I (Jeff) talked with an old college buddy today. It was soooo good! We were in the same dorm on campus a mere 30 years ago. When I got married, he was pastoring a small church near our campus, so my wife and I attended there. I had no idea I would be the pastor of that church within months.
My friend decided it was time to move to a different ministry. We were just college students, and he was graduated, so – time to go! After he left they asked me to take over for a while. Yeah. For three years! It was a small church. The smallest crowd I had was two people… plus me. The largest? Fifty! The lowest of lows and the highest of highs – ah, the memories!
Since then, my friend has served in at least four churches, two as senior pastor. He took a church of 150 to 500, but then experienced an ending that was not happy. No sin, just one of those ministry stories that ends tough.
I talked with another pastor the other day who planted a church and “grew it” to over 300. Today it’s at 100 and he wonders how he should feel about it all.
Another pastor I recently visited with said 100 in attendance would be pushing the walls out! Jonny and I are happy to be pushing up past 200 in our church these days, but not consistently. Of course, our church is a special situation. (aren’t they all??)
Are you crazy yet? Or have blogs like ours and NewSmallChurch.com encouraged you to think that maybe you are just alright after all? I think I’m not crazy anymore, no longer like the walking dead, fixated on a number and staggering mindlessly toward it. I think I’m learning how to just love God and love my people. I love my wife and kids too, and in moments of weakness, I even feel some semblance of fondness for Jonny.
Soon on the podcast, we will be joined by Karl “The Shark” Vaters from NewSmallChurch.com. We’ll be talking with him about the subject of his second Essential post titled “Your Church IS Big Enough.” That's an obnoxious title, right?
I mean, if there is one person in your community without Christ, then your church ISN’T big enough, right? Well, here I think is a perfect time to decide what the word “is” is. Really now. Today your church IS big enough. Tomorrow, if a person is seeking God and attends your church for the first time, it’s STILL big enough!
Now I’m confused. So – I’m looking forward to talking with Karl and Jonny about this soon. We’ll be looking to drill down on this a little. I’m looking for some perspective that goes deeper than the title, but something that we all need to hear and learn. Because even though we think we’re okay, we must always remind ourselves whose church it is, who we are, and why in the world we are even doing this thing called “pastoring”. Were we crazy or what signing up for this life?!
Hey, have a phenomenal weekend! And please, I will if you will – on purpose, intentionally, and with firm resolve – LOVE your people. They need you pastor, that’s why God gave you to them. Now LOVE them with all your heart. Be extra nice to them this weekend. Stop to say hi, give a touch, and a sincere smile. Or, maybe just STOP. BE with them. Hey, we get to do this – we will all have people to teach, encourage, challenge, and love this weekend. Let's go for it!
Here we go BaBeeee! Dan "The Enforcer" Reiland joins us for the first time in 2014! We talk about six powerful words for small churches that will challenge and stretch your thinking about your 200church. We also want to say to you - Go for it in 2014! Your church can make significant Kingdom impact in your community, no matter its size!
You can find the Pastor's Coach post, written by Dan, called "Big Ministry In Small Churches" that this episode is based on... RIGHT HERE. Sign up for The Pastor's Coach, with Dan Reiland, RIGHT HERE.
Here are the six words that the guys talk about on this podcast:
Wow. Don’t you hate it when something you preach on preaches right back at you?! That happened this weekend. Wanna hear about it? I’ll tell ya anyway…
By November of 2013, our offerings were running behind budget by a fair amount. What do you do as a pastor? Worry? Fret? Fear? Question? Brood? Second guess? Scheme? Yes! I do all of the above. If you’re like me, you could pick out a couple on this list to join me in. I think that you’re like me.
In December of last year (seven weeks ago), our congregation took a special offering and brought us clear back into the black, and into a better position than we were a year ago. I felt as though I had lived through a near-death experience.
So starting 2014, I unconsciously assumed a posture of fear and dread. Will this happen all over again? Will our offerings support our budget? Will I be able to pay staff all year? What if? What then? Oh dear… Yeah, full of faith, aren’t I?!
