Raising Preacher Boys

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We used to call them “preacher boys,” but increasingly we are seeing grown men called to preach and pastor, often in their “second career.” One pastor I met was called to his first church when he was nearly 70 years old. And he’s doing a good job! Many others were in their 40s or 50s and had retired from the military or teaching school.

The growth in the number of “preacher men” is a great thing for many reasons. These men come with real-world experience and are highly motivated to “serve the Lord.” They are not thinking career. Their passion is to obey Christ. And preacher men are often largely self-funded because they have another job or retirement income. One pastor in southern Oregon has several such men in his church. He is discipling them and training them for whatever God might have them do.

I have written before that our greatest need in the Northwest is for more pastors, especially bi-vocational pastors. This means that a primary job for churches and pastors is to identify and train-up “preacher boys,” or “preacher men,” for ministry leadership. The local church reaches more people when it has more leaders. As a convention of churches, we will reach more people for Christ as we have more pastors and more churches. Leaders reach people. It’s mathematical. One man cannot do the work of ten. Ten men of equal ability and context will reach ten times the number of people that one will. Likewise, all things being equal, ten churches will reach ten times as many people as one church.

To help facilitate the training of pastors and other ministry leaders, the NWBC has started Contextualized Leadership Development (CLD), which is a branch of Golden Gate Seminary, designed to train ministry leaders. To take CLD classes a student does not need a high school diploma or a college degree. They simply need a strong desire and calling to serve Jesus Christ. Our first CLD location was Portland, which began in January 2015 with a class on preaching. Pastoral ministry will be taught in Portland this fall. I say, “our first CLD location,” but we have other CLD centers operating in the Northwest that were started independent of the convention, which is great. Our desire as a convention of churches is to increase the number of CLD centers, and to start some in areas and among peoples that do not have a CLD center. Two of the current centers are non-English (Russian and Burmese, with a third likely to start this year in the Tagalog language).

Our biggest need in order to expand CLD was to find someone to direct the program in a part-time role. We now have that man. I am very excited about this as he will connect with pastors and Directors of Missions across our convention, helping you to create your own CLD Center. I can’t announce his name yet, but that should be forthcoming in about a month.

This week I spoke to the national CLD leader for Golden Gate Seminary, Don Beall, and Don told me something that might help many of our churches to better train their preacher boys. Many churches don’t have regular worship services on Sunday evening or Wednesday anymore. It is difficult for the pastor to give up the pulpit on Sunday morning with regularity, so that his preacher boys can learn. Don said that one church he knows has scheduled worship one Sunday evening per month as an opportunity for someone other than the lead pastor to preach. I thought that was a great idea and it’s something you might consider.

Lay leaders, let me encourage you to allow your pastor to do what it takes to train up the preacher boys and men in your church. When I was a pastor I felt the pressure to always be in the pulpit on Sunday morning and Sunday evening. But I was wrong. I should have given more opportunities to others in the churches I served. If I had it to do over again, I would seek to educate our church that a part of my responsibility is to train future pastors, and I would give them more opportunities to preach. That said, there are many nursing facilities that would love to have someone lead a worship service on Sunday, or on another day. In my first three years of preaching ministry, ninety percent of my opportunities to preach came in nursing homes. It was there I learned to “speak up” so they could hear me. And it was there that I learned not to be offended when they fell asleep!

We need more ministry leaders in the Northwest. And we need to call them out from our churches and train them up. With all of the political and moral turmoil in our nation, it is a good day to serve the Lord!

Men Wanted! Part-time Pay, Full-time Work, Survival Likely

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Bruce Corley was an outstanding New Testament professor. After sitting in his class for two semesters, two things stand out to me these 30 years later. First, when asked about a particular passage of Scripture, one that we were not studying at the time, he answered the question after first quoting the text in Greek, parsing the key verb, and dealing with other significant grammar issues. He is very smart.

The second thing that I remember is Dr. Corley making this statement: “Two-thirds of you will be bi-vocational in your ministry.” I must confess that my immediate thought was “Not me!” But I soon learned that Dr. Corley was correct, both practically and strategically, he was correct. And for several years the term “bi-vocational” described my ministry.

In the Northwest Baptist Convention we have 450+ churches, about 80 of which average more than 100 in worship attendance. More than twice as many average less than 50 in worship. If that surprises you, you should also know that our percentages are not very different from other states, including the Bible –belt states of the South. Without question half of all Baptist churches average less than 75 in worship, and in some states half would average less than 60 or 65. That means that many pastors and associate pastors are bi-vocational. Some that are not bi-vocational would be if it were not for a spouse providing additional income.

This reality means that Dr. Corley was correct for practical reasons. Most churches are small and need a pastor that has additional income. But Dr. Corley was also correct for strategic reasons. For many different reasons, most churches never average 100 people in weekly attendance, even in their peak years of attendance. This was true in A.D. 1815, 1915, and 2015. Therefore, if we are going to reach more people, we must have more churches, not simply seek to grow our existing churches.

Every church exists to make disciples of Jesus Christ. And every church should not only desire to reach more people, but should actually work to do it. That said, never in the history of our country has the typical church had 100 people in weekly attendance. It has always been true that the denominations and networks of churches that have won the day have done so because they had more churches, most of which were led by bi-vocational pastors. This has always been true. Thus, strategically, we must have more bi-vocational pastors if we are going to reach more people.

“Whoever has the most churches wins” is a statement that I’ve been making for many years. What I mean by that is that whoever has the most churches will reach the most people. That means that whoever has the most churches will make the most disciples, send the most missionaries, develop the most prayer warriors, and make the greatest impact on culture.

In Washington and Oregon, “the people” voted to legalize same-sex marriage and marijuana smoking. Other states have same-sex marriage because of the decision of a federal judge. But “the people” of Washington and Oregon voted to legalize it. Why did they do it? Because we don’t have enough churches making more and more disciples. It’s not that our churches aren’t big enough. The reason Arkansas hasn’t voted to legalize same-sex marriage isn’t because they have bigger churches. It’s because they have far more churches, most of whom have bi-vocational pastors. This is true of Missouri and Texas and Oklahoma and Mississippi and Georgia. The churches in those states are not better than the churches of the Northwest, and most of them are not bigger, there are just many more of them.

In the Northwest, we need more churches. And the way we get more churches is to call-out more pastors, many of whom will be bi-vocational. Bi-vocational pastors are heroes. They work full-time (a pastor always has his flock in his head and heart). They get paid part-time. But most of them survive, and even thrive, by the grace of God.

Is God calling you into ministry leadership? Is He calling someone in your church? If He is, it doesn’t mean you have to quit your day job. He might want you to pastor that small church that’s struggling to find God’s man. He might want you to start a church while you continue to teach school, or police your city, or run your business. I can promise you this, we need many such men. God is calling many such men.