Nothing stresses a pastor like conflicts occurring on his staff. A secretary in the office, the minister of music, the organist, the head custodian–each of them was brought to the leadership team for good reason. Now, here they are threatening the unity of the church–not to say its mission and ministry–by a conflict with another team member.
In my four-plus decades pastoring six churches, I’ve seen the following (and plenty more, too, let me add) up close and personal….
–a senior staff member addicted to prescription drugs
–staffers using the computer for online porn.
–associate ministers who were protective of their turf, who resented anyone–including the pastor!–intruding to tell them what to do.
–Staffers who wanted to be left alone to do their work and not be asked to cooperate with anyone else
–Staffers who were angry at me about something and shared that little bit of gossip to laypeople in the church before telling me.
–Lazy staff members.
Checking into a company’s website, a pastor friend noticed their statement of values: “We believe in the basic goodness of all people.”
He came away wondering what a person would have to do to convince himself of that misguided philosophy.
True, there is something inside us that wants to believe in the basic goodness of people. I suspect that’s part of our sinful nature, believing against all evidence to the contrary that we are all right and not in need of forgiveness or salvation. It’s a major strain in our sinful system to hold that all we need to do is release everyone from restraints and for preachers to quit laying guilt trips on us and all will be well. “Imagine there’s no religion,” said John Lennon. As though that were the problem.
Have you seen the news this morning? How many people were killed in your city last night by people who were resisting restraints and determining to have their own way?
Our Lord said, “If you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children….” (Luke 11:13). You are evil, but you still get some things right. That’s what He said.
We are a mixture. Rat poison, they say, is 98 percent corn meal. But that 2 percent changes everything.
Insights on this subject popped up in two unlikely places: a western novel and a biography of a longshoreman philosophy from over a half-century ago.
The Commission magazine exists now only on-line but for many generations it arrived in the homes and churches of Southern Baptists all over the country. I’ve known and appreciated several of its editors and grieved when it went out of business. (It was the monthly publication of the SBC International Mission Board, headquartered in Richmond.)
Two things in that magazine changed my life forever. They were so tiny, I’m confident that the people who dropped them in had no idea how powerful they were and no inkling of how God would use them.
We need a cartoonist!
The first was a tiny notice in the fall of 1976 announcing that a cartoonist was needed by the missionaries in Singapore. As a part of their urban strategy, they wanted to produce an evangelistic comic book and distribute to teens all over that island nation.
They needed someone to draw it.
That which was from the beginning….we declare to you…. (I John 1:1ff)
(For my suggestions on introducing this Bible study for your people, see #7 below.)
I confess. I read scriptures looking for gold. Some of it is found in nuggets on top of the ground, just waiting to be discovered and appreciated. Others are in veins which need to be mined and worked and treated carefully and faithfully.
The opening of the First Epistle of John is pure gold and for good reason….
That which was from the beginning…which we have heard… which we have seen with our eyes…which we have looked upon and our hands have handled…. And we have seen and bear witness and declare to you…that which we have seen and heard we declare to you….
Get the point? John, the old apostle–the last one standing–is saying, “I was there. I know. This is not hearsay. This is not something I thought up. This is the Truth; it’s what I know.”
There is no substitute for a personal experience. “The person with an experience is never at the mercy of someone with an argument.” Consider…
“Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God” (Hebrews 11:16).
Sometimes a verse of Scripture gets under our skin and burrows itself deep inside and will not leave us alone. This is such a text for me.
It comes right in the middle of a tribute to some Old Testament citizens who nailed the faith thing. By faith Noah built an ark. By faith Abraham left home without a clue where he would end up. By faith Moses walked away from the palace and threw his lot in with the Hebrew slaves.
Faith means a) I have evidence but b) still have questions.
Faith means a) I believe in the Lord God but b) there are still some parts of the puzzle missing.