Are You In…Really?

by Apr 13, 2011

An open letter to Silverdale Baptist Church

The tendency for pastors, after they attend a conference, is to return home and immediately attempt to transform their church to look like the church who hosted the conference. This is foolish and unrealistic because each church is unique. While principles are transferable to any ministry, other churches programs rarely look the same in other settings.

In 2009, I attended the Drive Conference held at North Point Community Church in Atlanta. I returned home with some principals to help our First Touch teams and ideas for us to start our own Married Life Live at our church. The most important take-away for me was a renewed focus and passion for the vision God had given me for Silverdale Baptist Church – “to build a vibrant church that attracts the unchurched.” Drive ’09 clarified this vision. Where we were going as a church became clearer, my focus was sharpened, and difficult decisions were made to put our church on a path that aligned with this vision.

I did not adopt the vision from North Point. It’s the same vision I’ve had for the past 26 years of ministry. All my years as a Youth Pastor, I was passionate about pouring myself into my students to teach, train, organize, and mobilize them so that they would become vibrant followers of Christ. I tried to craft a ministry where students were excited to come, learn, and grow. We made every effort to design a youth ministry in such a way that it was so inviting, so compelling, and so attractive that our students would want to invite their unsaved friends to come. God blessed and the results were youth groups that were alive, growing, and contagious. They were vibrant. They were attractive.

My ministry vision as a Senior Pastor is no different. It burns deep within me and often keeps me up at night.

Attending the Drive ’11 Conference several weeks ago came at the right time for me. I was tired. I was weary. Honestly, I was discouraged. I knew the past two years had been rough with budget cutbacks, layoffs, and other difficult decisions. But beyond the obvious grind of ministry, I couldn’t really explain why I was struggling the way I did.

Then it hit me. It was on the second day during the third general session. Within a few minutes, I began to fight back a wave of emotion and tears as Jeff Henderson said, “There is no “i” in team, but there is in vision (two, actually). Usually, the “i” in vision is reserved as the responsibility of the point leader. That’s why many organizations never reach their potential. Vision is somehow relegated to one person. This limits everything and everyone, because vision cannot be sustained through one person only. It must be embraced and carried forward by everyone on the team. Perhaps that’s why vision has not one “i”, but two – one for you and one for me.”

I learned that as a leader, I must cast a vision but cannot carry it alone. Jeff challenged every senior pastor to let their team and church help them. Looking back, I was able to cast and carry a vision pretty much on my own as a Youth Pastor. As a Senior Pastor, I cannot. I need help.

I realize that I am not alone at SBC. There are those who agree and support the vision of “building a vibrant church that attracts the unchurched.” There are those who give regularly, serve faithfully, and attend consistently. I deeply appreciate this. There are also those who are comfortable with our vision and others who enjoy certain benefits of this vision. I am thankful for this. However, I would love to have more who wholeheartedly are “all in” with where we are going as a church.

In the late 1990’s, while the Youth Pastor here at SBC, we started a fall kickoff retreat called, “Cross the Line.” (It is now called Refuel.) The title of the retreat was strategic. We had fun, messy competitions, waterfront activities, and worship, but the purpose of the retreat was to challenge all those who called our youth group their own to be “all in”. The first several years, I literally drew a line on the ground and challenged our students to “cross the line” in joining me and our youth staff in making their youth group the very best that it could be. Many students joined us as partners. Instead of being content with enjoying the benefits of our ministry, they helped us transition from a good to a great youth group. The result was an explosion of vibrancy, growth, and salvation decisions.

In many ways, our church is a good church. However, I believe God has called us to be a great church. With more people helping us carry the vision of “building a vibrant church that attracts the unchurched” we will see our church go to another level in making an impact in Kitsap County.

Here are some tangible ways for more people to be “all in” with their church at Silverdale Baptist.

  • Become a raving fan of the SBC vision
  • Look for ways our church can become more vibrant – then take intiative to help
  • Faithfully pray for God’s blessing in our church
  • Invite friends and neighbors to come with you to church
  • Ask God to give you a passion for our church to reach more people with the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ

I’m “all in.” Are you? Let me encourage you to pray about this, talk about this in your small group, share the vision on Facebook and with those in your circle of influence.

Thank you for allowing me to share my heart with a church that I love. If you have any questions or would like to add your comments, you can do so below.

Serving Him – Barry Bandara

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