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Hunt’s ‘lab’ aims for renewal among pastors

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) — Josh Hayes can recount a variety of takeaways he garnered at a church revitalization conference he attended last month — from reminders about ministry being a “people business” to the importance of equipping a congregation with the necessary ministry tools. But Hayes said one particular moment was a game-changer for him.

Hayes, the children’s pastor at Grace Community Church in Marion, N.C., said he has felt led to become a lead pastor, a call that has brought with it a collection of new fears. During this particular North American Mission Board conference in mid-September, Johnny Hunt helped calm those fears.

Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga., told the audience in Little Rock he had quit high school early because he feared having to give a public book report. But Hunt noted that God can turn their greatest weakness — as Hunt’s fear of public speaking had been — into strength “for the glory of God.”

Hayes said, “It was a strong, humble moment where God was just infusing me with strength. I looked over to the corner of the room and just started saying to God, ‘I’m afraid. I’m afraid of everything — from meeting new people to leading the Lord’s Supper at a church. I’m afraid of dealing with difficult deacons. I’m afraid of everything. I’m afraid of a church chewing my family up. It was like God just whispered, ‘I know. I know. I know.’ I went up and told Johnny I drove 10 and a half hours just to hear you say that.”

Now a new Leading for Change lab, written by Hunt and sponsored by NAMB, will focus on helping pastors and other church leaders through this type of personal leadership development and revitalization. Content is built around Hunt’s conviction that refreshed and growing churches are led by refreshed pastors. The workshop is being called a “lab” because the schedule will include times of hands-on application when participants can develop their plans. The first of these labs will take place Oct. 7 from 1-5 p.m., prior to NAMB’s Send North America Experience tour stop that day, at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.

“I hope there will be a renewed belief, interest, involvement and dreaming once again among our churches that have been around for some time that they can once again know new life,” Hunt said.

Hunt noted that while there has been a renewed interest in church
planting within Southern Baptist life in recent years, he has also seen a growing interest in revitalizing struggling churches. Hunt said he hopes the lab will help spur on that trend.

Chris Emery, NAMB’s director of church revitalization, said the lab material came out of NAMB’s partnership with Hunt and First Baptist Woodstock and revitalization conferences held during the past two years.

“I asked him one day,” Emery said, “‘Pastor Johnny, how do you have the energy?’ He basically said that God had given him a second wind.”

Emery said he has heard Hunt say over and over again that you can’t have a revitalized church without a revitalized pastor. Hunt and Emery then began exploring topics for a lab that would focus more on the pastor and his leadership team than the church itself.

“Everything rises and falls on leadership,” Hunt said. “If a church is going to be revitalized, it must start with the leader. If the leader doesn’t believe in his dream and his vision for revitalization, he will never sell the people.”

A Multiplying Urban Leaders with the Gospel lab with the Rebuild Network and a LoveLoud lab will also take place that afternoon in Kansas City.

The Send North America Experience tour is visiting cities throughout North America in 2014 and 2015 leading up to the Send North America Conference Aug. 3-4, 2015, in Nashville.

For more information — including dates, speakers, musicians and more –concerning the labs, the Send North America Experience tour, the Send North America Conference and more, visit sendconference.com.

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  • Tobin Perry