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The Missionary-Pastor Relationship

Pastor Matthew Pottenger and his family recently finished six-years as missionaries helping Pastor Stephen Otieno Nyadenge and his family plant Calvary Chapel Lakeside in Kisumu, Kenya. That church was then able to raise up families to launch more churches. 

As the Lord continues to grow the Calvary Chapel Movement, it is most likely it will expand most in international settings and it is in this consideration we thought it good to ask some simple questions of Pastors Stephen and Matthew concerning the missionary and pastor relationship. 

What is the best way a missionary can help a church planter?

Pastor Stephen Otieno Nyadenge: there are several ways a missionary can help a church planter. First, is by being sensitive to know when to advise and when to actually come alongside to assist the church planting pastor. Before the Lord raises up national helpers, the missionary should help the pastor identify and disciple those He seems to have a call upon. It is of great importance for the missionary to spend as much time as possible with the planter to understand one another personally, and not only in ministry settings.

Missionary and Pastor Matthew Pottenger: One way that a missionary is able to best help the church planter is to not insert to much of himself in the DNA of the church. I say this as by definition the missionary’s role is usually temporary and also of foreign culture, and the church needs to be local and enduring (long past the timeframe of the missionary’s involvement).  Thus in the early stages (when the church is in the greatest vulnerability and neediness) the constant struggle for the missionary is to let the church and ministry grow at a natural rate, and not an artificial one. Often, though not always the case, the missionary may be coming from a history of ministry experience, and the planter may be new in the role he is now finding himself, this can prove most difficult at times for the missionary not to insert himself too much in an authority or domineering way in the functions of the church.  But it must be remembered that to whatever degree the missionary builds something on himself, the church will eventually reach a point where it will have to be weaned from his presence… which in the best of circumstances is difficult and in the worst can be detrimental and destructive to the future, long-term health, of the church. So in short, the missionary should play a “supportive” role to the church planter, thus allowing the church and the church planter to grow and develop in a steady, healthy environment.

Can you define the Biblical role and office of missionary and of a pastor and how they complement each other?

Pastor Stephen Otieno Nyadenge: I believe the biblical role of the pastor and missionary is seen comparing Timothy and Paul. Both examples are servants, but the main aim for the pastor should be for the long run of being the servant leader. I don’t know of any provision, though there is a possibility, of the missionary as pastor, especially long term. To confuse these roles can be dangerous for the church plant.
Missionary and Pastor Matthew Pottenger: when we look at the scriptural examples (and thus definitions) of the pastor and the missionary, it can help us to see and understand how they can help one another.  We see this clearly in the relationship that Paul had with the “church leaders” in the different epistles that he wrote, and compare that to what we see him live out in Acts.  Paul, as a missionary, was one who was “sent out” (apostle) by a church, commissioned to the work that God was calling him to.  He rarely stayed for too long in one place, but seemed to be moving from place to place with the aim of 1) preaching the gospel, 2) making disciples, 3) raising up leaders, & 4) returning to that location to “strengthen the brethren”.  Paul knew that his time in each place had a time limit, and that the best thing he could do to secure the long term future of the church in that community was to ensure that proper leadership was in place. This leads us to the role of the Pastor (or Elder or Bishop, to borrow the other terms to describe this person in the early church).  The Pastor is then one who remains plugged into the community and ministers (usually for a prolonged time) to flock that God has placed him among.  Paul’s letters to people like Timothy and Titus are helpful examples of the relationship that he (a missionary) had with the local pastor.  He encouraged them, challenged them, prayed for them, exhorted them, and taught them, but he let them be the ones who then went to do all that to the flocks whom God had called them to.  These roles then compliment each other well as often the Pastor (especially in the early stages of ministry) may be in need of a “father figure” or “coach” who can advise, encourage, and challenge the pastor in the seasons of life and ministry that the he is presently experiencing.

When is the time for a missionary to move on from the church plant to the next part of the calling? Are there key signals to look for, or is there another way to know when the mission has completed the mission (at least at that location)? 

