Many a pastor and/or staff member would still be in ministry today had they sought the counsel of church leaders on some practice they were contemplating.
Can the pastor start a business on the side and still receive full pay from the church? Is it all right if he markets something to the church? Or to the members?
May the pastor’s wife be paid for all the hard work she’s doing? How much should the pastor be reimbursed when the allotted money did not cover his expenses for a church mission trip? What if a company doing business with the church offers to build the pastor a swimming pool (or garage or bird house!) in appreciation?
Get advice, pastor.
“In all things, love.” –I Corinthians 16:14
That’s one test of a believer and a mighty important one it is. Our Lord said it is the mark of a disciple. (John 13:34-35)
Look for the love. Otherwise, you know this one with whom you are discussing scriptures and doctrines is no follower of Jesus.
The cultist you’re talking religion to across the table or across the continent feels no need to love you since he/she has decided you are not a follower of Jesus since you disagree with their doctrine. I’ve sat at a table with a Jehovah’s Witness who was brutal and mean-spirited and who may as well have thought of me as a child-molester by the scoffing and belittling he was dishing out. (I was a younger pastor, and had not learned that there comes a time when it’s all right to say, “This meeting is over,” and walk out.)
But while love is the first mark of the believer, there’s another test for determining whether the person across the table is an honest seeker.
The brethren brought (Saul) down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus (his home town). Acts 9:30.
So, the great soon-to-be Apostle Pau, but presently still Saul of Tarsus, went home and made tents. Perhaps he moved back into his old room. We can hear his parents saying, “For this we sacrificed for him to attend the rabbinic school in Jerusalem? Why isn’t he working?”
Saul was waiting on the call from the Lord. Hadn’t the Father called him? Hadn’t he prepared himself? Wasn’t he effective in preaching? So, what’s going on here?
Saul had no idea what the Lord was up to. Later, he would write a lesson learned by hard experience: “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
“Is this normal?”
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? The unsaved do that…. But love your enemies and do good and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great…. –Luke 6:32-35
I was a freshman in college, with everything that implies: I was green, scared, eager, excited, learning, stupid, silly, and a hundred other things.
Among the civilians working on our campus was Mrs. Grigsby. I can see her to this day: stern, tight-lipped, unfriendly, and unloving. We thought she looked more like a man than a woman. She was all business, never a ‘good morning,’ and generally unpleasant, we all thought.
As a guest preacher, I can clear my mind before rising to preach and start fresh. This is the high point of my week, and in most cases nothing has happened to cloud my focus or burden my spirit. I am going to give this my best.
Pastors of congregations, however, are often in an entirely different situation.
As a pastor enters the sanctuary to begin the worship service and preach the sermon which has weighed heavily on his mind and heart all week, this is not the only thing on his mind. Things happened at his home earlier this morning, in the car driving to church, and during Sunday School. Then, someone stopped by his office with a complaint or a problem, a staff member did something poorly (or wrong) in the early part of the worship service, and several musicians are absent today. A family is not sitting where they normally do, we have several new people–that’s good; sure hope they like us!–and a light bulb is out over the balcony. The pastor knows this service is the high point of the week for many and the sermon should be that for him. But this is Sunday, a full day of work for the leader of the congregation. The budget planning committee meets this afternoon at 3, the deacons at 4, a class at 5, and the preacher will be bringing another sermon at 6. Someone wants to have an after-church fellowship tonight, and he has to leave town early tomorrow to attend a convention in the state capital.
In the service, the pastor sees he picked up the wrong Bible for the sermon today–he prefers that other version of the text–he wonders where his notes are, and he’s uncertain about point three of his sermon.
The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. –2 Timothy 2:2
Pastors teach from the pulpit. Bible teachers will teach in classes. But in addition, there will be occasions–often sudden, spontaneous occasions–when a lay leader will have the opportunity to teach a biblical truth.
Leaders should always be prepared.
Here’s one way it often happens….
The church member is upset at the pastor. She calls her deacon to complain about last Sunday’s sermon. “We don’t need more sermons on (whatever the subject was).” He listens until she is empty. Then, he asks her something.
“Do you have a minute to listen to something?”
She is puzzled. “Sure. What is it?”
“I was amazed that some words on a page could change your life.” –Testimony of a woman in rehab last Monday night. She had been in and out of jail more times than she could count, and in prison three times. These days, she is a solid Christian woman with a strong testimony and a peace that passes understanding.
“I felt I had jewels in my mouth.” –Frank McCourt, writing about his youth in Belfast. When a teacher introduced the teenager to Shakespeare, a new world opened for him. The movie “Angela’s Ashes,” based on McCourt’s book of the same name, showed him lying in the bathtub reading Shakespeare out loud.
In the last week, I have read five books. Hey, I’m retired and some weeks the calendar is blessedly empty. Those are great days for grabbing a book and disappearing into another world.
What’s funny about reading all those books last week–my wife thinks it’s more than a little bizarre–is that I read them all at the same time. Which is to say, I would read one for an hour, then switch to another. Some nights my bedtime reading was two of the books. Friends ask if I mix up the story lines. The answer is that about two sentences into the reading and I’m back in the world created by that author.
On a website devoted to professional speakers, the author gave advice about “that great killer story you love to tell,” and then “the heart-rending windup.” I imagine every speaker wants one each of those in his messages.
Then, the blogger dropped the bomb.
“After you get your speech down pat and you’ve given it a number of times and feel you’re effective, it’s time to start working on speech number two.”
I laughed out loud.
Speech number two?
These guys have one speech? One??? And then, when all is going well, they add one more?
Pardon me while I sit down.
“What did you go out to see?” (Luke 7:25)
“What do you want me to do for you?” (Luke 18:41)
The other day during the worship service at our church, I had a revelation.
I now know something that had eluded me before.
I know the secret of people who come to church year in and year out and are never dissatisfied with what goes on there. They like the preacher “enough,” they’re generally satisfied with the programs of the church, and you’ll not hear any carping coming from their direction.
They don’t require much of the church.
That’s it. That’s their secret.
Wait upon the Lord. Be strong. Let your heart take courage. Yes, wait upon the Lord. –Psalm 27:14
God’s times are not yours. He doesn’t use the Gregorian calendar. His alarm clock is broken. He doesn’t keep regular hours.
Lose the stop watch. Take a hammer to the timer. God is not going to order His actions by your schedule. Forget about showing Him your day-planner. He’s not impressed.
God in Heaven has His own plans, His own schedule, and His own purposes.