EP 129 – HEALTHY CHURCH PARTNERSHIPS – with special guest Dr. Casey Williams
Joining the Bootcamp bros on this EP is Jimbo’s longtime friend, Casey Williams. He is the lead pastor of North Trenholm Baptist Church in Columbia SC. Listen in as they talk about how church partnerships develop as an outgrowth of church health.
Healthy Church Partnerships
- Begin when a church becomes healthy itself
- Flow from a sincere desire to help other churches become vital
- Are possible when deep relationships form between pastors and sister churches
- Require a “the kingdom first” mentality
When a city is filled with more healthy churches, there are more opportunities for neighboring, serving, proclaiming the gospel than if a single church simply grows larger.
Listen in as Casey describes the vision God has given their church to help develop healthy, gospel centered, mission focused and autonomous churches to reach their neighborhoods.
Recommended Resource: Partnership Profile Tool via the Resound Network of the Missouri Baptist Convention – thanks to Brandon Moore Director of Resound. Check it out as a helpful guide for your church as it considers partnership.
We would love to hear your feedback, drop us a line, a voicemail share your comments.
Every church needs a partner to help them develop their website. Our great sponsor, One Eighty Digital is the partner you need. Connect with them today and let them know you are a Bootcamp listener.
JimBo Stewart: [00:00:00] Here we are back at the bootcamp. I hope you’re ready for the next episode, Bob, as we jump in and today, with some trepidation and fear, I bring in one of my oldest friends that I’ve known, longer than my. So the trepidation and fears, because I’ve known him longer than my wife. And so he’s, he’s seen me through all the things.
And the one thing, the two things that bring me peace and comfort is one, knowing that, one, I get to be in charge of editing and two that the holy spirit has done a great work in the both of us over. It’s 20 plus years. So, I’m excited Bob to bring on my good friend. Dr. Casey, the chin Williams.
Casey Williams: Hidden Bibles, glorious beard. Your podcast audience can appreciate it.
JimBo Stewart: Yes, absolutely. Casey, introduce yourself to us real quick.
Casey Williams: Yeah. like Gemma said, man, we’ve been friends for 22 years and by God’s grace, we have [00:01:00] survived and we’re alive and we love Jesus more than we did then. And that’s a good thing. yeah. So married, Kate, we’ve married for. 17 16, 17 years got four kids. Oldest is 20 doctor from Ukraine and then 11, six, and one, and about to begin the process of fostering here soon waiting on DSS to give us our approvals.
So just have a heart for. fatherless and I pastor at Northern Baptist church in Columbia, South Carolina have been here for five years did a previous stint of about 15 years in student ministry. did two years, almost three years as a groups, pastor. So as a campus pastor, a big mega church, I’ve served at every kind of.
Model church from the rural country church to the, you know, the, the college city church, the downtown first Baptist church to the multi-site mega church. And so, um, have kind of gotten the drive, this, old hooptie up and down the roads and a lot of different areas. but I’m [00:02:00] grateful for those where the Lord has this now.
JimBo Stewart: All the way from our first time working together and possum neck, Mississippi.
Casey Williams: That’s
JimBo Stewart: so which is, I mean, a whole, we could do a whole, the rise and fall of central Hills.
Bob Bickford: How does the city get the name? Possum
Casey Williams: not a city. Let’s just be honest. It’s not a, it’s a community. And, uh, usually if there’s a, if your name is possum neck, it has something to do with a possum and a neck. And you don’t want to know anything past that. You just want to leave it there.
Oh, man, there was hot coffee, possum neck. Hey man. I’ve been in South Carolina for five years though, and there’s, there’s just these weird places here and there’s weird places all across the world. I mean, it doesn’t matter what you got, you got fun, cultural nuances everywhere. I mean, I’m just, I’m excited.
you know, first time, caller, long time listener. I mean, I am stoked about three. I just figured the only time I wasn’t getting this replant podcast is replanting a carrot, so I just jumped on it. So let’s do that so I can get on the [00:03:00] podcast.
Bob Bickford: Well, we encourage everybody. That’s the, that’s the single
Casey Williams: It really is the credibility. I don’t care. And I’m just checking That is the worst posture, which is why you’re gonna lead into this next time. pursuing church health. And so the
JimBo Stewart: So you are pastoring north Trenam, which you’ve gotten to lead through a revitalization effort, through a fun process of changing the bylaws, which may be a whole, another podcast episode one day,
Casey Williams: Ooh.
JimBo Stewart: all sorts of fun things. And now. That you guys have been stabilized a little bit and healthier, and God has shown some great favor there.
you are taking on the opportunity to foster a struggling church. how far from north Trenam is the church that you guys are looking at this partnership with?
