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.

God didn’t call you to be a Super-Pastor

This article originally appeared at Lifeway.com/ChurchLeaders

The “Super-Pastor” expectations that so often seem to go hand-in-hand with modern church leadership are a black mark on the church. The “Super-Pastor” is the pastor who is always on call, ready to serve; nights, weekends and vacations are no barrier, they never miss a hospital visit, they always preach with passion and with conviction, and so on. It’s exhausting, isn’t it? And like every other pastor, I’ve bad mouthed the whole concept, and bemoaned its existence, until I realized that its presence was, in large part, the fuel that kept my ministry (and even worse – my soul) going. Let me show you what I have learned.

I believe that we live in a culture that rests on the twin pillars of independence and consumerism; both of which strike at the heart of Christianity. Our cultural commitment to this end leads to a number of ramifications. For instance, we expect professionalism by those who serve us. I don’t mean that we expect professional behavior as much as I think we expect a certified professional to be the one doing the serving, or work. We don’t generally see shade-tree mechanics anymore, we would never visit an unlicensed doctor, and you can’t show up in court with a lawyer who doesn’t have a law degree. In fact, when I recently had a tree cut down in my yard, I made sure that the person doing the job was insured and bonded so that I wouldn’t be liable for any shoddy work. This desire for professionalism, when coupled with a consumer-driven view of the church makes for a bad combination.

I think most of us shop for churches the way I like to shop for blue jeans. When I look for blue jeans I look for the best store, offering the most comfortable product and asking the smallest price from me (mostly because I’m cheap). We do the same thing in the church. When we are looking for a church we even refer to it as, “church shopping.” Our means of determining a good church generally center on finding a great church “product” that fits us most comfortably, and asks the least of us. Once there, we expect a professional pastor to deliver to us goods and services, of the spiritual kind. We view church as a place, not as a people, and we go there on occasion to get our spiritual “fill-up” where the professional dispenses the goods and services while we sit in the chairs, watching (read: being entertained) and we put some money in the plate on occasion so that we’ve rightly paid for the goods and services we are receiving from the pastoral professional. We then go home, “filled up” and ready to make it though another week, as if church is a place where go to get our “spiritual pit-stop”. In this environment pastors, we aren’t creating disciples – we are crafting consumers, and we are very good at it.

In this context, we have developed a pattern for the pastor where they serve our spiritual needs in any and all ways we deem appropriate, and in doing so we have created the “Super-Pastor” complex. But, while many pastors decry this publicly, I’m convinced most of us never really want it to go away. See, it occurred to me, in my own life, that the churches I have served are full of people with emotional baggage. In fact, every person on the planet carries their own baggage. In the midst of this baggage, each of us tries to find ways to self-medicate, to help us handle the baggage. Some use food, some use alcohol, some use sex, but all of us use something. For the pastor, though, the emotional need is generally no different. We have our own various kinds of emotional baggage, and while we may occasionally self-medicate using the same means as everyone else, the truth is a fair number of us use ministry as a means of self-medicating. We suffer from identity issues, or morale issues, or affirmation issues, or even purpose, and each of these emotional needs are served every time a consumer-driven people calls on us to serve, and we do, and then they affirm us as the great pastor who does what no one else can do. Let’s be honest, when the sweet older lady grabs us by the arm and says to us at the end of the service, “Pastor, no one preaches to me like you do” it’s like nectar to our souls. It is sweet, indeed.

So what do we do about it? While there’s not enough room here to be comprehensive, I do think one of the solutions is found in Ephesians 4. Paul tells the church at Ephesus,

And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. – Ephesians 4:11-13 (HCSB)

God’s vocational design for church leaders is to equip the saints for works of ministry, not to do ministry for the saints. In other words, we enlist, equip and deploy the people in our churches so that, together, we serve the ministry needs of our church family. We kill the “Super-Pastor” when we hand off ministry, prepare others to do what we have historically done, and keep ourselves from always being front and center. In this paradigm pastors don’t stop doing ministry, no they do ministry but they do so along with the rest of the body, and not because they are the pastor, but because they are a member of the body, and every member of the body is equipped to serve together.

The great thing is that, when we embrace this model of leadership, Jesus is much more likely to get the credit. When we do everything, serving as the “Super-Pastor,” we too easily get the credit as the one spinning all the plates. In the midst of it we can even get more credit by appearing humble and overworked (all the while, actually loving the attention and affirmation it affords to us). Instead, what might the church look like if we pushed back, in a truly counter-cultural way, against the rampant independence and consumerism and killed the “Super-Pastor” by equipping the saints, doing ministry together, and the pastor fading into the background? I’m convinced that Jesus would be honored and pastor, you might just keep your ministry from killing you while you try to use it to feed your soul.

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.

That our children might love Jesus

Our oldest daughter, Sarah Grace, was born almost 12 years ago. Shortly after her birth, which was a bit hectic because of some slight complications during delivery, we gathered together around her, and I held her and prayed for her that her heart would be turned to Jesus at a young age. From that time until now, Tracy and I have prayed diligently that our daughters would know and love Jesus. Not long ago Kessed, our youngest daughter, approached me to tell me that she had trusted Christ. After some probing questions, we felt confident that her commitment to Christ was genuine and that her comprehension of the gospel was more than sufficient. During this dialogue, our oldest expressed to us that she had also recently decided to trust Christ, but she had neglected to tell her mom & me because of nervousness. Once again we quizzed her, and once again we felt confident in the genuineness of her faith, as far as we could be confident.

