Month: October 2006

Climbing out on a limb’ with Jesus pays dividends for West Texas church

After weeks of prayer and preparation, 31 volunteers from Victory Life Baptist Church in Lubbock asked this key question to thousands at the South Plains Fair. During the eight days of the fair, 67 people made professions of faith at the church’s booth. Volunteers passed out thousands of tracts and church information while sharing the gospel with those who stopped by.

“There was no doubt that the Holy Spirit was at work in that fair,” said Victory Life member Skeet Workman, one of several people who were quick to credit the Lord for the event’s success.

“It’s not of our doing. We were just an instrument the Lord used,” said Pricilla Norris, another volunteer.

“We want to give God all the glory. It wasn’t the volunteers or the church, it was the Holy Spirit that did this,” Workman said.

In July, Workman said she felt impressed in prayer that there were going to be many lost people at the fair, and that the church needed to have a booth.

Herb Higgs, general manger of the South Plains Fair, said 196,988 is the official count of fair attendees. The Victory Life booth was in the first building as attendees entered the fairgrounds, a prime location for meeting people.

This was the second year for the church to have a presence at the fair.

“We wanted to be informative about the church, but we wanted to be engaging as well,” said Pastor Brad Jurkovich.

With their booth being in an exhibit hall it seemed natural to have a give-away and a demonstration, volunteers said.

Visitors signed up to win free office supplies or a children’s Bible, and watched a gospel presentation that consisted of two cups of water?one with red liquid, the other with black.

Church volunteers asked patrons questions like, “Have you ever lied?” as a visual demonstration of what Christ does in our heart, the red liquid would be poured into the black, and immediately the black would turn crystal clear.

“It is such a visual demonstration of what Christ does,” Workman said.

Volunteers asked those watching if they knew for certain that they would spend eternity in heaven, and were overwhelmed by the number of people who were not certain, or who had never heard the gospel before.

“We decided to talk to them about the Lord and give them an opportunity to accept the Lord and that made all of the difference.” Workman continued, “We tend to think that people around us are saved. They aren’t. It shocked me. Nobody had shared with them the gospel.”

“We didn’t have anyone walk off in the middle of the gospel presentation. It was amazing to see what the Holy Spirit can do in the midst of all the noise and distractions [at the fair]” Norris said. “People are starved for the Word and unsure of salvation.”

The booth had a generous number of divine appointments as children, teenagers, families, singles, and elderly alike bowed their heads in prayer to accept the Lord.

One of the appointments occurred on the second day of the fair. A woman came to the booth after recognizing the church name and logo on the banner. She had seen the name and logo on NBC’s “Today Show” only a few months earlier when a group from the church attended the show during a mission trip to New York.

She and her sone both accepted the Lord at the booth, Workman said.

“God had quickened her heart there in July. It was a divine appointment–most people would not have made professions of faith, or filled out registration forms.

“Now we have the big job of following up, but it’s a job of joy!” Workman exclaimed. Jurkovich agreed. “Follow up is very important; we’re not going to do anything [outreach] unless we’re going to follow up.”

“I want to encourage others to go where there are crowds of people, go out there and share the gospel. If you climb out on a limb for Jesus, it’s the most exciting thing there is,” Workman said.

Hallsville youth event yields 125 decisions

HALLSVILLE?The collaborative effort of six churches in the Longview area resulted in 125 students praying to receive Christ during a four-day evangelistic event Sept. 24-27, a Longview pastor said.

The meetings were held in Hallsville, a community near Longview, on two adjoining athletic fields at Hallsville High School, said Pastor Steve Cochran of Macedonia Baptist Church, one of the event sponsors.

The event was dubbed “Amplified” and featured a Sunday night concert with Christian band “Big Daddy Weave,” strength feats from Team Impact member Tracy Marcum and nightly evangelistic messages from Thomas Young of Sugar Land, Cochran said.

The final night included a demonstration from Chaos on Wheels, a Christian BMX team, which drew many kids “churches are not able to get in front of,” Cochran said, adding that most who made decisions were not affiliated with any church.

Representatives from the six churches are sharing in follow up, Cochran said, with at least one instance of a church sending a student to another church where he had some relationships already established, he said.

“The amazing thing is the partnership of these churches coming together was literally phenomenal,” Cochran said. “Adults continued to remark how important this is and how we need to come back and do this again next year.”

