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Vital Signs Highlight: Pastor JD Montgomery Part Two

Vital Signs Highlight: Pastor JD Montgomery Part Two

VITAL SIGNS HIGHLIGHT: PASTOR JD MONTGOMERY PT. 2

What is Vital Signs?

Vital Signs tells the story of Pastors who have led (or are currently leading) a church through a process of revitalization.  We place a spotlight on the challenges they faced, the victories that were achieved, and the life that has returned to their church.

We trust their stories will encourage YOU in what you’re doing for the Kingdom of God.

 

This time, we interviewed Pastor JD Montgomery from New Life AG in Barnett, Missouri. This is part two. Enjoy.

 

13. What do you wish you would have known (or someone would have told you) when you started? 

We have worked alongside many great pastors and leaders over the years, serving in all capacities from Sunday School teachers to Board Members.  Therefore, we thought we understood everything when it comes to ministry. Further, certainly the leaders had tried to prepare us, but one cannot understand the significance of the love and responsibility that comes with being a pastor leading a flock of God’s people.  All roles are important and necessary, but we had underestimated the immense pressure (sometimes self-inflicted) that we would feel.

 

14. What do you see as being the key to seeing things turn around here?    

We believe the key is trusting God and knowing that all things have a season.  Just as the seasons change from summer to autumn, autumn to winter, winter to spring, and spring to summer, the church (His people) go through the same changes/transitions.  Helping people to understand that transition, helping them the signs to look for, and being willing to close one season to experience the next is so vital to growing a church.  Also, it is important to teach people that God sometimes changes everything around us so we can experience Him in a new way.  Teaching them to recognize the signs and being willing to move through the seasons of life with grace made all the difference in the world.

 

15. What would you say is the turning point or maybe several turning points to get to where you are now?

The turning point really came early on when we recognized that we were not like any other church.  God made us unique and provided an opportunity unlike any other.  We began to see that God was pleased with the people who had been so dedicated and committed to keeping this congregation together and that He would use that foundation to continue to build “His” church.  When people in the community began to talk about the excitement and energy coming from our church, we knew God’s plan was in order.

 

 

16. When was the time you started to feel, “Hey, this is going to work?” 

We wonder if that is really a comfort that should be afforded us as pastors.  It’s only going to work if God is in it.  The success here at New Life is not dependent on Toni and I.  We are trusting that God said it would work if we remain humble and committed to him.  We know that he loves this community and wants to do great things in people’s lives.

 

17. What resource would you recommend to another pastor who may be looking at the idea of taking on a church like yours?

We would recommend that you find direction and peace in your heart from the Scriptures before taking on a work.  Years ago, a pastor gave me a book titled A Tale of Three Kings.  That book has been so instrumental in my life in helping me understand that hurt is not isolated to just outside the walls of the church building.  Hurt happens within the church, and we need to find a way to allow God to heal and minister to that hurt.  My father once told me that a man should consider counsel in all situations.  Our own counsel or pastoral leadership is a resource that we leverage often.  It’s important to find people who have been successful and glean from them what we can.  Someone that has never led a troubled church back to Christ cannot tell you how to do it.  We need people who have walked the road and won.  They have the wisdom to help you succeed.

18. What was your biggest fear as a pastor? 

We have not lived in a lot of fear.  As a young man, I was concerned that I would ever have enough to say 52 weeks out of the year.  That was fear in my life, but having a successful career in the business world taught me much about being prepared and leveraging my experience to share God’s plan.  We pray daily that God will find us faithful and diligent about His calling, but we don’t fear failure.  We fear the wrath of God that finds us slothful or lazy in our stewardship of His calling and His work.

 

19.  What is your biggest hope for your church? 

We hope that God will continue to find favor in us as a church body and that we can reach the hurting and lost people in our community.  So many children, young people, and seniors alike are hurting deeply.  They are searching for an eternal hope and peace in their lives.  We want more than anything to be a place of refuge for them.  We want to see real change and see people experience the fullness of a relationship with Jesus.

 

20. What is the one habit that has helped you as a pastor? 

Loving people.  Pastor Roger Perkin told me once that you don’t have to be a good preacher; you just have to love people.  We assumed that was because we were not really good at preaching.  We have found that God has given us the ability to be loving, and we are thankful that He taught us through His life and leadership how to be sincere and transparent with people.

