My Hope America with Billy Graham is a nationwide effort to reach people across the United States with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Following a simple biblical model, My Hope America with Billy Graham combines the impact of video programs with the power of personal relationships. Christians across America will open their homes to share the Gospel message with friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors using one of several new evangelistic programs featuring life-changing testimonies & powerful messages from Billy Graham.
Watch this live event for free!
We will be streaming live, all day, from our fellowship hall on November 5&6, 7am-4pm (PST, 10am-7pm EST) both days. Everyone is welcome to come and go as they please, see the schedule below for more details.
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This story was posted on June 8, 2013
WILSON – When Pastor Stephen Hay of Wilson’s First Baptist Church peppers his dialogue with the term “five guys,” he’s not talking about the popular hamburger spot. He’s referring to the team of five men – himself included – tending to the needs of the church, which saw attendance jump more than a third last year.
An articulate and personable native of Scotland with a college degree in graphic design – not a theology degree – Hay is quick to credit “God’s grace” for his church’s success.
That wouldn’t surprise Brad Clark, a longtime church member, who said Hay doesn’t seek the limelight and rarely takes credit for anything.
“But Pastor Steve doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk,” said Clark, who also served on the committee to hire Hay as the church’s youth minister nearly five years ago.
Hay perfectly fit that job description. He will turn 26 on June 26.
“As far as bringing the youth into the church, he’s been called the ‘Pied Piper,’ ” added Clark. “It’s amazing how he can relate to both the kids and the adults. They’ve changed the church basement into a youth center, and the kids come just about every night of the week as well as during the day during summer. But he’s also matured into being a good leader for the entire church.”
Hay explained that he shares his pastoral duties with four other men, each with their own specific roles, which often overlap. It’s admittedly a departure from the way his well-respected predecessor, the late Rev. Jeffrey Durham, ran the church, but it appears to be working.
Hay said that when he arrived about five years ago, there were probably 25 to 30 in the congregation.
“We had 33 percent growth last year, which is phenomenal, and we’re still growing,” he said. “I’d say we average about 110 every Sunday. Quite honestly, it’s the work of God’s grace.”
The church is gearing up for its popular community event, the “Amazing Race,” on Friday, which draws participants and spectators of all ages. It’s a race with a twist – teams will travel throughout the village guided by texted clues, competing to reach the finish line first.
Hay recently took a few moments from his busy schedule to speak – in his lilting Scottish brogue – about his calling, his new hometown and the challenges and rewards of being a minister.
Let’s start at the beginning.
How did you come to be a pastor in Wilson?
I arrived here when I was 21 for my first lengthy visit in the U.S. Growing up in Scotland, we were fortunate, and I grew up going on vacations in the United States. When I turned 19, I worked at a religious summer camp here in the Southern Tier – it was the summer before my last year of college, where I was studying graphic design, because I had graduated from high school early. I worked at the camp for three months and went back home to Scotland and came back to visit friends and such over the next two years.
Then I was offered a position here in Wilson as a youth pastor at the First Baptist Church. And I initially declined. But six months later, I was in Scotland and not really content in the job I thought I’d be doing the rest of my life and I felt the calling to come to this church.
I was in this job for a year and a few months when the pastor retired, and they asked me to assume the position of lead pastor. I initially refused. But two weeks later, I presented myself as a candidate. That was January 2010.
But please explain the hierarchy of your church.
We don’t function as a church with me as a senior pastor. Jesus is our senior pastor. We function in a plurality of leadership. We have five elders, or pastors, here. Our executive elder is Doug Farley; our care pastor is George Waters; our campus pastor is Ken Twist; our community and worship pastor is Tim Bach; and I am the teaching and outreach pastor. Only Tim and I have paid positions.
I don’t want to take credit for this, but when I took over for the pastor when he retired, I was only 22, and I was feeling the pressure. There was no way I could meet all of the demands with the limited amount of wisdom I had at 22. So Tim and I actually began praying about it and studying the Bible, and we saw how it worked this way in the early church.
You said you don’t have a theology degree – were you raised in the Baptist Church?
In Scotland, there are two main religions, Presbyterian and Baptist, but we’re not big on denominations. That was a big culture shock for me when I came to the U.S. And I feel it’s important that we don’t find our identity in being Baptist. We have to find our identity in Jesus. He established this thing he called the church. I’m going to be 26, I’m from Scotland, I don’t have a theology degree – so logically, this church shouldn’t be working, but it is. Because, if you read the Bible, you’ll find it’s filled with stories that don’t make sense if you take God out of the equation. God is clearly at work here.
I have done work through the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, and I do attend conferences and seminars to continue my growth. But I believe that based on my personality, I’ve learned a lot more through practical experience than I could in a classroom. These experiences cause you to go and seek out wisdom.
Explain how your church strives to move beyond its boundaries to reach the greater Wilson community.
We really try to achieve selflessness. It’s truly not about growing our church or looking like we have it all together here. We want to break down the walls and barriers and embrace the ideas of community. It’s part of the heart of what we’re doing. Jesus teaches us in the Bible of service to others and selflessness, and we try to adopt that philosophy. We believe that’s part of our responsibility to the community, and that’s why we never charge for our events. We just want people to come and enjoy the experience.
What’s the most difficult thing about being a pastor?
The difficult thing is understanding that there are no mathematical equations to church work, to being family to people. You try to establish systems and have structures in place to meet needs, but those needs are so vast and so varied and so unexpected , that you really just have to try and embrace the work with belief in the gifts God gave you.
And what are the rewards?
