By David Elms
“The main reason that our church has grown,” states Henry Rose, “is because of the burden of our pastor. He has told us many times that God has specifically called him to the city of Houston. This is his burden. Behind Brother Kilgore is a tremendous group of people who are willing to be led. Pastor Kilgore is successful,” continues Henry Rose, “in leading people because he always respects other people. He has a way with people because he is very compassionate. His love comes through to us. He has a God-given insight. Many times he has expressed the words that were needed without knowing the specific problems that were present. Every time Pastor Kilgore gets into the pulpit, there is that love. Many have been the times that, he has began to preach when he was physically exhausted, but the Lord has given him strength and the compassion still comes through to us.”
As a young man, Rev. James Kilgore traveled throughout the United States with his father, Evangelist C.P. Kilgore. Many nights the Kilgore family slept in the car, by the side of the road, as they made their way from one revival to the next. Young James observed Pentecostal churches during the 1940’s and the 1950’s and believed that they could be organized much better and be much larger in size. He believed that a church could grow large and still not compromise the old paths of Godly living and holiness.
When Rev. Kilgore went to Houston, over eighteen years ago, the Sunday morning attendance was averaging in the seventies. The church began pushing for one hundred. When one goal was reached, another one was set. The records tumbled, one after another, until now the houses on an entire block have been purchased to obtain the needed space. Life Tabernacle averaged over 1300 in Sunday School last year and Rev. Kilgore is looking toward 2000 as a realistic goal for the near future.
One of the basic requirements for growth is that the leadership must have a burning desire to grow. Nothing will come about by accident, and nothing is accomplished overnight. It is the product of desire being transformed into a plan of action, which is then carried out until the goal is reached. The leadership must maintain a restless urgency that will not allow him to become satisfied with past accomplishments. It will keep him looking at the vast untouched fields instead of at the pile of grain in the barn.
The pastor must always give positive direction to his people. It takes a lot of prayer, faith, patience and preaching. The pastor must have a large capacity for trial and error in his character. One must not be afraid to try new and different things and then, if they are not working or meeting the need, be so married to them that he feels they must continue. If a plan or program is not working, “Why cumbereth it the ground!” Brother Kilgore believes the pastor should not be afraid to change it or to eliminate it and seek God for guidance in determining what should be done to meet the
need that exists.
One of the reasons that many churches do not grow is because they become self-satisfied. Growth always brings with it certain growing pains. Buildings must be built, buses bought and repaired, finances raised and numerous other projects which drain a minister physically and mentally. Numerous adjustments must be made and inconveniences endured in order to meet the demands of growth. Ministers and churches, who do not have a vision, that permeates their being to the point that all the problems can be overcome, will not be willing to pay the price for growth. Pastors must be exposed to the challenges of reaching their cities for Jesus. They must be exposed to progress. For a preacher to maintain that restless desire, he must allow himself to be plowed up by God’s Word and be constantly renewed in God’s Spirit.
Pastor Kilgore pointed out that if a minister is the pastor of people who are not driven by a burden to reach the lost, he should search out key people. Through these, he can transmit his own vision and enthusiasm. He should teach these key people to pray and to love the lost and to be excited about the Work of God. These qualities are contagious and as the key people become inspired, before long, the whole body of believers will begin to vibrate under the influence of a burden for the lost.
Pastor Kilgore states, “The Pentecostal churches have a great advantage over the old-line denominational churches. They must rely on outstanding organization and programs. We Pentecostals can use both organization and God-inspired programs plus having the beautiful move of God’s Spirit to give proper motivation. We will never allow programs to interfere with the glorious ‘sudden interruptions’ of God’s Spirit, moving in our worship services. New methods and ideas can be used but the old message of salvation never changes. God’s plan of salvation, preached by the Apostole Peter on the Day of Pentecost, found in Acts 2:38, still does the job in the 1970’s.”
Rev. Kilgore does not move quick when introducing a new method. He will present an idea to the leaders in the church and allow time to pass before making a decision on the matter. He feels that sometimes a pastor will take the proverbial “bull by the horns” and become too determined to go ahead, not caring what anyone thinks. Due to his stubborn attitude, the work of God is hindered. Human nature has the need of being considered and consulted. It is a mark of progress to be willing to wait awhile and counsel with the people. To be open for advice, on certain phases of the
work is wisdom. When it concerns spiritual decisions and situations, and Pastor Kilgore knows he has direction from the Lord, he will tell his people and they are ready and willing to follow because of the confidence they have in his leadership and dedication to God.
