Pastors' Forum



What do you, as a pastor, see yourself focusing on in 2019? Are there areas of personal growth, staff development, or overall church goals that you have in your heart? What do you want to see happen in this coming year in your life, in your church emphases, and in the lives of those you lead?


Pastor Rick Renner – Moscow, Russia

First of all, I want to say how much I enjoy reading all the answers from pastors each month in response to your questions! I found your questions this month to be helpful to me personally as I consider them. To help me answer, I have broken down your questions into the following points.

What do I see myself focusing on in 2019?

For 2019, I see myself focusing on my own personal growth above all else. If I grow personally, there will be an overflow from my life that will flow into every part of the ministry. Paul told Timothy, “Give thyself wholly to these things; that thy profiting may appear to all” (see1 Timothy 4:15). The Greek literally says, “Get a grip on yourself and develop yourself, for if you do this, you will cut a trail for others to follow your example.”

To assist in my personal growth, I will focus on more understanding of the Bible and will also continue my study of Early Church history. As I get older, my understanding and grip on the Bible gets better, and I feel like a whole realm of spiritual treasures is opening to me. I am learning more than ever before. But to really develop spiritually and intellectually, a lot of study is required. I am studying more today than ever in my life. Study is good for the brain, and it is a discipline that positively affects every other part of life. I gladly embrace it. I also intend to write three new books in 2019, and study is required for that as well. Personal study and personal development in my own life will affect many lives.

I also plan to keep focusing on being in good physical condition. Having a body in good shape is essential to having a temple that can serve for years to come. In the past two years, I lost substantial weight and started a daily exercise program, and I plan to continue this pattern in 2019 and for the rest of my life. If I intend to serve in ministry for a long time, I must pay attention to my physical condition to make sure I’m prepared to finish a long race!

Giving attention to Denise and helping her grow is also an important focus for me. If Denise grows and attains what God has put in her heart, she will do well personally, too, and our marriage will flourish better than ever. Like me, Denise is pushing forward to embrace the future, and I want to do all I can to help and encourage her.

What do I expect in terms of personal growth?

As I’ve stated, I expect to grow spiritually, intellectually, and physically. These things don’t happen by accident, so it will require focus and attention, which I will gladly give to see growth happen in these areas of my life.

What are my desires for staff development?

In the past 28 years, I have invested much in my team. Now we are at a stage where they have all become mature, have stepped into their positions with grace, and are doing fabulous jobs. This has liberated me to press forward into other things, like daily TV programs and writing more books. It is remarkable what happens when one consistently invests in a team for a long period of time. It may seem long in coming, but eventually harvest time comes. I want to encourage every pastor to be patient and consistent in team development because it eventually produces a harvest that is sweet. In terms of new staff developments, our ministry needs to add team members to handle communication from people who are responding to our TV program.

What are my overall church goals?

Our church goal for 2019 is to be consistent with what we are already doing. We are basically on track, but to reap the fruit we want to see and to gain momentum, we need to stay on track with what we are doing. In the past two years, we made major changes in our children’s and youth ministry, and we are now beginning to see the positive consequences of those decisions. It takes time for change to produce fruit, but we are now seeing the fruit we prayed to see. So we will stay on track in 2019.

We also intend to open another affiliate location in Moscow in 2019. Because Moscow is an enormous city of millions, we have people who travel 2.5 hours one wayto church each Sunday! This is simply too far a distance for them to be active in church life. Because of this, we have been planting affiliate locations around the city, and we plan to open the next one in the first half of 2019. The area has already been selected, and the leadership for that new affiliate is being developed so that we can launch the new location on time.

Each time we launch an affiliate church, our central church sends approximately 300 people to attend there. This is exciting for the affiliate locations, but it also means we need to replenish the central church, replacing those sent to the new locations. This is good because it means there will be an inflow of new people to the central church. There’s no time or opportunity to stagnate!

What do I want to see happen in this coming year in our personal lives?

As I’ve stated, in my personal life, I want to grow spiritually and intellectually and also develop physically to stay in good shape for a long run in the ministry. I am very intentional about these things, as they do not happen by accident.

I also understand that years of serving God and being faithful is a valuable experience in itself. I am personally concerned, even disturbed, about people in ministry who are relinquishing their ministries because they think they are getting too old. If we have been faithful, we are more valuable, more qualified, and more needed than ever before! We are leaders for a younger generation who desperately needs us. It is not time to surrender or quit. It is a “golden season” to press into the best fruit we’ve ever reaped in our lives. We finally know what we are doing! So I see that the best years are before us. I believe it, and I have embraced it.

What do I want to see happen in our church emphases?

