Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Called Home To Make Disciples

John Sleadd, October 2007

When my parents called me home as a boy it was often not good news. It meant my time to play had expired. Or maybe I was in trouble. It meant goodbye friends, farewell fun and games. It meant hello chores, hello accountability. On the other hand it could mean that supper was ready, which was always of interest to me. Home was generally a place to go because you had to eat and sleep and bathe and do necessary work. Home was where you went when everything else was closed. But the real action was elsewhere, so I believed.

When I was a grown man I called my own children home. It wasn’t just for chores, or dinner. I called them home out of the culture. Naomi was in high school, Nathan and Aaron were in middle school, Alexa was in elementary school and Caleb was being homeschooled. I decided that although the older four were getting good grades, they got along well with their classmates, and they were bragged about by their teachers, I needed them to come home so that I could train them.

Arden and I had started off teaching our children at home. Since we were both public school teachers, and we knew the inside of the government educational system, we were convinced that it would better for them to receive faith-based, individualized instruction at home instead of age-segregated classroom instruction. Arden quit her job to stay home and things went well for a number of years. As each child reached ten years of age, we enrolled them for a year in the public school where I taught so that they could have me, Mr. Sleadd, as their fifth grade teacher.
Then Arden’s health took a dive because of a mysterious illness called fibromyalgia. The disease laid her up for long periods with wracking pain and fatigue. Her erratic condition often left her so debilitated that she needed help with even simple tasks like getting dressed, eating and taking care of herself. She became physically spent, emotionally depressed and unable to teach the children. I decided to enroll them full time in the local public schools.

I figured we’d make the most of the situation and allow the kids to bloom where they were transplanted. Wanting to be a good dad, I indulged them in school sports, private music lessons, church youth groups, and visits with friends. Since Arden was unable to drive, I handled all the taxi responsibilities. At times I covered the shopping and cooking, too, with the kids pitching in when possible. You can imagine what our home life was like trying to keep up with swim team, football, wrestling, soccer, gymnastics, track, piano, violin and trumpet lessons; games, meets, concerts, recitals, parades, parent conferences and school functions—for three different school schedules.

Add to this our weekly church experience where each child was encouraged to attend age-segregated youth activities. Top it all off with invitations to parties and outings with friends, and you’ve got a recipe for family frazzle. I felt like I was herding rabbits. We were in a rat race and the rats were winning. We were fast becoming relational strangers, sharing the same roof and last name. There was no time for discipleship. The public school curriculum was thoroughly secular. The church youth activities were shallow and entertainment oriented. I was witnessing the hearts and minds of my children being drawn steadily to a peer culture and away from the things of family.

I started to recognize a huge discrepancy between the picture of Biblical fatherhood and how I was raising my kids. Certain verses in the Bible began to impress and convict me. The implications of the following Scripture passages hit me like a ton of bricks.

Genesis 18:19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Proverbs 13:20 Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

Malachi 2:15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.

Malachi 4:5-6 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.

Ephesians 5:15-17 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Ephesians 6:1-4 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Imagine spending so much time in a house of distorted mirrors that you don’t recognize a true reflection when you see it. I found myself in such a place. My mind told me there was something wrong with this picture and it dawned on me that I was permitting others to train my children. I was not diligently teaching my children God’s Word, and I was allowing them to be surrounded with foolish companions, most of whom had no respect for a Biblical worldview. I realized that sending my children to Caesar’s schools was designed to bring Roman values into my home. Furthermore, our frantic family schedule was evidence that we had been stretched and distorted into the mold of the world. Our commitments to sports, academics and achievement crowded out time for reading God’s Word and for worshipping as a family. I wanted out of the house of mirrors.

I began to study my children closely, looking for spiritual fruit, and paying attention to their attitudes. I asked them a lot of questions about the things that were important to them. I looked for evidence of gratitude, contentment, a love of Scripture, a heart for service, and a preference for family. Finding these things lacking, I prayed for wisdom and decided that a radical change was in order.