Here’s where the AHA! moment comes in. We are preaching in Hosea. Yes, Hosea, and it actually challenged me directly. We defined four areas of sin that Hosea said the Israelites were guilty of, and one of those areas was this:
Pursued foreign gods/powers for protection and provision.
Israel forgot that it was God who gave them what they needed. They called out to their lovers, went to the great king, called to Egypt and turned to Assyria. They did not trust in the LORD their God to take care of them, or to provide for their needs! Instead, they adulterated after other gods.
When I saw this fact about the Israelites, I realized I was being just like them. Who or what was I looking to as the source of what we need? Who or what was going to source us? From what source would our provision come? The answer is God, and I needed to both realize it, and affirm it in my heart.
“This is your church God, and I trust you to supply what we need here for this budget year. I will not go after “other lovers” or trust in man – my hope is in you!”
Are you experiencing budget troubles in your church? Do you trust yourself to scheme and dream, robbing Peter to pay Paul? If your hope is in anyone or anything but God and God alone, you may be guilty of the Israelites’ sins in Hosea’s day. Turn to God in full trust, confidence, and dependence! He can be trusted.
Don’t miss what God wants to show you, that he loves you and will provide in his way and timing. Don’t turn to foreign gods or powers; turn to Jesus, he is your source. Trust God for what your church needs, he can be trusted!
p.s. This Wednesday we are joined by Dan Reiland, The Pastor's Coach on the 200churches Podcast!
This past week Jonny and I spent more than ten hours working together on a message from the book of Hosea. We studied, researched, cussed and discussed, turned over every exegetical rock, and brainstormed homiletical approaches to Sunday morning.
It’s an amazing experience when you study with others who are likeminded in their love for God and his Word. You actually accomplish more together, you know, that exponential discovery that neither of you could do on your own? So we studied.
We read through the fourteen chapters together out loud three times, and categorized the content. Only when we had dissected the passage with vigor did we go after the commentaries. But, yes, we did check the commentaries. J We then put together a message plan, replete with eighteen message slides to augment the message.
We also cross-referenced the contents of Hosea with other biblical passages, and tried to understand the Bible from Genesis 12 with God’s covenant with Abraham to the book of Hebrews where the Law is declared “obsolete”, and even Revelation 19 and the great battle.
Galatians 3 was turned over as well as Romans 9,10, & 11. Again, we left no stone unturned. We understood the book backwards and forwards, and even knew the wonder of the oath and promise that begins with Isaac and culminates with Christ.
BUT – there was one thing, when we were finished, when it was all said and done and practiced, that we did not know. This one thing was bugging me. I knew we needed to nail it down before we could step onto the platform. That one thing was… the BIG IDEA! Some call it a proposition, and Andy Stanley calls it “the phrase that pays.”
I said to Jonny, “what’s the big idea?!” Well, we had figured out way better and much more than the big idea – we knew the whole idea, the entire thrust of the book and the Bible, for that matter. But we had not nailed down the big idea. So we entered my office one last time, to find that elusive big idea. It had to be there somewhere.
Guess what?! It was. There it was, sitting right in my office.
Once we started to talk, brainstorm, and ask God to help us, it jumped right up into our conversation. Yup. That crazy big idea just appeared, and like a bright red bow, it completed this gift of a message and calmed my homiletical heart.
We found it. All would be right on Sunday morning. It was the question, the challenge, that we would pose to the congregation. Nice.
So you’re preaching this weekend, right? Well?
What’s the big idea? If you haven’t found it yet, there’s still time.
I think you need a bow for that gift!
Next week's podcast features Dan Reiland with Six Words for Small Churches!
In Episode 54 we talk about being wired in certain ways for ministry. We unpack three areas of “wiring”:
We talk about the difficulty we had in creating this particular episode. We had a very busy week, filled with unexpected events, and did not have much time to invest in preparation.
We do not say this on the podcast, so we will say it now – we were able to navigate the past week because we have been preparing well and praying much. We had already committed our weekend plan to God, and had spent a lot of time preparing well for the weekend of ministry. Most of it did not go according to our plans, but we knew that God was answering our prayers for the weekend in his own way, so it was easy to roll with his punches!
