Help! Our Pastor Is Leaving!

Help! Our Pastor Is Leaving!

With the number of pastoral transitions looming on the horizon, many of our congregations will be facing what is needed when a congregation loses a pastor through resignation or retirement. Please know you are not alone! Mission Northwest stands with all our congregations during this time and provides many resources. Below you will find a sample of the first steps we strongly suggest in that journey toward the Lord’s next pastor for your congregation.

Celebrate with Thanksgiving

It is vitally important and Biblical to celebrate the departing pastor’s ministry and to say thank you (1 Tim. 5:17). This is done in two ways:

  • Informally, by inviting the pastor for meals, coffee, etc. While the friendships long established will remain, the relationship as pastor is coming to an end. These events help everyone to acknowledge this.
  • Formally, by planning for a specific time to celebrate the years of ministry the pastor and family have given to this congregation. This should be done in consultation with the pastor and family. This is best done at a time when others from outside the church family can attend. In addition, announce the event by word of mouth, by print and electronic media when and where the event will occur. If people can contribute to a gift or bring written words of thanks, include those pieces in the invitation.
    • Two suggestions for the celebration time:
      • Give people opportunity to speak their words of thanks, share stories, etc. Some churches have also arranged for those far away to make a call during the celebration and the call was put over the speaker system.
      • Make a video recording of the event to give to the pastor later.
  • It is highly recommended this event occur sometime other than the regular morning worship so that others who live elsewhere and/or attend other congregations may attend.

Gather a Search Team

If the pastor is retiring (not resigning to accept another church call), the church leadership may gather a search team while the pastor is still serving. The leadership should gather those for the team according to the church’s constitution with one additional quality:

  • select people whom the congregation respects and considers wise, spiritually mature.

The goal is to gather a group who can work as a team on behalf of the congregation and whose recommendations will be heard by the congregation as trustworthy and wise. Our materials provide guidelines for leadership as people are selected for the search team. Advice is also given for helping people decide if they are called to be on the team. It is always a good move to ask the congregation to publically affirm the search team during a worship service.

Secure an Interim 

At the leadership’s request, Mission Northwest will provide a potential interim for the leadership to interview. Guidelines for the interview would also be provided. The church leadership needs to determine who is responsible for securing the interim according to the church’s constitution. That group will interview the potential interim and make the decision. The congregation does NOT vote regarding the interim because it introduces too much confusion in the pastoral call process.

NOTE: If the church’s constitution indicates the search team secures the interim pastor, then the search team needs to be formed first. Otherwise, securing the interim needs to be done before gathering the search team.

Housing for the interim: A crucial decision needs to be made. Will the church rent an apartment/house? Alternatively, if the interim is more “local,” will overnight accommodations at a hotel with kitchenette or Airbnb be sufficient? If a rental is to be secured, housing guidelines are available.

Further Assistance

As the church moves through this time of transition to God’s next thing, your sister churches through the work of Mission Northwest are here to help. A search consultant will be available. Please contact me, Patti Duckworth, with any concerns or questions: and 406.788.4350.

Increasing Guest Attendance

Increasing Guest Attendance

In this day of struggling churches it makes sense to return to the basics regarding why people choose to attend a church. Along with this discussion it’s also important to consider why people stick after that first visit. Ultimately it does no good to attract 10 new guests each Sunday if 100% of those guests fail to return. Makes perfect sense doesn’t it?

A basic rule of church growth is “Increase the number of guests who show up on Sunday mornings”. Most churches have the capacity to increase their number of guests if they work at it. Obviously there are other entry points other than Sunday worship. Small groups, mission teams, special events are all examples. For the purposes of this article I want to concentrate on Sunday worship since the majority of people check out a church at prime time, namely Sunday morning.

It’s helpful to know what influences a person to attend church on a given Sunday. Gary McIntosh conducted a study using a survey administered to 1,100 church goers to gain helpful insights in this regard. In the study he distinguished guests by two categories: Christ-followers and Seekers. Christ-followers have crossed the line of faith and show up at church usually because they are looking for a new congregation. Seekers are people who have not yet given their allegiance to Jesus. They are at some point in a journey towards Him, from initial interest to seriously seeking Christ.

Surprisingly McIntosh discovered that by far the most influential people for encouraging Seekers to check out your church are “Merchants” (41%). Merchants are people who interact with the public: hairstylists, fast food workers, bank tellers, realtors, car salespeople, etc. These are people who know about your congregation and its good reputation in the community.  That is, if your church has some positive name recognition these merchants will drop its name when the subject comes up. These merchants may include your own church members. They have great connectional influence. They will take the initiative to point people to your church, especially if they are deeply involved and love your congregation and its ministries.

The second most influential person for encouraging a Seeker to attend is a “Family Member” (17%), the third most influential is “No One” (17%), in fourth place a “Friend” (11%), in fifth place a “Neighbor” (4%) and finally a “Coworker” (3%). Based on my experience these stats ring true. In my last church a hairstylist was a champion at inviting Seekers to our church. She interacted with all kinds of people all day long and held nothing back when encouraging people to visit our church.

Based on this insight I would recommend that you pull together from among the congregation your most extroverted, winsome and respected merchants for a quick pow-pow. Encourage them to be intentional about their inviting habits. Support them in prayer. Provide them with calling cards to give to clients that includes basic church info: church name, address, worship schedule, mission statement and web address. Ask them for helpful feedback about the experiences their guests share with them after they visit. Use this information to improve your welcoming and assimilation system.

Additionally, it is important that your church raise its profile in your immediate community. One of the best ways to do this is to engage in several externally focused ministries.* These will improve your church’s name recognition, although this is never the primary motivation for doing such ministries. Consider leading your church in a steady emphasis on good neighboring so that more people will be aware of your church and its Christ-like love for everyday people.** Additionally, every pastor would be wise to make it a regular to meet local merchants.

The stats change dramatically when we examine who influences Believers to attend a church. “Merchants” have little influence (1%). Rather,  “Family Members” have the most influence at 30%. These are followed by “No One” (25%), “Friend” (22%), “Coworker” (3%) and “Neighbor” (2%). The most influential Family Members are Parents and Spouses.

The surprise in this study is the large percentage of Believers who show up at church with no previous connection to the church—the “No One” in the study at 25%. Most likely this is due to the rise of Social Media and the Web. An increasingly large number of people hear about a church, check it out online and then attend based on positive impressions from their Internet experience. In today’s world the first visit that most people will make to your church is through your web site. This is especially true for people under 40. Without a strong web presence your church will be virtually unknown. Therefore, it’s important to do a first rate job presenting your church through your web page and your Facebook page.

One of the more surprising insights based on this survey is the importance of theology. Even for Seekers, theology was important to 50% of those checking out a church. For Believers the percentage rose to over 90%. Guests want to know that your church has rock-solid beliefs. One Mission Northwest pastor asked an unbeliever with a critical eye to critique their church’s web site. Her response was intriguing. She said that there wasn’t enough emphasis on God! Her point was that people expect churches to have strong convictions about their beliefs. For these to be missing on a church’s web page is off-putting. McIntosh’s research affirms this to be true.

It’s no surprise that “Friendliness” also ranked high with Seekers at 72% and for Believers at 80%. Warmth and genuine interest in newcomers is highly important. But, the most important question in the mind of a guest is, “Can I make genuine friends here?” If there is a sense that all groups are closed, and there is no obvious onramp for making friends, then guests will move on to another church.

One additional factor is the critical part that the pastor’s preaching played in a guest coming to church. Believers ranked preaching at 90% in importance. Seekers ranked preaching at 75%. This is huge! Responders placed great value on preaching that applied to their lives, the authenticity of the pastor, and the pastor’s convictions. Preaching was more important to guests than worship style, the church’s location, and a variety of other factors such as programs. Least important was a church’s name. This is a clarion call to all pastors to continuously hone one’s preaching skills.

With this information in hand, every church can increase the number of guests who show up each Sunday. In my next article, I will share ideas for retaining guests.


