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West Cleveland Baptist Church

"Followers of Christ leading others to know and follow Christ."

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WMU Hurricane Relief

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  – Colossians 3:17 (HCSB)

Recently, the Women’s Missionary Union of West Cleveland Baptist Church gathered in their monthly meeting and packed care packages to send out to the hurricane victims in North Carolina. These ladies will likely never meet anyone that they packed items for, and they will not be the ones that get to place these hygiene items into the hands of a victim, but they do it anyway. Why?

What is it that drives you to be on mission? You can do a lot of great things – but if you do them with an impure heart, you miss the greatest benefit of glorifying God with your actions. As a matter of fact, we are told to do everything in the name of Jesus in Colossians 3:17 – so take opportunities to love others as an opportunity to worship – and give God your very best!

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Mission to Atlanta

There is no question about it – the Church has been called to “Go and make disciples” and that is to happen “among all nations” (Matthew 28:19). The way that each individual body of believers carries out that command can vary widely however. There are three common directions:

  • Ignore it – Some churches simply lay aside making disciples of all nations as they pursue other ministry efforts. There are many demands on the modern-day church, and some of them would monopolize the church’s time on members rather than equipping them to seek the lost of the world with the Gospel. The Church must love, minister, and equip its members as well as seek the lost and dying world with the Gospel. Ignoring missions is not an acceptable direction.
  • Pay it – Some churches see the need of making disciples of all nations and look to missional giving in order to meet that need. Giving sacrificially toward missions is a great gift to God. Missional giving keeps many missionaries on the field doing the full-time work of God rather than constant fund-raising. A common truth about missions is that, “missions is caught more than taught.” That means for a church to really grasp missions, they catch it better by seeing and doing than by making assumptions. I could appreciate a steak dinner by watching it on Food Network, but I’ll have a much larger appreciation for the steak that I taste hot off the grill! Giving is good, but it’s only a part of the best recipe…
  • Send it – In addition to missional giving, a church that wants to “catch missions” needs to have people on the field. This can be done in a variety of ways, but what we’ve done at West Cleveland Baptist Church this year is to find the nearest SEND city. These are metropolitan areas that have a decreased Church presence as population has boomed and the Church has struggled. There are many church plants attempting to start in these cities, but the challenge to become relevant in a city that has marched on without faith is huge. Look at these three truths:
    • Every person in these cities needs Jesus (Romans 3:23)
    • Every church plant needs help and support
    • Every established church can gain valuable experience on the mission field by coming alongside a church plant.

This year, we left out at 6 AM from our church in Cleveland, TN. There were three families that totaled 12 people, and 5 of those people were 10 years old or under. Some think it would be counter-productive to have children on a mission trip, but I tend to think that if I’m going to raise my children in church, and I think a church should be on mission, then I want my children to have missions in their DNA.

It’s only a 2-hour drive from our church to Tapestry Church in Atlanta, GA. They have an office building that we were set to sleep in, but they do not have a traditional church building. Their goal is to identify believers in communities that would be willing to open their homes to weekly Bible study. Rather than one large building where everyone meets for one large church service per week, Tapestry Church has a vision where there are several small meeting places that are happening all over the city at various times and places. They will know they are achieving their goal when the love of Jesus is permeating Atlanta from Christians in all sorts of communities. It’s likely very different from what you are used to – but it’s a beautiful vision if you consider it. Each and every community that ends up with a group of faithful believers living out the Gospel can have a huge impact on the kingdom of God. It reminds me of a line from a song I heard years ago in the animated movie Prince of Egypt:

“A single thread of a tapestry,

though its color brightly shines,

can never understand its purpose,

in the pattern of the Grand Design”