Life Tabernacle has used many methods in endeavoring to reach the Houston area with the power of Pentecost. Music halls have been rented for gospel concerts, the outdoor Miller Theatre in Sam Houston Park has also been used. Billboards and newspaper ads have been purchased. Street rallies have been conducted with a movable platform in different areas of Houston. There is a constant search for new ways to reach the unsaved thousands. Pastor Kilgore believes that smaller churches, instead of waiting until they get larger, should go ahead and advertise as much as possible. It can be on a smaller scale which will fit into the budget but it needs to be done. Before Life Tabernacle ever advertised on billboards and in the large newspapers, they were in the neighborhood newspapers. Instead of waiting for the “brighter day,” Bro. Kilgore advises, “Do it now.”
The bus ministry has been one of the most effective methods of reaching families. The Search for Truth Home Bible Study series have also proven to be a tremendous help in bringing people to full Bible salvation. The diverse methods of proclaiming the gospel are endless.
The Will of God
Every minister must find the will of God and stay in it. If he knows he is in the will of God, he will have a positive attitude. There will not arise any obstacle that cannot be overcome. Rev. Kilgore states, “It is not the power of positive thinking as much as it is the power of Holy Ghost thinking!” If a man will live in the Acts of the Apostles long enough, he will have a right attitude. In that book is the attitude of the men who walked with Jesus and their viewpoint is clearly revealed in what they did and said.
For a church to be continually growing and expanding its ministries, the burden for the lost and the responsibility to the world must be constantly injected into it’s bloodstream. Only as we become slave to that burden will we fulfill its requirements. If a church can cast it off lightly, that church will stagnate and eventually perish unless a new vision is obtained. The pastor must keep his people praying and fasting to insure that they do not lose their vision. A month should not go by without renewing of individual devotion and a binding together of the church to seek after the
Taking a New Pastorate
Rev. Kilgore believes that a minister who is accepting the pastorate of an established work should not expect a revolution in six months. Usually a couple of years pass before he is really the leader of the flock. He should pray for wisdom daily. His first goal should be to lead the people into a deep spiritual walk with God. A minister should give at least two years for his leadership to bind his people into the unity of the Spirit. “Many preachers,” stated Bro. Kilgore, “fail at this point. There will be a measure of success and appreciation in those first months, but people, unconsciously, look for certain qualities in a leader and they watch him. If a man will be faithful for two years and build a foundation all of that time, gaining the respect and confidence of the people, I can almost
promise you that he would be the true spiritual leader of those people and they would follow him. He would not have to ask for authority, they would give it to him. Some ministers want to go in and have success overnight. This is a mistake because confidence and respect is not demanded, it is earned. A minister can demand it only after he has earned it.” Pastor Kilgore believes in some instances where a deep respect for the ministry has been instilled into the hearts of the people, they will allow a new pastor to become their spiritual leader much quicker. True spiritual leadership is built on confidence and respect and a certain amount of time must pass before they will grow in the hearts of the people.
On his first Sunday night as pastor, Bro. Kilgore told the small congregation at Life Tabernacle some of the dreams he had for the church. He preached to them about a church that would be strong enough to inspire, to train and to send forth laborers into the harvest fields. He told them that he would not be satisfied until the church throbbed with young people. Only one young person heard Bro. Kilgore dream in faith that night. He said he would not be satisfied until the church as a whole was in love with Jesus Christ. He was a dreamer then and those initial dreams have all come
true but he is not about to stop dreaming now. One of the preachers who has been sent out from Life Tabernacle is Rev. Dick McCreight, now pastoring in Lubbock, Texas. Under his leadership, Peace Tabernacle has become one of the fastest growing Pentecostal churches in America. Pastor Kilgore said, “Dick had the highest respect for his pastor of anyone I have ever known. He took rebuke well and never complained. He was totally involved in the whole work of the church. He proved himself in every way.” It all started in the mind and dreams of young James Kilgore as he set his sights high to do a work for the Lord.
Depth of Worship
A church must be led to a point of spirituality for spontaneous worship to be a natural happening in church services. It takes a lot of preaching and a lot of encouraging when it comes to worship. When people have faith, it produces many things. They begin to believe God for anything. In that kind of atmosphere and frame of mind, there is spontaneous worship. Many churches lack a depth of worship. Their worship rises and falls too quickly. It takes a lot of prayer meetings and teaching. “There must be,” points out Bro. Kilgore, “times of lingering in the presence of the Lord. When a church reaches that beautiful depth of worship and does not hurry away from it, they are touching heaven.” Many times the people at Life Tabernacle will remain around the altar for thirty minutes or an hour in the afterglow of a great service. Pastor Kilgore encourages this waiting on God and worshipping and praying one for another as the presence of the Lord lingers near.