 

21. Who has been your champion (encourager)? 

There are so many that it is difficult to mention them all.  We have had some of the greatest leaders and pastors in the world.  We grew up under CW Quattlebaum who loved us and adopted us into his family.  He taught me the importance of door-to-door witnessing and the urge to see people radically changed.  As teenagers, we were led by George Westlake III who provided rich and deep learning of the Scriptures and married us.  As newlyweds, we served as youth pastors under Charles Taff.  As parents of two little boys, we learned to love under the leadership of Roger Perkin and Jack Blansit.  We learned to lead and dream big under John Martz who helped to plant a vision in our hearts.  Our friendship with Curtis and Cindy Washam and Dave and Robyn Cross has been unfailing.  They have believed in us and encouraged us to take the challenge and trust God.  Matthew and Cara King, Joe and Shelly Brooks, Edwinta and Gus Naranjo, Kevin and Tiffany Hamel, Ronda Amer and Tracy, and Jeff Mehan have been amazing friends in our lives.  The list could go on and on as we are truly blessed beyond measure.

JD MONTGOMERY

JD MONTGOMERY

LEAD PASTOR, NEW LIFE AG, BARNETT, MO

Pastor JD is devoted to seeing the local church thrive and stand boldly for the cause of Christ. His heart for God and people is evident in his leadership and messages at New Life. His mission is to change the landscape of “ministry” and “church” by challenging generations to rise up and live life fully in Christ.

Before answering the call to full-time ministry, Pastor JD spent more than 30 years of his life as an executive in the Kansas City area for one of the nation’s largest financial institutions. Leading people and boldly declaring the truth have been key factors to his success. He believes God has used him in diverse areas and specifically prepared him for such a time as this at New Life.

Pastor JD has been married to his childhood sweetheart, Toni, for more than 30 years. They have two grown, successful sons — Jonathan and Jordan.

JD MONTGOMERY

JD MONTGOMERY

LEAD PASTOR, NEW LIFE AG, BARNETT, MO

Pastor JD is devoted to seeing the local church thrive and stand boldly for the cause of Christ. His heart for God and people is evident in his leadership and messages at New Life. His mission is to change the landscape of “ministry” and “church” by challenging generations to rise up and live life fully in Christ.

Before answering the call to full-time ministry, Pastor JD spent more than 30 years of his life as an executive in the Kansas City area for one of the nation’s largest financial institutions. Leading people and boldly declaring the truth have been key factors to his success. He believes God has used him in diverse areas and specifically prepared him for such a time as this at New Life.

Pastor JD has been married to his childhood sweetheart, Toni, for more than 30 years. They have two grown, successful sons — Jonathan and Jordan.

Vital Signs Highlight: Pastor JD Montgomery Part One

Vital Signs Highlight: Pastor JD Montgomery Part One

VITAL SIGNS HIGHLIGHT: PASTOR JD MONTGOMERY PT. 1

What is Vital Signs?

Vital Signs tells the story of Pastors who have led (or are currently leading) a church through a process of revitalization.  We place a spotlight on the challenges they faced, the victories that were achieved, and the life that has returned to their church.

We trust their stories will encourage YOU in what you’re doing for the Kingdom of God.

 

This week, we interviewed Pastor JD Montgomery from New Life AG in Barnett, Missouri. This is part one. Enjoy.

1. What were the conditions/circumstances when you arrived?  

When Toni and I began our call at New Life, there were approximately 35 faithful people attending on Sundays and 12-15 on Wednesday evenings. The building (38,000 sq. ft.) was in a declining condition, zero dollars in the bank account, and the church owed over $6,000.00 in back payments to the utilities.  The mortgage payment was more than the church could pay, and they truly faced a decision to close the doors or expect a miracle from God.

 

2. What were you thinking as you came there as the new pastor? 

We were thankful that God had opened a door for us, but were unsure if we had walked through the right door.  We were full of hope and expectation of what God could do in this next season of our life.  The church itself was in a season of change and desperately needed some guidance navigating through the change.

 

3. What did you do first?

We did what had been taught to by the many pastors that shaped our lives over the years—we listened and we loved.  We fell in love with the people—their dedication, faith, commitment to the community, and desire to serve God with or without a brick and mortar building.

4. What were peoples’ reaction at first to the “new guy?” 

There were probably some who did not understand our approach or maybe didn’t trust us.  The majority, however, responded to the love we had for them and the love they had for God and His work in the city and community of Barnett.

 

5. What did you envision happening in your first year?

In accepting this opportunity, we were very clear with God that we would do all we could to serve Him, love the church and provide biblical direction for it members. We also surrendered the financial needs of the church to God.  The wonderful thing about God is that, when you trust Him, He provides.  Far too many times, we have witnessed leaders trying to do great work, but not trusting God to do His part.  We often find ourselves trying to supplement His responsibilities, and that is never good.  God isn’t in a tug-of-war game with us for His provisions.  When we understand our roles, He will live up to His part of the deal.