*resources: The Externally Focused Church by Rick Rusaw & Eric Swanson; The Externally Focused Quest by Rick Rusaw & Eric Swanson

**resources: The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon; The Neighboring Church by Rick Rusaw & Brian Mavis

A Higher Way: American Baptists and Our Neighbors

A Higher Way: American Baptists and Our Neighbors

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength

and with all your mind” and, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)


Dear ABCUSA sisters and brothers, greetings in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord! As I write to you today, we all would acknowledge that recently our country has experienced a great deal of turmoil, pain and stress.

What are we witnessing? A lack of civility in both discourse and behavior cuts across all strata of our society, and extends even to the Presidency itself. Prejudice and xenophobia threaten to become policy, in ways that are not only unjust, but destructive of basic American core values. Immigrants are seen as a threat and not a blessing. Racism, rightly considered “America’s original sin,” has reared its ugly head in too many disturbing ways. The January 2018 shut-down of our federal government symbolizes the polarization and dysfunction of our political institutions. Schools suffer violence, and innocent children are murdered. Politicians, celebrities, newscasters, sports stars, doctors, and yes, even clergy, have been guilty of sexual harassment and abuse. Months after hurricanes devastated Puerto Rico, much of the island has no electrical power, while traffic lights, thousands of homes and many church buildings still require repair.

As representatives of the Kingdom of God envisioned by Jesus (see Matthew 5-7), we must not remain silent as our American society falters in upholding cherished principles, and this is why I am writing to our ABCUSA family. Although my remarks are my own, I have asked our Regional Executive Ministers and the Board of General Ministries’ Executive Committee to speak into this letter. Many have shared advice and counsel, and have also expressed support for the letter. I would like to thank them all for their insights and encouragement.

Each one of the issues raised above deserves thoughtful consideration and prophetic response, but in this letter, I wish to address an underlying theme that may provide our leaders and churches with a perspective by which to faithfully address all of them.

In brief, our culture suffers from a form of spiritual amnesia. Having forgotten or ignored the Baptist and biblical core conviction of the infinite worth of every human being because we are all made in God’s image, many movements and individuals no longer act as if loving one’s neighbor is a fundamental and necessary manifestation of a just and healthy society. We are so quick to judge, denigrate, criticize, attack, and assume to be superior to those with whom we differ. There is precious little grace, courtesy and mutual respect remaining in American discourse and life. We must recapture these virtues which can resupply society with much needed social capital. This failing applies to both the President and Congress, to political and social conservatives and liberals alike, to Republicans and to Democrats, as well as to those of us who are part of religious communities.

If we believe that all people are precious to God and equal to one another, we must reject prejudice, hatred, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of bigotry. If we believe that political democracy best expresses the civic equality that is demanded by our Baptist belief in soul freedom, then we must abandon “the politics of personal destruction” which in contemporary culture demonizes all who disagree with us, preventing healthy discourse, problem-solving and thoughtful compromise.

If we believe in the equality of all human beings, we can celebrate religious, ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity as a gift that enriches us all. We can defend the right of others to be safe and free, even if we do not see eye to eye on political matters (Baptists have held this position since colonial times). We will befriend the stranger and immigrant and protect the powerless. We will treat others with caring, respect and generosity. We will re-discover the art of speaking the “truth in love” and not in anger (Ephesians 4:15). In other words, we will embrace Jesus’ call to “love our neighbor as ourselves.”  

In the Bible, loving one’s neighbor is a manifestation of godly wisdom. Imagine what kind of a society we could experience if we applied this wisdom to our political discourse: “A person who lacks judgment derides one’s neighbor, but a person of understanding holds their tongue” (Proverbs 11:12; my paraphrase). Consider what policymaking would look like if we applied this admonition: “Do not plot harm against your neighbor, who lives trustfully near you” (Proverbs 3:29; see also Zechariah 8:16-17). Immigrants, for example, are our neighbors, not our enemies.

How might we as a Christian movement, made up of local churches and individual disciples of Christ, live out Jesus’ command to love our neighbors?

In regard to our witness concerning racism, I encourage all American Baptists to travel to Washington DC for a potentially historic religious service and demonstration on April 4, 2018, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the death of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Denominations and organizations from across the theological spectrum are coming together to affirm that we believe in an America that exemplifies racial justice and harmony. I will be there, and I hope American Baptists will support this ecumenical affirmation that all Americans are our neighbors. For more information, see

In response to the status of undocumented immigrants, I would remind us that many are members of American Baptist churches all across the country. They are our sisters and brothers. Seek them out, love them, express solidarity with them, demonstrate compassion and care. Although legitimate differences of opinion exist amongst us regarding immigration policy, I would encourage us to support the continuation of the legal visa status of Haitian, Central American and other temporary legal immigrants. We can encourage Congress and the President to extend a pathway to legal status and eventual citizenship to children who came to the United States with their parents, and who may now face either deportation or separation from their parents. If our neighbors are loved by God, we must embrace them regardless of their legal status, remembering that Abraham’s offspring were immigrants in Egypt, and that Jesus himself was an immigrant whose family had to flee persecution.[i]

Surely, we all agree that all forms of violence,[ii] including sexual harassment and human trafficking, are anathema to our understanding of the Kingdom of God. If we believe that men and women are equal in God’s eyes, we cannot excuse sexual abuse and harassment. In the near future, the Office of the General Secretary, in cooperation with other ABCUSA ministries, hopes to launch a creative new initiative as a resource for churches who are already addressing these concerns, or may wish to start doing so.

American Baptists are committed to journeying alongside our 114 Puerto Rican Baptist churches, and we are well on our way to raising one million dollars in One Great Hour of Sharing Disaster Relief funds for the island. Working with the Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico region, American Baptist Home Mission Societies is doing a great job in coordinating our rebuilding efforts. Send a work team! Furthermore, we invite your church to enter into a three year sister church relationship with one of our Puerto Rican congregations, culminating in face to face visits to celebrate the faith of our Puerto Rican friends at the 2021 Biennial Mission Summit in San Juan. You will soon receive details on how to become a Sister Church. As a matter of justice and compassion, let us share with our elected representatives that we believe our government must do more to restore the island’s economy and infrastructure.

I welcome feedback from you. Would you please share with me what nationalities and cultures are represented in your congregation? I believe we are a far more diverse spiritual family than we realize. Is your church reaching out to immigrants, both documented and undocumented, in loving and creative ways? Send me your stories! Are you willing to stand up against racism? Come to Washington DC on April 4! Is your church willing to befriend a sister church in Puerto Rico? We are all blessed by spiritual companionship and support.[iii]

In closing, I would encourage us all to ponder James’ admonition: “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right!” (James 2:8).

Yours in Christ,

Around Mission Northwest and ABC-USA

Around Mission Northwest and ABC-USA

FBC Eureka received $10,000 from OGHS to provide relief or ten families who lost their homes in the fires that raged through West Kootenai last August/September. Mission Northwest churches pitched in as well bringing the total to $15,510. This is another excellent example of the blessing that comes with being a part of a larger denominational family. These Mission Northwest churches pitched in additional finances: FBC Kalispell ($500), FBC Eureka ($500), FBC ABW Eureka ($400), Cle Elum CC ($610), FBC Pocatello ($500) and Florence-Carlton ($3,000).

This year’s Leadership Tune-Up was another resounding success. Over 166 pastors, staff and church leaders gathered at Ross Point Camp in late September. Keynote speakers included the new General Secretary, Dr. Lee Spitzer; Dr. Tod Bolsinger, Dr. Mark Wilks and Rev. Corey Laughary. The topic of “Adapt: Church Leadership in a Post Everything World” proved to be timely given all the challenges that churches are facing in today’s shifting landscape. If you missed this event, all plenary sessions were recorded and are available at Also, consider reading “Canoeing the Mountains” by Tod Bolsinger if you have not yet done so. It’s a fantastic read.

ABHMS continues to receive OGHS dollars to help rebuild homes and churches in Puerto Rico. The need is great and numerous churches have been demolished requiring major repairs or rebuilding. "Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico" is ABHMS' multi-year initiative established to respond to the need Maria left behind. ABHMS has set a goal of raising $1 million dollars in the next six months to continue the work we have begun there. There are 113 ABC related churches and 9 missions that compose the Region of ABC Puerto Rico. Most of the churches were severely damaged by Hurricane Maria and will need repairs and/or rebuilding.

