1. Overview. What was it like when I came?
When I came to pastor First Baptist Church Lyons, Georgia, the county seat town with a population of 3700, it was like starting over in ministry . I had been a pastor of 5 churches. The First Baptist congregation had just experienced a split where 40-50% of the congregation left over the issue of innerrancy of scripture and dissagreement about what kind of building to build. At the first deacon’s meeting I asked the 12 deacons present to date the church. I was not asking how old the church was. The issue I raised was concerning methodology. I asked them to raise their hands when I called out a date that they felt represented where the church as it related to methods of doing ministry. Beginning at 1950, 6 deacons raised their hands. Not one of the 12 went beyond 1970. The year was 2003 and not one deacon could testify of methods of ministry changing since 1970.
Shortly afterward I read in a church newsletter article written by the previous worship leader that the church is a place to be quiet, no clapping, or such but reverence is the watchword. My daughter visited one Sunday from out of town and asked her Mother as they left church what was wrong in there. Worship was cold, evangelism was practically non existent, Sunday School had been dead in the water for years, baptisms we few and far between, and no new churches had been started for years. Missions was discussed at WMU meetings and offerings were taken but almost no personalization of missions was happening. On top of that there were 2 law suits pending, waiting for me to deal with, and a 1.3 million building project about to begin with only 125 members attending Sunday School.
What is happening now?
8 years later we have baptized over 200 people, gone to dual services and Sunday Schools, totally reorganized our Sunday School, started multiple new Sunday School classes, built 2 new education facilities and a 400 seat fellowship/worship building, sponsored 6 new church plants, taken over 100 people on short term mission trips, we have practically become and Acts 1:8 congregation, and increased our mission given from $35,000 to over $250,000.
The first victories were very spiritual in nature but garnered me a lot of initial respect as the pastor of the congregation.
The victories were concerning legal matters that the Church had to deal with. The first was concerning a recent, but former member, who had filed a lawsuit against the church requesting that money he had given to the building fund be transferred to the new church started by him and the 80 members who had left. Without going into details concerning the process suffice it to say that I led the deacons to follow the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 18 to reconcile the relationship and by the grace of God it worked, and the lawsuit was withdrawn.
The second lawsuit was concerning a former financial secretary who had embezzled a large sum of money. We also followed Matthew 18 to deal with this, the money was repaid, the peason repented before our congregation and submitted to counsel and was fully redeemed.
Other victories had to do with going to dual services and Sunday Schools. Breaking the 200, 300 and 400 barriers in Sunday School.Totally reorganizing the Sunday School structure and philosophy to a Arthur Flake approach. Installing projectors to assist in worship. Starting a service that targeted the younger generation by using 21st century tunes and style with solidly biblical lyrics.
Another great victory was paying off 3.5 million dollars worth of buildings while at the same time continously increasing our mission and ministry budget year by year.
Also adding 3 new fulltime staff members.
I my opinion the failure of not being able to take everybody with us when we changed our methods. This happened because some just could not make the emotional adjustments. I loved these people then and I love them now but to reach the 21st century generation we had to make the decisions and we did.
I have learned that most of the time a patient process works better than a hurried process and particularly with people above 50 years of age. Change is hard but loving communication and God’s wisdom in relationships can, in time, work things out.
I have also learned that if I can influence influencers I have accomplished much as a leader.
5. What do pastors need to know?
Pastors need to know that life is about relationships. There are two types of relationships, vertical(God/man) and horizontal(man/man). Relationships are setups for conflict but conflicts are setups for us to grow spiritually. Learning to process conflict in a biblical/redemptive way is essential to being a pastor. The church members are not your enemies to endure, they are your spiritual family and comrades in the faith, that God has placed into your life to work with to build His church and His kingdom.
Love them, teach them how to live biblically, serve them, forgive them, and lead them to a greater intimacy with Jesus and they will follow you in building His church and His kingdom. What I am telling you I have done multiple times in churches as small 10 attending members to as many as 2,000. The size of the church is of no consequence but the leadership methods of the Pastor make all the difference.
You can grow your church, your Sunday School, your people, and God’s kinddom but you will not succeed if you do not keep growing spiritually yourself.