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Tag: church revitalization

Three Steps to Powerful Prayer in Your Church

A quote from Martin Luther hung in my grandparent’s bedroom when I was younger.  It said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”  I remember thinking how backward that seemed to me at the time.  If you have so much to do, wouldn’t it be better to start doing it? Spending three hours in prayer seems like you’ve wasted so much time on what must be a busy day! Now that I am older, I see the wisdom in Luther’s quote.  But I must admit… I don’t always follow his advice.

Perhaps you can relate.  Many church leaders see prayer as something we do before we get to the “real work.” We rush through prayer to start a meeting because we understand the value of “starting with prayer,” but not in spending time to offer an “effective, fervent” prayer (James 5:16, KJV).

On a recent podcast episode, Jimbo spoke with Rev. Rick Fisher, the Vice President of Blackaby Ministries, and co-author of the book, Developing a Powerful Praying Church with Dr. Richard Blackaby.  He stated that a praying church is one where “prayer is the foundation of everything you do.”  You may think that you have built a foundation of prayer in your church, but are you truly seeing transformative, exciting communication with God?  Or are you simply going through the motions of prayer to check off a box? Rev. Fisher discussed several steps to help churches and pastors move from a prayer life that feels lethargic and powerless to an effective and dynamic one.

man's hands clasped in prayer on top of an open bible

Step One: Evaluate Your Own Prayer Life

The first step toward a powerful, praying church is to start with a powerful, praying pastor. Rev. Fisher recognized that while he knew the cliches to say in prayer and how to vocalize prayer, he didn’t know how to communicate with God.  He wanted to hear from God, but often, God heard from him instead.  

You may wonder at the difference– what does it matter if we speak or God does?  But it matters a great deal.  When we never stop to listen to what God is saying to us, our prayer life becomes one-sided and dangerously close to self-serving.  We begin to rely on our own power to transform our church.  True communication with God, where we sit and wait for His response, reminds us that this is God’s church, not ours.  

Think about it this way: when you finish praying is there time for God to respond?  Or are you immediately moving on, content to have spoken to Him?  Just because you’re done praying, doesn’t mean you’re done listening.

Prayers that Seek God’s Face, not His Hand

As pastors, we often get caught up in praying for things that Rev. Fisher reminds us are in “God’s hands.”  “God’s hands,” he says, “represent what God does.” When we pray with our hearts focused on God’s hands, we look to experience God’s gifts of favor, blessing, or reward.  We hope to have our needs met and our expectations exceeded. 

By contrast, Rev. Fisher points us toward Psalm 27:8: “You have said, ‘Seek my face.’ My heart says to you, ‘Your face, Lord, do I seek..’”  If God’s hands represent what He does, then God’s face represents who He is.

When we begin our prayer earnestly seeking God’s character, it changes our prayers from self-focused to God-focused.  When we stop striving to convince God to move according to our wants and desires, it changes our hearts to recognize His sovereignty in all things and to relinquish control over them. When we are informed about who God is, we trust Him more.  

A powerful praying church begins with a pastor whose personal prayer life is one of submission to God’s character and who makes time to listen to Him, not only speak. 

several people are praying together with thier hands clasped

Step Two: Engage Your Church in Scripture-Filled Prayer

How often have you heard the phrase, “Let’s start with prayer,” followed by, “Now, open your Bibles to this chapter and verse.”  Rev. Fisher would encourage us to flip those two statements around. Your church doesn’t need to start praying without first beginning in Scripture.  If we pray to seek God’s face, we must first understand who He is– and there is no better place to discover that than in His Word.  Many times, Fisher says, “What you need to pray, what God wants to say to you, embed in you, and adjust in you comes right out of his word.” When we engage our churches to become powerful, praying people, we must first open our Bibles and teach them to do the same.  

If your Wednesday night prayer meeting has devolved into a litany of rote names and their various ailments, it may be because your church is praying without a true understanding of who God is.  They might need to be reminded through Scripture.  Fisher recommends starting your prayer time by opening up to a Psalm and asking the question, “What does this Scripture tell me about God?” He explains that having a proper view of God and His character gives your congregation more confidence in seeking Him and in trusting Him.  

For example, if we were to open up to Psalm 130 before we pray and ask, “What does this tell me about God’s character?” we can answer that God is forgiving, and He is merciful.  We can say that God’s love is steadfast and He is attentive to our prayers.  We are reminded to wait upon the Lord as we pray.   As we begin to pray, we are better able to trust God with the outcome knowing that He is in control and our circumstances are not separate from His love and mercy.

6 people of various demographics are joined at a table in prayer

Step Three: Pray with Purpose

Emojis have made it easy to water down prayers to a simple 🙏. We can post a quick response to someone’s prayer request before we mentally register what they even asked. “Thoughts and prayers,” has become so ubiquitous that even non-Christians post it as a knee-jerk response.  

If we’re honest, perhaps even in our prayer times at church, we have grown complacent with standard cliches and phrases.  We might even be guilty of praying without any thought at all.  How many of us can rattle off a night-time prayer we learned in childhood?  My grandfather said the same prayer every time he was asked to pray over a meal: “Dear Lord, make us truly thankful for these and all other blessings, we ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.”  At least I think that’s what he said– honestly, it was always said so quickly I barely even had time to close my eyes or bow my head before it was over.

