EPISODE #91 – The dangers of Cookie-Cutter Approach to Ministry
The guys are back talking about approaches to ministry in this (SBC week) edition of the bootcamp. In this episode they discuss how to find your “own” approach to ministry in your local context and warn against simply adopting a strategy that worked for someone else, somewhere else.
Check it out and stay tuned for next week’s episode as the boys break down some of what they learned and some of the connections they made at #SBC21
[00:00:00] JimBo Stewart: Here we are back at the bootcamp and, we’re recording a little bit in advance so that we can, uh, not be worried about this while we are gladly at the Southern Baptist convention in Nashville. And so if you’re listening to this while you’re in Nashville, Uh, we’re probably on our way home, but, uh, but catch us if you see us in the airport and, and come give us a hug and take a picture with us, we’d love to see all of our doors and fans.
Um, we, uh, we, we petitioned for a booth, the Southern Baptist convention. but no,
Bob Bickford: Let’s, let’s make it really clear now that, that
JimBo Stewart: we did not. We did not.
Bob Bickford: didn’t do that. Right. We’re just joking.
JimBo Stewart: But I was at w we are joking. Yes, I was. I was at a association in lake city, Florida, uh, the day before recording this and met one of our biggest fans, the pastor, our first Baptist church lake city.
And he, uh, so if you’re listed on here, the [00:01:00] shout out to you and you still owe me lunch at Shirley’s, which he says is the greasy spoon there in lake city. and so we’re gonna go eat there at some point and he. He said it’s, it’s the what’s cooking of lake city is what he told me.
Bob Bickford: but what’s good. Which apparently is, did not last. So hopefully Sterling’s would
JimBo Stewart: What Shirley’s Shirley’s is the greasy spoon of like city. And so we’ll go there. He said he enjoys the food reviews as much as he enjoys the practical advice and help that he gets from the podcast.
Bob Bickford: Awesome. That’s awesome. And speaking of food reasons, it’s in Nashville. If you go to Yelp and you look me up, you’ll see that I have reviewed quite a few places in Nashville. And there was a season when I was there and, doing some consulting work for Eastland Baptist church, which is now hope church, our good friend, Jason Rambo. A son of Johnny Rambo, the Dom Jason’s replanted hope church in east Nashville. So, man, [00:02:00] it’s a great church and there are a lot of good eats right around, hope church in east Nashville.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, that’s awesome. I I’m hoping that we have time to really catch a few good places while we’re there. And so I’m sure, I’m sure you will hear about, Nashville food in a future episode.
Bob Bickford: yeah, you will. You will. It’s good times.
JimBo Stewart: Now do you know the story behind Nashville, hot chicken.
Bob Bickford: I don’t. I bet. Apparently you do. So I’m look, I’m looking forward to hearing it right now.
JimBo Stewart: So the story, as I have heard it, at least is that there is this lady and her husband was always kind of stepping out on her, staying out late and doing who knows what? And she was real mad about it and he would always come home and just demand that she make him dinner. And so one night she decided to try to punish him and she took every hot sauce and every spicy seasoning they had and made this thing for these, for this chicken [00:03:00] and gave it to him.
But it did not go the way she planned. He did not receive it as punishment. He thought it was the best meal she had ever made and invited his friends over and asked her to make it for them. And it just kinda went from there and became Nashville, hot chicken.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, Is this Hattie B’s story or is this just, how do you be heard that story? And just kind of took the model of
hot chicken. We
JimBo Stewart: we’ll have to look that up. Hopefully some Nashville people could hear this and, uh, and give us some clarity on if that’s even accurate. But that’s the, that’s the story I’ve heard. I believe I may have heard that from guy Fieri.
Bob Bickford: oh, well, yes, our, our favorite, individual, he’s the president of labor town. And, if you and I. Now I have a red convertible BMW. It’s a 96 and, uh, I spent more money fixing it up. Then I bought it for her. So don’t be judging me for having a BMW. but I think Jimbo is, if you and I had a lot of time on our hands, we can just hop in that red convertible and we’d be [00:04:00] rolling out,
JimBo Stewart: I do it, man. I would do it for sure.
Bob Bickford: finding some joints to check out some food.
