EP 166 – STAGES IN A REPLANT Pt.4 GROWING
Happy Thanksgiving Week Bootcampers! We’re back with another EP on the Stages of Replanting, today’s EP focuses on the work God does of growing the church. We’d love to hear from you, drop us a comment, email or voice mail. Listen in and share your thoughts and don’t forget to leave us a review on your favorite listening platform.
In our series, we’ve looked at three stages in a replant: Plowing, Planting and Watering. Now we turn our attention to the last stage, Growing.
Growing: The fully developed seed of the gospel springs up and is evident in the life of those inside the church. It is marked by changed thinking and living, and is evidence of God’s work in the lives of the people – spiritual growth.
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Cor. 3:5-7)
If you are faithfully fulfilling your assignment in plowing, planting and watering, you, brother pastor, are doing what God requires. He will grow His church. It may be numerically, doctrinally, spiritually, relationally.
You may not be nominated for the church magazine’s top-growing church list; that’s OK. Don’t seek a reward from men; seek the reward that comes from faithfully fulfilling the assignment God has given you.
It may be time to update your website, if so, check out our sponsor at one eighty digital, they can get you up and running with a site, branding and a whole lot more, let them know you are a Bootcamper!
JImBo Stewart: [00:00:00] Are. Bob, I hope you’re ready for the next episode. This episode comes out Thanksgiving week and we’re continuing. We’re finishing the four part series on stages in a replant. This one will be growing, which is appropriate because this week my waistline is gonna be growing, I dive into.
Thanksgiving food and the holiday feasting begins. It kind of starts now, and for me doesn’t end until January now. When I lived in New Orleans, it would start now and it doesn’t end until Mardi Crawl is over, and so I have a little bit of a shortened feasting season, but the feasting season begins.
Bob Bickford: Well, I love Thanksgiving and I love me some mashed potatoes and gravy. And, I do like pumpkin pie, Jimbo, but it has to be slathered in cool whip. Like you can’t really, you shouldn’t even be able to see even the slice of pumpkin pie. That’s how I eat my pumpkin pie. But [00:01:00]man, Thanksgiving’s a, a blast.
It’s a great time.
JImBo Stewart: Yeah, so for the last several years we have developed a tradition because we don’t have a lot of family in Florida, and so we’ve developed a tradition of some church members from redemption. That we go eat with them on Thanksgiving, and my price of admission is homemade bread. I, I was told I’m not allowed to come without making some homemade bread, and so while the boot campers are listening to this, I’m probably making bread at that moment.
Bob Bickford: Well, I got some of that bread last year and uh, you sent it to me, I think. Did you ship it to me or did we, I think we saw
each other and there was a handoff.
JImBo Stewart: Yeah. We saw each other, uh, somewhere and we, we met up and I brought you some bread,
Bob Bickford: no. Well, I was, I was pretty pumped about that, and, uh, I enjoyed the bread. So, if you can get some of jimbo’s bread, just let me tell you, it’s worth, it’s worth the drive and it’s worth the price.
So make it happen.
JImBo Stewart: There we go. All right, let’s jump back into our series. We have, been going on it for three weeks. we, the first week we talked [00:02:00] about plowing the work of God and preparing the ground through the preaching of the gospel with the power and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Then we talked about planting.
The work of the pastor and the leaders to sow the gospel deeply into the softened ground of the church body. And then last week we talked about the continual teaching and application of truth from God’s word that gives much needed refreshment so the seed can grow. And we talked about how a lot of this is kind of overlapping and some of the same things.
And as preaching the gospel in a dead church, if it is spiritually dead or, Then you’re plowing some hard soil for a while, and it may feel like the word has returned void. But keep plowing and keep planting those seeds at the gospel and keep watering that gospel with the gospel. So today we’re gonna talk about growing.
So Bob, what are we referring to when we talk about this fourth stage of growing?
Bob Bickford: Yeah, so this. One of the fun
JImBo Stewart: Yeah. Yes, finally.
Bob Bickford: and, so the way [00:03:00] we define growing is this. The fully developed seed of the gospel springs up and it’s evident in the life of those inside the church. It’s marked by change to thinking and living, and is evidence of God’s work and the lives of people, mainly spiritual growth.
