Among the People

pastoralgracesbookHere’s another quote from Lee Eclov’s book Pastoral Graces. Again, a great book, from the heart of a pastor, about the heart of us pastors.

“When I was a young pastor, I was in a service where Dr. Warren Wiersbe was going to preach.  It was a conference and I assume he didn’t know most of the people there.  Yet in the moments before the service started, he worked his way up and down the aisles and into the rows greeting people and shaking hands.  I instinctively knew he was doing more than being friendly.  He was pastoring, and he was doing a kind of sermon preparation for the people and for himself.” (loc 679)

I, like many pastors, will pray with the others involved in leading worship (for some of you it will be with the elders or deacons) just before the service, but I don’t spend much time with them!  I feel inclined to be greeting the people, walking around in the narthex (lobby), up and down the aisle and in between the pews.  Sometimes I find that I’ve personally greeted almost everyone before I stand up front and say “Good morning!” to open the service.  I feel I can better connect with the people in leading worship and in the service if I have literally come from their midst just before the service starts.

Pastoral Authority?

pastoralgracesbookHere’s another quote from Lee Eclov’s book Pastoral Graces. Again, a great book, from the heart of a pastor, about the heart of us pastors.

“The authority God invests in pastors does not come with the usual perks of leadership.  You don’t really get to be the boss of anything. (That’s the part that seems to get lost in some Christian leadership books.)  People will ignore you just as they ignore God; yet we’re expected to lead them.  Jesus tells us explicitly that we cannot lord it over others, but rather we must be their servants.  Foot washing servants!  It is a hard way to get things done.  Plus sometimes God Himself practically kills us “so that [Jesus’] life may be revealed in our mortal bodies” (2 Corinthians 4:11).” (loc. 364)

I sometimes feel leading a congregation is like going shopping with a teenage child at the mall.  You’re there to give guidance on what they should buy, and you’ll pay for it.   Plus, you just want to have a good time with your teen child.  The teenager, however, is often moody, walks several steps behind or ahead so as not to be seen with you.  The people in the congregation are often like that with the one called to be their pastoral leader.  They get the “pastoral” part of it but not always the “leader” part of it.

In my saner moments I know this is how God gets His work done through us, His pastors.  It’s servant leadership, servant leadership, servant leadership!

What is the Gospel?

toledoFAVSI recently wrote an article for the Toledo Faith and Values web site.  I seek to clarify what the word “Gospel” really means.  You can find it HERE.

Each Sermon Better Than The One Before?

preacher“Pastor, your sermon today was the best I think I’ve ever heard you preach.” I receive such a compliment with mixed feelings. Yes, I’m glad the person got so much out of the message. On the other hand, I don’t want to be preaching to impress people. I’m also immediately prompted to think, “So does that mean I have to top this week’s message next week?” That’s pressure I don’t want to have to live with.

True, I want to continue to grow as a proclaimer of God’s Word. I hope I’m better at the task this year than I was last year, and that I’ll be better at it next year compared to this year. However, I’ve had to guard myself from the trap of trying to make each sermon better than the last one – it’s unsustainable.

The reality is that a great sermon to one parishioner is just an average sermon to another parishioner. Everyone is different, at a different place in their spiritual walk, and God speaks to everyone differently.

I want every message I deliver to be good, but I’m not necessarily aiming at it being better than last week’s (unless I feel I really bombed). We try to prepare tasty and nutritious meals in our home, but I don’t remember what we had for dinner a week ago Tuesday, though the food was nourishment for our bodies. I don’t expect my parishioners to remember every sermon I preach (I sure don’t), but my prayer is that I’m providing consistent spiritual nourishment.

I want to take the apostle Paul’s admonition to the young pastor Timothy to heart. “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2) Faithful, not flashy, preaching is what I want to aim for.