JimBo Stewart: Absolutely. Hey, Bob, I want to follow up today. Speaking of the different context of food, here’s our transition into the topic. I want to talk about the different context of our churches. We’ve done some great episodes. with the devil doc, Josh dryer on demographics, the, the button is open by the way.
and, and so you can go order a free demographic report, had a conversation with Josh where he, he started to say, let’s only allow one a week. And, so I’ve negotiated and I’ve said, look, I’m going to ask the bootcampers to not go insane. but just put it in there and know that it may take a few weeks if we get a lot of, uh, God requests and I’ll email you, if you put it in and we’re backlogged, I’ll let you know.
I’m going to try not to turn the button off again. I’m gonna try to just, I’ll give you a realistic timelines, right. But here’s the deal. The. The [00:05:00] report is so helpful. and so we’re not going to necessarily dive deep back into the report again, cause we’ve done those episodes, but it got me thinking, one of the things I come across.
In my own temptations at times, as well as, as I’ve consulted and coached others in pastoral ministry is there is a temptation to take some sort of copycat approach. Right. We see something that works really well somewhere else. Or it’s worked really well for us before, like we’ve done it. Like we’ve done some sort of outreach or some sort of program or some sort of initiative or something that worked really well at some point.
And we just, we, we try to shoehorn it into where we are. And it doesn’t work. I I’ve met pastors that man they’re notorious for this. Like they go to a conference and they’re going to come back and implement everything that their favorite guy said immediately [00:06:00] until they go to the next conference and then everything changes and now they’re going to do it like that.
And, and it just, it starts to become, difficult for the church to follow. And it’s not contextualized to where they’re at. what would you say. Do you, I mean, do you experience that? Do you see guys go, Hey, tell me, I’ll have guys ask me what is the latest missions trend that’s working and I just want to do that.
Bob Bickford: sure. Well, Jimbo, we have a background in student ministry and I think that kind of thing can work in student ministry. For events, right. And it trends, trends, and culture and events and students have a common culture. And so, I, it just, that.
tossed me back to the different kinds of things that I thought about, student ministry and collegiate ministry that, that work, but they’re always contextual.
Right. So I think for us, as adults, as leaders of the entire local church that God’s called us to, we have to take into account the people who were there. their interests, their backgrounds, their demographics. And then we also have to take into [00:07:00] account the unique context of the community that we find ourselves in.
So what, how, what, whatever ministry that double dot Josh is doing in key west Florida, it may be contextual enough to his congregation and his, his city and surrounding areas. There’s probably not going to work in Webster groves. Right. And the same thing with our good friends in Mississippi and Alabama, and, and to come, uh, Washington and, you know, San Jose, California is just, the contexts are so different.
And, uh, I think in particular thinking back and doing some reflection of our, our time with Josh and then some of the side conversations that he and I had, he just, he, he helped me. By breathe, being fresh eyes into my context, to think about some new things and to do some different things. And so, um, I’m excited about those things that I, I had never, I have, I’ve not talked to anybody.
Who’s thinking what we’re thinking now. And in exploring what we’re exploring,
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I think, I think there’s a real temptation [00:08:00] to try cookie cutter things from somewhere else. And instead of taking it in an adapted into your context, just laying it over, partially because man, it’s, Not easy as a pastor to constantly be thinking. What, how do I best serve this community? How do I best help our people get where they’re trying to get?
And all of a sudden you see some guy and it’s working and you go, man, it seems to be working really well there. Manage it would be awesome if I could just read that book and do that plan right. Preach that sermon series. and maybe I won’t get the same results he’s getting, but surely I’ll get something close to it.
Right. But the problem is it doesn’t take, it doesn’t take different individual needs or, or the, even the abilities and the gifting of the people that God has given you in your flock. It doesn’t take that into consideration spiritual maturity. historical context. one of the things I try to always remind guys is context is not just a place, but it is also a time.
Right. [00:09:00] And, And so context means that we understand not just where we are, but when we are. And that even something that worked in the same place even five years ago may not work as good. There, there are things that redemption that worked incredibly well for a few years, and then, eventually ended up not working.
As well over time and who knows why that may have been right. there’s a lot of reasons that could have been, it could have been the, needs of the community could have been the types of leaders that we had volunteering to do it. there a lot of different things that could have led to that.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. yeah. I think that’s good. That’s such a key insight Jimbo to talk about context, not only as place, but as time. And here’s what I would want to say to some real planners. Um, we, we are in a new time, right? We’re in a new season. And man, I really, really feel like I’m pastoring a completely different church in a new season of time in [00:10:00] terms of where we were when I first came, where we were, when we saw God do some different things.