Two Longview churches?Macedonia and Woodland Hills Baptist Church?and Hallsville’s First Baptist Church, First United Methodist Church, Mulberry Springs Baptist Church and Pine Forest Baptist Church worked together over 15 weeks to organize and coordinate the event, Cochran said.

With tents provided by East Texas Baptist Men from Mount Enterprise, the meetings, which lasted through Wednesday, drew between 500 and 850 each night.

“It was really exciting to see so many adults and students come out to the crusade,” said Brad Bunting, SBTC youth evangelism associate. “Thomas Young did a great job of preaching the gospel in a very clear and compelling manner, and when he gave the invitation, numerous people responded. It was a great example of what can happen when churches work together for the sake of the gospel.”

Cochran said he first talked with school officials about using the high school for a crusade event several years ago to no avail, but then last spring they embraced the idea, he said.

He initially contacted about 25 churches to draw interest, but only two were represented at the first planning meeting late last spring.

“I sent out countless letters to let people know what we were doing,” Cochran recounted.

“Early on I recommended Thomas Young because we had had him before and he is very effective in speaking to young people. We also knew we needed name recognition for the first night. We began making phone calls. It just so happened that Big Daddy Weave was going to be in our area. We asked them to come and they came.”

Cochran said the participation also grew?from two churches to six. Various local leaders assumed responsibility for organizational areas. For example, the local Methodist pastor, “a very evangelistic guy,” Cochran noted, took on prayer preparation, enlisting local Sunday School classes as prayer partners.

The week of the event, two of the speakers, Team Impact’s Marcum and evangelist Young, addressed students during school assemblies at the 1,200-student, Class 4A high school. Cochran said Marcum talked to students about the importance of making wise life decisions, and Young talked about the painful results of drug and alcohol abuse. Neither spoke in explicitly religious language, but they were able to promote the evening events, which drew many kids, Cochran said.

Christians must return to biblical ethic, SBTC exec tells Midwestern chapel

KANSAS CITY, Mo.?In an age of ethical decline, evident in popular views on abortion, same-sex marriages and the like, Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, called for Christians to regain a solid, scripturally-based spiritual ethic. Drawing on Micah 6:8, Richards offered three principles of this spiritual ethic in chapel at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Oct. 3.

Comparing the role of Christians to worldly authorities, Richards emphasized the higher calling of Christians and the standard to which they are held.

“We have a higher calling even than the president of the United States,” Richards said. “We are called by God to represent God to people who need to know God.”

The way to effectively do this, according to Richards, is to be authentic. He proposed these three principles in order that Christians might effectively live their spiritual ethic before others.

First of all, “We must live the truth,” Richards said. Living the truth comes from knowing the truth as it is found in the Word of God. This leads to a public holiness in which Christians stand for the sufficiency of the Word of God against the evils facing society today. Public holiness is necessarily preceded and fortified by private holiness, or the reading of the Bible and prayer within the family at home. However, even before private holiness must be personal holiness. Personal holiness involves individual confession of sin before God alone.

“Our liberty can impact and cost the lives, ministry and effectiveness of others,” Richards said. Therefore, before joining together with family and standing publicly for truth, the Christian must stand before God in personal confession and maintain that relationship first.

The second element of this spiritual ethic Richards draws from Micah 6:8 is loving people. Richards suggests several aspects of the kind of love involved in this spiritual ethic.

“We give people the gospel because we love them,” Richards said, “but we also give people our integrity.” Furthermore, Christians owe it to the people around them to show love to and for their fellow Christians as a testimony.

Richard’s third and final principle of the spiritual ethic is longing for God. Those who understand that only God can do the necessary spiritual work in their hearts should feel nothing but humility before him.

“We [Baptists, all of Christendom] must come to a place of brokenness,” Richards said, “or God will remove his hand of blessing from us.” With all that Christians are faced with in the world today, Richards encouraged his audience that having a spiritual ethic will enable them to stay faithful to Jesus Christ and his Word.

At the end of Richards’ message, MBTS President R. Philip Roberts presented Richards with a citation in recognition of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s generosity to the seminary. Roberts also gifted Richards with a framed copy of a page from the Gutenberg Bible, the first chapter of the gospel of John.

Immediately following chapel, a ceremonial dedication was held for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Room at the William Koehn and Martha Myers Center for World Evangelism.

“The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention have done a great deal for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary,” Roberts said. “Their faithful support for the Cooperative Program is the most vital contribution that they have made. We thank God for their executive director, Dr. Jim Richards, and his ministry to us.”

