Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dealing With Empty Nest

Earlier this summer my daughter got married. She took most of her belongings with her and the little that remained has already found a new home. Her room is empty except for one dresser.

My middle son leased his first house (with three roommates) in August and cleaned out his room as well. His room is empty except for one desk.

Yesterday I dropped my youngest son off at a college more than 400 miles away. I returned home a few minutes ago. I could not resist the urge to walk into his room and "remember" him. That was probably not a good idea. His room is almost bare, except for a few items he stacked in a corner and his bed. To be honest, I find it depressing.

I know I should not complain. I have three healthy children. Some parents have to take of children with long term disabilities and will never experience empty nest. I respect those parents a great deal, and would not want to trade places with them. But it still hurts to have my kids so far away. Some parents have lost a child to death. We almost lost our youngest son when he was four years old due to a severe car accident. I remember the wrenching pain in my chest when the doctor told me to tell him goodbye because I was not likely to see him again. I was in one hospital. He was being rushed to another. I remember the joy I felt when my wife called to say he was going to make it. I am filled with gratitude that all three of my children are alive. But it still hurts to have them live so far away.

All three of my children are walking with the Jesus. At least two of them want to follow the Lord in some type of full time ministry, and I think one day the third one will too. Many parents have watched their children wander from the Lord in their teens years, some never to return to their faith. I pray for my children to remember the love of the Lord they felt in our home. I pray for them to remain faithful to His calling on their lives. I really am grateful that they know and serve Jesus. But it still hurts to have them live so far away.

Many of my friends who have already experienced the empty nest tell me that after a week or two it gets better. I am looking forward to spending more time with my wife, she has always been my best friend. But, right now, it really hurts to have my kids live so far away.

As I sit on my porch listening to the wind in the trees, I wonder how God the Father felt as He sent His Son Jesus down to earth on a great mission to save the world. I know theologically that God is omnipresent, and I cannot pretend to know the depth of God's heart, but somehow, I think He said, "Wow, it hurts to have Jesus live so far away."

For more devotionals like this one, consider Touching the Footprints of Jesus

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Interesting Stuff About Jonathan Edwards Family Tree

I live about 30 minutes from the place where Jonathan Edwards preached his famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. God used that sermon as a major factor in bringing Great Awakening to America. Sadly, the church where Edwards preached is no longer there, only a rock memorializes his famous sermon. But Edwards' legacy lives on, not only in the gospel that has continued to be preached across New England, but through his family tree.

I found the material below on a website earlier today and it spoke to me so strongly that I wanted to re-post it for my readers. In a day when it seems that being an atheist has become "cool" and being a "Christian" is somehow bad, consider the family tree of Jonathan Edwards, one of the greatest Christians of all times, and Max Jukes, an atheist, who was one of Edwards peers.

Max Jukes, the atheist, lived a godless life. He married an ungodly girl, and from the union there were 310 who died as paupers, 150 were criminals, 7 were murderers, 100 were drunkards, and more than half of the women were prostitutes. His 540 descendants cost the State one and a quarter million dollars.

"But, praise the Lord, it works both ways! There is a record of a great American man of God, Jonathan Edwards. He lived at the same time as Max Jukes, but he married a godly girl. An investigation was made of 1,394 known descendants of Jonathan Edwards of which 13 became college presidents, 65 college professors, 3 United States senators, 30 judges, 100 lawyers, 60 physicians, 75 army and navy officers, 100 preachers and missionaries, 60 authors of prominence, one a vice-president of the United States, 80 became public officials in other capacities, 295 college graduates, among whom were governors of states and ministers to foreign countries. His descendants did not cost the state a single penny. 'The memory of the just is blessed' (Prov. 10:7)."

Originally posted at:

Dr. Terry W. Dorsett is a church planter in New England. He also writes books and leads seminars on how to help churches be more effective in their ministries. Check out his resources at:

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Macedonian Call

In Acts 16:6-10 we read the story of Paul having a vision of a man from Macedonia begging him to come and share the Gospel with his people. This powerful story has much to teach us about responding to the various calls that God puts on our lives.

