Christians & a Donald Trump Presidency

Donald Trump is the next president of the United States. While voter turnout was lower than it has been since 2000 election, it appears that white Evangelical voters were among the strongest constituencies to propel Trump to victory. In other words, my people, the group I associate with, helped place Trump in office. I woke up to the news that Trump was elected this morning and have been reflecting both on his victory and the path that placed him next in line for the White House, and what that means for us as Christians, now. I was not a Trump supporter, and was grieved because I thought both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were troubling options for our country, and the data that is coming out reveals a populace that also does not find President-Elect Trump very appealing (his unfavorable rating is above 50%). This indicates that, likely, most who cast a vote for him did so in response to his opponent, Secretary Clinton, rather than because of a deep belief in his candidacy. In other words, they were more fearful of a Clinton Presidency, with her lack of trustworthiness, her radical opposition to the pro-life movement, her opposition to a biblical sexual ethic, and other issues than they were fearful of a Trump presidency. I share their concern about Mrs. Clinton, personally, and could not vote for her. However, the populace voting for a candidate out of concern for their opposition leaves followers of Christ in an important position this morning.

There is a chance that many who voted for Donald Trump out of concern over Hillary Clinton will now sit back and relax, to a degree, thinking that they have experienced victory. This would be a mistake, particularly for those of us who make up the church. Now that one great concern (Mrs. Clinton) is no longer a threat, the Christian’s new responsibility is to recognize that the candidate who has been elected is a man who has personally embodied a liberal sexual ethic, a grossly negligent and even dismissive attitude toward women, minorities, immigrants and others and who shows little awareness of a Christian commitment. As followers of Jesus, we need to pray for and honor him as president, but we need to hold President-Elect Trump accountable to not only defeat a concerning political foe, but also hold him accountable to embrace a Christian ethic on issues such as life, the dignity of every person regardless of race or gender, and so on.

The American people have spoken and Donald Trump will soon be president. We should pray for him and honor him as our President, as scripture calls us to. We should rest comfortably in the fact that God is in control, and his sovereignty is not in question (as he would have been should Mrs. Clinton have won). We must also, however, speak prophetically to him and his government, holding him accountable to govern in a way that is consistent with a Christian ethic. We cannot afford to relax, believing the work is done when there is much at stake. We also cannot pretend that a man who self-identifies as a Conservative will necessarily insure a preferred future. In other words, now that the election is over, the work of the church is not done, it is just beginning.

So let us speak out with kindness and with grace. Let us call our government to a pro-life, pro-family, pro-women, pro-minority, pro-immigrant, pro-Constitution governance. And let us not take hope in any earthly government, regardless of political persuasion, remembering that our ultimate hope is in King Jesus.

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & (soon to be) Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainer Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

An exciting change for the Fries family

Earlier tonight the Pastor Search Team from Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN shared with their church that they have invited me to preach in view of a call as their next Senior Pastor [presentation website]. If you are surprised by this transition in our life, you wouldn’t be alone. We have been surprised and amazed at how God has worked in our lives through this process of turning our hearts to Brainerd and Chattanooga. I’d love to share a little bit of that story with you.

Why leave LifeWay?
Why would I choose to leave LifeWay? The very simple answer, and I’ll explain more in detail below, is that we believe God has called us to Chattanooga and directed our hearts to Brainerd Baptist Church. We had no desire to leave LifeWay. Working for Ed Stetzer over the past 3. 5 years has has helped shape me in so many ways. Our time at LifeWay and in Nashville has been so good for our family and our ministry. We love LifeWay and, more than ever, we are excited about the future of LifeWay. We believe she is well led, and has a nearly unparalleled selection of giftedness across the men and women who make up the LifeWay family. I can’t say more strongly how much we love and respect LifeWay, her leadership and the resources she provides, and how bright we believe her future is. Leaving LifeWay will be tough.

However, over the past 3.5 years that I’ve served at LifeWay, we have realized that God has uniquely designed me to serve the local church in the role of pastor. Serving on staff at our home church, Fairview Church, and providing interim leadership over much of the last year at First Baptist Church of Jackson, MS (two churches I deeply love) showed me clearly that pastoring in the local church was exactly where I was designed by God to be.

