2020 Lead Pastor’s Report

Dear Members and Friends of Prairie Flower Baptist Church,

The year 2020 has hurled us into a brand-new reality. As we survey the broken pieces of such a chaotic year, our hearts hurt with the destruction that was unleashed all year long. From the global pandemic that touched our country in March, to the race riots that erupted throughout our nation in May, to Iowa’s derecho in August that crumbled crops, homes, and businesses with hurricane force winds, this year has been unpredictable and turbulent.

BUT GOD – “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). BUT GOD – “But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us…” (2 Cor. 7:6a). BUT GOD – “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive…” (Eph. 2:4-5a). Yes, despite the wonkiness and wickedness of 2020, our God intervened into our church family with his love, comfort, and mercy. So, despite a hurting heart, I rejoice; and so should you.

The love, comfort, and mercy of God has been so evident in the life and history of our church. Simply put, our sovereign God has been faithful to our church family in every season of life. From the bloodshed of the Civil War, to the destruction of two World Wars, to the riots of the Vietnam era, to the smashing of civilian aircraft into our beloved infrastructures on Sept. 11, 2001, to our present evil unrest, our God’s hand of protection and faithfulness has sustained us and grown us. Yes, from our beginnings as Richmond Baptist Church in Richmond, IA to our present-day location at Prairie Flower Baptist Church here in Washington, IA, our God has been faithful – faithful to us for 167 years! And make no mistake about it, God will remain faithful to us for he cannot deny his perfect character.

Unmerited Favor Amidst Chaos…

It is nearly breathtaking to survey all the good things that our great God allowed us to accomplish this past year. Indeed, in a year when we were given a free pass by the world to lock it all down, shelter in place, and go into survival mode, we graciously, and with full submission to our governing authorities, pressed forward and saw God work in wondrous ways. Below are the most important stats we experienced (by God’s unmerited favor) this past year:

  • Salvations – 5
  • Baptisms – 1
  • Members – 8

Praise the Lord for these numbers! Yes, all the praise, honor, and glory go to our great God who redeemed these dead souls, caused their heartfelt obedience in the form of believer’s baptism, and motivated them to join us in our mission “to be a strong church that makes disciples for the glory of God.” It is my prayer that we continue to see new and better disciples becoming a part of God’s great work out here on the prairie and beyond.  

This year also brought us some great improvements in the form of a new Pavilion for fellowship, a new Playground set for our young people, and a completely renovated Sanctuary for beautiful praise and worship. My heartfelt thanks and appreciation go to my fellow laborer in the Lord, Pastor O’Tool, who administrated these projects with timeliness and great attention to detail. Also, a very hearty shout out to all of you who dedicated your time, talents, and treasure to the completion of these wonderful building projects!

A Cause For Pause…

Before continuing with the rest of my report, I do believe there is a cause for pause as we reflect upon the lives we lost in 2020. Yes, this past year with all of its unexpected growth and improvements was also a time of great loss and sadness for some of our families here at Prairie Flower. This past year, the following individuals were promoted to Heaven: Maryhelen Gates, Kenny Schipper, and Carl Benson. These folks are dearly loved and missed. Please keep the families of these precious individuals in your thoughts and prayers.

Pastoring During A Pandemic…

Pastoring during a pandemic has proven to be quite challenging. From contemplating covid protocols that will ensure the safety of our people while simultaneously facilitating our need for corporate worship, to navigating the challenges of various building projects around the church has made for one great year of personal growth and development. In many ways, I am grateful for this past year as I was able to grow in my leadership and administrative capabilities. Indeed, my tolerance for chaos and unpredictability has increased, and I’m grateful for that, but also slightly nervous at what God is gearing us up for.

Pastoring during a pandemic was also remarkably easy. Why would I say that? Because of the fantastic team of leaders and servants we have out here on the prairie. From our Associate Pastor, to our incredible deacons, to all of you who serve and care for our church family in a variety of ways, I say THANK YOU! I do not take any of you for granted. You are seen, appreciated, needed, and loved. THANK YOU for making my job as one of your pastors a great joy.