And then now where we are emerging from public totally different time. Almost a completely different church and completely different opportunities that are before us.
JimBo Stewart: yeah. And all of that has to be considered. it honestly makes me think a little bit, a little bit about the story of, You know what I’ll tell you what story it makes me think. It makes me think of the sons of Skiva in acts. Right,
Bob Bickford: Yes.
JimBo Stewart: right.
Bob Bickford: Well, I would always, I always wanted to have like a band named the seven sons of Skiva. Like that’s a mosh pit band. Right. Isn’t it.
JimBo Stewart: I’m sure it is. I mean, it should be, uh, it should be if it’s not, uh it’s. So if you’re not familiar with the sons of Skiva story, surely you are, if you’re listening to this podcast, what if you think about it? Right? What is it that this guy, the sons of Skiva go to the steam and possessed man, and, and they say that we [00:11:00] command you, you know, by the name of Jesus and Paul, to, to come out of there.
And man, it’s just such a hilarious, Moment and the scriptures were the demons like, yeah. I mean, I know who Jesus is, right. I’ve heard of this Paul Guy. I mean, we’ve talked about around the demon wall or like we need these he’s on the he’s on the wanted poster. Right. We, we know, we know who that guy is.
Who are you?
Right. And my favorite part is that, I mean, the story ends with them naked. I mean, they get beat naked. They’re beaten, bloody and naked. And here, you know, sometimes you watch a fight. Sometimes you watch a boxing match between an undefeated champion and a YouTuber. and it goes eight rounds and there’s no knockout.
And so there’s some dispute over who wins between a, undefeated champion and a YouTuber that’s happened recently. if you leave without clothes on you. Yeah.
[00:12:00] Bob Bickford: Yes. And Jimbo this, as you’re describing this story, I’m just thinking of your time in, Nolan’s right. NOLA. There’s some street bikes, man. When, when there are people ripping shirts off and you know, all that kind of thing. And so that’s kind of my mind, if you or your peers, if you had clothes and you’re leaving without gloves, you lost the fight.
JimBo Stewart: you lost the fight.
Bob Bickford: okay.
JimBo Stewart: But it is such a great example of this. Like, You, you can’t do something and you can’t just claim the name of Christ and you know, whatever your favorite pastor is. Hey, this, this, this worked. And so in the name of, golden guru of replanting, Bob Bickford, I’m going to do the same thing he did, and it’s gonna work right.
Right where I’m at. you, you got to pay attention to where you’re at. One of the things I always love to point out is in acts 17. We see, the apostle Paul in entirely different context. Right. And we see him in a synagogue. I mean, Probably preaching the Torah. Right. And then we’d see him with [00:13:00] the Bereans in a deep dive Bible study, uh, where they go, Hey man, great word.
Let’s uh, let’s dive a little deeper and make sure that what you’re saying is actually scripturally accurate, accurate, and then he ends up an Aryaka. Gus, when he doesn’t even quote scripture, he quotes a pagan. Poet, and not even scripture, but the message has, has not changed, but all in that one chapter, we see him adjust to his context.
This is when Paul says all things to all people, he does. He never means that he is not true to himself or not true to scripture. He means that he is paying attention to where he’s at and when he’s at. And he knows, w how to apply that. And I think we have to avoid the temptation. Of believing, just because something worked for someone else or because it worked for us at some other point or some other place that is just going to work again.
And we’ve got to, we got to pray through and see what we [00:14:00] got. So one of the things I like to do, Bob is try to think as a missionary or as a church planter. Right. And look at my context and pay attention to what’s going on and think if I were not the pastor of this established church or this replant, but if I were, if I were just called to this.
This place right here, and this church didn’t exist. and I were called just to reach this community. What, what would that strategy look like? and it’s not going to look the same in every neighborhood. If I were a missionary, if I were called to plant a church here, what are some things you would think through or have thought through in kind of that same direction?
Bob Bickford: yeah.
So I think that you have to understand the community’s mindset. And understand how the people think in that particular area. And so let me, let me give you a couple things to hang. just some ideas or thoughts or actions on one is you, you need to think about what their, their blind spots are, right?
