Honest Conversations with the Pastor, Board, and Jesus. Part 1

I think if the truth be told, church board meetings are not the most spiritual encouragement that a pastor or board member will sit through in their church life. Some may even rank it up there with a visit to the dentist. That may be the way that some look at them but that is not the way it should be. Board and leadership meetings should be times of encouragement and empowering our leadership team instead of dreaded obligations that must be endured. Many churches that are in need of revitalization need to be looking at those meetings and start having conversations that look to further the Kingdom of God rather than maintaining a course of status-quo and complacency.

Having a open discussion with the church board and ministry leadership is a must. There has to be transparency and honesty in the discussion. Conversations looking at not only where we have been (reminiscing on days gone by), but where we are now in our church life cycle and where we see that God intends for us to be going ahead.

As I have discussed in other articles, it is essential that everyone in the local church understands who they are as individuals and as a church congregation in the Kingdom of God. So many times, church bodies operate without understanding who they are. Meaning they have a mistaken identity of themselves which ultimately results in lost purpose for existing in the first place. We cannot work and be effective for the Kingdom if we do not understand who we are.

In the church that I pastor, I set some special meeting aside to go over some of the things I thought we as a church need to do, and that was understand who we are and why we do the things we do. In this 3 part article we will walk through some of the intentional and purposeful steps we took and some of the results.

In this first part, I started off by asking 5 questions to establish the foundation for the discussion and evaluation that followed.

  1. What are the 3 core values of the church? Denominationally and locally? The purpose of the question was to see who knew what the Nazarene church stood for and in essence proclaimed to be. The silence was awkward and deafening. No one was able to respond because they did not know.

Christian, Holiness and Missional is what being a Nazarene means. We walked through each one with manual in hand giving the scripture that supported each one. You could tell that it made sense. People often ask what is a Nazarene and this tells who you are in the Kingdom work that we pursue. No one had even sit down with them and explained these to them and I wonder has anyone set down with your leaders and done this. Don’t assume they know what you think they should know.

The greater chance is that some or maybe most cannot answer this question if they were asked with your leadership or board. We must create a culture in our church where people understand and can communicate who they are. If anyone is in leadership they should be able to identify with the core beliefs and expound on them for anyone that ask. Revitalization starts with seeing who we are and where we are at so that the plateau and or decline can be corrected.

2. What is the purpose of this church? After going through the steps of the first question, you would think this would be easier, but be careful not to assume everybody knows. There can be a tendency for people to get inward focused on the purpose of the church. Turning their attention to internal ministry and programs that cater to the attenders rather on the commission of Christ in making Christlike disciples of all the nations and not just the church goer (Matthew 28:19-20).

In our meeting we needed to be reminded that the purpose of the church was to not be isolationist but accessible and available to the people that are not in the walls of the church. We needed to remind ourselves that there are broken and hurting all around us that need the salvation of Christ in disparate ways and we are to be the messengers of that “Good News.”

3. How do you feel the church is doing? It seems that everybody has a response to this question. All seem to have a opinion of some aspect of how they think the church is doing. Preferences start exposing themselves here but we need to be reminded that it has to be measured by what the scripture says a church should be doing and not how they like of dislike the worship music, or that the room temperature is too cold to suit them.

Everything should be measured by teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, making disciples of all nations, proclaiming the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light, encourage one another and build one another up, and as you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

If your local congregation is not representing these traits then there is a overwhelming possibility that the purpose that is intended for that church is not being fulfilled.

4. How can the church do better? Again this opens the door for every opinion and comment possible. Every one have their view of what could be better for the present state of that congregation. People can have a tendency to point fingers and tell others how things should be run and directed but their are the very ones that also come up the quickest excuse why they aren’t the one leading the charge for change for the better.

When I posed this question to the leaders there were responses like the worship could be more lively and exciting. One must then ask themselves who makes it lively and exciting? It is up to the congregation. The ones in the pews must be responsive to the Holy Spirit stirring in the worship service for the fire to fall. It is hard to have fire on wet damp wood. Have you ever seen people sit there and say “bless me if you can” attitudes?

Acts 20:28 says, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” It is up to each and every member to do there part in the Kingdom.

5. How can you make it better? Here is the rubber meets the road. When you ask the people how can YOU make it better, it quickly quiets the naysayers. 1 Peter 2:5 says “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Doing our part that God has called us into is our reasonable service.

For a church that is in revitalization it is imperative that the pastor, church leaders and Jesus have honest and open conversations to address change challenges and have eyes that are open to the leading of Jesus Christ in His church that we have the privilege to be a part of.

We will continue the conversation in 3 parts for leading in revitalization in your local context.

Pastor Rob Beckett, Shepherdsville Nazarene Church in Shepherdsville KY. “Restoring the “Image of God” to the broken and hurting.”

Six reasons to rebuild the church on the foundation of Christ

The church seems empty. The parking lot only has a couple of cars in her large lot. There appears to be no life left in the once-thriving church. In a last-ditch effort to save the church, the church board hires a pastor with a family believing that a younger pastor will save the church. When the pastor begins to change the ‘way it has always been done,’ there is a strong push back. Over time the pastors’ efforts to revitalize the church are thwarted at every turn. Out of frustration more than a call, he leaves the church to become the pastor of another church. Sadly, this scenario plays out weekly in dying churches all over America. Churches have to begin asking themselves; Is this God’s best for the church, to either die in self-rule over God’s rule? 

