Pastoral Notes for August 19, 2018

It’s appropriate as we study the call of God on the life of Abraham that we take time in our worship services to highlight some of the various mission organizations that Cornerstone supports. Last week we focused our attention on our longest and deepest partnership, New College Franklin. Today we are turning our attention globally to one of our newest partnerships—Raise the Roof Academy. 

Beginning in 2011 in Bwasandeku, Uganda with 30 children and 2 teachers, Raise the Roof Academy (RTR) is committed to educate the whole student by building relationships and education centers that cultivate a culture of learning and offer God’s love through empowerment opportunities. The vision is to become a premier education system in rural Uganda where children are learning and sharing their gifts with the world and coming in contact with the love of Jesus Christ. In eight short years, God has expanded the ministry RTR beyond all expectations. Today, over 1,200 students are served through RTR!

Reporting to us this morning is RTR’s Program Director, Miss Rachel Harden. Rachel is originally from Georgia but landed in Nashville after college to take a position as a Second Grade teacher. Rachel knew education was part of her calling, but she wondered at times if it might be in a cross-cultural or missionary context. She had spent time on the mission field in Africa off and on for several years, and she had a sincere love for the people of Africa, but here she was, teaching second grade in Nashville and loving it. But God was at work behind the scenes. After a couple of years of teaching, Rachel learned of a Nashville based mission organization that sought to educate children in Uganda. Through RTR, she began to see a way for her two passions—education and missions—to come together! Not long thereafter, she was asked to join the RTR team. We are so thankful to have Rachel as a member of Cornerstone and to partner with her in what God is doing through RTR in Uganda.

There are many ways you can get involved with the mission of Raise the Roof Academy. Take time to talk with Rachel Harden this morning after church. She will be at an information table out front to tell you about child partnership, fundraising campaigns, mission trips, and the many other ways you can support the work of RTR. Together, we can make a difference for Christ in Uganda! 

Pastoral Notes for August 12, 2018

The dream was hatched in 2006. Dr. George Grant, Matt Vest, and Greg Wilbur met together to begin charting a path for the creation of a new Christian liberal arts college in beautiful Franklin, TN. Three years later, on August 24, 2009, the dream became a reality when New College Franklin welcomed its inaugural class of twelve students for the Bachelor of Arts degree.

Ten years later, 80 students have enrolled at NCF from all over the U.S. and Canada with over 30 graduates who have gone on to serve in the fields of finance, medicine, design, business, journalism, politics, education, church ministry, and missions.

One of the things that excited me about returning to Franklin in 2010 to plant Cornerstone was the additional opportunity to partner with New College Franklin (NCF). I joined the faculty of NCF the year we arrived and taught Moral Philosophy and an Introduction to Southern Literature. Since that first year, I’ve taught a smattering of electives and core classes, mostly in theology and literature, and it’s something I look forward to doing every year.

My involvement, however, is hardly worth mentioning compared to that of our own Greg Wilbur. Greg is the Dean of NCF as well as a senior fellow of the college. More than anyone, Greg is responsible for the carrying forth of the vision of the NCF. It’s hard to imagine the success of NCF without the faithful attention and care of Greg Wilbur.

Though institutionally separate, the Session of Cornerstone sees NCF as an extension of our own mission to be and make disciples—to see the next generation trained in love and service to Jesus Christ. This is why we’ve joyfully opened our facility to NCF since 2011 and are eager to have many of the students and faculty plugged into Cornerstone. And boy do they plug in! From nursery to elementary Sunday School, from Youth ministry to music ministry, from Women's and Men's ministry to Home Fellowship Groups, the students of NCF are part of the lifeblood of Cornerstone—and for that we are so very grateful.

If you’ve not already done so, or if it’s been a while, take time to visit NCF’s website. The web address is www.newcollegefranklin.org. Click through the vision and mission statements, ponder the philosophy of education, and peruse their program of study. I’m pretty sure you’ll be encouraged. For right underneath your nose, a great work of Christian education is taking place, and we—Cornerstone Presbyterian—get to be a part of it. 

