As we approach Spiritual Leadership Conference, I’ve asked a few of the conference speakers to participate in brief interviews regarding what is involved in launching out by faith. I believe you’ll find their perspectives both helpful and faith-building.
This first interview is with Dr. Kevin Folger. Dr. Folger serves as the senior pastor of Cleveland Baptist Church in Ohio. I’m thankful for his friendship, and I’m looking forward to seeing him here in Lancaster next month.
How long have you served in your current position of ministry?
The end of this month marks thirty-five years that I’ve been serving at Cleveland Baptist Church. For seventeen years I served as an assistant pastor, associate pastor, and (for the final five of those years) as a co-pastor. I became the senior pastor of Cleveland Baptist on September 3, 1995, so I will complete my eighteenth year in that position this September.
What is an area in the past five years in which you’ve launched out by faith, and how has God blessed?
In 2009 we completed a one million dollar capital stewardship campaign that allowed us to pay off all of our debt, to finish the remodeling of our auditorium, to turn two homes on our property to mission homes, to update twelve buses in our fleet, and finally to complete a master plan of the property.
Last year we were able to acquire an additional three acres of property at a real good price. That happened because we waited on the Lord for His timing. That property should be completely paid for this year.
Another area is that I have been praying for several years for a man to come and help us to win the Hispanic community to Christ. God honored that request last year by giving us a Spanish-speaking pastor and his wonderful family. They are winning Spanish-speaking people to Christ every week and baptizing and discipling them.
I have had a dream for years of being able to give over $500,000 to missions each year. This past Sunday we just conducted our annual Faith Promise Conference and, by God’s grace over the past fifty-two Sundays, we have been able to give just a few dollars short of $530,000 to world missions. This was possible because of debt elimination and people getting a heart for the world.
How have you seen Satan target leaders who launch out? What is your counsel to others to overcome those challenges?
It seems obvious that whenever we take a step of faith we are going to be attacked. The devil hates it when men obey God and live by faith. I have seen those who are faithful to God go through great tests, but gold must be tried and purified. When we face the trials, we must remember that we are to count it all joy (James 1:2).
There will always be those who attack a vision and desire to do something for God. Some of these folks will be good people who at that moment don’t see what God is doing. In many cases, they don’t realize they are a tool in the hands of the devil to discourage the vision of the man of God. We must not retaliate against them, but we should redouble our efforts to help them to know that we are doing what God wants us to do.
Stay the course and trust God for something marvelous.
What reoccurring obstacles do you face when you sense God calling you to launch out, and how do you overcome them?
The first obstacle that seems to be difficult for me is simply a plan for how to accomplish what I know God wants me to do! This is when I must just wait upon the Lord for Him to lay out the strategy of how to accomplish what He has asked of me.
Once I have direction from the Lord, I then face those who question the wisdom or the timing of the decision. I must assure my heart that I have heard God correctly and know that it is the time and this is the way.
God’s Word and prayer are always the means by which God reassures my heart and my spirit that I am on track. For instance, When we entered into our capital stewardship campaign, it was 2006. This was before the great downturn in the economy, but we had been dealing with depressed finances in our region since the year 2000. If I would not have capitalized on the timing that God directed, we would never gotten off the ground once 2008 came with another major financial setback. I spent the entire year of 2006 preaching to our folks on faith and trusting God. And they responded with a marvelous commitment and then completed their commitments in 2009. It was absolutely a great moment in our church’s history.
You have a session at the Spiritual Leadership Conference on “Nurturing the Church Family and the Pastor’s Family.” Would you provide a brief overview of this session and how it will be a help and challenge to pastors to launch out in faith?
In the first part of my session, I am going to deal with living life with balance. Because a pastor wears several hats, he has to balance his life. He can’t nurture either his church or his own family if he does not balance his life.
This balance starts, of course, with a consistent walk with God. It means we live our life with discipline and by a schedule. Then, to nurture the church means you must be a Bible preacher, using the Word of God to preach expository messages and rightly dividing the Word of truth. As a shepherd, you must spend time with your sheep—this is essential. There is also an element of patience that we need as we watch and allow God to do a great work in people’s lives. We must have wisdom from God on when to act and speak about certain matters either to the church corporately or individual members.
To nurture our own families means being real and genuine at home and incorporating ministry into the life of the family. It is vital that we have healthy family relationships with our children and our wives. God has been extremely good in my life in these areas. God has given me a gracious and wonderful wife. My wife helped me as a young father, and we loved raising our sons and having fun at home. We enjoyed helping them see that life was ministry and that ministry was not a problem or intrusion.
This speaks to the nurturing aspect of the pastoral ministry. We can only take the church family where God has taken us. We must know that we have heard from God and then take our folks on a journey so they too can hear Him.
My greatest joy as a parent has been that my children are all in church with my ten grandchildren. I am thrilled to have two of my three sons in fulltime ministry. My middle son, Peter, is my Senior Associate Pastor overseeing administration and youth here at CBC. My youngest son, Andrew, is the executive associate pastor for his father-in-law, Dan Tidd, at Lighthouse Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. My oldest son, Kevin, is a Christian business man who lives his life with distinction and integrity as the financial controller of a plant in Buffalo, New York. He is active in his church with his family. Our children love us and want to spend time with us. Our grandchildren are such a blessing and they think Papa and Grandma are wonderful.
One of the great joys of life is to pastor a people and influence the next generation for Christ.