Tag Archives: Ministry

What’s an “Associate Minister”?

What’s an “Associate Minister”?

If you’ve been around PVCC for the past several months, you heard the news that Zach Ellsworth, our part-time Youth Minister, would be full-time starting April 1. Well, it’s April 12 – and so far, so good! Zach is now full-time, settling in well to his new routines, and slowly but surely assuming more responsibilities than he had before.

In addition, you may have heard Zach recently refer to himself as PVCC’s “Associate Minister”. Why did we choose this title? Why didn’t we just keep calling Zach the “Youth Minister”? What exactly are Zach’s duties and tasks as an “Associate Minister”?

As he prepared to start full-time, Zach and I discussed his job title, and agreed that the “Youth Minister” title is too narrow for the responsibilities he’d be taking on. Zach is still the “Youth Minister”; overseeing Gravity Student Ministries (grades 6-12) is still one of his primary passions and duties. However, in addition to grades 6-12, Zach is slowly assuming oversight of our Kids Kingdom ministries (nursery-5th grade). I have no doubt Zach will put the same level of thought, effort, and prayer into Kids Kingdom that he puts into Gravity.

On top of that, there are other ways Zach will be serving PVCC that go far beyond children and students. He’ll be preaching on Sunday mornings from time to time, offering pastoral care, and eventually leading a Small Group. And of course, working in a church the size of ours means one must learn to be a “jack of all trades”; various and unexpected needs regularly pop up in the day to day life of our church, and I’m confident Zach will step up when those needs arise.

After Zach and I agreed on the title of “Associate Minister”, I shared our idea with the Elders. They agreed with our thought process, and just like that, a new job title was born!

To sum it all up, Zach is no longer simply a “Youth Minister”; nor is he simply a “Children’s Minister”. Zach’s ministry will be relevant to everyone who walks through the doors of PVCC, regardless of whether or not they have a child in some particular age range. Thus, he is our Associate Minister – and his godliness, example, and leadership matter greatly to all who call PVCC home.

If you have any questions about Zach’s transition, don’t hesitate to ask. And of course, we ask that you keep Zach, Hanna, and Theo in prayer as they get used to this new way of life. And finally, be sure to thank Nancy Kinsey for her years of overseeing Kids Kingdom. She’ll still be involved with that ministry on a volunteer basis, and I’m sure all her experience will make her a great resource for Zach as he learns the ropes. Nancy remains a blessing to our church in her role as Administrative Assistant, even as she passes the Kids Kingdom torch to Zach.

Know Your History

Know Your History

Who are the most influential people in your life as a follower of Jesus? What places have played a major role in shaping you as a believer?

As I look back on my own Christian life, I can name many people and places God has used to challenge, encourage, teach, and grow me. I owe of all these people and places a great debt for their willingness to love and serve me. A few examples:

My parents.

As a young child in Tennessee, I was raised in a Christian home. My family attended Collierville First Baptist Church consistently (except for when my sister and I could convince our parents to stay home and eat McDonald’s sausage biscuits instead). I attended Vacation Bible School each year, and participated in RA’s (essentially a Southern Baptist version of Boy Scouts). I played Upward Basketball, and my sister was getting involved in the Youth Group before we moved to the Cincinnati area. My parents taught me the truth about Jesus from a young age, and emphasized the value of a church family.

Hebron Baptist Church (Hebron, KY)

This is the church we joined when we moved to the Cincinnati area. I sat and listened to sermons from a preacher named Shawn Edwards. He loved Scripture, and taught it faithfully. BJ Sanders, my Youth Minister, took a great interest in me. He was a wonderful friend, mentor, and discipled me patiently throughout my teens. Through the work of this church, I first sensed a calling from God to go into vocational ministry. God used this church in big ways during some of the most formative years of my life.

Cincinnati Christian University (Cincinnati, OH)

I attended CCU for both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, and met many friends along the way. The professors were gifted, experienced, and Scripturally-grounded teachers. I learned more about Scripture at CCU than I ever could have imagined, and my love for Christ, the Church, and vocational ministry was nurtured well there.

Journey (Union, KY)

Journey was a small church plant close to my house, and the first church to ever issue me a paycheck. I was a VERY part-time Youth Minister, and only served there for about a year – but I met wonderful people who loved God, and got my first taste of what it’s like to be in vocational ministry. I also learned about some of the unique challenges of working at a brand new church, still trying to get off the ground.

