This will be my last article for the Echoes. It was a blessing to be able to restart this newsletter after its demise many years ago. I hope it has kept you informed, and that you may have been occasionally challenged by something that you read in it. Since it is my last article, I think that gives me the liberty to take up a little more space than usual.
I am writing this on the 20th of December, so some of the things I am saying now may have been said from the pulpit on December 28th. If you have already heard them, I apologize, but read them again anyway; I believe they are important.
In Acts 18:19-21, Paul stops at Ephesus for a weekend. He promises them, if God wills, that he will return. In May of 1988, I did that. I came to Port Huron for a weekend, and was asked to return. I came and preached a second time, and told the Deacons that, if God willed it, I would be willing to come and stay for a while. After a few bumps in the road (do you remember that I was rejected at the first congregational vote?), the church called, God led, and we came.
In Acts 19, we read of some of Paul's ministry in Ephesus. He was not the first to bring the Gospel there, but he took what was already there, and began to work with it. Some did not want to listen, but he separated out those who did want to hear, and. began to teach them. The impact of his ministry there was felt throughout the city, and throughout the world. How I wish that in some small way we could measure up to the ministry that Paul had! Throughout that city, folks were turning from the worship of Diana, and coming to faith in Christ. I praise God that He has allowed us to see some folks saved, baptized, and added to the Church. I'm thankful that we could restart the church calling program, and that a few folks have caught the burden of visitation. It is a blessing to know that the entire city of Port Huron, as well as some of the surrounding area, has been canvassed. Almost every door in town (to the best of my knowledge) has been knocked on, and this past year nearly 10,000 copies of the Word of God (John/Romans) were distributed to families in the community. I pray that this church will continue to try to impact St. Clair County with the Gospel.
The Bible also tells us that as a result of the church in Ephesus,
"all they which dwelt in Asia heard the Word of the Lord Jesus Christ". It has been a real blessing to me to see the hand of God on the missions program at Court St. Baptist Church. God's people have increased their missions giving from $13,500 in 1988 to $75,000 in 1996. I t appears that 1997 will show missions giving to be approaching $90,000. Praise the Lord! The Lord has allowed us to expand our missionary family from thirteen families to thirty, and from eight different countries to sixteen. Every continent, with the exception of the Antarctic, has a missionary sent from Court St. Baptist Church planting an Independent, Fundamental Baptist church to the glory of God. It has been exciting to see Pastor Tom take young people and adults on missions trips to New York, Pennsylvania, Alaska, and Mexico, with plans to go to Venezuela next year. It has been thrilling to know that Court St. has personally had a part in planting churches in Detroit, Sarnia, Waterdown, Ontario, and Reemstown, PA. because of the willingness of some of our congregation to go to these towns and pass out flyers and invite folks to the services of a new church. My prayer is that the people of Court St. will continue to love missions and missionaries, and open their hearts, their homes, their families, and their wallets to the cause of fulfilling the Great Commission of Evangelism, Church Planting, and Discipleship throughout the world.
In Acts 20:17-38, Paul informs the leadership of the church in Ephesus that God has led him by the Holy Spirit to return to Jerusalem. He is not sure what will befall him there, but he knows that God is in it, and he has to go. It appears that the people wanted Paul to stay, for they wept at his leaving. I must assume that Paul also loved the church at Ephesus. Verse 31 tells us that he warned and exhorted them "with tears". In Ephesians 1:16 he mentions that he thanks God for them, and prays for them. Paul was perhaps sorrowful to leave behind those to whom he had ministered for three years. Yet he was willing to follow the will of God, even though he certainly did not know what all was going to be involved. He did know, however, that he would not be back.
As I have written here previously, nearly four months ago God began impressing on my heart, through His Word, that it was time for the Montgomery family to move on. He did not immediately make it clear what we were to do; only that we were to go. Since that time, God has continued to lead through the Scriptures, and has made it clear that we are to return to Pittsburgh to plant an Independent, Fundamental Baptist Church in the Greater Pittsburgh area. I don't know what all is going to happen. I don't know what section of town we will plant the church in. I don't know where we will live. I don't know what my job situation will be, and I don't know where the finances will come from. But God does, and He has called, and we must go. We will miss the church, and the friends we have made here. But we want to be where God's best is found. Unlike Paul, I do hope that we will be able to return, and that we will be welcome to do so.