Called Home At Christmas
I called my children home during Christmas vacation of 2002. I shared my observations in a family meeting, and confessed that I had dropped the ball in discipleship. I said that I felt God’s Word compelled me to train them properly, from here on, which I could not accomplish with them remaining in secular schools. I confessed that I had left the burden of child training to their mother when she was ill. I asked Arden to forgive me. She did. I apologized to my children for not being more involved in their discipleship and asked them to forgive me. They did. I told them that I would now fully bear the responsibility for their education and that I would need their support and patience in working out the bugs. I told them they would finish their current school year, and be homeschooled thereafter.

My children sat in shock, at the announcement, weighing their losses (friends, sports, etc.). But they understood. They will tell you now that they saw God at work in their dad, breaking me and directing me. I’m sure they also reasoned that I had the rest of the school year to change my mind, so why worry about it.

Having made the decision, I had episodes of doubt. On several occasions I found myself wide awake in the middle of the night wondering if I had lost my mind. “God, what are you doing to me?” I asked. “Can I really do this?” Certain of my inadequacy, I found comfort by reading the Bible and praying. Eventually I settled into the mindset that anything God calls me to do, He would supply the ability to complete. I began to look at is as a glorious adventure. How could five kids get a good education at home with a sick mom and a dad who left for his full time job each morning? If it didn’t work out, I figured I could always put them back in school and I’d be wiser for the trying.

Arden and I began to examine our schedule and lifestyle carefully to see what could be trimmed. We prioritized devotional time together over individual time apart. We used our reclaimed time at home to be together to play games and invite other families to visit. We found it easier to fellowship with entire families rather than invite one child to come play with one of our children. We cut most of the sports and maintained most of the music. We cut youth groups. We cut sleepovers. For academics we chose some self-paced curriculum the older children could use to teach themselves. With plenty of modifications and flexibility we found we could focus on godly character development and achieve good scholastic results. I woke my children up early enough to have Bible study each morning before I left for work at 7:15am. Some of them even stayed awake while we did it.

We started singing together as a family and learned to harmonize in four parts. I determined that music would be one of the glues that would bond us together as a family. I bought a drum set, a bass guitar and a keyboard and we formed a family band, calling ourselves Homemade Jam. We started playing jazz, blues and contemporary praise music, which was great fun for me since I had played in dance bands while in college and enjoyed it. We played music in churches, parks, and nursing homes. We played twice at the Medford Jazz festival. My two daughters and I sang a harmonized arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner for the state legislature in Salem one year, and the whole family recorded our first a cappella Christmas CD in 2005.

We found that we had more time to read the Bible and great literature together, and to grow closer in conversation. Arden and I embraced a new vision of parenting that included preparing our children for marriage and for raising their own families in the future. We began to question the practice of superficial dating and became interested in models of biblical courtship.

Called To Build A Covered Bridge Ministry
The ton of bricks that had clobbered me, namely Scripture, became the foundation of a radical, missional mindset. I began to see God’s purpose for fathers more clearly. The clarity of the Lord’s call to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Deut. 6:5), to love our neighbor selflessly (Matt. 22:39), and to make disciples, teaching them all that God has commanded (Matt. 28:20), had amazing ministry implications for dads like me. If a father’s closest neighbors are his wife and children, then it stands to reason that they are his primary mission field. T his missionary work is so important that a man’s ability to manage his family in godliness is a prerequisite for eldership in the church. “He must mange his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Tim 3:4,5)

This understanding brought Biblical purpose into our home. God blessed us with unity and contentment, and soon we felt called to help others find their way out of the cultural house of mirrors. Thus was created Covered Bridge Family Ministries, the bridge representing the father’s protective covering over his household as children are directed over the span of time and circumstances into the next generation. We believe healthy families are beacons of hope in our troubled society, and that Christian households can be effective embassies of ministry for the living gospel of Christ.

For over four years now we have enjoyed promoting father leadership, family-integrated worship and home education. We have sponsored barn dances, variety shows, academic events, family building seminars, and a competitive speech club for homeschool students. To visit out our ministry web page go to In calling our children out of the secular culture, we felt that it was wise to provide healthy social events and activities to spur them on in their walk of faith. At our very first barn dance our oldest daughter met a young man, who two and a half years later would ask us to court her for marriage. Today they are happily married and are the delighted parents of a cheerful little baby boy.

