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EP 238 – Pastoral Perseverance with Brian Croft

Replant Bootcamp
Replant Bootcamp
EP 238 - Pastoral Perseverance with Brian Croft

In this episode of the bootcamp podcast, I have the pleasure of welcoming back Brian Croft, a veteran pastor and the founder of Practical Shepherding to discuss his latest book, Pastoral Perseverance.

Brian shares his journey through 25 years of pastoral ministry, including facing significant challenges in the early years at Auburndale Baptist Church which tested his perseverance. Despite hardships like threats, financial crises, and health issues stemming from stress, Brian witnessed the church flourish under his guidance. You can read more about this and the lessons that Brian learned in his book, Biblical Church Revitalization.

Brian also discusses his transition to leading Practical Shepherding full-time, a ministry dedicated to equipping pastors and church leaders with practical tools for ministry.

This episode dives into the importance of pastoral qualifications, the concept of perseverance, and the critical understanding of suffering in ministry. Additionally, Brian introduces The Shepherd’s House, a retreat initiative for pastors needing rest and rejuvenation, emphasizing the importance of self-care among ministry leaders.

00:00 Welcome to the Bootcamp: Introducing Brian Croft
00:31 Brian Croft’s Journey: From a Dying Church to Thriving Ministry
02:08 The Birth and Growth of Practical Shepherding
03:34 Understanding the Five-Year Rule in Church Revitalization
06:33 The Impact of Practical Shepherding and the Shepherd’s House
11:03 Diving into ‘Pastoral Perseverance’: A Guide for Struggling Pastors
21:59 The Importance of Self-Care and Perseverance in Ministry
23:57 Closing Thoughts and Prayer for Perseverance

JimBo Stewart: [00:00:00] Here we are back at it again, back at the bootcamp. Hope you’re ready for the next episode. In this episode, our special guest is a good friend of the podcast and a good friend of mine, Brian Croft. Brian, welcome back to the bootcamp,

Brian Croft: Jimbo, it’s good to be here, man.

JimBo Stewart: man. Talk to us a little bit about, you for anybody that maybe is tuning in and has never heard of Brian Croft. I don’t know how that’s possible, but let’s just imagine that,

Brian Croft: Let’s imagine.

JimBo Stewart: and, and they’ve never heard of you. Just tell us a little bit about yourself and about your ministry.

Brian Croft: Yeah. So, my name is Brian Croft. I was a pastor for 25 years. I did eight years of associate pastor work, and then I did 17 years as the pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church on the South end of Louisville, Kentucky. That’s me. Went to a classic dead, dying Southern Baptist church. 30 elderly folks, financial shambles, a building falling down around a very classic revitalization context in the SBC.

course these categories Jimbo of revitalization, replanting weren’t there yet, but that’s what I went into to do. [00:01:00] And the short version is there were three different movements to get me fired in the first five years of the church. There were threats of violence against me. the church ran out of money.

by the end of those five years, and I was a full time pastor with a wife and four little kids at home. And at the ripe age of 34 years old, my health started to tank. I had these mysterious health issues show up. Doctors couldn’t diagnose me until they heard what I had gone through and eventually determined that the physical things that were happening was a result of, the accumulated stress I had endured.

And God was kind and faithful. And, year six, the ship just turned and the church began to flourish and thrived really for the next decade plus. And I was there for 17 years. It’s obviously a really brief version of the story, Jimbo, that you know well, but that’s a snapshot. And our church over the 17 years, never got above a hundred members.

We had 120, 000 annual budget. So I pastored a normal. SBC church and revital, we revitalized it, saw God at [00:02:00] work and yet, that’s the size and the place that it stayed in. And yet I still saw it as thriving in the midst of all that we saw happen. In the midst of those early years, I started training guys for the ministry who were there, just practically training them and how to go to hospital, how to do a funeral, how to care for a widow.

And it developed into this ministry called practical shepherding started 15 years ago. and it just slowly grew as a train guys. We wrote resources and all those kinds of things. And so three years ago, I stepped away from pastoral ministry for the first time in 25 years to lead practical shepherding full time.