And every community has some blind spots and blind [00:15:00] spots. Are those things that they say about themselves, but really aren’t true. Or they think they’re a particular way. And they’re actual, they’re actually not, or they they’re thinking wrongly about life. and so in particular, one things that came up on our survey with Josh was that I live the track, the actual track, the, the, one of the smaller segments of a demographic map, my church resides in, in the 15th.
And the people that live in that are the 15% well wealthiest population in the U S right there in that take the whole us. Take the top 15% in terms of wealth. And those are the people that live by my church, right? So one of the blind spots is that my resources will equate to a great life or my resources will help me.
Handle all the questions of life, where I can pay for my problems to go away, all those sorts of things. And so, so there’s a blind spot that, that what I have will add ultimate meaning to my life, or will be my deliverer or, you know, those [00:16:00] sorts of things. So, so we got to think how to address that. Another one is education in ours.
We’ve, we’ve got the majority of folks are college or degree and many masters degree, right? And so this continual learning, uh, in this continual quest for knowledge. And, and this idea of, of maybe I have arrived and, and all of those things. And I think one of the things that we’re thinking through is to treat this strategically is how do we ask and answer the most important questions that exist in our community today and are the answers that we are been given or that we are.
Finding are those satisfactory, right? So, so my preteen is going to take on a more intellectual, more truth pursuit, kind of a demographic, you know, kind of a vein. And, um, and then the other thing that Josh pointed out too, was thinking through, um, what kind [00:17:00] of people are around me and w what are they like and what are they thinking?
And so, um, I have mentioned in the past that, There are a number of folks who walk their dogs on our church lot and back to the soccer field and they get the dogs off leash and the dog just run and, you know, use the restroom. And I’m, I’m very fortunate. I live in a very, uh, socially conscious. They, everybody picks up their dog droppings, which is awesome and great, you know, cause kids are playing soccer back there all the time.
The gym Jimbo. I was working at the church outside and I was kind of frustrated. It was a Saturday. And I was like, man, I don’t have to be up up here. I’m doing some things outside. Um, you know, we’re, we’re doing a movie night, so I have to put the banner up. And so I’m doing that and it’s hot, but guy comes by walking his dog guy that I’ve connected with several times.
And we have about a 10 to 15 minute conversation about life, about culture, about his concerns, et cetera. And we’re D we’re thinking through an approach about how to help people have civil conversations today in today’s [00:18:00] culture about items that they disagree fundamentally about. So we’re working on a project and I hope to, to be able to announce it to our church and maybe we’ll share it with our booth, our bootcamper Sue, just as an example of what God’s doing at our church, but we want to do a, uh, an event, an ongoing series of discussions that we tape and.
Promote on first on Facebook about, conversations between me and a guy. Who’s an agnostic atheist, and we just have got a great friendship. And so I was explaining this to Cole, who’s the guy with the dog and he was excited about it. He thought, man, that’s something I would go to that I’d be interested in going there.
Just so turns out he owns a coughing roast, the coffee roasting company. And he said, if we have ever had an event, he would provide the coffee for it and he would make the coffee and he would be a part of it. So those guys are all senior adults, right. They’re retired. And that’s a crew that I’ve never thought about reaching.
Like we always think we got to build the church on the young folks. And here’s the, here’s the reality. Like we had built our church on young, on young folks and guess [00:19:00] what? They all moved out of the, the area. Many of them moved out the area because of the craziness in the area. And the people who are left behind are senior adults who still have the same questions.
Right. so for me, working through understanding your community and developing, you know, ministries and all those sorts of things, the conversations and the demographics, and trying to discern all that as a missionary. And understanding where the touch points are. And then here’s what I would add to it.
Seeing the connections that God makes
JimBo Stewart: yeah.
Bob Bickford: are really critical. Like, so for me, the connections with Cole, the connections with, with Ron, the connections with Greg are the senior adults. The guys that I have relationships with, I wouldn’t, I would’ve voiced prior to this time. Have thought, well, I just need to go hang out with some young dads and disciple them and help them be good dads and good husbands and all that kind of stuff.
Well, you know what, man, they’re busy Jimbo and they’re not around and they don’t have time, but here’s a whole population of guys now that that really God seems to be directing my heart towards my eyes towards. So [00:20:00] I’m excited about that.
