Monday, December 18, 2006

Article #6 - Rural Church Growth

Grow or Gone: Understanding You

In this last article of my series on rural church growth, I want to deal with a subject very close to my heart. I have seen too many ministers with a genuine call get scarred up serving churches that were never going to grow. A pastor needs to understand his make-up and calling. A pastor friend of mine says, “There are three types of pastors; caretakers, undertakers, and risk-takers.” Most rural churches are looking for pastors that are caretakers or undertakers, but not risk-takers. I’m a risk-taker and I’m writing this last article for my risk-taker ministry friends.

As a Southern Baptist minister who is also a risk-taker, job searching is frustrating. Most Southern Baptist Churches are small rural churches. That means that there are few great risk-taker ministry positions available. So what is a risk-taker to do?

Rural churches normally go through preachers like Hollywood Stars go through spouses. There is always a rural church looking for a preacher. Rural churches are attracted to risk-taker ministers because they are charismatic and passionate. Risk-takers are drawn to any church that talks about change, risk, and the Kingdom of God. Soon the Risk-taker takes the risk and become pastor of a rural church thinking that change can happen. Then the risk-taker faces reality, the rural church that talked about change is trying to make him fit into the caretaker or undertaker mold. At this point the risk-taker faces some choices. First, he can stop being a risk-taker and become a caretaker or undertaker. Second, he can push a head and see if he can win enough people to Christ to keep the church members from firing him. Finally, he can leave the church.

I believe Risk-takers spend too much time in rural churches. I heard a quote that was attributed to Billy Graham which was, “If you serve a church where the people aren’t willing to follow you after six months, leave. There is too much Kingdom work to be done, to keep focusing energy on people who refuse to grow.” I believe six months is too short of a time, but within a year you should know whether your church can grow or not. I believe a risk-taker who realizes that his church isn’t interested in growth should leave the church. I have never seen anything good come from a risk-taker at a church wanting an undertaker. Leave and let them find a pastor that is a caregiver or undertaker. There are plenty of caregiver and undertaker pastors and I’m thankful for them. Let them pastor the rural churches.

I want to challenge the Risk-takers to stop giving your gifts to churches that don’t want them and give them to starting new churches. If the Risk-takers don’t plant churches, who will? Many churches, associations, conventions, and denominations are realizing that church planting is the hope for building God’s Kingdom in the 21st century and are willing to provide support. The key to church planting is risk-takers so please check into the possibility of planting a church in your area.

In closing, caretakers and undertakers are great and are needed to serve as pastors so that the risk-takers can go and plant new churches. Risk-takers stop wasting your gifts on churches that really don’t want it and take the big risk of planting a church.

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