Pastor Kevin Sanders

"He must increase, but I must decrease." -John 3:30

My Son and the Voice of God

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

-Jeremiah 33:3

Those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter know that my wife and I received some exciting news yesterday: we are going to have a baby boy!

We weren’t 100% sure we would find out during yesterday’s ultrasound. We’ve heard of babies being “shy”–being in a position that was not conducive to determining the gender. That was not a problem–the proverbial cat was out of the bag as soon as the technician placed the instrument on my wife’s tummy. It was only a split second, but let’s just say the first image didn’t leave much to the imagination. She quickly changed the scanner position and asked us if we wanted to know the gender of the baby. We told her we’d been waiting for this day and did want to know. More images confirmed what we thought we had seen.

I mentioned a promise that God gave us from His word in a previous post. I wrote down this verse in my prayer journal before my wife got pregnant:

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.

-Psalm 128:3

 

But there’s a secret of sorts that I’ve only shared with one or two people (one of those being my wife): God told me weeks ago that we were having a son. I don’t think I can pin it down to a specific date, though I wrote it in my prayer journal back in July. It’s something God impressed on my heart as I was praying for a healthy baby. That impression never left me–it grew stronger over time.

God tends to do that when He’s speaking to me. He knows I’d be likely to doubt a one-time experience, so He slowly and methodically puts something on my heart. This is the way God told me He wanted me to preach. It’s impossible to explain for those who haven’t experienced it. But I’m sure many of you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I’ve waited to share this for a couple of reasons:

  • I didn’t want to give anyone the impression that my heart was set on a boy instead of a girl.   My main desire was (and still is) for a healthy baby. I would have been 100% fine with a boy or a girl–either one would be treated as a precious gift from the Lord, created in His image.
  • I trust the Lord, but I don’t trust me. I know that I’m capable of misunderstanding Him (it has happened before). And let’s be honest: some Christians can get really weird with those “the Lord told me” statements.

The most important things God has to say to me are already written in His Word–the Bible. Any experience I have must line up with the truths of Scripture or it isn’t from the Lord.

Having said that, I treasure those times when I hear God speaking to me or leading me regarding something specific in my life. It is another way that He expresses grace (undeserved favor) to me.

God has spoken, and God is speaking.

Are you listening?

My First Year: Confessions of an Ordinary Pastor

Most of the pastors I know took fairly similar vocational paths. They began by doing youth ministry or preaching (at small churches) in their early twenties, usually while working on their seminary degree. They typically have 20+ years of experience by the time they reach my age (mid-40’s).

My path has been a little different. I spent most of my 20’s in drug rehab–as a counselor, that is. I usually went to school on Mondays (working on my master’s degree at NOBTS) and worked Tuesday through Friday/Saturday at a drug treatment center in Birmingham, AL. I eventually moved to New Orleans to finish the before-mentioned degree (and spent more time in rehab there–yes, as a counselor). I invested the next season of my life (11 years) as a missionary in the Philippines.

I won’t rehash everything that happened when I returned to the United States with my wife (I’ve already written about that in my Life 3.0 post). I’ll just summarize it this way: it took us over three years to find my current place of ministry.

It’s been a full, blessed year since I became the pastor of Apollo Heights Baptist church. We celebrated this milestone with a high attendance Sunday today.

I decided to share a few reflections from this past year. I don’t claim that any of my observations are unique or original. Many of them, in fact, sound more like overused clichés.

Pastoring is a marathon, not a sprint.

I warned you about clichés, didn’t I?

But this one is certainly true of the pastorate. We’re a small church (around 80 worshipers on a typical Sunday), but it seemed to take a long time for me to learn everyone’s name. It has taken me a while to develop a “feel” for the different personalities in our congregation, but I’m still learning.  That’s just our church–it’s taking me even longer to figure out what “works” in our community in terms of outreach, etc. I think I might have Roberts Rules of Order figured out by the time I retire (maybe). You get the idea–I’m just scratching the surface after a year.

Change is hard.

I have a confession to make: I didn’t really want to be an agent of change during my first pastorate in the USA. I hoped to be more of a “game manager” (to use a football analogy) or a “maintenance” type leader. God had other plans. Our church has many strong points, but we really need to make some adjustments in order to more effectively reach our community. Studying Thom Rainer’s Autopsy of a Deceased Church helped us to see this. Leading us through some of these first steps has been challenging, but it has also been very rewarding.

You can’t please everyone.

“If you want to make everyone happy, don’t be a leader. Go sell ice cream.” -Eric Geiger

I always like to hear the bad news first so here goes: some people just can’t be pleased–including some “church people.” No need to go into details.

