Five Reasons I’m Grateful for the SBC

I have been a Southern Baptist for most of my life and for all of my ministry. While I was “brought” into the SBC by my family at a young age, I have chosen to remain for many reasons. Not the least of which I enumerated here.

Unlike many of my peers, I’ve never been a “young” pastor at odds with my convention. I affirm our theology, acknowledge our diversity, and appreciate our missiology. Having attended the Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention this past week in New Orleans, I was reminded of five reasons I’m grateful for the SBC.

1. The election of Fred Luter

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Why I am a Southern Baptist

This week, Stephanie and I are at the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans. If my guess is right, this will be a fairly historic convention as we elect our first African American president in history – Fred Luter. I’m excited about this opportunity.

But, as usual, there has been a bit of controversy leading up to the convention. My intention is not to deal with the controversy here, but to give two simple reasons why I am still a Southern Baptist.

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What To Do When You Mess Up

Everyone makes mistakes! We all know this is true, but it’s still tough to be on the wrong end of someone else’s mistake.  This happened recently with one of my all-time favorite restaurants.  I took my family for a nice night out and it was bad.  Very bad. Slow service, rude service, no service…you know the story. After a talk with the owner a few days later, the restaurant did what was right and won back my loyalty.  They owned their mistakes, apologized, and handled the problem.

In the church world, why do we try to pretend we’re perfect.  God is perfect, His Word is perfect, but the pastors and staff members at our church are not! A well-known pastor gave me some advice when I was 29 years old.  You’re young, use it to your advantage. When you make a mistake, and you will, simply say “Sorry I messed up, I’m young and dumb.” Believe it or not, I’ve used that before.

Here’s the dirty little secret – people already know you’re not perfect, so why don’t you go ahead and admit it?  In fact, I think people prefer real leaders to “perfect” leaders. Here are a few lessons to follow when you mess up… Continue reading

Discover and Capitalize on the Growth Cycle

Did you know that your church has its own unique growth cycle? And while you wouldn’t get this from reading all the church growth books, believe it or not, most of the “growth charts” don’t look like this.

I know, I know. There are some magical success stories of certain pastors who have always seen their church grow. They’ve never had a down Sunday and every week is bigger than the week before.  How do they do it? (Please note the sarcasm.)

You need to remember, pastoring a church is not just about preaching, it’s also about planning.  As a pastor/shepherd I believe I’m not just called to feed the sheep, I’m also called to lead the sheep.

So, if every church has a unique growth cycle, it’s the job of the pastor to find out what it is and capitalize on it. Here are a few simple ways to do that:

1. Measure as much as you can. You’ve heard the old saying, “We count people because people count.” I know it may sound trite but I think it may be true. Now, some pastors use this saying to justify being overly obsessed with numbers and statistics. Don’t be that guy! For me, I look at the numbers because they provide a benchmark – something to measure against from year to year. This leads me to my second point…

2. Compare year to year, not week to week. If you have ever ridden the church attendance roller coaster you know it’s a ride that can make you sick. If you obsess over numbers and overanalyze them every week you will drive yourself crazy. Two Sundays ago was Easter. The week before that was Spring Break. The week after was our “Sunday-after-Easter slump.” Compare weeks this year that correspond to weeks last year. Develop a spreadsheet that serves as a dashboard and provides a snapshot of where you are this year versus last year- in terms of offerings, attendance, decisions, etc. Believe me, this will help keep you sane.

3. Know your culture and community. Every city is different. Every school system is different. Every church is different.  For instance, I pastored a church one time that was a fairly young congregation.  While in most established churches, Mothers Day is the second largest attendance of the year, this wasn’t the case at this church. Why? Because most of these young families would travel to see their mom on that day.  It’s okay, you just have to know it. Know your community and culture around you. Are you in a college town? Are you in a tourist town? Are you in a military town? Pay attention to your community. It affects your congregation.

4. Plan accordingly. This is really simple.  Just use common sense. Let me explain – don’t plan a big event during spring break when you know half of your church will be traveling. Capitalize on a community event that brings thousands of people to a specific place. Pay attention to your natural growth cycle that coincides with your community and school calendar. Look at the graphs and learn your most significant times of growth throughout the year and seek to maximize those times.

Please understand, in no way am I discounting the power and work of the Holy Spirit. But I also firmly believe that God desires you to use the brain He’s placed in your head.  Listen to the Spirit – yes! But lead with intelligence as well.

How about you? What have you found that has helped you discover and capitalize on your church’s growth cycle?