If prayer is the foundation on which everything in our church is built, it deserves to be treated with respect. Rev. Fisher said he realized, “I had to stop saying things that didn’t make sense in prayer like ‘God be with us.’ We’re not asking God to be with us, He’s there. The better prayer is: ‘God, make us aware of how present you already are.’”  Adjusting the phrasing and the way he prayed showed his church the importance of praying with a purpose.

Specific Prayers and Specific Pray-ers

In Acts 4, we get a very close look at a powerful, praying church.  Peter and John have been arrested and tried before the Council and the early church Christians are experiencing persecution and trials. When they return to the church members, they don’t recite a thoughtless, memorized litany of requests and cliches.  Instead, the Bible tells us that they “lifted their voices together to God,” acknowledged His plan and faithfulness, and prayed for boldness to continue healing and proclaiming His name.

The early church’s prayer was answered.  The Bible says, “When they had prayed, the place they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.”  They prayed specifically for boldness, and God answered specifically.

Rick Fisher asked this question: “Is there anything your church is praying for that could only be explained if God did it?”  We must be willing to pray specific prayers for our church– to ask God to do what only He can.  

We must also be willing to pray fervently, without ceasing, until the prayer is answered.  So often, we pray a few times and then stop.  We get bored or restless and then begin to try to accomplish things on our own.  But God doesn’t operate on our timeline. We must teach our churches to pray until God moves, whatever that looks like.

As pastors, we may also be guilty of being too willing to let someone pray corporately who frankly doesn’t have a solid prayer life privately.  We need to be specific in our prayers, but also in who prays!  Rev. Fisher makes this analogy: “We never think about asking a soloist to sing who can’t sing on key. Prayer is more important than singing. So why would we ever let anyone pray publicly who prays off key?”

Is the person praying over the offering in your services doing so because he is a righteous man, passionate about church finances being used for God’s Kingdom?  Do you know that he is praying over the church budget and prayerfully supports the ministries of the church in his private life?  Or did he just lose a rock, paper, scissors game before the offering was taken?

If you aren’t praying with your people, pastor, then you don’t know who is praying Spirit-filled, God-honoring prayers that truly communicate with the Lord.  You don’t know who is seeking the Lord’s face daily.

Powerful Prayers Deserve Powerful Praise

The final step toward developing a powerful praying church?  Celebrate answered prayers!  When your church has prayed specific, fervent, God-seeking prayers, and you see God move in specific ways, then that deserves a celebration.

Don’t be tempted to speak in terms of “we were lucky to experience this,” or “this was an accident.” Give God the glory for the great things He has done! We prayed, God responded, and God did this!  Remind your congregation of the times God has answered prayers in the past and encourage them to continue to pray and seek God’s face.

Rev. Fisher made this statement on prayer and I think it sums up exactly what prayer in our churches should look like: “Prayer is not merely a means of expressing our concerns to God but a divine invitation for God to lay His heart over ours. Through prayer, we align our thoughts and desires with God’s, allowing His perspective to shape our actions and decisions.”

I want to be a part of that!  I want my church to be a part of that!

For more information on Rev. Rick Fisher or his book, Developing a Powerful, Praying Church, see www.blackaby.org

Don’t forget to nominate guests for future episodes of the Replant Bootcamp podcast!

EP 239 – Hitting the Healthy Church Target with Brandon Moore

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EP 239 - Hitting the Healthy Church Target with Brandon Moore
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In this episode of the Replant Bootcamp, we reconnect with Brandon, a former guest and a recent addition to the Replant team, who shares his journey from working with the Missouri Baptist Convention to joining the Replant team and moving towards replanting a church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Brandon discusses his experience and insights on church revitalization and replanting in Missouri, emphasizing the strategic role of associational leaders and state convention leaders in catalyzing church movement within their states.

He highlights the critical need for strong leadership and healthy church structures, focusing on the three identities of the church (worshipers of God, family in Christ, and missionaries to the world), foundational elements (Gospel, Scripture, and Prayer), and structural aspects (leadership, membership, and discipleship) essential for church health.

CLICK HERE FOR THE RENEW AND RESOUND PRAYER GUIDE

00:00 Welcome Back to the Bootcamp!
00:54 Introducing Brandon: A Journey from Missouri to Replant Team
01:11 Brandon’s Personal and Professional Shifts
02:10 The Mission in Knoxville: Replanting with a Vision
05:25 The Importance of Church Health and Identity
11:28 Defining Church Health: Identities, Foundations, and Structures
23:53 Practical Steps for Church Revitalization and Replanting
27:35 Closing Prayer for Healthy, God-Glorifying Churches

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Ep 237 – Hometown Hope with Brayden Buss

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Ep 237 - Hometown Hope with Brayden Buss
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In this episode, we listen to the field to learn from the boots-on-the-ground story of Brayden Buss, a pastor returning to his roots at the First Baptist Church in Okmulgee, OK as he shares his journey of returning to pastor the church where he grew up, stressing the importance of understanding and respecting a church’s legacy while adapting to changing demographics and community needs.

He discusses the challenges and strategies associated with revitalizing a church, including leadership development, member mobilization, and the personal aspect of being a pastor in a familiar community. Brayden also touches on the significance of loving and caring for the church to foster revitalization effectively.