If a church is to move from the death spiral into stabilization and eventual healthy growth, a church has to realize that the church is not ‘there’s but ‘His.’ 

Recommit to serving the community instead of just serving those on campus.

Far too many churches are tucked away off busy streets, an island unto themselves, a club, more than a religious center, with the full benefits of membership and fellowship, but isolated from their call to serve the community. If one were to dig into the past of the church’s history, they would find not one major decision to isolate themselves from the neighborhood but slow, steady decisions that drew the walls closer and closer in on themselves. What was sometimes decades in the making will not be a turnaround with one blockbuster outreach event or even several throughout the year. But, a consistent outward-focus where members walk in partnership with the needs of the community.

If the church wants to move from lip service to community service, it must serve the community with a God-centered focus rather than an us-centered focus. This takes lots of prayers, a full-surrendered spirit, and deliberant outreach where the focus is on the agency, the program, or person in the community rather than the church. 

Resubmit to the authority of scripture and to Christ, and not just an influential leader within the church.

Who is running the church? God? The pastor? Or the church boss(es)? The temptation in a declining church is for a member or members to cling tightly to control because they are invested in seeing the church stay open. Too often, the investment that was started out of a place of love for the church is quickly overtaken by pride and arrogance that they are the only ones who can save the church. This misplaced authority eliminates the authority of God and scripture and hardens their unwillingness to cede control over to the pastor or new attenders in the church. Fiefdoms become the norm, and the kingdom of God becomes less and less. While outsiders may realize this is scripturally backward and threatens the spirit of God within the church, the church boss tightens his grip on the church.  

Lay leaders are not the leader of the local church. God has called an under-shepherd to lead the local flock in the mission and vision that he has spelled out for every church. If a church is to grow spiritually healthy, they have to resubmit to the authority of scripture and God’s called pastor and to allow him to lead them forward. 

Restore what has been lost by not holding on to the past.

As the church lies slowly dying, the memories of days long past seem to engulf the church. Tokens of celebration (memorial plaques, a dedicated room, etc.) become golden calves that enshrine the church in idol worship. What was meant for good has become the final nails drilled into the coffin of the soon departed church. Revitalization is about celebrating the past, evaluating the present, and preparing for the future. Restoring what has been lost (families, neighborhood relevancy, and Christ engagement) lets go of past practices to claim what God has for the church today. It does not mean a church has to forget its history, but it does mean they cannot cling to that history, or the church will become history. 

Throughout scripture, God did a new thing using an ancient thing (His Word, his guidance, and people’s obedience) to build his kingdom. Restoring the declining church is more about restoring the church’s relationship with God than attachment to things. Submission is not easy, but it is needed if the church will become the church that Christ has called her to be in this season of her life. 

Repair past hurts to restore God’s legacy within the church and community.

Prayer becomes the central tenant of a turnaround. Prayer, which leads to repentance for past wrongs and hurts that the church has caused, is crucial in the church evaluating where they have been and where God wants to take them. Restoration comes to a church when she can see past wrongs, seek forgiveness, repent, and turn from those wicked ways. The church’s legacy is not a negative one but one of grace for those around them. To win the community, the church must first win the spiritual war through prayer. Prayer cannot be a two-minute bullet point printed in the bulletin as part of the weekly service line-up but an intentional part of who the church is becoming. 

 Repairing past hurts will not mask that those hurts affected people; it will prepare hearts for what God wants to do new within the church’s life. Prayer positions the power of God to prepare the way forward to become a community-centered church. 

Redirecting from what has always worked into adapting to what needs to be changed.

Change is not easy, or it would already come about. Change brings out the worst in people when the change arrives at their ministry doorstep. Change can cause church splits or, at the very least significant fights within the church. Who wins when change is denied or delayed because of a minor, powerful cluster in the church? The devil. The evil one wants nothing more than to sow division and discord within the walls of the church. If the demonic forces can keep God’s people fighting inside, they will miss opportunities to expand the kingdom for God outside her walls. Churches that revitalize adapt to the changing nature of their time and community needs. Sometimes that means programmatic or wholesale structural change within the church.  

Instead of protecting programs, the church has to turn from professing Christ with mere words to partnering with agencies and groups that reach people groups that the church is not currently reaching. A gospel-centered Christ-focused church is a church that walks alongside people to make Christ-like disciples. That takes intentionality and adaptability. 

Refire the passion to allow new programs and people to lead.

Can a church be saved after years in the death spiral? Yes, the simple answer is if there is a remnant of believers who will allow themselves to be the spark of renewal. Revitalization is all about rekindling the passion for what God wants to do amid death. Scripture reminds the reader that old bones can come alive again if there are willing people to move past problems through prayer into a spirit of passion for the lost. Everything that the church has done in the past must be assessed for gospel effectiveness. If a program does not reach people for Christ, then the program should be retired to prepare for a program that will enable the church to reach the community in a new way. 

As part of the refiring process, turnaround leaders should pray for new people to lead or current members to refire their passion for the lost so that the church can become an effective field hospital for the sick.

The church of Jesus Christ is not dead. While a building may lay dormant and His people scattered, the church of Christ is very much alive. For far too long, the world has had a hold of the church and has slowly killed her. It is time that the church takes back the power by becoming a church built on the foundation of Christ as her cornerstone. 

