Recently, during a public conversation with SBC 1st VP, Dr. Lee Brand, I had the opportunity to share what I think pastors in rural churches can do in the current tumult of the Southern Baptist Convention. I thought I would share these thoughts in writing as an encouragement to pastors in situations similar to my own.
I am the Pastor at Perryville Second Baptist Church. We are a small SBC church in a community of fewer than 1500 people within a county of about 10,000 people. But I think our church is more representative of the “typical” Southern Baptist Church.
So, what can pastors in situations like mine do? Here’s what I shared during the Lee Brand conversation:
- Preach the Word
What we do as pastors every Sunday matters quite significantly. In fact, I would say it matters even more significantly than whatever vote takes place in some trustee meeting. So, I encourage rural church pastors to continue to preach the Word of God, verse by verse, entrusting that God will be pleased to use His Word to shape His people.
The great hope for our convention is the grace of God. But this grace is often mediated through the heralding of God’s Word. The preaching of the Bible is something that we simply do not play around with or trivialize or kick down the list of priorities.
No matter what happens during your week, prioritize the preaching of the Word. Never farm this out to another group of people or organization.
Remember that God honors faithfulness to His Word. In a rural church, there might be more weeks than not that you don’t have 30 hours to prepare a sermon. You shouldn’t feel guilty about that. Instead, you steward the time you do have seriously so as to understand the text before you and be ready to deliver it to the people knowing that God is pleased to bring about reformation in His churches through His Word.
And, that’s what the SBC is, right? It is a convention of local churches. Therefore, if God brings reformation in our churches, we will see our convention experience reformation as well. So, preach the Word brothers!
You are to be busy with the ministry of the Word and prayer. You’re a rural church pastor. You can only ultimately minister where you are to the people God has entrusted you with. So, pray for them.
And yet, because our sovereign God is pleased to work through the prayers of His people, you can and must pray for the convention. I find myself getting frustrated by certain leaders and situations in the SBC, and then I am tempted to express my frustration to others, rather than turn to God in prayer. Let this not be the case! Rural church pastors can be involved in the recovery of the Southern Baptist Convention in the prayer closet. Let us not despise the simple means of grace here.
Preach. Pray. And seek to participate in the “life” of the SBC. I would argue first that you ought to be involved in your local association. The SBC has gotten somewhat “top-heavy” as of late. But we can recover a grassroots convention by not forgetting our local associations. Fellowship with other pastors in your area. Pray with them. Do mission work with them in your community. Build the strongest relationships with those who are closest to you geographically.
Then, work to be connected statewide and nationally with other Southern Baptists. Go to the meetings. Plan ahead now for Anaheim and Charlotte. But also, don’t forget your state meetings (something I need to work on too!). Your voice matters whether your pastor a church of 10 or 1,000.
- Push Your People to Be Involved
Admittedly, no one likes a pushy pastor! But I had to make the alliteration work. But what I’m communicating here is that the days of sitting on the sideline in the SBC are over. You cannot be an SBC church and just send off CP money and let the big boys handle it. No. You and your people must be involved. That’s showing up to meetings. It’s writing letters when necessary to our trustees. That’s funding endeavors like helping others get to the annual meetings if you can.
Help them to be aware of what’s going on, the good and the bad, and what’s at stake if we remain silent and uncaring.