Pastor, How Do You Know What Hill To Die On?

The past few weeks have proved to be an interesting season for me in ministry. While the season has been fruitful for my congregation, I have received several calls from fellow pastors who are new in their churches and currently facing difficult decisions in their churches.

It was nostalgic as I can remember those years in my first pastorate when I was faced with a difficult decision that could potentially blow up in my face for one reason or another. I remember looking for answers as I reflected back on the ministries of the former senior pastors I had served under who would either attack the situation or ignore the situation altogether. I remember feeling the burden in knowing that I needed to make the correct decision. I understood that the decision would ultimately have an eternal impact for the Kingdom and an immediate impact on my ministry at the church.

The longer I pastor, the more I realize that there are problems that need to be addressed with a heavy hand and a firm stance, and there are other situations that cannot be fixed with anything but the passing of time.

As I have reflected on this process, I have come up with a series of questions to ask yourself. My hope is that these questions would form a filter to process these situations through.

Pastor, if you’re in a situation that you feel may need some serious attention work through this series of questions before you engage in battle.

Is the Issue a Temporary Issue or an Eternal Issue for my Church?

Many times we are so heated at the moment that we do not understand how temporary the consequences of the decision are.

I can remember a heated church meeting at the beginning of my church involvement when two church members were arguing passionately over the best practice of promoting the upcoming Vacation Bible school. Honestly, looking back on the meeting, it was so insignificant because I cannot remember who won or even what the positions were. However, as a relatively new Christian, I do remember the meeting. Each party was so passionate about their position that they were willing to drag out all the stops to make sure it was done “right.” But truth be told, it was a temporary thing, and if I went to them today, they probably would agree that it really didn’t matter all that much now looking back on it.

My point is that when a pastor is tempted to engage in an argument, he must ask if the effects are going to last into the future or if this is ultimately insignificant? If the topic has no future impact on the church or your ministry, that hill is not worth dying on.

Will the Issue Keep the Lost from Getting Close to Jesus?

We have all heard of the horror story of the church where all the men wear suits every Sunday. One day when a lost man came to the church in his work clothes, and he was quickly rejected. Although the man didn’t own a suit, the men of the church told him not to come back until he was able to wear a suit on Sundays. This is obviously tragic for many reasons. But the big reason is that they put a huge roadblock in front of the man who wanted to get close to Jesus.

Christians must be conscious of how their actions can establish religious barriers and their decisions could potentially create obstacles for others to come close to Christ.

For example, the men of the previously mentioned church at some point made the decision that wearing a suit on Sunday is a requirement for worshiping God. This decision was not biblical and yet it had implications on how the church dealt with people who needed to get close to Jesus.

My point is when a pastor is tempted to engage in an argument, he must ask if the decision going to cause roadblocks for others to get close to Jesus? If the topic has the potential of keeping people from getting close to Jesus, that is a hill worth dying on.

Will the Issue Keep my Church from Reaching People for Jesus?

An issue that is prevalent in our day among pastors is the use of alcohol. While many will claim that they have freedom in Christ giving them the ability to partake in the drink, they would be hard-pressed to say that their indulgences do not affect their witness for Christ.

While alcohol is a hot topic right now, this principle can be applied to anything of moral questionability in Christian life. Anyone can understand that it would be difficult to share the gospel while using obscene language or living an immoral lifestyle. The same can be said of a church that indulges in the things of the world instead of being set aside for Christ.

My point is, when a pastor is tempted to engage in an argument, he must ask, is the impact of this decision going to hinder the witness of my church for Christ? If the topic could keep the church from reaching people for Jesus, that is a hill worth dying on.

Will the Issue Provide an Accurate View of who God is through the Church?

Whether we like it or not, churches have a reputation in their community. Your church may be seen as loving and accepting, or judgmental and full of cliques. Every church has a reputation in their community and that is established in the manner in which the church interacts with the community. Every pastor must come to grips with this reality. The city you serve is making judgments about your church and those judgments are based on how your church serves your community.

Ultimately, the church must understand that they are a representation of God in their community. The people of the community will make assumptions about who God is based on how they see your church. If you have a loving church, the community will perceive that God is loving. Consequently, if you have a judgmental church, the community will perceive that God is distant and condemning.

