Thursday, October 17, 2019

Are We in Customer Service?

At one point in my ministry, I ate almost every day at McDonalds for lunch. It was close to the office and it was cheap! Because I ate there so often, I knew many of the people who worked there and would often greet them by name. I also knew a lot of the other regular customers, so conversations were easy to start and enjoyable to engage in. Being a naturally friendly person, 
and always on the lookout for opportunities to share my faith, I each day I would speak to many of the people I encounter at McDonalds, both those I knew and those I didn’t.

One day I noticed a new cashier behind the counter. I guessed she was probably just out of high school and honestly, she looked like she needed a friendly face. I greeted her warmly when it was my turn to order. Since she was new, she was struggling to operate the digital register, but I was patient while she got it all sorted out. After taking my order, she asked if I was in “customer service.” I have been asked many things in my life, but until that day, I have never been asked that before. She went on to say that she noticed me greeting people when I came in and that I seemed happy. She assumed that I must be in some line of work related to customer service since I was so friendly. 

I explained to her that I came in nearly every day and knew most everyone there. I also was pleased to inform her that I was a pastor and it was my faith that made me so happy. Though I only got to share with her for a minute about my faith, I hope it was enough to make her think about spiritual matters. Sadly, she did not work there long and once she moved on to another job, I lost touch with her.

But it did occur to me later, that in some ways, pastors, and perhaps all Christians, are indeed in “customer service.” We serve our communities in a variety of ways so that we can introduce people to our Boss, Jesus Christ. As we serve, we make genuine friendships and learn to sincerely care about what is going on in our friends’ lives. We do not have a “product” to sell, just an eternity to give away for free. For Christians, this is one of the most important things we do. I hope that I can be even more successful in my “customer service” efforts in the future! 


Dr. Terry W. Dorsett has served in New England since 1993 as a pastor, author, and denominational leader. He currently serves as the Executive Director of both the Baptist Convention of New England and the Baptist Foundation of New England.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Learning to Be Content

Philippians 4:11-13 (CSB)
I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.
The car suddenly stopped moving. It literally stopped in the middle of the road. Not knowing what to do, I called a tow truck to take it to our local mechanic. He informed me the transmission was gone and I needed a new one. It was going to cost a lot of money. Money I did not have. But it was still cheaper than buying a new car, something I also could not afford. Thankfully, God’s people rallied to the cause and helped meet the need. Though I’ve now passed that car on to a church planter, it is still being used for mission work in New England.
Years later, while having dinner with a faithful financial partner to our ministry, my wife and I were stunned when the partner said, “I want to give you the money to buy a brand new car.” A couple of weeks later we drove off the lot with a car that only had 2 miles on it. The only new car we’ve ever had and the one we still drive today. Amazing how God provides.
Old cars. New cars. Old cars with new transmissions. We’ve had them all. In our 26 years of mission work in New England my wife and I have learned, like the Apostle Paul, “how to make do with little, and how to make do with a lot.” God has provided for us time and time again because He is faithful and able to meet all of our needs.
Pastors, church planters, collegiate missionaries and other ministers across New England understand this too, having experienced God’s provision time and time again. God has a way of meeting our needs in any and all circumstances. Both the challenge, and the key, is learning to be content in all circumstances. When we drive car where the new transmission is worth almost as much as the car itself, we rejoice. When we drive a new car off a parking lot that is beyond what we ever dreamed of, we rejoice. In good times and bad, we rejoice because God is working out things in our lives for His glory.
Whatever struggle you are going through, or whatever you are rejoicing in at this moment, must be placed at the feet of the Master. And we must be content that He knows what He is doing in our lives at any given moment.
Lord, help us trust You, in the good times and in the bad, because You are trustworthy. Amen.

Dr. Terry W. Dorsett has been a pastor, author and denominational leader in New England since 1993. He currently serves as the Executive Director of both the Baptist Convention of New England and the Baptist Foundation of New England.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Can You Hear Them Cheering?

I have never been a very athletic person. I was on the soccer team in high school, but in all the time I was on the team we never won a game! Of course, that wasn’t ALL my fault. Let’s just say I was not the only one on the team that did not excel in sports. But I can say I lettered in a high school sport……sort of……

But I was not a total loser in high school. I excelled in academics instead and that has served me well through the years. I’ve earned a doctorate and have written several books. I think I turned out okay.

Imagine my surprise some years ago when my two sons decided to join the football team. Neither of them had ever played football before so they had a steep learning curve those first few weeks. I admit, I was a bit concerned if they could do it, given my own lack of athletic ability. But both of them developed quite a knack for football and both eventually served as captains of the team.

