Be courageous in these days

By Mark Clifton

By Mark Clifton

“Good eye, good eye!” my teammates nervously yelled as I stood frozen at the plate. That was the total extent of my athletic compliments as a youth. I did receive a letter in basketball, but it was for serving as the team’s manager. Not once in my academic career — from kindergarten through graduate school — was I picked first for anything. Often I was even chosen last, a stigma that remains hard to forget all these decades later.

There’s a saying in church work that we like, and we say it a lot: “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” While there is truth in that statement, I’m grateful that leadership in the kingdom of God is not always the same as leadership in the world. Paul exhorts us to not place too much trust in earthly things:  “… so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Cor. 2:5.)

Here is truth: God doesn’t have a varsity bench, a JV bench, or a never-chosen bench. If your are an anointed under-shepherd of our Lord, then regardless of the size of your church, you are, as Paul referred to Timothy, “a man of God.” And as such, only eternity will disclose the full impact of your labor for our master.

Now that we are in the throes of a pandemic, I see incredible leadership among pastors of normative-size churches — men who have 25 or 40 or 50 family units for which to care. I see them making phone calls, sending letters, and being personally engaged in each of their members’ lives. They’re also on a fast learning curve of video preaching platforms.

Now more than ever, I am grateful to God for the tens of thousands of men who faithfully serve normative-size congregations. Many of them have never received any notoriety for their ministry in their entire career. Many of them serve in near obscurity. Many of them, like me, may never have be picked first on anybody’s team. But God for his glory has chosen to use us.

So, in this time of pandemic, lean into your strength as a normative-size church pastor. Lean into the strength of knowing you can’t do it on your own. Lean into the strength of knowing that He who called you will give you every gift you need to complete the task set before you.

You are a man of God. Be courageous in these days.,

Published April 8, 2020

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Mark Clifton

Mark Clifton is the senior director of replanting at the North American Mission Board. Mark has served as a pastor, church planter, church revitalizer, mission strategist, coach and mentor to young leaders. He has planted and replanted numerous churches and has also served as a national and regional leader for church planting and missions. His experience includes serving as the lead mission strategist for the Kansas/Nebraska Southern Baptist Convention, leading church planting efforts in the regions of north metro Atlanta, Georgia, serving as a church planter in Montreal, Quebec, as a Southern Baptist National Church Planting Missionary for eastern Canada, and has lead Southern Baptist church planting projects west of the Mississippi. Mark has been planting, replanting and providing strategic mission leadership since 1978. Mark and his wife, Jill, live in Kansas City, Missouri and have two sons, two daughters-in-law and three grandsons.