  • Day 1: On our first day after driving down, we got unpacked and went through orientation. We quickly went to a community center in a neighborhood known as Little 5 Points. We cleaned the building (trash pickup in the parking lot, sweeping, mopping) and set up to feed a meal to anyone experiencing homelessness. Our hosts have been at this long enough to where they have befriended many people that have made the streets of Little 5 Points their home for years. We cleaned up and set up the meal, then it was off to the streets where we were simply walking and talking with people – inviting anyone that wanted a free meal to stop by the community center. I know this as “ministry of presence” where your intent is to go be with people wherever they are. Our kids were impacted by walking the streets and considering what it would be like to have no home. I think our adults were equally impacted by that thought. We only ended up serving a small handful at the community center, but it was a good day nonetheless.
  • Day 2: Our second day started with loading up tools for a work project at a local elementary school. We went to Benteen Elementary School to dig holes and cement in 4 benches that had been built by a previous mission group. We also had some flowers to plant and mulch to spread while there. There were many staff, administration, and students that walked by watching us work with excitement. They weren’t accustomed to seeing people do something nice for them while expecting nothing in return. It took us up to lunch time to finish the work at Benteen, and our kids enjoyed playing on the playground during the break times (and some of the work times). When we got back to the church offices, we helped to make 200 lunches for a local dance team that had lost their other catering service. We set up an assembly line where we rolled up 200 turkey/cheese roll-ups on tortillas and packed paper sacks with snacks so that this dance team could be fed the next day. These are not hard things – but they went a long way toward helping Tapestry Church show the love of Christ to their community. Who ever said that showing the love of Christ had to be difficult?
  • Day 3: On our last day, we gave everything a good cleaning in the office building where we lived. We cleaned the shower trailer, the trailer we’d used for our work, and the rooms where we slept. Then we set up another assembly line and began preparing sacks of weekend food. Tapestry Church has gotten tied into the school system where they have identified students that might be going hungry on the weekends. For these students, Tapestry Church collects food and sends them home with a simple sack of food that can give them something to eat for each meal over a weekend. Each sack included a pack of oatmeal, a pack of instant grits, a pack of Ramen noodles, a can of Spaghetti-O’s, a can of green beans, a granola bar, a pack of fruit snacks, and a pack of raisins. We packed like maniacs until we were out of food. There were cardboard boxes and plastic wrapping flying as we sped through the task at hand. Who wouldn’t want to volunteer their time and work hard to feed hungry kids??? I thought this was a very practical way to share the love of Christ with the community, and I was glad to be a part of it.

All in all, we had a great trip. It did my heart good to get back on the mission field even if just for 3 days. I am proud to have served alongside Matt, George, and Kimmi Stacy of Tapestry Church. I am also extremely proud of Curtis and Wilma Hicks, Maria Rayfield, David and Joy Mason, and my beautiful wife Tara Ward from West Cleveland Baptist Church. And a special shout out to Lukas, Liam, Landry, Noah, and Silas for being on the mission field so early! I pray that your experiences will shape how you see the world and it’s need for the Gospel for many years to come!

I hope that you will take a look around and decide today not to let missions pass you by. Go out today and “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37,39).

God bless!

Pastor Matt

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Choir Preparing for Easter

2018 Easter Musical Preparation Under Way!

At the Cross

The West Cleveland Baptist Church Choir will be leading out in a special worship experience on April 1, 2018 at 11 AM. This would be a great morning to think about the wonderful work of Jesus on the cross and beyond into His victory over death. Come worship with us as we celebrate our Risen King!

Check below for some samples of what the Choir is preparing for Easter. Now would be a great time to join the Choir and lead out in this special worship experience!

All Hail The Power Medley

At The Cross Medley

Lord’s Supper Medley

Because He Lives Medley

All Hail The Power Finale

Seeing God Through Distractions

Several days ago, I was travelling to Athens early one morning to do a Bible study with some friends. As I travelled, I turned off the radio and began to pray. I was impressed that particular morning with the beauty that surrounds us if we would just open our eyes.

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” – Romans 1:19-20

I began to look slightly to the right and the left of the interstate as I drove. There was created land, trees, sky, clouds, stars, and the beautiful array of colors as the night was shifting toward the day. I asked myself the question, “How many times have I driven this road only seeing the interstate and the cars?”

