Reflections on a HUGE Sunday

Wow. God was good to Apex Baptist on Sunday. We took some huge risks and invested time, energy and resources to reach out to our community. Sunday was the fall kickoff for our church. All the activities that had stopped for the summer are gearing back up and ready for a great fall semester. We, also, started a new teaching series called, Replenish: Rescue for the Tired Soul. For the last couple weeks, we encouraged our church members to reach out to their friends and neighbors and invite them to be with us on Sunday. We used buzz cards (small invitation cards) to explain all that was going on. Our life group leaders reached out to everyone on their roll and invited them back to church. We mailed a postcard to as many people as we could afford inviting them to church.

Last week, our church prayed and fasted for God to use us in our community. On Wednesday night, we prayed over every room in our church and prayer-walked our campus. I was blown away by the response of people coming out to pray. You could sense God was moving all week long.

When people arrived for worship, we had new signs out directing people where to park. Our church van was utilized to shuttle people from parking lots down the street. Volunteers greeted people in the parking lot and directed traffic. Our guests had reserved parking and were greeted as they arrived to church. The sermon truly started in the parking lot. It was amazing to watch God use so many church members as they served others.

Our preschool ministry workers were hustling all day long. We have so many wonderful families who jumped in a classroom at a moments notice to open a new classroom or offer additional help in overcrowded rooms. I believe the spirit with which our church operated glorified God!

It was fun to watch the worship center fill up. I am glad we had the extra chairs to offer latecomers a place to sit. Most importantly the Spirit of God was moving! We celebrate today, with all of heaven, those who trusted Christ as their Savior. In both services, the alters were full of people crying out to God in repentance. At the end of the day, we added five families into our fellowship.

I’m so thankful to be a part of a church that is serious about making a difference in their community. I hope and pray that this is just the beginning of a wonderful season of reaching out to others who need to find rescue for their tired soul.

Hopes for the Congregational Fast at Apex Baptist Church

During the week of August 19-24th our church will be praying and fasting for a spiritual breakthrough in our personal lives and in our church body.  Any one who fasts should consult their doctor before going an extended amount of time without eating.  There are many different types of fasts that members of our church will participate in.

First, some will do what is called a “normal fast.” These people will only drink water and fruit juices during the fast.  Others will do what is called a “partial fast.” This type of fast is when a person only eats fruits and vegetables. Other people will abstain from something other than food for the purpose of prayer.  The goal of any fast is to abstain from something in order to spend time in focused prayer to God.

In his book, The Power of Prayer and Fasting, Dr. Ronnie Floyd offers nine outcomes or results of the congregational fasts that his church has done.  My hope is that God would stir in our hearts and accomplish these same things.

1. Focus – I pray that God delivers great clarity to our congregation.  We are in a wonderful season of ministry and I pray that He allows us to focus on the things that He desires and that we would not be distracted.

2. Wonder – I pray that we get a bigger glimpse of God than we have ever understood before.  I am specifically praying that this would affect the way we worship.

3. Sensitivity – I pray that we will be more in tune and sensitive to the Holy Spirit in our lives. I pray that we will follow where he leads us.

4. Unity – A church wide fast will unify us to accomplish the mission God has for us. I am praying that God brings generations together in unity of purpose and direction through this fast.

5. Growth – I pray that God will grow every person participating spiritually through this week.  I pray that this fast is spiritual fuel that will launch many into a new season of growth.

6. Anticipation – I am praying that this will affect the worship services in that we will come expecting God to speak to our hearts and then respond to Him.

7. Enlargement – I am praying that God enlarges our vision as we pray and fast.  My prayer is that God helps us see the harvest fields ready for harvest.

8. Engagement – I am praying for a renewed engagement in our church.  I am praying God would urge many who are not serving into service.

9. Advancement – I pray that the Gospel will advance across the street and around the world because of this week of prayer and fasting.

Five Heroes

Many people lately have asked me about my mentors and who has had the greatest impact on my life.  Obviously, the answer to this question is ultimately, Jesus. He has made the greatest difference in my life. He has been there when I have celebrated accomplishments and been there when I walked through the deepest valleys of my life. I am so thankful for Christ in my life. He is my hero.

Next to Jesus, the following people have made a significant impact in my life. These are my earthly heroes.

1. My Wife – Yep. She’s incredible! We’ll celebrate 10 years of marriage in January.  The best decision, next to trusting Christ, of my life was asking Brigitte to marry me. She is a constant encouragement, prayer warrior, wonderful mother and my best friend. There is no way that I would be a pastor of a church without the love and encouragement that Brigitte has given me.  We’ve experienced a lot of wonderful blessings from God together and I cannot wait to see what is next!

2. My Parents – Mark and Debbie Harrison are the best parents anyone could ask for. They always kept their relationship with Christ first and modeled putting their family above their work consistently.  My parents were involved in my life when I wanted them to be there and when they needed to be there. I watched them battle disease, endure hardship and stand for Christ. I am thankful for my mom’s prayer life. I am thankful for my dad’s passion for Christ. They both love Jesus. I am blessed to be their son.

