3 Years Ago Today

It’s hard to believe, but today I will celebrate the third anniversary of being called as pastor of First Bethany Baptist Church. Three years since I stood before the congregation and rejoiced as we started our journey together. It’s been a privilege and and honor… each and every day since.

I am still the guy who pinches himself from time to time to make sure that it is real.

I remember thinking, back when my home church asked me to teach Sunday school, how much of an honor it was. And also how that I would love to do that for a very long time. Never would I have believed that the Lord would lead me from there to where we are today. God is good!

To my wonderful family. Thank you so much for your love and support. I couldn’t ask for better “partners” in the ministry. This journey would not be possible without each of you. I am excited to see how the Lord is not only working in you, but working through you today… from singing specials during the worship time, to helping with children’s church, to leading and preaching about missions, to helping me lead the youth group on Wednesday nights… it is a blessing for any pastor to not only have the love and support of his family, but to and see them serving the Lord actively around him. For that, and many other reasons, I love and appreciate you very much! I am especially thankful to my lovely bride, without her support, none of this would be remotely possible.

I love you guys very much

To my First Bethany church family, you have been a tremendous blessing to me and my family. Neither of us are perfect, but I appreciate your love and care for me and my family more than you will ever know. I appreciate the heart that you have to reach the lost in this world for Jesus even more.

You are truly a blessing to me.

In January, we will take some time on a Sunday morning to recap the last 3 years and cast some vision for 2018. But I wanted to take a moment to briefly speak about it here. I can’t wait to see what the Lord will do in 2018.

In all honesty, that first Sunday that I stood behind the pulpit as your pastor, I had no idea what to do and how to lead you. I was still getting my feet under me and learning how to be a senior pastor (something that I am still trying to learn to do). But the Lord was gracious and led us to (and through) the book of Acts.

The idea was that if we could just capture a bit of the passion and knowledge that this first church had, if we could just know what they knew and do what they did, then we would change this world for Christ! From that, a ministry model was born:

Scholarship – Worship – Fellowship – Outreach…. A simple idea taken from a passage of Scripture in the book of Acts:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.
Acts 2:42

We have worked hard ever since to make sure that every ministry and every event in the life of our church falls into one of these 4 categories. I feel that we have been successful in this. And we have recently augmented this idea by asking the deacons to each pray for and serve one of these ministry areas in our church.

That was year one.

In year two, we undertook the the task of examining the doctrine of Southern Baptists, the denomination of which we belong. It was a great journey of which I am still thankful for. I think we need to keep this doctrine in front of us as the world continually tries to convince us to forget it.

Our doctrine of derived directly from the Word of God, may we never waiver in our adherence to the Word, even under the tremendous pressure of this world!

If you are still unfamiliar with, or need to be reminded of what (and why) we believe. Use this link below:

http://www.sbc.net/bfm2000/bfm2000.asp

That was year two.

Now that we had a ministry model, and we had a greater understanding of what we believe; it was time to take action. Year three took us to the book of Romans and to the following Mission Statement:

Know God – have a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, give your life to Him as Lord.

Grow – grow in your walk with the Lord; deepen your relationship with him through worship, Bible study, and prayer.

Go – based on the Great Commission; go into all the world and tell them the Good News that Jesus saves!

Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18

Even though year three has just come to a close, I feel that we have taken the teachings of Romans to heart; we have continued to embrace the Mission. First Bethany has always been great at missions, but this year the Lord has led us to continue to push forward with emphasis on things like:

  • Our continued service to Forest View Manor every month
  • Our increased attention to the area of Disaster Relief
  • Our strong missions giving, both regularly and to special offerings
  • Our regular fundraising for missions projects and sending at least one summer missionary out each of the last three summers
  • Our current project to reach the community around us through replacing smoke detectors
  • Our prayer partnership with a #SendBoston church plant in Dartmouth, Mass.
  • The upcoming mission trip to New England, on which we have placed 5 team members (see picture below)

These will be the legacy of year three.