For a church to develop an awareness of missions around the world, Rev. Kilgore indicates that the pastor himself must carry a burden for missions and it will come through to the people. He was brought up under a pioneering evangelist who practiced and taught sacrifice. For a church to give sacrificially to spread the gospel around the world, it must be a part of the pastor’s life. Bro. Kilgore stated, “For several years we rocked along and were satisfied to give a little offering but I felt condemned all the time. When we bought this property we have now, the very first offering
Life Tabernacle received was for world missions. New converts are taught this and they see it. The first Sunday of the month is Missions Sunday. An awareness and burden for missions is taught throughout our Sunday School. Every year we have a missions convention for our local church. Sacrifice is our privilege. People are taking things out of their homes to sell for missions. Boats are being sold. Cherished china cabinets have been sold. The young people are giving all they can. “I believe the day will come,” stated Pastor Kilgore, “when we can build the church buildings that we
need, but, in the mean time, we are going to give to missions.” Bro. Lowe is Foreign Missions Director for the church. He keeps the church informed of God’s moving throughout the world in a missions newsletter. He and a missions committee plan and prepare for the churches’ annual missions convention.
Advice to Young Ministers
A young preacher must not allow a competitive spirit to get into his heart. Bro. Kilgore believes that many young men whose ministries, in time, will be very fruitful and powerful, are too concerned about keeping up with another evangelist or preacher. They will get deeply in debt to the point where they are not able to take any time off to fast and pray. They have to keep going to make their bank notes. The Apostle Paul warned of this in II Corinthians 10:12 when he said they that “Comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” Rev. Kilgore emphatically stated, “I would advise any young preacher who has desire to be used of God to fast and pray and never be satisfied with himself.” Some men have exceptional abilities. It is easier for some men than it is for others, but that is no excuse. Every man must apply himself. “As an evangelist,” Bro. Kilgore explained, “I had to struggle for every message I preached. While I was struggling, I was doing a lot of observing and a lot of praying. Every church we went to, I watched the operation. If it was successful, I looked for the key while we were there. If is was spiritual, I looked for the secret. I believed that if one church could be successful and spiritual, then any other church could be the same.”
Pastor Kilgore believes a young man needs to keep his eyes open, his ears open, his heart open, and not be afraid to ask questions. Get in the middle of the spiritual battle and go after it. If God does something for someone else, He will do it for you too! God does not love one evangelist more than he loves another. There is no need for a man to satisfy himself with a mediocre ministry, excusing himself because of a lack of ability. Abilities can be acquired if a person is willing to pay the price to learn. A preacher will be much more effective who has struggled to improve, than one who just resigns himself to not having certain abilities. Some of the greatest evangelists that are alive today are not outstanding preachers, they just have outstanding compassion and love for lost souls. They are determined to find a way to reach a soul.
Evangelists should plan time to wait on God. They should take a week off every few revivals and get alone with the Lord. One of the biggest sins among preachers of this day is not taking time to get alone with God and there, wait on Him. To be successful, a man has to wait on God.
When asked his approach to a situation where he was the pastor of a church which had three families in it, Rev. Kilgore responded, “I would not let them be satisfied to remain just three families. I would get close to them and begin to inspire faith. The people would need to begin to actively believe that they could grow. It is no sin to have only three families in a church but it is for it to stay that small. Goals need to be set and when they are reached, set some new ones. We would set goals for all phases of the work. Sunday School goals, Visitation goals, Outreach goals, and
Building goals. We may not reach all of them but the whole church would be involved in reaching for them. This would take away that self-satisfied feeling. When Life Tabernacle,” continues Bro. Kilgore, “was running 100 in Sunday School and the building was one-third full, I used to get up every week or two and say ‘Folks, the day is going to come when we are going to have to build a bigger church.’ Faith must be continually preached, until a spirit of expectancy is born in the hearts of the people.”
For a time, Pastor Kilgore has taken the Sunday School register out of the auditorium to help the people realize that Life Tabernacle really has not scratched the surface yet in reaching the lost. Some folks looked at the attendance and began to be proud of the 1300, 1400, and 1500 in church. “We rarely announce how many we have in church anymore. We have reached our
saturation point in our present facilities. What is 1500 in a city of a million!” asked Bro. Kilgore. “When you measure your success by your opportunities, your success looks small. There are too many open doors and too many people we haven’t reached. There is no time to boast about what we have done, the field is white unto harvest.”
