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Pillar of Faith

The Christian Perspective / Chris Hughes
The Truth Network Radio
November 5, 2021 12:30 am

Pillar of Faith

The Christian Perspective / Chris Hughes

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November 5, 2021 12:30 am

Chris Hughes is joined by the executive director of The Pillar Network Zach Nelson to discuss how young men of faith can help lead future churches.


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Hello, this is Matt Slick from the Matt Slick Live Podcast, where I defend the Christian faith and lay out our foundations of the truth of God's word. Your chosen Truth Network Podcast is starting in just a few seconds. Enjoy it, share it, but most of all, thank you for listening and for choosing the Truth Podcast Network.

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Get ready. It's one of America's most important, influential, and respected voices on cultural, and political issues. An apologist, Christian political advocate, and author, here is the founder and chairman of the Citizens for America Foundation, Dr. Chris Hughes.

I'm Chris Hughes. Welcome to the Christian perspective, where we look in God's word in order to develop a Christian worldview and modern culture. I've had the privilege, guys, of serving on the board of directors of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina for about five years now. A couple of months ago, I was at a board meeting at a place called the Carraway Conference Center.

It's a beautiful place, kind of secluded in the foothills of North Carolina. Those of you that know me know that I love to eat, and they always have great food at these board meetings. I didn't know that a Christian camp could cook such delicious meals.

My favorite time is meal time because you get to visit with people, and I like to sit at different tables and meet people, that I don't know. When I was at this meeting, I sat down at a table of friendly folks, and I was immediately impressed with the man that was sitting across from me, and he's our guest on our show today. I found out that his parents live close to me in the Appalachian Mountains, but what really drew me to him was his love for Jesus and his passion to plant.

I know that's a church term. Really, when we say plant, we mean start new churches across the nation and across the world, and as you know, my passion is leading people to Jesus, and I've been active in church planting for many years, so when Zach shared his story with me, I knew that I had to have him come on and share it with you so we can help him start more churches across the world today. My guest today is the executive director of a wonderful organization called the Pillar Network.

Zach Nelson, welcome to The Christian Perspective. Chris, it's a blessing to be here, brother, and thank you for your kind words. Likewise, man, being able to be able to sit across from you at Camp Carraway, which happened to be one of the places where I happened to hear the gospel at a very early age when I went there on a retreat with a group of RAs in my church where I grew up in Boone, North Carolina, Mount Vernon Baptist Church. Man, it just brought back great memories and getting a chance to just continue to meet other brothers that have been redeemed and brought close to the Lord because of the work of Christ, and I get a chance to meet those people today. It's just God's kindness, so it's a great blessing to be here with you, Chris.

Well, Zach, now I learn we have even more in common. I'm a huge, and I'm getting off topic here for the Pillar Network that we want to talk about, but I'm a huge fan of Christian camps, and parents, I would just encourage you to find there are a lot of still good Christian camps across the country. So many young people come to Jesus, and some of the best memories growing up for me were going to camps, but Zach, I mean, now we're really getting into inside-buddy stuff here. I did not know you said that you went there as an RA.

For those of you who don't know, RAs means royal ambassadors. Usually, it was on a Wednesday night, sometimes on a Sunday night at Southern Baptist churches, and it's kind of like a Christian Boy Scouts where you go and you memorize verses. You learn about ministries and missions and many young men. Zach, that might have been what helped push you in the ministry.

I know it did me, and you earn patches, and I even got a scholarship to college through royal ambassadors, so we got something else in common. But Zach, so parents, now we're going to jump into it, but parents, you need to, I encourage you to send your kids to Christian camp because they are a life-changing experience. So many young people, in the Southern Baptist Convention in North Carolina, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, we have about a thousand kids a year that are saved at summer camp and just hundreds that commit to full-time Christian ministry.

It's such a worthwhile thing to do with your kids, so I encourage you to do it. But Zach, you are the executive director of an organization that I have to admit I didn't know existed called the Pillar Network, and I'm so excited about what you're doing. Can you tell us what is the Pillar Network and what is the work that you do?

