Brian Croft

Brian Croft

Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.  He is the husband of Cara and adoring father of four children, son, Samuel and daughters, Abby, Isabelle, and Claire.  He has served in pastoral ministry for over fifteen years and is currently in his eighth year as Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church.  He was educated at both Belmont University and Indiana University receiving his B.A. in Sociology.  He also undertook some graduate work at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

He is also the author of Visit the sick: Ministering God’s grace in times of illness (foreword by Mark Dever) and Test, train, affirm, and send into Ministry: Recovering the local church’s responsibility to the external call (foreword by R. Albert Mohler Jr.). Both of these volumes are published by Day One in their pastoral series designed to serve pastors, church leaders, and those training for local church ministry.  Brian has also published Help! He’s Struggling with Pornography and Conduct Gospel-centered Funerals (co-written with Phil Newton).

A Faith That Endures: Meditations on Hebrews 11 is Brian’s newest book, released in fall of 2011. His next book on The Pastor’s Family, co-authored with his wife, is due to be released by Zondervan in Fall 2013.

Brian is also a guest blogger at both The Gospel Coalition and 9 Marks.

To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.

What Should a Pastoral Internship Accomplish?

A pastoral internship can accomplish many things. Some focus on polity, church structure, and how the church should function in a biblical and healthy way. Other internships focus on the work of the ministry and how best to go about it. The pastoral internship at our church focuses more on the latter. Below is the final intern report of our pastoral intern from this last term. It captures well what we hope is accomplished to some degree with our pastoral internship:

The first thing that I would like to do is thank you for allowing me to serve and learn as an intern. By you allowing me to serve in this manner, I was able to sit in on pastor’s meetings and observe first hand how they deliberately and methodically endeavor to serve each of you on a corporate and individual level. I was also able to spend quality time with Pastor Brian in weekly one-on-one meetings where I was able to pick his brain and ask him tough ministry related questions. And I was also charged with the opportunity to refine particular skills that will no doubt serve me and serve people I have yet to meet.

Through the semester I prayed through the directory, and as I visited and spent time with members, my prayers increased in fervency and frequency for you. This has set a pattern of prayer that I plan to continue when we land in a new church, and is one that I plan to encourage the pastors in our new church to do if they are not already doing so. I was also able, through the internship, to improve my preaching skills. I was granted the opportunity to preach twice this semester, an honor in every respect because we do not take the pulpit lightly. In studying and preparing for sermons, I gained valuable experience in knowing often overlooked aspects of sermon prep, like “What time of the day do I think the clearest so as to produce the best exegesis and manuscript?” and “Should I even use a manuscript or instead use an annotated outline?”

Lastly, I would to thank our pastors. Never before have my wife and I been so regularly and heartily fed and cared for—and it was done by the grace of God at the hands of our pastors. Being able to observe all this, and being cared for in this manner, has set the bar high for me and my family for future ministry.

Pastors, I would encourage you to consider beginning some kind of internship for those who might be thinking through a call into the ministry in your church. We have done a pastoral internship in our church for the last 8 years with no money in the budget. All it requires is some of your time and willingness to train and invest in these young men.

Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.

How Does a Church Minister to a Converted Sex Offender?

I received many difficult questions at the workshop on Monday evening. But this one stuck out to me as especially difficult. Here was the nature of the question from a pastor:

How do I and our church minister to a man who appears radically converted, desires to come to our church, but has been a convicted child molester and long-time sex offender?

Here are a few thoughts:

We should try to minister to a man such as this, especially if he is converted. No one should be turned away from our doors, as Jesus was seen with the vilest of sinners. This is what the gospel is all about! However, you cannot ignore the “elephant in the room.” Here are a few suggestions, having faced this in comparable ways before:

1) Appoint a “host” for him while he is at church. Handpick a very reliable man whose sole job that day is to meet him outside in the parking lot, walk in with him, and be attached to this man’s hip. Pick a host who is spiritually mature, gracious, who understands the importance of his role, but will not make him feel like a prisoner in church.

