Each year, we speak with several Outreach 100 pastors in an effort to collect their honest observations about the church, their ministries and their experiences. This year, we collected their insights on everything from personal growth and stress management to staying humble in a high-profile position—as well as their thoughts on the future of the American church.
Valley Bible Fellowship in Bakersfield, California
When I first started in ministry, I got hooked on Chuck Smith, the pioneer of the Calvary Chapel movement. I listened [on tape] as Chuck Smith taught through the entire Bible. He was my spiritual mentor, and died never knowing that. He taught me the importance of being biblically balanced in church doctrine by leading me in a verse-by-verse study each week. I would then lead the congregation in the same study. As I learned, I taught.
Because stress has a lot to do with criticism, I have to work very hard in this area also. Sometimes I will reply in some form when something is really bothering me. Once I do that, I then do this silly thing that I picked up as a kid—I watched some Major League Baseball players who, after missing a ball, would turn and spit in the dirt so as to say, “You got that one past me, but I am still here.” I see myself spitting in the dirt, and saying, “It is what it is, now I have to move on.” It sounds silly, but it works for me.
Corrie ten Boom once said that when Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, and all those praises went up and the people waved palm branches in adulation, that donkey knew that they weren’t praising him. In a sense, I see myself as that donkey. I have no problem with handling praise, because I know myself too well. God should have given up on me a long time ago.
I am concerned about the lack of unity and sometimes even the apparent “disdain” that many believers show for other believers. This spirit is promoted by some leaders inadvertently and others blatantly. There has to be a common ground where we all meet in the middle and agree to disagree. Something has to change. I am sure that it must start with me. I must find a common ground with those I doctrinally disagree with.
What excites me about the church today is the quality of young leaders that are starting to emerge. Many of them are exceptional communicators, and they represent the church very well. Many are extremely creative, yet they retain a standard of holiness that is so badly needed. I think these young guys give us hope for the decades to come.
If we are to take our churches successfully into the next decade, we must try to understand millennials. It is my opinion that they are more inclined to receive messages and endorsements that come from another successful millennial than they are from those in the older generations. Many have to relate to receive. In the years to come, my role as a lead pastor will change. Instead of doing the majority of teaching and spending most of my time in study and preparation, I will start spending more time nurturing the younger guys in the things of God and how to walk with him, so they can become the spiritual conduit for reaching this next generation. It is one of my concerns that as the boomers and Gen Xers begin to die off, the megachurches will experience a large decline in attendance. The successful churches will be the intentional churches.