Recently I took a short road trip to visit with several central Arkansas pastors. As I visited with different leaders, I couldn’t help thinking about how beneficial their experiences could be to other congregations. Let me share a few examples:
Some of the most powerful works of God in Scripture have been born out of difficult circumstances. Pain and suffering do not mean we “take a break” from ministry, but instead, pain and suffering mean we trust God to use our experiences for the purpose of increasing our ministry. There is a huge difference between these two perspectives.
Oak Park Baptist Church in Little Rock, AR is an example of how an entire congregation should embrace God’s plan in the midst of suffering –even when the plan is not clear.
In early 2013, the church lost pastor David Harris in a tragic automobile accident. Harris had served the church for over 30 years.
I had the opportunity to visit with associate pastor, Jeff Herring. Jeff explained that the church is still healing, but the healing is not hindering their ministry. In fact, the church recently began a new Wednesday evening meal for the purpose of building stronger relationships among the congregation. I can’t help but believe the increased unity and love they are experiencing from these meals is one of many ways God is using the loss of their pastor for Kingdom purposes. And, who know, perhaps in the future, Oak Park will become a resource center for other congregations who experience loss? There’s no doubt that God is moving in their midst and “working all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
It was also a joy to meet Brian Shepherd, pastor of Park View Baptist Church in North Little Rock. Brian is a licensed family and marriage therapist and I enjoyed hearing about his experiences of helping people through the ministry of counseling. He also expressed a heart to help pastors in need of a listening ear.
During our visit, I was encouraged to hear about the deacons of Park View. Brian explained that they have a heart to serve the congregation. Hearing about this great group of men in his church reminded me of the importance of godly deacons who unselfishly give of their time and talents to serve others. May God bless all churches with such a group of deacons!
Next, I met with James Raines, pastor of Lynch View Baptist Church in North Little Rock, AR. In his mid-70’s, brother Raines is leading his church with passion and vision. Under his leadership, the congregation has recently opened a satellite campus in an effort to expand their reach.
As I visited with brother Raines, two key themes emerged from his ministry: 1) longevity and 2) delegation.
I think every pastor needs to consider brother Raines’ example in these two areas. His longevity is marked by over twenty years of ministry in the same church. Can you imagine the trust that the congregation has in their pastor? His faithfulness speaks volumes about his commitment to the people at Lynch View Baptist.
That trust, however, is mutual. Not only does the congregation trust him, but he trusts the congregation. I loved hearing brother Raines describe the various committees of their church. While many pastors “micromanage” committees, brother Raines prefers to let his leaders run with a vision. For example, one committee in their church created a program in which the entire congregation read through the Bible one chapter a day for two-and-a-half years. Brother Raines coordinated his messages each Sunday to cover one of the passages that the congregation read during the previous week. Periodically, the church gave away study Bibles to members who were keeping up with their readings. What a great idea!
Another committee at Lynch View developed a program to provide school supplies at a local elementary school each year. The same committee also develops outreach efforts like Valentine’s Day gifts for shut-ins.
Pastors, if you are facing “burn out” in your ministry, consider giving brother Raines a call. I think you would find a wonderful resource to help you re-think your leadership style and experience a new passion for your ministry –the kind of passion that lasts into your 70’s!
Recently, Oasis sent out a church-planting team to Nixa Missouri. They also support church plants and mission efforts around the world.
Todd has a heart for other pastors and spends countless hours visiting with them. I was interested in Todd’s approach to these relationships. He explained to me that he never tries to tell another pastor how to lead their church or how to be more like Oasis Church. Instead, he simply tries to help them ask the right questions and think through their issues with objectivity and wisdom. Todd shared how every pastor has a tendency to get so deep into their work, that they miss the forest for the trees. Usually, according to Todd, pastors just need someone to talk to who can help them look at situations from a different perspective. By no means does Todd presume to be a guru or expert. In fact, Todd has someone coaching him.
Visiting with Todd reminded me of the how much we all need each other. Pastors, in particular, need other pastors for encouragement, fellowship, and counsel. If I were still pastoring, I would certainly want someone like Todd to invest in me.
Isn’t it awesome to see the resources with which God blesses each congregation? I’m so glad to be a part of an association of churches that emphasizes sharing our resources to help each other. We are truly “better together!”