Explain to the offender attending that this is what this man’s role is and that he must be seen with him at all times. Pick a host who will take him to talk with others, and it will be a good way for this new guy to meet and converse with folks he might not otherwise feel comfortable with and vice versa.

2) Inform the church ahead of time in some way of what is happening (email, member’s meeting, etc), so they know you are taking strict precautions to protect the safety of the people and especially the children. This allows the church as a whole to ”keep watch” in a loving way.

3) Inform all children’s workers of the situation weekly and report who the man’s “host” is for that week.  Allow them the freedom to ask questions, as they feel the responsibility to protect their own children as well as the children in their room for that week.

4) One strike and you’re out. There is no grace period for this man. If he is found alone without his “host” once… that is it. He needs to be placed in a position to be loved by the people, but must realize your responsibility as a shepherd before God to protect the sheep first and foremost.

5) Remind your people that this is what the gospel is all about. Jesus died for the most wretched of sinners, and we deserved the same punishment for our sins from our righteous and holy God as this man does for his rebellion against God and crimes against others. If he is truly converted, you want your people to rejoice in the hope of the gospel more than fear for their children when they see this man coming. Shepherding through teaching and example is how God by His Spirit will form that culture in your local church over time.

I praise God for the opportunity you have to remind your people of the gospel and how sufficient, powerful, and glorious the mercy of God is in Christ! But be wise also, dear brother. Know for sure the enemy is prowling like a lion in your midst desiring to use this situation to divide your church… or worse. I pray the Lord gives you great wisdom, discernment, and grace as you attempt to care for this man and your people through him coming.

Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.

3 Reasons Pastors Should Use All Their Vacation Time

You may begin reading this post with the idea that I will suggest how many weeks of vacation you should be given by your church, or how much you should advocate to give your pastor. Instead, I intend to answer this question a bit differently. My concern is not about how much vacation time a pastor is given, but how he uses (or doesn’t use) what he is given. In light of this being a common time where vacation time is used, I thought this post would be well-timed for many of you.

This is an appropriate time to pause for a confession. I thought you should know that I often fail at my own advice. I come to the conclusions I often write about on this blog because I have or are currently failing at them. Just thought I would acknowledge that in case you think I write this way because I have figured it all out. Far from it.  The stewardship of my vacation time was once a glaring failure in my life.

A few years ago, I was lovingly confronted by a dear friend and fellow pastor that I was not using all my vacation time. In his rebuke, he explained to me the reasons I should be taking every day of vacation the church gives me, which I had never done. Here was the basis for his thoughtful, insightful, and wise argument:

1) It’s for You

The pastor never gets a break in the regular routine. We are constantly on call. Vacation time is that time where you get time to breathe away from the madness, be refreshed, and rest. All of us who are pastors know we are no good for our people when we are exhausted, distracted, and mentally and emotionally spent. Use the time and use it wisely to achieve that end.

2) It’s for Your Family

Your family always has to share you. Maybe just as important as the first one, this time is given so that your family has a block of time where they don’t have to share you with the church. When you don’t use all your time that has already been approved by the church for this purpose, you rob your family from having your sole focus to care, fellowship, and enjoy them.

3) It’s for Your Church

How is it that many of our churches have somehow existed and functioned for the last 50–100 years without us, yet all of a sudden we come and develop this complex that our church can now no longer live without us for a week or two? Using all your vacation time given to you forces others to step up in your absence, shows them they can make it without you for a time, and reminds the pastor most of all that God is not utterly dependent on him for this church to function.

We are expendable, and we need regular jolts of humility to remind us of that.

As a result, for the last four years I have used my full year of vacation given to me by the church since I was called as pastor. The reasons that my friend confronted me with all showed to be true and fruitful in those ways as I did so. What have I learned from taking all my vacation time these last few years? Well, I plan on taking it all next year. I am on vacation the next two weeks trying to practice what I preach (…write).

If you are a pastor, do what you can to use it all this year. There is still half the summer left. If you are not a pastor, do all you can to encourage your pastor to take it. You, your church, and your pastor will experience multiple layers of benefit because of it.

Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.

The Danger of Being "Needed"

One of the best ways to discourage a pastor is to make him feel he is unneeded. In fact, a pastor’s desire to feel needed shows itself in a variety of ways. The most obvious way the desire for significance manifests itself is in the pastor wanting to do all the work. He has to make every visit. He has to preach every Sunday. He has to be at every meeting. He has to conduct every wedding and funeral. Because of this desire, he will not delegate tasks. He will not take his vacation time. He will not allow others to help. This controlling posture in the church can easily be camouflaged as faithfulness and zeal to labor hard in the work of the ministry.  However, it eventually leads to two common results: burn out and family neglect.

The demand for significance can also lead to the neglect of the family when certain people in the church make him feel more significant than his wife and children do. A pastor can easily deceive himself that he really needs to meet with a young man in the church to help him work through his problems—even if it means missing dinner with the family for the third straight evening. A pastor should not underestimate the persuasive power of a young man who thinks he hung the moon and hangs on every word he says, when compared to a tired, spent wife and cranky toddlers that await his homecoming.

Pastors, we all desire to feel needed. Do not allow that desire to cloud your discernment that will inevitably lead to bad decisions and skewed evaluation of our priorities.

3 Ways to Encourage Veterans in Your Congregation

For those living in America, you know July 4 is coming, which is the day we celebrate our independence as a nation. For my international readers, this is a day that is often used to honor those who have served our country in the military. This typically means the Sunday connected with this holiday becomes the place where these celebrations take place. You will find a variety of approaches, from churches doing full blown patriotic musicals in place of the corporate gathering, to nothing different than a normal Sunday service.

Some go way over the top, while others do nothing, trying to make a statement about how church is not a place to celebrate your country, but worship God. Regardless where you find yourself on this spectrum, most American churches have men and women who either serve, or have served in the military who are present on Sunday. How does a pastor encourage these members in his church?

I must confess, in the early years I was more concern with upholding Sunday as a day to worship God, not honor our country. This caused me to make some unhelpful and insensitive rookie comments in discussions with a few folks wanting more done on Sundays.

I still feel that Sunday is the Lord’s Day and should be focused on the Lord, but here are a few ways I have learned we can still encourage those who have served in the military over this holiday weekend without compromising our convictions about Sunday worship:

1)  Recognize vets in your congregation publically.

We do announcements at the beginning of the service as well as any other logistical issues before our call to worship. This is a great time to do things like this, as it is placed before worship begins in our view. This can be a great encouragement and help church members learn something about each other they didn’t know before. The last time we recognized all those who serve or have served in the military, we observed four different generations standing, which was a wonderful way to see the presence of a multi-generational church in our midst.

2)  Pray for the leaders of your country in a pastoral prayer.

American holidays as this give us a great opportunity to teach our congregation how to process them in light of the gospel and God’s glory, not a man-centered focus. A well prepared pastoral prayer can accomplish this in a powerful way. We should be regularly praying for our president and those leading our nation in our public gatherings throughout the year. It is also nice to have a mature Christian man respected for his military service pray in the service in some way.

3)  Thank military service men and women privately.

There is an elderly saint in our church who fought in a war defending our country over 50 years ago. For several years, we argued about why we don’t do a musical and sing patriotic songs in place of Sunday worship. I have learned throughout the years how kindly to explain why we don’t do this. Yesterday, I decided to go to him first before we had a chance to meet and discuss the service planned for that day. I went to him, looked him in the eyes, and thanked him for all his service. I acknowledged I don’t say it enough, but I am aware of the freedoms I enjoy came at the sacrifice of men like him. This 80-year-old man looked up at me with tears and just hugged me. There was no argument about the service.

This is a lesson I wish I had learned years ago. These faithful folks don’t want a musical, they just want to feel appreciated by what they have done and the sacrifices they had made for us. They want to know their young pastor cares about this important part of their life and history and does not take our freedoms for granted.

