2023 Lead Pastor’s Report

Dear members and friends out here on the prairie,

            “God knows better than me.” If there is one thing that I have been learning (and relearning) over this past year, it’s simply this one truth: “God knows better than me.” Do you find it surprising that I was saved at the age of 4, been in the ministry for 10 years, and am 36 years old and am still learning this simple, elementary truth? Well, if you do, all I can say is that God has been wonderfully patient and kind to me. I may be thick-headed, but this one truth (understood and believed) has slammed my hard heart and released profound blessing into my life.

How I Envisioned The New Year…

            As last year (2022) was coming to a close and a new year (2023) was dawning, I knew that something had to give. To my wife and I’s complete shock and joy, we were expecting our 5th child (Daxton). I truly thought that Derrick, our adopted son, had rounded out our family and we were going to continue life as a happy family of 6. That was my plan, but God knows better than me. Indeed, as we received news of our 5th child, I knew that something had to give.

            I was far too busy and overcommitted to various things – good things – but far too busy and overcommitted. At the start of last year (2022), I was stewarding a family of 6, a growing church family, and my responsibilities as the Chairman of the IARBC’s Council of 10. Additionally, I was learning the ropes as the new District Chaplain for the American Legion, actively participating in my local Kiwanis group, and was accepting various invitations to be a guest speaker at churches, schools, and camps. It was all so wonderful and adrenaline-infusing, but it was too much. I knew it. My wife knew it…Something had to give.

            The increasing conviction that I was far too busy and overcommitted continued to rise to the surface of my heart and mind as I participated in Baptist Church Planters’ Leadership Journey. In this excellent men’s discipleship program, I learned the importance of roles and goals, prioritization, and time management. God used this program (and the excellent coaching of our very own Scott Owen) to open my eyes to the reality that every time I said “yes” to something, I was simultaneously saying “no” to something else. And, more often than not, the ones to receive the short end of the stick were God, my family, and my church family. The very relationships that demanded top priority in my life were being squashed by so many other good things, but not ultimate things, in my life.

            So, as last year (2022) was ending and a new year (2023) was starting, I made the following commitment…

“I am committed to focusing on three main things. First, I want to focus on my relationship with the Lord. I want to reignite my relationship with the Lord by focusing on a better devotional life and prayer life. I also want to take more seriously my participation in Baptist Church Planters’ Leadership Journey that will fuel my knowledge and love for the Lord. Second, I want to focus on my relationship with my wife and children. I want them to get more and better time from me. I want to be more present at our family outings and events. Indeed, with my fifth child set to make his debut in just a few weeks, I want to be a better husband and father. Third, I want to focus on my relationship with you – my church family. I want to pray better prayers for you. I want to preach better sermons for you. I want to lead and oversee this church body in better and greater ways.

Since these are my top priorities this year, I promise you that I will not take on any additional ministry responsibilities. Certainly, I must continue in my commitments to our State Fellowship as the Chairman of the Council of 10. Yes, I must still participate in my community roles as a Kiwanis member and Chaplain for the American Legion. But I will not be taking on other leadership roles or responsibilities for this year. This means that I will not be accepting ‘extra-curricular’ speaking engagements at camps or conferences. This also means that I will not be taking part in special ministry events as a committee person or chairperson. For this year, I must take concentrated time to focus on my relationships with the Lord, my family, and church family.”

            Indeed, as I entered 2023, I thought this year was going to be a smooth year of simplicity and focus as I decluttered my life and ministry. I truly thought that this year was going to be a nice reset and refocus year as I got ready to enter my 10th year of ministry. Yes, this was my nicely packaged 3-step plan, but God knows better than me. He really does. He always does.

How I Received The New Year…

            As the new year hit, I found myself happily productive with a concentrated focus on my relationship with the Lord, my family, and church family. My devotional and prayer life was strengthened as I started to add journaling to my quiet time with the Lord. My new family of 7 was loud, messy, fun, and going here, there, and everywhere, and I was actually participating in more family responsibilities and outings – fully present and enjoying each moment. My wonderful church family was getting more of my best work in terms of preaching and praying. From January – May 2023, I was hitting my goals and truly felt that I was finally focused on what mattered most.

