Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What's Happening at FBC Farmersville

This Summer, if our Lord tarries and is willing, my first decade at First Baptist Church of Farmersville will come to completion. FBC Farmersville has a history of long-tenured pastors, or, at least, longer than average. My two immediate predecessors were here for seven years and eight years, respectively. Passing the ten-year milestone will make this pastoral ministry the second-lengthiest in the church's 144-year history. If it pleases God for me to be here to celebrate our sesquicentennial in 2015, I will do so as the longest-tenured pastor in the congregation's history.

That could almost sound like bragging, so let me assure you that it is (a) a testimony to the grace of God, (b) a testimony to the lovingkindness and patience of this family of believers, and (c) a celebration of what I'm thankful for and not a boast in what I'm proud of on my part—God knows my heart. These people stuck with me through Ph.D. seminars and a dissertation, after all.

These next six months could well prove to be some of the most significant of the decade. After more than a year of dialogue and revisions, the congregation will see in January 2009 a proposed Constitution & Bylaws for FBC Farmersville. Once we have adopted it, I will gladly post it for anyone to see. But I do not grant any online community the privilege to see it before our church family has seen and approved it.

Coming hard on its heels will be our Church Membership Covenant. This one has passed the approval of the special committee that has been working to author it. I find that the influence of those on the committee has been very helpful to me. I authored all of the first drafts, but they brought to the table a goal to wind up with a document readable and understandable by children. As someone genuinely converted at nearly six years of age, I was sympathetic to the goal (even if unable to accomplish it without their help and prodding).

Although we will present the Constitution and the Covenant at different times, we will vote to approve them together. The Constitution & Bylaws refer to the Covenant, so were we to adopt it without the Covenant, we would be operating contrary to our Constitution & Bylaws from that point until the adoption of the Covenant.

Our deacons have joined with me in a project to develop a brief ministry plan for every household in our congregation. This will include both the households who actively participate now and those whom we have not seen for quite some time. I expect that every ministry plan will involve contact with the household, if possible. Here is my goal: To accomplish regenerate church membership at First Baptist Church of Farmersville without dropping a single household from the present membership roll. If they are lost, we want to present the gospel to them and have the privilege of witnessing their conversion and baptism. If they are backslidden, we want to see their love for the Lord and for the brethren rekindled. If they are active, we hope to encourage them all the more.

The goal is, of course, unattainable. Some of those folks go to church elsewhere. Some of them we will likely not be able to identify or find. Some of them will spurn our efforts to reach them. We're going to try anyway. And it is important to me for my people to know that it has never been my intention or the desire of my heart to effect any sort of "purge." If any wind up leaving our rolls, let it be because we were running after them to catch them for the Lord, not to chase them away.

If 50% of the people we contact tell us to go away and leave them alone, then we'll double in average attendance next year. But more importantly, I'll have the assurance of knowing that I've actually shepherded the flock over which God has made me an overseer.

I'm as enthusiastic about serving here as ever I have been. We've had a really difficult few years, marked by a few painful moral scandals among the church membership (the worst of which resulted in a sexual offender being sentenced to prison last month). Our attendance and baptisms have waned through this difficult season. Now I have every reason to hope that we have put this season behind us. Our baptisms since September have already doubled last year's ACP numbers, and far beyond. I baptized three adults in the last few weeks. We're seeing a heightened interest in evangelism to accompany the amazing improvements that our congregation has made in missions involvement in the past few years (from 0 mission trips ten years ago to 7 this year).

I've always wondered what it would feel like to have pastored a congregation for as long as a decade. The amazing thing is, it feels like I'm just getting started. It hasn't felt that way at every point along the road. Sometimes it has been quite difficult. But today, I can honestly say that it feels almost like the initial "honeymoon," only better, because we know that it is based upon a real understanding between church and pastor, and not some imaginary vision of one another soon to be exploded.

18 comments:

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Bart,

Congratulations. I do envy your position. I believe your best days are ahead for you and FBC Farmersville.

Tell, Tim Guthrie's grand daughter I said hello.

Blessings,
Tim

Bro. Robin said...

Bart

Congratulations! I am only approaching four years at IBC, but I still feel like a new pastor. I pray the feeling will continue.

Bob Cleveland said...