Desmond Barrett is the lead pastor at Summit Church of the Nazarene in Ashland, Kentucky

Revitalizers are willing to be Burden carriers?

Galatians 6:2-3 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.  For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

I was mowing the yard and I was thinking how things have changed over the years to make lawn mowing easier and easier. Back in the day, we would let the livestock eat it, then the push sickle, the push behind, the self-propelled, to riders, then zero turns, and now robot mowers. We are doing everything we can to take the work, and hardship out of it. We are trying to do the same thing to our Christian walk, trying to take the uncomfortable things and ease them or eliminate them all together so that the load is lighter. We must be careful that we don’t diminish the loads and hard work so much that we diminish our effectiveness as the church in our context.

One of those is Burden carrying. I believe that many churches have done all they can to alleviate or eliminate as much burden as they can from their lives, so much so that they have misplaced their responsibility as the church. Many churches have forgotten the whole purpose that the church existed in the first place. Jesus Christ, the Head of the church, told us to pick up our crosses (burdens) and to follow Him (Luke 9:23). Jesus was a burden carrier and so should we as the church.

Carrying a burden does not mean it is up to us to alleviate suffering. 2 Corinthians 4:17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. As the church we need to not try to takeaway all the troubles and loads of ours or anyone else, but to help carry for the season. Walking along with others through their seasons is the picture of Simon of Cyrene walking with Jesus to Calvary carrying the cross. What greater thing that a church can do than walking along side people in and around your church that you can walk with and show Christ to them.

Carrying another’s burden does not mean to take away their pain. Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. “I will be with you” is the promise of presence. Being there regardless of come what may is the Spirit of Christ that the church is to exhibit to ones that are hurting and broken all around us. The pain is there and it hurts but the church should say “I’m here with you.”

Carrying the burden simply means to hold them up and point them to Christ. To help carry burdens means that we are help people cross the finish line and reach the goal that Paul talked about. It is helping a fellow runner that has stumbled or fallen to get up and continue, throwing their weight over your shoulders and crossing the line. Along the way encouraging them telling them “You can do it”, “Just a little further.” In scripture we are told 15 times to “love one another” or to “love each other.” This is important to walk and help each other carrying burdens as a church.

This does not mean that you have to pull them up to your level every time, but maybe that means jumping in the ditch with them.

What about praying for a burden? Have you ever heard of anyone praying for a burden to endure for someone else, I am not talking about carrying a burden with someone but for someone? There are times that we need to pray in a way that we ask God to lay a burden, a load of on us for the benefit of another and not for us. There use to be a time in the church that people would pray that God give them a burden or load for someone or something. People asking for heaviness on them so to see a result for someone else. It is not uncommon to hear of a mother or grandmother praying with conviction and burden for a wayward child or spouse. Praying with such intensity and sincerity that God would move in that loved ones life. Now that is burden carrying.

When the Holy Spirit gives you a burden, He also gives you the responsibility to hold it and carry it along. It would do well for churches that are plateauing and declining to pray for burden for their church family and community. When the churches ears have gone dull and no longer hear God speak, the attention starts to turn inward and to what is more comfortable. You must listen closely to the voice of God and give attention to those peculiar feelings of compassion He gives you for certain individuals. 

Give special attention to those burdens that seem more urgent,  and pray with a holy determination to see God’s answer. If you feel that you don’t have the strength in yourself to pray as God would want you to, add fasting to your prayers; also add solitude. Perhaps you need to carry that burden of prayer all night long.

Nothing will start a fire of revitalization in a church faster than carrying burdens for each other and the community around you. Genuine care and love for one another in presence and labor. We may own the nicest riding lawn mower in town, but sometimes we need to get the push mower out and get some much needed exercise which is of much more beneficial.

Will you be a burden bearer? “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

Pastor Rob Beckett of Shepherdsville First Church of the Nazarene.

“Restoring the “Image of God” to the broken and hurting”

Reestablish the established church and her leadership for a post-pandemic reality

The established church has been hit hard by the effects of the pandemic. Many churches have seen a decline in attendance by nearly 50% in the past year, while other churches have struggled under income loss. Leading an established church had its challenges long before the pandemic negatively affected the local body, but today, the pandemic’s weight has had a crushing blow. So, what is a leader suppose to do when the church seems to be on rocky ground? There are four components to reestablishing the established church over the next year that might be helpful.

Redesign what the church will look like in the future. The pandemic has caused the established church to comfort loss and the opportunity to redesign the way the church interacts with its members and the community at large. Legacy churches carry governance, programs, and budgets of the past. The pandemic has forced her to reorient herself to face the future with a more proactive mission-minded design. The church was once for its members; today, the church must become for the lost and those not rooted in Christianity. Redesigning what the church will look like in the future is reorienting her to others’ needs outside of members. Programs and resources dedicated to an inward posture need to be reexamined to see where it fits in the church’s new realities. Every program and line item in the budget should be on the table to see if it meets today’s church’s needs. If it does not meet today’s needs, it should be discarded, and those funds diverted to future programs that directly impact the community. Established churches need to see the pandemic as an opportunity to achieve the new promises that God has for the local church and not a hindrance. 