And that’s what I’ve been doing for the last three years. And, uh, it has been a great joy for the last three years. We’ll put both hands to the plow on this work and to be able to be a part of it. I also lead Center at Southern Seminary called the Mathena Center for Church Revitalization.

I’ve been doing that for the last almost 10 years now. where we’re training students, and how do you go into a dine church and pastor and, and not just survive, but thrive? How do you go in and not, not get [00:03:00] fired? so we’re trying to train guys specifically. So we have a one year internship, that I lead there.

And I was also just lead the center there, married to Cara for the last 27 years. And I have four children, uh, Samuel Abbey and Isabelle and Claire. Samuel’s 24. Abby’s 22. Isabel’s almost 20, next month. And then, uh, Claire is 17. So, almost all my kids are out of the house, Jimbo. I’m close.

JimBo Stewart: pretty normal pattern that happens, in the sense of, like, something happens at about five years, give or take. Why, why do you think that timeline seems to be so consistent?

Brian Croft: Yeah, well, people who know me know I talk about this thing called the five year rule for the very point you’re just making. It wasn’t just true in my own story. But out of the, you know, hundreds of pastors I’ve worked with through the years who are in similar situations, there [00:04:00]is something about the five year mark.

And I, by the way, I think revitalization work, replanting work is best divided up into five year increments. I think that’s one of the ways to understand it. So I’m a believer in that, but I think the, what the reason it takes at least five years, I think it takes five years to become the pastor of the church when you go into a dying church.

And I think that’s true just in general, but specifically in a church that’s dying, they very well have wounds from previous pastors and previous conflicts in the church and, and they don’t trust the pastor. So I tell guys that when you go in to be the new pastor of a church. You don’t start at ground zero.

You actually start underneath ground zero because you’re coming into a church that’s probably suspicious And distrusting to some degree of the pastoral office. So you got to go in and just love people Well, you got to preach faithfully lead. Well, don’t try to change a bunch of stuff at the beginning You just got to go and earn the trust Of the people go and shepherd people’s souls and care for them [00:05:00] And Jimbo, I think it takes five years to truly become the teacher The pastor to to where people will follow you to where people will trust you because those five years you’ve ministered the word you’ve shepherded them you’ve had time to be there with them and And to earn their trust and then by the way, I think that’s god’s design I mean, that’s what I see even in the parable the sower mark chapter 4 You know, the sower, the sower seeds the, the word, like Jesus tells us what the seed is.

It’s very clear that Jesus tells us this is how the word builds the kingdom in this world. It’s slow, it’s subtle, it’s even hidden under the soil until it grows and eventually bears fruit. So, I think the five year rule is there, not just because it takes that much time, I think, to become the pastor, earn the trust.

I actually think it’s how Jesus designed his church to be built and his kingdom to be built around the world.

JimBo Stewart: your ministry has been so impactful for so many that I’ve encountered. And, even myself when [00:06:00] I was leading in a replant, I remember reading your book, Biblical Church Revitalization, and. I think it was one of the first books I ever read on revitalization that I really felt resonated with my heartbeat of how to approach revitalization.

And so it was encouraging to know that there were some out there not only thinking through the pragmatics of the efficiency of good systems, Uh, but not ignoring those, but also thinking through just how do we let the Word of God really guide how we approach revitalization? And so, for our listeners, if you are not familiar with Brian Croft and now practical shepherding is so much larger than just you, tell us a little bit about that real quick.

Brian Croft: Yeah, so it’s been really amazing to watch. God bless the ministry. and one of, one of my heart, my desires was this thing grows past me and I would say, we’re at a place now where this is definitely beyond me and just the work I do. So we now have, [00:07:00] um, our ministries basically doubled every year for the last 4 years.

Yeah. Well, from a financial perspective and staff, so we have, we have 12 counting myself, we have 12 full and part time staff serving on our team. and it’s just been a joy to see us. God bring people in who, who love this kind of ministry and want to serve pastors, pastors, wives. And, because of that growth though, my role has changed pretty significantly.

I mean, even up five years ago, which Jimbo, you and I were, we’re, we’re friends then knew each other well. And it was very different than it was myself and another guy. And it was just kind of two part time guys slugging away. You know, showing up at the, the replant summit to, to be with you guys and hang out and, and be a part of that.