Pastor Stephen Otieno Nyadenge: the time for the missionary to move on will be as soon as the church begins to stand on it’s own, especially when the first crop of leaders are raised up. If the missionary remains past that stage, it is possible there will seem to be two centers of power and maturing leaders can struggle to whom to show allegiance too. Another key signal is the pastor’s ability to servant lead independently from the help of the missionary. When the missionary see’s the fulfillment of the church’s mission, that is a clear signal to let things go on, trusting God in the care for His church.
Missionary and Pastor Matthew Pottenger: As to the timing that a missionary spends in one location.  It is my opinion that this is usually a Spirit-led thing and must be handled case by case.  However, that being said, I think there is also wisdom that we can gain from both the Word and from the examples (both good and bad) of our contemporaries around us today.  First off, a missionary must be firmly aware of what his Mission is, and what God has called him to do, as well as to be aware of how that mission may evolve with time and the needs of the place that he has been called to minister.  I have heard it said that often our calling can be thought of as either to a People, a Place, or to a Project.  Though as we are finite humans who are always learning and growing in our understanding of God and His will for our lives, it is quite fathomable that our sense of our calling can change with time and with the experiences that God uses to shape us.  As a result, it is most important for the missionary to be “current” with the Lord at all times and sensitive to the nature of the work that he is doing.  Paul describes in 2 Tim 2:2 that he taught timothy, timothy was therefore to teach other faithful men who would in-turn teach others also… this making of disciples who make other disciples is one of the gauges that I have found to be helpful and healthy in assessing the maturity of the work and the timing of when the missionary is no longer needed (at least not in that location).  In other words, one should always be duplicating himself in order to “work himself out of a job”.  If you think about the effectiveness of a local person ministering to a local person (no language or cultural barriers) it will be much more effective than the missionary, and thus for the missionary to replace himself with a national who can do what he does, but from that local context, he will have done the best thing he can do to ensure the longevity of the work there.  So in short, the missionary shouldn’t leave the work too early when it hasn’t stabilized or matured enough to weather several of the early challenges that they will face, and should be working towards raising up people who would at some point be able to take over the work that he does.

What should a missionary never do?  

Pastor Stephen Otieno Nyadenge: a missionary being from outside the culture can easily believe and trust others, some of whom the pastor may desire to take more time with to develop trust. This can lead him in pushing for people whom he or she wants to be in ministry, yet it’s not so with pastor. A missionary should never do, or say, anything that will make any church member look down at the pastor or disrespect him. This can be difficult, but it is important to be very sensitive in this area. The missionary should always relate the pastor to be as a co-laborer and not as a junior to them. The missionary should be ready to trust the pastor, even with financial issues. In case of a problem the missionary family should not call the pastor’s family and bash the planter before them or anybody else. Instead, the two families should be co-laborers and esteem each other. 

Missionary and Pastor Matthew Pottenger: a missionary should never assume he knows it all, or that he is the savior of all that bad or hard things that the church might pass through.  There is a great temptation for someone (especially coming from the west, and going into a developing country) to assert that “he knows best” and “he can fix any problem”.  This superiority complex is a sure poison for any church work, and inherently lacks both Christ-like humility as well as local culture sensitivity.  Though it is possible for the ministry to be “saved” or pushed through hard times at the will power and resources of the missionary, it is only creating a longer-term problem of “dependance on the missionary” rather than a dependance on Christ.  Often, when a solution is sought after that is local in origin, culturally sensitive, and spiritually guided by the Spirit, it will be like putting “miracle-grow” on the new church plant, helping it to get a shot or boost of nutrients that will go a long way in establishing its permanency in that locality and among those people.

Anything else you would add? 

Pastor Stephen Otieno Nyadenge: the missionary should be sensitive to identify when the Lord is working on the life of the church planter. Do to mistakes, or sin, be sensitive on how to handle that problem without destroying a worthy course. I believe the missionary should be sensitive to also pray for and be involved in the life of the planter, especially as the planter and family get pressed between a hard place and a rock for in the early parts of the church plant. Lastly, the missionary must learn no one is perfect and so put on Christ’s characteristics.

