Competition can be tempting when two young pastors lead churches less than 10 miles apart. Ministry can quickly become a race to build the largest kids program, market the flashiest worship service and employ the most innovative outreach philosophy.
BR file photo by Steve Cooke
Matt Capps, left, and John Mark Harrison choose to work together, even though their churches are only 10 miles apart. Both pastors created the Young Pastors Network and are working with a young leaders initiative, formed through a partnership of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee and the North American Mission Board.
But that’s not what happened when Matt Capps, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, and John Mark Harrison, pastor of Apex Baptist Church, began ministering down the road from one another.
Cooperation was the result of their proximity, and now they’re encouraging other young pastors in the state to work together too.
Capps and Harrison created the Young Pastors Network in an effort “to connect the next generation of Great Commission-minded Southern Baptist pastors in the state of North Carolina.”
Their goal is to help church leaders build relationships, share resources, learn from one another and talk about how to “steward our future together.”
The idea came as their personal friendship developed.
“John Mark and I encourage and challenge each other,” Capps said in an email to the Biblical Recorder. “One of the benefits of our relationship is that, while we agree on primary theological issues, we have our differences in ministry philosophy.
“One of our desires was to model healthy camaraderie focused on the Great Commission and centered on the common theological framework laid out in the Baptist Faith and Message.”
The network hosts gatherings alongside state convention or national entity events. Their first meeting occurred last November during the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting. It attracted more than 100 young pastors.
They also have smaller, more decentralized meetings. A group of North Carolina pastors recently met for lunch during The Gospel Coalition’s 2017 National Conference in Indianapolis, Ind.
A video conference call April 19 was set up to discuss next steps for the network with several young pastors in North Carolina.
“We don’t need another job,” said Harrison. “We’re not trying to build another big organization or event.”
They want the group to be a network in the truest sense. “Organized and organic” is how they describe it.
Capps and Harrison also hope to see more young pastors get involved in denominational life.
Capps said, “Southern Baptist structures are part and parcel to our mission as a body, namely, to combine the efforts of autonomous churches for ‘one sacred effort,’ the propagation of the gospel.”
The pair discovered at the inaugural Young Pastors Network event that many of the attendees had never been to the state convention’s annual meeting. In addition, when they asked where the group of pastors went to find ministry resources, very few of them named the state convention. Young pastors also expressed a desire to receive training on the basics of denominational practices and entities.
“In other words, many of the young pastors are not connected to the work of the associations or the state convention,” Capps said. “They are, however, engaged with entities like the seminaries, the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board. We have some things to figure out, some work to do.”
Harrison said feedback on the first gathering was positive.
Despite feeling somewhat disconnected from Southern Baptist entities, the group of young pastors told him they were excited to “participate and add value” in a conversation about denominational life.
“It is imperative that we encourage and involve the next generation in Southern Baptist life. The generations before us passed the baton well, so we want to make sure we do not drop it. The work of the Southern Baptist Convention will not be complete until our King returns. Until then, we must steward our resources well, and proclaim the gospel of salvation in North Carolina and to the ends of the earth.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Matt Capps and John Mark Harrison are also advisory council members of a young leaders initiative, formed through a partnership of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee and the North American Mission Board.)