Looking forward into year 4, it’s going to be all about leadership. I have prayed and the Lord is leading me to preach through the books of 1 and 2 Samuel….

I can’t wait to see what the Lord will do!

Finally, on a personal note, thank you again for your love and support of my and my family. It means the world to me. We are very blessed to have each and every one of you. From us to you, we love you!

(Sorry Wesley, I guess we need to get a new picture in front of the church with you in it)

“May the Lord bless you and protect you; may the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; may the Lord look with favor on you and give you peace.” ’
Numbers 6:24‭-‬26

What Is God Calling You To Sacrifice?

How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? … – Romans 10:14a

The summer of 2006 was approaching and I was weighing plans for the family in my mind; trying to decide how to spend the few precious days of vacation time that I had earned from work. Those vacation days were (and still are) very precious to me and I wanted to make sure that I used them well. Never mind that I was also running a business on the side at the time… we were busy for sure!

It was already hard to decide what to do and where to go.; and then something remarkable happened. One Sunday, our pastor (we had just started attending our “home” church in late 2004) mentioned that our church was going to take a trip that summer to a small town in Mississippi to help a church rebuild from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

In that moment, I began to consider something that I had never thought of before.

I had never been on a mission trip, but what if God was calling our family to sacrifice our summer vacation to join Him in helping those in need? What if His summer plans for us included something much more than sand, water, amusements parks, bad hotels, and the like? What if He was sending us on a mission and this was His invitation?

“If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.” C.T. Studd

It was not long after that that our family was sitting in a living room pondering this option… my wife was on board, the kids soon followed… and the Alexanders decided that the beach could wait! It was not an easy decision, not back then, and we may still find ourselves wrestling from time to time with some of the same questions. But I can tell you that this trip changed my life and the life of our family

We ended up spending a very hot, very humid week in Pascagoula, a town that I had only ever heard mentioned in an old song about a squirrel and a church. It was one of the most physically demanding yet spiritually nourishing weeks of my life. I thank God that He invited us, and that we listened.

“The mark of a great church is not its seating capacity, but its sending capacity.”Mike Stachura

I have come to not only value the opportunity to “go” on mission, but also to desire it greatly. There has not been a summer since 2005 that I have not been somewhere with some church on mission. I say that not to attempt place myself under your esteem, but only to mention that my vacation days from work have NOT really increased that much since then. And pastoring a church is much busier than running a business.

My point is clear and it is one of challenge: What is God calling you to sacrifice so that you can join Him on mission?

Not everyone can go, not every time… but we should all be “on mission”!

In order to help you, as my church family, I want to detail a couple of upcoming opportunities for you to prayerfully consider… I would love for you to join me in one of these efforts:

1) Prayer – it is the single most important thing that you can do for missions. Pray for the mission teams’ safety, health, and (most importantly) effectiveness for the Gospel!

2) One Day – On Tuesday November 7, South Carolina Baptists will be on mission, serving the city of Columbia, SC in the name of Jesus. Volunteers will join local churches and ministries to support the work being done in their communities. I have more details…. Please see me to sign up.

3) Mission Dartmouth (a.k.a. The EBA Boston Area Mission Trip) – On Dec 1st – 4th, the churches of the EBA will travel for an extended weekend to Dartmouth, Mass to assist our church planting partners (SouthCoast Church) with ministry. The really cool thing is that most of the cost for this trip is being covered by a grant; so your part is actually quite low. And even that should not discourage you from signing up. I will be leading this trip and would love for you to join me. This is your invitation! Sign up ends on October 31st.

In all this, please know that I love and appreciate every one of you. Whether you can participate in one or all three of these items that does not change. Yet, I would love to see you and your family be blessed by such an effort in the same way we were (and are). Please be in prayer over these opportunities.

I love you all,

Pastor John

Hurricane Relief – Day of Prayer – and What can we do?

On Friday, September 1st, the President of the United States declared that this Sunday (Sep 3rd) would be a national day of prayer in honor of Texans and others affected by Hurricane Harvey.

