"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

The Real Measure and Wealth of a Man Are Often Unseen

I am speaking at a Bible Conference in Cartwright, Oklahoma through Friday night. Cartwright is as far south in Oklahoma as you can get, located on the north side of the Denison Dam on Lake Texoma, about 65 miles north of Dallas on Interstate 75.

Ray Early and his wife Amy have been pastoring the people of First Baptist Church, Cartwright, Oklahoma for the last nine years. When Ray came as pastor the church averaged 19 in attendance with half of them being children. Today they have a new building, two morning services because the auditorium can't hold everybody in one, and the Spirit of God has moved in remarkable ways among the people.

Probably less than a mile as the crow flies from the church, located on on the southern shore of Lake Texoma, is the multi-million dollar lake home of Dallas billionaire H. Ross Perot. The home is gorgeous, the yacht docked beside the home is massive, and the view from the bay windows in the front of house as it sits on the hill above the lake must be spectacular.

Two sides of Lake Texoma. Two men who live across from each other. One man has all the wealth that the world can offer, the other man all the wealth that heaven can offer. One man is considered by those around him as a powerful human being, while the other man is considered by his church a very humble human being. One man has the prestige and adoration of the world, while the other man has admiration and appreciation of a small, but growing group of people he has faithfully pastored over the last nine years. As I drove to the hotel in Denison and crossed the Denison Dam after speaking at First Baptist Church, Cartwright, I couldn't help but think this thought. . .

"When will we get to the place in the Southern Baptist Convention where we recognize and honor those pastors and leaders who may not have the wealth, power, and prestige that so captivates the fancy of the world, but in their lives and ministries they exhibit a patient continuence in well doing, ministering faithfully to the very people to whom God has called them, and have ignored the temptation to measure their success in the terms and manner by which society and the world measure it?" In other words, can we as a Convention recognize that the true wealth and measure of a man is seen not in his reputation, but his character; not in his "success" but in his "faithfulness," and most of all not in the popularity or prestige he holds in the eyes of the powerful, but in the kind and gracious words spoken of him by the people who know him best --- his church?

As a Convention I think we may be beginning to move in the right direction in this matter.

Greensboro may show us how far we have come.

In His Grace,


Wade

28 comments:

Bob Cleveland said...

I'm not sure "we" should. All any person can do is to be faithful to their calling. Obedient. All the increase comes from God.

If honor and recognition is given to the "superstars", the noticeable ones, the ones who get a lot of attention, maybe that's the problem.

Maybe it IS.

Jesus said something to the effect of "Why are you calling me good? No one is good except the Father."

The world hands out awards. I don't think the church should. Yet we do, with high attendance days and certificates of completion (suitable for framing) and the like.

Maybe less would be more. And let the world fawn away over the big houses and yachts.

Maybe "Well done, good and faithful servant" really SHOULD be more than enough.

Maybe it really IS.

Anonymous said...

Wade,
Your message today is a wonderful truth. This idea was presented to the SBC many years ago when a messenger asked, “Why are positions in the SBC filled with pastors from big churches and never small ones?

The answer was, “Young man, you’re out of order!”
Greensboro sounds very promising. I’ll be there.
Rex Ray

Kiki Cherry said...

When I was in college, I had the privilege of going to Inner City Houston and working with the reknowned urban missionary, Mildred McWhorter.

Talk about an unsung hero!!! What an amazing lady!!!

We were busy sorting food one morning, and looked over to see Ross Perot in a baseball cap, helping carry pallets of food to the warehouse.

Mildred was barking orders at him just like he was one of the students.

I had to laugh--it was obvious that he had a great deal of respect for her (and maybe a little fear). He contributed money, too, from what I understand, to her ministry.

Wade Burleson said...

Suzie,

My humble thanks.

Wade Burleson said...

Brad,

You seem to ask a ton of questions that have nothing to do with my posts, but Lord willing, tomorrow, I will answer your questions and give information about a nomination for Presidency.

rebecca said...

