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November 26, 2016

Back to the Church

By Micah Fries

Recently I left a job I loved and moved back into the full-time pastorate. I had been serving at LifeWay Christian Resources for almost four years and really enjoyed my job. I worked with great people and had a wonderful opportunity to serve pastors and churches. However, I came to realize that God has uniquely wired and called me to be a pastor. I have always loved the local church, and always loved serving as a pastor. Even during my years at LifeWay, I served in my local church as a volunteer Pastor of Teaching and Mission. Including those years as a volunteer pastor, I have now pastored for almost 18 years. I realized, however, through this process that God has wired me to give my life as a pastor in a local church. I have been in the position for a few months now, and I was recently contemplating the benefits of serving as a pastor in a local church.

1. Preaching in community

I have had the opportunity to preach in some amazing places. I’ve preached across the country, in Hawaii and Alaska, not to mention in countries around the world. I’ve spoken in small churches and in big conferences. In all this I have learned that the best preaching happens in the context of a local church. Preaching week after week to the same people is what God designed preaching for, I am convinced.

We often underestimate the importance of communitas in God’s economy. Spiritual growth is simply not designed to occur outside of this community. I am convinced that this dynamic is one of the reasons our preaching is at its best when it occurs within the community that God has called us to.

I am thankful for the opportunities I get to preach away from my local church, but I love preaching to the people I pastor. I am confident that God designed it to be so.

2. Loving an all-ages community

I love relationships. Admittedly I am an extreme extrovert, but I love meeting new people and developing long-term and lasting relationships with them, watching them grow in the Lord. This, of course, includes those who are older than me and those who are younger. The local church is an ideal incubator for relationship development.

I grew up a military kid, moving regularly and all over the world, and yet I still maintain good relationships today with people I met while rooted in a variety of local churches. Further, I love not only the relationships themselves, but I love the breadth of relationships that I get in the local church. There are so many people that I wouldn’t naturally know and relate to if it weren’t for my local church. Few things are as energizing to me than building new and deep relationships, and learning to love each other well as we all walk closer and closer to Jesus.

3. Leading & developing a community of leaders

A while back I was studying Ephesians 4 with one of my mentors and I became convinced that pastoral success is not measured in how well we do, but rather in who we develop and deploy. That paradigm shift transformed my day-to-day ministry more than anything else I have ever experienced. Along with that theologically driven mindset change came a commitment to not just think in terms of corporate discipleship but rather to recognize that corporate discipleship occurs best when the leaders are committed to personal discipleship and leadership development.

For me this means that I spend a significant amount of time investing in the leaders at the church. I also mentor/disciple a small group of young guys with potential. The context of community, where we can walk together over an extended period of time, is a beautiful environment for leadership development. In an era where attending conferences and moving away to schools seems to be the dominant development motif, I am increasingly convinced that there is no more formative leadership development opportunity than that in front of the pastor who is willing to lead.

4. Community transformation

I love strategy. It’s possible I’m in the minority here, but statistical analysis, demographic reports and Excel spreadsheets are enough to make me pretty happy. I love thinking through strategies to declare and display the gospel of Jesus to our community. The church I serve also happens to be a church in the middle of a neighborhood. It makes for challenges with parking, among other things, but I love our location, deeply embedded in the ethos of a community, and intent on helping our community know and love Jesus.

While I enjoyed what I did outside of the local church, the opportunity to lead in a local church while we plan and invest in our immediate community, standing in the tradition and legacy of the last 88 years that our church has existed, while looking to the future and what may be able to happen over an extended period of time is exhilarating to me.

5. Building a community of partners

I am convinced that God designed mission to happen as a partnership. The entire book of Philippians was written to that end. What’s more, Philippians describes partnership among a local church, but it also speaks to partnership between a local church and other gospel partners. In the context of a local church, not only do I love collaborating to see the gospel advanced in our church’s mission field, but I love developing opportunities and means to partner with other churches to see God’s gospel spread across the world.

We recently launched ResourceThe.Church specifically for that purpose. As we create resources that other churches might be able to use, we are releasing them on the site at no charge as an asset to serve other partner churches as we all seek to advance the gospel together.

There are many places and opportunities for service that can be deeply fulfilling and will honor the Lord. I have learned, though, that the local church is among the greatest of places to see those things happen.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Micah Fries

Micah Fries (@micahfries) is the Senior Pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN and is a frequent speaker in churches and conferences. He served as a pastor in Missouri and an international church planter in West Africa. He holds a Master of Divinity and a Bachelor of Arts in Theology. While in college, Micah met Tracy, and they married in May of 2000. Micah is currently a student in the Ph.D. program at Southeastern Seminary, where he is studying North American Missiology.

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