Verse 6 - They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia and were prevented by the Holy Spirit from speaking the message in Asia.
               In this verse the word they is very important. It reminds us that Paul never ministered alone. He always had a team who helped him lead and serve. In this situation, history tells us that the team was made up of Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke.
               Paul was the leader of the team. Every team needs a leader, otherwise it just becomes a bunch a people sitting around talking about great ideas but seldom actually do anything.
               Silas was Paul’s assistant and often filled in the gaps that Paul could not. Every leader needs a right hand man to help get the job done.
               Timothy was Paul’s protégé’, whom he was teaching how to be a leader. If we are not investing in the next generation of leaders, then our team is already in trouble.
               Luke was a medical doctor, a historical author, and a well-educated intellectual. Every team needs the “smart” person who reads all the books, goes to all the conferences and helps the team think at a deeper level.
               Each of these people brought something important to the team. When everyone does their part, it is amazing what a team can do! Likewise, when one team member does not do his/her part; it makes the entire team less effective.
               In this situation, the team traveled through Phrygia and Galatia, which in our modern time, is central Turkey. They preached the Gospel in the central part of Turkey, but when they tried to move toward the coast, the Lord said no. Do not get confused, in this verse Asia refers to the Roman province of Asia, not the continent. The Holy Spirit told them not to go to Asia to preach the Gospel. However, many years later the Holy Spirit did let them go there and many came to Christ. But they had to wait until the time was right, and when this verse was written, the time was not yet right.
               We must remember that the Spirit knows the right timing for everything. We would be more successful in our lives if we learned to listen to the Spirit more. His timing is always right.

Verse 7 - When they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.
               Since the Spirit did not let them go to Asia, they went to Mysia instead. Apparently they spent some time there but when they tried to go to the next area, which was Bithynia, the Spirit once again said no. Imagine how frustrating it must have been to the team for the Holy Spirit to keep saying no. The two areas were right next to each other. They must have wondered why was it okay to go to one place but not another?
               We must never forget that God works in mysterious ways. He knows when it is time and when it is not. We may understand it, we may not, but we do need to learn to listen to what God says.
Verse 8 - So, bypassing Mysia, they came down to Troas.
               They finally came to Troas, which is a port city on Aegean Sea. It is across from Greece, where they had no intention of going. At this point they probably felt like they were going in circles, and to be honest, they sort of were. But God had an amazing plan He was about to reveal to them.
               Sometimes in life we feel like we are just going in circles. In those moments we must trust the Spirit because He does have a plan and when He reveals it, we are going to be amazed.

Verse 9 - During the night a vision appeared to Paul: A Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us!”
               While sleeping, God sent Paul a vision. A vision is a supernatural revelation from God. Though we must be careful not to think that every dream is a special message from God, we also must be careful not to put God in a box and assume He is too weak to speak to us in a special way when we need to hear it.
               An important thing to remember is that God will never contradict Himself. Therefore, if we think we get a special word from God and it goes against what the Bible says, then we know it was not from God.
               In this situation, the dream was a man from Macedonia begging Paul to come share the Gospel with his people. Macedonia is in northern Greece, a place that Paul had not intended to go. But the Spirit had Paul walk in circles until he got to a place where he could gaze at Greece across the sea.
               Though we sometimes feel like God has us going in circles, God actually has a plan. At some point, we get to the place where we look up and see the plan that God had all along. Maybe God uses some special revelation to speak to us, or maybe we just finally start paying attention, but we finally realize what God wants us to do all along.
               Notice that the man was pleading for Paul to come help him. In this case, help referred to Paul sharing the Gospel with his people. The Bible clearly tells us that we should help the poor and needy, that we should visit the sick, and in prison, and that we should assist orphans and widows. Far too many churches have neglected these clear commands from God. But in the process of helping people with real needs, we must never forget to share the Gospel with them. Otherwise, we have failed to give them the most important help of all, the salvation of their souls from the fires of an eternal hell.
               Notice that the man is pleading. Every person has a God-sized hole in his/her heart that he/she cries out for something to fill. Too many people have tried to fill that hole with all the wrong things. They are crying out for Jesus and do not even know it. We have the answer they need, how dare we keep it to ourselves.

Verse 10 - After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to evangelize them.
               Once Paul had the vision, he immediately made efforts to obey. When the Spirit chooses to move a person, instant obedience is important. Otherwise, the Spirit is quenched and the moment might pass.
               Paul realized that it was not a man from Macedonia that was calling him, but it was God Himself simply using the man to extend the call of God. God has a call to each of us to do something to share the Gospel with others.
               At the very least we can pray. At the very least we can give money to help the church or missionaries reach out. It is not very hard for each one of us to go next door or across the street to tell a friend about Jesus. Some of us may even be called to go around the world and share the Gospel through mission involvement.
               Or, we can choose to ignore God’s call and stay focused on ourselves. If we choose that last option, we will miss out of being part of what God is doing.