Fieldwork’ not just catchphrase for rural Texas church plants

Three years ago, Carl Schneider left his businessman persona behind in San Antonio when he and his wife and five children relocated to the southeast Texas town of Edna to pastor a small congregation that had formed from a Bible study group.

Two years ago, Jerry Jewell tried twice to take a seminary course that covered the gospels, but ended up in a missiology course in which church planting was a topic, and next found himself in a church-planting class.

Then God opened the door for him to live out a vision he’d been given for Living Hope: The Church in the Field, in his central Texas hometown of Copperas Cove.

Both men have learned that cultivating new ground to plant a church literally means working out in the field to reach the lost on their own turf.

Wild hog hunting

Carl Schneider, who previously served as associate pastor of family ministries and missions at a San Antonio church said, “I suppose the biggest change is the way in which we do things. For my role as pastor, I no longer strive to fit the ‘businessman’ model?they don’t trust me if I look and act like I’m trying to sell them something. So I look like the other men of my community, and I’ve learned to do the things they do alongside them.”

In a town of 6,000, with lots of farmers, ranchers, and hired hands, looking like the other men means denim. Schneider said it isn’t unusual for him to have a pair of work gloves in his back pocket, “and as far as my pocket knife goes, I don’t leave home without it.”

Schneider has learned to care for livestock, harvest cotton, and hunt wild hogs over the three years he has led Lakeway Fellowship.

They have grown from 15 original members to a congregation of over 60 regular attenders. His family’s menagerie has also grown?from one dog they brought from San Antonio to two dogs, two rabbits, two minnows, one crawdad and nine turkeys, “for the fair,” Schneider said.

He has also learned to be patient and slow down?”to think tortoise, not hare,” he said.

Of the 15,000 county inhabitants, about 75 percent are unchurched, and content to be so. Schneider has discovered that most see the church as irrelevant and untrustworthy. The message Schneider senses they have received from churches is “we have an important message for you. You must come here so we can tell you, you must clean up to come in, and shame on you if you don’t.”

It took Schneider about a year to cultivate a genuine friendship with the husband of one of the original members. Through that man, Schneider became acquainted with another family, and it took another two years to develop a relationship with them.

The patriarch of that family told Schneider, “The last time I went to church, I was a little boy. When my dad and I walked in, the preacher said, ‘Looky there. The devil just walked in the door.’ So my dad turned around, walked out, and we never went back.”

When the man told Schneider the story, Schneider responded, “That man was a jerk,” and the man thought Schneider was referring to his dad. Schneider said, “I don’t mean your dad. That preacher was a jerk.”

The man said he had never thought of it like that, and added, “I just figured if I was the son of the devil, I didn’t need to go back. So I didn’t.”

Schneider assured him that he was always welcome at Lakeway Fellowship. Since then, the man still hasn’t come, but his wife, daughter-in-law and two grandsons have. But Schneider believes even they would not have come had he not been willing to en

SBTC coordinating Southern Baptist relief teams in Lebanon

Amid homes, buildings and roads in Southern Lebanon bombed out by the recent war between Israel and Lebanon-based terrorists, God is at work.

That’s the message Larry Shine brought back from his trip with a Southern Baptists of Texas Convention contingent that visited there in late September. It’s a message Jim Richardson, SBTC disaster relief director, is hoping will spur churches to participate in relief work there, as Southern Baptists attempt to offer help and hope.

Through its mission partnership with Lebanese Baptists, the SBTC is recruiting and coordinating Southern Baptist relief teams for work in Southern Lebanon, which suffered the greatest damage to infrastructure.

Teams of six to eight people will mostly install water tanks in homes and buildings. It’s a simple task but not a typical mission trip, Richardson said.

“It’s work,” he said of the 8-to-5 regimen of physical labor. “You work to have the opportunity to develop a witnessing relationship.”

Richardson said the damage level varies from slight to devastating and has affected innocents and terrorists, Christians and Muslims and others.

Because of their recent work, “We were able to build relationships with believers. We were also able to build witnessing relationships with people who are not believers,” he said.

Richardson said the water tank effort is much needed because concussion from bombing raids damaged so many of the tanks.

Teams from California and South Carolina are scheduled to go for 10-day deployments in November and December, respectively. Another SBTC team is working there now and will return later this month, Richardson said.

Despite religious differences with Muslims, they seemed eager to receive the help, he said.