Pastors, we don’t have to change our convictions, but we need to be sensitive to all our people and seize the opportunities to encourage certain folks. The 4th of July in America is one of those days. Make a plan in the next couple of weeks to call all the vets in your church and thank them for their service. You may be surprised how much it means to them and will open future opportunities for ministry with them.

Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.

Shepherding a Weaker Brother

The progress of sanctification is typically slow for everyone. This is even more the case for the weaker brother (Rom. 14:1–2; 1 Cor. 8–10). Shepherding the soul of the weaker brother requires a lot of time and effort. It can become frustrating to have the same conversations over and over again. It may feel like no ground is being made in their struggle. Yet that may be what is required.

So then, patience is an essential quality for a pastor to shepherd the weaker brother in his congregation.

Patience is not only a part of the fruit of the Spirit, but is also an invaluable asset to the pastor as he cares for these individuals in the church. A lack of patience when ministering to the weaker in the congregation is not a confirmation they are not learning and growing, but an indictment on the pastor that his timeline is in contrast to God’s timeline. Pastors are never guaranteed that growth in their own life and the lives of those they shepherd will happen at a certain rate.

The most empowered and victorious Christian still battles sin, the flesh, and the devil every day of their life in this fallen world. The disheartened and the weak are in the same battle. They just appear to have fewer weapons in the fight. A pastor who remembers this spiritual reality will be a more patient pastor. If that doesn’t increase his patience, just remember how patient God is with each of us. God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, even when we are most undeserving of it. Remembering the patience of a kind God towards us will always be the right fuel to cultivate patience towards others.

Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.

How Long Should a Pastor Preach?

I had an interesting conversation yesterday that reminded me this question needs to be addressed. I find many pastors, especially younger ones, are regularly wrestling with this question. They should be. The pressure to answer can be self-imposed, or forced by those in your church who complain your sermons are too long. The problem is there does not seem to be one right answer. The answer to this question largely depends on the kind of pastor you are, the quality of preacher you are, and the kind of congregation you serve. In light of this, here are a few principles that might help you answer this question in your particular context.

A pastor should determine the length of a sermon…

1) Based on where your people are, not where you think they should be. We should always challenge our folks to grow. Yet, I hear of many pastors preaching sermons at a length they know is overwhelming the majority of their congregation. The reason… to push their people to be able to listen to God’s Word for the amount of time the pastor thinks they should be able to listen. Push your congregation to grow, but not at the expense of exasperating them by trying to make them something they are not. God must do that work. Preach faithfully, but meet them where they are. Let God mature them to that place as your preaching causes them to long for more of it.

2) Based on how good and seasoned a preacher you are. I fear so many of us who love the Puritans read that they preached 1 – 2 hour sermons and think, “Hey, I want to be like the Puritans.” The problem is many men who want to preach an hour are not good enough or seasoned enough to preach an hour… yet. I realize we are treading in subjective waters.

The point here is the necessity to evaluate honestly how good and seasoned you are as a preacher. If you are in your first year of pastoring a church, your sermons should probably be shorter, more succinct, and simpler than you probably think or want. If you are not able honestly to evaluate your preaching gifts and you do not allow others to speak into your life to assess them with you, I believe you will have a difficult time determining what length your sermons should be that is most helpful to your congregation.

3) To leave your people longing for more, not less. Every preacher has been there. We can sense we are losing our people and we still have 10 minutes left in the sermon. We want to make sure we give adequate time to the preaching of God’s Word, but this principle to leave them longing for a bit more is a good goal to pursue. I would rather leave my people in a place where they wanted just a little more, versus exasperating them with too much. Do not underestimate the discouragement that comes from someone who honestly desires a nice big glass of water and instead got the fire hose jammed down their throat.

Remember, these are just principles. Do not over analyze them. Just take them and apply them in your context with your level of preaching experience. Lastly, remember you are a shepherd of these people to whom you are preaching. Think like a shepherd as you determine the length of your sermons. Push them to grow. Nurture them where they are now. Then, trust that God will use his Word and your efforts to find that balance every pastor should seek.