Pastoral Notes for August 5, 2018

Genesis, as the name indicates, is a book of beginnings. To be specific, it’s a book of three beginnings. First, there is the beginning of the world and the human race with Adam.  Second, there is the second beginning of the post-diluvian world with Noah. And finally, there’s the so-called “third beginning” of the world with the establishment of a chosen people of God with Abraham. 

From January to May of this year, we forged our way through the majesty and mystery of Genesis 1-11, the first two of the beginnings in Genesis. Today, we’re beginning again, for the third time. And this beginning is an entering into what Arthur Pink says is “…a preface, not only to the remaining 29 chapters of Genesis, but also to the entire Old Testament, and, we may add, of the Bible as a whole.” Said differently, Genesis 12-23 is so important to redemptive history that it’s impossible to overestimate. For it’s here, through the life and legacy of Abraham, that the life and legacy of faith comes to us in Jesus Christ. That in some very real sense, the beginning of true faith starts here with the ancient patriarch, Abraham, who is himself the father of all who believe (Romans 4:16).

To prepare your heart for this glorious journey, you will find a breakdown of the Genesis sermon series for this fall. Let me encourage you to prepare each week for worship by pausing on Saturday evening and reading the text for Sunday morning’s worship. In addition to reading, please pray for worship each week. Ask the Lord to accomplish his good and perfect will as we gather together in His presence week after week! 

New Beginnings: A Study of Genesis

·      August 5 – Genesis 12:1-9, “The Call of Faith”

·      August 12 – Genesis 12:10-20, “The Struggle of Faith”

·      August 19 – Genesis 13, “Choose Wisely”

·      August 26 – Genesis 14:1-16, “Abram Rescues Lot”

·      September 2 – Genesis 14:17-24, “The Blessing of Melchizedek”

·      September 9 – Genesis 15, “The Abrahamic Covenant”  

·      September 16 – Genesis 16, “Sarai and Hagar”

·      September 23 – Genesis 17, “The Covenant Sign”

·      September 30 – Genesis 18:1-15, “No Laughing Matter”

·      October 7 – Genesis 18:16-33, “Will the Judge of Earth do Justly?”

·      October 14 – Genesis 19, “God, the Rescuer”

·      October 21 – Genesis 20, “Fear God, Not Man”

·      October 28 – Genesis 21, “The Promised Son!”  

·      November 4 – Genesis 22, “Tested and Tried”  

·      November 11 – Genesis 23, “The Death of Sarah”

But there’s one more thing. Don’t leave this morning without picking up our newly published devotional guides! This edition of the devotional guide has daily prayer services that can be used personally or for family worship. It also has daily Scripture readings that pace with the themes of the sermon series, which helps keep what you learned on Sunday near to your heart Monday through Saturday. As always, the devotional guides are FREE for the taking at both entrances to the church.

Pastoral Notes for Sunday, July 29, 2018

In preparation for entering a season of officer training, I took a few minutes last week to unfold our vision for taking care of the flock at Cornerstone.  Leaning heavily on 1 Peter 5:1-4, I outlined five key aspects:  

·      First, we shepherd under the chief shepherd. That is, we believe that Jesus Christ is the head of the church and the source for all pastoral care.

·      Second, we shepherd unto the chief shepherd. That is, in our pastoral care, we are careful to lead God’s flock to increased trust in, dependence on, love for, and obedience to Jesus Christ.

·      Third, we shepherd for the chief shepherd. That is, we believe that our love for Jesus Christ must both drive and direct our love for His sheep.

·      Fourth, we shepherd like the chief shepherd. That is, we take all our shepherding cues from the chief shepherd Himself.

·      Fifth, we shepherd until we see the chief shepherd. That is, we persevere in care for the church till the end, keeping our eyes set on Jesus, 

Today I want to go one step further. At Cornerstone, not only do officers care for the needs of God’s people, they also equip God’s people to care for the needs of God’s people. Paul says in Ephesians 4:11-13, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

If we take Paul’s words seriously, we shouldn’t rely on pastors, teachers, and the like to do the entire ministry, but to equip the saints for the work of ministry. Said another way, built into the work of a shepherd is a commitment to train the saints in how to minister and care for the flock, so that more and more the congregation is equipped to minister to itself. As under-shepherds embrace the call to equip the saints for ministry, a culture of care is created among all the members and the flock becomes healthier

This commitment to equip the saints for the work of ministry means several things:

·      Delegate – Church officers are thinking about building a team of coworkers in ministry by asking and answering the question, “Who has God gifted and equipped to do ______ in our church?”

