Does Church Still Work?

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Our day has been one of reevaluation of many institutions from government to even the home and family. Do these things still work? Does church even have a place today, does it still work?

I have been a pastor since the summer of 1986 when I moved my little family of three to a city in Western Massachusetts. Holyoke was a city on the decline, as the “Paper City” was realizing how industry shifts and an aging infrastructure were resulting in a smaller population and less upward growth. There were the centuries old families that dated back even before the Revolution and there were also many new immigrant families. These two opposite end groups seldom mixed and the result was a widening middle vacuum of connection and placement. God called us to that place and time and we went with a message that has endured the times of all ages. “The love of God- how rich and pure, how measureless and strong” the hymn says, that was the message. We started an independent Baptist church in a very historic New England city, a city full of steeples.

Holyoke was then a purported 90% Roman Catholic city boasting 14 ethnic Catholic churches. There were very large and active parochial schools, a nun’s convent, Catholic hospital and a multitude of charities and agencies. There also were several large and active Protestant churches and ministries, an active Synagogue and one other Baptist church. When I discovered the doctrinal positions of these all I realized we were to be the only church in this city of 56,000 that believed the King James Bible is the inspired and preserved Word of God. We would start a church here that would alone teach that salvation is through faith by grace plus and minus nothing. We had nothing to offer except complete confidence in the King James Bible, soulwinning and discipleship, clear teaching and preaching and a church that would love anybody.

Mountain View Baptist Church, Holyoke, MA

Mountain View Baptist Church, Holyoke, MA

The ministries would come later. All we had was a sincere welcome and kindness. The kid’s programs and classes came in the next years. We did rejoice over even the least of the children whether they came with a family or we picked them up in our van and later bus. It was not until 7 years later that we had a property and then a building. Those first 7 years involved 7 moves. One of the moves was to meet in the outside for a month until we had a place again the rent. What we kept close to during those moves was the realization that our God was with us and we worshipped Him though we were not less than the wandering Hebrews in Exodus.

We did build beautiful buildings and took a forest of 14 acres and carved out one of New England’s prettiest church properties in West Holyoke, Massachusetts, Mountain View Baptist Church.

What I saw then I see today here in South Carolina. Families need placement. The church must not simply be a place you go on Sunday or Wednesday but a place where you can love and be loved. A place where you can knit your heart and life around the family of God. A place where you can say I am serving the Lord and others. Every family needs a church and every person needs a pastor.

Many here in the Bible-belt south have a history of a church family. They went to Sunday school and even attended the Christian school. There was youth camp and children’s church where the songs and activities made a deep impression. So many were soulwinners and witnesses but time and distance has silenced the testimony into none at all. The Lowcountry is full of former choir members, bus drivers and altar workers who now have- no place. Deep down there is a lacking for a place. There is no peace of God. A longing to be close to Him again and close in fellowship. I believe they are looking to come home. You cannot know Him and stay away always.

I am reminded of the parable Jesus told in Luke 15 concerning the prodigal son who went away but came back. He came back when he returned into the father’s arms and love. He came to himself in the pig pen but came back to the place he longed to be, close to his father.

I tell you friend, there is a heavenly Father today who loves and wants to restore you. You must come home! He waits to forgive and start again. There is no place too far for God to rescue you from.

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Just imagine what the Lord can do with your life! Imagine how good and peaceful life could be living for Jesus. I want you to know there is a place of quiet rest- near to the heart of God. You take a step toward Him and He will talk two. God extends to us mercy by not judging us now. God offers grace by inviting us to His side. “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Come home. Come back to the Lord, there is a place for you.

One of my all-time favorite quartet songs was sung in a meeting where I saw dozens return to fellowship and home. I never forgot it and here are the lyrics, “Come Home” by Joe Di Quattro

1. You came into the family through Jesus’ precious blood
You tasted of His goodness and His love
He showered you with blessings, He’s building you a home
But somehow on your journey, you’re standing all alone

2. You wandered far from homeland, down paths so dark and cold
In search of all the pleasures you could hold
Freedom bought you bondage; rebellion bought you fear
Jesus stands behind you; and homeland is so near

(Chorus)
Come home, your Father really loves you
Come home, it’s where you want to be
It’s a place of peace and comfort, a shelter from the storm
Don’t wait another moment, come home

3. Remember how it used to be when fellowship was sweet
The time well spent in worship at His feet
You know it doesn’t really matter how long you’ve been away
Just let His Spirit cleanse you and be restored today, today

Pastor Tharp

Trident Baptist Church

Goose Creek, South Carolina

The Life Verse

A tribute my son Eric Jonathan Tharp by his Pop

June 19,1985 - November 28, 2003

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Lamentations 3:22,23, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.” 

