By Randy C. Davis
President and executive director, Tennessee Baptist Mission Board
Last Monday morning I gathered with about 20 pastors and preached from the book of Nehemiah. It was humbling being in that room. These men are champions for Christ. They are all heroes, but unfortunately, are often underappreciated or unappreciated.
We live in an age of rockstar personality preachers who grab a lot of attention and seem to be measured by their social media followings. None of the guys in the room with me last week would fall into that category.
I’m thankful faithfulness to pastoral ministry is not measured in likes. It is measured by showing up day-after-day committed to a calling.
Our “crossroads” Tennessee Baptist churches are full of these types of pastors.
Did you know that more than half of the churches in the TBC network have 52 or fewer in worship attendance on any given Sunday?
Those are small churches, but when I say, “small church” I am speaking numerically and not in terms of significance. A local body of believers is by no stretch insignificant in the grand scheme of ecclesiology. God simply does not have small or large churches. For Him, it’s just the church.
These smaller churches are often in the smaller communities that abundantly fill a Tennessee map or are located out on some country road in a sparsely populated area of our state’s beautiful landscape. Or they may even be tucked into a densely populated urban area. But wherever they are, they are the kinds of churches that do not have multiple staff members and the pastor may not even be full-time.
Another piece of numeric trivia. Did you know that approximately 65 percent of Tennessee Baptist churches are pastored by bivocational ministers? These men have full-time jobs and pastor churches. Then there is unfortunately a large percentage of Tennessee pastors who have fulltime status but are so meagerly paid that their families would not financially survive if their wives were not working fulltime outside the home. Yet they all soldier on.
I love the local church and have deep appreciation for churches of any size. We are blessed in Tennessee to have many Kingdom-focused large-membership churches, and even some mega churches, that are doing great and effective ministry. I look forward to offering an encouraging perspective regarding those pastors in coming weeks.
But sitting in a small room, in a small building in a small town with these faithful pastors of smaller churches just filled me with gratitude for both them and their service to our Lord and Savior.
These men are the face of “Crossroads” Baptist churches everywhere. They are vitally significant to Kingdom work and the churches they lead are the backbone of the Southern Baptist Convention. Without them and their cooperative effort, the ecosystem that fuels our Great Commission vision as Southern Baptists would collapse.
I am thankful our Heavenly Father judges us based on faithfulness and not fanfare. Don’t be so enamored with the multimedia online sensations that you overlook your local pastor. They do for you what the celebrity won’t do, and that’s show up.
Your pastor performs weddings and funerals for your family, and attends graduation ceremonies, Little League ball games and senior adult events. He visits hospitals before sunrise and often doesn’t make it home for supper many nights because he is serving someone else’s family during that time. He works long and hard hours because, well, because that’s what faithful pastors do.
And somewhere in all that he studies God’s Word and faithfully preaches and teaches to the best of his abilities.
Bottom line: He positively influences lives.
Want proof? It’s in the research. A book was written a few years ago that identified the number-one reason Millennials stay engaged in church as adults is because they personally knew their pastor as a child and/or teenager.
If you attend a smaller membership church, encourage and appreciate your pastor. Thank him and his wife for the sacrifices they make to love you and your family. Thank them for their faithfulness to God’s calling on their lives. Then commit to pray for your pastor and his family. Trust me, they need and welcome it.
And “crossroads” pastor, I love and appreciate you. Thank you for serving. I’ve been there and know it’s often not easy. Thank you for hanging on and hanging in. You will never fully know the impact you’re having this side of heaven, but God does and that is ultimately what is most important.
It is a joy (and a high and holy honor) to be on this journey with you. B&R