Why Not Try This? …Network with other Seventh-day Adventist pastors in your area

         When there are several church districts in the same geographical area there is a tremendous opportunity for united effort, and a great potential for “turf guarding.”

          Scene #1- A meeting with area Adventist pastors. I had been pastoring in the area for about a year. At the pastors’ meeting I told a few experiences of transformed lives from a recent evangelistic series I had held. I was excited to see God’s grace and power at work as His word was presented. Then I made this offer—“I’m not the greatest evangelist in the world, but I’m cheap [free!]. So if you would like me to hold a series of meetings with you sometime next year I’d be happy to do that.” One of the pastors doused my enthusiasm with his response. “Yeah, I bet you would.” He made it clear he thought I just wanted to come preach in his part of town and then “steal some of his sheep.” This was my first lesson in turf guarding.

          Scene #2- A meeting with area Adventist pastors and the conference evangelism coordinator about three years later. Our church had made a request to the conference for financial assistance with an evangelistic series to be held by me in an unentered part of the metro area. The conference ministerial director handed a color-coded map to each of us pastors. He explained that each color belonged to a particular church district and that we were to stay in our area for our work. I noticed that the color boundary for my district dipped just slightly to include the public elementary school where we would be having our meetings, but not the neighborhood across the street. It became clear that I was the reason this meeting had been called.

I asked the evangelism coordinator “How rigid are these boundaries?”

“They are fixed.”

“If one of my members lives outside our district boundaries is it okay if I visit them?”

“Of course.”

“Is it okay if they hold a Bible study in their home?”

“Well, that would be okay.”

“Would it be okay for them to invite their neighbors to the study?”

“That would be okay, too.”

“If one of their neighbors visited our church one Sabbath would it be okay if I went to see them in their home the following week?”

“Yes, that would be okay.”

“Could our member hand out invitations to an evangelistic series in their neighborhood?”

“Yes.”

“Could we mail evangelistic series invitations to that neighborhood?”

“I’m not sure. I think you would have to check with the other district pastor.”

“So what is really the purpose of the color-coded boundaries?”

“To keep good working relationships among the area pastors.”

This was my second lesson in turf guarding.

         

          Scene #3- I was moving to a new district. During my first visit I asked the conference leaders if I could meet with Adventist pastors in the area and become better acquainted. They arranged for a meeting and said they didn’t remember any pastor considering a call to ever ask for that before. At the meeting I asked what the area pastors saw God doing in the area and how, if I came, we could work together to advance the Adventist message and mission. We had a great visit, and ultimately, I accepted the call.


          In time we established the habit of having monthly meetings for prayer, fellowship, Bible study, networking, and planning joint projects, inviting the local academy principal and chaplain to join us when they could. When it came time to plant a new church there was tremendous support from every pastor and church. Later we worked together to begin an annual weekend Campmeeting. In time a unified church directory was published including sections for each of the six area churches.

         

          What did I learn from this?


1)    
Be proactive in networking with area Adventist pastors before misunderstandings arise. If there is already an Adventist pastors’ network be sure to attend the meetings and share. If there isn’t already a network, why not call up a neighboring pastor and take them out to lunch or at least pray with them over the phone. The two of you might get a network started.


2)    
Avoid a mindset of turf protection. There are enough sinners to go around. Spend your best efforts reaching out to them, wherever they are. Doug Batchelor said it well—“People should go where they’ll grow,” regardless of geography.


3)    
When Adventist pastors pray, plan and work together, there is a divine blessing that wouldn’t come through only individual efforts (especially in metro areas and unentered areas). Consider these inspired counsels—

     
a)    
“New places must be entered, and, wherever this is done, it would be well, if consistent, to go two and two, so as to hold up each other’s hands. A plan like this was presented: It would be well for two brethren to start together and travel in company to the darkest places, where there is much opposition and where the most labor is needed, and with united efforts and strong faith set the truth before those in darkness. And then, if they could accomplish more by visiting many places, to go separately, but often meet, while on the tour, to encourage each other by their faith, and thereby strengthen and hold up each other’s hands. Also, let them consult upon the places opened for them, and decide which of their gifts will be the most needed, and in what way they can have the most success in reaching the heart. Then as they separate again their courage and energy will be renewed to meet the opposition and darkness and to labor with feeling hearts to save perishing souls.” {Early Writing, p. 103.1}


b)    
“It is in the order of God that those who bear responsibilities should often meet together to counsel with one another and to pray earnestly for that wisdom which He alone can impart. Unitedly make known your troubles to God. Talk less; much precious time is lost in talk that brings no light. Let brethren unite in fasting and prayer for the wisdom that God has promised to supply liberally. {Gospel Workers, p. 417.2}


 

Blessings to you,

Dan Serns

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