More than 100 church leaders from across the country gathered for the first of a series of three Healthy Church Leader conferences in Louisville, Ky., May 4. Led by several charismatic pastors and professors, the attendees learned going back to the basics: the word, prayer and priorities, were the key points to a successful ministry.
"What we have found is sometimes leadership just gets back to basics," said Dr. Thom S. Rainer, dean of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Billy Graham School of Evangelism and Missions.
Rainer said there were four key issues for leaders who sought church-wide growth. Those who have successfully broke from mediocrity to grow and thrive had similar characteristics: 1. they modeled personal evangelism, at least five hours a week; 2. they spent about 20 hours a week in prayer and personal Bible study or sermon preparation; 3. They persisted in their ministry beyond the three and a half years average time a minister spends in one position; and 4. they had passion for their ministry.
"You might think its too basic," Rainer said of his findings, "but if we found out anything about leaders who broke out of mediocrity, they went back to basics."
Bob Russell, senior minister at Southeast Christian Church, which has grown from several dozen to several thousand members, told the ministers that Christian leadership is about an attitude.
“It doesn’t matter how big your church becomes, there’s always something bigger, better," he said.
Russell said that at the beginning of his ministry he thought that leading a church of about 500 would be wonderful. Now he said he is just as amazed at how God has built his church as visitors often are when they ask Russell if he envisioned it.
"I’m not a visionary," he said. "When he said ‘I’m not a visionary,’ it was encouraging,"
"What I am hearing today, especially about vision, that’s refreshing. I really don’t have vision. That to me was refreshing to hear. It really is about loving God and helping people love God,” said Russell.
Rainer agreed with Russell, saying that personal goals and priorities must be set straight for a successful churchwide growth.
"That was one of the key factors that explained to us how leaders broke out of mediocrity," Rainer said.