As Paul continues his address in Acts 20, he recites for them some of the accomplishments of his ministry among them. Again, I wish that I could say that I accomplished in 9 1/2 years all that Paul accomplished in three years. Unfortunately, I cannot. I can say, however, that I have tried to "keep back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you and have taught you" (verse 20). I have also attempted to "declare unto you all the counsel of God" (verse 27). We have taught doctrine. We have taught practice. We have taught the inspiration, inerrancy, preservation, and authority of the Word of God. We have taught that a holy God expects holy lives that are conformed to His Word. We have taught the importance of the local church, which is God's institution for this age. We have taught on the importance of proper husband/wife relationships, and on how to raise our children for Christ. We have taught the importance of soul-winning, and discipling those who receive Christ. We have taught principles of ecclesiastical separation, so that this church does not compromise with apostasy, nor with others who themselves choose to compromise. We have taught on the necessity of an active prayer life. We have taught principles of Christ honoring music. We have taught what it really means to "Love one another". I guess we've just tried to teach the Bible. I certainly have my failures as a pastor, but I believe that when people walk away from a service at Court St., they must honestly say that what they heard was based upon the Word of God. Sometimes people haven't liked what they've heard. Sometimes there may be room for another opinion within the confines of orthodoxy. But no one can ever say that what he heard was not found in the Scriptures.
My prayer for this church is that they continue to be a church that loves, believes, studies, and applies the Word of God. There are men out there who tell great stories, but don't preach the Bible. There are men who are great speakers, with far more knowledge than I can ever hope to have, who do not hold to the authority of the Bible. Paul knew that was the case. His final warning to the Ephesians in verses 29-30 was to watch out for wolves, who were lurking outside their church and hoping to come in and destroy them. Paul even warned that there were men within the church who would attempt to lead the flock away from the principles that they had been taught. These men would speak "perverse things", which literally means "things which turn people aside from the right path". I would like to believe that no one within Court St. Baptist Church would do such a thing. I guarantee that there are men outside this church that would like nothing better than to move it into the "live like you please, believe what you please, go where you please" attitude that is s destroying many so-called fundamental Baptist churches.
There are men out there who will teach that the Bible that you hold in your hand cannot be trusted to be the exact Word of God. I read with interest an advertisement for Tabernacle Baptist Theological Seminary in Virginia Beach just yesterday. It asked this question: "Will you still believe you have the preserved Word of God in your hands when you finish seminary?" Unfortunately, many coming out of seminary today, including those labeled as Fundamental, are questioning whether or not they do hold in their hands the very Word of God, or whether the very Word of God even exists today. This type of thinking has produced what Dr. Flanders called the "Bible of the Month Club", with a generation of believers and pastors reading different English Bibles based on different (and contradictory) Greek and Hebrew texts, and saying that they are all the Word of God even though they all differ from each other. IMPOSSIBLE!
Paul says in verse 31, "Therefore watch, and remember." To "watch" is to guard closely, lest someone comes and steals something away. Paul says, "Be very careful to keep your church heading in the right direction, and remember the warning I gave you." As I leave, I am asking you for the same thing. I love this church. I have given nearly 10 years of my life to it. I want to see it continue until Jesus comes as an Independent, Fundamental, separated, soul-winning, Bible preaching, sin hating, missions minded, non-compromising, Christ honoring, brotherly-loving Baptist church. This will only happen if you as a church body "watch and remember. "
Someone asked me recently, "Would it bother you if the new pastor comes, and in a few years the church is running 1000 people?" No, that wouldn't bother me at all. I pray it does happen, so long as God's Word doesn't have to be compromised to achieve it. I hope you reach this community, and help to reach the entire world, for Christ. I hope that a large number from this church wind up serving God in a full-time capacity. And I hope this church always desires to be "to the praise of His glory".
Thanks for letting me be your pastor. Thanks for putting up with my mistakes, failures, and quirks. And thanks for your friendship and prayers. They have, and do, mean a lot. May the Lord bless each one of you.
Mark J Montgomery