00:00 Introduction and Guest Arrival
00:52 Guest Background and Personal Journey
02:26 Challenges of Pastoring in Hometown
03:44 Legacy of Family in Ministry
05:46 Understanding and Adapting to Community Changes
08:39 Revitalizing the Church: Strategies and Challenges
16:57 Member Mobilization and Leadership Development
24:08 Final Thoughts and Prayer

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Show transcripts are an approximation of the podcast, audio should be consulted for exact detail

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Resources for the Replant Wife

“You can’t be a pastor!  That would make me a pastor’s wife!  And I am NOT a pastor’s wife.”  These were the very first words I said to my husband after he confessed to me that he felt God was calling him to be a pastor.  (Encouraging, I know… Bear with me.) Some women attend seminary and meet their future husband while he is studying for a career in ministry.  She’s prepared to be known as the “pastor’s wife” for their marriage.  That is not what happened to me.  I was completely unprepared to be a pastor’s wife– my husband was in logistics at a warehouse. I never imagined God would call him to be a pastor and I would be a “PW”– I didn’t even know what PW meant!

Thankfully, God brought me around and I joyfully accepted this new role. I looked at it as a big, new adventure we would go on together.  My husband and I, in ministry, doing the Lord’s work.  Proclaiming the Gospel to hurting and broken people, together! What could be better than that?

If you’re reading this and thinking, “Oh man… She might be in for a shock.”  You’re right.  I was!

After 16 years in ministry, I can honestly say it has been a big adventure– one that has included many wonderful, joyful mountains, but one that also included several painful and dark valleys. Most of those valleys have happened in the season of replanting/revitalization in our church.  In those valleys, it’s easy to feel isolated and alone in ministry.  Looking at other churches, I would think, “They have it all figured out.  They don’t seem to struggle the way we’re struggling!  Maybe we just aren’t called to this.” Perhaps you have felt that way, too. If you’re a pastor reading this, I can almost guarantee your wife has felt that!

On a recent episode of the Replant Bootcamp podcast, host Jimbo Stewart spoke with three replant wives (one of whom is probably his favorite guest of all time) to take a look at the resources available to the wives working alongside their husbands in church renewal.

The Replant Wife Experts

A woman prays alone

During those moments of isolation and loneliness, sometimes all we need is a small reminder that we aren’t alone. This is where I found myself at the first Replant Summit I attended with my husband.  We had navigated some very discouraging and hard times in our church and we signed up hoping to be refreshed and renewed.  I was burdened with many needs, some spiritual and some within our own family. When I saw a breakout session for “Replant Wives,” I thought, “Nope.” The last thing I wanted to hear was how amazing life was for all those wives and how wonderful their churches were.

My husband convinced me to go, and I entered that room overwhelmed and anxious.  I sat at an empty table prepared to sit quietly and speak to no one. But before I could enact that plan, other women came to sit at the table.  These women were all so friendly and kind, and I found myself sharing some of my concerns with them briefly before the session even started.  They seemed to understand everything I had experienced.  They seemed like they “got it,” in a way that my other friends didn’t.  Those women were Audrea Stewart, Darlene Dryer, and Barb Bickford, the hosts of the breakout session and the spouses of Jimbo Stewart, Josh Dryer, and Bob Bickford, respectively.  Turns out, I hadn’t sat down at an empty table– I was at “their” table! (I had somehow missed the purses, laptop bags, and materials they had around the table.)

For the next couple of hours, I sat with many other women in the room as these three incredible women poured into us with biblical, practical advice for this journey.  They each shared their stories, complete with heartaches and struggles.  They were transparent and relatable, but also gently and wisely continued to point us each back to Christ and His leadership.  As we each began to open up with our own worries and anxieties, I realized I had been wrong. I wasn’t alone or isolated.  There were so many women struggling with the same issues I was– and these three “expert Replant Wives” had struggled with them, too!

I know these three women would object to being called “experts”– they are just wives who are doing their best to assist their husbands in this work of church renewal. But that day, Audrea, Darlene, and Barb gave us more than the resources of books to read, biblical passages to study, and tangible tools for problem-solving– they gave us the resource of friendship.  We were able to connect with each other, as women all over the room began to bond over shared trials, joys, and everything in between.  The connections I formed that day reminded me that I wasn’t alone.  The resource of friendship was something that I will never forget.

The Replant Wife Facebook Page- a Source of Connection

After the Summit, I went home and immediately joined the Replant Wife Facebook Group.  There, I get to interact with Audrea, Darlene, and Barb, but I have also met Replant Wives from the Midwest, the Pacific Coast, and the Northeast United States.  It is a closed group, so wives can be transparent without worrying about breaking confidentiality.  They can share their burdens and know that someone out there understands what they are going through.  They can share helpful articles and books they’ve read, but they also share prayer requests and biblical questions.  It’s a forum for pastor’s wives in church renewal, so there are even helpful tools for struggling congregations.

Some of the questions that are asked and answered are practical– “Has anyone done VBS on a budget?  What tools were helpful?” “Has anyone been involved in rewriting bylaws?  What did you run into that you didn’t expect?” “What is a great meal for unexpected company or for feeding a large crowd?”  These questions are answered by other women in the context of church renewal– churches with normative attendance, budgets, and resources.  Churches a lot like yours.

This online connection fosters a community.  Now, when I go to a replant conference with my husband, I can connect with the women I know from the Facebook page and get updates on their lives and ministries.  We look forward to seeing each other and catching up.  Our community has borne each others burdens and celebrated each others successes.  We are truly in it together.

