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Vital Signs Highlight: Pastor Chris Gray Part Two

Vital Signs Highlight: Pastor Chris Gray Part Two

Vital Signs Highlight: Pastor Chris Gray Part Two

What is Vital Signs?

Vital Signs tells the story of Pastors who have led (or are currently leading) a church through a process of revitalization.  We place a spotlight on the challenges they faced, the victories that were achieved, and the life that has returned to their church.

We trust their stories will encourage YOU in what you’re doing for the Kingdom of God.

 

This week, we interviewed Pastor Chris Gray from Bethel Assembly in Sedalia, Missouri. This is part two. Enjoy.

 

13. What would you say is the turning point or maybe several turning points to get to where you are now?

There were three keys to turning this ship around.

1. Building community – When I first arrived here at Bethel Assembly, the congregation did not know one another. Church was a place that you came in and left, but not really a place to build relationships and live life together.  He had to take the necessary measures to build relationships with one another.

2. Promote missions – We had to come to the place that we realized that missions (local and world-wide), was the heartbeat of God. We took the time to bring in missionaries of all types just to help us grasp the Go or the Great Commission.  We have really seen this jump to the next level.  From 4 missionaries/Missions projects (1/2 support coming from general fund) to 54 missionaries/missions projects (100% from church body)

3. Community connection – In a town of 20,000 virtually no one knew where Bethel Assembly was. We took the time to connect with schools, join the chamber of commerce, meet key leaders, and simply become a presence in the community.

 

14. When was the time you started to feel, “Hey, this is going to work?”

I do not remember a single point in time.  My personality is a “we will make this happen” type personality.

 

15. What resource would you recommend to another pastor who may be looking at the idea of taking on a church like yours?

For those in rural communities, connection with rural compassion is a must.  This has assisted us in connecting with our community.  It has really opened up doors that otherwise may never have opened!

 

16. What was your biggest fear as a pastor?

There has never really been a moment of fear!

 

17. What is your biggest hope for your church?

My hope for Bethel Assembly is that, as a church, we continue to keep the focus on reaching the lost for the kingdom of God and building disciples.  As we reach work to achieve these goals, we will see not only numeric growth but also spiritual growth for the church.

18. What is the one habit that has helped you as a pastor?

Connection:  Connection with my congregation, Connection with other pastors, connection in the community.

 

19. Who has been your champion (encourager)?

Pastor Don Miller and Jerry Harris have been my best encouragers.

 

20. What has been the most difficult person you have dealt with as a pastor?

The individual that is set in the 1980s that has no desire to push forward.  They always seem to think that the 80s were the best time…so let’s there.  This causes difficulty because they are against anything and everything that even resembles change.

 

21. What’s next for your church?

We are going to continue to push forward.  This fall, we are really shaking things up.  We are reimplementing life groups again.  This is going to be an all-church endeavor.  We are pushing forward with major changes.  We believe that this is going to help us go to the next level and push past the 300-attendance mark.  We are also doing several things to build connection among the congregation.

 

22. What’s next for you? (growth goals for you individually)

I am currently pushing myself to learn new leadership skills.  I am reading books, listening to podcasts, and soon connecting with some pastors that are at the next level as a church.  The more that I learn, the more that I believe it will greatly impact the church I lead.

 

23. Would you do it again?

ABSOLUTELY!

CHRIS GRAY

CHRIS GRAY

LEAD PASTOR, BETHEL ASSEMBLY, SEDALIA, MO

Chris Gray serves as Lead Pastor for Bethel Assembly in Sedalia, MO. 
CHRIS GRAY

CHRIS GRAY

LEAD PASTOR, BETHEL ASSEMBLY, SEDALIA, MO

Chris Gray serves as Lead Pastor for Bethel Assembly in Sedalia, MO. 
Vital Signs Highlight: Pastor Chris Gray Pt. One

Vital Signs Highlight: Pastor Chris Gray Pt. One

Vital Signs Highlight: Pastor Chris Gray

What is Vital Signs?

Vital Signs tells the story of Pastors who have led (or are currently leading) a church through a process of revitalization.  We place a spotlight on the challenges they faced, the victories that were achieved, and the life that has returned to their church.

We trust their stories will encourage YOU in what you’re doing for the Kingdom of God.