Called To Transplant
Little did I know what lay ahead. I soon discovered that my newfound perspective on family ministry and father leadership was not widely shared. My own church, where I helped lead musical worship, taught parenting classes, and served as an elder, viewed family ministry as just another program on the ministry menu. While our large church had paid staff dealing with nursery, preschool, elementary Sunday School, junior high, high school, singles, and seniors, no one ministered to families as a unit. Parents were welcome to attend the weekly children’s drama, and to volunteer to work in classes, but no efforts were made throughout the church to unite families in teaching on Sundays. A perusal of the church’s web site, its ministry brochures, and its activities newsletters routinely gave evidence that youth were minstered to apart from their parents. Families did not generally sit together during services, but instead the youth sat together with their peers in one section of the auditorium while their parents sat in another section. I pointed out to the other elders how our regular practices were routinely fragmenting families. On any given Sunday it was typical for children to be dropped off at age-graded Sunday School classes and youth groups while their parents visited an adult class for the first hour. Then, during the second hour, the kids might go to Children’s Church while their parents attended the service. It was therefore possible that the only common experience a family might share Sunday morning at our church was the car ride to and from the building. The fact that my five children sat with me during the service made us feel like a conspicuous island in a sea of segregation. The house of mirrors was inside the church and we appeared to be the ones who were distorted.

I don’t want to unfairly portray my church as being against family unity. We had simply settled into routines and staffing decisions that promoted programs which tended to produce the results of family fragmentation. To be fair, the elders and staff all agreed that family restoration was a serious need. One elder initiated a three day family camp that became a yearly event, which was a wonderful approach to cultivating unity. Several families, mine among them, established age-integrated home groups, which were a blessing to participants. By and large, however, the vision for family restoration did not gain footing among the church staff as a significant priority. My recommendations for the youth minister to equip fathers to be youth ministers in their homes were unwelcome. I determined that my passion for strengthening families could best be explored apart from the ministry model of this church.

After a season of church visits, which I considered fascinating religious field trips for my children, I felt more than ever the need for family-integrated worship in our community. At one particular church my family was actually prohibited from sitting together in the main auditorium, because one of my children, under age ten was required to be in a Sunday School class. To worship together we were forced to watch the service in a remote room on a monitor. Almost unbelievable.

After many months of enjoying our visits at a variety of churches, and concluding that reformation in church practice was needed, we eventually committed to attending Coram Deo, a new, family-integrated church plant in Grants Pass. In time I accepted the position of worship leader which allowed my whole family to minister musically in the congregation. Each Sunday Pastor Dale Meador would preach at Bear Creek Church in Medford, and then drive twenty miles to Grants Pass to preach at Coram Deo. In January of 2007 Dale determined that Coram Deo needed a local pastor, and he asked me to consider stepping into that role. Initially I declined with a string of excuses about my inadequacy, but his persistence, and that of the other elders, led me to view his request as another of God’s promptings.

Called Home To Pastor
I took an unpaid year’s leave of absence from teaching to explore the Lord’s leading in shepherding a congregation. It was familiar territory to find myself awake in the middle of the night wondering, “God, what are you doing to me?” followed by a sense of peace and even adventure.
What a blessing it is be with my family now in the mornings. I generally rise early for private study, then awake them for Bible study before breakfast. I also enjoy instructing my children in Providential history as part of our homeschool curriculum. My family, in turn, helps me to be a pastor by helping out with worship and producing the church bulletin. I have been meeting weekly with the Bear Creek elders since January as part of my pastor preparation program. We read and discuss books together on theology, church history, preaching, and more. I am trusting the Lord to build Coram Deo into a useful family-integrated body of believers who will rejoice in their calling to grow in God’s Word and to disciple their children.