The Replant Wife Website, Blog, and Podcast

women shaking hands in collaboration

Another important resource for Replant Wives is the website, which also houses the blog.  Audrea, Darlene, and Barb have all penned blog posts regarding common issues in this renewal life.  Audrea wrote on navigating the post-holiday blues, Barb has written a series on longevitiy in ministry, and Darlene is writing about finding joy in trials. Think of this website as the “landing page” for all things Replant Wife.  In addition to Audrea, Darlene, and Barb, there are also resources from Kathy Addis (wife of Andy Addis), Jeanette Pugh (wife of Colin Pugh), and Joyce Jackson (wife of David Jackson), each of whom bring their own stories of  ministry mountains and valleys.

In addition to the incredible resources the three women have cultivated, they also have links to NAMB’s replanting resources.  NAMB is consistently looking for ways to support and care for pastors in ministry and one of those focuses has to be the pastor’s family.  In a replant/revitalization, where there are potentials for seasons of change and conflict, this is even more important.  A pastor does not weather the conflict alone– his family will feel it, too.  His wife will need support and encouragement, and she can find it within those resources.

But I think the best resource the women leading this effort have cultivated is their podcast.  This podcast seeks to be a refuge for the replant wife to be equipped and encouraged for the work God has called her to do.  Listening to it, you feel like you’re sitting around with three friends discussing Jesus, the bible, ministry, and families.  There, the three women discuss their blogs and talk about important topics in church renewal. They take the time to really dive into scripture and give biblical, practical advice.  They remind the listener that she is not alone in this work.  But they also remind her that this work is God’s glorious calling.

For every replant pastor, there is a replant wife who needs to know she is not alone.  We are here for you and we want to hear from you!  The Lord has called us to bring dying churches back to life– that’s an amazing honor!

If you want to meet these amazing women in person, you can do so at the Am I a Replanter conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary April 5-6 or at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary April 12-13.  (And, yeah, their husbands will be there, too.)

Crises and Dealing with Change

This week, the Bootcamp sat down with Will Cofield, pastor at Central Baptist Church in York, South Carolina. Will shared some highlights of his ministry over the past 15 years at Central Baptist, where he started as the youth pastor. Throughout his time, he became the church’s pastor and eventually led them through a Replant. Now, Central Baptist is committed to loving God, loving people, and making disciples. They do this through specific goals you can read about here. 

One of Will’s passions is raising up church leaders and members to make disciples and help other churches revitalize and replant. The ministry of Central Baptist is one of many churches that have gone through the process, and not without hardships. As Jimbo and Will sat down to discuss this topic, Will shared relatable stories that many can identify with. Here are a few takeaways from the conversation:

The Breaking Point for Every Dying Church

What is the breaking point, the thing that every dying church must need before it undergoes any revitalization? Desperation. With desperation comes an understanding that there is nothing that we can do in our own strength to reverse the decline. We need the power of God, the leadership of Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our churches.

As Will led his church toward this effort, they needed congregational repentance. They had to repent that their church did not have a history of loving God and loving others the way God called them to. It was only through repentance and desperation that the church yielded its ways to God’s ways and sought after him. Through that time came the decision to Replant.

Many churches will continue to hang on by a thread if they have people in the pews and money in the bank. As time passes, a window of opportunity starts to close. What will happen when it’s too late, and Jesus removes the lampstand? What will happen if the favor of God’s hand is removed from the church?

We need repentance. If a doctor diagnosed you with cancer and simply told everyone you just had a bad cough, that doesn’t make it any less deadly. We must ask spiritual questions to properly diagnose a church’s spiritual condition. Are we loving Christ as we should? Are we worshipping any idols? Does anything else in our church have our allegiance, devotion, and loyalty? The breaking point for a dying church is this: we must be desperate for God’s work, no matter the cost.

Suffering Stories Matter

As Will shared some of his stories, it brought up memories for me, as I’m sure all of our listeners, of the hardships we face in our churches. Suppose you’ve served in any leadership capacity at your church. In that case, you know that people are sinful, suffering happens, and usually, it teaches us something about life and ministry that we need for the journey. 

Consider these relevant, timely, and important verses from 1 Peter for situations of suffering in ministry:

1 Peter 3:13-14, “Who will harm you if you are devoted to what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed.

3:17, “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”

1 Peter 4:12-13, “Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed. 

1 Peter 4:16-17, “But if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed but let him glorify God in having that name. For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it starts with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God? 

1 Peter 4:19, “So then, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator while doing what is good.”

The Bible teaches that suffering will be expected, and God uses typically suffering experiences to prepare us for the next season of life. And when we come into a situation after suffering for a little while, we usually have been tested, proven, and challenged in ways that only suffering can produce in us.

Jimbo’s advice for seasons of suffering is that we shouldn’t try to “fix it” by addressing the symptoms. Instead, we should sit in it, seek to understand it and move forward in God’s timing, not our own. If you’re struggling in some area of your ministry, know that God sees you. He is near, and we only need to trust him through it.

Biblical Truth & Beauty from Ashes

In ministry, we can see things around us go up in flames. 

Sometimes, turmoil causes us to question God, asking where God is through the turmoil. Do we not know the God that we worship? It is in his nature to redeem, restore, and make beauty from ashes. God’s work is often a refining work. He often brings us through hardship to bring us to something beautiful. Our experiences are meant to be life lessons learned only in a dark valley.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the whole earth. He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to his understanding.” Isaiah 40:28

God has not disappeared from you; he loves you, and there is a point in the struggle you may be experiencing. Sometimes, the disciplinary hand of our father. Other times, the refining fire of adversity. No matter your church’s current or past turmoil, it can be repented of and given a fresh, new beginning.

