For the first eight months of this year my Voice articles have been short biographies of some of the most well-known Reformers of the Protestant Reformation. This is in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in October of this year. However, since a major change is taking place in our church this September, in the retirement of Pastor Mike and the promotion of myself to Senior Pastor, I thought it more appropriate to spend this month’s article giving the church a bit more information about myself and my vision for our congregation.
First, let me talk a little about my history in ministry. I started attending an evangelical church when I was high school age but I was not converted to Christ until my college years. In those years I worked as a helper in AWANA at my church in Long Beach, as well as, a youth leader when our church began a youth ministry. For four years while I was in seminary I continued this youth ministry while being named the Intern Pastor there. After seminary is when I began ministry here in Shafter and the first weekend of September 2017 will be my ninth anniversary here at Congregational Bible Church. Overall, I have been involved in pastoral ministry for about 13 years and small church ministry for over 15 years.
Some people ask me if I have a favorite verse or Bible book. There are actually many stories, passages, and verses that I love so it is hard to pick just one, but I will tell you about a passage that had a major influence on me as a new Christian. The passage is Philippians 3:2-11, but the verse that sticks out is verse 9. In that verse Paul says he is “found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.” I remember the pastor who was discipling me took me out to breakfast to study this passage and he kept asking me, “where does our righteousness come from?” It took me a while until I saw what the verse was teaching. Our righteousness for heaven is not generated or produced from our good behavior. The righteousness we need for heaven is given to us from God. This reality just shattered who I thought I was. Even though I wasn’t a ‘bad’ kid, I never did drugs, and I never got drunk, yet I was still bankrupt when it comes to my own righteousness. Even Paul in this passage lists all of his righteous qualifications and ends up calling them ‘rubbish.’ But what a wonderful truth is this: that God gives to believers all the righteousness they need for heaven. It comes from Him and it comes through faith.
My ministry life verse is found in Colossians 1:28. It reads, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” I’m not a pastor because I have some personal agenda I want to get across, or because I want to shape a church building and congregation a certain way. I believe Jesus Christ is so compelling and so captivating, that preaching and teaching Him, will actually move souls toward holiness. There are no gimmicks and strategies for church growth or personal growth. True and lasting spiritual growth happens only through the proclamation of Christ, in the use of admonishment, teaching, and wisdom. In fact, Paul says that he proclaims Christ in this way so that every person may be ‘complete.’ That is my desire, to see spiritual completeness in every single person here at Congregational Bible Church.
Paul says in the next verse that he labors and strives toward this goal, but he does so, through the power of God that works in him. I would covet your prayers in this regard: pray for your pastor to be used by God. Pray for God’s power to be at work in him. Yes, I will labor and strive, but all of that is nothing compared to the power of God working through a minister. Please pray that God accomplishes much, through His power, that works in my labors. I look forward to being your pastor and seeing where God will take this congregation.
-Pastor Mark Scialabba