            And then, on Sunday, June 4th, we, as a church family, entered into Genesis 37, which begins the fascinating storyline of Joseph and the stunning providence of God in Joseph’s life. I was mesmerized. I couldn’t believe what I was reading and studying. With each chapter, my excitement grew, and (at times) the tears would flow fast and hard. Indeed, I couldn’t believe what was happening to me…I was falling deeper in love with the God of Joseph! Like for real…Like for the first time in a long time, God was blowing my mind with the wonders of who He was, is, and always will be. I longed for every Tuesday and Thursday as they were my sermon prep days. On those days, I would read like a fiend, pray like crazy, and write feverishly. Then, on Sundays, I would preach every sermon with all the passion I could muster – sometimes feeling like my heart would pound out of my chest as I could barely contain the excitement about what I was learning, believing, and living in light of. The God of Joseph was, is, and always will be a magnificent God of providence who secretly and supernaturally organizes the natural events of our lives to bring about His desired end state and purposes…And Joseph…Well, he consistently lived his life with this notion that: “God knows better than me.” From the pit to slavery to prison, He chose to love, trust, and follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I was totally captivated by this incredible storyline.

            Then, on Wednesday, July 12, about 30 minutes before we were to sing “Happy Birthday” to our oldest child, my wife and I got a phone call that would forever change our lives – our adopted son, Derrick, had a full-biological brother due on Nov. 12th. The birthparents wanted us to adopt this baby boy in order to keep the siblings together. 6 kids?! Yes. Yes, indeed. Why? Because God knows better than me. His plans are best. His ways are perfect.

            Prairie Flower, the God of Joseph is my God. He weaves together the story of our lives to magnify His glory and gospel. We just have to choose to trust Him – or not – but the choice is ours. For me, it’s such a sweet relief to know that I’m not in charge of my own life – God’s the boss – and He actually knows better than I. The God that I fell deeper in love with as I preached through the Joseph narrative actually showed up in my life (right in the middle of our Genesis mini-series) and essentially said, “David, are you ready? Do you trust me? I want you to jump into the mysterious unknown, and don’t worry – I’ll be with you and your wife, though you don’t know what’s going to happen. Just trust me, and don’t look down, just focus on me. No matter what, I got you.” So, with that, I led my wife, and we both jumped, and are still in a freefall into a mysterious unknown that is fully known only by our great and good God.

How I Submit To The One Who Holds Next Year…

            So, as we enter into this new fiscal year (2023-2024), I submit to the One who knows the future. Do I have plans, goals, and strategies? Sure…I guess, but God knows better than me. So, with open palms I surrender my will to the One who made me and called me into His service. God knows best. His plans are perfect. And even the horrible things that happen to us this side of Heaven will play out for our good and His glory. With that in mind, I humbly submit the following goals into our Sovereign’s hands…

  1. Shepherd the Church Towards the Lay Pastor Initiative – Lord willing, we will be able to increase the pastoral staff by means of adding lay pastors to the current staff pastors. Currently, we are on a strategic pause in terms of this initiative in order to devote more time to prayer over this important leadership change. Lord willing, talks between the current pastors and the deacons on the Lay Pastor Initiative will resume in January 2024.
  2. Lead the Church into the Great Exchange Network – Lord willing, Pastor Tim and I will attend the first ever Great Exchange Network’s Conference in October. This network is being started by Soteria Church in order to facilitate better evangelism, discipleship, and church planting efforts in our state association. I’m excited at all the possibilities that being a part of this network will afford our church family as we seek to be on mission “to be a strong church that makes disciples for the glory of God.”
  3. Facilitate More and Better Leadership Journey Discipleship Groups – God has used Baptist Church Planters’ Leadership Journey in a big way in the life of our church family. I, personally, have been impacted in huge ways as a result of this program. I’m excited at the possibility of more men in our church family becoming better husbands, fathers, and leaders in their own spheres of influence as a result of Leadership Journey.

