Conversation With the Director of Missions: Stand In His Council

“I’m just a consensus builder, that’s all.”

“Nothing wrong with that,” I said.

“Then why all the flack? You’d think the church would be happy.”

“My perception, pastor, is that they are happy with you, just dissatisfied with what they perceive as a lack of leadership from you.”

“But I don’t get it. I’m trying to get everyone together on the same page before we go forward. I like unity and harmony in the church. Who can have a problem with that?”

“On the surface, that looks right.”

“Implying that underneath the surface, it’s wrong? Is that what you’re saying?”

“Possibly. But not necessarily. Things that are right underneath also look right on the surface.”

“Come on, you’re hedging. Get to the point.”

“Well, sooner or later, you’re going to have to take a stand. To go before the church and say ‘This is what I perceive the Lord is leading us to do.’ It’s called leadership.”

“You don’t understand.”


“That’s hard for me. I don’t like to make people unhappy. Going back to childhood, my nature has always been to please people. If I could do something to make my parents happy, I did it.”

“Pastor, I have some bad news for you.”

“Nothing I haven’t said to myself, probably.”

“You may be in the wrong profession. If you see your role in life as making people happy, then you have set yourself at odds with your Lord. I guarantee you that making the members of your church happy is not high on His list of priorities.”

“You’d think it would be.”

“How so?”

“Well, Jesus said He came that we might have life and have it abundantly. The Bible says stuff like ‘In thy presence there is fullness of joy; at thy right hand, there are pleasures forever more.’ If that’s not about happiness, I don’t know how to read my Bible.”

“It is, but as a byproduct of faithfulness. Not as a means.”

“Say what?”

“The Lord promises that when we obey Him and do the right thing, we will be blessed, and that probably means ‘happy’ in the deepest sense of the word. But He never says we are all to get happy, then to obey Him. The happiness is the result of obedience.”

“But doesn’t He want us to be happy? Isn’t He grieved when people are griping and complaining?”

“Oh yeah. Like any good father, He prefers a harmonious family. But I repeat, His main purpose in this world is not to make people happy. Not to make them like Him, not to please them, not to cater to their wishes. And furthermore, pastor, I don’t think He’s pleased when you make those your goals for your ministry either.

“Not my goals. More like my modus operandi.”

“Same difference. He wants you to be tough. Strong. To be clear in knowing what He wants and plain in spelling it out for people. How they react is up to them.”

“Well, that’s well and good if you’re Jesus. But I’m not.”

“No quarrel there.”

“What I mean is Jesus would preach and lay down the truth and people reacted in all kinds of ways. Some believed and some got mad and some made plans to crucify Him. He was God, so He could handle that kind of rejection. I can’t. I’m not God. I’m very human, and to be honest, I like people around me to be at peace. And the last thing I want is to be the cause of their unhappiness.”

“Oh, but you’re not.”

“Not if I can help it.”

“I mean, when you stand up and declare what God has shown you, if people get unhappy, it’s not about you. It’s about the Lord.”

“In a perfect world.”

“No sir. In this one. This is basic Christian service. You are to do what God tells you. And if He gives you a message to preach or a path to take in the church and you do it, thereafter it’s up to the people and God. You’re out of it.”

“Oh yeah. What planet have you been living on?”

“I’m not saying they won’t criticize you. Some of the meanest and most unfair people on the earth sit in the pews of our churches. I hate to admit it, but everyone else knows it, so we might as well own up to it. You could have Moses or Elijah or Jesus Himself stand up there next Sunday and preach the Lord’s word and I guarantee you some people would find fault with it.”

“That’s supposed to make me feel better?”

“It’s supposed to make you get your eyes off pleasing those people and to put your eyes on the Lord. On pleasing Him.”

“And take my lumps, right?”

“Pastor, you remember your biblical history. In the days of Moses, the Lord’s people praised Abraham and persecuted Moses. In the days of the prophets, they praised Moses and persecuted the prophets. In Jesus’ day, they praised the prophets and persecuted Jesus. And now, they praise Jesus and persecute His spokesmen.”

“I don’t want to be persecuted.”

“No one does. And no one is asking you to volunteer for martyrdom. What I’m saying–and what I hear the godly people of your congregation saying–is you are a man of God, and as such, you are supposed to be hearing from the Lord on a regular basis and then telling them what He says. It’s what preaching is all about.”

“I suppose so.”

“What did you think preaching was–reading a passage in the Bible and giving your opinion on it? Anyone could do that! That isn’t preaching, friend. That’s just so much talk. God doesn’t call us and send us out to preach a sterile message we read somewhere. We are to read His word prayerfully with the Holy Spirit enlightening our minds and giving us what God wants His people to hear. Come Sunday, we stand in the pulpit and deliver the goods. The whole message. The good and the bad. The blessings and the warnings.”

“Anything else?”

“A verse from Jeremiah 23 comes to mind. The Lord is scalding the fake prophets who concoct their own messages from dreams or their opinions or from one another and deliver it as if it were direct from Heaven. He wants none of that business. And He says, ‘If they had stood in my council, then they would have announced my words to my people, and would have turned them back from their evil way and from the evil of their deeds.’ That’s Jeremiah 23:22.”

“Stand in His council. What do you think that means?”

“Come on, pastor. You know good and well what it means. It means to get alone with the Lord and open His word, to humble your heart and repent and pay attention. It means not ever to be satisfied with a sermon until you get it from the Lord. It means to throw out all those sweet little messages you thought up, but God did not birth. It means to get down to business with God.”

“It’s going to be hard.”

“Are you kidding? This is going to be the best thing you ever did. You’re spending time with the Father, man. You’re sitting quietly at the feet of Jesus. It is hard to have to make up sermons by yourself or to figure out what the church ought to be doing all by your lonesome, but you’re not going to do that any more. You’ve decided to stand in the Lord’s council and to listen to Him.”

“Pray for me?”

“You bet. ‘Father, my brother here is sick and tired of serving you in the flesh. His church is tired of it, too. And I expect you are. So now, would you do a work of grace in Him. Draw him close to you, and reassure him that the safest place on earth for the believer is near to the heart of God. Hold him there, Lord. And raise the bar for him, Father. Let him set higher standards for his praying, higher standards for his waiting on you, higher standards for his study, and higher standards for his preaching and leadership in the church. And when he stands before the people in thy Spirit, may those who love you recognize this as a word from God and treat it accordingly.”

“And Lord, give him some opposition, please.”

“Whoa–you don’t mean that!”

“Lord, give him some opposition. It’s about time he decided whether pleasing you or the congregation is going to be paramount. So make him decide, Lord.”


“I’ll tell you one thing, director of missions. You don’t take no prisoners.”

“Thanks. I appreciate that. Now, go thou and do likewise.”