. . . it is a thing of great beauty.
Recently I spent a couple of days with Samuel Tolbert, the pastor/teacher of Greater St. Mary Missionary Baptist Church in Lake Charles, LA. [See the church at www.gsmmbc.net.] I have known Sam for a half-dozen years or so, but this was the first time I had an opportunity to be with him in his place of ministry.
I did not notice until after our visit that on the back side of his calling card is the following: “Mission Statement: Greater St. Mary will bring people to Jesus and Membership in His family, develop them to Christ-like Maturity, and equip them for their Ministry in the church and life Mission in the world, in order to Magnify God’s name.”
I did not need to read that statement to know that Sam is living out the mission and vision God has for his congregation. It is obvious in everything he says and all the actions he takes. He is the embodiment of that mission statement. It is obvious he has a clear vision from God about the life and ministry of his congregation not only in its community context, but throughout the world.
You see it in his actions, in what he wants to show you, in the words he speaks. It is, indeed, a thing of great beauty. He casts God’s vision for his congregation with great clarity. He networks to bring forth the resources needed to fulfill that vision. He inspires people to action to fulfill God’s vision for the congregation. He engages in community leadership that attracts various resources from outside his congregation to join the spiritual and strategic journey that is apparent in Greater St. Mary.
Principles for Pastors
Rev. Samuel C. Tolbert, Jr. is truly living out the mission and vision God has for his congregation. What I observed in Sam speaks into several principles pastors need to embrace.
First, if you are personally captivated by God’s vision for your congregation it will be obvious in everything you say and do. You will speak loud and clear with your life and actions, and the way you carry out God’s vision. Mission and vision will be part of the full armor of God by which you are clothed.
Second, some people need to see and hear God’s vision for your congregation so you need to constantly refer to it, cast it, illustrate it, and tell the stories of its fulfillment. Write, tell, and show the words of mission and vision and make it plain for the people to experience.
Third, you need to continually invite your staff, lay leaders, and the congregation as a whole to allow God’s vision for the church to embrace them and be obvious in the lives they live, and the leadership they express in and through your congregation. The more people who are captivated by God’s vision for your congregation, the more effective the vision fulfillment will be.
Fourth, align everything your congregation does with God’s vision and be able to demonstrate how all that you do empowers the fulfillment of the vision. Congregations who do not align what they do with God’s vision usually fail to fulfill God’s vision. When any new opportunity arises always ask the question, “How will this help us fulfill God’s vision for our congregation?”
Sam’s Journey Expands
I have never been a fan of the popularized understanding of the Old Testament prayer of Jabez where God is asked to expand Jabez’s territory. Modern day Christians have been encouraged to pray the same prayer. I believe, rather, that God expands the territory of those God chooses who are often faithful, effective, and innovative in their Christ-like character, nature, and actions. Sam Tolbert fits this latter statement.
Sam’s vision not only includes Greater St. Mary and the Lake Charles, LA area. His God-given vision goes much beyond that. In Baptist denominational service it has extended to his role as president of the Louisiana Home & Foreign Missions Baptist State Convention. [See at www.lahfmbc.org/.]
Now it has gone even farther with his election of the president of the National Baptist Convention of America International, one of the historically Black Baptist denominations in North America. [See at www.nbcainc.com/.] Who knows where his leadership and sense of God’s vision will take him next. I certainly do not. But it is a journey worth following.