We think that all of life should be preparation for ministry, and that if we are walking close to the LORD, he will accomplish his will in us and through us, even if it doesn’t look like our plans.
So this episode is for YOU! We hope that you are encouraged and challenged by two guys who are doing what you’re doing – ministry in a 200church. We aren’t perfect, but we depend on the God of the universe – so we’re covered, and so are you!
As you listen to this episode, it might sound like we are questioning your call to your church, that we are saying to leave your church if you are not a fit, if you're not wired for it. No, No, No. We want to send the message that long term pastorates are the best for churches. BUT...
If you find that in all three areas that we talk about, you are dramatically wired differently, and not for your current context - then you should seriously question whether or not you might better serve the Kingdom in a different ministry location. That transition might take a month or two years, God can handle it.
If you are just wired differently in only one of the areas, and it's just a moderate difference, then you just need to consider how you might mitigate the difficulties in that area. Perhaps you need to get advice or counsel on how to handle that area in your context/culture. This is likely simply an opportunity for growth.
If you are dying on the vine - get help, get counsel, get advice, and if you need to - get out! So, that is your PASTORAL WARNING as you prepare to listen to this episode. We think after all the bluster... you'll like it! :)
We also mentioned resources, websites, and people. So… here are links to resources we mentioned in Episode 54:
Dave Jackson’s School of Podcasting site/podcast
John Lee Dumas – Entrepreneur on Fire site/podcast
Dan Reiland – Regular Guest on 200churches Podcast
Karl Vaters – Regular Guest on 200churches Podcast
Dave Jacobs – Pastor Coach & Regular 200churches Guest
Expository Preaching – Haddon Robinson
Communicating For A Change – Andy Stanley
When I was 17 years old, I got both my driver’s license and a car. My mother bought a new car, and gave me her old one. I was the proud recipient of a 1973, mint green, Chevy Impala 9-Passenger Station Wagon. It was a kid-cruiser, a grocery-getter. And it also took a four-lane highway to do a U-turn… unless that turn was on solid ice.
My next car was a German Opel. It was small. I could get into, and out of, the smallest of parking spaces, and I could do a U-turn on a sidewalk. Well, almost. I found out that when it comes to cars, the smaller the car, the easier and quicker the turns. For the record, I’ve never owned, driven, or even seen – a Lamborghini!
What’s true for cars is also true for churches. The smaller the church, the easier and quicker the turns. If you pastor a small church, you are able to change things quickly, often on the fly. That is a perk every small church pastor should enjoy, and utilize.
It happened to me, and for me, this morning. Jonny and I spent a fair amount of energy preparing a tag team message for this weekend. We invested prayer, discussion, debate, a short shouting match, and much study into this message. We achieved some serious spiritual and emotional focus. We practiced it on Saturday night, and went home prepared, and excited, having asked God to do his work on Sunday morning, the work we could not do.
On Sunday morning I taught a Membership Class with 15 people from 8:30 – 10:00am. Our service starts at 10:30. At 9:55am, as I was landing the “Membership Class plane”, Jonny walked in and whispered in my ear, “we’re headed to Sioux Falls.” That meant he was leaving right then, at the last minute, to tend to an emergency situation. He quickly turned and walked out, waiting for no reply from me. He didn’t need one. He would not be with me to give the message.
Could I do it myself? I sure could. No problem. But we had a special guest with us this weekend. He had spoken to some adult classes in the auditorium during the 9:00 Sunday School hour. He was phenomenal. “God, are you giving me an opportunity here?” I wondered if God was allowing this guest and me to, last minute, tag team the morning service together?
At 10:20 I met with this man, Eric, in my office – ten minutes, mind you, before the service would start. He agreed with me that the Holy Spirit was leading us to do the service together. He was so ready in his heart to share with our people in this "moment". Our prepared message would wait another week. Eric and I were on!
After talking with the morning service coordinator at 10:25, Eric and I spent five minutes in prayer, asking God to use this service to minister to the people who were there. There were just over 200 people in the service this weekend – hence, our “200church.” J
Eric shared passionately about his commitment to orphan care in Nigeria, his native country. He talked about what God was doing through his orphanage there, the Cornerstone of Hope. I played a somewhat cameo role, but was able to tie in his passion with the theme of our current series. It was a fantastic service.