I don't understand it either... from a Biblical context or just the "numbers." Granted, we've just decided to be messengers this summer and we've never gone before... but when I was reading about messengers and read that every church gets 10... and then I forget how the mega churches are allotted more... but it still left me thinking that IF the small churches sent 10, there would be more people from small churches than big ones... and there ARE more small church pastors out there than big church ones.
Just makes me think that if the small churches wanted it... they could have the "power." But, if the small church pastors were out for power... they probably wouldn't be at small churches.
I don't know. Just my random brain thinking :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you Wade for this post,

As a young pastor, comtemplating a move from a large growing suburban church (where I serve on staff as an associate) to a small church in a small community in Texas, I am struggling with the definition of "success"

The church I am presently serving will be, in the next 10 years or so, one of the top churches on the East Coast.

God is doing some incredible things. I work with a great staff. I have an amazing pastor (one of those Godly upcoming young leaders in the SBC). This church loves me and my family. They pay me well and I am happy here. I could do what I am doing for the rest of my life.

But...there is this other church

They will never be a mega church. They will never be prestigous.
I will have to take a pay cut to go there!!! (Oh horrors or all horrors! :) )

However, God has done some great things in that church too. In their context...God has blessed them and I believe they have great potential for incredible spiritual health (if not size).

Because of a past connection/relationship, I know and love these people and they know and love me...warts and all!!!!

I was talking with one of the individuals on that church's search committee about a mutual friend, when the question was asked(half joking and half seriously). "Would I even be consider the possibility of becoming thier pastor?"

I promised to pray about it and discuss it with my wife (how many times do we (as pastors) say such things just to justify our own desires or put someone off!!

The struggle began there. Would I? What if God is calling me there? What will my peers think? I am thinking about doing the exact opposite of what typically occurs.. Am I crazy? etc etc

I do not know where the process will end but I know God wants me in that process... maybe because I am supposed to go... or maybe because God has some things to teach me...

God's perspective on "success" is is different than ours. It does not mean that numbers, wealth and prestige are bad. Praise God for the places where churches are being blessed in such ways.

Though wealth, size, and influence are blessings from God we often see them as the barometer of God's favor.......this is not always the case

With this idea in mind, we as ministers often say to our peers..."I will go anywhere and do anything if God calls me to do so."

Strangely, we seem to hear that call the clearest as long as we become upwardly mobile!

Oh that our hearts (mine included) would be to desire God and His kingdom more than anything else on earth.

Thanks again for the reminder

RMS

Paul said...

RMS,

Eleven years ago my wife and I were approaching a six-digit income in our two jobs. Then God called me to a bi-vocational pastorate. My wife quit her job and we moved to the field. Our income was now a little better than half of what it had been before. A while later a church wanted to call us full-time and we felt that God was in it. We moved to that church making $17,000/year plus a parsonage. And we spent five wonderful years there. It was difficult financially, but the blessings have always overflowed.

Brother, if the Lord is calling you it will be more than worth it.

Pastor Tom said...

Thank you for a great post. The reality is, most Pastors (SBC and other Conservative Christian denominations) will receive little or no recognition outside their respective areas of ministry. They may never be nominated for Convention leadership, recognized for the monetary millions given to missions and/or CP, paraded as an evangelist for baptizing 'x' number of people last year, or even admired for their oratory skills. Why? According to Barna, the average church in America claims a total attendance of somewhere around 90 people. Based on that size congregation, the National Congregations Study says that the average budget is $100,000 or less, but that won't bother this group! Why? They aren't concerned with earning the praises of man! As you said, their reward is eternal.

Only thing is, it IS discouraging at times that denominational leadership (nominating leadership) SEEMS to value these men and their leadership qualities so much less. When we attend our convention meetings, that is, if our average size church can afford to send someone or some people to the Convention meetings, we are asked to support leadership from men who, according to Barna, represent LESS than 2% of churches in America in both attendance and giving.