Repair past fault lines that divided the church and community. For many established churches, they have become a fixture in the neighborhood that surrounds them. As with any institution, over time, it is ignored and almost forgotten. The pandemic has created an opportunity for the church to become outward-focused again to meet the community’s needs. Before she can reengage in the community, she must repent at the altar for past missteps and misgivings in serving the community. In this posture of humility, the church can begin seeking partners to walk alongside in the community. As a disengaged church from the community, she cannot just jump back into her neighbors’ lives and demand a seat at the table. Instead, the members should reengage by connecting with community agencies and programs that are already reaching the lost, partnering with them in accomplishing kingdom advancement. By walking in a humility posture, the church presents itself like Christ by elevating others above self and creating a door of reengagement.

Restore God’s vision for the church by connecting to the community. The established church finds itself dying; she once was planted with a vision to reach the community where she has struggled to engage her neighbors as the hands and feet of Christ. While today’s church leaders can debate what and how things went wrong, it is only in the ‘seeking’ that they will find their way. What is the vision for the local church? God has a vision for her leadership to follow but does the local church and her administration have the vision that God has called them to achieve? Restoring God’s vision for the church by connecting to the community is built around prayer, listening to those in the community, connecting with other agencies who are already serving, and resourcing the local church to resource the needs around them, thus letting programs and positions die to reach the lost. Restoring God’s vision is all about letting go of members’ views of what is needed and seeking where God is already at work and working alongside God.

Recapture the love for the lost. In John 21, we read the words of Jesus as he asked and then reminds Peter about loving and caring for his sheep. In reestablishing the established church, leaders must evaluate the community’s love in which the leaders planted the church. Does the church love the people and the community in which they minister? Through a love lens, the church will recapture the calling they had when planted decades before. The love for the lost is more than just opening the doors on Sundays; it is stepping outside the church members’ comfort zone into the ugly part of the ministry that enables the believer to walk with the sinner.  Jesus loved the sinner and tried to help lead them back into his embrace by rejecting sin, and by reestablishing itself in the lives of the broken, the church is reopening its arms to those it once pushed away.

The last twelve months have been challenging for the church universal, but for the established church is has created an opportunity to redesign, repair, restore, and recapture the love they have for the community around them. What an opportunity to reestablish the established church as the center of the neighborhood. What a chance to become a strong community partner and lighthouse of hope for the lost. 

Dr. Desmond Barrett is lead pastor at Summit Church of the Nazarene in Ashland, Kentucky.

Can We Define Our “Why” in Church Revitalization?

Philippians 3:13-14 NIV

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Paul was one of the most influential and greatest leaders that the early church had ever seen, but he was not full of himself and thought of himself as anything more than a committed servant of Jesus Christ. Paul knew that God had a lot of work left to do on him and that he had not “arrived” yet. Paul knew that his time was valuable in the sense that he was starting churches all over Asia Minor, he was mentoring and guiding young leaders, and he was taking the gospel to every place that his feet could carry him, but he reduced everything that he did down to “one thing.” If we would put it in today’s cooperate executives language it would be, “A Rigorous Commitment to a Singular Objective.” And this objective would have two distinct parts: not spending all our time dwelling on the past and reaching ahead to achieve the vision for the future.

Not dwelling on the past. In the scripture used in Philippians, Paul is saying in “Forgetting” that we are not to dwell in, like moving into a house or apartment, taking up residence. That in this forgetting we are not to stay there or live in the things of the past. It is one thing to honor and remember but dwelling is harmful for the mission that we are on. The past can bog us down like being in mud up to your knees, unable to move or navigate.

There are two ways that the past holds us and can get us stuck. One way is regret, haunting memories that brought shame and regret for opportunities that past by, or failures to follow through with ministry moments that the Spirit prompted and there was hesitation as individuals and as a church. It can cause a pastor or church leadership to question every decision that needs to be made, clouding the judgement to move even with the urging of the Holy Spirit. The fear of past failures paralyzes the church into future ministries saying, “we tried that before and it didn’t work.”

Another, and more prominent, way the church and its members get stuck in the past is reliving past glories over and over again. The church in years past had a successful and fruitful ministry which has since past and faded away but everyone including the pastor continually refers back to “back when we…” or “I remember when…” If a church is living in the past, whether it is because of failure or success, takes their eyes off the ball and out of focus. Paul is saying, “Hey! forget the past and move on.”

Reaching for the Future. Paul makes it very clear where our attention should be focused. The church should be straining with every ounce of energy to reach forward for the fulfillment of the vision that God has for that congregation. We are being encouraged to discover and embrace a God sized vision, one that not only has a positive impact on the church but more importantly one that transforms the community that the church exist in and furthers the Kingdom of God right there.

Remembering and defining the “Why” is crucial in the life and mission of the church. The Prize is knowing and doing the vision and mission that God has laid out before your congregation. What are some of the past failures or success that your church needs to leave behind? Is there a God sized vision that has gripped your heart that until it is accomplished will not leave you alone? The day our memories become larger than our God given dreams is the day our lights start to dim.

Rev. Rob Beckett, Pastor Shepherdsville Nazarene Church Shepherdsville KY

“Restoring the Image of God to the hurting and broken”

Six steps to renewal before God

 I am hearing about more and more pastors getting burned out due to ongoing issues related to the pandemic and leaving their churches. The past twelve months have been the most challenging in ministry for many fellow pastors. In reading in 1 Chronicle 17:16-27, I am reminded of David’s prayer as he comes before God in six steps to renew his spirit. Pastor, before you give up on the calling God has placed in you, spend some time following these six steps and allow God to renew your spirit so you can be ready to lead your local church.

