Kraig Lowell Pullam

My thoughts. My reflections. My journey…. On pastoring, preaching, leading & learning.

Reflections

img_0375It is hard to believe I haven’t blogged in three (3) months.  Nevertheless, here I am.  God be praised for the journey.

The last time I wrote, I had just begun my preaching series through the 7 churches of Revelation.  This past Sunday, August 30, 2017, I finally concluded.  One commitment I made during the process is to not break the series.  By God’s grace, I did not.  Whenever I stood in the pulpit of Shiloh, the Lord allowed me to continue, amid the challenges of working through the texts, holidays, personal desires not to cover certain issues (i.e.-Jezebel), I forged ahead.  During the course of this study, I received a couple of reminders of how there seemed to be no love entailed in my sermons.  One brother who has become near and dear to me noted that he had to duck and dodge as I preached.  Someone expressed that they had felt that perhaps God was not pleased with them.  At first, I felt bad regarding such comments while going through the series.  But then I had to remember Christ’s aim in the Book of Revelation: REPENT!

One of the most difficult things, in being a preacher, is communicating to the hearers how hard it hits us before it ever reaches the pulpit.  I am convinced that it must touch us if it will ever touch anyone else.  It has also challenged me to work harder and do better in communicating the love of God, even in the hard passages.  The fact it – Revelation (as it relates to the 7 churches) doesn’t mention the love of God.  But I hope to always communicate that God’s love is present from Genesis  to Revelation.  Therefore, I am always grateful for ways to become a better communicator of God’s Word.

This week, in the midst of my pastoral duties, I’ve been working my way through the three parables tucked away in Luke 15.  However, I think I am going to preach a couple of messages on encouragement before I delve into dealing with God’s love for the lost.  My hope and prayer is to do better on this platform; and chronicle my journey in my pastorate, marriage and parenthood without getting myself in any trouble.  I am learning that the people we least expect often peer into (and sometimes misinterpret) the things you intended to purely help someone understand the journey… I hope and pray to continue that dialogue here….all for the glory of God.

 

Sunday Reflections

There is some level of difficulty in coming to terms with the fact that I haven’t blogged since January of this year. Notwithstanding, my time has been well-spent, amid the pressing demands of life, family and ministry.  I officially moved to Dallas/Fort Worth on September the 1st; preaching my first sermon as the Pastor of Shiloh MBC/Ft. Worth on September the 25th. Little did I know, when arriving, the psychological, emotional and physical challenge my quick move would ensue upon me as a husband, father and pastor. While trying to make adjustments and get settled…life and ministry never stopped.  Because I burned no bridges during my transition, and the love was strong with relationships we had left in Houston and a beloved congregation in Victoria, I found myself emotionally drained (and even confused) at times.  And then, after the sixth (6) month, around March or shortly thereafter…I felt myself and things getting back to normal. Or should I say…my “New normal”!  For about a month now, I am developing a system that works for me; and have set boundaries and priories for me to get things done in my new role as the Pastoral Leader of our great church. In so doing, I have found the time I need for personal development, spiritual formation, daily physical exercise and, most importantly, private devotion. I thank the Lord for my loving wife and our boys who have never complained about the move’ and who have shown support for this calling upon OUR lives.  I’m so excited and elated to see what the Lord will do in this new work. Admittedly…because I have seen the vision of what the Lord is leading us to…it is quite overwhelming to see HOW He will bring the vision to pass. But I know the the Lord works best in people who realize they cannot do it without Him.

Last week, I JUMPED into the Book of Revelation, and finally developed the spiritual guts to do an exposition through Revelations 2 – 3, on the 7 Churches.  Revelation has always been an intimidating book to me, as it is to most preachers. It is so full of imagery, prophecy, correction, confrontation, sporadic shifts and the like. In 23 years of preaching (preaching about 960 times) , I am pretty sure I’ve never preached from the book of Revelation, even once.  Interestingly, it is the one book in scripture that the Lord promises to bless those who read it.  So here we are.  

Here is an outline of last week’s sermon…

When the Thrill is Gone

Revelation 2:1-7

I. COMMENDATION OF THINGS DONE WELL

a. It was a devoted church (Verse2)
”I know your works.” 

b. It is a disciplined church ”could not bear those who were evil.” (verse 2) 

c. It is a discerning church
‘you have tested those who say they are apostles, and are not, and have found them liars…” (verse 2) 

d. It is a determined church (verse 3)

II. CRITICISM OF WHAT’S GONE WRONG
(Verse 4)

III. COUNSEL ON HOW TO MAKE THINGS RIGHT
(Verses 5-7)

  • REMEMBER 
  • REPENT 
  • REPEAT 

Here is today’s sermon outline…

When Life Gets Rough

Revelation 2:8-11

I. GOD IS BIGGER THAN OUR CIRCUMSTANCES

  • He is the Lasting One 
  • He is the Living One   

II. GOD KNOWS WHERE WE ARE

  • He Knows Our Tribulation   
  • He Knows our Poverty  
  • He Knows the Slander (Verse 9) 