What will we do with the call of God on our lives? Will we listen and respond to His calling? Or will we ignore the call of God and miss out on the amazing adventure He had for us?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Biblical Illustrations About Honesty

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of honesty. You can read that post HERE. To follow up on that theme, I thought I would share two stories from the scriptures that illustrate how important honesty is.

In Acts 5:1-11 we meet a man named Ananias, and his wife Sapphira. To understand this scripture, it is important to note that in Acts 4 many people in the church sold property they had and used the money to help the poor people in the church. The people who did this were heroes in the church and a lot of people liked them because of their generosity. Ananias and Sapphira wanted the prestige of giving all their money away, but they did not actually give it all away. So they sold a piece of property and only brought part of the money to the church to give away to poor people, but lied and said it was all the money. The leaders of the church somehow knew it was not all the money. We do not know how they found it, but somehow they did. The truth will always come out in the end. When the leaders of the church asked the couple about it, they kept lying and said it was all the money, even though it was not. The leaders of the church pointed out that the property belonging to Ananias and Sapphira and they did not have to sell it to begin with. Even after they sold it, the money belonged to them and they could do whatever they wanted to with it. They did not have to give it all away. They did not have to give any of it away.

The honesty problem was not that they kept part of the money. The problem was that they lied about it, and pretended to give it all when they did not. Those familiar with the story will remember that the result of being caught in the lie was the both Ananias and Sapphira died. It is important to note that the Bible does not say that God killed them. The Bible says that the whole church was filled with fear and then Ananias and his wife died. Apparently, when they realized they were caught in a lie, fear of what would happen so overwhelmed them that they died, probably of heart attacks. The point of this story is that lies have consequences. Those consequences are often much worse than we thought they would be.

The second story is found in Genesis 12:10-13. In that story we meet Abram and his wife Sarai. Abram had to leave his home and travel to a foreign country because a famine ruined all the food in his own area. Abram’s wife Sarai was a very pretty and he was afraid the foreign people would kill him so they could have her. No one had actually threatened to do this; it was just something Abram was worried about. Abram justified lying because he was worried about something that might not even happen. Abram asked his wife to lie and say he was his sister. Sarai did that, but of course then all the Egyptians thought she was available since they did not realize she was married. Pharaoh (the Egyptian King) saw how beautiful she was and brought her to his palace to become his wife. It is unclear if he actually married her, or just brought her to his house. If he did in deed marry her and consummated the marriage, imagine how she must have felt, all because Abram was worried about something that might not even happen. God made the Egyptians get sick as a way to let them know they had done something wrong, even though they did not realize they had done something wrong. God has a way of getting our attention when needed. When Pharaoh found out that Sarai was really Abram’s wife instead of his sister, he was angry at Abram. He made Abram take all his stuff and leave the country. Remember, there was a famine going on everywhere else, so leaving the country was a big deal. If Abram had told the truth, he probably would have been able to stay in the nation until the famine was over. But once he lied, he made powerful people angry at him and the consequences were severe.

From these two stories we learn that lying, to either God or people, can have serious consequences. One of those consequences is living in fear of what will happen if we ever get caught. Another consequence is making important people angry at us. Another consequence is that we may get a worse punishment than if we had just told the truth. Lying is never worth it.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Is Honesty Important?

I have been talking a lot lately to young adults about trust and honesty. See one my lessons about this HERE. They seem to be subjects which many people, especially young adults, struggle with. In the discussion we had before my most recent lesson, I asked the group What is a white lie?” Though the answers varied, almost all of them seemed to define a white lie as something less than a real lie. Most thought white lies were sometimes the “best” way to respond to a situation. Clearly the group did not see white lies as an honesty problem.

