What Happens in Greenville…

19521840472_206122b4ca_k-copy

This post is not for all readers, just for those who have attended Christian universities in Greenville, South Carolina. Of which there are two. And kind of three. And there are seminaries there. All of which helps make my point.

Soapbox 1

Greenville, South Carolina, where I spent 18 years, is a good place to be for conservative Christians—but not if they’re supposed to leave. I’m no extremist, I don’t think they should all make the reverse hajj I made last year. I’m glad I stayed there as long as I did, and I believe I did what was right. I also have family there who are staying, and who appear to me to be following the Lord’s plan for their lives. There are many Christian institutions there which need workers, from churches to those universities and seminaries to mission boards and adoption agencies.

But without blaming any individuals—only God knows—I can’t help but think more of my fellow Christian college graduates should leave that beautiful little gem of a city and scatter out to the churches around the country (or the world?) which would so highly value their gifts and training.

A friend recently wrote to me:

When I was asked to teach adult Sunday school at [large Baptist Church in Greenville in the BJU orbit], that was a real tipping point for me. I remember looking out each Sunday and thinking there’s at least two dozen men here in this little class who could do just as good of a job (and probably better) as I could hope to do.

It made me think of those four lepers feasting in the abandoned Aramean camp and squirreling loads of stuff away for themselves while the whole impoverished and dying city languished in their fear of a defeated foe and their ignorance concerning what God had done for them.

Their words are like a burr that gnawed on me as we made plans to leave:

We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household.

While we weren’t looking or even thinking that it would take [so long] to find employment again, the Lord has really used this in our lives. God has brought us to a much more open-handed posture before him, and we’ve marveled how certain evangelistic friendships seem to have been crafted right out of the shared experiences of unemployment and the struggles that accompany that experience.

I have a great deal of respect for this guy. He left Greenville for a needy place with a family and no job prospects to speak of (just his good training to help him). He finally got a job after many months, and both before and after getting work he has given himself to help the pastor of a small- to medium-size church. Some of his friends should probably be there with him.

Soapbox 2

All the same, if you’re a freshman at a Christian college in Greenville and you somehow stumbled across this blog post, stay where you are. And don’t go help a small church in the area (I’m sorry, but it’s my soapbox and I get to say what I wanna). Go get the best preaching you can find in the church with the most faith, hope, and love. Don’t leave Greenville until you’ve squeezed out of it all the wisdom and experience and teaching and training you can get. You’re there to give, yes, and you should do so, but you’re mainly there to get. God gave Moses 80 years of “training” before putting him into ministry. You can handle four or five more before leaving Mecca. Get as much schooling as you can. I don’t regret a moment I spent in the classroom.

The needs of the world feel so great, and they are great. They may tug you away before your training is complete. Just do a little math: every year of additional training you get should be multiplied by the number of years it will be used.

And then go wring yourself out a little bit for those who haven’t enjoyed your privileges. Our church would probably take you.

What Happens in Greenville, Make it Leave Greenville.™

leave

Dr Mark Ward Jr on Sermon Audio

Untitled-1 copy

It took me 35 years and a terminal degree, but a sermon of mine finally made it onto SermonAudio.com.

In God’s providence, I simply have not had much opportunity to preach to adult Christians (I’ve preached several hundred evangelistic messages). It was a genuine thrill to herald the Great Commandments to a precious body of believers in Edmonton, Alberta.

(By the way, I did not supply the title to this message, but it’s pretty good.)

Grace Her Fears Relieved: My Wife’s Salvation Testimony

Today my wife and I are joining Cornerstone Baptist Church of Anacortes, Washington—if the people will have us. As I proofread my wife’s testimony of salvation through Christ, I knew I had to share it on the blog. I do so by permission.

DSC_5715I was not born into a believing family. My parents were successful people, but very far from God. God used their personal struggles to humble them, though they sought first for moral reform through the Mormon church.

But God pursued them still, and when I was 7 my parents were both converted. I’m thankful I was at an age where I could see and process what was happening to our family. The change was dramatic, though not smooth. I saw the cost my parents experienced as they began to follow Christ—and God in His mercy gave me a soft heart to respond to the gospel.

Around the age of nine I began to desire salvation, but because we were in a church that was weak I struggled with confidence in my relationship with God. I prayed regularly to be saved, but as the years went on I became more fearful in my doubt.

At the age of 13 I shared my struggle with my parents, and my dad read John 3 with me and I prayed yet again for God to forgive me for my sin. But the next morning I vividly recall waking up and crying as I realized the uncertainty was still there.

This began a downward spiral of fear and doubt. I reached a low point at the age of 16, when I was so filled with anxiety about the state of my soul that I was unable to eat or sleep normally for weeks on end. My health suffered from the intense strain. My focus was so inward, looking for evidence of Christian growth but always seeing sin marring even my best motives. I had for so many years tried to fix my lack of assurance by meeting with biblical counsellors, walking aisles, getting baptized, doing anything and everything I could—but my real problem was simply a lack of understanding about the nature of God and His disposition toward me. I simply had to take Him at His word, and rest in His commitment to see Jesus’s sacrifice for sin when He looks at me.

It took many months of poring over the Bible in utter desperation, seeking to replace my anxious, erroneous thoughts with God’s true ones. But one beautiful day, I realized with amazement that I wasn’t governed by that doubt anymore. It was a gradual process, but in the end, I could say like David in the Psalms, God truly had delivered me from all my fears.