III. GOD MAKES A PROMISE TO US IN OUR SUFFERING

1. Expect It

2. Don’t be scared

  • THE REASON FOR SUFFERING 
  • THE RESTRAINT OF SUFFERING 
  • THE REWARD OF SUFFERING 

 
Ultimately, I believe God was pleased. The mood of both churches is quite different. One deals with a loss of love while the other affirms a promise of suffering and the truth of victory. While it is heavy stuff, I’m convinced that not only is expositional preaching the best preaching method of stretching a church; it is God’s method for stretching the preacher. It is my hope to continue, and conclude this series by the first of the summer.  I am spending this first year getting to know the people of Shiloh, familiarize myself with the community, and gradually present my style and form of leadership, administration and things in between. Truly grateful for gradual, rather than impulsive, growth. My brother, Kevin, has said ‘if it grows fast, it blows fast!’  I concur!  So I am humbled by the work God has assigned to my hands; and I am praying now on His leading and directing us to build that TEAM that will surround the vision He has given to execute His plan for Shiloh. Please keep us in your prayers. I am fully aware that this is no small feat. God is able!

How was your Sunday? What was preacher? I pray you have a great week. Blessings!

My Thoughts on Pastor’s & Social Media

Note: This started as an intentional one-paragraph post for my friends on social media; and turned into not only a word to them; but my thoughts on pastor’s and social media.

The Holy Spirit prompted me last year around this time to do what I am doing now on social media…but I didn’t do it. I just made the change, but made no announcements; and I know that some of my friends noticed the change…with some calling me on it. Here it goes.

I love social media for what it is. It allows me the opportunity to connect with family and friends from afar; and share in laughs, jokes and even events of which I am unable to be apart of, without feeling excluded. Those who know me can attest – I’ve pretty much always been popular; but private in many respects. But something has changed for me over the past couple of years – MY MISSION HAS INTENSIFIED. Now if you know me…you know that I enjoy life. But while my communication, over the years…has become much greater in terms of personal interactions, especially with the people I pastor, getting better with my closest friends, fellow pastors and the like – I’m beginning to see that I CANNOT keep up with all of the group Facebook messages, the “If you really do love me or Jesus, send this message back to me and 4 other people you love” messages, and even group texts and the like. At times, when not responding, people may say “Oh…you’re the pastor of Shiloh now” or “You’re too big now…” Hence, one of the reasons now I know the Holy Spirit was leading me to do this last year…before Shiloh or anything now was even apart of the equation. With or without Shiloh, Mt. Salem or any one thing in particular…my life is about ministry; and more than spending my life on a phone, trying to see what is happening on social media. Now, don’t get me wrong….people who jump to the extreme of saying Pastor’s or Ministers should not be on social media are quite naive. It is a very powerful medium. But I have to use discretion (as I ALWAYS have) as it relates to how I use my time interacting with others on social media. Therefore….when I go LIVE, it is for a purpose… When I am not responding to group or individual messages, I’m probably ministering to my family or the members I pastor. When I am lol’ing or posting something funny on social media…that is even intentional – to provide me an outlet as a Pastor to vent, breath or enjoy people. That is it – I LOVE people. Some things I am just not going to do. I will never like game requests(🙄) or group messages or group texts. That’s not me. But if you need prayer, biblical counsel or even correction, I am here for you. I hope and pray that we see Facebook and other social media outlets for what they are – an opportunity to be SOCIAL, when we WANT to be social. Also note…there are parts and facets to a Pastor’s life (nothing sinful) that everyone just doesn’t need to see or can’t even handle seeing. I agree with my friend H.B. Charles, Jr. who says that “…people don’t need to be reminded that their Pastor is human. They need to be reminded that he is holy.”(Paraphrase)  I concur and strongly agree! The fact is – if we live long enough, the people will eventually receive the reminder that we are, in fact, human beings….just as are they. 

Let me note once more: I’m not AGAINST social media. Can you imagine what Jesus and the Disciples could’ve done with social media? Wow!  After word of mouth, it is the least expensive form of advertisement. But also beware…social media (if you haven’t noticed) leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation, mess, messy individuals, legal ramifications and the like). You can find some great examples in ministry of Spiritual Leaders who are using social media to impact the world for good. I cannot provide a list here; but my aforementioned friend is a place to start. 