With that said, we had no plans to leave LifeWay. At the beginning of our ministry Tracy and I made a decision to never send out resumes unless we were first approached by a church/ministry. We trusted the Lord and told him that we would be faithful where he placed us, and we would trust him to move us when he was ready. We weren’t planning to leave. In fact, on 4 occasions over the past year we were approached by wonderful churches and asked to consider possibly serving as their Senior Pastor. While we were honored by each of these requests – and believed each church gave evidence of great potential – we clearly discerned that God did not want us there. We now know it is because he was keeping us for Brainerd.

Finally, we struggled with the idea of leaving because we love our church and we love the city we live in. We have developed deep relationships here. Our girls have strong friendships here. It’s hard to say good bye to those. For all those reasons, and more, we didn’t plan to leave but God seemed to make this decision very simple for us.

Why go to Brainerd?
As I said above, the decision ultimately came down to our ability to discern God’s will, and we believe God has called us to go. One story can serve as a startling example. A few months ago Tracy and I had been talking about the future. We were grappling with what would be next for our family. We didn’t know, at the time, that Ed Stetzer would soon be announcing his transition to Wheaton College, but we sensed that some change was coming our way. As we talked together about what that could look like, our conversation revolved almost exclusively around opportunities within LifeWay. However, one morning as I was getting ready to leave for work, Tracy shared with me a sense of confidence that God was preparing her to be a pastor’s wife again. This was no small moment. Tracy loved my job at LifeWay and the routine that our family enjoyed. As I said, the past 3.5 years has been so very good for our family. As she shared this with me she cautioned me that she didn’t want me to look for a position but, should a position fall in our laps, she was confident we needed to consider it and pray through it. I got in the car and drove to work. I sat down at my desk at work, started looking through emails and about 90 minutes after that earlier conversation, my phone rang. It was Richard Bethea, the Search Team Chairman, asking me to consider praying about Brainerd’s open Senior Pastor position. Although I wasn’t aware, they had known of me for 6 or more weeks, and had been studying my life, our family and our ministry in detail and felt like God had confirmed in their hearts that we need to talk. Needless to say, I was floored. The timing seemed unmistakable. Tracy and I spoke quickly after that phone call, and it didn’t take long after that, through meeting with the committee, for God to confirm in our heart that this was his desire for our family in a number of different ways.

So what’s next?
We are going to work hard for LifeWay for the next 6 weeks or so. About 4 weeks from now we are going to spend the weekend at Brainerd, in view of a call. Assuming that the church affirms me as their next Senior Pastor, we’ll look forward to beginning our ministry the first week of July. This means, of course, packing, selling our house and saying goodbye to folks who have become very good friends – some even like family – buying a new house and beginning to settle in Chattanooga. But we are excited, very excited, frankly. We believe the future is astonishingly bright at Brainerd Baptist Church. We have a lot of hopes and dreams for the future of the church and the future of Chattanooga. We believe God is putting us together with Brainerd, and we cannot wait to see how this all comes together.

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & (soon to be) Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainer Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

Buy a shirt, give a home!

Not long ago TOMS Shoes, behind the leadership of Blake Mycoskie, popularized the idea of charitable purchases. In other words, you bought a pair of shoes from TOMS, and they give a pair of shoes to someone in need. It’s obviously a great business model, but it also help us do good while also acquiring something we all need anyway – shoes.

We want to help do something similar, though on a different scale. We are working with the good folks at Bonfire Funds to provide a shirt for you to purchase. It’s a great looking, comfortable shirt and they’re offered at reasonable prices. However, instead of buying a shirt and having something like a shirt given to someone in need, when you buy this shirt you will be helping provide a home to an orphan in need. It’s really pretty simple and yet the impact can be pretty significant.

We are trying this one time to see how the response is. So far we’ve been pretty excited about the response. We were hoping to sell at least 50 shirts (at Bonfire’s recommendation) and, while we had 15 days to make that happen, we actually sold 50 shirts in the first 15 hours!