“From the beginning of our nation, Americans have joined together in prayer during times of great need to ask for God’s blessing and God’s guidance. When we look across Texas and Louisiana, we see the American spirit of service embodied by countless men and women…. We invite all Americans to join us as we continue to pray for those who have lost family members and friends, and for those who are suffering from this great crisis.” – President Trump

The President made this declaration while meeting with leaders from the North American Mission Board (NAMB), the Red Cross, and the Salvation Army. Despite any political differences that we may hold, I think we can all agree that this is an appropriate response to a great crisis that we are facing in our country. But not everyone agrees.

The thing is, anytime we state a position as a leader, there will always be those that make it their mission to be critical. It happens to our president, it has happened to all of our past presidents at one time or another … it even happens within the church.

I have heard some say that we, as Southern Baptists, are only helping disaster victims so that we can share the gospel with the people affected. While it is true that our primary mission is to share the love of Jesus with those whom we are serving… and that we strive to demonstrate that in speech and in deed … it isn’t the only reason we do so.

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ – Matthew 25:40

2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2

10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked. 11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” – Luke 3:10-11

We serve others because it is the right thing to so…. Because God has asked us to… He expects us to… He wants to bless us through the process. And if the only criticism that we receive is that we are helping so that we can share the Gospel… then so be it. I will take that criticism all day long!

So what are we doing to help… I am glad you asked:

  1. We are being patient – the Send Relief chapter of NAMB has asked us to be patient while they set up locations and projects for Disaster Relief teams. We will do so.
  2. We are praying – we will pray consistently for those who are in need.
  3. We are giving – the most immediate way to give is to text SENDRELIEF to 41444. Our youth group is collecting funds on Wednesday nights. There will also be future opportunities to give in other ways.
  4. We will go – there will be multiple opportunities to go. Start praying now that you may be able to go when the time comes.

I love you all – Pastor John

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It’s Time To Raise The Bar

✳️ disclaimer: This post is primarily meant for my church members, however, it would also apply across most ministerial lines. I pray that you receive it in the spirit and the heart in which it was written.

I have not been in the ministry very long by most standards: Officially, I am in my sixth year on staff with the local church; unofficially, maybe it’s a little longer. But even in my relative short tenure, there is one thing that I know for sure: It Is Time To Raise The Bar in terms of church leadership.

With so many of our congregations dwindling down to miniscule ratios of leaders to congregants; most are inclined to be satisfied with the status quo of leadership or to just be happy that the “lights are still on”. Yet, this is exactly why many of our church families find themselves in trouble to start with.

It’s not that we have BIG issues with leadership in our church (quite the opposite, actually), but the (minor) warning signs are there. And since the responsibility starts here, with me, I consider this article a little bit of a self-assessment of sorts.

We must do a better job of developing leaders and holding them accountable.

This is so important to the future health of our church body. I ask you to consider joining me on this journey of improvement. It will not all be pleasant, but if our desire is to honor the Lord with our service, it will be worth it.

Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive a reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ. – Colossians 3:23-24

From the bottom of my heart, I believe there are two areas that we should focus on:

Discipleship

  • Many of you, as leaders, are NOT being discipled properly. And it breaks my heart.
  • We have two built in opportunities each week for discipleship: Sunday School & Wednesday Adult Bible Study.
  • As a leader, if you are not attending either one, you need to be setting time aside to study and discuss with other christians so that your growth will not be hindered.
  • This is essential, to your growth and the growth of our church.

Personal Holiness

  • Another area of concern is personal holiness: how much of your life are you giving to God?
  • Does the Lord have 100%
  • Or is there an area of your life that you are holding back from the Lord; 99.9% is not good enough.
  • Is there anything in your life that violates the Word of the Lord?
  • Anything that is outside of the tenants of the Baptist Faith & Message?
  • Anything that does not agree with our Church Covenant?
  • Anything that has the appearance of evil?
  • Especially as leaders, we need to be examining this area of our life on a regular basis… and we need to be open to others holding us accountable.