I intended this to be a short Facebook post; but I suppose this has mutated into a blog. So while I am here, I would suggest that, while I’m no pastor to other pastors…I would commend us to watch what we expose to others. I get it. People want transparency. People desire their leader and the minister to be vulnerable. And while there are many laypeople who would read my blog and strongly suggest otherwise…I suggest to the pastor that they proceed in this area with caution. This may be true with many; but some cannot handle the pressure of learning their Shepherd BLEEDS. So since I am already sounding like that old pastor we young preachers struggled to listen to at the table…and we only tolerated listening to him because he was paying the bill… let me go a step further. Be careful about what you communicate on social media. Maybe I am old school; but a preacher shouldn’t be using curse words, or even hashtags or letters that obviously equate to a bad word, on social media. Example:sm#h or the like. I would advise that any given pastor does not display so much of their lives or activity on social media. Get this – God blesses you.  Don’t apologize for him doing so.  But just be careful and cautious. I honestly believe it is good to ‘Go live’ with a purpose and when we have a message. I actually would like to go live even more… but i want to make sure I’m not displaying anything vain. My wife and I like to travel occasionally. My concern is – how much of that should be displayed on social media? How many of our members are struggling to make ends meet, who cannot afford or are even in good enough health to go to Disney or take a trip to a beach? Where we go is not the point. My prayer is that we are sensitive to our flock; and those with whom surround our flock. Now….there are certain things for which I have no control over. I absolutely love my new Pastoral office. It actually looks better in person than on video or picture. It’s not as extravagant as many, but is is more than anything I had before. And I’m grateful. I will not apologize when I display what goes on at Shiloh or when I go live. Why? Because I am boasting in the Lord, what God has given Shiloh and the labor of my predecessor. And…the fact is, that’s Shiloh’s property, not mine! I am just simply suggesting that we be very careful. 

I don’t even have to tell you there are enemies of yours who are looking for just one thing to use against you. 

Now….I’ve always been the kind of person (because of older brothers) who didn’t have to go through something to pick up warning signs, take precautions or go in another direction. I haven’t had to deal with issues I am certain many pastor’s have dealt with regarding stalkers, people with wrong intentions, hackers and the like. The Lord has blessed me! Also….I “keep to myself”.  I am a social butterfly like my mother; but I know how to let people go so far, like my father. Boy, has this blessed me. Have people hurt me in LIFE? Of course, I’m a pastor and I love people; and sheep BITE. But I dare not equate social media people with my “life” people. My family, friends and the people I pastor know where to find me, how to get a hold of me and I know their intentions; and they know mine. But I must be honest….I don’t personally know my 4100 plus Facebook friends. I am certain there’s atleast a few who don’t have God’s business in mind. 

I hope to possibly share this in a live video in the near future; for those who need clarity. Again…I am not a counselor or teacher to pastor’s. I’m just a fellow-traveler. I hope and pray this is helpful; and hopefully you will do what the Lord leads you to do. I will post this to my blog, rather than as a Facebook post. Prayerfully you will see how this blog is different in the sense it was never intended to be that, but hopefully helpful. Again, I will try to follow up with a live video to share my thoughts concerning this. I welcome your thoughts.  

Pastoring, Fathering…the Journey

Whenever I come to the end of another year, I often find myself in reflection.  Today, I came across some old emails and files from my first church, Cornerstone Baptist Church of Pearland.  As I began to reflect, as I sometimes do…I can have a mixture of emotions.  Most of them good, some not so good.  For the most part, I am the one who would take responsibility for the not so good parts.  Today…I likened my pastoral experience to my experience as a Dad.  I’ve pastored 3 congregations. I am the father to 3 sons.  My first church (Cornerstone) is somewhat like my eldest son Kai.  When I think about Cornerstone, I think of how (as with my son Kai) I didn’t know a thing about pastoring.  I was so green, naive, dumb and inexperienced.  As I look back and reflect, it is humiliating to even think of my silly ways.  Now for me, these foolish things did not consist of any kind of scandal such as indescretions, embezzlement and the like.  I refer to things like time management, dealing with people and their problems, pastoral care, communication, temperament, patience, financial decisions, diplomacy, leadership and the like.  Even in preaching – I go back and read some of my notes and ask, “Why did I say that?”  I remember once doing a series on relationships.  I discussed everything from Affair-proofing your marriage to Keeping the Fire in your marriage burning.  Sounds good?  Maybe… But I didn’t even think to consider having childcare available so that the adults could safeguard their children from the topic.  Just dumb.  It sounds very logical now; but I didn’t learn the lesson, save through trial and error.  I could go on and on.  But in the same way, I parallel my first church with my eldest son, Kai.  I was 28 in 2005 when I began pastoring my first church; but I was only 24 when D’Ani gave birth to Kai, my and our first child.  We had been married only 3 years (at 21), and here I was in seminary, barely able to support a wife; and here is Kai.  I fell in love with him at first sight.  But I had no idea what to do beyond that.  Some of it came naturally, because I had a great example in my father, and D’Ani seemed like a pro.  But I was as nervous and confused as all get out.  Kai had nothing to reference, so he didn’t know any better.  But I was struggling so much with a job on staff at a church, trying to make it through seminary; and learning how to manage finances as the head of a household…I look back and wish I had savored more moments with my boy, when it was only he and I.  Again…it may not have been anything dramatic (such as abuse, neglect, etc), but it was big to me.  Now that he is 13, I look back on that time, as I do my first church…and know that if I knew then what I know now, I would have been a better pastor and father to them both.