My point is, when a pastor is tempted to engage in an argument, he must ask if the impact of this decision is going to offer an accurate view of God? If the topic relates to communicating an accurate view of God, that is a hill worth dying on.

Conclusion

If I were to sum all of this up, before engaging in a dialogue that has the potential to be tense, I need to ask myself:

1) Is this worth arguing over or is it insignificant?
2) Will this set up a roadblock for people to get closer to God?
3) Will this keep my church from sharing the gospel?
4) Will this communicate an accurate or inaccurate view of who God is?

Pastor, understand that churches have issues and people are going to argue. Let us make sure that we are discussing the things that matter and let us fight for the hills that are worth dying on.

Christ Follower.
Husband.
Father.
Pastor @HarveyBaptist.
PhD Evangelism (ABD) @swbts.
Cyclist.

What is Church Revitalization?

In SBC life, the concept of church revitalization is gaining momentum among pastors and church practitioners. While the conversations regarding the best ways to return a church to health are needed, there has been a tendency to bring every aspect of church planting and church growth under the umbrella of church revitalization. Which brings us to the question . . .

What Church Revitalization Isn’t

Before we can provide an accurate definition of church revitalization, we must first understand what it is not.

Church Revitalization is Not Church Planting

Biblical church planting is evangelism that results in new churches. Another way to consider this concept is that it is evangelism that results in new disciples, who then gather together and self-identify as the local expression of the universal body of Christ.
JD Payne, Apostolic Church Planting

Traditionally churches have been planted when believers move intentionally to a community of non-believers, wherein they practice evangelism and discipleship, eventually forming a new congregation from the new converts. The gospel is seeded in a community resulting in the salvation of members of that community, the new believers are then discipled, and a church is planted.

Church revitalization differs from church planting in that church revitalization occurs within an existing church whereas church planting seeks to begin a new church. The church planter is called to start a new church and the church revitalizer is called to bring a dying church back to health.

Church Revitalization is Not Church Replanting

Church replanting is another term often confused with church revitalization. In church replanting, an original donor church donates their resources and personnel in an attempt to begin a new church with existing resources.

In the church replanting process, a new pastor comes in with the intentions of beginning a new church body from within the old church. Over the course of time, the expectation is that the older donor church will receive new leadership, new ministries, a new identity, and (in some cases) a new church polity.

Church revitalization differs from church replanting in that church revitalization does not seek to replace the existing church. Whereas the church replanter attempts to begin a new church with the resources gained from an older church, the church revitalizer seeks to restore the original church to health.

Church Revitalization is Not Church Growth

Church growth (or church vitalization) has also been grouped into church revitalization. Though sharing many of the concepts and methodologies, these two are not the same as church revitalization.

Church growth is the implementation of certain methodology in order to lead a church to grow. As such, church growth can apply to a church of any size in any stage of health. Church growth strategies can be applied to a new church plant with only a handful of members or to an established church on the cusp of crossing over into the megachurch category.

Church revitalization differs from church growth in that revitalization deals with churches in trouble. To be sure, church revitalization may incorporate similar strategies as church growth but the desired result is not growth, but survival. Church Revitalization intentionally works with churches that are dying and strives to restore to life.

So, What is Church Revitalization?

Church Revitalization is the process of leading a dying church back to a healthy state. Restoring the church’s purpose of glorifying God and mission to reach the lost in their community.

Closing

The terms surrounding Church planting, growth, and revitalization can be tricky. However, there needs to be clarity among Christians. Each of these approaches requires different actions which produce different outcomes.

Christ Follower.
Husband.
Father.
Pastor @HarveyBaptist.
PhD Evangelism (ABD) @swbts.
Cyclist.

Five Reasons Short-Term Missions Helps Church Revitalization

When I first became a Christian I had a great misunderstanding. I believed that short-term mission trips were just vacations for Christians. I pictured how my fellow church members would go to other countries to see the sights and live the life. I even thought my pastor would plan these trips to places that he wanted to go and see for his pleasure.

Man! Was I mistaken! I didn’t understand what role the short-term mission trip played in the life of the church. Short-term mission trips are vital for Christians and the Church.

