Much has changed for us in the past three years. But when I consider the “leading” change, that is, the most significant in my ministry, I’ve come to an unexpected conclusion. I became the lead pastor of Abundant Life Assembly, in Enterprise, Oregon in 2014. As one of 11 churches for 2000 residents, I wondered why God had called me here?
Well, my family of 5 had increased the Sunday attendance by 33%, to 20. It was a good start. And over the next 3 years, we outgrew our building, tripled our space with the purchase of the historic church on Main St. How did this happen?
In the spring of 2015 I was on a prayer walk when the Lord prompted, “Ask Me for the Christian Church Building”. After debate, I conceded. “Lord, give me the Christian Church building.” I hadn’t prayed out of great faith, but simply obedience. A bit embarrassed, I kept it a secret even from my wife for three months; six months after that, I told the board. The very next month, the pastor of the Christian Church asked if we would be interested in buying their building. One year later, Pastor Boyd Powers was our guest as we dedicated our new facility to the Lord.
God moved. Skeptical hearts turned and a spirit of unity filled the congregation. We were blessed with “parting gifts” – technical equipment – from the Christian Church, and an additional 40% growth after changing locations.
But what is that “leading” change I spoke of? It’s not the building or the attendance, it is the change in me. By the end of year two, I had settled in and learned my community, built trust, and established healthy rhythms for myself, my family, and my ministry. Now I was venturing into uncharted waters, so I called upon our Network and began coaching with Pastor Bill. I had already recognized I needed to change: change my leadership style, build teams, give influence to others, and stop doing it all by myself. If we were going to disciple the people of our church, “WE” needed to do it. But I didn’t know how. I am so thankful to the Lord for the wisdom imparted to me throughout the past nine months of coaching. We weathered the purchase, the move, and the growth with relative ease. And I’m getting some ideas for the discipleship part as well.
Another lead change dealt with my perspective. The results are not up to me, as I may have thought; they’re up to God. I'm grateful I didn't tell you this story three weeks ago because two weeks ago our attendance was 35 again. I think we ought not to look only at the highs - the victories of ministry - nor at the lows; but remain focused on our primary calling, to be faithful and obedient to God. The results are not up to us, but up to Him.
I heard in a podcast this afternoon that “we are not called to build a church, but to build a people.” I believe it because when I look at the people I am serving, I see folks that have grown in the Lord. Lost ones saved and leaders who’ve stepped into roles that they never dreamed for themselves. My own heart is more settled and secure in who God has called me to be. Some encouraging words were spoken at Intermission. Scott Hagan said, "Leadership is not about what you accomplish, but about what you set in motion." My church has been in this community for 75 years. This “people,” has outlived many a pastor, and it will outlive me. But as God has given me favor, and influence, I am learning to give these things away. Church attendance can be like the stock market. One day it's up, the next it's down. In one year it crashes, and for a decade it recovers. So, if we're going to invest our lives, let's do it over the long haul. Let us set our hand to the plow and be willing to dig ditches for water and furrows for seed. And then let God bring the increase. Let us lead the leading change by leading ourselves to greater dependence on the Lord, and staying true to what God has called us to do and to be.