In 2011, I became the pastor of Mt. Salem.  Boy…that was a sweet time.  Seminary was over.  I’d survived the rough years of trying to learn Cornerstone.  I was completing a Chaplain residency at Harris Health, in Houston; and finances were quite a bit better.  In fact, the year was so good, we traveled to Disney World in the summer with the boys, and then to the Chicago-area for my brother’s installation and then to Hawaii in the fall.  The financial struggles, as it relates to church-life, were somewhat in our rear view mirror.  I shifted from doing a little bit of everything at Cornerstone (cleaning, running off the bulletins, etc) to Mt. Salem, where they had learned to function a year without a pastor.  Mt.  Salem continued to grow steadily; they were okay with my commute; D’Ani was just fine with my commuting there for mid-week; the boys saw it as a field trip on Sundays; and everyone was happy.  Because of my trials and errors in trying to learn a new church and young people at Cornerstone (predominantly young adults), my greatest joy and challenge was learning a 140-year old congregation like Mt. Salem.  Because Mt. Salem had been through her own storm before I arrived, and I had  challenges at our first church – we pretty much appreciated one another.  Mt. Salem was simply a breath of fresh air.  I cannot think of a time I pulled up to Mt. Salem and didn’t smile.  I loved it; and fell in love with the people.  I was 33…so a little more laid back than I was at 28.  Because I was so ambitious and the young adults in my first church had much more energy, I appreciated the laid back persona surrounding Mt. Salem.  I absolutely loved it.  I literally saw how everything I had experienced at Cornerstone, prepared me for Mt. Salem.  Of course, like any older congregation, there were challenges with moving the church forward…  But I have always assumed I was pastor; and because of my wisdom (along with being more patient than in my 20’s) there were things I was just not led to do or change.  I now know why-that wasn’t why God called me there!!!  Ultimately, I would not have even appreciated Mt. Salem, had it not been for my first church.  In like manner, when D’Ani gave birth to Kaden (our second-born son), we were 28.  I had started back at seminary after taking a semester or so off.  We were still fledgling as a church, at Cornerstone.  But overall, things were okay.  I’d learned a little bit about fathering, so Kaden had it a little better.  Of course, Kaden was a force to be reckoned with; and still is.  His temperament was nothing like Kai’s.  Kai needed only a television or a video game.  His love language was and is gifts.  You can put him in a room with things or gadgets and he was fine.  Kaden?  He needed someone in the room with him; and his love language was and is quality time.  Just like any given church, every child is different.  And in like manner, I learned things with Kaden that were diametrically opposite of what I learned with Kai.  Fortunately, all of these things worked together in harmony, to simply make me a better father and spiritual leader.  

Now…early in 2016 I was happy.  I had absolutely no complaints, on my end.  Other than the wear and tear on my vehicles, we were okay.  Unlike 2011, in 2016 I was no longer a resident at Harris Health, but a Staff Chaplain with a nice salary and full benefits and retirement.  One of my uncles had mentioned to me an opening at Shiloh in Fort Worth, a church I knew nothing about.  I had only known of their pastor, Dr. Albert E. Chew, Jr.; and had met him only once when I was a teenager at a winter board meeting; and knew of his recent retirement and passing.  My uncle said that it was ‘a great church’ and suggested I send in my resume and biography, something I didn’t do often (Mt. Salem nor Cornerstone ever saw a resume!).  I did; and left it at that.  After all…in some sense, I had sort of ‘arrived’: Nice incomes, D’Ani with a great job that she loved; wonderful anniversary every March; and a church family that we loved.  All was well!  Fast -forward, after a national search…I was eventually called to Shiloh in Fort Worth.  Totally unexpected!!!  And I honestly believe that this is my last stop.  I’m not moving anymore…Lord willing!  I’ve discovered that SHILOH IS THE GREATEST CHURCH IN THE WORLD (no joke); and we have fallen in love with the people!!! Now that I am done with seminary, am 38…been married for almost 2 decades, pastoring over a decade and the like – I am much more patient, considerate, pastoral, responsibile and the like.  I can see, just as before…how the young days of Cornerstone and the experience of Mt. Salem balanced me out to lead the people of Shiloh over the next several decades.  Like Shiloh, our baby Karter was totally unexpected.  Between Kaden and him, we had lost 2; and had concluded we were probably done.  We were thanking God for 2 healthy, vibrant and smart boys!  But God had other plans!!!  We can pinpoint the days of conception with our first 2; but Karter?  I just know he is mine; and he wasn’t planned!  

Here is why I’m sharing all of this.  As I look and see how affectionate, patient, considerate and expressive I am with Karter, I can sometimes be taken aback and saddened by how I was a little rough, non-affectionate, inpatient or non-expressive with Kaden and more with Kai or with Cornerstone and Mt. Salem.  Life has just slowed me down.  I’m a better man now. I’m more prayerful. I’m in less of a rush.  I’ve learned what can wait and what cannot.  I’ve learned how to choose my battles and when to proceed with caution.  I’ve learned how to give people a hug and tell them I love them and when to wisely tell a person who is toxic in our church to shape up or get out.  I’m literally a sharper cat.  And then I think – it was all of that (including Kai, Kaden, my losses, struggles in seminary and the like) which prepared me for who I am NOW, in this very moment!  And then I’m grateful…that while I think I’m getting older (almost 40)….God used all of that and has brought me to a special place in my life at 38.  Romans 8:28 comes to mind – that God uses all of these things as a ‘working together’…  Nothing is wasted; and God can use even our trials, tests and experiences as treasure to propel us to our next level of purpose, greatness and His pleasure. 

