2 Takeaways from 20 Years in Ministry

It’s hard to believe the 20 year marker in ministry is almost here. It seems like yesterday that I felt the Lord’s call early that Monday morning in 2001. Our daughter was 2, our son was only a few months old and I didn’t have a clue about anything! It’s funny how time, experience, and walking with the Lord work together to shape a life. Today my children are 20 and 18 and I’ve learned that parenting looks different for each couple or person and there isn’t a one size fits all formula to follow. I’ve completed 3 degrees and simply learned how learn. After graduating in 2011 with my master’s degree I said, “I now have a master’s degree and have mastered nothing!” I’ve served in multiple ministry roles in 3 states and each time I started a new role it felt as if I were starting over: more to learn!

I’m grateful to the Lord for the family He has given us. We are able to pass on what we’ve learned to younger parents while still receiving encouragement from the older ones. The education I’ve received has served me well. I encourage the students I’m teaching at Clear Creek Baptist Bible College to focus on learning principles rather than rote memorization. (Although memorization has gotten me through a class or two!) I encourage new pastors and staff members to enjoy their new roles; taking the time to really get to know the people to whom they are ministering. Allow them to teach you!

20 years of ministry can provide much fodder for advice while at the same time teaching that in order to achieve another 20 years one should keep listening, learning, and teaching others. (2 Tim 2:2) I definitely haven’t arrived (and never will), but at the same time I’ve found myself sharing 2 basic ministry takeaways that I’ve learned since 2001. 

  1. Study and practice biblical evangelism.

The Lord’s mandate to go to all peoples and make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20) applies to all believers. Some are gifted evangelists, but all are commanded to evangelize. The church planters with whom I work on a daily basis have varying issues to deal with each time we talk. A constant concern relates to their evangelistic habits and effectiveness. Pastors, church leaders, members, and others all desire to see more baptisms and disciples being made. These simply cannot happen without studying and practicing biblical evangelism. 

Reader, do you feel adequately trained to share the Good News of the gospel with those around you? Does your church provide yearly training? Have you sought help in the form of participating in a local, state, or video/podcast training event? Do you as a pastor/church staff have a plan to teach and model biblical evangelism each week? Do you or your church set evangelistic goals each year? I had a church member ask me when I was going to stop talking about evangelism and my response was, “whenever Jesus comes back or I die.” We don’t know when either of those are going to happen, so let’s share the Good News with a lost and dying world while we have time!

  1. Learn about and practice biblical disciple-making

Intentional disciple-making is making a comeback in churches today. Twenty years ago, when I began to learn about my call to the ministry, the only understanding of discipleship I had was related to the Sunday evening Discipleship Training hour. When I think about it today I realize that it did have it’s benefits: believers dove deeper into God’s Word in a personal and group setting, various topics and disciplines were covered, and the pastor was able to interact with a smaller group of believers. It also had it’s limitations. It was often pastor-lead (simply another preaching point), the interaction between the discipler and the disciple was often low, and accountability for practical application was not built into the design of the program. 

Pastors, churches, and other leaders are now building their own disciple-making initiatives designed to meet their specific needs. I have personally used a “leadership lab” method to train a group of 3-5 more mature believers to study theology, practical ministry, and to remain accountable in evangelizing and disciple-making. I also love Robby Gallaty’s concept of D-Groups and personally use a one on one disciple-making method from Billy Hanks Jr.’s Operation Multiplication. 

Pastor, planter, believer, how are you currently working to pour yourself into one or more believers? Does your church have a strategy to not only disciple those currently attending, but those the Lord is bringing into your flock as newborn Christians? How seriously are we taking the mandate of our Lord from Matt. 28:18-20?

I’m looking forward to the lessons for the next 20 years; mostly-some lessons are hard ones to learn! But what I continue to strive for is to encourage believers in evangelism and disciple-making.   

( Post is found here as well.)