As your pastor, I vow to be more vigilant to help in these areas. I look forward to seeing how the Lord is going to work as we focus on these 2 very important areas of our church and individual lives. In the end, I believe the Lord will honor our efforts.

I love you all – Pastor John

​”Things Slow Down In The Summer”

Wow, I have heard that phrase uttered many times in reference to ministry and church activities. All that I can say is that whoever says that has never been in ministry or church leadership because nothing could be further from the truth! The truth is, ministry is still very active, even if it just looks a little different than normal.

This fact proves true at First Bethany Baptist where we might have changed our Wednesday night schedule for the summer, but we haven’t slowed down much at all. Just look at some of the things we have done / will do in the months of June and July.

June 1st – Summer Missions. We commissioned and sent our collegiate missionary overseas to share the Gospel. He and his team are doing well and are poised to return to the United States at the end of July. Thank you everyone who generously gave to the financial need for this trip and are praying for this team everyday.

June 11-15 – Vacation Bible School. I really enjoyed this year’s theme and I thought every leader did an excellent job leading our kids this year. What an awesome week !

June 24 – Fishing Trip. The deacons took a small fishing trip and were kind enough to invite their pastor along. It was a very enjoyable day on the water.

July 5th – Family Ministry Outing. First Bethany took in an evening of Augusta Greenjackets Baseball on Wednesday, July 5th. While we were disappointed that a certain former college/NFL quarterback was no longer playing for the opponent, a great time was had by all.

July 9-14 – Churches Changing Communities (CCC). We will send 5 students and 2 adults to CCC this year. This joint mission project among the churches of the EBA is always a blessing to all. I can’t wait to hear how God moves among the participants this year. Please pray for this team

July 16th @ 5pm – Quarterly Business Meeting & Missions Meetings. Please come prepared to hear what God is doing among our church body and among the nations.

July 30th – Fifth Sunday Singing & Scholarship Emphasis. – Please join us as we worship in song and give to support our scholarship fund.

Add to this schedule the planning of our Annual Back-To-School Bash (Aug), the J.A.M. House 100-Year Celebration (Aug), the NAMB DOM Conference that pastor John will be attending (SEP), our Fall Festival (Oct.), the SCBC Annual Meeting (Nov.), our Children’s Christmas Program and the McCormick Christmas Parade (Dec), and the planning for an Associational-wide mission trip to the Boston area (Dec)……. and the calendar fills up pretty quickly.

But here is a warning and an encouragement from the Word of the Lord:

23 Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people, 24 knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ. – Colossians 3:23-24

These dates just can’t simply be seen as marks on a calendar. We must see them for what they truly are; opportunities for those who know not the Lord to come to a saving knowledge of Him through Jesus Christ.

Would you join me in prayer over these events? That they would be much more than dates on the calendar… that they would actually come alive as we see the Holy Spirit ministering in, among, and all around us?

Thank you for praying. I love you all.

Pastor John


I Will Dance Before the Lord

1 David again assembled all the fit young men in Israel: thirty thousand. 2 He and all his troops set out to bring the ark of God from Baale-judah. The ark bears the Name, the name of the Lord of Armies who is enthroned between the cherubim. 3 They set the ark of God on a new cart and transported it from Abinadab’s house, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the cart 4 and brought it with the ark of God from Abinadab’s house on the hill. Ahio walked in front of the ark. 5 David and the whole house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all kinds of fir wood instruments, lyres, harps, tambourines, sistrums, and cymbals….

20 When David returned home to bless his household, Saul’s daughter Michal came out to meet him. “How the king of Israel honored himself today!” she said. “He exposed himself today in the sight of the slave girls of his subjects like a vulgar person would expose himself.” 21 David replied to Michal, “It was before the Lord who chose me over your father and his whole family to appoint me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel. I will dance before the Lord, 22 and I will dishonor myself and humble myself even more…                                                                                                         –     2 Samuel 6: 1-5, 20-22a

A few days ago, I was sitting at my desk at work and had an unexpected visitor. One of the vendors that I do business with from California had stopped in for an unexpected visit. Their representative, William, and I have met before and have always enjoyed conversing about business; but this day, the conversation turned to much more important matters.