·      Develop – Church officers are thinking about training a team of co-workers by asking and answering the question, “How do we need grow in order to take the next step in ministry?”

·      Deploy – Church officers are thinking about releasing a trained team of coworkers into various fields of ministry by asking and answering the question, “How can ______ be best used in work of ministry?”

·      Duplicate – Church officers are looking to the trained team of coworkers and asking and answering the question, “Who among this team of trained coworkers is ready to become the next equipper for ministry?”

I hope these two weeks outlining our vision for leadership has helped you better understand the vision for leadership at Cornerstone. As always, we’re a work in progress. But thanks be to God, there’s progress! As we enter into another round of officer training, pray that God would be pleased to raise up more shepherd leaders, so that we might continue to become the church that God is calling us to be.  

Pastoral Notes for Sunday, July 22, 2018

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, not for shameful gain, but eagerly, not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”—1 Peter 5:1-4

A month ago we entered into a nomination, training, and election season for new church officers. We began this season as we always do by calling upon you, the congregation, to set forward nominees—qualified men—as candidates for officership. Having received and reviewed the nominations, we are now in touch with all the nominees and will soon begin the process of training. At some point soon, I’ll share with you more about the training and how you can pray for the men entering this process.

In the meantime, I thought it might be helpful to distill our commitments and aims as under-shepherds of Cornerstone. As I do this, I want to acknowledge that we’re not where we want to be. There’s much room for improvement. Each elder and deacon will tell you that. But thanks be to God, we’re not where we once were! Advance is being made. We see glimmers of what we hope to be now, and we expect, relying on God’s grace, that we will continue to grow in the work of shepherding as we mature in the love and wisdom of God.

So, leaning on Peter’s words in 1 Peter 5:1-4 quoted above, our philosophy of pastoral care can be summarized under these five headings. 

First, we shepherd under the chief shepherd. That is, we believe that Jesus Christ is the head of the church and the source for all pastoral care. Though God is often pleased to use our gifts, wisdom, and craft as under-shepherds to effectively minister to His people, we recognize ourselves to be only His instruments. Any benefit coming through our pastoral care is to God’s credit alone. 

Second, we shepherd unto the chief shepherd. That is, in our pastoral care, we are careful to lead God’s flock not to us, but to increasing trust in, dependence on, and love for Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd Himself (John 10). We like to say that our shepherding is only as good as we are leading the sheep to the true shepherd.  

Third, we shepherd for the chief shepherd. That is, we believe that our love for Jesus Christ must both drive and direct our love for His sheep. It’s very easy in caring for the flock to begin focusing on pleasing the flock. That’s not a shepherd’s call. It’s our responsibility to carry out what Christ says is best for the flock. The way we like to say it is: “We love each other with the love of Christ.” Keeping this in mind, we keep the focus on Christ and His glory as we shepherd His flock.

Fourth, we shepherd like the chief shepherd. That is, we take all our shepherding cues from the chief shepherd Himself. Peter summarizes this care with the words “willingly… eagerly… being examples.” We believe those descriptors characterize the spirit of Christ’s own shepherding. In humble reliance upon the Holy Spirit, we strive to care for the flock of God with the grace, discipline, wisdom, and love of the Chief Shepherd himself.

Fifth, we shepherd until we see the chief shepherd. Weariness and discouragement in the work of shepherding is a given. Anyone who has regularly cared for anyone knows this feeling. It’s the same for church officers. We regularly need encouragement to not give up but keep on keeping on in the work of shepherding—even when it seems like what we do makes little difference. Knowing that an “unfading crown of glory” awaits us upon the chief shepherd’s return is a regular encouragement when shepherding morale is low.

Next week we’ll look at the second key passage for shepherding at Cornerstone, Ephesians 4:11-13