Yeah, absolutely. And first off, feel free to go to our website at, and you can read a lot about who the Pillar Network is, how we started, the churches that we've had a chance to partner with to see churches planted all over the U.S. and even internationally now. But the Pillar Network, really who we are, we're a community of Southern Baptist churches, and international Baptist churches. Our board voted a little over three years ago that we're going to open up our network of churches, not just to churches in the U.S., but those outside of the country to partner together. We're doctrinally aligned, we're missionally driven, and we're committed to equipping, planting, and revitalizing churches together. We see this as a task that isn't just based on one individual church, but a group of churches that want to really partner together because we can affirm what the gospel is, we can affirm a commitment to preaching, live, expositional preaching, a desire to be Kingdom-minded, to use our resources and our people in such a way to where we want to send them out, to see new churches started, and also churches that are struggling, possibly even those without a pastor, them brought back to help. We're a church that's committed to the inerrancy of scripture, and so we're Bible-based in how we want to do our ministry. We're also churches that are committed to a plurality of pastors. We call that just elder-led churches. We believe that churches are most healthy when there are more than one pastor or a group of pastors that are shepherding the body, and we're committed to being Baptist. That's something that I think is a true distinctive about who the pillar network is. There's a lot of networks right now that I think are out there, but we want to see Baptist churches planted and Baptist churches revitalized or brought back to help, and that's really the mission of why we exist.

Well, Zach, you said you're Baptist. Maybe some of our listeners may not know what it means to be a Baptist, so why did you choose to specifically say that you're going to partner with Baptist churches, and then after that, what is the difference between the network and a denomination? Is a pillar network wanting to become its own denomination, or are you just strictly working within partnership with the Southern Baptist Convention? Yeah, yeah, Chris, those are two great questions, and I'll probably give an answer and maybe even wrap up. I'm going to start with you, Chris, and wrap up this answer into both of these questions. So the pillar network really began out of a group of five Southern Baptist churches desiring to cooperate together.

So we function extremely well within the context of the SBC. It was never our desire to start a new denomination. It's still not our desire, and in any way, I mean, we function very much like an association, but we would probably say we are an affinity-based association that is not geographically driven. We affirm churches partnering together in specific locations, and we've got churches doing that all over the nation, but we would say utmost of importance that defines how our churches cooperate together is not necessarily our location, but it's based upon how we are like-minded doctrinally.

We would say it like this. We are doctrinally aligned so that we can be missionally driven, and we define mission in many ways by raising up those that are aspiring pastors for the purpose of sending them out to plant or revitalize churches, and so that's at the very heartbeat of who we are. If we are going to be closely aligned with any existing groups within, let's just say, Southern Baptist circles, we would be very much like an association, not a state convention, not an agency like the North American Mission Board, and not something that would be a very large network like the SBC that's kind of made up of 45 to 50,000 churches. I loved what you said there that your group of churches who are doctrinally aligned to be mission-driven, and the reason I asked you that question is a lot of our members may not understand the Southern Baptist Convention really is not even a denomination. It's a group of churches that are independent and autonomous, but have, like what you said though, doctrinally, meaning they agree on certain things, and they've come together as like-minded churches, and really the purpose of the gathering together is to support mission work, to send missionaries and to start churches across the world, and in the United States too, and so that's why I ask that, because we have listeners that might not understand. They hear independent Baptist, they hear Southern Baptist, they don't know the difference. The difference is, well, I mean there are other differences too, but mainly it's a group of doctrinally agreeable churches who come together for the purpose of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Well, I'm excited about what you're doing. Can you share with our listeners, I hear people, because as I shared with you, Zach, I have a ministry that I work with called Salvation Ministries. We're in the business of planting churches around the world, a lot in India and specifically right now in the Philippines, and people are like, well, why in the world are you starting new churches? I've been in the DC area in Baltimore for the past week, and there are just empty church buildings all across the area up there in the region, as with many big cities across the country, or there might be just one or two people go to some of these churches, and people are like, why are you planting new churches when there are existing churches?

There's a reason. Can you tell them why your organization has a passion? And I know you work with revitalization too, but why is church planting so important? Yeah, first of all, I believe that church planting is very much a biblical model of healthy discipleship within the context of a local church.

And so if we're talking about a network that exists for the purpose of cooperation and really helping our churches be as healthy as possible, that must mean that we are committed to raising up others within our churches, so a discipleship ministry where we are pouring our life into others that are aspiring to be pastors. I had the joy of being able to experience this at a number of different churches growing up. And so growing up in Boone, I was at Mount Vernon Baptist Church, and this church had just a tremendous student ministry, college ministry, and a group of pastors and interns and even just older brothers that were members of the church that invested in my life. And based upon that investment from pastors, one brother that's just been consistent in my life has been a brother by the name of Bud Russell.