What exactly is a family-integrated church? It is a church that avoids systematic age segregation because we believe God’s Word calls parents to train their own children. It stresses that a pastor must be faithful to shepherd his own family while he serves the congregation. It assumes that Biblical mentoring implies older men and women should be with the younger members to serve as examples among them. At Coram Deo we emphasize a Biblical view of marriage and family, the importance of family worship and discipleship, the benefits of Christian education, and the need for a plurality of Biblically qualified leaders. We take seriously our charge to equip the saints for ministry, and to encourage fathers to diligently train their children. Our desire is to faithfully preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to help our members make God's Word the centerpiece of their homes.

God turned my heart toward my family. Perhaps He’s calling you, too. He might not ask you to be the pastor of a church, but I believe He calls all fathers to serve as pastors in their homes.

John Sleadd

Monday, October 22, 2007

Multigenerational Faith

Did you know that faith can grow cold and vanish in a single generation? Christian parents have an obligation to train up their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Eph 6:4). Why? Because the Lord desires godly offspring (Mal 2:15). I tell my own five children that God holds me accountable for training them with a Biblical worldview so that they, in turn, might raise their own future children in godliness. When we view our parental responsibilities as a long term investment in more than a single generation of Christians, we are more likely to resist the trends of the unbelieving culture which lure us into materialistic, autonomous individualism. With Christ as the author and perfecter of our faith, we can look beyond our own lifetimes and launch our children into the next generation.

Below I have included a set of beliefs which contribute to a multigenerational view of faith, followed by some key issues in our culture needing reformation. Finally, a few passages of scripture are listed which speak to the transfer of faith over time through the bearing and training of children.

* Beliefs Contributing to Multi-generational Faith
* Acceptance of Christ as Savior who redeems sinners by grace
* Acceptance of the sufficiency of Scripture and a biblical worldview in all areas of life, including faith and family.
* Acceptance of the father headship in the home for spiritual nurture

* Acceptance of parental responsibility to disciple one's children to replicate faith in their own future families
* Acceptance of age-integrated worship practices as guiding youth to become wise by walking with the wise
* Acceptance of the importance of the church in its role of equipping parents in Godliness
* Rejection of unbiblical models of child training, education and church practices which cultivate peer dependence and autonomous individualism

Key Areas for Transformation

1. Marriage & Children - The promiscuous, serial-dating, no fault divorce culture has become a major impediment to the transfer of multi-generational faith among believers. Christians now divorce more often than non-Christians. What is needed is a return to the biblical principles of purity before marriage and careful preparation under the loving protection and guidance of one's parents before being wed. We call it courtship. In its simplest form it is an agreement between children and their parents to work together, for God's glory, in the decision-making process to select a suitable marriage partner. We have included a helpful link to articles on courtship.

God's purpose for marriage includes the potential for having godly children (again, Malachi 2:15). While it is not my place to judge the size of any man's family, I will say that many Christian couples need to trust God more with their family planning rather than conforming to the two-child culture.

2. Education - The Bible is clear in its call for parents to train their own children. Whether this is done full-time at home, or in conjunction with sending one's child to an institutional school, Christian parents should maximize their ability to instruct their children in godly beliefs and behaviors (Ephesians 6:4).

Unfortunately, the majority of Christian parents in America today have turned the academic instruction of their children over to the secular government schools. In an attempt to achieve religious and multicultural egalitarianism, these institutions have become increasingly hostile to Christian beliefs. The Nehemiah Institute has discovered that a majority of Christian children (75%) attending public schools have accepted a secular humanist worldview. Furthermore, according to the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life's report to the 2002 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, 88% of the children raised in evangelical homes, a majority of whom are educated in public schools, leave church at the age of 18, never to return.

In sharp contrast, The National Home Education Research Institute, found that 94% of home school graduates retained the religious beliefs of their parents. While these data are not strictly parallel in focus, they do effectively show the dramatic difference between the fruit of a secular education versus Christ-centered instruction from one's own parents. Parents whose children are enrolled in Christian private schools should also make it a priority to disciple their own children to the greatest degree possible. Simply put, God did not intend for young children to be trained by institutions. He placed them with parents in families. Let's be careful that what we justify as a delegation of responsibility to others does not become an abdication of our duties to raise our children.