Here are five reasons to get involved with short-term missions at your church.

Short-Term Missions Enlarges the Pastor’s Vision

Short-term mission trips allow me to unplug from the usual hustle of being around the church. They put me back into a focus on His mission. Furthermore, mission trips have provided some of the greatest mountaintop experiences with God that I have ever had.

Church revitalization is hard work and the process can be stressful for pastors. Short-term missions are essential for pastors in the midst of revitalization because they can help pastors be revived in their view of God’s greater Kingdom work.

Short-Term Missions Empowers the People

Short-term mission trips call people out of their comfort zones to serve the Lord. Each time I have taken my congregation on a mission trip, I have seen people use their gifts and step into the role that God has given them.

Church revitalization cannot be accomplished by the pastor alone. Pastors need their people to come alongside them to do the work of the ministry. Short-term missions have always accomplished this for our church. When we return home, those who went on the trip are revived and ready to do missions at home.

Short-Term Missions Engages the Church with God’s Greater Mission

Short-term mission trips help people get out of their bubble. One of the best things about church mission trips is that it gets people to look outside of their usual context. We can get so wrapped up in our schedule, our work, our hobbies, our church that we miss what God is doing to glorify himself among the nations.

Understanding that God desires to glorify himself is paramount for church revitalization. Church revitalization is not about updating a facility or improving a worship experience. Church revitalization is about bringing a church to a healthy place where it can glorify God in all the church says and does.

Short-Term Missions Encourages Momentum

Let’s face it. Churches love tradition. If a church has no tradition, it will make a tradition. In the process of church revitalization, churches will have to sacrifice tradition.

Short-term mission trips show people that ministry can be done another way. As people work with and see God move in other ministries, they realize that God is not tied to a tradition or single way of doing things.

Who knows? You may find yourself implementing methods in your church that your people learned on the mission field.

Short-Term Missions Exalts the Savior

Short-term mission trips exalt the Savior. God is glorified when his people get to the work of reaching the lost. When Christians are faithful in sharing the gospel of Jesus, God is exalted.

If church revitalization could be boiled down to a single purpose, it would be to exalt the Savior. When a church is improving ministries and sharing the gospel, the goal is to make much of Jesus. Mission trips help the people to see the end goal, that all Christians are here to exalt the Savior.

Conclusion

I used to think that short-term mission trips where extracurricular activities for the church. But the longer I have pastored, the more I realize that these trips are vital for Christians’ spiritual growth and the church’s health.

Pastor, evaluate the missions ministry of your church. Lead your people to get involved in reaching the nations for Christ. Missions with your people will benefit the Kingdom, grow your people, and bless your ministry.

I love to help pastors and churches in ministry. If you would like to read more about church revitalization or ministry in general, check out my website at AnthonySvajda.com

Christ Follower.
Husband.
Father.
Pastor @HarveyBaptist.
PhD Evangelism (ABD) @swbts.
Cyclist.

What I Wish I Would Have Known When Looking For My First Pastorate

I guess you could say that my calling has been a little like Amos’s. The prophet Amos was not like the others. He was an ordinary shepherd. He did not come from a family of priests or prophets. He just did what God called him to do, and found himself doing the Lord’s work as a prophet.

Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” (Amos 7:14–15, ESV)

When I look at Amos, I can see that my calling is a little like Amos’s. I am not a pastor’s kid nor did I come from a lineage of pastors. I did not have a pastor take me under his wing to mentor me once I received a call to ministry. I did not have my name passed around in ministry circles while I was in seminary. I did not have a seasoned pastor to call on when I took my first pastorate.

Honestly, I was like Amos in the sense that there were times that I just knew what the Lord called me to do and I was merely committed to doing that. Because of all of this, over time I learned a great deal through experience. Granted, a lot of that experience was gained by learning what not to do. But experience nonetheless.

Looking back I wish someone would have told me a few things while I was looking for my first pastorate. Therefore, here are a few things that I wish I would have known when I was looking for my first church.

Don’t Get In A Rush

Let’s face it, churches do not move quickly. Many pastoral search teams consist of lay volunteers, working full-time jobs, and giving up the evenings to work for their church. In some seasons of the year, the church calendar can be so busy that it is difficult to schedule meetings, causing the pastoral search process to take months.