Step 1: Get along with God.

Get alone with God. It seems so easy to say, but it is hard for many leaders to get alone with him. How many times as a leader have you opened the Bible only to get a phone call? How many times have you sat in your favorite chair to pray, and your family walks into the room? How many times have you gone into the sanctuary to pray, only to have a member come by and talk? Distraction has become a tool of the devil to steal our alone time with God. Getting alone with God must be distraction-free. Find a secluded prayer spot and only tell your spouse or church secretary where you will be, and the time you will be gone, so there is accountability and be distraction-free. Leave all your electronic devices behind but take a notebook, Bible, and pen/highlighter with you, so you are prepared to journal what God says or what you feel the spirit reveals on your heart.

As you enter this space, begin by clearing your mind of distractions and any thoughts hindering you from praying. Focus on your breathing, a Bible verse, and prepare your mind, body, and spirit to receive what God has for you until all distractions pass. 

Step 2: Download your heart to renew your soul.

The burdens that pastors carry can become overwhelming and debilitating. They have no one to speak to for many, no one they fully trust with their darkest secrets. Instead of internalizing the flock’s stress and other needs that arise in the pastor’s life, spend time downloading what is on your heart to open the spirit to receive what God has for you. Pastors are learning more and more that they are not superhuman. Their struggles are natural, and demonic forces want nothing more than to hold them back from being who God has created them to be. If the mind goes negative, the spirit will follow over time. By connecting with God daily and sharing the struggles with him, the pastor will be more apt to rebound from negative feelings and adapt more quickly to what the spirit is leading him towards in the end. In his prayer, David taught that his past would not become his final resting place but would be a place to learn and grow. In downloading, you release the past and are ready to receive soul renewal for the future.

Step 3: The one you pray to must be bigger than the problem you pray for.

In the David prayer, the reader hears David’s heart and begins to understand that the problems that were overcoming him were not as big as the God he served. Pastor, your situation is small compared to the God you serve. Far too many are allowing the problem to overwhelm them and steal their joy for ministry. The God who called you is the God that will sustain you if you trust that he is bigger than the most significant problem you face. Each day pastors face a host of issues they are called on to solve. If the pastor is not praying daily, the problems begin to build up in their mind and overtake their spirit and steal their joy. By laying the burdens of the pastor’s office at the feet of Christ daily, the pastor can be free from the struggles and see the bigness of God all around them. In this space, God comforts, provides, and makes tangibly known his presence. 

Step 4: Ask for your promise. 

What is it that you need today in your life and ministry? What is the foremost thing that if God could take from you or move on your behalf, it would free headspace in your life? David’s prayer reminds the reader repeatedly to ask for the promises that God has placed on your heart. Pastor, are you someone who feels you can do it alone? If so, you are heading for a fall. God wants to help. God wants to provide. God wants to fulfill the promises that he placed inside of you. When you are alone with God and have prayed for your need, begin to ask for your blessing, to see what God sees in you. David was not a perfect leader and failed God on many fronts, but yet strived every day to be better while being bold enough to keep asking God for things that God had promised him. What has God promised you that you have not asked about in awhile? Begin to ask. Begin to call forth the promises of God and watch how he begins to show up.

Step 5: Thank God for what he has done, is doing, and will do in the future. 

In the quiet time of being alone with God, begin to write down in your prayer journal all the areas where God showed up and provided a blessing in the past. Celebrate what God has done. Praise him out loud for seeing you through those trying times. Then begin to write down where God is at work today in your life and thank him for showing up and providing away. Then start to dream and allow what has long been buried to come to pass and thank him in advance for what he is about to do. Leaders often focus on today rather than celebrating the past, evaluating the present, and thanking God in advance for what he is doing. Pastor, do not get stuck in how you feel today, as that will not dictate God’s promise for your future ministry. Thank God today for what he has done, is doing, and will do in the future through prayer.

Step 6: Claim your victory over your prayers.

Do you believe what you pray? Do you think getting away will renew your soul? David had to evaluate his own prayer life after falling prey to the world’s ways. As he moved closer to God, he began to claim victory over his prayers, which enabled him to move on from his past. When a leader has fallen into a self-doubt cycle, they must break free from the past. Claiming their prayers to God are being answered. Begin to claim victory of oppression and depression. Claim victory over the struggle within the church. Claim victory over forces coming against you in Jesus’ Name. God that is before you is far greater than the evil that is coming against you. Claim the mantle of Christ by seeking His will for your ministry through prayer. Claim the mantle of obedience by following what God has asked you to do. Begin now, even before this article is over, to claim what God has for your life and ministry.

David’s life is a testament that we can fall short of God’s plan for our lives, and he will still renew our path if we are willing to take steps toward him daily. Coming before the Lord should not be a part of a ritual on Sundays but part of your daily walk to build the relationship that God so seeks with you. Pastor, if you feel like you want to give up and walk away from ministry, try these six steps for renewal before God for the next 90-days and allow God to speak to you fresh and anew.

Desmond Barrett

Dr. Desmond Barrett is lead pastor at Summit Church of the Nazarene in Ashland, Kentucky.

“Growing Where You are Planted”

There are two kinds of people (churches), the dry and barren because they are not near the Lord, and the healthy and bountiful because they draw close to and draw from the Lord.