Growing up within the framework of the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement and loving every minute of it I took on several life verses. I recall in a youth camp I determined my verse would be what Paul said in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” I could quote it and even signed it in another kid’s Bible right after he signed mine! A powerful verse but worlds away from the reality of my own life. After all, what does an 11-year-old boy know about the depth of what Paul was saying there as he began the deepest epistle in the cannon of holy Writ! Time went on and I claimed another and then another verse all marking the progressive steps into a young man called to preach and now ready to serve the Lord with all the strength of a recent high school graduate. I went to Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, MI in the summer of 1982 and I pulled onto the college property sporting my 1967 Chevy Impala (327 small block) clinging to II. Timothy 1:9, “Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,” I still remember how eager I was when Dr. Charles McNeely asked all freshmen to stand up in class orientation and give our life verse. There, I was prepared! 

I loved my college years. I loved sitting in classes where Dr. Tom Malone taught us about ministry. He also taught Shakespearean Literature. Enough said. I sat and learned from men, many now with the Lord, and they provoked me to be real and get ahold of God. I determined to live that verse, my life verse. B.R Lakin thundered in the chapel and in the same year Harold Sightler did too. I can still see Dr. Lee Roberson, Dr. Paul Vanaman, and Dr. Tom Malone Jr. in chapel delivering those targeted messages. They preached as if the entire hope of winning this world was on our shoulders. Many others stood and cried aloud for someone to stand in the gap, Dr. Charles Whitfield, Dr. Curtis Hutson, Dr. Jack Hyles so many more and were profoundly impacted, we the future pastors and missionaries in training. Then to sit week after week in Emmanuel Baptist Church where the 3,000-seat auditorium would seem so full with Dr. Malone’s powerful voice and we were in the best place on earth! I held onto every word those preachers said and even stood in a very long line, you know why, to get them to sign my Bible! I would immediately search out their life verse and even consider claiming that one too! I will never forget having Dr. Malone sign my Bible while my dad was at Midwestern (1973-77) and he signed it using Romans 8:32. I sat right down in the theater seat/pew in the great Emanuel Baptist auditorium where I was saved just weeks before (1974) and read those special words, “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?” My momma signed Jeremiah 33:3 and my dad held to Philippians 3:10, where he as a new believer, at the age of 30, no longer living for himself but now completely surrendered, cried out with Paul, “That I may know Him…” I met and fell in love with my wife JoAnne and over the years she too has had a number of life verses. God gave her Isaiah 43:10 when Mom Boston called her to inform that the cancer had returned. “…Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name: thou art mine.” The life verse was the truth that helped when she was buried so early in life, age 56.

God placed in my heart as a 21-year-old graduate of Bible college I. Thessalonians 5:24, “Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it.” The Lord called us to Holyoke, MA to plant a church and in those days church planters did not seek support. So, believe me, we needed the Lord! We simply believed He was able to do in and through us far greater than any other could. We moved into a duplex on Northampton Street and began with Bible studies. I figured out very quickly what a benefit is was to have a little chubby 1 year old going door to door with me. People just seemed nicer. Our church was organized in October of that year and now once again the Lord gave another verse, one that launched the Mountain View Baptist Church, Psalm 127:1, “Except the LORD build the house they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchmen waketh but in vain.” My, how that verse kept our hearts tender and expectation rightly placed. There in very Catholic and stoic New England step by step we watched the LORD arrange a group of people who would call me pastor and love us three! Soon to be four, then five and finally six! God blessed our work there and our lives blossomed even building our own home on 5 acres 9 miles from the church property and buildings we were to enjoy as we grew older.