Truthfully, I left a lot of details about this weekend out of this blog post. It was really an amazing weekend, in both good, and difficult ways. But throughout Sunday morning I was so aware of God directing us, and the size of our church helping us pull off some necessary and wonderful last minute changes. In a 1973 Family Wagon Church, I would never have been able to pull off changing the service in literally five minutes, but in my Lamborghini Church it was not only possible, but fun!
In our 200churches, we can do this. It is a pleasure and a privilege. I enjoyed it and am thankful for it. We pulled it off, and people were blessed.
HOW ABOUT YOU?
Pastor, are you thankful, or resentful, for your small church? You can focus on the positives, or the negatives. Choose to focus on the positives – the benefits, the opportunities, and the blessings of small church ministry. When you do that, you will BLESS your people!
Your Lamborghini church is making a difference in the Kingdom of God!
This week we have tackled the topic of the pastor's soul care. And, this week, I (Jeff) have experienced the proverbial "death by a thousand paper cuts" in regards to my ministry soul. More than a dozen comments and conversations that, by themselves, would be fairly benign, have all landed in this week, and bundled together have dragged my soul down and caused my ministry enthusiasm and passion to wane.
I realized this was happening today, and I consciously determined I should figure out what to do about it. How could I restore my soul to a place of energy and passion in my pursuit of shepherding the flock - loving, leading, and teaching the people in my church? I realized tonight that I used 5 ways to nurture my pastoral soul:
1. I talked about it. This morning I had a significant conversation with my wife. After that, but just prior to Jonny and I having our final major prep session for our Sunday message, I shared my thoughts with him. It worked. My thoughts did disentangle themselves as they passed through my lips. My wife and my associate helped me to make sense of them as well. I was not crazy alone, I had two others join me!
2. I prayed about it. Talking to God allowed me to have some perspective on those "thousand paper cuts." Prayer reminds me who I am serving, who I am loving, who is helping and empowering me in ministry, and that I really should never rely on my own abilities or strengths - but his.
3. I disconnected those dozen comments/conversations. When all clumped together, they seem formidable and ugly, like a pack of wild dogs intent on taking me down. But when I mentally disconnect them, separate them, and put them into perspective, they lose their power. It's not as bad as I thought it was. His comment was hardly so caustic, her email not as biting.
4. I remembered why I was in ministry in the first place. God called me. He wired me for this. He promised to always walk with me through ministry. He pulled me out of an unlikely upbringing, and set my path on serving others, loving God, and giving my life for the Gospel. Sometimes you just have to live the "good news" in the form of patience, long-suffering, humility, and even just being willing to be dumped on now and then. God called me to love people and share truth. Oh yeah, that is why I'm in ministry. It's good to just remind yourself once in a while...
5. This may sound old-fashioned, but I consciously counted my blessings. I have so much to be thankful for, and when I focus on those things more than my "thousand paper cuts" of critical comments and conversations, my attitude changes and my soul is refreshed. In fact, I have EVERYTHING to live for, give thanks for, and get moving for. The question for me is - what am I going to focus on, some critical comments and conversations, or the really important stuff of life?
So those are the five things I did to nurture my ministry soul back to vibrancy today. I talked about it, prayed about it, tried to put things in perspective, reminded myself of God's calling on my life, and specifically counted my blessings.
How are YOU doing Pastor? Jonny and I hope you are doing well. We hope that you are being reminded again this week that your pastoral SOUL is so important - it's YOU. It's who you are on the inside. It's that beautiful person that God made you to be, to care for his wonderful, precious sheep that he's herded over to your pen for protection and provision.
Your soul is the reservoir, the repository, of your ministry energy, pastoral care giving, and preaching/teaching content. Feed it, nurture it, and prioritize it. Take time to sit in wonder of God. Allow him to love you and enthuse you with his grace and power. May your soul bask in the sunlight of the Spirit, and be filled to overflowing with the love and heart of Jesus.
