Just don’t overdo it.
In a sermon, the pastor tells of his recent visit to a historic cemetery in the region. He saw an epitaph that will linger with him for a long time.
He tells of the time he was a special guest at the dedication and commissioning of a military ship built in his area. The steel of the prow came from the World Trade Center’s ruins, from 9-11. From the ashes of the devastation came the strength of the mighty vessel. It’s a great sermon illustration.
He describes his tour of the White House alongside the local Congressman. He thought of the nation’s leaders who have called this their home and recommitted himself to praying for them.
Perhaps he told the church of a conversation with the mayor regarding a new plant to be built just north of the church, an industry said to bring in hundreds of new employees and new residents. A church must be poised to reach out to new people moving to their area, he preached.
Pastors should live in the community they serve and be knowledgeable about its history, its current events, and its politics. Whether he ever mentions it or not, knowing this will undergird his sermons and his leadership from time to time.
Let the pastor stay informed.
The pastor has the clear and undivided attention of his congregation when he informs about a local issue, praises local leaders for something they’ve just accomplished, or encourages his people to support an upcoming event in the community, if–and this is important!–it is appropriate, if it is Christ-honoring, and if it is worthy.
When the pastor expressing appreciation to elected officials, in many cases family members are sitting before him, appreciating the appreciation, we might say.
As in everything else, such should not be overdone, but tastefully and appropriately.
Pastors need not to lock themselves into their studies and lock out the outside world in order to lead their flock effectively.
The faithful pastor will not–absolutely must not–confuse bragging on local assets with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was not called into the ministry to promote the local symphony orchestra, to lead the chamber of commerce’s beautification drive, or to encourage tourists to come to this area. He has a higher purpose, one with eternal dimensions. A faithful pastor is trying to get lost people found, dead people resurrected, hurting people comforted, sick people well, weak people strong.
But the pastor is a member of this community. Or he ought to be. (If he drives in from another community to pastor this church, except in rare circumstances his effectiveness is weakened by the separation. Let him live among his people and become one with them.)
“Work for the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile,” God told the Israelites in Babylon, “and pray on its behalf. For in its shalom, you will have shalom.” (Jeremiah 29:7).
“(Pray for) kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Timothy 2:1-4).
My friend Don pastors in the Washington, D.C., area. Quite a few of his members work in government offices, some for senators and congressmen, a few in the White House. Don is deeply involved in his church and loves his people. From where I sit, he does not belong to any civic organizations, but he is frequently at public events and patriotic occasions in the D.C. area. In his home is a photograph he and his wife Audrey took of Queen Elizabeth when she visited our country. They snapped that photo just as the queen was coming in their direction. Whether it was something a child told him in Bible school or a national prayer breakfast he attended, Don knows how to masterfully weave these incidents into sermons. They make perfect illustrations.
In my pastoring days–which ended fifteen years ago–I loved to support the local symphony (and once served on the board), to subscribe to the lecture series which brought outstanding speakers to our cities, to attend the annual Chamber dinners with famous guest speakers (which invariably provided me with some terrific sermon illustrations), and once chaired the Chamber’s beautification committee (making TV spots, promoting cleanliness, honoring businesses and homes for their beautiful yards and landscaping). It did not interfere with my pastoring; it enhanced it. I was obeying the command of Jeremiah 29:7.
As I write, I’ve just spent the last two days doing historical/patriotic stuff with my oldest son and his adult daughter. Neil and Erin drove up from Mobile, Alabama to spend two nights and three days with us. Since Neil and I are both amateur historians–the best kind if you ask me, open to everyone–with a deep interest in Civil War sites and battles and personalities, we made trips to areas between here (Jackson, MS) and Vicksburg. Then, we spent the day touring the battlefield for the Siege of Vicksburg in 1863, after which we had a meal in downtown Vicksburg. It was a wonderful day in every way.
And I have thought, if I were pastoring a church in Vicksburg, I’d be a huge champion of my city and what it offers. Downtown Vicksburg is incredibly historic, the shops and museums and restaurants are amazingly beautiful, with parking aplenty, and the view of the Mississippi River from atop the bluffs is unequaled. The city knows what it has, no doubt, and I suppose local citizens would grow tired of a pastor continually hawking its assets. But still…
Take a chance, Pastor.
When we lived in New Orleans–for 26 years straight!–I was amazed how many locals had never ridden a street car along St. Charles Avenue, never visited the museums in the French Quarter, and never taken their children or grands through the aquarium. The National World War II Museum there occupies several blocks and would take a week to see it all. I loved living in New Orleans, and now I love living in Mississippi.
Got a minute? Pull up a chair and I’ll tell you some reasons.