As bad news grows, glory awaits

It has become a nightly ritual. I sit down at the computer and catch up on the day’s news. The local, national, and world news is all right there at my fingertips.

I scan through the headlines.

“Man charged with killing Alaska couple, assaulting toddler”

“Marine killed after Texas shooting spree”

“Moore tornado death toll stands at 24”

Bad news is everywhere. It grows on a daily basis.

Trouble and heartache has multiplied exponentially in our world as the population has grown and technology has exploded.

We witness terrible natural disasters as they happen hundreds of miles away. We see political turmoil as it plays out across the globe. We anxiously flip from channel to channel as a massive manhunt takes place for terrorists.

This is not just a symptom of our culture’s information overload. This is the symptom of a world gone stark raving mad.

These are the symptoms of a sinful world in dire need of salvation.

Horrible news is on the rise. There are wars and rumors of wars. Disastrous weather phenomena is becoming more frequent. Evil men are, in the words of the King James Bible, “waxing worse and worse.”

People are calling good evil, and conversely calling evil good.

These things have always happened, but the intensity is nearing a peak.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to digest all the news that I purposely expose myself to on a daily basis. My heart aches for those who have lost loved one’s to natural distaster. The wickedness of man casts a dreaded pall upon nearly every breaking news story.

In Matthew 24:8, Jesus said events of this type would be the beginning of birth pangs. If you know anything about birth pangs or contractions, you know the intensity grows with each passing hour leading up to the glorious birth of a newborn child.

Birth pangs are awful. It’s painful to see friends and family endure such horrible tragedy. Even the pain of complete strangers is almost too difficult to imagine.

But with each moment of pain, something glorious draws near. With each tear shed in fear and terror, tears of joy await those who long for His coming.

What is our aim in these tragic days?

Reach out to the hurting. Bind up the brokenhearted. In the midst of our world’s horrible reality, continue to proclaim the good news. Pray, pray, and pray some more.

Endure the pain.

A glorious morning awaits.

Celebrating a Church Milestone

I have been in church quite literally all of my life. Dedicated at 17 days old, nearly every childhood memory I have involves church and/or church family.

For much of the first 10 years of my life, my dad, James Barker, was an evangelist. We always had a home church where dad was a part of the leadership, but he also preached revivals and had his own television ministry.

After many years of ministry in various roles, my dad started a church in 1993.

I was 11 years old when he and a friend, Thomas Tallent, who we met at a seven week revival in 1989, rented a storefront building in Rossville, GA. At the time, I had no clue the ride that was awaiting my family and I.

While church planting has experienced a renaissance in recent years, starting a church from scratch has always been a huge undertaking. Regardless of how much money or how many people you may have to get the church launched, if it’s not a God thing it won’t last.

That is precisely why Sunday, May 19 was such a special day in the history of the Joyful Sound Church in Chattanooga, TN. Many church plants simply do not become thriving churches that last 20 years, so we celebrated this milestone.

Granted, our church has never really busted at the seams with congregants. We had a steady run in the late 90’s with an average of just over 100 people at most services. For much of the last decade, however, we’ve seen steady decline from those numbers.

While there has been a decline in average attendance for some time now, much of the original leadership remains intact. On top of that, Joyful Sound has become a training ground of sorts for ministry.

Through various community outreach programs, Joyful Sound remains a vital ministry hub in Chattanooga’s inner-city.

Four leadership teams of six people leads two afternoon services for the homeless and needy of our community, in addition to our three regular services, on a weekly basis.

Over the last 10 years, we’ve served nearly 20,000 hot meals to the homeless, elderly, and needy and we continue to provide emergency grocery assistance to more than 1,000 families each year.

Two of our leaders from the past 20 years are now pastors. One planted his own work in nearby East Ridge, TN in 2011 and the other turned an existing, formerly declining church into one of the largest Churches of God in the Chattanooga area.

Our current leadership consists of eight ministers who not only preach the word, but minister to the physical needs of our community as well. Those eight ministers are being developed and trained to one day become planters, pastors, and leaders within our city and beyond. I’m ecstatic to be a part of that group.

The harsh reality may be that church plants don’t usually last 20 years–especially when the second half of those two decades has seen steady decline. Statistics prove many church plants close up shop within just a few years.

But the church plant I have attended for the last 20 years was and still is a God thing. I have a feeling that Joyful Sound being the hands and feet of God in the East Lake community of Chattanooga, TN may have something to do with that longevity.

 

A Full Plate of Ministry… and Life

When I began this blog, I had intentions of posting at least twice a week. I did exactly that for three weeks and then a little thing called ministry and life happened.

I’m not going to spend this post making excuses for my lack of posting, but between revival, numerous special ministry services, and my 11th anniversary something had to take a back seat.  That something was this blog.

Not that I’m apologizing for doing ministry. It’s what God has called me to do. And ministry will be my primary focus, outside of my family of course.

Part of that ministry is this blog. And it will be treated as such in the future.

In addition to helping out with revivals and leading many worship services these last few weeks, my wife and I took a weekend off to celebrate our 11th anniversary.

Despite the rigors of traveling over six hours to spend one sunny day at the beach, it was so worth it. Never underestimate the physical and emotional renewal that just getting away for a couple of days can bring.

It has definitely been a full plate of ministry and life in recent weeks, but I’d rather have a full plate to begin with and leave it empty than to have nothing going on at all.