The Senders Are Sleeping

Somewhere in America this Sunday there is a church where light sines through stained glass on to empty pews. This church is not alone, but actually finds itself in a club with wide sweeping membership. The other churches in this club also have glass as beautiful as the pews are empty, but this emptiness is not their only mark of commonality. In fact, many of these churches once boasted great influence in both numerical attendance an national prominence. These are the First Baptist Churches, the Calvary Baptist Churches, and the Immanuel Baptist Churches that have tremendous history and legacy.

These churches have kept the Cooperative Program funded, and they fueled the missionary enterprise by supplying both the finances and the missionaries. My heart is greatly burdened for the unreached peoples of our world, my heart is greatly burdened for the regions of our own nation in need of church planing, and my heart is absolutely burdened for the mission of Christ. Because of this passion, some ask why I do not pack my bags to head overseas to bring Good News to those who have not heard.  Some also ask why I do not move to the northeast or northwest regions of the United States to plant a gospel centered church. The answer is simple. First, let me say that I am called to both of these things and have dedicated my life to such work, but let me explain why I am doing them by going into the legacy churches here.

Read the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 10:14-15:

“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preached except they be sent? Even as it is written, ‘how beautiful are the feet of them that bring the Good News.'” (ESV)

The Senders Are Sleeping

The fact that people in the far reaches of the earth have not heard drives me to the church described in the opening of this blog. The fact that there are churches that need to be planted in the unchurched regions of North America drives me to make sure sun through stained glass never falls on an empty pew again. These churches are the senders, but they are sleeping. Unless we wake them, we will not accomplish the mission set before us. I will go and wake the senders with the sound of an alarm from Heaven, “How shall they preach unless they be sent?”

Wake up oh church! For our Lord is risen, and shall come again to judge the works of the just and the unjust. Let us not be found idle when he has gifted and equipped us with everything we need. May it never be said again that the senders are sleeping!

-Brayden L. Buss

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Perspective

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the feeding of the 5,000. Other than the resurrection, it is the only miracle to appear in all four Gospels. It is obviously a significant event in the story of Jesus. In John, it appears to be the final straw between Jesus and the Jews, and in Mark it marks a geographical shift in the ministry of Jesus. Needless to say, this story obviously has more to it than just a simple children’s story to be told in Sunday school.

I like to look at this story from the different perspectives of the people in it. For example, look at the perspective of the disciples. They had just returned from one last sweep of the Galilean region. They were healing the sick, doing all kinds of miracles, and teaching in all the villages of the region. Now they are tired and Jesus leads them to a place to rest. When they arrive the people were already there. They heard that Jesus and his disciples were coming so they rushed to the other side of the sea of Galilee to make sure they could see Jesus and the disciples. The disciples were not pleased about this, and when the day was long they wanted to send to people away. It seems that they saw these crowds as a nuisance getting in the way of their much needed vacation.

More than that, think about the disciples perspective of Jesus. They have been with him and seen Him do all sorts of miracles. They should know who He is, but they miss it. When it comes time to feed them, they start taking about money and the lack of resources. Do they not know that this is the same Jesus that changed the water into wine? They are totally ignorant of the fact that they walk daily with the Lord of all creation. I wonder if the 12 leftover baskets or even the circumstances of this event as a whole are there to make a point to the 12 rather than the crowd.

Now look from the perspective of the crowd. John’s account gives insight to the fact that the crowd seems to want the food more than the one providing it. At the end they try to make Jesus king by force, and Jesus goes into the great discourse where He declares, “I am the bread of life.” Once again the crowd misses the point. They definitely cannot sing the song “I’d rather have Jesus” with any integrity.

Jesus however has the perspective that we are to embrace. Jesus, like the disciples, is very tired. John the Baptist has just been killed, Jesus was thrown out of Nazareth by his own people, and the emotional weight of constantly dealing with people has started to take its toll on Him. This however is all forgotten when Jesus lands on the beach and sees the great crowd. He was moved by compassion for them, despite his own circumstance, because they were “like sheep without a shepherd.” He knew well that they only wanted the miracles and they only wanted the blessings, but He still loved them. He spent the entire day ministering to them, with the great conclusion being this mass feeding. This story, as much as any other, gives great insight to the character of our Lord.

I need to adjust my perspective of those around me. I need to see the needs of people, and see opportunities to minister to them even when things in my life are difficult. This is the call of every Christian. We must open our eyes to see the poor, the hurting, and the outcasted! The song, “People Need The Lord” must be ever on our hearts.

I also need to adjust my perspective of Jesus. He is the one who was crucified in the place of sinners and the one who triumphantly rose from the dead. Who am I to question His ability to see me through to the end when little problems come up in my life? I must always remember that Jesus is Lord!

 

Multisite Churches

The multi-site movement is a hot topic right now in the church world. I think there are some things to be concerned about, as there are with every movement, but over all I see it as a really healthy thing. There is no doubt that there are a variety of different ways to do it, and some are better than others, but is safe to say that it is working. Here are some of my thoughts on it.