We get distracted by the works of man and miss the mighty works of God! What’s more is that beyond the physical realm, the attributes are clearly seen in the spiritual realm. The fruits that should bear from those who know Jesus are miraculous!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” – Galatians 5:22-24

Do you see it? The believer in Christ should constantly crucify the flesh that is trying to cover up the miraculous work of God in your life. As you learn to trust God more, you must give yourself over to greater obedience. You will begin to see those special fruits bear in your life on a more regular basis! Praise be to God for that!

While seeing through man’s various physical creations to glorify God for His beautiful creation is special – How much more special when real, genuine love is shown in the midst of a world of pretenders? How much more special when a believer has the peace of Christ in the midst of a storm? How much more special when a Christian is genuinely good to someone regardless of their “earning” it? Do you want to see miracles in your life? Have faith! God is working miracles every day in the lives of those who are bearing fruit for His glory!

“I like my yokes easy”

Easy Yokes Sticker

Well, it’s here – the new year. I find myself busy about the task of reorganizing and utilizing all of the gifts given to me at Christmas. I ran across this awesome little sticker that my wife put in my stocking. It’s a Christian pun sticker that shows a fried egg with the words “I like my yokes easy.” Now, love a good pun, but I love the truth behind this one even more. There are many days I feel weary and/or burdened – but Jesus has promised to take my burden and provide me with rest. I want to live with more faith and less stress in 2018 – how about you?

At the turn of the new year, we have a ready-made reason to think about new beginnings. There’s no magic power in any day on the calendar, but there is something about flipping the calendar over to the next year that makes you assess what might need to change. It makes you think about possibilities, and with a blank calendar, it seems like anything is possible (it is see Phil. 4:13)

It’s pretty clear in the scriptures that the impossible is made possible through Jesus Christ. For those of you who have faith – there is hope to be found in 2018. But what we do with that hope is what will make 2018 a great year or simply just another year.

If you are looking to mount up as much strength as you can find so that you can tackle 2018 through your vast amount of strength – the task ahead of you is too great. But if you decide to try it a different way this year, I’d like to encourage you to “mount up with wings like eagles; you shall run and not be weary; you shall walk and not faint” (Is. 40:31b)

Let’s turn to His Word:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Leaning on God seems simple in theory – but we struggle with it in practice. We master the art of “coming to God” but never finding rest; taking on the yoke of Christ while continuing to hold onto the yoke of the world; being weary in our labor but continuing to struggle along in half-measures of faith.

We chase other things to place our faith in – but they will tragically let us down. This is not an exhaustive list, but maybe you have placed your faith in:

  • Others – You are dependent on other people for happiness and joy. The problem is that other people will inevitably let you down (even with their best efforts). Rather than put all our eggs in someone’s basket, let’s commit to being gracious to our loved ones this year. They are imperfect, but we will love them anyway!
  • Money/Possessions – Maybe you are dependent on your bank account/job/house/car/etc for joy. Anytime your dollars are threatened, your happiness is affected. We have to live – so I’m not suggesting you turn a blind eye to your financial stability – but your faith and hope should be in God above all things.
  • Yourself – Ultimately, I think that many of us rely on ourselves more than anything. It’s a lonely, burdensome world to live in when the weight of it is upon your shoulders.

Whatever the category, if you’ve misplaced your faith, would you consider getting before a holy, loving, patient God and laying your burdens at His feet in 2018?

If you’d like prayer for any particular burdens, feel free to comment below and receive prayer in your struggle!

God bless,

Pastor Matt

Glancing at the past – Driving toward the Future

The largest consolidated effort to reach our community came and went on September 24, 2017. It was an awesome service! We decided to take the 75th Anniversary of our church and make a special effort to reach our community. We cancelled Sunday school for the morning, started church 30 minutes early, and had several components where we gave a tip of the cap toward our history. Let’s not forget we also had a HUGE dinner afterwards. It was a special time to meet people that were important in the history of the church.

