Keeping the first things first
One of the most challenging obstacles pastors face is the same in congregations large and small: getting people to prioritize local church commitment over the activities constantly competing to fill up their weekly schedules.
“People are so busy with different things like sports, school, and other activities. They get pulled in 80 different directions, and they don’t prioritize being in church,” Mikey Pesqueda, pastor of First Baptist Church in Archer City, said.
“The body of Christ is meant to be there for each other. We need every person that is a believer here because we’re supposed to sanctify each other and grow and hold each other accountable,” he said. “We’re supposed to worship God together, encourage one another, and mourn together.
“If we’re not [at church with one another], then there’s always a part that’s missing that’s absolutely essential.”
Pesqueda has been reading a book by pastor and author J.T. English that says disciple-makers are taking the wrong approach when they ask what disciples want. Instead, they should be asking what they need.
“I think the same is true for our families,” Pesqueda said. “We don’t need to be asking what our kids want but what they need. What they need is to be involved in the body of Christ.”
FBC Archer City has seen a couple of families “really take hold of that” and pull their kids out of some activities, the pastor said, “and they’re here consistently.”
“If you were to ask them, they would say there’s a peace now of not feeling so pressured going in 80 different directions.”
Pesqueda was working a plumbing job with his father, attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and had married about four years earlier when he asked some mentors to keep their eyes open for where he might serve in ministry full time. With only internships on his resume, Pesqueda expected to start as an associate pastor and was surprised when FBC Archer City, a century-old congregation outside Wichita Falls, called him as their pastor.
Archer City is a town of about 1,700 people, including ranchers, teachers, and people who work in Wichita Falls. The church has had a lot of good, faithful pastors, Pesqueda said, and they were ready to love and accept a 26-year-old as their shepherd.
“Pastoring here has been one of the best blessings of my life,” Pesqueda said. “Coming in and being younger, I wondered if people were going to listen to me and follow the lead of someone who’s 20, 30, 40 years younger than them. I’ve never really felt like people have seen me as a pastor-in-training, and I’m thankful for that.”
Since the beginning, Pesqueda wanted to focus on discipleship and making sure the church knows why it holds specific beliefs. Recently, he started a “Doctrine and Discipline” series on Sunday nights.
“We’re trying to show people that head knowledge should grow our hearts for the Lord,” he said. “Head knowledge shouldn’t puff us up, but should grow our hearts to love Him more by seeing how complex God is and how much He has done for us.”
To support the doctrinal study, the pastor taught some Bible reading basics. “We walked through passages together and talked about interpreting it the right way compared to interpreting it the way we would like to interpret it,” he said.
The only remaining Baptist church in town, FBC Archer City has about 120 people attending on Sundays. The church has a strong children’s ministry and a growing student ministry. Attention is being given to women’s ministry, including a periodic mom’s night out on Wednesday nights.
Missions has been a significant focus of the church, the pastor said, and its missions team works to ensure members aren’t just giving money, but partnering through prayer and directly serving with other ministries.
For three years, the church has participated in the Secret Church Bible study and prayer emphasis started by pastor and author David Platt. An FBC Archer member had listened to Platt and asked if the church could get involved. Pesqueda was unsure anyone would attend something outside the scope of Sunday and Wednesday, but 25 people showed up the first time.
As more young couples join the church, Pesqueda tries to show them he doesn’t just want them there; he needs them there.
“We need you to be here just as much as you need to be here,” he tells them.
“Our schedules really shouldn’t revolve around all the other things that we do. Our schedules should revolve around Christ. When our schedules revolve around Christ and going to church and being involved in a local body, then all the other things will find the right balance.”