Tag Archives: BGCT

Advice On Ministry For My Younger Self

One of my favorite podcasts is The Calling produced by Christianity Today. Every episode the host, Richard Clark, ends the interview with one question, “if you could go back in a time machine and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?”

 

I have been thinking about this question lately.

 

I could go back four or five years ago before we had children and tell myself to get some more sleep. I could go back to my teenage years and tell myself to be better at building and keeping friendships. But, the place in my past I think I would go back to would be the period of my life where I was graduating from college and about to begin vocational ministry.

 

There are two lessons I have learned after twelve years I would want to tell myself entering into pastoral ministry.

Be Content Where God Plants You

First, you most likely will never pastor a mega-church and that is ok. The truth is 90% of all churches have 200 or less in attendance weekly. Pastoring a small church does not mean you are failing or missing out on the work of God in the world. Success in ministry is not about preaching to a big crowd. It is about being faithful with those God entrusts to you whether that be 2 or 2,000.

 

There is a danger in seeing ministry in small contexts as stepping-stones to something bigger. The quicker you realize God has called you here in this season for this moment and no longer look for greener grass in a bigger yard the more joy you will find in ministry and the better pastor you will be.

 

We need more pastors coming out of college and seminary willing to give their lives to the small places no one will ever hear about. Most of us will never be invited to speak at a pastors conference or asked to write a book on church growth, but we can be faithful to the place and the people God calls us. Our seminaries should do all they can to prepare their students to minister in these small churches and to instill in them a love for the small church.

 

It is one of the great joys of my life to pastor a small church. I know the people in the pews. I know their families. I know their struggles and their suffering. I know their faith in the midst of these trials and I know the joy they find in Jesus. I never dreamed I would spend nine years pastoring a church in a town of 450 people, but I thank God everyday He called me to this church and this community.

 

If I am honest when I graduated college a big part of me hoped to be famous. I would go back and tell myself to just seek to be faithful.

 

Be Content With Who God Has Gifted You To Be

The second piece of advice I would want to give myself is to be who God had called me to be. God has gifted me in a way He has not gifted anyone else.

 

I would read books, listen to sermons, and attend conferences and try to imitate the gifting of others.

 

Finally, about five or six years ago I realized God had called me to be the pastor to my church and He wanted to use my gifts and the ways He has wired me to love His church. I don’t have to fit into this box or try to be someone I’m not. God wants to use me. He has gifted me. He has called me and equipped me to pastor these people in this place.

 

I had to quit listening to podcast sermons. I didn’t want to preach with someone else’s voice. God wanted to use my voice.

 

There is unbelievable freedom in not trying to be like your favorite celebrity pastor. If God had wanted them to lead your people He would have called them. But, He has called you. Be yourself. Learn from others, but don’t try to copy their gifts or their ministry. God wants to use you with your gifts, your personality, and your voice. Find freedom in being who God has called you to be.

 

I can’t go back in a time machine and tell myself these lessons I have learned. But, I am thankful to have learned them, even if it has taken me twelve years. Maybe, some of you are getting ready to go out and lead local churches. Learn from my experiences.

 

Be who God calls you to be in the place God calls you to plant your life. Churches are not meant to be rungs on a ladder. They are the body of Christ. Love the local church no matter the size and use the gifts God gives you to build her up.

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A Message To Small Church Pastors: Your Ministry Matters!

Small church pastors I want you to know you matter. Your ministry matters. Your church matters. We don’t hear this affirmation much in our church world where it seems bigness is next to godliness. Ministry success to many is defined by how many people attend your church and how big your “platform” can be. We know our value is not found in our numbers or our social media presence, but the truth is when all we see celebrated is the “success” of others it is easy to be discouraged. Sometimes those of us in the trenches of small church ministry need to be reminded of our value to the kingdom of God.

I was reading in the Gospel of Luke this morning and came to chapter 17. In verses 20 and 21 Jesus says this, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look here it is!’ or “There!’ for behold the Kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

These verses encouraged me in my own small church ministry. Sometimes, the work God is doing in us and through us and around us is unknown and unseen. Recognition for our ministry may never come and that is ok. We don’t need the glory because the Kingdom of God is in our midst. The Kingdom of God is in our churches, in our neighborhood, and in our communities. The Kingdom of God is here. Our ministry is to help others recognize and join this Kingdom. No matter the size of the crowd God is there and He is using the prayers of His people, the preaching of His Word, the songs of praise to form His church and to awaken hearts to the Kingdom of God in their midst.