As a pastor, I often try to steer my conversations in a manner that will somehow incite spiritual thoughts and discussion; often weaving in the fact that I am not just a material planner, but also (and primarily) a Baptist pastor. When I did so with William, he had an unexpected reaction. There in the middle of our office area, in the midst of 30 or so people, William started beating his chest.

As first, I didn’t know what to think? Did I offend him? Was he shocked that I am a pastor? Was he choking on his lunch?

He almost did not let me finish speaking when he said (with the biggest smile), “I am a Christian, I am a Christian, Can I tell you my story?” So William stood in the middle of our office and proceeded to testify to the goodness of the Lord for almost 20 minutes. I was so impressed with his willingness to do so, his boldness for Jesus, and his excitement about testifying to the Lord.

I was impressed, and I was convicted. How many times to I lay down all my fears of embarrassment and rejection and simply testify boldly and publicly about the Lord? How often do I beat my chest in the public square to tell others about Jesus and His saving grace? How many times am I as excited as William was last week, or as King David was in the verses above about what God is doing in my life?

If I were to be honest, not often enough… If you were to be honest, what would you say? The next time the Lord is prompting you to raise your hands in worship or leave your pew and come to the altar… I implore you to remember King David’s example… to remember my friend William’s example.

May we boldly and unashamedly beat our chest and testify unto the Lord!

I love you all – Pastor John

From My Desk

If you have been a Southern Baptist for very long or visited one of our churches often,  you have probably picked up on the fact that we consider ourselves a missional entity: that is,  a group of redeemed people giving our best efforts to spread the redemptive message of Jesus Christ (the Gospel) to the ends of the earth.

That is who we are.  And the really great thing is; we never have to attempt this task on our own: The Holy Spirit is with us,  and we have the privilege to band together to accomplish the mission.


To that end,  over the years,  the SBC has developed 2 separate (yet equally important) missions boards to accomplish this feat.  The North American Mission Board (NAMB) that serves the U.S. and Canada;  and the International Mission Board (IMB) that serves everywhere else. Each time you give a tithe or offering in one of our church services,  you help fund these boards through what we call the Cooperative Program.


As of late,  I have been focusing much of my attention on one particular aspect of NAMB’s mission: Church Planting.


Below is an excerpt from the North American Mission Board website:


The North American Mission Board impacts North America with the gospel.
The North American Mission Board exists to work with churches, associations and state conventions in mobilizing Southern Baptists as a missional force to impact North America with the gospel of Jesus Christ through evangelism and church planting. We accomplish that through Send North America, our national strategy for mobilizing churches to plant churches and mobilizing church planters and other missionaries to assist with those efforts.

Involve My Church
In your church, God has assembled a body of believers with complementary talents and abilities that can be used for His kingdom.
At the North American Mission Board, our desire is to see every church on mission in the United States and Canada. In order to push back lostness in North America, we believe every church has role to play in advancing the gospel and winning souls for Christ.



Every church on mission. ..that has a nice ring to it.

But how can we best be involved?  

What is God calling us to do?


I have already mentioned one way that we are and can be more involved: giving to the Cooperative Program.  Let’s keep that up,  for sure. But I believe God is calling us to be involved in other ways as well.


You might have noticed that we are taking time in each of our worship services to pray for NAMB church planters by name.  We will continue to do this,  they need our prayers.


Beyond that, I believe there will come a time when God calls us to Go personally  to help these church planters on their mission to reach their communities. I truly believe that time will come sooner rather than later.


What will you say when God says “Go”?

Will your answer be that of Isaiah? :

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord asking: Who should I send?  Who will go for us?  I said : Here I am,  send me

Isaiah 6:8


What will you say?  Begin praying now,  the opportunities are there,  He will lead us to the proper one.


I love you all,

Pastor John