Pastor - for this weekend, leave all your talents, gifts, and abilities at home. Go and preach and teach in the power of the Holy Spirit, the heart of Jesus, and the love of the Father. See what God is going to do through you in the lives of your congregation. No matter the size of your church - YOU and YOUR PEOPLE matter huge in the Kingdom of God!
In 2014 we are partnering with three ministry leaders who are going to join us once a month on the podcast. One year ago this week, when we recorded our first podcast episode (which by the way, never actually got recorded, since we did not have a memory card in the mp3 recorder! LOL) we had no idea how many fantastic people we would get to know, let alone have the pleasure of partnering with!
One of those partners is with us on this week's podcast - Dave Jacobs, from SmallChurchPastor.com. Dave coaches pastors and church boards toward optimal ministry health. He is not just a pastor's coach, but a huge cheerleader of pastors. The biggest problem with Dave Jacobs is that there is only one of him - other than that, he is a great guy and huge builder of pastors.
On this, Episode 53, we talk about what we think is the absolute #1 priority of every small church pastor on the planet. This priority is essential if we are going to both survive ministry and be effective at it. We believe that the health of our souls is the #1 priority for us in ministry. The soul health of a pastor is his or her single greatest source of ministry passion, power, and energy. If your soul is sick or weak, you will not be able to shepherd, feed, and lead in a manner that your people need you to. How's your soul Pastor? Really?
We are calling Dave's segment "In the Locker Room" because Dave, for a living, coaches small church pastors. We are the players, he is the coach, and he wants all of us 200church pastors to WIN! So, when you listen to this episode, think of yourself as being "in the Locker Room" with Coach Jacobs. Then take his coaching out onto the court - and put the ball through the hoop!
We are also excited that Dave is writing a book. It's not finished yet. The title will be something along the lines of: A Mile Wide and an Inch Deep - Soul Care for Busy Pastors. We think that this book is so needed by all of us pastors. As we always say, pastors can never get too much encouragement. That's why we started 200churches. We want to encourage and support - build up and inspire, pastors of small churches... 200churches.
While his book is in process, Dave has a number of very moderately priced resources for pastors and church boards. Check them out here. Maybe it's time to focus on one of these areas and resources in your church ministry in 2014?
So enjoy this episode with Coach Jacobs! Find Dave at SmallChurchPastor.com and at his blog, DaveJacobs.net. God bless you as you love and lead your people. Never forget: your ministry in your 200church, no matter the size, is impacting the Kingdom of God!
This week on the podcast, episode 52, I (Jeff) said: “Most people are not willing to experience the number of failures necessary to achieve success.” That is true. No real success comes without failure. The bigger the success, the more failures will be necessary to achieve it.
It is said that Thomas Edison was asked, when trying to invent the light bulb, if he thought himself a failure because he had not achieved it yet. Edison simply replied negatively, and said that he now knew over 9,000 different substances that would not work as a filament. After trying more than 10,000 substances, he finally lit upon (no pun intended) the right one, and the rest is history.
Are YOU willing to experience the number of failures necessary for YOU to achieve success? Don’t give up. And, if you must, don’t give up too quickly! In Edison’s case, many failures made light work!
On this week’s podcast we talked about failure, and how we are learning to embrace it as a necessary step toward success. Today I want to encourage you, as a small church pastor, to not give up too quickly. In other words, do not concede failure until absolutely necessary!
Eight years ago I conceded failure on a ministry team much too quickly. I was leading a “Vision Team” to determine what the vision of our church would be for the coming years. We had spent several months and finally came up with a vision statement, membership class material to teach it, and posters, icons, and artwork to communicate it.
Our Vision Team of eight people then met with both of our church boards plus a few extra leaders, about twenty-five people in all, to share what we had accomplished. Almost out of the gate one of the people began to question even the need for what we had done. Then one more voiced his opposition to the artwork and logos, saying he thought the primary colors too juvenile. I unwisely allowed these two people to tank the presentation.