Now we need to sell as many as we can. If we can sell around 3,000 shirts, we can completely fund the adoption. That’s obviously a lot of shirts, but if you think about it, it’s not that bad. If a few of our friends and family can share it around and encourage their friends and family to buy a shirt, we could get it done. We’ve tried to come up with a good looking design that is fun to wear and not too specific to our adoption so that anyone would be comfortable wearing it.

So, would you do us a favor? Would you consider buying one (or two or three) shirts for you and your family, and would you share through your social media channels about this opportunity? It would be a great help to us! Click here to visit the page where you can find t-shirts, women’s cut shirts, hoodies, long sleeve t-shirts and youth shirts.

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Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & (soon to be) Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainer Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

Let’s help Syrian (and other) refugees.

The debate is swirling concerning the Syrian refugee status, and whether they should be welcomed into the US. While that’s an important conversation, and one that needs to be had, let’s set it aside for a moment. Regardless of conviction, everyone I know who claims Christ agrees that we should express love and compassion to those who are fleeing terror. The problem is that most of us don’t know what to do. How can we personally involve ourselves in serving these who are hurting? Let me briefly outline just a few ideas that will help us put feet to our compassion, no matter which side of the political debate you come down on.

1. Provide resources to assist the refugees.
You can provide monetary, or other resources, but find a way to serve those who are fleeing disaster. Our church has done this by collecting resources and sending them to northern Iraq where a number of refugees have settled, as well as sending financial support. You can also do this by giving, financially, to one of the fantastic relief agencies that are working diligently to serve these refugees. There are more agencies doing good work than I can list here, but I’ve personally worked with a few that I highly recommend. Baptist Global Response, World Relief and WorldVision are good starting places. If you know of another good organization, though, feel free to start with them. The important thing is that we do something.

2. Work with local refugees who are being resettled.
One of the most encouraging things my family has experienced recently has been working with local refugees who are being resettled due to conflict. Relief agencies who are helping resettle refugees are always looking for volunteers who will give a little bit of time to befriend and help refugee families. They need assistance with everything from resume preparation, navigating a confusing new city/area, learning customs/language and most of all, they need friends. The refugees that we have come to know have blessed our family in ways that were far greater than we have blessed them. In the Nashville area, we have worked with World Relief. Learn more about the work in your local area, and see how you can be involved.

3. Pray. Pray diligently.
Whatever your political position, refuges around the world need our love, compassion and most of all, they need our prayer. Spend some time today praying with your family for the displaced refugees. When you gather with your church, lead your church to pray for these displaced people. While there are refugees from many places, the Syrian refugees are forefront in our minds right now. Out of the 22 million Syrians, 12 million, over half, have been displaced by the crisis. They are being killed at a rate similar to the Paris death total every single day since March of 2011. 12.5 women and children are killed every day. These people desperately need our prayer.

4. Go and serve them.
I know that most of us can’t do this, but some of us can. Instead of a mission trip to an easier location, why not spend a week or two physically serving among them? I’ve spent time close to the Syrian border talking to refugees, and sharing the gospel with them. This crisis is easy to discuss in theoretical terms, but when you’ve spent time with someone who was beaten trying to cross a border, and preferred the beating because it was better than the danger back home, that theory becomes reality in significant ways. Whether it be a short-term opportunity, or a longer-term commitment through a relief agency, some of us can physically do something to care for refugees. Maybe you are one of those who can.

This is a quick list I threw together in 10 minutes from my experience. It’s not exhaustive, and it’s not meant to be. I’m just hopeful that it will make some of us think about ways we can serve those who are hurting; ways that we can show compassion to those who are in need.

What are some other ways that you, your church or someone you know is serving refugees and their communities?

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & (soon to be) Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainer Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

When Gnostics go to church

This was originally posted at Gospel Centered Discipleship.

Gnosticism was at the heart of much of the New Testament writers’ objections. At its root, Gnosticism argued that the material world was bad, and the spiritual world, or realm, was good. The majority of Gnostics, then, practiced a mix of asceticism and even philanthropy as they tried to divest themselves of material goods in an attempt to pursue knowledge through the spiritual world. The New Testament writers wrote in detail about the danger of Gnosticism, and we consistently affirm their objections, but when it comes to the underlying theology in Gnostic thought, I wonder if the church isn’t guilty of embracing its premise?