 

This week, we interviewed Pastor Chris Gray from Bethel Assembly in Sedalia, Missouri. Enjoy.

 

1. What were the conditions/circumstances when you arrived?

Bethel Assembly’s average attendance was 78 for the Sunday morning worship service.  The church was not outwardly focused at all.  They supported four missionary/missions projects.  The problem that I had with this was that approximately half of the missions giving was coming from the general fund and not from the heart of the people.  There were also no community outreach opportunities.  They were at a place of “take care of my four, and we are good.”  The other issue that we quickly discovered is the fact that even though the average attendance was 78, they did not know one another at all.  There was no sense of community.  Church was something that you just came in and did, and then went home.

 

2. What were you thinking as you came there as the new pastor?

This was a huge transition.  I came from a large church of almost 900 with a staff of seven pastors and five support staff.  When I started, I was the only staff and attendance was averaging 78.  This took some adjustment on my part to get used to the change.  However, I never treated the church as if it were 78. I continued to treat it as if it was a large church.

 

3. What did you do first?

The very first thing that we did was take the time to discover who we were as a church and where we were headed.  We had only been at Bethel Assembly for a couple of months, when we took the time on a Sunday night to process with the congregation who we were and where we were headed.  I took the time to ask a myriad of questions to define our core values, mission, and vision.  If we did not know where we were and where we were headed, we would not see any progression.  The next major thing that we did was hold a month-long missions emphasis.  This took place six months after our arrival.  I really felt that the people needed to grab a hold of the heart of God, which is reaching the world for Jesus Christ.

 

4. What were people’s reaction at first to this new guy?

There were a lot of mixed reviews.  There were those that wanted something new to take place.  They saw the need for change.  Yet, there were also those that were happy with how things were and saw no need for change.  Some were very excited about the new life that was taking place.  They were eager to step in and make it happen, but there were still those that were quick to make it known to me that this is not how they have done it before.  As a pastor friend once told me, “Eventually, you will make everybody happy.  Half when you arrive and half when you leave.”

 

5. What did you envision happening in your first year?

I did not come in with any preconceived thoughts, but I knew that change was vital.  I had to take some time to evaluate what was happening.  Once evaluation was made, I began to implement the needed infrastructure to get us to a starting place.  Once this was established, we began to move toward connectedness, missions, and outreach.

6. What was your most significant challenge in that first year of pastoring?

My biggest challenge in the first year was probably handling the small minority of people that were content to stay the same way forever.  However, I knew that God had called us to Sedalia; therefore our focus could not be those that were content, but on that which God was instructing us to accomplish for His Kingdom.

 

7. How did you break that mentality?

I kept stating and restating the vision, mission, and core values of the church.  By keeping this idea in front of them and consistently implementing them into action, they soon discovered that I, as well as my leadership team, were serious about pressing forward.

 

8. Did you ever feel like quitting?

No!  I truly believe that if God called me, how can I quit.  Does that mean it is always easy?  Absolutely not!  There are times when you get that seven-page letter of everything that you are doing wrong, or you have that person that questions everything that you do.  But, it is in those times that you simply step back and once again give it to God.  Each time, He has proved himself faithful.

9. What have you learned about yourself in this process?

I have a lot to learn and I need to surround myself with quality people that know how to make things happen (or are at least willing to give it their best effort).  I also understand that I need people speaking into my life.  I need other guys that I can call and just bounce things off of from time to time.  Ministry is not an island adventure.  I can’t possibly accomplish the task that God has set before me all by myself!  It takes a team to move forward with the calling that God

 

10. What have you learned about your church through this process?

Our church is an ever-changing organism that requires continuous evaluation and leading in order to remain on the correct path and moving forward.  It is easy to become comfortable and just settle in.  We must continuously be reminder of the why we do what we do.  We must continuously refresh ourselves with the mission/vision that God has given for this church.  If we fail to do this, we will never achieve the goal that lies ahead.

 

11. What did you learn about ministry?

Teamwork is vital!  A pastor is not called to do it alone.

 

12. What do you see as being the key to seeing things turn around here?

Getting the focus off of self and on to those outside of our doors.  I truly believe that our growth is all attributed to the fact that we are now giving monthly to literally over 1000% more missionaries than we were 6 years ago.  We are also investing in our community which was not taking place 6 years ago.  When we grab ahold of the great commandment and apply the great commission, it is amazing what God will do!