Therefore, in the first year, we planted the vision God provided to us and worked to ensure everyone understood what our purpose was.  We were there to reach the lost, teach them, and then prepare them for ministry.  It was part of a conversation we had every day.

6. What was your most significant challenge in that first year of pastoring this church?

The most significant challenge we faced was obviously the finances. However, we determined that would not be our problem.  We asked God to take care of that, and He did.  We were challenged with getting the people to believe that God had not forsaken them and that the work here in our community was not finished.  God purposed this as a place of worship, and His commitment had not changed.

 

7.  How did you break that mentality?

To change this mentality, we leveraged something that Brother Stan Welch said to me early on in the journey. He said “you get what you preach.”  That may be my version of what I heard, but it was close. As a result, I often spoke about change and accepting change.  Truly, it’s our responsibility as Christians to see how God can use anything and anyone for His glory.  We sometimes believe that because He said He was the same yesterday, today and forever, that He can’t use new methods or non-traditional ways.  That limits our God!  Think of how the Old Testament church felt about Him.  They didn’t like His methods and didn’t understand His ways.  That didn’t mean He could not raise folks from the dead, heal the broken-hearted, or come up out of that tomb.  He still did it, and, whether we like His methods or not, He will do it today.  Our call is to learn to love all worship and non-traditional deliveries of the Word and to understand that every good and perfect gift comes from Him.

 

8. Did you ever feel like quitting?

We never really talked about quitting.  Now, we wondered at times if this was truly our calling.  We even asked God that question.  We sought counsel from our peers and our pastors.  We have never been quitters; so we knew in our hearts we would not give up.  We set in our mind that God would use every trial and tribulation to not just change the people but change our hearts and cause us to love and lead them.

 

9. Why didn’t you quit?

 It was our passion.  God had called us, and He had provided and continues to provide for us in so many ways.  We came to ministry out of the corporate business world, spending years serving in large financial organizations that taught us the value of learning, changing, leading and following.  We determined in our hearts, that until it was clear that God was moving us on, we were going to stay. We were “in it to win it.”

10. What have you learned about yourself in this process?

We learned that we are persistent and capable of loving far beyond what we thought possible.  God had birthed in us a desire for the lost to know Him, and the saved to experience Him and serve Him.  We learned that we are servants in a mighty kingdom serving the Master Who loves His people.

 

11.  What have you learned about your church through this process? 

We learned that God sent us the best of the best—those who have been saved from their past, those who have been hurt in church, those who have been spiritually bankrupt, and those who have been emotionally damaged. God sent them all for us to love and lead.  We learned that this is the church, and they are strong, they are good, and they are our partners in the journey to glory.

 

12.  What did you learn about ministry?

I learned that ministry is a great, high calling and that God, long before we knew it, had placed a gift in us.  We learned that, because of this gift, much is accounted of us and that we must do all we can with what we have to seek first His kingdom.  We learned that the 33 years we worked as financial management executives in two of the largest firms in the world was training for this ultimate calling.

JD MONTGOMERY

JD MONTGOMERY

LEAD PASTOR, NEW LIFE AG, BARNETT, MO

Pastor JD is devoted to seeing the local church thrive and stand boldly for the cause of Christ. His heart for God and people is evident in his leadership and messages at New Life. His mission is to change the landscape of “ministry” and “church” by challenging generations to rise up and live life fully in Christ.

Before answering the call to full-time ministry, Pastor JD spent more than 30 years of his life as an executive in the Kansas City area for one of the nation’s largest financial institutions. Leading people and boldly declaring the truth have been key factors to his success. He believes God has used him in diverse areas and specifically prepared him for such a time as this at New Life.

Pastor JD has been married to his childhood sweetheart, Toni, for more than 30 years. They have two grown, successful sons — Jonathan and Jordan.

JD MONTGOMERY

JD MONTGOMERY

LEAD PASTOR, NEW LIFE AG, BARNETT, MO

Pastor JD is devoted to seeing the local church thrive and stand boldly for the cause of Christ. His heart for God and people is evident in his leadership and messages at New Life. His mission is to change the landscape of “ministry” and “church” by challenging generations to rise up and live life fully in Christ.

Before answering the call to full-time ministry, Pastor JD spent more than 30 years of his life as an executive in the Kansas City area for one of the nation’s largest financial institutions. Leading people and boldly declaring the truth have been key factors to his success. He believes God has used him in diverse areas and specifically prepared him for such a time as this at New Life.

