I recently returned from a second trip to Jackson, Mississippi, speaking at a gathering of pastors who are part of the Rural Pastors Initiative, through Belhaven University. As was also the case last year, it was a blessed time. I enjoyed this trip even more than my first one, because I was able to reconnect with a bunch of the guys I met a year ago. Here are a few reflections on this ministry trip.
- I’m grateful for the richness of the African-American spiritual tradition. Most of the fellows of RPI are African-Americans pastoring Baptist churches. They are lovers of Jesus, hard workers (many have at least one job in addition to pastoring), and gifted communicators. It was fascinating to hear of their pastoral training and experience. They sing with joy and listen to preaching with full engagement. I admire these men.
- One of my favorite sermons during the weekend was on Jesus’ feeding of the multitude in John 6, and the preacher — who could really preach — kept on returning to the observation, ‘It didn’t look like much.’ The few loaves and fish didn’t look like much, but Jesus multiplied them. He told us to return to our churches and towns knowing that God can do big things with what doesn’t look like much. Amen and amen.
- The highlight of the time for me was on Friday evening, when a couple of the RPI fellows shared very vulnerably about serious struggles they’re currently having. They are finding Christ sufficient in these areas of great personal weakness and pain. One of the guys said that the suffering he’s experiencing is sending him deeper into the study of God’s Word, and he’s regularly texting other pastors his insights in order to encourage them. This is beautiful and amazing to me. He’s excited by what he’s seeing in the Word, because it gives him insight to share with others. That’s why he’s coming to see the agonizing struggle he’s experiencing as a gift from God; because it’s revealing more of God’s Word to him (cf. Psalm 119.71).
Thank you, Lord, for Christian brothers who are serving you faithfully and fruitfully in small places. May you be honored through their lives and ministries. May our weakness be an opportunity for your power to be put on full display.