My life verse changed suddenly. Our eldest boy was a freshman at Midwestern and even class president. Eric preached on Sunday night at Charity Baptist Church in Ruby, MI for my friend Steve Pace. That was the 7th pulpit he had preached in besides mine. He set off to come home for Thanksgiving very early November 26th and made the 638-mile drive coming in very early on Thanksgiving morning. He had some engine trouble along the way but otherwise no problems, our boy was home. We celebrated around the table and then put up the Christmas lights on our beautiful home. Eric, his brother Joe and I always loved working together. At least, I think they liked working with me! Joseph turned 12 on the 21st and we planned a birthday party the day after Thanksgiving for him when big brother came home. I told Eric I wanted him to take his ’98 Ford Explorer to a shop and get the issue looked at. Eric said he didn’t want to do it but I insisted and so at noon he left after kissing his mother and me and saying, “love ya pop.” I left shortly after and was headed into town when my phone rang, “Eric was in an accident.” My wife and I rushed to the hospital and I was destined to bring my wife, youngest son, Lisa and Jessica into a reality that we never dreamed could happen, Eric was killed in the accident. He died instantly on November 28, 2003 at 12:08pm.

Our family came to us. Our church family too. They saved our lives. We sorrowed together and turned to the Lord. My father sorrowed. I sorrowed for him and I needed his comfort, but he was in shock and wonder. Eric lived 18 years 5 months and 9 days. He left a testimony and legacy as a Christian, soulwinner, bus worker, a third-generation preacher and most of all a precious son and brother.

He also left a life verse. His has become mine. …”Great is Thy faithfulness.”

My son knows the Lord Jesus face to face, he has seen him. Eric has become my ancestor and knows the Lord far beyond what even I can imagine. This is now my great comfort that He is great in faithfulness. His mercies are renewed every morning. It is true! His compassions fail not! We will be gathered together in that land where night never comes.

He is buried along the banks of the beautiful Connecticut River in the city of Holyoke, Massachusetts. The city God called us to. On the back of his tombstone are the words of his life verse, now mine, Lamentations 3:22,23.

Pastor Eric M. Tharp
Goose Creek, SC

 

A reminder of why we are here...Missions

The Missions Conference 2018, "COMMITTED"

Matthew 28:19, 20, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

We just finished the first Faith Promise Mission Conference ever at Trident Baptist Church in Goose Creek, SC. We are rejoicing in a huge number to send into our world-wide mission effort.

The local church was left on the Earth for a very specific reason that can be best understood by realizing what we can only do here on Earth- that will not be done in Heaven. Think about that. We know there are five trophies that we can win to lay at the Saviour’s feet. All of these are only won here. What can we only do here on Earth? There could be assembled a long list of those Earth experiences that will be non-existent in Heaven. For example: Trials and burdens, work and labor, sickness and healing, danger and deliverance, to name a few. Then, imagine the travail in prayer resulting in the answer coming miraculously; The eleventh hour miracle that proves to you again how much the Lord knows and cares for His own; Think again, about those times you escaped a peril that could have cast great darkness across your pathway that later revealed the unseen hand of God! See, there will be no need to fast and pray in God’s beautiful abode, no need to help lift the fallen or to shoulder another’s great burden, no place for us to wait patiently until the answer comes, no where for us to run to the Lord in time of need for God is in the midst thereof! (Psalm 46:4,5)

Some today mistakenly assign their church and spiritual service to a worship experience in a church service or a personal encounter with God in a church service, on some river bank, or out in the woods. They contend their service for the Lord is to worship and to know Him. Wait a moment. Isn’t that what we will do forever- in Heaven? Indeed and hallelujah for that! Do not jump to a false conclusion that I am not for knowing and walking with the Lord here on planet Earth. There is something for us all to constantly remember and that is the last words of Jesus to us left here below. When Jesus left the Earth and He ascended back to Heaven, He gave us the Great Commission (Acts 1:8). It was four other times given in His lifetime and in each rendering there is an order of activity in which we are the principle players! We are left here to seek the lost and to help rescue the perishing! We were left here to not only seek the lost (Matthew 28:19) but to help them into a right relationship with God (baptism- obedience & observance- continuance 29:20). To carry the message of deliverance to the lost and offer the Water of Life to the thirsty. There are no thirsty souls in Heaven. There are no lost ones in darkness in Glory. Five times Jesus Christ ordered His newly organized Church of Believers to be witnesses. Why? In Heaven it is too late to be a witness to the lost. This is why we are here. There will be no Faith Promise Missions Conferences in Heaven, no special days to help the drug addicts get hope through Christ, no Sunday school buses to pick up visitors, no special offerings to help purchase another shuttle for the handicap, (no wheelchairs in Heaven) no youth rallies, revival meetings and no persecution for our testimony. See, it is here on Earth we are to carry the Water to the thirsty, invite people to church, give and sacrifice for that bus purchase, pass out 100 gospel tracts this week, join the choir, go out on Saturday morning soulwinning, take that new convert to lunch, make a HUGE Faith Promise and hold nothing back form our Lord’s usefulness. It is here that we do all of this- not Heaven.