3. Family Worship - The need for fathers to exercise spiritual leadership in their homes is crucial for the transmission of multi-generational faith. Too often, parents assume that the spiritual training of their children is adequately covered by Sunday School classes or youth programs. Again, God does not mandate the training of children by an institution. Fathers would we wise to turn their hearts to their children, to establish regular habits of personal devotions, and then to lead their families in worship, prayer and Bible reading. In the Sleadd family we have made it our habit to have family worship each day before breakfast and after dinner.

4. Corporate Worship - The American Christian church has become increasingly program-based and consumer-oriented. Christians would be wise to return to the age-integrated practices of the early church where households functioned as embassies of the Lord and where congregational gatherings included families worshipping together. Coram Deo Church in Grants Pass is a family-integrated, disicple-making church that supports the Godly work of parents to train up their children in the faith.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Build The Church

It was back in August. I was in Medford with the Bear Creek Church elders for my weekly studies to become a pastor. We were sitting in Grilla Bites CafĂ© discussing the future of Coram Deo Church, and my new responsibilities as part of the staff. When I asked what I should be focusing on, Pastor Dale put a pen to a paper napkin and printed, “build the church.”

That’s my goal in teaching from Paul’s Epistle To The Ephesians. I've chosen to highlight three major themes of emphasis to help us understand God's will for His church in the first century and today.

The Church Called Out (Redeemed & Adopted)
The saints have been chosen before the foundation of the world and predestined for adoption through Christ into God's kingdom (Eph 1:4-5). Our effectual calling delivers us from spiritual death and God's wrath, from the futility of the course of this world, and from the power of Satan (Eph 2:1-5). We are saved by grace alone (Eph 2:8-9) in order to glorify God through good works, which are the fruit of faith (Eph 2:10).

The Church Called Together (United & Equipped)
In Christ, the saints are reconciled to God and are joined together as the holy temple and dwelling place of God's Spirit (Eph 2:22). Christ has given leaders to the church to equip the saints for the work of ministry and attain unity (Eph 4:12-13).

The Church Called To Serve (Sanctified, Strengthened & Prepared for Active Duty)
The saints are called to walk in newness of life (Eph 4:24), building one another up (Eph 4:29), making the best use of our time (Eph 5:16), and rejoicing with one another in submission and reverence (Eph 5:19-21). We are to honor and serve God in obedience through husbands loving their wives, wives respecting their husbands, children obeying their parents, and fathers training their children in godliness (Eph 5:22-6:4). We are to engage in spiritual warfare by putting on the full armor of God, by standing firm in our faith, and by praying at all times (Eph 6:13-18).

I pray that as we explore Paul’s glorious letter to the saints in Ephesus, we will sense the hand of God knitting us together and building us up as the Body of Christ, His Church. We are indeed His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works (Eph 2:10).

May we grow strong in love and deeds.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Come To Church

By John Sleadd, August 30, 2007

Dinner’s Ready
“Come and eat!” This command rings out regularly in the Sleadd house at dinnertime. My children (5 total, 4 remaining at home) have rotating chef duties and they call the rest of us to the table when the food is ready. Sometimes it’s hard to get everyone gathered together. We are scattered throughout the house, or around our acre of property engaged in various projects. Someone’s in the studio practicing a musical instrument. Someone’s in the back yard catching frogs. Someone’s on the computer composing a blog post. Someone’s on the couch with an exciting book.

“Come and eat!” is repeated, a little louder. The supper chef wonders why no one is coming (One of the reasons we rotate this duty is to give each child the responsibility and experience of serving). “Hey, the food is getting, cold,” we are warned. Eventually, we all get washed up, sit down, give thanks, and begin our meal. We enjoy conversation and companionship as our stomachs are filled.

Church is often like this. A pastor prepares a meal of God’s Word to nourish his congregation. Any number of projects and activities distract us, but we lay them aside to gather together on Sunday morning as the Lord’s people. Or should.