We can trust God is working because the Kingdom of God is in the midst of us. Jesus has come, the Kingdom of God is at hand, and we can minister in the hope and joy of this truth.

We may not be able to brag on social media about our numbers last Sunday and we may have gone weeks or months without filling our baptismal waters, but we can know God is using us for His glory. Our call is to be faithful. That can sound cliché but it is true.

Keep going. Keep preaching. Keep praying. Remain faithful to the call of God on your life and know you matter. You matter to your church. You matter to God and you matter in His Kingdom. He is using you in ways that cannot be observed, in ways the world will never see, and in ways you may never know.

To BGCT and SBTC Leaders

An Open Letter To Texas Baptist Denominational Leaders:

 

As a pastor I receive both of our state conventions publications including The Baptist Standard*(The Baptist Standard is not technically a publication of the BGCT) and the SBTC Texan. The magazines and papers you create and the websites you run are all informative and helpful for knowing the landscape of our denomination in our state. I want to start by stating my appreciation for all you do. But, I want to challenge you a little bit.

 

A few weeks ago I was reading one of these publications and there was a great story about a church experiencing unbelievable growth and a profile of the pastor leading this growth. There are stories like this in every publication. I understand the reasons. I understand they show us the amazing work of the grace of God in every corner of our state. I understand you want to highlight where God is working and those He is working through. I rejoice with the revival many are seeing. I rejoice God is doing amazing things. I rejoice lives are being changed and I long for this work in my church and in my community. But, the hard truth is I haven’t seen this kind of revival. This summer marked my seven-year anniversary at a small country church. It is the greatest church to pastor. The people are kind and generous and serious about their faith. They love their community and are seeking to be faithful to the Gospel in every sphere of their lives. We are small and to the world probably insignificant, but we are precious in the sight of God. I hope this does not come off as sour grapes, but I want to be honest.

 

As I was reading of this church in this small town exploding in growth discouragement overtook me. Why hasn’t that happened here? What am I doing wrong? Does the church need someone else to be a church like this one? Am I not good enough? Now, I realize this has much more to do with my own views of myself, the struggles I have with my own gifting, but I don’t think I am alone. Many of us struggle with feeling like we don’t matter, like our work doesn’t matter. We feel unappreciated by a church culture that values worldly success as much as the surrounding culture. The truth is most of the churches in both of your conventions are small, are struggling, and are praying and working to be faithful.

 

You are not trying to make small church pastors feel inferior, I know this without a doubt, but it is happening for this small church pastor. My suggestion is not for you to quit running such stories. Please keep them coming to remind us God can work anywhere and at any time. My suggestion for you is to do many more stories of places where it is hard week in and week out, year in and year out. Highlight not only the pastors who are seeing amazing growth, but also those who are faithful even when numerical growth is not present. Show us pastors who are faithfully preaching the word and have done so for years without recognition and without fanfare. Point us to pastors who love their people even when it has been the same people in the same pews for many years.

 

Small churches in small places need pastors too. Struggling churches need pastors too. There is an epidemic of pastors seeing and using churches as stepping-stones to a more successful place. We shouldn’t be surprised. When all we see are stories of amazing numerical growth we think either something is wrong with us or with our church and most of the time we choose the church. We then feel like our only option is to leave to a place we believe can give us the growth and recognition we deserve. This is selfish, but it is ingrained in us from books, conferences, publications, and a celebrity culture to rival pop culture.

 

Pastors, including this one, need to be taught contentment, faithfulness, and stability. We need to see the value in staying for a long time in the same place. We are praying for God to save the lost, to mend the broken, and to restore the fallen as much as every other pastor. We are not jealous or resentful when God works in other places and through other people. The truth is we rejoice at the work of God in the church down the street or the next town over. The kingdom of God is so much bigger than our one church. But, there are times when it is discouraging and lonely to not see your numbers grow, to not baptize someone in a given year. When the value of a ministry and a church is simply measured by numbers something is wrong. We want to be faithful and I know you want to help us be faithful. One of the ways you can help is to let us know we are not alone. There are many of us struggling faithfully in the work of the ministry. Remind us of this truth.

 

Thank you for all you do. Continue the good work of pointing us to the work of God in our great state.

 

Sincerely,

A small church pastor.