We live in a broken world, and to see lives change and understand and believe in the work of Jesus – it’s a privilege to be a part of that. It’s very humbling. To try and make disciples, you have to roll up your sleeves and enter the rawness of life, to get into the mess of life to try and help people.
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The Bible declares that Jesus was/is God the Son who in His incarnation (birth into human history as fully God and fully man) provided for us the clearest and most important revelation of God that has ever been or ever will be and can alone forgive our sins and grant us salvation.
In Hebrews 1:1-3 we read, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”
The question of Jesus is of vital importance because while many people believe such things as that Jesus lived, was a good teacher, or a very spiritual man, there remains many erroneous perspectives of Him that deny that He is God. The Apostle Paul spoke of this propensity to reduce the majesty of the real Jesus in favor of a diluted and diminished Jesus that in the end is no longer truly Jesus at all.
In 2 Corinthians 11:34 Paul writes, “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.”
To help you determine your own personal belief about Jesus we have compiled the following eight reasons and hope they will compel you to receive Him as your own God. Each line of reasoning includes a verse from the Bible that is a quote from the mouth of Jesus declaring that He was/is God. Jesus was put to death for continually declaring Himself to be God and in the end it really comes down to whether or not each of us believes Him and on that point His words become incredibly personal and pertinent.
Jesus said He was God
Throughout the history of the world, there have been numerous people who claim to speak for God, but there has also been a surprisingly short list of people who have actually claimed to be God. For example, such religious leaders as Buddha, Krishna, Muhammad, and Ghandi did not claim to be God. But, Jesus clearly and repeatedly said He was God.
MARK 14:61-64 “Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ The high priest tore his clothes. ‘Why do we need any more witnesses?’ he asked. ‘You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?’”
JOHN 8:58-59 “I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’ At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.”
JOHN 10:30-33 “I and the Father are one.’ Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’ ‘We are not stoning you for any of these,’ replied the Jews, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.’”
JOHN 14:8-9 “Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’ Jesus answered: ’Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?’”
Jesus said He came from heaven
On a very rare occasion someone will claim that they have been taken into heaven for a brief experience of its grandeur. Examples would include people who claim to have had a near death experience, and the founder of Islam Mohammad who claimed that on one occasion he was taken from earth to heaven. But, Jesus claimed to have come down from His eternal home in heaven, a claim which has never been made by the founder of any other world religion and evidence that Jesus was/is God because God alone dwells in heaven eternally.
JOHN 6:38, 41-42, 60, 66 “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me . . .’ At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They said, ‘Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ’I came down from heaven’?’ . . . On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ . . . From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
JOHN 16:28 “I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”
Jesus was sinless
JOHN 8:46 “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?”
In the history of the world no one has claimed with any credibility that they are without sin because to do so is to declare that one’s words, actions, thoughts, and motivations are continually perfect and pure. And, as the old adage goes, no one is perfect. Even those religious leaders who are widely recognized as the most devout and morally upright (e.g. Mohammad, or Ghandi) have claimed that they were indeed sinners. But, Jesus declared that He was not only morally superior to everyone who has ever lived, but in fact sinless. The perfect sinless of Jesus makes Him admittedly more holy and worthy of our devotion than anyone who has ever lived and helps to prove that He was/is God because God alone is without sin.
Jesus forgave sin
MARK 2:5 “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”
While much of the resources in our world are spent on dealing with the effects of sin (e.g. war, illness, death, depression, crime, poverty, etc.) there is still no way for people to have their sins forgiven so that they might be cleansed from their stains. At best, some religions try to teach their adherents what they can do to work hard at paying God back through such things as good works and reincarnation, they still lack any concept of forgiveness. But, Jesus forgave sin because He was/is God and since all sin is ultimately committed against Him, He alone has the power to forgive the sins of sinners.
Jesus said He was the only way to heaven
JOHN 14:6 “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
JOHN 11:25 Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.’”
While there are many religious and spiritual teachers who claim that they can point you to heaven’s path, they themselves do not claim that they are that path. But, Jesus promised that He was the way to eternal life in heaven. This also proves that Jesus was/is God because since heaven belongs to God, it is God alone who determines who will live with Him forever there. And, Jesus’ ability to give spiritual life after physical death to those who believe in Him is further evidence that He was/is God who rules over heaven and our eternity.
Jesus confirmed to others that He was God
MATTHEW 26:63-65 “But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, ‘I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ ‘Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied. ‘But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy.’”
Not only did Jesus repeatedly declare that He was God, but He also reiterated this fact when others who doubted or opposed that claim inquired of Him. For example, as the verse above describes an occasion in which a religious leader sought to condemn Jesus publicly for committing blasphemy, or declaring Himself to be God. The penalty for blasphemy was death and if Jesus were not convinced that He was God then we would expect Him to clarify the misunderstanding about Himself in an effort to avoid a bloody death. But, Jesus declared that He was God which further proves that everyone throughout history who has believed that Jesus claimed to be God has not misunderstood His words but rather understood them clearly.
Jesus accepted worship as God
MATTHEW 14:33 “Then those who were in the boat worshiped him Jesus, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
JOHN 9:38 “Then the man said, ‘Lord Jesus, I believe,’ and he worshiped him.”
The 10 Commandments which governed the life and worship of God’s people begin with the declaration of who God is and the commands to worship God alone and no one or nothing but Him (Exodus 20:1-17). To worship anyone or anything other than the One True God as the incredibly sin of idolatry that is forbidden throughout the Bible. But, Jesus freely welcomed other people to call Him God and worship Him as God without correcting or rebuking them for being in error. Therefore, Jesus acceptance of worship also proves that He was God.