Inwardly I conceded failure almost immediately. Seeing no way to bridge the gap between these two vocal people, the silence of the others, and the disappointment of the Vision Team, I began to fall back into a defensive position, then into a pattern of retreat.
Just a few questions of concern and statements of opposition brought all our work to a halt. I shelved the material for a year, and then quietly began to use the membership material and talk about the vision statement. But it took another six years before we realized that the vision statement we had crafted had actually become reality in our church. Not because we promoted and sold it, but because we all actually just believed it and lived it – it became the reality in our church.
But, the Vision Team lost steam in less than a year, and stopped meeting altogether. What more could we have done together, achieved together, if I had not conceded so quickly and called it a failure? We will never know. I failed by conceding failure when I likely did not need to do so.
You might be wondering - what was that vision statement we crafted? It was this: AUTHENTIC RELATIONSHIPS WITH GOD & OTHERS 24/7. That is the reality of our church today. We are living those authentic relationships, first with God, and then with each other, and not just on Sunday, but seven days a week.
We live and we learn, right? Or, as John Maxwell wrote, “sometimes you win, sometimes you lo… learn!” Well I learned. And I am better for it.
Here are six things I learned from that experience:
1. Commit your work to the LORD, and ask him for help in your ministry plans.
2. Be prepared to receive opposition to anything significant that you propose.
3. Expect to have to answer a lot of questions, so anticipate those questions.
4. Write down those questions and the answers you will give.
5. Believe in yourself and your ideas.
6. Believe in your team and the results of your hard work and planning.
What are you working on right now? What will you propose to your leadership team or board in the coming weeks or months? If it’s worth doing, it’s worth turning over every stone and not conceding failure until it is absolutely clear that you must. And then when you do fail, learn from it, claim victory, and say “I am one failure closer to success!”
Again, welcome to 2014 and the second year of the 200churches Podcast. Can we say it?? We've learned so much from sharing this podcast with you! We have grown in our appreciation and understanding of what it means to be pastors of a 200church.
We had no idea the people we would get to know - YOU! You all have enriched our lives and grown us as pastors, friends, and leaders. We hope to continue building you up as pastors and shepherds of small churches, pastors who are often forgotten and undervalued as you serve in smaller ministries loving and shepherding God's people.
In today's Episode 52, we share with you three lessons we are learning as we enter the new year. These three lessons are basic, so basic that we often overlook or forget them. If you lean into these lessons with us, your leadership in your 200church will grow and your church's health will improve. We are going to give you the outline to this episode, and then provide you the links to the resources we reference at the bottom of this post.
TODAY'S EPISODE OUTLINE:
We are focusing on three lessons to lean into as we start 2014. They are -
1. Getting over our fear of failure. Most people are unwilling to experience the number of failures necessary for success. If we do not try, we will never fail, and for some of us, that's our strategy for success - to never fail. Unfortunately, if we never try, and never fail, we will also never succeed. Is your church small because it has simply reached its Kingdom potential, or, is your church small because you're afraid to fail. Just a thought...
-from a human perspective, even Jesus' projects failed - Judas betrayed him, the disciples forsook him, and he was killed on a cross. Perhaps we need a different perspective on failure. Sometimes a failure can accomplish God's will - you think?
2. Prayer. We need God. Our dependence on God is revealed through our time of prayer and communion with Him. How are you doing spending time with your Father, your Savior, and your Comforter?
3. FOCUS on the people you have. This point is, as they say, worth the admission price! You just have to hear what we say about this...
Two great books about handling failure:
Failing Forward by John C Maxwell **Phenomenal Kindle price of $2.99 at the time of this post!!
Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Lo... Learn! by John C. Maxwell
Pictures of the books at the bottom of this post are also links to purchase them on Amazon - we are not affiliates and get no kick-back. They are simply GREAT books!
Please give us your input:
Please email either Jeff or Jonny and share with them a topic you think would be good for us to discuss. Also, feel free to share a person you think we should have on as a guest. Our goal is to provide guests and content that encourage and equip you as small church pastors. We have some exciting guests lined up in the coming months.
Jeff and Jonny have a little friendly competition going as for who will receive the most emails. You can email either one of them with your suggestions, their email links are below:
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