Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Is Your Heart Ready For Christmas?

We are just a couple of days away from Christmas. There’s been lots of things happening to prepare for this special time with family & friends. Over the past month, Beverly & I have been decorating the house, buying gifts, sending cards, etc. Christmas is one of our favorite times of the year. There’s nothing like the joy that comes by sharing our love & what we have with family & friends in our own special ways.

Although this past year has been different & even difficult, God has kept us! Today, we reflect on God’s goodness in spite of the circumstances! This Christmas, we encourage you to remember that the true Christmas spirit is wrapped up in John 3:16 – “God loved us so much that He gave His Son, Jesus, so that we can have eternal life.”

Beyond the great food, beyond the lights, beyond the music & beyond the gifts…God reminds us of the most wonderful gift that has ever been given…this gift is Jesus. The babe in the manger. The Savior of the world, who brought the promise of unconditional love, unending hope & eternal life to every person who believes in Him!

As we reflect on the goodness of The Lord, I was reminded of Paul’s writing in 2 Corinthians 9:15 “Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!”

I feel like that many times. I run out of words to describe His incredible gift!

As we’ve made our homes ready for Christmas, we need to make sure our hearts are also ready…both to receive & to share God’s love with others. Allow your ARMS to be the arms of Jesus, “reaching in love!” Allow your VOICE to be His voice as you share words of encouragement & hope with others. Allow your HANDS to be His hands that bring healing & comfort to others.

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas!

Russell & Beverly Hylton

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Don't Let Your Soul Freeze To Death

A man finds a goose that was shaking with cold & stuck to a pole in Montana. As he got closer, he realized that wrapped up in her wings was a tiny puppy she was shielding from the freezing temperatures. (According to reports, both the goose & the puppy have recovered, were adopted together & are doing well.)

We have so much to learn from God's creation.

This is just a glimpse of what the church looks like. We come together & find strength from one another.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 "Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken."

When you stop coming to church, your soul can freeze to death.


Monday, December 14, 2020




I remember when I first heard this word. I was sitting in a conference where ministerial tax benefits & laws were being discussed.  The idea is that an ordained minister performs "sacerdotal" duties such as weddings, funerals, baptisms, communion, worship, etc.

All of the above mentioned duties are definitely part of a pastor's work. However, Seminary, Bible College or Ministry School don't prepare you for the "sacerdotal" duties that AREN'T mentioned. 

I can't count the number of WEDDINGS I've officiated in 34 years of ministry. 
I can't count the number of FUNERALS I've officiated in 34 years of ministry.
I can't count the number of BAPTISMS I've officiated in 34 years of ministry.
I can't count the number of ...........

However, they don't teach you in Bible College how to pastor a church during a pandemic. 

As Covid-19 drags on, many pastors are finding themselves tired, discouraged & anxious regarding the long-term implications of this pandemic. Pastors are wondering how they can fulfill their "sacerdotal" duties successfully.  Pastoral burnout is a predictable outcome for those who are running the race at a sprinter's pace rather than what is more likely to be a marathon. 

Pastors are desperate to communicate the message of faith & hope, but the means of communicating that message is difficult to determine. With the responsibility of caring for their hurting flock, from a distance, the challenge weighs heavy on their shoulders. I must admit, it can all but deplete your emotional & spiritual reserves.  Not having access to the "normal tools" people find reassuring - eye contact, bedside manner & physical presence - when comfort is desperately needed can feel like a defeating task. 
Fortunately, we have a promise that The Holy Spirit will lead & guide us into all truth.  The past nine months have brought a variety of emotions, decisions, and ups & downs. We've fought for our faith & refused to let fear grip us. The core of the church has held steady & witnessed spiritual & numerical growth in our covenant family.  God has kept us as we've pulled together to shoulder the weight of ministry. 

Pastoring during a pandemic has taught me the following...

1. Be Innovative. 
Look for creative ways to share the Gospel. You're not obligated to continue to do the same ole' thing. Use this season as an opportunity to dismount broken or dead programs, approaches & unfruitful traditions. Some would call it a reset.  Make full use of technology & don't worry about having the best of the best to work with.  Even if you don't have professional cameras/sound/lighting, etc., use your iPhone & realize that most people appreciate the "raw" real you/message with or without the bells & whistles.  Strive for excellence & make full use of what you have.

2. Be Faithful To What You've Been Taught. 
Hold fast to the testimony of the saints. Don't backslide, ghost your church or drop out.  Good teaching will keep you...even during a pandemic.  Continue to be faithful to your church, even if it's online only. Continue to be faithful in your tithes/offerings. Continue to serve where needed. Continue to communicate.

3. Be Compassionate. 
Everyone is fighting a battle. This season has brought new causes for despair all its own: more parishioners are facing physical illness, more of them grieving lost loved ones, more of them teetering on economic despair, anxiety & depression. Pray more & check on people who are struggling. In order for pastors to have sustainable, healthy relationships with their congregations, more lay leaders - not pastors - must take spiritual responsibility for the growth & maturity of others. 

4. Be Fruitful. 
Don't let Covid, or anything else, cause you to be unfruitful.  Increase your witnessing. God expects a fruitful church.  Burying your gift (failing to develop & use it) is frowned upon in the Kingdom because it robs those for whom the benefit was intended. 

5. Be Truthful. 
Some of the same folks who say they can't come to church due to health concerns...YET are out there living their best life at parties, gatherings, work, stores, get-to-gathers, sports, shopping, etc. can be aggravating...especially when you're exhausting yourself to pour into people who are hiding behind excuses. Friend, no matter who's being be honest.  The Scriptures teach us to let your Yeah be Yeah & your Nay be Nay. (Matthew 5:37)  Walk in truth & God will reward you.

6. Reproduce Resources & Train.
By necessity, most churches are putting their services online.  However, without the feedback of an in-service response or post-service conversation, preaching to an iPhone leaves many wondering how to discern whether the message is effectively reaching those who are in their homes.  Such a void can leave pastors dismayed.  We have been challenged to produce Children's Ministry Resources that parents can download & share with their kids. This requires a lot of time & energy from our teams who may wonder if their work is even being utilized.  I believe we must continue to plant the seed & allow God to bring the increase. 

The task of a shepherd is never easy. But we need not despair, nor should we attempt to carry the weight ourselves. Our HOPE in Jesus is our greatest comfort. We do not shepherd alone.  The Good Shepherd - the one who gave His life for the sheep - loves His church far more than we do, and He is, at this very moment, leading His church & beckoning us to have FAITH & FOLLOW wherever He leads. 

I'm praying for pastors & parishioners alike. Don't let a case of the "Monday Blues" beat you up! You are where you're supposed to be!  Be yourself. You don't have to compare yourself with anyone else. Hold your head up & take one day at a time. You're not alone!  Others are experiencing the same emotions - up or down - as you. God believes in YOU!