Pastor JD has been married to his childhood sweetheart, Toni, for more than 30 years. They have two grown, successful sons — Jonathan and Jordan.

Vital Signs Highlight: Pastor Chris Gray Part Two

Vital Signs Highlight: Pastor Chris Gray Part Two

Vital Signs Highlight: Pastor Chris Gray Part Two

What is Vital Signs?

Vital Signs tells the story of Pastors who have led (or are currently leading) a church through a process of revitalization.  We place a spotlight on the challenges they faced, the victories that were achieved, and the life that has returned to their church.

We trust their stories will encourage YOU in what you’re doing for the Kingdom of God.

 

This week, we interviewed Pastor Chris Gray from Bethel Assembly in Sedalia, Missouri. This is part two. Enjoy.

 

13. What would you say is the turning point or maybe several turning points to get to where you are now?

There were three keys to turning this ship around.

1. Building community – When I first arrived here at Bethel Assembly, the congregation did not know one another. Church was a place that you came in and left, but not really a place to build relationships and live life together.  He had to take the necessary measures to build relationships with one another.

2. Promote missions – We had to come to the place that we realized that missions (local and world-wide), was the heartbeat of God. We took the time to bring in missionaries of all types just to help us grasp the Go or the Great Commission.  We have really seen this jump to the next level.  From 4 missionaries/Missions projects (1/2 support coming from general fund) to 54 missionaries/missions projects (100% from church body)

3. Community connection – In a town of 20,000 virtually no one knew where Bethel Assembly was. We took the time to connect with schools, join the chamber of commerce, meet key leaders, and simply become a presence in the community.

 

14. When was the time you started to feel, “Hey, this is going to work?”

I do not remember a single point in time.  My personality is a “we will make this happen” type personality.

 

15. What resource would you recommend to another pastor who may be looking at the idea of taking on a church like yours?

For those in rural communities, connection with rural compassion is a must.  This has assisted us in connecting with our community.  It has really opened up doors that otherwise may never have opened!

 

16. What was your biggest fear as a pastor?

There has never really been a moment of fear!

 

17. What is your biggest hope for your church?

My hope for Bethel Assembly is that, as a church, we continue to keep the focus on reaching the lost for the kingdom of God and building disciples.  As we reach work to achieve these goals, we will see not only numeric growth but also spiritual growth for the church.

18. What is the one habit that has helped you as a pastor?

Connection:  Connection with my congregation, Connection with other pastors, connection in the community.

 

19. Who has been your champion (encourager)?

Pastor Don Miller and Jerry Harris have been my best encouragers.

 

20. What has been the most difficult person you have dealt with as a pastor?

The individual that is set in the 1980s that has no desire to push forward.  They always seem to think that the 80s were the best time…so let’s there.  This causes difficulty because they are against anything and everything that even resembles change.

 

21. What’s next for your church?

We are going to continue to push forward.  This fall, we are really shaking things up.  We are reimplementing life groups again.  This is going to be an all-church endeavor.  We are pushing forward with major changes.  We believe that this is going to help us go to the next level and push past the 300-attendance mark.  We are also doing several things to build connection among the congregation.

 

22. What’s next for you? (growth goals for you individually)

I am currently pushing myself to learn new leadership skills.  I am reading books, listening to podcasts, and soon connecting with some pastors that are at the next level as a church.  The more that I learn, the more that I believe it will greatly impact the church I lead.

 

23. Would you do it again?

ABSOLUTELY!

CHRIS GRAY

CHRIS GRAY

LEAD PASTOR, BETHEL ASSEMBLY, SEDALIA, MO

Chris Gray serves as Lead Pastor for Bethel Assembly in Sedalia, MO. 
CHRIS GRAY

CHRIS GRAY

LEAD PASTOR, BETHEL ASSEMBLY, SEDALIA, MO

Chris Gray serves as Lead Pastor for Bethel Assembly in Sedalia, MO. 
Vital Signs Highlight: Pastor Chris Gray Pt. One

Vital Signs Highlight: Pastor Chris Gray Pt. One

Vital Signs Highlight: Pastor Chris Gray

What is Vital Signs?

Vital Signs tells the story of Pastors who have led (or are currently leading) a church through a process of revitalization.  We place a spotlight on the challenges they faced, the victories that were achieved, and the life that has returned to their church.

We trust their stories will encourage YOU in what you’re doing for the Kingdom of God.

 

This week, we interviewed Pastor Chris Gray from Bethel Assembly in Sedalia, Missouri. Enjoy.