This probably would have bothered a younger version of me. But now I understand that trying to please everyone will paralyze a pastor/leader (or anyone else, for that matter). God has hopefully cured me of most of my people pleasing ways.

This quote also helps me keep things in perspective:

“If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him, for you are worse than he thinks you to be.” – CH Spurgeon

God’s people are pretty amazing.

I’ve shared the bad news about people, but there’s really great news: watching God’s people at work is one of the greatest joys of being a pastor. I’m constantly amazed at the way our church members give, serve, and care. Many of our senior adults have inspired me by putting their own personal preferences aside for the sake of the gospel. For every disappointment there have been dozens of these “wow” moments, and it’s a beautiful thing.

“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” -Proverbs 15:22

“If you think you are leading, but no one is following, then you’re only taking a walk.” -John C. Maxwell

There’s something else I want to point out while I’m on this topic. I’ve had to ignore a few naysayers, but I know better than to disregard the godly wisdom that is available in our congregation. The advice from the mature saints in my church has been extremely valuable.

Love covers a multitude of sins

I’m sure I’ve made plenty of mistakes during this first year. My congregation has graciously overlooked them.

God is Faithful

This is the most important lesson from the past year, or the past 45 years, for that matter. God has proven Himself over and over. His mercies are new every morning, and His blessings are far greater than I’ll ever deserve.

Mare Cris and I are deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve and for an incredible year of ministry.

Trunk or Treat–El Paso

It’s that time of year again:  October 31st is coming and our church will be doing our annual Trunk or Treat event.  Last year we had it when my wife and I were brand new to El Paso (we had only been here for a couple of weeks).

I know some have mixed feelings about this holiday, but we believe October 31st is a day that the Lord has made (Psalms 118:24).  We see this as a great opportunity to reach out to our community and let them know how much we care.

My Car Last Year

Last year we had droves of kids and families visit our campus.  They found out about our Trunk or Treat celebration different ways: some through our signs, some through word of mouth, etc.  We loved having them all, regardless of how they found us.

A Couple of our Students

We are looking forward to another great event, and we’re hoping this year will be even bigger! Hopefully we’ll see kids from all over Northeast El Paso: North Hills, Apollo Heights, Mesquite Hills, Pleasant Hills, Castner Heights, Fort Bliss, etc.  We’re a short drive from all of these before-mentioned locations.

We’ll have candy to give out for the trick-or-treating kids and we’ll also have one or two bounce houses.   It will be a great time for you and your family to enjoy some safe fun and sweet treats.  Be sure to say hello to me (Pastor Kevin) when you stop by and let me know if there’s any way I can pray for you.

To get directions and more information just click here: Trunk or Treat El Paso

Confessions of an Expectant Father

On March 17, 2012 Mare Cris gave me a title I wasn’t sure I’d ever have: husband. Over five years have quickly gone by since then. We’ve seen the amazing faithfulness of God through both blessings and trials.

We decided that this year was the right time to start our family. We felt like things had settled down here in our new ministry assignment and we saw no reason to wait any longer. Neither of us is getting any younger (especially me).

We weren’t really sure what to expect. We’ve known other couples that conceived before intentionally trying to start a family. We’ve also met couples that struggled with infertility (some of whom were never able to have biological children).

Weeks turned into months. We weren’t really worried, but we were beginning to wonder if we were in for a long wait. I wrote this Scripture down in my prayer journal:

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.

-Psalm 128:3

God graciously fulfilled this promise back in July. Mare Cris was experiencing the first telltale signs of pregnancy and used some home tests that I bought months before. The two lines were unmistakable evidence of great news: we were officially expecting a baby! My cousin (who is an OB/GYN) was the first to hear about it (she confirmed the reliability of home tests). The next day (after positive test #2) I called my dad to inform him that he would be a grandfather again. The following Sunday my wife was leading worship at our church and shared the good news with them.

The daily grind of first trimester queasiness, dizziness, and fatigue have taken a toll on Mare Cris. I’m still trying to believe this is actually happening–it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the idea of being a father. But words can hardly express how grateful and excited both of us are.

Yesterday we were able to see our little one for the first time. Hearing the tiny heartbeat nearly brought tears to our eyes. I’m sure we would have both been sobbing if we could have gazed at the live image long enough. But it was over within a few minutes–just long enough for our technician to gather the needed information. A doctor came not long after the test to give us the age of the child (a little over 8 weeks) and tell us everything looked normal. I’m sure this is all familiar scenery for the medical staff, but Mare Cris and I were awestruck.

Soon I will have a new title: father.   The baby will be born in late March.

Thank you, Lord!

« Older posts