It is my hope and prayer that those who read my blog can see the good that emanates out of all of the trials of your life, and specifically 2016.  That when He brings in the unexpected, we will not only appreciate what He brings; but rejoice over what He gave us before – and know that it was all apart of His ultimate plan. God bless you and keep you.  I am convinced that, if I do my part, the best I is yet to come.  I pray and believe the same for you!

Sunday @ Shiloh

God be praised for another Lord’s Day!

This past Sunday, I turned to John 1:14, and explored Christ’s deity, incarnation, God’s grace and His glory.  The Sermon Title was, “The Christ of Christmas”.  The older I get, the more I am falling in love with not only biblical exposition, but story-telling and preaching Christian doctrine.  I am heavily leaning towards taking time each year just going through our doctrine and “What We Believe” in the Christian Faith.  I enjoyed the preaching moment, so much so, that I found myself in celebration…and lost my voice!  

Humbled and grateful that attendance at Shiloh is steadily growing; and the Lord is adding to our church family. Really excited about a young couple who joined at the conclusion of the message.  Later in the evening, a group of people from our church sponsored a Christmas sing-along. It was a fun time!

During the course of this week, I am trying to catch up on a number of things as we conclude 2016; and prepare for the coming year.  I am very excited about so many open doors that lie ahead; but realize that the closing of old chapters can be emotional and challenging.  At the age of 38, I can only hope and pray that we all learn from where we’ve been; use it to become better where we are; and glorify our Lord in the midst of it all.

                                                                                     

Sunday at Shiloh & Week in Review

God be praised for another Lord’s Day and another week of ministry. 

On Sunday, December 11th, I continued my exposition through Luke chapter 1.  Specifically, I made an attempt to cover Luke 1:38, 46-55
and used the title: “When Life Throws the Unexpected”.  Ultimately, I believe the Lord was pleased with my handling of the scriptures; and in turn, He smiled upon our time around His Word.  We are simply living in a time where the Preacher is not afforded the luxury of being sloppy with their treatment of the Scripture.  It must be cut straight, leaving the temptation to mishandle the communication of what God is saying and a cleaving to simply preach the text that we read. We are not called upon to smooth off the rough edges of God’s Word.  We are called, like salt, to pour it out and pass it on.  Since I am here, the Scripture admonishes is to preach 3 things: Preach The Word, Preach Christ and Preach the Gospel.

During the course of this past week, I have had a number of meetings that have been both challenging yet very encouraging. In many ways, I am seeing that Shiloh, as a whole, has a desire to move forward.  It is my job as Pastor, to not only affirm, insure and inspire us toward that end, but also to bear in mind that change (for anyone) can be challenging, emotional and difficult. It is Pastor’s job to relish the past, but he must remain sensitive; and provide a healthy balance or respect the past while prayerfully, gracefully and deliberately moving the ship forward. Thank God for my ministry at Mt. Salem and also my first job out of college, at Pleasant Hill in Houston. Like every facet of my life has played an integral part of where I am today, Pleasant Hill and my ministry at Mt. Salem…prepared me to be the successor of a giant in the faith to the likes of Albert E. Chew, Jr., and standing at the helm of one of the greatest and most prominent congregations in Fort Worth.  Please keep Shiloh MB Church in your prayers.  I’ll say this – I’m excited about 2017 in the life of Shiloh and in my own life personally. I remain prayerful and humbled that God didn’t forget about all of the lonely moments, sacrifices in ministry, the Church-hurt and my attempt to live an exemplary (not perfect) life in private and public.  I’m grateful. 

How has your week been?

Please lift my hometown of Corpus Christi in prayer. They are dealing with a water issue’ and are asked to refrain from the use of tap water. I am praying for them, along with the safety of people who are expeirenceing incement weather around our country’ and all of the homeless people who ha e no shelter. I pray everyone has an outstanding weekend!

Blessings!

Sunday at Shiloh

What a journey this has been!

2577006675_b5dd38dca6Admittedly, the road I’ve been treading has been bittersweet.  Leaving my old life and people, where everything was great, along with all of the things that come with being apart of a new assignment, have been bitter.  In juxtaposition, experiencing a fresh new season of life, relationships and the realization of God’s promises…have been sweet!  My difficulties in preaching, pastoral ministry and in life amid remaining faithful have truly prodded me to stop and thank the Lord for every facet and aspect of my new journey.

Shiloh has been phenomenal.  Let me be more specific – the PEOPLE of Shiloh have been phenomenal.  As I have been in a constant haze as to why and how God sent me to them; I am certain they have their own set of mixed emotions.  This is only natural and to be expected.  The loss of their leader only one year ago; the expectations of someone of his caliber;  many’s uncertainty of “where do I fit with this new guy?”; and wondering how things will look moving forward – are actually all LEGITIMATE concerns for those of us who are human.  But in the midst of this, the people have made this transition much easier.  All of the ministers, deacons, leaders and members have been encouraging; even those who have quietly shown their support through their presence; and looking me over.  As I tell them, I am looking them over as well.  The common thrust is that I believe they love Christ; and I think they may feel the same towards me.  Therefore, we can love one another through Him.