5 Ways to Deal with “Carnal Christians”

Scripture addresses those who belong to Christ, and those who do not. There are those who possess the Spirit of God, and those who do not. But is there a 3rd category? Many, especially in certain circles in American Evangelicalism, would claim there is a 3rd category commonly labeled a “Carnal Christian” or a “Nominal Christian.” This 3rd category is described as those who profess to know and follow Christ, but whose life does not reflect it. They would claim to follow Christ just enough to escape hell, but not enough for Christ to affect any aspect of their life. Some feel God is obligated to present a “get out of hell free card” as a result of a one time decision long ago that involved praying a prayer, or walking an aisle. The most common proof text for this position is found in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 and the way Paul addresses the Christians there in the Corinthian Church.

The reason so many think Paul is addressing Carnal Christians in this passage is because of how he refers to them (3:1). He just explained that it is only the spiritual man who knows Christ and possesses the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), not the natural man. Now, he addresses them as “brethren” (3:1) and writes but he, “Could not speak to them as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as babes in Christ (3:1).” Paul is not writing to the Corinthian church affirming there is this middle category of a Christian, but writes in this way to confront the clear sin in their midst that forces Paul to address them as immature in their faith.

Look back and read the first things Paul wrote to them in 1 Corinthians 1:4-6 was that, “The grace of God was given to them in Christ (1:4), they were enriched in Him (1:5), and that the testimony of Christ was confirmed in them (1:6).” Paul is in no way condoning a category of a Carnal Christian, but simply addressing Christians in Corinth who are not maturing in their faith as they ought. Paul implies their lack of pursuit to maturity is one reason there is division among them (1:10). They are remaining “Babes in Christ” (3:1).

Pastors, how do we deal with this type of person in our churches? Those who profess Christ, but whose lives do not reflect it?

1)  Recognize there is no biblical category for a Carnal Christian. Just because there are those who meet the characteristics of a “Carnal Christian” in our churches does not affirm this as a legitimate biblical category of a Christian. This person is simply deceived and needs Christ. There is no salvation without the cost that comes with it (full submission to Christ).

2)  Try to discern whether someone is simply unconverted, or just immature in their faith. We are not God, so we must tread cautiously here. But we can watch someone’s life and determine if there are evidences of grace in their life as they battle and struggle with an immature faith. Or, if there are no evidences of grace in them apart from simply their profession.

3)  Involve solid believers in your church to evaluate those people with you. Because of #2, we must involve other mature, gracious leaders in our church in our evaluation of these people. This will also guard a pastor from concluding too quickly someone’s unregenerate state because of some personal hurt that person could have brought to the pastor.

4)  Change the way you take in members into your church. The best, long-term solution to dealing with “Carnal Christians” is to make sure you guard the front door more closely for the future. Have an intentional process to take in members and do all you can to learn about their life, faith, conversion, and reasons they desire to join your church. This is not a quick solution, but the patient, wise decision for the long-term rarely is.

5)  Preach the gospel. One of the greatest joys I have experienced is to watch church members converted. That may seem like a strange thing to say, but do not assume when you take a church all the members are converted. Preach the gospel for all those present. It will encourage the faithful saints, awaken the lost, and hopefully jolt some who may have been living a lie for years and would truly take hold of Christ. One of the greatest teaching moments in almost 10 years for me at our church was to baptize a few members as true believers in Christ who thought they belonged to Christ, but did not.

The power of the gospel is powerful. It is powerful enough to convert the lost, lift up the discouraged saint, and even powerful enough to awaken a “Carnal Christian” to swallow his/her pride and finally and sincerely admit the lie they had been living and turn to Christ.

3 Ways to Prepare Your Teenager for Adulthood

I went on a trip a couple of years ago with my son after he turned 13 years old. What was the occasion? My wife and I promised each of our children when they turned 13 years old, they would get to take a special trip with one of us. My son with me, and each of my daughters with my wife. The purpose of these trips is to first have fun and enjoy each other’s company, which is why they each get to pick the destination (must be within a day’s drive) and determine much of the agenda.