Though I didn’t understand most of the game, I went to watch them play each week. Even for a non-football fan like myself, when one of my sons would catch that ball and take off like a lightning bolt down the field, it was a thrilling moment. I’m not much of a shouter, but when one of my boys was running the ball down the field, suddenly I was on my feet cheering with hundreds of other parents.  Can you image what it was like for my sons to hear all those people, most of whom were strangers, cheering their names and shouting encouragement to them?

The entire experience reminds me of Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (HCS).” Once one of my sons caught that ball nothing was going to stop him from crossing the goal line. Everyone was cheering him on and sharing in his excitement. The Christian life is much like that. All the saints cheer us on and encourage us not to quit until we cross the goal line. Can you hear them cheering? Can you see the goal in sight? Don’t drop the ball, run it right into the end zone for Jesus.

Dr. Terry W. Dorsett has lived in New England since 1993. He has been a pastor, author and denominational leader. He currently serves as the Executive Director of both the Baptist Convention of New England and the Baptist Foundation of New England.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Good Deeds or Gospel Deeds

“We serve our community because we love our community,” proclaimed the flyer from the new church in town. And in a matter of months they definitely gained a reputation for serving the community well. They painted a school, collected shoes for the homeless, picked up trash after community events, and cut up trees that blew over in a storm. It was impressive. And three years later, their church disbanded. That was a bit less than impressive.

As the person who recruited the church planter and helped find the initial funding to get the work started, I’ve long pondered how a church that did so many good deeds could fail. There came a moment when I realized that they had never turned their good deeds into gospel deeds. 

What I mean by gospel deeds, is moments when we actually shared the life changing message of Jesus Christ with those we were serving. It retrospect, it becomes obvious that in the situation described above, the core group of the church plant spent so much time doing good deeds, that no one had the time to actually talk to the people they were serving about the Savior who had called them to serve in the first place. It was a colossal miscalculation on why we were doing the good deeds. The good deeds became an end unto themselves. But lots of activity, and being busy, does not automatically equal souls saved or lives changed.

Having been in New England a long time, and taken part in many such good deed efforts myself, I know that it is not always possible to verbally share a gospel presentation in every situation with every person. Sometimes there are rules in place that prevent it. Sometimes the person being served just isn’t interested in talking about spiritual things. Sometimes there are just too many distractions from the event itself that no one could hear or understand even if the gospel were shared. But surely, in three years of good deeds for the community, that church plant could have found a way to engage in some gospel deeds. The Lord surely provided the opportunities, they simply missed them.

I think this happens more than we’d like to admit. Not just in church plants, but in our personal lives as well. I think Christians should do good deeds. But we must always be intentional about finding ways to transform those good deeds into gospel deeds. Though we can say we love others through our actions, if we fail to verbalize the gospel, which can save their soul from hell, have we really loved them? In my opinion, if we fail to turn good deeds into gospel deeds, we cannot say we really loved our neighbor. So let us go forth and do good deeds, but let us also be intentional about turning those good deeds into gospel deeds.


Dr. Terry W. Dorsett has served in New England since 1993 as a pastor, author, and denominational leader. He currently serves as the Executive Director of both the Baptist Convention of New England and the Baptist Foundation of New England. He lives outside of Boston in Northborough, MA.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Why We Need God in Painful Moments

I got a text message from a friend recently. She shared that a mutual friend, who is only a little older than myself, has suddenly passed away. Though I had not talked to him in a few years, when I lived in Vermont he was a great colleague in ministry. Less than 24 hours later one of my pastor friends sent me a text to say one of their youth workers, a really fine young man with a promising future, had also unexpectantly passed away that morning. So much loss. So much pain. Such a short time to process it. Many of my circle of friends were struggling with why God lets these things happen. One mused that perhaps there was no point in following Christ if we still have to endure such pain.

In such difficult moments of life, we must remember that there will always be pain and hurt in the world. Those who have no faith must endure the same pain as everyone else, but without the help of God. Therefore, removing God from the picture only makes the situation worse. As a nation, and as individuals, we must stop trying to eliminate pain by eliminating God. 

That does not keep us from asking ourselves why God doesn't just stop all the pain? Clearly He has the power to. We understand theologically that He is sovereign in all things. But in His sovereignty, God has chosen to us give free will to make our own choices. Sometimes we use that free will to make choices that cause us, or those around us, pain. Other times other people make bad choices and cause us pain. Sometimes pain just happens for reasons we do not understand because we lived in a messed up unfair fallen world that is stained by sin. 

It is tempting to ask God let us keep our free will while also asking Him to limit the free will of others, so they can’t hurt us. But deep inside we know that is not really the way it works. We can't have it both ways.

The answer to our pain problem is a deep and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He helps us overcome the pain of our own mistakes and gives us strength to overcome the pain of the mistakes of others. Removing Him from our lives is the exact opposite of the answer we are looking for. Delve deep into Him today and let Him help you overcome the pain this world throws at us! 

Friday, February 1, 2019

What Happens When Our Plan Is Wrong?