We then discussed a list of situations that the group was supposed to rank from most honest to least honest. It was actually a trick question because NOTHING on the list was honest. Though some of the things on the list were definitely more clearly dishonest than others, nothing on the list should really have been acceptable to a person who held honestly in high regard. To my dismay, not a single young adult in the room picked up on my “trick” question. Instead they promptly listed the items in the order they thought they should go and felt pretty happy with the results. When I pointed out that NOTHING on the list was honest, they did not seem to follow my train of thought. Wow, what have we taught our kids?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Impossible Scenarios

Yesterday I wrote about Unrealistic Expectations. I want to follow up on that theme with a discussion about impossible scenarios. Leadership teams in churches, and other faith based organizations, often become paralyzed when one or more members of the team create an impossible scenario that cannot be solved. The group spends so much time trying to solve the scenario that they cannot get anything else accomplished.

Impossible scenarios are created in two ways, either by playing the “what if” game or by playing the “that won’t work” game. Both games are similar, and neither is helpful.

In the “what if” game, someone in the group becomes obsessed with trying to figure out every possible result of any particular action. They then want the group to come up with a solution to those various outcomes before they can proceed. Often hiding behind comments like, “I’m just trying to be thorough” or “We must protect the church from these types of things,” the person who wants to play the "what if" game is actually displaying a lack of faith.

Do not misunderstand, church leadership teams do need to think through the consequences of their actions and be prepared to deal with them. But it is simply impossible to figure out every possible result of every possible action. When a team becomes overly focused on that kind of decision making, they seldom make decisions at all. They meet a lot. They talk a lot. They worry a lot. But they do not get a lot done.

Leadership teams that are trapped in the “what if” game typically have high turnover rates, as those who actually want to make a difference grow frustrated with the lack of progress. In church life, we must never forget the important role faith plays. Matthew 6:33-34 reminds us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” If we have sought the Kingdom first, then we should trust that the Lord is guiding our decisions and will work them out for good. If some unforeseen results occurs, we must have the faith the Lord will help us figure out how to deal with it when it arises. There is no need to borrow trouble from the future as a way to avoid making decisions today.

Team members who play the “what if” game need to be encouraged to pray and ask God for wisdom. They need to be encouraged to exercise more faith. Though they can be frustrating to deal with sometimes, they are actually valuable members of the leadership team because they do force us to think about things before making a decision. So long as we do not let them get carried away, they can be a big help to a team.

The other way that impossible scenarios are created is when one or more members of the team respond to any idea with some version of “that won’t work.” It may be that they tried it ten years ago and it did not work, so they do not they it will work now. It may be that they heard about some other church that tried it and it did not work for them, so it will not work for us. It may be that we have just never done it that way before and do not plan to start now. The reasons for why this person thinks it will not work are endless, but they are adamant that whatever the idea is, it will not work.

Like the “what if” game, this may simply be a lack of faith, and if so, then the same principle applies. They need to be encouraged to pray more and to have more faith, but remain a valuable part of the team. But sometimes people like this are struggling more with control issues than they are a lack of faith. The person who is always saying “that won’t work” often has a specific way that they think will work. If they presented their way and it was rejected by the group, the person may be determined to shoot down everyone else’s idea out of a sense of revenge. Or, if they have a more passive-aggressive personality, they may never present their plan openly. Instead, they keep picking apart everyone else’s ideas until the only thing left is whatever they wanted to do in the first place. If the group does not agree with their plan when it finally emerges, they will keep the group paralyzed indefinitely because in their mind they have already eliminated all other ideas but their own.

Naysayers like this are seldom helpful on a leadership team and if they are allowed to remain in leadership, the church will never be very effective. Since people like this are often strong willed and quite vocal, it can be hard to stand up to them. But at some point, people who are determined to attack all ideas but their own must be removed from leadership until they can overcome this tendency and become more mature. It will not be an easy task, but it must be done.

Churches that are trapped in an endless loop of impossible scenarios must find a way out, or they will continue to talk a lot while getting very little done. Meanwhile, a world around them races head long into eternity with ever knowing the love of Christ.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Unrealistic Expectations

The phone call ended with a sense of frustration. I had just finished yet another conversation with the same pastor about some struggles he was having in his church. The struggles were very real, and sadly, quite common. Some leaders in his church had different opinions about how certain things should be done. This was creating tension between himself and those leaders. It was not really a theological issue, since both the pastor and the leadership group seemed right on target theologically and doctrinally. But they did not seem to be able to find unity on how to do certain things in the church. Regretfully, that tension had begun to build and, as often happens in the church, people were starting to use the "God told me" line. Once people start claiming that God told them something, it is almost impossible to compromise with them and the only solution they will accept is one that agrees 100% with their viewpoint. I did my best to offer helpful advice and spent time praying with the pastor, but deep in my heart, I feared that it would not end well.

