The Thriving Church Backstory


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Very soon The Thriving Church: The True Measure of Growth will be released. I want to tell the story of how it came to be.

Churches should be growing. I believe this with my whole heart.

Models and methods of church growth abound. During my first years as a pastor, Willow Creek and Saddleback were hot. Later it was Mars Hill. Many churches copied their formulas for growth.

As I formed my own ideas of how a church should grow, I determined to be guided by truth. I looked for key passages of Scripture to instruct me.

What causes growth? How is authentic growth measured?  How does a pastor lead a growing church? What do people in a growing church do? Can my church thrive?

I kept landing in Ephesians 4:1-16. I read, reread, translated, diagrammed, researched, taught, preached, and preached again and again the principles in that text. In 25 years of pastoral ministry, this was the primary passage of Scripture that shaped my thinking about church life. It guided me in establishing goals, setting direction, and shaping ministry.

I was privileged to serve as lead pastor of two churches, one for 9 years and the other for 12. Both churches experienced growth. There were seasons of multiplication, but also maturing. My experience of pastoring through these stages of church life increased my understanding of the Ephesians 4 model of growth and what causes a church to thrive.

Three years ago the Chief Shepherd gave me a new assignment. I now equip a new generation of pastors as a Professor of Pastoral Studies at Faith Baptist Bible College. I don’t teach during the summer, so I have time to write.

I asked my friend Nancy Lohr, Acquisitions Editor at JourneyForth, for suggestions. Her response, along with some helpful guidance: “Figure out what your passion is and focus on that.”

And here we are.

The Thriving Church: The True Measure of Growth is scheduled for release December 6, 2019.

The Shepherdology Podcast Is Up!

Shepherdology Podcast Logo ColorThe first full episode of the Shepherdology podcast is now available.

You can find it on iTunes, Google Play Music (for Android) and Stitcher.

The home page is shepherdology.podbean.com.

You can listen to or download it from any of these sites.

Shepherdology is for pastors. My purpose is to provide truth and encouragement that will help pastors in their personal lives and ministries. Having pastored for 25 years, I am familiar with the responsibilities, pressures, blessings, and painful experiences in a pastor’s life. I want to be a pastor’s friend – someone who speaks into your life and prays for you.

Check it out. If you find it helpful, share it with another pastor.

Let’s talk Shepherdology!

The Pathway to Pastoral Ministry – Called To a Church!

One day you may receive a message that looks something like this:

Your pastor gave me your name as a possible candidate for a pastoral position in our church. If you are interested, please send your resume, doctrinal statement, and testimony of your salvation and call to ministry. We look forward to hearing from you.

Nothing could be more exciting if you’ve been on the pathway to pastoral ministry.

This is the last post in the Pathway to Pastoral Ministry series that starts here.

The experience of being called to a church may vary for different individuals. But here are a few common practices that will help you know what to expect.

Someone will express interest in you as a possible candidate for a pastoral position. He will likely be the pastor of a church who needs help with shepherding responsibilities. It may be your home church’s pastor, or the pastor of a church you serve in while in college or seminary. It might be a pastor you don’t know who was given your name.

You may even be contacted by a deacon or pulpit committee member of a church who needs a lead pastor. Smaller churches especially will sometimes call new seminary graduates as their pastor, so don’t be surprised by this if you’ve been serving faithfully and have exhibited growth in pastoral skills while in school.

Some schools have a ministry placement service. When you’re about to graduate, you can upload your name and profile information so churches looking for potential candidates can find you. This can be a good way to connect with a church. In my experience however your contact with churches is more likely to happen through the network of people who know you.

Pastors you know will play a very important role in your being called to a church. You may be asked by one of your mentors to serve as a pastor with him. Or a pastor friend may give your name to a church looking for a pastor. The pastors who know you best will provide a reference for you. They will give testimony of your character and faithfulness to a church that is considering you. They will pray for God to lead you and open doors of opportunity for you. And they will be a source of counsel as you consider opportunities.

Your first position as a pastor will probably be in an assisting role. It may involve general responsibilities of helping the lead pastor oversee and care for the church. Or it may be a specialized area of responsibility, such as youth or discipleship, or a combination of several areas of ministry.

If both you and the church are interested, you’ll start sharing information with each other. They’ll want to see your resume, a statement of your doctrinal beliefs, and your testimony of being saved and how God led you into ministry. You should ask for the church’s doctrinal statement, by-laws, and a written description of the role you are being considered for.

The next step is an interview. This may take place by phone, video-call, or in person. There will be lots of questions! The church leadership will want to get to know you. Be ready with some questions of your own, too.

If all is positive the church will invite you for a visit. This may be more get-acquainted time, or it may be an official candidating event. You’ll meet with church leaders and key people in the area of ministry where you would be serving. You’ll most likely preach or teach. And you’ll answer more questions.

By this time both you and the church have a pretty good idea of how you want to proceed. One of the leaders (the pastor, pulpit committee chairman, or deacon) may say, “We would like to have you come be our Assistant Pastor. If our church votes to call you, would you come?” You may know, or you might need to think and pray about it to make a final decision. If your answer is yes, the church will schedule a business meeting and the members will vote.

Your phone is buzzing. “We just finished our business meeting. Our church members voted to call you! Will you come?”

Congratulations. You’ve just been called to a church. You’re a pastor!