I Choose Christ

This past June, my wife and I, decided that it was time to put our house up for sale. We had many memories made in this house. Both of our children have found friendships in the cul-de-sac that we live in. We have seen our kids learn to walk in this house. It has been a great house to raise our young family in. Our decision to move was based on the fact, we felt God wanted us to be closer to the church that we are pastoring in the town next to us. So we put the house on the market.

This past Saturday, we got a call from our Realtor saying that we had an offer. The next day we met with our Realtor to accept the offer. We were extremely excited. Finally we could begin looking for the home that we believed would be the home that we could build our future on.

One day later, we get a call from our Realtor saying that the buyer did not pass her credit check and that the deal was being terminated. We, as you could imagine, were devastated.

During this whole ordeal I have reminded myself that I am not the master of my domain, God is. The day that I asked God to control my life was the day that I agreed to place my life in His hands. Whatever direction He leads me in, I go. Whatever doors He opens, I accept. Whatever doors He closes, I accept. I gave up what I wanted for my life the day that I surrendered my life over to Him. God is my master.

Just because I think it is my will does not mean it is His will. I believe sometimes God is testing us. I believe He wants to see how far we will go to completely trust Him. When I chose Christ, when I chose to have faith in Him, I chose to forsake all and follow Him.

The disciples chose total surrender. They left everything behind to follow Christ and the direction that He had for their life. I love what Mark 1:16-20 says. It is the scene where Jesus sees Simon and Andrew fishing. Jesus says to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Verse 18 says, “They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Notice how there was no hesitation. This was not a decision that they had to think about.

A little farther down the way, Jesus comes to James and John fishing. Jesus gives them the same option. Verse 20 says, “they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and went after Him. Please understand, this was the family business and they left it all to follow Jesus. They didn’t think twice about it. They didn’t ask their father what he thought. They just left and followed Christ.

They knew there was something different about this man and they had to find out what it was.

When I made the decision to follow Christ I knew there was something different about this man and I wanted to know more about Him.

There may be days when I have disappointments, there may be days when I don’t understand all that He is asking me to do, but I know that He has never led me astray and my life is better for it.

There will be other buyers that come around, I’m sure of it. God has my best interest in mind. If you have chosen to follow Christ, then He has your best interest in mind as well. Don’t settle for second best, settle only for God’s best.

Church Shutdown

Yesterday marked the 16th day of the government shutdown and they finally came to an agreement. Think of all the grief and trouble this shutdown has caused people. People weren’t getting paid, resources were depleted and National Parks were closed. People noticed the government shutdown.

Several years ago, the church was the center of a town or community. All the activities of the town were centered around the activities of the church. Sports practices weren’t held on Wednesday nights because of church services. The church was the focal point of the town. The church was a place that civic meetings were held. It was the polling place for the city. I could go on and on about the role the church played in a community. Today that has changed.

My question today to you is, if your church were to shut down, would the town miss it and the role it plays for your community? How important is your church to your community?

We as the church have to make ourselves relevant again. A church is more than a building that is used for worship services. The church is its people. The church is the relationships that it brings. The church is the place that you find opportunities to seek God and to further the abilities that God has given you. The church is the place that you can grow in life and in your spiritual walk with God.

The community needs the church. Are you giving your town a reason to need you? If you didn’t exist would the town or community you are in miss you? If you can’t answer yes, then you need to fix something. Find out what that something is and fix it.

Acts 2:42-47 gives us a picture of what the church should look like today. It says, “42) And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43) Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44) Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45) and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46) So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47) praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Time

As a small church pastor, time is a subject that all of us can relate to. Many of us feel that our time is pulled in many directions. We have God, our families, duties at church, and if we can squeeze it in, time for ourselves. Time is something that everyone needs, but we don’t have enough of it to go around.

The biggest thing with time is making sure that we spend time in the most appropriate places so that we can get the most important stuff accomplished.

So, how do we do this? Good question. I don’t think any of us have the perfect answer, but maybe there are some things that we can do to keep us on track. Here are my suggestions.

I believe that there are three things that you need to help you stay the course. You need a calendar, notepad to write a to do list down, and some form of communication device.

Now if you are like me, you don’t have the luxury of having a full time staff member to work with you, so you have to depend on volunteers to help with the ministry and it may require you to get supplies for them or even take on an extra role at the church.

Probably most of us have cleaned the church, been the youth pastor or asked our wives to volunteer as the children’s pastor at some point while our church was small. Maybe you are doing that right now.

The three items I listed will help you with your time management skills.

A calendar – I have used a paper calendar for years. I am slowly moving to the digital age with this one. I keep my Google calendar updated along side my paper calendar. My Google calendar updates to my phone so that my personal dates and church dates are on there. This, I believe, is a must.

Notebook for a to do list – I have purchased a set of notebooks that have “do it now” on the left column and “do it later” on the right column and a place to check it off. Personally, I like checking stuff off. It helps me to keep up with what I am doing.

Electronic Communication Device – I use email always. If one of my volunteer team members wants to give me something, I tell them to send me a text or email. That way I have it with me at all times no matter where I am. My phone is with me always. If I were to write something down on a piece of paper, I would loose it. I also use a laptop in the office and at home. I also have found that using a cloud service lets me have access to my important files everywhere I go. I use Google Drive.