Might sound like sour grapes to some, but I hope I can make a point or two:
Point #1: From WB: In other words, can we as a Convention recognize that the true wealth and measure of a man is seen not in his reputation, but his character; not in his "success" but in his "faithfulness," and most of all not in the popularity or prestige he holds in the eyes of the powerful, but in the kind and gracious words spoken of him by the people who know him best --- his church? Not only that, can we see some leadership of that variety as well. I‘m sure the character and faithfulness of current leadership and their predecessors are above par, but can we have leadership that represents the vast majority of our churches - the silent majority? Have we heard that term before?)?
Point #2: Do we not get a voice at the meeting? Do we as messengers not have a right to nominate and vote for a candidate from the floor? Do we not hold the ability to change the course of this convention? My second and final point is this, if we don’t speak up there, then we ought to remain silent here! It’s kind of like people who complain about the direction of our country but don’t exercise the right to vote their values or fail to vote at all! I am fairly new to SBC policy and procedures so if I am wrong, please correct me, but it is my understanding that, while the leadership offers a nomination, a candidate can still be nominated from the floor.

Anonymous said...

Dear RMS,

My father was a faithful pastor for 27 years before an untimely death at 66. He never pastored a large church and in fact the largest averaged about a 100 in worship. But he was faithful. He lived the life of a pastor. He was involved in the community and in many ways became the community's pastor. He went to ball games, weddings, funerals, school board meetings. He went to the homes of every single member at least once a year. He preached expository sermons but also had time to get down on the level of a child and give them a hug.

All this to say is that as you mentioned God's view of success is different than man's. Keep that in your heart and mind as you pray about this decision. When my dad died, I had this mental picture of God welcoming him home as a true hero of the faith -- not because he was famous but because he was always present. In fact, I spent the days between his death and the funeral contacting the churches where he had served and to a church the refrain I heard back was, "We never knew what it was like to have a real pastor until he came and we never realized what we had lost until after he had left." That is the testimony that we should "covet" and not power or prestige. That is the testimony of a servant leader.

Blessings as you search and remember the small churches need a man of God as much if not more than the large ones.

Shalom.

Anonymous said...

http://www.floridabaptistwitness.com/5915.article
WOW!!!

brad reynolds said...

Wade,
Thank you for your gracious response. I look forward to your answers. While I feel we may disagree on some important issues, your kind spirit is commendable. And I apologize for tagging on to other’s questions that were not part of the original posts - I may not have started the rabbit trails but I am certainly one of the ones who went down them (that is truly one of my flaws, although the students I teach keep tempting me to succumb to this weakness) .

I think you make a good point about pastors in small churches holding positions of leadership in the convention, for quite honestly the size of a church many times (although not always) has as much to do with geography as it does with personality (the person who pastors). I have not seen any evidence where such persons have been purposely neglected by the SBC, nevertheless your desire is commendable. However, as I'm sure you agree their positions on the BFM2K, God's Word, and their direction for the convention should be just as high-profile and evident as well-known pastors.

Allow me to make an assumption on assumptions that may have occurred in the minds of messengers. Perhaps some assume that a man who has proven himself capable of leading a large group of people would be good at leading a large group of people. This assumption is not bad, but to assume one who has proven himself capable of leading a small group of people would not be capable of leading a large group, is a bad assumption. The assumption that one has proven himself capable of leading a large group and the other has not and therefore the former would make a better choice, if given choices, is not a bad assumption either - although it could be a wrong.

On a personal note, Denison is a most beautiful area, my saintly mother was born there and my family is still in that area. I will be skiing on Lake Texoma this summer.
BR

Kevin said...

Wade
Great post. If I may I would like to answer a few questions I usually don’t be cause you do a good job of that.
Rebecca- The folks in a small church are usually not able to go. Be it finically or work related and some times they do not fell it is important their world is were they are.

