SUWANEE, GA – Georgia Baptists and Georgia Baptist pastors need to know Chris Reynolds, the new lead strategist for the state Mission Board's pastor wellness team, and they need to understand that he and his colleagues are ready to help when personal or vocational challenges and crises arise.
The Lord prepared Reynolds for his current role in Christian service by saving him at a youth retreat at Epworth by the Sea on St. Simons Island in 1978 and confirmed his call into the ministry in 1990 while serving as a part-time youth minister in Hahira, Georgia. He has served in multiple areas of ministry over the last 33 years, including 20 years at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Georgia.
Reynolds and his wife, Gayle, have been married for 34 years and have two children, Dallas, and Davis and three grandchildren, Chase, Claire, and Carly.
When Reynolds became the pastor at Mt. Zion, he realized the congregation had three options:
-- Do nothing and die,
-- Sell the property, move to where everyone else was moving, and relocate the church,
-- Stay in the same location and transition the church from a ministry to a missionary mindset.
Reynolds led the church to become a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-generational congregation with over 600 baptisms during his tenure as pastor.
“During those years, we faced spiritual, social, legal, and economic challenges," he said. "We were also able to meet people from all over the world and all walks of life and see many come to know Christ and grow in their faith.
“While they learned, my family and I also learned. The choice to stay and become missionaries taught us how to adapt, communicate, and embrace people outside of our narrow world. I believe our experience at Mt. Zion equipped us for Pastor Wellness.
Reynolds continued, “Walking with people who gave up their dreams so others could know Christ has a profound effect on what is valued. Watching people do whatever it takes to overcome the church’s deep financial challenges teaches you to persevere. Waiting with people who are joyfully scrimping and saving to bring their family to America makes you appreciate the beauty of sacrifice.
“Weeping with people over senseless tragedy makes you more keenly committed to loving your neighbor. The experiences gained at Mt. Zion allow me to walk confidently beside those serving our Georgia Baptist churches in many different contexts.”
Brady Howard, senior pastor of Glen Haven Baptist Church in McDonough, said Reynolds' position at the Mission Board "is crucial" for the 42% of pastors who seriously consider walking away from ministry every year.
"This statistic is alarming," Howard said. "The call to ministry is a call to die to self. There are times when pastors become discouraged and isolated and the temptation to quit seems appealing. Chris has been one of the greatest sources of encouragement, friendship, and wise counsel in my life. The pastor wellness ministry of the GBMB has not only blessed pastors, but it has saved marriages, blessed families, and individual churches of the state of Georgia through the watch care that has been given to our pastors. My marriage is better, and our church is better because of Chris and the pastor wellness ministry.”
Tim Vanlandingham, mission strategist in the Bowen Baptist Association, said Reynolds is "uniquely gifted by the Holy Spirit" for his role at the Mission Board.
"His ‘work’ isn’t just a job, nor is it just a part of his life; it is who he is in Christ," Vanlandingham said. "He is truly a partner in the work of the gospel. I can call, text, or even email him and he is ‘Johnny-on-the-spot’ ready to serve. He has been a blessing to the pastors, staff, and churches of Bowen association and to my wife, Brenda, and me.”
Reynolds said he and his team seek to be there for pastors in times of need.
“It is a great privilege to serve the called by just listening, by showing them their value in God’s plan, to remind them of a scripture they often already know, or to provide an available resource for comfort or guide them,” he said.
The lead pastor wellness strategist offered some salient suggestions to help churches keep their pastors from experiencing physical fatigue, emotional stress and vocation burnout that often plagues those in ministry.
"Pastors and their families need the support of their congregations," he said. "Just as Moses needed the support of Aaron and Hur in his life, pastors and their families need the support of modern-day Aarons and Hurs in their lives.
“First, pray for your pastor. Jeremiah 3:15 says, ‘And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.’ Your pastor and his family are a gift from God. Prayer is an activity that every member of the church can participate in daily. Pray specifically for his family, his wisdom, his daily walk with God, his strength, his health, and his fight against discouragement.
“Second, Avoid heavy conversation before the worship service. Prior to entering the pulpit, your pastor does not want to avoid you, but he does need to stay focused on the task of delivering God’s Word. Therefore, he does not need to get weighed down in a deep or controversial conversation.
“Your information/situation is important to him, so save important conversations that will require his full attention for a time when he can focus on you and the issue. What would be helpful? A pleasant greeting followed by, ‘I would like to speak with you about ‘XYZ.’ I will contact you this week to set up a time to talk.’
“Third, Talk to him, not about him. Heed the teaching of Matthew 18 as it exhorts us to first address a person one on one. If you have an issue with your pastor, talk to him — not about him to others. Your pastor and his family carry a heavy load, and gossip about them only increases the burdens they carry. God has entrusted the spiritual well-being of your congregation to your pastor. And, at some point, you voted overwhelmingly to bestow that trust on him.
“Fourth, Stay current on IRS laws regarding compensation. Dr. O.S. Hawkins, former president of Southern Baptists’ Guidestone Financial Resources, stated, ‘Many churches could give their pastor a raise, and it would not cost the church an extra dime.’ What a fantastic way to bless your pastor! As you bless him, God will bless your church.’”
Reynolds urged pastors to call him and his team.
"Don’t delay," he said. "It is our vocation and our avocation to serve and strengthen our pastors and the churches they serve. What may seem like a burden to some is a blessing to us. Our team has been fitted by God and strengthened by experience to walk beside our pastors and congregations during a variety of circumstances. We are here to serve you.”
Reynolds and his wife, Gayle, have been married for 34 years and have two children, Dallas (married to Russell Hazelrig), and Davis and three grandchildren, Chase, Claire, and Carly.
Visit the pastor wellness website at: www.gabaptist.org/pastorwellness