 

CHRIS GRAY

CHRIS GRAY

LEAD PASTOR, BETHEL ASSEMBLY, SEDALIA, MO

Chris Gray serves as Lead Pastor for Bethel Assembly in Sedalia, MO. 

CHRIS GRAY

CHRIS GRAY

LEAD PASTOR, BETHEL ASSEMBLY, SEDALIA, MO

Chris Gray serves as Lead Pastor for Bethel Assembly in Sedalia, MO. 

103 Easy Steps To Grow The Church Of Your Dreams…and One Other One

103 Easy Steps To Grow The Church Of Your Dreams…and One Other One

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103 Easy Steps To Grow The Church Of Your Dreams . . . and One Other One

By Greg Perkins, SMDHealthy.Church
What is it about lists like this that tend to suck us in?  We’ve all done it.  We see a list of steps to get what we want, so we click the mouse only to find that we probably knew most of them already, or we’ve tried a few of them and are convinced they won’t work.  In either case, we love a list…especially if it will help us check the boxes to get what we want, or where we want to go. To be honest, I don’t know if there are “103 Easy Steps” to grow the church of your dreams.  There may only be 102…or 10.  I’m sure we could assemble a great list that would range from passionate vision and unwavering determination to the relentless pursuit of excellence, but no matter how long the list, we will no doubt miss the “one” thing that really matters.  At the end of every list, there is one “other” step needed to accomplish the task, achieve the goal, and arrive at our intended destination…and apparently it’s NOT easy, or everyone would do it.
The Challenge: The difficulty in the “other” step is not in its physical or intellectual demands, or its complicated strategy.  Its difficulty lies in the personal challenge of implementation.  Let me show you what I mean by looking at the story of the Rich Young Ruler in Mark chapter 10. In Mark 10:17, Jesus is approached by a young synagogue leader who is in hot pursuit of a goal…eternal life.  He asked Jesus a seemingly simple question, but got a really complicated two-part answer. Mark 10:17 (KJV)  As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Look at Jesus’ response in v. 19:  You know the commandments:  You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.”  

By Riverside Church, New York, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14265296

Now look at the balance of the conversation in verses 20-22 (KJV):

20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 At this, the man’s face fell. He went away sad because he had great wealth.

 

This was a leader pursuing a goal who was checking the list to see if the project was complete.  The first part of Jesus’ response was very comforting because he had completed all the steps on the list.  But Jesus told him the one thing he lacked…the one “other” step.  Jesus told him to sell everything and follow Him, but the challenge of implementation was too great for this young leader.

The Application:

As leaders, we are all in a pursuit to accomplish the vision God gave us when He called us to ministry.  We’ve followed the steps marked out for us in the Scriptures, we’ve consumed all kinds of leadership resources, and listened to leaders we respect.  But, there has to be more, right?  We haven’t arrived at the intended destination yet, so we keep looking for other lists to complete.  We click on every “3 steps” and “5 ways” blog or article we think will get us what we want, or where we want to go.  What we really lack though…is ONE more thing…and it could be the most important one of all.

For the young leader in Mark 10, the “one more thing” was selling all his possessions, but what is it for you?  I believe the tangible demand of this verse might be different for another leader asking the same question.  That is to say, the “one more thing” is not so much about money or possessions, as it is about the “what” or “who” the leader trusts MORE than Jesus Christ.  The possessions for the Rich Young Ruler represented the “one thing” he was not willing to YIELD to the Lord.

A leader’s inability to YIELD to God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is the “one thing” that most often prevents us from experiencing all God intends in our ministry pursuits.  If we say, “God, I’ll do ANYTHING you want, but I WON’T do THAT,” you may have just found the “one thing” you need to YIELD to Him before completing your list.

Living a YIELDED life as a leader is THE most effective way to achieve God’s plan for your life AND for the organization you lead.  Remaining sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit with EACH STEP you take (no matter how many there are), is the best way to be EXACTLY where God wants you to be.

Blessings!

Living a YIELDED life as a leader is THE most effective way to achieve God’s plan for your life AND for the organization you lead.  Remaining sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit with EACH STEP you take (no matter how many there are), is the best way to be EXACTLY where God wants you to be.