The middle aged minister expressed deep frustration as he poured out his heart to me. He had started his ministry full of energy and excitement a decade ago. Though the numbers were small when he started, he was sure that his faithful preaching of the Word and his clear strategic plan would turn the situation around. That was a decade ago. Now the numbers were even smaller, his excitement was long gone, and the financial situation, which had never been good, was now perilous. He was not sure how long he could continue in his present ministry, but he was not a quitter, so he didn’t really want to leave either. He was in a quandary.

I encounter some version of this scenario numerous times each year from pastors, church planters, Directors of Missions and other ministry leaders across New England. In these situations, I ask a lot of questions. I try to listen, not only to what is being said, but to what is being left out. Though the person I am meeting with is often hoping I have a quick and easy solution, so far that has never been the case. It took that leader awhile to get to that level of discouragement, and it will take a while to get out of it.

In these situations, typically either I, or someone on my team, will also speak to other leaders in that ministry to see how their perception is similar, or perhaps different, than the primary leader’s. It is interesting to hear what they have to say. Most often, they agree that he is a faithful preacher of the Word. Only on very rare occasions does theology seem to be the problem. What is often expressed is that he is a “dry” speaker or his sermons lack “practical application.” I am actually relieved to hear answers like that, because they are the easiest to address. While there are many people who will never be stellar speakers, everyone can improve in their presentation style. For willing leaders, there are numerous workshops and techniques to address this. When someone tells you your sermons or Bible teaching is dry, REJOICE, because that is something you can and should fix!

What is much more challenging is when the primary leader’s ideas are just wrong. Not theologically, but methodologically. One leader told me the “real way to grow a church is door to door visitation.” His once rural church now sits in the middle of half a dozen gated communities that had sprawled out to his area. He couldn’t even get inside those communities to go door to door if he wanted to. Yet he was insistent that was the only way his church could grow. Since he no longer had access to this system of growth, his church was in decline. Another leader was convinced that the “public reading of scripture” was the most important part of the worship service. And so he would read a chapter, sometimes two, each week at the beginning of the service. Those scriptures had nothing to do with his sermon, or the season of the year, or have any other connection to the service. They were just randomly selected scriptures that he read at the beginning of the service each week. He couldn’t understand why many in his congregation would show up 15 minutes late every week and that his members rarely brought friends to church. His system just did not work. Another leader was convinced that “outsiders” should not be in leadership because “they did not understand the context of the local culture” even though the leader saying that was also an outsider. His insistence on only local people could lead caused many highly qualified Christians who were moving to his area from other parts of the nation to move on to other ministries instead of serving in his. As a result, his own ministry eventually died out.

I could give dozens of other examples. Sadly, these types of wrong ideas prevail in many churches and ministries. Let’s all be honest and just admit that sometimes we are wrong. Sometimes our plans do not work and instead of being stubborn, we need to change the plan in order to move forward. We must not let pride or ego hold us back from change when change is needed. We must be willing to move forward and embrace change when it is needed. Fortunately, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us in that. Let us heed the words of James 1:5 “ Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.” The Lord is happy to give us the wisdom to things differently so that our strategies can actually work for the Kingdom instead of against them.

Lord, reveal to us wrong motives or ideas so that we can repent of them and get back to serving You faithfully. Amen.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Deceitful Thrill of Living Dangerously

Not long ago my wife and I took our grandchildren to an amusement park in New Hampshire. We had a great time. Without question, our granddaughter’s favorite ride was the log ride. She had this love/hate feeling going on about the steep drop into the water where she got all wet. She said “I loved it, expect the part I didn’t like very much.” Whether you are 4 or 40, such rides can be a lot of fun. Perhaps they are so much fun because they scare us, even though deep inside we know we are safe. It is almost like seeing just how far we can go into danger, without actually getting hurt. For most of us, that is actually a caricature of our lives. 

We like to live on the edge, seeing just how far we can go before getting in trouble. That desire to embrace danger while denying the potential for hurt is actually part of our fallen sinful nature. No, I’m not saying amusement parks are sinful. I’m saying that tendency to see how close we can get to trouble - without actually paying the price for it - comes from our sinful nature.
While rides at an amusement park might be safe, even if they scare us, when we toy with sin and live dangerously close to sinful life choices, there is no way to keep hurt and pain from finally impacting us.

The ugly truth is that sin destroys us. While our sinful nature wants to live on the edge, hoping the thrill will outweigh the cost, it never works out that way. Sin always takes us farther than we wanted to go, keeps us longer than we wanted to stay and costs us far more than we thought we would have to pay. We must determine to live holy lives and not get caught up in sin.

Lord, help us keep our hearts turned to You so that the wiles of the world do not lure us into harm’s way. Amen.

Dr. Terry W. Dorsett serves at the executive director of the Baptist Convention of New England.