So that’s what growing is all about. And we go back to our passage, Jimbo in First Corinthians three, and we’re gonna read through. Verse seven here. But let me go ahead and start back in verse five. Paul says, what then is a Apollo? What is Paul servants through whom you believed as the Lord assigned to each?
I planted Apollo watered, but God gave the growth. And here’s the key. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything but only God who gives the. Right. So the key here is, man, you, we work, we work hard, we labor hard. But if there’s gonna be growth in the church, Jimbo, it’s really not a a, a factor of me.
I don’t cause anything to grow in and of myself. I merely am obedient [00:04:00] to be a servant and work in the field and do those tasks that God is assigned to me. And if it’s gonna grow, God is the one who makes it.
JImBo Stewart: Yeah, it’s uh, you know, We get into this and we talk about what does growth mean and what does success look like? And we’ve talked about this a lot on the podcast of defining church health, defining church growth in that we can’t just look at it, based on the, the numbers. But, you talk to any group of people and you’re gonna find that many different versions of what church health or church growth or success is defined as.
So I, man, I just appreciate if that’s something you struggle with. Like if the, the weight of success or perceived success is, is bearing down you to the point of depression. the book, liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by Kent Hughes was really instrumental for me, in kind of changing my mindset and, and the framework of how I thought about that.
And, I said recently, a few weeks ago when we were at a mi Replant [00:05:00] conference at Southern Seminary, I just a way to, to talk about, church health kind of came to my mind. In a way, in, in a clearer way than I think it had before. I’m just understanding the difference between the identity that God has given the church and the infrastructure that we provide and our identity as a church is the bride of Christ, and as its members, we are the adopted children of God.
Enlisted as ambassadors in the embassy of our king. Our infrastructure is the organizational systems and structures of that embassy to support the mission that God has given us. And so churches don’t have to die and they don’t have to just be measured by the metrics of the infrastructure. but if we, if all we focus on and all we measure is the infrastructure and that takes place of identity as the preeminent thing, that’s really idol.
And we have to understand that the identity is the thing that really matters. Every church is an organization, but biblical churches are much more than just an organization. And so [00:06:00] what do we do to help a church grow?
Bob Bickford: Yeah, well, we don’t create the growth, but we create the conditions by which things can grow through, through the actions of being obedient ministry, right? So the things that we’ve talked before about all the plowing and the planting and the watering, right? Those are precursors to growth. You’re not gonna have, you have growth without plowing or planting or watering.
It’s just not gonna happen, right? So those are the things that we do, and those are the things that God’s called us to. And, and so I think the. The challenge for SBOs is it seems like when we talk to d e students and researchers and consultants, everybody’s looking to distill the unique factors that cause the church to grow.
Right? And you can, you can have some churches that have all the same factors as ones that have grown and they don’t. And you can have some churches that seem to not have anything that is even remotely thought that needs to be present. And they seem to be growing, right? And so you just kind of look at this and go, man, this, [00:07:00] it’s a head scratch here, here.
But, but I think what Paul is really saying here is it’s only God who gives the growth. It’s only, it’s God that does it. And so, you know, we can, we, we, you and I have friends that served in, tumultuous churches. They had short term pastors, right? And so they leave there either by choice or by force, and they’ll roll into another place.
And the previous place was a disaster, but the next place they roll into, it’s amazing.
Like something amazing. And you get the seminary. You see this, a seminary graduate that has like all the right connections. And all of the skills and abilities he cleaned out like on a senior award banquet day, like he just cleaned out, right?
He got like all the commentaries, got the trip to Israel, got the preaching award, you know, all those sorts of things. He’s got the, the church that’s this like, Clamoring for him to come and be their pastor and he shows up and maybe plants a church and you just see, man, something just doesn’t go right. It just doesn’t take [00:08:00] off.
So you see those kinds of things that happen all the time, and then you just kinda scratch your head and go, well man, who was successful and who failed, right? And I really don’t know that you can say, You as an individual, as an outside observer that lacks divine knowledge, you can’t say that person succeeded or failed.
JImBo Stewart: Yeah, I mean, I think success has to be about faithfulness.