Meine herzlichsten Glückwünsche!

(If I'm in trouble, I blame it on Google Translator)

Bart Barber said...

Bob,

That's a fine translation, and it reminds me of a bit of song:

"Martha! Martha! Du entschwandest, und mein Glück nahmst du mit dir. Gib mir wieder, was du fandest, Oder teile es mit mir."

Tell me where it comes from, and I'll be very impressed.

Bart Barber said...

Tim,

Thanks, buddy. She thinks Tim G is her Grandpa, and she thinks you are her only slightly bigger brother, I think!

Bart Barber said...

Robin,

Knowing your heart for the pastorate, I'm sure that it will.

Tim G said...

Ouch guys!!!! Hey, at least Grandpa's are seen as those with wisdom!! Not sure about big brothers?? :)

Bart, great story of faithfulness and pressing on! Keep it up!

Tom Bryant said...

Bart,
Congratulations on your soon to be 10th. I hit my decade mark in February. It is God's amazing grace that our people put up with us for that long.

Dave Samples said...

Well done, Bart! It's great a story of effective ministry in the midst of so many that are struggling. We went through the C&B revision process a few years ago as well. May the 3 become 300!

From the Middle East said...

Praise God!! Keep striving brother!

Blessings to you and the community in which you serve!

Anonymous said...

Bart:

Congrats on 10 years, getting an organizational system and covenant into place that the church is comfortable with, and getting your membership roll in sync with true participation.

We had the blessing 16 years ago of starting a church. The tough part was not having any money, having only 10 adults at the start, and not having a place to meet. We were without a building for 13 years, and met in various rental spaces etc.

The good part was we got to start the church from the ground up. We drafted the charter, the bylaws, the covenant, the doctrinal statement etc. We did not inherit a disfunctional polity or a stale membership role or a history of nonparticipation from people who haven't been to church in 20 years.

I am not interested in reviewing your charter, bylaws, covenant per se. But I am curious as to whether you as pastor will be considered the only elder at the church, or whether you will have a plurality of elders and who they might be? Would the deacons serve as servants and the governing board of the church, or do you have a completely extra-biblical governing board (Board of Directors or Trustees) for legal purposes?

We are structured with a plurality of elders, with the pastor being an elder, all of whom were approved by the congregation. The elders also serve as the Board of Directors for legal purposes.

The Deacons play strictly a servant role, as described in Acts.

The staff, other than the pastor, are employees, ministering in their given areas of reponsibility, subject to the elders (who were appointed by the congregaton.

Good luck and God bless on the organizational and service milestones.

Louis

Bart Barber said...

Louis,

I do plan to publish the whole thing at the appropriate time. I don't mind indicating what I've published on the Internet regarding my understanding of biblical ecclesiology, however.

I believe that elders are pastors are overseers. FBC Farmersville presently has three pastors. I am the lead pastor. We regard deacons as those who serve the church by helping to offload secular affairs from pastors in order to free more time for their devotion to the study and proclamation of the word. Deacons also help to maintain unity among the congregants.

Until I release the document, I will leave you to guess as to how my ecclesiological convictions have influenced our Constitution & Bylaws.

I hope you understand that I am preserving the privilege of our congregation to interact with these documents first.

Bart Barber said...

Tim, Tom, Dave, and FTME,

Thanks for your encouraging words.

Anonymous said...

Bart:

Thanks. What you provided gives me a basic understanding.

I certainly do understand the need for the congregation to work on this first.

Hope it goes really well.

Louis

Anonymous said...

'Our deacons have joined with me in a project to develop a brief ministry plan for every household in our congregation.'

I would love to see you unpack this in the future when you can.

I read it, snickered, then backed up, read it again, and said, 'why did I just snicker at that?'

That plan sounds downright explosive (in a good way!)

Congratulations on your ten-ure!

Mike Woodward

Pastor Mike said...

Congrats Bart. I haven't even been ordained 10 years. But I wouldn't trade it for anything in this world.

johnMark said...

Bro. Bart,

Congratulations in the Lord! Given the way pastors can be treated and "turned over" it's just wonderful to hear about a pastor leading the same flock for 10 years.

Blessings,

Mark

Les Puryear said...

Bart,

Congratulations! I believe longer tenures are one of the the keys to growing churches.

Les