And so now with us, with our staff growing so much, the staff and the financial growth shows, how much the ministry has, you know, expanded, but it’s, it’s been a great joy to be able to have more of an impact, to have a global impact to the international side of the ministry, the translations of the works of the, of the [00:08:00] resources.

All of that has been really amazing to, to watch and. And certainly just attributed to God and what he’s chosen to do.

JimBo Stewart: Man, so I, I encourage you guys to check out practicalshepherding. com and they’ve got, they’ve got a great podcast, The Trench Talk, they’ve got blog articles, they’ve got books, they’ve got a cohort, they’ve got, just an amazing amount of resources that are there at your disposal and, uh, The large majority of those resources are at no cost.

And the ones that do have costs are at very little cost. And, it’s a, it’s a great ministry as well. As if you are at a point in ministry where, man, you’re kind of hitting a wall and you’re needing a step away from, from your life as it is at the moment. they also have the, the shepherd’s house.

Tell us just a little bit about that. And then we’ll dive into the book.

Brian Croft: Oh, yeah. So the shepherd’s house has been a dream of mine for a long time. And when I went full time, We were able to just pursue it. And, the short version is the Shepherd’s house is a cabin, just outside of Louisville, Kentucky. it’s a six bedroom cabin on [00:09:00] 180 acres of beautiful Kentucky land.

And it’s owned by a family that we partnered with and we lease the cabin from them at a discounted rate. And we have it eight months of the year and we bring pastors and pastor’s wives in and they can stay up to two days and two nights for free, Jimbo. No strings attached.

It truly is for free. You have to get yourself there. But once you do, you and your wife, pastor and wife, literally gets the cabin by themselves and all the land for two days, two nights for free. And we offer, A pastoral mentor who’s on our team to come out if they choose to to come out and spend a couple hours with them Just talking and checking on them and seeing how they’re doing That’s the shepherd’s house and the thing just blew up on us Because as you know just the immense need of something like that and it to be free like that so we we got we raised funds outside of you know for the ministry to be able to offer this for free to pastors This thing blew up so much that we started having people reach out to us and [00:10:00] hey You But we want to be a part of this and hey, I got it I got a cabin or I have a retreat center and we need to fill it and we would love to serve pastors So long story short in january, we launched five additional locations jimbo for pastors and pastor watch to be able to come in and stay two days two nights We have retreat centers.

We’ve partnered with to do all this So if you go to practiceherman. com go to the shepherd’s house link all six locations, kentucky, indiana, michigan, montana texas and Oxford england Are all on there, for you to be able to go and apply to stay. And then our staff will get that. So you should definitely come stay at Shepard’s house with us.

JimBo Stewart: Yeah. My wife texted me the Oxford England one and was like, yeah, we, you need to talk to Croft. We need to get us over there to, to the Oxford England Shepherd’s House.

Brian Croft: Indeed, man, you should, you totally do. That would be great.

JimBo Stewart: Well, one of the other things that you have offered for pastors that are struggling is, you’ve got a lot of great books and I honestly do recommend, [00:11:00] anything you write to to everybody I talk to. but I wanna highlight. for the time we have left, this book that you have, Pastoral Perseverance, your most recent one to come out, I believe.

talk to us about what motivated you to write this specific book, because I know you talk about Perseverance a lot in some of your other writings. So what motivated you to write one book specifically on Pastoral Perseverance?

Brian Croft: Yeah, so I think the obvious answer, there’s two, two main answers. The obvious answer though, is we’re just at an unprecedented time of burnout and pastors quitting and struggling. And so, because of that, we said, you know, we need Some kind of accessible book, you know, so what hundred and fifteen pages under 20 page book We need to offer something accessible for a pastor who’s struggling and what what would we want to tell him?

on how to persevere in his ministry, regardless of maybe what the context is. So we wanted to write a book that focused on perseverance, but really pulled from scripture. What, What’s the new Testament tell us about what’s the, [00:12:00] what is the call? And then how do we persevere in it?

