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 & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

Why pastor?

Today I joined the pastoral team of our home church, Fairview Church, located in the greater Nashville area. I’m very excited to join the team as Fairview’s new Associate Pastor for Teaching and Mission. Fairview is an incredible church that loves Jesus and their community; who preaches the gospel well and who is committed to advancing the mission around the world. What’s more, I get to serve with one of my best friends, Dr. Jon Akin, who is doing an exceptional job leading Fairview as our Senior Pastor, and who encourages and challenges me regularly. In my new role I will be part of the preaching team, I will help oversee our mission partnerships, give leadership to our Community Group ministry and I will help lead our theological training initiative, EQUIP. Invariably, as people hear that this new venture is upon us, they ask two questions:

1. Are you leaving LifeWay? No. LifeWay loves the local church and gives me freedom to serve in this capacity. I’m thankful that a good number of LifeWay employees serve area churches in paid and unpaid positions of service.

2. Why would you do this, in addition to working at LifeWay? This is also a great question. Allow me a couple of minutes to outline three major reasons why this matters to me.

I believe in the priority of the local church.
I am convinced that the local church is the locus of God’s kingdom on earth. The reason I came to work for LifeWay is due to God opening a door, and my belief that I could have a great opportunity to serve the church. However, LifeWay, and our other SBC entities, are not God’s primary vehicle for taking the gospel to the world, the local church is. I love my role at LifeWay but one of our stipulations upon coming was that we needed the freedom to serve the local church. I’m grateful to serve under men like Dr. Thom Rainer and Ed Stetzer who love LifeWay, but also love the local church and encourage a commitment to her.

I believe in the role of the bi-vocational pastor.
I have served as a bivocational pastor for the majority of my vocational ministry. I believe strongly in the importance of bivocational pastors, and I believe that their importance is only going to increase in the coming years. I am thankful for the opportunity to serve intentionally as a bivocational pastor at Fairview. I am grateful that LifeWay provides a sufficient income to provide for my family so that I can work bivocationally at Fairview, and not need to receive any compensation from our church. I hope we see a growing wave of pastors who will embrace intentional bivocational ministry.

I believe in the responsibility of membership.
Finally, I believe that membership in a church matters, and membership assumes a responsibility to work in any way needed to advance the mission at the local church. Our church has provided for me the opportunity to serve in an official pastoral role, and I want to faithfully serve this place where God has allowed our family to become a part of. I pray that the Fries family are good members, and members who honor Fairview, and most of all, who honor King Jesus.

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

The church with blinders on

In Dr. Thom Rainer’s excellent little book, “I am a church member“, he walks us through the picture of biblical church membership. With an emphasis on attitudes that church members should embrace, Dr. Rainer lovingly encourages us to engage in church life in a way that honors Jesus. I have been preaching a series of sermons about church membership, loosely based on the book, at First Baptist Church of Jackson, MS. If you are interested in viewing those messages, you can access the video by clicking here.

As I was reading through this fantastic little book again, in preparation for a message, I was reminded of a list that I thought was very helpful. The list comes from chapter 3, “I will not let my church be about my preferences and desires.” Dr. Rainer shares a list that he has picked up through his interaction with churches from across the country. In the book, Dr. Rainer explains that these are ten dominant behaviors that are consistently seen in churches who are inwardly focused. As I read the list, I could not help but think about all the times I have seen these evidenced in churches. However, as I dug deeper, I could not help but think about the times that I reflected a number of these behaviors.

So, I thought it might be helpful to show the list to you. You might consider this about your own church. Are these evident among you?

1. Worship wars.
One or more factions in the church want the music just the way they like it. Any deviation is met with anger and demands for change. The order of service must remain constant. Certain instrumentation is required while others are prohibited.

2. Prolonged minutia meetings.
The church spends an inordinate amount of time in different meetings. Most of the meetings deal with the most inconsequential items, while the Great Commission and Great Commandment are rarely the topics of discussion.

3. Facility focus.
The church facilities develop iconic status. One of the highest priorities in the church is the protection and preservation of rooms, furniture, and other visible parts of the church’s buildings and grounds.

4. Program driven.
Every church has programs even if they don’t admit it. When we start doing a ministry a certain way, it takes on programmatic status. The problem is not with programs. The problem develops when the program becomes an end instead of a means to greater ministry.