Thankfully our church offers a wonderful “New Christians Class” for children who have come to faith to help them be clear on the fundamentals of their faith, as well as the discipline of walking with Christ. After they completed that class, they were baptized. Even more special to me, however, was that I was able to baptize both of them, on the same day. Our church, like many other churches, asks each baptismal candidate to share their testimony of faith via video prior to each baptism. Below I have posted both of their videos because I think they can encourage you, and because I can’t stop watching them. 😉

However, before you see the videos, I thought I would mention four things that Tracy and I have tried to be diligent about with our children, in an effort to pastor them well and lead them to their own faith. I am occasionally asked by parents what it looks like to pastor your children, so maybe this can be a helpful anecdote to encourage you. I am convinced that these four helps were influential in our girls’ appropriation of faith.

1. We prayed for our children’s salvation, in private and in front of them.
Tracy and I have prayed individually and together for the salvation of our children. This is not groundbreaking, I am sure. Hopefully most Christian parents are doing the same. However, one thing we began doing early on, and have continued throughout their life, was praying with them for their salvation. Daily, almost without fail, we would gather with our girls and pray that they would come to a day where they would understand their need for Jesus, his gift of salvation and their need to trust him. We were explicit and unashamed about this desire. In addition to this, Tracy in particular has diligently prayed scripture for them, asking God to confirm the truth of his word in their lives.

2. We imperfectly modeled a commitment to the gospel.
We have tried to model for our girls dependence on Jesus and repentance when we have failed as individuals and parents. I am convinced that among the worst thinga a parent can do is model some sort of false perfection. I think our tendency is to avoid admission of failure to our children, in an effort to appear in control. This too often can backfire, however, making genuine faith appear out of reach to our children and failing to teach our children how necessary grace is in our lives.

3. We shared the gospel with them.
We placed our children in situations where they would hear the gospel, but we very intentionally and persistently shared the gospel in clear and certain terms with them. I would imagine we shared the gospel with each of our daughters individually, and both daughters corporately, hundreds of times in their young lives. It seems to me that, as parents, we often assume much about our children and their comprehension of the gospel. However, the danger is to push our children prematurely or to coerce them into a commitment. That both of our girls made commitments to Christ individually, and came to us to share their decision was a great encouragement to our hearts.

4. We embedded our lives in a local church.
Finally, we center our lives around our local church community. This was obvious and expected when I was a Senior Pastor. However, when we stepped out of that role and looked for a church to join, we quickly found one upon moving to Tennessee and embedded our lives in that church community. In fact, we recently moved closer to our church community, even though it doubled my morning commute, because we believe that God’s design is for our faith to be developed in Christian community. Sarah Grace, in particular, shares in her testimony that an essential element to her faith was hearing our pastor encourage people who were not yet believers to take Christ, instead of the supper, as our church took communion. Do not overlook the spiritual importance of Christian community.

“Imprint these words of mine on your hearts and minds, bind them as a sign on your hands, and let them be a symbol on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that as long as the heavens are above the earth, your days and those of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your fathers. – Deuteronomy 11:18-21

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.

Happy Birthday Tracy!

Today Tracy celebrates her birthday. She’s 35 today (and yes, she gave me permission to post her age), and I couldn’t be more amazed at who she is and what God has done in her life. My wife is the definition of a Proverbs 31 woman. I am so in love with her. I know that I am not alone in appreciating Tracy, though. There are man of you who also know how amazing she is. With that said, I would love to invite you to celebrate Tracy’s birthday with us.

Some of you may be aware that we are in the process of adopting a child. We have invested pretty heavily to make it happen, and yet we cannot proceed any further without help from people like you. In honor of Tracy’s 35th birthday, we would like to invite at least 35 people to partner with us in our adoption journey by donating at least $35 this week. This would honor Tracy on her birthday, and also really help us raise some more money that we need for the next step in the adoption process. Some of you may remember that we did a similar exercise for my birthday last October. During that celebration we were able to raise enough to cover the cost of our dossier, which is completed and now in Africa. We are currently waiting for the government to match us with a child. As soon as that happens we have to pay $11,000, and your help as we celebrate Tracy’s birthday will get us a bit further down the road to having that money covered.

Thankfully we have partnered with a great organization called AdoptTogether to help us raise money, so anything you donate will be tax deductible. That makes it a win/win, right? 😉

If you want to donate, you can click on [this link] and go directly to our AdoptTogether Fundraising Page.

If you want to give by check, you can do that too by mailing a check to the address below. Please make sure to indicate that it’s for “The Fries Family” on both the envelope and the memo line when you send the check:

AdoptTogether
251 W Central Ave.
#278
Springboro, OH 45066

Also, would you take a minute and share this with your social media accounts? We need all the exposure we can get!

Finally, if you would be willing to sign up as a prayer partner with us, we would love to hear from you. You can sign up using the form below.

Thank you so much for considering this. We are genuinely grateful for your partnership!

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.