Pike Association has a lot of things for which to be thankful. An example would be the recent LoveLoud project. The Western Recorder reported that the project involved 70 volunteers. Ten churches and seven were mission teams involved. As a result effort, 700 people were ministered to and more than 200 Bibles were distributed.
Jason Lowe, director of missions for Pike Association, said, “Relationships between participating churches were strengthened,” and that is something to be thankful for.
However, Lowe has more to be thankful for. He has some young ministers in his association who understand how to carry out successful ministries.
Two of these young ministers, Brian Horton of Grace Church in Pikeville and Jason Johnson of Elkhorn City Church, and I recently discussed some ministry essentials for success. These men have already been successful within their respective ministries. Both have seen increases in attendance and baptisms during the past three years.
As a backdrop for our conversation, I suggested using Myron Rush’s four essential ingredients for success in Christian ministry. The ingredients for successful ministry, according to Rush, are purpose, unity, effective communication, and a desire to do the will of God. The goal was to see if these four ingredients could be identified in the ministries of these two young preachers in Pike Association. The following is a synopsis of our conversation:
Horton, pastor at Grace Church, stated that “the purpose of Grace Baptist was to know God and to make Him known.” He pointed out that this was accomplished in three different ways: in-reach, outreach and up-reach. The in-reach of the church entails discipleship; the outreach has to do with evangelism; the up-reach focuses on worship.
Horton added, “Nominations to fill positions at Grace are based on these three elements, with the goal being “no spectators—everyone should have a role to play within the church.”
On the other hand, Johnson stated that his church’s purpose was “to love God and to love others,” an obvious reference to the words of Jesus in Matthew 22:37-40. When asked how he communicates this to his church, Johnson said, “I repeat it to them every service.”
Both of these effective and successful ministries in the mountains of East Kentucky have established a purpose for their existence. They are fulfilling Rush’s first ingredient for successful ministry.
On the subject of unity, Horton was quick to make reference to being “an Acts 2 kind of congregation.” By “Acts 2” the pastor was referring to Acts 2:44: “All who believed were together and had all things in common.” He believes that the Acts 2 church had a like faith and order, and that is the goal for Grace Church.
Horton had kind words to say about his deacons. His deacon body, he said, was always ready to lean into conflict, and that caused him to praise God for deacons who seek unity for his Pike County congregation. Grace Baptists can sing with the psalmist, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).
Johnson’s approach to unity is that of transparency. He tries to keep his congregation fully informed, and avoids keeping secrets. He is transparent in his daily walk, in his finances, and in the reporting of numbers. He tries to build trust, and in doing so, creates an atmosphere of unity.
Horton and Johnson agree that keeping an outward focus is another source of unity. These two young pastors try to make “the main thing” being reaching sinners for Jesus. On this point, it is significant to recognize that Grace and Elkhorn City have seen significant increases in baptisms. In fact, Elkhorn City led the association in baptisms in 2014.
Both Grace and Elkhorn City have effective and successful ministries due to their unity.
Someone has said, “If you want your church to remember information, you must repeat it 17 times.” Horton agrees.
“I say the same thing, and I say it over and over again,” he said, adding, “I try to communicate in a way that all can understand.”
Johnson attempts to use relationship building as a way to effectively communicate. He enjoys laughing with them, but also doing some of the same things that they do.
For example, a popular activity in his area is 4-wheeling. So, guess where you can often find Johnson? Yes, you will find him on a 4-wheeler, enjoying an afternoon with his church members. During times of relationship building, he uses the activity as an opportunity to communicate with members.
Grace and Elkhorn City have effective and successful ministries because they have found ways of effectively communicating with their churches.
Desire to do the will of God
Horton refers to doing the will of God at his church as “having boots on the ground.” He motivates Grace Baptists by giving them ministry projects where they can win, and then progresses from that point.
“A church family needs a few easy wins.” Horton said. “It is wonderful to have your church obey God in a certain area of their life, gain a victory, and then ‘spike the ball!'”
Johnson noted, “When you have a church that knows their purpose, obtains unity, and masters effective communication, you will then have the motivation necessary to carry out the will of God.”
Horton and Johnson may be young in age, but they are mature in the faith. Both are knowledgeable in carrying out an effective and successful ministry for the Lord.