Dr. Lee Spitzer, General Secretary for ABC, has appointed two new Associate Executive Ministers. Rev. Marsha Scipio will serve as Associate General Secretary for Missional Initiatives and Partnerships, and Rev. Dr. Kevin Walden will serve as Associate General Secretary for Congregational and Pastoral Effectiveness. Announced during the Board of General Ministries meetings at the Crowne Plaza in King of Prussia, Pa., Scipio and Walden will join the Office of the General Secretary Ministry Team in January 2018. To support the efforts of the Office of the General Secretary, designated gifts may be earmarked to OGHS or through United Missions Basics.

Paul Burnham, Sr. is now serving as the Transitional Pastor at FBC Castleford, ID.

Terry Oliver is serving as the Transitional Pastor at FBC Sunnyside, WA. Rev. Tim Pettey resigned from the church last August due to health challenges associated with his battle with melanoma. Please continue to pray for Tim, his wife Janette and their children.

Dick Sipe is serving as the Transitional Pastor at Chinese Baptist Church Seattle. He started in August 2017.

Dave Griewe has orchestrated a strategic merger between New Life Bible Fellowship in Caldwell, ID and The River in Eagle, ID. As a result the congregation is growing and there is new excitement in the new church that has formed.

Rev. Bill Hale has been called as the new pastor at FBC Kelso, WA. Bill and his family will be moving from Colorado Springs and we warmly welcome them to the Mission Northwest family.

Friendship House in Billings, MT continues to grow and expand its ministries to South Billings with amazing success. Rev. Matt Lundgren has led the ministry to quadruple its budget, expand its staff and reach more children and families in the name of Jesus. To learn more about this neighborhood action ministry that is nothing less than outstanding go to their web site and learn more.

Big Sky Area churches gathered at FBC Hardin, MT over the dates of October, 27-28.  50 people were in attendance and the Hardin congregation were great host. Dr. Jeff Johnson brought several dynamic keynote messages. Jae Stockton and Gregg Snelling, both with International Ministries, conducted missions workshops. Additional workshops were presented by Patti Duckworth and Charles Revis.

FBC Anacortes conducted their annual leadership training event, “Leadership  Summit”, on Saturday, November 18. Joining in with the event were sister Mission Northwest churches Church on the Rock, Oak Harbor and FBC Mt. Vernon. Dr. Revis led the group in intensive training on the topic of Church Culture.

Five Trends That Will Challenge Regions and Churches

Five Trends That Will Challenge Regions and Churches

At our November Mission Northwest Region Board meeting I sketched out five trends that will greatly impact our churches and Region in the next three years, and beyond. None of these are big surprises because we’ve been wrestling with these challenges as part of our Region mission for the last several years. However, it’s important to be aware of these and face them courageously.


  • Trend One—Church Turnarounds Are Hard.

A major part of our work together is helping churches stop their decline, turnaround and start growing again. No one expects overnight change, nor are we trying to grow large churches. We simply desire that Mission Northwest churches be healthy enough to make an impact in their communities for Christ. None-the-less turning around a church that has been in decline for ten, twenty and more years is difficult. The longer the decline, the harder the turnaround.

Successful church turnarounds are leadership driven. I would hazard a guess that roughly 70% of turnaround success depends on the leadership skill of the pastor coupled with a deep devotion to Christ and His mission. The remaining 30% is split between two primary factors: 1) A guiding coalition who supports the pastor in the quest for renewal and change; 2) The ability to overcome controllers and/or turf owners who resist change for the purpose of mission alignment.

  • Trend Two—Pastors Are Aging and Many Will Be Retiring in the Next Five Years

The average age of pastors in America is at an all time high. The mounting wave of pastors approaching retirement is growing and will soon crest. The implications for Regions and churches are staggering. There are fewer younger pastors entering the ministry to take the place of retiring pastors. And those who are answering the call prefer to plant a new church or join the staff of a large church. Our Regional pipeline for recruiting new pastors has shrunk to a slow flow and we are scrambling to develop new pipelines. One thing is certain: The former days of sending 30 to 45 profiles to a search committee are long gone. We would be wise to return to the former practice of identifying young adults with gifts for ministry and encourage them to consider vocational ministry (bi-vocational, too) as a call.

  • Trend Three—The Northwest Is a Difficult Place to Plant Churches

Church planting is hard and frustrating, but we still need to plant churches. Our record at church planting is less than stellar, but this is no surprise. Two reasons come to mind. First, the northwest is notorious for being hard spiritual soil. Second, church planting is by nature a risky business. In the future, the more successful church plants will be started out of healthy churches with disciple making reproduction in their DNA. Churches that start multi-sites will hive off their sites and they will become new healthy churches. Experimental forms of church will blossom as more churches embrace approaches rising out of the Fresh Expressions movement. There will be an increase in church restarts and church mergers in the next ten years. The key will be new churches being birthed with healthy DNA led by a coalition of leaders with strong gifting in leadership, evangelism and discipleship.

  • Trend Four—Transitional Pastors Will Replace Interim Ministers

In the past interim ministers served as placeholders until the congregation called its next settled pastor. In the future Transitional Pastors will guide the church between pastors through an extended period of assessment, adjustment, course correction and renewed vigor in preparation for the church’s next life-cycle. In many cases the Transitional Pastor will need to stay longer for necessary changes to be fully embraced. Churches in transition will need to exercise patience, increase their commitment to corporate prayer, double-down on communication, and work closely with the Transitional Pastor until the time is right to call the settled pastor.

  • Trend Five—An Increasing Number of Churches Will Learn to Be Light on Their Feet

As traditional churches continue to decline and die, prevailing churches will be those who have thrown caution to the wind by becoming more aggressive in experimentation and learning. They will press into spiritual renewal and exercise radical faith. They will be marked by joy, laughter, spiritual fervor and visionary leadership. They will have learned to change in order to not die. They will not be held back by naysayers and traditionalists. Pouring new wine into new wineskins will be their stock and trade. Coaching churches who want to pick up the pace will be a welcome challenge for Regions like Mission Northwest.

Behind the Scenes: Steps Toward Being Considered as a Pastoral Candidate

Behind the Scenes: Steps Toward Being Considered as a Pastoral Candidate

Have you wondered what happens behind the scenes when people indicate their interest in being considered as pastor-leaders by congregational search teams in our Region? While it is not a secret, we engage in some intense work to aid our search teams in their efforts of prayerful discernment.

Here is an outline of what happens after Region staff have received the documents requested from people interested in being considered as a potential candidate. (The documents requested are found on our Region’s website at

1. People named as references receive a reference form to complete.

a. Information provided is confidential. Church search teams will do independent reference checks.

b. Church search teams will NOT receive resumes/profiles unless the Region office has a minimum of 3 references completed on file.

2. Potential candidates will be contacted by the Executive Minister (EM) or Associate Executive Minister (AEM) for an interview.

3. At the conclusion of the interview, the potential candidate will be offered the opportunity as appropriate to review profiles for churches currently seeking a pastor. Not all people are appropriate candidates for every congregation.

4. Potential candidates are asked to prayerfully review the church profile(s). If the potential candidates find they are interested in any of the churches, they communicate their interest to the EM or AEM ONLY (not the church).

a. Potential candidates do not initiate contact with the search teams or churches. The right of first contact belongs to the church search team. It is considered unethical by our churches if a potential candidate makes the first contact with the search team. Church search teams do not consider people who subvert this agreed-to process.

b. When potential candidates indicate interest, they are committing to a one-time, non-obligatory interview with the search team. The goal of the first non-obligatory interview is for search teams and potential candidates to make decisions on personal interactions with real people and not solely on two-dimensional forms of information (resumes, profiles, websites, etc.)

5. After potential candidates communicate their interest to the EM or AEM, the EM or AEM will send their profiles/resumes to the appropriate church search teams. Someone from the search team is in touch with the potential candidate to set a date and time for the first non-obligatory interview.

6. The decision to continue the process of discernment now lies with both parties. The search team may wish to have further interviews. Mutual agreement between the potential candidate and the search team is necessary to continue any conversations.

7. The task of the search team is to present ONLY ONE person to the church as THE candidate for the pastoral position. Once a person agrees to become THE (only) candidate for the church, he/she must discontinue all conversations with other groups until the church calls the person AND he/she accepts the call. The church search team does the same regarding any other potential candidates with whom they are in communication.