Though I wish this phone call was rare, the reality is that this is a common experience, not only for pastors, but for anyone who aspires to be a leader in the context of Christian community. I have spent a lot of time thinking, reflecting and praying about why these things happen. Though I am still formulating my thoughts, it seems to me that one of the key reasons this happens is because we often have unrealistic expectations of others. We expect people to be perfect, forgetting that we are not perfect ourselves. We do not like it when people use a sharp tone of voice with us, but excuse ourselves when we are tired, or frustrated, and use a sharp tone with others. Just because a person is a Christian, even in a position of leadership, does not mean they are perfect. People have bad days and good days. People have weeks when they spend extra time in prayer, and weeks when they do not spend enough time in prayer. It is an unrealistic expectation to think that everyone in leadership will be perfect all the time.

Even when everyone involved has a good day at the same time, we may have different opinions based on our life experiences. I recall getting frustrated once with a group of church leaders about an insurance matter. I just could not see why they could not understand my perspective. After the meeting was over, one of the leaders spoke to me privately. He simply said, "Don't take this the wrong way, but how much do you really know about insurance?" I had to admit that I knew very little. He went on to explain that two of the five members of the group had extensive experience in that area and it just made sense to trust their judgment on the matter. I was humbled, and decided to heed his advice. It is unrealistic to think that we will understand every detail about every issue.

Many churches would have less tension if they let go of unrealistic expectations. We should accept that sometimes people say and do things they should not have said or done. Obviously, if a pattern of bad behavior exists, then the person may need to be removed from leadership. But if no such pattern exists, then we should accept that they were having a bad day and we should forgive easily and pray fervently for them. We should also accept that no one person is an expert on everything, including ourselves. We should offer our opinions on matters that we are knowledgeable about and remain quiet on issues that are outside our scope of expertize. Just because a thought comes to our mind, does not mean it must escape our lips.

Being a leader in a Christian community can be a challenge, but if we let go of our unrealistic expectations, it is a challenge worth engaging in.

Note: For a post on a similar subject, read Unmotivated Perfectionists.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Marks of a Healthy Church

A sermon developed by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett, based on Acts 13:1-3.

Acts 13:1-3
1 In the local church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius the Cyrenian, Manaen, a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work that I have called them to. 3 Then, after they had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them off.

               It was in the city of Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.
               The word Christian actually means little Christ.
               The community called the disciples in Antioch Christians because they lived so much like Christ lived.
               Though no church is perfect, the one in Antioch must have been pretty good to have this reputation in the community.
               Therefore, we can learn a lot about how to be a healthy church from the church in Antioch.

Verse 1 - In the local church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius the Cyrenian, Manaen, a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
               It is important to note that a healthy church has multiple leaders with different types of ministries.
               This is one of many examples of multiple leadership in the church and one of the reasons why our own church uses a group of elders to lead, teach and preach instead of investing all the power in a single person.
               Barnabas represented the “traditional” church of Jerusalem, having been sent by the apostles to assist the church in Antioch.
               Simeon was a black man from Africa and would have had a significantly different cultural background than the others, but he was still a leader.
               Little is known of Lucius but he was from Cyrene and was probably a refugee who had fled to the area seeking safety.
               Manaen was a friend of the king and would have been very well educated, wealthy and known all the important people in town.
               Saul had grown up steeped in his Jewish faith but had a dramatic conversion to Christianity.
               Each of these men had different backgrounds, upbringings and personalities, but God used them all working together as a team to make the church in Antioch healthy.
               A healthy church is not built on the skills or abilities of any one person, including the pastor.
               Each of us have a part to play in building a healthy church and the church can only be healthy if we each do our part.

Verse 2 - As they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work that I have called them to.
               While they were in the midst of ministering, the Lord spoke to them about a special work.
               Some people wait on God to give them some BIG sign about what to do, but God most often speaks while we are in the midst of serving.
               Therefore, if we want to hear from God, we must start serving!
               These leaders were also fasting.
               Fasting is when a person goes without food for a period of time in order to focus more time and energy on spiritual things.
               Fasting often opens the door to spiritual understanding that helps us know God’s plans for our future.
               Though there were many leaders in the church, God had a special job for Barnabas and Saul.
               All of us are equal in the church and should all be doing our part, but God calls some people to a special work of service.
               Healthy churches produce people who have special callings to serve God. 