Missionary and Pastor Matthew Pottenger: an illustration that often helped me (as a missionary) to identify my role in the church plant was a marriage relationship.  My role was like that of the wife, and the Pastor, the husband.  I was no less important than he, nor were my ideas less or more valuable.  But, by being in that submissive role, not in the “leading role”, it helped me to add council when needed, support and help (as a helpmate) without asserting myself or trying to “prove myself” or to gain acceptance.  I would often act as a “sounding board” for the pastor to bounce ideas and thoughts off of, or to process the life and challenges associated with ministry.  When we worked to compliment each other (and not to compete with each other) we truly saw lots of work get done.  This often meant that i had to sacrifice my “western mindset” and to slow down and be patient for things to happen at their own time.  Another helpful path that we followed (and I would recommend to others) is that I was never identified as “Pastor” before the fellowship (though we couldn’t stop people from calling me by that title) we would always refer to me as “brother Matthew” and to him as “Pastor Stephen”, even from the early, pre-sunday service days. I think this helped to ebb off the confusion that people have of “who is leading,” or “who is in charge here”, especially in a society where the “white man” is far to often elevated.  This also helped as there was a lot of “ itle-abuse” in the churches of our community, so I was able to lead by setting an example that I don’t need to be called pastor, or apostle (as that was my role) or bishop (as I often would oversee things), but just did all those things as “brother.”
Pictured is missionaries Matthew and Peggy Pottenger with their two children being prayed over by Pastor Stephen Otieno Nyandenge at their last service at Calvary Chapel Lakeside in Kisumu, Kenya. Matthew and Peggy had helped start the church and were used to bring it to a mature level before leaving.

Pictured is missionaries Matthew and Peggy Pottenger with their two children being prayed over by Pastor Stephen Otieno Nyandenge at their last service at Calvary Chapel Lakeside in Kisumu, Kenya. Matthew and Peggy had helped start the church and were used to bring it to a mature level before leaving.

Pastor Stephen Otieno Nyadenge continues to be the under shepherd at Calvary Chapel Lakeside. That church has bounced of God to send out three church planting groups in the last two years. God has moved Pastor Matthew Pottenger from the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya, to the shores of the Potomac as he is now an associate pastor at Calvary Chapel DC Metro in Washington D.C.

Practical Preparation for Sending a Planter

There is so much to consider and do before a planter goes and plants a church. There are the important areas such as education and experience. I am a firm believer in the more education the better and it has nothing to do with what they are learning. Education shows commitment and the ability to finish things without the benefit of being paid. That speaks volumes in ability but it also can be a stumbling block. At the least a planter should’ve have gone through a School of Ministry or Bible College. Basic theological education is essential.

Experience is also another area that needs to be shown. It is vital that a planter spend sometime on a church staff as either a paid ministry position or as a volunteer intern. You have to learn to work under someone in ministry before you can lead others. You also need to go through the highs and lows of ministry that strengthen or weed out the committed.

You have to learn to work under someone in ministry before you can lead others.

Those two aside I want to talk about the practical steps to sending someone out. If you don’t have CCPN’s Church Planting Workbook then you need to download it. It is one of the most practical and helpful guides out there. So what does a planter need to do before they go out? Here are a few practical tips that I’ve discovered as we get ready to send out a planter. It is important to note that you require the planter to do much of this. If you do everything for them they will fall on their face once they get there.