These steps have been developed over time and from the best practices of hundreds of churches. Clearly, the steps involved in discernment require time to prayer and listen for the Lord’s direction. Everyone is involved in this work—potential candidates, search team members, and the congregation—who often are waiting while this work is going on behind the scenes.

Your Church Can Be a Refuge

Your Church Can Be a Refuge

I didn’t pick up running until my mid-20s. I’ve never been an especially fast runner, but I possess one talent that allowed me to finish with better times than many of my competitors: pacing. Others would begin too fast and fail to finish, or they would start their final push to the finish line too soon. A runner who does not understand their pace and adjust their gate accordingly cannot reach their full potential. They might not even finish the race.

When I became the lead pastor of a 50-member, 90-year-old church in need of renewal, I immediately felt the need to pick up my pace even though I had not yet determined where I was heading. Driven largely by a fear of failure, a need to impress, and an unhealthy dose of competition, I packed the calendar with stuff.

It was good stuff, too: a worship night, leader trainings, redecorating the sanctuary, and a neighborhood Easter celebration complete with a petting zoo for the kids. Within six weeks, I had built a spiritual machine rather than a sanctuary. And I was good at it. Too good, in fact.

The church seemed to have new life. We were growing, and many were excited about the changes.

Six months later, I hit a wall. I was physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. My congregation felt the same way. Our pace was unsustainable.

I didn’t enter the ministry to be a hyper-strategic business executive, faced with the impossible task of maintaining momentum through constant spiritual events. I’ve always wanted to concentrate on leading the people I serve into the sacred presence of the risen Christ. But to do so, we needed to slow down and catch our collective breath. I was the pace leader, and the small church I started with was right behind me. We needed to recalibrate.

God was calling us to build calm, safe harbors of connection rather than culturally relevant centers of activity. Our people longed for a place to be rather than a space to do.

1. Model and preach rest as a value.

I began by modeling rest in my own life. I started by observing a weekly Sabbath. I kept my phone on silent and checked it two to three times a day at the most.

But for this to stick, it had to be a deep change, not just a quick fix. I took a more deliberate approach to Sunday services, allowing myself to be present with people rather than settling into the role of the frenzied minister on the run.

We worked toward a culture of casual excellence rather than slick performance. We left nonessentials undone in the name of peace. If bulletins did not get folded, we handed them out flat rather than asking someone to come in early to get it done. We closed the office on Fridays to give the campus a Sabbath as well, and I regularly featured rest, an often overlooked spiritual discipline, in my sermons.

The response was immediate and overwhelming. Congregants emailed, texted, and stopped me in the grocery store to tell me how our new value of rest impacted their lives. Most told the same story: they were tired, burned out, and filled with anxiety. They wanted to rediscover what it meant to follow Jesus beyond their phone Bible apps and the seemingly endless treadmill of ministry opportunities.

2. Clarify your church’s vision.

Our leadership set about defining our core values. Prayer, God’s Word, authenticity, fun, and play were some of the 12 we decided upon. We scrapped our growth strategy in favor of an emotionally and spiritually vibrant community. I removed goal setting from our yearly staff calendar. We didn’t need a goal to know whether something was alive and healthy or needed adjustment.

As a result, our staff relaxed and remembered why they were called to the ministry in the first place. We began to experience growth and results far beyond any goal we would have had the spiritual hubris to set. Intentionally living out our primary values allowed us to exceed the limitations of setting and striving toward goals.

After we established the vision of congregational rest, we decided to remove anything within the organization that got in the way of that vision. Few things besmirch the sacred like noise and chaos, so we cut anything that resulted in these annoyances. For you this might mean the annual Christmas play or the yearly rummage sale. Only you can determine if the physical, emotional, and spiritual cost of these activities is worth the reward.

3. Empower and equip your people.

Let’s be clear: rest is not death. Rest means working wiser, not harder. We still believe that a small local church can change the world, and we aim to do so. To become a local church with global impact, we knew we would have to empower our people to become the mechanism of change. The church would be a place to replenish them for their journey, rather than the destination.

Doing fewer organized events as a church freed us up to focus on equipping people to do more in their own community spaces. This encouraged church leaders and volunteers to shift their focus and energy toward their personal living spaces.

Rather than highlighting all the amazing things we were doing as a church, we turned the spotlight towards individuals doing simple yet profound work in their corners of the world. We did this in three ways.

First, we gave space in our Sunday services to let them tell their stories. Second, I used our printed sermon notes to give people a list of challenges to impact their community. Third, we began to offer weekly conference call coaching sessions where our people could digitally join in on a conversation with me and other ministry veterans to glean wisdom and ask practical questions.

In a sense, this is a hack of the popular multisite model. Rather than invest the energy and finance into a large and sometimes risky endeavor, we ask our people to use their home addresses as our venues. Today we have over 400 “sites,” and we never had to set up a single chair.

4. Make church community simple.

Finally, we decided to make the most crucial church services as simple as possible for our congregation. We kept the sanctuary open and available for anyone who wanted a place of communal silence, encouraging them to write out the Word of God by hand to focus their minds on God’s Word. We made our prayer gathering a regular weekly event and started a monthly night of worship through music. This created a rhythm of varied worship within a context of community.

Perhaps the most impactful decision we made was determining what to do with the remaining finances after eliminating the “noise and chaos” programs. Ultimately, we decided to shift those funds to our hospitality budget to provide a free catered lunch every Sunday for all attendees.

For less than 10 percent of our yearly budget, we were able to provide 52 community building, enriching, multi-generational events. Most importantly, we were able to relieve the pressure from our people’s schedules rather than add to it.

Our community is now running at a sustainable and life-giving pace. We have the margin and space to engage beyond the temporal, knowing that while speed might be exhilarating, it keeps you from seeing and experiencing as much.

Adam Stadtmiller is pastor of LaJolla Christian Fellowship, a Mission Northwest congregation in LaJolla, California. This article was previously published in CT Pastors, October 2017.

Could-a, Should-a … Want to?

Could-a, Should-a … Want to?

If you came home from your next doctor’s visit with the news that you had only a limited amount of time left in this life, what would you make sure people around you knew? Other than wrapping up financial affairs, what would you put your energy into communicating to family, friends and acquaintances?

A number of years ago, I had a friend who came to face that reality in his life. As a teenager in Cheyenne, Wyoming, I had gotten to know Joe King when First Baptist brought him in to do a capital funds campaign for our hundred-plus year old but growing church that desperately needed more space. Though older than most of our parents and there to do “adult stuff,” Joe routinely hung out with us teenagers. That made an impression on me. What made a deeper impression on me was Joe’s joyful love of Jesus.

Years later in southern California, it was a great delight to find that John, our sons, and I were in the same region he was serving as an area minister… (and where we would get to know Charles Revis!) Though we eventually moved back to the northwest, we kept in touch with Joe and Marietta, seeing them occasionally at various gatherings. It was a terrible blow to hear Joe’s cancer had returned, and medical options had been exhausted. When I heard the news, I called him. Joe answered with his usual joy. He sounded like Joe, not like a dying person. He was honest the short time he had. But he was also quick to say he knew exactly what he wanted to do with that time: “I am going to make sure I tell every single person I talk with that Jesus loves them.” That was a good idea, I said. We talked a bit more. When it was time to say good-bye, Joe said,

“I need you to know something important.”

“Okay, Joe, what’s that?”

“Jesus loves you.”

A month or two later, I was able to talk to Joe again. His voice was weaker but the joy was still there. Joe said the same thing to me at the end of our visit: “Don’t forget: Jesus loves you.”

A simple statement. And yet it is one of the most important statements in the world. So why does that seem so, well … hard, … so difficult for us to communicate with others?

Offering Jesus is hard NOT because we can’t or don’t know how to. There are a lot of very good books and pamphlets available to help us if we don’t. They are easy reads. For example, 8 to 15: The World is Smaller than You Think by Tom Mercer or Organic Outreach for Everyday People by Kevin Harney are two excellent resources if you feel you need more help in HOW do offer Jesus to the people in your life. With these kinds of helps, we learn we can and we are able to offer Jesus to others.