Verse 3 - Then, after they had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them off.
               The leaders laid hands on Barnabas and Saul.
               When God calls people to special ways to serve, the church should affirm that calling by laying hands on the people and praying for them.
               This is a symbolic way of giving them our blessing and also releasing the blessing of God into their lives and avenues of service.
               Though God is the one who calls, the church helps a person clarify his calling and then supports that person in fulfilling that call.
               Many people try to serve the Lord on their own without the church’s backing. This is always a recipe for disaster.
               Serving others is hard and we need the church behind us in order to be effective.
               After praying for, and laying hands on Saul and Barnabas, the church sent them out.
               When God calls people to serve Him in special ways, they do not always stay where they are.
               They may have to give up a night at home with their family to serve in a ministry.
               They may have to leave a Bible study group so they can go start a new group.
               They may go help start a new church in a different town.
               They may go to seminary to receive further training.
               They may move to a far off place to become a missionary.
               They often have to sacrifice friendships, jobs and possessions in order to follow the special calling that God has put on their lives.
               This is one reason why they need the church’s support, because these are hard things to do.
               Healthy churches send people out to serve with their blessing and support. 

               A healthy church has multiple leaders.
               A healthy church has lots of different kinds of people in leadership.
               A healthy church produces people who receive special callings to serve God.
               A healthy church sends people out with their blessing and support.

Learn more about how to have a healthy church in Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Answering God’s Call to a New Ministry

Dear Friends and Prayer Partners,
I fondly recall the week I visited Vermont in July 1993. I spoke at a youth rally in Woodstock, led some training for Sunday School teachers, and taught at a Kid’s Bible Club in a mobile home park. It was a great week.

During that week I also visited the Washington Baptist Church, which, at the time, was down to a handful of people and was considering closing their doors. After much prayer, Kay and I felt a call from God to leave the large established churches of the Bible Belt in the South and move to New England to be missionaries. On the first Sunday of November, 1993, I became the pastor of the Washington Baptist Church. They were so small they could only pay us $60 a week. But we felt the call of God and we accepted their offer and served nearly 8 years as their pastor.

The Lord blessed that effort and we saw many people in the village of Washington come to Christ. Fifty four teens and adults were baptized during our time in Washington and the church grew to 90 in worship. The church is still doing well, for which we give God the praise.

In 2001, the Lord made it clear to me that I was to leave the Washington Church to become the Director of the Green Mountain Baptist Association. That organization serves the needs of both existing Baptist churches and helps start new Baptist churches across Vermont. Though it was hard to leave the little church in the village because Kay and I had invested so much of our lives in that little band of believers, the call was so strong; we had no choice but to obey.

In 2004, God expanded our calling and led us to start Faith Community Church in Barre with three other families at our kitchen table. Though it has been challenging to hold two different ministry roles, God has always helped us multiply our time and ministry effectiveness so that both the Green Mountain Baptist Association and Faith Community Church have grown and matured.

In late 2011, I began to feel the stirrings in my Spirit that God may want Kay and I to serve Him in some other way. At first, I pushed the calling away, after all, I love what I do, so why even consider anything else. But when God has a plan for our lives, He keeps calling us until we listen.

Through a unique combination of events, God has revealed to us that it is time for us to answer His calling to step outside our comfort zone and engage in a different kind of ministry. After 19 years of following God’s call to share the Gospel in Vermont, on November 1, 2012, I have agreed to answer the call of God to become the church planting strategist for Baptist work in the state of Connecticut. This will require us to relocate to Connecticut so that we can be closer to the villages, towns and cities where we will help start multiple churches each year.

I shared this with the Faith Community Church elders several weeks ago and with the board of the Green Mountain Baptist Association last week. I have informed them that on October 31, 2012, I will be resigning as pastor of Faith Community Church and as Director for the Green Mountain Baptist Association.

