Pastor Kevin Sanders

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

2017: The Year in Review

I’m not highly motivated to write a blog post right now.   Maybe it’s writer’s block or a general lack of feeling inspired.

But another year is quickly coming to an end, and I do want to take a few minutes to reflect on God’s faithfulness in our lives.


We began this year by implementing a few adjustments in the ministry programing of our church.  I had only been the pastor for about 3 months, but God gave me a burden and a sense of urgency for our congregation and its future.

God faithfully led us through these first steps of becoming more effective in reaching our community with the gospel.  The overwhelming majority of our members were extremely supportive of the new vision.  Words can hardly express how grateful I am for their willingness to embrace change.

The rest of the year seems like a blur as far as the church goes.   We started a new small group ministry (part of the before-mentioned changes), had some really enjoyable outreach events (Vacation Bible School, Trunk-or-Treat, etc), and journeyed through three sermon series (the third will be completed next year).

See also: My First Year: Confessions of an Ordinary Pastor.


One of our main goals for this year was to acquire Mare Cris’ US citizenship. It has been a long (expensive) process that began back when we were still living in the Philippines–it started with applying for her spousal visa.

We applied for her citizenship while we were still living in Alabama, and moving here in the middle of the application caused a few delays.  Our patience was eventually rewarded when Cris was invited to an oath-taking ceremony a few months ago.  My wife is now an American citizen! 

Expectant Parents

There is one blessing that eclipses all others for 2017: the news that I will soon be a father.   I sensed that we would be having a boy, and this was confirmed back in October with the second ultrasound.

Our boy seems to be making his presence felt a little more every day–we jokingly call him our “little kick boxer.”   My wife will begin her third trimester as 2018 begins.

We are blessed beyond measure!

God continues to faithfully lead us on this amazing journey.

Plans for 2018

*I have enrolled in the Doctor of Ministry program at Gateway Seminary (formerly Golden Gate Seminary) and will begin in January.

*Our son should arrive some time in March!

Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading.
—Oswald Chambers

To be continued . . .

I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye (Josh Harris)

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything related to love, dating, sexual purity or relationship issues in general. These topics were once the primary focus of my blog (and led to the publication of two books).

My life is much different than it was during those first few years of blogging. I’m no longer a single missionary living in the “University Belt” of Manila, and I no longer meet hundreds of new college students every year through seminars.

My writing has changed along with my life. I post here less frequently these days, and most of my posts are either devotional thoughts or just updates about life events.

One thing hasn’t changed: questions about relationships are what bring most new visitors to this blog. I see it when I check the statistics (search queries, most popular posts, etc.). I still receive relationship questions from the Philippines and other parts of the world. I’m grateful that what I’ve shared is still helping people who want to honor God in their relationship choices.

I decided to re-visit this topic today after watching a TEDx video by Joshua Harris. For those who don’t know, he is the author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, a book that has sold millions of copies.  Here’s the premise of the book:  Josh decided that dating was a completely flawed way to search for true love.  He committed himself to a different approach and shared his insights with the world.  For better or worse, his writing caused a shock wave in the Christian community.

I read I Kissed Dating Goodbye back in the early 2000’s. I thought Harris made some legitimate points about the mistakes young people were making when it comes to romantic relationships.  But some of his advice just didn’t seem practical or balanced to me, and I believe there are much better books out there (see: Top Three Christian Dating Books).

Perhaps the biggest issue with I Kissed Dating Goodbye was not the book itself, but the way some believers applied it.  I have encountered some that act as though a 21-year-old wrote an inerrant, universal guide for love, sex, and dating.

It’s now been 20 years since Josh’s revolutionary book was published, and the man who once wrote off dating has been re-thinking his position in a very public (and courageous) manner.  He’s been listening to those who were both helped and hurt by his book.  He’s now planning to make a documentary based on this experience called I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye.

Here’s the video about it from his website:


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.

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