More Than Just a Fad

Some are writing the whole idea off as a fad, but this is just not the case. In fact the whole idea of the multi-site church is far from new. I think that, at least in the SBC, the decline of the local association has left a hole that needs to be filled. I still believe in the necessity of the local association, but I must save that topic for another day. Nevertheless, the decline of the association is obvious, and one of the reasons the multi-site church is becoming so popular is that it is replacing a missing piece to the puzzle.

All through church history we can observe churches networking together in one way or another, whether through the bishop in the Roman Catholic Church, Methodist districts, or the churches of Galatia to which Paul wrote his letter. The multi-site movement is not a continuation of any of those models verbatim, but there are undeniable parallels. The point is, the concept is not new, and it is not going away any time soon.

Church Planting 

One of the healthiest things about the multi-site church is the possibility it presents for healthy church planting. Rather than taking a core team and starting from scratch, the multi-site church can use its resources and people to make a new campus. These campuses should be designed to eventually become autonomous. When the time to let go of the church comes, there is already a stability that could not have been achieved otherwise.

This will not only help the new church get on its feet, but it will provide missional momentum in the sending church. Both the new church and the old church will benefit from the fact that a new missional DNA will be ever present in the life of the church and the individual lives of its members.

Revitalization 

Along those same lines, the multi-site church can be utilized for the revitalization of declining churches. Imagine how great it would be if healthy churches would respectfully adopt struggling churches to prevent closure and bring new life. I am not suggesting that big churches should take over small churches like a business merger, but I am suggesting that healthy churches could give a little extra boost to the struggling church. They can make this struggling church a campus for a season, and just like I mentioned with the plant, that campus would be released as an autonomous revitalized church.

Pastoral Training 

One of the greatest benefits of the movement is probably one of the most under utilized. I believe that each campus of the multi-site church needs a live preacher/pastor. The video venue is working, and great things are being accomplished for the Kingdom. I just see an opportunity that is being missed in this model.

The benefits of having a real life preacher on every campus are numerous, but I will focus on the fact that young pastors could be trained up in healthy environments with great leadership and mentors. These campuses have the benefit of strong leadership from the sending church, and they can take a risk on a young pastor just starting out. This campus pastor role can be used to train up an entire generation of young pastors and preachers for the glory of God, and the result will be a healthier church in the long run.

Network of Neighborhood Churches

Jimmy Scroggins is the pastor of Family Church (formerly FBC West Palm Beach) in West Palm Beach, Florida. He, over the course of many years, led this SBC legacy church to become a thriving multi-site congregation. They have chosen to call their method, “a network of neighborhood churches.” The idea is that every neighborhood in south Florida will have a church to minister there. Rather than pushing for a regional mega church where people drive from all over to attend, they have chosen to take their people and start smaller congregations all through the region. In so doing, they are training up new pastors, they are reaching people who otherwise wouldn’t be reached, and they have successfully revitalized an old downtown first baptist church.

This is my preferred model, and there are no limits to its possibilities. This method does not require great financial support, it cuts out the need for large scale building projects, it can be done in smaller towns, and normal sized churches can put it into practice. Their method is not perfect, but it does seem to have great potential.

In conclusion, I am not completely sold out for the multi-site movement. I am however encouraged by its ability to reach the lost, plant new churches, and rescue the dying church. I am currently working in a multisite church and have seen first hand the good it can do. I am looking forward to see what the future holds for multi-site churches.

-Brayden L. Buss

Church Revitalization

America has become quite attached to tv personalities Chip and Joanna Gaines. The American people love the show Fixer Upper, where this fun loving couple takes old neglected houses and gives them new life. This  phenomenon has started a national trend. Young couples aren’t wanting to build new houses or move into new suburban neighborhoods, because they would rather bring new life to an old house with character. It is my hope and prayer that such an emphasis crosses over into the church world, and we once again see abandoned congregations filled with new life.

My Passion

Every pastor has a pet topic or an issue about which they are very passionate. I have shared previously that I have a passion for preaching, but I am also very interested in church revitalization. I can remember the day when my heart changed and was bent toward these congregations. I was speaking with my pawpaw about a local church that my friend was thinking about pastoring. I told Pawpaw that I didn’t think he should go there because that church had problems. He gently but sternly told me that it may not be the church for my friend, but that didn’t meant that a pastor shouldn’t go there. He said the Lord did not say, “I am not going to send a pastor there because they have wolves,” but rather, he reminded me that it is those churches that need a pastor the most.

My heart breaks for all the churches in this nation that have long left the glory days, and find  their greatest joy by looking back at the way things used to be. These churches have been in decline for decades, and have largely been neglected by capable pastors only fueling the slow cycle to their closure. I cannot help but wonder if we have left the one to enjoy the comfort of the ninety-nine. There are hundreds of churches who want to move forward, and they are just waiting on someone to lead them into the future.

