I have been invited to return to Russia in 2018 to continue the process of helping train and equip pastors and young leaders. When I was there in March, several asked me to return to teach the book of Revelation. That is the plan for the upcoming trip. Click on the image below to open a pdf file of the trip proposal and details. Please pray that God provides all we need and more besides for the trip.
Category Archives: Ministry
During my days as a student at Dallas Theological Seminary, Carol and I attended Northwest Bible Church in Dallas, TX. Pastor Jim Rose met with seminary students and his wife, Phyllis, met with seminary wives to offer their insights and perspectives on ministry.
On one occasion, Jim Rose shared how he planned his sermon calendar three years in advance. Year one was what he was currently studying and preaching. Year two was what he was having his devotions in at present. Year three was what he was thinking about and collecting information about. We all marveled and wondered how you could ever plan that far ahead.
After 30+ years of ministry and almost 13 as a senior pastor, I find myself doing that very thing. I typically lay out my sermon calendar 3-12 months at a time. I give the list to our worship leaders to aid them in planning the services and picking appropriate music for the passage, if possible.
My approach to preaching is to teach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). I am committed to expository preaching, explaining what the text means and how to apply it in daily life. As I lay out my calendar, I try to balance Old Testament books, New Testament books, and topical series. With the Old Testament, sometimes I preach through a whole book and sometimes I focus on one character (Abraham, Joseph) and preach through the section of the book that deals with their life.
This past week, I laid out my plan for the next 18 months. I am currently preaching through the life of Moses (portions of Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). We will follow that series with a study of the 7 “I AM” statements of Jesus, a vision series on the church (Revelation 1-3), 1 Peter, and the book of Joshua. Over the next year and a half, we will talk about character, marriage, leadership, culture, suffering, work, anger, how to live in today’s world, and much, much more.
One of the challenges in planning a sermon calendar is what to with Christmas and Easter, namely, how to avoid repeating yourself. My approach is to use a 3-4 year cycle of messages. While I do repeat myself, it’s not every year. Christmas/Advent: (1) Mary, Joseph, Wise men, Shepherds; (2) Anna, Simeon, Mary’s song of joy, Isaiah 9:6; (3) Isaiah’s prophecies, Isaiah 9:1-7, 11:1-16, 40:1-11, 52:13-53:12; (4) 7 “I AM’s” of Jesus. Palm Sunday: (1) Matthew 21:1-11; (2) Matthew 21:12-22; (3) John 12:12-26. Easter: (1) Luke 24:1-12; (2) Luke 24:13-35; (3) 1 Corinthians 15:1-19; (4) Luke 24:36-49 (I will add this one in future years).
Having a sermon calendar aids me in a number of ways. It ensures I don’t just tackle easy, familiar, favorite topics. I have to preach the next paragraph in line. It provides a sense of balance over time. It exposes me and the congregation to the entire word of God rather than one slice (gospels, epistles, etc.). It helps me to know where I’m going. When other staff take my place when I’m gone, they continue the series by taking the next passage, which helps maintain continuity as well as giving the congregation a different “voice.” It also reinforces the conviction that “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
I’m grateful for Jim Rose’s model and encouragement. I’ve found it to be very beneficial.
On Sunday evening, June 11, the elders of First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, formally ordained our intern, Jack Gilbert, to the ministry of the gospel. It was a wonderful celebration of worship and commissioning.
One of the gifts we gave Jack Gilbert during his ordination was a hand painted globe done by Emily Tuttle of Consider the World. The quote is from John R. W. Stott, “We must be global Christians with a global vision because our God is a global God.” Since Jack & Simcha are preparing to be missionaries in Spain with SEND International, it seemed like an appropriate reminder for them. As you can see, Emily did a marvelous job.
On the evening of June 11, 2017, I had the privilege of preaching the message for Jack Gilbert’s ordination service at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA. The synopsis of my message and the challenge I gave to Jack follows below.
What is the secret of effective ministry? Several passages of Scripture have been read that all touch on this question. Isaiah 6:1-8 tells us that effective ministry begins with a great vision of God and a great vision for God. Colossians 1:24-29 informs us that ministry is a stewardship that sometimes requires suffering. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 instructs us to do the work of ministry–preaching, teaching, encouraging, rebuking, and sharing the gospel.
In addition, effective ministry requires balanced growth in all areas of life. If we want to impact the lives of people, we need to grow in our knowledge of God and his word, deepen and mature in our character, sharpen and hone our skills for ministry, and use our spiritual gifts to impact others. Effective ministry requires balanced growth in our content, character, competence, and call. That’s the message of 1 Timothy 4:6-16.
Content (6-10). We need to grow in our knowledge of God and his word. Each one of us should have a plan to deepen our knowledge of the Bible and theology. We might consider reading books on church history and Christian classics.
Character (12). Though in his 30’s, Timothy felt intimidated by the task of leadership. Rather than focus on his age, Paul encouraged him to be an example of godly character. We are to model Christlikeness to all those around us. We should demonstrate measurable growth in obedience, honesty, integrity, humility, courage, and the fruit of the Spirit. We should grow in our ability to withstand temptation.
Competence (13). Paul encouraged Timothy to become proficient in reading and teaching the Scriptures. As Christ followers, we should develop a plan to sharpen our skills in Bible study and prayer. We should hone our ability to share our faith and disciple others. We should seek to grow in our ability to lead and manage our time. We should become more proficient in teaching and evangelism so that we can share what we believe with others.