Casey Williams: About eight miles, about seven or eight miles away from us.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah.
And you were able to spend a year potential replant or down to the MRE planter conference in new Orleans, right?
Casey Williams: that’s right. Yep. He came [00:04:00] down on him and his wife came down from the Murray planter. and then that Sunday following he actually met with. And they voted a few weeks ago, two weeks ago, 50 to zero to accept the proposal. So we are, he starts today. Today is his first day as the replanting pastors
JimBo Stewart: Well, good man.
Bob Bickford: that’s awesome. Casey, when you guys have. Thinking about fostering in this situation. What are some things that, I mean, that’s one of the questions we get a lot of times as a strong church, healthy church often says, man, I want to get in the game. how do I go about it? How, tell us the backstory. How did you guys get involved with this church?
Casey Williams: Yeah. Great, nice since Bali. so I, I really came into truck with a heart tour’s revitalization. I just had a, you know, I was at this big mega church and they just wanted me to move towards church planting. And I have an entrepreneurial sodomy side. I love that, you know, some of the best church church planters are old youth pastors because we learn how to [00:05:00] bootstrap with nothing and do anything and everything we can.
With the pities, we can save to do it, you know? And so, and so I had a, I had a huge heart for it, but I just had a burden for like the established church and really felt like if God put a footprint in the community, that we shouldn’t lose, that we shouldn’t lose that opportunity to really affect a community of kingdom investments.
And so, so I knew I was going to go into a revitalization type. Role. I really thought that’s kind of what we were coming into. We’ve kind of, it’s really Jim and I’ve talked about it. It’s it was a reply, it was a revitalization that really turned into a replay up because we’re really not the same church we’ve re you know, voted on new bylaws, complete new mission, vision strategy of the church.
we are, we’re a church that is strategic about reaching our diverse community. And, so really one of the key points for us, I think the real, the burden is about five years ago. The really the vision for the church that came out was we want to see our city know Jesus, our church make disciples in the gospel, reach the nations.
[00:06:00] really with that. Drum what we started heading for five years. the culmination of that has been, so we have a huge heart for the city, meaning sister churches in our city that need help. So over the years we have continued to send out preachers when we’ve got a man that God has really blessed our church.
And we’re not a big church. I mean, we. You know, four or 500 people. And so we got 650 in membership, so we’re not like this big multi-site mega church. We’re just kind of normal sauce church. and so we just started sending out like the people who could preach to go fill pulpits, people who churches that had interims we’d send out people who could fill that role.
there was a youth ministry opportunity we would send. Teams to go do that. We actually sent teams to Jacksonville when Jimbo was at his church to host their disciple now and there’s summer camp for their students. so we just have a heart for the established church. So really it was through that Bob that we kind of, said, okay, well, God’s kind of [00:07:00] stabilized us.
We’re in a posture now that like, We could come alongside of a church and help them. And so, uh, through James Nugent and the state, convention, uh, South Carolina reached out to them and said, Hey, if there’s any churches in our city that need help, if we can help, if we can be a service we want to, because really our vision as a church is to see our city and our Jesus.
And that means healthy churches in all across our city need to be, you know, sharing the gospel, making disciples, living on mission. So that’s kind of, that’s kind of how.
Bob Bickford: That’s a really good, I think one of the key points that Casey made in that story was, just the fact that his church began to really ask about. He wanted their church to do right. And it came, it came from a desire to, and the, and these are like the top goals, like the 60,000 foot goals, right. To see the gospel proclaim, to see churches strengthened those sorts of things.
Interestingly enough, you didn’t say we just had a vision to be a campuses. [00:08:00] Right. And I think that’s a really key road right there. Cause a lot of, a lot of what I hear some, in some places, unfortunately is somebody just goes, man, I think I want to campus. Right. And that, and that may come from what you just said, but often that’s not what you hear.
And I think one of the key things to pay attention to is what do you say first? Right? How do you describe this? How do you, how do you cast your vision? Because that’s really, what’s about, if it’s just expand your church’s footprint, then you’ve got my kingdom mentality and not fucking dumb mentality. So I think there’s a differentiation.
I mean, I appreciate the heart behind that. That’s really good.
Casey Williams: Yeah, what I think we really have, tried to be, mindful of is even with COVID we made a decision to move into a single service church. Uh, with the sole purpose of planting and replanting churches, when we get to a capacity. And so even in that kind of, or calling or collaboration, one of the things that we’ve really done in our church for the last few years is like you’ve shared the pulpit with pastors in our city.