Pastoring during a pandemic was also very unique in many ways. For instance, my preaching and teaching ministry went online via YouTube and our Livestream, increasing our reach and impact of people with the Gospel message. My duties as a Council of 10 member with our State Fellowship went virtual through multiple online Zoom meetings, allowing us to continue to help struggling churches in our State Association. My duties with the Camp Board at Iowa Regular Baptist Camp wrapped up in October, but we were still able to accomplish the initiation of the Rock Project (i.e., a new gym) as we met virtually and in-person to plan for this big project. As for pastoral care, that is probably the biggest impact of the pandemic to my overall ministry as my counseling and hospital visits came to a complete halt. Please pray that these vital areas of my ministry are reopened soon. Also, despite the turbulence of this past year, I continued my community outreach through our local Kiwanis group, joined the local American Legion, and continued to accept speaking invitations to various churches and camps. I was also able to join in marriage our very own Gary and Janine Mellinger…What a great day that was! Please pray that God continues to give me strength, passion, humility, and gratefulness as I serve you as one of your pastors.

Planning Under God’s Sovereignty…

If 2020 has taught us nothing else, it should be that God is sovereign and he does whatever he pleases. Yet, we have a responsibility to plan and steward our lives and ministries under his gracious sovereignty. May God’s will be done as we endeavor to accomplish the following goals this year…

  1. Wrap Up Matthew – We are currently in Matthew chapter 18. We only have 10 more chapters to go in our “Jesus In The Manuscript Of Matthew” series. I would love to wrap this series up this year. Can I do it? I don’t know, but I’m going to try.
  2. Finalize Our Constitution – We’ve been talking about this for years. After successfully revising our Articles of Faith (2016) and our Biblical Principles of Church Membership (2018), it is time to revise our Church Constitution (2021?). After January’s strategic sermon series on the church, our revised Church Constitution will be presented to the Constitution Review Team. The desire is to have them review this document and give it back to the Leadership Team by April. We will then have another strategic sermon series in May that will help all of us understand the proposed constitutional improvements, and then the congregation will be presented with the Church Constitution for review in June. If all goes as planned, we will vote on this new document in our July Quarterly Meeting.
  3. Install Lay Pastors – A large part of our constitutional revisions surrounds the concept of staff and lay pastors. Staff pastors are full-time and paid by the church, and they focus on the day-to-day operations of the church. Lay pastors are part-time and unpaid by the church, and they focus on the week-to-week operations of the church. As we envision growth in the future, installing new lay pastors will be a key element to successfully stewarding that growth.

May God be glorified as we enter this new year. I don’t know what this year holds for us, but God does. And I rest in his sovereign, wise, loving hands; and so should you.

With Measured Excitement For The Future,

David Cotner

Lead Pastor, PFBC    

Who Cares If America Falls? (The 2021 Edition)

Back in May of 2016, I wrote a blog post that gained big attention in the small evangelical pond that I swim in. Why so much attention? Two main reasons: 1) My intentional and slightly inflammatory blog title acted very well in generating clicks of curiosity as to why an Army veteran turned pastor would say something so dramatic, and 2) Four and half years ago, as I sat at my desk, out here in the middle of a cornfield, I was challenging people to reconcile their Sunday theology with a quickly changing and turbulent political scene…And people have a love-hate relationship with being challenged, especially when it comes from a nerdy, no-name pastor in the middle of nowhere…Let me give to you a flashback of the scene in 2016…

Back on May 3, 2016, Senator Ted Cruz suspended his presidential campaign. Seeing no viable path to the presidency, he bowed out with dignity and grace. Then, without skipping a beat, my Facebook feed exploded with status updates and tweets ranging from sadness to anger over Cruz dropping out and the inevitable Trump VS. Clinton showdown that would happen in the fall of 2016. There were angry posts about the end of our country as we know it, cries concerning the fact that moral conservatism is dead, etc. And then, there were the usual posts articulating the moral degradation of our society, #NeverTrump, etc., etc.