“I found the people to be very, very open. I found no one causing any problems because we weren’t talking politics. I found people taken aback that Christians from the United States would care enough to bother to help Muslims,” Richardson said. “And that’s what motivates our teams is to share the love of Jesus Christ with other people.”

Shine, pastor of Pine Forest Baptist Church in Onalaska, documented his experience in a journal entry (read it online at

“I failed to find the hordes of terrorists in Lebanon that the media had warned us about,” he wrote. “What I found was people; hurting, confused and who needed what everyone needs in times of crisis: hope?. When we went from house to house making minor repairs to shattered windows, doors, roofs or water storage tanks, they all asked the same question: ‘Why are you doing this?’ The answer was always the same: ‘Because we are followers of the teachings of Jesus and he told us to love our neighbors. You are our neighbor and you need help. We are here to help you because we love you.’ The answer always brought the same response, a bigger smile, a more vigorous handshake and more grapes and coffee.”

Another pastor, Jim Howard of West Side Baptist Church in Atlanta, Texas, wrote: “This trip has been the highlight of my entire walk with Christ. As I look back and reflect on the trip, my heart is filled with joy and great expectation of what God is going to do in Southern Lebanon. I am also very thankful for our [Southern Baptist] state and national leaders that are sensitive to the heart of God; open to hear his voice and ready to join him in reaching a lost world.”

The trip costs around $2,400 per person, which include airfare, food and lodging. Richardson said churches may contribute toward volunteers’ expenses if they wish. For more information on Lebanon relief work, contact Richardson at or call him toll free at 877-953-7282.

Ministers’ wives told to set standard

FORT WORTH?”Families are falling apart all over the place. People are looking for a family that works,” declared Dorothy Patterson at the Sept 22-23 SBTC Ministers’ Wives Retreat. “We’re to teach them to love their husbands and love their children,” she explained through a study from Titus 2.

The author, women’s studies professor and seminary president’s wife related the curriculum God provides for minister’s wives, urging them to order their lives according to scriptural priorities.

“You are setting a pattern for the women in your church,” she said, [by] “taking time for yourself, your family and helping your husband before you start accepting responsibilities in the church.”

Identifying those whom they teach, Patterson said, “Even if you are young in your first opportunity for ministry, the contrast is not just age and experience. It’s a woman totally sold out to the Lord Jesus Christ, totally determined to stand under his Word in contrast to a woman, whatever her age, who is new to the faith.”

Failure to follow those instructions results in blaspheming God’s Word.

“If we cut through the Word of God, disparage it, ignore the teachings he has given to us, we’ve destroyed his revelation of himself.”

Because God chose to use the metaphor of home to reveal himself, Patterson said a minister’s wife should align her priorities with Scripture, providing a testimony through her home.

The public nature of being in the ministry makes criticism commonplace, stated Susie Hawkins, a women’s ministry leader, teacher and wife of a minister. She encouraged minister’s wives to be open to the possibility that God is saying something through rebuke from others?”something you need to correct in your own spiritual walk.”

The adage to “consider the source” can help them determine whether the critic has the person’s best interests in mind, she said. “There are some people in life you can never please. Learn to minimize your contact with them and do what you have to do to be sweet. Love them in Jesus from a distance.” Hawkins added, “Do not waste one minute of this blessed life trying to earn approval from people who will never give it to you.”

She further encouraged wives of ministers to check their motives when their actions are criticized. “That is easier said than done because our capacity for self-justification knows no bounds.”

By asking the Holy Spirit to reveal any sin in one’s life, wrong motives are revealed and behavior can be corrected, she said.

Exaggerating the criticism received adds to the conflict experienced, she said, encouraging honest reflection. Furthermore, she said, determine whether the criticism offered really matters. Recalling Paul’s response that it was a small thing to be judged by the critical Corinthians, she pointed to the apostle’s ability to discern whether concerns were valid.

From the example of Peter and Paul separating over a conflict, she spoke of the importance of addressing important disagreements involving moral and theological issues.

“Paul confronted him in front of all the other elders and pastors. This was the issue of the day.” Hawkins concluded, “I’m convinced that must have been very, very uncomfortable for everybody, but he had to do it.”

Noting the variety of circumstances, issues and people involved, Hawkins reminded, “The Bible has lots of good counsel for us. There is a time to speak and a time to be quiet, a time to take action and a time to lay low. That’s why we must be filled with the Holy Spirit of God and listen to his direction.”

