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Smaller churches represent resource for reaching America, speakers say

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–The 22,000 Southern Baptist churches averaging no more than 100 in Sunday morning attendance represent a resource already in place for reaching America for Christ, two conference leaders at the June 26-29 Smaller Church Leadership Weekend at Glorieta (N.M.) Baptist Conference Center said.
Belvin Cox, consultant with smaller churches in the Bible teaching-reaching division of LifeWay Christian Resources (formerly Sunday School Board) of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Barry Campbell, manager of the professional development section in LifeWay’s pastor-staff leadership department, led sessions for pastors during the weekend. More than half the pastors were bivocational.
“We are fortunate in the Southern Baptist Convention in the time of greatest need to have a network of smaller churches all across this nation. It is a glorious time when God can send revival in the smaller churches, if we will just let him,” Cox said.
He challenged pastors “to become a slave to your communities” in meeting people’s needs. “There’s nothing wrong with big or small. The important thing is ministry that is meeting needs.”
When accepting a call to a smaller-membership church, Cox said the “first thing you must know is the story of that church. If you don’t know the story of that church you’ll never lead it.”
Campbell urged the pastors to grow in their leadership skills, including equipping and involving church members in ministry.
“One of the things that keeps smaller churches small is that the pastor tends to do everything himself,” he said.
Atop qualities of an effective pastoral leader, Campbell said, is recognizing priorities.
“As a pastor, there are a million good things you could be doing every day,” he acknowledged. “Be careful that you don’t let all these little things distract you so when you stand up on Sunday morning you don’t have a word from God.” He noted every pastor’s priorities list should be topped by winning people to Christ, preparing to preach and strengthening his own family.
Pastors who are good leaders plan their work and ministries, Campbell also noted.
“Some preachers have a steel-trap, strategic-thinking mind,” he said. “Even if you’re not a great strategic thinker, you can develop a plan that is faithful and focused.”
Campbell suggested building church plans around the five functions of the church — evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, ministry and worship. “If you plan according to the five functions, the result will be balance and focus.”
And pastors must be able to motivate others, he said.
“You don’t have to have a motivational personality. Be open enough and vulnerable enough to show them your heart. If you don’t have a vision, get on your knees until God gives you one,” Campbell said. He noted other church members will be motivated by action and some will not be supportive until they see “victory taking place.”
Cox cited several axioms for pastors of smaller churches which he said he had collected over several years:
— “Greater is he that traineth doers than he that doeth.”
— “You (pastor) are president of the university of the household of God. The Sunday school director is chancellor of the school of Bible.”
— “What folks ain’t up on they’re going to be down on.” In today’s world, getting people’s attention requires communicating a message 23 times, he said. “Everyone is trying to get your people’s attention.”
— “You ain’t likely to win anyone to Jesus until you fall in love with them before they have Jesus.”
The Smaller Church Leadership Weekend was sponsored by LifeWay’s pastor-staff leadership department.

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  • Linda Lawson