Of course, we want to see the church grow—but that doesn’t happen accidentally either. To aid our church growth, we are working with the local government in Moscow to assist with their social programs and help them help people who have all sorts of needs. This is being “salt and light” in a world that desperately needs Christ. We need to be effective in what we do—and we do not just want to expend energy, but to expend it correctly by affecting our community. By helping the community, we see that it ultimately brings new people to the church. And in our case, these are people who have never entered a church in their lives. As a result, we see approximately 20-30 people saved in our main service each week. In 2019, we want to see this pattern continue and increase. This has always been our emphasis, and this will continue as our emphasis in the new year.

What do I want to see happen in the lives of those I lead?

When I think of those I lead, I do not think of the larger church body, but of the team that I work with to lead the overall ministry. If my top team grows and does well, the overall church and ministry will also grow and do well. Hence, I plan to continue working closely with my top team to see them grow and develop in every way possible. They are my priority. My role at this stage of my life is to be a guide to them. They are doing fabulously and rarely need my guidance in terms of what to do on the job. To be honest, they are gifts and are equipped to complete certain assignments—and they often know what to do on the job better than I do. However, they need me to be a spiritual father to them, and that is the role I have embraced toward them at this wonderful stage in my life. This is what I can provide in this ministry that no one else can provide for them.

Pastor Jane McDonnough – Tampa, FL

In 2019 we are focusing on our mission statement, and I’m going to be doing my sermons throughout the year around our mission. It’s a simple statement: FLC exists to build people’s faith so they know Jesus, live free, discover their purpose, and make a difference. I will be doing messages about each step:

  1. Knowing Jesus
  2. Living Free
  3. Discovering Your Purpose
  4. Making a Difference

We want to see our church live out our mission. We will also be working on our messaging and structure so that both of these line up with our mission.

Pastor Ray Almaguer – Covina, CA

In 2019, the focus of our church will be purpose. We’re calling 2019 Our Year of Purpose. I plan to focus on these five areas of purpose: worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism. My preaching will be centered around purpose, as well as our Life Groups.

Like most churches, we are stronger in some areas than we are in others. As pastors, we usually have a natural tendency to emphasize certain areas more than others, depending on our giftedness. I feel we need to do our best to balance these purposes in our churches. My plan is to have a leader over each one—someone who is passionate about their particular area of ministry—and let them run with it.

Personally, I will keep myself growing; conferences, podcasts, books, time with other leaders who are farther down the road than me, whatever it takes to keep myself moving forward. I know I have “blind spots.” The trouble is I don’t know what I don’t know. I need people speaking into my life who see what I don’t see.

Pastor John Angelina – Munich, Germany

Keeping our focus on that which is important for God and the church is so important for us as leaders. Jesus talked about focus while teaching the Sermon on the Mount.

Matt 6:22
The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

Keeping this in the context that Jesus was teaching, He is encouraging us not to be side-tracked by going after unimportant things (seeking treasures on earth) but rather that which is a treasure for Heaven; reaching those who don’t know Him and building people up of through the Word of God. When we lose sight of our focus, we lose sight of where God is leading us.

On a personal level, my focus for this new year will be to continue the process we began in 2017 of establishing a younger leadership for the future. I am currently in my 38th year of pastoring the same church I established in 1982. My goal is to be able by our 4oth celebration as a church, to turn over the leading responsibilities and walk together with the new leadership into the future as well as having more time to help younger ministers in their work. When I began pastoring, God sent many seasoned ministries into my life to help me along the way, and that is something I desire to do as well in this next season of life and ministry.

2019 also promises to be a year of wonderful surprises as I am expecting my first grandchild and can hardly wait to experience the joy of grandchildren. Every season in life has its challenges but also its joys, and I’m ready for both in 2019.

Pastor John Lowe – Warsaw, IN

All our staff is on their own growth plan. Changes occur regularly for them. We are having some leave and others come. That being said, we will be focusing on the following three areas:

  1. Continual leadership development.
  2. A funding campaign for the next five years to raise $1 million.
  3. Outreach to the community while developing a stronger serving DNA in the house.

Pastor Thom Fields – Kennewick, WA

Three areas of focus have captured my attention for 2019:

  1. Mission
  2. Strategy
  3. Culture

How we are applying these thoughts to our planning for the upcoming year looks something like this:

* The mission must define the WHAT we are attempting to accomplish.

For example, our men’s meeting must have a very strong and clearly defined WHY. We don’t want to engage in any activity that isn’t driven by a strong, measurable goal. Perhaps our mission for a men’s night is to get 100 men to sign up for small groups. That would be our mission; easy to define and the results would be measurable. We could tell if we were hitting the mark or just wasting time!

* The strategy must define the HOW we’re going to accomplish the mission.

Continuing with our example, we’d design our men’s meeting to repeatedly draw the attention of our men to small groups. We could have several testimonials from men who have been and are currently participating in small groups ministries. Each of these men could share how their lives have been impacted in a positive fashion by meeting regularly with other men of God or how their attitudes about small groups have changed since involving themselves with others through Group Life.