On October the 2nd, I began a 7-week series entitled, “The Journey Begins…the Legacy Continues.”  This series concluded on November 13, 2016.  After that, I took a couple of weeks to preach on Giving Thanks:

November 20, 2016: “What to do in the Meantime”, Romans 1:8-15
November 27, 2016: “The Supernatural Power of Human Gratitude”, Luke 17:11-17

Now that we are in Advent, I am simply preaching a series of sermons from Luke 1.  On Sunday, December 4, 2016. I tried my best to deal with Luke 1:26-38; entitling the sermon, “When God Doesn’t Make Sense.”  My hope is to begin live streaming our services, posting our messages and expanding our distribution of sermons in early 2017.  Please keep us in this regard.  In short, it had been a very busy week before Sunday.  I have been going nonstop since my first Sunday in September.  I had a couple of meetings on Saturday, as well.  I found myself finishing up my sermon into 1am or so, Sunday morning.  I laid down Sunday morning after 2am; and woke up when my wife said, “It’s time for you to get up.”  She was dressed!!!  I was so tired, I almost asked one of our associates to prepare to stand and preach.  I didn’t do it.  After making it through salutations and all, I just preached; and God spoke through me.  God took my few notes; and breathed upon me, us and the message.  Interestingly, I got happy toward the end.  Shiloh does communion a little differently than many congregations.  It is really on another level.  I think I’ve done communion over a hundred times.  After everyone had been served by the deacons, I began to serve the deacons before the deaconesses on the front row (lol).  I said to myself, “Kraig…go home and take a nap!”  We made it through; and worship was stellar.  Followed by meetings, I was able to try out a new restaurant with Dee and the boys; go to a place we like called Marble Slab; and made it home and went to sleep.  Although I missed several calls, texts and messages; and also my plan to attend a meeting with our Young Adults….the Lord assured me the world would not end because I took a nap; and that all of the people who needed me, didn’t need me as much as I may have thought they did.

In short, I had a great Lord’s Day.  Now that things are beginning to settle down, my hope is to continue to flesh out my thoughts in writing.  It is my additional hope and prayer that this will be of some benefit to someone who reads.  I hope and pray that you are blessed during the course of your week; and that you find a lesson and message every day of your life, in something.  Anything.  If this has been helpful to you, please share with someone else.

He’s Looking At You

Over the course of this past week, I have had the opportunity to fellowship with several Pastors and Leaders within Shiloh and in the city of Fort Worth. This has been a tall feat; but ultimately the rewards of such have outweighed and minimized the task altogether. But I must admit…the highlight of my week began on the 2nd Sunday. While in my office, talking to several church leaders before the start of Worship, the phone rang in my office. I answered!  Someone asked, “Hello, is the new Pastor of Shiloh preaching this morning?”  My response: “I believe he is. If he is not preaching, I’ve not received the memo!”  As it so happens, the person asking the question happened to be the assistant of one of my preaching heroes, Pastor Isadore Edwards. He is the Pastor Emeritus of the New Rising Star Baptist Church of Fort Worth; having served there as Pastor for over 40 years. He and my predecessor, Dr. Albert Emmit Chew, Jr. were very good friends. Interestingly, I’d learned a few weeks earlier that Pastor Chew helped to found New Rising Star, and was responsible for Pastor Edwards’ going there and serving as Pastor there. As I had heard around town…Pastor Edwards wanted to hear me preach; and had intentions of stopping by Shiloh to hear me. He wasted no time!  As service began, he came in with several preachers, sat on the front row and quietly listened in as I preached. 

My Sermon for the day came out of Romans 15:1-7. The title: Let’s Stay Together. 

For some reason, God has wasted no time leading me to deal with some very intense passages of scripture during the opening weeks of my time at Shiloh. This sermon was about unity and living in harmony as fellow-believers, amid our varying distinctions, preferences and ideologues.  I was on-edge regarding the message.  The presence of Pastor Edwards, I admit, intensified my internal tensions and prayers. 

Earlier in the week, I received a call from one of the deacons at New Rising Star, stating Pastor Edwards enjoyed the message, and his affirmation that I was a gifted student of God’s Word; and that he would like to have lunch. I was informed that Pastor Edwards, who is now 90, has good days and bad days; and that he may not talk much, but still has his memory and enjoys good fellowship. 

As we dined together, I had an interesting discourse with Pastor Edwards. 

I told him how pleased I was to have had him in service; and admitted to him I was nervous, after listing him as one of my favorite preachers growing up. That’s not hyperbole. He was, and still is!!!

Here’s what followed….

Him: Why were you nervous? Me: Because as I was preaching, I could look out right in front of me, and see you. Him: Can’t you see Jesus in front of you while you preach? Me: yessir, but I’m not looking at him physically. Him: You can believe He’s looking at YOU!

I was floored and speechless!  He got me!!!  Jesus is looking at me. 