As a small church pastor it is important that we stay on top of everything that we have to do. Make sure that you schedule time with your wife and kids above everything else.

If we learn to manage time better, then that will help us make the church better.

Don’t Quit!

If you are reading this and you are a pastor of any church I am sure that many of you at some time or another has woke up on Monday morning and wanted to turn in your resignation because of how bad you thought Sunday went.

If you are pastoring a small church of 200 or less and you have awaken on Monday morning then I know that you have felt like turning in your resignation on Monday morning. Just about any pastor has felt this way at one time or another.

The sad thing is too many pastors turn in their resignation too early. The truth is, it isn’t God’s timing, but because they are discouraged that things aren’t going the way they think it should, they decide to quit and God is just getting started with something great that is happening in their church.

I believe one of the reasons that small churches stay small is because there is no stability in leadership. The church has gone from pastor to pastor and never has a chance to do something great because the leadership won’t stick it out.

I heard a statistic that said the average stay of a small church pastor is 3 1/2 years. This is just not long enough. I believe that my congregation did not fully accept me as pastor until my 3 1/2 year mark. Pastors we have to give it time and don’t quit.

Just because your church isn’t running as many as you want it to at first does not mean that you are not successful. Just because you still feel that you are in the former pastor’s shadow does not mean that the people don’t love you. Just because the only mouth at church you are hearing is the one that barks the loudest does not mean that all the people feel the same as that person. God has placed you there for a reason and you need to stay until that reason is fulfilled. Don’t Quit!

Now I know that God truly calls some people to a particular church for a short season, but I believe that many pastors that leave after 2 or 3 years in a church are leaving prematurely.

We as pastors love to preach messages on Isaiah 40:31, but when it comes to us we get impatient waiting on God. Let me encourage you, don’t quit, God isn’t finished with you yet.

Before you surf on to any other site, please be encouraged by a video that I am sure many of you have seen. It’s from the movie Facing the Giants. It is found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fOXgn98t0Q

Why Better Before Bigger?

If you are reading this maybe you are asking, why better before bigger? Well, I will tell you. When I first started pastoring I always thought that i had to keep up with all the other churches and if I wasn’t running a hundred people by the end of my first year, then I wasn’t successful. That thought is completely false. We are successful by being the absolute best church that we can possibly be. We are God’s church and God’s church deserves the best of what we can possibly get. If we take care of what we currently have then God will allow us to grow and thrive, but first we must be healthy.

I recently heard Andy Stanley tell a story on his podcast to leaders about Truett Cathy, owner and founder of Chick-fil-a. Chick-fil-a was having a meeting of all the executives and they were trying to figure out how to become bigger faster. During all the conversation, Truett Cathy sat quietly listening at the end of the table and finally he had had enough and started banging his fist on the table. Truett Cathy made a statement that has made an impact on my life. He said, “Stop talking about getting bigger faster.” Then he continued saying, “If we will get better, then our customers will demand that we will get bigger.

This statement is true for the church today. If we will get better at what we do right, then the people will demand that we get bigger. What are you focusing on in your ministry. Are you trying to make everything that you do in ministry better or are you just worried about how big your congregation will be.

God demands our best and we should give Him our best. Don’t allow the hype of the mega-church get your priorities off course. God has a plan for you and your church and you need to stick to that plan even if it means that you will grow slower than what you had planned. God’s plan is the best plan, figure out what that plan is and get better at it.

Where to Start

First of all, let me begin by telling you why I decided to write this. I believe that I have learned many things already during the 5 years of pastoring the small church that I pastor in Arkansas. I want to share my struggles and successes and hopefully I can help other pastors of small churches. I don’t claim to know everything about pastoring a small church but I have experienced many things.
Since this is my first entry, I want to give you a brief background of where I am coming from. I began pastoring the church I am at almost five years ago. This was my first pastorate. My previous ministry experience was mostly as a youth pastor. Before taking this pastorate I had been out of full time ministry for 7 1/2 years. Needless to say my church took a chance on hiring a guy with no senior pastor experience. My wife and I say that our congregation is good to us because they let us practice on them.
During the past five years that we have been here we have experienced both highs and lows, but I know that God is in it because He has brought us through many obstacles.
One of the biggest hurdles that we had to overcome was financial. When I took the church it was in debt to the tune of $200,000. Now this may not seem like a lot to some of you, but the congregation was only running 35 on a good day. The church was in its 35th year and still paying the original church mortgage. Each time that the church would refinance they would take out more money and never paid off the debt. Today, I am proud to say that in 5 or less years we should be debt free.
When I came to this church, I was the fourth pastor in five years. As you can image, even though the congregation was excited to have a new pastor, they were anticipating that I wouldn’t stay long. Who could blame them with the track record of the past.
So now, here I am almost five years later at this wonderful church and we have come a long way. Our finances are up. The congregation is adding new faces every week. Our Missions giving is up. And the church is healthier than it has been in a long time.
In this blog I am hoping to share with you some of my victories and disappointments in hopes that it will help other small church pastors out there who are just starting or looking for a fresh start.
Thanks for reading and I hope that you will find this to be helpful.