Monday, February 25, 2008

What is a disciple?

In his book, The Intentional Church, Randy Pope challenges us to define what a disciple should look like. Although we give lip service to discipleship, few of our churches have ever defined what a disciple is and how he or she should live. We spend a lot of time and energy on the process of making disciples, but we seldom stop long enough to actually determine what the end product should look like. Jesus taught us that it was by our fruits that people would know that we are Christians, not by how much we know.

This sums up a lot of what we do in the church. We focus on programs and processes without ever determining what we are actually trying to do. The church is in the transformation business. Part of our function, according to the Great Commission, is to lead people to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and then to help them become disciples of Christ. We spend a lot of time developing programs and providing training, but we seldom measure the results of our efforts. Do our efforts produce disciples of Jesus Christ, and how will we know that if we never determine what a disciple should do and be?

I would encourage your church to spend some time discussing this and coming up with a clear image of what a disciple should look like. If you need some help with this, Randy Pope provides the expectations his church has for a disciple. Your definition will probably be a little different, but it might be a good place to begin your discussion. I think all our churches would benefit if we became more intentional about what we are doing, and making disciples is a good place to start.

Working together

The past few weeks have been hectic, and I've not taken the time to update this blog regularly. I do apologize for that. I also ask for your prayers as my schedule is only going to get even busier in the next few weeks.

Last night I attended an associational Lenten service that really demonstrated the benefits of small churches working together. Nearly all of the churches in this association are small, rural bivocational churches. Every Sunday night during the Lenten season they will pack out one of their churches for a joint service. They travel to different churches for each service and a different association pastor will bring the message.

During last night's service a testimony about Big Stuf was given. This is a large youth gathering that takes place in Florida each year. The first year any of these churches participated one church sent 17 youth to the event. Last year the association sent over 150 people. 40 of their youth were baptized as a result of this event. Many others rededicated their lives to Christ, and some accepted a call to ministry. In addition, the youth heard about the problems of inadequate drinking water in Kenya. The next day the youth collected $3,400.00 from themselves to pay for the cost of digging a well in Kenya so a village would have access to clean water. Since returning home they have raised enough money to pay for a second well.

This association is involved in ministry throughout their communities. They have taken some work trips to an area of Appalachia to minister to some of the needs there. I was priviliged to join them in one of those trips. None of these churches could accomplish any of this by themselves, but working together they have done exciting ministry.

You may serve a small church and believe there is little of significance you can accomplish. That is not true, especially if you join forces with other churches. Working together multiplies your gifts and resources allowing you to accomplish much more than you may think possible. I encourage you to begin praying with other church leaders about ministries God may have your churches do together. You might be surprised what doors He might open up!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fanning the Flame

I want to encourage all American Baptist ministers who read this blog to attend the "Fanning the Flame" conference from April 22-25 at Green Lake. Dan Southerland will be the keynote speaker, and a number of excellent workshops will be offered including one I will lead on bivocational ministry. One of the great features of this conference is that there is a lot of free time built in for you and your spouse to enjoy. Green Lake is even providing one free round of golf on their excellent course. Additional information is available at

Monday, February 11, 2008

Need some info

An individual recently contacted me asking if there were any studies that had been done that compared the effectiveness of bivocational ministers to that of fully-funded ministers. Neither of us are even sure how this would be measured. I am not aware of any such study, but I thought some of our readers might know of some. Any direction you could give me would be appreciated.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Resourcing our bivocational ministers

This past weekend I had the opportunity to lead two workshops for a Deacon/Pastor/Spouse retreat sponsored by the Kentucky Baptist Convention. One workshop was on the "Healthy Small Church," and the other workshop focused on "Time Management for Church Leaders." The conference had about 450 registrants several who told me they were bivocational. At this conference I was told by someone that about 70% of the KBC pastors are bivocational. I wondered how many I would have at my workshops and was pleased that about 50 people attended each one.

As bivocational ministry continues to grow judicatories must find ways to bring bivocational ministers and lay leaders from their churches together for training, fellowship, and encouragement. There must be an intentional effort to provide these opportunities or we will shortchange a large number of our churches and the persons God has called to lead them. We must find ways to help our small churches and their pastors to recognize the importance of their ministry to the Kingdom of God. We must lift up bivocational ministry as a valid call of God on a person's life that is not inferior to any other call God may give to another. We must stop complaining about the lack of training some bivocational ministers have and begin to provide such training at times and in ways that will be accessible to them. We must bring these bivocational leaders together so they can learn from one another. We must help them find mentors and coaches who can help them through rough spots in their lives and ministries.

The Kentucky Baptist Convention is doing these things. So is the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky. The same could be said of the Tennessee Baptist Convention and many other judicatories, but more needs to be done. Some denominational organizations act as if we don't exist or that we don't need encouragement or resources. Denominations, seminaries and Bible schools, publishing houses, and churches need to come together with bivocational ministers and identify ways to meet their training needs and the best ways to offer those opportunities. More resources need to be produced to assist bivocational ministers and the churches they serve. More seminaries need to offer dual-degree programs to help bivocational ministers be prepared for both their church ministries and their other careers.

I would love to hear from you what training needs you would like to have available to you that would benefit your ministry, your family needs, and your own personal development.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Where will your children go to church?

A bivocational pastor friend of mine recently had a heart-to-heart discussion with his church leaders. He asked them if their children would continue to attend church there in 10-20 years from now when their parents were no longer there. Most of the leaders admitted they were not sure, and some said they doubted their children would continue to attend that church once they passed away. The pastor then asked, "What do we do about that?" This started a conversation that is still continuing.

This was a great question although it is not one that is easy to ask. Many of our smaller churches cannot afford to lose too many people before they will need to close their doors, and yet few of these churches are asking these types of tough questions. How many of the younger members of the churches will continue to attend our smaller churches once their parents or grandparents are no longer attending there? Since much of the financial support for many of our churches come from the builder generation, what will happen to the finances of our churches when that generation is gone? What needs to happen to make our churches more relevant to younger people, and what do we need to do to help younger generations experience God when they come to our worship services? These are more tough questions that are not easy to ask nor are they going to be easy to answer, but I believe these are questions we must answer if we want to ensure that our churches will be here for future generations.