* Finally, the culture is the character that fuels the strategy that gets the mission accomplished.

Our culture shapes us by informing us of WHO we need to be if we are to CONSISTENTLY perform the strategy our mission is demanding. After clarification of culture has occurred, we will sit down with key players and team members and clearly communicate the culture that our strategy requires. IF we allow ANYBODY to slide on culture, that will result in shifting the strategy. When strategy is allowed to be charged, altered or shifted, the mission will be aborted—NOT GOOD!

I’ve learned that culture is EXTREMELY POWERFUL! It’s actually MORE POWERFUL than mission or vision or ANY other element of ministry, in my opinion. Not that vision or mission isn’t important—it’s just that mission is like the steak we’re serving our guests when they come to our house. Culture, on the other hand, is like the plate we serve the steak on. Even if the steak is prepared EXACTLY the way our guests like it—if the plate is filthy, they’re probably not eating the steak!

So, this year I’m going to be spending MUCH TIME concentrating on these three focal points and applying this train of thought to EVERYTHING we set our hands to. The last 10 years have flashed by so fast—which means, the next 10 years will too! I don’t want to look up a few moments from now and discover that 10 years has passed and we’ve NOT ACCOMPLISHED EVERYTHING POSSIBLE!

Pastor Duane Hanson – Mendota Heights, MN

We’re still in our first year of pioneering a new church in a new community, so I’d have to say our primary focus for 2019 is laying a solid foundation with the core group that has come on board to help us with that task.

Looking at the outward progression of the Great Commission, and the assignment Jesus commanded in Acts 1:8, we’ll focus this coming year primarily on reaching our local “Jerusalem” first. The community where we’re launching the new church is a suburb of the Twin Cities Metroplex, and has a population of around twelve thousand people. All those currently attending are from surrounding communities of the Twin Cities, and some have to drive a considerable distance into the new location.

Because we’re currently renting from a daycare center that owns a former church building, we haven’t had much exposure in the community. Consequently, one of the main efforts this year will be to transition from an unknown “stealth” church to a visible and desirable destination. To date, we’ve only had one person from within the local zip code attend our Sunday service. That needs to increase if we’re going to have a real impact in our new location.

We’re considering every option to let our light shine and let people know we’re in the neighborhood. To help make an impact, we’ve received permission from the daycare center owner to have some of our families greet the parents on Monday mornings as they drop off their children. We just launched this outreach effort, and we’re providing coffee and goodies, a friendly smiling face, and the opportunity to receive prayer for the day ahead, along with a flyer that introduces them to the church. This outreach opportunity has given us some much needed exposure to the local families, and also gives our congregation the chance to grow and practice their one-on-one witnessing skills.

One of the most challenging aspects of launching a new church these days, is trying to think “outside the box,” instead of doing “church as usual.” That requires that some of us “older” saints make sure we’re listening and identifying the “wants, needs & desires” of these younger families. We must recognize that they are the future of the Church, and reaching the next generation with the truth of the Gospel means “all hands on deck.” We will never compromise the message, but we’re willing to adapt and be creative in the way we promote, advertise and communicate that message.

Therefore, from our new location, our emphasis for 2019 will continue to be focused on developing discipleship relationships within the church, while reaching new families outside the church, and discovering how we can have an impact on the local community by using every means available.

Pastor Craig Basler – LaGrange, KY

For 2019, I see God restoring many things—specifically, prodigals will come home. I am focusing on emphasizing the importance of listening to the inward leading of the Holy Spirit.

Personally, I want to spend more time in prayer, especially for my church members. I really want our church to become even more in love with the Lord.

During 2018, we taught extensively on overcoming worry. Therefore, I believe our congregation has been prepared for anything that may come in 2019. They will be steadfast and strong as they stand firm in faith.

I believe 2019 will be a very active year and I am excited to participate in all that God has called us to be involved in.

Pastor Jack Yurus – West Harrison, NY

These questions can mean something different depending on who is asking them. If you are just starting out and have not had too many setbacks, disappointments, or failed attempts to grow your church, you are filled with hope and expectation. If you have tried many times to grow your church and have failed or even gone backwards, this question comes with many other questions:

  • Do I have what it takes?
  • Should I wipe the dust off my feet and go to a different town?
  • What are other successful churches doing?
  • Maybe I should close the church and get a paying job as an assistant pastor?

This list could go on for a while. I am reminded of the story Brother Hagin told about the devil firing thoughts at him like a machine gun. I heard Dean Radtke say pastors are uncalling themselves at an alarming rate.

A seasoned minister that used to travel and check up on Rhema pastors told me that there is a seducing spirit that is causing pastors to quit at an alarming rate. The first advice I’d like to give is hold onto Galatians 6:9 with all you got. “If you don’t quit you win.”

