“Would you mind sticking around and preaching until we find a real pastor?”
Bryan Clark was in no way offended by this question. As a young associate pastor working at a struggling church in Broken Bow, Nebraska, being the head pastor was not on his radar.
For him the word ‘pastor’ conjured up the image of a legalistic preacher wearing outdated clothing and driving a station wagon with panel siding.
But that was 33 years ago.
Now, Bryan Clark is going on 23 years as the head pastor of Lincoln’s largest church, Lincoln Berean. With about 4,500 people in the building on a typical weekend, Lincoln Berean attendees make up approximately 1 in 50 people in Lincoln.
For many people, the title ‘mega church pastor’ conjures up images of a flashy, power-suit wearing preacher driving a Cadillac with blacked out windows.
But that’s not Bryan Clark.
He seems more like a pastor at a church of a few hundred, not a few thousand people. Down-to-earth and approachable, Bryan’s distinctively low tone of voice was the same in our one-on-one conversation as during his Sunday sermons.
Don’t be fooled by his calm demeanor, Bryan carries a heavy load. With a church the size of Berean, his time is in short supply amidst the vast number of needs and decisions that require his attention.
It’s a 24/7 job that he likened to farming. It doesn’t have parameters on when the work is done, he said, but if you don’t embrace the lifestyle you won’t make it.
So, Bryan has embraced his calling. After being asking to step into a pastoral role back in Broken Bow, he quickly saw that preaching was what God created him to do, and he stayed at that church for 10 years before transitioning to Lincoln Berean.
What seemed most notable was that Bryan doesn’t seem overwhelmed by the weight of his job. He’s not a martyr for his church. Instead, he has learned his emotional and physical limitations, and trusts the input from other pastors and counselors.
So, while being the head pastor at Lincoln Berean is a major part of Bryan Clark, it’s not what defines his life. Yes, the Bryan Clark and Lincoln Berean Church stories reflect the other, but they’re not the same.
Bryan’s story involves struggling to understand pain and suffering, resting in an all-knowing God and consistently serving in the place and position where God led him.
He’s a mega church pastor, but he’s also a father, husband and hobbyist. His office shelves are lined with cowboy sculptures and antique machines that he took apart and rebuilt. He’s an introvert and a cowboy wannabe who trains horses, dabbles in welding and blacksmithing, learned to play the cello at age 50 and enjoys fishing in the small pond behind his house.
What we appreciate about Bryan is that he owns his story. He’s not trying to be someone else or chase the latest church trend. He’s not trying to make Lincoln Berean anything but itself. The church isn’t perfect, and he’d be the first one to tell you that, but it’s a place and a people he’s proud to lead.
We chose to feature Bryan Clark because his name and reputation are well-known around Lincoln, but more so because his story isn’t contrived. He’s a self-proclaimed plodder – he moves slowly and methodically. There’s not some special formula to what he does, but he does have a method to the way he lives his life.
Bryan believes everyone was created on purpose, for a purpose. So for him, his story matters because it’s rooted to God, a God who has asked him to play a part in the story that He has written.
And to Bryan Clark, that matters.