We encourage you to rest in the Sovereign hand of God and allow him to do refining work in your life and the life of your church. Please reach out to us if we can help in any way.

EP 234 – Remembering Henry Blackaby with Special Guest Richard Blackaby

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EP 234 - Remembering Henry Blackaby with Special Guest Richard Blackaby
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Henry Blackaby was a servant of God. Henry Blackaby was an ordinary man whom God used in extraordinary ways. Henry recently passed away from this earth and is now basking in the glory of God and walking with Jesus.

In this episode, we’re back at the Replant Bootcamp Podcast with a heartwarming and insightful conversation with Richard Blackaby, a dear friend and an incredible leader in his own right and Henry Blackaby’s oldest son. Richard continues his dad’s legacy as president of Blackaby Ministries.
Richard shares his personal journey, growing from the influence of his father, the late Henry Blackaby, into a global leadership mentor. The passing of Henry Blackaby has reminded many of us of his deep impact on church revitalization and the way he modeled a God-centric life of service beyond the confines of church size. We dive into how Henry’s legacy has shaped Richard’s approach to ministry, emphasizing the importance of seeing God’s hand in every situation, no matter the challenges. Additionally, we discussed our shared passion for reading and how it fuels our growth, Richard’s upcoming back surgery, and a heartfelt prayer for our listeners. This episode reiterates the power of legacy, faith, and leadership through the lens of the Blackaby family’s journey.
Join JimBo, Richard, and many others at the upcoming Revive Summit in Pickerington, Ohio on May 21-22 – CLICK HERE for more information.
00:00 Introduction and Welcoming the Guest
00:44 Guest’s Background and Ministry Journey
01:57 Remembering Henry Blackaby: A Legacy of Church Revitalization
03:43 The Impact of Henry Blackaby’s Ministry
04:57 Growing Up with Henry Blackaby: Personal Reflections
08:34 The Challenges and Joys of Ministry
20:01 The Importance of Reading and Learning in Ministry
27:30 Facing Health Challenges and Trusting God
30:21 Closing Prayer and Encouragement

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EP 233 – Effective Interim Pastors: Fearing God more than Man with Scott Catoe

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EP 233 - Effective Interim Pastors: Fearing God more than Man with Scott Catoe
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In this episode, we welcome Scott Catoe, a first-time guest but longtime friend of the podcast, who shares his experiences and insights from serving as the lead pastor at Slater Baptist Church for 10 years and his current role as the Associate Mission Strategist for the Three Rivers Baptist Association. Dr. Catoe discusses his book, ‘Effective Interim Pastors,’ which emerged from his doctoral research on interim pastors.

He highlights the importance of addressing sin, and conflicts, and shaping a healthy church culture through the period of interim ministry rather than avoiding disruption. The conversation emphasizes the tendency of interim pastors and long-term pastors alike to either fear man more than God or seek personal glorification in ministry, contrasting these with the gospel-centered approach required for impactful leadership.

The book outlines eight principles for effective interim pastors, urging a focus on biblical faithfulness, prayer, confronting sin, and equipping the congregation for future growth, all rooted in a deep reverence for God over the fear of man.

00:00 Introduction and Guest Introduction
00:17 Guest’s Background and Current Role
01:07 Discussion on Normative Size Churches
01:45 Revitalization and Replanting Churches
02:08 Introduction to the Book ‘Effective Interim Pastors’
02:41 The Need for Transitional Pastors
03:51 The Role of an Interim Pastor
05:45 The Importance of Addressing Sin in Churches
11:07 The Fear of Man and Hero Syndrome in Ministry
17:16 The Role of Decision-Making in Churches
25:22 Conclusion and Book Recommendation

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The Power of Partnership

A few weeks ago, my husband Will and I attended the AMS Lab from NAMB in Atlanta, Georgia.  Hundreds of pastors and AMS leaders from across the country gathered together to learn more about partnerships and collaboration in revitalizing dying churches.  We listened to several leaders discuss ways their associations and churches had worked cohesively for the spread of the Gospel and each other’s benefit.  We heard testimonies of how these collaborations bore the fruit of faithfulness, health, repentance, and revival. The message was clear: There is power in partnership.

In Genesis 2:18, we read that God formed Man and then came to an important realization: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”  Now, we know that God then formed Woman and declared it “very good.” But the main idea was not merely for man and woman to be in partnership together– the main thought is that it is not good for man to be alone.  Over and over in God’s Word, He reminds us that collaboration is better than alienation

We often remind our congregations that God has formed our church like a body, quoting from 1 Corinthians and Ephesians.  We tell them that we all need each other, we all have different gifts, and that we all benefit from our unity.  And yet when it comes to churches partnering with other churches, many pastors neglect to foster and encourage partnership in their ministries.

On a recent episode of the Replant Bootcamp podcast, Jimbo talked with Mark Hallock, author and Lead Pastor of the Calvary Family of Churches in Colorado, and Brandon Moore, Replant Specialist at NAMB, about the benefits of radical collaboration.  When we partner together, ministries flourish, churches come back from the dead, and pastors are strengthened.  On His way to the cross, Jesus prayed that the church’s unity and partnership would display God’s plan and His love for the world to see (John 17:23). 