 

1. What were the conditions/circumstances when you arrived?

Bethel Assembly’s average attendance was 78 for the Sunday morning worship service.  The church was not outwardly focused at all.  They supported four missionary/missions projects.  The problem that I had with this was that approximately half of the missions giving was coming from the general fund and not from the heart of the people.  There were also no community outreach opportunities.  They were at a place of “take care of my four, and we are good.”  The other issue that we quickly discovered is the fact that even though the average attendance was 78, they did not know one another at all.  There was no sense of community.  Church was something that you just came in and did, and then went home.

 

2. What were you thinking as you came there as the new pastor?

This was a huge transition.  I came from a large church of almost 900 with a staff of seven pastors and five support staff.  When I started, I was the only staff and attendance was averaging 78.  This took some adjustment on my part to get used to the change.  However, I never treated the church as if it were 78. I continued to treat it as if it was a large church.

 

3. What did you do first?

The very first thing that we did was take the time to discover who we were as a church and where we were headed.  We had only been at Bethel Assembly for a couple of months, when we took the time on a Sunday night to process with the congregation who we were and where we were headed.  I took the time to ask a myriad of questions to define our core values, mission, and vision.  If we did not know where we were and where we were headed, we would not see any progression.  The next major thing that we did was hold a month-long missions emphasis.  This took place six months after our arrival.  I really felt that the people needed to grab a hold of the heart of God, which is reaching the world for Jesus Christ.

 

4. What were people’s reaction at first to this new guy?

There were a lot of mixed reviews.  There were those that wanted something new to take place.  They saw the need for change.  Yet, there were also those that were happy with how things were and saw no need for change.  Some were very excited about the new life that was taking place.  They were eager to step in and make it happen, but there were still those that were quick to make it known to me that this is not how they have done it before.  As a pastor friend once told me, “Eventually, you will make everybody happy.  Half when you arrive and half when you leave.”

 

5. What did you envision happening in your first year?

I did not come in with any preconceived thoughts, but I knew that change was vital.  I had to take some time to evaluate what was happening.  Once evaluation was made, I began to implement the needed infrastructure to get us to a starting place.  Once this was established, we began to move toward connectedness, missions, and outreach.

6. What was your most significant challenge in that first year of pastoring?

My biggest challenge in the first year was probably handling the small minority of people that were content to stay the same way forever.  However, I knew that God had called us to Sedalia; therefore our focus could not be those that were content, but on that which God was instructing us to accomplish for His Kingdom.

 

7. How did you break that mentality?

I kept stating and restating the vision, mission, and core values of the church.  By keeping this idea in front of them and consistently implementing them into action, they soon discovered that I, as well as my leadership team, were serious about pressing forward.

 

8. Did you ever feel like quitting?

No!  I truly believe that if God called me, how can I quit.  Does that mean it is always easy?  Absolutely not!  There are times when you get that seven-page letter of everything that you are doing wrong, or you have that person that questions everything that you do.  But, it is in those times that you simply step back and once again give it to God.  Each time, He has proved himself faithful.

9. What have you learned about yourself in this process?

I have a lot to learn and I need to surround myself with quality people that know how to make things happen (or are at least willing to give it their best effort).  I also understand that I need people speaking into my life.  I need other guys that I can call and just bounce things off of from time to time.  Ministry is not an island adventure.  I can’t possibly accomplish the task that God has set before me all by myself!  It takes a team to move forward with the calling that God

 

10. What have you learned about your church through this process?

Our church is an ever-changing organism that requires continuous evaluation and leading in order to remain on the correct path and moving forward.  It is easy to become comfortable and just settle in.  We must continuously be reminder of the why we do what we do.  We must continuously refresh ourselves with the mission/vision that God has given for this church.  If we fail to do this, we will never achieve the goal that lies ahead.

 

11. What did you learn about ministry?

Teamwork is vital!  A pastor is not called to do it alone.

 

12. What do you see as being the key to seeing things turn around here?

Getting the focus off of self and on to those outside of our doors.  I truly believe that our growth is all attributed to the fact that we are now giving monthly to literally over 1000% more missionaries than we were 6 years ago.  We are also investing in our community which was not taking place 6 years ago.  When we grab ahold of the great commandment and apply the great commission, it is amazing what God will do!

 

CHRIS GRAY

CHRIS GRAY

LEAD PASTOR, BETHEL ASSEMBLY, SEDALIA, MO

Chris Gray serves as Lead Pastor for Bethel Assembly in Sedalia, MO. 

CHRIS GRAY

CHRIS GRAY

LEAD PASTOR, BETHEL ASSEMBLY, SEDALIA, MO

Chris Gray serves as Lead Pastor for Bethel Assembly in Sedalia, MO. 

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