There is, however, another purpose for these trips: to celebrate each child is growing up to be a man and likewise our daughters into women. Becoming a teenager can be a scary prospect (for both child and parent), and this often mutes both parent and child from obvious changes taking place. Yet we want it to be something we all would celebrate. We also want to communicate the responsibilities that come with this different life stage as well as some of the developmental aspects of it. Therefore, these trips are also designed for us to have very intentional conversations about life as men and women. Many of these conversations had been already taking place for quite a while, but it provides an atmosphere to delve into them a bit more and reaffirm what has already been said.

Since several of you asked about how I led my son through these conversations on our trip, I thought I would explain it here for others interested in some of those details. The theme of the trip revolved around this biblical manhood template: Protect, provide, and lead.

1)  Protect

We read in 1 Peter 3:1–7 about how I am called by God to protect my wife and children from any physical harm. Then, we discussed how my son could engage in this activity in our home. We discussed the practical ways he, too, could protect his mom and sisters from harm, everything from killing bugs to locking doors at night when I am out of town. We also read Proverbs 5 and discussed the need to protect ourselves from the adulterous woman who is after every man to steal him away from his wife. This allowed a fruitful discussion about sexual impurity and the destruction of pornography that we as men are surrounded by and how we protect our hearts and minds from it.

2)  Provide

As men, we are called to provide for the needs of our families. We were made to work (Gen. 1–2) and to care for our families by providing the physical, emotional, and spiritual support that each family member needs (1 Tim. 5:8). Because of this, we discussed ways my son could accomplish this, even though he does not have to work to support a family at this time. We talked about how he needs to work hard now at school, competitive swimming, cutting grass, chores, and whatever else in his life that will help develop a work ethic that he can later take into his job that he would use to support a wife and family one day, Lord willing.

3)  Lead

We read and discussed many implications to our call as Christian husbands to love our wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her from Ephesians 5:22–33. One of the central ways Christ loved was through humble sacrifice. We talked about how my son could sacrificially serve his mom and sisters to develop that instinct to lead by humble service in the home. Also, we discussed the times I asked him to lead us on a family walk, or when he would pick where we go to eat, thinking of everyone in the family for the best place to go. Those are little ways for my son to lead now (and teach my daughters to follow) and think of how his decisions impact others.

Parents, I don’t think you have to take a trip as we have planned to do with each of our children. If you are able to afford it and do it, great. Regardless, I urge you to be very intentional about not waiting on these kinds of conversations that should be taking place much earlier than 13 years old. Don’t be afraid of them. Don’t run from them and wait because you anticipate them being uncomfortable. I promise you it will be too late if you wait until you must have these conversations. Our trip was a joy, very fruitful, and I am sad it will be my only one.

My oldest daughter turns 13 years old in a couple of months (here we go), and her trip is already planned for the fall with my wife. Parents with older kids, what have you done that has been fruitful in this preparation for your own children?

Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.

The Type of Pastor God Uses to Revitalize a Church

It is unfortunate the number of dying churches that conclude they need one of two kinds of men to lead them to revitalize their church. Churches first pursue the next young, rock-star preacher to be their pastor, banking on his charisma to breathe life back into the church. The problem with this approach is not just the limited amount of so-called “rock-star pastors” that exist, but that the Bible does not advocate that the men who lead the church must fit that description.

The other kind of pastor churches conclude they need is a fiery evangelist who will go out into the community and win souls for Jesus and that will help the church grow and consequently bring new fresh life. God uses both these kinds of men to build his kingdom, but this is not what is necessary for God to revitalize a struggling church.

God simply wants faithful shepherds.

God wants men who meet a certain qualification and godly character (1 Tim. 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9). God wants a humble, eager man who feels called to shepherd the flock of God on behalf of the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:1–4). God wants pastors who realize their calling is to take heed to themselves and to the flock who Christ purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28).