God’s Command to Partner

Here is the truth of the matter.  Pastors who neglect to partner with other churches are working against God’s plan for the Gospel.  You might not realize it, but God desires us to be in close collaboration with other churches– not competition.  Too often, we get wrapped up in the human desire to grow our personal kingdom and not God’s.  

Of course, that’s not the language we use.  Pastors would never say they desire their kingdom to grow over God’s.  But when we hoard our resources for our gain, when we disparage the church across town (especially from the pulpit), and when we isolate ourselves from other pastors, we’ve created a “my church, my growth” mindset instead of a “God’s church, His kingdom” mindset.

God commands us to work in unity with other churches.  Our passion must be for God’s Kingdom to grow, because His plan is to reach the lost world through people– not only your church but mine, too.  His plan is for all of us to cooperate so that His name is magnified throughout the nations.

Where do I start?

At the AMS Lab, one of the phrases we heard from pastors and AMS Leaders was, “Partnership sounds great, but we don’t have that mindset in our association.  No one seems to want to share or to cooperate.” What a missed opportunity!

When pastors alienate themselves and build walls around their ministry, it typically signifies an area of personal weakness.  Maybe they’ve been hurt by other pastors in the past and they are hesitant to be vulnerable again.  Perhaps they are afraid to be transparent or admit that something isn’t working.  Or maybe it’s just good, old-fashioned pride that makes them feel like they don’t have anything to learn from someone else.  Regardless of the root issue, a pastor who “Lone Rangers” his ministry may need to evaluate his behavior and repent.

Often, one of the first steps toward collaboration is one of embracing humility. It’s one thing to agree we need pastoral friendships for encouragement, but it’s quite another to be willing to share resources like money, time, and leadership with fellow pastors.  It’s one thing to say, “I’m willing to help the church down the street,” but it’s different to say, “I don’t care who gets the credit, I just want to see God’s Kingdom grow.”  Humility offers us a chance to let go of our ego and step out of the picture, and it allows God to step in and do radically transformative work in both our congregation and in the other church.  Laying down our pride for the Gospel reaps fruit we can’t even begin to imagine.

Once we’ve embraced the command to partner with fellow pastors and churches, and we’ve repented of any pride or fear standing in our way, it’s time to lean in and pursue partnership.  Now I wish this was as easy as simply passing a note to another pastor at the next Association meeting that says, “Do you want to partner with me in ministry? Check yes or no.”  Unfortunately, radical collaboration takes a little more time and effort! 

To start with, you need to actually attend association meetings.  Those meetings aren’t merely to give you information and discuss everyone’s budget and church attendance numbers.  Those meetings are opportunities for networking with other pastors and for encouraging each other! You have something to learn from them.  The Holy Spirit indwells them just as He indwells you!  God has given them unique perspectives, experiences, and giftings that can benefit you, even if they are different than yours. 

Being a good partner in ministry means being a good friend.  When you’re at the meetings, ask good questions of your fellow pastors.  Pray over their churches.  Have someone from your church send them a card to encourage them.  Some of our best partnerships have come from having close friends in ministry.  Last year when we were gone on a mission trip, we needed help with our worship service– we were short a pastor and a worship leader.  We were able to call our best friends in ministry and ask for their help– and they sent a worship team over to lead our service, even though it meant their church struggled a little that morning.  Why?  Because we aren’t in competition, we’re in cooperation.

Maybe not everyone will understand your desire for partnership.  That’s ok. Start with a few guys who do.  Plan a night of worship and combine your campuses. Look for ways your church can help with their VBS (or vice versa).  Do you have a couple of talented musicians while their church struggles to have live music? Ask one of your people to serve there a couple of weeks a month. Not because you don’t love your church and your people, but because you’ve taught your church to love other churches. And before you know it, a funny thing happens when other people see radical partnership thriving… they’ll want to join, too.  That’s where you see the culture change.  That’s where the goal of “church growth” becomes “Kingdom growth.”

The Superpower of Partnership

Hopefully, by now you’ve realized that we need to partner with fellow churches for one very good reason: God commands us to!  But partnership isn’t merely a rule to follow.  Radical collaboration is a superpower.  Once we tap into it, the benefits to our ministry and our personal walk with Jesus are huge!

One of the main benefits of partnership?  We are better together! Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 reminds us, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”  There will always be times when ministry is a struggle.  I have a friend who swears her husband quits ministry every Monday morning.  Discouragement, disappointment, and feelings of frustration with church members or church politics can feel overwhelming.  But partnerships with other churches mean your problems aren’t just your own to solve.  You have helpers to pick you up and raise your arms, as Aaron and Hur did for Moses (Exodus 17).

Another benefit?  Faithfulness in the ministry. A recent Barna study found that 65% of pastors reported feeling isolated or alone in 2022… that’s up from only 42% feeling that way in 2015. It seems many pastors are feeling like Johnny Cash when he sang, “I’ve got no one to tell my troubles to, no one to care to call my own. It seems that I must always be alone.” And when pastors feel isolated, they are more susceptible to temptation, hip-shot decisions, and leaving the ministry altogether. When you partner with other pastors, you have built-in encouragement, but you also have built-in accountability.  Your partners are also pastors who can tell you, in humility and love, where you might be going off-track.