RMS- Do what God tells you if you stay He will bless if you go He will Bless. I took about a 65% cut to follow Gods call and it has been worth every lost $. What needs to be understood is being were God wants you. I believe your line of Questioning is good you may not be called to this other church but if God Called you I think you would go! Because you are checking your heart but even more you are checking His heart for you.

Rex- I truly would love a answer to that Question.

Bob- I for one am counting on it.

In Him
Kevin Lancaster

Anonymous said...

I wonder any leaders in the SBC have ever considered how many missionaries could have been leading big churches had they not been obedient to the call of God to go to Asia, Africa--or South Dakota?

Wade, we do appreciate your efforts to restore missionaries to a place of respect--if not honor.

Nannette

CharlieMac said...

RMS,
I know that your post has many praying for you and your family to be able to discern God's will in this matter. My previous pastor "took a pay cut" to come to our church. We are now (30 years later) one of the largest Baptist churches in our city. We give a larger percentage of our receipts to the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program than the largest Baptist churches in this city and are involved in hands on local and foreign mission projects. May God allow you to grow into your full potential through these challenges you now face.

Anonymous said...

PLEASE put your thoughts in action. Be a candidate for president of the SBC.

Anonymous said...

PLEASE put your thoughts in action. Be a candidate for president of the SBC.

Anonymous said...

Run, Wade, run for the presidency of the SBC.

Keith said...

RMS:

I will pray for your struggle. I have been through it myself. I left the lucrative (for me) business world and God called me to a small church in a small town. I was told that I would not make it two years before I was "called" to a larger church. We bought a house, planted roots, and we will stay until God makes it incredibly obvious it is time to go (it has been 3 years).

I too wrestled with the definition of success and calling. What is typical? Really? (I have asked leaders in our convention why God always calls people from smaller churches to larger churches).

Are you crazy? Probably (takes one to know one). But, as a pastor of a small church, with a heart for others in "the boat," I pray for more crazy people like you every day.

Bob Cleveland said...

Wade,

I wasn't thinking from the standpoint of calling on folks to serve in "corporate" positions. Guess I was hung up on the word "recognize".

I doubt there is any practical way for an organization to discern that. There's no system that I know of for ongoing assessment of people that don't get attention any other way.

Sad, but that's the price (IMHO) of success and size.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease because it gets the attention. Same with pastors and elders, I guess.

Anonymous said...

I’d like to make two observations in regards to your remarks about how we define success. I will make the second one first because I feel it is something important to keep in mind.

We should not be quick to jump to judgment {I am not implying you have done so}; each of us is on this journey of faith. Some of us have traveled farther then others, but if we looked at it from God's perspective I think we would see that we are still much closer to our fellow church members then we are to God. As an illustration let us suppose that you and I decide to walk across America, from Atlanta, GA to Las Angelis, CA and that you leave a day ahead of me. So while it is true that you are a day further then I, if we zoomed out from planet earth and plotted the two of us in relation to where LA is, we would see there is not that significant of a difference between where you are and where I would be. I think it is the same with our walk in the Lord, he is so much holier and wiser then we could ever hope to be and that is a good reminder to recognize that no matter where we are in relation to another person, that we are still far from being what God would want. At least until we see Him and are changed into His likeness, hopefully that makes sense…

Having said that I think it important to remember that we can't control what other people decide to worship or how they decide to measure success. Each of us determines that for our self, and I suspect we do it with little conscious thought. I know I did. I was living a life that was defined by what I had and what I did. It is an easy thing to do in the society we live in. It is much harder to live for God’s definition of success, which I suspect has to do with the two greatest commandments. So like me maybe others need a divine revelation to open their eyes to what really matters from God’s perspective. Mine came in two forms, the first was a realignment of my financial life with the word of the Lord. I have heard it said that the last part of a man to get baptized is his wallet, how sad but true. The question that was posed to me is, “how much is enough?” how much house? How much automobile? How much education? How much recreation? How much will it take to satisfy you? Of course as believers your readers will readily see that those things will never satisfy us, only Jesus can do that – in fact I am sure you can quote any number of scriptures that tell us that. Christ really is sufficient.