A Commitment Problem
For over a year I have enjoyed leading worship at Coram Deo Church. It has been a pleasure to welcome the congregation into corporate celebration to sing and pray and enjoy warm fellowship. Now, in my new role as teaching elder, I have the immense pleasure of studying and preparing to nourish the Body of Christ with His Word. Sometimes I wonder why folks who attend our church do not “come and eat” each week. Some of them drop in from time to time as if the church is a restaurant and they are customers. Perhaps this is because they don’t understand the importance of being together regularly. I’d like to review the basic purposes of the church and why believers should commit to showing up every Sunday.

1. The church ministers to God through praise and worship. Christ is the head of the church. We are the body. A healthy church is committed to honoring God through unified worship under Christ. “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.” (Psalm 22:22) “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)

2. The church ministers to believers through nurture and discipleship. The body of Christ is comprised of many members, each important in the function of the whole. “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Roman 12:10-13) “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12)

3. The church ministers to the world through evangelism and mercy. Christ has given all believers a testimony of faith, which we are to share freely. We are called to be light bearers in a dark world, commending salvation in Christ alone, and the sufficiency of God’s Word, the Bible. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20) “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:35-36)

I recognize that many of the passages I’ve cited above can be interpreted within the context of a home fellowship. Researcher George Barna has documented the popularity of the house church movement, into which many people have retreated from institutional church models for various reasons. The second chapter of the Book of Acts sets a clear biblical precedent for believers to meet in their homes, but it also includes regular attendance at the temple. “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:46-47)

Honoring Community
It’s true that members of a family could eat dinner in their own rooms to fill their stomachs. But think about the other elements of a good meal that would be missing. When we talk to each other about how good the food is, it actually tastes better. When we praise the chef for preparing it, we celebrate excellence in cooking (and the cook feels appreciated). When we converse and laugh and practice good manners together (still working on that in the Sleadd house) we get full hearts as well as full stomachs. When we read from the Bible, or from other uplifting material, together, we are inspired to think and to grow and to serve in unity, to become more like Christ.

An Earnest Plea
Dear people of God, do you honor your brothers and sisters in the faith by being with them? Or are you dating the church? Do you realize your potential to be a blessing to others in the congregation? Or do you imagine that going to church is only about satisfying your own needs, and not about serving others? I pray that the Lord would ignite a fire under your soul that prompts you to walk in deeper faith, which means humble commitment. I pray that you would delight in the fellowship of the saints, and make it your habit to build up your local church. Find one and settle there long enough to become united in spirit. It begins with showing up regularly, and on time. It grows with love and good deeds.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

A Jingle On The Basics Of Christian Living

By John Sleadd, August 2007

I love simple explanations. I wondered what to say if a new believer asked me what he should do to grow in faith. I racked my brain for the shortest possible list, and came up with four basic habits. Next I put the list to a melody and created a jingle to help sear the message into the listener’s memory banks. Since I often lead worship at church, I taught the song to our congregation back in August. They smiled like they were preschoolers at a vacation Bible School camp. Here are the lyrics.

Read and pray and serve and make disciples.
Love the Lord your God and read the Bible.
Pray each day for strength to love your neighbor as yourself
O read and pray and serve and make disciples

Do it with love and thanksgiving
And faithfulness, and a heart of praise
Glorify our Savior, Jesus
Spread the Gospel into every place
(In your home, in your city, in your nation, in the world)

Read and pray and serve and make disciples.
Love the Lord your God and read the Bible.
Pray each day for strength to love your neighbor as yourself
O read and pray and serve and make disciples

My jingle approach must have worked. After church my ten year old son informed me that the jingle had been “over the edge, Dad.” The sing-song-y melody had stuck in his mind like an annoying burr in the sock. I caught him hating it later, too, by humming it around the house. Sweet success.

Now let’s test the substance of my lyrics.

Read - The Holy Scriptures are the inerrant, sufficient Word of God, sharper than a two-edged sword, useful for every good work. We cannot know God or His righteous commands apart from His Word.We should delight in reading the Bible. Sola Scriptura.