Offering Jesus is hard NOT because we don’t think we should. Most of us know we should tell other people about Jesus. We should tell invite people to meet Jesus because if they don’t, they’ll spend forever without God. We should “go and make disciples” because Jesus told us to (Matt. 28:19-20). But believing we should doesn’t seem to get us very far. Guilt is never much of a motivating factor.

We can and we should… but where is the urgency about inviting people to know Jesus? Perhaps we believe (deep down) everyone will get to heaven in the end. If we believe everyone goes to heaven, then why bother with any of the church stuff – sermons, teaching, Bible-study, living like Jesus…?

No. Logically and spiritually the idea that everyone eventually gets to heaven makes no sense. If it is true that Jesus is the Son of God, born of human flesh, lived, died and resurrected to make possible our reconciliation to God, then it must be true for everyone. Or it is not true for anyone.

Without a doubt, those statements can raise all the theological discussions that people both learned and spiritually wise have probed for centuries. They are worth consideration, if for no other reason that they help us to understand more clearly what we say we believe. But for me, the issue of “we can (know how to) and should but don’t” share Jesus raises a very different question:

Do we WANT to share Jesus with others?

Perhaps offering Jesus is hard because we DON’T WANT TO. We usually find time and energy for the things we really want. If we sharing with people that Jesus loves them, perhaps it has to do with our priorities.

If honest reflection brings the realization, “I guess I really don’t want to,” the next question is, “how can I want to?” We’ve already noted guilt doesn’t get us there. The only way I know to address a lack of desire is to admit it – and repent of it. If we ask for the desire to share Jesus, Jesus will give us that desire. Asking to “want to” is in line with what God already wants. For our friend Joe, it was always a priority. At the end of his life, it became THE priority.  

And now I need you to know something very important:

Jesus loves you!

Incarnation's Hope for Messy Lives

Incarnation's Hope for Messy Lives

I was recently invited to preach a Christmas message for Advent and as I was working my way through the assigned texts an old insight suddenly became refreshingly current for me.

In Matthew 1:18-25 we read about Joseph and his predicament upon discovering that Mary is pregnant. By Jewish law he was obligated to divorce her, and to do so publically. This would require an aggressive legal proceeding. In this way Joseph would recover his dowry, and more importantly his good name.

Projecting forward Joseph understands that such a course of action will result in terrible hardship for Mary. No man would marry her. Her family would disown her, and she would raise her child alone in poverty. So, being a “righteous man” he opts for a low-key solution. He chooses to “divorce her quietly.” In doing so he will be assuming some of Mary’s shame.

However, an angel forestalls Joseph’s plan. Through a dream the angel informs Joseph that Mary is with child “because of the Spirit.” Joseph must not put Mary away. He must marry her and raise the child alongside Mary. Joseph swallows his pride, obeys the angel, all the while knowing that this will be the end of his sterling reputation. People will assume, in spite of his efforts to set the record straight, that he is responsible for Mary’s untimely pregnancy. Joseph will carry the full brunt of the shame. This is hardly an auspicious beginning for this young father upon the birth of his first-born!

This struck me as being extremely unfair. Why did God in orchestrating the incarnation of the Messiah turn Joseph’s life upside down? The same question applies to Mary. This is certainly no proper context for the birth of a King, much less the Son of God!  The whole situation is deeply disappointing. Yet, God triumphs in Joseph and Mary’s story.

On the one hand, the self-emptying of the Son of God, starts at the lowest end of the human ladder as He is born to parents suffering under a scandalous pregnancy, an imposed census, an untimely trip, and an overcrowded house. This kenotic trajectory will stop only upon reaching its nadir at the cross. (Philippians 2: 6-8) Thank God for how Jesus completely identified with the “least of these” as He journeyed toward His own sacrificial death on our behalf. The incarnation is God’s “yes” for everyone of us!

On the other hand, there’s a major bright spot in all of this for Joseph and Mary. As they gaze into the face of their newborn son they are the first humans on planet earth to gaze into the face of God in the flesh.

Over time as the reality of their son’s identity settles into their souls, the difficulties they’ve endured fade into the background. These troubles are nothing compared to looking into the Face of God in their newborn child.

And, here’s what’s really cool. Jesus will hang out with them for many years to come until He launches His public ministry! Wow! Imagine having a perfect son, who never stays out too late or crashes the family Toyota. He always makes up his bed. He eats all the food on his plate, even the broccoli. And, when, as a parent, you lack faith in God, He could say to your face, “I’m here with you. I’ve got this. Don’t worry.”

In the midst of their frustrating and shameful situation Mary and Joseph find themselves at the very epicenter of God’s redeeming work for all humanity. They have front row seats to the glory and grace of God Himself, the Son of God, living in the flesh in their midst.

What was true for Mary and Joseph, remains true for us today. God is on His throne and the world is in His hands. He wants us to trust Him in the midst of our messy lives and know that He is at work causing everything to work together for the good of those who love God (Romans 8:28).

Now that God has come to earth in incarnate form in the lowliest of human situations you can count on Him showing up in all kinds of surprising places and ways, especially as we invite Him to do so—places where you would least expect Him. Jesus embeds Himself in the fabric of everyday lives transforming tragedy into comedy and mending broken hearts and lives. He gives purpose where there’s only been the aimless, exhausting existential daily grind of living life.

So, this Christmas I encourage you to look for Jesus in your life and its craziness. Jesus brings hope into the messiest of life situations, just as He did at the very first Christmas with Joseph and Mary. He will do likewise for you, and also for your church. May the hope of Christ, who was born to us in the flesh, rise anew in your heart this Christmas season. God bless. 

Newton Old Crow, Sr. Receives 2017 Sparrowk President's Award Recipient

Newton Old Crow, Sr. Receives 2017 Sparrowk President's Award Recipient

Congratulations to Newton Old Crow, Sr., who received the 2017 Cora and John Sparrowk President's Award at the ABC-USA biennial meeting in Portland, OR, on July 2, 2017. It was a joy to see Newton receive this award. At the conclusion of the presentation, Newton removed his hat and pointed upward, giving thanks to the Lord. Afterwards, Newton said it was really Amelia who should have received it. That humility is a hallmark of Newton's faith and life in Christ.

Some of the remarks read at the presentation are below. You can read the complete presentation at this LINK.

Newton Old Crow served as a pastor with his wife, Amelia. He was born in 1932 into a cultural world that was one of forced transition as his people struggled with a new way of living. Crow married his wife, Amelia, in 1980; in the years after, he and Amelia each received a Pastoral Certificate from the Cook College and Theological School in Arizona, and in June of 1989, Newton was Licensed for Ministry by the Crow Christian Association. He and his wife moved to Oklahoma to pastor together to three churches in the communities of Seiling, Canton, and Watonga, OK. Their ministry was primarily with the Southern Arapaho, Southern Cheyenne, and Kiowa people.

In September 1997 Newton and Amelia were called to pastor at the First Crow Indian Baptist Church and the Little Brown Church in Lodge Grass, MT. This brought him back to Crow Country to work with his people in the community where he grew up. He founded the Christian Cowboy Fellowship, a ministry that continues today. He also started a Rodeo Camp for Youth. During Newton’s pastoral ministry, he baptized many new Christians, both young people and adults.

In the Case of Faith vs. Fear

In the Case of Faith vs. Fear

A recurring theme in some recent discussions has been fear or anxiety. However, most people don’t use the words “fear” or “anxiety.” Instead, I’ve heard people say things like, “We are concerned about the drop in Sunday morning attendance.” “I am unhappy with the current direction of our church.” “Some of us are worried about the church’s future.” As we discuss the particular event or issue, what strikes me is unnamed fears lie beneath the concern or unhappiness.

This is not to suggest we shouldn’t have or experience fear. Fear is, after all, a natural part of life. Fear can help us survive by heightening awareness of potential threats and dangers. In Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times, the book our LLCs are currently reading, Peter Steinke says, “Regulating anxiety [and fear] to the point of having no anxiety is humanly impossible. Anxiety [fear] is always present; it is a fundamental human expression, even a healthy response to life” (p. 32). Though we experience fear and anxiety, we are told frequently in Scripture to not be afraid because of where fear can lead: demoralized feelings, paralyzed actions and ultimately, disobedience.