Batesville Christian Church (Batesville, IN)

While finishing my Bachelor’s degree at CCU, I worked here for two years as part-time Minister of Youth and Family Life. Upon my graduation from CCU, I moved to full-time at BCC for another (almost) two years. Steve Yeaton, the Senior Minister at BCC at the time, quickly became one my most trusted and valued mentors. Steve taught me just about everything I knew about vocational ministry prior to arriving at Prairie View. This is the church Olivia and I were married in; we lived in this church’s parsonage when we brought Javan home from the hospital; this is the first church to give me consistent preaching opportunities. This church gave me financial support to begin my Master’s degree at CCU. We have wonderful memories at BCC, where so many godly believers loved us, cared for us, and showed us grace as we learned how to be spouses, parents, and church leaders. Those relationships still mean the world to us, and we keep in touch with many of the believers here regularly.

If not for these people and places, I would not be serving at Prairie View Christian Church today. God used each of them in unique ways to help me become the man, husband, father, and Pastor I am today. I owe each of them a great debt, and am incredibly grateful for all of them.

Now that you know some of my history, back to the original question of the post: Who are the most influential people in your life as a follower of Jesus? What places have played a major role in shaping you as a believer?

As you reflect on that question, thank God for those people – whoever they are. Pray for those people, and for those churches and institutions that served you well. It may be easy for you to look back and lob criticisms at those people and places; that’s true for me as well, and some of those criticisms may have merit. However, don’t forget the debt you owe them. God – in his wisdom – put you in the right places, at the right times, with the right people, to get you to where you are today.

There’s great value in knowing your history. I hope reflecting back on your history as a believer would bring about the humility of knowing how much you owe God and others. I also hope you’ll be filled with gratitude for the people and places God used to shape you into the believer you are today.

Isaiah’s Burden

Isaiah’s Burden

I recently started reading the Book of Isaiah (for thoughts on Bible reading plans, see our July 19 blog post). I found myself asking the question: was Isaiah’s ministry a success?

Isaiah prophesied “in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah” (Isaiah 1:1 – for more details about this period of time, see 2 Kings 15-20 and 2 Chronicles 26-32). All is not well in Israel at this time; in fact, the once united kingdom is now split in two: Israel in the north, and Judah in the south. Up to this point, there have been wicked kings in both Israel and Judah; but to be honest, Israel’s kings have been worse. More often than not, they’ve been marked by injustice, corruption, idolatry, and violence. And while Isaiah’s dealings are mostly with the kings in Israel, he also prophesies concerning the later judgment of Judah.

God has given Isaiah a thankless job: announcing God’s judgment upon the people of Israel for their sin. Making this job even harder, God specifically tells Isaiah that the people will not listen to his words. They will be dull, deaf, and blind to Isaiah’s warnings.

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

And he said, “Go, and say to this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”

And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and house without people, and the land is a desolate waste, and the LORD removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.”

The holy seed is its stump. (Isaiah 6:8-13)

Only later in the book do we see glimmers of hope that eventually, a “remnant” of God’s people will heed Isaiah’s warning, and turn back to God in repentance. Perhaps that’s also alluded to in the above phrase, “The holy seed is its stump.” Some will listen; but not many.

In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck him, but will lean on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return.” (Isaiah 10:20-22A)

Now, back to Isaiah’s God-given mission: preaching to people who will ignore him. In light of these clear, God-established expectations, how do we evaluate Isaiah’s ministry? Was Isaiah’s ministry “successful”?

In this day and age of ministry, we often define “success” with large numbers, observable results, and a high “return on investment”. We ask questions like: “What’s your Sunday morning attendance now? How many baptisms have you had? Are you expanding your building yet? How big is your budget? Has your social media platform grown? Have you been invited to speak at any conferences recently?” By those standards, Isaiah’s ministry was a failure.

But by God’s standards, Isaiah’s ministry was a success. Why? Because Isaiah faithfully did what God told him to do.¬†

God will use some people to accomplish all the things we listed above: increased church attendance, numerous baptisms, building expansions, and budget increases. God will give some people large social media platforms, and big conference stages to do so. Who knows – you may be one of them.

But that may not be me, and it may not be you. God may be calling you to a ministry like Isaiah’s: preaching, teaching, shepherding, and praying faithfully – with little to no obvious success.

At times, that will feel less like a ministry, and more like a burden. You too may ask, “How long, O Lord?” But keep obeying and listening to God. Your ministry success is not determined by your ability to force or manufacture impressive results; your ministry success is determined by your faithfulness to the mission God has given you. Perhaps God will use you in big, flashy ways; perhaps he won’t. But either way, God calls you to be faithful – like Isaiah.

And like Isaiah, you’ve been given a message to share: the Great Commission. Some will listen to your words; more than likely, most won’t. But keep preaching. Keep teaching. Keep shepherding. Keep praying. Keep loving. Keep serving. Don’t give up, even when people don’t listen. Your job isn’t to convert the world; your job is to be faithfully announce the Gospel. God will do the heavy lifting; you’re simply the messenger.