Call (14). In our day, we have placed an emphasis on discovering our spiritual gifts. In contrast, Paul instructed Timothy not to neglect using his spiritual gift. Each of us should seek to use our spiritual gifts for maximum impact. We should have a better understanding of who God designed us to be, including identifying lifelong goals, core values, and a sense of purpose.
Effective servants are lifelong learners (15-16). They practice, focus, immerse, and persist in pursuing growth. They keep in mind that the goal is progress, not perfection. People should be able to see growth and change in all areas of our lives.
This passage places the responsibility for personal growth squarely on our individual shoulders. We are to become lifelong learners and grow in our content, character, competence, and call. Other passages of Scripture reveal that the Holy Spirit assists us in this process. He illumines the truth and guides us as we study. He deepens our character and helps us mature. He equips us and anoints us so we can become more effective in using our skills. He gives us spiritual gifts and confirms our sense of call. Growth is a partnership where we work together with God to become more effective.
On Sunday evening, June 11, First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, will hold a special evening service to formally ordain our intern, Jack Gilbert, to the ministry of the gospel. (Jack passed his ordination exam on June 2 with flying colors.) Here is the planned order of service.
Jack Gilbert ordination service – June 11, 2017, 5PM
Welcome, Call to worship Pastor Mark Wheeler
Reading – Isaiah 6:1-8 Doug Dolbow, Elder
Song – This is Amazing Grace
Song – A Mighty Fortress is Our God
Reading – Colossians 1:24-29 Joe Martin, Elder
Song – We’ve Overcome
Song – Before the Throne of God Above
Reading – 2 Timothy 4:1-5 Doug McVeigh, Elder
Prayer Bill Leino, SEND International
Sermon Pastor Mark Wheeler, 1 Timothy 4:6-16
Examination and charge to candidate Stan Kulig, Elder
Prayer and laying on of hands Elders & ordained men
Song – The Greatness of Our God
Benediction Reverend Jack Gilbert
During the Laying On of Hands, we invite the Ordination Council, Council of Elders, and all ordained men in the congregation to join in this solemn ceremony.
Everyone is cordially invited to a dinner in the 3rd floor gymnasium following this service.
On Friday afternoon, we convened an ordination council at First Central Bible Church to examine Jack Gilbert, our church’s intern. We wanted to affirm God’s hand on his life and make sure he held to sound doctrine.
The ordination council consisted of:
- Mark Wheeler, Senior Pastor at First Central Bible Church, Chicopee, MA
- Stan Kulig, Joe Martin, Doug McVeigh, Doug Dolbow, Elders at First Central Bible Church
- Brent Allen, District Executive Minister for Converge Northeast
- Rich Ainsworth, retired Senior Pastor of Wintonbury Church in Bloomfield, CT
- Jeff Chandler, Senior Pastor of Cottage Hill Church in Springfield, MA
The basis for the exam was an ordination paper that Jack wrote and presented to the council last month. Based on his paper, we asked him the following questions:
- Why do you want to be ordained?
- How does Simcha (Jack’s wife) feel about this process?
- Where are you in process of applying to SEND International?
- What will be your role with SEND in Spain?
- Why don’t we consider the Apocrypha books to be inspired?
- What principles do you use in interpreting Scripture?
- What Scripture translation do you use in preaching?
- What does “aseity” mean in relation to God?
- What does it mean that God repented and changed his mind considering that Scripture says God does not change?
- How do you reconcile all of God’s attributes with his love?
- How long did it take for God to create the world?
- How do you explain and/or balance Gods providence?
- Does Christ have a physical body in heaven? What difference does it make?
- What does it mean in Philippians 2 that Christ emptied himself?
- How can Jesus identify with us?
- Could Jesus sin?
- Was his temptation in Gethsemane real?
- What does it mean that Jesus became sin?
- How is the baptism of the Spirit different from the filling of the Spirit? Why is it not a second baptism?
- Does the gift of prophecy exist today?
- What does it mean that we are created in God’s image?
- What is the extent of the atonement? For whom did Christ die?
- How do you balance God’s sovereignty with man’s free will?
- How are regeneration and conversion related?
- Does being “drawn by the Father” refer to conviction?
- What elements of Calvinism do you disagree with?
- If you were to plant a church, what form of church government would you institute?
- What is the difference between a small group and a church?
- Can women serve as elders?
- What does it mean that baptism is an appeal to a good conscience?
- Would you baptize children?
- Can a Christian be possessed by a demon? What does it mean when Ananias (Acts 5) is filled with Satan?
- Can a person say, “the devil made me do it?”
- How would you work with others who hold a different conviction about the timing of the rapture?
- Is hell real? Eternal?
- Where do children go when they die? How would you counsel a young couple who lose a child?
- How do you decided what churches or denominations to work with?
- What is a shepherd? What does a shepherd do?
Throughout the exam, which lasted just under 3 hours, Jack demonstrated a command of the Scriptures and a commitment to sound doctrine. He passed the exam with flying colors. The members of the ordination council affirmed his call, character, understanding of Scripture and theology, and his clear communication. It was a very affirming and encouraging time.
On Sunday, June 11, we will hold a special evening service at 5PM to formally ordain Jack to the ministry of the gospel.
Congratulations, Jack! Keep up the good work.