Nadine Tubbs encouraged ministers’ wives

Messengers to focus on giving from God’s grace

AUSTIN?Messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s 2006 annual meeting will gather Nov. 13-14 at Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin around the theme “Grace Giving,” a stewardship focus taken from 2 Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9.

The SBTC Pastors’ Conference, preceding the annual meeting, will begin at 6:15 p.m. Nov. 12 at Great Hills (See for Pastors’ Conference schedule). Also, a weeklong series of Crossover evangelistic events will culminate Nov. 11 with a 5k “Race Against Time” and neighborhood outreach with Austin-area churches.

The Women’s Luncheon is scheduled for noon Nov. 13 and will feature Martha Lawley, an attorney, author, speaker, Bible study leader, and women’s ministry consultant for Wyoming Southern Baptists.

The President’s Luncheon is scheduled for noon Nov. 14 and will feature John Bisagno, pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church of Houston.

Advance tickets are required for both luncheons and are $10. Registration is available at or by calling Gloria Corbitt (President’s Luncheon) or Judy Van Hooser (Women’s Luncheon) in the SBTC office at 877-953-7282.

Steve Swofford, SBTC president and pastor of First Baptist Church of Rockwall, will call the convention to order at 6:20 p.m. Nov. 13 following pre-session music and prayer.

Tuesday will begin with pre-session music at 8:30 a.m. with the Youth Banjo Choir from Sagemont Church in Houston. Introduction of motions is scheduled for 9 a.m., followed by a sermon at 9:20 a.m. by James McGinlay, pastor of First Baptist Church of Lakeside.

At 9:35 a.m., messengers will hear reports from Bill Henry, LifeWay director of network partnerships in the Church Resources division, and Kenyn M. Cureton, Executive Committee vice president for convention relations.

Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Seminary, representing the Council of Seminary Presidents, will speak at 10:05 a.m.

Jacksonville College President Edwin Crank will report to messengers at 10:50 a.m. John Morgan, the founding pastor of Sagemont Church in Houston, will preach the convention sermon at 11:10 a.m.

The Nov. 14 afternoon session includes election of officers at 2:05 p.m. and reports from O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, Terry Sharp, director of state and associational services for the International Mission Board, and Ed Stetzer, missiologist and senior director at the North American Mission Board.

SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards is scheduled to give his report to messengers at 3:05 p.m. NAMB’s Stetzer will preach at 3:50 p.m.

Tuesday evening will include the Resolutions Committee report at 6:40 p.m. Brad Jurkovich, pastor of Victory Life Baptist Church in Lubbock, will preach at 7:30 p.m. Messengers will also hear reports from Criswell College President Jerry Johnson and Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land. Swofford will deliver his President’s Address at 8:15 p.m. Great Hills Baptist Church is at 10500 Jollyville Road, Austin 78759.

Breakout virtues for pastors

I’m probably the last kid on my block to finish reading “Breakout Churches” by Thom Rainer. It’s an important book. Clearly it is derived in a great degree from Jim Collins’ “Good to Great.” This fact does not detract from the contribution Dr. Rainer is making because of the thorough research that allows him to usefully adapt the best principles of GTG for churches.

In brief, Breakout Churches is a study of 53,000 U.S. churches to find qualities of a church that allows it to beat the odds. To qualify as a breakout church, a congregation must have moved through a time of decline, crisis, and then into dynamic growth without changing pastors.

Many great churches do not qualify because they have not been through this decline or because their dynamic growth followed a pastoral change. Dubious at first, I’ve come to understand that these criteria make the study more useful.

Most churches will never be that great church (as we judge greatness) but by looking at the principles God used to revitalize another ministry we can gain insight about our own churches. To put it another way, most pastors cannot compare their ministry challenges/opportunities to those of a 20,000 member gigachurch without despairing. The breakout churches were where most churches are today and they found new life without firing their pastor.

The research team for Breakout Churches was surprised to find only 13 churches that fit the profile. They projected that if they’d been able to study all the 400,000 American churches, they might have found 100. Two of Breakout Churches’s 13 are Southern Baptist; eight of the 13 are outside the Bible Belt. Read the book, you’ll find something useful.

Three pastoral virtues loomed especially large as I read Breakout Churches. These seem significant because they are so basic and accessible. For the most part, they’re things we already know we should be doing while conducting the ministry God has given us.

Humility–I’m convinced this is the key Christian virtue. The big three, faith, hope and love, must be exercised in an awareness of our place before God and man.

