PLYMOUTH, MI – You can thank my mother and father for my earliest training. Without my parents’ perseverance I might still be wearing diapers, eating with my fingers and crawling on my hands and knees to get to that lunch meeting with you. I can just see you stooping down to shake my dirty hands crusted with floor grime. Yuck!
I do not remember one thing about those training moments in my life, and yet I am grateful I went through them. The effort of others improved my future. Training is sometimes practical and at other times it is inspirational. Both are vital elements to quality training. One moment, an infant is guided with a mother’s gentle touch on how to hold the spoon and at another moment a cheering grandmother stands four-feet away from her precious grandbaby with outstretched hands saying, “Come on honey. You can do it. Walk to your grandma. You can do it.” Everyone needs to build competency, and all of us could do with more commitment.
It is time for you to register specific church members for the September 28, 2019 Church Equipping Conference. With pen and paper in hand, write down the names of those who influence others in a positive way in the church. Call them, invite them, ask them to save this one Saturday for the Lord and register them this week. Plan on sharing an early breakfast and commute together on that September Saturday. You will be glad you did. One Saturday could be the first step to revitalizing the church.
Back during the late 1980’s, an associational missionary strategist encouraged me to consider becoming the pastor of a small church in Michigan. He cast an image that caught my attention. With his hands shaking an imaginary set of keys in front of my eyes he said, “Tony, there is a wonderful tiny group of people who are ready to hand me the keys to the church building if they cannot find the right pastor to lead them to grow. I think you can help them turn the church around.”
By God’s intervention I became the pastor of that tiny church. It was a loving fellowship. The people were friendly, but we desperately needed training. Preschool leaders were simply babysitters. Children’s leaders brought crafts, cakes, and crayons spending only a few brief minutes with an open Bible. The youth ministry was a free for all discussion time while the adult Bible class was an hour-long lecture. No one meant any harm because they did not know any better. I remembered the wisdom of a professor who warned us in seminary class, “Poorly equipped Sunday School or Bible study teachers can empty a church classroom faster than the best outreach or evangelism can fill a church.”
As I look around in the region, I see two things that concern me. First, I see individual pastors who appear to be pulling on a stubborn rope, by themselves, trying to tug their respective churches forward into better spiritual health with no progress. Second, I see men and women in churches who have the compulsion to do more for the Lord and His Kingdom, but they just do not know how to help. No one is instructing them. They have the heart; they just lack the know-how. This church equipping conference could be the first step to correcting both challenges. Pastors and church members need to spend more time discussing, identifying and designing solutions that will take the church into better spiritual health.
In the second and third year of leadership at that tiny church, I was entrusted with training people who would train others in the local area. I wanted to share the blessing of training, so I called the other local pastors asking them to recommend members of their churches. To my surprise, they did not recommend anyone, not one person. Required to fill a list of people who would be trained to then train others, I selected people exclusively from my church. It seemed selfish but I was not going to fail at the first phase. The state convention provided the high-quality training at low or no-cost.
Can you imagine what happened? Within one year’s time of starting the training that tiny church became healthier and started growing as healthy churches do. Before you knew it, the congregation each month was on-the-average baptizing two new people who professed faith in Christ and receiving two new members by transfer of a church letter. Training people within that tiny church saved it from dying! What is equally exciting was that the pastors who earlier did not want to recommend church members for training were now pleading with me to train the people within their congregations so they could experience good spiritual health and growth. We did so and that period of time in that local association became a time of growth and strength.
I hope to see you on September 28, at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Roseville, Michigan with 10-20 people commuting with you. That Saturday’s travel time is when inspirational dreams will take root in the heart of influential church members who will then influence the church toward good health. Consequently, the pastor will find others tugging on the rope with him and good people will know why we do what we do (commitment) and how to do what we do (competency). See you on that Saturday in September.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tony Lynn is the State Director of Missions for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before coming on staff at the BSCM, Tony served as lead pastor for more than six years at Crosspoint Church in Monroe, Michigan. He and his wife, Jamie, also served with the International Mission Board in Africa and in Europe.