Bethlehem’s Organizational Elders voted unanimously Tuesday, April 27, to “name Kenny Stokes Interim Pastor for Preaching during Pastor John’s leave.” I think this is a very wise action and am thrilled that Kenny and his wife, Kathy, have expressed their willingness to take up this mantle. What it means is that Kenny will be the main preacher and that he will be in charge of shepherding the flock of Bethlehem through the pulpit during my leave.
The rationale for this decision is threefold.
First, the elders believe that consistency is more important for the church’s stability, strength, and health than a stream of different preachers.
Second, the elders believe that individual speakers feel a special burden of shepherding a weekend, but a “pastor for preaching” feels a special burden of shepherding the overarching effect of the pulpit. We believe that, if God should answer our prayers for a remarkable work of awakening, it would be shepherded better with a consistent preacher than with diverse speakers.
Third, we believe that Kenny brings to the pulpit an unusual gift of embracing all of Bethlehem and giving spiritual guidance to the whole flock. For these three reasons we were excited to affirm him as Pastor John’s main replacement in the pulpit.
It was important to us that Kenny feels God’s call for this and has energy for it, and that Kathy be fully on board with his new deployment. It was also important that we think through how Kenny’s other pastoral duties be managed when significant time will have to go to sermon preparation.
Several factors come together to make this look doable for Kenny.
First, since he has been away on sabbatical since January, he will be able to come back with a more or less “clean slate” of duties rather than having to clear away a lot that is already going on.
Second, Cleon Engel (the TCT Church Planting Network Coordinator, and new Bethlehem Fundraising Coordinator) has been carrying the weight of the church planting duties while Kenny has been on sabbatical, and he is gifted to give Kenny key help in that area for the next eight months.
Third, Ken Currie is willing to step in to assist Kenny in his role as “lead pastor for spreading.” Ken has been taking this role during Kenny’s sabbatical and is willing to continue sharing some of that load, as his Campus Outreach team helps him carry the load of leading that ministry.
I want to express my personal joy and gratefulness to God for Kenny’s willingness to take up this calling. Few things are more important in the life of a church than the faithful preaching of the word of God. I trust Kenny. I trust him not only to be deeply conformed to the biblical truths of the Elder Affirmation of Faith, but also to embody the precious ethos of “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” that we cherish in the leadership of our services.
Kenny loves Jesus and he loves you—the people of Bethlehem. Under Christ, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, I am happy to leave you under his preaching. I will be tuning in at the church website.
And as I said, I will be praying for you everyday the substance of the following prayer. Would you print this out, put it in your Bible, and join me?
O Lord, as you are often accustomed to do, show your great power in Pastor John’s absence. Send a remarkable awakening that results in…
- hundreds of people coming to Christ,
- old animosities being removed,
- marriages being reconciled and renewed,
- wayward children coming home,
- long-standing slavery to sin being conquered,
- spiritual dullness being replaced by vibrant joy,
- weak faith being replaced by bold witness,
- disinterest in prayer being replaced by fervent intercession,
- boring Bible reading being replaced by passion for the Word,
- disinterest in global missions being replaced by energy for Christ’s name among the nations, and
- lukewarm worship being replaced by zeal for the greatness of God’s glory.
Lord, when Gideon had thousands of men you said, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me’” (Judges 7:2). You stripped his army to 300, and with that you conquered the peoples of the East who covered the ground like locusts and whose camels were like the sand of sea (Judges 7:12).
O Lord, take the mighty 300 of Bethlehem and bless this church beyond anything we have ever dreamed. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Seeking to go deeper with you into Christ,