God wants faithful shepherds who are not defined by their cleverness or charisma, but by a divine conviction to care for souls as if they will give an account to Jesus for them (Heb. 13:17).

Many approaches to revitalization challenge dying congregations (often set in their ways) to look outward for new life. I am not discouraging evangelist efforts, but if God has sheep already in a local church, we should begin there and not be so quick to simply try and replace them as the solution. Too often the decline of local churches has come as a result of the progression of neglectful, unfaithful shepherds. As a result, the spiritual life in the sheep of the church slowly dwindles throughout decades of neglect to a mere ember.

But there is spiritual life in every true follower of Jesus, regardless how beat up and discouraged they may be. Christ still lives in them and is working to complete the work he began (Phil 1:6).  God needs faithful shepherds to care for the flock, and God, in part, breathes life into the church when his sheep are well cared for and fed the bread of life.  Then, send those fed, equipped sheep out to get others.

Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.

5 Common Questions Every Pastor Should Ask a Prospective Church Member

The most important part of the membership process we have at our church is the one-on-one meeting I have with prospective members. This is the time I hear about their conversion, baptism, their grasp of the gospel, why they want to join our church, and explain to them what will be expected of them if they are to become members by walking through our church covenant. As I know many pastors walk prospective members through a similar process, I thought I would share a few specific questions I typically ask.

Here are 5 common questions to ask at a membership interview:

1)  Tell me about how you first heard the gospel, understood it, and came to follow Christ?

2)  What is the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ in 60 seconds or less?

3)  Why would I ask a prospective member question #2?

4)  What are the reasons you feel this is where God desires for you and your family to commit?

5)  In what ways would you desire to serve this church as a member, if given the opportunity?

 A few extra questions for those coming from the seminary:

6)  Describe your calling to the ministry and why you think you are called?

7)  What role should the local church play in preparing you for ministry?

8)  Why are you driving past 5 really good, solid, and faithful churches to come here? (This is true for those who live close to SBTS campus)

These questions really act as a basic template that naturally lead to other follow up questions. I mention them with hopes they will provoke you to consider what details about a person’s life are necessary to bring them into the church as a covenant member.

Side note: A book we require all new members to read is the book written by my dear friend, Thabiti Anyabwile, What is a Healthy Church Member? It is the best resource on the topic that I know exists.

Pastors, what other questions have you found helpful to ask prospective members as they go through your membership process?

Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.

2 Practical Tips When Considering a Fast

Fasting, when combined with the practice of prayer, is a powerful tool God uses to increase our desire for him and to focus our prayers for greater effectiveness.

A basic definition of fasting is…

“the withholding of food for a certain amount of time for the sake of creating a more disciplined and earnest attitude of prayer.”

How does this work? The simplest way to explain it is to say that the moments we inevitably feel unfulfilled hunger pains of food should instead move us to pray. We translate our natural hunger for food, which is necessary for life, into prayer. Our physical yearnings are transferred into spiritual hunger for God, for the life we have in him, and for him to do what only he can do.

Consider these two simple guidelines if you are new to fasting:

1) A fast doesn’t always have a particular time limit on it or specific rules you must follow about what to give up. You can fast for a day or for a month. You can do a water-only or a juice-only fast. You can fast one meal once a week or one full day every month. You can abstain from certain foods like desserts, and when you feel the urge to reach for a cookie, your desire can be channeled into an urgency to pray. There are no rules. Do what will create in you a greater urgency and hunger to pray.

2) Be mindful of any health issues that could make a fast unwise. For example, if you are a diabetic or have any other physical condition that requires a strict diet, be especially mindful not to put yourself in a compromised position as a result of a fast. I also discourage the idea of fasting for those who struggle with eating disorders that are making intake of food a challenge and concern in their daily living. The point of the fast is to combine it with a more intense, focused time of prayer that brings a greater communion with God, a greater empowerment of the Spirit, and a greater earnestness in your soul.

There is a time to feast. And there is a time to fast. Make sure both fosters a greater awareness to pray without ceasing.

Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.