We publicly [00:09:00] pray for churches all the time. We pray for. Pastors by name and churches, even in our membership process at the end of our process, we literally say, okay, maybe now, you know how the sausage is made and you’ve made it feel like this is not the church for you. And listen, we are friends with churches all across the city and there may be a church that’s better fit for you.
And so we want to help you get plugged into the church that you’re looking for and we may not be it. So we have literally, we have literally referred other. two other churches members who were looking for a different expression of church, but the only way to do that though, is to have relationships with those churches and to, and to be able to be able to reference them and not just say, well, there’s a church down the street.
Now I can say specifically, Hey, this specific church has that same heartbeat that you have, and this is the kind of people that you need to be. but that only comes through relationships and I’m just a big, I’m a miss theologist. I have a big heart to build a network and relationships in the city. And so that’s part of the reason why this burden for like, Hey, our church.
If we [00:10:00] helped plant and replant churches, in our city. And let’s say there’s 10 churches of a hundred, that’s healthier for the city of Columbia than our church having a thousand, like without question, it’s more opportunity for discipleship. It’s more opportunity for evangelism. It’s more opportunity for leadership development.
it’s more opportunity for pastoral care is more opportunity for neighboring. and so we just really said, Hey, we don’t want to grow this big thing. We don’t want campuses. We don’t want multi-class bites. That’s not. And I understand, like I I’ve served in churches just like that. I understand the, the model of ministry and the methodology.
People apply to that and praise God, God uses all of that. But for us uniquely where we are at Nordstrom, and because of my experience, I think the healthiest way forward is to help these churches become healthy gospel-centered mission-focused and autonomous in their own community.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. I think one of the great things that you have done is begin with a posture of partnership of already just helping fill pulpits, [00:11:00] already sending mission partners. And that’s, that’s one of the things that I often tell churches when they say, Hey, yeah, we want to jump in. We want to help is, I mean, you gotta, you gotta start,
With just doing the activity of partnerships.
Start with that posture of partnership. A mentor of mine said never nominate a deacon that doesn’t already deacon. and so, uh, in that same way of man, I think if you, if you want to be, a church that partners with other churches than be a church that partners with other churches,
Casey Williams: and
to be, uh, to be a church that partners with churches means that you’ve got to be a pastor,
has a relationship with other pastors.
JimBo Stewart: all right, so I’ve got a question as, as you guys are developing this and getting ready, what do you need to develop to be prepared to partner? What do you, what do you need to be ready for this.
Casey Williams: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s, of course it’s the posture again, starts with the heart, right? Like, so it is this, you know, the old gypsy evangelists who said like, Lord, I [00:12:00] want to see revival, then draw chalk circle around yourself and pray that God changes everything inside. You know, like I would say like at first and foremost has to start in like internally.
So there has to be this, you know, heart for saying, God, I really believe in the kingdom and not just my clan, like Spurgeon would say, like I really want to see the big C church thrive and survive. And, and like we hear often is like, and if revival takes place in a church, that’s not mine. Well, I still celebrate.
And so I think that. Kingdom mentality, which I I’ve told people for years, I believe that. Like to beat kingdom. Cause a lot of people want to drop that word out. Like, oh yeah. We’re kingdom minded, we’re kingdom on it. Right. But I think like to be kingdom minded means that you have to be sacrificially intentional, like, so you have to be willing to sacrifice something and do sacrifice something that you need to give up and do something that you didn’t necessarily [00:13:00] intend on doing.
And really that’s the posture. Kingdom mindedness, which means like if a pastors, you know, one of the, one of my dears brothers, he just moved away from the city, but he’s now a pastor in Chattanooga. But I remember like when we were going through a tough time in our, in our home, we, one of our children, like he said, meet me downtown, on main street.
And let’s just pray. Right. And so I’ve met him downtown and this dude is a big time author, you know, published dude is out there respectable, you know, and, and he like made time to just pray with me. Right. And, and those kinds of the roots of prosody of that. Right. So, because he knew that I did that with him.
And so I think that the posture of available making sure that you’re available. And when you say you’re available, you actually like don’t have to call your assistant to get on my. Right, because I think that’s the most frustrating, really like, Hey man, look at the time. Okay, we’ll have your assistant call my assistant like a dude.
Cause last time I checked the person who controls [00:14:00] my calendar is me. So I’m going to put time on my calendar for you because I believe in you and our relationship is that important. And so I do think that there’s an intentionality.