When you celebrate an anniversary, there is a certain amount of looking back that goes along with it. The thrust of the sermon that morning was that we need not crane our necks toward the past when God is moving in our present and is guiding us toward an exciting future. God is so good!

While the feedback from the service was overall very positive, I have a few thoughts that I’d like to share:

  • Joyful workers – Leading up to this special service, we had people stepping up to help in a variety of ways. It was nice to see the completion of that work. Most of those workers got to the end of the service, and you could see the look of joy on their face as their work transformed from duty to worship somewhere along the way. There is a lesson to learn there: Worship is a matter of the heart rather than dependent on your circumstances. Get back to the “heart of worship”, and you will find joy in all that you do.
  • New friends – Part of our efforts to reach our community consisted of hanging a door hanger on every door within a half mile of the church to advertise the service. I found myself wondering how effective that would be. The Thursday prior to the service, I was hanging tags on the homes located on our street – Westland Drive. As I hung a tag on one home about 200 yards from our church, a lady named Nora came out to greet me. She is 76 years old and was keeping her great grand-daughter this particular day. We spoke for just a few moments, and then I went on my way. It was so encouraging to see Nora at our church on Sunday, and she even put on her information card: “I am a guest of: Matt Ward”… It is a blessing to make new friends from our community. I’m praying that doors would open wide for us to minister to some of these new friends!
  • Old friends – We had several revered people from our church’s past in attendance that particular Sunday. There were two “old friends” that stand out as a blessing to me:
    • Shawn and Tim Caylor are friends that I made recently on a mission trip to Houston. I was the “team leader”, and this was the first mission trip they had taken together as a couple. I would guess that it will probably be the first of many, but we will see. It was such a blessing to look up and see my “old friends” pop into our church service.
    • The old friend that stands out most in my mind was one of my best friends from high school – Nicholas Fields. We had not seen each other in close to 10 years and had not spoken in quite a while. I knew Nick was struggling through several medical issues, and he has been in a crisis of faith for some time. God brought him to our church that day – and it was such a personal blessing of mine to see him and pray with him for increased faith. Would you join me in saying a prayer for Nicholas Fields?

Ultimately, whether it was old friends or new friends or somewhere in between, it was a great day for the life of our church. I look forward to God guiding and directing us to continue reaching our community in new ways as we move forward. It has to be about seeing people come to know Christ and begin their journey toward discipleship. Lord, bless us as we make it our mission and goal to reach people with Your Gospel!

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A Mutual Blessing… Day 4 in the Field

Today we knew exactly where we were going and what we were doing. We were headed back to our friend Michael’s house to finish the job on his big home. You may have seen the pictures from yesterday’s post  where Michael’s home was filled with 5 feet of water. He also lost a truck, a Mercedes, and a Harley to the flood waters in his garage. It was amazing to see the amount of damage done to a home filled with flood waters.

Before

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When tragedy strikes somewhere other than my home, I’m sure my thought process is similar to that of many others. “I wish there was just something I could do!” I am so thankful to have the opportunity to be here doing my part to help for a week. I have found myself repeatedly thanking the owners of the homes for the opportunity to be with them for a day or two. Michael was always quick to correct me with his encouraging smile and voice, “The blessing is mine! Thank you guys for coming out! I don’t know what I’d be doing without someone to help.”

