“The only way to experience God’s blessings over a long period of time is to stay faithful during tough times.”
Ray Johnston Senior Pastor
Bayside Church Granite Bay, Calif.
A 2013 Outreach 100 Church
I have three distinct turning points that have impacted our ministry. The first one was when we realized that whoever wins the kids, wins! We win the culture, the future and the heart of the community. That has led to doing 38-day camps for kids during the summer. The vast majority of those kids come from unreached families. That has also led to doing sports camps, computer camps and special needs camps. That conviction has also led to hiring teenagers. We started a program called APEX, and this past summer we had 115 teenagers in full-time leadership positions and on our church staff. September hit, and those kids arrived on their campuses as missionaries. The kids are the least of these, but when you win them, everything changes.
The second turning point came when we realized that in the early church, good deeds led to good will, which led to openness to the good news. I realized we had been delivering the good news without good deeds, and there was a lack of good will. That has changed everything about our church, and we now have three core values, one of which is to unleash compassion. We now sponsor 7,000 Compassion International children around the world. We shut our church down for Serve Day one weekend every year in May. A politician recently told me that we are the No. 1 provider of social services in our region. I had underestimated the impact of following the prescription for unleashing the love of Christ straight into the community, instead of our people hiding out on our church campus.
The third thing was more personal. Ministry is hard. Ministry is discouraging, and I pretty consistently feel like quitting. I did a study of the Old Testament and realized there are three stages every person and leader went through. Stage 1: experienced tough times; stage 2: stayed faithful; and stage 3: experienced God’s blessings. I realized the only way to experience God’s blessings over a long period of time is to stay faithful during tough times.
Four questions keep me focused on the things I believe God wants us focused on. No. 1: Are missions and moral balanced? Ultimately you will either have both, or neither. No. 2: Are we operating with fresh vision from God? No. 3: Is our church unleashing compassion, and is there a steady stream of people flowing into our church because they receive the love of Christ? No. 4, and ultimately the best: What are people doing 10 years after they’re away from the influence of our church? Are they still walking with God? Do they still read their Bibles? Are they still fully devoted followers of Christ? To me, that’s the ultimate ministry of success.
GETTING DOWN TO WORK
Make sure I stay encouraged. If I’m not encouraged, I will never be the pastor, leader, communicator or husband and father I need to be. I build some of my schedule around the kinds of things that recharge my batteries. Also, I hire great people. If we hire people who aren’t, it will create a ton of work, and life gets impossible and unmanageable.