They asked Andrew Murray the greatest thought that had ever entered his mind. “My accountability to God,” he said.
My pastor friend Albert still carries scars from his last tough assignment. And now, he tells me, he faces a crisis in his present church.
The issue, you will not be surprised to learn, has nothing to do with the community at large, the unchurched he is trying to reach, or the surrounding culture.
The problem Albert faces is internal.
“Twice the treasurer has threatened to cut my pay if I announce plans to stay on. He tells everyone that our church cannot afford a pastor. A couple in the church is spreading gossip about me. A recent survey of the congregation assessed me and my ministry–which is fine–but the board chairman plans to discuss it at the upcoming annual meeting without clueing me in on the results ahead of time.”
Nothing about this bodes well for Albert. (I suppose I’ve seen too many of these disasters-in-the-making to be optimistic. Some people are determined to have their way and run “their” church as they please.)
He concluded, “Pray for wisdom, shrewdness, strength and peace for my wife and me.”
Ask any pastor. The stresses from these forces are preacher-killers.
I’ve been reading the recently published “Valley Forge,” Bob Drury and Tom Clavin’s account of General George Washington’s turning a bedraggled, dispirited, starving, half-naked army into a fighting force that defeated the best-trained militia on the planet, the British. What strikes the reader is that while battling the British and contending with both the frigid weather and the sparse supply of food and clothing, Washington was constantly being undercut by Congress and generals who wanted his job.
The internal strife must have been worse than the external.
Ask any pastor.
Your biggest headaches will not come from the world, young pastor. The community at large may welcome you or ignore you, but they are unlikely to organize against you. People inside the congregation will do that.
Not all, thankfully. Many congregations are healthy and positive, focused on serving God and having an impact on their world for Christ. They remind us of the Israelites who were rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall with Nehemiah. When some people arrived wanting to argue and fight, they replied, “We are doing a great work and cannot come down” (Nehemiah 6:3).
God, help your preachers.
When the Apostle Paul told of the price he paid for the privilege of serving the Lord’s people and extending the gospel, after listing the beatings and shipwrecks and imprisonments, he added, “And in addition to all this, there is the daily care for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28).
What’s the answer?
I have a solution for preacher-killers and church-troublers, although it’s something only the Lord can handle.
Get their attention, Lord.
These people could well benefit from some kind of momentary crisis that awakens them to what’s really important in this life.
Two hours ago while driving across town, I listened as a radio preacher told of the time he was addressing the students in a Christian college. Three thousand people–students and faculty–crowded into the arena. Just as he began speaking, the air raid siren went off. Security people rushed in and ordered everyone to leave the auditorium, get into the hallways and huddle up close to the walls. Outside, a storm was raging and at that moment a tornado was plowing across the campus. The noise was deafening; the power went out.
After a bit, the leadership announced that everyone should remain in the arena while they checked the conditions and assessed the damage. “Go on with your sermon,” they told the guest preacher.
The preacher brought a different sermon from what he had intended. “I had the undivided attention of the audience,” he said to us, his radio audience. “There’s something about a life-threatening crisis that puts everything into perspective, that makes you realize the petty things you’ve been living for.”
We could wish for some people a life-threatening crisis to adjust their vision, alter their priorities, align their hearts.
Do not misunderstand. We’re not wishing anyone to die and not putting a hex on anyone. Just saying that a little scare would do some people a lot of good.
Somewhere I heard of a preacher who was witnessing to a seatmate on an airplane. Nearby a college-age couple–a boy and a girl–were taking it in and scoffing. These smarties were too sophisticated for such religious bunk.
Suddenly, the plane shuddered and began to shake. The turbulence was horrendous and frightening. The plane dropped perhaps a hundred feet or so, but it felt like a mile. Then, just as quickly, the air smoothed out and the plane resumed its flight as though nothing had happened.
The preacher continued his explanation of the gospel with the lady, but he could not help noticing that the college kids had grown quiet and attentive. They wanted to know about God. He had their undivided attention.
In my humble opinion, the church bosses and preacher-killers in some churches could stand a rude awakening now before they get the real one awaiting just over the horizon, the one the Heavenly Father is preparing for them. If they did, they would realize:
–This is not my church. It belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. He died for it and I didn’t.
–Jesus takes personally how I treat His church and how we all treat His preachers, His messengers. (For reference on this, consider how our Lord spoke of God taking personally the treatment of His servants–Matthew 21:33-41; 22:1-7. See also what Jesus told His apostles as He sent them out. That’s Matthew 10:40 and Luke 10:16).
–I will give account before God for my stewardship (of influence, leadership, possessions, everything). “We must all stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ” should be the most sobering thought any of us could possibly have (2 Corinthians 5:10).
–The Lord will not take lightly those who mess with the Church which is His Bride and His Body, nor with His messengers sent to do His will.
Sobering thoughts indeed. We could wish God would give just a little preview of judgement to these who take so lightly their responsibility and their stewardship.
“Lord, is it too much to ask that Albert’s detractors might have the fear of the Lord put into them?”
You did it to Jonah’s shipmates in Jonah 1 and to Paul’s companions in Acts 27. A little storm, maybe? Thank you.