There was something that I had started noticing several years ago and now I watch to see it happen every year. One thing that Winter does for me is to start me to look for signs of Spring where ever I can find it. If you want to find the first sign of Spring look down by the rivers and creeks.

The water supply is the source of life for all living things. The budding of trees starts with the trees closest to the water source. And those are the trees that are the last to lose their leaves. In the dry times of Summer, they are the strongest and most healthy.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,

And whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.

Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter the dry drought of life can come. And for many of you in the church today, the heat has also come into your life. Churches too experience dry, hard times. Experiencing the of loss of attendance, division among people, loss of resources, not to mention brokenness and hurt in the families of the congregation. The heat has come into the lives of the church. And if it is not here in your life today, it is likely to come another day.  Scripture says there are two kinds of people, the dry and barren because they are not near the Lord and the healthy and bountiful because they draw close to and draw from the Lord. I believe this can apply to any congregation today.

The Characteristics of the Cursed

Jeremiah 17:5-6 Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited.

1. He trust in man (self)…this is to say that he sees his might, his abilities, his intellect, his determination as the means to his gain. Churches do the same by looking at the fat bank account, figuring out clever strategies for attracting people, and sheer will. A church can become too dependent on their our strengths and not relying on God.

2. and makes flesh his strength…he sees that he is young and strong, and God is for old and weak people. Churches that see themselves as the new game in town and have all the coolest programs and worship team. Yes, we need to be able to be relevant in our communities but we cannot do that by leaving the foundations that the church is built on. We cannot compromise our core values just so we can be the coolest church in town.

3. whose heart departs from the Lord. We are free moral agents of our own lives. We can trust in our own flesh or we can trust God. We cannot have it both ways. Some churches rely and depend more on the pastor and staff as the guides for moving the church instead of God Himself. In the book of Jeremiah, God told him to tell the nation that He had a plan for them to prosper them and not to harm them. But what they had to do was rely on Him and trust Him to direct their paths.

4. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert…When we are living in the dessert place like a shrub. You become twisted and distorted because of the struggle and harsh condition in which it lives. When churches trust themselves and their abilities more than the Father, then they end up bent out of shape and no longer resemble Christ but more like a trendy social club where people can say “I go to that church” as a fashion statement.

The Characteristics of the Blessed Man

Jeremiah 17:7-8 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.

1. A blessed man is one that not only hears but listens to the Lord and the direction that He has for them. They are ones that know that every good thing comes from God Himself. Not like a “shrub”, but as a “tree”, a green olive tree, a palm tree, a cedar in Lebanon, a fruitful flourishing tree. Not like one of the trees of the wood, that grows wild, or as a wild olive tree, but as one “planted” in a garden, vineyard, or field; and is one that is planted in Christ, in the house of the Lord. Isaiah 60:21 “Then all your people will be righteous and they will possess the land forever. They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor.”  

2. Like a tree planted by the waters. This is the source and life to the blessed man, and even to the blessed church. They know where their life comes from and are determined to plant themselves in that place of nourishment and sustaining life. A church that is intentionally planted by God has mission and work that can be incredible and life changing for the church and community. Song of Songs “You are a garden fountain, a well of flowing water streaming down from Lebanon.”

3. Spreads out his roots by the waters. We know the phrase putting down roots means to deciding to stay in place where you are. That this is the place that is best for you because God has called you to be in this community at this particular time doing the particular work He has set before you as a individual and as a church.

4. Will not be anxious in the year of drought. It does not matter where you and your church is planted, there will be hard times, dry times that will come to you but we have nothing to worry during droughts and harsh periods of ministry because we are tapped into the source of life. The blessed man and church is drawing from the source and the heat may be high and long and hard but the leaves do not wither.

The last part of that passage is key to the whole promise of blessedness. The production of continued fruit bearing. That is the goal anyway, to bear fruit for the Kingdom regardless of situations and circumstances. The reason that God calls us and plants us is to further the Kingdom for His glory. In our own strengths and power we can do nothing but be a distorted, twist mess in a hot and dry dessert. But with the nourishment of the Living water of God we can proper at what He has called us to do for Him, which will benefit all that is around us.

Pastor Rob Beckett, Shepherdsville First Church of the Nazarene.

Restoring “The Image of God” to the broken and hurting.

Four ways to lead better in a new season

I love it when the seasons change. It is a fresh start to reevaluate where I have been and where I want to go in the future. 2021 is beginning to be a year of unfolding seasons that reminds me of how we all should lean into new ministry seasons. Instead of fearing change, find faith in the stability that God is still leading your ministry, and all you have to do in return is obey and follow. 

Adapt to the new reality

The challenges that you face in the new season of ministry is not a surprise to God. Long before you would enter a season of stretching., God was already there waiting for you. He has equipped you with the needed tool and the people to help you accomplish the task he has for your ministry. Instead of fearing the future, embrace it by adapting to the new reality and allowing your trust in God to lead you through the new process. I understand, change is hard, but it is in the change that God prepares you for the future that he has destined for your ministry and life. By adapting to the new reality with a positive, forward-looking outlook, you position yourself for God’s goodness, and you open yourself up to the lessons that he has for you. Do not be discouraged in facing the daunting task ahead of you, but adapt and remain flexible to the challenge ahead, and you will come out the better for it.