The County Seat Church

Most guys my age that are entering ministry don’t really care about the county seat church. In fact, I have talked to some that don’t even know what that phrase means. There was a day when the county seat church was the place every young seminarian dreamed about, but those days are gone. For the most part the county seat churches are in great need of revitalization.

These churches once had great influence in their regions. The other churches in the area could look to FBC County Seat for advice and help when things weren’t going well. The county seat church always led in baptisms, cooperative program giving, and they called/produced some of the greatest pastors in the nation. What has caused this dramatic change? That is a discussion for another day, but what I can say is these churches need pastors.

My Vision

It is my desire to pastor a county seat type church one day, that is a church that was once influential and successful but now has fallen into decline. I want to pastor these churches for an entirely different reason than men of days past. I want to go here because the Lord’s words burn in my heat,  “it is the sick that need the doctor not the healthy.” The Lord has burdened my soul for these neglected churches, and I am confident that God is not done using them. He can restore them, making them the great pillars of the American church once again, and I want to be a part of that movement!

 

-Brayden L. Buss

Leadership

I have been thinking a lot about leadership lately, and I am convinced that an organization rises and falls with its leader. As I heard recently, the organization even takes on the personality of its leader over time. A good leader makes for a good organization, and a bad leader can ruin even the best of organizations. This being the case, as a pastor I must do my best to become not just a good leader but a great leader. I am not just charged to lead any organization, I am called to shepherd the flock of God. The call to pastor is a call to lead.

I do not take this call lightly. I am not however a take charge kind of person, but that in no way means that I am not a leader. You don’t have to be this ultra demanding power figure that takes over every room he walks into to be a good leader. My Pawpaw told me just the other day that leadership was not just knowing where to go, but that it was knowing where to go and getting people to go with you. The leader is not a leader of principles and strategies, but of people. Therefore, being demanding and powerful is not necessary. However, what is necessary  is learning to get people to follow you. That takes more than brute force, that takes real skill. That is the leadership I am trying to learn, and in this process I have discovered a few things I wasn’t expecting to find.

1.When it comes down to it, leadership is about making decisions.

Over Christmas break my family and I were driving to the St. Louis Missouri area to visit Lauren’s parents. The trip was supposed to take about six hours, but it took more than ten. We hit the worst city wide traffic scenario in St. Louis history. The roads froze over in a matter of minutes, and it was right at rush hour. The major highways were backed up and they began to close. Some people, after a many hours, decided it was better to walk, so they abandoned their cars completely. We stopped counting how many wrecks we saw, because there were so many. Needless to say, I was stressed. I’m pretty sure I made more decisions in that journey than I have in my entire life. In fact, we had three different GPS systems going to ensure we got the best alternate routes when a road would close. Every few minutes I was given three different options for a possible new route, and I had to decide on the spot which one would be both fast and safe.It was quite the nightmare.

Those stressful moments taught me more about leadership than any classroom could. I was having to make decisions in real time that effected my whole family, and I made some good ones and some not so good ones. I began to realize that leadership was filled with those kinds of decisions. The leader listens to multiple opinions and views and then takes all that information into account to make his final decision. Despite the variety of voices a leader may hear, the decision falls on him. It comes to the point where he just has to decide what he believes is best. To be a good leader I have to learn to make good decisions.

2. When it comes down to it, the leader’s decisions impact EVERYONE. 

During those traumatic hours of driving I realized that with every wrong turn I made I was taking my entire family with me. Obviously they were in the car with me, but really think about it. If I made a turn onto a road that was more dangerous than the other options, I didn’t just put myself in a bad position, I put my entire family at risk. Not only that, but every minute our arrival time got later and later, making Lauren’s family have to push dinner time further and further back. Every turn I made was impacting the schedule of at least 8 people.

The pastor’s decisions impact a lot more than just 8 people, they impact the entire congregation and really the entire community. If he leads well, his church will be healthier, and they will begin to positively impact the community, but if he leads poorly the opposite is true. This further makes the case for good leadership in the pastorate, and it’s not just dinner schedules we are talking about here, it is the very work of the Lord our God.

3. When it comes down to it, blame falls on the leader. 

Believe it or not there were more voices in the car than just the annoying GPS system’s yelling in my ear. There was also the sweet but slightly frightening voice of my wife. Let’s just say that Nancy the navigator was not the only one in the car with an opinion about which routes were the best. A few times I made some driving decisions that did not turn out so well, and “recalculating” was not the only word I could hear. When it came down to it, blame fell on me.

Notice that when something goes wrong in our country the president is to blame like he really has anything to do with the day to day happenings of our lives, but nevertheless he is to blame, because he is the leader. Whether pastors like it or not, we are to blame when things don’t go well. Sometimes the blame is undeserved and misplaced, but regardless, it always comes our way. I have observed that good leaders don’t pass that blame to someone else, but they take it anyway. I want to be that kind of leader.

I have hundreds more leadership lessons to learn, and I hope that I soak them all in to be the best leader I can be. How can you become a better leader?