Bob Bickford: Mm-hmm.
JImBo Stewart: We have to understand that, we cannot contrive growth in a church. We can contrive growth in a crowd, but even that does not necessarily equal growth in a church and. We have to, I mean, there’s, there has to be a dependence all the whole, the, the, the plowing, the, planting, the watering, all of that is with like the, like a farmer.
Great dependence on the Holy Spirit. Just like the farmer can’t, he can, he can plow the hard soil and he can plant good seeds and he can water all of that, but still up to the [00:09:00] Lord, whether he gets a harvest.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. Yeah. I think there’s a myth, one myth and one truth that we’ve gotta really pay attention to. The myth is that, that we, the pastor, the planter, or replant or revitalizer are the ones who make a, a church grow, right? We don’t make the church grow. So that’s kind of the myth, right? And, and you hear guys talk about myth.
We just find the right guy, right to find the right guy. And God, you know, we need a, a guy that’s, you know, ACEs or a, a varsity player or a five star guy or whatever. I just don’t know. I mean, how do you even determine that , right? It’s like how do you determine that? Right? So, you know, you get the right guy in there and the church is gonna grow.
And well, the truth, here’s the truth. The truth is God is the one who makes the church grow. And so I’ve seen and met some guys probably who would not. Somebody’s list of all stars to, you know, put in that pastoral role who’ve done a phenomenal job and have, have grown a church. The God, the Lord has grown the church through them, through their leadership.
and it’s just amazing, right? and, uh, so we just have to remember that, it’s God [00:10:00] who makes the church grow. And really, if we get back to the heart of this passage, Jimbo, first Corinthians three, what was the problem? Well, the problem was that the Corinthian church, the members were making much of men. Just making it like, okay, well I’m, I’m of Paul, or I’m of Apollo, right? And so what they were doing is saying, well, I’m, I’m a this, I’m his guy. I’m, I’m of this guy’s. I’m a fan of him. I like the way he does ministry. I like the, I like the leadership vision of this guy. And I don’t know if you’ve ever had this happen, Jimbo, but.
Somebody comes up to you and, uh, shares, with you back in the day. And this’ll really date me. And I’ve heard this didn’t happen to me, but it’s happened to some pastors I know. Um, back in the day, they would have a church member that would come up with him and share a cassette tape of the, their favorite pastor, like they were on the cassette tape ministry plan and say, look, here, I, I just love this sermon and I, I would love for you to listen to it.
Well, what are they saying? Well, they could be saying a number of different things, but I think some of my friends who received those cassette tapes, felt like they were saying, if you would [00:11:00]just be like this guy, right? Like this guy knows how to do. And I, man, again, I’m all for listening to other preachers and pastors to get inspiration and insight and those sorts of things.
But If I’m trying to be like somebody I’m not in order to get a response that God’s not going to give, that’s a problem. Right? and so we’ve just gotta understand that the, the heart of this passage, the Corinthians, were the, the ones who been, they were, they were all about personalities and pastors.
And Paul is writing here saying, look, you can be all about that. But what you gotta understand is they each have their role and God is the one who grows the church.
JImBo Stewart: I’ll be honest, early in ministry I fell into this trap and I, there was a couple pastors that I loved to listen to, and I remember thinking, oh man, my pastor doesn’t measure up. Like he’s, he doesn’t preach like these guys. and I, I almost. Almost went to him and pointed him to these pastors to listen to.
And I, I think the Holy Spirit [00:12:00] like smacked me in the head and, and was just like, what are you doing? Like God’s not called them to be those guys. God’s called those guys to be those guys. And you know what, God hasn’t called you to be those guys. Like, I don’t need to sound like that guy when I preach.
Like, you gotta find your, your own voice and then you gotta. God knows what he’s doing and that he can man, he can use anybody. I mean, there’s, look, I could tell you so many examples of guys who are not necessarily amazing preachers and they know it, but man, God’s doing amazing things in their church.
Why? Cuz the power’s not in the preacher. The power’s in the word of God.
Bob Bickford: absolutely. And if we shifted gears here even a little bit, and this has probably happened, you know, it’s happened to me, you know, you’ve led the church in an outreach. some kind of campaign to help them become mobilized and reach the community to invite people for an event or to share their, their faith or something.
