“God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” (I Corinthians 1:27).
The New Testament was written in Koine’ Greek for a reason. God wants the common people (careful now…tread lightly when speaking of “the common people”) to know and understand His truth.
A friend of mine once told his pastor, “Could you preach a little more simply for folks like me? After all, the Lord said to feed His sheep, not His giraffes.”
“Snobbishness” is a loosely understood word that means one thing to Aaron and something entirely different to Zachary. As a Supreme Court justice once said of pornography, however, even if we cannot define it, we know it when we see it.
What follows is one preacher’s note to his preacher friends on guarding oneself against snobbishness, that is, appearing better than others, aloof from the very people we are sent to reach and nurture in Christ.
1) Be careful about telling the congregation–or any audience on the planet!–about the time “When I got my doctorate.” Or, “When the U. S. Jaycees named me one of the ten outstanding young men of America.” Or, “When I won my Rhodes scholarship.”
“I shall come into Thy house with burnt offerings; I shall pay Thee my vows” (Psalm 66:13).
During seminary days, I served a little church on Alligator Bayou some 25 miles west of New Orleans. We moved into an apartment in the back of the church and lived there for the next 30 months. The Cajun culture was a new experience for this Alabama farm boy and the church proved a blessing from beginning to end.
In prayer meeting one Wednesday evening, someone asked a question about a scripture. I said, “I don’t know, but I’ll look it up and get back to you.” Afterwards, Earl, a middle-aged member of the church, pulled me off to one side.
“The pastor before you was always promising to look up something and get back to us. But that was the last we would hear of it. If you tell someone you’re going to get back to them, pastor, do it.”
Earl, as I was to discover, could be a little caustic in his counsel, but he was on target with this.
“My heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation” (Romans 10:1).
Nothing affirms a pastor more than seeing people come to Christ and becoming new creations. That’s why ministers whose churches are regularly baptizing new believers cannot wait to tell you about it. They’re not bragging–well, okay, most of them aren’t–but rejoicing. It feels like, “Finally! I’m getting this right!”
Likewise, nothing weighs down a minister and makes him think he may be spinning his wheels like seeing no one responding, no lives changed. It’s days like this when he looks around for something else to do with his life–take another church, find another career, go back to seminary, something. It feels like failure.
To be sure, the Lord is always at work, doing things beneath the surface unseen by human eyes. And anyone who ventures to do anything by faith–to worship and give, to serve and preach and minister–must go into it knowing that he/she may not see the results in this lifetime, and believing that the Sovereign Lord can use the weakest vessel and the poorest voice.
1. People do not like to follow; you have to show them why doing so is a good idea.
A pastor wrote, “You said preachers should be leaders. But what if the congregation does not want you to lead? What if they do not respond?” I answered, “Then you have a bigger job of leadership to do. The people have to be taught. Lead them to want to do something for the Lord.”
2. You start pastoring small churches in difficult locations for good reason. It is good to bear the yoke in your youth. (That’s Lamentations 3:27).
When I announced to the family God had called me into the ministry–I was 21 and a senior in college–my coal-miner dad said, “Well, that’s fine. But son, start with smaller churches so you can learn how to do it before moving to larger ones.” I type that and smile, “As though we had a choice about it, Pop.” That’s how life works. Faithful in small things, trusted with the larger (Luke 16:10).
“Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31).
Church members often have no idea what the Lord’s Day is like for pastors. It’s anything but “a day of rest,” believe me.
In some churches, God’s servant preaches three and four sermons a day, and thus leads that many worship services. The pastor will greet scores (hundreds even) of people and has brief, potent conversations with many on the fly. (The next day, several will call to ask, “Pastor, what did you mean by what you said to me in the hallway?” The poor beleagured preacher doesn’t recall even seeing them.)
The pastor will sit in on committee meetings, often leads them, has quick conferences with key leadership on a vast range of subjects, and may even conduct a funeral in the afternoon.
There have been Sundays so exhausting that as soon as I arrived home, around 1 pm, I went straight to bed and had lunch around 4 o’clock. Then, had to be back at church for a 5 o’clock meeting of the deacons.
I know numerous pastors who get to church by 4:30 on Sunday mornings to put the finishing touches on the sermon and get themselves mentally and spiritually prepared for the day.
Most people have no idea.