That’s in essence what the book is about. So we felt like, you know, a lot of, we’re talking about, everybody’s talking about perseverance Jimbo, but what is interesting, by the way, is there’s not a ton of people actually talking about how to do it. Like you’re talking about the need for it.

It’s almost like somebody asked me this the other day. And it’s like, you know, I feel like some people know we need to, but people don’t know how to tell people to do it. He’s like, hey man, do the best you can, you know, I mean, look at whatever it is. And so, okay, we need to give people tangible biblical and practical ways to, this is what you do.

This is what you focus on to persevere. So, that’s really where the book came from. So everything from like, You need to know who’s supposed to qualify for the ministry, who doesn’t, based on scripture. Like, you could be struggling ministry because you’re actually not qualified to be a pastor, you know.

What is the call of a pastor? I think, Jimbo, that is more confused, confusing than ever on what people think a pastor does and what he’s supposed to do. And he’s called to shepherd the flock of God that is among you. That’s 1 Peter 5. So, clearly [00:13:00] identifying what is the call of God, On a pastor’s life, to clarify that and say this is your call pastor.

So do this Don’t worry about what everybody else tells you to do like do this preach your heart out you have to accept the fact this is uniquely hard. It’s part of the call So you just gotta embrace that this is there’s gonna be suffering with this I think one of the things i’m finding especially with younger pastors They’re having a hard time with how hard this is.

I mean, this, this is just, this is hard. it’s hard. It’s not just hard because of, you know, dealing with people and churches and all. I mean, just, you know, messy lives. It’s, it’s hard Jimbo because I think it’s just part of God’s design that it’s supposed to be hard. There’s something he does in his mysterious providence when we go through the ringer.

As we serve Christ and his church. So I, you know, I think understanding the call and understanding that it’s going to be hard, it puts expectations more in line with how to view this. And that’s kind of what we approached with the book. Last thing I’ll say is we also [00:14:00] realized we had written, we have like 30 books in our resources as a practical shepherding over the last 15 years we’ve written.

And. We did not have one small book that just encapsulated it all. And here it is. Here’s the core teachings of what we’re trying to do. And we realized, man, this is an opportunity to do that as well, because it is about perseverance. Everything we do is about how a pastor doesn’t just survive, but how does he thrive in the work that God’s called him to.

So this book’s kind of the, the collision of all of those things.

JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I was going to say, I noticed reading through it that it was like, man, this is kind of like, the summary statement of what practical shepherding is about, is what it felt like to me as I was going through it. And at first I was kind of like, oh man, this is interesting that he’s starting out.

on the qualifications of a pastor. cause it just, it, at first it felt like an odd place to start for a book on perseverance to be like, Oh, what, what does it mean to be qualified? But then I thought about there, there are two, you know, the two [00:15:00] reasons you listed, I think are so important. One, you might be struggling because you’re not qualified to do this.


Brian Croft: Yep.

JimBo Stewart: this is not what you’re supposed to, and I appreciate your boldness to even address that, that issue. And so speak to that just a little bit more.

Brian Croft: Yeah, I’m glad you brought that up Jimbo because yeah, I totally get what you’re saying. It’s precisely why we started there. You know, we, our ministry serves about, I don’t know, two, 3000 pastors directly every year all around the world. And when pastors show up at my doorstep struggling, they’re, they’re not thriving, they’re burnt out.

they’re anxious, they’re depressed, all these kinds of things, sometimes in conversation. A lot of these, these are kind of almost the categories I have conversations I have with them and some of these conversations man I, I, I’m just hearing them and I’m thinking I’m not sure you’re qualified to be a pastor Like are you gifted to actually do this?

Doesn’t mean you’re not called to be in the ministry But are you actually called to shepherd people? My mentor wisely told a guy to get out of the ministry after he bent into him for two [00:16:00] hours And he said wait, what do you mean? He says well, you don’t love people

JimBo Stewart: Hmm.

Brian Croft: And, and so I think that a lot of times guys go to seminary and the, the 90 year old widow after he preached at 19 at his church goes you’re going to be the next Billy Graham and he goes to seminary and nobody evaluated his calling.