Thanksgiving is the key to longevity in ministry. What you look at and think upon will determine whether you will be discouraged and quit or encouraged and push on. If you meditate on the people who left or those who let you down, you will be discouraged. If you think about those whose lives were changed because you exist and didn’t quit, you will be more than encouraged.

I would like to take the questions one at a time. Since I am currently on a cruise, I can give you some input based on this perspective.

Personal Growth

Consistency and routine is the best answer to personal growth. Find out what works for you and make it a priority. I went to ask a pastor a question, and I started by saying, “Can I ask you a question?” Before l could ask the question, he said, “I have the answer; more minutes with God.” If an hour a day is not working, do two. If two hours isn’t working, do three. There are no shortcuts or an easy way out; in other words, you can’t be lazy and try to get someone else to do the work and spend time with God for you.

He used the letters M.D.R. (Minimal Daily Requirement). Depending on what you’re facing, this changes. Unfortunately when things get tough and busy, people do less rather than more and find themselves working in their own strength and wisdom. Being on a cruise or vacation really messes with your routine. On vacation you are not “on.” You don’t need to hear from God for sermons, meetings, or people’s needs or questions. You have to do something you might not be used to doing. Spend time with God for no other reason except for spending time with God.

As far as goals and helping others, we are living in difficult times to be a pastor of a traditional church, where people actually go to church. Attendance is down, giving is down, and volunteers are giving less and less time. Like Paul said, “none of these things move me.” None of these things affect me pleasing God or getting my reward. If I prepare a meal for 500 people who are supposed to show up and only 75 show up, I get paid for the credit for my part and will be rewarded accordingly. Expect nothing and be pleasantly surprised when people step up. The only thing you can do is set the table and make sure the food is good. People have to decide to eat.

When planning, I have to constantly be reminded that every idea I have, which means everything that follows the words “we should…,” takes time. Time is like money—you can’t spend more than you have. You need to constantly check the available balance of time in your life and those serving. Most people serving are working on overdraft.

Pastor Barry Fredericks – Newtown, CT

We will be moving into our new church building in January 2019. The building is beautiful and the Lord’s presence is all over it. I believe we will have powerful Holy Spirit services there. We continually pray for revival and believe that we will see great growth with the new church. We are visible from I-84 east and west bound where 87,000 cars and trucks go by. The cross on the church is lit at night and it is so drawing.

My son, Adam, will become the senior pastor in July. He will do the majority of the Sunday morning teaching. We are actively looking to fill Adam’s role as children and youth pastor and have a few candidates in mind. Since Adam is single (for now), Sheila and I will do one series on marriage during the year. It is vital for the congregation. Sheila is excellent teaching on children, and she will do a series for the parents in 2019 as well.

There continues to be a strong anointing on me to heal. I will continue the Thursday Healing Services and may do a weekly, evening healing service in a town 20 miles away. Several people in that area are interested.

I will probably do a weekly, Sunday PM on-going series on end times. People are fascinated with this and I have excellent material (Rick Renner, Bob Yandian) to teach from.

Sheila and I are going to teach at two Rhema Bible Schools in Greece and one in Albania in March. Perhaps the Lord would allow us to do this elsewhere a couple of times a year.

The message Brother Hagin and all of the fine instructors at Rhema taught us is still—and always will be—the foundation of this church. There is no other foundation that changes lives and blesses lives like this message. I love the Word and have grown to love to pray over the years. I basically do not have any other interests in life other than Jesus. With the grace of God, I can help this church continue to grow, do whatever I can to help Pastor Adam and see whatever else the Lord may have for my family and me.

Pastor Jann Butler – Tacoma, WA

My focus for 2019 is the renovation of a new area for our children’s department. Also, we will focus on a special welcome center and building a stronger greeting team. We plan to move our reserved parking and create a visitor’s parking section.

We’ll also be focused on the following:  a new website with online giving, and continued concentration on my monthly newsletter so that my readers capture a clearer understanding of God’s Word.

Pastor Mark Clements – La Crosse, WI

Personally, as well as in the flock I pastor, it’s the same:  intimacy & intensity.

Intimacy with the Lord: that drawing near:

James 4:8
Draw nigh to me and I’ll draw nigh to you.

If anything in life has caused there to be a drifting away, and not necessarily in a bad way—(Mary & Martha) you’re so busy serving and working you miss that time to sit at His feet. Or like in Revelation 3, you were doing so well, but now He’s on the outside knocking and wanting that intimacy back.

Intensity: a fervency and an urgency that we would never fall into the 2 Peter 3 mindset—everything continues as it’s always been, but that the promise of His coming and the lateness of the hour would cause that urgency to motivate us and impel us to work harder and longer, stay up later and get up earlier, and really put us 110% into the furtherance of the Kingdom.