“We being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Romans 12:5).
Has the Lord ever spoken to you through your own words?
One morning recently, I posted the following on Facebook: Pastors, do not ever say that your people do not like change. There are no 1947 Packards on your church parking lot. Even your seniors drive late-model cars, own flat-screen televisions, and are on the computer. They do not mind change, so long as it’s not abrupt, not all at once, and not forced on them. Pastor, respect your people and they may surprise you.
Where did that last sentence come from, I wondered as it flew off my fingers through the keyboard onto the screen.
That was a new thought.
“Pastors, respect your people.”
Many a preacher who loves the Lord, enjoys his ministry, and seems to be doing well, wishes he had married differently.
His wife does not appreciate him sufficiently.
Give me a break.
Here’s what this looks like…..
Pastor Chuck is sold out to the Lord and completely committed to the ministry to which he was called. The church he serves is doing well. Everything is fine, except for one small thing….
His wife irritates him sometimes.
“Shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).
In my experience, most pastors hesitate to teach the biblical understanding of the role of pastors because to do so might sound self-serving, as though they were trying to carve out a bigger role for themselves in leading the church. This is a serious error for which we are now paying as many congregations are turning the minister into a hired hand, employing him as an errand boy, or treating him as an executive brought in to lead their “country club.”
Pastor, preach the whole Word of God. Be bold in declaring its truth. Then, having done this, go forth and set new standards for humbly serving the congregation. Let them see you leading by serving and no one will ever mind calling you their pastorand following you. However, lord it over them and dominate the decisions and no one who knows his Bible will want to follow you.
What follows is the truth on the role of pastors as taught in Scripture. It’s not “all” the truth, for this is but one simple article. However, it cuts to the heart of the issues….
Here’s a situation that might surprise some church members to know preachers deal with and that it is frequently a problem.
The pastor visits in the homes of his members and notices that they live more luxuriously than he and his family. Their house is larger, built better, and is located in a classier neighborhood. They dress well, have a pool, and their cars are always the latest model.
The pastor and his wife notice these things; count on it. And as their children grow into the teen years, they also become aware that some in the church are wealthier than they.
Now, every family is different. One would hope the pastor’s spouse and family are so intent on serving God in this community that material things are a distant second to them. You would hope they rejoice in the success some families enjoy, and let it go at that.
That’s not always the case. At times, the pastor and family come down with a severe case of “why not us, Lord?” Also known in the medical books as “Why can’t we live the way they do?”
Here are a few thoughts on this issue.
(Be sure to read the postscript and the comments at the end.)
When Jack’s mother died, wife Marian realized that God finally had his attention.
Jack loved his mother, a godly woman whom he would never see again unless he changed his ways. Jack had no use for church and religion, but devoted all his weekends to hunting whatever was in season.
Marian asked a godly deacon in her church to pay Jack a visit. Dr. Norris Vest, dentist and devoted soulwinner, dropped in and led Jack to Christ. That’s when Jack informed Marian he did not care to attend her church. “Too big,” he said.
They’d heard me on the radio and decided to visit our church out at the edge of town.
I loved this little family from the start. Jack and Marian had two small girls, Julie and Cindy, who fit right in with the children at our church.
Our friendship has now lasted over 45 years. Margaret and I saw Jack and Marian perhaps once or twice a decade, but we dropped the occasional note and always felt each other’s love.
But what I wanted to tell you is something very special God did with this couple. Well, one of the very special things.
“….accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive” (Colossians 3:13).
For reasons I never fully understood the old gentleman carried around a load of bitterness, much of it directed toward me his pastor. In a business conference when we were discussing calling a young man as our youth director, the old man stood and poured out venom on the proceedings. He was clearly angry about something, all out of proportion to what we were discussing.
“I have no idea what it is between you and him,” said a man in his Sunday School class. “Actually,” he continued, “he’s a good teacher. I like him.”
I knew a little of what had happened. A year earlier, the gentleman was convinced that I had not spoken to him and his wife at a church function. “You talked to everyone there except us.” I was completely unaware of this and apologized, then drove across the city to his home and apologized to his wife. A sweet lady, she said it was nothing, that her husband was just being himself.
The man never turned it loose. He now had a license to be angry at his preacher.
“…that in all things He might have preeminence in everything” (Colossians 1:18).
Let not the messenger boy think this is all about him.
I had a suspicion confirmed the other evening.
Over the years, I have made a point of memorizing scripture. At this moment, I can quote Psalms 1, 23, and 103, as well as Romans 8, and a number of shorter passages. There is nothing boastful about that. I should have retained more of what I worked to memorize through the years (which included Psalm 139, half of Hebrews and most of I Peter), but because I did not work at keeping it, have lost it from memory.
Okay. But here’s the thing.
My daughter has been posting some photos which I would just as soon didn’t ever see the light of day. It’s not that they’re bad pictures or that I don’t love the people in them.
They were shot either at the hospital where my wife lay on life support for six days or at the church in the luncheon following her funeral. And they all have one terrible thing in common.
We’re all smiling.
I’ve noticed this in photographs our family has made in years past. We would be at the funeral of my parents or a beloved aunt or uncle, and after the ceremonies have ended and people are milling around greeting one another or saying their farewells, someone breaks out a camera and begins grouping us. And without fail, we do it.
We all smile.
I suppose it’s because we were taught from childhood if someone points a lens in our direction, we smile. I certainly ask every person who sits before me to be sketched to smile. Everyone looks better smiling, “including you,” I tell them.
But sometimes, it feels like a smile is out of place.
“Neither do these things move me,” said Paul. “Nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify of the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).
I enjoy telling of the last words–okay, “some” of the last–of Ty Cobb, the baseball great. For 22 years, he played lights-out ball for the Detroit Tigers, setting records many of which are still on the books. I was told he gave his life to Jesus Christ and was transformed sometime in the last weeks or months of his life.
He sent a message to the men he’d played ball with.
“Tell them, ‘fellows, I got in the bottom of the ninth. I sure wish I’d come in the top of the first.'”
If we think of our lives like a nine-inning ball game, the final inning would be our last time to do anything before the “game was called” and the park was darkened.
What inning are you in?
What we are attempting to do here is walk a fine line between the fun of humor and exaggeration and the conviction of truth and righteousness. They do intersect, although it’s difficult not to veer too much to one side or the other. I’ll try not to drive like a drunk….
The Lord called you to preach the gospel and you answered. You went off to a Bible college or theological seminary of one kind or the other, and you got yourself some degrees which you now display prominently on your wall. You finally got past those tiny churches which many consider boot camp for the pastoral ministry and now you are uptown in a fine facility with your name boldly plastered on the sign out front as the (ahem) senior pastor.
Have you “arrived” in the ministry? Well sir, here’s some of the ways you can tell….
1) You have a Bible published with your very own commentary notes. “The Official Jerry Bigshot Bible.”
It still has the basic 66 books of the Holy Scripture of course, but no one is buying it for that. They purchasing it for the wonderful, scintillating, incisive–and insert a lot of other dynamic adjectives here!–notes at the bottom of each page.
How in the world Martin Luther pulled off the Reformation without your assistance is anybody’s guess.