This month will mark the three-year anniversary of serving the Lord here at First Baptist Church-Muscatine. We are currently in the heart of a church revitalization undertaking, and here is a quick summary of the first three years. I spent the first year learning about the church and building relationships with our members. The second year was spent working on vision with church leadership and investing in those leaders. This last year our leadership casted vision with the rest of our church while implementing our elder/deacon structure. And as we look to year four, we will be aligning all of what we do with our new vision, as we seek to reach our community for Jesus.
As I have reflected back on these first three years, I wanted to take a moment to share below the three things that I would have done differently if I could rewind the clock back (in a separate article I will also share three things I am thankful God gracefully allowed us to do in these first years).
1. Spent more time praying for our church.
For the first few months after I arrived, I made a determined effort to pray through our church directory every week. Members of the church knew I was praying for them during this time, so they would often forward on prayer requests as well. Thus, I quickly learned the names of our church members, and began understanding their deeper needs to care for them well.
But soon other ministry tasks and expectations began pressing into that time, and I eventually fell out of this weekly rhythm. Looking back now, I can only wonder if we would have seen more people trust in Jesus, or how much deeper my love for our church would be had I continued to protect that time to regularly pray for our church.
2. Trusted God more with our church's future
As I am sure is the case in many church plants, replants, and revitalizations, I often felt like the future of our church hinged on the result of certain decisions. In other words, if we made the wrong choice, it would forever send our church into a death spiral we could not recover from. Consequently, I lost a lot of sleep these first three years worrying about how certain meetings, changes, and tough conversations would go.
Looking back now, all those sleepless nights seem so foolish. God loves His church far too much to let its future hinge on a single moment in time. Furthermore, God is far too powerful to be overcome by a single work of the Enemy. These first three years taught me that God can be trusted at all times with the church’s future. Just as He can work through my all my individual failures, so He can also accomplish His purposes even when our church makes poor decisions.
3. Spent more time with my wife and kids
There is a lot of work that goes into church revitalization (as is the case with any pastoral role), especially given the fact that there is often a lack of qualified leaders to help revitalize the church. There will assuredly be times when pastors need to sacrifice time with family in order to invest extra time to develop leaders or lead a change. However, there were also times during these last three years when I chose ministry over family because our revitalization pace was unhealthy, or I was finding my identity in our church’s approval.
In the end, I needed to be reminded that Jesus is the one who will save our church…not me. I needed to be reminded that God love for me is sufficient, even when the church may not. Finally, I needed to be reminded that our church has had several pastors over their 176 year history, but my wife has only one husband and my kids have only one earthly father. My call to shepherd them is above my calling to shepherd our church.
Matthea Haecker serves the Lord at First Baptist Church in Muscatine, IA as their lead pastor. He is a graduate of Denver Seminary and is passionate about assisting the Lord in turning dying churches into disciple-making communities for His glory. In addition, Matthea has the great privilege of serving his incredible wife, Jen, and with her, discipling their adorable kids, Halle and Malachi.