Harris returns to pastoral role

As district minister, Harris is the pastors’ pastor

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Southern District minister Brian Harris preaches Feb. 25, 2024, during an MB unitry service held at Tabor College. The Hillsboro, Kansas, churches participating were Ebenfeld MB Church, Hillsboro MB Church and Parkview MB Church. Harris began as SDC minister Jan. 1, 2024. Photo: Michael Klaassen

Brian Harris left the pastorate in August 2022 to serve as USMB’s church planting mobilizer and in the process gained clarity about his call to ministry. Now, as newly appointed Southern District Conference minister, Harris has returned to a pastoral role.

“I’m actually feeling like I’m a pastor again,” he says. “It’s just that my congregation is the pastors.”

Identity shift

Soon after Harris began as church planting mobilizer, he realized a disparity between planting in theory and practice and found a leadership shortage impacting denominations nationwide. So, he visited pastors to cast vision for church planting and the intentional discovery and development of young leaders.

As he did, conversations often veered to deeper issues such as discouragement, depression or church conflict, he says. Recognizing that healthy pastors lead to healthy churches ready to plant, Harris welcomed those conversations.

“I would find myself quickly going, ‘Let’s set (the church planting conversation) aside,” he says. “I would start to interact on whatever the issue was.”

Reflecting on these conversations, Harris, who had previously served nearly 18 years as pastor at Pine Acres Church in Weatherford, Okla., recognized the identity shift the church planting role had created.

“I still think of myself as a pastor,” Harris says. “That got lost in the church planting mobilizer position.”

So, when SDC minister Tim Sullivan announced his intention to retire, Harris applied, thinking the job fit with his gifts and passion, and already knowing many district pastors from the church planting networks he had established.

Development, encouragement

Harris was offered the job, and he accepted, officially beginning Jan. 1, 2024.

“The core qualities the district minister search team looked for was a pastoral leader who loved Jesus and his church,” says Dave Froese, of Newton, Kan., who facilitated the search. “Brian has been a visionary leader in the Southern District for 20 years and has come to appreciate evangelical Anabaptism. His connection for serving the district is real and heartfelt.”

Harris began by conducting visits with pastors on road trips from his home base in Owasso, Okla., and organizing regional in-person gatherings, a carryover from the networks he facilitated on Zoom.

He will also join district and national boards, including the Southern District Board of Faith and Life and the Tabor College board, as well as the USMB Leadership Council, National Strategy Team and U.S. Board of Faith and Life.

“I love the Southern District,” Harris says. “There’s a fit here. It’s really good.”

Harris’ goals for the SDC are twofold.

First, he intends to aid the development of a robust developmental pipeline to discover and deploy harvest workers. Harris is part of an ongoing discussion about education stemming from the January 2024 vision summit on leadership development. He envisions interviewing pastors to gauge need and build trust, then working to eliminate organizational silos to draw people and programs together, he says.

Second, Harris intends to encourage, advocate for and come alongside pastors dealing with issues such as depression, discouragement, frustration or pornography.

“Personal pastoral health is a real important area to me,” he says. “The statistics are super scary about how many are thinking about quitting ministry, in depression (or) battling all kinds of things. One of my tasks is how do I truly pastor the pastors in the healthiest way I can?”

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