Since I was a small child, I have been taught that our time here on earth was limited. All of history points to the return of Jesus Christ when he would call his children home to his eternal kingdom. Earth, then, is a temporary holding place—a place for us to live in such a way so we honor God, but a temporary home, none-the-less. Popular songs have been written for decades now celebrating this truth. The chorus of the old Southern Gospel song, “The Old Gospel Ship” seems to embrace that philosophy.

I’m a gonna take a trip
In the good old gospel ship
I’m goin’ far beyond the sky
I’m a gonna shout and sing
Until all the Heavens ring
When I bid this old world goodbye

I’m not trying to pick on music and musicians, but the church has been celebrating both the badness of this world and the goodness of some other, better, world for a long time now. We like the spiritual world off in the distance, and we diminish, or even discredit, this world – this physical world. Fundamentally, though, when I look at scripture I see a couple of things pointing to this being a thoroughly Gnostic—and thoroughly non-Christian—approach.

First, any theology viewing this world as bad and abandoned by God, conflicts with Scripture’s testimony that the world was created before the existence of sin. God declared of his created world, “It is good.” The created world is God’s good plan intended for our good and his glory. When we dismiss this world as temporary, we do violence to the biblical text. Scripture teaches God’s plan involved this good creation from the beginning.

Secondly, viewing the world as inherently bad and soon to be destroyed or abandoned is to ignore Romans 8 and its thoughts about God’s future plans for his creation.

Romans 8:19-21, For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it—in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children.

Note creation itself is groaning for Christ’s return because it will be set free into the same kind of freedom that God’s children will experience. The point of the text is God moves toward the resurrection/restoration of his creation, in the same way he moves towards the resurrection/restoration of his children. When we treat this world as if it’s temporary we treat it in a way God himself doesn’t treat it.

I hear one primary objection to this. Some might say that scripture indicates God will “burn up” the earth, as some translations describe it (see 2 Peter 3:10). However, seeing this text in context, we understand this burning not as destructive, but cleansing. 2 Peter 3:6 tells us that this burning was foreshadowed in the flood of Noah, so indicates God’s use of fire to purify his creation—ultimately leading to its resurrection/restoration.

In light of all this, what are we to make of it, and why does it matter?

First, in light of God’s work to restore this world, we would do well to treat it as if it’s not just our temporary home. God is working to resurrect not only his people, but all of his created order. Secret agents that sneak into a country, accomplish their mission, and then get snatched up by a black helicopter to take them home makes for a great action movie, but for a bad gospel story. Let’s embrace the world around us as part of God’s good plan for his people.

Second, our behavior in this world, in this life, should model and foreshadow God’s work of ultimate resurrection/restoration. As current residents of the kingdom of God, whose allegiance lies with King Jesus, we are called to live now as we will live then—when his kingdom has been fully culminated. We are called to work in such a way so we model his work of restoration. This is why, for instance, creation care is a deeply biblical concept.

Finally, let’s be cautious of embracing any theology that encourages us to escape the world, rather than embrace it, love it, and work to see God’s order restored in and among it. As God reminded the Jewish exiles in Babylon in Jeremiah 29, our call is seek the good of our culture, not to isolate ourselves from it, or try to escape what’s around us. Instead, let’s recognize God has placed us here, in this place and at this time, to declare and display his gospel, working to bring his blessing—his shalom—to the places we call home, modeling in this time and place the ultimate restoration he will fully bring about in the day of his return.

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & (soon to be) Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainer Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

3 Ways to Be a Friend of Sinners

This article was originally posted at the LifeWay Church Leaders blog.