  1. Make It Legal: Go to the state website where you are planting and figure out what it takes to get registered as a non-profit corporation. Don’t worry about a Federal 501(c)3 until a few years in. Become a nonprofit through the state which is easier and less time consuming. This will allow you to get a bank account, post office box, and other such legal things you will need. No one can donate to your church plant and get a tax donation until you do.
  2. Make it Visible: Next you need to register a domain name for your church plant. Whether through Go Daddy or some other web-hosting company get the domain name you need. Go for a .com first and then register a .org as well. People will first and foremost look for your church online. In the eight years we have been a church we only did yellow pages once and it was a waste of money. What we have done is Google ads and we get thousands of impressions and clicks every month for very little. When people fill out a visitor card 90% say they came through online search. It’s a new reality so be visible. Start a Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram account for your church. This is where the people are.
  3. Make it a Celebration: When it’s time to go, make it a party, not a memorial. People have a hard time letting go and they get all worried and upset with change. The church should hold a party for the planters. Let the guy teach that Sunday morning, throw a BBQ afterwards, and give an opportunity for the church to bless them financially. This will give them an opportunity for them to be a part of what is going on and see them off. This Sunday we send off our youth pastor. We are killing the fatted calf (100 lbs of Trip Tip) and recognizing what God is doing.

These are just a few of the things that a church should do to help send out a planter. There is so much more but things I’ve found are so important. A planter has an arduous road in front of them and preparing them before hand will help to insure the chance to be successful.

Chuck Musselwhite pastors The Village Chapel in Lompoc, CA. For more information, visit villagechapel.com.

How God Uses Pruning to Grow a Church

Pastor Pilgrim is the lead pastor of Reality Church Tampa, a Calvary Chapel church plant located in downtown Tampa. For more information about Reality, visit www.realitychurchtampa.com.

 

“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21

We all know that the word “grow” means “BIGGER”. My son Aiden is 10 years old, but was born two months premature. He was literally the size of a peanut butter jar. For some reason the nickname “Peanut” didn’t…stick…(pun intended). Within a matter of months he was skyrocketing through the growth charts. The doctor must have said “100th percentile” at least a dozen times. Our baby was becoming “bigger”. He was growing. We hear that companies are “growing” and that usually equates to expansion: bigger customer base, bigger reach, more locations, increased revenues. Grow means bigger. Right?

When I was growing up I bought a pack of foam dinosaur “pills”. The box promised that if you got them wet, they would expand into huge foam triceratops that I surmised would wreak havoc on your little sister. So I dropped them in the tub with me half expecting to be mauled by a T-Rex before my feet turned into raisins. I was gravely disappointed.

Thankfully I had tear-free shampoo.

Growth Doesn’t Mean “Bigger”

What if when we spoke about churches, assuming that a growing church meant a “bigger” church, we had it all wrong? What if a “growing” church instead actually meant a “healthy” church? Job seemed to lose everything, and yet at the end of literally the worst day of his entire life, Job uttered the worshipful assertion, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord”. It was in the midst of loss, of losing almost all that Job held dear, that he worshiped. Why? Is this some sick sarcastic attempt at mocking God?

Not at all.

What if a “growing” church instead actually meant a “healthy” church?

A Lesson From Job

Job knew what many church planters have come to discover after a few months or years of faithfully tilling the soil. He came to understand what Jesus would say centuries later in John 15: “and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Job understood that God is the giver and the taker. He prunes that we may bear fruit.

Job understood that God is the giver and the taker. He prunes that we may bear fruit.

A Lesson from Jesus

I don’t pretend to understand gardening. My wife Jenn just planted a beautiful organic garden in our backyard and I’m working hard at helping her make it a success, but I don’t have anything close to a green thumb. What I do know is that if we want a healthy garden, it needs our attention. It needs our tending. It needs sweat and effort and lots of water. Jesus said He was the Vinedresser, the faithful gardener. He’s paying plenty of attention to His garden! And Jesus said if a branch is bearing fruit, it must be pruned. Not to punish it. Not to cut it off. But to cause it to bear much more fruit.

A Lesson In Media Res

In the last two months God has been pruning His church. I have counted over a dozen people who have left the church I pastor for various reasons, and it can be very discouraging and challenging as a pastor trying to pour into people’s lives when they remove themselves from the community. A church planter has sacrificed his (and his entire family’s) life to make investments that seem to be trivialized and expendable by the very people he is wanting to “do life” with. To get a dozen nonchalant “we’re leaving, but we love your family” conversations is enough to decry counseling or some wayward counsel from Job’s friends.