“Not that we are adequate to think anything of ourselves; but our adequacy is of God” (II Corinthians 3:5).
The “fidgety” in the title refers to the young wife, not to her pastor-husband.
You’re just not sure you are cut out to be a preacher’s wife. You wonder why in the world the Lord in Heaven thought you of all people had what it takes to be the (ahem) “first-lady” of any church, large or small. You are so overwhelmed by all the inadequacies you bring to this assignment, you find yourself wishing most days that your man would walk in and announce he was mistaken, that God wants him to run the State Farm office with his father back home. A normal existence.
You’re normal, young sister.
Every minister’s wife on the planet has felt this way, including the best ones, those beautiful put-together women you admire from a distance who seem to have developed “pastors-wife” into a career and a calling.
“Not that we are adequate for these things.”
1) You are not adequate for this assignment, let’s say that up front. You do not have what it takes.
This has nothing to do with anything.
“After they had preached the gospel in that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.’ (Acts 14:21-22).”
People who sell pet food say the young animals need a richer diet, one loaded with protein and certain vitamins. Obstetricians make a similar observation about human babies.
It’s true of babies in Christ also. They need nurturing, tender instruction, and careful preparation for all that is ahead in this new life they have chosen and for which they were chosen.
At the apogee of what we refer to as their first missionary journey,* Paul and Barnabas decided that instead of blazing new trails into pioneer territory with the gospel of Jesus, they should retrace their steps and do followup with the people they had already led to the Lord. So, they turned around and went back, right into the towns and cities where they had been “tarred and feathered,” so to speak, and warned never to return.
In this case, however, they were no longer standing in public squares proclaiming the gospel to the disinterested and hostile, but meeting quietly with bands of believers to assist them in their spiritual growth and in becoming effective churches.
“Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31).
The way to tell you are keeping your love for sports in balance is that when your team wins, you do not become obnoxious and when it loses, you do not sink into great depression.
The number one way pastors know they’re keeping loyalty for their team in check is church members have no idea which is their favorite.
And the way you tell your love for your team has gotten way out of line is–pick one or more–a) your constant reference to it in conversation, b) your repeated reference to the game or the team in sermons, c) the displays on your office wall, d) the “stuff” in your home, e) the bumper stickers and other identifying items on your car, and f) the way you bob up or down emotionally depending on what your team did yesterday.
Pity the church whose pastor is in bondage to his love for a football team.
Recently when we said on these pages that the church’s pastor search committee should not settle for second best, but hold out for the one person the Heavenly Father has in mind for the church, a friend wrote, “What do we do when the committee is taking so long that people are leaving? Some of our leaders are panicking.”
This is not a rare phenomenon. It happens.
The typical Southern Baptist church can expect the search process to take anywhere from 6 months to a year. If the church has unusual circumstances–a terrible reputation to overcome, poor finances, a history of infighting, or several candidates in a row have turned the committee down–the process could take longer than expected.
When people start leaving the church because no pastor has been found, seizing the first preacher available and recommending him is the worst of all possible options.
The church leadership should consider the following….
At the end of this piece, I want to point out how Sandra Bullock’s character learned to pray in the new movie “Gravity.” If you’ve not seen it and think this might interfere with your enjoyment, be forewarned and skip it. Or come back later.
One of the fun things about having online pastors’ magazines reproduce our stuff is reading the comments from God’s people far and wide. I did that just now with an article lifted from this blog recently and sent to perhaps 50,000 subscribers far and wide.
I have no trouble when people take issue with some point we tried to make. What’s fun is when one reader rips me apart and another one responds to straighten him out. One said I need to stick to cartooning and leave preacher stuff alone. Ouch.
Sometimes readers take seriously something I said tongue-in-cheek and go off on a rant about it. One said today, “I had a hard time listening to anything more he had to say because I couldn’t get past those introductory statements.” I had said no preacher should preach longer than 45 minutes. He started listing preachers, most of them famous, who preach an hour or more and do it well. I replied that I had meant it half-seriously and had even said (in the article) that it was just my thought and I might be wrong.
He just wanted to fight. I pity his wife today. Or his church staff, if he’s a preacher.
Incidentally, I’ve heard sermons from some of those guys he mentioned and even though they may preach an hour, after 25 or 30 minutes, they are through. They just don’t know it.
A pastor will pad his sermon? Of course.