Where Fear Leads

Fear demoralizes us. If we lean toward fear, our resolve weakens and our healthy choices as a follower of Jesus can be destroyed. The gap between “I haven’t yet been able to do X (invite Joe, share Jesus with Sally, read my Bible) and “it doesn’t matter if I do X because it will never happen” is subtle. But the gap is significant. In the case of “not yet,” there is still faith and hope and plans. In the case of “never,” we’ve chosen demoralized defeat, and we’ve bought the lie that what God wants us to do doesn’t matter.

Fear leads to paralysis. Paralysis is more than just not doing something: it is doing something that doesn’t accomplish God’s purpose in our circumstances. We keep doing something because it is comfortable. Doing a thing keeps life within our control. Doing it may produce acceptable results, but we end up settling for mediocre instead of reaching for God’s best. One example happens within a church’s small groups. People talk about and agree that inviting others is important. The talk can serve to remind us of what we need and want to do. It can also ease us into thinking that the talk is enough, and no one in the group actually invites another person to participate in their group.

Fear ends in disobedience. “Anxious fear or worry becomes the sin of pride and unbelief when it diverts one’s attention from following the Lord…or causes someone to trust their own resources or abilities or those of someone else rather than God’s.” (Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 562).”

Where Faith Leads

Faith overcomes fear. When faced with fears and anxieties, faith chooses to believe and to act. There may still be moments of doubt or anxiety, but these do not control us. We choose actions based on a conviction that our Lord wants the best for us, and the Lord’s plans are for a hope and a future (Jer. 29:11). That is not to say that faith is stupid. Jesus directed us to pay attention, count the costs, and be wise (Luke 14:28). The paralysis of fear leads to disobedience and reinforces fear, our stubborn self-will and pride. But in prayerful analysis of risk, we understand what is coming but still move forward in faith. We operate out of the conviction that even if we make mistakes because of our human weakness, God is bigger than our mistakes.

Faith leads to peace. In Paul’s words, “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). If that truly is our conviction, then peace – diminished internal anxiety – follows.

Faith results in action. There are many indicators that point to whether we are choosing faith instead of fear. Here are two:

1) Involvement in something bigger than us. What risk have you taken to open possibilities to share Jesus with someone in the last 30 days? It could be as simple as learning the name of a salesperson at a store you frequent. Do we know anything about the people who live around us? Whatever our opportunities, they are pursued even when the results are not clear.

2) Decreasing “activities of distraction.” At the least, fear and anxiety make us uncomfortable. In looking for something to ease or erase our discomfort, we may grab at what quickly makes us feel better. But that thing may only mask what the real issue is, and the fear is not recognized, confronted and overcome. Likewise as congregations, it can be easier to do programs and events because they make us feel like we are doing something. But we haven’t looked at why we think these activities are needed. Are they done to help us interact with people far from God? Or do they just make us feel better about ourselves? Is there really space in our relationships for new people? Or is the event and group set up where those who are new are left to figure out our congregation on their own?

Life in Christ and pursuing Christ’s kingdom work will not keep us from experiencing fear. Fighting off wild beasts in the shadows in order to protect the sheep is where David learned to say, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” (Psalms 23:4) Later he fought the giant Goliath for God’s flock of Israel, no less a fearful endeavor. The truth is that sometimes the fear will not go away. So we have to do things in the midst of fear – but with Christ’s power and presence aiding us to act anyway. 




Aug 25-26 at Manette Community Church, Bremerton, WA

To be a Christian, to live like Jesus, is not easy. When the push and pull of our culture is added to the mix, we find ourselves challenged. The confrontations to Jesus’ values are subtle, and they are also blatantly in our faces. If congregations want to draw people to Jesus and show the truth of the Gospel they proclaim, then the body must develop and maintain an ethical faith. All ministry leaders need to reflect the transforming love and grace of Jesus and avoid conforming to the behavior patterns of our culture.

Mission Northwest will be offering ministry ethics training for all pastors, church leaders, and ministry workers on August 25 and 26, 2017. Manette Community Church in Bremerton, WA and Pastor Ron Anderson will be hosting us. We will begin at 3:30pm on Friday and conclude at 4pm on Saturday. Four key areas of transformed behavior patterns within the congregation will be presented: sexual boundaries, financial integrity, electronic communications/social media, and boundaries of the pastoral role. In addition to meeting a requirement for ordination for pastors, the material covered satisfy church insurance directives that ministry volunteers and staff receive boundaries training. 

In addition to the onsite gathering, the conference will also be offered in its entirety via Zoom (video conferencing).

Registration is available online HERE

Cost: $30 – includes all materials and continuing education certificate (upon completion of conference)

For more information, contact Patti Duckworth, or the Region office, 208.777.2733


Ways to Connect

Ways to Connect

Mission Northwest: A Region, An Association, and A Family

The Mission Northwest Region (aka ABC-NW) exists to resource and develop churches that connect people to Jesus Christ. We are in this together. Each church has a part to play and expertise to contribute to the greater cause. At some point every church will find itself on the receiving end of resources our association provides when a church is in need. Ours is not a staff-centered family of churches, it is a church-centered family of churches.

Unfortunately, because of our geographical spread, and reduced Region staff, it is common for a church to feel isolated. For some churches the closest sister Mission Northwest church is a two to three hour drive away. Connection in the northwest has always been a challenge, and continues to be.

To offset this sense of isolation I am suggesting the following:

1. Let’s re-envision the region as "our family" of churches. The region is more than an office or staff. It is first an association of churches committed to one another, investing in the life and health of each member church. Every church matters. Every church has a God-given mission. Each church is learning lessons in how to be effective in the 21st century, and can help other churches with its discoveries.

2. Let’s prepare ourselves to not only be served but to serve other churches. Some of this service will be as simple and organic as the next church in the next town reaching out to help. Some services will be delivered in the form of region staff and/or consultants—people with training and expertise—who are accountable to the family, coming alongside to provide expertise. Either way, such services don’t happen unless each church is invested in the family as a whole.

3. I encourage you to pray for your sister churches on a regular basis, in worship services and in leadership meetings. Pick one Region church each month and concentrate your prayers on that church. (The Region directory of churches may be found on our web site at

4. Encourage your pastor to connect with other pastors through their local LLC (Leadership Learning Community). When the pastor is connected the church is usually connected.

5. Attend the annual Leadership Tune-Up in the fall at Ross Point Camp. Bring your staff, bring your key church leaders and ministry team leaders. When localized training events are offered do your best to join in and attend.

6. Consider conducting a pulpit exchange between your church and another Mission Northwest congregation. A great example of this transpired recently when Pastor Tim Hughes (FBC Port Angeles, WA) and Pastor Jamie McCallum (Belfair Community Baptist Church, WA) exchanged pulpits. Call either one, and find out how they did it.

7. Invite people, especially your church leaders, to “Like” American Baptist Churches of the Northwest on Facebook. Also, sign up for the Email lists: Prayer Connection and Email Update by sending your email address and a request to the Region office (

8. Welcome an "ambassador" from the region to bring greetings, encouragement and connection or even provide supply preaching for your church in your absence. We have Rev. John Iverson doing this through the “Partner in Ministry” initiative among our Montana churches. And, soon, in southwest Idaho Rev. Clint Webb, along with his wife, Kathy, will soon be visiting our churches in southern Idaho. We hope to recruit more ambassadors in other parts of the Region in the near future.

9. Schedule Rev. Patti Duckworth or me to preach in your church. We enjoy preaching God’s Word and bringing greetings from sister churches around the Region. Both of us desire to encourage every church in the spirit of Paul who wrote, “For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord.”  Romans 1:11

Yes, it is a big Region. And, yes, it often feels isolating. But, there are steps we can all take to reduce the space between us. We ARE stronger together rather than APART. Let’s do our part to strengthen and encourage one another in the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in His power.





Have you ever wondered why a sure-fire church program works well in one church, but not another? Here's my take on that phenomena with insight from the story of Abraham and Ishmael.

God made a promise to Abraham. “‘You will have a son of your own, and everything you have will be his.’ Then the Lord took Abram outside and said, ‘Look at the sky and see if you can count the stars. That’s how many descendants you will have.’” (Gen 15:4-5)

The promise would later fade as Abraham waited and waited and waited for the promise’s fulfillment. Connected to that promise was Abram’s longing for a son, and the longing led him to fulfill his desire apart from God. His wife, Sarai, actually came up with the plan. But Abraham acted on it. Abraham would take matters into his own hands and have a son with Sarai’s stand in, Hagar. So he did and Ishmael was born.