Use of Time
A pastor’s use of his time can determine whether his church will rise or fall. He must spend his time wisely. He ought to have a regular schedule if at all possible. Churches that are going forward today have a lot of activity happening all the time. If the pastor cannot be there personally, activities will still be in operation. A staff must be trained and, as the church grows, be at the church to answer the phone and minister to the needs of the people.
Details can keep a minister from spending enough time studying the Word of God. They can keep him from doing the important things. Yet, there are certain kinds of details that only the pastor can handle. The answer is to look at the priorities. It is good to make a list of items which must get done and assign a priority to them. Start with number one and work your way to the bottom of the list. Using this method, the most important things will get attention. In pastoring a growing church, each leader will have to adjust in his own way. Some can live by a tight schedule and others are not able to do it. Pastor Kilgore has found that much of his most productive prayer and study time comes after the midnight hour. The telephone is not too busy and numerous other tasks are waiting for “business hours” before they can be taken care of and one can relax. It is then that a man’s soul can more easily turn into the call and beckon of God’s Spirit. Other ministers will find their times to get alone with God. The most important thing is that this time is closely guarded from all hindrances. A church must be built upon good solid Bible preaching and teaching. For a pastor to place on the spiritual table the needed diet for the churches well being, he absolutely must, take time to receive direction from the Lord.
When making major decisions, it is good to introduce an idea to the people and allow them to adjust their thinking to the new idea. This is an area where a pastor can make a bad mistake. He may feel a burden to do something and try to carry it out over night. When Life Tabernacle needed to move from their old location, Pastor Kilgore began to prepare the people for the move. There was a lot of sentiment attached to the old church because so many people were getting the Holy Ghost and outstanding things were happening. He told the people that the day would come when they would have to move to another area, a better location. He told them that it would be better to wait five years to build on a good location than to build on a back street somewhere. As people became used to the idea, when it was time to move, everybody was mentally prepared to move.
In a smaller church, all of the men can be used to discuss various aspects of the church and feel the responsibility of the work. As the church grows, a pastor may continue to have all of the men serve as an advisory group to him or he may choose to appoint an advisory committee or a church board. Whatever the method, this group can give insight, experience and support to their pastor. They are there to help him as he asks their advice. These are men who love and respect their pastor. They are willing to “serve tables” and to work. Most of the ushers at Life Tabernacle are board members. They are humble men. They have the highest respect for their pastor. They are successful men, some are business men and they are all willing to serve and to wait on people.
Four Important Items
1) Prayer – Prayer is a foundation. There are praying churches and then there are churches that know how to “pray through” over a matter. They know how to touch God in a matter. It is possible for people to get in a rut in their prayer. They go through all the motions of prayer but there is no element of faith or real worship involved. Prayer is more than words, it is faith and worship.
2) Friendliness – Friendliness is an absolute necessity for a growing church. A church will not go very far that is not friendly. The pastor must stay on guard against cliques forming. Large families within a church must not act as cliques. The church is the family and no one can be treated as an outsider. Some churches have so much fellowshipping among themselves that should they accidentally win a new family, the new family would not feel welcome in the church. Every guest to church should be treated to real Christian love and new converts never be left out of the fellowship of the church body.
3) Love for Bible study – For a church to develop into a mature and solid body of believers, it must have a hunger for the Word of God. The Home Bible Study ministry caused the people of Live Tabernacle to do some heavy Bible studying. Getting themselves ready to teach others brought a new desire for the Word. It is the natural thing for spiritual people to be hungry for more of God’s Word.
4) Apostolic Authority – When reaching for apostolic authority, a preacher must distinguish between leadership and lordship. Apostolic authority is not being a lord over God’s heritage. Godly leadership will lead to a true apostolic ministry. When a preacher has the work of God at heart, putting God first, loving God’s people and desiring to see the people of God blessed, people will begin to look to that preacher as the voice of authority. It will all lead to apostolic authority.
Pastor Kilgore pleads to every pastor, “Be a true shepherd. Stay close to the sheep. Love the sheep. Protect the sheep. If you will keep the love of God burning in your heart and stay in the will of God, nothing will be able to stop you.”
(The above material was taken from Revival Churches for the Rapture Generation by David Elms.)