And Bud Russell has been a pastor at Mount Vernon for, I don't know, five years, at Mount Vernon for, I don't know, he's still there as the associate pastor probably for 35, 40 years now. And I just think about the impact of that man and how he has impacted so many people that are now serving within the context of local churches and ministries all over the state and probably all over the southeast and in countries outside of the US. And so that should be a model of a commitment of a local church. We are to be raising up pastors, pastor types that are aspiring to use the gifts that God has given them within the context of the local church.

And so I had a chance to experience that. In many ways, that tradition was just passed on to other churches. And when I came to seminary at Southeastern Seminary, I landed a church by the name of Open Door and went through a two-year-long internship where we memorized 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus together. And the pastors of Open Door really just taught us how to become shepherds, how to shepherd the flock, how to work and how to preach in such a way and work in understanding the text and communicating that expositionally.

And so all these things that I had been learning really were just the ministry that was given to a church to prepare and send out those that are aspiring to be pastors to either land in churches that were existing or to help new churches where there needs to be a new gospel work. And so we see places all over North Carolina and all over the world where the church in and of itself is extremely either unhealthy or the church is just not there any longer. The buildings have shut down or there's been so many people that have moved into an area where one church is not necessarily enough. We need multiple churches becoming light and being a beacon of light amongst darkness in these cities.

Yeah, I agree. And, you know, something that I love about church planting is many and I'm not saying that other pastors don't have a passion for winning people to Jesus, but we're seeing a larger percentage of people get saved in new church plants. I think the pastors there are hungrier. You know, they've got to build a church from scratch and many times are sent into areas that isn't that might be unchurched or where there's not a lot of the gospel and just you see many, many more people coming to Jesus. Zach, you talked a while ago about having male elders for our listeners that don't know.

What does that mean? And is that a different model than people might normally see in a church? This show is brought to you by generous Joes, the coffee company with the Christian perspective. This is the answer that Christians and conservatives have been looking for. A coffee company that gives back to causes you care about.

Order your coffee today at and even subscribe to a subscription coffee plan and never forget the coffee you love or the causes you care about. Yeah, yeah. So I do want to say this. It may be a new model for some today, but historically this is not a new model. And also we want to kind of go back and say, OK, well, what is an elder? And as we kind of look throughout scripture, what we end up seeing is the term elder and pastor really being used synonymously, where the term pastor is much more of kind of a a verb role where elder is almost the function within the context of the local church.

And so elder is elders. When we talk about elders or when we talk about pastors, we're just really using this in a very synonymous way. And I think maybe over the last probably, let's just say 40, 50 years, potentially a pastor has been somebody that we've also tied towards vocational ministry so that when I say that, they get paid to do the job of pastoring or elders within the church. And as we look at scripture, oftentimes we do see passages where scripture points towards the church needing to take care of its pastors.

And so even giving double honor in a sense to those that are being that are teaching the word of God or doing the word type ministry. But there are also the sense that every time the pastor is used throughout scripture, that is talked in the plural. So there's a sense that it's expected that it's almost assumed that the church has multiple pastors, just not one single pastor that is leading the church. And so we really see the health that it's good for the church, that pastors are a gift to the church. So we want to see multiple pastors, some of which are getting paid and some of which, and we would just call these pastors lay pastors. Some of these are pastor types, people that have the character and the gifting of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus type men that have this aspiration and have been recognized within the context of the local body, the congregation, because we as Baptist are congregational. And so yes, the elders may be pouring extra time into these men that are aspiring, but then over time they're put before the church and kind of recognize, set apart for the service of shepherding or pastoring or eldering the congregation.

And so we just, we see the importance of this and all throughout scripture where pastor or elder is used, we also see this as a role that's been set apart for men or for males within the context of the congregation. Well, it really is the model that God gave us in the New Testament and a church that I've seen, they started about two and a half years ago in Baltimore called Redemption City Church. Adam Matessa is the pastor.

And they actually came out of North Carolina where you and I are both from. And that church is just exploding. And they are using, I don't know if they're members of the Pillar Network, but they're using the model that you described where, you know, they have elders and they're training up other young men to be in ministry and plan to plant a lot of churches up in that area. So, Zach, for those that are listening, maybe there's somebody in seminary or someone that wants to be a pastor down the line or wants to plant a church or there's a church who wants to learn how to plant other churches. What benefits do they have if they join the Pillar Network? How do you help people plant churches?

Yeah, so this is a very practical question, and it's great. I think this is the question that churches need to be asking. How do we become a church that is a church planting church? And if you're a seminary student, I would say land at a church that desires to help prepare you for future ministry. Okay, so I would say first and foremost, seminary students or those aspiring, doesn't even have to be seminary students, those aspiring towards pastoral ministry, you need to go to your pastors, you need to go to the leaders of your church and really communicate to them, these are my aspirations. Will you train me? Will you equip me for the purpose of ministry within the context of our local church?