On the surface it looked reasonable, and totally justifiable:

1. It was acceptable by the customs of the day.

2. It combined human and divine effort, a synergistic effort to fulfill the promise, one-part human and one-part God. This seemed to be a reasonable, even spiritually responsible, solution.

3. It would produce a legitimate heir. The laws of that day would recognize the validity of the child as Abram’s heir.

It turned out to be quite the disaster. Abram and Sarai attempted to fulfill the promise apart from God. They turned to their human ingenuity, rather than waiting on God to fulfill his promise. But Ishmael was not God’s intended fulfillment of the promise. This is a serious error, even among Christians today. We are tempted to rely on human-centered solutions to ministry challenges. They can seem reasonable and good at first. Then, when they don’t pan out we discover how wrong they can be.

Hudson Taylor said, "God's work, done in God's way, will never lack God's supply." How wise we would be to follow this advice in today’s ministry contexts while avoiding creating Ishmaels of our own doing.

What do I mean by that? Well, consider this common example from everyday church life. “Church A” seeks God in prayer, and is convinced that it should begin a new ministry. Let’s say it’s a particular method of community outreach. With inspiration and leading from the Holy Spirit they creatively design a home-grown approach to outreach. And, it’s successful! “Church A” has such success with their God-inspired outreach that it packages it’s method in the form of an “off the shelf” program.

“Church B” is concerned about decline in attendance. So, in desperation it looks around for a quick fix. It hears about “Church A” who has had great success with its community outreach program. “Church B” figures it’s a sure-fire thing, purchases the program’s “how-to-do-it kit” and appoints a committee to implement it. At first, there is some meager success. By the time “Church B” has been into the program for three months the workers have lost interest, and few are engaged except two or three guilt-laden people.

What happened? “Church B” bought a “program.” It produced an Ishmael. It would have been wiser to look to God for His direction in developing the strategic ministries that would best fit their particular context. Perhaps God wanted them to create their own unique outreach ministry. Maybe God intended for them to assess first the particular gifts and interests of their people, and allow their outreach strategies to rise out of that mix.

There are numerous cases where a pastor or staff member attends a conference like Catalyst or Exponential or, in former days, Willow Creek or Saddleback. The pastor would return home all fired up to reproduce the programs at the home church, and they failed miserably. Importing an Ishmael from another church can be disappointing.

What should churches do to avoid producing an Ishmael?

1. Be careful when attending a conference. The experience can be inspiring and encouraging. It can expose a participant to great resources and creative ideas. Use all of that to prime the creativity of one’s own ministry teams. Resist adopting an “off-the-shelf” program or ministry. If a program does look promising for your context, take some time for your leadership to reflect, pray and consider the appropriateness of the program. Give your team permission to adapt the program, or only use portions of it.

2. Assemble a team of willing and creative servants to pray, dream, and discern the new direction and ministry strategies that God wants to birth in your particular context. These strategies should be unique to your people’s giftings and their passion for ministry. They should be shaped by the culture of your town, city or neighborhood.

3. Whatever new ministry you launch, make sure that it is in alignment with your church’s mission, vision, values and other strategic initiatives. Make sure you can articulate how a particular new ministry will help the congregation as a whole attain its overall mission. If these essential DNA pieces have not been articulated by your church Mission Northwest offers Church Unique guidance to assist your congregation in clarifying these essentials.

In many instances a program fails because the church took a short-cut and produced an Ishmael. Resist the urge to adopt someone’s else pre-packaged ministry. Instead, take time to pray, research, explore, dream and discuss before launching any new ministry. Ask the Holy Spirit to birth ministries that rise out of your people’s dreams, passions and skills. Give permission for creativity and experimentation. Maybe the pre-packaged ministry will be a right fit and will be productive. On the other hand it might be better to design your own. Some of the most successful ministries are home-grown and will never be packaged for mass consumption. And, that is a good thing. Just like tomatoes, the best church ministries are often home-grown.




After working with Northwest local churches for 13 years I can confidently say that the primary reason churches stop growing is that they quit practicing evangelism. In 95% of the assessments I have conducted evangelism is at the bottom of the list when it comes to the ranking of most church's values. Church people will affirm that the lost need Jesus because. They know that Jesus calls us to go and make disciples of all nations. But they struggle greatly to practice evangelism, individually or corporately. 

I believe that if a church raises its "evangelistic temperature" just one or two degrees it would be amazing what God would do. I believe that it would lead to spiritual renewal for the church, and I believe it would be energizing for the overall spirit of the church. It might even result in numerical growth, although that's not why we reach out with the Good News. And this is not to mention the sense of joy and fulfillment people would feel as new believers come to Christ.

As a Region we have emphasized two excellent resources for helping churches do better with outreach. First there is OIKOS, an approach that comes from Tom Mercer at High Desert Church in Victorville, CA. Essentially OIKOS helps people focus on the 8 to 15 people in their relational network, identify those who are not yet Christ followers and start praying for them. There's a full explanation along with free resources for implementing this approach at

Second there is ORGANIC OUTREACH developed by Kevin Harney. Kevin offers churches an "operating system", not a program, for increasing the entire church's commitment to practicing evangelism. It is not rocket science, but it works. There is a ton of free resources for any church desiring to embrace the Organic Outreach methodology at Kevin's web site: For individuals I recommend Kevin's book "Organic Outreach for Ordinary People". For pastors, staff and church boards I recommend "Organic Outreach for Churches." Kevin's messages from this year's Leadership Tune-Up are also a good way to get familiar with OO. These may be found at on the Leadership Tune-Up page. 

Since I'm on the subject of evangelism, Thom Rainer recently posted this article about evangelism. This would be a good discussion piece for your next church board meeting.

God bless, Charles Revis



“What can we do to help the churches in our state become more evangelistic?”

“We need more good evangelism programs. Why aren’t you providing them?”

“Why are we reaching fewer unchurched people than we used to?”

Those three questions were asked of me in the span of a just a few days. Each of them came with hints of frustration, confusion, and anger.

It is true. Most churches reach fewer lost and unchurched people than they did in the past. It is no longer necessary to be a part of a church to be culturally accepted. That pool of immediate evangelistic opportunities has been reduced dramatically.

Is there hope? Absolutely!

I am observing carefully churches in North America that are truly making an evangelistic impact. Most of them transitioned from evangelistic apathy to growth. Though there is no formulaic approach or magic-bullet program, here are five common themes I see repeatedly:

1. A small group of church members dedicated themselves to pray for an evangelistic harvest. Evangelism is not a human-devised program. It is a Spirit-led endeavor. I am saddened when I see churches with no intentionality about praying for evangelism and the lost in the community. It is absurd to think we can separate prayer from evangelism. “And they devoted themselves to . . . prayer . . . And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42, 47).

2. Pastors make evangelism a personal priority. I have yet to find evangelistic churches where the pastors have not committed themselves personally to evangelism. It’s not easy. Pastors are pulled in a multiplicity of directions. It is easy to respond to the tyranny of the urgent. Pastors must make time to make personal evangelism a priority. Church members must give them time to do so.

3. Leaders in the church teach church members to invite people to church. Most church members do not realize what happens more than half the time when they invite an unchurched member to church. They show up at church! Such is the reason I encourage leaders to have a singular day focused on inviting people to church (We created a resource to help in that process called Invite Your One). Though a single day of inviting people is not another magic-bullet solution, it does typically create a positive ethos toward inviting people.

4. These churches love the communities in which they are located. I love the focus on the nations evident in many of our churches. I love the national church planting emphasis we see in many places. But churches that are evangelistic do not forget that the commission of Acts 1:8 begins with Jerusalem, the local community. What percent of your church’s budget goes to direct ministry and evangelism in the community?

5. These churches have consistent, usually weekly, efforts to connect with unchurched people in the community. The efforts may be as simple as Facebook ads or communications with new residents. It may be a basic email campaign to reach out to those who have visited the church. These efforts are not solutions in themselves, but they do help create an outwardly-focused ethos in your church.