Please know that Kay and I love Faith Community Church and the Green Mountain Baptist Association very much. If God had not made it very clear to us that we were to move to Connecticut, we would remain in Vermont. But we have learned in our lives that once God calls, we have no choice but to respond in obedience. We ask for your prayers for our family as we embark on this new phase of our ministry. We ask that our friends in Vermont remain faithful to their church and association, as it is about far more than just the pastor or director. It is about each person serving the Lord together as a team. If everyone remains faithful in that, the church and association will continue to be a strong voice for the Lord in across Vermont.

In His Continuing Service,

Dr. and Mrs. Terry W. Dorsett

Friday, August 10, 2012

Overcoming Trust Issues

Recently I was teaching a large group of teenagers about the concept of trust. I asked them a series of questions to help them think about this issue.

The first question was, “My parents can trust me: Always. Sometimes. Never.”
A small number said never. A larger number said always. But the vast majority said sometimes.

The next question was, “My teachers can trust me: Always. Sometimes. Never.”
A small number said always. A larger number said never. But the vast majority said sometimes.

The next question was, “The leaders in my church can trust me: Always. Sometimes. Never.”
No one said never. Some said sometimes. The vast majority said always. This surprised me a bit. Though it is possible that they were just trying to make the youth leaders feel good, I think it has to do with the fact that that particular youth group has really good youth leaders who invest themselves a lot in those teens and therefore the teens are more honest with them than they might be with other adults.

The final question was, “My friends can trust me: Always. Sometimes. Never.”
A few said never. A few said sometimes. But the overwhelming majority said always. A key lesson to be learned in this exercise is that teenagers stick up for their friends and place high value on their relationships with their peers.

I then led the group in a discussion of what happens when someone we trust lets of down. Several teens shared stories of how people they really cared about broke their trust. This is painful for people of any age, but particularly painful for young people who are still trying to figure life out. But the reality of life is that people will often let us down. Even friends and family, whom we thought we could always trust, will sometimes fail us. Even leaders whom we respect and admire like teachers, pastors, and coaches will fail us from time to time. The reason people will fail us from time to time is because people are not perfect. We are not perfect either. Just as others will fail us from time to time, we will also fail them.

This is not new to the human condition. Solomon wrote about this human tendency thousands of years ago. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.”

In this scripture, Solomon is pointing out that the only person who will NEVER fail us is God. But learning to trust God can be a challenge because we cannot see God with our eyes and God does not always do things the way we want Him to.

These verses point out that the key to a strong faith in God is learning to trust Him with our hearts instead of trying to figure everything out in our heads. Trusting someone with our heart means that sometimes we have to believe even when we do not understand. That does not mean that we will NEVER understand, or that we should not TRY to understand, it simply means that sometimes we trust even though we are unable to understand.

Since it is hard to trust God with our hearts, instead we often expend a lot of energy trying to figure everything out on our own. We use our own human understanding to try to sort out why things happen in our lives and what it means for our existence. But it can be dangerous to rely on our own understanding because our knowledge of the world is so limited. We do not see the whole picture of what God is doing in the world around us, and therefore, our own understanding is limited.

Though we should always strive to increase our understanding of life situations and learn as much as we can, we will never be able to learn enough to figure EVERYTHING out. There will always be some things we just do not understand, and those are the times when we must trust God. 

Part of learning to trust God includes thinking about Him all of our activities. When we think about the Lord, we might ask ourselves what we think He would do if He were in our situation. Though we may not always know the answer to that question, when we spend time thinking about it, it does tend to help us make better choices.

God wants to help us find the right path in life because if we find the right path, our lives will be easier and more fulfilling. That does not mean that we will never have challenges or struggles, it simply means that we will have less struggles and more purpose than if we are on the wrong path. People often lead us down the wrong path, but God will always lead us on the right path.

If we have not yet made the commitment to follow God through becoming a Christian, that is our first step. Then we should start reading our Bible and praying daily, attending church as often as possible and get baptized as an expression of our faith. Once we start doing those things, then we will be more able to sense what the Lord wants us to do in various situation in life. Our trust in Him will grow and our choices will be better and our lives will be more right. Trust is important. Though there are few people in life in which we can trust, we can always trust the Lord. Today is a good day to start trusting.

Note: Some of the questions I asked this group were adapted by a great lesson on Trust I found in Talksheets: 50 Creative Discussions for Junior High Youth Groups by David Lynn. Though the teaching techniques in the book are a bit dated, the questions and group activities are just great. I highly reccomend the book.
This practical resource can help us increase our trust in the Lord by discovering hope in the midst of adversity.