I wonder if we ARE so heavenly minded that we are of no Earthly good. It is time we Fundamental Baptists get back to that realization that God did not leave me on this Earth to be happy and blessed and full of joy and clicking my heels as the birds sing and I skip along my way. There are millions here and beyond the Seas lost and undone and if Jesus comes this week- there will be no more soulwinning and training new converts and no more rescuing those from jails and drugs and no more helping a rebellious young person on the brink of self destruction!

Will you resolve to live for your greatest Earthly potential? Help get someone from Hell to Heaven. God has left us here with this purpose.

Here is the fourth verse of the old hymn by A.B. Simpson, “Saving and Serving”

“Saving and serving, oh, blessed employ! Heaven itself has no holier joy; Thus we shall win Heaven’s richest reward-Saving the lost ones and serving the Lord. Serving the Lord and saving the lost, Shrinking not from danger, counting not the cost, Keep us, blessed Master, true to our trust- Serving the Lord and saving the lost!”


Welcome to "The Pastor's Desk"

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I would like to welcome you to a new section of our website named, “The Pastor’s Desk.” This spot is where you will find articles and thoughts that I would like to share with you. Some may be simple thoughts with a challenge, some will be informational to give you the details of an upcoming event, ant others will be a Bible study. These articles (or “blogs” as the young people call them,) are from my desk and my heart to you.

It is my desire that these articles will inform, instruct and inspire you in your walk with God. So, again, welcome to “The Pastor’s Desk.”

He Leadeth Me

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There really cannot be too much emphasis on the great work of missions. I remember, as a young teenage boy in my dad’s church, when we had our Faith Promise Missions Conference how those giants for God came to our little Indiana town. They came with their families and stayed in the homes of our church members. I recall one morning dad told us boys (all three of us pastors now) we were going to help get them a set of tires. I remember those weathered and worn old cars those missionaries would drive! Most of the time they were not roadworthy or even safe but on they logged thousands of miles for the Master! The missionary stood with tears as my dad would do whatever possible to help keep those warriors for the gospel on the road and on the way to the field of His calling. I watched as out of our own poverty we gave and it seemed there was never a limit of what we would do. To my father, as a pastor, and for his church, he saw the role he played as a vessel. His chief function was to be part of getting the gospel to every people group and nation on earth. My rearing was very clearly all about being used of God as a vessel for His purpose and glory.

The Apostle Paul was instructing the young pastor Timothy on his endurance as a “good soldier” and on his diligence as an “approved workman” in 2 Timothy 2. Later in the chapter Paul bears down on the importance of doctrinal and relational purity (16-18; 23-26) but then adds a description of our chief role, a vessel (20, 21)

Look at the 20th verse, “But in a great house…he shall be a vessel…” We are to be a useful vessel in a great house! “There are some to honour, and some to dishonor” and leaves for us all to consider the type of vessels are we! Paul urges us to purge ourselves of the dishonorable (21) and to be transformed unto a vessel for the usefulness of the Master. There is no doubt the “great house” is referring to the local church made up for the Master’s use. What use? It is given five times in the New Testament (Matthew 28:19,20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:46-48; John 20:21; Acts 1:8) the Great Commission!

Ours is a singular mission and reason for living- to be used of God. For His glory and for His purpose. We are but vessels and may we consider the importance of our usefulness and willingness to be used as He gives breath!

Our firstborn child Eric Jon was called to preach as a young boy. He gave himself to serve the Lord and at age 18 went off the Bible College. He spent three months there and we watched as he developed as a leader and into a fine young servant of God. Eric graduated from his Christian school and was asked to sing at his commencement. He chose a song which was captured on a video recording that has since been very dear to his mother and me, “He Leadeth Me” by Joseph Gilmore.

“He leadeth me, O, blessed thought!
O words with heav’nly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be
Still ‘tis God’s hand that leadeth me.

And when my task on earth is done,
When by Thy grace the vict’ry’s won,
E’en deaths’s cold wave I will not flee,
Since God through Jordan leadeth me.”

This was the last video recording of our son. The Lord took his in a car accident November 28, 2003 at the age of 18 years 5 months and 9 days.

You only have one chance at this life. Live your days as a vessel for the Master’s use, a vessel in the hand of the Potter.