I think that there’s a posture of relational. And, and, and relationship with no desire for our law, right?
like I genuinely care about the person. I might never get anything out of them because that’s not, that’s not relationships, but that’s investments. So I think that the posture like to really be partnering, you have to say like, so in this conversation that we had with this church here recently, it’s been like, Hey, if.
If, if we fail at this, we’ve never done this before, but if we fail at this, at least you tried and we honored you in the process and, and really they were great for that. And I think that that earned equity that earn trust. And the truth is, is that a lot of people build relationships because again, Bob thought you were referencing, like a lot of people will say like, well, I’m gonna start.
I want [00:15:00] to reach out to this church because I really have a dream about this area and this specific demographic. So I’m going to start to build relationships with this pastor church because, uh, and I’m gonna start to send teams over there. It’s not all just because one day we want that true.
Bob Bickford: Yeah.
Casey Williams: And that’s that isn’t, that is, that’s a user mentality.
That’s not kingdom Italia, so user mentality. So, I think that there’s like, I want to invest in people’s lives because I, because I see them as the Amano day in which God has created them. And I believe in the ekklesia by which God has called them to lead. And so that’s kind of my thought.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, let me, let me ask you this question. So you, you have mentioned, getting prepared as a church and getting prepared even personally, like the stuff that you’re just describing as a pastor of, connecting and making time in your calendar in terms of. The obstacles to partnership. If you were to give me like two or three obstacles, like these are the things that get in the way of [00:16:00] either me wanting to partner with another church or a church thinking I need a partner.
Like what, what are some of the obstacles you think that are out there are out there in terms of partnership?
Casey Williams: I think too, the big ones. And we say this a lot in our community is egos and logos.
Bob Bickford: Hmm.
Casey Williams: Um, but there’s this Itali of, oh, this is all about him or this is all about them. And so that’s of course, one of the biggest ones I think. But honestly, the other part is just, vulnerability and awareness, because I don’t, I’m not vulnerable people.
I don’t know. And I’m not honest. I CA I can only be so honest with people that I don’t trust, because if I opened myself up to that, then I find myself sitting, you know, potential at risk, that manipulated that, or, or using that against me. but that only come. but that’s what you have to do to build relationships.
And that’s what you have to do when it comes to partnering is like, Hey, let’s just be honest here. Let’s be open. at the same time, you know? but that don’t, and that only comes to time [00:17:00]
you can’t forward.
Bob Bickford: You know, types of partnership, we think of models like there’s, campusing adoption, fostering, you know, temporarily helping a church, all those sorts of things. Do you guys, have you identified one particular model? Are you open to partnership and a variety of models? How are you all figuring that?
Casey Williams: think, I mean, I understand the value of every model and I’ve done enough research on every, you know, expression of it for us personally. It’s definitely more of the fostering, because our. Goal is to see a local autonomous gospel-centered mission focused churches. for them to be centralized over our leadership actually goes against our own polity.
and so because our polity is Jesus ruled, pastors lead, elder accountable, deacons serve members, affirmed, like we believe like that. That same type of expression should exist in those specific locations. And [00:18:00] so we don’t want to. Say, this is what we believe. Polity wise our church governments, but then like, but to peas this, so for their situation like this church, we’re working with the goal is, Hey, you’re going to suspend your battles, come under our leadership until we can get you to a point where you’re healthy, because the truth, isn’t a fostering relationship.
There’s like a foster child. It’s like, you’re here, you’re under our home to have protection and provision and care and nurture. But at the same time, you’re not losing your identity. you’re not our child, whereas my adopted child is my child. Right. But the goal of my adopted child is for her to move out and become her own individual adult.
You’re adult yourself, right. Is don’t move back in my house. Right. But the goal is to send them out as an autonomous adult. And so I think that we forget that pastoral ministry is very much like parents. from five, you know, as a newborn to a five-year-old to the [00:19:00] adult child. And I was thinking, you know, when I was in the multi-site church model, I was always thinking, like, they talked about the parenthood and all that stuff.
I was like, but when do you let your 27 year old move out of your house? Why do you still grab control over them? So for us and our own polity, we believe, Hey, we’ll foster until they’re ready. and it’s important. Well, you know, Hey, we agree to disagree. This is not going to work. Can we let you do your thing?
But right now it’s been good. And this is kind of our posture and the model that we believe is best.
Bob Bickford: Awesome.
JimBo Stewart: So I think as you think through this and pursuing health, all of those questions are helpful to make sure that this is approached healthy. here’s what I’d say is man, one of the most important things that I communicate with partner churches sometimes is you have to have a realistic expectation of what health looks like there.
you are, are usually coming from a position. That didn’t start as bad as the church that you’re helping. And even if you did, it probably was long enough ago that you have [00:20:00] forgotten really what that was like. and so just as a way of reminder, the things I know that, you know, but the average church in America has 65 people in a tent.