Questioning God (Part One)

Questioning God (Part One)

"Questioning God" (Part One)

As the joke goes, we catch ourselves talking out loud to ourselves in someone's hearing. We laugh and say we aren't too worried because we haven't started talking back to ourselves. At least, not yet.

Talking to ourselves is a reality, whether we are conscious of it or not. Much of what we say to ourselves comes through filters created by our past. It comes because we live in a time of information overload; there is a lot of "telling" going on. Instead of just talking to ourselves, are we asking any questions? More importantly, do we make room for questions?

When we intentionally ask ourselves questions, we make room for more than the same patterns of thought we easily fall into because they are comfortable or because they protect us from having to face our own flawed natures. Asking questions makes room for the Lord to get a word in edgewise.

So what kinds of questions should we ask ourselves before the Lord? What will open us up to more of the Lord's desires? There are questions that are concerned with personal needs and discipleship. Those should be asked. However, let me suggest here the first of several questions, which will sharpen an understanding of what the Lord wants for our ministry life as God's shepherd-leaders.

Question 1:  What am I striving for in the ministry God has given me? In other words, what do I hope will be the outcomes of my ministry?

This question is really much more difficult to answer than it seems. If the answer is an automatic "more people, more baptisms, more ministry funds," I would suggest we are giving a Sunday school answer and not a "God's dream in our heart" answer. True, seeing people transformed by Jesus is the goal. But the Lord has given every disciple and every church that mission. The "hoped for outcomes" deal with the specifics of what the goal looks like or feels like in our particular ministry.

Let me offer an example. Dwight Spencer came to Utah in 1881 as an ABHMS missionary among the Mormons. God's dream in Dwight's heart was preaching Jesus in such a way that, though suspicious, Mormons would send their children to the Baptist Sunday Schools and "day" or grade school, first in Odgen, and then in Salt Lake City. The more he worked at it, the more he realized the there weren't enough resources available among the people to do this work.

Dwight then worked to bring other missionary pastors and teachers to continue and expand the work started. In late 1886 and 1887, he then traveled back to the mid-west and the east to raise funds for home mission work in Utah and the west. He raised $100,000 (over $2.7 million in current dollars) so congregations could afford buildings for ministry. The money was not the dream; neither were church buildings. God's dream in Dwight's heart was that congregations would be Christ's vital witness in their communities and "not leave this darkness alone" (The Baptist Home Mission Monthly, February 1885).

Question 2: What is God's dream in your heart?

Please let me assure you I don't mean if you ask the question, you will have an instant answer. In fact, if the answer comes quickly, it may not be God's answer.

To explore what God's dream in your heart is, let me suggest this activity. Go to your church's sanctuary when it is quiet. Be still before the Lord. Sit in one place for a while. Move to another place for a while. If you are an active person or find sitting in one place a distraction in itself, you may want to move around. Listen to your memories of what has happened there. What do you see in your mind's eye? Don't dwell on the past too long, but move to considering the future. Ask in faith, "Lord, what could happen here? What would it look like? How would it sound? What would people experience?"

Additionally, you might want to walk through your church’s neighborhood, looking at the people, the places, and any activity. Again, ask, "Lord, what could happen here?" Please note: the question is what COULD happen, not what SHOULD happen. "Could" and "should" are two very different ideas, both of which are important. Be willing to concentrate on the "could" because that is where God's dream in your heart can emerge.

It is important to try to find a few words or an image to express this to yourself. From my own and others' experience, it is important to know several of these encounters may be needed before there is some clarity and something we have that confidently comes from the Lord.

What are the some of the results of engaging in this exercise? God's dream in our heart releases us from unfair standards and unrealistic expectations. It sets us free from ourselves and our tendencies toward self-absorbed dreams fellow Christians may chafe at. It brings stamina for the ministry and capacity to withstand the difficulties encountered. It keeps us accountable to God.

In part two, we'll look at questions that deal with both the freedom and accountability in these dreams.

What is God's dream in your heart? One of the God dreams I have is that we will have courage to talk together about the God dreams in our hearts because, in part, we will be strengthened in knowing these dreams are part of God's great whole and we are not alone in them.

Always in Beta

Always in Beta

"A church committed to being on mission would always be in the development stage where adaptation is normative. Maintaining status quo would be considered unhealthy and abnormal." 

Sun Kim: Journey to Ordination Is the Beginning

Sun Kim: Journey to Ordination Is the Beginning

Sun Kim: Journey to Ordination Is the Beginning

March 20, 2016, marked the celebration and culmination of years of prayer, obedience and preparation by Sun Kim and many other people in his life. That day, First Baptist Church of Des Moines, WA ordained Sun Kim to the gospel ministry. It was an inspiring service that included participation by Sun’s father (Yoan Kim) and brother (Woun Kim) as well as many others, including Worth Wilson and Charles Revis of Mission Northwest, who came alongside during his journey.

November 8, 2015 was the last major event on the road of preparation that led to ordination. That day FBC called an ordination council for Sun who had worked through the required steps with the guidance of the WA/N. ID Ministerial Concerns and Standards Department. Sun did an excellent job responding to a vigorous examination by the members of Mission Northwest churches in attendance. At the conclusion, the council voted unanimously to recommend that FBC of Des Moines proceed with the ordination and that Mission Northwest recognize Sun’s ordination.

Those were some of the markers on the path to ordination. What is not always known and seldom seen by most people are the years of preparation, education, mentoring and internships. A pastor who has a standard ordination has nearly as much formal education as a physician entering residency training. In the midst of all the training are the hours of prayer and Bible study, searching for God’s continued leading. There are deep conversations with other pastors and mentors, also seeking to confirm God’s guidance.

Sun Kim’s ordination was a culmination of prayer and preparation. It also marked a beginning of a lifetime of ministry of leading others to faith and obedience. Sun’s major role now is to lead any congregation he serves to bring the good news of Jesus to our broken world, to develop life-long followers of Jesus, and to shepherd others among these disciples who might be called by the Lord for ministerial servie.

Where does it all begin? With a response of obedience to God’s moving in many hearts and minds with the conviction God is saying, “Set apart for me [these] for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2).

Pictured above from left to right: Mike Zieman, Sun Kim, and Paul Caughey.

Pictured above from left to right: Mike Zieman, Sun Kim, and Paul Caughey.

The Pastor’s Salary Package and Business Expenses

The Pastor’s Salary Package and Business Expenses

I was recently asked for advice in negotiating a pastor’s salary package for 2017. That request reminded me of an excellent, free resource that MMBB publishes, the title of which is “Guide to Negotiating Pastor Compensation.” I have uploaded a copy on our web site for easy access at

Often there is confusion as to what constitutes the pastor’s salary and what is a benefits package, and what is simply business expense and is not considered compensation. This MMBB guide helps in sorting out these details.

For example, the “Cash Compensation” aspects of a pastors salary includes “cash salary, “housing allowance” as well as “social security offset” and “equity allowance”.

Section 107 of the Internal Revenue Code allows ordained ministers to exclude from federally taxed income some or all of the cost of providing their principal residence. A church that fails to establish a portion of pastoral compensation as housing allowance is penalizing the pastor by increasing his, or her, tax burden. The amount designated as housing allowance needs to be established and recorded in the board’s business meetings prior to the start of the new year. Consult the Compensation Guide for more details.

Some churches confuse Pastor’s Benefits with Cash Compensation. These cover expenses that are essential for maintaining employee health and morale. Typically these fall in four categories and pastors do not pay taxes on them: 1) Retirement savings, 2) Life insurance, 3) Disability insurance and 4) Health insurance.

Then there are a good number or expenses that pastors incur through simply carrying out the duties of their ministry. These should be reimbursed through an “Accountable Plan” as the pastor submits receipts for each expense. Typically these fall into several categories: 1) Business-related travel and auto use, 2) Hospitality 3) Conference attendance 4) Continuing education 5) Subscriptions/books/periodicals 6) Fees and dues for professional associations, and 6) Work-related cellphone use.

Unfortunately, there are times when churches, usually under financial duress, lump these last items under compensation when they are not. Yes, they are part of the cost of having a pastor, but they should not be considered as part of the salary package.

I commend this resource to our pastors and churches as you make financial plans for 2017. Our region accountant, Cherie’ Vidovich, is also available to answer additional questions that you may have in this arena.