I know A LOT has happened since May of 2016, but do you remember how dark and depressing that time period was, especially for us Bible-believing, Gospel-loving Christians? But those dark days almost seem like sunshine and rainbows in comparison to the true insanity that erupted in the years after the Election of 2016. Indeed, do I really need to bore you with the list of absolute craziness that we have endured these last four years, and especially in 2020? I think not. It’s. Been. Insane.

In fact, the divide between people is so thick in our country, I can’t help but think that some form of secession or Civil War is brewing (or has already erupted) in our cherished country. From the George Floyd riots to the Capital Hill riots (both awful and egregious, albeit in different ways and with different consequences) seem to point all of us towards a clear and scary path of outright war. And no, I don’t think I’m merely being reactionary or emotional in saying that. Indeed, many of you are feeling this with me, but are trying hard to distract yourself from such a grotesque reality by comforting yourselves with various forms of entertainment. But others of you, like a family watching a grandparent enter Hospice care, are already grieving the death of America and the fall of such a great titan of freedom and justice for all.

But may I courageously and consistently say what I said back in 2016? That is, who cares if America falls? I mean let that question unnerve you and upset you for a bit. Then, step back and realize who is asking you this question…An Army veteran, who deeply loves his country, and was willing to lay down his life for the principles of this country, BUT has a greater love and allegiance to the heavenly country and the King of that country. And my King is known by many names, “The Prince of Peace”, “Messiah”, but my favorite is the name given to him by his adoptive father, Joseph, that name being “Jesus…for He shall save His people from their sins.” So, yes, primarily because of my personal, grace-based relationship with King Jesus, let me say it louder…Who cares if America falls?

You know it seems to me that our true theology truly shines in moments of despair and disappointment. On Sundays, we’ll sing joyfully that Christ is our Redeemer and our gloriously returning King. But when Monday happens our true theology shines with: “Jesus is our returning King! But oh, we need President Trump in the meantime. Oh, he lost the election?! Oh, he just conceded?! Oh, what a mess we’re in!” Really?! Seems to me that a lot of our street level theology is failing us and leaving us, not with hope, but with despair. And side note…such theology of “Jesus on Sunday, But President Trump (or Whoever) Filling In Monday-Saturday” will always leave us in a state of disappointment, anger, and eventually bitter cynicism.

Again, who cares if America falls (morally or economically)? America is not ultimate and Jesus still reigns supreme. Now before you write me off, let me just state again: I love America! I certainly bleed red, white, and blue. I served this country in the U.S. Army from 2006-2010, twice deploying to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I love America. And my family (both biological and church) loves America. We want her to succeed, to thrive, to return back to morality and repentance toward God. But I (and hopefully you reading) also understand that America might fall…it just might be the end of social conservatism in America as we know it (or maybe not…time will tell), but that’s ok. Because America (as much as I love her) is not ultimate. Jesus is ultimate. The Gospel is ultimate. Heaven and Hell are certainly ultimate. But America is not, and historically speaking, is but a blip on the radar of time.

I mean truly, these are exciting times for the true Church of God! It would seem, with everything happening in our world (not just the storming of Capital Hill this week, but everything) that cultural Christianity is giving birth to true Christianity. In fact, I would say that covid did a fantastic job of thinning the herd, separating faithful Christians from unfaithful Christians. But still our churches are bloated with all kinds of people, professing to love Jesus and wanting to serve Jesus. But do they really? Well, if America is truly falling, and our freedoms are truly being stripped away, and persecution is truly coming…then we are to rejoice! Not only will our faith be tested, but the church will be purged, and what will be left is a more holy, passionate, and pure Church (just look to the book of Acts to see how suffering and persecution resulted in the true growth and purity of the Church and God’s great glory).