Understand this, don’t get in a rush to make things happen quickly. Patience is what we need here. Be patient with the church, be patient with the search teams, be patient in the Lord’s calling.

Don’t Get Frustrated

The process of finding your first position can be frustrating. Finding the right church for you is hard. Then add the fact that some churches will not respond to your applications, and others will call you in for an interview and then never call you back. The whole thing is difficult when you’re anxious to get on the field. You can get frustrated with this.

But don’t get frustrated. I understand that this is hard, but Christians are called to have peace. When you feel tempted to get frustrated, call on God for his peace. Peace is what we need in this process.

Don’t Forget To Pray . . . A Lot.

I know how it is looking for your first pastorate. You cruise all the job boards constantly, and you call associations to find open positions. The search takes a ton of time, and it can be consuming. Some will just apply for any place that is open. They tell themselves that they’re like Gideon laying out their fleece. When in reality, they’re just not praying it through as they should.

Guys, don’t forget to pray. There is a lot at stake here. Not only is this a transition for you and your family but this also a big jump for the church. Prayer is what we need, and we need a lot of it.

Don’t Forget To Look For Divine Appointments

We serve a sovereign God who cares much for his church and his pastors. Remember this truth when you are searching for your first pastorate. One of the ways that God shows me that He is in control is through divine appointments. I cannot even tell you all of the times that God has brought a person into my life for his purposes and in many cases, this has happened while I was being called to a new pastorate.

Therefore, look for the ways that God is leading you. Maybe he is opening a door for you through a previous relationship that was rekindled or perhaps he is bringing a new person into your life who will help link you to your new ministry. Honestly, I do not understand all the ways that God works in these matters. But I have experienced Him do amazing things when calling someone to a church.

Don’t Limit Your Ministry Field

I know the blessing of being close to your family or ministering to a city that you love. But do not limit your ministry field based on relationships or familiarity to a town. Do not be that guy that says to God, “I will serve you with all that I am for all of my life as long as I serve here.” I know that this is hard. To be sent to a place far from home and where you know no one can be terrifying.

My first ministry assignment was like this for my wife and I. We both grew up in the city, and I assumed that we would always minister in that city, close to our families. But when I received the call to go to a small, country town several hours away from our home, I knew that I had to go and see if that was where God was calling us. Let me tell you, the town was nothing like our hometown. The people were different, the culture was different, the amenities were different, and we knew no one. This was a scary process for us. But over the course of my time there we grew to love that town and all the people. God did an amazing work in that church and in us that I would not trade my time there for the world.

Sometimes we think we know what is best for our ministry and we want to tell God how to do things. But what I have found is that God desires to show us something greater. Open your ministry field. Let God show you the best place for you to serve.

Don’t Give Up On The Work

One of the weirdest things I have seen guys do while looking for a pastorate is stop working in their current ministry positions. They may be a student pastor or small group leader, and when they begin to search for their first pastorate, they quit the ministry they are working in.

This makes no sense. One of the first questions a pastoral search committee is going to ask you about serving in their church is, “What are you doing in ministry now?” and if your answer is, “well, nothing” then that is not going to be a good thing. Furthermore, what is that telling the church? Are you saying that you only want to serve the church if you are in the lead position? That is not the heart of a pastor.

Guys, don’t give up on the work. God’s calling requires you to pastor in whatever context you are living in. Just because you do not have a title at the moment doesn’t mean you can give up on the ministry.

Conclusion

There were so many things that I learned about myself, the church, and God in those seasons that I wish that I could share it with all of you. But that would be one crazy long post, and I have gone on long enough.

In closing I will say this, If you are in the season of looking for your first assignment, I hope and pray that these words will guide you and encourage you.

Remember that we serve a great God, and He is in control of ALL things. Do not let the process overwhelm you, keep your hand to the plow, and your eyes on Jesus. He will place you where He wants you.

Are you in the process of interviewing for a pastorate? You may be interested in these 30 Questions Every Pastor Should As A Search Committee.

Christ Follower.
Husband.
Father.
Pastor @HarveyBaptist.
PhD Evangelism (ABD) @swbts.
Cyclist.