Whether it is my character; my witness; my preaching or leading God’s Precious people; leading my family or my personal devotion – He is looking at me!!!

In the midst of his seasoned years and waning strength, God used Pastor Edwards, to reassure and afffirm His all-seeing eye is on me, as it was on Pastor Edwards’ old friend, Pastor Albert E. Chew, Jr. God knew exactly what I needed, when I needed it most; and I am grateful for the angels (messengers) He sends along the way, to remind me of His constant presence in my life and ministry. 

My Sunday & God’s Strength

A few months ago, I ran across a letter I had written to Dec. Cephus Clifton in February of 2011. A few weeks prior, I received a unanimous call to serve as Mt. Salem Baptist Church of Victoria’s 10th Pastor in their 139-Year history as a local congregation. In essence, my letter said, “I can’t do this!” I went on to express that what Mt. Salem needed, I could not realistically fulfill. I conveyed my gratitude to him and the entire congregation for considering me, and placing their vote of confidence in my serving as their spiritual leader; and that I would be praying for them in the days, weeks and months to follow. The context of my letter entailed my assessment of all of the hurt, difficulty and challenge that the congregation had experienced. In light of their journey, I overwhelmingly sensed that I was inadequate as their next shepherd. Moreover, all of the challenges in Mt. Salem made me come to appreciate what my congregation back at home had going for itself. I began to second-guess myself. I began to have a change of heart. I began to think God made a misstep. So I wrote the letter. 

I never sent the letter! 

For the record, I am glad that I did not send the letter. 

Fast-Forward five and a half years later. I’m sitting in the restroom of my hotel on a Saturday night, crying. In the morning I would stand and tell the people I had fallen in love with as Pastor, that I had been called to serve as the next Pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. Further, that I believed it was God’s will for me to go. 

 

On Sunday morning…I tried my best to make my way through my continuing exposition of Psalm 23. To be completely honest, I’m not clear on what I said in the message. To make matters worse, my distractions caused me to leave my notes and manuscript of my sermon at home.  Because I had already informed those who were at Bible Study on Wednesday of my call; and that I had not officially accepted, but was praying…the crowd was more somber than usual. Mt. Salem is not an overly-boisterous crowd; and so the silence could have been anything at all. But I think both them and I were awaiting the announcement of my decision. No one in the room, except D’Ani, knew what my decision would be.

After church, we had a ‘church meeting.’ I told them that I believed God was speaking; and instructing me to serve as the Pastor of Shiloh. Again…I cannot recall what I said after that. What I saw were the faces of the people I had come to know and love.  I saw the faces of young people I had baptized, counseled, comforted and even rebuked. I saw their tears. It took everything in me not to cry. Since I had already cried and had my moments the day before, I was able to make it through. Eventually, I led us in a word of prayer (I think); and then that was it. 

And there it is. And there I was. Obedient to God; broken before His people….  The people I felt I couldn’t lead 5 years before, I didn’t want to leave. 

For five years, God has taught me how to love and experience the love from a congregation through Mt. Salem. He has shown me what forgiveness, healing and transformation looks like. I have seen a group of people who were hurting love me and my family in a way I had never seen before. And I will always have a special place in my heart for Mt. Salem. I’ve concluded…God makes no missteps! He knows what He is doing; and He knows where He wants us. How Shiloh even came up is clearly God’s ordered steps… I’ll share that another time. But, to be sure, God knows what He is doing!

Over the next thirty (30) days, my family and I will make the transition from Houston-Victoria to North Texas. While I am looking forward to the next chapter of my life and ministry; and the people of Shiloh await us…my heart still lingers for the people of Mt. Salem. In turn, God has prepared my heart for the people of Shiloh; as He is also preparing the heart of my successor for the people of Mt. Salem. For this I am humbled and grateful. Please keep my family, Mt. Salem and the Shiloh Church in your prayers. God is faithful!

Enjoying the Process (Pastoring)

I began pastoring my first church in March of 2005. At 26 years of age, married with a 2-year old son, I had absolutely no idea what it took to pastor or lead a congregation. Because I had been preaching since the age of 15; and the youngest son of a pastor…I thought I knew. But Bible College and seminary training did not prepare me for what I would encounter at 26. The Lord blessed me to preach almost every Sunday for four years, where I served as the Minister of Christian Education. My pastor let me preach each Sunday to the people in his congregation during the early service there. But my four years of preaching did not quite prepare me for what I would experience in pastoral ministry. Too often we can make the mistake of thinking we can handle certain functions because it either looks easy, or it seems as if we have all of the appropriate answers for any given situation. Even now, Donald Trump’s rhetoric will change regarding some of his promises if he were to receive the vote of the American people and actually become the President of the United States. This same truth applies to Hillary Clinton as well. 

 

By far, pastoring has been one of the most difficult tasks in my own life. Being the husband of D’Ani seems easy. Being the father of Kai, Kaden and Karter….well, that’s another story. But I digress!

