an interview with randy bezet
Creating, and continually evaluating an environment of health for yourself, your team, and your church is so important. We’ve heard many times, healthy things grow. While that is true, it is equally true that toxic things can also grow. Only using growth as a metric of health can be a detriment to the pastor
Is growth the main factor when determining church health?
When pastors think, “healthy things grow,” and their growth is not what they hope for or expect, they can quickly begin to get discouraged. Then they see what other pastors are doing all over social media and discouragement and insecurities can start to creep into your heart. Let’s be honest, nobody posts when things are not going so well. They post the victories. This can give you a false sense of reality.
The first question you generally start to ask yourself is, “Why am I not growing like that? Why am I not seeing the same successes?” In the proper context, these questions can be helpful, but we tend to focus strictly on growth and numbers because we are trained to think that growth is the only sign of health. That isn’t true at all, because unhealthy things grow too.
Growth should be a by-product of being healthy and not necessarily a sign of
What are the things you look for as signs of health for you and your church and what are the things you have in place to promote a healthy lifestyle for yourself and your team?
You have to be healthy in your soul. Jesus said that whatever comes out of the mouth, it gets its start in the heart. You must guard your heart because it’s the wellspring of life. All the issues of life flow out of that. With that said, a healthy soul cannot always easily be identified.
To have a healthy church, you have to have a healthy pastor. To be a healthy pastor, you have to be a healthy person. The metrics for that are hard to define, but we can do our part as leaders and build environments for ourselves, staff, and our leadership team that promotes and celebrates healthy choices and lifestyles. And then each person still has to take personal responsibly and make a choice to be healthy.
First, every pastor needs a place they can go and be completely transparent and honest and not be concerned about being judged. I remember right before I took some time off, I went to my counselor, and I said, “Look, I’m here to dump all this stuff.” I just started spewing everything, and I was overturning every rock in my life to share things with him to make sure I was okay. If you don’t have a safe and healthy place where you can go, then you’re going to internalize those things you shouldn’t. As you internalize these things that may be detrimental to your mental or emotional health, it will impact your soul. This is when unhealthy things grow! So you have to have a safe place.
Second, you have to schedule intentional time to rest. Twice a year we have our pastors and leaders go on a three-day spiritual retreat. This is not a vacation. You don’t go with other people. You’re off by yourself reading or praying. It’s a way for you to get away and spend time with God. It’s the principle of the Sabbath, its resting.
How do you respond to things that you find are not healthy, and make the appropriate changes?
Health is not a destination. It’s a journey. You have to put safeguards in place so that you can have a lifestyle of being healthy. When a dear friend of mine fell into sin, I remember just struggling and asking myself what could I have done differently? Why in the world did this happen to someone so close to me?
I began to have this understanding and revelation that, look, Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, and it was a perfect environment, but they still chose to sin. God is a perfect Father, a perfect leader, a perfect pastor, a perfect shepherd, and yet, the people that he had there still chose to do the
As good of an environment as we can create for ourselves and our team for health, people still have the freedom to choose, and sometimes, wrong choices are made. As a pastor, you can’t take personal responsibility for other people’s wrong choices. You can only create environments and encourage them to make the right choices.
Early on in the life of a church, you might not have the resources to get away for a few weeks to rest, or staff to cover your absence on the weekend. Put yourself in the shoes of a new church planter. What is one thing they need to watch out for at the beginning of their journey?
Comparison. It is probably harder now to stay healthy as a young pastor than it was when I started out. Social media is awesome and a great marketing tool, but man, it just kills you in the comparison game.
We take the exceptions and make them the norm. You see some of these church plants, and they had 500 people at their first service, and they’re launching campuses a year in. And you’re like, “What the heck, man. I’m not doing anything comparable to that.” So you feel like you have to manufacture growth and success because you are comparing yourself to what you see others doing.
If you have to manufacture in the flesh, then you have to maintain it in the flesh. If it’s birthed in the spirit, then God is the one that is responsible for maintaining the growth.
At ARC, our goal is to plant healthy churches and to connect you with others, so you are not doing ministry alone. You need somebody that you can call on the good days, and they will celebrate with you, and you also need somebody you can call that will encourage you when things are not going so well. You have to have those people in your life because that is what maintains health in your life and gives you a
I would also say to the pastors that say, “I can’t take a weekend off, or the church will suffer.” There are a few ways around this as it should never be an excuse. You can always ask somebody to speak for you live or leverage technology and pull a sermon from another church to play that weekend. You must think beyond just one weekend.
Sometimes we only consider “physical rest” and yet we neglect the “mental rest” that might be more important. When you take a Sunday off of preaching, it can provide you a much needed mental rest. When your brain is always running, always processing the next sermon, it can get extremely exhausting. Taking some weekends off from preaching can be a huge win in health for a pastor.
I just came off of sabbatical, and it was very busy. I traveled a lot, did a lot of different activities, had weddings and funerals, celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, and traveled all over Europe. I was physically busy. But mentally, I closed down the window of the church.
I didn’t have that thing running in the background all the time; running staff, solving problems, preparing sermons. I feel so rested and ready to go because I shut down that mental capacity.
My secret to longevity is to keep a good pace. Your church is not going to die because you didn’t speak for one weekend.
Jesus died for the church. You don’t have to.
What is one of the primary indicators in your experience that a fellow pastor or church leader should look for to assess their health, and what would be your advice for those things?
One primary thing to look for is, has a pastor lost his love for people? It’s possible they have been hurt. Pastors can become mad and frustrated at the very people they are looking to reach and disciple. They begin to lose their love for people, and you can see it all over them.
I know for me, when I start prioritizing tasks over people, its an indicator for me I need to check myself.
If I could boil all this down to one thing, the root cause of most of the issues I come across, is a father wound. Many people have father wounds. If it’s true in our society, then its true in our churches. Pastors, leaders, church staff, church planters all potentially are carrying this regardless of their calling.
There are three times where we hear God the Father speaking to His Son on earth, and every time he says the same thing, “this is my son, whom I love, and with Him I am well pleased.”
The thing that we all desire, deep down is a sense of belonging. This has nothing to do with growth metrics, this is a soul issue of understanding our place as God’s children and being secure in that identity. If we can rest in His love, be secure in what He has called us to do, stay in love with Him and His people, health will come.
This creates healthy people, healthy families, healthy pastors, healthy staffs, and at the end of the day healthy churches. When you have healthy people, you have healthy churches, and they will grow.
Randy and Amy Bezet are the Lead Pastors of Bayside Community Church in Bradenton, FL. Bayside Community Church was ARC church plant No. 5. and Randy now serves on the ARC Lead Team. He has a vision to reach people for Christ, raise them to become followers of Christ, and release them to live their God-given purpose. To learn more visit mybayside.church.