Pray - God both commands and invites us to pray. I view prayer as a conduit of conversation with and to God. When we speak back to Him words from Scripture with pure motives, our prayers become powerful and effective because we are conforming our thoughts to His revealed will. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us in prayer.

Serve – Jesus was obedient unto death in the service of His Father. Just as He washed his disciples feet and offered himself on a cross to atone for our sins, we are to have a heart of service.Children are to serve their parents by obeying and honoring them. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves, which includes caring for their needs and serving them.

Make Disciples – The Great Commission calls us to go and make disciples, teaching them all that the Lord commanded.

What exactly has the Lord commanded? To find out I recommend that Christians start by reading the Scriptures and then pray about it. Jesus summed it up like this: Love God utterly and completely. Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40). The Scriptures also tell us to practice confession, repentance, belief, trust, humility, submission, patience, and gentleness. We are to be ambassadors of faith bearing witness to God’s grace. The call to serve and make disciples becomes clear. Especially if you sing it. May God bless and sanctify you as you ...

Read and pray and serve and make disciples.
Love the Lord your God and read the Bible.
Pray each day for strength to love your neighbor as yourself
O read and pray and serve and make disciples

Introducing Pastor John Sleadd

Help. I've been turned into a pastor. It was around January of 2007 that my pastor, Dale Meador, challenged me to consider stepping into full time ministry. He was pastoring two churches at the time, one in Medford where he lives (Bear Creek Church), and one in Grants Pass where I live (Coram Deo Church). I guess he figured it was time for the church to have a local pastor, so he asked me to step into leadership. Gulp. At first I was terrified by the prospect. Then, after much prayer, wise counsel from friends (I hope), and encouragement from the church elders, I overcame my fears. Kind of. Actually the excitement slowly edged out the reservations. I agreed.

For the last twenty years I have been a school teacher in grades 5, 6 and 8. I have taught in Anchorage Alaska, Stockton, California, and Grants Pass, Oregon. Most recently I was a fifth grade teacher at Redwood Elementary School in Grants Pass. In my spare time I've enjoyed helping out in various churches as worship leader, adult Sunday School teacher, seminar and retreat speaker, men’s discipleship leader, family home group leader, and church elder. Four years ago I founded Covered Bridge Family Ministries ( to support Christian families who are committed to home discipleship. Out of this ministry grew the Clarion Forensics Speech and Debate Club in which I have served as director and speech coach. It has been absolutely delightful to work with families in the training of young disciples for the Lord. I’m taking a leave of absence from teaching school to help build up Coram Deo Church.

Two things in life have blessed me more than anything else: Jesus and family. I am amazed at God’s mercy and grace to save a sinner such as I, and then to bless me with such a wonderful wife, children and friends in the faith. Arden and I have enjoyed the power of God’s Word and Holy Spirit in our home, directing our family life and fueling our desire to minister to others. Arden and I have been happily married for 23 years now. We have five children: Naomi (20), Nathan (18), Aaron (16), Alexa (14), and Caleb (10). Thanks to Naomi and her husband, Nathanael (24), we are the proud grandparents of Boone (3 mos.).

While I have enjoyed being involved in church work for many years, I confess my inadequacy for my new role of being a pastor. I am humbled by the awesome privilege and responsibility of helping shepherd the Lord’s people at Coram Deo Church, and I will rely on God's strength to help me in my weakness. I am grateful to Pastor Dale and the elders for their commitment to mentor and disciple me. We have been meeting weekly since January for ongoing pastoral studies and training.

My daughter, Alexa, informed me that pastors these days need to blog in order to be relevant. It’s her fault you’re reading this right now. I’m not quite sure where I’ll go with it, but I’m hoping it will be an authentic account of a regular guy’s ministry journey. I’ll try to articulate vision and direction. I’ll try to admit struggles and mistakes along the way. Maybe it will encourage others to take risks as well. I’ll try to be serious about the things of God, but not take myself too seriously. Please pray for me. It will help things progress a lot more smoothly.

I’ll end with a favorite John Piper quote from Future Grace: “Ministry is a lifestyle devoted to advancing other people’s faith and holiness.”