And you’ve worked, worked, worked, and worked, and then all of a sudden, it’s the day event and it rains it out. [00:13:00] Right? Or, or nobody shows.
JImBo Stewart: Yeah.
Bob Bickford: Right. And so I’ve, I’ve had a, I had a couple of those. I remember we, we were doing some movie nights and we worked really hard and, you know, first ones coming and it rained it out.
And then one summer we planned a block party and it was absolutely the hottest day ever in the month of June. And . It was like, like, okay, well, you know, here we go. and sometimes we do those things and we expect. Those campaigns or those events to grow church. And sometimes they work to bring a crowd.
And I think you differentiated between, you know, drawing a crowd and actually growing a church are two different things. but man, you just gotta understand that sometimes all of the things that we do, all of the things that we try, to get an opportunity to get people there to hear the gospel, man, they, they’re not the focus necessarily of, of what success is all about.
Right? So, so you had a big event, so you had, this big, you know, [00:14:00] whatever. How many of those folks heard the gospel respond to the gospel, and now are, are, are part of your church in being discipled typically not a. Right. So those are fishing events. There’s nothing wrong with doing those. Right. But, I think if you, you can’t attach the success or the, what you define as the success of your church based upon the response to those sorts of
JImBo Stewart: Yeah. So a couple things. One is, I have definitely experienced that. I’ve, I’ve said on here before that when you look at our church to one side of our church is kind of a. Little more higher crime, low income minority community to the other side is more of a middle class Anglo community. And when we would plan, visitation time to go into the neighborhoods, on one side of the community, I would usually get a handful of people.
That would sign up to go with me when it was time to go to the other side, other neighborhoods, I would, I often was by myself, , like, no, no, no one would sign up to go with me. . And, and so I know exactly what that feels like. And then also remember, uh, I mean, early on we would [00:15:00] have mission teams. I would, I would connect with churches and get mission teams to come serve and.
My hope was always that I would, church members would also come and a lot of times, man, I, I think. I don’t know if I just didn’t communicate it right, but our church members kind of took it as, oh, the mission team’s here, so we don’t have to do it. Like that’s why
that’s why they’re here. And I was often disappointed with the level of involvement that we got from our church members.
And then I remember one time we had a mission team from a very, very large church, I mean a very large church with a very large budget. I was connected through, somebody that was on staff there, and so they wanted to come serve and so they helped us run a vbs. And I think we had like 65, 75 kids come to vbs, which was pretty good for us.
but for them, they normally had like 800 kids come to their vds, I mean, they literally had like a, a trailer with vinyl wrap of all their logos and everything just for their mission team. And and so I remember them [00:16:00] coming to be like, so is this, you think all that’s gonna come? Is these 65 or 75 kids? I was like, I, yes, that’s probably all this is. This is very good.
This was a very good turnout. I’m very pleased. I wish you were,
Bob Bickford: Yeah, man.
JImBo Stewart: they never came.
Bob Bickford: been there. I. Yeah, I, and, and that’s the thing, man, is I, I was, you know, I, I grew up kind of in the megachurch world and was used to larger events and gatherings, and so you kind of judged, you know, your, your success. And then also, frankly, you, you tended to judge other churches by the same, you know, by your same metrics, which isn’t really a fair.
and so I, I’m sensitive to like our bootcamp brothers out there, that, for them, some of them, a EBS of 10 to 12 is a big deal, right? and that’s a big deal. Now, be faithful, be, you know, labor well. Be excited about, you know, your events and things like that. But, you just gotta realize that God is the one who grants grace and grows the church and, he does it sometimes in spite of us, , right?[00:17:00]
Definitely not because of us. And so I think the, the thing that we just have to focus in back again, is just borrowing from the, the metaphor. You got a job to do, plow, plant water, and then do those things in a repeated fashion with as much excellence and obedience as you can muster, and then God’s gonna grow.
So, so I think faithfulness is the goal. And here’s, here’s something I’ve learned, faithfulness. It may lead to fruitfulness or it may.
