  Since my last blogpost almost two weeks ago, I have spent less time on the computer and internet since I have been blogging three years ago (for good reason, of course).

If you have not been made aware, Donna Ascol (Tom’s wife) has posted a lenghty update on Tom’s health over at Tom’s blog.  As I mentioned in the comments of the last post, I do not think that Tom’s original post reflected the severity of the lightning strike, and the impact was not fully experienced until several days after his own personal reflections.  To catch everyone up, Tom has met with several doctors, including a cardiologist and neurologist, who both have given promising reports and expect a full recovery.  However, due to the fact that so few people have survived lightning strikes, there is apparently little reliable research or support to determine the intensity or extense of Tom’s recovery.  It could take anywhere from three weeks to three years (or more).

The Ascol family has been resting at the home of some friends in Michigan for the past week where they have been able to enjoy some sweet times of family worship and relax in the serenic countryside of the rural north.

I don’t know of a pithy way of describing the progress of Tom’s physical condition.  There are days where Tom is beginning to return to normal activities, such as walking, exercising, and sleeping (all of which, I would argue, we take for granted).  Yet there are nights where Tom is awakened to horrible nightmares and dark thoughts, and there are days that succumb to the unpredictable pain and discomfort of nerve regeneration and disorientation.

While the Ascol’s will be arriving back in Cape Coral by early next week, Tom is scheduled to speak at a conference in Alaska shortly thereafter.  Please continue to pray that God would give Tom strength, wisdom, and patience as God confirms His work in Tom’s heart, body, and life.  I hope to provide more updates as necessary in the days ahead to keep everyone informed on Tom’s progress.

Last Sunday, I preached on God’s providence and our pain, focusing on two main points: (1) God is sovereign over all the circumstances that bring pain and suffering to our lives, and (2) God is intimately working in and through such circumstances to do us good and advance His glory.  I concluded with the evening message dealing with providence and prayer.  Starting this Sunday, I will be preaching on the prayers of Paul for the churches as we (GBC) are currently in a two-month season of praying about church planting plans in SW Florida.  I am really looking forward to this series of growing in our devotion to prayer as well as learning about what to pray for when it comes to God’s work in the hearts of His people and the outworking of His redemptive mission in the world through His church.

Last Friday, we finally closed on our home.  That evening the truck arrived, along with over 50 people from Grace who gave up their Friday night to serve us in bringing in our belongings.  One of our neighbors came by and noted the massive amount of help and said, “Usually when people move into a new town, they don’t have any help.”  I replied, “Well, these are folks from our church.”  After exchanging a few pleasantries, she concluded, “Well, it is evident that you are loved very much.”  With a smile on my face, I shook my head in agreement as she departed.  It was then that the words of Jesus echoed in my mind, “By this the world will know that you are My disciples, by the love that you have one for another” (John 13:34-35).  I am grateful that such love was visibly and tangibly expressed to my neighbors in the early hours of our new home/gospel outpost.  🙂

I want to express my thanks and heartfelt gratitude to all you who are and continue to pray for Tom, the Ascol family, our church (Grace Baptist Church), and myself.  The immediate demands of preaching and teaching along with other matters of pastoral care and planning continue to challenge and stretch me in ways I never imagined, and I am excited about the deeper levels of desperation and dependence I have upon Jesus, that His Spirit would use me, I pray, to serve God’s people and preach His gospel.  May He own His gospel, His church, and me so that there would be more worshippers who love and praise the name of Jesus.