That’s really the amazing part about this home and owner for me. Here’s a guy that owns a nice home that is wrecked after the storm. He is obviously going to be dealing with emotional attachments to things he has lost for some time as he copes with the events of this tragedy. For two full days, he watches and works with us to carry everything from the first floor to the road. He has to deal with scavengers stopping by to ask if they can dig through the pile to look for scrap metal and whatever else they are after. He had to wait on the FEMA inspector to show up today at 10 AM to look through his house and decide whatever it is they decide…. It all feels like the world is moving on – and all these homeowners need is a breath of fresh air and a minute to process what’s going on. It is all so unpredictable – like driving a curvy road on a foggy day.

image6 (2)

With all that said, when we show up to help, Michael constantly reminded us that “God sent us” to him, and ultimately that God is good! In the midst of life’s storms, there is only one place to find refuge. Having faith isn’t about re-visualizing all the events of life as pleasant… having faith is understanding that God is good no matter what may come. Don’t see God through the filter of of your circumstances – see your circumstances through the filter of God’s goodness. Our neighbors in Texas, Florida, and everywhere in between are being put through a real test right now. We should uplift them in prayer and pray that they would lean on the one true God – for He alone is good!

After

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“God sent you guys…” – Day 3 in the field

Today we went to the house of a man that had a really scary experience in the flood. You can see from the featured picture where the water line was on the glass door. The paper I got described 60 inches of water that had been in this house! I knew the house would be in rough shape, but I didn’t know there would be a scary story attached to it.

Michael has lived in this house long enough to weather a few storms. He has gotten used to expecting these bad storms to pass by without really needing to evacuate. He stayed in his home as the flood waters came in… and they continued to rise. He was in the water up to his chin when he decided to get on his roof so that he could hop in his boat and get out of there. When he hopped into his boat to make a getaway, the battery was dead. He had to flag down a rescue boat to get out of the storms and rising flood waters.

His house is large. It’s a 5 bedroom house with lots of bathrooms and closets. Our team worked really hard today to rip out all of the sheetrock, tile, insulation, doors, etc. It was a huge job. Michael stayed in there and worked HARD all day long with us. With all of us working hard, we still were not able to finish it today, but we knocked most of it out. We look forward to finishing tomorrow and setting our new friend up for the next steps of getting his home back in order. See the pictures below for an idea of what his neighborhood looks like….

We will be back at it tomorrow with just a few days to go. It’s been an awesome trip with a great team. God is being made known to the people of this community in a big way!

God bless,

Pastor Matt

The work continues…

Today was our second day on the job. Yesterday, we had last week’s team still here to work with us, but they left this morning at 3 AM. So we were on our own today.

I was unfortunately called on to be team leader for this group – which really shows what kind of pinch they were in! One of my duties as team lead is to get up and go to the command cell to get an assignment each day. The command cell is operated by Southern Baptists from Arkansas. Milling around the Arkansas trailer is an enormous group from Arizona. I noticed a few days ago that the team leader is oftentimes referred to as the “blue hat”. I didn’t understand it then, but now I do. Arizona’s team all walk around with yellow hats on if they are workers, and the team leaders wear actual blue hats. How did I not see that coming?

So I come strolling up in a camouflage Tennessee Titans hat, a Captain America shirt, and old Army ACU pants. I definitely don’t look the part, but they are all nice and gracious. I get the assignment and head back to communicate it to the team I’m with from Bradley County. My team is awesome! They are a group of folks that came to make some stuff happen. It’s a conglomeration of Christians from First Baptist Cleveland, Philippi Baptist, Thompson Springs Baptist, and me, from West Cleveland Baptist. We have gone in and worked hard both days. Everyone is engaged and excited to be working for the Lord in a way that will show the love of Jesus to someone in need.

We were sent to a the home of a woman who is wheelchair-bound due to 2 broken hips. She was not around, so we dealt with her daughter Bonnie. There were rooms that were full of belongings – and one room that still had carpet that had been wet since the floods. Keep in mind – there had been about 2 feet of standing water in this house, so everything that got wet was exposed to all sorts of stuff in the water and is ruined. All sheetrock, carpet, insulation, furniture, … you get the picture – had to be busted and hauled to the road for trash pickup. This home needed attention in a bad way – and our team came in and whipped it into shape in one full day. Bonnie was blessed, and so was our team for the opportunity. We will be back at it tomorrow with a new project!

God bless,

Pastor Matt

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