 

Going back to my first pastorate…it was a new church! The pressure of starting a new work (specifically, a ‘cold start’) is second to none. It is one thing to start a new church that is branching off from another congregation (either a split or from a sponsoring church), it is something altogether different to start from scratch. No money. No building. No sponsors. No members! Just….a dream…

 

As I reflect, I would have done quite a few things differently. If I had pastored my SECOND church FIRST, I would have saved myself some of the trials I faced along the way; and I would have become more appreciative of the things that come with a new ministry that you are forced to endure in the old. It being my first church, and the church I started…it became my baby. Consequently, I didn’t give away enough of the ministry to others. I carried the bulk of the burden, particularly financially, upon myself and my family. When the church struggled, it fell upon me and my family. This, of course, is the price we pay for ministry. The ultimate hurt is when the church does well; and some wonder why those who’ve sacrificed are benefactors of that blessing. Ultimately, I should have been doing better financially, already finished seminary and prepared to carry the finances of the church, with or without anything in return. Ultimately, I loved Cornerstone in a way that I will never adequately describe; and the people of Cornerstone loved me and my family in a way that cannot be put into words. Not a day passes that I don’t think about and have fond memories for, “My First Church.” 

 

In my second pastorate…I was at a different place in my life: 6 years later; over a decade-long marriage; 3 children…seminary degree complete; nice chaplaincy job in Houston. Things were better for us personally. I was learning so much in the chaplaincy about pastoral care, ministering to hurting people and specializing with those who were mentally ill, along with a specialization in AIDS/HIV patients…my preaching and my ministry to the people to whom I was pastoring was transformed. In a real sense, the issues I would encounter in my current pastorate paled in comparison to the many of the issues I’d faced in the hospital (at Ben Taub in Houston). AGAIN….I am certain I’ve made mistakes along the way. I often wonder how effective I’ve been as a bi-vocational and commuting pastor. I have often wondered how many more relationships I could have cultivated in the city and at my own church had I not been on the road, or been so busy in my travels. At other times, I am amazed at how God has blessed our congregation; and how far we’ve come spiritually and in many other ways, since my arrival over 5 years ago. The challenges I had in my first pastorate were different from the challenges in my current. My greatest challenge (as I reflect) has been being an agent of change. In an older congregation, especially Baptist…not everyone is welcoming toward change. This is just a reality. As strange as it seems…I knew this by the time I came into my congregation at Mt. Salem. I knew (as I do now) that change must be gradual; and that patience is a powerful virtue. For example, I waited an entire year before starting a praise team. When I eventually did, I didn’t call is a ‘praise team.’ I called it the “A.L. Randon Ensemble”, named after the longest-tenured pastor of our church. The term “praise team” can be threatening to some who know nothing but choirs in the “old church”. And, for the same demographic, ‘praise team’ and ‘praise dance’ are one and the same. 

 

Over the years, I’ve gradually implemented change….at a much slower rate than I either have wanted or anticipated. But the most important thing (atleast in my context and in light of our church’s history before I arrived) that the Holy Spirit impressed upon me was for UNITY to remain in our congregation. For this to occur, I could not and cannot have one generation competing against another. This would have brought in a busload of new, young people. Because of my experience, I know how to get that demographic in the building… But I will never forget my pastor telling me that much of pastoring is about the “managing of many personalities”. In this instance, it is not just about gaining new people; but about resisting the need to damage the faith of some mother in the church who has been apart of the same congregation for 50 years. Make no mistake…change MUST occur. And I am not suggesting that any given pastor should stunt their growth to cater to the midget-mindset of an individual who is centered on self and convenience. I am simply saying that pastors should be sensitive in not burning bridges to get to the next town. In this case, PEOPLE are our bridges! 

I know that my blog is long and it seems as if I am rambling. But there is a method to my madness. I do have a point. In a few weeks I will celebrate 38 years of life. My point is: ALL of this has been a part of my journey. I would not have been as sensitive to the feelings of others at Mt. Salem if I had not gone through some of the backlash of not consulting anyone and just moving, at my first church. I would have not been as prepared for the journey personally and in my own financial life for my second church, if I had not gone through some of the financial struggles in starting a church in my mid-20’s while in seminary, after leaving my job at a church to start that new work in ministry. 

 

Here’s my ultimate point: ENJOY THE PROCESS. And LEARN from the process. LEARN to manage WHERE YOU ARE with gratitude and humility. Don’t take for granted that God is at work. EVERY SINGLE THING has led me to where I am at this very moment. God has blessed me tremendously! 

 

Spiritually – I’m growing.

Domestically – I am married to the woman of my dreams, with 3 healthy boys who are active, smart and growing in their knowledge of Who Christ is.

Financially – I’m not a millionaire; but I have everything I need, and much of what I desire (I don’t desire much!)

 

Ultimately…I am enjoying the process! My encouragement to someone reading this blog is for you to enjoy the process as well. Stop listening to the voices of the enemy. I have this voice that likes to remind me of much I have not accomplished at 37. “You’ve done this and you’ve been there….BUT…”

Get this: I am where God wants me to be. My job is to do the BEST with what I am given; and to remain faithful; and to BLOOM where I am PLANTED. I am doing that; and I am grateful!!! This is my continual prayer for me, my family and for you. 

 

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