Here, here’s what I think you have to do. You have to expand your definition of fruitfulness because it can be measured in a number of ways. The first one, the development of Christ-like character in maturity among your body.
That is, that is a result of proclaiming the gospel. That’s a result of God growing people in obedience. the development of the fruit of the spirit. Right among the body. it doesn’t matter. I mean, let’s just think, let’s just imagine that God grew your church, but they were not growing in the fruit of the spirit.
So you got a really big cranky church and [00:18:00] rather than a, a church that like demonstrates grace and peace and all those sorts of things. And then lastly, Jimbo, I think faithfulness, by God is also our fruitfulness by God is also measured. Those who do come to know Christ and the conversion of the lost in the followers and disciples of Jesus.
But I think it’s not just one of those things. It’s all of those things, and we’ve gotta keep that in.
JImBo Stewart: Yeah, I think, it’s, I I always like to say focus on the stories and not the statistics. I don’t, I, I agree with you. I don’t think fruitfulness is the right answer, and I think about in the parable, the talents, what is it that the master says? Well done. Good. Faithful servant. I don’t even think the praise is necessarily, I don’t think the, the point of that parable is the amount of money that they got in return, but that they did something with it.
That they, invested what God had given them and were faithful. They, they had a job to do and that was to be faithful to do the right things. [00:19:00] God had given them to do and, and to trust him with the growth. God’s gonna provide the strength. God’s gonna provide all of that. Measure your success on your faithfulness and look for stories more than statistics.
Where are the stories of transformation, that, where you’re seeing people grow spiritually, not just in attendance and, attendance is good, but part of even that you have to ask why are they, why are they attending? Are they attending just because they like your preaching style better than somebody else’s preaching style?
Well, that’s not necessarily a win. That’s not necessarily success. That’s, that’s just sheep shifting. And here’s the deal. I don’t have a problem with sheep shifting. If it’s on mission, if it’s, Hey, we feel called to go from this church to this church so we can. Be a part of how God is using that church to serve this community.
But, but if it’s because we’ve been shopping and we like a certain style better somewhere than another because it meets our felt needs better as believers, that’s, that’s not. [00:20:00] That’s not a win. That that’s, that’s a, that’s a net loss. That’s, that’s zero. That, that’s nothing. And so we’ve gotta see people becoming more like Jesus.
You’ll get Ephesians four 11 through 16. It’s our job to equip the saints to do the work of ministry. And then that work of ministry is building each other up into maturity, measured by the fullness of Christ. And so we’re doing this until we all look more like Jesus. And
Bob Bickford: Yep.
JImBo Stewart: that that that job’s not.
Bob Bickford: No, it’s never done right. For the senior adult member and for the youngest member, like there’s always a step of obedience, there’s always a step of maturity that we’re, we’re, called to take. Right? And then, and then even going back to, I love the fact that you, Brenda, Ephesians four, and it reminds me of the Colossians one passage.
Which is my favorite replanting passage, 1 28 and 29. and Paul says, you know, the, in, in verse 28, him, we proclaim warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom. And here’s his, here’s what he says after that, that we may present everyone mature in Christ, right? So that’s that. [00:21:00] That’s the goal he sees.
There is proclamation of the gospel. Warning and teaching, and it goes towards maturity in Christ. So somebody can’t become mature in Christ until they believe in Christ, right? So you believe and then you become mature and you live on mission. So, man, just help people take a next step. And so, Early on in your replant journey, maybe fruitfulness is helping people become more obedient and more surrendered to the mission of Jesus than their own personal mission.
And man, that’s a win. Celebrate that. Right? Just celebrate that, and then maybe the numeric growth will follow that in terms of others being converted in trusting Jesus. There’s gonna be good things that follow from people who become mature in Christ. And last thing I think I would say is most replants are not gonna be nominated for church magazine’s.
Top growing church list, right.
That’s okay. Right? That’s okay. Don’t, don’t be seeking a reward from men to seek the reward that comes from faithfully fulfilling the assignment God has given you. [00:22:00] We’ll, say it again. Plow plant water, right.
JImBo Stewart: Yeah.
Bob Bickford: allow God to grow the church.
JImBo Stewart: Amen.