JimBo Stewart: yeah, man. That’s the exciting part is about not having a cookie cutter strategy, but taking a missionary approach is, is you’re going in, literally having no idea where this might go. Right.
Bob Bickford: Yes.
JimBo Stewart: and that’s, that’s what being a missionary. A lot of times it is. We have strategies and we have ways to learn and understand communities and share the gospel and disciple people and plant churches.
And we should have all of those strategies, but we have to do it in a way that we study our context. One of the things that I did at redemption is I would always talk about. Uh, having a parish perspective, uh, in the sense of like the old school, you know, Catholic idea of a parish and here I’m not pulling all everything from that, but here was the idea that I said, I want us to think about a geographic area.
That we have a spiritual responsibility for whether they ever walk through the doors of this church or not. It moves us beyond this [00:21:00] idea of what do I do to attract people to this church. And let me think about my spiritual responsibility for this community. Right? And so for us, there was a high there’s, a high level of crime.
And, and so as we started to walk around and discover some of those things, we partnered with an organization called justice coalition that comes alongside the families of, People who have been victimized by violent crimes
who have been murdered or kidnapped. And we partnered with them and some things, and we did some other things like that.
And. And figuring out what those things are. And then, and then the old Blackaby thing of, you know, God’s already at work there, right? He wasn’t, he wasn’t waiting for you to get there, to do something. He, he, he, uh, he already had something going on and let’s, let’s figure out what God is doing in this community.
Let’s figure out what questions they’re asking. And if we [00:22:00] truly believe that all truth is God’s truth, they, when people ask questions and. Any kind of question, right? When people ask any question, we, we can take them to truth. And when we take people to truth, we can take them to Jesus because he is truth and all truth is God’s truth.
And so I love what you’re talking about, man, of how do we you’re you’re meeting an intellectual need in an intellectual community by helping them think through critical thinking and how do we, how do you, how do we disagree civilly and. If that’s going to ignite some people and that’s going to create some incredible opportunities for you to think through, uh, how to love that community.
I it’s the old Jeremiah 29, not Jeremiah 29, 11 and Jeremiah 29 7. Right where the Israelites had been exiled to Babylon and they want to get out of there. But, there are false prophets saying, Hey, don’t plant roots here. We’ll be out of here [00:23:00] soon. But through the prophet, Jeremiah, the Jimbo paraphrase paraphrase of Jeremiah 29 7 is, Hey, I want you to seek the welfare and prosperity of the city where I’ve sent you into exile.
sent you on purpose. And it’ll be there that you’ll find your welfare and prosperity. And so care about this city care about where I’ve sent you. Cause I sent you there. Right? And so God sent you to that church at that address to care for that community. And so figure out what that looks like.
Bob Bickford: I love it. I love it. I love it. Oh, this reminds me of the conversation. Reminds me of we’re preaching through the book of mark and in mark chapter six, when Jesus sends out the disciples writes he’s. He’s done all the ministry with them. They’ve been, they’ve watched him. And then he gives him authority to cast out demons and, and to preach the gospel.
He sends them out and he says, don’t take an extra shirt. Don’t take extra pair of shoes. Just go with what you got. Right. And [00:24:00] look for person to peace. And stay with those who welcome you, et cetera, and then go, right? yeah.
So I think a lot of times what happens is, you know, we’re going to figure out ministry in the going and then the connecting and in the conversations.
And so many times what we tend to do is we, especially for new to a setting, or maybe we’re just arriving at a replant or revitalization, we’re borrowing somebody else’s strategy and somebody else’s program, somebody else’s model. And That’s never going to work. That’s extra baggage. That’s extra luggage.
That, that probably won’t work because we’re going to depend on that rather than depending on the leadership of the spirit and leadership to the Lord in our lives and what he reveals to us. So I just want to encourage you guys and go in with open hands, kind of a blank slate, love people, right? Preach, probably love stay, but also do the work of a missionary.
And you do the work in the missionary by actually getting out and being among the people. So. I just encourage you, whatever way you can do that, make that [00:25:00] a priority.
JimBo Stewart: All right, guys, you hope you have a great week. We look forward to telling you all about the great food we find in Nashville upcoming episodes. so keep going after it doing the nitty gritty work of replanting.