The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ – Luke 7:34

Jesus was a friend of sinners. This is clearly established throughout the gospels. Jesus was among them, in relationship with them, respected by them and evidently they enjoyed his company enough that they continued to seek him out. In all of this Jesus didn’t sacrifice the content of his character or the clarity of his gospel message. Yet, it seems as though many of us in the church today find this oddly challenging – and some even argue that it’s not possible for strong believers to be in these kinds of consistent social settings, and even authentic friendships, with non-believers. So, which is it? Well, given the priority of scripture, and specifically the life of Jesus, I would prefer to come down on the side of being a friend of sinners. How do we do that, though, in a way that is faithful to his word, and honors God all the while? Consider these principles, and weigh your own life against them.

1. Integrate, don’t isolate.

Jesus was not just a friend of sinners; he was regularly among them. Don’t miss the importance of this. Place matters. I think we often forget how insular our lives can be as Christ-followers in 21st century America. As believers we have lives built around our churches. In many ways this is healthy. Gospel-fueled community is a necessary element to our sanctification. There is a problem, however, when the entirety of our community is other believers.

In the church we have grown adept at the creation of a quasi-Christian sub-culture. We have changed to definition of “counter-cultural” from a robust, biblically faithful definition to mean Christian t-shirts, Christian music and Christian sports leagues. We even offer Christian business directories because, I can only assume, we believe Christian plumbers are more effective at unclogging toilets than those who do not believe. The upshot of all this Christian sub-culture is that we can live our entire lives without ever actually relating to non-believers, and we do all this thinking that we are somehow honoring God.

This complete isolation from the culture at large doesn’t reflect Jesus’ behavior, nor the rest of scripture. Across the spectrum of God’s word we see a pattern of integrating into the culture, while both displaying and declaring the gospel message and so offering a counter-cultural message in the midst of the culture. As residents of the kingdom of God, we find ourselves living now as we will live then, when God’s kingdom is fully consummated. This kingdom living foreshadows God’s coming kingdom and exists as a kind of gospel apologetic among non-believers.

2. Be a friend to sinners, not just friendly to sinners.

I think it’s important to note that Jesus was not just friendly to those who did not believe. More than that, he was a friend to them. He was often invited to be at their parties, he was regularly engaged in friendly, yet curiosity-driven conversation. Too often we miss the importance of genuinely loving, and befriending, those who do not share our beliefs.

When we befriend only those who believe like we do, we communicate (often non-verbally) that only believers have value. We diminish the image of God that is present in every person – regardless of belief, and we set ourselves up as somehow morally superior to those who disagree with us. Each of these responses is an example of an anti-gospel at work in our hearts. We must be cautious to not just be friendly when we are around non-believers, and make sure that we are, in fact, offering genuine and authentic friendship to them.

3. Be a friend and share the gospel.

Finally, it is imperative that our friendships with non-believers be real, authentic friendships and not simply a means to an end. I cannot count the number of times I was told to be friends with non-believers so that I can share the gospel with them. This is a tragic categorical mistake. Rather than befriending non-believers so that we can share the gospel with them, I would suggest that we befriend non-believers and share the gospel with them. The phraseology is pretty similar, but the distinction is enormous.

When we befriend people, so that we can accomplish something, we turn them from people into projects, and we turn friendship into a sales technique. In short, we have become bait and switch salesman that use something as genuine as friendship as a means of enticing unwitting people, even if what we hope for them is the very best. What’s most awful about this technique is the deceit that undergirds it. We hold our friendship out as a carrot, but it masks our real goal of getting to something else. Even when gospel sharing is our goal, we cheapen the gospel we share – and the friendship we offer – when we engage this way.

Instead, let us recognize that every person is created in the image of God, and is therefore infinitely valuable. Let’s recognize that every person is fascinating, and has a compelling story. Let’s treat each person as God treats them – as recipients of his grace, and befriend them simply because the love of God in us compels us to love everyone, and the grace of God displayed in our lives has transformed us to a person who is intimately interested in others. As we offer genuine friendship, then, let us certainly make sure that the gospel is a part of that friendship. We share the gospel with our friends just like we share every other important part of our lives with them. In fact, we wouldn’t be good friends unless we shared with them the most important, life-changing truth we know, but let’s not cheapen it with cheap sales techniques that are cloaked in deceit.

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & (soon to be) Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainer Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.