It is hard to grow “big” when you are seeing a net loss.

Unless “grow” meant healthy.

And if it is indeed God’s church, they are indeed God’s people, and you are indeed God’s servant, then you must submit yourself to the realization that He has the right to give, and the right to take away, and His name will continue to be blessed.

Even if the foam velociraptors are smaller than you expected.

Church Planter Profile: Jeremiah Hurt // Lexington, KY

Jeremiah Hurt and his wife, Serah, are in the early stages of planting Calvary Lexington in Lexington, KY. Here’s a profile on Jeremiah and some of the things he’s been learning early in this process…
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1. In a nutshell, how did you find the city you planted in?

My wife and I knew we were leaving to plant a church, and I sensed that He wanted us to leave soon.  I told my pastor (David Keesee of Calvary Chapel, Crawfordsville IN), and I told the company that I worked for that I probably wouldn’t be around for another year. We were willing to go anywhere. We even looked into and prayed about North Dakota. A friend of mine who had moved to Lexington KY called me one evening out of the blue and asked me if I would pray about planting a Calvary Chapel there. I said we’d pray about it. Being only four hours away, we decided to visit for a weekend. We left thinking we’d never return, but promised we would continue to pray. Three days later the Lord confirmed, through His word to Serah and I that we were to indeed move to Lexington. One month later we were here with my pastor’s blessing.

2. What were some of the lessons you’re learning since you are still early on in the church planting process?

We are constantly learning and relearning the simple truths of what it means to follow Jesus as we plant this church. Here are a few things that we keeping coming back to day in and day out. They will seem obvious for sure, but they have taken on a whole new meaning during this process.
        1.) Keep our eyes on Jesus
         2.) Seek Jesus and ALL these things will be added unto you
         3.) PRAY for crying out loud!
         4.) It is His church, therefore this is His church plant
         5.) He’s on the throne. He’s in control. He’s got this. Relax.
6.) Leaving everything to move here was still just a simple act of obedience.
It is His church, therefore this is His church plant.

3. If you did this again, is there anything you would do differently?

If there’s anything I would do differently if I could start over, it would be to pray more. Simple as that. Prayer breeds confidence in Jesus and that you are hearing from Him and being led by Him.

4. What are some of the most important things for a potential church planter to consider before they leave to go plant?

A few things to consider before moving to an unknown city to plant a church is to make sure your pastor and other men who are faithfully living for the Lord agree with the calling that you sense God has put on your life. Make sure you remind people to be praying for you as often as possible. The idea of the adventure that lies ahead can often be greater than the actual living it out on a daily basis. Purpose in your heart not to give up when the going gets tough. It will get tough.

5. What is your vision for the next year of your church?

My vision for Calvary Lexington in the next year and the following years is simple. I desire for us to grow in our love for Jesus, His word, and for others, and that we would genuinely live out Acts 2:42. I pray we would be doers of His word and not hearers only, and that Titus 2:14 would come alive in our hearts:
       “He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works.”(Titus 2:14 HCSB)
If there’s anything I would do differently if I could start over, it would be to pray more. Simple as that.

Church Planter Profile: PILGRIM BENHAM // Reality Tampa

This Monday, we’re highlighting a church planter in Tampa, FL. Pilgrim Benham is the pastor of Reality Church Tampa. God is doing a great work out there and Pilgrim’s story will inspire you…

1. In a nutshell, how did you find the city you planted in? 

I was on staff at Calvary Chapel Sarasota for 8 years and essentially started sensing a desire to step out in faith to plant at a larger urban center that had to have three things: a large college (or several), a deep need for a Biblically-faithful Calvary Chapel-style church, and be a city on the “rise” meaning it would be on the cusp of developing into a much bigger city in the near future. I didn’t want to be “fishin for a mission” so we fasted, prayed, and started researching cities that fit this criteria. We identified Austin, Texas and Charleston, South Carolina as prospective cities but then realized God was on the move in Austin and Charleston didn’t align with my personality. So one of my mentors said “When I go fishing I don’t just launch out into the water and look for fish. I use a fish finder, and go where the fish are. Plus Jesus said we are to be fishers of men, right? So where are the nearest fish?” I realized we were overlooking the largest and nearest urban area in our vicinity so decided to check Tampa out, only being an hour north of us. When we pulled into the downtown area, the Lord spoke clearly that this was where we were to move and plant our family and lives for the next several years to see the Gospel and a faithful church planted.