On a Sunday morning churches under 250 and weekly worship average attendance comprise 88. just over 88% of all reporting Southern Baptist churches. The average attendance for all reporting Southern Baptist churches as 145, but the median is 70, and they’re under 1500. SBC churches with more than 500 in attendance.
and so all of those stats are from pre COVID and, and so we don’t really know what the current statistics are yet. That just, there’s not enough data in there yet. so understanding that all the complications of bringing a dead church back to life pre COVID showed this as a statistically.
Really difficult process. you add the [00:21:00] complexities of everything that’s happened in the last two years, politically and, pandemic wise. And, I mean really the way it’s been a disruptive moment in the way that society, interacts with each other. and so how are you guys making sure that you keep realistic expectations and goals in mind for this being a healthy.
Casey Williams: Yeah, I think one of the things that we drive home and I’ve tried to drive home here at our, at our own church, is, healthy things. Alright. Spurgeon said just because the church is large, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. It might just be bloated. And I do think that one of, so one of the questions that was asked when we were at the town hall with the other church, how, how soon will we see results?
That was the question. And I said, well, how fast does an Oak tree grow? And he was like, A long time. And I was like, well, then it makes that go out. You know, how [00:22:00] long, how soon will you see some work being done quickly? How soon will you see results? Who knows? We trust the Lord up to that. Right. And so I do think that yes, I think there is such a mythological kind of drive that’s happened in many of our, in our circles and the way that we’ve been trained on how to do church quote unquote, and it’s all church growth, metric oriented type stuff.
And the problem is. That stuff isn’t sustainable. And a lot of our churches for generations have bought into that. So Bob, the by-product of that is that we’ve continued to see the, the, the drop downward in the attendance and the consumerism continue to drive up. And so I would say personally, like the thing that.
I have been staples of the church for 2000 years, the faithful preaching of God’s holy word, [00:23:00]the faithful care of the body of Christ through the leadership that God has called to serve them. And the faithful mission of God living in and throughout its people through the advancement and the care and the humanitarian and the hospitality and all those pieces as part of the expression of that center. And really that’s it. Right. And God has been able to sustain his church for 2000 years, by the very parameters we need that are prescribed in scripture of what church is. So if we are so caught up on the church growth models and not the church health models, then we can, then we will, we will find bloating and indigestion inside of his church, you know?
And the truth is it’s like we rather be healthy than then. Cause healthy things do grow. My children will grow right. If I continue to nurture them, create [00:24:00] environments for them, they will grow just part of life. But if I focus on their growth and not on their health, then I can actually stump their growth and really damage their growth.
Um, so we just really take a note emphasis towards church health. And honestly, that’s the posture that the church was kind of like, okay. You know, like, okay, so maybe we won’t see this fast-growth thing, but if we provide, if y’all are saying that these are the things that will be consistent, then we can see why God. How God could use this process for us to reorient and really focus on reaching our specific community, which is a statutory, diverse community. And there are substantially homogenous charge. And so they’re already starting to reevaluate, like how do we, as the homogenous Anglo church reach a 73% minority community. Cause you focus on church growth. Well, then you keep on doing the things that are going to grow homogenous churches. Right? We can get into the whole homogenous unit principle. Y’all call me back on that one. [00:25:00] But the truth is, is like we really want to reach his shirt, which means be a healthy person, reaches to your neighbors.
And you’ll be surprised what no more can do. He’s done it for 2000 years.
It’s pretty good.
JimBo Stewart: that’s a good. word. Healthy things do grow, but not all growth is good
Casey Williams: Yeah. Tumors grow really fast.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. Each of us have displayed in our midsections over the last 22 years from growth. it’s not all healthy. And so. I appreciate you guys being willing to partner with this church and praying that God does some great things we will put in the show notes, a PDF document from the resound network out of Missouri, for anybody that is considering partnering with other church.
And here’s what I love is don’t wait till you’re quote unquote, a megachurch. Don’t wait till you’re the healthiest thing in the world. I mean, this is, this is Galatians six, practiced in the body of Christ of coming alongside brothers and sisters in Christ in need and just helping them. So, man, if your church is even remotely headed in the right healthy [00:26:00] direction, then start praying about this.
And even if it’s not then start partnering because that’s going to help your church be healthier, help the body be healthier. So you can check out that PDF there at the bottom. Thanks for being on today, Casey.