Thursday, April 5, 2012

Transforming Church in Rural America, by Shannon O'Dell

Recently, I was given this work by Shannon O'Dell, lead pastor of Brand New Church in Harrison, Arkansas. To say the least, O'Dell is a polarizing personality. He recently spoke at a conference in MO and I have heard reviews ranging from some who thought he was fabulous to others who weren't such big fans of the message he brought forth. As one pastor told me, if you can get even one good nugget of truth out of a book, it's worth the price and time to read it. That said, I did find a few good nuggets in Transforming Church in Rural America. These are some of those good pieces of wisdom.

1. When you desire to grow a congregation, you will never get it. But if you grow congregants, then you are going to see transformation in their lives and within the church. - pg. 39

We live in a day, as Rainer and Stetzer agree, that churches measure their success based on the 3 Bs - buildings, budgets, and booties in the seats. Isn't it time for something more than that? Isn't it time for pastors and leaders to think bigger than this? I pray that I'll not be so obsessed with numbers that I lose focus on the people behind the numbers. After all, Jesus never set out to grow a megachurch or fill a stadium. He was in the business of life-change and restoration. I pray that I, under the Lordship of Christ, will share the same goals as the Savior. I want more than anything to see our people know Christ and grow in Him.

2. Everyone likes change - except when it makes things different. - pg.71.

O'Dell also follows this statement up by giving the cycle his church has walked through. The cycle is: Change -> Conflict -> Growth -> Change.... I've heard Ed Young, Jr. say a similar thing recently. While I agree that sometimes change can actually be negative, I also agree with O'Dell when changing items that ought to be changed. Healthy things grow and change and adapt as they grow.

3. Exellence does not cost a lot of money: it costs in time and vision. - pg. 148

O'Dell explains that his church IS about doing things right, and that doing so doesn't always mean buying the latest and greatest and coolest ___________ (fill in the blank). In a church culture that seems to be in the midst of concert-style venues and hazers and guitar pedals and HD cameras, this is a refreshing thought. Now, I should probably say that I LOVE technology and I LOVE many churches that use such equipment. I just wonder if so many of us have decided to be copycats of what working in other places and states in hopes that this "formula" will somehow crack the code and twist God's arm into doing what only He can do.

Well, there you have what I think are three good nuggets from this book. There are other good elements in it as well, and I would recommend reading it, especially if you're doing ministry out of the metropolis like me. If you can see wild turkeys from your office window, you might be a good candidate to read this book.

Monday, February 20, 2012

In the trenches...of ministry

This week, I would like to take a moment to commend a great servant of the Lord. At Faith Baptist Church, we have a great worship team. Our team is led by Marc Dewever, a long-time servant and volunteer leader. Marc has been leading the music for years, and is faithful to our church. Along with that, Marc and his wife, Rose, are dearly loved by our members.
I, for one, am incredibly thankful to Marc for all he does. In the days of hipster worship leaders, Marc has stayed true to himself and the person God has made him to be. Marc desires to worship the Lord with his whole heart, and he has a passion for the church to do the same.
I've worked with Marc for three weeks, and I am grateful for his partnership. He has vision and passionately engages discussion about the future of our music ministry. In a day when most folks sit on the bleachers and criticize the team, Marc has stepped up to the plate.
I believe that men like Marc are paving the way for God to work in great ways in our church!
Looking forward,

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Surprising Insights from the Unchurched

Often good research defies "common sense" thinking. This seems to be especially true in the church of today. In his book Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, Thom Rainer unpacks great research regarding the formerly unchurched. Rainer defines the formerly unchurched as "one who has not been in church, except sporadically, for at least ten years (most for a lifetime) but has recently become active in a church. All of the formerly unchurched have also recently become Christians, not merely church attenders." In his study, the data revealed that these are the primary factors that led the formerly unchurched to choose the church they now attend:

1. Pastor/Preaching - 90%
2. Doctrines - 88%
3. Friendliness of members - 49%
4. Someone from church witnessed to me - 41%
5. Family member attends - 38%

Anecdotally, the unchurched members said these factors had the least to do with why they chose a church:
Children's/Youth ministry - 25%
Other groups/ministries - 12%
Worship Style/Music - 11%
Location - 7%

So, what does this study reveal? It reveals that if we hope to reach the unchurched in our communities, we must allow the pastor time to prepare to preach well. The pastor must be diligent to be a student of the Word of God and must prepare well to teach the people. This is a challenge for me as a new pastor and I am stretching and growing in my preaching skills and abilities.
Secondly, it demonstrates just how important the people of the church are. When a new person visits the church building on Sundays, we must be people who reach out and love others. This may be all it takes for them to let their guard down long enough to hear the gospel message.
I'm so thankful that the people of Faith are loving. You wouldn't believe our fellowship. During the service, we allow a lengthy period of time for our people to greet one another. In most places, these times are rushed and cut short. They are normally used as a transition for the band to exit the stage and for the pastor to get in place. At Faith, our people truly demonstrate a great love for one another.
Faith, I hope that I can be the pastor that God has called me to be. Thank you for being loving people to all who join us each week. Together, we can reach the unchurched and bring great glory to God!
All for Jesus,
Pastor Fred

Monday, February 6, 2012


Courage can be defined as:
the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, or pain. -

As Joshua was handed the leadership of the people of God in Joshua 1, God reminded him three times to be strong and have courage. Now, why would Joshua need courage?
You see, Joshua had already been into the Promised Land when he was sent as a spy along with 11 other courageous men. On that mission, Joshua witnessed mighty people living in the land. He witnessed strong, fortified cities and he saw great armies occupying the land. Now, God had given him the reigns and told him to go and take the land.
Imagine being Joshua. There are giants to defeat, cities to overtake, and armies to conquer. Moses is dead. The people need a leader.
God told Joshua to be strong. Why? Because he was a great warrior? No, although he was. Because he was Moses apprentice? No, although he was. Because Joshua was a great leader. No, although that is true as well.
God told Joshua to be strong and courageous BECAUSE THE LORD WAS WITH HIM.

If you've read the story, you know that the inhabitants of the land were no match for the people of God.

What about us? Will we, the people of Faith Baptist, be strong and courageous? Will we be people of faith that impact our city for Christ? Will we trust that God is with us and cross the Jordan together? Will we win the battleground for our Lord and commander?

I, for one, believe that God's command for Joshua rings true for us as well. I can't wait to see how He will use each one of us to accomplish great things for His glory.