You know, nobody evaluated whether he actually fits the qualification of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus chapter 1. So, I find that some guys are in the ministry struggling because they shouldn’t be there.

JimBo Stewart: Hmm.

Brian Croft: But in our circles, Jimbo, in SBC circles, it is really common. Still, I think old school SBC is your callings between you and the Lord.

Do it is not my place to get in the way. And I, I firmly disagree with that. I think there’s an inch to be an internal call or desire inside that want to do this work, but there’s gotta be an external call. There’s gotta be people who affirm. That we are called to go do this, who see our gifts, who see fruit in our life.

And I think to truly have a confidence that you’re called to be a [00:17:00] pastor, you have to have both of those kinds of things. And it start has to start with qualification.

JimBo Stewart: Hmm. And that’s tough because I know there’s a temptation to not, uh, nobody wants to be so bold as to say, Hey, you’re not like, you don’t want to speak on God’s behalf, but there are times where we need to speak, I think, boldly in and go, Hey, there are just some things that. are demonstrated in your gifting and your behavior that say that this is not the right call for you.

But the, the hard part is because of just the way we’re structured, and I’m not even saying we’re structured wrong within Southern Baptist life or, or right. But even if I were to say that to a guy and I’m his pastor, he can just go somewhere else. I mean, I’ve had that happen. I had a

guy that, that, you know, I was bringing up and then I just saw, man, this guy really, really, really lacked humility.

And I worked with him to try to work on humility. And finally it was just like, look, this is [00:18:00]not, no longer work. You don’t need to be an intern here. I don’t think God’s calling you to pastoral ministry, at least at this season in your life. and so he just left and found a church that would. and so he went and did that.

And so I don’t know how he’s doing right now, but I do appreciate that you start there on the talk of perseverance. and then you go into, a lot of other things. talk to us about chapter five. it’s a tenacity to suffer. talk to us about that idea of the tenacity to suffer in ministry

Brian Croft: Yeah, well, I just think we, go in with rose colored glasses on and hoping you were going to be the exception. I mean, I tell guys, you think you’re going to be the exception and this isn’t gonna be uniquely harder than you ever dreamed, then you need to just not do it. It’s going to be harder and you know, and I think that’s part of God’s plan.

If you knew how hard it would be and it would keep you from going where God is clearly calling you. That’s why one of the reasons I think God’s just hiding your eyes from it. It’s kind of part of what he does in our calling. So I, so I continue to try to teach guys, you know, [00:19:00] if you ever go into the expectations, it’s going to be easy.

Or it’s going to be hard, but not that hard. I think it’s part of God’s design that this is specifically going to be very hard. You have the, you have the Apostle Paul’s ministry, it just does exhibit one. I mean that he is, you know, he’s the Apostle Paul. I mean, and yet he’s got times where he lists all the things that.

We’re ordained by God for him to go through. So I think we have to go in with a, plan to, that it’s going to be hard. It’s okay. It’s part of God’s plan. I don’t know Jimbo. I find all of us, if we know something hard is coming, we’re able to brace ourselves and prepare for it, prepare our families for it, but what I’m watching is a lot of guys almost in shock because like everybody doesn’t love their preaching and I’m like, man, what world do you live in, you know?

So I think that’s the call of tenacity. So we just got to realize the suffering is going to come. And part of this call, part of persevering is realize I gotta, I gotta be able to push through it.

JimBo Stewart: Honestly, when I was a youth pastor, I thought, man, when I become a lead pastor, [00:20:00] I’m just going to get to sit in my office and study for hours. And, and it’s going to be so like, I’m just, you know, like I had

Brian Croft: That great, that gravy trade, you

JimBo Stewart: of what it meant to be a lead pastor. And I remember. My pastor at the time affirming a call to be a lead pastor in me, but he then he also warned and said, look, it’s harder than you think.

I promise you. And there’s just, he goes, if, and I was asked, I just kept asking questions, clarifying questions. And he said, I wish I could spell it out for you. Here’s the thing. It’s one of those things you’re just never going to understand until you’ve sat in that chair for a little while. And, and then he was right.