That's one of the most important conversations that can take place. This will help a church that maybe does not even know how to plant a church begin to start thinking through how to disciple members that are aspiring towards pastoral ministry. And that's at the heartbeat of why the Pillar Network exists. We want to help you get introduced to churches that have ministries that are faithfully discipling those within the context of their own bodies that are aspiring towards pastoral ministry. And so we want to help your church think through how to go about doing that, how to set up potentially a one to two year internship where the pastors and leaders of your church can be pouring into the next generation of aspiring leaders, so that there's a real sense that they can learn healthy discipleship and learn to love and use their gifts within the context of the local body.

That is something that we believe is best done within the local church, but it's also something best learned by watching a church that does it. And so this is the work of what I would say a healthy association does. It provides model churches to where these churches can influence other churches in healthy discipleship. And it's at the heartbeat of why Pillar Network began.

We affirmed the importance of what does it mean to be a healthy association. And in the same way that we were seeing a commitment within evangelical life and even in Baptist circles about what it means to plant healthy churches, and also revitalize healthy churches, we wanted to kind of say, how do we plant a new association that exists within the SBC that can help facilitate mission work, preparing those to be pastors that will be sent out to plant to revitalize churches, but do it in an associational type fashion? Well, Zach, boy, that's a great question.

Zach, boy, time is flying by and I'm learning so much. There's so many things I'd like to talk to you about, but we've just got a couple of minutes left, but this is why I wanted you to come on the show. Our show, we're really focused on trying to encourage Christians to engage the culture for Jesus. And I know that I play in the political world a lot, but I want to tell our listeners, if you want to impact the world for Jesus, you got to tell the world about Jesus.

And our primary responsibility as Christians, I believe, is to tell other people about the saving grace of Jesus Christ. And a great tool to do that is by planting new churches. There are so many areas across the country that need Bible believing and Bible preaching. There are a lot of churches out there, but they're not preaching the inspired, holy, and errant word of God. And that's what the Pillar Network is doing, folks.

They are training and raising up young men to plant churches across the world that will preach the errant and the inspired word of God. So real quickly, Zach, if a pastor wants to join the network, does he go to a website? What does he do to get more information to join your network?

Yeah, Chris, go to And then you can go to a drop down tab that says, Join the Pillar Network. And it just talks about our partnership process. It'll lead you towards an application.

The application in many ways will take five minutes to fill out. It'll give us a chance to interact with who you are, a little bit about your church, where you're coming from. And then from there, we just set up a time to do kind of a Zoom call interview where we get a chance to get to know you, to hear about your church, to hear about your desires potentially for planting.

And then it allows us to take steps to say how we can best encourage you in that process. So, folks, and it's The Pillar Network, right, Zach? That is correct.

OK, so visit There is a covenant agreement and a covenant is basically a strong bond that you're agreeing, that you affirm, that you believe the things that they believe, which is basically from something called the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, I believe. Is that correct, Zach?

That's correct. You know, so if you believe the Bible is an inerrant word of God, you're going to agree with the things that they believe. And then they also have some covenantial things that they say that you believe about the inerrant word of God, about who should be a pastor and who should not be a pastor and how people become a Christian. This is just such a great, great program. And I'm so glad that God brought Zach and me together over a meal. Y'all, fellowship meals, just take advantage of meals to meet people you don't know. And this is what happens when you get to meet somebody like Zach and his organization who are literally changing the world for Jesus. Zach, I want to thank you so much. Folks, go to Maybe you're not a church planter, but you want to help. There's a way to donate on their website.

It costs money to start new churches, and they could sure use your help. Zach, I thank you for being with us today. Thank you so much, Chris.

It's been a great blessing, brother. Well, folks, thank you for joining me today. I'm Chris Hughes, and this is The Christian Perspective. Please subscribe and like our podcast and share it with your friends on social media. Now, let's go change the culture for Jesus.

Thank you for listening. The Christian Perspective with Chris Hughes. Learn more about impacting the culture for Jesus. Visit This show is brought to you by Generous Joe's, the coffee company with the Christian perspective. This is the answer that Christians and conservatives have been looking for. A coffee company that gives back to causes you care about. Order your coffee today at, and even subscribe to a subscription coffee plan and never forget the coffee you love or the causes you care about.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-27 12:21:57 / 2023-07-27 12:32:14 / 10

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