GREG PERKINS

DIRECTOR, SMD HEALTHY CHURCH

Greg Perkins

Greg Perkins

Church Development Director

Greg Perkins serves as Church Development Director for the Southern Missouri District. He and his wife Di Ann have always had a passion for the local church as well as a deep desire to see healthy, vibrant churches reach their communities with the Gospel.  They bring this passion and desire to their work in and among the churches of Southern Missouri.  The Perkins’ are former lead pastors of First Family Church in Osage Beach, MO, and have spent over 25 years in full-time church ministry in Southern Missouri and Kansas, serving as lead pastor in Marshfield, Missouri and Derby, Kansas.  Di Ann has worked as an executive secretary in real estate, banking, international missions, and Christian higher education. In addition to church leadership, Greg spent 6 years as a Senior Sales and Business Development Representative for two Fortune 500 companies, as well as Director of Chaplains for police agencies in Kansas and Missouri. The Perkins’ have two sons, Brad and Alex. Greg is also the author of a devotional book entitled, “Moments of Destiny,” He is currently working on a series of book projects and also has a devotional blog site, www.momentsofdestiny.com.

A Dull Ax

A Dull Ax

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A Dull Ax

By Greg Perkins, SMDHealthy.Church
The Old Testament is FULL of great life lessons for us, and one of these is found in the book of Ecclesiastes.

Ecclesiastes 10:10 says:

10 If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed, but skill will bring success.

The first time I read this, I kept on reading without taking any particular notice.  However, after subsequent readings, this verse nearly jumped off the page.  Growing up as a teenager in Wisconsin, our family cut a lot of wood to burn as our primary source of heat.  Most of the time, we used a chainsaw, but, occasionally, we would use an ax for smaller trees or branches, which is why this verse captured my attention.

If you try to cut down a tree with a dull ax, you will eventually achieve your goal—but it will take more strength than necessary.  If the ax is sharpened, however, it would be more efficient.  The lesson is found in the last few words of the verse – “but skill will bring success.”  Basically, the verse is telling us that you can accomplish the task if it is dull, but if you are skilled (wise, trained, or experienced), you will keep the ax sharp to be as productive as possible.

So, what is the spiritual application for us?  As Christ followers AND ministers of the Gospel, we are essentially an instrument or tool in the hand of the Master Builder (Christ).  The daily demands and challenges of life eventually wear on us and cause us to lose our edge, but too often we just keep hacking away without realizing that it requires much more effort than before.  We get the job done, but we are exhausted.

 

 

The wise and experienced woodsman knows that he is only as good as his tools allow him to be.  Regardless of the demands upon him, he takes great care to ensure that his tools are clean and sharp so he can be as effective as possible.

As church leaders, we cannot ignore the importance of remaining “sharp” in our walk with the Lord.  Our work FOR Him, should never become more important than our relationship WITH Him!  We must take time in the midst of our busy schedules and hectic pace, to study His Word and spend time in His presence to allow Him to sharpen and refresh us.  This is the ONLY way to remain effective for the Lord.

Stay sharp, and may God bless you in all you are doing for the Kingdom!

 

The wise and experienced woodsman knows that he is only as good as his tools allow him to be.  Regardless of the demands upon him, he takes great care to ensure that his tools are clean and sharp so he can be as effective as possible.

GREG PERKINS

DIRECTOR, SMD HEALTHY CHURCH

Greg Perkins

Greg Perkins

Church Development Director

Greg Perkins serves as Church Development Director for the Southern Missouri District. He and his wife Di Ann have always had a passion for the local church as well as a deep desire to see healthy, vibrant churches reach their communities with the Gospel.  They bring this passion and desire to their work in and among the churches of Southern Missouri.  The Perkins’ are former lead pastors of First Family Church in Osage Beach, MO, and have spent over 25 years in full-time church ministry in Southern Missouri and Kansas, serving as lead pastor in Marshfield, Missouri and Derby, Kansas.  Di Ann has worked as an executive secretary in real estate, banking, international missions, and Christian higher education. In addition to church leadership, Greg spent 6 years as a Senior Sales and Business Development Representative for two Fortune 500 companies, as well as Director of Chaplains for police agencies in Kansas and Missouri. The Perkins’ have two sons, Brad and Alex. Greg is also the author of a devotional book entitled, “Moments of Destiny,” He is currently working on a series of book projects and also has a devotional blog site, www.momentsofdestiny.com.

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