Also, if America falls and immortality and paganism run rampant, then what an opportunity to shine, evangelize, and glorify God! Think about it: It was Joseph who thrived, not in morally conservative Israel, but in the pagan Egyptian Empire. It was Jonah who thrived, not in morally safe Israel, but under the pagan Assyrian Empire. It was Jesus and His apostles who thrived, not under the loving conservatism of Israel, but under the pagan Roman Empire. Some of the greatest heroes of the faith and some of the greatest times of growth and blessing came, not under the Golden Age of Conservatism, but under the immorality and paganism of godless world empires.

But I think the bottom line is this: Christians have lost their focus. Things like staying missional (Matt. 28:19-20)…staying relational (John 13:34)…and staying spiritually strong (Eph. 6:10ff) are far from the average Christian’s gaze. We have bought into the Americanized version of Christianity that says the Great Commission is solidifying a true conservative Republican in the White House, not making disciples of Jesus Christ. We’ve bought into the false and egocentric notion that the heart of legalism has something to do with dress code, music styles, and Bible translations, instead of realizing that true legalism neglects the heart of the Law which is LOVE and MERCY. We’ve traded our source of strength from being “in the Lord” and bartered instead for a cheap bowl of soup, like four more years of President Trump. We’ve lost our focus. Our vision is too narrow. Our perspective too limited to the here and now.

My proposition (both in 2016 and now again in 2021): Let’s get back to 30,000 Feet Christianity and remind ourselves of some basic eternal realities: 1) What America needs is Jesus as Savior, not President Trump or any other social/political conservative as Savior; 2) What the true Church needs is a renewed commitment to the Great Commission-which is “make disciples”, not “ensure a Republican is in the White House”; and 3) Eventually we who are conservative Christians need to stop fighting our culture with outlandish emotionalism, but instead engage our culture with bright intellectualism rooted in unwavering faith in a sovereign God. And at the end of the day…so what if America falls? America is not ultimate and Jesus (my King) is returning and reigns supreme!

New Member’s Profiles & Testimonies!

This Sunday, January 3, we will welcome some good friends and new members, Scott & Marti Owen! What a wonderful way to ring in the new year. Indeed, we are so blessed to have these faithful servants of God as a part of our church family. As many of you know, Marti grew up at Prairie Flower and Scott is the Transitional Ministries Director with Baptist Church Planters (BCP). How wonderful to welcome Scott and Marti back to the prairie!

Now, bear in mind, these two are quite busy with their work with BCP, raising support and visiting churches all across the United States. So, we won’t see them as often as we would like, but when they’re here, we’ll rejoice and love them well…Below you’ll find their written testimonies of their salvation and baptism (the fundamental requirements for our church membership)…

Scott Owen: I was exposed to church through some friends from school. They attempted to lead me to Christ on their own during our 7th grade year. But I struggled to comprehend the whole concept of a relationship with Christ, as I continued my quest to change habits and look like my new friends. They eventually invited me to summer camp where I fully understood the need for a Savior and the importance of a personal relationship with Christ. From that point on, I have not had a doubt regarding my eternal destiny. I was baptized the following winter and joined Faith Baptist Church of Fort Dodge. I grew spiritually while attending a Christian school my last year of high school. I then attended Bible College to learn more on how to serve Jesus. The local church has been my source of instruction, fellowship and focus of ministry.

Marti Owen: As a young child, I was blessed to be immersed in the truths of what God did for me. I was taught those truths in a Christian home and church family, Prairie Flower Baptist Church. Around the age of 7, I cried out to God realizing my desperate need of the Savior and thanked God for His mercy and saving grace to rescue me from my sin. I was baptized shortly thereafter. God eventually used Bible College to spark a hunger to pursue and serve Him. I’m eternally grateful for His continuing work of conforming me into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).

From the Desk of The Associate: The Perfect Peace Offer

“Fear not, for I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” As 2020 comes to a close, I think it’s important for us to look back and consider. How many times have we been fearful and stressed about the events taking place? How many times did we wonder if the world would ever calm down? How often did we wonder how the future of the country would be? Would we lose our health, wealth, freedom, or loved ones due to the unfolding events? In fact maybe that fear was indeed justified and you lost one or more of those things. 

