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Coaching Stressed-Out Pastors

Missionaries Tim and Rachel Ware help ministers find pathway back to health.
After returning from missions orientation, church health specialist Timothy D. Ware had a recurring dream about a bicycle tire. In time, his vision gained life-or-death urgency.

Ware says the Holy Spirit provided the interpretation: he and his wife, Rachel, called to enhance the health of churches, represent the hub; they are connected by interlaced relationships that strengthen, balance, and support the tire, symbolizing people in ministry, “where the rubber meets the road.” Ware hung a bike tire on the family’s wall as a depiction of the calling of this Assemblies of God U.S. missionary couple with Church Mobilization.

“We’re called to help people find and fulfill their destiny,” he says. “We’re here to help the kingdom of God.” To that end, the Wares formed Advancement Coaching and Consulting, which assists churches and pastors via tools designed to aid leaders and teams to move forward in ministry. Advancement offers tailored leadership training, community evangelism strategies, coaching, and consulting. Initially aimed at AG North Texas District congregations, now Advancement is a nonprofit that works nationwide with churches across denominational lines.

On Jan. 10, 2021 a Psalm 68:20 escape-from-death moment occurred, which ramped up the couple’s sense of their mission’s importance. The Wares wrecked while driving home from a central Texas church during a winter storm on an icy rural road. Treacherous conditions delayed an ambulance’s arrival by 45 minutes. Both Timothy and Rachel sustained grave injuries. Doctors didn’t expect Rachel, who suffered memory loss for weeks after the crash, to survive. (Both have physically recovered.)

Neither of them had ever before faced their own mortality. Once home from the hospital, Rachel pored through books on personal evangelism strategies.

“Since our accident, we have little tolerance for churches that don’t prioritize reaching people for Christ,” Tim says. “We’re not willing to let people step into eternity unprepared anymore.”

Ware, 52, an electrician by trade, served almost 20 years as a bivocational minister. His “tentmaking” specialty became systems troubleshooting and strategic problem-solving, which entailed managing multimillion-dollar projects such as power plants and refineries for global companies, including Shell and Exxon. That expertise has proven invaluable, especially in pinpointing creative solutions to improve a church in need of change, most often regarding evangelism. To that end, Advancement offers financial grants to churches with an average attendance below 150.

“In the same way having a new baby in your house affects everything, if you can get spiritual newborns in your church, it will bring your church life and vitality,” he says. “What most churches are doing was effective at one time, but how can we shift the resources to reach the harvest Jesus has put before them now?”

Pentecostal churches especially value spontaneity, and certainly there’s a place for that.

“But God is strategic and intentional,” Ware notes. “Part of our ministry is about helping people discover and be more intentional about what God is asking them to do, rather than just being reactive to the moment.”

Sometimes the task at hand is helping a tired, stressed, frustrated pastor overcome burnout. Ware has found a simple, effective solution is taking such leaders on canoe and camping trips.

“We want to see leaders healthy and go to the distance in ministry,” he says.

In 2016, Joel and Rebecca Johnston planted The Assembly in Broad Ripple, an affluent, eclectic and transient neighborhood of Indianapolis, populated with highly educated people distrustful of Christians in particular.

Joel Johnston, 38, describes the area as a “church-planters’ graveyard,” as attempts by multitudes of others to launch a congregation have typically met with failure. The Wares coached the Johnstons in 2019-20. Johnston, an AG U.S. missionary associate in Church Mobilization, says that the Wares helped them to hear God’s voice challenging them to adjust their mindset away from expectations of quick growth in Broad Ripple, where residents typically live just two years before moving on.

“Tim and Rachel both helped us realize that what we do in missions is for long-term harvest, so we needed to move out to bring our behaviors into alignment to match that call,” Johnston says. That helped the Johnstons to come to terms with the reality that they may never see the fruit, yet God still called them to cultivate the soil.

Deann Alford

Deann Alford is a journalist and author. She attends Glad Tidings of Austin, an Assemblies of God congregation in the Texas capital.