I mean, I, it was, I, there’s aspects of it. I don’t even know how to verbalize it. I was like, man, this is, this is challenging in, in a different way. And another mentor, McKeever. he said you need to have a very good theology of suffering when you go into this. You need to, like, you need to have a robust [00:21:00] theology and understanding of what suffering is, of what it means to suffer, why God lets us suffer, and what we do in suffering.

And I wish I would have paid more attention to him before I suffered, but As I entered into the suffering season of that ministry, I did recall what he said and I thought, okay, it’s time, it’s time to start learning my theology of suffering.

Brian Croft: Yeah, yeah, I tell guys often like the part of the promise of Romans 8 28 for the pastor is that our ministry scars are never wasted, never wasted. They’re always working for our good, but we have to believe in the mysterious providence of God to be able to do that.

Otherwise, it leads to bitterness and and it changes how we benefit from it.

JimBo Stewart: So if, if somebody is listening to this and they’re at the point that straws that are breaking the camel’s back.

And they’re going, man, I don’t even know if I can persevere through a 120 page book right now. What would [00:22:00] be your kind of just quick word to that guy that’s listening?

Brian Croft: Most pastors do not care well for themselves. So perseverance is not about how gifted you are, or even how rough your church is. It’s about how well do you care for yourself? How well do you rest? How well do you let go of the burdens for a time so you can get a break? I think it’s about, I think that’s part of what, when Paul, Speaking to the Ephesian, you know, pastors in Acts 20.

He’s like, pay careful attention to yourselves and all the flock. I think part of that yourselves is you have to care for yourself. If you are not at a good, strong, encouraged, you know, healthy place, you don’t have enough to pour out. So that would be the one thing I would say to your question, man. You got to care for yourself.

Don’t, it’s not selfish. It’s part of your call that you actually care well for yourself.

JimBo Stewart: That’s a good word. Hey, as we come towards the end, this is a reminder to the listeners, check out practicalshepherding. com. Check out the Shepherd’s House, check out Trench Talk Podcast and all the [00:23:00] other offerings that come from Practical Shepherding. but Brian, what is one way that our listeners.

praying for you and your ministry as they hear this.

Brian Croft: Thanks for asking. I would say the expansion of the ministry has led to so many opportunities on a global level that we are trying to sift through what can we do, what can we not do, what is the priority and trying to be wise and discerning about what God wants us to do with this. So, you know, he’s given us people, he’s given us resources and he’s given us.

more opportunities than we can say yes to. So I think just wisdom and discernment that we hear the voice of the Lord and we, we pursue what his will is for practical shepherding in the next, I would say the next one to two years is going to be pretty crucial. So that would be a wonderful way to pray and for God to continue to provide for our ministry as well.

JimBo Stewart: Excellent. That’s a good word. Hey, Brian, would you be willing to close this out by [00:24:00] praying for our listeners and for their perseverance?

Brian Croft: Sure, be glad to. Lord, we, we come to you with every pastor, every pastor’s wife, ministry leader listening to this, that you would pour your grace on them and remind them that you, what you have called them to, and the privilege and the joy it is to be able to serve Jesus in the different capacities that you’ve called each one of us to.

And yet, Lord, we recognize it’s hard because you meant it to be hard. For different reasons, but it makes us weary because of that. So Lord, I ask that you would strengthen my brothers and sisters who are listening to this, that you would give them grace in the difficulties. In this moment, Lord, would you just shape their expectations on their ministry and what you expect of them?

Not what other people expect of them, but what you expect of them. Help them to shape those expectations. And Lord, we pray for a tenacity. We pray for not just a surviving, but a thriving in the work you’ve [00:25:00] called them to. Lord, encourage each one of them that you have placed them where they are in this moment, in your sovereign hand, and help them to trust you in this moment, and to keep help to press on in the work.

We ask this in Jesus name. Amen.

JimBo Stewart: Amen. Amen. Brian, thanks for coming on the podcast.

  1. Brian Croft: My friend, good to see you and appreciate the conversation.


book, Brian Croft, Calling, five year rule, pastoral calling, Pastoral Grit, pastoral ministry, Pastoral Perseverance, pastoring, Perseverance, practical shepherding

Jimbo Stewart

Replant Bootcamp Co-Host

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