4 Church Planting Essentials Every Planter Needs

My friend and mentor, Dr. Charles Brock, went on to be with the Lord in November 2018. Although I only knew him as an older man, we spent enough time together for me to live vicariously into his past through his accounts of planting as an 18-year-old in rural Missouri and his adventures of starting indigenous churches in the Philippines with his wife Dottie and children. 

He taught me many things regarding evangelism and church planting. Here’s a few of his funnier sayings that gave evidence to the tenacity he had toward evangelism…

  • “No Trespassing signs don’t really mean that. They’re there to scare away the crazy’s, not evangelists.”
  • “I’m going to hurt in this chair at home, or I’m going to hurt while fishing. I chose fishing.” (He was 79 years old, had MS, and his wife would encourage him to stay home to take care of himself. He HAD to get to his local Wal-Mart or go door to door to share the gospel; what he called ‘fishing’.)
  • “When someone says ‘no’ to the gospel, they don’t really mean it until the third time. When I hear “no” three times, I know they mean it.”

I sometimes follow the above evangelistic advice.

I always share and encourage his church planting advice. In his book (Indigenous Church Planting: A Practical Journey, Church Growth International: Neosho MO, 1994, 28-40), Bro. Charles provided four essentials to church planting that are often overlooked or placed onto a proposal as an addendum rather than the foundation. These are found in 1 Thess. 1:5; For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. NKJV.

  • The first essential in church planting is the Holy Spirit. 

He said, “from beginning to end, our source of strength and wisdom comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit.” Without the Holy Spirit, we are not planting a church, but are hosting a social gathering. Brock added, “Extensive surveys are a part of my life as a church planter and the study of maps and population trends are a normal part of my approach to church planting. But I must emphasize that if all of my fruit is the result of such human efforts, I have missed the mark and the corresponding walk with God that Paul knew.”

  • The second essential is the Word of God, the Bible.

Charles famously said, “We must remember that what God’s Word says is more important and more powerful than anything we can say about it.” We tend to get caught up in our presentation of the gospel over the message itself. Ask yourself these questions: “Am I confident that His Word is sufficient to save the lost and disciple the believer? If so, am I using and applying it?” “Am I spending more time utilizing church planting books who reference the Bible, or am I studying the Bible to learn about church planting?” I have a self-load of church planting books, but nothing compares to what God’s Word says about His church.

  • The third essential in church planting is the sower.

While the “ya’ll come” attitude is practically dead, it is still effectively still alive and strong when more effort is put into creating a Sunday morning atmosphere, complete with the catchiest sermon series titles and on stage clothing choices. Please don’t send me hate mail! Put an effort into these, but not at the expense of sowing the gospel seed into your community. Brock reminds planters that “it is not a way of life to be entered into lightly or for any reason other than the clear, inescapable call of God.” He said, “the harvest is dying on the vine due to a lack of church planters.”

  • The fourth essential in planting churches is the soil, the people.

Mark chapter four provides a great example of the various types of soil the planter will encounter. Some hearts are hardened, others allow the things of the world to crowd out the gospel, and there are those who Brock would call “hungry fish.” Planters should not only study in public places to build relationships, but should engage the community purposefully through the local schools, civic clubs, and festivals. These relationships are important. The harder relationships are the everyday, everywhere you go types, such as the clerk at the store, the person waiting beside you at the doctor’s office, and your neighbor three doors down. People are everywhere! A lady once asked me, “how do you know if someone is lost?” I responded, “just assume they are and share the gospel!” Statistics show me that over 80% (conservatively) of the people living in my county are apart from Christ. 

When Charles called me, he would first ask about my family, then get right to evangelism: “Have you been fishing?” Pastor, planter, leader, and church member, “have you been fishing lately?” These principles are not only true for church planters, but in everyday, as you go evangelism. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few (Lk 10:2b). Let’s go fishing!

(Posted here as well. https://factsandtrends.net/2019/07/02/4-essentials-every-church-planter-needs/ )