Address what needs to be fixed

What is the ‘thing’ in your ministry not making you happy? Only you can answer what troublesome area in your ministry that is holding you back. Self-evaluation is a primary component of leading yourself to a better outlook on the situation you are facing. Is there a person or program that keeps getting more of your attention, and you have failed to address it vigorously? Is there a pattern in your ministry that you keep falling into that is broken? Is there a need to be addressed once and for all? Managing what needs to be addressed is like throwing off the shackles of the enemy’s hold to step into what you desire and for what God has for you. Sometimes it is fear of the unknown, the lack of motivation or the strongholds of past hurts, but as you enter a new season, you have the opportunity to address what needs fixing and save yourself struggles in the future. 

Attend to the needs of members, but also of guests

On Sunday mornings, I love standing in the foyer to greet as many people as I can. Some Sundays’ I have people who try to dominate my time, thus taking away opportunities to connect with others. In these situations, I ask the person to call or text me, and we can keep the conversation going, as I gently remind them that I need to visit with others. Leader, you have faced the same situation yourself if you think about it. A guest comes in, you can see them, but you can not get to them because a board member wants to complain about something. As you enter this new season, set up guardrails in your mind that you can stick too, and nudge those along who try to dominate your time so that you can speak to as many as you can on Sunday morning. Sunday morning worship is the one time that, as a leader, you can address members and guests alike in a fashion that provides hope and a challenge to their soul, so stay open to focusing all members/guests, and not just a few.

Activate the promises God has put in your heart

Long before the period of struggle, God has placed deep within your heart a promise for your ministry and life. Reflect on that promise. Write down that promise and remind yourself daily that the struggles you may face should not distract you from the promises that have been placed deep within you. As you enter a new season, you have an opportunity to forget what pained you and accept the promises that God has for you, but you have to do your part by activating the promises. Activating promises is speaking, reading, and living out what has been placed inside of you. If you do not believe in the promises inside of you, then why should others believe? Activation is more than just saying, ‘okay, God.’ It is living the dream that God has inside of you on the outside—surrendering your will for his will by enabling him to use you in a particular way to impact others with birth in the new season, an opportunity for a better way forward. 

Adapt, address, attend, and activate are four simple but powerful words that can change the trajectory of your ministry as you enter a new season if you are willing to allow God to use you. I challenge you to do your part as you press into the future that he has created for you, and I promise there is a better season just around the corner, do not give in or upon the promises he has placed inside of you. 

Dr. Desmond Barrett is lead pastor at Summit Church of the Nazarene in Ashland, Kentucky.

A Pandemic – Potential Catalyst For Change

“Catalyst definition – a person or thing that precipitates (or stimulates) an event.” During this season that we are experiencing there are many feelings being felt and played out right before us. This pandemic has been the catalyst or agent that has turned our known world upside-down. When people talk about the situation there seems to be one negative though after another describing how it has changed their lives. Everything from wearing the mask, to business and institutional shutdowns plaguing our communities big and small, to the fierce debate for weather or not to get the vaccine.

It has been difficult for everyone from pastor to layperson in the church. pastors have had to try to wrap their heads around the fact that we did not have a Easter service that was in person, to a Christmas season void of any plays, dinners, or even candle light services. Seems as if this “pandemic” has cast a long shadow so deep and dark that some begin to think we may never recover.

But what if we see the pandemic as a positive change, for the church that we live our lives in and through, to our own outlook as a way that God can use us in a unique and creative way? This pandemic has been a catalyst of change for a wide range of emotions and unprecedented reactions.

Yes there are some negative connotations for the pandemic, but there is potential for positive change for the church which, if we take full advantage of now, can help propel the church forward like we would have never imaged before. In my estimation, Christ has been able to produce change at a rate that would have taken decades if ever in the church. Almost overnight churches have went from exclusively in-person to combining it with online and live video.

Lets look at some of the ways that the change catalyst has helped the church:

  1. The future leans more favorably toward the smaller, innovative churches even better than the larger church in their operations and effectiveness. A small church, that is strategically small, is one that has become secure in their own identity. They have learned that their size can have unique advantages. The connectivity of relationships are cultivated with more intimate roots.
  2. Larger churches, whether they realize it or not, are mimicking the concept of the smaller church. The largest church in our region of 75,000+ people with several satellite campuses, will admit that the success of their church body is small groups. Small groups, small gatherings, and house meetings are quintessentially small churches. The bigger churches are breaking down into smaller groups because they know that is how relationship are nourished and cultivated. It produces the more intimate gathering, to know each other even better. Groups of people are being encouraged to be smaller and the biggest part of churches are already doing that.
  3. Another way that this pandemic is causing us to see change is how the authenticity of relationships are being played out. Pre-covid we would see people as they came to church and would express this with hugs and hearty handshakes, expressing how much they mean to us and say how much we love each other. How we missed them since the week before and asked how their week was. The test of those relationship have been put to the test since covid. If we will admit to God and ourselves, many of the relationships were at best superficial. For many they have been unable to return to the church for health reasons or other complications but how often have they been reached out to or visited since this pandemic started. For many of us, not enough. Has anyone been victims of out of sight, out of mind?
  4. It has been said that “necessity is the mother of invention.” The driving force for most new inventions is a need. During this pandemic season there has absolutely been a need for innovation in the church to be able to continue ministry in an effective way. The term that was used extensively in the beginning was “pivot.” A church that has been able to pivot has been able to change effectively. The message has not changed and the foundation is as solid as ever, but we have been forced to change the approach for which we deliver that same powerful message of the Gospel.
  5. Empowerment of local talents. The pandemic has been a catalyst for change in a good way for local church talent and leadership also. It has given opportunity for people that never thought before that they could do anything for the Kingdom, they are now seeing and taking the opportunity that is presented to them through this pandemic. When extraordinary opportunity exposed itself to them, people have the chance to step up and step in to roles that they never dreamed before. It can empower them to achieve God things for the Kingdom.