In this world, fear is an ever present reality. We fear because of the numerous things that could happen to us or someone we love. We must fear because this world is dangerous. It is dangerous because of sin. Both our personal sin, and the sin of those around us. We are told in Scripture that the Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom. Unholy beings must fear a Holy being. We fear because not only is He holy, but He is powerful and will rightly judge us for our sin. 

When the angels showed up to the shepherds, they had good reason to fear. Both for their physical safety, as well as their spiritual safety. They were a part of the rebellion against this angel army’s king, God himself. When a king’s army shows up, all rebels should rightly be afraid. Yet this King’s emissaries, instead offer peace terms.  “Fear not, for I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” This peace is bought by the giving of God himself on our behalf. I hope this season is indeed a season of peace for you and your family. But never forget that the ultimate peace offered by the angels to the shepherds and by extension to us, was bought by the blood of Jesus. If you reject God’s peace terms, then you will indeed face the wrath of God when he returns a second time to bring judgment and to claim his own. My prayer is that you truly will have eternal peace with the perfect gift, Jesus Christ.

“There’s A Dragon In My Nativity” Christmas Video

In just eight days, Christmas will be here. As we get ready to celebrate the birth of our Lord, many of us simply focus on the triumphant nature of Christ’s birth. But did you know that the birth of Jesus was also terrifying in nature? Check out the video below, and be sure to join us in-person or online this Sunday (12-20-20) as we focus on the dual realities of our Savior’s birth – its’ triumphant and terrifying nature…

Guest Blogger: Nick Swarthout, “Pray For Passion”

Nick Swarthout is a good friend of mine, a fellow veteran turned pastor, and was the best man at my wedding, and he penned the following great article on the importance of prayer and passion as it relates to our evangelism fervor…Read, enjoy, and if you want more great content like the one below, please follow Nick at http://www.reachteachlead.com.

“If God decided to save every lost person you prayed for this week, how many lost people would end up getting saved?”

I don’t remember the first time I heard that question, but it’s a question I know I’ll never forget.

If the eternal fate of a select group of non-Christians was ever totally dependent on my prayerful concern for their soul, I’d be more than embarrassed about my prayer efforts for those far from God. I’d be appalled. And to be quite honest, I still don’t pray for those far from God as much as I think I should.

It’s a sad reality that we often get so consumed with the world around us that we forget that we’re all headed to an eternal destination one day. Yet, to be fair, I DO care about reaching lost people. I have witnessed and wept and prayed and shared and witnessed some more. I really like to think that I’m passionate about reaching people for Jesus.

But then there are the more typical days…days of busyness and worry over little things. Little things like how will we ever get from here to there and who’s going to think what about the way we did that? You know, those more self-absorbed days where we run around acting like God needs our help to get things done, or better yet, we’ll just show God how things ought to be done.

This sounds silly, I know. But truth be told, I think it may be a more honest assessment of our internal condition for more people like you and me than either of us would like to admit.

Thinking through all this has helped me though. It’s helped me track down what I believe is the root cause of complacency among many Christians today. We certainly don’t lack knowledge, and we really don’t even lack concern for those who are far from God. If we could just push a button to save everyone from hell, we would. I think the real issue lies in our human propensity toward distraction due to an internal lack of holy passion.

You see, passion for anything is the fuel to getting things done. With it, soldiers move into enemy territory to rescue hostages, firefighters run into burning buildings to save stranded children, doctors risk their lives to save people exposed to unknown viruses and police officers lay their lives on the line to serve and protect perfect strangers. Yes, and passion can even make an innocent man carry an instrument of torture to certain death to save the very people who spit in His face.

Without passion though, people chosen by God to carry His message of love to a dying world, people just like you and me, will let countless lives pass from this life into eternity without ever telling them about Jesus Christ. This isn’t meant to be a guilt trip. It’s just the reality for so many who claim to be following the Jesus of the Bible.