But We’ll See What God Has In Store For Us – Because – Well – He Knows Better Than Us,

David Cotner

Lead Pastor, PFBC

Soldier On: An Article Written For FBBC…

My name is David Cotner, and I am an Army Veteran. I served from 2006-2010, deploying twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. My job? I was a paratrooper (i.e., I jumped out of airplanes) and was an All-Source Intelligence Analyst for the 10th Special Forces Group (based out of Fort Carson, Colorado).

My position demanded a top-secret security clearance. Indeed, I loved the world of secrets. I took great pride in the fact that my intel analysis helped drive combat operations, leading to the death and arrest of multiple high value targets–many of them foreign fighters. I’m an adrenaline junkie by nature, and this job provided enough adrenaline to last a lifetime of memories.

After my time in the U.S. Army, I got married and headed to Faith Baptist Bible College (FBBC) in Ankeny, Iowa for pastoral training. I studied there from 2010-2014. At the time, I thought my soldier days were behind me. Little did I know that I had entered a Warfighting School in the middle of Iowa. I thought I was going to FBBC to train for ministry. Little did I know I was going to FBBC to train for war.

I entered pastoral ministry at Prairie Flower Baptist Church in November of 2013 (at the tail end of my senior year at FBBC). After the excitement of a new ministry position faded, the reality of war became extremely visible to me. This war was all around me. I encountered division, death, divorce, drugs, and disapproval of my performance as a pastor. As I battled to shepherd this tiny but precious flock of people in the middle of a cornfield, the war all around me soon became a messy war inside of me. The destruction around me began to splinter my heart, leading me toward depression and a battle with a thick, thick darkness. At the height of my pain that was altogether physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, I contemplated ending it all in the spring of 2018.

Ironically, my life verse ever since I was a young believer has been 2 Timothy 2:2-3, “share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” Apropos for the military–and the ministry. Through the loving support of my wife, understanding ministry partners, and a healthy dose of Biblical counseling, I was able to regain my focus and soldier on. The apex of my deepest pain was five years ago. But by the grace of God, I’ve been able to soldier on for another five years and am eager to reach my 10-year mark this November as the Lead Pastor of Prairie Flower Baptist Church.

Folks, make no mistake about it and don’t get it twisted–the Christian life is war. Pastoral ministry is the tip of the spear in this spiritual war as pastors lead their people to beat back the darkness with true Gospel Hope. Part of soldiering on requires a mindset of perseverance through the darkest night of the soul. What does this mindset look like? The U.S. Army entrenches this mindset in something they call the “Warrior Ethos,” which states: “I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade.” As believers, our mission is clear, namely, to advance the Gospel in word and deed. Because this is our mission, the world, the flesh, and the Devil will seek to either kill us (literally) or minimize our effectiveness by driving us into a plethora of besetting sins. So, we must quickly put to death the temptations around us, choosing to never accept defeat–to never quit. Along the way, you and I will find fallen fellow soldiers who’ve been wounded by the enemy or by their own foolishness. Don’t. Leave. Them. Behind. Help, encourage, counsel, and point them to our loving Commander: Jesus, who has promised to never leave us or forsake us.

To the current students of FBBC, soldier on. The darkness is thick out there, but so is Gospel Hope. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Press forward–soldier on. Take your studies at FBBC seriously. You’re not just in a Bible College. You’re in a Warfighting School. You’re being prepared for life, for ministry, and for war. As a no-name pastor in the middle of a cornfield, I can promise you that we need more fighters on the frontlines. Who will join me? Who will answer the call to snatch souls from the fire? Who is ready to lay it all on the line? The answer is you. So, practice now how to mount up, catch grenades, dodge darts, and soldier on for the glory of our perfect Commander. I promise you that your practice of these vital skills will not be in vain. Soldier on!