Let me encourage you today that you do not have to run and hide from the change that has been thrust upon us, but embrace it as a opportunity that the Lord Himself has presented us a means of furthering the Kingdom in ways that we would have dreamed of before this unpresented time. Jesus is still the King and Lord of all and none of this has caught Him by surprise.

Pastor Rob Beckett, Shepherdsville First Church of the Nazarene

Restoring the “Image of God” to the broken and hurting

Seeking God’s Potential in Us Through Prayer

2 chronicles 7:14 “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Very few of the 5 billion people on this planet will ever maximize the full potential that God has placed inside them. Most people live mediocre lives. The full extent of their capabilities and talents go untapped. They are not even aware of the tremendous potential they possess. What is “potential”? It is your unused strengths. Your hidden talents. Your untapped abilities. Your capped or locked up capabilities. The definition for potential: The energy possessed by a body by virtue of its position relative to others.

If you decide that you do want to release your potential, the next step is to understand the principles God has established for unlocking potential.

keys to unlocking potential: potential is released through intentional and purposeful prayer.

1.Everything starts with prayer. Simply, prayer is talking with God. We pray when we open our heart to the Almighty. As simple as this is, it is also something people need to hear. Too many people feel that prayer is a certain sound or spoken VERY loudly. Others feel prayer is something that takes place in a certain place or with a certain posture. But none of those things are requirements for true prayer. In fact, you can sound holy and not be doing anything other than talking to yourself or the ceiling.

True prayer is open, honest, humble, and personal. It is a matter of relationship and it can happen no other way.

2. Create a culture or lifestyle of prayer. Conversation is a part of any vital and growing relationship. We sometimes measure the quality of a marriage relationship by how well the couples communicates. Or to state it another way, one of the first things people point to as evidence that a marriage is in trouble is a lack of communication.

If you do not have a desire to pray, then you do not have a desire for a meaningful relationship. The same is true for our relationship with the Father. True, honest, heartfelt conversation is a sign of a healthy relationship. A lack of conversation, or conversation only in public is a sign of a relationship in trouble.

It is through the prayer life of a committed, devoted servant that God can bring out the strength and power that He wants to demonstrate in the Child of God.

3. Listening is part of prayer. Paul’s commands to pray always or said in  1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “pray without ceasing.” Obviously, it cannot mean we are to be in a head-bowed, eyes-closed posture all day long. Paul is not referring to non-stop talking, but rather an attitude of God-consciousness and God-surrender that we carry with us all the time. Every waking moment is to be lived in an awareness that God is with us and that He is actively involved and engaged in our thoughts and actions. The Greek is, “Pray without intermission”; without allowing prayerless gaps to intervene between the times of prayer.

When we are in a state of continual conscience prayer we can then hear God respond and speak to us so that we can know and hear His heart. If prayer is to be a conversation with the Almighty then we have to allow time for God to speak to us, otherwise we are giving a lecture to God informing Him of everything we have already decide needs to be done and the prayer is more information for God rather than guidance from God. In fact, it is far more important what God says to you than what you said to God.

4. Repentance is essential for effective prayer. Prayer changes us. Prayer doesn’t change God, Prayer doesn’t change things, Prayer doesn’t change circumstances, Prayer changes us. Our prayers often reflect the statement, “Everyone thinks of changing humanity, but no one thinks of changing themselves.” Real prayer changes us. Repentance is the turning from our ways and into Gods ways.

Real prayer is not only soul satisfying; it is life changing. When you and I spend time with Jesus, he changes us. “To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer as a noticeable characteristic of our lives. The closer we come to the heartbeat of God the more we see our need and the more we desire to be conformed to Christ.” The transformation that Christ provides is more of a “turn-formation”, turning from our evil ways.

Don’t pray unless you want to change. Prayer propels us into action. Prayer advances God’s kingdom. Pray ignites a church to move outside its walls.

5. Obeying the voice that comes through prayer. Prayer unleashes the power of God and two characteristics dominated the apostle’s prayer meetings: God presence and God’s power. Is it any wonder that the Evil One seeks valiantly to keep Christ followers from praying? When we don’t pray Satan has won the battle. But when we do pray, the presence and the power of God are unleashed.

For those disciples in Jerusalem they experienced the power of God in a very tangible and real way. “When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken” (Acts 4:31).

The practice of prayer in a believer’s life is an incredible, virtually untapped power source. Prayer moves the hand of God. Prayer prevails. Prayer turns ordinary mortals into men and women of power with the potential of God at their disposal. It is the key that unlocks the storehouse of God’s riches. It is the call that moves heaven to act on behalf of earth. Seek after God’s potential He has placed in us through prayer!

Pastor Rob Beckett, Shepherdsville First Church of the Nazarene

Restoring the “Image of God” to the broken and hurting

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