With enough distraction, well meaning Christians doing well meaning things for less meaningful purposes can totally neglect the true meaning of why they’re here in the first place. We don’t share Jesus because we don’t have passion.

But here’s hope…

Despite our reluctance to pass on the message entrusted to us, I am also convinced that the same God who saved us can give us the PASSION we need to go after others like eternity is at stake. I am also convinced that all we need to do is ask

Official Ballot: Annual Election of Officers

Our Annual Election of Officers is slotted to take place on Sunday, December 20. All members are strongly encouraged to be at church on this Sunday for this quick, but important vote. Below is the official ballot for this year’s election…

Deacon (Choose 3) = Will Luers, Willie Van Der Molen, Eldon Yoder

Clerk (Choose 1) = Lisa Van Der Molen

Treasurer (Choose 1) = Steve Bohn

Financial Secretary (Choose 1) = Zach Shepherd

Sunday School Superintendent (Choose 1) = Brian Wilson

Please Note: In this year’s election, no one is running against each other. The ballot simply reflects who will be serving next year. Thus, the vote is a formality that will serve to merely confirm these nominees in their individual roles.

A Letter From Pastor Dave Regarding Covid Precautions At Prairie Flower

Dear Prairie Flower Baptist Church,

As we continue to navigate the difficult waters of another covid season, and considering our Governor’s most recent proclamation, we have decided to enact the following procedures for the next two Sundays (11/22 and 11/29). Please know that, as a Leadership Team, we are implementing these procedures out of a desire to submit to our governing authorities, and to keep people reasonably safe, all the while trusting our sovereign God in all things.

So, with those thoughts in mind, here is our plan: 1) Face Masks – We strongly encourage the use of face masks for all individuals who attend Sunday School and our Morning Worship Service. These masks should be worn by all individuals who are 5 years of age and older. It is recommended that these masks be worn as you enter our building and as you traffic throughout our building, but these masks do not have to be worn once you are seated and participating in our worship services. And 2) Social Distancing – We will ensure that all congregants are reasonably socially distanced during our worship services. To ensure this, we will take out every other row of chairs in our downstairs fellowship hall and ask that only family units sit together during the service. Obviously, we will have fewer seats available for the next two Sundays. So, if you are uncomfortable participating in our live worship services, you are encouraged to stay at home and watch our service over Facebook Live. 

Lord willing, all of these measures are temporary, and we should be able to get back to a sense of normalcy starting in December. Indeed, if all goes as planned, we envision having our first service in our newly renovated sanctuary on Sunday, December 6. How wonderful it will be to meet in our new worship space and to begin our celebration of Christmas out here on the prairie!

We look forward to seeing many of you over these next two weeks. Again, the above measures are designed out of our desire to submit to our governing authorities, and to keep people reasonably safe, all the while trusting our sovereign God. For some of you, this is not easy and perhaps frustrating. We get that. But we thank you for your understanding and patience as we continue to weave our way through this incredibly wonky year. 

David Cotner on behalf of the PFBC Leadership Team

Readjusted Timeline For Our Annual Election Of Officers

With a new season of covid upon us, we have had to readjust our ministries and schedules once again. Thank you all for your understanding and patience as we walk through this frustrating time together. We will get through this!

One of the biggest adjustments to our schedule has been the timing of the Annual Election of Officers. As a reminder, all church members, who are 14 years of age or older, are kindly invited to prayerfully nominate and then vote for individuals in the following categories: Deacon (3 Open Positions), Clerk (Mike York Desires To Be Replaced), Financial Secretary (Steve Donnolly Most Recently Served In This Position), Treasurer (Duane Davis Desires To Be Replaced), and Sunday School Superintendent (Brian Wilson Most Recently Served In This Position). Below is the new timeline of events for this important process out here on the prairie…

Sunday, November 22 – Nomination Process For Our Annual Election Of Officers Closes…Our Nomination and Election Committee (1 Pastor & 2 Deacons) will meet on this Sunday to contemplate the official ballot…

Monday, November 23 – Wednesday, December 2 – The Nomination and Election Committee will contact eligible nominees to see if they’re interested in serving…These individuals must reply by the close of business (5 PM) on Wednesday, December 2…

Sunday, December 6 – We will announce and post the official ballot of our 2021 Officer Nominees…Posting of nominees will be done via email, the blog, etc…

Sunday, December 20 – Annual Election Of Officers…Election will be held by secret ballot…

All elected officers will take office on January 1, 2021. Please be in prayer concerning who you would have serve and if God is leading you to serve at Prairie Flower Baptist Church!