2. What were some of the lessons you learned early on about church planting?

I learned early on how dangerous (and difficult) it is to lay hands on people too quickly. My wife Jenn and my two kids (at that time 5 and 2) moved along with a friend, and, with the exception of Jenn’s mom driving up, we didn’t have a launch team or a core group. So I became a decathlete overnight and started working two retail jobs along with leading worship, preaching, evangelizing, leading Bible studies, creating graphics, designing websites, sending emails, making coffee, cleaning toilets and printing bulletins. It wasn’t that I didn’t like delegating; we had no one to delegate to! We needed help and this tempted us to prematurely put people into leadership positions early which caused much heartache. Some of them didn’t align with the vision of the church and caused great turmoil when they left, and others just left. As tempting as it may be, I would encourage planters to give people assignments and work but not titles and to start churches with an outside board of skilled elders/mentors from other churches to provide feedback, accountability and encouragement. I guess I wanted us to look like a thriving church with several elders which in the end means I was idolizing how we were perceived, rather than what was ultimately healthy for our church. Lesson learned!
I would encourage planters to give people assignments and work but not titles.

3. If you did this again, what are a few things you’d do differently?

We were sent with a few thousand dollars and a second-hand sound system I basically stole from our sending church (just kidding, but I didn’t really ask permission…). I was also able to stay on staff for three months while we adjusted to life as a bivocational pastor. When we moved to Tampa I got a job at Apple and also worked various odd-second jobs to keep us literally afloat. I don’t regret the hard work as my job at Apple has brought many people to Christ and many customers and coworkers to Reality, but I would argue that bivocational pastoring is the most difficult (and possibly rewarding) way to plant a church. My time is my greatest commodity so if I wanted to see fruit develop quicker I would have raised some financial support to supplement my income and not work the second job along with Apple.

4. What are some of the most important things for a potential church planter to consider before they leave to go plant?

I’ve been tested in more ways than I ever expected and have learned what Jesus meant when He said that the kingdom of God is forcefully advancing and it needs forceful men to advance it. Church planting is not a convenient way to gain an audience or to get your way if the senior pastor isn’t on your team. It isn’t a solution because you want to be different or cooler or to finally get your own pulpit. That attitude won’t build the kingdom, it only divides it and builds your own fan base. In church planting there’s no room for insecure guys who want to please man. There’s no room for professionals who want to prove they can launch a successful business. Nor is there room for the faint of heart who give up when the battle seems bleak. Put your gloves on and get ready to fight the fight of your life while you bleed, sweat, cry, and manage to catch your breath every few moments.
In church planting there’s no room for insecure guys who want to please man.

5. What is your vision for the next year of your church?

We believe God has poised us to be a blessing to our city and our tagline this year is “Love on Display”. We want to continue to show our city that we are His disciples by how we love one another. This will be our fourth year and we started in a storefront, moved to the YMCA, and now meet in a vintage theater near downtown. We would love to see more men raised up in leadership and more community groups spread through the various neighborhoods in our sprawling city. We would love to plant a daughter church in the near future and believe God is preparing our hearts as a family to that end. We trust that where God guides, He provides, and we have seen Him get the glory from the very beginning. My prayer is that we would be faithful and fruitful in all that God has entrusted us with!
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Learn more about Pastor Pilgrim and Reality Church at realitychurchtampa.com. Here are a couple pictures to help you get a glimpse at Reality Church Tampa…