3. Dr. Steve Gaines – Bro. Steve is my childhood pastor. My family moved to First Baptist Church, Gardendale, AL, the summer before my 8th grade school year. Bro. Steve boldly preached the Scriptures in a way that challenged the intellectual, but also engaged young and developing minds.  I am very thankful for the church I grew up in. Bro. Steve led the church to worship and expect God to do incredible things. I grew like crazy under the discipleship of my parents and Bro. Steve. As a young adult, he encouraged me in ministry and helped me learn how to serve on a church staff. He was patient with me and graciously began to mold me into the minister I am today.

4. Dr. Bruce Frank – Pastor Bruce has invested countless hours into my development as a pastor over the last 3 years. Monthly, we met for lunch and he allowed me to ask any question I had about pastoral ministry.  He taught me how to think strategically and how to lead a church with vision.  I remember having so many “ah ha” moments when meeting with Pastor Bruce. It was an honor to serve the Lord Jesus under Pastor Bruce’s leadership at Biltmore Baptist Church. I do not know how to say thank you enough for his investment in me.

5. Last, but not least, I look up to a retired football coach in the Gardendale area, Bill Hawkins. He actually coached at the rival high school to Gardendale. He retired from coaching and taught drivers education for the school board. He wore out his brake trying to teach me to drive. Coach has always been a source of encouragement to me. I always look forward to hearing “How we doing there good buddy!” every time I go home.  He has modeled true love as he has stood by his ailing wife for many years. I remember spending some time at his house in the summer as a high school student and he did his best to influence me to the most important parts of life. I listened Coach. Thanks.

These are very important heroes in my life.  In the Scriptures, we meet two men named Paul and Timothy.  The Apostle Paul is well known for many reasons, but one being that he was developing younger men to carry on the faith and be the pastors of the churches he planted.  I am so thankful to be a Timothy to these listed above.  I am also thankful for the growing opportunity to be a Paul to young ministers who are just getting started.

Prayer Book List

Yesterday, we kicked off a new teaching series at Apex Baptist Church called Access: Connecting with God in Prayer.  I have had many people ask me for some good books on prayer after yesterday’s services.  Here is a list of books on prayer that I have found extremely helpful in developing my prayer life (which is still a work in progress)

1. A Praying Life – Paul Miller
This book is a great read for anyone wanting to develop their prayer life.  It is simple enough for a beginner but challenging enough for a seasoned veteran of prayer. In this book Miller teaches why to pray as well as how to pray.

2. Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home – Richard J. Foster
When I think of this book, the one word that comes to my mind is clarity. After spending time with Foster, the reader is able to gain great clarity of purpose in prayer and learn about different strategies for effective prayer.

3. Breakthrough Prayer – Jim Cymbala
This book really challenges the reader to pray bold prayers.  We all need breakthroughs in our lives and Cymbala helps the reader understand how to ask God to move on our behalf.

4. Liberating Prayer – Neil T. Anderson
Anderson is a longtime expert in being set free from strongholds and addictions. This book helps the reader understand how to listen to God in prayer. He helps the reader move past the distractions and learn to tune into the voice of God. The chapter on intimacy with God is worth the price of the book.

5. How to Develop a Powerful Prayer Life – Gregory R. Frizzel
I was given this book by a faithful prayer warrior. It is a wonderful book that helps anyone get started in developing a life of prayer.  Each chapter is concluded with a discussion guide that is helpful for a group bible study session.

6. The Power of Prayer and Fasting – Ronnie Floyd
Floyd is not writing a book from only his knowledge of a subject, but he is writing from his experience in the disciplines of prayer and fasting.  This book offers reflection questions, a personal guide and corporate guide for prayer.  Before concluding with a prayer and fasting journal, the book records an interview with Floyd that answers very practical questions about prayer and fasting.

7. E.M. Bounds on Prayer
I have “The Complete Works of E.M. Bounds on Prayer.  It includes eight books he wrote on the subject of prayer.  These works are classic works on prayer.  Anyone serious about prayer should read E.M. Bounds. These books will make you want to be more like Jesus than ever before.

8. Andrew Murray on Prayer
This is another classic work on prayer. The edition that I have contains six books on prayer from Murray. It will take a reader a while to wade through Murray’s excellent thought, but the reader will glean knowledge and passion for knowing God by spending time devouring these works.

9. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life – Donald S. Whitney
I think every serious Christ follower should spend time in this book.  It is great for a young believer and helpful for someone who has walked with God for a long time.  There is only one chapter in this book on prayer, but it is wonderful. The rest of the book is extremely helpful in becoming a fully devoted Christ follower.

10. The Prayer Saturated Church – Cheryl Sacks
This book is important for church leaders desiring to establish a prayer ministry in their church.  It gives very helpful tips and resources to launch a successful prayer ministry.

I hope this helps! I look forward to continuing our study on Prayer at 9:15 and 10:45 this Sunday!