My Seventh Year As Pastor

This next week, on Tuesday, November 10, I will celebrate my seventh year as the Lead Pastor of Prairie Flower Baptist Church. In a lot of ways, the years have flown by. In fact, I took this ministry while wrapping up my studies at Faith Baptist Bible College, when I was just 26 years old, with a wife and one child. I’m now facing age 34 in a couple of months with a wife and three kids (plus a puppy dog) in tow…Man alive, the years have truly flown by.

As I reflect on seven years of pastoral ministry, many of my feelings remain the same. That is to say, I still find pastoral ministry to be one of the most adrenaline-inducing privileges of my life. As I often say, pastoral ministry may be many things, but it’s certainly not boring! I also still feel overwhelming gratitude to my wife, Heather, who has stuck by my side through thick and thin. At times, it’s not easy being a pastor’s wife, but Heather exudes a quiet strength that has gotten me through some of the darkest nights of soul. I also still find myself feeling extremely thankful for the incredible folks out here on the prairie. I know that might seem trite, or just a nice thing to say, but I mean it…My heart continues to be knit with the folks of Prairie Flower and I find it a privilege to be one of their pastors who prays for them, preaches to them, and serves alongside them.

But as you can imagine, the year 2020 has brought into my pastoral ministry a whole new slew of lessons that have been “fun” to learn…Here are three of the top lessons I’ve learned during my seventh year of pastoral ministry…

1. Plans often change. But goals (for the most part) do not change. If 2020 has taught me anything it’s simply this – hold your plans with an open palm. Indeed, planning with hard and fast deadlines isn’t wrong, but just remember that God is sovereign and will often adjust our plans for our good and His glory. We must be willing to be humble and flexible with our planners and calendars. Yes, plans in the ministry often change, but the goals of ministry do not change…Even in a global pandemic, people need to be prayed for, fed the Word, and led with love. Finding creative ways to continue to do these things has been a growing, stretching experience.

2. Preaching is important. But meeting (as a church in-person) is essential. In no way, shape, or form am I devaluing the importance of preaching. God has chosen this one method of communication to be hugely transformative in the lives of His people. But when the lockdowns happened, every preacher and their brother took to the internet. Indeed, we preachers became tele-evangelists overnight! My point is this, you can literally stream a sermon online from anywhere in the world and be fed God’s Word. But meeting together (as a church in person) is so much more than hearing a sermon…Meeting together is about spiritual connection, true fellowship, and the ability to serve one another. These things can’t be replaced with online church and an online sermon.

3. People need leadership. But leadership (by and large) is hard. I don’t know if this is necessarily a new lesson, but this lesson has definitely been amplified during the mess of 2020. I remember at the height of the Coronavirus hysteria, my Associate Pastor and I were daily watching the Governor’s press conferences. Oh. My. Goodness. The comments people were writing on social media as the Governor was making her remarks were rude and repulsive. People can be so mean! Seeing those nasty comments gave me some PTSD to some of the worst moments of my pastoral ministry, where I tried to lead, but people didn’t want to follow, and made it verbally known! Yes, people need leadership, but leadership is often very hard. I wish citizens of a state, and saints in the church, would understand this one concept, namely, there are many good paths to walk down, but you can only go down one path at a time…That’s why leadership matters.

Well Prairie Flower, as I said seven years ago (but mean more today), “I love you, and I will lead you.” And in the end, it will be all from His grace and for His glory…