Lastly, there is the benefit of having a cohort to help you navigate the complexities in the culture and society we face today.  We are dealing with aspects of culture that society has not wrestled with before and in our digital and technologically advanced society, these complex questions do not stop at the church’s front door.  Increasingly, these cultural issues are encouraging pastors to take a new look at their by-laws, their polity, and even their own personal beliefs. Having other pastors beside you as you walk through these decisions gives you a plurality of educated leaders that you may not yet have access to within your own congregation.

The Superhero of Partnership

 

I hope that you now see the superpower of partnership and the ways collaboration benefits your ministry.  Now, allow me to introduce a superhero who can help you in your quest for partnership– your local AMS.  

Hopefully, the local AMS at your association has been there long enough to have the one gift you need– the power of connection.  The AMS has an acute knowledge of not only the churches in his association, but of each pastor, and each congregation.  When you need ministry partners, there is no better place to start than your AMS.  Have a music/worship need?  He knows of a local cohort of worship leaders you can join.  He also knows which churches have large choirs and an abundance of musicians who may be able to join you for a while.  Have a question about polity?  He knows which church recently rewrote their bylaws, and what roadblocks they ran into, and he knows who you need to call at the state level for assistance.  Need help with VBS?  He knows the church doing theirs weeks before yours, and he’s happy to put you in touch with them so you can borrow their decorations when they’re done.

If you’re interested in hearing more ways your AMS and your local association can assist you in radical collaboration, the Replant Bootcamp has a podcast and blog on the partnership between pastors and Associations.  

Opportunities to Partner with Us

When we talk about partnerships between pastors and associations, there is no better place to explore that than at the Replant Bootcamp events.  We have several coming up, from two Am I a Replanter labs in April, the Revive Summit in May and September, and of course, through our website and archives.  

Don’t forget to let us know how much your ministry partners have helped you by suggesting them as future guests using the “Suggest a Guest” button!  We would love to hear your stories!

Know Your Context

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” – Peter Drucker.

You may be able to rightly divide the word of God. You may lead people, teams, and organizations. You may care well for those in your congregation. However, without understanding your surrounding context, it will be difficult for you to connect with your people.

Bob Bumgarner, guest on the Replant Bootcamp podcast this week, said, “Listening to the field will lead you to the future.” This statement emphasizes the importance of cultural exegesis. Cultural exegesis is paying close attention to the surrounding culture around you and being able to use that to minister wherever God has placed you. 

If you are involved in a Replant or Revitalization of any kind, cultural exegesis will be critical to consider, and there are several tools to help you in that effort.

Here are a few ways to be more intentional about your surrounding context, ranked from least to most important.

Study your demographic

In episodes 86 and 89 of the podcast, Josh Dryer helped us understand demographics’ vital role in your ministry. When I began working with churches at our association, we used a resource called Mission Insite to provide a detailed report of demographics in our area. Using those reports, I created customized demographics for all our churches and began speaking on Sunday evening services, doing a presentation called “Who’s My Neighbor?” 

While “demographics” sounds boring to some people, this presentation helped our churches understand what the most significant ministry needs in their area. Part of cultural exegesis involves thinking missiologically. If you use demographics to pull income information, average age, ethnicity, and family structures, ask yourself, “Does my church look like my community?” Demographics paint a picture with broad strokes to help us recognize how God wants to use our churches most effectively.

Be in your community.

Another way to “Listen to the Field” is by being active in your community. As a Replant or Revitalization pastor, you will do yourself a favor by being as active in the community as possible. Some of the most helpful conversations I have been in have been at the coffee shop, a football game, or a city council meeting. 

Please forgive me for quoting a Johnny Cash song instead of a theological book. Still, in the song “No Earthly Good,” Johnny says, “The gospel ain’t gospel until it is spread, but how can you share it where you’ve got your head; There are hands that reach out for a hand if you would, so heavenly minded, you’re no earthly good.” In the podcast, Bob said, “You can’t exegete your community from your desk.” Don’t forget that as a shepherd, you need to smell like the sheep. Be where your people are, and use your insight from the surrounding community to help you minister to their needs.

Listen to your people.

The best way to learn about your community and surrounding culture is to listen to your people. 

What do they fear? What do they value? What is essential for your church in this community?

After doing a “Who’s My Neighbor” presentation, one of our churches recognized the need to focus outwardly on their low-income neighborhoods. So, they consulted an agency to do food drop-offs and started doing a bi-monthly food giveaway. On the second Saturday of those months, I drive through their town and see cars lined up for miles. With each bag of food, they give away tracts and invitations for people to visit their church. It all started with a pastor asking his congregation, “What do you think are major needs in our community?”

Don’t forget that those congregation members have likely been in your town longer than you and will be there long after you are gone. As they listen to you preach the word, listen to their needs and let them lead their engagement in the community.

Be led by the Holy Spirit.

Mentioned in this episode was Henry Blackaby’s classic work Experiencing God. In the book, Blackaby suggests that we should look around, see where God is at work, and then join him in that work. Blackaby would say that we need to be led by the Spirit if we are seeking to engage our communities where we are. 

The Holy Spirit’s work involves prompting, convicting, and leading. If we are walking by the Spirit, expect to think of prompted ways you can understand and minister to your context. Karl Bart once said we should “Have the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in another.” Use scripture to exegete your culture. One example given was in Acts 6, where there was a need that arose among the apostles. The widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution. The word of God continued to spread when the apostles addressed the need, listened to the people, and met the community’s needs (Acts 6:1-7).

