May 17, 2013 Leave a comment
May 14, 2013 Leave a comment
“Since shepherding is a God-given assignment, it is too hard for us. How many times does a pastor think, They never taught us this in seminary? But God gives grace indiscriminately. Years ago I memorized 2 Corinthians 9:8. I have it framed on my wall. ‘And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.’” (loc 131)
May 9, 2013 Leave a comment
“That’ll preach” I’m tempted to think when I’ve gained some fresh insight from a Biblical text. Therein lies the danger of preachers reading their Bibles; we can come to see scripture primarily as a tool for carrying out the task of preaching. Yes, it’s that, the crucial tool we use in preaching, but I regularly have to remind myself it’s to be so much more.
When my primary motivation for opening up the Bible is to find a message to deliver to the people then I’m using it professionally and not personally. I have a need to go first to the Bible as a person, not as a parson. The Bible must speak to me before I can expect God to use me as an instrument through which His Word can speak to His people.
I find it helpful to have a separate time and place to read God’s Word from when I study it for sermon preparation. For me, this means opening up God’s Word early in the morning and at home, away from my office and the commentaries.
I also have to approach God’s Word differently. It requires me to read it devotionally. The ancients called this lectio divina. My reading should have a personally directed prayer in the background, “Lord, what would you have me see, understand, and apply to my life from this Word of Yours?”
Perhaps this personal, devotional approach as over against an in-depth study is like the two different ways you can come to know a frog. You can dissect a dead frog in a biology lab, learning about all it’s inner parts, or you can observe a living frog on a lily pad, discovering and appreciating what a frog’s life is like.
I’m not putting down a scholarly and thoughtful study of God’s Word. We proclaimers of the Holy Scriptures need this discipline as a regular part of our preparation to preach. What I am suggesting is that we first need to read God’s Word for ourselves.
What are your thoughts on this? How do you differentiate your private and public use of God’s Word?
April 20, 2013 Leave a comment
I’m at the church alone. The phone rings. I answer it. “Mayfair-Plymouth Church,” I say. The voice on the other end says, “This is Matilda. Would you do me a favor? I can’t find my cake carrier. I think I might have left it in the church kitchen. Could you go down and check to see if it’s there?” The details are fictional, but the scene is reminiscent of many through my years of ministry. Sometimes my ministry seems to be a ministry of minutia.
Just how much and how often should I allow the small details of the life of the church to distract me from bigger and more important ministry obligations or opportunities? Do I quickly change that burned out light bulb or make a note to tell the custodian? I know where the new ones are kept. It would take about as much time for me to write the note as it would to change the bulb. Do I ask the head of the committee responsible for the outdated poster in the hallway to take it down, making it a teachable moment that the committee should keep on top of things, or do I just take the thing off the wall myself? Do I spend the time to do maintenance on the computer in my office (defragging, updating virus software, etc.) or do I track down the techy in our church and ask him to do it, whenever he can get around to it? Yes, God is in the details, but does He want to drag me into them too?
It’s not that I think I’m too high and mighty for such pedestrian tasks. I do them around my home all the time. It’s just that I want to make the most of my time when involved in ministry. I want to delegate when I should, but also do the small task at hand when it seems appropriate.
I had some communication with a mega church pastor via e-mail. I sent and received my own e-mail, but his came via his personal secretary. I’d like to have said to him, “Have your people contact my people,” but when it comes to e-mail management “my people” is me! And that’s OK. I understand there’s going to be a difference between what a mega church pastor does and what he delegates and what I do and what I delegate. I need to remember this when most of the models of how to do ministry come from the well-known mega church pastors.
Jesus didn’t do all His ministry Himself. He sent out the twelve to preach. He even sent them off to buy food. Jesus was great at delegating. On the other hand, Jesus prepared a fish breakfast for His disciples one morning along the lakeshore while they were out on the lake fishing, and that was after He was raised from the dead and in His glorified body. Jesus was great at doing the details. I, too, need to delight in both delegating and in the details. Balance, I suppose, is what I’m aiming to achieve, balance between delegating and doing the details.
April 13, 2013 1 Comment
Of all the professions, it seems to me that the profession of being a pastor carries with it a unique burden, the burden of a unique love. It’s not that people of other professions don’t love the people they serve, they should. Everyone should love everyone in their sphere of influence. It’s just that we pastors are to love the people we shepherd as the Great Shepherd loves them. This strikes me as a unique and challenging call to love.
Lawyers, doctors, counselors, and other professionals have appointments, usually of an hour or less, with their clients or patients. Not so with pastors. Our parishioners may make an appointment to see us, but they also expect us to be available 24/7, nor do they want to feel they’re limited to an hour of our time. And we don’t bill them!
Most other professions see their clients or patients in rather narrow parameters of the professional setting. The pastoral setting is wide and expansive; we tend our flock without fences, and we find our sleep to be light at the entrance to the sheepfold. Our life with them includes worship, study, fellowship, serving together, working together in leadership, and sharing potlucks.
Most clients and patients of other professions see it as a professional relationship while our parishioners see it more as a friendship. Frequently those in my church will say to me, “You’re not just my pastor, you’re my friend.” I appreciate the intended compliment but I wonder, just how many friends can I have and still be a good friend to each?
Doctors see a patient for a few minutes, trying to stay objective about the patient’s condition. As pastors we’re the physician’s assistant to the Great Physician and ours is a doctoring of the soul. It is no easy task given the fact that we ourselves are sin-sick and also under the care of the Great Physician. Wounded healers we are.
Lawyers sit across the desk, turning papers 180 degrees for the client to sign below paragraphs of unintelligible legalese. We pastors represent the Divine Lawgiver, taking God’s laws and principles and seeking to make them clear to our people while at the same time humbled by our own inability to abide by them ourselves.
Counselors maintain a professional relationship requiring definite relationship boundaries with those who share their deepest, darkest secrets. We who do pastoral counseling on behalf of the Mighty Counselor do so without such boundaries, going with them from the counseling session to a worship service, a board meeting, or a church picnic.
The profession of pastoring calls us to the burden of loving in a unique way, but it also provides unique blessings. We represent Christ. He is the Good Shepherd of the flock and we are His undershepherd. We are a mini-incarnation of the presence of Christ in the midst of His people, laughably inadequate and many times inept but put there by none other than Christ Himself. The task is daunting, but we have the promise of His presence and help. Ours is a yoked ministry; we join Him in the task of caring for His people and He will always make the task doable because of His ever present help. I often cling to His promise: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30) I’m still working on the “learn from me” part of that promise! I’m learning that His blessings come from embracing His burdens, that His blessings make the burdens less burdensome, and that there is His joy in it all!
March 21, 2013 Leave a comment
“When others behave badly to us, it should only stir us up the more heartily to give thanks unto the Lord, because He is good; and when we ourselves are conscious that we are far from being good, we should only the more reverently bless Him that He is good.” (quoted from Attributes of God, A. W. Pink, eBook Loc 1116)
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1 — and five other times in the Bible)