Jim Collins noticed this quality in CEOs of outstanding companies. Thom Rainer noticed it in the 99th percentile pastors of his breakout churches. He noticed it in a way not typical of other churches and pastors they studied. They did not seek reward or recognition; they are more impressed with what God is doing than with themselves. They are less quick to blame others for problems or take credit for success. At the same time it is not a trait that vacates ambition, vision or leadership.

Our clearest example comes in Philippians 2 where we are urged to have the mind of Christ. This passage is far easier to preach and teach than it is to live out. Jesus did not demand respect or perks or any of the trappings of authority, but he still had authority and used it in submission to the Father.

Notice elsewhere in this issue of the Texan a report of the top reasons for pastoral staff terminations in 2005. The top five are always the top five and they have to do with relationship issues, not doctrine, not even competence. Of course a part of these conflicts will be the fault of the involved churches. Pastoral humility will nonetheless recast church fights over control, leadership style and “people skills.” Humility is a mark of great leaders and great Christians of all vocations. It also the often-cited character of Christ, whom we are sworn to follow.

Diligence–The significant role of just plain hard work is both challenging and encouraging. Dr. Rainer’s research noted that the average pastor in his study devoted five hours per week to prayer and study related to his teaching/preaching ministry. The breakout pastors spent an average 24 hours per week preparing for this ministry. The span between average and elite here is simply staggering.

The challenge is obviously finding more time to do this important aspect of ministry. The encouragement is that this is something you can do that does not require a charisma transplant. In fact, while 98 percent of the pastors expressed a clear call to ministry–the most basic level of leadership–moving into the second level and the more elite 22 percent of pastors required only “taking time to do well the basics of Christian ministry such as preaching, teaching, and prayer.” It’s challenging but doable. More importantly, we already know we must be doing that to be good stewards of our ministry.

This was Paul’s admonition to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4 and 2 Timothy 3. The entire book is sprinkled with admonitions to “teach,” “instruct,” “devote yourself,” and so on. Look at Jesus’ example during his temptation in the wilderness. I am convinced that he did not quote passages from Deuteronomy because as God he wrote them but because as a man he studied them diligently.

If this basic discipline is common to the pastors of extraordinary churches, that correlation is not likely to be a coincidence. On the matter of time availability we must also ask ourselves if we are really busier than they or are we just busy in service of different things than they?

A final thought on diligence. I wonder if there is a correlation between a neglect of study and prayer and relationship problems between pastors and congregations. I’ve seen these conflicts from ore than one perspective and know the temptation to scurry about marshalling people to a side of the conflict. It’s not generally a good use of time and it does not often pay off. Instead, basic elements of ministry suffer from neglect to an even greater degree because we’re off doing more urgent things.

I suspect that pastors who are forced from their ministries are even below the norm in the time they devote to their primary ministry of the Word. Would they have been able to avoid a train wreck by greater diligence in their preaching/teaching ministry?

Persistence—Staying put may be the crucial test of outstanding ministries. This seems to be true of great ministries that do not fit the breakout church model. The pastors of the remarkable churches identified in Breakout Churches were at their ministries an average 21 years when book was published. That’s about six times the length of time for an average church’s pastoral tenure. Again, when the span between great and average is so wide it doesn’t see coincidental.

To answer your next question, more typical churches were not found to have different types or degrees of problems than breakout churches. The challenges that tempt an average pastor to move on also tempt the pastors of breakout churches to leave. The difference is that they didn’t. A change in the direction of their churches often started shortly after they resolved to stay in place.

Their testimonies also indicate that they suffered because they chose to stay, but their wounds have become part of who they are in current ministry. They were changed, sometimes scarred, but also more fit for the next phase of their ministries.

Jesus’ example in the garden as he submitted his will to that of the Father is one of continued faithfulness. Paul’s testimony that he would rather go on to heaven than to stay in his ministry is accompanied by his submission to the belief that God would keep him here for a while longer. Fearful things can be a test we need to pass before God can trust us with greater things.

I acknowledge that these virtues set a high standard that many pastors currently strive toward. The harsh truth is that this is not always the case. The oft-quoted figure of 80 percent of churches being in decline was not just pulled out of the air. Dr. Rainer has given us some research that puts it pretty much on target. He’s also given us some clues as to why this might be true.

There is no system that guarantees God’s blessing on any ministry. He has, however, given us repeated guidance toward these three virtues and others that will “save both yourself and you hearers.”