The second part of my wakeup call came in a little village in Honduras over a year ago now, although I have just returned from another trip there with my wife and daughters. I wish I could express in words what I saw there but you have to see it for yourself. I met children, hundreds of them, who hunger for the word of God and for the comfort of human touch. I who have so much, lost sight of what really has value somewhere along the line. I am eternally grateful to the Lord for opening my eyes and my heart to the needs of those around me. I am so grateful that I am no longer under the bondage of working for things and have been set free to work for His kingdom. I haven’t changed jobs, gone to seminary, or anything like that. I simply changed what I am living for…

In Christ

Matt Williams {I apologize for the length of this} {mjw_atl1961@yahoo.com}

harmon said...

Well said. As a retired dom i have seen many faithful pastors in the samll churches ignored. Their reward will come at a much better place later.

andrea said...

"When will we......" good question.

- the temptation we all face once in a position of leadership is to know when to step aside and let someone else take the lead -

this might be way out there - but when geese take to the air, they take turns leading - when one get tired - falls back into the group and the next one takes the lead.. Great concept -

Wouldn't you say?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous,
After our conversation something hit me. In your post you reiterated something that is so near to my own heart that I often take it for granted. It is the concept of going where the Lord leads us no matter the place or the cost. I had to remember the feelings my own family have expressed to me about going on the mission field. Part of my inital response was just suprise at the slight possiability of a near and dear friend leaving however looking back on it I have to say if it is where God is calling you by all means go. I will see you on Sunday night brother.

BKY

P.S. Wade sorry about leaving a personal message on your blog.

Former M said...

Thanks for another excellent post. To rise to this level of action, we will have to release ourselves from the personality cultus that has plagued a good portion of the SBC. Such would be a great threat to many. 1. For some it will threaten loss power and 2. for others the recognition that we have developed a personality cultus based much more on secular definitions of success than the gospel.

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Brother Wade and Friends,

It is a gift from God when he offers us in ministry the chance to step down, rather than up, the "corperate ladder" in terms of ministry positions. He knows where we are needed, and where our own needs can be met. I praise God for what He has done in me since I was DEMOTED from associate in a bigger FBC to pastor in a small country church. The decrease in salary has been more than met by God's miraculous provision for my family. It has been, and still is, a wonderful time in my life. Praise God for His wisdom in sending us where He purposes for us to be.

Love in Christ,

Jeff

Anonymous said...

Thank you all for your kind words and prayers. I actually did not expect so many responses to my “musings” in response to this post.

Out of seminary, I served the SAME small church for almost five years. When I left I was empty, burned out, and in desperate need of healing. This was not the church’s fault. They were gracious and kind. No one knew that behind my smile was a wounded man...

Since then I have been back to preach in that church and I shared some of those struggles.I am convinced that if things would have continued “as is” by now I would be divorced and out of the ministry. God in is grace did not allow that to happen

He brought me to the church I serve now and my wife and I found healing. We also have a wonderful place to minister and be ministered to. I discovered the strength and gifts that often come from the very wounds I tried so hard to cover up. In other words, God has redeemed the pain.

Now I may have a chance to go back. This may be God’s will and then again maybe not

But, it is pretty cool to think God may give me back “what the locusts have destroyed” (Joel 2)

Just another reminder that God’s “path” to success is as different as His “definition” of success….. Compared to how the world may define them.

Thanks again

RMS

Billy Dry said...

Wade,

good food for thought! I have been on the field for a little over a year now as a "church media guy." I think that most big to mid sized churches forget how to be small minded when dealing with their congregation. It seems like the smaller churches are meeting more of congregational needs than that of larger churches. Do you think that if more churches adopted a smaller church approach, we would see numbers increase in Salvations and in attendance?

and if this would increase both, why are churches hesitant to take on this mindset?