My encouragement to church leaders is that we would not be tone-deaf to the culture but would instead be good students of the culture. While the gospel’s message never changes, ministry opportunities sometimes change around us. If we study the people and listen to them while we are in the community, the Holy Spirit will lead us to minister effectively for the glory of God.

Bivocational Ministry

Bivocational Ministry

In our past two episodes

of the Replant Bootcamp podcast, Jimbo and Bob have been discussing Bivocational Ministry.

Three years of ministry at a local Baptist Association taught me much about what ministry looks like daily. When I began, I started getting to know our pastors. We have young pastors, more “seasoned” pastors, pastors with families, and pastors without. We have pastors with 30 years of experience and some with two years of experience. Only a quarter of our pastors are full-time, vocational, whereas the rest are bi-vocational. 

As common as it is nowadays to meet pastors in full-time, vocational positions, it was rare 100 years ago. Usually, pastors have been marketplace workers, having a ministry on the side while they worked. Due to a lack of finances and people, working a part-time or full-time job on the side of ministry has been the standard practice. Of course, there is no such thing as part-time ministry.

Bivocational or Covocational ministers can sometimes feel overlooked and underappreciated, knowing that full-time ministers are doing similar work for better pay. There will always be a need for bivocational ministers, and some studies have suggested that bivocational is a renewed, everyday occurrence for a pastor trying to make ends meet and help their church succeed.

But before we use this blog to write about some realities of bivocational ministry, let us first consider the definitions of these words since there is no one-size-fits-all position for pastoral ministry.

According to NAMB: 

Vocational: Vocational ministry is a full-time position solely focusing on ministry, generally including salary and benefits.

Bivocational: Bivocational ministry is when a pastor has other employment that helps supplement the salary a church provides.

Covocational: Covocational ministry involves intentionally working in a secular setting to provide oneself the opportunity to minister in that setting. A Covocational pastor is committed to the workplace as a missionary endeavor. While all work is a ministry in some sense, a pastor may do this intentionally for more evangelistic opportunities.

In Acts 20:33-35, the apostle Paul communicated why he worked with his hands to help support the work of ministry. He said, “I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that I worked with my own hands to support myself and those who are with me. In every way I’ve shown you that it is necessary to help the weak by laboring like this and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, because he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” 

This serves as an excellent summary of what bivocational ministry is.

The Realities

Last year, I attended a leadership retreat highlighting Karl Vaters as a keynote speaker. Vaters has written resources about small churches – one of his books being The Grasshopper Myth. Naturally, many of his writings include the topic of bivocational ministry. Writing for Christianity Today, Vaters says, “If I could only teach one vocational principle to young pastors-to-be, it would probably be this: Learn how to pay the bills outside your pastoral salary. You’ll probably need it.”

Some think bivocational ministry is a stepping stone to vocational ministry or that bivocational pastors are “half-pastors.” Nothing could be further from the truth. It is usual for pastors to work bivocationally. It is even more common for a church to provide supplemental income, while a full-time job offers the primary income for a pastor and his family. 

Some recent studies show that bivocational ministry is on an upward trend, and it is becoming a more common practice, especially in churches that cannot afford a full-time salary. Bivocational ministry is not a “less-than” ministry but requires double the sacrifice. Bivocational pastors should be honored for their service, just like any other pastor should.

The Blessings

Just like any other ministry, there are blessings and hardships. The blessings result from hard work, a sacrifice of time, and the unique opportunity to work in the marketplace while serving a church. Bivocational pastors get to see the blessing of working alongside their church members, interacting with their community, and seeing ministry opportunities all around them.

If there is one thing that full-time vocational pastors don’t get to see very much, it’s a regular interaction with lostness all around them. Pastors working in the marketplace can minister to people who will never interact with them. Further, bivocational pastors can set an example for their church members on what it looks like to live on a mission daily in their community.

Perhaps another blessing hidden in disguise is the relief of a financial burden laid upon the churches where they serve. While some churches are doing everything they can to make ends meet to support a full-time salary for a pastor, bivocational pastors can relieve that burden by working jobs for their primary income that helps supplement what a church can provide.

The Hardships

Still, this type of ministry is challenging. Most hardships center around a lack of time. If you factor in a part-time or full-time job, this puts a strain on time in many different areas, whether that be a strain for time with your family, your rest, or even time for sermon preparation.

In an article on churchleaders.com, Dr. James Scott discusses some of these hardships. He speaks about how bivocational ministry often causes emotional duress and spiritual depression. While the same could be said about vocational ministry, it is more likely in a vocational setting due to increased stress or a lack of time.

Leaders must decide whether or not the blessings outweigh the hardships. Whether or not you are in this ministry, know that you are not alone; you are doing great work, and resources and help are available.

No matter where you are or what kind of ministry you do, there is always joy in our calling. Consider these verses from Paul in Philippians 1:3-6: “I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

For more information about bi-vocational ministry, check out these resources:

Helping Small Churches Thrive – https://karlvaters.com/

Bivocational and Small Church Leadership Network – https://www.bscln.net/

The Grasshopper Mythhttps://www.amazon.com/Grasshopper-Myth-Churches-Thinking-Divides/dp/0988443902

Small Church Essentialshttps://www.amazon.com/Small-Church-Essentials-audiobook/dp/B07DKFLCQY/ref=sr_1_1?crid=M604BT2T8SM5&keywords=small+church+essentials&qid=1707750533&s=books&sprefix=small+church+essentials%2Cstripbooks%2C154&sr=1-1