5. Inwardly focused budget.
A disproportionate share of the budget is used to meet the needs and comforts of the members instead of reaching beyond the walls of the church.

6. Inordinate demands for pastoral care.
All church members deserve care and concern, especially in times of need and crisis. Problems develop, however, when church members have unreasonable expectations for even minor matters. Some members expect the pastoral staff to visit them regularly merely because they have membership status.

7. Attitudes of entitlement.
This issue could be a catch-all for many of the points named here. The overarching attitude is one of demanding and having a sense of deserving special treatment.

8. Greater concern about change than the gospel.
Almost any noticeable changes in the church evoke the ire of many; but those same passions are not evident about participating in the work of the gospel to change lives.

9. Anger and hostility.
Members are consistently angry. They regularly express hostility toward the church staff and other members.

10. Evangelistic apathy.
Very few members share their faith on a regular basis. More are concerned about their own needs rather than the greatest eternal needs of the world and community in which they live.

By the way, if you are interested in buying these books in bulk for your church, you can pick them up for just $5 each (minimum order of 20 copies). Click here to grab some for your church.

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

Christ-Centered Preaching & Teaching Panel

At this year’s Southern Baptist Convention in Houston The Gospel Project is hosting a discussion panel on Christ-Centered Preaching and Teaching. Ed Stetzer will moderate the panel with Trevin Wax, Eric Hankins, and Jon Akin. We are working with several publishers to give each attendee free resources on Christ-Centered preaching and teaching. There will also be a free breakfast. We only have room for 350 so sign up soon because I am confident that this is going to fill up fast.

Here are the details;

Christ-Centered Preaching and Teaching: A Discussion Panel
Tuesday June 11, 2013
George R. Brown Convention Center
Room 351A-F on Level 3
6:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.

 REGISTER HERE

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

The Gospel Project Experience – Giveaway!

tgp-experience-banner

I am a big fan of The Gospel Project. While I was pastor at Frederick Boulevard I led them to begin using TGP and now, as a member of Fairview Church, I help lead a small group where we use TGP as our curriculum. Because of that, I’m pretty excited that on May 17-18, LifeWay is hosting The Gospel Project Experience – a conference that will focus on the main events of the gospel through times of vibrant worship and engaging messages.

The purpose of The Gospel Project Experience is to walk participants through the entire gospel story (incarnation, life of Christ, death, resurrection, and second coming). J.D. Greear, David Nasser, Ed
Stetzer, Trevin Wax and Ken Whitten will each speak on one of those five gospel themes. Matt Boswell will lead worship for the event.

For those who are currently using or considering LifeWay’s Gospel Project Bible study, there will be break-out sessions that help train and inform participants on how to get the most out of the Bible study. But even if you are not using The Gospel Project, you are invited to attend. The Experience will inspire you and your congregation to live out the implications of the gospel in your community.

So, since the people at LifeWay are incredibly generous, they are letting me give away two individual and two small group simulcast registrations. That’s four winners!

Enter to win by leaving a comment with your name. You may only enter once and I will choose the winners at random using a random number generator.

The deadline to enter is Friday, March 1st at midnight.

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The Gospel Project, led by General Editor Ed Stetzer and Managing Editor Trevin Wax, is designed to unify the entire church under a single Christ-centered curriculum. In every lesson that each age group
studies, participants are immersed in the gospel story and ultimately challenged to live on mission for God.

If you’re not sure what it is, I’d invite you to check it out when you have a moment. You can even sample four of the lessons for free.

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

Go to Exponential…for free…from home

Thanks to the good folks at LifeWay, I have two free registrations for the simulcast of Exponential 2012. Exponential as an inspiring vision “To see an expanding number of movements of healthy reproducing faith communities”. Featuring one of the most significant Christian conferences offered on an annual basis, this year’s Exponential featured speakers like Wayne Cordeiro, Bill Hybels, Darrin Patrick, Shawn Lovejoy, Dave Ferguson and more! These are some of the most influential church planting leaders in the country, and I want to give away a free simulcast registration to two readers of this blog! Although the conference happened on April 24th, thanks to technology and these free registrations, you will be able to pull it up and access it on your own time.

If you would like to register for the giveaway, please enter your information below. Please note that only one registration per person is possible. Registration for the giveaway will end sometime Monday morning, after which I will use a random number generator to assign the two winners.

Good luck!

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